HC Deb 20 December 1961 vol 651 cc1346-7
26. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland which local authorities or other organisations he has consulted and intends to consult, before deciding the respective toll charges for the Forth Road Bridge.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

When the schedule of proposed toll charges is submitted to me by the Forth Road Bridge Joint Board, it will be published. All interested parties will have an opportunity to submit representations. If there are any objections which are not withdrawn, there is provision for the holding of a public inquiry.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the Secretary of State aware that many local authorities and many people in the east of Scotland are completely opposed to the principle of toll charges, and that many people in the east of Scotland, particularly in Fife, are very alarmed and disturbed at suggestions that the toll charges may equate the present ferry charges? Will he give an undertaking that these charges, if he must impose them, will be of a purely nominal character?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the principle of tolls was accepted in all the original arrangements and he will not expect me to go back on the discussion at that time. If he will read carefully what I said in my original Answer, he will see that the position is that there may be a public inquiry, and, therefore, I cannot commit myself in advance in these circumstances.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the Secretary of State aware that many authorities were prepared at that time to discuss the question of toll charges because of the pressure that had been put upon them to get the Forth Road Bridge started? Now that the bridge is nearing completion—I notice that the Secretary of State is giving an indication of horror, but the fact is that he sometimes brings pressure to bear on local authorities when he is consulting them. That is the reason why many accepted the indications of his office at that time—

Mr. Speaker

We have to stick to questions, and questions which do not constitute an argument.

Mr. Gourlay

May I finish my supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, by asking whether the Secretary of State would not reconsider his position this afternoon and give an undertaking that the charges will be clearly of a nominal character and not in line with the present ferry charges?

Mr. Maclay

I cannot add to what I have already said.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Can the Minister add a wee bit? Can he indicate that the charges will not be permanent but that there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when they will be eliminated?

Mr. Maclay

I am afraid that I cannot add even that wee bit.

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