§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Minister to move the Second Reading, I have to inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) and the names of his right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)
I have it in Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)
I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The House has debated the Channel tunnel on a number of occasions in recent weeks and months, but since we last discussed it, during the passage of what is now the Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Act, there have been major developments. Agreement No. 2 and the Anglo-French treaty have been signed and published, the main contracts for the initial works have been let, and phase 2 is under way.
The Bill now before the House will provide the powers needed to enable the project to go forward in Britain on the lines agreed. With the treaty and Agreement No. 2 it puts flesh on the bones of the proposals set out in the White Paper, and provides for the construction and operation of the tunnel system.
I have no wish to go over again in detail the ground covered in our previous debates. Our reasons for believing that it would be right to go ahead with the project were set out in the White Paper and have already been expounded at length from these benches on a number of occasions. Briefly, the project is technically feasible within known technology; it will be financially viable, indeed profitable; it will enable us to 1300 provide for our growing cross-Channel traffic both more efficiently and more cheaply than by relying solely on the development of sea and air services; it will provide major opportunities for British Railways to develop through long-haul services, for both passengers and freight, from many points in this country to main centres on the Continent. This will ensure that the project is on balance helpful to our regional policy and certainly less damaging to the environment of Kent and the country as a whole than the alternative ways of providing for the traffic.
I am glad to learn that the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) now accepts that a rail-only tunnel without provision for vehicle ferry trains would not make sense. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is absent through sickness today. We all wish him a very speedy recovery from his illness. I think he will now carry many of his right hon. and hon. Friends with him in this further step down the road to Damascus. I should like to make it clear that, although we reject a rail-only tunnel, any practical suggestions for how we can do more to encourage the maximum commercial development of the through rail services to which both the Government and British Railways are deeply committed would be welcome.
I must say something about the present energy situation. The deliberate policies by the oil supplying countries which may limit supplies and increase prices in advance of the longer-term problems of resource shortages may have two implications for the Channel Tunnel, if sustained over the next few years. Firstly, they may change the balance between the advantages of road and rail—and rail and air—in general. This should have little effect overall on the profitability of the tunnel, which would get more net revenue from through traffic if less than forecast from the ferry service, but any reduction in the ferry traffic flows below the estimates might call for some review of the scale of initial investment in ferry rolling stock and platform construction at the terminals.
Secondly, any change in the average rate of economic development throughout Europe over the next seven years would affect the growth of cross-Channel traffic of all kinds.
1301 These are complex questions, depending on new uncertainties which have arisen in very recent days, and, of course, when the tunnel is open we shall have the major benefit of our own oil from our coasts. All these problems will be examined further during phase 2, in the light of developments. But the general position is clear—the prospect of oil supply difficulties increases the need for the tunnel.
Against this general background, the Bill makes provision for the powers needed to implement the proposals outlined in the White Paper and set out in the treaty and the agreements. It should be read and considered in the light of them. Some of the vital provisions, for instance that of the 50-50 sharing of obligations and profits between the two Governments, are implicit, not explicit, in the Bill, which could not bind a foreign Government. The Bill is, however, not restricted to the terms of the arrangements so far made, and is in form rather wider in certain respects.
Perhaps I may now try to lead the House through the rather complex maze of the Bill, avoiding, I hope, any potholes and landmines on the way.
Part I, together with Schedules 1, 2 and 3, provides the land and works powers needed for the construction of the tunnel. This covers not only the permanent works but certain essential ancillary works and temporary working sites, such as the sidings in the area of Dollands Moor refuse tip needed to make it possible to move all the main tunnel spoil by rail for disposal on the terminal site. Those directly affected can, of course, petition, and their interests will be subject to detailed examination before the Select Committee, but there are a number of general points to which I would like to draw attention.
The powers to construct the tunnel system are, under Clause 1, conferred on "nominated constructors". As subsection (2) makes clear, these are, in the first place, the British and French Channel Tunnel companies with whom the two Governments have entered into Agreement No. 2. But the definition does leave open the possibility that some other persons might be nominated to carry on the project, for instance if the companies abandoned it. I shall refer to this possibility later in connection with Clauses 33 and 34.
1302 The provision in Clause 2 for vesting in the Secretary of State the tunnel under the sea up to the frontier should be read with Clause 24 which provides for its incorporation in the United Kingdom and the definition of the frontier. Clause 3 provides for the acquisition of the land needed for the construction of the tunnel. This is one of the places where the Bill cannot be fully understood without reference to the agreements. The intention is that my right hon. and learned Friend should acquire the land needed for the project. He will make it available to the nominated constructors, who will reimburse him fully under paragraph 8.2.3 of Agreement No. 2, and will when the tunnel is completed pass it on to the British board under Clause 13. The nominated constructors will have no powers of compulsory acquisition, nor will land so acquired ever pass into their ownership, as opposed to use.
Most of the supplementary provisions in Clauses 3 and 4 and Schedule 2 are in standard form, but I would draw attention particularly to subsections (5) and (6) of Clause 4. These make it plain that those adversely affected by disturbance from the works can turn to the Secretary of State for compensation under the Land Compensation Act 1973, and specifically apply to these works the provision of Section 26 of the Act. This will give us power to buy properties the enjoyment of which is seriously affected by the works even if none of the land is actually required for them.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) and other hon. Members are worried about the position of the rail link. I should add that the Bill does not cover the rail link, for which British Railways will introduce a Bill next Session, but I confirm that the Land Compensation Act will naturally apply to that, too.
Lastly, in this part of the Bill, Clause 5 deals with planning permission. Under Class XII of the General Development Order deemed planning permission is conferred on works authorised under a local Act. That provision would not bite on this Bill, but it is clearly right that works specifically authorised by Parliament should be allowed to go 1303 ahead. Clause 5 therefore makes provision for deemed planning permission for the works. It is, however, clear that the local planning authorities have a very real interest in the layout of the terminal area—the landscaping, parking areas, design of the terminal areas, and so on. So provision is made in subsection (3) for the local planning authorities' approval of the detailed plans and specifications.
Part II of the Bill provides the powers to implement the financial arrangements now agreed. The general principles were established by the previous administration following the accord reached with the French Government in 1966. The arrangements themselves are summarised in Chapter 11 of the White Paper and set out in the agreements and treaty in great detail.
§ Clause 6 is the main provision authorising the giving of guarantees and providing for the sharing of any consequent liabilities with the French Government. Its provisions and those of Clause 7 are similar to those in the Initial Finance Act. The need for the guarantees has been a familiar theme in recent debates, and I hope to remove any misunderstanding.
§ If this Bill is passed, the money for the tunnel would be raised from private sources. At least 10 per cent., or about £85 million, would be risk money; the remainder would attract Government guarantees. It is not expected that the guarantees would ever be called, and it is not expected that any net direct public expenditure will be incurred on the tunnel, although there will be public expenditure on the associated rail link. Extensive studies have shown that the tunnel is likely to be a worth while and profitable investment, even on pessimistic assumptions. In recent debates, some hon. Members have taken the line that if this is to be a profitable venture the Governments should not have to back it with guarantees. This shows a misunderstanding of the position. The guarantees are the direct demonstration, in financial terms, that the two Governments are prepared to stand behind the project. No project of this magnitude and character could be successful without the backing of the two Governments concerned. Any sensible investor will 1304 know this. And if the Governments are, in fact, to stand behind the project, it is in the general interest for them to provide formal guarantees, because this will allow cheaper financing and, in the end, greater returns to the public purse ensuring that the Governments get the lion's share of the profits.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
The hon. Gentleman has just made a remarkable statement. He has now said, for the first time, that the reason for the guarantee is to show the Government's interest. The Government could have shown their interest in many more simple ways, the most obvious of which is taking a share of the equity. Why are they trying to hide behind this particular device?
§ Mr. Speed
We are not trying to hide behind any particular device. In terms of public expenditure, the sums for the tunnel are being raised, as I have said, in private forms subject to guarantees This seems to us—as it appeared in general terms to the previous administration—to be a sensible way to ensure that at the end of the day the taxpayers—that is, the hon. Gentleman and myself—receive handsome awards from the tunnel while at the same time people who are prepared to put money into the tunnel, as risk capital or guarantee capital, will get a reasonable return.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I hope to make a small contribution to the debate later. However, the hon. Gentleman has referred several times to the financial provisions having been agreed under the previous administration with the then French Government. The agreement that was made was only on the outline principle. No agreement was made to build a tunnel, because the evidence was not then available. The previous administration—and I was the last Minister of Transport of that administration—did not agree to any basis of the terms, or the division of the out-turn between private and public funds, and no detailed agreement of figures was made by the previous administration
§ Mr. Speed
I would not challenge that. I was talking about the general principles. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at what his right hon. Friend, who was then Prime Minister, and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) were 1305 saying at the time, particularly in 1966, he will certainly see—even accepting that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) occasionally puts a point of view which one has to look into carefully to see the precise meaning—that after discussions with the French Government the position was fairly clear. I accept that detailed arrangements for financial measures had not been reached at that time, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the broad principles and the general method of financing had been agreed.
Under Clause 6(2) there is a limit of £800 million on the total commitment in respect of guarantees. This sum may be increased by order to £1,000 million, which by virtue of Clause 7(3) must be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. These figures represent the total sums to be guaranteed by the two Governments. But, although these figures have to be spelt out, it is not credible that nugatory expenditure of this size, £400 million to £500 million by each of the two Governments, would ever be incurred. This scale of liability could arise only if the tunnel was built, or nearly built, and then totally abandoned.
Any earlier abandonment would cost less, depending on how much had been spent at the time, and the scheme has been carefully designed to include one formal break-point in 1975, and to permit any one of the parties to get out at any time. We do not expect anything to go wrong. The tunnel project has been exceptionally well researched. There is no new technology involved. The estimated cost has included provision for contingencies.
Economically as well as environmentally, the tunnel is the best way of dealing with an escalating traffic problem. Large profits will accrue to the public purse, and these guarantees should be regarded not as potential penalties but as our investment in a worthwhile project.
§ Clause 8 would enable the Secretary of State to meet any expenditure incurred in respect of his rights or obligations under the agreements. The obligations relate to the conditions under which the work could come to be abandoned. The rights include the Secretary of State's option to purchase the interests of the nominated constructors if he wishes to pursue the construction of a tunnel after the project has 1306 been abandoned and his right under paragraph 4.3.5. of Agreement No. 2 to take up shares in the British and French companies, provided the joint holdings of both Governments in either company do not exceed 33 per cent. of its issued capital.
§ The obligations which would arise on abandonment will vary both with the circumstances of the abandonment and with the stage reached in the project. In the event of abandonment by the companies or by the Governments and companies jointly, the Governments would have to meet the outstanding guarantees under Clause 6, but no expenditure would have to be made under Clause 8 except for the obligations in a joint abandonment to purchase the companies' interests at net cost plus interest if the Governments decide to build a rail tunnel without them, or relevant parts of their interests if they proceed with another form of tunnel. This is in paragraph 6.2.5. of Agreement No. 2. Half price would be paid in the event of the Governments proceeding after a companies' abandonment, and for the option to purchase those interests following a joint abandonment whether or not they go ahead. This is in paragraph 6.2.7.
§ The arrangements which would apply it the project were abandoned by the Governments during phase 3 are set out in paragraph 6.2.9(ii) of Agreement No. 2. Briefly, the Governments would have to purchase the companies' shares at a price depending on the amount of risk capital raised, the amount raised as shares, and the time at which abandonment occurred.
§ Agreement No. 2 also provides, in paragraph 6.2.10, for the possibility that the project might be "abandoned" by the Governments during the remuneration period, on terms set out in paragraph 6.2.10 of Agreement No. 2 based on the market value of the shares as there defined.
§ Clause 9 provides for the funds for the acquisition of land and the payment of compensation to be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament, and for the corresponding sums reimbursed from the tunnel project funds to be paid into the Consolidated Fund.
§ Articles 8 and 9 of the treaty provide for unified control of the management and operation of the tunnel to be exercised by a Channel Tunnel Authority 1307 whose members will be drawn from both countries. To avoid certain legal difficulties and complications that would have been involved in setting up a bi-national corporation for this purpose, the device adopted is to establish two national corporations, the British Board and the French Board, whose members, acting together, constitute the authority. The authority acts through the national boards, and the latter are required to comply with the directions given them by the authority. The boards will, each in its own country, represent the authority for legal purposes. This is in Clause 12(2).
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
May I ask, as a matter of curiosity, whether, when this decision about management structure was taken, there were any discussions with the British Aircraft Corporation and others who have had to do with the management of the Concorde project? The Minister will understand that there are interesting issues of management structure in this project.
§ Mr. Speed
I cannot say whether there were specific consultations with the British Aircraft Corporation. Certainly many of the workings and international arrangements between Britain and France on Concorde and other issues dating back to the Concorde agreement were taken fully into account in looking at this project since both countries are again involved in a similar joint project. It is fair to say that we have learned certain lessons from Concorde.
The authority will act through the national boards, and they will be required to comply with the directions given to them.
Part III of the Bill—
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover)
Can my hon. Friend explain one point? He said that the authority will act through the boards. The authority constituted by the boards is almost a Trinitarian concept—two in one and one in two. Is it the case that the boards will have executive functions and will go their separate ways after joint meetings?
§ Mr. Speed
"Trinity" is really the word. The authority will act as the head and the boards as the hands in their respective countries. That is perhaps the 1308 easiest way of describing it. It is the boards, and I will have more to say about them in a moment, which will be the entities with which the ordinary person will be dealing legally—the British Board for those in this country, the French Board for those in France.
Part III establishes the British Board, defines its general powers and duties and contains provisions of an administrative and financial nature with respect to the board. The general provisions relating to the board are closely based on those establishing other nationalised transport boards, with due allowance for the bi-national nature of the project, and the minority participation of the private interest. I would, however, draw particular attention to two provisions.
First, Clause 13, together with the provisions of the agreements on "handover", provides for the transfer to the board of the completed tunnel. In addition, however, subsection (4) of Clause 13 provides that after the transfer any third party suffering personal injury or damage will be able to sue the board, without having to establish which of the various parties involved in the construction of the tunnel was responsible. The board, however, can under subsection (5) recover its costs from whoever was in fact responsible. This should be a real protection to third parties in a situation of considerable complexity.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
I am not quite clear. When the boards have been established, will they be able to decide certain matters? Supposing it is decided, in the interests of both communities, that there should be a much larger electricity line or oil line. Is it within their power to do this or do they have to seek additional powers?
§ Mr. Speed
We are coming to this. The British Board is essentially like any other nationalised transport board. From that point of view the boards have the powers, laid out in the Bill in fairly standard form, to do anything which appears to be appropriate or reasonable to them. Coming back to the "head" point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees), they cannot act unilaterally. They should come together under the authority and act in each of the individual countries. If they decided there were certain things that 1309 would be appropriate to be done, individually or jointly, this would be possible. There is also overriding control. The Governments have an interest in this, and the authority has to give reports to the Governments and account for them for what it is doing.
§ Clause 17 deals with the vital question of the British Government's share of the profits.
§ Part IV of the Bill includes a number of miscellaneous and consequential provisions of which perhaps the most notable are Clause 24, providing for the incorporation in the United Kingdom of the tunnel between the three-mile limit and the frontier, and for certain problems of jurisdiction, and Clause 25 dealing with policing, frontier controls, and so on; Clause 29, dealing with railway safety, on which I should perhaps say that the Railways Inspectorate of my Department has been, and will be in close touch throughout with the design and proposed operation of the tunnel; Clause 32, which deals with the taxation of the British Board's share of the receipts of the authority; Clause 38 and Schedule 5, which deal with provisions for protecting the interests of certain affected undertakings; and Clauses 33 and 34, to which I should like to refer in rather greater detail.
§ As the House will be aware, the present arrangements can be abandoned at any time by any party. It is possible that the companies might abandon, either deliberately, or through a failure to meet their obligations, in circumstances in which the two Governments wished to continue, either on their own or with new private partners. If the Bill were tied directly to the present arrangements, work would have to come to a dead stop while new arrangements were made and new powers sought. This would greatly increase the cost and difficulty of completing the tunnel. So Clauses 33 and 34 provide a mechanism whereby the project could be kept going in such circumstances, provided an order were laid before the House, and provided that, if the Secretary of State were continuing construction with public money, a further order were laid every six months, unless or until further substantive powers were obtained. These provisions are a safety net which, like all safety nets, we hope and believe will not be needed, but which would be invaluable if it were needed.1310
§ I thank the House for the patience with which it has listened to me on a very complex matter. As I said, this Bill has to be read with the treaty and with Agreement No. 2. But this is a major Bill. The petitions will be fully examined in the Select Committee and the Bill as a whole in Standing Committee. Without it the treaty cannot be ratified, Agreement No. 3 signed or the project carried beyond the present phase.
§ Generations have talked about the tunnel, dreamed about the tunnel, argued about the tunnel. There comes a time when the talking has to stop and the aspirations have to be turned into achievements. This Bill is a significant step in doing just that.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
The House has had the subject of the proposed Channel Tunnel before it three times within a very limited period of parliamentary time, and it is perhaps inevitable that we should go over some of the old ground again. However, that is in sharp contrast to the extremely limited parliamentary opportunity to discuss the matter before firm decisions were taken, because this Bill is carrying us—as I accept it inevitably must—very much further than the decisions which we took on any of the previous occasions.
Indeed, in the first—and, in many ways, the most decisive—debate on the White Paper the Secretary of State said that he was really inviting the House only to approve a tunnel in principle. The Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Act that followed was limited to endorsement of phase 2—we seem unable to escape this phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 terminology, which appears to be fashionable in parliamentary draftsmen's circles—and authorised the expenditure of £30 on the necessary exploratory investigation. I apologise for my mistake, because I should have said £30 million. I should be very much happier if the correct figure were £30, but I appreciate that that would be rather too much to ask.
That tempts me to tell a story which the House may already have heard. When the project was first talked about many years ago, a miner called at the Ministry and offered his services to construct the tunnel. He was asked how he would go about it, and he replied "I 1311 will start at one end and my son will start at the other end". They then said to him "Ah, yes. But suppose you do not meet in the middle." He replied, "Well, that is really our worry. You should not worry at all, because if that happened you would get two tunnels for the price of one." So perhaps in those days the tunnel could be thought of in rather smaller terms.
Today we are asked to take decisions, and, in a sense, we are taking the decision to go on to the final and definitive stage of the construction of the tunnel, because that is the subject matter of the Bill which we are now considering. As the Under-Secretary very fairly said, if this Bill is passed the treaty will be ratified, and, while on the one hand, theoretically, we are committed only to the end of phase 2 in the middle of 1975, I should have thought that if the whole apparatus involved in this Bill were set into operation it would be extremely difficult, no matter what may be the out-turn of the considerations in phase 2, to go back on the completion of the whole enterprise, which I gather from the concluding words of the Under-Secretary is what the Government have in mind. However, we are extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the painstaking and full account of the various clauses of the Bill.
But I must say why the Opposition cannot support the Bill, and why I shall invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the reasoned amendment, if it is moved, and why, if that is not carried, I shall invite them to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. We shall do so, quite simply, because we are not satisfied that the case has been made out for this tunnel. We are not any more debating the desirability of a Channel Tunnel—if we ever were. We are asked to approve the particular variant set out in very great detail in the White Paper, and now supplemented in further detail by the provisions of the Bill now before us.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) set out in his speech on 25th October the broad philosophy which brings the Opposition to their point of view. I would say on his behalf that he will be extremely grateful for the kind remarks made about his 1312 health by the Under-Secretary. I understand that he is making good progress and hopes to be back in the House next week. Certainly, but for his indisposition he would be here for this debate today
§ Mr. Peyton
As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman is saying that he and those who sit with him are not against the tunnel in principle; they are simply against the arrangements which have been made for the tunnel. Is that correct?
§ Mr. Mulley
I would put it the other way round. I am saying—because that is the question to which we are asked to address ourselves—that I am against the arrangements which we are called upon to approve. I do not know whether there is any profit in going back to 1966, when the desirability of exploring the possibility of a tunnel was discussed, but once the decision was taken I naturally supported it. But any subsequent decision must depend upon the nature of the scheme that one is asked to approve. Perhaps the Opposition would have taken a different view if the motion put down by the Government on 25th October had been framed in different terms, but it asked us not merely to support a tunnel but to support everything in the White Paper, which I was surprised the Minister himself could do. Certainly, I was surprised that a large number of hon. Members from Kent found themselves able to accept everything in it. But that was the issue before the House. The issue before us today goes much beyond that, because we shall be voting in principle for all that is in this Bill. However, I shall come to that in a moment.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
Since the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Kent Members, and since I have the honour to be one, will he spell out in detail for the benefit of the House, for the benefit of myself and for the benefit of my constituents, so that we may know exactly what are the alternatives before us in Kent, particularly in my constituency, what alternative a Labour administration would propose?
