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That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 4225/89 and Corrigendum on banning smoking in public places ; recognises that if agreed it would allow the Government to continue its current successful policy of achieving progress in this area largely through voluntary rather than legislative means ; and endorses the Government's objective of replacing the draft
Column 610Recommendation with a mixed Resolution or Recommendation, which would recognise Member States' doubts about Community competence in this area.
Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death in the United Kingdom today. Ninety per cent. of all lung cancer deaths, 20 per cent. of all deaths due to coronary heart disease and 90 per cent. of all deaths caused by bronchitis are associated with smoking. Smoking during pregnancy may now be the single most important cause of late foetal death and leads to reduced birth weight and increased perinatal mortality. It is likely that giving up smoking is the single most important thing that smokers can do to improve their health. The Government actively discourage smoking and have an extensive public education programme run by the Health Education Authority.
Most smokers take up regular smoking before the age of 18, and it has been estimated that of the 250 million children and teenagers now living in the European region of the World Health Organisation between 30 and 40 million will be killed in later life by tobacco. It is obviously crucial to reach young people of school age and help them to resist the pressure to start smoking. In January the Prime Minister launched a three-year campaign to reduce the prevalence of smoking among teenagers. This campaign will be run jointly by the Health Education Authority and the Department of Health and will cost the Department £2 milion each year for the next three years. The campaign will use the mass media--including TV, radio and magazines--to influence teenage children, and it will also seek the support of a wide range of national and local organisations, including schools, local education authorities, health authorities, Action on Smoking and Health and leading health charities.
This debate gives members a valuable opportunity to consider the draft EC recommendation on smoking in public places which will come to the Council of Ministers on 16 May. The purpose of the recommendation is to exhort member states to make progress in providing smoke-free areas in enclosed premises to which the public have access. The Government wholeheartedly support that aim. Our approach of encouraging the provision of smoke-free areas has met with a good deal of success, and I would very much like that to continue. However, it is very important that we do not allow the Commission to use the recommendation as a means to extend its competence. That is why, as I will explain shortly, the United Kingdom has proposed that we should replace the recommendation with a mixed resolution. I shall describe what is meant by that in a moment.
Mr. Aitken : As my hon. Friend is dealing with the issue of extending the competence of the EC, will he now deal with the point that I raised in my point of order a few moments ago? Her Majesty's Government were all in favour of extending that competence to deal with compulsory anti-smoking directives a few months ago. Why has there been a complete change of heart tonight? Why are the Government now in favour only of the voluntary approach to curbing excessive smoking?
I know that occupants of my hon. Friend's office seem to have a rather high casualty rate nowadays, so I advise him to choose his words carefully. Nevertheless, the ambivalence needs to be clarified.
Column 611be able to amplify his point, but I shall try to address it in the few remarks that I intend to make in opening the debate. If I am able--with your permission--to reply at the end, I may expand on them then.
My hon. Friend is concerned about the competence of the Community with regard to this issue, as, I am sure, are most right hon. and hon. Members. My hon. Friend is aware of the existence of the scrap of paper called the Single European Act, which states that the Community--I presume that that includes my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office--was
"Moved by the will to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union".
If my right hon. Friend has signed a treaty to move us towards European union, does that not mean that this measure is a proper measure to be decided at European level, and that therefore Europe should have competence? How can my hon. Friend say that Europe does not have competence when our right hon. Friend has signed this turbid and unpleasant document?
Mr. Freeman : First, we argue that the changes made by the European Commission in the text of the document that we have before us are acceptable, in the sense that the document does not recommend legislation but would enable Her Majesty's Government to continue with their programme of encouraging individuals, authorities and other bodies to operate a voluntary code limiting or banning smoking in certain parts of public places. Secondly, we argue that under the treaty the Commission has no power in public health matters. I hope that I have made that crystal clear.
Mr. Teddy Taylor : I appreciate my hon. Friend's courtesy in giving way. One thing that we would love to know is what the Government can do if they take the view that the measure is beyond the competence of the EC, but the majority of Ministers decide to approve it. Is there anything that we can do to stop it from coming into effect? Some of us are very worried about that. Have we any powers to stop it unless we can persuade all the member states unanimously that the EC is not competent?
