§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17th November], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Barnes (East Ham, South)
I beg to move, To leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add: "upon this day six months."
The Amendment calls for the total rejection of the Bill, because I do not see much really to commend the Bill to the House. Probably the Government will force some kind of Measure through the House, but I would express the hope that the common sense of the House will at least delete the forced sale of British Road Services, which inevitably means the unnecessary loss of £20 million and the consequence of which is to impose what I consider to be a penal tax upon a limited body of citizens in this country. The issue is whether a forced sale is necessary, and I am confident that, as the Second Reading debate proceeds, as well as in Committee, it will become increasingly plain that, whatever the merits or the demerits of the Government's purpose may be, there is no justification for the method that they are adopting.
But before I proceed to discuss the main problem, I want to offer one or two comments upon some of the passages in the Minister's speech. I observed that the Minister paid very deserved tributes to the late directors of the four main-line railway companies. Of course, we all appreciate that at least a good proportion of them were men with wide business experience.
It appeared to me to be rather strange that the Minister should devote so much time to the value of their contributions when we find the Government paying so little attention to one of the outstanding directors of the four main-line railways who is also a respected Member of this House. I refer, of course, to the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). I know that his family connections with the railways, his personal connection with the railways, his prestige 1602 in this House in all quarters, are not in question. One would have thought that a Minister who thinks it desirable to pay a tribute to those past directors would not ignore the advice of one who is very qualified to speak.
The second point I want to comment upon is the Minister's statement with regard to my own and the late Government's attitude to the area passenger transport schemes and the Road Passenger Executive, because I think it is desirable to correct what may be a misunderstanding. It would be quite wrong for the Minister to infer that I had abandoned the area passenger schemes. He mentioned three—the North-Eastern, the South-Western and the East Anglian schemes. The South-Western and the East Anglian schemes have never reached a stage to come before the Minister, but I see no reason to avoid the fact that in the case of the North-Eastern area scheme I was not disposed unduly to hurry forward. That was an entirely different situation from abandoning the scheme-making procedure.
I would remind hon. Members that the whole principle and basis of the area making schemes was that they should be of a permissive, voluntary and consenting character. There was no principle of compulsion embodied in the formation of those schemes. They were quite clearly designed to enable public opinion, both before and otherwise, in any given area, when it was so disposed, to proceed on lines either similar to or very dissimilar from what was done in the case of London transport. There was complete absence of any authoritarian pressure in the formation of those schemes.
An amount of opposition, I could see, prevailed in the North-Eastern area, largely organised and directed by British Electric Traction—B.E.T. as they are familiarly known. They organised a good deal of objection. It is not unusual in this country when one is looking forward to the development of a policy to give the necessary time for information and knowledge on some of these complex matters to spread.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
Of course, I inherited the situation; I have to rely on the records that are available; but when I looked at what was done in fact in connection with the Northern area scheme, I could not 1603 fail to see that Gateshead, South Shields, Sunderland and Stockton-on-Tees, which all had absolute Labour majorities over all other parties combined, objected to the scheme.
§ Mr. Barnes
Yes. I am not in any way disputing those facts. I thought I was acknowledging that the opposition I found at that particular time was of a character that did not justify pressing on with that scheme, and as the whole thing was permissive in principle, I was quite prepared to wait until knowledge and information eventually soaked into elements of that description and brought about a change in the attitude towards the problem. That was one of the reasons that caused me to form the view that the Road Passenger Executive had been formed too quickly.
I must confess that my own personal desire was that that area scheme should have marched forward with greater rapidity, and should have won a larger measure of public support; and it was in anticipation that that might be the position that I formed the Road Passenger Executive, to have it ready; but the very fact that, when I found the circumstances were not working in that direction, I formed the decision to abolish the Road Passenger Executive proves the point which I have often made in our debates that the whole machinery of executive control was flexible and adjustable to meet changing circumstances. After the experience of the North-Eastern area, the South-Western and East Anglian schemes were proceeding on a different plan, and I believe that with a modified type of scheme something might have materialised.
I do not agree that the Minister has any case for now compulsorily repealing these Sections of the Act, especially in regard to the problems of railway organisation. Under this Bill, the railways, against their own practical experience and judgment, are to be compelled to change to a regional or area type of organisation. The Government are forcing the abolition of the Railway Executive, whether it is right or wrong, or whether it is justified or not, and I think that the weight of opinion is against it.
Nevertheless, the Government are compelling that change, and, while intro- 1604 ducing the principle of compulsion with regard to railway organisation, they are repealing even the permissive area scheme machinery which would enable localities, when public opinion was ripe, to move in the direction for which, as I understood it, the hon. Member for Abingdon was pleading yesterday. He argued that, approaching the problem of transport seriously, the time has now arrived when we should cease to discuss it in terms of railways and roads. In all the debates we have had in this House, we have found a certain antagonism running through the arguments of hon. Members. We should now think in terms of transport, as the hon. Baronet emphasised, with a big "T."
The reason I emphasise that is that my association with this problem convinced me very rapidly that we have too much capital resources, too much mechanical plant and equipment, and too much of our labour resources invested in the whole field of transport. I became convinced that, on a proper and serious practical approach to this problem, favouring neither rail nor road, but understanding the problem which confronts each aspect of transport, there were considerable economies which could not be won in a year or two years, but which could be obtained in our use of resources in transport. It is very serious that about 14 per cent. of our national capital resources should be absorbed in transport of all kinds. Apart from our civil and general engineering trades, transport is the largest user of our labour supplies, and today we cannot afford to continue with that state of affairs.
If we follow the policy the Government have embodied in this Bill, I see not a steady spreading and development of economies, but spreading chaos and waste, and it is from that point of view that I approach the problem.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
If the right hon. Gentleman considers that 14 per cent. is a disproportionate amount of national resources to be devoted to transport, would he give us the appropriate figure for the United States, Germany and other foreign countries to prove his point?
§ Mr. Barnes
I am not in the least interested in other countries. What I am interested in is seeeing this country use its resources as efficiently as possible. I 1605 think the hon. Gentleman's intervention was merely a diversion. We are not like other countries. No other country has to live by importing its food supplies and raw materials to the extent that we do, and it is not a bit of use comparing our problems with those of America, or any other country which has large land areas and all its raw materials at home. We have special problems, and the point I am making is the necessity to economise in our resources.
§ Mr. Barnes
I wish to address a serious argument to the House and I do not intend to be diverted.
What impresses me, as one who has seen a good many Government Measures of a controversial character introduced and passed, is the very little really effective support in the country for this Bill. Whenever a Government introduces a controversial Measure, it is customary for their own supporters, Press and journals to do what they can to justify it. We are all familiar with that process. But in this case we cannot find written and detailed evidence of that kind. We can only form impressions through observation. All the men engaged in running transport have, through their official organisations and journals, expressed an opinion against the proposals of the Bill. I find that a very large proportion of managerial opinion in the transport industry is against the Bill.
§ Mr. Barnes
Yes. We can have our differences of opinion about it, but I have never come across any other instance in which one could so easily detect a volume of management opinion which voiced its objection or doubt as that in the transport industry has been voiced against these proposals. The technical transport journals do not usually make comments or express their views inspired by a party political point of view, but I find that generally the transport journals have viewed these proposals of the Government as reversing the trend which has been 1606 developing in industry in the first half of this century.
When the White Paper was before us, we had the remarkable spectacle of the majority of Conservative journals invariably commenting adversely on the Government's proposals. Then on the eve of this Bill we had the Association of British Chambers of Commerce circulating their document, which, whilst agreeing with the general objective which the Government had in view, nevertheless wanted such substantial variations in the procedure and method as would effectively destroy the Bill. The roads federation which speaks for all commercial road interests is fiercely opposed to the levy. Despite all this, we find the Government endeavouring to force this Bill through.
I want to refer to one of the suggestions of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce which, I think, was supported by the hon. Member for Abingdon yesterday—that the Government, if they were intending to move in this direction, should at least have had an inquiry. I think that is justified now, and I want to comment on my attitude to the question of an inquiry when this problem was last debated, and when I was Minister of Transport.
Then the official Opposition, now the Government, put forward as their main constructive proposal that there should be an inquiry into the problems of transport. I think that the Home Secretary, who, I understand, is to wind up the debate tonight, was the chief exponent of that proposal, and he pressed it upon me very strongly indeed. I was not proposing to upset the general scheme of transport at that time, so I rejected the demand for an inquiry by the then Opposition; but I did not reject the case and a good deal of the criticism that was behind the demand for an inquiry.
What I did was this: I called the President of the Federation of British Industries, Sir Archibald Forbes, and the Chairman of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, Mr. Yates, together, and asked them to meet me, with the Chairmen of the British Transport Commission, the Railway Executive and the Road Haulage Executive. My view at that time was that the Road Haulage Executive had passed through a process 1607 of acquiring something like 3,000 separate undertakings of all sizes and conditions—small, medium and large; well-organised road haulage businesses, medium-sized businesses, some indifferently organised and some very badly organised. They were faced with the problem of welding over 3,000 separate businesses into the network of a national road haulage service. Before that new economic force rooted itself down, I wanted contact between the spokesmen of industry, who could speak for a wide range of traders, to meet the Chairmen of the various Executives; and in a practical way we discussed the details, the structure and the type of road haulage organisation which would evolve.
I want to emphasise that at that time I did not reject the under-current of criticism, but I thought that a wide, roving inquiry was not suitable, and certainly not so effective, as bringing the practical men on either side together to work out a plan. The reports which I received were that these meetings were proceeding in a very valuable and favourable way, and I think that if that idea had been proceeded with, we should possibly have accomplished a good deal. That, so far as I can see, has come to an end. Now the Government propose to take us back to the chaos which we found in the inter-war years, the ruinous competition between road and rail transport—a most regrettable state of affairs.
That being the case, it is not now a matter of improving the machinery of the British Transport Commission in a businesslike and practical way; it is a reversal of that policy. It throws us back to a condition of affairs which all practical, expert opinion had condemned in the past—Royal Commissions, conferences, trade experts, transport experts, and almost every Minister of Transport, including the war-time Minister, Lord Leathers. All had come to the conclusion that a desirable feature of our transport policy would be to knit together, in some form or other, road and rail transport, under conditions in which the user, whether he was a passenger or a trader, could determine where the flow of capital should go.
There were precedents for this. It is of no use Lord Leathers stating that the Transport Act was doctrinaire, rigid and 1608 ideological in its character; it was nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, every party has played its part in this direction. In the Labour Governments of 1929 and 1931, there was a Bill in preparation to bring about that state of affairs in London Transport, because we found then that the pirate buses were creaming off the short-distance routes in London and driving the General Omnibus Company—a capitalist concern of which Lord Ashfield was chairman, with a capital involving nearly £100 million—the London County Council, the West Ham and East Ham and the Croydon Corporations straight into the bankruptcy court.
The Conservative Government came along in 1931, and they could not evade a situation of that character. They picked up that Bill, which was being prepared by the Labour Government of that period, and, with one or two minor alterations, the London Passenger Transport Board was brought into being. Who can say that the London Passenger Transport Board has been a failure or a wrong type of experiment? Who can say that it has interfered with the principal of choice of the citizens of London? It has done nothing of the kind. The citizens can choose whether they go on a bus, a tube or on what other form of transport is provided. Because the resources were pooled, capital has flowed in the direction which has suited the general convenience of the public.
In my view, what the 1947 Transport Act sought to do was to make that kind of thing possible throughout the country. It is no use anyone saying that the Transport Act was rigid or ideological in its conception. A series of principles were applied. In the first place, shipping was left entirely outside the problem. If we look at the treatment of the railways, road haulage and road passenger services, we see that every phase of transport was treated by a different method.
In the case of road haulage, which was eventually partially brought in the scheme, there was, first of all, the special treatment, procedure and method which selected the type of vehicles which were engaged in long-distance goods transport, and there was a different method which selected the local operator who should be brought into that scheme. There was the exempted traffic of special kinds of road hauliers which was not suitable to be governed by or which could not be 1609 dovetailed into any co-ordination between road and rail, and there was the permitted traffic. On the road haulage side, we had four different methods and principles applied.
I notice that whereas Lord Leathers has stated that it was a rigid scheme and the whole power of public transport was massed into one central organisation, the Minister of Transport has said that one of the reasons the Government are going to force the regional scheme on the railways is that the British Transport Commission have delegated too much power to the Railway Executive. It is no use two Minister in the same Department facing the public of this country and Parliament with contradictory statements of that kind.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has referred to me. I certainly did not say that the Commission had given too much power to the Executive. I said that the central organisation, the Commission and the Executive had not given enough power to the regions.
§ Mr. Barnes
That shows that the Minister is wrong. In answer to a question, he stated that the scheme of delegation gave too much power to the Railway Executive. Now he is attempting to wriggle from that. He has said that we are not giving sufficient power to the regions.
§ Mr. Barnes
What was said was:The main grounds for the Government's conclusion that the administration of the railways has become excessively centralised under the Transport Act, 1947, are the extent of the functions vested in the Railway Executive by the scheme of delegation made by the British Transport Commission under Section 5 of that Act. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 10.]My contention is that we have two Ministers who are both involved in the problem at the moment and one of them states that the defect of the Transport Act was the vesting of all this power in the British Transport Commission and then the other Minister comes to the House and states that the situation is entirely different.
Let us take the issue with which the Minister now tries to explain away the contradiction, that not sufficient authority 1610 was given to the regions. In their scheme of re-organisation, the Railway Executive created the regions. We brought together four main-line railways, with their different methods, different administrations, a great variety of locomotives, different signalling systems and matters of that kind. I put it to any hon. Member who has ever had to handle the amalgamation of a great number of varied undertakings—I have had that experience—that in the first phase of that type of re-organisation one cannot avoid taking authority into the central administration. In changing from a system employing 400 different types of locomotives in pursuit of economies resulting from standardisation and the use of only 10, 20 or 30 types, one cannot avoid the use of central authority until such standardisation has been effected.
What is the advantage of bringing together bodies of this kind if it is not to examine each administrative method in order to pick out the best? If that is not done, there is no point at all in bringing together a series of different elements in industry or commerce. Thus, in the first few years of the operation of the Transport Act it was essential that the central authority should possess all the knowledge which existed in the four main-line railways until the policy of standardisation and integration of stock, control and matters of that kind had been carried through. Thereafter the process of de-centralisation takes place.
The Railway Executive and the British Transport Commission had created the regions and the Transport Act visualised, with the area schemes, the knitting together of the regions, and it was by that process that we should have reached the goal about which the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon spoke yesterday. Yet it is now proposed that all that should be scrapped.
Today we have had from the Minister of Transport a statement which should emphasise to all of us how dangerous it is at this stage to lay railway finance open to the type of competition which produced from the railway directors, whom the right hon. Gentleman eulogised in his statement, their complaints and their demand for the "square deal" in the inter-war years. The House of Commons, all Governments and all parties since 1939 have not played the game with the rail- 1611 ways. In the national interest, the physical assets of the railways were exhausted to an extent to which no other business or industry in the country was exhausted. The Exchequer made a surplus of £190 million out of our railways during the war years.
§ Mr. Barnes
We did something about it. We did the obvious thing about it. In 1947 the railways lost £60 million. They failed to meet their operating expenses by £16 million, and, with the £43,500,000 interest which the Government had guaranteed to the railway companies, the total loss was £60 million. If any business undertaking in this country can lose £60 million in a year owing to a certain set of circumstances, it should cause every hon. Member to think twice before creating conditions which may reproduce that situation.
The Treasury had to meet the £60 million in 1947, the year before the introduction of the Transport Act, but it still remains that the railways had made a surplus for the country during the war years of £120 million. The noble Lord who was Minister of Transport during that period ought to have ensured that the £120 million became a reserve for the railways to cushion the effect of the postwar period. If there is any indictment which can be levelled in the House tonight, it is against those who were responsible for railway administration in those times. Over and above that, because they were making this surplus, the railways were not permitted to keep their charges level with the increase in costs which was taking place throughout industry generally.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) asked me why we did not do something about it. We did something about it. Directly I found myself in charge of the Department, I discovered that the railways had insufficient wagons to carry the goods of this country. Who was responsible for that—the Labour Government, the people who ran the main-line railways and provided the wagons previously, the war-time Government? It was the war-time Government which was responsible for 1612 that situation. Because of the policy of the Transport Act, the deficiency in railway wagons has been rectified and today the railways are able to carry the goods which the traders offer to them.
Does anybody wonder that a body like the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, overwhelmingly Tory in its political convictions, is nevertheless concerned about the policy of a Government which will throw it back to that state of affairs? It has asked for an inquiry, it has asked that the levy should be dropped and it has asked that the sale of operative units should be dropped.
What are the Government proposing to do about the motor industry at the present moment? Who would deny that the motor industry may face difficulties in the near future? Anyway, it is certain that the remarkable period in which the industry has had a sellers' market is likely to end. The motor industry is offering both cars and motor vehicles much more readily than for years past. If the Government act foolishly in such conditions, they may precipitate and add to the difficulties for the industry. To throw 40,000 lorries on the market at bargain prices at this moment might help to push the motor industry into difficulties. Judging by the reactions to the Government's policy in that aspect, hon. Members opposite ought to pause before they make decisions of this kind. Why should 40,000 lorries be sold at 75 per cent. of their price?
I shall not talk about taking over a great number of businesses. We all know what these hauliers' businesses were. Some were very well organised with good maintenance plants and garages, but not all were like that. Some of them were quite small and their maintenance plants were just a few tools and a bench possibly in the corner of the garage. No one knows what the road-worthiness of their vehicles was. The vehicles varied very much. Some were excellent, a good many of them were passable, but a fair proportion of them were not roadworthy.
When Parliament is legislating for the compulsory acquisition of a number of businesses, it cannot be said that though they are functioning badly and are obsolescent, no compensation should be paid. The Transport Act of 1947 had to give individuals and companies a certain amount of compensation even if 1613 their lorries, their garages and plants were inefficient and useless to British Road Services. Those people made a living from those businesses and there was some goodwill. But when British Road Services took them over a lot of these lorries had to be scrapped. A lot of the garages were of no earthly use. Even hon. Members opposite do not dispute that.
In firms like Sainsbury's, Boot's or general stores and multiple stores of that kind, the vehicles are maintained at a very high standard, much better than one would expect in a smaller type of organisation. That is the general rule of business in this country. British Road Services, with their national reputation as a public concern, had to raise the whole standard of their vehicles and concentrate their maintenance organisation in larger plants. That meant expenditure on better equipment. This was additional capital. All this had to be faced in a matter of two years.
The Home Secretary and other hon. Members opposite have argued, "But these hauliers made £10 million profit, whereas you have made only £3 million profit." Is that so unusual in a type of business organisation where re-organisation is taking place and where there is a re-marshalling of capital assets? Of course, it is not. That has been now met. It is out of the way, and we were beginning to see British Road Services getting on to a better footing.
The British Chambers of Commerce, having experienced this network of road haulage services, have told their Tory pals and friends, "Get it back to private enterprise if you can, but for heaven's sake do not destroy the national network of services which we find today." They do not object to the business going back to private enterprise, so that private enterprise can have the advantage of the profit, but they do not want the organisation destroyed. That, in effect, is what is meant by the British Chambers of Commerce in their recent expression of opinion.
From our point of view, and I should have thought from the point of view of every Member of Parliament, our duty is to safeguard the public purse, and if that is the case, as the British Road Services have met this great cost, I put this to the Government: the only figure they are 1614 going to give to the British Transport Commission out of this levy is £1 million for disturbance. Are they paying nothing back in respect of the costs met in 1949, 1950 and 1951 in writing off all that obsolescent plant? I certainly cannot see any figure in this Bill to meet those costs.
No Member of Parliament, in my view, should support any such proposal. I do not believe that this Bill will stand up to discussion in Committee. I do not believe that any Minister of the Crown will be able to defend this forced sale with its consequence of the loss of £20 million worth of property, and which offends against every principle of taxation in this country. I want the Government to quote me any precedent where, through a deliberate act of the Government of the day, a loss is incurred to the Exchequer and a small body of citizens are made to carry that result of Government policy. In my view, that is outrageous, preposterous and indefensible, and I hope that every trade in the country will convey to Conservative Members its opposition and detestation of that principle.
§ 4.56 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) invariably makes a constructive and objective contribution to our discussions. We all recollect how, when he was engaged in piloting through the House his own Measure, which we at the time opposed strongly, he was always an extremely courteous Minister, and his remarks today have maintained the high level of that controversy. I shall do my best to maintain that standard in the observations I have to make.
I have a dual function to perform this afternoon without, I hope, detaining the House over long in view of the large number of hon. Members who are desirous of speaking. I must, however, make some reference to yesterday's proceedings and enlarge on some points which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport was debarred from mentioning yesterday by reason of the shortage of time.
The first impression which will occur to many who were here yesterday was that not for the first time the prophets were falsified. The Press predicted almost unanimously that our Second Reading 1615 debate would produce the most bitter controversy of the post-war era, that the Government and Opposition would be at one another's throats, that there would be thunder and lightning with the Floor of the House becoming something in the nature of a "blasted heath." [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] I said a "blasted heath." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is a quotation from "Macbeth." In fact, we have had a remarkably good-tempered debate and that, in my opinion, was due to the character of the opening speeches.
