Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill

Part of Orders of the Day — Schedule 3 – in the House of Commons at 6:11 pm on 1st November 1995.

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Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway 6:11 pm, 1st November 1995

I am grateful to get your help in this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will try to comply with your injunction.

I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench two particular points. First, today on the front of a national tabloid appeared a report—I do not know whether it was leaked—which concluded that the M2 road widening between junctions 1 and 4 has been postponed. I remind my right hon. Friend that the Select Committee sought assurances that it would be completed within the same construction period as the channel tunnel rail link. The Government themselves gave the qualification that if either were delayed for funding reasons, they would not delay the other indefinitely.

I should make it quite clear about the widening of the M2 road that, as soon as I learned the price of building another bridge—hon. Members will be aware that we are to have two road bridges and one rail bridge adjacent to one of my villages, Borstal, near Rochester—I said that it was a bridge too far, and asked whether we could ban the road. I ask my right hon. Friend to look again to see whether that road really is needed, as it is a great imposition and additional noise to my constituents.

Secondly, I had hoped to read in the instructions to the Select Committee—I accept that they cannot be too detailed—some instruction to look again at the mitigation of noise, because my constituents are certainly not satisfied with noise barriers that cover only one portion of each of these three confounded bridges. They want noise barriers that go right the way across. Their living environment must be balanced against the visual impact that the barriers would have. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that some of the £13.6 million that was allocated from Brussels should be given to ensure the protection of the living environment of the people in Kent and in London who perforce must have this link running through their section of the country.

I have read a rumour, but being a politician I do not believe much that I read in the newspapers, that the Select Committee, when it continues into the next Session—I hoped that this would be in the instruction—will look specifically at generic matters, such as blight, compensation, noise mitigation and construction, because in those matters hon. Members like myself are very worried about people who want or need to move. We are worried about construction—in the case of my constituents, not only of a rail bridge but of another road bridge, and all that that implies. My constituents hoped that building of the two bridges would run simultaneously, but they opened their paper today and learned that that will not be. Will they have 10 years of construction, as the bridges are built sequentially, one after the other?

Part of my constituents' problem, in addition to this great burden on their environment, is that the construction will interfere with a tip that has had asbestos dumped on it for years. Nobody will give them any scientific evidence that it is safe to interfere with it. I warn my right hon. Friend that they require some scientific reassurance about the effects of moving the tip, and construction on and around it. I do so in respect of a recent finding in a court on compensation for people who are suffering because, as children, they played near a source of asbestos. People are naturally worried. We also had the same situation in the dockyard. Although proximity to the source of asbestos was many years ago, men have died 30 years later.

I take it that hidden in this instruction are the detailed instructions to the Select Committee about its next work. I know that the Chairman of the Select Committee is a very independent character and that he and the Committee will do it their way, but I seek assurances on the fate of the M2 and its consequential co-ordinated building; the factory farm site and its asbestos; and the noise mitigation barriers across all two or three of the bridges, whichever it finishes.