HC Deb 19 March 1923 vol 161 cc2077-8
44. Mr. ROYCE

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the railway companies have reduced the rates on cotton goods by 14 per cent., leaving those rates at 62½ per cent. above the pre-War rates, whereas, in the case of agricultural produce, they refuse to reduce the rates below the present figures, which represent an increase of 76 per cent. above those of pre-War rates; and will he make representations to the Railway Rates Tribunal to remove this discrimination against the agricultural industry?


I have been asked to reply. The railway companies are at liberty to make such modifications on their charges as the circumstances, in their opinion, warrant, and I have no particulars of the rates on cotton to which the hon. Member refers. I would remind the hon. Member that the Railway Rates Tribunal has power to determine any application for reduction made to them, but initiative rests with the traders.


Has the Minister of Agriculture made an representations to the Rates Tribunal with reference to the excessive charges for the carriage of agricultural produce?

Colonel ASHLEY

I would remind the hon. Member that the initiative lies with the traders, or any body that feels that it has a grievance. If they have a grievance in regard to rates, it is their duty to go to the Rates Tribunal and ask the Tribunal to give a clear judgment on the matter.


Has not agriculture a grievance, and does not the Minister of Agriculture represent agriculture?

62. Lieut.-Colonel COATES

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can take steps to bring together representatives of agriculture and the railway companies to consider the reductions of railway rates on agricultural produce?


Not long ago I received a proposal of the nature referred to in the question, and I immediately utilised all the means at my disposal to forward this suggestion. I am glad to say that arrangements are now being considered for the establishment of a private and unofficial Committee representing both agriculturists and railway companies to investigate the present methods and cost of transporting agricultural produce and livestock by rail. The Railway Companies' Association will nominate the railway representatives and the farmers and landowners will be asked to nominate an equal number of members. I feel confident that by the frank interchange of opinion, and by the reconsideration of existing practice concerning packing, grading and loading of railway wagons very great economies can he effected for the mutual benefit of agriculture and of the railway companies.


Will the right hon. Baronet include a Labour representative on that Committee?


I am not nominating the representatives.