My right hon. Friend in a most lucid exposition of the Bill, showed himself to be a master of his subject, and I feel sure that hon. Members would wish to congratulate him not only on the high quality of his speech yesterday, but wish him many happy returns of today. It would, moreover, be churlish not to acknowledge the services rendered to the Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). If I may say so, he gave us on this side of the House the impression of having lost a good deal of his interest in transport problems, and of retreating in a dignified manner across the river to his old love at County Hall. There was more L.C.C. than B.T.C. in some of his observations.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
This is childish business that the hon. Gentleman has learned from some of the back benchers who come from the Conservative Central Office. I did not start talking of the L.C.C. It was the Prime Minister who first mentioned the London County Council. Why does the hon. Gentleman want to indulge in this silly stuff? I thought he said at the beginning of his speech that he was going to keep it at as high a level as that of my right hon. Friend.
I said I would deal with yesterday's proceedings. I repeat that the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South did give us the impression that he was concentrating more on the London County Council than on the British Transport Commission. I think there was reason for it. He gave us the reason for it. His thoughts were elsewhere, concentrating on the problem of opposition to his authority, and he reached the stage of opposing himself.
1616 I am now going to quote from two adjacent sentences in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. This is what he said in the first of them:The Minister does not want to comment and, therefore, I can take it that the policy of the Government is to stimulate by legislation, by deliberate policy, even artificially if they can, the maximum practicable degree of competition. That is to say, they want what we call cut-throat competition within the transport industry.Now I read from the next column where, a minute or two later, the right hon. Gentleman was referring to certain publicly-owned concerns in which the B.T.C. has had a considerable interest and, speaking of my right hon. Friend the Minister, he said:To them he does nothing at all. He leaves them alone. This is an indication that the Government believe in or accept monopoly where it is in the hands of capitalism and their Tory capitalist friends, but are willing to bring in legislation to destroy co-ordination and integration where this has proceeded under public auspices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1427–28.]I could not follow that argument, so I looked up another declaration by the right hon. Gentleman which does express his views with more lucidity. It was made when he was addressing the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool, on 8th June, 1949, in connection with the policy which was then entitled "Labour Believes in Britain" on which the party fought the Election of the following year. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:In this section of the programme 'Up with Production' we introduce a new application of Socialism and of Socialist doctrine. It is called 'Competitive Public Enterprise.' Thus we shall push into new fields and revitalise private enterprise with its own techniques of competition, and if I may say so, it will not be a bad thing for private enterprise that that should be. The Tories and their anti-Socialist friends should not be frightened of it, because they are firmly of the opinion that private enterprise can beat Socialist industry every time. If they think so, let them not be frightened of competitive public enterprise coming into competition with private enterprise.May I say, as a socialiser, that within an appropriate field, it will not be a bad thing for the Socialist undertakings if they receive some competition from private enterprise? Let us not be afraid of it. What we are aiming at is the total economic efficiency and economic public spirit of the country. If within an appropriate field there is competition between private and public enterprise, the probability is that it will be good both for the public and the private sectors of industry.
I am not going to read any more. That is fair enough, and it is what the Government are now engaged in doing.
At the commencement of Public Business this afternoon there were presented to the House two petitions. That is a perfectly normal and proper democratic proceeding, of which this House is jealous. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) presented a petition which, he said, was signed by several thousand workers employed by London Transport. Then we had the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Dr. Jeger) with 1,200 members of the supervisory and clerical operative staff of the Road Haulage Executive in London, supported by 1,600 more from Newton-le-Willows. That was a very interesting contribution to the controversy.
I have something here which always adds to the interest of the debates. It is a telegram, which reached my right hon. Friend shortly before the House met this afternoon. I would call the attention of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South to it, because he figures in the telegram:Please kill fairy tale by Morrison that transport workers better off under nationalisation. Sixty-seven thousand trade union members of Anti-Nationalisation Society confirmed otherwise.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
It seems that a lot of people are supporting the nationalised Post Office by telegrams. May I read one sentence from a telegram received by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris)? I think I have received a similar one. It says:Indignantly repudiate any impression created by Lennox-Boyd that railwaymen favour decentralisation. Please hand this to one of tonight's speakers.—Fifty angry railway clerks, Camden Goods Station, N.W.1.You pay your money to the Post Office and you take your choice.
All this is highly entertaining and relevant. At the moment, all that one can say is that the anti-nationalisers seem to be leading by at least 60,000 votes. Of a very different calibre, however—
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin) rose—1618
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
If the Minister does not give way the hon. Member must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Thomas
I suggest that my point of order be heard before you decide whether it is a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it correct or in order for the Minister to quote ex-parte statements or messages in proof of his case?
Holders of other telegrams will perhaps catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
A speech of a very different calibre was that of the right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). I never heard him to better advantage than yesterday. His speech was moderate and full of constructive suggestion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] Hon. Members will make it rather difficult for those who want to follow me if there is to be a running commentary. I have a good deal to say, and I shall not resume my seat until I have said it.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the special transport problems of Scotland. They are well known and recognised, and many aspects of the matter were dealt with in the debate on 28th June. A number of the right hon. Gentleman's points are matters which should probably be discussed in detail in Committee. Hon. Gentlemen certainly will not expect me to detain the House about them now. I shall, therefore, refer to the Scottish problem in rather general terms.
The Transport Act of 1947 placed the railways in this country under a unified control and the essence of the Government proposal for reorganising the railways of this country, as my right hon. Friend indicated yesterday, is to make regional management real and effective and to stimulate local loyalties which we feel are so important a part of the efficiency of any large-scale organisation. At the same time, the Government have no intention of forgoing the advantages 1619 which can be gained by effective central control where this has proved itself to the common advantage.
As my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland indicated when Scottish transport matters were discussed here in July, the Bill envisages the creation of a regional railway authority for Scotland which will be set up after consultation between my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Bill recognises that the special problems of Scotland may require special treatment and, under the provisions of Clause 14, both the organisation and the functions of the Scottish area authority may differ, to whatever extent may prove necessary, from the organisation and functions of the other railway regions which may be set up.
As it is the intention and policy of the Government that the new railway authorities should have the greatest practicable measure of local autonomy and freedom of management, it is a reasonable hope that this, with the increased flexibility which it should bring, will enable Scottish transport problems to be tackled vigorously and afresh. There must, however, by common agreement, remain a measure of financial control to the central authority. This has undoubted benefits and, indeed, Scotland would unquestionably be the losers under any scheme which attempted to restore full financial autonomy to the regional railway authorities.
The system of area transport consultative committees which was set up under the 1947 Act has proved its value. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree with that.
These committees have functioned efficiently as clearing houses for the discussion of users' transport problems of many kinds connected with the British Transport Commission. It is the hope of the Government that increasing use will be made of these area committees. In recognition of the fact that Scotland and Wales have their own peculiar difficulties, and to ensure the more direct expression of Scottish and Welsh views, the Bill provides that the Scottish and Welsh area consultative committees shall in future make their reports direct to the Minister of Trans- 1620 port and not, as hitherto, to the Central Transport Consultative Committee.
We hope that this will ensure that the Minister receives the earliest and most authoritative indication of Scottish and Welsh views on any matter of major concern to the users in these areas.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
I asked some specific questions yesterday about area authorities and what the Parliamentary Secretary has said so far has not enlightened us or given us any fresh information. We want to know whether these area authorities will be functional authorities or, as we gathered from the Minister yesterday, that there will be a board superimposed upon the people who are functioning at the present time.
The consultative committees with which I am dealing are advisory—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In any case, I was about to say that the scope of these committees has been widened to cover the passenger service provided by companies controlled directly or indirectly by the commission. We think that this is an important point for Scotland. The actual machinery is a matter for detailed discussion as soon as we get to the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Steele
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again. He was dealing with two points. I waited because I thought they were interlinked. First, there was the question of the area authorities consultative committees. I thought that in his approach to the consultative committees we would get some information. We want to know if these area authorities will be functional bodies or if there will be a new board superimposed upon the present set up, giving a lot more jobs to the boys.
If the hon. Member would read Clause 14 (2, c) he will see—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is the answer. One of the objects is:..delegation to those authorities of such functions of the Commission relating to that part of their undertaking as may be so specified in relation to those authorities respectively.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The hon. Gentleman 1621 has been very good to reply to some of the points I raised yesterday and has stated clearly the position which the Government contemplate in regard to the railways in Scotland. He also referred to consultative committees. One thing which did not appear from his statement is what is to happen to road transport in Scotland. Am I to take it from what the hon. Gentleman has said that the railways in Scotland will be able to extend their road transport functions to cover the transport necessities of Scotland, so that the organisation which is to be set up will provide the integrated transport system which the Scots want?
We cannot spend the whole day reading the Bill, but Clause 14 (9) covers the right hon. Gentleman's first point. The Commission will conduct their road services in such manner as they think best and most beneficial for the purpose. Recommendations reaching the Minister from the Scottish and Welsh committees can, like those from the Central Committee, form the subject of a ministerial directive to the Commission.
May I come now to another matter which the right hon. Member for East Stirling raised and which, I thought, was of supreme importance and relevance to this great problem? He devoted a considerable portion of his speech to abuses, particularly in Scotland, of the facility usually referred to as C hiring margins. This facilitiy is an essential part of the system of carriers' licences and is provided for by Section 2 (6) of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933. This subsection permits an operator to use under his C licence vehicles which he does not own but which he wants to hire from persons who either do not hold A or B carriers' licences or cannot themselves legally carry the traffic.
As the right hon. Gentleman indicated, some ingenious people are using this facility to evade the 25-mile radius restriction imposed by the Act of 1947. I must tell him that the licensing authorities are keeping a careful watch on this question. Some instances which seem to indicate an abuse of this facility have been investigated and enforcement action has been taken where practicable. The increase in the number of vehicles authorised under C hiring margins does not indicate any serious abuse. In any event, the disappearance of the 25-mile limit will 1622 remove the incentive to abuse it, and it may be expected that any abuse will then disappear and the C hiring margin will once again be used for its proper purpose as was the case prior to the passage of the 1947 Act. I am hopeful that that will deal with the difficulty to which the right hon. Gentleman so rightly called our attention.
§ Mr. Woodburn
An even more important aspect than the question of exceeding the 25 miles is that, although the 25 miles is included, so far as I can see it will still be possible for a driver to be employed by different people for 22 out of the 24 hours. Are the Government doing anything about this?
Yes, indeed; that is being very carefully examined. It is a matter of great importance, but not, I thought, of as much importance as the question of abuse. However, the right hon. Gentleman did well to call our attention to this again.
I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) call attention to the importance of coastal shipping when considering the whole field of transport. I should like to underline the tribute which he paid to the work of our coasters, particularly during the recent war. Quite apart from the epic operations at Dunkirk and on D day, the public tend to forget that day by day, throughout the whole of the war, colliers from the Firth of Forth and from the Tyne were steadily bringing coal into London, exposed as they were to the E boats and to dive bombing—
Yes, and from the Welsh ports as well. I cannot name all the north-eastern ports, amongst which are Seaham Harbour, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, which I must mention because its hon. Member has interrupted. All these ports were pouring coal into London. It is often forgotten that throughout the whole period of hostilities, 12 million tons of coal were reaching London by sea every year. We recognise the particular problems of coastal shipping, with the competition that tramps will have to face from rail, and liners from road, under the framework of the Bill.
1623 A number of other points were raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash, and I should like to deal briefly with them. He asked us to examine Clause 21 to ensure that it is fully workable. This is a Committee point, and careful consideration will be given then to any criticisms of the workability of the Clause, but not to any suggestions to extend the scope of the Clause, which limits complaints to rates which are below the maximum charges, which if continued must result in a loss to the Commission, and which are being made with a view to eliminating competition.
My hon. and gallant Friend said that there should be a shipping panel from which additional members could be added to the Transport Tribunal. Section 39 of the 1933 Act already provides for a shipping panel for the purposes of that Section, which is now to be replaced by Clause 21 of the Bill. There are, however, general and transport panels under Section 24 of the Railways Act, 1921, and a special panel under paragraph 6 of the Tenth Schedule to the Transport Act, 1947, which was passed by hon. Members opposite. Careful consideration will be given during the Committee stage to any proposals for the addition of shipping representatives to one of these panels or for the constitution of a further panel for the purposes of Clause 21.
My hon. and gallant Friend wanted more precise power to ensure prior consultation between the B.T.C. and coastal shipping interests on charges schemes. I understand that there has already been such consultation in regard to the draft Merchandise Charges Scheme, which the Commission have been preparing for some time. Indeed, when in July of last year the previous Minister allowed a further period for the submission of the draft charges scheme, the primary reason for such postponement in the case of the draft Merchandise Charges Scheme was the need—I think the right hon. Member for East Ham, South would confirm this—to allow more time for further discussions between the Commission and coastal shipping interests.
I am glad to have that confirmation. No more precise power such as has been suggested seems to be necessary.
Then, my hon. and gallant Friend was anxious that there should be powers to encourage or ensure conference procedure between road, rail and coastal shipping interests. It would be contrary to the intentions of the Bill to introduce provisions which would limit fair competition between the different forms of transport. This does not rule out the possibility of conferences designed to avoid uneconomic or unfair competition. Such conferences are, however, a matter for arrangement between the interests concerned. It would be impracticable to attempt to put such conferences on a statutory basis or to provide for statutory enforcement of decisions of conferences, whether statutory or voluntary. In our view, the position is fully met by the existence of the Coastal Shipping Advisory Committee, to which it is now proposed, under the Bill, to add representatives of the road hauliers.
A request was made for provision for the Minister to be acquainted with developments likely to have damaging repercussions on coastal shipping.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Coastal Shipping Advisory Committee is, as its name implies, advisory. How will any decisions that are arrived at by this Advisory Committee be enforced upon the small road haulier plying the roads? Quite clearly, they can be enforced upon the railways, which is a national undertaking, but how will the Government ensure that the road hauliers do not under-cut the coastal shipping rates, and so ensure that our coastal shipping does not fall into decreptitude?
Admittedly, that is a complicated matter—[Laughter.]—certainly, which it is extremely difficult to place in a statute, but my right hon. Friend—indeed, any Government, of any colour, at any time—must be conscious of the pressure of public opinion in these matters. I see no method of writing into the Bill—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Except by nationalisation. That is the difficulty which the hon. Gentleman gets into.
It is the difficulty that the hon. Member gets into through not being able to attend the debate yesterday, when we had a long discussion. I am dealing with speeches which were made yesterday. I am sorry that the hon. Member was not with us, but I am trying to deal with the points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash.
Provision was asked for to enable the Minister to be acquainted with developments likely to have damaging repercussions on coastal shipping. Again, such a provision would be difficult to frame and open to objections. The existence of the Advisory Committee will, we hope, help to meet that position.
During his speech, my hon. and gallant Friend also suggested that the local licensing authorities should have regard to the special position of coastwise shipping when deciding whether or not to grant carriers' licences. Under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, Section 11 (2), it is the duty of the licensing authority to take into consideration any objections made bypersons who are already providing facilities whether by means of road transport or any other kind of transport, for the carriage of goods for hire or reward in the district or between the places which the applicant intends to serve.That duty still remains.
My right hon. Friend recognises that the end of the Commission's monopoly of long-distance road haulage and the greater freedom of charges will create a new situation and problems for the coastal shipping interests. We have, consequently, amended the machinery of the Coastal Shipping Advisory Committee so that it can function over the whole field, including the activities of private road hauliers, as well as coastal shipping and the Commission.
In future, the new Committee will report to my right hon. Friend, not only on matters which jointly affect the Commission and the coastal shipping interests, but also those affecting coastal shipping and road haulage interests. For this purpose, the Committee will be reconstituted with representatives of A and B licensees, coastal shipping interests and Commission members. We hope that this will provide a medium for 1626 co-operation by all these interests in the wider interests of transport.
It was not possible yesterday for my right hon. Friend to touch upon the important topic of docks and hotels and I want to say a word about that. Questions have been asked about the extent to which the reorganisation schemes to be prepared by the Commission under Clause 14 for submission to the Minister are to cover activities which at present are the responsibility of executives other than the Railway Executive. In particular, some anxiety has been expressed about the future position of the docks and harbours now vested in the Commission and managed on their behalf by the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive.
The House will appreciate that under the provisions of Clause 14 a wide discretion is given the Commission in regard to what may or may not be covered by a reorganisation scheme. At the same time it is the clear intention of the Clause that the task of primary importance is the reorganisation of the railways and their ancillary activities, such as restaurant cars. I was astonished to find, on looking it up, that for the two years 1950 and 1951 these made a loss of £1,280,000. It is to be expected that the Commission will concentrate on this task and will treat the future organisation of docks and harbours vested in them as a separate and distinct issue.
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks)—who speaks with such authority on these matters, and with a long record of service to the railways behind him—asked whether the Commission will be free to acquire road haulage undertakings under the provisions of the Bill. The position is that the Commission as such will be unable to acquire or retain any transport units because this would be in conflict with their obligation to dispose of the property now held by them for the purposes of the Road Haulage Executive and Clause 4 makes the only provision for enabling such units to be made over to companies controlled by the Commission.
There is, however, nothing in the Bill to prevent the Commission obtaining an interest in a road haulage undertaking by purchase of shares and this interest could be sufficiently large, of course, to give them control. Further, they could acquire a road haulage undertaking outright and 1627 operate the service themselves. In this event, however, they would have to obtain the necessary carrier's licence from the licensing authority.
The position in regard to road passenger services is, however, different. Under Clause 16 the Commission are prohibited from acquiring a road passenger undertaking but can acquire an interest by shareholding in such an enterprise. If, however, that interest would give them control they must first obtain the consent of the Minister.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who also contributed to the debate yesterday and also speaks with many years of experience behind him, asked a very pertinent question—why the National Coal Board were singled out for special mention as one of the bodies able to make objections or representations to the Minister on a scheme of reorganisation under Clause 15. There is a reason; the Coal Board is the largest user of rail transport and is obviously closely concerned in any scheme of reorganisation of the railways. The words immediately preceding "National Coal Board" provide that objections or representations may be made bybodies representative of classes of persons likely to be specially affected by the scheme.The National Coal Board is not covered by these words because it is not a bodyrepresentative of classes of persons likely to be specially affected by the scheme.Nor in view of its character, apart from the fact that it is nationalised, is there any body which could be representative of a class which would include it. For this reason, and for this reason alone, the National Coal Board is mentioned specifically by name.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
In view of the fact that the railways are by far the largest customers of the National Coal Board, can a reciprocal arrangement be made?
I do not think—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I will certainly take note of the hon. Member's extremely interesting suggestion, but he will not expect a snap answer from me.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Is a transport users' consultative committee a 1628 body representative of persons likely to be affected?
There is another Clause in the Bill which gives those bodies a direct approach. The reason for the mention of the National Coal Board by name in this Clause is the point with which I was trying to deal.
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas rose—
No, I cannot give way again, it is most unfair to hon. Members who want to take part in the debate.
Many hon. Members have referred to criticisms of the Bill in the Press and particularly to the "Manchester Guardian." I want to deal with a leading article which appeared in that paper yesterday and contained the following passages:Not only the road haulage system is to be broken into several parts: the railways, too, are to be reorganised into six regional management units—which in one Clause of the Bill are actually referred to as six companies—with a great deal of autonomy.It then went on to talk of the Transport Commission and continued:Yet this body is sketched in the Bill as a board of part-time directors, including the chairman of the six railway companies.That is a most amazing statement, or two amazing statements. There is—as I need hardly tell hon. Members who, of course, have read the Bill, no reference whatever to the figure six as the number of regional management units—indeed, the scheme of regionalisation is left for the Commission to draft in the first case. Nor is there any reference to regional management units as "six companies."
As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, we have welcomed, and still welcome, informed criticism of the Bill, but we find it less easy to welcome criticism from those who quite clearly have not even read it and I am sure that hon. Members of the Liberal Party in this House, who have such a well-known passion for accuracy, will equally deplore this lamentable lapse on the part of a greatly respected news-sheet. After all, perusal of a Bill is no improper preliminary to editorial comment.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East) rose—1629
No, there is another Minister who will wind up and I have given way quite as much as usual.
It was the "Manchester Guardian" who took the lead in describing my hon. Friend as being between two fires, the Opposition and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it this afternoon and I want to read to the House a letter received this morning by my right hon. Friend from the Secretary-General of that body. I shall read it in toto because it is of great importance:
§ "DEAR MR. LENNOX-BOYD,
§ My President, Mr. Harry Yates, is absent from London but directs me, on his behalf, to refer to the very wide publicity recently accorded to the views of this Association with regard to the Transport Bill now before Parliament. Certain Press reports have perhaps given rise to an impression that the Association is opposed to the principles contained in the Government proposals.
§ To remove any possible doubts that may be in the minds of the Government and of Members of Parliament I am to reaffirm that the Chambers, of Commerce, as represented by this Association, support the Government's aims of ultimately returning road haulage to private ownership and management, and at the same time granting to railways a wider degree of flexibility in their freight charges schemes.
§ The creation of a State monopoly of long-distance road haulage was, in the Association's view, a serious mistake. The Association considers that only by the reintroduction of the widest possible measure of private ownership and management into the industry can a really efficient, flexible and economical road haulage service be provided.
§ My Association is confident that the variations it has suggested could be achieved within the framework of the Bill now before Parliament, and through a continuance of the extremely valuable discussions between yourself and your advisers on the one hand, and fully representative bodies of users on the other.
§ Finally, I am directed to express my Association's indebtedness to you and to your advisers at the Ministry for the prolonged and generous consideration which has been given to the views of users of transport in drafting the present Bill.
§ To avoid any further misunderstanding on this very important question, my President hopes that you will not hesitate to inform Parliament of the terms of this letter, should the need arise to do so. Subject, of course, to your agreement the Association would, for its part, wish to release the text of this communication to the Press.
§ Yours sincerely,
§ ARTHUR R. KNOWLES, Secretary-General." So much for the "Manchester Guardian."
