HC Deb 30 June 1982 vol 26 c887
15. Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the arrangements now made for the operation of the Gourock to Dunoon ferry; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Allan Stewart

It is satisfactory that the residents of Cowal continue to have a choice of ferry services, that it has been possible to continue to provide a high standard of service for foot passengers, and that it has been possible to reduce the subsidy being paid to Caledonian MacBrayne in respect of this service in 1982–83 to half the level required in the previous year.

Mr. Dewar

Will the Minister accept that that choice has largely been preserved because the Conservative Government had to retreat in disorder from their original ludicrous proposals for the ferry service? Is the Minister aware that the firm expected to be the principal beneficiary is now so upset that it is considering going to law? Will the Minister note that when that possibility has been exhausted we shall return to the matter?

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon

Will the Minister assure the House that, to assuage the feelings of uncertainty among my constituents, and others, there will be no proposals from the Government to withdraw or modify services? Will the Minister confirm that preparations are being made to sustain services for the financial year 1983–84?

Mr. Stewart

I can confirm that that is the Government's intention.

Mr. Corrie

Will my hon. Friend confirm that competition is a strong lever to bring about cuts in costs and improve efficiency, and that, having saved on the subsidy on those runs, there will be subsidies for other Calmac runs in the West of Scotland?

Mr. Stewart

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of competition in this area, as in many others.