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Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East) : Like other hon. Members, I welcome the order. I have an interest to declare as a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and, for many years, I was the co-chairman of the all-party channel tunnel group. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate). Although I agreed with some of what he said, I thought that he was somewhat unrealistic. I understand his good constituency argument that the Government must ensure that, in the event of an accident in the tunnel, the emergency services of Kent should continue to function as if nothing had occurred. Heaven forbid that it should happen, but if a Boeing 747 crashed in Kent at the same time as he had an accident in his car on the M20, there might be some delay before the ambulance arrived to pluck him from the wreckage. What he asked for was unrealistic, although I am sure that it will read well in his local paper.
I agreed with what the hon. Gentleman said about 44-tonne lorries. Like him, I have always voted against heavy goods vehicles during my parliamentary career, such as it is. I have usually been on the losing side in those votes. I would also like to know how the Minister proposes to enforce the Government restriction that 44-tonne vehicles should be used only to and from rail terminals. Like the hon. Member for Faversham, I support lorry routes. If a lorry route went through the middle of his constituency, the hon. Gentleman might change his mind. The enforcement of restrictions on heavy goods vehicles is a difficult problem. We are entitled to some assurances from the Minister about how the restrictions will be enforced. The hon. Member for Faversham mentioned putting freight on existing rail lines. I should have thought that at least some hon. Members would vaguely support such a policy. The horrific scenario is painted that putting freight on rail will cause enormous noise problems for people living beside railway lines. It has always fascinated me that people who buy houses alongside railway lines promptly write to their Member of Parliament to complain about the noise that trains make. I would be delighted to send the hon. Gentleman a working timetable of British Rail's freight division, as it was called in the 1960s. He will discover that considerably more freight ran on the lines of Kent than today. It consisted mostly of loose-coupled vehicles, which used to clank and rattle along at 25 mph and caused considerably more noise than the roller-bearing airbrake rolling stock that is used today.
Sir Roger Moate : I trust that the hon. Gentleman will accept that he is being somewhat flippant. He is older than many of my constituents, but even he must recognise that the early 1960s were more than 30 years ago and that things have become quieter. The serious argument, however, is that much of that freight traffic will be travelling at night--freight trains are noisier than many modern passenger trains--causing considerable disturbance, particularly for people who are not used to trains travelling at that time. It is a new disturbance. All that we are asking for is some help through insulation grants.
Mr. Snape : Those grants involve a few thousands of pounds of public money. It is the sort of expenditure that the hon. Gentleman and his party regularly vote against when it is directed at other hon. Members' constituencies.
Column 973We should wait and see--I do not accept that trains passing through Kent at night will disturb those who live alongside railway lines. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman has just accused me of flippancy, but now he is having a little giggle. Two major motorways run alongside my constituency, which also contains Bescot marshalling yard. That yard was tipped to be one of the channel tunnel freight terminals, but unfortunately that has not proved to be the case.
In the 20 years that I have represented my constituency, I cannot remember a single complaint about that yard, although wagons regularly shunt up and down it. I receive many complaints about motorway noise because of its all- pervasive nature. Before some of the people for whom the hon. Gentleman speaks rush to judgment about the additional noise of modern freight trains, they should wait to see what happens when those trains are introduced.
It is strange for a prominent member of the Conservative party such as the hon. Gentleman to propose spending public money on a hazard that has not yet occurred. If Labour Members ever called for such expenditure, the cry of the Conservative party would be, "Where is the money coming from?" It seems that plenty of public money is available when hypothetical problems are forecast.
