§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Channel Tunnel Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, as far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
We have waited a long time for this debate. By "a long time" I do not just mean the 10 months since the present Channel Tunnel Bill was introduced in another place, I mean 12 years, because in January 1975 a similar tunnel scheme to the one we shall consider today was abandoned just at the point when an earlier Channel Tunnel Bill was about to come before your Lordships' House.
There are many similarities between the present scheme and the one which was proposed and on which work started in the 1970s. There are also some similarities between the earlier Bill and the measure I bring before you today. But there is one crucial difference between then and now which cannot be over-emphasised. Under Article 1 of the Anglo-French Treaty signed in February last year—in accordance with the concession agreement with the companies concluded last March, and in line with the 898 provisions of the Bill now before the House—this project will be financed wholly by the private sector with no recourse whatever to government funds or financial guarantees.
Knowing the enthusiasm which many noble Lords have for a fixed cross-Channel link, I am sure that the main elements of the projects are familiar to many Members of this House. The tunnel system will have two running tunnels for both freight and passenger trains and vehicle shuttles. The shuttle terminals will be at Cheriton near Folkestone and Frethun near Calais. There will be a separate smaller service tunnel between, and connected to, the main running tunnels. The journey through the 50 kilometre tunnel will take about 35 minutes. There will be an inland clearance depot at Ashford and, also at Ashford, an international passenger station for through trains; a London passenger terminal at Waterloo and improvements to the West London line at Kensington Olympia and at the North Pole depot near Wormwood Scrubs.
Once the present Bill receives Royal Assent the treaty will be ratified. The governments will continue to look after important matters affecting the public interest (such as safety, security and frontier matters) through an Anglo-French Inter-Governmental Commission and a safety authority, but their main task of facilitating the project will be done. It will then be for the concessionaires to finance, design, construct and operate the tunnel system unaided. The tunnel is expected to open to traffic in 1993 but the 55 year concession period will begin soon after Royal Assent when the concession agreement comes into effect.
Your Lordships will know that the project has caused some anxiety in Kent about the effect on the environment and employment. I shall return to these matters shortly. But I also want to underline the national significance of the project and explain why the Government have decided that the backers of this project should be allowed to carry it forward. Some people have suggested that the tunnel will benefit only the already prosperous South-East and will further widen the so-called North-South divide. Nothing could be further from the truth, During construction the tunnel will generate orders for £1 billion-worth of goods and services from suppliers throughout the United Kingdom. The industries to benefit in the first instance will be the construction equipment and railway equipment supplies. With one or two exceptions, these tend to be located in and around cities such as Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow. It is no coincidence that the two major orders placed by the consortium for tunnelling machines and electric locomotives have gone to firms in Glasgow and Leeds. The tunnel will create about 10,000 jobs at peak during construction. Half of these will be outside Kent.
When the tunnel is operational, British industry will be able to benefit from a completely new, fast, reliable and direct rail freight service to the hinterland of Europe. This will enable industries in Scotland, Wales and the north of England to compete more effectively with their Continental counterparts. About 60 per cent. of United Kingdom trade is now with Europe, and we need this link to compete.
899 The tunnel will present British Rail with its most exciting opportunity this century. Once we are joined to the European rail network, British Rail will be able to carry much more freight for the kind of distances over which rail once again becomes competitive with road. This will reduce the number of heavy lorries which would otherwise use our roads. Properly exploited, city-centre to city-centre passenger services, from London and from regional cities, will offer a very attractive alternative to air travel.
Turning to Kent, I should like to pay tribute to the work done by my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. David Mitchell, in his Joint Consultative Committee. In that forum, which he has chaired over the past 11 months, representatives of Kenty County, district and parish councils directly affected by the tunnel project, have had the opportunity to discuss the environmental and economic consequences of the tunnel in their area with representatives of Eurotunnel, British Rail and the Government. My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale is also a member of that committee.
The planning provisions now in the Bill give the local authorities considerable powers to influence the final design of the project and to protect the environment and the amenities of Kent. In addition, these arrangements provide for the Government's advisers on environmental matters—the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council and English Heritage—to be consulted by the local planning authorities on all requests for approval of detail made by Eurotunnel during design and construction stages of the project. The authorities concerned have also given an undertaking that local groups such as CPRE will have the opportunity to contribute their local knowledge before decisions are taken, and Eurotunnel have concluded with the statutory environmental agencies and the Southern Water Authority a Memorandum of Agreement on measures to be taken to mitigate environmental damage during construction of the tunnel.
As your Lordships will know, this Bill is hybrid, which means that following Second Reading there will be an opportunity for those whose private interests are affected by the proposals to petition a Select Committee of this House. The committee will have the power to amend the Bill to protect private rights where it sees fit. That stage will be followed by the normal Committee stage when the House as a whole will examine the Bill in detail.
The purpose of this debate is quite simply to establish the principle; the principle that there should be a tunnel, provided that private finance is forthcoming; the principle that the tunnel should, in essence, be the Eurotunnel scheme; the principle that the tunnel should carry both shuttle traffic and through passenger and freight trains; the principle that there should be juxtaposed frontier controls so that passengers should enjoy "free exit" from the tunnel; the principle that there should be an international passenger station at Waterloo; and the principle that there should be an improvement of the A.20 trunk road in the form of a new road from the southerly end of the present M.20 to Court Wood by-passing the village of Capel-Le-Ferne.
900 Part I of the Bill is largely introductory, but it defines the tunnel system and includes the important provision, inserted by the Select Committee in another place, precluding the use of government funds or guarantees for the tunnel. Part II authorises the acquisition of land and the construction of the scheduled works and includes the agreed planning provisions.
Part III deals with matters such as frontier controls, jurisdiction and the application of law for this binational project. It also gives the inter-governmental commission and the safety authority the powers they need in their relations with the concessionaires. Part IV deals with the A.20 road improvement, while Part V contains a number of minor and miscellaneous provisions.
In the White Paper published just a year ago the Government said that they had high hopes of seeing the link built and of it becoming a valuable national asset, serving the interests of the nation for many years to come. The fact that the Bill has reached this House means that such hopes may soon be realised. If your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading today, the project will, in fact, be nearer to realisation than at any time during this century. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, perhaps I may first express thanks to the Minister for so briefly outlining the provisions of the Bill and say that it is not my intention to deal in detail with the various clauses of the Bill. First of all, they are too many and also too complex, but this is a very important debate, as the Minister has said. It has attracted some 34 speakers and three Peers who will be making their maiden speeches.
When this Bill was introduced in the other place as far back as 5th June last year, the Opposition moved what was a critical amendment—critical of the lack of government action on various issues that were involved. But the Opposition did not vote against the Third Reading.
As at Second Reading consideration is given to the general principles of a Bill, I thought that it would be useful to reread what I said in a debate on the Channel fixed link which took place in your Lordships' House on 13th December 1985—some 14 months ago, I think.
I find I can stand by everything that I said during that debate. If anybody wants to check it, it is to be found in cols. 475 to 480, but at the start of my speech I said the following:I want to make it absolutely clear that I have an open mind on the question of a fixed link. Personally speaking, I want to see the best solution that will ensure the maximum relationship with Europe—but that will also secure the best possible national wellbeing.I went on to say that the proposal before the House had great implications for our transport system and for economic development, particularly regional development, and great implications for the environment. That remains my position and that is in full accord with the recently stated Labour party policy also on the Channel Tunnel.
901 We must first look at the Channel Tunnel in the context of overall transport needs. We said then, and still hold the view, that it would have been much preferable if there had been an inquiry into the possible benefits and possible disdvantages of fixed link proposals. Account has to be taken of regional economic policies. We must not overlook that there is to be massive investment both in tunnel contruction and in infrastructure. We must ensure that that is not confined to the South-East and does not disadvantage other regions.
There has been no inquiry or real public debate upon the economic and regional implications of a fixed link. It is argued by some that an inquiry would have created an impossible delay, yet we had repeated in your Lordships' House a Statement made in the other place on the initial agreement with the French Ministers, and indicating that invitations for projects had been issued. That was on 2nd April 1985. There would have been an opportunity for an inquiry to ascertain the benefits and the disadvantages of this scheme.
Should the general proposals of the Bill go ahead, then Labour will seek to ensure that the maximum benefits are derived and that damage to the environment is minimised. It has been said that the Select Committee which your Lordships will appoint will not be able to go into national and regional considerations. I have before me the advertisement which has appeared in the last few days. It is directed to:People directly or materially affected by the proposals contained in the Channel Tunnel Bill"Materially affected" seems to go far beyond pure local interest. I shall mention some of the people who may be affected. I ask the Minister to interpret exactly what is meant by "materially affected". To my mind it does not mean just those in the South-East region or in the county of Kent.
Incidentally, the debate will be wound up for the Labour Opposition by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. I remind the House that he has great experience of dealing with Channel Tunnel affairs as he was a Member of the Select Committee on Transport in the other place which went into the matter of the Channel Tunnel and presented a report way back in 1981.
The Select Committee will have a most important task. Therefore, in advance, I and, I am certain, all noble Lords, would wish to thank those Members who have agreed to undertake that task. As one who was a member of the long-running Select Committee on London Docklands, I appreciate the task that they have so readily accepted. I have in mind that the Select Committee of the other place made some 70 amendments to the Bill. The Minister has reminded us that our Select Committee will have the power to make amendments to the Bill. The 70 amendments made by the other place are in Appendix 43 of its report.
When the Statement announcing the selection of the project of the Channel Tunnel Group—now called Eurotunnel—was made on 20th January last year, I asked for an assurance from the Government that the British share of construction costs will be spent on British materials and spread over as many regions as 902 practical and possible. I was disappointed with the reply of the then Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. At col. 26 of Hansard of that day, he said:That is something in which the Government would not seek to intervene. It is a matter for the concessionaires themselves".I hope that noble Lords will insist that the Government intervene and bring pressure to bear to ensure that the United Kingdom receives its full share and that the work goes particularly to the areas where there is unemployment and where our important manufacturing industries have declined.
As I have said in previous debates and as the Minister has explained today, the main advantage of the proposals is that there will be a rail tunnel and in particular that it will provide for fast freight trains. Like the Minister, I believe that this will provide a great opportunity for British Rail, bearing in mind, as the noble Lord has reminded us, that 60 per cent. of our exports are to the countries of Western Europe. It will be to the benefit of manufacturers in Scotland, the North, the North-West, the Midlands and Wales.
However, we must not overlook the fact that if our exports can get into Europe 48 hours quicker, then imports coming the other way can reach us 48 hours quicker. Therefore, something must be done by our manufacturers to ensure that they can meet that situation. That is a further reason why there should have been an inquiry. It is not enough just to talk about what might be possible benefits, hopes and expectations; we need facts. A number of transhipment centres will be required—depots linked to the rail network. It would be useful to know what progress is being made in that direction. Why, at this stage, has British Rail decided to close down eight of its freightliner depots? It seems an unfortunate time to do that in the light of the possible developments.
I also recognise that the work associated with tunnel construction and infrastructure will be for only a few years. However, surely there must be a multiplier effect in respect of the regions that have the greater part of the manufacture. The Minister has referred to some orders that have been placed. British Rail has stated that some 70 per cent. of its essential manufactures for rolling stock and equipment will be north of Watford.
I should have liked an inquiry to assess the future of our ferries. I believe that there will still be a need for ferries. Frankly, we need facts. It is not sufficient to have statements by competing interests. We need facts. Ships using United Kingdom ports are required to pay light dues, whereas lighthouse services in continental countries are generally provided free of charge by the state. That matter is referred to in paragraph 177 of the Commons Select Committee report, but it goes on to state that the Government objected as the matter was an issue of public policy outside the scope of the Bill. However, Chapter 7 of that report is headed "Matters of public policy raised during the Committee's sittings", and a number of issues of public policy are listed.
What are the real facts about the possible future of our ferries? It has been argued by some that with the fixed link and express freight trains, some container ships may find it more economic go to Liverpool and the Clyde and for containers then to go by fast rail 903 service through the fixed link-tunnel instead of taking a possible extra two and a half days through to Rotterdam. I hope that may be so, but where are the sound facts to justify my optimism in that direction? I believe that there would be great concern if ferries showed a considerable decline. That would add still further to the very serious decline in our merchant fleet. Incidentally, those shipping interests who complain of a possible decline may like to take a careful look at their own policy of flagging-out which is increasing to the detriment of our merchant fleet.
The British Ports Association has expressed concern not only for the future of ports in east Kent but also further afield. During our debate in December 1985, I questioned what might be the effect on the East coast ports—not just on the ports themselves, but on the economic development that is taking place, because the ports are there and are being developed. Again, I have no sound facts. There has been no sound inquiry into the matter. An inquiry was resisted.
Chapter 5 of the Commons report concerns competition between the tunnel and the ferries. We must look very carefully at the provisions in the Bill for fair trading to ensure that there is no predatory pricing. We must keep in mind that the tunnel project will be a commercial enterprise and that the purpose of people investing in it is to make profits. We must keep that in mind when we are looking at some of the questions as regards fair trading and competition. We must look carefully at the relevant clauses. The Opposition urge that a "Channel Tunnel Office of Fair Trading" should be set up to operate within the EC competition laws.
We must not overlook the important questions of safety. That is dealt with in Chapter 7 of the Commons Select Committee report at paragraphs 217 and 219 and in Clauses 16 to 17 of the Bill. We must give the matter careful consideration. We must not minimise the great public concern about safety. The Fire Brigades Union recently held a symposium on the matter. I regret that I was unable to attend, but I have read the papers which were considered. As a member of the National Fire Service during the war and as one who held offices in the Fire Brigades Union, I can fully appreciate its case. The union raises the important question of whether it is desirable that the refusal to segregate passengers and cars should be reviewed.
I notice that the Commons Select Committee states in paragraph 218 that it was assured that the non-segregation of passengers and vehicles would be disallowed if the safety authority was not convinced that practical solutions to avoid risks had been found. Are we satisfied that practical solutions to avoid risk have been found? We know, of course, that segregation is compulsory on the ferries. I note that in the Standing Committee on the Bill in the other place an amendment to deal with segregation was defeated by only one vote: eight votes to nine. That indicates the widespread concern that exists on the issue.
The Fire Brigades Union states that Home Office fire statistics show that 23,000 car fires took place in 1973 whereas in 1983 the number had risen to well over 40,000. Safety is a very serious matter which cannot be glossed over. It is dealt with in two 904 appendices in the Commons report: one in the shape of the Railway Inspectorate memorandum in Appendix 39 and the other in Appendix 40, the memorandum by Eurotunnel itself.
The Fire Brigades Union has questioned who will operate the fire and emergency services. If the duty is to fall on the Kent County Council fire service, will there be adequate men and equipment always on call? Will there be satisfactory adjustments in the rate support grant in order to cope with what might be increased costs? Will it, instead, be the responsibility of tunnel staff! Will that be regarded as adequate and sufficient? If so, up to what standard will the training be, and who will do the training?
I think it is good that the Fire Brigades Union should be dealing with this serious issue. It is also heartening to know that the National Union of Railwaymen has always campaigned for guarantees that no new practices will be introduced on railways which put the public and their members at risk. They have made it clear that they will not deviate from that attitude as regards the Channel Tunnel.
Another important matter, for which the responsibility will fall to a great extent on our Select Committee, will be to ensure that any environmental damage is kept to the utmost minimum. Of course, we shall examine the relevant clauses when we reach our Committee stage. I recognise that, without the fixed link, ferry traffic would be certain to increase in future years, and that this would make a considerable impact in respect of the increased numbers of cars and heavy vehicles in that area. It is also clear that through-freight rail trains from various parts of the country will lessen the heavy haulage traffic on roads in various parts. Having mentioned roads, I find it somewhat inexplicable that the A20 improvements have been brought into this Bill under the hybrid procedure instead of by the normal road inquiry process.
We also have the position of the London terminus. Speaking for myself, it would appear that Waterloo is the sensible place for it, but I hope that our Select Committee will give the most careful attention to the siting of Waterloo as a London terminus and to the problems associated with it.
I have been able to deal with only a very few proposals in the Bill. Many of them will be dealt with by the Select Committee and others will be dealt with when the Bill returns to your Lordships' House. The Channel link presents opportunities for economic development and for rail, but it needs to be closely integrated with economic and regional policies. There is much public concern about the Channel Tunnel. We should not shirk our responsibilities in facing that concern. There is much concern on safety and other grounds. That must be recognised and, if possible, allayed.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I also should like to thank the Minister for being able to get through his introduction of this Bill in eight minutes. With the number of speakers and the time of night, I shall do my best to be brief; but this is an important Bill and I may take a little longer than eight minutes. I should also like to take the opportunity of saying that I look forward very much to the three maiden speeches that 905 we are going to have on this Bill—a difficult Bill, I should have thought, to be non-controversial about; but we shall see.
Let me say at the outset that from these Benches we welcome the principle of a fixed link. We have long been advocates of a Channel tunnel. In so far as our Whig ancestry goes, I think that perhaps Lord Palmerston was the first to try to start a tunnel from this side. However, I do not necessarily rely on Lord Palmerston for most of my politics. We should have preferred a rail-only tunnel and, as I shall suggest later, I think that would have given us fewer environmental problems. Certainly it would have overcome some of the problems that still remain. However, we wish to see a tunnel constructed, and we have to bat on the wicket that is provided for us.
I think that many of the problems that exist arise from the Government's insistence on making this entirely a private capital venture. From their strictly non-interventionist approach I believe there are a number of areas where they should be massaging the problems between the different participants. We do not believe that a national asset of this sort should be entirely in private hands. In spite of the efforts of the Select Committee in another place—and I must congratulate them on the work they did, because many long hours went into their deliberations and there was a lot of cross-party support for the principle of the Bill as well as a lot of cross-party criticism—there are still unresolved problems and many of them, in my view, will not be solved without government intervention.
Before I turn to the problems, let me try to make sure it is understood that the reason we wish to have this fixed link is basically to be able to move freight from the industrial heartlands of this country into the markets of Europe. It is very nice for people to be able to go on their holidays in France, but that is not really the basic purpose of this Bill. Its basic purpose is to put our industry into a competitive position with Continental industry, and the ability to put goods into a container in Manchester, Newcastle or Glasgow and ship them straight through to Paris, the Ruhr or Milan must put us in a better competitive position than we are in at the moment. When your Lordships' Select Committee was—
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, would the noble Lord permit me? On that sort of point, why does he say that they cannot already do that? You can put your containers on to a lorry; you can put your lorry on to a hovercraft; you can go from one shore to the other in a matter of 40 minutes and be on your way to anywhere you want on the Continent. I cannot see how a tunnel will improve the situation.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, if the noble Lord will look at the economics he will find that when one is talking about distances over about 200 to 250 miles the economics of rail are preferable to the economics of road transport, from both a time point of view and a cost point of view. That, as I understand it, is the view of the specialists in this market, but perhaps the noble Lord knows better.
Perhaps I may also underline what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said about our ports. When our Select Committee was looking at the question of science and 906 technology in surface transport, we went to look at the container port at Hamburg—a very impressive piece of machinery. It is very well organised and highly computerised, but the message that came out of there was that they were extremely worried about losing business to Rotterdam. The reason was that they were 300 miles away and those extra 300 miles of sailing made a tremendous difference to the economics. If that is true of the distance between Rotterdam and Hamburg, how much more true is it of the distance between Liverpool, Cardiff and even Falmouth and the Continent?
Provided that we gear ourselves up properly it is possible that we can have goods put on to trains driving into central Europe before the ships have docked in Hamburg. Again, I think this is an important asset that we must try to develop. Are we prepared for these developments? I am afraid the answer is no. This is where the Government's "hands off" approach is wrong. There does not seem to be any coherent strategy. Nobody is really getting down to building up the infrastructure to deal with these developments.
As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said, British Rail are at the moment closing down freight terminals. One does not blame British Rail; they have to run a commercial enterprise. In the short term it may well be in their commercial interest to close down those terminals, but somebody should be saying that in a few years' time we are going to need those terminals. It should surely be up to the Government to make sure that the finance is available for British Rail to look to the future. I do not detect that the Government are looking that way.
Again, when your Lordships' Committee was questioning the Secretary of State on 25th November —I refer to the Science and Technology Select Committee—in reply to a question dealing with this very problem Mr. Moore said:I think many have not realised the extraordinary opportunities to British manufacturing and industry beyond Watford because of the Channel Tunnel's improvement of the economics of freight transport.Then he went on:I am expecting British Rail to be in the lead in trying to assess what that will mean for their freight business as a consequence. I regard this as a very important future which they must see through their commerical eyes in terms of their commerical opportunities at the time.What I am saying is that it is not a question British Rail's opportunities at the time, several years ahead; it is the opportunities for the nation that we ought to be planning for now.
Similarly, there seems to be inadequate thought being put into the question of Customs clearance for freight. The Germans, I understand, have something like 240 separate Customs clearance posts inside their country. We have always looked upon Customs clearance as something that happens at the coast. We really must have a change of attitude. Again, the Government have to make sure that these clearance centres are available. There is no indication at the moment that very much thought is being put into that. Indeed, the suggestion in debates in the other place was that a throughput of the order of 1 million tonnes a year would be necessary to make one of these Customs clearance areas viable. That is simply not good 907 enough. If industry does not have the facilities to which it can take its goods, then this enterprise will not succeed.
A year ago the Town and Country Planning Association said:It is vital that there should be a full evaluation of the implications for Britain as a whole.I must say that I agree with that sentiment. These factors must be used not as a roadblock to progress but to enable us to see the opportunities and to grasp them in time. They cannot be left entirely to market forces acting in an unco-ordinated way. The great investment in the South-East will be divisive if the benefits are not shared by the country as a whole. I believe that they can be shared by the country as a whole, but it is necessary for the Government to intervene.
My next concern broadly is environmental. We cannot, one realises, have a major engineering enterprise of this size without considerable impact on the community and on the environment. The first criticism that I have is that the Government were very slow to consider the views of the people of Kent. They have gone some way to repairing that damage but unfortunately a very sour taste was left among the people of Kent or Kentish people—I never know which. The Select Committee of your Lordships' House must therefore take this matter very seriously and do what it can to repair that damage and to ensure that the genuine views of genuine people from real communities are taken very carefully into consideration, even if that means doing things which are not necessarily of themselves commercially viable. This applies both in terms of the land take up at Cheriton and of the road traffic approaches to the terminal. Again, of course, if one did not have the shuttle then it would not be necessary to have that enormous land take. That is one of the reasons we on these Benches should have preferred to have a rail-only tunnel.
The Select Committee has a mammoth task and I wish it well. Every possible objection to this tunnel is going to be resurrected by all sorts of interest groups. Many of those have, in my view, been dealt with already. For instance, I feel that rabies is much more likely to be brought in on a private boat by somebody with a Chihuahua in their pocket than by foxes running the 50 kilometres between trains. I believe that the safety aspect needs to be looked at, but on the whole I am quite convinced it is possible to make this tunnel as safe as the London Underground or indeed as safe as the ferries themselves.
In regard to terrorists, I believe that there is as much danger on the ferries as there is likely to be in the tunnel, although there is just one question that worries me slightly. When we come to the Waterloo terminal, there are going to be elaborate arrangements as there are at airports, I understand, for looking at baggage and making sure that people do not have concealed weapons about their person. But I have not yet heard what similar arrangements will be made for trains going from Edinburgh, Manchester and other places outside London. I should be grateful if the Minister could give us some idea of what is proposed.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that it is inadequate to draw a parallel between terrorism in regard to single ferry boats and the Channel Tunnel, which could be a prime target of a very different order?
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, with respect to the right reverend Prelate, I do not agree with him. The aim of terrorists is to cause confusion and mayhem. It is just as easy to do that on a ferry boat as it is in the Channel Tunnel. If you are talking about the strategic position of the Channel Tunnel, that is a different matter. It is a question of an enemy wishing to blow up the tunnel for whatever reason. It seems to me that a terrorist who sank a ferry boat would have as much impact on world opinion as somebody who blew up a train in a tunnel. Perhaps the right reverend Prelate disagrees.
A lot of these objections will come from vested interests which cut right across party lines. I have been interested to have representations from trade unionists. They certainly cannot be divided between the Left and the Right of the trade union movement when I get letters from the Transport and General Workers' Union and the National Union of Seamen violently against the tunnel, and from the NUR and ASLEF violently in favour of it. That does not mean to say that the objections that are raised by these people should not be taken seriously and considered, and where they are genuine should not be dealt with.
The two major environmental questions which it seems to me are still somewhat unresolved are the question of the deposition of spoil from the tunnel. It is interesting to see that our share of the spoil gets nearer and nearer to France as the weeks go by. I think it has moved about four kilometres in the direction of France. There are some things that the French will let you have free, and spoil from the tunnel apparently is one of them.
There is then the question of whether or not this spoil should be put on Shakespeare Cliff. I hope that someone in the Select Committee will advise us as to whether Shakespeare Cliff is really a national heritage or whether it is a derelict coal mine. The evidence so far seems to be contradictory and I have an awful vision of King Lear, looking rather like the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent, standing up on the Cross-Benches and talking to us about our national heritage.
