Transport Holding Company Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th January 1968.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East 12:00 am, 16th January 1968

The hon. Member for Yeovil has always been highly critical of politicians on both sides since he ceased to be a Minister. This is common in the House, and one can understand it.

There was another transport company in the Highlands of Scotland which was in a bad way, almost going into liquidation, and the people of Orkney and Shetland were likely to lose their services. We had a financial crisis and a balance of payments problem at the time. There were serious restrictions, and 136,000 unemployed in Scotland. Scottish Members on this side, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who is now Secretary of State for Scot- land, raised Adjournment debates and took every opportunity to press the matter. We kept the Government up night after night, complaining about the serious employment situation in Scotland and the breakdown of transport services.

What did the then Conservative Government do, at a time of crisis when they were calling for economies? They introduced the Highlands and Islands Shipping Services Bill, a Bill to form a new company called the Highlands and Islands Shipping Company, with power to borrow money to build two ships and then to hire them out to a company to run them. It was done with taxpayers' money, and at a time when the country was in serious financial difficulty.