HC Deb 09 April 1984 vol 58 cc5-6
7. Mr. Waller

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what effects on the level of public transport services he expects to result directly from the abolition of the metropolitan county councils.

Mr. Ridley

Public transport services will continue to be provided by the PTEs under the control of joint boards, as they were before the metropolitan counties were set up.

Mr. Waller

As my right hon. Friend will know, people are naturally concerned about various aspects of the abolition of the metropolitan councils. Is it not grossly misleading, however, and does it not lower the argument generally, for the metropolitan county councils to give the public the impression—as they are doing—that the level of transport services will automatically fall as a result of their disappearance?

Mr. Ridley

I quite agree. In 1983–84 the metropolitan counties determined the revenue support to public transport at £260 million, compared with the total of the protected expenditure level of £220 million. That is not a very big gap, but we must remember the ratepayers' interests.

Mr. Meadowcraft

Will the Secretary of State accept that the experience of joint boards in local government is not to be commended? How does he expect hon. Members to evaluate the comments that are made about his proposals—many of which are apparently critical—if they are not placed in the Library for us to see?

Mr. Ridley

We have not yet made firm proposals on this issue. They will come forward in the Bill to abolish the metropolitan counties, and that will be the time for the House to comment on them.

Mr. Leadbitter

Is the Secretary of State aware that I recently wrote to him pointing out 10 serious objections that had been raised by public bodies because the proposal to abolish the metropolitan counties will adversely affect transport? With great respect, although I shall await the right hon. Gentleman's answer, will he tell us to what extent he will take note of the authoratative and considered opinions of those who have made representations to him?

Mr. Ridley

With great respect, I must await the hon. Gentleman's letter, which I have not yet received.

Mr. Snape

The integrated transport service, which is now administered by the six metropolitan counties, is to be fragmented between the 36 metropolitan district councils, the six joint boards and the Department's regional offices under the Government's proposals. Is the right hon. Gentleman really saying that such fragmentation will lead to a more efficient and cost-effective provision of service than that which is presently provided by the metropolitan counties?

Mr. Ridley

The hon. Gentleman knows that it is proposed in the White Paper that the PTAs should be taken over by joint boards. That means that they wilt be the authorities that will determine the future of public transport in the metropolitan counties. There is no need to add the districts, the boroughs or my regional offices. The proposal is exactly as I have said.