§ Mr. Callaghan rose—1630
No, I cannot give way. The hon. Gentleman will be speaking later and we shall be looking forward to hearing from him.
The time is still going rather fast, and I wish now to sum up the main argument for proceeding with this Measure.
Hon. Members opposite have done their democratic best to stir up indignation against our proposals, a perfectly proper function for any Opposition. Unfortunately for them, they have met with little response. In Bristol the other day there was a mass demonstration against the "great sell-out." The local Socialist Party, not being content with an inferior character, billed a top-liner, a rising star, none other than the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen to this, because one of my supporters, who is politically minded—[Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh too soon—[HON. MEMBERS: "Now we know how you got here."]—hon. Members laugh just a little too soon. One of my supporters, who is politically minded in the sense that he makes a point of visiting meetings of all kinds held by all parties with a view to becoming informed on the views of all sections of opinion, went to hear the hon. Gentleman at this mass demonstration—
Oh, no, not to discuss the "great sell-out." My friend went along early in the hope of getting into the hall, and he was surprised to find the streets comparatively deserted and no special constables on duty—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cut it out."] Not only did he get admission to the meeting, but he obtained a front seat, and—
It may be the case that my friend was in the fifth row but was still at the front of the meeting. Anyhow, be that as it may, he sent me a factual and fair account of the proceed- 1631 ings. He said of the hon. Gentleman as we should all of us expect, thathe made a brilliant speech, much liked by his audience, all 60 of them, or perhaps I should say 59, because I came away still a dissentient to the Socialist view.The reason for the lack of public response to the Opposition campaign is, to my mind, crystal clear. People have seen State controlled road haulage fail before their very eyes. They have noticed the empty running of the B.R.S. vehicles and they have seen the statistics showing 5 per cent. more empty running than under the old system.
I would say this in all good temper, to hon. Gentlemen opposite who have pleaded so eloquently the case of the railways—we had the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) yesterday, and the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) among others. Had they been in this House a hundred years ago, in Dickensian times, at the time when the railways were making their encroachment into the heavy traffic and the carriage of goods in this country, they would have fulminated just as eloquently. From the benches opposite, and probably from a brief prepared by Mr. Tony Weller, they would have protested on behalf of the "National Union of Stage-coachmen, Postillions and Ostlers."
But today the pendulum has swung back. The story of the 20th century has been the story of the development of motor transport. Nothing, to my mind, was more significant during the recent debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, than the way in which hon. Member after hon. Member, on both sides of the House, expressed a note of disquiet, if not alarm, at the appearance abroad of a buyers' market which would put a great strain on the capacity of this country to maintain her export trade. Hon. Member after hon. Member told us that the selling spree was over, and that we were now confronted with the toughest of struggles to maintain, let alone expand, our export trade.
In these circumstances, it is inconceivable that road haulage should remain in a strait-jacket, where long-distance services are confined to 41,000 vehicles. It is essential that the system should be far more flexible and that traders should have greater freedom to choose which 1632 haulier they prefer. In commending this Bill to the House I would urge upon hon. Members that if British industry is to win through it is vital that British transport, be it road or rail, should once again be permitted to live and breathe.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
I was hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary might have made up today for the deficiencies of his Minister yesterday in explaining the need for this Bill. But, after his very lengthy exposition, I am more inclined to a theory which I have held for some time regarding this Government. It is that those people who are rather strong in the arm and weak in the head love to lay about them with a sledge hammer and to smash up something, and then laugh at what they have done while someone else has to look round to see how to put together again what they have smashed.
The number of thoughts the Government have had regarding this question of transport—first the White Paper, then the first Bill, now this Bill and now the promise of further Amendments to this Bill—are indicative of their state of mind. It is not too much to say that they appear to be rather strong in the arm but somewhat weak in the head.
Let us examine some of the things which have been said. It is well known that there is almost universal opposition to the Transport Levy. But what did the Minister say yesterday? He said, in effect, "Don't worry about it too much. After all, it will rank as a business charge and almost, if necessary, as a charge against Profits Tax and Excess Profits Levy. Therefore you can be quite happy about it. You will not really pay. It really means that the Treasury will pay. So don't worry yourselves about it."
It must be of comfort to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and their friends to know that they are not really expected to pay. Instead, this charge will be put on industry, or the nation, as a result of the activities of this Bill, and will be part of a legitimate business charge, so that they need not worry too much about it.
On the other hand, the hon. Member for Darlington (Sir F. Graham)—I am sorry that he is not here—put a rather different view on the levy. In discussing the large and increasing number of 1633 C licence operators, he appeared to be expecting the levy to act as a deterrent which would force the operators more and more to use other transport. This is a sad comment, coming as it does from hon. Gentlemen opposite who want the greatest possible freedom. They do not want deterrents. They want the manufacturer to carry his own goods if he is better able to do so. But someone else says that the levy must be maintained on C licence holders so that it can act as a deterrent. I leave it to the Government to make up their minds what they really mean. On balance, I am not sure that they know exactly what they mean.
Also I wish to refer to a phrase which the Minister used yesterday when he talked about the transport which would or would not go back to the railways. He said:Who stole the vehicles from the railways?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1418.]Presumably, he was referring to the associated companies. Let us be clear. They were not stolen from the railways. They were handed over by the Railway Executive to the Commission so that an integrated system of transport could be secured.
It is within the knowledge of all hon. Members that in the early days of the Transport Commission there were complaints about the operation of the Road Haulage Executive. There were complaints about delays in delivery, failure to provide a service and so on. Of course, similar failures existed under private enterprise. There were many failures then. One need only scan the columns of the daily papers before the war to read about the inefficiency of the railway and road services. The usual excuse given by manufacturers who wanted to run their own transport in those days was that they could not trust the railways or the road hauliers to give them the service they required.
The complaints we have had about the Road Haulage Executive have been diminishing steadily during the whole period of the existence of the Executive. Surely that is some answer to the question about whether or not it is functioning. Nobody expects it to function perfectly all the time. Nobody expected it to function perfectly at the start, but the diminution in the number of complaints 1634 received by hon. Members is an indication that the Executive was beginning to do its job efficiently in the interests of the community.
In spite of the testimonial letter which the Parliamentary Secretary read, perhaps we should look at another aspect of road transport. That letter reminds me of the gentleman who applied for a job and presented a testimonial. The employer said, "This appears to be a very good testimonial" and the man replied, "Well, it ought to be: I wrote it myself." I am rather inclined to the view that what the Parliamentary Secretary read was very much the same type of testimonial.
There were one or two little stings in it. In effect, it merely said that the Association had no doubt that the objectionable features of this Bill could be overcome if the conversations which they had been carrying on with the Ministry of Transport could be continued. That does not indicate that they are entirely happy about this business. In fact, the views they have expressed previously are probably much more correct, but some pressure has been brought to bear upon them to say something in defence of the Government.
They dare not very well do otherwise, having regard to their background and bearing in mind the horse on which they have put their money. They cannot say that it has lost before it has got into the straight. They must let it have a run for its money. In any case, they are very much concerned whether or not when these units are taken over and broken up they will get the service which they are now getting.
It should be made clear that by the very nature of things the Road Haulage Executive must, in order to provide a service, run some services which are un-remunerative. Under private enterprise, will hon. Gentlemen opposite expect any unit, and if so which, to run an un-remunerative enterprise merely for the purpose of providing a service? The answer is that no one will be willing to do that. In that case, how is the manufacturer to get a service? Of course, he could have a C licence. Alternatively, he would have to say to the haulier, "This is a most expensive rate which is rather more than I can afford to pay; 1635 but you have me by the throat and I shall have to pay." He will then remember the service run previously for the public benefit. We have not yet had any answer to show how the service will operate.
I should like to know what, under the Bill, is an operable unit. It could be one vehicle. In fact, before the war, it was in many cases. Equally, an operable unit could be one of 40,000 vehicles. We cannot get much guidance from the Bill about the Government's intentions on the splitting up of the service into operable units. Let us assume that they intend to take the smallest possible number as a unit. What will happen?
Obviously, the best vehicles will be picked out, and the worst vehicles will be left behind. Who will use those vehicles? Of course, provision is made for the continuance of some sort of organisation to operate the rump. It will be something like the Rump Parliament: it will not be very much good. That is what is intended. That is the intention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Private enterprise will be able to skim off the best of the services and the best of the vehicles. Those vehicles which are nearly past their useful life will be left in the hands of the Commission. This cannot be good. We shall seek to amend the Bill in that connection. It remains to be seen just how forthcoming the Government are when we get to the Committee stage.
I should like to ask what is meant by the freedom of the railways with regard to charges. It is fairly obvious that this freedom is strictly to be limited. As far as I can understand from the Bill, it will presumably relate only to those classes of traffic in which the railway will be in competition with road haulage. I should like to know whether that is so. From the very guarded nature of the Bill, I assume that that is so.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I did not quite catch the point, and I am most anxious to answer all that I can. Will the hon. Gentleman explain once more?
§ Mr. Pargiter
I want to know what is meant by the reference to the freedom of the railways with regard to the release 1636 from certain restrictions on charges. My impression is that that will be limited to certain classes of goods. It will be limited to those classes in which the railways will be in competition with private road hauliers.
I take it that it most certainly will not apply to the mineral traffic which the railways carry. In other words, if the railways are running those services at a loss now, they will still be required to run them at a loss and will have to find other means of recouping themselves. If they cannot recoup themselves from other forms of transport, it will be interesting to know how they can do it. It has long been recognised that the railways provide the only means by which long-distance mineral traffic can possibly be carried.
If this mineral traffic is to be carried at a remunerative rate, it will be interesting to see where the charges go. I do not know very much about these charges. I should welcome enlightenment, but I would say that if the railways were free to charge the economic cost of the transport of minerals they could easily pay for their operations in conjunction with their other types of business. That is my impression. I hesitate to say what the charge might be for the transport of coal and other commodities if the railways were permitted to do that.
Next I want to refer to A and B licences and the removal of restrictions. There is a widespread impression that the removal of the 25-mile radius limit on hauliers, which exists at the present time, is going to be of universal application. I should be very interested to hear if that is so, because a very large number of C licence holders have operated for years under a restricted radius licence. They have been subjected to restrictions which were imposed by the Commission when granting their licences.
The impression has been conveyed, rightly or wrongly, that they are going to be released entirely from this restriction, and that is not a very good thing at all. If that is so, they will no longer have to keep to that limit, but will be free to get traffic without restriction in the area in which they operate. I should be interested to know whether that is really the intention of the Government, because, if so, they might as well scrap the 1930 and 1933 Acts and say that it is a "free for all." That is virtually what the effect would be of any such move.
1637 We hear a good deal about transport running below load, and, in pre-war days, road transport used to operate, as far as loading was concerned, in this way. There would be a load, say, from London to Manchester, and the driver would be instructed to report to a clearing house in order to get a return load. The general practice was that he had got to get a load, while the rate for which he was carrying it did not really matter.
It was the general practice of people coming to London with loads, or vice versa, to send the driver to the clearing house, where the other party will dictate the price they were prepared to pay for it. It was usually an uneconomic price for the load which the driver was instructed to bring back. It was not the proper carriage rate, and sometimes it was only half the recognised rate, but it was done in order to get a return load. What has been the general effect of that? It has been to destroy the effectiveness of British road transport, quite apart from the general effect on the railways, which were not free to carry out any such operations, which, in fact, would be quite useless to them.
We must ask the Government if they will take steps to protect industry and everybody else against a return to these conditions, but there is nothing in this Bill which gives protection against the uneconomic conditions which operated in those days and which the present system has largely eliminated.
I now want to ask a question with regard to the contract carriages. There is a Clause here which prohibits the Commission from running contract carriages outside London, except for a certain limited radius, and except for the purpose of carrying staff on outings and things of that kind. I take it that that means that, if I want to hire either a single or double-decker bus in order to take a party to Margate, I am to be forced by this Clause to go to some other undertaking than London Transport to do it. At present, I can do so; I can go to London Transport and say that I want a bus or a Green Line coach for a seaside trip, and they will arrange for it to be made available. In future, I shall no longer have the freedom, as an individual, to choose what type of transport I want, but I will be obliged to go to a particular channel of transport in order to get that job done.
1638 Is that the intention, and, if so, why should not London Transport, which can provide vehicles even during peak hours for other people, be allowed to do the job? Why should public enterprise be hampered and hamstrung? Let us be given an indication whether this is the intention of the Government, because it certainly appears to be, and I commend the point to the attention of the Home Secretary. It seems to me that this is not merely a question of freedom of operation, but a question of throwing the whole weight on the side of the friends of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
There has been some discussion—and my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Transport referred to it—on the question of the difficulties which manufacturers are experiencing at the present time. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that, so far as heavy vehicles are concerned, the export market is practically dead. One of the principal markets—Australia—was killed by the activities of the present Government and the counter activities of the Australian Government, and there is little left in the export trade.
The position at the moment, due to the very considerable uncertainty which has been caused as to the future of transport, is that nobody in this country is anxious to buy expensive vehicles, in the uncertainty which has been deliberately created by the Government and which is having such severe repercussions on the industry itself. While I do not suppose it matters very much to them, it is very important to the workpeople who are engaged in this industry, whose very livelihood becomes more precarious as a result of this period of uncertainty through which we are now passing.
I want to ask some questions about the repair staffs employed by the British Transport Commission. It is well known that a very large number of undertakings were amalgamated, smaller units being taken over and absorbed into larger units, and more efficient repair shops have been put into operation. There has been a considerable improvement in the reorganisation of fixed vehicles, spare parts and repair services, so that these services could be readily adapted to particular types of vehicles in particular areas, which is quite a useful thing to do, 1639 instead of having masses of spare parts for all sorts of different types.
All that has been going on under the Road Haulage Executive, but what is going to happen now? Are we now to go back to the small repair units which existed before, or, in some cases, to no repair units at all? Are we going back to that position in which units were of such a size that they could never, in any circumstances, be able to operate effectively? No one can deny that, in pre-war days, very large numbers of vehicles on the road were unroadworthy. That is not the position today as far as the Road Haulage Executive is concerned. We have a standard of maintenance of vehicles which has never been surpassed at any time in the history of this country, and the standard of safety on the roads has been enhanced as a result. Are we now going back to the days of the small unit, with no maintenance?
Let us have another look at certain other aspects of this question. The practice in large units was to have one vehicle off the road for purposes of overhaul and repairs, and the number of vehicles off the road at any one time in the case of large units is proportionately smaller than is the case with small units If a man operates two vehicles and he has to maintain a service, he must have one in reserve Equally, if there are 10 vehicles in a unit, there is only the need to have one vehicle in repair or in reserve at any particular time, so that the proportion in small units must be very much larger than in the case of the large units.
In fact, the whole tendency of the road transport industry has been towards larger units and an increasing size in units. The day of the small operator finished years ago so far as effective transport is concerned. So far as long-distance road haulage is concerned, it was operated by large units which gave a relatively more efficient service to the public than the smaller units.
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas
Would it also be correct to say that many of these large units were actually amalgamated under companies or finance organisations which had, in effect, monopoly control in the areas of the country covered by several such units?
§ Mr. Pargiter
I think that is true. Many of the trunk route units were virtually monopolies in their operations in regard to the services they provided, and, to this extent, no small unit could possibly compete with them. I think my hon. Friend's observation is quite correct in that respect. While not officially a monopoly, they were practically a monopoly from the point of view of their operation. I am not arguing that a monopoly is necessarily bad, but it is certainly bad when it can hold the public to ransom. In some cases monopolies operated in that way, but so far as their efficiency was concerned they were undoubtedly much better maintained than a relatively large number of small units which operated previously. Those of us concerned with the loss of life on the road today must be vitally concerned that anything we do now should not put the clock back in regard to road safety.
What is going to happen to the staffs? Are they going to be shunted on to the street? Are they going to get compensation, or will they be required to go back to some hole-and-corner garage in order to find work? I think the Government ought to say something about what they intend to do with the staffs at present employed by the Road Haulage Executive.
A matter with which I am particularly concerned is the question of apprentices. I understand that at the present time the Road Haulage Executive have 330 apprentices in their repair shops. That may not seem a very large number to right hon. and hon. Members opposite, but it is a vitally important matter to those people who have entered this industry for the purpose of learning how to repair and maintain vehicles in a proper condition. It also has a bearing on the future safety of vehicles on the road. The Road Haulage Executive have a properly drawn up apprenticeship deed under its common seal and signed by a member of the Executive and the Secretary. In it they undertake within a given period of years to teach these apprentices the secrets of the trade and how properly to deal with the maintenance and repair of vehicles.
What is going to happen to these 330 apprentices? It may be said with regard to fitters, fitters' mates, and so on, that they can get a job anywhere because they 1641 are qualified, but that cannot be said about these apprentices with whom the Road Haulage Executive have entered into a contract. This is really a very important matter, and I am quite sure thtat the right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate its importance. I hope that the Government spokesman will make a statement later on which will allay the fears of these apprentices that they are not going to have the opportunity of learning a trade on which they have set their hearts and in respect of which a solemn promise has been given.
Regarding one or two points made by the Parliamentary Secretary today, I hope the Home Secretary will elucidate the matter a little further. The Commission will, apparently, have the same right subsequently to enter the market with a view to acquiring control over road haulage vehicles. While ostensibly the undertaking will be limited to six-fifths of its present capacity regarding the number of vehicles which it can take over, it will be under no limitation, other than the normal traffic limitations, regarding the number of vehicles or undertakings which it can acquire in the future.
It is nonsense to separate the industry and to take part of it away if, at the same time, the Commission are to be free to buy their way back into the industry again. Providing they are willing and can afford to pay the price, they can come in again and recreate the monopoly about which the right hon. and hon. Members opposite are complaining at the present time. If that is really the intention, it is most enlightening, and I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will explain that matter a little more fully.
I apologise for taking up more of the time of the House than I had intended, but I trust that the points I have raised are really germaine to this discussion. I hope they will be regarded as important points and will be considered accordingly. Even at this late hour I suggest to the Government that in any further conversations they may have with their friends and with the various people with whom they are concerned they should decide that discretion is the better part of valour in this particular battle and should agree, after all, to give the Transport Commission an opportunity to complete the job they have so well started. They should be given a full and free opportunity to 1642 provide the country with a properly integrated transport service. If after a fair trial they fail to provide the public with such a service at a reasonable charge then would be the time to present some alternative to this House, but I submit that that time has not yet arrived.
This Bill is ill-conceived and doctrinaire and has only been brought forward to satisfy certain interests who have supported the party opposite. I ask the Government to be big enough to get rid of this Bill and to give us back the opportunity of getting a real transport service.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
No one could possibly complain that the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) has not devoted his speech to the contents of the Bill. He has produced a long and most interesting series of questions, but I do not think he will expect me to attempt to deal with them. Indeed, I think he would find the answers to some of them if he studied the Bill. For instance, there is nothing in the Bill about B licences. The Bill deals with A licences, but that is not a point for me to deal with.
The points raised in many of the speeches from hon. Members opposite show that there has not been a real understanding of what this Bill is intended to do and what it contains. Even more striking than that, there has been no sign, particularly yesterday and little more today, of the old enthusiasm for nationalised integration of transport as the ultimate solution of all transport problems.
§ Mr. Maclay
The theme running through all the speeches made by hon. Members opposite is that this baby is a young one. It may have a squint and it may have knock knees, but give it a chance to grow up. That has been the real argument from the party opposite. One almost expected to hear the classic remark about the unwanted baby, that it is only a little one. The whole trouble is that this is a very big baby, and if the health of our transport system is not good the whole of our economic life will suffer desperately
There are certain points on which I think there must be general agreement. We obviously want the best possible 1643 working conditions for those employed in the transport system of this country.
§ Mr. Maclay
We have been developing in all these ways over the years. No one has ever pretended on this side of the House that everything has been perfect in the past, but both sides of the House have a tremendous record in the matter of improving conditions. I am quite certain that with existing legislation, and with more legislation if it proves necessary, we will be able to protect the best interests of the workers.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Why did not the right hon. Gentleman and his friends protect the workers in road transport in the inter-war years?
§ Mr. Maclay
There was steady progress. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) has his own views on this matter and we have argued it before. He is always ready to charge private enterprise, whether in civil aviation, road and rail transport or anything else, with bad practice, but—
§ Mr. Maclay
Every party in the country has a good record of trying to improve working conditions by means of legislation. The party on this side of the House has as good a record as any, and a better one because it has been doing it for very much longer.
Then, again, we want safety on the roads. Wise legislation can contribute to that result. There is a lot of legislation in existence already, and if it is not adequate it can be looked at. But, above all, the whole purpose of transport must be to get delivery of goods as fast as is reasonably possible with existing technical developments, and delivery must be dependable.
Another requirement which is not often remembered is that goods must be traceable along their routes. That, unfortunately, is not the case with the system developed in the last few years. It has been a serious complaint that goods may disappear completely while in transit. I do not mean that they are lost or 1644 stolen, but that in the course of their movement no one knows where they are. It is obviously possible to put that right, but that is the position at the moment.
I think too that all agree that the user must have full choice of means of transport. I hope that hon. Members accept that. It is written into the 1947 Act. If that is so, I come to the next point which was revealed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). It is that there is a contradiction in the 1947 Act which is responsible for many of the present problems. The right hon. Gentleman made an extremely pleasing speech. He expressed his views strongly and with conviction, but even he admitted that when he was the Minister he was not satisfied with what he found in transport.
He said that he has been prepared to consider a full inquiry but chose another method. I believe that he himself revealed one good reason why he was not satisfied. On the one hand, he was saying that an objective of the 1947 Act was to provide a system which would make the minimum use of the economic resources of the country. He went on to say, on the other hand, that the Act was so drawn up and the administration of it was such that a great deal of flexibility was left. The two are not consistent.
