HC Deb 08 May 1989 vol 152 cc614-82

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has not accepted the instruction standing in the name of the hon. Members for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). However, he has selected the other two instructions and it will be for the convenience of the House to debate them together, with the motion for Second Reading.

7 pm

Sir George Young (Ealing, Acton)

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

The Bill gives powers to British Rail to carry out certain works at King's Cross, and I will describe them briefly in a moment, but the House will want to put these rather technical details in a broader context and see how the new King's Cross, made possible by the Bill, fits in with transport, planning and regional policies.

I hope that all in the House will agree on three broad objectives. The first is the need to invest substantially public transport, particularly in London, where the limitations of any policy relying too heavily on private transport are all too visible. I detect an impatience among Londoners, among those who commute to London and those who visit and use public transport in London about its quality and limitations. People want its capacity increased; they want it to be safer; and they want it to be more accessible and convenient to use. The Bill will help to achieve that objective by the improvements to the Underground, and by the improvement in the interchange between British Rail and London Regional Transport. Given constraints on public expenditure, and the understandable wish to keep fares down, if these improvements and increases in capacity can be funded in part from planning gain, so much the better.

That leads to the second objective. We all wish to bring back into use derelict land, particularly in our inner cities, where its misuse is least defensible. Unemployment in parts of inner London is still far too high and, with pressure on land elsewhere that has a high amenity value, the neglect of acres upon acres of unused land in the heart of the capital cannot be tolerated. The works in the Bill unlock the development potential of the land behind King's Cross. This capital surplus will be used by British Rail to pay for other works in a partnership between public and private sectors, which is now accepted by all parties as a sensible way to proceed. The development will also bring jobs to a part of London where they are still scarce. Some 30,000 jobs will be provided in the associated redevelopment of the area, and rightly so, because King's Cross is identified as a preferred office location in the Greater London development plan, subject to improvement of the public transport system. The Bill does that.

In the draft strategic planning guidance for London, the Secretary of State pointed out in March: there are likely to be development opportunities on large sites in London which were formerly required for public utilities or services, but which are no longer needed for these purposes. King's Cross is just such a site. For 15 years, it has been identified by local authorities as an area of opportunity. The works in the Bill free the development land, planning permission for which is being sought in the normal way by the developer from the local authority. The opportunity is now here.

Thirdly, as our trade with Europe increases and links with markets there become more important, we must ensure that all regions of the country have access to those markets and the opportunity to share in the benefits. The Bill helps to achieve that objective by linking the British Rail network in the north with that in the south, and in a way that no other transport interchange ever could. Direct travel from Europe to the north becomes possible.

I should now like to relate the works in the Bill to the broader objectives that I have outlined. Much of the Bill improves public transport. Work No. 5 provides a connection between the east coast main line, and St. Pancras station. This will allow Network SouthEast trains from the Peterborough and Cambridge lines to run into St. Pancras station. At the moment, these trains end up in a separate suburban station to the west of King's Cross, some way from the Underground and the rest of the services in the terminal. Demand on these lines has been growing and, as there is spare capacity at St. Pancras, it makes sense to use it by providing this connection. Works Nos. 11A and 11B lengthen the platforms at St. Pancras to take 12-car trains and provide additional platforms to accommodate future growth.

On the same theme, works Nos. 1 to 7 and Nos. 10 to 5 in the London Regional Transport half of the schedule provide for the enlargement of the existing Underground ticket hall, which is already becoming very congested, and for new subways which will relieve pressure and provide additional access and escape routes. King's Cross-St. Pancras is one of the busiest and most complex Underground stations, handling some 80 million passengers a year, serving five Underground lines and two British Rail terminals. The provisions in the Bill cope with current congestion problems, and provide for future growth already projected, plus the additional traffic from the railway lands site and the improvements to British Rail services.

In addition, a new Underground ticket hall—the eastern ticket hall—will be built to serve the Thameslink platforms and the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines. This replaces the present entrance in Pentonville road, at a more convenient location and with quicker exits from the three tube lines. The additional subways proposed also provide a secondary exit from each of the Underground platforms—valuable in the case of emergency evacuation of the station. Work No. 13 links this new eastern ticket hall with the main Underground ticket hall.

The most important of the subway works provide direct connections between the Circle and Metropolitan line platforms, and the three deep tube lines—the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria. At the moment, if one wants to change, one has to go through the already overcrowded ticket hall. This new subway connection will reduce traffic in the ticket hall by about 30 per cent., and implements recommendation 142 in the Fennell report.

Work No. 4 replaces the present unfriendly access to the Underground from St. Pancras down a narrow and tortuous subway with an enlarged and improved one.

The principal work in the Bill is a new British Rail station, beneath the existing King's Cross main line station. At its northern end, the tracks divide to join both the east coast main line and the midland main line. At the south end, the tracks connect with Thameslink and, at a future date, and if the House so decides, with the Channel Tunnel rail link.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

As the hon. Gentleman is the spokesman for the sponsors of the Bill, perhaps I should mention to him that I have received a communication from a body known as the Standing Conference on Regional Policy in South Wales. It consists of four major county councils: Gwent, Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. They complain that none of the proposals provides for any link between the western region InterCity service operating from Paddington to south Wales and the proposed new terminal at King's Cross. They say that if they are to benefit from the Channel tunnel traffic, such a link is absolutely essential. Does the hon. Gentleman have anything to say about that point?

Sir George Young

I agree that it will be important to ensure that people in south Wales have access to the Channel tunnel terminal and, through that, access to Europe. Whether it makes sense to provide that access at King's Cross and, therefore, through the Bill, I am not sure, but I shall pass on to British Rail the hon. Gentleman's valuable point in order to make sure that south Wales benefits from the links with Europe.

A new station is needed anyway. The existing Thameslink station is already inadequate. The platforms were originally designed for the local service from Moorgate to Bedford, before Thameslink was conceived. With this popular cross-London line now in operation, the platforms—particularly northbound—are very crowded, and they cannot be widened because they are up against the Circle line. The only way to cope with extra demand is to relocate the station, which provides the opportunity to bring it closer to the main line platforms, thereby improving interchange and making it accessible to people with disabilities.

At the moment, Thameslink reaches only the Bedford line to the north. The proposed connection links it to the east coast main line as well. This opens up a wealth of opportunities, such as trains from Peterborough to Gatwick, Cambridge to Sevenoaks, and so on.

Next to the new Thameslink platforms, again beneath King's Cross main line, are the international platforms, and it is this part of the Bill which has generated some controversy. Why another international station, and why King's Cross?

All the forecasts show that existing capacity at Waterloo, the other international terminal that is due to open in 1996, will not be able to cope with expected traffic beyond the turn of the century. Putting aside the strong arguments for a terminal at King's Cross in its own right, we need to develop more capacity to cope with rail-based traffic to and from Europe.

King's Cross is uniquely well served by other British Rail and Underground lines, as well as being easily accessible by bus and taxi. That convenience of interchange and access to public transport puts it way ahead of other rivals—notably Stratford—in its convenience for customers. In particular, it is the best calling point on the way to the north, allowing a passenger to get off a train from Paris to Newcastle and get on one from Brussels to Manchester. Further, it offers international passengers easy interchange to Inter-City services to the rest of the country and to Network SouthEast services to locations closer to London. That ability to integrate the international services with the existing British Rail network simply does not exist at any other main line terminal, let alone some of the other options that have been canvassed.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

If all this is true, when the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 and the location of the first terminal at Waterloo were being considered, why did counsel for British Rail say that King's Cross was unsuitable because of overcrowding of tube lines and above-ground links?

Sir George Young

As I have explained, other provisions of the Bill increase capacity at King's Cross. Underground capacity is being increased by other parts of the Bill. At that stage, forecasts were much lower, and it was thought that Waterloo would suffice. Forecasts have been revised and it is no longer suitable to rely only on Waterloo as the other terminal.

Mr. Dobson

Counsel for British Rail also asserted that the roads around King's Cross were far too crowded and could not cope with additional traffic. They are more crowded now than when he said that.

Sir George Young

The philosophy behind King's Cross is its access by public transport, which puts it way ahead of all the other possible interchanges. Compared with the car, which is the form of transport that would have to be used for some of the other options, King's Cross is unrivalled in its access to public transport.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Before the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) intervened, my hon. Friend said that two or three major cities in the north will have through trains from the continent. My hon. Friend did not mention Britain's second biggest city—Birmingham. Will he comment on the scope for through trains from the continent to Birmingham?

Sir George Young

The Bill does not preclude other links, such as those to the west coast main line. If British Rail decides to develop other links, legislation will be brought forward at the appropriate time.

While the Bill makes provision for the second international terminal to be at King's Cross, it does not prejudge the exact line of route of the link to it from the Channel tunnel. The chosen route will be the subject of a separate Bill. As I have said, the Bill also does not preclude a passenger link to the west coast main line.

The reason why provision for the international terminal needs to be made in the Bill is that the construction works for it need to be integrated with the other works to which I have referred. The additional Thameslink capacity is required now, and British Rail wants to present all the proposals for King's Cross together.

The platforms on the proposed international station will take 16-coach trains and two power cars. Those platforms, which will be below ground, will be linked by subways to the new terminal building, the main line platforms and the Underground. Provision is also being made for security staff, Customs and immigration and police.

The new terminal building will be located between King's Cross and St. Pancras. It will serve both stations and replace the unattractive structure in front of King's Cross, planning consent for 'which expires in 1993. The new concourse will have access to both main line stations, the international and Thameslink platforms and the Underground ticket hall.

I know that local Members of Parliament are concerned about the impact of traffic on their constituencies. We have already heard some interventions expressing such concern. I hope that I have made it clear that the philosophy behind the Bill is to encourage access by public transport. It is hoped that people travelling north from Europe will not travel to King's Cross by taxi from Waterloo, but board a train at Paris that travels to King's Cross.

Improvements are planned for the road network, especially better access by bus. At the moment, one is tipped out in a nearby road and makes one's way to the station. There will be proper access to the station by bus and improvements to the road network at the junctions of Caledonian road, Pentonville road and King's Cross road, which is wholly inadequate at the moment and for which improvements have been planned for 15 years.

As sponsor of the Bill, I have taken a special interest in Camley street natural park, about which I have received many letters. In the five years since it started, the park, which is ably run by the London Wildlife Trust, has become a popular destination for Londoners interested in its nature reserve. The location of the international terminal, and the connections between the east coast and midland lines, require its relocation during construction and its reinstatement on a larger site thereafter.

Together with the developers of the railway lands and London Wildlife Trust, British Rail has identified a larger area for the park to be re-established within the new development. Every assistance will be given to the trust to continue its work during construction and to restock the park when established on its permanent site on completion. I have no doubt that it will then be better placed to continue its valuable educational role within an enhanced and enlarged natural park.

The Bill offers the opportunity to improve the appearance of this part of London and to turn King's Cross and St. Pancras into not only Europe's largest transport interchange but an attractive set of buildings of which Londoners can be proud. One cannot see the front of King's Cross at present because of the temporary structure in front of it. Once removed, the train sheds, which are grade 1 listed buildings, will be visible again in all their glory. Between them and the Midland hotel will be the new terminal building, which had been designed to the highest architectural standards to match its neighbours. The new vista will be incomparably better than the muddle that we have at present.

I have outlined the provisions of the Bill and put them in a broader context. If time permits and the House allows it, I shall be happy to deal with points made in the debate. Of course, achieving the objectives that I have outlined involves disruption, inconvenience and disappointment for some local people and businesses. I do not disguise that fact, and local Members of Parliament are right to fight for those whom they represent. Changes have been made, further consultation is planned, some have petitioned against the Bill and the Committee will hear them. I have no doubt that Parliament should endorse the strategy behind the Bill, which is to enhance the role of King's Cross in our nation's public transport network, to build stronger links between Scotland, the north, the midlands and Europe and to improve the Underground in the light of the Fennell report.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving details at this stage, which is helpful. He mentioned the importance of public transport and through trains from the continent to the north. Is he aware that British Rail has stated that its policy is to try to concentrate international trains from London to the continent because it is more economic to do so and to get people to change in London? Can he give any undertakings that that policy will be changed to provide from King's Cross—I should prefer from Stratford—through trains to the north and Scotland, as so many of my hon. Friends reasonably want?

Sir George Young

I have no instructions, and I should not want British Rail to do anything that minimised the search for economy. If I can offer some comfort to the hon. Gentleman now or later, I shall try to do so.

The hon. Gentleman hit me in mid-peroration. I was saying that the House should support the Bill's objectives of improving the Underground in the light of the Fennell report, facilitating the regeneration of a rundown part of London and providing local employment.

I believe that this is the most exciting transport project to come before the House for a long time, and I hope that hon. Members give it their support.

7.18 pm
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

I must record my dismay at the way in which the private Bill procedure is being used to bring in the proposals for King's Cross. The Bill represents the piecemeal approach to major transport and development planning, which should be the province of far more sensible and democratic procedures than those available under the private Bill process. The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir George Young) the promoter of the Bill, who normally says far more sensible things in the House, said that the Bill did not preclude a passenger link to services to the north-west. Neither he nor British Rail has told us whether there will be a passenger rail link to services to the north-west. It is precisely because we have a Bill in isolation which deals simply and solely with the station, not with the routes to or from that station, that we cannot consider many of the ramifications of the Bill in relation to services to and from the station. That creates an enormous difficulty when we try to address the plans and transport issues properly.

The private Bill procedure—and we know from our debates only two weeks ago about the inadequacies of that procedure—is not appropriate for dealing with detailed planning issues, which should be the subject of a public local inquiry. The private Bill procedure is not a sensible way of dealing with major, strategic national issues about the use and spread of the economic benefits that the Channel tunnel can bring. All those issues are contained within the Bill, yet we are being asked to discuss them without prior consideration by the Select Committee on Transport, without any specific planning approach from British Rail, the Department of Transport or this House. That is not a sensible way to reach such a major decision.

The private Bill procedure used in this instance pays little respect to the rights of those who want to object to the proposals in the Bill. Two weeks ago, the Leader of the House claimed that private Bills were even-handed between objectors and promoters. They are not.

For example, one has to look only at the treatment meted out to English Heritage, which rightly said that it had an interest in clause 19. Clause 19 will affect several listed buildings within the purview of the site that British Rail seeks to contain within the work proposed in the Bill. Several buildings will be affected, such as a grade 2 listed building at No. 7 Caledonian road, dating from 1875, a grade 2 listed building, "The Bell" public house, at 259 Pentonville road and the Great Northern hotel, which is also a grade 2 listed building. All those buildings will go, yet English Heritage, which clearly has a valuable point of view on listed buildings, has not been allowed even to present a petition against the Bill. That is due wholly to the fact that the agents acting for British Rail sought to delete English Heritage from the list of petitioners against the Bill.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, until 50 years ago, there were only a mere handful of objections to locus standi? Within the past few weeks, British Rail has caught up the backlog of the past 50 years.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is right. British Rail's agents have objected to locus standi for well over 100 petitioners—I cannot remember the exact figure—including people and organisations from my own constituency and others such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), who sought to put her own petition against the Bill. There is an organisation in my constituency called Crossfire—it has still to be considered by the Court of Referees so I shall not trespass on your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by dwelling on it—which has the particular purpose of protecting the King's Cross area from unnecessary and unwanted development. It has been challenged by British Rail, although it has a strong case to make and important points to put.

When a number of petitioners, who were accepted as having a locus standi by the promoters of the Bill, gathered to meet last Friday with representatives of British Rail, they were given an extremely dusty reception. When, for example, they asked for copies of the presentations that British Rail would be making to the Bill—one would expect them, as petitioners, to have that right—they were told that they could not have them. They were told further that if they wanted such copies, they would have to come to Parliament and pay the normal charges for copying.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in a document circulated by British Rail which I received this morning, as in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), there are many references to the high-speed link? Yet all the organisations that have been careful to present arguments about the high-speed link have been denied locus standi.

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman is right: he identifies precisely the problem of dealing with a station apparently in complete isolation from any consideration of routes leading to it. That procedure is nonsense and it reveals the piecemeal way in which we are being asked to consider important issues. Over the past few months—and, probably, in forthcoming months—we have heard of people whose livelihoods, properties, homes and area will be affected profoundly by the Bill, not being given a full democratic voice so that they can make objections and points about the Bill.

The Bill seeks to extinguish some reversionary rights in relation to parts of the land to the north of King's Cross, especially those possessed by the trustees of St. Bartholomew's hospital. The Bill seeks to extinguish those rights in relation to property development proposals that British Rail and the developers are seeking to implement by means of a Bill that should refer specifically to a Channel tunnel station. It is not sensible, fair or just to go about the process in such a way.

A number of proposals contained in the Bill relate to the overall Underground complex at King's Cross and contain some of the measures recommended in the Fennell report following the tragic fire one and a half years ago. The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton made much of those provisions in the Bill. It is worth pointing out that virtually none of those works requires Bill procedures to be implemented. Most could be implemented simply by going through the normal planning procedures, but British Rail has chosen not to do so. To argue that those works should be a reason to pass the Bill would be disingenuous. The Bill is not needed to ensure that those works go ahead.

Mr. Rowe

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood from the Clerk of private Bills that private Bills could be used only for matters that could not be achieved in any other way. In view of what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has just said, can we be assured that every item in the Bill can be achieved only through this Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The vires of a Bill are tested by the Examiners, who go through it meticulously to ensure that it satisfies the requirements of the Standing Orders before it is presented to the House. The Bill has been dealt with by the Examiners, it is satisfactory and it contains nothing contrary to our Standing Orders that should inhibit our discussion of it.

Mr. Spearing

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Irrespective of the truth of your remarks about the Examiners, is it not a fact that, if a Committee finds that part of the works in the Bill could be achieved by other means, it is within the powers of that Committee to require the promoters to take that part from the text as a condition of passing the Bill? It has been known on rare occasions for a Committee not to pass a Bill at all, I believe.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Let us take it one step at a time and dispose of Second Reading in one way or another first.

Mr. Smith

Following that extremely interesting and important exchange, I trust that if the Bill receives a Second Reading—unfortunate though that would be—the Committee might consider that point. The provision in the Bill for works to relieve congestion in the Underground booking hall at King's Cross—which we all know was the site of the fire in November 1987—fulfils recommendation 142 of the Fennell report. A private Bill is not required for those works to be proceeded with. Indeed, London Underground has been discussing with Camden council an application for planning permission for precisely those works. It seems odd that London Underground should be applying for planning permission while at the same time joining British Rail in promoting the Bill.

I record my dismay at the way in which British Rail has constantly changed its mind—from one day to the next and from one issue to the next—in relation to King's Cross and all the works associated with it in the Bill. Some petitioners have at first been opposed as to locus standi but have subsequently been accepted. At one moment some of my hon. Friends have been told that passenger links with the north-west using rail lines linking the north-eastern and north-western lines may well be provided, while at the next British Rail is talking instead about a travelator running from King's Cross to Euston. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) may well have something more to say about that.

It seems crazy that so-called direct routes to the north-west should involve someone getting off a train at King's Cross, coming up to a different level with his baggage and travelling half a mile underground on a travelator on to another station, another platform and another train. If British Rail thinks of that as a direct link to the north-west from the Channel tunnel, it ought to think again.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Does my hon. Friend accept that British Rail has presented the direct link in the north, the north-west and the north-east in a different way, which has not involved any emphasis on travelators? It has implied that there will be through services.

