On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is reported on the tape that the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) has sent a letter to a large number of his hon. Friends urging them to delay business tonight—to "filibuster", the word he has used — to ensure that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will not have an opportunity tomorrow to move the motion which stands in his name. This matter was raised earlier in the day.
I hope that you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that such a filibuster would represent a disgraceful attempt by Conservative Members to deny one of my hon. Friends, who has been successful in the Ballot, the opportunity to debate the subject of his choice. Will the Leader of the House, who is in his place, say whether this filibuster is being actively encouraged by the Government?
It is clear that the letter of which I spoke has been sent out by the hon. Member for Lancashire, West and that it contains the word "filibuster". That hon. Gentleman says in it that, should tomorrow's debate go ahead, Opposition Members would have a platform from which to attack the Prime Minister. Have we reached the stage when an hon. Member cannot debate an issue, having won a place in the Ballot, because to do so would embarrass the Government?
You will be as aware as hon. Members, Mr. Speaker, that the second motion for debate tomorrow stands in my name and is about the privatisation of local government services. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you are unaware of such matters as three-line Whips, but the Government have been kind enough to give me a three-line Whip tomorrow so that my hon. Friends can be here to support my motion. Having listened to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I am worried that, if what he said is correct, my opportunity to take part in the second debate tomorrow may be missed. I understand from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who shares my wish that the debate on the privatisation of local government services should take place, that he intends to keep his remarks to an absolute minimum. I look to you, Mr. Speaker, for protection.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious matter. Questions were put to the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon about whether or not what I described as a disgraceful manoeuvre was to be organised during the course of this evening and tonight in order to eliminate the debate that is to take place tomorrow. We now know from the letter, which has apparently been published and which came from the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind), that Government Whips take the view that this must be a Back-Bench filibuster. We have a right to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he was aware of this manoeuvre when he answered questions this afternoon, and whether he will take an opportunity to condemn what is undoubtedly a disgraceful and squalid manoeuvre.
The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) has asked about something that you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled is not a point of order. That prevents you, Mr. Speaker, from telling the House whether, unknown to the Labour Front Bench, you have had any representation from the Labour Whips asking you to do exactly what you will do.
The point of order by the Hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) was a hybrid one.
On a point of order which I hope is a proper point of order, Mr. Speaker, can you advise us whether it is within the power of the Leader of the House, if he so wishes, to table a motion which would allow business tabled for tomorrow to be taken at any hour if the filibuster that is being talked about takes place tonight? Can you tell us, Mr. Speaker, whether that power is available to the Leader of the House if he wishes to exercise it?
Further to the original point of order raised by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), it was suggested that discussion of the committal proceedings on the Channel Tunnel Bill is in some way a filibuster. Those hon. Members who have been in the Chamber all day will know that hon. Members, and especially those hon. Members from north-east Kent, feel strongly about the Channel tunnel. Forty-five hon. Members, many of them from the Opposition Benches, have just demonstrated that strength of feeling by voting against Second Reading. We deeply resent the suggestion that the debate that we wish to take place at considerable length is called a filibuster.
I should like to raise a quite separate point of order about the way in which our proceedings tonight are to be conducted. I understand that the Minister responding to the individual amendment and the group of amendments is my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Transport. All right hon. and hon. Members know that my hon. Friend is a very good Transport Minister, but I am not aware—though he will tell me if I am wrong—that he is a great expert in matters constitutional or in matters legal. What we are being asked to discuss tonight is wholly different from what lies within the compass of his Department. Looking at the committal motion and bearing in mind that we are talking about a hybrid measure that affects private interests to a very marked and substantial degree, I am extremely uneasy that a Minister of State who is not versed in constitutional and legal matters should be replying for the Government.
I appreciate that the choice of those who are to speak from the Front Benches is not a matter for you, Mr. Speaker. On the other hand, the House may well feel that it would profit from the advice of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General and, indeed, my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, were he able to appear in this place. I do not in any way want to be thought to be partisan—you know, Mr. Speaker, that I am never partisan—but I am very anxious that we should also have the opportunity to hear the words of the shadow Leader of the House, not to mention the words of the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris). —[Interruption.] I have not quite finished.
Order—if he is fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chair during these proceedings. I take fully into account what has already been said about tomorrow's debate by both Government and Opposition Members. The sooner that we can get on with this debate, the better the chance that we shall reach the important Back-Bench motions.
I apologise for rising again on a point of order, but I was conscious of the fact that until I had reached the point that I have now reached I was, as it were, only laying the foundations for my point of order.
My real point of order is that the choice of Front Bench spokesmen is clearly a matter for the Front Benches of each party. I suggest that there should be an opportunity for consultation between the Front Benches, which would take place through the usual channels. For that purpose, it would be necessary to adjourn this sitting. The point of order that I am putting to you, Mr. Speaker, is that you should adjourn this sitting so that the Front Benches can consult through the normal channels.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a member of a private Bill Committee which during its proceedings has received evidence from a Government Department. I am very concerned that a Minister who represents the Department of Transport should be responding on behalf of the Government when it is quite possible that when the rules for the private Bill Committee have been framed, on the recommendation of a Department of Transport Minister, witnesses will be called from the Department of Transport, probably by the promoters of the Bill.
It seems to me that it would be very unfair to the petitioners against the Bill if they found that the promoters of the Bill were calling as witnesses representatives from the Department of Transport, who would have an advantage over the petitioners, through the motion that my hon. Friend the Minister of State intends to move. The motion would remove the impartiality of the private Bill procedure if the rules were to be framed, on motions emanating from the Department of Transport, by their Minister here, because officials of the Department of Transport will be appearing as witnesses for the promoters and therefore the petitioners will not have a fair opportunity to present their case.
The hon. Gentleman asked a hypothetical question, and in any case we are discussing a Government measure.
We now come to the committal motion for the Channel Tunnel Bill. I have published a list of selected amendments and the proposed groupings, and I wish to explain how the debate will proceed. Although motions such as this appear as one motion on the Order Paper, they are made up of separate propositions, each of which is a motion in its own right. I propose that each motion—that is to say, each paragraph beginning with the word "That" — should be moved separately and debated, together with the amendments that have been grouped with it. At the end of each debate, amendments to that paragraph may be moved formally, and when they have been disposed of the Question will be put on the paragraph as a whole. In this way, I believe that we can have a more orderly debate and the House will be aware at each stage which issue is being discussed.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, what you have just ruled means that we are dividing the motion into several isolated and separate sections and debating those accordingly. Will there be an opportunity for the House to debate the motion as a whole? I submit that the parts of the motion hold together and make a complete picture and that there should be some stage during the proceedings when we have the opportunity of debating the complete motion.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, you have an ultimate discretion as to how the debate should be conducted. I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden). Although it is perfectly true that the formula that you have set out enables the House to criticise or scrutinise the committal motion paragraph by paragraph, the House is unable to take a broad view. At some stage during tonight's debate, the House should be enabled to take a broad view on such essential matters. It is within your discretion, Mr. Speaker, to enable the House to vote on the motion in its totality. May I ask you to invoke that discretion?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of what you have just said, if the House votes in principle at the beginning, what account can it take of what may subsequently happen in the votes on the amendments? What my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) meant was that the House should have an opportunity, after it has considered and voted on each of the separate propositions and amendments thereto, to consider the proposition as a whole, as amended. My hon. Friend is correct in asking you to consider giving the House, after dealing with the amendments in the way that you have so kindly allowed us to do, an opportunity to debate and vote on the matter as a whole.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) referred to the motion, as amended. You are being asked to rule hypothetically on what would happen if the motion were amended. The points that have been put to you would be properly put if any of the amendments were carried, but they are prematurely put to you before the House has decided on any of those amendments. May I respectfully suggest that the questions put to you do not arise unless and until, after the sectional debate, an amendment has been carried?
That is entirely correct. In order to save any further time being spent on this, I must say that this is well precedented and has been frequently done before. I believe that it is in the best interests of the debate to deal with it in this way.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the presentation of my argument, I did not make myself wholly clear. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) put my argument even more clearly than I did. I owe you, Mr. Speaker, and the House an apology.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) is clearly right. What you are suggesting, Mr. Speaker, is that we can debate the totality of the committal motion in the first debate. That would be splendid if there were no amendments. What I respectfully suggest, Mr. Speaker, is that you do not come to a hard and fast decision on this matter, but that if any amendments be made in the course of tonight's debate I or some other hon. Member may renew the application, and you will consider it then.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been suggested that the debate may carry on too long and put at risk the motions due to be debated tomorrow. If that appeared to be the case—and I doubt whether it would be, because it is a very important matter that we are debating—would it not be possible for hon. Members to ask that we report progress if it was felt that there was any danger of tomorrow's important business being lost? Were that the case, the House surely would be able to take a view on that and would itself be able to safeguard the business.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Through the usual channels, some of us who have sat here all day and who tried to speak in the debate on Second Reading but were not successful were informed that, if we did not press our claim so that the vote on Second Reading could take place at about 10 o'clock, the subsequent proceedings would be fairly flexible and the grounds of the debate on the four groups of amendments would not be too narrow.
May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you will give the necessary instructions that, when some of us who have sat here all day but were not called in the debate on Second Reading may be successful in catching the eye of the Chair, we are not called to order too strictly because for a second or two we depart from the narrow track of one of the amendments?
It would be very dangerous, I think, for the House to invite me to say that Members do not have to confine themselves to the motion on the Order Paper, but I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the first motion that we are about to discuss, which is wide,
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee".
I am well aware that the hon. Gentleman and a number of other hon. Members have been sitting in the Chamber hoping to take part in the debate on Second Reading. They will get precedence later this evening — maybe early tomorrow morning.
It was my intention to move the motion briefly, as I have, and to reply to the debate. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) were seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have just had a number of points of order relating to the relevance of sections of the motion as proposed to be amended. Would it be in order for my hon. Friend the Minister to reply to the whole debate at the end of our proceedings, whenever that may come, in relation to parts of the motion, as amended? Would it be in order for him at the end of the proceedings to answer on all parts of the motion, as amended or not?
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should very much appreciate your guidance before the House commences this debate. I understand from what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has just said that he will not formally move amendments (a) and (b). I have put my name to amendments (a) and (b). I should like clarification from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on whether it is open to me to move them.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I have clarification? I am a supporter of amendments (a) and (b), in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. Having heard you say to my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) that it will be in order for him to move those amendments formally at the proper time, may I ask——
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am getting rather confused. When Mr. Speaker was in the Chair, he said, as I understood it, that we would debate the first three lines of the motion and the amendments together. As the amendments have not yet been moved, how can we debate them at the same time? Therefore, can we not debate the motion as it stands as a whole rather than in sections?
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we are having a joint debate, as happens often in the House. It is not necessary to move the amendments formally now. I thought that Mr. Speaker had made it very clear. He proposed that each paragraph beginning with the word "That" should be moved separately and debated with the amendments grouped with it.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are, of course, the guardian of the interests of Back Benchers, and in your high capacity you also ensure that the procedures of the House are not abused in any way.
It appears that the Government are proposing that, following Second Reading, the Channel Tunnel Bill be committed to a Select Committee of nine members, but they are not prepared to explain to people such as myself—innocent Back Benchers who have just come into the Chamber to hear the arguments—the basis for making that committal. I look forward to hearing a speech from the Minister explaining the basis for the committal so that I can form a judgment on it and decide within the powers that I have as a Back Benc her which way to vote. To my absolute astonishment, the Minister sat down without giving any reason. That must be an abuse of parliamentary procedure.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). This is a most extraordinary procedure, and I say that with great respect to my hon. Friend the Minister. We are dealing with a hybrid Bill that affects private interests and individuals. What we are setting out now is the method, formula and timetable for disposing of people's private rights.
I understand that it does not usually fall within the competence of the Minister of State, Department of Transport, to speak on these matters. I appreciate that and do not blame him. However, in support of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton said, I say that this House needs positive guidance and precedent as to the constitutional implications, the parties' legal rights and what we are about. My hon. Friend the Minister, for whom I have very great respect, does not wish to do that tonight. Therefore, we should adjourn so that my right hon and learned Friend the Attorney-General can come to this place and tell us what is going on. Alternatively, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is present, could do that admirably. I hate to wake him from his slumbers; he looks so attractive when he is asleep.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would never do that, as you know well. always put points of order that fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Chair.
The jurisdiction of the Chair is to protect the rights of individual Back Benchers and, perhaps more important, the dignity and standing of this place. I do not see how we can debate private rights of this moment and consequence unless we have guidance from those Ministers——
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you give us some further guidance on this matter and help me by confirming that once we follow the proposed procedure, whereby speeches on the motion will be made and then the Minister will speak, it will be in order for hon. Members to speak again in the light of what the Minister has said? That might go some of the way towards helping my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg). Will that be in order?