§ Mr. Mulley
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will do me the courtesy of listening to what I have to say he will realise that I am concerned not only with the particular form of tunnel but with 1313 the priority accorded to the expenditure of the large capital sums involved in the project. We are concerned about the possibility of using that money to provide other things elsewhere in the country. I am not attracted to alternative forms of construction. What we are saying is that in spite of the public relations effort by the Government we are satisfied that this is in essence a "rolling motorway". That is how the White Paper describes it.
Also, we are by no means convinced that the Government's figures, the whole foundation on which they have made their decision, are sound. We are even more sceptical about the figures because the Government have been unwilling to expose them to public examination. We are also extremely worried about the preemption of resources and the environmental aspects of the project as they affect the people of Kent.
Before I develop my points, however, there are one or two questions which I should like answered. Assuming that the Bill goes through in the present Session, how is it intended to operate phases 2 and 3 of the scheme? May we have a clear undertaking from the Government that no powers conferred by the Bill will be used to acquire land or to advance the project until the House has taken a firm decision to move from phase 2 to phase 3? Surely the greater part of the powers to be conferred by the Bill will apply only to the actual construction of the tunnel or to the operation of the authority which is to be established. Will the Government continue to acquire land and create environmental problems in preparation for phase 3 without the House having approved the transition to that phase?
We understand that the British Railways Board will be introducing a Private Bill for its part of the operation. Is that to be presented in the next parliamentary Session of 1974–75, or will it be introduced in the current Session some time next year? As I understood the right hon. Gentleman's statement last week, some railway expenditure will be made in the present parliamentary Session next year before the Bill is introduced. What will be the nature of that expenditure which will be incurred before the Bill has been presented to and 1314 approved by Parliament? Will the railway Bill be presented by the Railways Board or will it be a Hybrid Bill similar in character to the one now before us?
The detailed provisions admirably explained by the Under-Secretary are more appropriate for discussion in Committee, if it is reached, than on Second Reading. We feel obliged to amplify why we feel unable to support the Bill today. We welcome that the project will help the railways, but it will not provide nearly as much help as the ministerial public relations exercise suggests. The revenue forecasts are based on the project being a "rolling motorway" as described in the White Paper. That brings me to the figures on which the Government base their case. Practically every financial commentator has said that if the figures are right there is no need for a Government guarantee, or that, if the guarantee is to be given, the division of profit between private capital and the Government should be changed. In this respect the previous administration made no arrangements about the detailed financing of the project.
We are led to understand that the final information on which a decision was based became available only a few months ago. Our administration could not possibly have formed a view in 1970 about the viability of the project. Many of these studies had only just begun, and some had not even reached that stage. Although in my time as Minister discussions were proceeding with various financial interests, no scheme was produced and we gave no approval of any basic division between loans and equity or about the basis on which the scheme is now presented. The final financial details were agreed only recently. I make that point to rebut any suggestion that we as an administration gave our approval.
Anyone with even a modest knowledge of business knows that an agreement in principle to explore the possibility of partnership is one thing and that no such venture is undertaken without knowing not only the basis of that undertaking but how the capital contributions will be shared and how the profits will be divided between the partners. Without answers to those questions any discussion about a partnership would be academic.
§ Mr. Peyton
I should like to be clear about what the right hon. Member is 1315 saying. Is he suggesting that the present arrangements did not flow naturally from the situation inherited by the Government from the previous administration?
§ Mr. Mulley
The principle that the project should be based on capital raised outside the Government certainly flows directly from that. I do not quarrel on that score. We are concerned with private capital and not public expenditure. My argument is that if the Government's figures are correct there is no need to give both the proposed return to private capital and the Government guarantee. That point of view is supported by many commentators. The only conclusion to be drawn, as the Economist and other newspapers have said, is that if private capital is reluctant to go in other than on the terms offered by the Government, it, too, must be dissatisfied with the Government's figures. That is why we doubt the whole basis upon which we are expected to take a decision.
Already inflation has put certain aspects of the calculations at doubt. Rates of interest have risen enormously, and I doubt whether anyone will predict that they will come down in the period of construction. The rates have risen since the calculations were made, and since then another problem has arisen. I doubt whether anyone took account of the oil difficulties, not only in terms of supply and quantity but also in terms of price. Since the studies were carried out the price of a barrel of oil has increased from one dollar to over three dollars. Those learned in these matters suggest on television that the price might rise to 10 dollars a barrel while construction of the tunnel is in progress. I accept that this does not mean that the same factor has to be applied to the cost of diesel oil or petrol, because, apart from the high costs involved in distribution and refining, a substantial tax element is involved. But I do not think that anyone will deny that the days of plentiful and cheap oil are gone.
Most people will now take a different view about the number of people who might be sending their goods by road to the Continent in 1980 or who will be going on such a journey by car. There should be at least a few question marks put against the Government's certainty. They ask the House—and their supporters 1316 dutifully oblige—for a complete blessing of everything in the White Paper. That was the motion which was passed. Presumably the Government will tell us that the House has made a decision.
It is wrong that there has been no opportunity to challenge the figures. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby put the matter extremely well and showed that some people were concerned in the early days when he said on 25th October:The whole project seems to assume that we shall never want to economise on oil or face a serious shortage of it. In other words, it is based on the economics of five years ago, and not on the likely economics of 10 years hence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th October 1973; Vol. 861, c. 1511.]Nevertheless, the House rejected my right hon. Friend's advice. It was prepared to accept all the details in the White Paper, including the fact that the authority will not be able to discriminate between rail and road users in the event of a conflict arising.
A letter in today's Financial Times from a gentleman called Mr. Cornish refers to some discussions which that gentleman had with the advisers who drew up the transport cost-benefit study. It seems from that letter that it never occurred to them to test by the usual ways the basis of the revenue forecasts. The four-minute frequency and the one-hour block time of traffic through the tunnel is an exacting target. It seems from the letter that if it is wrong, quite apart from the other doubts which I have raised about inflation, interest rates and the price of oil, the revenues on which we are all gaily going forward will be extremely wrong.
The Government have suggested that the quantity of literature which has been available and which is so many feet high is adequate. We were laughed out of court when we suggested that it would not have been a bad idea to have had a public inquiry or Select Committee investigation of the substantial evidence which has been compiled. I suggested at the time of Maplin, and I suggest again, that that could well have been achieved by going back to the earlier processes of a Hybrid Bill.
Prior to 1948 every Hybrid Bill had to go through the complete process of a Private Bill as well as all the stages of 1317 a Public Bill. That meant that the Government were treated in the same way as any private promoter, local authority or public board. They had to prove their case to a Select Committee. In other words, they had to prove the sense and the expediency of what they were proposing. In 1948 the then Labour Government thought that that was perhaps an excessive requirement for every Hybrid Bill. A substantial number was going through at that time. A substantial number has come through since. There have been a number of key issues, such as the public ownership of industry. That would be a matter which would be decided by the House rather than by all sorts of people turning up to give evidence before a Select Committee. It was proposed that only in some cases would the promoter—namely, the Government—have to prove their case.
The then Conservative Opposition voted against the proposition. They said that every Hybrid Bill should be subjected to the test of examination. They said that people should have the opportunity to present their case before a Select Committee and that the Government should have to prove their case like any other promoter. That is why I asked whether the British Rail Bill would be a Hybrid Bill or a Private Bill. I do not think that British Rail should be put through a different hoop from that which the Government are put through. If they are, will it be open to people to test the whole argument of whether we should have a tunnel when the Bill goes through at a later stage? The Government's motion does not give any opportunity for anyone to contest the basic figures. That is made clear in the White Paper, "The Channel Tunnel". In paragraph 13.4 in page 36 of the White Paper it is said:Provided that the Money Bill is passed,"—and it has been—the powers required for the construction and operation of the Channel Tunnel will be sought by means of a hybrid Bill which will be brought before Parliament in November this year. This will allow those affected by the construction of the Tunnel to be heard by a Select Committee, as well as providing the normal scope for a full examination of the 'public' provisions of the Bill in both Houses.That seems to be a generous gesture on the part of the Government, but they have no alternative. They could not 1318 possibly get the Bill through except as a Hybrid Bill. Under the Hybrid Bill procedure those who are affected directly by having works on land which they own or in proximity to where they live will be able to petition against the Bill. However, the substantial body of people concerned with the viability of the project, the nature of the tunnel and the share in the project for British Rail will not be able to test the substantial amount of figures which have been put to us by the usual way of appearing before a committee, the committee having the right to cross-examine and people appearing before it being able to produce witnesses.
In a matter of this sort it seems only right that the Government should be willing to submit their case to such scrutiny and cross-examination. That will give people an opportunity to test the evidence on which the British public will have to agree to a substantial devotion of resources. The cost of the tunnel will not, unless things go wrong, be borne by public expenditure. However, it will lead to the use of substantial resources during the period of construction. In the next few years, possibly as a result of the oil problem or for other reasons such as a substantial recession, we could have substantial regional problems. The injection of the kind of capital about which we are now talking could make an enormous difference to the well-being and development of certain regions.
It will be said, as it was said about Concorde, that we are committed and with such a level of resource use we cannot possibly agree to certain proposals. In the light of that argument, and in the light of environmental problems, my right hon. and hon. Friends have grave doubts about whether it is right to agree to take a further step from what has already been done.
I am not clear about what will happen during the planning procedures. I understand that if an Act is passed the projects under it will be deemed to have planning permission. I understand the Under-Secretary of State to say that the normal planning procedures will apply to the details of the scheme. What is the situation if there is a conflict, if local authorities will not agree to any of the Government's schemes?
§ Mr. Mulley
So the Secretary of State, who is the promoter, will also decide, in the event of local authorities not being willing to go along with detailed plans that he wants.
§ Mr. Mulley
We might as well be straight about this. In fact, the local authority's rôle will be largely advisory, in the same way as the Government accept the responsibility for a road scheme. If a local authority does not like a scheme, it may well go to public inquiry and object, but the Secretary of State has to take the responsibility. It would not be the first time, of course, if the report of an inspector at a local planning inquiry were not accepted by the Secretary of State. It has certainly happened under the present Government. I am not sure whether it happened under the Labour Government, but it could well have done. I want to get it clear that the say, both on the principle and in detail, will be that of the Secretary of State, and, while we are right to involve the local authorities, we should not suggest that they are really taking any part in the planning procedures.
§ Mr. Peyton
The right hon. Gentleman is—I am sure not willingly or intentionally—misleading the House, and is perhaps tying himself into knots. There is nothing sinister about this. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has pointed out, the normal planning procedures will be followed if there is a public inquiry. To say that the Secretary of State is judge and jury in his own case is wrong.
§ Mr. Mulley
But this case is rather different from the normal planning problems because the Secretary of State is the promoter—if not directly, then 1320 through the agency of the constructors. This is certainly a matter we shall want to explore very fully when we reach Part III of the Bill in Committee. It may well be that we shall learn a good deal from the hon. Members representing constituencies in the area. I imagine that they will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I would not base our objections on the details of the Bill, because they are very complicated and will need careful study. I hope that the details will receive careful scrutiny by the Select Committee—I expect that it will receive petitions—and then the Standing Committee will be responsible for examining them.
We base our objection on the nature of the scheme and the pre-emption of resources which it represents at a time when it has to be looked at against the background of the oil dispute, which I suspect—I hope I am wrong—is not just a short-term but a long-term problem. We have to ask whether this is the kind of thing we should rush on with as though nothing had happened since these studies were begun back in 1966.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the very proper point put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees)? When is the right hon. Gentleman going to give the Labour Party's advice to Kent?
§ Mr. Mulley
I explained this in our previous debate. The hon. Member must accept responsibility for what he does here for his own constituency. He must not seek to push the blame on the Labour Party. I am here only to explain our attitude to a proposal put by the Government. It is a matter for the Government, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman votes with the Government, as is his normal practice and intention, it is no use his trying to push responsibility on to the Labour Party and saying that it was all to do with something said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) in 1966.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
I can make up my own mind on how to vote, but it would assist me to know what the alternatives are. This is an important question to my constituents, but I am left in total doubt 1321 about what the Labour Party's intentions would be when it was responsible, as the Government, for the Channel Tunnel. Although the right hon. Gentleman has made criticisms, justified or otherwise, of the tunnel which the present Government are supporting, we are left in total doubt as to what kind of tunnel he would be supporting if he were Minister now. It is a question of what alternatives there would be. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken in general terms about the tunnel, but has left us in doubt as to what kind of tunnel the Opposition would support.
§ Mr. Mulley
I can put the issue clearly. If I were now in a position to take this kind of decision, I should not be recommending to the Government and the House that we proceed with the present tunnel plan as composed, or at this moment in time with any tunnel plan at all.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to address the House for the first time. I appreciate very much the warm welcome I have received from hon. Members on both sides of the House and from those who have no particular side to sit on.
I have received a great deal of advice. The House may be interested in one letter which came my way from a former very distinguished Member of the House, who gave me the following advice:It is very hard to be a good Member of Parliament. There are no rules and all the helpful advice is bad. It is bad to be too independent and worse to be too subservient. But which is what?Perhaps when I learn the answer to that question I may be able to address the House on a future occasion.
I want at once to pay tribute to my predecessor, now the Duke of Buccleuch, still better known as Johnnie Dalkeith. He has a great sense of duty and is regarded with great affection in the constituency, as I am sure he is by this House. In recent years, his example of courage was not just a demonstration of those qualities which his friends knew he possessed. It was an example to all of us. He gives great encouragement to thousands of people whom he has never met. He was a very honourable Mem- 1322 ber of this House, and he is a very honourable man.
North Edinburgh was once reputedly a lawyers' constituency, but I hope we are moving away from the idea of pocket burghs, whether for lawyers or for those who belong to other trade unions. I am a citizen, but not a native, of Edinburgh. I am from the West of Scotland. But I went to Edinburgh, as to here, as a capital city. That is Edinburgh's greatness. It is a capital, and it is a European city in which there is a rich diversification of Scottish experience in law and commerce, banking and insurance, in brewing and in whisky and in government. Edinburgh is a financial centre in its own right. It is investing in North Sea oil, which is bringing great benefit to Scotland, as it will to Britain—and, clearly, the sooner the better.
It may seem rather strange that a Scottish Member should open his parliamentary account on a Bill about South-East England, but, although we Scots rightly demand investment in Scotland, we recognise also the strength of the Union and the benefit it brings to our economy and to our culture. The importance and significance of this were reaffirmed recently by the Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution, and, of course, the Scottish representation in this House constitutes, to a figure of 97 per cent., those who, like myself, were elected on a United Kingdom ticket.
But this Bill is just as important to Scotland as it is to South-East England. It would, of course, be better still if the link were from Leith to Hamburg, but I am a realist and I can accept the physical constraints, although I shall attempt to argue the regional case. It is accepted as a matter of general principle that projects such as the Channel Tunnel, Maplin or the railway network cannot be considered in isolation. They form part of a national transport policy which should, for example, pay as much attention to Scotland's links with Europe as to a third London airport.
Not surprisingly, it is the regional implications of the Bill that are my particular interest, for regional policy and the location of industry are much influenced by the availability of good communications. I look to the Channel Tunnel as a contribution to regional 1323 policy; so, too, does the Scottish Association for Public Transport, which has issued a statement to this effect. If we can make it substantially easier to travel between all parts of Britain and Europe we shall, in effect, bring Scotland, Wales and the northern regions of England closer to the centre of economic and social activity. That could ease many of the problems, both real and imagined, that are part of the feeling of being on the periphery, of being out on a limb and remote from the centres of decision. This is not an EEC matter, for with or without the Common Market our regional policies should aim at the time when subsidies and special incentives become unnecessary, as distances and economic differences diminish through good communications. Last week's announcement by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries on the future of British Rail was an important contribution to our national transport policy, and the Channel Tunnel is another.
Airport policy is equally important, and in this respect the September White Paper, "The Channel Tunnel", may already be out of date. In paragraph 10.3 there is a brief reference to Maplin and the tunnel:The development of Maplin will have no appreciable effect on the traffic forecast for the tunnel since the Maplin traffic would otherwise pass through other London airports.There are two points here. First, the fuel crisis has put even greater emphasis on rail travel, and, as these services develop, shorthaul air journeys are likely to prove less attractive. Secondly, many people now prefer rail for journeys of up to 200 miles, and with the Channel Tunnel and improved rail services many people may prefer rail for journeys of 400 miles or more. That would bring Glasgow, Edinburgh and many European cities within a few hours' rail journey of London, with a consequent reduction in the number of aircraft using the London airports system. It seems, therefore, that the construction of the tunnel, the improvement of rail services and the need to conserve fuel could have a considerable effect on the air traffic forecasts mentioned in the White Paper Maplin may still be required as an environmental alternative to Heathrow, but that is a matter for debate at another time.
1324 I was surprised that in considering the regional implications of the tunnel the White Paper did not refer to provincial airports, for, if the Channel Tunnel and a revitalised rail network affect the volume of air traffic in London, airports in other parts of the country may be similarly affected. The truth is that we have too many provincial airports, with the result that few provide an adequate service other than to London. In considering a national transport policy we should remedy this by moving from a policy of city airports to one of regional airports. That is particularly necessary in central Scotland, where Prestwick, Abbotsinch and Turnhouse compete un-economically for domestic and international air services.
The White Paper estimates that the tunnel should be completed by 1980. That gives British Rail only six years to provide fast through services from Scotland and the north of England to Europe. What we must not have is the usual situation in which direct services will start from London in 1980, from Manchester about five years later and from Scotland 10 years after that. It is as a significant contribution to regional policy that the Bill matters, and British Rail has to prove, and prove quickly, that it can rise to the challenge that the Bill presents. Perhaps another way in which my right hon. Friend could make clear that the tunnel will benefit the whole country is in Part III, which deals with the setting up of a British Channel Tunnel Board. It is important that the board should right from the start represent regional interests, and I hope that in winding up my right hon. Friend will show his willingness to do that. The same considerations apply to the consultative committee, whose interests should extend beyond South-East England.
The project will bring its own environmental problems, and I hope that my right hon. Friends will make sure that any public inquiries which are held will be more than just exercises in public participation. It is terribly important that when an inspector supports the views of objectors following a public inquiry those findings should not be overturned by the responsible Minister unless he makes it abundantly clear that no possible alternative exists.
1325 It is generally accepted that in terms of technology and engineering the Channel Tunnel is within proved experience and does not require the courage and faith that were necessary for some of the great engineering projects of the last century. The Caledonian Canal, the Forth Bridge and Brunei's Thames Tunnel stretched the technology of their time, but that is not the case here. Of course there are many difficult technical problems, but if modern technology can extract oil from the North Sea in extremely difficult conditions it can build a Channel Tunnel.
The project that is presented in the Bill has been with us for a long time—almost as long as has the Irish question. I noticed in a recent issue of New Scientist a reference to this:We are of the opinion that it is not an unreasonable proposition to drive a tunnel under the Channel, but that in some measure it must be a venture.The New Scientist points out that that is a quotation from the magazine Nature of 20th January 1870. The caution that we have shown by waiting more than a hundred years to make the plunge is evidence of our desire not to rush our courtship with Europe, but at least we can claim that the physical union has not preceded the marriage, as that ceremony took place in Brussels some time ago.
Although I am a newcomer to Parliament, I am not a newcomer to London and London attitudes. I know that the average person in this part of the world considers that parochialism is a disease that starts north of Watford. Sometimes I think that the opposite view may be more appropriate, and that is why I have tried to stress the importance of the regional implications and the effect of the Bill on regional policies.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Tope (Sutton and Cheam)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which provides for substantial public expenditure and guarantees at a time when such large-scale projects should be reconsidered, which contains provisions that will exacerbate the long-term nature of the energy crisis, and which will cause widespread environmental disruption to South-East England.1326 I am pleased to have the opportunity of congratulating the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher) on his maiden speech. It is still less than a year since I made my maiden speech, so I know only too well, and better than many hon. Members, how he must feel to have it behind him. Speaking as a London Member who does not take such a parochial attitude I am very much in agreement with the hon. Gentleman's remarks about a national transport policy and public inquiries. Perhaps there is some measure of agreement between us although we are on different sides of the House, and I look forward to hearing his words of wisdom on other occasions.
In the debate on the White Paper on 25th October I said that the Liberal Party supported in principle the concept of a Channel tunnel. As the Liberal Party has long advocated closer and better links with Europe I could hardly do otherwise. I also said that the Liberal Party could not accept particular proposals detailed in the Bill and that we favoured what has come to be known as the rail-only link. I gave the reasons in that debate and, inevitably, as the right hon. Member for Sheffield Park (Mr. Mulley) said, to some extent we are bound to repeat ourselves today. It is the concept of the "rolling motorway" to which we Liberals object. I appreciate that this concept comprises only part of the proposals, but it is the part to which we most object. Nothing that has come forward in the last six weeks has caused us to change our minds on this proposal and, indeed, subsequent events have confirmed this view.
