HC Deb 23 October 1950 vol 478 cc2462-4
7. Mr. Russell

asked the Minister of Transport if he will introduce amending legislation to confer on municipal boroughs and county district councils the right to lodge objections to passenger charges schemes.

Mr. Barnes

No, Sir. On the experience of the recent proceedings on the London Area Passenger Charges Scheme I consider that the scope for lodging objections is already sufficiently wide and that any extension would only lead to duplication and unnecessarily long proceedings.

Mr. Russell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a situation might arise in which a county council did not wish to object to a scheme but some of the municipal boroughs or district councils within the county did wish to do so? What happens then? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is a great deal of feeling among county district councils and municipal boroughs about this matter?

Mr. Barnes

I should think that there are plenty of other facilities which could be used in such a case, but if there was a sufficiently large body of opinion in any' area I should have thought that the county council ought to voice those views. I am unable to concede the point, but there should be other facilities and I will indicate to the hon. Member what they are.

19. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Minister of Transport whether, pending the publication of the charges scheme sent to his Department, he will consider an interim measure to ease the burden of high freight and passenger charges which bear very heavily on those living in areas remote from markets, and particularly in the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

Mr. Barnes

No, Sir. Any question of reducing the fares and rates to and from particular areas is one for the British Transport Commission and, in certain circumstances, for the Transport Tribunal.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is a long time for these parts of the country to wait for this charges scheme to come out and that, in the meantime, these freight and passenger charges are bearing heavily on life there? Is he aware that there is no measure that would help life in the remote areas of the country more than reduced and equitable freight and passenger charges?

Mr. Barnes

In view of the discussions which have taken place in this House, I think that the formidable character of the charges scheme is appreciated. As I have said, the Transport Commission hope to have their charges scheme, which will be of a more general character, ready by about the middle of next year.

Sir Ronald Ross

Does not the Ministry give the Commission a statement of policy on an important question like this?

Mr. Barnes

That is a matter for the Transport Tribunal, as laid down in the Transport Act.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Will the right hon. Gentleman break his unhappy rule of silence and send some specific directions on this matter to the Transport Tribunal?

Mr. Barnes

It is not a question of breaking an unhappy rule of silence. Parliament has laid down that matters of this kind should be determined on a scheme framed by the Transport Commission and settled by the Transport Tribunal. If I went back on the directions of Parliament, hon. Members would soon be singing another tune.

Sir David Robertson

Is it not the case that a responsibility is imposed on Parliament for the well-being of the people in these remote areas, and is it not time that the Minister took some steps to deal with this serious problem, since many businesses are closing because of the high burden of rail prices?