Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the increase in fares has been even greater than the 21·9 per cent. rate of inflation caused by the Government and that part of the reason for that has been the Government's cuts in subsidies to public transport bodies and local authorities? Does he agree that the Government, instead of increasing fares, should take action to decrease fares, which will encourage more people to use public transport rather than private transport and will thereby encourage the conservation of energy?
The major constituents in transport costs are fuel and wages. Fuel and oil costs have increased by 50 per cent. over the past 12 months and I shall not labour excessively what has happened to wage increases. There have been some economies in revenue support, but they have not been drastic and they are a comparatively minor cause of the present problems.
Relating this question again directly to London Transport, may I ask whether my hon. and learned Friend agrees that there is a direct relationship between fares and services in London and that if fares go up, the standard of service goes down? Will he note that there seems to be some evidence that, if we are not careful, the Government or their successors will have to face a collapse of public transport in London, because the consumer will not be able to afford the fares and the service will become unacceptable to those using it?
The situation is serious but not so dramatic, perhaps, as that in London at the moment. I accept that one of the main restraining influences on fares is the need to improve the efficiency of the system and increase productivity in the use of manpower. There comes a stage, if everyone hands on fare increases to the public, when it is counter-productive and the public refuse to pay and take up other means of transport.
Has the Minister taken note of the successful low fares policy with which the South Yorkshire county council and the Sheffield district council has persisted? Will he note that this matter was put before the people at the last elections and resulted in a resounding victory? Has he noticed that more people are using road transport in that area and using it to an increasing extent compared with anywhere else in Britain?
The hon. Gentleman's last statement cannot be supported. I know of no evidence to support it. The South Yorkshire county council is not running a successful low fares policy. It is very expensive and wasteful and is being paid for by the ratepayers of South Yorkshire.
What inquiries are taking place to find alternative sources of revenue for public transport, apart from fares and State subsidies? Has my hon. and learned Friend considered the situation that applies to the Paris metropolitan system, under which a third of the revenue, I understand, is obtainable from such sources?
I am aware of the arrangements made in Paris, but careful consultation would be required before new forms of taxation were introduced that might affect employment possibilities in London.
There is no doubt that people who use buses in South York shire tend to make more regular use of them because the fares are lower. As far as I am aware, people are not being diverted from cars on to buses. The same people are using them more often, at enormous expense to the ratepayers of South Yorkshire. There can be few other areas of the country where the general public would be prepared to pay such fantastic costs for artificially low fares.