HC Deb 17 July 1940 vol 363 cc198-9
24. Mr. C. Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport what have been the difficulties at the Sheffield railway stations which have prevented canteens from being in operation for the Forces; what voluntary offers there have been for fully manning canteens; whether the difficulties are now removed; and when the canteens will be in use?

Sir J. Reith

I do not know of special difficulties. Arrangements were completed on 1st July between the L.M.S. and the Y.M.C.A. for the erection of a substantial building, including a dormitory and canteen, on the station platform. At the L.N.E.R. station the Y.M.C.A. have been offered immediate possession of premises but have not yet taken them over.

The manning of the canteens is a matter for the voluntary organisation concerned, and I am sorry I have no information on this point.

Mr. Wilson

Is it not a fact that the real difficulty has been that the railway companies were not prepared to allow anyone to sell food and refreshments to the Services at lower prices than they were charging in the refreshment room, and that for months a large voluntary organisation has been willing to take on this, and it has only just been arranged?

Sir J. Reith

I am sorry for any delay which there has been. It does not look as if there is going to be any more.

Colonel Arthur Evans

Will my right hon. Friend consult the welfare officers of the three Services in connection with these difficulties at the London stations, with a view to collective representations being made to the railway companies?

Mr. Lyons

Will my right hon. Friend consider taking power to requisition some of the hotels which are standing half empty, or more than half empty, at the various railway termini?

Sir J. Reith

I am quite prepared to consider or arrange for collective representations if it be necessary. With regard to the other question, my information—and in this I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will confirm me—is that whatever delay there may have been, the arrangements now are satisfactory, and there is not likely to be more delay.