50 and 51. Dr. MURRAY
asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he is aware that the mail services to the Inverness-shire portion of the Outer Hebrides have been reduced to one-third of their pre-war frequency; that the population of these islands depend almost entirely upon transport by the mail boat for their food supplies and for marketing their produce from land and sea; whether, in order to prevent the economic ruin of these islands, the Government, through the various Departments concerned, will take immediate steps to restore the steamer services to their pre-war state:
(2) whether he has received communications from public bodies in Stornoway and Lewis protesting against the recent reduction of the steamer mail services to one-half what there have been for over thirty years; whether he is aware of the injury which this step is certain to cause to the economic life of the Island of Lewis, with its populaton of 30,000; whether he is aware that the island is dependent for over 75 per cent. of its food supply and for all its passenger traffic upon transport by the mail steamer, and that the food supply of the people is thus seriously imperilled; and whether the Government will take immediate steps, through the various Departments concerned, to restore these services to their pre-war level?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Baldwin)
The mail boat services for the winter months have been fixed at three calls a week for Stornaway and two calls a week for the Inverness-shire portion of the Outer Hebrides. These services, though less frequent than those enjoyed before the War, are nevertheless, only being maintained with the aid 574 of a heavy Exchequer subsidy. It has, however, been represented to me that the great reduction of frequency and the awkwardness of present connections in the case of the service to the Inverness-shire portion of the Outer Hebrides causes considerable hardship, and after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland I am giving directions for the restoration, in the case of these islands, of the service temporarily adopted in September last.
While thanking the hon. Gentleman for his concession, may ask if he is aware that the question of a daily service is a matter practically of life and death to Stornoway and Lewis, that during the War the Transport Committee appointed by the Secretary for Scotland reported that there was a serious shortage of the necessaries of life, and having in view the fact that there are —