HC Deb 18 July 1983 vol 46 cc1-3
1. Mr. Coleman

asked the Secretary of State for Wales, pursuant to his reply to the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon, (Mr. Morris) Official Report, 27 June, c. 334, whether he has now completed his consideration of the Serpell report and its effects upon the railways in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

The Serpell report is still under consideration by the Government. I intend, in due course, to issue a consultation document about arrangements for reaching decisions on local transport issues—including railways—in Wales.

Mr. Coleman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the concern in Wales over this important matter and of the representations that have been made to hon. Members by local authorities, trade unions, employers and women's institutes, to name but a few? When will he carry out his responsibilities to the people of Wales?

Mr. Edwards

It is precisely because I recognise the concern expressed by a wide range of public bodies that I propose to issue a consultation document and to seek their views on this important matter.

Mr. Hooson

My right hon. Friend has rightly said that the local authorities have an important role to play in the strategy for public transport. Therefore, would it not be appropriate for my right hon. Friend to identify those county councils that have a particular responsibility for guiding railway strategy?

Mr. Edwards

I have already suggested that the county councils have a potentially important role to play. As they have existing responsibilities for other transport services, it might be sensible to consider bringing together all transport services, including railways, under one head. These are important issues and I propose to consult the county councils as well as other interested bodies.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that, in referring to local transport decisions, the Government are not proposing to abolish the Transport Users Consultative Committee, which has successfully resisted two attempts to close the Cambrian coast line?

Mr. Edwards

I have no proposals, and none has been put to me from any source, to abolish the Transport Users Consultative Committee.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the Secretary of State aware that many of the issues arising from the Serpell report affect not only the county councils? In the last Welsh Question Time the right hon. Gentleman dismissed extreme solutions. Will he assure us that one of the extreme solutions that was dismissed was the closure of the valleys railway lines?

Mr. Edwards

These are not just local issues. That is why I have resisted pressures from some quarters to transfer them to the responsibility of the Welsh Office. We have to treat different aspects of the problem differently. It would be extraordinary if, at the end of full consultation and consideration of these issues, there were any proposal to abolish the valleys railway lines, which make an extremely important contribution to the economy and public services of the area.

Mr. Denzil Davies

As responsibility for the railways in Wales lies not with the Secretary of State for Wales but with the Secretary of State for Transport, what will the right hon. Gentleman consult about? Will he talk about railways or something else?

Mr. Edwards

It may come as a surprise to the right hon. Gentleman, with his experience in Government, to know that we do not find it too difficult to work together as a Government. I keep in the closest contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on all these issues. When I put forward proposals and suggestions that affect Wales, I do so with the full knowledge of the Secretary of State for Transport. We, as a Government, will in due course put forward firm proposals as a Government.

Sir Raymond Gower

The Government cannot be expected to give hasty decisions on matters of such great importance, but would it not be helpful to consider making an early statement dismissing at least two of the suggestions — first, that all railways west of Cardiff should cease to exist and, secondly, that there should be poorer maintenance and less expense on upkeep?

Mr. Edwards

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has said on numerous occasions, although I point out that no proposals were put forward by the Serpell committee. It merely pointed out the financial consequences of certain courses of action.

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