Dr. Russell Thomas:
asked the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, in view of the need of experienced drivers in the Army, the considerable reduction in the number of omnibuses in the central omnibus service and the fact that the Board only require two to four weeks' training for a conductor to become a driver, he will consider taking steps to obtain the gradual release of the 7,690 men of military age, classed as drivers by the London Passenger Transport Board, and replacing them by older men who are experienced lorry drivers?
For some time past the Ministry of Labour, with the full co-operation of the London Passenger Transport Board has been investigating the staffing of the Road Transport undertakings of the Board. Reports on some sections have now been received and are under examination. The possibility of substituting staff in order to release men of military age has not been overlooked.
As and when these men are called up, they will be replaced by persons not liable for military service. Many of them will be replaced by women but I can give no undertaking that men above military age or unfit for military service will not be retained or engaged for this work.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary explain why I am constantly receiving allegations that conductors and others are given a short course of driving and then sent back to their old occupation?
I ought to explain that the London Passenger Transport Board have always kept an adequate reserve of man-power. In view of the work they had to do during the air bombardment of London and the conditions under which it was done, it was absolutely necessary. That was done with the approval of the Government. The Board have always cooperated in every way with the Ministry of National Service in respect to calling up, and there is not the slightest foundation for the constant imputations against the patriotism of the Board which the hon. Member has made.