§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
I beg to move, in page 19, line 12, to leave out subsection (2).
We turn now to a different phase of transport. In moving this Amendment, it may be appropriate if I remind the House of the paramount importance of railways in British transport. Very few people seem to realise that it is the busiest system in the world. British Railways carry no fewer than 1,000 million passengers and 285 million tons of freight per annum. Last year they did more business than in any peacetime year before 1939 Seventy per cent. of the revenue of the British Transport Commission is derived from Railway Executive activities.
140 In pre-nationalisation days there were five main groups—L.M.S., L.N.E., Great Western, Southern and London Transport—which engaged in fierce competition except on the occasions when they combined to try to defeat their competitors on the road. They also made an occasional attempt to get a monopoly of air traffic. Since nationalisation those five main groups have been transferred into seven regions subject to the direction of the Railway Executive, who are the agents of the B.T.C. This organisation has functioned during the last five years. A writer in the January issue of the "British Railway Magazine" quite properly described those years as "Five years of hard labour."
The House should appreciate what has been done during that period, and for the purpose of accuracy I wish to quote the following:We can point to many successful results of the efforts made to achieve increased efficiency and economy. New standard flat-bottom track has been introduced which is stronger, has 16,900 fewer components to the mile and is cheaper in maintenance than the pre-war track. There has been rapid growth in the use of mechanised appliances; in the last three years, 1,000 miles of track have been laid in pre-assembled lengths. The new British Railways standard locomotives, carriages and wagons have been designed to permit the maximum availability throughout Britain—a result often dreamed of but never tackled in 141 the old days. The 12 standard types of locomotives which have been evolved will eventually cover the duties now performed by over 400 types. Some 1,500 fewer locomotives are today needed than at the end of 1947, and they are doing more work. Moreover, they now run, on average, 32,183 miles without casualty, compared with the 1949 figure of 15,845 miles. They are also run more efficiently. In 1951 they consumed 2.58 lb. a mile less coal than in 1947, and although they ran 10 million more miles, the coal used decreased by 285,000 tons.It is only fair to the Railway Executive that those facts should be placed upon the records of the House.
The article goes on:Types of wagons, in the five years, have been reduced from 480 to 90. New 24f-ton wagons have been produced for coal and maximum capacity wagons for iron ore, while the number of all types of wagons out of service for repairs has, since 1947, been reduced by a half. In building locomotives, coaches and wagons, it has been possible to use all British Railway workshops on a unified national basis, allocating work for any or all regions to the shops best equipped to carry it out, lowering costs by millions of pounds. Unification has enabled through-interregional working of locomotives and crews to be widely introduced, and traffic is now sent by the most direct route, saving both time and cost. It has been possible, without sacrificing efficiency, to reduce the number of district departmental offices by 48, and by simplified working 71 goods depots, 34 marshalling yards and 36 motive power depots and sub-depots have been closed. Hundreds of store items have been standardised and this, with central purchasing, means smaller stocks and big economies. Qualities of paper used, have, for instance, been reduced from 100 different kinds to 17; over 7,300 forms have been eliminated.That is a very creditable achievement in five years, and it is something of which we have heard nothing at all from hon. Gentlemen opposite. These achievements have been brought about despite the shortage of very valuable material and the heavy restriction on capital expenditure. This is the Executive that Clause 14 proposes to abolish without the Government telling the House what is going to take its place.
In the Committee stage the Minister said that he was sorry that the word "abolish" had been included in the Bill. On reflection, I think he must be very sorry indeed. What he really meant to insert in the Bill was that the Executive should be recast, but having done that he would not have invented anything new, because it was common ground between 142 the British Transport Commission and the Railway Executive that as their experience increased they would do everything necessary to recast the functions of the Executive to bring about more efficient and economical working.
That recasting process was actually in operation before this Bill was drafted, and if the Parliamentary Secretary is going to reply to this discussion, I ask him to state quite frankly what has happened to the scheme submitted by the British Transport Commission to the Minister in July of last year. The Commission had their own ideas as to how the Railway Executive could be replaced and how their functions could be recast. Although seven months have elapsed since that scheme was submitted, the British Transport Commission have had no acknowledgment.
I want the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House what his right hon. Friend thinks of that scheme if he has seen it. If he has not seen it, why has he not seen it, and if he has studied it and is not prepared to recommend it to the House, why is he objecting to it? In view of the requests that have been made from hon. Members opposite for a new scheme or a different system, I think the right hon. Gentleman owes it to hon. Members on the Government side of the House as well as to the Opposition to give us his views on the subject. It is a very serious matter indeed if the Minister proposes to destroy a very valuable piece of machinery without indicating what is going to take its place.
I gather from the terms of the Clause that there are to be new areas. There are at least seven regions, and are the new areas going to be greater or fewer in number? What are to he their terms of reference? Who is going to co-ordinate their activities? Are they going to report direct to the British Transport Commission, or are we to have a new co-ordinating body, coordinating the activities of the new areas, the number of which we do not know? Nor have we any idea what they are to be given to do. Instead of de-centralising, the Minister will be creating more machinery than there has ever been before, and the whole thing will end in confusion.
