HC Deb 28 February 1917 vol 90 cc2109-12

A railway company whose railroad is under the control of His Majesty's Government in pursuance of section sixteen of the Regulation of the Forces Act, 1871, shall, during any period after the commencement of this Act for which their railway is so under the control of His Majesty's Government, be relieved of any obligation to keep the separate accounts and make the separate entries in respect of passenger duty required by section tour of the Railway Passenger Duties Act, 1842 (as amended by section thirteen of the Revenue Act, 1863, and section seven of the Cheap Trains Act, 1883, or any other enactment), or to make any separate payments as required by those enactments in respect of railway passenger duty for that period, and shall be deemed to have been relieved of any such obligation in respect of any duty for the period between the end of the year nineteen hundred and sixteen and the commencement of this Act.

Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


May I ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to take notice of my remarks?


I would merely point out to my hon. Friend that this is purely a War measure, and that it applies only for the period of control. It will come to an end as soon as practicable after the termination of the War. I can assure him he is mistaken in thinking that any benefit at all accrues to the railway companies. He must remember that every bit of labour of which a large company can be relieved enables it, to that extent, to release servants for military service. It is the country that gets the benefit. It is to try and release men for military service that railway companies, in common with every business in the country, have clone their utmost to skim down their businesses to release every man they can for that purpose. I feel, if I may say so respectfully to the hon. Member, that it is our duty, as far as we can, to assist any company or corporation, in however slight a degree, to attain that object. I do not think he can expect me, in recommending to the House a Bill of this nature, which is purely a war measure, to give any undertaking as to what extra facilities may be given to the travelling public at this time. As an individual, I quite sympathise with what he said. Grievances of that kind, when the War is over, might be met and should be met, but we ought to remember that these increases in fares were imposed with the definite and specific object of curtailing as far as possible railway travelling, with the double view of releasing all the rolling stock that could be released in this country for the service of the War and for releasing as far as possible the services of every available man for overseas. I have no authority, of course, to speak on this point, but I cannot think that the Government at this time would look with a favourable eye on any facilities during the remaining period—the most difficult period of the War, that might make travelling easier in this country than it is to-day. I am afraid that what I have said may not satisfy my hon. Friend, but it is the plain common sense of the matter, and it is all I can tell him.

Mr. RENDALL rose—


We really cannot discuss that question in Committee. We are tied down to the subject of the Clause, which I have put to the Committee, and this discussion seems wholly beyond it.


If the hon. Member was in order—


The hon. Member (Mr. Rendall) appears to have asked a question to which the hon. Gentleman's speech was an answer. I was reluctant to interrupt a sentence, but I certainly cannot allow a Debate to proceed upon a subject wholly outside the scope of the Clause in the Bill.


I am sorry I was not in the House when the Second Beading was taken, and I did not look at the Order Paper to see that this Bill was coming on to-night, otherwise I should have looked up information which I have in regard to this question. It seems that the railway companies are going to be relieved of the payment of certain sums which they were compelled to pay to the State, and which amount to several thousand pounds. When the Railway Passenger Duties Act was brought into operation, the railway companies were compelled to run workmen's trains up to a given hour in all parts of the country. I would ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill whether he is prepared to recommend to the railway companies, if this Bill is passed, as I expect it will be, that they should run even more workmen's trains than they are at the present time and up to a later hour than they are now doing.


I am afraid that is a matter of policy which cannot arise in Committee.


I will raise it later.

Question put, and agreed to.