HC Deb 01 December 1982 vol 33 cc254-5
6. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the percentage increase in public transport fares since May 1979.

Mr. Eyre

Public transport fares increased by about 16 per cent. in real terms between May 1979 and October 1982.

Mr. Canavan

How much of that increase is due to cuts in Government transport subsidy and cuts imposed by the Government on local authority transport subsidies? Is it not a classic example of Tory double standards when Ministers refuse to provide an adequate transport subsidy for the general public but approve a 100 per cent. transport subsidy for themselves so that they can travel around for nothing in the luxury of chauffeur-driven limousines?

Mr. Eyre

The hon. Gentleman completely misrepresents the facts. I point out to him very firmly that since May 1979 revenue support to public transport has risen in cash and in real terms. I hope that he will go away and think seriously about that, as it shows what rubbish his question was.

Sir Albert Costain

Leaving aside all political implications, does my hon. Friend appreciate the social consequences of the increase in fares? Is he aware that the price of a season ticket to London from Folkestone has risen fourfold since I have had the honour to be in the House? Does he realise that, as people used to commute from Folkestone to London, the increases mean that house prices in Folkestone have fallen while those in London have risen? Should that not be considered before further price increases are approved?

Mr. Eyre

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise the importance for the quality of life generally of efficient public transport. The way to get public transport fares under control is through higher productivity, worthwhile investment and responsible wage settlements. Throwing money away on irresponsible current subsidies makes it impossible to finance the investment that could cut costs and make the services more attractive.

Mr. Newens

Is the Minister aware of the enormous increase in fares on the section of the Central line that runs through Essex, especially the Epping and Ongar section, because of the refusal of the Conservative-controlled Essex county council—unlike the Labour-controlled GLC—to claim transport supplementary grant to provide a subsidy for that line? Is he aware that all services on that line are to disappear, except for those in the rush hour? Will that not prove to be a recipe for the eventual closure of the line? Will he do something about it?

Mr. Eyre

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is for Essex county council to decide what support should be given to that line. The fact that fares in London have risen 40 per cent. more than the retail prices index makes one think very seriously about the policies of the GLC.

Mr. Neubert

When challenged about public transport fares, will my hon. Friend never fail to mention the need for efficient and economical operation? Is he aware that today London Transport announced that it suspects that it is losing £30 million through fraud? Would not the elimination of that fraud contribute to lower fares than the 40 per cent. increase to which he has referred?

Mr. Eyre

I know that the director of London Transport is very concerned at the loss of revenue through fraud and is considering various measures to decrease that loss.