HC Deb 05 November 1976 vol 918 cc737-8W
Mr. Ronald Brown

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) when the decision was taken to dispose of the Mole machine used for tunnelling work in the Channel Tunnel; how the value of the machine has been determined; and what amount of money has been estimated to reflect the value of the unique British technology contained in the design features of the Mole machine;

(2) if he will publish in the Official Report his reasons for not requesting tenders to be sought for disposing of the Mole machine used for tunnelling work in the Channel Tunnel, particularly having regard to the value this unique machine, developed with British technology, will have for any foreign purchaser;

(3) in whose ownership the Mole machine, used for tunnelling work in the Channel Tunnel, is vested; who owns the patent rights for the machine; and what safeguards are being written into any sale document to protect the British technology and inventiveness that produced this successful machine tool;

(4) if he will list in the Official Report the qualifications of those who are advising on the disposal of the Mole machine used for tunnelling work on the Channel Tunnel; how many years each has spent on designing machine tools used for tunnelling; and where the products of such labours have been used.

Mr. Horam

I have been asked to reply.

The machine is the property of the British Channel Tunnel Company, now Government owned. The patent rights protecting the technology belong to Messrs. Edmund Muttall Ltd.

Although an inquiry was recently made by a potential purchaser of the machine, no decision has been made either to sell it or to do so without seeking tenders. Nor has the value of the machine been determined.

If need be my right hon. Friend could call on appropriate professional advice from the staff of his Department or from outside consultants.