The Liberal amendment details our three major objections to this Bill. The first relates to financial guarantees. In the debate on the Channel Tunnel White Paper in October hon. Members on both sides of the House questioned the need for such guarantees. The Minister for Transport Industries made no reference to this point when he replied to that debate. Therefore, I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for today spelling out the Government's reasons for providing these guarantees. However, I am still not entirely convinced. If the figures produced by the economic consultants in terms of the high profit levels expected are correct, then there should be no need for guarantees. 1327 Surely the Government can declare their good faith without committing the taxpayer to a possible expenditure of as much as £500 million.
I wonder why there is any need for these guarantees. If the tunnel is expected to make such a profit why do we have to guarantee this investment? The project has been presented as a commercial investment. That is fair enough, and we have no objection to commercial interests being involved nor to their building the Channel Tunnel nor to their making a profit, provided that the profit is reasonable—but if the companies are to enter into this activity as a commercial matter, surely they should bear the risks involved.
If the Channel Tunnel were presented to us on social and environmental grounds—and those grounds exist—then there would be a justifiable argument for pro viding guarantees, but the case has not been made out on those grounds but on commercial grounds. We do not believe that at present those guarantees should be made to fall upon the taxpayer. Either the private forecasts which have been put forward are right, in which case there is no need for the guarantees, or those forecasts are wrong. If they are wrong we should be told in what way they are wrong.
It is misleading to suggest that at some time in the future we can withdraw from this project. Once the guarantees have been made they are just as binding as any clause in any treaty, and huge sums will have been committed. At a time when we are talking about cuts in public expenditure, we should consider the situation carefully before we embark on a scheme which will cost the taxpayer a considerable amount of money.
I turn to the energy question—which at present is exercising everybody's mind. It seems to me remarkable that it is only in the last two months that the Government have come even to consider the energy question in relation to this project, and to other projects which we are not debating today. This problem has been accentuated by recent events, but it existed earlier and did not just happen. It is not a problem which necessarily will be solved in a period of 10 years; it is a 1328 long-term problem and should be looked at on a long-term basis.
The profitability of the project depends entirely on the high diversion rate of accompanied-passenger traffic from the ports to the tunnel. The forecasts are unrealistic in the first place because they did not take proper account of the continuing competition from sea ferries. Nevertheless, the calculations were based on the assumption that oil and petrol would continue to be cheap and plentiful—an assumption which today nobody would make.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am a little confused by the hon. Gentleman's argument. He said that energy is a long-term problem. If that is so, is there not a powerful argument for a rail tunnel?
§ Mr. Tope
Indeed, and that is the main reason why we are in favour of a rail-only tunnel and not a tunnel which will increase the amount of traffic using petrol and oil. It is the reason why we object to the present proposals. We know without doubt that in future oil will not be cheap or plentiful, as any London Member of Parliament will know at present.
In the last debate on this subject I questioned whether, if petrol were to cost, say, £2 a gallon, holidaymakers would still be prepared to take their cars to the Continent for touring holidays rather than to take, say, package holidays in Majorca. Six weeks ago people might have thought that remark somewhat unrealistic, but I wonder how many people today would be prepared to say that by the time the tunnel is built petrol will not cost as much as £2 a gallon. People are already talking about petrol costing £1 a gallon in the New Year. If fuel is to be so expensive, will people still be prepared to take their cars on holiday with them, or will holiday traffic still remain of the same nature? Will so much freight still be carried by road? These are important factors which the Government must note and to which they must give urgent consideration.
An energy commission should have been established to review energy resources and to evaluate large-scale projects such as the Channel Tunnel, Maplin and so on. It is vital that we should begin to look for other sources of energy 1329 and ensure that they are developed. We cannot continue to rely on diminishing fossil fuels. This might be the time at which to resurrect all the research carried out on the feasibility of a Channel dam. I am not advocating this idea in this debate, and I do not think that this is the time to go into details. I am only saying that considerable research has already been done into the feasibility of a Channel dam. Recent estimates have shown that the electricity generating capacity of tidal flow in the Channel would provide enough electricity to power, light and heat the whole of Europe. This is the sort of imaginative thinking—perhaps this is not the time to debate it—which we must adopt if we are to get to grips with the continuing energy problem.
§ Mr. Dalyell
It is all very well for the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) to float ideas for Channel dams and similar ideas. If he had joined the team which visited the barrage at Brest two years ago, he might well have taken the same view as that taken by some hon. Members, namely, that such operations on the coast are exceedingly expensive. To suggest that the making of a Channel dam will reduce public expenditure is no way out of the situation.
§ Mr. Tope
I am not anxious in this debate to pursue the argument about a Channel dam. I merely say that estimates have been made that the cost of a Channel dam would be £1,000 million to £1,500 million. We should consider the return created by such a project in the generation of electricity. However, I do not think we should spend too much time pursuing that topic. I was merely using it as an illustration of the sort of imaginative thinking which we should now be using.
I turn to the question of environmental disruption in the whole of South-East England, particularly in Kent. I am aware that a number of Kent Members are present in the Chamber. If our idea of a rail-only system is accepted the Cheriton terminal could be dispensed with. The Cheriton terminal and its associated works must cause severe intrusions on the landscape. However carefully the landscaping is done the terminal will be an intrusion on the landscape, and it must be remembered 1330 that this is a designated area of outstanding beauty. However well it is done, inevitably it will cause disruption to the landscape and the environment of the area.
We accept that some road improvements are necessary in Kent. Many are overdue, as I am sure all hon. Members representing Kent constituencies will agree. But the Government have now accepted that the emphasis should be on transferring freight from road to rail as much as possible, and we all accept that emphasis. However, the Cheriton terminal will mean a considerable increase in freight traffic on Kent roads, and already we have it reported that the M20 will require to be doubled in size to cope with the increased traffic. What is more, it is not just traffic which will be generated on the main roads but that which will be generated on side roads as well.
We see already beginning a large increase in the number of depots, warehouses and other industrial developments taking place in Kent, all bringing more traffic. If this development takes place off the main roads, the traffic has to go from the development to the main roads. Already developers are moving into Kent. I quote from an item which appeared in The Times on 8th October:The South-East, in what might be called the Channel Tunnel sphere of influence, is proving attractive to industrial developers. For instance Property Security Investment Trust has gained planning permission to build about 100.000 sq. ft. of warehouses and industrial units giving on to the A20.In view of this, what real assurances can we possibly have that planning controls will be effective? If development in Kent can be controlled, one is tempted to ask why it is not being controlled?
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the bulk of this development around the M20 and linking it to the M20 is there already and that, whether or not the Chunnel comes, if this Bill falls, the increased lorry traffic is there already? The Channel ports are already bogged down. Of course we want the M20 improved and doubled in size. It is only a two-track road now, and we want it turned into a three-track or four-track road.
However, the main point which I wish to put to the hon. Gentleman is that the 1331 most unattractive, ill-planned item of this development is the personal property of Mr. Stanley Blow, my former Liberal opponent, and therefore, a very large financial contributor to the hon. Gentleman's party.
§ Mr. Tope
I am interested to hear that he is a considerable financial contributor to my party. I was not aware that we had any.
I accept, of course, that freight traffic is increasing. What I am saying is that it will increase still further if the terminal at Cheriton is built. We are saying that a rail-only link would help not to reduce the amount of freight traffic necessarily but certainly to slow down the inevitable increase in this freight traffic.
I return to the point that I was making before that rather lengthy intervention. It seems to us that for environmental, economic and numerous other reasons a rail-only link is the best alternative. We think that it can be seen as part of a national transport policy to which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North referred and as an excellent opportunity for reinvigorating the British Railways system, which I believe the Minister now favours.
Finally, I turn to another point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North. We believe that there should be the fullest possible public participation in the planning of this scheme, and I stress the word "public". When I last spoke on this subject a number of Government supporters insisted that there had been considerable consultation, participation and so on. Since that debate numerous people have written to me from Kent—not all of them Liberals—saying that there has been little public consultation in the planning of the scheme and that they have found it extremely difficult to get information in terms which they can understand. I am told that they have had very little opportunity to make known their views and to question the assumptions being made and the figures being produced. I am not convinced that this problem will be dealt with adequately by the Select Committee which the Government have appointed. It will accept objections from people directly affected by the scheme, but it will give no opportunity to people not directly affected by it to express their views and reservations 1332 and to question all the assumptions and figures produced by the Government. For that reason I still believe that an independent inquiry is necessary.
When we last debated the matter, I recall the Minister saying that he felt this to be unnecessary and not in the national interest. Perhaps the Minister is guilty of equating the national interest with the Governments' interest. They are not the same.
For all these reasons, my colleagues and I and, I am pleased to hear, Opposition Members will be going into the Division Lobby tonight to decline to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
This is the first occasion on which I have seen the Liberal Party in this House sitting in a posture which would warrant a photograph—
§ Mr. Costain
I take your correction at once, Mr. Speaker. You will notice that they have all disappeared now. Obviously they had not realised that you would not allow a photograph to be taken of them.
We have debated this matter on two occasions recently and I had imagined the purpose of today's debate to be to discuss this Bill which is really the nuts and bolts of the project. However, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) has reopened a question which very much affects my own constituency. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's care for and attention to my constituency, but I can assure him that I have been in close touch with one of his Liberal friends living there and that I have been able to give him the information for which he asked.
At one time the Liberals suggested having a terminal at Dungeness, so saving Cheriton. I have had an exchange of correspondence with Mr. Henderson, the person concerned, and I have been able to prove to him that that is not a practical proposition. I have had detailed geological survey plans produced. If Mr. Henderson is still not satisfied I can supply further information to the effect that if he really wants to ruin my constituency he should propose going ahead with the idea of building a terminal at 1333 Dungeness since it would completely spoil Romney Marsh.
There is considerable appeal in the argument that we should have a rail-only tunnel. To those who have studied the matter, as I have for more than nine years, it is an attractive idea. It is suggested that all that we have to do is build a rail tunnel and our traffic problems in Kent are over. I only wish they were. A survey in depth which I have done indicates that a rail-only tunnel is the worst of both worlds. Road traffic will continue to increase, and it will go by ferry.
One of the most powerful arguments for building a tunnel from Folkestone and Dover is the effect that there will be on the two towns if we do not find some way of bypassing them. If we are to get the expected increase in traffic, doubling by 1980 and quadrupling by 1990, the effect on the two towns will be worse and worse, as anyone who lives there will know. We already have juggernauts crashing down the hills. There has been another incident since we last discussed the matter. This is one reason for not worrying solely about the amenities of Cheriton itself. The worst disruption to amenity would be to have the towns divided. We would have to pull down a number of houses in the town and build new houses elsewhere. The obvious place to build them would be on the Cheriton terminal site. It seems to make little sense from an amenity point of view to drive a motorway through the town, to pull down houses to make way for it, and build new houses on the Cheriton terminal site. We do not overcome the amenity aspect by hiding behind the fact that we save the Cheriton terminal.
Since the last debate on the Channel Tunnel we have had a fuel crisis. The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam referred to oil going up to £2 a gallon. He asked whether any hon. Member was prepared to say that this would not happen. No one spoke. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman calculated the cost of fares if oil goes up to £2 a gallon. One of the greatest costs of air transport is hydrocarbon fuel. If oil were to go up to £2 a gallon the need for a fast link to the Continent would be much greater. Surely that would reinforce the argument in favour of the tunnel.
1334 The hon. Gentleman said that if oil and diesel fuels went up to such a price the cost of shipping would be tremendous, and that it would therefore be more attractive to transport goods by rail by electric power, which we have ways of producing other than by oil. Therefore, again, the tunnel is an attractive project if we are to pay higher prices for fuel. I suggest that the arguments developed by the hon. Gentleman today are in favour of, not against, the tunnel.
§ Mr. Tope
I said that I was in favour of the tunnel in principle. The hon. Gentleman is putting forward the arguments that I would adduce in favour of a rail-only tunnel. If the cost of fuel goes up to these high levels more people will want to travel by rail and more freight will be sent by rail. For those reasons the Liberal Party is in favour of a rail-only tunnel.
§ Mr. Costain
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making the situation clear. Of course, with the usual Liberal attitude, he has forgotten to reply to the argument that a rail-only tunnel would not be the most practicable way of proceeding.
A rail-only tunnel still has to be drilled. It may not be of the same diameter, but we still have to drill it. One advantage, or one of the least disadvantages from Folkestone's point of view, is that having the Cheriton terminal immediately at the beginning of the tunnel gives excellent opportunity for the spoil from the tunnel to be deposited on the terminal site. There is plenty of space for that spoil to be deposited without having to transport it great distances by road.
A number of proposals in the Bill will have a serious effect on my constituency. Schedule 2 refers to Dolland's Moor being used as a siding. I should like an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries that this siding is to deal with the chalk spoil coming from the Dover workings of the terminal and will be used primarily for transferring the spoil to this terminal site till such time as it can be brought from the tunnel. There is great fear in that part of Kent that a marshalling yard will be planned, and that we do not want. If the whole object of the siding is to get the chalk spoil off the road 1335 we welcome it and congratulate the Minister on finding the only rubbish tip for miles around on which to put the siding and do the least damage to the area.
I thank my right hon. Friend for keeping his promise that the local authority would have some planning control inside the terminal site. This is greatly appreciated. The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) seemed to have some doubt about that matter and about the ultimate power of the Secretary of State. With any planning control there has to be some ultimate responsibility.
§ Clause 3 and Schedule 2 deal with compulsory purchasing powers. I welcome the fact that in the compulsory purchasing powers provision is made for those affected to get full compensation for removal, but there could be a tricky situation between now and when the Bill becomes law.
§ A number of people living in the area, particularly in the village of Newington, which has had much publicity, have to move for personal reasons. I have visited the village. People in three houses have very good reasons for moving, but the moment they put up their houses for sale no one will buy them. I have written to the RTZ organisation asking whether it will buy them because it will obviously need property. RTZ is considering the situation.
§ It seems extraordinary that with all that is likely to take place, and these houses not being very desirable places in which to live while the tunnel is being built, at the end of the day, when the whole project is finished and the tunnel is operating, if the Shepway Council decides to build a station quite close to Newington those houses, in perhaps 10 years, will be most attractive propositions. Imagine having a house within one hour's travelling time of London with a five minutes' walk to the station—there cannot be many such places in the country like it—and within one and a half hours' travelling time of Paris.
§ Therefore, it seems wrong that my constituents should suffer because their houses, which have little value at the moment unless the Government come to their assistance, will have to be sold a 1336 below cost. It will be no surprise that German estate agents are touting round these houses with the object of purchasing them. I do not object to the Germans purchasing houses. Indeed, to further international trade every nation should purchase land in other countries. My objection is that because the procedure of Parliament prevents the Bill from becoming an Act for some months my constituents should suffer. I ask my right hon. Friend to give some thought to how we can overcome this problem. I believe there are powers under the old Transport Act which could give my constituents some help.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Perhaps I may indulge my curiosity with the hon. Gentleman, as he represents one of the great construction firms in this country. Would he care to put any figure on the proposition by the Liberal spokesman that we should consider a dam in the Channel? Would his firm undertake this project for £1,000 million, apart from considerations such as objections from the ports of Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bremen that they would have to send their ships round by Scappa Flow?
§ Mr. Costain
It is no longer my company. I left it on retirement two years ago.
When I heard the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam put his proposal my mind went back to another suggestion: "Why build a tunnel or a bridge? Why not build a canal?" If one is to have a causeway one might as well build a canal. Of course the idea is quite impracticable.
I suggest that the hon. Member reads the history of the building of Dover Harbour and that he should go to the Institution of Civil Engineers and read the documentation of the difficulties encountered in its building. The harbour penetrates 200 or 300 yards into the English Channel. I suggest that the hon. Member sits on the beach in a Force 8 gale to see how the shingle moves, that he should go to Dungeness where the terminal is to be placed and study the contract being let to a firm for perpetuity to dig the shingle and move one part of the beach to another part because the shingle is moving so often. No, that idea is not even a starter.
§ Mr. Tope
I was not putting forward on behalf of the Liberal Party or myself firm proposals for a dam. What I was saying was that it was an instance of the kind of imaginative thinking that we should be having on the problems. I am sure that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is aware of the considerable amount of research which has been done by people who are far greater technical experts than he or I, and which has shown why such a dam is technically possible. It is possible to have locks which would let shipping through. That is one example which could be used.
§ Mr. Costain
The idea is becoming more and more incredible. Now we are to have locks in the busiest shipping lane in the world. One of the causes of greatest concern is ship collisions in the Channel and now we are to have locks.
The point I want to make is serious. It is the one item in the Bill that gives me concern. I have spent a morning with the Borough Engineer of Folkestone discussing the proposal that the drainage from the terminal site should go into one of the small streams in Folkestone. A lagoon would be produced on the site. The surface water would go into the flow tank—six acres of pond. I suggest my hon. Friends should secure the trout fishing rights. It will then go into a stream which runs beside Horn Street, not into the sea but into the Royal Military Canal. It will be used as a feeder.
I asked the borough engineer to work out the figures for me. He was on the telephone to me this morning. When he discussed the matter with the Department it suggested that it could allow for a 30-year storm. I have been in Folkestone for 15 years. In that time we have had two 30-year storms and one 100-year storm. One of those completely flooded the main street. I need assurances about this prospect of dealing with the surface water of 300 acres—a golf course which has virtually to be covered with an impervious material. The borough engineer has worked out a figure of 3½ million gallons of water an hour.
The Library has been good enough to give me an idea of what a river of 3½ million cubic feet an hour is and the House will be as surprised as I am. It says that the following rivers have a mean 1338 flow of approximately 3½ million gallons per hour—the Itchin, the Lea, the Cam, the Medway, the Tamar and the Derwent. It would be impracticable to expect such a vast quantity of water to go into the Royal Military Canal.
Serious consideration must be given to directing the water into a separate outlet into the sea. Equally, there should be further engineering considerations about whether to build a Channel tunnel which goes towards the sea and whether the drainage should not go down the tunnel before spilling out into the sea.
I have taken longer than I intended, but I hope I have been able to make the points which affect my constituents to a great degree. I hope that the House will not accept the Liberal Party's idea of building a causeway, or, indeed, accept its amendment, because that would only set back the project. That would mean that we should have to endure a build-up of traffic en route which would make life intolerable in my area.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) will not object if I say how refreshing it was to me, as a "young pup" of an engineer, to listen to such practicalities from an hon. Member who has clearly had long experience of the technicalities of engineering.
I have the rather dubious pleasure of claiming for my constituency the distinction of having located within it the site of the registered office of the first Channel Tunnel company registered in this country. As the Minister said, the Channel Tunnel project has a long history. The first proposals came from one Albert Matthieu around 1802. But by 1867, one William Lowe, who lived in my constituency, conceived the grandiose idea of having a Britain-India railway, the first part of which necessitated a Channel tunnel. He registered his company and his office in Wrexham. In view of that one might have supposed that I should be in favour of that proposal and support it on Second Reading. But for a number of reasons I cannot do so.
There are all kinds of arguments—we have entered into many of them over the last few weeks and months—by which this project can be viewed and questioned. Examples are its effect on Kentish roads, 1339 the question of the practicalities of the project, the sheer technical engineering feasibility, its financing, the effect on our ports, and so on. But the one issue on which to judge the tunnel would be that which the hon. Member for Edinburgh North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher) touched on, in what I thought was an admirable maiden speech, namely, the tunnel's effect on regional development.
I want to look closely at this problem because it does not seem to have received the consideration that it deserves. The Bill mentions it not at all. The issue of our regional economic disabilities is one of the fundamental key issues, not only for Britain but for the whole economy of Europe.
When the Green Paper was introduced earlier this year the Government pointed out that there would be several intermediate decision points built into the project. It is to be seriously questioned whether anything like the necessary study of the economics of the tunnel—by that, I mean economics in its widest sense—has been undertaken in the period between publication of the Green Paper and publication of the Bill.
In May of this year, I asked the Prime Minister whether,In view of the paramount need to eliminate regional economic disparities across Europe and in view of the failure of all Governments so far to reverse the centripetal pull to the central golden triangle",he would ask the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and the Environmentto assess the effect of the Channel Tunnel upon the Welsh and Scottish economies, not in absolute terms but relative to its effect on the South-East, and to couple that with an assessment of proposals to improve direct sea and air communications between the peripheral regions of Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1973; Vol. 855, c. 987.]As a result of that question, the Prime Minister kindly wrote me a letter to elaborate on some of the points that he had mentioned in his reply. In the letter, he said:… it may not be possible completely to isolate and quantify the effects of the Channel Tunnel on particular parts of the United Kingdom.There may be some sense in that. Despite all the techniques that have been available to economic forecasting, it is obviously no easy matter to make reasonably accurate forecasts.
1340 I do not want to claim that I know for certain what the effect of the tunnel will be on the regional economic disparities in this country, but the Prime Minister went on to say that the tunnelwould not offer a major incentive for relocation of industry in the South-East".With the greatest respect, I simply do not believe him. The facts of geography, history and economics speak to the contrary. More and more trade will be "chunnel-led"—I suppose that is the word-through the South-East and the influence of that trade on the South-East of England and the North-East of France will be enormous.
