§ Mr. HASLAM
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport whether, in order to stimulate trade and in view of the prevailing unemployment, he is taking all steps in his power to ensure at the earliest possible moment a great reduction in railway, dock, and transport charges; and if he will state the approximate average percentage of increase of the present railway rates for the carriage of goods and minerals over those prevailing immediately before the 220W War, and also the amount of tonnage of goods and minerals carried on the railways of Great Britain according to the latest annual returns since the War and immediately before the War, respectively?
§ Mr. NEAL
I am in sympathy with the hon. Member's desire for a reduction in the cost of charges of transport, although I am not clear what steps he expects me to take. The Ministry of Transport has no control over railway charges, but the provisions of Part III of the Railways Act give to traders and to the public generally the fullest rights of applying to the Railway Rates Tribunal for the reduction of any charge or charges which are felt to be too high. Such an application for a general reduction in rates has been made by the Federation of British Industries, and will shortly be heard by the Tribunal.
In regard to dock and canal charges, I would refer the hon. Member to the Bills now before Parliament, under which the charges of all such undertakings in possession of temporary powers will come under review by the Rates Advisory Committee, and can be revised if necessary. The average increase in railway rates, when the revision of September, 1920, was fully operative, was stated by the railway companies to be about 112 per cent., but reductions in respect of certain traffics (mainly raw materials) have been effected since last autumn. For information as to the amount of tonnage carried in 1913 and in 1921, respectively, I would refer the hon. Member to the Railway Returns (Preliminary Statement) for 1921, issued by my Department in March last and published by the Stationery Office. The principal figures for standard gauge railways in Great Britain are as follow:
1913. 1921 (preliminary). General merchandise 67,743,931 50,511,000 Coal, coke, and patent fuel 225,554,084 128,022,000 Other minerals 70,364,343 38,955,000 364,162,358 217,488,000