Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-151)|
WEDNESDAY 10 JULY 2002
MP, and MR PETER
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
141. Do you interpret that as being a financial
(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
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 attractiveI
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.
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
147. Could you give evidence to the Committee
(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
(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
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.