Again, it is in the interests of the private investor to take the cheapest way out of this problem. The question we have to ask is: is the cheapest way out—which is to dump the spoil by extending the platform at Shakespeare Cliff—the best answer environmentally? I realise that the cost of doing anything else either by rail or by barge is either difficult or expensive, but if something other than dumping on Shakespeare Cliff has lo be done the Government must intervene.
Finally, I come to Waterloo. There has been considerable perturbation in the area of Waterloo and I am not convinced as yet that the single terminal is in the public interest. There are obvious advantages at Waterloo in relation to tube and rail lines to the City, but the impact on the road system there seems to me to be something that needs to be considered rather 909 more in depth. I know that studies have been made and that British Rail are going to take up a considerable amount of the traffic within their own internal network. A considerable amount of thought has gone into that.
However, I cannot believe that with the number of passengers we are talking about, even if they are outside peak commuter hours—although peak commuter hours stretch longer and longer as the years go by, and as people work flexitime and so on—the congestion on York Road or Westminster Bridge Road or down into Borough Road will be acceptable to the local community. I hope that the Select Committee, when it comes to look at this matter, will take it very seriously indeed. My preferred solution would be to put part of the trains at Victoria and part at Waterloo on a destination basis. I know that there are difficulties and that that is likely to be more expensive, but again, if it is to be more expensive, the Government should be doing something about funding it in the environmental interest.
I must say that I reject the alternative of Olympia and I certainly also reject the Bricklayers Arms solution. I am not new in that, because the Bricklayers Arms was rejected as a major London terminal about 140 years ago. So the Select Committee has a very big job to do. There is little else we can say until it reports, save only that I found some confirmation of what I had been saying about the Government needing to intervene, and perhaps to put some money up front for some of the environmental considerations and some of the interface considerations, when I saw that Sir Ian MacGregor had apparently turned down the job of chairman of Eurotunnel, begging the pardon of the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, because no government money was involved. I thought that that was a significant statement that appeared in the papers yesterday.
I reiterate that from these Benches we welcome the idea of a fixed link Channel Tunnel, but there is much work to do before we can finally rest on the Bill as it presently stands.
§ 6.13 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, towards the end of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, mentioned his unease about the proposed terminus at Waterloo Station, and it is about that that I particularly wish to speak tonight. Waterloo Station lies within the diocese of Southwark and, as a consequence, I have been approached by local residents and local clergy to ask this House to look very carefully indeed at the likely consequences of bringing around 70 per cent. of the estimated passenger traffic to a single terminal in London. In view of the very long list of speakers tonight, I know that I must be as brief as possible. Much of the detail ought therefore to wait for the Select Committee stage, provided that those responsible for the actual decisions, and British Rail in particular, are there to answer questions.
One of the more surprising features about the debate so far is that British Rail were not required to appear before the Select Committee in another place, and yet the Minister has often parried questions directed to 910 him in consequence of that by saying that those were commercial decisions and not the business of government.
I have three main points to make which I shall put briefly in the form of questions and then explain more fully. First, how do you measure community cost in any proposed development? How important is it to preserve balanced and vigorous residential communities in our city centres and do we yet understand that there may be considerable financial and human costs in allowing commercial decisions to ride supreme? Secondly, British Rail has decided that Waterloo is the best option for a London terminus for Channel Tunnel passenger trains. What is the reasoning behind this? Is it operational, in that it would be difficult or impossible to fit the trains in anywhere else? Is it financial because a lot of building work has to be done to create facilities for customs and immigration as well as new track and this happens to be the cheapest place to do it? British Rail, after all, has to foot the bill and recover the cost in competition with other forms of travel. Is it for the sake of the passengers who would find it easier to go to one station for all the available trains? Or is it because someone has decided in advance that customs and imigration facilities must be on ground, not on train, and therefore it becomes much more difficult to disperse London-bound traffic?
Thirdly, what will be the consequences of bringing all these extra people into one station—for them, for other travellers and for local residents? In particular, will the proposed traffic arrangements at the station actually work when traffic is heavy, and what will happen in and around the station if they do not, because the margin for error, breakdown and obstinacy seems all too small?
On the first point, I make the general observation that cities and towns need to keep at least three things in some sort of balance; the provision of housing, the provision of employment and the provision of leisure and service for those living and working in that place. When these things go out of balance, then you may get, for instance, large housing estates with few shops, long distances to travel to work and no local places for people to gather and enjoy themselves. Or, on the other hand, you may get a city centre more or less denuded of residents but full of offices and so a dead, and often indeed dangerous, place to be at night or at week-ends.
Despite its size, many parts of London have remained reasonably balanced. Many people still live in mixed communities quite near your Lordships' House and it is important that they do so for all kinds of reasons. But the pressures are always there and it is a fragile balance, especially when there are high land values. Local people, local government and planners have had to work very hard to preserve this balance, and this can be very difficult when you do not have, say, the powers of central government or very much money with which to fight your cause.
The community around Waterloo Station is rather exceptional. After war bombing and slum clearance, the population sank to about 5,000; now it is climbing up again with more children and more young people in the area. There has been, or will soon be, a lot of new 911 building and rehabilitation, especially in the Coin Street development just beside the station. While the churches are not full, I detect a more hopeful attitude.
This is the background. What will be the effect—yes, the cost, both human and financial, in more hidden ways—of producing a marked increase in the volume of traffic in the area with the possibility of considerable and extensive congestion at certain times? The report by Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, commissioned by British Rail, is optimistic that this should not happen or not very often; but the case rests on estimates and calculations which others have already challenged and which must be somewhat tentative. It seems all too likely that there will soon be a demand for more bus and car parks, more hotels and guest houses, more tourist shops and that we shall then reverse the development of the last 10 years and sound the death knell of community life in Waterloo.
This leads to the second point, which raises the most fundamental question: why does there have to be a single London terminus, anyway? Is it for operational reasons, financial reasons, passenger benefit, customs and immigration reasons or is it a mixture of all four? If all inspections and checks could be on board the trains, instead of just those going to destinations beyond London—I understand it is likely that they will have on board inspections—would that make it possible to disperse at least some trains to a number of other stations in London? Are there still operational and financial obstacles to that? If so, what are they? According to the Joint Customs Committee paper No. (86) 24, there aretechnical problems concerning the effectiveness of [on-board] controls and considerable resources implications".That is good bureaucraticese, but why? What makes a journey between London and Paris so different from a journey between, say, Milan and Paris or Brussels and Paris? Did we not hope that the EC would gradually phase out inter-state customs and simplify immigration procedures?
Supposing that there does have to be one terminus, that the reasons for it are compelling and that it is either too late or simply too expensive now to disperse the trains to a number of different stations, what will be the effect on Waterloo station and its environs? That is my third point. We are talking about an estimated 10 million to 13 million passengers per annum, and some sources put the figure higher. Many of those passengers will be travelling with heavy luggage; they are not business commuters. There will be peak periods during the year. Tunnel trains are to be kept out of the station during the morning rush hour and between 1700 and 1800 hours—if they all run punctually. Even so there will be a lot of people generating a lot of road traffic—coaches, taxis and cars—and foot passengers will be heading for the Underground.
It would take far too long to itemise the details in the proposed traffic management plan which give cause for alarm. However, here are two examples. First, the present traffic flow in the station is one way along the main concourse. In future, it will be two way with mini-roundabouts to reverse the flow at two different points. It is a most complicated layout with little room for mistake or for selfish behaviour.
912 Secondly, space is to be provided for just seven taxis and two coaches to wait at any one time. The comparable figures for Victoria are space for 10 taxis with additional waiting space for 30 taxis on the nearby road, and similar additional space for coaches. Imagine what will happen if three or four coaches happen to arrive at once, as could easily occur, and displace the taxis or private cars from the limited space. Shall we not need more than seven taxis waiting at a major station of this kind?
We all know what happens in many parts of London when the traffic lights go wrong or when a car breaks down at a junction. Within minutes, lanes of waiting traffic back up in all directions. It happens constantly in Streatham, where I live, and it results from illegal parking. The resultant fumes and the noise of hundreds of vehicles is bad enough. The danger to pedestrians also increases as people try to escape down any possible rat run. It has all been set out in the recent report concerning South London traffic.
These are consequences which will affect not only the streets around the station and the local community. They will also affect the people on foot who are inside the station and who are trying to move about. As long ago as June, British Rail stated that 11 sites for a terminus were rejected before Waterloo was chosen. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, cost was the major factor in reaching that decision. Cost to whom and over what span of time? We need to know first whether and why a single terminus is the only option before us and, if it is and Waterloo is the most feasible, then there are serious and urgent questions about the effect on the environment which surely must not be left simply to the management of British Rail, constrained as it is by purely commercial considerations. It is not fair to British Rail and it is socially irresponsible to push these sensitive and complex decisions on to British Rail alone.
As I said earlier, costs include human costs to health and safety. There are also financial costs in terms of traffic delay, damage to businesses and so on—the costs which we so often do not quantify. Perhaps I may therefore plead that that clause of the Bill be given a most rigorous study by our Select Committee and indeed later by the Committee of the Whole House before final decisions are made on that part of the Bill.
§ 6.25 p.m.
My Lords, major single-purpose engineering projects dedicated to transportation of a magnitude of the Channel Tunnel are comparatively rare. They represent historic projects because of their impact on social, commercial and political structures. There are many examples of perhaps more sweepingly important technological developments which, over time, have had a greater impact on civilisation than large construction projects. These include the steam engine, electricity, the telephone, the aeroplane and computers. However, these and other far-reaching technological developments evolve comparatively slowly, allowing populations and governments to adjust to their gradual, if inexorable and far-reaching, impact on people's lives.
A few major engineering projects differed from these more scientific developments not so much in their effect on society as in the comparative immediacy of 913 their impact. They were usually single-purpose transportation projects which overcame geographical barriers instantly upon completion. They led to immediate shortening of lines of communication, as well as producing instant economies. Because of their physical size and cost, these projects, as well as their unique and sometimes geophysical and physical engineering considerations, were somewhat speculative. However, the projects were completed: in time people forgot the monetary aspect and, with more time, tended even to forget the far-reaching social and political changes that resulted.
History has generally looked back approvingly on such projects. Large-scale transportation projects relate to man's inherent need to expand and communicate more efficiently in commercial and human terms. Such needs gave rise to the construction of the North American trans-continental railroads which opened the Canadian and American west to millions of settlers and foretold the end of ancient Indian civilisations. The Suez Canal reduced the transportation time from Britain to India from six months to one month and led to revolutionary changes in both European and Indian civilisation and commerce.
The Panama Canal opened Far Eastern markets to trade from North America, leading to equally deep changes in trade and cross-fertilisation of Far Eastern and Western ideas. As preludes to air transportation, these historic projects were of major importance.
The Channel Tunnel, while not of the epic proportions of the great railway and canal projects, is still a trail-blazing endeavour with many similar characteristics and implications. It will provide a faster and more efficient method of communication between Britain and the Continent at competitive costs. With completion, it will break an age-old psychological barrier, along with overcoming a physical barrier.
The social and political implications are difficult to calculate. However, a convenient economic stimulus to inter-country passenger travel will provide a great increase in the potential for human interactions. Europe will instantly become a slightly smaller place.
The tunnel will also produce greatly improved efficiency to rail freight, which will increase competition for markets between Britain, the EC and the balance of Europe. The statistics in this respect are on Britain's side. While the rest of Europe will be able to compete more efficiently for the British market of 55 million people, Britain will be able to compete equally efficiently for a European market of over 200 million. The opportunity is there if British industry is willing to take it. The Channel Tunnel, like the Aswan high dam, represents a major engineering project in the latter half of the 20th century. Although the technical and engineering aspects are interesting, the social and political implications of its realisation extend far beyond into the world of commercial and human opportunity.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Murray of Epping Forest
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will join me in welcoming the well informed and reflective contribution made by the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, who brings with him great 914 experience of the world of finance and investment. The noble Earl did a service to the subject and I think to the House by putting the debate into its historical and, if I may say so, its geo-political context. The sweep of his argument was of a level that the subject demands. He has made not only a welcome contribution to the debate but has also given a foretaste of future contributions to which we shall all look forward.
I have long been persuaded by the case for a fixed link across the Channel on both economic and political grounds. I believe that the project will help create jobs which are badly needed in our economy. This is true not only of the construction period when, over a number of years, several thousand jobs will be generated (jobs which will not be confined to the South-East but should help the North-East and Scotland by stimulating steel production and fabrication) but also in the long term when, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has underlined, the project will make a contribution—on the conditions he has spelled out—in the context of an industrial strategy. A fixed link across the Channel is not an alternative to an industrial strategy but it is a very necessary component of such a strategy. Politically, in committing ourselves to strengthening the infrastructure of Europe, we shall underline our commitment to Europe although that does not betoken on my part any undue adulation of all of the institutions in the vicinity of Brussels.
The noble Lord the Minister referred in his most helpful introduction to the Government's responsibility for safety. In the limited time at my disposal I want to concentrate on that one point. My noble friend Lord Underhill rightly drew attention to the implications for safety of the present proposals. This quite unprecedented project poses quite new problems of safety. My noble friend referred to the symposium promoted by the Fire Brigades Union on 12th February, the report of which I read with great interest. It helped to concentrate my own mind and I warmly commend it to your Lordships. In the course of the symposium Dr. Eisner, formerly director of the Explosion and Flame Laboratory of the Health and Safety Executive, editor of the Journal of Occupational Accidents and a mine safety consultant, no mean qualifications for making a contribution to the subject, drew attention to the fact that,What distinguishes the Channel Tunnel from other tunnels is its great length and that fresh air can only be brought in and poisonous fumes extracted at the two tunnel entries in England and France. In this it resembles mining rather than railway tunnel systems".That is a point of which we need to be especially aware. There has been far too little discussion and examination of the subject. The Select Committee of another place drew attention to certain aspects but I hope that your Lordships' House and the Select Committee which is to examine the matter will give particular attention to these problems. I refer not only to the question of whether and on what conditions, if at all, chemicals and dangerous substances should be carried through the tunnel, but also to what action should be taken to avoid derailment, and what action in regard to electrical and fire hazards. There is, in particular, the question of the highly dangerous substances that will be carried by every vehicle going through the tunnel. I refer to petrol, diesel, liquid 915 petroleum gas and calor gas. Every caravan that goes through will presumably carry a fridge and cooking facilities; above all it will carry the most dangerous hazard of all—people.
The right reverend Prelate rightly drew attention to the problem of terrorists. We might be even more concerned about the problem of the drunken football fan who decides to have a quick "drag" or the father or mother of a family who decides, against all the regulations, to have a brew-up in the course of travelling through the tunnel.
I believe that it is possible to devise rules and regulations to cover at least an acceptable degree of risk; I acknowledge that one will never eliminate risk completely. I believe that the basic principle underlying the regulations has to be separation of people and vehicles. If that is necessary on Channel ferries, it is much more necessary in a confined tunnel of this kind. It ought to be possible for vehicles to be carried in fire-resistant carriages with automatic fire extinguishers and smoke-sealed doors and have special carriages at the front to carry passengers. I believe that it is essential to separate people from their vehicles if there is not to be an unacceptable degree of risk in this great project.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, my intervention will be very brief. We have a long list of speakers but I should like to say just one thing before starting my main remark. I regret that the Government were not able to put this Bill down for discussion as first business on one day. I think it is very unfortunate that we had to start as late as we did today. Following on from that, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for recognising that fact and not only for the succinct way in which he moved the Bill but also for the brevity of his speech. Other speakers have tried to be equally brief, as I certainly shall.
Probably in common with many others who support the Channel Tunnel I thought that, as there had been a good deal of adverse publicity lately, it was necessary for those of us who believe in it to stand up and say so. But I have been very cheered—I know that we have not got very far into today's list—by the fact that everyone who has spoken today has spoken in support of the tunnel. It may be that as we get to the end of the debate there will be others who will not but I hope that there will be a majority for it.
I should also like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, for his maiden speech. We are very glad that he was able to make it today and to set some of the historical background of the subject. We shall look forward to hearing him again in the very near future.
I have always believed in the Channel Tunnel. In the 1950s in another place I was a member of the executive committee of the all-party Channel Tunnel committee. I have waited 30 years to see the project revived with some hope of success. I know that 30 years may not seem a long time. I read in the newspapers that the idea of a tunnel project was mooted some 180 years ago, but I maintain that 30 years is quite a slice out of parliamentary life and I 916 hope that I shall not have to wait much longer to see the project come into being.
Today I do not propose to deal with—and obviously I am not competent to deal with—the problem of who should or should not be chairman of Eurotunnel. We are fortunate that we have the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, with us today and particularly that he will be speaking in the debate, because he will probably lay to rest much of what we have read in the newspapers. However, as a supporter of Eurotunnel from the beginning, and in common with others, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, for the burden he has carried until now. I regret, if what I read is correct, that he feels he will have to lay down that burden; but not, I gather, until someone else is prepared to step into his place.
I have felt all along that a scheme such as the Channel Tunnel should have aroused the enthusiasm of the whole nation. I think that we have allowed ourselves to be outmanoeuvred. We have allowed ourselves to be squeezed out, or constrained, by a strong and effective propaganda campaign from a small group of anti-tunnel parliamentarians, plus the environment lobby. That may be the viewpoint of an enthusiast, but this project has so much going for it, and so much imagination to it, that it is a great pity that we have not managed to get that view across. I should have liked to see it embellished with the fervour of an all-party agreement. I believe that the parties are united on this but I should have liked public all-party support throughout the country so that everyone, wherever they live and in whatever region, could realise that this is truly a national endeavour—an endeavour which I believe will bring employment and opportunities to all parts of the country and certainly not just to the South-East. My noble friend Lord Tordoff referred to that aspect, as did the Minister.
I should like to turn for a moment to the environmental problem. Of course there are environmental objections. In some cases they are very genuine and very serious objections. We come up against that aspect every time industrial development impinges on non-industrial land. We have seen it with the development of civil aviation. We are now seeing it with the development of the Channel Tunnel. Whether we are thinking of the beautiful countryside of Kent or the environmental aspect relating to Waterloo—so well explained to us by the right reverend Prelate and where I am, for one, now very much the wiser—we all agree that these are problems that must be considered.
However, whatever we may think about a specific matter, and however strongly we may feel about it, we cannot have the entire future development of the country run by an environment lobby; it just has to be argued out case by case. I think that most fair-minded people agree with that.
Moving on from that, I believe that reasoned objection is one thing but I noted with great regret the opening paragraph of the introduction to the Channel Tunnel brief prepared by the Transport and General Workers Union which was circulated to many members of this House. My immediate reaction, apart from the regret, was that this did no good at all to the union's cause. I quote that paragraph. 917The Channel Tunnel meets no real need; it will create only temporary jobs during construction and once in operation will destroy permanent jobs; it will not be in the interests of passengers or of the freight transport industry and its customers; it is highly likely to be unsafe; it will despoil a part of the British landscape valued both for its beauty and its history.Such a paragraph is far too destructive to be helpful. It is no way to make converts to its cause.
In conjunction with other members of your Lordships' House I, too, have studied what British Rail hope to achieve and the advantages they believe the tunnel will bring to railway passengers, manufacturers and people in commerce and industry who have goods to send or receive. The economic benefits have been stated many times and it seems to me that the research underlying this positive approach is every bit as worthy of consideration as that of the Transport and General Workers Union which I have quoted.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to quote from The Times of 11th February:The major argument for the tunnel is that it will provide important economic and political benefits, particularly jobs. John Moore, Secretary of State for Transport, has estimated that during construction, due to begin next autumn and to continue for five years, 100,000 man/years of work will be directly or indirectly stimulated in Britain alone.Much of this work will be in Kent, in the general area where the tunnel and its associated facilities are to be built, but much of the equipment will come from the heavy engineering industries in Scotland, the North and the Midlands, where unemployment is most acute.So far contracts worth about £40 million have been placed, or are about to be placed, by Trans Manche Link, the company which will build the tunnel for Eurotunnel. Roughly half the value of that work is in Scotland and in the next six months contracts worth another £40 million are expected to be placed in Britain, about £20 million-worth in the Midlands and the North.I want to emphasise that, because a great many people really believe what they have read or have been told: that this project will benefit the South-East to the detriment of other parts of the country. One of the reasons why I want this project to be accepted nationally is I believe it has a very great future for the whole country and it would be disastrous if we did not bring it home to people throughout the country.
Those are the messages that we who believe in the Channel Tunnel should be spreading with enthusiasm. I am sure that the success of the Eurotunnel and the financial affairs affecting Eurotunnel hang on its image. I want to regain the excitement of that image. I am sure that it can be sold if enough of us take a positive view—and I hope that I am preaching to the converted in this House.
I cannot do better than end by quoting a short paragraph from the leader in the Financial Times on 21st January:The decision to build the fixed link—and the fact that amicable agreement was reached between London and Paris—has a symbolic importance which goes far beyond the short-term political gains for the two governments. Its practicable value will be the greater if it helps to accelerate the removal of all the other barriers which hinder the movement of people and goods between the countries of Europe".That is my belief, too. That is why I join with others, including the management of British Rail and the trade unions in that industry, to urge that we in our House speed the Bill on its way so that it becomes law before any general election is held. My Lords, we have waited long enough.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Lord Hayter
My Lords, I appear before the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, as one of the unconverted. I am sorry, but I must explain my reasons. I take the House 10 years ahead when at last I have screwed up the courage to take my car through the Channel Tunnel. Having driven to the ominously named terminal park, I find there a mass of vehicles. Your Lordships will remember, if you have seen the literature in this context, that initially 1,000 vehicles every hour are expected to be using the tunnel each way. As I sit there I am reminded of when I was in Dunedin several years ago at the biggest slaughterhouse in the world, where 15,000 sheep are slaughtered each day. However, there had to be 45,000 sheep in the surrounding countryside to make sure that a three-day supply of sheep was available.
As I sat there in my car contemplating those matters, there was an IRA bomb warning. What else could the authorities do but evacuate the car park? It was a false alarm, of course. In the same way, if the IRA said that it had planted a bomb in one of the trains going through the tunnel, it would be a brave man who did not think twice before letting the trains proceed. So, back again to the station. Then I found that my efforts had been in vain because there was a strike.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Murray, is listening, but I would point out that if there are 30 different routes, as I believe there are at this moment, with ferries going across the Channel, a strike on one of those routes is not insuperable. But once all energies are concentrated on the one tunnel, the consequences may be serious. They were not, because the strike was settled straight away. The unions won. They had to. There was no alternative.
Into the tunnel I went. Then I thought about this debate and this Bill. There are government regulations for buildings, Customs, immigration and policing but there is not one word about fire in the Bill. A safety authority is mentioned four or five times but we do not know who its members will be, what qualifications they will have, what staff it will have and what training and equipment they will have. Above all, its hands are tied behind its back because the whole concept consists of having people in the cars, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray, pointed out. I cannot emphasise that point too much.
If the Government want to know some of the answers, they should listen to the experts. The noble Lord, Lord Murray, talked about some of the experts at the seminar. The curious thing is that passengers are barred from cars on ferries but the reverse is true on trains. As I know from my business experience, fires are usually started by people. I thought of the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Bill, which we discussed not so long ago, another place in which the Government had to lay down the law. I shall quote just two sentences from that debate. The first comes from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who said:We are in the habit of looking at legislation in regard to fire risk after some national disaster has occurred.That was true. The Minister of State, Home Office, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, correctly said:however hard we may try to predict the future, it has a nasty habit of causing to happen the one thing which, with the best will in the world, we did not foresee."—[Official Report, 3/2/87; cols. 137–8]919 This time the Government have every opportunity, if only they will listen, to foresee what may happen with regard to security. I am almost certain that it will happen. Let us hope that something can be done during one of the Bill's stages to ensure that passengers in the tunnel can go to the Continent in safety.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Lord Astor of Hever
My Lords, since this is the first time that I have had the honour to address your Lordships, I hope that the substance of my speech, its brevity and uncontroversial nature, will demonstrate my respect for this House. First, I must declare an interest. I am a resident of Kent, as were my grandfather and father. I have what I consider to be hereditary feelings towards the environmental beauty of my county; nevertheless, I should like to support the Bill, mindful that it has been the dream of first class minds for the past 150 years.
I am well aware that for many centuries the Channel has been a great defence for these islands; but the reasons which made invasions difficult equally make crossings to the Continent, at times, painful, tiring and frustrating. Having worked in France for the past 11 years and made countless crossings, often with my children, I am in favour of any healthy competition that will help increase comfort and efficiency, and reduce costs for passengers and freight.
I understand that British Rail believe that 45 per cent. of the potential passenger market exists to the north and west of London. I hope therefore that the relevant authorities will co-operate to make entry to and exit from all regions of Britain as quick and painless as possible, anticipating the removal of border controls with the Common Market.
