HC Deb 21 February 1979 vol 963 cc413-4
18. Mr. Durant

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what the recent dispute on the railways is estimated to have cost British Railways.

Mr. William Rodgers

I understand that the Board's present estimate is £14 million.

Mr. Durant

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituents are fed up with industrial troubles which result from an inter-union dispute and which have nothing to do with pay policy or anything else? Will he tell the union leaders when he meets them that losses such as he has mentioned will put back the capital investment that the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) is so anxious to advance?

Mr. Rodgers

I have said before in the House, and I shall say again, that there is no question of the Government baling out the railways, regrettable though that might appear, if, as a result of industrial disputes or an excessive pay claim, they cannot maintain their services. Everybody who works on the railways knows that. In fairness, I should say that the great majority of railway men appreciate this and are anxious to give an increasingly good service to the public.

Mr. Bagier

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the industrial tribunal which is sitting at the moment is doing its best to resolve the differences among the parties involved? One regrets that this amount of money has been lost, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that British Rail's recent performance has managed to wipe out the tremendous deficit that it was running on freight and that it is working well within its cash limits on the PSO?

Mr. Rodgers

I am happy to confirm that. British Rail has won a great measure of support—I should like to believe on both sides of the House—as a result of its performance in recent months. Much of this is to the credit of the chairman of British Rail and the leadership that he has given to the whole industry. We have a great deal to be proud of. I hope that we shall sustain it and improve the position still further.