Mr. Freeman : A unanimous decision is required. [ Hon. Members :- - "No."] If my hon. Friends will permit me to develop my remarks, I shall demonstrate that a mixed resolution or recommendation combines the elements of a matter within the general competence of the Council and those of a decision reached by the various Ministers present, outside the treaty of Rome, if they believe that it is in the interests of all the nations involved. I shall be arguing that in the case of public health matters, which are separate from environmental matters, the writ of the treaty does not run, and we resist the general priciple that the Commission should seek to extend its powers in this regard.
It may be helpful if I set out some of the background. There has been much concern in recent years about the
Column 612risks of "secondary" or "passive" smoking, and that is the underlying motivation behind the recommendation. The Government accept the findings of the independent scientific committee on smoking and health, which concluded that there was a 10 per cent. to 30 per cent. increased risk of lung cancer for non-smokers who are habitually exposed to tobacco smoke. That could account for several hundred deaths each year. There is also a risk of increased respiratory disease in children, and in pregnant women the development of the foetus may be damaged. Tobacco smoke can also cause considerable irritation to the eyes and throat.
Public awareness about the risks of passive smoking has increased public demand for the provision of smoke-free areas. Generally, smokers and non- smokers alike consider it right that smoke-free areas should, if at all possible, be available in public places. The Government actively encourage the implementation of smoking policies and welcome the increasing introduction of smoke-free zones in public places such as cinemas, shops, restaurants and public transport.
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : Why, then, have the Government done nothing to introduce no-smoking areas in pubs? Is the Minister aware that the House approved my ten-minute Bill providing that there should be non- smoking areas in pubs, yet the previous Health Minister--the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)--actively resisted any demand for action? Why are pubs the one area in which the Government refuse to try to enforce such a requirement?
Mr. Freeman : We argue that in the case of restaurants, pubs and aeroplanes--the hon. Gentleman will remember a recent debate in the House on banning smoking in aeroplanes--it is for the publican, the restaurateur, the airline or whatever authority is involved to decide. The hon. Gentleman will know that there is already legislation relating to transport : London Underground has banned smoking, which it is able to do under its byelaws-- not, I should add, for reasons of public health, but for reasons of public safety. There is a considerable difference between legislation to protect the public safety and legislation to protect the public health.
Mr. Freeman : I was hoping to come to that point shortly, but I shall deal with it directly to help my hon. Friend. We believe that passive smoking--that is, the inhalation of the cigarette smoke of others in public and, indeed, private places--leads to several hundred deaths a year. We believe that the incidence and possible incidence of cancer, particularly lung cancer, is increased, especially for those who are regularly exposed to smoking by others. That is not the conclusion of Ministers or other politicians ; it is based on the advice of the chief medical officer.
We believe that in general voluntary policies are the best way to proceed, because such policies--being produced in response to consumer or employee demand--will cater for the needs of both smokers and non-smokers, and can be tailored more easily to individual areas and workplaces. We believe that such voluntary and
Column 613local action is preferable to a national legislated ban. As I have said before, where banning smoking is necessary for safety or hygiene we have not hesitated to introduce legislation, and under existing legislation London Underground has banned smoking for safety reasons.
The EC draft recommendation that we are considering tonight originates from the Europe Against Cancer action plan. Hon. Members may have seen the proposal as originally put forward by the Commission. The explanatory memorandum describes the amendments that have been made to the original proposal. As it now stands, the draft recommendation calls on member states to work towards a ban on smoking in enclosed premises open to the public and on public transport. This may be done through legislation or by other means, including voluntary means, which is the approach adopted by Her Majesty's Government.
The recommendation also calls for clearly defined areas to be set aside for smokers both in enclosed public places and on public transport--especially where long journeys might be involved. The recommendation is based on the treaty of Rome as a whole, not on any one article, which means that unaminity among member states is required if the measure is to be adopted.
