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Volume 415: debated on Monday 12 November 1945

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Trunk Roads (Country Amenities)


asked the Minister of War Transport if, in the coming reorganisation of the trunk roads system, he will see to it that there is as little destruction as possible of the natural beauties of the landscape and of buildings of architectural or historic interest, including buildings of the eighteenth century and later which may not be scheduled as ancient monuments.

Yes, Sir, I shall certainly do my best to ensure that necessary road improvements or works of new construction are carried out with the least detriment to the amenities of the country and with due regard to the need for preserving, wherever possible, buildings of historic or architectural interest.

Cargoes (British Ships)


asked the Minister of War Transport, in connection with bulk purchases of goods and produce from foreign or Dominion countries, what arrangements will be made to ensure that as much as possible is carried in British ships, in any event no less a proportion than was carried in pre-war days.

The earnings from the carrying trade have always been, and must continue to be, an important factor in our trade balance. In our view, the interests of all countries are best served by the fullest international freedom for ships to ply in all trades in what is international business. For these reasons His Majesty's Government are opposed to discriminatory practices by Governments limiting cargo to their national flags. My hon. Friend may rest assured that we shall do everything possible to enable British shipping by fair competition to secure its full share in all trades.

Cross-Channel Services


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is satisfied that the reconditioning of ships for cross-channel services is not being delayed by lack of suitable materials; and whether he will take steps to ensure that all necessary supplies are provided.

Yes, Sir. I am aware of no instances of delay on this account. If the hon. Member has any particular difficulty in mind, I will have it investigated.

Liverpool And Belfast Service


asked the Minister of War Transport whether, in view of the delay owing to war service of the return of suitable ships to the Liverpool-Belfast service, he will allocate the s.s. "Leinster" to this service until the return of the "Ulster Monarch" class, or other appropriate vessels.

The M.V. "Leinster" is being reconditioned and will be available for cross-channel service in the New Year. As I told the hon. Member on 29th October, arrangements are in hand which should enable the S.S. "Louth" to run on the Liverpool-Belfast service before the end of the year. This vessel, with the s.s. "Longford," will enable nightly sailings in each direction to be maintained on all week days.

Is it not a fact that as the good ships on the Liverpool-Belfast service are not available, having been sunk or used on war service, the only good ship that still sails to Liverpool does not sail from Liverpool to Belfast?

As the hon. Gentleman has been interested in this problem for some time, he knows the difficulties, and we are doing our best to satisfy the interests of all concerned.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will do his best to assist the British Ulster people and not only those in Dublin?

Herring Industry, Yarmouth


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that the existing transport facilities at Yarmouth, both by rail and road, are quite inadequate for the expeditious handling of the herring now being landed there; and, in view of the loss of valuable food caused by this, whether he will take immediate steps to improve these facilities during the remainder of the season.

I cannot agree that the transport facilities for herring at Yarmouth are inadequate. The full pre-war service of special trains for fish traffic has been restored and, except for one occasion when the catch was exceptionally heavy, I am not aware of any recent case when the day's catch has not been disposed of on the same day. The road transport available has been in excess of requirements.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as there are only about 100 boats operating when normally there are 700, the catch can hardly be excessively heavy? If I send him further particulars will he look into them?

That is hardly the point. The point is whether the facilities are there, and I am assured they are. However, I will be glad to look into the question again.

Road Haulage Organisation


asked the Minister of War Transport if he will state the reason for the continuation until August, 1946, of the Road Haulage Organisation, in view of the announcement made by His Majesty's Government at the time of the introduction of the scheme that this was a war-time measure only.

In view of the existing conditions of transport, the Government felt bound to exercise their option to continue the existing agreements for their full period, and I gave notice accordingly.

Does the righthon. Gentleman consider that this was done to maintain or facilitate nationalisation when the Government are ready? Is that true?

:We will have to wait and see if that is intelligent anticipation or not.

United Maritime Authority


asked the Minister of War Transport when the United Maritime Authority will cease to operate; and whether he has come to a final decision as regards the control of British tonnage after that date.

2nd March, 1946, has been established as the date of termination of the Agreement on Principles under which the United Maritime Authority operates, but that authority ceased on 31st October to control tankers used for the transport of petroleum and its products, molasses, alcohol and creosote, subject to arrangements to meet the requirements of contracting Governments until the end of 1945. As to the second part of the Question, I will make a statement on the Government's policy as soon as possible.

London Omnibuses (Standing Passengers)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he proposes to take any action to enforce the right of the public to stand in motor omnibuses up to the limit allowed by his regulations.

I am meeting the representatives of the union tomorrow afternoon, and in the circumstances I am sure that my hon. Friend will not press me to say more at the moment.

:For the information of the public, who are obviously immensely interested in this matter, would the Minister confirm that the public have a legal right to stand in buses up to the limit allowed, and that the conductors are under a legal obligation to allow them to do so?

I think really that supplementary question is implied in the original Question, and, as I have indicated, I think the present moment is not the best time to answer that question.

