HC Deb 09 March 1977 vol 927 cc1385-6
5. Mr. Robin F. Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in the study of future long-term demand for, and provision of, public transport for inter-urban journeys as proposed in the transport policy consultation document.

Mr. William Rodgers

Preparatory work continues, but final decisions await my White Paper.

Mr. Cook

As the study is not seeking to draw a conclusion from a narrow fact but is considering the wider implications of investment and development strategy for all transport industries, would it not be helpful to my right hon. Friend and to the House to have that report before the White Paper is published? Will he also say what arrangements he will be making for interim consultations with the Leitch Committee, since its consideration of the allocation of costs will be germane to the debate on his White Paper?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not think that I could give the promise for which my hon. Friend asks, because that would probably mean postponing the White Paper for two or three years, for the very reason that he mentions. This is a complex and important subject, but I hope that the conclusions that will emerge will help to determine policy for a long way ahead. It will not be prejudiced by the publication of the White Paper. As for the Leitch Committee, my hon. Friend knows its terms of reference. I hope that it will report quickly, but I do not think that I should consider asking it to undertake different tasks.

Mr. Thompson

Bearing in mind the views of the Secretary of State for Social Services about smoking, will the right hon. Gentleman be looking at the modern Inter-City carriages, with a view to separating smokers from non-smokers by means of separate carriages rather than the half-and-half carriages which are used at present?

Mr. Rodgers

That is an attractive and interesting suggestion. I am afraid that it is really for the management of British Railways, but I am sure that they will note what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Hoyle

When he is considering the provision of future investment, will my right hon. Friend please ask British Railways when they will put investment into rolling stock on suburban journeys? If something is not done quickly for the journeys between Preston and Colne, the rolling stock there will disintegrate one of these days.

Mr. Rodgers

I think that that question goes rather wider than the main one, but I am sure that the Chairman of British Rail will note what my hon. Friend has said.