HC Deb 28 March 1979 vol 965 cc443-6
8. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he is satisfied with the existing programme for the electrification of the United Kingdom's principal railway lines.

Mr. William Rodgers

There is no such specific electrification programme at troyed, despite the representations of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation? Why does he not help the police, and not hinder them, in this important task?

Mr. Horam

Because it saves taxpayers money.

Mr. Ford

Will my hon. Friend consider the cost-effectiveness of the Swansea licensing centre? If he finds that it is only marginal, and taking into account the current difficulties with computers, will he reconsider reopening the Bradford licensing office?

Mr. Horam

If there are any particular problems relating to the Bradford licensing office, I shall look into them if my hon. Friend cares to write to me.

Mr. Cormack

How much did it cost to license a private motor car before the Swansea centre was opened, and how much does it cost now?

Mr. Horam

I should like to write to the hon. Gentleman. I do not have the facts immediately available.

Following are the figures:

the moment. The case for one is being currently considered.

Mr. Ross

Does the Secretary of State agree that the huge increases in oil prices that are again taking place call for some urgency in increasing the electrification of our main railway lines? Will he look at the Western Region in particular and say whether he agrees that it is time the Government took some decisions to encourage British Rail to get on with further electrification?

Mr. Rodgers

That is exactly why we have set up this inquiry between my Department and the Railways Board. It is to see what makes best sense. However, in the meantime, I have today been able to authorise an investment of £56 million for new electrical multiple units for the Southern Region of British Rail. I think that this will be widely welcomed by commuters, and I am sure that it will be applauded by hon. Members on both sides of the House who have insisted that more should be done in this direction. I am also glad that it will mean four to five years work for the British Rail workshops at York.

Mr. Bagier

My right hon. Friend's statement on electrification is welcome. However, does he accept that, from a fuel conservation point of view, it makes sense to extend the electrification of the railways? Will he bear in mind that it is extremely important to keep going the advanced passenger train project, and that it depends on an extension of the electrified circuit?

Mr. Rodgers

I agree with all that my hon. Friend has said. It is important to look a long way ahead at what the needs of the railways will be and to move into advanced technology. The railways have done very well in this direction. There is a great deal of which to be proud, but we must preserve the momentum.

Mr. William Clark

Has the right hon. Gentleman any future proposals to help other marginal seats?

Mr. Rodgers

My responsibility as Secretary of State is to seek to respond to the wishes of the House. If there are Conservative Members who do not agree with my announcement, let them speak up now.

Mr. Dalyell

Is not electrification one of the very few ways in which the Government—of any kind—can do something practical about saving oil?

Mr. Rodgers

That is one consideration, but, from his great knowledge of modern technology, I think my hon. Friend knows that a great deal depends upon how one generates one's electricity; for example, whether one uses fossil fuel or nuclear power. Those are factors that have to be taken into account in drawing up the equation.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Does the right hon. Gentleman's election announcement extend to providing a situation where Southern Region will actually run regularly and not go on strike frequently?

Mr. Rodgers

I believe that if the hon. Gentleman reflects rather more generously on what I have said he will appreciate that improved equipment is an important factor not only in guaranteeing services but in improving morale on the railways, and I attach much importance to that.