HL Deb 16 July 1987 vol 488 cc1189-200

5.22 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I beg to move, That the Bill do now pass.

When I moved on 16th February of this year, That the Bill be now read a second time, I said that we had waited a long time for this debate. I did not mean just the 10 months (now 15) since the Bill was introduced in another place. Rather I was thinking of the 12 years since a similar Bill was abandoned just before it came to your Lordships' House. One could have added that it was nearer 200 years since the possibility of a tunnel was first raised. So this is an historic time.

The Bill has been with us for five months but we have seen it for only a part of that time on the Floor of the House. After Second Reading it was sent to a hybrid Bill Select Committee. It remained there for two months. I cannot commend too highly the dedication and care of that committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who was assisted by my noble friend Lord Elliott of Morpeth, the noble Lord Lord Galpern, my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, my noble friend Lord Holderness and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. The committee received 1,467 petitions from those whose private interests where affected. It saw at first hand the impact of this project—the environmental consequences it will have in parts of Kent and London. It sat for 30 days, and visited sites in Kent and Waterloo. It listened with sympathy and understanding to petitioners and to the arguments of their learned counsel.

Your Lordship's Select Committee made 109 amendments to the Bill; it received a large number of assurances from the promoters; and its special report contained 147 paragraphs. It found compromises, acceptable to most petitioners, on the road access to the Cheriton terminal, on the alignment of the railway across the sensitive Holywell Coombe, on the terminal's drainage and on the routeing of construction vehicles. It also identified many of the issues we have discussed this month in full Committee and at Report. Since the Bill returned from the Select Committee it has received substantial amendments on certain important questions.

First, following the debate in Committee on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Teviot we have inserted a new clause on on-train controls, a matter of great concern to your Lordships. This is an important move towards ensuring that the benefits of the tunnel in operation are properly distributed to all parts of the country. Indeed it complements Clause 40 on British Rail's plan for an international service, which was inserted by the Select Committee. Then after the debate on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, at Committee and Report stages, there is the new provision that the House has just agreed to insert in Clause 19 requiring a code of practice for the transport of disabled people, which has been welcomed in all parts of the House. My noble friend Lord Belstead—whom I must thank for sharing much of the task of replying from this Bench—has been of great assistance, I believe, in offering some reassurance and clarification to noble Lords on other matters. We have benefited from the wide experience of Members of this House. I must thank all your Lordships for your work while the Bill was going through.

Once passed by this place and accepted by another place, this Bill will pass into law. The treaty can then be ratified by both Governments, the French Parliament having already completed its scrutiny of their legislation. Then in London the leading role will move down river to the City, for this is a private sector project and it is for the private sector company, Eurotunnel, to convince the markets that it is a worthwhile investment. The company expects to complete very shortly the syndication of the £5 billion project loan. It plans to raise the major tranche of equity capital later this year. As the Government have made clear from the start, in the treaty, in the concession and now in the Bill, the project is to be carried out without any financial support or guarantees from public funds. The Bill before your Lordships ensures that there will be no such call on the public purse either directly or via British Rail.

The construction of the link will bring some £1 billion worth of orders to industry in this country, and that must flow through to creating jobs. The operation of the tunnel offers benefits in three areas. There will be a shuttle service for cars and passengers operated by Eurotunnel; and there will be for the first time a direct rail link between this country and the Continent. British Rail estimates that the growth in rail freight will take some 1,500 heavy lorries off the roads every day. Others suggest the figure could be higher. Finally there will be the international passenger services from London and regional centres to Brussels, Paris and beyond. Nineteen ninety three will see truly the light at the end of the tunnel.

So we have played our part in the eventual creation of a fixed link between this country and the Continent of Europe in what the Select Committee called, the greatest engineering project in Europe ever undertaken by the private sector", and in perhaps a greater spiritual and cultural link with our European partners. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

Lord Underhill

My Lords, as the Minister has said, we are approaching the end of the long parliamentary period through which this Bill has passed. I want to make just a few brief comments and in these I am associated with my noble friend Lord Carmichael, who has shared with me responsibility from the Opposition Front Bench.