The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that he disliked the thought of railways being subject to acute competition. But what is happening at the moment under the 1947 Act? Is it not correct to say that the Road Haulage Executive are competing hard with the railways for traffic. Is not that what they are bound to do? Do hon. and right hon. Members opposite know in their hearts of hearts what they want to achieve under the 1947 Act? I do not think that they do. I believe that that is the cause of a lot of trouble.
If they believe in a complete monopoly of transport, there is a theoretical argument, superficially attractive, in favour of it. With monopolistic control of the transport resources of the nation one can decide what shall move by which means of transport, but I do not think that anybody in this House believes that in practice such a system will ever work or give a proper service.
1645 I have the greatest admiration for those who are responsible for working the present system. They are doing their best to make the 1947 Act work. I believe that they have achieved some satisfactory results on which we can build further. Those results did not necessarily arise from the merits of the Act.
§ Mr. Maclay
Some good jobs have been done—the road-rail container development for example, and that kind of co-ordination. We shall have to do more of it. It is a great pity that more of it was not done by the railways before the war. I have always believed that there is a tremendous future for the container. That fact is only now beginning to be realised. The container system has been developed on the Continent and should be developed a great deal more here. But the 1947 Act is not essential for that purpose.
The whole difficulty of the Act is that we cannot have a double objective at the same time. One cannot have monopoly and at the same time say that one wants the railways and the Road Haulage Executive to be separate. If road transport does not search for traffic, what will happen? Hon. Members opposite must either come quite frankly to the point of saying that they want complete monopoly of transport or else they must say that they want competition. If they want competition, is the best and most effective way of securing wise competition to have one nationalised sector of industry competing with another nationalised sector?
I suggest that the Bill which is now before the House is a real advance on anything that has gone before. I will not argue that it is the end of all possible Bills on transport. This is a democracy, thank goodness, and there can be a lot of argument. Most of us will recognise that transport cannot be a static industry in any sense of the word in this country. It must be flexible, it must be ready to use new inventions and to meet the constantly changing needs of industry.
What does this Bill do? It is giving the railways a chance which they never had before. It is leaving plenty of opportunity for that kind of development which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) is 1646 so keen to see, as he said quite rightly last night—that is a measure of co-ordination of road and rail. As the Parliamentary Secretary explained this afternoon, the Commission will be able to start off with its pre-1947 volume of transport plus 20 per cent. That is possible, and there are possibilities of further expansion through the procedure of the licensing authority.
The hon. Member for Southall uttered a wise warning that there is a chance of back-door monopoly. If that is so, the House should see that the matter is put right in the Bill. There should not be that possibility. All through the Bill there is an effort to preserve what is best in the 1947 Act and then to allow for expansion and for freeing that part of the industry which the 1947 Act has suppressed and forced to operate uneconomically.
A great deal of the success of the Bill now before us must depend upon the scheme-making powers in Clauses 14 and 15. There we come to the very special problem of Scotland, and I think that we Scottish Members can be forgiven for seeing this as a special problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire pointed out yesterday some of the reasons why there is a special problem here. Our industries are more remote from the main markets than are industries in other parts of the country. A really efficient transport system is absolutely vital if industry in Scotland is to be maintained at its present level of efficiency.
§ Mr. Maclay
No, not a bit. The Scottish Council for Development in Industry has produced some weighty observations on the transport problem. We went into the argument last night whether integration and co-ordination were the same thing. Let us leave that for a moment and look at what the Scottish Council really want. The point that I was making yesterday when I intervened was that the Scottish Council were not arguing that integration could only be achieved provided there was common ownership of all the means of transport. [HON. MEMBERS: "They said it."] They could not have meant that, because they went on to suggest that coastwise shipping, British European Airways and all forms of 1647 transport in Scotland should be brought under some form of co-ordination.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I agree that they did not suggest that shipping should be altered, but even after the Government announced the proposals they immediately said that it seemed inconceivable to them that integration could be achieved unless the Commission were enabled to retain the road vehicles under their ownership in Scotland.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am not going to argue again what they did or did not say, but what is happening under the Bill is that the Commission will retain a substantial proportion of road transport. It is there in the Bill, and I think that is very necessary for Scotland. What we really have to watch in the development of the "scheme" for Scotland—I think we are on common ground here—is that there is the maximum effective control in Scotland of those sections of transport which remain nationalised. We have heard the Parliamentary Secretary's comments on that, and until schemes are presented we will not be able to argue very constructively.
I hope that one thing which will happen is that, before the schemes are presented, there will be maximum consultation with the Scottish interests and all who understand the problem in that part of the world. Some device may be found whereby Scottish Members of Parliament can discuss the scheme for Scotland before it is too far advanced. One of the difficulties is that too often we get schemes at a stage when we can do little to alter them. I hope that some device will be found whereby we can consider the scheme in its early stages and see how it can best be developed.
What I understand the Scottish Council on Development in Industry are after, which merits the most serious consideration, is that there should be an authority in Scotland which, if it does not actually operate both road and rail, should at least be in a position to co-ordinate the activities of road and rail. I think that is right. We have the special problem of the remote districts, and I hope that any such authority would also be empowered, or would be recognised as the body, to have consultations with British European Airways and providers 1648 of other forms of transport, and would be able to do something which is not done at present, namely, the proper tidying up of simple matters such as timetables, so that we could be certain that road, rail, air and sea are joining each other at the most convenient point of time and place.
It does not require State ownership to achieve this. State ownership is not even doing it. Let the right hon. Member for East Stirling consult some of the Scottish industrialists who sit on the Scottish Council for Development in Industry as to whether they think the present co-ordination of rail and roads under the 1947 Act is providing what Scotland wants. There is considerable concern at the moment about the lack of co-operation between road and rail. It may not be wise—we need more time to consider it—to have one authority managing all the nationalised forms of transport in Scotland, but fortunately the Bill in Clause 14 provides for co-ordinating authorities, and it may be that in a co-ordinating authority the solution will be found for Scotland.
May I put in a plea for the part-time director? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, and I will give my reasons for it. I was very glad that the Minister yesterday expressed himself so strongly on that point. In Scotland the case is even stronger. The part-time member—whether he is a committee member or a board director; it does not matter what they are called—brings in at the early stages of policy-making the widest knowledge possible.
We want on these boards people who understand the special needs of industry, people who understand the social need of different parts of the country. They would not be guinea pig directors. Even if they only attend relatively few meetings, they can still make invaluable contributions, and I will say this at the risk of causing some offence, that I do not believe that our difficulties last winter over the Clyde Piers would ever have arisen had there been a board of part-time directors alongside the chief regional officer, who was doing his level best to do the job properly but needed guidance from people with wider outside experience than he could possibly have.
Please do not let anybody think that a consultative committee is the answer to this kind of problem. Consultative committees serve a very useful purpose. Very 1649 excellent people give a great deal of time and energy to them, but the whole difficulty with consultative committees is that, by their nature, they only get problems to consider when either the policy is far advanced or when the consequences of policy are being felt. The consultative committee has a useful part to play, but it can never take the part of an area board of directors, or whatever they may be called, who can bring in the best possible contribution of wide knowledge to solving the problems of a district.
I should like to mention coastwise shipping, and then I will conclude. The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) and the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with this subject very fully. The problem is really one of consultation, and under the new structure which will emerge under the Bill we can get consultation.
§ Mr. Woodburn
This is a very important point which was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary. As we understand the Bill, its purpose is to set road traffic free to compete with everybody. I think the right hon. Gentleman realises the necessity of protecting coastwise shipping. Could he explain how, with road transport in small units, there is going to be consultation which will combine them in any way so as to protect coastwise shipping from competition?
§ Mr. Maclay
It is not for me to say what will have to be decided by the Government in the long run, but I suggest that this is a possible answer. It is not the one or two lorries that are going to damage coastwise shipping. Damage would come about if long-distance road transport made a dead set on traffic which is at present moving by sea. I may be an incurable optimist, but I think that if we had an area authority such as I was beginning to describe, it could consult with road transport and coastwise shipping on what damage was being done. If there were clear signs that damage was being done to coastwise shipping, action could be taken. But I do not accept that that means protection from competition. It means protection from unfair competition.
I believe that the efficiency of coastwise shipping can increase as the years go on. I would hate to see the long-distance transport of this country, road, 1650 rail and sea, put into one monopoly. But I am certain that devices can be found which will enable the best interests of coastal shipping to be protected without any such implication. The road haulage organisations are not irresponsible, and consultation can do a great deal.
The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said last night—and I entirely agree with him—that we have, in the progress of this Bill from White Paper to Second Reading, a very good example of Parliamentary democracy. The proposals on this very difficult subject were presented early on. There has been a steady process of examination. This will continue during the Committee stage.
I end by saying what I said at the beginning. We shall get out of these proceedings a Bill which will be a great step forward for the transport industry. It will not be the final Bill to deal with transport for all time. No Bill could be. But if we are to get the very best out of road and rail transport there must be study, at the earliest possible opportunity, of the question of allowing a greater proportion of the nation's resources to go into capital investment in both railways and our road system. The railways have an immense future and, if they can get the capital investment they need over a period of years, they will be giving road transport a very difficult run for its money. I meant to elaborate that point, but I have taken too long.
I hope that this Bill will go through the House in all its stages and come out improved, as Bills always are improved in this House, and I believe that it will make a great contribution to the future of transport.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. James Harrison (Nottingham, East)
We are all very pleased that the right hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) is sufficiently restored to health to be able to address us as capably and as pleasantly as he has done. I am sure I am speaking for everyone present when I wish him good health in the future. I hope that he will make regular contributions to these transport debates as the days pass by, because we shall have quite a lot of them before this particular Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
I was looking for the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), but he is not in his place. His 1651 whole speech yesterday consisted of reading extracts from Socialist discussion pamphlets. I wanted to ask him—and it may be that some hon. Members opposite will reply for him—if there are any Conservative discussion pamphlets on this very vexed question of transport organisation. Are there any serious Conservative contributions to the solution of our modern transport problems? Would any hon. Member supply that information if it is available? I spent quite a lot of time this morning looking for such pamphlets, but I failed to find one that would elucidate this very vexed question.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West also mentioned the unsuccessful meetings we have had when we have protested against this particular Bill—the road "sell out," as we call it. I would remind everybody that during the last three months we have had some wonderfully successful meetings of protest against the terms of this Bill. I hope the Government will take note of the protests which have been publicised all over the place in regard to the wrong being done to a co-ordinated transport system by the terms of this particular Measure.
I shall address myself to two features of the Bill which I regard as of major importance, and I shall do so rather abruptly in order to save time; but I hope the Minister will pay careful attention to the points I am going to raise.
First, I am very concerned about the probable position of the 80,000 employees of the road haulage undertaking. As we visualise the operation of the Bill, we can see the re-creation of innumerable small road haulage units. Within these small units I cannot see the possibility of utilising the services of even the majority of those 80,000 employees. If these men are to lose their jobs and pension rights, I want to know whether the Minister feels that the part of the Bill dealing with compensation for pension rights is sufficiently wide and if the financial resources are sufficiently great to meet this obligation, which must of necessity be met, to be fair and just to the present employees.
It is very seldom that a small transport unit encourages the employment of a prominent trade unionist. It is usual for these small units to be run by the owner, his brother or brother-in-law, with grand- 1652 mother on the board of directors. It is a family concern, to the exclusion of the normal employee, and in those circumstances I can see a great injustice being done to the employees of the Road Haulage Executive.
The Minister should examine that particular problem very carefully, because the position that will arise will be unique. Previously employees have been collected from small units and drafted into the nationalised undertakings, but on this occasion, for the first time in our industrial history, we are to have a reversal of that process with the mass of the 80,000 employees being drafted back into small units which usually cannot take them into their employment because of the nature of their organisation. There is a possibility that 20,000 or 30,000 men will be displaced, apart from the number of railway employees who have been drafted into the road haulage organisation.
The financial Clauses affecting compensation will most certainly not meet a position of that kind. It is a matter of great dread to the people employed by the Road Haulage Executive, and when the Minister quoted the example of 12 or 13 Road Haulage Executive employees applying for a job as driver of a lorry, I could quite understand why they did so. Everybody understands how these men will try to keep their jobs under the circumstances which threaten them at present, but to do justice to probably 20,000 men will be a great difficulty. I am quite sure that no one in this House would like to see these men penalised for what, I think, is a terrible mistake which is being made in road haulage.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
As a trade unionist of long experience, would my hon. Friend agree that if the Bill goes through the employer of a small unit would himself be glad to get into the union?
§ Mr. Harrison
Of course there is a possibility of that. What I am trying to visualise is the fact that these 80,000 employees will have difficulty in finding a job in the capacity of a driver, organiser, or even a maintenance fitter, as they are employed at present. I hope that the Minister will pay serious attention to the possible plight of these 80,000 employees. Never before have we had to face a position of that description. It is cer- 1653 tainly one of difficulty and, possibly, of pain to the employee.
Within the Bill there are references to the docks, harbours and inland waterways. In that branch of the industry there are 21,000 employees. I wonder if we can imagine the feelings of these men when they read of the provision for the future of their industry and when they read that the Transport Commission must not extend its operations beyond those existing in 1947. When they read that no provision is visualised in the Bill for expansion or development and that the Transport Commission, instructed by the Government, under present circumstances are to draw a strict line prohibiting any further dock or inland waterway development, what must be the feelings of those 21,000 employees of the authority? I cannot imagine that they will be very happy about their prospects.
Something ought to be done to develop one of our cheapest forms of transport, provided by inland waterways, docks and harbours. I know that under present circumstances, with the shrinkage of trade, it is possible to get away with this restriction on development, but if we imagine a more prosperous industrial condition in the country I am sure we shall see that we would soon be faced with the urgent necessity to do something about improving dock, harbour and waterway facilities.
I did not consider that the terms of compensation can be met unless something is done and the future of the 80,000 road haulage employees and of the 21,000 employees of the docks and harbour authority—100,000 men and women—is jeopardised by the terms of this Bill. The future of inland transport is jeopardised by this Bill. I hope the Government will think again—they have thought many times between the presentation of the White Paper and of this Bill—and ask themselves if we in this country can afford such an expensive Measure at the present time.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. Bevins (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I do not propose to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. J. Harrison) in detail, although I hope to touch upon one or two of them in the course of my speech.
I wish to deal with two of the major criticisms of this Bill which so far have 1654 not been adequately answered. It has been said by a number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and also by one of my hon. Friends, that there will be a substantial loss of money on the re-sale of British Road Services and equipment. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) yesterday—in a speech which seemed to me to diffuse rather more gloom than light—took the view that the Treasury would be saddled with what he called an unknown liability which is probably going to be very large.
He produced no evidence in support of that contention, and later in yesterday's debate the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) was rather more categorical and referred to the fact that, in his judgment, this transaction would cost the taxpayer £33 million. Like the hon. Baronet, he adduced no evidence in support of his claim, but by this afternoon the figure had fallen to £20 million, which was the amount ascribed to the transaction by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes).
Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) made what I thought a quite remarkable observation on this criticism. His actual words were:the recent admission that the Commission through the Disposal Board is to be required to sell the road haulage undertakings at a price materially below what it paid for them when it brought them is an admission that when a public authority buys private undertakings it must pay a certain price, and, under the Tories, when a public authority sells undertakings, it must sell them at a lower price.He went on:That is the admission."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1434–5.]It is quite true that it is an admission, but it is not the admission the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is. In fact, it is an admission that the values of the acquired undertakings have, since 1947, withered to a very large extent, and when right hon. and hon. Members opposite complain that Her Majesty's Ministers are wantonly sacrificing the interests of the taxpayers, I submit that they are employing the wrong tense. The interests of the taxpayers have already been very largely sacrificed in this matter following the passage and the operation of the 1947 Act, and one of the principal purposes of this Measure is to prevent those losses from accumulating and to cut the taxpayers' losses.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Is what the hon. Member has just been stating the reason why the Tory Party fervently desired that a higher price should be paid at the time and pressed with fervour for a higher price?
§ Mr. Bevins
No, I do not think it has anything to do with the attitude of the Tory Party at the time. I am discussing at this moment the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the re-sale proposition.
Before the Opposition talk so glibly and so audaciously about losses which are to come, hon. Members opposite ought at least to look back a little and consider some of the losses which have already been incurred as a direct result of the 1947 Act. The House knows perfectly well that on operation, when one takes into account central charges, there has been a loss in the past three years of £4 million on British Road Services. The House also knows—it has never been disputed on either side—that the loss by taxation to the Exchequer as a result of this transaction has aggregated at least £10 million during the last three years.
It does seem to me that the talk one hears about the probable loss on re-sale is apt to be rather exaggerated. So many seem to assume that those people who bid for vehicles and equipment will merely opt to pay for the value of the physical assets themselves. That seems to me to be a quite absurd method of approach. Firms—business people—who contemplate bidding for units of British Road Services are not going to buy vehicles or equipment for the sake of gazing at them. They are going to buy them only for the chance of carrying traffic in those vehicles, and to the extent that that is likely, I suggest to the House, their bids are most likely to include a not inappreciable element for the goodwill.
Next it is asked: Why must the Government do this wicked thing, as hon. Members opposite would have us believe it to be, when British Road Services appear to them to have got over their teething troubles and are now a more efficient organisation than they were two or three years ago? I was reading somewhere the other day that during, I think, the year 1950 the average loaded vehicle mileage of the British Road Services 1656 vehicles on long distance was about 50 miles a day. I hope that no right hon. or hon. Gentleman opposite will ask me for the authority for that statement, because, of course, it was made in the pamphlet written by the hon. Member for Perry Bar (Mr. Poole), who believes, as I do, that no private haulier in this country in the long-distance field would ever have been satisfied that that was a fair performance.
§ Mr. Cecil Poole (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Not 50 miles a day; but the average haul was 50 miles a day—a different thing.
§ Mr. Bevins
The average loaded haul. I think that was what I tried to convey. It seems to me that the Opposition are rather belatedly discovering that while it was easy to expropriate long-distance haulage it has in practice been a good deal less easy to keep the business the acquired undertakings had in the past.
We have had a lot of discussion in this debate of the vexed question of the C licences, but it is not in dispute—it has never been disputed by the British Transport Commission, and I do not know that hon. Members opposite have any right to cavil at it today—that one of the principal reasons why British Road Services have not come up to expectations—certainly not the expectations of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—is that so many firms which previously gave their business to long-distance haulage undertakings have refused to do so since the undertakings were acquired in 1947.
That has been admitted in the 1950 Report of the British Transport Commission. But it seems to me that when one starts to discuss why B.R.S. have been a less successful venture than the party opposite hoped it would be, when one starts to discuss the reason for the large increase in the issue of C licences, hon. Members opposite speak with entirely different voices. They are at sixes and sevens not only about the reasons for the increase of the C licences, but also about the facts themselves.
For example, the hon. Member for Perry Barr, in his elegantly styled pamphlet, "Job Lots for the Boys," issued, I think, by "Tribune," attributed the large increase in C licences to the fact that private business firms were sabotaging the British Transport Commission. 1657 The more orthodox Members of his own party, such as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), say it is due to the squadrons of milk floats and chimney sweep vans which have invaded the roads during the last few years. That was what the hon. Member was telling this country in his disarming fashion a few months ago. If his manner were not so disarming he would not be able to tell so many such stories.
Yesterday we had a speech by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who discovered yet a third line of argument in this field. He said that the greatest demand for C licences had been before the year 1948. It may well have been so, but that in itself proves nothing, and the question is, why is it so many of the firms which previously were happy to give their traffics to the private long-distance hauliers are no longer prepared to give them to B.R.S.? I think that question answers itself on the basis of the evidence, on the basis of the statistics.
One very brief word on the question of the levy. The levy, ever since the White Paper was issued, has been derided by the party opposite, and, indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South said, by certain organs of opinion which from time to time support the party to which I belong. The right hon. Member for East Ham, South referred to it today as outrageous.
We have been repeatedly asked—the Government have been repeatedly asked—why should the C licence holder of all people have to pay this levy? I think it is rather a curious thing that, as a general rule, the people who ask that question are the very people who accuse the same C licence holders of being the saboteurs of British Road Services. They ask: Why on earth should the C licence holder have to pay the levy to offset the loss on the sale of British Road Service vehicles? I think it was Bismarck who said that politics are not a very exact science—and I suppose that hon. Members opposite should be aware of that, as well as hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Bevins
I do not pretend for one moment that there is a great deal of logic in the proposed application of the levy. Why should there be? [Laughter.] Just a moment. I believe that the C licence holder today is not pleading for logic. What he is pleading for is mercy from the Government. The effect of this levy is to give the C licence holder the right to use a more efficient system of transport if he so wishes; but, if he does not wish to use the more efficient form of transport which the Government are trying to provide, at least he will remain free to carry his own goods.
Hon. Members know perfectly well what the attitude of the party opposite is to the C licence holders. The hon. Member for Perry Barr has been conducting guerilla warfare against the C licence holders continuously during the last two years. He believes he is right. I do not. But he is entitled to his point of view. I used to believe at one time that the hon. Member for Perry Barr was a voice in the wilderness, but, having listened to the speeches of several hon. Members opposite in this debate, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that in fact the hon. Member for Perry Barr is speaking for the whole of the party opposite, and I have discovered that during the last few days that he is in exceptionally good company—
§ Mr. Bevins
—because in a recent book, "Socialisation of Transport," published by Constable, written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) in 1933—not so long ago—the right hon. Gentleman said:When the stage is reached when we can offer such an unrivalled service"—he is talking about nationalisation—to the manufacturer and the farmer we shall be justified in saying of concerns providing any transport for the carriage of goods, that they are no longer justified in doing so.That was the view of the right hon. Gentleman in 1933, and I believe that is the general view of the party opposite. Therefore, I say that the levy, in so far as it applies to the C licence holders, is a perfectly justifiable instrument.
