§ 23. Mr. Ernest Davies
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission and the report on the reassessment of its modernisation programme will be published.
§ 36. Mr. Strauss
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has yet studied the reassessment of the financial prospects of the railways announced by the Chairman of the British Transport Commission.
§ Mr. Nugent
The Report and Accounts will be published towards the end of this month. We have not yet received the Commission's reappraisal of the railways' modernisation plan and financial prospects, but I understand it should be ready in the next few weeks.
§ Mr. Davies
Can the Minister state what form the report and reappraisal will take? Will it also contain the Government's views, as was the case when the proposals with regard to the railways were presented to the House? Further, can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that there will be an opportunity for debate before any final decisions are taken, following the publication of the reappraisal, in view of the possibility of further cuts in services?
§ Mr. Nugent
We have not yet seen the reappraisal, so I am not able to say in what form it will be published. I cannot say more today than that it will be published as soon as possible, in order to meet the convenience of the House. As for the second part of the supplementary question, I have taken note of the point that the House would wish to have a chance to debate the report—I assume it would like to do so before we rise for the Summer Recess—and we will endeavour to meet that timetable.
§ Mr. Strauss
In view of the obvious undesirability of frequent changes in the modernisation programme, can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that there is no truth in the categorical statement 986 in the Sunday Times that it is the Government's intention now to rephase that programme, and also the categorical statement in that newspaper that the Government propose to carry out an overall slimming process in the railway organisation, and to sell off the more profitable activities of the Commission to private interests?
§ Mr. Nugent
At the present time we are not contemplating any of those steps. Naturally we wish to see the Commission's reappraisal before forming any view of what should be done further in regard to the existing modernisation plan.