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Rural Bus Services

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1961

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17.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has now had an opportunity of examining the Jack Report on Rural Transport; and whether he will make recommendations to assist bus operators in the rural areas.

22.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the position of the rural bus services is causing widespread concern; and if he will take steps to prevent a further deterioration in these services.

I am still considering the rural bus problem in the light of the report of the Committee on Rural Bus Services. But I am not yet in a position to make a statement about this.

While I recognise that the Minister has many urgent and difficult problems to contend with, may I ask whether he does not realise that this will cause great disappointment in the rural areas where there is a feeling that this long-standing problem has not had the attention which it deserves from his Department? Furthermore, if we have the closure of branch railway lines in the future, does it not become ever more important that we should have some policy for assisting the rural bus operator?

In any closing of branch lines under the new Bill, if the House passes it, the Area Committee will be deciding upon the degree of hardship and therefore will take into account the alternative bus services—alternative to the railways. We have invited and received the considered views on the Report of the Jack Committee of associations in England, Wales and Scotland representing local authorities and the bus industry, and these are now being considered.

In view of what my hon. Friend said, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend realises that this is a matter of real urgency, if some of the rural bus services are not to break down to the great detriment of the countryside? Will he consult his right hon. Friend and see whether we can have a debate on the Jack Committee's Report, for which we asked last Session and which we never had?

I will refer that to the Leader of the House. I am aware of the urgency of the matter.

Meanwhile, will the Minister bear in mind that the Welsh rural authorities have been making representations about his failure to reach conclusions on this Report, and that if we go on as we are at the moment, not only will there be no rail services in some of these areas but there will be no bus services either, because they are being withdrawn almost week by week. Will he please give us an indication as to when he can come forward with his conclusions and when he will give us a debate on this subject?

I have answered the question about a debate. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I think that the hon. Member is grossly exaggerating this closing of the services. But we have received the reports from England, Wales and Scotland, and these will be considered in due time.

As this difficulty is particularly acute in Scotland, where a large number of branch lines are being closed, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is in close touch with the Secretary of State for Scotland on the matter?

Yes, I am indeed. In addition, the Highland Transport Inquiry, which is a joint inquiry by the Scottish Transport Council and the Secretary of State's Advisory Panel on the Highlands and Islands, recently presented a first report dealing with bus services in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

As for any exaggeration, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that I am repeating to him what has been said to me by the Welsh rural authorities? In view of the criticisms which have also come from Scotland, is he sure that he is as closely in touch with the problem as he ought to be and could he not be less pert and a little more pertinent in some of his replies?

If the hon. Member thinks I am impertinent to him, I can only say that he is always courteous to everybody in the House at all times and I should like to return that courtesy, if I may. I promised, and I repeat the promise, that these representations from England, Wales and Scotland will be very seriously considered.