§ 22. Mr. Costain
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is his policy regarding recent EEC proposals for a privately-financed Channel Tunnel.
§ Mr. William Rodgers
As I told the hon. Gentleman on 9th March, if the EEC is making proposals about infrastructure it would be discourteous of us not to look at them. I am not aware, however, of any firm proposals of the kind that he mentions.
§ Mr. Costain
Is the Minister aware of the disruption that is taking place in the Folkestone area, especially among people who are trying to sell houses, because of the reincarnation of the idea of a Channel Tunnel? Will the Minister give an assurance that it cannot be built without the approval of this House?
§ Mr. Rodgers
Yes, I am certainly prepared to give that assurance, and to go further and make it absolutely clear that from the Government's point of view there has been no change since the statement made in the House two and half years ago by the then right hon. Member for Grimsby, Mr. Crosland.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is no such proposal as that indicated on the Order Paper and that it is not envisaged that there will be any privately-financed project, but rather one financed by the Community and the two Governments concerned? Will he confirm also that when he gave oral evidence before the relevant committee in Brussels he expressed approval of the principle of an EEC venture in this respect?
§ Mr. Rodgers
My hon. Friend is perhaps interpreting my words in a way that is not wholly appropriate. He is close to what is happening in the European Parliament and knows the movement of opinion there. What I have said is that if the Community were to move towards infrastructure funding of transport and one of the proposals made was the building of a Channel Tunnel, certainly that would be a matter that it would be very proper for the Government and for this House to consider. But no such pro- 1596 posals have been made in that form, and, for the reason that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) mentioned in his supplementary question, it would be quite wrong to hold out any prospect that the decision will be reversed in the foreseeable future.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
The right hon. Gentleman surely knows that there is a great moment coming at which European funds will become available. Will he respond a little more favourably, therefore, to his hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton)? If these funds are available, would it not be wrong to look at them coldly and to reject this possibility, which may not recur?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I hope that I have not suggested that any proposal would not be looked at with warmth and carefully, but on these matters a lot of confusion can occur in the public mind and a lot of difficulties arise if people assume that the decisions of two and a half years ago will not stand. They will stand. This is not to say that any proposals for funding should not be considered, and it is not to say that one day a Channel Tunnel will not be built. We do not know. We can only speculate. But the Government's position remains unchanged.