§ 3 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Construction and operation of a tunnel rail link between the United Kingdom and France]:
Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 8, after ("operation") insert ("subject to subsection (11) below").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when we were discussing the Bill in Committee I referred to the fact that over the years Parliament has taken an enlightened view about provision for the disabled and that the community at large now accepts that not everyone is able-bodied and some people need more assistance than others to go about their normal business. I commented that it would be sad if such a massive project as the Channel Tunnel were to proceed without there being adequate facilities for the care of the disabled.
§ In the course of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, reminded the Committee that in previous cases when discussing Transport Acts the practice had been for a code of practice to be required within the Act. The Minister did not take up that point and therefore I have come back to see whether at this late stage a code of practice might be acceptable to the Government.
§ We need to look at what the ferries now provide for the disabled and what may be available on the ferry services after the Channel Tunnel is in operation. As I understand it, most of the ferries operating out of Folkestone and Dover have passenger lifts and some of the tonnage that was introduced during the last decade has specially adapted lifts for the disabled so that they can carry those who are confined to wheelchairs. This service is provided at the moment by the ferries as a facility for customers and is not a requirement by law. However, disabled passengers who travel by car and who require special treatment from the ferries can have their cars loaded at a specific stage in loading so that they are parked close to or next to the lift, thus reducing any inconvenience to a minimum. They do not have to give advance notice to the ship other than to inform the marshalling attendant when they arrive that they need this special facility. It seems to me that unless Eurotunnel is required to give such a commitment, either by law or through a code of practice, there are unlikely to be adequate or special facilities for the safe embarkation and disembarkation of disabled passengers, and the shuttle will go ahead and will be built without any proper and real consideration for the needs of the disabled.835
§ We talked about the proposed internal dimensions of the shuttle possibly being inadequate to cope with the free movement of able bodied people, let alone those who are in wheelchairs or need to be put in wheelchairs. If Eurotunnel decides long term that it has not the facilities for moving the disabled in the tunnel, using the argument that these facilities are available on ferries, what we have to know before we can agree to that is whether those facilities will still be available on ferries if the tunnel is built. As I understand it, the type of vessel that provides these facilities may have been withdrawn from service due to market forces and some ferry operators are already reported as saying that if the tunnel becomes operational there will be large reductions in the short sea ferry fleet with the result that the main fleet may well consist of freight only vessels. Even if a few passenger ferries are maintained in service after the tunnel has come into operation the intense competition between the ferries and the tunnel service may dictate what extra finance is available for the passengers, and particularly for disabled passengers.
§ At present there are reasonably good services and facilities for the disabled on most of the ferries, and without the advent of the tunnel I am sure that they would have improved considerably in the future. But at a time when there is a greater awareness and acceptance of the need for special facilities and services for the disabled in all forms of transport, there seems to be just an element of risk that, in crossing the channel at least, a retrograde step will be made; that everything that has been achieved is likely to be lost; and that this facility which is available on the ferries will not be repeated as regards Eurotunnel.
§ Therefore, I and my colleagues have put down the amendment this afternoon asking for a code of practice to be incorporated in the Act as has happened in other Transport Acts. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is similar to that of the amendment which the noble Baroness put down at Committee stage. It would require Eurotunnel to make provision for the safe embarkation, carriage and evacuation of persons who are disabled. I suggested at that time that she should withdraw it because it was too broad for inclusion in a statute and, as I told your Lordships, Eurotunnel was already giving full consideration to the needs of persons with disabilities. However, many noble Lords obviously consider that there is nevertheless a need for a provision in the statute to ensure that Eurotunnel caters appropriately for the disabled. The amendment now before your Lordships suggests that there should be a code of practice on these matters, and I am glad to say that this approach is acceptable to the Government.
I have to say straightaway that, as so often happens, I am afraid the Government cannot accept the amendment exactly as it stands. There are a number of minor drafting problems—for example, it places a duty on the safety authority which would more appropriately lie with the Intergovernmental Commission. Lawyers are at the moment redrafting an amendment which will deal with these slight 836 problems while having substantially the same effect as this amendment. I can undertake that the Government will put down this amendment just as soon as it is technically possible to do so, which I hope will be tomorrow morning. I shall send the noble Baroness a copy at the same time. In the light of that undertaking I hope that the noble Baroness will agree to withdraw the amendment. I shall be in touch with her.
§ Baroness Stedman
My Lords, I am shattered. I had not expected to have the first amendment of the day accepted so readily. I am grateful the the noble Lord. I accept that my amendment may be defective in drafting and I accept his invitation to withdraw it now and to look at his proposed amendment tomorrow. I am most grateful and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 2 not moved].
Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Duty to ensure adequate ferry services for trade and tourism.
§ The Secretary of State shall be under a duty to take all such measures as may be necessary in order to ensure that, at all times after the passing of this Act, cross-Channel ferry services are adequate to meet the need of trade and tourism for those services.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4, but not, as I think has been suggested, to Amendment No. 8, as that concerns a related but rather different point from the general point that we ought to consider in these two amendments. I hope very much that the extremely happy note that the Minister struck in dealing with the earlier amendment will be continued in his general approach.
§ I can well understand that he may find some difficulty in accepting the drafting of the new clause. It would not altogether surprise me if he argued that what I am seeking could be achieved other than by statutory means. But before the Bill becomes law I feel we should address ourselves to the problems of the ferry companies and the provision of ferries in the interim stage between now and whenever the tunnel is ready. In respect of a mammoth undertaking of this kind very few bookmakers would give other than very long odds that it would not be ready on the due date in 1992.
§ The Minister, in his reply to the Select Committee and some of the observations that took place during the Select Committee's discussions and consideration of this point, suggested that the ferry business was not in any sense unique, and that in fact they should follow the normal rules that if they did not see the prospect of making a profit they should organise their affairs accordingly.
§ I have not had any intimate knowledge of, or financial involvement in, the ferry industry, but I should have thought, with the inevitable but difficult to estimate business that will go to the tunnel and the unknown date when it might begin to operate, that perhaps it would be prudent of them not to make any plans to produce new ships. Since it is a highly seasonal industry it would probably be prudent of them to cancel a lot of their services and to take a lot 837 of their ships—and, sadly, a lot of very precious merchant seamen—out of service in the summer or autumn of 1992, because if the tunnel is coming in 1993 that winter would not be a profitable or satisfactory period for the ferries. It is the summer when the cash flow is better. But then if the tunnel was not ready it would be a tragedy in terms of our tourism, and more particularly our trade.
§ I should like to see a little more tourism coming into this country rather than the present larger percentage of British people who go abroad on these services. Nevertheless, in the case of either freight or tourism it is essential that somebody somewhere—and I can think of no other person—should take on this responsibility, and that should be the Secretary of State.
§ We are in the happy position of having the Minister for shipping dealing with transport matters for us in this House. I do not know who is likely to be Minister for shipping, if there is one, in 1992, but in the interval maybe the noble Lord will be a member of the Cabinet with some important role, perhaps even Leader of the House. I can think of no other person more suitable than the Secretary of State, in consultation with the industry and the trade unions, to make sure that there is some organised running down of the ferry industry, and that it is not just left to chance so that we might be left in 1992, or even earlier, with an inadequate amount of shipping available to carry out our important trade and tourism responsibilities.
§ At the moment there probably is more than enough capacity. I think that one of the companies has just put one big ferry into operation, and another is coming along. But both these ferries were planned, decisions were taken, and construction begun before any question of a Channel Tunnel had emerged. I share with many others regret at the failure in 1974–75, under quite different circumstances, of a different tunnel, but this tunnel came through rather suddenly and it may be that they would not have ordered these new ferries had they known about it.
§ I should be surprised if, with this uncertainty as to the future of the tunnel people were planning orders now for ferries to be delivered in the early 1990s. They will want to wait. It is important that there should be early consultations between the Secretary of State and the ferry operators with a view to seeing whether a tidy and reasonable way can be organised to carry on these services in the interval between the Bill becoming an Act and the tunnel going into operation. I beg to move the new clause in the words on the Marshalled List.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I find some difficulty with regard to Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I have great sympathy with the principle that my noble friend Lord Mulley advanced. Most noble Lords will agree that we want to continue the ferry services as well as having the fixed-link tunnel. However, I wonder whether, before the Minister replies, my noble friend can explain what he thinks could be done.
838 Having laid down firmly in the Bill that there should be no public funds of any kind given to the fixed-link tunnel, including British Rail services going through it, I find it difficult then to talk about giving money to the ferry services to sustain them. It is a question of exactly what my noble friend is suggesting. Is he really saying, "Let us have a meeting between the ferry services and the Secretary of State to see what can be done"? That might be a different point entirely.
If it is a question of public money being put into the ferry services, then we would have seriously to consider our decision about no public funding going to the fixed link. I could be brutal and say, "This is what market forces and private enterprise do when you really ought to have public services."
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I have a lot of sympathy for the point that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has just made. I should not like any excuse, any loophole, however tiny, which would begin public funds or public guarantees having to be given to get this through. It is a private enterprise effort. They have said that they are confident in it. They have said that they can raise the money to see it through, and it would be a mistake to leave even the slightest chink which would give a legitimate excuse for people later to try to justify government support.
§ Lord Galpern
My Lords, slowly but surely we are reaching the end of the Channel Tunnel saga. Before I support this amendment I should like to preface my remarks by paying a tribute, which the Minister has already paid, to the chairman of the committee, Lord Ampthill. To me he was a most amazingly competent chairman. He was able to have a perfectly happy atmosphere throughout. He dealt with hundreds of petitioners and sent them away satisfactorily, and made life much easier for the Government by his actions. I should have no hesitation in serving another two years on some other form of committee under his chairmanship.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has been successful in getting the Government to accept her amendment that the physically disabled should be catered for. There is another category of disabled person, the psychologically disabled. I have taken the trouble to speak to over one hundred people from different walks of life. I asked them whether, when the tunnel had been constructed—if it ever is constructed at any time—they would be in favour of it, and, secondly, whether they would travel in it. Now, 80 per cent. of them said that they were in favour of the tunnel but they would not travel in it.
They are part of the army of thousands of people in this country and on the Continent who are afraid to go into lifts and who are afraid to go into aeroplanes. As the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, pointed out, the danger is that this tunnel could end up just carrying freight, through the action of the Eurotunnel people, who are naturally out to run it purely for profit without showing any consideration to the many people who are psychologically unable to travel in a confined space.
It would be a tragedy if—because of predatory pricing and the many other devices which could 839 develop and which we heard about during the Committee stage, at least in the Select Committee—people who presently go to the Continent by ferry were to find themselves in the unfortunate position that the ferries had disappeared. Surely we should show some consideration for those people. The Government should give serious consideration to Amendment No. 3 in the order to ensure that thousands of people are not denied the opportunity to travel to the Continent because of the absence of ferries. I think that if the Minister gives further thought to the matter he will come back and tell me that he intends to prepare another amendment that I can see tomorrow morning, and that it will be dealt with at Third Reading.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Galpern, for his extremely generous remarks about me. The noble Lord grossly exaggerates, as the House will be fully aware.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the purpose behind the amendment because it follows from recommendations made by the Select Committee. I have doubts about whether it is right that the amendment should be included in the Bill. I share the misgivings of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. The matter should be watched carefully.
I do not know that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, was germane to what is stated in precise terms in the amendments. The amendment does not support Eurotunnel; it is intended to keep an eye on the situation in which the ferry operators may find themselves. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister says.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Galpern will not support the amendment. Most of us sympathise with the general proposition that in the long run the ferries ought to be sustained as competition for the tunnel and for aircraft, and to provide for those incapacitated people mentioned by my noble friend. However, there is no place for either new clause in the Bill. There may well be a place for them in some kind of shipping Bill or in a special Bill relating specifically to ferries and marine transport. No doubt they have been spatchcocked on this occasion for good reason. Their main strength, however, is that they give an opportunity to consider and discuss the matter. I do not think that we can carry it further than that; the amendments should be rejected.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I should like to comment on the assumption that the ferries will disappear. Surely all those who use St. Malo, Cherbourg and Le Havre to travel south-west and to visit Spain and Portugal will continue to use them. We are not burying the ferries, are we?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, will be disappointed if he is hoping for the same response that I gave to the previous amendment. I should first like to comment on the realism of the noble Lord's concern that 840 ferries will curtail investment in anticipation of the inevitable loss of part of their market. The two new clauses after Clause 1 would be objectionable on principle because they would require the Secretary of State to take all necessary measures to ensure that ferry services remain adequate to meet the needs of trade and tourism. That would run counter to the Government's policy on competition, both generally and specifically in relation to cross-Channel transport, to extend special assistance or protection to one particular mode.
The Government's entire approach to the fixed link has been founded on two main principles; first, that they stood ready to facilitate the entry into the cross-Channel market of a new form of transport provided that it was financed exclusively from private capital, and, secondly, that the competition between the new and existing modes must be on the basis of strictly even-handed treatment by the Government. My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, remarked on those matters.
Both the proposed new clauses entail intervention by the Secretary of State on the side of the ferry operators in some shape or form, and that is a wholly unacceptable concept. It is not for the Government to say what strategy ferry companies should adopt in anticipation of the opening of the tunnel. Nor would it be right for the Government to predict how the cross-Channel market would be shared between the ferries and the tunnel. The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, was kind enough to refer to the fact that I am Minister with responsibility for shipping. However, I am afraid that the Government have made it clear that they will say nothing on that topic which might be construed as a signal for potential investors in the tunnel.
However, it would not be inappropriate for me to make a few general observations lest it be mistakenly assumed that the Government are indifferent to the fate of the ferry industry or its capacity to meet the demands upon it both in the short and long term. In the past the ferry industry has shown great ability to adapt to changing situations in the market. As the noble Lord said, in moving the amendment, new types of ships have been introduced which are bigger, faster and have new facilities. New companies have entered the market. New services have been opened up, and existing services expanded. Older vessels have been transferred to other routes or sold to other operators. This is a continuous process and there is no reason why it should not continue up to the time when the tunnel opens and beyond. The Government have every confidence that ferry operators will find the means to respond to changing traffic demands. Experience shows that if the demand exists there will be owners of ships willing to meet it.
I hope that my remarks go some way to allay the fear of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I think that it would not be going beyond what I should say to agree with the noble Baroness that some of the long distance routes are unlikely to be affected at all by the arrival of the tunnel. All the evidence is that existing operators are far from despondent about their future. Their representatives were emphatic in telling the Select Committees of both Houses that they were 841 confident, given a regime of fair competition—and the Government are pledged to that regime—that they could beat the tunnel. They pointed to ways in which they believed that they could substantially improve their efficiency and reduce their costs. They cited the new generation of larger ferries now coming into service.
The ports are also investing in new facilities. I note that in his report on the 1986 accounts the chairman of the Dover Harbour Board said:The Board is confident that while fair competition obtains, ferry services will continue to be needed on some sort of scale and that they will be able to compete commercially".He went on:The Board is developing its programme of capital expenditure both to accommodate the growing volume of traffic requiring to be moved before the fixed link opens, not least accommodating the larger ferries".which have just come into service,and to provide the facilities which operators will need by the early 1990s if they are to beat the tunnel".I hope that to some extent that will allay the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Galpern, about the survival of the ferries. Potential passengers who might be frightened of travelling down the tunnel will have an alternative means of transport whether by ferries or airlines, which have not yet been mentioned.
It seems clear to me that the existing operators believe that it will be worthwhile investing to meet demand up to the opening of the tunnel and that they expect to retain a sizeable share of the total market thereafter. Therefore I cannot accept these amendments, which would have difficult consequences for the Secretary of State.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I did not intervene earlier when my noble friend Lord Underhill invited me to say what I had in mind, because I appreciate that at Report stage one can speak only once, except to reply to the debate. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the point that I was trying to make. The noble Lord. Lord Harmar-Nicholls, thought that I was talking about giving money to Eurotunnel. This matter has nothing to do with that. If one reads Amendment No. 4, which I was asked to speak to with this amendment, it deals with the relevant period in what I should have thought was plain English. It states that it is a period from the passing of the Act to the opening of the tunnel. That has nothing whatever to do with the question of competition once the tunnel has actually begun. Obviously I endorse completely the need for there to be fair competition in those circumstances.
What I am concerned about is the national interest, if one can be so callous in this House or with this Government as to talk about the national interest. I believe that sometimes it is not served completely by the open workings of what is called the market economy. There are many things that the national interest demands which one cannot necessarily expect when a large amount of capital investment is involved, together with the training of personnel and so on, especially if something were to go wrong and the tunnel were to be perhaps a year late in coming along.
842 I have not proposed detailed measures that I believe the Secretary of State should take, because if I may be excused a pun here with the name of Mr. Morton, who is the man running the Eurotunnel, we are faced with Morton's Fork. If you do not put in details people say, "What do you want to do?" If you put in details then they say that the statute is not the proper place for them to be put and that such things should be for the Secretary of State to determine after consideration.
The simple proposition I am putting is that somebody—and I cannot think of any member of the Government who is more appropriate than the Secretary of State for Transport—should be responsible in this interim period to see that there are adequate provisions in respect of our export trade, which the Government tell us—though I remain to convinced about this—is going to expand more and more every year. Certainly we want to encourage tourism. I envisage that unless someone is watching this matter it could be that many of these ferry services may not be completely adequate at the time, especially, as I say, during the last year or so before the tunnel is open. I appreciate that putting the wording into the Bill may not be relevant, and perhaps a more relevant consideration which might be embarked upon is something we can discuss when we reach my Amendment No. 8. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 3.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
§ 3.30 p.m.
Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 5:
After Clause 1. insert the following new clause:
§ ("Duty to notify Safety Authority of certain incidents affecting safety.
§ As soon as reasonably practicable after the date on which the Safety Authority is established. the Concessionaires shall provide that Authority with full details of any fires, explosions or other incidents—
- (a) which have occurred before that date in connection with the construction of the tunnel system. whether before or after the passing of this Act; and
- (b) which required the administration of substantial medical assistance to any person or the use of any fire-fighting or other life-saving equipment.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a rather different and smaller question. I was shocked when my attention was drawn—I confess I am not a regular reader of this paper—to a little item in last Monday's edition of the Daily Telegraph. It is very short and perhaps I may read it to the Committee. It is headed "Chunnel fire", and it says:
Labourers digging underground on the first stages of the Channel Tunnel had to flee yesterday when fire broke out at Shakespeare's Point, Dover. The fire was said to have been caused by the ignition of oil on the tunnel floor".
I gather that Kent Fire Brigade was called, and when it got there its advice was, "There is not much we can do about it; the best thing to do is to shut it up and when the oxygen runs out the fire will go out". I do not think the safety authority would recommend that approach as a method of dealing with a fire during the construction of the tunnel or indeed when it is actually in operation.
§ I draw the attention of the House to this matter because various people have said that the idea of a 843 fire in the tunnel is absolutely impossible. Some people have extraordinary faith. In view of the fact that a fire has taken place even at this early stage, I think it is a worthwhile point to make. We know that the safety authority has not yet been officially established. While I imagine it will be informed of this rather small fire at the beginning, perhaps it is not as serious as other matters which may arise during the construction period.
§ All I am seeking to do here is to place an obligation on the concessionaires to inform the authority, once it is in operation, of any events of this character that involve the use of fire-fighting equipment or personnel, so that when it comes to consider general questions of safety it will have the background of what has happened and will be able to give official cognisance to all these matters. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, perhaps I may just ask the noble Lord whether he was intending to speak to Amendment No. 26 at the same time.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I agree that that amendment is consequential upon this one. The first point I have to make is that the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, may be under a misapprehension about the establishment of the safety authority. Although the treaty as a whole is not yet in force, an exchange of letters between the governments, signed at the same time as the treaty and annexed to it in the relevant Command Paper—9745—recorded the agreement of the governments to apply provisionally Articles 10 and 11 and thus to set up the Intergovernmental Commission and the safety authority on a provisional basis.
These two bodies have accordingly been in existence since last year and have commenced their activities. As to the functions of the safety authority in relation to accidents, the authority is empowered under the treaty to,examine reports concerning any incident affecting safety within the fixed link, make such investigations as are necessary and report thereon to the Intergovernmental Commission".Because it is already in existence, the safety authority is able to receive and consider reports on any incidents within the tunnel system which have safety implications and to make all appropriate investigations, using the powers of existing enforcement agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive.
Turning now to the specific incident referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, perhaps I may give the House a few details about the incident which happened in the tunnel workings on 5th July. I can assure the noble Lord that the safety authority has received reports on this incident from the factory inspectorate, which investigated it. The background was that work had been in hand to remove the cutting head of the tunnel-boring machine which was abandoned in site in 1975. The contractors had been using thermic-lance burning equipment to break up the remains of this machine and unfortunately some 844 of the oily residues ignited, producing smoke. Railway staff became alarmed and called the fire brigade.
On arrival the brigade established that there was no danger to personnel or property and the fire was left to burn itself out. The factory inspectorate's investigation established that no enforcement action was necessary. Clearly this was a very minor incident which brought about no risk. I am informed that appropriate changes are being introduced to prevent recurrence. A meeting has already taken place between Eurotunnel, the contractors and the Health and Safety Executive to develop the lessons to be learnt from this incident in terms of improved emergency procedures. A further meeting with Kent Fire Brigade is planned.
I have gone into this incident in some detail because it illustrates that the appropriate machinery for obtaining reports on and investigating incidents is already in place. In my view, this reinforces the belief that the noble Lord's proposed amendment is unnecessary. I hope that, with the assurances I have given, he will be able to withdraw it.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I agree that this amendment ought not to be proceeded with. My objection to the proposed clause and its wording is that it could be the beginning of strangling the whole project of the tunnel with bureaucracy. The wording of the amendment as it stands says that the safety authority should be informed of any incidents which would require the administration of substantial medical assistance or the use of fire-fighting equipment, and so on.
