HC Deb 28 April 1952 vol 499 cc1013-6
31. Mr. A. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Transport why the increased railway charges confirmed by the Transport Tribunal order of 27th February, 1952, which were to operate from 1st May. 1952, have been deferred; what is the estimated loss to the revenue involved in this decision and how it is proposed to make up the deficit to the Transport Commission.

Mr. Braithwaite

The reasons for the direction were explained in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21st April. The loss of revenue involved is at the rate of £2.1 million a year. The actual amount will depend on when and to what extent the increased charges are brought into operation, but will in any case be small in relation to the total revenue of the Commission. It is not proposed to recoup the Commission from Exchequer funds.

Mr. Davies

The Minister says that the amount will be small but, as the Commission have reminded us, there is already a deficit in the railway accounts. Is it not proposed to do something about this loss in the meantime? Can the Minister give us any idea when they are going to make up their minds about it? I know that he is awaiting the Report, but this is a very substantial matter for the Commission.

Mr. Braithwaite

I have no doubt that this is one of the matters which the House will discuss later in the day.

32. Mr. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Transport under what powers he has issued a direction for the holding up of increases in railway charges which were to operate from 1st May, 1952, which had been confirmed by the Transport Tribunal.

Mr. Braithwaite

The direction was given under Section 4 of the Transport Act. 1947.

Mr. Davies

But did not the Minister of Transport previously refuse to take any action about fares on the ground that he had no powers?

Mr. Braithwaite

This, also, may well arise out of the debate today.

33. Mr. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he intends to take to adjust passenger fares in the London Transport area; to what extent there are to be reductions of a general character; what is the estimated cost; and how it is proposed to offset the loss to the Transport Commission.

35. Mr. Henry Brooke

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of his direction to the Transport Commission not to implement the proposed increase in fares outside the London area, what action he intends to take to ensure fair and equal treatment for the travelling public in London, where fares have already been increased.

39. Mr. F. Beswick

asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes to make a statement about season ticket rates and shift workers' fares in the London area.

43. Mr. Marlowe

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in his review of railway fares, he will give consideration to the representations made to him to retain the favourable rates conceded to the holders of non-intermediate season tickets between London and the south coast towns.

Mr. Braithwaite

As stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 24th April, a statement on these matters will be made at the opening of the debate this afternoon.

Mr. Davies

But since these Questions were put down before the Prime Minister replied last Monday, and since no information has been forthcoming, what assurance have we that they will be answered? In those circumstances, ought we not to have the information now?

Mr. Braithwaite

I can assure the hon. Gentleman and others interested that they will be very much wiser by 11 o'clock tonight.

Mr. C. W. Gibson

May we take it from that reply that the Minister of Transport, who has a statutory responsibility in these matters, does not know the answer?

Mr. Marlowe

My hon. Friend has answered Question No. 43 by saying it will be dealt with later. Can he tell me what remedy I shall have if the answer is then unsatisfactory?

Mr. Braithwaite

I think my hon. and learned Friend is better informed on that than any other hon. Member as to what remedy he should take.

Mr. Douglas Jay

Will it not be open to the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) to find his remedy in the Division Lobby tonight?

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is the Minister aware that all this evasive verbiage boils down to a mixture of muddle, wriggle and dither with which the people of London are completely disgusted?

Mr. Braithwaite

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has delivered himself in so forthright a manner that it would seem unnecessary, Mr. Speaker, for him to catch your eye later today.

47. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Prime Minister whether it has now been decided to alter the Transport Act, 1947, to make the Minister of Transport responsible for fares.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

I am advised that the existing statutory powers of the Minister are sufficient to protect the public.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In view of the very significant statement which has been made by the Prime Minister, can he give the House an assurance that, by the time this Sitting ends, there will be a reduction in the penal charges imposed on the London travelling public as compared with the travelling public outside London?

The Prime Minister

I think that it would be very wrong for me to occupy the two or three minutes of Question time that remain by dealing with a problem on which the hon. and gallant Gentleman may expatiate during the day.