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National Freight Corporation

Volume 941: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1977

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17.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will announce his plans for the financial reorganisation of the National Freight Corporation; and whether he will make a statement.

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will announce his plans for the financial reorganisation of the National Freight Corporation; and whether he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Members to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Cohen) on 12th December. Otherwise, I must ask them to await the Transport Bill.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House some idea of the performance of the National Freight Corporation this year? Does he stand by his policy of eliminating deficits in freight?

The performance of the Corporation this year has been a great deal better than in previous years. The House agrees that there is a need for financial reconstruction, and I hope that we shall be able to accomplish that.

Does the writing off by the Government of a substantial amount of the accumulated losses of the NFC mean that the Secretary of State has no hope of the Corporation's making a profit and of being able to repay its losses out of profits?

Indeed not. I have said that freight must pay its way. We have accepted that there are some historical problems that face the Corporation. If the House remedies them, I hope that it will do so once and for all and that the Corporation will be put on a firm foundation for growth.

On the future prospects of the Corporation, which is what financial reconstruction is all about, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the NFC has asked for a written directive from the Government to settle within the Government's 10 per cent. pay policy? If it has asked for such a directive, what reply has the right hon. Gentleman sent?

I do not think that it would be right for me to disclose to the House the normal confidential correspondence between the Secretary of State and the National Freight Corporation. However, I have made it clear to the Corporation that it is within its own responsibility and its own managerial authority to seek to reach a settlement in the public sector within the 10 per cent. guideline laid down by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am sure that Sir Daniel Pettit and the board wish to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an idea of what effect the new EEC regulations on drivers' hours will have on the charges of the National Freight Corporation?

No, not at this stage, although I hope to be able to do so by the time that we discuss the Bill.