House Of Lords
Thursday, 2nd July, 1987.
The House met at three of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle): The LORD CHANCELLOR OH the Woolsack.
Several Lords—Took the Oath or Affirmed.
Air Transport: Ec Liberalisation Proposals
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following the meetings of the European Community Transport Ministers Council held on 9th June and 24th/25th June, agreement was reached on a total package covering capacity sharing and market access; and whether they will make a statement on the progress made in the liberalisation of air transport in Europe.
My Lords, the Transport Council met on the 9th, 24th–25th and 30th June, but was not able to adopt a package liberalising air transport in the Community because Spain refused to allow the package to apply to Gibraltar. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport was not prepared to compromise Gibraltar's legitimate rights in this way. Despite the fact that every other member state supported the package, the Spanish Government blocked it when they found they could not secure Gibraltar's exclusion.
My Lords, in wishing the Minister well in his publicly designated position as aviation Minister, although I have always regarded him as such in this House, may I ask him whether he is aware how very much I regret the position in Europe, where at last, after all these months and years of effort, we have succeeded in getting nowhere? May I also ask him whether it is possible to help us to get a step further? Does he recall that on 2nd April he told the House:
May I ask the Minister whether these exemptions have now been automatically withdrawn and whether it is the intention of the Commission to proceed now, at last, in this affair?"The Commission has in effect set a deadline of 30th June for agreement in the Council. After that it will withdraw its offer of some exemptions from the competition rules".—[Official Report, col. 692.]
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her kind remarks. I cannot say that my office has got off to a good start, this particular package having collapsed. As to the noble Baroness's question about whether the Commission would withdraw the exemption, we would expect the Commission to continue its action to apply the competition rules under Article 89 of the treaty. We shall be discussing urgently with it how this might be done in conjunction with action by member states under Article 88, for which we are in the process of making arrangements.
My Lords, may I also congratulate my noble friend on his appointment? Is he aware that some of us are delighted by the fact that the agreement broke down a few days ago? We believe that cheaper European air travel will be more easily and quickly brought about as a result of legal action and pursuance of such activities as those referred to by my noble friend. Will he confirm that the Government will now immediately take action under Article 88 to set rules to enforce the competition articles of the treaty? Will he also undertake to co-operate in every legal step which is taken to pursue those airlines which still fix fares and pool revenue in contravention of the treaty, and make sure that they are not allowed to practice and to do business in this country anymore?
My Lords, as I have already said, we expect the Commission to continue its action under Article 89. We shall be discussing with it urgently how we might help in this matter and whether we should take action ourselves under Article 88. At this stage I cannot give my noble friend any timetable for that. It is worth pointing out that all the member states having agreed to the package, it might easily be possible to get it brought back up again at the Council in September. I would not agree with my noble friend that it is necessarily quicker to go through the legal route than by agreement, and I certainly would not agree with him that the package was not worth having anyway. Indeed, certainly, the competition commissioner fully supported it.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the whole House regrets that this package has not turned out in the way that all of us would have expected and that we appreciate the efforts that the Government are making? But will he agree that this may now be something which is beyond the transport Ministers, and that the Foreign Secretary might be brought into this discussion?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right that most of us, except perhaps my noble friend, would have liked to see this package go through. As regards the negotiations with Spain over the issue of Gibraltar, that is of course a matter for my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary to pursue. But I think it worth pointing out that these negotiations on air transport have been going on for two years now and it was only on 9th June that the Spanish first raised the issue of Gibraltar.
My Lords, I think that the Government have done their best, although they have been unsuccessful, but it has not been enough. Does the Minister feel that now, at last, he will ask his right honourable friend in another place to bring the attention of the Prime Minister herself to this matter in the hope that we might get some additional pressure to get things moving at the highest level?
My Lords, I shall certainly take the noble Baroness's point. I am quite certain though that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is only too well aware of these issues. Indeed, there was of course a meeting of heads of state in Europe at which I suspect this issue may well have come up.
My Lords, is my noble friend not aware though that his department has in the recent past undertaken, I believe, in public to take action under Article 88 in the eventuality of a breakdown of this agreement by the end of June this year? Am I to understand that the Government are now reconsidering the question and may in the event not take action under Article 88?
No, my Lords. I said that we were talking to the Commission about whether it was going to take action under Article 89 and whether we should take action under Article 88. It is a little premature to decide immediately how we go about this, but we must find the quickest way possible of reaching an agreement. That may well of course be it.
Passport Office: Standard Of Service
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will reorganise the Passport Office with a view to its giving better service to the public.
My Lords, the Government are acutely conscious that the standard of service at some of the regional passport offices is unsatisfactory due to industrial action. However, work is well advanced on a computerised passport-issuing system, intended to provide a faster and more efficient service to the public. The system is due for introduction in Glasgow in July 1988, extending to all passport offices hopefully by the end of 1989. As a part of the process, work on postal applications now done in London is to be dispersed to Glasgow, following which the London office will deal with personal callers only.
My Lords, may I congratulate my noble friend both on his very well merited appointment and the admirable manner in which he has answered his first Question in this House. His manner was all the more admirable because of the difficulty of the subject. Is my noble friend aware of the present situation in which it takes nine times as long to obtain a passport issued in London as to obtain one issued in Belfast? That is really a masterpiece of disorganisation. Apart from the introduction of computers to which my noble friend referred in his Answer, would not a more immediate remedy, alleviating the wrongs caused to the public, be to put two or three competent people—whether from inside or outside the public service—into the Passport Office in order to run it properly?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for his kind remarks. This is an occasion not lacking in some anxiety for me. As regards his question everything is being done to facilitate the service as it stands and to improve it, in particular through computerisation.
My Lords, I do not usually quote the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with approval, but may I, too, congratulate the Minister on the excellent way in which he answered his first Question? Would he please promise not to do as well in future? Whatever else may be delayed in the Passport Office, will the noble Lord agree to instruct his staff there to be as dilatory as possible in issuing European Community passports in the place of our good old United Kingdom passsport?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for his kind remarks. I cannot guarantee that I shall continue to do in the future as much as I have done today but I shall do my best. Of course I shall pass on his remarks concerning the European passport situation and see that matters improve.
My Lords, I also congratulate the Minister on his appointment. May I ask him to be careful about placing too much faith in the introduction of computers? My experience is that the introduction of computers usually—at first, at any rate—makes confusion worse. Would the Minister not be well advised to put in a few sensible human beings before he places all his faith in machinery?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, for his question. It is hoped that computerisation will streamline the passport issuing and record-keeping processes by eliminating many tedious and repetitive tasks. The main advantage will be automation of the issuing process and improved facilities for monitoring the progress of applications through the system.
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations and also to ask my noble friend to pass thanks to his noble friend Lord Caithness for the long letter which he sent to me on this subject following a recent Question of mine. A copy of the letter is in the Library. What now is the Government's advice to someone who applied by post for renewal of a passport in April and is still waiting for a response?
My Lords, may I once again thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks. Frequent situation reports are being provided to the Association of British Travel Agents for the information of its members and clients. The passport department has its own entry on Prestel which gives delay times and other information which is repeated in recorded telephone messages from the London Passport Office. Obviously, at the same time, the press and the media are being kept fully informed of the situation as it develops and hopefully improves.
My Lords, while also congratulating my noble friend, is he aware that a great number of the public do not seem to be aware that one can easily, very easily indeed, get a temporary passport?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind remarks. I hope that the public are aware of that possibility. Every step is being taken to make them fully aware of how to go about the procedure.
My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Earl and I hope that in a moment he will congratulate me. This is the first time that I have dared to get to my feet to take part in Question Time. Will the noble Lord tell me something which I do not fully understand? Why we need to have passport renewal at all? Why, having made an application for a passport, do we not, as it were, get one for life? Is it not a total waste of resources that one does not have a once-for-all passport?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his question. He is quite correct. Each passport has to be reissued—every 10 years, I believe. Obviously, passports have to be reissued as a form of identification for people travelling abroad.
My Lords, while congratulating everybody in all directions, might I ask the noble Earl whether the effect of his original reply, as regards my own application, which has now been lying in Petty France for some two months, is that he is undertaking that my passport will be issued by the end of 1989?
My Lords, obviously I hope very much that that will be the case and that, for all our Lordships' sakes, the noble Lord's passport will be issued well before the end of 1989.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this morning I visited the Passport Office at Petty France with my wife's passport which had expired? I was sent to a special desk where a number of the public who had passports which had run out were able, without any difficulty, to obtain a stamp on their passports which extended the passport for six months to 1st January 1988. I and a number of others received every courtesy from the passport authorities.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his question. I cannot regrettably answer the technicalities on the point that he makes. I apologise for being negative but perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to write to him.
My Lords, I also congratulate the Minister. Does he agree that it is not by chance that the Passport Office is situated in Petty France? Sometimes there is such a queue that that is the nearest that anyone can get to France?
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and I take note of her comments.
My Lords, in the light of the comments made by several noble Lords, is there not a good case for privatising the Passport Office?
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that question. A passport is a uniquely important document providing evidence of a person's identity and national status and it must be internationally acceptable. There is reason to believe that other countries would be reluctant to accept such a document issued other than by a government agency. There are also objections on security grounds.
Lead And Nitrates In Tap Water
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action is being taken to reduce the amount of lead and nitrates present in tap water on domestic premises in parts of the United Kingdom where the proportions constitute a danger to health.
My Lords, no public water supplies contain nitrate concentrations which are a danger to health. In those parts of the country where some lead concentrations may be too high, major programmes of water treatment to reduce the concentrations have been under way over the last few years. Most will easily meet the Government's target date for completion of December 1989.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reassuring reply. Is he aware that the television programme, "World in Action", on 22nd June presented a well-supported case that dangers to health exist in certain parts of the country due to lead and nitrates? Is he aware that that programme, other programmes of a similar nature and press reports must all have added to public anxieties?
My Lords, I am well aware of the "World in Action" programme to which the noble Lord refers and also the article in The Listener which followed it up. The Edinburgh lead study is being examined by a Medical Research Council advisory group and the Government will give serious consideration to the group's conclusions as soon as they are available.
My Lords, I am disturbed by the rather complacent reply which the Minister has given. Is he not aware that the Department of the Environment produced a report called Nitrates in Water only last year in which some anxiety was expressed about the level of nitrates? It is, after all, in excess of the World Health Organisation permitted limits. It is not enough to say that the levels are not a hazard to health in this country. Can the Minister reassure us that the Government will take action, perhaps to the extent of having water protection zones in appropriate places? In those zones, farmers would be required to reduce the use of nitrates and to take other measures to meet the trouble before it gets worse.
My Lords, the words which I used did not express my complacency. They were the words of the Chief Medical Officer, in whom I have the greatest faith. With regard to the question of the noble Baroness concerning water protection zones, those are possible under Section 31(5) of the Control of Pollution Act. An area around a borehole could be designated, and prescribed activities such as arable farming would need the permission of water authorities. The initiative lies with the water authorities. However, we are encouraging them to look seriously at the matter.
My Lords, is the Minister not aware that the Water Authorities Association said last year that it would like to introduce such zones but needed co-operation and help from the Government in order to do so?
My Lords, I am aware of that. However, I was endeavouring to answer the noble Baroness on behalf of the department concerning the encouragement we are willing to provide for the aforesaid protection zones.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that unhappily this problem is not going to go away? Is he also aware that there has been a progressive increase in the amount of nitrogen gathering in aquifers, especially in the eastern counties, and that the present practice of heavy use of nitrogen on arable land is increasing it all the time? is he further aware that it will be necessary for the Government to take a positive view of the problem and decide one way or another how they propose to check the progressive deterioration?
My Lords, I am very grateful for the noble Lord's question. I consider myself among the many Members of your Lordships' House who are aware of the problem. The Nitrate Co-ordination Group published its report last December making a number of recommendations on how to prevent rising nitrogen concentrations in water. We are looking at those recommendations with the Ministry of Agriculture and we have also had discussions with water, agriculture and fertilizer manufacturing interests. Changes in farming practices and water treatment both have a role. The merits of all the options need to be carefully assessed.
My Lords, if the Government are unable to control this serious problem now, how will they do so after they have privatised the water industry? At the present time there is accountability. There will be no accountability then.
My Lords, drinking water quality standards will be maintained. The legal basis for those standards will be clarified and strengthened.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that some water authorities are finding such difficulty in keeping nitrates within the EC limits that they have increasingly used borehole water rather than surface water? In certain circumstances that practice will lower the water table, with appalling results for buildings and other structures. As has been said, the sitution is getting worse. The problem must be tackled if we are to keep within EC limits.
My Lords, I am aware of the problem which the noble Viscount has mentioned and I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right honourable friend.
My Lords, will my noble friend consider encouraging the Community to accept a tax on nitrogen fertilizers to be applied across the Community? Does he agree that if that were to happen it would help to deal with the nitrate problem to which he referred and it would also reduce the supluses in the Community?
My Lords, at the present time it is felt that a fertilizer tax would not help to reduce nitrate levels. Even if the price of fertilizer were doubled, in the eastern counties the same level of application would continue.
Richmond Terrace, Whitehall
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards the completion of the restoration of Richmond Terrace, Whitehall.
My Lords, rebuilding of the terrace forms part of a larger development, which also comprises the construction of a major new building on the Richmond Yard site immediately behind the terrace and work to restore the adjacent buildings facing on to Parliament Street. The development as a whole is expected to be completed later this year.
My Lords, may I take this opportunity of thanking my noble friend for that encouraging answer and congratulating the Government on concluding what has been a long-term and long-standing conservation project? Can he say why it has taken such a very long time? Has the reason been budgetary or some other consideration?
My Lords, initially the decision to proceed was taken but unfortunately financial constraints prevented the project going ahead at the time. Subsequently, the size of the project was increased. However, I am glad to say that it is soon to be completed.
My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that on 2nd August 1978 my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for the Environment announced that the Government had decided to go ahead with plans prepared by William Whitfield, the consultant architect, for restoration of the fine interiors of Richmond Terrace to make the most effective use of an attractive listed building and to preserve the existing character and appearance of Whitehall, at a cost of £8½ million? Why then have only five of the fine rooms that were put in store been reinstated, against the advice of the consultant architect? As a result, the buildings have lost their historic integrity and are no longer buildings from which one can learn about that period.Secondly, can the Minister tell the House what the present estimate of the cost is? On 9th November 1982 Sir George Young in another place announced that the development was expected to be completed at a cost of £28 million in 1986. Does the Minister have the latest estimate of cost?
My Lords, in answer to the question by the noble Baroness concerning the cost, the current estimate of the cost of construction and the fitting out of the whole development is £36 million.
My Lords, can my noble friend say why the restoration of Richmond Terrace could not have been achieved earlier, before the development of the yard on the other side?
My Lords, the terrace is an integral part of the development. It is joined to the new Richmond Yard building. Services for the restored rooms of the terrace—for example, heating and lifts—are now in the new building. There would have been a risk of deterioration and damage to the interiors if they had been restored before they could be put into proper use and while the major building operations were still under way elsewhere on the site.
My Lords, may I declare an interest, in that I was born in Richmond Terrace? Can the noble Lord tell me whether when the work is completed it will be possible for those of us who are interested in the result to be invited to come to have a look at it? I should like to see the old home again.
My Lords, I should consider it an honour to return to the department to inquire whether that request can be carried out as soon as possible.
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will adjourn for the Summer Recess on Thursday 23rd July and return on Tuesday 20th October. The House will sit at 11 a.m. on Thursday 23rd July.It may be for the convenience of the House if I announce that the Committee stage of the Channel Tunnel Bill will be adjourned at approximately 7 p.m. for approximately one hour and that during this adjournment the Jury Trial Amendment (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 will be taken.
University College London Bill Hl
Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.
Channel Tunnel Bill
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, that the House do resolve itself into Committee.—( Lord Brahazon of Tara.)
rose to move as an amendment to the Motion "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill" to leave out all the words after "That" and insert "the order of recommitment of Monday last be discharged and that the Bill be recommitted to Select Committee".
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the last time that the question of examining the Bill in detail was mentioned was during the Second Reading debate. On that occasion I put to the Minister the point that because of the important consequences of the Bill he should perhaps give some consideration to the possibility of the Bill going to an upstairs committee instead of the House taking this matter on the Floor in Committee. That way it would be possible to examine the Bill in detail, to interview people, to examine witnesses and even bring forward special advice. Therefore before the final decision was taken on the Bill we would at least have some knowledge upon which to make up our minds. I assume because the Minister heard my suggestion and will have read the Hansard report that he does not think that idea was worthwhile.
The next step that was taken was when my noble friend Lord Taylor of Blackburn (who expresses his regrets at being unable to be here today) tabled an Instruction. The Instruction was that the hybrid Select Committee should give consideration to the regional impact of building the tunnel. That suggestion was turned down by the Minister and thereupon my noble friend withdrew the Instruction. At that time some of the implications of the tunnel Bill were raised. Some matters mentioned in the Instruction were of the greatest importance. The potential effect of the tunnel upon the rest of the economy should be monitored. If the Instruction went to the Select Committee it would mean that a major area of public policy would be examining the regional impact—a major area of public policy.
It was said that a committee may well need specialist advice and may even want to hear evidence in support of some of the contentions made by the promoters of the Bill. I did not say that and neither did my noble friend Lord Taylor of Blackburn. It was the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, who said that in this House. Therefore, I assume that the case that there are tremendous potential problems arising from the construction of the tunnel is made and accepted by the Government.
The whole tenor of my argument is that whether or not we like it, if economic steps are taken in the life of a nation a free enterprise society will follow these economic steps. As surely as night follows day they will follow the movement to where the money is. If one wants further proof of that one should go to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. My Lords, Newcastle-upon-Tyne of all places! There we have a housing association and the man in charge is seriously suggesting that we should promote a new town in Essex which would be constructed by the private sector. One of the motives is said to be that it would be easy for Northerners to come down here and find jobs in the South-East. If ever that was a betrayal of a deprived area of this country that certainly is. Of course the man is suffering from bias. His interests are not in the welfare of the nation as a whole, but in making a quick buck to build a new town in Essex.
If I am right—and I believe I am, and the politicians who claimed the largest majority of votes in this country at the last general election think the same—and we allow our kind of society to develop wherever, whenever, and in whatever way they want, then the situation will be worse for the peripheral areas of this land. It must be a contention well worth arguing and well worth looking at with the best advice we can get. We can then cross-examine and discuss with experts and particularly cross-examine the people who want to build the tunnel and the people who initiated it, as to the truth of it.
What point is there in the Government spending money on the infrastructure of a place such as the Albert Dock in Liverpool if all the time as is contained in a report in the Independent newspaper this morning, there is a drift of people away from that place? What is the point of investing huge amounts of social investment in places like Liverpool if, at the end of the day people have drifted away from there? The population of Liverpool has already dropped from 850,000 to just over 500,000.
What is the point of providing such investment out of public money if people are not going to stay there? Are they going to stay there? I say that 45 years of experience in Liverpool in politics has told me that they are not and they are moving with their feet. Worse still, the people who are moving from places such as Liverpool and Newcastle-upon-Tyne—a situation which will be further exacerbated if some people have their way—to the South-East of England are the go-getters, the young people leaving behind the problems of deprivation which are becoming worse and worse. Such problems then fall upon the shoulders of those people in our community who are least able to bear them.
Such are the consequences of the developments that are taking place down here. Of course, there are others, but in the time I should reasonably take in this Chamber I cannot dream of going through all the aspects of where we are falling down on the question of national planning, from the stage when it was commonly accepted across the spectrum of political parties in this country that following the last war we needed consensus. We needed to agree what was good for the nation. We needed to look very carefully upon vested interests and how they decided to spend the money.
The Government say that they are going to encourage entrepreneurs by urban development corporations—good luck to them! Then they say "Look at London dockland!" Well, my Lords, London's East end has some worse deprived areas in area than Liverpool. In places it has an environment which would frighten anyone away. However, it has not stopped entrepreneurs from moving into the dockland—of course not.
If the Minister does not think that there is anything else which encourages this development, he should answer this question or perhaps I should say that he should ask this question because it does not seem that many people on those Benches are asking the right question. Why is it that the Merseyside Dockland Development Corporation, set up with almost an unlimited purse, like the London Dockland Development Corporation, has not encouraged the entrepreneurs? Where are the jobs in the London dockland and where are the jobs on Merseyside? What are the costs of the jobs on Merseyside as compared with those in London? The answer lies in the simple fact that there are other things which are persuading people to develop in London's dockland. It is because the centre of gravity of our economic development has moved there.
This tunnel is another step along that road. British Rail says it will benefit the rest of the nation. In fact one man even took the trouble to go to the Merseyside Chamber of Commerce and say, "We intend to have through trains from Liverpool". There was no qualification about that statement and no ifs or buts. He thought there was some unease on Merseyside concerning the tunnel so he went there to rectify it.
I received a letter from Mr. Bob Reid, who is the Chairman of British Railways, in which he says, in effect, "Oh, yes" —and it is a different story—"for freight we fully expect to run through services from those locations where there are substantial volumes of traffic". Let me give him some information. It may well be that by the time this tunnel is completed the volume of traffic going through the Port of Liverpool will be considerably less than it is today.