I look forward to the day when, once again, trains will be the quickest and most comfortable way to travel directly from our major provincial city centres to the Continental capitals, bypassing London, taking traffic off the already crowded Kent roads and bringing our outlying regions closer to Europe. Logically, the motor-rail service should also be extended. The ultimate prospects held out by this enterprise are so beneficial to Britain that I hope that it has the wholehearted support not only of your Lordships' House but of the City and of the banking world.
It remains only for me to thank your Lordships for your indulgence to a maiden speaker.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Lord Pennock
My Lords, I have the happy responsibility of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, on the occasion of his maiden speech. I admired the moderation and breadth of his vision and the balance of his outlook. I have found that has not always been shared by the fellows and colleagues of his own county. I was tremendously impressed by his recognition of the value of the project to the whole of Britain. That augurs well for his future contributions in this House. I hope that he will continue to express them with the same balance, fluency and articulacy of expression.
In accordance with Standing Orders, I have a responsibility, possibly known to some of your 920 Lordships, to declare my interest as the current chairman of Eurotunnel. I acknowledge that responsibility with alacrity because, like the noble Baroness, I am excited by the project. I was excited by it when I took it on 12 months ago, as economically, geographically and historically, the most significant, crucial and uplifting project that we shall have for the rest of the century. Having worked most of my waking hours for the past 12 months on this project, that has become more and more my firm conviction.
One or two of my noble colleagues have referred to publicity and press reports. There have been reports of boardroom squabbles. Like the premature report of Mark Twain's death, they deserve a similar answer. If I am honest, it has not been the press statements which have appalled me, because I was able to recognise that some of those bore little veracity; it was the photographs. A far from ingratiating habit and custom is growing in our national press: to produce photographs to reflect the mood in some photogenic way of the alleged perpetrators of whatever outrage they expect us to be committing.
The consequencies of that are innumerable. Many of my closest friends rang up my wife to say, "Is he dying?" Three of my grandchildren wrote to me from school to say: "Grandfather, when we saw you at Christmas you were in very good health. Has something terrible happened meanwhile?".
Having listened to the debate so far, I have been left in no doubt of something which I knew already: that because this project is of such national importance, it requires the most penetrating searchlight at national level, at the place where issues of national importance should be debated, which is in these two Houses. We who are involved in the project require this testing. I believe that many of the intelligent comments and suggestions made today will be taken up by the Select Committee. I think that the project will emerge as a much stronger, a much more practical, and a much more well-recognised project throughout the nation as a result of this exercise.
It occurs to me that if I seek to give you my opinions, I should be demanding a response which echoes that historic phrase: "He would say that, wouldn't he?" I believe my task tonight should not be to give opinions but to give facts—facts as I know them, because I have been involved. I shall leave your Lordships to make your own judgments. I put those facts under some headings: the importance to Great Britain Ltd.; the splendid service which this operation, when complete, will give to people of all ages. I would say here in parenthesis that from many of the surveys we have carried out we have noticed that almost universally our young people under the age of 25 welcome the project with open arms. However, regrettably some of our older and, from today's debate, less intelligent members of our community over the age of 55 feel equally strongly the other way.
I assure the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that all our forecasts and all our beliefs for the future are not that we should replace the ferries, the hovercraft and obviously the air services, but that we should augment the services which they have to offer. We know that in the past 10 years passengers from our shores to Europe have doubled and freight has increased almost two and a half times. We believe that by the end of the century 921 those figures will at least have doubled on both fronts. All our profitability is based upon a recognition that there will be room for everyone. We shall certainly compete in order to improve all the services, but I have little doubt that we shall not be replacing any of those that exist at the present time.
The facts that I should like to give your Lordships concern the worries about defence, safety and the environment which have been raised by a number of noble Lords today. I hope to come to those matters later.
I should like to deal first with Great Britain Ltd. Many noble Lords have referred to jobs. The jobs are already occurring. We calculate that since last October, when we first raised the money for this great project, between 2,500 and 3,000 people have been employed. They are employed at places like the Howden engineering company in Glasgow which is building the boring machines, and the Hounslet engineering company in Leeds which is producing the drag locomotives to help us bring out the spoil. We are already discussing specifications with Foster and Yeoman to provide the aggregate for the cement that we need, and the factory is north of Oban. Jobs are already being created and your Lordships have heard the figures: 5,000 jobs will be created in building the tunnel; we calculate that there will be at least 10,000 jobs, perhaps over five years; and at the peak period up to 50,000 jobs will be created in supplying the equipment. From the figures that we have, we have no doubt that at least 3,000 to 3,500 people will be employed operating the tunnel. Noble Lords should remember that those figures will be exactly replicated on the other side of the Channel.
As some of those who do not agree with us have suggested, it is not enough to provide jobs in the short-term in order to justify a project of this immensity and longevity. As many noble Lords have already said, in the long-term 60 per cent, of our exports already go into the Community. They have steadily increased year by year since we joined the Community over 10 years ago. I recall very clearly that the figures before we joined the Community were round about 40 per cent. Therefore our exports have grown steadily and relentlessly in the world's single biggest market of 320 million people. To have an open gateway 24 hours a day to that single biggest market must surely put us in the strongest possible position to supply continually and much more cheaply than is the case at present.
It has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that this will be a two-way traffic, and so it will. All our arguments, because we live in a free-market economy, are based upon the premise that we must be competitive and that we must be able to compete in this market. The tunnel will give us a greater opportunity to compete, and possibly for the first time to compete on similar terms to our competitors who are already there.
I remind the House that for a nation of 54 million people to have this tremendous opportunity to move into a market of 320 million people should put the balance on our side. I conclude on this particular point by saying that recent figures published by the Government show that our productivity is now increasing quite steadily and quite consistently. That puts us in a very strong position to be able to compete 922 in the world's single biggest market, especially when we have an open gateway to it. So much, then, for Great Britain Ltd.
My Lords what are the services that this great opportunity will offer us? We have heard comments about driving one's car down to the terminal park, and about all sorts of uncomfortable things which might happen. Let me give you the other side of the penny. For the first time one will be able to drive down to Folkestone without having to book a passage three months ahead. We shall have trains taking 250 vehicles at a time from 10 or 12 different platforms, and all our figures show that one will not have to wait. The total time taken from arriving in Folkestone to arriving on the other side will be less than one hour.
Moreover, not only will one not have to wait, but upon finally getting on board one will have a comfortable passage. One can either sit in the car and be served, we hope, by air hostess-type young ladies who will provide coffee; or, if one prefers, one can get out of the car, walk around with the children and have coffee served at the bar. There will be television screens showing what the weather is like in France. One will not have to worry about the weather going across, and whether the traffic is delayed because of fog, winds or the various inclemencies which may occur at the time. On arrival at the other side after approximately 35 minutes, one will be able to drive straight off onto the motorway. There will be no worry about Customs because that will have been taken care of by both countries at this end.
On present-day prices we expect to be able to offer that service at 5 to 10 per cent. lower than the prices which are offered today. I have little doubt that our competitors will equal our prices. My contention will be that everyone will then get a better service. They can have their choice, and our convenience will supply a very great service to our nation.
Concerning the passengers for London, (Victoria). I regret to say that there are difficulties there which will be explained by the railway authorities when we come to the Select Committee. But, from Waterloo the businessman will be able to catch the 7 o'clock train to Paris or Brussels. He will be able to read his papers on the train and arrive in time for a meeting which can take all day. He can then catch the 6 o'clock train back. Perhaps he will have dinner on the train, and he can be back in time to have discussions with his wife before he goes to bed. If his wife wishes, she can go shopping in Paris or Brussels for the day in the same way that today she can travel to Birmingham or Manchester.
Finally, I come to the most important matter, and here I echo noble Lords who have already made this point. I took this job as a businessman for the advantages of freight and the advantages to our nation of the exports which will be created. The figures already put forward by British Rail (which I believe to be conservative) will increase the present 2 million tonnes of traffic to something approaching 8 million tonnes of traffic in a comparatively short time. They also calculate that that 8 million tonnes of traffic will take between 1,200 and 1,500 juggernauts off our motorways every day. So much then for the services which we offer.
923 Now I should like to come to the difficulty and the concerns which I know are shared by other noble Lords. I assure the House that we are already giving every attention to this matter because we recognise the importance of the problems which are shown. Many of such matters are related to our deep down atavistic instincts which have something to do with Hitler and Dunkirk; with Napoleon and Martello Towers; even something to do with Phillip II of Spain and the Spanish Armada. My wife has said to me that in a thousand years we have never been walked over by a foreign conqueror and it is all to do with that little bit of water. This is a point that I understand. However, to be frank, in defence terms this point now has no validity for the simple reason—as those of us who have been involved in the Community, as I have for the past 10 years, know—that it is probably the single greatest achievement of the Community that the nations of Europe will never go to war again. Such an occurrence is not quite inconceivable. If noble Lords say "What about the Eastern bloc or some other horrible story?" I regret to say that Nagaski or Hiroshima has proved that living on an island will not really make any difference. It is difficult to understand the validity of that concerning defence point. I understand the rationalisations of that deep down worry which raises itself in terms of safety and of the environment; and also in terms of rabies, and in terms of defence.
To deal first of all very briefly with safety, we are leaning over backwards to make sure that this is the safest form of travel that has ever existed. We already know from statistics that rail is a much safer form of traffic than any other known to man. We also know that the two tunnels which carry shuttles through the Alps, one of which has been in operation for 30 years and one for five or six years, have a not dissimilar system to ours except that ours will be much more modern and much more efficient. To date there have been 30 million cars through those tunnels. Each tunnel takes at least 2½ million cars per annum. There has never been a fire, or a collision or major accident on any of those shuttles so far. Ours will be more efficient and more up to date. We hope that it will be more able to satisfy noble Lords on what to us is a really crucial matter.
So far as concerns the environment, at the outset when I took on this great responsibility I said that we shall lean over backwards in order to satisfy and understand the worries of the local communities in the areas of Shepway and the Cheriton terminal. I can give many examples of how we are seeking to honour that undertaking. We had great problems about what is called the exit/entrance. Under our original plan this was to be in the North-West, and was to go straight on to a major motorway which then went to London. The local Shepway Council was very concerned about the matter. We debated the point with them in great depth. We have finally agreed to have a South-West and not a North-West entrance/exit in order that people coming from the shuttle will come close to Folkestone and will have the opportunity of seeing the charms and joys of Folkestone if they so wish. That alteration will cost many millions of pounds, but it is an example of how we are leaning over backwards.
924 Six months ago there were objections from the villages of Kent, quite understandably because we were taking shale from some of the disused collieries in order to provide the foundation for the Cheriton terminal. We were transporting the shale in heavy lorries through many villages which was causing great concern. Immediately we were informed of this matter we changed the method of transport to rail at a considerable increase in expense. We hope that the citizens in the villages of Kent were thereby satisfied. I can multiply these examples. I point them out as the simple truths which exist of our determination to continue to understand the worries of the local people.
I should like to dismiss the point concerning rabies very quickly. Last year I went to Japan and went into eight of the 18 tunnels that the Japanese have. Every engineer in charge of every tunnel independently said to me "no rats, no rodents, no dogs, no cats, no foxes, no animals of any kind ever come into a tunnel, for the simple reason there is no food there and they know it. They never never come near it" However, because of the sensibilities of the great British public, noble Lords can rest assured that we shall have deep pits, electrified fences, electronic sensor devices and everything known to man to make sure that there are no foxes running through the 50 kilometres at whatever miles per hour they care to make it.
Finally, there are the questions concerning defence, security and terrorism. We have already taken on board as our chief of security, the Air Commodore who was in charge of security in the RAF. He is already involved in supplying security services and is expressly there to make sure that in the design the protection of the tunnel is important. Terrorism and security are of enormous importance, but they are not reasons for not having the tunnel. If we believe that this tunnel is good for Great Britain Ltd., we cannot possibly put terrorism forward as a reason for not having it. We would be playing into the hands of the terrorists if we were to do that. We have recognised this problem from the outset, and we are going to do everything in our power to show you, as we shall show you, that this is a problem with which we can deal. In saying this, I hope that the fears shared by noble Lords and the nation can be easily stilled.
There have been a number of comments about sitting in cars. Information from our safety experts—and we have a significant array—is that if you are sitting in your car it is a better form of safety than if you are away from it. The figure of 45,000 fires concern cars that were either being driven or had switches turned on and the fires occurred on them. They bear no relation to the facts as we know them.
My understanding concerning ferries is that passengers have to leave cars for the simple reason that if there is a major accident they have to be near the lifeboats. That is a problem which does not occur with us. I repeat what I said earlier: the facts and figures as we know them are that this will be a very safe form of travel indeed; but believe me we are doing everything in our power to make it ever safer and safer.
I conclude with the final question, which is the question of finance. This is going to be a major exercise, a major operation, with us in the next few months. When I was originally involved in this 925 problem I said firmly that it was the technological excitement—the thought of trains at 100 miles an hour, with 250 cars 40 metres under the sea bed, travelling in a tunnel for 50 kilometres—that was absolutely electrifying. What I have also found is that for a company to form itself with no resources, no staff, no proven track record, and to raise £5 billion in markets across the world in both equity and loans in a period of 18 months, starting from scratch, is a great tribute to private enterprise.
It has never happened before in history, and we have already come a long way. First, 40 banks across the world—the Japanese being particularly in evidence here, as they are planning to provide almost one-third of the finance—have given us confirmatory letters that, having read our project, they support it. Bankers are like bookies, and they are now proceeding to lay off. They are now seeking to syndicate to another 120 banks across the world to get them to participate in the loan. That is an exercise which gives us tremendous challenges, and we are busily employed meeting them.
As your Lordships know, we raised £250 million in October last year. I would remind your Lordships that 110 institutions are already supporting us in that £250 million, and that was no mean achievement. Finally, we then have to raise the £750 million to provide the £1 billion of equity along with the £4 billion of loans. That is an exercise which will take place within the next few months.
It will be challenging. I am convinced that our nation begins to understand this project more and more, and that because it is so exciting, because it is so good for our nation, we are going to win through. For myself, after a period of some adversity I am immensely heartened by the way in which this House so far, regardless of party, has expressed its firm resolve to support this great project. Our foreign contributors, our foreign lenders, will be exceedingly impressed by the debate which has gone on so far in this House. I thank your Lordships for it and hope that it will continue.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, was attempting to be humorous when he described people with reservations about the Channel Tunnel Bill as less intelligent members of our community, and over the age of 55. But referring to people in that way smacks somewhat of the arrogance of the City of London. The tragedy about this Bill is that that is where it originated. It originated from the private sector. It should not really be called the Channel Tunnel Bill, if I may quote from the last speaker. He said that because of the national importance of this scheme a searchlight of penetration must be put upon it by this House. That is its national importance. But one would think, looking at the Government ranks, that it was not of so much importance.
The Select Committee in another place said that it did not consider that the overall implications of the Channel Tunnel should be looked at by it from the point of view of the national interest. That is what it said. The Government have consistently refused a public inquiry. I make no apologies for the fact that 926 during my speech I may mention the regions. I have had a lot of that experience lately. We had the situation where Canary Wharf would have been approved just like that if I had not thought of suggesting to the committee that perhaps there were other considerations to bear in mind when undertaking that kind of development.
To hear the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, and Eurotunnel—they are the experts; they know all about it—anybody who does not agree with them is less intelligent, and over 55. There is nothing wrong with being less intelligent and over 55 if you are a plumber from Liverpool. I consider it a downright insult to refer to the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, or anyone else in that way. The noble Lord says no.
Let me say how I think this matter ought to have been handled. There ought to have been a proposal to improve the external links of this island with the rest of the world. I am sorry that the noble Baroness has gone, because I too would like to see a proposal of this sort looked at from a national point of view and agreed from a national point of view. Unfortunately I am unable to do that, because this nation does not consider itself as one nation. The North-South divide that has been mentioned is real, and it will get worse because of the way this tunnel has been planned.
Let me give your Lordships some examples of the intelligence of Eurotunnel. I should have thought, after all the academic circles that I have read and listened to over 40-odd years in local government and in planning circles, that you could not rightly condemn the academic world in Great Britain as unintelligent, or less intelligent than anyone else. They have just as much intelligence. Yet when Eurotunnel referred to the question of opposition because of the regions, and to the benefits being concentrated in south-east England, they said:On reflection, the rationale for this concern is not clear.All I say to Eurotunnel is that it is just about time that they forgot their own immediate interests and started looking at the development of this nation as an economic force and in other ways, because the rationale for the objection to the concentration in the South-East—and not just the tunnel, but including the tunnel—is quite clear to anybody with eyes who wants to see.
The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, and I have no doubt members of his board and other Members concerned in this matter, blinded by the prospect of developments that they will carry out, just do not want to see the other side of the story. I should have liked to see a Bill to improve the external transport relationships with the rest of the world.
Is anybody who is supporting this Bill prepared to tell me that they have examined the consequences on the North-East of England of establishing such a useful link across the Channel? More important, if the consequences are adverse how do they propose to rectify those adverse circumstances? Exactly the same thing happens to the part I am concerned about, and that is the North-West, and Merseyside.
Eurotunnel, with their wonderful appreciation of all the issues involved, wrote to me today. They must have done it today, because they said that they 927 believed that my name was down on the list to speak in the debate. They said:Perhaps you would be interested"—listen to this from intelligent people—in our paper that deals with the consequences on the North-West.Of course I was interested. I was very interested. What do I find when I read their paper? First of all, the nearest I can get to any jobs being created is £40,000, out of millions, for buying some electricity cables. That is the nearest I can get to the North-West. Unfortunately, it is in Wrexham. I do not know what the people of Wrexham would say if these Welsh people are now being transported to the North-West of England. But that is the level of intelligence of Eurotunnel. There are many more.
Last week I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority and pointed out that some public money would be spent—I address this point to the Minister—on schemes that are made necessary for the Channel Tunnel. There will be £390 million from British Rail which can only be used on the tunnel. There will be £40-odd million through transport supplementary grant to roads. I quote from the Kent County Council.a grant for roads made necessary for the tunnel".If that is not public money being spent for the benefit of the Channel Tunnel, then I do not know what the English language is about.
The Minister opened his speech by referring to Clause 1 of the Bill. It cannot be over-emphasised, he said, that there would be no recourse whatever to public funds. That was Clause 1 when the Bill was first drafted, I suppose by the Government draftsman. Certainly the Opposition would not have drafted it.
Halfway through the Committee stage in another place an amendment was introduced to Clause 2. Clause 2, as I read it—I may be wrong, being less intelligent—allows the Government to make payments in relation to the tunnel for the benefit of the concessionaires. The Minister is busy looking at it now, but what does that mean? Will he spell it out in these terms? Will he today, before going to the box and consulting other colleagues, tell the House when he winds up that no public money will be spent on infrastructures that will be employed by or built only for the sole purposes of the tunnel? I accept the Minister's argument, in a letter in response to my request, that the Department of Transport expects to spend £131 million on improvements to the A.20 and M.20 which will become the prime routes between London and the Channel ports. Of course we all accept that. That infrastructure is needed for other things than the tunnel and it is very necessary.
But the Minister goes to say that Kent County Council has published plans to spend £46 million at early 1986 prices—perhaps the Government think inflation will go down, but it will not—on improvements to local roads which they see as necessary to cope with the traffic generated by the tunnel. That is a specific requirement for the tunnel and it is being paid for. When I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority on the seventh of this month I asked whether this was not a misleading advertisement by Euroroute because it says: 928Don't be alarmed, not one penny of public money will be involved in our project".They might say that the project starts right at the portal, but it does not, does it? There are the marshalling yards and something else that link them to the motorway. It would be absolutely ridiculous to have a project that started just at the portal or just at the marshalling yards and was not connected to the national road link.
I want from the Government an assurance that any money spent only for the use of the tunnel will not be funded from public money. I pointed out in an exchange only a fortnight ago with the Secretary of State for Employment, or unemployment, that more public money was being spent on the Channel Tunnel than on the whole of regional aid in the North of England. He disputed that, but here it is. I do not see how on earth the Government can deny it. If we do not have this understood in the Bill as a principle—I am not dealing with amendments—then it will mean that less money will go to the more deserving and more deprived areas of this land. That is not good for the nation.
Rationale is a wonderful word to describe the fears of people. When I first addressed this House on regional planning policy nine years ago, I pointed out two things. The first was that we, in Merseyside had been concerned for a long time—over 40 years—about the drift to the South. Secondly, we believed that it would accelerate and that some business men, with interests in France and in the South-East of England, would ultimately finish up on the north coast of France, for several obvious reasons. It is handier to get to the south of France, for one.
We were concerned, each time the situation worsened, that something should be done to redress the balance. For over 40 years nothing has been done. Certainly nothing has been done in the last nine years. The rationale is not that a tunnel will damage anyone in the North-West of England, not that building a tunnel will damage anyone here; the rationale is that free enterprise, the businessmen that the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, was boasting about, will follow and concentrate near the tunnel.
Let me make a forecast. Let us see whether I am right five years after the tunnel is built. The drift from Merseyside will be worse. What has Eurotunnel done to convince some of the business men in Merseyside that they have no fears? According to my reading of a chamber of commerce report this morning, people have been assured that Eurotunnel is looking at the possibility of freight services straight from Merseyside into the tunnel. I am being honest about this because I have not seen the full draft of the report. I do not know whether Eurotunnel has also told business men on Merseyside that the service is subject to Customs and Excise providing the facilities on the trains. That is another question for the Minister. Will he tell us what the Government's attitude is to the provision of customs facilities on trains, say, from Liverpool? That is the area in respect of which Eurotunnel was speaking; the same is true of Manchester, Edinburgh or Glasgow. How many people are the Government prepared to provide? According to my reading of the Select Committee report on the matter, it looks very clear to me that the Government will not increase 929 customs staff or move any around; so those people in Merseyside who have been listening to Eurotunnel had better start asking questions. They should not believe everthing they see or hear. They had better start asking serious questions about whether the implication of a promise to provide through services from Merseyside is realistic. I do not believe it is.
It would be unfair, although in some ways it would be quite fair. As the noble Baroness has already told us, there are only two less intelligent people over 55 who are having reservations about the tunnel. So perhaps if I have taken a little longer than some of those supporting it, that would be fair. I have with me today the Select Committee report from another place and I am not sure whether we are in order in discussing that; I am not sure whether they would be offended.
Let me turn to paragraph 222. I can recommend it to the Minister if he has not yet found time to go through all the report. It took me a week. It reads:In our view regional, industrial and economic policy is a matter for the House as a whole to consider.That is the other place. I do not know whether it did or not. I have not managed to get through the whole of the reading material relating to the other place.While we understand the reason for the Government establishing a joint consultative committee to consider the impact of the tunnel on Kent, we have our doubts about the wisdom of considering economic policy in relation solely to the immediate areas affected in Kent.Another question to the Minister; does the Minister agree with that? Are the Government prepared to undertake that kind of an inquiry? After all, it was a Select Committee with a majority of Conservatives on it, so perhaps they had sufficient intelligence to see a problem, and to recognise a problem, and to realise in fact that they should look at it.
Appendix 38 refers back to the question of money; whether or not we are going to give our money to Eurotunnel. In paragraph 4 it says:The Government has therefore, considered the matter afresh, and has concluded that the most satisfactory way of ensuring evenhandedness is to provide that the Concessionaires shall not be disadvantaged by being prevented from receiving assistance which would be available",to the other modes of operation. In other words, they should not be disadvantaged by having refused to them assistance that would be given to the ferry operators. That is fair enough. But, as I pointed out before, there are certain things that are going to be paid for, according to my reading, by the Government solely for the benefit of the concessionaires of the tunnel, and in fact the new amendment that the Government brought in allows them to do that. So before we can get into Committee, can we please have an answer to those questions?
I have taken 18 minutes. I will not abuse my time, but as I said, there are other angles, and I do plead with Eurotunnel to look at the other reasons, to look at the reservations, because it will not do Eurotunnel any good at all if because of the divisions in our society we finish off as the poor relations of Europe. If anybody wants a rationale for that, then they can look at Ireland and see the difference between the North and South. They can look at Italy and compare Milan with Sicily. Need I say more? Need I tell the Eurotunnel experts that one of the major problems faced by the Common Market is described as the "peripheral areas 930 problem"? Is it not an indication that relates to economic activities such as are going on in the South- East—Canary Wharf, the new London airport, and all the others? A noble Lord is now saying: "He's trotting it out again", but he is forgetting that I promised to trot it out again.
Is it not a fact that free enterprise without restriction will move to where the money is, and to hell with the hindmost? I first had my lesson of regional "undevelopment", if I may use that word, when I was serving my time to a plumber at the age of 17. I have told the House this before, but it stands repeating. I was 17, and the White Star Line decided for their economic reasons that it was better to have shipping going through the Channel than going to Liverpool. That was my first experience of the move of economic forces from the North to the South—and I am not going to tell you how old I am, but it is a long time ago—and it has gone on ever since.