If we go down the road of placing additional costs on rail freight, if I can use that ill-timed simile, there is a danger of increasing costs to such an extent that we shall never achieve the much-vaunted transfer of freight from road to rail. If we make things too expensive, carriers and hauliers will use other methods. I do not know the hon. Gentleman's views on additional road traffic, although he advanced the relevant and valid argument that, if the channel tunnel were used as a shuttle service for cars and heavy goods vehicles, considerably more traffic would be created in his part of the world. But he should bear in mind my argument when he talks about loading additional costs on Britain's much under-utilised railway system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) talked at considerable length about safety. I understand the fears that he expressed, but some of them were exaggerated. Having spent some of my life on the Committees that discussed the two hybrid Bills on the channel tunnel project, and on the Select Committee that considered the project on the last, successful occasion, I can say that a considerable amount of our time was devoted to safety. During the passage of those Bills, we sought and received assurances that the intergovernmental safety committee, to which my hon. Friend referred, would consist of not only railway experts, but representatives of the fire brigade and the police. Those services will be directly involved in safety matters once the great project is completed. We should keep matters in perspective.
The project does not approach the limits of human technology ; it does not involve sending people in capsules around the moon. People will be making a train journey that has been made possible by the completion of a great project. The people who say, "You'll never get me down there", are the same people who put their trust in someone else when they climb in a silver tube to 35,000 ft and fly through the air at 400 mph. Given the consequences of anything going wrong, I know which vehicle I would prefer to be in. The safety level of railways nationwide and worldwide is recognised in the order. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras referred to hazardous goods. I understand that the hybrid Bill Committee that gave the go-ahead for the project some years ago received an assurance that goods classed as dangerous would not be allowed through the channel tunnel. If my hon. Friend stands at St. Stephen's entrance, he will see fleets of petrol tankers and other vehicles--which, I hasten to add, are not driven by hon. Members--which carry hazardous materials within yards of the building. We accept those vehicles, despite the fact that there is no signalling system to prevent one from running into another. We should not worry too much about such matters in the context of the orders because petrol tankers and other vehicles that carry hazardous goods will not pass through the tunnel.
Mr. Dobson : I recall my hon. Friend describing in graphic detail the long hours that he spent in Committee discussing the channel tunnel Bill. There is some doubt as to whether the undertakings given about hazardous substances will be complied with. Those undertakings were given to my hon. Friend and his colleagues in Committee because they thought that hazardous substances should not go through the tunnel. Some doubt has now been raised about whether they should be permitted to do so.
Mr. Snape : The assurances to which my hon. Friend refers were given before they were sought. At the outset, we were told that hazardous goods-- we attempted to define some of them--would not pass through the tunnel. At the risk of offending my hon. Friend, I must say that I would be fairly relaxed if hazardous goods passed through the tunnel. As a former railway signal man, I would prefer to take my chances on a train passing through the channel tunnel followed by a fleet of tankers because the train would be protected by the signalling system, rather than looking in the mirror of my car while travelling on the M40 and seeing a petrol tanker flying up behind me. The Minister should tell us whether the assurances that we received are still valid today. If so, we may be concerning ourselves unnecessarily.
In debating this order, we must reflect on the fact that we are not talking about a channel tunnel or Eurotunnel, as it is sometimes known. We are talking about three tunnels : a tunnel for trains travelling in one direction, a tunnel for trains travelling in the other direction and a service tunnel. I accept my hon. Friend's point that, in the event of a bomb outrage in the tunnel, considerable damage could be done. However, I understand that to pierce the walls of the tunnel would take something equivalent to the sort of bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki or Hiroshima. We do not envisage terrorist organisations possessing such weapons, or at least getting them into the tunnel.
I hope that the Minister will reassure us that the penalties on people making malicious calls will be severe and will be invoked in the event of their being found guilty of perpetrating such calls. Before I left the railways 20 years ago, it became the fashion to telephone main line railway stations with bomb threats. Initially, because it was a new fashion, the station was invariably closed. However, the British Transport police acquired the expertise to separate the nutcases from the likely genuine calls. I
Column 975endorse what my hon. Friend said. I hope that expertise will be used in this project. Undoubtedly, the sort of sad characters who perpetrate such outrages will be attracted to do so by such a great civil engineering project. We have a much better means of tracing such calls because of the new electronic exchanges. There is nothing like a salutary punishment for the perpetrators who are caught to dissuade other people from behaving in that way.