I too should like to thank the Select Committee for its work. There is not the slightest doubt that without the Select Committee our sittings might have been longer. It has been extremely helpful. We are particularly grateful to the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who so far as I could see from my position here has remained in that seat through practically all our deliberations and has intervened on a number of occasions. The committe went deeply into the environmental matters and some of those recommendations were carried through during our Committee and Report stages.

I must also thank the Minister. He has carried on this immense task for the Government almost single handedly, except when he was helped on one or two occasions by his noble friend Lord Belstead on environmental matters. We may have disagreed with him—indeed, I know we have, because I did—but he has been extremely courteous and paid considerable attention to the detail and contents of the Bill, and we are grateful to him.

The Minister referred to two important amendments, those on disablement and on-train Customs facilities. Without the slightest doubt the Minister must have played some part in ensuring that those two important amendments were included in the Bill. I naturally regret that the amendment that we promoted from these Benches for inland Customs depots was not carried. It was defeated by only 17 votes. However, 17 votes is a defeat. We only hope that British Rail will pick it up and, in discussions with manufacturers in the regions, will endeavour to establish inland Customs depots wherever it will be helpful to our manufacturing trade.

I believe that we in this House have been particularly useful in discussing various safety matters, in accordance with the Select Committee's insistence. I believe that those matters have been important in our debates. We also have on record a number of important statements made by the Minister on various issues. I think that they will also be extremely helpful.

As is generally known, we wanted a full economic inquiry before the project proceeded. I make clear the fact that we want to see the sea ferries continue. We believe that there must be choice for both passengers and freight between the fixed tunnel and the sea ferries.

We hope that the project will meet the objectives of most of us. One of the reasons why we were in favour of the fixed tunnel link was that freight opportunities will be grasped by British Rail and by manufacturers. We can then bring assistance to areas North of Watford—the Midlands, the North, Scotland and Wales—by the fast freight train into Europe. I have great pleasure in supporting the Motion, That the Bill do now pass.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, from these Benches I support the Motion, That the Bill do now pass. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in thanking the Minister in particular, and other noble Lords who have taken part but who have not always been part of the transport club in this House. It is usually a small and select band of noble Lords who sit through Committee and Report stages of transport Bills. They can be counted on the figures of one hand.

I should like to apologise to a number of noble Lords because it has been drawn to my attention—I was not aware of it—that in summing up the amendment that I moved this afternoon, I was discourteous enough to mention some noble Lords without referring to them as "noble Lords". That perhaps indicates the degree of chumminess that exists within the transport club, but I apologise to them profusely. I did not intend to cast any doubt on their nobility.

The Select Committee is to be greatly commended, along with its chairman. It undoubtedly saved not only this House a great deal of time but it went as far as it could to alleviate the fears and problems of people living in Kent particularly and perhaps to a lesser degree those in the Waterloo area. The exercise which it carried out is one of which it can be proud, and this Parliament must thank the committee.

There are issues in the Bill which we on these Benches should have preferred to have been different. We should have preferred it to have been a publicly-funded Bill, at least to a degree. We should have preferred it to have been a rail only Bill. We should have preferred to have Customs and Immigration on the trains from Waterloo. However, those matters have been fully debated and decided upon by your Lordships' House.

The message that must go out from this Chamber, and which I hope will go out from Parliament as a whole when the Bill goes back to another place and receives Royal Assent, is that the Parliament of this country is united in its determination for the nation to make a success of the tunnel project. It is a mighty project. The onus now lies with private industry, bankers, manufacturers and people up and down the country who work in projects associated with the tunnel. As I said when we were discussing the Green Paper on the Bill and at every stage of its progress, I believe that this project can do a tremendous amount to improve the economy of this country; it can revivify parts of the country which at the moment are suffering.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston—now one of the club—has rightly made references to Liverpool. I believe that that is one of the areas that can benefit greatly from the tunnel. There is a chance that business can return to Liverpool and that it can compete with the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg in a way in which it has previously been unable to do. That is an example of the potential which exists. I hope that the nation will grasp that potential which lies behind the Bill. I wish the Bill and the tunnel every success.

Lord Ampthill

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister and the noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Tordoff, for the generous tributes which have been paid to the Select Committee and its chairman. The former are certainly deserved; I am not so sure about the latter.

