HC Deb 18 February 1960 vol 617 cc1432-3
Mrs. Castle (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the failure of the British Transport Commission by the cancellation of a large number of trains this coming week-end to discharge its obligations under Section 25 of the Transport Act, 1953, to provide railway services having due regard to the needs of miscellaneous public, whether he will give a general directive to the Commission not to cancel any passenger services which have already been announced.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

No, Sir. This is a matter of management which is the responsibility of the British Transport Commission. Nor can I accept the implication in the Question about a failure to discharge a statutory obligation which also includes the obligation to have due regard to the needs of agriculture, commerce and industry.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the provision of Cup Tie specials one of the services the British public have a right to expect from their railways? Have we not reached a ludicrous situation when British Railways are having to turn away traffic owing to shortage of staff? Does not the responsibility lie squarely on the Government, who have refused to help the Commission to pay the necessary living wages to enable it to get its staff?

Mr. Marples

The regular services for passengers, agriculture, commerce or industry must come first. These speculative and occasional operations should be provided when they can be, but in the recent cold spell it has been necessary to move coal much more quickly than in the past few weeks.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Gaitskell.

Mr. Dugdale


Mr. Speaker

Does the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) desire to address a point of order to me?

Mr. Dugdale

Yes, Mr. Speaker. As 10,000 of my constituents are interested in the Question, may I be allowed to ask a supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

I realise that many people are interested in this matter. That is one of the reasons for it being asked as a Private Notice Question, but I think that we ought to get on with the business.

Mr. Manuel

Further to that point of order. Allegations have been made and replies have been made by the Minister of Transport which leave a whole lot of questions in the air. Some hon. Members on this side of the House are responsible to large numbers of people, not only those who have left their jobs, but those still on the job. Could we not suggest ways and means about how this is to work?

Mr. Speaker

I can understand the point made by the hon. Member and the emotions which promote it, but I also am responsible to this House collectively and in the discharge of that duty I feel that we ought to get on.

Mr. Benn

On a point of order. Is it not the fact that the shortage of train crews arising out of the situation is a direct responsibility of the Minister? Is it not appropriate—

Mr. Speaker

That, clearly, is not a point of order.