HC Deb 21 April 1952 vol 499 cc4-8
3. Mr. A. J. Champion

asked the Minister of Transport if he will take the necessary steps to amend the Transport Act, 1947, in such a way as to permit of the reference of such fare increases as those recently made by certain private omnibus companies to the appropriate Transport Users Consultative Committee, as was done in the case of the recent London Transport Executive's fare stage alterations and fare increases.

4. Captain Robert Ryder

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has considered a resolution from the Merton and Morden Urban District Council calling attention to the hardships caused to disabled persons and old age pensioners by the recent increase in transport fares; and whether he will now make a statement as to the Government's intentions regarding transport.

6 and 14. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Minister of Transport (1) if he will make a statement on the action he has taken on the report on London Transport fares and fare stages made to him by the Central Transport Consultative Committee;

(2) if he will state the reasons why he issued a directive to the British Transport Commission on 15th April in regard to proposed fare increases on British Railways; on what grounds the advice to him, that he was powerless to take action under the Transport Act, 1947, was reversed; and if he will make a statement on the action he now proposes to take.

11 and 12. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Transport (1) whether he has now decided to amend the Transport Act, 1947, to make himself responsible for fares;

(2) what action he has taken arising from the report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee on fares and fare stages in the London area.

15 and 16. Mr. Henry Brooke

asked the Minister of Transport (1) in view of his direction to the Transport Commission not to implement the proposed increase in fares outside the London area, what action he intends to take to ensure fair and equal treatment for the travel-ling public in London, where fares have already been increased;

(2) whether he has yet received and considered a report from the Central Transport Consultative Committee on fare stages and fares in the London area; and whether he will make a statement.

17. Mr. Douglas Jay

asked the Minister of Transport what steps Her Majesty's Government will take to enable the British Transport Commission to meet their financial obligations.

18. Mr. Eric Fletcher

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he proposes to take to modify the recent increases of fares in the London area.

19. Mr. F. Beswick

asked the Minister of Transport in view of his directive with regard to proposed provincial fare increases, what action he proposes to take with regard to the recent London area fare increases.

Mr. Maclay

I would ask the hon. Members to await the statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is to make this afternoon at the end of Questions.

Mr. Beswick

Why is it now discovered possible for the Prime Minister to make a statement on this matter when Conservative propaganda has always previously been that neither the Minister nor Parliament had any power to interfere with the actions of the Transport Commission?

Mr. Maclay

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the statement which the Prime Minister is to make.

Mr. Jay

Can the hon. Gentleman at least tell us why it is the Prime Minister and not he himself who is making this statement? Can we be sure that he takes responsibility for what the Prime Minister says?

Mr. Speaker

We had better await the statement. It is very difficult to argue this matter intelligently without the statement.

Mr. James Callaghan

On a point of order. While I fully realise what you say, Mr. Speaker, there was a great list of Questions which the Minister read out and I was not sure which were included. For example, is Question No. 7 included? Is the Minister not answering that? Is that being left to the Prime Minister as well?

Mr. Maclay

No, Sir, No. 7 is not included in that list.

Mr. Callaghan

I am sure the House really has not got the list of Questions which fall to the Minister and those which fall to the Prime Minister. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, can we ask the Minister which Questions he is now taking responsibility for and which Questions are now to fall to the Prime Minister?

Mr. Maclay

The numbers of the Questions which will be answered in the general statement of the Prime Minister are Nos. 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19.

Mr. Jay

I was not raising any question on the merits of the statement which we have not yet had. I was merely asking whether it is now the Minister of Transport or the Prime Minister who takes responsibility for the Government's transport policy. Cannot we have an answer to that?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Surely that is covered by the general doctrine of joint responsibility.

Mr. Ernest Davies

On a point of order. Might we have a Ruling on this matter? We are in some difficulty because we do not know to whom to address our Questions in future. We have put down to the Minister of Transport a number of Questions concerning matters for which we understood he was responsible. Now we are denied an answer from him today, and we are told that the Prime Minister will deal with this matter. Might we have guidance as to what action we should take in future?

Mr. Speaker

It is common practice in this House for one Minister to answer for another. I am not concerned in the least with the merits of whether that is always a wise thing to do, but it is quite in order for that procedure to be followed.

Mr. Callaghan

On a point of order. The Minister of Transport told us on 17th March that he had no authority to do certain things which the Prime Minister stated on Saturday are now to be done. We wish, with respect, Mr. Speaker, to follow up this point with the Minister of Transport. It would be no use our asking the Prime Minister why the Minister of Transport told the House he had no authority, if the Prime Minister has the authority. That is the difficulty which the Minister of Transport is putting us into by not being willing to answer his own Questions.

Mr. Speaker

I think that these comments should come later, when we have had the statement.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Our difficulty, Mr. Speaker, is this: According to the Act of Parliament it is the Minister of Transport and he alone who has statutory authority to do certain things, and surely it is up to him, as he alone has the authority and the Prime Minister has not, to answer for certain acts which he does or does not do according to the Act which empowers these acts; and, therefore, we want to know why he is not answering for himself in this discharge of duties put upon him alone by the Transport Act?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot pursue this.

Mr. Callaghan

On a point of order. I must give notice that we intend to pursue this matter. It is surely without precedent for a Minister to come to the House, and on a whole series of Questions, at least eight or nine—[An HON. MEMBER: "Eleven."]—to tell us that he is not going to answer them, and is going to pass the matter on to the Prime Minister. This is really a complete derogation of his own responsibilities, and if he cannot carry out his duties better than this, he should resign.