Letter: Key MPs deny `influence'

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The Independent Online
Sir: We are surprised that you have chosen, particularly at this stage, to raise a matter which relates to our roles as Chairman and Vice- Chairman of the Select Committee on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill.

The article "Ministers subvert Kent blight inquiry" (14 November), refers to a "leaked letter" from Sir George Young MP to William Waldegrave MP. The letter, your correspondent suggests, indicates that Sir George intended to "influence" us to ensure that the cost of constructing the rail link was minimised.

The committee devoted several paragraphs of its special report to the House of Commons to the issue of blight. The Committee said that "the present law appears totally inadequate in situations in which a reduction in the price of a property is attributable to a project such as the rail link, even though the property will not actually be physically affected".

As the correspondent rightly points out, the letter was the subject of exchanges between MPs on the select committee in October last year.

We were instructed by the committee to see Sir George and John Watts MP to clarify the matter. We did so, and on 24 October, 1995, reported back to the committee, reading into the committee's public record a letter Sir Anthony had received from Sir George. In it he said that "I am happy to reaffirm that the Government has not in the past, and will not in the future, bring any undue influence to bear upon the select committee or its chairman. Our approach to you and your committee will continue to be one appropriate to the promoters of a Hybrid Bill, recognising the quasi-judicial role of the select committee and your independence as its chairman."

The matter was not, in our recollection, raised before the committee again, which would suggest that all involved with the committee's proceedings - members of the committee, promoters and petitioners - were content.

Sir ANTHONY DURANT MP

(Reading West, Con)

Sir IRVINE PATNICK MP

(Sheffield Hallam, Con)

House of Commons

London SW1

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