Mr. Smith

That is so. British Rail has had a wonderful record of implying one thing to some hon. Members and another to other hon. Members during the preparation of the Bill. When I met British Rail officials last Friday, they told me that what they have in mind is a travelator linking King's Cross and Euston. As far as I could divine, to all intents and purposes, that was the end of the story.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Does my hon. Friend have information to suggest that British Rail management will adopt a proposal similar to that for the so-called "Battersea Bullet"? Pictures at the windows give the impression that the train is moving at 150 miles an hour, although it is actually travelling at only 35 miles an hour. Does he think that British Rail has something similar in mind for the travelator?

Mr. Smith

I hesitate to follow my hon. Friend along that line. The difficulties of passenger transfer from a Channel tunnel train on to a completely different train starting from a different station are such that they must be obvious even to British Rail.

Mr. Dobson

Assuming that British Rail does not use the great circle route from King's Cross to Euston, the travelator will run entirely within my constituency. Did British Rail favour my hon. Friend with any indication of what route the travelator would take and whether it would be above or below ground?

Mr. Smith

The implication appeared to be that it would be below ground, but beyond that British Rail was not terribly forthcoming.

British Rail has changed its mind absolutely and completely about the choice of King's Cross in the first place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) said, when the Select Committee discussed the location of the station for the Channel tunnel at Waterloo, it asked British Rail whether alternative locations in London would be better or worse than Waterloo. British Rail was specifically asked about King's Cross. Its answer to the Select Committee in October 1986 was that King's Cross was an infinitely worse location than Waterloo; so bad was it that British Rail ruled it out completely.

Let me quote from page 1829 of the proceedings of the Select Committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill on 28 October 1986. Counsel for British Rail said: The principal reservation about King's Cross is traffic congestion—which, as I say, features very badly compared with Waterloo. British Rail now tells us that King's Cross is the best thing since sliced bread, although two and a half years ago it argued that it was the worst option. But the only thing that has changed in the past two and a half years is that the traffic congestion at King's Cross has got worse.

Mr. Tony Banks

Did my hon. Friend raise that matter in any of his discussions with British Rail? If so, what was its response?

Mr. Smith

I have certainly made the point in my various discussions with British Rail, but I do not think that I have yet received a response on it.

I have three major reasons for opposing the Bill and asking the House to refuse to give it a Second Reading. The first is its impact on the local neighbourhood. It will cut a swathe across the south-western corner of my constituency. It will involve the compulsory purchase of 17 acres of property to the east and south-east of the station. It will involve the demolition of almost all the 150 buildings on that 17-acre site. It will mean diverting two of London's main traffic arteries and blocking many other roads. It will mean excavating a 40 ft pit across most of the site, for a period of two years at least.

Thousands of people live and work in the buildings to be destroyed: 329 people will lose their homes; 59 local shops will have to close; 130 other businesses will lose their premises; 2,114 local jobs will go; the main Euston road post office will disappear.

In addition, the measure represents the destruction of a thriving local community. Over the past 20 years, much effort by local councils and by local people in particular has been put into the building up of a good, thriving, lively neighbourhood at King's Cross. Houses have been rehabilitated. The neighbourhood has been re-established as a wonderful place for people to live and be in. That will be destroyed by the proposals. Nothing can take that from the defects of the Bill.

Meanwhile, British Rail, which is proposing to gobble up 17 acres—with all the homes, jobs and people who will be affected—owns 125 acres to the north-east of King's Cross station. If it insists on using King's Cross as a location for its second Channel tunnel station, why on earth does it not use the land that it already owns rather than seek compulsory purchase of land and destroy jobs and homes in the process? Perhaps I can provide an answer on behalf of the promoter of the Bill. The reason is that British Rail does not want in any way to endanger the profit which it expects to make from the development of railway lands to the north of King's Cross station. If it builds the new station there, that is precisely what will happen.

The second reason for opposing the Bill is that it will have a severe impact on congestion in the surrounding area. King's Cross is already one of the most congested locations in London, both above and below ground. We know that from the tragic events of November 1987. British Rail now proposes to put 15 million extra passengers a year through King's Cross. Quite simply, King's Cross cannot cope with that extra load. However the works are done and however much the underground booking hall is extended, King's Cross will not cope with the extra traffic, either above or below ground. Above-ground conditions will be particularly severe.

The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton, parroting what British Rail has frequently said about the Bill, said that the philosophy behind the King's Cross location is its easy access by public transport. That may be the philosophy behind the choice of King's Cross, but it will not necessarily be the event—the actuality—of the location of the second Channel tunnel station. People will want to be met by coaches or by relatives. People will go to ground level and take taxis. People will arrive by train from Paris and get off at King's Cross. They will not go to the Underground but will get transport at road level. They will go into an already fiercely congested area.

Perhaps I can put it no better than the local chief superintendent of police put it in his annual report only a month or so ago. On policing in the King's Cross area, he wrote: Plans for Kings Cross Railway Station will make it a major travel centre for Europe. This has major traffic implications for the area, even now the roads are unable to cope with the volume of traffic. They are not my words. They are the words of the Metropolitan police. The police have identified what British Rail has ignored and what the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton has sought to obfuscate—the severe traffic implications of what is being proposed for King's Cross and the surrounding area.

The third reason for opposing the Bill is that it represents a total absence of proper national strategic planning of the benefits from the Channel tunnel. As a nation, we should seriously think about how best to maximise the economic benefits that can be derived from the Channel tunnel and how to spread them as effectively as possible around the country. Putting services into King's Cross will not necessarily do that.

Let us carefully examine British Rail's claims about direct services to the north. In meetings that I and my colleagues have had with British Rail, it has said that, at most, it expects only a quarter of trains going into King's Cross to go northward from King's Cross. In other words, a small minority of trains will provide direct services to the north. Most trains will terminate at King's Cross. Indeed, British Rail gave that fact away in its information pack on the Channel tunnel rail link. Its leaflet called "Rail Services" refers to journey times for passengers and a new terminus at King's Cross—not a station: a terminus. A terminus is where trains stop and go no further. That is what British Rail has in mind for the great majority of traffic from the Channel tunnel to King's Cross.

All the talk about the possibility of direct links is a smokescreen to disguise the fact that the overwhelming majority of traffic will go to King's Cross and end there. That is not a recipe for spreading the geographic and economic benefits of the Channel tunnel. It is a recipe for funnelling everything into the centre of London. That principle is behind British Rail's policy on the Bill.

Frankly, British Rail and hon. Members who argue its case about routes from King's Cross to the north have been disingenuous in their claims about the benefit of King's Cross as a location. The Bill represents no strategic thinking or planning. It will bring few long-term benefits, cause large-scale traffic chaos in much of north and north-east London, and involve the massive destruction of a thriving local neighbourhood. The Bill should be refuted.

Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This evening President Ortega of Nicaragua is addressing a rally at Central hall, which is not far from the House. A provocative counter-demonstration in support of the Contras is taking place not feet from the entrance to the hall and is resulting in a breach of public order. Two people have already been arrested. I have approached the police and asked them why it has been allowed, and they have said that they have given permission. I ask you, as Deputy Speaker, to make inquiries.

Students were not allowed to demonstrate within a mile of Parliament. Given that this demonstration is resulting in a breach of the peace and is an insult to a democratically elected President, I ask you to use your authority and ask for an explanation from the Metropolitan police.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

The Chair has no authority to intervene in a matter for which it has no responsibility.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you have jurisdiction when an hon. Member approaches the police and asks them to explain to demonstrators that they are in breach of the law, is refused access to the demonstrators, and is told by Inspector Grigg that he does not intend to tell them that they are in breach of the law? Surely you can do something when the upholders of the law are refusing to allow lawmakers access to people to tell them that they are breaking the law. Surely that is a serious breach.

Madam Deputy Speaker

It might be a breach, but it has nothing to do with the Chair of the House of Commons.

Mr. Dobson

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friends are saying that the demonstration is not in breach of any statute but in breach of the Sessional Orders which we pass at the beginning of each Session of Parliament. There have been precedents. In the past, Mr. Speaker has undertaken to examine whether the Sessional Orders were being breached. Therefore, in those circumstances, it might be helpful if you could ask whether some Officers of the House might do that. The demonstration outside Central hall, Westminster could be breaching those Sessional Orders.

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is a reasonable request, and without any commitment, I shall follow the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

7.49 pm
Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

I rise briefly to join Opposition Members and some of my hon. Friends in opposing the Bill. I do so for two reasons. First, I cannot see the area of King's Cross having the capacity to cope with the massive amount of traffic and congestion that would result from a terminus being built there. Secondly, if the legislation is not right in the first place, I see the battle of King's Cross today being the battle of Kent tomorrow and indeed the battle of the rest of the country as the 1990s progress towards the millennium.

On the first point, it seems most odd that a national transport institution such as British Rail is commencing a route from Europe into the capital of this country, starting at both ends, but being relatively unconcerned about what happens in the middle. Clearly, we need a national statement by British Rail about its policy for the country as a whole. I do not like and have not liked for some years the piecemeal approach that British Rail has developed towards access to and from Europe. I liken it to the dance of Salome and the seven veils. The unfortunate thing is that when we think that we are getting to veil No. 7 and are about to see the body beautiful, another seven veils are added. We are no nearer to the truth as we perceive it than we were when we started with the whole vexed question of this policy.

As an hon. Member representing north-west Kent, I can say that we were more than a little dismayed when the individuals and organisations along the route in Kent made applications to the Court of Referees for leave to appear before the appropriate Committee of this House to have their objections heard, but were turned down. We felt that that was wrong because we have as much interest in this legislation as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and his hon. Friends who represent central London. In that sense, unusual and unlikely as it is, we are at one in our opposition to this proposition.

I shall develop my argument on British Rail's piecemeal approach for a moment longer, because the House will understand that this is the first opportunity that I have had, as a Kentish Member, of getting my views on record about British Rail's proposals for the high-speed link and the consequential effect on London termini. The House will remember that some years ago we were told by British Rail that the Channel tunnel would have no impact on the need for extra rail capacity and that the existing network services could cope. Yet, as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury has said, today we are debating a proposition which, in the eyes of British Rail, was apparently wrong some time previously.

I should like to speak on two matters—the two instructions that have been chosen by Mr. Speaker for debate and the instruction tabled by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), which refers to Stratford East. I am supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) in saying that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is absolutely right that British Rail should give adequate consideration to other possible locations at King's Cross and the proposal for a station at Stratford East". I have total support for that as it would give the appropriate Committee of this House the opportunity to consider alternatives to the proposed route two for the high-speed rail link route through Kent. As the House knows, my views on the high-speed link are quite simple. If British Rail wishes to place a high-speed route through my constituency, it can do so on one condition—that it goes underground. Under the terms of the proposal tabled by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, British Rail could also consider TALIS—the Thames alternative link international system—which commands a great deal of support in north-west Kent. Therefore, I welcome the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

The thing that worries me about this whole vexed matter is the impact on the environment. Any hon. Member whose constituency is affected by King's Cross, or by the preferred route 2 cannot but give statement to and evidence of the great distress and anxiety that the proposal has caused and will cause to many thousands of individuals, communities, places of work and to those who, like me, seek to protect the green belt, such as we have left, in north-west Kent.

Further, I am especially concerned that the promoter of the Bill did not refer in some detail to the impact of clause 19. It is an interesting clause and the precedents for the inclusion of such a clause in a private Bill are limited. The implications of clause 19 are that this private Bill will seek to override the general public law on the protection of listed buildings. If clause 19 were enacted, a precedent would have been created for the inclusion of similar clauses in other legislation from British Rail or from any other institution seeking to undertake a project of a similar scale and type.

We in Kent have suffered for some years from a tremendous demand for housing and urban development. We have a whole series of historic places from Folkestone to Bexley that would be severely affected and would have no protection under general law if a clause 19-type provision were included in the Channel tunnel high-speed link legislation as, if and when it comes forward. That is why I register my great concern about clause 19, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) will reply to that point later.

Ultimately, we must consider ourselves in the traditional role of the House—as the guardians of the rights of the individual. The old-age pensioner in King's Cross and in Dartford has the same right to have his or her views made known about the legislation as do the large institutions of both corporate and local variety. If we cannot air our views in this way and make it easier for an individual to have his or her views made known, what are we doing in our business as legislators?

I commend the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and other hon. Members, and welcome entirely the stance that he has taken because—I repeat—the battle of King's Cross today is the battle of north Kent and of Kent as a whole tomorrow.

7.58 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I am surprised and disappointed that the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) has allowed himself to be used in such a way by British Rail. I understand—the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that British Rail had some difficulty in finding someone to promote the Bill. Clearly, the hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson), whom one would normally expect to promote such a Bill, is not in his place. The hon. Member for Acton will learn in due course that he has been handed a parliamentary equivalent of the black spot from blind Pugh. If the Bill is ever passed, I suspect that when the hon. Gentleman passes through Kent he will need to go with a large entourage of bodyguards around him—because, as we know, he has a rather large body—plus a white stick.

I have a variety of reasons for opposing the Second Reading of the King's Cross Railway Bill. First, it is outrageous that such a vital strategic decision will be made without proper consideration of the transport needs of London or the south-east. There has been so meaningful consultation over the King's Cross proposal. British Rail has acted like a bunch of bully boys. it has been arrogant, high-handed and, what is even worse, it is now trying to use this place as a parliamentary rubber stamp for its proposals. We should not allow ourselves to be used in that fashion. As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) said, the private Bill procedure was not designed for such complex strategic decision making.

I was one of the members of the Joint Committee that considered the private Bill procedure. The Committee was concerned that normal planning arrangements were being increasingly by passed through the private Bill procedure. One of our recommendations—on which I hope the House will eventually make a decision—was that environmental impact studies should accompany such proposals. At least we would then know that there had been some attempt to consider the planning and environmental impact implications of proposals contained in private Bills. I heard the Prime Minister in all her ignorance state recently that the private Bill procedure gave adequate opportunities for objectors to put their case. Clearly, she has never sat on a Committee considering a private Bill. If she had, she would never have made such an ill-informed comment.

Secondly, we have already heard that British Rail is knocking out as many of the potential petitions as it possibly can by challenging the locus standi of objectors. Indeed, more objections concerning locus standi have been raised by British Rail on this Bill than in the previous 50 years. That is no way to convince people that one is prepared to consult and to have people examine one's proposals fairly and impartially. Instead, British Rail is using a technical device to ensure that the voice of opposition is never heard during the private Bill Committee stage. The private Bill procedure is entirely inadequate as a substitute for properly convened public inquiries. I believe, as do hon. Members on both sides of the House, that there should be a proper public inquiry before the Bill is allowed to proceed.

Thirdly, the King's Cross Railway Bill is about the location of a terminal. However, Parliament is being asked to take that decision before it has been asked to determine the route of the rail link from the tunnel to the new second terminal. It is a classic case of putting the carriages before the engine. If that is the way in which British Rail runs a transport undertaking, it comes as little surprise that so many of its trains have recently been crashing into the buffers.

What confidence can one have in an organisation such as British Rail, which finds itself seeking permission to construct a second terminal before the first one is built? What level of ineptitude has led British Rail to miscalculate passenger demand completely so soon after the decision to make Waterloo the site of the London terminal? As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury correctly reminded us, it was during the Committee stage of the Channel Tunnel Bill that British Rail's so-called experts specifically ruled out King's Cross as a site. What has changed in the couple of years that have since passed? All we know is that there is far more traffic congestion and chaos on the roads of London, and certainly around King's Cross, than there was two and a half years ago.

I believe that it is a monumental miscalculation that British Rail is now bringing this new proposal before us. It is breathtaking stupidity. I do not see how the House can have any confidence or trust in British Rail's ability to get its next decision right, when one considers how badly it got its first decision wrong. How can we take its arguments seriously any more?

All British Rail's decision-making processes have been carried out behind a veil of secrecy. It has shown sheer insensitivity about the needs, wishes and fears of people both in London and Kent, which is no way to treat people. If this terminal is supposed to be for the people of London, of the south-east and of the country as a whole, they should be consulted about decisions that are taken by grey, faceless bureaucrats in the British Rail headquarters.

Fourthly, there is a planning vacuum in the south-east. When I visited British Rail and stressed the strategic implications of the decision enshrined within the Bill, it told me that its only concern was running a transport undertaking. It was not its function or responsibility to act as the strategic transport planning authority for London. I accepted what it said. The Secretary of State for Transport came to see the London group of Members of Parliament. He probably thought it was safer to be with us at that time than being chased by people about a variety of matters affecting aircraft safety. When asked a direct question, he told our group that he was not responsible for strategic transport planning in London. The House is entitled to know who is. I still cannot believe that someone as young as the Minister for Public Transport is in a position of such authority in the Government. He is the young Lochinvar of the Conservative party. He is perhaps the person to whom we should turn and ask about the transport strategic decision-making processes in London.

Mr. Spearing

I was so intrigued by the admission of a planning vacuum by the Secretary of State for Transport, who everyone assumed had that responsibility, that I ventured a written question to him. To my surprise, the answer that came back was that the statutory responsibility for co-ordinating public transport in London was with London Regional Transport. My only comment on that was, as in most other things, that that did not give me any confidence.

Mr. Banks

One can hardly be surprised at that. We find it difficult to accept that a vacuum should be allowed to exist. In many ways one can believe that it is a positive dereliction of duty towards the people of London and the south-east that no one is prepared to take responsibility for strategic decisions that will affect the country for decades to come. No other European country would go about things in such a half-cocked way as this Government, aided and abetted by British Rail—or perhaps it is the other way round.

The suggestion that all strategic matters can be dealt with by a private Bill Committee of four Members of Parliament would be laughable if it were not so serious and far-reaching. We are told that we are now the substitute planning inquiry. That is fine, because Members of Parliament like to think that they have a little power. The Prime Minister does not often give us very much. Therefore, this is the beginning of the process. This is the Second Reading, but where is everyone? They will all troop in later. I shall look very carefully to see whether the Prime Minister once again turns up in her curlers and slippers, as she did for one of the earlier private Bills. I shall also be interested to see whether the payroll vote has been whipped in.

Mr. Snape

It was the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Banks

My hon. Friend said that it was not the Prime Minister, but that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was probably going off to another disco, with his shirt slashed to his very ample waist, revealing a very hirsute chest. It was the sort of sight to turn a strong stomach. It was not the sort of thing that a clean-living Member of Parliament such as myself would wish to be associated with.

Although those hon. Members will not have been involved in the discussion, they will vote. Planning matters cannot be left to that level of uncertainty and that lack of involvement.

We are told that the private Bill procedure is an adequate replacement for planning procedure. The Prime Minister herself said that. It is not so. Four Members will be asked to sit on that Private Bill Committee, and they will not even have an interest in the area. One of the requirements to sit on an opposed Bill Committee is that one does not have a constituency interest. Often, that means that there is no interest. The Members just want to get out of the Committee as fast as possible. Such an important decision should not be left in the hands of people who will not want the opportunity with which we shall present them.

I want the House to reject the Bill so that British Rail can give proper consideration to the other options for the location of the terminal. If the House will not do that, I hope that it will at least pass to the Committee the instruction on the Order Paper which will require British Rail to look seriously at the options. So far, it has just put up a facade of consultation and consideration. We want it to consider the options properly, particularly the option cif Stratford in the borough of Newham.

My council has been campaigning consistently for the terminal to be located at Stratford in the east end, in my constituency. We want it there for a variety of reasons. There is adequate British Rail-owned land there already. There will be no need to destroy listed buildings and community facilities, as will happen if the terminal is located at King's Cross. Stratford has a railway tradition going back to the 19th century. There is adequate transport infrastructure and more is planned, for which we are grateful. The development at Stratford will give a further boost to the economic development of the east end as a whole. Of great significance, the London borough of Newham entirely supports the location of the terminal in our area. That support is also given by the surrounding boroughs.

