§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I am opposing this Bill on what might be considered, after the statements of my colleagues regarding the trouble in this Welsh valley, to be somewhat trifling grievances as compared with those with which we have been dealing. But it is not my choice that the Bill has been put down for to-night and has therefore interrupted that discussion. I take it that it was the duty of the Chairman of Ways and Means to put down this Bill for a particular evening in order that it might become law before the end of this month. My objections to the Bill are based upon what has arisen in the West of Scotland since the War. There are certain places there that are 1761 looked upon as holiday resorts, and they attract very large numbers of people from ocher parts of the West of Scotland, but it is curious that when the reductions in railway passenger rates generally were made some years ago from the 75 per cent. at which they stood over pre-war charges, the Scottish railways did not fall into line with those sections of the railways south of the Border. It is a still more curious incident that while special fares are in operation during holiday periods in a large number of places, certain parts of Scotland seem to be excluded from any of the advantages that one might get from these cheaper holiday fares.
I mentioned, in a question that I put on the 5th July, several watering places or Clydeside resorts to which the fares are now approximately 100 per cent. higher than they were before the War. In a reply which has been sent by the railway company to the Minister of Transport, to whom I must convey my thanks for his courtesy in letting me have copies of the replies by the company to my questions which he had forwarded to them, the railway company tries to make it appear that the rates are in no way out of place. The latest communication which I received intimates very strongly that to some of those places the fares are only 75 per cent. above the pre-War rates—I am quoting from the reply of 11th July—and in one case the fare is only 83 per cent. above pre-War rates. There is no cheap holiday fare, no extended holiday fare, to the places that I have been quoting. There is a cheap one-day fare, but there are no week-end fares, none of the cheap fares which exist if anyone desires to go, say, from Glasgow to any part of England, to the Isle of Wight, to Ireland, to the Isle of Man, or to any part of the country where there might be competition in the means of transport.
That is the reason, obviously, which is justifying, practically in the words of the railway company's officials, high rates to these particular places. The House of Commons is the only place where the grievances of people can be ventilated, when a railway company brings forward a Bill, by the representatives of some of those people blocking the Bill, and trying to prevent its passage. This question has been brought before the railway company on several occasions. The burghs to which I have referred in my questions 1762 have approached the railway company by deputations for several years, but the fact that the fares still remain at such abnormal rates above pre-War rates is an indication of the manner in which the company's officials look at this matter. It is therefore time that some public attention was drawn to the treatment which is given to those places.
Let me tell the Minister of Transport the rather curious method that some people have of escaping the payment of these much higher fares. Take the fare to a watering place like Millport, situated on an island and consequently without competition from motor transport. The fare to that coast resort is 5s. 3d. for third class on the train and steerage in the steamer, or 5s. 6d. for third class on the train and cabin in the steamer, but the railway company, which cannot issue a cheap ticket to Millport, or Rothesay, or other places like that, can issue a seven-day cheap ticket to holiday resorts on the mainland. The fare to Largs is 3s. for a seven-day ticket, the ordinary fare being 4s. Therefore, a number of people who are going down for week-ends to Millport book to Largs, come off the train at Fairlie, join the Millport steamer, and pay 11d. return to Millport, and thus get to Millport for 3s. 11d., when the railway company demands 5s. 6d. That the railway company know of this is borne out by the fact that only last Friday I saw on the ticket office at Fairlie station a notice that passengers who wanted boat tickets, instead of waiting till they got on the boat and buying them from the purser, could buy them from the ticket office at the station.
The railway company, while it knows that this manner of getting a cheap ticket prevails, cannot see its way to reduce the ordinary fares for people going to these resorts, whose families wish to spend the week-end there with them. In the case of a large number of these watering places, the family have been going there for yeah, the children have grown up, and while the parents go down to take their holidays, the young men and young women, who may not get their holidays at the same time, like to go down to them each week-end, but they have to pay the, full fare unless, in going to Millport, they adopt the method that I have outlined. If they go to Rothesay, they have to pay the same fare, and the 1763 same to Dunoon. Though Dunoon is on the mainland, any mode of competition that there might be would be too expensive, because one has to go a very roundabout way to reach the western shores of the Firth of Clyde, on which Dunoon is situated.