Let me finish with one procedural point. If I understand rightly what the Minister said, this Bill after we have finished with it—and it looks to me as though it is going to get plenty of support—is going to go to a Select Committee. The responsibility of that Select Committee will be to look at the hybrid part of the Bill, as I understand it. If I am wrong, I will thank the Minister to tell me I am wrong. When they have finished looking at that and the consequences for all the individual petitioners, it will come back here, and then I understand from my colleague on the Front Bench that a Motion will have to be passed committing the Bill to the Committee of the Whole House. The Chief Whip nods, so I assume I am right up to now. It is marvellous how one can assume the technicalities of this House if one tries hard enough.
The question I want to ask is this. If it does go to a Committee of the Whole House and I move an instruction to that Committee, as I intend to, in line with certain things that were said in this Select Committee report, to discuss possible consequences of adverse effects upon the regions arising from this Bill—will I be in order in doing that? If the House agrees, it will be in order for the Committee to do that. The difficulty will be that if it is a Committee of the Whole House we shall not be able to have the experts in, or will we? I do not think we will. If we cannot, may I suggest to the Minister that from a reasonable point of view it would be right for this House, not to deal with the matter in a Committee of the Whole House, but to send it to another committee, so that in fact it can look at some of the, as I consider them to be, urgent problems. I intend to move that Motion for an instruction, and I intend to move it on the grounds—I will not list them—that at least 40 people, Members of this House, including the Leader of the House, have over the years said that these problems I have been talking about need looking at. The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, himself said that this very important project should have a searchlight focused upon it so that we all know the real issues behind the question not just of building a tunnel, but of transforming completely our relationship with Europe.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, this is an exceptionally important debate. We have already had two excellent 931 maiden speeches, and we have listened to a very persuasive speech by the chairman of Eurotunnel, the noble Lord, Lord Pennock.
I saw yesterday in the paper, as I am sure many of your Lordships did, a full page advertisement by Eurotunnel, which I suppose was the first fruits of their 10 million public relations campaign, in which they said, "Our tunnel sees the light of day in 1993". Some other hand appeared to have put there a little star, and then in the margin, in the tiniest print that almost needs a magnifying glass to see, it read, "Subject to Parliamentary approval". That is what we are having to do. We are the fine print.
However, I must say that various aspects of this project make me a little uneasy. I suppose I must be one of the less intelligent people over 55 mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pennock. The first is I was a member of the sub-committee of your Lordships' Committee on the European Communities which reported last year on European Maritime Transport Policy, and we were all immensely struck by the headlong decline in the British merchant fleet from 1,600 ships 12 years ago to some 500 today, and by the catastrophic fall in the number of seafarers from over 100,000 ten years ago to 30,000 today. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, said, many good authorities think that the Channel Tunnel may make this much worse; it may have a damaging effect on our national ferry fleet and many of our ports may follow the port of Liverpool into disuse and dereliction. As a maritime nation, we cannot be indifferent to that.
I read very carefully the debates in another place and I was struck by what was said by Mr. Jonathan Aitken about our national interests in relation to those of France. He pointed out that at present 72 per cent. of the revenue from cross-Channel traffic comes to Britain; 12 per cent. goes to France and the rest is Belgian. When the tunnel comes into operation the revenues will be split 50–50, so he pointed out that in one leap France gains 38 per cent. and we lose 22 per cent., which does not seem much of a bargain.
I am also concerned about the environmental issues and the absence of a public inquiry. However, I wish to concentrate today on one aspect; namely, safety, which has already been spoken about by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest. I heard the other day on the radio an intervew with my distinguished former colleague Sir Nicholas Henderson, who was being asked about the problems of the board of Eurotunnel, on which of course he sits, and about the prospects for raising further sums of money. He said that he thought it was essential for Eurotunnel to present a plausible project. In my view he was right.
However, it seems to me that in one important aspect the project in its present form is not plausible, and that aspect is safety. I do not think that so far that matter has been fully enough considered. I have the impression that it has been skimped. I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, said a short while ago. However, I am afraid that I was not wholly persuaded. I do not think that the parallel with the Swiss tunnels is wholly valid. Those tunnels are of course far shorter than the proposed Channel Tunnel.
932 Last October I, like many of your Lordships, received a letter from Eurotunnel about the progress of the project. In that letter Eurotunnel said that they had undertaken a comprehensive safety review of the tunnel design and operation. I wrote back and asked if they would send me details of that and their comments on the concerns that had been expressed about (a) fire risks; (b) differences between the safety precautions required on ferries and those to be required in the tunnel; and (c) terrorist attacks and whether security precautions against those could be adequate without affecting the speed of loading the trains. If I had received a reply to that letter I might not have needed to make a speech this evening. However, I cannot remember or trace any reply and I am sorry that I did not receive one.
There are two safety risks that seem to me particularly worrying. The first is that of terrorism. I listened to the exchange between the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the right reverend Prelate. When I began my professional life no one thought anything about terrorism; it was not a question on the agenda at all. When I ended my professional life, like many of my colleagues I had to have a bodyguard whereever I went. Terrorism is now a problem with which we are all familiar. Even the most stringent precautions are not always effective. You will remember that last April the effort to put a bomb on an El Al aircraft by the terrorist Hindawi very nearly succeeded. The bomb was taken through all the security measures at Heathrow and was only discovered by the vigilance of an El Al guard.
We have our own terrorist problems in this country and it is the same in France. In France there were 13 bombs in 1986, resulting in 10 deaths and 243 injured. As we all know, terrorists seek publicity and they look for spectacular targets—for example, Harrods, the Household Cavalry and the Cabinet at a party conference. What more spectacular than the Channel Tunnel? It will be an obvious target for them.
As the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, has explained, the promoters seek rapid, hassle-free transit. I have been told by Eurotunnel that they expect the total time between leaving the motorway in England and getting to the start of the motorway in France to be about an hour and quarter. That would be very fast, very convenient and helpful to travellers. However, I cannot see how that can be compatible with thorough security measures. Therefore, I believe that the tunnel would be wide open to terrorist attack and that such an attack is all too likely to take place. The director of the British Safety Council is reported as saying:From a terrorist's point of view it's a soft target. There's no way you can can check out a train every few minutes accurately".The second real hazard, as I am sure everyone will agree, is fire. There are between 40,000 and 50,000 car fires a year in the United Kingdom. There were 191 train fires in the United Kingdom in 1985, and 168 in 1984. Therefore, fires happen. The noble Lord, Lord Murray, has told us of some of the aspects that worry him, and they worry me too.
I think that the tunnel regulations should be even stricter than those that are enforced at present on ferries. We must remember that there is ventilation only at each end of the tunnel, that there will be up to 10 trains in the tunnel at once travelling at speeds up 933 to 100 miles per hour and leaving at intervals of as little as three minutes. Apparently the car doors cannot be fully opened in the shuttle. Therefore, if there is a fire or an explosion and people try to move along the sides of cars, they will find it extremely difficult. There is the problem of smoke and toxic fumes, and we saw what they can do when some of our warships were hit during the Falklands War. Therefore, the prospect of a serious accident is grim.
The Government said in another place (at col. 615 of the Commons Hansard):The Anglo-French bodies concerned with safety in the Channel tunnel will consider whether the arrangements that Eurotunnel have proposed are acceptable, rather than analysing variations which have not been proposed".In my view that is the wrong way round. It is hard to conceive that these safety bodies will in practice call for a radical redesign of the tunnel. What seems to me to be needed is, first, a comprehensive safety study and, then, consequential arrangements.
The fact that it is becoming clear that safety has not been fully enough considered may account for the problems that Eurotunnel are evidently encountering—for example, the difficulty they had in raising £200 million last November which needed, as the Financial Times points out today, some arm-twisting by the Bank of England, and their much publicised efforts to find a successor to the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, as chairman, which do not appear so far to have been successful.
It is clear that sober and cautious fund managers are perhaps beginning to look on the project in its present form as somewhat rash and speculative and realise that one major disaster could cause it to founder and all the money to be lost. Our business in this House is to ensure that anything that is built is as safe as it is humanly possible to make it. We have a responsibility to those who may travel through it. We can fulfil that responsibility by amending the Bill to ensure that there is an unprejudiced, thorough, comprehensive and authoritative study of safety requirements before Eurotunnel goes any further in working out the transit arrangements. I am convinced that we ought to do no less. Safety considerations cannot just be tacked on as a cosmetic afterthought. An underground accident in an enclosed tunnel can be particularly horrible. We must ensure that considerations of safety come first.
§ 7.58 p.m.
The Earl of Darnley
My Lords, I venture to speak on the Second Reading of the Channel Tunnel Bill as a Kentish man who worked for many years in the cross-Channel industry and who has a certain knowledge of the likely impact of a tunnel in Kent. I am chiefly concerned about three aspects of the proposal: first, that the tunnel should be seen as a means of strengthening the ties between this country and Europe, rather than as an alternative mode of crossing the stretch of water that divides us; secondly, that the principle of fair competition between the tunnel and existing sea and air operators is maintained; and, thirdly, that the local environmental and economic consequences of a fixed link are properly resolved before it is built.
The construction of a tunnel between the United Kingdom and France has always been accepted as a 934 potential competitor to the cross-Channel ferries but the impact of previous schemes would have been almost entirely on rail-linked traffic. In the 1970s version a new line was to have been built from Cheriton to London, which would have bypassed the congested South Eastern railway system and permitted direct access from the Continent to the main rail network of this country, allowing the benefits of a fixed link to be felt in every part of the land.
The other important difference between this project and its predecessors is that the 1993 tunnel will have been entirely funded by privately-raised capital. These two factors together would seem to have concentrated attention on the tunnel as a means of crossing the Channel rather than focusing on the greater economic benefits that should stem from improved communications between the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.
Since the mid- 1970s cross-Channel ferries have become much more efficient, and the terminals in Calais and Dover have vied with each other to provide bigger and better facilities to handle the increased volumes of traffic. So successful have they become that it is now only the minority who make bookings in advance, and delays have been reduced to a minimum. Ships have become faster and larger. This means that they are more reliable and their owners can afford to carry passengers, cars and freight vehicles at much lower fares than was ever possible with the older generation of ferry.
If the tunnel is to compete with the ferry of today in this highly price-sensitive business it must obviously adopt a similar fare structure or fail to achieve its market share, let alone contribute to the increase of that market. The fact is that an enormous additional capacity will become available on the market all at once, and the potential investor will have to be convinced that the volume of available traffic will show a corresponding increase. If this is not to be the case the existing traffic will have to be shared between the new shuttle and the established operators. This can only lead to lower fares and lower rates of return on investment.
Once the tunnel has been built there is no doubt that it will immediately become a proud national asset, even if the funding does come entirely from the private sector. The shareholders will obviously have their own investment criteria, and I am concerned as to what will happen to the tunnel if the original concession fails to reach its financial objectives. It is hardly conceivable that such a massive and prestigious international project will be allowed to lapse into disuse or be closed down until another concessionaire can be found to take on the financing under the original conditions.
In spite of assurances given in the Bill that fair competition will always be maintained, there must nevertheless be the underlying worry that the sponsoring governments would be tempted to mount a rescue operation to allow the tunnel to continue to operate should it get into financial difficulties. Were such special funding to be made available to the tunnel both the airlines and the ferry operators would find themselves severely disadvantaged.
Finally, I would like to mention three points of concern relating to the impact of the tunnel on Kent. 935 The road network can and does already cope with significant volumes of cross-Channel traffic, and should be even more effective once the planned improvements to the M.20 and other access roads have been completed. Traffic will flow westwards as far as the M.25 with ease, but thereafter the A.2 and A.20 routes into London are already severely congested and urgently in need of modernisation.
Secondly, Kent is the garden of England and is proud and jealous of its unspoilt areas of natural beauty. The proposed Cheriton terminal with its associated works will virtually eliminate one such area, and every effort must be made to reduce the visual impact and environmental damage caused by it. Thirdly, East Kent is an area of high unemployment. There is little or no industry and such employment opportunities as there are depend largely on the cross-Channel industry and tourism.
If the advent of the tunnel has the effect of reducing dramatically the number of ferry-related jobs and the passengers using them the effect on both will be severe. It is certainly true that the arrival of a massive civil engineering project will create a short-term availability of jobs for people with the required skills. However, by 1993 the gangs will have been disbanded, leaving the tunnel in operation and every likelihood of a net loss of jobs in the industry. By moving the terminal inland local tourism will suffer, as potential visitors will be steered away from the coast and deeper into England or directly on to France through the tunnel.
I have tried to be constructive in my remarks today because I believe that it must be in our best interests to strengthen our physical and economic ties with the Continent of Europe. My concern is that the project we are discussing today does not go far enough and may fail to achieve the potential of what is essentially an exciting and imaginative idea.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, it is my privilege to congratulate another maiden speaker on a first-class speech. I am glad to say that I knew Adam Bligh when he was a young boy of nine years old. He has always been associated with Kent and he quite rightly chose, as one of his main subjects, the effect on Kent of this tremendous project we are debating. I hope we shall hear him on many a future occasion, because he brings with him a great deal of wisdom and a great deal of enthusiasm. He is an active farmer, and we do not have all that number of professional and practising farmers in this House and present as often as he is. I am sure that we all hope to hear him again very shortly.
I should like also to add my congratulations to those of others to the noble Lord, Lord Pennock. Much of what he has said was going to be said, though much less well, by myself and therefore it will enable me to shorten my speech.
Regarding the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that he would like to see the Treasury behind us, I think it was Hilaire Belloc—was it not?—who said:Always keep a hold of NurseFor fear of getting something worse.936 I think we would always wish to keep hold of the hand of nurse for fear of getting something worse. We would all like the Treasury to stand behind us—I wish that my overdraft had the Treasury standing behind it—but there is one grave disadvantage of having the Treasury behind you. It has happened in the past: the Treasury bring pressure on the government of the day to stop you, and so sometimes do the IMF. If the members of the Labour Party were here in greater numbers they could bear witness to the number of public undertakings which had to be stopped or throttled back as a result of Treasury pressure. So I am delighted that we have not got the Treasury standing behind us because I have a horrible feeling that at some time during the construction period they would say, "Throttle back; stop it; undermine it; do other things." So I am pleased that this is being financed by the private sector—and long may it continue.
I initiated a debate in 1973 and I am sorry that that tunnel was cancelled—again, I suspect, as a result of Treasury pressure—when it was going quite well. However, I ought first to declare an interest. I have had an interest ever since then in the Channel Tunnel. I confess that I am an enthusiast for it: it is a project which is good for Britain and good for every part of Britain, which is what is important. However, as I say, I ought to declare an interest. I am a director of a public relations company and I think we have 120 clients in this country, one of which is the Eurotunnel Group. So I have a very small interest, but it has not in any way financially affected my remuneration because the group is one of 120 clients.
I think the need to proceed now is even stronger than it was in the case of the last tunnel in 1974 and 1975. That is so for three reasons. First, there has been the growth of our exports and trade with the Common Market countries, which is expected to hit 70 per cent. within the next few years and before the Channel Tunnel is completed. Secondly, I value, as other speakers have, the connection between British Rail and the European railways. When you look at the ambitious plans that the Europeans have for speeding up and streamlining their rail service, you realise how desperately important it is that we should be connected with that and not insulated entirely from it. Thirdly, jobs will be created by this undertaking.
Of course there will be competition between the tunnel and trucks on the road and airline profits; but that is good. It is good for us and for others. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, has had to leave her place because she has been saying, quite rightly, that the charges the airlines are making to places like Brussels, Paris and other capitals are outrageous. We want some competition to force them to come down, even if the European Community cannot achieve this. I enthusiastically support it, and I support it at this time because I think rail freight is an absolutely vital factor for Britain in the future. How nice it is to see—because sometimes there are differences of opinion—that on this issue, at this time, British Rail and its trade unions are solidly behind us. We have their backing. I picked on one small point of difference from the Liberal Party and I think we had the same support from the Opposition Front Bench. The Labour Party are basically behind it. They have reservations; every Opposition must have reservations. 937 No doubt they will try to improve the Bill during its course. The Alliance parties said they were basically behind it too. We in this part of the House, the Government, are basically behind it. Here is a moment when we need all three parties to be united.
It is sad that British Rail carries only 2 million tonnes of freight a year whereas 50 million tonnes go by other methods. Only 2 per cent. of freight moved around this country and exported goes by rail. Eurotunnel expects to jump this from 2 million to 7.2 million in the first year the tunnel is open, and thereafter it believes that 10 years later it will be carrying 11.6 million tonnes of freight by rail.
The French have been more imaginative, somehow. I do not know what it is, and we can find many reasons, but they have undertaken a lot of very, very ambitious projects since the end of the war. We must state that fact. I know it was a natural to go from Paris to Lyons but it is a pretty formidable effort to have trains running—and making tremendous profits—at 150 miles per hour.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, would the noble Lord acknowledge that the French Treasury actually put some money into that project?
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I have not looked behind the scenes; it is bad enough to unravel our own accounts in this country without having to try to unravel the French ones as well. The noble Lord may have a good point, but the fact is that they have undertaken projects and they are now aiming to have these fast trains going to the South-West, to Bordeaux. They are aiming to have one going north to Lille. If we go ahead they are going to make sure that there is a branch off to the north-west from Lille and another branch to the north-east from Lille which will go off through Belgium to Brussels—and that is one that many of us will take—and on to Cologne and Western Germany. This is an ambitious programme and we must be connected with it. I am sure that that is essential.
I now turn briefly to jobs. The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, has dealt with this point. I underline the fact that extra jobs—3,000 now, another 5,000 very shortly and then 10,000 indirect jobs—will be created. In fact, he mentioned 50,000 man-years of jobs at the peak point. I should like for a moment—because there has been a lot of knocking the Channel Tunnel—to draw attention to how this job creation prospect compares with the sea ferries. The employers have stated in public that their ferries are overmanned. They cannot come to agreement with their trades unions. They would like to get rid of 4,000 jobs. I cannot find a single sea ferry which has been built in this country in the past 10 years. The two big ferries which they are going to bring on next year or later this year were built in West Germany. I would put it to the House that here we are creating jobs and the sea ferries are not creating jobs of that stature, or that dimension, in this country.
What is good about the jobs we are creating is that they will occur all over the country. If you look at the investment of £700 million in material you will find that on precast tunnel linings, for example, there is £130 million to be spent in the Midlands and in 938 northern England; for the shuttle rolling stock, there is £120 million to be spent in the Midlands and North-West England, including electric locomotives in the same areas; in power, signalling, and lighting, £100 million is to be spent on jobs in the Midlands, in the North-East and the South-West of England. This is what is good, and I am sure that this is as welcome to the Labour Party as it is to the Government. This is creating jobs all over the United Kingdom. It is not concentrated in the South-East and it will bring benefits to Scotland and Clydeside. I hope that when my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, winds up he will acknowledge that this is good for Scotland from whence he comes. He still retains his accent, though I do not quite understand how after so many years this side of the Border! British Rail is going to invest £400 million. This is good again. It is a very substantial investment.
Who is opposing this? Why? At least it is no longer the defence people. In the last century it was always the defence people, and just before the World War I it was the defence argument which suddenly stopped the tunnel. That has been dropped and everyone recognises it. Environmentalists? It is not Kent County Council, as my noble friend Lord Darnley said. They approve of it and they are making tremendous efforts, as is Eurotunnel itself, to meet the points of the environmentalists. the Fire Brigades Union? To put not too fine a point on it, they have been under rather Left-wing control for about 20 years and the Left-wing always knocks anything that is good for Britain.
I should think that both road and rail are going to gain from this tunnel. A point has been made about danger. There are tunnels all over the world. I have a great list of them here. I do not want to take up too much time. Japan has 18 tunnels. Two alpine tunnels have been mentioned and I have been through two that carry cars. One has been operating for 34 years. I know it is shorter, but it has been going for 34 years; the other for 27 years. The first of those is now carrying 600,000 cars a year. Here we are saying, "Oh, but it might catch fire". Not one single fire, as far as I can find out, has actually started in either of those alpine tunnels over all that time.
Please give this project a chance. Please do not always knock, knock, knock at everything that Britain wants to do for the good of Britain. People have said that perhaps our civil engineering firms, which are so closely concerned, are not up to it. I have been looking into those figures and I find that 9 per cent. of the world's civil engineering projects are won by UK companies. France is high up with almost the same percentage; West Germany has less than half of that. We are the people with the knowledge and with the desire to get on with it. We want to invest in it.
I looked also at some of these projects, and you may say that this is a dual project between France and ourselves. You only have to look at the Tornado, which is the most complicated operation with four different companies putting together the most sophisticated aircraft; and you can look all over the world. In Egypt there is the Cairo waste water project. There are 12 different UK contractors cocerned in that, all working together on a total of £0.8 billion-worth of contracts. We have experience of this sort of work. I am sure we will do it well.
939 I come now to finance. It has been said that we are not going to raise the wind, that we are not going to raise the finance. I find that difficult to believe. After all, some very ambitious projects have been launched recently. There has been the privatisation of BT. That raised £3.9 billion. British Gas, in December alone, raised £5.4 billion. British Airways only last week—and I have applied for shares and none of us yet knows whether we have got them—raised £900 million. It should not be impossible, therefore, to raise the funds for a project as worthy and as necessary for Britain as this, particularly because the planners are taking such infinite trouble about fire, accident and dangers in general; all these are being attended to and we have a much, much improved technology in these fields over what we had in the past.
I would urge this House of course to look at the Bill, look at it carefully: revise it, that is our job; improve it, that is our job. Please, however, let us say that this is good for Britain and let us not give others a chance, because if we do not go ahead the French are perfectly prepared to finance the whole thing. Japan is anxious to come in and pay for it. Is this Britain at its best or can we allow other nations to come and carry out a project of these dimensions and this importance to our jobs and to our future?
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor
My Lords, I should first declare an interest in this important debate in that I have for some years been the president of the Channel Tunnel Association. Anticipating a few blank faces in the Chamber, I think I should explain that the association is a purely non-political and indeed noncommercial association, and that its members who are fairly small in number have existed purely to keep prodding government and private enterprise for many years to get this project under way. The only asset that the association has ever had is probably the largest collection of documents—in excess of 10,000—relating to the Channel Tunnel going back well into the last century. I am happy to say that this collection is now safely in the archive of Churchill! College, Cambridge.
My predecessor at this association was the late Lord Popplewell, whom some of your Lordships may remember not only as a good parliamentarian but as a devoted and dedicated railwayman all his life. In the 1973 debate, to which the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, has just referred, Lord Popplewell said:if it will increase the standard of life of our people by making our products more competitive through providing a more efficient method of transport, then this House should give its blessing to the project". [Official Report, 2/5/73; col. 158]That was 14 years ago. I think it was true then, and now that we are fully in Europe it is even more true today.
This great country of ours has given many things to the world and the railway must rank very high among them. And yet between our system and the rest of Europe there has, for nearly 200 years, existed this small gap of 22 miles. That, to me, has been the only disadvantage that we have suffered in the relationship with our trading partners. The key to this whole project—indeed the key to this debate—is our trade. 940 The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, has given us very realistic and compelling figures on how this trade will change. The current 4 per cent. of our total freight carried by British Rail will go up to between 12 and 15 per cent. That is a tremendous possible leap forward and it will bring us into comparability with the rest of Europe. Moreover, as again the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, said, it will have the dramatic effect of reducing the number of heavy duty lorries on our roads which must be a blessing.
I do not want to go over all the old arguments—the pros and cons. I believe that the Government have made absolutely the right decision on the method of crossing. I reflect only that when in 1973 we were debating this matter, many people were seriously worried about the possibility of foreign invaders coming through the tunnel at the double. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, is not in his place because that is the only matter on which I must take issue with him. He mentioned that for a thousand years we had never been invaded. In point of fact, it is very nearly 190 years ago that we were invaded, but the enemy made the cardinal error of landing in Pembrokeshire from where they were swiftly removed.
I believe that we are now a great deal further on. We have a draft treaty between France and ourselves; we have selected the method; and we have a consortium of builders on each side ready to start. I am confident that very soon the private equity capital will be in position. But it is a very complex piece of legislation and there are one or two points on which I want to touch briefly, because there are many more speakers to follow me.
The first is the issue of safety already touched upon by many speakers which I know is causing much public concern. I want to grasp this nettle again because it needs to be kept in proportion. First, there is nothing inherently dangerous in the tunnel itself. In fact, a single-track railway tunnel is probably one of the safest forms of locomotion ever devised. Let us consider the millions of miles that are covered annually by the London Underground system.
From a civil engineering point of view, the technique is proven. The conditions are ideal. In fact, if you had to travel the world you would be very hard put to it to find a more perfect medium than the lower chalk below the Channel. No, my Lords, I would say that if there is any danger at all it lies, as is so often the case, with the customers. I should like to discuss for the moment who those customers are. The range extends from the through freight trains, which may include container wagons often carrying volatile chemical cargoes or other liquids, to heavy duty lorries and trailers carried on rail shuttles, 70-seater buses and, of course, private motorists.