Mr. Leighton

Has my hon. Friend noticed the remarkable fact that everywhere else—for example in Kent and most other places in Britain—we have the "not in my back yard" factor? The London borough of Newham is saying, "Please put this in our back yard." Is that not completely unprecedented? Surely it must weigh with British Rail when an area will give a welcome to the development and not the opposition that one sees everywhere else.

Mr. Banks

A new acronym is born, IOBY—in our back yard. We are saying, "Yes, we are prepared to have the development, and the surrounding local authorities will co-operate with the Government and British Rail in locating it." It is not often that the young Minister gets such an offer, yet he is turning his face against it. It is a great pity for London, the south-east and the country as a whole.

I realise that several of my hon. Friends have expressed a clear preference for King's Cross over Stratford. I hope that they will take time to read the report commissioned by Newham from Colin Buchanan and Partners, which puts the case for Stratford rather than King's Cross. It is described as the case the nation must hear. I shall ensure that the Minister gets a copy and I hope that he will study it [Interruption.] The Minister has a copy. Excellent. That means that the communications system has been working well. I hope that he has read the report. If he has, I am sure that it will convince him that the decision that he will be allowed to make to locate the second terminal at King's Cross is wrong and that he should quickly change his position.

It is not surprising that since British Rail made the proposal, it cannot reject the notion that others will also explore the idea of a Channel tunnel terminal, in this case at Stratford. This is especially true since it appears that the comparative studies originally considered necessary by British Rail have not been carried out other than in a very cursory manner indeed. The Buchanan study does not claim to have done justice to all the technical matters involved in making a proper comparison between King's Cross and Stratford, but it has carried the analysis far enough to show that a high-speed rail link from the Channel tunnel to a new terminal at Stratford will be far cheaper than British Rail's proposal involving King's Cross. The capital cost saving would probably be in the range of £500 million to £1,100 million. Partly because of the imaginative cross-rail proposal which has emerged from the central London rail study since the decision on King's Cross was taken, the time disadvantage of Stratford compared with King's Cross for a journey from Paris to central London probably averages no more than five minutes, while in certain key areas, notably Canary wharf and the Liverpool street area, journey times via Stratford would be much quicker.

Stratford is capable of providing the onward rail connections for through services with journey times not noticeably different from those achievable via King's Cross. Where through services are not operated because the demand does not justify them, an interchange is necessary in London. Travel times would also be very close. The Stratford site will shortly be connected directly to the M11 and could easily accommodate the car and coach parking essential to a major international transport terminal.

King's Cross, by contrast, lies at one of the most persistently congested points of London's road network—the worst point at which to locate a major traffic generator. Because Stratford is near the Temple Mills mashalling yards and because it can have new carriage cleansing yards adjacent to it, it would permit the operation of a much tidier, more self-contained and cost-effective rail operation, with freight services able to make use of the full length of the high-speed line wherever traffic paths can be made available between passenger services.

A Channel tunnel terminal at Stratford would be of a quality, spaciousness and greenness which, no matter how clever the architecture, can never be matched underground at King's Cross in the midst of one of the most tangled and congested rail complexes in the world. A Channel tunnel terminal at Stratford offers the opportunity to achieve a major inner-city redevelopment of the type known to be favoured by Ministers which could accord with the key planning objectives recently set out by the Secretary of State for the Environment. A Channel tunnel terminal at Stratford accords with the local plan for the area, whereas one at King's Cross contradicts the recently adopted local plan of Camden.

There are many good reasons why the House, if it will not throw out the Bill, should at least take the opportunity through the private Bill procedure to consider in some depth what is clearly a viable alternative that would meet the needs of London, the fears of the people of Kent and provide the sort of facility that the east end desperately needs. It would enable us to serve transport in London and the country as a whole in a way that would not cause the damage and distress in King's Cross that the Bill proposes.

For all those reasons I ask the House, even if it is minded to give the Bill a Second Reading—I hope that there are enough of us to vote it down—at least to accept the instruction that stands in my name and those of hon. Members on both sides, so that proper consideration can be given to the viable alternative of Stratford.

8.18 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo)

It may be helpful to the House if I intervene at this point to set out the Government's position on the Bill. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) on an extremely lucid and helpful explanation of the Bill.

Perhaps I should begin by emphasising that the Bill does not deal with the development of the King's Cross railway land. That is entirely a planning matter which is the subject of planning applications currently lodged with the London borough of Camden. The Bill deals with proposed operational railway and underground works, the need for which is independent of the development of that site. Some part of that need is urgent. The relevance of the wider planning issue to the Bill is that British Rail and London Regional Transport either seek powers now for their railway development or lose the chance of effective railway development at King's Cross if the rest of the development then proceeds. Once any development is completed, it will be impossibly expensive to carry out extensive railway projects on the scale envisaged.

There are three distinct elements in the Bill: first, BR works to permit commuter services which operate into King's Cross to use St. Pancras; secondly, BR works to construct a low-level station for the use of rail services, whether domestic or international; and thirdly, LRT works to improve London Underground facilities.

There are several ways in which the Bill affects my Department. As British Rail's sponsoring Department, we must be satisfied that the powers being sought are appropriate, that safety considerations are adequately addressed and that the projects are likely to meet the appropriate investment rules. The same is true in respect of the works proposed by London Regional Transport for London Underground in which important and specific safety considerations arise from the Fennell report and less specific safety considerations also arise that relate to the relief of congestion through the enlargement of an Underground station.

We should also be concerned with the broad impact of the proposals taken together, on the existing transport system, including the road system around the King's Cross area. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton described British Rail's plan, first to link St. Pancras to the east coast main line to relieve congestion at King's Cross and secondly, to provide for the enhancement of the Thameslink service through King's Cross by using the low level station. British Rail believes that both measures are required—the first more urgently than the second—to cope with the growth in the use of those services. If Parliament grants the powers, the board will, in due course, submit the investment proposals to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport for his approval. If they offer good value for money, I am sure that he will be pleased to approve them.

In principle, what is proposed in the Bill looks sensible and we support British Rail in seeking the powers at this stage. This is a further step in British Rail's plans to create a modern railway to carry traffic to and through London.

Mr. Rowe

Will my hon. Friend explain something about which I have never been entirely clear? If somebody were able to present a plan that provided better value for money than British Rail's plan, would my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State be able to direct British Rail either to give over its plan or to think it out again?

Mr. Portillo

We do not yet know whether British Rail proposes to bring forward an investment case of its own. I think that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has wider implications encompassing the Channel link through Kent. We do not yet know if British Rail intends to bring forward an investment proposal of its own or will seek Government approval through a private sector arrangement. All I can say is that the discussions that British Rail will have with consortia will be closely followed with intense interest by the Government.

The Government are currently considering the board's commercial case for King's Cross as a second international railway station in London in preference to other possible locations. I hope that we shall have reached a conclusion on the matter by the time that the Government submit their report on the Bill to the Select Committee.

The commercial case for the low-level station may involve us in considering the traffic, both domestic and international, that would be made possible by a new rail link between London and the Channel tunnel. The reasons for the timing of the Bill have been explained and I can assure the House that granting British Rail the powers to build this station does not prejudge the case for a new link or its route. The House would be agreeing only to British Rail's proposition that if there is to be a second central London international station at King's Cross it should be constructed in the manner indicated.

In the short term at least, international traffic could reach King's Cross by the Thameslink line rather than a new line from Kent. In addition to the proposals in the Bill to connect the low-level station to both the east coast and midland main lines, I am told that it would be comparatively straightforward to connect the west coast main line, and that this is being considered by British Rail.

Mr. Tony Banks

Has the Minister asked his officials to study the alternatives of TAUS and Stratford? If so, what reports have they made to him?

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman is jumping the gun. I have explained that we have not yet approved the British Rail investment case for King's Cross, and we look forward to looking at it. If an adequate case for King's Cross is put forward by British Rail, we shall be pleased to approve it.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

The Minister referred to an adequate case being put forward by British Rail for King's Cross. Has he had the opportunity to see the documents that convinced British Railways Board members that King's Cross was the right location? The reasons for its decision would have been based on comparisons between alternative termini, costings, engineering plans, environmental impact. If the Minister has seen the documents on which British Rail board members based their decision, will he place them in the House of Commons Library so that hon. Members who have to make a decision on the same issues at least have the benefit of that information?

Mr. Portillo

I return to the point that I made a few moments ago, that we have not yet considered a formal case for King's Cross.

Ms. Harman

What are we here for?

Mr. Portillo

I have tried to explain to the House that the Bill has come to the House before the decision on the investment case has been taken. That should not be a surprise to hon. Members because that point has been made a number of times.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the Minister for giving, way at this stage because this is what Parliament is all about. The Minister has made some important statements. Is he saying that the Government agree with this location in principle but are reserving their case on the commercial element? The Minister nods. Does he remember that not long ago the Prime Minister, at that very seat, said that the private Bill procedure was as good as, and better than, any planning inquiry? The Minister now says that the Government, without any planning inquiry, and before the Committee has met and any debate concluded, have decided in principle that, given the commercial case, King's Cross is the right location. Is that not an example of the elective dictatorship at work?

Mr. Portillo

About halfway through the hon. Gentleman's intervention I entirely lost him. Let me try to explain the position. British Rail is charged with running commercial rail services between cities and internationally. There is to be no subsidy of the rail services provided by British Rail, either between cities or internationally, and if there is to be no subsidy from taxpayers' money there should be no interference from the Government in the choice of location for its terminals made by British Rail because that is a commercial matter. However, if the terminal to be is to be financed by British Rail—and as BR is a nationalised industry—obviously the case for its investment in one station rather than another must be convincingly made to the Government. The decision has not yet been taken but that does not make it impossible for the House to consider the case for the King's Cross Railways Bill now before us.

Mr. Spearing

I am sorry that I was a little too quick in making my point. The Minister has confirmed that the Government, subject to a commercial arrangement, are in favour of the location. As I explained earlier, the Prime Minister claimed that a Committee to consider a Bill was as good as any public inquiry, but an inquiry has not taken place. By giving the Bill its Second Reading tonight and giving the Government's imprimatur to the location, is not the case prejudiced because it has not been scrutinised properly? That is so unless the promoter is going to accept the location, which he has not yet said.

Mr. Portillo

From such a renowned constitutionalist, I find what the hon. Gentleman said very surprising. We are saying that British Rail is right in principle to bring forward the Bill. I intend to explain that the Government believe that the Bill should be given a Second Reading, that the Committee has an extremely important job in considering all the relevant matters and that there are some points on which the Government have doubts. If I manage to make progress with my speech I shall reach those points.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Bill will be widely welcomed in Leicestershire, particularly the new link from the midland main line? However, there is concern that this will not be electrified and, therefore, the link will not be used to its full extent.

Mr. Portillo

It has been suggested to me that the Bill would be welcomed in Leicestershire and also that the midland main line should be electrified. However, British Rail must consider whether it wishes to make an investment case for that. My hon. Friend should also consider that electrification is one of only a number of ways in which services on lines can be improved.

Mr. Dobson

It was so long ago that I hope I am not misquoting the Minister, but I believe that he said that he understood from British Rail that it would be possible to link the works at King's Cross to the west coast main line. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) was told by British Rail as recently as Friday that it is contemplating doing that by way of a travelator more than a quarter of a mile long. When was the Minister told by British Rail that it could make a link to the west coast main line? Does British Rail envisage doing that by means of a travelator or a railway line?

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman has quoted me with tolerable accuracy. I said: I am told that it would be comparatively straightforward to connect the west coast main line, and that this is being considered by BR. I referred to a railway line, not a travelator.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

The Minister has given way generously, and I appreciate that. He said that no taxpayers' money was to be used and that the funds would come from British Rail. To what extent will property development desiderata play a part in this? Documents that I have seen suggest that British Rail wants the terminus at King's Cross because it is superior for property development and British Rail will make a lot of money out of it. That, rather than traffic considerations, weighs heavily with British Rail.

Mr. Portillo

Both property development and traffic considerations could be important. The Government will look for an economic case to be made for the station; it will include station property and traffic. I have not yet seen that case, so I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman what the proportions between the two will he.

Mr. Dobson

Is the Minister saying that, when considering the proposals for the railway works at King's Cross, the Government will consider property speculation on the 125 acres of surplus railway land to the north of King's Cross?

Mr. Portillo

No, I was saying that the question whether the low-level station is viable has to do with the traffic that might be generated by it and the property development that might be associated with it. As I said in my opening paragraph, the railway lands around King's Cross are outwith this measure and will be considered through the normal processes by the submission of a planning application to the London borough of Camden.

I turn now to the implications of the Bill's proposals for the Underground. The Bill will allow the present Underground ticket hall to be enlarged, and a new one to be constructed to serve the deep tube lines and BR's Thameslink and channel tunnel traffic. It also provides for a series of new subways between the various platforms, ticket halls and the surface. These works are needed to implement one of the recommendations of the Fennell investigation into the King's Cross fire. Mr. Fennell recommended that London Underground should build a direct subway link between the deep tube lines and the Metropolitan and Circle lines, or provide alternative satisfactory means of relieving the serious congestion. He considered that an important recommendation.

Although the detailed appraisal of this aspect of the proposals has yet to be completed and presented to the Department, the Government support these improvements in principle. I am sure that the House will be pleased to support measures designed to relieve congestion in one of the busiest stations in the London Underground system—

Mr. Dobson

Have British Rail or London Underground—or the two between them—calculated the net effect of the improvements set against the additional 60,000 passengers that they contemplate? It sounds to me possible that the place will be more overcrowded as a result of the proposals.

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Gentleman asks me a question which is better directed to the promoters of the Bill. It would probably be more appropriately asked in Committee than on Second Reading.

As far as the impact of the proposals on the road network is concerned, we are discussing the technical issues with British Rail, the King's Cross developers and the London boroughs of Camden and Islington with a view to identifying the separate and combined effects of the development and the railway works. Our first priority will be to judge the overall effect of all the proposals on the trunk roads for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is the highway authority, and on the designated roads for which he is the approving authority for borough proposals. We also need to consider the wider implications for other borough roads in the area.

When taking these discussions forward, we shall be able to draw in the first instance on traffic information in the document supporting the developers' planning application to the London borough of Camden and in the environmental impact assessment which BR will submit in relation to its proposals.

Our main aim will be to safeguard the efficient movement of traffic on the strategic network of trunk and designated roads in the area around King's Cross.

Ms. Harman

Does the Minister think it right that the House should be asked to give a Second Reading to the Bill when British Rail has not yet allowed hon. Members sight of, or published, the environmental impact assessment of these proposals? Should we not have those plans before we are asked to vote?

Mr. Portillo

That is another question for the promoters, not for me. The Bill must pass through several stages, as the hon. Lady knows, and the environmental impact assessment will be made available during the passage of the Bill. It concerns the Government, too, as I shall explain in a moment.

Some improvements will be possible with the introduction of better traffic management techniques, but if the additional traffic demand is heavy, changes to the trunk road, particularly at the junction of Euston road with Pentonville road and York way, might be necessary to accommodate it. A former GLC scheme for this junction, the St. Chad's place scheme, has been safeguarded. We are reviewing it to see whether it will be adequate, given the proposed developments. We would expect to submit a progress report on the road issues to the Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Acton referred to an environmental impact assessment which British Rail has commissioned in connection with the railway works in the Bill. I understand that it will be available well before the Select Committee begins considering petitions against the Bill. The Government welcome the fact that British Rail has chosen to carry out this assessment. Although the European Community directive on environmental impact assessment does not, strictly speaking, apply to works authorised by a private Bill, BR has chosen to operate within the spirit of the directive and of the recent Joint Committee report on private Bill procedure.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was present for parts of the debate on 20 April on private Bill procedure, and although I was abroad on official business that day, I have read Hansard with great interest. The Government are considering how best to proceed in the light of the Joint Committee's report and of the debate, but the House will recognise that for the time being there is no alternative to the private Bill procedure. Speaking for myself, I cannot regard it as bad that a project of this size and importance for the national railway system should be considered by Parliament, rather than exclusively by a local planning inspector and Ministers of whatever party. Doubts in that regard were expressed by hon. Members on both sides and, as I have said, we are carefully considering all the issues raised by the report and the debate, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House promised just over three weeks ago—

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Does the Minister accept that no one on the Opposition Benches argues that either Parliament or the planning procedure should be used? We are arguing for both—for a proper planning inquiry and then parliamentary scrutiny.

Mr. Portillo

The hon. Lady makes her point, but I am not sure whether going through the processes twice, with all the delay that that involves, is in the best interests of anyone, including the objectors. As it happens, in this case we are dealing with two closely related matters—the railway works in the Bill and the broader development in the King's Cross area. On the latter, there will be normal planning procedures involving the submission of an application to the London borough of Camden. To that extent, the hon. Lady may be contented, because there will be both a planning procedure and a private Bill procedure.

The works proposed will affect several listed buildings in the area. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is concerned about clause 19, the effect of which is to disapply the special controls that normally apply to listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas. My right hon. Friend accepts that exceptional circumstances may justify overriding the normal statutory conservation safeguards, but he does not want that done at the expense of proper debate, for purposes not directly and specifically connected with British Rail's operational needs. He is currently in discussion with the promoters to establish the precise effect of their proposals on the listed buildings and conservation areas and will be considering the position further after consulting English Heritage. I understand that, apart from the two main line stations, which are listed grade I, there are seven buildings or structures listed grade II which are potentially affected by British Rail's plans, and two conservation areas.

My right hon. Friend had previously attached some weight to the fact that English Heritage was petitioning against the clause, since that would, in his view, have ensured that when the Bill was in Committee, Parliament would have the benefit of its independent and expert advice. In view of the decision by the Court of Referees to disallow English Heritage's petition, he will now be looking to the promoters to give satisfactory assurances—preferably by way of an additional clause in the Bill—that they will consult English Heritage; that they will give it adequate opportunities to record any buildings which have to be demolished; and that generally they will pay special regard to the desirability of preserving, so far as is practicable, the buildings and other features which give the area its special interest and character. Subject to that, he will be considering whether to report on the clause, and in what terms.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Minister is correct to remind the House that the Court of Referees did not accept the locus standi of English Heritage. That happened because British Rail challenged locus on the part of English Heritage, as it did on the part of a large number of other potential petitioners. What confidence can the House have that BR will give careful consideration to all the matters to which the Minister referred, given the way in which BR arrogantly and aggressively stopped people who were able to come before the Committee from appearing and giving the benefit of their advice?

Mr. Portillo

I am responsible neither for BR's action in challenging the locus standi of certain petitioners nor for the decisions of the Court of Referees. The Secretary of State for the Environment has responsibilities in those matters, and the hon. Gentleman will have heard me say that the Government will look for assurances, preferably by way of an additional clause in the Bill, and I hope that that will be of comfort to him on that point, which clearly concerns him.

Ms. Harman

I welcome the fact that the Minister has recognised that BR behaved wrongly in objecting to the locus standi of English Heritage. Will he bear in mind that many other organisations and individuals petitioned against the Bill, including myself on behalf of my constituents, and were also steamrollered out by BR's objection to locus? Will he, in addition to taking up the case of English Heritage, consider the cases of all those who petitioned and whose petitions were disgracefully ruled out on the basis of that challenge?