The Minister says that he wants this scheme to be prepared by railway experts. Of course he does; but if he is to give 143 them a right and proper opportunity he ought to have the courtesy to acknowledge their proposals and have them analysed so as to give the House the benefit of his point of view and enable us to come to a conclusion whether the new proposals can be favourably compared with the old. It is because we are concerned about these matters that we have tabled the Amendment.
Decentralisation has been in operation for some considerable time and it is going on in an orderly fashion. The transport industry has benefited from that move. When transport was nationalised it was a tremendous venture, not only for the Government but for the men and women employed in the industry. They had had an unhappy and in some respects bitter experience with their former employers. The last Government said, "In nationalising transport we will take care that the best interests of the employees will not suffer. We will not interfere with your superannuation funds and we will give very fair consideration to your applications for increases in wages and salaries. We will do what has never been done before, give fair consideration to welfare schemes for the employees of the railways."
The employees wondered, "Can we trust this Government? It has been bad enough under private enterprise. Now we are going to be nationalised. Shall we be any better off?" They were conservative by nature but happily they were not Conservative in politics. They gave their votes for the Labour Government, and in doing so brought about a transformation in the industry that they could not have imagined would take place in so short a time.
The hon. Member must not widen his argument beyond the scope of the Railway Executive.
§ Mr. Morris
If I have offended, Sir, I am very sorry. I am trying to prove that in abolishing the Railway Executive the Government are taking away something which has proved to be a public and a private asset. It is because of the fear we have that the abolition of this Executive will be to the detriment of the employees as well as the public interest that I am describing what I regard as the human aspect of the matter.
144 Perhaps I may make one more pertinent reference. The Railway Executive have been trying to prevail on the employees to recognise that they have a mutual stake in the prosperity of transport, and they have been patient and persevering in their efforts. They have set up a college to train young men for the higher posts. Even as I speak, at Shanklin, Isle of Wight, a school is going on which is attended by representatives of the management and staffs of all grades. The result of the experiment proves that it is highly successful; but just as the Railway Executive and the B.T.C. are managing to win the confidence and the loyalty of the staffs, somebody says, "This Executive must go." We are not afraid of a change and we are quite willing to do so, but we would like to know what we are to change to. If the Minister has the slightest idea of what he is going to do, we ask him to accept the Amendment.
The Minister has given the subject of transport very careful study during the Recess and since the Bill has been brought forward. I do not deny, and I imagine, that the Parliamentary Secretary has done so, too. I cannot resist the conclusion that the more Ministers have studied the Bill the more they have realised in their hearts that this is a bad Bill. I wish they had the courage to go to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet and say, "We have been compelled to examine the Bill in the greatest detail. We are still of the view of the Government that we ought not to have nationalisation of road transport. We are retaining the nationalisation of railways, but experience teaches us that some of the proposals are to the detriment of the public, of trade and commerce, and of the employees. If we persist in this we shall lose the confidence of every section of the community."
In submitting this Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters, my appeal to them is to have that courage and to say, "We have placed the welfare of the country first and foremost "The Prime Minister himself said in a speech about two months ago that a Government does not demean itself when it yields to the pressure of public opinion and when it agrees that the evidence submitted is of such a character that the Government cannot deny its validity.
145 I say that in view of the evidence we are submitting in respect of this and other Amendments, the Government cannot resist the conclusion that this Bill is not the best thing they could do; that it requires, not recasting, not amending, but to be thrown on the scrap heap, and a further effort made. If hon. Members opposite really are concerned about the prosperity of the economy of Great Britain, and if they have a kindly thought for the welfare of the employees concerned, they will say to the Prime Minister, "Let us make a further effort. We shall not lose a scrap of dignity, indeed we might enhance our reputation with the British public and make the British transport service the best service in the world."
§ Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)
I beg to second the Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris), who so ably moved the Amendment, has a knowledge of this subject which is certainly not exceeded in this House, and I doubt whether it is exceeded outside. My hon. Friend rightly called attention to what will be some of the effects of the destruction of the Railway Executive set up under the 1947 Act, which has already begun to show some of the tremendous advantages resulting to this country to the travelling public and to the transport users from the centralisation which could take place only under such a body as was set up by that Act.
The Railway Executive began to work on something which was a legacy from pre-war days. The 1921 Act was an advance upon all that had preceded it, but there were obvious flaws in that Act and the difficulties which were discovered as a result of its working were put right by the 1947 Act. The later Act created a system on the railways which, as I have stated, was already beginning to show first-class results for the community.
This is to be destroyed, and in a way which we on this side of the House deprecate strongly. It is not, as in the case of the 1921 Act, being brought before the House in such a way that we can discuss thoroughly what is the intention of the Government of the day for the future of this great industry. Instead of that, we are told that there is to be a 146 scheme prepared by the Transport Commission, who will in turn report to the Government, etc. The scheme will probably be brought to this House—indeed, it must be—in such a way that we shall be able either to reject or accept it and we shall have no possibility of amending the scheme which will finally be brought before us. It really means that the House of Commons will be practically powerless in a matter which will affect the future of the industry and of those employed in it.
As I see it, there is only one thing that the Government have yet said in favour of their proposals and against the Railway Executive as it now exists and works; that is that the Railway Executive procedure brings about excessive centralisation. The Government cling to that dogmatic assertion and repeat it over and over again without ever bringing before the House a shread of evidence as to the difficulties created as a result of this so-called excessive centralisation.
