HC Deb 25 October 1973 vol 861 cc1494-620
Mr. Speaker

Before I call on the Secretary of State to move the motion, may I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. Friends—to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'whilst not opposed in principle to a Channel Tunnel, declines to approve a "rolling motorway" scheme which threatens both regional and environmental objectives, pre-empts scarce resources, lacks the support of a fully integrated transport strategy, and in its financial arrangements subordinates the interests of the taxpayer to those of private capital; and demands an independent inquiry into alternative transport strategies, including a rail-only tunnel'.

4.25 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

I beg to move, That this House approves the White Paper on the Channel Tunnel Project (Command Paper No. 5430). On 24th July my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries said that the Government's decision on whether or not to go ahead with the construction of the Channel Tunnel would be announced in the form of a White Paper which would be published before the House reassembled. On that occasion the right hon. Member for Grismsby (Mr. Crosland) congratulated my right hon. Friend on trying to ensure that hon. Members had the fullest possible information before they were asked for a decision. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will recall the compliments that he then paid to my right hon. Friend.

We have provided the fullest possible information before the House is asked for a decision. Whatever view right hon. and hon. Members may take about the merits of the project, I think that we would all join in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries on the skill with which he has conducted arduous negotiations, not only with the French Government but with the various interests concerned.

The White Paper has now been published. It summarises the information available, but of course is supplemented not only by the various reports which have been published separately but also by the 20-volume report on the joint technical and financial studies which is available in the Library. The pile of surveys and information now available to hon. Members in the Library is over 2 ft. high.

We now have available and have published all the information needed to reach a decision. In the light of the results of all these voluminous studies, the Government have reached the firm conclusion that construction of a bored rail Channel Tunnel and the associated rail link would be in our national interest, and its planned completion would be in 1980. The basis on which we have reached that conclusion is set out in the White Paper. Because I know that many wish to speak, I will try to refer as briefly as possible only to some of the main factors.

We have not just been taking another look at an old scheme; we have been looking for the best answer to a very pressing modern problem. Various ideas for providing a fixed link have been looked at over the last 10 or 15 years, but the international group which was formed in the late 1960s in accordance with the policy of the then Government, while not overlooking possible alternatives, has concentrated its attention upon a bored rail tunnel providing for through trains and ferry carriers for carrying vehicle traffic, as being cheaper and relatively free from navigational, technical and international complications.

The background to the decision is the immense growth in traffic between the United Kingdom and the Continent. It doubled between 1962 and 1970, and the central forecast of traffic growth emerging from the studies indicated that it will double again by 1980 and yet again by 1990, when the total number of passengers will be about 95 million. The surface traffic is concentrated on the shortest sea routes from south-east Kent, mainly Dover and Folkestone. At present, these routes carry 55 per cent. of all surface passengers and 64 per cent. of all vehicles and trailers, and that traffic is growing rapidly.

For example, the number of freight lorries using Dover in 1972 was up by 43 per cent. on 1971 and it is steeply up again this year. We have to accept that traffic will increase, whether or not a tunnel is built. That will happen, with economic growth, closer integration within the EEC and rising living standards bringing extended opportunities for leisure travel.

Of course, in theory, this need could be met in many ways, and over the years we have naturally considered a great variety. But, for the reasons given in the White Paper, none of the other options for a fixed link—the "immersed tube'", a road tunnel or the various combinations of bridges and bridge tunnels—is a real alternative. There are only two practical ways of meeting the needs of the 1980's—namely, continuing to rely solely on the development of cross-Channel shipping and air services, with all that that means in terms of fuel consumption, or supplementing them with a bored rail tunnel.

Our extensive studies have been directed towards establishing whether such a tunnel would in itself be technically and financially viable and whether it would be a better way overall of providing for the continuing increase in cross-channel traffic. In the light of all the studies, not only of the last two years, we have decided that it is right to go ahead. A tunnel can be built with known techniques. For that reason, and the extent of the geological studies and the project development undertaken, it can be costed within fairly close limits. It is not subject to the problems of projects near the limits of current knowledge, and the project managers are confident enough of their costings to have agreed to forfeit much of their remuneration if there is an over-run of the order of 10 per cent.

On all reasonable assumptions, this will be a profitable venture from the start, although of course one must accept that any long-term forecasts involve a margin of uncertainty. But the Government are confident that the 17 per cent. return forecast in real terms is as realistic a central estimate as possible and the sort of returns that this might provide in out-turn cash terms are shown in Annex 8. They look very attractive. But even on pessimistic assumptions, the project is viable in the short term and extremely attractive over time.

Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)

In the circumstances, why was there any need even to discuss a guarantee?

Mr. Rippon

If the hon. Member wants to argue that it was not necessary, that is a perfectly fair point, but in view of the nature of a project of this kind, it does not seem unreasonable that a guarantee should be given. However, I have no reason to suppose that it will in fact be required.

More importantly, however, the tunnel will provide better services more cheaply and be a more sensible use of our limited resources than an extension of the existing means of transport. The immediate capital cost is higher, but the improved frequency and reliability of service, together with the low operating and maintenance costs and the facility to provide for increasing traffic with little investment, give it a major advantage.

The cost-benefit study indicated an economic rate of return of about 17 per cent. on the United Kingdom investment, including a conservative costing of the rail link. Even if all the benefits of time savings to the users are ignored—as a traveller I think that I will carry most hon. Members with me when I say that time saving is of considerable importance—the tunnel is, in all but the very short run, quite simply cheaper.

On balance, too, the Government feel that it would be of environmental benefit both to the country as a whole and to Kent. Of course, these are not simple matters and there are bound to be real problems for people directly affected by the tunnel installations and the rail link. We must and we will do everything in close association with the local authorities to reduce those difficulties to a minimum and to ensure that those affected are treated generously. On the other hand, it must be recognised that people who would have been affected by the alternative port and road developments, especially in and around Dover and Folkestone, will not have their lives disrupted.

The diversion to through rail services of freight traffic, equivalent to 250,000 lorry loads in 1980 and 500,000 in 1990, coupled with the concentration of cross-channel car and remaining lorry traffic on to the M20 will provide considerable relief on other roads to our ports, including particularly the A2 route to Dover.

I wish to clear up a point which has been misinterpreted. As the White Paper makes clear, we have commissioned, or undertaken, studies of the environmental implications of the project. One major study, on the social and economic implications for Kent, including the possible increase in land pressures, was published in May, and the results of that and other work are summarised in the White Paper. We have also made available plans of the terminal area and estimates of the traffic which will be diverted to rail, while detailed estimates of future traffic on Kent roads, with or without the tunnel, are available and have been presented to the current inquiry into the M20. Roughly speaking, without the tunnel, there would be, by 1990, about 20 per cent. less traffic on the M20 than there would be with the tunnel. But the M20 is able to bear increased traffic. However, between 35 per cent. and 100 per cent. more traffic would arise on sections of the A2 between Canterbury and Dover if there were no tunnel.

Further, a number of studies—for instance, on spoil disposal and noise in areas where people are likely to be affected—are aimed not only at assessing the environmental implications of the plans as they first emerge but at assisting design and mitigating nuisance. The White Paper took account of the work so far, but these are continuing studies feeding back into current design work and our discussions on how to mitigate any adverse effects.

The major environmental benefits can be obtained only if full advantage is taken of the new opportunities which a direct link with the Continent will provide for British Railways.

I do not need to emphasise to hon. Members on both sides how important the opportunity is to British Railways and how anxious they are to exploit the opportunity to the full. It is an opportunity from which the entire country will gain. It will not be only the south eastern area railways which will, for the first time, be directly linked to Europe. Long hauls will be possible for the first time by rail freight, and major new intercity routes will be available for passengers. Full advantage of this can be taken only if there is a tunnel and a new rail link to London, bypassing the congested southern region.

Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)

I am pleased about the right hon. and learned Gentleman's faith in British Railways, but it would have helped the House if we had had the new British Railways plan, which has been promised for 18 months, before we were asked to come to a view about the tunnel project.

Mr. Rippon

Whatever view one may take of the future of British Railways, and the extent to which capital investment is provided, my right hon. Friend has promised that the plan for the railways, for which many people have been pressing, will be laid before the House in November. This we will do.

I cannot conceive that anyone would suggest that British Railways' investment should be cut, particularly by depriving them of the opportunity to have this link, which is vital to their future. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that. We regard the proposed rail link not only as necessary for the project as a whole but as part of any sensible strategy for the future of British Railways.

The initial possibilities have already been set out by British Railways in their booklet "Express Link to Europe" and we have done the same in the White Paper. With the main decision taken, British Railways, Freightliners and their continental partners will be able to sell this new facility and develop plans to take full advantage of market opportunities. It is important to emphasise again that the new through services will benefit the country as a whole, and that all the regions will benefit.

As I said in Newcastle on 12th September, the call made on resources by the tunnel project, even coupled with the third London Airport, would be within the capacity of the construction industries, and would in no way affect the high priority we have given, and will continue to give, to all the regions. As I said in that speech, the total cost towards the end of the decade, if we go ahead with all the projects—Maplin airport, the seaport, access routes, the rail link and the tunnel—would be about £150 million a year, or about 0.3 per cent. of the gross national product. That is the total allocation of the money and resources.

People ask, "What about the regions?". In Teesside alone we have in hand, or are just about to start, developments costing £1,300 million. There is no reason for anyone to argue that the regions are being starved because of priority being given to the South-East. In fact, the argument is all one way.

It is worth bearing in mind that what we are discussing in phase 2 of the tunnel, which would have to be dealt with first, is a Government guarantee, whether or not it is needed, of about £11 million up to 1975.

What I have said is true right across our regional policy. We have spent twice as much per head of the population on roads in the Northern region as we have in the country as a whole. It is perhaps not unreasonable that the South-East and people living in Kent should have some relief from their present traffic problems.

The Opposition are apparently suggesting that the advantages of the tunnel could be obtained at less cost and without the problems associated with the proposed terminal if it were designed to cater only for through trains, including motor rail services. I can only ask the House to consider that proposition more carefully. No doubt it will be elaborated by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries can reply in detail. Even if it could be made viable, which is very doubtful, such a project would give us the worst of both worlds economically and environmentally.

Miss J. M. Quennell (Petersfield)

Before he leaves the first part of his speech, in which he referred to the problems of spoil disposal, will my right hon. Friend tell me—the answer may be somewhere in the White Paper, but if it is, I have missed it—how much spoil is likely to come from this enormous project? Secondly, have any plans been evolved for its disposal?

Mr. Rippon

I should not like to give an estimate of the total, but I will find out, and my right hon. Friend will give an answer at the end. The spoil would be used for landscaping, which is a matter for detailed discussion with the local authorities. One does not just dump it.

In the absence of a tunnel ferry service, the traffic which would have used it will continue to travel by sea, mostly through Dover and Folkestone. The amount of traffic carried by the through rail services would be unaffected, unless Opposition Members were contemplating forbidding people to take their cars on holiday. In those circumstances, the damage to Dover and Folkestone caused by heavy traffic would continue unabated, which must be unacceptable. There would be no relief for traffic on routes, notably the A2, which are less suitable than the M20.

Above all, it would be economic nonsense. The additional capital cost of the ship, port facilities and roads required elsewhere would far outweigh the costs saved on the tunnel and its terminal.

On top of that, the benefits of the lower operating costs of the tunnel would be lost. Overall, the rail-only tunnel would have little or no economic advantage over continued reliance on developing sea and air services, and might prove rather more expensive. It would be much more expensive than the tunnel as proposed.

The Opposition have urged further studies. But we must call a halt somewhere. Opponents inside and outside the House asked for technical, financial, and cost-benefit studies, studies of the local and regional economic and social impact, studies of traffic and other environmental factors, studies of the impact on the railways. They have been carried out and the results have been published.

We now have a stack of information two feet high. Somewhere in it something is said about spoil, but I do not think that it affects the general principle of this great project. All these matters must be handled sympathetically. There is a great deal of time in which that can be done, and the local authorities involved are not concerned. Kent County Council voted by about two to one against any further inquiries.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

The Secretary of State has spoken a great deal about the studies. In Annex 3 of the White Paper the rail-only solution was not considered. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Channel Tunnel Opposition Association has stated that Coopers and Lybrand, appointed by his Department as independent consultants, has also been associated with the Channel Tunnel Company? If that is so, does not it cast doubt on many of the studies?

Mr. Rippon

If the hon. Gentleman has doubts, he will be able to express them in his speech.

When we look at the whole volume of evidence from every source, we find that it does not make sense to say that there have not been enough studies. We have had all the studies and published them all, and they make a stack even higher than those regulations for the Common Market that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) always used to talk about.

Then we were asked to delay consideration of the Government's decision until the autumn. We have done that, so that right hon. and hon. Members should have an opportunity to consider—I was going to say "weigh"—all the evidence. A further study of the sort proposed could only elaborate on the common-sense finding that a rail-only tunnel would be a very unattractive proposition, and that the practical choice is between a tunnel of the sort proposed and no tunnel.

By then the opportunity to proceed with the project, on which successive administrations have worked, especially since 1966, would have been lost. I say "especially since 1966" because it was in that year that the present Leader of the Opposition reached his agreement on the principle with President Pompidou. Agreement was reached subject to a technical solution and the arrangement of mutually agreeable terms.

The Opposition amendment does not deny the principle of the tunnel. It could hardly do so in the face of that agreement by the then Prime Minister, which was followed later in the year by a more detailed communiqué from the then Minister of Transport, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and the French opposite number, Mr. Pisani.

The principle of the tunnel has been fairly generally welcomed on both sides of the House for a long time, subject to the technical feasibility studies, about which we are now satisfied, and the financial arrangements. I am recommending to the House not only the tunnel project but the proposed arrangements for financing and operating it.

It has been said that the tunnel is not an engineering problem but a problem in organisation. Certainly the discussions and negotiations between the two Governments on the one hand and the private interests on the other have been complicated and arduous. The arrangements have been developed over the years by successive administrations to provide a unique partnership of public and private enterprise on an international basis. No one has doubted that that was the right way in which to approach the matter.

Private interests will raise all the money required for the tunnel and will build it. They will then hand it over to a joint Anglo-French authority, which will operate it, remunerate the private interests out of the profits, and pay the balance to the two Governments in equal shares. The private interests will have only a minority representation on the operating body.

The basis of the financial arrangements is set out fully in Chapter 11 of the White Paper. Ten per cent. of the forecast cost of the tunnel will be financed by risk money carrying no Government guarantees. The balance will attract Government guarantees, but, even on the most pessimistic assumptions, it is extremely unlikely that those guarantees would ever be called.

On the contrary, I have tried to show, as the White Paper indicates, that handsome profits are to be expected. As a result of the hard negotiations over recent months we have ensured a method by which there is a fair distribution of those profits between the private and public interests taking account of the risks which each is undertaking, the need to provide terms which will enable the money to be raised and of the possibility that profits might in the longer term be higher than forecast.

In the event we have reached a provisional basis for sharing, provisional because the bulk of the money will not be raised till 1975, and the terms required to raise the money will have to be reviewed then. The Governments will, under those terms, gets a share of the profits from the start, increasing rapidly until they get the lion's share. Under those circumstances the Government guarantee does not seem an unreasonable basis for the deal. Moreover the formulae work in such a way that if there should be an unexpected bonanza this is one of the cases where the lion's share would fall to the Governments.

As the only direct Government investment will be in the rail link, which is expected to be profitable in itself, and is certainly desired by British Railways—I can assure the House of that—a half share in Government profits of between £100 million and £200 million a year by 1990 seems to be a fair return for the guarantees and the concession.

I ought to say a word about the next steps in our proceedings. The House will be aware that the White Paper incorporates the clauses of a short money Bill which will enable us to proceed to phase 2 of the tunnel project. That will consist of initial works, including the boring of about 2 kms of the service tunnel. We will do that after signing a treaty with the French Government together with a further agreement with the companies. We had contemplated seeking immediate passage of this Bill but concluded that it would no doubt be for the convenience of the House if we separated this debate on the principle from detailed consideration of the limited financial arrangements for phase 2.

That Bill will, therefore be introduced at the beginning of the new Session, when I hope the House will co-operate in helping us to get it through to meet the last date set out in Agreement No. 1 of 15th November. I emphasise that this is only the beginning. It is in no sense the end of parliamentary consideration. If the Bill is passed it will enable the project to go forward on a limited basis while Parliament considers at more leisure a Hybrid Bill.

The amount of expenditure involved is £30 million of which £22 million will be covered by guarantees from the two Governments. What we are talking about is a Government guarantee up to 1975 of £11 million. Only after the Bill has been passed will the treaty be ratified, Agreement No. 3 signed and the main construction started.

Turning to the rail link, the next stage will be consultations with local authorities on the precise route, proposals for which will have to be submitted to Parliament by British Railways in the form of a Private Bill. There will be ample opportunities for Parliament to consider the project over the coming months when the Hybrid Bill is debated. The main works are not planned to start until well into 1975 and a further agreement between the Governments and the companies will be necessary before then.

There is no question of the House being asked now for a final commitment, nor will there be for a considerable time to come. It would be possible to abandon the scheme at any stage at a cost which, whatever the circumstances, would be shared 50–50 with the French Government.

Having said that, I emphasis that we think it right that the House should come to a firm conclusion on this project. It is necessary and desirable in the interest of the nation as a whole. We expect to complete it, and current evidence shows that it will be right to do so. If there are major changes in circumstances neither we nor our partners would be tied to continue with the project if it were thought no longer to be worth while.

In these circumstances, I invite the House to support the motion, to agree in principle that we should at last provide this physical link between the transport systems of Britain and the Continent which successive Governments—let there be no doubt about that—have worked for in great detail. We should go on with this project, which will bring benefit to the whole country and will not be in any way confined to the South-East of England.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)

I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'whilst not opposed in principle to a Channel Tunnel, declines to approve a "rolling motorway" scheme which threatens both regional and environmental objectives, pre-empts scarce resources, lacks the support of a fully integrated transport strategy, and in its financial arrangements subordinates the interests of the taxpayer to those of private capital; and demands an independent inquiry into alternative transport strategies, including a rail-only tunnel'. This debate differs in a number of major respects from the debate we had on Tuesday on Maplin. I say this not only because I suspect that at the end of the day some of the Maplin alliances will have reversed themselves but more fundamentally because the Maplin debate was, at any rate for the moment, the last in a long series of debate going back a number of years whereas this is only the second debate we have had on the current proposals for the Channel Tunnel.

A further reason is that with Maplin the facts and figures and the detailed documentation have been flowing copiously ever since Roskill reported, whereas such information on the Channel has been flowing only since May or June and there are still serious gaps in it.

Therefore, I believe there will be much less certainty and dogmatism today than on Tuesday—certainly on my part. This is one of the reasons why the Opposition are not prepared tonight to sanction these Government proposals. I said on 15th June that I was half way along the road to Damascus—not perhaps a phrase I would have used in today's circumstances. I said that I was still lacking a blinding light and was not willing to take a final decision until certain aspects—the effect on road versus rail, the effect on the environment and on the regions, and so on—had been satisfactorily cleared up. Today, four months later, I find myself still half way along that road but with a very much clearer view of why I am here. I have become more convinced than ever that a fixed Channel link will at some point be necessary. Equally, I have become more convinced that this tunnel is the wrong tunnel at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I start by trying to consider where I agree with the Secretary of State. The basic question, accepting his figures for the likely increase of traffic across the Channel, which I do, is: do we need a fixed link to cope with this vast increase, and, if so, what kind? Or, alternatively, should we cope with it by expanding our existing resources of aircraft, hovercraft, ferries and the rest?

I accept that a fixed link is technically feasible and, so far as a layman can judge, that a bored tunnel would cost very much less than the alternatives of a bridge or bridge-cum-tunnel. I accept moreover, as the Secretary of State demonstrated, that as proposed the tunnel would in profit and loss terms be commercially profitable. We are not discussing, despite what the Press sometimes suggests, a Maplin or Concorde, dependent upon vast Government subventions. We are discussing a commercially viable investment showing a probable rate of return of 17 per cent.—and a minimum of 14 per cent.—an investment which if it were put to the Treasury by a nationalised industry would satisfy the Treasury's strictest criteria.

The only challenge to these calculations comes, not surprisingly, from the Chamber of Shipping and the ferry operators. They are interested parties. Why should they not be? They have a genuine interest to put forward, and I do not object to that. It is true that the ferries could theoretically knock the calculations on the head if they indulged in an all-out price war. But it is clear that they would commit suicide in the process if they did so. Incidentally, their profitability, strange as it may seem, will be a great deal less if EEC regulations forbid duty-free shops on ferries. It seems absurd that they depend so much on this, but they do. It appears that an all-out price war is extremely unlikely, considering the behaviour of the ferries which led to their operations being referred to the Monopolies Commission, though it is wrong to take a final decision until we have had the commission's report, because that could throw important light on the question of the likely competitive behaviour of the ferries.

Generally, it is right to say, as the Government have said, that the tunnel will be attractive, particularly to passengers with cars, in terms of fares, journey time, and the convenience of getting straight off and straight on to motorways at both ends. It is true that all these calculations might be upset by dramatic developments in terms of oil and energy supplies—we do not know about that—but for the moment we are taking the figures in the White Paper, and they describe a commercially profitable undertaking.

But commercial profit is not the end of the matter. The cost to the private investor may be covered by revenue, but there are still costs to the community in terms of resources, and we have to consider those. I am also prepared to accept that, from a national point of view, in terms of cost and resources a tunnel seems likely in the medium and long run to be the most economical means of catering for the huge increase in traffic across the Channel. We could physically cope with the increase in traffic by higher investment in other directions—in ships, hovercraft, port facilities, access roads, airports, aircraft, and so on—and the cost of doing that would probably be less in the short run—in the five, six or seven years immediately ahead. But, being less sceptical perhaps than my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing), I am prepared to accept the Coopers and Lybrand transport cost benefit study and assume that, in the long run, taking capital and operating costs and benefits, it would be cheaper for the nation to build the tunnel. Thus, we are dealing with a project which is not only commercially profitable but is also a sensible economic proposition for the nation in total transport terms. Here it differs markedly from Maplin. The cost of not building Maplin would be far less than the cost of building it. The reverse is the position with regard to the tunnel. The long-term cost of not building it would be greater than the cost of doing so.

I now turn to arguments which I not merely accept but positively endorse. A tunnel, by linking British Railways to a new high-speed European rail network, could give—I shall come later to whether this one will give—a major boost to British Rail. Indeed, it is one of the few methods by which one can give a definite and direct shot in the arm to British Rail. It could have a major effect in transferring traffic from road to rail, which I take to be the objective of transport policy which we all want to see. I shall argue later that this tunnel will give an insufficient boost, but here I make the point that, potentially, a rail tunnel could give an enormous boost, and we must take that into account.

Mr. Frank Tourney (Hammersmith, North)

I realise that my right hon. Friend may be somewhere on the road to Damascus. I am somewhere on the way to the White City. Has the Shadow Cabinet in its collective masonic wisdom discussed where the terminal should be? As the GLC, the planning authority, is at variance with British Railways, and as the local authority is at variance with the whole idea, what will the position be in 12 months' time if the Government have authority to institute a Channel Tunnel? Is the terminal to be at the White City? May we have an authoritative statement on that?

Mr. Crosland

If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall deal with the White City in about three or four minutes' time and reply to the important point that he has raised.

Looking ahead, we must also take into account a crucial change in the situation since our debate on 15th June, and that is the altered outlook for the price and availability of oil supplies. Surely, even given North Sea oil, there is bound to be, in the years ahead, a steady or possibly even a dramatic increase in the price of oil, and particularly of jet aviation fuel. There will be continuing uncertainty about supplies, and, taking a long run view, it would be the height of improvidence to suppose that we could always and for ever rely on unlimited air travel and unlimited travel by cars and ferries driving to Kent and getting off at Calais.

Yesterday the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry asked the country to economise on the use of petrol. One can easily imagine a Minister in his position in 10 or 15 years' time asking the country to economise on petrol, but that would not make much sense if we simultaneously invited every car and juggernaut lorry to travel from Manchester and Glasgow to Cheriton in Kent. We must at some point have a direct rail link with the Continent which is not dependent upon increasingly expensive and uncertain oil supplies.

I add one other point as a strong opponent of the Maplin project. Because many of us strongly oppose Maplin, and because many hon. Members on both sides oppose Concorde, we must not assume that all big projects are, ipso facto, bad and disapprove of them. Some large projects can make good economic sense for the country.