It is not quite so easy to state definitely "Yes" or "No" as to the legality of a particular position, and if the hon. Gentleman will just accept the spirit of my reply, I can assure him that he will be better serving the interests of the public in which he is so much concerned than by persisting with his question.

While nobody has any desire to prejudice the right hon. Gentleman's negotiations—[Hon. Members: "Oh, no!"]—no, we have not; I think that will be accepted in good faith—surely it is not unreasonable to ask the Government, if not now, at any rate at the earliest opportunity, to be good enough to tell the House what is the legal position?

I entirely accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is only because, when I do give the information to the House, I want it to be watertight, that I suggest it is not wise to press for it now.

I am hoping to do so immediately I have met the representatives of the union and have found out the position.

Factory, Spennymoor (Omnibus Facilities)

39 and 40.

asked the Minister of War Transport (1) whether he will provide omnibus facilities to enable girls to travel from Ferryhill and Merrington to the Royal Ordnance factory at Spennymoor in time to commence work at 7.30 a.m., and an omnibus service back to Ferryhill at 5 p.m.;

(2) whether he is aware that the girls employed in the Royal Ordnance factory, Spennymoor, coming from Ferryhill and Merrington, are constantly late in arriving at the factory in the morning owing to the inadequate bus service; and why a licence has been withheld from a local firm willing to run a workmen's service.

No road service licence has been withdrawn, but the number of vehicles engaged on contract services on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply and Aircraft Production under an assisted travel scheme has been reduced in the process of closing down the Royal Ordnance factory. Existing local services cannot be adapted to provide for this traffic, but I understand that a local operator has offered to provide a suitable service if the employers concerned will guarantee a minimum receipt per day.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that something like 300 girls are concerned, and will he agree that a licence should be given to local firms who are prepared to put a workmen's bus on

(a) From India, Burma and Far East to the United Kingdom.32·424·423·523·4
(b) From India and Burma to East and West Africa.12·416·416·418·2

My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that special shipping is being used until the end of this year in order to embark the large number of men who are already due for return to this country but were delayed in India.

Petrol (Form Z/F5a)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that as a number of persons receive variable amounts of fuel for road transport purposes, Form Z/F5A is still in extensive use despite the recent concession which he made; and whether he will consider adopting some system, which will make it possible to abolish the use of this form altogether.

So long as fuel rationing continues it will be necessary for those operators who use varying amounts to for the convenience of these girls in the two areas?

If my hon. Friend will examine my reply, he will see there is no difficulty about the licence, and we shall give every facility to provide this service. The issue is about the amount to be received for the service.

Services, Far East (Shipping Allocation)


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is now in a position to say for how many men and women in the Services at present stationed in India, Burma or elsewhere in the Far East, he has allotted shipping space in each of the months of December, January, February and March in the coming winter; and if he will give the overall figures for all the Services without waiting for detailed allocation.

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, that the detailed allotment is still under consideration, but the provisional figures of Service personnel planned to be repatriated in troopships, expressed in thousands, are:

justify their requirements. I think that the form to which my hon. Friend refers is suitable for this purpose.

British West Indies (Passenger Service)


asked the Minister of War Transport if he is aware that with the restoration of one requisitioned Dutch passenger ship to her original owners there will shortly be no direct link by passenger liner with the British West Indies, and, in view of the large and in creasing number of West Indian civilians awaiting passages home, what steps he is taking to deal with the situation.

There are direct services to Jamaica and Trinidad by ships that carry a limited number of passengers. The demands on passenger ships, mainly for the repatriation of troops, makes it impossible to increase passenger facilities to the West Indies at present.

Southern Railway (Suburban Services)


asked the Minister of War Transport the average period of time between the advertised and the actual arrival of trains on the London and suburban servtioes of the Southern Railway between the hours of 7.10 a.m. and 4.7 p.m.; and whether an improvement has been effected in the operation of these services during recent weeks.

I am making inquiries and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as I can obtain the information.

:Is my right hon. Friend aware that the delays on the Southern Railway are an increasing source of irritation to the travelling public? Cannot something be done about it?

:I gathered as much, from the Question. I can assure my hon. Friend that the matter will be investigated.

Toll Bridges


asked the Minister of War Transport how many toll bridges still exist on first and second-class and other roads; and what would be the approximate cost of making them free to the public in each case.

:Fifty-nine toll bridges still remain, of which two are on trunk roads, 13 on Class I roads, nine on Class II roads, and 35 on unclassified roads. I regret that I am not able to estimate the cost of freeing these bridges, as it depends on the particular circumstances of each case.

In view of the fact that provision was made in an Act passed in this House some time ago for local authorities to take over toll bridges and roads, will the right hon. Gentleman put pressure on local authorities to take action, because some of them are using such bridges for paying the local rates, and they will never, therefore, be freed?

I will undertake to give special attention to the question of toll bridges.

