HC Deb 27 June 1983 vol 44 cc333-4
5. Mr Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will make a statement on public transport services in the Principality.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Public transport services in Wales receive very substantial financial support from the county councils—whose expenditure is covered by the block rate support grant — and in the case of the railways from central Government. For the future the Government would like to see even greater local involvement in public transport decision making.

Mr. Anderson

The Secretary of Stale will recall that in his speech at Barmouth during the election campaign he ruled out what he called the more extreme options in the Serpell report, whereas before that only one option—option A—had been ruled out by the Secretary of State for Transport. Which options does the right hon. Gentleman consider were being ruled out by the Government, bearing in mind that the central Wales line, for example, will go not only under option A, but under options B, C2, C3 and D? Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that in five years' time the central Wales line will still be in operation?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman is treating options as proposals. I made it clear in my speech at Barmouth that we have no proposals before us and that the Government have made no decisions, except that they have firmly stated that some of the more extreme ideas advanced by Serpell will not go ahead. In my speech I said that we thought that local authorities should have a greater say in deciding on and organising the railways that are critical for their area. The division between subsidies for road transport and for the railway system is a mistake. Therefore, we are proposing to consult local government about a change in the organisational structure.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Will my right hon. Friend answer what should by now be an unnecessary question and make it plain that the Government do not contemplate the closure of either passenger or freight services for the north Wales main line?

Mr. Edwards

There is no question of contemplating anything of the kind. I find it impossible to believe that British Rail, which is responsible for that railway, would consider making any such suggestion.

Mr. Wigley

May I take the Secretary of State back to his speech at Barmouth, when he categorically stated that the extreme options had been ruled out? The term that he used was not proposals, but options, the term used in the Serpell report. Did he make a mistake in that speech and mislead the people of Barmouth, or is he ruling out such options, and, if so, which ones?

Mr. Edwards

I said then what is said in the Conservative party manifesto: The Government has announced that it rejects the more extreme options and wishes to consult widely about the future pattern of rail services before reaching any conclusions. The report shows that a modern efficient railway does not require ever-rising subsidies: nor does it require embarking on a programme of major route closures. We do not intend to do so. That was our manifesto statement, and I stand by it.

Mr. John Morris

Will the Secretary of State he frank with the House? Which options is he ruling out? How can he airily dismiss the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) that there is no question of any danger to the north Wales line when he cannot say the same about the central Wales line or the Cambrian coast line? Which options is he dismissing?

Mr. Edwards

I repeat that we have not reached any conclusions about the Serpell report, which set out options, not proposals. It is obvious that the proper way to proceed is, as we said, to consult local authorities about the way in which these matters should be organised long before we come to the point of considering proposals.

I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we are proposing something similar to what he proposed in the 1974 Labour party manifesto for Wales — that these decisions should involve local government in Wales. That was put forward as a proposal, but he failed to implement it when he had responsibility.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question? He was asked which options he said he would rule out as extreme. Which options are extreme? Will he tell us clearly which options—A, B, C or D—he is ruling out?

Mr. Edwards

I am telling the House what we told the electorate during the election. We do not believe that there is any need to embark on a programme of major route closures.