HC Deb 21 February 1945 vol 408 cc777-8
24. Mr. Stourton

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport the value of merchandise misappropriated from each of the four main line railways during the year 1944.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I regret that the figures for the full year are not yet available, but for the nine months ended September, 1944, the amount of the claims paid by the four main line railway companies in respect of loss and theft of goods in transit was as follows:

G.W.R. 235,500
L.N.E.R. 526,000
L.M.S.R. 887,500
S.R. 109,250

Mr. Stourton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figures he has given clearly demonstrate that the thefts from the railway companies' premises and vehicles have become an organised industry, and has the aid of Scotland Yard been called in to deal with the matter?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, I think we have taken all possible measures to deal with it.

Mr. Shinwell

This is a matter of very great importance affecting many people who are losing their goods, and cannot replace them. May I ask whether any special steps are being taken to deal with these depredations, and whether my hon. Friend will, without any prejudice to the people concerned, consult the various trade union organisations to see whether they can render any assistance?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have had a number of consultations with the trade unions, and we have done everything in our power to strengthen the railway police and to provide measures to deal with it, but war conditions have made it an extremely difficult problem to handle.

Mr. Graham White

Will my hon. Friend consult with other Departments which are suffering from these thefts and assemble all the figures so that we may know what a terrible economic loss we are suffering?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have consulted with other Departments, but what my hon. Friend suggests is a valuable proposal, and I will try to carry it out.

Mr. Watkins

Has the Minister noticed the extraordinary disparity between the loss suffered on the Southern Railway and that in the cases of other companies? Does that mean that the Southern Railway are more vigilant?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I would like to examine that question more closely.

Mr. Gallacher

Instead of allowing this individual appropriation to go on, is it not desirable that the Government should take over the railways as a whole?

Sir Oliver Simmonds

Are the figures given by the Minister an increase or a decrease on those for previous years?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Speaking from memory, I think they are rather less.