Part III of the Bill makes provision for by-laws regulating the operation and use of the tunnel system. The manner in which the concessionaires have approached their responsibilities is of crucial importance. But, as I understand it, they are not in every case being asked to devise new regulations but to see that existing rules are adhered to. An example is the existing RID document, the international regulation for dangerous cargoes. Annexe 1 operates right across Europe in respect of rail tank cars and containers and involves very close monitoring of these 941 vehicles and periodic testing. This regulation will be stringently applied to tunnel traffic of this nature.
Similarly, another EC document, known as ADR, governs the operation of all lorries and trailers currently borne on ferries. And this, I understand, will equally be the code for the tunnel. Therefore, the concessionaires will be governed by existing regulations. In the case of private cars and caravans, however, we are moving into new territory. It is not a similar concept to the trans-alpine tunnels.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, has told us that an intergovernmental commission will eventually be set up before the tunnel is opened and that this will lay down rules for the tunnel, including safety. I understand that our own chief inspector of rail will serve on the safety committee. So, although it is absolutely vital that the public are reassured, I think it is true to say that a great many safeguards are already in position.
My second point is perhaps a different one, and that is the choice of Waterloo. As the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark have already mentioned, many people are not happy about this. It has always seemed to me a mistake that Waterloo should be chosen as the passenger terminal. It is the largest terminus in Great Britain, but it has a number of drawbacks. I think I am right in saying that it was never intended by the old London and South-Western to be the end of the line.
Waterloo has been constantly added to. It now has some 21 platform lines which reduce to a bottleneck of eight lines a few hundred yards outside the station and this is on a double curve. Any Members of your Lordships' House who have commuted regularly for as many years as I have will know what I mean. I went the other day to the British Rail information centre at Waterloo Station and studied the exhibits, but I did not see anything that made me change my mind on the issue.
Apart from being, in my view, on the wrong side of the river for onward journeys in the United Kingdom, Waterloo has a very difficult road access and the proposals only appear to provide for 135 short-term and 75 longer-term car parking spaces. That is a ridiculously small figure. As the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, has said, this service is going to be used by business men going to the Continent and taking their wives with them. They will want to be able to park their cars for one or two days as they do at Heathrow.
The passenger numbers forecast for Waterloo by the year 2003 are an additional 13 million a year as a result of use of the tunnel. We have all seen what happens to forecasts. The M.1 was constructed with two lanes and it had to be widened; and it has seven bridges which are already heavily overloaded. Heathrow has never ceased to expand. More recently, the M.25 is already carrying more traffic than was forecast. If there is a lesson to be learned about forecasts, surely it is to apply a multiple of at least two.
In the case of Waterloo, I urge the Government to ask British Rail to look again at some other options such as Kensington Olympia or West Brompton. If, for some reason which is beyond my comprehension, the terminus must be south of the river, what about making use of that splended building, the Battersea 942 power station, which has ample room for extensive car-parking facilities?
I have one final point which does not really involve the Bill itself. That point looks more to the distant future and concerns the possibility of a drive-through tunnel. The Government, rightly in my view, when they granted the concession last year to Eurotunnel laid down that by the year 2000 that additional facility should be examined and a feasibility study should be made. I do not believe that it would be technically possible or feasible to have a drive-through tunnel of 50 kilometres today. However, in 20 years' time it may a different matter.
Who would have imagined 20 years ago that we should have cars that spoke to us and told us to fasten our seat belts? Technology is moving very fast indeed, and I can well envisage the motorist, in the year 2010, being able to put his car in a drive-through tunnel, putting it on auto-pilot and being guided through such a tunnel with total safety. It may sound fanciful; I think it is a very real possbility. I think it was prudent to lay such a condition on the concessionaire.
In conclusion, I congratulate the Government for persevering with this project. It has my fullest support and I think that it will transform trade and tourism. When it is completed, I think that we shall wonder how we ever managed without it.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, I find it difficult to follow the noble Earl, Lord Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, looking back as I do upon the speech of my noble friend Lord Pennock and the formidable advocacy which he applied to the tunnel. That advocacy, and the advocacy of my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, leads me to hesitate in saying what I firmly believe as a sort of gut feeling: I am against this proposal. I am against it on the grounds that I cannot justify in my own mind the expenditure of so large an amount of effort and treasure in constructing an artery which will be almost vital to the nation's life and which is exposed to interruption by elements beyond our control, whether they be industrial action, sabotage or act of God.
Incidentally, I protest at the fact that this debate was tabled for a Monday, when it is known that that day is particularly inconvenient to Peers who live at a distance. The debate was not even scheduled as first business. I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, has said in that respect. It is not that the Whips' Office was unaware of the substantial opposition to the scheme which exists on every side of the House.
We have seen this afternoon and this evening a very substantial support for the scheme in the House. At the same time, I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, went a long way to speak in support of my view. Who has paid for all the bally-hoo? Is it proper that the costly machines mentioned by my noble friend Lord Pennock have been placed on order—at the expense of the investors, admittedly. If it all goes wrong, as I said, I am inclined to worry about the future. Although I am an ancient party and people may well say, "What are you worrying about, old boy?", I am worrying lest my executors have to bail this project out if it goes wrong. It ought not to go wrong; I am not against innovation and never have 943 been. However, there seem to me to be a lot of difficulties to overcome before we accept this proposal.
As regards accidents and the possibility of failure, one thing which I have been unable to find among the great mass of papers on my table is any view expressed by the insurance industry or by Lloyd's concerning the premiums which they would be inclined to charge for covering personnel, vehicles and freight for this particular journey. I should like to know more about that. Perhaps the noble Lord the Minister will say something concerning that matter.
I have made no secret of my position, and I "drew a bow at a venture" the other day in a Question tabled for Written Answer. The Government replied to that Question on 5th November. The reply did not satisfy me and I regarded it as rather a rap on the knuckles. I asked the Government what the railways were spending out of their moneys for the tunnel. I asked, as the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, asked, to whom they were going to pay these sums.
I admit that I should perhaps not worry about the future at my age. However, I thought I should take the opportunity of consulting my own family. I consulted my son and a son-in-law, both of whom are in their fifties; and I consulted a grandson who is approaching 30. They are all actively engaged in different branches of the country's affairs. One agreed with me on environmental matters, which I have not mentioned. Another described the proposal as being irrelevant to the needs of the nation today. The third was of an open mind, pending the outcome of this parliamentary examination in which we are at present engaged.
I consulted other people. One prominent person was absolutely one hundred per cent. in favour of the tunnel. Another, a widow, of Central European origin who is highly intelligent and multi-lingual, was violently opposed to the idea of such a tunnel.
What is more, I am not quite happy about the position of Scotland. Will Scotland really benefit by the injection of concentrated activity in South-East Britain? I wonder; but we shall see. The present pressure by the promoters amounts in my view to rather a costly ballyhoo. British Rail will see a valuable increment if the tunnel works as there will obviously be increased demand for rail services. But is there not a tremendous opportunity for vast improvements in the railway system here and now? This could be engaged in by the country with advantage. Plenty could be done to improve the system.
I have tried to follow the many speakers in the debate and I turn again to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry. She said that we had been out-manoeuvred by the opponents. I rather think that it is the other way round. We have been out-manoeuvred by the promoters. The shoe is on the other foot. Are we not being taken for a ride when we should be waiting for more examination and a more penetrating searchlight, as the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, said, on the matter?
Many of us believe that not enough research in depth has been carried out. It has been rather rushed. I support in many ways what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. There are all kinds of difficulties which are not apparent today but which will inevitably 944 arise as time goes on. The noble Lord, Lord Murray, referred to separating people from vehicles. This is quite a problem and is perhaps affected by the insurance premiums that the insurance industry is prepared to quote when it comes to estimating freight, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, referred.
The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, referred to the vastly increased volume of our industrial traffic, all without a tunnel. Whether this tunnel, depending on the freight charges, depending on the insurance premium, and depending on a good deal of good fortune, will work, remains to be seen. I think that we must studiously examine the future in the Select Committee as proposed.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, like many of your Lordships I am in favour of the proposed tunnel. It could be a great and exciting project. I cannot, however, agree with the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, who said that it would be good for every part of Britain. There is a small corner of Kent where I live which will be severely disadvantaged. If I may, I should like to take a few moments of your Lordships' time to outline one or two of the problems and issues which concern us in north-east Kent. I refer to the districts of Dover and Thanet.
The unemployment level in north-east Kent in January was 15.3 per cent. as against 13 per cent. for the United Kingdom. In Thanet it was 21.4 per cent. In 1985, port-related jobs in Kent numbered 12,450. The projection for 1993 with the tunnel suggests somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000; in other words, a job loss of somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000. The tunnel will of course create jobs—probably about 3,000—but these will tend to be in a different place, in the Ashford area rather than in Dover or Thanet.
What the people of north-east Kent are asking is no more than a chance to compete on equal terms with the tunnel; and to me this seems entirely reasonable. What they want to be sure of is that there will be a parity of trading conditions between the ferries and the tunnel, and that they may have good access to the tunnel so that they can develop alternative employment opportunities and have access to the jobs which will be created by the tunnel in the Ashford and Cheriton area.
The particular improvement which is of vital importance to Dover is the completion, to motorway standards, of the A.20 between Folkstone and Dover. As your Lordships will know, the western section is already included in the Bill but there are I believe to be petitions before the Select Committee of your Lordships' House to remove this commitment in the Bill. I beg your Lordships not to allow it to be removed. The eastern section of the road is to be subject to normal planning procedures. In the case of that section I ask for an assurance from the Minister that he will use his utmost endeavours to ensure that it is completed by the time the tunnel opens. An extension to the north from the A.20 is the A.256 which will take the link with the Channel through to Thanet. The improvement of that road also is of fundamental importance to the people of Thanet.
945 Thanet is also a ferry port. One of the reasons that both Dover and Thanet must have equal access to the rest of Britain is the logic of fair trading and fair competition with the tunnel. Lorry traffic must be able to get equally easily to the Channel ports as it can to the entrance to the tunnel. The other reason is so that they can get the back flow to make use of the tunnel for goods and services provided in Thanet and Dover. The development of two other roads—the A.229 and the A.2—is also being pressed with good reason.
I should like to make one or two other points on the question of fair competition. There must be no unequal subsidy in any guise. It is difficult to see—and noble Lords have referred to this point—what would happen in the event of the bankruptcy of the tunnel. There is also the possibility of the bankruptcy of the ferries or even of the port of Dover. It is of the utmost importance that the Government give undertakings that any subsidy, open or overt, given to either party is matched to the other.
There is also a request, which I believe to be reasonable, for more expeditious remedies to possible unfair trading practices such as predatory pricing. Under the United Kingdom unfair trading Acts and Article 86 of the European Code it would take a long time effectively to bring restraint upon a party who had determined to destroy a competitor through competitive pricing. Then there is the question of parity or equivalent services. I should be grateful for an assurance from the Minister that Customs, immigration, port health and Special Branch services will be equally convenient and capacious at both terminals.
There is also the question of access equivalence. I have referred to the road traffic question. There is also the question of equivalence of rail traffic. Here I must turn for a moment to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, who is not at present in his place. I believe that he was wrong to suppose that the expenditure on the M.20 and on some of the road improvements which are envisaged represents an investment in the tunnel. The figures show that the traffic from this country to the Continent will grow whether or not we have the tunnel. Those road improvements would be essential in any case.
I should like to refer to one or two other points of local importance. The first is what I might call the shale by rail controversy in which I was myself involved. There was a threat that vast numbers of lorries carrying minestone would thunder down the roads of East Kent, destroying the roads and the environment. Assurances have now been given by the Channel Tunnel operators that minestone will be sent by rail. The county of Kent is now in the position that planning permission has to be given for the exploitation and transport by rail of bulk materials for the tunnel. The county of Kent asks that the Government will give it support in enforcing transport requirements that the county may wish to impose. I shall be grateful to have the Minister's assurance on that point.
Dover council is very concerned about the site of the proposed construction camp. It is concerned about the environmental consequences and what will happen to the camp after the construction period is over. I hope this problem can be given sympathetic attention.
946 Finally, there is a wider issue which has been brought to my attention by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, of which I am proud to be the president for Kent. It is concerned about the wider environmental effects of the scheme, particularly in West Kent and along the M.25 motorway. The CPRE is concerned at the pressure of planning applications likely to arise from the traffic generated by the scheme. It has asked if this House will be prepared to float an instruction to the Select Committee asking that it pay particular attention to the full environmental implications of the scheme. I shall be grateful if the Minister will comment on that suggestion.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, like the noble Lord who has just spoken I too declare an interest in that I am a landowner and farmer in East Kent, albeit in a small way. The noble Lord who has just spoken will be more affected than I will be by the environmental aspects associated with the tunnel. However, before going on to that, I should like to say that I must also declare an interest in that for seven years I was associated with one of the consortia that fell out, if that is the right expression. That does not put me against the tunnel—in fact, I am all for it. Comparisons are odious, but it is rather like the Suez Canal. It will be a great achievement with a touch of romance.
If my noble friend Lord Pennock will for give me, I should like to speak about the question of safety. I do not refer to safety in regard to cars; there is no danger there. I refer to the problem of heat. I am not an engineer though I am interested in locomotives. I suppose that when a 4,000-horsepower locomotive goes through the tunnel it will not travel slower than 50 miles an hour and it may be as fast as 80 or 90 miles an hour, with coaches behind it. It will generate a tremendous amount of heat. If these trains are only five or ten minutes apart, the heat will be very great.
I am sure that the tunnellers will solve that problem. We did a lot of research on tunnels when we were researching the feasibility of a bridge. We had as many experts as we could obtain. I do not know how the tunnellers intend to solve that problem but one of my colleagues (I hate that word) in the group came up with what I think is a wonderful idea. I know this may sound absurd to people who are not engineers, but although I am not an engineer it does not sound absurd to me. If you have cast-iron radiators every half-mile or so with pipes leading from them rising a few feet above the tunnel, the sea water can enter the radiators, get hot and rise, like hot air, back into the sea. This therefore cools the tunnel. It is expensive to install but no power is required. The people building the rail tunnel may already have thought of that, but if not I offer that suggestion to them.
§ Lord Pennock
My Lords, perhaps I can help my noble friend on this question of ventilation. It is a fact that in addition to having two tunnels through which the trains pass there is a central ventilation tunnel—a service tunnel. At intervals of not more than 380 metres there will be doors between the central shaft and the main tunnel providing ventilation and allowing for the expansion of heat coming from the 947 trains in the way that my noble friend mentioned. We are confident that engineering-wise the problem can be solved with a central ventilation tunnel.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I thank my noble friend. However, I hope that the ventilation arrangement will not interfere with shipping.
Without being too lengthy I was going to refer to what my noble friend intended to say. I know he is on the Cross-Benches but I still refer to him as my noble friend. It is unfair on farmers and other people in Kent who own land. They can have their land compulsorily acquired at only the agricultural value, if it is a farm, or at existing use value. That gives the tunnellers a great financial advantage because they can acquire a farm for, say, £100,000 whereas as development land it could be worth £2 million. Although the Government have said that only private money is involved, if you take the value of the land to be developed then that is taxpayers' money because the owners of the land would lose that profit. Therefore to some extent the tunnel is being funded by taxpayers' money. I do not know whether that is a good point, but it seems to me a fair one to make.
My noble friend who sits behind me and who comes from Scotland has left the Chamber, but he was worried about the whole financial aspect. He wondered how this tunnel would help Scotland. Of course it will help Scotland greatly. If you are in Glasgow and load your freight there it can go straight through to Madrid, Vienna, or wherever, and that is a tremendous advantage. In fact, I think that freight will be more profitable than cars; but perhaps I am wrong.
My fear is that during bank holidays and so on there will be the most appalling blocks. If you are going off for Easter you may find delays of eight or ten hours. I think that is very likely. On the whole, however, I think the tunnel is a great idea. I wish it every success and I am sure it will have success. I should have liked to speak for much longer, but it is late and I am sure that your Lordships would prefer that I sat down now.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Viscount Sidmouth
My Lords, the gratifying amount of support that the Bill has received in this House probably represents informed opinion rather accurately. However, I believe that if a significant part of the general public in this country were to be asked whether a cross-Channel fixed link would be a good thing, they would probably say, "Yes". If one then went on to ask, "Are you in favour of doing it?" they would either say, "No" or give a grudging reply.
I tried to think why that should be so. I felt that the position would be different in Denmark. Anyone travelling between east and west in that country cannot fail to notice the immense barrier that is presented by the Great Belt despite the fact that the ferry services across it are extremely well organised and a good deal cheaper than corresponding prices across the English Channel. I am certain that practically every Dane, except perhaps those involved with the ferries, would vote most enthusiastically for a tunnel if a private company came along and offered to build one.
948 Our Channel carries far more traffic than the Great Belt. A tunnel would benefit us correspondingly more than one would the Danes. The difference is that the Great Belt is an internal area within Denmark whereas to many of us the Channel is a historic frontier.
I am sure that that is why, as a nation, we have been dithering about this project for 100 years. If the political will had been there in 1883 it is probable that the technical problems would have all been successfully covercome. In 1987, there can hardly be any doubt that the tunnel can be built. I sincerely hope that it will be. I believe that those promoting the project have identified that equivocal attitude to the Channel and the European Community as one of the main obstacles to the scheme proceeding happily. They plan to launch an advertising campaign to deal with that point. I am sure that they are well advised to do so.
As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, the scheme depends on using venture capital on a large scale. It is therefore vulnerable to attempts to undermine its forecasts of commercial viability. I should have thought that the cost estimates, including contingencies, would be reliable, bearing in mind that the project uses so little new or untested technology. Because of the long lead time, however, the revenue forecasts are projected a long way into the future. They can therefore naturally be queried if one is minded to do so.
Some selective statistics have been used in that connection. We often find that inconsistent and contradictory arguments have been used. I shall give two examples which I think will illustrate what I mean. In one document, which many of your Lordships will have seen, we are asked to deplore the fact that,France will have 50 per cent. of the action".Elsewhere in the same document, it is argued that the cost is too great, beyond our means and so on. The figure of £6 billion is always mentioned, although, as I understand it, that is the total cost of the scheme and presumably half of that will also fall on France.
Fears are raised about a cross-Channel monopoly seizing all the traffic, although in the same document doubts are cast on the tunnel's ability to attract the relatively modest share of the traffic which is forecast.
We have heard a good deal about safety. It should be said immediately, contrary to what was stated earlier, that Eurotunnel has paid a great deal of attention to safety and, in particular, to fire safety. Many of your Lordships will have seen the case which has been put for the methods which the company proposes to adopt. I have some experience of rail transport, and I find it extremely convincing, bearing in mind that in a matter like this one can never have 100 per cent. security.
The number of cars which are carried through tunnels worldwide has been mentioned. I do not think that the fire risk is any greater in a tunnel than on an open track. Cars have been transported for many millions of miles in open wagons on open tracks throughout the world, and as far as I know there have been no cases of fire. The Eurotunnel document quotes only one example given by British Rail of where an electric motor burnt out on a van which was damaged by fire. That was the extent of the damage that the company could find.
949 On the shuttle trains, vehicles will be carried in covered wagons. I want to say a word about segregation and the fire authorities' slogan, "People cause fires". We cannot quarrel with that. However attention must also he drawn to the position in an aircraft. Years ago, I was extremely worried that people were allowed to smoke in an aircraft because I knew how stringent was the need for safety. There, millions of people are allowed every opportunity to cause a fire but I do not think that the statistics show any case of a fire being caused. As I understand it, passengers in the shuttle will not be allowed to smoke.
More time has been spent discussing environmental matters than any other subject and it is not my intention to comment upon that. However, it is an area in which some sort of fantasy and suggestion tends at times to take over. I notice that the document that has been sent to me invites us to weep for,those white cliffs I never more must see".It is true that if one elects to return to England by the tunnel, one will not have the traditional experience of seeing the white cliffs of Dover draw close as one approaches. However, it must be said that they will still be there and perhaps they will act as a counter-attraction to keep the ferries in service after the tunnel has been built.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Lord Sanderson of Bowden
My Lords, I am very conscious of the fact that this is the biggest challenge of its kind in my lifetime. The treaty certainly lays down the gauntlet both to our European neighbours and to ourselves to accept the challenge.
From my experience in industry over the past few years, I am very conscious of the rise and rise of European business. I believe that we must be very well aware that not all United Kingdom industry is less effective, less efficient, or less capable of taking advantage of opportunities than its European counterparts. I for one believe in the slogan which British Rail has issued when it says that there is still a vast market to be tapped. As a trading nation, if the United Kingdom within Europe can produce quality, be efficient and deliver on time, it will have a market which can grow and grow. With 320 million people in that market with no trade barriers, if the price is right, if the quality is right and if the delivery is right, yes, we shall sell. We need to sell not only to create jobs but to hold on to the jobs which we have at the present time. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, it is a two-way traffic. Yes, we buy textile machinery from Germany and Italy because it happens to be better than what we are able to buy in this country. It is also true that we make fabrics which go to Italy and Germany and which are better than they can produce themselves. That must continue. I am delighted that this debate has focused on the positive developments in the United Kingdom afforded by a fixed link.
I am also delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, is in her seat, as she has championed the cause of cheaper European air fares. When one can go from Waterloo to Paris in 3 hours 15 minutes, and when it takes the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, and me an hour to get to Heathrow, I have a feeling that, not only on price but also on the time taken, there will be a 950 radical change in the attitude of the cartel which exists to keep up European air fares.
I understand the difficulties of the ferry operators. I understand that the immediate effect in 1993 will be a reduction in the number of jobs. However, like myself, many of your Lordships may have been faced with a sudden takeover which places a factory for which you have some responsibility in great difficulties and orders are lost overnight. That will not happen in this case. We have until 1993 and I have confidence in the ability of the ferry operators of this country to think the matter out and to see how they will work in the future. I am sure that there are ways and means of making profits and of servicing those who wish to travel by sea rather than through the tunnel.
The biggest challenge comes for British Rail. As a Scot, noble Lords will understand that I am particularly interested in the longer distance freight travel. The farther one travels in carrying freight, the more attractive rail becomes. I was delighted to read recently in a Labour Party pamphlet of their intent to encourage freight back on to British Rail. This will only be achieved if industry believes that service and price are right. Therefore, having seen a Labour Party pamphlet, I find it hard to understand a campaign by, I think, Lambeth Council—I may be mistaken about that—which is opposed to the Channel Tunnel development and which is spending £48,000 of ratepayers' money in advocating that it does not go ahead.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, is not in his place because he asked about Scotland and the effects there. I can do no better than to quote the director of CBI in Scotland when he said that by providing a continuous route between the Clyde and the Continent, the tunnel could turn the west of Scotland's peripheral position in Europe into an asset capable of competing with the ports of Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Le Havre.
There is another advantage which has not been mentioned so far in this debate. British Rail have still to prove that they can cope with the situation; but if they succeed there will be fewer juggernauts on the roads, and many people will be delighted about that. I am also delighted to say that the Sheffield City Council—not the bastion of the Conservative Party as I would understand—are very keen on developing a freight depot there specifically to help the trade that they hope to attract as the result of the tunnel coming into being.
Much has been said today in this debate about security and safety and I do not intend to elaborate on those matters. But as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, skated over the point rather quickly, I should just like to say why gaze at the crystal when you can read the book? Go and see what happens in other parts of the world with long tunnels and how safety is dealt with. Particularly, I commend you to look at the safety record of the Alpine tunnels, which may not be so long but the systems are similar.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. Does he recall that just after the war there was possibly one of the biggest train 951 disasters in history which occurred in those Alpine tunnels? Over 400 people were suffocated when a train broke town in a tunnel. People who were actually dying thought they were just falling asleep. I think the number of casualties was over 400. While I am not particularly anti-tunnel, the noble Lord should base his argument on the correct statistics.
§ Lord Sanderson of Bowden
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much for that intervention. He has the advantage of me in that I was at school at the end of the war and did not appreciate that that incident had occurred. My information has come from those who have been studying this matter, and it was not raised with me that that hazard had taken place. I shall be delighted to have a look at the matter and the reasons for the accident. But, in general terms over past years which we have been studying, the number of accidents in those tunnels has been very very few; but I stand corrected on that particular matter if the accident had taken place.
One point I wish to come to and which is very relevant, is a point which the right reverend Prelate who is to follow me will be particularly interested in—and that is the matter of jobs. We have had many debates in your Lordships' House concerning the manufacturing industry. We must look at the jobs which are to be created and preserved by the existence of this tunnel and also the immediate jobs which will be available by the construction of the tunnel. Coming from Scotland I, and all parties in Scotland, should like to see Ravenscraig, that big steel mill, continue in business. That is a very important matter. We are delighted to see the orders awarded to James Howden in Glasgow for £6.4 million for boring machines.
952 I understand there is also a letter of intent to Mulhauser of Strathclyde for £3.7 million in construction rolling stock for spoil extraction. These are orders which are desperately needed if we are to create and maintain jobs which are needed in Scotland and also in the North of England. I know for a fact that there are very many orders which are either placed or are going to be placed in that area. Those who place the orders must think British. I know that contracts have to be given out under EC rules. But if they think British, they must surely realise they are doing something for their country if they are able to place the orders here. I am not worried about the attitude of the City. I have faith in the City to do right. The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, made the point as he closed his speech that if there is cross-party agreement that this is a good scheme, as it appears to be in this House today, then that fact will give more confidence to the City than anything to put their money into the scheme.
