HC Deb 05 March 1951 vol 485 cc21-2
31. Sir Walter Smiles

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the inequitable distribution of the emergency cuts in rail and steamer traffic due to the coal shortage; and if he will make a statement on the directions he will issue to the British Transport Commission to ensure that cuts in services are equally distributed on all the routes affected.

Mr. Barnes

The Railway Executive have sought to cause the least inconvenience to travellers by cutting their most lightly-loaded services. Cuts have been made where the, most effective savings in coal could be obtained without undue interference with essential services. In the circumstances, the question of direction does not arise.

Sir W. Smiles

Is the Minister aware that one cross-Channel steamer service, that between Belfast and Heysham, has been cut since the coal shortage, whereas the other cross-Channel services belonging to British Railways have not been cut? Has the right hon. Gentleman now abandoned the policy of fair shares for all?

Mr. Barnes

No, Sir. I do not think that that issue arises. Some of the ships are oil burning. In the case to which the hon. Member referred the cut represented a direct saving in coal consumption. It was not a very heavily loaded service, and it was temporarily suspended.

Mr. Driberg

Is my right hon. Friend aware that great inconvenience is caused on some of the rural branch lines on which the Sunday services have been entirely suspended—for example, on the Southminster branch—and where there is no alternative transport, no Sunday buses?

Mr. Barnes

Yes, I am quite aware of that. Inconvenience has been caused by these cuts, but they are unavoidable.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Is it not a fact that, as in the case of the shipping industry, railways have been much embarrassed by the suddenness of the Government's demands about coal; and, as all these plans had to be put into effect so quickly by the railways, ought not the matter to be reconsidered in order to even out these cuts?

Mr. Barnes

As I said some time ago, the railways have had to bear more or less the same proportion of cuts as industry in general, but on passenger services the effects are experienced more directly.

Mr. Thomas Reid

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great inconvenience caused by practically abolishing the railway service between Swindon and Trowbridge?

Professor Savory

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that cutting down the Heysham service from six days in the week to three seriously affects the export of raw materials to Northern Ireland for the shipbuilding yards and also for the aircraft factory, which produce what is so necessary at present for our defence?

Mr. Barnes

No; I do not think that the cargo services will be inconvenienced to the same extent as the passenger services.

Mr. Driberg

On a point of order. Although, in view of your recent Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I should obviously not be in order in giving notice that I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment, since it arises out of a Question on the Paper in the name of another hon. Member, nevertheless may I take it that I should be in order in advising my right hon. Friend that I have, in fact, been balloting daily for weeks on this subject, and that if I am not lucky in the ballot soon I shall ask you for some time on the Easter Adjournment?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is in order in saying that he will raise the matter on the Adjournment, but it does not stop Questions as far as I am concerned. He makes his protest in that way, and that is why I allow it.