§ Order for Second Reading read.7.14 pm
§ Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I put down a blocking motion to this Bill, but I have since withdrawn it, having been given assurances by British Rail that the parts of it to which I objected would be withdrawn. The Bill before us, however, still contains those parts, although a statement has been issued to the effect that British Rail will no longer pursue the parts of the Bill in question—work No. 1 and work No. 1A. I should like assurances that, if the Bill is passed, those works will not be put back in the Bill if it reaches Committee. Can the Chair reassure me about that?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
I am afraid that the Chair is not in a position to give any such assurances. Second Reading must take its course, whereupon alterations can be made at the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not extraordinary that the House should be invited on Second Reading to consider the Bill in this form while we have in our hands a statement from the promoters to the effect that certain clauses will immediately be removed from the Bill once it has been given a Second Reading? Surely the promoters have a duty to present the House with a Bill all of whose provisions they want enacted. It is rather insulting to the House to take up its valuable time in this way when the promoters have said—last Friday—that the Bill which will ultimately be enacted will be different from the one presented to us today.
In my time, I have brought one or two private Bills to the House. Had I told the House before one such Bill had even been debated that by the time it received Royal Assent it would be quite different from its appearance on Second Reading, that would have been regarded as an abuse of the private Bill procedure. I therefore submit that there is a case for reintroducing the Bill in the form that the promoters want.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
If it is an insult, I gather that it is an insult which happens from time to time with private Bills. This is not a matter over which I as the representative of the Speaker, have any control. The Bill must be allowed to take its course; no doubt those points can be made in the course of Second Reading.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is worth noting that what the promoters say in the letter in question is that the part of the Bill which would allow more imports of coal will be taken out. I suggest, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you were correct to say that this is not an unusual method. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) knows only too well that when a private Bill to allow the importation of coal came before the House on another occasion he seemed quite happy with changes to it being nodded through.
I hope that the promoters in this case will carry out what they have promised. I am pleased that my hon. 739 Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) has placed the matter on record so as to ensure, if the Bill reaches Committee, that it has been made clear in the House right at the outset that we expect the promoters to honour their agreement not to implement the part of the Bill which would allow more imports of coal to Britain.
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Although there is nothing unusual in the processes that we are discussing, in a few moments' time I should be able to give assurances which will satisfy those hon. Members who have raised points of order.
The Bill, which has 37 clauses, was deposited in January last year, so it has had a fairly lengthy gestation. It is short and uncontroversial, but its provisions are important not only to enable British Rail or any successor body to operate a safe and reliable railway but to enable the efficient use of land by others by better integrating the railway with adjoining land uses. I shall explain the Bill's main provisions.
When the Bill reaches Committee, British Rail will seek to withdraw works Nos. 1 and 1A and all associated provisions in the Bill. These were originally included to facilitate the carriage of imported coal from a deep sea port at Immingham to power stations in the Aire valley. However, the scheme for the coal terminal was abandoned and the needs of BR's customers no longer dictate those provisions. I hope that that assurance satisfies the hon. Members for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes).
The promoters will also seek powers to withdraw clause 24 and associated provisions relating to a replacement car park at Macclesfield. The clause was included in the Bill to obtain land consequent upon the loss of existing car park capacity at Macclesfield station. However, the land in question is subject to the Macclesfield Inclosure Act 1796, which authorises the holding fairs. In view of that factor and Macclesfield borough council's representations, the board has agreed not to pursue the clause and to withdraw its provisions. Over the past few days, considerable interest has been expressed in the Macclesfield Inclosure Act. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has a copy to hand. I am sure that he will be disappointed to learn that clause 24 is to be withdrawn in Committee.
Work No. 2 is to allow the diversion of approximately half a mile of the line between Cardiff and Aberdare through Mountain Ash on the south-east of Town bridge. This proposal originates from the Mountain Ash development study, jointly commissioned by the Welsh Development Agency, Mid Glamorgan county council and Cynon Valley borough council, and examines ways of revitalising the town centre.
The study concluded that, with a series of road works, river straightening, a sewer diversion, and the diversion of the railway, there would be an area of land suitable for redevelopment. The council has already obtained planning permission for those works, which have the backing of the Welsh Development Agency and the co-operation of the 740 National Rivers Authority and all the other undertakers involved. It now awaits only the railway diversion to complete the necessary authorisations for the project. The development project at Mountain Ash hinges on the railway diversion taking place and, if the British Railways Board is not granted those powers, the project may fall. The entire project, including the costs of diverting the railway line, are to be met by Cynon Valley borough council and the Welsh Development Agency.
The remainder of the Bill is mainly concerned with infrastructure operations and land use. Those include the closure of a bridge to road traffic at Hunslet East, Leeds. This follows Leeds city council's stopping up of Fewston avenue over the freight line between Osmondthorpe and Stourton to proceed with a residential development. The closure of this bridge is sought to prevent fly tipping and other unauthorised usage. The western footway over the bridge will be retained for the use of pedestrians.
Another provision concerns the closure of Wheal Bois level crossing, Redruth, over the main London to Penzance line. This is a scarcely used route. I understand that there is only one regular vehicle user on the route and its closure is sought on safety grounds. A foot crossing will be retained for pedestrians.
The closure of a private roadway over a bridge near Hartford beach, Cheshire, is also included. This closure is sought as the structure is in need of expensive repairs. The bridge was originally built to provide vehicular access but it is no longer used for this purpose. The access over the bridge is not a public right of way and is reduced to a little used and unsuitable means of passage for pedestrians.
The Bill provides for the purchase of land at Ranskill in the district of Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire. This is to enable land to be used for a passing loop to carry the longer freight trains which will use this line after the opening of the channel tunnel. Without these passing loops the channel tunnel freight trains would need to be held farther south, thereby causing delay to this traffic. This, in turn, would mean that the board would not be able to offer as good a service to businesses in the north wishing to take full advantage of the economic opportunities that will be available when the channel tunnel opens.
A further provision relates to the purchase and temporary use of land to permit the strengthening of the railway embarkment at Brigg, on the Gainsborough to Grimsby line. British Rail proposes the construction of a berm along the embankment between the old and new Ancholme rivers. This is considered a desirable improvement to an embankment which has had a history of instability. On either side are two sites which have been earmarked for development and can only benefit from improved arrangements. While the local authority has expressed various concerns about these works, these are directed to matters of detail and not to the desirability of the works themselves.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
What sort of traffic does British Rail think will use that railway line? Why is BR prepared to invest so much of its additional resources from its limited budget on those two works? My hon. Friend said that the British Railways Board does not intend to proceed with the new chord line which, in conjunction with the works at Brigg, would have made sense because it would have provided a through service for freight traffic from Immingham to Sheffield and beyond. If the chord line at Shaftholme is withdrawn from the Bill, why is it necessary 741 for British Rail to spend money on the works at Brigg? I cannot imagine what kind of traffic will use that line as a result of the improvements.
§ Mr. Waller
I have said that the embankment has a history of instability and that the reason for carrying out the works is that, essentially, two sites are earmarked for development on either side. This would be an appropriate time to improve the embankment to prevent further instability. We must bear in mind the fact that those developments may take place at some time in the foreseeable future.
§ Mr. Waller
It might be helpful if I were allowed to continue with my speech. I may be able to satisfy my hon. Friend after he has dealt with this point in his speech.
§ Mr. Brown
The Bill directly affects my constituency and I should like my hon. Friend to appreciate the importance of the works to my constituency. My constituents, especially in Brigg, are anxious to pose some questions. They want to know how it is that, today, on 8 February 1993—just three years after British Rail proposed to close the line from Brigg to Gainsborough, until my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) and I created a rumpus which caused BR to think better of it—it suddenly and miraculously proposes to spend so much money on these works.
§ Mr. Waller
I am surprised that my hon. Friend is complaining about the fact that the line is not being closed. His usual practice is to complain that a line is being used less well than he thinks it deserves. The embankment has a 25-year history of instability and there have been several major slippings. As the remedial works which have been undertaken have not proved successful, it would seem natural to repair the line by improving the embankment. To do so it is necessary to acquire a certain amount of land which is not within the ownership of British Rail. That requires the provisions of the Bill, and that is why it is included in it.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
Once the embankment has been improved, the speed limit of 30 mph can be raised to 70 mph, which might provide British Rail with a good route to coastal resorts and thus garner traffic from further afield. Would that not ensure the future of the railway rather than placing a question mark over it?
§ Mr. Waller
It is true that there is a severe speed limit restriction along the line which, as British Rail wishes to provide a good service to its customers, it would be sensible to avoid. That is another good reason why British Rail wishes to proceed with the works.
§ Mr. Jimmy Boyce (Rotherham)
How much time will be saved if the Bill is passed? The statement from British Rail says that speed will be reduced from 75 mph to 30 mph, so how much time will be made up?
§ Mr. Waller
I cannot say exactly how much time will be made up, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be an improvement to the service. It may be that, before the end of the debate, I shall be able to provide him with more detailed information about the timetable improvements which may be made. Glanford borough council has 742 expressed concern about the works, but BR is in discussion with it and is confident that the problems can be settled satisfactorily.
The last main provision in the Bill concerns the temporary use of land at Queen Adelaide way, Station road, to allow the improvement of a superstructure bridge over the Great Ouse at Ely, Cambridgeshire. With electrification of the line to King's Lynn completed, the bridge, which has a 20 mph speed restriction, is now over-stressed for traffic requirements on the line. The remaining clauses are standard to all private Bills introduced by British Rail and I am sure that the House is familiar with them.
It should be remembered that the Bill was introduced as part of British Rail's continuing efforts to maintain the railway networks, with due regard to economy, efficiency and safety. Regardless of ownership, our railways must be allowed to develop, with improvement of the services provided. The Bill does not form part of the proposed privatisation of the industry nor set up powers for matters other than important operational purposes. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading to enable its provisions to receive early consideration in Committee.
§ The Minister for Transport in London (Mr. Steve Norris)
It may be helpful if I intervene now to give the House the Government's view on the Bill. The Government have considered the content of the Bill and have no objection in principle to the powers sought by the railways board. The Department has no points outstanding on the Bill.
It is for the promoters to persuade Parliament that the powers that they are seeking are justified. The Committee will be held in a better position than we are tonight to examine the Bill in detail. Therefore, I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
Can my hon. Friend give us any idea of the Government's view on the increase in speed that the Bill will allow on the Gainsborough to Grimsby section? Have they taken into account the effect on people living close to the line of the increased noise that will result, just as we take such considerations into account when debating road and air transport?
§ Mr. Norris
I had hoped to gallop through the last sentence of the most anodyne statement that I have ever made to the House without interruption, but I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenuity in preventing me from doing that. I know that the matters that he raises are important to him, but they are matters better raised in the Committee, where they can be given the thorough airing that they need. If that satisfies my hon. Friend, or, frankly, even if it does not, I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and allowed to proceed to Committee in the usual conventional way for the detailed consideration that he obviously believes that it needs.
§ Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)
I offer the support of the Opposition for the Bill. It is an historical oddity that such a minor Bill, dealing with relatively minor works, has to come before Parliament. We do not debate such Bills in respect of any other form of transport. The important point is that several of the measures proposed in 743 it are aimed at improving safety. Anybody who stands in the way of such measures because of the issues that are, at best, peripheral to the substance of the Bill carries a heavy responsibility.
Nothing in the Bill is contentious. I hope that it receives its Second Reading. I only regret that we have to play out this farce for the next two and a half hours before we find whether there are 100 Members of Parliament to vote on it.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) made a somewhat odd point. I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to ask a question about noise. That was a serious intervention, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not considered what effect trains travelling at 75 mph rather than 30 mph between Gainsborough and Grimsby will have on people living close by.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be aware that none of the owners or occupiers along that part of the line has petitioned against the Bill. I suspect that all of them know more about it than I do and definitely more than he does.
§ Mr. Mans
The hon. Gentleman will no doubt agree that, on many occasions when we have debated travel, not only by train but by motor car or air, we have found that people who have become affected by the actions of an airline or by the building of a new road did not petition at the time. Perhaps they did not know the consequences of the action taken by the authority or the company concerned and did not understand the effect there would be on noise levels.
There has been no study of the possible increase in noise resulting from the Bill. Despite the fact that not many people may have complained about the noise level, a train travelling at 75 mph rather than at 30 mph must have an effect on the people who live close by. Furthermore, at the moment only three trains a day travel on that track, and the implication is that a number of extra trains will travel along it at a much higher speed.
Given the cost of the measure, and the works done to the line to increase the speed, I hope that British Rail has fully taken into account the alternative—I would suggest, better—uses that can be made of any money that it might decide to spend on that part of the track.
I can give an example of why I feel that British Rail is misusing public money by improving that piece of track. I come from a part of the country, Fylde, which has been affected by the axing of the direct line from Euston to Blackpool. The train stops at Preston and people have to get on another train to travel to Blackpool. It was decided that it was not a good use of public money to have a direct service from Euston to Blackpool. It has been determined that that service is too expensive and that it is better for it to stop at Preston, where it is necessary to leave one train for a far inferior one to travel on to Blackpool. When examining the use to which public money is put, we must scrutinise carefully whether British Rail has it right.
If the Bill makes its way to consideration in Committee, I hope that it will be examined in great detail over a fairly lengthy period. Even tonight, however, we should spend a 744 few minutes considering noise, the proposed extra speed and the cost to the public purse of making the proposed changes.
I have a reasonably good track record on environmental matters. Over the past six years. I have introduced four Bills relating to such considerations. We shall have increasingly to consider the environment when we decide what sort of rail, road or other transport infrastructure we are to have. Not for the first time, I do not believe that British Rail has given close enough attention to environmental matters in producing its proposals.
The original link between the channel tunnel and London is an example of British Rail's having failed to take into account the consequences of its suggestions. Despite extensive work—probably at great expense to the public purse—it managed to put the route straight through a new housing estate. Surely any reasonable man would consider that a most unreasonable thing to do. If the proposal had come to fruition, it would have caused considerable inconvenience, including noise, to those living on the estate. Environmental considerations should be given a full hearing when British Rail decides that it wants to proceed with new measures or schemes.
In another context, we hear repeatedly of the problems that are caused by heavy lorries. An area of transportation with which I am relatively familiar is aviation. A proposal that there should be one extra flight into Heathrow, for instance, would lead to an insistence on a huge number of environmental assessments. Huge sums—rightly, in my view—would be spent to ascertain whether the extra flight would have an effect on the everyday lives of those living close to the airport. The same principle should apply to those who live close to a road or, in this instance, close to a railway line.
Noise and the environment generally should receive close attention in the context of the proposals in the Bill. If such matters are not discussed reasonably fully this evening, or if they are not given a good airing in Committee, it will be necessary to return to them at a later stage. That means that British Rail may once again have to scrap its original proposals and think of a better way of achieving what it desires.
I have great doubts whether the measure is needed. What are the real benefits of increasing the speeds of trains from 30 mph to 75 mph along a particular piece of track? If the necessary money is available for what is proposed, I think that it could be better spent elsewhere. For example, we could return to the direct service between Euston and Blackpool, which my constituents and I enjoyed until September. It is vital that the environment receives close attention when we come to consider this measure in greater detail.
§ Mr. Jimmy Boyce (Rotherham)
My hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) said that there is nothing in the Bill that should divide us. That may or may not be so, but I am concerned with what is missing from the Bill. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) talked about efficiency, economy and safety, which stem from clause 1. I referred to the second edition of the "Oxford English Dictionary" before I entered the Chamber. Efficiency is described as an "operative agent" or "efficient cause". It seems that it is now used in that way only in a philosophical sense. That is fairly appropriate.
745 The dictionary definition of economy refers to rules that control a person's of living. That is right as well. What is safety? I found that it is the state of being safe. It is exemption from "hurt or injury" and "freedom from danger".
We have received a supporting statement from British Rail. It states:A Petition from the Glanford Borough Council complains about the purchase of land by the Board which is required in order to strengthen the embankment at Brigg carrying the railway between Gainsborough and Grimsby. The state of this embankment is such that traffic is forced to reduce speed from 75 mph to under 30 mph with the result that services take longer to reach their destination thereby causing delay and inconvenience to the Board's customers.I have no doubt that that is the position.
I have a letter from Mr. Aidan Nelson, the director of the north-east region. He wrote as a result of the withdrawal of the stop at Rotherham on the route which goes through to Cleethorpes. He wrote:Thank you for your recent telephone call to our Parliamentary Affairs Manager at Euston about the stopping pattern of the new Manchester-Cleethorpes service. I am replying, since Rotherham comes within my area of responsibility.In setting up the revised train service which has applied since 11 May, we have considered very carefully how Rotherham should be served. The introduction of a semi-fast through service between Manchester and Cleethorpes was achieved by separating the local stopping service between Sheffield and Doncaster from the longer distance trains—the previous Sheffield-Cleethorpes service having called at all stations over this section of line. As a result of this, at most times of the day the frequency of trains at Rotherham has not changed significantly, although the through facility to stations east of Doncaster is now much reduced.We did, in fact, give serious thought to the inclusion of a Rotherham stop in the Manchester-Cleethorpes service, but reluctantly reached the conclusion that this could not be achieved without either significant additional costs or detriment to customers elsewhere on the network.I suggest that the Bill offers an opportunity to put that decision right so as not to inconvenience other customers on the network as well as those of my constituents who are customers in the Rotherham area. Mr. Nelson continues:Moreover, an additional six or seven minutes would be added to the journey time, which with less than 20 minutes turnround time at both Manchester and Cleethorpes does not allow sufficient time for servicing trains adequately.That turns on the point made by the hon. Member for Keighley. If the seven or eight minutes that could be saved is taken in conjunction with stopping time, the train could surely be allowed to stop at Rotherham and thereby service the people I represent.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
The hon. Gentleman might like to point out to British Rail, in support of his argument, that many of his constituents have traditionally taken their holidays at Cleethorpes, and continue to do so. One of the original reasons for the line passing through Rotherham, particularly in the earlier part of the century, was to offer people the opportunity to get to the east coast quickly by public transport. The ho. Gentleman has the support of not only Glanford borough council but Cleethorpes borough council, because we are delighted when his constituents visit Cleethorpes. If the train were to stop in Rotherham, many of his constituents would be able to enjoy the delights of Cleethorpes in the summer and even perhaps the colder months, and we welcome people from that part of the world——
§ Mr. Boyce
I agree that it was a long intervention, but it was very relevant. It has become a tradition for my constituents to hop on a train in Rotherham and spend their holidays in Cleethorpes. Manchester also suffers under the Bill, because instead of catching a direct train passengers will have to change at Sheffield.
One of the more comforting points in Mr. Nelson's letter says:Meanwhile we firmly believe the introduction of the Manchester to Cleethorpes service does benefit Rotherham residents, in that interchange into these trains is readily available at both Meadowhall and Doncaster".That is no benefit to a single parent who is trying to get perhaps three or four children on to a train.
Earlier in its letter, the board mentioned efficiency. Whose efficiency and whose safety is it talking about? What economies is it talking about—economies of time, of money or of efficiency? I have no idea, because it does not define efficiency. It certainly is not an efficient mode of travel when it comes to taking a wheelchair or perhaps a couple of upset, screaming kids off and on a train.
§ Mr. Mans
The hon. Gentleman is making an incredibly good point about British Rail's claim that changing trains improves efficiency. I alluded earlier to the west coast, where the same has happened. Someone travelling from London to the premier tourist resort in Europe—Blackpool—has to stop at Preston, take all the children out of the train——
§ Mr. Mans
Exactly. As my hon. Friend says, it is easy to miss the connection at Preston, because passengers have to move three platforms and, as a result, they often miss their connection. The point that I am making is that it is nonsense to suggest that making passengers change trains leads to a more efficient service.
§ Mr. Kevin Hughes
My hon. Friend is talking about efficiency. I am sure that he will agree that these days efficiency seems to mean close it down, move it somewhere else or wind everything down. I am sure that he will agree that the word "efficiency" is misused. I know that many of my constituents have travelled on the line to Cleethorpes to have a good summer holiday—and still do so; the traditional holiday is not dead. I am sure that many of my constituents in Doncaster, North miss meeting their friends from Rotherham and joining them in their holidays at Cleethorpes.
§ Mr. Boyce
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the friendship that exists between our constituents.
The British Railways Board says that it wants to run an efficient service, but on 17 June 1992 it told me that my constituents are well served because they travel to Meadowhallby car and local bus as well as rail.My constituents either have to have a car or get all their kids on to a bus, off the bus again at the railway station 747 and on to train, up the stairs, down the stairs and in my lady's chamber. I say that because it appears to be directing the people of Rotherham in every which way.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the same problem applies with even greater force to disabled travellers? Disabled visitors to Blackpool, South will have to change at Preston station —I have no doubt that disabled passengers will experience the same problems at Meadowhall—which increases inconvenience for them.
§ Mr. Boyce
I was going to deal with that extremely important point later, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to it now. It is of the utmost importance that disabled people have access with the minimum of inconvenience.
Meadowhall is perhaps the largest shopping complex in the country. Many people shop there—I wish it well; I have no reason to wish it otherwise—but it is served very well. It has 12,000 parking spaces. Almost every bus that leaves Sheffield heading in that general direction stops at Meadowhall. Almost every train heading in the direction of Rotherham stops at Meadowhall. Why cannot the Manchester to Cleethorpes line miss Meadowhall and stop at Rotherham? I have not received a satisfactory answer from the board on that point.
I return to the suggested time saving of eight or nine minutes. Could not the board use that time to allow the train to stop at Rotherham Central? The hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) makes a different objection from me about additional noise, but could not that disbenefit, which certainly exists, benefit somebody else, such as my constituents in Rotherham?
§ Mr. Mans
I do not want to mislead the House or the hon. Gentleman. In the end, there may be a benefit to travellers if the stipulations in the Bill are enacted. I was trying to say that before we proceed with the measure, it is important to take into account the effect on the environment. However, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: after we have carried out the appropriate environmental impact study and all the other devices that we now associate with environmental improvement, the result might be that, on balance, it would be a good idea to go ahead, thus bringing some benefits to travellers.
I would not want the hon. Gentleman to misinterpret the qualifications of my support for the Bill on environmental grounds. After the studies have been carried out, we might be able to proceed, but the studies have not been carried out and from the response that I received from the Minister——
§ Mr. Boyce
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. I did not intend to misquote, him. There may be a disbenefit, but could it not be turned into a benefit elsewhere?
Mr. Nelson's letter states:A key constraint in serving Rotherham is the fact that to reach Rotherham Central station, trains must pass over the Holmes chord line, which is a section of single track to the Sheffield side of the station. This currently is used by at least three trains per hour in each direction, and if we were to add to this number there is a real risk that congestion would occur, with consequent delays to all services.748 I can readily accept that.
The letter further explains that, with the good offices of the South Yorkshire passenger transport executive, Regional Railways is discussinghow services can be improved and developed in the years ahead—although unfortunately the PTE have intimated to us that it is unlikely in the foreseeable future they could afford conversion of the Holmes Chord to double track, which would undoubtedly do much to facilitate better services.However, the Bill states that almost as much money as is necessary will be forthcoming. For example, clause 9(3) states:Any person who suffers loss by reason of the extinguishment under this section of any private right shall be entitled to be paid by the Board compensation, to be determined in case of dispute by the tribunal.That is all very well and good, but what about the people who are being disadvantaged, the general public who have no right of redress under the Bill? Almost any clause specifies the spending of money, yet there is no money to spend on the improvements to the track which are necessary to stop the inconvenience to the people of Rotherham.
Like the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), I hope that the Bill as drafted will not receive a Second Reading. The board should make a new statement about its intentions, rather than trying to amend the Bill in an ad hoc manner. Until or unless a stop is included at Rotherham, I have no alternative but to oppose the Bill.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)
I am worried about the remarks made by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). He described the parliamentary scrutiny of the measure as purely an historic oddity. I believe that parliamentary scrutiny of all railway measures is very important because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) said, it gives hon. Members the opportunity to question whether British Rail management is spending taxpayers' money in the right way.
I am worried about some aspects of the Bill. Following the comments made by hon. Friend the Member for Wyre, it seems that public money could be much better spent than is suggested by British Rail in the Bill. I agree with much of what many hon. Members have said. There is a commonality of purpose between the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Boyce) and the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) on the importance of the sensible spending of public money on rail lines, especially when it involves those used by people visiting holiday resorts.
Several hon. Members, including my Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) have spoken about the line that will affect people travelling from Yorkshire to Cleethorpes. It is clear to us all that travellers from Yorkshire may decide to go to east coast or west coast resorts. Hon. Members will agree that there has always been a tremendous amount of tourism from Rotherham and Doncaster to my constituency of Blackpool, as there has been to Cleethorpes in my hon. Friend's constituency. The issues affecting travel to our two resorts are exactly the same.
British Rail has a particularly poor record of mismanagement of cross-country—east-west—services the length of the country. I am thinking in particular of the 749 closure of the Oxford-Cambridge line: the Cambridge-Bedford section was closed entirely, and another part, the Oxford-Bletchley section, was kept open only for freight. The only part left for passenger as well as for freight was the Bletchley-Bedford line. First, the link was reduced, and then it became of no use at all. That is an example of an east-west rail link which was chronically mismanaged.
It is perhaps the worst example of a closure following the Beeching report. It later became clear that the figures had been fiddled to make the economic case that there was no reason to keep the line open. If the Bill is not scrutinised carefully, we run the risk that that will happen again.
I am especially concerned that constituents of the hon. Members for Doncaster, North and for Rotherham who wish to go to Cleethorpes or to Blackpool should be able to do so without having to make an inconvenient change of train. They should not have to change an inconvenient change of train. They should not have to change trains at Meadowhall, which the hon. Member for Rotherham mentioned, or at Preston, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre mentioned. There is often a problem of changing platforms or of insufficient links, especially for disabled passengers. That is particularly so at Preston, where there are flights of steps.
British Rail closed the direct link to my constituency. Incidentally, I travelled on the last through train because I wanted to see what a valuable service was being lost. I use the line most weeks, twice a week. I am very concerned that opportunities for holidaymakers to go to the biggest holiday resort in Europe—about 15 million visitor stays each year mdhas;hare being reduced.
People who campaign for the disabled are worried that, months after the direct line was withdrawn, there were still no proper facilities at Preston for people in wheelchairs to get from the main line platform to the branch platform from which British Rail are now proposing to run the train. Not only are there insufficient links between platforms, especially for disabled people, but the trains now being run for the link from Preston to Blackpool do not have sufficient luggage-carrying capacity. They are not suitable for holidaymakers, whereas the previous through trains were mainline trains on which holidaymakers could travel easily, and on which there were facilities for wheelchair users.
If the Bill is not carefully scrutinised, the same problem will apply for holidaymakers travelling from the constituencies of Opposition Members in South Yorkshire to Cleethorpes in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. I urge Opposition Members to continue to press the concerns that they have expressed this evening. I share those concerns. The experience of my constituents and of people visiting my constituency over the months since the direct link was lost has been that British Rail management have not been sensitive to their needs. I very much fear that the Bill will lead to the same problem.
I have relatives in Yorkshire who want to be able to travel to Blackpool and to Cleethorpes on through trains. It is of great concern that historic tourist routes are being damaged by the insensitive British Rail management.
There is considerable concern about some clauses. Clause 19 especially relates to the north-west, where my constituency lies. The clause makes provision for stopping up a length of road which is British Railways Board property. It is carried by accommodation bridge number 127 over the Altrincham-Chester railway near Hartford 750 Beach. We know from paragraph 5 of the statement on behalf of the promoters that petitions were deposited by individuals who complained about the stopping up of the bridge under clause 19. It is pointed out that the bridgewas originally provided as an accommodation structure for the benefit of owners of certain land on one side of the bridge. It is now gated and unused by vehicular traffic, and is seldom used by pedestrians."Seldom used" does not mean that it is never used.
The House must be extremely cautious about accepting the promises made by British Rail. So often when it has been charged as a public body to look after the rail transport needs of the country, it has taken a cavalier attitude to the interests of those who live near the railway and who wish to cross it. That point is of especial concern to me, because over many years I have seen the cavalier attitude in practice.
Bridges have been torn down although people still want to use them, especially because of the speed at which trains now travel. With the safety aspects of crossing railways, it is a cause for great concern that British Rail proposes to get rid of a bridge that has been protected by Act of Parliament, although it cannot say that no one uses the bridge any more.
In paragraph 5, the promoters say that those who use the bridgewould not appear to be among the limited number of people who are entitled to do so.It is of great concern that British Rail uses words such aswould not appear to be".One wonders to what extent British Rail has checked that point.
British Rail says:The structure of the bridge is such that it is in need of considerable repair but the costs of necessary maintenance and the consequent disruption to the railway are such that the money would be betteer used to demolish the bridge."Better used to demolish"—once again, that shows the mentality so often exhibited by people in British Rail. They would rather close things than reopen them, and they would rather demolish things than ensure that a service is provided to the public. My concern is clearly shared by hon. Members of all parties.
I am especially anxious that British Rail should be made to understand that it is its responsibility to market its services imaginatively, to provide a service that the public want to use and to ensure that as much freight as possible is transferred from road to rail. As many of the lines that are dealt with in the Bill carry freight, we need to consider the prospects for rail freight.
It is a matter of enormous concern not only to me and to other hon. Members, but to millions of our constituents that far too much freight is carried by road, with the consequent environmental damage from heavy lorries. When we consider a British Rail private measure, we need to check carefully that the maximum possible scope is given to British Rail to ensure that the maximum amount of freight is transported by rail rather than by heavy lorries.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
Last week, the hon. Gentleman voted to give a Second Reading to the Railways Bill. Whenever rail policy is debated in the House, an 8 per cent. rate of return is imposed for rail freight. No other transport body has such an onerous obligation. It has led to a number of companies, which 751 used to transport thousands of lorryloads by rail, putting their freight on the roads. That is a result of Government policy and not of British Rail management policy.
§ Mr. Hawkins
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that I have a long record of speaking on railways which dates back over many years, long before I came to the House. He knows that I have consistently called for more freight to be taken off the roads and put on the railways. I have been a member of groups calling for that for many years. The debate so far has not been a matter of party political controversy. However, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has raised the point, and I am grateful for the opportunity to deal with it.
The hon. Member must be aware that his policy has been simply to ask the Government to write a blank cheque with taxpayers' money to subsidise rail freight. I call for a more level playing field between road freight and rail freight. If he asks me, for example, whether I support the greater use of environmental taxation to ensure that rail freight has the opportunity to compete, I tell him that I am very much in favour of that.
However, the hon. Member must consider what we are discussing in the Bill. We are talking about whether British Rail, which is in charge of the management, is using its powers sensitively to encourage more freight on the railways. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks carefully at the evidence given to the Select Committee on Transport by those charged with these matters at British Rail. Hon. Members of all parties asked about the downward spiral and about the way in which BR is failing to attract traffic off the roads on to the railways by its insensitive management.
Much of the evidence to the Select Committee was given by freight operators who, if all other things had been equal, would have wished to have freight transported by rail rather than by road. Those people did not blame Government policy, which is not yet in force: they blamed insensitive railway management.
A company in my area of Lancashire which used to use rail extensively has said that its services could not be delivered on a number of occasions. Even if a train was originally on time, the company would find that the driver was nearly at the end of his shift and that he would have to hand over to another driver. The train was consequently delayed. The company needed to deliver goods to its customers within half an hour of the order being required. The train was sometimes 24 or 36 hours late. That is not a result of Government policy; it is the responsibility of British Rail management.
§ Mr. Boyce
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that many air pollution problems are caused by the increasing level of road traffic. Between 1980 and 1990, emissions from road transport increased. Emissions of black smoke increased by 75 per cent., emissions of nitrogen oxide by 72 per cent., emissions of sulphur dioxide by 50 per cent. and emissions of carbon monoxide by 46 per cent. That is a direct result of the increase in road traffic.
The increase in emissions leads to ill health among children. We are now witnessing the highest ever rate of asthma—I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins).
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his most helpful intervention. Anyone who has children, as I have, must be very concerned about the pollution of the atmosphere by gases from heavy lorries. When one is talking about rail freight——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not think that asthma and pollution by heavy lorries have much to do with the Bill. I realise that the Bill is drawn fairly widely, but I do not think that it goes as far as that.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
Does my hon. Friend agree that the main purpose of the Bill as deposited, according to the explanatory memorandum, was to constructa new chord line at Shaftholme, South Yorkshire"?Paragraph 3 of the statement says:The Board has since decided to withdraw from the Bill Works Nos. 1 and 1A",because the needs of British Rail's customers have changed.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the clause relating to Shaftholme was designed to ensure that freight was transported along that railway line? It would appear that BR is to withdraw that clause, presumably because it imagines that the freight that was once moved by rail will now be transported by road.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that point to the attention of the House.
