HC Deb 28 January 1992 vol 202 cc893-915
Mr. Chris Smith

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 20, line 50, leave out from beginning to end of line 3 on page 21.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we shall take the following amendments: No. 8, in page 22, leave out lines 28 to 33.

No. 9, in schedule 2 page 23, leave out line 6.

No. 10, in schedule 3, page 24 leave out line 45.

Mr. Smith

These amendments are of a somewhat detailed nature and relate to some of the specific items of work which are included in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 seek to delete works Nos. 01 and 014. Those works were proposed by London Underground Ltd. rather than British Rail. They relate entirely to work to the underground concourse at King's Cross, which was recommended in the Fennell report on the tragic fire at King's Cross underground station. Hon. Members will probably recall that some of my constituents died in that fire, as did some of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). Firefighters from my constituency and his operated with amazing bravery in trying to ensure that the tragic loss of life was kept to a minimum. None of us needs to be reminded of the need to ensure that the proper safety works recommended by Fennell can be carried out.

When London Underground came forward with proposals for works in connection with the Fennell proposals, and included them in the King's Cross Railways Bill, we did not object to them. We wanted to see them on the statute book as quickly as possible. London Underground, being more sensible than British Rail, saw its opportunity and published a separate Bill, the London Underground (King's Cross) Bill, which includes specifically works Nos. 01 and 014.

That Bill has gone through all its stages in this House, and is now under consideration in another place. I am pleased to have been able to assist in ensuring that it got through its procedures in this House quickly. It has leapfrogged the King's Cross Railways Bill and is ahead of it in the queue of private Bills. I hope that it will go through another place quickly, so that the works may be undertaken as soon as possible.

In those circumstances, it seems otiose, to say the least, to have works Nos. 01 and 014 still in the King's Cross Railways Bill. I hope that my amendment, which seeks to delete them, will be acceptable to the promoters of the Bill, because it is nonsense to include them when they are covered by another Bill which is already ahead of the King's Cross Railway Bill in the legislative programme.

Amendment No. 9 seeks to delete access point A8 in Railway street. That access point is redundant for British Rail. If it were used, it would have a severe impact on the residents of Balfe street, which is a small street of residential accommodation. Much of it has been renovated in recent years by the London borough of Islington, and the houses are occupied by council tenants who are my constituents.

The access point is redundant because, under the King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill, British Rail seeks a replacement access point known as A27. That Bill has just been deposited and made its initial attempt at Second Reading earlier today. The new access point is at the junction of Railway street and York way. Petitioners against that Bill object to that proposal and have suggested other points in York way that would be preferable and would avoid unnecessary demolition.

Although alternative access points have been proposed by British Rail and local objectors and petitioners, British Rail is still pursuing access point A8, which the amendment seeks to delete. It is worth noting that that access point is less than 30 m from the rear of houses on Balfe street and is at the start of a steep ramp. British Rail's engineering witness said, in front of the Committee that considered the Bill, that he preferred an access point nearer to York way because of the steep ramp, which makes the access point a bad engineering solution for British Rail. Furthermore, the disruption and disturbance of residents in Balfe street should also be taken into account. For all those reasons, it would be sensible to accept the amendment.

Amendment No. 10 seeks to delete Balfe street from the rods to be dug up in the construction of a replacement of the York way sewer. When the works are undertaken, Balfe street will be surrounded by construction work. The amendment is an attempt to remove just one small and unnecessary part of the work that will be inflicted on Balfe street residents. Work No. 13, to which the amendment relates, is a sewer diversion required by the position of the low-level station. At present, the sewer runs down the line at York way, but it will have to be diverted once the enormous low-level box is created by the Bill. The proposed sewer will run along Railway street from York way and then down Balfe street to Caledonian road, where it will join the existing sewer. So the proposed diversion route will include a new sewer running straight down Balfe street.

Although alternatives were put to the British Rail engineer in Committee, they were rejected for various reasons. However, two weeks after the Committee finally reported, British Rail announced that the sewer could be tunnelled after all and said that there was no need to dig up Balfe street because it could tunnel from the existing sewer to a proposed sewer. That was said at a meeting on 22 May 1991, whereas the Committee had reported on 8 May 1991.

My amendment would remove Balfe street from the list of streets that should be dug up in order to carry out sewer works. It simply seeks to give practical legislative effect to British Rail's claim that it does not need to dig up Balfe street, that it can achieve that sewer diversion by tunnelling. If BR is certain that it can achieve that and that it can carry out the necessary sewer diversion work without having to dig up the whole of the middle of Balfe street, with all the inevitable noise, disturbance and disruption, that will be extremely welcome to the residents. Those residents are already suffering 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of the work that is going on. As a result of the amendment, another additional item of work, which would have an impact on those residents, would be removed.

9.30 pm

That is the import of my amendments. Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 relate to work that British Rail does not need to include in this Bill because London Underground has extracted them and put them in another Bill. Amendment No. 9 relates to an access point, which is not needed because an alternative already exists, as well as another alternative in another Bill. If that work were persisted with, it would create many difficulties for the residents. Amendment No. 10 relates to the diversion of the sewer and the inclusion of work in Balfe street. However, BR has agreed that that work is not specifically required, because the necessary diversion could be achieved by other means.

The amendments are specific and reasonable, and I trust that they will commend themselves to the House. I hope that the sponsor of the Bill will feel able to accept some of my amendments.

Mr. Waller

I am happy to tell the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and the House that amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are acceptable to the promoters.

As the hon. Gentleman explained, those amendments effectively leave out works Nos. 01 and 014. Those works are safety measures recommended in the Fennell report and would be carried out by London Underground Limited. Due to the delay that had been encountered by the promoters of the Bill, London Underground has decided that those essential safety works should be authorised in a separate Bill to be enacted as soon as possible. The London Underground (King's Cross) Bill was therefore deposited in November and provides for the construction of similar works, which will supersede works Nos. 01 and 014. The House will be aware that the latter Bill is expected to be enacted in the current Session. Accordingly, the promoters of this Bill are content to agree to the amendments on the ground that the powers in the Bill are otiose, to repeat the word used by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

I am sorry that amendment No. 9 is not acceptable because it would remove from the Bill the power to form a means of access to Railway street at point A8, as shown on the deposited plans. The power to make an alternative access is being sought by the BR board in the King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill, which was deposited in Parliament during this Session. If that Bill is enacted to include that power, the board has acknowledged that it would not then need to make the access at point A8. At this stage it would be premature for the Bill to be amended as proposed since it would not then confer on the board the complete package of powers that are necessary to construct the access point.