I finish with a regret. I understand the anxieties and the problems of the people of Kent: those whose way of life is now affected. I applaud the work done by the Mitchell Joint Consultative Committee in that area which has addressed the practical problems which have arisen. But I am very concerned and believe very firmly that we have heard many more of the minuses and not enough of the pluses of this whole great venture. I feel—I think it was the Duke of Plaza Toro who said it to his Duchess in The Gondoliers—that we enjoy an interment. There may be some people who take that attitude. But I, for one, like the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, also asked my children, who will be major beneficiaries along with the next generation, what they thought of the tunnel. They were quite clear. They said, "We thought the cry was for jobs now and jobs in the future. We thought we were in Europe. To be in Europe. To stay in Europe, and to prosper in Europe. Get on with it as fast as possible."
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, in taking part in this debate I must say that I do not do so for any reasons that can be remotely called ecclesiastical. I speak because of my interest in matters of transport in this country ever since, in 1973, I was Chairman of the Independent Commission on Transport which issued its report, Changing Directions, in the following year. I mention that because I am independent still in this matter, and I do not represent any lobby of any kind.
Perhaps I may say at the outset that I am very much in favour of a fixed Channel link. I find the idea exciting, innovative, and inspiring. I have reservations about this Bill, and I must admit that I have some regrets that the treaty with the French was signed in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral, but it was of course during an interregnum of the Dean.
I hope that noble Lords will have in mind that I am in favour of a fixed Channel link; but what I find hard to understand—and I hope that we may perhaps be told—is why the earlier plan of a simple railway tunnel has been dropped in favour of the present scheme which will transport, in two large-bore tunnels, not only passengers in trains but also motor cars, heavy transport, and container lorries loaded onto rail flats.
The earlier scheme of simple railway tunnels was backed by the House of Commons Transport Committee, the European Parliament, and by Sir Alec Cairncross, who was responsible for the last official studies on this matter in 1981–82. I very much hope that we may be told why this scheme was dropped in favour of the present scheme which, as I see it, has some real disadvantages; and since it is not wholly impossible that the present scheme could fail because of lack of public funding, I should like to enumerate some of them.
The present scheme will evidently require expensive so-called improvements to adjacent road systems, which are bound to increase traffic in Kent and do environmental damage to ancient villages and listed sites—as, for example, the village of Newington with its historic 12th century church. It would also require the building of expensive terminals with all the impact on the environment that that involves. But a simple rail tunnel would not do any of this, because everything would travel by rail.
Quite apart from intrusive terminals, the present scheme is bound to generate road traffic, because big lorries will travel down to be loaded onto rail flats down by the tunnel, and this will cause the deterioration of the environment. But way of contrast, a simple rail tunnel would relieve motor traffic because passengers and freight would go all the way by train. This, I am sure noble Lords would agree, would reduce road accidents, and it would mean that less was spent on road maintenance not only around the tunnel but for thousands of miles on both sides of the Channel.
Again, I feel that the present scheme is likely to mean that ferries are likely to disappear. Even if they can compete now with cars and lorries, I do not think that they are likely to do so in the long run because this Eurotunnel project will have far more capital available, and it will be quicker and cheaper to use the tunnel. I do not think that it is an advantage to users 954 if the ferries are withdrawn. Indeed, I even see a security danger here. With a simple rail tunnel if there was a rail strike the ferries would still be available. But if the ferries were withdrawn and the roads were blocked—we do not block the roads very much but the French are particularly good at it when it comes to demonstrations—then we should be isolated by sea from the Continent and we should have to rely only on an air link. That would be a serious matter. Furthermore, without competition from ferries and from ports the tunnel would have a monopoly and it could raise its charges, having first lowered them.
The proposed scheme is likely to cause unemployment at the ports. I have spoken to exporters in Birmingham and I do not see how the ports can continue to provide their present facilities if this scheme comes in. It is inevitable as I see it, if the present scheme goes through, that exporters will tend to send their goods to the Continent by heavy goods lorry on the railway flats of the proposed Channel fixed link rather than by using the present ports as they do at the moment.
The effect of the withdrawal of this traffic could hurt a large number of ports—Felixstowe, Immingham, Harwich, Dover, Newhaven, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Tilbury, Bristol, Folkestone, Hull, King's Lynn, Ramsgate, Portsmouth and Newport.
Furthermore, exporters find that it is cheaper today to send their goods by roll-on, roll-off ferry from a UK port to a Continental port such as Antwerp and then ship them from the port because the cost of shipping goods in deep sea vessels from UK ports is so frightfully high. But if we have this proposed scheme heavy lorries will head for that new Channel fixed link and there is great fear that business at the ports will dry up for our sadly depleted Merchant Navy.
There is a further point: how will all this heavy goods traffic get to the terminals on the south coast? Will the M.25 have to be increased not only to four lanes (as has been suggested) but to five? Will a fourth tunnel be needed from Purfleet to Dartford? And what on earth will happen to the M.1, which is a pretty impossible road to drive on at the moment? This suggestion seems to me likely to increase the North-South divide and I include the West Midlands in the North.
§ Lord Sanderson of Bowden
My Lords, does the right reverend Prelate realise that in Germany two thirds of the freight is carried by rail and in this country a very small amount is carried? Does he not think that rail will take a lot of that extra traffic that he is worried about?
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord said. However, I do not think that this is so likely, as he does, because we have seen such a terrible decline in rail freight traffic over the past 20 years. I think it is more likely that exporters will use heavy goods lorries and then this quick run through on rail flats under the Channel. I have formed that opinion through talking to exporters in my see city.
955 I was talking about the North-South divide. I have heard what people have been saying about the construction industry and it is very heartening for us in the Midlands to be given such a large amount of it. But in the long run if there is increased commercial activity in London and on the south coast it seems likely that there will be more jobs there, whereas a simple railway tunnel link would generate employment in the regions, precisely because of the use of rail freight and the depots in the regions, in the North and the Midlands.
Clearly the original scheme of a simple train link would have helped the rail system generally especially freight traffic, about which I have just been speaking. Increased freight by rail, especially to the Continent, would be economic, it would be necessary if there were no transport of lorries by rail flats and it would be cheaper for small shipments which make up less than a container load.
No one has mentioned the 44-tonne lorry. So far we have managed to avoid it with the 38-tonne lorry. It is ill-suited to our British environment. I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is out of scale in our villages and on our roads. Yet, if we had the scheme envisaged in the Bill with rail flats, I do not see how it will be possible to resist the introduction of larger lorries into this country with all the environmental degradation that would bring. The road lobby in this country is very strong indeed, as I found out when I chaired the Independent Commission on Transport. I have never been in favour of limitless cars, although I do think more cars should be bought from Austin Rover, but that is another matter. I wonder if perhaps the road lobby lies behind this? At the moment we have more and more lorries going faster and faster, and I am sure that noble Lords will agree with me that their speeds are now seldom checked. There are at present all sorts of concessions which favour the lorry and the motor car. If we had a simple train link such as was originally envisaged, this could be the beginning of an attempt to redress the balance in favour of the railways—something which many of us think is very badly needed.
I have spoken in general about the kind of fixed link we have; but whatever link we have I think that we must consider certain matters which are of great importance certainly in the Midlands. I do not represent the City of Birmingham, but the See of Birmingham. However, the City of Birmingham has considered this Bill and has passed certain resolutions in connection with it, and I am sure your Lordships' House will agree that it really is necessary to bear in mind the views of people who hold office in the industrial heartlands of our country.
We do need the expansion of regional customs clearance that was mentioned at the beginning of this debate rather than hold-ups over customs at southern terminals and in London, and if need be the city council of Birmingham has said that it would even be prepared to have charges made to counter Treasury pressure for closure of these facilities. It will be necessary for the Department of Transport and local authorities to plan positively for road-rail transfer depots throughout the country, because so many of 956 them have, alas, been closed. We were told of eight that are proposed to be closed now, but 20 or 30 have been closed in the past 15 to 20 years.
I believe the Secretary of State should report annually to Parliament on the regional impact of a Channel Tunnel. I think it would be desirable, and so does the Birmingham City Council, to have a one-system electrification of a direct line from Birmingham to Dover. I realise that your Lordships may not agree with that, but certainly it will be necessary to upgrade cross-London links to the Midlands.
I understand under the present plan that there are likely to be only three through trains a day from Birmingham to the South Coast, in contrast to the departure of trains from Waterloo every hour and at peak periods four times an hour. At other times Midlands customers will have to cross London by public transport as they do at present, thus putting the Midlands, so far as passenger transport is concerned, at a disadvantage. We must bear in mind that it is estimated that 25 per cent. of passenger traffic for this tunnel will come from north of London, as well as 70 per cent. of the freight traffic.
In speaking in this debate I should like to say that I hope that we may know the reasons why this scheme has been chosen over the other schemes. A simple rail tunnel, with a smaller bore and without the cost of expensive terminals, motorway enlargement and road maintenance costs, would be cheaper than what we have before us now. If the Government did not want to commit public money, and that is very understandable, could they not perhaps have outlined the best scheme and put it out to tender? I am very puzzled indeed that there has been no public inquiry about this scheme, and I am puzzled as to why these proposals are preferred to the more original ones.
Sir Alec Cairncross wrote in The Times on 8th December 1985,If one kind of fixed link is to be blessed in preference to others by the two governments immediately concerned, the basis of selection should be publicly available in some detail.I believe it is a matter for regret that as yet we really have not had this basis of selection, and I must confess for my part that this Bill would be easier to support—and I should like to support it—if we had simple answers to those vital questions.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has just made reference to the so-called North-South divide. I should like to pursue that matter from the point of view of the implications of the tunnel for Scotland—implications which have already been referred to by another noble Lord but about which I consider there is a little more to say.
It is not surprising that north of the Border there has so far been comparatively little debate about the Scottish dimension of this project. Historically, a Channel Tunnel has always been seen as somebody else's problem. Indeed, during the Second Reading debate in another place, reference was made to an erstwhile Member of Parliament for Aberdeen, North 957 who took the view that if a tunnel was needed it should not be under the Channel but should go from Aberdeen to Oslo. It is time that we in Scotland woke up to the fact that the tunnel could present us with the most enormous and much-needed opportunities if only we have the sense to exploit them.
Reference has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, and by my noble friend Lord Sanderson to orders that have already been placed in Scotland. I understand that £15 million of orders have been placed already and that there are considerably more to come. However, by far the biggest advantages will come once the tunnel is in action.
We know that 62 per cent. of Britain's exports go to Continental Europe. The problem for Scotland in competing with firms south of the Border, and indeed, with European firms nearer to the heartland of the markets, is of course distance. We are on the edge of the Community and there is a costly and time-consuming journey to the centre of Europe from Scotland. That disadvantage will be enormously reduced if Scottish exporters can load their wares at local rail depots on local sidings, whether owned by British Rail or privately. Indeed, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and with the right reverend Prelate that it would be immensely advantageous if there could be Customs facilities on the spot. It would be an enormous advantage if those goods could travel uninterrupted to any destination in Germany, Switzerland. Italy or wherever in, it is estimated, one-third of the time that it takes at present and at greatly reduced cost.
For example, at present in my part of the world and in the industry of which I have experience, we farmers send malting barley every year to Germany. This year we are sending feed barley to Spain by boat via Antwerp in the way in which the right reverend Prelate described. We do that because the cost, including loading, is £10 to £12 per tonne. By road that barley would cost £20 per tonne to send to the south coast of England and still there would be the Channel to cross. The tunnel may or may not offer a better way; at least one hopes that it will offer a viable choice.
We send beef, lamb, venison, hare and rabbit meat by road. The tunnel will speed up and reduce the cost; perhaps those exports will travel by rail. Our seed potatoes go by boat to northern Spain, Portugal and Italy. Rail or road may be an alternative. At present agricultural machinery manufactured in our part of the world is exported by sea from local ports. Surely rail will be able to compete with that. I understand that representatives of Eurotunnel and British Rail are now in Scotland conducting a survey of what investment is required to achieve maximum advantage through these local links. Of course one has to bear in mind—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, made this point earlier on—that easier routes are two-way routes. They will help importers to Scotland as well as exporters, but that surely is an opportunity to be exploited and not a threat to be bemoaned.
Perhaps most important of all—my noble friend Lord Sanderson touched on this—may be the opportunity to develop a rail-sea link between Continental Europe and North America via Scotland. The Clyde offers a port with the greatest natural 958 advantages in Europe. It has deep water right up to the wharves' edge and needs little dredging. It is sheltered and it is not beset by the congestion of the English Channel. It is also 30 hours closer to North America than any of the Continental ports. The CBI have pointed out that if the cost of sending a full container from the Ruhr to New York could be reduced by £200 the Clyde would be in business and there would be a spin-off for the whole of Scotland.
And what about tourism? As with rail freight, motor-rail services are comparatively expensive in Britain. It is over the longer distances that rail travel comes into its own. When the tunnel allows Scotland's railway stations to become an integral part of Europe's long-distance rail network, competitively priced direct car-sleeper services between Europe's major cities and Edinburgh. Inverness, Aberdeen and the like would he immensely attractive to incoming tourists. For Scots who want to drive all the way but who, as many are, are frightened off by the high cost of driving to the south coast and then the cost of the ferries, the reduction in price that competition will bring will be most welcome, as will be the massive reduction in the numbers of juggernaut lorries. We are told that there will be something between 1,200 and 1,500 fewer on the roads and on the motorways at any given moment, en route to the South.
I believe that far from this project increasing the so-called North-South divide, in very many respects Scotland is going to gain an enormous advantage from it. I hope that the House will continue this debate in the vein that we have followed so far, talk positively and encouragingly and give a wholehearted Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Viscount Hanworth
My Lords, after nearly 20 speakers I do not think one can really say anything that is new. All one can do is to make the points one was going to make and so possibly add emphasis to what other people have said. I have always been in favour of a rail tunnel between England and France but not in favour of either a road tunnel or a road bridge. However, I do not think I need give my reasons against the road link tonight. I believe that a rail link will give us several important advantages. Not everyone enjoys the sea crossing and the quicker rail route will provide a useful alternative.
Much more important, however, is the rail freight that will be carried to the benefit of the railways and those sending goods long distances from the North, as has been pointed out. This should reduce the number of juggernaut lorries on our roads and help the profitability of rail. Even if the expected increase in freight and tourist traffic is not as great as forecast, our existing facilities will not be adequate. Without a tunnel, much of the increased traffic would wish to use the short sea crossing from Dover or Folkestone, and the inevitable expansion of docks and roads in the area would have a devastating effect on those towns. I cannot, therefore, understand why there should be opposition to the tunnel from the residents.
959 The environmental effect of the tunnel will be very slight indeed. The terminal is a well concealed, out of town area. The local opposition has, I think, been promoted by the ship and ferry operators, sometimes by rather dubious methods. The tunnel would, of course, reduce the sea traffic to some extent, but with a good lead time before it came into use it should not put operators out of business. From the consumers' point of view another way of crossing the Channel should be welcome, and it is unlikely that industrial action would affect both routes at the same time.
The argument that there would be increased danger of rabies coming into this country because of the tunnel is, I believe, a complete red herring. Rats are very fond of boarding ships, probably because of the food in the kitchens and elsewhere. They are plentiful in port areas and easily climb ships' mooring ropes unless there are really effective preventors on the ropes. Not so with the tunnel itself where their access can easily be prevented by electric grids and other measures. The real danger lies with passengers illegally importing animals. I think this is much the same, whatever route is used. It is not therefore a valid argument against the tunnel itself.
The opponents of the tunnel are playing on the present concern with job losses. We are talking about a tunnel coming into operation I would think at the earliest in seven years' time. The overall job losses are really negligible in comparison with our quite appalling unemployment and must be recognised as offset by the job gains in building and operating the tunnel and in improvements to railway facilities.
I concede that it is right for specific interests to make their plea. But, in this changing world, we must accept that new departures and hardships occur all the time. The railways should benefit from the tunnel. By the law of checks and balances, some others may suffer. In this island we cannot, in the interests of its inhabitants, accept a philosophy where it would be best to go back to the pick and shovel instead of the mechanical excavator. Too much would be lost if we did. If the rail tunnel is more efficient, we cannot go on saying that we ought not to have it because it might affect our shipping.
Safety of the tunnel is obviously important, and I think more could be done. Nevertheless, we all have to accept risks in this life. Even staying at home is quite dangerous. The risk of a fatal accident at home for men between the ages of 16 and 65 is one-quarter of that in British industry as a whole, which is four deaths per thousand in a working lifetime.
On the roads 55,000 people are killed in Western Europe every year and some 12 times that amount seriously injured—some permanently so. With possibly increased safety precautions in a rail tunnel link, I dismiss this argument. The risk of fire is based on an extension of the fire services' normal standards and they have not yet done a more rigorous analysis of probabilities in the tunnel. The Swiss tunnels have recently proved extremely safe.
The other objections to the tunnel are rather more cogent and depend to a great extent on whether passengers and freight will increase even to, say, one-half of the Channel Tunnel promoters' estimates. I am 960 sure that unless Britain under a Labour Government has to adopt a siege economy, traffic with the Continent will continue to increase and the Channel Tunnel will become a valued asset. This, however, is not quite the same as saying that it will be an instant financial success, and one must concede that it might be at the expense of our other ports.
However, in supporting the Channel Tunnel project, I say that it is ridiculous that we should spend years talking to the French, getting in bids and most of the financial backing from several consortia and even seriously considering a larger road and rail project, if, at the eleventh hour, we back out. The French have considered the merits and economics of the tunnel and are all in favour of it. If we opt out now, "perfidious Albion" might well be a fair comment.
Yes, my Lords, we can still usefully consider some alterations to the plan in detail after hearing the objections in Committee. But the Government have led us forward on this project. For goodness sake, let us get on with it without constantly looking over our shoulders. Nothing much has changed since the Government decided that the project ought to go ahead. If they were to refuse to subsidise, if necessary, the small equity required, then I would say that they are guilty of leading us down the garden path. I sincerely hope that if this happens they will not once again inappropriately talk about "market forces" as a device to let themselves out of a moral commitment.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Lord Pender
My Lords, the evening goes on and perhaps brevity has become the key word. I should like to say at the outset that I am in favour of the tunnel. I have no interest to declare, except that living locally in east Kent, eight miles from Dover and 14 miles from Folkestone, I lean naturally towards a parochial view.
A project of this magnitude could not possibly have unanimous approval. Let us look, however, at the economic benefits not just in Kent, which is the main beneficiary, but to the nation as a whole. First, local employment for 4,000 people, with a similar knock-on effect in the Midlands and Glasgow; then increased trade; faster travel; 1,500 juggernauts taken off the road around London daily; increased economic activity with the tunnel providing more reliable and more efficient transportation, enabling UK exporters to become more competitive in Europe, the world's largest market. The tourist industry will get a tremendous boost, in turn stimulating local business interests.
Of course, there are reservations and anxieties in some quarters. Will the ferries suffer, will there be adequate safeguards for the landscape, will there be fair compensation to farmers, and what about fire risk in the tunnel?—to name a few. But, looking to the 21st century, when the tunnel should have been operating for some seven years, there is no doubt in my mind that the economic and social benefits accruing from the tunnel far outweigh the negative factors.
Teething troubles there will be, but there exists a major opportunity to transform the economy in the South-East and to revitalise industry in many parts of the country. Eurotunnel has demonstrated its 961 flexibility and sensitivity to local issues. The two examples given by my noble friend Lord Pennock, who is not now in his place, of an assurance of shale by rail, and the alteration to the siting of the terminal at Cheriton, bear this out. Such actions bode well for harmony in the future.
The tunnel offers an alternative method of travel. It is not compulsory. For exporters who wish to ship freight swiftly and for businessmen and holidaymakers who can be in Paris in 3¼ hours, and in Brussels a quarter of an hour earlier, I suggest that, following their initial journey of 35 minutes through the tunnel they will be won over, perhaps like watching colour television for the first time as opposed to black and white.
However, at the end of the day, after all the feasibility studies, financial packages, environmental safeguards and other contingencies, there has to be the will to see the project through. Proposals were put forward in 1953 and cancelled in 1974 and the Government did their bit in 1986. It is now up to private enterprise to grasp this opportunity.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, I fully support this Bill, and I should like to make a few brief remarks about the carriage of bicycles. Some of your Lordships may know that the Government have already gracefully accepted a significant amendment relating to the carriage of bicycles moved in another place by the cycling fraternity, led by Sir George Young. I understand that that amendment was a good illustration of how a small change to the concession agreement has been possible.
While very welcome, that amendment went only part of the way to making sensible provision for cyclists wishing to use the tunnel. It wrote into the Bill the requirement that provision should be made for the carriage of pedal bicycles just within the tunnel. What is still missing is any provision for cycles outside the immediate confines of the tunnel. That problem becomes relevant to this Bill if some form of provision can be stipulated for bicycles on through passenger trains using the tunnel.
As it stands at present, the situation borders on the absurd. We have been told by the Minister about the brand new international terminal at Waterloo. And yet if one wanted to take a bicycle to Paris or Brussels one could not simply turn up with it and get a direct train at Waterloo. As the right honourable gentleman the Minister in another place described on 3rd February (at col. 961 of the Official Report, Commons) one would have to catch the train to Folkestone and cycle half a mile to the Cheriton depot before connecting up with the facility provided by the Eurotunnel shuttle. Think about having to do that at any time of the day or year, whatever the weather.
In another place, the Minister undertook to raise the matter with British Rail. I hope that discussions with them can bring some realism and understanding to the problems of cyclists before the Select Committee of this House examines the matter. If not, I trust this is just the sort of problem that the skilful minds of your Lordships' Select Committee can find an answer to. That answer can then be brought back to the floor of 962 this House, where there is a significant group of cyclists and friends of cyclists from all sides of the House who will be ready to welcome it.
This House should not seem to be elitist. We should remember that there are about 15 million cyclists in this country and that cycling looks like becoming an even more popular leisure activity. Although British Rail and Eurotunnel may initially look to the motorist in order to get the cash flowing, it would be tragic if at this stage development was allowed to proceed in the design of both trains and stations which precluded the easy, regular and (it is maintained) profitable carriage of bicycles.
The cyclist is indeed prepared to pay fairly for this service, even though at present the ferries carry cycles free. If we do not include proper provision for bicycles now, it could be difficult for them to be profitably incorporated later. I hope that the Select Committee will see it as part of its brief to take a slightly longer term view for a wider section of the public.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I follow my noble friend Lord Pender and others in believing that brevity is the correct attitude. I shall therefore quote almost nobody and I shall quote no statistics at all. I have a whole bundle of statistics under my arm. However, I do not care very much about them; I do not think that they help greatly. I wish only to speak about fire safety. I am not the first noble Lord to refer to this matter. However, I think that some noble Lords have referred to it in a cavalier and superficial fashion. They dismissed dangers of one kind or another as being too small to be taken seriously.
I should like to dispose straight away of the argument that long tunnels in the Swiss Alps have been running for years without any accidents at all. There is no question of comparison between those tunnels and the Channel Tunnel, which will be more than twice as long as any of them. The running systems and the ventilation problems in the Channel Tunnel will be quite out of comparison with anything found anywhere in Europe or, so far as I know, in Japan. The fact that there has never been a accident anywhere is totally irrelevant to the question of whether or not there will be an accident somewhere else. I think this is a highly fallacious argument which is trotted out far too often. After all, a large liner had never been sunk by an iceberg before the "Titanic" went down. I dare say that everyone was convinced that such a thing was impossible and was not worth bothering about.
The attitude of the concessionaires to fire is admirable. My noble friend Lord Pennock said that they were falling over backwards to make everything as safe as possible. He was not talking particularly about fire, I know, but this is not altogether borne out by some of the remarks made in their publicity. For instance, in a briefing paper put out by the Eurotunnel company there is this remark:There will be no smoking permitted in the trains. As has been shown on the London Underground the ban has been very effective through public participation and self-policing. It is a logical step to expect this policy to he effective in maintaining safety and security in the shuttle trains".If anybody thinks that that is a logical argument I must suppose that he lives in some other country or is too rich to travel by the Underground.
963 Clearly it is not very difficult for the most ardent smoker to sit for a few minutes in an Underground train with the eyes of all his fellow passengers on him. But that is very different from somebody travelling for hours in a caravan or in a car, longing for a smoke, who cannot be seen because he is in the Channel Tunnel. So let us forget that kind of comparison. The idea of risk from fire should not be dismissed simply because it is unlikely. I do not suggest that fire is likely. Fire may be made almost impossible. The point is that if it breaks out the result would be perfectly terrifying, and probably worse than any other kind of accident that is likely or unlikely to occur anywhere else in the world—even worse than a crashing jumbo jet.
