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Bill Presented

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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Licensing Of Ticket Sales

Mr. Menzies Campbell presented a Bill to provide for the licensing of ticket sales for sporting events and entertainments and to make further provision with respect to the powers exercisable by local authorities in relation to such sales: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 6 July and to be printed. [Bill 168.]

County Councils (Abolition)

3.46 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish non-metropolitan county councils; to transfer their functions to the other local authorities in their areas and, in some cases, to other bodies; and to provide for other matters consequential on, or connected with, the abolition of those councils.
I imagine that a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends—those who remain—suspect that my intention with the Bill is to entertain them with the misdemeanours of Derbyshire county council. I am afraid that I shall disappoint them.

I shall resist the temptation to spend a full 10 minutes giving chapter and verse about how Derbyshire county council spends more on education than most counties, but gets worse results. I shall resist the temptation to spend too long telling the House how Derbyshire county council spent £2,000 on a party to celebrate the release of Mr. Nelson Mandela.

I shall also resist going into the full details of how Derbyshire county council behaves like a giant jobs agency for the National Union of Public Employees and has taken on an extra 8,000 staff in the past 10 years. I shall also resist explaining how the council rejected one low tender because it came in the wrong colour envelope.

I shall not go fully into the details of how the council's pension fund invested £305,000 in the failed Left-wing News on Sunday newspaper, before getting further embroiled with a former estate agent called Owen Oyston in a series of sleazy deals—including building a resort in the Soviet Union, dubbed by the county council leader as a millionaires' playground, which now looks as though it will never be built despite substantial investment by the council.

I shall not elaborate on the details of how a well-known Labour activist, a road ganger dismissed by the council for gross misconduct in the 1970s, was reinstated last year to a well-paid job showing Japanese executives around the county. I shall not go into details of how one defeated Labour county councillor was given a £40,000 per year council post, nor how another ex-Labour councillor was made a director of education at an even larger salary. I shall not go into too much detail—

My right hon. and hon. Friends tempt me, Mr. Speaker, but I shall resist.

I shall not go into too much detail about how a former Member of the House, Mr. Reg Race, was appointed as a £46,000-per-year county director, before the relationship turned sour and led to his resignation not long afterwards, when he was given a large golden handshake to buy his silence about the goings-on in the council.

Finally, I shall not ask the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) to enlarge on his comment that the aforesaid Mr. Race was
"sacked by Derbyshire county council because he was giving it the sort of information about its activities that its members did not want to hear."
I shall not develop those themes.

Order. If the hon. Gentleman is not going to do that, perhaps he will get on with what he is going to say.

I was about to explain that I do not intend to develop those themes because 10 minutes would be far too short a time to tell of all the idiosyncrasies and profligacies of Derbyshire county council. To use Derbyshire county council as a stick with which to beat other county councils, or as an example to justify their abolition, would be wrong and unfair.

In many ways Derbyshire county council is unique, untypical, the exception and way out on a limb. I wish to make a case for the abolition of the generality of county councils or at least to make a case for giving district, borough and city councils the right to opt out of county council control. In doing so, I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) and for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) who previously introduced Bills for unitary local authorities.

Unitary local authorities, replacing two layers of local government with one, would lead to more effective provision of services and greater accountability. As many of my hon. Friends know, the two-tier system which prevails in most of the country leaves many people confused and unsure about which council is responsible for which service and, just as importantly, for its cost. Education and social services could be far better provided at a more local level, especially as the increasing complexity of local government means that services which might logically have been run as large units could be better operated as smaller ones.

Abolition will also make life easier for councils. At the moment many of the most talented councillors have to split their time between two bodies, which adds to the difficulty of finding suitable people to be councillors, as most of my hon. Friends are aware. I accept that larger administrative units can be more efficient and can save on administrative costs, but the past 20 years have shown that that is not always necessarily the case, as evidenced by a recent report which showed that in some counties 25 per cent. of the education budget was spent on administration. I accept that some services such as transport would need to be run by larger bodies. Delegated county-wide organisations could best handle such services.

I know that some people doubt whether the boroughs and districts could handle this and they argue for the necessity of a higher tier of what they call strategic planning. I remind hon. Members about the GLC. I realise that many of my hon. Friends are racking their brains to try to recall exactly what the GLC was. People outside certainly have difficulty in remembering exactly what the GLC did for them. Despite all the expensive hype during the abolition of the GLC, few now mourn its passing and in general the London boroughs have made a very good job of taking over the services that the GLC once ran—[Interruption.] I accept that there are some exceptions.

That brings me neatly to the Opposition's policy on county council abolition. We all know that in recent years the Labour party has been trying to upgrade its image. Some say that it has achieved some success. Unfortunately, all too often that success is of a faltering kind and there is more to the image than to the substance. For example, we hear that the Opposition have come round to believing in markets after all, but they believe that the markets should be servants rather than masters, for which read, "We politicians will override your free choice when it suits us to do so."

The same applies to county councils. I am delighted that the Opposition have shown some progress by coming round to abolition. As always, however, they have ruined it by proposing in part to replace county councils with a regional tier of government which many people will see as super county councils with all the inherent faults of the current system magnified several times. The Opposition should realise that we need fewer tiers of government, not more. We already have the European Community and a national Parliament, as well as county, district and parish councils in most areas. We need to sweep away a layer of government, not add another which will inevitably become a platform for yet more empire-building and expense.

I urge hon. Members to support the Bill. It will not abolish counties, which will remain in place, but it will abolish county councils and bring local government closer to constituents, making it more accountable and helping it to deliver services more effectively.

3.53 pm

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The Bill should be entitled "the Abolition of Derbyshire County Council Bill" because that is clearly the intention of the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim). At every opportunity he seeks to attack Derbyshire county council and to denigrate its activities. I therefore wish to take this opportunity to defend the council and to argue against the hon. Gentleman's bill which, in any case, is inappropriate to the restructuring of local government.

Despite many attempts in the House, the hon. Gentleman has failed in his attacks on Derbyshire county council. He mentioned the pension fund, on which he had an Adjournment debate which turned out to be a damp squib, containing nothing that could be levelled against the Derbyshire county council. All the arguments were answered before the debate. Derbyshire county council runs one of the best pension schemes of any shire county.

Despite competition, Derbyshire county council, through its professionalism—not through the efforts of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)—attracted Toyota to Derbyshire. Conservative members were annoyed at Derbyshire county council's entrepreneurial professionalism which they think should be their preserve, but the council beat them at their own game. In addition, Labour won the Derbyshire county council election, despite its being targeted by the Conservative party with Ministers attending in droves in an attempt to achieve a Conservative victory.

The hon. Member for Amber Valley has adopted the Prime Minister's approach to the GLC and other metropolitan authorities such as South Yorkshire, which had the best transport policy in the country, both in terms of future developments and the environment. The policy is, "If you can't beat them, abolish them." The only advantage of such measures is that the Labour party has benefited from the arrival in the House of Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), with his previous experience on the GLC. If the hon. Gentleman's Bill were enacted, we would presumably see leading politicians from Derbyshire county council, such as David Bookbinder, in this House dealing readily and easily with Conservative Members.

Derbyshire county council has a fine record in areas such as education. It is top in its pupil-teacher ratio, and in special and primary education, and it comes a close second to Nottinghamshire county council in secondary education. Yet such provisions are now being attacked by the Government's poll tax. Any attack should be directed not at Derbyshire county council but at the Government and their stupid formula which, year after year, has attacked Derbyshire's grant. They have even introduced something called grant capping, which few authorities experience. Then the Government introduced the nonsense of the poll tax, from which some Conservative Members in Derbyshire have benefited considerably, making them free riders on the backs of others.

If Derbyshire county council and others were abolished, the services that they provide in a wide range of areas such as planning, highways and education, would have to be picked up by the district councils; yet the Bill does not provide for the reorganisation of district councils. District authorities which are perfectly capable of running services such as council housing would have a massive additional burden placed on them. That shows that the Bill is a deal of nonsense. It is not there to tackle the problems of local government or to restructure it. It is merely another example of cleverness on the part of the hon. Member for Amber Valley, in trying to attack Derbyshire county council. It is as clever as his other moves, which were also utter failures, when he also tripped up and fell on his face.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill order to be brought in by Mr. Phillip Oppenheim, Mr. Ian Gow, Mr. Robert B. Jones, Mr. Donald Thompson, Mrs. Edwina Currie, Mr. Michael Grylls, Mr. Teddy Taylor, Mr. Charles Wardle, Mr. Andrew Mitchell, Mr. Kenneth Hind, Mr. Nicholas Bennett and Mr. Gerald Howarth.

County Councils (Abolition)

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim accordingly presented a Bill to abolish non-metropolitan county councils; to transfer their functions to the other local authorities in their areas and, in some cases, to other bodies; and to provide for other matters consequential on, or connected with, the abolition of those councils: And the same was read a First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 6 July, and to be printed. [Bill 169.]

Opposition Day


Railway Policy

4.1 pm

I beg to move,

That this House condemns the Government's failure to produce a co-ordinated transport policy which would allow British Rail to provide a more reliable, safer, more efficient and better quality railway service to maximise its economic and environmental contribution to Britain; deplores the lost opportunity to provide a high speed, high quality, rail link to the Channel Tunnel, an essential requirement for the industrial areas of Britain, which requires a modern freight rail route of European standards; and calls on the Government to appoint a Commission to assess the various proposed alternatives for the link, its funding, and its extension beyond London.

After 10 years of the present Government's policies of privatisation, cuts in public subsidies, continual reorganisation and an anti-rail attitude, British Rail has produced the most expensive, least reliable, less safe, most congested, most uncomfortable and most under-invested rail system of any of the developed European economies.

It fails to make its potential contribution to reducing congestion and to relieving environmental damage, and to provide the necessary high-speed channel tunnel link, thereby reducing the possibility of carrying more freight from rail to road, and from road to rail. All that is primarily to be blamed on the impossible financial framework that the Government have imposed on British Rail and their ideological obsession with private ownership and private financing, so preventing the long-term development of British Rail's full potential, particularly with the arrival of the single European market in 1992.

This month marks 12 months in office for the Secretary of State. The present Government have appointed seven Secretaries of State for Transport, who have each shuffled through the door and changed bits of policy. I recall from previous occasions associated with our mutual former responsibilities for energy matters that the right hon. Gentleman served as Secretary of State for Energy for two years. Anyone who listened to last night's debate on electricity privatisation will appreciate how much of a mess he made of the policy of that Department. The question whether nuclear energy could possibly be part of privatisation was an issue between us then, when I told the right hon. Gentleman that it would be impossible to privatise the industry with a nuclear element. His response was to refer to me as an economic illiterate. If the right hon. Gentleman will read last night's debate, he may learn who was right and who was wrong.

The right hon. Gentleman has managed to produce in 12 months at the Department of Transport the mess that it took him two years to create at the Department of Energy. He has done serious damage to transport and continues to do so, and that is part of our charge against him. While being concerned constantly with presentation, he has discovered that the reality is dealing with difficult policy decisions. One thing that is regrettable about the Secretary of State is the way that he runs away from public debate on television or radio and in the other media. The televising of Parliament has been enhanced by the fact that the public can arrive at their own judgment when they watch televised debates. The Secretary of State constantly lays down conditions: he wants to go on first; he wants the last word; he is not going to this studio; he wants to sit in a radio cab somewhere else.

Yes, as my hon. Friend says, on this occasion he is frit. He will never debate the issues.

This is the third transport debate that we have had in the House, and they have all been called by the Opposition, and not once by the Government wanting to debate their own policy.

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has given way. At least when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State appears on television, he makes sense. What did the hon. Gentleman mean when he appeared on BBC's "On the Record" and used the following phrase:

"if you provide on a bus a kind of camera that can catch people using modern technology and say, 'These lanes must remain free, 'cause we want to provide the bus … ' which already is 1 per cent. of the vehicle movements, carries 30 per cent. of the people … whereas with cars, they're 30 per cent. of the vehicle movements—only carrying … far less people in movement"—[Interruption.]

Order, Even I do not understand it. Will the hon. Member please come to the point?

I shall ask the hon. Gentleman a simple question—can he explain himself?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been called an idiot, and I was merely reading the hon. Gentleman's words from a transcript.

I am a little perplexed, as I thought that this was a railway debate, and I do not think that that has. anything to do with it.

It is quite clear that one does not want to give way to fools when we are dealing with serious transport issues. There seems to be a great deal of laughter from the Conservative Benches. For people who have to wait for a bus, a train or any other form of public transport in this country, it is not a laughing matter. I was offered the opportunity to debate with the Secretary of State on "On the Record". However, as I understand it, his policy is quite clear—he does not appear with the Opposition and there is no evidence that he has, in whatever office he has held.

Issues of public importance are best dealt with when people have the opportunity to debate them on the public media rather than in the House. The only chance that we get to debate transport here is when the Opposition table a motion, and if the hon. Member was provided with an opportunity to speak on such an occasion that might be it.

Clearly, my hon. Friend has touched Conservative Members on a raw nerve. I try to do justice to the Minister, but the reality is that he is not a free agent. In the press this morning, it was revealed that massive cuts will now invade the south-east to try to balance the books so that we do not need cash subventions. We are the only nation which does not have large cash subventions for the railways. Conservative Members know that, and they know that they are wrong; hence their ill temper this afternoon.

Yes, we are seeing more and more signs of a departure from policy and a move towards abuse—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, abuse. There is no doubt about it. Abuse seems to take the place of debate with the modern Tory party. Conservative Members do not want to debate the issue; they merely want to abuse. They do not want to listen to the argument or to participate.

Transport is a critical matter. People want to change things and there is a fundamental difference of opinion between the two sides of the House on the issue. Unfortunately—this may seem peculiar coming from me—transport has become an ideological issue in this country. In Europe, public money and planning are not ideological issues, to be disputed between the left and the right, that happens only in Britain. Unfortunately, our transport system is suffering because of it. That is the reality of the transport debate, and I hope that we can deal with some of those arguments here today.

The question whether we can deal seriously with transport was brought home to me again this weekend because of Conservative abuse. I was addressing a transport conference in Nottingham about the electrification of the east midlands line, and the desirability of connections with the channel tunnel. When I got out of the conference, I was approached by the press, asking me about a speech made by the Secretary of State for Transport. I was asked nothing about transport issues—purely about the terms of abuse. The Secretary of State was appearing before the Tory ladies' conference. He is a real tiger when he appears before the women of his party. It is at Tory conferences that he gets a standing ovation and is prepared to debate with the people of Britain. On such occasions, he is a real personality.

It seems that I have been promoted from the rottweiler of the Conservative party conference to the political vulture of the Tory women's conference. If I am supposed to be a political vulture because I express my views on transport, I feel entitled to say that it is the Prime Minister herself who is to be found running from hospital bed to hospital bed followed by the cameras. I am not saying that that was necessarily wrong—merely that it did not lead the Secretary of State to make similar charges about the right hon. Lady going from accident to accident.

I greatly regret the Secretary of State's remark that I exploit personal grief. I refer the House to a letter to The Guardian from Dr. Jim Swire, who, as the Secretary of State knows, speaks on these matters for the United Kingdom victims' families. He made himself absolutely clear:
"Mr. Parkinson should know that our feelings are not the issue; the prevention of a recurrence is. He agreed an inquiry was necessary and then failed to launch one. Mr. Prescott has now also promised an immediate, comprehensive and independent inquiry into air security. We have no reason to doubt his word."
That is what the relatives want and that is what we are prepared to promise them. Dr. Swuire continued:
"We might as well allow the vulture Prescott to tear at the corpse of the Government's anti-terrorist position."
I am prepared to allow the relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie tragedy to answer for me the Secretary of State's cheap abuse.

Perhaps more relevant was the Secretary of State's remark about me, reported in The Sunday Times:
"He can't make the facts fit his case."
He was referring to safety in the railway industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] It is our debate and it has to do with safety; indeed, the amendment tabled by the Secretary of State mentions the safety of the railway system. I want to bring to the attention of the House the fact that one cannot accept what the Secretary of State says in his parliamentary replies.

In his remarks about railway safety at the conference, the right hon. Gentleman referred to making the facts fit the case. He expressed his concern that I was not telling the truth about safety problems in the railway industry when I said that the number of deaths had increased. I tabled a number of parliamentary questions on the subject.

The railway inspectors' report showed that, in the four years to 1988, deaths on the railway system had increased from 355 to 693. That was a considerable increase and some terrible tragedies were taken into account in those figures. The trend had been noticed prior to that, however. That information prompted me to look at the facts concerning deaths and serious accidents in the railway industry and, again, I tabled a number of questions. I was anxious also to look at accidents involving railway staff, and was concerned to discover that, although deaths had fallen by a third, serious injuries had increased by nearly 30 per cent.

I tabled further questions, primarily because I was concerned about cuts in the safety inspectorate. The Secretary of State knows—he said it in his reply—that the safety inspectorate was at full strength until 1984 but since then the position has deteriorated. There were 17 in 1987 but only 16 in 1988, which meant that the inspectorate was under-represented by one third. In 1989, at the behest of the Fennell inquiry, the inspectorate's establishment was increased to 32 but, to date, only 24 inspectors are employed. The inspectorate is undermanned by 25 per cent. I was worried by the criticism of the railways in the Fennell report, which said that the inspectors were confused, did not know what their obligations were and had ignored their responsibilities. My inquiries into the railway inspectorate led me to the view that we should remove the inspectorate from the Department of Transport because it has failed to face up to its responsibilities. I believe that the Secretary of State is slowly having to accept that.

I was concerned about the figures in the parliamentary replies. Indeed, I was surprised by the figures provided by the Secretary of State, which were different from those that I had seen in the inspectors' report. I asked for the figures for 1979 to the present day. Ever helpful, the Secretary of State gave me the figures from 1974 to 1979 because he wanted to make a political point about Labour's record. I do not know whether Secretaries of State normally give more information than hon. Members ask for, but I could see that the Secretary of State was making a political point. He was also making a point of presentation, about which the Secretary of State claims to be an expert. He wanted to present the argument in a better way.

To that end, the Secretary of State gave us the figures for 1974 to 1979. According to him, deaths and serious injuries had increased by 13.1 per cent. under Labour while during a similar period under a Conservative Government, the figure had been reduced by 6.5 per cent. The Sunday Times reported the Secretary of State telling the Conservative women's conference that there had been a 40 per cent. drop in accidents. I am sure all hon. Members would welcome that if it was the truth.

I took the Secretary of State's figures to the Library because I found the figures for 1974 to 1979 most surprising. I did not ask for the figures that far back, because the classification base changed substantially in 1979. Indeed, the Library confirmed that. It is not possible to separate serious injuries from minor injuries for the period 1974 to 1979. The Secretary of State, or whoever prepared the figures for him, had calculated serious injuries at 11 per cent. of the total. Why is it an 12 per cent. guesstimate under Labour, while for every year after that period the figure is 7 per cent.? Something smells. Something is wrong. The figures do not fit the facts, as the Library confirmed this afternoon.

The Government do not fiddle the statistics in only one or two areas of policy. I have outlined my accusation about the Secretary of State's figures, which I asked the Library to check. Perhaps the Secretary of State cannot be aware of all the figures. I am prepared to accept that, although he has often said in the House how he is intelligent and has an ability with figures and that the Opposition do not understand them. I will give the Secretary of State some figures to consider now.

With regard to the figures for deaths and accidents, the Secretary of State's first fiddle was that the guesstimate of 12 per cent. should have been 7 per cent. on average. That would have reduced the Secretary of State's figure of 13.1 per cent. to 8.4 per cent. The second fiddle was the underestimate of the deaths for 1979 to 1983. I have checked the inspector's report and the figure is not 153, it is 157. The former figure is favourable for the Secretary of State's argument.

The third mistake with the figures for 1974 to 1979 arose because the population figures were taken into account. I am not sure what those population figures are because they are not spelt out. However, I suspect that the Secretary of State has not considered the qualifications in the statistical changes. Those should have been considered if the Secretary of State wants to get into the political argy-bargy about what happened under Labour as opposed to what happened under the Tories. I am concerned about the trend in deaths and accidents, and not about political points.

The Secretary of State should have considered the way he handled the statistics. If he had done that, his mistakes might have been evident to his accountant's mind. In his written answer to my question, the Secretary of State gave the percentage expressed as a proportion of 1,000 deaths. Is he really trying to tell the House that for the period about which I am interested, the number of deaths was 5·9 per 1,000? That is wrong. The real figure is 0.59. He overestimated the figure by 10 times the amount. The Library confirmed that point.

In his question, the hon. Gentleman asked:

"how many railway staff have been killed or suffered major injuries for the period 1979 to 1983 and 1984 to 1988; and what they represent as a proportion per 1,000 railway staff employed."— [Official Report, 24 May 1990; Vol. 173, c. 294]
My reply was prepared for me by my Department in good faith. I trust my officials, and I stand by them. I will have the figures looked at. However, my point is that the proportion of deaths and major injuries per 1,000 was 5.9, not the proportion of deaths alone.

But it is expressed as a proportion per 1,000. I shall not prolong the argument—[Interruption.] I can do so if Conservative Members wish. The information is in the railway figures. It is 10 times the number of people who died or were seriously injured. It is a simple statistic. Conservative Members should look at the facts. The Secretary of State says that a mistake may have been made—clearly, it has been. British Rail has written to him and protested that the numbers appear to be 10 times greater. The Secretary of State may not know about that. He should ask Sir Humphrey—he might be able to tell him.

The Secretary of State concentrated on a party political presentation rather than on the real issue—deaths and accidents. He is often loose with the interpretation of data in the House. When he wanted to say that the channel tunnel was not important, the proportion of freight went from 20 per cent. to 7 per cent. Mr. Morton, the channel tunnel chairman, was furiously trying to raise money in Japan. The Secretary of State told him that it was an insignificant amount of freight. There are many such examples, and they are not helpful to politics. If the Secretary of State is to change those things—[Interruption.] I have made the relevant point, and I hope that the Secretary of State will look at it.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is unsavoury to make party political points out of accident figures. On accident ratios, does he agree that all the evidence demonstrates that it is far more dangerous to travel by road than by rail? Is not that a good reason for investing in rail? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the latest figures that are emerging from West Germany show that it is 24 times more dangerous to travel by road? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in this country and in the European Community, we need the proper collation of statistics on an equal basis so that we can make a better quality of judgment?

I entirely endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said. That is why I want the railway inspectorate out of the Department and a common approach to independent statistics, so that we can make proper judgments. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I was concerned about the wholesale indictment of the railway inspectorate in the Fennell report and the reduction in the number of safety inspectors, which has long been a Government policy. That is a signal that, for the Government, safety is not as important as it was. That is the issue. It is not right for us to cut safety. If we do that, we shall pay the consequences in deaths and injuries. It is a simple point, but it is critical.

Does my hon. Friend agree that an important statistic in assessing the safety of British Rail is not just accidents and injuries to staff and the public but the number of near misses, in particular the overshooting of red lights? Will my hon. Friend confirm that those matters have increased in recent years and are very worrying?

Yes, I confirm that. We are all worried. I am sure that the Secretary of State is extremely concerned. The Department is conducting some studies of those matters. However, they are also connected with fatigue. Another lesson from the inquiry is that, if workers are worked for far too many hours because other employees have been sacked—as British Rail has done—and we try to compensate with a smaller work force, there is less vigilance and safety and the possibility that such incidents will increase. Fatigue is a major concern for bus drivers, train drivers, pilots and so on, and we must be concerned about it.

It was unfortunate that, at that same conference, the Prime Minister announced her great transport initiative—toll roads exclusively for lorries. Would not it have been great if she said, "It would be nice to do something about rail"? That was her first statement on future transport policy—yet again, a road solution—when she had already sabotaged the channel tunnel rail link.

I do not intend to reiterate the arguments that I have put in previous debates about the cut in the quality of services. The consumer body for the railway service made it absolutely clear—I have the relevant quotes, but time has been taken up by interventions [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I have tried to allow as many hon. Members as possible to intervene.


My response to the quotation about whether the quality of the service has deteriorated, is that it clearly has. The Secretary of State often refers to investment—no doubt we shall hear a lot more about it today—so I must advise the right hon. Gentleman that the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission made it clear, when comparing the investment made by the Labour and Tory Governments at 1985–86 prices, that that investment was far better under Labour than under the Tories.

I shall not ignore the fact that more money is going into the railway system. However, the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the average age of the equipment in 1979 was 19 years. Once that equipment is 27 or 28 years old, it begins to get clapped out and investment decisions cannot be put off. I hope that we can all agree that capital investment decisions have been affected under both Labour and Tory Governments because the Treasury takes a short-term attitude to capital investment in British Rail.

The tragedy for the Government is that the profile age of the capital equipment was about 28 years. That means that it had to invest, because the equipment could not keep going any longer. Therefore, I readily accept what the Secretary of State says about the current investment rate being the highest for 25 years. Indeed, the last time it was really high was in 1955, when the same thing happened and the equipment had to be replaced because it was totally clapped out.

