HC Deb 09 December 1981 vol 14 cc855-6
12. Mr. John MacKay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the progress of his negotiations with Caledonian MacBrayne on ferry services on the West Coast.

Mr. Rifkind

In company with my hon. Friend, I recently visited Dunoon and heard the views of various local interests on the future of the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service. My right hon. Friend is now considering these views and hopes to make a statement soon. Caledonian MacBrayne continues to provide satisfactory ferry services throughout the West Coast of Scotland.

Mr. MacKay

Does "soon" mean before the Christmas Recess? Will my hon. Friend confirm that the passenger service will continue from pier to pier? Will he further confirm that the current discussions revolve round the continued use of the "Juno" as the passenger ship and allowing her to carry vehicle traffic at the same time?

Mr. Rifkind

I cannot give my hon. Friend a specific date for the announcement of the decision, but I can confirm that it is intended that a proper service for passengers will continue between the two terminals. Until any further announcement is made, the service between Gourock and Dunoon will continue in the same way as has operated till now.

Mr. Maxton

Can the Minister now tell us—he could not last month—whether the car docking facility at Gourock will remain if the Caledonian MacBrayne service is withdrawn from Dunoon, in view of the problems that would result for other ferry services on the Clyde if that facility were withdrawn?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman will have to await the final decision before judging all the detailed implications. I confirm that that is one of the factors that we shall take into account before reaching a final decision.

Mr. Corrie

Will my hon. Friend persuade the Scottish Transport Group to produce individual accounts for ferry runs on the West Coast of Scotland so that islanders may know how much subsidy is being paid on each run?

Mr. Rifkind

I accept the basis of that question. When public subsidies are provided to support services, it is not unreasonable that the subsidies—whether or not subsidies are popular or justified—should be identified for each service.

Mr. Dewar

Has there not been a sorry tale of administrative indecision and political prejudice? Does the Minister accept that priority should be given to having a good service for pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic between Gourock and Dunoon and that any scheme should be tested against that criterion? Does he further accept that the Opposition and many people in the area served by the ferry will oppose any scheme that creates a monopoly for any private outfit?

Mr. Rifkind

From the beginning the Government's approach has been based on the criterion of a proper service to meet the requirements of local people. The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that there is already a monopoly in virtually every service in Scotland. Obviously, it is desirable to avoid that if it can be done without massive public subsidy. The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that the Gourock-Dunoon service is the one service in Scotland that should not require a subsidy. Yet it receives the highest subsidy—£500,000.

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