HC Deb 01 March 1989 vol 148 cc268-9
8. Mr. Ron Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many Scottish firms have gained contracts from (a) the Channel tunnel project and (b) recent Scottish public works contracts; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

Twenty Scottish companies have so far been successful in gaining contracts worth about £65 million from Translink, the contracting consortium for the Channel tunnel. Information is not held centrally on Scottish public sector contracts.

Mr. Brown

I understand from members of the Neath and Edinburgh chambers of commerce—august members of the capitalist system—that, in the main, Scottish contractors have been ignored for both the main and the smaller contracts. Is that not a disgrace? I say that not because I am anti-English but because clearly Scottish jobs are involved. If the tunnel is to mean anything, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the contracts should have been made available to Scottish contractors on a competitive basis? There has been discrimination in this matter and the Scots people have a right to be annoyed. Once the tunnel is completed it will have a hoover effect on enterprise, business and companies. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that not only Scottish companies but companies in the north of England will suffer?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman must have framed his supplementary question before he heard my answer, in which I told him that 20 Scottish companies have so far been succesful and secured contracts to the value of £65 million. That is a higher proportion of companies than from any other part of the United Kingdom. Howdens, for example, gained the contract for the four boring machines and, as a result of that, has gained another contract for tunnelling machines in Denmark. As for the hon. Gentleman's comments on the capitalist private sector, I must point out that the Channel tunnel is being built and funded by the private sector.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is it not to the credit of Scottish enterprise that so many contracts have been gained— [Interruption] Is it not to the credit of Scottish enterprise that it has won these contracts, which will be of enormous benefit to the Scottish economy in the short-term? Will the Minister also consider the longer-term benefits? Does he agree that it is essential that we have the best possible transport links, in particular rail links, between Scotland and the Channel tunnel? Will he put pressure on British Rail to continue the electrification of the east coast line beyond Edinburgh to Dundee and Aberdeen?

Mr. Lang

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The whole of Scotland benefits from the contracts. The north of Scotland benefits in the form of Brown and Roots Survey and R. B. Farquhar Ltd., PSS Ltd., Racal Survey UK Ltd., and others. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise the importance of rail transport. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and I had a meeting with the chairman of British Rail and I have also had meetings with the general manager of ScotRail to underline that important point.

Back to