I can perfectly well appreciate the irritation of Her Majesty's Opposition when it sees Her Majesty's Government intro- 1659 ducing this Bill. After all, this goes rather deeper than normal political warfare, because in one sense Her Majesty's Government are taking one of the gospels out of the Socialist bible and ripping it up. It is well to remember that for a long time Members of the party opposite believed that the socialisation of transport would be one of the finest examples of public ownership; they believed it would be one of the shining lights of socialisation. This was not a case that was hurriedly or hastily worked out. It was meticulously worked out over a long period of years, and it was believed that the case for the nationalisation of this important service was unanswerable. It was even believed that it would be so successful that it would soften the stony hearts of some of my more reactionary colleagues.
Perhaps I might conclude by quoting the words of the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition on that very subject. He said, at the end of this book in 1933, speaking of the benefits of the socialisation of transport:I anticipate that the benefits may be summarised as follows: that the industry itself will be more efficiently and economically conducted; consequential advantages will follow to the public; further, that the quality of the service will tend to advance and the charges will tend to fall.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Will the hon. Gentleman deny the fact that, in comparison with the products of private enterprise, railway rates have risen less since 1945? Take steel, or any of the manufactured articles. Take timber and compare the increase of that with transport.
§ Mr. Bevins
Here we are not dealing with that fact. We are dealing with the prophecy of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South. His peroration, which I think is worth reading in this debate, was this. He referred to 10 advantages which would flow from the nationalisation of transport, and his concluding words were these:These are great advantages, and there are no doubt others. They are not to be scorned. The work done even to this point is well worth doing, but I entirely agree that we shall not have reached the promised land.1660 It is because we have not reached the promised land that the Government are treading a different path.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Bevins) will excuse me, as I am the only spokesman for my party, if I do not follow him in detail.
Yesterday the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), going over the preparatory work prior to this Bill, suggested that the Conservative Party had introduced a novel and most interesting and fair method of political and public discussion in the last six months. I am sure that it does the ingenuity of the noble Lord great credit, but I can hardly think that he will consider that it is a very acceptable suggestion. We must realise how this Bill came about, and, although nobody objects to wide political discussion before a Bill comes even to Second Reading here, I do not think that is any defence for having produced a White Paper, and even the first Bill in the form in which it was produced.
The Government were committed to the de-nationalisation of road haulage, and I think it was only when they got down to studying that problem that they realised they could not do it without examining, and, in the end, bringing in some very revolutionary ideas with regard to the whole of our transport system. While the first effort in the White Paper and the first Bill did point roughly the way, it seemed a very faithless and hesitant effort. It seemed to me rather like a kind of weathercock in a gusty wind; it went generally in that direction, but it was very difficult to see whether, in the end, it would be a really sound competitive transport system for the country, or whether it would be a mass of compromises.
With that former end in view, the Liberal Party made a statement of its views of the main objectives that we should have in mind in producing a new transport policy. While I am not suggesting in any way that this has vastly influenced the Government, I think we have a right to point out that it was possibly the first and probably one of the few constructive criticisms of this Bill. I must say that I think the Minister himself has some cause for complaint to the 1661 Press. The Press gave his White Paper and the first Bill a most appalling smack. It was thoroughly rejected in all quarters. But I think that the Press themselves had not wakened up to the possibilities and in this respect I regret very much the attitude of the Liberal Press, which, I think, has been most disappointing until quite recently in offering just destructive and not constructive criticisms.
I would mention, in particular, the "Manchester Guardian," which, until Monday of this week, has offered hardly a single constructive suggestion to improve this Bill. It has rather seemed to me as if some of the leading articles were written by a rather irascible old gentleman who was sitting on the fence and was very offended at the idea that he would soon have to decide on which side of the fence he must come down.
Furthermore, I think that some explanation is still required from the "Manchester Guardian" of the way in which it presented to the public the case of the chambers of commerce.
§ Mr. Holt
Perhaps they will read it in HANSARD.
The "Manchester Guardian" and other Liberal papers are sometimes—I am sure in the friendliest manner and with the best intentions—a little critical of the activities, or alleged inactivities, of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, and I am sure they will accept these criticisms from a friend in the way in which we accept theirs.
We did try to offer some assistance in pointing out the main features of the road we should pursue, and it appears that pernicious levy in relation to the support of the railways has been dropped, that there has been a very important improvement of freedom for charging for the railways, and a date fixed for the lifting of the 25-mile limit restriction.
There is something which I should like to know about charging. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South raised this matter yesterday, but I do not think that it has been thoroughly cleared up. Do the Government really intend, in their decentralisation, to give fairly reasonably-wide control over the charges? Are they going just to decentralise administration regionally, without 1662 giving some decentralised control over the charges? I think that this is a most important matter, because I do not see how the railways can stand up to the competition which they will get unless they are given this freedom in decentralisation.
We did say earlier, in August, that in the interests of efficiency the Government proposed to decentralise responsibility only on the side of the provision of railway services, but ultimate efficiency depends as much upon efficient charging as upon efficient production and, therefore, there must be some real measure of decentralisation of responsibility for charging as well as for the financial results achieved.
I do not want to spend more than a moment or two on my next two points, but I suggest that great thought must be given to the question of speeding up reorganisation and the proposals for bringing into effect the new arrangements for charging. It is suggested in some quarters that flexibility for charging cannot take place until a new scheme has been prepared and that that will take two or three years. I suggest that that difficulty has in some way to be overcome.
The Minister, from the beginning, has kept an open mind, but I hope that some hon. Members behind him, who have already shown their keenness for a really competitive system, will support him, and prevent him from being overcome by pressure groups from wherever they may come. I felt yesterday, when the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) was speaking, that there was some pressure from the coastwise shipping people which might not be entirely healthy.
§ Mr. Mellish
Do the Liberal Party believe in a competitive system in which there is no licensing at all, and where anyone, if he wants to, can go out and buy a lorry and ply it in any part of the country?
§ Mr. Holt
I shall come to that matter later; and I shall try to state a case as briefly as possible.
There are two or three other things which I want to mention before coming to the most important part of my speech. One is that I think that Clause 15 in the old Bill was better than that in the new Bill. Allowing people outside, in- 1663 cluding the Coal Board, to have a say in the railway organisation, is, I suggest, a lot of nonsense.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Clause 15 in the old Bill and Clause 15 in the new Bill deal with different matters. Which is the hon. Member talking about?
§ Mr. Holt
I am talking about the one which refers to re-organisation of the railways. Clause 15 in the new Bill is not as good as the particular Clause in the old Bill dealing with that matter, whichever one it may be.
Clause 18 (2, e) is also a new element in this Bill, and I am not at all sure that it is necessary for this House to secure publication of maximum charges. I have a feeling that this was something left over from the monopoly idea. After all, responsible businesses of many kinds in this country, which have to price all their articles and which have to sell those articles to other people, have very varying practices, but, on the whole, they find that it is in the interest of their consumers that they should let them know what those prices are. It is my view that, even if the Government do not secure the publication of railway charges, in point of fact the railways would publish them.
Clause 20 may be all right for the protection of the consumer, but I think that Clause 21 is rather dubious. It might work out in practice, but it might be used for vested interests, outside to interfere with what, I suggest, is the central purpose of this Bill.
There are two other small matters which I should like to mention. Clause 14 (8) has reference to the London Transport Executive, and I press on the Government that they should consider making a new and separate statutory board for London Transport, along the lines of the old London Passenger Transport Board, and that the same thing should apply so far as the docks and inland waterways are concerned. All the reports that I have had indicate that the Executive has done a very good job, and I think that its activities would be greatly facilitated by it being made a separate statutory body.
I hope that the Home Secretary, in winding up tonight, will say something more about the disposal of road haulage. I feel that this is one of the trickiest parts 1664 of the whole Bill. There is no question of principle involved; it is a question of the best method of achieving what is an agreed objective, and, so far as my party is concerned, I am sure that they accept that, if the Bill is to become law, this part of it should be made to work smoothly and with the least upset to the country. I do not agree with some of the suggestions made by the British Chambers of Commerce. But I think that suggestions in regard to this matter are worthy of the closest examination.
I understand the Road Haulage Executive is divided, first, into divisions, and that those divisions are then divided into districts. The divisions, I understand, are accountancy units, and could, in a very short time, be actually formed into limited liability companies, with the Transport Commission holding the shares. I believe that it is quite reasonable that those should be broken down into districts. There are some 32 districts, the largest having about 1,800 vehicles, and the smallest 190. This may not provide such small units as are envisaged in the Bill, but I suggest that that does not matter very much, and that this system would provide the best price for the Government, because anyone buying would better appreciate what he was buying, and it would possibly enable the Government to do away with the levy, and without any cost to the Treasury.
I suggest that this method is quite all right if the Government will do away with the A, B and C licensing system. There has been a lot of talk on this side of the House that that system is still privileged and not really competitive. I am advocating the one thing that is left out so far which will make the set-up a really competitive system. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House should try to keep an open mind on the matter and not allow themselves to be governed by their prejudices about what they think happened in 1930.
§ Mr. Holt
I will develop my argument first. If we stop discrimination against entry into haulage, we can cease to worry whether transport units are large or small, for the free market will work upon them 1665 and of their own accord they will reach their correct size. But while there is discrimination against individuals, the free market cannot work properly. If we permit entry we can lose our fear of a railway monopoly. If anyone can buy a vehicle and start up anywhere, we can forget the railway monopoly. As a result, Clauses 20 and 21 could be dispensed with.
Hon. Gentlemen sitting around me will immediately say that the course I am suggesting will lead to chaos like that of the inter-war years and to cut-throat competition. But no advocate of a free market, whether it be in transport or in any other industry, suggests—if some people think it was suggested before, they are making a mistake—that such a market can work properly today, in the interests of the community and in the interests of the consumer or the producer, unless it has proper rules and regulations.
That is very different from having discrimination against entry. If we have a pricing system which rises or falls according to the cost, which will happen under the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]. If hon. Gentlemen have not seen it I suggest that they read the Bill.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me where I can find in the Bill any agreed charges scheme for road haulage?
§ Mr. Holt
There is no question of an agreed charges scheme. I did not say that. I said that prices would rise or fall, according to the cost.
At the moment, the cost to the railways in the case of some of the mainline passenger expresses is one-third of a penny per mile. Thus, a third-class return ticket from Manchester to London should be 10s. 6d. on that basis, but it is about 52s. 8d. We have to put up with that today because the railways are not allowed to pass on to the consumer the potentialities of the lower cost of certain services because they have also to carry services in other parts of the country which people really do not want and for which they are not prepared to pay the economic price.
§ Mr. Holt
Must a railway service be provided to cover a country district in which only a few families live in an area of many square miles? Surely it is fantastic that we should continue such services at great cost to the remainder of the travelling public. The proper type of transport must be used in appropriate districts, and we must bring a little common sense into the transport system.
§ Mr. Holt
As to the suggestion about cut-throat competition, as we have heard so often from the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), it is all a question of supply and demand. The situation in the thirties occurred because there was a recession in trade. The Salter Report stated that everybody in the road haulage business and in other transport undertakings was going bankrupt and that it was a very shocking state of affairs, but the Report did not show that the rate of bankruptcy in transport was any higher than it was in cotton, steel, coal or any other industry. The truth is that there was a severe depression which resulted in there being a far larger supply of transport facilities than there was demand, and in that state of affairs one gets cut-throat competition.
I ask hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to realise that there is now a different state of affairs. When everybody in the country is wedded to trying to find a method of retaining full employment, it is nonsense to ignore that new and very vital feature. It has a very vital effect on the working of a free market economy.
As for so-called chaos, I will go as far as is reasonable with any hon. Member on this side of the House who wants to ensure that the small men in the transport industry and the few people they 1667 employ do not have their conditions impaired by what will happen. We can make rules to ensure that. If any hon. Member questions that, I would remind him of the London taxicab system, where there is no discrimination against entry. Anybody can apply for a taxi-cab licence and a driving licence, and the difficulties he will encounter are common to everybody, but otherwise there is no discrimination against entry. Yet there are masses of rules and regulations governing what taxi-cabs and their drivers may do.
We ought to scrap the A, B and C licences and substitute for them a certificate of fitness to apply to all, whether they ply for hire and reward or whether they seek merely to do their own work, and there should be attached to the certificate conditions relating to hours of work, length of time of driving, a fair wages clause, the safety of the public, and anything else which it is thought desirable to incorporate in it which is for the benefit of the community as a whole.
It may be argued by hon. Members opposite that Clause 8, dealing with the procedure when a person wishes to take out a licence for a road haulage vehicle, is so different from the provision in the 1933 Act that there is now no point in bothering about it, but I suggest that, for the reasons which I have given, it is still a very bad principle and that we should get rid of it. There are many practical problems to be dealt with in this direction, and I ask the Minister to consider carefully this matter and agree to insert a date in the Bill, 1954 or 1955, by which the A, B and C licensing system will be abolished.
I feel that this Bill must be judged, when it becomes an Act, on whether it will institute and maintain continuously in being a transport system throughout the country and around the coast which meets the needs of the people, subject only to their willingness and ability to pay for it, and which will pass on to them the lower cost potentials of the different types and qualities of transport by road, rail, canal and sea.
As far as the Liberal Party are concerned, they will support the Second Reading of the Bill in order to affect improvements and will direct their efforts in Committee to this end. If the Bill eventually does what I have suggested, 1668 then, in all seriousness, I say that it will be one of the most significant pieces of legislation of this century. [Laughter.] Hon. Members on this side of the House may be amused about that, but I notice that they have produced a mass of damaging literature. There is, in particular, a yellow book called "Socialist Union."
§ Mr. Holt
They know perfectly well they are very frightened about the power that is being taken away from this Parliament and put into someone else's hands, and I suggest that if this Bill goes through and is amended in the way it should be it will not be a millstone around the neck of the travelling public but will be a milestone in the history of transport in this land.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Cecil Poole (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
If I had to choose between the Tory Government's proposal in this Bill and the proposals of the Liberal Party, as stated by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt), then I am with the Tory Party. I have never heard, in the whole of the time that I have been associated with the industry, such a nonsensical approach to the problems of transport.
To suggest at this hour and in this year of our Lord, after a Coalition Government, in which the Liberal Party played a prominent part, had brought in the licensing of road vehicles in 1933, that we should now abolish all forms of licensing, and that anybody who could buy a lorry could go out and engage in transport, is absurd. If that is Liberal transport 1669 policy it is little wonder that the party have lost the services of their former deputy leader in this House, and that their support in the country is so microscopic that at the next Election it will probably disappear completely.
With those few introductory words I should like to congratulate the Minister on his birthday, and in particular, of course, about what I think he must agree is his most valuable birthday present, the letter from the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. The only difference between the right hon. Gentleman's birthdays and mine is that first, I do not get any presents, and, second, if I do I do not know they are coming. He knew yesterday that this letter was coming, because he told us to look at the Press today to see it.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was mistaken in saying that the letter arrived today. It arrived yesterday. I thought my speech was very long, and that is why I did not read it out yesterday. It was read instead by my hon. Friend today.
§ Mr. Poole
It is obvious that the Minister was born a day too late. He should have been born yesterday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why was he born at all?"] I am not allowed to make any of my valuable points, because I was going to say what my hon. Friends have expressed so well, that, after reading this Bill, it is a great pity that he was born at all. We appreciated the right hon. Gentleman's Second Reading speech on this Bill very much more than his previous speech on the subject. He was very much less arrogant and very much more mellowed. I think his travelling around, as he described it, has shown him that there is a great deal to be learned about the transport industry. I am sure he is realising there is a great deal which he has to learn, as all of us have to learn, about this industry.
I am flattered by the great attention given by hon. Members opposite to my little pamphlet "Job lots for the boys." I am very glad that they have read it, and I only hope that, having read it, they will mark, learn and inwardly digest it, but I doubt whether I shall get many converts from that side to my point of view.
I was interested in the Minister's eulogy of railway directors. He valued their 1670 work more highly than I did, and I spent quite a time in the railway service. I have spent many years in this industry not only in road and rail, but sea, inland waterways, coastwise shipping and all forms of shipping. I learned the block telegraph system when I was 10, at the hands of my father, so that I started young in this industry. But I wonder whether the Minister includes his hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in his tribute to railway directors. He made two requests to the Minister. He said, first of all, that he ought to drop much of this Bill. That was the opinion of a railway director who is the great expert in this House.
§ Mr. G. Wilson rose—
§ Mr. Poole
No, in the interests of other hon. Members who wish to speak I hope I shall not be interrupted too much.
The hon. Member for Abingdon said that the Minister ought to drop a large portion of this Bill; and, secondly, that the further stages ought to be deferred until an inquiry had been held. I do not know whether the Minister is going to take any notice of those suggestions, but I have not a great deal of hope in that direction.
The only other Member about whom I should like to say a word is the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Yesterday he regaled us with a speech which was 50 per cent. a Tory Central Office brief and 50 per cent. Fabian pamphlets. It is a great pity that he does not read some of his own Tory Party pamphlets for a change; that is, of course, if he can get any. It is difficult to get the Tory Party's pamphlet on transport.
Last week I wanted to find the latest Tory pamphlet on transport, issued in May. I went into the Library and it was not on the file. It had gone, if it had ever been there. I said to the Librarian, "Ring up the Tory Central Office and get me a copy of that pamphlet, because I am sure they are most anxious that the Tory policy on transport should be known when their Bill comes before the country." The reply I got was, "It is not possible to obtain the pamphlet on transport policy. The only copy available is at the Conservative Political Centre." The trouble is, of course, that 1671 the pamphlet does not accord with the Bill, so all copies of have had to be withdrawn. They had to be scrapped.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West asked us what we would do. One would think that the position were reversed; that we were the Government and that it was up to us to come forward with proposals; but if the hon. Gentleman likes I will tell him one thing that we would do. It is set out in this pamphlet of mine. I am sorry that the Minister stopped reading it when he did. He read from page 15, where I said:Under nationalisation, the staffs saw little change.I wish he had read on. He would have read one of the things that we would do and that we ought to do under nationalisation. I said:We do not need to search among the old Etonians, the farmers' unions and the retired Army ranks to find men to run the transport industry. They are within its ranks and they have been there all their lives.Had we put in charge of nationalised transport men who have spent all their lives in the industry I am satisfied that we might get a much better picture. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have never been against the ex-Minister of Transport, although I probably questioned him as much as any Minister in this House. I was very pleased with his speech today. I told him in the Tea Room that he reminded me of a footballer to whom we had given a free transfer list and then watched him score all the goals in the game for another team. He gave us a speech today which was one of the finest speeches on transport we have heard in this House. I only wish he had made the same sort of speech a couple of years ago when he was Minister of Transport.
I was very heartened to read the words of Mr. A. B. B. Valentine, who is a member of the London Transport Executive and is President of the Institute of Transport. He expresses a thought which has been in my mind for many years. Addressing the Institute—and these words are very germane to the Bill—he said that we were in danger of bringing into being a breed of rail men and a breed of road men, when what we really needed was a breed of transport men.
I have pleaded that transport should be considered as an industry. The Bill 1672 can do nothing but divide the ranks of the industry into rail men and road men. It can do nothing else but set at each other's throats those two phases of the industry which ought to be complementary and ought to be linked with inland waterways and coastwise shipping. Transport ought to be an industry as such, and the Minister is doing a great disservice in making so permanent a cleavage by the Bill between the road and rail sides of the industry.
There is no justification for the Bill. The Minister has not sought to justify it, and neither has any hon. Member from the other side of the House. I challenge the Minister who will wind up the debate to tell us. Can he point to a single inquiry which has been directed into this industry since 1918 which has recommended anything else but the reverse of what the Government are doing in the Bill? Legislation ought not to be brought forward in this House on either the mere whim of the Minister, or financial contributions to a political party. If there have been inquiries into an industry and if committees have reported and made recommendations, legislation ought to take cognisance of those recommendations. The Bill does no such thing.
As a matter of fact, the Minister takes comfort from the letter from the Association of Chambers of Commerce. I was going to put into my text today something that the Chambers of Commerce said. It was:We feel it unwise to allow a surgeon to perform an operation without regard to the anatomy of the patient.That sounds like sense to me. I have been on the operating table a number of times during the past couple of years. I should not like to think that any surgeon had a go at me without some regard for my anatomy.
The Conservative Party have had the transport patient on the table four times in the last 12 months: in their Election announcements, which bear no relation to the Bill; in a White Paper, which was again widely different; in a Transport Bill which was printed, saw the light of day and then vanished into oblivion; and now the Bill. The patient has been on the table four times, the knife has been poised and the surgeons have been wondering just where they would cut this time.
1673 Commissions reports and the recommendations of conferences and Select Committees have been available to them, but the physicians have said, "Never mind about the reports on the condition of the patient. Let's open him up. Let's cut somewhere and hope that some good will come of it." The recommendations are on the lines "Not knife, but nourish"; not that the patient should be slashed but that he should be strengthened. These have been the recommendations of every committee that has looked into this industry.
