Channel Tunnel

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1968.

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Photo of Mr Joseph Hiley Mr Joseph Hiley , Pudsey 12:00 am, 24th July 1968

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the progress which has been made in the Channel Tunnel project.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

asked the Minister of Transport when he now estimates that the Channel Tunnel will be completed.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to announce a decision as to which of the private consortia submitting proposals for the financing and construction of the Channel Tunnel is to be selected for finalising this aspect of the project; and whether, in view of the tendency of construction costs to rise, he will take action to accelerate his decision.

Photo of Mr Luke Teeling Mr Luke Teeling , Brighton, Pavilion

asked the Minister of Transport if he is yet in a position to state which of the three groups tendering for the construction of the Channel Tunnel has been chosen; and when the tunnel is likely to be started and finished.

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

The French Minister of Transport and I have been considering the proposals of the three private groups and I expect that we shall very soon make a joint statement of progress and intentions. I regret that it has not in the event proved possible to time that statement for announcement to the House today but it will, I hope, lead to an agreement with a selected financing group by the end of the year. On this basis, and if the resulting studies confirm the case for the tunnel, it should be possible to complete construction by 1976.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

I am glad that the Minister has been able to give this information. Can he estimate when the decision on whether or not to construct a tunnel will be taken?

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

There is a good deal of work to be done. Inevitably, our French colleagues have been somewhat preoccupied of late with other matters, though this has not been a major factor. It is also a United Kindgom problem in that we are seeking to reconcile public and private participation in this venture and at the same time work together with the French. It is a complex job, but, as I have said many times, before a decision is taken to go ahead with the tunnel there will be a major debate in the House.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

As this matter has been going for at least 12 years under intensive study, can the Minister give an assurance that, if it is possible, he will announce the result before the end of the Recess?

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

I certainly hope that we shall be able to approve an announcement in a very short time.

Photo of Mr Luke Teeling Mr Luke Teeling , Brighton, Pavilion

Although we understand that the Minister had hoped to be able to give a definite answer today, and whilst fully appreciating that the French situation is a tricky one, can we be certain that before the Recess is over the Minister will make a public statement? Will he tell us how he will make it so that we can discuss it in some form?

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that it was unwise for one to be certain about anything in this place above all others. I would certainly hope to be able to make a statement on this next stage in the course of the Recess, presumably by just making a public announcement. In all fairness, this is not purely a question of difficulties which the French have experienced. It is a very complicated exercise with very large stakes involved.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

Bearing in mind the answers given to Question No. 24, is the Minister satisfied that he has his priorities right?

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

It is not a question of priorities. It is important to have a transport system which enables people to move rapidly around Britain and which transports people and goods in and out of Britain.