HC Deb 09 December 1970 vol 808 cc403-4
26. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from local authorities in the South-West of Scotland about the need to maintain the Stranraer-Euston boat train; what replies he has given; and if he will state the Government's policy towards continuing grant aid to this service beyond the summer of 1971.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

None, in recent months, Sir. The Government's policy in respect of grants to all non-paying passenger railway services is under review.

Mr. Sillars

Is the Minister aware that in a recent economic study of the South-West of Scotland this service was identified as being extremely important? Is he further aware of the deep feelings among all political parties and all responsible bodies in the South-West of Scotland that the retention of this boat train is essential in the long term if that area is to remain economically viable?

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me say that no representations from local authorities have been received on this matter in recent months. I hear what he says now. British Rail has said that it does not wish to operate the service as a commercial one, but it is at the moment considering whether to issue a closure notice. No decision has been made, and the Government are reviewing their own policy.

Mr. Brewis

Is my hon. Friend aware that at a former T.U.C.C. hearing a condition was laid down by the Minister of Transport that this train should continue to run? Does my hon. Friend intend to honour that condition?

Mr. Griffiths

The running of the train is a matter for British Rail. It has not so far decided whether to seek closure procedures, and the Government are reviewing their own grant aid policy.

Mr. Mulley

I understand that the Government are reviewing their unremunerative grants policy and have been doing so for a long time. Is not the Minister aware that on a great number of lines the grants will expire on 31st December? Will the hon. Gentleman make sure that we have a statement before the House rises next week on what will happen about the existing grants which expire on 31st December? We do not want a decision during the recess.

Mr. Griffiths

My right hon. Friend can only make such a statement when he has received all the necessary information from British Rail. Some of that information is still awaited. As soon as it is available, my right hon. Friend will make a statement.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable traffic between Larne and Stranraer and that the closure of the line will mean great hardship to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Griffiths

All these considerations will be taken into account before my right hon. Friend makes his statement.