HC Deb 05 December 1977 vol 940 cc1005-6
20. Mr. David Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will make a statement on the Price Commission investigation into British Railways prices.

Mr. Maclennan

British Rail notified the Price Commission on 7th October of its proposal to increase passenger fares and certain miscellaneous charges. The Commission considered the proposed increase and informed my right hon. Friend on 3rd November that it intended to investigate. The Commission will complete its investigation and report to my right hon. Friend within four months of the date of the original notification.

Mr. Hunt

Is the Minister satisfied that the investigation will be of sufficient depth? For instance, will the Commission look into the very serious underlying problems of British Rail, such as over-manning? If it does, how can it possibly complete the investigation within the time limit?

Mr. Maclennan

One can judge the effectiveness of the Price Commission's examination only when it has been completed.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Does my hon. Friend realise that the Opposition are simply trying to check up on the amount of subsidy that is required for our railways? Will he at some time in the future give the subsidy figures for the German and other railways to ensure a good railway system?

Mr. Maclennan

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will answer questions about the level of subsidy. However, I can state that the Government's policy is that the subsidy should remain at the current level of £350 million per annum, though that figure will be reduced by £20 million by 1981.

Mr. Moate

Will the Minister confirm that the Price Commission will look into the question of discrimination against commuters in the South-East? Furthermore, can he say why there should be any faith in the effectiveness of the Price Commission when such discrimination has gone for year after year without any intervention from anybody?

Mr. Maclennan

Opposition Members who attack the Price Commission even before the report has been produced do no credit to their cause or to themselves.