HC Deb 14 February 1882 vol 266 cc637-8

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, considering the great interest excited by the Channel Tunnel scheme, and the immense importance of the question, the Government will take steps to ascertain the feeling of Parliament upon it by moving the appointment of a joint Committee of both Houses to consider the expediency of executing such a work as a matter of public policy; and, whether, pending the result of such inquiry, the Government will take steps to stop the progress of any works and the expenditure of money in connection with the proposed tunnel now proceeding on the coast?


In answer to this Question, I ought to observe that it appears to imply what I think will mislead the public—namely, that this is a new matter not heretofore opened. The truth is, as was indicated by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) near me the other day, that it has been very considerably opened on the part of Parliament and on the part of the preceding Government. Papers have been presented to Parliament more than once, I think, and Bills have passed through Parliament, and have become law, I believe, at least on two occasions. The late Government made an examination of the subject, and I believe after the examination proceeded to appoint a Commission in concert with the Government of France. That Commission examined the whole matter very thoroughly, and arrived at a joint Report, the purport of which was to recommend that a Treaty should be framed between the two Governments upon certain bases, which were set out in great detail and appended to the Report. That Treaty never was concluded, as I am informed, for no other reason than that the parties were not prepared with their financial arrangements to go forward with what remained unsanctioned of the scheme. The House will not be surprised, after all these proceedings, that when Her Majesty's Government came into Office, and, indeed, until lately, this question appeared to present the aspect of a settled matter. Of late the Government have become aware that various authorities, particularly the military authorities, have conceived that there were strong reasons why it should be re- opened. That being the case, Her Majesty's Government have thought it right to direct that the recent information should be brought together, in order that they might give it immediate and complete consideration. That, therefore, they will proceed to do, and they will think it their duty to communicate their opinion upon it to the House—that is the pith of the Question of the hon. Member—before proceedings are taken upon the two Private Bills now before Parliament. A great variety of questions may arise for consideration in connection with the arrangement of this subject, and that consideration the Government will not fail to give.