§ 20. Mr. Fairgrieve
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to alleviate the hardships being inflicted upon those living in rural areas of Scotland owing to a combination of strikes in the public sector and the increase in petrol prices.
§ Mr. Millan
The bus employers have made the offer of a substantial increase and there has already been a return to work in many areas. To those still on strike against the advice of their union I repeat the appeal my right hon. Friend made on 29th November for them to return to work. The Government exercise influence over petrol prices principally through taxation and Questions on this subject are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Fairgrieve
Does the Minister of State agree that during the present wave of industrial separatism in Scotland the suggestion was posed in February—and evaded in October—that only those with strong organisations behind them who take militant action get anywhere and that those who settle and keep their bargains are suckers?
§ Mr. Sillars
Is my hon. Friend aware that part of the problem of low-paid people like bus drivers is that in the past when they were non-militant no one ever bothered about them or their living standards? One of the reasons that people like that are out at the present time—I am not endorsing their unofficial action against the trade union—is that their past history has clearly indicated that the only way in which they will get attention and money is to hit the street.
§ Mr. Millan
I do not agree with my hon. Friend either. The union concerned has advised the strikers to return to work and I would endorse that advice.
§ Mr. Younger
Does the Minister of State agree that in many rural areas there is virtually no public transport and that though the higher price of petrol may be understood elsewhere, to the people of these areas it represents a vicious extra tax on their daily budget? Will the hon. Gentleman support a scheme that I have proposed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whereby coupons could be issued to specific priority categories in rural areas, so that people in them could buy petrol at lower prices?
§ Mr. Millan
The hon. Member's last point is basically a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As I think I said earlier, the principal source of support for rural bus services should be the local authorities, which are in a better position than central Government to determine the need for the services in the area. Anything that is done there in its turn attracts a central Government grant.