What will happen if a fire breaks out? Let us think in a moment about how it could break out; but let us suppose that it did. What is required among other things is the provision of fireproof doors or fireproof curtains. This has been under consideration since 1971 at the Fire Research Station and other places. No satisfactory solution to the problem has yet been found, as I discovered by means of some telephone calls this afternoon. The problem is this. A fire door has two functions. One is to keep the fire under control and the other is to keep the air away from it. Neither of these functions can be satisfactorily carried out if passengers want to get through the door.
What happens to the passengers who are on the wrong side of the door when it is shut in order to control the fire in the tunnel? The answer to that probably is to have an airlock—two doors—so that passengers can go through one, shut it and then come out through the other one.
Can noble Lords seriously imagine this? You are in a tunnel in a two-decker wagon with five cars above and five below. People are in them. One of those cars catches fire and everybody tries to get out. The wagon is so designed that a small car with two doors—a two-door car has doors that are wider than those of a four-door car—will effectively block the walkway on either side of the train. The people who get out—and no doubt several people will get out and will try to get away from the fire as quickly as possible—will find their way blocked by the doors of the cars ahead of them. Those doors may either be opening away from them, in which case they will force them away from themselves and prevent the other people from getting out, or they will be opening the other way and people will be prevented from passing. So there is a situation leading already to chaos and probably panic.
As soon as a fire takes hold it will produce vast quantities of what is known to firemen as hot smoke—black, oily stuff filled with flames, poisonous, deadly toxic and blinding. Poisonous gases will also be generated. That is the basic situation in which you or I might find ourselves if there were a fire in a car near to us. Some might be old ladies or invalids in wheelchairs who could not get out of the car in time. There could be a baby in arms and bundles of luggage. All that is being carried down through the smoke and the heat and with fear through a narrow tunnel blocked by doors.
The firemen trying to get at the fire to put it out will have to fight their way against those people going the 964 other way. It requires no great imagination to think of such a situation. It is not improbable if a fire should start. It is a far greater exercise of the imagination than has been performed by any of those involved in the Eurotunnel group, so far as I have been able to discover in the literature.
Let us suppose that those people get out of their train. I do not think it is necessary to go very far, but remember that the hot gases from the fire can travel down tunnels—and this is already known from the study of fires in mines—much more quickly than a person can walk or even run. Some of those people, if the fire is to be contained at all, are certain to find themselves on the wrong side of a fire door—it would be necessary to put them in that position—and they would be burnt to death.
Your Lordships may say that that is unlikely; and to that I reply that I do not care whether or not it is unlikely. The point is that it is possible. How likely is it? That is the question that may be asked. It is not as unlikely as all that. There are many ways in which fires can start. They cannot start in Alpine tunnels, which are comparatively open. Caravans carry Calor Gas cylinders, which can leak. We know very well that Calor Gas cylinders in confined situations in a house or boat often explode. If a Calor Gas cylinder explodes in a tunnel which contains a certain amount of petrol vapour there is a readymade bomb. Every time you switch off an electrical switch there is the risk of a spark. If there is petrol vapour about it can start a fire. All sorts of conjunctions of accidents can take place simultaneously and start a horrific event.
Several points arose from the accident in the nuclear power station at Three Mile Island in the United States. One point is that an explosion was narrowly averted but the causes were a complicated correlation of several more or less unlikely or impossible human errors. That situation can very well arise in a train. That is a possibility and if a possibility exists at all it is not to be dismissed; nor is it dismissed. The organisations of which I speak, the Fire Research Station and the British Safety Council, are working on this but they have not yet found an answer. The reason I raise the matter in this debate is that I believe it ought to be in the Bill. Some reference should be in the Bill. However, all that the Bill contains is a note in Clause 16 which gives the Secretary of State power to prohibit smoking. That does not take us very far.
The Secretary of State also has the power to make regulations on the design of the trains. I do not doubt that this is the proper safety precaution but my fear is that so much money is involved in this vast project I wonder whether, when the reports of these scientific research organisations are to hand saying that there must be segregation of the passengers from their cars—and that is what I think they will say—the Government will then say that the design of the trains must be changed. Or will the Government consider the effect on the concessionaires such that it is not fair to put this great new burden of organisation and expense upon them? I hope not, but it is just possible.
I conclude by quoting from experts in this field. Dr. Eisner, formerly a director of the Explosion and Flame Laboratory and a consultant on safety in mines, said:Under no circumstances should the passengers be allowed to travel in the same compartment as the vehicles.965 Sir Kenneth Holland said that,to allow non-segregation in the rail-tunnel situation would, in my view, mean acceptance of a lower standard of safety than could be deemed acceptable regardless of any combination of automatic, manual and staff procedures intended to minimise the adverse effects of an unwanted incident.Furthermore, he said:It would seem to be unlikely that any economic advantage of non-segregation would be acceptable to society as offsetting a much lower standard of safety from fire in such an arrangement.One can go on. What I hope and pray will be decided in the end to be put to the concessionaires as an order is that no passengers shall ever be allowed to travel in the same compartments as their vehicles. It is not difficult to arrange that. That should be in the Bill now. I commit it to your Lordships for careful thought. If it is not done and someone is burnt to death (I believe that will happen) the blame will be fairly upon us.
§ 10.10 p.m.
My Lords, in this debate I shall don my railway hat or perhaps I should more appropriately say the cloth cap of the railway lover, if railway lovers wear cloth caps. I am still somewhat ambivalent about the Bill as a whole. I shall speak from the railway angle. I have been swung over to general support for the Bill largely by the excellent presentation that British Rail have arranged at Waterloo. I looked through the visitors' book and saw that the Minister who will reply and myself are the only two noble Lords who have visited that exhibition, but I may be wrong.
Forgive me, my Lords, I shall not speak about the environmental and safety aspects of this matter, because they have been dealt with in extenso by many speakers, except to say, with great respect to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark and others, that I do not think the environmental damage to Waterloo will be all that great. From the technical railway point of view, the new layout with its five new 400 metre Continental platforms and minimal disturbance to existing traffic (an important consideration) seems adequate. The construction of those new platforms and the approach lines will entail the demolition of only four houses and one public house, the licence of which I understand is now running out.
There are two arguments against the tunnel, which I shall examine briefly. The first is what one might call the psychological or claustrophobic argument. A surprisingly large number of people to whom I have spoken say that an extra hour or two on their journey by ferry or hovercraft is preferable to 35 minutes in a tunnel. We must remember that a great many people (women perhaps more than men) do not even like going on the Underground.
The second argument is romantic, sentimental and unrealistic, perhaps, but it weighs heavily with me. It is that our history, culture, customs and, yes indeed, our past greatness, have all stemmed, to a greater or lesser extent from our insularity. Let me quote from 966 that glorious dying speech of John of Gaunt in Act I of Shakespeare's King Richard II:This other Eden, demi-paradise,This fortress built by Nature for herselfAgainst infection and the hand of war.Are not infection and the hand of war still spoken about today, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, as basic objections to any form of physical link with the Continent?
In essence, my attitude towards the tunnel, speaking as a student of railways, is that it makes sense for freight but not necessarily for passengers. That is an attitude which, I gather, many of your Lordships share.
Where passengers are concerned, surely speed is the most important consideration; in other words, unless the new tunnel can provide city-centre to city-centre times (let us say from the Victory Arch at Hyde Park Corner to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris) that are appreciably faster than the ferries and the hovercraft and comparable with air travel, I do not see the new tunnel attracting anything like the 15.6 million passengers in 1993 (that is, the year in which the tunnel is scheduled to open) that BR envisages, as against the 3 million or 4 million passengers who now use the existing trains and ferries.
British Rail's planning rests on the assumption that the trains will take 3 hours 15 minutes from Waterloo to the Gare du Nord in Paris, and 2 hours 55 minutes to Brussels. I have examined this estimate very carefully and I have serious reservations about it. In the first place, it would require the construction of an entirely new line designed to take the TGV trains—trains à grande vitesse—which are capable of 160 to 180 miles an hour, from the French terminal at Frethun to the Gare du Nord. Such a line, like those already constructed to Lyons and elsewhere, would begin on the outskirts of Paris with some 10 to 15 miles of much slower running to reach the terminus.
I hope that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but so far as I could find out from British Rail and other sources we know nothing about that line. The French have plans which still seem to be largely in the air, but as yet there is nothing definite. I hope I am wrong about that because it is absolutely vital that such a line be constructed.
Secondly, as has been mentioned by other speakers, the timings envisaged would require customs inspections to be carried out on the trains, including those trains which start in Liverpool, Manchester or elsewhere. So long as the customs authorities procrastinate over this—as I understand they are procrastinating—these timings will be unobtainable.
Thirdly and lastly, there is the question of the speed over the English section of the route from the Cheriton terminal to Waterloo, which is a distance of 71½ miles. Here I must restrain myself from going into too much detail. However, starting from the terminal, the first part of the line from Cheriton through Ashford to Tonbridge—a distance of about 37 or 38 miles, including the 26 miles of almost perfect running from Ashford to Tonbridge—is a section over which British Rail envisage a speed of 100 miles an hour. That is less than the 125 miles an hour at which our high speed trains run.
967 After that one has all sorts of problems. There is a very sharp turn at Tonbridge; there is the climb up to the Sevenoaks tunnel; and there are the restrictions through the Sevenoaks tunnel and the Pollhill tunnel. When one reaches Orpington and enters the suburbs of London a greatly restricted running speed is required. I am doubtful whether a timing of 60 to 65 minutes or whatever it may be is realistic.
There is also the problem of traffic densities. This again is technical and I shall try to keep it as simple as I can. As some of your Lordships know, British Rail envisages a service of four Continental trains an hour. I am speaking of the trains from the London terminal to the Gare du Nord, and I am not talking about the shuttles. There will be four Continental trains an hour, one of which would go to Paris, one of which would go to Brussels and the other two will probably go to other destinations, although that is not certain.
We must remember that the British Rail line is largely the existing Continental main line from London to the Channel ports. On much of that line there is a density of 12 trains an hour: that is, one every five minutes. The ultimate target is a train every three minutes. That may be realisable and I hope that it is, but I am doubtful about it. I have discussed those timings in great detail with British Rail. As the Minister mentioned, it has extensive plans for track improvements, straightening out corners, improved signalling, and so on. Much work will be done on the stretch from the Channel terminal to Tonbridge to bring it up to the 100 mile an hour standard. With those brief considerations in mind, I have serious doubts about the possibility of British Rail and SNCF (French Rail) achieving a time of 3¼ hours from London to Paris.
I should like to conclude with a rather sentimental and highly subjective suggestion: could we not ask British Rail to construct at the Cheriton terminal a tunnel portal to match those great portals to be seen on the old LMS line running up to Scotland? It would be worthy of this great project, of which, in general, I am much in favour.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Viscount Hood
My Lords, in supporting the project I should like to declare an interest. I am a director of George Wimpey which are one of the original participants in this venture, and hope to be one of the 10 contractors building the tunnel. My views cannot better be expressed than the conclusion of the railways which is that the Channel Tunnel project is the single biggest opportunity in the post-war period. I am convinced that it will increase trade. There will be speed and efficiency which will lead to more trade. It will provide an important facility for passengers, and the tourist trade is one of our most important invisible exports. Comments have been made on environmental issues. My only comment is that after hearing many words in this House and elsewhere I am impressed that so great a project can involve so little disruption of the environment.
At this late hour I should like briefly to say something about finance—a subject which has not played very much part in your Lordships' discussions. 968 It is nevertheless fundamental to the venture. The essential facts have already been stated with complete clarity by the noble Lord, Lord Pennock. They are very simple. There are £4 billion of debts superimposed on £1 billion of equity. Of the £1 billion equity, £250 million has already been subscribed, leaving £750 million. This issue is contemplated in the summer provided that the Bill becomes law and the Treaty is ratified. The issue is not simple. The difficulty lies in one very simple fact, namely; that the enterprise is new. There is not and cannot be the record of performance which we have seen with British Gas, British Telecom or British Airways. They are projections based upon the best opinions that can be devised. Provided that they are realised, the tunnel is built and all goes according to plan, in my judgment the profitability is splendid.
The problem brings to my mind an American novel called The Late George Apley, which many of your Lordships may have read. In the 1900s, the proper Bostonian invested some small part of a trust fund in the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, adding that it was obviously a speculation and that if it failed he would replace the money. There is a similarity here. We all know what has happened to the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, it has become a vast enterprise, so vast and so profitable that it has had to be split into six or more divisions. It had an advantage over the Channel Tunnel Company in that it had the opportunity of spreading its activities and thereby created one of the great electronic companies of the world—The Western Electric Company. The Channel Tunnel Company is inhibited—and I should like to make a quotation:no part of the Eurotunnel group shall without the written consent of the Intergovernmental Commission engage in any activity other than the development, financing, construction or operation of the tunnel.That inhibition was not applied to the Suez Canal Company, which again has a certain similarity to the problems with which the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, is so ably dealing. It was a new enterprise and it dealt with transportation. Fortunately for the enterprise and its shareholders, over its 80-odd years of life it built up a great financial activity—investments, and otherwise—so that when the day came in 1956 when it was nationalised the enterprise continued, and is still continuing.
I think there are problems in this financing. Why? Because shareholders do not look only to dividends. The figures are impressive. I see from the prospectus of the smaller issue of £250 million that the Channel company expects to be able to declare dividends in the first 10 years of its activities in excess of £2 billion—twice the subscribed capital. I feel that it would be better if it were allowed to retain at least some of it for productive investment elsewhere.
Shareholders today look not only for dividends; they look for growth. They look for diversification. They may even look for a takeover, although that word is not one that we perhaps use currently. Nevertheless they look for an expansion based upon reinvestment of earnings. I would therefore ask the Government at least to consider looking favourably upon an indication, when the time comes, that written consent might be given to other activities.
969 Your Lordships may say that I am thinking too far ahead, that the Bill is not passed, that the tunnel is not started, and that the profits have not yet been generated. But any investor worth his salt is thinking 20 years ahead. I am not asking for any amendment of the concession. That would be ridiculous. But some indication of flexibility in the views of the two governments would, I should have thought, be helpful in the financing problem which the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, has to face. With these words, I should like to support the project in every way, and I hope that it will receive the blessing of this House.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, like at least two noble Lords before me, I must declare an interest in that in five years' time I shall receive a small pension from British Rail. I should like to start by congratulating the noble Lord the Minister on speaking for only eight minutes. I have heard it said that that is unusual, and that Ministers normally speak for 20 minutes. The noble Lord could perhaps have spoken for at least 45 minutes. To encapsulate everything in eight minutes deserves our grateful thanks.
The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, surprised me when he said that young people, the under 25s, are all enthusiastically for the Channel Tunnel. It just happens that yesterday I conducted what I think is called a straw poll in my home among six people under the age of 25 who are studying at technical college or university, or working in hospitals or allied industries. I asked the simple question, "What do you think about the Channel Tunnel?" The first person said, "I don't know." I cannot tell you what the next one said. I shall put it this way; I think that he suffered from francophobia. The next one was not much help. He did not want the Channel Tunnel as he suffered from claustrophobia.
Of the other three, one was against it on defence grounds. Another cited the threat of rabies, and the last opposed it on safety grounds. I explained that one can forget about rabies. As many noble Lords have stated, what with electrical gadgets and digging deep pits, there is absolutely no danger that foxes, rabbits and so on will gallop along the tunnel. From the point of view of safety much has been made about the 50,000 cars each year that catch fire. No one has said how many of those 50,000 cars caught fire with the ignition turned off. I have a feeling that people concerned about this question of fire are raising red herrings.
I did find a difficulty with my young friend who talked about defence. Immediately one can say that there is no way that an enemy could attack this country through the tunnel; that it is the easiest thing in the world to defend a small tunnel against any kind of enemy. But if that is true, then it must also be true that an enemy could deny us the use of the self-same tunnel to reinforce our troops in Europe should the balloon go up.
In the same way that I am an ex-BR man, I am also an ex-merchant sailor. It is true that in the last few years our merchant fleet has been sadly depleted, partly due to overmanning and for various other reasons. I know that we rely today on our cross- 970 Channel ferries being there and being manned to ship reinforcements across to Europe. One of my worries is that if the Channel Tunnel is a success—I hope it will be—there is bound to be a decrease in the number of cross-Channel ferries. If that happens where will we get the ships and the ferries to transport our armaments, our troops and our ammunition across that water?
It is interesting to note that since the Channel Tunnel became a real possibility, for the first time we have seen competition between the ferry companies. They are giving a better service now; they are offering us inducements; and they are building bigger and better ferries.
There is also the worry—I have seen this mooted in the press—that if the Channel Tunnel is built and runs for, say, a year and the Channel Tunnel company decides that it is not economic and goes into liquidation, the possibility arises of another consortium buying up the assets at a greatly reduced price, having had to pay none of the millions of pounds of which we have been told, and then in a monopoly position charging exactly what it likes.
Having said that, as my noble friend Lord Tordoff said, we in the Alliance support the Channel Tunnel and, along with the Government and most people in your Lordships' House, we wish it every success.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Lord Teviot
My Lords, I wish to talk about East Sussex, and then I will go back to some other points. I do not think your Lordships have addressed the subject of East Sussex. There is a county west of Kent called Sussex, now East Sussex, and it will be affected in one way or another. Mr. Mitchell's committee has looked very seriously into Thanet. One does not want to be utterly parochial, but one has had, very properly, parochial subjects dealt with.
It is a fact that the demands of East Sussex are very modest. British Rail has tried to upgrade the railway between Ashford and Hastings, because Ashford is the town where everything is going to happen. As regards roads, in the North and in the Midlands the roads are excellent compared to the South, but East Sussex does not even want a motorway. I would personally support a motorway in the area but Sussex apparently does not want a motorway; it wants an upgraded road.
Continuing on the subject of East Sussex, we may talk about the town of Hastings. Everybody knows about the town of Hastings; of course every child in every school knows about Hastings because of 1066. It happens to suffer 20 per cent. unemployment. That is probably not quite as high as Thanet, but it is an important point. There are one or two very fascinating industries developing in the area but what they are thinking of in that part of East Sussex is more in terms of tourism. All they are asking is for the A.2070 or one or two of the roads between Ashford and Rye, particulary the part between either Ashford and Brenzett or Brenzett and Rye, to be upgraded. It will have to be done in stages. It must be looked at objectively, and a dual carriage road might go there. That part of Sussex needs a bit of credibility and should not be forgotten.
My last point about East Sussex is that E.V. Lucas, a Sussex writer, talked of Brighton as being an immoral town, Eastbourne being clinically healthy, 971 and dear old Hastings being rather run down. I am afraid nothing has changed. If the Archdeacon was here I am quite sure he would agree with every word I said.
The rest of my speech is in relation to your Lordships' responsibility on this Bill, which is very great, because all the country is looking to your Lordships. Quite unfairly they have said "the other place" and have been unable to get a word in edgeways. But the other place does not really have very much time, because it deals with a great many matters and it has been assessed rather unfairly. However, there are one or two items that will not run away; namely, the security aspect of the tunnel, and the fire aspect.
I am not utterly convinced. I do not think, if I was asked to divide on any of these aspects, that I would go this way or that. One does know the frailty of human beings; how easy it is to stub a cigarette out and burn something in somebody's house or do something antisocial, though I am quite sure there will be all sorts of inspectors. I have had consultations, and I think that the matter should be looked into between now and when we put this Bill to bed. That is really what the country is looking for.
When we put this Bill to bed there are going to be certain areas where people can sleep quietly; we can all sleep; we shall have done a very good job. There should be a punitive system in relation to security. Since 1974 when, unfortunately, there was a "red alert" as regards the IRA, we have had our bags searched. Anyone boarding a train could be subject to that sort of system. There must be a code of conduct if it is not written into the Bill.
I turn to customs and immigration and unfair competition in respect of the ferries. Unfair competition could be a real problem. One of the points about which the ferries are concerned is the untold delays at present as regards people travelling on the ferries. Immigration officers often ask questions about people. They shoulder great responsibilities, as do the customs people. However, the question of the ferries must be looked into as regards a code of conduct, or whatever, and we must also be satisfied that at the end of the day there will be suitable staffing.
Finally—and this matter has already been mentioned and was also evident in the other place—we must be utterly apolitical from start to finish. We must act so that our descendants cannot say that it was the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Party or the Social Democrats who pushed this Bill through. The Bill is a great step forward and we look forward to it passing all its stages.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, in listening to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, I felt tempted to redress the balance and speak about West Sussex, where I happen to live. However, I shall reserve that for another occasion.
As we bring this very important and wide-ranging debate to a conclusion, it is probably desirable to start drawing together a few threads which of course the succeeding speaker and the Minister will do to an even greater extent. From having listened carefully to 972 everything that has been said, my conclusion is that the majority opinion is very much in favour of going ahead with this project but that nonetheless a number of important points were mentioned on which there are quite justifiable reservations.
We must look at the issue from two points of view: first, from the point of view of broad support; and, secondly, from the point of view of the specific reservations. I shall deal first with the broad support. All who favour the project feel that it will bring us very much closer to the European Community, with which we are already so closely linked through our treaty and through the development of trade. The tunnel will provide us with a much more effective means of access than we have at present. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said when introducing this Second Reading debate, the present level of trade to Western Europe represents about 60 per cent. of our total exports or £50 billion. It is quite clear that one of our most important objectives is to increase the quantity of manufactured goods going into the Continental markets. Anything which supports that endeavour must surely be in the interests of the country. That is the first main reason why we should support the project.
Secondly, it will massively improve the country's transport system. It is not just a question of building a tunnel, as has been made abundantly clear by many noble Lords who have spoken. There is all the supporting infrastructure of the rail and road networks which will have to be strengthened. Therefore, there will be a wide-ranging benefit.
The Eurotunnel group has made a special and very interesting study of the probable regional impact. I recommend that your Lordships read it. This has demonstrated very clearly the substantial advantages in the way of improved movement, both of passengers and freight traffic, towards the Continent from all parts of this country which undoubtedly will play a part in our future development. I personally believe that the opportunities this is going to provide for all regions are very considerable. I cannot see this resulting simply in a further development of the South-East.
The project itself is going to be one of the biggest infrastructure projects which we have tackled since the war, and we talk a great deal about the need for more infrastructure projects. Here we have one of exceptional size, and I should have thought that we would not have the slightest hesitation in supporting it.
I must say I should be very disturbed indeed if the next attempt to raise equity—the £750 million that the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, and his colleagues will be seeking to raise once this Bill has gone though Parliament—fails; because I am afraid that if that were to be the case and if the failure to raise the money were to be because of the reluctance of the institutional investors in this country, I should feel that the criticism which is often being voiced—that such bodies are only interested in short-term investment—is probably correct. Here we have something of very considerable long-term impact, and it is about time that we put some of our money—and all of us will have our money involved through the pension funds and other institutions—into long-term projects.
973 This has the advantage, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hood, said, of being potentially a very profitable project. It shows a return of over 16 per cent. before tax. That is considerable. When we consider other projects—new power station projects which we shall be talking about and even nuclear projects which will be coming up in due course—I believe we are talking in terms of about 5 per cent. rates of return justifying a massive investment. Here is one that is three times as profitable and we should have no hesitation in supporting it if we are satisfied with the prospectus, as I am sure we will be.
Then there is the question of employment. These additions to employment will be ongoing. First, there will be the construction, and then the operation. We are talking of anywhere between 4,000 and 7,000 or 8,000 persons being employed per annum. We are talking about a massive ordering of goods, services and equipment from British firms; over a billion pounds-worth is going to be put there. Therefore this one project is going to do a whole lot of things at the same time, so far as I can see. It is going to support our export trade; it is going to strengthen our links with the European Community; it is going to provide more employment; it is going to provide profitable investment. I would say it is very rare that one could think of a project which could do all those things at the same time.
Those are the positive points; but there are points that cause concern and it is going to be necessary at the Select Committee stage and when this Bill comes back to us that we look very carefully at the problems. I think your Lordships have identified them very clearly. Without any question, the first aspect of concern is safety; and many have referred to that. I think it is quite right that this aspect should be examined with the greatest of care at the Select Committee stage. And when the Bill comes back to us here we would have to be convinced that whatever is necessary to avoid some of the difficulties, dangers and risks that many noble Lords have mentioned has been done.
Secondly, there is the environmental impact: the environmental impact in Kent and the environmental impact at the Waterloo terminal. Both those aspects have been referred to. A great deal of work has been done on both. I believe a positive effort has been made to solve those problems. Nevertheless the issue was raised not least by my noble friend Lord Tordoff and by others, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, as to whether we need to have one terminal or could have more than one.
Then there is the question of the competitive impact on the ferries and how we can ensure that their interests are legitimately safeguarded. Reference was made to the fact that perhaps we should have gone for a rail-only tunnel. I think this needs to be further debated. We need to be convinced that what is now proposed is absolutely right. I think we would feel concerned if by putting so much money and effort into this project we were going to weaken the long-term prospects of the ferries, which are quite rightly, as my noble friend Lord Attlee mentioned, important not only in times of peace but in times of war. This is another matter that needs to be looked at.