I am quite sure that British Rail, especially under pressure from this Government, is not going to chance putting in the infrastructure to persuade more traffic to go through the Port of Liverpool. It will take the easiest way out, and the easiest way out is to say to the people of Liverpool, "Oh no, if you want to send anything through the tunnel get it over to Manchester or get it to a place down in the South-East where it can be rapidly transhipped between domestic and international services at Willesden in North London". That is what it will say.
If anybody ever played a con trick, British Rail played a con trick on the Merseyside Chamber of Commerce and it fell for it, because there is very little opposition to the tunnel now from Merseyside. There is very little demand now from Merseyside to examine the real problems arising out of the concentration of economic activity in the South-East.
When I mentioned to a respected Member of this House that I was about to move this amendment a noble Lord whom I have known all my life—he said to me, "You are a Liverpool lad; what are you bothering about the tunnel for?". I said, "I am bothering about the tunnel because, unless something is done properly and rationally to ease the congestion in the South-East that is slowly strangling that area and to expand into the peripheral parts of the country, Liverpool is doomed".
I am not guessing the future. I am not guessing about what is going to happen in 10 years. I have no need to forecast because I have read the book. I have lived in Liverpool and I was born there. The common sight was the flood of traffic that went from the United States to markets in Europe through Liverpool and back the other way. I have watched it go and I have watched it retreat.
The reason is not that there are bad, deprived areas in Liverpool, because I have shown that about London. It is not that Liverpool people are any worse than others. Liverpool people have a better reputation in certain industries than people anywhere else in the world, let alone in this country. The only time many people see Liverpool is in a television programme, and so they would say something else. Nevertheless, that is true. In spite of that, trade has moved away from Liverpool over the past 50 years and that movement is continuing. While we keep building up the cancerous South-East, which is growing and growing and very shortly will need lancing in order to relieve the pressure and the congestion, the fate of Liverpool is getting even worse.
I mention Liverpool only because I happen to come from there. There are of course other places and we have seen them. For example, in north-east Lancashire 30 years ago anybody could get a house because that area was being depopulated by the movement of the cotton trade. When the iron ran out in Barrow-in-Furness, then Barrow-in-Furness ran out. If it were not for the manufacture of certain submarines, that town would be off the map. Liverpool existed because of the shipping between America and Great Britain. That has gone. We can leave it at that and write it off. Let those people who now live in Liverpool, having lost all the younger element, stay there to wrestle with the problem. Of course we can do that. There is nothing to stop us.
However, if we do that we must accept the consequences, which will be pretty grim, as Mr. Heseltine found out when he went to Liverpool. When he came back he said that those people wanted warming; that people in places like Liverpool needed to be warmed with the glow of the economic progress being made throughout the country. In other words, we want to move some of the prosperity in the South and the South-East—because that is the only damned place where it is—into places like Liverpool.
It is no use throwing money at the problem, Mr. Heseltine said. It is not money that we want. So what do we want? I said nine years ago, in the first speech I made in the House, that we do not need money. It will not take much money to cure Liverpool's problems if you take one example. All we need to do is to shift one government department from London—and it can well afford to lose it because of the congestion down here—and site it right in the Albert Dock. But the powers that be down here will not have that. Nevertheless, that is a solution and all I suggest is that it is worth examining. It is worth having a Select Committee to look at the problem and to ask whether this is an answer to the problems that may arise. The Government set their face against it and said that it was not going to be.
I shall let Members of this House into a secret. Once again I am in the situation of having been told, and supported in my contentions, that the case I am putting forward is a fairly reasonable one; but once again I shall be lucky if I get a Teller. We have been told, and there are Members on the other side of the House who agree, that something ought to be done to equalise the prosperity throughout the country. There must surely still be some supporters there of Michael Heseltine, although I doubt it.
I have taken 14 minutes and I promised myself less than 20. 1 have ventured to put forward a few of the problems that may arise, but nobody knows because nobody is looking at the situation properly. We have not had a Select Committee and we have not gone into these very important matters which the Minister has stated are worth looking at.
Let me come nearer home, if I can describe this part of Great Britain as home in any sense of the word. Milton Keynes, Stevenage, Peterborough and all those new towns north of London—and now I am on familiar ground—were the result of very careful, intensive planning across party lines, following the last world war, when the whole problem of congestion was staring this nation in the face. What is going to happen to those places when the tunnel is built? "Oh!", I suppose somebody will say, "We shall have railway lines or services going around London to get to the tunnel so that those places can share in this wonderful benefit that the tunnel is going to bring". They forget something. Across the Channel, three-quarters of an hour away, is the French coast, which is ready and ripe for development. Sitting behind it in Paris, are a government who have no scruples about playing the game, as witnessed by the incidents involving Welsh lamb and the fears that arose in this country over a little trickle of French milk that it was thought might destroy our milkmen's livelihoods. The House will remember that.
Open this tunnel and in no time that French Government will be subsidising the manufacture of consumer goods that will move through the tunnel into the largest consumer market in Europe, which happens to be London and the South-East. Then what will they say in Milton Keynes? Then what will they say about this wonderful national plan which was designed on the basis that we were an island?
This Government, all those who share their view and all the private interests, only want to build the tunnel because it is a damned good contract. That is how it started. That is why they are having such a hell of a fight to build it. Most of the money-men know damned well that that is how it started. When they finish it, it will be no use saying to the people of Milton Keynes, "We are sorry. We had to build the tunnel because it was an economic necessity". It will be no good telling people that when the area of deprivation—which became so obvious during the recent election—starts to move further down and affect those new towns which until now have had a fairly good record.
I am coming to my last point. I am still below my 20 minutes. What are British Rail doing? They say that they intend to run services to Liverpool. There is a user agreement. That is a good one! If one tries to obtain a reply from the Minister or British Rail as to what is meant by the user agreement they say that its provisions are commercially confidential. Why? How many tunnels are they building? Where is the competition? Why should the information be commercially confidential? Should not the Government and this place know the estimates of the tolls to be received from the use of the tunnel? Should we not know to how much British Rail will commit the Government before we pass the Bill? We are told by British Rail that the information is commercially confidential. I do not know whether they have told us all the facts.
The user agreement states:
"The detailed provisions of the agreement are commercially confidential. The fact that BR is a public undertaking does not alter the situation".
Have they told the Government? Will they express their satisfaction?
British Rail issued a press release. When one reads it one can hardly believe that they are talking to politicians. They must have been talking to the media and no one else. It must have been a public relations man who produced it. It states:
"The level of tolls is not increased but the formula negotiated on the one hand assures Eurotunnel of more basic revenue over the years".
How the hell is it going to get it?
My Lords, does the noble Lord want me to give way? He is concerned about the time. I am sorry about that. The Committee will spend a great deal of time on amendments that will be defeated, because the Government have decided that they are to be defeated. Surely we can spend a couple more minutes discussing the fundamental nature of the problem. No doubt the noble Lord wants to hurry up so that he can be a Teller, because his party agreed that we should have had a public inquiry. His party thought that we should have looked at the proposal more closely.
My Lords, I only pointed at the clock because the noble Lord assured us that he would take less than 20 minutes.
My Lords, I am sorry about that. I humbly tender my apologies. Then the document continues:
What are the concessions? It continues:"In return for the concessions"—
that does not mean a thing—"The railways only have an entitlement to use 50 per cent. of the capacity of the tunnel"—
It does not tell us what the variation is, but no doubt the Minister can tell us. Then there is the most enlightening remark:"as varied from time to time".
That, of course, is what it does. That is why it was signed. That is why it was designed. Are we to buy a pig in a poke? Are we to buy something without knowing what it is just because British Rail say so? As I have been told my 20 minutes is up, I had better conclude. I conclude on this note: I do not claim to have put the case against the tunnel. I claim merely to say that there are voices in this country which have doubts about certain matters. There are elements of what British Rail are doing which should be exposed to the public glare. They should be examined quietly. They should be examined by experts. Before this place takes a decision on such an important and fundamental step in the reshaping of our nation's economy, it should at least have the opportunity to hear the experts and witnesses, and to cross-examine the people who are promoting this scheme about the general public policy issue. If the House does not vote for a Select Committee today, this will be the last chance we will have. I insist on saying right up to the very end that I do not agree with the Bill. Everyone else can do so, but no one in the North will be able to say that I voted in favour of the Bill when we have not had a proper examination of all the consequences of building the tunnel. I do not think that any Member of the House should vote for it."This agreement is the equivalent in railway terms to giving a green signal to the Channel Tunnel project".
My Lords, whether the Motion is carried and whether the matter is examined now by a Select Committee, what has been said by the noble Lord will be of great value to us when we consider the Bill and the amendments. He has emphasised the important question of the regional implications of the measure. That must be constantly borne in mind. There are already signs in the South and South-East of some dangerous overheating of the economy. For example, there is the familiar sign of a shortage of skilled labour.The noble Lord mentioned that skilled labour was being drawn down to the South-East, some of it permanently, because young people are moving down here. There are also signs of skilled workers commuting from North to South. This measure injects vast sums of money, some private and a great deal public, into an area where there are signs of the economy overheating. That is bound to exacerbate the situation. Yesterday, this place debated the economy. Attention was drawn to the absence, as it was alleged, of an acceptable government regional policy. When the noble Viscount the Leader of the House replied, he did so in his invariably delightful way. It was discourteous to complain about his reply. But he dealt not at all with that aspect. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, has performed a valuable task, and we are obliged to him for drawing our attention so forcibly to the regional applications and implications of the measure.
My Lords, I am certain that the House would consider it remiss if a view was not expressed from the official Opposition. I agree completely with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that my noble friend has performed a useful task in drawing attention to some important factors that I am certain we will consider when we proceed with the Bill.It is generally known, I think, that what we do not want this afternoon is another Second Reading debate. But the noble Lord will surely recognise that throughout all the discussions on the Channel Tunnel Bill I have emphasised the need for facts and for a proper inquiry not purely into the economic consequences of South versus North but into the economic effects throughout the United Kingdom. That said, we made it clear that if the Labour Party were to win the election, we would halt the Bill and conduct a national economic inquiry into the possibility of a Channel Tunnel. But we lost the election. Both Houses on Second Reading have declared on the principle of a fixed tunnel link. We have the opportunity now in Committee to keep in mind the very things that my noble friend mentioned and the points that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, emphasised. There are amendments that will give my noble friend and others the opportunity to bring forward some of the points that he raises and to insist that the Minister give us the information. If we do not get it the first time, we can come back another time. But both Houses have declared on the principle. In our view it would be wrong for this House alone to set up a Committee to defer consideration of the Bill while going into the matters to which my noble friend refers. Therefore, from the Opposition Front Bench, we cannot recommend noble friends on the Benches behind us to support the Motion if my noble friend presses it to a Division. We leave it entirely to noble friends on the Benches behind us to decide whether they support the Motion if it is pressed to a Division. From the Opposition Front Bench we feel that we ought now to proceed with the Bill, consider it in Committee and keep in mind the important matters that my noble friend has raised.
My Lords, conscious as I am of the support that the Government offer to the Bill, and agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that we do not want another Second Reading debate, I must express the view that I have a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, said in proposing the amendment.We are going too quickly. I believe that there has been a mistake, if I may take the liberty of saying so. I think that the usual channels began on the wrong foot by tabling the Second Reading debate on a Monday and then not even putting it as first business on the Order Paper so that we began to debate it at 6.15 p.m. Third Reading is again proposed to take place on a Monday. There is sympathy with what the noble Lord has said. Real doubts exist in the minds of people who are anxious to proceed with the development of this country. This is not the right way to do it—spending vast quantities of money on transportation through the tunnel when we in this country require every bit of that money to refurbish and put on the right track our own railways. Anyone who sees the crowds at termini, the absence of luggage trolleys and the shortage of staff at ticket offices will realise that. My InterCity express was two hours late on Tuesday. Today is not an occasion for a debate of this nature, but I suggest that the matter is worth considering. I hold no brief for Liverpool. I remember the day that I sailed from the Mersey in 1920 when the river was a "sicht for sare enn" with the traffic on it. I feel that we are entitled to support what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said. This needs a great deal of looking at, more than it has had. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, did not mention the matter of money. Enormous sums have already been committed to this mechanical structure for the tunnel without the Bill having been passed by Paliament. After all, it was only this morning that we had a sight of Lord Sefton's amendment. I believe that there is a great deal in what he said and that a great deal more consideration should be given to it. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, mentioned, as did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, the real difficulty of this divide, which does indeed exist. One cannot get away from it. The tunnel is a promotion of the rift that is making such a problem in our nation's life. Scotland, I do not believe, will benefit by this. Although huge contracts will go for steelwork and the like, every bit as much steelwork is required for our own railways. The problem is a serious one, and I therefore support the amendment.
My Lords, noble Lords will not be surprised when I say that I do not of course accept the contention that the Bill needs to be recommitted to a Select Committee. Some noble Lords suggest that it has received too little attention so far. The Bill, introduced in another place in April 1986, received its Second Reading in June last year and was then committed to a Select Committee, which received almost 5,000 petitions and sat for 34 days. That committee gave the most careful consideration to the effects of the Bill on private interests and published a thorough and impressive report, to which the Government responded in February this year. The wider issues of public policy raised by the Bill were subsequently considered in full at both Committee and Report stages in the other place.In February this year the Bill was brought to this House. We had a wide-ranging debate on Second Reading and the Bill was given an unopposed Second Reading and then committed to a Select Committee of this House. At that stage we considered a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, but tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, that the committee should be empowered to consider the regional impact of the project. I said then—and repeat now—that these are considerations which the Government believe to be of the greatest importance. But the Government are convinced that the Channel Tunnel project is capable of bringing great benefit to all the regions of the United Kingdom, both while it is being constructed and when it is operating. I said in February that it would be imprudent to add to the burden of the Select Committee, which had already received 1,460 petitions, by asking it to consider the specific regional consequences of the project. But it did in its wisdom hear evidence from local authorities in the North of England and in Scotland and gave consideration in its report to the points that were made. The committee records in the final paragraphs of its report that it heard evidence on the £700 million-worth of major orders expected to generate some 25,000 man-years of work, and that over half would be located outside the South-East of England. In its introduction, the committee stated that it was firmly convinced that the Eurotunnel project offers immense opportunities for the generation of industrial and commercial development throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. The Government fully acknowledge the need to exploit this potential. They fully support British Rail's intention to seek a significant transfer of freight from road to rail and to run through services from points throughout Britain. We welcome the insertion into the Bill by the Select Committee of Clause 39, which requires British Rail to draw up a plan for cross-Channel services across the country. I am sure that noble Lords will have realised, when reading the Select Committee's report, the importance they attached to these matters. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Select Committee for the hard work and long hours that they spent hearing petitions against the Bill. Their work has been much appreciated. I do not believe that we stand to gain anything by recommitting the Bill to another Select Committee for further consideration. The Motion standing before the House in my name, That the Bill be recommitted, gives the House a full opportunity to debate matters of concern both in areas covered by the Select Committee and in areas of public policy which were outside that committee's remit. I believe that we should proceed in that way to allow the House proper opportunity for consideration of the Bill.
My Lords, I understand that I have the right of reply. I shall try to be as brief as possible.Let me deal at once with the last point that the Minister made; namely, that when the House was in Committee it would have an opportunity to deal with some of the problems that I raised. One of the difficulties is that nobody in this House has the expertise to doubt what I said about the threat to the service industries that serve London and the South-East from the French coast. We would need to examine the times, what kind of investment has gone into the north coast of France, the intentions, and the timetable. I remember going to one of the new towns north of London where there was a factory which produced meat pies. They were turned out in massive quantities. What was happening to them was quite evident: they were coming off the factory production belt and being loaded into lorries, which conveyed them down the M.1 to the mouths of thousands of Londoners every day. We do not have the expertise to properly examine that kind of problem. We could not examine just what British Rail are doing. Three noble Lords have said that they have a great deal of sympathy with what I have said. I thank those three noble Lords. It seems to me that once again the House is faced with a situation in respect of which we are told that there is an awful hurry. There was an awful hurry yesterday to get something approved with regard to the press. There is always a hurry whenever a vested interest is involved. This tunnel is as important to the economic life of this nation as a power station. I have just been reminded that it took a public inquiry two and a half years to look at Sizewell B. We cannot even afford the time for the witnesses to go before a Select Committee. Why not? I shall tell your Lordships: because if there is any further delay to this Bill the promoters—who in the main are construction companies—will not be able to persuade people to give them the money to build the flaming tunnel; and at the end of the day, when the tunnel is built and does not become economic, they could not care less because they know that the Government of this country will have to pick up the tab. That is the real reason behind the excessive urge to get the decision through. I am faced once again with the question of what to do. Do I withdraw the amendment? Not on your life, my Lords! If my amendment is to be withdrawn it will be because of a decision of this House. I shall go down to the Floor of the House and I shall stand there for three minutes. I want another Teller if I can get one. If I cannot it is just too bad; I am not withdrawing my amendment.
My Lords, the original Question was that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee upon the Bill, since when an amendment has been moved in the terms set out on the Order Paper. The Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content".
On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 165.
DIVISION NO. 1
|Alanbrook, V.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Basnett, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Carter, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Ferrier, L. [Teller.]||Kirkhill, L.|
|Foot, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Sefton of Garston, L. [Teller.]|
|Peston, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Phillips, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ross of Marnock, L.||Wheatley, L.|
|Addington, L.||Harlech, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Alport, L.||Harvington, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Havers, L.|
|Annan, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Arran, E.||Henley, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Hesketh, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Hives, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Banks, L.||Hood, V.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Beloff, L.||Ironside, L.|
|Bessborough. E.||Jessel, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Johnston of Rockport, L.|
|Blake, L.||Killearn, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Layton, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Leathers, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Bramall, L.||Lurgan, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Marley, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Marsh, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Carnock, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Chapple, L.||Munster, E.|
|Coleraine, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Newall, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Norfolk, D.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Davidson, V. [Teller.]||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Pender, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Denning, L.||Plummer of St Marylebone, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Radnor, E.|
|Donegall, M.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Dowding, L.||Reay, L.|
|Drogheda, E.||Reigate, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Renton, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Richardson, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Romney, E.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Erne, E.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Ezra, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Faithfull, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Sandford, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Sandys, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Scarman, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Seebohm, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Glanusk, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Sidmouth, V.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Somers, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Halsbury, E.||Strange, B.|
|Hanworth, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Terrington, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Teviot, L.||Walston, L.|
|Thomas of Swynnerton, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Thorneycroft, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Tordoff, L.||Willis, L.|
|Trafford, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Tranmire, L.||Wise, L.|
|Trumpington, B.||Young, B.|
|Underhill, L.||Ypres, E.|
|Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
On Question, Motion agreed to; House in Committee (on recommitment) accordingly.
[The LORD AYLESTONE in the Chair.]
Clause 1 [ Construction and operation of a tunnel rail link between the United Kingdom and France]:
moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 8, after ("link") insert ("for rail traffic only").
The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we also discuss Amendments Nos. 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 61, 65, 67, 76, 78, 91, 101, 111 and 134.
Before I start to move this amendment, let me add my congratulations to the members of the Select Committee who spent so much time and effort in producing their special report. Their dedication to this cause is quite remarkable. Perhaps the Birthday or New Year's Honours Lists should acknowledge them in some way and special medals should be struck for work beyond the call of duty in your Lordships' House.
Amendment No. 1 and the linked amendments are on the face of it rather curious, because they seem to do severe damage to the Bill. They would do severe damage to the scheme which Eurotunnel has put forward. Nevertheless, I feel that it is appropriate that this subject should be given an airing in this Chamber since, other than brief references at Second Reading, we have not had a chance to discuss the matter in any great detail.
It has been the contention of the Liberal Party for many years that we should have a Channel Tunnel, a fixed link to the Continent. There is no way that today or at any other stage in the proceedings of this Bill I shall do anything to delay the building of that tunnel. I shall be supporting a number of amendments as we go along which I hope will improve the tunnel, particularly in aspects of safety and in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, was speaking about. Although I opposed his method of dealing with the matter, I too have great sympathy with what he was saying about the regional aspects and the regional impact of a fixed link.
If a Mancunian can join in the argument with a Liverpudlian, I must admit that one of the aspects that worries me intensely about the Bill is that there is not sufficient emphasis at the moment on rail links with industry in the North connecting in to central Europe. As I said at Second Reading, the most important thing about the fixed link is not people going on holiday to France but the ability to shift freight from industries in the industrial heartlands of this country to their markets in Europe. That is why the shuttle system conflicts with the tunnel that I should like to see.
The Government have got themselves into this position because of their refusal to put public money up front. I am sure that later in the debate Members of the Committee will suggest that the Government are putting money into the project by indirect routes, by putting money through British Rail and so on. We shall come to that argument in due course. I believe that we should be better served if we were to forget the holiday traffic and concentrate our minds on providing a rail link into central Europe for freight traffic. We shall come later to the infrastructure that is necessary to support that freight traffic, in which I believe the Government should be encouraging British Rail to invest, if not immediately then at a specified time within the near future.
