§ 39. Mr. John Wells
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will now make a new statement about the cross-Channel fixed link.
§ Mr. Howard
asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether, in the light of the report by five British and French banks on financing a cross-Channel fixed link, he will now make a statement on the matter.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley
The Anglo-French banking group's report on finance for a fixed cross-Channel link has now been submitted to the French Minister of Transport and myself. Copies are being made available in English by the two British banks concerned, Midland and National Westminster. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library of the House of Commons.
The banking group formed itself in June 1982. The purpose of their report was to examine the scope for private sector finance for the Channel link.
The report is a substantial and detailed document, and the Government will need time to study it and assess wider reactions to it before reaching conclusions and having substantive discussions with the French Government. In studying the report I shall of course be in close touch with the French Minister.
Briefly, part I of the report concludes that of the various types of scheme proposed (bridges, tunnels and combined schemes) only a twin-bored rail tunnel with a vehicle shuttle service would be likely to attract adequate private financing. Part II analyses two possible financing methods for this option, but does not make a precise proposal on the best way to proceed. This would require consultation between potential investors and other interested parties. However both the financing methods suggested by the report would require some Government commercial guarantees.
It has been and remains the Government's firm position that any project would have to be financed entirely without the assistance of public funds and without commercial guarantees by the Government. So far we have seen no proposal which demonstrates that it can meet this condition. Nevertheless the Government remain willing to consider facilitating a fixed link, in collaboration with the French Government, provided that the necessary financial, technical and other aspects are satisfactorily dealt with. As well as meeting the condition already mentioned, before there could be any question of a firm commitment by the Government to facilitate the project, any fixed link scheme 381W would need to be supported by evidence that sufficient funds would be available to ensure completion: that proper account had been taken of maritime and structural safety requirements; and that attention had been given to the implications of the scheme for inland road and rail infrastructure capacity.
We shall now allow time for prospective promoters to consider this report and assess whether they can secure the financial backing necessary for a scheme to proceed without financial support from the Government.