HC Deb 16 February 1944 vol 397 c164
25. Mr. Butcher

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether steps are taken to see that all empty wagons arriving in potato growing districts, including coal wagons, are loaded with such produce and not returned empty.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I regret that it is necessary as a general rule, to avoid loading mineral wagons with general merchandise, in order to speed up the turn-round of the wagons and to keep the coal pits supplied with the numbers which they require. Some exceptions to this rule, however, are made; for example, we allow 50 mineral wagons a day to be loaded in East Anglia with potatoes for London.

Mr. Butcher

Does my hon. Friend really consider that 300 tons of potatoes from the whole of East Anglia is any contribution towards shifting the hundreds of thousands of tons which must be shifted in the very near future? Will he consider that point?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am told that 50 wagons a day have been used to build up stocks, and that they have appreciably helped the situation. On the general point, we cannot accept the principle suggested. We are already in great difficulty with the coal-pits, and if we left them any shorter of wagons, I am afraid that a great disaster would happen.