In hotels, where similar responsibilities have to be faced, there is an accident book which has to be completed even if it only concerns a commis chef who has cut his finger in the kitchen. The wording of this clause as it now stands means that in such an instance some authority would have to be informed about the incident. The same would apply if it concerned the use of fire equipment to put out a little blaze.
That could signal the beginning of a bureaucratic system which may stifle the efficient running of the whole enterprise. Therefore I am glad that there seems to be every indication that the noble Lord will not proceed with his amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I do not think that there will be so many fires in the Channel Tunnel as to stifle anyone with bureaucracy. It is a rather terrifying concept which the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, appears to be suggesting: namely. that there will be so many fires occurring that an alarming weight of work will descend upon the safety authority.
So far as concerns our conclusions, he and I agree. We do not think that there is any need for the amendment. It is quite right for the noble Lord. Lord Mulley, to have introduced it: but on the basis of the Minister's reply I suspect that the noble Lord will not press his amendment. I believe that I carry with me most of my colleagues—though I had better not say all in view of the fact that it was not a unanimous report when I say that the majority of us (and any 845 of my colleagues are at liberty to disagree with me if they think that I am overstating the case) are persuaded that Eurotunnel is an entirely responsible company. I think that everything we saw of them confirmed that view. It is only fair to say so and to place it on the record.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I was very surprised at the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. His imagination seems to grow larger every time he speaks. Certainly there is no suggestion that a fire book should be kept at the entrance to the tunnel.
I recall in another place moving a number of amendments to Bills for the sole purpose of eliciting a reply from the Minister, and that is exactly what I have done here. I think that this is not only for the benefit of the House but gives some reassurance to the people outside. Noble Lords will have been impressed by what the Minister said and by the very great care that has been taken over the matter. It is conceded that it was not such a serious point but certainly it is very worthwhile to have the presence of a factory inspector who will report, as it is to have meetings—and indeed subsequent meetings—to improve the emergency measures; and it is something that the world at large should know.
Apart from that very small quotation that I made to your Lordships, I do not think that there has been any publicity at all about this matter. One understands that Eurotunnel does not ask its public relations team to go into bat on such occasions. Lots of things may happen, and there are incidents that do not receive any publicity at all; but the public need to be satisfied about safety. We are indebted to the Minister, and I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.45 p.m.
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 6:
After Clause 1 insert the following new clause:
§ ("Inland customs clearance facilities.
§ —(1) The Secretary of State shall consulte with—
- (a) the Commissioners of Customs and Excise;
- (b) the Railways Board; and
- (c) such other persons as he considers to be relevant,
§ (2) In determining both the general question and the criteria to be applied in deciding whether a need for such facilities can be established in the case of a particular location, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability
- (a) of facilitating the prompt delivery of goods to their ultimate destination; and
- (b) of promoting economic growth and employment opportunities throughout the United Kingdom.
§ (3) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report containing the results of his determination under this section not later than 1st August 1988.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be recalled that an amendment with somewhat similar wording was put forward at Committee stage. On that occasion, the Committee was reminded that during the debate on this subject in Standing Committee in 846 another place an amendment on the same lines was defeated by only one vote. The report of your Lordships' Select Committee (in paragraph 145) heartily approved the general principle that action should be taken on inland Customs clearance facilities. Noble Lords will also recall the recent debate in the other place on the interim report of the transport committee on the innovation in surface transport, which in the last paragraph emphasised the principle of the necessity for inland Customs clearance facilities.
§ If my memory is correct (and the copy of Hansard will confirm it), when we debated the previous amendment in Committee there was considerable support for it from all parts of the Chamber. At that time the Minister agreed that maximum use of the tunnel must be available to all regions of the country but he added that ICDs (inland Customs depots) were not the key to determining how much freight traffic British Rail would be able to attract. That must surely be a very important factor.
Toward the end of our debate at Committee stage (it will be found in col. 557 of Hansard for Monday, 6th July) the Minister said:
I have to tell the Committee that Customs and Excise has a considerable amount of experience in operating ICDs which have failed to stimulate the demand that would have justified them. It is something that will be looked at very closely. I apologise for dampening the enthusiasm of Members of the Committee that ICDs automatically generate a tremendous demand for small businesses or for large. It has not always been the case".
I intervened and said:
The noble Lord is talking about past experience but we are arguing about the new experience of freight trains going through the tunnel into Europe, which is a new situation. We are talking about that and taking advantage of it".
The Minister's last words on this subject were:
I accept that of course, but that is something for the future. That is why I say that Customs and Excise will want to look at that point".
How does the amendment read? It suggests that the Secretary of State should consult with Customs and Excise, British Railways Board and any other persons that he considers to be relevant. I am not arguing that there must be ICDs, only that there should be consultation, which is the very point made by the Minister in his closing words in the discussion on this matter in last Monday's debate (at col. 558 of Hansard).
The present amendment is different from the one put forward at Committee stage. In determining the general question of whether there should be a network of ICDs, subsection (2) states that consideration should also be given to:
the criteria to be applied in deciding whether a need for such facilities can be established in the case of a particular location".
I am not saying that there must be a general pattern throughout the country, but that there must be discussions that include the Customs and Excise (which the Minister himself said must take place). There must also be consideration of point (a) and (b) of subsection (2) when deciding whether there should be an ICD at a particular location.
§ It seems to me that in all respects this amendment meets every criticism that the Minister made about the earlier one. There seems to be no reason at all why he should not give the same heartening response to this amendment as he did to the first one.847
§ Lord Holderness
My Lords, in order to clarify the matter, I should be grateful if my noble friend would confirm that many more of these facilities exist on the Continent that in Britain. That is my first point. Secondly, would he also confirm that the criteria for establishing an inland clearance depot in this country are much more stringent than is required on the other side of the Channel? Lastly, can he say yes or no—and I think the answer will be yes—that at the moment facilities exist in the case of a number of individual manufacturers? Should the answers to those questions be in the affirmative, whether or not the amendment is the right way to achieve it, can he give us an assurance that arrangements will be made to prevent the flow of vital traffic being impeded? I think the Minister will agree with me that that is one of the main objects and principles of the whole tunnel system.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend's amendment. Last week in Committee I moved an amendment which had the full support, as I said then, of the Yorkshire and Humberside regional association. Both sides of industry, all political parties involved in local government in Yorkshire and Humberside were represented in that voice of support. I am not moving the amendment again. However, part of it is covered by my noble friend's amendment in the sense that if we are to develop the industries in all parts of the country—I speak in particular for the industries in the Yorkshire and Humberside region—it is essential that we have facilities in this country comparable with those that already exist in France.
The Minister mentioned last week the individual manufacturers who have their own facilities. With respect, this is not the same as having within a region at least one facility if not more which can be available to all the industries in the area. If we are to spread the benefits of the tunnel, a move along these lines is essential.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, we heartily support the principle behind the amendment. I think that the Minister will be giving three yes answers to his noble friend, as I am sure he is aware.
I draw the attention of the Minister to paragraph (1)(c), which states:The Secretary of State shall consult with … such other persons as he considers to be relevant".Within that, I hope that he will be consulting the Minister's noble friend the Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry. It seems to me that, for the regeneration of the inner cities, the building of small businesses and improving exports for the regions of the country, the Department of Trade and Industry should be interested in ensuring that the Customs and Excise facilities are available for goods produced in the North and in Scotland to make sure that these can be easily put on trains and ships into the markets in Europe.
Given our interests on these Benches in making sure that northern industries are given every facility to compete in available markets, which is one of the bases for the tunnel, I hope that the Government will at least support the principle that lies behind the amendment.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I too should like to support the principle behind the amendment. As the House will be aware, this matter was the subject of a recommendation of the Select Committee. It received what I think was the dustiest of all the answers in the Government's repsonse. This is largely because it was never given in evidence before us that there were 370 traders with Customs facilities on their premises. I think that what we recommended in the Select Committee would not have been so forcibly expressed if we had been aware of that information. Nevertheless, I believe that there is a merit in the amendment.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, is it possible for people to make their separate arrangements, such as the 370 already have? If they substantiate their case, can they do that? That will achieve the objective of the noble Lord's amendment.
My doubt about the amendment as worded is that it is not necessary at this stage. My noble friend and his advisers have had to deal with this in Committee. Indeed, it was referred to on Second Reading, and they have had every opportunity of ascertaining whether the idea can be accepted. I should say that we are at the point where the Minister can say, yes, we can do it, and announce it, rather than merely agree to consult one or two organisations or people. At this stage I think that it ought to be said that this can be done or cannot be done for the reasons that my noble friend will give.
It would satisfy my concern, along the lines of what the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, said, if individual exporters could make their separate arrangements, as many have already done, so that they are achieving exactly what the amendment has in mind.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, let me assure the House and the noble Lords who have spoken in support of the clause that there is no difference between the Government, British Rail and Eurotunnel about the desire to see the tunnel used for freight services from all parts of the country provided that those services can pay their way on a proper commercial basis. I want to make that point clear at the outset lest my remarks about the specific proposal before the House be misunderstood as implying indifference to the future of either British Rail or the less prosperous regions. The Government's support for British Rail's overall investment programme, and the Government's initiatives in regard to the inner cities are there to be seen, though I grant that they are not the point at issue today.
Turning to the specific proposal before the House, as I explained in Committee it is misdirected on two counts. First, it is not appropriate for the Secretary of State to take the lead in proposing the location of new inland Customs clearance depots. It is up to British Rail either alone or, if the depot is to serve both rail and road freight, in conjunction with other entrepreneurs to identify the places where the provisions of Customs clearance facilities would be advantageous. That done, British Rail must then make its proposals to the Customs authorities.
As regards the position of those authorities, I merely repeat the central points. the resources 849 available for Customs services are not unlimited. It is not possible to provide those services wherever there is demand for them regardless of the pattern of level of that demand. The Customs authorities must deploy their resources in a manner that provides the best practicable service to most traders. To that end the Customs authorities, having consulted the trade associations, have drawn up various criteria for 1CDs, including one that normally there should be a minimum throughput of 30,000 entries per year—just a little under 100 a day. However, that is not a rigid requirement.
Regional factors are fully taken into account when considering proposals for new ICDs. It would be wrong for regional factors to become the primary consideration. To establish an ICD if there is little present or prospective demand in the hope of stimulating economic growth, when all the evidence is that ICDs are not by themselves a major stimulus, would require the diversion of Customs resources from ports and inland depots where there is an actual demand with consequent delay and inconvenience for a vastly greater number of traders. What I have said is, I believe, common sense
To answer my noble friend Lord Holderness's point, there are not as many ICDs as there are on the Continent. I cannot give precise details as to the criteria used on the Continent. The pattern is different, drawn of a long history of transport across land frontiers by road, rail and inland waterways. There are, as my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, said, some 370 traders with individual facilities. I am not certain exactly how those traders go about acquiring these facilities with the Customs authorities. My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls asked me for details of that. There are 370 of them.
Small businesses are very likely to get someone like a freight forwarder to arrange their shipment for them. Many of those freight forwarders have direct trader input. Nevertheless, the valid point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in the debate last week and again today that the fact that rail ICDs have not stimulated great demand in the past does not mean that they will not do so when the tunnel is operating.
The Government expect the tunnel to make a substantial difference to the amount of international freight moving to and from the country. It will be important in future to anticipate these changes. That does not affect the basic principle that the Customs authorities must be objective about where ICDs are justified. I hope the noble Lord will accept that the present criteria for ICDs are fair in that they balance the efficient deployment of Customs resources with due regard to regional factors. The Customs authorities arc prepared to examine any proposals for new ICDs that British Rail may submit in accordance with these criteria, and I submit that it would be wrong for the Secretary of State to cut across those procedures by initiating his own study. I hope that I have been able to give some reassurance in my answer this afternoon and I trust sufficient to allow the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
§ 4.00 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, as the chairman of the Select Committee pointed out, the Committee were unanimously concerned about this matter. He was also right in saying, to the best of my recollection, that we were not furnished with quite as much information as we have been given subsequently. But the fact is that basically in all the evidence we received from local and other public authorities, and other organisations north of London, serious disquiet was expressed about Customs and Excise policy so far as these depots were concerned.
The Minister has said to us today, "Well, the Customs and Excise have consulted the trade organisations". No doubt they have done so, but we all know what consultation can mean in certain circumstances. You listen courteously to what is said and adhere to your previous view. That, I suspect, is exactly what is meant by consultation. We have to recognise that a very large number of responsible businessmen working in the Midlands and the North of England are profoundly dissatisfied with the present arrangements and will not feel that anything the Minister has said today has ended their disquiet. It is a pity that the Government have not been able to move in the direction that the Select Committee suggested and I think that is a mistake.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, we should be grateful that the Minister agreed in principle with what was suggested in the amendment. However, I think that at that point he must have gained a very clear impression that the agreement of the House and of everybody who has spoken would end. The Minister gave a very disappointing reply. The tunnel is something that is entirely new. It is a very big project. We have been told all through the series of debates, and in the Committee stages in this place and in another place, that the tunnel is a great new venture. Yet the Minister and the department seem content to have the same machinery for discussing this big new venture as we would have in the case of a single customer in a certain part of the country.
Of course firms can separately make agreements and come to arrangements with the Customs, but that is denying the whole argument that was used in selling the tunnel to many parts of the country. We have had this before. One of the major selling points of the tunnel to the Midlands and the North was the fact that containers would be able to go straight on to the railway and go right the way through without any interruption whatever.
I believe that in many ways there is a chicken and egg situation here and a loss leader may be needed. Customs depots may need to be set up, obviously within certain criteria—we would not want them in areas where there had not been some study and some understanding of the trade that was likely to come their way—but falling well short of the criteria which the Minister put forward, at least at the beginning.
If the Minister and noble Lords would look again at the amendment in the names of my noble friend 851 Lord Underhill and myself they will see that we are merely asking thatThe Secretary of State shall consult with:Surely with a big new venture like this one that is asking very little. The idea that it should be left purely to the Railways Board, as was said by another noble Lord, is choosing not to understand how these things are managed. We need an authority such as the Secretary of State for Transport to be leading on a matter like this and to be seen by the Customs and Excise—and particularly by their chiefs, the Treasury—to be very interested.
- (a) the Commissioners of Customs and Excise;
- (b) the Railways Board; and
- (c) such other persons as he considers to be relevant.".
There will be a fairly big political fight, probably within the Cabinet, as to whether there should be extra Customs in the clearance depots. I hope that the House will take that view very strongly. I do not think it is a question that can be left to the assurance of the Minister, although I believe that he is sincere. It is something much bigger than that. Therefore I hope that my noble friend will agree that this amendment should be put to the vote so that the House can give its views on it.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, may I just add one or two words to what my noble friend has said? At the outset, may I say how grateful I am to the chairman of the Select Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, and to a member of the Select Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for emphasising the overwhelming—and I believe completely unanimous—support of the committee on this principle. We all know the excellent work that was done by that committee.
As my noble friend Lord Carmichael said, this is not a matter which we should just leave BR to decide. It is a matter on which the Government should take the initiative and say, "This is what we want for developing Britain's international trade and we are going to consult with BR, with Customs and Excise and with other relevant bodies to see what can be done, first, on the general question as to whether there shall be a network of ICDs, and, secondly, what can be done in a particular location." We are not saying that if somebody says that there has to be something in a particular location it has to be provided. We are saying that we should consult and consider.
I have had another look at what the Minister said about the Government's response on page 14, paragraph 26 of the report. The Rayner study of ICDs was in 1983—not 1986 or 1987—and a further review took place in 1985. It said:The Customs and Excise is pursuing a policy of concentrating resources at those ports, airports and ICDs where there is sufficient traffic to justify full-time facilities.We do not know what will be the justification for an ICD in a particular location such as the Midlands, the North or Scotland. That is the point of the amendment. There should be discussions with the Customs and Excise, with British Rail and with other relevant bodies.
852 Looking back to the Committee stage, I never pressed this amendment to a Division because it came up at 9.30 at night, which I thought was hardly a suitable time to divide. I completely agreed with the Minister when he said that the resources for Customs and Excise are not unlimited; that we must use their facilities where practicable; and that Customs authorities must be objective in their approach. I challenge any Minister or any Member of the House to say that that is not what the amendment says, because in the consultations there will be an objective approach and there will be the suggestion of using Customs and Excise facilities where they are to the best advantage. It seems to me that everyone who wants to see the tunnel a success, everyone who wants to see the maximum use of the through-freight trains, everyone who wants to see the maximum possible development of export trade in the North, the Midlands and Scotland, must support the amendment. Therefore I hope that the House will declare that view in a Division.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 87; Not-Contents, 104.853
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Addington, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Amherst, E.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Ardwick, L.||Longford, E.|
|Aylestone, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Banks, L.||MacLehose of Beoch, L.|
|Basnett, L.||McNair, L.|
|Birk, B.||Mais, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Manchester, D.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Munster, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Oram, L|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Peston, L.|
|Carter, L.||Phillips, B|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.[Teller.]|
|Craigavon, V.||Rea, L.|
|David, B.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Rugby, L.|
|Denington, B.||Russell, E.|
|Diamond, L.||Seear, B.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Serota, B.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Somers, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Stedman, B.|
|Fitt, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Foot, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Toylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Toylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Tordoff, L. [Teller.]|
|Hampton, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Walston, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Hughes, L.||White, B.|
|Hunt, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Ypres, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Alport, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Arran, E.||Layton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Long, V.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Lurgan, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Beloff, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Belstead, L.||Manton, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Marley, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Morris, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Onslow, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Porritt, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Radnor, E.|
|Digby, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Dudley, B.||Reay, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Rodney, L.|
|Effingham, E.||St. Davids, V.|
|Elibank, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Elles, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Faithfull, B.||Sharples, B.|
|Foley, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Fortescue, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Strange, B.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Goold, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Gridley. L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Harvington, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Havers, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Henley, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hesketh, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hives, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Hood, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Hooper, B.||Westbury, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.17 p.m.
Lord Walston moved Amendment No. 7:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Protection of frontier controls at United Kingdom ports.
§ The Secretary of State shall take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure—
- (a) that the standard of frontier controls existing at the passing of this Act at United Kingdom ports is not adversely affected during the period up to the opening of the tunnel system as a result of the transfer of customs and immigration control staff from such ports to that system; and
- (b) that, after the tunnel system is opened, any reduction in the standard of frontier controls existing at any such port before that opening shall be no greater than is necessary in order to take account of any actual reduction in passenger or goods movements at that port.")
§ The noble Lord said, My Lords, in Committee, I moved an amendment on somewhat similar lines to this one and I was gratified by the amount of support 854 that I received from all quarters of the Committee for the general principle of the amendment. In particular, I am grateful not only to those noble Lords who spoke in favour of the principle but also to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, who made a very constructive suggestion to which I have paid attention in this revised amendment. I am sorry that the noble Lord is not in his place, but I am sure that if he were he would support this amendment because it owes quite a lot to him and to other Members of the Committee on the other side of the Chamber as well as to Members on this side who spoke in broad support of the Bill.
§ We all know that our frontier services and particularly our Customs services are first class but we also know that they are seriously overstrained. There is no need to go into the evidence for that; it is Well-known to your Lordships. When the tunnel becomes operational there will be a still further strain upon those services, but even before that the strain will be apparent because it will be essential to remove from the ordinary Customs services and from the frontier services in general officers who are at present engaged mainly on ferries in order to train them for the somewhat different job of exercising their responsibilities on trains and in the tunnel as the trains approach and pass beyond the tunnel. In other words, there will have to be a period of training for a substantial number of officers before there has been any increase in the number of passengers carried or the amount of freight carried as a result of the tunnel.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said earlier that the Government were completely wedded to the idea of free and fair competition. I think that all your Lordships will support that. He also said that there should be strictly even-handed treatment by the Government as between the ferries and the tunnel. I wrote down his words and I was delighted to hear them. I was not however surprised to hear them. Quite rightly, that has been the Government's policy all along. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will tell us, as he told my noble friend Lady Stedman, that he sees the force of this amendment and that while he may not accept it in every detail, it is one that he can accept in principle.
§ Unless this amendment or something very close to It is accepted, provided that the Government stick to their strictly even-handed treatment of ferry and tunnel operators, as I am sure they will, the result will be either a diminution in the efficiency of our frontier services to the joy of nobody except illegal immigrants, terrorists, drug smugglers and other undesirable types, or an equality of misery between ferry and tunnel operators to the detriment and discomfort of passengers and freight carriers. Those are the only options which are open.
§ What is effectively needed (as I am sure the noble Lord, if not today, then at certain times, will agree) is an increase in the number of Customs officers and frontier officials. I know that that is not his or his department's responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Treasury. I hope that the amendment will strengthen the hand of the noble Lord's department in serving a greater improvement in those services. That is essential, not only because of the tunnel and the increased traffic that will take place between the Continent and ourselves, but also because of 855 increased traffic to other places, although we are not concerned with that.
§ Essentially, the objective of the amendment is to ensure that there is equal competition, without any favouritism or bias in favour of either the tunnel or the ferry operators; that the efficiency of our frontier controls will be, at worst, no worse than it is at present and possibly show some improvement; and that the equality between the two services will be an equality of speed and efficiency and not an equality of misery. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, as I explained last week when the Committee discussed an amendment on this subject proposed by the noble Lord, the Government cannot possibly object to the underlying aims of the new clause. The new clause proposed today benefits from last week's debate and is directed all the more effectively at the real issues. Clearly it is most undesirable that Customs and immigration facilities at the ports should suffer before the tunnel opens because officers are withdrawn for training or familiarisation. Equally, one would not wish a port to suffer more than a proportionate reduction in the manning levels for Customs and immigration once the tunnel does open. The difficulty, however, is that in a world where Customs are trying to be as fair as they possibly can to all parties, these things may happen; and the terms used in the noble Lord's draft clause are inevitably rather imprecise, so that the clause is inevitably rather ineffective.