The board is prepared to give an undertaking to Parliament at this stage that, if the King's Cross Railways (No. 2) Bill is enacted in a form authorising the board to construct an alternative access on to York way at point A27, as shown in the plans deposited in connection with the No. 2 Bill, it will not exercise the power proposed in this Bill to construct the means of access on to Railway street at point A8. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that assurance.

Amendment No. 10 is not acceptable either. Its effect would be that the board would not have the power temporarily to stop up or open up the surface of Balfe street. Presumably the amendment was tabled—naturally enough—for the protection of the constituents of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury who are owners and occupiers of properties in Balfe street and who are to be affected by works at the rear of their properties. It is possible to construct the Balfe street portion of work 13—that is, the sewer—by tunnelling, but it should be understood that some opening up will still be necessary in some places. That is why this provision is vital. Obviously, the board regrets any inconvenience to the owners and occupiers of properties in Balfe street, but the power to open up the street is essential to enable the board to carry out the works required for the diversion of the main sewer.

Mr. Chris Smith

The hon. Gentleman has asserted that it is necessary for the board to be able to dig up parts of Balfe street in order to open up for the works, even if the sewer is tunnelled. Is he saying that, in order to construct the tunnel, it is necessary to dig up the surface of the road? That is not credible. Or is he saying that there may be some other purpose in digging up Balfe street? If so, it would be helpful to know exactly what purpose the board has in mind.

Mr. Waller

As I understand it, most of the work originally intended to be carried out by opening up much of the length of the street is now to be carried out in tunnelling, but it is necessary to have access to that tunnelling work. That is why there needs to be some opening up of the street.

In evidence given before the Select Committee, the duration of the portion of works affecting Balfe street was estimated at about nine weeks. There will be disturbance during those nine weeks but I submit that that is a relatively short period considering that the entire works required for the King's Cross project will take a number of years to be brought to fruition.

I have been able to accept two amendments, which I hope will be to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentleman, and I have been able to give him one assurance, which I hope that he will welcome. I am sorry that I cannot go further, but I am sure that he will understand that the BR board has been anxious to accommodate him as far as it lies within its power to do so.

Mr. Chris Smith


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House to speak again?

Hon. Members


Mr. Smith

The hon. Member for Keighley is the bearer of partially good news. The good news is to be welcomed, but before discussing the amendments that he has accepted, I wish to deal with amendments Nos. 9 and 10.

The hon. Gentleman said in connection with amendment No. 9—the deletion of access point A8—that, if British Rail were not given the necessary powers in this Bill, its powers would be incomplete, but that it was seeking alternative arrangements, and that, if they went ahead, it would not want to proceed with A8. The hon. Gentleman phrased his undertaking extremely carefully, however. He gave us an undertaking that access point A8 would not be used and the powers conferred by the Bill in respect of that access point would not be invoked if access point A27, off York way, were given approval.

We are not talking only about British Rail's alternative access point off York way—A27: we are talking also about other proposed access points off York way, which the local residents have proposed as better alternatives to A27. I hope that the undertaking that has been given by the hon. Member for Keighley applies not only to A27, but to any other access point off York way that might in due course be agreed between British Rail and the objectors to the Bill.

I am disappointed by what the hon. Member for Keighley said about amendment No. 10. I remain unconvinced and puzzled by his statement that, despite the fact that the sewer along the Balfe street line can be tunnelled, there will still need to be some access from the surface down to the tunnelled sewer. Knowing that Balfe street is not particularly long—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows this also—I must confess that I find it difficult to see why it is necessary to gain access from the surface of the middle of a relatively short street when one is tunnelling from one end of the street to the other. But that is what the hon. Gentleman has said; it is what British Rail handed him a note to say.

I hope that that point will be reconsidered in due course. If there is no genuine need to get from the surface to the tunnel in Balfe street, there should be no need to dig up that street and to make the lives of my constituents even more of a nightmare than would otherwise be the case.

The hon Member for Keighley betrayed the fallacy of that argument when he said, "What is nine weeks of disturbance compared to the overall period of disturbance that people in the King's Cross area will have to put up with?" That simply reveals how cheaply British Rail is treating the lives and the quality of life of the people who live in the King's Cross area. The people of Balfe street will have to put up with possibly upwards of eight years of constant work immediately outside their homes. As I explained in our debate a couple of weeks ago, much of that work—

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, when discussions have taken place on the building of the Jubilee line through various expensive and salubrious parts of London, there has been the most detailed consideration of disturbance, including that caused to Parliament square where some of the works will be carried out? However, the House is apparently proposing to force eight years of disturbance on my hon. Friend's constituents in Balfe street and to do so in this cavalier fashion. Should not British Rail have a bit more consideration for the local people who have grown up and lived with the sound of the railway station and created a decent community around it, but will now see all that torn apart?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I welcome his support on that point. The residents of Balfe street are prime among the people who will be affected by the works. As I have said, the works will continue for eight years—seven days a week, 24 hours a day. That work will take place right outside people's homes. I am sure that the hon. Member for Keighley would not feel particularly happy if such work were to be undertaken next door to his home for eight years.

The hon. Member for Keighley said, in effect, "These people will have to put up with eight years' worth of work, so what's another nine weeks?" It is nine weeks of even more intense noise and disturbance because not only will the back of their homes be being pounded by piledrivers, bulldozers, digging and building but the front of their homes will be pounded by the access works that are required for the sewers. My constituents should not have to put up with this extra work, especially as the hon. Gentleman has not made the case that the work is necessary.

9.45 pm
Mr. Corbyn

Will my hon. Friend reflect on the personal lives of people affected by this? An elderly constituent of mine with a heart condition applied to the local authority for rehousing and, last year, I was delighted to be able to tell him that he had been offered permanent accommodation in a council property in Balfe street. I wonder about the safety of this person. I thought that I had got him safely rehoused but now he is faced with eight years of work going on outside the house in which he thought that he would live for the rest of his days.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Many people have lived in Balfe street for many years. Others have moved in recently because there is good quality accommodation created over many years by the London borough of Islington. The lives of those people will be affected by the work set out in the Bill and amendment No. 10 would make things just a little easier for them, if that is possible. I do not believe that British Rail requires access from street level down to the tunnel if it is able to tunnel along the sewer. That may need to be considered further in another place.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Keighley has accepted amendments Nos. 7 and 8. That is not much of a concession, because these works are anyway included in another Bill. Nonetheless, we wish the authority for these works Godspeed on to the statute book. I hope that the London Underground (King's Cross) Bill will reach the statute book soon. When it does so, there will be no need to include works 01 and 014 in this Bill. Therefore, I hope that the House will agree to amendments Nos. 7 and 8.