I conclude that we shall ultimately need a rail link, but the question—and I find this a disappointing and almost tragic question—is whether this is the right tunnel, of the right kind, to satisfy the criteria which I have put forward. To my way of thinking, the answer is clearly "No". It is "No" for the funda- mental reason that this proposal is based so centrally on the concept of a "rolling motorway", a roll-on roll-off vehicle shuttle service, from Cheriton to Calais. It is basically simply an underwater car and lorry ferry, requiring a vast terminal in Kent, funnelling road traffic through it, and designed fundamentally to get cars and lorries more quickly across the Channel.

It is this rolling motorway concept which has aroused public controversy, and rightly so, because it is this which has the effect of maximising all the disadvantages and minimising all the advantages. First, it maximises the environmental damage to Kent. I shall not argue this mainly in terms of traffic, because the traffic can be argued two ways. There will be this funnelling effect through Cheriton, but that might be offset by a more general transfer of traffic to rail, so I shall argue the case in terms of the terminal.

The terminal will attract hotels, motels, service areas, huge car parks, warehouses, depots and cold stores on a scale which I suspect is even now not properly understood in Kent and to a degree which the Kent planners doubt they have any hope of controlling properly. That is apart from the occasional nightmarish prospect of a total clog-up when the tunnel is blocked. That is the crux of the environmental damage, and it arises solely because of the rolling motorway concept requiring a terminal at Cheriton.

Secondly, the rolling motorway concept presents the greatest threat to regional policy. The Secretary of State was comforting on the subject this afternoon. Nevertheless, with the proposal as we have it now, there could be a considerable diversion of traffic, for example from the Humberside ports about which I am concerned. We shall see the construction in the South-East of cold stores, warehouses and light industry which ought to go to the poorer regions of the country. Generally, we shall see another concentration of scarce construction resources in the South-East, and not in the regions.

Thirdly, this underwater ferry concept gives the least effective possible insurance policy against the day when oil may be prohibitively costly and in increasingly short supply, because this proposal, linked to the Cheriton terminal, is heavily oriented towards a road traffic and not a rail system, and towards producing a quicker route across the Channel for more and more private cars and lorries. It is obviously much more wasteful of oil and energy to drive a car from Manchester to Cheriton than to put it on a train at Manchester, and to drive a juggernaut lorry from Manchester to Cheriton instead of putting the freight in a container at Manchester.

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.

Perhaps I can put the same point in another way, from the railway point of view. For all sorts of reasons, environmental in particular, I think that we all of us now regard the main aim of transport policy as shifting traffic from road to rail. The tragedy of this scheme is that it does that only to the most minimal extent.

Mr. Rippon

I am afraid that there may be some misunderstanding in the idea that under the proposals as now put forward there will not be the opportunity for freight and cars to be loaded in Glasgow or Manchester or elsewhere in the North. One of the important aspects of the project is that the portals of the tunnel are, in fact, in Glasgow, Manchester and the North.

Mr. Crosland

That was a very welcome interruption. That is exactly the point with which I now want to deal.

The opportunity for this diversion will exist. But the question is whether, in practice, it will be taken. Let us deal with the motor-rail passengers first. Although they could get on a motor-rail at Manchester and go all the way to Paris, the fact is that they will still prefer, in my view, to drive down to Cheriton. It will be very much cheaper to do so. Regarding lorries, the Government's estimate—this settles the question of lorries—is that only 16 per cent. to 17 per cent. of the traffic going through the tunnel on trains will be freight traffic. That is a very disappointing figure. It shows the comparatively minor extent of the transfer of freight traffic that we shall get from road to rail as a result of this scheme.

I go further and say that many observers—I shall not underline what they say as I am not competent to judge—consider that even the modest official estimates of the transfer from road to rail, especially the estimates of British Rail, are extremely optimistic. For example—I come to the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney)—we still know very little about the White City terminal. We know little about what the terminal will be like or what its capacity will be. The present views of the Hammersmith Borough Council are sceptical, if not positively hostile.

Mr. Ernest G. Perry (Battersea, South)

And the Wandsworth Borough Council.

Mr. Crosland

Yes. To put it mildly, there is still a great deal that we do not know about the White City terminal, although I think that we are likely to have a terminal there.

The economics of the new rail link between Folkestone and London have not been publicly analysed or demonstrated. Also, because of the difference in the loading gauge, large continental wagons cannot get beyond London. All the freight would have to be transferred from those wagons in London, so we should get very little two-way freight traffic from the regions to the Continent.

In this scheme, therefore, the likely diversion from road to rail will be on a comparatively minor scale.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

On the matter of trade between the regions and the Continent, it has been estimated that 90 per cent. of containers used in Europe could get from the tunnel to any part of the United Kingdom. Some cannot do so, but 90 per cent. can. It is no obstacle to trade.

Mr. Crosland

In that case, I find it incredible that the figure for the proportion of freight is only 17 per cent. of the total. My hon. Friend made this point in the debate on 15th June. Perhaps the Minister will say how these two things are consistent when he winds up the debate.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Crosland

I am very anxious to press on. I imagine that many hon. Members want to take part in the debate. The longer that I continue, the more they will be pushed out. With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I hope that he will allow me to continue.

I conclude that if we are to achieve the objectives which all of us have in mind—regional, environmental and transportation—we must have a more rail-oriented strategy than this one. What do we mean by that? The Secretary of State challenged us on this. The extreme version, obviously, is the so-called rail-only tunnel; that is, a tunnel for through train services only, disposing of the Cheriton terminal altogether.

Obviously there are arguments against this. The Secretary of State deployed them. The Channel Tunnel Company, in a study—which, incidentally, should have been published; I am not sure why it was not—entitled "Note on Proposed 'Rail Only' Channel Tunnel", produced on 10th October, showed that, as the Secretary of State said, while a rail-only tunnel would cost less than what is proposed, the revenue accruing from it would go down even more rapidly than the cost. So it would not be a commercial proposition for private enterprise alone. I shall return to that point.

Certainly it seems implausible to have no terminal in Kent, because that would mean that all traffic starting or finishing there would have to go to London in order to board or leave the train. That does not seem sensible. But more serious—and here I return to the crucial point about car plus passenger traffic, because that is at the heart of the economics—is that at present relative prices very few people would get on a motor-rail at Manchester or Glasgow because it would be too expensive. The huge majority would find it cheaper to drive straight to Dover or Folkestone. The rail-only tunnel, at present relative costs, would freeze the existing pattern, with all the increasing traffic going to Dover and Folkestone. That is the Secretary of State's point.

In the debate on 15th June I myself doubted whether rail-only was viable, though I said that it should be looked into in detail, which has not happened. But since then we have had the much more elaborate calculations by Professor Bronhead, in a special edition of the New Scientist a week or two ago, and from the Conservation Society, and so on. The private study done by the Channel Tunnel Company, which ought to be and must be published—

The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. Peyton)

This is no very special study. I would not want the right hon. Gentleman to misunderstand the position. It is a document belonging to the project managers of Rio Tinto-Zinc. Almost all the information in it has been published at one time or another. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not suggest anything is being concealed from the House.

Mr. Crosland

I am extremely glad to hear that, and I accept it. The only reason why I put some weight on it is that it is the longest semi-official case against the rail-only tunnel that the country has had.

But things have changed since 15th June, and this study shows, accepting what the Minister says about official figures, that, although a rail-only tunnel would be less commercially profitable, nevertheless it would still give a rate of return which would be reasonable, in my view, for a public sector transport investment. As to the point about the motorail, that no one would get on it if we have a rail-only tunnel, that might be true at present relative prices; but motorail traffic is expanding rapidly at present and certainly the rising price of petrol will drastically alter the relative attractions of driving down to Cheriton rather than getting on at Manchester.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is contradicting himself. He has just been building up the case why people will not board the railway in Birmingham and Manchester and so on. Now he is saying that there is a good reason why they should do so.

Mr. Crosland

At present, if we went ahead now and the tunnel were built rapidly, I do not think that they would board at Manchester. But if there is a relative increase in the price of petrol of a marked character over the next few years, the prospects of them boarding the motorail are very much better. This makes the prospect of any rail link, whether or not rail-only, that much better. But as that argument has been used so strongly against the rail-only link, it must be my function to try to rebut it.

There would be enormous attractions in a rail-only link. It would eliminate a vast terminal at Cheriton. It would remove at a stroke—if I may use that phrase—the worst threat to the environment and the regions. Certainly the House should not endorse the White Paper proposals until the rail-only link has been examined, and not only in the course of three minutes in the Secretary of State's speech but until it has been properly, thoroughly and rigorously examined in some official document.

Even if a 100 per cent. rail-only strategy were to turn out—none of us knows—to be a non-starter, we could still have a much more rail-oriented strategy than that proposed in the White Paper, a strategy designed primarily to encourage long-distance through trains and motorail rather than short-hop cross-channel trips. What would such a strategy look like? We would abandon the rolling motorway concept and the capacity of the tunnel to carry juggernauts from Folkestone to Calais. The Cheriton terminal would be drastically reduced in size and limited to traffic with an origin or destination in Kent or Sussex. Perhaps this would have to be enforced through some kind of regulation; no doubt for freight consignment notes.

The White City, subject to somebody producing a better terminal, would have to be the main terminal. There will have to be a London terminal, although the likelihood of congestion at the White City is such that we would probably need a second terminal on the south side of London.

We would have to introduce pricing incentives to encourage long-distance rail journeys, both passenger and freight. We would have to have a large expansion of motorail services so that cars do their miles on the backs of trains and not on roads. We would want the introduction of advance passenger trains at the earliest possible moment, with necessary link-ups beyond London. This would cut the London-Paris journey to two hours 40 minutes and enormously increase the potential diversion of passengers from air travel to travel through the tunnel.

Is this alternative strategy feasible? None of us knows. So why do we not have the matter examined to see whether it is feasible? This is what we ask for in our amendment. It is wrong for the Secretary of State to say that it is a choice simply between this tunnel and no tunnel. None of us can say whether it is right or wrong, because the possibility of alternative strategies has not been adequately examined.

Supposing that it turns out, as it might, that this new strategy is less commercially profitable. So what? We must get away from the idea that the aim in transport policy is to maximise commercial profits. It is nothing of the sort. A tunnel should not be just a moneymaking business. It is a crucial part of a total transport strategy in which social, regional and environmental factors should all, as well as commercial factors, play a major part.

I must ask a question in passing. Is it possible under this agreement to discriminate between road and rail in such a way as to give price incentives to rail? Paragraph 11.24 of the White Paper says: The Authority's terms of reference would be to manage the Tunnel as a commercial enterprise … without discrimination between road and rail borne traffic. It is very important to know whether that is an aspect of an agreement, whether it is an aspect of EEC regulations, or what it is. It would be intolerable and a total negation of good transport planning for our hands to be tied in advance in this way.

There are other arguments against the White Paper proposals—for example, the financial terms agreed with the companies and on which I made some critical remarks, which I still stand by, on 15th June. As I think the Secretary of State said, the project looks much more lucrative now than it did on 15th June. There have been many changes between the Green Paper and the White Paper. One is that an allowance has been made for inflation. Inflation is highly beneficial to any organisation whose principal cost is servicing a fixed-interest debt, as is the case with 90 per cent. of the capital of this organisation.

The White Paper has also become much more optimistic than the Green Paper about rail passenger receipts. Incidentally, the new and more optimistic figures finally kill once and for all to any objective observer any conceivable case for Maplin. All this may be blown to smithereens by the oil situation, but for the moment we are going on the White Paper figures.

In view of these figures, why the Government guarantee? Why cannot industry for once, when it is able to, actually stand on its own two feet, as it used to be so constantly instructed to do by the Government? Even the Economist said on 15th September, referring to the guarantee, "that is the suspicious part" of the proposal.

On the new White Paper figures, it is true that the Government themselves do better out of the deal than they appeared to at the time of the Green Paper. But the private investors do spectacularly better. Incidentally, paragraph 11.22 of the White Paper contains a table which, were it to appear in any publication other than a Government one, would very rapidly invite the attention of the Fraud Squad. The last column of the table, at page 32, shows a final figure in terms of total operating surplus when what is relevant is the share of net profit after servicing of the debt.

The first column in this table actually shows, unless I have gone partly round the bend in the last 24 hours, which is conceivable, debt service as being a payment benefiting the Governments. But this payment is not going to the Governments. It is going to the bondholders. The only benefits the Government can get out of the debt service is that if private enterprise is paying the debt on the capital the Government do not have to bring their guarantee into play. It is a very curious way of describing the payment on the debt which is going to the bondholders as being a service benefiting the Governments.

If the figures are recalculated to give the shares of the net profit after debt servicing and taking the central case in 1981, the share benefiting the Government is not as stated here, 79 per cent., but only 45 per cent. This table is highly misleading.

In any event, the financial terms are not acceptable to the Opposition. Even if they were, there is always the question of the cost, not to the taxpayer directly but in terms of national resources. Somebody must find the construction workers, the building materials, the costly equipment, and all the rest of it.

The Secretary of State told us that at the peak of construction of the Channel Tunnel, Maplin Airport and Maplin Seaport only 0.3 per cent. of GNP will be taken up. Any Cabinet Minister must be aware that everything is "only 0.3 per cent. of GNP". Every case that is put forward for every project under every heading is "only 0.3 per cent. of GNP". The fact is that 0.3 per cent. of GNP is a very large sum. It would be mad for the country to go ahead simultaneously with both Maplin and the Channel Tunnel.

As to the tunnel in isolation, if it were part of an integrated transport rail-oriented strategy many of us would feet differently about it. However, this tunnel, with its emphasis on road traffic and on development in south-east Kent, no. At a time when the Government are still havering over the Pic-Vic line in Manchester, at a time when the Minister for Transport Industries said—only a few days ago—that in future he will be able to find less money for British Railways and for London Transport, at a time when the Government are telling local authorities and other public bodies to postpone the building of schools, hospitals, capital works of all kinds, no; this tunnel at this time cannot have this priority.

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman misquotes me. I believe that he is taking a remark out of context. I was referring to the infrastructure investment which will be allowed by this Government in the next few years. I did not at any time say that less money would be available for British Railways. It is very important that nobody should think that.

Mr. Crosland

I am delighted to have that reassurance. Of course I accept what the Minister has said. As I recall the statement in The Times, it appeared to be very clear that less public money was to be available in the future than in the past for British Railways and London Transport.

Mr. Peyton

This was particularly confined to infrastructure grants which, I pointed out, had been at £200 million under this Government, vastly in excess of anything that was available under the previous administration.

Mr. Crosland

In that case, let me put the matter differently. Is it a sensible placing of priorities to go ahead with this Channel Tunnel at a time when infrastructure grants for British Railways and London Transport are apparently to be reduced? The point that I made still applies.

What would be the effect of not going ahead with phase 2? The Secretary of State uttered dire warnings that this would kill the tunnel altogether. We should note some facts. There is no present or prospective shortage of cross-channel capacity. So there is no desperate urgency for the tunnel. The French want the tunnel badly on grounds of regional policy concerned with the Pas de Calais. Indeed, they want it so badly that in the world which is constantly arguing about this it is widely believed that they have persuaded Her Majesty's Government into telling the British consultants not to make any further studies lest this would slow down progress. As I understand the Agreement No. 1 of 20th October 1972, there is nothing in it which irrevocably precludes the two Governments from making a new agreement if Agreement No. 2 is not signed on 15th November.

To conclude, the fact is that we must now have a searching and independent inquiry which will examine and report on: the implications of the Kent terminal, for both environmental and regional policy; the implications of the recent dramatic change in the energy outlook; the muddle of separate traffic forecasts that we now have for Maplin, on the one hand, and the tunnel, on the other; the case for a rail-only tunnel; and how the tunnel might form part of an integrated transport startegy designed to transfer traffic from road to rail. At present we have before us a proposal that is geared to maximum profitability, and not to a proper transport plan, which is damaging to the Kent environment, which is dangerous for the regions, which is subject to the question of the future price and availability of oil and which is basically concerned to join the road net- works of Britain and the Continent, rather than the rail networks. The proposal is unacceptable to us and we shall vote against it.

5.31 p.m.

Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)

As a Kent Member I say at the outset that I am not in principle against the idea of a Channel Tunnel, a Channel Tunnel Bridge or some other fixed point crossing of the Channel. I am sure that my right hon. Friends—and I use the plural because I include my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries—were right when they said that the growth of cross-Channel traffic would continue to expand. They are right to express doubts about the capacity of existing means to handle it efficiently and economically without some other element being introduced. That other element, however, must not harm the environment.

My doubt is whether the scheme as at present known will be effective. There is nothing new in the idea of a Channel Tunnel. It has been discussed for over 100 years, and in 1966 the Labour Government made a study. From an engineering point of view, the tunnel is feasible, and, given certain factors, it could be commercially viable. But I ask why the haste, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) on this point. Why go ahead now? Why not make estimates of the cost of alternative schemes?

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries has been in close touch with hon. Members. His Department has churned out or has encouraged others to produce about 30 reports, about 2 ft of material—pamphlets, reports, Green Papers, White Papers and all the rest. I should like to thank him for them. But I ask again: why the haste? I can understand that the French Government want the Channel Tunnel as soon as possible. The Pas de Calais is what we once would have called a depressed area and it desperately needs new development projects. Have not the French Government been pressing for this and have we not capitulated to their demands?

Way back in June, long before the House debated the Channel Tunnel, the French Deputy Transport Minister, M. Pierre Billecocq—if we translate that into English it is Mr. Billycock—let the cat out of the bag. He is reported as saying that the British and French Governments were—and I quote his words—"perfectly decided" to build this 2.04 billion dollars Channel Tunnel despite British parliamentary opposition. In answer to questions he said The British Cabinet has problems with its Parliament but that it had assured the French that Paris could draft the treaty and the convention with the private companies involved for signature before 31st July. M. Billecocq said the British Government had unofficially informed the French Government that it possibly could not sign the treaty by that date in view of the fact that it had to have a Bill approved by Parliament. M. Billecocq had the sense to see that the signing of a treaty would not be legally the point of no return since either party could withdraw throughout 1975.

Why then the haste? Why cannot we simply "take note" of the White Paper? Why cannot my right hon. Friend take time to explain the project to my constituents? If he did he could hear their views. I had a letter yesterday from the Edenbridge Parish Council. The high-speed rail link will go through Eden-bridge. The council is much concerned since a large part of this link will be near many houses in my constituency. There is a notable absence of information about the high-speed link. What is involved in terms of noise, nuisance and danger? One can only assume that at an early stage of investigation British Rail's Private Bill will include provisions analogous to the Land Compensation Act.

Let me read a short extract from the letter from the Edenbridge Parish Council because it shows what people are worried about. It says that: considerable apprehension is mounting up in Edenbridge and this is mainly due to the lack of information that we have been given so far. There are many questions that people would like to ask, such as where will the new bypass line run and where will it join the present Edenbridge-Tonbridge line, what will be the environmental effects of this new stretch, what plans do British Rail have for the existing bridges, what will be the future for the five public footpaths which traverse the line and also the access track to the houses known as 'Medhurst Row' (between Edenbridge and Four Elms) and, last but by no means least. questions on the noise and disturbance factors. My constituents are right to expect these facts to be made known, but they have not been.

Mr. Rippon

May I give my hon. Friend the assurance that of course all these matters will have to be gone into, but what would be the point of all this detailed discussion about exact lines of roads and methods of compensation until the House had approved the policy in principle?

Sir J. Rodgers

My constituents have a right to know. I will return to the point about how the Ministry should explain these things to my constituents whose lives and livelihood will be affected.

If it can be established that the tunnel would siphon off much of the tourist traffic and the bulk of freight from our roads in Kent a powerful case would have been established to go ahead in principle with the idea. But surely, as the right hon. Member for Grimsby pointed out—and I find myself in embarrassing agreement with some of what he said tonight and I fear that it might become a habit—the siting of the marshalling yard at Cheriton spells doom to that idea and death to Kent. All the tourist traffic will flow through the roads of Kent from all over the country. That traffic, according to the White Paper, will account for 60 per cent. of the revenue of the tunnel, so it is expected that it will continue to grow. The cars will career through the roads of Kent, a county which is badly served with roads compared with the rest of the country.

Much of the freight from the Continent will disembark at Cheriton and travel along the M20 and the M2. But it will also use by-roads to avoid busy traffic.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

My hon. Friend is dealing with an important point concerning the heavy lorries travelling through the highways and byways of Kent. Surely he recognises, however, that statutory restrictions could be placed upon the routes which the heavy lorries followed? I make this point to my hon. Friend in the hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries will deal with it in reply.

Sir J. Rodgers

It is an important point, and it is important whether we have the Channel Tunnel or not. I hope the recent statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that there are plans to control the traffic along these roads will be implemented whether or not the tunnel is built. I cannot understand why the Government cannot make it obligatory on this freight and tourist traffic only to embark and disembark for the tunnel service at the White City terminal in London. If people wish to travel by air they must travel to Heathrow Airport, and there is no reason why those wishing to use the tunnel should not start from the London terminal. Let us get rid of the idea of Cheriton and the complex that will develop around it. The whole thing terrifies me. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will point out that if we try to restrict embarkation and disembarkation to the White City terminal there would be great reluctance by many people to use the tunnel and it might not then be a viable proposition. But the only way in which Kent can be sure of benefiting from the Channel Tunnel is by taking away a great deal of the traffic which is making life in the county intolerable. That traffic is increasing by leaps and bounds. Therefore, I should like such a scheme to be considered and to be given the economics of it. If the Minister for Transport Industries is right, let him prove it by making it obligatory to go through to White City either way and get rid of Cheriton as it would be an unviable proposition. He has not done so. This whole proposition has been devised without reference to the future interests of Kent.

Mr. Peyton

My hon. Friend said that no regard has been paid to the interests of Kent. I hone he will take account of this very comprehensive survey into the economic and social impact of the tunnel on Kent carried out by Economic Consultants Ltd. on the instructions not only of my Department but of the Kent local authorities.

Sir J. Rodgers

I said that I appreciated what my right hon. Friend had done in producing all these studies. As far as I know, only the Kent County Council has been consulted. It may be that other local authorities have been consulted, but I am not aware of any. Certainly none of the local authorities in my constituency seems to think that it has been consulted. I do not think any plan will reduce the volume of road traffic going through Kent, and certainly not if we go ahead with the Cheriton terminal.

My third objection to a speedy decision to approve the White Paper is on the method of financing. I speak as someone who has a good deal of experience in business. If a consortium of merchant bankers, which has been plugging this idea for many years, wants to get ahead with the Channel Tunnel, I do not see why the Government must guarantee the money, particularly as this is said to be a good viable proposition in that it will reduce the cost of travel, and so on, and produce a good return on the money invested. Why should the State have to guarantee the expenditure? I agree that it is to be after the first £85 million. However, if the project in the end costs £1,000 million, most of it will be guaranteed by the taxpayer. But who gets the profits? Is it to be the taxpayer or the banks?

If the North Sea oil exploration could be financed by private enterprise, why not this tunnel project if it goes ahead? I agree with the right hon. Member for Grimsby that private enterprise should be private enterprise.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware, even if the Secretary of State for the Environment is not, that the reason for this guarantee is that the rate of interest will be that much lower. That is why it is to be guaranteed by the Government.

Sir J. Rodgers

I realise why this guarantee is being given, but I do not think that it should be given. I do not see why the taxpayer should be put at risk. I do not believe that the consortium would back out if a decision were made to postpone this project until after the next General Election to enable further studies to be made and the details given to us.

I have considerable doubts about the capacity of the construction industry to take on this project as well as Maplin. I approve of the Maplin concept and should like to see it go forward. However, I disapprove of this concept and do not want it to go forward.

Mr. Ronald Bray (Rossendale)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the cost of Maplin and of our section of the Channel Tunnel running together would on average only equal the annual turnover of our three largest construction companies and that there are many other construction companies both in this country and abroad which could chip in and give a hand?

Sir J. Rodgers

I am glad to hear that. I believe that if we go ahead with the tunnel project, Maplin, and Concorde, we shall risk the printing of more money and make inflation much worse than it is now.

For these reasons, at this eleventh hour, I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleague the Minister for Transport Industries to make haste slowly. What suits France does not necessarily suit Britain. What suits France certainly might not suit the county of Kent.

