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Channel Link

Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to be in a position to invite applications to build a fixed Channel link.

Guidance was issued to promoters on 2 April following a statement in the House.

Many colleagues on both sides of the House will welcome the statement that at long last, after nearly 200 years of discussion, something concrete will happen with regard to the Channel link. Will my hon. Friend give the House an indication as to how many people will be employed, not just pouring concrete, but in the steelworks?

I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. However, it will depend on the project—if there is a project—as to how much employment the building and operation of the link, if it is to go ahead, will provide. The structure will also affect where the employment will be. However, steel, shipbuilding yards, traffic control, signal makers, for both road and rail routes. the construction industry, the heavy goods equipment industry —all such industries—could benefit if the decision is made to go ahead.

What special efforts will the Department make to ensure that we get our fair share of the contracts involved?

I presume that the hon. Gentleman is referring not to the United Kingdom generally but to Wales in particular. Obviously, we are bound, if the project is going ahead, by the rules within Europe, but we shall do all that we can to make sure that the British tenders, if they are called for, are—

If the project is to go ahead. Such a decision has not been taken, as the House is well aware. We shall do our best to ensure that all the British tenders are among the best tenders. That will ensure that the jobs will come to Britain if the project is to go ahead.

Is my hon. Friend aware that between the French and British systems there is an entirely different trend in planning procedures, and that on the British side there will be no planning inquiry? Does my hon. Friend not regard that as a defect in the arrangements, and how will the ordinary people in the street be able to express their view if it is to be only by private Bill procedure?

The Bill procedure in the House, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said when he made his statement on 2 April, would be by a Government Bill, which would be a hybrid Bill. That would cover the planning procedures necessary. However, we are giving full consideration to the most appropriate form of consultation if and when proposals satisfying all the requirements in the guidelines have been received from the promoters.