Amendments made: No. 7, in page 20, line 50 leave out from beginning to end of line 3 on page 21.

No. 8, in page 22, leave out lines 28 to 33.—[Mr. Chris Smith.]

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

9.48 pm
Mr. Smith

I shall not trespass on the time of the House by rehearsing some of the arguments that we have made in the many debates on the Bill about the rightness or otherwise of King's Cross as the location for the second international station. I have made my view clear on a number of occasions. I do not believe that it is the right location, although I fully understand the views and wishes of colleagues representing constituencies to the north, who wish for good-quality connections from the north via an international station to the channel tunnel. I share that objective, but I question whether King's Cross is the right location.

I accept that there is an honest disagreement between my hon. Friends and myself in that regard, but I do not believe that King's Cross can cope with an extra 15 million passengers every year. Anyone who has travelled through King's Cross will know that station is already the most overcrowded interchange—both below and above ground —in London. To impose that scale of extra passenger load on an already overcrowded facility would create enormous problems for the immediate area and the passengers who attempt to use that station.

I have frequently argued that case, and still hold to it —but the House has shown in several votes that it takes a different view, and believes that King's Cross is the right location for the second international station. I hope, however, that the Government and my hon. Friends on the Front Bench—soon to become members of the Government—accept that, even if they think that King's Cross is the right location in principle, that does not mean that every jot and tittle of British Rail's specific proposals offers the best way of achieving that objective.

In our debate two weeks ago, I raised the specific issue of the Bill's buffer zone provision, which seeks to ensure that those living in the immediate area of the proposed station will be protected when the works are undertaken. I subsequently exchanged correspondence with British Rail's solicitor, Mr. Osborne, about the properties on the east side of Northdown street, which were not included in the specific buffer zone—that is, the area protected by British Rail's agreement to the Committee's requirements.

I argued that British Rail had failed fully to fulfil its undertaking to the Committee, but its solicitor—to whom I am grateful for replying so promptly—replied that it had done so. He sticks to his original assertion that properties on the east side of Northdown street do not need to be included in the buffer zone.

Having expressed a belief that he was still right in principle, the solicitor to British Rail concluded his letter to me of 28 January: However, as a concession to you"— a concession to me personally, that is— we will extend the buffer zone to include properties with a frontage onto so much of the east side of Northdown street as is situated between Pentonville Road and Collier Street. That is a welcome concession, and I am grateful to British Rail.

We should consider the general question of what the proposals will cost. It is all very well to pass a private Bill and then to think that the job is done, but—as my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) pointed out earlier—unless we can be certain that the Government will come up with the money that will enable British Rail to undertake the work, we may find, having spent three years debating the Bill and waited several more months for the other place to debate it, that there is no money to finance that work.

As we all know, when the station was first mooted, the estimate of the costs was about £400 million or £500 million. That was bad enough, but British Rail's most recent estimates—and they are now several months old —mention a total cost of some £1.4 billion. That amount is made up of £610 million for the facilities for channel tunnel and Kent commuter services, £220 million for Thameslink and £570 million for the other works—including the new passenger concourse, new lines into St. Pancras and railway works to facilitate the development of the London Regeneration Consortium land.

At the end of last week, I wrote to the hon. Member for Keighley to ask whether an updated estimate had been produced, relating specifically to the railway works included in the Bill. I have received no response from the hon. Gentleman; he may wish to enlighten us now. For the moment, we have only that enormous figure of £1.4 billion. We know that the Government enthusiastically support the Bill, because they are unofficially whipping to ensure that it is passed. We are entitled to ask the Government whether, in their enthusiastic support for the Bill, they are aware of the enormous magnitude of its financial implications.

Mr. Tony Banks

I assume that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) is referring in part to the article in the Evening Standard of Monday 27 January headed "Chunnel doubts grow over King's Cross". The article states that the costs have escalated"— It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned. Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the King's Cross Railways Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Patnick.]

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mr. Banks

The article states: estimates of the project's cost have escalated from £457 million to £1.4 billion"— the figure mentioned by my hon. Friend—and that it is possible that the scheme will not go ahead. Under those circumstances, I ask him whether it would be wise for the House to proceed with the Bill tonight. Before he answers, and in order to assist all hon. Members, perhaps he will say whether, like me, he wants to press the Bill to a vote at the end of Third Reading?

Mr. Smith

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) for drawing my attention to the article in the Evening Standard. I am indeed minded to seek a vote on Third Reading at the end of what I hope will be a relatively brief debate.

The issue of finance raised in the Evening standard article to which my hon. Friend draws attention is extremely important. The Government are fond of asking where the money is coming from, but they are supporting a project which, according to old estimates which will probably have to be updated, will cost £1.4 billion. However, the Government do not appear to be currently giving any commitment to provide funds or even to give British Rail the necessary borrowing authority.

The railways division of the Department of Transport wrote a letter to one of my constituents, Mr. R. H. Keynes, of Keystone crescent, whose home will be directly affected by the works. My constituent had sought assurances from the Minister about the financing of the proposed station. The Department of Transport replied: Turning to your letter to Mr. Freeman, I cannot answer your detailed questions about the financing of the station, as we have yet to see a full, up-to-date, case on this from BR. The letter continued: The answers to your specific questions to the Minister, are, therefore, that we have seen a certain amount of information on the cost of the King's Cross project"— we should like to know what that certain amount of information is— and the projected revenues before giving consent to the deposit of the Bill.

That was three years ago—the Bill was deposited in 1988. A lot of time has elapsed, there has been a lot of inflation, many cost recalculations, and many changes in the route to get to King's Cross, and many other considerations, such as the creation of Stratford as a major interchange, have intervened in the meantime. The Department of Transport goes on: But the project has altered considerably since"— the Department admits that— and a lot of that information is no longer current, particularly on the revenue side. We do not therefore know at this stage whether the station will meet the Government's investment criteria.

In other words, not only do we not have in front of us an exact cost for the works that are being voted through in this Bill—we have to go on the basis of an outdated figure of £1.4 billion, which is in itself an enormous amount—but the Government are saying that they do not have the foggiest idea whether the amount involved will accord with their investment criteria. The Government are dragooning their troops to push the Bill through the House despite the fact that they do not have the faintest idea how they or British Rail will pay for it. That is something of which we ought to be extremely wary.

