29. Mr. De la Bère
asked the Minister of Transport whether, in connection with the charges being made for demurrage on coal wagons, and to expedite the distribution of coal from railhead in many 1176 provincial towns throughout the country, he will permit, as a temporary expedient to save the present delays, that the owners of motor-lorries with C licences should be permitted to carry the coal from railhead for distribution, seeing that the restrictions of the A licence-holders do not permit them at the present time to deal effectively with this traffic?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bernays)
In view of the provisions of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Road Vehicles and Drivers Order, no breach of the law is involved if a vehicle operated under a C licence or Defence Permit Certificate is used for work for which an A or B licence or equivalent certificate would normally be required. To protect hauliers against unfair competition from C vehicles provision is made in the Order for the restriction of the licence or certificate to C conditions at the discretion of the Commissioners. This power, however, would not be exercised if the Commissioner were satisfied that a C operator was fulfilling an urgent need for haulage for which no A or B haulier was available.
Mr. De la Bère
Could my hon. Friend make that more widely known, for if it were known, a great deal of this congestion would be relieved? I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his answer.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Is my hon. Friend aware that in spite of this useful concession, it will not meet the trouble of the small coal merchant, who, being small, has no storage place for his coal, his whole time is occupied in delivering coal, and he cannot retain stocks in wagons on account of the high demurrage charges?
§ Mr. Bernays
I do not think that that arises out of the Question, but I propose to make a statement on the demurrage regulations after Questions.
§ Mr. Bernays
As indicated by my right hon. Friend last Wednesday, in reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie), consideration has been given to the effect of the recent exceptional weather conditions upon the ability of traders to comply with the demurrage regulations made on 1177 15th December last. I am able to inform the House that, following the advice received from the Railway Executive Committee after their review of the situation, it has been decided that any demurrage charges incurred between 18th December, 1939, when the new charges came into operation, and 29th February, 1940, shall be remitted. This will not apply to wagons retained for "internal user."
Furthermore, as the conditions during the period mentioned have prevented the laying-in of stocks and have been unfavourable to the adjustment of coal merchants' arrangements to the altered circumstances, it has been agreed to extend until 30th June, the additional 24 hours free time allowed to coal merchants, which would otherwise have come to an end at 31st March. This further concession is being given on the understanding that, within the extended period, the merchants throughout the country will have made such necessary adjustments of their arrangements as will enable wagons to be released within the free period of 24 hours generally allowed by the regulations. It must also be understood that the whole matter is subject to review in the event of a substantial change of circumstances.
Finally, it has been decided, in the light of experience, that the free periods before demurrage is incurred shall be calculated, in the case of siding traffic, by excluding the day of arrival of the wagon, and, in the case of station traffic, by excluding the day of receipt by the trader of notice of arrival of the wagon.
§ Mr. Thorne
Is the Minister not aware that if the coal could be sent along, there would be no demurrage to pay?