Opinion

Channel Tunnel chaos shows how tax paid support systems "absolutely fail" to deliver

4 min read

30 July 2015

Home secretary Theresa May has called for urgent changes amid the ongoing Channel Tunnel crisis. However, with little actually being done to sway the situation, Jan Cavelle questions whether the government has created a stable environment for businesses to grow in.

Despite producing most of its furniture in the UK, the Jan Cavelle Furniture Company still relies on imported goods. These are currently stuck in some huge container outside Calais and therefore holding up the business in Suffolk.

Yet undoubtedly we are lucky. I look at Operation Stack being carried out by the local police and think about how many businesses must be suffering. I look at the pretty countryside of Kent, distorted into one massive lorry park, and feel for the residents.

It is easy to forget that at the centre of this crisis is a business: The Channel Tunnel operators themselves. As a customer, I never fail to be impressed by the speed and efficiency and courteous, helpful attitude of the employees. Comparisons to other travel industries are surprisingly favourable.

So there we have it – a good business, delivering a good service, happily going forward at one moment and then struck by disaster in the form of civil unrest. As any business does when faced with law breakers, it turns to the police to support it in its hour of need.     

This applies to both sides of the Channel, though the French also have unions to contend with – extremist members who have leapt on this particular bandwagon by holding wild cat strikes. This has added to the queues of lorries developing on the Calais side, and increased the chances of company owners unpacking a little more than they reckoned for with their imported goods.

Whatever the cause, your tax paying company is entitled to think that in a crisis they can turn to the authorities for support and protection. Small wonder that the Tunnel operators are turning in anger on both British and French governments. The French are trying to blame the company for not doing enough themselves – despite Eurotunnel having prevented 37,000 security breaches at Calais in 2015 alone. 

Kent police, and indeed Theresa May herself, are strangely reluctant to comment on how many immigrants are getting through. It is estimated that around 150 make it through each night. May might have chaired an emergency Cobra meeting yesterday but as yet only words have come out of it. 

What is worrying is that this is a very clear statement that when faced with any form of anarchy, our tax paid support systems absolutely fail to deliver. Given my own experiences of the support offered to businesses on an everyday level by the police, this comes as little surprise. The reality is that unless you are able to offer a situation that gives them a guaranteed conviction, they are unlikely to do anything to help. Another case where accountability figures have caused lower delivery – reminisce of our education system. The police does not have the manpower to spare unless it can be sure of a result.

There are calls to bring in the Army. I would question why Theresa May is hesitating. If the police cannot cope – and it is clear they cannot – businesses and individuals in this country are entitled to proper, effective support when they are threatened by law breakers, be they unions, immigrants or other individuals. If we are to deliver a stable economy, the government has to provide a stable and safe place for businesses and individuals to live in.