HC Deb 01 July 1981 vol 7 cc855-6
8. Mr. Spriggs

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received about planning for a Channel link.

Mr. Fowler

I am currently considering eight proposals for a fixed link, including that of British Railways Board, the report of the Select Committee and an option for the development of the existing services. I have also received representations from a number of transport and other interests.

Mr. Spriggs

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the single-track rail link is a threat neither to shipping nor to lorry traffic across the Channel? In view of the strong endorsement by both the European Parliament and the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport for the Channel single-track link, will he take steps to expedite a decision in favour of the scheme, as outlined in the railway plan?

Mr. Fowler

One of the aspects that we are considering is the effect of a tunnel, or any other Channel link, upon the existing trade. That is one of the crucial questions that we have to settle. Material is still coming in from the promoters on the Channel link. I want to consider that material, and I shall make a statement in due course.

Mr. John Wells

Will my right hon. Friend understand quite clearly that there is a considerable degree of urgency about this, and at an early date make a public statement from which there can be no going back? Lamentably, this Parliament will not run for ever, and it is necessary that a definite decision should be taken.

Mr. Fowler

I understand the urgency of the matter, and I endorse what my hon. Friend said in that respect. A number of stages remain, and we are still looking at the evidence that is coming in from the promoters. Talks and negotiations are to take place with the French Government. We shall make as quick progress as we can.

Mr. Stott

With reference to what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) said about the recommendations of the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport, when will the Secretary of State respond to those suggestions? Will he make a statement before the recess?

Mr. Fowler

I cannot guarantee to make a statement before the recess, but I am trying to get all the information together as soon as I can. When that is done we shall respond to the Select Committee. Clearly, there is no point in responding before we have gathered together all the information from the promoters.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of the firms in the North-West are desperately keen to get a decision on this matter. They believe that the provision of a link with the Continent will assist their competitive position, in that it will reduce the proportion of transport costs in their overall costs and thus help to alleviate the sad unemployment in the North-West and the North?

Mr. Fowler

There is much support on both sides of the House for the Channel link. Problems clearly have to be overcome. We want the link to be privately financed, and that is one of the aspects that we are examining at present. We shall make as much speed as we can.