The very reverse, of course, is the case. The central system produced by the 1947 Act is, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, bringing great economies to the railway system. It is doing something which the 1921 Act started upon. It is true that hon. Members who go up and down the railway system can always find someone who will say that the old system was better; one can always find a railway servant who will say just that, someone who has what I call a nostalgic longing for yesterday.
I went through that process myself. I was an old Taff Vale Railway worker. That was one of the small railways absorbed under the 1921 Act, and I remember that for many years after that Act came into being, after we had merged with the Great Western Railway. from time to time we would look back and say that things were all done so much better under the old Taff Vale Railway.
But the younger members who really examined the position and who were not looking back towards their lost youth, as were some of the older ones, came to appreciate that what had been done by the merger from the Taff Vale Railway to the Great Western Railway was a move in the right direction, a move which produced great railway economies and went 147 far towards saving the Great Western Railway and the whole of the area covered by the Taff Vale Railway from many of the difficulties which they would inevitably have suffered had it not been for the 1921 Act. Looking backwards, that longing is rather like my own longing for mother's cooking; it is a nostalgic looking back to the appetite that I used to have.
What is happening now, and what is inevitable under the Act—that is, the Executive and centralisation, of which complaints are made—is that we are going through to some extent the same sort of process as we went through under the 1921 Act. Already we see great economies emerging as a result of the 1947 Act.
Looking back again at my experience from the 1921 Act, I remember one single depot in South Wales where we passed on traffic from the old Taff Vale Railway to the old Barry Railway as a result of the operation of what some called "this centralisation." In those days, £260 a week was saved as a result of that single action. Very much the same sort of thing is inevitably going on under the existing system of merging the four groups into one single group under the Railway Executive.
Mr. John Elliot, the chairman of the Railway Executive, has from time to time stressed the advantages that are accruing to the people as a result of what is happening now in the industry. Only some four years have passed since the Act became operative and in that time, as Mr. Elliot so well points out, we have begun to produce the results that we want to produce. But he also says, and in this every practical railway-man will agree, that we are up to now only touching some of the fringes of the economies that can be made, and will be made, if we are allowed to continue.
These points are important from the point of view not only of the travelling public but of men engaged in this industry. It is an old and common phrase, but it means something to us in this industry, that men's lives are invested in it. It is not right that such an industry should be played with by a Government as this Government are playing with it at this time. The Government are only doing 148 this in order to satisfy those supporters who, when they were sitting on these benches, time after time complained of excessive centralisation. The vast majority of experts on transport who really understand the matter are against the Government on these Clauses.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
I think it would be a common view that where there is a large merger of one kind or another it is almost invariably accompanied by certain economies in some directions and increases in costs in other directions. One would not expect the body itself to speak so much of the increases in costs as about the economies to be effected. It is not to be wondered at that the hon. Member for Swansea. West (Mr. P. Morris), who moved the Amendment with such conviction and rather seemed to make a second Second Reading speech, drew attention mainly to the economies which have been effected.
The trouble is that very often in these large mergers which leave no competition against them the economies are transitory. Economies in technical working may be offset by very large increases in administration. It will be no part of what I have to say tonight to go into detail—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because, for one thing, that would be completely out of order.
§ Mr. Popplewell
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that there has been a very large increase in the administration? I think that in fairness to the House, having made an assertion like that, he should give an indication of the reasons for such an observation.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I did say that it was the usual experience in large mergers for economies to be effected in one direction and for increases in costs to take place in another.
§ Mr. Macpherson
What I am saying is that those who have experience of these matters would expect economies to result in some directions and for increases to take place in others. They would not expect the company effecting this merger to talk so much about increases in costs as about economies. The Amendment 149 first denies that the Railway Executive should be abolished. I grant that it has done a great deal of good work. There is a view that the Railway Executive may have been necessary in the earlier stages of the merger but, in the nature of things, it would have disappeared anyway in due course. We might easily have reached that stage in a very short time, even if the party opposite had remained in power. In any case, there is nothing under this Bill to prevent central organisations remaining for certain functions, and there is nothing to prevent the economies which have been referred to being continued where they are capable of achieving the greatest results.
The House was reminded by the hon. Member for Swansea, West what a gigantic organisation this is. The railways are indeed a gigantic organisation. They employ about 600,000 workers and their revenue is about £400 million a year. Surely there are good reasons for at least considering decentralising measures in such a body as this. This Amendment seeks to say that unless the Government are prepared to lay down in the Bill exactly the lines on which that decentralisation is to take place we should not have any decentralisation at all. That was the argument put forward. Surely it is better in this case to leave the plan for decentralisation to be worked out by the Commission itself. That is what is proposed by the Bill.
§ Mr. P. Morris
But did not the hon. Member hear me say that the British Transport Commission has already submitted to the Minister a scheme for the recasting of the Railway Executive and that it has not yet been acknowledged?