Those who have been involved at any length with the project will be aware of the question of rabies. I am not sure whether that matter is covered by the terms of the order. A great number of people in this country appear to believe that the continent is full of rabid dogs and foxes. Whether or not it is covered by the order, I hope that the Minister can assure us that is not the case. I hope that proper precautions will be taken to prevent the spread of rabies to the United Kingdom.
I understand that about 330 frontier control staff are being provided for the complete system, including the Folkestone and Calais terminals. That is a considerable reduction from the 800 or 900 staff originally envisaged. How does that number compare with the number of staff responsible for those matters who are employed by the competition, especially the ferries ? I hope that I can take with me Tory Members who espouse a belief in free enterprise and competition. It would be unfair if this great project was hampered by having to meet the costs of an excessive number of security and customs staff, compared with those employed by other modes of transport. My hon. Friend rightly reminded us of the lack of freight terminal facilities in Yorkshire, let alone the security to protect them. We are in a similar position in the west midlands, although the Minister will probably tell me that the existing Landaur street terminal in Birmingham is sufficient in the short term. Living fairly close to that terminal, I have to tell him that I will not believe him. I give him that warning in advance.
The Hams Hall project has been brought forward. I hope that the Minister can reassure us that the project will be completed and up and running--if that is the right term--sooner rather than later because people in the west midlands also wish to benefit from this project.
Mr. Robert Ainsworth (Coventry, North-East) : My hon. Friend will be aware that, although the Hams Hall freight terminal project has been approved, that approval depends on the completion of the new Birmingham north relief road. That will create a considerable delay and ensure that what my hon. Friend fears most will happen--there will not be adequate freight rail terminal facilities in the west midlands for a number of years, well after the tunnel is up and running.
Mr. Snape : I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. I know that the Minister will do his best to respond later. My hon. Friend has emphasised a problem that concerns us greatly. Many of us could not understand why Bescot siding was not chosen as the channel tunnel terminal. Having had only about 120 years to measure it, British Rail has now discovered that it is too small for its purpose. The quicker these matters are resolved and adequate security under the terms of the order is installed, the better it will be for the economy of the west midlands and for the successful running of this great project. I conclude by saying that I welcome the order and the project. To all those who have expressed fear about
Column 976travelling through the tunnel, I can say making five return journeys in a fairly short time along the west coast main line passing through Kilsby tunnel just south of Rugby--as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) and I have done- -is the equivalent of travelling through the channel tunnel. I have been making the journey for 20 years and my hon. Friend has been doing it for a year or two, and we are relatively unscathed. Although we have aged considerably while we have been here, like the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate), I do not think we can blame that on passing through a tunnel. The project will be an enormous success and I welcome it.
Mr. John Horam (Orpington) : Obviously, the focus of this debate is security, which is an important matter, but I shall touch on the more mundane matter of noise which is a concern to my constituents, as it is to many of my hon. Friends. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) took to task my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) for being so concerned about noise. The hon. Gentleman was asking what people expected if they bought a house next to a railway line.
Are not we all in favour of getting more freight off the roads and on to the railways? Indeed, we are. There is a price to pay for that. It is not a simple matter of people buying a house by a railway line and knowing what they are in for. If the hon. Gentleman came to my constituency and saw the way in which British Rail has taken down trees, shrubs and so on--the protective barrier between the existing railway line and the back of houses, especially when the railway line is on a viaduct and the noise tumbles down to the back gardens in my constituency--he would realise that it is a different matter from simply buying a house next to a railway line and taking what one gets.