Mr. Portillo

No. The hon. Lady wilfully misunderstands what I said. I do not criticise British Rail in the matter; I simply said that I had no responsibility for it. I do not see how BR could have been wrong to mount a challenge, the Court of Referees having found its challenge to be in order. These are matters for the Court of Referees, although the Secretary of State for the Environment has special responsibilities which he will discharge in the manner I described.

I have indicated support in principle for the Bill. It is of course for the promoters to persuade Parliament that the powers they are seeking are justified. There remain against the Bill a great many petitions which raise important matters and which reflect genuine and widely felt concern about the proposals. The petitioners will have the opportunity to present their objections to the Select Committee. The Committee will be in a much better position than we are tonight to examine in detail the issues involved and will have the advantage of hearing expert evidence.

I therefore recommend to the House that the Bill be given a Second Reading and be allowed to proceed, in the usual way, to Committee for detailed consideration.

8.44 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

The confusion surrounding the Bill has been added to, rather than cleared away, by the Minister's contribution. The newspapers tell us that the hon. Gentleman is the coming man of the Government. I have no wish to blight his future career, but I warn him that he must do better in future if he is to live up to the rave reviews that he has been receiving from the national press.

As my hon. Friends—and to be fair, some Conservative Members—have said, there is widespread unhappiness about the procedures that have been adopted towards the Bill. The Minister agreed that hon. Members in all parts of the House felt that the private Bill procedure was being abused from the point of view of this project. As for the management of British Rail, there is, to put it at its mildest, widespread unhappiness in the House about the way in which it has conducted itself in the conflicting and contradictory stories that have eminated from that source.

The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) spoke of the project being a partnership between the public and private sector. We would have no objection to that, if it were true. The problem with the Bill, as the Minister pointed out, is that the contribution from the private sector will be all-important because it will enable British Rail to meet the investment criteria laid down by the Government.

That being the problem, my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) said that BR owned a considerable amount of land at King's Cross which, in his opinion—and he should know, because he is the constituency Member—would provide an adequate site for a new railway station, if that were what BR was seeking. But that is not what is being sought by BR. It is seeking to maximise revenues on that valuable inner-city site to meet the investment criteria laid down by the Government, which will allow BR to build an underground station catering supposedly for international trade, supposedly to all parts of the country.

In explaining why BR had opted for that course, the hon. Member for Acton conceded that, when BR gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Channel tunnel, its forecast for cross-Channel passenger traffic was too low. The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) might have something to say privately to him about that because, when giving evidence to that Committee, BR made a number of statements which it subsequently contradicted. It told the Committee that there was no need for a high-speed rail link and that the Waterloo terminal would be sufficient for international passengers until the end of the century.

BR then changed its mind and said that its forecasts were too low. BR was cross-examined on a number of occasions when giving evidence to the Select Committee about the accuracy of its forecasts, but was adamant at that time that they were correct. What has changed since? Has BR been reading the Eurotunnel prospectus, which said that its forecasts were too low? Has BR been talking to its counterparts in SNCF, who felt at that time that the forecasts where too low? Or could it be that, to minimise opposition to the original Bill, BR deliberately pitched its forecasts at a low level, simply to get the Bill through the House? I do not know the answer, and the hon. Member who is acting for the promoters shows no signs of telling us. It would not be unusual, to say the least, for the British Rail management to mislead on these issues.

Mr. Rowe

If we are charitable enough to assume that British Rail was incompetent, rather than conspiratorial, in its forecasting, does that not bear out the criticism of many of us about the fact that BR has remained adamantly opposed to accepting advice on any aspect of its great Euro-rail investment from any other source, be it the Swiss, the French or the Germans, even though the figures on which BR is now proceeding appear to be much closer to those of the French?

Mr. Snape

That is a valid question, and the hon. Gentleman should address it to the hon. Member for Acton who is acting on behalf of the promoters. I do not share the hon. Gentleman's view that it has been incompetence on the part of the BR management. Not that I question its incompetence; I worked for it for too long to believe that it is anything other than incompetent when it comes to making decisions of this kind. But we should not ignore the fact that, as well as incompetence, the BR management over the years has been adept at what has been called obfuscation about statistics relating to its business.

I am speaking of the railway management that, following the 1955 modernisation plan, decided to operate a multiplicity of different types of diesel locomotives. These were all stabled next to steam locomotives, with the inevitable maintenance problems that were bound to arise. It is the management that gave us massive marshalling yards for wagonload traffic from one end of Britain to another, only entirely to drop wagonload traffic thereafter. It is the management that tells us that the best way forward for the operation of passenger services in and around the capital is one-person operation locomotives and unmanned stations. That system gives the malicious an opportunity to board a train at a station which has no staff, to mug the passengers while the train is proceeding under the control of one person and to leave the train at another unmanned station.

Apart from the moral considerations of a management that approaches its duty in that way, that is not an economical way of running a train service. It is possible for people to board trains at unmanned stations, to ride on OPO trains and to alight from those trains at unmanned stations. The motivation for some individuals to pay their fare is perhaps somewhat lacking.

I am talking of the management that comes forward with a fresh barrage of statistics and supposed facts to convince us that the Bill is worthy of support.

A thread that has united us all, apart from the promoters and the Minister for Public Transport, whose somewhat confused contribution suggested that he is a man with a future behind him, is a mistrust of British Rail's management. That includes its intentions for King's Cross, and especially the way in which that station is to be operated for through international services to other parts of Britain.

Mr. Dunn

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to take the conspiratorial notion a stage further. Does he agree that it would be wrong for us to proceed with the Bill without having the Government's views made known to us on other routes? Does he agree also that it would be wrong for us to adjudicate on the Bill without knowing anything of British Rail's intention for freight and freight clients? I speak as a man with only a past to which he can look forward.

Mr. Snape

I am sure that the last part of the hon. Gentleman's intervention is not true. I am sure that he is not seeking my sympathy, and he will not get it.

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that I do not know. British Rail has confused itself, so God knows what it does to the rest of us. The latest epistle from British Rail—I refer to its press release of Saturday 6 May—refers to freight using the existing north London line. It is especially vague about through passenger services to the north of England, especially to the north-west and to the part of the country which you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I have the honour to represent in the west midlands. I know that that bothers you considerably, as it bothers me.

British Rail's current view—I stress "current"—is that it intends to cater for railway passengers from other parts of the country. If we are to accept that, the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) should be given a little more consideration by the hon. Member for Acton. My hon. Friend referred to passengers to and from south Wales. He spoke also of a letter from the Standing Conference on Regional Policy in South Wales—I have a copy of it in front of me—on the future of services into Paddington and connections with Channel tunnel services to any part of the continent or with through services, if they are to operate, that will use the King's Cross terminal.

The lack of strategic planning is central to the flaws in British Rail's planning generally. There is a proposal for a dedicated rail link between Paddington and Heathrow that will be operated by the British Airports Authority. That does not give much comfort to those who wish to join the cross-Channel services. Sir Norman Payne and his BAA colleagues are obsessed with sites for Tie Rack, Sock Shop and even a chain called Knicker Box Ltd. It is hard to imagine that they will be too concerned about the impact of that dedicated rail line on a travel pattern that will involve the Channel tunnel project.

The central London rail study was referred to a few days ago by the Minister's boss, the Secretary of State for Transport. I understand that there are plans for a surface link—perhaps it will be a sub-surface link, but these matters confuse me—between Paddington and Liverpool Street. There is not much sign there of any coherent strategic plan for knitting these projects into the cross-Channel tunnel services, which are supposedly to pass through the new King's Cross international station.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for referring to the lack of coherent planning of underground railways in London. He has spoken also of connections to the London-north-western main line. From Stratford to Willesden there is an electrified railway line which projects onwards to Acton, Central and Acton, South. The direct route from Stratford to the south Wales main line would join the Great Western main line at Acton main line station. Is that not ironic?

Mr. Snape

That is an historic irony. My personal view is, that the great advantage of long-distance railway services is that they run from city centre to city centre. That has always been perceived as the great advantage of the railways when they are in competition with aviation, for example. By the very nature of things, airports are well away from the centres of towns or cities that they are supposed to serve.

We are told that the advantage of the King's Cross project for the rest of the country will be the through services, if they come to exist. Let us move away from south Wales and the west, with the inadequacies of the proposed provision of services for those areas, and consider Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Carlisle, and the west coast main line. It has always been our understanding that British Rail intended to build and electrify a spur that would join the east coast main line with the west coast main line. It would allow through continental train services to pass via the new King's Cross international station to the parts of the country which I have just mentioned.

As long ago as 10 January, the chairman of the British Railways Board, Sir Robert Reid, wrote to the hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) on the spur project. I came upon the letter because it was sent to the West Midlands regional forum, on which I have the honour to serve as chairman of the west midlands group of Labour Members. In that respect, the letter is in the public domain. In his letter, Sir Robert referred to through passenger trains to the west coast main line and stated: The current Parliamentary Bill"— it was not current at the time but never mind, that was just one inaccuracy— concerned with the redevelopment proposals for King's Cross and St. Pancras does contain provision for a sub-surface station. If King's Cross were to be selected as the site for the second London station for International Passenger Trains, this facility would be used for that purpose. It would be difficult to imagine any other purpose for the facility.

That being so, I am not sure what Sir Robert was getting at when he wrote that part of his letter. He added: So far as International Passenger Services beyond London are concerned, if the business demand does support the investment in the trains, it would be the Board's intention to provide rail connections from the sub-surface station at King's Cross to the East and West Coast Main Lines. That proposal appears straightforward, and it was one accepted by the West Midlands regional forum, which included little me, at its face value—given that it was dated 10 January 1989.

Subsequently, two of my colleagues wrote to the Department of Transport about that matter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) received a letter from the Secretary of State for Transport, while my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) unaccountably received a reply from the Minister for Public Transport. Evidently, Privy Councillors write only to Privy Councillors, which is something else that I did not know. Personally, I do not mind receiving a letter from the Minister, provided that it is clearer than his speech this evening.

Remarkably, the letter dated 3 April from the Secretary of State and that dated 7 April from the Minister of State both include the following paragraph: I understand that British Rail's choice of Kings Cross as a second London terminal for Channel Tunnel passenger trains is not intended to prejudice the possibility of through passenger trains to and from the West Midlands. BR are considering whether to seek further powers for a new direct link from Kings Cross to the West Coast Main Line, or whether to retain their original plan of routing such trains via the West London Line. Thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) there are now three options.

Mr. Spearing

The third being White City?

Mr. Snape

I shall come to that possibility in a moment.

We are now presented with a choice of three different routes. There might be an electrified spur joining the east coast and west coast main line, or we may have to settle for the revamped west London line. Given the likely congestion that would occur once full services got under way, we in the west midlands do not find that a particularly attractive prospect. The third alternative may be ceremonially unveiled by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury—a travelator connecting King's Cross with Euston station. It is conceivable that, in the timetable for that brave new world after 1993, there may be through trains indicated between Birmingham and Brussels, Paris, or any of the other exotic locations about which I know very little.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

By train, anyway.

Mr. Snape

And he is on my side! How will those new services be advertised if a travelator is used to connect the new King's Cross with the old—or not so old, because it was built only 20 years ago—Euston station? Will advertisements show an escalator, or will they show a man—and given the sexist nature of the British Railways Board, presumably it will be a man—bent double with suitcases and buckets and spades, stepping on to an escalator connecting the two stations? Will we be told what connecting services will be provided for the rest of the country?

In view of the contribution made by the hon. Member for Acton—I must not be hypocritical, because he did his best—it appears that no one knows what connecting services will be provided, and no one can say whether through services to other parts of the country will be provided.

I draw the Minister's attention the instruction in the name of my hon. Friends the Members for Holborn and St. Pancras and for Islington, South and Finsbury, which refers to the need for the Committee on the Bill to take evidence and report to the House on the capacity of the proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland and on the environmental impact of the proposals. I do not know why the Minister did not refer to that instruction during the course of his very unenlightening speech. He may argue that section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 includes an instruction to the British Railways Board, introduced by the Opposition and accepted by the Government, that such a report be published by the end of this year. That instruction does not contradict section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987, but reinforces it.

Mr. Portillo

Not so. It would duplicate it.

Mr. Snape

The Minister says, sotto voce, "Not so," that such an instruction would duplicate the Act. It would certainly clarify it. Such an instruction would at least force British Rail to come clean about their intentions and would give right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House an opportunity to make a proper and valid judgment about whether the Bill should be allowed to proceed. The Minister says that such matters should be discussed in Committee. Tonight, we are talking about—in railway parlance, appropriately enough—giving the green light in principle to a Bill that will supposedly bring about through services to all parts of the country, yet if the Bill receives a Second Reading, the House has no way of knowing whether that happy situation will come about.

Mr. Rowe

I very strongly support the hon. Gentleman's comments. If we wait until the end of the year before we receive any coherent plan from British Rail about the proposed connections—assuming that such a thing is possible—the Bill will pass through the House of Commons before we have an opportunity to debate those proposals.

Mr. Snape

The central point of the argument is that the House is expected to pass the Bill without knowing British Rail's intentions. I have worked for British Rail all my working life, until I came here for a break. Putting aside my insults about British Rail management, I hope never to work for British Rail again. Under the new rules and regulations, I would probably be fired anyway for saying what I have tonight. It is unacceptable to right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House not to receive assurances from British Rail on which we can rely. So far, we have witnessed only a series of contradictory statements, assertions and press releases.

In an earlier intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras spoke about road congestion in and around St. Pancras and King's Cross stations. Any right hon. or hon. Member who spends any time travelling around this city will know just how congested is the Marylebone road in the vicinity of those two stations—and the likely impossibility of the extra traffic likely to be generated by the scheme having free passage up and down Marylebone road and Euston road in particular and in the side streets also.

The press release from British Rail embargoed to 6 May, to which I have already referred, makes the specific statement: The new proposals are designed to meet all these demands"— that is, the architectural and other demands— in a building of outstanding architectural merit"— I presume that British Rail means the new concrete awning that is to be erected— at the same time as improving access to and from road transport. The House has been told by the Minister that no roads surveys have yet been completed. He said, reasonably and accurately enough, that the impact of the proposals on road access and the road network has still to be measured, yet British Rail's press release presumes that its proposals will be beneficial.

Mention has been made of the proposed new terminal's advantages for the midland main line. I should be grateful if the hon. Member for Acton would explain what advantages there will be for those living along the route of the midland main line. If it is not intended to electrify that line, then, given the loading gauge problems of the so-called wide lines, through trains from European cities and from cities along the midland main line are unlikely, to say the least. I have said that through trains between European cities and the western main line are at best doubtful under the somewhat nebulous proposals we have just heard about.

The support given to the Bill by hon. Members on both sides of the House is, I think, reasonable enough, provided that British Rail comes clean and tells us what it is about. I fear that, if it fails to do so—if, as it appears, it has briefed the hon. Member for Acton insufficiently, it will fail to do so—we shall be asked to give a Second Reading to a Bill that asks more questions than it answers.

I hope that at least some of those answers will be provided before midnight. If they are not, I know that many of my hon. Friends will—to say the least—have considerable misgivings about the Bill's veracity as it relates to the future of the rail network, not only in London but in Britain as a whole.

9.10 pm
Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (Kincardine and Dee side)

We have all been much entertained by the speech of the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), but I am not sure that much light has been cast on the subject. I sometimes suspect that the hon. Gentleman's intention is more to confuse than to clarify. In his remarks about the management of British Rail—after all, they went back 30 years—I heard one of the most convincing arguments for BR's privatisation that I have ever heard on the Floor of the House, although it may have been advanced unwittingly and interpreted in a different context from that intended by the hon. Gentleman.

I wish to speak only briefly, on a fairly narrow aspect of the Bill. It is clear that views are divided between two camps. One view—which I deeply respect, but do not intend to comment on because I have not the necessary knowledge—concerns the immediate geographical and environmental impact of the proposals, and I understand the strength of feeling behind those arguments. Other hon. Members, among whom I count myself, are more concerned about the wider strategic implications, a concern which underlined the speech of my hon. Friend the Minister.

I am anxious that the benefits of the development of the Channel tunnel and all that goes with it should extend beyond London, and we should ask whether that development will enable international trains to run beyond London. Let me say unashamedly that my interests extend to the east coast main line link to the north-east of England and, of course, to Scotland. But it is because I believe that the benefits should extend as widely as possible that I am attracted—in principle—to the Bill: having listened carefully to what was said earlier about Stratford, I believe that the choice of King's Cross improves the chances of establishing good through links from the Channel tunnel to the north of England and to Scotland.

Mr. Chris Smith

Has the right hon. Gentleman asked British Rail how many through trains will go through King's Cross and up to Scotland? The answer, I am afraid, is, not very many.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman has anticipated me. As I have said, I support the Bill in principle; obviously there is to be a second terminal in London, and I want to ensure that it is in the position most likely to facilitate the extension of links with the north and Scotland. In my judgment the Bill achieves that. I entirely agree, however, that we want rather more assurances than we have received.

I believe that the chosen site is better than others in London, and I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman anticipated me, because the question that he has asked is the next point in the notes that I have before me. Ii probably cannot be answered fully tonight, but, if my support for the Bill—in principle—is to continue, I should like to know how many through trains will run to the north and Scotland. There has been a certain amount of vagueness about that.

My next point is also a general one. I shall not go into detail, as much has been said on the subject this evening, but it is equally important that there are adequate cross-London links to provide a means of connection. A good deal of long-distance passenger traffic will not use the Channel link for the whole distance. People will want to catch connecting trains to places other than the north of England and Scotland.

I understand that the total cost will be some £574 million, a huge amount for a single project, and I hope that that will not be at the expense of other British Rail programmes. There is already considerable competition for British Rail's investment. I should like to mention two aspects, one connected directly with the cross-Channel link.

If the cross-Channel link is to be successful and areas distant from the Channel are to benefit, we must ensure the development of an efficient freight terminal in Scotland. I do not want that to be put at risk by developments elsewhere. At Coatbridge, a site that I believe is being discussed as a possible major freight terminal in Scotland, we already have a freightliner terminal. Nevertheless, I believe that a great deal more study is needed, and I hope that none of that or any subsequent investment will be put in jeopardy.

Extra investment will certainly be needed. If there is a new terminal it will have to be connected, at some expense, with the trunk road and motorway systems. Let me also say to my hon. Friend the Minister—and I hope that British Rail will pay attention—that proper consideration should be given to refrigeration facilities at the terminals. The link will provide Scotland with a great opportunity, given our exports of high-quality food. There must be proper handling facilities, but as far as I know no such facilities are being considered at present.

My final point also concerns investment. The east coast route is being electrified and will shortly be completed as far as Edinburgh, but that leaves a huge gap from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. There is no doubt that Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe: it is a very busy city and has one of the lowest unemployment levels in Scotland. The oil industry is picking up, and it will continue for many years to come.

Many of us are worried by British Rail's rejection—so far—of proposals to continue the electrification beyond Edinburgh. The investment south of London and in the Channel tunnel will be very much bigger than that north of Edinburgh. It is galling to us that additional investment should be denied to us when so much money is being spent elsewhere. Scotland believes that the links with the Channel tunnel will provide opportunities for us, but we shall be able to take advantage of them only if the links are provided in the most effective way. One of the effective ways is to have a terminal at King's Cross. However, it must not be at the expense of investment elsewhere—in particular at the expense of the two areas that I have mentioned.

9.20 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

In case anybody should be confused, let me say right at the outset that I am utterly opposed to the King's Cross Railways Bill. It directly affects my constituency and my constituents. I oppose it, too, for reasons connected with London as a whole and for national reasons.