I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport that the reply that has been sent indicates that the railway company is under the impression that it can carry on this method of exploiting a certain section of the holiday public in the west of Scotland indefinitely. It has been going on now for a number of years, and, as I have said, deputations from these places have waited on the railway company in the endeavour to get cheaper fares, but they have simply been brushed aside by the railway company's representatives. I want the Minister to convey to the railway company that this has gone on too long, that I intend to block any Bill that is brought before this House by the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway Company, no matter to which part of the British Isles it is intended to apply, and that I will force it to come for Debate on the Floor of the House for its Second Reading until some of these grievances from the west of Scotland, are put right. It is the only way by which one can bring the railway company to its senses.
Another matter that I raised is a very small matter, which the railway company might have conceded without any loss of dignity and probably with a great deal more comfort to the travelling public and less inconvenience to their officials in the great Glasgow terminal station. I suggested, in a question that I put, that the particular railway company that is promoting this Bill might run a special train on the fair holiday week-end, the Friday, Saturday, and Monday, to the Ayrshire and Renfrewshire watering resorts. The reply that I received is rather curiously worded; and I have to thank the Minister for sending me a copy of this reply also. It says:Special trains from Govan.—The position here is that, while there is no passenger station at Govan, the platforms at the goods depot are on occasions used for passenger trains run in connection with excursions such as, for example, Sunday school trips. We do in fact already issue tickets in advance at Govan goods station immediately prior to the holiday period, 1764 but with regard to the question of using the station for passenger train services at this time, it is felt that, owing to the diversity of the destinations involved, the necessary duplication of services would not be warranted.Was there ever a more gross distortion of facts submitted to a Minister by any outside body than is contained in this reply l For example, take the statement "there is no passenger station at Govan." I want to know from the Minister if he can get for me the date upon which the London Midland and Scottish Railway issued its advertisement closing the passenger station at Govan, if he will get for me the date when it sold the building that was the entrance to the passenger station at Govan to a tobacconist and stationer, and if he will get. for me the date when, about a fortnight ago, the company ran a special excursion train from Govan to the very destinations that are submitted in my question, namely, the Ayrshire holiday resorts—Saltcoats, Ardrossan and Largs—and took about 300 people from Govan Station. Yet they tell me in this reply that because of the diversity of the places they cannot see their way to run trains from this particular station. When it suits their convenience, however, they run evening excursion trains and advertise in the local papers inviting people to go to this particular passenger station which, they say, does not exist.
I remember raising this question some years ago. The reply that was given to me then was that they could not run trains because there is in direct contact except by taking the train to Ibrox Junction and then shunting the engine. That struck me as being rather a curious reply, but I did not press the matter as the holiday period had passed. The holiday period has passed again new, and the days upon which the people of Glasgow go for their holidays are, in the main, over, so that for this particular Glasgow holiday period the operations of any such facilities as I have asked for cannot assist the Glasgow holiday public this year. I am looking, however, to future years. I can recall the time—because I was born and brought up in this district—when passenger trains did run from this station. I can also recall when you could run on to the loop line without going into Ibrox Station. Last week-end I walked round the place to see what had happened to 1765 the loop line. It is still there, except that 30 yards of the double track is taken up, leaving only a single line going under the railway bridge at Helen Street. The track has been disconnected from the main line and it only requires the shifting of a few yards of sleepers to connect it up again. One track of the metals is practically out of sight owing to the grass that has grown over it.
