Eurotunnel says Dover MP's ferry views 'stir xenophobia'
- 28 February 2013
- From the section Kent
The boss of Eurotunnel has accused the Dover MP of "stirring xenophobic passion" over comments he made about cross-Channel ferry services.
Jacques Counon levelled the accusation at Charlie Elphicke after Eurotunnel bought three SeaFrance ships after the operator went into liquidation.
Mr Elphicke, Tory, said he was just trying to protect local jobs.
The Competition Commission has warned Eurotunnel its ownership of MyFerryLink may be anti-competitive.
The commission has suggested Eurotunnel, which now runs 16 ferry crossings a day, bought the boats to prevent Danish rival DFDS from picking them up cheaply and driving down prices.
'One sided view'
"The Competition Commission has effectively accused them of trying to raise prices for all travellers across the English Channel," said Mr Elphicke, who represents Dover and Deal.
"That sort of behaviour is unacceptable, unethical and irresponsible."
SeaFrance, which was owned by French state-owned rail firm SNCF, went into liquidation in November 2011. Eurotunnel bought three of its four ferries for £52m, last year.
In a letter to Mr Elphicke, Eurotunnel's chief executive Jacques Gounon, said: "I am astonished that an MP of Her Majesty's government would allow himself to take such a one-sided and limited view of developments in the cross-Channel market."
He said the purchase of the three ships from SeaFrance was "conducted in complete transparency".
'Creating ill feeling'
"Your description of Eurotunnel's approach as 'unacceptable, unethical and irresponsible' leads me to believe that you.., have taken a rather narrow, ill-informed and ferry centric view of life across the Channel," Mr Gounon wrote.
"Stirring up xenophobic passion and creating ill-feeling towards one of the largest employers in Kent... has no place in a free market economy."
Mr Elphicke said he was supporting local jobs and the ferry industry.
"Eurotunnel should be forced to move out of the ferry business and carry on running an excellent train line and tunnel that they do," he said.
The Competition Commission is expected to publish its report on the issue on 14 April.