HC Deb 03 May 1972 vol 836 cc378-9
18. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will issue a directive to the Scottish Bus Group to provide the relevant information to the several local authorities in Fife from which the group has requested financial support for uneconomic routes.

Mr. Younger

My right hon. Friend can give the group only general directions on matters affecting the national interest, and he does not consider that this is such a matter. However, I understand that the Bus Group has already supplied full information about costs and revenue on all the services for which it is seeking a subsidy.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a most disappointing reply? Is he further aware that the bus company has still not answered the queries of the local authorities which are extremely dissatisfied with the company's refusal? Is he also aware that the authorities are somewhat concerned about the company's operating costs which obviously have an effect on the running of services in view of the introduction of a productivity scheme costing something in the region of £60,000 without apparently producing any increased productivity? Will he make an effort to consider the bus company's finances and thus safeguard the position of the local authorities?

Mr. Younger

Most of these matters concerning the Bus Group are really for the internal operation of the group. I am told that it has supplied to the county council full information about revenue and costs on the routes for which it has asked for a subsidy. If it has not done so perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me know and I will see that the county council gets whatever it needs.

Mr. David Steel

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the system laid down by the previous Government in the Transport Act for serving unremunerative routes is quite unworkable and that it is high time we had a national system of subvention to those areas which require help in running unremunerative services, if necessary from the savings the Government have made in closing railway lines?

Mr. Younger

I am not sure I would agree that the system has been unworkable. Where a local authority decides to support a route there is a 50 per cent. Government grant for it and the remainder of the cost can come in for rate support grant. That is a reasonable basis upon which local authorities can support bus routes in their areas.