Channel Tunnel

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th January 1970.

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Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne 12:00 am, 27th January 1970

asked the Minister of Transport if he will now make a statement on the financing of the Channel Tunnel.

Photo of Mr Albert Murray Mr Albert Murray , Gravesend

Discussions with the prospective financing groups are proceeding, but details must remain confidential at the present stage.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Is it not becoming clear that the groups are not willing to spend some of their own money and it is time that we had a fresh look at the 1963 White Paper which, being seven years old, is hopelessly out of date? Cannot we have a crossing that is in keeping with this century?

Photo of Mr Albert Murray Mr Albert Murray , Gravesend

Negotiations are at present going on and when the Government are ready to make a statement on the whole matter they will do so.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine , Tavistock

Does the Joint Parliamentary Secretary appreciate that negotiations have been going on for a very long time and that the effect of this delay that large areas of South-East England are suffering from planning blight? Is he aware of the great deal of uncertainty that surrounds this whole project? Will he give direct answers in future and not just evade the issue?

Photo of Mr Albert Murray Mr Albert Murray , Gravesend

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks up the word "negotiations" in the dictionary. He will find that it means talks. These talks are going on. We are not prepared, while negotiations are continuing, to make a statement.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Does my hon. Friend realise that the financing of this project will damage the trade, industry and commerce of Britain in general and of Scotland in particular because it will encourage workers away from this island?

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the proposed tolls to be charged for goods transported by rail through the Channel Tunnel.

Photo of Mr Albert Murray Mr Albert Murray , Gravesend

It is too early to say what the structure and level of tunnel tariffs might be. While the main responsibility for deciding these would rest with the future Anglo-French Tunnel Operating Authority, they would of course work within a framework of Governmental control.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he does not know what the Channel Tunnel tolls are likely to be? The whole purpose, if any, of building the tunnel is that transport should be cheaper. If that is the most important factor, why does not the hon. Gentleman make an announcement on the subject?

Photo of Mr Albert Murray Mr Albert Murray , Gravesend

Since the Channel Tunnel would not be opened for several years at least, it would be rather foolish to announce the tolls at this stage.

Photo of Mr Ronald Atkins Mr Ronald Atkins , Preston North

Would it not be more accurate to describe these as transportation charges rather than as tolls, since presumably the traffic will be carried by rail? Is not this Question another attempt by the anti-Channel Tunnel lobby to denigrate a project for reasons which vary from vested interest to ignorance?

Photo of Mr Albert Murray Mr Albert Murray , Gravesend

I do not think that I would like to comment on that point.