It being Seven o'clock, and there being private business set down by direction of The Chairman of Ways and Means,-- under Standing Order No. 16 (Time for taking private business), further proceeding stood postponed.
Order for Second Reading read.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has not accepted the instruction standing in the name of the hon. Members for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), for Newham, North- West (Mr. Banks) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). However, he has selected the other two instructions and it will be for the convenience of the House to debate them together, with the motion for Second Reading.
The Bill gives powers to British Rail to carry out certain works at King's Cross, and I will describe them briefly in a moment, but the House will want to put these rather technical details in a broader context and see how the new King's Cross, made possible by the Bill, fits in with transport, planning and regional policies.
I hope that all in the House will agree on three broad objectives. The first is the need to invest substantially in public transport, particularly in London, where the limitations of any policy relying too heavily on private transport are all too visible. I detect an impatience among Londoners, among those who commute to London and those who visit and use public transport in London about its quality and limitations. People want its capacity increased ; they want it to be safer ; and they want it to be more accessible and convenient to use. The Bill will help to achieve that objective by the improvements to the Underground, and by the improvement in the interchange between British Rail and London Regional Transport. Given constraints on public expenditure, and the understandable wish to keep fares down, if these improvements and increases in capacity can be funded in part from planning gain, so much the better.
That leads to the second objective. We all wish to bring back into use derelict land, particularly in our inner cities, where its misuse is least defensible. Unemployment in parts of inner London is still far too high and, with pressure on land elsewhere that has a high amenity value, the neglect of acres upon acres of unused land in the heart of the capital cannot be tolerated. The works in the Bill unlock the development potential of the land behind King's Cross. This capital surplus will be used by British Rail to pay for other works in a partnership between public and private sectors, which is now accepted by all parties as a sensible way to proceed. The development will also bring jobs to a part of London where they are still scarce. Some 30,000 jobs will be provided in the associated redevelopment of the area, and rightly so, because King's Cross is identified as a preferred office location in the Greater London development plan, subject to improvement of the public transport system. The Bill does that.
In the draft strategic planning guidance for London, the Secretary of State pointed out in March :
"there are likely to be development opportunities on large sites in London which were formerly required for public utilities or services, but which are no longer needed for these purposes."
King's Cross is just such a site. For 15 years, it has been identified by local authorities as an area of opportunity. The works in the Bill free the development land, planning
Column 615permission for which is being sought in the normal way by the developer from the local authority. The opportunity is now here. Thirdly, as our trade with Europe increases and links with markets there become more important, we must ensure that all regions of the country have access to those markets and the opportunity to share in the benefits. The Bill helps to achieve that objective by linking the British Rail network in the north with that in the south, and in a way that no other transport interchange ever could. Direct travel from Europe to the north becomes possible.
I should now like to relate the works in the Bill to the broader objectives that I have outlined. Much of the Bill improves public transport. Work No. 5 provides a connection between the east coast main line, and St. Pancras station. This will allow Network SouthEast trains from the Peterborough and Cambridge lines to run into St. Pancras station. At the moment, these trains end up in a separate suburban station to the west of King's Cross, some way from the Underground and the rest of the services in the terminal. Demand on these lines has been growing and, as there is spare capacity at St. Pancras, it makes sense to use it by providing this connection. Works Nos. 11A and 11B lengthen the platforms at St. Pancras to take 12-car trains and provide additional platforms to accommodate future growth.
On the same theme, works Nos. 1 to 7 and Nos. 10 to 15 in the London Regional Transport half of the schedule provide for the enlargement of the existing Underground ticket hall, which is already becoming very congested, and for new subways which will relieve pressure and provide additional access and escape routes. King's Cross-St. Pancras is one of the busiest and most complex Underground stations, handling some 80 million passengers a year, serving five Underground lines and two British Rail terminals. The provisions in the Bill cope with current congestion problems, and provide for future growth already projected, plus the additional traffic from the railway lands site and the improvements to British Rail services. In addition, a new Underground ticket hall--the eastern ticket hall--will be built to serve the Thameslink platforms and the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines. This replaces the present entrance in Pentonville road, at a more convenient location and with quicker exits from the three tube lines. The additional subways proposed also provide a secondary exit from each of the Underground
platforms--valuable in the case of emergency evacuation of the station. Work No. 13 links this new eastern ticket hall with the main Underground ticket hall.