In 1981, the British Railways Board issued a warning to the Government:

"A crucial decision has to be taken soon about the future of British Rail. BR must be prepared to take either the path of progress by re-equipment and modernisation, or that of decline through a gradual but deliberate run-down of the system. We cannot continue as we have done in the past. We are reaching the dividing of the ways."
The Government's answer was to bring in Professor Walters, slash the public service obligation from the 1983 levels at a loss of about £2 billion to BR and, through its financial framework, to make it much more difficult for British Rail to make adequate provision of services and proper investment. The Government ignored that need, saying, "We will cut your public services. We will give you higher rates of return. We will make that much more difficult to achieve. We hope that, when we have done that you will sack more workers, sell more land, privatise the sector, and make up the difference." Basically, that is what British Rail did, and that is how it ran its finances.

When the Secretary of State tells us about investment, I hope that he will tell us how much of the investment is provided by the Government. Conservative Members often tell me that the Government have put money into the railway system, so I hope that they will tell us what proportion of investment has come from fares and how much has come from the Government. I hope that the Secretary of State will not tell us how much investment the Government have sanctioned, because legislation requires them to give that sanction. I want to know how much the Government have actually given. That is the key question. Because of this system, the passenger is taking the strain, not the British Rail system.

The Government's attitude has created real problems. The financial framework has caused considerable difficulties. Today's edition of The Guardian provides further examples. We see that the public service obligation target for the south-east region might have to be reduced and that it is hoped to eliminate it by 1992. That will mean higher fares. Because the corporate review assumed that growth would be twice the rate that it is, and that property prices would be higher than they are, British Rail is now facing a financial crisis. In the next month, it will make further great losses and will be unable to meet its financial targets. Once again, it will be on the financial rack and no doubt the Government will come along and change the corporate plan. The Secretary of State knows that, when he announced the corporate plan, I said that it could not work, that there would be financial difficulties and that he would have to review it. I shall wait, and then I shall again say, "I told you so."

Although the Secretary of State need not take any notice of me because many other people are saying the same thing, he should consider whether there is any substance in those arguments and if there is, he should heed them. The Secretary of State fails to listen to any arguments—

No, I shall not give way again—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] No, I shall not give way.

That is why we legitimately charge the Government with being Tory luddites towards high-speed rail. I often hear the Secretary of State talking about the train grand vitesse as if we do not understand it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has been on a TGV—we have only just managed to force him on to the railways in Britain—but I was on a TGV only last week, yet again, and can advise him that travelling at nearly 200 mph is an impressive experience.

However, I must now shock the right hon. Gentleman by telling him that that train carries post and high-value freight. The Secretary of State should understand that that train does not only carry passengers. It carries freight of considerable value. The Secretary of State often says that we do not understand that. However, when he made his decision about the tunnel, he denied us the opportunity of achieving a high-speed link this century.

If the Secretary of State cannot accept our criticism of this country's infrastructure, I refer him to what was said by John Banham at a conference that I attended. The Times reported:
"An image of Britain paralysed by traffic jams, scorned by its continental counterparts and isolated economically on the edge of Europe was outlined yesterday by John Banham"—
hardly a Labour party member. The Times reported John Banham as saying:
"The government had to overcome its 'allergy to strategic thinking' and begin work on a national transport strategy, backed by public funds, if Britain was to avoid entering the 21st century with 'the worst transport infrastructure in northern Europe.'"
John Banham could have taken that from "Moving Britain into the 1990s." We said it 12 months ago. Even the CBI, therefore, makes the same criticisms about Britain's transport system as we make.

When the Secretary of State came to the House to make that statement—

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "This is organised; it is cheating."] This is an Opposition day, but is it acceptable for the Opposition spokesman to speak for 29 minutes without outlining one aspect of their policy?

The hon. Gentleman ought to know that that is not a matter for the Chair.

The hon. Gentleman was a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department at one time and knows all about discipline in the Department of Transport.

Since we have been so right on many issues, I hope that the Secretary of State will listen to us on this occasion, so that we do not have to keep on saying, "We told you so." The Secretary of State made a statement last week about why he could not accept the joint project. He made it clear, as did the Prime Minister, that £1.9 billion would be needed to subsidise the project. When one inquires into that figure, however, one finds that £400 million is accounted for by terminus costs and improvements at King's Cross to cater for express trains from Kent. That is part of the developments in the south-east and ought not to be charged against Eurorail. A further £310 million is for freight trains. That cannot legitimately be charged to Eurorail. Then, £700 million is for the rolling-stock at Waterloo and for the rolling stock to take passengers and freight to the north.

The Secretary of State told the House that repayment would not be due until 2010. I accept what he said about that. However, he did not tell the House that the total amount would be repaid on that date. The debts will not start to be repaid from 2010. Will the Secretary of State confirm that all the money, plus interest payments, will be paid in 2010 and that the debt repayment will not just begin in 2010? That is important to the financing of such a crucial project.

The £500 million deficit between estimated revenue and the amount that Eurorail has provided is almost wholly due to Government intervention. They demanded a private partner. British Rail could have started this project two years ago. When they insisted on a private partner for British Rail they demanded that the rate of return should be 18 per cent. instead of 8 per cent. That adds to the cost when assessing whether a project will be profitable—a point that was made by Bob Reid. He pointed out that one can borrow at 8 per cent. from the Treasury.

When the Prime Minister was engaged in electioneering during the Kent county council elections, she said, "Don't worry: vote Tory; we'll build tunnels and your environmental concerns will be looked after." Such a costly tunnelling operation for the line would certainly cost more than £500 million.

The Government say that they do not believe in intervention, but by their own actions they scuppered the project. Therefore, Britain has been denied the opportunity to invest both private and public money in a high-speed link. In its editorial, The Daily Telegraph—hardly a militant in the Labour party—said:
"In isolation, a refusal to commit public funds to support a project that is ultimately expected to benefit private shareholders may sound rational. But this newspaper sees the decision as an example of the muddled thinking which has bedevilled the Government's transport policy in recent years."
The article concluded by saying:
"For the time being, however, it is dismaying to note that Mr. John Prescott, Labour's front bench spokesman, has sounded considerably more convincing than his government counterpart in his analysis of the transport issue this week."
I am not inclined to blow my own trumpet, but it was nice to read that in The Daily Telegraph.

The Government's two-year delay has damaged out prestige and made it more difficult for British Rail to move into the 21st century. The way forward must be to review all the options. I asked the previous Secretary of State for Transport the same question 18 months ago and was told that that would cause delay. There is, however, to be a review of all the options, so there will be further delay. It is a pity that the Government did not take any notice of what we said 18 months ago.

On section 42, the Secretary of State said in his last statement to the House, that there would be no subsidies and that I was a firm advocate of that policy. I hope that he will withdraw those comments when he has checked the facts. I asked for evidence of that, but his Department failed to produce it. I can explain why—there was no debate on section 42 as such; it simply passed through both Houses, for a number of reasons. I was not involved and it is incorrect to say that I was. I believe that there should be a review of section 42. I assume that public money is now becoming available because section 56 was mentioned at the conference, when it was suggested that there was a possibility of using it to help in the channel tunnel investment. Are we already witnessing public money coming along, with a review of the alternatives of King's Cross and Stratford?

The Secretary of State made great play of the fact that, according to him, I said on "Newsnight" that Labour's alternative of taking the high-speed link to Scotland would be financed by the infrastructure fund. He knows that to be untrue, because he has the script. If he would like me to quote it, I will. I did not say that it would be financed by the fund. I said that, if we were prepared to support the building of an enlarged fund—which we are—more resources could come with the support of Ireland, Belgium and France because they want a high-speed European link. Britain would be in the same position in relation to the infrastructure fund as the French are to the agriculture fund. We could then begin to do it.

Nobody knows what would be the costs of that link. Even the Government do not know, after years of studying the cost of the connection from Folkestone to London. That is why I advocate a review of the financing—wherever the money may come from—of the environmental damage, and of how we can improve the commercial viability of the link, the recommendation for its structure and ownership and the best connection to London. Those are the criteria that could be involved in a new link, and I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider.

I am bound to say that it is beginning to appear as though the Government are adopting the Labour party policy that we have advocated for the best part of two years—that is reviewing the options, reconsidering public money, considering the EC structure fund and studying the possibility of introducing high-speed trains, as defined in Europe, with speeds up to 200 mph. The Government's policy on that is a total failure. They fail to understand the potential of a high-speed rail system. It offers the greatest potential to help us to reduce congestion; to reduce the ever-increasing environmental damage to our system; to provide a fast, safe, modern transport system for passengers and freight; and to take British Rail into the 21st century.

That is necessary for Britain, not only so that it does not remain geographically on the periphery of Europe, but so that it gets into the centre by the provision of high-speed links. If the Government fail to provide that, as they appear to be doing, this century, the next Labour Government—who are surely on their way—will ensure that it does happen. Indeed, we are actually planning now to ensure that it is brought about.

4.37 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"congratulates the Government for pursuing a balanced transport policy involving record investment by the public and private sector in every aspect of the nation's transport systems; recognises that this is the only way to give the customer more choice and a better quality of service; applauds the Government for the high priority it gives to all matters of safety; welcomes the contribution that the Channel Tunnel can make to improving links to the Continent of Europe and the £2 billion of investment in road and rail which will ensure the tunnel is fully serviced from the day it opens in 1993; commends the Government's support for the development of high speed trains which will be jointly owned by Britain, France and Belgium and which will operate in all three countries; commends British Rail for developing plans for high speed freight services from all parts of the United Kingdom to the tunnel; and calls on the Opposition to cease its policy of denigrating Britain.'."
It would be a relief to everybody if the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) stood by what he said he would do today and stopped constantly appearing on the television the moment after an accident, trying to blame it on something he calls "cuts". I shall tell him what prompted my remarks on Saturday, and it might actually interest him to know that many people recognised what I was referring to. The Labour party's document states:
"The tragedies of the 1980s—Zeebrugge, Lockerbie, Clapham, Kings Cross—are symbols of a government which has put cost cutting before people's lives."
This is a disgraceful allegation. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Lockerbie incident is under investigation by the police. It involved a terrorist bomb, which was probably put on a plane in Frankfurt. The hon. Gentleman has already made up his mind.

Dr. Swire is a reasonable man and he wants a public inquiry. He believes that the hon. Gentleman shares his desire, but the hon. Gentleman has already said in the Labour party document that he does not need an inquiry because it is all down to cost cutting by the Government. That is a disgraceful slur and I invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

Inquiries have not been conducted into the tragedies of Lockerbie and the Marchioness, but all the other inquiries pointed to the inadequacies of the Department of Transport and the cuts that contributed to the deaths. That is what we said in our report.

The hon. Gentleman just demonstrated that he tries to turn every tragedy into a party political matter and to cash in on it.

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for referring to the television programme in which he appeared when I meant to say that it was a radio programme. I recorded a similar programme a couple of nights later. During the programme the hon. Gentleman said in response to a question on the infrastructure fund:
"Britain's infrastructure is so bad we would get the majority of claims upon it and therefore we'd be a bit like the French with the Common Agricultural Fund."
In other words, we would get all the money out of it. Later the hon. Gentleman went on to say that the route up to Scotland would cost between £10 billion and £15 billion depending on what route was decided upon. He said:

"I think that the Community will be quite prepared to give it as a European infrastructure of a … quite a proportion of that."
I do not know quite what that sentence means as, in common with most of the hon. Gentleman's sentences, it does not finish. As I understand it, he acknowledged that his plans would cost between £10 billion and £15 billion. He said that quite a proportion of that cost could come from the infrastructure fund, but at that time the fund stood at £40 million. Last week, the Council of Ministers unanimously agreed to an ad hoc fund for another three years totalling £80 million. The final amount has yet to be settled, but that sum was the Commissioner's ambition. If the hon. Gentleman expects to receive quite a proportion of a fund totalling £80 million only, it is clear that £10 billion will account for many, many years of the accounts of that fund.

The hon. Gentleman is sponsored by the National Union of Seamen of which he is extremely proud and he speaks out for it. That union was violently in favour of section 42. At that time, did he disagree with his union? In the recent debate the hon. Gentleman said that he had changed his mind. Does that mean that he was never in favour of section 42 or that he previously supported it, but no longer?

So the hon. Gentleman did support section 42, but he has changed his mind. I thank him for acknowledging that.

Can my right hon. Friend clarify whether we have had a clear statement from the Opposition on transport? We have not had such clarification from the Opposition. Are we to assume that the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) are speaking as the paid hacks of the National Union of Seamen and the National Union of Railwaymen? There appears to be no clear distinction between their remarks on behalf of those unions and the Opposition's transport policy.

That is a matter for the hon. Gentlemen.

This is the fourth debate that we have had on the railways in the past four months—three of them have been initiated by the Opposition, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East reminded us. Railways are an important part of our transport infrastructure, but, unlike the hon. Gentleman, we accept the need to keep their contribution in perspective. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the railways carry 7 per cent. of our freight and 8 per cent. of our passengers. We want to see those percentages grow and we are giving substantial backing to that end. Even if those percentages doubled—that would require huge investment and cause huge problems—it would still mean that 86 per cent. of our freight and 84 per cent. of our passengers would use other means of transport.

We recognise the contribution that the railways can make, but, unlike the Opposition, we are not obsessed about that. We are not unbalanced in our attitude to the railways. We see the railways as an important contribution towards solving our transport problems, but we do not consider them as the answer to those problems—that is the impression that the hon. Gentleman gives the whole time.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the percentages quoted are typically misleading and are, unfortunately, the sort of statistics that have emanated from the Department of Transport for too many years? The figures on freight include local deliveries, milk floats and all sorts of deliveries that are carried on the road, with which the railways would not and could not compete. We are talking about the contribution that rail freight could make at the heaviest end of the freight market over long distances. Given the right hon. Gentleman's palpable ignorance, he should be told that as his Department has, in the past 10 years, twice increased lorry weights and once increased lorry speeds, it is not surprising that the rail freight business is now facing a financial crisis.

Even if we doubled the percentages for rail freight and rail passengers, 86 per cent. of our freight and 84 per cent. of our passengers would still travel by other means of transport. Those figures are accepted and are comparable with the figures for other countries.

I shall not give way as I want to press on.

My second criticism of the Opposition is their reluctance—

No, not at the moment.

My second criticism of the Opposition is their reluctance to say anything good about this country and anything bad about others. The implication is that Britain in general and British rail in particular are totally out of step with other countries.

Recently I was looking at Railway Gazette International and I read about a railway system that is looking to reorganise itself. The article said:
"The chosen management matrix mirrors British Rail's sector structure of five businesses that has stood the acid test of survival in a fully deregulated transport environment … The changes spring from a management audit by four consultants completed last September and concluded that insufficient attention was being paid to economic realities, that trains were run with little concern for profit".
That railway organisation, which is looking to model itself on British Rail, is SNCF. It has decided that it must move towards an organisation similar to British Rail and to start to put economies first.

I also read about another railway company much admired by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley). It has appointed a commission to look at the intractable problem of the long-term financial stability of its railways. We are told:
"The model chosen has leanings towards the business sector approach pioneered by British Rail".
The article said of that much admired railway system:
"Can it be that"
the chairman's team
"is at last getting a hold on the dinosaur?"
That is what is happening in the German railway system. The French and German railway systems do not regard British Rail as a joke, but are modelling their management structures on it.

The European Commission does not think that the Government's transport policy is wrong. We are in the process of creating a common market in transport and in road, rail, air, and sea transport Britain is taking the lead in promoting liberalisation. A vital part of the Commission's transport policy is the removal of subsidies that distort competition while recognising their acceptability for social reasons in special circumstances. The Commission is not planning to see Europe with a huge range of heavily subsidised railways. So the Commission is planning to follow precisely the policy of the Government—[interruption.]—of eliminating subsidy and concentrating it on areas where there are special reasons for it.

I urge the right hon. Gentleman to recall the words in the Government amendment, which commends

"British Rail for developing plans for high speed freight services from all parts of the United Kingdom".
That aspect applies in particular to my part of the north-west because, if the channel tunnel is not used and developed properly, it will be a disadvantage rather than an advantage to us. It will place us further from the centre of Europe if its lines are not developed through to the north-west. The freight depot in my constituency concerns me most, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware. We do not want to remain on the periphery, but we fear that we may become even more peripheral as the tunnel proceeds. We want to be integrated into the railway network of the whole of Europe.

I was about to deal with the channel tunnel and discuss the point that the right hon. Gentleman raised.

I hope that my hon. Friend will permit me to continue. He has many opportunities to voice his opinions about the railways, and I am sure he will have an opportunity again.

I wish, in dealing with the channel tunnel, to start by referring to the reaction to my announcement, and in particular, to the Opposition's reaction, which showed the lack of balance that is rapidly becoming the hallmark of Labour Members. I announced that the Eurorail joint venture would not go ahead, and I gave the reasons for that decision. I shall be happy to send the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East a copy of the letter that I sent to British Rail and to Eurorail explaining my reasons.

I pointed out that the £500 million direct grant might have been acceptable, but that, coupled with a demand for an additional £350 million to £400 million of investment by British Rail to support the commuter link, it represented too great an expense to be covered by the benefits to the commuter link.

I also pointed out that it was an investment of £1 billion—the hon. Gentleman was right to quote that figure—in all the equipment for phases one and two of the channel tunnel. The consortium wanted to take over all those assets and all the income from them and to repay in the year 2010. So the assets would have been acquired—taken over—the loan would have been outstanding, ranking behind every creditor in the event of anything going wrong, and no repayment of any sort would have been made until 2010. That is why I mentioned £1·9 billion, being the investment, the grant and the soft loan.

I went on to say that in addition, in practice the Government were substantially underwriting any cost overruns. When I questioned that, I was told, "If anything goes wrong, you can put in a receiver, buy the assets cheaply and finish it as a public sector project." That would have been unacceptable, so we came to the conclusion that that link was not a sensible proposition.

What I announced, and what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East ignored, was that the line to the north downs would be confirmed, that Kings Cross was agreed as the second terminal and that the new chairman would appoint consultants to examine all the proposals and decide the best way to get from the north downs to Kings Cross. In other words, the idea that the project was scrubbed was totally and utterly wrong.

There are certain basic points that the hon. Gentleman and others should remember. The first is that freight was never part of the Eurorail proposal. The proposal was for a 72-mile passenger link from Folkestone to Kings Cross. The freight arrangements that Eurorail envisages are those that we have put in hand. The equipment and carriages have been ordered and British Rail is now searching for the depots, and I appreciate that the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) wants one in his constituency.

The notion—also referred to in the Opposition motion—that the regions are in any way disadvantaged by my decision is, from the freight and business point of view, wrong. Our freight will run with the most modern fleet of freight trains at comparable speeds to those in Europe. They will go straight through the tunnel and all the regions will be served.

In considering passengers, again there have been many misunderstandings. British Rail will be putting on 3 million seats from areas outside the south-east and the trains will go through by direct line—direct route without stop—to the tunnel.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that we do not have any trains. We authorised the first 30 trains. We authorised the freight trains—

We authorised them some time ago, before Christmas. We have done more. The first tranche of trains to service the tunnel has been ordered. The freight trains were ordered subsequently and the North Pole and Waterloo were recently authorised. We give the approvals as applications come forward.

The first tranche of high-speed trains has been ordered, and when British Rail comes forward with its proposals, they will receive the normal consideration. We are ordering trains as they are recommended to us and, as I say, we have ordered the first 30 high-speed passenger trains. They have already been ordered.

The others will follow—[Interruption.] As applications come forward, they are approved and no twisting is involved. It is clear that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, having had little experience of running anything, does not understand how these things work. We do not order everything simultaneously. The trains will be ordered and they will run through.

No, I shall not give way.

We are talking of a common pool of trains, which will be ordered by ourselves, the French and the Belgians and which will be jointly owned. The trains that come through the tunnel will be the trains that leave Paris and go to their British destinations. As we order new trains, which will be there in time for the opening—

The hon. Gentleman expresses doubt about the freight trains. They have been ordered. He expresses doubt about the fast trains. They, too, have been ordered. He expresses doubt about the freight terminal. It has been authorised. Everything will be ordered and the tunnel will be serviced, and all the regions will be serviced, from the day the tunnel opens.

No, I have already answered the hon. Gentleman's point. He is attempting his usual trick of trying to dance on a pinhead, which nature did not design him to do.

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of investment, may I inform him that I am receiving from my constituents—a typical letter yesterday came from a Mrs. Guaschi—complaints that we are favouring road against rail. They say that far too much investment is going into roads from Government funds and too little into rail. Will my right hon. Friend explain how much uneven treatment we are giving to the roads as against the rail system?

On the national roads programme, in the three years starting this year, we shall be spending £5.7 billion. On the rail and underground systems—public transport—we shall be investing £6.2 billion. On local roads, a further £2 billion will be invested by local authorities. The sums to be spent on the national road network are less than the sums to be spent on rail and the underground.

We have heard today from the Opposition about policy. I kept a note. The first 14 minutes of the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East were devoted to personal abuse and the next 14 to a ramble round the thicket, and finally the hon, Gentleman said that he was in favour of some sort of fast link, which would be funded in a way about which he would let us know at some future time. It was an expression of hope rather than a commitment.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands East (Mr. Smith) and the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) have said that they are not committed to anything other than uprating child benefit and pensions, and everything else will have to compete for available resources. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East today offered us nothing except an expression of vain hope.

While the Opposition dream their dreams, we are getting on with the business of modernising Britain. We shall invest—

Order. The Secretary of State has made it abundantly clear that he is not prepared to give way. I hope that hon Members will resume their seats.

Over the next three years, British Rail will invest in rail some £3.7 billion—the largest sum that it will have invested for some time. Its new chairman told me that the sum is bigger than the combined investment programmes of Shell and Esso UK—two huge companies. The Opposition want to know how that will be financed and I shall tell them if they will listen.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, said that that would be paid for out of fares. That is his favourite assertion and he even got the Leader of the Opposition to make it. The fares paid to British Rail will produce a loss of £600 million over the next three years. Therefore, in addition to funding that loss, it has to find a further £3.7 billion, making a total of £4,300 million. Therefore, I hope that we have made it clear that the investment will not be paid for from fares because the fares do not even cover the expenses.

The sum of £1,600 million will come from grants, directly or indirectly, from the Treasury. The £900 million will come from the realisation by British Rail of property assets that belong to the taxpayer. Some £800 million will come from the reinvestment of the depreciation, which every sensible Government and organisation carries out, and the £1,000 million will come in the form of loans from the national loans fund at favourable rates of interest. That is a balanced way of funding a huge programme. At the end of an investment period in which British Rail will have lost £600 million and invested £3.7 billion, its debt will have increased by less than £1 billion.

Is the Secretary of State saying, in answer to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page), that the national roads programme—which I think he said was £5.7 billion—will come out of taxpayer' money, whereas the money from central Government for this massive rail investment programme is £1.6 billion? That is the answer to the question posed by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West.

The taxpayer owns British Rail. Therefore, if assets are realised, it is perfectly reasonable for the money to be reinvested. That is how British Rail will fund its programme. It is turning assets into cash and reinvesting it. The notion that the reinvestment is being paid for by the fare payer is raging nonsense. British Rail has a balanced way of funding a huge investment programme.

I shall translate that money into projects. The east coast main line electrification will be finished by the spring of next year. Network SouthEast will have modernised lines on the north Kent and Chiltern lines. All the provincial network—everything but Network SouthEast and InterCity—will have modernised trains within two years. They are being introduced now in a steady programme. Thameslink is to have massive investment to improve north-south connections.

I am sure that hon. Members will have read last week that British Rail announced a £700 million plan for the total upgrading of the west coast main line. A huge investment programme is under way. It is being translated from money into improvements, which will appear progressively for the benefit of British Rail users. The Government support that programme.

Some £6,200 million is being invested in British Rail and London Underground, and over the same period the Underground will invest some £2.5 billion. The London Underground subsidy will double during the next three years, and total more than £1,700 million.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, talks about the £85 million reduction over three years in Network SouthEast and the £55 million reduction in the provincial lines. However, London Underground is colossally subsidised and backed up by huge investment programmes to provide modern rolling stock to reduce costs. Will the hon. Gentleman bear it in mind that, at the same time, we are adding more than £1,000 million to the subsidy paid to London Underground compared with the previous three years? Therefore, far from reductions in subsidies to public transport, there has been a huge change.

In the Confederation of British Industry brief that we have all received, the CBI says of grants that it wants recognition of

"the environmental benefits of rail by providing environmental grants where necessary, or by reducing the rate of return required on investment."
When it is convenient in his speech, will the Secretary of State reflect on the CBI's suggestion?

I can give the hon. Gentleman my answer now. In the business plan for the next three years that we agreed with British Rail, we stated that cost benefit could be taken into account in making rail investment and giving grants for transferring freight from road to rail. I have just said that, in the proposal for the channel tunnel rail link, we were prepared to look at the benefits to Network SouthEast commuters and make a contribution towards the cost of that link. However, at the end of the day, the contribution desired and the support needed were too big. But the principle was there, and we were prepared to make grants up to £500 million.

