HC Deb 23 July 1975 vol 896 cc550-2
27. Mr. Costain

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish the Cairncross Report on the Channel Tunnel; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Crosland

The report is being published today and copies are available in the Vote Office. The advisory group found that the traffic and cost-benefit studies were an advance on previous work, but made a number of points which will be helpful in assessing any future tunnel project. They also raised a number of issues about cross-Channel services which I am considering with my colleagues.

Mr. Costain

We shall study that report with interest. Does the Secretary of State appreciate that the "stop-go" of the Channel Tunnel over the last 14 years has caused havoc in road planning in Shepway? Is he aware that the present Minister of Transport said that he did not have time to visit the area and study these problems? Is he aware that his predecessor said that he would visit the area, as did his predecessor's predecessor, and his predecessor's predecessor's predecessor? They have all visited the area. Why will not the Minister of Transport follow suit?

Mr. Crosland

We have evidently had a remarkable succession of Transport Ministers who have been vulnerable to the hon. Gentleman's blandishments. As for the new Minister, since he has been in office for only a few days, he has obviously been reluctant, before acquiring full knowledge of the problems involved, to accept any invitations. But he is a charming and sympathetic man, and if the hon. Gentleman will renew his invitation I am sure that it will be sympathetically received.

Mr. Rathbone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are those who hope the Cairncross Report on the Channel Tunnel will lead the Government to reassess the viability of the Channel Tunnel and to restart work as soon as possible, particularly as it does not cost the taxpayer a penny?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. The Cairn-cross Report was not intended to be, nor is it, a complete reassessment of the tunnel project, such that it would cause the Government to reassess the decision they took—a decision which I announced some months ago.

Dr. Marshall

Does the report make any comparative evaluation of the respective concepts of rail and road-oriented schemes for the Channel Tunnel? If so, what conclusions does it reach, and does my right hon. Friend agree with them?

Mr. Crosland

I have had the opportunity of only a quick reading of the report, but it appears to reach a conclusion which may not be palatable either to myself or to a lot of my hon. Friends—that the more rail-oriented the tunnel is, the less profitable it is from an economic point of view. I do not wish to comment in any greater detail than that until I have had a longer opportunity to study the report in detail.