I object most strongly to the fact that this most important transport development, which is of national strategic importance, is to be decided by means of the private Bill procedure. No other democracy in the world has anything like the private Bill procedure. It is a means whereby well-off and powerful organisations get Parliament to set them above the law of the land. In a sense, it is statutory endorsement of not obeying the law.

A major decision such as this, which will directly affect the route of the lines from the Channel tunnel to London, and possibily the lines carrying traffic beyond London, should be determined by a private Bill promoted by British Rail. It was quite clear from the few meetings that I had with British Rail about the Channel tunnel that it was incapable of organising a conspiracy; it did not have the faintest idea what it intended to do. That has become dramatically obvious, as the debate has continued, from its conflicting promises and assertions.

It is improper for a decision of this importance to be taken by a railway operating company, whether it be publicly or privately owned. That decision should be taken by the Government. God knows, this Government are happy to poke their noses into lots of things. I do not know why they are unwilling to take strategic decisions of this kind, which affect my constituency and Kent.

We need a thoroughgoing public inquiry into the proposition and into all the links proposed by British Rail. We should not proceed by means of this hole-in-the-corner set-up, known as the private Bill procedure. British Rail has used salami tactics rather than the dance of the seven veils tactics, suggested by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn).

When British Rail first said that it intended to introduce a King's Cross Railways Bill, it said that it had nothing to do with the Channel tunnel. After the Bill was introduced, after all the rowing in Kent and after the line that it finally decided that it favoured ended up—for some extraordinary reason—at King's Cross, British Rail finally had to admit that the King's Cross Railways Bill had something to do with the Channel tunnel. Everybody had known that all along, but—lyingly—British Rail had denied it. British Rail used the fact that it is not directly connected with the Channel tunnel—so it says—to challenge objections from those who will be affected by the line to King's Cross. It is preposterous that British Rail has been permitted to proceed in this way.

British Rail has told me and my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) that in the second Bill which is to be introduced it proposes to facilitate further works all the way through Kent and south-east London that will affect other land and that will lead to other purchases in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

However, British Rail is not prepared to tell us what works it intends to carry out in our constituencies. Even this Bill does not include proper coverage of British Rail's proposals for King's Cross, let alone anywhere else. It is a preposterous approach.

The background to British Rail's approach to King's Cross-St. Pancras—that vast complex—is that 125 acres of land are surplus to railway requirements. That land is owned by British Rail or its friends—associated, or previously associated, organisations. [Interruption.] Yes, British Rail still has some friends, but not very many in my area.

During the time that I have been a Member of Parliament—and before that when I was on the local council—I have run all sorts of advice services; I have received representations from people who wanted land on which to build houses. I remind the House that 7,000 to 8,000 families are living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation in central London and that there are 15,000 homeless families in central London. People have told me that they would like somewhere to live. Others have said that they would like more schools, and bigger schools. Children and young people have told me that they would like to have a decent athletics track in central London. Other people have said that they would like bigger clinics or another park. In all the years that I have tried to represent the area, no person has ever come to me and said, "I want an office block."

However, British Rail proposes to devote most of the surplus 125 acres to office development that nobody wants, other than an organisation whose real name ought to be Inter-Galactic Property Speculation plc, which has linked itself to British Rail with a view to making a bomb out of it and damn anyone who lives in the area and damn anyone who has got any needs in the area.

The whole object of British Rail's approach to King's Cross is to maintain as much as possible of the 125 acres of property speculation land sacrosanct and safe from any demands that may be made on it. Not content with having 125 acres for that purpose, the Bill would allow British Rail to buy another 17 acres and knock down what is on most of that land; then it would have another 17 acres for more property speculation. That is one of the motives for those proposals, and is one reason why we should not support them.

Mr. Rowe

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Confederation of British Industry has estimated that if all the office accommodation that British Rail is hoping to build on those acres is built, the effect will be to over-provide for the expected need for office space in London by nearly 5 per cent.

Mr Dobson

As my constituency contains State house, Centre Point, Euston tower and God knows where, I am quite prepared to believe that there will be a surplus of office accommodation, which we are pretty used to in my area.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said, the Bill's proposals will result in 326 people losing their homes. We have enough homeless people in my area already without adding another 326. Some 59 shops and 130 small businesses will go and over 2,000 local jobs will be lost.

The purpose of the Bill is not to allow British Rail to build a wonderful station that will be a credit to Britain and will make people travelling through the Channel tunnel to London say, "What a great place London is." The purpose is to allow British Rail to build a gigantic dump of a cavern underneath the existing main line station and call it the "Euro-station".

I believe that British Rail's proposals will be dangerous. Firefighters, who have a little direct experience of King's Cross—certainly more than anyone at British Rail—believe that the new complex will be even more dangerous than the current one. It will lead to increased overcrowding. I cannot over-emphasise the fact that the Bill does not contain a single proposal for improving the shifting of passengers to and from the King's Cross-St. Pancras complex. Some improvement in the layout of the stations may be made, but British Rail is not proposing an additional tube line or extra tube trains, and I do not believe all the garbage about improved bus services.

The object of the proposed digging at King's Cross is to preserve intact surplus railway land for speculative development, which is the wrong approach. Although there are some relatively prosperous people in my constituency, as there are in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, the people living in the areas bordering King's Cross and St. Pancras are not prosperous. They already live in an area which is full of stinking fumes and much traffic noise. It is not a pleasant place to live, and British Rail's proposals will make it infinitely more unpleasant, especially while the works are going on.

Of all the proposals that affect my constituency, the one that most galls me and most typifies the cavalier attitude of British Rail is the one to destroy the Camley street nature park next to Regent's canal. The land next to he canal used to be derelict, but was transformed by the joint efforts of the Greater London council, Camden council and the London Wildlife Trust. It has a lake, study centre, birds, fish, frogs and other amphibians. It has much shrubbery and is attended by thousands of children. It is used by local schools and respected by local children. Nowhere else in the area has no vandalism, damage, graffiti or fighting. It offers the local children something that is unobtainable anywhere else in central London. It is treasured by them because it is a treasure, but British Rail wants to smash it. We often accuse young people of mindless vandalism, but British Rail's proposals are precision vandalism. It is locating the line through the nature park not because it is convenient for the railway but because it is built on land that British Rail does not own, and therefore will not prejudice the land that it intends for speculative office development.

The only reason why the Camley street nature park is to be destroyed by British Rail is to maintain intact the land it wants for its rotten, stinking, lousy, speculative office development. I do not want to hear claptrap suggesting that it is necessary to use that land, or that the park will be restored later in some grand form. We all know that we can place no value on British Rail's estimates, but its best estimate is that there will be no Camley street replacement for five years. That is one primary school lifetime for children in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. Teachers and volunteers have worked to provide the nature park, yet British Rail is prepared to destroy the park because it suits it and saves it a bit of money.

I will now move away from the narrow, parochial interests that I am proud to represent when dealing with Camley street. Let us look at the proposed station. Will it be a satisfactory development? The King's Cross-St. Pancras complex is already the biggest transport interchange in Britain. It has two main line stations and the Thameslink line and, as if that was not enough, it has the Metropolitan, Circle, Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly lines. Although it is a vast complex, it is most unsatisfactory, as its users know. Every working day, about 270,000 people use the complex. The Bill proposes to add between 40,000 and 60,000 extra people to that complex from the Underground station every working day. The proposals will add to the number of users, but will not increase by an iota the capacity of the existing system to get those people away from the place to which the Euro-trains have brought them.

I speak as an open and dedicated advocate of the Channel tunnel. I have always believed that it was a good idea and should be rail based. It will be good for the country and good for the railway system, but it is crucial that it must not stop in London. I agree wholly with the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) who says that it is necessary that the links go to the north, the midlands, Scotland, the west, the south-west and Wales. It is crucial that good services are provided linking the Channel tunnel with all those places. I do not believe that the Bill will achieve that. The present proposals do not have the capacity to do what the right hon. Gentleman wants.

When I heard what British Rail was saying to hon. Members from the midlands, north and Scotland about its commitment to through connections to those parts, I drafted what I regarded as a not unreasonable instruction to the Committee. I said that the Committee should take evidence and report to the House on the capacity of the proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland and on the environmental impact of the proposals. I got in touch with the agents for the promoters, who duly got in touch with their principals—if that word, spelt in another way, can be attributed to British Rail. I asked whether they would be prepared to accept the instruction, which, after all, only instructs the Committee to check that British Rail can do what it is telling hon. Members from outside London it will do. The instruction should have been acceptable, but British Rail said that it could not accept it.

I raised the matter with the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), who referred to it today. He took the matter up with British Rail and was instructed by BR —if that is how we should describe the relationship—that it still would not accept the instruction. I hope that hon. Members who represent seats in the midlands, the north or Scotland will join us in voting for the instruction to make British Rail do what it says it will do, however they vote on the Bill itself.

Mr. Tredinnick

The House will know that I represent a midlands constituency. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that schedule 1 to the Bill—containing works 01 and 02, which I understand provide for a link between the midlands main line and the new international terminal—does not, in fact, guarantee that service? My firm understanding is that they would provide that service.

Mr. Dobson

I am not a railway engineer, although some of those who have produced loony projections that they have gone back on after a couple of years have been railway engineers, so perhaps it is not such a disadvantage.

I believe that, in the end, the proposals will result in a bottleneck rather than a way through because they are not adequate to the task. But I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's point specifically, except to say that unless the midland main line is electrified I cannot envisage any possibility of British Rail laying on through trains from Milan or wherever to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby or Sheffield and I do not think that it has any plans to electrify the line at the moment. I cannot imagine that the trains will change locomotives at King's Cross, as that would be even more complicated than the present proposals.

Some of my hon. Friends—I imagine that this has also happened to Conservative Members from the north-west —have been told all sorts of wondrous stories about through connections. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) outlined how the proposals have changed, but none of the changes has been greater than that discovered by my hon. Friend the Memberfor Islington, South and Finsbury when he met the management of British Rail as recently as last Friday. My hon. Friend discovered that the through connection to the west midlands involved a travelator—I suppose that we all have a rough idea of what that might mean—from King's Cross to Euston station. That is the through connection that British Rail is contemplating for the benefit of those who live in the north-west.

I do not know where the travelator will run. It cannot run under Euston road because the Metropolitan and Circle lines run there. There are some fairly big things under St. Pancras station, which just happens to be between King's Cross and Euston. I know for a fact that the British library goes down six storeys below ground level. It will be a fairly deep travelator that gets under that. It is stupid, and entirely typical of British Rail's attitude to the proposal, that it should propose a travelator when it has not thought for 10 seconds about what route it would take.

My suggested instruction to the Committee refers to freight. Are we to have freight on the travelator as well —containers, followed by people with luggage? That is a preposterous idea. British Rail should be ashamed of itself for putting it forward.

Ms. Harman

Perhaps my hon. Friend might enlighten the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). Will refrigerated freight go along the travelator at the same time as everything else?

Mr. Dobson

That is probably going a bit too far. Perhaps some of the people who put forward loony propositions should be put in a refrigerator and allowed to cool down.

I understand, sympathise with and support the desire of hon. Members who represent the north of London for fast, reliable and frequent train connections to and from the Channel tunnel, but I do not believe that the Bill will make that possible. Because of my doubts, I hope that, at the very least, they will join Opposition Members in voting for the instruction that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and I have put down. That is the only way of ensuring that British Rail will demonstrate to the Committee that it will do what it claims it will do.

In summary, as presently put forward, the measure will do substantial damage to the people whom I was elected to represent. It will do substantial damage to the education of many primary school children whose parents my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and I were elected to represent. [Interruption.] The Minister appears to think that that is not so. For their biology teaching and so on, primary schools in the area have become dependent on the Camley street nature park, which provides a facility that they cannot obtain elsewhere. Under this proposal, it will disappear for at least five years. The proposal will knock down houses, get rid of jobs, cause traffic congestion and produce a totally unsatisfactory underground welcome for anyone coming to London from abroad.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend is making a good case for his constituents. What would he say to the constituents of hon. Members such as myself who represent provincial cities in the north, north-west and north-east? Would he say that the good intentions of British Rail can be tested only by the acceptance of his instruction and that, unless that instruction is accepted, the Bill should be opposed to make sure that, before it is represented to the House, the intention of the instruction is completely accepted by British Rail?

Mr. Dobson

That is certainly my position, but I would not wish to push it on those who are broadly sympathetic to the proposals.

British Rail's proposal will not provide a satisfactory station for anyone. It will lead to danger and overcrowding in the area and, as I have made clear, will not do the job that British Rail is telling people north of London that it will do in providing a proper through station that can provide a fast, frequent and reliable service to the Channel tunnel. If hon. Members feel obliged, for one reason or another, to vote for the Bill, I hope that they will join in supporting the instruction—I cannot imagine that anybody would have a logical objection to it—and at least ensure that British Rail does what it says it is attempting to do. However, as it has not done a lot of what it claims it intended to do in other aspects of the development, I do not think that we can take its word. That is why the instruction has been tabled. Anyone who takes seriously the undertakings that British Rail has been attempting to give will be able to make British Rail take those undertakings seriously only if the instruction is approved.

9.49 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

It is entirely appropriate that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) who is so well-known for his attachment to that most private form of transport, the bicycle, should have been chosen to present the Bill on behalf of an organisation which, without his efforts—to some extent, I am glad to say, supported by me—would have totally eliminated all services for bicyclists.

It is important, especially as so many hon. Friends are not present tonight, to emphasise that I believe firmly in the crucial importance of spreading the benefits and the burdens of the Channel tunnel to all parts of the United Kingdom. Many hon. Members believe that to do so it is essential that the Bill be enacted in the form in which it is presented tonight. However, as we have already heard, that is by no means a necessary condition, and I shall return to that point later.

The private Bill procedure, which we have already heard graphically described by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and other hon. Members as wholly inappropriate for work on this scale, is not something that we should apply to this proposition. The whole business of striking out people who have a perfectly valid interest in the Bill by challenging their locus standi has proved to be a negation of their opportunity to make their point at the place where it matters most.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden), who is abroad on parliamentary business at the moment and therefore cannot be here, has asked me to emphasise on his behalf his clear understanding that his constituents feel that they have been considerably deprived of their opportunity to make their points in full by the deletion of their locus standi at the instance of British Rail.

Private Bills are a 19th century device invented to get railway Bills through quickly. It is ironic that in the 19th century the level of compensation was, in many ways, a great deal more satisfactory than anything on offer now. Again, I shall return to that later.

One of the worst features of British Rail being able to present a Bill in this way is that the Government and everyone else have no other source of advice. British Rail is the judge and jury in its own cause. When one writes as I have written to my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport one is left with the clear impression that the only source of advice open to them comes from the very people whose action one is seeking to challenge. That is not the source of advice that anybody sensible would trust. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the readiness that they have shown to see hon. Members and to discuss such issues with them at frequent intervals.

One person whom I met today in connection with this issue had had an earlier meeting with British Rail cancelled because the British Rail people he was to meet had believed that there would be a railway strike. Not only can British Rail not tell passengers where and when trains will run, it cannot even get it right when they will not be running.

I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Acton and the Minister claim that the Bill does not pre-empt a decision on the route of the high-speed link. I have been to several meetings at which British Rail has claimed that various route proposals cannot be accepted because they do not go easily into the termini that British Rail has selected. I fear that even my hon. Friend the Member for Acton, with all his wordly wisdom, has been sucked into the slough of deception of which British Rail is such a consummate master.

If, however, it is the case that the choice of King's Cross does not pre-empt a decision on the high-speed link, I believe that we should take comfort from that. That would mean, contrary to the belief that has been engendered by British Rail's behaviour throughout the country and at King's Cross, that there is time to consider alternatives. I must say that I wish that I fully believed British Rail. However, having heard it so often dismiss the alternatives, I fear that British Rail wants to get the terminus built now, partly to strengthen its resistance to any suggestion that there might be alternative routes to the high-speed link.

On the question of compensation, my hon. Friend the Member for Acton explained with the clarity and honesty for which he is so well known, that British Rail intends to fund this great development principally out of planning gain. Let us not make any mistake about the fact that most of the land from which it proposes to fund the development was acquired under earlier private railway legislation. That is a matter of profound principle not just for now, but for the future. If we become active in the Euro-railway link, there will be railways built hither and yonder around the United Kingdom.

If we seriously accept the proposition that British Rail be allowed to acquire more land than it needs to build a railway—so that at some unspecified time in the future it may sell it again for speculative gain—we are in danger of doing a serious injustice to those people who—not in this case, but in other cases—will be expropriated under compulsory purchase, and who will then see the gain that they might have been allowed to make on their land stripped from them by British Rail. It might then be a private company and it would be making a profit out of land to which it would have had no access had it not been for the private Bill giving it the compulsory purchase powers. That is a matter of great concern to every hon. Member representing Kent constituencies. It should be a matter of great concern to every hon. Member in the House.

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman used the words "planning gain" concerning the speculative office development in which British Rail hopes to be involved at King's Cross. Normally, a planning gain is regarded as a gain for the local community. However, British Rail is after a speculative gain which for the local community would be a planning loss.

Mr. Rowe

That is an entirely valid comment. I have already said that the very things that British Rail is hoping to build may in some cases destroy, by their sheer quantity, the very market in which it hopes to make a profit. However, that is a matter for British Rail and not for me.

I have one question to ask concerning the King's Cross Railways Bill. I understand that one of the properties under discussion is a property called "The Lighthouse", which I believe it is no longer necessary for British Rail to use for railway purposes. I had always understood that the purpose of a private Bill was to give British Rail, or the railway company, the power to purchase those things without which it would not be possible to build a railway. If, therefore, British Rail does not need The Lighthouse, I hope that it will not seek to acquire it.

We are in the worst of all possible worlds. British Rail is not a private body so when it comes to offering compensation it is constrained by rules which have been devised by the Government. At the same time the Government are leaving it severely on its own, as if it were a private concern. It is important to remember that a great deal of public anxiety over Eurotunnel operations was assuaged because Eurotunnel could offer extremely generous compensation terms to the residents of three blighted villages. As a direct consequence, many of the anxieties of those residents disappeared. British Rail is constrained to offer an ungenerous level of compensation. In Germany, 116 per cent. of the value of a property is offered. The people of King's Cross are entitled to press for that.

Will the new station be built to continental specifications? If the high-speed rail link were to come to King's Cross, would it be built to continental gauge? If so, will the other lines into King's Cross be adapted to this indispensable gauge? It is no use having through lines from John O'Groats to Brussels if they cannot carry the sort of coaches and continental gauge wagons that are needed.

Mr. Tredinnick

Can my hon. Friend tell us how much extra it would cost to install the Berne gauge system? That may be of interest. Has he made any estimates?

Mr. Rowe

There are estimates. It is reasonably simple to install the Berne gauge when building a new line or facility. One assumes that a new passenger line would be built to that gauge. So far I have had no confirmation of that most important matter.

On the freight side, British Rail's pioneering, engineering wizardry will carry us into the 21st century, competing with all the established mainland continental European countries. It will achieve that with wagon wheels a foot smaller in diameter than those that run on continental railway lines. The fact that they will wear out lines more quickly than the bigger wheels may just possibly make them unacceptable to the French, Germans and Italians. We may discover that British Rail's freight plans result in the extraordinary performance of its small-wheeled wagons going only as far as the tunnel. The freight will then have to go on continental wagons because British Rail wagons will not be acceptable on the continent. That is not a prospect that I look forward to with any great pride.