In relation to the intervention of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, the company to which I referred explained that, on several occasions, the locomotive, which was to transport its products by rail, had to return to Wigan from Clitheroe, as it was nearly out of fuel and the closest fuelling point was near Wigan. That caused enormous delays and is yet another example of unimaginative management and poor service to customers.
Regrettably, rail freight in Britain has been declining for many years. British industry has moved away from the older, heavy, smokestack industries, many of which were served by rail, to light manufacturing industry, which is served by road. I believe that there is no inevitability about that process. I believe that many companies would prefer to have their products transported by rail. When we examine a Bill like this, we must be aware of the need to encourage BR to provide facilities for that to happen.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The irony about the Bill is that the clauses which might have achieved my hon. Friend's objective of moving freight from road onto rail—and my hon. Friend has a well-known track record for calling for freight to move from road to rail—have been removed. The Bill might have achieved what my hon. Friend called for until it was presented today. The clauses that would specifically help the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) were those that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) said that BR intends to remove in Committee.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am aware of the important point that my hon. Friend has raised; that is one reason why I wanted to refer to the freight issue tonight.
The ideal market for rail freight is one in which a small number of large industrial plants distribute products to a small number of large outlets. The problem is that BR's management have adopted a frame of mind that enables them to deal only with that kind of situation. Moving coal from pit to power station is currently the bedrock of BR's trainload freight operation. I believe that BR should consider the matter more flexibly. One hopes that some of that traffic will continue. High-volume products like coal, steel and aggregates have been the key to rail freight economics for many years.
I welcome the fact that, in recent years, BR has gradually improved its management's ability to allow operators like Foster Yeoman, which has bought its own locomotives at very high prices and which has invested heavily in rolling stock, to travel over BR metals. For more than 20 years, BR was not prepared to countenance such use over its rails. That drove a great deal of freight away from BR.
§ Mr. Prescott
The hon. Gentleman is a member of the Select Committee on Transport and he knows that what he has just said is wrong. Foster Yeoman wanted more powerful engines, but BR could not afford to buy them and it provided two or three under-powered engines. That was unsatisfactory. British Rail had no resources because the Government had starved it of cash. Therefore, Foster Yeoman offered to buy its own rolling stock, and it now has a much more effective service. It has achieved that because BR could not afford to provide the engines
§ Mr. Hawkins
We are now considering an interpretation of history. My interpretation is different from that of the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Gentleman talks to the people who run the company that we are talking about, he will discover that their interpretation is closer to mine than to his. However, I leave it to the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter with the chairman of the company.
Market outlets for freight in Britain today are widely dispersed and require a distribution network which can move relatively small volumes quickly, flexibly and frequently. That trend has culminated in what are known as the "just-in-time" delivery systems. That market is now dominated by road haulage.
Rail is clearly best at trunking freight over long distances. We must decide whether the Bill assists in that regard. The need for trunking rail freight over long distances has led to the development on the continent and in the United States of America of what is known as combined transport. The idea is to aggregate traffic so that goods can be trunk-hauled. In such circumstances, rail has a competitive edge. Does the Bill do anything to encourage the movement of more freight to rail by means of a policy of combined transport?
Collection and delivery at each end can still be carried out by road. The use of containers or swap bodies helps to reduce handling costs. However, the transfer from road to rail and then back to road imposes costs and time penalties which are offset only on long hauls. Clearly, the distances involved in the United Kingdom are shorter than in the United States and Europe.
I am extremely concerned that a Bill of this nature should ensure opportunities for passengers and for freight, 754 and that there is more traffic on rail. I am not satisfied that the Bill achieves that at the moment. I am also concerned about the effect on people who live near affected lines.
The Bill affects historic lines like that in the south Wales coalfield of Mountain Ash, which was previously served by the Taff Vale railway before the grouping in 1923, and which was one of the most efficient and profitable private railways—the kind of railway to which, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East knows, I would like us to return. Clause 18(5) relates to the Great Western railway and proposes changing the Great Western Railway (General Powers) Act 1909. That important Act will be repealed in so far as it relates to the Wheal Bois crossing in Cornwall.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
My hon. Friend has just glossed over the provisions of the Bill that relate to Cornwall. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), who sadly cannot be with us tonight, has given me authority to raise the issue on behalf of his constituents.
The provision in clause 18(5) does not simple amend an old Act. It proposes the stopping up of a level crossing for vehicular access and reducing it to the status of a footpath. No motor cars will have access across the railway line at Wheal Bois. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne has told he that that is an extremely irksome matter for the people who live on either side of the level crossing. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) does not believe that clause 18(5) is just a little bit of tidying up by BR of an old Act of Parliament. It will cause great inconvenience to the people of Redruth.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I apologise if I gave the impression that I was seeking to gloss over the matter. I intended to make the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes has just made. These matters are of enormous importance to the people who live near to the lines that are affected: that is precisely why I referred to Wheal Bois.
British Rail frequently deals with such matters in a couple of lines in an amorphous Bill like this. It fails to address the real concerns of the people who live beside the lines. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes for raising the matter. He reinforces my earlier point that BR management does not consider such issues sensitively enough.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) referred to the matters that affect his constituency and mine. I am concerned about the Bill, because I believe that BR will not make a sensible use of taxpayers' money. It should reintroduce the direct through service to my constituency on InterCity, which was so wrongly and unjustifiably taken away last autumn, and it should reintroduce the sleeper services that are so vital to business people in my constituency, to and from Preston.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
This is a very innocuous-looking Bill, and I dare say that it does not exercise too many hon. Members, but those who have had the opportunity of listening to Back-Bench Members tonight will agree that there is far more in it than meets the eye. I, of course, have a direct constituency interest in the Bill. It impinges directly upon railway services in my 755 constituency, because part III relates to works near Brigg. I shall raise that matter because it causes great controversy in my constituency.
In no sense do I make any complaint against my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), who does a fine job in commending legislation. Even when it is bad legislation, my hon. Friend commends it to the House in a very agreeable way. However, I make a complaint against the promoter of the Bill, the British Railways Board. It should be pulled up by the House authorities, and certainly by the Ways and Means Office, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for bringing before the House a Bill, whose principal clauses relate to works at Shaftholme in South Yorkshire, according to the explanatory memorandum.
On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, even though it is in his charming way, says that the British Railways Board does not intend in Committee to press on with works Nos. 1 and 1A and that it does not intend to press clause 24, which relates to land at Macclesfield which will be relieved of the burdens placed upon it by the Inclosure Act 1773, a copy of which I have obtained for ease of reference. The implication is that no hon. Member need to concern himself with anything other than what British Rail seeks to include in the Bill when it eventually comes to the House on Third Reading.
We know the procedures of the House; the Bill will be considered in Committee. It is not for British Rail to say to the Private Bill Committee, "We do not want to press this clause, that clause, this schedule or that part of a clause." It will be making its case to members of the Private Bill Committee who are nominated by the Committee of Selection. What is in the Bill is what is of concern to us tonight, not what British Rail is saying through the sponsor of the Bill. Perhaps the Private Bill Committee will not accede to the board's request to have withdrawn from the Bill the provisions regarding Shaftholme and the new chord line. Perhaps the Committee will look at the Bill in its present form and decide whether to recommend that it should come back to the House for Third Reading.
I address you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in your capacity as the Chairman of Ways and Means as well, because you have certain responsibilities for private legislation. It is extraordinary that, if the Bill is passed and it goes to the Private Bill Committee, most of the amendments that are likely to be made will be made by the promoters of the Bill, who ask to have taken out of it clauses that they have written in.
§ Mr. Boyce
We are not even given an explanation of why the clauses should be taken out. Were they necessary in the first place? If they were, why, with such ease of purpose, are the promoters proposing to slide them away? They are either relevant and should be discussed in Committee or they are irrelevant. The promoters cannot have it both ways. The House needs a proper explanation before it sends to Committee such weak explanatory notes.
§ Mr. Brown
I shall attempt an explanation later, because the hon. Gentleman's question is very important. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be slightly more inclined to support those clauses of the Bill or support amendments to withdraw them if an explanation had been given to him. It is a very controversial political 756 explanation. It is a disgrace that British Rail should bring before the House private legislation that hinges upon political developments elsewhere. British Rail has a duty, in providing railway services, when using the valuable time of the House, which has great pressure on it in respect of private legislation, to make sure that the legislation that it wants to change will endure for a long time ahead. To introduce a private Bill based upon ephemeral, temporary market opportunities is quite wrong.
I have not forgotten the point of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Boyce), but I have structured a number of points, and I want to start with my own constituency. The main point is that if the Bill is passed in its present form, the clauses relating to Shaftholme will still be in it before it is considered by the Private Bill Committee. Amendments, we assume, will be proposed. The amendments will be proposed, we assume, by the promoters. Members of the Private Bill Committee will listen to the promoters' arguments about why they want withdrawn clauses that they themselves deposited at the Private Bill Office only a few months ago. That is a disgraceful way to carry on.
We shall have to consider the Bill as it is tonight. I shall ensure that my remarks relate to parts of the Bill that still exist. Quite frankly, the Bill should have been withdrawn by the promoters at the point when they were taking out clauses willy-nilly, without a by your leave, until the explanatory note was placed before the House last week. The promoters should be made to withdraw the Bill and present it exactly as they want on the statute book. That should mean that they would be obliged to redraft the Bill and come before the House with a Bill exactly as they wanted it to be in the first place.
Can you imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the rumpus that there would have been last year, when I was promoting the Associated British Ports legislation, if I had walked into the House with a Bill that was very contentious between the two main parties—the way in which Opposition Members responded to the Bill was entirely legitimate, and I certainly do not raise any complaint about their tactics—and indicated on Second Reading that certain clauses would not be pursued by the promoters when the Bill was considered by the Private Bill Committee? I would have been in an indefensible position. There would have been a riot on the Floor of the House.
I would not mind betting, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that your predecessor as Chairman of Ways and Means, who was exercised about that Bill for a number of reasons, would have indicated to the promoters that they could not expect time on the Floor of the House until they presented a Bill with the clauses that they actually wanted enacted.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Is the hon. Gentleman criticising British Rail or criticising the Chairman of Ways and Means? This procedure is not unique. What is before the House might be unusual, but it is certainly not unique. As someone who has considered private Bills in Committee, the hon. Gentleman will know that that is the situation. I should he grateful if he would clarify whom he is criticising.
§ Mr. Brown
There is no way that any hon. Member, who has had the experience that I have in dealing with various Chairmen of Ways and Means since 1979, would do anything other than always accept and respect the decisions of the Chairman of Ways and Means. Therefore, 757 there is a moral obligation on the promoters of the Bill to present to the Chairman of Ways and Means and then to the House a Bill in exactly the same form as they want it enacted.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you understood that there was any implied criticism of your office. That was certainly not the case. You will know that I have sponsored private Bills, served on private Bill Committees and opposed private Bills so I assure you that there was no implied criticism of the Chairman of Ways and Means or his office.
