HC Deb 24 February 1970 vol 796 cc957-8
1. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Minister of Transport when the French and British Governments will reach a conclusion on the proposals which private enterprise bank syndicates have been putting forward in recent months with regard to the financing and construction of the Channel Tunnel.

26. Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes to announce a decision on the Channel Tunnel.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Albert Murray)

Proposals have not yet been formally submitted to the Governments by the private groups.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I understand that formal proposals have been submitted and are awaiting a reply from Her Majesty's Government. In view of the encouraging remarks made by our wartime colleague, M. Schumann, on his recent successful visit here, will the Minister look at this matter with urgency and give us a date on which to expect a reply?

Mr. Murray

There have been as yet no formal proposals. I understand that a report appeared in a newspaper last week that formal proposals had been received, but this is not so. In reply to the hon. Gentleman's second point, there is no difference between the Governments on this matter.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Will the Minister say whether the provisional programme which was agreed by the two predecessors of his right hon. Friend for starting the construction of the tunnel still holds, and will construction of the tunnel start at the end of 1971 or the beginning of 1972?

Mr. Murray

I cannot at this stage give any date for the starting of the tunnel.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Does not the Minister agree that his reply is extremely misleading? The reason for the delay is the inability of the Minister to give precise details to the contractors of the information that is required from them. Is not it time that the uncertainty surrounding this project was resolved, and are not the Government the only people who can do it?

Mr. Murray

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, we are not being misleading. Negotiations are going on, and the very fact that there are negotiations means that the Government cannot and will not lay down the timetable suggested by the hon. Gentleman.