HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc731-2
1. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has received any representations from London Transport concerning the current legislation affecting London Transport fares.

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Reginald Eyre)

My right hon. Friend has discussed the whole position with both London Transport management and unions. It is now two months since he asked the GLC to prepare urgently a balanced plan for meeting London's transport needs more effectively and cheaply within the substantial resources available. When this has been done he will be able to consider whether the implementation of such a strategy requires any clarification in the law.

Mr. Dubs

Is it not a fact, however, that London Transport has made the strongest possible representations to the Secretary of State because, as a result of the Law Lords' decision, it is unable to exercise its present management functions? In particular, London Transport does not know whether it would be legal to make capital investment at present. Therefore, is it not utterly frustrated and desperate for legislation?

Mr. Eyre

There is a misunderstanding. As I made clear in the recent debate on London Transport, its position is secure. Considerable resources are available to the GLC, and it is up to the GLC to produce the balanced plan to which I have referred. Large fare increases or large service cuts are not necessary.

Mr. Sims

Is my hon. Friend aware that some hon. Members are becoming fed up and impatient with the GLC's failure to react to the Secretary of State's invitiation? Will my hon. Friend assure us that if action is not taken soon by the GLC, my right hon. Friend will step in and take action himself?

Mr. Eyre

I fully understand my hon. Friend's comments. There is widespread support for removing responsibility for London Transport from the GLC.

Mr. William Hamilton


Mr. Eyre

We have been examining urgently a number of ideas. My hon. Friend will know that we are awaiting the report of the Select Committee on Transport, which is expected soon. My right hon. Friend is determined to have a better deal for London, and will act as necessary.

Mr. Jay

May I remedy this misunderstanding? Is it not clear that by sitting around and doing nothing while London Transport sinks into chaos the Secretary of State for Transport is failing to carry out the job for which he is paid?

Mr. Eyre

The right hon. Gentleman must appreciate the responsibility that rests on the GLC. My right hon. Friend wrote again to the leader of the GLC on 10 May reminding him of the need to produce for London this realistic and balanced transport plan that takes account of the substantial resources that are likely to be available, and to provide better bus and tube services by targeting resources more effectively. My right hon. Friend said that he would be glad to hear from the leader of the GLC about how work on the plan was proceeding. Now it is up to the GLC to respond.

Mr. Wheeler

When did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last meet the leader of the GL C to discuss London Transport, and when will something be done about the overmanning and inefficiency that lead to high fares which London people find quite unacceptable?

Mr. Eyre

My hon. Friend will forgive me if I cannot reply exactly to the first part of his question, but thy, last meeting took place about six or seven weeks ago. I emphasise to my hon. Friend the importance of the correspondence that my right hon. Friend has had with the leader of the GLC. All the matters to which he has referred with regard to the conduct of transport in the city are matters for London Transport, on which we are urging it to discharge its responsibility fully.

Mr. Booth

Will the Under-Secretary confirm that London Transport has estimated that the fare increases it has been forced to make will result in a 17 per cent. drop in bus passengers and a 12 per cent. drop in tube passengers, and that that points to London Transport being forced to operate only a skeleton transport service for a largely stay-at-home London population?

Mr. Eyre

Fares are too high, but that is the fault of the GLC for the crazy circumstances that it has produced. The reports of loss of patronage and services from the GLC are exaggerated, because it is mainly bringing scheduled services into line with those needed.