HC Deb 11 April 1961 vol 638 cc31-3
47. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to announce Her Majesty's Government's policy on the building of a tunnel connecting the United Kingdom with the Continent of Europe.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

The matter continues under close study, but I cannot say when any announcement will be made.

Mr. Rankin

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's continued lack of decision on this matter may cause the shipbuilding industry the loss of millions of pounds? Has he noticed that one of the large shipping companies has made it clear, according to Press reports, that it cannot see any purpose in proceeding with its replacements if a tunnel is to be built? If a tunnel is not to be built, the company will proceed with its replacements. Has he no indication of a policy to give to the company on this matter?

Mr. Marples

The question of a Channel tunnel does not depend only on Her Majesty's Government. The French Government are involved, and naturally they are giving it the closest study as well.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that no Government money is put into this absurd project?

Mr. Lipton

When will the right hon. Gentleman make an announcement about anything? Is he not aware that he keeps promising that he will consider this and look at that and all that sort of thing, but nothing ever happens? Will he make an announcement about anything—it does not matter what?

Mr. Marples

I will make the announcement that the hon. Gentleman himself is often wrong but never in doubt.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in the communiqué issued from Washington last Saturday on the talks between the Prime Minister and President Kennedy a major point was made concerning the unity of Europe and bridging the Common Market countries with the E.F.T.A. countries? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it will be practically impossible for Britain to compete effectively in Europe with many members of the Common Market unless this obstacle of the transportation of manufactured goods by sea across the sea channel is overcome?

Mr. Marples

There are many angles to this very controversial problem. Some people think that there should not be a tunnel. Some think that there should be a bridge. Some think that there should be shipping. I can assure my hon. Friend that both the French Government and ourselves are in close touch on this matter. It depends not only on Her Majesty's Government but on the French Government as well.

Mr. Rankin

While respecting whatever view the French Government may have, in view of the possible effect on shipbuilding, which should concern the right hon. Gentleman, will he tell us whether the British Government have a view in the matter? If they have not a view at the moment, will they soon be coming to a view on the matter? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us that information at least?

Mr. Marples

It is only right and proper that Her Majesty's Government should consult the French Government, because a tunnel cannot be built without the French Government agreeing to it. Therefore, the only thing to do is to consult them and see if we can come to some arrangement.