HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1772-3
4. Sir John Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he remains satisfied that the bus services in rural areas of Scotland are satisfactory and adequate for the needs of those not possessing or allowed to drive motor cars.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

It is for the regional and islands councils to see that bus services in their areas are adequate. Government support is made available through rate support grant.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a real difficulty in subsidising railway services, whose cost falls entirely on the Exchequer, as opposed to subsidising bus fares, whose cost is shared by the local authority, and that this has the effect of subsidising city commuters rather than country dwellers? Does he think that that is an equitable arrangement?

Mr. Ewing

I do not think that that is an accurate presentation of the picture. In our view, adequate resources were made available within the rate support grant settlements in the last few years to meet the requirements of the bus operators for subsidies on these uneconomic routes. It is entirely a matter for the regional and islands councils to decide how much revenue they should spend on these facilities. That provision was embodied in the 1973 Local Government Act.

Mr. Thompson

Has the Minister any plans for moving towards standardisation, throughout Scotland, of the concessionary fares schemes for pensioners?

Mr. Ewing

That also is a matter for the local authorities. Certainly we have no plans to introduce standardised concessionary fares throughout Scotland. I well remember one of the fights in which I was involved in an attempt to get a local authority in my constituency to grant concessionary fares. Two other local authorities were giving concessions, but one was not. It has always been a question for local authorities and will continue to be so.

Mr. Buchanan

Is my hon. Friend aware that many rural communities are isolated because the provisions of the 1968 Transport Act have not been implemented under which rail services which were cut off were supposed to be replaced by bus services? Will he use his influence to see that the provisions of the Labour Party manifestos are carried out, and to seek an integrated transport service in Scotland?

Mr. Ewing

I am always impressed by simple solutions to complex problems, and there is no doubt that rural transport, in particular, is a very complex problem. I notice that no one suggests that we should gear transport to passenger demand. That is one of the greatest difficulties in deciding the level of rural transport, whether it be bus or train.

Sir J. Gilmour

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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