HC Deb 12 May 1943 vol 389 cc611-2
27. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware of the difficulties of passengers in obtaining seats at Stoke-on-Trent; that there were no seats available on several trains on 30th April, when people were not allowed to use first-class seats; and what action it is intended to take?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Apart from special trains for workmen, 113 local and through trains left Stoke on 3oth April. The loading of the local trains was normal, and it was only in certain main-line express trains that passengers had difficulty in finding accommodation. I am informed that only one instance can be traced in which third-class passengers were prevented from using first-class seats. This was on a train from Birmingham to Manchester, which leaves Stoke at 11.40 a.m. Passengers who were about to enter first-class compartments were directed to third-class compartments, in which there were unoccupied seats.

Mr. Smith

Will the Minister have observation made at this station, and, if necessary, take appropriate action?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Tinker

Will my hon. Friend pay attention to this matter, because there is no doubt that porters are stopping people from occupying first-class carriages, when there is room in them and no room in third-class carriages?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I said yesterday that we shall see that these instructions are observed.

Mr. John Dugdale

Is my hon. Friend aware that although soldiers are allowed to enter first-class compartments, they do not dare to do so if officers are in those compartments?

Mr. Noel-Baker

That is not a matter for my Department.

28. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what action it is intended to take in order that men and women serving in the Armed Forces, the Merchant Service, women with young children and those engaged on special National Service shall be given preference in the whole of the seating accommodation on all long-distance trains and in the use of trucks and other assistance in the carrying of kitbags, etc., on all railway platforms?

Mr. Noel-Baker

My hon. Friend's proposal would require the establishment of a system of priority permits for all those who use long-distance trains for any essential purpose. This would entail great inconvenience to travellers, and would necessitate the creation of an elaborate and costly administrative organisation. I regret that these disadvantages would outweigh the advantages which the plan might have.

Mr. Smith

If the action I have suggested cannot be taken, what action is being taken to deal with this problem?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am afraid that there must be great discomfort for all classes of passengers in present conditions, because of the pressure upon our transport system. The railways are doing their best; I am not sure what more they can do. If my hon. Friend will make any proposals, I will consider them.

Mr. Smith

We recognise that there must be inconvenience, but will my hon. Friend see that that inconvenience is spread over all classes of travellers?

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Ministry of War Transport itself is aggravating the position in some districts by increasing the fares by 60 per cent.?

Mr. Shinwell

As this war is being fought for democracy, why not abolish first-class carriages?