I hope that there will be some support for the principle of a rail traffic link only and I hope that the Government will not dismiss it out of hand. In the worst instance I believe that it provides them with a safety net. Eurotunnel gives every indication at the moment that it will be succcessful in raising the finance in the third phase of its operation. I hope that that will be the case if that is the scheme that is to go ahead. I would want to encourage investment in the scheme if that is the scheme we are going to have. But if it were to fail I hope that the Government would not rule out the possibility of falling back on the kind of scheme which I have suggested in what I have been saying today and which would be provided if the amendments which I have put down on the Marshalled List were to be agreed to. I beg to move.
I should like to join the noble Lord in his appreciation of the work of the Select Committee. Even though one may not in every instance endorse its findings, one must at least recognise the tremendous work that was carried out by all members of the Select Committee during what I think was a thorough examination within the scope that they were properly allowed in dealing with the hybridity of the Bill.As the Committee says in its report, the question which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, put was outside its terms of reference, because the principle of the Bill assumed that it would be the Eurotunnel scheme based on the shuttle train service. In speaking for the first time on the Bill perhaps I should declare a minor interest. Having had a previous concern with tunnel matters before the scheme was adopted I was asked recently to advise the ferry companies in their organisation of their current proceedings before the House. I very much support the concept of a fixed link but I feel that the Eurotunnel scheme will give the worst of both worlds. The previous tunnel, which unfortunately had to be abandoned, was, as the noble Lord suggested, to be publicly funded and to carry rail traffic only. It would make very much more sense if we concentrate on the freight aspects and leave open that question. I was disappointed that it was not thought fit at this stage to have a rail tunnel along the lines of the noble Lord's proposal, along with a separate motorway, so that people who wanted to take their cars to the Continent could drive them there. It may be that technological arguments at that stage raised doubts as to its feasibility. But looking towards the 21st century—we shall be almost there when the tunnel is ready—we should not, as we have done, embrace the technology of the 19th century, which is what is involved. The shuttle trains will get in the way of the free flow of freight and through-passenger trains, which in essence is what I have always thought the tunnel should be about. If certain categories of goods are to be turned down by the Eurotunnel because they are dangerous and so on, one wonders how the ferry companies will be kept going on the limited business that will then be available to them. On the rail traffic only tunnel, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, proposes, there would be a role—perhaps a reduced role—for the ferry companies. That has wider implications, which we shall be discussing in other amendments, for employment and for the Merchant Navy, which in a sense is an essential reserve for our Royal Navy in the event of difficulties. We know the role that it played in the Falklands. There are many considerations which attract me to the group of amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has proposed. He went so fast that I confess that I did not take a note of all the amendments involved, but I take it that they are all consequential to permit the conversion of the tunnel scheme, as proposed by Eurotunnel and opposed by the Bill, for the shuttle trains to be rail traffic only. I hope that the noble Lord will press the amendment. I shall not be surprised if the Government show some reservations about it, but if it is not accepted I hope very much that he will press it and I shall be happy to support it.
I quite understand that the primary importance of the tunnel is for freight traffic, but that surely would have to be a shuttle service, because the only efficient way of transporting freight would be a shuttle service so that there would be no delay at either end. If one is going to have a shuttle service for lorries, it is perfectly logical also to have a shuttle service for cars, with enough passenger coaches to accommodate the drivers of the cars. Therefore I cannot see that it need necessarily be limited only to freight.
I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, means by his amendment, but it is already written in the Bill that rail traffic only is provided for. The shuttle is a railway train that goes round and round. There will be provision for through trains. There is only a service tunnel in the middle, and it seems to be entirely immaterial that the shuttle service should be carrying motor cars, lorries or what have you. It is in point of fact a rail only tunnel.
I very much regret that on this one occasion I cannot see eye to eye with my noble friend Lord Tordoff. I say "my noble friend Lord Tordoff" because he and I usually look upon transport matters with somewhat the same view. His series of amendments will eliminate all question of shuttle movements. What he wants is through passenger trains and through freight trains but no shuttles. This would remove from haulage operators their opportunity of choice. We know that over a distance of more than 200 miles it is more viable to send goods by rail than by road. We want to encourage the maximum possible use of rail and this is one way to assist it. If we do not have the shuttle for freight, what will be the position of freight operators and haulage operators who may find it more viable not to use the ferry system and may like to use a shuttle service? One would be removing from them the opportunity of choice. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mulley that we want to see a role for the ferries. Whatever we may be saying in the course of the debates on the Channel Tunnel, we in no way wish to eliminate the position of the ferries.The position of passengers, in my view, is not the most important consideration. But, again, surely we should not take away the opportunity of choice from passengers who wish to travel with their cars and who wish to to take the short route. Instead of being compelled to use a sea ferry crossing, they may prefer to use the shuttle service. Therefore, we are taking away both from frieght operators and passengers with cars their freedom of choice. I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that the important consideration is the question of BR fast freight trains. That is why throughout our discussions, in my support for a fixed link, I have emphasised that unless it had fast freight train arrangements I would find the proposal difficult to support. If we removed the shuttle service for freight and other cars there is a grave danger that the Eurotunnel project would not be viable. If it is not viable, then the opportunity of BR to seize the position and to assist in the fast movement of freight from the North, from Scotland and other areas, would obviously fall to the ground. I believe that that is the main consideration for the fixed link. The amendments to eliminate the shuttle could make the position almost impossible for fast freight to continue because of lack of viability of the Eurotunnel scheme.
I reluctantly find myself having to disagree with this amendment. I declare an interest. I live in East Kent. I know the unemployment anxieties arising from the shuttle service and the possibility of a substantial curtailment of ferry services. I am also aware of real fears in the county of Kent as to the growth of lorry traffic on the main roads—the M.20 and others—which will feed the lorries across the county into Folkestone or Ashford.However, I am persuaded that the shuttle service is necessary because the right of choice must be there. It might be a serious matter to deny road users the possibility of the Channel service. All I implore of the Government is that if, as I suspect, this amendment fails, real attention is paid to the unemployment problems of East Kent and to the road traffic problems of central and western Kent.
I find myself in agreement with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, which does not happen all that often. It was a pleasure when it happened this afternoon. These amendments strike at the very heart of the project. The British and French Governments, back in 1985, invited proposals for a Channel fixed link to be financed by the private sector without recourse to government funds or government guarantees. It was on this basis that the Eurotunnel project was selected and on this basis that the Anglo-French treaty was signed in February 1986. It was also on the basis that Eurotunnel would be seeking private finance for its twin tunnel shuttle project that the concession agreement between the two Governments and the British and French concessionaires was signed in March 1986.Moreover, at Second Reading of the Bill in this House on 16th February I said that the purpose of the debate was to establish the principle of the Bill, that principle being,
and"that there should be a tunnel provided that private finance is forthcoming"
These amendments frustrate that principle. The amendments seek to remove authority for the shuttle service element of the tunnel project and to confine operation of the tunnel to through trains. It is not clear from the amendments whether the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, intends that the concessionaires should remain in place and should simply construct and operate the tunnel itself, raising revenue only from tolls paid by British Rail and French railways. But I must make it clear that this would not be the effect. Rather, the effect would be to take the whole project back to the drawing-board. The concessionaires have signed the concession agreement undertaking to construct and operate the project which they put forward to the Government, not to operate a totally different system imposed on them. I would not expect them to accept such a proposal; nor is there any reason why they should. The Committee should be aware that these amendments would put the Government back in the position of inviting totally fresh proposals for a Channel Tunnel. Moreover, I very much doubt that proposals for a through rail-only tunnel could be financed entirely privately. The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, reminded us of the 1975 scheme with which I know he was associated as, I think, Minister of Transport at that time. But I should point out that even that scheme was not a rail-only tunnel. It too involved a vehicle shuttle and was very little different in fact from the Eurotunnel scheme put forward at the moment. The Government remain resolutely opposed to any form of government funding of the project either by funding of the concessionaires or by funding of British Rail. The main purpose of Clause 41 of the Bill, which was inserted at Report stage in another place and welcomed by many concerned about the back-door funding of the Eurotunnel, is to put beyond doubt that BR's involvement in the project must be a commercial decision. That is how it should be. This is a privately-financed project. We should not throw out the Channel Tunnel project in this indirect way. British Rail's contribution to the Channel Tunnel project, on the basis of their own commercial decisions will be a very substantial one. It will provide for services to Paris and Brussels from London and beyond. And British Rail expect to see a major increase in their freight business as a result of the longer journeys which make rail freight more commercial. This will result in a significant transfer of freight from road to rail. This will happen only as a result of the project we are now considering—and I would expect benefits such as these to be welcomed by noble Lords. Added to this, the proposed shuttle service will also provide a fast, all-weather means of crossing the Channel for traffic which inevitably will not be carried by through trains. The speedier access this will provide to Europe, already our partners in 60 per cent. of our overseas trade, will help businesses and private travellers alike, and as a result the economy of the whole country will benefit. These amendments would throw all these benefits to the wind, and I therefore urge the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, to withdraw them."that the tunnel should, in essence, be the Eurotunnel scheme".
The noble Lord has reiterated yet again the Government's firm opposition to any public funding of this project either directly or indirectly. May I ask him, however, whether that restatement of a well-known position would inhibit the railways from making the necessary investment to realise the full potential?My reason for asking that is that in the report from the Select Committee on page 4, paragraph 13, this same concern was expressed by the committee. They state:
May I ask the Minister whether the fear expressed by the Select Committee is a groundless fear and that the necessary investment will in fact be put in by British Rail to secure all the benefits of this project?"The key to spreading the benefits which could flow from the project will mostly lie in the hands of British Rail, at present totally dependent on Government for its resources. The restraints which the Government has accepted … could possibly inhibit the capacity of British Rail to invest in the infrastructure to exploit the potential."
I was wondering whether the Minister was proposing to deal with the questions he was asked by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman?
The point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, concerned the road infrastructure in Kent. We shall be coming in due course to amendments which affect that, so I was not proposing to deal with it at the moment as it is not particularly relevant to this amendment.As regards the noble Lord, Lord Ezra's point about British Rail investments, I read what was stated in the report of the Select Committee. The position is clear so far as concerns British Rail investment. If they put forward to the Government commercial proposals, the Government will look at them in the way that they normaly do so. If they are sound proposals, permission will be given for them to go ahead.
It seemed to me that, as usual, the remarks of the noble and learned Lord were extremely relevant. I have rarely heard the noble and learned Lord make an irrelevant comment and I am surprised that the Government Front Bench consider them to be irrelevant. These amendments touch precisely on matters referred to by the noble and learned Lord.One of the benefits of having a rail-only tunnel —that is to say a tunnel without a shuttle—is that the impact of this fixed link on the ferry services would be much less. Those travelling to France by car would continue to go by ferry and we should be able to maintain a minimum level of ferry service against the problems to which the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, referred. The environmental impact on Kent would be greatly reduced. There would be nothing like the same need for land-take in order for the assembly of vehicles to board the shuttle. There would not be the same volume of road haulage traffic going through Kent because the pressure would be on manufacturers to put their goods into containers and to ship them on railway trains direct to Europe. There would be fewer worries about fire hazards. All the debates that we are likely to have on the question of segregation of passengers from their vehicles become irrelevant if the shuttle is not in place. As regards the passengers' lack of choice, it is true that they would not be able to take their cars on trains to France. However, it may well be that a new form of holidaying will take place; a rail-drive holiday, comparing it with the fly-drive holiday which exists and which is increasing. There is no doubt in my mind that, as has been pointed out, the stumbling block here is not the question of the shuttle or otherwise but of the Government's refusal to fund this important national project and to leave it entirely to private funding. I believe that that is where they have made a fundamental mistake. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that in putting down this series of amendments I have been unable to produce an economic justification for them. I have no idea what precisely would happen to the economics of the tunnel. It is interesting that the Minister says that the concessionaires might not like it. The concessionaires have gone ahead and signed the concessions while the Bill is passing through Parliament. Perhaps it may have made sense for the Committee to have made up its mind before those things were signed. Nevertheless, they are signed and the project is under way. At this moment I shall not press these amendments to a division: it would be foolish to do so. I hope that we on these Benches have had the opportunity, first, of spelling out the position that we should like to have seen, and also of re-emphasising some of the issues which will arise over and over again in Committee. They relate to issues which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, have raised, and also to matters about which the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, was speaking in our ealier debate. I hope that the Government are taking these matters on board and are prepared to give more positive answers when welcome to the detailed examination of the Eurotunnel scheme as it exists at present. With that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 1, leave out ("and its supplementary protocols and arrangements").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2 and, with the leave of the Committee, speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 4 and 100. These amendments are drafting improvements to clarify the meaning of "the treaty". I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[ Amendment No. 3 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 2, line 12, leave out subsection (4) and insert—
("(4) "The Treaty" means the Treaty mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) above, including its supplementary protocols and arrangements, and "the Concession" means the Concession mentioned in paragraph (b) of that subsection.").
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 2, line 15, after second ("agreement") insert ("or arrangement").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 5 and at the same time speak to Amendment No. 35. The amendment to Clause 1 is a drafting improvement. It makes line 15 consistent with the next line which envisages that a concession agreement may be either an agreement or an arrangement. The term "arrangement" is used in the treaty, the concession agreement of 14th March, 1986, and the Bill to connote an agreement which is accepted by the parties as binding, though it lacks the form of say, a protocol or deed. An example of an arrangement might be a joint decision recorded in the agreed minutes of a meeting.
As regards the amendment to Clause 14, subsection (2) of that clause provides that a concession agreement, of which public notice has been given under Clause 4, shall be taken as valid and effective in all legal proceedings from the date specified in the notice. Without this provision formal proof of the validity of the agreement could be required for the exercise of certain powers under the Bill. However, an agreement supplementing or modifying the principal agreement may not be of sufficient moment to warrant publicity in the form of notices in the London Gazette and local newspapers. Nevertheless, its validity must be provided for and this amendment does that. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[ Amendments Nos. 6 to 9 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 2, line 49, leave out ("through the tunnels") and insert ("between Cheriton, Folkestone and Frethun by way of the tunnels").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 10. The amendment removes the possibility of "shuttle train" being construed as including a motor rail train operated by British Rail or French railways. I beg to move.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 3, line 7, at end insert—
"(11) The Secretary of State shall by order make provision for ensuring that a person may not hold shares in the Concessionaires, or in any of them, in circumstances where the Secretary of State is satisfied that his holding of those shares would be contrary to the interests of the United Kingdom.
(12) An order under subsection (11) above8—
(a) shall contain such consequential provisions (including provisions involving the modification of any enactment) as the Secretary of State thinks fit; and (b) shall be made by statutory instrument which shall not come into force until it has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").
The noble Lord said: I accept the fact that it may be difficult to relate in the wording exactly what is intended in the amendment but I am sure that the Minister is familiar with the argument. When we debated the British Airports Authority some time ago noble Lords from all sides of the House were conscious of the importance of airports authorities not being taken over by an Outside group of people or individual who did not have the best interests of Britain before them. This is also an important communications feature for this country. As noble Lords heard during the earlier debate on whether or not we should have the Committee session, it is a subject which raises great heat. The amendment attempts to give power to the Secretary of State. It does not delegate at all from his powers and it is not stating what he should do. It leaves the matter to the Secretary of State when he is satisfied that the holding of a controlling interest in the Channel Tunnel would be contrary to the interests of the United Kingdom. Therefore the Secretary of State can use these powers to prevent someone from having such control.
It is obvious, from various statements in the press and from the information which has become public knowledge, that there have been problems in raising money for the project. I do not wish to go into the details, nor do I wish to emphasise that fact. I wish to give the tunnel the best possible start that it can have. Because there have been these problems and because the Government have said time and again that there will be absolutely no government money put into this project, the tendency will be for the commercial people to look almost anywhere if matters reach the point, as they did a few months ago, and there is no money, particularly in the British market. The commercial people may be willing to go rather further than they otherwise might to raise the necessary money.
I hope that the Minister will give this a great deal of thought. He will remember that in Standing Committee in another place, and again on Report, the Minister stated that the British Government would review with the French Government and the concessionaires whether the Government should have some back-stop control to ensure that the management of the concessionaires does not pass into undesirable hands. For a project as important and vital as this, that is the least that should be done.
The idea of this project getting into "undesirable hands"—those were, I think, the Minister's actual words—is something we should not contemplate. I hope the Minister will be able to look at this. He knows the arguments from the debates that took place in the other place and I hope we shall have the benefit of his thinking on it, so that either we can have the words that have been put down or perhaps words of his own choosing that will do the same job. I beg to move.
I am rather puzzled as to whether or not Eurotunnel is a plc. If it is not, when will it become so and when can members of the public buy shares in it?
To answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, I think Eurotunnel's proposal, if this Bill goes through in timely fashion to Royal Assent, is that there will be a public issue of shares in the autumn. The noble Lord will have to wait until then before investing his money in the project, if that is what he proposes to do.To deal now with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, the invitation to potential fixed-link promoters was issued in April 1985 and the two Governments made it clear that they might wish to have certain rights in the successful promoting company. Although the fixed link was to be a purely private sector project, it was recognised that safeguards were needed to ensure that the link could not be operated in a manner inimical to the national interests of the United Kingdom and France. The nature of these rights was to be defined in the instrument of concession and the articles of association of companies which might be involved. Following the signing of the concession agreement, which contains an array of such safeguards, the two Governments jointly examined whether additional protective measures were needed. Our clear conclusion was that they were not. As the Committee will be aware, this Government have no objection to foreign share ownership as such. On the contrary, foreign investment in this country is to be welcomed and encouraged. But what the two Governments have sought to avoid is abuse of such share ownership. During the negotiation of the concession agreement the Government secured a wide range of powers to deter or deal with any serious inadequacies in the operation of the tunnel system. For breaches of their obligations under the agreement the concessionaires can be fined by the Intergovernmental Commission. For serious breaches, such as, for example, failure to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to permit the steady flow of traffic, they would be liable to lose the concession. In addition, both Governments have general powers which would enable either state to act if national security was threatenecd. In the United Kingdom we also have ample powers in this Bill to make orders to prevent specific courses of conduct prejudicial to the national interest. We are therefore satisfied that sufficient protection for the national interest already exists and that controls over share ownership are therefore unnecessary. I should perhaps add that the proposed amendment is defective. Because of the equal partnership nature of the concessionaire companies, and particularly the twinned-share arrangement, it is not possible to apply a British solution to the British company and a French solution to the French company. Any measure to control share ownership would need to bite both in Britain and in France and to be apt in both British and French law. Although an arrangment involving both an amendment to the Bill and the protocol to the treaty might produce a workable solution, the Governments have decided, for the reasons I have outlined, not to take this complex indirect course when more direct remedies are already available. I hope that the noble Lord, having heard my explanation of the powers that are available to us, will agree that they are as good at anything that might be proposed in his amendment. I hope therefore that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord says that it is difficult to draft an amendment to achieve the purpose my noble friend Lord Carmichael seeks namely, to retain the British national interest. I am certain that the French Government would not be unwilling to make sure that they pursue their national interest. My experience is that they tend to do that rather better and more accurately than we do.Because of the special circumstances, namely, that two Governments are involved, the "golden share" principle, which has hitherto been characteristic of other legislation—British Aerospace and so on—is not appropriate here. I must however say in passing that I regret very much the indication that the Government are about to abandon the golden share principle in the undertakings given. In that sense they will not have the safeguards that one would like to see. Of course, no-one is against foreign investment. What we are concerned about is that it should not be of a kind prejudicial to the interests of Britain on the one side and of France on the other. While the Minister made a very wide-sweeping statement about how many provisions there are in the Bill which will permit the Government to deal with any possibility that entries might be prejudiced, he did not give chapter and verse. Perhaps he could give us some indication, because unfortunately the concession agreement and treaty will not be submitted to your Lordships. We have to consider the matter in the form of the Bill before us. So if the noble Lord could give us some indication as to where all these safeguards are, that would help us and ease our minds.
I should like to thank my noble friend for supporting me in this amendment. I can see the point being made by the Minister that there are safeguards included in the agreement. But, as my noble friend Lord Mulley has suggested, we do not know exactly what the agreement is. I am tempted to divide the Committee. The fact made clear by the Minister in another place that there should be a long-stop was all that we were asking for. We feel that there should be something.However, rather than divide the Committee, I would be happy if the Minister could put information in the Library. I do not see why, before an important Bill like this goes through, Parliament should not know, what is contained in the agreement. If the Minister would try to help by enabling us to know the type of safeguards involved, I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment and perhaps raise the matter for discussion at Report stage or on Third Reading.
I have given one example already of the type of thing contained in the concession agreement. The best solution is, I think, that I write to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, putting a copy in the Library and sending a copy also to the noble Lord, Lord Mulley. I shall also see whether I can find other things of interest to the noble Lords.
With that promise, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 3, line 7, at end insert—
("() The Secretary of State shall by order establish a Channel Tunnel Supplies Office for the purpose of ensuring that undertakings within the United Kingdom obtain any equitable share of contracts in the construction of the tunnel rail link as set out in this section.").