I have taken the trouble to look up what various people who ought to know something about this matter have had to say about this industry. Reference has been made to the noble Lord who co-ordinates transport and fuel and power. This is a serious matter. I want to know the position of the noble Lord in relation to the Bill. I remember when Ministers were on this side during the last Government. They often suggested that those on the Government side who differed to do the decent thing and get out, if they did not agree with the Government's policy. In 1943, the noble Lord, who is the co-ordinating overload for this industry, said:I think we can claim that the main war-time problems of transport co-ordination have been solved. While the war-time problem is, of course, much simpler than the peace-time problem, owing to the unity of aim which animates us all, we must try to retain this spirit in peace.I do not know whether his unity of aim has led him so far away that he is prepared to swallow what he said then. A year later, in 1944, as Minister of Transport in charge of co-ordinating transport at that time, he said:Nevertheless, we must recognise that the existence of many small units in the road haulage industry vastly increases the difficulty of bringing about any permanent co-ordination between it and other forms of transport.Does the noble Lord accept the Bill, and all the provisions of the Bill? Is he in harmony with the Minister of Transport about the Bill? If so, I am amazed how a man can so quickly forget the things in which he believed a few years ago and can swallow a Bill which is so diametrically opposed to the things that he has ever advocated.
What about the Minister of State for Economic Affairs, who sits on the Front Bench? He presided over a conference 1674 which inquired into the industry. What were the findings? He subscribed to a report which said that nationalisation of the railways alone, leaving other forms of transport in other hands, would certainly not produce any real co-ordination of transport. He went on:It appears to us"—this is the present Minister of State for Economic Affairs speaking—that without unification however it may be accomplished, no attempt to bring about complete co-ordination would be successful.Is the Minister of State for Economic Affairs to continue to sit on that Front Bench?
§ Mr. Poole
He should join the noble Lord, and they should both join Billy Smart's Circus as the finest contortionists the world have ever seen. I do not see how any man who really believes in the things he has said can swallow this Bill whole, eat it, and still not suffer any political indigestion.
What about the Prime Minister? He has now come to the fore as a great transport expert. It is true that he gets his millstones a little bigger than they are. He reduces them by one-tenth, then increases them 900 per cent. and even then does not get the right figure. He has made two speeches in two transport debates and his theme on both occasions has been the same.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Toxteth (Mr. Bevins) made some reference to my campaign about C licences. That campaign was not against the C licence holder as such but against the wasteful use of C licence vehicles with their empty mileage. I would free the C licence holder. I will go that far with the Liberal Party. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has gone."] No, he is still here. I would rather see all C licences free and allowed to ply for hire and reward than see them running about the roads empty, as they are today.
I asked, what about the Prime Minister? In each of his two speeches the theme was that the C licence vehicle was extravagant, wasteful, and that there ought to be no place for it. Therefore, when we heard that there was to be another Bill, I felt sure that C licence vehicles would be dealt with in the Bill. But where are they? There is not a word 1675 about them in the Bill and the Prime Minister knew there would not be. Indeed, he never intended it, because Tory Party policy pamphlets for the 1950 and 1951 Elections both said that the present freedom of C licences would remain untouched. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] "Hear, hear," say hon. Gentlemen opposite, but they listened to the Prime Minister blathering about C licences on two occasions in this House. Why waste the time of the House talking about things he does not intend to do? It is making nonsense of the business of debate.
Let me put this point to the Minister, in all seriousness. Why does he seek to sell 40,000 nationalised Road Haulage Executive vehicles? After all, he and his hon. Friends have told us time and time again that this set-up is inefficient, extravagant, expensive, that it does not give the service to the industry that it should. In that case, why sell 40,000 when they can pit against them 900,000 private enterprise vehicles? Because there are 900,000 vehicles in the hands of the private enterprise operators. Why are they worried about 40,000? If they are half as inefficient as hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, they can be put out of business in a fortnight.
Of course, hon. Gentlemen opposite know they are not inefficient. They know that they dare not subject the private operator to the competition of the efficient nationalised road haulage vehicles. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not accept that, I invite them, during the Committee stage of the Bill, to take out of it the sale of the Road Haulage Executive vehicles and let us have real competition if they believe in it. But they only believe in competition which produces profit.
The contribution of the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) was not a plea for competition but for protection. They want competition when it is profitable, but as soon as competition ceases to be profitable they want the largest measure of protection. If the Government believes in competition, then let us have it between the 40,000 Road Haulage Executive vehicles and private enterprise, and we will show them who will be run off the roads quickly. That is the 1676 challenge for the Government if they really believe in free enterprise and in competition.
I want to speak now about railway charges. Here I am on a much less controversial subject, but I want to utter a word of warning to the Minister. There are great dangers for the users of the railways and for the people employed on the railways in the obligation laid upon the railway companies by the Bill to publish merely their maximum charges.
Yesterday I asked the Minister a simple question, but one which is fundamental to this matter: whether he proposed to continue general merchandise classification. I hope we shall have an answer tonight on that point because, without that classification, any system of charges must be nonsensical. Does the Minister realise what he is doing when he makes available in the rate books of all the railway stations a figure which merely determines the maximum charge? Does he realise that he is throwing to the four winds of heaven the principle of impartiality in the allocation of rates? He is not freeing the railway companies of much. Indeed, this is not freedom at all because Clauses 20 and 21 fetter the railway companies more than they are at the present time.
§ Mr. Poole
The Minister may shake his head, but the railway companies now have freedom to quote rates below even the exceptional rates. Since I was an invoicing clerk, way back in 1919 and 1920, they have always had freedom to quote rates below the exceptional rates. Last night, at dinner, I had a discussion with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary, in the course of which I gave him a classic example which I will repeat for the benefit of the House.
The case in question occurred where the standard rate for road stone haulage from a quarry in Westmorland to Manchester was 9s. 4d. a ton and the exceptional rate was 7s. 6d. Yet a Westmorland quarry company could always get contracts for all the municipalities of Lancashire in competition with Lancashire quarry owners who had a haul of only 10 miles against 60 or 70 miles. Why? We had all the Lancashire owners coming up to see our railway rate books to discover if the secret was there. They found nothing in the rate books, because the rates for the Westmorland company 1677 were special period rates for a special lot of traffic passing over a period of time which did not show in the rate book at all. That gave undue preference to the Warwickshire man.
What will happen under the system in this Bill? Farmer White will ask the railway stationmaster, if it is a rural station, what will be the charge for his potatoes from X to Y. He will be told, 12s. 6d. a ton. Farmer Brown, his next door neighbour, will ask what will be the price of his potatoes from X to Y. If Farmer Brown slips the stationmaster a couple of rabbits at Christmas, he will have a rate of 10s. 6d.
§ Mr. Poole
It is all very well for the Minister to shrug his soldiers, but that operates with protection now, and if there is on the rate book a maximum figure, how can the business man in Birmingham know what rate his competitor down the street will get for the carriage of his merchandise between Birmingham and London? Who will determine what will be the charges?
A plea was made from the liberal benches but the speaker must have known very little about railway rating because he made a plea for local autonomy for rates and charges. I have never heard anything quite so ridiculous. We shall have an area in the South of England where the ton mile cost of carrying commodities will be 1.6d. and another area in North Scotland where it will be 0.5d.
§ Mr. Poole
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me how he will charge the commodity travelling from the South of England to the North of Scotland passing through six regions, each with differential rating? Perhaps he will sort that out and give me an answer when he has done so? Indeed, I will wait for him if he has the answer now.
§ Mr. Holt
The short answer to that is in a letter written by a gentleman who has been mentioned in this House by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) as a very careful student of transport matters. I am referring to Mr. Gilbert Walker who, in a letter in "The Times" about a week ago, gave 1678 a far better answer to that question than any I can give him. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks at that.
§ Mr. Poole
I will duly search the columns of "The Times" for the answer to that one. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was in the 'News-Chronicle' yesterday."] I should think that the "Manchester Guardian" probably has a better answer. In any case, the hon. Member ought to know that his proposition is nonsensical and is incapable of putting into practice.
How valuable will this concession be to the railways? If I read Clauses 20 and 21 aright, what will happen seems to me to be this. If the railway company, by virtue of this new freedom, charges enough to make the business pay, the customer can protest to them and can haul them before the Tribunal because they are charging too much. But if because of this new freedom they so reduce their rates—this, of course, is the purpose of the freedom—that they are able to attract traffic from the roads to the railways, the road haulier can take them before the Tribunal because they have been successful by lowering their rates and have attracted traffic from road to rail. Each of them will have the power to haul the railway company before the Transport Tribunal.
I suggest that the British Transport Commission had better have a permanent encampment on the pavement outside the Transport Tribunal's offices, because it looks as if they are going to spend a lot of time there when the Bill becomes law. The awful part about the matter is that the road haulier, now to be set free under the Bill, can lower his costs to whatever he likes, whether it is an economic figure or not, and can reduce the traffic carried by the railway; but the Transport Commission cannot take the road haulier to the Transport Tribunal and say, "You are under-cutting us and are carrying at an uneconomic figure." What is sauce for the Tory goose should also be sauce for the Transport Commission gander. I say that the Government ought to have second thoughts on this.
My last point concerns compensation. I asked the Minister, when he was speaking, if he would do something about this. I asked him to try to write the compensation provision into the Bill rather than deal with them by regulation, and he said that he was following the 1947 Act. I 1679 suggest that that is not good enough. The situations are not parallel. Under the 1947 Act, we were taking in large numbers of employees, privately employed in small units, and bringing them into a large State-controlled undertaking. We made provision that regulations should be laid to provide for any hardship or loss which employees might suffer.
But that is not the position today. What happened in the 1947 Act is not a good illustration of what ought to happen now, when we are dispersing to the four winds of heaven all the employees of the Road Haulage Executive. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not of heaven, surely."] The slippery slope to the everlasting bonfire is probably the best description of the Bill. We are dispersing these men to thousands of individual employers throughout the country, and I do not think that this is a matter which ought to be dealt with by regulation.
The trade unions who cater for these men are deeply concerned about it. I ask the Minister in all sincerity whether, in the interests of harmonious relations with the trade unions, who, after all, he must work with and rely upon if the Bill is to work at all, to see whether he will not, at any rate, write into the Bill the broad provisions that would meet the case. Quite frankly, I must tell him that the trade unions do not trust the Tory Party to be the guardian of the rights of trade unionists in this matter.
With those remarks, I leave the Bill. As a very small boy I played the organ in a little Methodist chapel. One of the favourite hymns that we used to sing was "Forward be our watchword."
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole) has been enjoying himself. He has certainly been playing the organ with stops fully out for quite a time, and there were not a few discords 1680 in his argument. My right hon. and learned Friend will, I am sure, deal with him later.
Those of us who yesterday and today have sat 10 hours listening to this interesting debate will, I think, agree that we have had some better speeches from the other side today than we had yesterday. Certainly, there has been some improvement. Most of them yesterday seemed to be based upon trying to prove that the so-called integrated transport system has been somewhat of a success. How on earth they can fool themselves with that argument, I really cannot imagine. I assure hon. Members opposite that there is no quarrel on either side with any other organisation, including the A.B.C.C., on the question of the service which they have been getting from nationalised transport.
I am not quoting those exceptional cases that we all know where traffic has been shunted about all over the country and has never reached its destination, although there are plenty of them, but there are several matters which have reached me in the last few days which need some explanation. It is no good hon. Members opposite saying that the transport system is giving industry and commerce a reasonable service or the service it wants. That may be true for some of the bigger users of transport, but it is not true of the smaller ones.
Yesterday, I heard quite a bit about this subject in an interesting communication from a well-known firm. If anyone doubts my word, I will show him the letter afterwards, but I do not want to mention the name of the firm publicly. They say:… for the 12 months ended October 31, 1951, we had no fewer than 1,805 occasions when it was necessary to ask for proof of delivery.That is from a reputable firm, known to many Members opposite. That extra work involved them in well over 300 submissions of claims. No one can talk about it as being a first-class service when that sort of thing occurs.
I have another instance from a firm in Leeds, who sent three consignments to Manchester, two of them weighing some hundredweights and one of them about four tons. Each of the three took over a week—one of them a fortnight—to Manchester.
1681 I am also told of the dispatch of a consignment for Portugal, which left Leeds on 8th October by arrangement for the s.s. "Markland" at London Docks. The ship was closing on 12th October, four days later. When the firm were informed by their London agent that there was no trace of the bales, they sent telegrams and cables about it. The answer was that not merely the s.s. "Markland," but the next three ships sailed, and, after all, the consignment turned up miraculously exactly one month later.
§ Mr. Hirst
No—this blessed nationalised transport. Another firm says:The service today is simply atrocious. There is an entire absence of any sense of responsibility.…They support what they say by a letter from the local representative, the acting district manager, who was concerned when they sent two consignments to Glasgow. The first took 10 days, and the second nine days, and there is no explanation for it except that someone is sorry. There are dozens of cases of this nature, and it is no use hon. Members opposite trying to tell us for party purposes that the transport system has been a success, because it simply has not.
One hon. Member said that our scheme would bring about the loss of employment for 20,000 people in the road services. That sort of thing is just creating despair for their own purposes; it is just not true. It is no use saying at the same time that those services have been economical. I know that the argument about various reductions in staff was used by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), who yesterday spoke for 47 minutes. When it is all boiled down—the actual figure is about 75,000, not 80,000—there are about 12,000, as we know, engaged on administration and about 15,000 on maintenance and similar duties. I hope the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) will not mind my rounding off the figures.
If we look at the figures which the B.R.S. publish monthly, we find that, cutting out all drivers, drivers' mates, traffic clerks, foremen, supervisors, loaders and yardmen, there are left no fewer than 20 administrative and maintenance men for every 30 vehicles on the establishment 1682 and 20 for every 27 vehicles constantly in operation. I think there is room for improvement there.
During this debate the Association of British Chambers of Commerce has been mentioned very many times. I am very glad that in the letter which we have had read out to us today it is made perfectly clear that certain newspapers in their headlines have been giving a very wrong impression of the Association's particular line of policy. I do not blame right hon. and hon. Members opposite for clutching at this not insubstantial straw in this debate when they have been so short of material for their speeches. The Association has certainly given them some opportunity for fun and games on this subject, but I want to clear this matter up completely.
This document, entitled "Transport Policy," has been produced by a comparatively small sub-committee of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. Many of its provisions have been quoted during this debate and one quoted by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) during his speech yesterday, and which prompted me to make an interjection, reads:Moreover, the administrative difficulties and the functional defects likely to occur in such an upheaval are ill suited to the economic needs of the hour.Another which appears on page 7 of the pamphlet says:The functional part of the undertaking should be divided into at least regional units with full autonomy as companies governed by boards of directors. … Further subdivisions could be decided upon according to regional circumstancesThat passage, I can assure the House, is one which has not been discussed by the individual Chambers of Commerce and does not represent the views of many of them. I want to make my personal position clear on the second one, which I think is particularly impracticable and is about the greatest nonsense ever put into a pamphlet.
I am not attacking right hon. and hon. Members opposite; I am attacking the policy of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce on that point. I would assure all hon. Members that in actual fact it has not been discussed by the vast majority of the Chambers of Commerce of this country who, I am certain, do not subscribe to it. If anyone 1683 has gone into these troubles of lost consignments and long delays in transport—and do not let us fool ourselves that they have not occurred in great numbers, because they have—one finds that in nine cases out of 10 the answer is that in the present set-up the responsibility ends at a certain division and the next man takes over. The first one honestly has no control over the matter and has very little interest in what has happened.
The longer the journey is and the greater the number of areas concerned the more that goes on. When one tries to trace the consignment one has all these awful delays and difficulties, because of all the red tape of the organisation, in trying to find out what has happened to the goods. Quite often one receives hopelessly incorrect information.
I am not attacking the men who are running the show but the system which, unhappily, they have to run. In my position as President of Leeds Chamber of Commerce I will not support a policy which I know to be wrong. I assure the House that the quotations I have made from this pamphlet do not represent the wide interests of all Chambers of Commerce or of the movement. That ought to be made perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Steele
The hon. Member has spoken about consignments being lost. I should like to have the point made clear. Would he tell us whether these things happen on the railway or on long-distance road haulage?
§ Mr. Hirst
It was on mixed transport, and I honestly cannot give the actual degree in which it was mixed. This is a firm distributing all over the country, and the number of misplacements of consignments, of course, could not have occurred on any one aspect of transport. These things occurred on one type of transport or another. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not last year."] Yes, last year. It was necessary to ask for proof of delivery on 1,805 occasions in the case of one firm. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wrong labels."] They are a first-class firm who send out tens of thousands of consignments, and naturally they do not put wrong labels on their goods.
Go-slow tactics were mentioned in the gloomy and dispirited speech of my hon. 1684 Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) yesterday, and the same subject has been mentioned today. Go-slow tactics do not represent the views of vast numbers of members of Chambers of Commerce. I have here a letter which I sent to the Minister after I had gone fully into this matter. The letter is fully supported by the Leeds Chambers of Commerce. On 5th August I wrote:In regard to the disposal of transport units it is very strongly felt that the disposal machinery must be such that it operates without undue delay. …Here, again, there is another aspect of this so-called pamphlet which, quite frankly, I cannot support. Having said that, with all fairness it must be made quite clear that there are a large number of sound suggestions throughout the pamphlet which I think are supported widely by industry and commerce. Many of them are very acceptable for us to consider in Committee.
These points should be made quite definitely to clear up what has been a running commentary in this debate—owing to a misfortune in tactics by the A.B.C.C.—by no means rightly based on the assumption of hon. Members opposite that there is a conflict between the Association of British Chambers of Commerce and the Transport Bill presented to this House—a Bill which wholeheartedly support.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I hope that the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) will forgive me if I leave him to fight his own battle with the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. I promise to be brief, and the hon. Member must be commended for the brief speech he made, for there have been some very long speeches in this debate.
I want to raise one or two technical questions which arise on the Bill and to make some comments on them. I want to begin with the railways. I hope that the Minister and other people who have been talking about the old-time boards of directors of the railways will drop the rather romantic and sentimental nonsense they have been speaking about them. There were several things wrong with the old part-time directorship system of management of the railways, and those of us who have worked on the railways 1685 and suffered—I repeat the word "suffered"—from that ill-management do not want to see part-time directors returned into any kind of administrative posts.
The right hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) made a point about the regional officers of the railways having part-time directors to help them. He rather suggested that if the regional organisation was built up in that way, with directors running the regions instead of officers of the Transport Commission, everything would be all right. If he is suggesting that local people might advise on local services and the needs of localities and so on, I think the idea of regional advisers might be pretty good. But much depends on what we mean by directing.
If they are to be directors to direct affairs, then I think the idea—the part-time local director or national director—is wrong. The type of director that we had in the railway service before nationalisation was not a person who gave his first loyalty to the railway service. His first job was to look after the main interest that he had, whether it was as a director of a bank, an insurance company, a business concern of some kind or another, a steel concern or a coal company. The railway companies came second in his loyalty.
These part-time directors are responsible for quite a lot of trouble in other industries where the directors themselves are not giving to the industries which they are running their complete attention and loyalty. Where there are divided loyalties we get all kinds of trouble. I could go on to develop that point from personal experience.
I am confident that the bad labour relations that existed on British railways in the inter-war years and before the First World War arose from the fact that most of the directors were not primarily concerned with the railways. The railways were their second interest. We had officials going wrong on labour relations, making decisions about labour relations both in collective negotiations and in individual cases, which led to very bad feeling on the railways, and I think that that bad feeling was the result of this divided loyalty at the top, and that the directors were not giving as much attention to the detailed administration of the 1686 railways as the railways should have expected from its directors.
I am very concerned, too, about the proposal that after the Bill has been passed the Transport Commission should become a part-time body. This is a very retrograde and dangerous step, because in the Bill itself the Transport Commission, although it is to lose the road haulage business, is going to be in charge of one of the largest industrial undertakings in the world. Part-time people cannot be responsible, as the Bill suggests they should be, for overall policy, development, financial policy, and particularly for labour relations.
The negotiation of working conditions on the railways is a very important matter, and it is not a very easy matter. It does not concern only three trade unions. When I worked on the railways I was a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I know that the industrial unionists around me think that that is a shameful thing, but I would point out that there are 38 craft unions in the shopmen's set-up which have got to be dealt with.
Labour relations are going to be very difficult, especially when this Bill has gone through and the financial provisions, which I think are going to cripple the railway service, come into effect. We must not forget that as increasing road competition makes the job of the Transport Commission more difficult they are going to ask either for increased freight charges or reductions in wages. There is no getting away from it. That is what we had in the inter-war years.
The disgracefully bad railway conditions in the inter-war years arose from the fact that the railways could not pay their way. It was not because the people who were responsible for running the railways wanted to keep worsening their conditions, but because they could not afford to buy equipment, modernise their signalling system, build modern locomotives, or carry forward the proposals for standardisation of locomotives and rolling stock or any other measures that would have made the railways more efficient and cheaper. They had not the income—and the reason for that was that they were suffering from road competition which was not properly restricted and regulated.
1687 There is no denying the fact that the railway workers had to take some of the burden. Their wages were brought down and their working conditions were brought much below the level desired by the people responsible for running the railways. Are we going back to that situation? We have to bear in mind that the inefficiency of the railways today arises from the fact that they have not got proper equipment. In parenthesis, I would say that in the locomotive shed where I began my apprenticeship in 1919 we had equipment which had been put in in 1884 for the repair of locomotives. We were still using it, and it is still being used today. It was put there in my grandfather's time.
The railways cannot afford to carry through the renewal of equipment and improve the methods of operation and the handling of traffic and freight and so bring the railways up to the standard of efficiency and safety that is required. If we want to make the railways more efficient—and it is only by doing so that we can reduce transport charges—there are two alternative courses that can be followed.
We can either bring the road and rail services into one co-operative system, whether it is under national ownership or by regulations which bring the private owners of road haulage into association with the railways and compel them to have that association, or we can go on increasing rail charges or reducing wages in order that the railways can compete with unrestricted road transport.
