§ 2.14 p.m.
§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask his Majesty's Government if they will now abolish the war-time system of all railway sleeping car accommodation being held by the Ministry of War Transport for Government priority passengers of Service and Civil Departments, and agree to revert to the peace-time system of booking by the railway companies so that nonofficial travellers can in future enjoy this amenity of travel on the same basis as officials.]
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, the noble Lord is under a misapprehension if he thinks that all railway sleeping car accommodation is held by the Ministry of War Transport and that officials alone are entitled to priority of accommodation. In December, 1941, the Ministry of Transport assumed control over the allocation of a large proportion of sleeping berths; this was necessary because of the heavy demands for persons travelling for essential war purposes on the reduced number of berths available. The controlled berths have been allocated to Members of Parliament travelling between London and their constituencies or between other places on business of the House, and to officers of the Services, Government officials and business men whose applications have in every case been sponsored by the authorized officer of the appropriate Government Department on the ground that the particular journey is on urgent business of national importance and must necessarily be made at night. The lowest ranks eligible for first-class travel under these arrangements are Captain (R.N.), Colonel, Group Captain, Assistant Secretary in the Civil Service and business men regarded by the Government Department concerned as being of at least equivalent status. In spite of the relatively high level of eligibility for first-class sleeper travel the 157 demand frequently exceeds the number of priority berths available.
Immediately the war with Germany ended the position was brought under review and additional berths have from time to time been released from reservation. Any surplus berths after meeting priority requirements are released to the railway company concerned on the day previous to the day of departure for assignment to the public. Now that the war with Japan has ended my right honourable friend the Minister of War Transport is actively reviewing the possibility of reducing still further the number of reservations and hopes in the near future to release considerably more berths for engagement by the public in the ordinary way. In addition my right honourable friend hopes it may be possible to arrange for some additional sleeping accommodation to be provided from the beginning of October when the winter time-tables come into operation.