The noble Lord said: There has been considerable controversy in the country about the effect of the tunnel upon jobs and employment. I think it will be generally agreed that if the tunnel project is to proceed, every step must be taken to ensure that the maximum possible number of jobs are created in the United Kingdom in connection with construction equipment and rail equipment. It may be timely to refer to rail equipment, because some of us were very concerned to see that the contract for the East Coast main line electrification has been given to a Swiss firm. All that British Rail has is the contract for the bogies. The major work has been given to a Swiss firm.
What we are proposing in this amendment is that,
"The Secretary of State shall by order establish a Channel Tunnel Supplies Office".
In our view, it is not sufficient to say that of course the concessionaires are bound to look after UK interests, because it is, after all, a private venture with no public money. It is a commercial undertaking. The only purpose of people putting money into the project is the hope of making a profit. People will not put money in for philanthropic or social reasons. They will do it because they believe it is an undertaking which will be successful.
The Offshore Supplies Office was set up to ensure that UK companies had the best possible chance of winning contracts for the North Sea oilfields. My noble friend Lord Carmichael has a fair amount of experience of that, as I believe have other noble Lords. We believe it is essential that what was done for the oilfields should be done for the Channel Tunnel project. The amendment does not say how the proposed Channel Tunnel Supplies Office should be comprised. We suggest that it might be done on the basis of the North Sea model, but this will be determined solely by the Minister by order. This is a very important amendment which we believe will command considerable support in the areas about which my noble friend Lord Sefton spoke—those areas north of Watford. I beg to move.
I entirely sympathise with the motives of this amendment, in that one of the great benefits of the fixed link will be the tremendous boost that the actual process of building it will give to production and jobs in this country. As has been said on many occasions, it will be a billion pound opportunity for British industry; and that is not the total value of the project, which is £2.7 billion at 1986 prices, not including British Rail's expenditure.However, it is not in the nature of this project that shares in this work can be laid down by governments. I am sure the Committee will understand that contracts must be won and not given according to some pre-arranged scheme. If Eurotunnel is to make a success of this project, it must be free to place contracts with the most suitable supplier offering the right goods for services on the best terms. British firms will obtain all the work that they deserve. So far I am glad to say that they have secured orders totalling well over £50 million, which is excellent bearing in mind that the project is still in its very early stages. Nevertheless—and now I come to the heart of this amendment—there is an important role for government in all this in helping to see that British firms are made fully aware of the nature and scale of the opportunities. The job to be done does indeed have some similarities to the role of the Offshore Supplies Office, to which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, referred in moving the amendment, or indeed similarities to the British Overseas Trade Board, though there are important differences, not least of scale. In fact, some months ago the Department of Trade and Industry established a special unit to act as a central information and inquiry point for industry on Channel Tunnel matters. Contact points have been set up in each of the department's regional offices in England and in the industry departments of the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office, and those are widely publicised. Through these contact points, industry is being made aware of, and being kept up to date about, the project and the main contractors' purchasing procedures and tendering arrangements. Information is sent to local chambers of commerce, trade associations and individual companies, and the department produces a monthly newsletter to keep firms up to date on matters of design and procurement opportunities. In addition to opportunities for direct orders from the contractors, there are opportunities for many hundreds of companies to win orders for the provision of goods and services from the winners of the major contracts. The department therefore publishes regularly details of major contracts that have been awarded so as to allow smaller and medium sized companies to follow up these opportunities. The Department of Trade and Industry has also organised a number of regional procurement seminars for industry in order to provide companies with a better understanding of where opportunities lie and of how to win business. Seminars have to date been held in Birmingham, Telford, Glasgow, Bournemouth, Bristol and the East Midlands. These have all been well received, with an average attendance of 200 senior managers from local industry. Further seminars are planned for the near future in the North-West, Yorkshire and Humberside. In addition the department is keeping a close eye on purchasing on the French side of the Channel and is encouraging UK industry to bid for contracts over there. I hope the Committee will agree that this is a substantial initiative on the part of the Government. It has been undertaken entirely independently of any pressure resulting from the passage of the parliamentary Bill, and the Government believe that it is an appropriate response to the needs of the situation. In these circumstances I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will agree to withdraw this amendment.
I imagine that the Committee will be pleased with the statement that the Minister made, so far as it went, but there was something slightly complacent when he said that what has been done was done with no pressure from Parliament. I should have thought it was the elementary job of the DTI with a project as big as this tunnel, to jump in in a situation like this. What is most worrying is that all of the schemes set up are advisory. There is no powerful group, such as there is in the North Sea, which almost had a Minister of its own, a very energetic Minister, Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith, who, alas, has left the Government. He was very involved in bashing heads together and getting things done. But I agree that in some ways that was in a different category from this and that the North Sea was right on the fringe of technology.In this case there will be the high-speed trains, the boring machines, the signalling equipment and the unique type of safety that will be required in a tunnel which is 30-odd miles long. For all these matters there should be a totally separate section of the DTI for at least the next few months. It is not easy to tell people in Scotland and in parts of the North that competition will even things out. If you tell the shipbuilding industry that there is evenness of competition in Europe, management and trade unions in the area will tell you that they do not believe there is pure competition. There are all sorts of fancy ways of helping local industries. Therefore we do not want the Department of Trade and Industry to take a passive role and are anxious that it should take a very positive role. I do not know my noble friend's views on this amendment, but I think it is sufficiently important to divide, having accepted that the Minister has gone a long way by telling us what has happened. However, he needs a little push to go over the edge and to set up separate sections in the Department of Trade and Industry. This will be the biggest engineering project since North Sea oil, involving British Rail and other important industries in Britain. Therefore we believe that it should be looked at separately over the next six months to a year. I hope that my noble friend will press this amendment to a Division.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 12) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 69; Not-Contents, 123.
DIVISION NO. 2
|Addington, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Ardwick, L.||Longford, E.|
|Avebury, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||McCarthy, L.|
|Basnett, L.||Morton of Shuna, L.|
|Birk, B.||Mulley, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Brockway, L.||Oram, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Peston, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|David, B. [Teller.]|
|Diamond, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Seear, B.|
|Foot, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Serota, B.|
|Galpern, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Tordoff, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Walston, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Irvine of Lairg, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Wheatley, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Wilson of Rievaulx, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Ypres, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Colwyn, L.|
|Arran, E.||Constantine of Stanmore, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Cornwallis, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Craigavon, V.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Davidson, V. [Teller.]|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||De La Warr, E.|
|Beloff, L.||Dilhorne, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Drogheda, E.|
|Blake, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Blyth, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Bolton, L.||Elibank, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Erne, E.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Faithfull, B.|
|Brookes, L.||Fanshawe of Richmond, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Fortescue, E.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Glanusk, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Greenway, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Gridley, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Havers, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Reay, L.|
|Henley, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Richardson, L.|
|Hives, L.||Romney, E.|
|Holderness, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Hood, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Seebohm, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Layton, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Long, V.[Teller.]||Sidmouth, V.|
|Mancroft, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Marley, L.||Somers, L.|
|Marshall of Leeds, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Swansea, L.|
|Milverton, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Molson. L.||Teviot, L.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Trafford, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Nelson of Stafford, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Norfolk, D.||Vickers, B.|
|Norrie, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Onslow, E.||Windlesham, L.|
|Pender, L.||Wise, L.|
|Peyton of Yeovil, L.||Wyatt of Weeford, L.|
|Plummer of St Marylebone, L.||Young, B.|
|Portland, D.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
Resolved in the negative and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
I have a question to ask the Minister on the matter of Clause 1 stand part. There are subsequent clauses in the Bill which refer to various works and also to the establishment of a safety authority.Chapter VIII of the Select Committee's report states in paragraph 120 that the concession agreement actually established a safety authority. Presumably the safety authority cannot strictly act until the Bill has Royal Assent. Are decisions being taken and certain equipment being put in hand which really require consideration by the safety authority which I gather—and the Minister will be able to confirm this—cannot act until the Bill receives Royal Assent? That is a very important point.
That is a point which I am not in a position to answer at this precise moment so I may have to write to the noble Lord about it.
I may be able to help the Minister on this point. There will be further amendments that will give him the opportunity to tell us the status of the safety commission and perhaps by the time we reach them he will be able to do so.
That is indeed true. I shall almost certainly be able to cover the point later.
Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 2 [ No government funds or guarantees for the tunnel system]
moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 3, line 12, at end insert ("nor shall the Concessionaires have recourse to any such Government funds or guarantees.").
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 14. I think that we all welcome the fact that Clause 2 is in the Bill and that it sets out very clearly the Government's assurance that no public money in any form is to be involved in this undertaking. As we know, that principle is also embodied in the treaty and the concession agreement. While we do not in any sense question the bona fides and good faith of the present Ministers and others who have made various assurances, either to the House or to the Select Committees, six years is a very long time. It is said that a week is a long time in politics. There may be some argument about that but I think it is indisputable that six years is a very long time. I understand that six years is the time that must elapse before the tunnel will be operational. The legislation now before us may well be in force for much longer than that.
I therefore believe that we need to make the Bill as watertight as we can although one recognises that one parliament cannot bind another parliament. If need arises, the government of the day would have to come to that parliament for amendment of the Act. One can envisage circumstances in which they might desire to do that. My concern is that there should be no backdoor way of giving money to the concessionaires.
My first amendment is concerned not only that, as Clause 2(1) provides:
"no Minister of the Crown or Government department shall provide funds to the Concessionaires"
but that it should be made reciprocal that concessionaires should not seek or accept any funds. That is the purpose of my first amendment.
My second amendment is directed to the fact that understandably Clause 2(2) provides for a wide range of exceptions to the general principle that no public funds should go to the concessionaires. One can imagine that there could be various circumstances in which that would be important. For example, one would welcome rather than deplore a move to place orders for equipment in an assisted area. If, in that sense, there was some form of indirect subsidy, one would not complain about that. I think we need to make sure that if profit is made from such exceptions, the total amount of profit from indirect public funds should not be excessive. I therefore propose that:
"the aggregate effect of all such funds of guarantees provided to the Concessionaires is not such as materially to affect the Concessionaires' competitive position".
Without Clause 2(3), they would profit under Section 56 of the Transport Act 1968 where capital expenditure to public passenger transport facilities can be made. There could be other ways in which grants could be made for some forms of transport which would not be available, for example, to ferries. I think it is the case that all of our European competitors give substantial subsidies to their ports and ship operators. We do not. If we saw fit to do
that, I should not wish it to come into the question at all. If, as is agreed, this is to be a wholly competitive commercial enterprise, we should close any possible loopholes. If there are good reasons for exceptions to be made to that principle, then Parliament should be consulted about it. I beg to move.
It is some 12 years or more since I took part in any debate on the Channel Tunnel. I do not propose on this occasion to weary your Lordships with a long intervention or to intervene frequently. However, I am tempted to my feet by the fact that this amendment is moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mulley. It was he who had the doubtful privilege of being both my predecessor and my successor at the Ministry of Transport. I have always believed—I may be doing the noble Lord a great injustice—that it was he who was very substantially responsible for the ditching of the whole project on a previous occasion in 1974. If I do the noble Lord any injustice I shall immediately give way.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. The facts of the failure of the previous venture are that the Bill that the noble Lord introduced provided that unless certain matters were completed by 1st January 1975, automatically those involved would have the right to bring the project to an end. That was not a worked-out scheme such as the one we have today. As the noble Lord will recall, it was a preliminary to getting such a scheme worked out. In fact, because we had two elections in 1974 the Bill did not go through. As we know, the present Bill has taken quite a long time. The previous Bill did not go through and there was considerable public petition and an inquiry as regards the acquisition of land and so forth. Those concerned opted to have their money back on 1st January 1975. That was in accordance with a provision in the Bill which the noble Lord introduced.
I am obliged to the noble Lord but I must tell him that what he has said does not entirely rule from my mind the belief that he was at least largely responsible for ditching the previous project. That is something which I have always regretted, even though it has never done anything to undermine my respect and regard for the noble Lord.On this occasion I simply want to express some bewilderment as to what the noble Lord expects to achieve by Amendment No. 13, unless he has some more subtle reason than is clear to me. Clause 2 states that:
The noble Lord seeks to add the words:"no Minister of the Crown or Government department shall provide funds … or guarantees."
That seems to me to be putting exactly the same point the other way round. I have always been very much opposed to adding unnecessary words to the Bill. In this case, the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, seems to be doing precisely that. While he is not displaying the same hostility on this occasion as he displayed on the previous occasion, I do not think he ought to add further words to a Bill which is already very clear."nor shall the Concessionaires have recourse to any such Government funds or guarantees".
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil for the interesting discussions about what happened to the old 1974–75 project, and why it was cancelled. I can only reaffirm once more that this Government's determination, and indeed absolute commitment, is that there should be no public funding of the present project.Clause 2(1) of the Bill already prevents the British Government providing government funds on guarantees to the concessionaires. It is proper to place the responsibility on government. Were any future government to offer assistance which might infringe the provisions of Clause 2(1) they should take responsibility for their own actions. The effect of this amendment could well be to open the concessionaires to a series of writs which, even if vexatious and quickly dismissed, could completely disrupt their operations. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, did not have that in mind when he moved the amendment. We recognise that placing a duty on the British Government does not provide a remedy against breaches of the treaty by the French Government. However, a third party with an interest wishing to pursue an alleged infringement could do so in the French courts—that is the right place. Clause 2 already satisfactorily prevents government funds being paid to the concessionaires. This amendment does not assist matters and therefore I cannot recommend it. Turning to Amendment No. 14 (the amendment to line 23), this amendment sets out to achieve even-handedness between the Channel Tunnel on the one hand and the ports and ferries on the other. I fully share and accept that objective. But I believe it is already met by Clause 2. Moreover, this amendment simply would not work. It would be quite unreasonable to expect any court to judge as would be required by the amendment—whether the aggregate effect of funds or guarantees provided to the concessionaires was such as materially to affect a firm's competitive position. You can imagine that this is not something which is readily susceptible to objective judgment. It would create infinite scope for endless litigation. The balance provided by Clause 2(2) at present (permitting the concessionaires access to funds available equally to others) is in the Government's view the right one. I entirely endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, said. I hope that some of the orders for the Channel Tunnel do go to areas which have assisted status of some sort or another and therefore will indirectly be receiving some modest amount of government aid. But then, if one of the ferry companies ordered a new ferry in this country at the moment, there is a very good chance that that too would go to an area with assisted status. I think that the Government have Clause 2 right at the moment and therefore I cannot recommend your Lordships to accept these amendments.
I should like to say a further word on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. Like him, I do not wish to go into a lengthy discussion on past events, but he will recall that, on Second Reading of the Bill, he moved and I spoke and supported it. Secondly, I moved the reintroduction of the Bill after the change of government in 1974. Many of us are concerned about the principle which we are now talking about—the possibility of undertaking a whole project without any government funding, direct or indirect. The problem at that time was due to the estimates that finally emerged from British railways as to the actual cost involved if they were to be in a position to run the through trains for freight and passengers that we all hope to see. The problem arose because of the difficulties in getting the lines modernised—electrification and so forth, and also the problem of bypassing the commuter traffic in the London area, which is another matter to which we shall have to turn our attention.I do not think it is unreasonable to say that should there be a responsibility on the Government not only not to make funds available, but also to make sure that the responsibilities are reciprocal, that people should not seek such funds. As we all know, many Ministers quite clearly cannot be concerned with all the details within their administration. It was to make that matter quite clear that I put down these words. I am glad to have the assurances but I repeat that they are valid only while the people who give the assurances are answerable. We are concerned now with the preparing an Act of Parliament which may last for a very long time, and one hopes that it will. In view of what has been said I will gladly withdraw the amendment if it is thought by the Minister to be unnecessary. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 3, line 39, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
("(6) The court shall not make an award of damages—
(a) if the person bringing the action fails to prove that he has suffered any loss in consequence of something done in contravention of subsection (1) above; or (b) if the Minister or government department concerned proves that, at the time when the thing was done, he or they did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know— (i) that it was in contravention of that subsection; and (ii) that it would cause loss of the description suffered either to the persons bringing the action or to persons of a class to which he belongs.").
The noble Lord said: This is a technical point which I hesitate to raise because I know that the patience of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is not very extensive and I do not wish to tempt him too much.
I tabled the amendment to find out why in these circumstances it is thought proper to throw the onus of proof entirely on anyone who claims to have been damaged by a breach of Clause 2, instead of pursuing the normal procedure of being able to take action for breach of statutory duty. As the Bill is now drafted it is necessary that they should fall back on what I am told is a very rare legal animal; namely, a tort of misfeasance of public duty.
This is a very difficult matter and happily does not arise very often in this country. It would mean that it would have to be proved that the Minister, or person concerned, was acting maliciously and knowingly to damage the person, and not that damage had been suffered because of the breach of the statutory duty, in not making funds available, for example, to British Rail or Eurotunnel.
Therefore, all I am seeking to do in moving Amendment No. 15 is to put the matter as one would normally have expected it to be, that damages should be awarded by the court in the usual way for breach of statutory duty, which happily is also a rather rare occurrence. The person seeking such a remedy would not then have to prove the very difficult question of malicious intent as well as the actual breach of the statute. I beg to move.
I rise to my feet only in order to express briefly my gratification that a reputation for impatience which I have done absolutely nothing to earn should have restrained the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, from speaking at great length on an amendment which I must say I cannot see the need for.I will not repeat the comment which I made concerning his previous amendment. However, I cannot believe that this amendment will add to the effectiveness, roundness or completeness of the Bill. I hope that my noble friend will advise the House to reject it.
I hope that I shall be able to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, that the amendment is unnecessary by giving him the fairly technical explanation as to why that is so.Clause 2 as drafted provides adequate protection and redress for those who might suffer loss if concessionaires receive government assistance. The Government have no intention of providing such assistance, and have accepted liability for deliberate contravention of this policy. It is not reasonable, however, that an inadvertent breach should give rise to liability. The purpose of Clause 2(6) is to guard against this. Section 2(2) of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 established that the Crown is liable only for breach of statutory duty when this duty is also imposed on others. As Clause 2(1) lays a duty on the Crown only, a breach would not involve a liability under this Act. Generally, the Government would not consider it appropriate to go beyond the Crown Proceedings Act. But in this case they have agreed to a special concession. The requirement in the proposed amendment that the Government must prove they did not know, and could not have been expected to know, both that their action was in breach of Clause 2(1) and that it would cause loss is excessively strong. It would open the way to michievous litigation. The existing subsection (6) seeks to follow the tort of misfeasance in public office. This provides a sound basis for government liability. To go beyond it would significantly extend the normal boundary of such liability. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, will be satisfied with that explanation.
Far from being satisfied, it explains why the Government were not anxious to have my first amendment. That would have laid more responsibility on the Government because it would have made the concessionaires responsible and the Government would not now have to rely or those who wish to take action would not have to rely on the tort of misfeasance of public duty which is a very difficult legal matter to pursue. There have been very few cases, I am happy to say. There was a case last year and if the Minister wants me to give details I shall do so. One sees now why Amendment No. 13 was not wanted. The Government now say that is the reason why they do not want Amendment No. 15.I accept the genuineness of the Government's desire not to have public money involved. One needs to take a longer view so I hope that between now and the further stages of the Bill the Minister will ask his legal advisers to see whether they really need all these legal innovations in the Bill. We shall see as we go along that they have done this for reasons which do not appear to be necessary or obvious. As I say, it is a very technical matter and I certainly do not seek to divide the Committee. In hoping that it may be further considered by the Government, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 3, line 46, at end insert—
("(6A) In this section "enactment" means any enactment contained in this Act or in any Act passed on or after the date on which this Act is passed, but does not include any subordinate legislation (within the meaning of section 21(1) of the Interpretation Act 1978).").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is put down because I do not understand why in this Bill it is sought to define "enactment"—as it does in Clause 48(1) on page 33, line 32—differently from what is normally the recognised legal definition of enactment; namely, an Act or part of an Act.
Clause 48(1) makes it possible for an enactment to include not only statutory instruments that need parliamentary approval but also any form of statutory instrument. Therefore, it would be possible—we are taking the long view as to what the future may bring forward—at a later stage for discriminatory legislation which has not been before Parliament to be made in favour either of the railways or the Eurotunnel, or other people involved. Therefore, why do we need to have this special definition in the Bill and reference to an enactment which is quite different from the normal usage of the word "enactment"? I beg to move.
As to the narrowing of the definition of enactment in line 46, this would be unduly restrictive on the concessionaires. I can say firmly that it is inconceivable that a power to provide funds to the concessionaires would be granted by means of subordinate legislation. I certainly cannot accept that the effect of Clause 2(2), which I have already said I consider to be properly balanced, should be restricted to future legislation.The Committee will surely not expect us to prevent Eurotunnel, for example, using suppliers who are in receipt of regional aid under existing legislation—a point which has already been covered. I am not sure that what I have just said fully covers the points which the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, raised. I will certainly read them again and see if there is anything that should be added. In the meantime, I hope the Committee will find the amendment unnecessary.