I could also see that, because it suited the railway company, they could build a new platform to accommodate the people going down to the football matches in Ibrox Park once a week and the people who were going to the greyhound racing tracks, two of which are in the immediate vicinity. They had a notice up at the entrance to this new platform intimating that special trains would be run from that platform to Glasgow after the last race. They can run a special train after the race meetings because it suits them. They can build a platform to accommodate the football and racegoing public, but they cannot run a train from the place where a station still exists to suit the people who are resident in that district. The company in their reply also mentioned the fact that they sometimes use this station to accommodate Sunday school trips. I remember a year or so ago a body of people running an excursion to Renfrewshire and they approached the railway company. The party consisted of Govan people, and tickets were sold to them. The excursion was to be run on a Sunday and they asked the railway company to open the station for them on that day. The company said that they could not, and could only run the train from Ibrox station. So the children in the party had to walk 2½ miles when there was a station at their very doors.
If the Minister thinks I am drawing the long bow in my statements, here is the map of Glasgow showing the very sidings and the loop line connecting with Govan Station. The railway company says that there is not such a thing as a passenger station. It is there. I have here a number of their latest time tables and statements of fares to various places issued from Glasgow which indicate that there are no cheap fares to the places I 1766 have mentioned. Here is the touring programme of the Firth of Clyde, which shows that trains can be run to places I have mentioned from Govan. I submit that when the railway company try to mislead the Minister by addressing to him such a reply as they sent in answer to my questions, the House ought to reject this Bill until those who are promoting it look more after the interests of the public than they seem to be doing.
In the schedules the company are asking for powers to charge for passengers coming off or embarking on passenger steamers from Gourock Pier, Wemyss Bay Pier, Largs Pier and Fairlie Pier. They ask to be permitted to make a charge of 2d. for every passenger going on or coming off a boat. May I ask the Minister if lie has made himself aware of the position? Is he aware that at none of these places is any charge made for going off or coming on a steamer? If these powers are given to the railway company they can charge 4d. for every passenger who goes on to a boat, and this will be an addition to the fares which the people will have to pay if they are going to any watering place which involves going on to a steamship company's boat. The Minister in reply may quote a particular steam-boat company called The Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Let me assure him that anyone in the West of Scotland who knows anything about the steamers on the Clyde know the association of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company, with the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company. The Caledonian Steam Packet Company, was a subsidiary to the old Caledonian Railway Company. The old Glasgow and South Western Railway had no subsidiary company but operated their steamers direct. When the grouping took place and the London Midland and Scottish steamers and the Caledonian steamboats were put under one company, the Caledonian Steam Packet Company, but it is the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company. I warn the hon. Gentleman of this in case he is under the impression, because of the difference in names, that the Caledonian Steam Packet Company is a separate company with no connection with the railway company. It is a subsidiary company operating the London Midland and Scottish Clyde passenger steamboats.
I understand that the House wishes to go back to the unhappy Welsh business and I am sorry for having intervened. I 1767 did not know the Welsh business was coming on, but in any case, the Chairman of Ways and Means put the Bill down for to-night, and, as I objected, it was only fair to the House that I should take the opportunity of stating the reasons for my objection. I am speaking on behalf of not only many of my own constituents, but of many thousands of people in the West of Scotland. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will do what he can to have these grievances adjusted in such a manner that will give some sense of satisfaction to those people on whose behalf I am speaking.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
As a director of the company to which the hon. Member has referred, I may perhaps be excused if I make some reference to what has been said. At the end of his speech the hon. Member referred to some points contained in the Bill. I can only say that the Bill deals with the question of charges at railway docks in Scotland. It has taken some three years for these negotiations to reach agreement. Each year the charging authority has been continued for 12 months, but at least complete agreement has been come to by all the parties concerned. This Bill is now presented and it is asked that it should be passed so that these charges may be permanent. The hon. Member referred to the question of charges for landing passengers. I did not know that that point was coming up and I am not able to deal with it beyond saying that this is an agreed Bill by all the parties concerned.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
May I ask the hon. Member whether the people of Rothesay, or the people of Fairlie, or of Largs, or of Millport were consulted with regard to the dues to be paid when coming on or going off the steamers?
