HC Deb 25 February 1981 vol 999 cc873-4
16. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effect of the Exchequer contribution to London Transport in 1981–82 on the provision of services.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

It is the responsibility of the GLC in the first place to assess the appropriate support level for London Transport in the light of its effect on services and against London's other transport needs. We then take that assessment and its implications into account when considering the allocation of TSG.

Mr. Dubs

Is the Minister aware that more money has been spent on public transport in Paris since 1970 than in the whole of Britain and that the number of passengers in Paris is increasing whereas, on London Transport, it is declining? Does he not agree that his policies are leading to London having the worst and costliest public transport system of any major city in western Europe?

Mr. Clarke

The authorities in Paris are taking steps to try and increase the proportion of revenue that comes from fares because the cost of that system has become insupportable to the national taxpayer. Here, in London, we are increasing the amount of grants given to the GLC for, among other things, capital investment in the public passenger transport system. The grant that Government gave this year to Greater London was £15 million higher for capital investment in transport.

Mr. Higgins

What account is taken of the fact that some free provision of transport is made in London for pensioners that is not available elsewhere?

Mr. Clarke

That was included in the plans that the GLC put to us. It is a substantial part of the support that the GLC gives to the public transport system. Not every local authority has the same needs. Each authority has to assess its own transport priorities and decide how best to spend the Government grant to give the best benefit to passengers in its area.

Mr. Newens

Has the Minister any plans to change the method of providing financial support for London Transport undertakings carrying commuters? If not, will he prevail on the Essex county council to provide the grant that is available for the support of the Epping-Ongar section of the Central line? Will he reject proposals to close that line?

Mr. Clarke

London does quite well by the present method. Twenty five per cent, of the funds available nationally for local government transport expenditure goes to the GLC. I have discussed with the Essex county council its policy towards support of the Epping-Ongar line. The proposals for closure have been considered by the TUCC. They are before my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, at the moment. He will be giving a decision on that difficult matter in the near future.