974 Finally, there is the question of customs procedure to which again many noble Lords referred. It is going to be important that we adjust ourselves to this new system of transport, so far as concerns both passengers and freight.
Therefore I conclude by saying that I think the major arguments in favour of this project are overwhelming, but that there are some specific issues which still cause concern, which need to be looked at very carefully during the further stages of this Bill so that when it comes back to us we can then be wholeheartedly satisfied that it meets all possible requirements and enables us to derive from this project the maximum benefit.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, I think everyone will agree that we have had a very long but also a very interesting debate tonight. One of the things that we should all be very pleased about is that we have had no fewer than three maiden speeches. The noble Earl, Lord Cowley, made a most interesting point—he did so succinctly—when he spoke about the psychological barrier which is one of the things that affects the whole question of the Channel Tunnel.
Then we had the speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and the noble Earl, Lord Darnley, who are both from Kent. I am from a long way from Kent, and I am never sure whether one is a Kentish man or a man of Kent, and where the border actually is. It is also interesting that they spoke because they are on the doorstep; they know the situation very well. Both of them are particularly concerned about the environment of the area that they live in and that they come from. Therefore, their speeches, together with that of Lord Cowley, are very important. I am sure the whole House will look forward, now that they have got over their maiden speeches, to hearing them contribute with the same succinctness and forcefulness that they did this evening.
I have always inclined towards the tunnel. I think the first time I spoke about it in another place was in about 1963. I would say—and it is much like the noble Earl, Lord Cowley—that it was a psychological decision that I took the other path as against those who had the psychological barrier. It is almost a hunch decision. The noble Earl, Lord Lloyd-George, referred to the enormous mountain of material that has been collected on the Channel Tunnel, and that is still going on. Every week and every month more material comes in. I think to a large extent on a project so enormous as the Channel Tunnel, having subconsciously perhaps looked at their best interests, people make a decision almost on a hunch. I think the Duke of Edinburgh called it a belly decision or a gut reaction to certain things that some people have.
Therefore I was sad about the fact that in some of the speeches tonight there was almost a ridiculing of those who disagreed, as though they were not intelligent enough to understand, or as though they had some very special interest. I have a great respect for those who disagree and for those who have the other point of view from that which I hold. In fact, it is amazing that in the past year, of all the different people who put in bids for different types of tunnel, 975 those who were not successful are not now so keen on a fixed link as they were. So people can change their minds on this subject.
People in Scotland are rather worried about the effect of the tunnel in the South-East, and this fact was dealt with by many speakers. Perhaps it is a little unfortunate that at this period British Rail has announced that it is closing 80 Freightliner depots. It is a depressing fact that it may be a long time before they will be reopened, and they may not be reopened in time for the Channel link, if and when it comes. So will British Rail keep the depots in mothballs till 1993, or will it merely abandon them in the hope that it can build more later?
This aspect also applies to some of our ports. I raised this point in the Committee on the Pilotage Bill when I asked the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, about the port of Greenock. Unless something serious happens to help Greenock—and all the Scots people should be aware of this—there will not be a Greenock by the time the Channel Tunnel opens. Therefore, the glorious vision we had, when we learned of the day-and-a-half or 30 hour journey, and the fact that the Clyde is closer in time to North America than any other port, will be of very little advantage to us.
The whole regional problem is not something that can be easily brushed away. There is great and understandable worry. My noble friend Lord Sefton made a very intelligent and powerful speech when he expressed some of his worries about the tunnel. People in Scotland are worried about whether the tunnel will help them. People in Liverpool are worried about whether the tunnel will help them—or whether it will even do them any harm. These questions have to be answered.
The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, is in a very fortunate position in that I understand he represents a very high quality woollen manufacturer with a world reputation. With an increasing standard of living in certain parts of the world, there is a great demand for its products, and I only wish that more of Scotland and the North-East was in the same happy position as the Border. There are real problems.
It is no use making a comparison between our attitude and that of the French. The French have a totally different position. They would give a great deal to have the Channel Tunnel because of the advantage it would give to the Pas de Calais. That is the equivalent of the industrial belt of Scotland in terms of needing new investment and new money. The attitude of the French is different from ours.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, asked: why not a rail-only tunnel? I happened to be on the Select Committee of the other place when the tunnel was considered very carefully. I heard the most professional and devastating arguments from Professor Cairncross, who is an exceptional man. I listened with great care, as did the whole committee. At the end of the day it was realised, if I am correct, that there would just not be enough money to build what became known as "the mousehole"—that was the tunnel that could take only trains. However, the only way that would have been viable was if it could 976 have provided for piggyback as well as purely rail traffic.
We were in a situation in which, while British Rail, the National Union of Railwaymen, ASLEF, the environmentalists and many other people wanted a rail-only link, the British Road Federation, the Transport and General Workers' Union and many other groups opposed that idea. I believe that the money market also gave fairly strong hints that they would not take the risk of a rail-only link. I shall go back and read the last section of the report again, but that is my memory of what might be called the "gossip" of the committee, whether or not it was actually put down. That was the final decision of the committee when I was on it and as I remember it.
One of the other great problems was raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. There must be genuine concern in realising that all this will be pushed upon a certain area relatively suddenly and that that area will never be the same again once the tunnel opens and the terminal is there.
I think that another thing the Select Committee might look at is the various options involved. I have never been convinced that, when a large concern such as British Rail comes to a conclusion, it does not spend a great deal of time proving that its conclusion is right, and that it does not occasionally become slightly impatient with people who introduce another idea which, if looked at closely, might prove more viable than was thought. I may be a romantic, but I rather like the idea of having a close look at Battersea Power Station.
Waterloo Station is already overloaded. British Rail has said that it can handle the traffic. I do not know enough about the south side of the river to know whether or not that is true. However, I certainly understand the people in the area who know that in 10 years' time that area will be no more as they remember it. I know that human traffic is quite high, particularly in the morning and the evening, through that area. Therefore there must be apprehension over the additional line.
One of the basic problems which was only slightly touched upon by many noble Lords tonight is the question of subsidy. We need assurances from the Minister concerning the British Ports Authority and other parts of the country that may be affected by subsidies going either direclty or indirectly to the tunnel so that other areas are adversely affected. For instance, will British Rail be asked to guarantee a particular throughput of traffic? Obviously, if it has to guarantee such a throughput, that would presumably come from the government grant to the railways. Perhaps the Minister can clear up that point.
Is there any guarantee required of the minimum traffic that British Rail will give to the tunnel? Will British Rail expenditure be diverted to building up the South-East network, as against the network in other parts of the country? Have the Government made any allowance for that in regard to British Rail? My concern is for other parts of the country and particularly for the ports. If British Rail spends too much money on the tunnel project in trying to make a success of it, obviously there will be less money for the ports.
977 I should like to ask the Minister a question which I hope he can answer now; but if he cannot I hope he will be able to answer it before we reach the Committee stage. Clause 2 of the Bill has already been mentioned in the debate. When I look at Clause 2(1) and then at Clause 2(2) I must admit that I become totally lost and cannot understand why they are both in the Bill. One seems to say that there will be no pick-up of expenditure by the Government and the other seems to suggest that in certain circumstances they can help towards payment to the company. This matter is too large just to be left to the Committee stage and I think we should have an answer now.
I have a number of other questions. Will Customs officials and Foreign Office officials looking at passports be taken away from the ports in order to look after the tunnel traffic or will there be new appointments and an increase in staff to cope with the traffic going through the tunnel? There is a feeling among the port authorities that they could be at a disadvantage if Customs clearance were faster there than at the ports. This would favour the tunnel company and would not be fair competition.
My last points concerns safety. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that practically all the safety matters—rabies and so on—have been well looked after. I have no great concern in that regard. I must say, however, that I have a genuine fear—and it has arisen quite recently—about fire. I happened to go to the fire brigade seminar. I think that a number of noble Lords were invited there but unfortunately it took place on one of the worst days, if not the worst day, of the winter. I left the seminar feeling very definitely concerned about the possibility of fire.
I was concerned in particular about the idea that people in a caravan could make their own tea or do their own catering while the train was going through the tunnel. I do not think that any other tunnel can be compared with this one. There could be a fire 15 miles from either end of the tunnel. The fire brigade would have to go in and try to cope with the fire. The Alpine tunnels—and I think that I have been through all of them several times—are not in the same class. The idea that people would be able to stay in caravans and motor caravans on the way through and perhaps cook is terrifying.
I did not get the impression that the Fire Brigades Union is by any means anti-tunnel, but it raised that point and it is a very genuine one. It also wanted to know whether an allowance will be made to Kent Fire Brigade for coping with the tunnel. Will there be any co-operation with the fire brigade on the French side or will there be a special fire force within the tunnel as the airports have? What will the common language between the fire brigades on both sides of the tunnel? If there was a fire it would have to be fought from both sides and there would need to be some understanding. This is not a small point. It is not insuperable but it certainly ought to be looked at.
We are all a little sad and unhappy that there was not a public inquiry. Such an inquiry would have cleared up many of the doubts and I am sorry that we did not have one. However, I can say that if the Bill gets through both Houses and the project goes ahead a Labour Government would certainly ensure that the 978 maximum benefits are derived from the tunnel for the nation as a whole and that damage to the environment would be minimised.
We all look forward to the Select Committee of this House reporting on the Bill. I know that the two Members concerned from this side of the House are very thorough and will be positive and helpful in the discussions. They will also insist on getting the right answers. We also look forward to the Committee stage where again I hope positive and constructive debate will take place in order to improve the Bill as it came from another place.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, as I expected, this has been a constructive and well-informed debate and I am much encouraged by the overall mood of support both for the project and for the Bill; though I fully accept that there are still reservations about matters of detail and indeed more general reservations from a few noble Lords.
I shall try to deal with as many of the points as I can but in many cases matters are inevitably still under consideration or are the subject of continuing negotiations. If I am therefore unable for the moment to respond fully I will read most carefully what has been said and perhaps write to noble Lords; or no doubt we shall return to the subject at a later stage of the Bill. I fear that I shall not be able to complete this wind-up in eight minutes!
First, I congratulate my noble friends Lord Cowley, Lord Astor and Lord Darnley on their maiden speeches. I absolutely agree with the telling point made by my noble friend Lord Cowley about the commercial opportunity for United Kingdom exporters into the huge European market. How right he was to say that the Europeans only have the advantage of being able to come to a market of 55 million people more easily through this tunnel whereas we have easier access to a market of over 200 million people.
I agree wholeheartedly with what my noble friend Lord Astor said about the tunnel increasing competition across the Channel to the benefit of users. Instead of two modes of travel as at present there will be four ways of crossing the Channel—air, sea, car shuttle and through train.
My noble friend Lord Darnley was perhaps not so keen on the possibility of the fixed link. He spoke of course from the point of view of Kent. However, he missed the point of Clause 2 in that the Government cannot support the tunnel financially without bringing fresh primary legislation before Parliament. That legislation would be hybrid and the airlines and the ferry operators he is concerned about would be able to petition.
I suppose the issue which has exercised your Lordships more than any other is that of safety, and it is right that it should do so. The issue was raised by many noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, was a little unfair in saying that it was becoming clear that safety has not been fully considered. Safety issues, in particular the risk of fire 979 and the non-segregation of passengers from their vehicles, were fully debated in the other place.
The Safety Authority, of whose competence and independence there can be no doubt, would not hesitate to reject any aspect of the scheme which was unsatisfactory from a safety point of view. Although in the first place the Safety Authority will proceed by examining Eurotunnel's proposals, it also has necessary powers to consider any relevant safety matter, including the implications of segregating occupants from their vehicles.
The concessionaires, in consultation with Kent Fire Brigade, will draw up plans for first-line firefighting to be undertaken by their own trained staff. The fire brigade, whose chief officer is a member of the Safety Authority, would be called in at once to deal with a serious fire. The noble Earl, Lord Lloyd-George, pointed out the great inherent safety of single track railway tunnels. He referred to the fact that the concessionaires must make bylaws for the safety of the tunnel and I can confirm that the Safety Authority will take a close interest in these requirements.
My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery exaggerated the issue a little. He said that smokers will have to sit for hours in the tunnel without a cigarette. The journey time is only 35 minutes and even those of us who smoke—
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I think that I gave a false impression. I meant that these people would have been sitting in their cars or caravans for four hours, not only in the tunnel, but for the whole of their journey.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, it is only in the tunnel that people will not be allowed to smoke. Even those of us who smoke can probably manage 35 minutes without a cigarette.
The study of fire doors, to which my noble friend referred, has not been going on continuously since 1971. The work was suspended when the last scheme was abandoned. Furthermore, the cramped conditions described by my noble friend are a fantasy. There is plenty of room on the shuttles. He also overlooked the fact that there will be only five or six cars in each shuttle.
The United Kingdom Government have appointed to the authority the chief inspecting officer of railways as co-chairman, the chief highway engineer of the Department of Transport, the chief fire officer of Kent and a senior official of the Health and Safety Executive. The French Government are appointing members of equivalent standing to cover equivalent disciplines.
A point which not many noble Lords mentioned is that the concessionaires will be keen that the tunnel should be utterly safe. Nothing could be worse, from the commercial point of view, than an accident or a fire in the tunnel of the type that has been described this evening. If there were a serious fire like that, I doubt whether anybody would ever go near the tunnel again, and that would be the end of it.
Noble Lords opposite have asked why there has not been a public inquiry into the regional and environ- 980 mental effects of the project. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, pointed out that the two governments issued their guidelines to promoters as long ago as April, 1985. Would it have been realistic to have held a public inquiry before Eurotunnel had even submitted its proposal? Would it have been sensible to have held an inquiry while the Bill was under way in another place? Of course not. With a public inquiry under way the parliamentary process would have to stop and to hold fire. To what purpose? A hybrid Bill would still be needed. There would still, rightly, have to be Select Committees in both Houses so that Parliament, as is its duty, should take the final decision.
As many noble Lords have said, the Select Committee of another place did a fine job. There will soon be a Select Committee in this House. I submit that a public inquiry would add nothing but duplication and delay.
The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, referred to paragraph 222 of the report of the Select Committee of another place. That paragraph was not advocating a national economic study, as is made clear in the previous paragraph where just such a proposal is rejected. The point made was that special economic assistance for Kent was unjustified and would have a distorting effect on less prosperous areas. I am happy to confirm, as the noble Lord asked, that I agree with the Select Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, asked about the locus standi of petitioners to your Lordships' Select Committee and about the department's advertisements inviting people directly and materially affected to petition. It is not easy to summarise the Standing Orders of this House in a few words, but the rules are there to be read. Petitioners must be privately affected by the works or they must legitimately represent groups, such as environmental groups, or companies or their employees, who are affected.
The other main issue raised during the debate has been about the benefits of the tunnel project to the whole country, put admirably by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, and other noble Lords. The Government agree that the benefit of the project must go to all parts of the country, particularly to regions of high unemployment. First, during the construction stage, Eurotunnel fully expects the great majority of the work generated on this side of the Channel on construction and the manufacture of equipment to go to places other than the South-East. The Department of Trade and Industry has set up a special unit to assist in that process.
Secondly, the Government have endorsed in principle the proposal of the Opposition in the other place that British Rail should produce a comprehensive plan to disperse through rail traffic using the tunnel.
The noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, in his usual trenchant style, talked about the North-South issues, orders and employment. A large share of the employment generated by the tunnel will go outside Kent. Eurotunnel estimates that elsewhere in Britain some 50,000 man-years of employment will be generated by Eurotunnel's orders. It is anticipated that there will be 10,000 man-years of work on British 981 Rail's rolling stock alone. No investment has been taken away from the regions as the tunnel is being entirely privately financed and a large part of the money is being raised on the international market. Both the Anglo-French Treaty and Clause 2 of the Bill make this clear.
Turning to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, subsection (2) of Clause 2 simply provides that Eurotunnel may benefit from the sort of financial assistance which is available to all industries including their competitors—for example, tax relief on capital projects.
The whole country will benefit from having a fast, reliable, all-weather shuttle to the Continent as 60 per cent. of all our trade is now going to Europe. My noble friend Lord Sanderson of Bowden, who for so many years has been in an industry with an outstanding export record, told us the difference that the tunnel could make to his industry and of the benefits of taking heavy lorries off the road. My noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour and several noble Lords mentioned the possibility of increased business not only for Scotland but for ports on the west coast of the UK. However, the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, mentioned the problems associated with Greenock.
British Rail is planning to provide international passenger services to the major British cities. It also sees great potential for freight, 70 per cent. of which will originate from beyond London since the longer distances made possible by the tunnel will make rail freight a more attractive commercial proposition.
It is not right to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, indicated, that the Government will be spending up to £500 million on the tunnel. British Rail's investment of some £390 million will be funded on a commercial basis without recourse to government support. Almost all government expenditure on road improvements in Kent (not on the tunnel) would be needed to meet the growth of cross-Channel traffic even without a tunnel. There must be public expenditure on infrastructure made necessary by the tunnel. Any major development, public or private, has consequences for public services: roads, schools, hospitals, etc. As is always the case, the public authorities meet those costs and recover the expenditure through rates and taxes. It is quite wrong of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, to suggest that this is inconsistent with the Government's firm determination that there should be no public finance or guarantees for the construction of the tunnel system itself.
Many noble Lords referred to Customs facilities in the regions. Several noble Lords have drawn attention to the importance of the inland Customs clearance depots in making possible freight services beyond London. Customs facilities are very important but it is very expensive in terms of manpower to provide facilities where the traffic level does not warrant them. The advantage of the tunnel is that it will allow a very large increase in international rail services so that many more Customs depots will be justified. British Rail and Eurotunnel are already conducting a series of regional seminars to identify the opportunities, and the Government have already given their support in principle to the proposal put forward in the other place for British Rail to prepare a plan for the dispersal of 982 international rail traffic, including British Rail's proposals for the provision of freight depots.
I turn briefly to the question of Customs on the passenger trains. The Government accept the desirability of on-train controls, particularly for trains travelling beyond London. However, it is probable that airport-style terminal controls would provide a feasible alternative for trains terminating at Waterloo.
As regards Waterloo, which was the subject of the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, and which was also touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the noble Earl, Lord Lloyd-George, British Rail decided on Waterloo after careful consideration of 13 other sites. The decision was certainly not taken purely on cost grounds. Waterloo meets the best criteria identified by British Rail as essential for an international terminal in London: clear commercial value of single city centre terminals with good connections to other rail routes and other modes of internal transport. It can accommodate an international terminal and 400-metre long platforms with less impact on surrounding properties than, say, Victoria Station. British Rail says that a split terminal would cost substantially more and would reduce the marketability of the service. Non-city centre location would add to journey times and would reduce competitiveness with airlines. The Government have no reason to question British Rail's commercial judgment. The control of secondary development in the area is a matter for Lambeth Borough Council, which have all the powers that they need in this regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, rightly referred to the risks from terrorism, which are not unique to the tunnel. I can assure him that the responsible government agencies are fully involved in discussions with the concessionaires on the preventive measures. One point which the noble Lord might like to consider is whether or not it would be easier to plant a bomb in a car if the drivers are separated from their vehicles, as the noble Lord has advocated for safety reasons. It is arguable that requiring drivers to stay with their cars is a deterrent to terrorists, and it is also a deterrent to the hazards of fire.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier asked about insurance and said that he had been unable to find one word in all the documentation about insurance. I should like to refer him to Annex 3 of the concession agreement (which is Cmnd. 9769) which sets out in considerable detail the requirements of the two governments on this matter, in particular in relation to users' liabilities.
The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne and my noble friend Lord Pender quite rightly spoke about the effect of this matter on Kent, particularly with reference to the M.20 and A.20. The Government are firmly committed to the M.20 being the principal route to the Channel ports and improving the whole of the Folkestone to Dover section of the A.20. The department has given assurances to the local authorities that the eastern half of the A.20 scheme between Court Wood and Dover will be improved. The department demonstrated this commitment by publishing on January 30th the necessary statutory orders under the Highways Act procedures. On 983 timing, the aim is for completion of the Bill scheme in the second half of 1992. A viaduct has to be built over the completed Channel Tunnel in Holywell Coombe, so work on the road cannot be effectively started there until 1989. It is the department's expectation that, subject to statutory procedures, the eastern section from Court Wood to Dover will be completed by mid-1993. The other roads mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, are county roads; and the noble Lord will no doubt be reassured by the recent announcement concerning transport supplementary grant for the county's priority schemes.
The noble Lord also mentioned, as did other noble Lords including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, and the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, the competition between the tunnel and other modes of transport, notably the ferries. Noble Lords emphasised the vital importance that the Government should treat the ferries and the tunnel even-handedly. The ports and ferries have said that they are prepared to face the competition of the fixed link, provided that the basis of competition is fair. The Government have made it clear that they are equally committed to the principle of fair competition.
Assurances have been given that the tunnel and the surface operators will be treated even-handedly with regard to such matters as the application of competition legislation, the provision of frontier control services and inland road and rail investment. The Government have also gone so far as they reasonably can to amend the Bill to meet the surface operators' desire for additional safeguards, in particular by including Clauses 2 and 40 which explicitly prohibit the Government providing funds or guarantees to Eurotunnel.
My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard touched briefly on the subject of land compensation. I see that he is not here at the moment, but I am sure that this is a subject to which we shall return in due course, especially if the various interested parties continue their lobbying activities.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham asked why a single rail tunnel scheme was dropped. It is certainly the case that such a scheme was worked up by British Rail and SNCF some five or six years ago. However, when in April 1985 the Government issued their invitation to promoters, no conventional rail tunnel was submitted in response.
It must be remembered that this is a private sector scheme with private sector finance and it would not have been right for the Government to impose a solution regardless of the possibility of raising finance. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, spoke with personal recollection of the previous scheme of a rail-only tunnel and he gave us the reasons why that scheme fell through. The right reverend Prelate also asked about lorry weights, which is a very important point. We have unlimited derogation from the EC lorry weights directive. The construction of the tunnel will not alter the compelling reason for that derogation, which is the inability of many roads and bridges in the United Kingdom to carry vehicles above 38 tonnes. The present tunnel should, as many noble Lords have said, reduce the number of heavy lorries on our roads.
984 The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, spoke about the carriage of bicycles. Clause 18 of the Bill has been amended to require the concessionaires to carry bicycles on the shuttle trains. Whether the international through trains should also do so must be left to the commercial judgment of British Rail and their continental partners, but I can confirm that my honourable friend the Minister of State is taking up this question with British Rail.
The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, asked what was happening about the high speed train on the French side. There are proposals for a new high speed line from Paris to Lille and from Lille to the tunnel portal. The precise alignment of the new track is not finally settled especially in the vicinity of Lille, but I understand that the French Government expect to make an announcement on this investment by June. The noble Viscount also asked about the adequacy of the track and the timing of the train journeys. Those are of course matters for British Rail, but I have no reason to doubt its judgment in the figures it has given.
My noble friend Lord Hood said that the concession agreement does not preclude the concessionaires from investing in other ventures. The provision in clause 5.5 of the concession is intended to ensure that the concessionaires remain financially secure. It is not the intention that the inter-governmental commission should unreasonably inhibit the concessionaires' right to diversify.
My noble friend Lord Teviot asked about other road improvements on the south coast, particularly those concerning East Sussex. As well as the M.20/A.20 improvements, the department has examined the A.259/A.261 east-west coastal trunk road in Kent and East Sussex. Some rearrangement in the A class roads in the Hythe area may be made, along with any necessary improvements. The New Romney bypass has been restored to the active national programme, and possible improvements at Brookland and Hastings are being considered.
I turn lastly, but not least, to the speech of my noble friend Lord Pennock. I am sure that all noble Lords, whether they agreed with what he said or not, are grateful that he came and was able to speak this afternoon with his great experience and great knowledge of this subject. He set out with great eloquence and authority the facts about the project, the great and various benefits which the tunnel promises to bring to the nation, and the thorough and comprehensive approach that Eurotunnel is taking towards the threats of which the opponents of the tunnel have sought to make so much—sabotage, fire, and rabies. The Government recognise that to make the project as safe as it can be for the public will require very close and effective co-operation between the Government and the concessionaires, and that cooperation is already taking place.
I have tried to deal with as many of the questions asked of me as I can. I have listened carefully to the views of those noble Lords who have spoken during to-day's debate, and I have noted a number of points about which I intend to reflect and consult before the Bill returns to the Floor of the House. The Select Committee which your Lordships will appoint will have much work to do, and I am sure that we all wish it well over the coming weeks.
985 As I said when I opened the debate this afternoon, our main purpose today is to establish an historic principle. If the Bill is given a Second Reading then, for the first time, both Houses of Parliament will have approved the principle of a Channel Tunnel. Those who have the courage and determination to bring forward this great project will have the confidence they need to carry forward their design and development work and we shall have taken a major step in creating a physical link to Europe to match the commercial and political links which we already take for granted. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.
§ House adjourned at twenty-six minutes before midnight.