HC Deb 17 March 1998 vol 308 c1090
11. Mr. Randall

If he will make a statement on the proposed Cairngorm funicular railway. [33165]

Mr. Macdonald

My right hon. Friend and I believe that the proposed railway will make a welcome and significant contribution to tourism and to the highland economy.

Mr. Randall

I thank the Minister for that reply. Given the serious financial difficulties now faced by the Cairngorm Chairlift Company and serious doubts about European Union backing for the scheme, does the Minister think that the £12.5 million might be better given to other, more viable, projects in the highlands?

Mr. Macdonald

The hon. Gentleman is being unduly pessimistic. As he knows, the Commission is considering the scheme, but will have to await the outcome of legal actions. When those actions have been resolved, the Commission will proceed to reach its decision.

Mr. David Stewart

I welcome the comments by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) and thank him for his interest in my constituency. On the funicular issue, I take more notice of the residents of Carrbridge than I do of Uxbridge. What are the Minister's views on the future of the funicular as an all-year-round tourist event, and on its great effect on jobs for the highlands?

Mr. Macdonald

My hon. Friend makes a useful point. The scheme's importance is that it will help to sustain jobs and economic activity throughout the year and not concentrate them in the winter months—which is an important objective for the community of Aviemore and for all the highlands, of which Aviemore is a very important centre.