Yes, Sir. A year ago, the British Transport Commission introduced a scheme of pension supplements to help the worst cases among the railway pensioners. As I explained to the House during the debate on the Adjournment on 17th March, 1953, I must have regard to the Commission's statutory duties to make ends meet, and I do not think I should be justified in trying to influence their judgment in this matter.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that, during that debate, he stated that the increases which he was then promising would be given to over 6,000 superannuitants, and that, actually, only 2,820 superannuitants have received the increases because the ceiling is so low? Is he not aware that there is a great deal of discontent, and will he look at the matter again?
I was very glad to be able to announce to the House the actual action by me in this field, which had been so long neglected. I will certainly look into the figures given by the hon. Member. The Commission must have regard both to a fair arrangement with their employees in the field of pensions and a fair arrangement with the customer in the field of fares and freights.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is very great dissatisfaction on both sides of this House at the way in which the British Transport Commission are treating these prewar superannuitants, and that the present scheme does not come up to the expectations given to the House in the Adjournment debate of 21st March last year, which I had the honour to initiate? Will he do all he can to impress upon the British Transport Commission the need for generous treatment for these men, who have given a lifetime's service to the railways of this country?
I have no reason to think that the undertakings I gave on behalf of the Commission, which has the responsibility in this field, have not been lived up to. Certainly, the Commission and I will read these supplementary questions with interest.
I have nothing to add to the statement I have made, but 1 am very ready to look into how far—and I think completely—the undertaking which I gave on behalf of the Commission has been carried out.
While sympathising with the railway superannuitants, can my right hon. Friend state whether, arising out the negotiations at present taking place in the railway world, we can hope for a square deal for the railway using public?