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Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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Armed Forces (Leave Trains)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he will consider the running of more trains reserved for members of His Majesty's Forces on leave?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport
(Mr. Noel-Baker)

Machinery already exists through which additional leave trains are arranged when the number of Service personnel travelling regularly between given points justifies that course.

Will the hon. Member consider allowing private soldiers and non-commissioned officers to sit in first-class compartments when the third-class are overcrowded?

Scheduled Times


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that many main line trains are unable to keep to their scheduled time for obvious reasons; and whether he will consider the re-scheduling of such trains?

The schedules for passenger trains and regular freight trains are drawn up with the object of ensuring the maximum use of locomotives and track capacity, and of providing connections with other services. They are based on timings which the railway authorities can reasonably hope to maintain and which, in fact, are normally maintained. Delays inevitably result from various causes, including, in particular, the provision of special service trains, of which large numbers are required every day. If a train were regularly the same amount behind schedule, at each point on its journey, it would obviously be desirable to alter its timing, but in practice this rarely happens. As I have said, delay occurs for different reasons; it occurs at different places, and varies in extent from day to day; it does not, therefore, provide a good reason for a general slowing-up of the main line schedules.

Unnecessary Travel


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is satisfied with the results of his Department's slogan "Is your journey really necessary?" and whether he intends to take further steps to restrict unnecessary civilian travel on the railways?

The slogan "Is your journey really necessary?" was originally introduced by the railway companies, to whom is due much of the credit for the considerable success which it has had. My Ministry have examined various proposals for the further compulsory restriction or rationing of railway travel. To be effective, however, these proposals would all require a complicated organisation, which would make demands on man-power out of all proportion to the benefit which would accrue. I am, therefore, grateful to my hon. Friend for this opportunity of saying that it will be more important this year than ever before that passengers should only travel by rail when they are certain that it is essential for them to do so.

Does not my hon. Friend think that the time has arrived when the whole question of railway travel ought to be inquired into again, both in the interests of the railway workers, particularly engine drivers and firemen, and in the interests of those who have to travel, particularly Service people on leave?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend about the great strain on train crews, and, indeed, on the whole railway system at the present time, but we have taken a number of measures, as, for example, the withdrawal of cheap day tickets, to reduce non-essential traffic, and they have had considerable success. Rationing is an extremely difficult proposition, and we are satisfied that if Herr Hitler has not been able to solve it, it will be very difficult for us to do so.

Was one of the steps, among others which the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned, the raising of fares by 68 per cent. for people who have to travel in the ordinary way of business?

I am considering a special case which my hon. Friend has put to me about the raising of fares.

May I ask whether generals of high position travel alone in first-class compartments and admirals do not?

Transport Of Flowers Order (Availability To Members)


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Emergency Powers (Defence) Railways (Transport of Flowers) Order, No. 232, of 1943, which was signed on 13th February and came into force on 16th February, was not available in the Library of the House of Commons up to midnight on 23rd February; that there were not available in the Library any of the Statutory Rules and Orders between Nos. 163 and 232; that at least six persons have been arrested and prosecuted under the provisions of Order No. 232 before it was available in the Library of this House; and whether he will give instructions that no proceedings will be taken under any Order in future before it has been made available to hon. Members?

Arrangements have recently been made whereby new Statutory Rules and. Orders are supplied to the Library of the House daily instead of once a week. The new arrangements were put into operation on 22nd February, on which day Order No. 232 was available in the Library. In future, the Orders will be available as soon as they are printed, and no such instruction as that suggested by my hon. Friend will therefore be required.

On whose authority does the right hon. Gentleman make the statement that the document was put in the Library on the 22nd? I was in the Library at midnight on the 23rd, searching the volume in which it was supposed to be, and I found that it was not there.

If hon. Members put down Questions based on accurate information, is it not the duty of Ministers to make sure that their answers are equally accurate?

Of my own knowledge, because with my own eyes I looked through the files several times, I state that the document was not there. Why does the Minister now tell me that it was there?