HC Deb 26 March 1975 vol 889 cc473-4
16. Mr. Donald Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what decision he has made in response to the submissions of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in its study "Roads to the Isles".

Mr. Milian

I have considered the HIDB paper within the general context of the review of shipping services which I am conducting. I hope to announce the results of my review soon.

Mr. Stewart

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this is another attempt by an independent body to bring pressure to bear on the Scottish Office and the Government to ensure that the Western Isles and other islands of Scotland get a fair deal in transport? As the railways are heavily subsidised—very properly—throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, is it not time for urgent action to be taken on freight charges?

Mr. Milian

The subsidies to the Western Isles are disproportionate to the subsidies anywhere else. I do not complain about that. It is essential and desirable. I just wish that the hon. Gentleman who represents these areas would not continually pretend that they receive no subsidies at all. The subsidies are high, and the proposal by the Highlands and Islands Development Board would probably have the effect of trebling them from the already high figure. The Government's conclusions on the services will be announced soon.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Minister aware that compared with general transport subsidies, the subsidy for shipping in the Orkney and Shetland Islands is small and that we look forward with keenness to the result of the general review? In making that review, will he bear in mind the effect upon the islands of the increase in postal charges?

Mr. Millian

That is a different question. We all send letters, as well as the people who live in Orkney and Shetland. It is true that the subsidy for the shipping services of Orkney and Shetland is comparatively modest compared with that for the Western Isles, but large sums of money are being spent in the development of other services to Orkney and Shetland, including, for example, the air services, and a large sum is being spent on the development of the airport at Sumburgh.

Forward to