§ Mr. Macpherson
That brings me to the next point I was about to make, which is the answer. It is that we are now faced with changed circumstances. This Bill provides for competition. It provides that there shall no longer be a monopoly of long-distance transport in this country. That being the case, clearly a more flexible organisation is required in the railways as well as in the road services because if the railways are to be given a fair chance to compete with the road services decentralisation is imperative. In order to obtain that decentralisation so as to have an organisation which will respond easily to competition and be able 150 to carry on in the face of competition it is of paramount importance that a scheme of decentralisation should be worked out.
§ Mr. Manuel
I should like to be clear on the point about competition. The point with which we are concerned deals with the railways. Does the hon. Member visualise competition by one area against another or is he referring to uneconomic lines to the Highlands, where we are having so much difficulty in connection with freight charges and fares? What does the hon. Member mean when he talks about competition within this railway group, which he agrees is centrally directed?
§ Mr. Macpherson
The hon. Member is very quick to make a point, but I should have thought that it was perfectly obvious that what I am talking about is competition between road and rail. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Amendment does not deal with that."] Certainly it does. If the railways are to be in a position to deal with competition they must be in a position to decentralise and it is desirable that a scheme for decentralisation should be worked out. That is the complete answer to the hon. Member's point. The hon. Member for Swansea, West moved this Amendment very persuasively and with conviction and based his case on a scheme which was submitted before we knew what the Government were to propose. Clearly that sort of scheme is not longer appropriate to the changed circumstances. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have agreed that it is at least desirable to revise that scheme, and this provision of the Bill gives the Commission the opportunity, and indeed places it under the obligation, to do so.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
The whole House will be very sorry for the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson). He was obviously labouring very hard to try to convince, not us—he did not hope to convince us—but himself, that he had a case. He lamentably failed, and I am certain that he is not very satisfied with his own argument.
He started by asserting very confidently that, in addition to economies, there would be an increase in administration. When challenged on that point he failed to give any evidence at all. The 151 whole House knows that there is ample evidence to the contrary, and I would give one example. There was on the L.M.S. Railway a special post occupied by Lord Stamp. His salary was never officially known, but everybody has said it was £20,000 a year. That was a specially created post over and above the board of directors. There was a board of directors for every company. Yet no one on the new board representing all the railways receives anything like that salary.
Mr. G. Wilson
Is the hon. Member seriously advancing the suggestion that the Railway Executive is costing less than the old boards?
§ Mr. Hynd
I am suggesting that very definitely, and I could produce figures to prove that the cost of the Railway Executive now is much less than the total cost of the 120 separate railway boards in the past. Positions on those boards were occupied by people with no real experience. They were put on for all sorts of reasons. There was a famous athlete who was a member of one of the boards. They were not put on for business reasons. The present Executive is a business concern.
That is only one example, but the hon. Member used a worse argument. He told us it was essential to de-centralise the railways so that they could compete with the roads. I do not know whether any other hon. Member was able to follow that argument, but I found it very difficult to do so. If I understood him aright the hon. Member was arguing that, for example, in order that Lewis's should compete with other shops, Lord Woolton should de-centralise the whole of his monopoly and that it should be turned into a number of little businesses so that they might compete with other little businesses. If we compare the arguments used by the hon. Member for Dumfries with those advanced by my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Amendment everyone must agree that the arguments of my hon. Friends were overwhelming.
I would give another example of what has happened as a result of the creation of this centralised body which the Government are now attempting to remove. When I worked on the railway my job was to write out invoices for goods. If 152 those goods were being sent from the North of Scotland to the South of England they might pass over half-a-dozen or more different railway systems. It was necessary that each of those companies should get a share of the charge paid. In order to do this a new organisation was set up called the railway clearing house. I think I am right in saying that thousands of clerks were employed in tracing the goods from the North of Scotland to the South of England, tracing the miles travelled over each separate railway system and allocating the charge, That was the work of the railway clearing house which, except for a skeleton organisation, has now disappeared.
That is the kind of thing which has been replaced by this centralised body. I think the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West P. Morris) is fundamental. Having removed the Executive, do the Government intend to replace it with some other body, or is this all camouflage? I am one of those sceptics who does not believe that the Government intend to make much difference in the present arrangement regarding the railways. I believe all this business of doing away with the Railway Executive, and setting up a new body under a different name, and saying authority will be given to different regions, is all eyewash. It is intended to cover up the other and much more important and more menacing part of the Bill, namely that relating to road transport.
Regarding the railways, we have a system now which is de-centralising administration, which is working smoothly and which must have a centralised body. If we do not have the Railway Executive we must replace it with something. Even when we had these 120 railway companies before 1919 we had to have a centralised body which kept changing its name every few years. It was as much as I could do to keep up to date with the changes of name of the centralised body; but there always was one. There had to be one for purposes of rates conferences, wage negotiations and all sorts of other reasons, and especially for negotiating with the Government and arranging contacts with this House.
If the intention is simply to remove the Railway Executive as such, what is the 153 good of doing that? I say that that is only trying to deceive the public and that the Minister would be well advised to drop this idea. If he is serious in pursuing this objective he must answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West. What does he propose to put in its place; or, if he does not propose to put anything in its place, how are these separate regionalised railway authorities to work? They must have some co-ordination or they will fall to pieces.