I have talked about the huge investment programme in the railways and the biggest ever investment programme in the underground. We also have huge programmes for the extension of the docklands light railway, the modernisation of the Central line and the replacement of the rolling stock on all the underground lines by 1994, other than the Northern line, which should be completely modernised by 1995. A huge programme, including new lines, is in hand to improve London's underground system.

During the survey period of three years, we shall invest £5,700 million in the roads programme—the biggest investment programme for many years. The reasons for that were set out in the White Paper, "Roads for Prosperity". They are to improve our economic performance, the environment and safety. It is a huge programme, involving the improvement of our trunk roads and motorways.

We have released the ports from the iniquitous dock work labour scheme. The net result is that all our ports are looking forward to investment and expansion.

I opened the third London airport terminal, which has been totally modernised, enlarged and improved. It is effectively a new terminal, adding to the new terminal at Heathrow opened a couple of years ago and to the one at Gatwick opened a little before. Next year a new terminal will open at Stansted and that will make a massive improvement to London's airport capacity. There are effectively three new terminals and the fourth will be opened next March. People criticise Britain and say that the French are thinking of building a new airport, which will make them enormously strong, but as I say, next March will see the opening of a fourth new terminal serving London.

We recognise the importance of rail, but we do not overestimate, as the Opposition do, its significance. We recognise the need to modernise the whole of our transport system. In spite of predictions from the Opposition, the results of negotiations with the Treasury, which were announced last year, have shown that over the previous three years the Department of Transport had an increase from £8 billion to £14 billion in its budget for the infrastructure and improving our transport systems. In addition, the private sector is investing in airports, roads and light railways. More money than ever is being reinvested and invested in Britain's transport systems. We are playing our part in Europe by leading the way for liberalisation in aviation, shipping and road cabotage.

While the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East flies over to France in his helicopter and has his little trip on the TGV, we stay at home and get on with the business of creating a modern system. We cannot take the hon. Gentleman seriously. We reckon that if he were ever in government—which is highly unlikely—he would be lucky to get from the Treasury enough money to pay for the letters of apology that he would have to write to all the people whom he has been misleading. He knows that the Labour party has never been a reliable investor in transport and that it will not be in future.

5.11 pm

Having listened to the Secretary of State, I wonder what world he lives in because it is not my world or that of the people whom I represent. The Government's 11-year record on transport is a disaster. We are experiencing a transport crisis. I do not propose to become embroiled in arguments about relative investments, the building of additional motorways and plans that are in the pipeline. I shall speak of the reality that people experience every day. That experience tells them that, no matter how much argument takes place in the House, we are experiencing a transport crisis.

I challenge any hon. Member to deny that the transport system throughout the country is in a mess. It is obvious to anyone who tries to drive in and out of London or to travel anywhere at all on the M25. The motorway was planned and opened by the Government, and on the day it opened it had one of the largest traffic jams in the country. That is the sort of thing that people are exeriencing. Anyone who tries to travel through the Dartford tunnel will see the misery that faces our motorists. Anyone lucky enough to catch an InterCity train anywhere near peak travelling times will have to sit or even stand in crowded and often dirty carriages.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that from last month the InterCity service that he and I use has had increased capacity as a result of line electrification on the east coast? Units have been transferred from the east coast to the Cardiff service and the capacity on each train has been increased by one seventh.

I am not aware of that. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that by the mid-1990s Bristol and Cardiff and south Wales in general will be the only large population centres in Europe without an electrified main line link, and that may soon include eastern Europe? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shares my worries about the effect of poor rail links on the economies of the areas concerned. That needs to be addressed rather rapidly by the Government.

There may have been some minor improvements, but anyone who manages to catch a train on Network SouthEast will suffer the experiences that I have described. Such experiences are not confined to London and the south-east, as anyone who tries to cross the Severn bridge at peak hours and is subject to the delays caused by repairs and the toll will testify. Hon. Members should try to drive past Manchester on the M6 during the rush hour and see the sort of traffic jams that people there are experiencing.

I vividly recall the unfortunate experience of having to drive from Cardiff to Glasgow during the spring bank holiday last year. Near Telford I hit a traffic jam on the M5 which stretched for almost 80 miles. I am told that it was because it was bank holiday weekend and because there was an important cup match in Liverpool between Arsenal and Liverpool. There is no excuse or explanation for such congestion.

The focus of the crisis in our transport system was highlighted a week or two ago when the Secretary of State for Transport made his disastrous announcement about the cancellation of the high-speed link to the channel tunnel. I do not share his view that in the short and medium term that does not matter much. It matters a great deal. It was a disastrous announcement and will have considerable consequences, not only for our transport system but for Britain's credibility.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a long lead time from a decision to the moment when a road or any transport project is opened? The hon. Gentleman spoke of the M25. Does he accept that part of the reason for the appalling congestion on that road may be decisions made some time ago, some of them by Labour Administrations, especially in relation to the inner London ringway?

I agree that there is a long lead time on large projects. I understand that the lead time for the high-speed link to the channel tunnel is about 11 years, which makes one wonder whether anything will ever be done now that everything seems to be back in the melting pot.

The decision about the high-speed rail link will give rise to even more overcrowding on our trains, especially in the south-east, and it will lead to more worry. That point has been missed. If we do not have a direct service, even more heavy freight will be squeezed off our railways and on to the roads resulting in even more congestion. That is worrying.

Is not the real point that, whether or not we had the high speed rail link that was being proposed, the freight plan would in no way have been altered? A number of us are pleased about the present delay because it gives us one last chance to reassess the freight link to see whether British Rail's original proposal stands up to the potential of a freight-carrying capacity on British Rail which we believe could operate in the 21st century.

My understanding is different. I understand that it is a question of capacity. Trade and passengers will be competing for the same line and that will push yet more on to the roads.

Even worse is the effect of the Government's decision on Britain's reputation. On the day that the announcement was made, south Wales business men, with the assistance and co-operation of the Welsh CBI, were hosting a tremendous European business initiative. At the height of those worthwhile endeavours, they heard that the Government had cancelled the high-speed link to the channel tunnel. I understand that that became a bit of a joke with their French and German counterparts. Fast trains from Frankfurt or Paris will have to travel much more slowly on the English side of the channel because of the track here.

For me, the reality is not the gloomy national picture that everybody experiences either directly or through their television screens. The real illustration of the present transport crisis and the Government's disastrous record over the past 11 years is the experience of my constituents and those of many other hon. Members.

I represent an area which is predominantly rural and suburban. My consitutents are experiencing a transport crisis because there has been a breakdown in the area's transport system. Just as there are trouble spots in Britain, so there are in my constituency. My constituents cannot get into their cars and be sure of arriving at work on time. They do not have the choice of catching a train because there is no passenger service. They reach the trouble spots, particularly in the east of my constituency, such as Culverhouse Cross, and find themselves stuck in a traffic jam.

My constituency has developed, and its population has grown, but its transport system has not grown to meet its needs. My constituents, like those of many hon. Members, experience traffic jams in the morning and heavy traffic as they travel through tiny villages, such as Lysworney in the west of my constituency which has a single lane road going through it carrying heavy lorries laden with stone and industrial freight from the nearby industrial estate. In the east of my constituency two popular suburbs, Dinas Powys and Sully, experience heavy traffic and high volumes of traffic. That is now becoming a safety issue for parents of young children and an environmental issue because of the exhaust fumes and other environmentally hazardous products that are emitted. Similar problems are experienced throughout the constituency. Even our national airport is served by a single carriageway road interspersed with roundabouts which one cannot get round. It is a mess.

Yet a solution has existed for a long time—to invest in the existing rail link which runs through the constituency like a spinal cord. That would solve not all but most of our transport problems and would assist in cleaning up the environment. Everyone who lives in the area recognises that the solution to our transport problems is an investment in the railway, opening a passenger rail link to the airport and those rural and suburban towns in the west of the constituency as soon as possible.

That is not the decision that British Rail has reached, or can reach, however, because investment in our railways has been neglected for so long. The absurd accounting system for our railways and the introduction of sectorisation makes it difficult if not impossible to reopen that rail link. It is a tragedy. Every sensible person and organisation living in or operating from my constituency says that there is one, and only one, solution to our transport problem—the reopening of the passenger railway.

That is the case that I put to the House, and I do so because it reflects the problems throughout Britain. If the Government fail to take up the challenge and to invest quickly in our railways, escaping the ideological dogma which prevents them from subsidising a fast, efficient network in any way, we shall be in trouble. I look forward to a change of Government and to a Secretary of State for Transport who takes a far more pragmatic approach to the problems that we face and who is prepared to use public and private investment in the creation of a fast, efficient rail network.

5.27 pm

Rail transport, with its associations with other forms of transport in Britain, is a major issue which deserves serious treatment and which should rise above petty personalities and party quarrels. That is what the country expects and it is certainly what my constituents expect.

I propose to devote my time to the questions which affect my constituents, and I do so quite unashamedly because they tend to be overlooked, certainly in Government quarters and in other quarters of the House. Those who share their anxieties with me will, given the opportunity today, doubtless explain them.

We all welcome what the Secretary of State has said about the amount to be invested in transport generally during the next three years. I do not believe that it is possible to review transport problems in three years. That is a short-term view and it is certainly not one which the Japanese take. One has to take a long-term view when dealing with roads, rail and airports. But we welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement.

I wish that my right hon. Friend had clarified to a greater extent how much is being contributed by the Treasury to particular forms of transport and how much is coming from other sources, in particular for rail. Major and smaller roads are financed by central or local government, and the amount involved is vast, but the sum invested by central Government in rail is much smaller. I wish that that had been made clear from the beginning.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will say how he views the overall transport problem, because there can be no doubt that it is enormous. When the M25, for example, was designed, obviously the wrong judgments were made about the required capacity. It is said that, when the demand for a better rail link arises, it will be met, but that is a fatal approach. When the demand arises, it will be too late to meet it, and one will have another M25 situation. One must think ahead, if only because new transport facilities create their own users. That is what happened with the M25.

When the fast link in available, it too will create its own passengers. People will prefer to go to a railway station close to their home or place of work and use a fast link, rather than have to drive to the airport, to arrive there half or three quarters of an hour early, and on returning have to wait for baggage and then face a lengthy journey back to their home or office. A fast rail link would create its own market.

My right hon. Friend emphasised the importance of achieving the correct balance, but there is a danger that one may not pursue the right priorities. Tht happened with motorways. One can think of numerous motorways that have not been fully completed, in the sense that they go so far but then come to an abrupt end. The M27 in the south of England is an example. That happens because we have never said that the priority must be to complete a motorway to its full extent before starting work on another. If we had done so, the motorway network would have been completed more speedily, and much more would have been achieved overall. It is on the question of balance that the rail link will also suffer.

In the case of the M4, only a two-way highway connects it to London, yet high-rise buildings are still being constructed alongside that highway. Does anyone imagine that that highway is adequate today? It is hopeless. Does anyone imagine that we shall go on to eternity with just a two-way highway leading to the west? One finds that new construction is also being permitted alongside inadequate roads leading in and out of other cities. A long-term overall strategy is required, by which we will say, "Such construction cannot be undertaken because we need better road facilities to help our economy in years to come."

The situation in London is catastrophic, yet apparently there is no plan for dealing with it. The Government have no intention of doing so, and there is no overall authority that will even consider tackling that task. It would have been helpful if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had devoted at least part of his speech to acknowledging the problems that affect so many people.

I have often wondered whether it would be possible for some clever group to calculate the loss of time, energy and cost, in terms of strain, to the workers of this country resulting from the failure of our traffic system. If anyone made such a calculation, they would be absolutely shattered, and would see how necessary it is to spend money and to make an effort to achieve solutions.

I unashamedly turn to my constituency problem, which concerns the fast rail link—an issue that has been going on for two and a half years. We thought that British Rail had reached a firm decision on the route to be used. Many right hon. and hon. Members have had a close association with British Rail over that time, and it was sad to find that it was inadequate to deal with a new rail link—but as it would be the first this century, perhaps that is understandable. Nevertheless, British Rail did not appear to have the technical knowledge required, nor had it surveyed the technical progress made by countries on the other side of the channel.

At the enormous public meetings that we held, which could in no way be called political occasions, there were people who had taken the trouble to visit France, Germany and even Japan to study the rail systems there, and whose knowledge left the British Rail representatives standing silent. They had nothing to say. They did not have that information themselves, and could not comment on it. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State quoted the praise given by other countries to British Rail. That made me wonder why it is necessary to privatise it, but that is something that I would not mention except in polite company.

The continuing difficulties with the fast rail link presents personal problems for many people. I quote from the letter that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sent to me after I had written to him with the views of a particular constituent:
"I hope that at least I have reassured"
my constituent
"that the question of the route into London is an entirely open one, which is being looked at afresh by British Rail, and that at this stage no particular route is earmarked or about to be announced."
Far from being reassuring, that is a fatal condemnation.

At this moment, the whole of south and south-east London, as well as an area in the country that extends to the north downs, is under blight. If one of my constituents is promoted to or offered another job in a different part of the country, he cannot accept it because he cannot sell his house. As soon as people know the location of the property, they say, "The fast link may be routed through here, or there, or somewhere else. In any case, we wouldn't touch it." Similarly, people who want to move to the coast or some other part of the country to retire cannot do so because they are unable to sell a house that is under blight.

We thought that the issue was settled when British Rail announced its preferred route, but that scheme was killed and a new one begun with Eurolink. That too appears to have been wiped out, and nobody knows where they are. The only certain thing is that property owners are under blight, and that is ruining their lives. Leaving aside the great strategy involving roads, rail and airports, one must take into account the ordinary citizens in my constituency, and in those of many right hon. and hon. Members, who cannot live their lives.

I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend was present when I made a statement about 10 days ago, saying that the only proposal that has ever been made is still on the table and that the compensation scheme applying to that particular route is being retained. If anyone is threatened by that proposal, compensation is available. There are no other proposals on the table. The only one that exists is protected by a compensation scheme.

With respect, my right hon. Friend completely misunderstands the position. His letter to me says that the new chairman of British Rail will examine all possibilities. Even more frightening is his comment:

"our main concern is to get the right route and to give the new Chairman of British Rail all the time he needs to decide what proposals in his view"—
and so on. My constituents will say that, if the new chairman is given
"all the time he needs",
there is no knowing how long that process will take.

If one was starting from scratch, one might say, "Yes, this is the right approach", but after all that we have gone through in the past two and a half years, and after all the anxiety that my constituents have suffered, that is horrifying.

So much emphasis has been placed on the fact that the link will be largely used for freight. Also, there is the question of helping commuters, which is where the issue begins to get muddled—but perhaps I am a very suspicious type. When there is talk of helping the commuter, I wonder whether that is a way to get money into the system for the link.

There is nothing wrong with it, but it goes against everything that has been said about section 42, which has bedevilled the whole discussion. [Interruption.] With great respect, it has. It was never discussed in Committee and was brought about by the lobbying of the ferry people, who are terrified of what would happen with the chunnel. As a result, section 42 was put in.

I shall not blame the Opposition spokesman, because the Government are responsible for legislation. I am not interested in him; I never have been.

I have challenged with my right hon. Friend's predecessor whether section 42 precludes the Government from making allowances for expenditure to protect the environment. I have never had an answer.

I believe that section 42 refers to the channel tunnel and the rail link in it. I do not see how it could possibly have referred to a fast link which was going from the channel tunnel right up to Inverness, Liverpool or to the other great cities of this country, which is what is intended. How could one say, as is said in section 42, that there must never be any money to deal with such a situation, unless it is in an attempt to force a cheap privatisation?—and I say that quite bluntly.

We shall never get proper environmental protection unless railways are provided with the funds, and it has to be public funds—no private investor will provide money to protect the environment.

One can juggle the figures how one likes, but the money has to come from the Treasury. People say that we must think of the Community and the fact that it does not want to use public funds for environmental protection, because that means taxation. But the Community does want it. Even though some people's homes are affected, the people of Kent want the link. But they want to see proper environmental protection throughout Kent—and I admit that it is my own county. Other hon. Members representing constituencies there will say the same thing equally strongly.

As regards south London, Bexley, Sidcup, Bromley and the rest, under the last proposal the link was to be tunnelled underneath, which would protect that area. Now that has all been wiped out. Why? Because we are bedevilled by section 42. When the Department of Transport examined the total figures, it said that they were too high, and that, because of section 42, the funds could not be granted. Either section 42 has to be interpreted as I and other hon. Members have suggested—the Department of Transport has never denied that it could not be so interpreted—or section 42 has to be removed. It would only require a one-clause Bill to remove section 42, and then the hands of the Government would be freed to follow a proper environmental policy.

In the past week the Prime Minister has placed enormous emphasis upon the environment. Very well, that is quite right, and I fully support it. She has emphasised the problem of the hole in the ozone layer, which I do not understand. When we had the best summer in our history last year, and everybody said that it was due to the hole in the ozone, I said, "Well, then make the hole a bit bigger." [Laughter.] Then we had the worst storms that we have had for a long time, and people said that that was due to the hole in the ozone, so I said, "Okay, then—close it up again."

What immediately concerns my constituents is not the hole in the ozone layer, but what will happen to their houses and their lives with a fast link. It is already happening. In my constituency, night freight traffic has increased enormously. One reason, obviously, is the building of the channel tunnel, because they have to transport all the materials needed and get the empty trains back. However, it is making the lives of my constituents unbeliveable at night.

The Government tell us that there is no means to compensate people if traffic increases. Perhaps there ought to be. When a motorway is built and it passes through a built-up area, people are compensated for having to install double glass and all the rest of it, to save them from noise and vibration. The Government are bound to do that. That is not the case with the railway, and so houses are damaged and people's lives are suffering.

What will it be like when the same lines are fully utilised for all the Channel tunnel freight? It makes one shudder to think what people will have to put up with, unless a proper tunnel is developed under the houses. It has even been suggested that another line should be put alongside the existing line. A large number of houses will have to come down if that happens and the route comes through my constituency, or many of the adjacent constituencies. Then what will happen?

I notice that the Prime Minister mentioned in an interview the other day that there ought to be proper compensation. On such questions, we British are the nastiest, meanest people in the world, in my experience. For example, consider what happened with motorways in my constituency. People are entitled to compensation, and the district valuer is told to put a value on the property and to start at the lowest possible value. If people want more, the valuer is told to make them work up. Therefore, a group of people have to get a solicitor to enable them to continue to argue the case. In my experience, it sometimes took two or three years to get compensation. That is not tenable. Sometimes, even after that length of time, people did not get the value of the land which was taken away.

If that happens, it will make life impossible for my constituents. Compensation should be considered and dealt with properly. I should like us to go as far as the French. When they build railways, they ask the value of the property and give an increased amount in compensation, because the fast link is passing through and causing disturbance. That is what I should like to see in Britain, but I do not think that the Treasury will ever agree to anything like that.

All these practical points face us at the moment. The letter to which I referred was from a man who wants to sell his property. Someone came along and agreed to sign a contract, but asked whether the fast link would affect the area. He said, "I don't know," and they said, "I'm sorry—we can't sign." His one chance has gone. Those are the human questions which affect this country's rail policy, and I hope that the Secretary of State will concentrate on the issue. It is a question of time.

The new chairman of British Rail has the same advisers as the last one. Are they going to advise him any differently? Are they going to suggest any new ideas? Hon. Members have suggested all sorts of new ideas. Will British Rail now come to any different conclusion? I very much doubt it.

I urge the Secretary of State to realise the human aspect of the issue. We are committed to the tunnel. We ought to have a fast link. The tunnel will affect the country as a whole. Therefore, it is a national issue and environmental expenditure is entitled to be covered by the Treasury. Those are the facts, and I hope that the Government will acknowledge them, accept them and act upon them.

5.48 pm

Once more we have an opportunity to debate railway policy. Unfortunately, the fact that we are debating it means that the Government have failed to learn the lesson of the previous debates.

Of course, we cannot debate railway policy in isolation from the rest of transport policy, as they are interrelated. I welcome the starts mentioned by the Secretary of State today, but they are only starts. It is incredible to think that, four years after the House passed the Channel Tunnel Act, we have not yet been able to agree whether to have a high speed link. More importantly, we do not have any strategic plan or forethought as to how the country can benefit from such major events. That is even more incredible, given that they coincide with the opening up of borders and the breaking down of barriers that 1992 will bring.

It is perhaps part of our heritage that we have never quite managed to take advantage of the innovative capacity and skills that we undoubtedly have. We have set the pace in democracy, in the industrial revolution, in the welfare state and in many other matters—including the building of railways—but each time we have allowed the rest of the world to catch up and pass us by. We are about to allow that to happen again. Our European partners are way ahead of us in devising new transport and implementing systems. It is they who have cornered the markets for 1992. By the time we catch up, there will be little left to capture. In my area, the north-west, transport infrastructure will determine how we can capitalise on the economic opportunities of 1992.

No doubt the hon. Gentleman has learnt of the plans for InterCity, which will reduce the journey time from Manchester to London to under two hours. That will also improve the service to Preston and the area that I represent. We should encourage British Rail in the efforts that it is making.

I am sure that the hon. Lady is right. As I travel on that Preston train I realise that we may now arrive half an hour sooner—if the trains get there on time, as they seem to nowadays.

Not counting the south-east, the north-west is the largest regional contributor to national GDP, and the largest market area for international freight and passenger services. As the plans stand now, the north-west will not realise its potential. Congestion on the roads and railways in the south-east will make the north-west less attractive to tourists, passengers and freight movement. The North West Channel Tunnel Group has produced a report entitled "Capitalising on the Channel Tunnel", which contains excellent ideas for action, including the development of major regional freight terminals in areas such as Merseyside, and calls for a higher level of direct international freight services from the north-west to mainline European cities. All hon. Members should now have received a copy of the report, and I recommend it to the Minister.

I should stress that I am not merely lobbying for the interests of the north-west, as all our regions can and should benefit from the opening of the channel tunnel. It is important that all regions are given the opportunity that good and fast rail links to Europe will provide. A national strategy for our rail network is necessary but, more than that, we should seize the opportunity to introduce strategic analysis and planning for all our transport needs. The congestion that we now face on all our major forms of transport, on our roads and in our towns, is costing the country billions of pounds. More important, it is having devastating environmental and social consequences. We cannot afford to leave those matters to the vagaries of the market as the Government seem to want to do.

When considering transport we must determine what our social, economic and environmental needs are. We must not allow our railways and other transport systems to drift without any clear objectives except the need to make a profit. We must decide what our priorities are and what part public transport and our railways play in them. Any transport policy should have as its objective the freedom of movement of people, goods and services. Access should not necessarily depend on our social or economic circumstances. The most central theme should be the protection of the environment. Land and land use must play an important part in the process. An integrated transport system is the only way forward.

Public transport must play a major part in the achievement of many of those objectives. The railways are an important part of our public transport. They have the potential to relieve congestion on our roads and in airways and they are more environmentally friendly. We must change our attitudes. We must begin to address the imbalance between the investment in roads and investment in railways. In the seven years between 1983 and 1989, public expenditure on roads totalled £22,965 billion whereas expenditure on our railways totalled only £573 billion. We must recognise the true value of our railways. Not only can they ease congestion; they are less destructive to the environment and they provide the means by which we can develop our regions and take advantage of the opportunities that 1992 has to offer.

Railway travel is also safer. Despite the room for improvement in the safety records of British Rail and London Underground, the fact remains that the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads vastly outweighs the number of deaths and injuries on our trains. During the 10 years between 1978 and 1988, there were 62,740 deaths on our roads and 791 on our railways. I do not have the figures for serious injuries, but it is evident that any move to improve rail transport will be beneficial in terms of human costs. In economic terms, it will save some of the many hidden costs attached to road accidents. It is time to apply true cost benefit analysis to potential rail investment. We should treat our railways as a national public utility, in much the same way as we do our roads.

On 12 June the Prime Minister said in the House:
"We take the view that international services should not have subsidies … we do not believe that we should subsidise an international rail service."—[Official Report, 12 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 133.]
Yet the British taxpayer subsidies international road passenger and freight services every day. I am well aware that if the Prime Minister had her way, our roads would no longer be regarded as a public utility, but merely as a tool of private industry. The idea of the private sector providing roads which would run alongside existing motorways fills me with horror. The possibility of the country being strewn with even greater masses of concrete and the consequential environmental effects do not bear thinking about. I am not against new roads as part of an integrated transport policy, but the fact that, in the Prime Minister's proposals, road provision would be determined by market forces and profitability scares me stiff. I hope that the House will strangle such an idea at birth; I am sure that the electorate will.

Railways need far less space than roads. They have a greater capacity and they are faster. With proper investment and the latest technology, even the existing reserve routes could provide reliable, efficient and safe transport for more freight and passengers.

The Secretary of State has said:

"It is a fundamental part of the Government's approach that people's aspirations to have and use a car should not be artificially constrained."
That policy, like so many Government policies, should undergo a review. I should like to make two contributions to that review. So that that policy may succeed, the Secretary of State discriminates against those who, through no fault of their own, do not own a car and against those who choose not to have a car—by penalising the railways and other methods of public transport.