It is not for nothing that the population of London at the beginning of the 18th century was 2 million and that of the next largest town in Britain—Bristol—was only 30,000. That gives a measure of the centripetal pull. I know that the Industrial Revolution, with its emphasis on mineral deposits, changed that situation, but now that industry is not based so much on minerals, these old geographical and economic centripetal pulls are reasserting themselves and the tunnel will add to this effect.
The next words of the Prime Minister's letter were staggeringly complacent:… planning controls, and particularly the IDC system, would ensure that any pressures for new development in the South-East would be consistent with local and overall regional policy.No one would claim either here or in any other European country that regional development policies, energetic and powerful though some of them have been—tantamount in some cases to the direction of industry—have wholly overcome, to the benefit of the regions, these natural economic pulls towards the central golden triangle.
Yet the Bill does not even acknowledge the need to find out a rough estimate of the effects of the tunnel on this crucial economic issue of regional disparities. I do not want to go into a long economic lecture, even if I could, but most people will probably accept that this is one of the key economic issues in Europe.
All this is not to argue against improving and increasing travelling facilities between Britain and the mainland. I suppose that most of us are all for that. But there may be better ways of doing that in terms 1341 of overall economic and social benefits than a Channel tunnel from Dover to Calais. I should like to see studied, for example, the effect for South Wales and for Britain of an improvement of the South Wales ports and the services sailing from those ports and of similar improvements at Glamorgan Airport.
I was struck by the suggestion of the non. Member for Edinburgh, North about the need for regional airports. This kind of thing should be considered along with the whole question of the tunnel's economic effect. Until that study is made, we simply do not know. Recent work carried out jointly between Newcastle University Systems Dynamics Group and IBM (UK) Scientific Centre is very promising, I believe, in showing the potential of new techniques in the study of influences on regional economic disparities. A complete new methodology is being developed. Indeed, I would say that it has been developed; certainly it is in its pilot stage. It is known as systems dynamics methodology.
I shall not bore the House with an account of the technique—again, I am not sure that I could—but until this kind of work is done and this kind of provision is written into the Bill, we must give attention to the need for such a study so that the fundamental importance of the tunnel's effect on our key economic problems can be quantified before the next built-in decision point is reached. However, I am inclined to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) that these built-in decision points will at the end of the day probably be far more theoretical than practical.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
When the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis) rose, I hoped that we were going to head a clarion call from a railwayman on behalf of the Channel Tunnel, but it seems that many of these colleagues of his are now at the other end of the building, and I was disappointed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher) made a graceful maiden speech, particularly in his reference to Johnnie Dalkeith, who is no longer in the House. Most by-elections arise for reasons that the House regrets—in this case particu- 1342 larly so. This is my first chance to say how much we welcome my hon. Friend. I hope he will take part in many debates like this, stressing the regional nature of Scotland, from which he comes. As a Sassenach, one has to be careful about referring to Scotland as a region, as one does at the European Parliament, when it is part of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend may have noticed, during Question Time this afternoon, an example of how those who live in South-East England—I suppose I do most of the time—are a bit egocentric at times. We were discussing the rush around for petrol which other parts of the country, I understand, are not suffering. I hope that this regional point will be taken up, because this is one of the ways in which we might spread the load rather than concentrate it, as has been happening in the century and a half by the drift to the South-East.
Even following the explanation of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope), the Liberal amendment seems an astonishing document. It is self-contradictory. It talks of the tunnel exacerbating the long-term nature of the energy crisis. I do not see how that can be argued, since it seems that exactly the opposite will happen. The tunnel will replace road transport, which is dependent on oil, with electric traction, which has the advantage that electricity can be generated by nuclear power. It will also be pollution-free.
The motion also says that the tunnel will cause widespread environmental disruption to South-East England. Planning powers exist to control such a situation. Contrary to the amendment, I believe that the traffic loading can be spread by using the rail between the coast and its sources in Edinburgh and even beyond, The increase in road traffic over the last few years is, every day, causing ever-greater environmental disruption in South-East England. By proper physical planning and the use of rail transport it should be possible to achieve the desired effect. As things are, every day we are faced with a growing density of traffic and an increase in air pollution, and this traffic is concentrated on the port area. I hope, therefore, that the House will decisively reject the Liberal amendment.
I was a little surprised to hear what the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park 1343 (Mr. Mulley) said. He was a very helpful Minister of Transport, and on occasions I discussed this project with him. The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it is for the Government to put forward proposals, but I think that the House is entitled to know the better alternatives that might be proposed. There has been the extraordinary suggestion from the Liberal benches about the building of a dam, but that is a non-starter. Equally, the construction of a bridge is a non-starter. I hope that, if not now then on a later occasion, the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what he believes are the possible alternatives.
§ Mr. Mulley
Supporting the Liberal amendment does not mean supporting the speech that introduced it. We take the amendment as it is. I am in difficulties about possible alternatives. In other circumstances, if it suited their purpose people would say that I voted against the White Paper and against the Bill, and that if the Opposition had won in the Division Lobby there would not have been a Channel Tunnel. I have to accept that that would be the situation.
§ Sir. D. Dodds-Parker
I am still not quite clear what the better alternatives might be. I think I had better get on and leave the right hon. Gentleman to make the point later.
I support the Second Reading of the Bill with the greatest possible enthusiasm. I regret that when I last spoke on this subject I did not exhibit the full enthusiasm for the tunnel that I might have shown. We had been urged by the Chair to cut our speeches short, and I reckoned, wrongly as it turned out, that, having for some time been joint chairman with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) of the all-party Channel Tunnel Committee, it would be assumed that I was enthusiastically in favour of the project.
It is difficult to find out how far back the committee goes. I am not sure that it is as far back as 1802, which the hon. Member for Wrexham mentioned. There are some good pictures of a coach-and-four going through a tunnel at that time. The committee goes back to the nineteenth century, and it was originally set up to stop the tunnel from being built, for defence reasons.
1344 As I say, I wrongly took it for granted on the last occasion that I was recognised as being an enthusiastic supporter of the Channel Tunnel. This is one of the most exciting projects that I have had anything to do with, in the smallest connection, during the last few years. It was probably a similar lack of knowledge which prevented any member of the committee from being invited to the signing of the treaty some weeks ago.
It is nearly 17 years since I first became concerned with this project and entered the Ministry of Transport to discuss it. I spent a great deal of time trying to help the professionals—of which I am not one—both engineers and financiers. I do not believe that any project has been so well researched, under both Governments, as this one. One hears it suggested that the Government should consider the construction of a bridge, or something like that. I believe that all the various suggestions have been considered in the greatest detail and that we have now come to the point at which we must make up our minds either to go ahead or not to do so.
I repeat, as I did last time, in case there is any doubt, that I have no commercial interest in, or technical knowledge about, the Channel Tunnel, but if I could scrape up a mite or two I might invest it here, because if someone puts money into a project he is much more likely to press on with getting it into a profitable state than might otherwise be the case. I should be prepared to do that to back my belief in the value of a Channel Tunnel.
Historians will have to search the records to find why there has been this long delay in recent years. It has been increasingly apparent, even to laymen, that this project is technically possible, economically viable and necessary, and here one comes to the oil crisis which underlines the need, long felt by many people, for a high-speed link between the Midlands of this country and the middle of Europe, and that link can be powered by two nuclear power stations.
The link will not be just from London to the South-East. So much of the debate in the House has centred around points affecting the South-East: sometimes those who live in other areas think that the problems of the South-East take up a disproportionate amount of time of the House.
1345 About eighteen months ago I helped in an extremely good television programme in the Midlands on this project. I produced some of the background detail, the company worked out the programme and it gave rise to a great deal of interest in the area. It was regarded largely as a means for getting to London and on to Calais rather more quickly than is possible now. There is a great deal of interest in this project in the provinces.
British Railways were unable openly to support this project until the Government had made up their mind whether to go ahead with it. That was understandable, but now that the decision has been taken I hope that British Railways will consider some of the matters that have been suggested.
The project is even more attractive to those who come from the Midlands, from Sheffield, which was my ancestral part of the world many centuries ago, from the North and from Wales. It provides the opportunity for through passenger and freight traffic. There seems to be some magic in the figure of 170 miles. Up to that distance it is better to send freight by road but beyond that it is better to send it by rail. If that is accepted, the existence of a fixed link in the tunnel will enormously increase the capability of the British rail system; while considerable developments are taking place in the rail system on the Continent, with trans-European expresses, freight trains, and so on.
High speed is important, but I do not believe that it is as important as through overnight services. If after work one day somebody can load freight or put himself on a train at Edinburgh and be in Western Europe at breakfast time the following morning, the future will provide great benefits for both passengers and freight.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
My hon. Friend is talking about a through connection from the Midlands to the Continent. He is thinking only of a rail connection, and the carriage of freight and passengers by rail. The fact, however, is that the Government are planning a 350-acre loading site at Cheriton, and that is not principally for loading motor cars but, I suggest, for loading hundreds of thousands of juggernauts that will pass through Kent before joining a 1346 train not in the Midlands or in London but at Cheriton. That is my disappointment with this proposal.
§ Sir. D. Dodds-Parker
I shall come to that in a moment. If the Channel Tunnel were not built, the probability is that 3,800 acres would be needed to cater for the people crowding into the Channel ports and trying to put vehicles on the cross-Channel ferries. At the worst, electric traction on rail from areas north and west of London will take a substantial part of the traffic that would otherwise have to go by road.
After going into the matter for a number of years, I feel that there will be room for all types of traffic. The airports—Maplin, Heathrow and others-will be needed for intercontinental traffic and freight. Freight traffic is increasing, as anyone who visits the air freight port at Heathrow will know, for it is now the second biggest port in the country. The ships will be needed for traffic from the Midlands, to Ireland and south-west to the Continent. There will be a considerable use of ships from other than the Kent ports. The roads have an important part to play in feeder services, with the liner trains coming into their own when they are operated by British Rail as a through service to the Continent.
The point has rightly been made that there must be an overall transport system with co-ordination of rail and road. The matter is being considered by the Transport Committee of the European Parliament and the European Commission. I am not a member of the committee, but I see many of its papers. I believe that both road and rail have a vital part to play.
In the meantime, we must make the best possible use of the existing and future facilities of the railway, which has access to city centres that no road system has. That is the first point in developing the railway system.
The second is to spread the load by loading at various centres along the main railway lines. Here I come to the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). With through freight, speed is important, but the saving of double handling and avoiding delays in crossing the Channel are particularly important. With some expensive 1347 or perishable freight they may make the difference between carrying out the operation profitably or not.
The tunnel should take many of the juggernauts off our congested roads. Some may ask "How?". I got into trouble 18 months ago in one of the European debates by talking about differential freight rates. I am told that they are contrary to the European agreements. But motorail and freight liners, by offering through freights from where the goods are made to where they will be sold, and by properly adjusted rates, can solve many of the problems worrying my hon. Friend and those who live in the South-East. We could also make much better use of manpower if one through train replaced 60 to 100 individual units on the road.
I have no particular information on the matter, but such a policy must be under consideration by British Rail now that the Government have decided in principle to go ahead with the tunnel. If the policy is carried out along the lines I have suggested, we can overcome many of the legitimate fears of the conservationists, particularly in Kent, which we all agree is a beautiful part of the country, second only to the Cotswolds. With modern electronic control, it is easy to load at off-city-centre points near the sources of the traffic, as is done, for instance, in Castle Bromwich, where traffic is loaded to go to Scotland overnight on the motorail service.
I support my right hon. Friend's proposals for a Government half share in the profits, which are estimated to be as much as £100 million to £200 million a year by 1990. That is not so very long ahead, only as many years ahead as 1973 was when we had the last oil crisis in 1956. This is a good commercial opportunity for the country to take in return for the guarantee and the concession.
I agree that the oil shortage is here to stay for quite a long time. Whatever the outcome of the present negotiations and difficulties, the tunnel can help to alleviate that shortage by the end of the decade. It can also reduce road congestion, if proper use is made of planning powers. Much can be done to deal with pollution and protect the environment, such as using 1348 electric traction and spreading loading along the main railway routes.
The tunnel is long overdue. My right hon. Friend's proposals are fair both economically and financially to the company and the country. I hope that the House will support them.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Perhaps I should declare a very remote indirect interest, in that I work for the New Scientist, and a great deal of work has been done by that paper on the Channel Tunnel, although none of the editorials or other matter has been written by me.
I echo what the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Sir D. Dodds-Parker) said about the importance of air freight. Those of us whose constituents are affected by the various problems of London Airport—and, to be fair to London Airport, of other airports—know exactly the point the hon. Gentleman was making. It is extremely important to get fast freight through to the Continent. The air freight of the world is already clogged, and if there is to be a reduction in the supply of aero-engine fuel it will naturally become worse. As a Scot, I see that as one of many reasons for having a rail tunnel.
As a fellow Scot, I want to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher), against whom I campaigned very hard. I welcome him here as a very clean battler in an election. I was glad that he referred to his predecessor, the Duke of Buccleuch, whom we knew as Lord Dalkeith. Those of us who saw it will not forget Lord Dalkeith on several occasions coming in here in his wheelchair in obvious pain, fighting manfully against the injury that dogged him. Regardless of politics, all of us on the Opposition side in the Scottish Group had the highest admiration for the personal qualities and courage of the former hon. Member for Edinburgh, North.
In the absence of the new Member I should also like to say that he certainly has a challenge. His constituency is perhaps the first planned new town anywhere in the world, and there is a great job to be done in preserving it.
I support the view of the Scottish Association for Public Transport, which has welcomed the tunnel, on condition that it 1349 is basically a rail link. Most Scots are keen to see it go ahead on that condition. The truth is that, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North said, short-haul air journeys will become markedly more expensive. As advanced traffic develops on the east coast line, which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) and I use quite a lot, the easy 200-mile journey can become a 400-mile journey to important places on the Continent. With the reduction in air travel that will occur that will become more and more attractive. The overnight journey to Paris, Brussels or Frankfurt has great attractions for many Scots.
If I have been nice about the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North, I have nothing but contempt for the preposterous speech from the Liberal benches. I did not give the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) notice that I would mention him, because I thought that, having made such a speech, he, or at least one member of his party, whould be present for the rest of the debate. [Interruption.] He may be a new Member, but he is, after all, his party's spokesman today and his party is always taunting us, saying how the Liberals will obtain more and more votes.
As the spokesman of one's party, one does not come along here with undigested propositions. For hon. Members who were not present at the time, let me say that the proposition was that the Liberals thought that it would be sensible to construct—hon. Members who were not present will not believe it—a Channel dam. It was a Channel dam on the cheap, because no firm would undertake such a project for under £1,500 million. I leave to the imagination the reactions of the mayor of Rotterdam or the mayor of Hamburg to the prospect of international European shipping on its way from the Middle East being diverted round by the Pentland Firth. It sounds absurd, but that is what came from the Liberal Party spokesman.
I happen to believe that hon. Members who are voted in at by-elections should be mainly responsible for the drivel that they talk. It is on the sort of level of the Danish second party now, which apparently has reached the second position in the Danish Parliament on the basis of paying no income tax. Those 1350 of us who represent major parties know that we are mutually unpopular in many sectors of our society, but we resent people coming along with harebrained ideas acting as spokesmen for their parties, and then saying, "We did not really mean it; it was just an idea that we were throwing out."
As one who sees part of his rôle in this place, perhaps, as being to put forward unlikely and often eccentric ideas, I resent being branded with this sort of preposterous idea. It brings hon. Members and the whole of Parliament into disrepute to put forward such a silly idea. Those ideas, which may be open to doubt but which, nevertheless, have a kernel of common sense about them, are brought into disrepute by the kind of silliness which we have heard. Although I have made some fairly silly speeches, I have not made any at that level.
I should like to go on record as saying that those of us who attended the briefing meeting which the Minister gave, some months ago, to the all-party group and my colleagues on the New Scientist, are grateful for the amount of information that has been available. I give credit where credit is due.
I want to ask, first, about the management structure. I listened carefully to the Under-Secretary's opening speech. I have read the Bill. I have some doubt whether it is really sensible to have a British board and a French board. Being critical for a moment, I was rather alarmed that the Under-Secretary did not know the basic fact whether discussions had taken place with BAC and others involved in the Concorde project. There may be nothing in common between Concorde and the Channel Tunnel. In many spheres the comparison would be absurd. But, on the other hand, there are common problems of project management. It is on the issue of project management that I am particularly interested in expressing doubt whether it it is sensible to have two separate executive units.
If I have misunderstood the position, no doubt I shall be told, either now or when the Minister concludes the debate. But the Government ought also to look at the project management undertaking based at Munich, of the MRCA project. These international projects are exceedingly difficult to manage. The scope for 1351 misunderstanding is great. Whereas there will inevitably be some misunderstandings, it is our job to make sure that at least the framework is the one that is likely to create the least amount of misunderstanding.
§ Mr. Peyton
The point here is that the project management, so far as Britain is concerned, is being undertaken by RTZ; in France it is being undertaken by Situmer. I have asked the question often, and I am assured that relationships are both close and friendly and that there is a really close, detailed working understanding. I have no reason to doubt this. It is certainly a point on which I shall continue to take a very friendly interest. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that in international projects there is always the element of prestige, and so on, which tends to make bad friends on occasions, and to have a disruptive effect. The hon. Gentleman is right, but I think that on this occasion, at least so far, there are no grounds for undue apprehension. Certainly the point has been noted.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I reply to that with an abbreviated version of a story. The first ministerial statement that I heard upon becoming a Member of the House was made by the then right hon. Member for Preston, North, now a Minister of State at the Foreign Office, announcing a project on the creation of an Anglo-French supersonic jet airliner. He was asked at the time the very same question, and he replied in almost identical terms. I am not saying that it was untrue, because at that time relations seemed to be very close. The difficulty is that in this kind of inter-country relationship there are strains and stresses and, inevitably, personality clashes. I continue to doubt whether these two separate units, which may be full of friendship at present, will maintain such a degree of friendship over all the difficulties that will arise.
Although I wish the project well, I should have thought that the Minister would, as he says, be wise to keep a very close eye on what actually happens during the first two years, and before it is too late, if there seem to be signs of dissension, to change the organisation structure and say to RTZ, "You must 1352 alter it and have only one management unit". As one who is interested in project management, I have doubts on this subject.
§ Mr. Peyton
One of the great attractions of having RTZ involved is that it has a world-wide reputation for getting projects done on time and within the estimates that it has made. It is very conscious of all the dangers to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. But I certainly would not wish to give the hon. Gentleman any impression of complacency on my part.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I do not want to nag on this subject. I turn to the next matter—the question of assets and the capital market.
Supposing that there is only a rail project, as has been argued, I am not quite clear why the private capital market has to be brought into it. Perhaps I may be allowed to check some facts. Is it true, following the report of 10th October—which was leaked to the Conservation Society—that in the initial stages a rail project would cost 30 per cent. less to operate than the rolling motorway, and 85 per cent. less over a period of years? Is that anything like a correct figure? Is it true that a rail-only tunnel is likely to make a profit from the first year?
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that a rail-only tunnel would cost 30 per cent. less. This was not a leak. This is a fact—or, at least, it is a fact to the extent that any of these figures could be called facts. The figure of 30 per cent. less is thought to be completely reliable. But, on the other hand, it is thought unlikely, and virtually certain, that the project would not make a profit for the first 10 years, and certainly not in its early stages.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is the Minister in a position to say to what the 85 per cent. figure mentioned in the report refers? Perhaps he will inquire into this matter and answer that question later.
Do we not have a situation in which the rolling motorway is required to make a profit for private investors which would not be needed if we built a rail-only tunnel? This question is still vague in the minds of some people. Perhaps it can be dealt with when the Minister replies.
1353 I wish to ask a question regarding Clause 8 (2) of the Bill, which says thatThe obligations or rights in respect of which expenditure shall be so defrayed may relate to the construction of the tunnel system or the abandonment of its construction or to its management, operation, maintenance or development and may include any obligation or right to acquire securities of a body corporate.I sat through the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon)—who cannot be present at the moment—when he proposed that we ought to have a monitoring system, through, perhaps, a Select Committee device.
Am I right in thinking that Clause 8 gives carte blanche public expenditure? How shall we monitor this kind of expenditure? I may be told that to do so would be unnecessary. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) says "Hear, hear". In other spheres I know his work. He is to be taken seriously, as I hope I am, on this subject. Clause 8 would mean that public funds would be handed out in a way that makes some of us shudder, especially when the Prime Minister, not a fortnight ago, told us that over the relevant period public expenditure was to be reduced. I shall believe that when I see it.
The Minister is on record as saying, over a fortnight ago, that there is not much sign that recent costs of petrol would make people less likely to use their cars. Has this judgment changed? I am not making a debating point, but in recent days there have been happenings that might change matters.
If one argues in favour of a rail-only tunnel the question arises of the powering of the railway, not only through the tunnel but on both sides of it and on the approaches to it. Does not this tie in, because of the period we are talking about, with the whole question of nuclear energy policy? Granted that transmission lines are a problem and that a considerable amount of energy would be needed, what is the Government's thinking in relation to extending the making of electricity at Dungeness? Sooner or later a decision must be made, through the Nuclear Power Board, on what kind of reactor system we choose?
