HC Deb 16 February 1983 vol 37 cc282-3
7. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how many additional persons would be living within three miles of a railway station if network option C2, limiting the annual deficit to about £700 million, were adopted by Her Majesty's Government, rather than the option of a commercially viable railway as defined by the Serpell committee.

Mr. Eyre

The networks described in the Serpell report are broad illustrations, and not specified in sufficient detail to enable me to make the estimate requested.

Mr. Dalyell

Should not this country take advantage of the oil revenues for sensible, much needed railway investment? If there is £700 million, should it be spent on railway investment, or should the £684 million allocated next year to the defence budget be squandered in the South Atlantic?

Mr. Eyre

The serious part of the hon. Gentleman's question with regard to transport relates to the heart of the debate that is being conducted on the Serpell report on the nature of the development of a modern and efficient railway system.

Mr. Dewar

I accept that the options set out in the Serpell report are broad brushed, but has the Minister examined the interesting statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland, in an interview that was reported in the Sunday Standard of 9 January, that any Serpell option that involved substantial closures of railway lines in Scotland would be unacceptable to the Government? Will the Minister confirm that that is the position?

Mr. Eyre

I have not seen that report. However, if it is an accurate account of what my right hon. Friend said, there will be a good deal in it. The options that appear in the Serpell report are illustrative only. They show the network that there could be for various levels of support. The options presented are not a basis for policy choices on the structure of British Rail. That would require a great deal more work. It follows that there is nothing to rule out in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggested.

Sir Albert Costain

Is my hon. Friend able to calculate to the nearest £100 how much the question by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) would cost to answer, bearing in mind the cost of bringing together all the details for which he asked? In view of the gross number of questions that the hon. Gentleman asks, has it been calculated what it costs to publish them and the accompanying answers?

Mr. Eyre

I cannot answer my hon. Friend's question precisely. The question by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) could not be answered, for the reason that I gave. However, to attempt to answer such a question would involve costs far in excess of the allowed maximum.

Mr. David Clark

In view of the statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland, will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no railway closures in the north of England, including the Newcastle-Carlisle line?

Mr. Eyre

There are no railway closure proposals before my right hon. Friend. I emphasise that the options in the Serpell report are illustrative only, in the way that I have explained.