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I listened carefully to what Mr. Speaker said, and I do not think that he envisaged the possibility that the amendment might not be moved. It might be for the great convenience of the House if the amendment were moved formally. If one signatory to the amendment does not want to move it, others can. It would be for the convenience of the House if the assumption that Mr. Speaker clearly made in announcing this procedural decision bore fruit by the technical movement of the amendment now. There are separate motions but only one motion in the name of the Secretary of State for Transport. It is therefore only possible to divide matters up in the way Mr. Speaker has divided matters, on the assumption that the amendments are moved. If any of the amendments are not moved, Mr. Speaker's assumption is nullified and the motion cannot be divided. I recommend, with the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the amendment be moved, at least formally, so that debate can take place on the basis that Mr. Speaker clearly assumed and anticipated in his statement to the House.
I have listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman and I have a high regard for his concern about the procedures of the House. However, I must reiterate Mr. Speaker's words:
I propose that each motion—that is to say, each paragraph beginning with the word 'That'—should be moved separately and debated, together with the amendments that have been grouped with it.
For instance, there are no amendments to the third motion.
At the end of each debate, amendments to that paragraph may be moved formally, and when they have been disposed of the Question will be put on the paragraph as a whole.
That seems to be a sensible way of interpreting the orders and the discretion of the Chair. I think we should now proceed.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With the greatest respect, I do not think that Mr. Speaker, in making that announcement to the House, anticipated that amendments might not be moved. The House needs to know whether it will be debating each section beginning with the word "That" which encompasses the amendments which Mr. Speaker, by announcing his selection of amendments, clearly anticipated. It would be best if the House could know immediately whether the amendment will be moved. If not, we are doomed to have two debates on each section rather than one: one on the section beginning with the word "That," and another when it is moved formally. If it is moved formally, the Chair will be unable to deny a debate after the formal moving. There will therefore be two debates on each section rather than one. I do not think that Mr. Speaker envisaged that when he made his statement.
As I understand it, the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who is a signatory to amendments (a) and (b), has already said that he is willing to move those amendments. Whether the others are moved is a hypothetical question which we shall deal when we come to them.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With respect, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) is correct. The provision is that if amendments (a) and (b) are moved only at the conclusion of the debate, until we reach that magic moment we will be debating the substantive motion only. Accordingly, when, and if, I move amendment (a) we will have a fresh debate. Would it not be far better to allow me to move amendments (a) and (b) now so that we can have an open debate that would encompasss the totality of what Mr. Speaker had in mind?
The hon. Gentleman knows that we discuss amendments again and again without them being moved formally or without them being moved. The hon. Gentleman will be able to refer to the amendments if we can proceed to discuss paragraph 1, and we should do that now.
It might be for the convenience of the House if I went a little further than I did when I first got to my feet. My intention then was formally to open the debate and allow it to proceed on the amendments and on the substantive motion in the form selected by Mr. Speaker. From the points of order, it is apparent that a number of my hon. Friends are a little perplexed by the procedure which is being followed. It is perhaps true to say that this is not a procedure that we follow on frequent occasions. Perhaps I should say that we are now about to debate the committal motion, and its basic role is to set up the Select Committee.
After Second Reading of the Channel Tunnel Bill it is proposed:
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of nine Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection:
That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—
(a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than 17th June——
The complexities of procedure are such that I have gone further than I should at this stage, and I apologise. I am as anxious as other hon. Members to make progress in this matter.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) raised with the Chair the possibility of a Law Officer or the Leader of the House being in their places in order to recognise the fact that we are talking about procedural matters. He said that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, with all due deference to his ministerial abilities, is not the proper, competent Minister to deal with what is essentially a procedural matter.
You have just told my hon. Friend the Minister, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that he should not be pursuing a debate at this stage on the second motion. On the basis of that injunction from you, I strongly submit that we would save ourselves a great deal of time if he could be guided and assisted by somebody from the Government Front Bench who is experienced in the constitutional and procedural matters of the House. For example, the Leader of the House should surely be in his place to assist and guide us, because if my hon. Friend the Minister finds himself in another difficulty we shall find ourselves——
Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating what has already been made clear to Mr. Speaker, and, indeed, to me. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is not a matter for me which Minister is to open or reply to a debate.
I remind the House what is before it. I have already put the Question on the motion,
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of nine Members to he nominated by the Committee of Selection".
Amendments (a) and (b) have been tabled and we shall discuss those with the motion that I have read out.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having clarified the matter. It is clear that we are now debating the motion,
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of nine Members to he nominated by the Committee of Selection".
I understand that amendments (a) and (b) have been tabled, and it was my intention to reply to those. Am I right in understanding that, quite apart from the question whether the amendments are moved or not, I shall have the opportunity to reply to the debate on the terms of the motion selected by Mr. Speaker?
Before you took the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a number of hon. Members raised with Mr. Speaker the fact that they had sat through the earlier debate and were not able to participate in it, but expressed the hope that they would be able to do so now. I am concerned because I know that there are some points of substance which hon. Members wish to have clarified, and I am anxious not to mislead them into assuming that I will be able to reply to those points later if I will not be able to do so. I understood from Mr. Speaker that he would allow a fairly wide ranging debate on the first of the amendments so that there would be an opportunity for hon. Members who were cut out of the debate earlier to participate and for the debate to be properly concluded.
I was in the Chamber when Mr. Speaker made his statement and replied to the points of order. He said that the first motion, which refers the Bill to a Select Committee, would give an opportunity for those hon. Members who are acquainted with the procedures of the House to participate, and, no doubt, they will use the procedures accordingly. However, that does not mean that they can get out of order. That would be for the Chair to decide. I cannot rule hypothetically by saying that anything that hon. Members raise will be permitted. However, it is a fairly wide motion, which is to decide whether to commit the Bill to a Select Committee. I have no doubt that those who were here during the debate this afternon will be able to relate their comments accordingly.
We are debating the motion, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of nine members, and there are amendments to increase the number to 11. That is where the debate will now take place.
You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), in a brief intervention in the interest of moving the debate forward, told the House that he did not wish to move the two amendments to increase the number on the Select Committee. As I understand it, it is permissible for the House to debate the substantive motion, but I must make it clear that we have not moved those two amendments in the interest of progress.
I thought that I had made that perfectly clear. We are to have a general debate, including the amendments. If any hon. Member wants to move the amendments at the end of the debate, that will be in order. They will have to be moved formally, of course.
On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to see these proceedings speeded up, as I am sure you do. Am I correct in assuming, with reference to the answer you gave to the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), that if a Conservative Member, while speaking to the substantive motion, makes specific reference to the amendments.. you will not rule him out of order because that is part of the argument——
Order. Again the hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the House. I have made it quite clear that we can go ahead with the general debate, including the amendments, which can be referred to. At the end of the debate, I shall ask whether the amendments are to be moved.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was in some doubt about whether I had been called to speak on the motion.
I am deeply concerned about the position that the Opposition have adopted. Those of us who are concerned about private rights—and however one looks at the Bill it affects private rights to a considerable and grave extent — are deeply concerned that the Labour party, which presumably thought that it was making points of immediate consequence——
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) is under the impression that he has been called by you to speak in the debate, but he is under a misapprehension. I understood that you had called my hon. Friend the Minister of State, whom the House wanted to hear on the general question, to open the debate, but you are now under the impression that my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham is speaking on a point of order, and he thought that he was not.
I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) in that I clearly did not make my commencing remarks sufficiently clear. I see that I might be thought to be raising a point of order, but I was seeking to make the preamble to my speech. I am concerned about the position that the Labour party has adopted in this matter. However one looks at the issue and the motion before the House, this is inevitably a matter of great concern to the people of Kent. The procedure that we are adopting touches private rights to a profound degree. More than that, it goes behind the normal procedures that are adopted in such development planning. Therefore, it was right that the Labour party tabled these amendments. It was because we shared its concern that I and others, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) put our names to these amendments.
I suspected that there was something funny about the Labour party's amendments and attitude when I put my name to the amendments. I am not one whit surprised that the Labour party Benches are so empty and that it has but one Front Bench spokesman. What does it suppose it is doing? The Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, the shadow Secretary of State for Employment, the shadow Leader of the House, and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all put their names to amendments that affect people's lives, do not move them, and go away.
What kind of nonsense and claptrap is this? Why are they treating the people of Kent in this way? Ah, we have another Labour party Back Bencher. We now have four Members of the Labour party present, so the people of Kent——
We have three and a half members of the Labour party and the alliance. That is the way in which they are treating a matter that is of profound concern to the people of Kent.
I have a fairly agnostic view of the Channel tunnel, but one thing that I am not agnostic about, and never have been, is that we should be very careful to ensure that private rights are protected. Whatever we do in this matter —I tend to think that the Channel tunnel is necessary and desirable—it will have profound consequences for the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and all the other constituents represented in this place. To find that the debate is not being participated in by the Labour party is a shame and a humiliation to that party.
In the marvellous invective to which my hon. Friend has treated the House, is there not one omission? He has not referred to the absence from the House of Members of the Social Democratic party. Will my hon. Friend please direct his invective to that absence, as well as to the absence of others?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). The only reason why I did not direct my fire at the SDP for its absence is that its Members are never here. The House has become used to their absence. We do not particularly want to see them any more.
As for the Liberal party, it is always very nice to see the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). He is quite a very good attender. That singles him out from the rest of his brethen, who are not here tonight. I wonder whether they will be voting here tonight. I do not see anybody on the SDP Benches. They will not be voting tonight. What about——
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you are as always wholly right. May I say to you, if I have by any chance transgressed, that I am extremely sorry.
The point that I am making is a serious one. We are dealing with the rights of individuals. I do not think that the Select Committee procedure is an appropriate way of dealing with private rights. We shall come in a moment to subsequent amendments about dates, but a whole range of private rights will be touched on, affected and sometimes diminished. The most obvious ones are rights of property, where there are compulsory purchase orders, and questions of diminished values or blight, but many other rights will be touched upon. There will be diminished employment, diminished employment prospects, diminished trade, and damage to the environment. A whole host of rights will be touched on.
I do not see how a Committee of nine, even nine highly effective and well-informed hon. Members, will be able to determine whether the Bill affects those rights to an extent that we should amend the Bill. If we are to do it in that way. surely we are contemplating sitting for months and months. Worse than that, the petitioners — — [Interruption.]
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It is late at night, and he has probably had a cup or two, as I have. I welcome the goodly fellow making pleasant chat, but he must not call in question my 20 years of very loyal service to my party, about which there is no question.
The hon. Gentleman is obviously unworldly and out of touch with the realities of his colleagues' lives. I am extraordinarily close to the realities of a range of issues, and I am normal.
I feel that we are straying from the straight and narrow ways on which the hon. Member wished to keep us. I am making a serious point. We are talking about rights. We are talking about money and property interests, employment prospects and the environment. I do not believe that such a development can be considered properly by a Select Committee. I do not think that we can go forward in that way.
If we are to go forward in such a way, we need to have as large a Select Committee as we can muster. We need to bring to bear on the questions a diversity of experience and background. We need sympathies that are not always tempered, as it were, by the establishments of both parties, and we need a Select Committee that is prepared to approach the matter independently.
I understand—this is why I wanted the Leader of the House and the Law Officers to be present in the Chamber —that the only way in which the Bill can be shaped so as to reflect the private interests is through the mechanism of a Select Committee. If the Select Committee is narrowly drawn, if it does not have within its number people of sufficient independence and of critical mind, the Committee's report to the House will not reflect the true interests of the people of Kent.
I know that I have spoken for a long time tonight— [HON. MEMBERS: "More".] Hon. Members have never said "More" to me before. I shall disappoint them.
My hon. Friend has not defined or explained why, in his view—we have not heard from the Minister, so we do not have a view from the Front Bench—the Bill is a hybrid Bill. As it is a public Bill which affects certain private interests in a number of counties in the south-east of England, does my hon. Friend agree that it is not suitable for committal to a Select Committee as a hybrid Bill?
That is precisely why I urged upon Mr. Speaker and yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the need for the Leader of the House to respond to the debate, or, if the Leader is unable to do so, either my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General or my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General.
There is no doubt that the Bill is a hybrid Bill. Later, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton will tell us about hybrid Bills. He is a great expert on them. The Bill touches individuals and their personal proprietorial interests. That makes it a hybrid Bill. There is no doubt that a hybrid Bill has to be treated in the way in which we propose to treat it. The point I am making is not that it is not a hybrid Bill, but rather that the procedure that we have evolved over centuries for tackling the problem of hybridity is inappropriate to a measure of this scale.
Does my hon. Friend accept that, contrary to what he said about the definition of a private Bill, there are many types of hybrid Bills? I refer him to the report of the Committee on Hybrid Bills (Procedure in Committee) of 1948. As we go on through the evening we shall be able to——
I wonder whether my hon. Friend is departing slightly from the motion. Would he think it wise to give to the Committee of Selection some advice about those who might comprise the nine, the 11 or the 15 Members who should serve on the Select Committee? that is surely germane to my hon. Friend's arguments.