Secondly, and perhaps more important, he penalises all of us by allowing the damage to the environment to continue. In 1987 road traffic emitted 98 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 1.3 million tonnes of nitrogen oxide, 4.47 million tonnes of carbon monoxide and 664,000 tonnes of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. A time may come for some form of artificial constraint on the motorist, and perhaps the policy of subsidising company cars is a good candidate for change. Certainly the congestion in many of our cities calls for some constraint, but penalties should not be introduced without some form of compensation and to provide that, we must make our public transport systems more accessible, more frequent and cheaper.

Heavy duty lorries cause much congestion and pollution and we should be looking at ways to transfer freight from roads to rail. Yet British Rail is to close Speedlink, which is arguably one of the most effective services to compete with the lorry. Claims that the Speedlink represents only 2 or 3 per cent. of BR's freight hide the damage that the closure may cause to certain' areas.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has written to the Secretary of State for Transport expressing his concern about the number of lorries that cause damage, congestion and pollution in towns and villages in Somerset. He gave an example in his letter of the effect of abolishing Speedlink. He referred to the Taunton Cider company and said that the closure of sidings would put 2,000 extra 38 tonne lorries a year on to the streets of Norton Fitzwarren—which is a very small village. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil also made suggestions for encouraging the transfer of freight from road to rail including a national drive to promote grounds for private sidings and for the criteria of section 8 grants to be relaxed.

With the postponement of the high-speed rail link, the number of lorries on our roads will increase even more. British Rail claims that its existing plans for freight will not be affected by the failure to build a high-speed link. However, it is widely recognised that British Rail has a capacity for under-estimating. There is no doubt that bottlenecks on the lines in the south-east will push more freight and passengers on to already congested roads.

Some people will just not bother to come to Britain and we shall lose out on commercial and business opportunities. The Confederation of British Industry has already claimed that congestion on our roads costs £15 billion per year. The CBI and others have called for greater investment in our railways to relieve congestion on our roads and in the air. The CBI has provided us with an excellent list of suggestions, but as usual I expect that the Prime Minister will choose to ignore the advice.

It is strange that the Prime Minister should ignore her friends in business because she sometimes puts great faith in them, but so often they fail to come up with the goods as the saga with the technical colleges clearly shows. Indeed, in that regard I could also refer to the Government's failure to attract private money for the new underground link and also to the failure of the high-speed link.

The Prime Minister may be asking her business friends to take too much of a risk for little return or guarantee. Our European partners and competitors do not have that problem. They can attract greater private finance. There are financial and borrowing restrictions on British Rail, but our European competitors have national strategies. They take into account social and economic factors and work on the basis of the national interest. They are not afraid to plan ahead and they work in partnership with the financial institutions and with developers.

In Germany, the railway is a Government entity. It is run by civil servants and it is successful because it is provided with adequate funding. It is seen as a national asset that is essential to Germany's economy. In this country, under this Government, the railways are seen as another drain on the public purse. Our railways should be seen as a major part of an integrated transport system. We must have a national strategy with clear objectives and guidelines. The Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment should work closely together. The commission into the high-speed rail link might be the beginning of that. It may expand into a commission for transport in general.

Order. I appeal for shorter speeches because time is moving on very quickly.

6.2 pm

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) accused my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport of ducking difficult decisions. I believe that a fundamental policy decision faces any Government with regard to British Rail: do we go for low fares, high subsidy and low investment or do we cut the operating subsidy and force modernisation and high investment?

History records that Labour and Conservative Governments react differently in practice when faced with that choice. The previous Labour Government had high subsidy and low investment. One wonders what Labour's policies are today. Today, Labour's policy seems to be low fares and high investment. That is all very well, but it involves a huge subsidy. As the Labour party initiated this debate, we must ask Labour Members what their proposals will cost. Has their policy been approved by the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer? Can we have a little more information about it, because we are being left very much in the dark with a lot of windy promises and blather, but no hard facts on which to form a judgment?

This Government's policies have been clear. We have set quality standards and we have pressed for efficiency by lowering the public service obligation subsidy and encouraging investment. When my hon. Friend the Minister replies, I hope that he can tell us whether the new chairman of British Rail accepts that there is no incompatibility in the current reduced PSO subsidy and BR achieving the quality standards that have been set for it.

There are huge discrepancies between the best and the worst in British Rail. Very often those differences can be identified as areas in which investment has been ploughed and has now come to fruition and areas in which no investment has yet occurred or has yet to come through. There is a limerick which says
"When she was good,
She was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid."
That applies to parts of British Rail.

The best of British Rail includes much of InterCity and the fact that British Rail runs more trains at over 100 mph than any other country except France. The best also includes the Wessex electrics from Waterloo to Winchester and to Bournemouth. Those are superb. The Portsmouth-to-Southampton electrification is very welcome, as are the 50 new stations which have been opened in the past decade. The provincial sprinters, the fast diesels, are of a high standard and are very desirable. Today's investment programme is the highest for 20 years and it is set to rise. That is the good part of British Rail, but the worst is very bad.

To illustrate the very bad, I unashamedly refer to my constituency and the Exeter to Waterloo service. That service has 20 locomotives to sustain only 13 in action. The situation is now so bad that a fitter has to travel in the cab of the train as it travels from Exeter to Salisbury so that he can carry out any necessary repairs en route. British Rail has set special low-quality standards for that route, expecting only 80 per cent. of the trains to arrive within five minutes of their scheduled time.

I want to draw back the veil on the history of that route. In 1984, I drew British Rail's attention to the unsatisfactory nature of the route and hoped that something would be done. In 1985, vigorous representations were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). In 1986, British Rail began an assessment, and in 1987, 1988 and 1989 we heard reassuring noises. It was death by a thousand assessments, by a thousand appraisals and a thousand assurances.

This morning, the hon. Members who represent constituencies crossed by that line met British Rail representatives, and we were told that there were no options available. We were told that the locomotives on the line are so clapped out that they cannot continue beyond 1992. Therefore, we have to have the quickest solution, whether or not it is the best. Electrification cannot be considered, and we have to have the new class 171 western turbos, at a cost of £40 million. They will take 20 minutes off the journey time to Exeter, which is welcome and will be a considerable improvement.

However, why was that step not taken ages ago? It has been a matter of order, counter-order and disorder. British Rail should have come up with that solution years ago, when the writing was on the wall and it could see that the existing rolling stock and locomotives could not continue for much longer.

British Rail must put more staff resources into its investment appraisals. The new chairman should cut the cackle and get cracking on the route straight away. My hon. Friend the Minister should undertake today that there will be no delays in his Department in granting the approval for the line, which has suffered so much, once British Rail, after all this time, presents its investment appraisal to the Government for approval.

I make a brief comment about section 8. Hon. Members will recall that that is the arrangement under which capital grants are given to ensure the transfer of freight from road to rail. That is a valuable part of the Government's expenditure programme. The criterion is whether there are regular loads on unsuitable roads. It is a worthwhile investment. Will my hon. Friend the Minister advise us on the effect of retrenchment in Speedlink, to which section 8 grants have been given in the past? Will he set out his policy and his thinking? Is he inclined, or does he intend, to encourage the continuation and expansion of section 8?

I confirm my question: has the new chairman accepted the Secretary of State's quality standards? Has he confirmed that there is no incompatibility with the reduced PSO? Will my right hon. Friend encourage British Rail to put more resources into investment project assessment and stop dawdling? In view of the delay in the Exeter-Waterloo rolling stock solution, will my hon. Friend undertake to reach a decision on the British rail investment case within, say, six weeks of it going to his Department? Finally will he clarify his views on section 8?

I am grateful to have had an opportunity to contribute to the debate.

6.10 pm

The hon. Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) was a hard-working and caring Minister. Although I did not agree with many of his decisions, they were always taken from a commitment to wanting transport to be a working and useful system. The hon. Gentleman may have inadvertently highlighted one of the many problems that a Conservative Government present to the electorate when he said that, during the period that he mentioned—during some of which he was a Minister—British Rail had not come up with a solution to a real problem not only for his constituents but for many people in the west country. That is because the balanced transport policy on which the Government congratulate themselves is not in evidence to anyone anywhere in the United Kingdom. It seems to us and, I am afraid, increasingly to many people who endeavour to get around the country that the Government have handed over responsibility for transport planning in the most extraordinary way.

The capital city is quietly grinding to a halt outside this building. Large numbers of multinational firms are increasingly considering other countries as suitable sites for their factories and freight depots, because they cannot get their goods from the point of manufacture to the market. Still the Government appear unable to come forward with an integrated plan that will show some clear evidence that they understand the problems, let alone are prepared to do anything about them.

Whatever it says, the Department spends the majority of its time considering roads. The Minister talks about how pleased he is with the White Paper on experimental roads. The Select Committee on Transport took clear evidence that the solutions that were being suggested—involving a large input of private money into the development of roads—do not commend themselves to the very people whom Ministers are asking to find the cash. The railway desperately needs Government support.

I was impressed with the Secretary of State's Will Hay arithmetic today. It seemed to prove conclusively that of course we are spending more money on railways than we are spending on roads. However, I thought that it was terribly impressive—I did not believe it for a second—and it made the Government's attitude clear. They are prepared to calculate the use of roads—that is, buying the land, creating the road and using and developing the road—in a completely different way from the way in which they calculate the use of railways. The result is an absolute disaster for the passenger. That is becoming increasingly clear.

The railway system is perfectly capable of being developed to carry more freight, but it requires a great deal more investment. It requires a running programme that will make it possible for whoever is in charge to look forward 10 years and say, "These are the challenges that we have to meet. They include providing a high-speed rail link with the tunnel, but they also include the need to provide high-quality freight depots." It is simply not good enough to say that those things are being planned.

The European Community is coming forward with a rail policy. It has a system—it is totally unworkable—that seems to envisage the division of railway systems into two—one on the operating side and one on the provision of facilities side. Nevertheless, it has at least made an attempt to look at transport policies. In this country, even the CBI, when it knows that there is to be a transport debate, is prepared to say, "It is clear that the transport system that is available for us is failing commerce." If that organisation clearly says that and quotes the amount of money that it is costing industry to be unable to move freight and people around the country, surely someone must listen.

The railway system of this country was built up because it was capable of providing a cheap, efficient and useful means of transporting people and goods around the country. It now requires massive investment to bring it up to modern-day requirements. It is getting that investment, but it is getting it too slowly and often, without the support that will make it usable by the passenger and by many outside industries. We can argue about the reasons for that, but unless the United Kingdom does something very energetic in the next 10 years, we shall have almost a caricature of a transport system. It is very nice to have toy railways—when I was a child, it was nice to ride on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch tiny railway on the beach—but they are not the solution to becoming an efficient 21st century country.

Every day of my life, I work with railwaymen who are increasingly worried about safety standards and about staff cuts. I talk to women's groups who, although they need and desperately want to use public transport, are frightened by the lack of staff at night, unmanned stations and trains that are increasingly dangerous for them to use. However, the House of Commons still does not seem to be capable of putting sufficient pressure on the Government to make them understand that transport is as fundamental to people's lives as the air they breathe. To be able to go where one wants, to be able to go to places that one must go to enjoy a decent standard of living, are absolutely basic rights and should be available to every person.

The railway system can deliver not only environmentally friendly but much more efficient ways of moving people and goods. I do not believe that the Government are even interested in talking to people about planning that service at the level that is necessary for the future of all the people in this country.

6.18 pm

Because many of my collegues wish to speak, I shall be as brief as I can, consistent with making my point to my hon. Friend the Minister. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) made several points, some of which I agreed with. He was right to point out that, since the summer of 1988, people in south London and north-west Kent have been bedevilled by the menace of a high-speed link and trying to deal with British Rail. I borrow the military maxim that was used by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) about order, counter-order and disorder. That is precisely how we have felt about dealing with British Rail over the past two to two and a half years.

As late as last November, British Rail and its agents told us that they would go away and examine the route, and return as soon as possible with a new route which would run from Halling across the GLC boundary to King's Cross.

On 14 June the Secretary of State made a statement in which he told the House that the Government did not accept Eurorail's financial proposals for funding the high-speed link. However, the Government did not announce their rejection of the concept of the link or the need for it—rather the reverse. They reaffirmed the need for the high-speed link. The options that were mentioned in the early days of June included the possibility that the concept might be shelved, abandoned or proceeded with, with all the imperfections of the route leading into and around Swanley.

The result of the announcement has been that, in the area of north-west Kent from Halling to Bromley, there is no route at all. I agree with my right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister who said that blight is no longer confined to only part of north-west Kent. It affects a huge tranche of homes, land, factories and institutions because of the uncertainty about the location of the route.

When the statement was made, although little was said about the provisions at Waterloo, we were told that the King's Cross solution and the examination of the proposals of Ove Arup and other groups were not pre-empted. However, when we consider the fact that the Waterloo operation is proceeding, with all the manifestations and implications of that, the King's Cross solution obviously appears brighter in British Rail's firmament.

My constituents need some reassurances. First, they need to know that the options will be examined properly, realistically and consistently with an early announcement. Secondly, we need an announcement as early as possible on the provision of the high-speed link, if for no other reason than to end the uncertainty, delay, blight and anxiety that my hon. Friends and I have felt and represented in the House for the past two and a half years.

We are all fully aware of the Government's determination to improve things now. I welcome their determination to ensure that the Department of Transport provides a more detailed, hands-on approach. The pity is that we have had to wait two and a half years for it.

Having said that, I wish my hon. Friend the Minister every success in his endeavours. I hope that he achieves the right route, which, for us, would go to Stratford, but I accept that that might be asking a little too much at this stage. However, I request that a decision be made as early as possible, consistent with determining the facts about the proposed route. The difficulties that we face are huge, and we have faced them for two and a half years. Some people cannot face the prospect of possibly another year of blight. The effect on their homes, jobs, attitudes, personal relationships and the loss of value of their property is too much for them to bear. I know that my hon. Friend will bear that in mind. I conclude my comments in view of the brief time available.

6.23 pm

I welcome this timely debate on railway policy, especially in view of our recent unsatisfactory debate on the EC's draft railway policy. I suspect that the Government could have done without a further examination of their attitude to the railways, in view of their record and the lack of a coherent approach to transport policy generally. It is a scandal that those areas which depend on a coherent transport policy, especially the industrial areas, suffer from chronic traffic jams which can only get worse because, as we know, the number of cars on our roads is projected to increase by 2 million per year over the next few years, leading to a grand total of about 27.5 million by the year 2025. We shall therefore be looking for a significant shift in freight traffic from road to rail. I wish that the Government could get rid of their antirail obsession.

Wales stands on the periphery of the European Community, and as we approach the completion of the internal market in 1992, I want Wales to be given every opportunity to compete in that market place. I do not want Wales to be relegated to the sidelines, and to become an economic backwater due to the lack of essential investment in a modern, efficient and safe transport system. I believe that rail has a vital part to play in this programme, not least because of its excellent safety record and long-term efficiency.

In fact, we should no longer be talking in terms of a United Kingdom railway network, but rather of an European network, with the channel tunnel in due course being the gateway to a world of new opportunities. However, that calls for a high-speed rail link in the central zones, providing a dedicated freight line, and investment in the connecting services from Wales, Scotland and the northern regions of England.

Wales is Southern Ireland's gateway to Europe, and Dublin's business community has already decided that the best route for its freight post-1992 will be along the central corridor, using the access from Dublin and Dun Laoghaire through to Holyhead. The Holyhead-Crewe rail link is vital because more and more freight traffic will use the land bridge route when the channel tunnel opens. A rail land bridge via Holyhead would have significantly lower costs than a road land bridge, and would become competitively stronger for Irish traffic east of Paris, relative to any direct roll on/roll off option.

Holyhead is a pivotal factor in the equation because of its advantages of short sea crossings, the capacity for frequent round-trip sailings, and because it would reduce total journey times by between two and three hours. Given the right investment in port facilities and in the rail link, the journey from Dublin to Brussels could be completed in 11 hours.

Trade between the United Kingdom and other EC countries has grown by an average of 6 per cent. in the past decade, and freight traffic is projected to triple to 6 million tonnes per annum in the next few years, with over 70 per cent. beginning or ending its journey beyond London. Of that total, 1·4 million tonnes will be carried to and from the north-west, north Wales and Northern Ireland—the second highest proportion among the regions, second only to the south-east of England. That puts the importance of the link into context.

There is no doubt in my mind that the electrification of the north Wales line would bring enormous economic benefits to both Wales and Ireland. Consultants engaged by the county councils of Gwynedd, Clwyd and Cheshire have estimated the cost of electrification as about £50 million, of which £30 million could be made available by the EC. The Economic Community Transport Commissioner has indicated that this project would be given funds due to its strategic importance linking member states.

The fund that could benefit us, however, does not have sufficient cash and we cannot therefore make a decent application for funding. That cash shortage is due to the attitudes of our Government and the Government of the Netherlands, who are so negative. If we are really in the business of having a modern efficient railway system for the 21st century, which could replace the system designed in the 19th century, we must have public investment.

The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was right when he said that we must invest public money in a decent railway system that will take us into the next century. He was also right when he said that public money is being invested in the railway systems of all other modern economies and that all our European counterparts are investing in the railways.

During an Adjournment debate on 3 May, the then Minister for Public Transport told me that the Government and British Rail were prepared to look again at the case for the electrification of the Holyhead to Crewe railway line, in the light of representations made by the Irish Government. Can the new Minister for Public Transport who is to respond to the debate tell the House how much work has been done on evaluating that case? Can he give both me and the people of north Wales some good news?

6.30 pm

It is appropriate for the House to debate the railway industry since we are witnessing, and are party to, a railway renaissance in Britain. The Opposition must be living in cloud cuckoo land if, as their motion implies, they do not recognise that British Rail provides a more efficient and better quality service than it provided under Labour. Customers, managers and employers most certainly do. There is renewed investment—the highest, in real terms, for 29 years, since the switch from steam to diesel—and renewed confidence in the railways.

I draw the attention of the House to three matters: first, finance and productivity; secondly, the potential, particularly for passenger services; thirdly, the long-term prospects. As for finance and productivity, the record shows that the Conservatives are the party of rail supporters. The facts show realism, not rhetoric. Since 1983, £3 billion has been spent on the railways; a further £3.7 billion is planned to be spent on the railways during the next three years. That means, in language that most hon. Members and their constituents can understand, that almost £24 million is being invested every week in the railways. That is great news for railway cities such as York, the headquarters of the eastern region and a major engineering centre—as is Crewe and Nantwich. That investment has reduced overcrowding, ensured stricter safety measures and led to the replacement of old rolling stock and signals.

Those who denigrate the Government ought to look at the facts. The Government have approved every industrial proposal put to them by British Rail. Sir Robert Reid said that British Rail could not cope with greater funds. Ten electrification schemes have been approved by the Government since 1983. I approve in particular of the east coast main line electrification, costing £460 million. It is the largest electrification scheme ever in this country.

Those who travel on InterCity services are pleased with their punctuality, the faster trains and the greater consistency. The provincial services have also benefited from the greater investment. About £340 million is to be invested in provincial services during the next few years, leading to the replacement of older vehicles by higher quality, air-conditioned stock. In the last three years, about 64 stations have been opened, or reopened, and no fewer than 235 stations have been modernised.

How does that compare with Labour's plans? We should like to know what alternatives Labour would offer. So far, we have not heard one word about its alternative investment plans. I hope that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) will enlighten us. Artificial subsidies are no alternative; they lead to inefficiency and red tape.

As for the potential of passenger services, a journey does not consist simply of the movement of someone from A to B. The journey starts with the facilities provided at the car park adjacent to the station. At too many stations there is inadequate car parking. Many more car park sites could be decked. There should also be facilities—already tried successfully in Essex—to clean and service vehicles while rail users are away. That is a lost opportunity.

There is little to attract anyone to railway stations. To compare the city of York with the city of Utrecht, there are 250 offices, shops and restaurants around the rail complex in Utrecht. Banking facilities at railway stations in the United Kingdom are almost non-existent. There is only one railway station where one can cash a cheque. Accommodation services for visitors at railway stations are sadly lacking. Furthermore, the British Rail ticket—I have one in my hand, a ticket to York—does not encourage further rail use. No discount is provided for frequent travel. It does not provide a link with other services, such as hire cars, restaurants and theatres, that would provide greater customer satisfaction.

I praise the work that British Rail is doing to help the disabled, and its excellent staff at York. Unfortunately, British Rail does not provide good information for its customers if trains are delayed. No answerphone service is provided. The general manager of eastern region suggests that people should telephone the main headquarters switchboard and ask for the assistant station manager. If available, he will deal with the matter. That is not the way to deal with delays. If we are to move on from the pre-first world war era on the railways, we must provide a better service than that.

Many hon. Members will remember the court case about the catering facilities on British Rail. Senior staff overheard customers praising the sandwiches; they said that they found their ingredients delicious. When the senior staff made inquiries, they found that the staff had been putting extra ingredients into sandwiches. Instead of praising their staff and giving them a stake in the greater profitability, British Rail took them to court and they were dismissed. That is the negative side of British Rail.

Denationalisation must be the way forward. The overbearing trade unions are in hock to the work force, who do not have a stake in British Rail. However, services at Sealink and British Rail Engineering Ltd. have improved since they were denationalised. Would the Opposition take Sealink and BREL back into state control and deny the stake that the staff enjoy in those companies? Would they deny a share in the railways to employees at Crewe and Nantwich, York and London? If not, they must believe that the Conservative party's policy is right, and that they, too ought to give railway employees a stake in the prosperity and future of the industry.

6.36 pm

Any resemblance between the reality of the present railway system and that outlined by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) is wholly coincidental. The hon. Gentleman will need only a single railway ticket to York when it comes to the next general election. He referred earlier to my membership of the National Union of Railwaymen. I am proud to be a member of that union, as was my father. I make no apology either to the hon. Gentleman or to the House for being a member of that union. It is better to be a member of the NUR and to know something about the railway industry than to read out a brief prepared by the Department of Transport.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) to allege that I read a brief prepared by the Department of Transport? I have never had such a brief. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw a most dishonourable comment.

That was not a point of order. If the hon. Gentleman did not receive his brief from the Department of Transport, he ought to send it back whence it came. It was not accurate. The Opposition did not initiate a debate on the railways to be told about the contents of cheese and tomato rolls at York station or elsewhere. That was the pathetic and banal level that the hon. Gentleman, as usual, reached.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the customers. In the few minutes that he has left me, I intend to refer to customers and their dissatisfaction with the railway system. Many of them have expressed dissatisfaction with it. What they say bears no resemblance to the glossy picture that was painted, inadequately as usual, by the Secretary of State for Transport.

As for the proposals by British Rail management to reduce the Speedlink network—the freight side of British Rail—I draw attention to a letter from the Potter group that discusses the issue. It is addressed to the Secretary of State and is dated 5 June 1990. The Potter group points out that it has a private siding at Selby, that it has a considerable interest in rail freight traffic, which is growing, and that it amounts to approximately 40,000 tonnes a year. The group estimates that more than 2,000 lorryloads will be required to replace that traffic if Speedlink facilities are withdrawn at that site.

The letter also refers to traffic that it forwards from Ely in East Anglia—about 40,000 tonnes—which means another 2,000 lorry loads, yet some of the worst roads in the United Kingdom are in that part of the country. It asks what the right hon. Gentleman will do about that. It concludes that these matters—the rundown of rail freight, especially as that would affect those who had taken advantage of section 8 grants and invested a considerable amount of company and shareholders' money in providing those facilities—are questions for politicians.

The closing line of the letter states:
"This is a question for the politicians. Step forward and be counted, Mr. Parkinson."
Step forward and listen, is my advice to the right hon. Gentleman.

The other customers, both of rail freight and rail passenger services, have also expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the level of service provided and with their quality and their concern about their rundown. [Interruption.] Obviously, the Secretary of State was not talking to me, because I would not allow him to talk to me in the manner that he has just used. If he will control himself for a moment—I know that it is difficult for him—and listen to reality about British Rail and the difficulties that many of its customers are facing—thanks, in part, to Government policy for which he is at least temporarily responsible—the House will be grateful.

The hon. Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) is always worth listening to on these matters, if only because for a considerable period he was a Minister of State, Department of Transport. If I may say so without damaging what is left of his career, he was a rather distinguished and hard-working Minister. He referred to section 8 grants and the need for their extension. I remind him that it is two years since the Department promised to review the operation of those grants.

As he told the House, the present difficulty is that the grants are given to rail users if the freight being carried relieves environmentally sensitive roads—I think that that is the phrase—of some lorry freight. The difficulty is, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, that road improvements themselves remove inadequate and environmentally sensitive roads, which in turn is a disincentive to freight being carried by rail, and certainly prevents any additional freight from being carried by rail.

I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider section 8 grants and the possibility of transferring freight from road to rail through the grant mechanism, no matter which roads the vehicles use. That would be of genuine environmental benefit, even when lorries use motorways and trunk roads—[Interruption.] I am grateful for what appears to be the Minister's assent. I hope that the position can be improved, because rail freight customers are unhappy with the standard of service provided, and especially with the latest decision on the withdrawal of Speedlink facilities.

