HC Deb 18 March 1964 vol 691 cc1350-1
2. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many objections have been lodged against the proposal of the Forth Road Bridge Joint Board for a uniform toll charge of 2s. 6d. per vehicle; and if he will make a statement about the need for a public inquiry.

Mr. G. Campbell

Two objections have been lodged so far; and five letters have been received containing comments on the proposed toll schedule. Objections can, however, be submitted until 20th March, and my right hon. Friend cannot yet say whether a public inquiry will be necessary.

Mr. Gourlay

Since it is the Government's intention to impose tolls, and if it is the Secretary of State's intention not to accept the recommendation of the Joint Board to impose a 2s. 6d. flat toll, will the hon. Gentleman say whether the Secretary of State's decision will be made before the General Election?

Mr. Campbell

The Secretary of State would hope to make his decision as soon as possible after the period for objections has come to an end.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Are the objectors asking for increased tolls or for the abolition of tolls?

Mr. Campbell

The objectors are against the principle of tolls and not against the rate proposed by the Joint Board or any other rate.

Sir J. Gilmour

Could my right hon. Friend circulate information about what the savings will be with the proposed 2s. 6d. toll compared with the ferry?

Mr. Campbell

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be perfectly prepared to consider that.

30. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will set up a committee of inquiry into Forth Road Bridge tolls.

Mr. G. Campbell

No, Sir. When the closing date for objections to the proposed toll schedule is reached on 20th March, my right hon. Friend will consider whether there is any need for a public inquiry under the Forth Road Bridge Order.

Dr. Thompson

At the risk of being repetitive—but one has to repeat things to make the Government understand—may I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that the majority of Scottish people are opposed to this method of imposing tolls on the Forth Road Bridge? They regard it as an obsolete and inefficient way of financing the road. It imposes delays on transport and burdens on motorists who are already heavily taxed, and adds an extra burden to industry. Only recently 10,000 motorists in Scotland signed a petition objecting to it. Will the hon. Gentleman tell his right hon. Friend that if he wants to go out of office in a blaze of glory he should, before the General Election, as a final courageous gesture, abolish this toll and let road transport flow as freely across the Forth Road Bridge as it does along the M.1?

Mr. Campbell

I could not accept the hon. Gentleman's comments. As one of my hon. Friends pointed out on an earlier supplementary question, on the toll proposed the motorist will pay considerably less than he now pays on the ferry or in buying petrol to drive round.