asked the Minister of Transport what estimate he has made of the economic and financial loss to the nation of the railway work to rule 1968, and associated labour disputes to date; and by how much he estimates the accounts of British Railways will additionally be in deficit arising from such disputes.
The work-to-rule cost the Railways Board about £3 million in net revenue. In industry generally a number of firms were inconvenienced, but the effect on exports and on the economy as a whole was negligible. The disruption of commuter services led to some small loss of output in London.
Of course there was inconvenience cause, and I said there was inconvenience caused. I think that in some ways it may have been exaggerated. As for the railway deficit, except for the period of the dispute, the results so far this year are encouraging, and the Board and the Government are confident that the deficit rate will be contained within the estimate.
What is much more important is whether the Ministry is satisfied that the settlement reached with the railwaymen is likely to be a lasting settlement and that we are not going to have in a few months' time a repetition of holding commuters and others up to ransom, notably immediately prior to the holdiday periods?
Yes, obviously, the negotiations are very delicate, but there is every hope on the part of the Board and of the unions that an agreement can be reached, and we also hope, and have every reason to believe, that the agreement will be a once-for-all one and not a recurring phenomenon.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the railwaymen will be very glad that he used the term "work to rule" and not "go slow", because the railwaymen work to rules laid down by the railways and give a measure of productivity which continues all the time on the railways?
On the question of productivity, there is no doubt that the Board and the unions together over the last number of years have made great strides towards increasing productivity, and I hope that, following the discussions at Penzance, the negotiations which are taking place now will improve productivity on the railways.