I am puzzled as to why enactment has to be differently defined in this Act than normally. Frankly, one has to be suspicious about giving wide, delegated powers of subordinate legislation that do not have to be referred in any way to Parliament. I accept that present Ministers would not dream of being party to a breach of the legislation, but one does not know what may happen in the future. We are now looking at the Bill which we hope will become an Act and which will govern the operation of the tunnel. With the understanding that the Minister will look at the matter again, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 17:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
(" Protection of frontier controls at United Kingdom ports.
.—(1)The Secretary of State shall ensure—
(2) At no time shall the standard of frontier controls provided in connection with the tunnel system be materially better than the standard provided at United Kingdom ports.").
The noble Lord said: May I say at the outset that I am a wholehearted supporter of the tunnel project. I wish it well and I hope that it will not only come to fruition but that it will be successful for all those involved with it and all those who use it.
Its success may not come at the expense of the convenience to the travellers whether by the tunnel or by other means. It must not come at the expense of its competitors, particularly the ferry operators, and above all it must not come by reducing the adequacy of frontier controls, specifically with regard to the smuggling of drugs, weapons and such items.
We know, because we have read about it and some of the Committee may have experienced it, that already Customs officers are strained to near breaking point. That has been shown by their actions, which are very unusual and unwillingly taken actions. The tunnel will undoubtedly mean that there will be more cross-Channel traffic of all kinds. There will be more passengers and more goods crossing the Channel by whatever means they choose. That inevitably must mean that more Customs officers will be needed.
The Select Committee, in its very searching discussion of many of these points, was well aware of this matter and examined those who understand this issue well and drew attention to it in the evidence which is printed for the Committee to read. I am sure many noble Lords will already have done so. The Government have replied to some extent in an
attempt to alleviate these fears. The assurance that the Government have given reads as follows:
"It will do everything possible to ensure that, when the tunnel opens, the level of service at the ports and tunnel alike is the best practicable within the resources available to it and specifically that, in judging the resources to be allocated to each mode, it will do everything possible to avoid bias in favour of one competitor or the other".
Those are fine and good words.
I hope that when the Minister replies he will not repeat them. That is why I have read them out. We know that the Government are full of good intentions but I suggest that this expression of good intentions if far from adequate. What is needed is far more explicit assurances than simply the expression of good will. It is even conceivable—I think the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, will agree with me here—that by the time the tunnel actually becomes operative and the first train passes through it there may have been a change of Government. Therefore, even if the present Government are full of goodwill it is possible that the successor Government may not have the same desire or ability.
It is clear that if more Customs officers are not provided, not only for the actual operations but during the training period, there will be very severe difficulties. I should like to emphasise this point of the training period because the types of jobs which Customs officers will have to do on the trains under the tunnel are very different from those that the normal Customs officer has to do at the port of embarkation or disembarkation. A training period will undoubtedly be needed. There is a real danger that Customs officers will be withdrawn from their present duties at ports in order to be trained. That will inevitably lead to a worse service for ferry passengers, and will put freight operators and passengers at a disadvantage when it comes to them choosing their mode of travel.
There is a danger that the ferry operators will be at a disadvantage, because there will be longer delays for them than for tunnel traffic. That will mean that a hidden subsidy will be provided—not by Government action but by Government inaction—to the tunnel, which I am sure the tunnel operators and the Committee do not want. If that does not happen, there will be longer delays for all passengers. There will be an equality of misery, but it will be misery that can be avoided. More seriously, there will be less effective Customs controls. The only beneficiaries of that will be those who wish to import illegally into this country drugs, weapons, explosives and the other things which Customs officers are already having a difficult time combating.
I hope that the Government will agree that the amendment will minimise or remove the risk of any of that happening. It will mean somewhat more expenditure—a minor item when we look at the disadvantages of not having the expenditure. It will be essential if the tunnel is to operate smoothly and passengers using the tunnel or ferries are not to be unduly inconvenienced.
It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, says, that the subject of frontier controls occupied a great deal of the Select Committee's attention. The committee's emphasis was on the need for even-handedness between the tunnel and the ports. In our report we included the sentence:
We added:"The Government have said that the frontier control department will ensure that when the tunnel opens the level of service at the ports and the tunnel alike will be the best practicable within the resources available to them".
In the Government's reply there is the sentence:"In the Committee's view this assurance is worth little".
I do not know whether the amendment is the right way to achieve what I should like to achieve, but I must warn my noble friend that if I am to oppose the amendment I should like an assurance which is a little more robust than the one which the Government have so far provided."The staffing of the frontier controls for the ports and the tunnel will be kept under close review".
I should like to join in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, to whom I think I may refer as my noble friend during this debate because we spent so many agreeable weeks together on the Select Committee. We found ourselves in general agreement. I very much agree with what he has just said. I do not regard the Government's response on this matter as satisfactory. The words "close review" are, as the Minister will be aware, wholly devoid of meaning.The Government must recognise the degree of concern felt about this matter in Dover. Like my noble friend Lord Walston, I am a firm supporter of the Channel Tunnel project. Nevertheless, it is right seriously to consider the anxieties of the port operators at Dover. First, they say that they do not have enough Customs officers now and that there are substantial delays particularly at Easter and sometimes during the summer. Secondly, they are worried that some of those Customs officers will be withdrawn for retraining when the operating date of the tunnel comes nearer, and that therefore the delays now being experienced will worsen. That is a point of substance. I hope that the Minister will say something to reassure us. I shall come to one of the more bizarre moments during the committee's proceedings. I should like to refer the Minister to the exchange which took place on 6th April. I do not know whether he has the Official Report of our proceedings with him. We were then receiving evidence from Mr. Sloggett, the managing director of the Dover Harbour Board. I think we all took the view that he was a pursuasive witness. He had our close attention when he was giving evidence. He was talking about the current delays at Dover. The harbour board was trying to find out how many Customs officers were being deployed so that representations could be made to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. He was questioned on that point by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who asked:
Mr. Sloggett answered:"But have you any data which you could put before this Committee"?
Is that the Government's serious position? I have rarely heard a more extraordinary statement. When I asked a few questions on this matter, Mr. Sloggett said:"We certainly have data about the delays that are experienced. We have no data about the Customs resources that are available. It has been suggested to me that to collect such data would be against the Official Secrets Act."
We then had evidence from Mr. Bolt, an Assistant Secretary from the Customs and Excise. He was asked about this rather strange matter. I apologise for quoting myself. It is a bad practice, but it is the ony way in which the committee can enjoy this series of exchanges:"I did seek this year to try to collect those statistics, but was warned off, I am afraid.".
"We heard one rather strange suggestion made to us. You will have seen this in the official report. When the Port Authorities wanted to find out how many Customs Officers were on duty there was a suggestion if they were to do it that they would be in breach of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. Do you know anything about that? A. No.
You were astonished? A. I think it is a matter to refer to the Treasury Ministers. They need to respond to questions of particular deployment programmes and give figures. I suppose there is some judgment which may be made about the overall allocation of figures.
You are not, with the greatest respect, answering my question. My question was, when you read this in the report on the proceedings, and you heard a suggestion made by a responsible representative of the Port Authority that, when they tried to find out something more about the number of Customs Officers at work, the suggestion was made that were they to do this they could have been in breach of the Official Secrets Act.
I am not one of the greatest admirers of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, but even during some of our debates on that issue I rarely heard an example of such foolishness directed against perfectly honourable, reasonable people, working for the Dover Harbour Board, who were merely trying to find out how many Customs officers were on duty so that they could make representations to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. There is serious concern by the harbour board and others on this question. They are fearful that the delays now being experienced at Dover will worsen, and I think they deserve to be satisfied on this point. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us, first, on that question, and, secondly, that there will be no more of this nonsense of trying to prevent them getting information to which I believe they are totally entitled.Do you know anything about that, point one? Were you—point two—astonished when you read it? A. I think perhaps I would have been initially surprised.
While I understand the purpose that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has in mind in moving the amendment, I have the greatest misgivings about including the second paragraph, which is extremely negative and could well add to the general depression of standards all round, whereas I should hope that the standard of facilities afforded for the tunnel will prove so good as to be a measure to be aimed at elsewhere. I should not like to see any limitation put upon the facilities offered for the tunnel leading to a standard that is admittedly unsatisfactory elsewhere. The request made by the Select Committee for the facilities best practicable within the resources available in preferable. I hope that my noble friend will not accept the second paragraph of the amendment.
I intervene briefly as I have tabled Amendment No. 22 dealing with immigration controls on trains. I believe in absolutely fair competition all round. There is great concern in Dover. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, my noble friend Lord Holderness and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, sat in the committee for hours, and we know of their experience. The wording of the amendment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is at present irrelevant I think, but I believe that we should listen to what my noble friend says.If the amendment is pressed, like my noble friend Lord Holderness I could find myself in the other Lobby. Let us hope that it will not come to that. It is a vital question not only for this reason but for others that I shall develop when I move Amendment No. 22. There are delays at present, and one does not wish to see delays.
The objective of the new clause is entirely reasonable. Noble Lords in Committee have expressed that. It seeks to ensure that the tunnel does not benefit competitively in relation to the ferries by having better customs and immigration facilities allocated to it than in fairness it should. However, I cannot support the amendment, partly because on closer inspection it appears to go further than is intended and partly because the Government feel that these are not matters that should be dealt with by legislative provision.First, the Committee will note that subsection (1) (a) does not merely require fair and equal treatment between the ferries and the tunnel. By requiring all facilities for the tunnel to be supplied from additional resources, it means that the ports can continue with the same level of resources as before the tunnel opens, even though they will almost certainly carry less traffic. How much less is not of course something that the Government or I can comment on, since the Government must not seek to influence investors by giving implicit traffic forecasts. Similarly, subsection (1) (b) indicates that the standard of controls at ports should be no less when the tunnel opens in 1993 than it is today, and this implies the maintenance of a standard which, however laudable it is in its own right, is quite distinct from the question of fair and equal treatment. Subsection (2) means that, however hard the Government were to try to achieve fair and equal treatment between the tunnel and the ports, if events conspired to cause the standard to fall at the ports due to temporary difficulties, there would be a breach. Finally, the Committee will note that the amendment is one-sided. It seeks to prevent discrimination against the ports but not against the tunnel. These may seem to be minor faults, but I believe they serve to underline the fact that the objectives of this clause are not suitable to be achieved, nor could they effectively be enforced, by legislative provision. As I have said, the general objective of fair and equal treatment is entirely reasonable, and repeatedly in earlier stages of the Bill the Government have attempted to reassure petitioners. The question was dealt with most fully in the Select Committee in another place, and by the time petitioners came before the Select Committee in this Chamber the area of disagreement had considerably narrowed. It may help, however, if I repeat for the benefit of the Committee the commitments the Government gave, which are reproduced in appendix 32 to the special report of the Select Committee in another place. First, the general principle of equal allocation of resources:
In relation to equal strictness of controls:"The Government entirely shares the objective of the British Ports Association that there should be fair competition between the fixed link and the port and ferry operators. Non-discrimination, meaning consistency and a lack of bias in the provision of facilities and the allocation of resources, is the basis of the Government's policy. In particular, it is not the Government's policy that, just because the total travel time through the tunnel will be less than by the ferries, frontier controls should be expedited relative to the ferries on that account".
The problem is an intractable one, because it is one of forecasting travelling and freight consignment patterns once the tunnel opens. Without a massive increase in staff there must be a risk to both ferries and tunnel alike. If too many frontier officials are transferred to service the tunnel, the ports will be under-resourced and at a competitive disadvantage. If too few are transferred, or none at all, Eurotunnel will be disadvantaged. However, I can assure the association that the frontier control departments will do everything possible to ensure that, when the tunnel opens, the level of service at the ports and tunnel alike is the best practicable within the resources available to them, and specifically that in judging the resources to be allocated to each mode they will do everything possible to avoid bias in favour of one competitor or the other. It is difficult to see why deliberate undertakings about evenhandedness are inadequate when they can be quoted at any government who breach them in the future in this place or in another place. It is difficult to see how a statutory obligation would bite more effectively. The frontier authorities take great care to try to allocate their resources fairly. It is disappointing that they are being impugned for this. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, quoting from the minutes of the select Committee, questioned why the number of frontier officials at a certain port is a secret. Deployment levels of frontier control officials are a sensitive matter because detailed information on this could assist in evading controls. I have to say that it may well be that local officials were a little more reserved on that occasion than they should have been. The Government have made many statements, and I repeat them this evening. They are very clearly on the record. We are willing, and expect, to be held to them by the ports and ferries companies. I invite the Committee to accept that this is the right way to deal with this serious issue—and we take it very seriously. For the reasons that I have given for not accepting the amendment, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and other noble Lords will be reassured of our absolute commitment to fair treatment, and that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment."Specifically the Government assures the Association that, regardless of how the frontier controls are arranged physically, the checks to which users of the tunnel will be subject will be as stringent, and subject to the same legal code, as the checks to which they would be subject were they to use other modes".
Before my noble friend responds, I welcome what the noble Lord has just said about local misunderstandings. I recognise that they can occur. However, we are concerned about the future. Perhaps I may once again refer to the Government's response to the recommendations of your Lordships' Select Committee. Referring specifically to the Dover point, one sees in paragraph 88 of the report that in the view of the committee,
That is a point with which we have already dealt. There follows the relevant point—"The Government should keep the provision of frontier controls for both systems of travel under close examination".
That was our recommendation. What was the Government's response? It was that the present close liaison with Dover Harbour Board, as with all other port authorities, will be maintained. That is wholly unsatisfactory. Concern was expressed vigorously to the committee by the witness whom we all recognised as a man of moderation and common sense. Bland language of the kind used in the Government's response convinces nobody. The noble Lord made the point that there is some sensitivity about information as to how many customs officers there are at work. His case is not exactly strengthened by Mr. Bolt, the assistant secretary from Customs and Excise who made light of this point when it was put to him. He said that the port operators could almost count them. At one level, that is obviously true. However, when they tried to count them, they were told that they might be in breach of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act. Our request is very moderate. It is that the Government and Customs and Excise should have a sensible dialogue with the Dover Harbour Board and put minds at rest. I hope that the Minister will respond more positively than he has done so far."and should in the meantime, give more information to the Dover Harbour Board about the scale of the resources now being deployed".
I have listened to the exchanges and in particular to the interventions of the noble Lords, Lord Holderness and Lord Harris of Greenwich, who spent much time in committee on this matter. I am frankly surprised that the Minister, who is invariably so courteous to the House should blandly repeat an assurance based on the Select Committee in another place which is, in the opinion of our own Select Committee, worth very little. It is quite extraordinary. We all know that we are amateur draftsmen when we put down amendments. It is the drafting of the amendment that is involved.The problem is that the Treasury may not authorise the necessary funds to have adequate customs facilities at both the ports and the tunnel. That is the undertaking that we require. I should have thought that if a Division were called, it would be on the understanding that between now and Report stage the Government might be a little more concerned to meet the very relevant points that members of the committee made in their report and which have been repeated today. It seems extraor- dinary that the Minister cannot go further than he feels able to do.
The argument has been on two issues. One question is whether there are enough customs officers. The main point of the amendment is surely about even-handedness between the ports and the Eurotunnel scheme. I have tried to reassure the Committee that there will be even-handedness in the allocation of customs officers between the two projects. I shall obviously take into account what has also been said about the overall numbers of customs officers. I cannot commit the Government at this stage, or six years' hence, about the total number of customs officers there might be. However, on the even-handed approach between the two schemes, we should make sure that the allocation is obviously fair.
I do not wish to be tiresome but I have put a specific point to the Minister concerning the Select Committee's recommendation relating to Dover and to the very bland statement in the Government's response. I asked whether he is prepared to go further. I believe it is reasonable that he should do so. We are asking for remarkably little. I recognise that another government department is involved. Will he agree to look at this matter between now and Report stage and perhaps write to one or two members of the Committee? I believe that that is the least for which we should ask.
This has been an interesting exchange, ranging a little wider than at one time appeared likely. The Minister, as always, is extremely courteous and persuasive. However, I am afraid that his persuasion has not been sufficient to convince me that the Government are, or will be, prepared to do what is necessary in the future. If the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, was not entirely persuasive, I found great strength in his criticism of the second paragraph of this amendment, which as worded is extremely difficult to enforce. I shall therefore withdraw this amendment on the understanding that I am free to come back at Report stage with an amended version—subject to some conversations that we may have before then—to implement the feelings of the majority of Members of the Committee who are present and members of the Select Committee. I hope that the Government can help us to work out a measure to achieve that aim. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved Amendment No. 18:
After Clause 2 insert the following new clause:
(" Control of predatory pricing.
—(1) It shall be the duty of the Concessionaires, and of other providers of transport and terminal facilities for cross-Channel traffic, not to pursue any course of conduct which amounts to an anti-competitive practice.
(2) In subsection (1) above "anti-competitive practice" means:
(3) The duty of the Concessionaires under subsection (1) above shall be deemed to have been satisfied in relation to any course of conduct full details of which shall have been submitted to the Director General of Fair Trading and which shall have been approved by the Director General before such course of conduct is pursued.
(4) Any contravention of the provisions of subsection (1) above shall be actionable at the suit or instance of the Secretary of State or of the Director General of Fair Trading or of any providers of transport or terminal facilities for cross-Channel traffic who have suffered loss or damage as a result of that contravention.").
The noble Lord said: As I said at Second Reading, I am a strong supporter of the Channel project. Furthermore, I am entirely in sympathy with the concept of free and fair competition. The object of free and fair competition must clearly be to achieve a reasonable level of prices and a good standard of service to the public.
The purpose of this amendment is to prevent predatory pricing which is an abuse of genuine price competition. It is a system by which one operator temporarily sells his services below cost in order to force another operator out of business. Expert studies agree that at the opening of the tunnel there will be substantial surplus of capacity for cross-Channel traffic.
The object of this amendment is to prevent one or other of the cross-Channel carriers from dumping its surplus capacity on the market in a do-or-die attempt to put the others out of business. I have spoken to some of those involved in the ferry services and the harbour board who are concerned about the possibility of concessionaires so doing. I have also spoken to those involved in the Channel project itself who are concerned that the ferries might do likewise.
For example, if the fixed-link concessionaires were to pursue this policy and the ferries were to go bankrupt, or the boats were to be moved away—and the Dover Harbour Board under those circumstances has plans to convert its facilities to those of a marina—the tunnel would have a virtual monopoly and could in theory name its own price. Conversely, if the ferries—equipped with larger and more efficient boats which might largely be written off in six years' time—were to adopt a predatory pricing policy the concessionaires might be unable to service their debt. There are various scenarios as to what would then happen. Almost all of them end up with one or other group in a monopoly position. If that were to happen it is certain that the investors in the concession would lose their money. This possibility must be one which may discourage potential investors, if it could be avoided by ensuring that this amendment or something like it ends up on the statute book.
The Select Committee considered a similar but one-sided amendment proposed by the Dover Harbour Board. Paragraph 83 reads:
"Although the Committee disagree with the contention of the ferry operators and the Dover Harbour Board that the general law on competition as it applies to ferries should be altered in their favour they have questioned whether the competition regime for the tunnel itself is sufficiently consistent with the regimes that apply to other private sector enterprises."
This suggests an element of disquiet in the minds of the Select Committee as to the fairness of the competitive régime. I should like to suggest that this
amendment, if accepted, would constitute a significant improvement to the competition which would be available to the concessionaires and to the ferries respectively. I beg to move.
I believe it was the intention that we should discuss Amendment No. 149 at this time as well. I dare say that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will wish to say something in a moment. I merely support what Lord Northbourne has said. I believe that the possibility of savage predatory pricing is somewhat remote, but it is there. It is a possibility and we ought to take what steps we can within the Bill to block off any such predatory pricing. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is quite right that we also have to remove the fear of predatory pricing from the minds of those who wish to invest in Eurotunnel in the coming months. As we know, there have been difficulties in financing which we hope are now behind them. If the general public are to put money behind this project when it comes to the market, it is important that these sorts of problems are removed from their minds.The reason I prefer the amendment to which I have added my name to that of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is because I feel it is a rather more evenhanded amendment dealing with predatory pricing either by the tunnel concessionaires or by the ferry owners; indeed these matters could go either way. Between now and the opening of the tunnel there could be predatory pricing by the ferry owners; and afterwards, to jack up their share of the market, there could be predatory pricing by the tunnel concessionaires. Even if the Government do not like the wording of the amendment, I hope they will be prepared to put forward some wording of their own which covers the point.
As my name is attached to Amendment No. 149, which is being taken with this, I should like to endorse everything that the noble Lords, Lord Northbourne and Lord Tordoff, have said. The wording of Amendment No. 18 I find is much more explicit and all embracing than my own amendment. I shall be happy not to move my amendment in favour of his amendment.