Mr. Corbyn

During the passage of this Bill, my hon. Friend has made himself an expert on the subject. That being the case, perhaps he can help me. If British Rail goes ahead with the building of this station at a cost of £1.4 billion, what sort of income will it need to secure from the capital developments to service the loan, bearing in mind the fact that the Minister has often said that the Government will put no money into the project?

Mr. Smith

If British Raik were seeking to finance this project entirely out of the relatively small amount of revenue that will come to the station from the operation of the services and from the surrounding property development, it would find that impossible. Even with the property market at its height—I do not need to remind the House that it is not at the height at the moment—British Rail would not be able to cover the £billion capital cost out of its profit from property development or out of revenue from running the trains.

Of course, that is not a debate that the Government have yet entered into. They have not even set out their parameters for the financing of the station. The only figure that they have been prepared to come up with is bad enough—the initial cost of all the preparatory work involved in making drawings, hiring expensive barristers to put the Bill through the House, and so on.

Last week, I tabled a written question about precisely these costs: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funds are being made available to British Rail for design and other work in connection with planning and preparation of the King's Cross project. The reply that I was given is as follows: The external finance limit for BR next year will be £2,041 million. This will allow BR to spend £66 million on design and preparatory work for the King's Cross, Thameslink 2000 and channel tunnel rail link projects."—[Official Report, 27 January 1992; Vol. 202, c. 404–5.]

It is worth pointing out that Thameslink 2000 has been put back a year. The Bill will be deposited next November instead of last November. Therefore, the great bulk of the money to which that answer refers is for the King's Cross and channel tunnel rail link projects. We know that the Government have already given British Rail approval to spend £66 million—an awful lot of money—on the preparatory work. That, of course, makes even more important the question of the ultimate financing. If the Government are prepared to put £66 million into the work now, as well as dragooning hon. Members to push this Bill through the House, they must have—certainly they ought to have—a clearer idea of how they will behave in relation to the ultimate funding of the project when British Rail wants to start work.

Apart from the issue of financing the work—

Mr. Corbyn

The question of financing is important. As the future funding of the project is so uncertain and vague, are we to assume either that there is a private understanding between British Rail and the Government that the Government will pay the capital cost, or that the capital cost will be taken from other British Rail capital investment programmes, such as rail electrification?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point. I simply remind the House of some of the items of expenditure which British Rail seeks to undertake. All are extremely worthwhile projects, including the upgrading of the west coast main line at a cost of £750 million and the electrification of the midlands main line at a cost of £315 million.

Mr. Cryer

I caution my hon. Friend about using those figures. The east coast main line has been electrified, according to figures provided by the Minister, at a cost of £470 million. At 1990–91 prices, the original cost of the west coast main line electrification in the 1960s was £1,900 million. In other words—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. None of this has anything to do with the Third Reading debate.

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. All those points have been covered—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This is not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman knows better than to start challenging my ruling.

Mr. Smith

I certainly—

Mr. Cryer

The King's Cross development may draw money away from the projects that my hon. Friend has listed. The Government figures for investment, although accurate, represents investment on the cheap and not the full cost required for a decent job.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend may be right. I do not claim to be an expert on the detailed financing of particular aspects of railway work, but I know that there are many useful and worthwhile projects which British Rail could undertake. Apart from the projects that I have mentioned, there is the electrification of the trans-Pennine routes, the electrification of the Perth-Inverness line, the modernisation of the London, Tilbury and Southend line, Thameslink 2000 and the potential modernisation of the north Kent line.

Those are important and worthwhile projects, and we must ask the Government where the money for them will come from, especially if £1.4 billion is gobbled up by the proposals for King's Cross.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I know that my hon. Friend realises that many north-west and north-east Members have been careful not to intervene in the debate because we understand the strength of feeling in my hon. Friend's constituency. I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind the fact that there is another calculation which he has not mentioned. What will happen to all those projects if none of them has access to the channel tunnel and to the rapid movement of freight and passengers around the London area? Without the King's Cross terminal, there may be real problems.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is mistaken in including freight in her remarks, because the Bill contains no proposals on freight. The proposal is not for freight traffic to go through King's Cross. That issue is completely separate from the Bill.

Precisely this question was raised at an earlier stage in our discussions, and I pointed out then that the Government had not come clean at all on the issue of freight and what would happen to freight. I share the desire of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) in wanting to see not just passenger traffic but freight able to make a direct contact with the channel tunnel from all parts of the country, especially the north and the north-west. I share her desire to ensure that the channel tunnel becomes a tool for economic regeneration around the country.

This Bill, however, has nothing whatever to do with the movement of goods from the north of the country to the channel tunnel. It does have something to do with the movement of passengers from the north of the country to the channel tunnel, but, as I have already explained, I do not believe that King's Cross is essential to achieve that end. However, even if one takes the view that King's Cross is essential, there are better and more appropriate ways of building and developing a new station at King's Cross than the one that British Rail has effectively forced upon us. Considerations of finance are important in relation to that, because I do not believe that British Rail has to build an underground station in order to achieve its purpose.

What impact will the proposed station have on its environment and especially on traffic? According to British Rail and the Department of Transport's own published estimates, the new low-level station will double the number of rail passengers passing through the King's Cross station complex during the morning peak hours. It will double the number of vehicles that will come into King's Cross or St. Pancras during the morning peak hours.

The station and office development together will increase the traffic on Euston road during the evening peak hours by 70 per cent. Anyone who has tried travelling in a bus or car on Euston road in the evening rush hour will know that it is bad enough at present; to impose an additional 70 per cent. of traffic on that major artery will cause enormous congestion. That takes no account of the 100 per cent. increase in traffic which is likely to occur in the morning peak hours.

British Rail and the Government must therefore take some notice, at the very least, of the traffic implications of the Bill. It is all very well to say, as I am sure the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) will say—because it is what British Rail has said for months—that the great majority of passengers coming into King's Cross on the channel tunnel trains will go to further destinations by public transport, but there will also be many hundreds of thousands of passengers in a year who will want to be met by friends in cars, who will want to get on to coaches if they are in large parties or who will want to take taxis.

The traffic implications of what is proposed are enormous, and I hope that British Rail and the Government will take cognisance of the fact that we do not want to create around King's Cross a traffic jam far worse than anything that we have to put up with at present.

