HC Deb 31 July 1963 vol 682 cc437-8
38. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is yet in a position to announce his decision on the channel crossing.

Mr. Marples

I regret that I am not yet able to add to the Answer I gave my hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) on 24th July.

Mr. Costain

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Folkestone is the second largest passenger port in England, with over 800,000 people now using it, and that it cannot make the improvements it wants to make as long as this matter remains unresolved? Will he use his powers of decision to get some progress made?

Mr. Marples

I can assure my hon. Friend and the House that I will move as fast as possible both on the publication of the Report and on its considera- tion, but as I have to consult my French colleagues I am really not able to make a decision myself.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In considering this very important matter, will not the Minister consult the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Labour with a view to determining what the effects of the implementation of this proposal will be on the undesirable drift south of trade, industry and commerce and, consequently, cm employment in Scotland and the effect on industry there?

Mr. Marples

Any decision will be a Cabinet decision, which has collective responsibility, and all the Ministers referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman will be consulted.

Mr. Strauss

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the opportunities for postponing any decision on this matter are infinite, because there are very real difficulties? Can he, therefore, give us any idea when he hopes that some final decision will be made by himself and his French opposite numbers on this very important matter?

Mr. Marples

I wish that I could, but I cannot give a definite date. That is quite impossible as there are so many things to be considered, including another country—France—and the French may play it long or they may play it short. For myself, I realise that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has said, a number of ports are delaying improvements and the provision of new shipping facilities pending this decision, so, obviously, the quicker we can arrive at a decision the better.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would my right hon. Friend agree that he has had the Report of the Anglo-French Committee in his hands for quite a long time—a very long time? Can he at least give an undertaking that he will publish the Report early in the Summer Recess so that we may know what it says?

Mr. Marples

I have had the Report only a few weeks, and I really cannot unilaterally say that it will be published. This is a joint venture with the French; and I must consult them, otherwise foreign relations would become impossible.

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