HC Deb 01 February 1988 vol 126 cc692-3
10. Mr. Favell

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on the proposed Greater Manchester light rapid transport system.

Mr. David Mitchell

I have received several representations in favour of the proposed Greater Manchester light rapid transit system, and about the desirability of bringing in private finance. I made an announcement about the Government's position on 18 January.

Mr. Favell

Will my hon. Friend ensure that the private sector has majority control of the operating company? Attractive though the scheme may be, it is important to ensure that it does not become a drain on Greater Manchester ratepayers and on the public purse as a whole.

Mr. Mitchell

I can reassure my hon. Friend. Private sector participation should mean rapid construction of the system, and since the private sector will be operating it, we can reasonably expect it to be operated efficiently.

Mr. Litherland

Does the Minister agree that had it not been for obstruction by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell), this marvellous initiative from a Labour-controlled authority would have come to fruition much earlier, to the benefit of millions in the region?

Mr. Mitchell

In historical fact, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) was anxious that there should be a private sector contribution and that the entire burden should not be borne by ratepayers. That is what is proposed in the scheme that will go forward with the approval of the passenger transport authority.

Sir Fergus Montgomery

Is my hon. Friend aware that that decision was widely welcomed in Greater Manchester? Does he agree that it will mean a big improvement in public transport in Greater Manchester, especially when taken in conjunction with the announcement last year on the Windsor link? Does he have more good news for Greater Manchester?

Mr. Mitchell

We always keep an eye on the needs of Greater Manchester and the north-west in general. My hon. Friend is right to call the scheme a big potential improvement. Last Saturday in Manchester I spoke to several people who were pleased that the scheme was coming, and I have no doubt that when I visit Manchester next Friday for the Transport 2000 conference I shall hear the same thing.