HC Deb 06 December 1939 vol 355 cc629-32
21. Mr. J. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Transport what response has been made to his appeal to merchants to unload wagons more expeditiously; and whether the supply of wagons to collieries is now adequate to prevent short-time working due to shortage of wagons?

The board have supplied the following information as regards omnibus routes or sections of routes which have been withdrawn since the beginning of November:

Captain Wallace

I regret that the appeal of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and myself has not resulted in any reduction in the time during which wagons are being detained for the purpose of loading and unloading and I propose to make new Regulations in regard to demurrage which will come into force on the 15th December. Broadly speaking, the effect will be to reduce to 24 hours the "free time" allowed for loading or unloading and to double the demurrage charges payable for detention beyond the free time. As a special concession registered coal merchants will be allowed for unloading wagons 48 instead of 24 hours until 31st March, 1940, by which time they will be expected to have made such arrangements as will enable them to comply with the general requirements that wagons shall be released after 24 hours. Demurrage will not be charged on wagons of shipment coal in areas where there is a controlling body, representing railway and coal interests operating an agreed scheme for ordering wagons forward to the ports of shipment and generally for securing the most economic user of wagons. Steps are being taken to constitute such bodies in shipment areas where they do not already exist. I should like to assure the House that the Regulations will be administered with due regard to any genuine difficulties which traders and agriculturalists may have in giving strict compliance provided they can show that by the institution of a proper control of their forwarding arrangements and, where practicable and necessary, the re-organisation of their unloading and storage arrangements, they have taken all reasonable steps to adjust themselves to the needs of the situation. There have been temporary shortages of wagons in some colliery districts due in many cases to the excessive number of wagons standing under load. I hope that the quicker release of wagons which the proposed Regulations are designed to secure will be effective in enabling the railway companies to keep collieries supplied with sufficient wagons.

Mr. Griffiths

While welcoming the answer of the Minister of Transport, may I ask whether active steps are being taken to increase the supply of wagons?

Captain Wallace

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member will realise that it is not a thing which we can do in a few weeks.

Mr. Paling

Will not the qualifications and loopholes in this scheme enable people to keep wagons longer than they should?

Captain Wallace

No, Sir, these Regulations are fairly drastic, and because they are drastic it will be wise to administer them in a sensible way. We do not wish to penalise anyone who through no fault of his own is physically unable to comply with the requirements.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

May I ask whether labour will be represented on the committee which the Minister proposes to set up, as they are the people who handle trucks and have the best knowledge of the most expeditious way of dealing with them?

Colonel Baldwin-Webb

Will the Minister bear in mind that in the sugar beet industry trucks are sometimes held up because of a change in Government policy?

Captain Wallace

All these matters will be borne in mind.