MP BOB Seely has urged the government to grant the IW Council powers which would force ferry companies to provide a 'public service'.

During the debate at Westminster Hall this week, he told MPs and the government some £100 million a year was spent by Islanders on some of the most expensive ferry routes in the world.

However, Mr Seely's proposals came under fire from the boss of Red Funnel, Kevin George, who said the government should stump up the cash to subsidise services.

Mr Seely said the ferry companies were privatised in the 1980s with no public service obligation in 'a significant and pretty unique error'.

He said: "There appears to be no desire to rectify that situation, yet elsewhere, public money tends to get thrown at locations with isolation issues."

Speaking after the meeting, he added: "I want the ferries to do more to support the Island."

He said the council, working with the Department for Transport, should have the power to enforce a 'public service obligation' upon the ferry companies — which could involve forcing ferry firms to run extra services at cheaper fares.

Wightlink chief executive Keith Greenfield said: "We support Bob Seely’s call for the government to recognise the financial challenges of living and working on the Island in future funding settlements but we cannot agree with many of his observations about Solent ferries.

“Although our sailings are busy in summer, we also run many loss-making services, recognising our obligation to serve the Island community throughout the year."

Kevin George, Red Funnel’s chairman and chief executive, said: "If the government is prepared to subsidise services that support a service obligation then we would be happy to review such a scheme. However, without such funding the idea of a service obligation or regulation is in reality a hollow promise.”

A spokesman for Hovertravel said: "We are more than willing to work with the local MP to explore how increased funding and support can be used to assist the IW."