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend knows King's Cross well. I am not aware of any proposal to upgrade the Piccadilly or Victoria lines, which carry the majority of passengers to and from King's Cross. If those lines cannot cope during the rush hour at present, how will they cope with double the traffic?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friends makes a valid point. British Rail has consistently argued that people will get off the channel tunnel trains and get on to one of the five underground lines going through King's Cross station, and that that will somehow solve the problem of increased passenger traffic. It will not. Even if a new underground concourse is built—that is one of the proposals that is being advanced—nowhere in the Bill is it proposed that a single extra train should run on the Victoria, Piccadilly or Northern lines, or on any of the other lines that run through King's Cross. The tube trains are already packed during the rush hour, and there is no proposal in the Bill to ensure that extra services are provided. Both below ground and above it, the traffic implications will be absolutely massive.

I have explained why I think that the Government should come clean on the financing of the project and why the traffic and congestion implications of the proposals will be enormously painful for the King's Cross area. In addition to all that, my constituents will have to put up with untold damage to their lives, homes, shops and other properties—both immediately and in the years to come. It is worth reminding the House what the Bill, if enacted in its present form, would involve: the loss of 83 homes, the displacement of 326 residents, the demolition of four listed buildings, the destruction of well over 10 acres of property in two conservation areas, the destruction of a two-acre inner-city nature reserve of great value to the local community, the loss of 168 workplaces providing 1,620 jobs, the loss of 58 shops, 38 of which provide key services to local people, the diversion of a major traffic artery for a period of three years, a doubling of the number of rail passengers and a doubling of the number of cars and taxis coming to King's Cross and St. Pancras during the morning peak hour.

In addition to all that, the project will involve six years of construction work on the station and two years of construction work on the post-station development. That work will be in progress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be taking place immediately beside, behind and in front of the homes of a large number of my constituents.

Sincerely though I respect the wish of hon. Members on both sides of the House to ensure that their constituents can benefit from access to the channel tunnel—I have no desire to stand in the way of their efforts to make that wish come true—I urge that the interests of my constituents, who will have to put up with untold misery for an extended eight-year period, should be given closer consideration than BR has given them hitherto. BR could have come to us at the outset and said, "King's Cross has to be the location for a whole series of railway reasons, but let us talk about how best to ensure that the building of the station has minimal impact on local people and their lives."

If it had done that, we might have had a sensible dialogue with British Rail, but it did not. It came forward with these proposals, and it has attempted to bludgeon them through the House. It was, quite rightly, fiercely criticised by the Select Committee for the way in which it behaved in trying to get its proposals through the Committee and the House. It has not listened on a whole series of points, even though I am very grateful that amendments have been agreed to in the course of our debate this evening.

I shall vote against the Third Reading of the Bill tonight, but my intention is not to deprive the north of access to the channel tunnel. That is the last thing in my mind. My intention is to try to persuade British Rail and the Government to take more reasonable notice of the needs, requirements and quality of life of my constituents.

10.26 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

I am grateful for the opportunity to record the fact that the Government support the Bill and encourage all hon. Members to vote in favour of Third Reading, so that the Bill can proceed to another place for further consideration.

The Government support British Rail's plan to have the terminus of a high speed rail link at King's Cross. They also support the plans of London Underground to have, under the powers of this Bill, extensive work carried out at King's Cross to improve facilities there and also to improve commuter services—the Thameslink services which run north-south through King's Cross. These are all laudable aims.

The hon. Members for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) referred to an article in the Evening Standard. May I make it plain, as my Department has done consistently over the past three years of consideration of the Bill in the House, that this is indeed a mammoth project, that the appraisals of such a project inevitably change over time as the project changes in costs and revenue. It is not possible to come to a firm conclusion about this project in financial terms at the moment.

British Rail remains convinced that, the appraisal tests that we have set can be met; that is to say, for InterCity and for the international services, an 8 per cent. return. For the social services, that is for Thameslink and for the underground services in London, wider social benefits are taken into account, such as road decongestion, social regeneration and economic benefits to the City of London through such construction.

British Rail remains convinced that, when it puts the detailed investment proposition to us, once planning permission is obtained, it will pass the appraisal test. The House would not expect me to give any assurances about the timing of construction and the extent to which the investment appraisal test will be met. But the Government are committed to the Bill. We believe very strongly that planning permission should be given to permit construction to start, to bring benefits not only to the metropolis but to the north-east, the north-west and other parts of the country to which rail services will run from King's Cross to other great cities in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Corbyn

Before the Minister leaves this subject of the cost of the development, could he be more specific about it? British Rail has given a figure of £1.4 billion for the construction of the station complex. The Minister has said that there will be appraisal tests for the rail linkages in and out of it and their viability in return on capital, and so forth. He has not said what return on capital will have to be attained from the station in order to service the loan to construct the station, unless he intends to make a very large Government grant available for that construction.

Mr. Freeman

I hoped that I had made it quite plain that there are several different constituent parts of the project. For the non-commercial parts of the operation, the Government's present procedure for funding such investments, for example by Network SouthEast or London Underground, is to take into account, where appropriate, the wider non-user benefits—I gave the House examples of such non-user benefits—and to finance London Underground by grant and British Rail by passenger service obligation grant, which is a revenue grant, and then by loan sanction permission to borrow. The revenue impact for social railway investment is met by increases in the passenger service obligation grant. If the hon. Gentleman wants to table a question or write to me, I shall be glad to enlarge upon that.

As I have said, the Government support the Bill. We think that it is appropriate not only that King's Cross should be the terminus for a rail link but that underground and Network SouthEast facilities should be improved at that station. We urge the House to give the Bill a Third reading.

10.30 pm
Mr. Snape

I, too, will be extremely brief. I believe that there are objectives that should be endorsed, not because the Bill favours one part of the country at the expense of another but because an international terminal, as well as a through station, at King's Cross will benefit the whole country. Indeed, I believe, as do many of my hon. Friends, that from a railway point of view there is no alternative to King's Cross.

That is not to say that the Minister has not left questions unanswered, not least the one just put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). We are confused about the financing of this great development. The Evening Standard article, to which he referred, emphasises his confusion. The terms in which he wrote to various organisations, talking about commercial viability or otherwise, also caused confusion.

The station will benefit not just international passengers. There will be benefits for domestic rail services to which the Minister referred. None of those benefits—neither those for the international services nor their domestic counterparts—could come from building the terminal anywhere else, such as Stratford or the other places which have been mentioned. Because of the geographical location of King's Cross and its easy connections to other parts of the country, it is not just the obvious choice but the only choice.

I have been involved for many years with the channel tunnel project as a whole and its associated terminal at King's Cross. I think that I am the only hon. Member to have served on two Select Committees on the channel tunnel. During the period in which the Conservatives have been in power it was said, first, that we needed only one terminal, Waterloo. Then it was decided that we needed two terminals.