What my hon. Friend has said is profoundly important. We return to the premise from which we start, which is an important one. The Bill touches on people's proprietorial interests and on their employment. The only way in which the Bill can be shaped to reflect these conflicts of interest is through the mechanism of the Select Committee. It would be a tragedy if the Select Committee were to follow too tightly the views of the establishments on either side of the House. The Select Committee is the only way of adjudicating on genuine complaints. When the members of the Selection Committee, which is chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox), come to examine the question of those who are to serve on the Select Committee, they should not take the advice of any Front Bencher. They should ask themselves these questions: first, whether the hon. Member whom they are proposing to select is independent and whether he or she has a financial——
I shall finish this point and then I shall give way.
The Selection Committee should ask itself whether the Member in question is financially independent. Secondly, it should ask itself whether he or she has a critical mind. Thirdly, it should ask itself whether he or she can be bullied. If the Member can be bullied, he or she should not serve on the Select Committee.
This is a vital issue. It will not have escaped my hon. Friend's attention that just about every Member of this place has received during the past few weeks briefing or lobbying material from various parties that are for the Bill or against it. As for the need for independence on the part of those who serve on the Select Committee, does he agree that it will be difficult for there to be true independence, bearing in mind that those who are selected to serve on the Committee may well have been influenced already by the briefing material that has been deluged on us by various public relations companies during the past few weeks?
This is a serious question because independence matters. By "independence", I mean Members who do not have a direct geographical interest in the constituencies that will be affected. Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South will no doubt be presenting evidence and speaking on behalf of their constituents. Members who have a geographical connection with the area should not serve on the Committee.
We know that there are financial, trade union, business and City interests which seek representation.
That is a fair point. Many Members think that they will be affected directly or indirectly by the Bill. For example, many Members who represent Scottish constituencies say that they will be adversely affected, and Members from the west midlands take a similar view. Virtually no hon. Member has no geographical interest. I am saying that Members who have an immediate geographical interest should be excluded. That is because the Committee of Selection should try to balance the interests of those who serve on the Select Committee. The business of the Members who represent the geographical areas that will be affected is to make representations to the Select Committee, and it will be for the Select Committee to adjudicate on those representations.
Before my hon. Friend comes to the end of his most interesting speech, will he address himself to the key question in the motion, which is that the Committee should be composed of nine Members? Has my hon. Friend directed his formidable intellect to that number? Were there not 12 disciples and are there not 22 members of the Cabinet? Will my hon. Friend disclose to the House why we should hit upon nine Members, bearing in mind the two excellent precedents I have given?
I am seeking a hint from the hon. Gentleman as to the number that might be regarded as wanting out of the 22. The hon. Gentleman obviously cannot give a conclusive answer, but he may be able to help.
I am extremely grateful, as I did not wish to blight my prospects for ever by going through a great part of the Cabinet.
There is no great magic in nine, 11 or 15 Members, but there is a magic in having as many independent Members, incapable of being bullied, as possible serving on the Committee. As 11 is the only number on the Order Paper which is in excess of nine, I am moving in favour of 11 rather than nine.
Does my hon. Friend consider that his argument is strengthened by the fact that the Standing Orders Committee, of which I am a member, found it necessary, because of the tie in the Committee, with the Chairman finding it inappropriate to use his casting vote, that the matter relating to people's proprietary rights should be referred to the House? The House debated this matter at length yesterday. My hon. Friend's amendment is correct because to have nine people on a Select Committee is totally inadequate to deal with a matter of this gravity.
I agree. I do not see how any Committee of this House can examine proprietorial interests that are affected by a Bill of this complexity. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that 11 is better than nine. Of the unworthy choices presented to us, I prefer 11.
As a lawyer. does my hon. Friend agree that 12 is an appropriate number? The petitioners should have the right of challenge of at least three members of the Committee. In that way there would be a great degree of fairness in the composition of the Committee.
Will my hon. Friend ignore the blandishments of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who has for a long time now borne the imprint of the last lobbyist to have sat on him? The important point is not the number but the geographical content of the Committee.
My hon. Friend will be aware that much of the detail of the Bill and much of the land acquisition hangs upon the highly tenuous forecasts of the Department of Transport. The recently constructed motorway, which runs near to my constituency, is virtually at a standstill for five hours a day because of the Department's incompetence in assessing the volume of the traffic that would use it. Hon. Members who have had experience of the Department's incompetence should be included on the Committee.
Regarding my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, I have always thought that the imprint was the other way round. My hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is right about the geographical connection. As we are dealing with traffic projections which will affect people's proprietorial interests, we need both people of an independent mind and people capable of assessing independent expert evidence.
When addressing his mind to the number of Members to serve on the Select Committee, what will my hon. Friend think about how those Members should be selected? The motion proposes that they should be nominated by the Committee of Selection. What does he say about his amendment that five hon. Members should be nominated by this honourable House?
It is most uncharacteristic of my hon. Friend to ignore serious points put to him. The Leader of the House is present. Is it not open to my hon. Friend to offer advice to the Committee of Selection about those who should serve on the Committee? Would my hon. Friend care to comment on two suggestions? First, that——
Although there has been a certain levity in this debate, we are talking about a serious matter. [Interruption.] I apologise for being repetitive and I am willing to sit down, which is what I have been trying to do for the past few minutes. We are talking about major rights which can be protected only by this House. This House can form a view about the extent to which those rights are affected by the Bill only through the mechanism of the Select Committee. Therefore, it is important that the Select Committee which is considering the petitioners' claims should be as distinguished and independent as possible. It should be chaired at the highest possible level. I can think of few people more distinguished or more independent than my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath).
My hon. Friend said that hon. Members may be disqualified from sitting on the Committee for geographical reasons. Does he agree that it is possible to conceive that any hon. Member representing a port may be considered to have a vested interest, no matter where that port is? The implications are great when one thinks of all the hon. Members who may be disqualified on the ground that they have major construction companies, steel manufacturers of manufacturers of boring equipment located in their constituency. One can give a long list of hon. Members who may be disqualified on that ground. Does my hon. Friend agree with that?
Yes. There is always a necessary tension, as it were, between the view of the House as a whole, which tends to be more independent on the question of nomination, and that of the Committee of Selection. Although no Front-Bench Member would admit it, discussions can sometimes affect the composition of a Select Committee as determined by the Committee of Selection. That is why the House should have an element on the Select Committee which is nominated otherwise than through the Committee of Selection.
My hon. Friend is providing lion. Members with the only:guidance to be given on the motion. According to Mr. Speaker's direction, if we voted for the committal motion, we should have to vote for the series of amendments, and that would allow us to vote to have nine or 11 Select Committee Members. According to my hon. Friend's guidance, it would be extremely difficult to find nine, let alone 11, Members to sit on the Committee. That gives rise to the problem—remembering that no Members of the Liberal party have turned up tonight to move any of the amendments that stand in their names, and no Members of the SDP are here either— that if any Members of the alliance were appointed to sit on the Select Committee there would be no guarantee that they would ever turn up.
Indeed, and that fact has given rise to problems in the Labour party in recent weeks.
I imagine that thousands of people will be affected by the tunnel development, and we look to my hon. Friends who represent Thanet to spell that out in detail. Many will have a direct pecuniary or personal interest in this matter. It is difficult to see how justice can be done to them through the Select Committee mechanism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) spoke about the geographical composition of the Committee. I have the honour to represent a constituency which includes the town of Ashby de la Zouch. Contrary to the words of the song which puts it by the sea, it is in the centre of this fair island.
It is equidistant from the sea on all sides. Perhaps it is people living in places like that that my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) had in mind when he talked about there being no geographical connection to the sea.
I agree; but the point I am seeking to make is that the geographical content consists of the hon. Members and the local interests who make representations to the Select Committee. It is for the Select Committee to be as powerful, as independent, as impartial and as prestigious as possible so that its reports to the House carry real weight.
My hon. Friend said that it was of supreme importance in connection with the Bill that the membership of the Select Committee should be as prestigious as possible. Despite the criteria set by my hon. Friend, he has failed to address his mind to the key question that I put to him earlier: would it not be in accordance with my hon. Friend's criteria of great importance and of great prestige if my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) were to be a member of the Select Committee? My hon. Friend may think that our right hon. Friend should be the only member.
I have a great respect for my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. I certainly accept that the only prospect of getting a wholly unanimous report would be if he were indeed the sole member of the Select Committee. Although he would bring a highly critical eye to bear on the Government's proposals, I do not think it would be wholly fair to the people of Kent to leave it to him.
I am delighted to follow the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg). During the interesting, amusing and also serious speech that he made in the short time avaiable to him he made many references to the worries of the people of Kent. It may be convenient for the House, and I hope helpful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) in making up his mind about how he will vote on the motion, if I spell out some of the specific worries felt by the people of Kent.
It is now clear to the House that the concept of a fixed link between Britain and the continent is highly unpopular with a great many people in Kent. There are several reasons for that unpopularity, and among them is the importance of our island status. That was referred to in the earlier debate. That importance has been proven many times in war and is valued for what it has given our nation over the centuries in peace. Distrust of the French by the British is historic, and that distrust is still alive and kicking in villages and towns on this side of the Straits of Dover. People feel that in some way or another the French rather than the British will gain the bulk of the benefits from the building of the Channel tunnel.
Increased traffic by road and rail, more commercial activity, more building, more population pressures in an already crowded corner——
I fully appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and in my opening remarks I made the point that I thought that these factors would be of benefit to the House in deciding whether the Bill should go forward to a Select Committee. These are the concerns, in specific terms, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham has already referred in very general terms, and I believe that I am putting flesh on those bare bones to which he referred.
A few moments ago the hon. Gentleman referred to the adverse reaction to France of the people in the area near to his constituency and in his constituency, but is it not the case that those of us who are opposed to the tunnel — and there are many more of us than the Government suspect—are not primarily worried because of the French challenge? Some of us are Francophiles, but we can still adopt an anti-tunnel attitude without being considered anti-French.
What we are worried about is that the French, who are much more subtle in their governmental backing of the interests of France than are the present Conservative Government in backing the interests of Britain, will steal a march on us. It is not that we are anti-French. We just think that they are rather cleverer than this Government will be in their conduct of this matter.
The hon. Gentleman obviously speaks for himself and puts forward his own views. On this occasion, and in this context, I am speaking only of the concerns of constituents, as I know them.
My constituents' further concerns are about increased traffic by road and rail, more commercial activity, more building and the pressure of population in this crowded corner. It is a horrific nightmare to those who expect to be directly affected by the terminal, by new roads through or close to their properties and by more, and noisy, rail traffic both on already crowded lines and on those that are little used at present and are therefore reasonable to live by.
In bringing these matters to the attention of the House, I believe that I am not only helping it to decide whether it is right that committal to a Select Committee should take place, but giving it an opportunity to consider the membership of that Committee, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham.
My hon. Friend has mentioned a number of important aspects, but will he direct his attention to the question of employment, which certainly concerns every right hon. and hon. Member of the House and which must influence those who are to be members of the Select Committee? Will he direct his attention to the probable ultimate increase in employment in Kent by the creation of 5,500 long-term jobs after the beginning of the next century as a direct result of the building of the Channel tunnel and to the substantial increase in the number of jobs in other regions of the country that will be provided by the increased opportunities for industry and commerce as a result of the Channel tunnel? How does he believe that this might be reflected by those who are members of the Select Committee?
My hon. Friend leads me very comfortably and happily into my next point, which is that although there are present concerns about the anticipated loss of jobs in the ferry industry and about our capacity to maintain a ferry fleet, which has relevance in time of war, I am quite clear that once the Channel tunnel is built and running the benefit to other parts of Britain from the increase in the number of jobs will be very real, and certainly the members of the Select Committee should reflect that concern, opportunity and interest.
I do not follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. He seems to be saying that benefits will come to the regions after the tunnel has been opened. That is not my understanding. Is it not the case that the benefits, however small they are, will come during the construction of the tunnel? There will be no benefit to the regions after the tunnel is completed, because all the jobs related to the construction of the tunnel will have finished.
The hon. Gentleman misses the point completely in the second part of his intervention. I agree with him, and I am grateful to him for reminding the House, that great benefits will accrue to all regions during construction, provided that British industry is competitive enough in its tenders to win a large slice of the available contracts. Once the building is finished and the tunnel is in operation, industry in the regions will have the benefit of being able to export on an equal basis with other European countries instead of bearing the expense of the Channel sea crossing. That will be a major and continuing benefit that will be clearly reflected in increased job opportunities.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the composition of that Committee must also reflect the genuine anxiety felt in the country outside Kent that we are simply changing one system of communication for another? In some areas, people do not believe that it will give us an advantage over the French, the Germans or anyone else, because communications may be better——
Order. First, the hon. Gentleman should address the Chair, not turn his back on it. Secondly, if the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) were to pursue that matter he would be getting away from the question whether the Bill should go to a Select committee.