While in the end a case for a Channel Tunnel might be made, I am not sure that this is the moment to go ahead because I do not believe that we have all the information that we require. The electorate, particularly the electorate in Kent, has a right to know more before any Government money—whether £11 million, £35 million, or whatever the figure may be—is put into the project. When a new housing estate is to be built or a new road development is to be constructed in my constituency or in the county of Kent there is invariably a public inquiry so that people can voice their fears and apprehensions and ask questions. Why, with a project of this size, which will decide the life or death of Kent, can we not have a public inquiry so that people living in the towns and villages through which all this traffic will go may make their views known? It is a monstrous ignoring of the electorate not to have such an inquiry. I ask the Secretary of State not always to listen only to the experts and the financiers, but sometimes to listen to the general public.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

I am sure that after that speech the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) will join the Opposition in the Division Lobby in defence of his constituents for a re-examination of the Channel Tunnel project, which, if carried out on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), would avoid the difficulties to which he referred.

Sir J. Rodgers

I should love to join the hon. Gentleman in the Lobby tonight Unfortunately, in order to allow one of his colleagues to go away I agreed to pair instead.

Mr. Albu

That means that the hon. Gentleman is voting with the Government.

I have no constituency interest. I want to deal with the national, social and economic consequences of building the tunnel. Whatever assessment we make of the value of the tunnel it must take its place in the order of priority of Government expenditure, for, as hon. Members well understand, this is not a private enterprise project. About 90 per cent. of the cost and all the risk of cancellation charges are to be guaranteed by the Government. Moreover, the scale of the physical resources needed, the environmental and economic effects in the public sector—for example, on railways, airlines, roads and so on—would necessitate, however the scheme were financed, close Government control.

The Government face great difficulties in making choices in public expenditure, because it is now out of control in a way which it has not been for many years. In their desperate efforts to stop inflation the Government have provided open-ended subsidies to the nationalised industries to keep their prices down below economic levels—incidentally, the opposite policy that they have adopted for housing—while further large sums have been pre-empted by subsidies to private industry, to Concorde and to Maplin even if the latter is postponed. The sums mentioned, though small in percentage terms, are large in total Government expenditure terms.

I am not against subsidies if a cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that there is economic or social value in an undertaking or to a new project, even if it shows that there is no immediate profitability in that project by itself. My right hon. Friend referred to this difference between what is of national value and what is immediately profitable to an enterprise, and I hope that this is what is meant by "viable" in paragraph 4.1 of the White Paper, although there is some doubt about that. I hope that the Minister for Transport Industries will make it clear in his reply that he is prepared to consider as viable any project which, in cost-benefit terms from a national point of view, is worth while and not merely if the project is profitable to those who undertake it.

Subsidies must be for clear economic or social purposes and of firmly estimated amounts. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his suggestion of a subsidy on oil, except for a very short period, because it would pre-empt even more public expenditure and looks likely on balance to have the wrong economic and social effect.

Apart from the consideration of the tunnel within an overall policy of public expenditure priorities, it cannot be considered independently of other transport projects such as rail services, roads, airports, and so forth.

There is a trade off, for instance, between the tunnel and Maplin which is, to some extent, recognised in the White Paper, although on this occasion no attempt has been made, and perhaps rightly following the Roskill experience, to evaluate in financial terms the regional and environmental costs and benefits of the tunnel.

It seems that the consultants have taken a conservative view of likely technological, economic and social changes during the years ahead which are likely to affect transport—the use of transport and transport policy. It is true that long-term forecasting is a hazardous enterprise. The extrapolation of present trends, however sophisticated, can produce serious errors, as now appears in the case of that much publicised but now discredited book, "Limits to Growth". However, it is clear that the relative costs of fossil fuels will rise appreciably towards the end of the century, if not much earlier. Therefore, the relative energy efficiencies of different forms of transport will become more and more important.

I draw the attention of hon. Members to the report on the motor car and national resources provided for the OECD, which showed that the average energy efficiency of most motor cars is about one-third that of a London to Birmingham train. In future, electricity generated by nuclear power will become relatively cheaper, and the comparative costs of electrified rail and road transport will change substantially and these changes in comparative costs may well affect consumer choice. That does not seem, so far, to have been taken seriously into account.

I accept that the motor car has provided a new dimension of freedom for millions. However, with increasing costs, congestion and pollution, that freedom may appear less desirable in the future and the value put on travel by the private car may well decline.

A large part of the forecasted revenue from the tunnel is to come from motor-accompanied holiday-makers. It seems likely, if the relative costs change in the way in which I have suggested, that package holidays, charter flights and in future charter trains, perhaps with motor cars rented at the holiday resort, will grow at the expense of holidays taken by people driving their own cars. Already, according to the consultants' cost benefit study, the number of passengers on charter flights is double the number of passengers travelling with their own cars. I admit that many of those go a long way, for instance to Spain.

The British and French railways have plans for cheap charter fares to European cities. With the increase of speeds which are foreseen for railway travel, such schemes could be extended very much further—for example, to many of the holiday resorts of southern Europe. I believe that the future impact of very fast trains has been underestimated. The estimate in the White Paper shows that 88 million "classical" Channel crossings—classical is rather a strange word which is used to describe Channel crossings without a motor car—will be made in 1990, and it is estimated that 17 per cent. of those crossings will be made via the tunnel.

Let us examine what has already happened where modern railway services have been running in competition with road transport for comparable distances We find that 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. of journeys from London to Manchester are made by rail. In France, intra-continental traffic is now 80 per cent. rail compared with 30 per cent. for similar traffic overseas to European or Middle East countries.

The Commissariat du Plan has calculated the effect of very high speed trains such as the turbo-train. Without such a train rail traffic on the Paris-Lyon line will fall from 44.7 per cent. in 1967 to 16.7 per cent. in 1988, but with the turbo-train it will rise to 50.5 per cent. If "classic" traffic by rail from Britain to the Continent were increased to a similar figure—let us say 50 per cent.—revenue would be raised from the £44.4 million estimated by the consultants to approximately £120 million, an increase of almost £70 million or £80 million. That is almost as much revenue as the forecast from passengers travelling with vehicles. These estimates depend on the assumption that continuous work is done to produce a very fast train and train services

With a modernised rail system and appropriate measures there could be a substantial increase in freight, to the great benefit both of energy consumption and to the environment. Incidentally, an important feature of consumer choice between the private car and rail is the frequency of services. That is another matter which will be helped by a rail-only system. I agree, therefore, that there should be a re-examination of the possibilities of a rail-only tunnel to be considered as part of a general transport policy.

Mr. Rees-Davies

The hon. Gentleman has given us some interesting and authoritative figures. The tunnel is a private enterprise scheme, and I gather that he is not arguing that it should be part of the Labour Party's policy to introduce a nationalised scheme. I venture to point out that there is no other alternative unless the Opposition are prepared to introduce a nationalised rail-only scheme. Perhaps he will meet that point.

Mr. Albu

Personally, I should much prefer such a scheme but we should have to consider whether the tunnel operators would be prepared to accept a change of Government policy on the lines which the Opposition have been suggesting. If they refused, the matter would have to be reconsidered.

We cannot go into a vast scheme of this sort at very great cost, and absorbing a large part of our national resources over the next few years, without it being put into the total picture of a transport policy which takes account of all possible alternative technical developments, including the comparative costs of developing high-speed rail services, forecasts of fuel costs and the increasing environmental pressures which may themselves lead to restrictions on air travel and, in that way, affect the consumers' choice.

I admit that such arguments are not arguments against the use of the tunnel for a long-distance motorail scheme if such a scheme could be developed. However I am entirely against spending money, apart from the environmental effects, on the Cheriton transfer station and the expensive new rolling-stock. If the Government wish to insure against the inevitable forecasting errors and to maintain a competitive threat to ferry operators, they should build a tunnel large enough to convert to motorail in the future if necessary. But they should save for the present the substantial economic and environmental costs of building the transfer terminal and the special roiling stock.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Before calling the next hon. Member, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the number of Members who are trying to get into the debate. I hope that Members will be generous to each other.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

I shall endeavour, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to abide by the spirit of the recommendation which you have just made to the House. May I first declare a very small interest in the subject matter of our debate today in that I am a small shareholder in the Rio Tinto Zinc Company, the British project managers.

I am bound to say that I have listened with the utmost astonishment this afternoon to the arguments with which the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) have endeavoured to bolster up a half-hearted approval of the scheme for a Channel Tunnel and the amendment which has been tabled in the name of the leadership of the Labour Party. I say that I have listened with the umost astonishment, because it seems to me that what the Labour Party and those who put their names to the amendment are asking for is not a twentieth-century tunnel at all; it is a nineteenth-century tunnel. What we are asked to approve is a rail-only tunnel, as if the motor car either did not exist or was shortly to fall into disuse because there were to be no petroleum supplies left in the world. Perhaps it is not surprising that the Labour Party should be looking for a nineteenth-century tunnel; perhaps in a great many other respects it is behind the times.

When one looks at the arguments with which the Opposition endeavoured to bolster up their case, one sees that they are even more astonishing. I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Grimsby. He said "Let us do away with the roll-on/roll-off possibility. Let us make this a much smaller gauge tunnel, so that only trains may go through it. After all, we are facing a fuel crisis in the world." Of course in a sense we are, or we may be. We all in politics tend to take a somewhat apocalyptic view of the circumstances which afflict us from day to day. But there are still enormous petroleum supplies in the world. It may be that they will be temporarily affected by events in the Middle East. It may be that over the next half century they will run down and we shall have to look for other sources of energy.

But the Government of the day, in formulating a great project of this kind, have to look at circumstances as they are—at great oilfields still in the world, and at great oilfields on our doorstep in the North Sea to which we ourselves shall have access. It is wholly unrealistic to suppose that, from one day to another, the people of this country will forsake their motor cars or be driven out of them; that the motor car is no longer going to run on the roads; that freight is no longer going to cross the Channel in great container lorries, and that everybody will be back in the railway train again.

What the Government are doing—I applaud them for it—is making the best of both worlds, and looking forward to the two contingencies which are the main contingencies before us in the second half of the twentieth century. They are producing a tunnel in which people and freight may travel by rail but which will also funnel a large part of the motor traffic of this country on to the Continent. To have made a tunnel for rail only would have been an astonishing dereliction of duty and probably a complete waste of money, because it would have halved, or even further reduced, the amount of traffic that might have gone through it. The argument of the right hon. Member for Grimsby reminds me very much of the suppositions which one sees from time to time in the Press and elsewhere when we have a hard winter or an indifferent summer, that the one or the other is the harbinger of a new ice age. It is not because we face a possible reduction in our oil supplies that the Government must not take account of the fact that a great deal of the transport of the world in the foreseeable future will be powered by petrol, in the motor car, in the lorry and by air.

I now turn to an argument with which I have a great deal more sympathy—the environmental argument. I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) and for those who spoke in our debate on 15th June, many of them Kentish Members, in trying to estimate the effects upon their county, and upon the constituents whom they represent, of the great agglomeration which will undoubtedly grow up at Cheriton at the mouth of the tunnel to deal with traffic which goes there to get on to the trains through the tunnel, as opposed to that which may come already by train from distant parts of the kingdom. One has only to look at the projection of future traffic to the Continent, based on the most careful studies of the build-up of traffic over recent years, to see how enormously it will increase whether or not there is a tunnel. I am looking at Annex 5 on page 48 of the White Paper.

In introducing the motion to the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State referred to a doubling of present traffic by 1980 and a redoubling by 1990. Whether we have a tunnel or whether we do not, this vast increase in traffic will call for an immense increase in dockyard space, in road use and in the need for roads in the very part of the world where the tunnel is to be constructed, because a large part of that traffic goes through the ports of Dover and Folkestone. By providing an important alternative, I believe that the tunnel will protect the environment to a very large extent. I endorse the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks, who invited my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister to consider the question of channelling heavy lorries on specified routes. This is something which I believe my right hon. and learned Friend has very much at heart, and it is something which we ought to look forward to doing in this country, particularly in so far as traffic is routed towards the mouth of the Channel Tunnel. For these very reasons, expressed as succinctly and as shortly as I can put them, I believe that, far from foreseeing damage because of the tunnel, we ought to foresee an environmental benefit.

I turn now to the more positive aspects of the matter. I have always been a champion of the project to build a Channel Tunnel. Never has it been more necessary than it is today. We are a country living by trade, living by commerce, and that trade and that commerce more than ever before will be found in Europe. It is with Europe that we hope that our trade and our commerce will flourish in the years to come. This project will make us an integral part of the European transport system. In the first place, there will be a way to the Continent which will not be subject to the vagaries of the weather. It is not surprising that the British Chamber of Commerce in Paris has come out strongly in favour of the Channel Tunnel project, and in the editorial which it published in its newspaper in October it made this very point. Traffic through the tunnel will be something which will not be held up by gales or bad weather in the Channel.

Secondly—I make this point as a West Midlands Member—the tunnel will integrate the British Railways system into the European railways system. The tables which have been set out in the document, provided for Members by British Rail, "The Express Link with Europe," show how this will be done. Freight and passengers will be able to go on rail at the most northerly pionts of these islands and go through to the Continent. It is impossible to estimate the full benefits of the system of this kind, at a time when we have become members of the European Economic Community and are looking to European trade in large measure for our livelihood.

Thirdly, I agree with a great many of those who have spoken, both today and in earlier debates, that we may look forward to a time when railway travel, both for passengers and for freight, will achieve a greater importance than it has now, because of the reasons which have been given and because of a possible rundown of oil supplies. This system will encourage people to go by rail. To some extent, therefore, it meets the arguments of those who want to make it only a rail tunnel, though for the reasons I have given I believe that a tunnel in both forms is absolutely essential to our well-being as a country.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

Does not my hon. and learned Friend realise that what he is saying is simply not true? The tunnel will not increase the number who go by rail. The provision of roll-on/roll-off services for the freight lorries and passengers' cars means that traffic will be going under the sea instead of over the sea. One does not go on a railway over the sea. These are road vehicles which will remain road vehicles even though they are in a tunnel.

Mr. Grieve

I am grateful for that intervention because it enables me to make the reply that the tunnel as constructed under these proposals will provide for both methods of transportation. Therefore, those who see advantages in freight going straight through to the Continent by rail will be able to take advantage of that very situation. The effect of the tunnel will be to bring the British rail system into one with the continental system.

I had the advantage earlier this year, as Chairman of the Franco-British Committee in Parliament, of leading a delegation to France, and a number of those now present in the House were on that delegation. They will remember the speed of the train which took us from Paris south towards Toulouse, running at, I think, 120 or 130 mph. We are looking forward to the day when we shall have high-speed inter-city trains running in this country. From the point of view of passenger traffic, there will be an inestimable advantage in going straight through, as the plans in the British Rail pamphlet show, from Scotland southwards through London and on to the Continent to the many destinations which will be open for persons going for pleasure and business.

If the House turns its back on these proposals and this scheme, it will be turning its back on an absolutely necessary form of progress in this, the second half of the twentieth century—necessary for our survival and for our economic prosperity. For these reasons I commend the scheme to the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

We are getting on very badly. We have already lost one 10-minute speech. An enormous number of Members still wish to speak, all of them with extremely good claims. The Chair has a very difficult job. It tries to please as many people as possible, and I hope I shall get some assistance. Mr. Richard Mitchell.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

I shall obey your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

It is impossible in a short speech to give a detailed argument for or against the Channel Tunnel, so perhaps the House will forgive me if some of what I say is by way of generalities.

When I first saw the Opposition amendment I was reasonably happy. I must say that as I listened to parts of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) I became rather less happy. It is semantically not possible to be against a Channel Tunnel in principle, but I gather that both Front Benches have accepted the argument that there is a need for a tunnel. I am by no means convinced that the case for a tunnel has been made out at the moment.

The first sentence in the White Paper is that A fixed link between this country and the Continent has long been talked of. Certainly it has. Ironically, it is probably true that 50 years ago, before the development of other forms of transport, there would have been a stronger argument for building a tunnel than there is at the moment.

What are the arguments which are put forward in favour of a tunnel? One which was popular until recently—we have not heard it today—is the emotional or romantic argument that it was all part of the great European dream, that we needed a fixed link with the Continent in order to play our true part in Europe. There has been such a tendency in certain speeches by the Prime Minister. I am not at all convinced by the "European dream" argument. In fact, I think it has become more like a nightmare than a dream. However, that argument has not been used today.

Then there is the argument about the increase in trade. It is said that, because of the inevitable increase in trade between us and the Continent, the tunnel is essential. That is reflected also on page 1 of the White Paper, which states: It would be the cheapest and most satisfactory way in the long run of providing for the dramatic and continuing increase in cross-Channel traffic". We accept that there will be an increase in cross-Channel traffic, although it is very difficult to predict exactly what that increase will be in 20 years' time. I am by no means convinced that a fixed tunnel is the cheapest and most satisfactory way of providing for whatever increase in traffic there may be. A strong case can be made for greater investment in the cross-Channel ferries. This case has been put forcibly by certain people who have considerable knowledge in that field. The great advantage is that whereas in a Channel Tunnel we have a development costing £700 million which has to be done at one moment, the cross-Channel ferries can be developed and increased as the trade demands. It does not all have to be done immediately, risking the future. New ships and ferries can be developed as trade increases.

I happen to have some faith in the hovercraft. I do not believe that the hovercraft has all the answers for the future, but the hovercraft service across the Channel has, I think, been successful. Because the Government are determined to go ahead with the Channel Tunnel they have cut research and development into the hovercraft. The Minister for Aerospace and Shipping came to Southampton recently and said that the hovercraft industry could expect no more aid from him. That is one of the results of the decision to have a tunnel.

All these figures tend to be very suspect. It is difficult to judge what people's holiday habits will be 20 years hence. It may be that in 20 years' time more people will want to go to France or to Western Europe on holiday; or if there is an increase in prosperity, instead of going to France, Belgium and Spain, many people may be going to more adventurous places like Cyprus, Greece or the Seychelles. On the other hand, the tendency may be reversed and people may decide to take holidays at home and go to Scotland. [Interruption.] As I am reminded, they can come to Southampton, Where they will be very welcome.

There is the environmental argument that the tunnel will divert traffic from road to rail. Unless we have a rail-only tunnel the amount of traffic which will be diverted from road to rail will be relatively small. The proposals as outlined in the White Paper will do very little in that respect. It will increase and intensify the environmental pressures into one particular area. The lorries which at the moment come to Southampton and go on to the cross-Channel ferry to Le Havre will no longer come to Southampton. Some of my constituents will be very pleased about that, of course, the whole lot will be concentrated in the overcrowded arear of Kent. Despite the survey which the Minister produced, this will be disastrous.

It will be argued "Here is the Member for Southampton. He has got cross-Channel ferries. He is arguing a constituency case." There are those who will argue against the tunnel because inevitably it will have an effect on cross-Channel ferries, and in my constituency it would therefore have an effect on employment and on trade. That is perfectly true. There are others in Southampton who want to get rid of the cross-Channel ferries so as to reduce the number of heavy lorries passing through the town.

On the regional argument, here is another example of everything being concentrated into the South-East—first Maplin and now the Channel Tunnel—to the neglect of the other regions.

There is also the question of priorities. The Government are making a capital investment of £700 million. It is ironical that, at the moment when they are asking the House to approve this capital expenditure of £700 million, my local education authority has had to announce the postponement of urgent projects for the improvement and replacement of old schools in Southampton because of a Department of Education and Science circular. It took a long time to get approval for this work. Now that we have to delay the work when we get authority to go ahead, the new tenders may be outside the cost limit because prices will have risen in the meantime. The Government have their priorities wrong. At a time when they are reducing expenditure on education and the National Health Service they are proposing to spend £700 million on the Channel Tunnel.

I do not think that the case for the tunnel has been made out. Even if it has, it certainly has not been made out for this moment and for this type of tunnel. I hope that the House will vote for the Opposition amendment and against the Government.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. John Sutcliffe (Middlesbrough, West)

I shall speak against the tunnel, and I hope to keep my remarks short. It used to be argued that the tunnel was needed to meet the forecast doubling of cross-Channel car traffic by 1980. Now, no one disputes that air and ferry services can cope, and can cope beyond 1980. It is generally agreed that the tunnel will not generate any traffic as, for example, the Severn Tunnel has done.

At present, 64 per cent. of freight goes to the Continent from ports outside Kent. Ports between London and the Tyne provide the shortest and the cheapest routes between the industrial regions and the heavily populated areas of Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany. The main effect of the tunnel will be to funnel into Kent more of the traffic that is now spread through the United Kingdom. As the official cost-benefit study states, it will attract roll-on /roll-off traffic away from the East Coast ports as well as Dover. In other words, it will divert lorry traffic into the already overcrowded South East.

The tunnel could be an attractive proposition if it could be shown that it would greatly alleviate the juggernaut menace. Equally it might appeal if it were shown that it would help to diminish British Rail deficits in the years ahead. I see no comfort in the tunnel on either of those counts. The tunnel will reduce British Rail's deficit only if British Rail can demonstrate that it will get from its £220 million investment in the rail link a surplus well above the normal 10 per cent. return. But we still await from British Rail figures to justify this investment.

As to the freight-carrying prospects of the tunnel, it appears that British Rail attaches so little importance to this aspect of the project that it has not even attempted to justify the proposed Folkestone to London rail link by estimating the contribution that freight carried on it might make to its revenue. The British Channel Tunnel Company in its forecast estimates the potential tunnel freight market at 6 million tons in 1970 and 13 million tons in 1980. That is only 15 per cent. of the total trade with tunnel-zone countries—I refer to the European Community, Spain, Austria and Switzerland. The company expects to capture about 40 per cent. of this market, of which three-fifths would consist of through rail movements, the rest being roll-on/roll-off trucks using the rail shuttle service only. The company expects—the White Paper figures endorse this—that under one-third of the potential tunnel freight market will be diverted from road to rail. That is less than 5 per cent. of the total trade with the tunnel-zone countries.

An expenditure of £700 million that will bring about so marginal a switch from road to rail can hardly be justified on environmental grounds, especially when at least as much freight could be switched to rail by a modest expenditure of about £20 million on up-to-date rail marine facilities at East Kent ports—a journey one-and-a-half hours longer than through the tunnel but three hours quicker than the present rail/ferry route on an out-of-date service.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

Will my hon. Friend tell me how lorries will get through the port extension to Folkestone and Dover without devastating the towns?

Mr. Sutcliffe

That is a difficulty which applies equally to the rail shuttle service. If there is a problem here, it is no worse a problem than exists with the Channel Tunnel project.

There are reasons for doubting the profit forecasts, one basis of which is the forecast of future passenger traffic. This is essentially a passenger tunnel, and a tourist passenger tunnel at that. There is nothing wrong with tourists except that they are fickle. No one in the tourist industry would dream of making confident forecasts even seven years ahead, let alone 17 years. Had we debated this project 17 years ago we would not have heard of charter flights. If today we have heard of fly/drive holidays we do not seem to recognise the significance of that development. Included in the price of the air ticket is provision for a car to be picked up on arrival. By this means one saves almost 1,000 miles of exhausting driving to reach the Mediterranean. That is the advantage of air travel. But, surely, we are a nautical nation. No one knows how tourists will react to saving one-and-a-half hours by travelling in what may be a claustrophobic tunnel rather than enjoying a short sea voyage. There must, therefore, be a big element of uncertainty about future tourist preferences.

If tourist passengers are one basis of the profit forecast, the fares they pay are the other. The Coopers and Lybrand study based its forecast on the cost of operating the ferries. It assumed that the present pricing policies of the ferry cartel will continue. There is, as we know, 70 per cent. unused capacity on the Dover services. One can forget the winter months; it is the months from March to October that matter. It should be possible in these months to spread the load towards spring and autumn and to reduce the severe summer peaking which occurs at only four or five weekends.

The obvious way of spreading traffic is to reduce mid-week fares. But this is what the cartel ferry members have never favoured. By adopting a differential pricing policy, by just about halving midweek fares, the ferries could well achieve utilisation of at least 50 per cent. That would be double the present level of utilisation. It is what the airlines, with the same severe seasonal problems, manage to achieve. The ferry companies could then cut the total size of their fleet geared as it is to carry peak traffic and so cut capital overheads and improve the cost structure.

But Cooper Bros, assumed no change in the pricing pattern and no reduction in costs. Is that a realistic assumption when the Monopolies Commission is due to report on the ferries? Is it right to commit ourselves to £700 million worth of investment before that report is published? Suppose that the Monopolies Commission recommends competition on cross-Channel routes and that, between now and 1980, the ferries develop an unassailable market position. The tunnel forecasts for captured traffic would then look ridiculous.