I take Customs as the main example, The majority of Customs officers are at any one time firmly attached to particular ports or airports. But they can be deployed to work at neighbouring ports at short notice, and the remainder of the Customs staff in the regions are considerably more mobile still. They amount to a pool of staff who can be deployed anywhere within a wider area to deal with day-to-day operational needs. The Customs and immigration services are responsive organisations and they aim to put their manpower, week by week, where it is needed—in other words equal treatment, for better or for worse. If traffic rises sharply when the tunnel opens, there is bound to be an adverse effect on everybody, even if only slightly because it is spread around. Therefore, what the clause seeks to do is still to protect the services available to the ferries, whether or not this corresponds to fair and equal treatment.
If I may mention briefly the question of how very difficult it is to formulate a statutory provision dealing with this kind of thing, one may ask how a court would decide if the standard of controls was adversely affected. Does the term mean the same in paragraph (a) of the amendment as in paragraph (b)? How does one judge whether staff have actually been transferred when a substantial proportion of Customs staff form a floating pool anyway? And precisely what periods of time do the "before" and "after" situations refer to?
I believe the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, put his finger on the question when he said that what is really needed is an effective dialogue 856 between HM Customs and Excise and the port operators. I have written at some length to the noble Lord about that. There is consultative machinery at both national level and local level already in place. Questions of the allocation of resources are dealt with nationally in the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (the JCCC) where the British Ports Association represents the ports and the Dover Harbour Board usually also provides one representative. At the local level, there is direct access for the port manager to the senior Customs official and details of basic manning levels can be made available to the manager. But comparisons between ports are not dealt with locally because that would mean divulging information about a neighbouring port's manning levels to its competitors.
The Government and HM Customs and Excise do not argue that these arrangements cannot be improved, and in my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I have suggested how proposals for an improved flow of information might be taken forward if Dover, or the Ports nationally, wish to pursue it. That is offered in a spirit of helpfulness.
To return to the amendment, however, I am afraid that I must simply confirm that the justice of what the amendment seeks to achieve—which is protection for frontier controls at the ports against the tunnel, and not vice versa—is dubious, and that that kind of thing is in any case not susceptible to legal drafting. The Government have given the most binding commitments they can on equal treatment. They can go no further. I must therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Walston, to withdraw the amendment. I hope however that he has had some reassurance from what I have said.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I would be less than gracious if I did not begin by saying that I welcome what the noble Lord has said about trying to arrange some form of dialogue between HM Customs and the port authorities. That is a sensible idea. As the Minister has rightly said, it is contained in his letter to me of 10th July. That is a step forward.
However. I am bound to say that I remain concerned about this matter. I apologise for troubling the House again with an exchange which took place in Committee, but I think it is probably right to do so, given the character of the Minister's letter to me. This passage relates to the examination of Mr. Sloggett, who is the managing director of the Dover Harbour Board. He was complaining to us about the existing delays at Dover. He said that they were getting bad at Easter, and sometimes the delays were of a very substantial character indeed. He feared that the situation would get worse once the opening date for the tunnel approached because some of the existing and in his view inadequate number of Customs officers would be withdrawn for retraining purposes before that eventuality.
His fears have to some extent been borne out by what the Minister has just told us. Having said that it would be unfortunate—I think that is the word he used—if Customs officers were to be withdrawn, he want on to say (I hope I am not misquoting him), "these things may happen". That is not terribly 857 reassuring to the port operators in Dover and elsewhere. As the Minister knows, I am a wholehearted and enthusiastic supporter of the Channel Tunnel, and I think it is right that the operators should receive some degree of reassurance.
We go back to what Mr. Sloggett said to us. I promise the House I will not go through the whole series of quotations I read at Committee stage. Mr. Sloggett said that the harbour board had been trying to find out how many Customs officers were being deployed so that representations could be made to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. I pointed out on the last occasion we debated this matter that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said to him:But have you any data which could put before this Committee?I quote Mr. Sloggett's reply from the Official Report of the Committee, when he said:We certainly have data about the delays that are experienced. We have no data about the Customs resources that are available. It has been suggested to me that to collect such data would be against the Official Secrets Act".A few moments later, in answer to a question I put to him, Mr. Sloggett added:I did seek this year to try to collect those statistics, but was warned off, I am afraid.When we last debated this matter the Minister said it may have been a case of overenthusiastic behaviour by an individual Customs officer. It was a perfectly reasonable point for him to make. I expect that in his situation I should have said something remarkably similar. Indeed, that may be the position because in his letter to me—and this is a very serious matter given the degree of concern shown by Dover Harbour Authority—the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said:On the very specific point you raised in the debate, and also I understand earlier in the select Committee, about the Official Secrets Act, Customs have looked into this and I understand have not been able to trace the source of the story".I am not altogether surprised about that. It is rather like one of those leak inquiries. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, has had the good furtune to be involved in one, but amazingly nobody ever admits to having leaked anything. I suspect on this occasion nobody was very keen to say that they had mentioned the words "Official Secrets Act" to Mr. Sloggett.
I should be interested to hear the answer to one simple question; namely: was Mr. Sloggett approached by the Customs authorities during their inquiries into this particular matter and asked whether he would identify the Customs official who had said this to him? I should be grateful to have an answer to that question.
Owing to the degree of concern shown at Dover about this matter, I think it is necessary to put on the record some of what the noble Lord said; namely:It is difficult to see that there would be any advantage to the port operators in Customs disclosing the basic numbers to them in a more formal way, but this is a matter which I intend to take up further with Customs".I make it clear that I welcome that and I think it is right. I can see no conceivable grounds for the ludicrous secrecy about such questions.
Of course there are sensitive matters involving the Customs. Every now and again a team of Customs 858 officers may want to swoop on a particular airport or port to find out whether or not there are massive contraventions of the drug trafficking Act or something of that sort. There can be no obligation on Customs to tell the port authorities, port operators, Eurotunnel or anybody else if they are going to do that. We are talking about the normal day to day working relationship.
I welcome the fact that there will be talks in Dover. The Minister has indicated that if Dover Harbour Board agrees a senior headquarters Customs official well be made available to attend a meeting in Dover between the Dover collector and the harbour board. That is an advance, but I still come back to the matter which is central to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Walston. There is a substantial degree of concern shown by Dover Harbour Board and by other sensible and responsible people whom we, as members of the Committee, all regarded as sensible witnesses.
We had a number of witnesses whom we would not have described as sensible. Certainly, Mr. Sloggett came into the category of a very intelligent, reasonable man. If reasonable men believe that there is a risk of the present delays being made still worse, it is reasonable to see what form of reassurance can be given that such delays will not take place. It is incumbent upon the Government, as initiator of this piece of legislation, to do more than they have done so far to meet this real and genuine anxiety.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am sure the House will gladly give leave to the Minister to reply to the important questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, particularly concerning the interpretation of the Official Secrets Act. This is a new facet which the House had not heard of until he raised the matter on previous consideration. When the Minister was speaking at Committee stage, if I remember his speech correctly at one point he said that he and the Government had an open mind concerning this question. That immediately caused me to say that a Minister's open mind usually means a closed purse at the Treasury.
The Minister went on to say that there had to be a severe limit on how much money could be spent on Customs and immigration facilities. That shocked me immensely because in previous discussions—and goodness knows every government have many very trying discussions concerning how the amount of public expenditure should be shared between the various departments and demands—there were two categories of expenditure; namely, one where there was a degree of choice and one known as demand determined expenditure. In other words, you could not put a limit, for example, on a particular social expenditure.
Looking back, I am shocked because under previous Labour Governments when we were arguing about how much money was to be spent on social security and unemployment benefits, we were talking about a fraction of the money now being spent because there are now many more people unemployed and in receipt of social security benefits. I should have thought that Customs and immigration controls came within the category where it is 859 necessary to provide enough funds to see that the transit of passengers and goods is smoothly carried out. The money the Government are spending, or say they intend to spend on trying to improve employment and trade in this country, will be nullified if there are delays because of inadequate Customs facilities. A number of firms get fed up because it involves great cost to have lorries and drivers hanging about for hours at ports. This is a matter which needs rather more attention.
It may be that it is not terribly good to try to write it down in an Act of Parliament. However, I remind the Minister that one of the most extraordinary Acts of Parliament I can recall was at the end of the last Parliament and was called the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act. The Government were transferring not merely by a clause but by a whole Act of Parliament the responsibility for immigration control from the public authorities to the carriers. I imagine that when the Eurotunnel is operating—if the iniquitous Bill has not been repealed meanwhile—they will be liable for £1,000 for each passenger if someone is on the train and comes in. I hope that will be in the prospectus when they go for public subscription.
The Government thought it right to provide for such matters by legislation. If we ask one parliamentary counsel to vet a clause drafted by another, he will always find some fault with it. Perhaps the wording could be better. However, as well as responding to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, perhaps the Minister could be a little more forthcoming and explain how we can have an Act of Parliament which transfers some liability for immigration control and yet the Government cannot make any statutory provision for adequate Customs and immigration facilities not only in the tunnel and on the trains, but also at our ports.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I share the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Walston, on his second attempt at this amendment. It is obviously a great improvement on its predecessor. However, I fear that it is impossible to draft a clause which will deal with this matter.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to answer a couple of the points that have been raised. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, for his remarks, because he has said what I was trying to say in my first speech. This afternoon we are concerned with the equality of misery between Dover Harbour Board and Eurotunnel, if I may put it that way. I have tried to be forthright in my undertaking that we shall be even-handed. The debate has then gone on, as it did last time, into the overall resources available for Customs and Excise and whether or not they are sufficient. The noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Mulley, mentioned that matter. I shall pass on to my right honourable friend, who is responsible for the Customs service, the concern expressed by your Lordships this afternoon. There is scarcely a country 860 in Europe that does not have major Customs delays from time to time.
I cannot answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, about Mr. Sloggett and the Official Secrets Act. I shall look into that matter and again write to him if I can find the answer.
The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, referred to the Immigration (Carriers'Liability) Act. I would not describe it as he did, as transferring responsibility from immigration officials to the carrier. Immigration officials still have their part to play. That Act will of course apply to the railways running services through the tunnel. There will be no need to apply it to Eurotunnel on the shuttle services because Customs and immigration controls are to be juxtaposed between France and Britain and therefore the British controls will take place in France before a person is allowed on to the shuttle service, so he will already have been checked by immigration.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, with regard to the equality of treatment between the tunnel and ferries, do the government contemplate having immigration controls in France for people travelling on ferries?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, that point has been gone into at some length. The harbour authorities and the ferry operators realise that it would not work very well in that way.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, I must confess that I am disappointed by the Minister's response. In his last intervention I think that he once again mentioned the equality of misery. That is a pretty gloomy outlook to be put across by a government spokesman. As I understand it, it means that the Government are encouraging—rightly in my view (I am delighted about it as I think we all are)—the construction of the tunnel, but they are not prepared to provide the necessary Customs and frontier control facilities to make the tunnel an efficient and modern method of travel between the two countries. That is profoundly depressing.
One of the amendment's objectives is to overcome that and to ensure that the Government provide all the necessary facilities, not just physical facilities but sufficient manpower, to make the tunnel a model of travel between the United Kingdom and France and other parts of the EC. The main objection that the noble Lord raised to the amendment was that he did not see how the point could be measured or tested in a court of law; that the standard of frontier controls is not adversely affected up to the opening of the tunnel system, and so on. Surely that does not present any great difficulties.
I do not know whether the statistics are available at present, but undoubtedly some time before the tunnel opens the port authorities could start to measure the length of time involved per passenger or vehicle carried. If it could then be shown that, as a result of manpower being withdrawn for training for the tunnel, the period lengthened, surely any court would accept that as being substantial evidence that the services had been adversely affected.
861 Similar proof could be adduced, if it happens, for the position after the tunnel has opened and is in operation under paragraph (b). The noble Lord's main objection to the amendment—that it is not feasible to test the point in a court of law—does not stand up to close examination. In view of that, I am afraid that I must seek the opinion of the House, and press the amendment.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 120.862
|DIVISION NO. 2|
|Airedale, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Lockwood, B.|
|Ardwick, L.||Longford, E.|
|Aylestone, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Banks, L.||McNair, L.|
|Basnett, L.||Mais, L.|
|Birk, B.||Molloy, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Carter, L.||Oram, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Peston, L.|
|David, B.||Phillips, B.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Denington, B.||Russell, E.|
|Diamond, L.||Seear, B.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Tordoff, L. [Teller.]|
|Hanworth, V.||Underhill, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Hirshfield, L.||Walston, L. [Teller.]|
|Hooson, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||White, B.|
|Hughes, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Ypres, E.|
|Abinger, L.||Carthcart, E.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Chelmer, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Coleraine, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Constantine of Stanmore, L.|
|Arran, E.||Cornwallis, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Craigavon, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Crathorne, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Davidson, V. [Teller.]|
|Bellwin, L.||De La Warr, E.|
|Beloff, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Belstead, L.||Digby, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Blatch, B.||Dudley, B.|
|Blyth, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Borthwick, L.||Elibank, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Elles, B.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Faithfull, B.|
|Campbell of Croy, L||Foley, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Munster, E.|
|Goold, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Havers, L.||Portland, D.|
|Henley, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Hesketh, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Hives, L.||Reay, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Hooper, B.||St. Davids, V.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Salisbury, M.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Killearn, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Sharples, B.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Sherfield, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Layton, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Long, V.||Somers, L.|
|Lurgan, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|McAlpine of Moffat, L.||Strange, B.|
|McFadzean, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Strathspey, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Suffield, L.|
|Manton, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Marley, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Trafford, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Mersey, V.||vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Milverton, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Morris, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 8:
After Clause 1,
insert the following new clause:
§ ("Integration of cross-Channel ferry and hovercraft services.
§ —(1) When considering any proposals by ferry or hovercraft operators which would involve the integration or co-ordination of some or all of their cross-Channel car ferry services, the Director General of Fair Trading shall have particular regard to the importance of ensuring that trade and tourism as between the United Kingdom and other countries is not adversely affected by any deterioration in the services offered by any of those operators during the period between the passing of this Act and the opening of the tunnel system.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in a sense this is a continuation of the discussion we had on earlier amendments concerning—and I stress this—the period between the passing of the Act and the coming into effect of the tunnel services. I accept the Government's intention that once the tunnel is operating there will be fair competition between the cross-Channel ferry services that remain and the fares and services that go through the tunnel. However, some thought should be given between now and the opening of the tunnel to this matter. There is a history of investigation of the ferry services and the charges that they were making, and a suggestion that there might be some collusion between them with regard to fares and services. There was an inquiry by the 863 Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1974–75. As a result, I believe that several ferry service operators gave undertakings that they would not have any discussion between themselves either for the integration of services, agreement as to fares, or about mergers.
§ Under the entirely new conditions, with the advent of the tunnel, the operators sought to have the authority of the Director General of Fair Trading to withdraw these undertakings. If there were intentions to try to integrate the services, these would be subject to the agreement of the Director General of Fair Trading and of the Secretary of State. There is no suggestion that they should be at liberty to do other than to apply to the Director General of Fair Trading. However, the director general is very much conditioned and restrained by existing legislation. It would therefore be appropriate for a clause such as this to be inserted into the Bill. It will then be clear to all concerned that the director general will have regard to continuing provision for trade and tourism during the period between the passing of this Act and the opening of the tunnel system.
I underline that fact because on the previous amendment noble Lords thought that I was referring to the period after the tunnel had opened. I was at some pains to stress that it was for the limited period between the Act passing—which I suppose will be quite soon—and the opening of the tunnel in six or seven years' time. I am seeking to follow exactly the recommendations of our own Select Committee which say that operators can approach the director general at any time. Indeed, they did so when this Bill was well on its way through Parliament in the autumn of last year. The director general did not see fit to make any arrangements to permit them to withdraw the undertaking that they had given or to give consideration to the longer term provision of integrated services. Our committee says that it appreciates,
that the Port of Dover faces the possibility that ferry operators, not presently earning satisfactory profits, may in the six years before the tunnel opens decide to restrict their investment and curtail their services in anticipation of the formidable competition which the tunnel will unquestionably pose from 1993. Any reduction in capacity during this period could severely damage the country's trade in goods and tourism. Accordingly the Committee believe that the Office of Fair Trading should regard applications by ferry operators for integration in the light of these considerations.
It would be helpful to the director general to know that it was the wish of Parliament that he should have these considerations fully in mind. I have had the privilege of knowing the Director General of Fair Trading—I should make clear that it is in other circumstances than his present responsibilities—for very many years. I know he is an extremely diligent, fair and conscientious man. I believe it would be of assistance to him to know of this wish. Perhaps the Secretary of State could do this without the need for the amendment, if he would give an undertaking that he would direct or give such guidance to the director general as he might wish. I do not think it can be left until 1992 to decide how it will be coped with. Simultaneously with the development of the tunnel, there should be discussions to see whether or not, subject as I am sure the ferry operators would agree,
to agreement about their fares being subject to approval and the rest to try to ensure that such facilities (which perhaps may diminish as 1993 approaches) are used to the best advantage so that trade and tourism, in the words of our Select Committee, do not suffer damage in the interim period. I beg to move.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with this amendment; but I do not believe it to be necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, has just said that nothing will happen before 1992. I think in our report in paragraph 80 we made it quite clear that we expected that the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading would keep these matters very much in the forefront of his mind from now on. The ferries already have a problem. They are not very profitable. The part that worries me most—and I think it worried the Select Committee most—is that in the year or two before the opening of the tunnel there will be a sore temptation for the ferry operators to withhold further investment. That gives cause for alarm in that the ferry service might deteriorate rapidly in the year or two before the tunnel actually opens. I have enormous confidence in the director and I am certain that he will keep these things very much in mind from now on.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I appreciate the remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, has just made; but it seems to me that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Mulley is one to which we could give general support. Before we knew exactly what was to be the nature of a fixed link, or even whether there was to be a fixed link, we from these Benches were opposed to any possibility of creating a monopoly in ferry operation. But the situation has changed now. Paragraph 80 has been quoted already and my noble friend Lord Mulley repeated these words:Accordingly the Committee believe that the Office of Fair Trading should regard applications by ferry operators for integration in the light of these considerations.".That is a hope; it is a desire that the Office of Fair Trading will do this.
As we have asked so often on Bills before your Lordships' House, is it satisfactory merely to leave matters in the form of a hope that it will be done or that we believe it will be done? We are asking that the Office of Fair Trading will take these factors into consideration. We are not asking for the director general to agree with what the ferry operators want, but that he should take these factors into consideration.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, as has been explained, this new clause is concerned with the ferry operators' desire to integrate or to co-ordinate their services so as to be better able to compete with the Eurotunnel service. The new clause would require the Director General of Fair Trading, when considering any such proposals by the companies—
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, before the noble Lord proceeds, my point is not to permit them to compete with the tunnel; it is to ensure that adequate services 865 are provided in the interim before the tunnel operates. That is the whole point. I do not think the Minister grasped it when we had the previous discussion.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I did grasp the point, and as I develop my remarks the noble Lord will see that we are well aware of the problem which he is worried about: that is that the Director General of Fair Trading should consider any proposals by the companies especially in relation to trade and tourism in the period before the tunnel opens. I accept that this is an important point. Indeed, it is almost exactly the consideration which the Select Committee recommended should be taken into account by the director general at paragraph 80 of the special report, to which reference has been made.
However, we do not believe that it is necessary to convert this recommendation into a legal obligation on the director general. As I indicated in Committee on 6th July in response to the noble Lord's earlier amendment, the Government's response to the Select Committee report confirmed that in considering any proposals ferry operators may make for integration of their services, the director general will take into account all the relevant factors, including the possibility that the operators may otherwise decide to restrict their investment or curtail their services in the period before the tunnel opens.
I believe that the standing duty of the director general should fully meet the noble Lord's concerns. Moreover, I do not feel that it would be appropriate to single out in the Bill just one of the considerations for the director general. I think the Select Committee recognised that he would need to take many factors into account. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, will accept that the best interests of the ferries and the users of cross-Channel services would not be served by seeking to condition the judgment of the director general in this matter in this rather special way.
The ferry companies are permitted to discuss with each other how they may order their affairs to benefit their customers before the tunnel opens, provided that they do not agree prices or merge. If, however, they have proposals for joint operations, they can discuss these with the director general. The ferry companies are free to discuss anything they like with the Department of Transport. The approach last year by Sealink to be released from its undertaking not to agree prices was an undertaking not to agree prices now. I frankly think it is remarkable that the companies hope that they will be allowed to do that seven years before the tunnel is due to be opened. It was made quite clear that similar application nearer the time would be dealt with on its merits then. The needs of trade and tourism will be one of the factors that the director will take into account.
