HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1788-9
17. Mr. Fairgrieve

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will withdraw all subsidies from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service to Islay.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

No, Sir.

Mr. Fairgrieve

What is the point of spending £500,000 of taxpayers' money to subsidise a service that is not necessary when private firms are operating an efficient service to Islay without having to employ taxpayers' money?

Mr. MacKenzie

If we were to withdraw the service—[Interruption.]—yes, that is what withdrawing the subsidy would amount to—it would mean an end to a service that many people regard as essential. When the Conservatives were in office they thought it right to continue the subsidy.

Mr. MacCormick

Does the Minister agree that it is rather odd that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve) should raise this question? I am sure that he has never travelled by Western Ferries to Islay. He has not even cast his eye upon Early-Day Motion No. 529, which expresses the view that the best system possible would be to give both Western Ferries and Caledonian MacBrayne a subsidy for operating on this route.

Mr. MacKenzie

It comes very odd from the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) to suggest that hon. Members should not interfere in other Members' constituencies. We have experienced SNP Members wandering all over Lanarkshire interfering in other constituencies. I should have thought that their best course in this case was to keep their mouths shut.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve) has constituents who ship a lot of cattle on this very important service, and therefore the subject is of interest to him. Does the Minister agree that at a time when we are having cuts in essential services it is monstrous for the Government deliberately to discriminate against a private enterprise firm which can do the job better and cheaper?

Mr. MacKenzie

I am not responsible for the fact that Western Ferries chose to compete with Caledonian MacBrayne.