Rail Fares

Oral Answers to Questions — Prices and Consumer Protection – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 1976.

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Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames 12:00 am, 8th March 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she next intends to meet the transport users' consultative committees.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what plans she has to meet representatives of the transport users' committees in the near future to discuss the proposed increases in British Rail and London Transport passenger fares.

Photo of Mr Michael Shersby Mr Michael Shersby , Hillingdon Uxbridge

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what recent meetings she has had with the transport users' consultative committee with regard to increased rail fares.

Mr. Alan Williams:

I shall be writing to the Central Transport Consultative Committee, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has published his consultation document on aspects of transport policy, to invite it to discuss it with me.

Under the terms of the Transport Act 1962, the transport consultative committees are not entitled to consider fares. London Transport fare increases are a matter for the Greater London Council, which appoints the London Transport Passengers Committee.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

Does the Minister of State agree that, in his capacity as a Minister in the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, he must be concerned with a situation where rail fares have risen by over 80 per cent. in two years and commuter fares are to go up by 17½ per cent. in one year? Will he impress on the Secretary of State that, in a situation where there is no proper competition in city transport and where there is vast overmanning on the railways, the increase in wages can only come through to the consumer in increased fares?

Mr. Alan Williams:

I note that the Opposition seem to be lining themselves up behind a programme of cuts for the railways. No doubt that will be noted elsewhere. However, they must still explain whether they prefer price increases or the cuts in public expenditure for which they cry. They cannot have both.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

Is the Minister of State aware that, for example, the single Tube fare from Harrow to the centre of London is now 50p compared with 25p two years ago when this Government came into power? Will he have a word with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to see what thought for the day she has to comfort long-suffering commuters and consumers of Tube journeys who are now having to face insupportable problems? Does he at least agree with the proposition that, in so far as the London ratepayer ratio is lower in inner London Tube journeys, there are more business men travellers and foreign tourists and that in future increases should be proportionately weighted on inner London fares?

Mr. Alan Williams:

I have already indicated that the responsibility for London Transport rests with the Greater London Council, not my Department. Hon. Gentlemen opposite must face the fact that the Government have indicated that for the next 12 months they will give a subsidy of about £36 million to help London Transport.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Cannock

Whatever long-term plans my hon. Friend may have for these consultative councils, in view of recent actions in the Post Office—we have seen the same sort of thing in transport—will he, even in the short term, consider giving these consultative councils more teeth so that they may have some effect on these decisions?

Mr. Alan Wlliams:

My hon. Friend is in accord with my own views on this matter. The Department has referred the whole subject of the nationalised industries' consultative councils to the National Consumer Council in the hope of being able to strengthen them. I am sure that the House will be only too happy if they can be strengthened.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

The hon. Gentleman will know that I put down a Question to the Secretary of State asking whether the recent savage increase in commuter fares could be included in the Price Check Scheme and that the Question was transferred. Will he explain why such an important factor in the cost of living for so many people as these swingeing increases cannot be subjected to the same controls as other price increases?

Mr. Alan Williams:

The selective price restraint scheme was not intended to be another form of subsidy. I invite the hon. Gentleman to look at the debates that we have had on the various orders on the Price Code and so on relating to the price restraint scheme from which he will see that it would have been impossible for us to consider including a heavy loss maker within the scheme