§ Mr. FIELDEN
The people who are interested in these charges, the traders and others, are all agreed about this. The people to whom the hon. Member refers may not be satisfied, but I think they have got to take their share in the bargain. Owing to the regulations and customs of the House on a Bill like this which deals with dock charges, a Member can raise any other question that 1768 is connected with the particular company that brings in the Bill. The hon. Member has taken advantage of this custom to bring up this question of fares on the Clyde. I do not blame him. He has the opportunity, and takes advantage of it, to bring his complaint before the House. The fares charged by the railway company to people going from Glasgow to these resorts on the Clyde are low. I gather from him that, because in other parts of the country there are cheap summer fares, the fares charged on the Clyde ought also to be reduced.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
No. May I put the hon. Member right? The differentiation already exists. There are cheap summer fares in existence to health resorts on the mainland, but in the case of those situated upon an island, where there is no motor transport competition with the railway companies, the cheap fares are not being put into operation. That is the differentiation to which I object.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
I agree that is the case. The cheap summer fare has been introduced by the railway companies in the hope that it will encourage people to travel more, and that although the companies will lose on the individual fare they will gain through the larger number of people who travel. That fare exists in England and in Scotland, but it does not exist on these river services on the Clyde, or on the services that start in Glasgow, go by rail to a coast town and thence by boat to one of these islands. The differentiation is clear, it is there, and the question is whether it can be justified. The summer fare has been introduced because it is hoped that it will bring more revenue, but does the argument hold that because it has been introduced for railway fares on the mainland therefore it ought to apply to the rail-and-river charges on the river?
The ordinary third-class fare in this country is 1½d. per mile, but in order to try to induce a larger number of people to travel that fare has been reduced during the summer months from 1½. to 1d. a mile. The railway companies hope that the experiment will be beneficial to them financially. On the Clyde services the 1769 fares are, perhaps, two-thirds rail and one-third steamer, and those fares, which exist all the year round, are only slightly over ¾d. a mile. To cheapen those fares would be to put the cost of travel on that particular route considerably lower than it is on the mainland. The fares are extremely low at present, they are the same in the winter as in the summer, and that is done because the companies think—or the company thinks in this case—that it is desirable, because they are compelled to run a service, to encourage as much traffic as possible not only in the summer but also in the winter. Therefore, they have put down the fares to this very low figure of something slightly over id. a mile. In these circumstances it can scarcely be said that the action of the railway companies is wrong or unfair to the community. They are giving on these services a rate lower than the reduced summer fare on the mainland.
If there are people in Glasgow who want to take a holiday to whom cost is of first importance there are other river steamers which start from Glasgow and go all the way by water to these ports. The journey takes rather longer. On those steamers people can get lower fares than are charged by the railway companies. Those services generally run only in the summer, but during the summer months there is that alternative service for those to whom cost is of first essence. There is a summer service at lower prices, generally speaking, so I am informed, than the services of the railway companies. I think the House will see that there is no injustice or unfairness. The rail-and-river service given by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company is on a lower-fare basis than the summer services given on the mainland.
The hon. Member referred to the question of Govan station. I did not know that question was coming up, and therefore I have not been able to inform myself properly on the subject, but I take it that Govan Station is no longer used regularly, that it is one of those stations which has had to be closed and is only used occasionally, and hence the reasons given by the officials of the railway company for not running these excursion services from that particular station at the particular time at which the hon. Member suggests they ought to run. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMIESON
Although I represent constituents who make use of these services, I want to dissociate myself from what has been said by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), who complained that the fares to these Clyde watering places were very much higher than pre-War. No doubt they are. At that time railway wages were lower, and there were three railway companies competing for that traffic. They competed with their trains, they competed by running steamers on the river, and they charged fares which, I believe, were lower both as regards the rail and the steamer end of the journey than those in other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. JAMIESON
At that time, there is no doubt, they paid dividends, but the railway companies paid lower wages. What is the position now? The hon. Member quoted the return fare to Millport, 5s. 3d. third-class rail and steerage in the summer, and 5s. 6d. third-class rail and cabin. If that is the fare going by Wemyss Bay, there is a 30-mile railway journey each way. Allowing for the fare which the railway companies are now giving under their summer return tickets, 1d. a mile, as against 1½d. a mile which they ate entitled to charge, we get 5s. for the railway part of the journey, and get 3d. return, or 6d. return, for the steamer part, according as the passenger goes steerage or cabin. I do not think anybody can complain that that is an excessive charge.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Will the hon. Member explain why, as the railway company issue tickets between Glasgow and Wemyss Bay Station on the land service for 2s. 3d. return, they cannot reduce these fares? That is a long way from the figure he has quoted.
