§ 1. Mr. Ron Davies
asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he next intends meeting representatives of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have any immediate plans to meet representatives of the AMA. I meet them as necessary from time to time on matters of mutual interest.
§ Mr. Davies
Will the Minister or her Secretary of State seek a meeting with the AMA? If she were to do so she would find from the urban areas of Britain a reception as hostile as that which she received from the rural areas, particularly Wales, on the proposed legislation on buses. Will she advise the Secretary of State that if such a meeting were held it might provide a convenient opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his proposals, to climb down and perhaps save what little face he has left?
§ Mrs. Chalker
As I said, I meet the AMA from time to time, particularly its members in the different authorities, and that includes members from the metropolitan county councils, who have been present at a number of meetings where this issue has been raised. I accept that many people are scared about what will happen, but that is a result of scaremongering and the failure to face the fact that competition has always brought about a better standard of service for the passengers. It is about time that we organised Britain's transport on the basis of the needs of passengers rather than of those who would administer it.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
When my hon. Friend meets the AMA, will she confirm to it, as to the House, that although rear seat belts may be desirable, she as no intention of making them compulsory?
§ Mrs. Chalker
I am surprised that that should arise on this question, but one gets used to any subject coming up. We are studying carefully the Select Committee's recommendations and, as the hon. Member for Crewe and 596 Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) says, whether rear seat belts should be made compulsory would be a matter for the House and not for Ministers.
§ Mr. Alton
When the Minister meets representatives of the AMA, will she meet the Merseyside representatives and discuss with them the decision to close the link between the Isle of Man and Liverpool, a 150-year-old service, which the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company decided to terminate precipitously and arbitrarily on Friday last, putting people out of work and massively inconveniencing people who live on the island and on Merseyside?
§ Mrs. Chalker
That is not a matter for the AMA. From my reading of the newspapers, that service is not to be terminated but its destination point changed from Liverpool to Heysham. Obviously that is a matter of concern to everyone in the Liverpool area, but there must be good management reasons for that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can draw some of his own conclusions.