If we believe that the bugs in the advanced gas-cooled system can be ironed 1354 out there is a strong argument for having Dungeness C and D. This type of decision is intimately related to the production of power for the use of the tunnel. I do not want to be told that this relates to another Minister's Department. The Government have surely thought what ought to be done about it. It may be that if we come down against the advanced gas-cooled reactor system there are other questions.
I shall be in a group which tomorrow will be going to see the steam-generating heavy water reactor at Winfrith. Some of us think that this system is very much linked up in the south of England—even though I am a Scotsman talking about it—with the geography of the existing power stations. If we decided on the Magnox system a number of consequences would flow. If, on the other hand, the talks which the Government have had with Dr. Lorne Gray, of Atomic Energy, Canada, on the possibility of marrying the working of Cando—the Canadian system—with our own steam-generating heavy water reactor technology being developed at Winfrith, then that is relevant to the argument.
These are complex, difficult matters. If I have abbreviated them it may be because this type of technical argument is not suited to the Floor of the House. I beg the Minister to believe that it is extremely relevant and extremely important.
Within a matter of weeks we shall hear the decisions of the Nuclear Power Board. I should like to have a view, from the board or from the Government—as appropriate—on the way in which it is thought that the powering of vehicular action in the Channel Tunnel should be connected with the nuclear power programme.
I do not apologise for taking up so much time, because this is an important topic and I should like to hear something about it, if only an interim statement.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
I am glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) in his very interesting speech. I support him particularly on his financial remarks about the monitoring of Clause 8. This is a matter of great importance. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, as I represent a Kent constituency, if I do not 1355 follow him in all the details which he mentioned.
I welcome in the warmest terms the proposal to build a Channel tunnel. Opponents of the proposal and of the Bill have put forward many bogus arguments. We should bear in mind the fundamental realities of the problems affecting the Channel ports and the problems of the environment of our county as it is today. It is said that if the tunnel was not built Folkestone and Dover would be jammed solid in a few years. But these towns are almost jammed solid already.
It must be remembered that the surface traffic at present travelling via the ports would concentrate in South-East Kent. Fifty-five per cent. of all vehicles and trailers go through Kent, not by Harwich and Tilbury and other ports. Last year there was an increase of 43 per cent. in freight lorries in Dover compared with the previous year. This rate of increase is making conditions intolerable in that port. Opponents of the tunnel consistently neglect the current situation.
In a debate in the other place on 13th November Baroness Young made a remark:We must, and we will, do everything in close association with the local authorities to reduce these difficulties to a minimum and to ensure that those affected are treated generously."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 13th November 1973; Vol. 346, c. 569.]Baroness Young was dealing with the environmental problems of those people who will be adversely affected by the "Chunnel" works.
Can my right hon. Friend spell out, in rather more detail, what Baroness Young and other Ministers who have spoken on this particular matter mean by the phrase "treated generously"? We all know that the words of Ministers, however well intended, carry no force of law. Ministers can say the most generous-minded things, especially in Committee, but when the courts or Department of the Environment inspectors come to interpret the law the result is a miserable district valuer's valuation—or possibly not even that.
The main line approaching the Channel Tunnel passes right across the Weald of Kent, through my constituency and the 1356 constituencies of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. We are anxious for the well-being of our constituents. We accept the honourable assurances which are given but we want them spelled out in great detail.
A number of people are agitating against the tunnel project. There is a bogus noble Lady. Her husband is not a lord, but she calls herself "Lady Haliburton". She and her husband are bogus people. She sits on the county council, as a Liberal. My point is simply that many of the opponents of the tunnel are going about by stealth and deceit.
A hand-out sent to me this morning, and, I dare say, to other hon. Members, dated 3rd December from the Conservation Society quotes from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) during the debate on 25th October and implies that my right hon. Friend is against the tunnel. It takes out a "mini" passage from my right hon. Friend's long, thoughtful and careful speech. The words it ascribes to him were uttered by him, but it is a misquote, a mis-placement of the words. What worries me is that the opponents of the tunnel go on endlessly like this. They quote the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). I am sorry that I have not warned him that I would refer to him. The hon. Member is well known for his interest in the seamen's cause and is an honest opponent of the tunnel. Again, words are taken from his perfectly reasonable and thoughtful speech and misquoted. It is misrepresenting the total spirit of the hon. Gentleman's speech.
I hope that the Government will go out of their way to try to allay the fears of people like my constituents and others who are genuinely anxious but whose fears are exacerbated and stirred up by, frankly, dishonest grumblings. We have heard today from the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope). We are now missing the Liberal Party. I am sorry to have to speak about the hon. Member in his absence but he has made his speech and left. He said, among other ridiculous things, that he saw no cause for guarantees. Surely it is widely understood that unless there is a Government guarantee it will be impossible to raise the loans overseas because of the rules of the stock exchanges or bourses 1357 or Government regulations overseas. If we are to get foreign as well as British capital to finance these loans the Government must give guarantees. I am confident that the guarantees will never be called upon but it is only reasonable and right that they should be provided.
Not only have we to see the effect of the tunnel on our county but we must try to look at it through private eyes and think of the advantages to the nation as a whole. There has been the inevitable scaremongering that the price of petrol will rise to a huge figure. If it did the tunnel could be used primarily as a rail tunnel. Advocates of a rail-only tunnel seem to forget that once the tunnel is built it could perfectly reasonably be used primarily as a rail tunnel. It would be said that the vehicle marshalling yards and so on would be useless, but there would always be a considerable volume of road traffic whatever the price of fuel. It is my firm belief that we have to put forward the tunnel system, which is most likely to be an economic one at present.
The Government are quite right to go forward in providing the tunnel which would appear to measure up to that requirement. If we went bald-headed for a rail-only tunnel the forecasts are clear—it would not pay nearly so soon, if ever. If we are entering an era of slower growth—we have seen an anticipated zero growth in Germany for the coming year—there is likely to be a reduction in commercial traffic. But the holiday traffic will still go on, and it may become rail holiday traffic. The businessman is likely to prefer to go by tunnel rather than from Heathrow, with its attendant foggy winter nights.
Our hon. and right hon. colleagues who attend the European Parliament would surely rather travel in comparative comfort and speed through a rail tunnel than spend long hours hanging about at Heathrow waiting for aircraft with uncertain departure times. Whether we are speaking of freight or holidays, political or commercial passenger usage, the fact remains that the tunnel will help the nation. Provided it is dealt with sympathetically, I believe it will help our country, which at the moment is overrun with lorries.
One of the greater follies in the speech of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam came when he complained that 1358 the Channel Tunnel would put more lorries on the by-ways of Kent. Surely the by-ways of Kent are filled with lorries at the moment because of his friend, my former Liberal opponent, who has put down a great freight depot on a small country lane. It may be said that this was negligent planning on the part of the county council, and that may have been so in the past, but the fact remains that the depot is there and is causing the damage to our county now. It has nothing to do with the tunnel. I deplore this completely bogus attitude, taken not only by the Liberal Party but by nearly all opponents of the tunnel.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)
I commiserate with the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) in having such particularly nasty and difficult political opponents.
I refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) only to say that I find his approach as confusing as that taken by my party. His speech was presumably on behalf of the Liberal Party. On the one hand he says that he cannot understand why guarantees are necessary and on the other he wishes to reduce the financial viability of the Bill, thereby making those guarantees even more necessary. Of course, guarantees would be necessary for the kind of financial structure the Government have in mind. It is obvious to anyone who is aware of the risks of making long-term assessments of an expensive business venture that this kind of guarantee would be necessary.
The approach of my party to this is somewhat confused and hesitant. In that I am disappointed. I do not support this kind of Bill but I congratulate the Government for producing their Bill. It is the kind of Bill that a Tory Government would produce for this kind of venture. It relies heavily on two private firms and uses Government money to guarantee those firms. It lacks that kind of control and direction of what I consider to be an important national project that we would get from only complete State participation and control. It is unfortunate that we should be lagging behind the views of British Rail or the National Union of Railwaymen on a project of major national importance.
1359 This is a matter upon which we could give a lead. I find it strange that we, committed to further nationalisation, have not sufficient confidence in the future of the railways to make us want to strengthen them and make them more viable and better equipped to deal with future problems and to develop as a modern railway should, and could, in the light of this important link with the Continent.
Presumably, I shall be attacked in my constituency for making this speech, because it is now fashionable to relate expenditure on a project of this kind to parochial matters. There is a fashionable political doctrine which says that any money that is spent elsewhere could, by some magic, have been spent in one's own constituency: if an airport is not built at Maplin, the money can therefore be spent on improving the paving stones in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I do not accept that doctrine. I believe that there are certain national investments which we should make. One of the most serious aspects of our politics today is not that we have doubts about the nuts and bolts of this Bill but that we have doubts about our own capacity as a nation to carry on with an important project of this type. I was surprised to hear my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis), for whom I have great respect, doubting that we have the technical abilities to produce a tunnel of this kind. That is a staggering proposition, and it shows what is wrong with our industry today when these doubts can be raised about the technical capacity of our engineering industry.
Also, I find it strange that we as a party have no clear picture of the kind of improvement that such a link could bring about in our railway system. We have to face the fact that not every nationalised industry is popular at the present time. One of my party's major problems in selling a programme of further nationalisation is the unpopularity in consumer terms of existing nationalised industries. Although I have been in dispute with British Rail about the preservation of railway lines in my constituency, I must say that the operation of the railway system in this 1360 country is something of which we can be proud. It is one of the successful nationalised industries. The people of this country, particularly if they travel on the Continent, recognise that we have a first-class rail sysem which should be improved.
A statement in support of the aims, aspirations and development of the railway system by providing this important link is to be expected from a party such as mine which is committed to nationalisation, but I do not accept the Government's structure for doing this job as outlined in this Bill. As I said, I believe that it should be part and parcel of a State railway system, and we should be committed to a rail-only tunnel which is State-financed and State-run.
There will be great concern in two areas about this proposal. There will be concern in the regions about a polarisation of development in the South-East. That is inevitable in this case, and I accept that. There will also be concern about the environment in the area where the tunnel will be built and where the marshalling yards, and so on, are to go. I hope that the control over the development project which is being underaken by Rio Tinto-Zinc will be very close indeed.
I would not accept a development being done by RTZ. A development of this importance should be done by the State. I have some experience of RTZ in a development operation. The company was proposing to mine in my constituency, in the middle of a national park. I also have practical experience of dealing with the Shell Oil Company in Anglesey. If I had to choose between their operations—despite all the criticism of Shell Oil, a great deal of it unfair, in the Sunday Times—I would much prefer to deal with Shell Oil as a development organisation than RTZ. The statements that I personally had from RTZ, and the statements that were made to the Press about the company's intentions, varied in accordance with the state of public opinion, and I do not have the confidence which the Minister obviously has in the responsibility of RTZ in dealing with a matter of this kind, which has very important environmental considerations. If I were a member for any of the constituencies that could be affected by RTZ's operations I should be very 1361 careful indeed about any undertakings that I had from RTZ.
The building of this tunnel is an important step, not only in enabling this nation to show confidence in its ability to carry out a major imaginative project, but also in cementing the relationship which should be developing between this country and the Continent of Europe. It will play a major part in improving trade, and in improving the railways within this country. It will also play a major part in the easier handling of goods, particularly between this country and France. I shall not enter into the problems that arise in the handling of goods between this country and France. If we have a rail-only link it will also play a major part in improving the competition costs, not only for freight but for people who wish to cross to Europe. It will make the cross-Channel boats more competitive. I must declare an interest here. I am a small shareholder in European Ferries, and I became a shareholder in order to gain the advantage of being able to take a car across the Channel at cut rates.
§ Mr. Edwards
I always have to be a practical man. That is why I view some nationalisation proposals with some scepticism.
Our experience of the operation of cross-Channel ferries, which is a mishmash operation with European Ferries and British Rail sharing a monopoly, has not been a happy one. I do not think that the kind of operation which the Government have in mind for this tunnel, with general operation of the tunnel being under private ownership and operation through the tunnel being done by British Rail, will be a happy experience either.
This tunnel could provide a very important boost for British Rail, and it could have an immensely beneficial effect upon the environment, which is now being adversely affected by heavy and increasing road traffic. I also believe that it will have an effect upon the self-confidence of this nation, and that it will cement relations between this country and continental Europe. It is because I have those beliefs that I am extremely disappointed that my party does not 1362 have a clearer line upon this very important project.
I accept that it does not have to accept the Government's Bill, and that there are shortcomings in the structure which the Government are proposing. I do not accept the structure which the Government have outlined, but I accept the principle. I congratulate the Government upon being positive in bringing forward their proposal, and I am extremely sorry that my own party has been unable to take a definite line, and say which way it thinks this important link should be carried out. It has not acted with the confidence, either in the country or in the nationalised railway system, with which I feel it should have done at this stage.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Sutcliffe (Middlesbrough, West)
I consider it somewhat facile of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) to dismiss those who are genuinely worried about the project as "bogus opponents", as I think he did. I try to be constructive; nevertheless I find the Bill controversial and I therefore cannot agree as much as I would have liked with all that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher) said. I very much enjoyed listening to his speech, however, and I join with those on both sides of the House who have congratulated him on it.
The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said that we on this side of the House were complacent. That surprised me because I sat through the Committee and remaining stages of the initial finance Bill and the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) battled in splendid isolation on the Opposition side. He did not even have the support of his own Front Bench. The Opposition benches were completely deserted except for him. That showed a remarkable lack of concern about the whole project.
Since we last debated the matter two events of significance, already mentioned in the debate, have occurred. One is the oil situation, which is becoming more serious, and the other is the prospect of a lower rate of economic growth. These are complex questions, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said in opening the debate, and they require further 1363 examination. As he also indicated, traffic predictions affecting the profitability of the tunnel are based on forecasts that take neither of these factors into account.
In spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) said, I firmly believe that holi-daymakers touring Europe in their cars, from whom over 50 per cent. of the tunnel revenue is expected to accrue, constitute the type of traffic which is most vulnerable of all to petrol restrictions and economic recession. In view of the outlook for the economy and for petrol supplies, and in view of the recent welcome shift of emphasis by the Government from road to rail what becomes all-important is whether in passing the Bill we commit ourselves to the shuttle-ferry tunnel. It is not clear from Clause 2 which defines the tunnel system, whether the Bill, coupled with Article 3 of the treaty, commits us to a specific design of tunnel. I would very much welcome elucidation from the Minister on that point. Article 3 refers to the design of railway installations and fixed and movable railway equipment, including ferry wagons. It says that these matters are still to be settled between the companies, the railways and the Governments. It goes on to say that the matter is still open and in default of an agreement the final decision is to be made by the Governments.
I hope that the passage of the Bill will not settle the matter and that it is possible under its provisions for the conventional Berne gauge system to be substituted for the rolling shuttle-ferry service. The sponsors of the project have estimated that this would save 30 per cent. of the expected construction costs—some £300 million. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary no doubt knows of the French kangaroo system, which is, I believe, the equivalent of our freightliner service, and which is capable of taking all road traffic, including heavy lorries, on the Berne gauge system. Does my hon. Friend also know of the system operated by the German Federal Railways? My hon and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) asked earlier what were the alternatives, and I have no doubt—
§ Mr. Peter Rees
May I correct a small misconception? I did not ask what were 1364 the alternatives. I asked what altertives the Labour Party was offering us.
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
I accept that correction. Unfortunately, the Labour Party was unable today to offer any alternative, which surprised me since it is opposing this project. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) is undoubtedly worried, as are other Kent Members, about what is to happen. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover were to ask me rather than the Opposition about the alternatives, I would say that there is an alternative. I shall now try briefly to expatiate upon it. But I have no doubt that Ministers know about it, and surely they will tell me why such an alternative has been dismissed.
The German railways operate a rolling highway system which carries lorries. It runs from Cologne to Ludwigsburg, which is near Stuttgart, and also from Cologne to Verona in Italy. The basis of this system is a specially designed low-loading rail wagon with wheels of 30 cms. diameter, which is about 1 ft. The design enables most normal lorries to be carried on the wagons and to pass through the standard Berne gauge tunnels, especially on the route into Italy, where the tunnels are smaller than in Germany. The maximum size of lorry which can be carried is 3.6 m. high, about 12 ft., and the maximum width is 2.5 m., which is just over 8 ft. That dimension would be compatible with regulations in the United Kingdom. I understand that there are no special weight constraints.
If the Channel Tunnel were to adopt the Berne gauge system it would make possible a shuttle service as is now contemplated for road vehicles but not just from Folkestone to Calais but from, for instance London to Lille and beyond. That would obviate all the environmental problems of the South-East at a stroke, and, more to the point, it would effect the saving which I mentioned earlier of between, I gather, £300 million and £500 million on the design as at present proposed. Unless there is some explanation for the Governments rejecting this system, it would appear that we are spending that amount to carry a few lorries—and they are a few—of between 11.8 ft. and 13.12 ft. in height. The expenditure works out at about £20 1365 million per inch of extra lorry height. I have here a piece of string which shows the extra height which would fail to get through the tunnel. Such lorries would be only a fraction of the 15 per cent. which would be the proportion of the total tunnel traffic which would be heavy commercial vehicles. By spending a fraction of £20 million, and by converting sections of the old Great Western Railway to the Berne gauge, it should be possible to have lorry shuttle service terminals in, for example, Bristol, Merseyside or Teesside instead of taking all vehicle traffic through Kent and along the roads into Kent.
I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will tell me why, on consideration, the Berne gauge design and system has not been favoured.
I return briefly to the points which I made at the beginning of my remarks. There are new factors—namely, the oil situation and the emphasis which the Government are now giving to rail instead of road. The principle which Article 5 of the treaty lays down—namely, nondiscrimination between road and rail—needs to be overridden in the Bill. There should be power to discriminate in favour of rail traffic.
§ In Clause 14(5) of the Bill which we are now discussing, the British Board is given power to borrow, with the sanction of the Secretary of State, up to £100 million. The fact that that provision enables borrowing by the board to meet losses again raises the whole question of tunnel profitability. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State knows well my concern to see a fixed ratio between the moneys raised under Government guarantee and the moneys raised as risk capital.
§ In reply to my amendment to the Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Bill my right hon. Friend recognised the point which I was making. He said that it would amount to a wrecking amendment in the context of the Bill because Agreement No. 2 could not be signed if the amendment were carried. All I ask in the context of the Bill is that my right hon. Friend devise an amendment—my right hon. Friend cannot make the objection on this occasion that he made to my proposition on the last occasion—which would set a limit on the Government guarantee in the proportion of nine to 1366 one, so that 10 per cent. risk capital would need to be raised before the 90 per cent. guarantee applied in full. That is not asking a great deal.
§ The Government guarantees will be 100 per cent. on any overrun expenditure beyond £846 million. Already the Bill forecasts the cost of the project as £1,000 million. No one can forecast the effect of inflation or of delay on the final cost. Only the other day the Financial Times pointed to the paralysis suffered by the French construction industry because of a strike of French workers. Hon. Members will know that cement will line the French part of the tunnel. We cannot possibly be sure of the extent of overrun cost where risk capital will not be applicable.
§ The Government are, clearly, not sure of raising a 10 per cent. element of true risk capital because private interests under this legislation are to be entitled to seats on the British Board if—and I emphasise "if"—and in the event that they raise the 10 per cent. That demonstrates that there is uncertainty.
Many of my hon. Friends and a good many Labour hon. Members can be counted amongst those who are unhappy about the Bill on two major grounds. First, they are unhappy that there is to be a shuttle service rather than a conventional rail system. Second, they are unhappy that the forecast profitability will not even be put to the minimum test of the capital market. I agree to this extent with the document which the Conservation Society has sent to many hon. Members, which says:
This is not the time to commit the country to a long-term and inflexible financial arrangement which depends for its profits on road transport.
§ I agree with the society about that, and I ask my right hon. Friend for reassurance.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I am not certain whether the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Sutcliffe) was conducting a rearguard action or whether he was in some danger of committing what I am told is the cardinal sin of the Conservative Party. Conservatives should always fight up to the last ditch but not in it. The hon. Gentleman is in some danger of falling into the ditch. I am not certain whether the hon. Member was trying to defeat 1367 the Bill, or to amend it. He appeared to be fighting the old battles of weeks or months ago. There will be a tunnel.
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
Obviously, it must be accepted at some stage, and it must be accepted now, that there will be a tunnel barring some dramatic event. I am anxious to see that it is the right kind of tunnel and that it is funded in the right kind of way.
§ Mr. Ogden
The hon. Gentleman has cleared my mind. He fought up to the last ditch but not in it. From the state of the benches it does not seem that any dramatic event will take place at 10 o'clock which might defeat the Bill.
I believe that there will be a Channel tunnel and that it will be a rail tunnel. We must have a tunnel as soon as possible. I wish we had one now. The fact is that we have not, but the sooner we get one the better I shall be pleased.