It is not a matter of people anticipating a future noise problem, unaware of exactly how bad it will be. The hon. Gentleman may not know this, but British Rail has already undertaken trial runs of freight trains and international passenger trains through south-east London and Kent. My constituents are already aware of the sort of noise that they will have to put up with at night--sometimes it will be fivefold or tenfold--when the channel tunnel freight trains start in earnest. Therefore, it is not an unanticipated and unknown problem--people are beginning to be aware of it.
I should be grateful if the Minister could tell me and my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham the present thinking on the intensification of use of existing lines, as opposed to entirely new railway lines. We know that draft noise regulations affecting this matter are being considered at present, and consultation is taking place.
May I also raise a point that my right hon. Friend may have touched on in a written answer to a question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley)? I think that the answer was given yesterday or the day before, but it has not yet been printed in Hansard. My right hon. Friend asked about the interpretation of compensation claims under the Land Compensation Act 1973.
My right hon. Friend the Minister may be aware that my constituency, and no doubt others nearby, has recently been flooded with letters from people claiming to be compensation consultants who are saying that people who have houses alongside the line that is to be used for freight
Column 977and passenger services for the channel tunnel have a good case for getting compensation under the Act. A letter that my constituents have received--
I conclude by saying that the compensation experts say : "The Act also specifies that the Railway Authority must pay all surveyors and legal fees."
In other words, there is no cost to anyone who takes up the offer made by those people to pursue a claim for compensation against British Rail. I am surprised by that. My right hon. Friend answered an Adjournment debate initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling and said that he would look into the legal basis for the view taken by the compensation experts. I should be grateful if he could refer to that in his winding-up speech. 5.33 pm
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : Some years ago, I was embarrassed on the subject of Eurotunnel in Northern Ireland. A constituent met me and said that he was glad to see that I owned 10 per cent. of Eurotunnel. "Pardon?" I said. He told me that he had read that information in a diary piece in a London newspaper when he had visited London.
I investigated the matter, and discovered that I had incorrectly declared my handful of shares in the company in the Register of Members' Interests. Apparently, an hon. Member is only supposed to register shareholdings if he has 10 per cent. of a company. I have since calculated I own about 1 ft out of the 32 miles of the tunnel. I declare my interest on that basis.
I apologise to the Minister for not being here for his opening speech, but I was delayed and have just flown in from Belfast. It would be foolish for anyone to think that the tunnel will not be a major target for terrorism, and it must be treated in that context. Will there be the same rigid security controls at the tunnel as there are, for example, at airports for passengers and freight? A person cannot put baggage on an aeroplane unless he gets on the plane. Will a person be able to put baggage on the train going through the Eurotunnel without being on the train as a passenger? Drivers of freight lorries will not be with their lorries, but in separate compounds. What distance will the drivers be from the lorries? If the distance is considerable, the risk is that an evil minded person could place a bomb in his vehicle and then be quite a distance away from it in a compound of the train.
Eurotunnel was built by a large number of Irish workers from the Republic. I do not want to be seen to be Irish-bashing this afternoon, but it is important that we recognise not only the great contribution made by Irish construction workers, but the fact that, while they were in the south of England, they created their own community. Those workers had their own community activities, their own chaplaincy and, of course, their own Irish pubs. It is not generally known that, at those pubs, there were
Column 978considerable collections taken for IRA funds during the construction of the tunnel. That did happen, and has been reported. I mention that because it is not just Eurotunnel which is operating the system, and many subcontracts have been allocated. I have read of two that have gone to southern Irish firms. The catering has been subcontracted to an excellent catering firm from Dublin called Bewley's Anyone who was at the Welsh match last Saturday week may have thoroughly enjoyed a cup of coffee in Bewley's in Grafton street. None the less, it is a southern Irish firm. I think that a subsidiary called Campbell's will be doing the catering for Eurotunnel.
I understand that another southern Irish firm may be about to be allocated the contract for duty-free shopping.
Mr. Taylor : That has taken place. Will there be proper screening and vetting, not just of the staff employed by Eurotunnel, but of all the staff employed by subcontractors in catering, shop sales and other matters connected to the operation of the tunnel?