I hope that in the light of the remarks and the assurances that I have been able to give that the noble Lord will not press his amendment to insert the new clause.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am very grateful for the Minister's assurances. I thought, however, that it might have been in the director general's mind, when 866 the Bill was already well on its way through Parliament in October last year, that he should have given rather more weight to that. Until they are released from their existing undertakings, the ferry companies cannot begin to think about or to put together any suggestions to discuss with the department or with the director general himself. Therefore, they must be released from those undertakings. I find some encouragement from the noble Lord's assurances that they can go and discuss matters with, I imagine, him, as the Minister for shipping, and certainly with the Department of Transport. I understand that what he said will be brought to the attention of the Director General of Fair Trading. He is a very busy man and I doubt very much whether he reads Lords Hansard every day. I wonder sometimes how many Members of this noble House read it from cover to cover every day. If the Minister will give me an assurance that this will be brought to his attention, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I can certainly give the assurance that the director will see what has been said today.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 [Construction of the scheduled works]:
§ Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 5, line 28, at end insert—
("(3A) The Railways Board shall not have power to commence Works Nos. 21, 21A and 21B in Part III of that Schedule, nor the works relating to the passenger station at Waterloo which are auhorised by paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 to this Act, until the Secretary of State has issued a certificate to the Board under subsection (3B) below.
(3B) The Secretary of State shall issue a certificate under this subsection if and only if he is satisfied that the proposed arrangements of the Railways Board for the scheduling of international through services are such that it will be possible to provide sufficient peak-time international through services to and from Waterloo station to meet the needs of travellers on such services, without thereby creating any significant deterioration in the standard of domestic rail services to and from that station.
(3C) In this section "international through services" means services for the carriage of passengers by rail by way of the tunnel system, other than shuttle services.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sorry to burden the House again—and I am sure the Minister will not relish the fact in view of what he said on a previous occasion—with the matter of Waterloo. Although I am not in any way satisfied that the concerns of the residents have been fully taken care of, and although they still feel rather sore that they did not have a proper opportunity to express their difficulties, this amendment is entirely concerned with the provision of services to Waterloo and with the possibility of the international services providing problems for the efficient peak-time commuter services.
§ The City of London (of which we are all very proud) would be at a standstill if there were any falling away of the rail commuter services into the City every day. We know what happens on the sad occasions when the railways are on strike. People have to stay overnight on camp beds in their offices, or whatever; and in many cases they are unable to get 867 to work. It is a fairly open secret that the French railways understandably want to run a lot of trains that will arrive in London in the peak morning period. That would be a sensible time to time-table trains so that people coming to London for business purposes could arrive at a reasonable hour in the morning in order to get to their board meetings at 10 o'clock or thereabouts, having arrived in the middle of our peak commuter period. Equally, I am sure that British Rail would try to maximize its service by putting on trains that will leave at night in the peak period so as to give people going from London a full working day in London before they travel to Paris, Brussels or to the places on the Continent where meetings are to be held. That will produce a problem. I do not know who will be the arbiter if French railways want to have more trains than British Rail feels it can cope with without damage to the commuter service.
§ At the very beginning, when the whole question of the tunnel was under discussion, I understand that the British Railways Board gave undertakings that whatever happened it would not agree to any arrangements that would damage the commuter network around London on which so much depends. I hope very much that at the very minimum the Minister can give us an assurance that this undertaking by British Rail is still in place and has not been over-ridden or will not be over-ridden by any other considerations in respect of Eurotunnel, our French partners or anybody else. I beg to move.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, on the basis of what the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, said at the end of his short speech, I assume that he will not press this amendment and that he is looking for some form of assurance from the Minister. Were he to do so, I very much hope that the House would not accept it. I say this for two reasons. First, the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, has had responsibility for nationalised industries and I have not, unless one regards the Metropolitan Police as a nationalised industry which probably one would not. I do not like the idea of giving a Minister a power of this kind to certify whether British Rail is or is not behaving sensibly. It involves a degree of interventionism which I do not think is desirable in the day-to-day management of nationalised industries.
All of us on the Select Committee put these very questions to British Rail because there was undoubtedly genuine concern about a possible deterioration of commuter services. All of us, so far as I am aware, believe British Railways when they said that one of their central objectives was to ensure that there was no such deterioration. I am sure that that is an honest statement of their position. So much for the amendment, my Lords.
Perhaps I may deal with the noble Lord's other point. He has made some very useful interventions during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill, not that one has necessarily always agreed with him. Nevertheless he has raised a number of important issues. One point on which I fear I did not find myself 868 in total sympathy with him was an implication of what he said; that some of the residents of Waterloo—I may have misunderstood what he said and if I did I apologise—believed that they had been unfairly treated in some way by the Select Committee.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, the noble Lord is, I am afraid, under a misapprehension. As I understand it—I have had no close discussions with them although I get things put through my door because I live in that neighbourhood—they were extremely pleased with the attention our Select Committee gave. Their grievance was—rightly or wrongly—a matter for British Rail, and more particularly in another place they did not have the opportunity to present their case. I am glad to say that the noble Lord's committee made up for that.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I would have—beenand I suspect the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, would agree with me—more than mildly mortified if such an allegation had been made. We spent many days listening to the evidence of various groups from around the Waterloo area. We recognise that there is genuine concern and without trying to make any partisan point, we were all—and I use fairly moderate language—disappointed by the attitude of the two local authorities, Lambeth and Southwark. Both had the opportunity to become involved with detailed discussions and both declined to do so. Both have been involved in a rather childish walkout from a meeting presided over by Mr. Mitchell. It does not help the inhabitants of the Waterloo area when the elected representatives of the people behave in this fashion. I very much hope that the two local authorities and the other local authorities which are involved will follow the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee and now involve themselves without further delay in the detailed discussions which are necessary in order to minimize the inconvenience to the local community.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I should very much like to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has just said. We shall be coming to an amendment a little later on which addresses the position of Waterloo—that is, the terminal rather than, as in this amendment, the scheduling of train services.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has said more or less exactly what I was going to say about the job of the British Railways Board in the scheduling of trains. It has never been seen as the responsibility of the Secretary of State, whatever the political complexion of the government, to look at the scheduling arrangements made by the board and to satisfy himself that they are adequate to meet anticipated demands. Those must be management functions and not matters for the Secretary of State.
The amendment, as drafted, would require a radical change in the traditional relationship between Ministers and nationalized industry boards. I am bound to say that it would be extremely difficult to find anybody willing to serve on a nationalised 869 industry board if the principle of the amendment were carried through.
However, I suspect that the noble Lord wants to get a clearer idea of how the inter-relationship between international and domestic trains will work during periods of peak traffic demand. British Rail have never made any secret of the fact that the existing level of domestic traffic would constrain the international traffic which they would be able to carry during domestic peaks. When they first looked at this problem they concluded that they would only be able to run one international train out of Waterloo between 4.45 p.m. and 6.15 p.m. on weekdays. They have since done much more work which has shown that it should be possible to run three international trains an hour during the peak without adversely affecting the domestic service. So far as I am aware the morning trains from Paris are expected to arrive after the peak of the British rush-hour.
Even three trains an hour may not be enough to meet peak demand for international services. British Rail will of course be looking at ways of encouraging people who would otherwise travel during the peak to travel off-peak. That is already common railway practice. British Rail's existing system of saver fares on their Inter City services is already designed to spread traffic outside the peaks, and they will no doubt be looking at similar systems for their international services.
If at the end of the day, and even after the application of peak pricing mechanisms, British Rail find that they have more international traffic during the peak than they can carry, they have made it clear that they will simply not carry it all. British Rail have given repeated assurances that they will not curtail domestic services to make room for international trains. If there is a conflict between the two it is the level of the international service which will have to give.
The noble Lord has said that he would not want domestic services to be curtailed in order to make way for international services. I do not imagine that such a course would be very popular with the commuters either. The noble Lord's amendment is clearly against any deterioration in the standard of domestic services to and from Waterloo.
The amendment would prevent British Rail from providing their terminal at Waterloo unless it had capacity to deal with all the international demand at peak hours as well. That may turn out to be impossible. If it does, British Rail are prepared to sacrifice some of the international passengers. There seems to be no reason why British Rail should not be allowed to build their terminal in those circumstances. I hope that, with the reassurances I have been able to give this afternoon and my fundamental objections to parts of the amendment, the noble Lord will be able to withdraw it.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am again indebted to the Minister for those reassurances. I am not only concerned about the convenience of the commuters. Obviously one hopes that people can get to and from their work in reasonable comfort. However, the whole of the City of London, on which so much of 870 our invisible earnings depends, relies on people travelling a distance to work and getting away from work at the end of the day.
I am sure that the French railways will not be pleased at the idea that their services are to be restricted to suit the convenience of the domestic services coming into London. But British Rail's undertaking which is now on the record with the backing of the Minister will be of great comfort to people. I accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, made that perhaps this is not a responsibility that one should place on a Secretary of State, although of course the present Secretary of State is fortunate in having such able assistants as the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, will know that I have an amendment down to try specifically to take care of his particular concern, because the transport consultative committees are particularly charged with reviewing rail services. I hope that I shall have his support when we come to that amendment to Clause 40. With that understanding and hope, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Tevio moved Amendment No 10:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Extension of M2.
§ The Secretary of State shall construct the works necessary to continue the M2 Motorway from the point at which it terminates at present to the entrance to Dover Eastern Docks.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 10. I am most grateful to my noble friend for all his co-operation and for sending me a letter about this subject. The statement that the M.20 and A.20 will serve the Port of Dover as a direct either motorway or dual carriageway standard link from London and the North thus providing the means of fair competition between the port and the tunnel is in many ways not strictly true.
§ The improved A.20 included in the Bill is being built because it is said that Dover will be at a disadvantage without it on the basis of fair competition. I am told that the truth is that the A.20 Folkestone/Dover link has been in need of upgrading and improvement for many years for general everyday use, and it cannot be just merely classed as a fair competition element.
§ The need for such improvement exists and has been proved without the presence of a tunnel. The M.20/A.20 will provide the Channel Tunnel with a high standard road link. It will only provide Dover with the same link as a continuation of the tunnel facility. The Port of Dover will not have the same facility as the tunnel and, in the opinion of the Government, will not need it.
§ In the Select Committee's Special Report on the Channel Tunnel Bill the committee recommended that particular roads in Kent need urgent attention in the light of the tunnel project. One identified is the A.2. Such a recommendation cannot have been made without sound judgment and reason. It must be said that the Government in their response to the special report have either misinterpreted the recommen- 871 dation or have chosen to ignore it for reasons which seem quite clear.
§ It is possible that by using the appropriate route one can travel from, say, Perth to Lydden on the A.2 almost entirely on dual carriageway road. That distance must be in excess of at least 600 miles. From Lydden to Dover, a distance of six miles or 11.3 kilometres, the road is single carriageway standard. This section of the A.2 is of constant concern to Kent County Council and has been discussed with the Department of Transport on many occasions, and Kent County Council has pressed it to upgrade the road to dual carriageway standard.
§ The section of the A.2 that we are discussing was out of date before it was constructed. It had been planned prior to the collapse of the 1975 Channel Tunnel project. It was not designed to carry the traffic that it has carried. Similar to the plan that now exists it was the intention to divert as much traffic as possible off the M.2/A.2 to the tunnel via the M.20. The A.2 was expected to cope with 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles a day. Although the 1974–75 tunnel project was cancelled by the incoming Labour Government the road, the A.2, was built to original specification even though it was then known that the amount of traffic it would have to cope with would be higher than proposed.
§ After the referendum on the membership of Britain of the European Community, the firmer commitment to Europe generated an increase in trade to EC countries which resulted in a massive increase in the movement of heavy freight vehicles far greater than was anticipated. In 1978 Kent County Council were pressing for the A.2 to be widened. Unfortunately that request was refused.
§ For the nine-year period from August 1977—when this road was opened—to July 1986, on the six mile or 11.3 kilometre stretch of road there were 25 fatal accidents, 56 serious accidents and 67 slight accidents. The high fatal and serious accident rates are directly attributable to the fact that the road is single carriageway, a large percentage of the fatal accidents resulting from head-on collisions. Well over 14 per cent. of all accidents are fatal compared to the national average of 4 per cent. I believe that the Department of Transport has said that the A.2 is no worse than other roads. Statistics prove otherwise. The department's statistics for A roads reflect .23 accidents per million kilometres travelled. The section of the A.2 between the Whitfield roundabout and Lydden has an accident rate of .36 kilometres travelled. The Department of Transport's design standards for road construction are that dual carriageway road is considered if the road is proposed to carry 14,000 vehicles per day, with definite dual carriageway to 17,000 vehicles per day.
§ In September 1986 the average monthly traffic flow from Lydden to the Guston roundabout was 17,000 vehicles per day; from Guston roundabout to the Eastern docks the figure was 19,500. The road from Lydden to Dover was designed to carry from between 5,000 and 6,000 vehicles. Roads are built with a 20 year period of life with the expectation that they will carry X million standard axles. Within the first eight 872 years of its existence, this section of the A.2 had carried the expected life number. In other words, within the first eight years it had carried the estimated traffic forecast for 20 years.
§ All statistics point to the need for the decline in the A.2 from Lydden to Dover. Recently the opportunity arose for such work to take place. Kent County Council approached my right honourable friend Mr. Nicholas Ridley, Secretary of State for Transport, when he opened the M.25 last year, with a request to improve the A.2. That request was rejected. The A.2 has been under reconstruction for some time, the most recent works commencing last year. Prior to those works commencing, Kent County Council advised the Department of Transport that for an additional £2 million to £3 million in addition to what had been budgeted for the works planned, Kent County Council could provide a sub-standard dual carriageway. That means that the running lanes were slightly narrower than normal. Although a sub-standard dual carriageway would have been provided, it would have been a vast improvement on what presently exists.
§ If the work proposed had been undertaken, it would have assisted in the future road works of the A.2 by the closure of one carriageway while providing the other carriageway for the movement of traffic. Also, it would have avoided the need to divert traffic to other roads, so increasing the load on those roads and the risk of accident. The dualling of the A.2 would have been an economic project in all senses.
§ I should like to ask my noble friend why his department turned down that option. Heavy goods vehicles account for 10 per cent. of the total traffic on the roads country-wide. On the A.2 it is 17 per cent. (My Lords, I digress to say that I have taken eight minutes; that is quite respectable.)
§ I feel that the Government must respond to the Select Committee's recommendation other than to say that they will keep the road under review and decide what the future requires when the tunnel opens. Unless the Government are prepared to act positively on the recommendations of the Select Committee, the whole procedure requires further investigation.
§ I am very much pro the Bill and the tunnel. However, I feel strongly that to leave this section of the road in its present state would be a travesty. The M.20/A.20 will certainly serve the needs of the Channel Tunnel, and possible the port of Folkestone and other places in that area. That is fine but it is not the answer for Dover. I am afraid that it looks as though Dover will become the poor relation because at the end of the day, in many instances in the case of freight it will be the driver, and sometimes the employer, who will make the decision whether to travel to the Continent by the tunnel route or by the ferry. Equally, the private motorist will have that choice. Surely, situated by the A.20/M.20, the tunnel will be in a favourable position; but if the A.2 is upgraded to motorway standard, which I should like, both the tunnel and Dover will be free-standing. I think that this is a most positive and free-standing amendment. I beg to move.873
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, this is a splendid amendment but with the small disadvantage that, unfortunately, it has no place in the Bill. It is splendid in that it provides an opportunity to discuss one of the curiosities in the ways in which the Department of Transport decides whether or not a road needs improvement. When one extricates oneself from London, one enjoys eight lanes, six lanes or four lanes until one reaches the village of Lydden, situated between six and seven miles from Dover. At that point the road deteriorates into a single carriageway. In moving the amendment, the noble Lord has sufficiently explained the awfulness of that section of the road.
However, I am mystified by the methods used by the Department of Transport to decide whether or not a road needs improvement. My own belief is that it engages the services of a pair of retired Chief Whips. They stand beside the road with their clicker-counters and count the number of vehicles which are making use of it. The flaw in that system is that they are counting the Contents. The Not-Contents have long since learnt that if they use that road they will encounter the mother and father of all traffic jams. Therefore they divert themselves through the villages and by-ways of Kent and cause all the distress which flows from that.
I regret that the Bill is not the place for this amendment. However, I hope that the Minister will take on board the fact that outside the Bill this House will pursue him over the years to come, unless something is done right away about that section of the A.2. He has said that the Government will review the situation when the tunnel has opened. That is six years away and I am concerned about what will happen to the ferry operators in the intervening years. The Minister has also said that even if the matter was dealt with now improvements to the road could not be made before the tunnel opens. To me that is quite extraordinary and unacceptable. Even though the amendment plays no part in this Bill, I hope that the Minister will feel able to give some encouragement to the people of Kent that something will be done about this most curious situation.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, is entirely correct. I also support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot. Anyone who has driven to Dover to catch a ferry knows precisely how horrid is that last stretch of road.
I see that in the Long Title of the Bill there is stated:to provide for the construction of certain highways and associated works in the vicinity of Folkestone".I should have thought, broadly speaking, this section of the M.2 was in the vicinity of Folkestone.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I briefly mentioned the department's intention in relation to the M.2/A.2 in response to an amendment at Committee stage. As my noble friend Lord Teviot has mentioned, I have since written to him. I can quite understand my noble friend's concern about the possible inadequacy of the M.2, and also that of the noble Lords, Lord Ampthill and Lord Tordoff. Traffic on the M.2/A.2 is fully expected to decrease 874 when the final sections of the M.20 from Maidstone to Ashford and the A.20 Folkestone to Dover are completed. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, that the way in which the department carries out its traffic forecasts is not quite as simple as he indicated to the House. Obviously, we try to make them as accurate as possible.
I remind the House that for several years it has been the department's policy that the M.20/A.20 should be the principal route between London and both the ports and the tunnel. Planning of the improvements to the network has taken place on this basis.
I know the stretch of the A.2 which causes the greatest concern is the section between Lydden and Dover. Our traffic forecasts for the narrowest sections of that road assume that by the time the Channel Tunnel opens in 1993 the M.20 will be complete, the new stretch of the A.20 from Folkestone to Dover will be open and most longer-distance traffic to Dover as well as to the Channel Tunnel will have transferred to the M.20/A.20 corridor. I should point out to my noble friend that the proposed A.20 improvement goes right into the middle of Dover and, I understand, right to the eastern docks.
On this basis the narrowest section of the A.2 will be running well within the appropriate departmental recommended standards. Even by the year 2008 and taking an assumption of high economic growth, the road is still expected to be operating within the recommended flow levels for a single carriageway. However, I accept that August flows are likely to be above recommended levels since tourist traffic means that this stretch of road is subject to high seasonal variation. Nevertheless, predicted traffic flows do not at this stage justify major improvement.
However the Government made it clear to the Select Committee of both Houses that if predicted traffic flows are realised we expect by the end of the century to review the standard of the A.2 with a view to some improvement. We must look at the evidence of the relative attractiveness of the A.2 and A.20 corridors for longer-distance traffic, the location of industrial and commercial development in the north-east Kent and the level of port-related traffic through Dover. That is why we have undertaken to keep the A.2 corridor under review when the effects of the tunnel are first apparent.
There is then the question of what happens if the A.20 improvement, particularly the eastern half that is to be done under Highways Act procedures, is delayed, even if our timetable on that is not met. We fully accept that in the event of any major delay to the A.20 improvement we should need to consider the option of improvements to the A.2.
I am afraid that this is not a matter on which the Government should make any firm commitments. We have already undertaken to review the matter when the tunnel is opened but we must plan the national road programme in a balanced way on the best evidence available to us. On that evidence, we could not justify major improvements to the A.2 at this stage.
875 I should like to make three further points very briefly on the A.2. The reason the A.2 ceases to be dual carriageway on the final stretch to Dover docks is that this section is effectively the Dover bypass, and traffic bound for Dover town does not use this stretch of road. It turns off, so that the traffic level is less than it is further north on the A.2. The department's policy to develop the A.20 as the main route to Dover is because the M.2 is already congested nearer to London in the Medway area. The A.2 will therefore carry considerably less traffic once the A.20 is opened. It really is odd to suggest that the A.2 should be developed as part of this Bill, which is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill.
I am sure that noble Lords will accept the need for evenhandedness in the Government's road programme. We shall of course be investing a great deal of money in the M.20/A.20 improvements, which will go right into the middle of Dover. As I have already said, we will keep the situation of the A.2 under review, but to suggest that we should have two main motorway-standard roads right into the middle of Dover is asking for a little bit much at this stage.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I should like briefly to support the noble Lord, Lord Teviot. I was rather staggered when he said that 17 per cent. of traffic on that section was heavy goods. Travelling along it, I should have thought the percentage was rather higher. I should like to put to the Minister for consideration that a very cheap way of greatly enhancing the journey to Dover would be to remove from the M.2 a lot of superfluous cones. You can go along that road for mile after mile and see one lane and sometimes two lanes closed for no apparent reason. I gave up trying to do anything about it, but a couple of years ago I gave chapter and verse in a parliamentary Question in your Lordships' House when I asked why seven miles of road were closed for no obvious reason, with not even a shovel in sight. The Answer I got was that it had been closed pending an inspection. I imagine the inspection had not taken place because the person concerned was held up by the traffic congestion.
The fact is that not only on this road but on many others it should be part of the contractor's obligation to take away the cones when no work is going on. Of course they have to be there for the reasonable protection of those who are working on the road; but to put them up days in advance of anything happening or to leave them in place for days after it has happened should not be allowed. To have them removed would be an enormous benefit not only in terms of the ordinary road user but in terms of the economic life of the nation. I think that would be a modest expenditure that would be well worth considering.
§ Lord Teviot
My Lords, I obviously cannot press this any further. I think we have had a good debate and I am very grateful to the noble Lords who have spoken, including my noble friend. However, I 876 should like to make two points. I am glad this issue will be kept under review. He talked about this road being supposed to be only the Dover bypass. Having been given those figures—poor old Dover—it is quite incredible to contemplate how it would have suffered otherwise. The point has been made that this is a heavily overused road and I am sorry I have not been able to get any further on this matter.
