HC Deb 20 January 1971 vol 809 cc1056-7
28. Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations have been made to him, in the light of the rapid breakdown of rural transport services, to provide alternative transport services in co-operation with the General Post Office.

The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)

Without accepting all the implications of the Question, I can say that I have received a number of general representations on this subject.

Mr. Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Post Office make at least one collection per day from most of the rural areas which are at the moment without any form of public transport? Would he not, in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, carry out an investigation into the possibility of having a combined postal/transport service for these areas, on similar lines to those which operate so successfully in other countries and in some parts of this country?

Mr. Peyton

Yes, Sir. I understand the anxieties that lie behind the Question. Discussions of the kind to which my hon. Friend referred are taking place between my Department and the Post Office.

Mr. Cant

Would the hon. Gentleman not persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that the only adequate solution to this problem is to publish a White Paper enshrining the proposals of the Maud Commission on Local Government so that the city regions of this country could introduce a systematic solution to the problem of rural transport?

Mr. Peyton

The hon. Gentleman is a good deal more trusting in the efficacy of White Papers than I am.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is the Minister aware that, in fact, rural bus services have already broken down and that in Dorset there will be an estimated loss of £300,000 in the coming year, that services have been withdrawn on a wholesale scale and fares have been raised to a degree which cannot be paid by low-income earners? Would he treat this as a matter of great urgency?

Mr. Peyton

I assure my hon. Friend that I am in no way ignoring the gravity of this problem. He referred to its particular impact on Dorset. I assure him that Somerset is going through the same experience. But underlying it is the fact that the operation of buses, particularly in country areas, recently has become very unprofitable.

Mr. Armstrong

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are many people in rural areas who are still dependent on public transport? Would he take the initiative, following his circular, by calling together local authorities and bus companies so that the position could be examined and some relief given to this desperate problem?

Mr. Peyton

I assure the House and the hon. Gentleman that the matter is being thoroughly examined, but I should be deceiving the House if I were to suggest that there was some hope of a very easy and painless solution to be obtained by merely calling people together.