The Eurotunnel is a magnificent project, and the civil engineering and construction industry deserves congratulations. I hope that the tunnel brings benefits not just to the south of England, but to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sir Alastair Morton, the chairman of Eurotunnel--I say this as a shareholder--deserves congratulations on his determination to see the project through to a successful conclusion.
Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West) : I start by saying to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that I ceased to be the hon. Member for Basingstoke 10 years ago. He is that much out of date.
I raised earlier the matters of customs and animal health, as well as security. My right hon. Friend the Minister rightly said that the order was concerned only with security, and that he would write to me on the other matters.
There ought to be close co-operation between those who carry out searches of vehicles to ensure that there are no rabid animals--or non-rabid animals, such as family pets--being smuggled in cars, and those who carry out animal health checks. Those concerned with customs should work in close co-operation with those who are involved in security. There are different skills involved, but a sense of alertness and awareness is needed, and all those functions ought to be closely linked.
I do not know whether the checks will carried out in the same building or in the open air. Those involved should be linked by radio telephone, and I regard it as being of considerable importance that they should each have some understanding of the others' work. That is not to decry the expertise that is particularly required in security. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take that on board. I agree with the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East about those who fear travelling in the tunnel, and who talk about claustrophobia. I have asked people who express that view whether they had ever travelled from Sloane square to King's Cross, as that is just about equivalent to the length of time they would be travelling through the Eurotunnel. They do that daily, without a murmur of worry
Column 979or concern, but they appear to believe that they will suffer from claustrophobia if they spend the same amount of time in the channel tunnel.
I should also like to congratulate, through my right hon. Friend, all those who worked so hard behind the scenes to ensure that safety and security have the absolute priority. I wish my right hon. Friend, and the tunnel, great success.
Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South) : I rise to make a quick point about the costs of the service, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) and by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape).
It is clear that hon. Members on both sides of the House take security seriously and that we are anxious to have a first-class security service for the tunnel. Obviously, the quality of the service depends on the money and personnel that we are willing to put into it to carry out the tasks. I want to ask some questions about the distribution of the costs of the service.
It is clear that the service will have to be co-ordinated and that there will have to be some unity between the security on each side of the channel and between the United Kingdom security services provided in the tunnel, at the freight and passenger terminals around the country and on the line. The costs of security in the tunnel will be borne by Eurotunnel, but were the terminals or stations come into private ownership, the costs will undoubtedly be borne by the owners of those sites. I am worried about the costs that will apply to the line as a whole. I assume that those costs will be absorbed by Railtrack. I assume that Railtrack, through the franchising director, will have the job of sorting out where those costs fall.
I ask the Minister to ensure that the costs that apply to the line are not spread generally around the costs of Railtrack. He will know that we have had a considerable shock in the past few hours in the revelation of the costs that Railtrack will seek to impose, in my case in West Yorkshire. The Minister said that, on privatisation, there would be an increase of some 50 per cent. in the costs. As I understand it, the charges have now been multiplied by a factor of four. I hope to raise that matter with the Minister separately. It is important that the costs of safety, which ought to be high because the channel tunnel must be a quality service, are borne by that service and not by users of the rail system as a whole. 5.41 pm
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) : I endorse the final point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell). The seriousness of yesterday's announcement of Railtrack charges has not yet begun to soak in, but I assure the Minister that it will be well advertised long before the charges take effect. I should say to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) that one of the most attractive advertisements for the channel tunnel that I have heard so far is that Bewley's will provide the catering. That will ensure a good cup of coffee and soda bread when one arrives at the terminal at either end. It is a remarkable achievement that Aer Rianta, the Irish state duty-free firm has snatched the duty-free rights from under the nose of other companies on both sides of the channel tunnel. It just shows what a
Column 980state-owned enterprise can do when it is given the freedom to operate commercially outside its own territory. What a slap in the face to Conservative Members that every time they go into the channel tunnel they will pass through the Irish Government's duty-free shops. That is what I call good public enterprise, and it is a pity that the Government despise it in the way that they do.