§ Mr. JAMIESON
I was not aware that those special fares were being issued. If they are, the reason for the issue of them is obvious. Railway companies must live, just as the omnibuses must live, and if railway companies do issue these special tickets to Wemyss Bay or places on the mainland I have no doubt that omnibus competition is the reason. But I want the House to take rather a broader view of this matter. The hon. Member says 1771 that to other places summer tickets, period tickets and other cheap tickets of that sort are being issued. The reason, I have no doubt, why the railway companies do not issue them to the particular places he mentioned is that the fares are already within the limit of cheapness conceded under the summer fares. Although, as I say, I represent a constituency where people "gang doon the water" I think in fairness to the railway company that this Bill ought to be passed.
I want to deal with one other aspect of it. This is a Bill which is seeking to confirm an Order which was inquired into by commissioners under the Private Bill Parliamentary procedure which we have in Scotland—commissioners from this House and another place. I think it would be entirely wrong for the House to reject a Bill which has received the approval of the commissioners simply because an hon. Member has a grievance against the railway company about something not dealt with in the Bill at all. The only matter dealt with in the Bill concerns dues for the landing of passengers. With the exception of the piers which are owned by the railway companies, every pier on the Clyde used to, and I think still does, charge dues for passengers landing or boarding Steamers—
§ Mr. JAMIESON
—and I see no reason why the railway companies should not make a similar charge. I hope the House will pass the Bill.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
I rise to say one word on this Bill from the point of view of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, whose duty it has been to make the Provisional Order passed as a result of the inquiry in Scotland. It is not my duty, as the House well knows, to enter into the merits of the Bill, but merely to make it clear to the House that this is a Bill which has gone through all the regular procedure, which regular procedure was closely examined by my right hon. Friend before he made the Order. As has already been said in Debate, this is the third Provisional Order dealing with the same topic. I understand that the opponents of the Provisional Order and 1772 the promoters have agreed to Clauses which are in the Bill.
The only other observation that I would wish to make is that the House should recollect that the essential method of the Provisional Order is an examination in Scotland by four Commissioners. That examination has been duly carried through, and it is, I think, the custom of the House, just as it is in the case of private Bills, to pay great regard to the report of the Select Committee, or, in the case of Provisional Orders coming from Scotland, to the decisions at which the Commissioners, who are the delegates of the House, have arrived. That is all I need say. It is my right hon. Friend's task, in regard to these Provisional Orders, to see that the procedure is duly carried out, and that he legally and properly can make them, as he has done in this case.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has given a very convincing reason to the House for supporting this Measure. Notwithstanding that, I dissociate myself from the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Maryhill (Mr. Jamieson) who seems to disagree with the hon. Member opposite for using this opportunity of introducing this very interesting discussion. I am sure that the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) has no reason whatever for apologising for raising these matters. This is an opportunity for raising matters which affect the lives individually of the people of Scotland, and we have used it in the past with very considerable effect. One notable example was the agitation for third-class sleepers, in which both he and I played some part, though the agitation had been started by people who were in the House of Commons long before us. Eventually we persuaded the railway companies to adopt the third-class sleeper, and I am sure that no railway company would think of going back on them, because they have been an immense success.