In regard to having two roads of motorway standard going into Dover, I do not want to go into an Old Testament comparison of "like with like", but in the North of England there are many upgraded roads like this. These roads in Kent have been grossly substandard, as have the ones in Sussex. I think we have to be realistic about this. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment but I say in the meantime that to look at a map of Kent without this road being improved will be to see a blot on the escutcheon. I beg to leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
§ Clause 11 [Regulation of tunnel system: application and enforcement of law, etc.]:
Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 12, line 18, after ("sections") insert ("(Controls on board trains engaged on international services,)")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 11, and your Lordships will see that it leads to the substantial Amendment No. 17. Amendments Nos. 18 to 24 are consequential amendments only.
§ The Government have proposed this new clause in response to the deep concern shown by the House in Committee when it debated the amendment of my noble friend Lord Teviot on 2nd July, and indeed earlier by the Select Committee. Many noble Lords expressed the view that on-train controls are widespread on the Continent and should be adopted here too. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, who I am sorry is not in his place, in his usual eloquent way emphasised the great importance of exercising the controls on board trains bound for Liverpool and other points in the North of England and Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, as the former chairman of the Select Committee, has explained, the committee was adamant that trains destined for the North of England must have controls on them.
§ Accordingly, I undertook to reconsider the Government's view and my noble friend Lord Teviot withdrew his amendment. The Government have since given very urgent consideration to this question, and this new clause is the result. Under this new clause there is a duty laid upon the appropriate Minister—normally the Home Secretary—or the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to ensure that controls are carried out on trains going to points beyond London, subject to certain conditions. The conditions are as follows. The operator (British Rail, for example) of the service in question must have requested on-train controls. Secondly, the operator must provide the necessary facilities on the trains, for example, the special search and interview rooms that will be needed for certain passengers and which are required by the Customs and immigration services so that they may perform their duties effectively.877
§ Thirdly, the checks concerned are those carried out by Customs and immigration officers and they will include checks carried out by Customs on behalf of MAFF, DHSS and DTI, for example, but not security checks to protect the trains and their passengers, which, when they are required, may need to be carried out before the passengers board. Fourthly, the checks cover passengers and their baggage but not goods carried commercially by couriers, which, unlike baggage, have to be the subject of Customs declarations.
§ Fifthly, under subsection (3) the Customs or immigration officers have the right to exercise the controls off the train in circumstances when they believe that they cannot exercise the controls effectively any other way. That might apply if they had had a tip-off about a particular train and wished to search it thoroughly. They may also remove individual passengers from the train if checks are required—whether special searches or document checks—that cannot be carried out effectively on the train.
§ The last subsection, subsection (4), ensures that there is the possibility of the Customs or immigration services charging for the exercise of controls if necessary. I explained last week in responding to the proposed new clause of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, which would have required any additional cost of providing controls on board trains to be passed on to the operator, that the Government were not yet ready to decide what would be a fair solution to this question. Therefore, subsection (4) confirms a power to charge by means of an order under Clause 11 of the Bill and does not create a duty.
§ For the avoidance of doubt, I repeat that this clause does not provide for on-train controls for trains bound for Waterloo. I explained during the Committee stage that the Government believe that for those trains airport style controls would provide a satisfactory and efficient method of control and that the Select Committee had accepted that point. However, there is, of course, nothing in the new clause to prevent on-train controls being introduced for those services if British Rail (or the operator, whoever it is) and the appropriate government departments agree.
§ I hope that this clause meets the essential concerns expressed during the earlier stages of this Bill without jeopardising the effectiveness of the controls, which nobody would want to do. I believe that it goes a long way in the right direction and should be welcomed by your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, in view of the fact that I was so extremely unkind to the Minister on the last amendment, perhaps I may be the first to congratulate him and thank him very warmly indeed for this amendment. It follows upon the recommendation of the Select Committee, and I believe it goes as far as one could possibly wish to go.
My Lords, having moved the original amendment on this subject, I am grateful to my noble friend for having tabled this one and not only to him but also to his department and others who must have worked very hard, burning the midnight oil in order 878 to get the wording right. I think that it is extremely satisfactory.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, though the amendment does not deal with Waterloo, which my noble friend says will operate on an airline system. I think that the passengers will be at a slight disadvantage compared with people boarding at Brussels or Paris, who will have on-train facilities.
There was one final point with which I did not deal at the Committee stage because I was somewhat sidetracked. People travelling from the West, for example, who may have been unavoidably held up by British Rail may find themselves at Waterloo, having arrived there by the underground system, and not be able to clear themselves and board the train. One is sorry about the situation at Waterloo, especially as it concerns a train operation. However, my noble friend's department has acted urgently and well and I feel that this has resulted in one of the most positive amendments to this Bill that your Lordships have so far had to deal with.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, there are moments when one feels that one has achieved some minor success, and this is certainly one of those moments. We are all grateful to the Government for having taken seriously the comments made both in this Chamber and in the Select Committee and for the amendment that has been tabled. It is clearly an amendment that could not have been set down by anybody other than the Government, because its ramifications are clearly shown in the subsidiary amendments that have had to accompany it.
I hope that it is not churlish of me to go on to say that I feel that we ought to have another look at the situation at Waterloo before the Bill finally passes from this House. There will be an opportunity to do that later in the week. If the French do not find it necessary to put in such facilities in Paris and the Belgians do not feel it necessary to put them in in Brussels, one wonders why it is necessary to put them in at Waterloo.
I understand that the cost of the facilities at Waterloo is likely to amount to something in the region of £7 million, which seems rather a large sum of money. That is quite apart from the extra constriction that will be put on the limited space that exists at Waterloo. Such restriction can be borne only by the existing users. I hope that this will not be the last chance that the Government will have to do something about the situation at Waterloo. I believe that it is perfectly possible to have on-train Customs facilities between Waterloo and the Continent and I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter. Having said that, we are all grateful for what we have obtained so far.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, as one of those involved in the discussion of these matters in Standing Committee, I agree with what has been said so far. First, I welcome unreservedly an amendment which I think improves the Bill substantially. Secondly, like my noble friend Lord Tordoff, I can see no argument whatever in the longer term for having green and red channels at Waterloo.
879 The issue at which the committee looked was the situation north of London. The reason that such a lot of time was spent on that issue was because British Rail announced that if it did not have on-train control, basically there would be no trains north of London—it was a simple as that—because the services would be uncompetitive.
I suspect that that was also the view of Eurotunnel. However, it was made abundantly clear by British Rail, first, that it had to have on-train controls on all trains north of London and, secondly, that it favoured on-train control as a matter of principle. It seems to me rather dismal that once again we have to say that what is possible in France, Germany, the United States and Canada is wholly impossible in this country in terms of trains terminating at Waterloo.
I say that today not because I feel that it would be right to table another amendment at Third Reading of the Bill. I think it is important that this amendment has been approved. However, I hope that this rather weary conservatism of Customs and Excise will be examined critically by Ministers in the future. I have yet to hear a convincing argument to justify the attitude of the Customs. We certainly did not hear one in the Select Committee. I hope that in the longer term this issue will be examined by Ministers in order to find out whether there is a legitimate argument behind it. Up to now none of us has heard it.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, following the words of the last two speakers, noble Lords who looked very carefully at the list of amendments may have noticed that my noble friend Lord Carmichael and I had an amendment which would have enabled the provision to be applied either just to the north of London or even from Waterloo, if that was considered desirable.
We decided to withdraw that amendment immediately the Government's amendment appeared in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, because we took the view that if the Government accepted the opinion of the House that something ought to be done, frankly we should not try to press our amendment. However, the arguments remain.
Of course, one important issue that arises concerns the fact that under the amendment which the Government have introduced the Minister is charged to ensure the implementation of these measures but it will depend upon British Rail, who will operate the service, whether they apply for a particular service. Those of us who believe in this enterprise have to ensure that British Rail make the maximum number of applications for services that run north of London. I join in all the thanks and congratulations to the Minister on his having listened to the views of the House and brought forward this amendment.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment and for the general welcome given to it. On the question of Waterloo, I said that there was nothing in 880 this amendment which prohibited the provision of on-train controls on trains going to Waterloo. I disagree with the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Tordoff. Personally speaking, I believe that airport style controls at Waterloo are a better bet than on-train controls, but that is a question which does not need to be resolved at this stage. The Government have certainly not ruled out the possibility of on-train controls at some stage in the future. Anyway, I am grateful for the general response that this amendment has received and I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Clause 11 [Regulation of the tunnel system: application and enforcement of law, etc.]:
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendments Nos. 12 to 16:
Page 12, line 28, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
("(7) An order so made may provide for applying any provisions of the order relating to the interest of the former Concessionaires in any movable property or intellectual property rights necessary for the construction or operation of the tunnel system, subject to any modifications specified in the order, in relation to—
(7A) No liquidator of, or other person exercising functions under insolvency law in relation to, any company which is, or is included among, the Concessionaires shall sell or otherwise dispose of any interest of the company in any such property or rights without the consent of the Secretary of State; and any sale or other disposal in contravention of this subsection shall be void".
§ Page 12, line 43, leave out from ("or') to ("an") and insert ("this section")
§ Page 12, line 49, leave out from second ("references") to ("to") in line 50.
§ Page 13, line 19, leave out paragraph (g)
Page 13, line 28, leave out paragraph (h) and insert—
("(h) "liquidator" means, in relation to a company. a person appointed as liquidator or provisional liquidator of the company under any provision of the Insolvency Act 1986 or exercising in relation to the company functions under the law of France corresponding to those of a person so appointed, and the reference in subsection (7A) above to any person other than a liquidator exercising functions under insolvency law in relation to a company is a reference to—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, These are technical amendments to tidy up and improve the complex amendments to Clause 11 which were inserted in the Bill in Committee. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.881
Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendments Nos. 17 to 24.
After Clause 11, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Controls on board trains engaged on international services
§ —(1) It shall be the duty of the appropriate Minister to secure that, where this subsection applies, controls exercisable in relation to—
- (a) passengers carried on a train engaged on an international service on a journey beginning or intended to end at a place in Great Britain other than London or Cheriton, Folkestone or any place between those places; or
- (b) things contained in the baggage of such passengers; shall be exercised on the train.
§ (2) Subject to subsection (3) below, subsection (1) above applies where—
- (a) the person operating the service has made a request to the appropriate Minister that the controls in question should be exercised on trains engaged on the service in question;
- (b) the appropriate Minister has approved as satisfactory arrangements made by that person for the provision of facilities to enable the controls in question to be exercised on such trains;
- (c) facilities enabling the exercise of the controls in question are provided on the train in question in accordance with such approved arrangements; and
- (d) the controls are exercised by customs officers or immigration officers.
§ (3) Subsection (1) above does not apply—
- (a) in the case of passengers carried on a particular train or part of a particular train, or things contained in the baggage of such passengers, if in the opinion of a customs officer or immigration officer exercising the controls it is not reasonably practicable effectively to exercise the controls in question on the train or part of a train; and
- (b) in the case of any particular passenger or things contained in the baggage or any particular passenger, if in the opinion of any such officer it is not reasonably practicable effectively to exercise the controls in question in relation to the passenger or his baggage on the train.
§ (4) An order under section 11 of this Act may include provision imposing, or providing for the imposition of, fees or charges on persons operating international services in respect of the exercise of controls in relation to passengers or things such as are mentioned in subsection (1) above on trains engaged on the services.
(5) In this section—
customs officer" means an officer or other person acting under the authority of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise; and
immigration officer" means an immigration officer appointed for the purposes of the Immigration Act 1971.").
§ Clause 12, page 13, line 41, leave out ("section 11") and insert ("sections 11 and (Controls on board trains engaged on international services) ")
§ Page 13, line 42, leave out from ("matter") to ("the") in line 43.
§ Page 13, line 48, leave out ("such").
§ Page 14, line 3, leave out ("that section") and insert ("section 11 of this Act").
§ Page 14, line 7, leave out ("that section") and insert ("sections 11 and (Controls on board trains engaged on international services) of this Act").
§ Page 14, line 13, leave out ("that section") and insert ("those sections").
§ Page 14, line 18, leave out ("that section") and insert ("those sections").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to Amendment Nos. 17 to 24 inclusive. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 25:
After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Independence of U.K. head of delegation to Safety Authority.
§ The head of the United Kingdom delegation to the Safety Authority shall be a person who is independent of the government of the United Kingdom.").882
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be recalled that in Committee, with Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, I submitted Amendment No. 51 on this issue, but in very different words. It made suggestions as regards quite a number of the UK representatives on the safety authority. That has been entirely omitted from the amendment that I now move.
§ In the previous amendment, we propose also that the chairman of the safety authority shall be appointed jointly by the Governments of the United Kingdom and France and be a person independent of those Governments. The Minister pointed out on that occasion that a single jointly appointed chairman would be contrary to what had been agreed in the Treaty. He also explained that the chairmanship of the authority shall be held for a period of one year by the head of each delegation alternatively—the United Kingdom or France. The question was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, as to whether the proposal in the previous amendment contravened the Treaty. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, had doubts about whether Lord Morris was correct about the contravention of the Treaty.
§ To avoid all legal arguments on the question of the Treaty, we have omitted all reference to a joint chairman in the amendment. We have dealt solely with the head of the UK delegation to the safety authority who would hold office in alternate years. That man, over whom we have complete authority because we are appointing him and he is the head of the UK delegation, should be completely independent of the Government of the United Kingdom. That view was made clear by the Select Committee. Most noble Lords in Committee emphasised that the independence of the chairman was imperative.
§ In the amendment, therefore, to avoid any long legal arguments about what is in the Treaty and what it means or does not mean, we deal solely with the head of the UK delegation in the period for which he is chairman in alternative years, who should be a person completely independent of the United Kingdom Government. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I am a little concerned about the amendment because the word "independent" seems to kill it stone dead. Surely no person of sufficient stature to be, as the amendment puts it, the head of the UK delegation could reach the stature required to become that head without a considerable degree of dependence upon the Government. If I am correct, I believe that Major Rose would be the designated head of the UK delegation. As far as I recall, the previous experience of Major Rose has been entirely in the armed services or in the railways inspectorate, which is an element of the Department of Transport.
Since discussions in Committee, I have thought carefully and find it hard to conceive of totally independent people whom the Government could invite to take on such a job. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, did not define the word "independent". As I define it, the amendment cannot stand by its very nature.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I should have thought that this appointment, like any such appointment of this importance, ought to be of the best person capable of leading the delegation. To put restrictions on whether in the past they have been dependent on or connected with the Government has nothing to do with it. Any man appointed to this position because of his personal qualities would surely automatically be independent of the Government in the sense of how he would do the job. To try in statute form to restrict the numbers who might be available to carry out the task would be a grievous mistake. We cannot go wrong, in regard to any appointments included in legislation, to make it a rule that the person chosen shall be the best for the job irrespective of his or her past record in politics or any other sphere.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, this amendment would, I believe, although I cannot be sure, have the effect of preventing the Secretary of State from appointing, as head of the United Kingdom delegation to the Channel Tunnel safety authority, a serving civil servant or such other person who, in any other way, was subject to control by the Secretary of State.
As I understand the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, such a prohibition would presumably meet two concerns: first, that the safety authority would be inhibited in taking decisions which might be unpalatable to the Governments for fear that the chairman would be dismissed; or—perhaps more likely—that the chairman would not be reappointed after the expiry of a fixed term of office should he incur the displeasure of Ministers.
If that is indeed the intention of the amendment, then I fear that its proponents have misunderstood completely the nature of the intergovernmental machinery created by the treaty. To some extent this may be the fault of the Government for not making their intentions crystal clear.
The Intergovernmental Commission and the safety authority are, as the Treaty implies, simply the machinery to enable the two Governments to act jointly. If there were not two countries, and hence two governments, involved there would be no need for such machinery, and the normal agencies of the single government involved would discharge the functions now given both to the commission and to the authority. If only one country was involved, all those functions would be discharged by public officials.
I think it may help the House if I repeat what I said in Committee about the safeguards which already exist to prevent the chairman of the safety authority being overruled at a higher level in Britain or France for commerical or political reasons.
First, there is the fear that the British delegation might be overruled by the French. This safety authority "advises and assists" the Intergovernmental Commission. It is the commission which takes the decisions, and Article 10(5) of the treaty provides that its decisions,shall be taken by agreement between the heads of the British and French delegations".884 There can thus be no question of our views being overruled by the French.
Because the safety authority only "advises and assists" the Intergovernmental Commission, fears have been expressed that the commission might overrule the safety authority. The treaty does of course provide in Article 19(4) that the membership of the commission must include at least two members of the safety authority so they can be sure of making their voice heard. But what if they were to be overruled by the commission? The safety authority can then make its voice heard. Under Article 11(7) of the treaty, the authority has an absolute right to report direct to Ministers. The Select Committee expressed a very proper concern that this might not of itself be enough because Ministers might be in Eurotunnel's pocket. That is certainly not so. I therefore told the House on 28th April that the Government had given an assurance to the Select Committee as follows:that should the safety authority bring to the attention of the Secretary of State a fundamental disagreement on an important issue of public safety between themselves and the intergovernmental commission, or should the UK delegation to the safety authority notify a similar disagreement between themselves and their French counterparts, the Secretary of State for Transport will report that fact to Parliament". [Official Report, 28/4187, col. 1474.]The Government have possibly constructed a trap for themselves by calling the body a safety authority. If one examines the treaty, one sees that the French text refers to the safety committee. During the treaty negotiations, we insisted on a different name in the English text to reflect more accurately the rather different status of the UK delegation.
Unlike the French delegation, which draws its powers exclusively from the Intergovernmental Commission, UK members of the safety authority derive most of their authority from their existing powers. Thus the Health and Safety Executive member acts under Health and Safety at Work Act powers, and the chief fire officer of Kent under his fire authority powers and so on. That is why there is only one clause in the Bill which relates to the functions of safety authority members—that is, Clause 16, which is likely to be used very rarely. It may, of course, be necessary to amend existing powers, by an order under Clause 11, to harmonise them with corresponding powers in France, but the powers of members derive largely from their pre-existing powers.
This does not, I accept, necessarily mean that the chairman has to have such pre-existing powers. But it does illustrate that the overriding qualification for membership of the safety authority is professional expertise and competence in the disciplines likely to be required for the exercise of its functions. That was a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans.
The business of safety authority meetings is exclusively technical. I have made enquiries about recent deliberations of the authority and it is clear that an amateur chairman would be completely out of his depth in discussions which are, typically, about matters such as the flash point of hydraulic fluid.
It may be helpful if I draw a further analogy. The UK delegation to the safety authority is in essence an 885 inter-departmental committee. It would be most odd to bring in an outsider to chair such a committee. As I explained during Committee stage of this Bill, much of the day to day work of the authority does, and will, take place not in committee but in bilateral contact between the French and British experts within each discipline. There is frequent such contact between the two heads of delegation. They must, therefore, be of the same professional calibre.
It would, on reflection, have been better to call this body the safety executive rather than the safety authority, because a better analogy is with the Health and Safety Executive. I can see that the name has misled some noble Lords into the belief that what we have created is a quango. This is clearly not the case, any more than the Health and Safety Executive or the railway inspectorate are quangos.
There are three further reasons why I cannot recommend acceptance of the amendment. In the first place, the meaning of the word "independent" is obscure and I do not believe we should make imprecise law. My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls and the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, drew attention to that.
Secondly, if the word has the meaning I described earlier, then in my view the amendment would have no effect, at least in the early years. I have already described the arrangements we are making to appoint the current chief inspecting officer as leader of the UK delegation when he retires later this year. My understanding is that that would put him in a position of independence of the kind sought by this amendment. Until his appointment expires, or until he decides to stand down, there would therefore be no further change in the existing arrangements.
My third objection to this amendment, again if it has the meaning I attribute to it, is that it would needlessly tie the hands of the future governments. As I have explained, the members of the safety authority need expertise and standing. It is, therefore, unnecessarily inhibiting to reduce the already limited field from which such future appointments might be made by ruling out of contention forever serving civil servants.
We do not know what the post will require in future years. Once the tunnel is constructed and has been opened and running safely for a number of years, there may be very little for the authority's members to do. It is clearly sensible that the government of the day should be free to appoint to the authority serving civil servants in a related field—such as the Health and Safety Executive or the railway inspectorate—who are available at all times should a need arise.
For all the reasons I have given, I hope, if I have not been able to persuade the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment, that the House will once again reject this proposal.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I do not know what the Minister means when he talks about an amateur chairman being out of his depth. But I am rather unhappy with the situation in which we now find ourselves. I am not very happy, as I have made the 886 noble Lord, Lord Underhill aware, with this amendment. I do not believe that it achieves the objective which the Select Committee had in mind, of getting a totally independent man or woman to take on this job. If he is going to be in and out of office in alternate years he will not find himself attracted to take it on.
But my real unhappiness lies with the Minister for what arose at Committee stage. I felt that we were rather bounced into the situation by being given the news only then that a revision of the treaty would be required: no mention had been made of that in the response of the department to the Select Committee's report. I wonder whether I may take up two minutes of the House's time by reading the excerpt from the treaty which refers to this situation.
The treaty is a very slim volume, which is drafted in a curious fashion. I have for sound reasons no experience of drafting treaties, but I am quite sure that a parliamentary draftsman would put on that pained expression which he assumes when a Back-Bencher in this House drafts a clause. The part that matters is Article 11, Clause 4. Article 11 deals exclusively with the safety authority, and it reads as follows:The composition of the Safety Authority shall be determined by the two Governments by agreement. Each Government shall appoint half its Members. The chairmanship of the Safety Authority shall be held for a period of one year by the head of each delegation alternately.In parliamentary language, the first sentence would be the one that prevails. In other words, whatever the governments agree to do can be done, so it is a use of language with which I believe none of us is familiar. However, if, with the leave of the House, the Minister were able to give us any information on this subject, it would set our minds at rest as to the situation which now prevails.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, perhaps I may support what the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, has said. First of all, I am slightly amused by the fact that the French call their authority the Committee of Public Safety, which I thought meant something else some years ago. The recommendation of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House is quite clear on this matter. It says that many concerns expressed in this part of the report might be laid to rest by the appointment of a totally independent chairman.
