HC Deb 16 January 1984 vol 52 cc6-7
5. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the current position on prospects for a Channel tunnel.

Mr. Ridley

I expect to receive very shortly the report by the group of British and French banks studying the possibility of market financing of the various Channel link schemes. Thereafter, I will discuss with my French counterpart how we should proceed. Meanwhile all options, including reliance on shipping services, remain open.

Mr. Taylor

As there is no shortage of efficient and reasonably priced means of cross-Channel communication, will my right hon. Friend give us an absolute undertaking that he will not agree to taxpayers' funds being assigned to this project or guarantees given on the taxpayers' behalf? The tunnel is outdated and costly nonsense. In particular, can he give us an absolute assurance that he will not involve himself in discussions which might lead to the financing of this white elephant from so-called Eurofunds as part of a package designed to ease the increase of Britain's resources to the EEC?

Mr. Ridley

I do not know what proposals will be before us, but I can assure my hon. Friend that neither taxpayers' money nor guarantees will be available for commercial risks. The Government will have to facilitate access to the tunnel, but that is a very different matter from giving guarantees. Until I have received the report, I cannot go further than that.

Mr. McCrindle

I recognise that it would be very much more expensive to construct a combined road and rail link, but will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the possibility of driving themselves to the Continent would be attractive to motorists, while the possibility of driving their cars on to a train might prove rather less attractive?

Mr. Ridley

My hon. Friend may well be right about that, but the question whether investors would be prepared to raise the extra sums necessary to provide a straight road link is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the commercial judgment of those who may promote such a link.

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