I announced the Government's decision on 31 August. The assessment of each of the intermediate station options was based on studies undertaken by Union Railways and its consultants. They have advised that the impact of an Ebbsfleet station on the Dartford-Thurrock river crossing would be minimal.
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the House that the representations that his Department has received from Lord Moore of Lower Marsh and the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) had no impact on the decision to locate the international station at Ebbsfleet? Will he explain how that perverse decision to site the station south of the river can be reconciled with the need to minimise traffic on the M25? Does not logic dictate that the station should be sited north of the River Thames?
As I have just told the House, work on determining the viability of Ebbsfleet was carried out by Union Railways and its consultants. The Department of the Environment did the regeneration benefits study. The economics, the railways operation, the regeneration benefits and the substantial private finance on offer all made Ebbsfleet a clear choice.
Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that the decision to site the intermediate international station at Ebbsfleet was not perverse, but entirely right and proper on economic, environmental, transport and job creation grounds? It is supported by the people of north-west Kent and the constituency that I represent.
In deciding whether the infrastructure for the channel tunnel meets the highest possible standards for public safety, what steps has the right hon. Gentleman in mind to ensure that that involves the whole planning of the network? Is he aware that the recent emergency evacuation programme in the tunnel proved to be unsatisfactory? Can he assure the House that the highest possible standards of public safety will be secured in the infrastructure and in the tunnel itself?
Of course I can give the House that assurance. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman raising false worries and anxiety. Certificates for the use of the tunnel would not have been given if safety standards had been inadequate.
My right hon. Friend knows that Ebbsfleet is an ideal location for the whole south-east, being adjacent to the M25, and that the new station will have a major impact on thousands of new jobs in the immediate area and on good commuting to London. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the kind of mudslinging that we heard today can only damage those prospects?
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct, and he is right to stress the regeneration as well as the transport benefits that will flow from the decision. Labour must make up its mind whether it is in favour of an historic engineering feat, with all the benefits that it can bring to this country, or against it. It cannot behave like the Liberals and sit on the fence.
May I welcome the Secretary of State to the Dispatch Box, and say what a thoughtful, wise and compassionate man I know him to be. Can he tell the House where is Ebbsfleet? Most people do not know, and it does not appear on many maps. Steve Bell described it in The Guardian as "Fartyswamp". Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to meet people from Stratford—which has an unarguable case, on regeneration, economic and social grounds, for an intermediate station—and tell them why he chose "Fartyswamp" instead of Stratford?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his first remarks, including those that came from the heart. He will be pleased to know that a day or two ago, I agreed to meet representatives of the Stratford promotional group, and a date will be fixed. In view of the comments that the hon. Gentleman persists in making to the Evening Standard, I remind him that
As part of the tender process for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link as a whole the four consortia will be required to enter bids on the basis of no station at Stratford, a Stratford international and domestic station, and an international only station at Stratford.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman, for the sake of his constituents, will stop creating the impression that Stratford is off the map. Incidentally, I was quoting from a press release that I issued on 31 August.