The new clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will apply to all providers of cross-Channel transport and not just the concessionaires. That is the difference between it and the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael.The ferry companies' contention appears to be that by introducing bigger and faster ships and by making other improvements in efficiency, they will be able to undercut substantially the level of fares that Eurotunnel need to cover its costs, including debt servicing. As a result, it is argued, Eurotunnel will have no alternative but to hold down its own fares for a sufficiently long time to bankrupt the ferries, after which Eurotunnel will he free to raise its fares again to what is, for it, an economical level. Eurotunnel will be able to do this—so the ferry companies claim—because its operating costs, other than debt servicing, will be much lower than those of the ferries, and provided it can cover its operating costs that will always be a better option for Eurotunnel's shareholders and creditors than going into liquidation. How likely this scenario is to come about is not a matter on which the Government can comment. We made it clear in the White Paper last year that the Government should not seek to influence investors' decisions. The point, however, is that predatory pricing—that is to say, as has been described, deliberate pricing below cost with a view to knocking out a competitor and then raising prices again—is an anti-competitive practice and is subject to the procedures and remedies of the Competition Act 1980 and also Article 86 of the Treaty of Rome. The 1980 Act gives the Director General of Fair Trading power to investigate any course of conduct which appears to restrict, distort or prevent competition in the supply of goods or services in the United Kingdom. It is established that predatory pricing, properly defined, constitutes such a course of conduct. Indeed the Office of Fair Trading investigates such cases. If the director general finds that such a course of conduct is being pursued in a particular case he can stop it by securing undertakings or by referring the case to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Alternatively under European Community law the European Commission has powers to investigate complaints and if appropriate to issue interim and final orders and to impose heavy fines. European Community law is also directly enforceable in the United Kingdom and would enable a ferry operator, who considered himself to be the victim of predatory pricing, to seek injunctive relief from a United Kingdom court. This argument was put by the ferry companies at length before the Select Committee, that by the time any investigation had been completed and the anti-competitive practice brought to an end, they would have suffered irreparable damage. Accordingly, they proposed, much along the lines of the amendment now before the Committee, that Eurotunnel should be placed under a duty not to charge, without the prior consent of the Director General of Fair Trading, fares which an equally efficient competitor could not match. This proposal was not, and is not, acceptable to the Government for the following reasons. First, the Government do not agree that the existing procedures are ineffective. Preliminary investigations can be completed in a matter of months. And the mere fact of launching an investigation is sufficient sometimes to persuade the offender to stop the practice complained of. Secondly, a process of investigation is inescapable. The amendment achieves no improvement in that respect because it would still be necessary to establish whether the competitor was in fact equally efficient. Although it could be argued that this would be avoided if the concessionaires were to comply beforehand with subsection (2) of the proposed new clause, this too is objectionable to the Government because it is tantamount to prior approval of pricing by the Director General. Thirdly, the attractive-sounding term "equally efficient" is almost impossible to define. But whatever it means, the basic principle that equally efficient competitors should be required to charge the same prices is objectionable, because it takes no account of differences in costs. We do not require an efficient low cost, but slow, sea ferry to charge the same high fares as an efficient fast, but high cost, airline. Different modes with differing attributes and cost structures must be allowed to reflect them in their prices. Both the amendments would make it a duty not to pursue an anti-competitive practice within the meaning of the Competition Act 1980, and breach of that duty would render the offender liable to pay damages. The effect of imposing unconditional prohibitions would be to exclude the necessity for the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to consider whether the anti-competitive practice has been pursued and whether it operates or might be expected to operate against the public interest. This essential element of the investigative process would be eliminated by these proposed amendments and this would be a radical and unacceptable change in the whole bais of our competition law. As regards the right of the competitor to receive damages—I am not sure whether it was mentioned—the Competition Act does not provide such a right unless the investigation culminated in the Secretary of State making a formal order and that order has been breached. If the culmination of an investigation is merely the securing of undertakings from the offending firm, breach of those undertakings does not give rise to a liability to pay damages. The position where a complaint has been made under European Community legislation is somewhat uncertain and it has not yet been fully tested in the courts. I appreciate the concern that the injured party should be able to secure compensation, but, as I have indicated in my brief remarks, the law in this area is highly complex and any change should be made only as part of a general review of competition law and after very careful consideration of all the implications. I believe it would be quite wrong to introduce a radically new principle of competition law into a Bill concerned with one particular project, without regard to its implications for the whole structure of competition law across the board. The noble Lord's concern should not be pursued in the context of this Bill. The Government believe fully that national and Community laws provide appropriate procedures for dealing with predatory pricing. The Select Committee agreed with that. Accordingly, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and others, will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Perhaps I may intervene before the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, indicates what he proposes to do. In the Transport Bill the Government insisted that local public transport companies should not engage in anything which could be termed to be against competition. During the debates on the Airports Bill there was considerable discussion about predatory pricing in connection with Stansted. Why should the Government now take a different view on this point? If the Government do not like the wording of the amendment, they ought to say that they agree with the principle and will bring forward an amendment of their own. Surely everyone agrees that there should not be predatory pricing. The amendment does not say that there should be equal pricing. I cannot see the word "equal", to which the Minister referred in his speech. As my noble friend Lord Carmichael said, we prefer the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, to ours because it is equal-handed. It deals not only with the concessionaires but with the ferries as well.
I did not say that I did not agree with the principle of the amendment, that we should seek to avoid predatory pricing. What I said was that I believed that we already have the mechanism to do this in both national and Community law.
With great respect to the Minister, I do not feel that he has addressed himself to the problem of timing, about which the harbour board and the ferries have been extremely anxious. It is a fact that a matter of months, if not a year or so, could be quite long enough to cause great financial distress and possible bankruptcy. I cannot see why it is not possible to accept the principle of subsection (3), which suggests that any pricing policy could obtain the whitewashing, the approval, of the Director General of Fair Trading before it was put into action so as to avoid the necessity of legal action at a later date.
I said that these things can happen quite quickly. Action can be taken quite quickly. I also said that often the very fact of launching an investigation is sufficient to persuade the offender to stop the practice being complained of.
I am not entirely convinced by this assurance. I shall make further inquiries and I reserve the right to bring this back at Report stage. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Strictly speaking, the Question, That Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill, should have been put after Amendment No. 16. However, I understand that, largely through a printer's error on the top of page 4, it was not so put. In the circumstances I shall put the Question now, That Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 19:
After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:
(" Compensation to Dover Harbour Board
.—(1) If at any time the Concessionaires shall enter into liquidation or commit any act of bankruptcy or agree any composition, accommodation or moratorium with any one or more of their creditors or have a receiver appointed of any of their assets or revenues, the Secretary of State shall pay to the Harbour Board compensation determined as provided in subsection (2) below.
(2) The compensation payable under subsection (1) above shall be such sum as shall be agreed by the Secretary of State and the Harbour Board or in default of agreement determined by arbitration as being reasonable compensation.
(3) The matters to be considered in arriving at that sum shall include—
(3) In this section—
"the default date" means the first date upon which there occurs any of the events mentioned in subsection (1) above in relation to the Concessionaires;
"the Harbour Board "means Dover Harbour Board;
"the written down value of all capital expenditure" means the original capital cost as shown in the accounts prepared and published by the Harbour Board in accordance with the Statutory Harbour Undertakings (Accounts etc.) Regulations 1983, less the cumulative total of depreciation of that capital expenditure as shall have been shown in the last of those accounts to have been so prepared and published before the default date.").
The noble Lord said: I believe it is the Committee's wish to take Amendments Nos. 148 and 151 at the same time. I move Amendment No. 19 and want to speak to Amendment No. 148. Amendment No. 151 is not one to which I have given my support so I shall not comment on it, though I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, will wish to do so.
It is common ground that the Channel Tunnel will introduce into the cross-Channel transport industry massive additional capacity. The Government have announced that they consider that this capacity will be cheaper, faster and more efficient than the existing facilities. Eurotunnel makes similar claims and says:
"In short, this project is capable of taking a greater flow of traffic more quickly, securely, dependably and cheaply than any other".
Those words come from the CTG memorandum to the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport of 15th November 1985. If that view is correct then in due course the more expensive, slower and less efficient ferries will dissappear.
I find it curious that, despite their belief that in every important economic respect the tunnel will be superior to the ferries, the Government are also of the view that the tunnel and the ferries can and will co-exist. While admitting that there will be an impact—that is a modest little word—on the size and capacity of the remaining ferry fleet, the Government stated in the White Paper:
"It is not likely to be such as to create insoluble problems for the ferry industry. It is expected that the total ferry capacity, once the link is open, will be slightly less than it is today and will increase again in later years".
There is no published evidence to support this remarkable view. I move this amendment because I have a great interest in Dover. I was Member of Parliament for Dover from 1964 until 1970 and I had a good deal of contact with Dover during the election. The evidence that there will be hardly any impact on Dover as a port is not accepted. In fact at the time of the election all three candidates boldly proclaimed their total opposition to the tunnel,
despite whatever their parties' views were. I reckon that you could not stand as a candidate in Dover without making such a declaration. I was glad that I was not a candidate.
There is at least a chance that the tunnel will not prove to be superior to the ferries, or, if in some aspects superior, not profitable at market prices. We discussed those issues in the previous amendment. In those circumstances the Promoters of the Bill will have made an ill-judged decision in seeking to establish a fixed link. What then would be the position of the Dover Harbour Board, which, having carried the traffic during the construction period of the tunnel and invested accordingly, finds that the services have beaten the Channel Tunnel in fair competition? Fair competition implies freedom of entry and exit to industry but the key element here is that the tunnel, once built, cannot leave the market as there is no alternative use for the capital. It is quite different therefore from the ferries. In these circumstances an injudicious oversupply of capacity will have been promoted by the Government.
In the port industry the Government have provided funds for some time to buy out existing labour capacity resulting from the workings of the national dock labour scheme; and, more widely, in coal, steel and agriculture of the United Kingdom and Europe, which recognised that excess capacity exists, the Government have actively involved themselves in bringing demand and supply back into equilibrium by buying out some of the excess capacity or subsidising the continued over-capacity. I ask the Minister whether it is unreasonable to ask the Government to do the same for the Port of Dover if it finds itself in a similar position as a result of the Government's bad judgment? That is, if it is proved that it is bad judgment, and I draw no conclusions on that.
I want to say a few words about the impact on Dover itself. The harbour board admittedly employs only about 1,000 people, but if you take ferry operators, shore staff, Dover-based United Kingdom crew, freight agents, etc., there are about 10,000 people involved. By 1993 this could rise, in the view of the Dover Harbour Board, to 12,000. Directly and indirectly the cross-Channel industry accounts for an estimated 43 per cent. of local business. That was the figure estimated in the late 1960s when I was Member of Parliament, and it seems to be the same today.
If Eurotunnel succeed in meeting their minimum targets, they will need to take at least 60 per cent. of Dover's traffic, and of course that means revenue. This will lead to an equivalent reduction in costs and, inevitably, manpower. Thus as a first and immediate consequence of the tunnel some 6,000 or more jobs will be lost. The longer-term future depends on the relative success or not of the ferries and the tunnel.
There arises therefore—and this is the purpose of the new clause—the question of compensation. The new clause deals with the need of the ferry, hovercraft and harbour operators to receive compensation in circumstances where they properly require to write down, or write off, the value of assets in their accounts as a result of the proposed opening of the tunnel system. They would be required to establish that need to the reasonable satisfaction of the Secretary of State. Having established that need it would be the Secretary of State's duty to compensate them.
The House of Lords Select Committee disposed of the ferries' and ports' petition in the same way as it dealt with other various aspects of compensation. It said that it did not consider the Bill's scheme to be unfair, and accordingly did not think that the compensation provisions asked for were warranted.
There are, however, two facets to the proposed amendment. The Government considered the first one, which is that the Government's intervention in the promotion of the Hybrid Bill justifies the payment of compensation, although of course the committee disagreed with that. They did not, however, address the second, which is that if no provision is made then there is no incentive for the ferries to provide sufficient capacity to cater for demand up to the time the tunnel opens.
The Committee may be aware that Townsend Thoresen are currently introducing two jumbo ferries on the Dover-Calais route. While these ferries are intended to compete with the tunnel, further investment by any of the ferry operators in this sector must from here on be questionable. They must satisfy themselves regarding the commercial régime which will exist when the tunnel opens—that is, a pricing policy in order to force the ferries out of business. This is the subject of a further amendment for consideration by the Committee.
Secondly, they must have regard to the fact that fleet reductions after the tunnel opens are absolutely inevitable, even on the Government's figures set out in the White Paper. Additional tonnage will merely compound the problem. All the evidence is that the only effective competition to the tunnel will be provided by a limited number of large ferries operating on the Dover-Calais route, and only then in circumstances which forbid the use of the tunnel's otherwise dominant position.
I would submit therefore that the case for compensation, both as set out in Amendment No. 19 and also in the different circumstances as set out in Amendment No. 148, is profoundly important not only to protect the interests that already exist in Dover but also to ensure that there is adequate investment until the time when the tunnel is operating. Moreover, if things go wrong with the tunnel there will be some compensation to ensure that facilities are then made available by the ferry operators from Dover to deal with what will inevitably be, by one means or another, an increasing demand to travel from Britain to Europe. I beg to move.
I was not aware that it was the desire of the Committee to take Amendment No. 151 in my name along with the other two amendments of my noble friend Lord Ennals, but I am prepared to do so and discuss the three together. Obviously the detail varies between the Dover Harbour Board problems and the losses that may be incurred by the operators on the one hand, and my amendment which deals with the costs that will be incurred by redundancy payments. As well as there being obsolete equipment, one expects that there will unhappily be a great reduction in the numbers employed both on the ferries themselves and in their supporting services if, as is expected, a substantial amount of the cross-Channel traffic is taken by the tunnel. On the other hand if it does not take a lot of the traffic then it will not be a success.The Select Committee rather disappointingly did not seem to understand that there is a special problem. They said that they could not see any unique feature as to why there should be special consideration for the ferries and the harbour authorities in these circumstances. My noble friend has made the point that this is quite unique in the sense that it is very much in the national interest as regards exports and tourism—both of which are of great importance to us—that there should be an adequate cross-Channel facility up until the very day that the tunnel becomes operational. However, clearly if the ferry operators take the advice that the Select Committee proffered; namely, that they should look at these matters like any sensible entrepreneur, and if they see that their market is going to decline, they will not wait until it happens but will begin to cut their resources and begin to lay off, or not replace, jobs, and not replace ferries and so forth. Although the Government say that it is not their business to make traffic forecasts, obviously the ferry operators have had to make traffic forecasts. We are all looking a hit into the crystal ball and we do not know exactly how things will be in six years or more from now, but they do not see such an enormous growth in cross-Channel traffic arising from the building of the tunnel such as to maintain the same level of ferry operation after the tunnel is built as before. It will be a national disaster if, in order to satisfy their shareholders—just as one understands that Eurotunnel will be concerned to satisfy theirs—they begin already to cut back as the six years go by. It will not be just in the year, or perhaps two or three years, before the tunnel is due to open. Not only adequate provision for our own people who want to go as tourists to the continent but more importantly, as has been stressed throughout, the freight situation will become extremely serious, as indeed will be the possibility of foreign visitors. We all know that invisible exports are extremely important as well as our actual trade in exports. We cannot expect the ferry operators, or the port operators, to keep full capacity, or indeed to increase their capacity to meet the demand in the next few years, unless somebody is to help them at the end of the time with regard to the redundancy monies that they will quite properly have to pay to their staff, and for some loss arising in respect of obsolete capacity, which they will have kept on in the national interest until such time as the tunnel has taken a substantial part of the business. A further unique situation is that the ferries in this country are the only ones which are privately owned. Sealink, prior to being sold by British Rail to a private operator, was publicly owned. The French, Belgians and Dutch have government support and are not wholly dependent on the shares of private enterprise. Despite the great belief of the present Government that everything should be privately owned, they will be put in a real dilemma as to what they should do. While there may be arguments about the particular drafting, or the particular way in which help should be calculated, I hope that the principle will be recognised in a way that it was not, I am sorry to say, by our Select Committee. Although the Government recognise that there might be a problem, so far as I can understand the matter they make no proposals which will encourage the ferry companies to carry out their function, in the national interests, of providing a satisfactory cross-Channel service, as I am sure they desire to do. If British ferries do not operate there certainly will not be sufficient foreign ferries willing to pick up the load.
I put my name to Amendment No. 19 but not to Amendments Nos. 148 and 151. Although there have been two brave tries by the noble Lords, Lord Ennals and Lord Mulley, Amendments Nos. 148 and 151 seem to me to be special pleading of a very high order. I understand the fact that people in Dover are worried and that they have tried to get some money out of the Government. However, I do not see my way to supporting that issue.Amendment No. 19 is different. It deals with a situation where the concessionaires may have gone into liquidation or committed an act of bankruptcy. In that situation it is right to suppose that the concessionaires have been performing in such a way as to provide unfair competition, that the situation has got out of hand and that the harbour board and others will have been subjected to competition which is grossly unfair. In those circumstances, it would be right to make some provision for compensation for the harbour board. I do not necessarily go along with every word of Amendment No. 19, but I think that there is a much better case for that amendment than for Amendments Nos. 148 or 151.
The new clause in Amendment No. 19, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, requires the Secretary of State to compensate the Dover Harbour Board—though the principle is equally applicable to the ferry operators—for any loss of business resulting from competition from the fixed link if at any time Eurotunnel is obliged, in order to carry on trading, to write off or reschedule any of its debts. This proposal therefore accepts that if Eurotunnel can fully pay its way it will have justified its place in the market, and therefore the existing operators should accept any losses they incur as a result of such competition. On the other hand, it is argued that if events were to demonstrate that Eurotunnel cannot fully pay its way, that will show that it should not have been allowed to proceed with the project in the first place, and therefore the Government should pay compensation for any damage that Eurotunnel's entry to the market has inflicted on the existing operators.Amendments Nos. 148 and 151 in Schedule 7 go even further. They provide unconditionally that, even if Eurotunnel can fully pay its way, the Government should compensate the existing operators for assets which have become obsolete, and for payments to employees made redundant as a result of the diversion of traffic to the fixed link. This extraordinary proposition is based mainly on the argument that the introduction of a large quantity of additional capacity into the cross-Channel market is unfair competition per se. These two proposals are not new. The Government rejected these and other compensation proposals when they were advanced before the Select Committee and also earlier in another place. The Government do not believe existing operators have a right to be protected against legitimate competition, and the role of the Bill is simply to provide the legal framework to enable Eurotunnel to compete. The decisions whether to invest in the fixed link rest entirely with the private sector. If those decisions prove mistaken the Government will not compensate the investors. Nor should the Government be under any obligation to compensate the existing operators. Mistaken investment decisions occur from time to time in every sector of the economy. They are a fact of commercial life and there is no right of compensation against them. The Select Committees in both Houses have accepted these arguments. As the noble Lord said, the committee of this House concluded in paragraph 78 of its special report that the situation facing the ferry and port operators is neither unique nor unfair. The existing operators have at least six years to adjust their investment plans to take account of the opening of the tunnel in, 1993. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, referred to the fact that one operator has recently put two new jumbo ferries on to the route. I understand that they are to compete directly with the link. The committee agreed that the operators have difficult choices to make, but it did not consider the Bill's scheme to be unfair or that the compensation provisions asked for were warranted. I hope that the Committee will endorse those conclusions, unless the noble Lord is prepared to withdraw his amendment.
The noble Lord does not appear to have distinguished between Amendment No. 19 and the other two amendments in the way I sought to do. I accept what he says about Amendments Nos. 148 and 151 but he must recognise that the situation is different as regards Amendment No. 19.
I should like to elaborate on that point. It was a helpful intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. The Minister replied only to Amendment No. 148, as opposed to Amendment No. 19 which is immediately before the Committee. I shall read the words again:
Therefore, it is only under circumstances of a total failure of the Channel Tunnel. At no stage did I suggest that 1 thought that that would happen, that I wanted it to happen, or anything at all. However, if there is such total confidence in the profitability of Eurotunnel—and therefore in the minds of those who decide and especially at this moment in the minds of the Government—and if there is no doubt whatever that this project will succeed, I do not understand why they should not feel that a guarantee such as that contained in Amendment No. 19 (I am not arguing at the moment about Amendment No. 148) is not absolutely proper and totally fair to the ferry operators and the Dover Harbour Board."If at any time the Concessionaires shall enter into liquidation or commit any act of bankruptcy or agree any composition, accommodation or moratorium with any one or more of their creditors or have a receiver appointed …".
I should like to reinforce that point. The noble Lord, in referring to Amendments Nos. 148 and 151, rightly said that normal competition must be allowed to exist and therefore ferry operators should be prepared to work in those circumstances. It is a presupposition of Amendment No. 19 that fair competition has not existed and that the Bill is based on a wrong premise. In those circumstances, I suggest that the Government have a responsibility and therefore that compensation should be paid in the case of liquidation or bankruptcy.
I do not think I can add very much more than I said in my original reply. I can assure noble Lords that when they read what I have said they will see that I did take into account Amendment No. 19. I am fully aware of the difference between this amendment and the latter two amendments. I am not saying one way or the other whether Eurotunnel is going to be a success: I have said that on several occasions this evening. I am not prepared to give investment advice on that issue: nor would it be proper for me to do so. It is a question for the market to decide. I really have nothing further that I can say on this at the moment.