I apologise for not addressing you directly, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to point out that the Select committee, if it is to consider the Bill carefully and objectively, must reflect the genuine views and concerns throughout the country. If it is to be independent, its members must realise that, under the present system, the Europeans import less from us than we import from them and that nothing will change. All that we shall do will be to improve communications, but competitiveness will remain the same.
I accept my hon. Friend's point that those serious matters must be reflected in the membership of the Committee.
The fears of constituents in Kent, which I have mentioned to help the House to decide how the Bill should go forward, have been increased by the apparent attempt by the Government to push through the necessary legislation with undue haste. I take the opportunity to quote from a thoughtful and erudite correspondent, who said:
The Anglo-Saxon detests being pushed around in a hurry. It's up hackles, in toes. Often the poet sees it clearest, and Kipling lived in the Weald. 'But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole brood round your ears. They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and if you are wise you will yield.
His point about not pushing them around is good advice. In deciding about the move forward to a Select Committee, the House must take into account the fact that people do not wish to be pushed round, but wish to be certain that they will get a fair and balanced hearing, with as much time as they need on the matter——
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.
People should have enough time to be fully heard on the matters of their concern, and that will go some way towards dealing with the problem and difficulties that I am representing to the House this evening.
I am a supporter of the concept of the tunnel, and I believe that there is great benefit to the country in it. However, the project can be carried out fairly only if the Select Committee is of the right composition.
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman put his arguments in such a succinct form in terms of the short verse that he quoted. I had not heard those words before. I would be most grateful to him if he would repeat them, so that I can remember them. Having once read them and rehearsed them, he might do better next time round, and it might be that much more memorable and effective. I entirely endorse what he had to say.
I do not have the benefit of the training of the hon. Gentleman in learning lines and then repeating them word for word. I was merely quoting what a constituent had written to me.
I should like to turn now to other concerns that again bear on the procedural future of the Bill. A great deal of work has been carried out by Eurotunnel, the group, carrying out the project, in endeavouring to develop effective consultation in Kent. I think that it is an important point for the House to bear in mind that the promoters of the project, who have come in for a good deal of criticism in previous debates on the matter, are taking great trouble to involve, and to be available to, those who have concerns about the development that will be caused in Kent. I think that that is an important point to take into account.
As we are dealing with the composition of the Committee and as my hon. Friend has graphically illustrated the emotions that the Bill has built up in Kent and the strong views and interests that exist in Kent regarding the Bill, may I ask whether he is suggesting that this would automatically disqualify from membership of the Committee any Kentish man or man of Kent who was an hon. Member of the House? If so, would that not disqualify automatically and rather sadly our right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), as was so eloquently suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow)?
No. I remind my hon. Friend that it is not I who was suggesting specific qualifications for members of the Committee, and certainly not I who suggested that geographical qualifications should work against their selection. In my view, to achieve a balanced Committee, there has to be representation from the areas most concerned. I do not think that any of us in the House would be here if we were not prepared on occasion to speak for local interests. That is part of the job, just as it is part of the job to take a national view on things. That is why from my own viewpoint I support the Channel tunnel as a project, because I believe that it will be of value to the nation in the future. However, I also see it as part of my job to air the concern of my constituents about the way in which it may affect them exactly.
I deal now with another area where any constituents will be directly affected and where they may well wish to petition the Committee about the problems that they are likely to face. They are very concerned about the effect that increased rail traffic will have on the commuter services that they currently enjoy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) makes a good point. The benefits that they have now, such as they are, may be curtailed by increased rail traffic and their current rights therefore adversely affected. So the matter is relevant to this debate.
Additional trains will run on the line through Sevenoaks to Charing Cross. That will be the main passenger link between the coast and London. There will also be increased freight traffic on the line running through Maidstone, Otford and Swanley. There is relatively lower use of that line now. The line running from Tonbridge to Redhill will also have increased freight usage.
All that will have an effect on my constituents and their concern at how their livelihoods, the peace and quiet that they enjoy, the opportunity that they have to travel up and down to town in British Rail——
I thank my hon. Friend. Yes, in British Rail cattle trucks. I call them bone shakers. They are often dirty and are not in good condition. Nevertheless, even the low level of service that exists in some cases now could be further curtailed. Again they may wish to petition Parliament on those issues. Therefore, the membership of the Select Committee must include individuals who are in a position to take an enlightened and interested view, based on their own knowledge and background.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to bring some of these points to the attention of the House before it makes its decision about the committal of the Bill.
The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) criticised the alliance earlier for not being here to move amendments which it had tabled. If he looked at the selection list, he would realise that there are four groupings of amendments and that none of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and myself is in this grouping. Unlike other parties, we shall move the amendments that we have tabled and we hope that they will be voted on.
None the less, it is important that our view should be put on the other amendments that are not in our names. In relation to the amendments which we are discussing at the moment, which I understand are to be moved, although not by a member of the Labour party which originally tabled them, I endorse the view that on a matter of such importance the Select Committee procedure should allow the maximum number of participants. Therefore, I commend the amendment which suggests that there should be 11 Members on the Select Committee.
Amendment (b), which proposes that five of the 11 should be nominated by the House and six by the relevant Committee, is the most democratic way of ensuring that the membership of the Select Committee is not carved up by the usual channels. It is important that hon. Members who have an interest, and who respect and understand the national importance of the matter, should have a chance to participate in the Select Committee.
It will be difficult to find any number of hon. Members, be it nine or 11, who do not have an interest and who are not in some way affected by the Bill. That is accepted by hon. Members on both sides of the House. But, because of the controversial nature of the Bill, and particularly because of the importance of the Bill to the people of Kent, who will be most substantially affected, they will be better served by the larger rather than the smaller number of Members, who will represent a wider variety of views and will hopefully, therefore, be better able to represent their interests and respond to the concerns put forward by the petitioners.
I hope that when the time comes the House will agree to both the amendments that have been selected and debated with the first motion. That will allow the procedures of this place to be seen in a good light and, perhaps, give somewhat more encouragement to the people of Kent than the performance that they would have witnessed had they been here for the two hours until now, when they would have heard very little on the important substantive issues and a considerable amount that would not have given them any great enthusiasm or encouragement to believe that their views would be represented.
I hope that, if we are to be here for a long time through the night, more than four or five of the 16 Members elected to serve Kent constituencies will attend and participate in the debate. If the matter is of importance to the people of Kent, their representatives should be here to put forward their views.
I wish to raise a couple of points about the desirability or otherwise of keeping members of the Select Committee informed as and when they deliberate on the Bill. One matter that many of us have had drawn to our attention is that it is thought widely in this country that if we are to have a tunnel — and many of us are not convinced that it is necessary—it should be of the right sort. When the Select Committee considers the representations made to it, one of the overriding factors that it should bear in mind is whether the right sort of tunnel has been chosen by the Government.
There is a view that if a tunnel is considered necessary, it would be wrong to choose one that would be hostage to the railway system. The original idea, when we first considered a tunnel, was for a combined road and rail link, and I believe that was right. I have listened to all the arguments today, but no one has deployed an argument in any convincing detail why we abandoned the original road-rail link idea and are now stuck with only a rail link.
I am a great believer in the railway system, and while we have an onward looking rail authority the project may be successful. However, it places us very much in the hands of the railway unions, and we cannot but continually bear in mind the militant attitude of some of them. For example, millions of pounds worth of new rolling stock cannot be brought into use on the London-midlands line because of lack of co-operation from the unions. Therefore, the first matter that the Select Committee should consider is whether we have chosen the right sort of tunnel. I think it is the wrong sort.
Another view that will no doubt be put to the Committee by many of the objectors—and it is as well that it should be mentioned today—is whether we need a tunnel at all. Earlier in our debates there were speeches both in favour and against——
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not put words into Mr. Speaker's mouth. I was present when Mr. Speaker referred to those hon. Members who had been here all day and expressed his anxiety that they should have an opportunity to speak. However, he did not say that the debate would be wide-ranging. We are discussing petitioning and whether to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to the motion before the House.
I will certainly do that.
We have heard lengthy speeches about the number of members for the Select Committee. If I so wish, I can deploy my arguments at considerable length and stay within the bounds of order. The numbers of members proposed for the Select Committee is in no way adequate, to deal with the many problems that are likely to arise.
My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) referred to the composition of the Select Committee and suggested that it should consist of one person only. I believe that there should be a wide-ranging Committee with many members.
Should the hon. Gentleman not examine with more care that very rational and sensible suggestion that the Committee should consist of one person and that that one person should be the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)? With his long experience of Parliament, the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) must realise that integrity is not a constant element in every hon. Member. What is required is an hon. Member who, come hell or high water, friend or foe., after proper examination of the matter, will stick to his view with great resolution. There is much to be said for a man with such integrity examining an impossibly complex problem which has not, unfortunately, been subject to the proper examination of a public inquiry.
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point, but that would not be very successful. I do not believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) would be at all acquiescent to some of the representations that would be made to him. For instance, he would not be prepared to accept the fact that many thousands of jobs are at risk on our ferries and at Dover, Folkestone and the other ports. He would not be prepared to consider the fact that the jobs which are to be provided will be terminal jobs. There is no long-term future in these jobs. A few thousand people will be employed for a short period—only a few years—to build the tunnel. Those would be terminal jobs, like the terminal jobs of those who built the pyramids on the Nile. There is no future in those jobs. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup would not be a trustworthy person to have on the Select Committee.
Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir John Farr) will accept that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) is a man of great integrity. With regard to my right hon. Friend being the sole member of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend is correct to cast doubt on whether that is a wise course of action.
Does my hon. Friend recall that in 1972, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup as Prime Minister was petitioned by the people who now have the misfortune to live in the county of Humberside that they should remain in the old counties of the East Riding of Yorkshire and of Lindsay, he refused to listen to them? Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the important credentials for serving on a Committee of this kind is that one should not have a fixed or single-minded view? On such a Select Committee one should have a completely open mind. One should listen to the evidence from the promoters, on the one hand, and from the petitioners, on the other. One should not have a fixed view and not be open to persuasion on the basis of the evidence that is laid before the Committee.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks. Of course, they bear more than an element of truth. However, I think that my hon. Friend was trying, as I was, to say that we are not really satisfied with the number proposed for the composition of the Select Committee, to which we are considering referral of the Bill.
The remark by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup should be the only member of the Committee was probably made in a jocular frame of mind. But, to be more serious, no one person, no six, seven or 17 persons, however knowledgeable, could absorb all the different facets which they will confront.
For instance, I know that teams of people from the National Farmers Union are waiting to find out the composition of the Select Committee to prepare submissions to them on the risk of rabies, which is a real possibility. Rabies is now at the Channel ports and there is a real possibility that it could somehow be transmitted on the rail link between the two shores. The NFU wants reassurances. I would take the word of my right hon. Friend on many things, but I would not accept any reassurance from him on rabies from Europe. He would give them a white sheet when, in fact, there are considerable risks.
It is important to have on the Select Committee experts on defence and shipping. We have on both sides of the House, thank goodness, some knowledgeable people who can speak for shipping, particularly naval shipping. They should be on the Select Committee and they should decide. Representatives from Sealink and the Dover Harbour Board came to the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments the other day. Experts must be on the Select Committee to analyse what such people will say about threats to the livelihoods of many tens of thousands of people in the Dover district and to our seafaring capacity and capability at the Channel ports and elsewhere. The evidence must be heard and analysed by the many experts on both sides of the House. The sort of evidence that we heard was that the fixed link would be damaging to employment, would lead to a rapid rundown of our ferry fleets, and would mean that we would never again have the naval capability to mount another Falklands expedition.
My hon. Friend touches on an important point in the skills available to the Select Committee. Will the Select Committee have access to independent advice in the same way as other Select Committees? He might consider what areas of advice should be available to such a Select Committee? In looking at the numbers that might be appropriate for the Select Committee, should not he and perhaps others speaking on this important constitutional matter therefore consider each of the 650 Members of the House to ascertain the ideal combination for deliberating on these important matters?
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you rule on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), because it is fairly crucial? We are debating paragraph 1 with amendments (a) and (b). As you will see, I am a signatory to those amendments. I should like guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely we must be able to refer to the question of which hon. Members might be selected from the House. The amendments to which I am a signatory ask us to debate whether some members of the Committee should be nominated by the House and not selected by the Committee of Selection.
I was dealing with the composition of the Select Committee. I said that it would be helpful, when members are chosen in the usual way, to have experts on agriculture, animal health, defence and shipping. We should also have an expert on the Select Committee to deal with the possibility of sabotage.
