HC Deb 02 July 1998 vol 315 c236W
Shona McIsaac

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when decisions will be reached on the treatment of the debts of the Humber Bridge. [49132]

Dr. Strang

A new loan agreement between the Secretary of State and the Humber Bridge Board has been signed. In accordance with that agreement, and with effect from 1 April this year, some £62m of debts owed by the Board to the Public Works Loan Board will be written off and interest payments due on debts of £359m owed to the Secretary of State for Transport will initially be reduced to about a fifth of what they would otherwise have been.

The agreement provides that fixed rate interest charges will be broadly aligned with current rates and that, initially, interest charges on £240m of the debt will be suspended. Over the next 16 years suspended debt will be reactivated by instalments starting with the sum of £1lm in the next financial year and, in succeeding years, by additional amounts increased by 4 per cent. per annum. All the debt owed to the Secretary of State is to be repaid within the next 40 years.

These arrangements are to be implemented, with the approval of Parliament, through an Order under the Humber Bridge (Debts) Act 1996 which I will lay before Parliament shortly. They should not result in any increase in the real value of the tolls charged at the Humber Bridge. But they should provide the solution to the problem of the unrealistic escalation of the Humber Bridge debt that has long been promised.