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Rail Services (Privatisation)

Volume 35: debated on Wednesday 19 January 1983

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what consideration he is giving to privatisation of any of the services provided by British Rail on passenger trains.

I understand that the Railways Board is considering the scope for private involvement in train catering on a number of services. I welcome this.

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that the removal of sleeper cars from the intercity services to Liverpool and Manchester has not been done as a first step to their privatisation? Does he not realise that handing over Britih Rail catering to private firms will only provide a service as efficient, cheap and wholesome as that provided at the motorway service stations?

The operation of sleeper car services is a matter for the chairman of British Rail. With regard to British Rail catering, it would be fair to say that, like the curate's egg, it is excellent in parts.

Will my right hon. Friend not only welcome British Rail's examination of privatising catering but encourage it to proceed more quickly?

Will the Secretary of State urge British Rail to look seriously at the privatisation of southern suburban commuter services? We understand from the Serpell report—albeit the leaked Serpell report—that there is massive feather-bedding of commuters living in the south of England, to the detriment of those living everywhere else in the country.

The hon. Gentleman has been feeding himself with inaccurate speculation. I advise him to await the report.

Is it not the case that motorway catering and service standards have improved enormously since privatisation?

Yes, it is. We have many instances where privatisation has greatly increased the efficiency of the service provided.

Will the Secretary of State accept that any privatisation consideration within British Rail is entirely a part of the economic consideration of British Rail's future?

Against the background of the economies and economic considerations of British Rail, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to have the Serpell report, which is an economic consideration of British Rail, debated in the House?

The final decisions on debates must be for the Leader of the House. He will have noted what has been said. It is an immensely important and valuable report, which will be available to us shortly. I am sure that it would be right for the House and the public to have full opportunities for debate. My right hon. Friend will take note of what has been said.