HC Deb 23 July 1980 vol 989 cc480-2
9. Mr. Dobson

asked the Minister of Transport what contribution the British Railways property board made to the finances of British Railways in each of the last five financial years.

Mr. Fowler

The contribution to the railways board's cash flow from both the operational and non-operational property activities in each of the last five calendar years was £ 28 million in 1975, £ 32 million in 1976, £ 26 million in 1977, £ 33 million 1978 and £ 41 million in 1979.

Mr. Dobson

Will the Minister give an undertaking that that sort of money will continue to be made available under the sell-off scheme that he announced on 14 July? Or will it be sacrificed as part of the right hon. Gentleman's privatisation policy which seems designed to demonstrate his political virility to the Prime Minister?

Mr. Fowler

I think that I made the position clear. This policy has been agreed between myself and the chairman of the British Railways Board. The hon. Gentleman must take that point on board, as must the official Opposition. The board will retain the cash flow from most of its operational property. Of course, it will continue to have the proceeds from disposals in this area.

Mr. Heddle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the British Rail property board could develop its surplus land more profitably, and so reduce the public sector borrowing requirement, it could only do so if the worst iniquities of the development land tax under the 1976 Act were eliminated? Will he therefore have early and urgent discussions with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this regard, especially in respect of the Old Street and Liverpool Streeet station development?

Mr. Fowler

I take that point. The Position of DLT is, of course, of great importance for BR, and I will undertake to talk to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor about it.

Mr. Bagier

What would be the effect on the fares structure of depriving British Rail of the profit margin? Has the right hon. Gentleman any answer to Sir Peter Parker's statement that fares will have to be reconsidered in September unless there is a distinct change in Government policy on the external finance limits?

Mr. Fowler

Our policy will have no effect on fares. Again, I must remind hon. Members that the four non-rail businesses into which we are introducing private capital have as a whole been cash takers rather than cash givers for the board over the past five years. There has been a cash flow of about £ 25 million from the BRB into the subsidiaries.

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