I must admit that I was disappointed by the original reply and I am no more reassured by the reply the Minister has just given. I shall not go over the arguments again, but I shall go over his speech. He has just said that he gave certain assurances or said some things that should be read carefully. I shall read them carefully and I shall not press the amendment at this stage—or, for that matter, when we reach Amendment No. I48—but if I am not happy about what I have read in the Minister's reply I want to reserve the right to return to this subject at the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Before moving that the House do resume, I would suggest that we should resume the Committee stage of this Bill at 8.15. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
Jury Trial (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987
rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 11 th May be approved. [20th Report from the Joint Committee Session 1986–87].
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Jury Trial (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, a copy of which was laid before the House on 11th May, be approved.
I should draw to the attention of the House that this is the second draft of the order to be laid before the House. The draft which was laid on 8th May was defective in that it did not give the commencement date of the order. On the advice of counsel to the Chairman of Committees, the original draft was withdrawn and a new draft laid on 11th May giving a commencement date of 1st August 1987.
The effect of the draft order would be to remove personal injury and fatal accident actions from the list of cases in which a party may request trial with a jury in the High Court in Northern Ireland. This change would bring Northern Ireland into line with the position in England and Wales.
At present in Northern Ireland either party to a personal injuries action in the High Court may request trial with a jury of seven persons. Although the majority of cases are set down to be tried in this way, in practice fewer than 2 per cent. are decided by a jury. The vast majority of cases are settled at the door of the court or, in some cases, in the course of the trial. Indeed, court records indicate that 95 per cent. of cases are dealt with without a jury ever becoming involved.
In November 1985 the then Lord Chancellor announced that he had decided to conduct a review of the desirability of a change in High Court practice. A total of 16 organisations were invited to make submissions. Of the submissions received, 11 favoured the abolition of civil jury trial. The 11 organisations comprised employers' organisations, representatives of the insurance industry and the accountancy profession, the Automobile Association, and the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland. Against this, three of the organisations invited to make submissions were opposed to any change. Those opposing change were: the General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland, the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. That will probably not be a surprise to the House.
Neither the proponents of change nor those opposing abolition raised any new points of substance which had not already been put to an inter-departmental working group which reported to Ministers in 1979. That working group, which comprised Northern Ireland Government Departments, established: that employers' liability insurance costs are higher in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain; that these costs have a significant effect on the operating costs of firms; that awards granted under the jury system in Northern Ireland are higher than under the non-jury system in England and Wales; that legal costs form a higher proportion of the total costs of an award or settlement in Northern Ireland; and, very significantly, that there is a greater delay in dealing with cases or achieving settlements in Northern Ireland.
The working group recorded that consideration be given to the abolition of the jury system in personal injuries litigation in Northern Ireland.
In January this year the then Lord Chancellor announced that, having carefully considered the views of the interested parties, he had concluded that there was no compelling reason why Northern Ireland should differ from England and Wales in the use of juries in personal injury actions.
The change which it is now proposed should be made for Northern Ireland took place in England and Wales as long ago as 1933. I make this point to emphasise that this will be no leap into the dark for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. The civil law and the rules of civil procedure in the Province are in most respects similar, if not identical, to those in England and Wales. The change now proposed will remove one of the few differences of any significance between our two systems and will provide for even greater parity in the methods of dealing with civil claims in the two law districts. I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has appreciated that I have always been very anxious to reduce differences in legal procedure and other points between the Province and England and Wales.
To turn now to the draft order, the mechanics of the exercise are straightforward. The power to make the Order is provided by Section 62 of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978. Subsection (1) of that section lists five classes of action in which a party may request trial with a jury in the High Court. The effect of the draft Order is to remove head (e) from the list. Head (e) is concerned with personal injury and fatal accident actions. Removing personal injury cases will leave four classes of action (libel, slander, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment) in which a party will still be able to request trial with a jury. This, as I have said, will bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales. I should also mention that there will still be power for the High Court to order trial with a jury, even in a personal injury case, where it is considered that this would be more suitable. However, the majority of personal injury cases will from now on be tried by a judge sitting alone.
As to the timing of this change, it is proposed to bring the order into force on 1st August this year so that it will be in place at the start of the new legal year—and of course I mean the new legal year in Northern Ireland, which is a month ahead of ours. A corresponding amendment to the Rules of the Supreme Court will make clear that, from the beginning of the new legal year, trial by judge alone will be the mode of trial in personal injury cases.
I. have no doubt that there are those who will oppose this change and will plead in aid of their case the common sense and standards of the ordinary juryman. However, I consider that arguments of this sort ought not to blind us to the simple fact that the standard of justice attainable in personal injury actions in England and Wales is in no sense inferior to that which has hitherto been available in Northern Ireland from judge and jury. Consequently, the proposed change should not be portrayed as bringing about any lessening of standards. Rather, I would urge on the House that it is a desirable and long overdue reform. Indeed, the savings for litigants that should result from reduced legal costs and the expedition of trials and settlements are reason enough for bringing this order before the House. My Lords. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 11 th May be approved. [ 20th report from the Joint Committe Session 1986‐87].—( The Lord Chancellor.)
My Lords, the House will welcome the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on the introduction of what is, I think, his first order. I wish that I could support it. Alas, I cannot! Indeed this apparently innocuous order has given rise to a great deal of adverse comment in Northern Ireland. In particular, as the noble and learned Lord said, it is strongly opposed by the legal profession in Northern Ireland, both the Bar and the Law Society. The Northern Ireland Bar is a Bar to which I have had the honour to belong for a great many years. It is distinguished both for its independence and for its competence. I do not think its opposition is explained by any selfish advantage which may be suspected to derive to the Bar from the existence in a limited number of cases of the jury system.As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, the order is also opposed by the Northern Ireland trade unions and by many in the Province who deplore the further whittling away of the jury system. The weight of opinion that has been communicated to me from Northern Ireland is to the effect that the civil jury system is working sufficiently well there to justify the continuance of its use. In the troubled field of Northern Ireland, it is wise to leave well alone. No overwhelming reasons have been put forward, I submit with respect, by the Lord Chancellor for abolition. Indeed the extent to which civil juries in Northern Ireland have historically carried out their duties free from religious, political and social bias has been one of the reassuring features of life in Northern Ireland. That record, we have every reason to think, will, in these troublesome times, be continued. In my submission, speaking for those on this side of the House, the arguments for abolition are unconvincing while those for retaining civil juries are strong, particularly in the special circumstances prevailing in Northern Ireland. The factors which led to the setting up of the Diplock courts in Northern Ireland to deal with terrorist activities, by reason of the fact and fear of intimidation of witnesses and jurors, do not apply to civil proceedings. There has never been any evidence of intimidation of juries in those cases or indeed of witnesses in civil proceedings. So there is no justification of the kind that existed in regard to the Diplock court arrangements that apply to civil proceedings in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the historical background in Northern Ireland does not appear to support the Government's action. The MacDermott Committee's report on the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland published in 1970, recommended with only one dissenter the retention of jury trials in actions for damages for personal injuries or death, and that was in full knowledge of the fact that civil jury trials in England had effectively been abolished before that time. If the Government's proposals are implemented, trial by jury will effectively cease to exist in the Province. As the Bar of Northern Ireland has stated:
Those are serious fears with which I hope the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will feel able to deal. One claimed justification for the order is that judicial time will be saved by its introduction. Not so, my Lords. Inevitably there will be more appeals from judges sitting alone. More judges may well be required to hear a greater number of cases. While the Bar of Northern Ireland and the Law Society accept that jury awards of damages in Northern Ireland are higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom, economic factors specific to the Province are believed to be the main cause of this taking place and not the existence of civil juries. Indeed, jury damages awarded there are surprisingly both uniform and predictable and have kept reasonably in step with the value of money. It would be interesting to know, if the noble and learned Lord has any statistics on the matter, how many cases in the last 12 months have been successfully appealed against on the grounds that they were excessive. It would be interesting to know also what proportion of total personal injury claims that amount represented. As I have said, and as has been admitted from the Woolsack, the legal profession of Northern Ireland are strongly opposed to this order, and as I have again ventured to say, it would be wrong to attribute that to alleged additional benefit that they or their clients derive from jury trials. I now turn to the opposition from the trade unions. The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has declared its firm commitment to the retention of juries in personal injury cases. The committee makes the significant and, I think, important point that those left disabled in Northern Ireland as a result of an industrial injury, motor accident or whatever it may be have significantly fewer opportunities of re-entering the labour market than those similarly handicapped in Great Britain—difficult enough as it is for those here. Awards in Northern Ireland should therefore reflect that extra disadvantage suffered by those who have sustained injury. As the legal profession in Northern Ireland has urged, at the very least the Government should delay the introduction of the regulations until there has been an opportunity for full public consultation on this issue in the Province—I understand that there has been very little—including possibly a public inquiry. That has not been done. Secondly, it is the case that new supreme court rules were introduced in Northern Ireland last September on civil cases. Has any review been conducted into their effects and has that review produced any relevant information in relation to the trial system in civil cases? Finally, has proper research been undertaken in Northern Ireland on the effects of juries on the level of damage awards? Those are important questions which, I submit, justify withholding approval of this order, certainy at this stage, until those steps are taken and those inquiries are made. My submission on behalf of my noble friends on this side of the House is that no adequate justification has been produced for the order."There will be no active public participation in the administration of justice. This may well diminish and endanger public trust in and respect for the legal system".
My Lords, I find it sad that the noble and learned Lord, whose accession to the Woolsack has been so very widely welcomed, should find himself constrained as his first substantive contribution to your Lordships' House to make a proposal to whittle away the right of jury trial. It is sad because those of us who know the noble and learned Lord know how both at the Bar and in his distinguished career since he ceased to practice at the Bar he has always been a stalwart supporter of the principle of jury trial.I know that the noble and learned Lord will agree that the burden upon those who advocate any reduction of any kind in the principle of trial by jury is a very heavy one. I say that because we would all recognise that the jury occupies a quite unique place in our society. It occupies it in two important respects: first, as an essential bulwark of our democratic way of life and one that is probably far more important than the two Houses of Parliament in preserving our democracy. Secondly, the jury by its participation in the administration of justice enables the public to get a feel of what is going on and to bring informed criticism and comment to bear on the whole system of justice. In those circumstances the proposal that is put forward today needs, I suggest, much more weighty argument in its support than so far has been mustered by those who are seeking to advocate it. It does not do simply to say, "Well in a sense it is not very important. It is only personal injury cases. It is only head (e) out of five heads contained in the order". The noble and learned Lord can no doubt give us the exact figure but I suspect that the cases that come under head (e) that were tried by jury in the last 12 months were the overwhelming preponderance of jury trials in Northern Ireland and that in those circumstances the proposal is far from being an insignificant one. It will remove from Northern Ireland the great majority of jury trials that at present take place there. I find this a strange time and a strange place for the proposal to be put forward. First it is a strange time because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, pointed out, new rules for civil procedure introduced only last September have been operating for less than a year and it is still difficult to assess their precise effect. Secondly, it may be a strange time because of the election of the new government recently in the Republic of Ireland. I do not know what views that new government have on the proposal in relation to the legal system in the Republic but I should have thought, particularly after the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that there was much to be said for seeing if reforms could go hand in hand in the Province and in the Republic and it might therefore perhaps have been better to have waited a little while to see what the reaction of the new government in the Republic might be to a proposal of this kind. Those two reasons perhaps make it somewhat of a strange time. I find it a strange place to put forward the proposal again for the reasons that have been touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones. First, the Province of Northern Ireland is a strange place in which to put forward the proposal because of the fact that criminal trials there have already been for all practical purposes abolished and therefore there is no comparison to be made with the rest of the United Kingdom. The effect of the present proposal would be, as has been said, to abolish juries in almost every case throughout the Province, whereas the effect in this country would still be and always has been to leave the juries in criminal cases. I do not think therefore that the comparison is a valid one. Secondly, Northern Ireland seems a strange place in which to introduce a proposal of this kind because, as is all too apparent, it is a small divided community in which, at the moment, the jury system is working adequately, whereas trial by judge alone in that kind of community will inevitably on many occasions give rise after the trial to complaints of bias and to criticisms of the judges. I am not saying for a minute that those complaints would be justified; of course they would not. But it is almost inevitable that in that society if the judge alone has to come to a decision on such matters he will incur criticism. The noble and learned Lord mentioned the various bodies whose opinions have been given on this issue. I do not know whether the opinion of the judiciary in Northern Ireland, for whom I have the highest respect, has been sought or whether indeed it was unanimously in favour of the proposal. I would very much welcome that information from the noble and learned Lord. One consequence, if I am right in the suggestion that it will not be easy in that kind of community for judges alone always to take those decisions, is that there may well be an increase in the number of appeals once the proposal goes through and that will largely undo any beneficial effects that the proposal might otherwise have in terms of costs or delay. In those circumstances I venture to think that there is much to be said for the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, that perhaps the Government should think again after the order has gone through your Lordships' House today and before bringing it forward in another place and should suggest a period of delay in which much more research could be undertaken into the various issues that have been raised today. I have one final observation to make. It is that there was a somewhat curt footnote in one of the newspapers this morning which simply said that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had declined to receive a deputation from the Bar of Northern Ireland. All of us who know the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would know perfectly well that he would never in any circumstances show discourtesy towards members of the Bar, nor indeed appear to show discourtesy to them. I have no doubt that that short report does the noble and learned Lord something of an injustice and I hope therefore that he will clarify the matter so that his reputation in that respect will remain totally unsullied, as I am sure it will.
My Lords, I assure your Lordships that my intervention will be very brief. I should like to appeal to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to consider the question of delaying the implementation of the order, not only to allow consideration of the matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, referred, such as the matter of the representatives of the Irish Bar appearing before him (which I know he would with his usual courtesy wish to happen), but also because of certain political considerations.The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, in extending the points made by my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, said he wondered whether this was the right time and whether Northern Ireland was the right place. I add the further question: Is this the right House of Parliament? Should we, at this time and from a political point of view, issue from this House of Parliament an instruction which means that a vital civil right is being taken away from the citizens of Northern Ireland? One wonders whether the more tactful thing to do would not be to hope that there would be some parliament working properly in that Province which would make its own decision in regard to the matter. As my last observation on the question of timing, I repeat the point that has been made concerning whether it would not be more tactful, when juries are restored to Northern Ireland in criminal trials, then possibly to think in terms of removing juries from civil trials. The jury system does not operate there, as the noble and learned Lord well knows, because of the tragic circumstances. Is this the time to remove a civil right of this kind in regard to civil trials for negligence actions?
My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions to what I think, given its brevity, has been a very interesting debate. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, expressed straight away, as is characteristic of him, the view of the Labour Party. He said that this order was whittling away at the jury system and that there is no evidence of intimidation of civil juries. With that I totally agree and I should like to pay tribute to those jurors who set aside all the sectarian differences and get down to doing justice.The noble and learned Lord asked me about criminal cases. The figures are quite interesting. One finds, for example, that something like 75 per cent. of criminal cases are non-Diplock. Those cases will not all be tried by juries, because sometimes defendants plead guilty. But the figures show that juries are still playing a very large part. When we come to balance the questions of whether it is right to keep the jury system and what juries do, perhaps I may go into a little detail about the other side of the coin. Jury trials may be said to militate against a consistency and predictability in the award of damages and thus to inhibit settlements. They are more expensive than trial by judge alone and unfortunately they take longer to arrange and complete. There is a further consideration which has weighed considerably, I think I can fairly say, not only with my predecessor but also with myself. This was a matter on which I was consulted when I was Attorney-General. The development which I have noticed in my nearly 40 years is this. There was almost a rule of thumb regarding the award of damages. There was a certain figure for an eye and so on. The figures were such that one could almost do them lying in the bath in the morning. The noble and learned Lord and I would almost certainly reach exactly the same figure. Since those days, it has become a much more sophisticated exercise. Our proposals for a modified basis for the assessment of damages for future loss of income and for the full offset of social security benefits would of course reinforce this trend. It seemed to us, just as interestingly enough it seemed to the Law Commission, to militate against the use of lay juries. As I have already mentioned, the number of scheduled cases in which the defendant pleaded guilty was 264 and the balance of 75 went to non-Diplock courts. I get bored with statistics but I think these are quite important and I promise not to give too many of them to the House. In 1986, 2,742 cases were dealt with in the QBD of the High Court of Northern Ireland. Only 43, or 1.57 per cent., were fully tried before a jury. The overwhelming majority of cases were settled between lawyers without a jury ever becoming involved. Perhaps at the risk of sharing an inside joke with the lawyers here, I may say that they were mostly settled at the courtroom door. The figures for the first three months of this year show the same picture. There were 558 cases dealt with in the QBD. Eight of those cases, or 1.43 per cent., were fully tried before a jury. What is happening is that the system has developed in this country of cases being settled well in advance, before the huge increase in brief fees. If I may reminisce for a moment, I had a system when I was retained by Norwich Union of writing an opinion setting out exactly how I thought the award would be made. It had my full authority to send that to the other side and it was never to try to reduce the figure that I said was to be the figure that was likely to be awarded. I do not think that I had more than one brief actually going to court out of my entire time with it. For the Norwich Union it was a great saving. I also think it was a reassurance to the plaintiff. If his counsel agreed, then he was able to say: "This is absolutely clear. We are not trying to knock 10 per cent. off for you settling. Everything that Havers has advised is there and I agree with him". In that regard, I think the late settlement of cases in Northern Ireland has not been good news. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, who is another old friend, spoke particularly of the position in Northern Ireland. I have to give what is rather an Irish answer. The matter was raised by the previous Government and voted against by the then Opposition. The Minister I forget which Minister—by resolution, which is a peculiarity of that system, has it back now that the new Government are supporting it. At this moment it is in the committee stage in the Dail. The Dail, who is luckier than we are, is now going into recess until November. I therefore think there will be a delay. However, there is a government commitment to abolishing juries in the Republic of Ireland in exactly the same way. I hope that gives the noble Lord the answer he asked for. Going back to the earlier matter of how many cases have gone to appeal on the grounds of awards, I hope the noble and learned Lord will allow me to write to him. I do not have the figures to hand. I think it is widely known that the judiciary opposed this measure for some time. It has now taken what I think can properly be called a neutral stance and does not oppose it, for reasons which one well understands. Therefore, the initial opposition, which was material over the many reviews we had over so many years, has made a substantial difference to the final decision taken. Finally, I turn to the point that the noble Lord picked up about the passage in the newspaper. I do not think I have read a newspaper this week. All I can say is that this matter has been exaggerated. As your Lordships know, it was originally to be dealt with in May. The election intervened. For very sensible reasons, this must be in place when the new legal term starts on 1st September. The Rules Committee has to react to it and alter the rules. Therefore we urged upon the Whips the earliest possible date. It was to be the 6th of this month and it has now been advanced to 2nd June for this House. I think it has been advanced to 6th June for the other place. It is not intended in any sense as a discourtesy. After my eight years as Attorney-General of Northern Ireland they are practically all great friends. There is no way that I would wish them to feel that I have been either churlish or discourteous. I must say this, that they have written letters and I have of course discussed the matter on my many trips to Ireland, particularly with the senior Silks at the Irish Bar. I do not think that they have left a stone unturned. I think it would have been a fun meeting, because it is always fun meeting them, but I suspect that there would have been nothing fresh. However, that is not the reason that the consultation did not take place. It is due simply to shortage of time.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.15 p.m.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
[ The Sitting was suspended from 7.52 until 8.15 p.m.]
Channel Tunnel Bill
House again in Committee.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 20:
After Clause 5 insert the following new clause:
(" Provision for public local inquiry.
The scheduled works shall not be commenced until—
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 20 which refers to the provision of a public local inquiry. In doing this I am conscious of the fact that if a public inquiry were to be agreed to at this stage it would probably delay the whole procedure beyond the point at which it made sense. Nevertheless, I raise this question in Committee because it seems to me that the consultations which took place in Kent were less than adequate particularly in the early stages.
I know that the Minister, the Select Committee in another place and the Select Committee here have gone out of their way to listen to the objections of local people. When I say "objections" I am talking about the legitimate objections and not those from people who are fundamentally opposed to the Channel Tunnel at any price. I am referring to the people who really are being very much affected by the sort of Channel Tunnel proposed.
In moving the first amendment this evening I said that a rail-only tunnel would have far less environmental impact than the project which is at present before the Committee. I have been to Kent a number of times and I am impressed by the fact that ordinary local individuals are still very worried about the impact on their lives. They do not feel that they have had the opportunity of expressing their own views as well as they might have done. Of course, the big organisations have been able to make their presence felt and they have been able to employ expensive lawyers. That is not the same thing as having a proper public inquiry on the ground.
There came the point at which a public inquiry probably became out of the question if this Bill were to go through in anything like reasonable time. There was a reference earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, to the Sizewell inquiry. I think the whole question of public inquiries for major projects in this country needs to be looked at. We need to be able to establish a timetable for public inquiries so that acceptable projects are not held up by people who use the public inquiry as a way of destroying the project which is being put before them.