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Acton say that an environmental impact study is being carried out on the King's Cross plan, and the Minister confirmed that. Will my hon. Friend tell us by whom it is being carried out and under what instructions? The environmental impact study on the high-speed rail link through Kent is being carried out by Environmental Resources Ltd. which has been instructed by British Rail not to consider any modifications that are not acceptable to British Rail engineers. The idea that it is in any serious sense a fully objective environmental impact study falls at the first fence.

It is clear from the way in which the King's Cross proposal has been treated that remarkably little consideration is being shown to those who will lose either their homes or livelihoods.

The question of congestion has already been covered extremely well by many hon. Members in the debate. I believe that British Rail's statistics are not to be trusted. The Waterloo development, which will not be completed until 1996, will be over capacity by the year 2000, just four years later. My constituents are fed up to the back teeth with hearing British Rail swapping statistics. Every time it produces a statistic it comes back within a week, month or year to say that it was totally and absolutely wrong, and it was ridiculous to give one figure because it did not mean it but meant something else.

Already, 80 million passengers a year travel through King's Cross. How many more passengers a year is King's Cross expected to take? The current proposition suggests that it will be a mere 15 million. When the die is cast, how can we be sure that the number will be only 15 million? Where will British Rail go next in order to cope with the expansion? I do not trust British Rail statistics.

In addition, I do not trust British Rail costings. How does it work out its sums? In this project the costs are estimated to be nearly £575 million. Admittedly, that is less than the sum that British Rail added to its estimate for a high-speed link through my constituency when it came under pressure one weekend. In that project, nobody believes that British Rail has correctly guessed the costs.

If British Rail continues with the high-speed rail link on the line that it has chosen, it will come to a sticky end, probably somewhere under the constituency of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman). It will come back and say that it is terribly sorry but that it needs another £1 billion to finish the project because it is all much more difficult than it thought.

There is an alternative. The instruction to the Committee, to which I am pleased to have added my signature, states: That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to satisfy themselves that British Rail gave adequate consideration to other possible locations at King's Cross and the proposal for a station at Stratford, East before adopting the plan covered by the Works contained in Part I of Schedule 1 to the Bill. That is a terribly important instruction, whether one votes for or against this benighted Bill tonight. It is a fundamentally proper instruction to the Committee; there is an alternative. As we have already heard, a report has been completed by Colin Buchanan and Partners, which suggests that between £500 million and £1,100 million in savings could be made available if Stratford were chosen rather than King's Cross. It is extraordinary that we should have in front of us a project that may cause costs of up to £1,100 million more than an alternative that is rejected by almost all hon. Members who have spoken and everyone who lives in the locality, while the cheaper alternative is welcomed with open arms by the local authority in whose areas it falls and by the local community. If the House votes for a Bill that adds more than £1 billion to the cost in order to locate something where it is not wanted rather than where it is wanted, we need our heads examined.

10.8 pm

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

It seems absolutely clear to me from the debate so far that the Bill does not deserve a Second Reading.

The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) did no more than say what was on the face of the Bill. The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) spoke against the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) explained why we should not be in favour of it, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton). My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) spoke against it, and we have just heard the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) do the same. All were wholly opposed to the Bill.

The only qualified support came from the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). Even he was concerned, since it appears that flit, freight that he wants to go from his constituency to the continent might have to get off at Euston and get on a travelator, and then get on at King's Cross before going to the coast, whereupon it will have to get off because the wheels are too small.

It is hard to tell whether the Minister spoke in favour of the Bill or against it. Pontius Pilate would not have been ashamed of the Minister's speech—an "it is nothing to do with me" speech. He is only the Minister for Public Transport. The Bill is only to do with the opportunities for freight to move from different parts of the country to Europe; of course that is nothing to do with him—he is only the Minister for Public Transport. The Bill is to do with passengers coming through from Europe to London and other parts of the country—the same applies. It is to do with traffic congestion in north London—that is nothing to do with him; he is only the Minister for Public Transport—

Mr. Cryer: Although the Minister may say that this has nothing to do with him, a suspiciously large number of Ministers and PPSs are here tonight. Perhaps he has arranged for a Whip to be put on the Bill so that the Government can get it through with the payroll vote. In that case, he has not told the House the whole truth.

Ms. Harman

I agree.

We understood exactly what the Minister was saying when he explained that this had nothing to do with the Government because they were not putting money into it. The Government are interested only in whether public money is put in. The strategic implications for regional policy mean nothing to the Government; nor do the transport issues, the planning issues or the blight issues.

The Government say they have gone green. The Minister told us that at some future date we shall have a half-baked environmental impact study from British Rail, but that in the meantime we might as well give the Bill a Second Reading. If that is the policy of a green Government, they must be green from mould, not from environmental concerns.

Parliament is being asked to decide on the siting of a terminal at King's Cross. We have not been allowed to see British Rail's costings or any of the evaluations of alternative terminals—or the environmental impact assessments or the engineers' reports, or anything else. This is the parliamentary equivalent of "pin the tail on the donkey". In fact, that game is a bit more scientific than what we are asked to do tonight—

Mr. Chris Smith

My hon. Friend said that we have not been able to see British Rail's costings. We have the figures given in the statement in support of the Bill, which seem to show that the cost of the proposed works at the below-ground international station will be about £456 million. That is based on the proposals for a six-platform station, but we are now told informally by British Rail that it may run to eight, rather than six, platforms, so even the costings that we have must be questioned.

Ms. Harman

I agree, and the only information that BR has provided has been corrected or revised time and again, as the hon. Member for Mid-Kent pointed out.

The British Railways Board believes that it is right for us to agree to site the terminal at King's Cross. I presume that, being members of the hoard, those concerned made an assessment between alternatives and that that involved challenging their officials on cost, environment, the wider transport considerations, the number of homes that would be affected and what would happen in London, the rest of the south-east and elsewhere.

I also assume that before they made their decision, the members of the board were given some answers. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have been asking questions, but we have not received any answers. We asked those questions again tonight—of the hon. Member representing the promoters and of the Minister—yet we still do not have the answers. How can we agree even to do no more than rubber-stamp what British Railways Board members have decided when we do not have any of the information that they must have had before reaching their decision?

In any event, what is so secret about this information? It is not a question of national security. No criminal investigations are outstanding and must be protected. Nor is it a question of commercial confidentiality. Why cannot BR share with us the information on which its board members made their decision?

We are not receiving the facts because BR has become obsessively secret about it all. If its plans are so good and its thought processes correct, why can they not be shared with us? I suggest that it is all being kept secret because it is a botched job. Until BR is prepared to share with us its plans and let us subject them to independent scrutiny on behalf of our constituents who will be affected by those plans, we can look on what is proposed only as a back-of-an-envelope job.

When I have asked BR for this information at meetings I have been told that the whole issue must go before Parliament to be decided. I have replied, "What are you talking about? I am an MP. Don't tell me that it must go before Parliament and, because of that, I cannot see the information."

I trust that this debate will not draw to a close without the House being given an undertaking by the hon. Member for Acton, on behalf of the promoters, that hon. Members will be given this information. Indeed, I suggest that he arranges to place in the House of Commons Library all the information on which the British Railways Board made its decision.

The Minister did not explain what information he had. Indeed, he seemed to regard this lack of information as a matter of no concern to him. While he may not care to look at such documents if they are placed in the Library, many hon. Members who are concerned about the regional and economic implications of what is proposed will want to examine them, as will hon. Members who represent Kent constituencies and have spoken out against the Bill.

I hope that the Official Report of this debate will be circulated widely throughout my constituency and in the neighbouring marginal constituency of the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden). Those whose lives, homes and businesses are already affected by what is proposed will not believe that following a debate such as we have had, the Bill received its Second Reading.

It is ludicrous for Transport Ministers to say, "We have no strategic involvement in what is proposed." My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) explained how the Secretary of State appeared before the London group of Labour Members and said, after we had referred to him deferentially as the transport authority for London and the south-east, "I am not the transport authority for this area."

We asked him who had that responsibility, and he replied. "There is no such person." That might explain the mess in which we find ourselves. We told him that if his job description did not include being strategically responsible for transport in London and the south-east, he should start accepting that task in the absence of anybody else taking it on. Unfortunately, that seemed not to be part of his consideration or that of his colleagues.

It is ludicrous that the Government have accepted British Rail's proposal to separate discussion of the terminal from discussion about the route. How do we find ourselves in a position where we have a discussion about one terminal followed by a discussion about a second terminal? One end of the Channel tunnel is appearing at the coast, yet we are told that the discussion on the route must be an entirely separate matter.

I know that we are not allowed to use visual aids in the Chamber. Perhaps it will help hon. Members, however, if I explain the map that I have drawn on a piece of House of Commons blotting paper. Mark my words, it is more sophisticated than most of the plans that British Rail has produced so far. I hope that the House will take my document seriously. I have marked King's Cross, to the west of which is Waterloo. The Channel tunnel is, of course, at the coast. In the middle is Peckham. One terminal is planned at Waterloo, with a second terminal at King's Cross. British Rail says that Peckham is the only place for the sub-surface junction.

I asked British Rail whether there was not somewhere else to place the sub-surface junction that it plans for Peckham. The answer was no. The British Rail representatives added, "There is nowhere else where we can have the two lines from King's Cross and Waterloo converging." Why is it that I am told by British Rail that I have no right to have a say and that my constituents have no interest in the Bill? I am told that I have no locus standi. I submitted a parliamentary petition as I wished to represent the interests of my constituents in the course of an opposed Private Bill Committee. I am fearful of the consequences if the Bill receives a Second Reading and four hon. Members who know nothing about engineering are given the responsibility of reaching a decision on an incredibly important issue. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said, the fact that the four hon. Members have no knowledge of engineering might be an advantage. I have heard of the tradition of amateurs in this country, but this is ridiculous.

I wanted the opportunity of appearing before the Committee and calling evidence on behalf of my constituents. I wanted the opportunity of saying, "This is the wrong place to site a terminal. Look at the effect that the siting will have on my constituents." That was my modest attempt to represent my constituents.

What does British Rail do? It does not say that my petition is in the wrong form. Instead, it says that I have no locus standi and no interest. That is a disgraceful way of shutting people out of the debate. My constituents are unable to sell their houses. In one instance, two of my constituents who want to separate are obliged to continue living in their house because they cannot sell it. Various personal difficulties are arising. However, British Rail tells me that I have no interest in the Bill.

It is entirely in British Rail's discretion to allow people to make representations to the Committee. Why is British Rail so afraid that the pillars of the temple will fall down if I have the opportunity to represent my constituents and bring evidence to the Committee to show how my constituents are likely to be affected? British Rail's reaction was narrow and mean-minded. In effect, it said, "Anybody who does nt agree with us should get out of the road. We do not want to hear you."

British Rail tried to tell me that it had no option but to rule out my petition. As I have said, it challenged my locus standi. Before I became a Member of this place I used to act as a parliamentary agent. Parliamentary agents advise those who seek to oppose or promote Bills and there is a discretion whether to challenge locus standi. It is shameful that British Rail has accepted the advice of parliamentary agents with the consequence that those who are profoundly affected are told, in effect, "You have no say. Shut up and keep out of it." As the hon. Member for Mid-Kent said, if the Bill is enacted and there is a terminal at Waterloo and another at King's Cross, he, the hon. Member for Dulwich and I will tell the House, "We do not want this route." British Rail will respond, "Sorry, it is too late. Given the location of the terminals, it is the only feasible route." We will not put up with that.

I give notice that if the Bill receives its Second Reading and goes to Committee, I shall petition on behalf of my constituents again, in another place. I hope that the hon. Member for Acton will give me an undertaking today that he will urge British Rail not to challenge my locus standi. There will be an Opposed Bill Committee in another place and if, because of British Rail's disgraceful behaviour, I have missed an opportunity to represent my constituents in this House, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will ensure that I shall have an opportunity to air my constituents' grievances in the Committee in another place.

British Rail has engaged in a deliberately misleading advertising campaign that has maximised opposition to the Bill. It has made people angry and furious as well as fearful. In an advertising campaign produced by Saatchi and Saatchi, British Rail used phrases such as "temporary closure" and "some disruption." It is describing the turning of Warwick gardens in Peckham into a giant construction slum of boarded-up houses, closed roads and businesses, and empty homes that will exist for at least 10 years.

If Warwick gardens is to be the location of the sub-surface junction, it will become the site of one of the most difficult and largest civil engineering projects in the whole of London. Warwick gardens will become a giant building site. The Government talk of inner-city regeneration, but they will blight that struggling inner-city area for 10 years. British Rail say that they will grass over the site and that everything will be as it was before, but people will no longer be living in the homes they have now, and the businesses that currently exist will no longer be there either. It will take decades for that area to pick itself up off the ground.

No one in Peckham was consulted before British Rail made its decision about the sub-surface junction. No one in Peckham wants that junction at Warwick gardens, yet British Rail is keeping me, as Peckham's Member of Parliament, out of the Committee and, by refusing to divulge any of the relevant papers, it is keeping all right hon. and hon. Members blindfolded. That is disgraceful, and British Rail should not be allowed to get away with it.

British Rail could have held a public inquiry, and I do not want to hear it said that such an inquiry would take too long. The Government are expert at guillotining everything, so it should not be beyond their wits to hold a public inquiry over a limited time span. Instead, they chose to push the Bill through the House. The only alternative is guerrilla warfare, and that is exactly what the Government will get.

Mr. Dobson

Does my hon. Friend accept that she is not being individually discriminated against by British Rail? A man living in a boat on the Regent's canal in my constituency had his locus standi challenged by British Rail—yet its proposals include draining the canal where his boat is moored, which will deprive him of his home.

Ms. Harman

Parliamentary agents are required to sign a certificate of respectability, as I had to do. I do not know how the lot who are advising British Rail managed to qualify for a certificate of respectability.

I turn to the question of how passengers and freight are to be transported from the Channel tunnel to different parts of London and to the rest of the country. No one wants a road. I do not want to hear it said that we are against railways. We do not want a road, and the people of south-east London do not want passengers and freight using existing roads because the Old Kent road is chock-a-block as it is.

Instead, we want the rail link to be contained in a tunnel below London. If a tunnel can be constructed for a distance of 22 miles under the sea, and if a further tunnel can be constructed under the Thames, there is no reason why the junction has to emerge in the middle of Peckham. It seems that they have merely flown over Peckham and then said, "It's a pity about Peckham." That is simply not good enough.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

My hon. Friend mentioned contact with other regions. Those of us who represent northern constituencies are anxious that, if the Bill is given a Second Reading, the Opposition instructions should be carried. But if the King's Cross solution is forced through—I say that advisedly, for that is what the Government will attempt to do—the problems will not be solved.

I have just received from British Rail a note of a meeting that it held with Members of both Houses, which says: The London Midland Region is well positioned for Channel Tunnel traffic as it already had a route around London and Willesden to Clapham via Kensington. This route is to be electrified to enable easy transfer. If British Rail believes that that is the way to give the north and north-west the contact with Europe that they need, it is disgraceful and shows that BR still has not got it right in the Bill.

Ms. Harman

I urge all my hon. Friends from different regions to vote against Second Reading. I understand that we must vote on Second Reading before we vote on the instructions; if it were the other way round and we could vote on the instructions first, as a sort of amendment, we might be able to vote for the instructions and then, if they were passed, for Second Reading. I hope that those who, like me, are afraid that the instructions may not be passed and without them the whole exercise is a farce—will vote against Second Reading. I also hope that those who support the Bill in principle, such as the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside, will in any event vote in favour of the instructions.

Let me ask a question that all my constituents, and those in neighbouring constituencies, are asking: who are the villains of the piece? British Rail stands accused of incompetence—there can be no doubt of that—but I think that the Government are the real villains. They have said that British Rail must make a profit, and everything else comes second—the regional implications, the implications for the environment and the implications for homes and traffic. British Rail must make a profit and account for it to the Government; as long as that is done the Government are not interested in anything else.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

Are not the real villains of the piece the narrow-minded interests in the London community who want to shut out what will be a very important development for us in the north? Many people in the north want to make the best possible use of Europe after 1992. Here is a golden opportunity for them to develop a direct rail link with the Channel tunnel, with all the opportunities that that in turn involves, but all that we have heard from the hon. Lady is a disgraceful speech about the narrow interests of the people of Peckham.

Ms. Harman

The hon. Gentleman's intervention was both ignorant and offensive. He has not heard the speeches opposing Second Reading; he has simply drifted into the Chamber. He has clearly not read the Order Paper either. Let me remind him that one of the instructions, which I support, proposes an Instruction to the Committee … that they shall take evidence and report to the House on the capacity of the proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland"— and, no doubt, even Stockton.

I did not wish to repeat what my hon. Friends have said, but I said at the outset of my speech that I supported them. I have not yet got into the habit that many hon. Members have acquired of repeating each other's remarks over and over again; I have sought to represent my constituents. But I think that I have taken too much time in replying to the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Devlin), whose comment was obviously frivolous and not worth answering.

Mr. Chris Smith

The hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) has only recently come into the Chamber. He made a disgraceful comment about my hon. Friend's speech. It is clear that he has not heard of the massive destruction of homes, jobs and livelihoods and of the destruction of an entire neighbourhood that the Bill will bring about. I do not call narrow-minded the opposition of those who live in the area and whose lives will be profoundly affected by the Bill.

Ms. Harman

I agree with my hon. Friend.

I have already said that the villains of the piece are British Rail for incompetence and the Government for caring only about profit, not about wider transport considerations and people. We know who the victims of the Bill will be. They will be people in Kent, south-east London, King's Cross, Wales, the north, Scotland and the south-west who are hoping that the Channel tunnel will spell economic regeneration for those areas. I hope that the House will vote against the Bill. If, by any chance, it is given a Second Reading, I implore hon. Members to vote for both the instructions that stand in my name and those of my hon. Friends and of Conservative Members.

10.35 pm
Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham)

I have listened very carefully for some hours to the arguments on both sides, because I understand the strength of feeling. However, I return to my original belief that anyone who genuinely believes in the regional development of this country and who wants the north to have a fair share in the economic prosperity of the nation must enthusiastically support the Bill.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

What about the instruction?

Mr. Amos

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will hang on and allow me to develop my argument. Then I shall give way to him.

As a north-eastern Member of Parliament, I see 1992 and the Channel tunnel as golden opportunities and as an exciting development for my constituents in Hexham and elsewhere in the north-east. For the first time ever in history, they will be nearer to the centre, the heart of continental Europe. However, there is a real danger that resources and attention will shift to the centre unless there is access to the regions and unless that access is made as easy as possible. A direct through rail link between the north-east and the Channel tunnel is essential. With adequate capacity, it could meet what I believe will be a significant growth in both passenger and freight traffic in the foreseeable future—far in excess of anything that is currently being predicted.

With its connections to the north-east, only King's Cross, in my opinion, will provide that vital link. I believe that that view is held almost unanimously in the north-east. The establishment of a second international terminal at King's Cross will eventually link cities such as Newcastle and Naples. I hope that eventually it will link cities and towns such as Hamburg and Hexham.

King's Cross will provide a convenient and modern interchange between international through services and a vast array of domestic rail and Underground services, linking the continent, central London and Britain's regions. I echo the words of the Northern Region Councils Association which says that King's Cross is fundamentally important to the northern region. It continues: Unless this and other … decisions are taken, the regions face the prospect of the Thames replacing the Channel as a barrier to trade with Europe. The Northern Region CBI also says that a terminal at King's Cross will have an important bearing on the future prospects of the Region. I am afraid that one is closing one's eyes if one does not honestly believe that people in the north-east regard the link at King's Cross as vital to that region.

