HC Deb 01 July 1981 vol 7 cc861-2
14. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what subsidy is paid to the National Bus Company annually.

Mr. Fowler

Grants from central and local government amounted to £94 million in 1980.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government financial assistance could be reduced if the inappropriate capital burden carried by the National Bus Company were lightened? Is not it a fact that the company's £5.4 million operating profit last year was turned into a loss of £11.8 million as a result of these historic debts?

Mr. Fowler

As my hon. Friend knows, we have asked consultants to examine the distribution of the capital debt. Capital debt is a normal expense of business. Interest on the capital debt is 1.7 per cent. of the company's turnover, which is half the percentage that obtained when the previous Labour Government set up the company.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the Minister examine carefully the proposals of the Greater London Council to subsidise Tube fares at the expense of the work force of the Underground service and at the possible expense of the ratepayers in the area that I represent, who will have to subsidise an Underground system from which they draw no benefit?

Mr. Fowler

I am glad that that message is going out loud and clear in London and throughout the United Kingdom. The policy that is being pursued by the GLC will place new burdens not only upon the domestic ratepayer but upon the industrial ratepayer. At a time of high unemployment it cannot make sense to pursue such a policy.

Mr. lain Mills

Is my right hon. Friend concerned about speculation over changes in the subsidisation of public services in the West Midlands and about the relative roles of private and public bus services?

Mr. Fowler

The comments that I have received indicate that industry is extremely concerned about the new imposition that is being placed upon it. At a time when unemployment is so high, it is not unreasonable to say to the West Midlands county council that it should reconsider its policy to ensure that it is relevant to the needs of the area.

Mr. Haynes

When will the Secretary of State live up to the position that he holds and provide the services for which his Department is responsible—I have in mind the money that is not going to the rural areas—instead of taking them away from rural areas?

Mr. Fowler

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman' s definition of my living up to my position means taking more and more from the taxpayers' pocket. The Government are providing over half a billion pounds for the bus industry. We have removed the restrictions that stand in the way of new services developing. That has been an equally important contribution to the bus and coach industry.