I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House for allowing me to make this statement.
My Ministry have received reports from various parts of the country that more people are hoping to travel at August Bank Holiday week-end than the railways will be able to carry. I desire therefore to make it plain that my noble Friend has told the railway companies that during the Bank Holiday period from 31st July to 4th August inclusive, they must not run more passenger trains on any given weekday than the maximum number run on any weekday in July of this year. On Sunday, 2nd August, they may run no more passenger trains than the maximum run on an ordinary Sunday in July. In the case of long-distance trains which are normally run in parts, each part will count as a train. Arrangements have been made with the Service Departments by which leave has been so adjusted that only a very small number of troops will travel on leave during the Bank Holiday period. The staff of Government Departments have been told that they are expected not to make long distance journeys except when that is necessary on official business, and the use of their free or reduced price travel passes will not be allowed. The general public should realise that the total number of trains available will be substantially less than it was in the corresponding period last year. I am grateful for this opportunity of making it plain to, those who are intending to travel, and particularly to those who may be planning to make long-distance journeys, that if they disregard this warning, they will run the risk of finding themselves stranded.
In the ordinary practice of the railway companies there are duplicate trains, but, as I have said, the total number of trains, including duplicates, must not be greater than that of any corresponding day in July, either week-day or Sunday, as the case may be. I said in my answer that in the case of long distance trains which normally run in parts each part will count as a train.
Will my hon. Friend exercise the same kind of control over the private motor-coach companies, who seem to have supplies of petrol left over from other jobs and can accept private hire jobs to distant places for groups of persons contrary to the spirit of the explanation which my hon. Friend has just given?
If it is a question of a remainder of the basic ration of petrol, I am not sure whether action would be possible, but my hon. Friend may be sure that the same principle will be applied to road transport as has been applied to railway transport.
Could not the Minister reconsider this question and make arrangements to ensure that masses of workers who have to live all the year in crowded areas get facilities to go, for a short while at any rate, to the coast or to the country for the relaxation the necessity for which Members of this House do not seem to appreciate, because they have the best of it all the time?
My Ministry have great sympathy with the point, of view put by my hon. Friend, and it was for that reason that certain short-distance trains were allowed in Lancashire last month, although criticism was made of that policy; but my hon. Friend will, I am sure, agree that not one train, short-distance or long-distance, ought to be allowed if that means holding up war traffic, whether it be for troops, guns, tanks or raw materials.
Is the hon. Member aware that criticism on account of the trains being run in Lancashire largely arises from the fact that we had just as bold an announcement previous to the last holidays as we have had to-day and that in spite of saying one thing you did another?
With great respect to my hon. Friend we did not do another thing. The trains were not run at the holiday period, and it was all short-distance travel. By allowing those trains we did not in the slightest degree impede the war effort. We told the railway companies that no trains must be run if it would impede any war traffic of any kind. If we had not allowed the trains we should, in that industrial area, have made it certain that many workers and business people who had to travel on war business would have missed their trains and the war effort would have been impeded.
Will the hon. Gentleman's Department be good enough to send a representative to Victoria Station, Manchester, on some Friday or Saturday to see what the consequences would be of preventing the Lancashire people going to Blackpool?