I might have the good fortune to serve on the Committee that deals with this Bill. Let us suppose that the Committee decides not to give leave for the clauses that British Rail wants withdrawn from the Bill to be withdrawn. The Bill will then have to come back on Report with those clauses still in it. Even if the Committee gives leave for them to be withdrawn, I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) will automatically table amendments to retain those clauses. It is clear from the burden of his remarks that he is anxious, in so far as British Rail makes policy advances, for BR to continue developing policies that enable more freight to be put on rail and not on the roads.
At any rate, it is likely that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South will support the retention of the clauses in the Bill. It is not given to the sponsors to come to the House tonight and to say, through my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, "We don't need to bother with the question of car parking at Macclesfield, the chord line in South Yorkshire and the works at Shaftholme because they will disappear from the Bill." It is given to the House only on Report to decide whether that will be the case.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South —because of his strong support for freight traffic—is successful in persuading the House that we should not delete the clauses and the House passes the Bill exactly as it stands today and Royal Assent is given, and then my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) decides that he wants to see the benefits that are contained in clause 24 relating to the possibility of additional car parking, what will the promoters do?
There are many problems ahead, not the least of which is the waste of time and money. That has already been referred to tonight. I believe that the promoters are wasting the time of the House. Let me tell hon. Members what the promoters have done with regard to works 1 and 1A. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said that the clauses relating to those works would be withdrawn in Committee or on Report.
In 1993, British Rail is hard against the coal face—or, rather, the cash face—when it comes to shortage of resources. I have with me the environmental statement, volume 1, which is full of clauses and paragraphs. I shall refer to the specific works later.
To give the House a flavour, the volume that I have with me is just the idiot's guide. The real idiot's guide contains a few short pages summarising what those works require. I also have the technical annex volume 2 A and E which is the environmental statement relating to works 1 and 1A. It relates to a railway bridge at Shaftholme which is provided for in the Bill.
If I had a slide projector in the Chamber, I could give the House some indication of the cost of the environmental statement. It contains photographs and maps. Goodness knows how many architects, surveyors 758 and British Rail administrative staff in the survey department were required to produce the document. All I can say is that there is no price on the document. On the basis that a document of this nature which is placed in the Vote Office costs about £15 simply to produce, I suspect that the cost of producing the environmental statement was horrendous.
We have the environmental statement annex, the general statement of objectives and the idiot's guide for people like me who British Rail think will not be able to understand the documents. All those documents were produced for today's debate. Last week, I went to the Private Bill Office. I went through the Bill and asked whether there were any environmental statements. I was told that there was a large series of documents and environmental statements. The Private Bill Office did not have copies of the documents, but said that it would telephone the promoters of the Bill and get the statements for me in time for this debate.
All those surveyors, architects, bureaucrats somewhere in York—I presume that it is the York regional office which is responsible—and the people at Euston house in London have worked on the environmental statement for the past year or so. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley then says. "We do not need to worry about the Bill tonight. It is a simple little Bill which will not be important. Half of the Bill will not apply. We will table amendments in Committee with which we hope that the House will agree." If British Rail thinks that I will agree on the nod to any withdrawal of clauses on Third Reading or on Report, it has another think coming.
§ Mr. Boyce
I should be most grateful if the hon. Gentleman could tell me whether the environmental impact studies refer to the whole Bill or the Bill as amended which the promoters have introduced. Will the costs to which you referred escalate as British Rail comes back with the proper environmental study for the Bill?
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman is making an extremely important point. No environmental statement has been prepared for the clauses that will remain in the Bill if British Rail gets its way. The only environmental assessment relates to the clauses that the promoters intend to seek to withdraw. That is an absolute disgrace.
§ Mr. Kevin Hughes
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that British Rail knew that I had objections to the specific part of the Bill which you are talking about? British Rail never made it known to me that the environmental statement pertaining to that part of the Bill existed. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that that is disgraceful?
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is a delight to see him sitting in the House. As he enjoys a long a distinguished career in the House, he will find that one must learn where to look for the hidey holes with regard to private business.
If a Bill is a private Bill, one assumes that an environmental statement will be automatically available alongside the Bill in the Vote Office. Last week, I went to the Vote Office. I asked for the Bill and a statement on it. That was provided. However, there were no estimates of the costs of the works referred to in the Bill. The House must know those costs which are available.
759 Other hon. Members have talked about the costs of those works. I shall deal with those costs later. One does not obtain the estimates from the Vote Office. One must walk up to the Private Bill Office which is above the Speaker's Office. Although the staff in the Private Bill Office are extremely helpful, one must specifically ask whether any environmental assessment is available. Even then, it is up to the promoters to decide whether to make the documents available and to what extent they will provide information. However, that is a well understood and accepted procedure. I am sure that if the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) carries on learning the procedures of the House as quickly as he has done in the past few months, he will soon get to grips with that side of things.
I make no complaint about the procedure that I have just described. My complaint is that Northern Environmental Consultants Ltd., based in Consett, has done very nicely thank you out of British Rail. Goodness knows how much time it spent on the documents. No estimate has been provided in the estimate of the cost of the works of how much the consultants received from British Rail for producing the documents. We are given no idea of the time and energy that it misspent for British Rail.
I do not suppose for one moment that British Rail wrote to Northern Environmental Consultants—which I understand is a division of the northern division of Environmental Resources Ltd. based in Consett in county Durham—to say that it had decided not to use that company's environmental statement. I do not suppose that it told the company that it had decided to cancel the works and that it would not pay the bill. I daresay that a nice fat bill went up to the company. I do not suppose that the company did anything other than a proper job in producing the documents for British Rail.
It is appalling that British Rail should introduce a Bill from which it intended to withdraw clauses and then present an environmental impact assessment on the clauses that would be withdrawn. It is disgraceful that the costs of assessment will be simply buried and lost.
I shall deal with the provisions of the Bill that directly affect my constituency, before I refer to those that affect the constituency of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Boyce). Indeed, those works also affect my constituency because we are talking about one railway line. I shall refer to the House for its consideration the specific works that relate to Brigg in schedules 1 and 2. I shall then pick up the implications of the position at Rotherham for my constituents who travel to Rotherham and the constituents of the hon. Member for Rotherham who travel to Brigg and Cleethorpes. I shall then discuss the provisions of clause 24, which affect Macclesfield.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley thought that he had satisfied me when he said that clause 24 was cancelled and that was the end of that. It is not the end of that. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield is happy with the present clause 24. It is designed to make life easier for rail travellers in Macclesfield by providing additional car parking space. The clause amends the Inclosure Act 1796. After 200 years, I daresay that there are probably good reasons for doing precisely that.
§ Mr. Wilson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is in order, in the interests of spinning it out, in dealing with a clause that has been withdrawn.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We are dealing with the Second Reading of the Bill before us. Such issues as may arise in Committee are not for this evening's proceedings.
§ Mr. Brown
I wonder what the hon. Gentleman would have said last week when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State presented the Railways Bill if he had been told that clause 2 of the Bill would not apply. I wonder what he would have said if my right hon. Friend had said, "We hope that the shadow spokesman for transport will not debate clause 2 because we have said that we will not pursue it on Third Reading." The hon. Gentleman would have replied——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have ruled on that issue. I thought that we were departing to Brigg now.
§ Mr. Brown
We are, indeed, departing to Brigg by a British Rail train, if they will allow us. I shall deal at an appropriate moment with clause 24, to which amendments have been proposed. I support clause 24 and I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield supports it. I am certain that he would make a powerful speech inviting the House not to delete clause 24 on Report if it was proposed to do so and would vote in the Lobby accordingly. If my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley thinks that we can dispose of clause 24 like that, he has another thing coming. We cannot dispose of British Rail's refusal to amend the Inclosure Act 1796 just like that.
The main part of the Bill that affects my constituency is schedules 1 and 2, which are referred to in clause 22. Those parts of the Bill refer to two works. The first is the strengthening of the embankment of the line between Gainsborough and Grimsby. I wish to describe that railway line to the House so that it can understand the implications of the work. I shall do so in a moment.
The other work is the strengthening of the embankment at Mill lane of the railway line between Gainsborough and Grimsby. Everyone knows that line does not go from Gainsborough to Grimsby only. The terminus of that line is Cleethorpes. Why has the Bill used the word Grimsby rather than Cleethorpes? I shall tell the House why. One day, if British Rail gets its way, it will chop the line between Grimsby and Cleethorpes. So in all the legislation relating to my constituency British Rail never refers to the line from Manchester to Cleethorpes, Gainsborough to Cleethorpes or London to Cleethorpes. It talks about the line to Grimsby.
§ Mr. Wilson
As the hon. Gentleman obviously intends to spin it out anyway, we might as well all join in. Will he confirm that under the Government's legislation—which, as far as we know, he supports—it will not be up to British Rail to chop any line? It will be up to Railtrack, which is a new creation. Poor old British Rail, or whichever franchise operator exists, will suffer under a financial regime that forces it to cut off services to places such as Cleethorpes, or other branches of the inter City services that have been lost in that area. Operators will have to do so not through any wish of theirs but as a result of the financial imperatives imposed upon them by the Government.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman is tempted down that route, I must inform him that he cannot anticipate other legislation. He must consider the Bill before us now.
§ Mr. Brown
To keep within the rules of order, I shall describe to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) the way in which the railway service currently operates through, to and from Brigg. I am prepared temporarily to confine my arguments to the railway line between Grimsby and Gainsborough.
To set the proposals at Brigg in context, I must advise the House that a single spur railway line goes from Barnetby to Cleethorpes. One can travel by rail from Cleethorpes, through Barnetby and on to Manchester. Unfortunately, as the hon. Member for Rotherharn said, the train does not stop at Rotherham. One can also travel from Cleethorpes to Barnetby and on to the second spur to Newark, or to Sheffield via the Gainsborough and Grimsby line.
British Rail says that it needs to strengthen the embankment of the line at Mill lane in Brigg and in the parish of Scawby near Brigg, because it wants to be able to run trains at 75 mph instead of 30 mph. It says that that is to enable customers to reach their destination without delay and inconvenience. It says:the state of this embankment is such that traffic is forced to reduce speed from 75 mph to under 30 mph with the result that services take longer to reach their destination thereby causing delay and inconvenience to the Board's customers.Let us consider who the customers are on that line. About three years ago, British Rail wrote to me and to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) to tell us that it was going to take away the service and to use the provisions of the Transport Act 1985 to engage in what is called bus substitution. British Rail intended to operate a statutory bus service because it did not consider that there was a market for the rail line between Grimsby and Gainsborough. It seems extraordinary that three years later my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley should bring before the House a proposal to strengthen the embankment on a line that was going to be closed to passengers.
How was the passenger service restored? It was because my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle and I kicked up such a fuss and told my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury—who was then the Minister with responsibility for railways—why we thought that it was wrong for the passenger service to be withdrawn. So it has been retained.
