25. Mr. T. THOMSON
asked the Prime Minister in what respects the 15,000 railway wagons sold to Belgium by His Majesty's Government were unsuitable for use on British railways; whether the necessary alterations could have been made in many cases at a less cost and in a shorter time than it takes to build new wagons; and, having regard to the handicap to increased production caused by the shortage of railway wagons in this country, will he give instructions that no more wagons are to be sold, but 1514 are to be returned from overseas without further delay?
§ The DEPUTY-MINISTER of MUNITIONS (Mr. Kellaway)
I have been asked to reply to this question. Of the 15,000 wagons sold to Belgium, 5,662 were sold by the Ministry of Munitions. These were wagons of the continental type, which would not pass the English loading gauge or were fitted with a guard's compartment containing brake operating gear of a type not used on the English railways. These wagons were not brought back for adaptation as it was desired to use the available transport to carry the very large number of British railway companies' wagons which could at once be put into circulation. Already 15,371 of these have been returned to England, and there still remain 14,304 to be brought back to this country. The delivery of these is being effected as quickly as possible.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that as far back as October last the Ministry promised to return eight or nine hundred weekly to this country and that they have not been returned at anything like that rate, and can he expedite their return?
§ Mr. BILLING
Has the Minister of Transport been consulted in reference to the sale of those wagons abroad, and, if not, is it proposed to consult him in future?
§ Mr. BILLING
Has the Minister of Transport approved of these sales of wagons, and is he aware that the Minister told us that the sole reason for the transport trouble is shortage of wagons?
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
That would be fairly obvious, but the controlling factor in this case has been shortage of transport to bring the wagons back.