§ 10. Mr. Donald Stewart
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, as a matter of urgency, he will formulate proposals for improving sea transport to the Western Isles.
My right hon. Friend is reviewing with the Scottish Transport Group the finances of its shipping services to the Western Isles and on the Clyde, and he will make a statement about this as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Stewart
I thank the Minister for his reply, but is he aware of the growing and justified anger in the Western Isles about the lack of action on this problem, the broken promises of the shipping company, the unsuitability of some vessels, the ludicrous timetables and the exorbitant costs? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that immediate action is taken?
§ Mr. Millan
Some of those matters are not for me but for the Scottish Transport Group. I do not accept the sweeping language which the hon. Gentleman used. Some of the matters of which he complains have gone to the transport users' consultative committee. In one case changes have been made following that. As to the condition of the "Iona ", that is under consideration between the Scottish Transport Group and the Government.
§ Mr. Younger
Will the Minister remind the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) that in the past few years the service to Stornoway has had two new vessels completed, performs two trips a day each way instead of one, and now has a drive-on, drive-off service which is infinitely better than it was before? Does the Minister not think that the hon. Gentleman is a little ungrateful?
§ Mr. Millan
When I recently met representatives of all the local authorities concerned about these services, while they were unanimous in deploring the recent increases in charges they were also unanimous in saying that the quality of the service and the vessels had been much improved. I am glad to put that on record. The impression sometimes gets about that the Scottish Transport Group has made no improvements in these services. That is certainly not true.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no fare increases until his review is completed? Will he take this opportunity to deny the strong rumour that a 25 per cent. fare increase will be announced on Monday?
§ Mr. Millan
If that is announced on Monday it will be news to me as well as to everyone else. I asked the Scottish Transport Group to defer consideration of charges until this matter has been looked into. The review was announced some time in September. The review is not completed and there will certainly be no fare proposals before the end of the review.