asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission to alter their present policy of dismissing level-crossing keepers and placing the responsibility of opening and closing gates on the engine fireman, in view of the unemployment caused and the fact that no economy is effected, since the extra consumption of fuel involved in stopping and starting trains outweighs the saving in wages.
No, Sir. This is a matter for the British Transport Commission. The cost of the slight increase in fuel consumption resulting from the stopping and starting of the locomotive is much less than the wages that would have to be paid if crossing keepers were employed.
Is the Minister aware that on one branch line alone from MacDuff to Inveramsay all three level-crossing keepers have been dismissed at a loss to British Railways of £1,965 12s. a year in order to save £450, that that is false economy, and will he now restore the three level-crossing keepers, who are on the spot waiting to resume their duties, and so save the nation money?
If I took any such step the hon. and learned Gentleman would be the first to point out that I would be acting unconstitutionally. I think that this is a matter which can be safely left to the commercial discretion of the Commission, which, in this and in other more important fields, is attempting to make the railways self-supporting.
On a point of order. The Minister has overlooked the fact that I merely asked him to give a direction to British Railways. I did not ask him to do anything unconstitutional.
The Minister has answered that.