Railway Wagons


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he is aware that about 160,000 railway wagons are now out of service for repair in this country, which is over 100,000 more than is the normal number at this time of the year; whether he is taking steps to increase the repair staffs; and what the prospects are of getting the number of wagons under repair back to normal before the winter coal demands arise.

I am aware that the wagon position is serious. Special steps have been taken to obtain additional labour and facilities for repairs, to increase the number of wagons to meet traffic demands during the coming winter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the failure to release key men is causing a serious bottleneck, and has he made representations to the Minister of Labour with a view to expediting demobilisation?

Yes, Sir, and it has received very sympathetic consideration, but I feel that we shall best solve this problem by bringing into operation additional repair and production facilities.

Can the right hon. Gentleman state how many have been released as a result of his representations to the Minister of Labour?

:If my hon. Friend will put that Question down I will endeavour to give him the information he requires.

What proportion of the number of wagons sent to the Continent after D-Day have been returned?

:I cannot give that information offhand, but steps are being taken to secure the return of certain rolling stock sent to the Continent.

Railway Coaches


asked the Minister of War Transport the number of passenger carrying vehicles actually available to the railways for useful work at the present time compared with the figure at the outbreak of war; and what steps are being taken to increase the stock for next season's holiday traffic.

The number of passenger-carrying vehicles actually available to the railways for useful work is 35,513, which is 4,869 less than at the outbreak of war. Steps have been taken to bring back from the Continent British railway stock lent for military purposes and to construct new vehicles.

Reconditioned Army Vehicles


asked the Minister of War Transport how many reconditioned Army vehicles are now available; how many midwives, nurses and badly disabled ex-Servicemen have applied for such vehicles; and how many such applications have been granted.

Eighty-five cars were notified to my Department in October as becoming available and these are already on offer to suitable applicants. I have on hand about 600 applications from nurses and midwives, and about 1,700 from disabled ex-Servicemen, 400 of whom are badly disabled; since 1st June I have granted 71 permits to nurses and midwives and 252 to badly disabled ex-Service men.

Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind, as more cars become available, that they are very essential to ex-Servicemen wishing to set themselves up in business once more?

Yes, Sir, I have steadily increased the percentage allotted to ex-Servicemen in the disposal of these cars, and the recent revision brings the distribution to disabled ex-Servicemen up to nearly 90 per cent.

Roadside Poles


asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will give consideration to the introduction of legislation to prohibit the erection of poles connected with overhead telegraphic lines and electricity cables being erected along highways owing to the increasing menace to traffic.

The position of poles for overhead telegraphic lines and electricity cables is settled in consultation with the appropriate highway authority, and I do not think that new legislation is required. If my hon. Friend has in mind any particular case where he considers that conditions are dangerous for traffic I shall be glad to arrange for an investigation.

Is it not a fact that what we want is far less regulation, so that we may get cheaper electricity in the country districts?

War Medals And Decorations


asked the Prime Minister whether he will consider the provision of a ribbon or clasp to designate service in France and the Low Countries during the campaign of 1939–40 as distinct from the ribbon given for service in the 1944–45 campaign.

I have been asked to reply. Eight Campaign Stars, a Defence Medal and several Emblems have now been instituted for service during hostilities, and it is not proposed to add to these awards in the manner suggested.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why the precedent of the last war is not being followed in this war also?

There are many ways in which the comparison between this war and the one before breaks down.


asked the Prime Minister if he will consider the awarding of a suitable medal to personnel who have served in the Azores, Iceland and Gibraltar, as service in these areas is not covered by any of the existing awards.

The Defence Medal is granted to officers and men of the Forces for service during the war in the Azores, Iceland and Gibraltar, and the time qualification of three years is reduced to one year for such service overseas from the place of residence. Aircrew who have taken part in operations from these bases qualify under the approved rules for the appropriate Campaign Stars.

Manpower Committee


asked the Prime Minister whether he will state the names of the Chairman and members of the Manpower Committee.

No, Sir. The arrangements made by the Cabinet for the discharge of the business for which it is collectively responsible are matters for the Cabinet itself and are not customarily disclosed.

Will the Lord President of the Council say whether this Committee is entirely advisory, or can take decisions in regard to matters?

To answer that would be a breach of the doctrine to which I have just referred.

Day Of Remembrance


asked the Prime Minister if he will consider adding the years 1939–45 to the Cenotaph in Whitehall and making 11th November a Day of Remembrance for both wars.

I will consider favourably the first suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member. As regards the second, it was announced on 10th October that the Government proposed to consider, in consultation with other Commonwealth and Empire Governments, the question of fixing a National Day to be observed in future years as a Day of Remembrance for those who died in the two wars. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already started his consultations on this point.

Does not the Lord President of the Council consider it would be much to the advantage of the public if a Sunday were always chosen for the Day of Remembrance?

Will the right bon. Gentleman remind the Home Secretary that now he is a Minister of the Crown he should be careful about expressing his private opinions on matters such as these?