Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill

Part of Orders of the Day — Schedule 3 – in the House of Commons at 5:51 pm on 1st November 1995.

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Photo of George Young George Young Secretary of State for Transport 5:51 pm, 1st November 1995

There are two motions on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill to be debated today. The first is an instruction on additional provisions, and the second is a carry-over motion. It may be helpful to the House if I say a brief word about both.

The channel tunnel rail link is one of the country's most important infrastructure projects of this decade, probably of this century. The House gave the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill an unopposed Second Reading on 16 January, with hon. Members on both sides expressing a wish to make rapid progress with the passage of the legislation and the implementation of the project.

The carry-over motion takes forward that unanimous will of the House. It is simply a procedural requirement to allow the Bill to run from this Session into the next. It is a hybrid Bill, which therefore has to be considered by Select Committees in each House in addition to all the usual stages of a public Bill. Because of that, and because of the scale of the rail link project, the Bill will inevitably take more than one Session to complete its passage.

Good progress has been made since the Bill's introduction on 23 November last year and its Second Reading on 16 January. The Select Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant), started work on 21 February. The Committee has spent 60 days so far considering the 993 petitions received, which is well over 250 hours. The House will, I am sure, join me in paying tribute to the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir I. Patnick), and the seven other members of the Select Committee for the way in which they have tackled this daunting task. They have kept proceedings moving forward and have listened to petitioners with unfailing courtesy, concentrating on the important issues. They have already reached and announced a number of key recommendations and decisions.

The Committee needs to complete its work in the new Session, and the carry-over motion provides for the Committee to continue on the same basis as approved by the House in the original committal motion on 16 January. The House has already made clear its support for the CTRL project, and carrying over the Bill is essential to bringing the project to fruition.

The other motion, instructing the Select Committee with regard to certain additional provisions, is to give effect primarily to the Select Committee's own wishes, announced on 20 July, on changes to the route of the rail link. The procedures of the House require that the people whose interests may be affected by the new route changes must be afforded the right to petition and be heard by the Select Committee. This is achieved by a formal instruction of the House to the Select Committee that the Committee may consider the route changes, which then enables the Government to deposit the necessary additional provisions and notices to be issued to those affected.

The major route changes are at Mardyke park in Thurrock, Barking and the approach to St. Pancras. Following the Select Committee's announcement in July, the route changes have been developed in sufficient detail for plans to be produced, property to be referenced and environmental assessments to be undertaken. For Mardyke park, the route is being realigned and a viaduct moved away from the housing estate. For Barking, there is a longer tunnel than the Select Committee sought. For the St. Pancras approach, the Select Committee accepted the promoters' proposal that two options for changing the route should be considered, and the motion allows for that.

I do not intend to run through other items in the motions, although the Minister of State will be prepared to respond to any particular concerns raised by hon. Members. Generally, the other items are minor alterations to works and land to be acquired or used, some of which are a consequence of the Select Committee's decisions. Others are tidying-up provisions, often to meet concerns raised by petitioners during negotiations.