HL Deb 25 March 1985 vol 461 cc760-1

2.40 p.m.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consulted the Women's Institute on the effects of the Transport Bill before it was introduced, in particular on rural bus services.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport met representatives of the National Federation of Women's Institutes in December to discuss the federation's response to the White Paper on buses. The effects of the policy on rural areas was one of the main issues discussed. There were also a number of letters exchanged between Ministers and the federation on various aspects of the policy before the publication of the Transport Bill at the end of January.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that comprehensive Answer. However, are the 920,000 branches throughout the country still subsidised a little by the Government, because in peacetime and in wartime this organisation deserves the praise of all of us in Parliament?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have the answer to the noble Lord's supplementary question as to whether or not we still subsidise the Women's Institutes. I shall endeavour to find out and write to the noble Lord.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the work of post buses—that is, those involving carrying of passengers by people delivering the mail—which has been pioneered in Scotland, is now making good progress and has some prospect of being expanded throughout the country?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I understand, as the noble Lord says, that post buses have been most successful in Scotland, in certain remote areas. If it were possible to expand the work of post buses to the rest of the country, I am sure that it would be done.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, can the noble Lord go a little further and tell the House what was the Women's Institute's reaction to the Government's policy on rural buses?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Indeed, my Lords; they were very concerned about the impact on rural services. However, it should be borne in mind that rural services have been declining dramatically for many years, and the aim of our policy is to ensure that that decline stops.