It is estimated that such a withdrawal would lead to about a quarter of a million extra heavy goods vehicle movements being generated. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman or his fellow Ministers actually want that, but that would be the result of the reduction that is forecast. I hope that when the Minister of State replies to the debate he will tell us what he intends to do about it.

There is something else that the Minister can do that will not actually cost the Government any money. There is widespread dissatisfaction among British Rail's major customers about the quality of management and about the difficulty of getting British Rail to sing a consistent tune on the future of rail freight. I think that the Minister will agree that it is no great incentive, to say the least, to anyone to transfer freight from road to rail if, at the same time, that transfer is being done against a backdrop of the rundown of the existing inadequate rail facilities. The rail freight users have actually formed a group—the Rail Freight Users' Group—which is very critical of British Rail management and what it regards as British Rail's lack of both flair and marketing. It speaks of the poor calibre of British Rail management. It says in a letter, a copy of which I have in front of me:
"meetings with BR to discuss requirements are rarely with the correct people and there is little sign of a commercial or professional attitude among BR management."
I hope that the Minister of State will carefully consider criticism like that to determine what can be done to improve that service, again largely without cost to Treasury funds.

Earlier, the Secretary of State made great play of the Government's attitude towards railways. Once again, we heard the hollow phrase that this country is in the vanguard of European rail policies.

Yes, and it is no wonder the right hon. Gentleman closed his speech with the epic phrase that he was staying at home on the job. It is obvious that he has not been very far afield in western Europe, if that is what he believes about the European railway system.

I have another request for the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministers. They will be aware of the recommendation in the European Community document 4478/90 on railway policy, which said:
"The amending Directive on combined transport carries financial implications in relation to the reduction or reimbursement of vehicle excise tax for vehicles engaged in combined transport systems".
The EC believes in that, but it is not accepted by the Government. Indeed, the Minister of State, in a reply to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), said on 12 June:

"the Commission has made certain recommendations about reduction or reimbursement of vehicle taxes. We do not accept those, and in any case, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not for Transport Ministers."—[Official Report, 12 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 237.]
I hope that the Minister will accept that that is scarcely a clarion call to those private sector companies in the United Kingdom that are developing vehicles that will genuinely assist the transfer of freight from road to rail. I hope that he will reconsider that aspect of Government policy.

I am sorry, but I cannot give way, as it would take away the Minister's time.

The Government claim that they can be justly proud of the railway system. I refer them to the latest news release from the Central Transport Users' Consultative Committee, the chairman of which is Major-General Lennox Napier, CB, OBE, MC, DL. He does not strike me as a member of the average constituency Labour party—

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it permissible for an Opposition spokesman to degrade someone who has earned the Military Cross?

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am seeking your guidance on whether it is possible to extend the period of the debate to allow the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) to answer the questions that he said he would answer about the costs of Labour policies and where the money is coming from?

The parliamentary exploits of the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) are legendary. I was not aware that I was attacking Major-General Lennox Napier by saying that he was not a traditional Labour party member. I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me when I say how grateful I am that he is not a member of the Labour party.

In reply to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate), we have already made it plain that the expenditure that we want for the railways has long been regarded as essential throughout Europe. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) shares our belief. Economies that have not had the benefit of £90 billion of North sea oil have managed to finance their railway systems more than adequately. If the Government are incapable of doing so, the time is long past when they should have moved over to allow another Government to take over who are prepared to spend money on our transport needs.

Earlier this year, in reply to a question from the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), the former leader of the Liberal party, about an integrated transport policy, the Secretary of State said:
"The only countries in Europe with a fully integrated transport system that we have located are East Germany. Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia. Their electors do not seem terribly impressed with their integrated transport systems or with the people who tried to develop them." —[Official Report, 12 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 12.]
With a Secretary of State who gives such infantile replies, no wonder our transport infrastructure is on its knees.

6.51 pm

My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) suggested that the Government should take a long-term view when planning the transport infrastructure and he is right.

When planning rail, underground and light-railway schemes one must take a long-term view. If one takes a three-year public expenditure survey view in terms of announcements, that is not inconsistent with the essential long-term view. My right hon. Friend is well aware that, once the Jubilee line is open—it will take several years to complete—it will make sense to continue with further underground schemes as envisaged by the central London rail study.

In "Roads for Prosperity", published by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic, the Department deliberately took a long-term view about the construction of roads. Similarly, public expenditure of £1 billion on docklands demonstrates a long-term view. The Government share the desire of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup to take such a view when considering transport policy.

My right hon. Friend also asked several questions about the channel tunnel and specifically about the rail link. Section 56 is certainly not ruled out when appraising a new rail link as that section takes into account the benefits to commuters on the lines in Kent, those affected at the airports, as well as commuters at the other London termini. For those affected by a new line insulation grants will be paid.

My right hon. Friend also mentioned noise on existing lines; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that he will look at the available provisions. We are reviewing our schemes for purchase compensation on the new line. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), in common with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, mentioned the review by British Rail and said that there should not be any further delay. British Rail will take between six and nine months to conduct its review which takes us to next Easter. I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends that the review will be timely.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) is a distinguished former Transport Minister and he asked four questions with which I shall deal briefly. He asked whether British Rail can achieve its quality targets with a declining public service obligation grant. The answer is yes. I am aware of the stresses and strains of this year with the reduction in off-peak demand on Network SouthEast, but British Rail is able to meet its twin objectives. My hon. Friend also asked about the Exeter to Waterloo line and appraisal techniques. Tomorrow morning my right hon. Friend and I will meet the chairman of British Rail at 8.15 and I shall raise those points with him.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) asked about section 8. Hon. Members will be aware that section 8 is a grant paid by the Government on behalf of the taxpayer to encourage the private sector to put more freight on the rail and off the roads. We are reviewing the operation of that grant because the Freight Transport Association wants to widen the criteria for payment of the grant—it wants to include motorway congestion as a criterion. Within the next few weeks I shall be receiving advice and I shall certainly consult that association.

The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) asked about the Crewe to Holyhead railway line. More information is needed from the county councils about the prospects for electrification, but British Rail has not shut its mind to the prospect, and nor have Ministers. In the meantime, while we are awaiting further information, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that new rolling stock is planned for that line.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) asked me to read the Labour party transport manifesto. I have read it and it is certainly well written. I take it seriously, but I do not believe that it is right. In the remaining time, I shall deal with the six sources of finance that the hon. Gentleman suggested for the grandiose plans for public investment. The policy document calls for a
"substantial and sustained increase in investment in … infrastructure."
It also spoke of a gradual increase in subsidy funding by the taxpayer, for public transport. Doubtless the call for between £10 billion and £15 billion investment for the new high-speed rail link from Folkestone to Scotland would be included in that. It is important to consider what that investment would cost in the next three years.

The Government's estimate of British Rail's expenditure in the next three years, together with all the rail scheme investment, comes to about £6 billion. The funds required to meet the Labour party promise are another £6 billion. The hon. Gentleman also wants to increase public funding by doubling the public sector rail grant—that would add another £1 billion to the sum. That means that the hon. Gentleman estimates that he needs £7 billion in funds in the next three years. How will that be paid for?

The hon. Gentleman suggests six possibilities. First, he suggested that the road programme should be cut, but that road programme, as set out in "Roads for Prosperity" is essential for the construction of local bypasses. No new motorways are envisaged—the document outlines a bypass programme and the widening of existing motorways. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion will not work.

The second suggestion from the hon. Gentleman is to increase public expenditure, but he has not checked with his colleagues the shadow Chancellor, the shadow Chief Secretary or the leader of the Labour party to see whether there is any more money available in their programmes. The hon. Gentleman's third suggestion is to pinch the rest of the car tax proceeds—at present about 25 per cent. of that tax is devoted to the road building programme. He should check with the shadow Chancellor and the shadow Chief Secretary, as they will not permit that.

Fourthly, the hon. Gentleman argues that the European infrastructure fund will provide massive sources of finance. He believes that Britain could become a net beneficiary from a new fund. My right hon. Friend has already said that the fund is only £40 million. per annum. There is not the money and we should not be able to convince the French and Germans to allow us to be substantial net beneficiaries.

Fifthly, the hon. Gentleman talks about British Rail borrowing privately. A Labour Government made sure that private borrowing by nationalised industry was included as a public sector liability.

Sixthly, the hon. Gentleman talks about the private sector. There is plenty of room for private sector joint ventures. We welcome that and we have some excellent examples of it—the Dartford bridge, the second Severn bridge, the Heathrow-Paddingtion link, the docklands light railway, the Jubilee line and the Manchester metrolink. We believe in private sector finance. The hon. Gentleman will not find it a panacea. Our policies are prudent. The policies of Opposition Members are reckless. I invite the House to support the Government.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 203, Noes 262.

Division No. 264]

[6.59 pm


Allen, GrahamFearn, Ronald
Alton, DavidField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Anderson, DonaldFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterFlannery, Martin
Ashton, JoeFlynn, Paul
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Foster, Derek
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Foulkes, George
Barron, KevinFraser, John
Beckett, MargaretFyfe, Maria
Bell, StuartGalloway, George
Benn, Rt Hon TonyGarrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bermingham, GeraldGodman, Dr Norman A.
Bidwell, SydneyGolding, Mrs Llin
Blair, TonyGould, Bryan
Blunkett, DavidGraham, Thomas
Boateng, PaulGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Boyes, RolandGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bradley, KeithGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Grocott, Bruce
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Hardy, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Buckley, George J.Haynes, Frank
Caborn, RichardHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Callaghan, JimHenderson, Doug
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Canavan, DennisHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Carr, MichaelHood, Jimmy
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Clay, BobHowells, Geraint
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cohen, HarryHoyle, Doug
Coleman, DonaldHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Corbett, RobinIllsley, Eric
Corbyn, JeremyIngram, Adam
Cousins, JimJanner, Greville
Cox, TomJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Crowther, StanJones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Cryer, BobJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cummings, JohnKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cunliffe, LawrenceKennedy, Charles
Dalyell, TamKilfedder, James
Darling, AlistairLambie, David
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Lamond, James
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Leadbitter, Ted
Dewar, DonaldLeighton, Ron
Dixon, DonLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dobson, FrankLewis, Terry
Doran, FrankLitherland, Robert
Duffy, A. E. P.Livsey, Richard
Dunnachie, JimmyLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethLofthouse, Geoffrey
Evans, John (St Helens N)McAllion, John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)McAvoy, Thomas
Fatchett, DerekMcCartney, Ian
Faulds, AndrewMacdonald, Calum A.

McKelvey, WilliamRuddock, Joan
McLeish, HenrySalmond, Alex
Maclennan, RobertSheerman, Barry
McNamara, KevinSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Madden, MaxShore, Rt Hon Peter
Mahon, Mrs AliceShort, Clare
Marek, Dr JohnSkinner, Dennis
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Martlew, EricSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Maxton, JohnSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Meale, AlanSmith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Michael, AlunSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Snaps, Peter
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Soley, Clive
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Moonie, Dr LewisSteinberg, Gerry
Morgan, RhodriStott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Strang, Gavin
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Straw, Jack
Mullin, ChrisTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Nellist, DaveTaylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
O'Brien, WilliamTurner, Dennis
O'Neill, MartinVaz, Keith
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWallace, James
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWareing, Robert N.
Parry, RobertWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Patchett, TerryWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Pike, Peter L.Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Wigley, Dafydd
Prescott, JohnWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Primarolo, DawnWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Quin, Ms JoyceWilson, Brian
Randall, StuartWinnick, David
Rees, Rt Hon MerlynWise, Mrs Audrey
Reid, Dr JohnWorthington, Tony
Richardson, JoWray, Jimmy
Robertson, GeorgeYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Robinson, Geoffrey
Rogers, Allan

Tellers for the Ayes:

Rooker, Jeff

Mr. Ken Eastham and

Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Mr. Allen Adams.

Rowlands, Ted


Aitken, JonathanBuchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Alexander, RichardBuck, Sir Antony
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBurt, Alistair
Allason, RupertButcher, John
Amess, DavidCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arbuthnot, JamesCarrington, Matthew
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Carttiss, Michael
Arnold, Sir ThomasChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Ashby, DavidChapman, Sydney
Aspinwall, JackClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Atkins, RobertColvin, Michael
Atkinson, DavidConway, Derek
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Batiste, SpencerCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bendall, VivianCormack, Patrick
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Cran, James
Benyon, W.Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bevan, David GilroyDay, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDevlin, Tim
Blackburn, Dr John G.Dickens, Geoffrey
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterDorrell, Stephen
Body, Sir RichardDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDunn, Bob
Boscawen, Hon RobertDurant, Tony
Boswell, TimEmery, Sir Peter
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Evennett, David
Bowis, JohnFairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesFallon, Michael
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardFavell, Tony
Brandon-Bravo, MartinFenner, Dame Peggy
Brazier, JulianField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bright, GrahamFinsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Fishburn, John Dudley
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, NigelKey, Robert
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Forth, EricKnapman, Roger
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Fox, Sir MarcusKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Franks, CecilKnowles, Michael
Freeman, RogerKnox, David
French, DouglasLang, Ian
Gale, RogerLatham, Michael
Gardiner, GeorgeLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Garel-Jones, TristanLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanLightbown, David
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanLilley, Peter
Goodhart, Sir PhilipLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Goodlad, AlastairLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesLord, Michael
Gorman, Mrs TeresaLuce, Rt Hon Richard
Gorst, JohnMcCrindle, Robert
Gow, IanMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Maclean, David
Gregory, ConalMcLoughlin, Patrick
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Ground, PatrickMalins, Humfrey
Grylls, MichaelMans, Keith
Hague, WilliamMaples, John
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Marland, Paul
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Marlow, Tony
Hampson, Dr KeithMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Hannam, JohnMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Maude, Hon Francis
Harris, DavidMawhinney, Dr Brian
Haselhurst, AlanMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hayes, JerryMiller, Sir Hal
Hayward, RobertMills, Iain
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardMiscampbell, Norman
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Mitchell, Sir David
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Moate, Roger
Hill, JamesMonro, Sir Hector
Hind, KennethMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Hordern, Sir PeterMorrison, Sir Charles
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Moss, Malcolm
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Norris, Steve
Hunter, AndrewOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Irvine, MichaelOppenheim, Phillip
Irving, Sir CharlesPaice, James
Jack, MichaelParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Jackson, RobertPatten, Rt Hon John
Janman, TimPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jessel, TobyPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Porter, David (Waveney)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Price, Sir David
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRedwood, John
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRenton, Rt Hon Tim

Rhodes James, RobertStradling Thomas, Sir John
Riddick, GrahamSumberg, David
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasSummerson, Hugo
Ridsdale, Sir JulianTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Rifkind, Rt Hon MalcolmTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Rost, PeterTemple-Morris, Peter
Rowe, AndrewThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Rumbold, Mrs AngelaThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Ryder, RichardThornton, Malcolm
Sackville, Hon TomThurnham, Peter
Sainsbury, Hon TimTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasTracey, Richard
Shaw, David (Dover)Trippier, David
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Trotter, Neville
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Twinn, Dr Ian
Shelton, Sir WilliamVaughan, Sir Gerard
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Walden, George
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Ward, John
Shersby, MichaelWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Skeet, Sir TrevorWarren, Kenneth
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Wells, Bowen
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Wheeler, Sir John
Soames, Hon NicholasWhitney, Ray
Speed, KeithWiddecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Wiggin, Jerry
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wilshire, David
Squire, RobinWolfson, Mark
Stanbrook, IvorWood, Timothy
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir JohnWoodcock, Dr. Mike
Steen, AnthonyYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Stern, Michael
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Tellers for the Noes:

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Mr. Nicholas Baker and

Stokes, Sir John

Mr. Irvine Patnick.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


That this House congratulates the Government for pursuing a balanced transport policy involving record investment by the public and private sector in every aspect of the nation's transport systems; recognises that this is the only way to give the customer more choice and a better quality of service; applauds the Government for the high priority it gives to all matters of safety; welcomes the contribution that the Channel Tunnel can make to improving links to the Continent of Europe and the £2 billion of investment in road and rail which will ensure the tunnel is fully serviced from the day it opens in 1993; commends the Government's support for the development of high speed trains which will be jointly owned by Britain, France and Belgium and which will operate in all three countries; commends British Rail for developing plans for high speed freight services from all parts of the United Kingdom to the tunnel; and calls on the Opposition to cease its policy of denigrating Britain.

Aid And The Environment

7.14 pm

I beg to move,

That this House condemns the Government for its lack of commitment to solving the environmental problems of developing countries; deplores the totally inadequate level of British aid, which has fallen to 0.31 per cent of gross national product, less than half the United Nation's target of 0.7 per cent. to which Britain remains officially committed; and believes that, as a result, this Government is unable to make an adequate contribution to tackling the immense environmental problems facing developing countries.
"The environment is, without question, central to all our aid programmes in the 1990s … And of course, there are global environmental problems. We are all now familiar with the threats to the planet of global warming, holes in the ozone layer and the loss of bio-diversity."
Those are not my words, but those of the Minister for Overseas Development, in what I shall call from now on her "green glossy". Given the Minister's enthusiasm for the subject, I am disappointed that the Opposition, not the Government, have initiated the debate. I accept, however, as the Minister rightly said last week, that she has been in the job only since July. Others in that position had the opportunity to initiate such a debate before now.

It is quite appalling that, since the publication of the Brundtland report, which looked at the critical environmental and development problems of the planet in 1987, there has not been one debate in the House, so far as I can discover, on sustainable development or the international environment. The eminent economist Barbara Ward wrote:

"The door of the future is opening onto a crisis more sudden, more global, more inescapable, more bewildering than any ever encountered by the human species. And one which will take decisive shape within the life span of children who are already born."
She wrote that in 1971. How much more urgent is that warning now.

In industrial countries, we have made much progress in cleaning up the air in our cities and some progress in cleaning up our seas and rivers. We have replanted large parts of our land with trees, cleared much industrial dereliction and controlled our population growth. In turn, we have been faced with new problems which require world-wide solutions.

As well as the basic problems associated with poverty and agricultural society, developing countries also have to cope with pollution of air and water caused by industrialisation. Now, their aid donors, creditors and trading partners are telling them that they must deal with the gobal environmental problems that our advanced industrialised societies have created.

We have heard much from the Overseas Development Administration about projects for the rain forest, bio-diversity and global warming. But millions of poor people overseas worry about more mundane everyday problems such as the lack of clean drinking water for 1.3 billion people and the lack of sanitation for 1.7 billion people, which is responsible for 25,000 deaths every day and 80 per cent. of world disease. That is the environmental crisis that they face today.

Deforestation in arid, not tropical, areas has been a major problem for years. Women in Africa spend hours every day hunting for fuel wood. Some 2 billion to 3 billion people face the exhaustion of fuel wood stocks, but only when deforestation became a problem for the atmosphere and not just for the poor did the world sit up and take note. When the environmental problems are those of the poor, not ours, the Government and the ODA seem much less concerned to be green.

I wish to talk about the looming global environmental crisis, but first I want to know what the ODA is doing about the local and national environmental problems faced by developing countries. The poor are the first to suffer when their environment is degraded. They depend on the land, water, forests and crops for their survival. For too many years, policy makers and development planners—those who have control over natural resources and money for investment in conservation—have ignored the environment. In many cases, the effects of that are irreversible and the long-term costs are astronomical.

In Ethiopia, forests which covered 25 per cent. of the country in 1940 have all but disappeared. Now, only 3 per cent. of the land is forested. As a result, the best soil for farming, up in the highlands, has been eroded. Rough calculations estimate that that loss of soil and plant nutrients has reduced Ethiopia's agricultural output by at least 1 million tonnes of food each year. That is equivalent to two thirds of all relief food shipped to Ethiopia in 1985.

As trees disappear, so do sources of firewood, and instead of using cattle dung to fertilise the soil, farmers use it as a fuel for cooking. The loss of soil fertiliser has further reduced the amount of crops grown by $600 million each year. Early prevention would have paid for itself many times over. To replant trees to stop soil erosion would have cost just $50 million per year if it had been done in time.

We have not given a penny of development aid to Ethiopia. Instead, in 1985 the world spent about $500 million on food for famine relief. As the Minister must know, caring about preserving the environment involves short-term costs but long-term savings. The question is not whether we can afford to do it immediately, but whether we can afford not to do it immediately.

Where is the money to come from? There is no sign of any additional Government money to invest in the environment. All the ODA's much trumpeted green projects are being paid for out of a stagnant and pitifully low aid budget. In promising to put more into green projects, is the Minister suggesting that we should transfer funds from immunisation programmes in Africa to forestry in Latin America? That is no way to respond to the enormous environmental challenge. By refusing to commit additional funds to international environment protection, the Government are refusing to invest in future generations.

How can the hon. Lady say that the British aid programme is stagnant when the increase year on year was 17 per cent. in cash terms, which is obviously an increase in real terms as well?

I think that I have encountered the hon. Gentleman on a previous similar occasion. I shall continue to illustrate my point and answer his question.

Last November at the United Nations the Prime Minister called for a vast international co-operative effort to save the global environment. The Prime Minister has presided over historic cuts in British aid and has seen Britain sink from the second largest to the second smallest Group of Seven aid donor. She is responsible for the current miserable level of aid—just 0·31 per cent. of GNP, which is less than half the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP. How can she have the brass neck to talk of a vast international co-operative effort?

The aid budget is increasing in nominal terms, but in real terms the increase is tiny. According to the Government's own optimistic forecasts of underlying inflation, even excluding the inflationary effect of the poll tax as published in the Budget report, the increase between this financial year and next is just 1·1 per cent. in real terms. Between 1991 and 1992 and between 1992 and 1993 it will be just 0·6 per cent. A 1·7 per cent. increase between now and 1993 is scarcely progress towards meeting our international commitments.

Just a few weeks ago, the Government signed the ministerial declaration which resulted from the Bergen conference. That declaration called on donors, in addition to present development assistance, to support programmes to increase the flow of capital and environmentally sound technology to developing and east European countries. When do the Government plan to fulfil that pledge? Funds have been cut from the ODA's scientific section which has the experts to deal with environmental issues. Staffing levels at the National Resources Institute have been cut from 561 in 1979 to 311 in 1989 and its funding has been slashed from £11·4 million to £5·7 million in 1989.

Is the aid programme really green? We have heard much from the ODA about the greening of the aid programme and read about many fine examples in the green glossy brochure. It says that the ODA is extremely wary about financing projects which would cause irreversible environmental damage. It says that all projects are screened for social and environmental costs and that there is careful planning, design and attention to detail so as to minimise adverse environmental effects.

Let us look at the reality, at what others say about our aid. The National Audit Office examined British aid to India. Its report, which was published in January, flatly contradicts the claims in the green glossy brochure. Since 1980, 10 per cent. of Britain's entire bilateral aid has gone to India. Only one tenth of that was targeted at the poor, and less than that went to renewable natural resources. Of the so-called aid, 83 per cent. went into power, telecommunications, energy and mining. United Kingdom Government subsidies disguised as aid went to United Kingdom firms which then proceeded to devastate parts of India.

The report severely criticised the £120 million of aid that was given to build the Rihand power station and the £30 million given to fuel the Amlorhi opencast coal mine. The Rihand cluster of 15 power stations will be the largest concentration of power stations in the world. The £120 million was the largest aid grant that the ODA has ever made, yet it did not commission an environmental impact assessment. It did not know the specifications for the power station or its intended location.

The result has been an environmental disaster. Some 10,000 tonnes of ash slurry containing toxic trace elements and potentially cancer-causing compounds have seeped into the local reservoir where fish have already been killed by thermal pollution. It is feared that air pollution will rise to 10 to 40 times the Government standards. Acid rain is already falling in the industrial belts of India. The Amlorhi coal mine has led to violence with displaced villagers, and land and forest reclamation requirements have simply been ignored.

How could those things happen in the face of the ODA's environmental concerns? The National Audit Office found that the ODA was under immense pressure from the Department of Trade and Industry rapidly to complete its appraisal. It appears that the Department of Trade and Industry organised the bids first. The National Audit Office report states:

"In January 1981 the Department asked the administration to provide an aid pledge to support their proposals. The aid was used to buy the contract. The project arose apparently under the personal initiative of the Prime Minister, reportedly without competition."
Northern Engineering Industries were invited by the DTI to submit proposals which, the Financial Times reported, would almost certainly not have been accepted by India without the subsidy. Research shows that in 1981 NEI made the largest recorded donation of £40,000 to a Conservative party funding organisation, the Northern Industrialists Protection Association. In 1980 NEI gave £12,500 and in each of the years between 1982 and 1989 it gave £45,000. It is estimated that Rikhand was worth £300 million to NEI.

That is just one of the many examples of the abuse of British aid to subsidise British firms that are perceived to be friendly to the Conservative party. GEC provided turbines for Rikhand and it gave £50,000 to the Conservative party in 1980 and again in 1988. Another Conservative favourite, Babcocks, supplied the grinding mills. It gave a Tory front organisation, the City and Industrial Liaison Council, £7,500 between 1982 and 1985 and £10,000 in 1986. Other examples of the environmental damage caused by the inappropriate use of British aid are well documented in the NAO report.