I confess that I felt great alarm when I was invited to chair the committee. My apprehensions grew when I learnt that it was to have no fewer than five former Ministers, and I doubted whether I should be able to be heard. However, they were extremely indulgent of me. That I was heard—unfortunately—lies in the record of 1,150 pages of evidence.

The only member of the committee to cause us slight anxiety was not a Minister, although he was a distinguished Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means in another place. It arose during the first week of our hearings when we heard evidence from the Kent Hang-Gliding Club. The noble Lord showed so much enthusiasm for this pastime that I was fearful we might lose a quorum, but with his usual kindness he agreed to postpone taking it up until later in life.

It was an immensely interesting experience and I am grateful for the marvellous support that I received from the committee. I am pleased that our report was of some use to the House in its further deliberations on the Bill. I think that it would be wrong—as we were sitting quasi-judicially—for me to comment about the project other than to say that I wish it very well.

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I should like to refer to the final paragraphs of the Select Committee report. Despite the constraints of its terms of reference, the committee felt obliged—and I think rightly—to draw attention to the need now to ensure that the benefits of the tunnel, when it is built, are spread across the country as a whole and not allowed to stop in Kent, London and the Home Counties. The duty for achieving that falls fairly and squarely on British Rail; and only British Rail can achieve it.

In its final paragraph the committee expressed the hope that all sectors of the economy will rise to and profit from the challenges which the tunnel will offer. There is little in British Rail's behaviour so far which gives me good grounds for thinking that that hope will be fulfilled. I say that for three reasons. It has taken Parliament until the last stage of this Bill in another place to wring from my noble friend on the Front Bench an amendment about on-train controls. I refer your Lordships to the Official Report for 13th July 1987, at col. 876. I should have thought that British Rail ought to have been on to that matter even before the Bill went before Parliament.

Let us take the case of the Waterloo issue. Any developer worthy of his salt would have seen that when one is about to embark on something of the scale which is proposed, one would have taken trouble a long time in advance to consult with the local communities and authorities. British Rail in fact installed an information kiosk about their proposals for Waterloo when the Bill was already well under way in the other place. They then thought they had done enough about it.

Finally, I had occasion, as chairman of the South-East Regional Planning Conference, to write on their behalf to the Minister of Transport earlier this year about the impact all this was making on the home counties and how it was to be handled in the context of county structure plans, and so on. After some correspondence with him, he suggested that the remainder of the matters should be pursued with British Rail. A letter was sent to them on the 18th May, and I am still awaiting a reply, let alone being engaged in any constructive discussions with them.

So when the Committee say, as they do, that they hope all sectors of the economy will rise to and profit from the challenges offered by this tunnel and when other noble Lords say—as they have, quite rightly—that they hope the benefits will be spread across the country, we need to recognise that this depends crucially on British Rail. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will see that they get up to the mark.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I should like to join my noble friends in saying how much we appreciate the work of the Minister and of the Select Committee. Indeed I think your Lordships can be congratulated on the thoroughness with which this Bill has been looked at. Certainly we have disproved the commentator in The Times, who said at the beginning of this new Session that the Channel Tunnel Bill "will go through their Lordships' House on the nod". I am sure no one would say that is what has happened.

I am reminded of the oft-quoted remark of a former distinguished Member of this House who, when referring to the Prime Minister of the day, said, "He is the best Prime Minister we have." I feel very much the same way about the tunnel. I think it would be probably easier to find a new Prime Minister than to find a new tunnel in today's circumstances because, whether we like the tunnel project or not, if it fails it will put back the prospect of a fixed link for an enormous period of time. That is why I would suggest that when the Bill becomes an Act and the treaty is ratified that is not the end of the story for Parliament: it is merely the beginning. We still have an enormous job to do and I hope the Minister and his colleagues will keep both Houses of Parliament fully involved in what is going on.

I am bound to say I am disappointed to find that we are approaching this enormous challenge in the 21st century with the technology of the 19th. I am far from satisfied that this shuttle scheme is going to be satisfactory. I can see that it has the superficial attraction that if you have people sitting in their cars you can get them on and off the trains probably more quickly than would be possible if you adopted any other means. But certainly from the little one has heard about it, I sense that it has been a matter of some dispute within the Eurotunnel organisation itself.

