HC Deb 25 November 1970 vol 807 cc393-4
42. Mr. Mather

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to modify the rôle of the National Freight Corporation.

Mr. Peyton

I have recently announced the appointment of a new chairman and will expect him to formulate a sound commercial policy for the corporation.

Mr. Mather

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but is he satisfied with the transfer of freight liner business from British Railways to the National Freight Corporation in view of the fact that this was one of British Railways most profitable businesses and an issue on which a former chairman of British Railways resigned? Further, will my right hon. Friend agree not to implement Section 48 of the Transport Act allowing the State to manufacture, repair and supply?

Mr. Peyton

The answer to the last part of the supplementary question concerning Section 48 is, "Yes, Sir". I can give that undertaking. As for the other part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, he can be assured that this important corporation will be conducted by the new chairman in the national interest.

Mr. Mulley

Does the Minister's statement on Section 48 relate only to the National Freight Corporation? He must be aware of the enormous improvement in employment and prosperity that has gone on in British Railways' workshops as a result of the operation of Section 48. Will he give an assurance that he will not interfere with them?

Mr. Peyton

I have answered the Question that my hon. Friend asked. If the right hon. Gentleman would care to put down a Question on the lines of the one he has just asked I shall be glad to meet him on it.

Mr. Michael Foot

Will the hon. Member guarantee—[Interruption.] Will the hon. Member—[Interruption.] It is difficult to distinguish between Ministers. Will the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that this man will not be sacked if he stands on his own feet?

Mr. Peyton

I would do almost anything to satisfy the hon. Gentleman, but I feel it quite unnecessary to give him an undertaking on that point when I have just appointed the chairman myself. I regard him as an excellent choice, and I have no doubt that he will serve the corporation and the national interest admirably.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my right hon Friend bear in mind, in the context of his last reply, that he conducted with me, in 1957, a long and successful campaign demonstrating the anathema of the Tory Party to the giving of additional powers of manufacture to nationalised industries?

Mr. Peyton

I recollect my collaboration with my hon. Friend with pleasure and pride, and I shall not forget what we then said.