asked the Minister of Transport, (1) if he is aware that the port charges upon a ship and her cargo from a distant port are some hundreds of pounds sterling greater at Liverpool than at Hull for like accommodation; and whether he is satisfied that the Hull docks are not being worked at a great loss;
(2) if he will adjust the charges at the railway ports, harbours, and docks in his possession so that the requisite revenue may be directly collected to pay for the accommodation provided, instead of it being in part collected out of railway receipts and, in particular, out of railway conveyance rates?
On the data given, I am unable to check the hon. Member's comparison between the port charges at Liverpool and Hull. The question of charges in force at the railway-owned docks, such as Hull, is now being considered.
Is it not a fact that the cheaper working at Hull is due to the more modern and up-to-date appliances there, completed just before the War, and to the greater sobriety and law-abidingness of the inhabitants?
Is it not a fact that the railway companies pay a large proportion of the charges at Hull, which in Liverpool and London are not paid by the companies, but are borne by the shipowner or the merchant?
asked the Minister of Transport if he will include in the White Paper which he proposes to distribute the cost to each of the large railway companies of providing and working docks, shipping, canals, wharves, station accommodation, warehouses collection and delivery of merchandise, and any other services rendered or accommodation provided, so that the cost of conveyance upon the railway may be separately ascertained and allocated to the conveyance of passengers, merchandise, and minerals, respectively?
The Minister of Transport is already issuing monthly returns of the receipts and expenditure of the railway companies as a whole. It is not possible to allocate the receipts and expenses to the individual companies, since the division of through receipts and the exchange of expenditure accounts between the companies have been suspended during control. The further allocation of railway expenditure suggested by the hon. Member is not practicable. Even in normal circumstances, such an allocation would involve a very large amount of work, and a necessary preliminary would be the remodelling of the form of the railway accounts prepared under the Railway Companies (Accounts and Returns) Act, 1911.
Can the hon. Gentleman suggest any other means by which this country can ascertain the cost to the railway companies of the conveyance of merchandise on the railways of the country?
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, in regard to such points as are covered in this question, there is in his Department any representative body which can be regularly consulted?