I derive a lot of satisfaction from what is now Clause 24 of the Bill, which places squarely on the Secretary of State the responsibility for approving the specification. I hope and believe that will be very conscientiously done because, as my noble friend said in his remarks, it seems that in a recent statement of a conference the Customs union expressed some doubt about the safety of their members if they have to work on the trains. As the Minister said, six years is a long time. I would suggest there is an enormous job still to be done to satisfy the public and the workforce that the tunnel is going to be safe.

My other worry is whether in fact the project is going to be viable. It is to be a commercial undertaking, and I fully accept that it has to be operated in that way. We have already heard doubts expressed by a number of distinguished Members of the House as to the practice of using compulsory purchase powers for public purposes and then passing on the benefit of that to private enterprise for commercial purposes. Certainly I would not suggest that as it is going to be commercial it should be subsidised; but I have grave doubts as to whether British Rail can carry the full burden that will obviously be placed upon it if it is to do all the great things that we are promised. For example, I wonder whether it will make the kind of impact one would want to see in trying to ease the problem of the North-South divide.

I was recently reading the EuroWest Port Study which was commissioned in respect of the Clyde. It was being suggested that the River Clyde might be revitalised and its port used as being nearer to the United States, for example, and that cargoes could travel by train through the tunnel bound for destinations in Europe. Apparently it has been decided that would not be a viable proposition. I recall also that in 1974–75 it was the under-estimate of the amount of work and the cost for the railways which represented one of the enormous problems which led ultimately to the abandonment of that project.

Also we have been reading of the immense importance that Eurotunnel place on the revenues from the railways. The Minister has said that it is a commercial matter but we have not been given, either in this House or in the other place, any details of the agreement that was recently negotiated between Eurotunnel, British Rail and its French equivalent. I came across a cutting from the Newcastle Journal dated the 6th July, which says: News of the growth in cross-Channel traffic comes on top of the recent deal with British Rail and its French equivalent SNCF to pay more for using the tunnel. The agreement, negotiated by new Eurotunnel chairman Alastair Morton, means that the railways have to pay 60 per cent of the revenue forecast, whether the passengers actually turn up or not"— I would underline the last phrase— for the first 12 years of the tunnel's life.". It seems a little odd that the Newcastle Journal should have information which has not been made available to Parliament, so far as I know. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether that is so. As I have said in earlier discussions on this theme, this should be a matter which is before the public before they are invited to subscribe for shares in the enterprise. This is clearly a vital matter and whereas time after time we have been told by the Minister that six years is a long time and many things can be taken care of in that time, it seems that Mr. Morton was not prepared to wait even six weeks after taking office before getting an agreement tying the railways for 12 years, starting in 1993.

As I say, one hopes, because this is now the only chance, that they will resolve these problems. However, I am bound to say that I have grave doubts about the viability of the project and I hope that if any problems arise Parliament will be kept fully informed.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, welcomed me to a club. I am not quite sure what the club was but if it was one that included the wholehearted support of the tunnel Bill in its present state, I must decline membership. I have already paid tribute to the Minister for the very nice, courteous and efficient way that he has handled the Bill and it would be churlish of me not to add my thanks to the chairman and the members of the committee who have done so much work on the Bill. However, there is just one small point (as some may think) I should like to make arising out of what has been said. There was a dreadful moment when I thought we were going to get into a Second Reading debate again on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass.

I do not blame British Rail for what may be the serious consequences of this tunnel and its activities on the rest of the country. I certainly hope that the benefits of the tunnel will be spread evenly and equitably throughout the nation. I only attempted, as the Bill has gone through your Lordships' House, to point out that there was a danger that they would not. I do not blame British Rail for carrying out the task that has been laid down for it—that is, to service industry, to service commerce and to service passengers. My fear was that the mere presence of the Channel Tunnel in the South-East of England would exacerbate the difficulties of the North-South divide.

