HC Deb 26 May 1976 vol 912 cc434-5
17. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will consider transferring National Carriers Limited and Freightliners back to British Railways, in the interests of an integrated transport policy.

Mr. Shore

The consultation document on transport policy invites comments on this proposal.

Mr. Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his hon. Friends correctly warned the Government in 1968 that the present organisation of NCL and Freightliners would result in the transfer of freight from rail to road, contrary to the objective of the 1968 Act? Bearing this in mind, will my right hon. Friend consider taking action to reverse this trend, if necessary implementing the quantity licensing provisions or declaring a withdrawal of the freight subsidy until heavy lorries are taxed according to their true costs?

Mr. Shore

I note what my hon. Friend has said about the 1968 Act. He will also recall that under that Act the National Freight Corporation has a duty to use rail where to do so is efficient and economic. That duty is clearly upon it, although it is not a mandatory use of rail, for that would be contrary to the purpose of the NFC. Quantity licensing and the other issues which my hon. Friend has mentioned are issues that will be discussed in the course of the consultations on the transport review.

Mr. Norman Fowler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the NFC is this week announcing a record loss of £30 million, half of which comes from National Carriers? Does he recognise that, far above the integration of transport, the public expect action to eliminate those losses?

Mr. Shore

Many firms and organisations have suffered losses during 1975. There has been the general problem of recession throughout our economy. A consultants' review is taking place into the financial and economic strategy of the NFC.