Sir A. STANLEY
I am sorry again if I have not made it clear. I think I did say that it applied only to Great Britain. In Ireland the railway companies are now taking steps to reduce their passenger train mileage, and the Railway Executive, who are responsible for the operation of the railways in Ireland, have requested us to agree to certain increased charges in connection with their passenger traffic. Those suggestions are now being considered by the Board of Trade. It is quite clear that it will be necessary to establish somewhat similar restrictions with respect 398 to passenger traffic in Ireland as is being done now in Great Britain. [AN HON. MEMBER: "And racing !"] Apart from the question of these increases in season-ticket charges, a further restriction which affects the whole of Great Britain is in connection with the issue of entirely new season tickets. Here it is proposed that no new season tickets Should be issued for less than six months. And here again—
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
Only three weeks ago I tried to renew my ticket, and was told I could only take it out for six months.
Sir A. STANLEY
The area where no season tickets are to be issued for a lesser period than six months covers the whole of Great Britain, but there will be certain exceptions to meet proved cases of real hardship, such, for instance, as cases of ill-health, where it may be necessary to issue a season ticket for a lesser period than six months.
Mr. KENNEDY JONES
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that no new season tickets are to be issued for twelve miles?
Sir A. STANLEY
I am sorry. I do not think I made such a statement. I thought I had made it quite clear—and I am now dealing with the area outside the London area, and taking the country generally— that we propose that any new season tickets that may be issued shall not be for a period of less than six months except in exceptional cases. As regards the London area—I am dealing with the twelve-mile area—with places between London and twelve miles from Charing Cross—in this area we shall continue to issue season tickets as heretofore; but to places beyond twelve miles from Charing Cross, we do not propose to issue any season tickets at all to any new applicant. We propose to reissue any season tickets now being issued providing those season tickets were issued before the 1st January, 1917. But if the season ticket has been issued to any place within that area since the 1st January, 1917, it is not proposed to re-issue it unless it can be shown that the user thereof is travelling upon work of national importance, or where it can be shown that the holder has established a bond fide residence within the area. It might be suggesed—it has, indeed, been suggested — that by the use of the words "establishing a bond fide resi- 399 dence "in these areas a door will be opened to the issue of new season tickets. We are proposing to take steps to see that that door is not opened too wide. I want to make it perfectly clear that within this area outside twelve miles from Charing Cross those who have season tickets to-day and who received them since the 1st January, 1917, and those who make applications for entirely new season tickets to be used in that area, will neither get a reissue of the ticket nor any new ticket unless it can be shown very clearly that the user is engaged on work of national importance or that he uses the railways in that connection by way of having established a bond fide residence. In illustration, let me say it might be the case that if since the 1st January, 1917, or even now, it is absolutely necessary for somebody to establish their residence in this restricted area: in that case it would be, I think, unfair to refuse the issue of a season ticket. But these instances must be very rare, and the steps" we propose to take to scrutinise every application which is made will, I trust, make it impossible for this door to be open too wide.
I may add this, if those who to-day are using the season tickets in this restricted area—an area where the traffic is far too great for the railway companies to successfully carry—if after the surrender of their season tickets they attempt to continue to travel regularly on the railways by using ordinary tickets, then we may find it necessary to take steps to prevent them from travelling by the use of ordinary tickets, and people who are affected by these Regulations will be well advised to take steps to avoid the necessity—for it is nothing more or less than a necessity—of the railway companies being compelled to close their barriers against these people, in the interests of those who find it necessary to use the railways. I am exceedingly sorry that we have got to make these restrictions. They are due to circumstances entirely beyond our control. But I will point out this to hon. Members, that in this country people are enjoying a greater degree of comfort in connection with railway travelling than I think exists in any other belligerent country. It may be argued that the United States is an exception. But we have not yet had in this country such a congestion of our railways as has existed even in that country with its wonderful railway system. I think we 400 are entitled to see that quite unnecessary journeys day by day are not attempted under present circumstances.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered the use of what are called commutation tickets—that is, the issue of twenty or thirty tickets at a time, one being surrendered on each journey?