Undoubtedly ferry fares could come down in real terms by an average 50 per cent. over the next five years and before 1980. What then would the tunnel charges be, and what would happen then to its forecasted market share and its gross revenue? Either the Government would be obliged to protect their investment by granting the tunnel a monopoly status or they would be forced to invoke their guarantees. Either way the public would pay.

I have no doubt that the risk is high and that the risk has to be borne either by the consumer or by the taxpayer. We should be wise to recognise this fact and to make sure that we do not duplicate scarce resources. We should look far more closely at alternative policies before we approve the policy set out in the White Paper.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. Graham Tope (Sutton and Cheam)

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) spoke in scathing terms about the European dream. Speaking for the party that first advocated our entry to Europe and that still has a European dream, although it is markedly different from that of the Prime Minister, I believe that I should start at that point.

For that reason alone we would start by examining the Channel Tunnel proposals in a favourable light. We would naturally favour any way that might give a better opportunity to bring the people of Europe and ourselves closer together and an opportunity for closer trade and cultural links.

If we are to go into such an enormous venture as the Channel Tunnel, it must do more than simply bring the people of Europe closer. It seems to me that the present thinking on the tunnel proposals in the White Paper sees the tunnel simply and solely as a link between two coastlines, as a sort of underground car ferry.

At a time when people are rapidly becoming more and more concerned at the increasing number of heavy lorries on their roads, we should not be encouraging the idea of a rolling motorway, as it is termed in the White Paper and elsewhere, which can divert only more traffic from rail to road. The tunnel should be seen as part of a national transport policy, oriented towards reinvigorating the railways. I hope that the Minister will have more to say about that subject in the next few weeks.

The tunnel could be a marvellous opportunity to integrate our rail system with that of Europe and get more of our freight off the roads and on to the railways. Surely that it what most of us are seeking to achieve.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)


Mr. Tope

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to debate that subject when we discuss the rail policy review in a few weeks' time, especially as we are trying to be brief tonight.

Viewed in that context, the tunnel could bring tremendous environmental and economic benefits to the people of this country and Europe. That is why we in the Liberal Party support the tunnel in principle.

There is a very strong case already made out for a rail-only link. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) referred to the case made out by Professor Bromhead. I believe that the Minister himself suggested that it was not profitable, yet I understand that the Channel Tunnel Company, has said that a rail-only link would show a 10 per cent. return calculated on a discounted cash flow basis. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that.

Professor Bromhead has already made out a good case for a rail-only link which, in view of the limited time, I do not propose to go into in full. However, in a letter to The Times dealing with the new high speed trains he said: The through-rail passenger traffic using the tunnel by 1990 could reasonably be put, to begin with, at between 25 and 40 million passengers, mainly transferred from air, partly generated by the new facility. Even on a more conservative basis, British Rail has estimated an increase in traffic of 40 per cent. due to increased speeds. We have heard too that a rail-only link would be cheaper to build by 30 per cent. in capital costs. Surely, this, coupled with the need, with which I am sure most of us agree, to get freight off the roads and on to the railways at the very least warrants a proper independent investigation into the proposals for a rail-only link.

On the subject of energy, the thinking behind the Channel Tunnel has assumed throughout a continuing supply of cheap and plentiful oil. The hon. Member for Milddlesborough, West (Mr. Sutcliffe) seemed, certainly at the beginning of his speech, to make that assumption. Only yesterday, however, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said: It is naturally a time when we must ask the public to do everything in their power to avoid any wastage not only of oil but also of our total energy resources."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th October 1973; Vol. 861, c. 1255.] The energy crisis has not happened because of the present tragic events in the Middle East and it will not end should we be fortunate enough to find a solution to them. It has been with us for a long time and it will grow.

To those who think that this is merely alarmist talk from an environmental lobby, I would point out that the chief planner for BP—this is an oil company speaking, not an environmentalist—has warned that, even if we discover 20 American billion barrels of crude oil a year—that is, the equivalent of two North Seas a year—at the present rate of increase we cannot expect to keep pace with demand from 1978 onwards.

What effect will this have on the traffic projections for traffic using the Channel Tunnel? We do not know. There is no real study of this in the White Paper or the other documents that have been brought forward. The profitability of the tunnel proposals as projected at the moment depends on the use made of it by private motorists. If petrol is to cost, say, £2 a gallon, will people still want to take their cars on touring holidays in Europe, or will they settle for package holidays in Majorca, which would be far more within their means?

If hon. Members think that I am exaggerating when I talk of a price of £2 a gallon, I would point out that President Nixon's adviser on energy matters postulated in 1971 that by 1980 the Middle East Governments would be taking $3.50 a barrel. Yet today, only two years later, the Libyans are taking $4.90 a barrel. So a price of £2 a gallon is not necessarily so wildly outrageous. Yet no account seems to have been taken of this or of the energy crisis in the calculations on which the proposals for the Channel Tunnel are based.

I turn now to the subject of Kent. I would start by echoing the remarks of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) about the very little consultation that has taken place with the people in Kent or, indeed, with their elected representatives. I believe that they have had one meeting so far.

Mr. Peyton

The hon. Member really must not say that sort of thing. There have been dozens of meetings among the private group, the project managers, officials of my Department and myself. Before he made a remark like that, if he were to consult, for instance, the Kent County Council or any of the local authorities involved, he would have it rebutted immediately.

Mr. Tope

My remarks have come directly from Kent county councillors. I wonder whether the consultations have been with the county councillors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] If hon. Members from Kent say that this is not true, I will obviously withdraw. More consultation is needed and I am sure that hon. Members from Kent will agree that there is considerable alarm and suspicion about these proposals among people in Kent.

The Minister said a number of times that no extra road capacity will be needed beyond that already projected. Yet the Kent county surveyor has said, apparently, that the Maidstone and Ditton bypasses on the M20 will be unable to cope with the traffic increase projected in the White Paper. I understand that it is widely believed in Kent that the M20 will have to be doubled in size if it is to cope with the projected increase.

The question then arises of development in Kent. It has been said that planning authorities will be able to control the inevitable pressures in increased development in Kent. Yet already we are seeing increasing applications for planning permission for more and more warehouses, cold stores, distribution centres and so on in Kent, many of them off the main roads. All these developments will generate traffic on Kent roads. The Kent county planning officer is reported as having said: The proliferation of depots, cold stores and the like is inevitable. Also inevitable is the construction of hotels, motels and service areas required to feed, water and comfort the drivers and passengers who cross Kent to the tunnel. That is the county planning officer speaking, yet we are led to believe that planning will control development in Kent.

If this development takes place, more and more jobs will obviously be created. But where will the labour come from? I understand that there is an unemployment rate in Kent of only 1½ per cent. The labour is simply not available there. If it were to be imported—I would consider that a bad thing in itself—there would not be enough housing. All these points demand a public inquiry into this proposal and its effect on Kent, its relationship within a national transport policy and how it is seen in the context of our future energy problem. I therefore support the Opposition's call for a public inquiry.

Mr. Peter Trew (Dartford)

On a point of information. Is the hon. Member the official Liberal Party spokesman on Kent?

Mr. Tope

I do not know whether the Conservative Party has an official spokesman on Kent, but the Liberal Party does not.

Finally, I echo what other hon. Members have said about the financial implications. If this project is as profitable as we are led to believe, why do we need guarantees from taxpayers' money? The idea of a Channel Tunnel is good in principle, but an inquiry into the full implications of the proposal is needed and I believe it would find a rail-only link to be far more beneficial. For that reason, I and my colleagues will be supporting the Opposition amendment and voting against the proposals in the White Paper.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

Before I become critical I must clear up a point touched on by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope). My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has been exemplary in the way in which he has consulted the Kent County Council as well as hon. Members with Kent constituencies. Those of us who represent Kent constituencies have better reason than anyone else to know this, and it must go on record. Anything which is said to the contrary, even by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers), is rubbish.

For certain reasons I think that the Government have, on balance, reached the right decision about this project, but they are not the reasons which persuaded them to embark on the proposal, nor are they altogether the reasons which are now advanced in the White Paper. I have no doubt that in the early stages the moving force behind the project was the French, whose support, for obvious reasons, we wished to win.

The opponents of the proposal have a point, which cannot be entirely dismissed, in asserting that the French had, and must still have, a stronger vested interest than us in the project. Their monumental efforts at Dunkirk illustrate the importance to them—and it is a legitimate aim—of winning a larger share of the traffic which is now going to and from the United Kingdom via Belgian, Dutch and German ports. That line of reasoning is not now calculated to get support in all quarters here, so I will not dwell on it, but we should be aware of it.

Weight is now increasingly being put on British Railways and on the environmental considerations, which I want to dwell on more critically. As the Green Paper, which was published in the summer, was at pains to point out, the weight of road traffic on the corridors between London and Europe, mainly through Kent, give rise for alarm. If we could show that the European rail network, with greater distances favouring railways, would help alleviate this weight, which is increasing at 8 per cent. a year, we would find that there was a popular case for proceeding.

We may be in danger of pushing this argument too far and overstating the environmental case. On this point I am in agreement with the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). But in any case I do not think that this is intrinsically the main justification. I reach the opposite conclusion to that of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam.

What tips the scales in favour of the tunnel is not French co-operation, or even the environmental considerations, but the possibility of a fuel crisis, which has been underlined by recent events. The project would at least pave the way for a shift from oil traction to electric traction, and that is a powerful factor in its favour. There may be good reasons for not overstating this in public, but the factor exists and is now a principal justification. There may be cogent, diplomatic reasons for not dwelling on it in public, but equally there are good reasons for not trying to oversell the project for the wrong reasons.

We have been presented with a mass of paper and documents on this project. I cannot for the life of me imagine why anyone is in favour of any further inquiry or report. It takes a weekend merely to skim through the documents we already have.

The most difficult matter is to get the proportions right rather than to understand what these technicians say. It is imperative not to mislead ourselves or potential customers about what the railways can immediately achieve. I do not believe that, in the context of Europe, we can possibly say what will happen in the 1990s in respect of freight travelling by container or by roll-on/roll-off through the tunnel to this or that port. I know that to say this is heresy, but it is my opinion.

I turn first to freight. Continental trade with countries outside the Channel Tunnel zone was about 200 million tons in 1971. In the Channel Tunnel zone, but not likely to be diverted by the tunnel, it amounted to 36 million tons. The potential tunnel market, according to the economic and financial study, is about 6.1 million tons, which is about 0.4 per cent. of continental trade.

The September White Paper says that the tunnel is expected to attract at least 5 million tons in the first year, doubling by 1990. I find it difficult to assess how much will be roll-on/roll-off and how much will be container traffic. That is a rather blurred area. I understand that later studies suggest that containers will carry more than we now believe. Let us hope that that may be true.

The fact is that there are physical limitations, which the White Paper is silent about but about which British Railways have been rather more open. There is the loading gauge factor. Even with the new £120 million rail link from the tunnel to White City, a great deal of continental rolling stock will not be able to go beyond the White City. We shall be running a certain amount of available freight—we say three-fifths—on our own rolling stock.

I understand that about 10,000 wagons in Europe are now loading gauge dual-purpose, able to run on our tracks as well as European. Even so, there seems to be a big interchange in prospect at White City. That must be borne in mind before we become too bullish about what the railway network with Europe will generate. I suspect that in reality quite a lot of our own rolling stock built for the purpose, will be direct-link between multinational companies, between Ford of Dagenham, say, and its counterpart in Germany.

Whatever the French or anyone else may say or hope, my conclusion is that, short of a fuel crisis, the tunnel will leave a considerable volume of traffic to move by roll-on/roll-off, not only on the railways but still between the ports, to Hamburg, Zeebrugge, Amsterdam and Rotterdam in particular. I am not persuaded that there will be a big switch from those ports. The more I look at what goes on in them, the more doubtful I become.

We should not mislead ourselves or industrial customers about the services outside the tunnel which will be needed and which must be fostered. There is a difficult balance to be struck between what we do for this great project, which the Government are guaranteeing and in which they will have a hand, and what we do for the ports, which will have a continued use. We trade with Germany, Belgium and Holland as well as France and Italy, which are the two countries attracted by the tunnel.

Then let us consider passenger travel, both business and pleasure. My reading is that the shift will be less from road to rail than from air to rail. I do not doubt that many who now endure the purgatory of the short journey from Heathrow or Gatwick will prefer to go by rail to Paris and Brussels, even at current speeds, let alone high speeds. But that does not meet the environmental point. It is clear to me, and I must make it clear to my constituents, that the bulk of passenger car traffic will go from the Cheriton terminal. We had better say that loudly now and not be caught out later.

If we examine modes of travel we find that about three-quarters of present passengers with cars travel from Dover and one-quarter from five other sea ferry routes. According to the economic and financial studies, half the Newhaven and Harwich traffic and one-third of the Southampton traffic will divert to the tunnel. My calculation, based on that study, is that in 1971 3 million passengers crossed with vehicles via Dover and that in 1980 one-third of 15 million—5 million—and in 1990 one-third of 30 million—10 million—will go via the tunnel and from Cheriton. That is the amount of saving of passenger transport on the road.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby spoke about the possible complex at Cheriton. Is it true that land around Cheriton is being bought by continental interests, German in particular? I am not asserting that it is, but if it is true it suggests that those interests see a major potential for development in that zone. It is something that we had better get straight before we finish the debate and possibly mislead people about the environmental factor, which worries me.

I do not want to be unkind, but the promoters of the tunnel and the Government are to some extent talking at cross-purposes. The Channel Tunnel Company naturally wants to advertise the amount of traffic that will be drawn to the tunnel, even to the tunnel mouth. The Government naturally want to press the weight of traffic on the roads which the tunnel will relieve. The two aspects do not quite add up in the various surveys.

It may be said, and I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said it, that the twin motorways, the M2 and M20—M20 not yet built—can look after a great deal of the traffic. But they cannot. They will both become very crowded in the next 10 years. Secondly, many people will want to travel to Cheriton from the South and West, not on rail but on tyres. We should know whether the Government have in mind an east-west motorway linking Southampton and Dover.

My instinct, after looking at the study, is that the Government are making out a stronger prospect for the railways and for relieving the roads in Kent than the facts and prospects warrant. I wish it were not so but I fear that it is. I hope I am wrong.

As one who has based his appeal to the county on the way in which the tunnel can switch traffic from road to rail, I am most anxious now not to mislead. The case for the tunnel, in reality, resides in the fact that it could have, and may have, a major contribution to make towards conservation of oil and the transition to electricity. That justifies it. But we shall not inspire confidence if we dwell too much on the environmental factors and find very shortly that we are misleading. That would play into the hands of those who do not want to see the project started and, even when it has been started, will wish it to fail. If we want the venture to succeed, we must be more explicit about the real reasons for it and the likely consequences of our decision.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made a realistic and effective speech. I was not certain whether he was a pessimistic optimist or an optimistic pessimist.

Mr. Deedes

The second.

Mr. Ogden

The right hon. Gentleman was right to point out some of the misleading conclusions that people can reach. He was also right finally to give his blessing to the White Paper.

You asked hon. Members to limit their speeches, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is rather a lot to ask that one should limit one's own remarks to allow someone else to speak for longer than onself. I ask in return that the right of minorities be respected. I happen to be in the minority on the Opposition benches tonight. I am not certain of the size of that minority inside the Parliamentary Labour Party My view is one that I have held for some time, and I should like to take a little while to express it.

Debates in the House usually attract more opponents of a scheme or proposal than supporters. It seems that we have a fair number of Luddites in the House tonight. [An hon. Member: "Rubbish".] I did not interrupt anybody else. The more interruptions there are, the longer I shall have to take, and there certainly seem to be a fair number of Luddites in the House tonight.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, who is no longer in the Chamber, did not help to persuade anybody to support the tunnel. A Secretary of State for the Environment who cannot even explain how the spoil was to come out of the tunnel, where it was to be disposed of or how, does not help to persuade anyone. It might—

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)

Has not the hon. Gentleman read that these statistics are given in the documents published by the Government? There is no reason why he should not know what they are.

Mr. Ogden

About three hours ago I gave that information to the hon. Member for Petersfield (Miss Quennell) who had asked the question. All I was saying was that, if the Minister did not know, it did not help his case for the tunnel. If we take the cross-section areas of the tunnels, three of them, and multiply that by half the length, we will be able to discover how much spoil there will be. If we take the area around the Cheriton terminal, it will be found that there is a sufficient amount of levelling to be done to take care of most of the tunnel waste. It would have been helpful if the Minister could have said that.

I have an interest to declare. I am the joint honorary secretary of the all- party Channel Tunnel Group. It was the first group I joined in the House of Commons after the Parliamentary Labour Party. I have been honorary secretary for the past nine years. I do not believe that anyone will expect me to deny from the Opposition benches what I supported for nine years from the Government benches. None of my hon. and right hon. Friends has asked me to make such a denial. There has been no pressure of any kind upon me to speak or vote in a way contrary to the way in which I have spoken or voted in the past nine years.

I have no financial interest to declare. None of my family, so far as I know, has any financial interest to declare. I have 100 shares in the Laird Group—Cammell Laird's of Birkenhead—and Martin Walker of The Guardian can confirm that I invest 25p a week in Littlewood's, which is also a local company. That is the extent of my investments. If I win the pools, everyone will know.

This is not the happiest of debates for me. I come to it with mixed feelings. I am proud of the small part I was able to play in getting proposals for a fixed-link bored rail tunnel considered by the Labour Government. They were cautious in their consideration but I am proud of the understanding and the actions of Labour Ministers and the Labour Government in carrying forward consecutive stages of the scheme.

There is no doubt in my mind that Labour Government policy from 1964 to 1970 was that we should carry on with that scheme. I may have been wrong but I thought that the Labour Government were in favour of a Channel Tunnel and a lot of people outside the House thought the same. I am proud of the part the group has played in bringing the tunnel to the attention of this Government, bad as this Government are, and in persuading the Government eventually to support proposals for a tunnel link.

I welcome the Government's decision to ask Parliament to approve the White Paper and to go ahead in the coming months with legislation to provide the ways and means. I support the Government motion asking the House to approve the White Paper. I do so for what I consider to be good, practical reasons and also for one which may not be good or practical but at least it is evidence that even this disastrous Government can occasionally, all too rarely, be persuaded to do the right thing at the right time.

The major share of the praise for the Government's decision must go to the Minister for Transport Industries. His name does not even appear on the motion before the House tonight. I think that that is a shabby omission. He has had a share in this. He appreciated the difficulties and he has been a cautious optimist or, rather like the man from the Missouri, he had to "prove it" as he went along and he has accepted the proof. He must now accept that many of us who have supported the project for so long in broad principle and those who have supported detailed principles may join the opponents of the scheme on a particular point. There may well be a combination of those who have different points of view on parts of the scheme but who support it in principle, and those who oppose it for all kinds of reasons.

That has to be argued in future. There is no shortage of time for sorting out these difficulties. There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss, debate and decide on the overall scheme. The legislation gives plenty of time to differ and then to join together to make the scheme more effective. No scheme that was ever devised is so bad that it cannot be improved. I want that improvement to be practical, realistic and informed.

I am sorry that, with all the good will in the world, when I look at the two amendments tabled to the motion I cannot describe them as practical, informed or even optimistic. The Liberal Party is not my responsibility. It seemed that its amendment was aimed more at the Hove by-election than at the future of the country. The Opposition are my concern. With due respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), he said in the last debate that he was half way along the road to Damascus. I had hoped that he would have carried on a little further. He now seems to have parked in a lay-by. His steering has gone and his batteries are low. He has maintained his options in the past about how far he might go, but I am bitterly disappointed that he has not been able to persuade our party to go further than this at the moment.

The Opposition amendment is ill-informed, illogical and appallingly pessimistic—it wounds but dares not kill. It is wholly negative and fails completely to realise the opportunities in the years ahead. Let us look at it in detail. It says "whilst not opposed in principle". We have not even the decency to say that we support it in principle. It goes on to say. declines to approve"— we cannot even be positive about rejection— a 'rolling motorway' scheme ". It is hard to think of a more misleading description of a tunnel through which everything that passes goes on a railway truck of one kind or another behind a railway engine of one kind or another. This is a railway tunnel.

Mr. Crosland

I accept my hon. Friend's strictures with such fortitude and humility as I can. On a point of accuracy, however, the phrase "rolling motorway" does not belong to the Opposition. It is taken from the Government's White Paper.

Mr. Ogden

That does not help us. Just because they mislead the House, there is no reason why we should. It is misleading. This is a railway tunnel, not a rolling motorway scheme. Anything that goes through it goes by rail. What happens before and after is something else. The motion goes on to speak of threats to regional and environmental objectives.

Let us look at regional objectives because I have a particular concern here. Anything that happens in this country could, if allowed, threaten regional objectives. Office development in London, for example, threatens regional objectives. But does it have to? Can we allow it to? Must we allow it to do so? Is it inevitable that the tunnel must threaten regional objectives? Have the Commons so little power that we cannot persuade even this Government that the tunnel must not threaten regional objectives and make sure that it is an asset to all regions and not only to the South-East? Cannot we ensure that it is an asset in the South East for the benefit of the rest of the country, for Liverpool and Merseyside?

Let us remember that this is not just in terms of passengers but in terms of freight, in terms not only of land transport but of air and sea transport. The entrance to the Channel Tunnel is at Liverpool Lime Street Station, at Liverpool Docks and Seaforth Docks. For the North West it begins at Bolton, Wigan, Clayton-le-Moors, Manchester, Chester or anywhere else where there is a railway station linked with a road, where container traffic can operate.

The tunnel is an opportunity for trade and tourism in the regions—and for trade both ways. There is no reason why we should not bring cargo from Europe to be loaded on ships in the Mersey as well as discharging cargo on the Mersey and sending it all the way to the Continent.

The motion talks about threatening environmental objectives, yet we have to ask whether Kent is so pure now. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has been criticised for keeping quiet in public. He has to, and that was a most unfair criticism. Privately—ye gods! I believe he has been making the right observations in the right place.

Is Kent so pure? Does no traffic pass through now? Are there not complaints about juggernauts and overcrowding of ports and everything else? Will this make it more hazardous? Cannot we organise things so that it will be better for Kent? After all, the tunnel will take passengers, motor vehicles, containers and bulk freight away from the docks to a degree. There is no reason why expanding traffic should not move from the sea and roads on to the rail. Cannot we organise things so that we improve amenities?

Consider the area in which I and the hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) have a special interest, the Kent coalfield. There are three pits there. One may be in jeopardy. Let us consider what the tunnel could do for the Kent coalfields. It will provide the opportunity for taking Kent coal through to Northern Europe—that is, if we have any to spare. If the Kent coalfield extends, as we are told, all the way to South Wales—deep, but not inaccessible—think of the bulk trains that could carry that fuel through to Europe to an international grid. That is what the tunnel could do for one industry.

The Labour Opposition's amendment says that the proposal "pre-empts scarce resources". The total amount of cement to be used in the construction is 5 per cent. of one year's United Kingdom production. If that was spread over a five-year period, could we not reallocate our resources to this project rather than use them on office buildings of one kind and another and other things that are not so advantageous? It would not reduce the building of schools and other things that we need. Cannot we reallocate our priorities in order to find 1 per cent. per year of our cement output?

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Conservative Members are not interested in priorities.

Mr. Ogden

Hon. Members now on the Government benches will not always be with us. I am more optimistic than some. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I do not want the hon. Member to be interrupted if I can help it.

Mr. Ogden

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I prefer to make one reasonable speech four times a year rather than speeches on every conceivable occasion.

Mr. Prescott

My hon. Friend spoke during a debate in June.

Mr. Ogden

I spoke on four occasions last year. They were very good speeches.

The tunnel would call for less than 1 per cent. of the steel used each year in British coal mines. Would that be a misuse of resources?

What about rail stock? Can not Britain provide 80 miles of new railroad between London and the coast? After all, over the last 20 years both Governments have closed large sections of our railways. Cannot we afford 80 miles of new railroad and the appropriate rolling stock?

The next consideration is manpower. The tunnel will provide work for 1,500 men. In the main, these are not people who can build houses or roads. There is a particular skill in tunnelling, as I know from my coalmining days. The tunnel would call for 1,500 skilled and unskilled men. At the peak time there would be jobs for 2,800 men. Over a period new jobs would be provided for about 2,500 people. Is that a waste of resources or skilled manpower, bearing in mind that we have 500,000 unemployed?

