HL Deb 12 December 1974 vol 355 cc910-2WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their intentions regarding the ratification of the Channel Tunnel Treaty having regard to the statements of the Minister for Transport that—

1. it is necessary for the Government to have the powers that the Bill confers before ratification, and

2. that ratification must take place before the 1st January 1975 if the British Government are not to be deemed unilaterally to have abandoned the project;

and in view of the fact that the Bill will not have been enacted by that date, to ask Her Majesty's Government for an undertaking that they will not ratify the Treaty unless and until Parliament passes the Bill.


Her Majesty's Government do not intend to ratify the Anglo-French Channel Tunnel Treaty unless or until the necessary powers have been obtained. As it is not now possible for the Bill to complete its passage before the end of the year, it would as things stand be open to any of our partners thereafter to claim that the project had been abandoned by Her Majesty's Government.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is, however, as envisaged in his Statement of 26th November, currently exploring with the French Government and the British and French Channel Tunnel Companies the possibility of mutual agreement on a new timetable, providing both for later ratification of the Treaty and for a delay in the decision to proceed to Phase III to enable alternative lower-cost rail links from Cheriton to London to be examined. The Channel Tunnel Bill will be reintroduced only when there is a clear indication that all concerned are prepared to renegotiate the detailed arrangements on this basis. If, as we hope, these preliminary discussions are successful the Bill would immediately be reintroduced in another place and under the terms of the resolutions passed by both Houses last month be considered there on Report and Third Reading before coming before this House for consideration some time in the New Year under the normal procedure for Hybrid Bills.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past ten o'clock.