The hon. Gentleman has again referred to specialists being put on the Committee who have knowledge of agriculture and animal health. I am disturbed by the reference to animal health. Unless there is an hon. Member on the Committee Who is knowledgeable about the dangers of the ravaging disease, rabies, we may find that within a few months of the opening of the tunnel the appalling disease is rampant in Britain. I am profoundly disturbed about the introduction of the disease through the tunnel. When a smuggled pet is on a smooth running railway line, the little thing is likely to sleep all the way. However—this is a guarantee to prevent rabies entering Britain — if that little pet is smuggled on board an aircraft the variation in pressure——
As I said, when the Select Committee is appointed it should take on board the possibility of sabotage. It is absolutely essential that we should have on the Committee Members, preferably from both sides of the House who are familiar with anti-sabotage techniques. Hon. Members with such expertise do exist.
I hope that the Select Committee will cast its mind to matters such as that when it is set up. For those reasons, I do not think that the Select Committee should be as small as is envisaged, and we shall come to the ridiculously low quorum of three later in the debate. However, I certainly think that the Committee should be considerably larger than is proposed.
The whole tenor of the debate has been to insist that there must be special qualifications and disqualifications as to area and interest. My hon. Friend is now saying that the Committee should be larger. Throughout the debate I have been coming to the conclusion that hardly any hon. Member, except my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), would be qualified. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to reconsider what he is saying. To ask for an increase is not in order because of the qualifications and disqualifications that have been mentioned.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup has all the abilities to which he referred. However, I cannot consider him as having the ability to absorb all the different arguments and to come up with a single fair conclusion alone. If he were in the job alone, the masses of conflicting evidence that he would have to sift would take until next year or the year after. The main objective in the life of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench is to get the tunnel through as quickly as possible.
Earlier, it was suggested that as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), an hon. Member who would be suitable for the Committee would be the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). That would bring in another view that might be helpful.
I am sure that as my hon. Friend has suggested that will be a real risk if we have a one-man Committee. We shall have to bear that in mind.
It is also important to have on the Committee specialists from both sides of the House who can analyse our trading position and the benefits and advantages of the tunnel to our trade. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, in his good speech this afternoon, said that we shall have tremendous opportunities as a result of building this tunnel. For example, our exporters would be able to move their goods from Manchester to Berne, almost overnight. I well recall that such arguments were adduced when we first joined the Common Market. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and many others said that fantastic opportunities were waiting to be seized by our exporters.
What has happened since we joined? We were then net exporters to the EEC. Now we are big importers of its manufactured goods. Recently, we have become major net importers from the rest of the world. All that has happened since we joined the Community. Therefore, although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has great knowledge and the facilities of the Department to call upon, I would not necessarily accept his analysis that the creation of the tunnel will benefit our exporters. I do not think it will.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her intervention. I am not saying that a tunnel will necessarily make the situation worse, although the leather, shoe and boot manufacturers in Northamptonshire have grave difficulties because of imports from the Community. Therefore, it will be important to have on the Select Committee several persons who are well informed on commercial, trading and business matters so that they can make an analysis of whether, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the tunnel will be of advantage to our manufacturers.
Would my hon. Friend concede that among the candidates for the Committee should be the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) who has two remarkable qualifications? First, he is the only Labour Back Bencher who has sat through the debate sc far. Secondly, he is experienced in playing many different roles and therefore has many of the ranges of expertise that will be required.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is an experienced parliamentarian and follows the correct procedure, that when an hon. Member is referred to he should have the right to reply.
I am not eager to lose my summer holidays this year, but I am so profoundly opposed to this lunatic enterprise that I might even consider an invitation to serve on the Select Committee. In examining the arguments that would be put to such a Committee, I would be of enormous value. Few Members of the House with the limited interests that most of them represent, have such a wide-ranging knowledge of all the riches and vicissitudes of life as the hon. Member for Warley, East.
I was extolling my many virtues. My virtues are so many that I could speak for another 20 or 25 minutes, but I must have some regard for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Were my expertise on a range of issues to be required — and we would need as members of the Committee those with reasoned arguments to oppose the introduction of this little tunnelling enterprise—I would be somewhat tempted to accept the invitation. I would do that, of course, only with the agreement of most hon. Members; but, knowing how very popular I am with hon. Members on both sides of the House——
I was saying that it would be important to have on the Select Committee specialists in trade. I gave an instance of the way in which the footwear trade and certainly the knitting and hosiery trades in Leicester have been hit by exports from the continent. Many hosiery and knitwear goods come in from Portugal and Italy, and Portuguese goods pose a real problem in that respect. The domestic industries of Leicester and Northampton have been ravaged by cheap imports from Portugal, and from Italy to a certain extent. All I am saying, in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who made the point this afternoon, is that it is not fair to say that there will be a one-way advantage to our manufacturers. The opposite will apply. Continental manufacturers will be able to get their goods to our shops much more quickly, or that much more quickly than they can now.
It will also be important to have on the Select Committee at least two financial specialists—preferably the chairmen of the relevant financial committees from both sides of the House. I say that because the Conservative party and the Prime Minister recently pledged that no public money wll be used in the project.
I would want those financial specialists to cast their cool and analytical minds over the balance of payments and how the bill will be picked up. I gather that it will be on a fifty-fifty basis—50 per cent. of the project backed by French banks and 50 per cent. by British banks. As I understand it, the French banks are natonalised anyhow, which means that 50 per cent. of the cost of the project is certainly from public money.
I would want the financial experts, together with a specialist on transport, to consider the massive extra costs to British Rail's infrastructure— millions of pounds— which have been referred to in earlier debates. That is public money. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was questioned about that this afternoon, he said, rather jocularly, that possibly a public loan or Government subsidy could be extended by hundreds of millions of pounds. Many hon. Members would not find that acceptable. We think that we have lent the railways too much already, and we would like a better show of good faith by the railways before casting more good money after bad.
Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the great advantages of such investment is that the trains which will be able to run on the improved tracks down to and through the Channel tunnel would give British Rail, as an operator, access to virtually all the cities of Europe, especially with its freight, and give our exporters a tremendous advantage by being able to get through the tunnel in one journey? Therefore, that investment would be highly worth while.
I accept the optimistic analysis that my hon. Friend has made, but I completely disagree with him. The reason I disagree is that a few years ago members of the Council of Europe Transport Committee went to Paris and considered matters from the point of view of the French. I am convinced that if the British Government had had more financial acumen, they could have got the French Government to pay for the whole damned tunnel. They showed us a wonderful map of the Europe that was to be in the future. The missing link was a railway under the Channel tunnel. The French said that they were anxious to have the rail link built. They are sitting in the middle of a spider's web, as it were, with France and Paris at the centre of Europe.
Years ago, we used to consider that Britain was at the centre of things. We are not even at the centre of the Commonwealth now, although I suppose we are still at the centre of the English-speaking world. When the Channel link is built, with a rail system only, we shall be on the fringes of a European transport pattern designed for traffic between the centre of Europe and the periphery, of which we will be part. That will be a detrimental step. We have avoided it for many generations, and we should avoid it in future.
Perhaps the Select Committee will consider evidence that the French could have paid for the tunnel. Does my hon. Friend accept, and perhaps reject, that if the French paid for the tunnel, they would have used French labour and machinery? The development would have benefited the French economy, and Britain would not have received any of the gains that are offered under the present suggestion.
I agree with what my hon. Friend has said. He made the point that it is important to have on the Select Committee people who understand the advantages to the French of building the tunnel. It is proper that experts on finance, transport and trade matters should tell hon. Members why a few years ago the French said that they would be prepared to fund the full cost of the tunnel if they were given the chance to do so.
It is important that we should have——
Does my hon. Friend accept that there should be an expert on the Select Committee who understands geographical implications? Many of the important reservations which colleagues have about the Bill are based on a belief that the tunnel is being built in the wrong place. If someone understood the importance of linking the midlands and the east coast of Britain with the industrial heartland of Europe rather than the south-east with the north of France, some important expertise and knowledge might be brought to bear on the consideration of the Bill.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, I think that he has reinforced my argument that the Select Committee should not be as is suggested in the motion. The proposed number of members is far too few. The Committee should be full of experts. I respectfully suggest that the Bill should go before a Select Committee of the whole House.
I regret that I have to disagree completely with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Fan). I disagree entirely with his proposition that the proposed size of the Select Committee is too small. I believe that the House is suffering from too many Committees, both Standing and Select. I speak as a Member who is currently serving on a Standing Committee and a Select Committee.
I shall recount my experience of this very day. I was the member of a Select Committee that was summoned to meet at 10.30 am, which I was unable to attend because I had to be present for a Standing Committee. The Whips kindly let me leave that Committee for a whole quarter of an hour during the morning so that I could attend the Select Committee. I then had to return to the Standing Committee. That Standing Committee met again this evening. I am casting no aspersions on the great and the good in the House, but I cannot help noticing that many of us who have the honour to be members of various Committees fall into the category, like myself, of rather humble and junior Back Benches, who perhaps form, if you will excuse the expression, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the poor bloody infantry of this place.
Much mention has been made of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)——
Indeed. That is the point that I wish to make. There are many others who do not serve on any Committees. One of my senior right hon. Friends returned fairly recently to the Back Benches. To his amazement, he received a small white card, with which many of us are extremely familiar, which meant that the Selection Committee had summoned him to serve on a Committee. My right hon. Friend apparently asked his secretary to explain what the card was all about. Needless to say, he did not turn up to serve on the Committee as summoned.
There is difficulty in manning our Select Committees and Standing Committees and it is therefore quite wrong for several of my right hon. and hon. Friends to propose that the Select Committee that will consider the serious matter that is before us should have its membership increased from nine members to 11. Dare I suggest it, but I have the nasty feeling at the back of my mind that those of my hon. Friends who have advanced the proposition have been hijacked in some way by the official Opposition, whose amendment it is.
I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that those of us who have signed the amendments that are in the name of the Leader of the Opposition have done so for any reason other than the fact that we are wholly in agreement with them. I sign nothing in the House, be it an early-day motion or an amendment, whomsoever has tabled it, unless I agree with the proposal. I hardly look at the names of those who support it. I look solely at the amendment, and if it commends itself to me I sign it purely on that basis, and on nothing more or less than that. I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his slur upon those of us who added our signatures to the amendments solely because we agreed with them.
I have been challenged on this point and I wish to withdraw in the most gracious way possible.
I do not wish to cast a slur on the intentions of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg). No one who heard his speech would accuse him of being hijacked. I was ill advised when I used that word. I should have used the words "taken over". As I look at the crowded Opposition Benches, I cannot help noticing that none of the original signatories of the amendment has had the courtesy to be here to debate it. By their absence they are snubbing the House and not treating their amendment with the seriousness it deserves. I see a slight stirring from the temporary watchkeeper behind the Opposition Dispatch Box. I am willing to give way to the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) if he wishes to challenge me on that point.
My hon. Friend has already made my point, which is that it is exceedingly fortunate that my hon. Friends had the foresight to realise that the Labour party might well renege on its duties and fail to be present. Therefore, my hon. Friends were able to take over the burden from them.
My hon. Friend's objection to this amendment is that there are not enough Back Benchers to staff the Committee. He drew attention to the fact that a number of Privy Councillors do not sit on any Committees. If we follow the logic of his argument, one could suggest that, for this uniquely important Bill, there should be a Select Committee composed entirely of Privy Councillors who are not currently engaged on Government business.
That is rather a nice thought. I wonder whether we would have difficulty in meeting the quorum requirement. We might have to apply penalties.
Without casting aspersions I shall draw on my experience today. I was on a Standing Committee during the evening and a vote was called at precisely 5.15 pm. Two of my colleagues—one is a right hon. Member—happen to be members of the executive of the 1922 Committee and they disappeared from the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee on which I have the privilege and pleasure to serve — for tedious meeting after tedious meeting—is on the Salmon Bill. Three members of the Committee are also executive members of the 1922 Committee, including none other than the chairman of the 1922 Committee.
No one in living memory can recall the last occasion on which the chairman of the 1922 Committee sat on a Standing Committee. I am not sure about Select Committees.
Do not my hon. Friend's observations show that if the issue is considered to be sufficiently serious, as obviously the Salmon Bill is, the same attitude will prevail for the Channel Tunnel Bill?
Yes, that is the case, provided the members are volunteers, not pressed men. Amendment (b) suggests that five of the members of the proposed Select Committee should be nominated by the House. That is the awful dilemma of the Select Committee.
Let us suppose that some hon. Members are selected by the House to serve on the Select Committee against their wishes, just as I in my humble position have been put on the Salmon Bill Committee. I do not wish to serve on it; I was put on it. My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) was also put on it.
My hon. Friend wanted to serve on the Committee. I would willingly swap places with him. The great and the good of the House—the people whose names have been bandied about frivolously — may be nominated to serve on the Select Committee, but they may not attend to their duties as lesser mortals, like me, must do because we live in fear and trembling of the Whips. I have not noticed that the great and the good pay much regard to the Whips. I see a Whip stirring. I am sure that he will not intervene, which would be against all our conventions, so I shall continue.