The most important of the subway works provide direct connections between the Circle and Metropolitan line platforms, and the three deep tube lines-- the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria. At the moment, if one wants to change, one has to go through the already overcrowded ticket hall. This new subway connection will reduce traffic in the ticket hall by about 30 per cent., and implements recommendation 142 in the Fennell report.
Work No. 4 replaces the present unfriendly access to the Underground from St. Pancras down a narrow and tortuous subway with an enlarged and improved one.
The principal work in the Bill is a new British Rail station, beneath the existing King's Cross main line
Column 616station. At its northern end, the tracks divide to join both the east coast main line and the midland main line. At the south end, the tracks connect with Thameslink and, at a future date, and if the House so decides, with the Channel Tunnel rail link.
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East) : As the hon. Gentleman is the spokesman for the sponsors of the Bill, perhaps I should mention to him that I have received a communication from a body known as the Standing Conference on Regional Policy in South Wales. It consists of four major county councils : Gwent, Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. They complain that none of the proposals provides for any link between the western region InterCity service operating from Paddington to south Wales and the proposed new terminal at King's Cross. They say that if they are to benefit from the Channel tunnel traffic, such a link is absolutely essential. Does the hon. Gentleman have anything to say about that point?
Sir George Young : I agree that it will be important to ensure that people in south Wales have access to the Channel tunnel terminal and, through that, access to Europe. Whether it makes sense to provide that access at King's Cross and, therefore, through the Bill, I am not sure, but I shall pass on to British Rail the hon. Gentleman's valuable point in order to make sure that south Wales benefits from the links with Europe.
A new station is needed anyway. The existing Thameslink station is already inadequate. The platforms were originally designed for the local service from Moorgate to Bedford, before Thameslink was conceived. With this popular cross-London line now in operation, the platforms--particularly northbound--are very crowded, and they cannot be widened because they are up against the Circle line. The only way to cope with extra demand is to relocate the station, which provides the opportunity to bring it closer to the main line platforms, thereby improving interchange and making it accessible to people with disabilities.
At the moment, Thameslink reaches only the Bedford line to the north. The proposed connection links it to the east coast main line as well. This opens up a wealth of opportunities, such as trains from Peterborough to Gatwick, Cambridge to Sevenoaks, and so on. Next to the new Thameslink platforms, again beneath King's Cross main line, are the international platforms, and it is this part of the Bill which has generated some controversy. Why another international station, and why King's Cross?
All the forecasts show that existing capacity at Waterloo, the other international terminal that is due to open in 1996, will not be able to cope with expected traffic beyond the turn of the century. Putting aside the strong arguments for a terminal at King's Cross in its own right, we need to develop more capacity to cope with rail-based traffic to and from Europe.
King's Cross is uniquely well served by other British Rail and Underground lines, as well as being easily accessible by bus and taxi. That convenience of interchange and access to public transport puts it way ahead of other rivals--notably Stratford--in its convenience for customers. In particular, it is the best calling point on the way to the north, allowing a passenger to get off a train from Paris to Newcastle and get on one from Brussels
Column 617to Manchester. Further, it offers international passengers easy interchange to Inter-City services to the rest of the country and to Network SouthEast services to locations closer to London. That ability to integrate the international services with the existing British Rail network simply does not exist at any other main line terminal, let alone some of the other options that have been canvassed.
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : If all this is true, when the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 and the location of the first terminal at Waterloo were being considered, why did counsel for British Rail say that King's Cross was unsuitable because of overcrowding of tube lines and above -ground links?
Sir George Young : As I have explained, other provisions of the Bill increase capacity at King's Cross. Underground capacity is being increased by other parts of the Bill. At that stage, forecasts were much lower, and it was thought that Waterloo would suffice. Forecasts have been revised and it is no longer suitable to rely only on Waterloo as the other terminal.
