HC Deb 03 February 1986 vol 91 cc3-4
2. Mr. Stan Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions his Department has had with county officials concerning the effect of abolition of the metropolitan counties on public transport in those areas.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mr. David Mitchell)

There has been a continuing dialogue between my Department and the officers of local authorities and passenger transport executives.

Mr. Thorne

As that tells me nothing in answer to my question, will the Minister say what he is doing to avoid increased fares and poorer services as a consequence of the Government's policies?

Mr. Mitchell

The level of fares is a matter for the bus operator concerned.

Sir John Osborn

Is it not an error in timing that the South Yorkshire passenger transport authority has introduced proposals for a tram in Sheffield when the authority has been abolished and is running into serious deficit in its financing?

Mr. Mitchell

That is a matter for the authority, and on that matter it is answerable to its local electorate.

Mr. Crowther

Has the Minister learnt from his discussions that the effect of abolishing the South Yorkshire county council, coupled with the implementation of the last two Transport Acts, will be to treble at least the fares, to cut services substantially and to make some hundreds of the staff redundant in an area of high unemployment? Does he regard this as a mark of progress in a civilised society?

Mr. Mitchell

It is important to get a better balance between the amount paid by the user and the amount paid by the ratepayer. The high level of rates in South Yorkshire has undoubtedly contributed to the high level of unemployment there. In South Yorkshire the subsidy on transport amounts to 62.8 per cent. of the cost in cash terms for operating the service, while only 22 per cent. comes from fares. Nowhere else in the country is there such an extraordinary state of affairs.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the Minister admit, openly and plainly, that the responsibility for increased fares, reductions in services and increased redundancies rests solely with the Chancellor of the Exchequer because of the expenditure limits that he has set?

Mr. Mitchell

It is for the passenger transport authority to establish the policy, and for the passenger transport executive to decide its priorities in the expenditure that it will undertake during the year as between the level of fares and the extent of service and of concessions.