§ Mr. Tierney
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish in the Official Report the letter of March 1978 from the Under-Secretary of State to the Secretary of the West Midlands Labour Group about revenue support for buses in the West Midlands.
§ Mr. Horam
Yes. I wrote as follows:
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
2 MARSHAM STREET, LONDON SW1P 3EB
My ref: HO/PSO/20688/78
Alan Hayworth, Esq.,
Secretary West Midlands Group of Labour MPs,
Parliamentary Labour Party,
House of Commons, London S.W.1.
Thank you for your letter of 26th January about revenue support for buses in the West Midlands. I am sorry that I have not been able to reply before.
The continuing rise in bus fares is something that has been worrying Bill Rodgers and myself increasingly in recent months, particularly in a time of wage restraint. That is why we abandoned the intention of halving the money available for bus revenue support nationally, and announced in the Transport White Paper that we would maintain the national total at about its present level, albeit with a small shift 453W of resources towards non-metropolitan counties. This means that instead of having to limit metropolitan counties to only £22.5 million by 1980–81, they will be able to spend up to £77.5 million instead—only slightly less than they are spending now. Bill Rodgers certainly does not accept that this policy should be used as a justification for massive fare increases.
The West Midlands County Council proposed to spend £12.2 million for revenue support in 1978–79 compared with the £13.4 million accepted for 1977–78. We have accepted this £12.2 million in full for TSG as being consistent with our White Paper policies, but we have made the County Council aware of our views about the importance of meeting reductions in support without resort to fare increases above the rate of inflation.
Of course I cannot say what level of fares is appropriate in the West Midlands. That must depend on the costs and all other circumstances of the PTE, as well as on County policy. In general terms, so long as costs are rising and cannot otherwise be contained, fares will have to go on increasing, but I hope that, now we are getting inflation under control, fares increases will become less marked than they have had to be in recent years.