HC Deb 14 August 1940 vol 364 cc764-5
24. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in connection with the tollgate charges at present imposed by the four main line railway companies and others privately owned or owned partially by syndicates, he will introduce legislation to cancel for the duration of the war any charges which would normally be incurred by officers and men of His Majesty's Forces, whether on foot or on motor vehicles, proceeding in the execution of their duties?

Sir J. Reith

Under the Army Act, 1881, and the Air Force Act, 1917, officers and men proceeding on duty along or over any road or bridge are exempt from payment of tolls levied by virtue of any Act of Parliament. As to any private tolls, I do not propose to introduce legislation requiring exemption, which anyhow would benefit the Exchequer and not the individual officer or man.

Mr. De la Bère

Is it not inexcusable that members of His Majesty's Forces should have to pay tolls in the execution of their duty in order to cross private land, and ought not this sort of thing really to be rectified?

Colonel Arthur Evans

Do the Home Guard come under the Act which my right hon. Friend mentioned? If so, is he aware that a few days ago a member of the Home Guard, while travelling on a toll road to Cardiff, was fined 10s., or alternatively seven days' imprisonment, and will he take steps to have this state of affairs remedied?

Sir J. Reith

The Home Guard does come under the Army Act to which I referred. I said that that Act and the corresponding Air Force Act excuse officers and men on duty from any tolls levied by an Act of Parliament. I did not say that such exemption applied to private tolls.

Colonel Evans

In that case will my right hon. Friend take what steps are necessary to see that it does apply?

Sir Herbert Williams

Will my right hon. Friend take care that soldiers on duty have a free issue of Evesham plums?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Will the right hon. Gentleman point out to the landowners that these people are protecting them and that there is no reason why they should pay the tolls?

Sir J. Reith

I do not think there is any case where a private toll paid by an officer or man has not been refunded by his headquarters.

Mr. De la Bère

The matter is thoroughly unsatisfactory. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.