HC Deb 11 November 1964 vol 701 cc1013-5
30. Mr. John Hynd

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will review the ruling given by his predecessor on the appeal of the Chamber of Shipping, requiring the British Railways Board to raise their charges on china clay between Cornwall and the Kemsley Mills in Kent.

62. Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has given consideration to the increase of freight charges for china clay imposed on the Railways Board by his predecessor as Minister of Transport; and what decision he has taken.

Mr. Tom Fraser

I have examined the facts of the case, and I see no evidence to justify my withdrawing or varying at this stage the directions given by my predecessor.

Mr. Hynd

But will not my right hon. Friend agree that it is entirely invidious, whatever the Act says, that the railways should be forced to raise their charges when they had already a charge which earned a profit, a condition which would not have applied had it been a road company which had made the quotation? How can the railways pay their way at any time if they are going to be specifically prevented from making profits on fair charges in this way?

Mr. Fraser

As I understand the position, the provision in the 1962 Act was written as a protection for the shipping companies, to provide that the railways would not operate a subsidised service at the expense of the shipping companies. I understand that in giving the direction to which reference has been made, my predecessor merely required that the Railways Board should impose charges that covered the cost of operating the service that it was giving. But I should be very willing to have another look at the matter. I would merely say that at this stage I do not feel able to vary the direction given by my predecessor.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker.

Dame Irene Ward

Why should not coastal shipping be allowed this protection?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady has been in the House long enough to know that it is usual to allow supplementary questions to hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper.

Mr. Noel-Baker

While I thank my right hon. Friend for saying that he will be willing to look at the matter again, might I urge upon him that the railways should be allowed to reduce the cost of valuable exports and that it is most undesirable to put the private interests of a transport system before the national interest, which is involved here?

Mr. Fraser

I have the impression from what I have seen of it that this is a very complicated matter. But I will certainly bear in mind what my right hon. Friend has said.

Dame Irene Ward

With apologies to you, Mr. Speaker, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that there will be no alteration in the protection for coastal shipping? Also, is he aware that his half-promise to British Railways will be received very badly by those who earn their living in the shipping industry?

Mr. Fraser

I should like to look into the whole question. It is not only shipping; it is road transport, rail transport—the whole lot. I should like to have a look at the whole matter.

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