HC Deb 23 November 1920 vol 135 cc252-3W

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the statement made before the Railway Rates Advisory Committee by the representative of Sir William Plender, as reported on page 351 of the proceedings of meeting on the 10th November last, that the figures given in evidence by Sir William Plender were compiled quite independently of the Blue Book, because early in his investigations he found it was not possible to rely upon the Blue Book, and the figures had to be compiled de novo from the railway companies' individual accounts, and with a good deal of care in compiling them; and whether the Blue Book referred to is Command Paper No. 8,038, giving the returns of the capital, traffic, receipts, and working expenditure, etc., of the railway companies of the United Kingdom for the year 1913, and issued by the Board of Trade in the autumn of 1915; if so, what steps he proposes to take in the matter; what is the estimate of the cost of preparing and issuing Blue Book Command Paper No. 8,038; whether the cost of preparation of the fresh statistics by Sir William Plender will form a charge through the Railway Association, or otherwise, upon the national Exchequer; and, if so, what is estimated will be the amount of such charge?


I have been asked to answer this question. The Blue Book to which reference is made is Command 8038 issued by the Board of Trade in 1915 and containing returns for the year 1913. The extent of the differences between the figures of capital expenditure given in the Blue Book and those taken out by Sir W. Plender are shown in detail in the Appendix to the minutes of proceedings of the Rates Advisory Committee for the 10th instant. The chief differences are that the Board of Trade returns, as is pointed out on page vii, exclude the capital of non-operating companies and include that of certain undertakings (such as the Manchester Ship Canal) which are not strictly railway undertakings. They also include a certain amount of duplication (estimated in the return at £27,000,000) in respect of the capital subscriptions of one undertaking to another. When these returns were compiled, the full information was not available and this was clearly stated, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport proposes to publish additional details in regard to capital in the returns for 1919, which will, I hope, shortly be issued. I am unable to estimate the cost of compiling the 1913 Blue Book or of preparing the evidence given by Sir William Plender, but, generally speaking, the cost of the presentation of the railway companies' case before the Bates Advisory Committee will, under the agreements, form a charge against the Government, as has been stated in reply to earlier questions on the point.