HC Deb 16 July 1984 vol 64 cc3-4
2. Dr. Marek

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he now has to issue a consultation paper on transport infrastructure.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. John Stradling Thomas)

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the consultation paper on local choice in public transport. This was issued on 12 July, and a copy has been sent to the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Marek

The Minister will realise that public discussion about the railway infrastructure in Wales is a good thing. Does he also realise that for the Green Paper to be given proper consideration in the Principality it must be seen that proper financial considerations are laid down for any changes? Will he assure the House and Welsh local authorities that that will be the case, and that any changes made as a result of the Green Paper and the consultation period will be more than changes for the sake of possible cuts being seen to be made by local authorities rather than by central Government?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point, and I can give him a broad assurance in response. We shall welcome views on the detailed financial arrangements. It is a genuine consultation paper. In determining the overall grant required we must take into account the existing public service obligation grant for that service. It is intended that the effect of those suggestions should be financially neutral, so that no change in the effective level of Exchequer support is implied by them.

Mr. Alex Carlile

People throughout mid-Wales are anxious about the future of the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth railway line and of the Cambrian coast line. Will the Minister assure the House that those two lines are regarded as an essential part of the infrastructure of transport in Wales and that neither line will be closed or made the subject of what is euphemistically called bus-for-rail substitution?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

There are at present no proposals for the closure—

Mr. Carlile

That is not answering the question.

Mr. Stradling Thomas

With respect, I shall answer the question in my way. There are no proposals for the closure of any lines. Of course, I cannot give an assurance into the long-distance future. Change takes place inevitably, but I can assure the House that there are no proposals to close any railway lines in Wales.

Mr. Hooson

Is my hon. Friend aware that there will be much satisfaction in Wales at the transfer of greater control of local transport problems to county councils?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. As I have already stressed, it is a consultation paper and we wish to discuss with the local authorities greater opportunities for local democratic choice.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Minister appreciate that the Government's proposals as a whole are a recipe for anarchy on our roads and will result in higher fares and reduced services? Is this not yet another example of the Government's privatisation measures, where the vultures are on the sidelines ready to feed from the choice pickings of public industry? Will not the old, the very young, the poor and the sick suffer yet again?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's conclusions. Experience shows that where greater choice and competition are introduced the public get better service, not worse.