HC Deb 04 May 1966 vol 727 cc1614-6
5. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Transport what discussions she and her predecessor have had with the transport unions about the admission of private road hauliers to liner train depôts; and what progress has been made.

33. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Transport what results have been achieved in her negotiations with the trade unions concerned to allow private road haulage firms to use liner train depôts.

Mrs. Castle

Negotiation on the liner train issue is primarily a matter for the Railways Board and the unions: but I have made it clear to both sides, as my predecessor did, that I hope there will be a decision in favour of "open" terminals, so that nothing will stand in the way of progress with this important new railway technique.

Mr. Taylor

Is the right hon. Lady aware that this is just what she said on 9th February and what her predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Tom Fraser), said six months ago? How long are she and the Railways Board going to live in hope? What will she do if the N.U.R. refuses to give up this crude and irresponsible restrictive practice?

Mrs. Castle

I have entered into very happy relations with the railway and other transport unions in working out my new transport policy and I do not intend to add anything to my reply at this stage.

Mr. Fisher

I appreciate very much the difficulty and what the right hon. Lady has said. But what is the point of the Prime Minister making splendid speeches in the country when the Government apparently are afraid or reluctant to face a really unjustifiable restrictive practice of this kind and, indeed, are afraid to face the whole issue of restrictive practices by the unions?

Mrs. Castle

I am not afraid of this issue and I am confident that, in the new relations I am establishing with the unions, we shall be able to get a happy outcome of the problem.

Mr. Peter Walker

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that six months is a very long time for this restrictive practice to have continued without a settlement? Is the investment programme in liner trains being delayed until this matter is settled?

Mrs. Castle

As my predecessor told the House in April, 1965, he was authorising capital expenditure by the Railways Board to go ahead on this.

Mr. Lubbock

Would it not help towards securing the agreement that the right hon. Lady is aiming at if the negotiation were not sabotaged by the kind of irresponsible talk about unions indulged in by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor)?

Mrs. Castle

Yes, Sir. I entirely agree that some of the attacks on the unions do not help the sort of work we are trying to do.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that liner trains are operating and that the attacks upon the N.U.R. are completely unjustifiable?

Mrs. Castle

Liner trains are operating but not as fully as I would like, because it is my firm intention to get more freight and more traffic on the railways. I would like advantage to be taken of this opportunity.

Mr. Taylor

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

42. Mr. Stodart

asked the Minister of Transport how many liner trains are running daily between London and Glasgow and between Glasgow and London; and what percentage of its capacity load each train is carrying.

Mr. John Morris

This service has one train in each direction nightly. The Railways Board tells me that in the week ended 23rd April the number of loaded containers carried represented about 66 per cent. of the available capacity.

Mr. Stodart

Can the hon. Gentleman give any indication of what the restrictions on the liner trains are costing British Railways? Can he confirm the report that British Railways could draw about £4,000 a day more if the trains were running to capacity?

Mr. Morris

I cannot give the figures without notice. All I can say is that there has been a substantial increase in the traffic attracted to the liner trains. There was 30 per cent. use at the beginning of February, and now the figure is about 66 per cent. They are proving very attractive indeed.

Mr. Peter Walker

Will the hon. Gentleman not agree, though, that even though there is 66 per cent. use of liner trains, those trains were banned from use and that but for that there could have been 100 per cent. use the whole time, if it had not been for the action of the railwaymen's union?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that this is a new service. It is proving attractive, and my Minister has answered Questions on this issue earlier in the day.