§ Mr. Powell
The undoubted eloquence and persuasiveness with which the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) opened this debate may have had the effect of distracting the attention of the House from what is the real question for decision. He fell, and subsequent speakers have fallen, into a simple logical fallacy. If I may give it its technical name, it is the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is that?"] I was about to oblige hon. Members opposite with a translation of which I felt they might be in need. It is the fallacy of mistaking sequence in time for sequence in cause.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West said that during the years since 1947 there have been steady and in some ways striking improvements in the working efficiency of the railways and in the methods which they have employed. Since 1947 there has been a Railway Executive. Therefore, said he, it is because of the Railway Executive that we have seen these improvements in railway efficiency. That was the argument, and that precisely is the fallacy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am now about to point out why it is a fallacy.
If we go back over railway history, not for the last five years but for the last 25 or 50 years, we shall find a similar steady increase in efficiency, a similar process of improvement going on in the years between the wars.
§ Mr. Powell
If hon. Members will cast their minds back they will recollect that on the railways in the 1930s the great developments of electrification—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] If hon. Members opposite are seeking to deny that there 154 were great improvements on the British railways between 1919 and 1939, and that there were definite and regular increases in working efficiency and in ton-miles per engine-hour, then they are simply flying in the face of the known facts. That process has continued since the war; it has been resumed and has continued.
What we have to do is not simply to isolate one section of this long process and attribute it arbitrarily to one cause—the centralised organisation of the railways since 1947—but to decide whether the changes since 1947 in efficiency and modernisation, and those which are likely to follow, have been as fast and as marked as they would have been under an alternative organisation. That is the simple question which the House has before it.
§ Mr. P. Morris
The hon. Gentleman is supporting my argument. I concede him this point. What he said is partly correct. There have been improvements, but the major improvements have always emerged after a major measure of unification. For instance, in 1921, when we reduced the 121 railway companies to four, again in 1933 with London Transport, and again in 1947, whenever there has been a substantial measure of coordination and unification, progress follows, but the present proposal is to destroy that unification.
§ Mr. Powell
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. At any rate, we have this in common; we are agreed that, under the organisation of the four main line companies which were established by the 1921 Act, there were relatively steady and marked improvements in railway efficiency and modernisation over a 20-year period, and that that process and that trend have continued since 1947, not merely under the four main line companies, but under a centralised single structure.
The question which this House must decide, and must not avoid, is whether the process since 1947 has been due to that centralised structure, or whether centralisation in the form in which we have had it has been a handicap and not an advantage. That is the narrow and simple issue which the House will decide when it decides whether or not to include this subsection.
So far from complaints and anxieties about centralisation being some sort of 155 bogy which has been thought up on these Benches in the last few months, it has been a constant pre-occupation of hon. Members of all parties ever since the British Transport Commission was brought into existence. This anxiety is not limited to one party; it has been very generally felt. I will only trouble the House with one or two reminders. There is, for example, what the hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Ernest Davies) said in his work on "Problems of Public Ownership," when he recognised the besetting anxiety which we must feel in considering nationalised industries and the effects of centralisation. The hon. Member wrote:The tendency inherent in all large scale industry.. can be kept in check if there is the maximum degree of decentralisation consistent with central control of national policy and planning.The question which the House has before it is whether the present organisation of the Railway Executive in the British Transport Commission is the maximum degree of de-centralisation consistent with national policy and planning. That is precisely the question, and I am willing to accept the formulation of the question by the hon. Member for Enfield, West.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman is willing to accept my formulation because that meets the case we have been making. We say that to a certain extent there is to be a national body with de-centralisation and a national body for co-ordination. We have never denied that. But if the hon. Gentleman would continue the quotation and read the qualifications I make, in which I justify the necessity for a central national body and say how important it is, he will realise that his case has been a little badly put.
§ Mr. Powell
Both a central body in the form of the British Transport Commission and the organisation for specific coordination will, of course, exist, and are provided for under the Clause. But there has been a widespread feeling that the present organisation of the Railway Executive does not give the maximum decentralisation which is consistent with the advantages of national planning and control.
156 I have referred before in connection with this Bill—and I make no apology for referring again—to the work of an expert on railways published by the Fabian Society in regard to this problem. He came to the conclusion, after discussing de-centralisation, that there wasinsufficient determination to face the problem of de-centralisation as the challenging one it is.A writer of the Fabian Society itself came to the conclusion that the challenge of decentralisation on British Railways had not been met.
§ Mr. Davies
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's courtesy in giving way again. Will he give the House the date of the pamphlet published by the Fabian Society, and does he realise that it is based on material that is at least three years old, on investigations which took place a long time before the recent reorganisation in the Railway Executive had taken place?
§ Mr. Powell
It is about two years ago. The point I am making is that this anxiety about the consequences of centralisation in an organisation like British Railways is not a mere party bogy which has been trumped up for the purpose. It is something which besets the minds of unprejudiced people looking at the problem.
There are two dangers of centralisation which this Clause as it stands would enable us to escape. The first is the functional organisation of British Railways as at present.
§ Mr. Powell
I said this Clause enables us to escape from the following two dangers accompanying the present form of centralisation.
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. Member will read the Clause he will find that it enables an alternative organisation to be produced which avoids the two difficulties I am going to mention. The first is the functional organisation of the railways under the Railway Executive, which means there is a functional chain of control right from the top to the bottom. Even in pre-nationalisation days it was widely believed that the London, Midland and Scottish Railway had gone 157 much too far for efficiency in this direction of functional control.
