HC Deb 26 January 1999 vol 324 cc135-6
9. Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

Pursuant to his answer of 17 December 1998, Official Report, columns 688–89, on the A83 closure, if he will ensure that fares on the temporarily enhanced ferry service are charged at a rate which reflects road equivalent tariff. [65834]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Calum Macdonald)

Road equivalent tariff is not a system we favour generally, because, as the hon. Lady knows, there are winners and losers, depending on the length of the route. However, I recognise the difficulty she points to and I shall make available extra resources to CalMac to allow fares for heavy goods vehicles to be reduced by up to 50 per cent. at off-peak times and for other traffic by up to 25 per cent.; and there will be smaller reductions at peak times. From 1 July 1999, that will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Mrs. Michie

I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to restructure fares, but it is not good enough. Even with a 50 per cent. reduction, fares will be far too high for a short, 20-minute, four-mile journey. Does the Minister agree that the Kintyre economy has suffered enough, with the closure of Machrihanish and the Campbeltown shipyard, farmers going to the wall and the effect on tourism? Does he accept that I am asking not for RET for the whole CalMac ferry fleet—not today, anyway—but for arrangements to cover only two or three weekends? That would make an enormous difference to local businesses and I hope that the Minister will reconsider.

Mr. Macdonald

I accept that the hon. Lady wants to get the best for her constituents by securing the maximum reductions possible, and she is right to do so from a constituency point of view. However, I have to try to balance the available ferry capacity with what is reasonable in terms of public expenditure, and I believe that the reduction is a balanced one, costing £100,000 extra to CalMac.

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