HC Deb 23 July 1975 vol 896 cc538-9
11. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give a general direction to British Rail to discontinue the practice of charging a cancellation fee when the cancellation arises out of a threatened railway strike.

Mr. Carmichael

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend has no powers to do so.

Mr. Dempsey

Is my hon. Friend aware that when persons have made travel arrangements which are threatened by an industrial strike it is wrong to charge them a cancellation fee for an exigency over which they have no control? It is too late to wait until the dispute takes place. It is necessary to act beforehand, otherwise the people concerned may not be able to get back from their holidays. Will my hon. Friend draw to the attention of British Rail the fact that this is a bad practice, which should be dispensed with forthwith?

Mr. Carmichael

My hon. Friend has been successful in drawing the attention of British Rail to this matter by his Question. It is a matter for the board to decide. The board's usual practice is to give local staff discretion to waive cancellation charges in cases where the cancellation clearly arises out of industrial action.

Mr. Fry

Will the Minister give a direction to British Rail to examine considerably more than the question of cancellation fees? As there have been reports that even the inter-city service is losing money, and as this year's subsidies to British Rail will be about£450 million, is it not time to have a fresh look at the financial implications of British Rail and the network as a whole?

Mr. Carmichael

The hon. Member will realise that we are always considering the financial implications of British Rail. He may have missed the statement on the inter-city service, issued by British Rail, dealing with the report that was in the newspapers on Monday.