We are here, as I am sure that you will remind me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to discuss security in the tunnel. We are here almost on a technicality. It is pointed out at the end of the order that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments accepted the advice of the legal adviser that the existing orders had to be revised to take account of the new circumstances of the channel tunnel. For example, paragraph 4 creates a new offence of hijacking a channel tunnel train. That opens up all sorts of mental images--a sort of "Take me to Cuba". If one did that with an accent, it would probably be racist. On the surface, the order is a technicality, but, as the debate has shown, there are many serious worries to be taken into account. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and others have done, it is proper to place the legitimate worries on record. I am sure that they will be read and considered, and that the necessary steps will be taken. There is no question of doubting the good faith of any of the parties involved. It is in everyone's interest to get it right.
It is important to stress that, in raising our worries, the priority for Opposition Members and, I am sure, for Conservative Members is that there should be no impediment to the success of the tunnel project. We want it to succeed. We want to encourage people to use it. We want it to be established. We also want to get rid of initial understandable but irrational fears about the safety of using the tunnel. It is immensely in everyone's interests that the necessary precautions are put in place to prevent anything from happening that would undermine public confidence in the tunnel. It is human nature that people have fears. We are dealing with the concept of going into an enclosed space--with something hitherto unknown to many people. It is interesting that a high proportion of people say that they would not use the tunnel. Of course, as with everything that is new, they will use it. Many of them will use it and, having used it once, will use it often. That will be the case only if the tunnel can operate in a safe and incident-free manner. It is immensely in everyone's interest, not least the operator's interest, that should be achieved. It is in that spirit that we hold the debate tonight. Let us recognise the problems, if they exist. Let us make sure that proper precautions are taken. Let us get it absolutely right.
In the context that I have set out, it is important to note that the channel tunnel is probably the first tunnel of its scale which has been built in the age of the terrorist. It has been built at a time when everyone is aware of the problems that could arise. The necessary safeguards have been built in. I hope that the necessary human dimensions to back them up will also be built in.
In the short time available, I emphasise one point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras and other Opposition Members. Let us give British Transport police their proper role in the operation. They are a force of immense experience. They are a public body. They are the right people to do the job and to advise others who do the job. Let there be no suggestion at any point of diluting their responsibility. Let us give them a job to do.
Column 981They will work well with Eurotunnel and the other police forces. They have been used for a long time to defend our railway system against terrorism and other security threats. They have an important role to play.
I wish the channel tunnel project well. It is a fantastic opportunity for Britain. I want it to be a great national project. We must get security right if those hopes are to be fulfilled. 5.47 pm
Mr. Freeman : I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's mathematics is any good--rather like his politics. I shall deal with the two points that he made in a bipartisan spirit. The first was on the role of the British Transport police. There is no question of the British Transport police having anything other than their present status as a separate national public sector police force responsible for looking after law and order on Britain's railways. That will extend to the channel tunnel services.
The hon. Gentleman was right to mention that matter, but it can assure him that the expertise and services of the British Transport police will be at the disposal of the operators of the channel tunnel services. There is no question of compromising security and their advice will be available to the operators of the freight terminals, which will be restricted zones, and the passenger services. I look forward to debating Railtrack charges with the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North. There is no question of those charges affecting fares, services or investment in any way.
Mr. Freeman : The hon. Gentleman has obviously not read the answer to the parliamentary question. We will return to that matter, and I shall prove to the House, and to everyone's satisfaction, that he is wrong.
