HL Deb 09 June 1986 vol 476 cc2-4

2.38 p.m.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what they consider to be the benefits and employment opportunities resulting from the proposed Channel tunnel.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, the Channel tunnel will bring benefits and opportunities in both construction and operation. During construction, Eurotunnel expect to provide some 65,000 man-years of direct and indirect employment across Britain in construction and in the supply of equipment and materials. In operation, the tunnel, as well as generating long-term employment for some 4,000 people, will offer a fast, all-weather service for motorists and lorries and a dramatic improvement in international rail services for passengers and freight. These improvements will benefit the economy as a whole through reduced transportation costs and increased opportunities for British exporters to compete successfully in the large European market.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for that very informative reply. Can he tell the House what is the likely value of orders to be generated in the United Kingdom by the scheme?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, my Lords. The likely value of orders, as announced by Eurotunnel, and orders for major items of equipment placed by the Channel Tunnel Group, which is the UK arm of Eurotunnel, comes to about £700 million, That breaks down into £150 million on construction equipment, £240 million on civil and building materials, £150 million on mechanical and electrical equipment and £160 million on rolling stock and signalling.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, in view of the substantial benefits which this project will bring, would the noble Earl care to indicate how long the legislative process to approve the treaty will take in the light of the recent prolonged debates in another place?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, aside from the benefits arising directly from the construction of the proposed project, could the noble Earl inform the House whether the Government have made any detailed evaluation of the benefits to the United Kingdom once the Channel tunnel is completed; and have they taken into account in that appraisal any possible disadvantages that may arise to certain parts of the United Kingdom in particular?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, my Lords. Detailed discussion and detailed inquiry into the benefits and disadvantages of the tunnel have been undertaken by the Government, a White Paper has been produced, and the matter has been debated on more than one occasion in both Houses of Parliament.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Minister whether there will be enough workers in the Kent area or whether workers will have to be brought from other parts of England? And, if so, what about the housing of such workers? Has that been evaluated?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, my Lords, there will be opportunities for construction workers in the Kent area, but, as I indicated in my earlier answers, there will be tremendous opportunity for those in the Midlands, the North and in Scotland to benefit from this project.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, can the Minister say whether the figure of 4,000 operating jobs which he mentioned represents the net employment gain of the Channel tunnel if or when that link is built? Furthermore, does that figure of 4,000 jobs allow for the jobs that may be lost by workers at Dover and the other seaports involved? Does the figure refer only to job numbers on this, the British side of the Channel? Can he say whether the French will have an equal number of job gains? Finally, can he say how this will compare with the present number of French and British jobs associated with a sea link as against the number of future jobs likely to be associated with fixed link?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the 4,000 long-term employment opportunities that I mentioned in my original Answer is a figure generated as a result of the construction of the Channel tunnel and its operation. As the noble Lord rightly points out, there will be some reduction in the labour force as a result of the possible effect on the ferries, but we understand this will be overtaken by increased further opportunities in Kent about the turn of the century.

Lord Elliott of Morpeth

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there has been a highly successful conference organised by the North-East Development Council quite recently in Darlington on the work opportunities which the building of the tunnel represents? There is no doubt at all in that area, which is famed for its engineering, of the value of this project.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. As he rightly says, there are a lot of opportunities for those in the North-East and I hope we shall get tremendous support for this project from the workers there and also from those who work on the railways.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, is the Minister aware that he does not seem to have answered the question put to him by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull? The question, if I understood it correctly, asked whether it was going to be necessary to bring people from outside Kent into that county and, if so, what was being done about housing them.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, further housing land will be made available. Obviously there will be opportunities during the course of construction for more people to be brought in or for those locally to change jobs.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, the noble Earl outlined many advantages as a result of bringing in the Channel tunnel, but has he taken into account the desecration of Kent and the enormous amount of traffic that will ensue for the Kentish suburbs?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, Kent will not be desecrated. As the noble Lord might be aware, my honourable friend in another place, Mr. Mitchell, has had a lot of meetings with all the groups concerned about the future of Kent. We are very concerned about that matter, but I do not believe that Kent will be desecrated when the project is finished.