Mr Albert Murray: No, Sir. This is essentially a matter of management for the Railways Board.
Mr Albert Murray: My hon. Friend can make representations directly to British Rail or to the appropriate transport users consultative committee.
Mr Albert Murray: Again, this is a matter of day-to-day management for British Railways. No doubt the hon. Member has made his representations known elsewhere.
Mr Albert Murray: As usual, that is an entirely different question.
Mr Albert Murray: I was somewhat disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminister (Mr. John Smith) because at the outset he quoted Noel Coward's remark about the non-nationalisation possibilities of sex. The hon. Gentleman said that he would give us an illustration of that. In the event, however, he did not do so, to the disappointment of the whole House, especially on...
Mr Albert Murray: This has been an interesting debate which has ranged from rural Berkshire to the busy new Thamesmead area and taken in a local derby in football terms. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) and the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) mentioned that no hon. Member was promoting the Bill on behalf of British Railways. I understand that it is not normal for an hon....
Mr Albert Murray: I hope that I can answer some of the points that have been made.
Mr Albert Murray: I did not intervene once in the hon. Gentleman's speech, and I think I should be allowed to answer as many points as I can. If they are not covered, I am certain that the hon. Member, who has not been backward in coming forward in giving British Railways the rough end of his tongue, will be on to them with further letters or telephone calls. As I was saying, this Bill is one of a series. I...
Mr Albert Murray: According to the comment which this Bill has aroused, it is difficult enough to speak for British Railways, let alone the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). I must point out to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) that Erith and Crayford comes within the Greater London Borough of Bexley and that is why we have that name mentioned. Subsection (2) further...
Mr Albert Murray: They might not have understood before tonight. I am certain that they will understand after tonight. As I pointed out to the hon. Gentleman, he has received an apology saying that their omission was an error in administration, and they have informed me that they did not intend any discourtesy. But, although hon. Members rightly want to know statutory proposals for matters which affect their...
Mr Albert Murray: Proposals have not yet been formally submitted to the Governments by the private groups.
Mr Albert Murray: There have been as yet no formal proposals. I understand that a report appeared in a newspaper last week that formal proposals had been received, but this is not so. In reply to the hon. Gentleman's second point, there is no difference between the Governments on this matter.
Mr Albert Murray: I cannot at this stage give any date for the starting of the tunnel.
Mr Albert Murray: In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, we are not being misleading. Negotiations are going on, and the very fact that there are negotiations means that the Government cannot and will not lay down the timetable suggested by the hon. Gentleman.
Mr Albert Murray: The total effect of road haulage quotas on British industry cannot be accurately quantified but is cer- tainly small in volume. We would naturally prefer to do away with these quotas altogether if the other Governments concerned would agree. In the meantime we shall do our utmost to negotiate quotas which are adequate to the needs of trade.
Mr Albert Murray: All quotas are on a reciprocal basis and are subject to review. The hon. Member no doubt will know that we have just negotiated an increase in the Anglo-Italian quota and new discussions on the Anglo-French quota are to take place at the end of February.
Mr Albert Murray: The local authorities concerned wrote to the Department on 29th January to ask whether they would qualify for Government grant, under Section 34 of the Transport Act, 1968, in respect of any financial support they might themselves give to the ferry. The detailed information they have given is being studied and we hope to reach a decision soon.
Mr Albert Murray: We are aware of the desire by local authorities that we should act speedily, but since this is the first application of its kind it needs a great deal of detailed study. We will give an answer as soon as possible.
Mr Albert Murray: Figures for 1st January, 1970, are not yet available. They will be published, as usual, in the Railways Board's Annual Report for 1969. Total track mileage in use on 1st January, 1969, was 33,976. The decline in route mileage between 1st January, 1965, and 1st January, 1969, was 22·2 per cent.; between 1st January, 1960, and 1st January, 1965, it was 13·5 per cent.
Mr Albert Murray: We do not say that. What the hon. Gentleman has to take into consideration is the fact that percentages do not tell the whole story and that the Government—[Interruption.] One can always tell when the Opposition are not going to like what is about to be said. They start to jeer. The Government are paying nearly £60 million per annum to keep open socially desirable services.