The amendment which we have before us is not something which some dastardly group of Left-wing anarchists, or even, indeed, Liberal anarchists, has produced in order to discomfort the Government. It is a serious attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to get round the difficulty with which we were faced on the last occasion, when the noble Lord the Minister suggested that we were going to break treaty obligations if we went down the route that we went down at that time.
I must say that, listening to the explanation of the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, of that part of the treaty, it does seem to me that the Government have a considerable amount of flexibility in the way in which they operate on this matter, and, although it may be that this is not the way to answer the problem, I hope that the Minister understands that there is still concern that, in a matter as important as this for the 887 safety of the travelling public the independence of the United Kingdom delegation, and of its chairmen, should be absolute. There should be no occasion when they are inhibited in saying things to the Government which are necessary for the safety of the public if there is even the remotest fear that they will be removed from their job, or that government pressure will be put upon them to withhold information that ought to be made public.
Frankly, I do not think that the reference to Parliament at some later stage of the proceedings is really an adequate way around the problem, although I understand that the Government themselves are trying to find a way out of this. I do ask them to reconsider the matter.
§ Lord Holderness
My Lords, I share some of the anxieties expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, and earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. It was the unanimous view of the Select Committee that this person in charge of safety matters on our behalf should he independent of the Government. I may say—and I think that our Select Committee report makes this quite clear—that we all had a deep admiration and respect for Major Rose, but it was only because he was not in a position of complete independence of the Government that we expressed the view that we did.
I feel that the arrangement which my noble friend the Minister has suggested about the position that Major Rose will occupy after he retires from his present duties is unanswered by my own anxieties, because Major Rose will then, in my opinion, have the kind of independence from the Government which we think he ought to have. Therefore when Major Rose comes to retire I should like to see that kind of arrangement repeated again. I feel there is substance in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and I hope that he will still be prepared to press it and bring the matter to a conclusion.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I have given the reasons I do not feel that the House should accept this amendment and I do not think it would be for the convenience of the House if I went into all the reasons all over again.
I should like to pick up one point about which the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, asked me. My understanding is that the first sentence of Article 11.4 of the treaty does not override the requirement that the chairmahship should alternate between Britain and France. That is a treaty commitment and is therefore binding. If that does not answer the noble Lord's question in detail I shall have to write to him on it.
§ Lord Ampthill
My Lords, I should be very grateful if the noble Lord would do that, because when he reads Hansard he will find that that does not answer the question I put.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, this is one of those occasions when one believes that the motive is right but one is in some doubt about whether to press the 888 amendment. There is not the slightest doubt that not only the Select Committee but many Members of your Lordships' House are very concerned with the principle, because, as the Select Committee said, we want to remove public anxiety. If there is one thing that people are worried about in connection with the tunnel, it is not whether the trains will run but the whole question of safety and the position of the chairman of the safety authority is of the greatest importance.
That is why we did not wish to get involved in a legal argument about the treaty. What has been said this afternoon, particularly by the chairman of the Select Committee, amplifies the reason we did not wish to get involved in argument about whether the treaty will provide for this. Then when we heard about the difference between the British and the French interpretations we were in a worse mess still. I am grateful for the fact that we have had this further debate, because the Government's assurances are on the record.
Last Monday, we dealt with the composition of the safety authority. The UK representatives would be government nominees, but some would be public officials—officers of the Health and Safety Executive, representatives of the Department of Transport, the chief constable of Kent and the chief fire officer of Kent. These would all be public officials, and we wanted to make certain that the head of the authority was absolutely independent.
I am grateful to the two members of the Select Committee who have amplified the committee's emphasis on this point. The Government's statements both today and last Monday are clearly on the record, and rather than press the amendment I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 [Supervision by Intergovernmental Commission and Safety Authority]:
§ [Amendment No. 26 not moved.]
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 27:
After Clause 16, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Fire services for the tunnel system.
§ No passengers or goods shall be carried for reward through the tunnel system until the Chief Fire Officer for the time being of Kent Fire Authority has certified that there have been installed in the tunnel system adequate facilities and equipment for fighting fires in any part of that system and lifting and removing railway engines and carriages in the event of derailments.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will recall that at Committee stage an amendment was proposed in the names of my noble friend Lord Carmichael and myself, which went into some detail about equipment which should be installed in the tunnel to deal with any fires that may occur. In the light of the Minister's comments at that stage, I accepted that the amendment was far too detailed and said that I would consider what had been said and, if necessary, would come back on Report. In addition, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, asked how far the discussions with Kent Fire Authority had proceeded, and I am very grateful to the Minister for sending me a copy of a very detailed 889 letter which he sent to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, which set out the nature of the discussions which have already taken place.
The amendment before the House does not go into the details of what equipment there shall be, what procedures shall he followed and what training there shall be. What the amendment says quite clearly is that:
No passengers or goods shall be carried for reward through the tunnel system until the Chief Fire Officer for the time being of Kent Fire Authority has certified that there have been installed in the tunnel system adequate Facilities and equipment for fighting fires",
and also for lifting and removing rail equipment.
§ Let us put it into the Bill that until the chief fire officer of Kent, who is a competent officer, gives a certificate that the equipment is right and that these other matters have been taken care of, the system will not be regarded as satisfactory. It places the onus upon the chief fire officer of Kent, but as he will be a member of the safety authority and as Kent Fire Authority will have ultimate responsibility if it is called in by the staff of the Eurotunnel system, this amendment seems a reasonable one which I hope the Government will find it possible to accept. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I put my name to my noble friend's amendment because among the concerns of eventual passengers and of the public generally is the risk of fire in the tunnel. It is right that we should not seek to lay down any detailed provision about particular equipment being available, and so on. I recall for your Lordships the fact that, so far as concerns our domestic legislation, this is all provided for by statute. For example, if one has a house that is too large and decides to turn it into two flats, one then becomes liable to have the arrangements approved by the local fire authority. If you neglected to do that, you would find that it registered an objection on the title deeds of the property.
As your Lordships know, very properly you cannot open an office anywhere without the local fire authority giving you a certificate that it is safe for people to work there. I should have thought, if it is necessary to have a certificate if you want to turn your house into two flats instead of having one occupation, then in an undertaking such as the one we are embarking upon it is not unreasonable for there to be a similar obligation on the fire authority to give the kind of approval that my noble friend is seeking. I hope that the Minister, without relying too heavily on the fact that this is very amateur draftsmanship, will accept the amendment. If he does not accept the exact wording of the amendment, perhaps he will bring forward something to similar effect to bring this into line with our domestic legislation.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord whose name was put down to the amendment has indicated that he would be prepared to accept a different wording, because this wording is much too precise. Everyone would agree with what is intended—to have a safety procedure and ensure that it is properly done—but the wording: 890until the Chief Fire Officer for the time being of Kent Fire Authority has certifieda procedure is much too precise. What will happen if the next chief fire officer of Kent Fire Authority takes a different view? Will that mean another certificate has to be issued? I make that point from my own experience.
On one occasion one of my businesses had to store cellulose. We made an application for the type of building which was required to keep this rather dangerous cellulose safely. One authority to which we applied said that it would not accept the plans we had submitted and that it wanted a building with a certain thickness of concrete on the top and with steel doors. The authority also said that all the shelves inside had to be sealed because if there were a danger of an explosion the authority wanted it to be contained. That seemed reasonable enough and we erected such a building.
Not long afterwards we wanted to erect a similar building 10 miles away in another of our warehouses. We submitted plans for a building with several inches of concrete and steel doors and steel shelving. But the fire officer in that case said that he wanted a flimsy roof and shelving made of wood because in his view giving the substances freedom was likely to be less damaging than constraining them and causing a build-up of gases that was likely to cause an explosion. There was no clear indication of what was required. I took the matter up with the Home Office and asked it what its recommendations were as regards the safe way of keeping cellulose. The Home Office did not know and had no recommendations laid down.
While we want the safety factor to be maintained, to put it in the hands of someone as clearly defined as the person named in the amendment who may be replaced by someone with different views may make the operating of this system intolerable. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was not at the Home Office at the time of my dilemma. I do not expect him to remember that occasion but it serves as an indication that one cannot think that the full answer is in the hands of any individual, however experienced he may be.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, if the noble Lord will permit me I wish to point out to him that he will see if he reads the text that this is a once only certification. It is not a case of what the next man does. I had not realised until today that the noble Lord was a parliamentary draftsman manqué.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I am rather disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has returned to this subject at this stage, as I had hoped that what I said in Committee would have convinced him that the proposal was unnecessary.
I have listened carefully to all the points that have been made. We are on common ground that everything foreseeable must be done to ensure the highest level of safety in the tunnel system, particularly against the risk of fire. But the way to ensure that is not to place responsibility for ensuring that there are adequate facilities solely on the shoulders of the chief fire officer of Kent. I remind 891 noble Lords that because this is a binational project the Channel Fixed Link Treaty provides for the establishment of binational bodies to supervise the construction operation of the tunnel.
The Intergovernmental Commission is the body through which the two governments will exercise their rights and obligations under the concession agreement. The safety authority has been established to advise and assist the commission on all matters concerning safety in the tunnel system. It is the safety authority as a whole and not only the chief fire officer of Kent who needs to be satisfied of the safety of all aspects of the tunnel system.
The crucial point of which your Lordships should be aware is that the chief fire officer of Kent is and will remain a member of the safety authority. That is right and proper since because the tunnel as far as the frontier will be part of Kent his brigade will have the responsibility on the British side. Clearly the safety authority would not approve fire-fighting arrangements unless they were approved by the chief fire officer of Kent and his opposite number on the French side. I therefore suggest to the noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Mulley, that the objective of the clause is already achieved in the more appropriate way. In the light of that, I hope the noble Lords will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that further explanation. I should say that this is not amateur draftsmanship. A parliamentary draftsman drafted the amendment at my request and detailed certain points that we wished to include in it.
As my noble friend Lord Mulley has indicated, this is a once and for all occasion and the wording:until the Chief Fire Officer for the time being of Kent Fire Authority has certified,is just the same wording as in Bill after Bill where it is stated that the Secretary of State has done this and has certified that. We are using the officer's name in the same way as we use that of the Secretary of State, even though we know that the Secretary of State has hundreds of officials who will work together on the particular issue which we are discussing.
The biggest point that the Minister has made which will cause me to beg leave to withdraw the amendment is the fact that the chief fire officer is a member of a safety authority and he will be able to insist, if things are not satisfactory, that he will not be prepared to give his approval. That has been the determining factor in requesting the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment. Having said that, I do not apologise for returning to this issue, because as I said on the previous amendment fire and safety are regarded by the public as matters on which Parliament must thoroughly satisfy them. I believe that our debates have helped in that direction. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)
My Lords, I have a manuscript amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. This 892 amendment, I should explain, is in substitution for Amendment No. 29 which appears further down on the Marshalled List.
§ Clause 19 [Bvelaws of the Concessionaires]:
§ Lord Ennals moved the following manuscript amendment:
Page 20, line 8. at end insert—
("() Such byelaws shall deal with smoking in the tunnel.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful for the courtesy of noble Lords in enabling me to move the amendment in the place where it should be rather than in the place where it had appeared, because clearly it is related to the by-laws which the concessionaires may make in Clause 19. We are once again back on the subject of fire and safety. As your Lordships will know, what is at present stated in the Bill is that concessionaires may make by-laws prohibiting the smoking of tobacco in any such premises, place or vehicle.
In Committee, I moved an amendment which I accepted was too wide. In the course of the discussions in Committee I said that I should wish to return to that issue on Report, narrowing down the amendment that I had proposed. On 6th July 1987, in col. 497 of Hansard, I stated:
What I want to establish is that it is not just to be left to the concessionaires to decide whether there should be a limitation on smoking, whether it is in the tunnel alone or during some other part of the journey … When the Minister was speaking I felt from what he said that it was quite unlikely that the concessionaires would make by-laws to be restrictive in terms of smoking".
However, I said that I would read what the Minister had said. When reading what he had said I realised that I was wrong. He had been extremely helpful. In col. 496 of Hansard he said:
I should make it absolutely clear that Eurotunnel will be expected to bring forward by-laws dealing with smoking and such by-laws will be
The Minister used the words:
will be expected to bring forward by-laws".
I am therefore saying in the amendment I am proposing that it is not just enough to say that it is expected to bring forward by-laws but that it will bring them forward. It is the "shall" rather than the "may" argument. I chose my wording carefully. My amendment states:
Such byelaws shall deal with smoking in the tunnel
because that was the nearest wording I could find to the actual words which were used by the Minister.
§ I have tried to do two things. One was to limit the scope so that the amendment did not deal with workers' canteens or restaurants at Waterloo but dealt simply with the question of smoking in the tunnel. Bearing in mind what the Minister said in the part of his speech which I have quoted, I hope that he and the House will accept this very modest amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, we had quite an extensive and useful debate on smoking during Committee stage when we discussed whether it would be reasonable for a comprehensive ban on smoking to be applied throughout the tunnel system.
893 I have listened with attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has said today. But I am afraid that I do not believe there is any reason for me to move from the position I took during Committee stage. I then said that it was absolutely clear that smoking would be prohibited within areas of special fire risk, including the tunnels themselves, though not necessarily the terminal areas and other ancillary facilities.
However, by-laws may not be the most appropriate way of proceeding in such an important matter. The safety authority can recommend to the Intergovernmental Commission that regulations should be drawn up on essential safety matters covering the tunnel system as a whole, and prohibition of smoking may be best dealt with in such regulations. The smoking ban would then be given the full force of law on the British side by an order under Clause 11, and on the French side by equivalent procedures. So by-laws made by the concessionaires are not the only answer, and may not be the best answer.
The noble Lord will notice that I have concentrated on the substance of his argument rather than on the drafting of his proposed amendment which I indeed see as open to criticism. In particular, it does not specify how by-laws should deal with smoking, and to that extent it does not advance beyond the provision in Clause 19(1)(d). It does not specify what is meant by "the tunnel" and I remind the noble Lord that there will in fact be three tunnels incorporated in the tunnel system. I agree with the noble Lord that the amendment, as it was first tabled, was in the wrong place.
As I have said, the important thing is to deal with the substance of the amendment. I hope that I have said enough to convince the noble Lord that smoking will be dealt with in a comprehensive and appropriate manner rendering his amendment unnecessary. I hope that what I have said will be sufficient to persuade the noble Lord not to press his amendment to a Division. If he insists, I hope that your Lordships will reject the amendment.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend is right in saying that an order under Clause 11 will be a better answer than a by-law of the kind proposed by the amendment. However, I hope that it will be borne in mind that smoking should be prohibited in the tunnel. I personally do not suffer from claustrophobia. However, people in my family have done so and they find it is bad when there is smoking, worse in a tunnel and worst in a long tunnel such as this one will be. For the sake of just those people I very much hope that smoking will be prohibited. I also realise that there are even stronger and more general reasons as well.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for having said that the issue will be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. If he had simply stuck at the phrase that he used in Committee concerning Clause 19 when, at col. 496 of the Official Report for 6th July he said:including the prohibition of smoking within areas of any special fire risk".894 I should not have been satisfied. I think it is impossible to say whether one part of the tunnel involves greater risk than any other part. I gather from what he has said that he envisages an order under Clause 11 which will prohibit smoking within the area of the tunnel itself.
The Minister may be prepared to go further and say that he will ensure that there is such an order. If he says that he will do so, then I shall have no uncertainties left. If he says that such orders will be comprehensive, I should have thought that he could have added that he will ensure that they include what I seek to bring about.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to comment briefly on that matter. I am sure that there will be orders. However, I am waiting for advice from the safety authority, through the Intergovernmental Commission, before I can say that. That is what those bodies are for.
§ Lord Ennals
Under the circumstances and in view of the very helpful way in which the Minister has dealt with the matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.45 p.m.
Lord Sefton of Garston moved Amendment No. 28:
After Clause 19, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Insurance cover.
§ Regardless of anything contained in the Treaty the Concessionaires shall take out and maintain insurance cover for any liabilities incurred by them arising from the construction of and operation of the Channel Tunnel, and shall take out and maintain insurance cover indemnifying the Government against any costs incurred by them arising from sections 24 to 28 inclusive.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will remember that I raised this matter in Committee. It involves whether or not concessionaires are obliged to take out insurance for certain risks. The Minister said that he would write to me and give me the answer. I finally received that answer this morning. If I had received it before then, perhaps the amendment would have been slightly different. I should perhaps have taken out the latter part of the amendment which talks about maintaining:
insurance cover indemnifying the Government against any costs incurred by them arising from Sections 24 to 28 inclusive".
I should have taken it out because the Government have said that they do not think, first, that there will be any risks and, secondly, that they will be able to recover any costs. I do not believe them. I would not have pressed it because it is only a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. However, I would have pressed the first part of the amendment, which deals with something of greater moment.
§ That part of the amendment deals with the possibility that we could have a tragedy in the tunnel of great magnitude. We could find ourselves, as I understand it—and I shall come to the reason why I am not quite clear about that later—in a situation in which people lose their lives, are badly injured and suffer in other ways without any insurance cover. If that is true, it would mean that the only cover such people would have would be on the assets of Eurotunnel plc.895
I do not believe that, at certain stages in the development of its life, Eurotunnel will have many assets that other people will wish to buy. When I was warned that my belief that the treaty ensured that the risk would be covered both in the construction and operation of the tunnel was not quite what it seemed, I took a close look at it. The treaty says, without dubiety or doubt:
The Concessionaires shall take such measures as may he be necessary to prevent accidents. The Concessionaires shall be liable for damage caused to users and to third parties".
and further on it says:
The Concessionaires shall take out and maintain insurance or other financial security, which is adequate and reasonably appropriate to the relevant risk.
Members of the House who have contributed to this tremendous Bill will understand that—or will they? If we read it closely, it does not seem as clear as it did at first reading. It simply says:
The Concessionaires shall take out and maintain insurance or other financial security".
It does not give us details about what financial security that might be. Is it a bond which is put somewhere? Is it an investment which they make, or a trust deed? There is no evidence of that at all.
I looked further into the matter. Then came the questions of the Minister. I have had his reply. When I pressed the matter again before that, the Minister said in the House that I should look at the concessionaires' agreement, which is not mentioned in the treaty, in particular at Annex III of the concessionaires' agreement. All noble Lords will be well aware of the concessionaires' agreement, and Annex III in particular. Clause 22 says:
The Concessionaries shall,… take out insurance cover described in Annex Ill and maintain such insurance throughout the Concession Period, provided that these obligations shall apply only to the extent that such insurance is available at a reasonable cost.
If someone driving a motor car kills three or four people imagine the outcry there would be when the driver is asked in court: "did you have third party insurance in conformity with the law?" and he said "Well no I did not, the insurance companies were charging me too much". That would not be accepted as a reasonable defence.
§ Here we are suggesting that Eurotunnel, or somebody—it does not specify whom and I hope the Minister will be able to tell me later—has to decide what is a reasonable cost for taking out the insurance.
We are then puzzled again, because the first part of Annex III says:
In accordance with Clause 22 of the Concession Agreement … specific insurances are to be arranged to the extent that the same are available at a reasonable cost in respect of the following:
Then it is specified what the insurance should cover. Annex III continues:
—any legal liability of Government, Government agencies such as the Intergovernmental Commission and the Safety Authority, their servants or employees, contractors and operators to third parties and Users of the Fixed Link arising out of the construction or operation of the Fixed Link".
The question is: does the first line of that paragraph limit the cover which is necessary? The first line reads:
—any legal liability of Government. Government agencies
If so, then again we are left in a very unclear situation.
This morning I received a letter from the Secretary of State. To some extent I was, as the Secretary of State said, reassured. In some ways this is a probing amendment. I want to know where the responsibility lies for covering the risks. I suggest that all members of your Lordship's House and every one in government should want to know quite clearly and unambiguously where the responsibility lies for claiming and paying compensation. The last paragraph of the letter reads:
It would not he appropriate for the Concessionaires to be required to insure against their own failure,
I accept that fact.
Had there been time, I would have withdrawn that part of the amendment, but the amendment had already been tabled in conformity with the practice in your Lordships' House. The Secretary of State concludes:
but I think you may be reassured that all the necessary insurance arrangements will be in place when they are needed".
Nobody knows when they are going to be needed. The persons who are damged by anything that occurs in the tunnel will certainly say that they were needed when they were damaged—I and any reasonable person would say that. The letter does not make that fact clear. However, I shall leave the matter there as I do not wish to take up too much time.
§ I shall listen with interest to what the Minister says, and subsequently read it in Hansard. If I find that we are going to be in a situation where the compensation payable, (which as I have said before may be of tremendous magnitude) depends on somebody assessing what is the reasonable cost of insurance, then I shall be asking who that person is. I shall also be asking the Government at another stage to say exactly whose is the responsibility to ensure that such people receive proper compensation.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, as the noble Lord mentioned, I wrote to him concerning the points he raised on insurance. It is a fairly long, detailed and complicated letter which I have placed in the Library for noble Lords to see.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, for his promotion of me to Secretary of State, although I am afraid it is not quite right! I shall read with interest what the noble Lord has said this evening concerning this matter. I cannot accept the amendment as it stands. It would be unacceptable on several counts. First, in so far as the clause simply repeats requirements that exist under general law or in the concession agreement, it would be otiose. Secondly, to the extent that the clause imposes obligations beyond those in the concession agreement it would require that agreement to be renegotiated with the French Government and Eurotunnel. Thirdly, it cannot be assumed that the blanket cover stipulated by the noble Lord's amendment would be obtained in the insurance market for an economic price, or perhaps at all.
