Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill

Part of Orders of the Day — Schedule 3 – in the House of Commons at 7:08 pm on 1st November 1995.

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Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough 7:08 pm, 1st November 1995

All the matters on which the Committee made a recommendation have been covered by our response. The instructions before the House relate to matters that the Committee does not already have adequate powers to consider and take forward. I appreciate that a number of hon. Members would like more changes, but the suggestions have all had a fair run before the Select Committee.

The Committee is quasi-judicial, which means that its decisions and recommendations carry special weight, but the promoters' approach to the Committee's announcements on 20 July was—as far as possible—to deliver what the Committee sought. In undertaking the further development work, new problems and opportunities invariably arise. It was therefore important to look not only at the letter of what the Committee sought but at the underlying explicit and implicit objectives. We were loth to reject decisions, and where problems arose we sought other ways of achieving what the Committee wanted. At the end of September, the Government published their detailed response to the Select Committee; it is now for the Committee to decide whether it is content.

The hon. Member for Ladywood accused the Government of seeking to "nobble" the Committee. I commend to her the transcript of the proceedings of the Select Committee on 24 October—day 57 of the proceedings—in which the Chairman of the Committee quoted the Secretary of State's letter of 23 October to him. The letter reaffirms the Government's recognition of the quasi-judicial role of the Select Committee, of the chairman's independence and of not constraining the Committee's work. The Chairman said that he had no more to say on the subject; nor do I.

The hon. Lady also raised the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to the Chairman of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), to give the Government's response to the Committee's report, which was published on 25 July. Copies of the letter were sent to hon. Members concerned and placed in the Library.

The Government are prepared to consider afresh how a scheme might operate to implement the Committee's recommendation that redress could be granted to those affected to an extreme and exceptional degree by generalised blight from the CTRL between June 1990 and April 1994. We must look at the costs, which cannot yet be established. The response is out of respect for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration Select Committee and for the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner, and without any admission of fault or liability.

The hon. Lady asked me about Eurostar services beyond London. European Passenger Services expects to begin these services in the first half of 1996.

My hon. Friend the Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner) mentioned the M2 proposals and their concurrency with the construction of the CTRL. I can tell her that there is no foundation to the report relating to the M2 in today's edition of the Daily Mail.