For ease of reference, I have obtained from the House of Commons Library timetable 29 from British Rail's all systems timetable, which gives times for trains from Gainsborough to Grimsby. The line covers the stations of Cleethorpes, Habrough, Barnetby, Brigg and Kirton in Lindsey in my constituency and goes on to Gainsborough central.
Three trains a day, in each direction, run on the line where the work is to be done. The first train from Brigg to Gainsborough Central—even if one is able to go at 75 mph instead of 30 mph—is at 11.32 am. I do not know what sort of person will want to travel at 75 mph instead of 30 mph to Gainsborough Central at that time of the morning. The journey takes until 11.56 am, which according to my reckoning is about 14 minutes. So the only type of person likely to use the train at that time——
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. My secondary modern education has clearly come to the fore. I failed my 11-plus and I think that mathematics was one of the reasons. The journey from Brigg to Kirton takes 24 minutes. Let us suppose that I wanted to visit my goddaughter—the daughter of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle—and that I set off on the first train at 11.32 am. Unfortunately, due to the level of service that British Rail provides on the line, that is the only sort of journey that one can use it for.
There is no prospect of anyone using the service who works normal office or industrial hours, such as a workman or skilled worker who wants to get to the steelworks in Sheffield. They would want to use it during the rush hour. There is no way that a college student in Brigg could use the service to go to Sheffield and it is no use to children going to school. Some parents in Gainsborough send their children to Brigg preparatory school—it is a private school, so many Opposition Members might say, "A good thing, too"—but they have to drive them there.
The opportunities for passengers to save themselves a certain amount of time merely represents wasted time. Who will use the 11.32 service from Brigg to Gainsborough? What will happen if one speeds up the service, bearing in mind the fact that the trains in question will stop once between Brigg and Gainsborough?
§ Mr. Kevin Hughes
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's constituents want to visit Doncaster to use its fine shopping facilities, particularly the market, which is open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They may want to visit that market to make some fine purchases.
§ Mr. Brown
That would be possible if my constituents took the train from Barnetby to Doncaster. I should remind the hon. Gentleman that it is not possible to travel to Doncaster on the train in question, from Brigg, on the Sheffield line, without changing at Retford. If one took the 11.32 am and changed at Retford, however, one would arrive at Doncaster at 12.9 pm. I suspect that most of my constituents would travel from Barnetby, on the Scunthorpe line, to Doncaster, which is on the Manchester line to which my hon. Friend for Blackpool, South referred earlier.
The people who will benefit from travelling at 75 mph and who will no longer be inconvenienced by delays as a result of weaknesses in the embankment at Scawby and Brigg, at Mill lane, will be those travelling at midday, for one reason or another, from Brigg, through Kirkton in Lindsey, to Gainsborough.
The next train from Brigg goes at 3.10 pm and the final train goes at 8.4 pm and reaches Gainsborough at 8.26 pm. For some reason, that same journey takes 22 minutes rather than 24 minutes. I am not sure how that is possible, but that is the way British Rail timetables work. It will never cease to amaze me how the final train, which makes the exact same journey, arrives two minutes earlier. Perhaps the fact that the driver is heading for home and the train is going to bed makes for a quicker journey. Three trains from Brigg to Gainsborough will benefit from the work outlined in the Bill.
The return journey is even more quixotic. Train No. 1 sets off from Gainsborough at 9.2 am and gets to Brigg at 763 9.23. That train arrives just too late for those who may work in Brigg, especially if they have to get to work for 9 am. It is too late for college students attending the sixth-form college in Brigg, which now takes students from across the county boundary in Lincolnshire. I cannot imagine that there is any great demand for that train.
Three trains travel between Brigg and Kirkton in Lindsey, at 30 mph. Under the fine proposals in the Bill, those trains will be able to travel at 75 mph. At the moment, at 30 mph, two trains from Brigg take 24 minutes and one takes 22, but the journey in the reverse direction takes just 21 minutes. Perhaps hon. Members can use their mathematical abilities to enlighten the House. Is that the reason for the variation in the timetables?
§ Mr. Norris
I am following this part of my hon. Friend's speech with immense interest. I am not very good at this sort of thing, but could the reason not be that on one leg of the journey the train is going uphill, while it is going downhill on the other?
§ Mr. Brown
I had not thought of that. However, two minutes are still unaccounted for—the two minutes that separate the last train home to Gainsborough from the slower train that travels from Brigg to Gainsborough at the beginning of the day. I am prepared to concede that Brigg is probably slightly higher than Gainsborough on the Ordnance Survey map; there is a small incline on the road journey.
§ Mr. Boyce
The hon. Gentleman has already said that the trains concerned are travelling at 30 mph. Surely they will be travelling at 30 mph whether they are going uphill or downhill. I may be wrong; perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) will point out some anomalies in my theory. I have always assumed, however, that 30 mph is 30 mph, whether a vehicle is going uphill, downhill, sideways, horizontally or vertically.
§ Mr. Brown
I am not trying to suggest that a vehicle travels faster when it is going downhill at 30 mph than when it is going uphill at that speed. Even with my limited mathematical ability, I recognise that that is not possible. Some years ago, when I was studying for O-levels, I encountered a question on logic and scientific method in the mathematics paper—O-level papers were a good deal more difficult than GCSE papers are now. The question asked whether a ton of steel was heavier than a ton of feathers. The reference by the hon. Member for Rotherham to the speed of railway trains travelling in opposite directions strikes me as rather akin to that O-level question.
§ Mr. Wilson
I note that only 49 minutes remain, and I know that the hon. Gentleman has quite a few timetables to get through in that time. Will he spare a moment to tell us why he is opposed to a proposal that will make an embankment safer?
§ Mr. Brown
I will do a deal with British Rail. Three years ago, British Rail made a case to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle and me for taking away the passenger service, and I am prepared to acknowledge that that case may have been acceptable.
Let us assume that only three trains a day are travelling between Brigg and Gainsborough, with a passenger service 764 travelling from Cleethorpes through Grimbsy, branching at Barnetby just before Brigg, down through the line to Newark in Nottinghamshire, carrying on to King's Cross —in other words, the high-speed 125 direct service, which I can still catch to my constituency, but which in some 16 weeks' time, on 12 May, my constituents will be unable to catch because the service is being withdrawn. It is rather like the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South: we too are to lose the direct high-speed 125 service.
§ Mr. Brown
I will give way in a moment, when I have developed the beginning of what the hon. Gentleman will have recognised is a most important argument for allowing the embankment at Brigg to continue in its present state. I am not suggesting for a moment that the line should be operated unless it is safe; but it is safe at 30 mph, whereas it is not safe at 75 mph unless the works are done.
I understand that the total cost of these works will be more than £2 million. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley will be able to tell me the precise cost of the two embankment improvements, which the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North says need carrying out for safety reasons. Of course, as long as three passenger services a day run over these embankments I do not want any risk to be taken with human life—but that is not what would happen if these works were not undertaken. The services would merely continue exactly as they are, with the current speed restrictions.
§ Mr. Wilson
We are gradually getting somewhere, albeit at 30 mph or less. We seem to have established that this jolly jape has nothing to do with the arguments that the hon. Gentleman has been adducing but more to do with a complaint—perhaps legitimate—about the withdrawal of an adjacent InterCity service. Given that fact, and given the hon. Gentleman's protestations of concern for his constituents, does he think that good enough reason to obstruct other measures in the Bill that are for the benefit of other hon. Members' constituents' safety?
§ Mr. Brown
The main safety provision—the strengthening works—relate to my constituency. I am not obstructing anything. The Order Paper tells me that at 10 pm the House can come to a conclusion on this matter. I am not aware that any other hon. Member wants to address the House. I would never dream of trying to prevent other hon. Members from speaking either for or against the Bill——
§ Mr. Waller
I am grateful for that assurance. My hon. Friend has raised a number of legitimate points which deserve an answer. He has said that he would not obstruct anyone who sought to intervene. I am sure that he would agree that it would help the House if answers could be given it. With the leave of the House, I should like to speak again, to answer the points that my hon. Friend has raised. Bearing in mind his assurance, I should be grateful if he allowed me to do that in, say, 20 minutes' time.
§ Mr. Brown
I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend can catch my eye and intervene with his answers to each question that I pose. I seem to recall that at the beginning of the debate, when I sought to intervene in my 765 hon. Friend's speech to ask him to consider the legitimate questions posed by the people of Brigg, he was unwilling to give way. He gave way reluctantly on a second occasion.
We have massess of time in the House; there is no question of obstruction. This is a three-hour debate. That is a perfectly reasonable length of time for anyone to say what he wants to. The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North wants to go home to bed early. He can do so—the debate will conclude at 10 pm, as it must under the rules of the House. I assure him that this is no jolly jape. I will ensure that his comments are drawn to the attention of my constituents.
It is certainly no jolly jape attempting to make a rail journey on the line between Cleethorpes and Manchester, via the Scunthorpe-Doncaster line or via the Gainsborough-Kirton in Lindsey line—the subject of all this expenditure—or via the line to Newark down to King's Cross. I have been doing the journey for 17 years, and if the hon. Gentleman would like to try doing it for one week he will find that it is no jolly jape.
I assure the House that I have serious, legitimate concerns about the works to be engaged in by British Rail. The high-speed 125 service was introduced in a blaze of glory in 1982, when British Rail took away four direct trains from Cleethorpes to London and introduced in their stead a single high-speed rail service. It invited me to ride shotgun with the driver, and all sorts of fancy receptions were held. Yet the service is to go now, because BR says that my constituents are not paying enough in fares to make the service pay.
Tonight British Rail proposes massive expenditure on an embankment to carry three trains—at times when people cannot possibly use the service to get to work, college or school—to run in each direction between Brigg and Gainsborough. That is not a jolly jape; it is a serious constituency concern.
I hope that, if my constituents have the good fortune to hear these exchanges tonight on their local radio or in the television programmes that broadcast our proceedings, they will understand that the hon. Gentleman thinks that this is some kind of joke. I assure him that it is not. This is a crucial policy discussion on British Rail's expenditure and appropriation, or rather misappropriation—that is the joke, although I do not think that we should laugh at it. It is a joke to go to a firm of environmental consultants and to produce an environmental assessment of clauses that the House will be invited to withdraw on Report and Third Reading.
§ Mr. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman speaks about his constituents knowing what is going on. I wish that his constituents could be supplied with a video of this debate so that they could see the hon. Gentleman in full and glorious flight. He spoke about going home to bed. I shall not be going home to bed anyway. Like most hon. Members, I do not like to see stunts, which is what the hon. Gentleman is performing. The hon. Gentleman seems to confirm that by saying that he is not arguing against the service but is using the Bill and the issue within it coincidentally to air his doubtless legitimate grievance about the withdrawal of InterCity services.