Under the Government the aid-trade provision has been so discredited that the only solution is to scrap it. Instead of being the solution that it was intended to be, it has become part of the problem that the poor of the developing world have to pay for daily.

There is certainly great scope for energy efficiency in developing countries, but with the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) holding the purse strings and a few British companies calling the tune, it is nonsensical to expect a genuine switch from energy generation projects to energy conservation. Saving energy by efficiency is simply not in the interests of GEC or NEI.

The most disgraceful omission for an agency concerned with development is to ignore the devastating effect of poverty. As the report of the Brundtland commission says:
"poverty is a major cause and effect of global environmental problems. It is therefore futile to attempt to deal with environmental problems without a broader perspective that encompasses the factors underlying world poverty and international inequality."
The Government are doing exactly what the Brundtland commission said was futile.

It should be self-evident that the poor cannot concern themselves with environmental destruction when their day-to-day survival is at stake. They do not have sufficient land to let it lie fallow. They have no choice but to continue using it until it is exhausted. If cutting down trees brings immediate and desperately needed cash, or if they need wood today for cooking the family food, thinking about preserving trees for their children and their children's children has to be low indeed in their list of priorities.

I am following carefully what the hon. Lady says, but will she concentrate a little on the relationship between cutting down trees to provide fuel for cooking and the provision of an alternative such as cheap electric power?

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall be coming to those points. Anyone who has been to Ethiopia and seen the problems that face people there in trying to find fuel for their fires will know how vital is the United Nations' development programme in trying to encourage people to use stoves which save fuel instead of using the present massive amounts.

No. This is a short debate and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to speak later.

As Minister of Overseas Development, the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) recognised the importance of poverty when, in 1988, he said:

"Poverty is the most toxic effect on the environment."
Yet current ODA policy does not seem to recognise the environmental problems caused by poverty. On page 8 of the green glossy, the ODA lists the number of causes of environmental degradation. It does not mention poverty. Far from reaching the poor, the Government have used aid to back up IMF and World bank structural adjustment, which in many cases has made the lot of the poor worse. Too much of our aid promotes the interests of a few British companies, not the world's poor.

Given the chance, local people will care for their environment, but they need the rich to give them that chance. If they know that they can feed themselves without over-cropping, over-grazing, or over-chopping the trees, and if they know that they will benefit from environmental investments, they will, but they need that assurance. If they know that their children will survive into adulthood and will be able to support the family, they may well have fewer children, but until they can be sure, there is little chance of reducing population growth.

In many cases, it is the women who have responsibility for the trees, the crops and the water. Donors must ensure that women have sufficient power and economic security to protect those resources, but so often development planners have taken traditional land rights away from women in attempts to legalise and clarify the rights of men or of the state.

Local people may also need training in how best to manage their resources, but male experts rarely reach women. Can the Minister explain why not one of the ODA's agriculture specialists working overseas is a woman?

The key to the argument which the hon. Lady has not yet mentioned, but perhaps will, is family planning. The Government have done a great deal to try to reduce world population. Many of the international agencies have also done a great deal, and the Government have supported them in a big way. The hon. Lady has been speaking for 20 minutes but she has not mentioned family planning. Surely that is the key to the world problem.

The hon. Gentleman was so busy trying to intervene that he did not hear me talk about population. Unfortunately, I do not have time to deal with it in detail, except to make the point again that one of the keys to family planning is tackling the root causes of poverty. We shall never reduce world populations until we reduce the root causes of poverty. I did explain that.

The hon. Gentleman talks about financing that, and that is one of the challenges for us. Are we prepared to finance programmes that organisations such as the United Nations and others are attempting to promote in developing countries?

The ODA refers to participation, but what is it doing to review the effectiveness of existing procedures for involving local people and exploring new ideas? Has it considered not only expanding joint funding for more environmental projects, but directly supporting the work of southern NGOs through national consortia of voluntary groups in developing countries?

The Government are not only failing to address the local and national causes of environmental damage—they are also ignoring the international causes. Facing increased debt service obligations and falling commodity prices, developing countries have had no choice but to increase the pressure on their natural resources to earn more foreign exchange. As Brundtland points out, natural resources are not being used for development or to raise living standards, but to meet the financial requirements of industrialised creditors. Furthermore, the impoverishment caused by debt repayments has made environmental damage worse. Reductions in Government welfare, cuts in subsidies, increasing unemployment and inflation have. pushed the poor to exploit forests and waterways to make ends meet.

In effect,. for many developing countries, financial debts today are being translated into the environmental debts of tomorrow. But while financial debts can be written off by political decision makers, environmental debts are our legacy for future generations and, in many cases, are irreversible. As the Prince of Wales recently said,
"We have to find a way of doing something about the burden of international debt. I do not see how developing countries can be expected to achieve sustainable development and at the same time meet huge debt repayments."
Will the Minister therefore acknowledge that the current debt management strategy is inadequate, that substantial debt reduction is a necessary precondition for the restoration of growth, that until the poorest countries stop paying the rich $52 billion per year more than they receive, the best economic reforms will not spur growth?

The Government's response to the debt crisis has been pitiful. They have done little to encourage commercial banks to reduce debts, even though they have all insured themselves against the worst losses. The Brady plan and the Toronto agreement are clearly inadequate to deal with the problems of the middle and low income debtors, but, sadly, the Government have lacked the vision and commitment to pursue new ideas.

If the Government are serious about pursuing sustainable development plans, will the Minister inform the House what initiatives the Government will take significantly to reduce third world debt? Will she also explain how she expects developing countries to preserve their resources when the trading system established by the north encourages the exploitation of natural resources? With the price of primary commodities down to historic lows, developing countries either have to sell more of them to earn the same amount, or they have to sell different processed goods. Protectionism in the north prevents them exporting goods to us, so the only option is to increase their exports of primary commodities.

The Government have opposed measures to ensure that developing countries receive a fair price for their commodity exports and have done nothing to reduce barriers against processed goods. The Bergen ministerial declaration, to which the British Government are signatories, calls on the European Community and others to examine the links between environmental and trade policies. How do the Government intend to do that?

The Government's failure to tackle the causes of environmental destruction is reflected in their inability to deal with the problems confronting tropical forests. In 1989, 14,200 sq km of tropical forest were destroyed. The Government's main contribution has been to support and channel aid through the framework of the tropical forest action plan—a fatally flawed mechanism which has increased the rate of deforestation in some countries. The Government have been among the key supporters of that scheme and have only recently recognised the need for its reform.

I wish that the Minister would stop claiming that she called for a review of the TFAP in November 1989, when she clearly said:
"We strongly support the tropical forestry action plan. We are already helping it in 20 countries."
If the aim is to help foresters, the TFAP is doing its job, but if it is environmentally sustainable development, a plan that denies people land rights and does nothing to tackle poverty must be deemed a disastrous failure.

The Minister may say that the OECD development council has just passed a resolution calling for reform of the TFAP, but it does not once mention alleviating poverty. Given the devastating criticisms of the plan not only by environmental groups but by the Food and Agriculture Organisation's own independent review, will the Minister impose an immediate moratorium on support for the TFAP until a complete overhaul of its principles and practices has been undertaken?

As on all other issues, the Government refuse to deal with the effects of international trade. Currently, only 0·2 per cent. of hardwood imports are, it is said, sustainable. When will the Government act to control that trade? Far from regulating the timber trade, the Government handed it more power by supporting the International Tropical Timber Organisation. How can a body representing timber producers and users with a mandate to expand and diversify the tropical timber trade also conserve forests?

Deforestation not only threatens millions of forest dwellers by releasing stores of carbon dioxide and destroying untold millions of world species—it threatens us all. The Government's failure to confront global and environmental problems—tropical forests, global warming, and the destruction of the ozone layer—is an utter disgrace. Yet the need for international co-operation has never been greater.

Negotiations on the ozone layer are under way in London under the wing of the United Nations environment programme and are designed to strengthen the three-year-old Montreal protocol, which controls chemicals which attack the ozone layer. Even if every country supported that protocol, the damage to the ozone layer will increase by as much as another 14 per cent. by 2050. The same chemicals are partially responsible also for global warming. Countries such as India and China have yet to support the protocol. China plans to double the use of CFCs over the next five years, mainly in providing its people with more fridges, unless—here comes the rub—rich companies provide aid to help China pay for substitute chemicals which can cost five times as much. That concept also has India's support.

Developing countries cannot and will not afford the expense of replacing CFCs but it is hoped that this week's conference will reach agreement on a special fund to help third world countries.

No. I am trying to conclude my remarks in this very important debate. I gave way on a number of occasions earlier. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to make his own speech.

What commitment will the Government make to help developing countries meet the cost of phasing out CFCs? Will the Minister give an assurance that any such provision will be additional to existing aid budgets? The example of global co-operation that I mentioned is, one hopes, the prelude to a much tougher fight later over how to combat global warming. What will be the Government's attitude to sharing the cost of controlling carbon emissions, which will be significantly higher than the $6 billion estimated as the cost of switching from CFCs? Will there be a firm commitment in the forthcoming White Paper to new and substantial funds for developing countries, to help them tackle global and environmental problems?

Of all the world's citizens, the poorest are set to lose most from global warming. The arid areas of the world, particularly Africa, will suffer most from temperature rises, while the low-lying islands and deltas of Bangladesh, Vietnam and Egypt would be devastated by a rise in sea level. Those countries have least resources to help them adapt to massive changes. The majority of the world's poor still depend on agriculture, and they will be hardest hit. The timing and quantity of rainfall is vitally important in their lives but is likely to become less dependable. Rice, which is the staple diet of 60 per cent. of the world's population, is particularly vulnerable to high temperatures, droughts and floods. Changes in weeds and pests will also present problems.

Farmers in developing countries do not have the resources to experiment or to adapt to global warming, yet there is no sign that international agricultural research is focusing on the staple crops that those countries grow. If production falls, the poor will be in no position to import the food that they need. That is particularly true of Africa, where food production per head fell by 15 per cent. between 1970 and 1985. Nor can those farmers move elsewhere or switch to different livelihoods.

What will the ODA do to help developing countries take precautionary measures? The top priority is to commission and publish a report on the effects of global warming on developing countries and on strategies for adapting to it. The ODA must ensure that international agricultural research focuses on adapting the staple crops of the third world to hotter and dryer climates.

The United Kingdom is dragging its feet in tackling the cause of global warming, which is carbon emissions. We cannot lecture developing countries about changing their policies if we do not demonstrate a commitment to tackling our own policies. How can the leaders of developing countries persuade their people to forsake their hopes for electricity or cars because we say so when at the same time the United Kingdom is spending £13·3 billion on a new road building programme? Why is the ODA not speaking up about the enormous threat that global warming poses to developing countries, emphasising both to the British public and to decision makers in Whitehall the overwhelming importance of immediate preventive action?

If we do not make sacrifices today to prevent global warming, the global costs next century will be enormous. Keeping alive 68 million people displaced by rising seas in Bangladesh, Egypt, China and Vietnam will, even on the basis of their present miserly incomes, cost more than £14 billion every year. The United Kingdom's share of that, based on its share of gross national product, would be £840 million—half the value of the British aid programme.

Given that the number who will lose their agricultural livelihood as a consequence of a warmer climate rather than a rising sea will be even greater, the cost of coping with global warming could be staggering. The choice is clear: we can pay today, or pay more tomorrow.

Why does the ODA not stand up for the third world when sanctimonious westerners—the Prime Minister not excluded—try to pin the blame for global warming on wanton destruction, deforestation, and uncontrollable population growth in developing countries? It is true that of the 90 million people born this year, 85 million will be in the third world, but the remaining 5 million born into rich consumer societies will do as much ecological damage as the 85 million new poor.

The blame for today's damage lies squarely with the west. Nevertheless, developing countries play a crucial role because, as they strive to reach similar levels of affluence, they also risk reaching similar levels of pollution. The planet simply could not sustain that, so we have to step in to help them to develop differently. That will require funds and technology.

If developing countries are to grow without the environmental devastation that our own industrialisation has caused, we must enable them to jump over the technological hurdles, such as cleaning air and rivers, which took us decades to overcome. That means supplying the relevant technology, because they do not have it—for example, the technology to produce substitutes and to conserve and recycle existing CFCs. Modifying equipment will be almost entirely the monopoly of a few companies. If we leave it to the free market, multinationals will be able to exploit a small market overseas, but a major shift away from CFCs is needed.

What are the Government doing to examine the options for transferring technology to developing countries? Do they realise that refining our own cleaning technology is pointless unless developing countries change theirs? If China succeeds in providing fridges to every household by the end of the century, the CFC output will wipe out all the benefits of reductions under the Montreal protocol.

Clearly, the Government do not have the will to play a leading international role in protecting the world's environment. Last November, the Prime Minister's speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations was full of rhetoric about the United Kingdom's role in tackling global warming. The previous day, the Government had opposed proposals supported by a number of other Governments at the Netherlands conference to limit and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The United Kingdom refused to participate in the Hague conference—the world's first environmental summit—organised by France, Norway and the Netherlands in March last year. At Bergen, the Government failed to flesh out their words with clear policies, and failed to demonstrate to developing countries a serious commitment to dealing with our own environmental problems.

The United Kingdom should have been at the forefront, pressing for reforms. Instead, it is seeking to water down European goals to meet the United States' objectives. So long as the Prime Minister continues to give the fig leaf of respectability to the delaying tactics of the United States—the world's largest polluter—significant international progress to control carbon emissions will be stalled. The Government say that the United Kingdom played a constructive role, which was recognised by the conference as a whole, but where is the evidence of that recognition? How could we have played a leading role when we sent a junior Minister to work with senior Ministers and former Prime Ministers?

When Britain and other industrialised countries were developing their economies in the 19th and early 20th centuries, circumstances were easier than they are for third world countries today. No one told us, or the other industrialised countries, that we should not chop down forests or pollute the air. There was no talk of the ozone layer or the greenhouse effect. No one worried that industrialising Britain might damage people elsewhere.

As James Robertson, in his book "Future wealth—a new economics for the 21st century", points out:
"We should also remember that most of the industrialised countries drew capital for their own development from exploiting other countries, including the slave trade. This is a historical debt which remains to be repaid by the industrialised to the less developed countries."
As the cold war ends, the interdependence of all nations and peoples becomes even more apparent. We see the huge environmental problems facing eastern Europe and the absolute necessity for global action to meet the growing threats of world poverty and environmental degradation.

In "The Plague", Albert Camus suggests that in the face of what seems to be overwhelming, one must simply be guided by a sense that one does what one can. It is clear that the Government can do much more. With the end of the cold war there are surely resources which can be diverted from military spending—the peace dividend of £17 billion that the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) is said to have proposed so enthusiastically in a secret memorandum. Estimates show that it would cost £3 billion per year to stop the deserts spreading. The worldwide cost of converting to ozone-friendly substitutes would be £6 billion. What better investment could there be than saving not just ourselves but the world? The Government have the means, but do they have the will?

7.55 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"notes the high quality of the Government's substantial and growing aid programme; commends the Government for its efforts to integrate environment concerns into all aspects of its assistance to developing countries to achieve sustainable development; and applauds its actions and proposals to help developing countries tackle both local and global environmental concerns."
Listening to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) I begin to understand why some Australians refer to the British as whingeing Poms. If she were to be believed, we do little, too late and in the wrong way. Yet, the truth is the exact opposite. Government aid policy is to evaluate the need, identify how best to help and then to deliver what is appropriate.

The Opposition motion is a glowing example of what the Labour party is so good at: posturing. That is the last thing that the developing world wants or needs, if it and we are to tackle the degradation of our environment effectively. I do not doubt that that has to be done, but it has to be done with thought, care and with the co-operation of the recipient countries.

To talk of the Government's lack of commitment to solving the problems shows information blindness—or mix-up—which came through in the hon. Lady's speech and which was certainly unsurpassed by any of her prodecessors. The hon. Lady had only to read the recent booklet, "Environment and the British Aid Programme", to recognise the practical activity that is going on, which started so well under my predecessor. I noticed that she wished to be derisive about the booklet by calling it a "glossy green booklet".

I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman read further than the hon. Lady. Nevertheless, we believe that it is important to tell people what is going on. Although it may not be as extensive as the hon. Lady would like, it is certainly a great deal more than many other countries have been doing, it is more than this country was doing in years gone by, and it will increase.

That booklet is not the first on aid and the environment—it is the second. Through our careful and planned work we are beginning to tackle some of the enormous problems that we face. Whether it is in our thorough, careful approach to development aid, to ensure that full account is taken of environmental issues, or in the specific programmes of work in forestry and biodiversity, there is no lack of commitment on the part of the Government. Whether it is in our detailed economic appraisal of energy efficiency projects, or in the carefully targeted health and population planning projects, there is no lack of commitment. Wherever one looks at ODA's work among scientists, engineers, economists, doctors, agronomists, marine biologists, and every other group, there is commitment and concern with which I am proud to be associated.

The hon. Lady was whingeing that there were no ODA women in agriculture. That simply is not true. We have a woman specialist in Dakar, there are many women at the Natural Resources Institute in Chatham, we are working with Jill Shepherd of the Overseas Development Institute in our forestry projects in India and Kenya, and both our senior social development advisers—who are closely connected with agricultural development, in which women play such a major part in the third world—are women.

No, the hon. Lady spoke for more than 40 minutes and I wish to make progress.

The Government are totally committed to finding solutions to environmental problems, whether in the developed or in the developing world. Let us be in no doubt that the part of the Labour party's motion that refers to our policies is wrong.

At every opportunity, Labour Members call for more development aid. I do not believe for one moment that they would deliver it in practice. They would not deliver it because they could not afford it: they still have not learnt how to create the real prosperity at home with which to pay for it.

I understand that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley wants the Government to devote more resources to the aid programme. I understand her disappointment that we spent 0·31 per cent. of GNP on aid last year. Incidentally, the figure was 0·32 per cent. in 1988 and 0·28 per cent. in 1987; the figure is bound to vary because of the way in which aid money is spent. The point is, however, that since 1986, GNP has grown by 11 per cent. in real terms, which means that we are actually spending more. Of the countries that have the 0·7 per cent. target, only France among the 18 western donors has a larger aid programme than the United Kingdom. We remain committed to that 0·7 per cent. target, although I note that such a commitment is missing from the Labour party's most recent policy document. I wonder why.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. That information is not correct and it is right that we should—

Order. I regret that that is not a point of order for me; it is a question for debate. The Minister may give way if she wishes to debate the matter but it cannot be the subject of a point of order.

The hon. Lady's point of order must not relate to the subject of her original point of order, which was a matter for debate.

I went through the Labour party's latest policy document carefully and I could not find a reference to the figure, but if I am in error I shall gladly withdraw my remark. The proof of the pudding must be in the eating.

What matters to aid recipients is that our aid programme is substantial and growing and that it provides really high-quality aid. Time and again, the United Kingdom's record of quality aid delivery is rightly recognised in the OECD, the World bank and the European Commission. That is a tribute to the effective programme designed and carried out by my Department.

In her long speech, the hon. Lady failed seriously to examine the quality of aid for which the United Kingdom is so well recognised. I am surprised at that, because it means that she is not giving credit to those who deserve it —those who work on the aid programme both at home and overseas, to whom I pay the most generous tribute that I can.

I know that the Minister would not want to mislead the House. She will know that our policy remains the same as that outlined in our first document, "For the Good of All". The recently published document is an additional document. On page 9 of "For the Good of All", we state:

"We will more that double the aid budget to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP within five years."
I hope that the right hon. Lady will accept that and apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd).

I accept that the commitment appeared in the document to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but that is not the latest document in which those responsible for the Labour party's economic policy have been involved. I said only that I had noticed that the figure was missing from the Labour party's latest document.

Every Development Minister wants to help more developing countries to overcome their poverty, to reform their economies and to create their own prosperity. It is clear, however, that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley will have to learn a great deal more about the application of aid, the recipient country's absorptive abilities and the co-ordination of programmes if she is to make sense of her claim that the British taxpayer should pay a further £2 billion a year towards the overseas aid programme to which the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) has just referred.

One does not solve the development problems of recipient countries by throwing money at their Governments. One helps to meet the needs of those nations by the careful targeting of appropriate aid, by helping them to make the best use of resources and by technical co-operation to implement the best modern systems for their benefit.

We have a very substantial aid programme. Last year we spent £1,500 million. We have budgeted for £1,750 million in 1992–93. Our plans for aid have provided for a 22 per cent. increase in cash terms over the three years to 1992–93—a real terms increase of 6 per cent. The planned budget for this year has already been increased from £1,587 million to £1,617 million.

Unlike Opposition Members, we know that one cannot solve the highly complex problems of development by throwing money at them. Aid quality and effectiveness are equally vital. That was the message of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his speech to the all-party group on overseas development on 6 June. Unless we ensure that our aid is used effectively, we are wasting precious resources for the developing countries and squandering British taxpayers' money in the process. Such action is neither sensible nor defensible. That is why we concentrate on using our aid where it is most needed and why we have rigorous systems in place to ensure project effectiveness and value for money.

The right hon. Lady will recollect that, at the Royal Geographical Society conference, she was asked by one of the delegates about the decision on the Fevord-Karnataka forestry project in India. I admit that the issue is delicately balanced, but has any policy decision yet been made on it?

As I think I said on that occasion, the matter is still under review and I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I put it under review because of my concern for that very project.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley made another charge, which was that we cannot make an adequate contribution to tackling the immense environmental problems of the developing countries. We could argue for a thousand years about what an adequate contribution might be, but we should not agree. Nevertheless, I am sure that the House will agree that the Government are helping th developing countries to face their immense environmental problems honestly, systematically and thoroughly.

Before I explain the details of our local and global commitments, I want to outline our philosophy of using aid to assist the environment of the developing—and thus the developed—world.

There is no doubt that environmental questions are the most important facing the world today. The process of industrialisation that began in Europe more than 200 years ago has left no part of the globe untouched. The rapid depletion of the world's natural resources has been the dominant means of economic growth this century. In the past 30 years we have learnt, as the Prime Minister put it, that
"Ours is a tenancy of this planet with a full repairing lease".
We were strengthened in that view by the sight on television of those first pictures of our world taken from space. We saw that the earth had a thin protective atmosphere and was very vulnerable; indeed, we now know that the ozone layer has holes in it.

People are the stewards of the earth and it is our responsibility to manage and run it for the benefit of all mankind—without ruining it. Our cardinal principle must be that human well-being depends upon ecological processes whose options decrease as they become less diverse.

Already, we have a most difficult task to manage and the daily increase in human population makes matters more difficult. In the richer countries, we are fortunate enough to have reasonable incomes, temperate climates and diverse economies. That makes it easier to be green. But in the poorer countries, poverty, burgeoning populations and environmental degradation are so interlinked that the goal of sustainable development is the goal that we are determined to achieve. Our guiding principles are the freedom of the individual in a framework of good government and the need to maintain ecological diversity. We aim to ensure that a sense of stewardship and positive environmental action are present in all our work in the British aid programme.

My Department recently produced a booklet entitled "Environment and the British Aid Programme", which covers more than I could or should cover tonight. Above all, it is a question of attitudes. Everyone working in the Overseas Development Administration must operate with high awareness of environmental matters. Our aid investments are subject to rigorous environment scrutiny and all project managers attend our environmental training course and use our environmental appraisal manual, which has been highly praised in many quarters. Every project is subject to environmental scrutiny. Our economists continue to work to refine cost-benefit analysis, building on the work of David Pearce—financed by the ODA—and others. That ensures that the taxpayer is given value for money, and we need to take account of the longer-term horizon demanded by environmental perspectives.

The green booklet is also concerned about human resources. I am extremely fortunate to lead a Department in which staff skills and commitments are of the highest order. We have 370 expert scientists at the Natural Resources Institute at Chatham and many more people working with them. Their work is devoted to a better scientific understanding of ecological processes in the poorer countries. Staff in the ODA have extensive and valuable links with environmental groups and many institutions in this country. The World Wide Fund for Nature, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Royal Geographical Society are just three of the groups with which we are in almost daily contact.

Will the right hon. Lady's Department use its influence in regard to the present position in the natural history museum, where taxonomic and palaeontological research is of great relevance?

Indeed, and the hon. Gentleman is aware that I have taken up that point with my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts. The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister gave him a full reply to a late-night Adjournment debate last Wednesday, which he initiated. I assure the hon. Gentleman that all the points in that debate will continue to be followed up, because the good work done in that museum is valued by us all and we rely upon it.

With the bodies to which I referred and others, we continually update our knowledge and techniques. We take our knowledge wider than the ODA.

I shall not give way any more, because, if I do, others will not have an opportunity to speak.

We are among the leaders in spreading the green message to other aid-giving institutions, especially the European Community and the World bank. The Commission is already using 100 copies—

Order. The Minister has made it quite clear that she will not give way any more.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Would it be possible for you to draw to the attention of Ministers who refuse to give way the fact that hon. Members sit silently through their speeches, and to remind those Ministers that their speeches mean very little if hon. Members are not present to listen to them?