If the suggestion is to be followed that the solution is to be found in a new system of rail charges—by giving the railways more freedom to make their own charges—the increased charges they are bound to make will inevitably fall upon those classes of traffic which have to go by rail, because competition with road transport will make it impossible for the railways to raise charges in respect of other traffic.
One of the biggest classes of traffic which comes into the former category is coal. It should not be forgotten that coal is our only source of power. We cannot run our industry without it. But if we are to compete in the industrial markets of the world and if we are to raise standards of living in this country, the cost of our industrial 1688 power has to come down. The burden of this mix-up of transport is going to be borne, so far as the railways are concerned, by those classes of traffic which must be carried by rail, and coal is the prime example.
Although it is quite true that in Clause 20 a vague and very confused sort of protection is offered, that protection seems to me to be quite unworkable. A question arises here which has been mentioned by many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole). It is the unfairness that arises out of the proposition that road transport operators can complain to the Transport Tribunal against railway rates but the Transport Commission cannot complain to that Tribunal about road rates.
Another question arises here which, I think, ought to be answered. Suppose the Transport Tribunal, when road hauliers complain that railway rates have been reduced too much, tell the railways to increase their rates and lose the traffic, and suppose the railways refuse and also refuse to carry the traffic. Who is to carry it? As I see it, the common carrier provision has now gone. It seems quite wrong that we should get into this confused situation about railway charges.
Road-rail competition has to be regulated in some way. A few weeks ago at the Council of Europe, where this matter was raised on a proposition that a transport council should be set up by the Council of Europe, all this was said very clearly. The Assembly unanimously approved the proposition to set up a European Transport Council which would advise Governments on measures which should be taken to create a co-operative transport system in place of the existing competitive systems.
The proposal was put before the Assembly by the rapporteur of the committee which drew up the proposal, Monsieur Lemaire, who is not a Socialist but is a former director of the French State Railways. In the course of his speech—and this is what we approved in the Council of Europe—he said:Competition in the field of transport is not genuine competition as in other sectors of industry.He also said:Cheap transport can only come as a result of harmonisation between road and rail transport.1689 All that is true, as every expert in road or rail transport knows. I think it hypocritical that Conservative hon. Members who attend the Council of Europe should vote for this harmonising of road and rail transport there, and then support the break up of that system in this country. I think it is sheer hypocrisy. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) is not present now, because I wanted to point out that his proposals repudiated the stand taken on this matter at Strasbourg by his noble Friend Lord Layton who, I understand, has something to do with the leadership of his party.
I suggest that the. House ought to accept the Amendment moved from our side, not as a wrecking Amendment—although of course that is its purpose at the moment—but to postpone the Bill genuinely and honestly for six months and during that period to accept the advice of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). I would go further and suggest that the whole Bill ought to be examined by a group of transport experts without any political prejudice in that group. Let them come forward and tell us what ought to be done to make our transport system more efficient and to put us on the road towards getting cheaper transport. Let our next discussion on transport in this House be not on the basis of this Bill, but on the basis of the experts' report.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I shall not, in the few minutes I have, follow in any detail the speech of the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling)—except to say this, that I am puzzled why so many on the other side of the House seem to have heard of only one railway director, and that is my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). They constantly refer only to him, but there were others, of course. There was Lord Woolton and the present Minister of Housing and Local Government—both prominent railway directors.
I shall not follow that point further, but I think that the part-time railway director was a very useful individual who brought local interest into the railway service, although, of course, it was the railway managers who were in charge of the actual management, and not the directors. I have had some experience 1690 of the railways, as some hon. Members know. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) referred to the fact that he had served on the Great Western Railway. Well, so did I—in the legal department, dealing with the very sort of Acts referred to in Clause 19 of this Bill.
I have no doubt at all that those particular Sections of those Acts have had a very hampering effect on railway development, and I very much welcome this Bill which, for the first time, proposes to repeal those very ancient statutory provisions which ought to have been repealed at least 30 years ago. I think that by getting rid of those ancient provisions, which have for so long hampered the railways, we supply a much better answer to the railway problems than any attempt to integrate road and rail transport. I say that quite sincerely and from my own experience—and that, even if that policy of integration had had a chance to succeed, this answer, this novel answer which is for the first time put forward in this House, is a much better answer and one much more likely to be effective.
In my view, the attempt to integrate not only has not succeeded but could not succeed with the present facilities available to the British Transport Commission. I am assuming, of course, a particular meaning to the word "integration." Everybody has used this word in a different sense. I am assuming that the purpose of the 1947 Act was to set up a transport monopoly in this country whereby all the principal forms of transport were to be in one hand, and that under Government control.
That policy became, if that was the policy—and I assume it was—of the 1947 Act, quite impossible from the moment when it was decided in Committee, when the Bill was going through the House, that the C licence holders would not be nationalised; and the policy became a complete farce when it transpired that only a third of the omnibuses came under the control of the British Transport Commission—a third in the whole country, and a fifth outside London.
Lord Hurcomb and his associates were given an almost impossible task. They were told to integrate the public services of inland transport for both passengers and goods, and they were told to main- 1691 tain the freedom of choice of service, and, nevertheless, to keep their organisation as one—which, apparently, was a statutory provision for Hobson's choice—and fourthly they were told that, taking one year with another, they had got to make the business pay. To do all that they were given only the railways, a third of the omnibuses and one in 20 of the lorries on the road, and it is not surprising that it was quite impossible to carry out their task.
§ Mr. D. Jones
They were not in control of a single bus undertaking. They were minority shareholders in every undertaking in which they had shares.
§ Mr. Wilson
Yes. I am talking of what happened since nationalisation. As a net result, at the present time the British Transport Commission has direct control of only a fifth of the buses outside London. It has a share interest in a great number of others, as the railways had. I was going to make that very point, because I was rather puzzled by some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who seemed to regard Ribble Motor Services and the Midland Red Company as private monopolies. In fact, 42 per cent. of the shares of the Ribble Company are owned by the British Transport Commission, and in the case of the Midland Red, 50 per cent. of the shares are owned by the British Transport Commission; and in both cases there are B.T.C. directors on those boards, as there were railway directors before them.
At any rate, the general position in regard to buses is that of the 75,000 public service vehicles in the country the B.T.C. has direct control, through private negotiation or inheritance, of only 24,000—14,000 in Scotland and the provinces and 10,000 in London; the municipalities still have 21,000; and the private firms, big and small, have 30,000 between them.
As to the lorries, I put forward the figure of one in 20 of the lorries on the road. I think that is generous. I have arrived at that figure by assuming that there are 120,000 A and B licence holders and 850,000 C licence holders, and I have added to that 40,000 British Road Service vehicles, and 14,000 cartage and delivery traffic railway vehicles. On those figures, if we assume that there are 40,000 British Road Service vehicles 1692 available, which there are not, as their available operating stock was given in the last Report as 35,000, it will be seen that only a very small minority of the lorries are, in fact, at the disposal of the British Transport Commission.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent)
On his argument, is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Commission ought to have had wider powers; that the Government ought to have given the Commission greater powers to get on with the job, which they apparently did not do?
§ Mr. Wilson
My argument is that the limited transport facilities the Commission were given made integration quite impossible.
I return the question to the Opposition. What are they going to do? Is it their policy to demand that C licence holders should be nationalised? If so, will they make that quite clear to, the Co-operative societies? Is it their demand to have complete nationalisation of all buses? If so, will they please make that clear to all the municipalities which still own 21,000 buses? If not, if that is not their policy, will they please regard this Bill in a rather more objective manner to see whether they cannot make it a Bill which will be of value? I have no doubt that it can be of great value, and that the removal of these ancient restrictions under Clause 19 can be of the greatest value to the railway service.
It is curious how such drastic provisions ever arose. In this age of jet propulsion, and so on, we rather forget the attitude of our ancestors towards the railways. We have only to look back at the art and literature of the days when the railways were developing to see exactly what our forbears thought of them. There is Turner's picture "Steam and Speed" depicting a railway engine crossing Wharncliffe Viaduct in a storm, chasing a hare and just about to run it down—the machine which is more powerful than the elements and faster than the fastest animal Turner knew.
There is Frith's picture of Paddington Station in the middle of the last century, with various incidents illustrative of the joys and sorrows of human existence, all revolving round the central portrait of a railway engine. Or there is Dickens's description in "Dombey and Son" of the 1693 villain Carker flying across Europe in a post-chaise, his mind in a whirl, hearing nothing but bells and wheels and the sound of horses' feet galloping, and just before the death he was about to meet by being run over by a train, hearing what Dickens described asa rush and sweep of something through the air, like Death upon the wing.That is Dickens's description of a railway engine.
Our ancestors regarded the railway as a sort of Frankenstein monster which had to be hemmed about with all sorts of restrictions, and they evolved many restrictions which have long since become obsolete. We have allowed ourselves to be haunted by these ghosts ever since: we have had an exaggerated veneration of the powers and omnipotence of railway companies, and allowed these old provisions to continue for much too long. It is time they went.
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas
Would it not be correct to say that all these restrictions the hon. Gentleman is retailing took place under a succession of largely Conservative Governments?
§ Mr. Wilson
I am not talking of the times of recent Conservative Governments. I am talking of 50 and 100 years ago. I am not blaming anyone in particular, I am saying that that was the attitude towards the railways, and that we have allowed unreasonable restrictions to continue too long. I believe that if these restrictions are removed now, it will give fresh impetus to British trade and a fresh opportunity for those employed in the railway service.
§ Mr. Collick
On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as to the rights of private Members? A large number of hon. Members have been sitting on these benches almost continuously during this debate. They have a large number of constituents actively affected by this Bill, and they want to put forward points of view in order to protect their constituents. There are other hon. Members here who speak for large organisations of working people, whose livelihood and whose working conditions are affected by this Bill.
We sought, last week, to get from the Leader of the House extra time so that 1694 the whole House would have an opportunity of adequately discussing this Bill. I submit for the judgment of the House that there has been no such opportunity, and I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, what steps are now open for private Members to take in order that they may have proper facilities for speaking on behalf of the constituents whom they represent?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
Some of the speeches have been very long speeches, and to that extent I am in sympathy with the hon. Member's point of view, but this is not a question for the Chair. It is a question for the House itself.
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order. I understand that Mr. Speaker and others occupying the Chair have some advantage in selecting, from lists before them, Members to speak.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That, too, is not a point of order. The selection of speakers is for the Chair.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I agree that on a matter of this kind one cannot raise a point of order, but what I want to ask you to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is to consult Mr. Speaker in order to try to avoid a repetition of this kind of thing. My hon. Friends are making no reflection on the Chair. They know the difficulties of the Chair. What we are saying is that, in future, this House when dealing with important questions of this kind—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
There may be methods of raising that matter, but this is not the time to do it, nor is this the method.
§ Mr. Manuel
I have tried on several occasions to raise this matter and I can find no successful way of doing so. I am now asking you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, how I can raise it?
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I have great sympathy with my hon. Friends, and I think that they are joined in their protest by many silent hon. Members on the other side of the House. It is undoubtedly the case that I saw a veritable forest of hon. Members who wished to speak spring up from the other side about two hours ago. I am not sure whether they wished to support the Government or to attack it, but, at any rate, they wished to speak, and that, coupled with the large number of hon. Members on this side who wish to speak, seems to me to suggest that there was every justification for the request put forward last Thursday for a three-day debate.
I wish to register a protest on behalf of my hon. Friends that the time allowed for this debate has been far too short, in view of the magnitude of the issues with which we have to deal. I understand that the Home Secretary wishes to speak for 35 minutes, and I will, therefore, do my best to compress what I have to say into the remaining time allotted to me.
I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) and many other hon. Members, including the Minister, have attempted to divert our attention as much as possible from the road haulage to the railways aspect of the scene. It seems to me that while the changes which are proposed for the railways may very well be necessary, for they may help the railways, nevertheless it is very convenient for the Government to be able to draw across the trail of the sale of road haulage units at ridiculously low prices the red herring that they are to make some alterations in railway charges which, as the hon. Member for Truro said, should have been made many years ago.
I do not wish to under-rate the importance of what the Government are doing in the field of railway charges and the railway system generally. Indeed, I think it is of the utmost importance, and, 1696 because I think it is important, that, to me, is another rather remarkable reason why the Government should have plunged into what they are doing in connection with the railways without making any proper inquiry into the effect of their proposal. My interpretation of it is that what the Government are doing in relation to the railways by altering the system of charges is transferring them from a public undertaking into a competitive commercial concern. If that is so, very substantial repercussions flow from it and it can mean very substantial changes in the whole pattern of our trade and industry.
What will happen if the Minister accepts an Amendment which may be put forward, to which he has promised to give sympathetic consideration, to provide that, as from the passing of the Act, the railways shall be relieved of the responsibility for publishing their charges or for giving equal treatment to all classes of users?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I said nothing of the kind. I must apologise for intervening in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but all I said was that the changes proposed in the Bill would not, under the Bill, come into operation until after a charges scheme had been imposed. I said that we were open to consider the possibility of bringing it into operation earlier, but that the Bill itself demanded the publication of maximum charges.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I really do not think that that intervention was worth while, in view of the shortness of the time left to me. I fully understand that the railways have to publish maximum charges and I fully understand that they have not to publish other charges. The only point is at what stage in time they will be free not to publish their charges and be free to give preference between one consumer and another as between one trader and another. This is a most important point.
Let us consider what will happen assuming that the Bill goes through. Presumably, from the day it becomes law the Railway Executive will instruct all its stationmasters to withdraw the rate book and it will no longer be possible for a trader to go to his local goods manager and say, "I wish to see the rate for carting this piece of merchandise from A to B and I also wish to know that you are 1697 not offering me a rate which you will not offer to my competitor."
These have been very valuable safeguards for traders in the past, and yet at one fell swoop they are to be removed without inquiry of any sort. The Government have not a ghost of an idea what the consequences of doing this will be, and it is significant that it is only as the realisation of this begins to dawn upon the small traders that they are building up their opposition to the proposals contained in the Bill.
It may well be that there is a case for the proposals—I certainly think it ought to be argued—but I certainly do not think it ought to be decided perhaps on the basis of a Guillotine after half-an-hour's discussion in the House when the Closure is moved by the Government Chief Whip. This is perhaps the most important single change which has ever been proposed in the history of the railways. I observe that the hon. Member for Truro agrees with me. Do the Government really think they are discharging their responsibilities just by sticking this into the Bill at this late stage as a result of fresh consideration by the Minister without any inquiry at all? I warn him he is building up for himself consequences which cannot yet be clear to any of us.
I should like now to say that the small traders of this country will know whom they have to saddle with the responsibility if they find that all uneconomic services are cut out because the railways are not prepared to provide them; if they find they are unable to compete with someone who is able to offer large-scale commodities to the railways and get favourable terms with them. It is really a most fundamental change.
The real question that the Government have to settle on this—and I think they have settled it though in my view they have settled it much too rapidly—is, are we to give the best transport service possible for a given expenditure of money, or are we to say that the transport services are to be provided at the minimum cost to the provider of them? In other words, is the cost to the provider to determine what services are to be given, or is the social cost to the community to determine it?
These are two very different conceptions. In the Transport Bill the concept- 1698 tion undoubtedly is that the social cost to the community—what the community can afford in the way of transport services—shall determine what shall be provided. Everyone knows we have argued almost ad nauseum in the House that the cost to the provider of transport, and therefore the cost to the man who gets the benefit of it, may be much lower than the real cost to the community. There is no way of distinguishing it.
What the Government have done is to say in this Bill—as they are entitled to do—"We are not going to provide the best possible service dependent upon the amount of the resources we can devote to this. We are prepared to see duplication of resources and perhaps duplication of services without being able to determine the real cost to the community of what we are doing." We are fundamentally opposed to that approach to our problems in these days. If there is one thing that is clear in Britain in 1952 it is that we have got to parcel parsimoniously the resources that are available to us in order to recover from our economic plight.
How can we determine to do that if transport is to be exempt from the general scheme of parcelling our investment resources, and if we are able to duplicate transport facilities in a way that is open to no other industry and without determining the cost to the community? The Government approach to this is what we expect from a Government of the complexion of the present one, and that is why be believe that fundamentally this Government is inadequate to deal with the economic problems of Britain.
I should like to go on for a moment and deal with another aspect of this matter that has been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) and the right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn), namely, coastwise shipping and its relation with our transport industry. Coastwise shipping handles a great deal of tonnage which is carried around the coasts of this country. In the past, because of competition first from the railways and subsequently from the roads, we have had to subsidise coastwise shipping while it remained in private hands.
I wish to make it quite clear for my hon. Friends on this side of the House, that we believe that coastwise shipping is 1699 an essential, strategic need of this country; that we cannot possibly allow it to founder and we believe it must be supported. On the other hand, there is no reason why it should cost us more than it need. My complaint against the Government's proposals here is that they mean that coastwise shipping may well cost the nation more than it need do if this were properly planned as was intended under the Transport Act.
I will illustrate what I mean. Apparently, to try to get some order into the rates that are charged for carrying goods, there is to be an advisory committee. Its very name implies that it will not have executive powers. That committee will recommend, presumably to the coastwise shipping interests, to the road hauliers and to the railways, what rates should be charged in order to preserve our coastwise shipping, and to give it a fair deal.
That is fine. I am delighted that they will recommend it, but who is to see that the recommendation is carried out? In the case of the railways there would be no doubt. They are a public undertaking and they have national responsibilities. The Minister would be able to require them to say exactly in what way they would carry out the recommendations of the advisory committee. Can the Minister undertake to do that with the road hauliers? Of course he cannot. He knows that he cannot possibly answer on behalf of the private road hauliers and say that they will be prepared to adhere to any rates that are agreed on by an advisory committee. Bless my soul, they spent the whole of the 1930's breaking voluntary agreements; why should we expect them to act differently in the 1950's, when competition will be very fierce in the transport industry?
Make no mistake about it. We have today an excess of overall transport facilities in this country, with fierce competition. Does anybody on the Treasury Bench think that the road hauliers will restrain themselves and adhere to a voluntary agreement reached by an advisory committee, in order to preserve the interests of coastwise shipping, about which they do not care a fig? This is a monstrous proposal. I put it to the Home Secretary and to the Minister of Transport that it is in the interests of 1700 coastwise shipping, which is one of our most important interests, that the Bill should be amended in such a way as to place a duty on road hauliers to disclose their rates, where they are charging rates competing with coastwise shipping. The Minister knows that to do so would be like putting an umbrella on the main deck of a tramp steamer to protect it against the seas that will sweep over it. It would be as useless as that, and the Minister knows it.
I come to a word about the isolated areas of our country, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling made such an excellent speech yesterday. It is rather appropriate that the Home Secretary should reply to this debate. He has a dual responsibility because he is also Minister for Welsh Affairs. It happens that I represent a Welsh constituency, so he and I can speak in the same terms, even if neither of us speaks Welsh. I will not venture into the Welsh language, because that would be out of order.
I put this to the Home Secretary. Apparently, both in Scotland and in Wales it will be open to the Minister to require the Transport Commission to divest itself of a number of road undertakings, both passenger and haulage. Road haulage undertakings will go automatically, if the Bill is passed. Let us consider road passenger undertakings for a moment. Does the Minister for Welsh Affairs really believe that private enterprise bus undertakers in Wales will buy back buses on the unprofitable routes? Is it really the function of private enterprises to buy back buses on which they will make a loss, or will they only buy back buses on which they think they will make a profit?
If it is the second, are the Transport Commission to run the services that make a loss? Have the public to subsidise those? Will it be the job of the Commission to get sufficient revenue from the railways to ensure that the unprofitable, isolated routes in Scotland can be provided with bus services that no private enterprise is prepared to run? Is that the Tories' conception of the public interest? It may well be true that they do not care for the public interest, but at least they need not be so naked in their indecency. I would like the Minister for Welsh Affairs, who has a particular 1701 responsibility in this matter, to deal with this issue when he replies to the debate.
At this stage I want to raise the ancillary and related question of the sale of the road haulage vehicles. We have a number of depots in Wales—and, of course, in Scotland and also in England. Has the Minister for Welsh Affairs any idea of how many road haulage lorries he expects to be sold in Wales? Has the Minister of Transport any idea of how many lorries he expects to sell throughout Britain? The unofficial estimates that have been made are extremely low.
The Minister has given us no idea of how his mind is moving on this. There are people who make guesses—I do not know with what authority—that as few as 20 per cent. of the vehicles will be sold. Is that the view of the Home Secretary? Does he think it will be 20 per cent. or 50 per cent., or is he perhaps the only man in the House who believes it will be 100 per cent.? It is reasonable to ask that the Home Secretary should tell us what is in the mind of the Government in view of the rumours that there are few takers for these lorries.
If they do not sell 100 per cent., and, of course, they will not—they will not sell 50 per cent., in my view. I agree that I am in no better position to judge than others but, if they do not sell 30 per cent. or 50 per cent., what will the Government do with the rest? And on what basis will they sell those they do sell? Are the buyers to make a tender to be allowed to take the pick of the best vehicles, leaving the Commission with the rump? Is that the idea, so that once again the public will be saddled with the oldest and least roadworthy vehicles while private enterprise will be able to come in and take at a low price—at a loss to the community, as the Government freely announce in their Bill—the best vehicles?
