Inside Parliament: Euro-sceptic derides 'white elephant' line

No amount of tinkering with the line of the Channel tunnel rail link will satisfy Sir Teddy Taylor, MP for Southend East and unsleeping champion of Tory Euro-sceptics.

Remaining true to his principles as the 'final' route was announced to the Commons yesterday, Sir Teddy deplored not only the spending of public money on the project but the very idea of a link with Europe.

'The Channel tunnel is basically an outdated white elephant which is going to cost the taxpayers of Britain a fortune,' Sir Teddy said. He recalled how, in 1986, his views were dismissed as 'rubbish' when he and others suggested considerable public funds would be needed - doubting the then Thatcherite policy of wholly privately financed high- speed link.

John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport, conceded the need for a 'substantial' contribution from the public purse a year ago. Yesterday he announced the Government's conclusions on a 68-mile route running north-west across Kent from the Channel, under the Thames at Greenhithe, through east London and terminating at St Pancras.

Local difficulties remain. 'There is no easy choice at Pepper Hill,' he intoned. Whether to tunnel under this corner by Northfleet in Kent, or go around it, has still to be decided.

The county's MPs made little fuss. Sir Keith Speed expressed the disappointment of his Ashford constituents that a tunnel west of the town had been ruled out on the grounds of the pounds 65m cost and several were concerned about continuing property blight and compensation.

Mark Wolfson, MP for Sevenoaks and a 'lonely' Tory advocate of public support when the high-speed link was first mooted, urged that the Bill to safeguard the route and its construction should be 'pushed forward with a great deal more urgency than we have had for the last eight years'.

But though Mr MacGregor promised the project would go ahead 'on the fastest possible timetable', his emphasis on the need for further consultations and 'inevitable' petitions on the Bill suggested otherwise.

Frank Dobson, Labour's transport spokesman, said that if the Government had accepted from the start that there was no chance of private investment without a government contribution, the link might have been built by now.

'For the next decade, goods and passengers from all over Britain will face a 70-mile bottleneck from London to the tunnel. This will be an inconvenience for London but a disaster for people in the rest of the country who want to trade with Europe and travel to Europe,' he said.

'When the first train leaves Paris it will travel at 185mph to the tunnel, through it at 85mph and then trundle at around 50mph to Waterloo. On arriving at Waterloo, the international travellers will have to lug their baggage across London to King's Cross, St Pancras, Euston or Paddington.

'This is a national disgrace when the French link is already in place,' Mr Dobson added.

Never far below the surface with Mr MacGregor is a tendency to revert to his old job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury when he enjoyed nothing better than totting up the Opposition's spending plans. Labour's answer for the railways was the same as on everything else, he repeated yesterday - 'more and more taxpayers' money. And that's what makes such a nonsense of the claims they are making on tax at the present time.'

Donald Dewar, Labour's social security spokesman, kept the pressure on as MPs debated the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill, which it is estimated will save almost pounds 1.5bn a year in benefit payments by 1997.

Mr Dewar said it was not just the size of the coming tax hike - pounds 24bn over three years - but the way the burden was distributed that worried people. Through the Bill, a 'pay now, pay later, pay more and more government' was targeting those struggling with the effects of long-term ill-health and disability. 'Very many people don't like what they are seeing,' he told the House. 'There is undoubtedly hypocrisy and cynicism at large and it isn't difficult to see why.'

Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, said the Bill was not an attack on the sick and disabled. 'It is designed to protect their benefits against those who abuse it.'

The Bill - given a Second Reading by 313 votes to 272 - replaces sickness and invalidity benefits with a new benefit called incapacity benefit. There will be a stricter medical test and new recipients will be liable to tax from April 1995 if other income exceeds their allowances.

Mr Lilley said that spending on IVB had more than doubled in the last 10 years from pounds 2.7bn to pounds 6.1bn last year. Yet the nation's health had been improving. 'Those who are working for a modest wage resent seeing neighbours - apparently as fit as themselves - living on IVB.'

Too many people saw it as a readily available supplement to their occupational pensions when they took early retirement, he said. 'There are well-publicised cases of people on invalidity benefit earning money by cleaning windows at the same office where they were actually claiming benefit, enjoying cycling holidays and winning javelin contests.'

But Alan Howarth, Tory MP for Stratford on Avon and a former minister, warned that some of those who came off invalidity benefit would end up on the dole. There were good and bad reasons to tax, he said. 'The good reasons include helping the poor and the sick to live in less poverty and more dignity and more hope. Are these the people who should bear the cost of our economic difficulties of recent years?'

(Illustration omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices