HC Deb 02 November 1966 vol 735 cc119-20W
93. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Minister of Transport if she will give a progress report on the negotiations that are taking place with the French Government on the financial details of the Channel tunnel project.

Mrs. Castle

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement issued following my meeting with M. Pisani, the French Minister responsible for the Channel Tunnel, on 28th October. The statement, copies of which have been placed in the library, is as follows1. Mrs. Barbara Castle, Minister of Transport, and M. Pisani, Minister of Equipment, announced today that the British and French Governments had agreed the lines of a solution for the provision of the Channel Tunnel. The Tunnel would be built with recourse to finance from private sources, but its operation would be entrusted to an Anglo-French public Authority. 2. This announcement follows the agreement of 8th July last between the two Prime Ministers, Monsieur Pompidou and Mr. Wilson, to the effect that the two Governments had decided that the Tunnel should be built, subject to finding a solution for the construction work on mutually acceptable terms. 3. The financing of the project would have to be secured on terms acceptable to the two Governments and participation from public funds in the risk capital of the construction company would not be excluded. The private capital would be drawn to the greatest possible extent from the international capital market. British and French Railways would be closely associated with the operation of the Tunnel, which would be governed by a formal agreement between the construction company and the public operating body. 4. The two Ministers noted with satisfaction that the geological survey carried out in 1964–65 had confirmed the technical feasibility of the project and that the latest economic

cycles in Scotland for the months of July, August and September in the years 1964, 1965, and 1966, respectively.

Mr. Swingler

Following is the information:—studies by the two Governments had shown that investment in the Tunnel would show a satisfactory return. If private financing of the project proved possible on terms acceptable to the two governments, an early treaty could be concluded between the two countries and the necessary legislative procedure could then be put in hand. 5. To study those problems which still need to be determined, permanent working groups with representatives from the various Government Departments concerned will be set up under the British Minister of Transport and the French Minister of Equipment. In particular, these groups will have to determine, with the least possible delay, the basis for discussions with representatives of private enterprise interested in the construction of the Tunnel. 6. The two working groups will also be studying the structure required for the Tunnel operating body, with particular reference to its relations with the railway undertakings of both countries. 7. In view of the importance of the project as a permanent link between the road and rail networks of Britain, France and Continental Europe, the Ministers have also agreed to concert their studies for the provision and development of complementary road and rail access facilities on both sides of the Channel. Unrestricted access to the tunnel would be guaranteed, without discrimination, to all users.