Mr. Dobson

In view of the hon. Gentleman's obvious and sensible commitment to fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the north-east and the Channel tunnel, does he intend to support the instruction? All we are asking British Rail to do in the instruction is to prove what it claims it is trying to do.

Mr. Amos

If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself, I shall answer him in my concluding remarks.

Mr. Devlin

Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) recently visited my region to tell us how awful it was? He said that it was unemployed and being run down continuously. He caused grave offence to many people in the region, who regarded him as a London Member of Parliament who had visited the area merely to tell us bad things about the north-east. When my hon. Friend frames his reply to the hon. Gentleman, he should bear in mind the fact that the hon. Gentleman is no friend of the north-east, and nor is the Labour party.

Mr. Amos

I am sure that once the hon. Gentleman has listened to my comments he will be better informed of my opinions and about the north-east.

Mr. Dobson


Mr. Amos

May I continue? I must get on.

Apart from the significant short-term and other advantages in the choice of King's Cross, such as a more frequent Thameslink service connecting Gatwick airport, I am mostly concerned about the Bill's effect on the north-east. It will be an inexplicable tragedy with far-reaching consequences if he Bill is not given a Second Reading. The new international terminal will be linked to a new terminal building connecting main line King's Cross and St. Pancras. International trains will run between the north-east and Scotland to the heart of continental Europe on the continental rail network. There will be easy interchanges between other international trains and InterCity services on the east coast main line, which will be entirely electrified to Newcastle and beyond by 1991.

In addition, passengers from the north-east will have improved services from King's Cross on Network SouthEast to Bedford, Brighton and King's Lynn, linking the home counties and beyond, and also from St. Pancras to the east midlands. We are talking about not only better through services but better connecting services from King's Cross, with the interchange network that it will create. My constituents, who have as much interest in where the terminal is based as anyone else, will benefit from better international and domestic travel arrangements. Two new approach tracks—on the east coast main line north of King's Cross and a link between the east coast main line and St. Pancras—will combine to provide travellers with a wider range of services.

British Rail is under an obligation to make its scheme commercially justifiable, and we accept that. It must consider demand for its service at King's Cross compared with alternative sites. We are told—the figure may or may not be correct—that three quarters of passenger demand for international passenger services is forecast to arise in London and the south-east. That means that at least a quarter—I suspect that it will be more—of the demand will be from the regions. It is therefore essential that any terminal is located where routes from the regions and London and the south-east best converge and where it can be facilitated with the least congestion.

That involves a number of requirements. First, there must be quick, regular access to central London by the Underground, bus, taxi and car. Secondly, there must be access for through trains to the north and beyond. Thirdly, there must be frequent and reliable connections to local InterCity services to destinations not served by through routes—the onward journeys to which I referred.

The advantages of King's Cross are way ahead of any alternative, such as access to central London. It is served by five Underground lines, and there are many bus services. I am prepared to accept that no road in London is not already over-congested, but it is adjacent to a wide and major road. It is already one of the best terminals for onward travel.

Mr. Corbyn

Before the hon. Gentleman rushes past the subject with a two-second jab at London's traffic jams, I must ask him whether he realises that London's traffic problems are horrendous. Those of us who represent constituencies to the north of King's Cross are concerned that, if only 15 per cent. of passengers travel to and from King's Cross station by car, the congestion up to the M1 will be quite intolerable.

His dismissive attitude to London's traffic does the hon. Gentleman no good at all. He should recognise that siting the terminal at King's Cross will create impossible congestion on the road system of north London. The people of north London do not want any more roads. They are opposed to more road building, and they believe that traffic should be sent round London and that railways rather than the ludicrous development the hon. Gentleman appears to support should be encouraged.

Mr. Amos

The hon. Gentleman has raised some interesting points, which can be easily shot down. It is absurd to say that the people of London do not want extra roads. I live in London from Monday to Thursday, and I want extra roads. The hon. Gentleman talked about congestion in London. This afternoon I went for a test drive with autoguide. That is a way forward, and I hope that Opposition Members will not oppose it in Committee. The hon. Gentleman said that the terminal would create more congestion and should be opposed on that basis alone. That is to put his head in the sand. The answer is to find ways to relieve the congestion, not to say that we do not want a terminal there because it will cause congestion.

Mr. Corbyn

Why King's Cross?

Mr. Amos

It will cause less congestion than the alternatives which I shall outline; I am giving reasons for the choice of King's Cross. King's Cross, as I have said, is linked with five Underground lines. Stratford, the only alternative, is linked to one. It is idle and incorrect to assume that, as soon as someone arrives at King's Cross, he will get into his car and travel north. Many passengers will take the Underground and go west to the hotel district or Heathrow, or take InterCity trains to Newcastle.

Mr. Tredinnick

Although my hon. Friend has sat throughout the whole debate, it is notable that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) has spent little time in the Chamber. Perhaps he should have spent some time in the Chamber if he is going to challenge my hon. Friend.

Mr. Amos

My hon. Friend is right.

My other point was that, in assessing the viability of King's Cross, we should assess its access for through trains and connecting trains. King's Cross is one of the best termini for onward travel, whether for London to the south-east and East Anglia, to the north-east and Scotland, for the Thameslink to the south coast or for connections to the east midlands via St. Pancras. King's Cross will further establish the principle of the practical possibility of more through London services.

This project is of national and international importance and we must consider it in that context. Stratford is not a serious or realistic alternative. All the criteria to which I have referred would be met badly if Stratford were to be chosen. Access to central London is via one Underground line—the Central line—and it is absurd even to suggest the possibility of passengers coming under the Channel, destined for central London, having to arrive in outer London at Stratford to come back into central London for hotels or onward arrangements. Stratford has one Tube line, which is already overloaded.

There are other ways into central London, such as by taxi, but it is over five miles from Stratford. Are we seriously suggesting that people should have to pay for an expensive taxi journey into central London? Most people, of course, will be going not to central London but to west London—either to Heathrow or the hotel district—so one is talking about expensive taxi rides, which would be the only way into central London. Access to other destinations is the other criterion by which Stratford should be judged. Stratford is no good for the regions. The rail station at Stratford, which I use occasionally, is geared to East Anglia and to nowhere else. I do not see why the northern region should be second best when considering this major terminal.

Let us accept that, if we want a second international terminal, it must be at King's Cross. King's Cross provides direct onward travel to Heathrow and Gatwick airports. It is significant that no hon. Member this evening has mentioned the onward travel arrangements from this terminal. It is fairly obvious that many passengers will want to go on to Heathrow and Gatwick. King's Cross is well placed for that because it is on the Piccadilly line to Heathrow and directly linked to Victoria station for Gatwick. The InterCity network is excellent. Network South-East is ideal—

Mr. Dunn

No, it is not.

Mr. Amos

It is ideal for other smaller towns, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) well knows. King's Cross is ideally placed.

We are talking about a project that would link captial cities, and hon. Members should bear in mind that international dimension. I recently attended a meeting with the French side of Eurotunnel and I was amazed and impressed to discover how quickly and enthusiastically it was getting on with providing access to, and onward travel from, the Channel tunnel.

In King's Cross we have a site that already meets the necessary and reasonable requirements of an international terminal. Because of its poor location and accessibility, Stratford would not be used by passengers; it would be shunned by them and they would go to Waterloo or elsewhere instead. Stratford simply cannot meet the requirements of passengers travelling to central London or beyond.

Mr. Pike

If the hon. Gentleman is so confident about the regions, why is he not prepared to support the instruction in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), which would serve only to prove the case? Let us have it in the open; let him support that instruction.

Mr. Amos

Hon. Members may not have been listening, but I have been giving clear, and I believe logical, reasons why I support the proposal to locate the terminus at King's Cross. In a few minutes I shall say why I want us to stop shilly-shallying and finding all sorts of reasons why we should not go ahead with the project. We should get on with it.

Mr. Dobson

My terminus right or wrong.

Mr. Amos

The hon. Member should be more reasonable. I may disagree with him, but at least I have given reasons why I think King's Cross is the terminus to choose.

If King's Cross is chosen, the terminus for travellers from the north-east will become a much less unhygienic and unsavoury place in which to arrive and from which to depart. At the moment, King's Cross is not a very nice station for my constituents to arrive at or leave from, but once the interchange network is established and built, as I hope it will be, there will be tremendous improvements at King's Cross.

Mr. Dobson

Has the hon. Gentleman noted that, according to the lowest estimate, 60,000 extra people will be using the station each day? Will that improve the facilities?

Mr. Amos

The detailed plans and design provide for more capacity, and the station will be cleaner and more modern. It will not be the present station slightly enlarged; it will be a different station—a whole new complex. The hon. Gentleman must extend his horizons, rather than thinking only of all the negative factors. If we say that we do not want King's Cross to be the site, we shall be back to square one and the hon. Gentleman and his constituents will be the first to complain that in comparison with the French terminus ours is inadequate and dirty. The new King's Cross will be cleaner and more modern and it will have new shops and restaurants. That is what we are trying to build, and the hon. Gentleman should support us.

Mr. Dobson

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman has not followed the argument mounted by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and myself. Our view is that, if the station is to be at King's Cross, it should occupy the 125 acres of land behind the present King's Cross station, on which a magnificent Eurostation could be built. What we object to is the idea of digging a dump under the existing station, which is what the Bill proposes.

Mr. Amos

That is another example of narrow thinking. The hon. Gentleman has his head in the sand. He talks about a "dump" underground. He must go to Paris and see the underground dump there. The French have linked their rail network. It is underground, in the centre of the capital city. It does not have to be a dump. The hon. Gentleman should extend his horizons.

Opposition Members have constantly referred to British Rail's land which it may want to sell. I do not blame it for that. The land belongs to British Rail. It must make a commercial decision. If selling the land helps it to produce the new interchange that will be convenient for my constituents, I will happily support it. Hon. Members cannot criticise British Rail for wanting to sell land that it does not need. It can build a good interchange underneath the city, just as there is in Paris—which works. I suggest that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras should see it.

Let us ignore the NIMBY syndrome in certain vested interests and build Europe's largest transport interchange. The one in Paris proves that such a project is possible. Of course I accept the reservations about architectural changes. It is up to the Bill to take them into account. In return for our faith in British Rail's and London Underground's project, Conservative Members expect from British Rail a much better, more frequent, reliable and punctual service. We expect also a station that is clean and has adequate seating, shops and places to eat. Above all, we expect enough free trolleys for international passengers arriving with heavy luggage.

I note that one fifth of the expenditure on the project will be undertaken by London Underground. It is incumbent upon London Underground not again to let down the people of London and of the whole country by bad management, poor planning, unreliable service and a totally unsatisfactory network.

I agree that, if more passengers are to use King's Cross, there must be not only more ticket halls and subways but more trains to take passengers. We will not solve the problem by opposing the Bill. We must get on to London Underground and make sure that it honours its obligations to the people of London. It has not done so in the past 10 years. It has been a disgrace.

I hope that the Bill is given a Second Reading. I regret that no Opposition Member from the north-east has been present to support the measure. [Interruption.] I inform Opposition Members who have been sniggering for the past few minutes that the people of the north-east have as much interest in the second terminal as the people of London have. It is facetious of Opposition Members to snigger at the concept that the hon. Member for Hexham, which is 300 miles from London, does not have as much interest in the second terminal as they have. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), who again is sniggering, has advanced no reason why Stratford is better than King's Cross. He has not told the House why it is more convenient to get into central London from Stratford or how the people from Hexham or the north-east in general can get from Stratford to their region and to Scotland. It is a disgrace that no Opposition Member has supported the King's Cross terminal.

10.58 pm
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

Unfortunately, hon. Members have seen one of the recurring characteristics of the Government—their ability to convert a golden opportunity and a one-off chance to a near disaster. That is particularly evident when history has delivered the Government a chance which will not occur again in hon. Members' lifetimes. North sea oil has been frittered away. There will be no other chance of that nature. The same applies to the Channel tunnel. The opportunity is unrepeatable, certainly in our lifetimes, and probably for many lifetimes to come. Unless the right decisions are taken, the Channel tunnel will become a dead end, especially for the people of my region. It appears that again tonight, at the Government's behest, British Rail is frittering away the chance to create further economic expansion and further bonuses in the east midlands. That is a great tragedy for the people of my constituency, my town, my shire and the east midlands as a whole.

As many of my hon. Friends have pointed out, British Rail appears to be botching along. It is making its policy up as it goes along, and is using piecemeal decision making rather than referring to any overall strategy or real planning. However, I for one do not blame British Rail for that because it is working within the constraints that have been set by Government. It is not its direct responsibility that this piecemeal operation is taking place. It is the restrictions placed on British Rail and the fact that it is not allowed to continue with strategic planning that has led it into this position. I refer to the financial constraints, the refusal to have a national strategy for transport and the refusal to plan properly so that British Rail can take long-term investment decisions rather than these short-term, botched decisions just to make its return on capital.

All those things would become evident if proper scrutiny were given to the Bill and that is the one thing that can be avoided by the use of the private Bill procedure. There cannot be a proper, full public inquiry so that all points of view can be aired, whether about the Stratford interchange, electrification or the type of locomotive power to be used. None of those broader issues, including, above all the strategic implications of the Channel tunnel to 1992, can be assessed through the private Bill procedure. The procedure is an anachronism; it is wrong; and the sooner that it is done away with, either by this Government or by the next Labour Government, the better. This matter deserves to go to a full public inquiry so that every facet of the issue can be examined in the full light of publicity. Unfortunately, that will not take place.

Like many colleagues in the House, I have received representations from several quarters. One fascinating thing about this issue is that representations have not just come from the trade unions, from the chambers of commerce, from only Labour or only Conservative Members—they have come from across the whole spectrum. Typical of those representations is one that I have received from the leader of Nottinghamshire county council, which states: Local interests may not be able to put their own case fully, as they would at a local inquiry. The fact that this procedure is being used makes this episode a shameful one that will return to haunt Governments of any political complexion over the next 30 years. The erroneous decision to go ahead with these proposals for King's Cross without a strategic network or an overall planning framework will live with us for many years to come.

It is the Government's imposition of unrealistic and short-term financial targets on British Rail that has produced the investment decisions, or rather the lack of long-term investment decisions, that are characterised in the proposal that we are considering tonight. The way in which the railway system in Britain has been neglected means that there is a strong argument for saying that a catching-up programme is now required.

British Rail receives £800 million, or thereabouts, in support from Government; in France, the figure is £1,800 million and in West Germany the figure is £4,500 million. Over the past decade the neglect and hostility to investing in anything in public ownership, such as British Rail, has overtly or covertly sought to make railways in this country fail. That misdemeanour must now be rectified if Britain is to become an equal partner in Europe. The east midlands, above all, cannot afford to mortgage its future by allowing short-sightedness and dogmatic hostility to rule investment in public utilities.

Britain has planned to spend £500 million to include not only the route infrastructure, but the cost of a new London terminal. The French have budgeted about £1,200 million for their high-speed line to the tunnel, which does not include the ring route around Paris, and does not take into account their other investments in rolling stock, new lines to Lyon and the Atlantic line. Our investment in Britain must at least match that of the French, because our market potential is five times greater than theirs.

I, like many other hon. Members, in response to inquiries, have received a letter from Sir Bob Reid, the British Railways Board chairman, in which he has underlined the uncertainty of British Rail's investment framework. Because it cannot invest long term, it cannot make strategic decisions. It is caught in the chicken and egg situation. It wishes the initial demand to come from businesses, which say that they need, for example, a terminal or a goods yard, but businesses are looking to British Rail to provide facilities and, therefore, stimulate demand.

That uncertainty is typified in Sir Bob Reid's letter, where he says: any scheme is only likely to work if there is adequate demand from freight forwarders to justify the terminal and the service, and if the terminal can be financed as a joint venture project with local authorities and developers". Each side waits for the other to move. Without that essential overall planning framework, there is stalemate and a King's Cross terminal will be built without the investment that is so essential to the east midlands region.

Another strange example of the poor investment decisions is the King's Cross surplus railway land. I understand that, because of the high return required on capital, British Rail, instead of using that vast amount of land that is at the side of the tracks on which to build the interchange, is keeping aside that land to profit from speculative office building and will then go to the great expense of building underground. That is madness. Anyone coming into St. Pancras or King's Cross can see those 125 acres of unused land. Those acres are being put aside instead of being used for the ideal location of an overground interchange. I believe that British Rail is doing that rather than having a long-term overview and providing an extensive network of interchange lines and platforms on that land, because it needs to make the money on the land sale to meet the rates of return set by the Government.

At present every British Rail proposal must be judged by narrow commercial criteria set by the Government—including a 7 per cent. financial rate of return. It was on those grounds that British Rail refused to consider electrification of the midland main line before the end of the century. The Channel Tunnel Act 1987 makes the position far worse, in that it reinforces the criteria and states that any facilities or services provided by British Rail must adhere to the commercial remit. The Government do not consider relevant social need, public interest, environmental consideration or relief of road and air congestion. Yet in France—our nearest continental neighbour—the Government's criteria for investment decisions include all those aforementioned factors. That would appear to be not only sensible, but essential.

The commercial interests in the east midlands also reject the Government's approach. The regional chamber of commerce has called for substantial public investment in infrastructure to provide access for our region to the tunnel. I am pleased to say that several regional Conservative Members also strongly support that contention.

Local authorities of all political colours are actively trying to attract national and international investment into the region on the basis of its excellent communications. That will be a hollow joke as traffic goes up the west and east coast lines. The starting point for improved rail communications must be a complete rejection of the narrow accounting practices in favour of a national economic approach to regenerate our area and other areas.

A once-in-a-century project, such as the channel tunnel, requires planning. It is planning that is anathema to the Government. That ideological refusal to consider planning, even in this context, is a major reason why the east midlands may end up being on the receiving end of an economic disaster. We need a package which does not just pick up individual items piecemeal, but which includes a view about industrial regeneration in all our manufacturing, services and other economic sectors. We have to tie in the infrastructure with that sort of economic overview. That means the direction and location of jobs, wherever the lines that will benefit from the Channel tunnel and 1992 will lead. To ignore that is to ignore the basic responsibilities of Government. The package must be for the United Kingdom as a whole—not merely for the south-east, but for all regions. Above all, the package must include the east midlands.

The east midlands will be bypassed by the proposed developments. To ensure that we are not bypassed and that our region does not become piggy in the middle and an economic backwater, we need electrification of the midland main line. A business man in Rome, or perhaps even Moscow or Brussels, will examine the rail map before he makes his long-term freighting, commercial or investment decisions. If the east or west coast lines are electrified and the midland main line is not, it may be an important consideration in deciding where to locate and ship to, and where passenger traffic goes. Even if it is merely a matter of status that the east midlands is not electrified and other regions are, it could have an immense knock-on effect on the economic viability of our area.

I understand that the east midlands line is not to be electrified. The Bill will have a detrimental effect unless we can campaign across party lines to ensure that the line is electrified. I have a letter from Mr. Kirkby, the vice-chairman of the British Railways Board, who states clearly: it will not be possible to run day trains beyond the electrified network, as we will have to use permanently coupled electric trains, specially designed to meet the exacting specifications of the Channel Tunnel and the high speed links on either side. That is Mr. Kirkby's view and, other than his chairman, there is no one higher on the British Railways Board. If that is to be the case, a large amount of through traffic will not have the option of entering Nottingham and the other stations along the line in the east midlands, which would be a tragedy.