The Bill is the only Bill available, and and it is the only Bill to provide for a Channel tunnel of any form. The Labour Government progressed the Channel tunnel project, and if that Government had been returned in 1970 we may have brought forward at roughly this time a Channel Tunnel Bill. It would not, of course, have been this Bill. However, there would have been a Bill to provide the means of providing the tunnel.
The choice which we have at this date is this Bill and this tunnel or no Bill and no tunnel. It is no secret that I support the Bill. Of course, my support must be limited to verbal support. It cannot be carried into the Conservative Lobby. The result of the last Division on the Channel Tunnel shows that the Government do not need my help in the Lobby. I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.
From the list of speakers and from the speeches which I have been able to hear, it seems that there are not so many hon. Members today who do not accept the tunnel as there were on another occasion in October. There are not so many Luddites around as there were on 25th October. Some hon. Members have accepted the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West. There comes a time when, one having opposed a project, 1368 it must be accepted that the project will be carried by a majority. When that stage is reached efforts must be made to improve the Bill, the facilities it offers and the way it goes through. That seems now to be accepted by the Labour Front Bench and by many back benchers on both sides of the House.
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and his contribution to the Committee proceedings on the Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Bill. My hon. Friend certainly took a great deal of the time of the House in those debates, but the Opposition benches were not entirely deserted. I remember making at least two interventions criticising him and supporting the Government. He was not completely alone all the time.
I turn now to what I presume is still the Liberal Party's bench in all its empty glory. It seems that the more Liberals there are the less space they take. The Liberal intervention last time—on 25th October—was directed more towards the Hove by-election than to the question of the Channel Tunnel. Now the Liberals find themselves in a particular position and they have to carry that through. But their absent support for their amendment at 20 minutes past eight is my impression of what they must think about it.
I said harsh things about the Opposition amendment on 25th October, but the Liberal Party's amendment today is a great deal worse. At least one thing can be said about the Liberal Party. If the Labour Party can make a mess, the Liberal Party can make an even worse mess. Any amendment which uses the word "exacerbate" is automatically out for me. If one cannot use plain words, then it is better to put down nothing at all. Wherever the Liberals are marching tonight, it is not towards the sound of gunfire or the Channel Tunnel.
I will not return the compliment which the Minister paid to me in October. I shall not try to embarrass him in any way. But he must be feeling that he has trodden the road of Channel Tunnel debates before and that it might be nice if he could turn to something else.
§ Mr. Peyton
If the hon. Gentleman would follow my example and say 1369 something polite to me, I should not be in the least embarrassed.
§ Mr. Ogden
I have criticised the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think I have ever been impolite to him. I have sometimes said, as an aside, that compliments from him were not always helpful.
I have three points to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The first concerns those who are to be employed on construction. I hope that he will seek the advice and help of other members of the Government, particularly the Secretary of State for Employment, to see whether some of those who work on the construction and all that it entails can be recruited in the regions. I do not want this project to be one involving large numbers of people having to move away permanently from regions of high unemployment, but there are in the regions young men of skill, including men with families, who could for perhaps two or three years, with accommodation available, come to the South-East and take part in the project, later returning to the regions with the skills they have learnt not only in tunnelling but in other construction works. I would not want this great project to provide opportunities only for those areas where high unemployment already exists. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take this point up and at least make it known in the regions that some of the work is available to them.
The second point concerns the control of expenditure. I do not think that the stockbroker belt of London is really in the Channel Tunnel construction area, although no doubt the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) will tell me that it extends down there. It is no secret that when there are Government money and Government contracts, somewhere or other control of expenditure on the project is not always as tight as we would wish. It is perhaps a slander and a myth to say that half the kitchens in the world are constructed with Polaris steel; it is also not true that the whole Bristol area has seats which should have been provided for Concorde. But that kind of thing is not unknown. The Channel Tunnel project will, in effect, be a Government contract, using the taxpayers' money, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say more about cost control, purchasing and so 1370 on. It would be fair to the company and to the contractors to let it be known at once that Government Departments are going to flood the place with inspectors from time to time, and that the Government will be watching expenditure all the time so that there will be as little waste of public money as possible.
My third point concerns reports and information. Any company, authority or board puts out its annual report and progress reports. I hope that many people will be interested in the beginning of the construction and in the extent of the progress. But I do not think the right hon. Gentleman should leave it merely to hon. Members to get their information from outside the House. Nor should he leave it just to Questions or the occasional statement. I hope that he will find a way, perhaps annually or half-yearly, depending on progress, of telling the House how the project is going, enabling us to question him and perhaps to hold a debate from time to time. We are, after all, deeply involved in this project and it is right that the right hon. Gentleman should go out of his way to provide information to the House of Commons.
With these three points, which I do not think will provide the right hon. Gentleman with difficulty, I hope the Bill will go through, and I look forward to when he will be there to see the opening of the tunnel in his rôle then as shadow Transport Minister.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) when he says that there will be a Channel Tunnel Act, but I do not think I agree when he says so positively that there will be a Channel tunnel. Whatever happens to this Bill, I feel that the project has a touch of doom about it and that in 170 years' time the House of Commons may be looking back at the efforts of the 1970s and 1980s, finding perhaps a slightly larger hole than the Victorians left.
On the Second Reading of the Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Bill, my right hon. Friend said that if no one would clear up the mess if the project did not come to fruition he would be prepared to go down with his dustpan and brush and clear it up himself. He should keep his dustpan and brush handy, because I have 1371 a feeling that we have not heard the end of this question for a long time to come.
I agree also with the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby that this is very much an issue of "this Bill and this tunnel or no Bill and no tunnel". That is a matter of regret, because many of us who go along a great deal with the principle of a Channel tunnel link feel that there are alternatives that should be more exhaustively examined. To this extent, I go a great deal of the way with the amendment moved by the Liberal Party. Whatever tunnel we eventually dig under the Channel—if we dig one—one thing obvious tonight is that the position of the Liberal Party's spokesman on transport affairs has been undermined considerably. Indeed, the whole foundations of the Liberal Party seem to have been so damaged that they have disappeared from sight altogether. But if the Liberals put down an amendment which is effectively the basis of a large part of a debate, they might have the courtesy to stay and listen to the arguments about it.
I support some of the arguments put forward in favour of the railway-only tunnel. Reference has been made to the projection of costs put forward by the Channel Tunnel Company and published in a pamphlet issued by the Conservation Society. My right hon. Friend said that it was unlikely that a railway-only tunnel would be profitable for the first 10 years. That statement is slightly at variance with the published figures, and I should appreciate his elaboration of this.
The figures deserve far more study than has been given to them. They show that it would cost 30 per cent. less to build the railway-only tunnel—£584 million against £846 million. It shows that in the first year the operating costs of the railway-only tunnel would be £3 million, compared with operating costs for the Government's projected tunnel of £17 million. Ten years later the operating costs would be £5 million for the railway-only tunnel, compared with £34 million. The operating costs largely reflect the cost of the energy consumed, so those figures are even more striking bearing in mind our present anxiety about energy supplies.
1372 The pamphlet shows also that in 1981, after paying all debt service and operating costs, the net receipts—or the profits—should be £500,000, rising to £20 million in 1985 and £50 million in 1990. Those figures show that the project is viable and profitable after servicing all the capital.
We must consider the railway-only tunnel in the context of the railway system, and I welcome the recent and enlightened statement made by my right hon. Friend that the Government are prepared to spend considerable sums of money on subsidising our railway system as far ahead as we can see. A railway-only tunnel would contribute a net profit to the railway system and the Government owe it to us to give far greater consideration to this idea.
The trouble is that the railway-only tunnel has come to the House of Commons far too late for consideration. We have been presented with a fait accompli in terms of the project itself. Those of us who are putting forward alternatives are probably wasting our time. Many worthy bodies and organisations throughout the country have put forward ideas for a railway-only tunnel, bridges, and so on, but there is no prospect of persuading the Government to look again at the principles of the project. It is this tunnel or no tunnel. They have no room for manœuvre and they cannot at this stage say that they will cut out the rolling motorway concept. We have signed a treaty agreeing to go ahead with it. It would be hard for the Government to go back over the ground they have already covered in conjunction with the commercial interests and the French. My right hon. Friend said:… it is difficult if not impossible to go on re-examining projects of this kind. In this case, it has taken many years of preparation to get it to the stage that it has now reached. It has also cost a great deal of money. To go back over that ground again, to spend money on similar researches, would be to indulge in that habit which seems to have grown up in this country of longing to pore over projects, to look at them again, and somehow or other to dredge up some excuse by which we might avoid any decision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November 1973; Vol. 864, c. 190.]I understand that point of view, and there is a strong practical argument for it, but it implies that it is a waste of time and money to put forward alternative schemes.
§ Mr. Ogden
The question of an alternative has been discussed many times. Does it not boil down to the fact that those who were in favour of an underground, undersea rail-only tunnel were prepared to put some money behind their proposal? Any other proposal considered during the last 170 years was not backed by anyone prepared to put money into it. The opportunities were there, but no one would back his words with cash.
§ Mr. Moate
I agree with the hon. Gentleman to a certain extent. It is a considerable achievement to have brought forward a proposition to this point. It is the result of something that started as a simple commercial exercise. It grew to such an extent that it became clear that it could not be done without Government participation, so we are faced with this one practical proposition. That does not necessarily mean that it is the best proposition, and I believe that there is a strong case now for the railway-only tunnel.
The finances of such a scheme are fat more attractive than the Government admit. If they started from first principles now and examined the railway only project they might themselves be bringing it before the House, and it would be welcomed with great enthusiasm by both sides. If there is anything in that proposition, is it not wise to pause and to take an extra six months, or a year, to examine it to see whether it is worth while?
I was prepared to go along with the Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Bill. I thought it was sensible to go ahead with the exploratory tunnel, the preparation and the geological surveys, because that would not preclude the possibility of later moving to a railway-only tunnel. Unfortunately, my right hon. Friend has poured cold water on every suggestion, even the suggestion for a proper examination of the study, and I am disappointed. There should have been a Select Committee report or a public inquiry. Both processes could have been conducted at the same time as the exploratory work continued on phase 1.
It is a tragedy that a project of this nature, which has exciting implications for linking the railway systems of Britain and Europe, should be received in so many quarters either with apathy or hostility. That is because the Government, 1374 regrettably, have failed to achieve sufficient public participation. It is not too late, unless the Government say that it is quite impossible to alter any of the principles on which the project is based. If they say that, those of us who feel that the project as presently conceived would inflict major environmental damage on our area—which I argue is avoidable if the railway-only project is accepted—have no choice but to oppose the legislation, although that is against my personal instinct, as I believe that there are great opportunities in the railway-only principle.
On finance, we are entitled to more answers from the Government than we have had. It is surely a subject that is worthy of Select Committee examination. The Bill involves Government expenditure of £400 million before we effectively have a chance to look again at the project. I am pleased to say that before Government expenditure goes up to £500 million we shall have the chance of approving an order, but that is not much consolation. It would be odd at that stage if, having built half the tunnel, we did not vote more money—
§ Mr. Moate
Well, if we had built one-third of the tunnel and more money were refused it would be leaving the tunnel—if I may use the phrase—in mid-air. Even when we have reached the £500 million we shall have to vote more funds if the Government want more. We shall be creating a white elephant, or digging a grave for the greatest white elephant of all time.
The figures are misleading. The figure that we have been given is £846 million, but what is the inflation rate? Is it 4.9 per cent.? Between the first figures and the second figures the rise was 11.2 per cent. Are we saying that inflation in the next two years will be 5 per cent.? Probably 10 per cent. would be nearer the mark. Are we saying that the interest charges on which the projection is based are likely to remain the same as they were a year ago? They have probably already risen by 50 per cent. Those two items carry the £846 million nearer to £1,200 million or £1,300 million.
1375 Why are the Government so confident that the guarantees will not be called upon? As soon as there is any delay in the project—which could add between £80 million and £100 million in interest charges for every year—those guarantees will be called upon and the question of a reasonable return on the project will fall into doubt. The guarantees are not just a nice fall-back position that will never be called upon.
In the country there has been great misunderstanding about the project. People do not understand the difference between the rolling motorway project and the railway-only tunnel that many people are now proposing.
Many people still think that all the heavy lorries—the juggernauts—will board trains at regional centres. They have not grasped the fact that this project is designed to attract cars and lorries to drive all the way on the Kent roads down to the Cheriton terminal. This is the greatest failing and disappointment in the Bill. If people understood that this would involve 4 million cars and several hundred thousand lorries being put on the roads to the Kent coast, they would have considerable misgivings.
§ Mr. Speed
Let us get the position quite clear. Is my hon. Friend saying that if there is a railway-only tunnel he will expect the present Government, or any Government, to take power to forbid lorries or cars wishing to go to the Continent to drive on the roads of Kent or to use the shipping and ferry services from Folkestone?
§ Mr. Moate
I do not think that that will arise. If a railway-only tunnel were constructed there would be heavy lorry traffic on the roads to the seaports, but if we created a rail-only tunnel with the right freight fare structure it would offer a major incentive to our exporters in regional centres to use the rail facilities. That should be our objective. I accept that there will be a large amount of freight travelling on the roads to the Kent ports. That is likely to happen in the next 10 years, until the tunnel is operating. Therefore, up until 1980 or even as late as 1983 there will be an enormous build-up of heavy lorry traffic to these ports. That is not a pleasant prospect. It will continue even after 1376 that period, although some of this traffic will be diverted to other Kent roads. All we shall be doing in the present proposals is to spread the lorry traffic across Kent on different routes. On the other hand, we have the opportunity to create a railway system and a fare structure that will encourage industrialists to put their freight on the railways from the north of England to the Continent. We shall miss a great opportunity if we do not take some action on these lines.
I hope that in his reply the Minister will deal with one real problem. The Bill's supporters believe that a vast proportion of the cross-Channel traffic will be attracted to the new tunnel. They are projecting an enormous build-up by 1980. Do they expect the present ferry operators to invest funds in new ships and new equipment at the ports? It will surely be unreasonable to expect them to do so. In future we may be faced with grossly inadequate investment in new ships, and this could result in the most appalling congestion for lorry operators and hauliers and, indeed, for passengers who want to get across the Channel in the period up to 1980. In that period there will be a blight on the situation. Before long the Government will need to address themselves to this problem.
It is with much regret that I find myself unable to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I would support the Bill gladly if the Minister were able to say that, because of the environmental impact on the county of Kent, there would be greater public participation by way of a public inquiry, or that a Select Committee of this House would be set up to examine the project and thereby exercise some future control over the rate of public spending. I would also gladly support the Bill if the Minister were to say, this evening, that the Government will give proper consideration to the railway-only tunnel—a proposal which has in it far more merit than the Government have yet conceded. Unless I receive those assurances, I shall be unable to support the Bill at this or any other stage.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover)
Since this is the fourth debate on the Channel Tunnel in a period of about six months, it is inevitable that not many new points are likely to be made. I take up however the 1377 points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate). The basis of my perhaps reluctant support of the tunnel is that it will concentrate traffic on to two main arteries, the M20 and the M2.
I am not privileged to speak on behalf of the Dover Harbour Board, but I have asked for and been given an assurance from the Minister for Transport Industries that he will look kindly on projects put to him by the board and will not demand that they should be amortised before 1980. I am sure that the Dover Harbour Board will robustly respond to the challenge presented to it by the Channel Tunnel. Having talked to the ferry operators, I know that they will not allow their trade to wither away in anticipation of any competition which the tunnel may afford to them.
Two new factors have been introduced into the debate since the matter was last before the House. The first is the situation presented to the country by the fuel crisis. This has served to emphasise the fact that we need, and shall continue to need, a first-class rail service. The second factor is that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries has now promised the railways sufficient money to modernise themselves and to take advantage of the opportunities which are offered to them. I can only say that I shall watch with interest the progress of the railways. I hope, as do no doubt those who work in that great industry, that the railways will rise to the challenge and will make an important contribution over the next 25 or 30 years.
I turn now to the speech of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). I do not challenge his right to criticise the project. After all, Lord Randolph Churchill said that it was the duty of an Opposition to oppose. I merely put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. Despite the two opportunities that he was generous enough to offer me during his speech, he did not appear to grasp the point of my interventions. It was that there are people in East Kent who want to know what the position would be if the right hon. Gentleman were fortunate enough once again to occupy the distinguished office that he did until June 1970. I hope that he will not take it amiss that I think it unlikely that he will do so in any space of time, But, 1378 after all, the electorate is interested in such matters, and there are people in my constituency who do not feel any great sympathy towards the tunnel and would be interested to know what the right hon. Gentleman would offer the House were he given an opportunity to take charge of this project.
We know that in broad outline the right hon. Gentleman viewed the tunnel with some sympathy until 1970. It is a pity that he did not develop his thoughts on the kind of tunnel that he would support, but I acknowledge his generosity in allowing me to intervene twice during his speech. I regret only that he has still left us in some doubt. This is not the first time that this kind of situation has arisen in the present Parliament. Too often we have had great issues to debate, when the representatives of the Labour Party have said, "In principle we are in favour but not this particular project". We had it over the Common Market. Now we have it over the Channel Tunnel. It leaves the electorate a little confused and unhappy. The electorate likes to know what the Opposition have to offer on these great issues.
§ Mr. Mulley
The short point is that the Government could well say that the logic of our votes on the Channel Tunnel meant that we would not have a Channel tunnel proposal before the House today. If we had succeeded in any of our three votes, the project would have come to an end. It is very difficult for the Opposition to put forward detailed proposals, because we do not have the resources of Government behind us. In any event, when the next General Election comes, the treaty will have been signed, which was not the case when we debated the White Paper. As a new Government, we should have to pick up the situation as it was then and consider it then. It is impossible to answer a great many hypothetical questions. We were not the Government on 15th November, which was the deadline. If we had been, we should have given our answer.
§ Mr. Rees
If I understand that aright, the right hon. Gentleman is saying that if a Labour Government were to be elected before the project really got under way he would still recommend his right hon. and hon. Friends to honour their obligations under the treaty. That is an honourable and straightforward point of 1379 view, and I have no doubt that it will be noted in East Kent. I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman may not be able to meet the technical points, because he has not the resources of Government behind him, but it would be interesting to know what he would do. All that he is saying now is that it may be a good idea, but not at present. He is leaving the project in the air. He is saying, "Yes, a tunnel. But not in 1974."
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. I do not think that that is a greatly important question to be discussing—in the minds, at any rate, of those who wish to speak after the hon and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Rees
It is always interesting to respond to my hon. Friend's interventions, but it is difficult for me to speculate what a hypothetical Labour Government might have done in a hypothetical situation in 1973 or at any subsequent period.
I turn now briefly to what was said by the absent hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope). Having assumed the onerous responsibility of his shadow portfolio for the Environment, the hon. Gentleman has taken Kent and the South-East under his wing. I did not observe the hon. Gentleman at the various meetings that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries had with the elected representatives who represent Kent in this Chamber and those who represent Kent at Maidstone. Therefore, he is not privileged to know the extreme care with which my right hon. Friend listened to our numerous anxieties and representations. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman be better employed representing the interests of Sutton and Cheam. He should leave Kent to those who represent that county in this Chamber. I hope that I do not speak too hardly about the hon. Gentleman in his absence. I am certain that the Dover Harbour Board and the Trinity House pilots will view with interest his suggestion of a Channel dam. On another occasion I should like to explore 1380 the extraordinary implications of that preposterous suggestion.
Having acknowledged the care with which my right hon. Friend has attempted to allay the anxieties felt by people in East Kent, I should point out that there will be, and are, points that will be thrown up by this great project on which we shall continue to require reassurance.
I was particularly happy that on the last occasion that we debated this great question my right hon. Friend assured us that he personally would come down to East Kent from time to time—to chair some kind of ad hoc committee—so that the problems which will inevitably arise can be anticipated and sorted out on the spot. To the people in East Kent that was a great reassurance.
I should like to give one example of a problem which has arisen on which my right hon. Friend's intervention and good offices might provide some reassurance to my constituents. Anticipating the course of the Bill, parliamentary agents acting for the Channel Tunnel consortium have served on various residents in Hougham and Capel-le-Ferne certain documents, presumably connected with the proposed compulsory acquisition of some of their interests in land. A lawyer looking at the fine print can detect that it is only the rights in the subsoil that are acquired, because the Channel Tunnel will pass under Hougham and Capel-le-Ferne at a depth of 300 ft. But many of my constituents living in those two parishes are not lawyers and have developed an anxiety about the situation. They wonder whether their homes and gardens are at risk. I am endeavouring to sort out the matter with the parliamentary agents. No doubt between us we shall be able to offer the reassurance that is needed.
Through my right hon. Friend I should like to suggest to the Channel Tunnel consortium, that this kind of problem which may arise in future could with intelligent anticipation be avoided. It could have sent the documents to which I have referred with a covering letter explaining in layman's English exactly what was proposed. I suggest, and have suggested by letter, that it could write to the Hougham and Capel-le-Ferne parish councils explaining what it has in mind and thereby put the minds of residents at rest. It comes as a great shock if people receive through the post an intimation that 1381 some part of their bits of East Kent are to be acquired for this project. There is always the lurking suspicion that an air vent will be sited in their gardens. I suggest to my right hon. Friend, so that he may transmit it to those who will be engaged on the project, that they should with intelligent anticipation avoid this kind of situation in the future.
