Oral Answers to Questions — August Bank Holiday Period (Passenger Trains).

– in the House of Commons on 30th July 1942.

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Mr. Speaker:

Question 81, in the name of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Frankel), has not been reached, and perhaps the House will allow the Minister to make a reply to it as it is important that it should be made before Bank Holiday.

Following is the Question: 81. Mr. FRANKEL—To ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport what instructions have been given to the railway companies respecting the provision of passenger services during the August Bank Holiday period?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

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.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

Does that mean that railway companies must not run duplicate trains as they are doing at the present time?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

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.

Photo of Mr Evelyn Walkden Mr Evelyn Walkden , Doncaster

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?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

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.

Photo of Mrs Mavis Tate Mrs Mavis Tate , Frome

In view of the urgent necessity of economising in coal, will my hon. Friend consider extending this order, not confining it only to the Bank Holiday period?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

Certainly this arrangement will continue; and, indeed, at an early date I expect that the total number of trains will be further cut.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

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?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

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.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

Will the hon. Gentle man point out to the public the un desirability of large masses of people coming to London, as was the case yesterday, in order to ask for the removal of the ban on the "Daily Worker" and so causing a lot of congestion on the railways?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I think that question ought to be addressed to another Department, but I will certainly look into the matter.

Photo of Mr Robert Taylor Mr Robert Taylor , Morpeth

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?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

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.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

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?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I will bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Miss Rathbone:

Will the hon. Gentleman inquire what percentage of Members of Parliament are spending their holidays entirely in their town houses?