§ 23. Mr. Spriggs
asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects next to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.
§ Mr. Gow
At that meeting next week, will the Secretary of State discuss with the chairman the operation of the closed 451 shop in British Rail? In particular, will he remind the chairman of section 15 of the joint agreement of 14 February, which provided that those who have a conscientious objection to joining a trade union should not be obliged to do so? Will the right hon. Gentleman report back to the House on his discussions to eliminate from British Rail the worst evils of the closed shop?
I have not made a practice over the last two and a half years of reporting to the House the details of what I have properly discussed in confidence with the chairman. The chairman is fully aware of the issue which the hon. Gentleman has raised today, and on previous occasions.
§ Mr. Spriggs
In view of the resounding success of British Rail's high-speed train, will my right hon. Friend give his support to the advanced passenger train? Is he aware that this outstanding example of British technology has enormous export potential?
I am glad that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to the important export role of British Rail, with its advanced technology. As I said in reply to an earlier question, I am anxious to support further developments like the APT and the development of other services that can never expect high technology of that kind.
§ Mr. Aitken
Since the Minister and his colleagues have repeatedly said that the Government are neutral on the issue of the closed shop and British Rail, will he explain why the Government are paying out taxpayers' money to defend at the European Court of Human Rights the case brought against the Government by the British Rail employees expelled from their union?
I am not aware that I have ever expressed any views at Question Time on this matter. If the hon. Gentleman would like to put down a question I shall be happy to give a detailed reply.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
When my right hon. Friend meets the chairman, will he inquire whether the Opposition have made any statement to him about the removal of subsidies from rail services in rural areas? If not, will he invite Sir 452 Peter Parker to make that inquiry? Alternatively, will my right hon. Friend now press the Opposition to state categorically that they have no intention of reducing those subsidies?
It is for representatives of the Opposition to express their view. I hope that they now recall with regret that last year they voted against the Second Reading of the Transport Bill, which contained important proposals for the development of public transport.