Mr. Freeman : No ; I have only five minutes left. Perhaps I can answer the hon. Gentleman's question about West Yorkshire. I can assure him that, as far as the passenger transport executive is concerned, the additional costs of running domestic rail services will be directly and fully recompensed by a special grant and thereafter by increases to the revenue support grant payments. The Government accept that it will take some time to make European passenger services and rail freight distribution profitable. In the meantime, they will be properly supported--directly by British Rail and indirectly by the Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir R. Moate) asked who will finance security. Security costs will be borne by the operator and will not fall upon the citizens of Kent. Will emergency cover for the people of Kent be taken away? No more so than through the operation of the port of Dover. We do not intend to place unnecessary burdens on the ambulance, fire and police services to the
Column 982detriment of the citizens of Kent. Who will be liable to a search? I am sure that my hon. Friend will not invite me to go into detail for security reasons, but everyone will be liable to search and searching will be appropriate to the threat. Clearly we must balance security with ease of travel.
On the enforcement of the regulations on 44-tonne lorries travelling to the tunnel, such lorries will not be allowed on the roads of Kent to or through the tunnel. That concession relates to rail terminals ; the channel tunnel terminal does not count as such. Rail freight terminals were designed to collect traffic bound for the channel tunnel. Officials from the Department of Transport will enforce the regulations when they check vehicle weights, as they do regularly. A consignment note, showing that the lorry is bound for a freight terminal, will be the appropriate evidence. Lorries with six axles will not cause any more wear and tear on the bridges and roads than is caused at present.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) asked about threats. I assure him that penalties are available under article 8 of the order, and that threats will be pursued vigorously. He also asked about rabies. Schedule 3 of the Channel Tunnel International Arrangements Order 1993 sets out the duties of the concessionaires "to construct and maintain installations, to prevent animals straying into the tunnels",
and imposes requirements on them to ensure, for example, that the tunnels are kept clear of anything likely to attract animals. There will be regular checks to ensure that the requirements are met. My mailbag on the subject is probably a little larger than the hon. Gentleman's and I assure him that we take the matter seriously. I shall write to the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East on the subject of staffing compared to the ferries--I think that he mentioned 330 staff. I shall look into the figures.
On the successor to Landor street, I hope that Hams hall can make progress ; it has planning permission, subject to one major constraint. The speed of progress is obviously up to the promoters, but clearly Landor street capacity is limited and it will not be able to provide the west midlands with the service that will be required in due course.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Horam) asked about the regulations for new lines and for the intensification of use. [Interruption.] Is the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North having difficulty hearing the answers? In my answer to the parliamentary question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley), I said that those people affected by intensification of use have the right, under the Land Compensation Act 1973, in appropriate circumstances to claim compensation. If my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington refers to that answer, able to that of airlines and at airports, commensurate with the threat. He did not have the opportunity to hear what I said at the beginning of my remarks, but if he studies the record I hope that he will be satisfied. Yes, Eurotunnel catering and shop staff will be screened. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) asked about close co-operation between the security services, customs and
Column 983immigration. That is extremely important and we take my hon. Friend's point. Safe passage is absolutely vital. Under the Channel Tunnel International Arrangements Order 1993 arrangements have been made for juxtaposed frontier customs controls. United Kingdom customs officers may inspect traffic boarding the shuttle trains at the Eurotunnel terminal at Coquelles. I hope that information is helpful.
I commend the order to the House and will respond to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) with answers to the detailed questions with which he opened the debate.
Question put and agreed to.
That the draft Channel Tunnel (Security) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 7th February, be approved.
That the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 10th February be approved.
That the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 10th February, be approved. That the draft Statutory Sick Pay (Small Employers' Relief) Amendment Regulations 1994, which were laid before this House on 10th February be approved.
That the draft Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating and National Insurance Fund Payments) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 10th February, be approved.
That the draft Statutory Sick Pay (Rate of Payment) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 10th February, be approved.
Mr. Lilley : As a result of the orders, social security will cost more than £83 billion in 1994-95. It will rise to £88 billion in the next year and £92 billion the year after. That huge increase demonstrates both the need to reform our system, to make it affordable in the long term, and our commitment to maintaining a decent level of social security.