What the Railway Executive have done is to multiply any error there might have been there by stereotyping a functional organisation for the whole of British Railways and thus maximising the channelling of decisions from the bottom upwards and reducing the authority of the managers at each level. That is the first danger of centralisation from which we can escape by means of this Clause. But there is a second danger which I think is much greater.
I took down a remark made by the hon. Member for Swansea, West which, coming from a person of his experience and knowledge, I felt was very important evidence. Referring to the four main line railway companies in pre-war days, he said:They. engaged in fierce competition except on occasions when they got together to deal with the menace of the roads.By means of that fierce competition between those four entities, between those four personalities—and those who know the attitude of railway men towards the old companies will not regard that word "personalities" as an exaggeration—there was provided an objective standard of achievement and efficiency which disappears in a centralised, unified organisation such as we have at present.
The question the House must decide is whether progress since 1947 has been as rapid as it could have been and as it should have been. I say that there is no means of forming a certain, objective point of view on that because we have no objective standard. One of the perils of centralisation and nationalised monopoly is that it destroys the objective standard, the means of comparison which competition creates. By these structures which will be set up under this Clause we shall regain contact with reality, because we shall regain the opportunity of comparing the results which are obtained by different and largely independent managements facing the same or similar problems in different ways. The experience of the country and of this House, the whole power of the public to form a judgment of the weal or woe of the British railway system, will be immensely strengthened by the changes which this Clause makes possible. I hope the House will pass it without alteration.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him one question? Do I gather that he recognises that there are at present competitive conditions in the iron and steel trade?
§ Mr. Popplewell
After the two speeches from the Government benches, it is difficult for anyone who knows anything about transport to understand their approach, unless it be that it is merely a doctrinaire approach. We heard the most ridiculous assertions by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) about the large increase in administrative expenses on the railways in his attempt to justify opposition to this Amendment. When he was challenged we found that, as usual, it was only talk; there was no foundation for it in any shape or form. Theirs is a purely doctrinaire approach. Then we heard the woolly ramblings of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I am sure he will forgive me for saying that, because that is what they were. He threw out a challenge and said it was a fallacy to say that there had been improvements since nationalisation.
§ Mr. Popplewell
He went on to say that improvements had been taking place during the last 25 years. I agree with him wholeheartedly there. But when he says it is a fallacy to suggest that improvements have been made since 1947, he shows that he knows nothing at all about the subject.
I must compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) on his speech. I wish the Minister had been here to listen to it because, knowing the Minister's open mind after the number of times he has already changed his mind, I am sure he would have changed his mind again and accepted the wisdom that fell from my hon. Friend, which showed that under the Railway Executive wonderful improvements have been made over the whole of the railway structure. Whether it be standardisation or the operational side, as outlined by my hon. Friend, those of us 159 who understand railway operations have only to compare pre-war days, or even the war-time period, when we had the various regions and points of transfer, to appreciate the bottlenecks that there were in the transfer of traffic. Traffic had to be stopped because it could not be dealt with at the transfer points. Since it has come under the auspices of the Railway Executive, this stoppage at transfer points has been unknown.
§ Mr. Popplewell
Embargoes have been unknown since nationalisation, as the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), if he knows anything about the operating side of the railways, will agree.
I certainly do know. I think that it was two years ago that I raised this matter on an Adjournment debate in this House—if the hon. Member will look up HANSARD he will see that is so—when I gave particulars of bad cases of embargo since nationalisation, and since I have been a Member of this House, which affected my Division. There were very serious embargoes lasting over a period of weeks.
§ Mr. Popplewell
The hon. Gentleman may have picked a case out of a new thing, but week after week we used to get foolscap sheets of these delays, stoppages and embargoes. That is practically unknown now. We may get an isolated one now and again. Since nationalisation we have had colour-light signalling and developments on the electrical side. Wonderful steps forward have been taken. We hear a lot about the safety devices on the railways. We hear hon. Members opposite making a tremendous outcry if there has been a railway accident and coming in full cry to the Minister asking for the development of automatic controls.
§ Mr. Popplewell
What was done under the old private companies to get it? Nothing. Today there is a seheme on 160 foot, which is likely to cost some £50 million in capital, to establish it all over the railways within a short period of time. This has been actively proceeding.
Our object in moving the deletion of this subsection is because we feel that the House is entitled to know what is in the mind of the Minister about replacing the present structure. It is no use his saying that he is going to be guided by what the British Transport Commission suggest to him in the future. This scheme, at the moment, is one which has been thought about and put into operation by the British Transport Commission. Now he is urging the Commission to overthrow what they had done previously, and is giving them a blank cheque, as it were, to produce something which they know will be less efficient than the present structure.
Under the 1947 Act, the present structure is not laid down as something which cannot be altered. There has been considerable talk about amendments to be made here and amendments to be made there. A very pertinent question was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West. He asked what was the answer of the Minister to the representations made to him last July by the British Transport Commission for some alteration. Surely the House is entitled to know. The present structure has evolved an efficient organisation. No one is going to argue that it is the last word in efficiency, but, before it is thrown overboard, the House is entitled to know what the Minister has in mind to replace it.
