HL Deb 08 March 1993 vol 543 c820

3 p.m.

Lord Aldington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have refused to authorise funds, or have refused the expenditure by British Rail of funds, for the widening of a bridge over the railway east of Ashford, Kent, in order to provide adequate crossing for vehicles, as promised by British Rail to the House of Commons on 12th June 1991, when the closure of Willesborough level crossing will be necessary due to the increase in trains following the opening of the Channel Tunnel.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it is for British Rail to determine its own spending priorities within the external financing limit set by Her Majesty's Government. Expenditure on bridge widening does not require the Government's consent.

Lord Aldington

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that helpful Answer. Is he aware that it makes quite clear where the responsibility lies for what I consider to be a breach of undertaking?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it always has been clear where responsibility for expenditure by British Rail lies. I do not believe that I need remind my noble friend that we shall debate the subject again tomorrow evening. One cannot force a promoter to put into a Bill what he does not wish to put into it.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the British Railways Board has stated that in the event of increased international traffic arising from the Channel Tunnel—which we all hope will be the case—the board will stand by its original commitment for the reconstruction of the Crow Corner bridge. Will the Government give an assurance that in the event of traffic increasing fast enough to become a real problem, they will give the necessary clearance for expenditure to British. Rail? Finally, tomorrow we shall debate the matter. Under the amended Bill that we shall discuss, will it be permissible for the Government to give the permission and the money, if necessary? Alternatively, will amendments be possible to the Bill tomorrow?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, as I said in my original Answer, it is for British Rail to determine its own spending requirements; it does not need government approval. As concerns the subject of the Question, I understand that British Rail believes that the situation has changed. It feels that it no longer wants the powers it originally required. I contend that it is quite wrong to ask a promoter to request powers in a Bill which he does not need.