Frank Dobson, the Labour transport spokesman, was pressing John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, to table a parliamentary motion to attempt to overturn the committee decision not to give the Bill the go-ahead. Mr Dobson stressed that Labour would support such a motion.
He said: 'There is a precedent for this as in 1836 a Bill promoting the South West Durham Railway was referred back to the committee which had considered it.'
However, the House would have to be convinced that there was a flaw in the procedure or not all the evidence was presented to the committee. Yesterday, furious Tory ministers were still trying to find out why the committee of four MPs, headed by the right-wing Tory, Tony Marlow (Northampton N), had turned down the project.
A group of South-east Tory MPs were also seeking meetings with Mr MacGregor to press the case for the Bill.
There are two other ways the Government can continue with the project. It can ask the promoters, British Rail and London Transport, to introduce a Bill under the new procedure for big projects under the Transport and Works Act, or it can introduce a hybrid - mixed private and public - Bill itself. Both have problems. The Transport and Works Act procedure is new and was not designed for such big projects. A hybrid Bill, on the other hand, would use up government parliamentary time.
Under either procedure, it would probably take a couple of years for the Bill to pass through both Houses.
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