This evening two of my hon. Friends left the Committee to attend the executive meeting of the 1922 Committee and the Whip had to scurry down the Corridor to retrieve them. They returned willingly. That underlines the dangers that we face if the Select Committee is of such a size that it is not composed of volunteers who passionately want to serve on it and who will see it through from beginning to end.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham said, it is important to have hon. Members on the Select Committee who are independent and, above all, who want to serve on it.
Is it not a fact that hon. Members who are most passionate to sit on the Select Committee are most likely to have an interest which will bias their view, so they should be the least qualified to sit on it? If that is so, and bearing in mind all the other disqualifications mentioned, is not the substance of the debate whether we should have a Select Committee considering the matter because we cannot find anyone to sit on it?
That is another dilemma. I must tread carefully because the last thing I want to do is to appear to volunteer to serve on the Select Committee. I am completely disinterested, but I do not want to tempt fate.
In developing his possible role in this matter, does my hon. Friend agree that his almost unique experience of the European Parliament before he came to the House would qualify him to serve on the Select Committee because he could give it views from both sides of the Channel which few hon. Members could do?
My hon. Friend is better qualified than I to serve, for he, too, was a Member of the European Parliament, though he displayed a fervour for all things European, his aim being to build bridges with Europe, let alone tunnels, so I bow to any claim he may make to be a member of the Select Committee.
I rule out my ability to serve on the Select Committee because I have a wife and family. Is my hon. Friend aware that those who attend Committees diligently are likely to be well rewarded? For example, we read in The Guardian recently of how Mr. Matthew Parris attended 90 Committee meetings in the Session 1984–85, and he seems to have been well rewarded.
I understand that our former colleague has not yet been rewarded by the job that he intends to take up having left this place.
Considering the activities of the Select Committee which considered the Okehampton bypass, one wonders whether this is the best type of body to consider issues of this type. That was not a happy Select Committee for those of us who represent south-west constituencies, particularly Cornish and Devonshire hon. Members who desperately wanted that bypass to be built.
While I do not question the integrity of the Members who served on that Select Committee, I fear that—in the House or in the Selection Committee—we shall fail to find nine, let alone 11, impartial Members with the necessary dedication and time to examine the issue of the tunnel.
I hope, therefore, that the House will reject the amendment which has been tabled by some hon. Members, though I will not say tabled in an unholy alliance between some of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members because I have already been rebuked for making that comment.
I have now sat through nearly nine and a half hours of debate on the Bill and I am grateful for this opportunity to take part in it and support the motion that the Bill go to a Select Committee. Most of us feel that the tunnel would be a great advantage to this nation, and we would be glad to see it. I am pleased that the Bill is to go to a Select Committee, because that will mean that an opportunity will be given for evidence to be taken and for papers to be called for. One hopes that that will enable a thorough discussion to take place on the merits and demerits of the tunnel.
The Channel tunnel is probably one of the most exciting developments ever to take place in the United Kingdom. It will end the isolation of this offshore nation and make us firmly part of Europe, where we belong. It will take us into the 21st century and profoundly affect the whole of Britain, not just the south-east, but the part of the country that I represent as well.
I should like to join hon. Members in all parts of the House who have made representations about who should serve on the Select Committee on the Bill. I hope that I can exclude myself by saying that it is my wish to serve on Committees considering other aspects of legislation that will come before the House in the near future. Therefore, I hope that I shall already be occupied.
I hope that the nine members of the Committee, or whatever number of members the House decides upon, will be truly representative of opinion in the House. That means that they should represent those in favour in all parts of the House, as well as those who are against. It should include hon. Members, not just from the south-east, and not just from London, who have tended to speak so forcefully on behalf of their constituents during this debate, but those from the midlands and the north, because it is in many of those constituencies that we will see a number of the benefits, both in the short term and in the long term.
My constituents in Derby—not just those who work for British Rail Engineering Limited but many of those who work for companies involved in construction and for many of the companies which are involved in subcontracting to engineering firms all over the country —are jubilant and will he more than pleased when they win their share of the substantial sum of money that will be available to be spent on new rolling stock, signalling, track equipment and all the other things required. Orders for those things will soon be placed as a result of the Bill and the Select Committee report on it.
Membership of the Select Committee will no doubt include hon. Members of the Opposition, such as the hon. Meinber for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) who spoke so for6efully in the debate. It is a great pity that those hon. Members who will find that substantial sums of money will be spent directly in their own constituencies—for example, £60 million will be spent on Waterloo station —have done nothing but whinge about it. If the Select Committee were to represent that as a result of this legislation £60 million should be spent in the heart of Derby, I would be thrilled to bits about it and the last thing that I would do would be to carp about it.
It seems that some Opposition Members prefer to have rundown, derelict sites in their areas, and poverty and misery and a lack of hope, instead of the growth, which the hon. Member for Vauxhall so aptly described, that will come about with new hotels and restaurants and all the other services that will deal with travellers. Perhaps if the rates base of an area like Lambeth were to be widened by the development of such facilities to take the place of the dereliction that exists there, the council would not have to charge such high rates. That includes the rates of those hon. Members who have flats in that part of the city. I suspect that some hon. Members whose constituencies are affected in this way and who might therefore be requested to serve on the Select Committee and be among the nine hon. Members whose names are put forward by the Committee of Selection, actually prefer to see that kind of misery. If their areas become gentrified in the way that I have suggested, some Opposition Members will lose their seats.
Under hon. Members who will be asked to serve will, no doubt, be hon. Members who have spoken so ably on the Second Reading, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken). Perhaps the Select Committee, while listening carefully to the arguments put forward by people such as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South, would have more sympathy if he were simply to put the parochial case and say that this will cause distress and disturbance to his constituents, rather than claim to be speaking for the whole nation and by so doing casting slurs on those who wish to promote the Bill and who see themselves as doing that in the interests of the whole nation.
This will be the biggest civil engineering project ever seen in Europe. In the debate on procedure on 3 June my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South called it a
monster to the inhabitants of the small coastal towns and villages where they will hurt most.—[Official Report, 3 June 1986; Vol. 98, c. 847.]
Of course, he is right in that, and I hope that the Select Committee, in taking evidence and in listening to the represenations made to it, will take that into account, because some of my hon. Friend's constituents and some of the constituents of other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate will be living for about five years on the biggest building site in Europe. Those of us who recognise the benefits will, I hope, nevertheless recognise that those private interests are being affected. There will be an obligation on all those concerned — the developers, the Government and the promoters of the Bill —to ensure that they operate at all times with respect for those who are living nearby. There is a considerable obligation on all concerned to listen to the objections and to try to accommodate them.
I hope that when the Select Committee is taking evidence, some of the evidence that it receives will be more sensitive, tactful and aware of the difficulties faced by the constituents in those Kent constituencies than was evident in some of the stuff that came out during the arguments that preceded the presentation of legislation to this House. I read with some interest and some alarm the paper called "We Need the Channel Tunnel Now", which no doubt the Select Committee will have to take into account. There is a splendid collection of cartoons of what will happen if and when the Channel tunnel, in its current form, actually happens. It is one of the most tactless pieces that has been produced.
There are eight pictures. They talk about the fast approach to the terminal, about passports being checked without passengers having to leave their cars and about the shuttle being ready and waiting. The family described in this set of cartoons may well be my constituents. They may not at any stage have spent any money in Britain before they get into the shuttle and are whisked across to France. When they reach France they stop because they need a pause for light refreshment. And where do they stop? They stop in Sangatte in France. Not a penny is spent in England.
If the promoters of the Bill wish to allay the fears of those who live in the south-east, I hope that when they present their evidence to the Select Committee and are questioned carefully by hon. Members, who no doubt will represent constituencies in Kent, they will take into account the fact that if at any time they had suggested that money will be spent in Kent and that Kent will suddenly become alive with fast food shops, hotels, boutiques and the very best sort of trading, which I am sure would be of great value to the shopkeepers, ratepayers and councils of Kent, there might not have been quite the opposition and determination to emphasise the negative side. Some of that material has been tactless in the extreme. I hope that the promoters of the Bill will take into account the fact that those colleagues who find that their areas are growing and developing as a result of the changes will therefore be encouraged to accept them.
The Select Committee will also no doubt be presented with a great deal of evidence about public opinion. One of its tasks will be to judge whether public opinion is right in this case, and whether public opinion is taking into account the long-term as well as the short-term benefits. According to a MORI poll, only 37 per cent. of the public in Kent are in favour, and the British public as a whole are in favour only by a very slight majority—51 per cent. The Select Committee should recognise that in Calais only 9 per cent. of the public are against, while 89 per cent. are in favour. That is a ratio of 10 to 1 in favour, yet France has exactly the same problems.
The public in France will also be living on a building site for the next five years. They will also have all the difficulties surrounding the removal of spoil and the mess created by building works. They, too, will have all the worries about terrorism and God knows what, yet in Calais the public are 10 to 1 in favour. It cannot just be because the area around Calais is more deprived than the area around Dover. If we look at the whole of France, we find that the figures are much the same. Only 10 per cent. of the French people are against, and they are outnumbered seven to one by those who are in favour. And France is a more prosperous country than this nation.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is possible that the disparity between the economic wellbeing of France, the Pas de Calais, on the one hand, and the south-east of England, including Kent, on the other, goes a long way towards explaining the disparity in attitude? Does she agree that it is precisely because the tunnel will affect a relatively prosperous area in the United Kingdom where people——
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) and to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that the Select Committee will consider carefully whether there is any logic in the argument that a poor part of France is in favour and a wealthy part of England is against, when the whole of France is in favour and much of England is against. Yet France is the wealthier nation. The argument simply does not wash.
What worries me is that the people of France seem much more aware of the matter. I hope that the Select Committee will take evidence in France and that it will take every opportunity to balance the views presented to it with the views expressed in France. The people of France seem to be more optimistic about and interested in the scheme, and it would be a pity if some of the negative attitudes that we have heard tonight prevented us from making the most of the opportunities available.
Will my hon. Friend remember that the precedents in such matters lead us to the conclusion that there should be nominations, not only by the Committee of Selection but by the House, in accordance with the general principle applicable to hybrid Bills, so that such evidence is properly considered? Would she go further, in the light of her arguments, and suggest that we should invite French witnesses to appear before the Committee and give evidence?
My hon. Friend will be aware that later in tonight's agenda—I suspect that we shall reach it at about 5 am—there will be the opportunity to consider whether the Select Committee should be able
to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom.
If my hon. Friend is still following the debate with the great interest that he has shown so far, he will have the opportunity to suggest that the Select Committee might go
further than the United Kingdom, which might make it a highly attractive proposition for the nine Members who are likely to be nominated to serve on it.
I am sure that that is the case, and I hope that the Committee will take every opportunity to hear both sides of the argument, and that includes the arguments from France. I would deplore any argument that simply suggested that we should consider only the benefit to the United Kingdom, for we are partners in Europe, and the welfare of our partners in Europe is of interest to us. I hope that that will be taken into account.
I hope that Select Committee will take evidence that examines the long-term prospects for the United Kingdom and Europe, which will benefit from closer links. Those closer links can only be beneficial. Throughout economic history, communications have been the prerequisite for economic development. Outside my home there is a Roman road. The first thing the Romans did was to build roads all over Europe. They were then able to take peace, prosperity and development across Europe. The Spanish crossed the Atlantic. No doubt there was a debate about how that was not needed either, but it led to the development of the new world and to increased prosperity in Europe.
The British built the first canal system, then the railway system, and then they exported the railway to the subcontinent of India, South America and North America, thereby opening untold opportunities. In those respects, air travel—the latest form of mass travel— is still in its infancy, but it is hoped that the effects on air travel of the proposed changes will also be taken into account by the Select Committee. One effect of taking the Bill to a Select Committee and of fully exploring the opportunities for competition that are offered by the tunnel will be to reduce the price of air travel to Europe, for which we shall all be profoundly grateful.
The Channel tunnel is a link of the same sort and it will stand history with all the developments that I have mentioned. It will make mass transit easier and cheaper. There is not much argument about that, because one piece of evidence that the Select Committee will hear forcefully is that fares will fall. The only argument is by how much. The suggestion is at least 10 per cent. and, according to Phillips and Drew, as much as 40 per cent. That must be a good thing.
The tunnel will reduce the cost of transporting freight. I hope that evidence will be taken on what beneficial environmental effect that will have on the areas of Kent that are so clogged up with lorries at present. There are 1·5 million lorries a year carried on cross-Channel ferries. Whatever else the Channel tunnel will do, whatever else the rail link will do, it will relieve some of that pressure on the villages of Kent, and I have to say that I hope that colleagues who serve on the Committee will take every opportunity to put that fact not only to the Select Committee but to constituents, who are bound to benefit from it. It is the most exciting development in my view in the last 50 years, and I hope that it will come about.
