HC Deb 20 January 1965 vol 705 cc169-71
1. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Transport on how many Railways Board proposals for the closing of lines, which have come to him from the Transport Users' Consultative Committees, he has now reached a decision.

15. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Minister of Transport how many closure proposals made to him by the Railways Board he has refused to allow to proceed in accordance with his recent statement.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Tom Fraser)

I have refused my consent to four proposals (including one station proposal) on which Transport Users Consultative Committees have reported on hardship, and I have given my consent to four others. I have not so far asked the Board to defer publication of any proposals.

Mr. Digby

Will the right hon. Gentleman do all he can to speed up these decisions? Does he know that this type of uncertainty is very inconvenient for members of the public and for the Railways Board, which has to plan ahead whatever the decision is in each case?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, I will speed up the decisions in these matters. We changed the procedure soon after the change of Government, and inevitably there was some initial delay, but I would like the procedure to be speeded.

Mr. Galbraith

The right hon. Gentleman said that so far he has not asked the Railways Board to defer any closures. Can he tell the House how he is to determine whether to ask the Board to defer such action?

Mr. Fraser

I thought that I had explained this at great length on earlier occasions.

Mr. Galbraith

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has. As far as I can see, he is to make up his mind without knowing whether any hardship is involved. He can discover whether hardship is involved only by taking it through the T.U.C.C.s., so that he will make up his mind without knowing all the facts.

Sir D. Renton

Does the right hon. Gentleman's Answer mean that he is allowing the procedure laid down by his predecessor to take its course and that in implementing the policy he will be doing so without significant change?

Mr. Fraser

No. I said on 4th November that, apart from these proposals, which I asked the Board to defer under the earlier procedure, the normal procedure would be gone through. I made this absolutely clear. From the announcement I made on my decisions, the House will already be aware that there is some difference between the test I apply and that applied by my predecessor.

Mr. Powell

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall that, according to an Answer he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) recently, there are no fewer than 69 outstanding proposals before him which have been through the T.U.C.C.s and that at the present rate it will take him more than two years to deal with these? Will he try to expedite these matters?

Mr. Fraser

It will not take me more than two years to deal with them. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that it took a very long time after the T.U.C.C.s had reported to his right hon. Friend, my predecessor, before his right hon. Friend was able to reach a decision.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Two months.

Mr. Fraser

It took very much longer. It is desirable, and I think the wish of the House, that I give these matters due consideration and have appropriate consultation, where need be, with the Railways Board.

19. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Transport on what date he received the letter, dated 18th November, 1964, from the National Council on Inland Transport, asking him to vary the closure date of railways in and near the city and county of Aberdeen; and what reply he has sent to it.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

If my hon. and learned Friend is referring to the circular letter he forwarded to my right hon. Friend, it was received on 20th November. The letter asked him to make representations to my right hon. Friend about the adequacy of the alternative services on the Aberdeen to Inverurie line, and about the retention of the tracks. We have explained to the hon. Member that the track will be retained for through passenger services, and that if there is any concrete evidence of the inadequacy of the alternative services we should be glad to see it.

Mr. Hughes

Does my hon. Friend realise that the matter referred to in the Question is of very great importance to a wide area in which there is a great variety of industries, of which the city of Aberdeen is the centre? Will he pay close attention to the matter in order to prevent the unemployment which will ensue if communications are not adequate to the industries concerned?

Mr. Swingler

We appreciate the problems referred to by my hon. and learned Friend. I can only say that if he will supply us with concrete evidence about the inadequacy of the services which have been substituted for the railways we will certainly examine it, and if it involves varying the conditions that were attached, my right hon. Friend is prepared to do that.

Back to