HC Deb 21 November 1956 vol 560 cc1740-1
33. Mrs. Braddock

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, in view of the need to restrict the use of petrol and oil, what consultation he has had with the Liverpool Overhead Railway Company regarding the need to keep the railway running after 30th December, 1956, in the national interest.

Mr. Watkinson

None, Sir. As the hon. Lady knows, I have always regarded the question of the possible continuance of this railway as a local issue and, looking at it again, as I promised, in the light of the need for economy in petrol and oil, I still think that any further consideration of the position must be left to the local interests.

Mrs. Braddock

Is not the Minister aware that the conferences which were held with the local authorities proved that the local authorities could not deal with the situation? In view of the fact that buses will have to be put on the road almost immediately this railway closes, or before the railway closes on 30th December, and that this will very greatly increase the amount of petrol and oil being used, can something not be done by his Department in the national interest to deal with the situation in some similar way as it dealt with it during the war?

Mr. Watkinson

Yes, but as the hon. Lady will agree, my Ministry did bring all the parties together in an attempt to get an agreed solution of what is a very difficult but a local problem. If we were asked to help again, I do not say we should not do so; but the initiative must come from the local authority, not from me.

Mr. Page

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is the only matter on which I am ever likely to be in agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool? Perhaps if nothing else will soften his heart in this matter, that fact will. Will he not therefore please look at the matter again?

Mr. Ernest Davies

Does the Minister not agree that there is an overwhelming case for keeping this railway open in view of the present emergency as regards petrol and oil supplies? Does he not agree that this is, as has been said, no longer a local issue but a national issue, and will he not take the initiative in calling a conference with those concerned to see whether it could be kept open temporarily?

Mr. Watkinson

No. If there is any demand locally for my Ministry to help, it is clearly known that it will help as it did before; but further than that I do not think I should go.

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