Originally, the Government and British Rail management said that there was no need for a dedicated rail route from the channel ports, and that we could manage with the existing railway infrastructure. Then it was said that we needed a dedicated rail route, which would pass through Kent, and which would obviously affect the prospects of some Conservative Members in marginal constituencies. Despite the need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of public money on property acquisition, overnight we had the proposal for an eastern route into Stratford—a defeat for the Secretary of State, if we are to believe what we read in the newspapers, who wanted the original route.

The confusion about the project has been made worse by the Government's vacillation and indecision, and also by their lack of answers to my hon. Friends about where the finance for the project will come from.

Mr. Chris Smith

My hon. Friend is right in the point that he is putting to the Minister. He will recall that, when British Rail proposed that Waterloo should be the first channel tunnel station, not only did it say that one station was sufficient and that it did not need a second one but, in the case which it put to the House of Lords during the discussions, it said specifically that King's Cross was not an appropriate location for a second station. British Rail was ruling out King's Cross at that stage, yet two or three years later BR tells us that King's Cross is essential.

Mr. Snape

My hon. Friend underlines the confusion which has reigned over the project, certainly during the past decade and probably for some time before that.

On the point about additional traffic the Minister overlooked the fact that the new terminal will be a combination of King's Cross and St. Pancras, which, from a railway point of view, is considerably under-utilised. I have no figures on the throughput of passengers in those stations' heyday, but I hazard a guess that considerably more passengers now use the combined stations.

Mr. Corbyn

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Snape

With respect, I shall not give way because my hon. Friend has not been present for much of the debate. I know that he wants to speak on Third Reading and no doubt he will make his point later.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North agrees that the total number of passengers using King's Cross and St. Pancras in those stations' heyday was considerably more than the number who use the combined stations today. I am worried when people say that it is fine to live next to a railway station but that one must never use it to its full capacity. That does not appear to be sensible—

Mr. Corbyn

Who says that?

Mr. Snape

Various pressure groups make that point about both the London terminuses. They are apparently quite relaxed about living next to railway stations, provided they are not used to their full capacity. I neither understand nor share that view.

I realise that my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in other parts of the country are still waiting to hear something that was implied during the passage of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) says that the Bill has been railroaded through the House, but I remind him that it is three long years since it was introduced. If that is a railroad, it is pretty slow, and I would not look forward to travelling on it.

None of us believes that a real alternative to King's Cross exists, although we are not particularly happy about British Rail's proposals. I give my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury an undertaking that we are committed to a terminal at King's Cross, but we are not necessarily committed to the expensive and grandiose project, which seems to depend on property values that were optimistic three or four years ago and are hopelessly pessimistic now. I hope that the Minister will attempt, in his final few weeks in office, to clarify exactly which part of the station the Government are prepared to support financially. So far, an answer on that has been lacking from him and other Ministers.

After three years, it is time to draw this saga to a close. I hope that my hon. Friends will support the Bill, because the principle of a terminal station and an international channel tunnel station at King's Cross cannot be challenged.

10.37 pm
Mr. Waller

I shall not strain the good will of hon. Members who have supported the Bill by speaking for more than a few moments. I should like to speak longer, because the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) spoke about the losses that he envisages would be incurred by the development of the station at King's Cross, and if I had the time I should love to expand on the economic benefits that could be achieved in employment terms, the environmental benefits that would accrue to the area and the safety benefits that would be brought about by the Fennell provisions in the Bill.

However, I shall desist from following that course and merely state that the co-ordinated package of works in the Bill will make King's Cross a first-class interchange between international trains and inter-city services from the east midlands, the north and Scotland, as well as to and from Thameslink and London Underground services. With the short transfer to Euston station, passengers will have an interchange to and from the north-west and the midlands.

The Bill will also provide for the expansion of the successful Thameslink service and create new cross-London routes. It will enable the promoters greatly to improve capacity and the safety of passenger flows at the London underground station. Several hon. Gentlemen referred to the problems that will result from the increased throughput of passengers. However, the concourse will be enlarged and the facilities will be compatible with the new British Rail station, which will be able to handle many more passengers.

There has been a highly informed debate on the King's Cross Bill since the day my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) moved the Second Reading in May 1989. My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) was originally associated with the Bill. He has spoken with authority on other transport-related Bills. It took an historic 53 days to get the Bill through Committee, under the expert chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), who was present on the Front Bench today. It is curious that those two hon. Gentlemen were snatched away from their work on the Bill to enter the Whips Office.

I thank all those who have contributed to the debate, not least the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, who has stoutly defended the interests of his constituents as he sees them. I also thank all those other hon. Members who have supported the Bill loyally on a number of occasions because they believe that it is in the best interests of the country.

I now ask for the Bill to be allowed to move swiftly to another place. I commend it to the House.

10.40 pm
Mr. Corbyn

I must tell the House, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) so graciously remarked, that I was not here for part of the debate. I had a prior engagement that I could not break, but I was present for the latter one and half hours of the debate.

I intend to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. I must put on record the appreciation felt by many people in the borough of Islington of the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). He has sought to protect his constituency and the environment of London by arguing for some sane planning principles for the construction of a major railway station of national importance.

The project should not be pushed through the House by means of the private Bill procedure, which is wholly inappropriate. The Government appear to hide behind British Rail when it suits them and behind the private Bill procedure and financial gobbledegook when it suits them. They have not a clue about what they intend to do about the station.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) has assiduously promoted this awful project. He has said that we may be approaching its final stage and that it is about to go to the other place. Is that really so? After all, the Minister has admitted that he does not know where the money for the project will come from. He is still thinking about that. He has had only three years to think about that, but, obviously, that is not long enough.

The Minister is aware that land prices in London are falling. However, the entire finance for the project is supposed to come from the development of property in the area to the north of King's Cross. That proposition is simply not feasible because there is not enough money to be made from that property. Therefore, the money for the project must either come from Government grant—the Minister's predecessors set their faces against such grants for major railway construction—or money must be taken away from other BR capital projects. However, those projects are dear to the hearts of many people.

Does BR intend to spend £1.4 billion on the construction of the station and £400 million on the construction of the link between Stratford and King's Cross in tunnel? The Secretary of State has confirmed that that link must be in tunnel. We are talking about the expenditure of £2 billion on a railway project. However, even at the zenith of the London property boom, sufficient money could not have been raised from office development to the north of King's Cross.

