HC Deb 16 March 1953 vol 512 cc1828-9
44. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Minister of Transport if, in order to minimise the losses on the nationalised railways, he will give a direction to the British Transport Commission, under Section 4 of the Transport Act, 1947, that the Commission should consult with the National Coal Board, with a view to arranging that nationalised coal be carried at a low rate in return for the supply of coal for the use of the Commission at an equally reduced rate.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir. Consumers of coal and users of transport as a body have to pay the total costs both of coal and transport. Arrangements of the kind suggested would, if the remission on the cost of transport of coal to the Coal Board and the cost of coal to the railways were of equal value, make no difference to anyone. To the extent that there was a difference, it would merely mean that users of transport benefited at the expense of consumers of coal or vice versa.

Sir W. Smithers

While I can see the reason now why the Minister cannot accept this scheme, may I ask whether he will try to devise some scheme to help to clear up the inevitable mess left by the Socialist policy of nationalisation?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that the Railway Executive and the National Coal Board, in consultation, have made very great economies in the distribution and transport of coal?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think that that would be a fair statement.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Apart from the merits of the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable public anxiety that exists at the way in which these nationalised industries are bidding up each other's costs and prices and thus promoting inflation and impeding what private enterprise is doing in other fields to bring down the cost of living? Will he convey this public anxiety to the noble Lord who co-ordinates transport?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that the prices and charges of the nationalised industries have gone up much less than those under private enterprise?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

One of the troubles about any nationalised industry is that if it covers the whole field, as in the case of transport, there is no yardstick by which to measure these factors.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I appreciate that the remunerative services must pay for the unremunerative services, but is it not nevertheless a fact that, taking the increase since these industries were nationalised, it has been less than under private enterprise?

Mr. Speaker

That seems to be a very wide question.

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