§ Ql. Mr. Charles Kennedy
To ask the Prime Minister if he will assess the impact of rail privatisation on the economy of the Scottish highlands and islands.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)
The franchising director will consult on his draft passenger service requirement for ScotRail. I am confident that the outcome will improve the quality of service enjoyed by the passenger.
§ Mr. Kennedy
Given the Prime Minister's recent visit to Scotland, he will be aware of the widespread concern about the future of rail services, not least the impact that 836 the withdrawal of sleeper services, motorail, the steam engine on the West Highland line, and so on will have on the tourist-oriented economy of the western highlands in particular. Given that degree of concern, will the Prime Minister agree to a meeting at the appropriate time to discuss this matter further?
§ The Prime Minister
As I said a moment ago, I believe strongly that rail privatisation will improve the service, not least because a privatised service will have access to new sources of funds to increase investment in the rail service.
On the hon. Gentleman's direct question, of course I would be prepared to meet him at an appropriate time, but it might be more helpful in the first instance if he were to meet my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport who will, naturally, try to assist him.