I move to the letter of 17th November this year, which accompanied the treaty signed between France and England. Signed by M. Billecocq, it contains an interesting passage headed "Roads". It says:Each Government shall provide road infrastructure described in Agreements No. 2 on the terms set out in those Agreements.Each Government shall ensure that road users of the Tunnel will have access to its general highways system without having to pay any toll.That is a great point of reassurance, because it means that on arriving in France we shall not be compelled to pay a toll to join the motorway system.
The letter goes on to say, about the Governments of the two countries:Having regard to the need for the rail and road links with the Tunnel to be adequate to meet the requirements of Tunnel traffic, the Governments shall maintain regular contact and to this end shall set up appropriate machinery …".My question for my right hon. Friend is: what kind of appropriate machinery does he have in mind, and will local interests be represented in the matter?
My right hon. Friend has told us at great length of the great projects and developments that he has in mind for the M20. He has given a decision on the eastern bypass to Dover harbour, for which we are suitably grateful. But there will be other road projects which will inevitably become necessary as the tunnel develops. There will have to be lateral roads to enable transport to switch from the A2 to the A20. I have in mind the road from the A2 which passes through the village of Denton to Folkestone. Will that kind of road, which could well be developed, be under the aegis of the appropriate machinery—if appropriate machinery can have an aegis—and taken away from the Kent County Council? What subsidies might be available for developing this kind of road network?
1382 We in Dover are concerned that the town, and particularly the port, should have an appropriate fast rail link to the rail links of the tunnel itself. After all, Dunkirk, which to some extent is in competition with Dover, will have a fast rail link to the tunnel. Will this facility be offered to Dover? It is extremely important that Dover should be able to compete on level terms. I have voiced this worry to my right hon. Friend before. He has given assurances, but this is a practical instance where his intervention would be of great assistance.
I have paid tribute to my right hon. Friend's sensitivity in the past. I hope that he will, tonight and subsequently, continue to be sensitive to the interests of the people of East Kent. We are after all being asked to bear the environmental and commercial brunt of this great project.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Thompson (Croydon, South)
At this late hour I shall not attempt to make the speech which I had prepared for the occasion. I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). It looks as though we are probably to get a Channel tunnel by some terms or another. Those hon. Members who have argued against it—I hope cogently—must try to concentrate their efforts on improving the Bill.
I do not believe that the Department has considered how it will contain the ferry terminal at Cheriton within the 250 acres, or whatever total it was. Such a vast interchange station is bound to attract warehousing, hotels, amusements and every conceivable kind of development, which must be exceedingly unwelcome in that part of Kent and will serve to perpetuate the present traffic pattern, which is grossly distorted and which this project presented a marvellous opportunity to change.
Secondly, at the start of his remarks the Under-Secretary said some encouraging things about compensation. I hope he will follow these up. My constituents, who will be so affected by the line when it breaks surface near South Croydon and ploughs its way through a densely built-up residential area, are desperately worried about this. They have been in this state of mind since the "Panorama" programme in June, nearly six months ago. 1383 When I raised the point earlier on, I was told by my hon. Friend that until this House at least gave its general assent to the project it was quite idle, and indeed would be improper, for British Rail to pursue the subject of compensation.
The House has now done all that, although I believe that there is a British Rail Bill to come. But my constituents have already been waiting nearly six months. They have seen the value of their houses diminish during this time, and in the ordinary course of events they could expect to wait many months more before notices to treat were served. I hope that the Minister will ensure that that period is shortened as much as possible.
The best solution would be to return to my favourite theme of having those two or three miles of rail, from South Croydon on, still underground. This is technically feasible, and it would probably be cheaper than buying out my unfortunate constituents who are on the top.
In the last debate that we had on this subject, I raised with my right hon. Friend, not for the first time, what I took to be the technical nonsense of believing that we could drive high-speed trains at speeds of up to 150 mph through long tunnels. In answering me, he made a remarkable admission:The answer is that there will be a 100 mph maximum speed limit in the tunnel."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November 1973; Vol. 863, c. 1239.]I welcome that very much, but it is a different figure from the one which has been commonly and widely quoted in all the earlier documentation.
If there is now to be such a limit, the economic forecasts of the revenue from the tunnel and the frequency of the trains and so on must be wholly revised, and revised downwards. This lends fuel to the arguments of those of us who think that the returns from the tunnel have been grossly overestimated already.
I leave my right hon. Friend with that thought. He should check those figures again, because if the original ones are wrong many of us will want to do a lot more probing in Committee about some of the other figures as well. I hope that he will be able to reassure me about those three points.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) has obviously been reading through the fascinating correspondence in The Times about the ins and outs of trains going through a tunnel at 100 mph. What he did not mention was the loud whine that they are supposed to make at either end and the whirlwind that they are supposed to create. We have had some of the symptoms of a whirlwind going through the Chamber each time we have had a debate on the Channel Tunnel, particularly from some of the benches on this side—and I am not talking about those occupied by my party.
I do not wish to return to some of the old arguments about the Channel Tunnel. The only thing that seems incredible now is that the present Minister still thinks that he can get away with it. We have now had before the House the lessons of Concorde, the London motorway box and the third London airport at Maplin. It still seems that the Minister and the Government just blunder on through, as though everyone had to be assumed to be in favour.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is learning from the example of his French counterpart, who, I believe, openly goes about boasting that all he had to do to build the third Paris airport was compensate seven farmers. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman believes that the Channel Tunnel can be built on the same basis. Perhaps it is the fact that, once the words "national prestige" are mentioned, the Prime Minister automatically assumes that we do not need to talk about it—that no debate can be allowed because everyone has to be agreed. We do not share those beliefs.
It is particularly regrettable that this Minister, who has a great respect for the traditions of the House, still thinks that he can get through this kind of procedure in this kind of atmosphere.
Even the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher), who made his maiden speech this afternoon—and I am sure that the whole House congratulates him on it—recognised the importance of the procedures of the House and the way in which we process things. Because of the conciseness of his remarks, his depth of feeling, and his 1385 contribution as a whole, we look forward to many more speeches by the hon. Gentleman on debates such as this.
I hope the Minister recognises that the opinion expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North is shared by those who do not feel too keenly about this project, and that with that in mind he will realise that this project has never had the benefit of a full study of the range of possible alternatives. This project is in the same category as Stansted, Maplin and the London motorway box. All progress on the tunnel project has been on the assumption that we need not even study the alternatives. Had there been a full study of all the alternatives, including that of augmenting the ferry services and some of the air services, and an allowance for some of the technical innovations that we are bound to see in the shipping scene over the next 10–20 years, different conclusions might have been arrived at.
Instead, we have had to debate this project without having the necessary documents before us. We are in the position that the Government are committing themselves to guarantees before putting them to the House for approval. Even now, before there has been a full policy statement, we are expected to come to conclusions about the rôle of the railways in using the tunnel. All this is happening despite the fact that for the last two or three years we have been pressing for such a statement. All that we have had from the Minister is a statement which, quite frankly, could be interpreted either way.
It is true that there was a Green Paper—one of the greenest of Green Papers that I have seen since coming to the House. It was an extremely scantily-clad document. The Government updated that with a White Paper. That was followed by some of the forecasts put up by Cooper Brothers, which once more updated the White Paper. This afternoon we had the Under-Secretary of State suggesting that we might have to reconsider some of the estimates of the number of vehicles needed to carry cars through the tunnel.
I go so far as to suggest that, despite the appearance of the White Paper as recently as September, there is a need for another White Paper, because we have reached the stage at which the Minister must recognise that the oil and energy 1386 crisis will alter all the calculations, that the European Union of Railways is already talking about 4,000 miles of track to carry 180 mph trains, and that the aviation fuel surcharge is adding £4 or £5 to the cost of package holidays. All those factors must alter some of the calculations on which the Minister has been basing his thinking about the tunnel.
The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) said that with the present rate of inflation and the leaps and bounds upwards of interest rates, the figure of £846 million was already out of date. If the right hon. Gentleman really fancies boring a tunnel through this kind of sand, I suggest that walking across might be safer, but I do not think that even he would presume to do that.
The only full and frank discussion that has taken place on this subject has been within the Labour Party. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) told the House that he is a shareholder in European Ferries. That explains some of the things that he said. Whereas the NUR and ASLEF appear to be fairly committed to a tunnel, the T and GWU has some hesitation about the degree of commitment which the Government appear to have made.
There are divergences of opinion in the Labour Party about the matter. But that does not worry me half as much as the so-called independence of the studies on which the Government appear to have based their whole reasoning. All the studies the Government have so far put before the House, except the one on Kent, have been done by the firm of Cooper Brothers. All have been called independent studies.
I do not wish to question the integrity of Cooper Brothers. I know that it has done very good work in calculating some of the social grant formula upon which the Minister's railways estimate is based. But the firm of Cooper Brothers is the business adviser to the British Channel Tunnel Company and Rio Tinto Zinc Development Enterprise, the project managers, and is the joint auditor, along with Spicer and Pegler, of Rio Tinto Zinc. The joint auditors are paid £500,000 for doing the books.
One is bound to conclude that the people in Cooper Brothers who do the independent studies of which the Minister 1387 speaks must talk to those who do the books for Rio Tinto Zinc and the British Channel Tunnel Company. I have the greatest respect for the integrity of Cooper Brothers, but I cannot see how its independence, its free-willing thoughts on the matter, can be treated as that independent when it has those connections with people much more committed than itself to the project.
One of our greatest worries concerns the finance proposals in the Bill. The White Paper says that the return on the project will be between 14 per cent. and 17 per cent. If that is so, how is it that the project needs a Government guarantee? It has been said several times today that North Sea oil exploration is considerably riskier than the Channel Tunnel, yet investment in that exploration does not carry a Government guarantee.
Is it, then, that some of the financing companies which have been associated with the project do not believe the Government when they say that there will be a return of up to 17 per cent.? Do some of them know that when the engineering started on the Mont Blanc tunnel, although it too was supposed to be known technology, the costs escalated by 250 per cent.? Is it because some of the investors know that we may be spending up to £1,000 million just to reduce by 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. the rates for crossing the Channel? Any first-year economics student could have told the Minister that in a situation of 74 per cent. excess capacity what one had to do was not to build another project which increased that excess capacity but to change the pricing policy. The arguments put forward not only by the ferry operators but some of the genuinely independent people who have examined the project have cast doubt on many of the ferry costings. Ferry charges are at present before the Monopolies Commission.
Because of all that and all the Government guarantees, one is bound to wonder why the companies have to be given the degree of prominence that they have. If they get out of the project before 1975 they have to be compensated by the Government. The Government must meet the guarantees. Even they get 1388 out after 1975, the Government must still buy them out. Their fixed capital must be paid off over 25 years.
In view of the rate at which the companies will receive their return compared with the rate at which the Government receive their return, one is bound to come to the conclusion that everything has been angled to give the companies their maximum profit as quickly as possible. If the companies must have a guarantee because it is a risky venture, why should not they share the same degree of risk, through time, as the Government are being asked to take?
In addition to that, however, the worrying thing is that if we get an escalation in costs beyond the estimated total of £846 million, to about £2,000 million, shall we have a situation in which the private risk is still that £84.6 million with the Government being asked to give guarantees to £1,915.4 million? If the Government are to guarantee that kind of increase in costs, even if they do not have to meet those guarantees, making provision for meeting them at the kind of interest rates envisaged is a very risky business. All the signals seem to have been at green in this project for the companies. But a great many of the signals for the Government, if not at red, are certainly at double amber.
The calculations on which the project has been based are worrying. The hon. Member for Faversham mentioned this matter. To think that until 1980 the Government have provided for a rate of inflation of only 4.9 per cent., when they know very well that in the period between the Green Paper and the White Paper the construction costs rose by 11.2 per cent., and to think that the Government can reduce the rate of inflation to 4.9 per cent., is to believe in a fantastic achievement.
We now have the following situation: if rates of interest do not rise—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not tell us that—and if the pound stays static, if there are no unforeseen problems in boring the tunnel, if there are no changes in the specification or design and if the Government can bring down the rate of inflation from its present 10 per cent. or 11 per cent. by 0.5 per cent. a year, so that the rate is about 6.5 per cent. by 1980, the cost of this project to 1980, 1389 on the present costing, is still £1,020 million.
In other words, even on the kind of projections that we can make legitimately, based on today's estimates of the rate of inflation and interest rates, the cost of this project has risen by 20 per cent. since the White Paper was published. These are the very shifting sands through which the Minister is attempting to bore his tunnel.
Someone will have to pay—I think that it will be the Government; they have said that—for the rail link between Cheriton and London. I have prophesied previously that we would be paying 50p for a gallon of petrol before Christmas. Petrol has been on sale in Birmingham today at more than 50p a gallon. I also prophesy that before this year is out, and certainly before the present Government are out—which will not be very long—a Minister will be asking the House for power to increase the order of Government guarantee on this project. The trouble is that my prophecies come true.
The Opposition are concerned about the people who have got themselves mixed up in this project. The first point on Schedule 4 is the declaration of interest. Those of us who know something about local authorities will know the way that declarations of interest work there. I am not particularly keen on seeing that kind of declaration of interest having to be made for the British board for the authority.
We then have to look at the people who will have to have some representation. We find, for example, the British Channel Tunnel Company, with a 25 per cent. stake, RTZ with a 20 per cent. stake, and even Kleinwort, Benson Limited, with a 10.5 per cent. stake—and all the fine old names of British banking. We then find the British Railways Board, with a mere 4.7 per cent. What kind of representation on the British board will the British Railways Board have alongside all these companies? If the Minister is trying to say that all these finance companies have a great deal of transport expertise, I can only say that from reading through the list of finance companies it strikes me that these companies know about as much about transport as Brian Clough knows 1390 about the procedure of a Trappist monastery.
The issue of road versus rail has been raised. We are told in the White Paper, and in the Treaty, that the Channel Tunnel Authority will take its instructions from the two boards, and will have to show no discrimination between road and rail, but the Minister knows that all the big money in the project will come from the rolling motorways—from carrying road vehicles on trains. The biggest slice of profit in the project is estimated to come from the 75 per cent. of passengers with cars who are supposed to shift to the rolling motorway. What is the Government's policy on this? Are they trying to tell us that they favour the railways, or are they going to prove the two worst prophecies of the hon. Member for Faversham about even more lorries rolling down through Kent?
A statement from the Chairman of the British Railways Board—in fact, it was his financial submission to the Government—was based on the assumption that even less freight would be carried on the railway system in 1981 than is being carried now. The railways have only 5 per cent. of the total freight market.
The right hon. Gentleman, replying to me following his statement, or the bare bones of his statement, on railway policy a week ago admitted that he did not think the railways would be carrying any different commodity share by 1981 than they are carrying now. Do the Government favour the railways and claim that the tunnel will favour the railways, or do the Government know very well that the only way to make big profits out of the tunnel is to increase as much as possible the share of road transport going through the tunnel on trains?
The Government are a very interested party in the project. They are not only guarantors, they are also the backstop and the referee. The Government will have to implement the recommendations of the Monopolies Commission on ferry prices and negotiate international air fares on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority. Whatever the Government do they will remain a very interested party in the financial outcome of the tunnel.
Is the Minister still telling the House that the Government will allow the tunnel authority complete commercial freedom and that they will not lay down any 1391 code of practice—I suppose that that is what it would be called—or guidelines—for the tunnel authority to follow? The Minister must be giving some kind of directive to the authority.
The Minister knows that if he allowed complete freedom between road and rail to the tunnel authority it could work only to the detriment of the railways. On the other hand, if he gives directives in favour of the railways to the authority it could work only to the detriment of the profits and consequently to the interests of the private companies. Apart from that, if he pushes the road interests or takes a neutral line and allows the tunnel authority to discriminate in favour of road interests, as he may be tempted to do, he knows he can increase the profits. On the other hand, if he does what he says he will do as regards fostering the interests of British Railways he can only depress profits and run the risk of invoking the guarantees.
The Minister occupies a confused rôle in all this. He should come before the House and clarify his own policy and the Government's long-term policy for the operation of the tunnel.
I have mentioned some of the questions that need accurate answers. The resource and opportunity costs of going ahead with a project of this stature have to be examined. There has been a lot of talk about the financial cost. We are told in in the White Paper that the project will cost £846 million. I believe that we already have to increase the cost by 20 per cent. and shall have to do so by a great deal more by 1980.
It is the resource and opportunity costs of carrying out a project like this which worry me. The Minister knows that the opportunity cost of implementing the Buchanan Report would have meant having the construction industry not doing anything else for the next 50 years. We are told that Maplin, the Channel Tunnel and the rebuilding of London's dockland will add only 11 per cent. to total construction expenditure in the South-East, and only about 5¼ per cent. to the amount of labour demand on construction projects in the whole of the South-East.
I can only say, "Tell that to any housing chairman who currently cannot 1392 get local authority housing built. Tell that to the National Coal Board, which in many parts of the country, fears that as soon as construction work begins on the tunnel a great deal of its labour force will move to the South-East because these people know that the kind of wages they will get building the tunnel will be better than those being offered currently by the board under phase 3."
The Minister has told the House that the cost is to be only 0.3 per cent. of our gross national product. If we do not have any increase in GNP it means that, should expenditure increase by 0.3 per cent., it has to come out of something else. Even 0.3 per cent. of GNP, at about £150 million we are told, is a very large sum when we face the real and serious possibility of a zero rate of growth.
If the Minister does not feel bound to examine the project once more on the lines of some of the cost doubts that we in the Labour Party would like to cast, if he does not feel bound to reexamine the project on the actual balance that it is hoped to strike between road and rail, or because of the independence of the private banking institutions, will he please examine the project once again along the lines of, and because of, the serious energy situation now facing the country?
The financial success of this project depends upon a large shift of road freight—roll-on/roll-off lorries and passengers accompanying cars—to the rolling motorway. It is estimated that 75 per cent. of passengers with cars will have to make the shift to make this project a success. Does the Minister still believe in the White Paper forecast that the number of cars on our roads will double over 10 years? Does he still believe that the increase in world demand for oil of 7 per cent. a year can be satisfied after some of the things that Sheikh Yamani has been telling European countries this week? Does he honestly believe that North Sea oil will satisfy all of our demands when we have a situation in which the total production of French, Norwegian and British reserves in 1985 could be 150 million tons while the combined European demand in that year could be 1½ billion tons?
Does he honestly think we can get by and go ahead easily and fluently, thinking of projects like the Channel Tunnel, when 1393 we face this kind of crisis situation with our energy supplies? It is time the Government realised that the days of cheap energy are over. It is time they realised that we have to stop planning along the lines, and on a basis, of infinite mobility. We must start reappraising many big projects such as this on the assumption that mobility in future will be a finite commodity. We no longer have the energy resources to go on with projects such as the tunnel.
The energy crisis facing this country is not just a temporary thing. It is not the sort of thing which, if we sit down with a strong cup of tea, will go away. It will last a long time and this Government ought seriously to start planning for it and to stop putting the blame on to garages, motorists and the oil companies. The Government have to do some planning.
Having cancelled Maplin—and if he wants a good excuse to cancel Maplin the energy crisis certainly ought to give him that—let him rethink the whole strategy of his Channel Tunnel. He now has enough excuses and reasons. There is now enough doubt cast on the figures that he put forward in his White Paper. There is now enough doubt cast on the kind of projections which have been put forward by the British Channel Tunnel Company. There is now enough doubt cast on the projections which have been put forward by Cooper Brothers.
Having said that, I can only advise my hon. Friends to oppose the Bill tonight. We do not think that it is a project that can be undertaken along the lines of the Channel Tunnel Bill. We think that it is a project which deserves very serious reexamination, and certainly, as an instant step, this side of the House would like to see an impartial examination of the whole project that we have had outlined by the Government tonight.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)
I think I am right in congratulating the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) on his first appearance on the Front Bench opposite. That is always a rather difficult occasion. For success, one has to be very careful of the company one finds oneself in. Nevertheless, we all want to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on making the best use he possible could of a bad 1394 case, and on not being too worried about whom he found himself sitting near. In this place, the technique of prophecy is one which is often practised. People throw about all sorts of forecasts, confident in the knowledge that no one will ever bother to pick them up. So one is left with the easy chance of picking up those odd forecasts which have turned out right, and one can remind everyone of them. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to do that. He congratulated himself tonight, and he knows what might happen in the future.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on a really lucid explanation of a rather complex measure. He did so in the rather difficult atmosphere of almost total peace—that kind of total, absolute and unbroken tranquillity which one can expect at a time when the House of Commons has its fourth bite of a cherry in about four months. On occasions of that sort, no matter how many people may go through the ritual of complaining that they have not been told enough, that they have not had enough paper, at the fourth time of asking the atmosphere is apt to be a little calm.
