HC Deb 04 December 1963 vol 685 cc1142-3
21. Mr. Jeger

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will issue a general direction, in the public interest, to the Railways Board, requiring it to carry out repair work in its own workshops by its own staff, instead of placing work with outside contractors while laying off its own men as redundant.

Mr. Marples

No, Sir. It is for the Railways Board, in the exercise of its managerial responsibility, to decide where to place orders for the repair of its equipment.

Mr. Jeger

Does not the Minister realise that it makes a bad impression in workshops when skilled craftsmen, who have been trained there and have worked there for many years, see orders given out to others, while they are left idle and in fear of being discharged as redundant? Is not that a bad thing not only from the economic point of view regarding the railways, but also because of the waste of manpower and of skilledservants of the railways?

Mr. Marples

The burden of contraction in railway repair work has been shared between private and public investment and the private sector has borne its share of the contraction.

Mr. Popplewell

Does not the Minister understand that his reply makes absolute nonsense? Is he aware that the Darlington railway works has been closed, but a new firm has come into the same premises, a private firm, and is doing work almost identical with that which the railway workshops did? Is he aware that this is part of the Beeching drive? Will he have another look at the matter and allow skilled railway shopmen to carry on their own craft in a continuity of service, instead of there being the upheavals which have been brought about by his policy?

Mr. Marples

No, Sir. Repairs are a matter for management and are closely bound up with day-to-day operations. As Minister, I should not interfere in matters of repairs because it would infringe managerial responsibility.

Mr. Bourne-Arton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us represent constituents who work in privately-owned railway shops as well as constituents who work in railway workshops? Is he aware that I am equally concerned about the employment of all my constituents?

Mr. Marples

I am aware of that and I quite agree with my hon. Friend.

38. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Transport what was the cost to the Railways Board, in the latest convenient 12-month period, of labour and materials, respectively, employed in railway workshopsin rectifying defective bearings in diesel locomotives and other defects in stock supplied to the railways by private firms.

Mr. Marples

The hon. Member's Question relates to commercial matters on which I should not feel justified in asking the British Railways Board to provide information.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does not the Minister's Answer conflict with the arrangements made just before the Recess that statistics of this kind from nationalised industries would be provided? Would he consult his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about the provision of this type of information? Secondly, would he ask the Railways Board to look closely at work of this kind being done in Swindon?

Mr. Marples

I do not think that my reply conflicts with that earlier decision, but I will look at the matter again. I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.