Those who think that we have heard the last of this subject should think again. I have a feeling that, in about a year, BR will quietly announce that it cannot afford the project after all. We will then end up with a half-baked rail network. A new line will run through Kent to an under-utilised and under-developed station in Stratford; all because BR is not prepared to allow it to be the major terminal. BR will be unable to afford the link through to King's Cross and Waterloo will be the inadequate terminal for channel tunnel trains for a long time until that new line through Kent is built. When that happens, some trains will go to Waterloo and some to Stratford. That will provide a totally unsatifactory link to the channel tunnel.

Those colleagues who believe that those of us who are anti the development at King's Cross are anti the rest of the country should think again.

We are arguing for a sane and sensible process of railway planning for major projects. British Rail has spent a great deal of money in the past three years on public relations and lobbying exercises and on printing super-glossy documents. One can hardly move around King's Cross for BR consultants stopping one in the street to explain what a good thing it would be to have one's house knocked down to make way for the station.

That the channel tunnel will be built is obvious—it is happening. That the links with London will be built at some stage is less obvious—I hope that they will be. I urge colleagues to consider for a moment in whose interests this massive project is supposed to work. Many hon. Members, particularly Labour Members, seem to be labouring under the illusion that King's Cross will somehow aid the economic development of the north of England, and of Wales and Scotland, because it will improve freight transportation through to the channel tunnel. The development as proposed has nothing to do with freight transport: it is a passenger terminal and station. Developing economic links between this country and France and the other European countries will not be achieved by building King's Cross station, because it does nothing for freight transport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury ably discussed the effects on the area in detail. I can understand that some hon. Members are desperate to get the King's Cross development built because they think that it will speed their passage to a channel tunnel train and thence to Europe. Dedicated trains need not go though King's Cross if it is not the terminal. They can go around to Stratford and on from there. Non-dedicated trains—InterCity trains—would go to King's Cross and if the terminal was at Stratford passengers would have to transfer to Stratford.

Non-dedicated trains coming from the north-west would go to Euston. Therein lies a problem. Everyone knows that it is not exactly next door to King's Cross or St. Pancras. That is thanks to the free-enterprise railway developments of the 1840s and 1850s—instead of developing a proper London terminal, several of them were developed. That problem remains with us to this day.

British Rail talks grandly of a travelator running between Euston and King's Cross. When that was first proposed, it was forgotten that the Government were also building the British Library, which goes down five floors underground—a bit deep for a travelator, unless it is a big dipper sort of travelator. So that connection is not possible.

How passengers, therefore, are to get from Euston to the new channel tunnel terminal at King's Cross is unclear, unless they are to walk or take a bus running through the traffic in Euston road. That serious problem has not been dealt with. Those in the north-west or the west of England who think that they will have a direct link to the channel tunnel terminal are wrong. But people in the west of England may well have a direct link into a channel tunnel station at Stratford if the crossrail construction goes ahead. All these issues seem to be passing the House by.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury argued reasonably for some environmental protection for his constituents around the station, but his arguments have been brushed aside as though he were obstructing national progress and singlehandedly holding up the economic boom that this country is thrusting towards. Would any hon. Member tolerate in his constituency, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for eight years, unrestricted work on a major construction site?

This Bill is a Trojan horse for other major developments in other areas. If it is good enough for wealthy commuter areas of the country to have protection from motorway building contractors—traffic schemes, banking works and all the other improvements that they rightly demand and get—it is good enough for people in inner city areas to enjoy the same protection. Other hon. Members might care to reflect on those issues before allowing the scheme to go through.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said that eight listed buildings would be destroyed. We are talking about an interesting and historic area. Damage would also be caused to the Camley street open space. That might seem totally irrelevant to those who come from the rolling acres of hunting country, but the Camley street open space is precious to the children and young people who developed that land into a natural park. I know that it will be replaced under British Rail's proposals—and will be slightly larger in area—but hurt will be caused to people who put an awful lot of effort into the development.

There is also the question of traffic and passenger usage of the area. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East pointed out that St. Pancras station is underutilised. I tried to intervene to agree with him on that point and to ask him to agree with me that one problem with British Rail and London Underground is that they seem to imagine that more and more passengers can be brought into the King's Cross-St. Pancras complex without doing anything about the shortage of space on the underground trains that will then take those passengers.

It is no good bringing 15 million passengers a year into the King's Cross terminal unless there is some means of getting them away. If they cannot get on the Underground trains, they will go for a bus. If they cannot get on a bus, they will go for a taxi, but Euston road, Pentonville road and York way are already jammed, and that situation will get worse as a result of the development. That increase in traffic will lead to greater congestion and greater pollution, but apparently such things are of no concern to the planners behind the development or to the Government.

I shall oppose the Third Reading. I have a feeling that we shall all be back here again in the not-too-distant future, thinking again about the whole question of the lack of planning of this country's rail network. At the heart of this debate is the lack of importance that this country attaches to its rail network. I am a strong supporter of the rail network and the railway system. We cannot maintain a railway system by insisting on financing it by constantly creaming off and selling its assets year after year, and by insisting that new developments are financed by property speculation on the part of the railway board. That is not the way to do it.

We should take a leaf out of the books of other countries that have put large amounts of public investment into the railways, knowing that that will take traffic off the roads, reduce the level of air pollution and provide for a more efficient country. We are allowing some grandiose white elephant to be constructed around King's Cross without thinking of the implications for the rest of the country in terms of the loss of capital going into the project, the increase in traffic and pollution around the area and with the illusion that that somehow creates a better freight and passenger link to the continent, when we know that it will not.

There is a viable alternative just down the line at Stratford, where there is a large amount of open space that could be developed into a major terminal. King's Cross will be a secondary terminal, and I have a feeling that we shall end up with second best all round.

10.53 pm
Mr. Cryer

I want to express some reservations about the Bill, basically because of the Government's lack of gratitude, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) has referred. I am very much in favour of what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) referred to as a doubling of railway passengers. I wish that the number of railway passengers would increase, with a commensurate expansion of the railway network.

However, we are talking here only about railway passengers, not about a very important component of railway traffic, especially for the manufacturing industries of the north, which many of us represent—and that is freight. If we are to reverse the domination of our roads by heavy wagons and road lorries, we must do something about getting freight off the roads and on to rail, but the Bill does nothing about that.

The Minister should have said that the Government are prepared to provide a guarantee, should the financial system on which British Rail depends fail to deliver. The Bart's hospital case—I cannot expand on that, because it is sub judice—has placed a major source of funds in peril, because the Government have forced British Rail to depend on development or property sales to provide the revenue to finance this £1.4 billion project.

