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Main Line Companies (Earnings)

Volume 440: debated on Monday 21 July 1947

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42.

asked the Minister of Transport the estimated deficiency on the amounts payable under the Railway Control Agreement in respect of the earnings of the main line companies for 1947 and 1948, respectively; and what action he proposes to take to meet it.

It is estimated that in 1947 the pooled net revenues of the main line railway companies will fall short of the fixed annual sums payable to them under the Railway Control Agreement by some £37 million. The Control Agreement will be terminated at the end of this year, when the railways will pass to the British Transport Commission, but an estimate on a similar basis for 1948 indicates a deficiency of about £28 million. Neither estimate takes account of any additional cost which would be incurred should effect be given to the recent recommendation of the Court of Inquiry into wages and hours of work of railwaymen. With regard to the last part of the Question, I expect to be in a position to make a statement before the Recess.

Before my right hon. Friend makes a statement regarding any action which he proposes to take, will he take into full consideration the desirability of subsidising the railways at the present time, in view of the incidence of an increase in railway charges on the cost of production?

All relevant considerations will he taken into account, but that will not avoid the necessity of making a decision to meet the existing circumstances.

May I ask my right hon. Friend how far the Railway Rates Tribunal, or whatever its other name is now, has been wrong in its estimates?

The Consultative Committee, which functions in the place of the Railway Rates Tribunal, submitted a report to me recently on this matter, and estimates, figures and information have not been accurate. I am not so very much concerned with what has happened in the past; I am proceeding on the information which I have at my disposal at the moment.