HC Deb 24 February 1986 vol 92 cc662-4
9. Mr. Boyes

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has yet made any estimate of the number of jobs that will be created in the north-east as a result of building the Channel fixed link; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Mitchell

We have made no such estimate. CTG-FM intends to invite bids for the supply of equipment from companies throughout the United Kingdom. It has indentified approximatedly 3,500 man-years of work for which companies in the north-east, Yorkshire and Humberside are well placed to compete successfully. In addition, British Rail's investment of up to £390 million is likely to benefit companies in the north and midlands.

Mr. Boyes

On 20 January the Secretary of State said that he would consider carefully the employment consequences of the development."—[Official Report, 20 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 20.]

Once again he is giving me no assurances for the people of the north-east that the Channel tunnel will create jobs. We know full well that it will make matters even worse for the region with the highest unemployment. It is nothing more than a massive drain on vitally needed cash that should be invested in the nort-east to create jobs for the people there so that the economy there can begin to thrive again—something that it will never do while this Government are in power.

Mr. Mitchell

First, there will not be a drain on jobs anywhere in the country. Much of the money is coming from abroad and would not be invested here if it were not for the project, which is in the private sector. Secondly, jobs will be awarded not on a Buggins' turn basis, but substantially to those who win them because they are competitive. That includes a large number of firms north of Watford.

Mr. Gale

My hon. Friend will be aware that north-east Kent has higher unemployment levels than those in some parts of the north-east of England. Following his reply in the debate on the White Paper, is my hon. Friend able to comment further on whether his Department has plans to publish a prospectus for north-east and east Kent, along the lines of that published by the French Government on behalf of the north Pas de Calais?

Mr. Mitchell

I am conscious of the number of unemployed in east Kent. The committee that I shall chair will consider that aspect to see how best to ensure that the development provides them with jobs.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is the Minister prepared to initiate discussions with the regional CBI, the trade unions, the major industrialists and the ports in connection with the effect on the region's economy of the building of the link? If he is not prepared to take the initiative, will he respond favourably to an invitation from these bodies to discuss the important matter of the economy of the region?

Mr. Mitchell

I am always prepared to respond to an invitation to discuss the matter. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will bring a deputation to see me.

Mr. Holt

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have had communications from the business community in Cleveland, including one from the Tees and Hartlepool port authority, welcoming the Government's decision to go ahead with the Channel tunnel and recognising that, with its good labour force, the opportunities in the north-east will be taken up, which will expand the economy in that area?

Mr. Mitchell

I am sure that my hon. Friend reflects the spirit of those in the north-east who are determined to be successful and secure jobs and orders.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the experience of the development of North sea oil, and recollect that in the early stages most orders went abroad and that only after the establishment of the Offshore Supplies Office, chaired by a Minister at the Department of Energy did 71 per cent. of contracts over £100,000 come to Britain? Will he immediately set up such an office to make sure that we get the maximum benefit from the British end of the construction costs?

Mr. Mitchell

No. I am confident the British industry is well-equipped to keep a substantial share of the business that is available and, without any duck shoving, it is much more competitive that the hon. Gentleman imagines.

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