Mr. Dobson : Counsel for British Rail also asserted that the roads around King's Cross were far too crowded and could not cope with additional traffic. They are more crowded now than when he said that.
Sir George Young : The philosophy behind King's Cross is its access by public transport, which puts it way ahead of all the other possible interchanges. Compared with the car, which is the form of transport that would have to be used for some of the other options, King's Cross is unrivalled in its access to public transport.
Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow) : Before the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) intervened, my hon. Friend said that two or three major cities in the north will have through trains from the continent. My hon. Friend did not mention Britain's second biggest city-- Birmingham. Will he comment on the scope for through trains from the continent to Birmingham?
Sir George Young : The Bill does not preclude other links, such as those to the west coast main line. If British Rail decides to develop other links, legislation will be brought forward at the appropriate time.
While the Bill makes provision for the second international terminal to be at King's Cross, it does not prejudge the exact line of route of the link to it from the Channel tunnel. The chosen route will be the subject of a separate Bill. As I have said, the Bill also does not preclude a passenger link to the west coast main line. The reason why provision for the international terminal needs to be made in the Bill is that the construction works for it need to be integrated with the other works to which I have referred. The additional Thameslink capacity is required now, and British Rail wants to present all the proposals for King's Cross together. The platforms on the proposed international station will take 16- coach trains and two power cars. Those platforms, which will be below ground, will be linked by subways to the new terminal building, the main line platforms and the Underground. Provision is also being made for security staff, Customs and immigration and police.
Column 618The new terminal building will be located between King's Cross and St. Pancras. It will serve both stations and replace the unattractive structure in front of King's Cross, planning consent for which expires in 1993. The new concourse will have access to both main line stations, the international and Thameslink platforms and the Underground ticket hall.
I know that local Members of Parliament are concerned about the impact of traffic on their constituencies. We have already heard some interventions expressing such concern. I hope that I have made it clear that the philosophy behind the Bill is to encourage access by public transport. It is hoped that people travelling north from Europe will not travel to King's Cross by taxi from Waterloo, but board a train at Paris that travels to King's Cross.
Improvements are planned for the road network, especially better access by bus. At the moment, one is tipped out in a nearby road and makes one's way to the station. There will be proper access to the station by bus and improvements to the road network at the junctions of Caledonian road, Pentonville road and King's Cross road, which is wholly inadequate at the moment and for which improvements have been planned for 15 years.
As sponsor of the Bill, I have taken a special interest in Camley street natural park, about which I have received many letters. In the five years since it started, the park, which is ably run by the London Wildlife Trust, has become a popular destination for Londoners interested in its nature reserve. The location of the international terminal, and the connections between the east coast and midland lines, require its relocation during construction and its reinstatement on a larger site thereafter.
Together with the developers of the railway lands and London Wildlife Trust, British Rail has identified a larger area for the park to be re- established within the new development. Every assistance will be given to the trust to continue its work during construction and to restock the park when established on its permanent site on completion. I have no doubt that it will then be better placed to continue its valuable educational role within an enhanced and enlarged natural park.
The Bill offers the opportunity to improve the appearance of this part of London and to turn King's Cross and St. Pancras into not only Europe's largest transport interchange but an attractive set of buildings of which Londoners can be proud. One cannot see the front of King's Cross at present because of the temporary structure in front of it. Once removed, the train sheds, which are grade 1 listed buildings, will be visible again in all their glory. Between them and the Midland hotel will be the new terminal building, which had been designed to the highest architectural standards to match its neighbours. The new vista will be incomparably better than the muddle that we have at present.