I shall not go into the components of that figure, because several other hon. Members have already put them on the record. However, I am concerned because this project, which many hon. Members have described as grandiose, may soak up investment funds for the provincial areas of British Rail into King's Cross. Other projects would be of greater advantage to the north and the provincial sector than this one, which will put £1.4 billion into the construction and covering of one of the largest holes in the ground in Europe.

For example, the electrification of the midland main line out of St. Pancras is not one of the works in the Bill, but it would cost only £400 million under the rather cheap methods that has been imposed on British Rail, which is required to find an 8 per cent. return on capital investment. That has led to cuts in capital investment, which has meant that the east coast mainline electrification is becoming a byword for inconsistency and low levels of operation in adverse weather conditions.

Rather than supporting the Bill, we should be urging the Government to authorise the electrification of the midland main line up through Sheffield to Leeds. If a crossrail link were built in Bradford, for what would be a tiny amount of capital investment when compared to the £1.4 billion to be spent on King's Cross, there could be then be through trains running up the electrified midland main line, to Bradford interchange and across to Foster square and then up to Settle and Carlisle, and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew)—the old London, Midland and Scottish scheme.

That would make use of that great main line, the capacity of which is vastly underutilised. My fear is that the investment to develop these routes to the north will not be available, as the Government will not give British Rail the finance that is needed because everything will have gone on the King's Cross project.

Another scheme that would be of great advantage to my constituency would be the electrification of the trans-Pennine route, from Leeds up to the Bradford interchange and then across to Halifax and through to the Lancashire capital of Manchester and across to Liverpool. At the moment, it is diesel-operated and the commuter services are overcrowded. More investment is needed. Despite interventions, the Minister has told us nothing about the effect of this investment on the rest of British Rail.

I want electrification of the trans-Pennine route, because it would be a real boost to the north. It will be eight years before the King's Cross route is finished, and therefore at least eight years before the north sees any benefit. Furthermore, freight, which is already decreasing fast on British Rail, will be further marginalised.

The Government are giving no incentives to encourage freight to return from road to rail. We should be looking carefully at the alternatives to see which would be of most benefit to the north in the short term, rather than allowing the development of a grandiose white elephant in King's Cross, which will soak up money and will not be of any benefit for 10 years. We need Government action now, and I am disappointed with their lack of response. It simply is not good enough.

The Minister ought to know that the money is not available to finance a major development on the basis that he outlined tonight. Part of that basis—apart from the public spending obligation that he mentioned—was increased property values, but that trend has been reversed. Higher property values were the basis on which British Rail stated that no direct public expenditure would be required for the King's Cross development.

I have grave reservations about that scheme, and in common with others of my hon. Friends, I want to see the development of an important and progressive rail network. I doubt whether the Bill will provide the basis for that.

11 pm

Mr. Tony Banks

I address my remarks to my hon. Friends, who ought to ask themselves whether, if we were in government, we would approach the matter in this way. The answer must be no. They must know in their hearts of hearts that we would not have used the private Bill procedure to determine a project of such significance to the nation as the construction of the second channel tunnel station.

It distresses me that British Rail has divided this side of the House. It is not a matter of arguing for Islington or for Stratford, but of what the whole country wants. It is manifest from recent press stories that, because the property market has collapsed and the budget is out of hand, the project will not go ahead.

I make the point to my hon. Friends that an attempt to destroy the Bill is being made not because of narrow constituency interests but because the decision in question is too important to consider under the private Bill procedure. We are not arguing the south versus the north, but we ask our hon. Friends to consider that a strategic decision should be taken in a different fashion. That is why I cannot support the Bill's Third Reading.

This issue will return to the House again before long, so even at this late moment I urge my hon. Friends also to vote against Third Reading.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 5.

Division No. 59] [11.02 pm
Alexander, Richard Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Arnold, Sir Thomas
Alton, David Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Amess, David Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Anderson, Donald Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Arbuthnot, James Barron, Kevin
Batiste, Spencer Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beggs, Roy Forth, Eric
Bevan, David Gilroy Foster, Derek
Blackburn, Dr John G. Franks, Cecil
Blunkett, David Freeman, Roger
Boswell, Tim Fyfe, Maria
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'pto'n) Gill, Christopher
Bowis, John Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gordon, Mildred
Bright, Graham Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Gregory, Conal
Buck, Sir Antony Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Butler, Chris Hague, William
Butterfill, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Caborn, Richard Hampson, Dr Keith
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hardy, Peter
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Haynes, Frank
Carr, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Chope, Christopher Irvine, Michael
Colvin, Michael Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Conway, Derek Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Kilfedder, James
Couchman, James Kilfoyle, Peter
Cousins, Jim Kirkhope, Timothy
Crowther, Stan Kirkwood, Archy
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knowles, Michael
Devlin, Tim Knox, David
Dewar, Donald Lewis, Terry
Dixon, Don Lightbown, David
Dover, Den Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Loyden, Eddie
Dykes, Hugh Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Emery, Sir Peter McCartney, lan
Enright, Derek MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Evans, John (St Helens N) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Maclean, David
Fatchett, Derek Maclennan, Robert
Fearn, Ronald McLoughlin, Patrick
Fenner, Dame Peggy McMaster, Gordon
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mans, Keith Snape, Peter
Marek, Dr John Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stephen, Nicol
Martlew, Eric Stern, Michael
Maxton, John Stevens, Lewis
Meale, Alan Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mills, lain Stott, Roger
Morley, Elliot Strang, Gavin
Moss, Malcolm Summerson, Hugo
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, lan (Esher)
O'Brien, William Taylor, John M (Solihull)
O'Hara, Edward Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Thompson, Sir D. (Calder Vly)
Oppenheim, Phillip Thorne, Neil
Paice, James Thurnham, Peter
Parry, Robert Tracey, Richard
Patnick, Irvine Trippier, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Waller, Gary
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Warren, Kenneth
Porter, David (Waveney) Watts, John
Prescott, John Wells, Bowen
Primarolo, Dawn Wheeler, Sir John
Raffan, Keith Widdecombe, Ann
Redmond, Martin Wilkinson, John
Redwood, John Wilson, Brian
Riddick, Graham Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wood, Timothy
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Sackville, Hon Tom Tellers for the Ayes:
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Mr. Roger Knapman and
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Mr. Alistair Burt.
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Tellers for the Noes:
Leadbitter, Ted Mr. Chris Smith and
Nellist, Dave Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
Skinner, Dennis

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.