HC Deb 24 July 1974 vol 877 cc1591-3
23. Mr. Trotter

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to amend Section 20 of the Transport Act 1968 so as to remove the rate burden on areas with passenger transport executives in relation to local railway services.

Mr. Mulley

No, Sir.

Mr. Trotter

May I suggest to the Minister that it is unfair to continue with a situation where the metropolitan counties are contributing from their rates under statute for their local rail services when non-metropolitan counties do not have to meet that burden? May I also suggest that if he still feels that it is necessary—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must ask, not suggest.

Mr. Trotter

May I ask the Minister whether he agrees that it is unfair? May I also ask whether he agrees that the section requires amendment so that the marginal costs of these rail services are taken into account in the local rate burden rather than that we should still have the arbitrary system of allocation of costs which is being discarded for the rest of the railway system, I believe largely so as to bring us in line with the EEC directive No. 11/91?

Mr. Mulley

I think I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman on the last point. Renegotations between the PTEs and the Railways Board are in prospect because the Cooper formula, which was hitherto the standard, will no longer be used by the Government for grants if the Bill becomes law on 1st January next. We are looking into that aspect.

There is no reason why the metropolitan counties should not make a contribution which is assessable for transport supplementary grant for rail services if, as I understand, they use them as part of their total transport pattern, particularly for travel-to-work journeys. In the non-metropolitan counties it is not usually possible to use rail services to the same extent. But under Section 203 of the Local Government Act 1972 non-metropolitan counties can, if they wish, make arrangements similar to those of the metropolitan counties.

Mr. Cryer

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will examine the relative costs of railway schemes as opposed to road schemes within the areas of passenger transport executives where, for example, motorway schemes are put forward? Will he also assure the House that he will examine the viability of existing railway schemes to bear the traffic burden within areas like the Aire Valley?

Mr. Mulley

In the first instance it is for local authorities to form their own views on what is most appropriate for their areas. But these matters will come to us when the transport policy and programme is considered later this year.

Mr. Rossi

In view of the horrifying losses recently announced by the GLC in the running of London Transport services, may I ask the Minister whether he will give any help to relieve the rate burden there?

Mr. Mulley

It is open to the GLC, as to other county authorities, to include support for public transport among the items that it puts in its transport policy and programme. But as I am advised, I confess mainly from the Press, as to the size of this, I do not think it will be possible to accommodate it in what is likely to be available for TPPs. It is a matter for the local authority to determine its transport priorities, and in accordance with the money available we shall do what we can to accommodate those priorities.

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