HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc772-3
5. Mr. Corrie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what conclusions he has come to on island transport, having spoken to the delegation from the counties concerned; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Millan

I had a full and very useful exchange with the delegation on 16th July when I undertook to initiate a review of the present arrangements for the support of shipping services to the islands. The result of this review will be made public as soon as possible.

Mr. Corrie

I thank the hon. Gentleman on behalf of that delegation for the talk that he had with it, but may I point out that the numbers of day trippers have never been as small as they have been this year and that hotels and boarding houses have never had such a poor turnover? Many firms are stopping supplies to the islanders. Will the hon. Gentleman look further at this problem to see what can be done to subsidise fares and essential goods?

Mr. Millan

As I told the delegation, and as I have told the hon. Gentleman before, we want to consider whether the present arrangements are the best or whether they can be improved.

We are still suffering from the effects of the three-day working week on the tourist industry. That is the general problem, as the Scottish Tourist Board pointed out in its annual report, published two or three weeks ago.

Mr. Grimond

When the Minister is carrying out his review, will he bear in mind not only the increasing and extremely heavy burden of the freight, but the difficulties borne by many port authorities through delays in steel and rising costs. I have in mind in particular the important improvements at Lerwick and the roll-on/roll-off terminal at Stromness.

Mr. Millan

That is another question, but I am willing to look at that.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman referred to the three-day working week. Will he acknowledge that one of the greatest burdens that the Scottish tourist trade has to carry this summer is the massive increases in cost as a result of his right hon. Friend's Budget? In particular, what help has the increase in petrol costs given to the tourist industry?

Mr. Millan

The criticism that I mentioned was specifically drawn attention to by the Scottish Tourist Board in its annual report, which is why I mentioned it. I do not accept that my right hon. Friend's Budget, taken in conjunction with the other economic measures of the Government, has had the kind of effect stated by the hon. Gentleman on the tourist industry or any other industry.