This is a very useful opportunity for raising questions such as the hon. Member for Govan raised at the beginning of this Debate. I find myself convinced by the arguments of the Under-Secretary that we ought to vote for this 1773 Bill, but there is one matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister of Transport and of the railway companies. I have referred in the past to this matter, to which I attach very considerable importance, and it is the possibility of giving cheap fares to students of the Scottish universities, particularly to those who come from a long distance to those universities. We took a little time to persuade the railway companies to give the third-class sleepers, and, if we go on drawing attention to this point we may eventually get them to make the concession. Many Scottish students, especially those from the Highlands of Scotland, have to travel very long distances to the universities, and railway fare is a very substantial part of their annual budget.
When a political party hold a, congress, or a charitable organisation, if large enough, hold a congress, and a sufficient number of people are to be present, they get specially low fares. I suggest to the railway companies that, in the same way, students attending universities in very large numbers, at regular periods of the year, ought to have a claim for low fares. However close they live to the universities, the students should have that advantage. Obviously, those who live in the same city as the university, as a considerable proportion of the students would, would not have any travelling to do, but for the comparatively small proportion who live a long way away from the university, it would be a very great boon indeed if they could get cheap fares when attending the university. This is a plea for which I know there is very widespread sympathy in Scotland, and, if the railway companies could see their way to do what I suggest, their action would be very greatly appreciated, not only by those who would benefit, but by a large number of people who would think that the railway companies had done a fine and generous thing in facilitating the studies of young Scotsmen and Scotswomen.
Having taken the opportunity of raising this subject, as I shall continue to do until the railway companies are persuaded of the wisdom of this action, I agree that, in the circumstances in which it comes before the House, the Bill ought not to be opposed.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
In view of what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Maryhill (Mr. Jamieson) as to the fares between Glasgow and Greenock—he said they had never had fares of one penny per mile—I should like to recall that there was a period within my memory when the fares between Glasgow and Greenock were only 9d. Greenock is two-thirds of the distance that the hon. and gallant Member attempted to lead the House to believe was really the rail distance travelled by anyone going from Newport to Rothesay. The point was made that there has been an abnormal increase, compared with other localities, in the fares between Glasgow and the watering places on the Clyde, and that that was partly due to the fact that the railway companies have a monopoly. There is no competition, and if omnibuses were running to Rothesay or to Newport, or to any other watering places on the Clyde, I have not the slightest doubt that the railway companies would find it convenient to issue weekly tickets of the kind that are being issued in various other parts of the country, and day-excursion tickets. There would be very considerable inducement for them to make changes such as have been proposed.
We do not propose to vote against the Bill, but we want to draw attention to these anomalies. I think that the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) has put a remarkable case, and I sincerely hope that the railway company will meet—or at least the Ministry of Transport will be able to induce the railway company to meet—the very reasonable complaint that has been made with regard to the treatment meted out to passengers from Glasgow to the watering places.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I wish to join in the protest that has been made by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean). I feel that he has stated the case for cheaper fares in a very moderate and convincing way. The hon. Member who spoke from the opposite benches for the railway companies made the very best defence he could, but I do not think that it was a convincing defence. I feel that the railway companies ought to do more than they are doing in order to get back 1775 in some measure to the pre-War facilities. I know something of this matter, because I know the Clyde about as well as any Member present; I have known every corner of it for many years past, and I remember very well what were the pre-War facilities by road, rail and steamboat, as compared with the present facilities. The hon. Member for Govan has stated the case in a very moderate way. It may be that the ordinary charges are reasonable enough, but there ought to be cheaper excursion fares to enable the poorer people of Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and districts round about, to enjoy a day at the seaside without having to spend a lot of money, as they have to do at present.
I feel that the railways are exploiting the monopoly that they have. At the present time they have practically a monopoly, because the two railway companies are working together, and the monopoly cannot be broken by motors, because of the intervention of the Clyde. It is up to them to play the game, as it were, and to meet the legitimate demand for a cheaper means of getting to the sea coast. It is all very well to say that people can use the steamers running from Glasgow down the Clyde, but that takes a long time, and people nowadays require quicker facilities than they used to require. It is only reasonable that the railway companies should listen to the protests which have been made in this House, and should meet the situation in a sensible way. I think that this is a case in which the Minister of Transport might well intervene. If he has not any powers, I think he ought to try to get powers, so that the facilities which exist in other parts may be granted to the people of Glasgow and other manufacturing and industrial towns in that neighbourhood. Therefore, I am very glad that the hon. Member for Govan has made this protest, and I hope it will he considered favourably by those in authority.