Last year we were told that Britain could not build the machine for doing the tunnelling. We offered the Mersey mole, but it was not big enough. Now we hear that the contract to build the Channel Tunnel mole has been won by a Graves-end engineering firm, Robert L. Priestley Ltd. Subject to Government approval, it will build a 150-ton mechanical mole capable of burrowing at high speed under the sea bed. It is to be made by British skilled workers and it will be a British investment. The French will have to go to the United States to obtain a machine for their end of the project. I can see M. le General turning in his grave. Is that a waste of resources?

Where will the workers live? It will not be in a wilderness of caravans. There will be proper development and, after the tunnel is built and the people have moved on, the area could be handed over to the local authority or the university. Would that be a waste of natural resources?

The amendment goes on to say that the project lacks the support of a fully integrated transport strategy". If that be true, is it not a fact that my right hon. Friends and I have some responsibility for it? A Labour Government were in power from 1964 to 1970. We could have moved further towards a fully integrated transport strategy. Are not British Railways being fully consulted? Do they not fully support the scheme? Are not we in the Labour Party supposed to be fully in favour of supporting nationalised industries? Is it not true that all the railway unions want the tunnel? Every railway union has come out in favour of it as an investment.

Mr. Prescott

Where are all those in favour of it?

Mr. Ogden

Like Fabius, they are probably around somewhere.

Will not the tunnel reduce the need—imagined or real—for Maplin? Should not that appeal to my right hon. Friend? We cannot control the location of the new French international airport, but a lot of the traffic to there could come through the tunnel and reduce the need for Maplin.

The amendment says that the tunnel in its financial arrangements subordinates the interests of the taxpayer to those of private capital ". We hear about risk capital, but there is not so much risk. I do not hear of many bankers putting their money where there is any great risk. The company has had to sell the project both ways. The promoters have had to tell supporters that it will be profitable, and on the other hand they have had to play down the cost.

But even if my right hon. Friend and his colleagues regard this as a sell-out to private enterprise, surely they remember that there is to be a General Election in June 1975 at the latest. How far will the tunnel have gone by then? Will we not be able to rearrange any of the contracts? Surely there will by then be a Labour Government who could re-negotiate the project and take it into public ownership and control. I do not believe in nationalising everything, but this is one thing that should be taken into public control. If the financial arrangements are not good, there will be an opportunity for changing them when the Labour Government come to power. The tunnel will provide a link between Europe and the United Kingdom, and it may be that that is one reason why some of my colleagues oppose it. Anti-Common Market could equal anti-Channel Tunnel.

The amendment then demands an independent inquiry into alternative transport strategies, including a rail-only tunnel ". The alternatives are a road-only tunnel, a rail-only tunnel, a bridge, a bridge island bridge, a sunken tube, a floor tube, air and sea ferries, and hovercraft. Air and sea ferries and hovercraft operate now. Alternatives mentioned and supported by different groups have had their fair share of consideration over the last 170 years.

Alternatives have been put forward, but no one has been found with enough faith in them to back them with money as well as words. There have been lots of discussions, but no group has said that it believes in a bridge and that it will put up the money to have the bridge built. There have been lots of proposals, but not enough faith in them to back that faith with hard cash.

I now come to the last suggestion put forward by my Front Bench, namely, that there should be an independent inquiry. It seems to me to be a device to conceal indecision. It is a way of postponing a decision. If the amendment were truly representative of the attitude of the British people, we should still have Rolls and Royce making dog carts, Stephenson would have abandoned his Rocket and we should be calling for an independent inquiry into the merits of the wheel.

The amendment shows little faith in the ability of the Labour Party to realise the hopes of many people. It shows little faith in the ability of the Labour Party to take control. It is a wholly negative, pessimistic, horrible little amendment, and I want no part of it. I want the tunnel. I want the Government, who only occasionally are right, to get the proposal through. My hon. Friends know that I cannot support them, and they have not asked me to do so. The only way to support the proposal is to go into the Government Lobby tonight.

I have been twice whipped into Government Lobbies since 1970. I have twice voted with them voluntarily. There is nothing personal in my saying that I did not like it. The only thing to do tonight is to adopt an attitude of belligerent neutrality or to abstain. Let us get the scheme through so that we can alter it later if need be. The tunnel has to go ahead now if it is to be ready for the 1980s, and not in the year 2000. One of the best reasons why the Labour Party should support the proposals is so that it can get the project built and operating, then taken under full public ownership and control, for the benefit of all parts of the United Kingdom.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

We have listened to an exciting speech from the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). He has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the tunnel. Like him, I wish to declare an interest. The hon. Member has some shares in Cammell Laird. I have some shares in Rio Tinto Zinc. I bought my shares long before RTZ or I knew that it would get the tunnel.

The House will also recall that I have been a director of a firm that bears my name for some 30 years. I resigned from the board of that company two years ago. I was kept on as a consultant, but when my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment kept me on as his Parliamentary Private Secretary, I gave up that consultancy fee and departed completely from the company. I still hold some shares in the company.

If anyone thinks that my speech, with certain reservations, is biased in favour of the tunnel and my old friends, let me make it clear that they have built part of the motorway en route to Folkestone and Dover and have done extensions to the harbour at Dover and that they have as much chance of doing construction work on the harbour as they have on the tunnel if that goes ahead.

The tunnel question has been with my constituency for 12 years. I have spoken, including Question Time, on 27 occasions on this subject which anyone can check in HANSARD—despite the stupid correspondence that has been circulated about me. When I read the Opposition amendment to the Motion and listened to the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), I wondered who it was I was talking to in the Labour Government. Who was it who said that they should have a terminal at Cheriton? My recollection is quite clear. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, went to France, saw M. Pompidou and made an announcement that we should build a tunnel. Lo and behold, that was the word. The Labour Government approached the Kent County Council, saying "Look, chums, like it or not, you are to have a tunnel. Where do you want the terminal? You can have it at Cheriton or somewhere else in Kent. but you will have the tunnel."

Listening to the debate today, it has amazed me that the Opposition can talk so about the present Government's policy. The Opposition criticise the financial arrangements. If my memory serves me right, the Opposition started this train of events. It was they who wanted a section from private enterprise. That surprised me at the time, but it became reality.

In my long research into the tunnel, I was most interested to read an article by Winston Churchill in 1936 in which he said: There are few projects against which there exists a deeper, and more enduring prejudice than the construction of a railway tunnel between Dover and Calais. How true that is. How true that has come out in the debate.

The attitude that I have always taken on this matter is that if we are to have a tunnel we must have a rail link. It would be quite wrong to have a tunnel without a rail link and to attract more traffic to that part of Kent. I have always reserved my position on the matter until I could find out definitely whether we would have a rail link. Now the Government have tied this in with the White Paper, and I am perfectly happy, except for reservations which I shall make later.

I have found that those who oppose the tunnel always make an extraordinarily bad case because they always exaggerate the matter so much. An article which has been published in my local newspaper has been passed on to several hundred hon. Members. For once, my local newspaper is not accurate. There is talk about a petition being signed by 4,500 people. I have been trying for the last five years to get an opinion from my constituents on what they thought about the tunnel. I have gone to immense trouble. I have written in my constituency magazine. I have appealed for opinions at all the meetings that I have attended. I have spoken on this matter on several occasions over the years and have always taken the attitude that whatever we do the traffic will not go away and that our job is to see that we control it.

People are frightened when we do anything new. We had exactly the same experience when it came to building the power station at Dungeness some 14 years ago. They were frightened about that then, but they are not frightened now. Such people appeal to the heart instead of to the head. I have a document which was circulated last week entitled "Freedom". The person who published it did not have the decency or the guts to put his name on it. It purports to show some of the most attractive houses in the district—we have such attractive houses—and one is led to believe from reading the document that these houses will be destroyed. I cannot check every house because I cannot find out who produced the document. I recognise most of what is depicted in the photographs. Not one house shown in the illustrations is to be demolished. That document is downright deception. It is appealing to the feelings of old people. This propaganda has produced for me three letters, written by dear old ladies, saying that their husbands or fathers are buried in the churchyard and that it is terrible and wicked that the tunnel will desecrate that churchyard. However, that churchyard is further away from the tunnel than is Westminster Abbey from St. Thomas's Hospital. No one suggested that St. Thomas's Hospital would desecrate Westminster Abbey.

In my constituency I have some very good friends. Some of them are members of the Channel Tunnel Opposition Association. They have gone to incredible amounts of trouble on this matter. They are opposing it not on a local issue but on a national issue. On their behalf, I held a meeting at Folkestone Town Hall. It was very well attended. Between 500 and 600 people attended it. The two sides discussed the matter. It was a noisy meeting, because those who are generally "anti" cannot keep quiet for very long. It was the noisiest meeting that I can remember in my constituency. But we had a very polite audience generally. The result of the meeting was a vote of about 90 per cent. against the tunnel. It makes the opposition association cross when I say that that vote did not represent a majority of the constituency. The opposition association feels that it must exaggerate its case and that anyone who does not agree with it must be wrong.

I have tried to take the view of the local authorities. The Folkestone Corporation voted on the matter some two years ago. It was in favour of the tunnel then. Now we have a new authority, the Shepway authority, and last week there was a day's discussion. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries kindly arranged that personnel from his Department should come down in force. Representatives of Rio Tinto Zinc came down in force. The meeting was attended by councillors and those who had been invited by councillors. There was only one dissident voice. When he could not get his own way, he walked out saying that the meeting was a waste of time. It was a waste of time to invite him.

At the end of the meeting the council voted on a motion that it should approve the tunnel. The votes were 18 against approval and 17 for approval. Technically, the motion was lost. But there are 54 councillors, and it was not a conclusive thing. I accept that there was a majority. I should have been very surprised if the local authority, with many people living in the area, would have welcomed it. I might wish that the tunnel was not to be there, perhaps, if I could move Middlesbrough down to Folkestone to let Middlesbrough have the tunnel to itself. But what is extremely difficult is that, although the anti-tunnel group has its technical experts, the people who have written the books, when one member of the audience at that meeting asked what the alternative was and I handed the microphone to the opposition group it was handed straight back. That is the trouble when one discusses the tunnel proposition. One cannot condemn the tunnel as it is unless one is prepared to suggest a positive alternative.

The positive alternative advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Sutcliffe) is that shipping should be increased. Folkestone was built as a port to take rail traffic. The railway engines must back down the hill having gone to what was Folkestone West junction. Folkestone was not designed for motor traffic. British Railways built a car ferry terminal in Folkestone harbour. We have great trouble because of the blockage which builds up with traffic for the car terminal. How can we cope with this increased traffic through the town—double by 1990 and four times as much by the year 2,000? Why should it not be right for us to have a bypass through Folkestone and include a tunnel to France, because that is where the traffic is going?

Several hon. Members have said that it would be all right if we did not have the terminal at Cheriton. I wish we did not have to have a terminal at Cheriton. If we do not have a terminal at Cheriton but all the traffic goes to White City, think of the congestion here. I wonder how many hon. Members have been to the Motor Show and seen how much traffic that attracts. Is is not absurd to say that a terminal of 350 acres can be tucked in at White City? Why should the traffic have to come to London and go back again?

Everybody wants everything in the national interest there but not here. Trying to discover where "there" is is like trying to find the end of a rainbow: the nearer one gets to it the further it goes away.

I am sorry that the one Liberal spokesman has left us. The Liberal Party at Folkestone put up an absolute whizz bang of a scheme. They wrote to me saying that we should not have a terminal at Cheriton because that is good farm land; we should have it at Lydd, which is at Dungeness. This is the Liberal wonder. They do not realise that Dungeness has been reclaimed from the sea. It is water bearing. Half the water supply for Folkestone comes from Lydd. An economic tunnel cannot be built there with those geological features. The Liberals achieve the usual wonder. On their proposition, the tunnel will come out at Cheriton, go right across Romney Marsh, the finest farm land in England, to be met by another motorway which comes all the way from Ashford to Lydd. In so doing a greater acreage of land will be destroyed than would have been destroyed if they had put it at Cheriton.

This is the problem. I am glad that the Minister has heard expressed the fears of some of the Kent Members. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made one of his brilliant speeches. I can shorten my speech because my right hon. Friend said much of what I wanted to say. We are definitely worried; we have the right to be. Once one starts building something like this, what develops from it? Some people think it is a dockyard. Others think it is a terminal point. If it is a terminal point such as one sees sometimes between Italy and Switzerland, nothing much grows. If it is the equivalent of a dockyard, a great deal grows.

To allay the fears of my constituents, I want my right hon. and learned Friend to give me certain fundamental undertakings. My requests are modest as usual. I want, first, my right hon. and learned Friend's assurance that the local authority will have the detailed planning inside the terminal site. I want him to confirm, as has been confirmed by RTZ, that the chalk fill—the spoil from the tunnel—will be brought by rail to the Cheriton site. This is very important. At our meeting at Folkestone last week a Labour councillor asked a question. I do not think he got a fully satisfactory answer because he did not understand the question. We want the chalk brought in by rail and deposited on the site with the roads in no way affected.

Because we are going to have a lot of construction work over the years, we would like the M20 to start from Folkestone and go eastwards. We do not want it to start from Maidstone and wind up at Folkestone and get mixed up with all the extra traffic from the tunnel construction.

Hythe has a very narrow street. If we are to have this additional traffic we must do something about a bypass for Hythe.

This is a very exciting opportunity to landscape Cheriton terminal. With this amount of spoil and that area of land the Minister has an opportunity to landscape to make it an area that people will come to see. Anybody who thinks that vegetation cannot be grown on soil which has been refilled should go to opencast mining sites which have been finished for five years. They have improved the landscape. In war time we camouflaged hangars. In peace time we can bring the greatest amount of camouflage ability to bear to make the site attractive.

I am very worried about the proposals in respect of the wagon repair station at Stanford. If my constituency is to be asked to give up 350 acres, surely it is wrong to ask it to give up another 100 acres for the wagon repair yard. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford has been fighting for years to keep the wagon repair works at Ashford. Surely it is not unreasonable that the works should be at Ashford. I accept that there may be a need at Stanford for a passing place to facilitate the entry to the tunnel site by the faster trains. If my right hon. Friend wants to keep the respect of those in the area he must give some evidence that he intends to do something about this.

I publicly thank the Minister for the times he has come down to the area and for the trouble he has taken to look over the place. In my election address I said clearly that I would press the Government in power, whatever Government it was—I was talking then about the Labour Government—to undertake an environmental survey and that, having done that, if I was then satisfied that the project was in the national interest I would support it. I went on to say in my election address that I would use my best endeavours—I hereby repeat my pledge—to ensure that the amenities were spoiled to the minimum.

For that reason I shall go into the Division Lobby tonight and vote for the project feeling confident that I can face my constituents. I have one sitting beside me. My hon. Friend the unfortunate Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) could not be worse hit and I am very sorry for him: he has a house which will be affected by road and rail. I shall go and vote for this because I believe that the alternative to it will be the ruination of Folkestone and Dover by additional traffic.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made what I consider a useful contribution to the debate, even though I did not agree with much of what he said. He spoke about the doubtful value of any further inquiry, bearing in mind the large amount of research work already undertaken. If he is talking about the kind of investigations conducted up to date he is undoubtedly correct. But he was wrong to assume that further inquiry would need to be of the same limited kind. The inquiries we have seen have supposed just the one scheme which has existed almost since the beginning of discussions on the Channel Tunnel. I want an inquiry about alternative forms. I have pressed for that repeatedly over the last seven or eight years.

Grave doubts have been expressed from both sides about the way in which we have approached very large projects. No one can be satisfied at our record so far on the way we handled Concorde, the third London airport and now the Chunnel. There were differences between the three schemes. Concorde was. of course, a prestige project wrongly entered into, satisfying an avaricious aircraft lobby which pursued the Government of the day with little concern for the future well-being of our financial resources.

Stansted, which later became Maplin, had from the outset a momentum of its own as the Government Department concerned presupposed a need for a third London airport in the late 'fifties, and this became part of Government thinking without due regard to the nature of aircraft development. The Channel Tunnel embodies the third error of the triology of schemes which illustrate ways in which the Government have no right to operate. From the outset they failed to examine all the alternatives available to them and made their choice, pursuing it without change.

With schemes of this kind all possible alternatives should be examined. Paperwork is much cheaper than construction mistakes, and the Government should have acknowledged that, whereas public administration and public thinking may not have changed much in the last 10 years, engineering practices have changed considerably, and the alternatives should have been looked into. There are those who even now think the alternatives have been examined. Nobody who has gone into this as I did when I took a team of Danish, Dutch and British construction engineers to look into the project can fail to be aware that the Government did not understand the basic need for an examination of the widest possible alternatives. It would have cost only time, not much money, before coming to and settling on a particular scheme that they thought would meet the needs of the situation.

There is, as some hon. Members have pointed out, a regional aspect to this. I have an interest in the Manchester Pic-Vic scheme. The House must be prepared for a very great deal of anger in the North-West, and particularly in the Manchester area, if a further grandiose scheme proceeds in the South-East while the money is refused for the underground system in Manchester. It is a scheme which has been thought up with great care. Schemes have been put forward for many years but none of them has been able to stand up to the scrutiny of people in Manchester, who are not prepared to spend money on a scheme unless they see it fully supported and able to pay its way. The current project met these requirements and yet it may be sacrificed when large sums of money are to be spent in the South-East.

Mr. Rippon

I hope that the hon. Member will not suggest that the future of the Manchester scheme is dependent upon whether the Channel Tunnel is cancelled or not. The Pic-Vic scheme stands or falls on its own merits, and there is no question of its being sacrificed.

Mr. Sheldon

That cannot be so. The Treasury knows full well that public expenditure must be related to what is available. Plowden said that expenditure must match resources. If more money is spent on one thing less must be spent on something else. On reflection, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that whenever large sums of money are spent it presupposes economies elsewhere. I suspect that this may be one of those cases, but we in the North-West will do our best to make sure it does not happen.

If the tunnel is built there will be considerable competition from the ferries. They are the subject of an examination by the Monopolies Commission, and since they ply the most expensive crossing in the world it will be surprising if, under the spur of competition, some of their profits are not reduced. With the tunnel we should have little more than a tarted-up ferry or, to use a more polite term, a rolling motorway. We must understand that it is essentially an expenditure for holiday traffic. Page 11 of the Coopers and Lybrand Associates' report shows a central forecast of total passengers of 49,694 by 1980. Of that number holiday makers will constitute 38,000 or 77 per cent. In view of the priorities facing the country none of us could say that spending money in these large amounts is in accordance with the criteria we should employ. When the Government were forging ahead in the spring the Chancellor of the Exchequer was talking confidently about a 5 per cent. rate of growth this year and next year and in the foreseeable future. Only today, and only last week, when he addressed the bankers was the Chancellor referring to something less than a 3½ per cent. growth rate. What may have been possible in the context of 5 per cent. becomes that much more difficult to achieve and that much less acceptable in the context of 3½ per cent. When the Secretary of State says we are taking only of 0.3 per cent. of our GNP he convinces us not of the slightness of the sum but of its enormity. It is taking a large amount of our resources which are diminishing as a result of the change of gear in the Government's economic policy.

I turn now to the finances of the operation. I understand fully that the Government, in taking a decision of this kind, are looking for some support for an independent source. They have worked out the safeguards but they are suspicious about their own figures on profitability. They naturally seek a certain security, and the security they are looking for is that given by independent people who will put up their own money. That search for security is something they will not achieve.

The Government have two choices. Either they can raise the money themselves and finance the project or they can guarantee the money. If they guarantee the money they are using the authority of the Government for borrowing that money. Of course, the advantage they confer upon the whole venture is the low interest rates at which the Government are able to raise the money. But its effect on our resources remains the same. If the Channel Tunnel were to prove successful private industry would benefit, and if it failed, and perhaps even went into liquidation, it would be the Government that paid.

What are the Government achieving from this small stake that they are asking private industry to accept? They look for consolation in the statement by Hambros Bank Ltd. in paragraph 11.19 on page 31: Hambros Bank Limited, who have acted throughout the negotiations as the Government's advisers, consider these terms to be fair and reasonable in relation to the need to raise money in the market. In order to get the money, what might be reasonable for a private investor might not be reasonable for the Government, because industry will be reluctant to invest unless it can see certain gains as a result of Government action thereafter. The private investor is bound to take account of possible Government action in future. The Government will be under pressure in the financing of this venture, if it goes wrong, to help to make it a success. The Government will be not only the banker, the guarantor, but vitally involved in the whole project. For example, if it were not profitable the Government would be under pressure to announce plans for the improvement of roads and rail connections to discriminate in favour of those people using the Channel Tunnel.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) asked whether there was to be any discrimination between road and rail-borne traffic. Clearly, the Government will be under a new kind of pressure. We know that they are under pressure at the moment from many people involved in transportation. This will be yet another pressure to which the Government will have to submit.

The private investor will be aware of all these factors. He will know that he has the Government as a backstop, so true risk-taking will not be obtained. The Government would be foolish to think that such risk taking could be obtained. In fact, they will give away much of their profits without any comparable return to the Treasury.

All these financial matters are very complex. I do not think that anyone can have great confidence in the Government's handling of them. It is important that we get witnesses before a Select Committee or some other body to try to find out what possible better alternatives we can usefully examine.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

I must confess that I find it difficult to support the scheme that is set out in the White Paper because it seems an unimaginative and half-hearted attempt to solve the wrong problem. I hope that Ministers will not continue to go around saying how terrible it is that so many people in this country seem unable to envisage carrying through great projects that this country should be capable of seeing through successfully. That is not how many people feel about the Channel Tunnel. It is not the great project as it has been presented to us; it is remarkably old-fashioned and unimaginative.

What astonishes me is that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, after all the enthusiasm he displayed over the years about the benefits of going into Europe, when confronted with the Channel Tunnel project seems to have abandoned the European dream completely.

This is an opportunity for a really large, imaginative, co-ordinated international reform of freight and passenger transport on a European scale. Instead, we are being presented with a small Anglo-French local job which, as far as we can see, takes not only very little account of the new rail plans that other European countries have for the future, but still less of the rail plans that other European countries ought to have for the future. It is high time that Western Europe started to think in terms of long-distance through rail freight traffic on a larger scale than hitherto.

Two points occur to me. First, I hope that we shall not hear the argument which was brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davis), that this is a private enterprise venture and we must accept it as it is or we shall not get a Channel Tunnel at all. I cannot believe that, with a Government guarantee, the Government cannot influence the nature and details of this plan. I do not believe that the entrepreneurs would go through with it without the Government's guarantee or if the Government sought to influence them on the nature of the undertaking.

Secondly, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve)—it seems to be my hon. and learned Friends who have been making these extraordinary remarks this evening—said that the opponents of the Channel Tunnel seemed to be asking for a nineteenth century tunnel—a rail-only tunnel. We are not. We are asking for something that is not about 25 years out of date but takes some account of the urgent need to get heavy freight off the roads and back on to rail.

My right hon. and learned Friend in his introductory speech said that that is what the tunnel does. But only to a minute extent. Comparing the journeys per hour allowed for through rail freight services with the number of journeys allowed for roll-on/roll-off lorries and car transporters, we find that for a very high capital cost—the extra provision for the larger lorries requires a much higher capital cost than would otherwise be needed—the promoters will get an inadequate return. The Channel Tunnel is a bonanza for the road haulage lobby, and it is time that we recognised it. This is not a genuine attempt to get freight on a large scale for long-distance journeys back on to rail. If it were, a much higher provision would be allowed in the scheme for through rail freight services. This is not what we are getting. This is not, in my view, a sound scheme, because it is not in line with the needs of the fourth quarter of the twentieth century.

Comparing experience in America, which is committed to road and air transport—we know the mess that they have made of that—with the efforts which have been made in Japan, for example, to try to develop a really modern railway service, we see the difference that that can make. For distances over about 200 miles long-distance rail freight handling is more efficient in terms of pure oil per ton mile. The difference gets more pronounced as the price of oil goes up, as it certainly will do. I do not believe that the economics of this tunnel project as it has been presented to the House by the promoters and the Government takes nearly enough account of this factor.