The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) really did his very best today. It was very difficult for him, because his heart was not in it, and, despite the fact that he would like to chop off his past, he has a past and, as he was kind enough to say today, the position which we have now reached is one which flow fairly naturally from the position which he occupied when he was in office. He complained that the House had had too little opportunity to discuss this question before decisions were made. But we have had a Green Paper, a White Paper and a little Bill and now we have a big Bill—those four occasions, all of which implied decisions, going reasonably gradually, and that against the background of 170 years of hard thought on the project I cannot accept that we have had too little time to discuss decisions. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—
§ Mr. Mulley
We had a debate on a Friday on a Green Paper, which was overtaken and cancelled by the White Paper, so it was not worth the paper it was printed on, before a decision was taken. 1395 All of these debates, which we particularly enjoy have been after the Government announced their decision and dragooned their supporters through the Lobby to carry it.
§ Mr. Peyton
Of course, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park should never yield to the temptation to intervene—not with points like that, anyhow. The Green Paper, a slender, modest document—never intended to be more—was an attempt to define the position reached when the previous Government left office. If it had a certain paucity about it, that is not something I would wish to press too much now because it would be most embarrassing to the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman was not to be drawn about what he did favour. He was not in favour of this particular tunnel. There is something wicked about it. However, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) did his best to draw the right hon. Gentleman, asking what he was intending to offer the people of Dover. At that point the right hon. Gentleman assumed an air of coyness and chastity, the like of which I have seldom seen.
I come to three points which the right hon. Gentleman asked me. I can tell him that some negotiations may take place but the powers contained in the Bill will not be substantially used until a further decision has been taken, and that further decision will be the Third Reading of the Bill. He raised the question of the British Railways Bill. It will not come this Session, it will be presented in the next Session of Parliament, and it will be a Private Bill. The third point is whether there would be substantial investment by the railways before that Bill was presented. The answer to that question is "No".
The right hon. Gentleman then very graciously said that he had no quarrel with the ingredient of private capital in the project but he had a rather predictable complaint about the private interests getting too large a reward. It was a sort of inverse picture of Oliver Twist. The right hon. Gentleman asked that someone else should have less instead of asking for a little more for himself.
I have been here for only 22 years but I believe it is not an unusual prac- 1396 tice for Governments when they go through the deplorable practice of issuing White Papers to ask the House of Commons to approve them. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think there was something strange and wicked about that. On the whole, there are many White Papers, and I say quite impartially that we should have been better off without an awful lot of them. It was necessary to quarry a very long way to find their meaning. They were over-long, and short of information. However, no one can say that of the White Paper which the House so graciously approved only a month or so ago.
The right hon. Gentleman complained—mark that word—that the House of Commons had had no opportunity to challenge the figures. Here we are today debating the matter for the fourth time, and as far as I can recollect he did not mention in his speech a single one of those figures that he wished to challenge. I find it difficult to take that seriously.
The right hon. Gentleman raised in a very elegant fashion the fact that before 1948 every Hybrid Bill had to go through certain procedures. I was not sure at the end whether he was in favour of those procedures, because he went on to say then that all sorts of people tamed up with evidence before the Select Committee. Does he favour that process? I was not sure, but in this particular instance I think it not unlikely that we shall follow the example of the Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman said in a moment of quite unqualified boldness that he was here to explain his party's attitude; but he very wisely refrained from going into any detail.
I think that almost every right hon. and hon. Member who has spoken has acknowledged the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Alexander Fletcher). I pay a similar tribute. It was an admirable speech. Every hon. Member who was present welcomed his reference to Johnnie Dalkeith, as we knew him, and to the brave way in which he combated great misfortune here. During the course of my hon. Friend's speech he led us all to believe that he would be a worthy successor. We shall all, in the time-honoured phrase, look forward to hearing from him again, and rather more so 1397 than to some hon. Member whose names and constituencies I shall not mention. He was witty, to the point, and made a short speech—a remarkable achievement. I assure him that the whole House enjoyed his speech and the way in which he made it, and would wish to join me in my congratulations.
My right hon. Friend referred movingly to the strength of the Union. He did so at a time when disruption is the dangerous mood with which we are most familiar. He was wise enough to see that by such a project Scotland can be brought closer to the centre of economic activity. I was grateful to him for his welcome of the Government's statement on rail policy. I take his warning that it would be unacceptable—and it is unlikely that I should be responsible for these details—and unwelcome, if the tunnel were to be completed by 1980, that trains should run to the tunnel from London during 1980, from Manchester in 1985 and not until 1990 from Scotland. I warmly agree with my right hon. Friend. I hope that such a thing will not happen. I am sure that it will not.
My hon. Friend then said that the project was within the boundaries of today's knowledge. That is right, and it indicates that it does not have the perils of some of the so-called high technology projects which have more dangerous ground. He closed his remarks with a moving and marvellous warning to all those who live south of Watford. I hope that everyone who is disgraced by living south of Watford will take note of what he said and change his ways.
Then we came to a remarkable part of the debate. The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) moved an amendment. He is to be congratulated wholeheartedly on the speed with which the Liberal benches were evacuated imediately after he had done so. He would have heard nothing good of it. He had a distinction which none of us has ever had in this House, of having every Member of his party in attendance upon him while he made his speech. Then one of my hon. Friends, whose name and constituency I would prefer to forget, actually went so far as to suggest a photograph of that crowded Liberal bench.
Well, I was told, in the course of a speech which dredged up some not un- 1398 fashionable ground for opposing this project, that the Liberal Party objected to a "rolling motorway", that it would prefer, in other words, to build a tunnel from which, or from the use of which, the bulk of traffic would be withdrawn. I would much like to assure the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cyril Smith), who has just come in, that there was nothing personal in my last remark.
We went through these rather familiar arguments about a rail-only tunnel, and then suddenly the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam took off into the realms of what he described as imaginative thinking but what for everyone else was sheeer romance—a Channel dam which was going to cost £1,000 million to £1,500 million. I wish he would tell me where he shops. I think it would be a bargain. I do not know whether he actually added the sort of collateral expenses which would flow, because half, and probably the whole, of Holland and certainly most of East Anglia would be under water.
Then, astonishingly enough, the hon. Gentleman went on to say that he had heard that the M20 would have to be doubled. The new section of the M20 is a dual three-lane road. I do not know where he gets his information from any more than I know where he shops.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) put three points to me. He referred to Dolland's Moor and was anxious about some permanent development of great horror. Dolland's Moor is to be used as a siding temporarily for railway purposes for the transport of spoil.
Secondly, my hon. Friend referred to the difficulty of selling houses which have a low value now but would be likely to develop a higher value later. Before my right hon. and learned Friend has any powers in this matter he needs the Bill, but the matter is being discussed with the project managers and we are ascertaining whether there is anything helpful they can do. The problem is recognised.
My hon. Friend's third question concerned flood water. I understand that it is now being discussed with the Folkestone Borough Council.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis)—I apologise for not being here to hear him, but I heard most of the debate 1399 —was worried about inadequate research on regional development. I do not know, but I am sure that he probably read the White Paper very fully but some time ago. If he reads it again, he will find that there is quite a bit in it, and even a substantial annex on the subject, which I commend to his attention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Sir D. Dodds-Parker), whose return to this matter I welcome warmly, showed the support born of a long conviction for an historic project. He revealed with a shrewd question the customary difficulty experienced by a party which habitually favours what it is doing while it is doing it, but which visits anyone else who is rash enough to tread much the same path with the vinegary disapproval to which we have all become accustomed. My hon. Friend acknowledged that the project is technically possible and economically viable, and that it was not unimportant or unwelcome.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) made a remarkable speech to which I think the whole House listened with enjoyment and respect—the whole House, that is, minus the Liberal Bench, to which he addressed his earlier remarks. I do not wish to add to the gloom and misery of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam, but he would do well to read what the hon. Member for West Lothian said about his speech, and I hope he will.
The hon. Member for West Lothian also paid a generous tribute to the Duke of Buccleuch and went on to welcome both the tunnel and the rail link. His comments on the management structure and the difficulties that inevitably arise in the management of an international project are, I assure him, taken seriously. What I said in my intervention during his speech was said not in a spirit of complacency but in the knowledge that there is a substantial problem which, being recognised, can be dealt with.
I dealt with the question that the capital cost of a rail-only tunnel would be 30 per cent. less but that, deprived of the large bulk of its traffic, the tunnel would not make a profit for a long time. Although the operating cost of a railway-only tunnel would be cut by 85 per cent., that would be only a small section of 1400 the total annual cost and would take no account of the loss of revenue, which would be far greater.
The hon. Member for West Lothian considered that Clause 8 offered too much of a carte blanche to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, but my right hon. and learned Friend has very limited obligations or rights under the Bill. Clause 8 gives him financial powers only to spend money in pursuance of the minor functions, rights and powers that he has.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As so many projects can financially get out of hand, even at this stage would it not be sensible to build into the system a monitoring unit?
§ Mr. Peyton
The monitoring unit is already there. An elaborate organisation has been set up to take account of expenditure as we go along.
The hon. Gentleman went on to raise the question of electricity sources. These are matters of great difficulty and complexity. I must accept what he said, but they are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I shall call them to my right hon. Friend's attention and ensure that the questions are answered.
I was particularly impressed by the full-blooded attack launched by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) on the bogus attitude, as he called it—I would not use such language—of those who oppose this project. He asked me to allay the fears of his constituents who will inevitably be affected by the construction of the project. All I should like to say to them, without the lavish use of adjectives, is that we shall do our best to ensure that people are treated fairly and we shall not turn a deaf ear to complaints and to any point of view which he likes to bring to us. He summed up the whole position of the Channel Tunnel vis-à-vis Kent very well by saying that, if dealt with sympathetically, the project will help his county.
We all enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards). We sympathised with the double confusion that he felt inflicted on him by the Liberal Party and also by the attitudes of his own party. I am sorry that his speech was not heard by more of his right hon. and hon. Friends, because they would have learned a great 1401 deal from his wise remarks. He would have warned them particularly of the danger of parochial judgments and of the feebleness into which we can easily drift if we allow doubts about our capacity as a nation to take root. He chided those who took that view for their failure to realise where they might have got to had they given strong support to the leadership offered by British Railways or the National Union of Railwaymen, from whom on this issue they seem to have cut themselves off.
I am sorry that I shall not be able to answer very fully my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Sutcliffe), but I shall endeavour to satisfy him on the questions he asked. I shall also endeavour to do the same for my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate), although I think it doubtful that I shall be able to secure from him the enthusiastic support for the project I should like.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) said that the Liberal Party had shown its own opinion of its amendment because the Liberal Members withdrew en masse as soon as they had launched the wretched little thing.
The hon. Gentleman raised three points. One related to the people employed in this project. I should like to look into that matter. There is no reason why people should not come from the regions if they want to work on the project. In regard to control of expenditure, I referred a little earlier to the
§ elaborate procedures which had been set up. I shall certainly look at the need to establish some routine reports to Parliament on progress.
§ I repeat to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover what I have said to him previously; namely that we shall look sympathetically at projects for the Dover Harbour. I intend to set up a working, efficient ad hoc committee, over which I or my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will preside, to ensure that complaints are attended to. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) for the generous way in which he accepted that something which he does not welcome is likely to happen.
§ In reply to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton, who summed up on behalf of the Opposition, I have already said something about the dangers of drifting too far into the realms of prophecy. The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that it was the Government who had somehow got themselves confused. However, the hon. Gentleman in talking about boards and companies seems to have got himself rather muddled. He did a noble job in drawing a veil between the House and the spectacle of the Labour Party, whose members make muddle and confusion their habit.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 207.1405
|Division No. 17.]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Cronin, John||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Foot, Michael|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dalyell, Tam||Freud, Clement|
|Ashton, Joe||Davidson, Arthur||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Austick, David||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Beith, A. J.||Deakins, Eric||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dempsey, James||Hamling, William|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Doig, Peter||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)|
|Booth, Albert||Dormand, J. D.||Hardy, Peter|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Harper, Joseph|
|Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoredltch & F'bury)||Dunn, James A.||Hattersley, Roy|
|Buchan, Norman||Dunnett, Jack||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Eadie, Alex||Horam, John|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Edelman, Maurice||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Ellis, Tom||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Evans, Fred||Hunter, Adam|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Ewing, Harry||Janner, Greville|
|Cohen, Stanley||Faulds, Andrew||Jay. Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Concannon, J. D.||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'hamLadywood)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Molloy, William||Sillars, James|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Silverman, Julius|
|Judd, Frank||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Small, William|
|Kerr, Russell||Morris, Rt. Hn John (Aberavon)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Moyle, Roland||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Lamond, James||Mudd, David||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Lawson, George||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Stott, Roger|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Murray, Ronald King||Strang, Gavin|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Orbach, Maurice||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Leonard, Dick||Oswald, Thomas||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Padley, Walter||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Loughlin, Charles||Palmer, Arthur||Tinn, James|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Tope, Graham|
|McBride, Neil||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Tuck, Raphael|
|McCartney, Hugh||Pavitt, Laurie||Urwin, T. W.|
|MacDonald, Mrs. Margo||Pendry, Tom||Varley, Eric G.|
|Machin, George||Perry, Ernest G.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mackie, John||Prescott, John||Wallace, George|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Price, William (Rugby)||Watkins, David|
|Maclennan, Robert||Probert, Arthur||Weitzman, David|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Marquand, David||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Marsden, F.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'dnor)||Whitlock, William|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Roper, John||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Meacher, Michael||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Mendelson, John||Rowlands, Ted||Woof, Robert|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Millan, Bruce||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)||Mr. John Pardoe and|
|Milne, Edward||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Mr. Cyril Smith.|
|Adley, Robert||Dean, Paul||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hunt, John|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Dixon, Piers||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Astor, John||Drayson, Burnaby||James, David|
|Atkins, Humphrey||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dykes, Hugh||Jopling, Michael|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Batsford, Brian||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'le-upon-Tyne, N.)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Emery, Peter||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Benyon, W.||Eyre, Reginald||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Kirk, Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Knox, David|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh, N.)||Lamont, Norman|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Lane, David|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Fowler, Norman||Longden, Sir Gilbert|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fox, Marcus||Loveridge, John|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Luce, R. N.|
|Bray, Ronald||Gardner, Edward||MacArthur, Ian|
|Brewis, John||Gibson-Watt, David||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Goodhart, Philip||McLaren, Martin|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Goodhew, Victor||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gower, Raymond||McMaster, Stanley|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gray, Hamish||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Carlisle, Mark||Grieve, Percy||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Madel, David|
|Channon, Paul||Gurden, Harold||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Haselhurst, Alan||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hastings, Stephen||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C.(Aberdeenshire, W)|
|Clegg, Walter||Hayhoe, Barney||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hicks, Robert||Money, Ernie|
|Cooke, Robert||Hiley, Joseph||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Coombs, Derek||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Monro, Hector|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test)||More, Jasper|
|Cormack, Patrick||Holland, Philip||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Costain, A. P.||Holt, Miss Mary||Morrison, Charles|
|Critchley, Julian||Hordern, Peter||Neave, Alrsy|
|Crouch, David||Hornby, Richard||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Normanton, Tom|
|Ogden, Eric||Sainsbury, Tim||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Onslow, Cranley||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Trew, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Scott, Nicholas||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Osborn, John||Scott-Hopkins, James||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Waddington, David|
|Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Page. John (Harrow, W.)||Shersby, Michael||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Simeons, Charles||Wall, Patrick|
|Peel, Sir John||Sinclair, Sir George||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Percival, Ian||Skeet, T. H. H.||Warren, Kenneth|
|Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Speed, Keith||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Pounder, Rafton||Spence, John||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Sproat, Iain||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Raison, Timothy||Stainton, Keith||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Stanbrook, Ivor||Wilkinson, John|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rees, Peter (Dover)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tapsell, Peter||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Tebbit, Norman||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Temple, John M.|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Mr. Kenneth Clarke and|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)||Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis.|
|Rost, Peter||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 39 (Amendment on second or third reading):
§ The House divided: Ayes 203, Noes 185.1409
|Division No. 18.]||AYES||(10.12 p. m.|
|Adley, Robert||Dixon, Piers||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas||Jopling, Michael|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Drayson, Burnaby||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Dykes, Hugh||Kimball, Marcus|
|Astor, John||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'le-upon-Tyne. N.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord||Emery, Peter||Knox, David|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Eyre, Reginald||Lamont, Norman|
|Batsford, Brian||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Lane, David|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Longden, Sir Gilbert|
|Benyon, W.||Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh, N.)||Loveridge, John|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Fookes, Miss Janet||Luce, R. N.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fowler, Norman||MacArthur, Ian|
|Blaker, Peter||Fox, Marcus||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||McLaren, Martin|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Gardner, Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gibson-Watt, David||McMaster, Stanley|
|Bray, Ronald||Goodhart, Philip||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)|
|Brewis, John||Goodhew, Victor||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gower, Raymond||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Madel, David|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gray, Hamish||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Grieve, Percy||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gurden, Harold||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C.(Aberdeenshire, W)|
|Channon, Paul||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Haselhurst, Alan||Money, Ernie|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hastings, Stephen||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hayhoe, Barney||Monro, Hector|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hicks, Robert||More, Jasper|
|Clegg, Walter||Hiley, Joseph||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Morrison, Charles|
|Cooke, Robert||Hill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test)||Neave, Airey|
|Coombs, Derek||Holland, Philip||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Cooper, A. E.||Holt, Miss Mary||Normanton, Tom|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hordern, Peter||Onslow, Cranley|
|Costain, A. P.||Hornby, Richard||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Critchley, Julian||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Osborn, John|
|Crouch, David||Howell, David (Guildford)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Page, Rt. Hn Graham (Crosby)|
|Dean, Paul||Iremonger, T. L.||Page, John (Harrow. W)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||James, David||Peel, Sir John|
|Percival, Ian||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Trew, Peter|
|Peyton, Rt. Hn. John||Shersby, Michael||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Simeons, Charles||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Pounder, Rafton||Sinclair, Sir George||Waddington, David|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Raison, Timothy||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mlngton)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Speed, Keith||Wall, Patrick|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Spence, John||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Rees, Peter (Dover)||Sproat, Iain||Warren, Kenneth|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Stainton, Keith||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Stanbrook, Ivor||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Tapsell, Peter||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)||Wilkinson, John|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rost, Peter||Tebbit, Norman||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Sainsbury, Tim||Temple, John M.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Scott, Nicholas||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Mr. Kenneth Clarke and|
|Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hardy, Peter||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Harper, Joseph||Murray, Ronald King|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Ashton, Joe||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Oswald, Thomas|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hattersley, Roy||Padley, Walter|
|Austick, David||Hooson, Emlyn||Palmer, Arthur|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Horam, John||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Beith, A. J.||Huckfield, Leslie||Pardoe, John|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Booth, Albert||Hunter, Adam||Pendry, Tom|
|Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.)||Janner, Greville||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Buchan, Norman||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Prescott, John|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Probert, Arthur|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Judd, Frank||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Clark, Davis (Colne Valley)||Kaufman, Gerald||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Kerr, Russell||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lamborn, Harry||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lamond, James||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lawson, George||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cronin, John||Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Leonard, Dick||Rowlands, Ted|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lomas, Kenneth||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Loughiln, Charles||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lyons, Edward (Biadford, E.)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McBride, Neil||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||McCartney, Hugh||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Deakins, Eric||MacDonald, Mrs. Margo||Sillars, James|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Machin, George||Silverman, Julius|
|Dempsey, James||Mackenzie, Gregor||Skinner, Dennis|
|Doig, Peter||Mackle, John||Small, William|
|Dormand, J. D.||Mackintosh, John P.||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Maclennan, Robert||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McNamara, J. Kevin||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Marks, Kenneth||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Dunnett, Jack||Marquand, David||Stott, Roger|
|Eadie, Alex||Marsden, F.||Strang, Gavin|
|Edelman, Maurice||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Sutcliffe, John|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Ellis, Tom||Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Ewing, Harry||Mendelson, John||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mikardo, Ian||Tinn, James|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Millan, Bruce||Tope, Graham|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Milne, Edward||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Foot, Michael||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Freud, Clement||Moate, Roger||Varley, Eric G.|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Molloy, William||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wallace, George|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Weitzmah, David|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hamling, William||Moyle, Roland||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mudd, David||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Whitlock, William||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)||Mr. James Dunn and|
|Williams, W. T. (Warrington)||Woof, Robert||Mr. James Hamilton.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
That the Motion relating to the committal of the Channel Tunnel Bill to a Select Committee and the Motion relating to Ways and Means may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Jopling.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection:
That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—
being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents:
That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee:
That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition:
That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them:
That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Peyton.]
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulley
The Minister for Transport Industries asked me in his speech whether I thought it right that there should be a proper form of Select Committee examination—in other words, that the Government, as promoters, should be asked to prove their case. The short 1410 answer is that I do. As the right hon. Gentleman does not permit anyone to intervene in his speeches, I thought I would make that clear now, but I do not wish to hold up consideration of the matter.
§ Question put and agreed to.