HC Deb 02 May 1974 vol 872 cc1308-10
14. Mr. Wigley

asked the chancellor of the Exchequer if he will propose reducing the cost of a road fund licence for persons resident in areas where public transport services are inadequate.

Mr. Dell

No, Sir.

Mr. Wigley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many rural areas in Wales a car is a necessity of life, as opposed to a luxury? In some counties the number of private cars per 1,000 population is as much as 50 per cent. higher than the average for the United Kingdom, and in those areas personal income averages are 30 per cent. lower. With the increase in the price of petrol being aggravated by the imposition of VAT, a serious problem faces these people.

Mr. Dell

I accept that in many areas in rural Wales and elsewhere the car is a necessity, but it would not be possible to police the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. It would be easy to evade, particularly, for example, by people with second homes, and I am sure that that is a practice which the hon. Gentleman would not wish to encourage.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Would it not be more logical to subsidise the public transport service in order to make it adequate?

Mr. Dell

Improvement in the public transport system is an important aspect of this problem, but that is a question for the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales.

Mr. Pardoe

Does the Minister recognise that the circumstances which the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) has described as applying to Wales are exactly similar to those in Cornwall? Rather than give a tax concession, has not the time come to give serious consideration to converting the regional employment premium into a getting-to-work grant in rural development areas?

Mr. Dell

The hon. Gentleman will be glad that we are continuing the regional employment premium and, no doubt, that we are considering its future and any improvements which we should make to it.

Mr. Farr

Is the Minister aware of the point behind the Question? The point which the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) has tried to make is that many areas in the countryside have no public transport at all, and that people in these remote areas—often as many as 3,000 people—who have no public transport are at their wits end with the imposi- tion of VAT on petrol and other increases which they have to bear. The Minister must recognise this problem.

Mr. Dell

Certainly I recognise the problem. I am aware of what is behind the Question, but I do not think that what is suggested in the way to solve the problem.