HC Deb 09 February 1977 vol 925 cc1411-2
3. Mr. Rathbone

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has now abandoned the integrated transport policy; and whether he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. William Rodgers)

No, but the hon. Member must await my White Paper for the full development of my views.

Mr. Rathbone

Is the Minister aware that for many hon. Members the Government's integrated transport policy has consisted of stumblings and shifts from one policy to another? Many will appreciate the calls upon the Minister's time of some of his extra-ministerial activities, but will he reassure the House that his White Paper will take notice of the more than local but less than national needs of rail and road transport in the South-East?

Mr. Rodgers

I cannot go along with the hon. Members preliminary comments, but I agree that when the White Paper comes it will deal in local, national and regional problems. All these matters must be considered, and I hope that they will be discussed in the House between now and when the White Paper is published.

Mr. Flannery

When the Minister formulates his White Paper, will he take into account the fact that many of us consider that the railways are taking a considerable blow, and that although this is happening people who are not taking note of it scream like mad when there is a half-day strike on the railways? Only then do they realise how necessary the railways are. Many of us believe that there is a hidden cash subvention to road transport, on a grand scale, through the under-taxation of heavy lorries, for instance, which militates against the railways, and that in time, if we are not careful, this will run the railways down beyond repair.

Mr. Rodgers

Some more specific Questions related to my hon. Friend's supplementary question appear later on the Order Paper today. However, in general he is right in emphasising that the railways must have a central role in our transport system. I hope that in due course the discussions that I am having, together with the White Paper, will return some confidence, in so far as it is now lacking.