HC Deb 09 February 1977 vol 925 cc1431-3
22. Mr. Newens

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he next expects to meet the Chairman of the London Transport Executive.

Mr. William Rodgers

Not in the immediate future.

Mr. Newens

When my right hon. Friend does meet the chairman, will he impress upon him the tremendous importance of the Epping-Ongar section of the Central Line for people of North Weald and the surrounding area? Will my right hon. Friend tell him of the tremendous sense of outrage that would be aroused among people of all sections of the community if, having established the case for keeping the line open only a year or two ago, the issue of closure were again to be raised?

Mr. Rodgers

I understand the strength of feeling about this matter. My hon. Friend has made a number of representations about it, and very properly, too. I think that the chairman is aware of the issues involved. As my hon. Friend says, some years ago a decision was made to keep the line open. There has been no recent change in that position.

Mr. McCrindle

As the closure of the Epping-Ongar line would adversely affect many villages in my constituency, as well as the town of Ongar, will the Secretary of State, the next time he meets the Chairman of the London Transport Executive, tell him that some of us are not persuaded by the arithmetic used by London Transport, as a result of which it alleges a loss that some of us suspect is far in excess of the actual loss?

Mr. Rodgers

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. No doubt he has made direct representations to the chairman. He will also appreciate that the chairman is directly responsible to the Greater London Council and not to me—though the hon. Gentleman's constituency is outside that area.

Mr. Strauss

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is well aware of the high esteem in which the present Chairman of the London Transport Executive is held by the whole House, particularly by all those on the Government side of the House who know him well. Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, of the concern that has been caused by the fact that the chairman of a body with such grave responsibilities and difficulties to face has taken on another very onerous job as Chairman of the Arts Council? When my right hon. Friend meets the Chairman of the London Transport Executive, will he discuss that matter with him, so as to be able to reassure hon. Members and people outside the House that this does not mean any diversion of interest and time to duties in an almost equally important body?

Mr. Rodgers

I am sure that the whole House will endorse the kind remarks made by my right hon. Friend about Kenneth Robinson. The trust that the House has in him is an adequate assurance that he will not neglect his present duties because he has taken on further responsibilities. In so far as there are anxieties, I am sure that Mr. Robinson will be aware of them and for that very reason will do his best to ensure that they do not turn out to be justified.