HC Deb 17 January 1940 vol 356 cc106-7
8. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Transport whether he can now state if an agreement has been arrived at with the railway companies; and, if so, on what terms?

Captain Wallace

The negotiations with the railway companies involve a number of highly complicated questions, and I am not yet in a position to state that agreement has been reached.

Mr. Lipson

May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend why it is that negotiations this time are taking so long, seeing that in the last war agreements were arrived at within two months; and in view of the hardships caused to a great many people by the delay in coming to a decision, can he give a definite date by which a decision will be announced?

Captain Wallace

The reason why negotiations have been longer is that I think we are proceeding on a more sensible basis. The hon. Member must remember that the agreement made in the last war left the British taxpayers with a bill of £60,000,000.

Mr. Lipson

Does not my right hon. and gallant Friend agree that negotiating on a sensible basis ought to produce results more quickly?

Captain Wallace

I do not agree that it necessarily does. As to the question about hardships to people concerned, I do not know of any case of hardship which has arisen as a result of these negotiations not being completed.

Mr. De la bère

Is Lord Stamp in charge of these negotiations?

Sir Henry Morris-Jones

Is it not the case that these negotiations were going on for 18 months previous to the war, and in view of the distress which has been caused to widows and orphans and other people, arising from the withholding of dividends by the railway companies, cannot my right hon. and gallant Friend take steps to expedite a decision?

Captain Wallace

These statements about distress caused to widows and orphans have no foundation whatever. I know no reason why the Great Western Railway Company should postpone payment of dividends on their pre-ordinary stocks.

Mr. Charles Brown

Does not the Minister think it would be better to nationalise the railways straight away?