We deserve to have from the Home Secretary tonight an outline of what is in the mind of the Government as to the future of the road haulage undertaking. We know the Executive will be abolished, but will the vehicles that are left be attached to the Commission? Will they be able to operate them as a separate company side by side with the company they will be able to form under Clause 4 for special traffics? These are relevant questions which are concerning everybody in the industry who thinks seriously 1702 about these matters, and I hope the Minister will take us into his confidence and tell us tonight what are his views about this.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) dealt faithfully with the question of the levy this afternoon. I cannot help remembering that Lord Leathers, in another place, six months ago, told us that the levy was the keystone of the Bill. What a keystone. The Government have already dislodged it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Millstone."] If the keystone is becoming a millstone, that is the fault of the present Minister of Transport. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tombstone."] Eventually it will become a tombstone. I am much obliged for all those suggestions; I only wish I had thought of them myself.
This keystone has already been knocked sideways and if the keystone is dislodged the rest of the edifice begins to rock. That is exactly why the right hon. Gentleman has had to tamper with the railway charges. He did not want to do that; he did not start with that idea. The idea the Government had a year ago was to introduce a simple one-Clause Bill selling off the road haulage undertaking. When they began to see what the keystone meant and what happened when it was moved, they found themselves driven into a situation where they are having to reform on a fundamental basis the whole charging system of the railways.
Why are they tampering with this without an inquiry first? Why do they not make some inquiries into the consequences of what they are doing? Really, Mr. Speaker, although the Minister of Transport is a fast learner, I do not think that even yet he has fully appreciated all the consequences of what is being done.
I am bound to say—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not take this amiss—that he has brought his transport history very rapidly up to date. The speech he made in May showed that he had reached about 1920. I thought that yesterday's speech showed that he had reached 1930, and if he goes on for another six months I believe that he will not be just across the Gangway from the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn)—he will be sitting beside him.
1703 The more the Government delve into this problem of the relationship of rail and road the more nearly they are driven to the conception that the hon. Member for Abingdon has advocated in this case. Is it not significant that the most experienced Member on that side of the House should differ so profoundly from his Front Bench upon this issue?
If I had to summarise my criticisms in the few minutes that remain to me, I should say that they are ninefold. First the Government are selling valuable national assets in a hurry, without proper cause, depressing the market by placing them all on the market at the same time, and at a period of trade recession, so that they will not fetch as good a price as when they were bought—bought at the peak, sold at the trough. That is good business for the Road Haulage Association, but not such good business for the nation.
The Government are selling off the vehicles at a time when, as the Minister told us, vehicles are idle. The manner of sale resembles the way in which they got rid of Government surplus stores after the end of the war—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who did?"]—in the way—[Interruption.] I am very glad that the Government have at last found something to cheer up about. After the late war, the Government surplus stores were disposed of in a way which enabled my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) to "claw back," to use his own graphic phrase, some hundreds of millions of pounds. We know that after the war some people made a profit out of the deal.
My second criticism is that the Government are selling assets that they bought for £70 million, which some people now estimate are worth £100 million, for a sum the maximum figure of which is put at £50 million. Why are they doing this, and why are they making up the Road Haulage Disposal Board of those who will benefit from the transaction? And, on the levy, the Government are making those people who will have to pay the levy, pay for the privilege of setting up their competitors in business. It is no wonder that they are opposed to it. No wonder the chambers of commerce have written the document that has been sent to right hon. and hon. Members.
1704 I am told that one of the presidents of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce said that that did not represent their policy. But what does Lord Mancroft, who is a Vice-President, have to say? What does the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Sir A. Gridley), an ex-President, have to say, or Lord Teviot, or the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll), who is an Honorary Secretary? Do they say that this is not their polcy?
I put this to the Home Secretary. The Parliamentary Secretary thought that there was not much difference between the two of them. The Secretary-General of the Association takes comfort from the fact that his Association is confident that the variations it has suggested can be achieved within the framework of the Bill. Let us look at the variations which are suggested:The whole principle of a levy should be strongly resisted.Are the Government prepared to accept that?The vital interests of users could be seriously impaired if the existing network of services … were disbanded or disrupted.Are the Front Bench prepared to accept that? There are several others:Before fundamental policy changes were determined … there should be an independent, speedy and effective enquiry into the whole of the British Transport Commission's services.Are the Government prepared to accept that? No, they are not. This document will stand, and I think that the variations that the Secretary-General proposes will not be found within the framework of the Bill unless there is a more substantial revolt from the back benches than has seemed likely so far.
The third criticism is that the Minister has given no information about the number of those who want to come back and no evidence that they will give a better service. There are many other points that I should like to make, but I will give the Home Secretary the time that, I know, he wants.
I must comment on one or two matters. First of all, the men's conditions will be worsened, despite what the Minister of Transport says. There are agreements now between the Road Haulage Executive and the men's unions. Who is going to take them over? It is no use referring 1705 us to the Road Haulage Wages Council. They only fix the minimum rates. They are not responsible for determining what the trade union agreements shall be. They cannot negotiate on behalf of the hundreds of small hauliers throughout the country. That is why the men are concerned about this, and anyone who has studied the problem knows that the people in the industry are very concerned about the prospects.
Finally, it is likely to have a disastrous effect on the geographically isolated communities. It will jeopardise coastwise shipping, it will strangle the Transport Commission, and it will alter the railways liability without evidence and without a ghost of an idea of what it will mean.
I must state the Opposition's intentions in this matter. When we are returned to power we shall take over such units as are necessary for an integrated long-distance public system. We put it in that way because, first of all, we do not know how much they are going to be able to sell—we are very doubtful about that—and, secondly, because it may be cheaper to the public not to buy back the vehicles, but merely to allow some of the licences to run out without renewing them. Let us be clear about that.
The Clauses in the 1947 Act which dealt with compensation will not be our guide next time. Let that be clear, and let me detail some of the provisions that will be missing. There will not be any compensation for loss of business next lime, no compensation for those businesses which are severed as between the lorries which run under 25 miles and those which run over 25 miles. The basis of compensation will not be that of equalling the cost of replacing a vehicle by a new one, nor will there be compensation equal to two to five times the average profit. Is that clear? I think I have made the position as clear as is necessary in existing circumstances, so that no one need go into this industry now thinking that he is going to make a good bargain at the public expense. He is not.
In conclusion, I would say that this Bill was certainly more logical than the last Bill, though it is a worse Bill because it takes us further from the completion of an integrated transport system. [Laughter.] The people who laugh now are presumably the same who cheered 1706 Lord Swinton when he told us six months ago, "We know our minds in this matter. We know what we want to do. We do not need a public inquiry."
Three changes already. How many more before we get to the end of this Bill? The Government pride themselves on making amendments. That is not the sign of an open mind, but of half-baked legislation and half-thought-out ideas. The Minister said he was seriously handicapped at the road haulage dinner by the absence of the support of those who had most to gain. That is frank enough. Those who had most to gain were the road hauliers, not the public, not the men in the industry. Their whole policy is wrong because it has been consistently based on the interest of the road hauliers. They are the only people who have anything to gain from this Bill, and that is why we shall oppose it through all its stages.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) for his obvious effort to conclude as quickly as possible in order to give me time. I am less grateful, as he will understand, for the threats which he introduced into his speech. But I should worry more about the threats if I had the slightest idea for whom he was speaking, for what portion of the party and for what executive of the party.
So I shall deal with the main points that have been put forward during the two-day debate; and I say sincerely that I regret that we have not heard some of those who have sat as constantly as I myself during this debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) said today that the main point to him was the forced sale of the assets of the Road Haulage Executive. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has suggested that we on this side of the House wish to get away from that point. I want to make it quite clear that we have no such desire. I propose to deal therefore with that point straight away.
In the course of his speech last night, the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) reminded us that those conducting transport did not produce goods but carried them. But I am quite sure that neither he nor the right hon. 1707 Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South would mean those words for a moment to undervalue the importance of transport in this country. What we are agreed upon, and what all the industrial history of this country shows, is that one great advantage which we have had is the short-haul between our centres of production and the ports from which our exports have gone and to which our imports have come.
Unless we can maintain that advantage by finding the best transport system and making the best use of it, then we are attacking not only efficiency as an ideal but transport as an aid to industry and production. We on this side of the House believe—and this is the great issue between us which I face, just as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East faced it—that in order to maintain a productive industry, and it is vastly predominantly private enterprise, which is today supporting our export trade, we must give importance to the right of choice of those who are carrying on that industry and the commerce of our country.
It one believes in right of choice, if one believes that that person is entitled to some consideration or consultation, then, for all that is said about transport as a whole—and I appreciate what is in the minds of so many hon. Members in all parts of the House—each constituent of transport must be of the greatest possible efficiency.
I see that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Poole) is present. He spoke a short time ago and, as far as I can remember, he is one who has taken part in every transport debate in this Chamber since the end of the war. I hope that hon. Members who have heard me speak on transport on more occasions than they like to remember will do me the justice of agreeing that I have consistently put forward the doctrine of local application as being essential to efficient road transport in this country.
I believe that local application, which can only be done by relatively small units, has four great advantages. By it, we get an understanding of the particular needs of the customer which no nationalised undertaking can have. We get a comprehension of the urgency and importance of proper timing of the arrivals of vehicles. We get the stressing of the 1708 importance of the absence of unnecessary handling, which is essential to large classes of goods, and finally we get a quick and certain delivery which no one has ever been able to show that nationalised industry can give. That is one side of it.
§ Mr. Collick
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. Has he not equally consistently argued in this House that there ought to be no change in railway organisation without an inquiry, and now is he not running away from the whole idea of an inquiry?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing up that point, because it is the next one that I shall deal with. I have always advocated that, as the corollary of that form of road transport, there ought to be greater freedom for the railways. The time when I advocated an inquiry—I remember the occasion very well—was the first time that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East had to go to the Transport Tribunal in a consultative capacity in order to raise the railway rates.
We on these benches put down a Prayer—hon. Members will remember it—on the basis that that could not be done without an independent inquiry by some well known railway people. But what we have done is to seek the advice of representative bodies, and the remarkable thing is that the suggestions that we are putting forward for the improvement and greater freedom of the railways are after consultation, inquiry and discussions, not only with railway people but with traders who may be affected.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and others have asked me to give the reason for and the method of the sale of the vehicles owned by the Commission. The original reason is that the Socialist Measure had two methods of hamstringing road transport. It nationalised the long-distance transport, and then put a clamping limit, with an arbitrary distance, on the transport which was predominantly short-distance. The only way—there is no other way, and no one in this debate has suggested another way—of re-creating what I believe is necessary, which is local application, is by a re-sale of these long-distance units.
1709 The hon. Gentleman quite rightly asked me by what method it should be done. We believe that the method by which to sell them should be by the creation of operable units which will vary in size and will vary in their geographical position. The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) said that the tendency of the road transport industry was towards large units. In 1938 there were only 79 undertakings with over 50 vehicles and only 22 with over 100. Therefore, we say that the right thing is to make available a proper selection and choice of comparable units. To those hon. Members who have created a tale of woe out of the position of the motor industry in order to bolster up their case, I say quite firmly that the chances of selling lorries are enormously increased by the method we suggest and the structure we put up.
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said that the levy was an admission of the destructive character of the Bill. I would remind the House of the indisputable facts. The total cost of acquisitions under the late Government's proposal was between £70 million and £80 million. Of that, £33 million was in relation to goodwill. Goodwill was based on anything from two to five years' purchase of profits. That was the basis basis chosen by the late Government. Therefore it follows, and it cannot be denied—and no one during these two days has sought to deny it—that the profits which the road transport undertakings have acquired must have averaged something in the region of £10 million.
The total net traffic receipts for the four years of operation of the Road Haulage Executive have been £4.7 million, which is certainly far less than sufficient to cover a proper share of their central charges and which amounts to an ultimate loss. No one has had the courage to suggest that we could possibly expect to get a payment back for a goodwill that we had destroyed. [Interruption.] There have been two days during which anyone could have suggested it. I made the point yesterday afternoon and no one has dealt with it.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman is making a challenge. Is not he assuming, by the sale to private enter- 1710 prise, that the public undertaking has failed? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] All right. I am not saying that; he is saying it. He is saying that when it goes back to private enterprise it will resume the high degree of profitability it had before. If that is so, why does he not make private enterprise pay on the basis of that higher profitability?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I remember saying once before that I am more astounded by the naïveté even than by the astuteness of the right hon. Gentleman. If he thinks that after a Socialist Measure has destroyed profits we can expect people to buy back at the private enterprise rate of profit, I wonder what is the basis of his thoughts. Let us follow up the point. On this basis the right hon. Gentleman suggests that we are going to get a fairly light payment; but if we take the fact—as is the fact—that goodwill has gone—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I must say that it is rather hard that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have had two days in which to deal with this point cannot put it except by indicating disagreement with my final speech. What has to be done is that we have to decide how that amount is to be made up. Who should pay for the losses that Socialism has caused?
We believe that the purchaser, getting an operable unit, will pay not only for the assets but for his chance of trade, but if there is something left—and I have explained the basis of that—it is essential to budget for some method of making up that loss to the Commission. That is why the levy was introduced. It would be unfair to leave the loss with the Commission, because that would mean that it would be borne by the users of the railways which form the great bulk of the Commission's undertaking. There is no valid reason—no one has suggested it in this debate—why it should be borne by the taxpayer.
We believe, and we support our belief, that the return of nationalised road transport to private enterprise, and the increased freedom that is given to road hauliers to obtain licences if, and only if, they can show that they can give better services than those which industry is getting at present, confer substantial advantages in freedom of choice and local application to trade and industry. Therefore, we have been prepared to face it.
1711 Even hon. Members opposite know what it means that we have to face. We are prepared to face what we think is the right and equitable thing, that the levy should be paid by the users of transport. Hon. Members opposite have thrown out the suggestion—without tying themselves to it, in the irresponsible way which is popular—that it is not fair to put the levy on the C licensee. If the C licence holder does not contribute, he is put in a privileged position as against the A or B licensee. It would not only put him in a privileged position but would encourage traders to take up more C licences at present. Again I ask hon. Members to be honest in their memory and remember that that has been one of the problems we have all tried to face, rightly or wrongly, over six years of transport discussion.
I come to another point made by the right hon. Gentleman which was really rather extraordinary. That was his amazing remark about the Ribble and the Midland Red Companies. He asked what we were going to do and why were we not going to break up the Ribble and the Midland Red. I do not think he was in the House when my hon. Friend reminded the House that the curious thing about the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company is that 50 per cent. of the shares are held by the British Transport Commission and that, with regard to the Ribble Motor Services, 44.2 per cent. are held by the Transport Commission. Why does the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South want to break up those companies in which the British Transport Commission have already holdings? Of course the answer is—
§ Mr. D. Jones rose—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sorry, I cannot give way. The answer is that the right hon. Gentleman had never thought for a moment about the holding of the Commission; and that the position is that we have laid down that these holdings can be continued; that the advantages that proceed from these holdings can go on at the same time as the standing joint committee machinery, which the right hon. Gentleman will recall when he thinks of the matter; and also that we have put safeguards which will prevent either the monopoly position being 1712 extended or, on the other hand, the control or purchase taking place to an undesirable extent.
There is one other point I want to make clear because hon. Gentlemen have asked about it, and that is the position of the Commission's goods vehicles. Somebody suggested that there was uncontrolled permission for the Commission to purchase further undertakings or vehicles above the six-fifths of collection and delivery vehicles. But, of course, it will be able to use further vehicles only if it gets permission of the licensing authority.
Now I want to deal, if I can, with two other points. Time is short, and I am doing it as quickly as I can. The first point is one which has surprised me. We had first from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South and a few moment ago from the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-East, who has just sat down, doubts—I think that is putting it fairly; "grave" doubts I do not think would be extravagant—about the freedom that is given to the railways; and the interesting thing again is that of the six points that my right hon. Friend mentioned, on which greater freedom is given to the railways, there has been no analysis from the benches opposite in these two days. There has been only one point on which doubt has been expressed. That is the removal of the prohibition against undue preference and the insistence on equality of charging.
I believe that to maintain the railway companies in a strait jacket most of which was designed and built 100 years ago is an impossibility at the present time. How can the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East, who has before attacked us because, he says, we have shown preference to the road hauliers—defend treating the railway companies today as if they were monopolies, and in a day when the whole tenor of his last nine speeches has been to show that there is no monopoly, but that road transport has been in a favourable position? The matter has only to be stated for its absurdity to be exposed to everyone.
But what amazed me even more than this was that objection was made to Clauses 20 and 21, which give some protection to traders and others. I will miss 1713 the first because it is the less controversial, but I want to deal with one point the right hon. Gentleman raised very early in the debate: why were the road traders allowed to object to the railways under Clause 21 and the railways given no corresponding right to object to road transport? If the right hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 8 (3, b), and Clause 8 (4) he will find that there are two things which have not appeared before with regard to road licensing. Under Clause 8 (3, b) charges can be taken into account, and the licensing authority can estimate whether it is a genuine application based on genuine charges or whether it is put forward as a temporary cream-skimming—if I may use that language, which the right hon. Gentleman knows. Under Clauses 8 (4) it is possible for a licensing authority, for the first time, to revoke a licence if it has been obtained by making representations which have not been carried out.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Look at the time.
What I am saying—and I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the point—is that on these applications, both with regard to charges and revocation, not only the railway companies but coastwise shipping can be represented and can make their opinions felt by the refusal or revocation of licences.
I had hoped to deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele). I will try to do so very shortly, because I thought he raised, if I may say so, a fundamental point, when he asked: Why is it necessary
§ to put into a Bill provisions dealing with decentralisation? In fact, he asked us to reconsider that. The reasons that appealed to us were that the set up envisaged by the 1947 Act has produced the cumbersome three-tiered organisation of Commission, Executive and chief regional officer, which, we believe, is incompatible with our policy of securing greater regional freedom for the railways. I have some sympathy with the argument which was advanced that such a set up may be all right for the early days. It certainly is not right, nor should it be tolerated, four years after the Act has come into force, and we believe that an important matter like decentralisation should be dealt with by legislation.
§ There is one other matter with which I should like to deal, and that is the question of the efficient co-ordination of all forms of Scottish transport, which was raised on both sides of the House. The Government are willing to consider any constructive proposals which may be made in Committee, but we believe that adequate powers are already in the Bill to enable the Minister to set up any machinery which may be necessary for the purpose.
§ I say just this in conclusion. This debate has been different from every other transport debate in which I have taken part. It is the only one when, at critical moments, there were but 15 and 18 Members of the Opposition present. I commend this Bill to the House.
§ Question put, "That 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 308; Noes, 282.1719
|Division No. 4.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Campbell, Sir David|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, William (Woodside)||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Carson, Hon. E.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Birch, Nigel||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bishop, F. P.||Channon, H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Black, C. W.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Boothby, R. J. G.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cole, Norman|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Braine, B. R.||Colegate, W. A.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Braithwaire, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Barber, Anthony||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Bullard, D. G.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Crouch, R. F.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Prior-Palmer, Brig, O. L.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Rayner, Brigadier R.|
|De la Bére, Sir Rupert||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Redmayne, M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kaberry, D.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Keeling, Sir Edward||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Donner, P. W.||Lambton, Viscount||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Drewe, C.||Leather, E. H. C.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Russell, R. S.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Linstead, H. N.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Erroll, F. J.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Schofield, Lt.-Col, W. (Rochdale)|
|Fell, A.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Shepherd, William|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Low, A. R. W.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|Fort, R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Foster, John||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||McAdden, S. J.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||McCallum, Major D.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Speir, R. M.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||McKibbin, A. J.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Glyn, Sir Ralph||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Godber, J. B.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gower, H. R.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Storey, S.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Grimond, J.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Summers, G. S.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Markham, Maj. S. F.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Marples, A. E.||Teeling, W.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maude, Angus||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maudling, R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre, A. V. (Macclesfield)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Thompson, Lt.-Cmdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Mellor, Sir John||Tilney, John|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Molson, A. H. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Heath, Edward||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Turton, R. H.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Nicholls, Harmar||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hollis, M. C.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Nutting, Anthony||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Holt, A. F.||Oakshott, H. D.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Hope, Lord John||Odey, G. W.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Partridge, E.||Wills, G.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||York, C.|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Powell, J. Enoch||Mr. Butcher.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Foot, M. M.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Adams, Richard||Forman, J. C.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Albu, A. H.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Freeman, John (Watford)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Monslow, W.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Gibson, C. W.||Moody, A. S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Glanville, James||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Gooch, E. G.||Morley, R.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Baird, J.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Balfour, A.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Mort, D. L.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Moyle, A.|
|Bartley, P.||Grey, C. F.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Beattie, J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Murray, J. D.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Nally, W.|
|Bence, C. R.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Benson, G.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Beswick, F.||Hamilton, W. W.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hannan, W.||Orbach, M.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hardy, E. A.||Oswald, T.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hargreaves, A.||Padley, W. E.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hastings, S.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Hayman, F. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Pannell, Charles|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Herbison, Miss M.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Parker, J.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hobson, C. R.||Paton, J.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Holman, P.||Peart, T. F.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Houghton, Douglas||Poole, C. C.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hoy, J. H.||Popplewell, E.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hubbard, T. F.||Porter, G.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Carmichael, J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rankin, John|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reeves, J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Clunie, J.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Coldrick, W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Rhodes, H.|
|Collick, P. H.||Janner, B.||Richards, R.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Ross, William|
|Daines, P.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Royle, C.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Keenan, W.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kenyon, C.||Short, E. W.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Deer, G.||Kinley, J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, J.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Lewis, Arthur||Snow, J. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edelman, M.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||MacColl, J. E.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McGhee, H. G.||Steele, T.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McInnes, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McLeavy, F.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Ewart, R.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Field, W. J.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Follick, M.||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Weitzman, D.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Wells, William (Walsall)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||West, D. G.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Timmons, J.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Tomney, F.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||Wigg, George||Yates, V. F.|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Wallace, H. W.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Watkins, T. E.||Williams, David (Neath)||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Kaberry.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.