The hon. Gentleman is complaining in dramatic terms and at inordinate length about the withdrawal of the InterCity service to Cleethorpes. He had better prepare himself for a few more one or two-hour stunts, because the logic of his Government's legislation is that many more 766 InterCity services will be withdrawn. British Rail cannot be blamed for that. It is the fault of the Government who have imposed financial objectives on BR which require these closures, and privatisation will ensure many more withdrawals of direct InterCity services. The hon. Gentleman cannot escape from that logic and no amount of histrionics will get him off that hook.
§ Mr. Brown
That is simply not the case and it is not true. Under the present structure it is the nationalised British Rail which is withdrawing services and misappropriating expenditure in my constituency. Thank goodness I can look to the Government's Bill to franchise services and to come to the aid of my constituents. [Interruption.] British Rail has taken decisions about services in my constituency on the basis of its current standing as a nationalised corporation. British Rail gave notice in 1992, nearly a year ago, that it proposed to withdraw services from Cleethorpes to London and at that time there was no Government legislation on the table. The Government's current Bill will give my constituents opportunities and challenges which British Rail seems intent upon taking away. I look forward with enthusiasm to further debate on the legislation that was introduced to the House last week.
§ Mr. Wilson
I should like to clarify the hon. Gentleman's argument. Does he think that a private franchisee will reintroduce an InterCity service from London to Cleethorpes? Would a private franchisee have been more likely to introduce such a service in the first place? Many InterCity services have been pruned. Night sleeper services in some areas and some direct services from Scotland have been lost, but I at least have the sense and consistency to realise that InterCity has to do that to meet financial objectives. Neither the hon. Gentleman, who gets into an enormous lather of outrage about the loss of the direct service from London to Cleethorpes, nor any of his hon. Friends should be under any misapprehension. Enfranchisement or privatisation—call it what we will—will lead to the loss of many more direct InterCity services. If all Conservative Members feel as nervous about it as the hon. Gentleman does, we shall have many similar entertainments in the months ahead from Tory Back Benchers.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman is plain wrong, but he has asked me a specific question, which I shall answer. Provided that British Rail does not operate a scorched earth policy and does not allow a gap in the timetable so that ther is no going concern between the end of the service in May and the enactment of the Bill, there is hope for the service. Along with the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), I have proposed to my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport and to British Rail that British Rail gives an undertaking that it will retain in the timetable the services that are used by the people of Brigg far more than the services affected by the Bill. The people of Brigg are far more likely to use the railway station at Barnetby, two and a half miles to the east of Brigg, than they are to use the railway station at Brigg, because then, to get to Gainsborough, they have to go over the embankments on a delightful journey in the middle of the day, involving two or three trains.
Therefore, if British Rail undertakes to continue the direct service from Cleethorpes through Barnetby and down to Newark and on to King's Cross, in both directions, until the day that the Railways Bill receives 767 Royal Assent, a franchise-run direct service between Cleethorpes and London could be a serious runner. However, I am prepared to concede that if British Rail operates a scorched earth policy and says, "We don't want to operate a direct service from Cleethorpes to London. Let's get it out of the railway timetable this May. Let's make sure that people have got used to making some other arrangements," there will be problems. People may become used to driving their cars to Doncaster or Newark to get the main line trains direct from those stations or have got into the habit of not using public transport for the journey to Cleethorpes from Brigg, Barnetby or Newark. Then it would be much more difficult for a franchise service to be successful.
Let me return to the Bill and the works in schedule 1. The main point is that money is being wasted by strengthening the embankment for a passenger service that operates six vehicles a day. The trains that operate are the new class 138—I think that that is right, but there is probably greater expertise among Opposition Members on that. I know that the 158 is the two-car service that operates between Cleethorpes and Manchester Piccadilly, and does not stop at Rotherham. If my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committe on Transport were here, he could have put us all in our place by giving us the correct numbers.
§ Mr. Boyce
I hope that it is in order to ask the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), through the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), when he comes to answer the financial questions put by the hon. Gentleman, to answer my question about the time that will be made up if the proposals go ahead and the trains through the link are allowed to travel at 75 mph rather than 30 mph. Earlier, the hon. Member for Keighley implied that he would answer the question and I am anxious that he does so.
§ Mr. Brown
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley has heard the hon. Gentleman's point and, should there be an appropriate point in my remarks that would allow him to deal with it, I should be willing to give way to my hon. Friend, who suddenly developed a desire to address the House on a second occasion even though he was a little nervous about giving way to me when he was speaking.
§ Mr. Peter Butler (Milton Keynes, North-East)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on completing the first hour of his address to the House. During that period, he could have travelled approximately 30 miles on a British Rail train. Might that not have been a better way to spend his time?
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. All too often, I spend an hour standing at Newark railway station, catching a cold or flu, becoming accustomed to what life will be like for my constituents at Brigg and for the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle, the Under-Secretary of State for Technology. In 16 weeks' time we 768 shall have to tolerate a change at Newark on our journey through to Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Some of my hon. Friends have found the past hour or so an endurance, but I shall have to spend even more time waiting for connecting trains at Newark and Doncaster. We know that London trains have to be only 10 minutes late before a local train is sent on.
My hon. Friend feels that it is possible to travel 30 miles in an hour with British Rail, but my experience is that it is sometimes necessary to stand on a station for a long time. If anyone wishes to travel from London to Cleethorpes, he or she will have to do just that at Newark, and for hours on end. I have much in mind the way in which connections are sometimes timetabled. Those of my hon. Friends who have found the past hour or so, which I have spent drawing attention to the problems of railway travellers, an endurance test will bear in mind, I hope, that that is what life will be like for my constituents later this year at both Newark and Doncaster when they wait for connecting trains on cold and draughty platforms for hours on end.
§ Mr. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman's analogy is false. Most travellers waiting on a station for an hour would love to be entertained for that period by a clown.
§ Mr. Brown
It is clear that the hon. Gentleman, who has not been a Member of this place for as long as myself, does not appreciate that some of us take private Bills extremely seriously. If I were to entertain my constituents on a cold and draughty platform at Newark or Doncaster, they would much rather be on a train—however good the entertainment—making their journey home. They would much prefer not to be on the platform at Newark being entertained by me or anyone else. They would much prefer to sit in a train travelling direct from King's Cross to Cleethorpes. The hon. Gentleman might want to make cheap and stupid points, but he should bear in mind the inconvenience that some of my constituents will have to tolerate.
As it is constructed, the Bill appears to be a waste of British Rail's valuable resources. How does British Rail have the brass-necked cheek to tell my constituents that they cannot have a service of any sort between Cleethorpes and King's Cross without changing trains? Yet it is only too anxious to improve a three-train-in-each-direction service on the line between Brigg and Gainsborough and onward to Sheffield. That demonstrates a wrong sense of priorities. I am angry that British Rail has decided to adopt that approach to "improve" railway services in my constituency. The only railway service that needs improvement is the one that is being threatened with closure. It is a service which should be retained.
The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North said earlier, on behalf of the Opposition, that British Rail had to withdraw services such as those to Cleethorpes and Blackpool because of the imposition of Government-imposed financial criteria. That is not why Cleethorpes is being disadvantaged, even though British Rail might say otherwise. I remember the assurances that were given to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle and myself about five years ago about the long-term future of the service. I remember also writing to British Rail. I recall a private Bill that was considered in 1988. During the passage of that Bill I happened to write to British Rail—this was by coincidence—about the future of certain railway stations in my constituency.
769 I asked British Rail to commit itself to maintaining services between Cleethorpes and London. It stated in a letter that there was no threat to rail services, but my suspicious mind worked out that, one day, the high-speed 125 direct service would be taken away. In 1988, when there was no talk of privatisation, I worked out that one day BR would want to take away the men who sell tickets at railway stations to reduce manning. I received these letters from British Rail a week before the Bill was due to be given a Second Reading. It is strange that BR is prepared to give certain assurances to hon. Members, and I foolishly played no part in the private Bill that the House was then considering. This time, because of my experience, I do not believe the assurances that British Rail has given me.
BR retimed the Cleethorpes to London service. Previously I could catch a train from the House to my constituency, and Ministers frequently visited my constituency. A couple of years ago, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was a transport Minister with responsibilities for British Rail. One Friday evening, he caught the train from King's Cross to Barnetby. He left the House of Commons at about 4.45 pm, caught the 5.15 pm train and two and a quarter hours later he arrived at Barnetby. Within 10 minutes he was at his official engagement in my constituency. A year before British Rail announced that it would withdraw the direct service, it retimed the service so that it left London at 5.50 pm, arriving at Barnetby at 8.20 pm. It now arrives in Cleethorpes at 8.50 pm.
The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North says that British Rail is under an obligation from the Government to operate InterCity services in such a way that they are not profitable. British Rail has made the service unprofitable. People are less inclined to use the service in the evening because it now arrives about 40 minutes later than it did previously. People use the train that departs at 4.30 pm and tolerate changing at Newark because they get home earlier. British Rail has deliberately sabotaged the service by making it depart from London 40 minutes later, thereby making it very late when it gets to Barnetby, Grimsby and Cleethorpes. It has deliberately driven trade off the train.
If British Rail is saying that fewer people are using the train from Cleethorpes to Newark than two or three years ago, I am prepared to acknowledge that. After all, it is said that statistics never lie. I shall tell the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North why people are less inclined to use the direct service, and it it has nothing to do with the Railways Bill but more to do with BR's pricing policy.
British Rail used to advertise aggressively the super-saver service. In those days, the cost down to London was about £38. The super-saver ticket was available for second class passengers on the train from Barnetby to King's Cross until the year before last. British Rail then decided that no passenger could use the direct service from Barnetby to King's Cross unless he caught a traing after 9 am using the saver ticket. That meant that a large eight-coach train with first and second-class compartments and a breakfast car could not be used by some passengers, perhaps retired or less well-off people who could not afford to throw an extra £6 at British Rail. They had to wait until 9 am to catch the Regional Railways train to Newark, stand on a draughty platform and then get the main line train to London.
§ Mr. Wilson
Before the hon. Gentleman starts on another circuit, perhaps I can pin him down. He has obviously persuaded himself—or purports to have persuaded himself—that there has been a dark conspiracy against Cleethorpes within the upper confines of British Rail. He is clearly a little parochial in these matters, but perhaps he can elevate his sights. Is it likely that British Rail has set out to deprive Cleethorpes of its InterCity service? if not, perhaps he should consider which lnterCity services should be cut so that Government targets can be met.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned 1988. Surely, given his encyclopaedic knowledge of these issues, he knows that the financial objectives to which InterCity and the rest of British Rail have had to work were laid down in December 1989 by Cecil Parkinson. Since then, InterCity—uniquely, certainly in Europe, and probably in the world—has been a profitable railway, albeit only marginally profitable. However, as there are some very profitable sectors within InterCity, which services does he suggest should be cut to meet the targets? Does he not understand that it is not a matter of Cleethorpes against the world but of Government policy?
§ Mr. Wilson
Can the hon. Gentleman say which sectors of InterCity should be cut and why he supports the financial objectives for InterCity which will clearly have the effect that he has rather unconvincingly created about tonight?
