New Clause 5 - Eurotunnel

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 6th February 2003.

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No. NC5, to move the following Clause:—

'(1) Part 1 shall not apply to Eurotunnel. Any channel tunnel accident investigation should be undertaken by the body established under subsection 2 below.

(2) An international body shall be established to investigate accidents in the channel tunnel'.—[Miss McIntosh.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I hope that new clause 5 is fairly self-explanatory, since I established that Eurotunnel is not Crown property. With the help of the Clerks, I found the right place in the Bill for this new clause. The official Opposition were not privy to the full and comprehensive consultation undertaken over many months by the Government in preparation for the Bill. I remind the Committee that I am a shareholder of Eurotunnel, although happily my shares are not of significant pecuniary value.

In 1983-84, I worked in the humble capacity of adviser to the Conservatives in the European Parliament. I had meetings with a number of officials at No. 10 in the heyday when we were in power. The No. 10 policy unit was well known to me, as eventually was the then Secretary of State.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Is this a declaration of interest or a confession?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is background information. I have long been a firm believer that there should be a fixed link. At the time, 20 years ago, we were all much younger than we are today—

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his mathematical prowess. I was a firm subscriber to the view that there should be a fixed link and in my view Eurotunnel was the best form for it to take. I put my money where my mouth was.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am listening with great interest. At the risk of criticising my hon. Friend, I think I am correct in saying—this may help with her declaration of shares—that the tunnel under the channel is not called Eurotunnel; that is one of the companies involved. There is a slight fault in our new clause, which we should have corrected, but it is a probing measure. We want to know what the situation is. That mistake means that a very interesting debate is to come.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. That typographical error is clear, so we will be enable to pursue the matter. I would have preferred the new clause to read that part 1 should not apply to the channel tunnel. For the purposes of history, may I say that I was delighted when the channel tunnel scheme was chosen for the fixed link. Eurotunnel was the company to which we were invited to subscribe by the then Government. I felt that someone like me who was passionate about the fixed link not so much with France but with the rest of the European continent should make a modest investment.

That is not to detract from my enthusiasm for the North sea ferries out of ports such as Harwich—you will know, Mr. Hurst, that I represented Harwich for 10 years in the European Parliament. I would not wish to have a dialogue with you wearing your hat as the hon. Member for Braintree.

I apologise to the Committee for the error. Obviously, part 1 should not apply to the channel tunnel, or Eurotunnel or Eurostar.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Let us have a disquisition on the hovercraft.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

We will come to the hovercraft in due course.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Lest there be confusion in the record—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.