I hope that one of the members of the Select Committee will be a representative of this side of the House from somewhere in the midlands or the north, which will benefit considerably from the construction. Earlier this evening we heard an excellent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King), who pointed out how much his constituents and the people of Birmingham will benefit from the development. He will know that Metro Cammell is joining British Rail Engineering Limited, which has works in the vicinity of my constituency—and many of my constituents actually work there — in a consortium with a number of other companies, and that for the first time a number of companies that produce rolling stock for the railways are getting together, instead of competing, and are to produce a proper bid. I therefore recommend to the Committee of Selection that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield, who currently is pulling faces at me, should be considered for this Select Committee. It seems to me that he will be able to make an excellent case on behalf not only of his constituents but of mine also.
I draw to my hon. Friend's attention the sort of figures that the Channel Tunnel Group was putting about at the time that it was making the bid. It was suggesting at that time that the north and west midlands and the south-east would be likely to benefit to the tune of about £24 million from providing reinforcing steel, that the east midlands would be involved to the tune of £52 million in castiron tunnel linings, and that the midlands in general, which we both represent, would be involved to the tune of another £100 million for precast tunnel linings. He will also find, if he looks, that ventilation and cooling equipment, which is very important in the midlands, will benefit by some £24 million, and that railway services will benefit by £180 million for special rolling stock for shuttle vehicles, £36 million vor electric locomotives and some £60 million for special passenger rolling stock and dual voltage locomotives. On top of that, British Rail has also announced that a substantial amount of money will have to be spent on upgrading rail and station facilities, and of course much of that work will be signalling and electronic equipment, which will also be made in our constituency, so I commend that to my hon. Friend.
Colleagues and inhabitants of the south-east are very lucky, for in the long run the tunnel can only bring more prosperity to that part of the world. They say that they do not want the tunnel. I think that that is partly because they would be the first to admit that they do not need it—that part of Britain is prosperous enough. I am not being sarcastic when I say that I feel sorry for them, and I am sure that my hon. Friends and colleagues from the midlands and the north will agree. I wish that the southeast could be relieved of the unwelcome burden of this unnecessary additional prosperity. I wish that it were all happening in the midlands and the north, where unemployment is so much higher. It was the good Lord who decided where the nearest crossing point was to be, and I think that we should all take advantage of that and make the very best of it.
I commend the Select Committee idea to the House, and I wish well to all those hon. Members who are to serve on it.
I wish to address myself briefly to the subject of the best method of appointing the Committee, to which I have given some thought. There were by precedent three possibilities. One 'was a Joint Committee of both Houses, and I think the Government were right to reject that. The second was a mixed Committee appointed partly by the usual huddle between the Whips' Offices, politely known as the usual channels, and partly by the Committee of Selection. The third option, the one that the Government rightly are recommending to the House, is that the entire membership of the Select Committee should be chosen by the Committee of Selection. I should like to explain briefly why, in my view, that is the right decision for the House to take.
The function of the Select Committee will have a judicial rather than a purely political content. It will be to hear the petitions of those of good locus standi, as it is called technically; that is, those who will be disturbed in their ownership of property by the measures to construct the tunnel, including the roads and railway lines leading to it, because that will involve a massive amount of compulsory purchase. It will be a tedious function for those on the Committee. They will need to appreciate the function that they are carrying out and not regard it as another opportunity to repeat Second Reading debates and pre-conceived positions for or against the tunnel.
My fear is that had the Committee been composed partly by nomination through the usual channels, even if those nominated had been wholly suitable for the task—I have no reason to suppose that they would not be—they would not have been seen to be so by those whose interests are affected. Although the Committee of Selection is not wholly impervious to influence from the Whips' Offices — it would be unreal for any of us to pretend that it is — it stands at one remove from those influences.
Moreover, it is not just a matter, as is sometimes the case, of a Committee of the House reflecting the balance of parties on the Floor of the House. The Committee of Selection is used to considering cross-party, non-political views as expressed in debate. It does that sometimes in the composition of Standing Committees. On the other hand, what its duty not to do is, if I may put it impolitely, to pack the Select Committee with hacks, of whatever persuasion they might be. That is very important.
The point that I wish to stress is the importance not only of the Committee discharging its duty fully and honourably, but of those representing the interests of the petitioners perceiving it in advance as being well qualified to do so. That is why I believe that the Government have taken the right decision in recommending to the House that the composition of the Committee should be chosen by the Committee of Selection. I hope that the House as a whole will believe that the appropriate body to trust with this invidious task should be the Committee of Selection, without any element of Whips's Office compromise shoved into it.
I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) because he has struck one important and serious note about the Select Committee and its method of selection. It is essential for the people of Kent to feel that they can have considerable public confidence in whatever structure is created to hear their grievances and to propose amendments to the Bill. If it was thought that a substantial number of placemen had been appointed to the Committee, that would be a great mistake. As my hon. Friend said, in a way it will be a judicial committee. I think it was Bacon who once criticised 15th century judges, saying that they were lions but lions under the throne. It would be a great pity to see a Committee of lions but lions under the Whips' Office. This must be an independent-minded Committee.
During a previous intervention I pointed out that it is in accordance with normal precedent for membership of a hybrid Bill Committee to be nominated not only by the Committee of Selection but by the House. That is precisely what the amendment proposes.
With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who said that it should be done by the Committee of Selection alone, it would perhaps be better to have a mixture of selection because that would be in accordance with precedent on hybrid Bills as described by the "Manual of Procedure in the Public Business 1984", which states:
The object of sending a Bill to a select committee is usually to provide for the taking of evidence. In accordance with this principle the practice is to send a hybrid to a select committee nominated partly by the House and partly by the Committee of Selection.
The very point about the need to ensure a degree of impartiality and that membership of the Committee should not be dominated by the Whips is not only met by ensuring that a proportion of the Committee should be selected by the Committee of Selection, but enhanced by nomination by the House as a whole.
I am interested in what my hon. Friend says. I cannot enter the mists of past precedent, because, quite frankly, I do not have a clue as to how a Committee can be selected by the whole House. I have some confidence in the impartiality of the Committee of Selection. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton is, on balance, right to say that that is the best solution available.
There is no precedent for a Bill of this sort. It is unprecedented in its magnitude. I think that we would deceive and mislead ourselves if we appealed to precedent rather than addressed ourselves to the reality of this unique position.
My hon. Friend makes another valid point. We are in uncharted waters with the Bill and the procedure on which we are embarking.
There are two issues that the motion leads us to discuss — whether the Bill should be committed to a Select Committee, and, if so, what should be the numbers on that Committee. I have always argued that it would have been wiser to have this subject analysed first by a public inquiry. I would have preferred a shortened form as I am sensitive to the argument that some public inquiries can continue almost ad infinitum.
The Government may have miscalculated if they thought that by going through the hybrid Bill procedure they would end up with a shorter procedure than under a shortened public inquiry. There is no doubt that in the uncharted waters in which we have been swimming for some months, a great deal of anger and resentment have been created as a result of what one might call the rush job or breakneck-speed approach of the Government.
Because of that, people in Kent and elsewhere are angry. There is no doubt that they will petition in unexpected and unprecedented numbers for amendments to the Bill. From the Thanet towns represented by myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), it appears that there will be something in excess of 500 petitions—none of them orchestrated, all of them sincere and all with a great deal of genuine grievances that they want redressed. If that is to be the scale of the petitioning from one community alone, it will be a marathon of a Select Committee, and special qualities will be required of those who serve on it.
The time has passed when one could continue the argument whether the Bill should be referred to a Selcet Committee. Wiser voices would have chosen a public inquiry, but, as that has not happened, we must move on from the argument whether it should be referred to a Select Committee. It will be, and we should accept that. However, when we consider the number of members who should be on the Select Committee, we enter difficult and unprecedented territory.
We should consider the task that the Committee will have to perform. The matter is being taken desperately seriously by the petitioners. They have rights which they feel have been trampled on so far and they wish to have a fair, just and open hearing. Attempts to shorten the proceedings of their petitioning have already been resented. I hope that the hearing of the petitions will be scrupulously fair. I am sure they will be.
Let us consider the task that the Committee faces. First, there is the possibility of enormous numbers of petitioners. There could easily be 1,000 or 2,000 petitioners all perfectly serious, covering many subjects. These will be distinct from the 30 or 40 petitions which will come from major groups like the district councils and the ferry companies. The Committee's work load will be tremendous and the time spent on the Committee will be enormous.
The geographical spread of the work of the Committee will also be considerable. There seems to be a notion that the Committee will only have to sit here in Westminster. Not a bit of it. The Government have already said that the Committee should sit in other parts of the country. There is also a slight misconception that those parts of the country will be confined to Kent. Those who have considered the issue carefully know that there is great unease up and down the country about the effects of the Bill, especially in the ports. There is a report from the well known stockbrokers Phillips and Drew which states—and I make no comment on the assertion—that 40,000 jobs could be lost, not just in the immediate Channel ports but in ports as far afield as Hull, Immingham, Felixstowe and around the coast to ports like Plymouth and Portsmouth. Some of the small ports, such as Shoreham, might be wiped out completely. It is probable that a Select Committee, doing its job properly and hearing petitions, would have to go to those places and work in many locations around the country.
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The county council that covers the port that I represent, Immingham, and most of the public authorities in that area are, I suspect, intending to be petitioners. My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that petitioners will come not only from the area that he represents but from many east coast ports as well.
I am grateful for that corroboration from my hon. Friend.
There is an enormous volume of work for the Committee and quite a geographic spread around the country. It is possible that the Select Committee will have to hear evidence from France, and perhaps go to France. Much of the Second Reading debate tonight was taken up with an argument about what the French were doing in the Nord-Pas de Calais region and the cornucopia of grants, incentives and special new motorways which are designed to ensure that France rather than Britain will be the magnet for industrial development not just from France but from England as well.
I listened to my hon. Friend earlier, but I am still perplexed and would appreciate it if he can clarify the matter. Does he advocate infrastructure expenditure paid for by the Government, because he has extolled the virtues of that in northern France? Does he want to see the same thing here? Or is he extolling the virtues of this Government's approach, where these matters are left to the private sector? Does he believe that we should encourage the new French Government along those lines? It is difficult for him to sustain the argument that he is attracted by the actions of the French and wants us to do the same here.
I shall heed your warning, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and simply say that I decided not to respond when my hon. Friend replied to the previous debate, because I thought that, rather than seeking genuine elucidation of my views, he was seeking to make no more than a keen debating point. As he has now made that keen debating point for the second time this evening, perhaps I may briefly respond to it.
I am not extolling the virtues of what the French are doing. What they are doing is contrary to the assurances originally given at Avignon, that this would be a private sector project and would be financed by private money. That was the understanding. Both Governments have since decided to cheat on those assurances, the British Government to the tune of about £1 billion of public expenditure shoved in to benefit the private consortium, and the French, at a conservative estimate, to the tune of something like 50 billion French francs worth of public expenditure to support this private development.
I do not admire what the French are doing, but, as they are doing it, it is as well that the Select Committee should recognise that a serious challenge to British interests arises out of it. The dilemma for the British Government is whether to match that kind of expenditure or whether to say that that simply is not on and that we shall not proceed with the Channel tunnel at all if the French try to pull such a fast one. I hope that answers my hon. Friend's point.
What the French are doing could be germane to the kind of petitions that will come in for amendments to the Bill. I am sure that there will be amendments saying that the Bill should not proceed unless a network of grants and incentives is provided for east Kent comparable to what is going on 20 miles away on the other side of the Channel.
My hon. Friend perhaps knows more about the issues than any other hon. Member. How many petitions or petitioners does he envisage will come forward? Does he suppose that the Select Committee will be capable of dealing with what I anticipate will be a flood of petitions? What happens if it is not?
The phrase "a flood of petitions" is particularly apposite because, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are in uncharted waters, and we may well be in uncharted flood waters. There is no doubt that we shall see petitioning on an unprecedented scale. I think I am right in saying — my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton will correct me if I am wrong — that never before has a Select Committee on a hybrid Bill seen more than 40 or 50 petitions. The signs so far from Kent are that from the Thanet towns alone there will be more than 500 petitions, and there could easily be three or four times that number from the rest of Kent. We do not know what kind of petitioning numbers will come in from other parts of the country. It is no exaggeration to say that there could be literally thousands of petitions.
The fault, if it is a fault, for that situation lies with the Government who have changed the ground rules for a project of this kind by saying that they will not have a public inquiry, such as we had on Sizewell, Stansted, and so on, but instead will try to get away with the hybrid Bill procedure. The response to that has been that if they are going to try to do that, the public will exercise their rights to the full and petition. That is why we have an unprecedented situation.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the people of Kent, as befits the Member of Parliament for Burton to whose area from Kent comes a lot of the produce that we turn into beer. But my hon. Friend began by saying that he was in favour of committing this matter to a Select Committee. It sounds very much as though the sheer volume of the petitions, the geographical spread of the visits and the total demand upon hon. Members will make it impossible for it to be committed to a Select Committee.
