HC Deb 09 March 1977 vol 927 cc1390-2
11. Mr. Fry

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to publish his transport White Paper; and whether he will make a statement.

14. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to publish his transport White Paper; and whether he will make a statement.

25. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he is now able to give the precise date for the publication of the transport policy White Paper.

Mr. William Rodgers

About May.

Mr. Fry

I thank the Minister for that answer. In view of the importance of the White Paper and the normal problem of finding sufficient time to debate transport matters in the House, does he agree that there is a case for setting up a Select Committee on Transport? Would not that help to reassure the public on contentious matters, such as the national road programme and the level of support for public transport, and enable this matter to be fully discussed and investigated by Parliament?

Mr. Rodgers

My instinct is to say "Yes", because for a long time I have been a strong supporter of the workings of Select Committees. However, if I said "Yes" I might be unpopular with my colleagues, since I have not consulted them.

Mr. Jessel

Will the White Paper refer to road safety? If it does, will there be a reference to seat belts? Since, each week, 20 people are killed on the roads who would have survived had they been wearing seat belts, and since the House, on a free vote, supported the seat belts Bill by a majority of over 100, will the Minister take advantage of the reduced pressure on parliamentary time and reintroduce the Bill?

Mr. Rodgers

The White Paper will refer to seat belts and to road safety in general. I agree that a reference is not enough. The Government are committed to find time to reintroduce the seat belts Bill. However, the use of parliamentary time is not a matter for me, although the hon. Member may assume that the issue is very much in my mind.

Mr. Ioan Evans

In the first paragraph of the White Paper will my right hon. Friend give a definition of an integrated transport policy? Does he agree that we have an underused rail system and an overused road system? Is he aware that the Severn Bridge had to be closed because its fabric was being destroyed by juggernaut lorries? Surely the same must be happening on our roads in general.

Mr. Rodgers

My hon. Friend is wrong about the reason for the Severn Bridge being temporarily closed. I am hesitant to seek to define an integrated transport policy, in view of earlier exchanges. My hon. Friend makes an important point. The maximisation of resources, bearing in mind questions of costs, choice and need, is central to the White Paper.

Mr. Michael Latham

Will the White Paper cover the system of the tapering of bus fares in rural areas by the National Bus Company? Is the Minister aware that some of the fare increases for short journeys have infuriated my constituents?

Mr. Rodgers

I am not sure that it will go into that much detail, and some of these matters are really for the manage- ment of the company or of the appropriate industry. But I am sure that the point put by the hon. Gentleman will be noted.

Mr. Hardy

Will the White Paper refer to inland waterways?

Mr. Rodgers

That is a very interesting question, to which I am not sure that I yet have the answer. But my guess is that there will be reference in it to them.

Mr. Marten

Before publishing the White Paper in May, will the right hon. Gentleman have a look at the licensing functions of the traffic commissioners, as set out in the Road Traffic Act 1960, particularly in view of the co-ordinating rôle that local authorities, particularly the county councils, now have under the Local Government Act 1972, as there is an awful muddle?

Mr. Rodgers

I think that there is a more specific reference to this matter in a later Question. However, this matter is in our minds, and it is an important question to be considered in the White Paper.