HC Deb 19 June 1974 vol 875 cc462-3
9. Mr. Ancram

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the rise in the cost of living in rural areas in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. William Ross

I have received no representations relating to rural areas as such.

Mr. Ancram

Will the right hon. Gentleman reject the complacent approach taken up by his hon. Friend the Minister of State regarding the effect of the increased taxation of fuel? Will he accept that it is not just a matter of rich people driving cars? They seem to be the Government's main target. Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that people need to use cars to get to work and to go shopping, and that the policy of imposing VAT on petrol—which he can not blame on the previous administration—has had a disastrous effect in rural areas? Will he accept his responsibility towards all the people of Scotland and not just towards those whom he thinks support him?

Mr. Ross

I do not think that that last comment was worthy of the hon. Gentleman. It is not justified by the many actions which we have taken. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that a subsidy of 50 per cent. is paid by the Government on rural bus services. That subsidy amounts to approximately £1 million a year and arises from Labour legislation. The hon. Gentleman should know—I realise that he was not a member of the previous Parliament—that the economic situation was so appalling that something had to be done about it.

Sir John Gilmour

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the size of the buses that are used for rural services? It seems that bus operators continue to use enormous buses which half the time are half full. Possibly something could be done through capital grants to get the right size of bus on to the rural roads. That might help rural transport.

Mr. Ross

I shall pass on that suggestion to those concerned.

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