It is like the story of the Irishman—I would not have started from here. If we were beginning all over again, even if I were a Minister—which is extremely unlikely—I would strongly advise, within the Department of Transport, that the right way to go is not to try to test the hybrid Bill procedure to destruction but to have what the late Anthony Crosland thought of—some form of shortened public inquiry. That would defuse much of the local feeling. We could then go on to what I think would be a fairly shortened and conventional hybrid Bill procedure.
Does my hon. Friend accept that it is slightly misleading to give the impression that there was an option between the hybrid Bill procedure and a public inquiry? In fact, it is essential, according to the procedures of the House, that a Bill of this kind be referred to a hybrid Bill Committee.
There is no doubt that at some stage the Bill had to be referred to the hybrid Bill procedure. I am arguing, going back to square one, that we would have avoided the present situation of mass petitioning, with passion and anger, if only we had had a demonstrably fair form of public inquiry, such as a shortened inquiry, or some form of local letting off steam process.
I think that I have said enough about the volume of work that the Select Committee will have to do and the geographical areas it will have to cover. In Kent it will not just be a question of sitting down in the towns. There is a network of footpaths used by ramblers and running clubs, one of which I am a member of. Those ramblers and running clubs care deeply about the routes of the footpaths and bridleways which will be removed. I think that the members of the Select Committee may need a bit of stamina to get round some of the routes if they are to do their job properly. They will also have to master a number of subjects — employment and health and safety considerations, road and rail links, environmental links, and so on. It will be a marathon task for the parliamentarians involved. They will need remarkable qualities. There was much jocular suggestion earlier about my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). I doubt whether even he has the patience of Job which will be needed to be a member of the Committee.
It is not only the Committee which may see snow fall in its summer, but the Court of Referees, which nobody has yet mentioned, which determines locus standi. It may find its summer contains January.
On the matter of the Court of Referees, it is my earnest hope that the Government, being a Government of honour, will stand by the promises they have given to follow the precedent set by the 1973–74 Channel Tunnel Bill. In that Bill the Government gave an assurance that they would not challenge the locus standi of any petitioner. The spokesman for the Liberal party read out the relevant sections tonight. As he was doing so there was an interesting exchange. He read out the passage which said that the Government would not challenge the locus standi of any petitioner whose petition conformed to the basic requirement of relevancy. I said, rather quietly perhaps, that the Government had already conceded that, and the Secretary of State nodded and said they had. I hope Hansard picked that up. It is certainly a matter of record between the Secretary of State and myself that confirmation was given. Therefore, I think that there is no doubt that the Court of Referees should not have to do a very arduous job if the Government stick by the precedents and their pledges and do not challenge the locus standi of anybody who is a bona fide resident of Kent with a relevant petition.
I shall turn now to the issue of whether it should be nine or 11 good men and true. I hope that I have said enough to show that the work load will be tremendous and the stamina requirements will be great. I think it is a task that would be best shared by a larger rather than smaller number of hon. Members. I pity those who have to be on the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said that I should be on the Committee. I think that I am probably almost the only person who is automatically disqualified. If by any chance I were asked to serve, I would not hesitate to do so, but I fear that my interests would be considered too close.
I am a little worried about the membership of 11. Only a few weeks ago, I was appearing in front of the Select Committee on Standing Orders, on some of the ground that the petitioners will be on, and the Committee, in the face of the complex arguments, divided equally, straight down the middle. The Committee was deadlocked. Mr. Deputy Speaker, quite rightly—I praise rather than criticise him for it—decided not to use his casting vote. However, I would not like to see the Select Committee faced with the same problem. I mention that instance simply to show that 11 members might be too few.
Of the amendments, the one suggesting that 11 is the right number is the correct way to go. I pity those 11 right hon. and hon. Members who are called to serve on the Committee, but that is the right number so that the Bill can proceed to a Select Committee.
I shall follow the points raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken).
I am serving on a private Bill. It would be wrong for me to reveal the discussions in which we are engaged. However, I want to stress the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton about the proposed Select Committee for the Bill. A Select Committee of this kind is there very much in the way that Members are there in a private Bill Committee, in a judicial capacity. This requires them to consider the evidence of the promoters of the Bill, to listen to the cross-examination by those representing the petitioners, and then to listen to the case made by the petitioners, and then to listen to the case made by the petitioners, the evidence that they submit, and how that stands up to cross-examination by the counsel representing the promoters.
It is wholly wrong for many of my hon. Friends to suggest that this hon. Member should serve on the Committee because he is very much in favour of the Bill, or that that hon. Member should do so because he is in favour of the Bill and also come from the midlands, the south-west or wherever. Those who serve on the Select Committee should be hon. Members who have no particular interest in favour of, or against, the Bill. It is because they are to take a judicial decision that I am concerned that as a result of the intense lobbying that is going on, there cannot be an hon. Member who has not already been subjected to a deluge of documents from public relations companies, such as those that I received from the Eurotunnel.
Because this matter has been so much debated, already entrenched positions in favour of or against the Bill may have been taken by many hon. Members—perhaps all 650 of them—and there will be difficulty in finding the necessary independence that is the hallmark of a private Bill.
I agree with my hon. Friend 100 per cent. on this point. However, I draw his attention to the declaration that he was required to sign when he took his place on the Committee considering the private Bill, which he would not have been allowed to join had he not been able to sign the declaration, because it precludes him from sitting on a Committee considering a Bill in which he has a direct interest. The same principle has to apply to a hybrid Bill, because the Committee is looking at the private interests of the matter that is the subject of deliberation.
My hon. Friend is correct. I have served on a number of private Bill Committees and I am beginning to become fairly familiar with the procedure. The private Bill procedure is a good avenue for ensuring that people's rights are protected and examined. One of the crucial reasons why petitioners have so much respect for the private Bill procedure is that they know and have confidence in the fact that hon. Members serving on such Committees have signed a declaration. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) is right to say that that declaration includes a form of words that clearly shows to all concerned, especially to petitioners, that those hon. Members who are adjudicating in such a Committee have no particular interest or concern one way or the other.
It does credit to the Committee of Selection that it has usually been very successful in selecting hon. Members to serve on Committees considering a range of private Bills. Certainly in my case, when I am appointed to consider private Bills, I think I can honestly say that I am totally indifferent to whether a Bill becomes an Act. That is the frame of mind in which those appointed to this Select Committee should consider the Bill.
I am worried that my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) is in some danger of exaggerating when he says that it may be impossible to find any hon. Members who have not taken up a position in relation to the Bill. It is true that hon. Members will be deluged with representations. That is true of many different subjects. I believe, however, that my hon. Friend comes close to insulting the intelligence of hon. Members if he believes that, having sorted through the material that is sent to them, there are not many hon. Members who could preserve their independence of judgment.
There are many hon. Members with constituency interests. We have discussed this aspect during the debate tonight. Leaving that aside, does my hon. Friend not believe, on reflection, that he is in some danger of exaggerating when he suggests that all 650 hon. Members will become so entrenched that they will not exercise independent judgment, as befits the judicial nature of this Select Committee?
I am not sure that I can agree with that. Those Conservative Members who have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have invariably mentioned the way in which the Channel tunnel will touch their constituencies. At first, perhaps, one might imagine that the Bill would affect only those in Kent and the south-east corner of England, but it is clear that the implications of the Bill will touch the constituencies of many hon. Members, who are bound to veer in favour of the Bill or against it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) might serve on the Committee because he represented the west midlands manufacturing, engineering and motor car industries and Metro Cammell. I submit that that is precisely the sort of thing——
May I finish making this important point. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South said that my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield should be considered by the Committee of Selection to serve on the Select Committee on the basis that he would be able to reflect on the benefits of the infrastructure and investment that would accrue to the west midlands. Therefore, she suggested, he would be a candidate, on the ground that he would assist the west midlands during consideration of the Bill.
I should think that Labour and Conservative Members who represent Humberside and the ports of Grimsby, Immingham or Hull will have been lobbied by their county council and district councils against supporting the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), representing a steel constituency, will have been lobbied by Euroroute and the promoters of the Bill on the ground that there will be a tremendous British steel content. All hon. Members whose constituencies adjoin mine in the county of Humberside are bound to have been influenced for or against the Bill.
I note my hon. Friend's point. Basically, he indicates that the Selection Committee will have to look closely at the matter before it makes its nominations and bear in mind the points I have made. I submit that a minority of hon. Members may genuinely fall into the category referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo). I imagine that all hon. Members from the county that I have the privilege of representing would ask, "How would my decision as a member of the Select Committee benefit my constituency?" I regret that however much an hon. Member may try to divorce himself from that thought, it is bound to be there when a marginal decision has to be taken.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will consider the fact that all hon. Members are incapable of closing their eyes to their constituency interests. As hon. Members, we would have to behave, for example, as Government Ministers are expected to do and consider the national interest first and foremost, in the same way as a member of a national committee would do. Otherwise, nobody would be capable of sitting on the Committee and making a judgment that was not influenced by a lobbying group or constituency.
In an ideal world, it is correct that the principle of the House is that all hon. Members represent the nation. I have to concede—I am sure that most of my hon. Friends will agree—that it is very difficult for hon. Members to resist the arguments that come from their constituencies when touching such matters. Of course, in theory, we should submerge our constituency interests to the wider interests of the country. On the other hand, hon. Members represent constituencies. It is perfectly right and proper that, when we represent our constituencies in the Chamber, sometimes we are tolerated when we allow our constituency interests to subsume the national interests. In an ideal world, what my hon. Friend suggests should happen, should happen, but I cannot believe that it is likely to happen.
I must confess that if I were to serve on the Select Committee, while I would do my utmost to divorce my self from the representations that might have come to me in the past and try to block out from my mind any constituency interest, occasionally, when a marginal decision was being taken, I would be bound to do that. The way in which I might question a witness or counsel might lead me in one direction because I have at the back of my mind, subconsciously, the feeling that if I can persuade the petitioners that the promoters are right to suggest something there will be a benefit to the steel industry in Scunthorpe.
I support the argument that my hon. Friend is advancing and remind him that the matter is regulated by the Standing Orders of the House and is not merely one of opinion. Standing Order 120 deals with the declaration to which I referred earlier and is paraphrased on page 992 of "Erskine May" as follows:
If a member who has signed this declaration should subsequently discover that he has a direct interest in a bill, or in a company who are petitioners against a bill, he will withdraw from the committee, after stating the fact, and may, if necessary, be discharged by the House (or by the Committee of Selection) from further attendance.
The extremely cogent argument that my hon. Friend is advancing is endorsed in principle and by the Standing Orders.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. "Erskine May" makes the point even better than I can. The quotation that my hon. Friend has read out shows that there will be many hon. Members whose constituencies will be touched either directly or indirectly by the impact of the Bill, and the Standing Orders require hon. Members to give an undertaking, which they have to sign, that they will not be influenced by such an interest.
To revert to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate, I must concede that there are probably some hon. Members who fall into his category. I think, however, that they will be few and in the minority. The Selection Committee will have to work very hard and very carefully to ensure that it finds the few Members who I concede to my hon. Friend may be in that category, but I would say that every hon. Member who has participated in the debate so far will have fallen foul of the Standing Order that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) has quoted.
My hon. Friend and I are getting closer together. He is beginning to concede that there are Members without constituency interests. I think he may have been slightly distorted in his vision by the interest that his constituents have and that of the constituents in surrounding constituencies. I put it to him that there are quite a large number of constituencies where there will be no direct interest.
It seems that my hon. Friend is moving quite a long way towards denying any possibility of adjudication. If I followed his principle very far down the road, it would become impossible for any judge to reach independent judgment, because he would have opinions of his own. Hon. Members may have certain opinions, but they will be asked to set them aside when they come to exercise a quasi-judicial function. There will be a smaller number of Members who have a direct constituency interest, and that must, of course, preclude them from sitting on the Select Committee in the first place.
That must preclude them because the statement from "Erkine May" that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford read out states that they will not be able to serve. I shall be unable truthfully to sign the declaration. There is no question of my being on the Select Committee, for the simple reason that I would have a constituency interest, end of story. I am but one of, I would submit, several hundred Members who will be unable to sign the declaration.
I shall repeat the passage in "Erskine May" on this issue, which states:
If a Member who has signed this declaration should subsequently discover that he has a direct interest in a bill, or in a company who are petitioners against a bill, he will withdraw from the committee, after stating the fact, and may, if necessary, be discharged by the House (or by the Committee of Selection) from further attendance.
That is correct. Reverting to the exchange between my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate and myself, the fact is that there will be many hon. Members on both sides of the House who will be unable to sign the declaration, however much they might be able to say, "There is a mild constituency interest, but I think that I am honourable enough a Member to block it out when I am serving on the Committee." The hon. Member concerned must sign the declaration, and he must state that there is no constituency interest.