At this late stage all that I urge on the Government is that they take heed of the warnings about the exacerbation of the North-South divide, and consider whether they are coming true. If so, they should not close the tunnel or Canary Wharf, even though the financial world seems to be almost on the threshold of doing so according to the popular press; nor should they damage the City of London. They should ensure that, as concentration of the private sector increases in the South East, something is done to redress the balance by decentralising government activity away from the South East and into the regions.

A large amount of government activity, including Civil Service jobs and the Department of Employment, should be in the north where most of their customers are to be found. Government activities need not all be located in the South East. Then perhaps serious damage caused by the unequal distribution of resources within the economy may be prevented. I wish the Minister well and thank him and his department.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I should like to offer the House a few thoughts at this last stage of the Bill. First of all, I should say that I began my work on this Bill as a member of the Select Committee who was enthusiastically in favour of a Channel Tunnel; but I believe that I and others on the committee who took a similar view listened to the evidence with minds as fair and open as possible. I have no doubt that it is in the interests of the people of this country that the tunnel should exist. I believe that it will act as an instrument of economic regeneration not only in the south east of England but in many parts of the north as well.

There are one or two points that should be made about our procedures. I have no doubt that it was right to proceed with this measure by means of a hybrid Bill. If there had been a series of public inquiries—as indeed was urged upon us—they would have stretched over many years, which of course was desired by many of the people who wanted a public inquiry. In the final analysis they would have persuaded nobody because the people who did not want the tunnel and the very substantial facilities around Folkestone would have remained as passionately opposed to it if there had been a public inquiry as they were under the hybrid Bill procedure. The same goes for those living around Waterloo.

Having said that in terms of this project, which after all is probably the biggest public works project that will be undertaken for the rest of this century, I think it is necessary to make one further comment. One should look with considerable care at any other substantial project of this kind having these procedures attached to it. We have to accept that some people's rights were undoubtedly affected because of the character of the hybrid Bill inquiry system. When taking part in a public inquiry one has the right to announce one's opposition in principle to what is proposed. But, as was made quite clear, on a number of matters the committee was not prepared to hear arguments in regard to principle on the grounds that both Houses of Parliament had given this Bill a Second Reading.

Undoubtedly some people had a very real sense of grievance. As I have already made clear, I think that the Government were right to act as they did in this particular case, but I do not think that the Government should persuade themselves in the future that the same happy method can be used so far as concerns other projects. One must look very carefully at the civil rights of many of the people who felt that their interests were substantially adversely affected by this scheme but did not have the opportunity of arguing against the principle of it.

I repeat that I am a warm enthusiast of this Bill. However, there are two further observations that I should like to make. Like my noble friend Lord Tordoff I believe that the Bill has been significantly improved in Committee. The amendment of my noble friend Lady Stedman, undoubtedly improved the Bill, and I believe that on-train Customs controls north of London were an exceptionally important issue. I shall not go over the same ground again, but it was made absolutely clear to the Select Committee that without such controls there would be no effective railway services to the Continent from trains starting or ending their journey north of London. In my view the fact that we now have that measure on the statute book represents a major improvement to the project.

I note what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said a few moments ago about his experience with British Rail. I hope he will forgive me for saying that I think that he was a little unfair. Most of my colleagues took the view that British Rail had presented its evidence fairly and discharged difficult responsibilities competently. As an illustration of his discontent he said that he had written to British Rail on the 18th May and had not yet received a reply. I am sorry about that. Unhappily, I must tell him that at about the same time I wrote to a member of the Cabinet concerned with this Bill and I have not as yet had a reply either. No doubt we shall both be successful over the next week or so and receive replies on the matters that we raised. It is only fair to say that we all—if I may speak for all my colleagues on the committee—believed that British Rail had handled its difficult responsibilities with some degree of fairness.

My final point is that I did not and still do not like the term "safety authority". I did not think that it was appropriate to put down an amendment on this point. It was dealt with rather elliptically in our report. There is not a safety authority; there is the Safety Advisory Committee, which fortunately now has the power, as a result of a concession made by the Government while the committee was still sitting to publish any strong opinions that it may hold if its advice is disregarded. That was an exceptionally important concession so far as the Government were concerned, which I think was the view of the whole committee.

