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Metropolitan Counties (Public Transport)

Volume 35: debated on Wednesday 19 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he next expects to meet representatives of metropolitan county councils to discuss public transport.

My right hon. Friend and I are open to further meetings and have welcomed the useful discussions that have already taken place, including those with West Yorkshire.

When the Minister meets those representatives, why does he not take notice of what they say? Does he understand that all the metropolitan county council representatives are totally opposed to the imposition of the transport guidelines in the Transport Bill, wish to see local authority democracy retained and thus have the right to determine their own public passenger fare levels? Does he not understand that when the metropolitan county councils are forced by the viciousness of his legislation to increase fares, it will be entirely because of the Conservative Government imposing their jackboot heel policies on local authorities?

Arrangements for services and fares are the responsibility of the PTAs. It is good that the wider allegations that we used to hear are being made much less frequently now. Furthermore, the final decisions on services and fares that are to be charged in these areas will be made by the local authority, which contradicts the allegations that the hon. Gentleman has constantly made.

In any discussions on public transport with representatives of the metropolitan counties, will my right hon. and hon. Friends bear in mind that this year London Transport will receive subsidies totalling no less than £290 million, which represents 36 per cent. of its total costs? Will he also bear in mind that many Londoners believe that the capital city, in receiving 45 per cent. of the total transport supplementary grant next year, is being fairly and favourably considered?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning those favourable factors affecting London. Central Government provides 40 per cent. of the total subsidy that my hon. Friend mentioned. That is equivalent to 15 per cent. of the total cost. That shows how grotesquely wrong is the 3 per cent. figure which the GLC has quoted in some of its misleading propaganda.

The Minister will accept that it is vital that discussions take place with the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. At least that is a bonus, whether the Government take notice or not. Nevertheless, rail is an important part of public communications and concerns these county authorities. If the Minister is discussing these matters with them, is it not right and proper that his right hon. Friend should say today that we will have a full debate on the Serpell report?

I have already given a full answer about the Serpell report. The hon. Gentleman is quite right to emphasise the importance of discussions with the metropolitan authorities. Those discussions are proceeding wherever possible and we welcome them. My right hon. Friend and I are quite prepared to receive further evidence which is relevant to the calculation of the protected expenditure levels.