I have outlined the provisions of the Bill and put them in a broader context. If time permits and the House allows it, I shall be happy to deal with points made in the debate. Of course, achieving the objectives that I have outlined involves disruption, inconvenience and disappointment for some local people and businesses. I do not disguise that fact, and local Members of Parliament are right to fight for those whom they represent. Changes have been made, further consultation is planned, some have petitioned against the Bill and the Committee will hear them. I have no doubt that Parliament should endorse the strategy behind the Bill, which is to enhance the role of King's
Column 619Cross in our nation's public transport network, to build stronger links between Scotland, the north, the midlands and Europe and to improve the Underground in the light of the Fennell report.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving details at this stage, which is helpful. He mentioned the importance of public transport and through trains from the continent to the north. Is he aware that British Rail has stated that its policy is to try to concentrate international trains from London to the continent because it is more economic to do so and to get people to change in London? Can he give any undertakings that that policy will be changed to provide from King's Cross--I should prefer from Stratford--through trains to the north and Scotland, as so many of my hon. Friends reasonably want?
Sir George Young : I have no instructions, and I should not want British Rail to do anything that minimised the search for economy. If I can offer some comfort to the hon. Gentleman now or later, I shall try to do so.
The hon. Gentleman hit me in mid-peroration. I was saying that the House should support the Bill's objectives of improving the Underground in the light of the Fennell report, facilitating the regeneration of a rundown part of London and providing local employment.
I believe that this is the most exciting transport project to come before the House for a long time, and I hope that hon. Members give it their support.
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury) : I must record my dismay at the way in which the private Bill procedure is being used to bring in the proposals for King's Cross. The Bill represents the piecemeal approach to major transport and development planning, which should be the province of far more sensible and democratic procedures than those available under the private Bill process. The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir George Young) the promoter of the Bill, who normally says far more sensible things in the House, said that the Bill did not preclude a passenger link to services to the north-west. Neither he nor British Rail has told us whether there will be a passenger rail link to services to the north-west. It is precisely because we have a Bill in isolation which deals simply and solely with the station, not with the routes to or from that station, that we cannot consider many of the ramifications of the Bill in relation to services to and from the station. That creates an enormous difficulty when we try to address the plans and transport issues properly.
The private Bill procedure--and we know from our debates only two weeks ago about the inadequacies of that procedure--is not appropriate for dealing with detailed planning issues, which should be the subject of a public local inquiry. The private Bill procedure is not a sensible way of dealing with major, strategic national issues about the use and spread of the economic benefits that the Channel tunnel can bring. All those issues are contained within the Bill, yet we are being asked to discuss them without prior consideration by the Select Committee on Transport, without any specific planning approach from British Rail, the Department of Transport or this House. That is not a sensible way to reach such a major decision.
Column 620The private Bill procedure used in this instance pays little respect to the rights of those who want to object to the proposals in the Bill. Two weeks ago, the Leader of the House claimed that private Bills were even-handed between objectors and promoters. They are not.
For example, one has to look only at the treatment meted out to English Heritage, which rightly said that it had an interest in clause 19. Clause 19 will affect several listed buildings within the purview of the site that British Rail seeks to contain within the work proposed in the Bill. Several buildings will be affected, such as a grade 2 listed building at No. 7 Caledonian road, dating from 1875, a grade 2 listed building, "The Bell" public house, at 259 Pentonville road and the Great Northern hotel, which is also a grade 2 listed building. All those buildings will go, yet English Heritage, which clearly has a valuable point of view on listed buildings, has not been allowed even to present a petition against the Bill. That is due wholly to the fact that the agents acting for British Rail sought to delete English Heritage from the list of petitioners against the Bill.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Is my hon. Friend aware that, until 50 years ago, there were only a mere handful of objections to locus standi? Within the past few weeks, British Rail has caught up the backlog of the past 50 years.
Mr. Smith : My hon. Friend is right. British Rail's agents have objected to locus standi for well over 100 petitioners--I cannot remember the exact figure--including people and organisations from my own constituency and others such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), who sought to put her own petition against the Bill. There is an organisation in my constituency called Crossfire--it has still to be considered by the Court of Referees so I shall not trespass on your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by dwelling on it--which has the particular purpose of protecting the King's Cross area from unnecessary and unwanted development. It has been challenged by British Rail, although it has a strong case to make and important points to put.