§ 8.28 p.m.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of TRANSPORT (Lieut.-Colonel Headlarn)
I am sure that nobody in the House has any ill feeling against the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) for raising this matter on the present Bill. It is right that every 1776 Member of Parliament should seize the opportunity, when it comes, of expressing the views of his constituents or those whom he represents in the House, and I am sure that the hon. Member is doing his best for those whom he represents. At the same time, I am not quite sure that he did not rather mislead the House—quite unintentionally, I am certain—by comparing the ordinary fares at the present time with the pre-War excursion fares. There is no doubt that the present fares represent an immense increase as compared with the pre-War excursion fares, but I am told that the pre-War fares in this particular area were extremely cheap, and the hon. Member who spoke for the railway companies—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
They made profits because their expenses were very much lower than they are at the present time. Everybody knows that the railway companies are now passing through a very bad time, and obviously they cannot do now what they did before the War.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
I cannot go into the question of other places; that is a matter between the hon. Member and those whom he represents in that part of the world—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
—and the railway companies; it is not a matter between the Minister of Transport and the railways. The Minister has no power in this matter so far as the steamer services are concerned. The railway companies are entitled to charge such reasonable fares as they think fir, and we cannot in any way interfere in those charges.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
The same rule applies in that case also; we cannot interfere with their doing that. In such cases, traders have a right to lodge their objections with the Scottish Commissioners. I quite appreciate that, when a new Charge of this kind is put on, there may be a reasonable case for objection, 1777 and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland pointed out that there is this power of lodging objections with the Scottish Commissioners when the Order is considered. I do not know the details of this particular Bill, because, until the present moment, when it comes before the House and a question is raised which affects the Ministry of Transport, it has not come within my purview, but I should like to assure the hon. Member for Govan that the Minister has no power to interfere. With reference to the hon. Member's complaint as to Govan station, that also was answered by the hon. Member who spoke on behalf of the railway companies, but I should like at some time to study these rail lines, though it would have been more convenient to have done so before this Debate than to attempt to do so across the Floor of the House, as the hon. Member offered to do with me. I understand, however, that the use of Govan station as a passenger station has passed away as a matter of ordinary usage, though the goods station is still used on occasion for the convenience of the public.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
From the point of view of my reply to the hon. Member, that is the information which I suggest is correct. If he disagrees with me, that again is a question, not between him and myself, but between him and the railway company.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
It is not a question between myself and the railway company; it is a question of information being supplied to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, which, from the manner in which it has been supplied to him and given to the House, is misleading to the House. The platforms which are being used at Govan at the present time are not the platforms of the goods station, but are the platforms of the old passenger station, which were used by the passengers when they were travelling out of and into the old Govan passenger station.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
Anyhow, from the point of view of the public, I am not stating anything to which anyone would object, for it seems to me that it does not very much matter to a traveller whether he gets off at a goods station or at a passenger station; it is a 1778 question of the transport facilities, and, if it is possible for people to use Govan station as passengers, I do not think the matter is so serious as the hon. Member would suggest. That is as far as I can go on the subject. With regard to the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), who spoke with such fervour about educational facilities, I agree that it would be most desirable that students, not only in Scotland but elsewhere, should have special facilities, but that is hardly a matter for the Ministry of Transport; it seems to me to be a matter which should be dealt with by the Board of Education. I suggest to him that he should continue his campaign against that Department and not against mine. I do not think, really, the House need be under any doubt as to what to do on this Bill. The points that the hon. Member has raised are certainly points which he has every right to bring forward, but I do not really think they affect the Bill as a whole.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I hope the hon. Member who spoke on behalf of the railway company will carry out these reforms because, if they are not put into operation by the next holiday period, I shall object to any further Bills that they bring in.