Annex III of the concession agreement is careful to qualify the obligation to take out the specified insurances by the words:to the extent that such insurance is available at reasonable cost.897 Fourthly, insurance against the Secretary of State's hypothetical expenditure under Clauses 24 to 28 of the Bill is neither necessary nor appropriate. I think the noble Lord actually accepted that when he moved the amendment.
The Intergovernmental Commission will be responsible for deciding whether the Eurotunnel has adequate insurance. There is a proviso that that requirement applies only if insurance is available at reasonable cost as I have explained; and I have explained the reason why that is there, and it may not even he available at all. I shall read carefully what the noble Lord has said and if I can clarify any of the points that he has raised, I shall certainly write to him again. In the meantime, I hope he will be able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Sefton of Garston
My Lords, I apologise for calling the Minister the Secretary of State. If I had addressed myelf to the person who wrote the letter I would have been talking to the Minister for Shipping, and that does not seem to be appropriate. In any case, I assumed that the Secretary of State would be responsible for whatever the Minister says from the Front Bench.
I shall withdraw the amendment unreservedly, except for saying that the latter part of the amendment will not come back to this House, but unless I am satisfied on the points I have raised, certainly the first part will come back. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 23 [Approval of trains]:
§ 7 p.m.
§ Viscount Craigavon moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 22, line 23, at end insert—
("(2) Any such approval under this section shall only be given where the rolling stock can adequately convey the appropriate classes of traffic, including in the case of shuttle trains and through international passenger trains, pedal cycles.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is the same amendment that was discussed at the Committee stage last week. The amendment is trying to persuade British Rail to make some provision of space for pedal cycles. The same amendment was discussed in another place in February. Neither since then, nor last week, have any new arguments been advanced against the amendment. Therefore, having had some time to consider these arguments, may I say that I am still not convinced. I am now purposely not continuing earlier arguments about surveys or evidence of need.
§ I am hoping that the Minister can give us today at least the very firm assurances both for the Department of Transport and on behalf of British Rail. Assurances that once the Bill is passed the department will continue to remind British Rail forcefully of the needs and expectations of cyclists on the new trains, and assurances on behalf of British Rail that it will pay genuine and realistic attention to the provision of at least some space, however flexible, for cycles on their tunnel trains.
§ Last week I quoted from the current British Rail advertisement the claimed figure of 15 million 898 passenger journeys through the tunnel in the first year. If I say to British Rail I am impressed by that figure, I hope that it will also be impressed by a similar figure of 15 million which, by coincidence, I quoted in my Second Reading speech as being approximately the number of cyclists in this country.
§ I also said that cycling looked like becoming an ever more popular leisure activity and so we are not dealing with a minority or fading interest. Even if at this stage space is not designated especially for bicycles, it would be madness if the general luggage space—what used to be called the guard's van—were so designed as to be too small to take at least some bicycles.
§ I hope that British Rail will take note of that widespread feeling, even if the Government allow it to resist any statutory requirements. Some noble Lords may remember seeing a rather unlikely photograph in The Times earlier this year of one of our colleagues on a bicycle— the President of the European Parliament, the noble Lord, Lord Plumb. He was supporting and drawing attention to a special debate to approve a report on cycling in the European Parliament held on 13th February this year. That report, among other things, called on the Commission to prevail upon railway companies in member states to co-operate in removing all obstacles to the carriage of bicycles on international public transport.
§ The report also called on public transport authorities, particularly the railways, to encourage the use of the bicycle in combination with other means of transport. There was also specific mention that there should be adequate capacity for the carriage of bicycles in the Channel Tunnel.
§ I mention that example of debate in the European Parliament to show that the concerns that I have been trying to express go wider than those of narrow interest groups in this country. In the same way that conservation has become so fashionable, it would not surprise me if in the next five years while the tunnel is being built, cycling came to play a larger and larger part in recreation and leisure. Given those reasonable expectations, British Rail and the Department of Transport, if they allowed it, could in the years ahead appear rather foolish if their tunnel trains were designed without sufficient space to carry bicycles, if the need arises.
§ Finally, on a lighter note, as evidence that the hour of the cyclist has come, I shall mention something that was announced last week which led me to believe that the amendment might be looked upon more favourably than it was in Committee. The cycling fraternity has now succeeded in penetrating one of its number, an active and frequent cyclist, to the top and centre of influence in this country. I refer of course to the appointment announced last week of the new Cabinet Secretary, who apparently cycles around Whitehall on a bicycle which is usually described as rusty. I hope that we may now see the mandarins of Whitehall cycling around Parliament Square more often, and that trend and the realisation of the practicality of cycling filtering down the hierarchy of civil servants, not least in the Department of Transport.899
§ More seriously, I hope that the department and the Minister will over the years keep a concerned watch over British Rail's provision for cyclists on the international trains through the Channel Tunnel. I beg to move.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I am mystified by this topic although I admit that I have not studied the matter. Surely Eurotunnel will lose millions of passengers if it does not allow cyclists. I do not see that bicycles will take up much room. They do not use any fuel. Although there are bicycles which have a little engine attached, presumably they would not be allowed. As bicycles do not use fuel and do not take up a great deal of space, I am mystified about this. I hope that my noble friend can explain the great objection to this amendment, which finds favour with me, although I presume that it will not go to a Division.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, there may be some slight confusion in the mind of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, in that we are talking about British Rail rather than the Eurotunnel shuttles. The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, will recognise that I would have put my name to the amendment on this occasion, as I did on the last, had it not been for the shortage of time, because I support the principle that lies behind the amendment. I presume that he will not press it to a Division.
The important point is that everyone should be aware of the fact that British Rail should not shut off its options. If it relies entirely upon present projections of pedal cycle traffic, it may find itself by 1993 turning away a market which does not exist at the moment. A number of organisations are growing up these days, such as Cycling for Softies—would you believe it?—which encourage bicycling holidays in France in particular. A number of my friends have been on that type of holiday and they find it attractive. I believe that there is a market which can be developed.
We are not merely talking about providing special places for bicycles. On the new trains there will be a need for rather more luggage space than exists on normal passenger trains in this country. If through trains are to attract holiday traffic which presently goes by road—I believe that it can—with ride and drive schemes where people will get on to a train at this end and hire a car at the far end, British Rail should keep its options open. We are asking it to ensure that it does not close down the possibility in the design stage, which will come long before the trains run, of pedal cycles being carried in significant numbers on the new trains.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, as the noble Viscount admitted, he tabled the same amendment in Committee, and your Lordships will not be surprised that my response is unchanged. British Rail's international services are to be run on a strictly commercial basis with no support from public funds. This is a matter of government policy, but it is also the object of Clause 41 of the Bill, accepted last week in Committee. It must therefore be for the British 900 Railways Board alone to decide whether it will be economic to provide space for cyclists. It will make that decision in the light of the market research it is now conducting in co-operation with the cycling organisations.
I understand that the latest position on that is that the consultants assisted the Cyclists' Touring Club to draft a questionnaire which was included in a recent issue of the club's magazine. I understand that about 1,000 replies have so far been received. These replies will be analysed together with British Rail's and Eurotunnel's head count of cyclists using both trains and ferries. The results of that research should be available in September; in other words, in plenty of time to be taken into account when British Rail takes its design decisions on its rolling stock. That is the point about which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, was concerned. Although British Rail cannot anticipate the outcome of the market research and the decisions to be taken thereon, it is possible that space will be found for bicycles on some daytime trains when there is less need for space for parcels.
British Rail has assured the cycling organisations repeatedly that it is looking seriously at what it can do for cyclists, and it has taken the subject up with the French railways. British Rail has no interest in not taking advantage of a market if there is a prospect of its being profitable. However, British Rail cannot be expected to make a firm commitment to provide space for cyclists, at the expense perhaps of space for other passengers, until the studies into the likely demand have been completed.
I hope the noble Viscount will accept the good faith of British Rail's assurances. However, as I explained to the noble Viscount in Committee, it would be quite wrong to anticipate the outcome of the studies now in progress by imposing on British Rail an obligation which might—if the studies showed the demand from cyclists was not there—conflict directly with the commercial basis of its international services and cost it a substantial amount in lost revenue. That must be a decision for British Rail to make, using its own commercial judgment. I do not think it is one that we should see put into the Bill.
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, I am grateful for that answer. I said that I would not enter into arguments about the survey. I dealt with that point in Committee. I cast doubt on what could be proved from the survey, even if it went ahead successfully and on time. What the noble Lord said about providing a little space on daytime services was encouraging. It is also encouraging that British Rail was prepared to make that statement in public, because it has been reticent about committing itself. I am grateful for that.
The noble Lord has put on record the views of his department and those of British Rail. With the help of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, to whom I am grateful I have put on record the views of the cyclists. We shall see in the years to come what will happen. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.901
§ Clause 36 [Supplementary provisions with respect to acquisition of land]:
§ Lord Cornwallis moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 29, line 48, at end insert—
("(7) Notwithstanding any enactment or rule of law, in assessing the compensation to be paid in respect of any interest in and acquired under this Act, account shall be taken of any increase in the value of that interest which is attributable to the proposed or actual construction of the facilities mentioned in paragraphs (b) to (d) of section 1(7) of this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I moved this amendment at Committee stage and withdrew it on the basis of the certain assurances which were given by the Minister in his reply. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments all over again. That would be a waste of the time of the House.
§ I should like to say, first, for clarification, that we are not seeking changes in the compulsory purchase powers. It is as regards the terms of compensation that we believe there should be a complete review. We believe that such a review is needed because of the Government's privatisation programme which has brought about a number of commercial companies with inherited compulsory purchase powers but which in fact now have the ability under certain circumstances to purchase land compulsorily at existing use value for a commercial enterprise. If it is for an essentially commercial purpose then we believe that full compensation value should be paid.
The Minister in his reply assured the Committee,
that I shall draw the attention of my right honourable friends to what has been said in this Committee. I also give an assurance that the Government will take note of the views which have been expressed in this Committee on compensation policy as a whole". [Official Report, 6/7/87; col. 549.]
I very much hope that he can go a little further today and give us a stronger undertaking than he was able to give on that occasion when the amendment received support from all sides of the Committee. I beg to move.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and I think that this is an area where one has to be tactful. I have some sympathy with the principles underlying the amendment and with the debate which took place on the last occasion when the Minister pointed out the difficulties of making changes in the system. Nevertheless, I think that the Government have a duty to examine the general situation in the light of the considerable amount of privatisation which is now going on.
A comment was made last time which was not dealt with by the Minister. A noble Lord—I cannot remember who it was—suggested that if the tunnel project were to fail at some stage and the land were to be sold back to the original owners, the owners would have to repurchase it at the developed value. That to me has a smell of Crichel Down about it. I hope that the Minister can refute that suggestion. If that were the fact then a number of us would have considerably stronger feelings about the amendment than perhaps we do at the moment.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, I should also like to support the amendment. I want to make it quite clear that I am not doing so in any way as a member of the 902 Country Landowners' Association mafia (if I may describe it as such) because I am certainly not that. However, purely on the grounds of justice it would seem to me entirely unreasonable and inequitable if the Government were to acquire land by a form of compulsion—whether it is by compulsory purchase or in any other way—which they then pass over to private individuals who could make use of it at a high development value and sell it at a high development value without the original owners receiving any benefit.
If the Government wish to acquire the land and to use it for their own purposes then there is no argument to my mind in favour of the higher price being paid to the landowners; and this amendment does not seek to bring that about. However, if other private individuals are to make a profit out of it then it seems to me only just that the original owner should take that profit rather than an intermediary or a final user who has done nothing to enhance its value. For those reasons I think that this is a just amendment and I hope that the Government will be able to accept it.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Salisbury
My Lords, I should also like to support the amendment. I agree entirely with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, about obtaining land at a very low value for purely commercial purposes for someone else's benefit; and the cause of justice, which has been so ably put by the noble Lord, Lord Walston.
These seem to me to be two important points. I should have thought that it was clear that compulsory purchase orders were originally designed for a different purpose than for giving special benefits to commercial objectives. One can argue almost any way one likes on what is the right principle to adopt. There are so many different concepts in different areas. At the Committee stage I quoted the case of a county structure plan where zoning for development, if planning permission is given, enables the owner to derive the full benefit of the value of the land developed regardless of whether it is bought by a public or local authority or a private owner.
I should like to conclude by quoting once again from a speech made during the Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Act 1959 by the then Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir in which he said:The Bill will put right what has come to be very widely felt as an injustice—the two price system; one for private sales, the other for public or compulsory purchases". [Official Report, 14/4/59; col. 578.]Further on in the same speech (at col. 583) he said:There is obviously a strong sense of grievance if land is bought from one owner at a low price for some public purpose and it is then sold at a substantially higher price for a different purpose".We are talking about equity and justice. In its present form the Bill does not provide that. The amendment seeks to do so. I support it.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I should like to support the amendment in the interest of justice. The Government have said that the Eurotunnel, or fixed link, must be financed by private money. However, by allowing Eurotunnel—or any other company which was proposing to have a fixed 903 link—to buy land at existing use value, they are in a roundabout way subsidising the Eurotunnel. It is also unfair competition from the point of view of the ferries. If the ferries wish to buy land for a warehouse, or for some other use, they have to buy it at an inflated value. That is unfair competition. I support the amendment.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I should also like to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis. I do not wish to repeat the arguments put forward at the Committee stage. However, we have heard some further arguments today which reinforce the case for the amendment.
I think that it would be wrong for us to tolerate the injustice to which reference has been made because—as my noble friend Lord Belstead said on the last occasion—it would he difficult to make a change in the general law in relation to this one case. But if we are not to get an undertaking that the Government will review the present law—in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, has suggested—I think that it would be very difficult to leave the position as it stands.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I think the Minister will find that there is unanimity in the House from all sides in asking him to consider this amendment. As other noble Lords have said, it is a question of equity. There is clearly a need for a comprehensive review of the compensation procedure. The Government's proposals for privatisation bring in a whole new area of possible inequity and perhaps this was not foreseen when the compensation code was drawn up. We all hope that the Minister will be able to offer sufficient reassurance on a review of the compensation procedure that will enable the amendment to be withdrawn.
§ The Earl of Kinnoull
My Lords, when I first saw the brief from the Country Landowners' Association I, too, felt strongly that there was an injustice. Having looked at the terms of compensation under compulsory purchase, I take the side of the Government. My reason is that I am not sure there is an injustice. So far no speaker has mentioned how one approaches compensation under compulsory purchase. There is a procedure under the Section 17 certificate, which my noble friend mentioned during the Committee stage, in which a quasi planning consent exists and it is upon that that a district valuer and the valuer for the landowner will reach some terms for compensation. I believe that compensation will cover what will happen on planning consent.
If a situation arose where a terminal was to take 200 acres of land, three hotels, five restaurants and six motorway developments, I would hope—and I hope my noble friend will answer this point—that compensation will be based on what will happen at the terminal development. I see that the noble Lord shakes his head. I should be very surprised, if I were a valuer acting for landowners, if I were to accept anything other than full compensation for what is to be developed. I think your Lordships will find that a Section 17 certificate covers this aspect. If it does not, 904 then I am wrong; but I hope my noble friend will confirm what I have said.
§ The Earl of Radnor
My Lords, I, too, support the amendment which seems to have very wide support now. I must declare my interest, as I did last time, although it is a little different now. I still own land in Folkestone and I formed a trust there some time ago which owns a lot of land in Folkestone. However, since last Monday I have signed a contract for the sale of parts of land to which I referred. I believe that completion, with an amazing amount of hurry on the other side, has taken place today so perhaps I can speak with a great deal more confidence and freedom that I did then.
I am absolutely convinced that a wrong is done here if this remains written as it is in the Bill. The law of compulsory purchase dating from 1961 is all right, but circumstances have changed. They have changed right now with Eurotunnel and they will probably continue to be different and will need a great deal of scrutiny with the privatisations that are to come.
I should like to refer to the business of taking land at existing use value and then passing it on to an entirely commercial concern, which is not really to do with the infrastructure of the country. I am in favour of the tunnel; but one cannot possibly say the tunnel is absolutely essential. It is wrong to put matters in the hands, some way or another, of shareholders in a company which on another amendment my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara stressed was commercial; it was stressed also in the Select Committee. I back up exactly what my noble friend Lord Cornwallis said, that there must be a promise of a really good and proper review, a cast-iron affair if you like; otherwise, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept the amendment or that your Lordships will see to it that on a Division we all accept it.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, the words of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, are apposite here, that in many ways we are treading delicate ground—no pun is intended there. But the amendment merely asks that the value of that interest which is attributable to public works should have additional compensation. We and our colleagues in another place believe, as was stated at Committee stage there, that a fairly important principle is involved. I wonder whether the Minister will clear up the question that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, raised, that is, that the increased value is already allowed for in the Land Compensation Act, or whether there was a mechanism of assessing the value properly.
I should like the Minister to explain what will happen if more land is taken in the initial compulsory purchase than is strictly required. What would be the value of the remaining land which obviously would be greatly enhanced because of the public works involved? This is a very important question. The Government's privatisation proposals that are expected will involve huge stretches of land owned by electricity boards and water boards. A great many problems may arise in the future. We are at a stage when a fairly fundamental look at the whole question is required, although this could perhaps be a focus to 905 sharpen the Government's attitude to say whether they will have a close look at the whole question of compensation where public effort has been put in to increase the value of land.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, I fully understand the concern which my noble friend Lord Cornwallis has expressed on this point again in the short debate we have had. I also understand the general concern which the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, has just expressed about compulsory purchase in the general context of privatisation as well as compulsory purchase for other reasons. It seems to me wholly right that your Lordships should return to this subject. It is a difficult one. It is entirely natural for those who own land to be concerned if it appears that they are being required to part with land for compensation which does not reflect the value of the land to those who will use it in the future. But I genuinely believe that the amendment would lead to other difficulties, particularly if the amendment is to be applied as a general principle.
The amendment seeks to draw a distinction between those areas of land which will be used for the tunnel's infrastructure—for which it would be appropriate, as the philosophy of the amendment implies, to pay compensation under the normal code—and those areas on which ancillary activities (such as duty-free shops and the like) will take place. The implied argument is that the profitability of this trade will be such as to increase the value of this land substantially and that the landowner ought to receive the benefit if he had sold the land for the same purpose in the open market.
I repeat that I well understand the thrust of the argument about this matter. But there are a number of difficulties. First, if it were not for the Channel Tunnel project as a whole—which my noble friend I think said on the previous occasion he accepted could not proceed without compulsory purchase—there would be no opportunity for this profitable use which the amendment especially identifies. So we are really not talking about an open market situation. We are talking about compulsory acquisition of land for the Channel Tunnel project taken as a whole.
I suggest to your Lordships that the distinction which the amendment draws between the different kinds of use is a rather artificial one. The Channel Tunnel project consists of the main transport link and the ancillary activities on the land with which this amendment is concerned. But all the land is part of the same project. The ancillary activities could not take place without the link itself and so it is a matter of chance as to whether an individual owner's land is to be used for the link or for the ancillary activities. Whatever the basis of compensation, surely it is only fair that in principle it ought to be the same for all landowners affected by the project.
I am bound to say that I am also unhappy about the general proposition in the amendment that compensation ought to be based on the value given to the land by the use for which it is being acquired. That is all very well for those parcels of land on which 906 a profitable commercial activity is proposed but some compulsory purchases are for purposes which do not enhance the value of land. For instance, if inner city land was being compulsorily purchased for office blocks and open spaces this aspect of the amendment, if it became a new principle, would not do very much for the owners of land having to sell to provide the open spaces.
If it would create considerable difficulties of principle to distinguish between different future uses when considering the compensation which ought to be paid for land, then surely the present compensation code, which assesses compensation by reference to what the landowner is losing rather than to what the purchaser is acquiring, really is fairer to landowners generally than the basis proposed by the amendment, always remembering that the compulsory purchase order compensation includes any hope value and, where appropriate, an increase in value under Section 17, the section which gives the facility for somebody having to get rid of land to apply for an alternative development certificate. I hope that that answer satisfies both my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael.
I realise that after this short debate the matter which most concerns your Lordships is the consideration which was raised by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that the compensation code enables private companies to acquire land at agricultural value and then to develop it for possibly more lucrative commercial purposes. I appreciate the concern here but in the case of the Channel Tunnel I ask your Lordships to bear in mind that it is arguable that one should not just look at the payment which Eurotunnel is going to make to the Secretary of State for any land compulsorily acquired under the terms of the Bill, but also bear in mind the overall transaction under which Eurotunnel is having to provide a major transport link at its own risk and at no cost to the taxpayer.
I confess that these are difficult matters, but what is certain is that the application of the compulsory code for compensation as concerns this project, a project which incidentally your Lordships' Select Committee endorsed as being in the national interest, is the same as it has been over the years for ports, oil terminals, town centres and motorway service areas when they are acquired by compulsory purchase.
The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, put to me one direct question. He asked whether the terms under which the land would be bought back if the project were to fail were not reminiscent of Crichel Down. Land which has been compulsorily purchased and is to he offered back to the original landowner is governed by the Crichel Down rules. The price at which the offer is made is the market price prevailing at the time of the offer. The rules apply to land which has not been changed materially during the period since compulsory purchase.
