HC Deb 23 February 1987 vol 111 cc2-4
2. Mr. Favell

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what information he has been given on the levels of employment in Scotland and the north of England which will result from the construction of the Channel tunnel.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Moore)

Eurotunnel's contractors, Trans-Manche Link, have already placed orders worth £6.4 million for the first two tunnel-boring machines with James Howden & Co. in Glasgow, and £1.2 million for locomotives with Hunslett Engineering Co. in Yorkshire. Letters of intent placed with these two companies total a further £8.5 million. In all, orders for equipment and materials for Eurotunnel are likely to account for some 7,000 to 8,000 jobs, and orders for British Rail another 2,000 to 2,500 jobs, outside the south-east during the construction period.

Mr. Favell

Undoubtedly that is good news for the north, but what will be the effect on jobs in the north and in Scotland after the tunnel is opened?

Mr. Moore

I thank my hon. Friend for his first remark. Of course the effect will depend on the degree to which British manufacturing and commercial industry utilise the tremendous freight advantages in being able to move goods from the United Kingdom into Europe, where about 62 per cent. of our export trade goes. Clearly, for the first time, they will have that unique freight advantage, and I trust that they will benefit from it.

Mr. James Lamond

I also welcome the Minister's announcement, but will he bear in mind the reservations that have been expressed by many borough councils, for example in the north-west, including my own in Oldham, and their concern that the rail network should be strengthened sufficiently to make it economic to situate industry in that area and thus gain the advantage that will be forthcoming from the rail tunnel?

Mr. Moore

Of course, I shall take note of the hon. Gentleman's point. He rightly draws attention to the opportunities for companies connected with our goods railway system. However, I know from the hon. Gentleman's point that he will be conscious of the enormous importance to British Rail, and to the northwest and other areas north of Birmingham, of the Channel tunnel development.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Secretary of State accept that many of us who are in favour of the tunnel on social and political grounds nevertheless have the same reservations about the problems for the north if the development is concentrated on the south-east? Does the right hon. Gentleman further accept that it is important for through running from the north on railway lines across London to be introduced at the same time as the tunnel is opened, rather than for the tunnel to commence operations without through-running trains?

Mr. Moore

I recognise the great importance of through trains. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's point. I am delighted that he reaffirms his party's support for the Channel tunnel. I hope that he will remember what I said in answer to the question, that the jobs in relation to equipment and materials— all the jobs to which I referred—will be outside the south-east. They will be in the north, where our heavy manufacturing and industrial base is.

Dr. Godman

With regard to Scotland's involvement, the Scottish Office is to assist financially with the study of the concept of the EuroWest Port. Is it the Secretary of State's intention also to provide some financial assistance for the idea of a EuroWest Port based on the Clyde?

Mr. Moore

I shall talk to my hon. Friends in the Scottish Office about that point, but we have made it clear time after time that, other than the commercial decisions by British Rail in regard to additional ancillary railway facilities as a consequence of the Channel tunnel, no Government money will be put up for the Channel tunnel. However, I shall certainly look at the hon. Gentleman's specific point about the Clyde.