HC Deb 07 December 1938 vol 342 cc1157-60
29. Sir Joseph Leech

asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that although the volume of railway goods traffic is unsatisfactory the volume of railway traffic in returned empties has greatly increased; and what steps he proposes to take to adjust the anomaly by which the present railway freight rates for goods enable road transport concerns to select remunerative goods traffic and to throw the unremunerative returned empties freight traffic on to the railways?

39. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the Minister of Transport whether in view of the serious economic position of the railways, which is prejudicing their efficiency and ability to meet calls that may be made on them in a national emergency, he will consider removing, as soon as possible, the statutory controls and regulations which are a century old and which were put into operation when there was no other form of competitive transport?

Mr. Burgin

The points to which my hon. Friends refer are aspects of the general question of control over railway rates which is under consideration in connection with the recent representations by the railway companies.

34. Mr. Adamson

asked the Minister of Transport the aggregate net railway receipts of the four main line companies for each of the last 15 years?

Mr. Burgin

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Adamson

Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether the latest returns are equal to the average over the whole period?

Mr. Burgin

As one of my colleagues said the other day, that seems to involve an arithmetical sum, but I would rather circulate the figures and let them speak for themselves.

Following is the answer

Railway Net Receipts of the four main line Railway Companies.

Year £
1923 38,700,000 (a)
1924 35,300,000(a)
1925 33,400,000(a)
1926 17,200,000(a)
1927 38,100,000(a)
1928 36,800,000
1929 40,300,000
1930 33,700,000
1931 31,500,000(b)
1932 26,100,000(b)
1933 28,000,000(b)
1934 30,300,000(b)
1935 30,700,000(b)
1936 32,700,000
1937 34,400,000
(a) Adjusted to allow for subsequent changes in accounting practice.
(b) Adjusted in respect of the revised basis of local rates.

35. Mr. Adamson

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has any figures to show the increase in the volume of merchandise carried on the roads since the War and the extent to which the increase is accounted for by new traffic?

Mr. Burgin

No, Sir. No returns of traffic are made by the operators of goods vehicles on roads, and I am, therefore, not in possession of the figures which the hon. Member is seeking.

Mr. Adamson

Is it not essential that there should be some basis if there is to be any comparison between road and rail traffic?

Mr. Burgin

I have no means of ascertaining the total volume of traffic carried on the roads.

36. Mr. Adamson

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the development of the carriage of goods by road as a modern form of transport with pronounced advantages, he is giving consideration to the problem of adapting the railway services to the changing conditions; and has he reached any conclusions?

Mr. Burgin

Railway services are primarily a matter for the railway company whose managements have constantly under review steps which may be necessary to adapt the railways and their methods of working to modern requirements. I am always ready to bring to the attention of the railways any practicable proposals, and if the hon. Member has any specific suggestions I shall be glad to consider them.

Mr. De Chair

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the railway companies had to publish their freights on 1st January, and that the road transport people can always under-cut them at any subsequent date?

Mr. Leonard

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the answer, call the attention of the railway companies to the fact that the Weir Committee in 1931 recommended the electrification of the railways in Scotland?

41. Mr. Parker

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has had a further meeting with the representatives of the railway companies; and what was the result?

Mr. Burgin

Officials of my Department met the general managers of the four main line railway companies last Thursday, and the chairmen and General managers are seeing me again to-morrow.

42. Mr. Parker

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the difficulties of the railway companies, he is taking any steps to promote the coordination of the railway, road transport, inland waterway, and coastwise shipping services as complementary parts of the country's transport system?

Mr. Burgin

The whole question of the co-ordination of transport is receiving my earnest consideration in the light of the reports of the Transport Advisory Council on Service and Rates and of the representations made to me by the railway companies and other interests concerned.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the Minister in a position to tell the House what will be the result of his considerations?

Mr. Burgin

The railway companies have recently submitted a memorandum. They were asked to supply further information. Some of that information has been received, and the chairmen and general managers of the railway companies are seeing me to-morrow in further explanation of their request.

Sir John Haslam

Will the Minister take care that a huge monopoly is not created, so that there is no individual enterprise whatever in the transport industry in this country?

Mr. McEntee

When the Minister is giving consideration to the case of the railway companies will he consider whether, in fact, they are not very much over-capitalised?

Mr. Burgin

That will be one of the questions.

52. Mr. Joel

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in putting forward their claim in respect of rate-charging, the railway companies equally abandon on their part any desire to continue the advantages of Berating or of preferential taxation of heavy oil and kindred benefits?

Mr. Burgin

The representations made to me by the railway companies have been confined to a request for the repeal of the existing statutory provisions governing the charges and conditions for the conveyance of merchandise traffic by rail.