HC Deb 05 November 1980 vol 991 cc1264-5
3. Mr. Higgins

asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied with the coordination of policy on transport by road, rail and water.

Mr. Fowler

Yes, Sir. My policy is to create the conditions in which full and fair competition between these different modes of transport can flourish.

Mr. Higgins

My right hon. Friend's policy of introducing more private capital into road transport and the subsidiary activities of British Rail is to be welcomed, but will he consider whether this could be extended to waterways; in particular to the operation of the British Waterways Board, for example with regard to the Kennet and Avon canal? In that context, will he have discussions with his right hon. Friend at the Department of the Environment to see whether responsibility for the waterways should be transferred from the Department of the Environment to the Ministry of Transport?

Mr. Fowler

I am prepared to enter into discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is in charge of waterways. There might be a case for looking at the arrangement here, but I do not think that it is the No. 1 priority at present. As to privatisation, we shall of course consider all opportunities to introduce private capital, because we believe that that is in the interests of the industries concerned.

Mr. Dalyell

Can the right hon. Gentleman give just one concrete example of a so-called "condition" that he has created or helped to create?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, indeed. The condition that we have created in relation to new coach services operating on motorways is a dramatic and pleasing example of what can happen, not by the introduction of some enormous national plan—which apparently is the policy of the Labour Party—but by the removal of restrictions to allow competition to take place. The result is that new services have developed and prices have come down. That has not happened too often in public transport in the past.

Mr. fain Mills

Is my right hon Friend aware that there are examples of stretches of waterways where private investors are keen to provide capital on a co-operative basis with the British Waterways Board?

Mr. Fowler

I am prepared, obviously in consultation with my right hon. Friend, to look at any plans of that kind.

Mr. Spearing

If there is to be proper competition between roadway and waterway, should they not be funded in the same way; in other words, by public capital? Will he look at this matter in conjunction with the report of the inland shipping group of the Inland Waterways Association, which is due to be published today?

Mr. Fowler

I shall look at it. If the report is due to be published today, I look forward to seeing it.