I hardly think that that is a point of order for the Chair. However, the hon. Gentleman has made his point.

I recall making that same point about 16 years ago, sitting in exactly the same seat as the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke).

I was saying that we are recognised for our environmental appraisal techniques. The Commission is already using more than 100 copies of our manual. The German Government and other Governments are using it as well. We cannot be as bad as the hon. Member for Cynon Valley made out.

I want now to consider the extra help that is needed to tackle global environmental problems in developing countries. I told the House in a written answer on 11 June that we plan to allocate additional resources to helping developing countries deal with sources of green house gas emissions.

Developing countries will need help if they are to implement measures agreed under the Montreal protocol. We are ready to provide funds as part of an internationally agreed financial mechanism. Such a mechanism is being discussed at the meeting of the Montreal protocol parties in London at the moment. We are hosting that meeting on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme. Britain is the third largest contributor to UNEP and we work closely with its excellent executive director, Dr. Tolba. Our contribution will be part of a separate new item in the Government's expenditure plans and it will be separate from our aid budget for developing countries, which itself is planned to grow.

We cannot consider environmental problems with success unless we are prepared to tackle the rapid rise in population growth. Since 1950, world population has doubled. It is now 5.3 billion and it will increase by 1 billion during the 1990s. That is 250,000 more people a day, every day. During the next century, the world population will probably double and could even triple. Some 90 per cent. of the increase is in the developing world.

Our aim is to help Governments to formulate population policies and to implement programmes that include the provision of voluntary family planning information and services. Improving the health and education of women and reducing infant and child mortality are also crucial if smaller families are to be encouraged.

Rapid population growth exacerbates the environmental degradation. The linkages between population growth and the environment are complex. However, tackling population growth is an important aspect of our environmental policy. In 1989, the ODA spent more than £17 million on specific population-related activities. That compares with £6·5 million in 1981.

A major part of our assistance is channelled through the multilateral population programmes. We have increased our total contributions to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the United Nations population fund and the WHO's human reproduction programme from £14·6 million in 1989 to £15·7 million this year.

This year ODA has supported bilateral population projects in nine areas of the world. In India, for example, we are funding a £20 million project for the strengthening of primary health care and family welfare services in five districts in Orissa. In Kenya, we are providing more than £4 million to six non-governmental organisations providing population education and broadening the provision of family planning services. We all now identify several countries in Africa and Asia in which our existing activities could be expanded and soon will identify new countries in which assistance may start. Wherever we help, it must be in voluntary family planning services. However, we are encouraged by the responses to our approaches to countries that have never before undertaken such programmes.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley spent a long time talking about poverty. She linked poverty, quite understandably, to many of the awful problems facing the third world. She is aware that one of the main objectives of our aid programme is to relieve poverty, which my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten), said is the most toxic element in environmental pollution. We do that directly by aiming our aid at those most in need. In Ghana we help the poorest by participating in the programme of action to mitigate the social cost of adjustment. In India we spent almost £200 million between 1980 and 1988 in the key sectors of health, welfare, education, housing and renewable natural resources.

In 1988 our food aid and disaster relief were targeted at those in desperate need and totalled £40 million. That is all helping to relieve poverty. However, we also help to relieve poverty in the long term by promoting growth in developing countries.

The promotion of growth in developing countries seems to help most when we understand and work with the Governments of those countries to identify the best means of helping. In some countries the best way might be to create clean power for the people so that they can begin to be productive. In other countries and other regions we might have to concentrate on relieving the enormous health problems. Elsewhere we might be able to do most to relieve poverty by being thoroughly active in agriculture. I recommend to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley the research document entitled "A Strategy for Research on Renewable Natural Resources". I shall send the hon. Lady a copy although it has been in the Library for some time. That document explains what we are doing and it gives the lie to what the hon. Lady's imputations.

I believe that in all those ways we seek to help to relieve poverty. However, relieving poverty involves more than pushing money or having specific programmes. Countries must undertake economic reform and the countries that do that receive our fullest support, as has been absolutely clear in Africa in recent years.

We provide technical assistance and physical infrastructure. We direct our aid throughout our programmes to the poorest by concentrating on countries with low incomes. That is why in 1988 around 70 per cent. of our aid went to the poorest 50 countries and a further 8·5 per cent. to other low-income countries.

Although one does not doubt the efficiency of the work that is done by many officials in the Overseas Development Administration on individual projects, does the Minister agree that the greatest contribution that could be made to help the poor countries of sub-Saharan Africa would be a real increase in commodity prices, rather than the 20 per cent. drop over the past 15 years, and ceasing to support the IMF on its imposition of liberal economic models, which are helping to subsidise and prop up the banking systems of north America and western Europe?

The hon. Gentleman cannot expect to get away with that. One of the things that has been quite clear to me since I came to this job, is the careful attention to workable economic policies that the IMF and the World bank give in regard to nations in Africa and elsewhere that need economic reform. We have been the largest contributor to the interest subsidy account, which helps those countries. We help to reschedule official debts through the Paris Club, and we give generous bilateral aid. We cancel overseas aid debts—£1 billion that is owed by 23 countries has being cancelled by this country. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) laid the foundations for the Toronto terms that have helped many—the Brady plan has helped many others—and we shall go on helping those countries.

It is simply not right to pour more of British taxpayers' money into countries that will not learn the lesson that socialism does not work. Countries in eastern Europe have learnt and have come to us for help with their new institutional set-up. They have been showing the way. Countries that have bothered to find out how things work better are benefiting greatly, as can be seen in Ghana and in many other countries.

Deforestation is perhaps the gravest environmental threat facing the developing world. The latest reports suggest that 17 million hectares or more of tropical forest are currently being lost each year. That is one and a half times the size of England, and twice the rate of the late 1970s. We need forests to help maintain soil fertility, prevent erosion and protect watershed systems. Globally, our forests store vast quantities of carbon and house 90 per cent. of the planet's plant and animal species.

Tropical forests are concentrated in developing countries, and those countries will decide their fate. It is not for us to question the sovereign rights of developing countries to use their natural resources, but we can and we will help them to manage forests sustainably, for the benefit of the countries that house them and for the benefit of the wider community.

Britain has a record of which we can be proud. In 1988 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we would do more under the aid programme to promote the wise and sustainable use of forest resources. Then we were financing 80 forestry projects at a cost of £45 million. Now we have almost 150 projects costing more than £60 million. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced last November that we would aim to commit a further £100 million over the next three years. We already have 60 projects in preparation. Those and more will be financed from the £100 million.

The hon. Lady likes to have a great deal of fun with the tropical forestry action plan. We all know that forestry is an international problem and challenge. That means that the solutions require a collaborative international effort. Whatever the hon. Lady may think, one country working alone would be simply no good. The main international mechanism for co-ordinating assistance to developing countries is the tropical forestry action plan. The TFAP has been heavily criticised, often with good reason. Whatever the hon. Lady may say, I called for its reform at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation general conference last November, and it was good that, shortly after, an independent review was set up.

That review has just reported. The report contains several important conclusions and recommendations that we are studying carefully. The TFAP should not support the extension of logging without rigorous environmental safeguards, and that means making forests managed and sustainable for the future. We welcome that conclusion —it has always been our view that that should be done.

We have funded the attendance of Papua New Guinea and other countries at the TFAP. We have made sure that countries that wanted to respond had information. The PNG Government have now announced a moratorium on logging. In the Cameroon, under the TFAP, we funded an expert on medicinal plants. Without British involvement, there would be much more to complain about. The proposals for new guidelines from the TFAP and the suggestion that the NGOs should be consulted in drawing them up are very good. The review is a good basis for necessary reform, and that is why we are now involved in a detailed discussion of how to take forward its recommendations in preparation for the Food and Agriculture organisation committee on forestry in Rome in September. A copy of the review is in the Library.

The second critical forestry problem is the need to safeguard the planet's biological diversity. We do not know to within a factor of 10 how many plants and animal species our planet holds. What we do know is that they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Perhaps a third of the total could be lost in the next three or four decades.

In May I established a special action programme to expand ODA's work on conserving biological diversity. First, we need better information on the priorities for conservation. Britain's contribution of £0·25 million to the major study by the world conservation monitoring centre in Cambridge is to help prepare a global biodiversity status report. Secondly, we need to identify well-designed projects for funding. The Oxford Forestry Institute is preparing for us a strategy on ODA's role in conserving the biodiversity of forests. That will include a series of project outlines. We are commissioning similar studies on the marine environment, which is a much neglected but very important store of biological diversity, and on the so-called wildlands, such as the savannah of Africa, which often house wild relatives of food crops.

In all those matters we are out to make progress on the basis of science. Nowhere could that be more true than in the global warming issues that now concern us so drastically. We know that developing countries could suffer worst from the effects of global warming. In Africa, for example, climate change is likely to have a significant negative effect on agricultural production. Millions may be forced to move to survive in areas in which land is already scarce. Africa has probably contributed least to the problem of climate change. It therefore understandably looks to the international community to take the lead—but Africa, too, will need to play its part.

We are helping developing countries get to grips with the issue of climate change. That is why we are contributing to help developing countries join in the work of the intergovernmental panel on climate change.

We are also developing an energy efficiency initiative. In May this year I announced an offer of £50 million towards energy efficiency projects in India. It is right that we get the very best use of energy production there. Although I share some doubts about Rihand, I have already taken steps to ensure that energy in the third world is produced efficiently and as cleanly as possible and without degradation. We cannot change the past, but we can help to increase the efficiency of power stations and prevent devastation causing more disruption in those countries. That is why, in Pakistan, we are fitting waste heat recovery boilers for gas turbine stations, and doing similar things in Bangladesh. In Pakistan, we have already managed to achieve a recovery of heat of 137 per cent. of the original target. Therefore, we are putting our scientific knowledge to the best use for people who need to use power.

We are including in our work many other matters that I shall set out in a major speech in a few months. We have involved ourselves in the World bank energy sector. It now has a small commission to consider priorities. Our ODA permanent secretary is a member of that commission. We also have an assistance programme to deal with environmental concerns. It does not stop at energy efficiency; it also includes conservation. It will loom large in the commission's work. British expertise, which is well respected worldwide, is contributing to the full in all international environmental forums.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley also referred to water. I agree that water and sanitation are both critical. Ten years ago only 40 per cent. of the world's population had access to a safe water supply, and only 25 per cent. had access to sanitation. That is why, under the aegis of the international drinking water supply and sanitation decade, we made a concerted effort. A safe water supply has been provided to an estimated 700 million new users during the decade. During the same period, sanitation facilities have been provided to 250 million people.

With the continuous global population increase, there is a pressing need to accelerate the impetus worldwide during the 1990s. That is why we are funding numerous water and sanitation projects in the developing countries. That is why, in 1988 alone, we had 86 on-going projects, at an overall cost to the aid programme of £184 million.

We have made steps to meet the environmental challenges, but we fully accept that much remains to be done. We shall say more about our plans in the environment White Paper later in the year. Britain's aid programme is as green as any that I know of in Europe, but I intend to keep it that way. I intend to build on the firm base that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath built before me. There is no shortage of commitment in this Government to helping to solve the environmental problems of developing countries.

This Government will always use taxpayers' money for development aid soundly and effectively. It takes a Government with credibility to galvanise the efforts of the international community. I know from the reactions that I get overseas that Britain's contribution—and our Prime Minister's contribution—is recognised as crucial and effective, be it our efforts through the United Nations, through the London conferences on the ozone layer, or our pioneering tropical forestry initiative.

Therefore, I utterly reject the Opposition's carping and sort-sighted motion. I am certain that my right hon. and hon. Friends will support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's amendment in the lobby tonight.

Before we proceed, I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind what I said earlier and respond to my appeal for short speeches. We have little more than an hour before the winding-up speeches.

8.32 pm

I am deeply grateful for being called, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wish to respond to only one aspect of the environmental issue, but I believe that it towers above the rest. I refer to population growth. The sheer importance of this issue cannot be overestimated. If we do not control population growth, all the other environmental problems will simply mount up. There will be environmental degradation.

Although most hon. Members know the statistics, I believe that they need repeating. It took us 100,000 years to reach a world population of 1 billion people; it took another 100 years to reach a population of 2 billion people; it took another 30 years to reach a population of 3 billion people; and now we are adding 1 billion to the world population every 10 years. That means that the present population of 5 billion will be 6 billion by the end of the century.

We must reach a replacement rate level of population as quickly as possible. If we do not do so urgently, the increase in population will be staggering. If we reach replacement level by 2015, the world's population will be 8 billion. There is no chance of our reaching that replacement level by 2015. If we take a mere 40 extra years and reach replacement level population by 2055, the world's population will be 13 billion people. The difference between those two populations is the existing population of the world.

We must tackle this problem aggressively. I defy anybody who has visited those parts of the world that have high rates of population growth to be unmoved by that experience. Hon. Members of all parties have visited Nepal and have seen that country being literally eaten by its population, as its people scramble for higher and higher and ever more inaccessible terraces on which to live. We have seen the forestry and the hillsides disappearing, yet only 15 per cent. of that land can be lived on. We have seen the most incredible problems unfolding before our eyes.

We must realise that today in India 70,000 babies have been born. The population of India has doubled since independence. Although the problem is enormous, it can be overcome. I was disturbed to hear the Minister refer to ensuring that such countries have an absorptive quality that enables them to accept more assistance. I remind her that there are 600,000 villages in India and that only 3,000 of them have a family planning service. I am sure that one or two thousand more villages have an absorptive quality that could enable them to take more assistance.

It is possible to be very critical of the Indian Government's lack of courage in not providing the lead on family planning, but it is also possible to be critical of ourselves, and especially of the Americans. One of the most disturbing things in recent years is that, as a result of the pressures exerted by the so-called pro-life lobby in the United States, since 1985 the United States Government have made no contribution to any family planning funds.

It is ironic that people who call themselves "pro-life" should, by their withdrawal of funds and their unwillingness to give aid to family planning services, have caused so much abortion. There is no doubt that it is the absence of good family planning that has led to most of the abortions that take place. It is ironic that people who call themselves "pro-life" should have helped make life so nasty, brutish and short for so many of the children who are born. We should make it clear that we can no longer tolerate that unwillingness to tackle the issue of family planning.

We must grasp the great importance of family planning and ensure that more of our aid is directed to that end. It was with some pleasure, therefore, that I heard the Minister of State say that our aid had been gradually steered in that direction. We must accept that such aid will always be steered towards voluntary family planning, because any other approach is simply counter-productive. However, we must accept that that aid must be long-term, because such family planning activities involve the most sensitive and delicate development work. Nevertheless, it is obvious that such work can be carried out. Those of us who have been there have seen how such work has yielded fruit in the back streets of Delhi. We have also seen the clean water supplies there. We are also aware of the work that has successfully controlled parasites in other parts of India. That work is both long-term and fulfilling.

I conclude by emphasising another area. We must be aggressive in ensuring that our aid helps the development of women in the developing world. That is the key to success. Literate women have control over their lives. I defy any hon. Member to name any country where literacy for women has led to their choosing to have large families. They do not choose to have large families when careers other than child bearing are available to them.

The Minister will be supported by many hon. Members if she fights for more generous aid to be given to population control. Without population control, there will be no future for our children and those born elsewhere. The ozone layer and deforestation fade into insignificance, compared with the importance of controlling population growth.

8.40 pm

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this most important subject, development aid and the environment, but how unfortunate it is that it has to be discussed on a party political bashing basis. The British aid programme of over £1.6 billion is no small beer. It is 17 per cent. up on last year and is heading for £1.75 billion in 1992. The debate should be about targeting and the value to be achieved from these vast resources. Not a word, however, is said about that matter in the Labour motion.

Even according to their own funding criteria, the Opposition disappoint. In the last two years of the last Labour Government, they chopped successive £50 million chunks off the aid budget—deep, in real terms, in the values of those days. Frank Judd, the Opposition's Front Bench spokesman on aid at that time, summed it up perfectly when he said that the cuts would have grave implications and that the Labour Government did not wish to minimise them. Did the Labour Government put up a fight? Joel Barnett, who was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the Labour Government, noted that there was little argument within the Labour Cabinet when IMF strictures required those cuts. He admitted later in his book:

"on overseas aid there was little argument this time, and £50 million was scored for each year."
I shall confine my comments to the environmental implications of the destruction of the rain forests. I welcome the growing interest worldwide and in Britain, but also in the countries of the Amazon basin, in their responsibilities for their great heritage. Brazil, which contains by far the largest extent of the Amazonian rain forest, has made major progress of late.

Under the inspired leadership of the newly elected president, Fernando Collor de Mello, the Brazilian Government have taken some important steps. First, they have scrapped the fiscal incentives that led directly to the clearance of forests for ecologically disastrous grazing, which in turn led to soil erosion. Secondly, the pursuit of illegal gold prospecting—which does nothing for the economy of Brazil, as most of the gold is smuggled out of the country—brings misery to thousands of garimpeiros, the peasant miners, and has led to the virtual extinction of the Indian tribes in the area, notably the Yanomami. Thirdly, the Brazilians have scrapped the infamous B364 road to Peru for timber export, which the Japanese would have used to strip the forests of hardwood.

Fourthly—perhaps the most inspired of all the steps taken in Brazil—Professor Jose Lutzenberger has been appointed the President's Secretary for the Environment. Professor Lutzenberger has long been a campaigner against the environmental destruction tolerated by the previous military regimes in Brazil. He was perhaps the most radical eco-critic in the country. He has a clear understanding of the ecological dangers facing the globe and an appreciation of the possibilities in Brazil. He has the ear of the president. He could not have been appointed at a better time. There is a new, dynamic and environmentally sensitive president in Brazil, with the world awake to the ecological risks and ready to help. If I may be so bold, Britain is at the forefront of the international support that is now forthcoming.

A year ago my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten), when Minister for Overseas Development, concluded his now famous memorandum of understanding with Brazil. Up to then, foreign powers had lectured Brazil on the environment, thus inflaming nationalist feelings. What my right hon. Friend achieved was to offer partnership and a lead to Brazil's pride in its rain forests. His technical co-operation programme was to cover five areas: first, the urban environment, in particular sewage and water treatment; secondly, the sustainable management of the Amazon rain forest, where he hoped that we would be involved in establishing a new biological reserve in the Xingu river area; thirdly, collaborative research on the relationship between the forests and climate, involving the Institute of Hydrology; fourthly, research into the great potential of the genetic resources of the Amazon—and he hoped to begin soon a research project into aromatic plants, undertaken by the Goeldi museum in Belem; and, fifthly, training in both the United Kingdom and Brazil in matters related to those areas.

I am glad that approval has now been given for some of the projects, notably that of the Institute of Hydrology and its climate research projects in the states of Amazonas, Para and either in Rondonia or Acre in Brazil and for a study of the impact of deforestation on the climate. I hope that progress will be made on a number of other projects that have already been identified—notably that of the Tapajos forest management project in Para state to establish sustained forest management, production and a harvesting system; the forest research project with INPA in Brazil that would lead to research into the distribution and dynamics of the biomass and minerals in tropical forests; the Caxivana biological reserve in Para state, which would bring about the establishment of a biological reserve there and the promotion of sustainable management of the forest; and a study of the ecology, natural regeneration and flora of the flooded forests near Belem on the Amazon. I could refer to other projects, such as the aromatic plant development project near Belem that carries out research and trials of plants species with potential for commercial development. In the time available, I cannot refer to the many other projects.

We should not forget that there are large tracts of Amazonia in Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see the Colombian Amazon region. The Government of President Barco of Colombia have shown the imagination to carry out a systematic programme of legal recognition of land rights for all the indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon. More than 12 million hectares have been safeguarded. It is considered the collective property of the Indians and it is inalienable. They are now working on a further 6 million hectares, in addition to the 5 million already included in the recently created national parks in the Amazon region. The next stage for Colombia will clearly be for projects into the sustainable use of the rain forest. I hope that we can extend our various projects to assist Colombia

Before I came into the Chamber I looked into the forestry projects of the Overseas Development Administration. They are under way in no fewer than nine Latin American countries. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development has much to be proud of, given our constructive aid in this sphere. All power to her elbow. Let us keep up the good work.

8.48 pm

I intend to comment on some of the points made by the Minister. Ministers say that the United Kingdom helps 60 per cent. of the poorest countries in the world. The sad fact is that most of them are former British colonies. The fact that they are former British colonies and need so much aid is an indictment of the Government's policy. The Minister was right to emphasise that we should pay attention to the quality, not just to the quantity, of aid. I accept that certain Overseas Development Administration projects are good and set an example to the rest of the world.

It is nevertheless true that much of our aid programme is still viewed as a trade opportunity to be plundered by large companies. I am not the only exponent of that view. It is worth reading a sentence from the Conservative manifesto for the last election:
"Our 'Aid and Trade Provision' funds have helped win good development contracts for British firms worth over £2 billion since 1979."
That is not what aid should be about, but I regret that that is what is has become in many cases.

The third point is that the Minister said that she had made £50 million available for energy efficiency projects, mainly in India, and then elaborated on how much she was committed to the idea of achieving greater energy efficiency in India. It is an extraordinary proposition that we should give priority to energy efficiency in countries that inherently use little energy, rather than concentrating within the developed world and reducing our excessive energy consumption. I accept that that is not the Minister's responsibility, but it is the Government's, and the figures that she quoted contrast pretty sharply with the miserable investment in energy efficiency that has been sanctioned by the Department of Energy for our energy efficiency at home.

I should like to say, by way of a commercial—I have no interest to declare other than a local connection of pride—that before I came to this debate I was at a preview showing of a documentary for Channel 4 produced by Grampian television on the energy alternative. It is a programme of three one-hour documentaries that is a blueprint for changing the way that the world works. I noted with interest that the role of women, which has been mentioned by a number of speakers, has been specifically acknowledged within the third world, and the changes that have been taking place are focused upon without necessarily commenting that that is the definitive answer.

It was inevitable that the Minister would home in on specific worthy projects that the Government are sponsoring, and I am sure that other Conservative Members will also do so. However, the Minister did not satisfactorily explain to the House how and why Britain has dropped from second to sixth among the top seven industrial nations in the provision of overseas aid. The Government inherited a GNP contribution of 0·52 per cent., which they have reduced to 0·31 per cent. The Thatcher Government claim that they have achieved an economic miracle. Why have we not shared that economic miracle with the poorer peoples of the world? It really is not good enough for the Minister not to respond to that fact.

The other factor that must be addressed is the way in which aid projects are managed, not just by the British Government—or, perhaps worse still, by the American Government—but by the World bank and international agencies. There is no doubt that the criteria being applied specifically by the World bank do not often meet the real needs and the real structure of the countries that are supposed to be developing.

One problem is that the World bank seems to want assurances of stability within the Governments through which it is seeking to provide aid. The trouble is that stability tends to mean rather nasty, often right-wing, dictatorships that misuse the money to fatten their friends and to give contracts to big businesses. That does not benefit the poor people and does not reach the small businesses that might actually gain from the channelling of that aid. I wish that the British Government had done more to try to change those criteria.

The consequence of that is that banks tend to appoint consultants who determine who gets the contracts and how they are bid. It is far too much trouble to allow small companies, which have to be vetted and investigated, to get a cut of the business. Too often, that cut goes elsewhere and leaves the people of the country feeling alienated. Often, they are actually disrupted or even moved from their land to accommodate projects proposed by big business interests that are hostile to the interests of the people living in that country—yet it is all done in the name of overseas aid for poor communities.

It is interesting that, within Europe, Sweden and Holland have taken a high profile in trying to alter the character of the regimes to which they will give aid, singling out those to which other countries often refuse to give aid. They apply criteria that seek out and encourage progressive Government policies within countries to which they are giving aid.

I was recently asked to review a book commissioned by Friends of the Earth called "Exploited Earth," by Teresa Hayter. She says something worthy of report, especially in relation to tropical rain forests:
"If the Governments of the major western powers and their agencies genuinely wanted to save forests in the third world, the best thing they could do would be to stop discriminating in favour of repressive and inegalitarian Governments and support, or at least refrain from attacking, third world Governments with progressive policies."
That is something we should actively encourage. We should be seeking to change the character. We should not conform to capitalist models, but to ones that are genuinely socially responsive and can reach down to the people who most need the aid.

We are all in grave danger of inadvertently patronising third-world countries when we talk about the problems of aid. I am conscious of it myself. I do not feel that it is necessarily my job to tell third-world countries what they should do, although it is legitimate to tell them what they should not do in circumstances where there is clear exploitation.

For example, the Brazilians have stated quite clearly that they do not understand why the Brazilian rain forest should be treated as a lung for the planet, because it is needed as a resource for their teeming population. The problem is how one ensures that that population can secure development in a way that nevertheless meets the wider needs of the planet and the long-term interests of the Brazilian community, which is too pressured by short-term needs and concerns.

With all respect to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington)—and I recognise his commitment—the problem of population control falls into that difficulty. We can look at the third world and say that the population is growing too fast, the pressures are too great, and that if we do not do something about it, the planet will not survive. That is all true, but it is also a fact that, for most third-world countries, large families are a substitute for the lack of a welfare state. They are a means of security, an economic advantage and a welfare support.