We need new high-speed rail links, and these will require the construction of new tracks on quite a large scale all over Europe. It is time that the European Commission did something about planning ahead for this kind of project. It is also time that the Channel Tunnel promoters and the Government took account of it in their forward planning. It does not seem that it has been presented to us in nearly an imaginative enough way. Everybody knows that it is all very well to say that we must take account of life in the twentieth century, that we must recognise that freight will travel on lorries on roads and that we must provide lots of transporters in the tunnel for that traffic. What we must take account of is that in this country the drift from rail to road in freight handling has gone far further than in any other advanced industrial country.

Anyone with any sense knows that it is time that road traffic was turned back. Even in Europe it is beginning to be recognised that the capital cost of doing what is required to the railway is infinitely less than the capital cost of building new motorways. It is recognised that the longer the distance of the journey travelled by freight on one train the cheaper it will be to carry it.

We are offering a service of which only a derisorily small proportion is devoted to through-railway trains, whether passenger or freight but particularly freight. What we are offering is really a rolling motorway. We are offering an unnecessarily expensive building job which will provide an inadequate service. I beg the Government not to talk about the need for us to be able to roll up our sleeves and take a great project in our stride. Let the Government concentrate on trying to produce a great project for us and not this miserable, half-baked nineteenth century scheme which we have been offered.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

The views of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) conflict with my views, but I shall be brief because I know that the hour is late and that many hon. Members wish to speak. I have been asking myself a question not only throughout the debate but for a long time previously—namely, whether it is in the national interest to build the tunnel, bearing in mind that there are changing circumstances.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) said "Why the haste? Why not more consultation?" However, it has been my experience from the first year I entered Parliament that there have been a number of documents produced on this subject. Some have been produced by the Channel Tunnel Company and some by the Government. If I were to go into the Library now the plethora of documentation which would be available would be such that few hon. Members would have the time to absorb and understand it. I do not agree that we should have more inquiries and more documentation if we are to get something done.

I remember an American general, Sverdrop, who built the Chesapeake Bay project saying to me "When are you politicians in England going to make up your minds and do something?" If they change their minds continuously there in industry or in any other sphere, nothing happens.

My attitude during the period of consultation has changed. In the early 1960s I was closely connected with the needs of industry in the provinces, including the North, and my city, Sheffield, and with the chamber of commerce movement. I am still so connected. At that time containerisation held out great prospects. Today, as is quite natural, manufacturers and industrialists in the North wish to have every opportunity to continue to send their goods to the ports, to Humberside, Harwich and further north, and, when shipping goods to the south, through Southampton. I very much hope that the concept of the Channel Tunnel will not eliminate the traffic and these alternative routes for supplies from Europe and elsewhere or the distribution of our products to our main customers.

I am sure that it is accepted that traffic will increase at a high rate, whether it be freight traffic or passenger traffic. My attitude has changed over the years because from time to time there have been bottlenecks in our ports. As an aircraft passenger I have from time to time languished only too frequently for one or two hours in a hot aeroplane waiting for take-off because of an industrial dispute. I should have thought that a third major link—the first one obviously being sea—Britain being an island to the main continent; the second, a newer one, for an air link; a third link, with continuous land link provision—would make sense. We should proceed with that immediately.

I share the view that there should be high-speed train links between the Midlands, my own city, Sheffield, and the main cities of Europe. The high-speed train is now about to enter service and there is the possibility of the advanced passenger train. Therefore, it is wise to proceed with this additional link straight away. Where I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon is that we should use that situation to pressurise goods off the roads and on to rail.

The hard fact is that every country in Europe has been trying, and this has been raised within the Council of Europe by the European Committee of Transport Ministers, to devise new techniques for transportation. But today for the industrialists, the most efficient, reliable. cheap and convenient method of transport happens so often to be the individual consignment propelled by the lorry. It may be said that on the environmental ground and other grounds that freight should be driven back to rail. However, I visited some houses in my constituency alongside a railway line, and I can assure the House that in the area which I visited the objection to rail is a good deal greater than the objection to road transport and a motorway link.

I emphasise that in 1973, in spite of the threat of an oil crisis in Europe, there is an increasing use of road transport. That is in spite of tariff quotas and immense capital injection into the European railways. It could be, therefore, that rail is not meeting the transport requirements of industry and society.

I find that the typical shipping manager in a large industrial organisation is neither for nor against, in terms of cost and efficiency, a continuous link under the Channel. He is concerned to have a variety of options. One more option would be useful if he is to provide reliable distribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon raised transport strategy and the need for imagination. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries will elaborate on the recent seminar of the Committee of Transport Ministers of Europe on new techniques for transport. In a debate at the Council of Europe. Strasbourg, I asked: What will be the pattern of transport in 1984, a somewhat symbolic year, and in the year 2000, bearing in mind that European countries have poured a fortune into their railway systems"—

Mr. Maude

My hon. Friend may be aware that as recently as last May a correspondent of The Times wrote from Strasbourg to say that the European Commission complained that the British and French Governments had not consulted it about the Channel Tunnel

Mr. Osborn

That is not relevant to what I am saying but I take note of my hon. Friend's point. I posed the question: If the railway had never been invented, would we want to use it now? If the railways had not been invented, would we find rail to be a convenient method of transport now? If we are going to use imagination and think of the future we must think ahead. Today the railway has been invented and a vast amount of capital has been poured into the railway system. However, I must stress that a Channel link which provides the option of recognising that much freight is taken by road as well as providing the option of a movement to more traffic going by rail is required.

In conclusion, I want to make only a few points. Other countries are doing much to improve their land communications where sea intervenes. There is a concept of a tunnel bridge which is scheduled to be completed in 1978 and which is some four kilometres in length between Denmark and Sweden. There is the Chesapeake Bay road bridge, which is nearly the length of what will be the Channel Tunnel, and some 18 months ago General Sverdrop arranged for me to take a car from one side to the other. It is very convenient to cross that length of water in 17 minutes in a car. There are the great tunnels joining France and Italy and Italy and Switzerland. The Mont Blanc tunnel is the greatest road engineering project of them all.

We have before us a project which has been consolidated by successive Governments of different political views, which will serve the needs of this country in 10 years' time. There is talk of a fuel crisis, which could be but temporary. Then there is always the possibility that independent transport consignments will have immense advantages over bulk transport consignments, and that within 15 or 20 years another form of propulsion could replace the internal combustion engine. For our prosperity in this island, good communications and infrastructure are vital. The Channel Tunnel is the project that is put before us. In the short time available to me I have tried to show why I shall support this measure as a continuing step in a sequence of events where there has been an opportunity for consolidation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Mrs. Reneé Short.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to hon. Members who are waiting to speak in this debate, but the Russians have announced that they are in favour of a peacekeeping force in the Middle East without Russian troops being involved, and the Americans—at a Press conference given by Dr. Kissinger—have also made the same point. However, in view of the fact that 30 American Air Force transport planes have tonight arrived at Alconbury in Huntingdonshire I would ask whether the Government intend to make a statement on the situation in the Middle East following the half-assurance that we received from the Foreign Secretary earlier today. I should like to ask whether we are going to get such a statement, and whether it can possibly be made after the end of the debate at 10.30 p.m.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure that that point has been heard by the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the Front Bench, and will be communicated to the right quarter. But, of course, it is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Rippon

I shall, of course, do that, in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

8.13 p.m.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will allow me a little danger time for that intervention. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) have both castigated the scheme as being old-fashioned. How right they are. We have been discussing this particular French connection since 1802. It is amazing that we are still doing so all this time afterwards. For 170 years schemes have been popping up relentlessly, all rejected with great determination. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) said that this was a scheme which had been supported and consolidated by Governments of both colours, but I would say that Governments have a right to change their minds and his own Government have done quite a bit of mind-changing since 1970. I can say with a good deal of certainty, as a member of the National Executive Committee of my party, which is the guardian of the policy of the party that the Channel Tunnel will not be a feature of our next election manifesto.

In 1802 a French mining engineer called Albert Matthieu proposed that a tunnel should be built, lit by oil lamps and with horses and stage coaches providing the transport. So I suppose one might say to the hon. Member for Hallam that if railways had not been invented and his tunnel had been built in the 1800s, we should have had post-chaises driven through it. Napolean Bonaparte was interested in it and—I have news for my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden)—Robert Stephenson was also in favour of a Channel Tunnel. Brunel, Napolean III, Prince Albert and even Queen Victoria was interested in it, but Queen Victoria had second thoughts and changed her mind. She was a wise woman.

There was a Channel Tunnel committee in 1868, and here we are still talking about the same idea as if we were in early nineteenth century. Though oil lamps and post-chaises have gone, we have not really brought the idea up to date. It is basically the same concept, and the so-called modern scheme which we are discussing today is almost the same as the one which William Lowe published in 1867. It is more of a gamble than the Concorde since it takes no account of possible developments in modern transport technology. It takes no account of the development of hovercraft, hydrofoils or hovertrains.

I have always opposed the concept of the tunnel link because it is inflexible and restrictive but I have always favoured the bridge tunnel, which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) has lately come to favour and of which Colonel Sverdlov is very much in favour. However, I shall talk tonight not about the form of the link but about the effects on the national and regional economies, and will touch just a little on the environmental problem, although Kent Members have put that forward very well indeed.

Obviously, parts of rural Kent will have to be developed. That is an inevitable result of building the Channel Tunnel—if we build it. Noise, dirt and damage will be caused to villages and existing buildings. No doubt, if we go ahead with it, the Government will see that the tunnel is big enough to take the French 40-ton lorries. They always give in to what the French want; they have not shown very much propensity for withstanding French demands. Although local authorities are protesting at the proposals, it looks as though the Government are determined to go ahead and override local objections.

The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is, of course, very much involved, and he made a very explosive speech. His constituents are very much opposed to the tunnel and to the effect that it will have upon Folkestone. But the hon. Member made his speech and I suppose that it will be reported very fully in the local Press. I was at a meeting in Folkestone not very long ago, and it was a very good Labour Party audience. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe should have regard to that. The audience was very much opposed to the building of the Channel Tunnel and to its effect upon Folkestone, and would support the committee which the hon. Member tended to deride.

Mr. Costain

Is the hon. Lady aware that there was a meeting with the trades council, and that when there was a vote two Labour members voted in favour? She must not think that she can speak for the whole of the Labour Party in Folkestone.

Mrs. Short

I do not know when that meeting was held, but I can only go by what I was told and not on hearsay. It is quite clear that the economic argument in favour of the Channel Tunnel is based not on freight or business travel but on tourist traffic. As the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Sutcliffe) pointed out in a very powerful speech, tourist traffic is extremely fickle and tourists will not necessarily do in two years' time what they are doing today. The tourist system cannot be relied upon for the bulk of the revenue that will come to this project. I do not believe that tourists will want to sit in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a train, stuck in their cars and not able to move and circulate, for 30 miles of travel.

If we are concerned with speed, the hovercraft is just as quick as tunnel travel is likely to be. If tourist traffic increases as the cost benefit study claims it will, there are other ways of accommodating that. Ten additional ferry boats doing three crossings a day would cope with it. If freight traffic increases as the cost-benefit study claims it will, eight traditional steamers making one crossing a day would cope with that. Ten ferries and eight steamers would cost much less than the £800 million to £1,000 million which the Channel Tunnel would absorb.

If the increase in traffic is not as the survey suggests and as the tunnel enthusiasts estimate, the existing ferries, hovercraft and steamers will suffer. It will be a question of the Channel Tunnel's gain and their loss. Some of the services which are now providing a means of crossing the Channel are publicly owned and operated by British Rail, so that a nationalised industry would suffer if the growth in traffic was not as great as the cost-benefit study estimates.

From two other important standpoints it seems the height of irresponsibility if we are considering the building of a Channel Tunnel. Hon. Members have referred to the energy crisis. Cars may be extinct in 60 to 80 years' time. We do not know. But there is worldwide concern about the shortage of fuel oil, and in 60 to 80 years' time the Channel Tunnel would be a monument to waste and selfishness on the part of the road lobby. Perhaps that is why the profits are to go to the Government after 50 years. Perhaps there is something significant in the reference to 50 years.

The other immediate and urgent criticism arises from the attitude of those who say that it does not matter about building this tunnel because it is not Government money which will be involved and the money is to be provided by private interests. It will be private capital. But it takes more than money and capital to build a project of this kind and of this magnitude. It takes men and building materials. At a time when we have a house-building programme which is a national scandal, when the Government should be investigating the appalling delays in the supply of building materials, when they should be urgently encouraging research in their own Government research establishments into new materials to replace the vast quantities of materials which now have to be imported from abroad, it is the height of folly to contemplate a scheme like this with all the demands which it will make on scarce labour and resources.

One can imagine what would happen to these two urgent aspects of men and resources if the Channel Tunnel and Maplin were to go ahead together side by side. There would be little housing, school or hospital building in this country for the next decade if that happened.

As a Midlands Member, let me say clearly that I differ from what the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said. I should like to see some of the resources which are required for this project used to provide good motorway links from the Midlands to the East Coast ports, and I should like the East Coast ports to be expanded and developed to take additional traffic. The traffic from the West Midlands does not all go to France, Germany and Italy. Some of it goes to Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Scandinavia. Why should the traffic go down to the South and then have to go back by land, more or less doubling on its tracks? It is not possible to travel from the Midlands to the East Coast area by either road or rail without enormous difficulty. Therefore, this is where there should be very considerable investment and development.

The Minister told us yesterday, rather like a latter-day Marie Antoinette, that people should desert their cars and travel by public transport. I wonder whether he has travelled by public transport recently. Urban transport everywhere, not only in London but in all our large towns and cities, is in a disgraceful situation. We have heard of the difficulties of getting staff to man London Transport because of the phase 3 requirements. It would be very much better if some of the resources to be used on the Channel Tunnel were used to improve urban transport in our large towns and cities. The urgent need of people in this country today is for housing and transport—a means of getting to and from their jobs and getting to and from their recreational activities.

The Government should be dealing with those major problems which affect everybody instead of with this white elephant of a Channel Tunnel. In a few years' time we may well find that for various reasons we cannot use it. We may find that there are new developments in transport and new ideas which, if the present Government do not support them, the next one—a Labour Government—will, which would render useless this inflexible link which is to be built at such high cost. In a short time we may well find that there are pressures to build yet another tunnel because the one in existence is not suited to take all the traffic across the Channel.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure hon. Members will not mind my saying that there are so many Members wishing to speak in this debate that if speeches exceed five minutes—perhaps even less—it will not be possible for those Members to speak.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. Peter Rees (Dover)

In view of your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will not attempt to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), except to say that I warmed more to the full-blooded enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) and to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) than I did to her dismal catalogue.

In the time available I cannot canvass the national interest, although I am not insensitive to it. I must concentrate on the local interest which I must declare as Member for Dover. It is hard to strike a balance for East Kent. I support any proposal which will relieve pressure on our roads. Even with the eastern by pass, I suspect that, without a tunnel, within 10 years pressure on Dover will be intolerable, particularly pressure from traffic on the Folkestone Road which must come through the town. On the other hand, I must oppose any proposal that will seriously prejudice the port of Dover. I hope that I shall not be regarded as unduly partisan if I remind the House that it is the premier passenger port of the Kingdom. It is extremely efficiently run. It is a national asset.

In an attempt to strike even a balance we have been given an enormous mass of documents to the point that they led to confusion rather than clarification. I must also pay tribute to the courtesy and accessibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries. He has always been available to discuss the problems that the tunnel may create—[Interruption.]. With all respect, I do not need the assistance of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope) to champion my cause in this debate.

There are certain points however on which I seek my right hon. Friend's assurance. First, there is the environmental question. Although the portal of the tunnel will be at Cheriton in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe, the work will be undertaken at the foot of the Shakespeare Cliff outside Dover. The mind boggles at what would happen if the spoil from the tunnel workings were carried in lorries by road through or around Dover to Folkestone. I ask my right hon. Friend to impose a condition on the contractors that the spoil must be carried away by rail to Cheriton.

My second question touches the future of the port of Dover, which is of great concern to me. Will my right hon. Friend assure us that there will be fair competition between the tunnel, if it is built, and the existing ferry services? I know—I have canvassed their views—that the shipping interests are utterly confident that they can compete, provided that they are allowed to compete on level terms with the tunnel. It is too early to ask my right hon. Friend detailed questions about the tariff structure, but he has told us that there will be an operating authority. Will he make sure that local interests, particularly local shipping interests, are represented on that operating authority to see fair play?

If there is to be fair competition, the port of Dover must be allowed to continue its programme of expansion and modernisation. Until now my right hon. Friend's Department has imposed a restriction that any project must be amortised by 1980, when the tunnel is due to open. Will he assure us that he will look sympathetically on any further projects and not impose impossible restrictions of that kind?

This may not lie in the province of my right hon. Friend's Department, but that is a possible consequence of the building of the Channel Tunnel which the economic consultants, perhaps pessimistically highlight. Will my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that any dislocation of employment in Dover in the 1980s will be matched by equivalent development there? I am asking for an assurance that he will press his colleagues to grant IDCs and office development permits so that a sufficient range of employment may be provided to take up the slack.

This may be a great international project. I have not been able to canvass all the points for and against, although I recognise them. If I am asked to approve the White Paper I hope that the House will feel that I am entitled to seek assurances from the Minister that my constituents will not be asked to bear the real cost.

8.32 p.m.

Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)

The fact that so many hon. Members who are in favour of the tunnel in principle say that this proposal is the wrong one convinces me that the tunnel will never be built. The idea of a Channel Tunnel has been around for long enough for the right proposal to come to the surface by now. When so many hon. Members and so much of the comment in the Press take the view that this is the wrong proposal, it is further evidence of the power of this subject to continue to fascinate and intrigue people as it has done for the last hundred years. It is, equally, evidence that whatever proposal is put forward at any time there will always be fundamental objections to it which a large number of people will share.

The Channel Tunnel is essentially a 19th century concept. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) mentioned that greatest of engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, It would have been a fitting enterprise for him. Had he lived longer he might have built the tunnel and we would not be talking about it tonight. He was, after all, the son of the man who built the world's first underwater tunnel under the Thames between Rotherhithe and Wapping. He was a man of such versatility and dynamism that he might have done it. It was not done when it was first suggested and it has not been done since, although it has been talked about for a hundred years. My bet is that it will not be built now in the era of Concorde and the hovercraft. It will be talked about for the rest of this century and then never heard of again.

The objections are formidable. Look how transport has changed during the last 50 years, yet it is implicit in the White Paper that there will be no significant changes in transport during the next 50 years of which it is necessary to take account. Then there is the distortion of this country's communication system and regional development, which suffers already from an imbalance in the South-East of England. The tunnel would mean everything going through or near London.

There is another kind of distortion which to me seems even more serious—a distortion of Britain's existing and more natural transport links with the other countries of the EEC.

We are aware at present of how difficult the French can be with their attitudes on aspects of Community policy that are important to us. As that difficulty is likely to persist, it seems to me to be unwise to commit such a large slice of our resources to tying ourselves to France in a project which is likely to benefit the French more than ourselves.

Finally, there is the question whether it is right to commit scarce resources to this project rather than to other projects. I am not convinced by what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about that. The Government say in chapter 10 of the White Paper that the Channel Tunnel: would not to any significant degree reduce the need for a Third London Airport". It is clear that the Government want to give priority to the Channel Tunnel. It is clear, too, that they are getting cold feet about Maplin. What is certain—and I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland)—is that we cannot undertake both the Channel Tunnel and Maplin.

I believe that the Government have made the wrong decision. What we need most in this country is an international long-distance seaport and airport equipped for the 21st century—in other words, Maplin, not this 19th century underwater tunnel.

8.34 p.m.

Sir Richard Thompson (Croydon, South)

I shall endeavour to conform to the wish of the Chair and limit my speech to five minutes, thereby cutting out much of what I had intended to say.

I ask my right hon. Friend in his reply to give us more weight on the environmental arguments. I want to know how the greatest pollutant of all, which I take to be noise, is to be muffled and dealt with if we build this high-speed route? What will be done, for instance, in the village of Sellinge where on present plans, the surviving inhabitants, if any, will have in their immediate vicinity the new six-lane M20 motorway, which is designed to be a road link with the tunnel portal, the new high-speed railway with frequent trains in both directions travelling at their maximum, at 150 miles per hour and, for good measure, the existing main line between Folkestone and London? All these three arteries will be packed into one roaring mass of noise and vibration. How do the landscapers propose to deal with that one?

But of course the problem is much worse at the London end of the line. Between South Croydon in my constituency, where it is proposed that the line should emerge from its tunnel, and Woldingham the new line runs into the open through a well-built-up residential area. Here again, the trains will have reached their maximum speed of 150 miles an hour. I can tell my right hon. Friend that it will take more than a bit of free double glazing to render houses along that length of track inhabitable.

Whether we think of the Kent countryside or the residential fringe of London, the environmental damage, particularly from noise and vibration, will be appalling. How is it proposed to mitigate it? I have one serious suggestion to make which is backed by the London borough of Croydon. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider it seriously. When the line emerges from six miles of tunnel near Croydon South station, it runs through and alongside much residential property as far as Riddlesdown, where it re-enters the tunnel. My constituents, many of them retired people, find the value of their property totally blighted by this threat. A long corridor of property in the southern half of my constituency is affected in this way.

British Rail cannot purchase these properties until and unless the final route and the location of the London terminal have been settled. A great deal of personal distress is caused to people by this uncertainty. In this waiting period, which may be a long one, people who may wish to move away will be unable to get a proper price for their houses. Who knows what will happen in the case of death, when the survivor, expecting to get a decent price for the principal family asset, finds it blighted and its value cut to ribbons?

A possible solution, already advocated by the borough, which would bring great relief would be a decision to put this part of the line into a tunnel like much of the rest. Technically it is possible—I have talked to British Rail about it—although of course costly. I am convinced that the cost would be much less than the cost of compensation to the householders under the Land Compensation Act 1973 and admitting all the claims for injurious affection. The line through the northern part of the borough is proposed to be in a tunnel 200 ft. down. Why not the southern section too?

Apart from anything else, the noise of frequent 150 mph trains in a built-up residential area would be intolerable. Only very costly screening can alleviate this. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will say how he proposes to tackle this real environmental problem.

To sum up, if the tunnel is built we should first—I did not touch on this in my speech because of the pressure of time—rethink the ferry terminal at Cheriton, which simply perpetuates road congestion. Second, we should introduce a positive policy, deliberately weighted, of switching passenger and freight traffic, especially freight, to rail. Third, we should put the South Croydon section of the line in a tunnel. Finally, we should devote much more attention to proposals for positive screening from noise and en- vironmental damage. On satisfactory replies to these four points my attitude in the Lobby tonight will depend.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

The Minister has had hardly any support from either side of the House for his proposals today. Certainly, in the north of England there is a great deal of anxiety about the possible impact of a proposal of this nature, taken above all with the other major capital investment projects now being discussed—concentrated as they are so much in the South-East. I do not want to take a completely opposition line to this. Attitudes could change if we were able to get a much clearer undertaking about how this project is to be developed and treated, and, above all, on how the Government see the kind of proposals put by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) with regard to the major concentration upon rail development.

It is just not enough to talk about the work that it is proposed to do to enable the rail links to be established up to London. What we want to know is what steps are to be taken to ensure the large capital expenditure and equipment cost which would be needed to extend those links right up into our many regional centres. We have no undertaking on that at all.

We must suspect that, inevitably, the major capital investment will be generated in the South-East. Unless there is a clear undertaking that there will be a comparative reduction in other forms of capital expenditure in the South-East we must, equally inevitably, oppose the project as it stands.

The crucial issue is what type of priority and preference can be given, without question, to rail to ensure that the project makes sense in our modern age and for the period ahead.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)

I believe that the vision of a Channel tunnel, which has remained a vision for 150 years, will become a reality in our lifetime.

I am concerned that of the proposed expenditure of £468 million, the margin for success which is budgeted is so small. Although I accept the broad vision, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister—perhaps not tonight but in the months ahead—will fill in some of the missing details. If he does so he will gain public support, which I do not believe at present exists because of a lack of understanding of what the tunnel could achieve.

For instance, there is a problem in trying to discover what type of services will be available. It is difficult to discover whether pedestrians will be allowed to board the tunnel services at Cheriton. Not everyone will be travelling to the tunnel from London or the North. I represent a constituency in Sussex by the sea, and people in that area would want to travel in the tunnel without having to go all the way to London to board a tunnel service.

What sort of freight will be allowed? Will oil, for instance, be transported through the tunnel, or is it considered to be a limiting safety hazard? What kind of containers would be used? Would it be possible for containers from Maplin, which comply to the International Air Transport Association standard size, to go through the tunnel to link up with air freight centres in Europe?