Mr. Devlin

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman feels, as I do, that the cause of regional development is good and worthy of support. Is not that the reason why it is important that the main terminal should be built at King's Cross, which is on the main east coast line? The only alternative that has been put forward is Stratford which, as he knows, is not connected to the main east coast line. Would he also accept that King's Cross is next to St. Pancras which serves Nottingham? Would he further accept that the east coast main line, which I travel up and down on most weeks, has a train station at Grantham, which is not far away from the area that he represents?

Mr. Allen

The King's Cross option is the one that I and many people in the east midlands favour. However, it is only fair and apposite to consider all options. Unfortunately, if the instruction is not carried tonight 'we shall be merely rubber stamping a decision that should have been taken under full public analysis. I want to present a case to a public inquiry or to a committee showing why King's Cross is right and other options are not. I would like county councils, city councils, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and so on, to have that option which will be denied us tonight.

The difficulty about merely the east coast line being electrified is that if one has the option of continuing up the east coast line rather than getting off at Grantham and catching a Sprinter across, investment will probably be made along that line rather than in other areas. That is a matter of great concern to Members involved in the east midlands from both sides of the House.

The other reason that I would stress that we need a package for the east midlands rather than merely a super station at King's Cross is so that we can also benefit from the international freight traffic that will arise from the Channel tunnel and, particularly, from 1992. As they currently stand, the proposals for an international freight depot are dubious. British Rail is waiting for the demand from business and business is waiting for some indication from British Rail that it is serious about an international freight depot in the west midlands, at Toton, near Nottingham.

Unfortunately, such a chicken and egg situation is not viable. If one is planning long term, there must be clarity about how all the factors will fit together. For example, in France, there are already plans for 240 freight yards, all with direct access to the tunnel. Perhaps the Minister will say how many freight yards are planned for the United Kingdom—probably no more than a handful with direct access to the tunnel.

Mr. Cryer

Is the drift of my hon. Friend's remarks that those hon. Members representing provincial areas should vote against the Bill unless British Rail accept the instruction which makes it absolutely clear that the Committee should investigate the necessity of the capacity of the proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland"? Is he saying that unless this instruction is carried—so far, British Rail has refused to accept it—the scheme may become so congested that it will be of no benefit to constituents in the east midlands, Bradford, Leeds and the north-east?

Mr. Allen

Voting for the King's Cross proposal as a trigger for economic development may well prove to be the trigger of the gun that shoots industry and commerce through the head in the east midlands. None the less, an international interchange is an essential prerequisite for further development. We need one, wherever it is to be located. Only then shall we ensure that the traffic generated by our trading links through the tunnel with the European community is directed where we think it appropriate. The problem is that there is no serious strategy on where international passenger and freight traffic should go. I endorse what my hon. Friend said about that.

Rail freight becomes competitive with road freight at about 250 miles distance between collection and delivery. That distance will become unexceptional after 1992 and free movement within the EEC. The present plans seem deliberately designed to remove that competitive edge by inserting unnecessary delays and excursions. The east midlands, particularly, will be trapped between the two bows of the electrified east and west coast lines.

Economic development in this country requires long-term investment. It will not happen of its own accord. The Government are happy to let this Bill go through without having thought about it or taken evidence from the parties concerned; they seem content not to invest in an east midlands rail link or to provide long term planning for the freight terminal at Toton which everyone wants.

The Government can bribe Kent with £500 million to placate the electorate's environmental worries, but when the lifeblood of the east midlands is at stake, and a mere £100 million would electrify the line from St. Pancras up through the east midlands, the Government are not prepared to invest the money. It would be recouped many times over. The Government are being hypocritical and deceitful, and the Bill is inadequate.

The east midlands is united on this as I have never seen it united before. Across parties and industrial divides, from Nottingham to Loughborough, Mansfield, Leicester, Derby, Market Harborough, Kettering, Wellingborough —all are united in supporting an electrified east midlands line and in wanting serious long-term planning and investment decisions from the Government for the international freight terminus.

I hope that this consensus will make the Government see sense and allow British Rail to plan for its long-term future. That will enable us to recoup some of the losses that this Bill will create. Without such a change of heart, the east midlands will not benefit, and the Channel tunnel and the link through to London will become one more in the series of great lost opportunities during the Government's time in office.

11.24 pm
Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

After listening to the debate for over four hours, I was becoming concerned at the way in which few Opposition Members appeared to be in favour of the railways. Indeed, only the hon. Members for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) advanced arguments in favour of the railways. That is regrettable, because the lifeblood of the future of the nation depends on the railways, which should be receiving much more support, particularly from north country members.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The thrust of our remarks is that my hon. Friends and I support the railways, that we recognise the vital necessity of a good rail system for the future of the country and that we recognise the necessity of having a railway network which benefits more than London and the south-east. We say to British Rail when we ask for electrification from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, "Do not give us pie in the sky stories about the viability of the link between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. What about the viability of the whole line?" I hope that those who are listening to the debate will prevail on BR to publish the figures on which it decided on the viability of the line from London to Edinburgh.

Mr. Thorne

I am grateful for that reassurance and I hope that when the terminal is built in London—which I hope will be at King's Cross—it will receive proper praise from hon. Members who represent north country constituencies.

British Rail has been unfairly criticised for using the private Bill procedure. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) said that the House was not being asked to approve the redevelopment scheme but only the railway works listed in the Bill; that planning permission was being sought by the developer from the local authority for the redevelopment itself in the normal way.

That procedure has existed for a long time. In fact, a number of substantial buildings were erected in this area last century to make provision for the railways that were then in course of construction. Indeed, the third largest party in the House is occupying one of those buildings as its headquarters in Cowley street. It was built especially for the parliamentary work of one of the railway companies, and that was typical of all railway companies last century. So we are talking of a procedure that is well established and one which BR could not avoid. In other words, BR has done exactly what was required of it, and it is unfair for hon. Members to be critical.

I was interested to hear what the three hon. Members who represent Newham constituencies said about the desirability of locating the terminus in their area, and, as constituency Members, it was their job to do that. Having examined the matter closely, I find the principle of locating the terminus at Stratford to be flawed. It would have been of some advantage to my constituency in the neighbouring borough of Redbridge if it were to be located there, but it would still be the wrong location because it would not help passengers; nor would it help people in transmitting between the north country and the centre of London.

In the past there have been substantial goods facilities at Stratford and at one time they included a large cattle facility. As a result, there is a lot of space there which I am sure Newham borough council would have liked to use for this purpose. But it would be the wrong location.

Safety and traffic growth are two of the important issues we have to consider, and the King's Cross area requires immediate attention on both counts. We had that awful tragedy in the Underground at King's Cross and hon. Members have spoken about the number of lines that converge at that point. The House must not simply pay lip service to safety, as we tend to do when such tragedies occur. We must see that action is taken to put matters right. That tragedy is one reason why this project has had to be brought forward as a matter of urgency, regardless of what happens to the remainder of the terminal.

Other opportunities must be explored. I find it greatly encouraging that the growth in use of the railways has been so considerable in recent years that many facilities are now saturated. That means that we must deal quickly with the matters that are before us.

Many of us have had the opportunity to see what has been done in other major terminals, such as Paris and Washington. We have seen what has been achieved at major terminals throughout the world. There are good opportunities for development at main line railway stations. We can see what has been done at Victoria and what is being done at Liverpool Street. Those who travel to London from the north-east could benefit by having a much better facility at King's Cross.

Finally, I urge my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport seriously to consider compensation. Projects of the sort that we are discussing involve considerable investment—£500 million has been mentioned—and we must ensure that those whose lives are turned upside down by the implementation of proposals that are made for the benefit of society generally are more than adequately compensated for any annoyance and inconvenience that they suffer. Many other countries recognise that people who have been living in a certain property for the whole of their lives—perhaps 60 or 70 years—do not take kindly to being uprooted and thrown out.

We tend to hedge our compensation with many rules and regulations that provide a little more here and there for curtains and carpets, telephone connection, surveyors' fees and legal costs, for example, when we should adopt a much more robust and helpful approach to ensure that the sting is taken out of enforced moves and other annoyance and inconvenience. I should like to see the Department of Transport releasing bodies such as British Rail from the constraints to which they are subject. They are not allowed to proceed beyond the stringent rules laid down, because the Treasury is terrified that that might raise the cost of future projects. I can assure the Treasury that the cost of those projects would be reduced if the present constraints were lifted because completion would be much quicker. There would be much less hassle if opposition and resentment were not stirred up in every direction. Compensation should be considered much more sympathetically, and I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to take that into account.

11.34 pm
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)

Some hon. Members have spoken at almost interminable length about many issues that have relatively little to do with King's Cross. I shall attempt to speak succinctly about King's Cross and especially of what the proposed development would mean for the north of England.

Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), have spoken about what they described as the largest interchange in Europe. What we have at present is not an interchange. We have King's Cross, St. Pancras and Thameslink, and the links between them are extremely poor and inconvenient for passengers. The proposal that we are considering is based on an imaginative concept. It will cost many hundreds of millions of pounds, but it is one that we should support.

The new King's Cross can become the gateway to the north. I believe that it will be built and that those who now oppose the development will be seen to have had their heads in the sand.

An interchange must provide not only for people travelling from the furthest corners of the country but for Londoners and those who commute to London. The capital's transport infrastructure suffers greatly from the large number of termini that are a consequence of the development of railway companies in the last century. There is now an opportunity to combine two of those termini into something that can be a great future asset.

It has been said that the procedure adopted for the Bill is an inadequate substitute for a proper planning inquiry, but that procedure is appropriate for a project having a national dimension—which the future of King's Cross clearly has. There is nothing unusual or irregular about adopting the private Bill procedure, which permits the construction of railway works in just the same way as the many railway Bills brought to Parliament in the past.

As has already been pointed out, an application for outline planning consent to construct the above-ground complex has been submitted to Camden council. I welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister concerning clause 19, which will provide an adequate safeguard.

The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) mentioned traffic problems. The Bill provides an opportunity to ease many of them. Other hon. Members spoke of the existing level of congestion affecting rail passengers, especially commuters. However, the better facilities and easier access to trains that the Bill permits are bound to be welcomed by them.

Mr. Dobson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Waller

I have very little time left, and I know that one of my hon. Friends wishes to intervene.

The north favours King's Cross as a second terminal. I say that confidently, knowing that all sides of industry —chambers of commerce and organisations promoting development in Yorkshire—are anxious that King's Cross is chosen. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) referred to the possibility of a second terminal at Stratford. However, if one studies the map, Stratford cannot possibly be justified as the location of an interchange. But an enhanced King's Cross will improve capacity for InterCity trains by rearranging tracks, extending platforms, and improving access from many parts of the country. Right hon. and hon. Members representing the interests of other regions will also identify the opportunities that King's Cross offers.

As to timing, the proposed works—including the new low-level station—are needed as soon as possible. That is why we should consider the Bill now and not wait for a future Channel tunnel rail link. If passengers travelling to and from the north, as well as Thameslink passengers—whose existing separate station is already congested—are properly to benefit, one cannot wait for developments that may take some time to realise.

Architectural considerations relating to the aboveground works will be examined when Camden council scrutinises the relevant planning application. The architecture of the proposed concourse, which will bring together the two stations and link them with the new sub-surface platforms, is imaginative. It makes use of a great deal of glass, and allows the architecture of the existing grade 1 buildings to be seen by all. By sweeping away many substandard buildings, much will be done to improve the local environment.

I see this as an exciting project. I hope that the House also welcomes it and will give the Bill a warm reception.

Mr. Chris Smith

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:

The House divided: Ayes 211, Noes 41.

Division No. 189] [11.39 pm
Alexander, Richard Forth, Eric
Allen, Graham Foster, Derek
Amess, David Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Amos, Alan Fox, Sir Marcus
Arbuthnot, James Franks, Cecil
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Freeman, Roger
Atkins, Robert French, Douglas
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Gardiner, George
Baldry, Tony Garel-Jones, Tristan
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Gill, Christopher
Barron, Kevin Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Batiste, Spencer Gow, Ian
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Grist, Ian
Blackburn, Dr John G. Ground, Patrick
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Boswell, Tim Hague, William
Bottomley, Peter Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hanley, Jeremy
Boyes, Roland Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Harris, David
Brazier, Julian Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Bright, Graham Haynes, Frank
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hayward, Robert
Brown, Michael (Brigg &Cl't's) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Heddle, John
Buckley, George J. Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Hinchliffe, David
Burns, Simon Hind, Kenneth
Burt, Alistair Home Robertson, John
Butterfill, John Hordern, Sir Peter
Caborn, Richard Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Howarth, G. (Cannock &B'wd)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Carrington, Matthew Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Carttiss, Michael Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Chapman, Sydney Irvine, Michael
Chope, Christopher Jack, Michael
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Jackson, Robert
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Janman, Tim
Clelland, David Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Colvin, Michael Key, Robert
Conway, Derek Knapman, Roger
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Cope, Rt Hon John Lang, Ian
Couchman, James Latham, Michael
Cousins, Jim Lawrence, Ivan
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Currie, Mrs Edwina Leadbitter, Ted
Curry, David Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd &Spald'g) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Lightbown, David
Day, Stephen Lilley, Peter
Devlin, Tim Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Dixon, Don Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Dorrell, Stephen Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Durant, Tony Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Eggar, Tim MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fallon, Michael McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Favell, Tony Maclean, David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) McLoughlin, Patrick
Fishburn, John Dudley Major, Rt Hon John
Forman, Nigel Mans, Keith
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Maples, John
Marek, Dr John Skeet, Sir Trevor
Marlow, Tony Soames, Hon Nicholas
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Mates, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maude, Hon Francis Steinberg, Gerry
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stern, Michael
May hew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Stevens, Lewis
Meale, Alan Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mellor, David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Mitchell, Sir David Sumberg, David
Moate, Roger Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moore, Rt Hon John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Moss, Malcolm Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Neale, Gerrard Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Needham, Richard Thumham, Peter
Neubert, Michael Townend, John (Bridlington)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tredinnick, David
Nicholls, Patrick Trippier, David
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Twinn, Dr Ian
O'Brien, William Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Oppenheim, Phillip Viggers, Peter
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Waddington, Rt Hon David
Patten, Chris (Bath) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, John (Oxford W) Waldegrave, Hon William
Pawsey, James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Portillo, Michael Wells, Bowen
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wheeler, John
Quin, Ms Joyce Whitney, Ray
Renton, Tim Widdecombe, Ann
Riddick, Graham Wood, Timothy
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Woodcock, Mike
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Yeo, Tim
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Young, Sir George (Acton)
Sackville, Hon Tom
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Tellers for the Ayes:
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Mr. Neil Thorne and
Shersby, Michael Mr. Gary Waller.
Sims, Roger
Abbott, Ms Diane Lewis, Terry
Battle, John Livingstone, Ken
Bermingham, Gerald Loyden, Eddie
Boateng, Paul Mahon, Mrs Alice
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Meale, Alan
Cohen, Harry Moonie, Dr Lewis
Corbyn, Jeremy Pike, Peter L.
Cryer, Bob Primarolo, Dawn
Dobson, Frank Richardson, Jo
Doran, Frank Rowe, Andrew
Dunn, Bob Ruddock, Joan
Fearn, Ronald Short, Clare
Flannery, Martin Skinner, Dennis
Fraser, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Fyfe, Maria Spearing, Nigel
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Harman, Ms Harriet Wallace, James
Holland, Stuart Wray, Jimmy
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Chris Smith and
Lamond, James Mr. Tony Banks.
Leighton, Ron

Bill read a Second time and committed.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill that they shall take evidence and report to the House on the capacity of the proposed works to provide for fast, frequent and reliable passenger and freight connections between the Channel Tunnel and the Midlands, North and Scotland and on the environmental impact of the proposals.—[Mr. Dobson.]

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 68, Noes 186.

Division No. 190] [11.50 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Lamond, James
Allen, Graham Leadbitter, Ted
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Leighton, Ron
Barron, Kevin Lewis, Terry
Battle, John Livingstone, Ken
Bermingham, Gerald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Boateng, Paul Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Boyes, Roland Loyden, Eddie
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Buckley, George J. McNamara, Kevin
Caborn, Richard Mahon, Mrs Alice
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Marek, Dr John
Clelland, David Meale, Alan
Cohen, Harry Moonie, Dr Lewis
Cook, Robin (Livingston) O'Brien, William
Cousins, Jim Pike, Peter L.
Cryer, Bob Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Prescott, John
Dixon, Don Primarolo, Dawn
Dobson, Frank Quin, Ms Joyce
Doran, Frank Richardson, Jo
Dunn, Bob Rowe, Andrew
Fearn, Ronald Ruddock, Joan
Flannery, Martin Skinner, Dennis
Foster, Derek Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Fraser, John Snape, Peter
Fyte, Maria Spearing, Nigel
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Steinberg, Gerry
Harman, Ms Harriet Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Haynes, Frank Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Hinchliffe, David Wallace, James
Holland, Stuart Wray, Jimmy
Home Robertson, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Chris Smith.
Alexander, Richard Carrington, Matthew
Amess, David Carttiss, Michael
Amos, Alan Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Arbuthnot, James Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Chapman, Sydney
Atkins, Robert Chope, Christopher
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Churchill, Mr
Baldry, Tony Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Batiste, Spencer Colvin, Michael
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Conway, Derek
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Cope, Rt Hon John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Couchman, James
Boswell, Tim Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bottomley, Peter Curry, David
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Davies, Q. (Stamf'd &Spald'g)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Davis, David (Boothferry)
Brazier, Julian Day, Stephen
Bright, Graham Devlin, Tim
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Dorrell, Stephen
Brown, Michael (Brigg &Cl't's) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Budgen, Nicholas Durant, Tony
Burns, Simon Eggar, Tim
Burt, Alistair Fallon, Michael
Butterfill. John Favell, Tony
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fishburn, John Dudley
Forman, Nigel Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Forth, Eric Mellor, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Meyer, Sir Anthony
Fox, Sir Marcus Mitchell, Sir David
Franks, Cecil Moate, Roger
Freeman, Roger Moore, Rt Hon John
French, Douglas Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Gardiner, George Moss, Malcolm
Garel-Jones, Tristan Neale, Gerrard
Gill, Christopher Needham, Richard
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Neubert, Michael
Gow, Ian Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Nicholls, Patrick
Grist, Ian Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Ground, Patrick Oppenheim, Phillip
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hague, William Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hanley, Jeremy Pawsey, James
Harg reaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Portillo, Michael
Harris, David Renton, Tim
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Riddick, Graham
Hayward, Robert Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Heathcoat-Amory, David Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Heddle, John Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Hind, Kenneth Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Shersby, Michael
Howarth, G. (Cannock &B'wd) Sims, Roger
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Soames, Hon Nicholas
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Stern, Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Stevens, Lewis
Irvine, Michael Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Jack, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Jackson, Robert Sumberg, David
Janman, Tim Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Key, Robert Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Knapman, Roger Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Thurnham, Peter
Lang, Ian Townend, John (Bridlington)
Latham, Michael Tredinnick, David
Lawrence, Ivan Trippier, David
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Twinn, Dr Ian
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Viggers, Peter
Lightbown, David Waddington, Rt Hon David
Lilley, Peter Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Waldegrave, Hon William
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Wells, Bowen
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Wheeler, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Whitney, Ray
Maclean, David Widdecombe, Ann
McLoughlin, Patrick Wood, Timothy
Major, Rt Hon John Woodcock, Mike
Mans, Keith Yeo, Tim
Maples, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Marlow, Tony
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Tellers for the Noes:
Mates, Michael Mr. Neil Thorpe and
Maude, Hon Francis Mr. Gary Waller.

Question accordingly agreed to.