Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-151)



  140. They are quite clear about that?
  (Mr Spellar) Yes. If I can read the joint communique from the Home Secretary and the French Interior Minister issued on 25 June, they talked there about increased security at Fréthun, including best endeavours for the double fence to be completed by 31 July. They talked about financial participation by the UK Strategic Rail Authority enabling speedier completion of these works.

  141. Do you interpret that as being a financial involvement?
  (Mr Spellar) Part of that was the installation of British personnel detection technology at the port of Calais.

  142. Have you been consulted about a timetable for that installation?
  (Mr Spellar) They are endeavouring to do that by the end of July. Discussions are taking place on that. Provision of the latest forgery detection technology by the UK in order to detect false identity documents in France is a separate issue. This is to do with the passenger systems. As you know, the French government changed French legislation to enable operations to take place in the station in Paris. Also, we have been doing work for the coach operators at Calais, which is another area of concern.

  143. As far as you are concerned, would you say that you are quite satisfied that you and the French have now arrived at a common position about a timetable for not only improving the security at Fréthun but continuing to make sure that the depot cannot be used by clandestine immigrants?
  (Mr Spellar) We certainly believe that the improvement to the physical arrangements coupled with a reinforced police presence should make this a much less attractive proposition for the clandestines.

  144. Would you be surprised to learn that His Excellency the French Ambassador gave us the impression that it was only if the British government who were outside the Schengen Agreement were prepared to make Britain less attractive—I think he said rather neatly that we have an "attractivity" and that was the reason why we got so many immigrants, but he implied that it was only if the British government was prepared to do something about that that they would be able to deal with the problem of clandestine immigrants.
  (Mr Spellar) He may have been saying that in general terms because one of the issues that we are facing and are fully aware of is that, as we have seen with the improved security at the Eurotunnel terminal, it meant that the focus of activity moved to the freight terminal. There would then be a concern that we would have to look at the freight terminal at Lille once we get better security at Fréthun and indeed yesterday, in my discussions with the Italian Transport Minister, I was focusing their attention on the fact that the focus of activity might shift to depots further afield. Mr Thomas was talking about containers. We have seen clandestines previously entering containers in Italy to come through France. I see this as an important battle in the war that we are conducting against clandestine migration, but it by no means finally resolves the problem. We have seen the shift of emphasis particularly being well directed by the organised criminal organisations that are moving these people around.

Miss McIntosh

  145. The tax payer slots that we fund in this country: I put it to you that they may not be empty slots but they may be being used by SNCF.
  (Mr Spellar) I beg your pardon?

  146. I am relating to Mr Grayling's question.
  (Mr Spellar) These are trains going through the Channel Tunnel for which there is a minimum user charge. The concern is that the trains coming through the Channel Tunnel have had a sizeable reduction in their number. It is absolutely right that we have that concern.

  147. Could you give evidence to the Committee in writing?
  (Mr Spellar) We can send you a note on this, yes.

  148. As to the number of slots being used by SNCF and by EWS since November last year?
  (Mr Spellar) It is a joint service between SNCF and EWS, but we will send you a note on it. There is not a distinction.


  149. How hopeful are you that EWS will be able to get back some kind of viable commercial service before the autumn?
  (Mr Spellar) I certainly hope that, with the improved physical security coupled with improved police presence, this will reduce the problem and enable the services to be resumed and therefore will provide the predictability and reliability that the freight operators are looking for in order to enable them to be fulfilling their contractual requirements. I fully understand the difficulties that EWS and the freight operators will have in the short run in recapturing the market and we will need to be working with them to that end.

  150. Had you thought of financial incentives?
  (Mr Spellar) They may have been in some discussions with the Strategic Rail Authority but I am not sure of the details on that.

  151. Do you expect to come back here in October and speak to our successor committee about the same problem?
  (Mr Spellar) That depends on the successor committee.

  Chairman: I can assure you that you will always be welcome. Thank you very much, Minister. You have been very helpful, as always.

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