I take the opportunity of raising this question because I want the Government to recognise that there is still considerable concern in Kent from individuals. By moving this amendment I seek to achieve some recognition by the Government that they are still sensitive to the feelings of the local people, that they will even now go out of their way to listen to the complaints which still exist and that they will he sympathetic to the pleas of those people.
There is a considerable fear that, once the Bill goes through, there will be a demand for extra land and there will be an extension of the powers which have already been granted. It is because of that sort of situation that I tabled the amendment: in order to provide the Government with the opportunity of expressing concern and allowing the local people to feel that their views are really being considered. I beg to move.
I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, moved the amendment in the temperate and considerate way that he did. My immediate reaction is that it is something for which we should press and support. It would be foolish of me to say that I have read every word of our Select Committee's report. I have turned over every page. When I have wanted to, I have read the particular section. I am full of praise for the consideration the committee gave to the vast number of petitions and petitioners who came before it.I do not know whether there is a member of the Select Committee in the Chamber at the moment. It would be helpful if, after the noble Lord's remarks, a member of the committee could give us some information, because it seems to me that a considerable amount of evidence was taken and a vast number of petitions were heard. It would be helpful to hear the committee's view of the type of evidence it received and the attention that was given to it. Whatever our views might be—for or against the fixed link—the last thing that we would want is to take any further decisions which might mean a 12-month or two-year delay before a firm decision is taken.
Both Select Committees made great efforts to examine the Channel Tunnel project from every conceivable point of view. I am therefore disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, should suggest another form of public inquiry. I know that the way he moved the amendment does not square with the way that it reads, because he is not suggesting that we should launch ourselves into a huge new public inquiry.Both committees did a tremendous amount of work. They were accessible to a large number of petitioners, whether large corporate petitioners or individual petitioners. I understand that they took a great deal of evidence from individual petitioners. They made considerable changes to the Bill. I shall give examples of a few things that were done in another place. The committee in another place supplemented the planning provisions contained in the Bill with the substantial and detailed Schedule 3 which establishes a comprehensive role for local authorities over the detailed arrangements for carrying out the project, including matters such as the control of construction vehicles, landscaping, viewing arrangements, overnight accommodation for drivers, the control of spoil disposal and the restoration of working sites. Those are all very much local issues in Kent. The committee did a great many other things as well. In this place, the Select Committee implemented the alternative road access arrangements to the Folkestone terminal area which were developed over a long period of negotiation and were widely welcomed by local authorities, environmental petitioners and with even due recognition for Mr. Pattinson, who was one of the few people adversely affected by the change. That was another thing that the Select Committe of this place did for the local people. It recommended an amendment to the Bill to which we will come in due course. It is Amendment No. 121 on the Marshalled List. It requires Eurotunnel to adopt an environmentally much more satisfactory alignment of the railway through Holywell Coombe, thus saving a unique glacial deposit. Furthermore, the committee heard detailed evidence on the sensitive issue of soil disposal, and decided to allow the arrangements contained in the Bill to stand. The Select Committee in another place said:
As the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said, the Select Committee took the unprecedented step of holding public inquiries with little formality in Kent. If it is true that consultaions in Kent were inadequate, which I do not accept, those omissions have surely been remedied. The noble Lord rightly discussed the issue of public inquiries in general—the length of time that they take and what should or should not be included. I take the noble Lord's point. I believe that the issue goes much wider than the Bill. A great many ordinary road building programmes, never mind anything the size of Sizewell, might benefit. It is something at which the Government should look. I do not think that the noble Lord is suggesting that we return to a public inquiry on this Bill. I take the point that he has made about how the whole process of public inquiries should be looked at in the future. I have said a little about what the Select Commmittee of both places have been able to do and why we think that in this case they were just as good as a full public inquiry."Many of our petitioners argued that a public local inquiry ought to be held in addition to the passage of the Bill and our own proceedings. To judge from public planning inquiries which have been held in other fields, the process can be very long and very expensive. We believe that our own proceedings have enabled the various points of view of those directly affected by the provisions of the Bill to be deployed before us at a length which enabled us to form a judgment with adequate knowledge of what is at stake for our petitioners."
I am grateful for those two interventions. I would have hoped that the Minister might have given a little more reassurance to the people in Kent about what might happen from now on. I believe the Select Committee have done a good job. They have gone out of their way to be as open as they possibly can be. I hope that will be a continuing process and that the ordinary people in Kent who still have genuine worries will have them listened to by the Government, although I do not suppose that there will be any major changes. If genuine proposals come from the local people, I hope that the Government will be prepared to listen to them and make modifications as may be necessary.
Before the noble Lord decides what to do with the amendment, I should say that I did not mention the committee which has been chaired by my honourable friend David Mitchell with which the noble Lord is no doubt familiar. It has done a tremendous amount of work in Kent. There have been a tremendous number of public meetings since before the project was even chosen. The joint consultative committee meets regularly in Kent under my honourable friend's chairmanship. We have set up a complaints administrator, and Eurotunnel has a permanent information centre in Folkstone. Of course large numbers of petitioners from Kent have been heard by both Select Committees. It is a continuing process. The noble Lord was right to ask whether it would continue. I can tell him that it will.
I am grateful to the Minister for that comment. That was my sole purpose in putting down the amendment. I have no intention of dividing the Committee and trying to force a public inquiry because that would be damaging to the whole purpose of the Bill, and that is the furthest thing from my mind.I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving the reassurance, which I think people in that part of the world will accept, that the Government recognise that there is a process which will have to continue in the years ahead and not stop at the end of the Select Committee procedure. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
May I ask a question on Clause 5? This seems to be the most appropriate place to do so. I assume that Part II is the beginning of the authority to construct the works. I assume that there will be a requirement in law for the contractors to have their workmen insured against any accident that may ensue during these works. I am not sure what the situation will be when we start constructing the tunnel. Will the Minister write to me before Monday or as soon as possible to say whether there is any requirement for the concessionaires to carry insurances against any eventuality and, for any risks involved in constructing or operating the tunnel.
I am sure that there is. I shall write to the noble Lord I hope before Monday.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 [ Acquisition of land for the scheduled works and other authorised works]:
moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 7, line 4, at end insert—
("(1A) The Secretary of State is authorised by this section to acquire by agreement any land which he is not otherwise authorised to acquire and which is required for the construction and maintenance of the Concessionaires' scheduled works and other works in connection with those works or otherwise for any purposes of the construction or operation by the Concessionaires of the tunnel system.")
The noble Lord said: Clause 8(1) authorises the Secretary of State for the Environment to acquire compulsorily any land required for the concessionaires' works within the geographical limits specified on the deposited plans. In accordance with the concession agreement, his expenditure will be reimbursed by the concessionaires and the land will he leased to the concessionaires for the duration of the concession. On the expiry or termination of the concession, the land occupied by the English half of the tunnel system will revert free of charge to the Secretary of State. Clause 9 and Schedule 3 grant planning permission for the concessionaires' development on this land, subject to various decisions being reserved to the local planning authorities.
While the Bill has been before both places, however, detailed design work has shown that some variations in the land used for the project may be desirable. We knew already that at Ashford a small shift in the positioning of the inland clearance depot would assist Eurotunnel to optimise its design. In order to do this Eurotunnel has in fact already purchased additional land by agreement. I emphasise that neither the Bill as it stands nor the amendment confers any planning permission for development on additional land acquired in this way. Eurotunnel will have to apply for permission to the local planning authority under the Town and Country Planning Act in the usual manner.
What then is the effect of the amendment, and why is it necessary? It is simply that the Government's policy, incorporated in the concession agreement, is that the Government, not the concessionaires, shall have the freehold in land required for the construction and operation of the fixed link. This is in case it becomes necessary to appoint new concessionaires and so that the Government are free to grant a new concession in 55 years' time. All the land required for the link will therefore be leased to the concessionaires for as long as is necessary. There is, however, legal doubt as to whether the Secretary of State is permitted to acquire any land by agreement without express parliamentary approval. The purpose of this amendment is purely to remove that doubt, and I commend it to the Committee.
A small point arises on the Minister's last sentence. I understand that this provision does not affect the future power of a Minister to acquire land without the authority of Parliament; it affects only the area of land near the tunnel. Will the Minister confirm that it does not give any general power to the Minister to take over land without the authority of Parliament?
This is any land, but it is for the purposes of the concessionaires.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 21A:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:
(".—(1) The Railways Board and the highways authority shall consult and co-operate with each other to plan and undertake any traffic management measures affecting the highways in the vicinity of Waterloo Station necessary as a result of extra traffic generated by international trains proceeding to Waterloo by way of the tunnel system, or of the construction and operation of Work No. 21 as specified by Schedule 1 of this Act or of alterations to the private roads within the confines of Waterloo.
(2) The objects of any such taffic management measures shall include the minimisation of the nuisance caused by the extra traffic in the vicinity of Waterloo Station.
(3) The costs of any such traffic management measues shall not be borne by the highways authority.").
The noble Lord said: We now move to the question of British Rail facilities at Waterloo. As noble Lords may know, a somewhat unhappy situation exists between the local authority and the British Railways Board. A number of amendments have been floated in front of Members of Opposition parties, some of which have been picked up. This is the only one that I feel is worthy of consideration.
British Rail has gone out of its way to ensure that its activities at Waterloo in general are confined within its existing premises. The exhibition on view at Waterloo demonstrates the lengths to which British Rail has gone to try to confine its activities to the terminal within its existing establishment.
I have been worried in particular about the impact of increased traffic going to the international rail terminal, as it will become, on the surrounding road network. Considerable thought has been given to how the traffic flow will take place in the new circumstances. There are bottlenecks already. I am well aware that it is said that the volume of traffic around Waterloo is less than around other terminal railway stations in Greater London. Nevertheless, there are potential bottlenecks, particularly on the roads approaching Waterloo Bridge and, I believe, Westminster Bridge.
We seek to ensure that at least the British Railways Board and local authorities speak to each other and co-operate. Whether within such an amendment it is technically possible to legislate for certain rather extreme local councillors (if I may so put it) to co-operate with the board, I do not know, but at least I seek to ensure that the Bill pressurises them to do so.
This is a difficult amendment to move. I know that at the end of the day I shall withdraw it. However, I believe that there is a continuing problem around the Waterloo area relating to traffic flow. I think that there is a continuing problem in regard to councillors who are not prepared even to accept the possibility of a railway terminal at Waterloo and who therefore are not prepared to contemplate that possibility and discuss matters with the British Railways Board.
I wanted to get on the agenda the opportunity for a short debate in Committee on the necessity for people to listen to each other and try to provide for a traffic flow around the Waterloo area that will not upset the flow of commuter traffic, particularly at peak hours.
I support the general tenor of the amendment in the recognition that Amendment No. 92 will be moved by my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove. As the two amendments are tabled separately, I assume that any consideration of Amendment No. 21A will not affect our position on Amendment No. 92. A different principle is involved in Amendment No. 92, although it deals with the position of Waterloo. The general sentiments of the amendment now before us seem to me to be very wise. If the Government do not like the wording I ask them to bring forward an amendment which deals with the general spirit of this amendment. Whatever happens at Waterloo—whether or not there is any change, as we suggest, in 1992—there is need for consultation and urgent discussions on traffic management plans.
I speak from a little personal experience, because I live in this vicinity in Kennington. It is not a hypothetical traffic problem. There is already a substantial traffic problem approaching both Waterloo and Westminster Bridge. I use Lambeth Bridge if possible. I travel on that side and I cannot therefore claim that my personal inconvenience will be as great as for those living in the immediate vicinity of Waterloo Station.A new estate has been built and many attempts made to improve the inner city in that locality. As members of the Select Committee know, a very active residents' association has made representations. I should like to compliment our Select Committee on giving them a hearing. They felt that they had not been given such a hearing by a committee in another place. The position was a little difficult technically because it is the Government's Bill, for British Rail to to be called upon and to be cross-examined. The residents are not convinced of the case that Waterloo alone has to be the London terminal for the traffic. There is also the fact that the boat trains will be cancelled at Victoria when the tunnel starts. That will give some respite to Victoria, which I am sure gives great satisfaction to the noble Lord who chaired the Select Committee with such distinction. I should welcome an improved traffic management system. However, I have seen enough traffic management systems to know that very often they make matters worse rather than better. The traffic experts who devise these one-way traffic systems usually end up creating more chaos than they resolve. I do not therefore have great faith in traffic management measures. I do not think we can escape from the fact that carrying this load in that vicinity will be an enormous burden on the people whom live and have to travel in the area. There are a great number of such people. They are not convinced as to whether this is the only and the best solution for the nation and London. That fact remains to be demonstrated. If that is the case then one would accept the position. But they are by no means satisfied. An alternative might be a special terminal for the international traffic from the tunnel. One had in mind in 1974 and 1975 the alternative of some place other than one of the existing stations. There is a great feeling that that ought to have been considered. While I look forward to hearing the Minister on this new clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, I very much prefer Amendment No. 92 in the name of my noble friends Lord Underhill and Lord Carmichael. These amendments are not exclusive. What is necessary is a re-assessment of all the traffic problems that the tunnel and the new international traffic will create. I can certainly testify that there are very strong feelings. One may recall the moving speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark on behalf of his parishioners. (I am not sure whether a Bishop has parishioners but it was made on behalf of those within his diocese.) I know that he has taken a great interest in the problems that the tunnel will create. I hope that the Minister can say something that will meet the concern of the people who live in the area. The situation may not be as bad as they suppose but they feel that so far as they are concerned life will come to an end some date in 1993.
This amendment illustrates problems to which I referred but did not mention this afternoon when I moved my amendment for re-commitment to a Select Committee. Of whom does one ask the appropriate questions? It has been suggested that the people around Waterloo were wrong in not having discussions with British Rail. However, there are perfectly logical reasons for that. They do not want the terminal at Waterloo. If they were to start discussing the detail of the terminal at Waterloo they would be committing themselves to that case. That is the way in which they saw the position. Did the noble Lord wish to say something?
We listened with care to what was said. The point that the noble Lord was making was that the criticism of the committee, in so far as there was one, was directed at the local authority. That is the point. It was not directed at the people around Waterloo.
I do not know what the noble Lord is referring to. I was not referring to any Member of this Committee. I was referring to suggestions made elsewhere that the people of Waterloo were wrong in refusing to have discussions before the issue was settled. They did so refuse, and it was alleged that they should not have done so; that they should have had discussions before the fundamental issue of whether or not there was a terminal at Waterloo was considered. Theirs was a perfectly reasonable attitude to adopt.On the proposal that there should not be a terminal at Waterloo, why has not British Rail explored the possibility of having the terminal south of London? I travel into London by Tube. It takes me 10 minutes to get from the other side of Clapham Junction to Victoria. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that British Rail could so organise a terminal on the perimeter of the Underground system in London that when one left the terminal one could go anywhere one wanted. For instance, if people from France now wish to get to Heathrow they have to go into Waterloo and then to find their way from Waterloo to Heathrow. If they came into the southern section of the Underground railway—and it can be done—they could go to Heathrow from there. That underlines the fact that the only evidence about the terminal in London was taken from British Rail. It was judge and jury in its own case and no attempt was made to examine it further on the matter.
I am a little surprised by that last intervention. The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, knows Liverpool a great deal better than London. We are all grateful to hear from him about Liverpool. I do not think his recent suggestion is practical.The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, is aware of the enormous concern which the Select Committee felt about the situation of the people who live around Waterloo. Their position is fully understood by the committee. We came to the conclusion that Waterloo was the right place. The alternatives, frankly, do not work. What we bitterly regretted was that Lambeth Council failed to have discussions with government or British Rail. I accept entirely what the noble Lord has just said: it felt it was prejudicing the principle and it was opposed to Waterloo being the terminal. However, it does not make sense not to talk. That is why this amendment is not very helpful, because one cannot legislate to make people talk to each other. Discussions need to take place. All the benefits that the Select Committee achieved were because we managed to get people to talk to each other and we resolved an enormous number of problems as a result. It is tragic that Lambeth Council has declined to speak to either government or British Rail until this Bill is upon the statute book. It has agreed that as soon as that happens it will comply. Therefore the sooner we get it on the statute book perhaps the better.
Where does the noble Lord obtain his evidence that British Rail have seriously studied the possibility of having the terminal for London on the perimeter of the London Underground system?
There is an appendix to the report which goes at great length into all the alternatives. I honestly do not believe that it is practical to choose a greenfield site on the southern outskirts of London—it has to be to the south, as I am sure the noble Lord accepts—which will serve the purpose. We must be able to move people. Some 70 per cent. of those who will use the tunnel will wish to go to London. That is their wish and it is no good frustrating it. I do not believe that we should decant them into an area south of the river where the tube service, let us face it is very poor indeed. Only two lines go south of the river. The system was never developed in the way it was north of the river. I do not believe that what the noble Lord is suggesting is practical.
In other words I take it that the noble Lord does not know whether British Rail have examined it or not.
That is not true. It is nonsense.
Before the Minister replies, perhaps I may say that the interventions we are now having stray very much on to our Amendment No. 92, on which, frankly, we have not been able to put our viewpoint because we do not think it is relevant to the present amendment. I should hate to feel that the discussion on Amendment No. 21A was covering, in a much lighter fashion, the detailed discussion that I hope will take place when we discuss Amendment No. 92.
I totally support that point of view. The amendment we have before us now is totally independent of the amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, on which Lord Sefton might properly say some of the things that he said. In fairness to British Rail, if he had taken the opportunity available of going to the exhibition at Waterloo he would have seen that British Rail had put a considerable amount of time and effort into considering the various possibilities. For all I know he may have seen that exhibition and he may have read the report on this, though from what he has said this evening it sounds as though he has not. Whether one agrees with the conclusions or not is a different matter. This is something we shall deal with when we come to Amendment No. 92. To suggest that British Rail have not considered this matter is unjust.
Let me make it absolutely clear again to see if anybody will deny this. I am not suggesting for one moment that British Rail have not looked at alternatives within their plans. I am suggesting quite clearly—perhaps the Minister can settle this—that apart from the stations they themselves referred to and they themselves established the criteria for looking at—both in the exhibition and in the written communications which I have had from British Rail—they did not consider an alternative outside those limited spheres. If they did, they certainly did not communicate it to me when I asked them. If they did, it certainly was not in their plan and, if they did, it certainly was not at the exhibition at Waterloo. If the Minister knows that they did perhaps he will tell the Committee. I do not believe they did and I believe it is worthy of consideration.
I think it is very unlikely to be Clapham Junction, which is what the noble Lord was suggesting earlier, because no Tube line goes to Clapham Junction.
I was going to say to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, among others, that this is an entirely separate discussion to the one we shall have later on Amendment No. 92. I assure the Committee that Amendment No. 92 is concerned with a much more specific subject than whether the terminal should or should not be at Waterloo. At least the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, has given me a clue about what his argument will be when we reach that. I shall have the answers for him. I have them now, but I shall not give him them now.The new clause, the feeling behind which I fully share, seems to be intended to make absolutely sure that effective traffic management measures are undertaken so as to minimise the nuisance caused by road traffic generated by the Channel Tunnel terminal at Waterloo. The Government and British Rail certainly sympathise with this aim. Indeed, British Rail commissioned traffic consultants to examine the impact of the terminal on the local road network and to consider ways in which its adverse effects would be minimised. The consultants concluded that, with a new traffic circulation system within the station, road traffic generated by the terminal would be able to disperse on to the local road network without increasing overall congestion and delay to existing road users. Indeed they consider that in some places the implementation of their proposed circulation system produces an improvement on present day conditions. As has been mentioned by the chairman of the Select Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, the Select Committee generally accepted the evidence of British Rail's traffic consultants. It recommended, as did the Commons Select Committee, that Lambeth should reopen forthwith discussions with British Rail on these and other issues relating to the Waterloo terminal. British Rail have always been willing to discuss these matters and co-operate with Lambeth. They offered further discussions last January in the light of the Commons Select Committee report, but Lambeth refused. British Rail have made yet another offer in the light of the report of your Lordships' Select Committee and are awaiting the council's response. So British Rail's commitment to consultation and co-operation is beyond doubt. I also understand that Lambeth made clear during the Committee proceedings that they would be willing to resume discussions with British Rail once the Bill becomes law. So in view of that commitment, and that of British Rail, I see no reason to impose an unnecessary and very unusual statutory obligation on those two authorities requiring them to consult and co-operate with each other. It seems to me that the sooner this Bill receives Royal Assent the sooner we can all have what we want, which is co-operation between the borough and British Rail. Perhaps we should dispense with the rest of our proceedings and move straight to that, but I do not believe that is quite possible. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will feel able to withdraw his proposed new clause, although I have much sympathy with the proposition behind it.
I wonder whether, the Minister having pre-empted me, and before the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, decides whether to withdraw his amendment, I may ask about subsection (3) of the amendment. I am fortunate in that I can always come back on Amendment No. 92, but subsection (3) reads:
"The costs of any such traffic management