I thank the Secretary of State for that unrevealing answer, because I asked him when he last discussed the matter with the Secretary of State for Transport. Can he tell me what is the subsidy per passenger mile to ferries in Scotland? Has he been informed by the Secretary of State for Transport what is the subsidy per passenger mile to ferries in England?
In relation to the Isle of Wight, all services are provided on a commercial basis. The reason for that is that about 9 million passengers are carried on ferries between the mainland and the Isle of Wight, whereas in the Scottish islands, even on routes such as Stornaway to Ullapool, the figure is about 189,000. A figure of 9 million passengers means that commercially justified services are possible, whereas most of the Scottish islands need an element of subsidy. I assume that even the new Conservative party is not arguing that ferry services are not important to the Hebrides and other islands. Such services need to be maintained and subsidised.
Have the Secretary of State or the Government investigated the economic benefits of the possible increase in tax revenues as a result of further lowering ferry fares to the Hebrides?
Were there to be such a consideration, it would have to be given by the Scottish Executive, which, of course, is responsible for the subsidy regime and for maintaining ferries to the Hebrides.