The essential point is that the owner receives the market value in the absence of the scheme for compulsory purchase—in other words, the position which we have at the moment—and then pays the current market value when buying the land back. I do 907 not think that what is put in the Bill about repurchase would breach the Crichel Down rules.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. It seems to me that this is a slightly unusual situation. The determination of market value at the end of the day is a matter about which I am still slightly in doubt. After all, the value of the land depends on the existence of the tunnel and of the tunnel project. Therefore if it were to be sold back at that value but the landowner had no possibility of developing the land in a similar way and making a similar profit, it would be getting very close to Crichel Down, would it not?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, he is making a shrewd point, but I think not. The terms in the Bill in no way breach the Crichel Down rules. If one does not adhere to those rules it is very difficult to know which way in all equity one should turn.
Many of your Lordships, and in particular my noble friend, have asked for an assurance that we look at the general principles of how land compensation should apply where the land is being taken in these circumstances. The noble Lord reminded your Lordships that at Committee stage I gave an assurance that the Government woud take note of your Lordships' views on compensation policy. This evening I can and I will try to be more forthcoming.
I give an assurance to my noble friend and to your Lordships that we shall look further at the point which has been made, though I cannot promise that we shall necessarily come to the same conclusions as some of your Lordships. I hope I have also made clear that the existing compensation code which has been the law of the land for so many years is the only feasible way that we can proceed in the context of this Bill. In those circumstances and with the assurance I have given I hope that the noble Lord may feel that it is possible to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, I listened carefully to my noble friend. He said that he understood our concerns; that he found it a difficult matter; and he finally finished with the assurance that he would look at this again. So far as I am concerned, looking at the procedures again really does not go far enough. How far are we to go on looking? Are we going to look today? Are we going to look tomorrow? It seems to me that tomorrow never comes for the Government when they do not want it to come unless they are given very considerable encouragement, which I hope your Lordhips will do tonight.
Perhaps I may ask my noble friend one question. Is he prepared to give this House an assurance that the whole compensation procedure under the 1961 Act will be reviewed at some time in the near future? In that event I might be happy, but I cannot go on with tomorrow all the time.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I am perfectly prepared to accept an apology from the Government Chief Whip. It is one of those happy occasions.
What is the character of the review that the noble Lord has just indicated the Government are prepared to indulge in on this question? He said that he will look at it again. That is reassuring, but what precisely does it mean? It means that Ministers will consider the question, as I am sure they will, in the light of what he has said. Will that be followed by a ministerial statement in both Houses? The House will want to know a little more about what the Minister's rather Delphic utterances really mean.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. At the previous stage of the Bill I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, that the Government would take note of the views that had been expressed by the House. I have come back to the House this evening to say that I can go further than that and that we will look further at the point which has been made.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked me two questions. He asked me what we would look at. We would look at the issue raised by your Lordships in this amendment. Then the noble Lord said to me, "What would the result of the review be?" Here your Lordships must acquit me of being deliberately unhelpful, because that is not what I am trying to be; but ahead of looking further at a point I could not say, with the best will in the world, what we would come up with. I am afraid I was very honest and had to admit to your Lordships that we then might find we would not be able to reach the same conclusion as the conclusion I know so many of your Lordships would hope we would reach through the moving of this amendment.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord misunderstood the second question. It was whether, as a result of this review and looking at this whole question again, he would now undertake that there would be ministerial statements made on the outcome of that review. That is the least the Minister should offer to us.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, is the noble Lord going to reply to the question of his noble friend Lord Stanley, and will this review take into account the whole question of the procedures under the 1961 Act? It appears to me that the fears expressed are wholly real, particularly with the privatisation programme that the Government are undertaking and are said to be undertaking.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, if the House will allow me—and this is Report stage and I am wholly out of order—with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, I think I replied to my noble friend Lord Stanley by saying that we would look at the issue raised by the amendment this evening. Further than that, with the best will in the world I am afraid I cannot go. But it shows, I hope, good will in the process that we have gone through at Committee and now Report stage.
§ Lord Cornwallis
My Lords, first I thank the many noble Lords who have supported this amendment both tonight and in Committee, and for the various views that have been expressed. The Section 17 procedure that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, brought up is hardly appropriate to an area which has been designated for a specific purpose for the best part of 100 years. Therefore there could be little hope value, etc. in that. I do not think that anybody applying for a Section 17 certificate on that particular land would get any joy.
The situation is not the same for all landowners. It was suggested that it is the same for all landowners, but it is not. People who are on the verge of this particular area and are not actually within the compulsory purchase area are having to be compensated at full development value for any extra land for commercial purposes that Eurotunnel or anybody else may want. Therefore there is a division between those landowners who are within the compulsory purchase areas and those who have been put on the fringe. The ones within it are having their land used for the same purpose but are not getting the same reward. That is what we do not consider to be equitable.
It is largely a question of the principle. At the Committee stage we pointed out that we had been advised before we moved this amendment that this was not necessarily the right place to move it. Equally, where do you move it? As privatisation and development Bills come up one after another it is not going to be appropriate to move it in any of them. This is why we are asking the Government to not just give us assurances but to give us a guarantee of a complete review of the compensation clauses attaching to compulsory purchase. We are not attacking the compulsory purchase clause. We are asking for a complete review of the compensation clauses.
I accept that the review may not come to the conclusions that I and many other noble Lords here may wish it to come to, but that would be the result of the review. What we are seeking is a complete review. If there is not an assurance from the Minister that we can have a total review of compensation clauses by the Government, then I shall be bound to divide the House.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 31) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 45: Not-Contents, 71.910
|DIVISION NO. 3|
|Abinger, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Carter, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Cornwallis, L. [Teller.]||Seear, B.|
|David, B.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Ferrier, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.].|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Ingleby, V.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Tordoff, L.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Underhill, L.|
|McNair, L.||Walston, L.|
|Mais, L.||White, B.|
|Massereene and Ferrard. V.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Monk Bretton, L.|
|Monson, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Hooper, B.|
|Ampthill, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Arran, E.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Beloff, L.||Lauderdale. E.|
|Belstead. L.||Layton, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Long, V.|
|Borthwick, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Manton. L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Marley, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Mersey, V.|
|Carnock, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Mottistone. L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne. L.|
|Craigavon, V.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Orr-Ewing. L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Reay. L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Sandford. L.|
|Dilhorne. V.||Sharples, B.|
|Dundee. E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Elton. L.||Strange. B.|
|Faithfull. B.||Strathciyde, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Suffield. L.|
|Gainford, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Gridley. L.||Teviot. L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls. L.||Trafford, L.|
|Harvington. L.||Trefgarne. L.|
|Havers. L.||Trumpington. B.|
|Henley. L.||Vaux of Harrowden. L.|
|Hesketh. L.||Ward of Witley. V.|
|Hives. L.||Whitelaw. V.|
|Holderness. L.||Windlesham. L.|
|Home of the Hirsel. L.||Zouche of Haryngworth. L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 7.53 p.m.
Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 32:
After Clause 39 insert the following new clause:
§ ("Review of traffic, flows
§ The Railways Board shall review or cause to be reviewed in consultation with the London Planning Advisory Committee and the Council of the London Borough of Lambeth and other local planning authorities concerned, the existing and projected traffic flows at intervale to he agreed jointly by the operational bodies 911 sufficiently frequent as to ensure that the Railways Board is able to properly plan and provide facilties for traffic in excess of the maximum operational capacity of Waterloo.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be recalled that at the Committee stage on Monday 6th July my noble friend Lord Carmichael moved an amendment tabled in his name and mine. It proposed a review of the situation at Waterloo with a a view to the possible disperal of international passenger trains starting or ending in Greater London. On that occasion, the Minister in his first reply said that he hoped the amendment would be withdrawn. He added,
and that we may also be able to put the Waterloo issue to bed once and for all tonight".
In moving this amendment we have not taken his advice because the Minister also said,
I have more sympathy for the suggestion that further reviews should be carried out after international services to Waterloo have begun".
It is self-evident that if the traffic to the Continent grows from year to year after the tunnel has opened there must eventually come a time when the capacity of Waterloo is exceeded". (Official Report, 6/7/87; col. 571.)
We fully agree with those two statements. I ask noble Lords to look carefully at the wording of the present amendment. In effect, it proposes exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, proposed and had sympathy with at the Committee stage.
§ The amendment seeks reviews at intervals and the period for such reviews is left for joint agreement with the operational bodies. Its wording agrees with the Minister that a time may come when traffic is in excess of the maximum operational capacity at Waterloo. The amendment is so much in line with the two quotations of the Minister to which I have referred that I believe he could have brought it forward. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment as being in line with what he said at the Committee stage. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I should like to advance a slightly different point of view in relation to this amendment. First it seems to me that to a certain extent the on-train amendment put forward by the Minister this afternoon weakened the agruments made in Committee in favour of this kind of amendment. They made British Rail's ability to spread traffic out of Waterloo much greater. I did not do so at the time but I should now like to join the chorus of approval for the on-train control amendment. Secondly, if Lambeth Council is not particularly inclined to consult now, what reason do we have to believe that it will be inclined to do so at a future date? Indeed, what reason have we for enshrining in statute its right to consult? I am sorry, I cannot accept that argument. The Council has so far been so negative that it seems to me there is no valid reason to give it a statutory ability to consult in the future.
The third reason for which I suggest the House should reject the amendment is that it is intended to ensure:that the Railways Board is able to properly plan and provide facilities for traffic in excess of the maximum operational capacity of Waterloo".912 We cannot at the moment legislate for what might be the maximum operational capacity of Waterloo. That is what the amendment relates to, rather than, as it is presently worded, to infrastructure. That may be what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, had in mind but it is not on the face of the amendment. Traffic at Waterloo is a management matter for the railways and it should not he enshrined in statute.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, we have already debated the need for British Rail to plan for traffic growth after the tunnel has opened. If traffic grows year after year, there will inevitably come a time when Waterloo reaches the limits of its capacity. As I said in the Committee stage debate, even on the most optimistic forecasts that time will not be reached until 2003 at the earliest.
British Rail will obviously need to plan to meet traffic growth. I do not think it needs a new clause to do that. It is obviously in British Rail's commercial interests to do so, and I cannot believe it is something which it will neglect. The main point of the proposed new clause is to ensure that British Rail consults the local planning authorities in developing its plans. I find it extraordinary that it should be suggested that British Rail needs to be placed under a statutory obligation to consult. It has made repeated efforts to consult Lambeth Council about its current plans for Waterloo. It is Lambeth Council which has refused to talk to British Rail, and which actually walked out of a meeting convened by my honourable friend the Minister of State to bring the two sides together.
It might be more appropriate to place a statutory obligation on Lambeth Council to respond when British Rail consults it, but I am not proposing an amendment along those lines. British Rail has shown every willingness to consult the local authorities. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will not press the amendment. I do not consider that it is necessary or desirable.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I shall repeat what I said in relation to previous amendments. It is surprising that, when the Government wish to insert provisions for consultation, they list all those bodies with which there should be consultation. I have in mind the Airports Act, where the Government listed the bodies. Yet here, where we table a common-sense amendment, the Government resist it. Apparently they have found a principle for showing why the organisations should not be listed. Nobody knows what will be the position of the Council of the London Borough of Lambeth when any such review might be desired. Nobody has made any criticism of the London Planning Advisory Committee or of the fact that the amendment refers to other local planning authorities. The excuse is being made that Lambeth have not talked so far. As I say, nobody can say what the position in Lambeth will be when there is general agreement that there ought to be such a review.
The Minister agrees that the time might come when the operational capacity at Waterloo is exceeded. He says that then British Rail will obviously consult. If we look carefully at the Airports Bill there were certain occasions when common sense would have 913 suggested that there should be consultation. The Government wrote into the Bill a list of all the bodies which should be consulted at different stages in different affairs.
At eight o'clock I have no intention of pressing this matter to a Division; but I believe that the Government are being unnecessarily "sticky" on this aspect. It is such common sense and it agrees with what I said last time: the Minister could quite easily have accepted this so that we would then have had one further amendment which I believe would have benefited the Bill. But just to say that British Rail will do this as a matter of common sense—I believe they should—does not say with whom they should consult, whereas this amendment details precisely that. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Clause 40 [Railway services: consultative committees and closures]:
Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 33:
Page 32, line 19, at end insert ("and, in particular that duty shall include a requirement to consider and make recommendations with respect to the effect of international railway passenger services upon the quality of domestic commuter services in the London area.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we were discussing the possible impact of international traffic on the commuters at Waterloo Station, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich (I think probably quite rightly) said that it was not for Ministers to concern themselves with the details of international or other rail services. But of course it is the duty of the Central Transport Consultative Committee, the area committees and the London Regional Passengers' Committee, to do exactly that. I welcome the fact that this duty is made clear in Clause 40 concerning the international rail services that will result from the tunnel.
§ It would also he as well if we were to consider the particular problem of looking at the quality of the domestic commuter services in the London area—not merely to Waterloo but to the other important stations. As I have said, the commuter traffic into London is absolutely crucial for the working of the capital city and the City of London. They are on a knife-edge and it needs only a few difficulties to arise, as we know, to put the whole services of London at risk.
§ The Minister began our proceedings today by accepting the principle of an amendment, if not the actual words; and I hope he will agree that this duty of the Central Transport Consultative Committee and the London Regional Passengers' Committee to look particularly at the effect of the new services on the commuter services in the London area should be enforced. I feel a number of problems could arise otherwise. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, the duty imposed on the Central Transport Consultative Committee and the area committees by Section 56 of the 1962 Transport Act requires them to consider and make recommendations about domestic British Rail 914 services. Clause 40 of the Bill extends that duty to international services. The noble Lord's amendment would require them to consider and make representations about the effect of international services on domestic services.
My only objection to the amendment is that it does not appear to add anything to the existing duties of the committees. The Transport Act provides that the committees can make recommendations with regard to any matter affecting the services provided by British Rail. The impact of international services on domestic ones therefore falls squarely within the committees' general duty under the 1962 Act to consider and report on the domestic services. Therefore it is not necessary to spell it out in the way proposed by this amendment.
The committees have shown themselves repeatedly (as I think noble Lords would agree) to be fearless and independent bodies. I am sure they will not hesitate to take action if the international services have an adverse effect on the quality of domestic services. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied that the point he is trying to make is already covered and does not need to be specifically written into the Bill. I hope that he will agree to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for his reply. I would, ab initio, have taken the view that he has just expressed; but anything that we want put into the Bill, the Government apparently say, is totally unnecessary. However, I could give him a long list of things which I would also think were unnecessary but which are in the Bill and that Clause 40 has had to be put in means that it is not covered by the previous Transport Act. That is why I was seeking this particular clarification.
However, at this hour of night I am glad to have his assurances and I hope it will not be asking too much if this duty is made clear to the Central Transport Consultative Committee and to the area committees so that they know that they have this particular power. On that understanding, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 48 [Interpretation]:
Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 36, leave out lines 5 to 8.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should explain to the noble Lord the Minister that I received his very long and careful letter explaining what is meant by the word "enactment" after I had already put down this amendment, which was intended to get more clarity.
§ In a previous discussion we heard about the question of compensation, and it was said to he wrong to deal with the general principle in a Bill of this character. I may have been particularly unobservant, but I do not recall every Bill having its own definition as to what is meant by "enactment". I thought that was the purpose of the Interpretation Act. In that Act, and in general parliamentary and legal usage, "an enactment" means either an Act of 915 Parliament or some part of an Act of Parliament, and not subordinate legislation. I therefore wonder why it is necessary to put in this Bill subordinate legislation which in certain cases in other parts of the Bill can refer to actions taken by Ministers without reference to Parliament.
§ We all accept assurances that they will not do this or do that; but, as we well know, no Minister's assurances will bind his successors. We have found that in the course of a single government. So I wonder why this rather extraordinary definition of "enactment" is sought in this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, on this subject, as he has just said; and a copy has also been placed in the Library of the House for any other noble Lord who is interested in this particular point. I gather the principal reason is that "an enactment" is not defined in the Interpretation Act.
The effect of the amendment before us, far from clarifying and providing the normal meaning of the term "enactment", leaves its interpretation open to serious doubt, not only in relation to Clause 2—which I understood previously was the noble Lord's principal concern—but also in connection with Clause 11, which allows enactments to be amended by order. In the absence of a standard interpretation of the term, it was clearly appropriate to produce a definition to suit the particular circumstances and purposes of this Bill, encompassing what the Government felt needed to be included both for the purposes of Clause 2 and elsewhere.
It is our firm intention that Eurotunnel should not be barred from receipt of funds that are equally available to others. The obvious example is the use of suppliers in receipt of regional aid. But who can guess what incentives of one sort or another future governments may make available over the next 55 years?
We need therefore a definition of "enactment" covering all legislation, existing and future, either primary or subordinate, under which such assistance might be given. We need also for the purpose of Clause 11 of the Bill to ensure that "enactment" is defined so as to include certain provisions of this Bill. I can assure the noble Lord, if he is worried about backdoor funding of the concessionaires in the future, that with Clause 2 in place it is our view that if the Government sought to pass new subordinate legislation which, by making funds available only to the concessionaires would frustrate the purpose of that clause, that legislation would be open to challenge in the courts under Clause 2, exactly as intended by the original proponents of this clause.
Thus the definition of "enactment" in Clause 48 properly serves to give effect to the Bill's clearly stated aims. To remove it would simply be to sow confusion. Therefore I certainly cannot be very welcoming to the amendment. I hope that the explanation that I have given together with the letter that I wrote to the noble Lord will in any case clarify the situation somewhat.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation, though I remain unconvinced. I was not particularly concerned about Clause 2—there are many provisions in the Bill of which I do not approve—but are we now to expect in every Bill a new definition of "enactment"? Parliamentary draftsmen and the courts have been dealing with legislation for many years and it has not been found necessary to state in each Bill what is meant by the word "enactment". However, if the Government feel that for the purposes of the Bill it is essential to have the interpretation, naturally I shall not press the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 49 [Short title and extent]:
Lord Mulley moved Amendment No. 35:
Page 37, leave out line 45.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment represents sheer curiosity on my part. It is not tabled because I want to object to any particular part of the Bill; I was simply puzzled and would like clarification on one point. I have been asked by several people why Northern Ireland needs to be included in a Bill concerned with the Channel Tunnel. It would be interesting to have a reply to that question. I beg to move.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right to probe into this matter. It is a little difficult to understand why Northern Ireland should be included in this Bill. I shall try to explain. Although it concerns a fairly remote possibility, the Government considered it advisable to cater for it in drafting this Bill. Under Clause 16 the supervisory bodies—namely, the Intergovernmental Commission and the safety authority—can issue directions to any person, carry out investigations and require information to be given. It is impossible to predict the circumstances in which these powers may be used but it is most likely that they would be used in relation to persons or bodies directly involved in constructing or operating the Channel system. However, it is not inconceivable that in investigating an incident or checking upon safe practice it may be necessary to seek information from suppliers of materials or equipment, or even to issue them with directions. There is no reason therefore to limit such provisions to Great Britain because supplies and materials could have come from anywhere in the United Kingdom.
Perhaps I may just make two further points. First, much the same goes for orders by the Secretary of State under Clause 11, which can of course cover a wider range of possibilities than the powers of authorised persons under Clause 16. Secondly, there is also a reference to Northern Ireland in Clause 16(10), which the noble Lord may not have noticed.
In conclusion, I hope that I have given at least two good reasons why this Bill should cover Northern Ireland. I hope very much that orders for equipment will be placed in Northern Ireland, as indeed in all regions of the country. Furthermore, if orders are placed in Northern Ireland I hope that there will not be any cause for complaint which might actually 917 bring into effect this particular part of the Bill. However, that is another matter.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. As I understand it, Northern Ireland does not need this Bill to give the right to buy equipment. One of our worries was that a lot of the equipment would not be bought from this country. If the Minister is giving an assurance that it will be bought either in Great Britain or in Northern Ireland, then indeed we have learnt a great deal from this minute, exploratory amendment. It will give great satisfaction to know that not a penny will be spent abroad. This Act cannot extend outside Great Britain and Northern Ireland to France, Germany, Japan or anywhere else. Clearly, from what the Minister has said the money spent on equipment will all be spent in the United Kingdom, which is most satisfactory.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I must disabuse the noble Lord of that idea. When he reads what I have said, he will find that I did not say at all what he thinks I said.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for having brought this point to my notice. The Minister quoted Clause 16(10). I know that people in Scotland are very law-abiding and I am sure there is a simple explanation for my query. Clause 16(10) states:Proceedings for an offence … shall not be brought in England and Wales … or in Northern Ireland except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland".There is no mention of Scotland, which seems to have been omitted. There may be a simple explanation for that and I should be grateful for it.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I am much obliged for the intervention of my noble friend. I hope that he will pursue this matter at the next stage of the Bill, because at this hour it is a little late for a manuscript amendment to apply. Certainly I have great admiration for Scotland. I am relieved that Northern Ireland was not included in order to be able to investigate the possibilities of IRA interest in the Channel Tunnel. I say again how much we have appreciated the care and the trouble taken by the Minister in dealing with our amendments.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, may I ask if missing out Scotland constitutes a trend? At Question Time today it was very obvious that information was not available with regard to Scotland. Was that because of the election results in Scotland?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, with the leave of the House once more, perhaps I may say that I am informed that Scotland is covered implicitly by English legislation. No special provision is needed. All prosecutions in Scotland require the agreement of the procurator fiscal.
As to Question Time today, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, will agree that his point relates 918 to only one very small detail of the Question. Scotland does not keep the same kind of records as England, and that was the only reason that I was unable to answer that part of the Question today. It concerned the difference in definition between "repairs" and "reconstruction". I shall be happy to take up the issue with him on another occasion.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I did not expect my amendment to extend so far in either substance or geography. I now ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.