HC Deb 23 January 1980 vol 977 cc422-3
22. Mr Bagier

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to publish the final report of the steering group on the case for further main line electrification.

Mr. Fowler

I expect the report to be ready for publication by early summer.

Mr. Bagier

Will the right hon. Gentleman hazard a guess as to what might be in that report? Can he indicate whether he looks favourably on a further escalation of main line electrification and, if so, how does he see his chances of getting the money out of the modern day Scrooge who is ensconced in No. 12?

Mr. Fowler

I am not sure that such language improves the hon. Gentleman's case. The interim report looked at the costs of electrification. We are now looking at the revenue implications in the sense of more traffic for British Rail. As I have made clear on a number of occasions, I am sympathetic to what is being attempted, but we must wait for the report before making final decisions.

Mr. Michael Brown

Does my right hon. Friend accept that on electrification we are taking decisions for a generation ahead? If we accept that in 10 or 20 years' time oil will be limited, we have to consider electrification as soon as possible.

Mr. Fowler

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one reason why we are considering electrification sympathetically.

Mr. Whitehead

Will the Minister consider the problems caused by the failure so far to take electrification beyond Bedford for the London-Midland region? That is the prime cause of the type of breakdown referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). Does the Minister agree that those breakdowns cannot be alleviated without an early decision on electrification for the line between Sheffield and Bedford?

Mr. Fowler

We can consider individual schemes on their merits, but we shall still have to wait for the report before finalising our policy. I believe that there is great sympathy and support for electrification.

Mr. Booth

Does the Minister agree that the option set out in the joint study by his Department and British Rail for maximum electrification has enormous economic, social and technological implications and will have an important effect on future energy policy? Will he therefore consider a debate in the House before or immediately following the final report and before any Government decision?

Mr. Fowler

I shall certainly pass on the right hon. Gentleman's views to the Leader of the House. However, I believe that it would be more constructive to have any discussion after the final report is published. Clearly it will be published and made generally available.