HC Deb 01 December 1976 vol 921 cc911-2
34. Sir W. Elliott

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received regarding the Tyne and Wear Metro; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. William Rodgers

I have received many representations from right hon. and hon. Members, local authorities, industrial concerns, trade unions and members of the public, mostly in favour of the continuation of the project. These will be taken into account in making decisions about the future of Government grant assistance for it.

Sir. W. Elliott

Is the Minister aware of the concern felt on Tyneside about the possibility of the cancellation of the scheme, which is so important to the future integrated transport system of the region? Does he accept that the continued blacking by ASLEF—which he has rightly criticised—is deplorable? Will he do his best to encourage the continuation of the Metro scheme?

Mr. Rodgers

I am certainly very fully aware of how important the Metro is to Tyneside and I shall do my very best, within the limitations placed upon me, to help. I do not think that I should comment on an industrial dispute which at the moment looks as though it might be settled. I hope very much that it will be.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have news that the dispute has been settled? Will he accept from me and from all northern Members our great anxiety to see that the scheme goes forward?

Mr. Rodgers

Yes. My hon. Friend's good news is my good news as well. I am very aware of the representations that he and others have made, and I am now keeping my fingers crossed.

Mr. Fernyhough

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind when making his decisions that this construction is taking place in one of the areas with the highest unemployment rate in the United Kingdom, and that if it were cancelled the effect in raising unemployment in the area concerned would be almost catastrophic?

Mr. Rodgers

There are many factors to be taken into account, because it is an expensive project. We cannot ignore that at present. On the other hand, as my right hon. Friend says, the employment consequences of cancellation would be very considerable, not only directly on Tyneside and in the construction industry, but elsewhere, and account of this should be properly taken.