In the Bill the Minister suggests some weird type of scheme. We are very suspicious of it. Does it establish the principle of regions as they are today with what might be called boards of directors re-instituted? Does it visualise big alterations in the present regional structure? If so, on what lines? Does it visualise the present regional structure more or less remaining and full powers being given back to the chief regional officer acting as the general manager previously did? If the regions are to be as suggested, with over-all power being given to the chief regional officer, the House is entitled to know just how far that power will extend. It is nonsensical for hon. Members opposite to argue that there 161 has been a greater curtailment of powers granted to the chief regional officers than was the case with the former general managers.
§ Mr. Popplewell
It is absolute nonsense to say that there has been any curtailment of power. Today the regional officers have in many ways even greater power than did the old general managers. If some subordinates do not use the powers vested in them, that is another matter and it might receive some examination.
However, before we give this power to the Minister we ought to have some indication of his line of thought. We do not like the suggestion that persons should be appointed, probably in a part-time capacity, who will draw a salary to act as regional directors or something of that description. Just how far would their powers go? The 1921 structure was a tremendous advance upon what obtained previously, but we know the difficulties which were inherent in that structure and we do not want a return to anything like that. The Minister ought to indicate to the House precisely the principles upon which the Commission will work.
The Minister ought not to do anything to destroy what is now being built up by the railways. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West referred to the tremendous experiment now taking place at Shanklin. That was never visualised under the old set-up, but it is developing and members of railway management and the workers who have been to Shanklin return full of praise for the new venture, which is calculated to bring about full partnership within the industry. We can achieve this sort of thing only through some sort of centralised control.
We are interested in the efficiency of this transport system, and under this shocking Bill British Railways will be saddled with a tremendous financial difficulty. We do not want additional shackles placed on the railway system. Something fair and reasonable should be provided. It is a shocking lack of Parliamentary manners to treat the House in this way, pushing through a Bill like this without the Minister telling the House what he has in mind about the future structure of the railways.
It is not without interest, if somewhat paradoxical, that since we moved at 8.30 p.m. into what the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) described as "this new field" and started to discuss the railway aspect of the Bill, the temperature has risen not inconsiderably in the House and there is certainly more liveliness about the debate. That is in inverse ratio to the experience of hon. Members with their postbags. Nothing has caused less criticism from the public as a whole than the proposal for the de-centralisation of the railways. One would expect the Parliamentary Secretary to be something of a lightning conductor in these matters, so far as his postbag is concerned, anyhow. I have not received a single indication from my constituency of over 60,000 electors containing many railway workers. By the same token, the discussion on road transport went through in an atmosphere of calm.
I want to suggest to hon. Members opposite that the reason they are more vehement at this stage of the Bill is that we have laid our fingers upon a sacred dogma, the dogma of nationalisation. We, of course, discussed this and here I am replying to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell)—for a considerable time in Committee, and my right hon. Friend spoke at considerable length on this subject of what our views were on how we should shape the de-centralisation of the railways. If hon. Members will turn to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 15th December and, in particular columns 1048 and 1049, they will find therein contained the information for which the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) asked the account of the representations made to my right hon. Friend by the Commission and what followed from that. Indeed, a study of the OFFICIAL REPORT Shows that my right hon. Friend was subject to a good deal of interruption so that the matter could be brought out more clearly.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to columns 1048 and 1049 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, in which were pointed out the differences which had arisen with the Transport Commission and where there is quoted a letter from the Chairman in which he said that the Commission had laid certain new Clauses before the Minister. The Minister then made a categorical statement that he would see that these Clauses 163 were made available to the Opposition. May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary what has happened to these Clauses, why has the Minister's promise not been carried out, and why have we not been made aware of their contents?
The hon. Gentleman is rather hasty in these matters. One can deal with only one point at once. I was coming to the subject mentioned by the hon. Member. Incidentally, I was waiting for the return of the hon. Member for Swansea, West, who spoke so eloquently in moving this Amendment. He has now returned to the House, and perhaps I may repeat what I was saying. I stated that my right hon. Friend spoke at some length on 15th December on the topic of railway re-organisation and de-centralisation. I had referred the House to columns 1048 and 1049 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I think it might be of value if at this stage I made a further statement on this topic; I propose to do so now.
The Commission have made proposals concerning railway re-organisation, some of which would have covered the abolition of the Railway Executive. These proposals would, of course, have involved far-reaching changes in the Commission's organisation and my right hon. Friend could not have accepted them as they stood. In a matter of such importance as the re-organisation of the railways, the Government feel that it should be carried out under a statutory procedure which would give users and others who might be affected an opportunity of expressing their views on any such scheme before it is carried into effect. As regards Clauses 14 and 15, about which the hon. Member for Swansea, West was so anxious—
§ Mr. Sparks
Do we understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say now that all proposals for the re-organisation of British Railways are to be submitted to the consideration of outside people and of users of the industry?
The point I was trying to make is that when I was asked what had happened to certain proposals of the British Transport Commission, I said that my right hon. Friend had given them consideration and that we felt that so important a change of structure as de-centralisation should be carried out by statute. That would enable those affected 164 —and there are many categories—to make their objections here in this House. When we proceed by statute we give to all the various sections that opportunity. I hope that the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) is not reading anything sinister into that procedure.