I come to my conclusion. Although there are many angry people in Kent and many angry people around Waterloo—all those who heard their evidence sympathised very greatly with many of them—nevertheless, I regard this as a great moment of opportunity for this country once and for all to put through this project. Like my noble friend Lord Tordoff I should have preferred it to have been part public and part privately financed. Nevertheless, I very much hope that Eurotunnel succeeds in raising the very substantial capital that is required.

All the members of the committee, or very nearly all, took the view that Eurotunnel had handled its case with responsibility and sensitivity and that everything we saw of Eurotunnel was a very good augury for the future. On this occasion I simply represent my own views in wishing this project great success. I believe that it represents a dramatic change with our relationship with the Continent of Europe.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I shall shorten the observations I intended to make and very simply echo the nice sentiments that have been expressed concerning the Minister, the Select Committee and its chairman. I should also like to offer my thanks and, I am sure, the thanks of many of my colleagues in this House who have taken part in the debates on this Bill, to both the Minister's officials and to those whom I might call our own advisers on this side of the House. Whenever we had a point—and quite often it was a point that was not particularly sympathetic to the views that they were advancing—they were always helpful and willing to advise us.

My own special pleasure in the Bill arises inevitably from Clause 12, relating to on-train controls. I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that the matter of on-train controls was raised in a debate that took as its theme whether we should have a fixed link at all and if so which of the four it should be. I can assure him that in marshalling my thoughts when I raised it, I had very considerable assistance from British Rail as to practice and custom abroad. I agree utterly with what the Minister and several of my noble friends said; namely, that that amendment will go far towards spreading the benefits. It will also, I feel, play a significant part in making the tunnel more user-friendly for the passenger side of the business.

I have one question. Amendment No. 12 excludes those services which call at stations beyond London and the Channel Tunnel portal at Cheriton. I do not want to rehearse old arguments at all. However, I wonder whether I may ask what may be the last question on this Bill in this House. May I ask the noble Lord the Minister what effect Clause 12 will have on the status of the proposed international station at Ashford and, in particular, will he confirm that it will still go ahead? I feel that the Channel Tunnel can be bracketed with perhaps the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal as a really mammoth venture. I wish it, and indeed the Bill that underpins it, every success.

6 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, may I very briefly close this debate by thanking all noble Lords who have been kind enough to pay tribute to my handling of the Bill in your Lordships' House. A number of noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and my noble friend Lord Sandford, have said that this Bill now places a heavy responsibility upon British Rail to make sure that they take the freight opportunities which lie before them around the whole country. I can only endorse those sentiments and hope that British Rail will rise to the occasion and get this traffic which would be so valuable both to them and in terms of taking traffic off the roads.

I should like to agree thoroughly with the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Harris of Greenwich, that this represents a great opportunity for the country and that the message should go from this House that we want to make a success of the project. The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, had doubts perhaps about the commercial agreement between British Rail and Eurotunnel as to their contribution to the costs of running the project. That is a matter for British Rail, but I am sure that they would not have entered into the agreement unless they thought that they could make money out of it.

I can also assure the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, that Parliament will hear more about this over the next few months and years. There are regulations under Clause 11 which will be laid before Parliament to give the force of law to regulations of the Intergovernmental Commission and of course other matters which will have to come before Parliament.

I should like briefly to pick up one point which was raised just now by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, about the station at Ashford. Of course Ashford will be an international station, but I can confirm that British Rail are looking at a number of alternative locations for the international terminal and platforms at Ashford. All of those alternatives are within the wider area which includes the present station's facilities, the proposed international car park beside the diverted A.2070 and the former British Rail Ashford works; that is to say, within a quarter of a mile east or west of the position described in the Bill.

If British Rail decided to go ahead on a site other than the one in the Bill, the alternative scheme would have to be authorised either by a private Bill or by a planning application to the borough council. But a private Bill would only be necessary if it were not possible to accommodate the station on British Rail operational land.

So I am grateful once more to all who have taken part in our debates on this Bill. The Bill should now pass with the good-will of this House and much improved by this House. We have debated the issues fully and constructively and I believe that we are sending forward a piece of legislation of historic importance and with exciting prospects for the country as a whole.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.