Secondly, I am concerned about the terminal. European Ferries, admittedly biased against the concept of the tunnel but an expert in loading vehicles, says that only there seconds per vehicle are allowed in the current 12½-minute turn-round at each end of the tunnel, which is impossible. Normally it takes about 15 seconds to load a vehicle. European Ferries says that the difference means a journey time, of three hours. Who is right?

Thirdly, what are the problems of the changeover to British guages in the transmission of vehicles through the tunnel? We have heard about the loading gauge problem. The French will supply the engines. What about the power supply to go through the tunnel? Will it be from French or British sources? Can it come from either source? Are the engines on the British and French sections to be interchangeable?

Fourthly, I turn to the question of safety. We read in paragraph 2.8 on page 42 of the White Paper that the fire-fight- ing system will depend on the methods to be adopted. That is rather too bland a statement when the whole integrity of the system depends on the ability to demonstrate adequate evacuation methods if a serious hazard should arise. Detailed studies must be produced showing how evacuation can be carried out at the same time as fire-fighting equipment comes into the same service tunnel.

Fifthly, the lack of definition of what the tariffs will be leads me to wonder about the exactitude of the calculations that form the basis of the revenue statements. How do we know that it is safe to say that charges will be 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. below those of existing cross-Channel ferry systems? The tariffs of the cross-channel steamers are still far too high, and a reduction of 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. is as nothing compared with what we want. We are being isolated by high transportation charges from our continental markets. The Channel crossing is the most expensive 21 miles of transportation in the world for passengers and freight. I should like to see the Channel Tunnel target set much lower.

I come finally to the social and economic effects. The hon. Members from Kent have had the hell analysed out of them tonight, and they all seem happy about it. When I, as a Sussex Member, asked what effect the tunnel would have on Hastings and the East Sussex area, the Department of the Environment told me that it would have none. I do not believe that, because the Administration Director of the Channel Tunnel Company said in a French newspaper on 1st September: All around the exits and further away will be an activity which depends no longer on us and of which we do not wish to speak. I want my right hon. Friend the Minister to speak about this "activity", because it is of grave concern to people throughout Sussex. What will be the effect in their lifetime of the tunnel they want to see?

8.49 p.m.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

In what must be a short speech I want to describe our lack of sufficient information on which to make a decision. There has been a great deal of talk about all the studies, about how big and heavy they are, but the issues are still very foggy in some areas.

I find myself in an almost impossible position in trying to show, without referring to the statistics that have come out of each of the inquiries, how the information affecting fundamental decisions is not as clear as it should be. I want to establish the need for fuller public inquiry. Even if the studies so far have been carried out reasonably impartially by Coopers and Lybrand, that firm is a consultant to the Channel Tunnel Company and Rio Tinto Zinc. Another organisation should have been used by the Government to crosscheck the information it provided.

There has been a good deal of talk about whether we should build this tunnel. This is a matter of priorities, of whether we are prepared to put the resources of money and materials into this type of project or into others such as housing. A crucial fundamental assumption which has been made is that the tunnel will be able to capture about 80 per cent. of Channel passenger traffic. There have been strong arguments put forward about the elasticity of the price factor as between the ferries and the tunnel. This makes the claim of 80 per cent. highly suspect. There is much to show that the ferries may reduce their costs more than the consultants imagine. This will affect the economic assumptions and consequently the viability of the Channel Tunnel.

Since the Government's case is that this has to be a commercial project, we must be completely assured about such things before embarking upon it. Shipping technology has made tremendous advances. Despite all the studies that have been done, we still have not made a full assessment. It has been estimated that about 18 per cent. of the tunnel's income will come from freight traffic. But we have not properly considered the effects of the roll-on/roll-off idea for transporting cargo. The freightliner system was theoretically sound, butt when it starts involving a road link and two or three changes in transportation, some of the original advantages begin to disappear. We must bear in mind that 46 of our ports have made special investments in roll-on/roll-off facilities and it is developed to quite an extent in this country.

Further doubts concern the true cost. It is said that British Rail will be able to make a 17 per cent. return on an investment of about £145 million. It will be more than that if we add £100 million for interest rates and inflation. What has not been taken into account is the full loss in other areas of British Rail operations, though some work has been done. British Rail—shipping, harbours and hovercraft—constitute 5 per cent. of the total British Rail turnover, yet furnished 13 per cent. of their profits in 1972.

If we get rid of this profitable sector we have to think about what will happen to other areas of British Rail shipping, such as the Ireland service, which will have to be subsidised. We shall come to the issue of cross-subsidation, and this is not taken into account in the studies.

We have also to bear in mind the amount of money that has already gone into freightliner terminals in places like Harwich. Such investment will be affected. The true cost must therefore also take into account the loss of port revenue and the associated factors, as they have little other value as assets.

The consultations have shown how many ships will be needed with a tunnel and without one on this stretch of water. The shipping industry says that it will be about 25 ships without a tunnel, whereas the consultants say about 46. Consequently they argue that capital costs equal to 46 ships are saved whereas the figure is only 25—because of changes in technology. This factor is not so great as appears at first sight. Clearly, there is a deep division of opinion between shipping and consultant interests now investigating the problem.

In any integrated transport policy someone will have to direct traffic, and this policy has not been mentioned. The transfer from road to rail of 500,000 road movements envisaged by the consultants needs further examination. The market system will not allow such a transference of traffic from road to rail to take place. We have witnessed that for 20 years. Everybody has avoided this factor when talking about transference from road to rail.

The regional effect of using these building resources has also not been taken fully into account. The issue here is the priorities of use with our limited resources. An area like mine is a transport based economy. It is not just simply a matter of losing 25 per cent. of the unitised traffic to the tunnel as stated by the consultants. One has to consider the multiplying effect of losing industries which service the dock, ship repairing and other service industries. When consultants talk of fewer ships required they should also remember that many jobs are provided in shipyards and ship repair yards in regions of our country which will be lost as work potential and activity in that area diminishes. That has not been assessed.

With regard to building material, only today I received a letter from Hull Corporation stating that the housing programme had been cut by 50 per cent. because of a lack of bricks, cement, timber and steel, plus other essential works in the welfare sector. These are the materials which will go into the building of the tunnel. Are the Government prepared to say that, as my corporation demands, essential building will be allowed but non-essential building will be stopped? That is the social equation which has to be considered.

I do not propose to say anything about finance, although I had intended to say quite a lot about this scandalous arrangement. Time prevents my doing so. There is a need for a further inquiry—a public one—into some of the matters which the consultants have not considered fully. I hope that the Government will undertake to have such an inquiry as it is essential in the national interest upon which so much depends.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

I shall be brief and refer to only one thing, and that is the environmental effect of the tunnel on Kent.

I believe that there is a need for a direct link such as a tunnel. As I know to my cost, traffic to the Channel ports is growing all the time, and I am sure that it will continue to do so. An enormous amount of traffic goes through Folkestone and Dover. Last year, freight traffic through Dover increased by 40 per cent., and there is every likelihood it will continue to increase at that rate for some time. I therefore believe in this direct link with the Continent.

My right hon. Friend has visited Kent, and as a result of speaking to the Kent County Council and to many people in the area he is aware of the problem. I have been struck by how much he has taken to heart the problems with which we are living. People in Kent are concerned about the kind of sacrifice which they will have to make as their contribution to this advance towards an improved economic and transport future.

There is no dog-in-the-manger attitude among the people in Kent. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) lives in the Folkestone area. As he said, there is a great environmental problem centred on the portal of the tunnel, because of the motorway that will be built to carry the sort of traffic that one sees on the MI. The two inside lanes are often chock-a-block with heavy lorries doing 60 to 70 miles per hour, and it is a nightmare to drive in those conditions. I have done it and I am speaking from experience. It is an absolute nightmare in bad weather. That is what it will be like on the M20 to the portal of the tunnel.

People in Kent are saying not that there must be no tunnel but that if there is to be a tunnel for the good of our country and to help the development of trade, they must not be asked to pay too high a price. I have done a considerable amount of research in my constituency. I have received more than 2,000 replies from people in my constituency who were asked for their views, and opinion is 50–50 for and against the proposal.

What prompts most people in Kent to be against the tunnel is the 340 acres required for the terminal facilities at Cheriton. They are wondering whether it will be limited to that because it is minute when compared with what is needed for a large port. Some ports are developed over 10,000 acres. Can we be sure that this beautiful part of England will not be spoiled for ever as we make this economic advance which we think is necessary?

It is the marshalling yard that worries us. I am being pressed by people on all sides who want to see us make the right decision, economically and environmentally, to ask the Government to think again about whether it is possible, even if it costs a little more, to load the vehicles in London rather than in Cheriton and to have the marshalling yard in London and so produce the magnet for so much of the road transport that goes down to this port.

In conclusion, one of the great challenges that faces an industrial society today is to make economic advances while bearing full regard and full respect for the environment. As Sir Colin Buchanan has said: Many thoughtful people are becoming increasingly concerned about where the rush for economic growth and the craze to travel are leading us and whether, at the end of it all, we shall have a country worth living in. I agree with him. I am not against the proposals, but I am concerned about the impact on Kent. I feel most seriously about this marshalling yard, plus the commercial growth which could come around it. I am honing that the Minister will assure us that there really will be imaginative environmental control in the future, and control which is different from that of the last century. Otherwise, the marshalling yard could be the greatest tragedy that Kent has ever experienced.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

My constituency interest in this matter is limited, but it is significant because my constituency will have some of the rail marshalling yards for the passenger terminal in London if the scheme goes through. I would only favour the Channel Tunnel or consider it if it was any scheme which was only a rail scheme.

It was said earlier that that possibility had been published, but it is not in Annex 3 of the White Paper. The rail-only scheme was not considered there. It was not until an answer given on 16th October that it was evident that the figures showed that the capital cost would be 30 per cent. less and that by 1990 such a scheme, on the assumption of the British Channel Tunnel Company, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) said, would be earning a surplus of £54 million on the British Channel Tunnel Company's proposal.

The Minister said that this was not on because another £265 million would need to be invested elsewhere in Britain if it was a rail tunnel only. But perhaps it is right that £265 million, or a similar amount, should be invested in Hull, Newcastle or the East Coast ports because of the regional imbalance. We can have that and a viable rail tunnel. I should have thought that from the regional point of view that argument made sense.

The cost-benefit analysis was done by Coopers and Lybrand Associates Limited While its figures may be correct—I do not know whether they are correct—it is wrong that the Department of the Environment should maintain the same consultants as the firm which is also an adviser to the British Channel Tunnel Company and to Rio Tinto Zinc. That is quite improper and wrong, however correct the figures may prove to be.

However, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the profits in this scheme. The private capital, although nominally 100 per cent., is for profit purposes only 10 per cent. and the firms involved have that stake now. Their stake is fixed. Their return will be not only 11 per cent. on capital invested but 8.7 per cent. of the revenues of the tunnel. They will get a toll and their 8.7 per cent. as long as the bondholders get their fixed interest. Therefore, they are, as it were, people on the turnpike. They will get that rake-off, about 8.7 per cent., whatever happens. On the White Paper figures, that would give them a profit of £44 million in 1990 on an investment in 1975 of £80 million to £100 million. Even on the minimum calculation, that would be a return of 44 per cent. Therefore, the fact that the State might get £200 million more profit does not mean that the private companies should get that highly inflated figure. The figure of £200 million for the State shows just how much extra cash there is available in this scheme on these estimates.

We would not be free to distinguish between road and rail, as hon. Members opposite have emphasised, because the White Paper says that there shall be no discrimination between the two. This is written into an international treaty signed with France. The Secretary of State went on about freightliners to the north, but the Minister for Transport Industries has not considered a tapered tariff for containers as suggested in the previous debate.

The scheme before us is not one that would benefit an integrated transport policy. It would be disadvantageous to the regions. It would help road more than it would help rail. That is why I shall vote against it tonight.

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)

I shall come to the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) has just made about discrimination and the financial arrangements. I hope that he and other hon. Members will appreciate that as I have undertaken to take only 20 minutes instead of the traditional 30 minutes I cannot possibly deal with all the many points made in this most interesting debate, a debate which has been the more valuable because of the great number of hon. Members that have taken part.

The Secretary of State, I am sure unwittingly, misled the House today by suggesting that what we were called upon to do was to decide the principle of a Channel Tunnel. On my reading of the motion we are asked to go much further than that. We are asked to approve the White Paper. In plain language that must mean that we are asked to approve not only the principle of the tunnel but the proposals set out in the White Paper, including all the detailed arrangements in so far as they are firmly set out there, particularly where agreements with France are involved. I should have thought also that in approving the White Paper we were asked to adopt the philosophy, the arguments, and, at least in a rough sense, the estimates on which the White Paper's conclusions are based. What the Government seek tonight goes far beyond a decision on principle. If they are not seeking that, they are capable of using language like the rest of us and could have expressed the motion in different terms.

The Secretary of State made great play of the vast amount of material that has been accumulated recently and that he estimates is 2 ft. high. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and other hon. Members have pleaded that there should not be any more material, that it is difficult enough to find our way through what is there now.

It may therefore seem odd that our amendment asks for another inquiry. We are asking for something different. We are asking for an independent inquiry, and we are asking for an inquiry in which there could be public participa- tion, which has not been the case in all the studies and inquiries so far.

One need only open any of the many journals and newspapers which have commented in recent months on the Government's publications about the tunnel to realise that there are general disquiet and dissatisfaction with the way the matter has been handled. One comment has been that the material in the March Green Paper had been known to the Government for over a year and that it was at the point when it was published that it became clear that much of it was very inaccurate. We can see that for ourselves months later when we compare the White Paper with the Green Paper.

The House has been treated less than courteously. The only debate on this enormous issue took place on a Friday. This is almost without precedent. I am glad to say that the Secretary of State acknowledged that we would have to go through the formal process of a Bill. I almost thought when the White Paper was published that today's motion would pass the Bill and the White Paper in one operation. Certainly that seems to be the Government's intention. But the whole handling of the matter has been less than satisfactory. I must make clear to the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) that a Labour Government were committed to the principle of seeking the possibility of a Channel Tunnel or fixed link. We could not possibly have come to any decision about a particular scheme, however, because we were not in office when the result of our inquiries became known. The hon. Member must not try to shuffle off on to the Labour Party the responsibility he has to his constituents.

I wish to deal with the financial arrangements and to put seriously to the Government that they must make up their mind about this matter. The Government cannot have it both ways. We are being asked to take an enormous decision involving a great amount of resources. It is estimated that there will be between a 14 per cent. and 17 per cent. return in real terms after the inflation element has been discounted. Clearly, the risk for private capital does not justify that kind of return.

Indeed, the financial commentators have referred to this point. The Observer described the return as "amazingly high", and the Sunday Times has a report of Cabinet discussions which were not available to me. In an article on 16th September the newspaper says: as late as midsummer, the Government did not seem to have grasped just what a potentially profitable venture it had on its hands". It goes on that at the Cabinet meeting on 5th July there was a discussion of the project, and the outcome was that the Minister for Transport Industries was dispatched to re-negotiate the financial terms.

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether that was the case.

The article goes on: The Government had suddenly realised that not only was the tunnel likely to prove highly profitable but that there was a danger of emulating the North Sea oil boom where the bulk of profits flowed to private companies rather than the public purse. We on the Opposition side are by no means convinced that this will not be the case again. Certainly there is little doubt from the Government's estimates and from the universality of financial opinion in the City and in the financial columns of the journals that the return on private capital is likely to be excessive if the estimates are right.

On 15th September the Economist concluded its article about the White Paper But the fact is that on the sort of financial returns predicted in the white paper private enterprise should be financing the tunnel without a Government guarantee, as it is for the far less predictable search for North Sea oil. And private enterprise isn't. That is the suspicious part. The Government must come clean. Either we cannot accept their estimates, or, if they are confident about the estimates, they are making too great a provision for the return on private capital involved.

The other startling fact is that throughout the discussions and the White Paper there is no estimate of, or even hardly more than a nodding reference to, the enormous social cost of a scheme of this sort, which must be taken into account both environmentally and in other ways.

Another conflict was drawn to our attention in a most perceptive speech by the right hon. Member for Ashford who said that the promoters, no doubt for good revenue reasons, are stressing the importance of the tunnel to road users, whereas the Government believe—we had this from the Secretary of State for the Environment and I predict we shall probably have it again from the Minister for Transport Industries—that the main benefit from the tunnel will be for the railways. Clearly, we cannot have both.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) said that the scheme is essentially for a road tunnel. Aneurin Bevin once said that we do not need to look into the crystal when we can read the book. Certainly we do not need to speculate about the nature of the tunnel. We can see what kind of scheme it is from paragraph 2.18 on page 6 of the White Paper, which states: A frequent shuttle service of drive-on/drive-off trains between the ferry terminals would provide virtually a 'rolling motorway' for road traffic; they could if necessary run at least every four minutes at peak periods. What expectation is there from that for enormous expansion of the railways? In voting tonight to approve this document hon. Gentlemen opposite will be voting for paragraph 2.18. They will be voting for a "rolling motorway". There should be no mistake about that. The advantages that we hoped would accrue to the railways from a Channel Tunnel, on which there is consensus in the House, frankly will not be there.

In order to save time and show my great impartiality in this matter I will, on the railway situation, quote from the leader in The Times of 13th September, the day following publication of the White Paper, when no doubt the editorial writer had had the benefit of attending the Press conferences that were held by Ministers to outline this scheme. The report states: There remains the one aspect of the tunnel in favour of which almost everyone is united: its value as a link between the two railway systems, and as an encouragement to rail movement. This needs to be kept in perspective. On the Government's own figures through-trains will carry only about 9 million passengers out of a total between Britain and Europe of 47 million in 1980, and 15 million out of 94 million in 1990; and about 3 million tons of freight out of over 200 million by sea in 1980 and 7 million out of over 300 million in 1990. Given different priorities these proportions could be increased, and in the light of environmental factors that have come to the fore since the tunnel was planned, and even more of the prospective energy crisis, there seems little doubt that different priorities should now apply. If we are to have a tunnel Parliament should insist on a redrawing of the proposals to give greater priority to the through-rail over the shuttle-between-road function that the promoters have so far planned, and the Government have acquiesced in. A tunnel to integrate the British and European railway systems is an attractive idea; a tunnel planned as a submerged car ferry—which is what we are still offered—is not. I think that fairly sums up the feelings that we have about the failure of this scheme to do what is claimed for the benefit of British Rail.

In this context there are further questions to which we need the answers, and we ought to have the answers tonight. It is firmly agreed that the Government have blessed a new rail link between the tunnel and London. Will that be paid for as part of the total cost of the scheme or will it have to be met by British Rail out of their totally inadequate resources for capital investment?

Next, there is the gauge problem. We know that British Rail goods trains can go freely from Britain to the Continent but we all know—and it is not disputed—that substantial expenditure will be required because of the different size of gauge. In many cases the different height standards will involve new tunnels. French and other continental rail systems cannot operate on British railways. If there is to be reality to the claim that the tunnel will lead to through-trains between, for example, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Glasgow and the Continent, who will pay for the substantial expenditure which will be involved before through-trains are possible?

Is the Minister able to tell us tonight that he has cleared that problem with the French Government and with our partners on the Continent? Can he tell us that they are content that through-trains between, for example, Italy and Newcastle or Sheffield will be operated both ways by British Rail? If he can tell us that he has done that, we shall be extremely pleased.

Mr. Deedes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Continent has developed about 10,000 wagons that can use our track?

Mr. Mulley

I know that a certain number have been developed, but I think it is unlikely that the Continent will change the whole of its rolling stock because of this problem.

We make it clear in our amendment that we think it is extremely wrong that the tunnel is not considered in the perspective of a total transport strategy. It is highly unsatisfactory that we have not yet been given the Government's plans and provision for the future of the British railway system although, as I understand it, they have been working on them for three years. Unless further financial provision is made, we shall not have a real British railway system when the tunnel is opened, if it is proceeded with. Certainly we shall not have such a system 50 years from now without further financial provision.

As an unauthorised leak of the Government's proposals was made over a year ago and strenuously denied by the Minister, I ask him to give the House an authorised leak of the proposals. Will he give us an assurance that there will be no cut-back? Will he give us an indication of the capital provision which will be made available to British Rail? No other railway in the world is able to run on a commercial basis, and it is asking far too much to expect that British Rail can do so. Will the Minister tell us his plans? The Government's plans must be at the centre of the consideration which we must give to this matter.

I must draw the attention of the House, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Acton, my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and a number of other hon. Members, to paragraph 11.24 in page 33 of the White Paper. That is an extremely important paragraph which sets out the terms of reference of the Anglo-French authority which will run the tunnel. It says: The Authority's terms of reference would be to manage the Tunnel as a commercial enterprise in competition with other means of cross-Channel transport, without discrimination between road and rail borne traffic. That is what hon. Members will be voting for tonight if they approve the White Paper. That will clearly be written into an international agreement.

Is it sensible to approve that in the same week that we have a Minister urging economy in the use of oil resources of all sorts? Quite apart from the present troubles, we must accept, both in terms of cost and scarcity, the problems which oil will bring in future. We would all like to see British Rail and railways generally used on both environmental and other grounds. However, if we approve the White Paper there will be no discrimination or influence to bring on the authority to give priority to rail. If it is found that road wants more than half of the available resources, it will be impossible to say either in 1980 or in the year 2000 that priority must be given to the through rail-train.

I ask hon. Members to ponder very carefully before they vote tonight whether they came here today to approve not only the principle of the tunnel but all the very detailed and, I would say, totally unsatisfactory provisions which are contained in the White Paper. Therefore, I ask the House to support the Labour Opposition's amendment.

9.25 p.m.

The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)

I have listened with care and attention throughout this debate to the speeches made on both sides of the House, and I apologise to the very few hon. Members whose speeches I missed. It will certainly be my hope to answer as fully as I can the debate which has taken place, but I hope that the House will allow me to begin by stating what seem to me to be five basic factors which hon. Members might do well to have in mind in their consideration of this important project.

First, the point which has been made again and again is that traffic has been increasing at a rate of 10 per cent. per annum over the past decade. The quite horrifying figure, which my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned in opening, of a 43 per cent. increase in lorries in Dover last year over the year earlier shows the kind of problem with which we have to deal. Failure to provide for this growth of traffic will have very serious consequences indeed for Kent—Dover, Folkestone and particularly those parts of Kent through which the A2 passes. The evidence which has been put to the present inquiry on the A2 is that with the tunnel there will be 20 per cent. less traffic on the M20 in 1990 and without the tunnel there will be 35 per cent. to 100 per cent. more traffic on the A2 between Canterbury and Dover.

That poses a very serious problem for those who live in that part of the world, and they ought to pause before they condemn the tunnel as not being the best means of meeting it. To develop existing means has been taken almost for granted as an easier and more convenient way, which would avoid unpleasant decisions. But it would also involve very heavy expenditure on more roads, more port facilities and more ships. The experience of anybody in my position of getting road proposals accepted today is that it is not an easy task.

Then there is the point about the railways. I am very surprised to find that the welcome accorded to a proposal which has been so warmly welcomed by the railways themselves—by the British Railways Board and by the railway unions—has not had more of an echo here, because for the first time in railway history in this country there will he the full advantage of a long haul. The railways will be able to afford long-distance facilities to passengers, cars and freight from all over the United Kingdom.

Let me remind the House, too, about the diversion figures. Nobody has mentioned these but they are in the White Paper and, if I may say so with the utmost respect to some hon. Members who have spoken, one feels that even if they have read every page of the White Paper they cannot have remembered all of it. The diversions from road are quoted as 250,000 lorry journeys by 1980 and 500,000 lorry journeys by 1990, and British Rail is very confident that it can improve upon that forecast.

Two-thirds or three-quarters of the speech of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) was very helpful indeed because it made quite clear some of the most important points. The right hon. Gentleman's acceptance of them was to me very welcome indeed and I am grateful to him. First, he stated quite clearly that he was more convinced than ever that a fixed link will become necessary and that a bored tunnel would cost less than a bridge and a tunnel, thus disposing, I hope, of the arguments which we have heard so often, persistently and eloquently from his hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon).

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he accepted in terms of resources that the tunnel would be the most economical means of catering for the traffic. He also accepted the conclusions of the Cooper and Lybrand studies and accepted in particular their conclusion that the long-term cost of not building the tunnel would be greater than that of building it. He also conceded—I was very glad that he did—that this would be a major boost to British Rail—

Mr. Crosland

Could be.

