asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport what have been the aggregate reductions of wages on the various railway systems of the United Kingdom during the past nine months; and what reductions the said companies have made to the public in the matter of passenger fares and the charges for the carriage of goods?
I am not in a position to supply the information asked for in the first part of the question. No general reductions have been made in passenger fares or goods rates, but the railway companies have, during the past nine months, re-introduced a number of cheap travelling facilities. As from the 1st of November, 1921, reductions were effected in the rates on iron ore, ironstone and limestone for blast furnaces and steel works. From the 1st of January last the railway companies in England and Wales also reduced the rates on coal, coke and patent fuel, on lime in Class B for iron and steel making purposes, limestone for chemical works, and iron and steel in Class B. I understand that the Scottish companies have just reduced their rates on lime and on coal, coke and patent fuel for the iron and steel industry, and on iron and steel in Class B.
I do not think I shall be able to answer that. It would involve a very detailed inquiry into the accounts of each railway company, which I am not in a position to enforce.
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport if his attention has been called to the fact that the men employed on the Underground and electric railways of London have, during the past seven months, submitted to three reductions in wages aggregating 13s. per week per man; that the managers of such companies were allowed to increase fares by over 30 per cent. on account of such advanced wages; and whether, since an obligation rests on them to reduce their fares to the public pro rata to the men's reductions, and the Minister of Transport, in conjunction with the Railway Commissioners, sanctioned increased fares for the reasons stated, he will call the attention of the directors and managers to the matter in order to have it revised, and to give the public the advantage or, failing that, will he raise wages to the level of last spring?
The London Electric Railways (Fares, etc.) Act, 1920, provides for certain increases in fares in order that the charging powers of the companies may provide for working expenses, efficiently maintaining and renewing the undertakings, and a reasonable return on capital. The hon. Member will thus see that factors other than wages have to be taken into account in determining the fares to be charged, and that the increased fares were not sanctioned solely on account of advances in wages. The financial position of the companies has been under consideration by the Minister from time to time, and I have already been furnished with copies of the annual accounts for 1921 in order that the position which arises under Section 6 of the Act may be again considered.