HC Deb 20 January 1965 vol 705 cc173-4
14. Mr. Ron Lewis

asked the Minister of Transport if he will remove the restrictions imposed by his predecessor which prevent British Railways workshops from competing for outside engineering contracts

27. Mr. Ted Fletcher

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to introduce the necessary legislation to enable British Railways workshops to manufacture for export

Mr. Tom Fraser

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) on 23rd December

Mr. Lewis

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the steps that he has already taken, may I remind him—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—may I ask him and remind him that we were very glad to use the railway workshops in wartime and should we not now make fuller use of them in peacetime to help the finances of the railways?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, Sir. As my hon. Friend appreciates, I have removed certain restrictions from the Railways Board workshops, and I am looking into all aspects of legislation affecting the manufacturing powers of the nationalised transport undertakings as a whole and not just how far any action that I might take would affect exporting manufacturers.

Mr. Fletcher

While appreciating what my right hon. Friend has said with regard to removing restrictions, may I ask whether he can tell us a little more about the potentialities of exporting from British Railways workshops, and whether it is his intention in the immediate future to amend the present legislation to allow British Railways workshops to participate in the export drive?

Mr. Fraser

As my hon. Friend appreciates, to give the railway workshops the power that he would like them to have would require legislation. There is no legislation on this matter before the House at the present time. We have a congested legislative programme, so I would not like to hold out the hope that there will be early legislation on the matter.

Mr. Galbraith

The Minister said that he would be considering this matter. In his consideration, will he remember that the job of the Railways Board is primarily transport and not manufacture? It seems to me that in transport we have a big enough job to do. Will he bear that in mind rather than add another activity which is well carried out by private industry?

Mr. Fraser

I also realise that it is very bad for nationalised industries to have imposed on them restrictions which are not imposed on private industries.