§ 40. Mr. F. Beswick
asked the Minister of Transport how much it will cost the Transport Commission to make concessions to London travellers similar to those made to provincial travellers.
Outside the London area, all the proposed fare increases have been suspended for the time being. The loss of revenue involved is at the rate of £2.1 million a year. It has not yet been decided what modifications should be made in the increases proposed in the provinces or in operation in London, and the cost to the Commission cannot, therefore, be exactly estimated in either case. The total cost to them is, however, expected to be of the order of £2½ million a year.
§ Mr. Beswick
In view of that reply, are we to deduce that the saving to the London workers will be of the order of £400,000, and, if that is so, does it mean that, after all this hullabaloo is over, the London workers will still be expected to pay an additional £12,600,000, and all that the Government's campaign will mean will be a saving of £400,000?
Unfortunately, I am not able to exercise any control over such deductions as the hon. Gentleman may make.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Is it not a fact that the figures which my hon. Friend gave are quite correct, that increases have already taken place in London to the order of £12 million, and that the London travelling public are paying that increase at the present time? What relief are they to receive?
The hon. Gentleman appears to be making an endeavour to re-open a matter upon which the House pronounced decisively a week ago in the Division Lobbies.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss
Cannot the Minister answer the simple question put forward by my hon. Friend? It is of great importance. It is no use the hon. Gentleman saying that he has no control over the deductions of my hon. Friend, because my hon. Friend quoted figures and he asked whether they are correct or not. Will the Minister say whether they are correct or not?
§ Mr. Beswick
Will the Minister realise that, although he may consider the matter closed, the London workers do not, and that they have been led to believe, as a result of Government action, that they are to save money on their fares? Are we now to understand that the saving will amount to £400,000, and the increased bill to £12,600,000?
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Gentleman is unable to tell us whether it is a fact that £12 million more is being paid by the London travelling public, will his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reply?
24 The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
§ 41. Mr. BESWICK,
—To ask the Minister of Transport when London season ticket holders and shift workers will be placed on the same fare basis as similar travellers in the provinces.
§ Mr. Beswick
On a point of Order. I put this Question down to the Prime Minister. It was roughly in the same terms as a previous Question which I had put down on 21st April to the Minister of Transport. The Minister of Transport said that the Question would be answered by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said it would be answered by the Home Secretary in a debate which subsequently took place. The Question was not answered by the Home Secretary. I am now referred to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. With respect, Mr. Speaker, may I ask for some guidance to enable me to follow the procedure adopted in this case?
§ Mr. Speaker
The Question seems to have had a somewhat adventurous history, but it is the practice of this House to put down misdirected questions to the proper Minister.
The answer is that proposals to give effect to the Government's intentions in regard to the fare increases are being worked out, and every effort will be made to introduce any changes in London and the rest of the country as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Beswick
This is really not good enough. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of my constituents are paying as much as 12s. a week more as a result of these increases? While we are told that every effort will be made by the Government, may we be told when there will be some result of those efforts?
I am pained to hear from the Socialist benches the suggestion that the efforts of the British Transport Commission are not good enough. This body is working most diligently on the problem at this moment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
May we have an assurance in specific terms that fare concessions are going to be made to the London travelling public? So far, all these promises have been couched in the most vague and nebulous terms, and it is quite possible for the Government even 25 now to wriggle out of any undertaking they think they have given on the subject.
§ Captain Robert Ryder
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the Government have intervened in the provinces but have not intervened in the London area, where the monopoly is complete and where the effect on the transport users is felt most severely? Will he also bear in mind that it is now a week since we passed a Resolution in this House urging the Government to intervene?
I think my hon. and gallant Friend is anticipating a Question which stands on the Order Paper in his name and comes later.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he is not aware that it was the case that the Government, on the initiative of the Prime Minister—and I shall be quite happy if the Prime Minister will answer the Question, since he has taken over the duties of the Minister of Transport—did say that they had imposed a standstill on the provincial fares and would take steps to see that equal justice was done to London? This was about 10 days or more since the announcement was made. Surely, the hon. Gentleman or the Prime Minister can state what the Government are now going to do about London? The Prime Minister is willing to get up.
The right hon. Gentleman addressed his Question to me, in the first place. If he can put up with an answer from so humble a figure, may I inform him that the British Transport Commission is examining the question urgently? No one knows London better than the right hon. Gentleman, and he knows that this is a matter of considerable complexity.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I do not know that, and that was why I was so surprised that the Government barged in in such a thoughtless way. The Government did say that they were doing something about London, and the Prime Minister said this himself. I now ask the Prime Minister to inform the House how it is that there is this delay, and when the Government are going to say what and how they are going to do about the matter?
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)
I have certainly no intention of answering that question in detail this afternoon. I will content myself with the general observation that it is so much easier to do harm than it is to put it right.
§ 44. Mr. Ernest Davies
asked the Minister of Transport if he can now state the terms of reference to the Central Transport Consultative Committee in regard to sub-standard and concessionary fares.
No, Sir. The first step is to obtain proposals for modification of certain fare increases and these are now being worked out by the British Transport Commission with a view to consultation with my Department. This follows the course indicated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary in debate on 28th April.
§ Mr. Davies
Was it not announced in that statement that this matter was going to be referred to the Central Transport Consultative Committee some three weeks ago? When these terms of reference are worked out, will the Minister see that reference to the position in London is included so that the London travelling public may be treated with regard to fares on the same basis as the rest of the country?
I would again, with respect, ask the hon. Gentleman to permit the Government to conduct their business in an orderly fashion. An obvious prerequisite for reference to the Consultative Committee must be to provide them with the wherewithal for consultation.
§ Mr. Beswick
While all these discussions and consultations are taking place, would it not be reasonable to expect the return of the London area to the position which applied before the recent increases were imposed so that London travellers may be put on a level with provincial travellers?
As I have already said on two previous occasions this afternoon, this is a matter to which the British Transport Commission is now bending its energies
§ Mr. James Callaghan
Is this one of the minor matters on which the Secretary of State for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power will be consulted?
§ Mr. William Shepherd
Does not my hon. Friend agree that though there may be some delay in making these modifications, had right hon. Gentlemen opposite been on these benches there would have been no possibility at all of any concessions for London?
§ 48. Captain Ryder
asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement as to the directions he will give under Section 4 of the Transport Act, 1947, in order to bring London transport fares into line with fares outside the London area.
Proposals are now being worked out by the British Transport Commission and, until my hon. Friend has received those proposals, he cannot make any statement as to directions.
§ Captain Ryder
Can my hon. Friend say how long the British Transport Commission are going to be in this respect, because it is now some time since the Government intervened on behalf of the provinces and where the hardship is most severely felt is in the London area.
I fully appreciate that. The Commission are working with all dispatch, and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that his vigorous representations on this subject have not gone unheeded.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Can the Minister say whether the Government have made any suggestion whatever to the British Transport Commission as to the basis on which the Commission can work out the proposals to which he has referred?
I replied to a Question on this subject last week—I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman was present—when I said that consultations had taken place.