When a number of petitioners, who were accepted as having a locus standi by the promoters of the Bill, gathered to meet last Friday with representatives of British Rail, they were given an extremely dusty reception. When, for example, they asked for copies of the presentations that British Rail would be making to the Bill--one would expect them, as petitioners, to have that right--they were told that they could not have them. They were told further that if they wanted such copies, they would have to come to Parliament and pay the normal charges for copying.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in a document circulated by British Rail which I received this morning, as in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), there are many references to the high-speed link? Yet all the organisations that have been careful to present arguments about the high-speed link have been denied locus standi.
Mr. Smith : The hon. Gentleman is right : he identifies precisely the problem of dealing with a station apparently in complete isolation from any consideration of routes leading to it. That procedure is nonsense and it reveals the piecemeal way in which we are being asked to consider important issues. Over the past few months--and,
Column 621probably, in forthcoming months--we have heard of people whose livelihoods, properties, homes and area will be affected profoundly by the Bill, not being given a full democratic voice so that they can make objections and points about the Bill.
The Bill seeks to extinguish some reversionary rights in relation to parts of the land to the north of King's Cross, especially those possessed by the trustees of St. Bartholomew's hospital. The Bill seeks to extinguish those rights in relation to property development proposals that British Rail and the developers are seeking to implement by means of a Bill that should refer specifically to a Channel tunnel station. It is not sensible, fair or just to go about the process in such a way.
A number of proposals contained in the Bill relate to the overall Underground complex at King's Cross and contain some of the measures recommended in the Fennell report following the tragic fire one and a half years ago. The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton made much of those provisions in the Bill. It is worth pointing out that virtually none of those works requires Bill procedures to be implemented. Most could be implemented simply by going through the normal planning procedures, but British Rail has chosen not to do so. To argue that those works should be a reason to pass the Bill would be disingenuous. The Bill is not needed to ensure that those works go ahead.
Mr. Rowe : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood from the Clerk of private Bills that private Bills could be used only for matters that could not be achieved in any other way. In view of what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has just said, can we be assured that every item in the Bill can be achieved only through this Bill?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : The vires of a Bill are tested by the Examiners, who go through it meticulously to ensure that it satisfies the requirements of the Standing Orders before it is presented to the House. The Bill has been dealt with by the Examiners, it is satisfactory and it contains nothing contrary to our Standing Orders that should inhibit our discussion of it.
Mr. Spearing : Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Irrespective of the truth of your remarks about the Examiners, is it not a fact that, if a Committee finds that part of the works in the Bill could be achieved by other means, it is within the powers of that Committee to require the promoters to take that part from the text as a condition of passing the Bill? It has been known on rare occasions for a Committee not to pass a Bill at all, I believe.
Reading--unfortunate though that would be--the Committee might consider that point. The provision in the Bill for works to relieve congestion in the Underground booking hall at King's Cross--which we all know was the site of the fire in November 1987--fulfils recommendation 142 of the Fennell report. A private Bill is not required for those works to be proceeded with. Indeed, London Underground has been discussing with Camden council an application for planning permission for precisely those
Column 622works. It seems odd that London Underground should be applying for planning permission while at the same time joining British Rail in promoting the Bill.
I record my dismay at the way in which British Rail has constantly changed its mind--from one day to the next and from one issue to the next--in relation to King's Cross and all the works associated with it in the Bill. Some petitioners have at first been opposed as to locus standi but have subsequently been accepted. At one moment some of my hon. Friends have been told that passenger links with the north-west using rail lines linking the north-eastern and north-western lines may well be provided, while at the next British Rail is talking instead about a travelator running from King's Cross to Euston. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) may well have something more to say about that.
It seems crazy that so-called direct routes to the north-west should involve someone getting off a train at King's Cross, coming up to a different level with his baggage and travelling half a mile underground on a travelator on to another station, another platform and another train. If British Rail thinks of that as a direct link to the north-west from the Channel tunnel, it ought to think again.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : Does my hon. Friend accept that British Rail has presented the direct link in the north, the north-west and the north-east in a different way, which has not involved any emphasis on travelators? It has implied that there will be through services.