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman complained and seemed to suggest that I was detaining the House unduly. I have many notes to read out and I wish to refer to Redruth and to Macclesfied. I shall respond to the hon. Gentleman's intervention, as he is responsible for prolonging my short speech. I have many issues to raise with the promoters of the Bill, which are directly relevant to the clauses affecting Macclesfied and Redruth. I have wanted to refer to them for some time, but the hon. Gentleman keeps detaining me by raising interesting points to which I feel it is my duty to respond. The House will know that I am always generous in giving way to interventions from Opposition Members and that I do my utmost to answer them. I am certainly prepared to answer the hon. Gentleman.
I see no reason for British Rail to have to make cuts to live up to the objectives that the Government have placed on it. If British Rail had had the imaginative management of British Airways in the past 10 years, it would have no difficulty in being able to provide, with its InterCity services, trains at times the customer wants to travel while still meeting the Government's financial objectives.
British Rail chooses to run trains at times when people do not want to travel and chooses to delay the departure of the King's Cross to Cleethorpes train. That train was used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) until he became a Minister. He went on to become an even bigger Minister and then Prime Minister.
771 The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North should study the Order Paper for tomorrow. He will see that, during Prime Minister's Question Time, we are to discuss railway services between Cleethorpes and London, because I am to invite the Prime Minister to make an official visit to Cleethorpes by train. Tomorrow afternoon, the House and the nation, through television broadcasting, will be able to relate the proceedings on the Bill to Government policy. Between 3.15 and 3.30 pm tomorrow, the House will focus its attention on these railway services.
I hope that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North will not shout out that it is some kind of jolly jape when I ask my right hon. Friend to make a comment——
§ Mr. Brown
Although that great day is only two and a quarter hours away, I leave that line of argument.
The main point made by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North is that British Rail is unable to provide certain services to Cleethorpes. He asks me to accept that there is no conspiracy in British Rail against Cleethorpes. I should like to think that there is not, but I think of the way in which British Rail gave me assurances about the manning of railway stations in the Brigg area, in the Barnetby area and in the Habrough area of my constituency some years ago. BR gave me assurances about the long-term future of the high-speed 125 train from Cleethorpes to King's Cross some years ago.
I suddenly see that the Bill refers not to the Cleethorpes-Gainsborough line, but to the GrimsbyGainsborough line. Stations such as Barnetby were denounced six months ago. The Cleethorpes 125 direct service has been withdrawn. My suspicious mind wonders whether somebody up there in British Rail has got it in for Cleethorpes.
§ Mr. Boyce
I have no way of knowing whether Cleethorpes has been disadvantaged deliberately. I have my own theories about what is going on. The reason may be the vociferous way in which the hon. Gentleman has sought to protect Cleethorpes. It may be because I am a new Member of Parliament that British Rail has sought to take advantage of Rotherham. I have no way of knowing, but my suspicious mind tells me that that is the case. As I am a new Member and not very used to procedure, British Rail has sought to ride roughshod over the people of Rotherham. British Rail may have made the people of Cleethorpes suffer because of the vigorous intervention of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown).
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman does himself a grave disservice. Anyone listening to him would not believe that he had been a Member of Parliament for only nine months. I honestly felt that I was listening to someone who had been a Member of Parliament for at least nine years. He eloquently convinced me of the disadvantageous way in which the Bill will affect the people of Rotherham.
I knew the hon. Gentleman's predecessor very well because we used to cross swords on steel issues when I represented the constituency of Brigg and Scunthorpe before the boundaries were altered in 1983. I knew Mr. Stan Crowther extremely well——
§ Mr. Brown
Hon. Members keep sending me down branch lines. The hon. Member for Rotherham described himself as an inexperienced Member of Parliament. He is a very experienced Member of Parliament and he has quickly learnt to be suspicious of British Rail in the provision of railway services between east and west.
I shall now link the comments of the hon. Member for Rotherham with the challenge of the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North. I believe that British Rail simply wants to run InterCity trains in straight lines from London to Edinburgh, from London to Glasgow and perhaps from London to Bristol and Swansea. Its cross-country service provision has always been poor.
I am prepared to concede that there is, however, one bright spot—that is, when it works, when the trains turn up and when British Rail does not send old trains which break down. The Manchester to Cleethorpes service is pretty good and it has modern rolling stock. As the hon. Member for Rotherham said, the only thing missing is for the service to stop at a town the size of Rotherham. Under the terms of the Bill, that will not happen.
I believe that it is much more convenient for British Rail to run high-speed, electrified railway trains. British Rail does not want to run diesel-electrics. We must recognise that the service from Cleethorpes to Newark is not electrified. The point that is relevant to the intervention of the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North is that the Government have given British Rail hundreds of millions of pounds to provide an electrified service from London to Edinburgh.
When the electrification programme was taking place in 1988, I wondered what would happen when the train from King's Cross reached Newark and the thing—I have forgotten what it is called—that extends from the engine to the electrified wire to draw the power——
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister. I would expect him to know what it is called.
The pantograph is of use only on an electrified service. There is no electrification proposed between Newark and Cleethorpes and between Cleethorpes and Manchester. Therefore, we depend upon diesel electric trains.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Circencester and Tewkesbury)
If, as my hon. Friend says, there is such a need for the services to Cleethorpes, are not the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport just what my hon. Friend needs? If there is a need for those services, a franchiser will be prepared to bid for the services and my hon. Friend will then get the service that he wants.
§ Mr. Brown
That is the point that I made a few moments ago. I could not agree more with my hon. Friend the Member for Circencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown). My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on.
However, we must obtain those franchises services when services continue to exist as going concerns. When the new timetables are introduced in May, the service is to be withdrawn from Cleethorpes. The Railways Bill, which received its Second Reading last week, probably will not 773 reach the statute book until July or perhaps not until October or November. There will be an interregnum, during which there will be no direct service.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury would surely agree that if a business is sold as a going concern, it will benefit from the new arrangements to improve that going concern. However, if a business, operation or railway service is shut down and one expects the private sector to crank it up once more, albeit under the new facilities that I welcome in the Railways Bill, that service is more likely to be a success if a new franchised service takes over 24 hours after British Rail relinquishes control and if BR does not pursue its scorched earth policy.
I object to the fact that if BR does not want to provide the service and decides to close it in May, and the new legislation does not reach the statute book until the end of the year, by that time BR will have driven people off the railways to Cleethorpes altogether and into their cars to drive to Newark and Doncaster. That is why it is so wrong for British Rail to claim that it wants to save money on that service when it is prepared to waste money.
Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury was not present earlier. I shall not go over old ground, but I shall give my hon. Friend an idea of how British Rail has been wasting money. I have with me the environmental assessment of the clauses relating to Shaftholme and the chord line in works Nos. 1 and 1A, which was produced by a firm of consultants for British Rail. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley told the House that those clauses will not be proceeded with. British Rail is prepared to waste money to pay private sector consultants to produce a report on clauses that will not be enacted, yet it is not prepared to provide for my constituents a service from Cleethorpes to London. That is the waste of money in the Bill.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
I am sorry that I was not present at the beginning of my hon. Friend's concise, short speech, but has he tried to suggest to British Rail that it might operate the train to Cleethorpes at peak hours only?
§ Mr. Brown
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury will do me the honour of speaking in my constituency, and I hope also that he will use the railways service between now and May to do so. There is but one train a day from Cleethorpes to London in the morning and one train from London to Cleethorpes in the evening. When I became a Member of Parliament 14 years ago there were four trains in each direction. We now have only one train at peak times. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] As my hon. Friends say, that is disgraceful. The situation has deteriorated in that time, and that is why I am so suspicious of British Rail's future intentions.
§ Mr. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman has certainly brightened up the evening. I am sure that he will go down as the man who isolated Cleethorpes within the space of three general elections. However, for the hon. Gentleman it is a serious point. He will have investigated the differential cost of InterCity services operating on electrified lines and non-electrified lines. In the light of that information, he will be able to inform not only his hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) but many other hon. Members about the likelihood of InterCity services continuing after being franchised on non-electrified lines.
774 Is not the hon. Gentleman's message that, under any auspices, if InterCity is to be a profitable railway, or if bits thereof are to be profitable, there will be no InterCity services operating on non-electrified lines? That carries a very serious message not only for some of my hon. Friends north of Edinburgh, for instance, but for many Conservative Members, as they are about to find out during the passage of the Railways Bill.
§ Mr. Brown
I certainly had my suspicions back in 1988 that British Rail had no wish to have high-speed 125 trains —that is, the diesel electric powered trains that do not require overhead cables—going anywhere near King's Cross. I have heard from railway experts in my constituency, such as the Railway Development Society based in Cleethorpes, that British Rail wants to do everything that it can to run only electrified trains into King's Cross. That certainly carries the implications that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North mentioned. Any high-speed 125 train that goes to King's Cross is a vulnerable service. The service from Hull to King's Cross is certainly vulnerable. Concern has been expressed about the service in Goole, which is operated from Hull to King's Cross.
I am only just coming to my concluding remarks with regard to the provisions of the Bill concerning Brigg. I now turn to the provisions——
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 83, Noes 51.775
|Division No. 143]||[9.58 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Arbuthnot, James||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Ashby, David||Legg, Barry|
|Bates, Michael||Lidington, David|
|Bellingham, Henry||Lightbown, David|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Maclean, David|
|Bowden, Andrew||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Brazier, Julian||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Merchant, Piers|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Carttiss, Michael||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Chaplin, Mrs Judith||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Chapman, Sydney||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Norris, Steve|
|Congdon, David||Patnick, Irvine|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Richards, Rod|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Riddick, Graham|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|Fabricant, Michael||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Forth, Eric||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Freeman, Roger||Shersby, Michael|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Heald, Oliver||Steen, Anthony|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Stephen, Michael|
|Home Robertson, John||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)||Thomason, Roy|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Waller, Gary||Wood, Timothy|
|Wells, Bowen||Yeo, Tim|
|Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Widdecombe, Ann||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wilson, Brian||Mr. Michael Trend and|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)||Mr. Peter Luff.|
|Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Barnes, Harry||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||McMaster, Gordon|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||McWilliam, John|
|Cryer, Bob||Mahon, Alice|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Meale, Alan|
|Davidson, Ian||Michael, Alun|
|Day, Stephen||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Dixon, Don||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Mullin, Chris|
|Dover, Den||O'Hara, Edward|
|Eastham, Ken||Parry, Robert|
|Elletson, Harold||Pickthall, Colin|
|Etherington, Bill||Pike, Peter L.|
|Flynn, Paul||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Skinner, Dennis|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Hall, Mike||Spellar, John|
|Hawkins, Nick||Stevenson, George|
|Heppell, John||Sweeney, Walter|
|Hood, Jimmy||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Illsley, Eric||Watson, Mike|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Whittingdale, John|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Lewis, Terry||Mr. Jimmy Boyce and|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Mr. Michael Brown.|
§ Whereupon MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 36 (Majority for closure or for proposal of Question).
§ It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday 11 February