Orders of the Day — Railway Freight Charges (Increase)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th May 1950.

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Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South 12:00 am, 10th May 1950

I am always surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman even raises that point. He ought to know that, even today, the railways have been unable, because of the general circumstances to which I have referred, to restore services equal to those of pre-war days. That being the case, what is the use of criticising the railways and complaining that there is no enterprise? One hon. Gentleman says that station masters ought to "sell" the railways, and then his right hon. and learned Friend gets up and says, "Why cannot you explain why they are endeavouring to cater for more trade by putting on more services?" I have already pointed out that when we had the fuel crisis in 1947, due to the weather—[Interruption.] Right hon. and hon. Members opposite cannot even have the decency to recognise that on that occasion it was the railways which practically saved the industry of the country because it was necessary to keep private industry going—[Interruption.] I know that this is a diversion, but I am not prepared to evade the type of jeer which there was when I made that comment.

I was the Minister at the time when we met these quite exceptional circumstances, and I can tell the House that industries throughout the country were living from day to day, wondering whether we could keep the snow-stopped roads and railways of this country in use. Only by mobilising all the railways and drawing to the full on the patriotism of railwaymen were we able to keep industry going in this country. So low does political prejudice bring some hon. Members that they cannot even acknowledge the decency of a decision of that character.