HC Deb 10 April 1968 vol 762 cc1367-8
38. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the need for further industrial development in Fife and the east of Scotland generally, he will take steps to prevent any increase in toll charges on the Forth Road Bridge.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

In the review of the finances of the Bridge which my right hon. Friend is making in consultation with the Joint Board he is taking fully into account the needs of economic development, as well as all the other relevant factors.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon Friend recognise that, although we appreciate the difficulties of the bridge finances, it is nevertheless imperative that the economic development of Fife and the whole of East Scotland should go ahead on the basis set by this Government and that nothing should be done to impede that progress, as I fear an increase in tolls would do?

Dr. Mabon

I accept my hon. Friend's basic point, although I would not accept that any increase in toll would necessarily have that effect. However, I will give an absolute assurance that the need for economic development is a very pertinent factor in this exercise.

Sir J. Gilmour

Is it not a fact that the private motorist is bearing a very unfair burden of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, compared with commercial vehicles?

Dr. Mabon

In that case, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman directs his complaint to those who formed this financial arrangement and imposed these prices. They are not on our benches. I should not like to prejudice the present discussions with the Joint Board.

Mr. Noble

I do not accept that this was imposed by us. The suggestion came from the Road Bridge Board, which was a very different thing. But does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the advent of this bridge has made an enormous difference to the development of Fife, and that we are all extremely grateful for it?

Dr. Mabon

The answer to the two questions is, "Yes, Sir". As to the underlying point about responsibility, the Government of the day promoted the Forth Road Bridge Order and must accept the responsibility for the financial arrangements which are now proving so embarrassing.