Mr. Peyton

I take the amendment, but I would go much further and say that it will be. If the right hon. Gentleman says that, of course I accept it at once.

He then got into rather heavy weather about the question of oil supplies. If the suggestion that is being made by the Labour Party is that because we are threatened either with high prices for oil or with scarcity of supplies we ought to do nothing to improve our transport facilities, almost everybody would reject that out of hand. The more that doubts hang over oil supplies, the more necessary it is to make arrangements for rail facilities such as those we have in mind. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) who intervened so effectively at that moment.

Then the right hon. Gentleman came to the beginning of his opposition to the tunnel. "Not this tunnel", he said, "not this rolling motorway". In taking up the expression "rolling motorway" he is really refering to only half the functions of the tunnel. The rolling motorway part of it is the ferry, and something has to be done to cope with extensive ferry traffic. It is sheer romance to suppose that the ferry will get into the tunnel at White City or anywhere else like that. Some extra facilities have to be provided to cater for the increase in ferry traffic. That ferry traffic in its turn will have the great advantage of making it possible to finance the whole operation.

Throughout the debate very few hon. Members who have spoken from the Opposition side of the House have paid any attention to the value to this country of having a successful project which, on all the figures indicated, can earn a very substantial reward. Does anyone suggest that this country is in such a position today that it can afford to spurn the prospects of profitable investments of this kind?

The right hon. Gentleman complained that the effect of the tunnel would be to maximise traffic through Kent. I suggest that it would do nothing of the kind. The presence of the tunnel certainly—I make no bones about the difficulty of Cheriton—would be to focus traffic upon the Cheriton portal and use the M20, a road designed to take that weight of traffic. I consider that that is an alternative very much to be preferred to allowing increases of traffic to go sprawling all over Kent.

Let me say to those hon. Members who have suggested that somehow or other the South-East is always enjoying the privileges that in terms of roads the South-East has been seriously neglected for a very long time. If hon. Members who represent constituencies on Teesside or in the North-East were to make a serious comparison of the road systems in the North-East and the North-West with those in the South-East, bearing in mind the weight of traffic, they would not come to such facile conclusions as they have voiced this afternoon.

Another point which the right hon. Gentleman raised and which I take very seriously is the danger of proliferation of growth in the Cheriton area as a result of the port. I have heard stories of foreign buyers of land in that area. How serious they are I do not know. If that sort of buying has been taking place, it is in no way related to this project. The Government would take seriously the possibility of such unwanted growth. I have not heard the Kent county planning officer express the opinions with which he was credited by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope). I have been in close discussion with the Kent County Council and I assure the House and the right hon. Gentleman that this point will be closely watched

Sir J. Rodgers

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Paddock Wood a Euro-centre has been built occupying many acres to cope with the traffic that will come from Cheriton?

Mr. Peyton

I do not think that has any connection with the tunnel. I repeat, any unwanted growth in Cheriton will be carefully checked.

The right hon. Gentleman admits that the tunnel offers an opportunity to divert traffic and asks whether that opportunity will be used. British Rail is determined to make the most of what it hopes to get out of the tunnel. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to believe that the likely diversion from road to rail is small. British Rail has not had the opportunity to market this project either in this country or in Europe. Had British Rail done so, it would have been criticised in the House of Commons. If the House agrees that the project should go forward, British Rail will pursue the matter vigorously.

A rail-only tunnel has been widely canvassed here and elsewhere, but I do not believe that that would give, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, an acceptable public sector return. It gives no grounds for spurning the better rewards that would be available from a tunnel that does both jobs, namely, one which can cater for the long-distance as well as for the ferry traffic.

I should like to deal with the question of discrimination between road and rail which was mentioned by several hon. Members. The operating authority will be bound by arrangements which have been made from the beginning not to discriminate between road and rail. That agreement was part of the communiqué issued by Ministers, not by me, but in 1966 by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and Mr. Pisani who was her opposite number in France at that time.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the possibility of a rail-only tunnel should be examined in an official document. I am not clear on what ground he hoped that such an examination in such an official document would illuminate the proceedings. I do not think there are any grounds for believing that a rail tunnel exclusively—which the railways themselves do not want—would be advantageous to the country's interests.

Mr. Crosland

It is not a sufficient answer to the case for a rail-only tunnel, without any disrespect to British Rail, to say that its top management is against it, because its top management's judg- ment has not proved infallible over the years. Considering the animated and widespread debate in the last few weeks and months on a rail-only tunnel, does the Minister think that simply three or four sentences in a winding-up speech are sufficient to convince, if not the House, at any rate the country, that this is all there is to be said?

Mr. Peyton

I can devote only three or four minutes to this in a winding-up speech. If the right hon. Gentleman is so enthusiastic, I would say that he spent only two minutes on it himself. He asked for an independent inquiry, and his plea has been echoed by almost every subsequent Opposition speaker and, I am sorry to say, by one or two of my hon. Friends.

The words "independent inquiry" may be the sort of epitaph that is written over this country's history. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We are earning a reputation already as a nation keen on talking and rather averse to action. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] This passion for independent inquiries and for inhibiting action seems damaging for the national interest.

To my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers), who said that he was not opposed in principle to the tunnel, I say that I do not think everybody who has watched what has happened over the years would regard the progress that has been made as indecent or hurried or in any way deserving the description of haste. People might use some ruder words implying slowness.

My hon. Friend quoted M. Billecocq, the Minister with whom I have recently been negotiating and whom I have personally found most fair and understanding. His understanding of any difficulties that I may have in this House has come not from anything that I have said but from his reading of HANSARD. I hope that, if he reads some of the speeches which have been made in the House today, he will prove even more sympathetic in the future. That, indeed, is the only ground on which I can possibly thank some hon. Members for the speeches they have made.

The examination of the high-speed rail link, which of course is of great importance, has not yet started in any detail, and could not have done—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] My hon. Friend asks "Why not?" If it had started there would have been great protests, and quite rightly, in the House asking why British Rail was anticipating the will of Parliament and causing unnecessary alarm and despondency to the constituents of my hon. Friend and other hon. Members. Of course, British Rail has had to wait. But now it will be in a position to examine the possible route and to carry it out as soon as possible, and after that it will have to report its conclusions to Parliament and will need to get a Bill through the House.

It is all very well for right hon. and hon. Members to ask for an inquiry. Do they really suggest that the parliamentary machinery is so inadequate or that they are so inept at working it that we always have to have an independent inquiry carried out outside these walls? I say to my hon. Friend that I fully understand the anxiety which is caused by projects of this kind. He was talking particularly about Edenbridge. I think I know something of the problem. If I can help in any way during what will inevitably be a period of some difficulty if we go ahead, I shall be only too ready to do so. I assure him that all the resources of my Department will be similarly committed. But I very much hope that he can restrain himself from saying "This means death to Kent." That, with respect, is a dangerous exaggeration.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) asked about route control. I see no reason why we should not accept completely a policy of controlled routes for heavy vehicles in future and ensure that the M20 is used for heavy vehicles rather than other roads in Kent which are totally inadequate to take them.

The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) took a rather lofty view of the motor car. It has become fashionable to suggest that motor cars, or at least other people's motor cars, have something vaguely improper about them. He admitted very generously that the motor car had provided a new dimension of choice but said that that freedom might be less desirable in future. I wonder how well that message will be received in Coventry or Dagenham.

I certainly accept that there will have to be some restraint on motor cars in city centres, but we have to be very careful before we start canvassing widely the massive restraint of motor cars, because many people will expect to buy and use them.

Mr. Albu

The Minister has completely misunderstood the point. All I was saying was that those who own motor cars may find it less pleasant to use them in future because of the very high costs involved. I was not suggesting that they should be restricted in their use of them.

Mr. Peyton

There is not much sign of that at the moment. I agree with every word spoken by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve). I accept his knowledge that people are not uninterested in motor cars, as I have said.

My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough. West (Mr. Sutcliffe) suggested that it would be easy for what he called the cartel owners of the ferry services to bring down their costs. I wonder why they have not done so in the past.

The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam showed that he misunderstood the tunnel, although he is not the first person to have done so, by describing it as an underground car ferry which has two rails, one long-distance and the other to handle ferry traffic. The ferry traffic will not disappear just because the Liberal Party waves a piece of paper at it. I appreciated the hon. Member's goodness in withdrawing the suggestion that there had been little consultation.

I have already dealt with the point of proliferation of other activities.

I offer warm thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) for a sensible speech and particularly for his warning that we should not overstate the environmental advantages which might accrue from the tunnel. However, no one should exaggerate the environmental disadvantages which might accrue. My right hon. Friend warmed my heart by stepping out from the general ranks and saying that he did not want to receive any more paper. I shall try to satisfy him in that respect, if in no other.

The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) also rightly warned of the difficulties that will inevitably arise at the White City interchange. I recognise that that will be a serious problem.

The M20, which will go very near Folkestone, will be ready. The need for an east-west motorway is constantly under review and I believe that we have the problem well in hand.

I hope my hon. Friends will agree, and not envy him, when I say that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) must be regarded as the hero of the debate. He left me with nothing to say about the Opposition amendment. I should like to say cordially, but without embarrassing him by dwelling on it too long, how grateful I am to the hon. Gentleman for an excellent speech.

No one has been more assiduous than My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Peter Rees) in the care and attention they have given to the concerns of their constituents.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)


Mr. Peyton

The hon. Gentleman is a master of the art. I must salute him.

The Kent county planning authority will have detailed jurisdiction inside the Cheriton site. The spoil—I tell my hon. Friend the Member for Petersfield (Miss Quennell) that there will be 300 million cubic feet of it—will be moved by rail to the Cheriton terminal.

I am sorry that I do not have as much time as I would like to deal with some of the interesting speeches. I must mention in passing the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), who was able to produce the heroic saying "Let's stick to the steamers", after which she went on without a pause to prove that she had not read the White Paper at all. She claimed that the Government would enjoy the profits 50 years after the start. The truth is that the Government will have a substantial share in the profits from the first year, and those profits will grow very sharply, it is hoped.

I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover has diffi- culties very similar to those of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe. There will certainly be fair competition. There is no intention to subsidise the tunnel. There was not even an intention to subsidise the tunnel operations when the Labour Government were in office. I shall consider very sympathetically any projects from Dover Harbour. We have plenty of time to plan remedial measures for any disturbance of employment.

I should particularly like to end on my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). [Laughter.] I do so only for reasons of distinction. I welcomed very much the statement of his belief in a direct link. I understand very well his concern for the people who live in Kent. The disturbance of modern traffic brings with it a great deal of torture, anxiety and disturbance. I know that only too well. I assure my hon. Friend that it will certainly be my intention to do all I can to help the people of his constituency, as in the rest of Kent.

When my hon. Friend speaks of the rush for economic growth and quite rightly quotes Sir Colin Buchanan he is raising rather wider issues than we can deal with now. In the present state of our affairs, where massive motor traffic is considered justified by all who use it and depend upon it, someone in my position is left with no choice but to try to accommodate it as decently and tidily as one can. I hope my hon. Friend will accept my assurance that in future I will make every effort to help.

I have a quotation from the right lion. Member for Park: "The Government are capable of using language like the rest of us." I am grateful that we have never yet considered the possibility of using the kind of awful, turgid, meaningless language which finds a place in the Opposition amendment. I am answering a debate concerned with what one of his hon. Friends rightly described as a horrible little amendment.

Mr. Mulley

The Minister unprecedentedly asked for 35 minutes in which to reply, which I gave him. He has not answered any of the questions I put to him. He would be more convincing about his talk of action if he had not taken three years and still failed to produce a railways plan and if as a matter of course his Department did not take over a year to deal with every planning appeal.

Mr. Peyton

It would be so enjoyable if only I could say to the right hon. Gentleman "Thank you so much for the excellent plans you left in my cupboard." It is said that we have not had enough time and that we should put the project on ice for a couple of years. Nothing would more surely kill it. I ask the House to pause and to wonder what will be the verdict outside the House.

Other countries have relied upon a Labour Government to be as good as their word. They thought that their intentions meant something. I hope that this country will not learn once again that they mean nothing.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 181, Noes 250.

Division No. 223.] AYES [10.00 p.m.
Abse, Leo Heffer, Eric S. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Albu, Austen Hooson, Emlyn Parker, John (Dagenham)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Horam, John Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Ashton, Joe Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pendry, Tom
Barnes, Michael Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Perry, Ernest G.
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Huckfield, Leslie Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Hunter, Adam Prescott, John
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Price, William (Rugby)
Bidwell, Sydney Janner, Greville Probert, Arthur
Blenkinsop, Arthur Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Radice, Giles
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Jeger, Mrs. Lena Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Richard, Ivor
Brown, Robert C.(N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) John, Brynmor Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)
Cant, R. B. Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.) Roper, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rose, Paul B.
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Kaufman, Gerald Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Kinnock, Neil Rowlands, Ted
Concannon, J. D. Lamborn, Harry Sandelson, Neville
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Latham, Arthur Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Leadbitter, Ted Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Cronin, John Leonard, Dick Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Crosland, Rt. Kn. Anthony Lestor, Miss Joan Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davidson, Arthur Lipton, Marcus Silkin Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Loughlin, Charles Sillars, James
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Small, William
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Spearing, Nigel
Deakins, Eric Machin, George Stallard, A. W.
Delargy, Hugh Mackie, John Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Mackintosh, John P. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Doig, Peter Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dormand, J. D. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Taverne, Dick
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McNamara, J. Kevin Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dunnett, Jack Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Tinn, James
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Marks, Kenneth Tomney, Frank
Ellis, Tom Marquand, David Tope, Graham
Ewing, Harry Marshall, Dr. Edmund Torney, Tom
Faulds, Andrew Mayhew, Christopher Tuck, Raphael
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Meacher, Michael Urwin, T. W.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wainwright, Edwin
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mendelson, John Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Forrester, John Mikardo, Ian Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Millan, Bruce Wallace, George
Freeson, Reginald Miller, Dr. M. S. Watkins, David
Freud, Clement Milne, Edward Weltzman, David
Garrett, W. E. Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Wellbeloved, James
Gilbert, Dr. John Molloy, William Wells, William (Walsal, N.)
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Whitehead, Philip
Golding, John Moyle, Roland Whitlock, William
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Oakes, Gordon Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) O'Halloran, Michael Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Hamling, William Oram, Bert Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Orbach, Maurice Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hardy, Peter
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hattersley, Roy Padley, Walter Mr Joseph Harper and
Hatton, F. Paget, R. T. Mr James Hamilton
Adley, Robert Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gray, Hamish Morrison, Charles
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Green, Alan Murton, Oscar
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Grieve, Percy Neave, Airey
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Astor, John Grylls, Michael Normanton, Tom
Atkins, Humphrey Gummer, J. Selwyn Onslow, Cranley
Awdry, Daniel Gurden, Harold Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Osborn, John
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Bell, Ronald Hannam, John (Exeter) Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Benyon, W. Haselhurst, Alan Parkinson, Cecil
Biffen, John Hastings, Stephen Percival, Ian
Biggs-Davison, John Havers, Sir Michael Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Blaker, Peter Hawkins, Paul Pike, Miss Mervyn
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hayhoe, Barney Pink, R. Bonner
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bossom, Sir Clive Heseltine, Michael Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Bowden, Andrew Hicks, Robert Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bray, Ronald Higgins, Terence L. Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Holland, Philip Raison, Timothy
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Holt, Miss Mary Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Bryan Sir Paul Hordern, Peter Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Buck, Antony Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Redmond, Robert
Bullus, Sir Eric Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Burden, F. A. Howell, David (Guildford) Rees, Peter (Dover)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray & Nairn) Hunt, John Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Channon, Paul Iremonger, T. L. Rhys Williams Sir Brandon
Chapman, Sydney Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher James, David Ridsdale, Julian
Chichester-Clark, R. Jenkin, Rt. Hn. Patrick (Woodford) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Churchill, W. S. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jessel, Toby Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cockeram, Eric Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cooke, Robert Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Coombs, Derek Jopling, Michael Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Cooper, A. E. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Scott, Nicholas
Cordle, John Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Kershaw, Anthony Shelton, William (Clapham)
Cormack, Patrick Kimball, Marcus Shersby, Michael
Costain, A. P. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Simeons, Charles
Critchley, Julian King, Tom (Bridgwater) Sinclair, Sir George
Crouch, David Kinsey, J. R. Skeet, T. H. H.
Crowder, F. P. Kirk, Peter Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Knight, Mrs. Jill Soref, Harold
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Knox, David Speed, Keith
Dean, Paul Lamont, Norman Spence, John
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Lane, David Sproat, Iain
Digby, Simon Wingfield Langford-Holt, Sir John Stainton, Keith
Dixon, Piers Le Merchant, Spencer Stanbrook, Ivor
Drayson, Burnaby Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Dykes, Hugh Longden, Sir Gilbert Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Loveridge, John Sutcliffe, John
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Luce, R. N. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Emery, Peter McAdden, Sir Stephen Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Eyre, Reginald MacArthur, Ian Tebbit, Norman
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy McCrindle, R. A. Temple, John M.
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) McLaren, Martin Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Fisher Nigel (Surbiton) McMaster, Stanley Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Fletcher-Cooke Charles Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson, Michael Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Fortescue, Tim McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Tilney, Sir John
Foster, Sir John Madel, David Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fowler, Norman Maginnis, John E. Trew, Peter
Fox, Marcus Mather, Carol Tugendhat, Christopher
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fry, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Meyer, Sir Anthony Vickers, Dame Joan
Gardner, Edward Miscampbell, Norman Waddington, David
Gibson-Watt, David Mitchell David (Basingstoke) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Molyneaux, James Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Walters, Dennis
Glyn, Dr. Alan Money, Ernie Ward, Dame Irene
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Monks, Mrs. Connie Warren, Kenneth
Goodhew, Victor Monro, Hector Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gorst, John Montgomery, Fergus White, Roger (Gravesend)
Gower, Raymond More, Jasper Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Wiggin, Jerry Woodnutt, Mark TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wilkinson, John Worsley, Marcus Mr Walter Clegg and
Winterton, Nicholas Wylle, Rt. Hn. N. R. Mr Bernard Weather

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question Put:—

The House divided: Ayes 243, Noes 187.

Division No. 224. AYES [10.12 p.m.
Adley, Robert Gardner, Edward McNair-Wilson, Michael
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gibson-Watt, David McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gilmour, Rt. Hn. Ian (Norfolk, C.) Madel, David
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Glyn, Dr. Alan Maginnis, John E.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Mather, Carol
Astor, John Goodhew, Victor Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Atkins, Humphrey Gorst, John Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Awdry, Daniel Gower, Raymond Meyer, Sir Anthony
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Miscampbell, Norman
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Gray, Hamish Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Grieve, Percy Molyneaux, James
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Money, Ernie
Benyon, W. Grylls, Michael Monks, Mrs. Connie
Biggs-Davison, John Gummer, J. Selwyn Monro, Hector
Blaker, Peter Gurden, Harold Montgomery, Fergus
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) More, Jasper
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bossom, Sir Clive Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Charles
Bowden, Andrew Hannam, John (Exeter) Murton, Oscar
Bray, Ronald Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Neave, Airey
Brinton, Sir Tatton Haselhurst, Alan Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hastings, Stephen Normanton, Tom
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Havers, Sir Michael Onslow, Cranley
Bryan, Sir Paul Hawkins, Paul Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Buck, Antony Hayhoe, Barney Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bullus, Sir Eric Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Osborn, John
Burden, F. A. Heseltine, Michael Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hicks, Robert Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Higgins, Terence L. Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Channon, Paul Hill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test) Parkinson, Cecil
Chapman, Sydney Holland, Philip Percival, Ian
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Holt, Miss Mary Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Chichester-Clark, R. Hordern, Peter Pike, Miss Mervyn
Churchill, W. S. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Pink, R. Bonner
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cockeram, Eric Howell, David (Guildford) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Cooke, Robert Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Coombs, Derek Hunt, John Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Cooper, A. E. Iremonger, T. L. Quennell, Miss J. M.
Cordle, John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Raison, Timothy
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick James, David Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Cormack, Patrick Jenkin, Rt. Hn. Patrick (Woodford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Costain, A. P. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Critchley, Julian Jessel, Toby Rees, Peter (Dover)
Crouch, David Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Crowder, F. P. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Jopling, Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Dean, Paul Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Ridsdale, Julian
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kershaw, Anthony Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kimball, Marcus Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Dixon, Piers King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Drayson, Burnaby King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kinsey, J. R. St. John-Stevas, Norman
Dykes, Hugh Kirk, Peter Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Knight, Mrs. Jill Scott, Nicholas
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Knox, David Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Emery, Peter Lamont, Norman Shelton, William (Clapham)
Eyre, Reginald Lane, David Shersby, Michael
Langford-Holt, Sir John Simeons, Charles
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Le Merchant, Spencer Sinclair, Sir George
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field) Skeet, T. H. H.
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Longden, Sir Gilbert Speed, Keith
Fookes, Miss Janet Loveridge, John Spence, John
Fortescue, Tim Luce, R. N. Sproat, Iain
Foster, Sir John McAdden, Sir Stephen Stainton, Keith
Fowler, Norman MacArthur, Ian Stanbrook, Ivor
Fox, Marcus McCrindle, R. A. Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) McLaren, Martin Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Fry, Peter McMaster, Stanley Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Vaughan, Dr. Gerard Wiggin, Jerry
Tebbit, Norman Vickers, Dame Joan Wilkinson, John
Temple, John M. Waddington, David Winterton, Nicholas
Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Walder, David (Clitheroe) Woodnutt, Mark
Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Worsley, Marcus
Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) Walters, Dennis Wyllie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Tilney, Sir John Ward, Dame Irene
Trafford, Dr. Anthony Warren, Kenneth TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Trew, Peter Wells, John (Maidstone) Mr. Walter Clegg and
Tugendhat, Christopher White, Roger (Gravesend) Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
van Straubenzee, W. R. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Abse, Leo Heffer, Eric S. Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Albu, Austen Hooson, Emlyn Pendry, Tom
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Horam, John Perry, Ernest G.
Ashton, Joe Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Barnes, Michael Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Huckfield, Leslie Prescott, John
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Hunter, Adam Price, William (Rugby)
Bell, Ronald Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Probert, Arthur
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Janner, Greville Radice, Giles
Bidwell, Sydney Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Redmond, Robert
Blenkinsop, Arthur Jeger, Mrs. Lena Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Boothroyd, Miss B. (West Brom.) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Richard, Ivor
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) John, Brynmor Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Browne, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cant, R. B. Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.) Roper, John
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rose, Paul B.
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Kaufman, Gerald Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Kinnock, Neil Rowlands, Ted
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) Lamborn, Harry Sandelson, Neville
Concannon, J. D. Latham, Arthur Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Leadbitter, Ted Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Leonard, Dick Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Cronin, John Lestor, Miss Joan Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Lipton, Marcus Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davidson, Arthur Loughlin, Charles Sillars, James
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Skinner, Dennis
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Small, William
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Spearing, Nigel
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Machin, George Stallard, A. W.
Deakins, Eric Mackie, John Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Delargy, Hugh Mackintosh, John P. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Doig, Peter McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Sutcliffe, John
Dormand, J. D. McNamara, J. Kevin Taverne, Dick
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Driberg, Tom Marks, Kenneth Tinn, James
Dunnett, Jack Marquand, David Tomney, Frank
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Tope, Graham
Ellis, Tom Maude, Angus Torney, Tom
Ewing, Harry Meacher, Michael Tuck, Raphael
Faulds, Andrew Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Urwin, T. W.
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Mendelson, John Wainwright, Edwin
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mikardo, Ian Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Millan, Bruce Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Forrester, John Miller, Dr. M. S. Wallace, George
Fraser, John (Norwood) Milne, Edward Watkins, David
Freeson, Reginald Mitchell. R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Weitzman, David
Freud, Clement Molloy, William Wellbeloved, James
Garrett, W. E. Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Gilbert, Dr. John Moyle, Roland Whitehead, Phillip
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Whitlock, William
Golding, John Oakes, Gordon Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. O'Halloran, Michael Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Oram, Bert Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Orbach, Maurice Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Hamling, William Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Padley, Walter
Hardy, Peter Paget, R. T. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Mr. Joseph Harper and
Hattersley, Roy Pardoe, John Mr. James Hamilton
Hatton, F. Parker, John (Dagenham)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House approves the White Paper on the Channel Tunnel Project (Command Paper No. 5430).

Sitting suspended at 10.21 p.m.

Sitting resumed—

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