HC Deb 27 October 1952 vol 505 cc1568-9
37. Lady Tweedsmuir

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the White Fish Authority's rejection of the flat rate transport scheme, he will require the Transport Tribunal, under Section 80 of the Transport Act,. 1947, to review the charges for long distance freight traffic, with a view to introducing an extended scheme for tapering charges.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Until there is a merchandise charges scheme in operation, I have no powers under this Section. Whether the present taper in rail merchandise charges should be increased or reduced is one of the many important issues likely to be discussed before the Transport Tribunal when the draft Merchandise Charges Scheme is considered by them.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Has my right hon. Friend given consideration and support to such an idea? Is he aware that the abandonment of the traffic equalisation scheme caused a great deal of concern in Aberdeen and fishing ports in the North of Scotland, and that if they are to produce fresh fish in southern markets it is essential to alleviate the handicap of very great freight charges?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am very glad to know that this matter has come before the Commission as the result of a deputation led by the Chairmen of the Committee on Highland and Transport Costs, and that consideration was given to the point of view advanced. My constitutional position is defined by statute.

Mr. Younger

Will the Minister ponder well the opinion expressed by the White Fish Authority that while the flat rate was introduced in the public interest it will prove unworkable unless both rail and road transport remain in public hands?

Sir D. Robertson

Is not the answer which the Minister has just given similar to answers which have been given in the last two or three years? Will not my right hon. Friend take action to remove these penal rates from the shoulders of the people who live in the far north?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The law lays down precisely the point at which the Minister enters, in a discussion of this kind. I have pointed that out. In reply to the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), whatever the views of the Corn-mission, I am sure that those of us who are consumers of fish are very glad that its catching and landing are not in public hands.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that, so far as traffic from Aberdeen is concerned, negotiations are already going on with the Scottish transport division of British Road Services? Will he see that whatever he may do in the forthcoming Bill he does not interfere with the very good arrangements between the Road Transport Executive and Aberdeen fisheries for the distribution of fish?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I shall have to look at those rates first.