§ 3.0 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have reached a decision on the principle of a "fixed Channel link"; whether they will make a statement on the conclusions and recommendations of the Cmnd. Paper 2137 and give a declaration of intent, now that they have had an opportunity of studying the Report and of considering the views of interested organisations, and in view of the consultation which took place early in December in London between the British and French Ministers of Transport.]
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have not yet finished their study of the Joint Report of British and French officials, and of the implications for this country of a fixed Channel link. When my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport met his French colleague in December, they exchanged views on matters of common interest, including the Channel crossing. It was not their purpose to reach positive decisions on that occasion, but my right honourable friend hopes soon to be ready for further exchange of views with the French Government, with a view to a joint announcement of policy.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Will he not agree that in effect the British Minister of Transport is lagging behind his French colleague in making up his mind? Secondly, could I ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would not give greater and more prompt consideration to the views of such eminent trade and industrial organisations as the Federation of British Industries, the National Association of British Manufacturers and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, who are strongly in favour of a fixed link and feel that approval of such a project should be given without further delay?
My Lords, in answer to the first of my noble friend's supplementaries, I would say only that he must appreciate, as I am sure everyone else does, the complexity and vastness of this problem. My right honourable friend is only too anxious to come to the right conclusion, and this is bound to take a certain amount of time. With regard to my noble friend's second supplementary question, all the interests he has mentioned, and a number of others, are being taken into account when trying to arrive at this decision, and possibly that may be the reason for its not being arrived at quite as quickly as he might wish.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, is it possible for my noble friend to give an assurance at this stage that the proposal for a bridge, with its many accompanying hazards, and at more than double the cost of a tunnel, has been finally disposed of and interred at such a depth as to render it impossible for any exhumation to be carried out in the future?
My Lords, I take the point of my noble friend, but I cannot go with him all the way that he might wish. The only thing I would say is that bridges are not usually interred, but tunnels are.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, while not wishing to imply who is behind whom, is it not a fact that there have been no consultations between Her Majesty's Government and the local authorities likely to be affected, and, therefore, if there is to be any effective planning in regard to it, ought not negotiations to take place both with the Kent County Council and with other local authorities?
My Lords, the decision that Her Majesty's Government are trying to arrive at is a decision in principle, and all forms of advice that have been received are being considered.