Before we conclude our consideration of the Lords amendments, it is important that we note that, through the procedures adopted in the House—especially the work in the Chamber of the other place and the Select Committee procedure there—we now have a considerably better Bill than we would have had if that work had not been so diligently undertaken.
At every stage, Opposition Members have tried to facilitate the Bill's progress. Many of us feel that it was unduly delayed in the past and we are most anxious to ensure that there is no significant delay in future. Clearly, scrutiny is important and it will continue. It is also essential that the project is monitored to ensure that the developers and, ultimately, the operators comply with the conditions of the Bill when it is enacted.
We want to ensure that this important project is completed as soon as possible, to maximise the future potential of the channel tunnel and to maximise the links that it will make, not only to London, but throughout the country. In the light of the Minister's assurances that all necessary work is now under way for the upgrading of the west coast main line to Manchester and beyond, we must also maximise the benefits of that rail link. This is a project of national importance and significance, and we hope that it will now be proceeded with, with all due haste.
The expeditious way in which the House has dealt with about 100 amendments this evening has given the project a strong following wind. The Bill was subjected to careful scrutiny by a Select Committee of this House. All the members of that Committee worked extremely well together, under the able chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant)—in fact, I believe that they set a new record for the length of time spent in Committee on a Bill such as this, but they did not waste time in concentrating on making necessary improvements to the Bill.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Bill that we shall pass this evening for Royal Assent is a much better Bill than the one that was introduced in this House in January 1995. Of particular note has been the provision of a further station at Stratford, with the enormous regeneration benefits that that will bring to east London. I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for approaching the Bill and the project in a constructive and co-operative manner. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is a project of national significance and it is right that it has support from all sections of this nation's Parliament.
Lords amendment agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 101 to 185 agreed to.
It being Ten o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER pursuant to paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 52 (Consideration of estimates), put the deferred Question necessary to dispose of proceedings on Vote on Account, 1997–98 (Clause XVII, Vote 1).
That a sum, not exceeding £78,288,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the year ending on 31st March 1998 for
expenditure by the Office of the Minister for Public Service on the central management of the Civil Service; expenditure resulting from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster's chairmanship of the BSE Implementation Committee; expenditure on privatisation of executive agencies; and certain other services.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Questions required to be put, pursuant to paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 53 (Questions on voting of estimates &c.).