§ Mr. CAIRNS
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport if his attention has been drawn to the serious state of depression and unemployment that exists in the fishing industry; and whether, in view of the fact that coal is one of the most important factors to this industry, and that the price of coal has fallen considerably, he will make representations to the various railway companies concerned, with a view of a reduction of the present rates for the carriage of coal, and the reversion to the pre-War conveyance of fish at carriage-forward rates, and so enable this industry to relieve to a great extent the large amount of unemployment, and also the 674W distribution to the public of cheaper fresh fish?
§ Mr. NEAL
I cannot admit that the unemployment which exists in the fishing industry is attributable to the railway rates for the conveyance of coal, or to the present practice of the railway companies in regard to the pre-payment of the charges on fish and other perishables forwarded by passenger train. It is now within the discretion of the railway companies to reduce railway rates, and I am informed that a meeting has been arranged between representatives of the railway companies and the coal industry to discuss whether a reduction in the rates for coal can be effected. As regards the prepayment of the carriage charges on fish, I understand that a revision to pre-War practice would involve a considerable addition to the staff of the railway companies, and possibly a further increase in the charges.
§ Mr. STANTON
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport if thousands of poor people in South Wales and other parts of the country are in these times deprived of fish, owing to the high rates charged by the railway companies for conveying the same from the ports; and will he give this matter his attention at once, so that fish may be cheaper in price, by some arrangement with the railway companies, and prevent the shameful waste at present going on?
§ Mr. NEAL
I am unable to agree that the rates charged by the railway companies for the conveyance of fish have the effect described by the hon. Member. The percentage increases in these rates are in accordance with the recommendation of the Rates Advisory Committee, who went very carefully into the whole question of railway rates and charges, and apply throughout Great Britain. The question of reducing these charges is a matter which is now within the discretion of the railway companies, and it is also open to any trader or representative body of traders to apply to the Railway Rates Tribunal, under Section 60 of the Railways Act, 1921, to reduce the charges.