§ The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos)
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development has made the following Written Statement
On 16 September 2003 [Official Report, col. 43 WS], I announced in a Written Statement to the House that four expressions of interest had been received to last April's international invitation for private sector participation and potential investment in possible development of access by air for St Helena. Since then, as anticipated in my Statement, a full assessment of the four proposals has been carried out with the help of expert advice from Atkins Management Consultants and in consultation with the St Helena Government
That assessment is complete. After very careful consideration, and taking account of the advice provided in December 2003 and February 2004 by Atkins Management Consultants, we have concluded that none of the four outline proposals offers a basis upon which we might negotiate air access for St Helena with DfID financial assistance as described in the invitation. The four respondents to the invitation have been informed. We have further decided, in the light of detailed scrutiny of the four proposals and subsequent analysis, to discontinue attempts to develop air access as part of a cross-linked package of private sector investment in which air access would be part-funded by proceeds from other private development. These decisions were based on our carefully considered conclusion that this approach presents unacceptable levels of risk and uncertainty to the St Helena and UK Governments.
Nevertheless, we understand that air access still remains the preferred option of the people of St Helena for maintaining physical links with the island after the present ship is withdrawn from service during or soon after 2010. We will work with the St Helena Government to explore ways of providing air access and the value for money of these against other options. The costs are likely to be substantial. We therefore will conduct full feasibility and other investigatory work, which will take account of all costs and long-term impacts in order to inform future decisions. The St Helena Government and DfID expect to be in a position to take these decisions later this year.
Meanwhile, St Helena has appointed its own local co-ordinator to assist in the process. We shall continue to ensure that, with her help, the people of St Helena and others are kept as fully informed as possible of progress.