We have met our commitment to uprate benefits, fulfilled out pledge to provide extra help for those most affected by the imposition of value added tax on fuel and are improving the benefits system for mothers who want to return to work.
As I announced to this House in December, to provide merely for a full uprating of all benefits next year will cost £2 billion, but I have gone beyond that. Despite a very difficult public spending round, I have also provided a very generous package of extra help--over and above the normal uprating--towards VAT on fuel. That will help more than 15 million people in the coming year.
The package of extra help with VAT on fuel will cost an extra £400 million this year alone. Over three years, the cost will be £2.5 billion. In practice, it means that people on income support will have an increase of 3.9 per cent. from April. A further 2 million people above income support levels, who receive housing benefit and family credit, will receive similar increases.
However, I also wanted to help those who have worked, saved and earned modest pensions, who often get no extra help. So single pensioners will get an extra 50p a week and couples will get an extra 70p this year. That is on top of the £1 and £1.60 rises in the full basic pension in line with the retail prices index.
Next year the extra amount for VAT will be worth £1 for a single pensioner and £1.40 for couples and, in the third year, it will be as much as £1.40 for single people and £2 for couples.
The increases for VAT will also apply to people on widows' benefits, invalidity benefit, severe disablement allowance and the disability premium. Those increases are permanent. In seven weeks' time people will begin to receive the extra money with their benefit--as we promised--before the higher fuel bills arrive. In addition, I am increasing cold weather payments from £6 to £7 in November, and by a further 50p from November 1995.
Column 985To help those people with higher than average heating costs, we are making a further £35 million available through the home energy efficiency scheme. From April 1994, all pensioners and disabled people not on income-related benefits will be eligible for grants from the scheme to insulate their homes and make them more energy efficient. More than 200,000 extra households will be eligible for such grants next year.
By any standards, that is a very substantial package of help. It is far higher than almost anyone expected. We have certainly done rather better than the 50p that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) told The People newspaper he thought was enough. Spending on benefits continues to grow in real terms. Since 1979 it has grown at an underlying rate of 3 per cent. a year--excluding expenditure on the unemployed. Underlying growth is expected to exceed 3 per cent. a year in real terms until the end of the century. Thereafter there will be even more pressure as we enter the next century and the number of pensioners begins to rise. On behalf of every working person every working day, we are spending £15 just to finance the social security system. It is vital to the future of social security that we keep within the limit of what we can afford. My priority is to make savings that do not have a direct effect on benefit entitlements. That means bearing down on operational costs, which will be kept within last year's limit, even with an increased work load. It means carrying forward the battle against fraud. Benefit money should go only to those whom Parliament intended to help, not to those who abuse the system. Social security fraud hurts : it means less money for the people who need it. Last year, we set up a new strategic board to look at fraud. The hon. Member for Garscadden welcomed its announcement in December. The board is chaired by my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security. He reports excellent progress. We have redesigned the order book to prevent forgery ; introduced secure delivery methods to prevent theft ; and are rewarding vigilant Post Office Counters employees who stop false encashment. Last year, the Benefits Agency's investigators saved more than half a billion pounds. I fully expect them to do better this year.
I am also stopping a number of abuses. For example, I will discourage local authorities from paying housing benefit on unnecessarily expensive properties. I have introduced legislation to prevent employers from avoiding national insurance liability by paying their employees in commodities such as gold bullion. We are tightening up on the availability of safety net benefits--a practice which I believe is favoured by Labour party supporters--for various foreign nationals who are looking for work in this country. United Kingdom citizens would not be entitled to the equivalent of income support and housing benefit if they were looking for work in other countries of the European economic area. In most of those countries, some form of residence test is applied. I propose to bring our rules more in line with theirs by introducing a residence test requirement here, too. It cannot be right to leave our social security system open to benefit tourism.