HC Deb 03 February 1960 vol 616 cc975-7
32. Mr. Mellish

asked the Minister of Transport the policy of his Ministry regarding the reception of deputations from Scotland.

Mr. Marples

I am always ready—

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

On a point of order. Would the Minister answer Question No. 57 with this Question, which I think he would normally ask permission to do?

Mr. Marples

That Question has been phrased rather differently. I can understand the hon. Gentleman's reason for being concerned to have it answered with this one, but I am afraid I cannot answer it unless we reach it today.

I would say that I am always ready to receive deputations from Scotland and elsewhere, where this would be helpful.

Mr. MacMillan

I do not want to harry the Minister, because I think the incident was rather out of character. Nevertheless, there is strong feeling about it in Scotland. May I ask why, in the first place, a deputation of responsible people was encouraged by him to travel 1,200 miles to meet him in the House of Commons to discuss the closure of branch railway lines in Scotland, after which the Minister proceeded to drive out two Members of the House who were accredited members of the deputation, furthermore to insult the deputation by saying that, whatever they said, it was useless to come here and say it and that he had nothing to do with it, and finally—to quote words attributed to him by the members of that deputation—to threaten that he would "never again receive a deputation of bloody Scots"?

Mr. Marples

If I may answer the final part of the supplementary question first, I did not use that phrase and I am sure that some hon. Members have evidence that I did not. In any case, I would not dare do it, because I have to attend an annual reunion of the London Scots in my kilt. They tend to be very boisterous, although rather agreeable, affairs and if reprisals were to set in I might lose my dignity.

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, these people came at their own request. I tried to discourage them for this reason: they wanted to discuss the actual merits of closing down a branch line, but the legislation passed by Parliament gives me no power to do anything in the matter. Therefore, whatever they said to me I could not do anything but listen. I could not make a decision because it was not within my power so to do. But if by any chance they feel aggrieved, all I can say is that I am sorry about it.

Mr. Mellish

Whilst hoping that the first-class supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) will be credited to me, may I ask whether, on the occasion when he wears his kilt, he will reveal the famous "Marples Master Plan"?

Mr. Marples

I think that would be unwise in view of police regulations.