Until that is changed the fundamental problem will not be dealt with and there is a clear correlation that constructive economic development and improved economic well-being actually reduce the pressure of large families. I acknowledge the fact that the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie referred to that.

The other problem, which we will have to address across the whole of the developed world and right across the political boundaries is how we will deal with the problem of the greenhouse effect. It causes me some concern that the British Government, together with the American Government and others, have failed to achieve, or get anywhere near achieving, a figure of 0·7 per cent. of gross national product overseas aid budget. How on earth will they persuade people in the developed world to make the necessary sacrifices to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions so that the third world can achieve even a fraction of the growth to which it aspires? A much bigger chunk than 0·7 per cent. of GNP must be earmarked.

It has been suggested that an international world programme could be delivered—perhaps that is idealistic. It could determine the total greenhouse gas emissions that the world is currently producing and aim to freeze those emissions, and subsequently reduce them. It would then allow bids for the allocation of that share of greenhouse gases—in extremis on a population basis. The consequences of that would be a major cut in the greenhouse emissions of the developed society to allow the third world to achieve the growth to which it aspires.

I note that the Minister is grimacing at the severity of what is required. We know that that could not be done overnight—it may take a generation. However, the third world will not stand being lectured about how it cannot aspire to the glories and pleasures of the western developed world just because we have already got there first and are not prepared to cut it in. Ultimately the third world will not put up with that. We must be prepared to make some fairly major sacrifices collectively, across party lines and national boundaries, in the west if we are to allow the underdeveloped countries to alleviate some of their poverty and to fulfil some of their aspirations.

The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) is right to say that this issue should not be made too party political as that would render it specious. The scale of the problem we face is such that if we spend too much time scoring party-political points off each other we shall not address the wider issues of how we reach solutions to the urgent problems.

The nature of politicians and of this place is such that we cannot resist scoring party political points. It is the duty of Oppositions to oppose and of Governments to extol the virtues of what they have achieved. We must acknowledge, however, that if we are to make a contribution to solving the problem and if we are serious about it, we must seek out cross-party consensus. We must adopt long-term policies that will be pursued by Governments of whatever political persuasion and by many Governments at a time. We must do that soon; otherwise, the problems will become academic as it will be far too late.

I am a natural optimist—in my party, the one thing one learns is to be one—and I believe that there is a great deal that we can achieve if we put our minds to it. Obviously we can make technical contributions, but we must be prepared to acknowledge that attitudes must change and that societies within the developed countries must acknowledge the problems of the developing world and its right to a share of the benefits of the globe. We must recognise that, if we do not adopt a concerted environmental policy, we shall be destroyed by the third world's attempts to gain what it regards as its rightful share of the world's benefits.

The problem is sometimes described on such a global scale that we cannot relate to it; there are too many issues with which to deal at once. I was therefore encouraged to find that that dry American verser, Ogden Nash, had an appropriate little verse that puts things in perspective while saying the right thing:
  • "I think that I shall never see
  • A billboard lovely as a tree,
  • Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
  • I'll never see a tree at all".
That sums up the fact that we cannot make a positive contribution to reducing environmental pressures if we determine our approach entirely by commercial factors. We must accept that the west must make some substantial sacrifices if the people of the third world are to have a real chance of a share in the resources of the planet.

9.2 pm

In view of the time available, I shall keep my remarks brief.

First, I should declare an interest as I am vice-president of Operation Raleigh on a non-remunerative basis. In that capacity, I thank my right hon. Friend for all the support that she has given to Operation Raleigh and to Voluntary Service Overseas. I know that in the past she has given great assistance to environmentally friendly projects and schemes run by Operation Raleigh all over the world, and that is much appreciated.

Last night in the debate on the police the Opposition made a considerable financial commitment, and earlier this evening in the transport debate they made a similar one. In this debate, the Opposition reaffirmed their commitment to achieve a target contribution to overseas aid of 0.7 per cent. of GNP within five years. When the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) gave us a tour d'horizon of all the environmental problems of the world, I thought that she also made a commitment to subsidise the reduction in or removal of CFCs in the People's Republic of China.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the Labour party will have its work cut out if it should ever be elected to Government. That point should be made because those who listen to or read about this debate should appreciate that people must be judged on their performance. The October 1974 Labour party manifesto made the commitment that 0·7 per cent. of GNP would be given in overseas aid, but history proves that that figure was never achieved.

I congratulate the Government on the cancellation of debt, particularly in Africa, and while I urge them to pursue that line, I have some concerns about Government aid. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) spoke of propping up corrupt regimes and the need to monitor the way in which money is spent. I am concerned about some of the £13 million in aid that has gone to Ethiopia. I should like to know how much of it has gone directly to the people and how much has been filched to perpetuate a continuing civil war.

The same can be said of the £8·5 million recently given in emergency aid to Mozambique. I am worried about how much of that, plus 10,000 tonnes of food aid, has gone to the army and how much has gone to people in desperate need. Perpetuating corrupt regimes should not be the purpose of our overseas aid, and we now have an opportunity to pass on some of our know-how in that respect.

In my constituency, the South Devon technical college has offered aid to eastern Europe. I congratulate the Government on their plans to aid the eastern European countries which are, frankly, environmental disasters. Aid programmes have already been announced for Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I have written to my right hon. Friend pointing out that South Devon technical college has played a great role in the past in supplying language skills to south-east Asia. The college is anxious to participate in any aid programme to eastern Europe. The amount of money being sought by eastern Europe is astronomical. I heard Eduard Shevardnadze talking on the radio on Monday about £8·5 billion being needed by the Soviet Union. If such aid is given, it should have major strings attached.

I appreciate that it is all to easy to be patronising about aid. Imposing western developed nation standards on intermediate, dirty, industrialised third-world countries has inherent dangers, particularly when there are many problems that we have not tackled.

I draw attention particularly to nuclear submarines in this country which are mothballed and about which, apparently, nothing can be done. It seems that no decision has been made about whether to tow them out into the Atlantic—that was the original intention—or to decommission them in some other way. That is a major problem of our own making and, so far as I am aware, there is no solution to it.

The Secretary of State for the Environment was in his place earlier in the debate. I hope that he or a Minister from that Department will have an opportunity to explain to the House the level of CFC reduction that we propose to reach by the year 2000 and why that level will be only about 50 per cent. of what it should be.

Reference has been made in the debate to numerous projects. I have time to refer to just three. The first is land degradation. I understand that in sub-Saharan Africa the husbandry of goats has played a major part in removing the soil. I hope that in future great thought will be given to dealing with that problem.

The second point—sea levels—was mentioned by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley. I urge her to put pressure on the Government to avoid grandiose schemes of the kind that in the past were regarded as prestige projects. When we consider projects such as the Aswan dam 20 or 30 years later, we realise that such grandiose schemes have been catastrophically counter-productive.

While many people will welcome the thermal power efficiency programmes which have been introduced and are being sponsored by the British Government, many constituents are horrified to hear of the vast sums being spent by the Pakistani Government on sabre-rattling exercises, mobilising troops and tanks along the Indian frontier. That is truly horrific.

I acknowledge that the Government have been in the forefront of many important issues in recent years and months—one of which affected my constituency. A tanker-load of toxic waste from west Africa was heading towards the United Kingdom and my constituency, causing great concern. I recognise that the European Community has introduced a system of certificates for toxic waste to ensure that it does not go to third-world countries.

There has been little time to cover all the issues in this important debate, but I urge the House to support the amendment.

9.11 pm

No one can doubt the scale of the crisis facing the third world and all of us. It is a crisis affecting the environment, health, housing, agriculture, food, famine and debt. There is no room in this Chamber or any hon. Member's heart for complacency or self-congratulation on what we have done to date to tackle this massive task.

Like many hon. Members, I have constituents who are active in world development and aid. When they hear us arguing about how much money we spend, they answer that that money is but a pittance in comparison to the massive transfer of wealth and resources from the south to the industrialised north. If we were to repay but a tiny proportion of that money, the miniscule current aid budget would dwindle into insignificance.

The Minister made one point that I was shocked to hear, although I was not too surprised, when she said that we would not continue to pour British taxpayers' money into countries that had not learnt the lesson that socialism does not work. Aid is supposed to be based on the principle of sustainable development in the poorest countries of the world. That is its prime objective. The vast majority of the poorest people in the world are women.

I had not intended to speak about population control, but I must say that it is an inappropriate solution to world poverty. It is seen by many as a way to reduce the populations of the poor. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) said, the people in the north, the industrialised countries, are consuming considerably more. We fail to recognise the link between poverty and people's need for large families to have some chance of survival.

Many people would like to see millions of dollars being invested in population control even though dreadful and horrific damage has been caused to the lives of women in third-world countries by such programmes. That money would be better invested in establishing basic health care structures in villages, towns and cities throughout the world. Birth control is based on the woman's right to control her fertility and to make decisions about her life. Nobody should assert that we should force population control on people as a way of dealing with the problems that we face. I sincerely hope that such a course will not be proposed in the debate.

The document entitled "Environment and the British Aid Programme" is strong on rhetoric and weak on action. I appreciate what the Minister says, but we do not seem to have grasped the basic problem, which is that bad environments are the result of poverty and cause poverty. Aid programmes should be directed at identifying ways in which we can provide resources so that people can determine their own future without fear of exploitation and intimidation, whether by the economic and foreign policies of this country or any other or by the might of a multinational company. The document does not say enough about reducing the levels of carbon dioxide, the problems of CFCs and the general problem of global warming which will devastate the agriculture and the development of other nations.

The vast majority of poor people are women, and Britain's aid programme is harming such women in the third world. It does not recognise their unpaid work in the home, in the fields and in the community. They grow, buy and prepare food. They carry out cleaning and fetch water, firewood and household goods. They care for the young, the ill and the elderly. Such work is essential for everyone's survival, yet it is not classified as productive. Women's contributions as workers, farmers, traders, thinkers and carers is central to sustainable development. Their contribution is taken for granted, and they seem to be invisible to economists and most politicians, and unfortunately, they are not considered in many development plans.

Britain's aid is decreasing in quantity and quality. Each year, less than 20 per cent. of the total aid budget is spent on development projects for the world's poorest people. As we have heard, Britain's aid is increasingly being used to promote British exports and to further the Government's foreign and economic policies. Some 80 per cent. of the total aid budget is not deemed by the ODA itself to be relevant to women, yet women make up 60 to 80 per cent. of the agricultural work force in Africa. About 50 per cent. of those who care for animals are women, and all women are involved in food production and precessing.

Most aid programmes aimed at improving local agriculture are directed to assisting men, even though women are central to the ownership of smallholdings and the work in them. Women get a tiny proportion of agriculture scholarships and are excluded from credit facilities through straightforward discrimination and lack of collateral and income. It is a vicious circle, because sustainable aid is propagating the very problem that it claims to be addressing and attacking.

Women have the right wherever they are in the world to education, health, employment, food and shelter, as does every poor and not-so-poor person in the world. They have the right to participate in debates and to shape the future of their communities. Any aid policy which does not achieve that profoundly conflicts with the aims of sustainable aid. Women's position in society and in the world is crucially linked to the environment.

Much has been said about environmental projects that have been undertaken and about the IMF and the World bank and the ODA's relationship with those organisations. In The Guardian last Friday, nine projects—just nine—were selected to demonstrate how aid is damaging the environment. I presume that they are not the only ones.

I give just one example in conclusion. It is about the African forest and the national forestry scheme in the Cameroons which is part of the TFAP. The article says that the programme is
"alarming environmentalists. The plan for Cameroon, completed in 1988, envisages that the country 'could become the most important African exporter of forestry-based products from the start of the 21st century'."
Those programmes are not about involving people in shaping their future; they are about making them dependent on yet another cash crop that will tie them further into the debt crisis. That is profoundly wrong and evil. None of us has any right to be complacent, and I hope that we will do all that we can to ensure that our aid programme is liberating, not devastating.

9.21 pm

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) spoke from the heart. Those Conservative Members who are present when England is playing in the world cup—there is no score after 60 minutes—also reveal a great deal of heart in that we want to take part in this critical debate.

The hon. Lady talked about women. I cannot follow her criticisms precisely, because virtually ever conference to which I have been, every scheme that I have seen enumerated and every area of development assistance from the developed world now involves women and women's participation. The real problem is caused by the standards of the developing world and the way in which it sees and treats women rather than the way in which we try to reach out from the developed world with schemes to assist them.

Action Aid programmes in the Gambia have deliberately targeted women. They have deliberately created gardens for the ladies, setting up their own committee to produce better food for the community and a market economy in which to sell their extra produce down the line. The whole focus now is on women and women's involvement, because their critical importance has been recognised. I am sure that the ODA and many of the schemes that it has put forward have that as a central element, along with the environment.

So many of these debates tend, as has been said, to start off on the wrong foot on the basis of the motions in which one side says that everything is wrong and the other that everything is right. I often suspect that the truth lies somewhere between the two. That is true of today's debate.

The suggestion in the Opposition's motion that ODA funds could ever be raised sufficiently to tackle the immense environmental problems of the third world is a mirage. There is no way in which ODA funds will in themselves meet the tremendous environmental challenges that we face now and will face in the next century.

Equally, the suggestion that the ODA should use those funds in an environmentally conscious and better way is something that we do applaud, and that is a fact. That approach was begun by my right hon. Friend the Minister's predecessor and has been continued. That is an essential element in the way in which we develop environmentally conscious schemes in the transfer of international resources.

As we move towards 1992 and the Heads of Government United Nations conference on the environment, we must establish benchmarks for the next century. We should think through the roles of all forms of resource transfer—whether they involve technology, the major United Nations institutions, the World bank, IMF, the European development fund, the cumulative effect of ODA funds across the developed world, or the response within the developing countries themselves—and not pick on the one particular aspect of the ODA's own aid budget. The integration of efforts to overcome the major problems that have been spelt out is a task to which we should all apply our minds.

With that proviso, I agree that the ODA's budget should be increased. It is effective, and one sees its good effects in different parts of the world. It is logical to argue that, given the same conditions, twice the budget would be twice as effective in terms of the people that aid would reach and the programmes that could be assisted. Our programmes are very successful in assisting the poorest people and the poorest countries of the world in an environmentally conscious way.

We must press for that element in the transfer of resources to be increased. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister would welcome it if the Treasury could be convinced of that. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have fought, often with our votes, to increase our development programme, and would like to see it increased still further. However, the scale of funding required in terms of technology transfer and the global environment is considerable. Many of us support the idea of a global fund that would assist developing countries to measure up to changes, and the emergence of that point of view at Bergen caused the Americans to back off the joint communiqué.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) was critical of power stations, but I fail to comprehend why we should pick on them as symbols of western degradation. If the hon. Lady had ever been caught in Khartoum when the power station had broken down and the supply was cut, she would know what it is like for the 6 million people who live in that city. Everything comes to a halt. The heat is intense and the effects are dramatic. Factories stop producing and cotton is no longer spun. We built the original power station in Khartoum, and only restored it so that it would suffer no more brown-outs, to help the economy there. If any economy needs help, that one does—and it has started to recover.

As to criticisms of the aid and trade provision, its share of the budget is tiny, being only £60 million out of £1.6 billion. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee examined the budget and acknowledged that, under international rules, it had to come under ODA control. We accept that it is one way of assisting British industry and developing countries to obtain the goods that they need. If the hon. Lady thinks that the ATP budget should be scrapped, perhaps she will explain how the environment will be improved if a French, Italian or Japanese company installs precisely the same facility instead. I do not see that there is any direct relationship to the environment.

My hon. Friend the Minister and others firmly believe that the ATP should not serve as a slush fund for British industry. Other countries, particularly the French and Italians, use their aid budgets, even though they may appear to be a bigger proportion of GNP, much more successfully in promoting their own industries. I suspect that we are rather more puritan in that respect, and we should remain so.

There are two imperatives for sustainable development. One, which is sometimes misunderstood and is not given sufficient priority is the development of human resources in the developing countries, through education programmes and health. I agree with the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who spoke about population, and said that, unless the population were educated, it was difficult for the people to appreciate the sheer scale of the difficulties caused by excessive population growth in an environmentally unfriendly situation. We want to develop human resources and we also want environmental integrity.

One of the critical points that my right hon. Friend the Minister made was that we have to have the willing participation of host countries. It is very patronising to hear people talking about "our" rain forests, as if they belonged to us. They do, in the sense that our economy is global, but if the Brazilians talked about "their" coal mines when they were referring to mines in this country, we should be angry. They are not our rain forests, but a part of the world ecology which belong to the country which is sovereign.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) mentioned, unless we have the co-operation of host countries, the prospects for change are difficult.

Opposition Members have accused us of supporting dictatorships or restrictive regimes, but absolutely the opposite is the case. The World bank and the Foreign Secretary have made it clear that democratic accountability and good government are two of the essentials to ensure that aid transfers function. For example, Burma had had a dictatorial Government for the past 40 years, and not only has it achieved gradual growth of poverty, in a country which is rich in natural resources, but there has been one attempt to overthrow the Government. Burma proves that, without legitimate democracy, poverty increases and environmental damage also increases, and it is almost impossible to stop it.

For example, next-door Thailand has a democracy, and popular pressure has caused them to be more environmentally conscious and to stop plundering forests. What has happened? The SLORC military Government in Burma have granted licences to Thai loggers, who have moved into the Burmese forests and are now extracting trees at three times the rate that they were cut down before, including seed trees, which is environmentally degrading and is almost impossible to contemplate. No amount of aid could possibly help that situation because the developed world has withdrawn its aid programme from Burma, as a mark of its complete indignation and rejection of the human rights record and the standards that the Burmese Government have established. Unless we can establish basic human values and accountable democracy, we cannot begin to operate sustainable aid or protect the environment.

I am getting all sorts of signals, but I understood that I had a few minutes more before the Front Bench spokesmen speak. I shall not mention commodities and population, but I must raise two other issues—first, debt. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a welcome statement, that we must reconsider debt and especially the debts owed to the Bretton Woods institutions by African countries. We must consider a 10-year moratorium of debt repayments to recreate a breathing space during which we can solve their problems.

The second issue is military expenditure. The United Nations Development Programme report on human values has carefully given a league table of military expenditure in the developing world. It is clear that many developing countries spend a higher proportion of gross national product on military expenditure than on education, on health or on matching and working with resource transfers from the developed countries. That call comes not only from me—I am not being patronising—but from the UNDP and the various other institutions and from the people of those countries that seek an end to excessive military expenditure to prop up regimes that would be otherwise unsustainable.

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the United Kingdom is the world's second largest arms supplier?

Of course, but that does not make the fact that some countries spend excessive amounts on arms any more welcome. I am calling for a reduction in military expenditure, and it should be reduced because the risk, and hence the necessity for such expenditure, is diminishing every day.

My last point concerns public debate and public awareness. We need to raise the level of public debate in our constituencies and across the country because if we do not, it will be very difficult to bring about changes—to transfer resources and to increase the ODA's budget. In a Harris poll taken for the Centre for World Development Education and the Commonwealth Trust, 86 per cent. of those questioned said that they wanted more news about developing countries. We must meet that need.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley mentioned southern non-governmental organisations. As a result of the intiative taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister, we have managed to establish for the first time a formal north-south quadrilogue so that we can now participate fully on a pan-European basis—across the countries of the Council of Europe and across eastern Europe—in a debate between non-governmental organisations, Governments, local government and Parliaments.

We now look forward to 1992 and to a restatement of the views expressed in the recent BBC television programme, which was a brave attempt to promote public education and to discuss the problems of the environment and sustainable development—the real challenges of the future. We are now part of a system that will facilitate the work of southern NGOs in partnership with our own NGOs. It will facilitate the work of local government in terms of twinning. It will facilitate the work of Parliament and it will facilitate Government schemes to promote the essential development education without which we cannot proceed with the policy changes that we all seek.

9.37 pm

I shall greatly curtail my remarks so that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) has a chance to speak for a few moments.

This is an extremely important debate, in which we have brought together the two most important challenges that face Britain and the rest of the world in the final decade of this century—the need to tackle the problems of the developing nations and the need to tackle environmental problems. In both cases, worldwide action is needed. It is right that the subjects should have been linked in the motion because they bear a close relationship to each other.

A few weeks ago, I was in Mozambique for a few hours. I saw thousands of people who had left their land and I saw agricultural land lying derelict as a result of the civil war and strife that have tragically afflicted that country for so many years. I saw many people suffering from starvation. I clearly remember the young child who came up to me with what I thought was a doll in her arms; it was actually an almost lifeless baby brother or sister. Pictures of those who suffer such conditions, which are repeated elsewhere in the world, have a tremendous effect when they are shown on television, but when one sees such things in real life, they mean far more—perhaps more than anything else. If we can really justify the amount of overseas aid that we give at present and if we believe that we should not give more, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Our record brings shame on Britain and on the Government.

We must do considerably more. We have recognised what needs to be done to tackle the environmental problems that have arisen in this country. Our greed and our industrial capacity have done much to damage our environment over the past 200 years.

We can see the damage that has been done to the environment in eastern Europe. We can also see the damage that has occurred in the Third world because of the need for those countries to service their debts and feed their populations. The developed world has controlled things for many years. Therefore, we must face the fact that if we are to tackle those problems, we shall have to take extremely difficult decisions.

The developed nations such as Britain, the United States and Canada must pay to tackle the problems in the United Kingdom, in eastern Europe and in the Third world. We must recognise that damage to the environment, wherever it occurs, recognises no boundaries. We must deal with that problem on a worldwide basis. It is no good stopping the production and sale of CFCs in this country if we allow them to be produced and used elsewhere, because CFCs damage the ozone layer that we all share.

We must accept that if we are to tackle the problems that will arise because of the Third world's growing need for energy, we must allow those countries to develop a positive policy towards the environment. I attended a conference in Ottawa recently about global warming. We considered charging $10 for every tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere or the equivalent of approximately $2 per barrel of petrol. That would allow for the collection of £55 billion a year, which is a substantial amount.

I could have made many other points if time had permitted. However, I shall say only that we must recognise that we have spent billions of pounds preparing ourselves for an attack from an imaginary enemy in the east, so we should be prepared now to spend a similar amount to tackle the problems facing the Third world and the environment. That is the real challenge and we shall fail our children and our grandchildren if we do not wake up to that responsibility.

Order. I do not want it to be taken as a precedent, but I shall call the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) now.

9.42 pm

I promise to be extremely brief, Mr. Speaker, because I understand that both Front-Bench spokesmen want to reply to the debate. This has been an extremely important debate and the Opposition Front Bench are to be congratulated on choosing this subject and on giving it the importance that it deserves. My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) is to be congratulated on her excellent speech which I fully support. I similarly support the Opposition motion.

There will be a demonstration tomorrow on the Albert embankment outside the Montreal protocol meeting about CFCs. Most of the demonstrators, including people from Friends of the Earth and other groups, will be calling for a complete ban on CFC production. I fully support that. That is a crucial decision because we must decide whom we support and consider the environment.

If we are to ban CFC production completely, as I believe that we should, we must also accept that considerable support must be given to other countries which wish to continue to produce refrigerators and similar products. The technology to produce those goods without CFCs must be transferred to China, India and other countries which need it. If that does not happen, we cannot lecture those countries about producing CFCs while we hold that technology to ourselves and use it as an economic lever against poorer countries and poorer people throughout the world.

The economic imbalance between countries is at the root of the world's problems. Some Conservative Members spoke eloquently and at great length with an inbuilt assumption that resources automatically flow from the richest people in the richest countries to the poorest people in the poorest countries. That simply does not happen, and it has not happened for several hundred years. The resources of the poorest countries have been plundered and taken to the industrial countries, and it is still happening now. The debt crisis means that $50 billion flows north. Economic models have been implanted in the debtor countries by the International Monetary Fund. Schools, hospitals and social services centres are closed, and environmental damage is imposed on those countries by the debt crisis.

I crave the indulgence of the House briefly to quote from one of my favourite newspapers, the Utusan Konsumer, produced by the Consumers Association of Penang—an excellent organisation which sponsors the third-world network. That newspaper has a full page headed "Dicing with debt". It explains exactly what has been happening in the past 10 years. The real price of sugar has dropped by 20 per cent., linseed oil by 9 per cent., and groundnuts by 9 per cent. The amount of exports required by poorer countries simply to maintain interest payments on the debt has shot up year after year, at the same time as the United States Government are maintaining a massive federal Government spending deficit and promoting massive arms expenditure.

If we are to sort out the problems of poverty and of the environment, we require a real restructuring of the world's economy. That will not be achieved by imposing a model of market forces on the poorest people in the poorest countries but by paying those people for the products that they produce, not hoarding technological advances for ourselves but sharing and spreading them around the world, and not persuading and pushing countries to revert to monoculture production, which is dangerous and damaging to the environment.

Much more could be said, and the debate is crucial. I hope that the Government will recognise that cuts in their aid budget show no real concern for the rest of the world and merely demonstrate their meanness towards the rest of the world while promoting an economic policy which continues to promote the flow of wealth from the poorest to the richest.

9.46 pm