§ Mr. P. Morris
Would it not have assisted the right hon. Gentleman if, without committing himself at all, he had advised us what the proposals of the B.T.C. are? Had he done that, we might not have tabled our Amendment. What are the proposals?
Hon. Gentlemen opposite keep interrupting just one step ahead of my speech. I am afraid that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends have not been sufficiently studious, and that goes for the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) as well, because the draft Clauses were placed in the Library by my right hon. Friend where they were available for study by any hon. Member.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Does not the Parliamentary Secretary think that it would have been courteous if he or the Minister of Transport had informed us during the remaining stages of the Committee that those proposals had been placed in the Library? The right hon. Gentleman gave us no indication whatever how these Clauses were to be made available to us.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As the hon. Gentleman has referred to me, I must tell him that very soon after I made that promise, and while the Committee stage was still in progress, I placed those Clauses in the Library. I did not feel it necessary to announce that I had done so. When I was asked to make them available I said I would do so, and I thought that the promise would be believed.
§ Mr. Davies
So far as I know, the Minister on no occasion said that he would place them in the Library. He said that he would make them available to the Opposition. Those were his words as he said them in Committee. Surely it would have been possible for him during the Committee stage to refer to the fact that he had placed the draft Clauses in the Library?
My right hon. Friend took a course which made them available to the Opposition and to the supporters of the Government. The best 165 method is to place them in the Library. The hon. Gentleman would have been better employed in finding that out. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly.
What is slick about that? I can only say that hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to take these matters more seriously and find out what is happening.
The debate which we had in Committee, and which was of very considerable length, was upon an Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to delete subsection (2, a). With the permission of the Chair, in that case Mr. Speaker, the debate ranged over the whole wide question of railway reorganisation, and hon. Gentlemen opposite made it clear then, as they have done again tonight, that the abolition of the Railway Executive was ill-advised, in their view, and that it would recall the conditions which followed the passage of the Railways Act, 1921. I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), who told us that when he was working on the Taff Vale Railway—
The hon. Gentleman does me an injustice. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East said he was at work on the Taff Vale railway, which was absorbed by the Great Western Railway under the 1921 Act, and he had a feeling of nostalgia, whereas the younger men coming along did not feel that particular malady. Having recourse to this interesting volume, the tell-tale volume, "Dod's Parliamentary Companion," which tells the history of all of us, I find that the hon. Gentleman and myself are running almost neck and neck along the road of life and that I am a little ahead of him. Certainly, I can say that in 1921—without giving any secrets away—both he and I belonged to the younger generation which, 166 if it had nostalgia at all, had it only for what had happened in their teens. It is in fact the young men who are inclined in these days to seek change while it is for the middle-aged to develop nostalgia. That is true of the railways as well.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Champion
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I was suggesting that the nostalgia was on the part of the older men, that the younger men were able to view this a little more objectively, and that a great change for the better had taken place for transport users as a result of the merger under the 1921 Act.
Everyone felt it was an advantage when the Great Western Railway took over the Taff Vale Railway, but the hon. Gentleman has put in better language what I was trying to say. The Amendment before us now goes a great deal further than that moved by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South when we were in the Committee stage. It would delete from the proposals of the Bill not only the requirement that railway re-organisation schemes should provide for the abolition of the Executive, which we have been discussing for the last few minutes, but also the requirement that the scheme should provide for the various area railway authorities and the delegation of suitable functions to them by the British Transport Commission.
The Government have made it plain over and over again through all the stages of this Bill that we sincerely believe it to be essential to carry out a radical scheme of de-centralisation if the railways are to play the part which we want to see them play in the national economy. I shall certainly not repeat the arguments adduced on the Second Reading and since, if only on account of time, but I have not heard any hon. Member take up this evening the following point which may be of some comfort to the hon. Member for Swansea, West who feels so deeply on this subject. We have not said at any stage, in the White Paper or since, that in our view everything that has been done in the way of the centralisation of the railways is bad and must go out of the nearest window. May I repeat what my right hon. Friend said in Committee, that we are anxious that, where central control has proved beneficial, it should not be disturbed. There are advantages and those will be carefully safeguarded.
167 By the same token we believe that there is an unanswerable case for the de-centralisation of the railways. The hon. Gentleman, in moving his Amendment, rather made that case for us by suggesting that the Commission were themselves at work upon a scheme for de-centralisation. In fact he asked what had happened. I tell him now, as I said a little earlier, that there have been many proposals of one kind or another which could have covered the abolition of the Railway Executive, but under the framework of the Bill it is for the Commission to put forward a scheme. During the Committee stage my right hon. Friend indicated quite clearly what he thought the main framework of that scheme should be. To pass this Amendment would be to throw a spanner into that machinery, and therefore I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
In rising to follow the Minister I want to make it clear to my hon. Friends behind me that I am not doing so with the intention of closing this debate. I rise because the Parliamentary Secretary has just told us absolutely nothing. He has given us no answer to the questions put by my hon. Friends, and he has given us no clearer indication than we had at the outset, when my hon. Friend moved this Amendment, of what is the real intention of the Government in regard to the reorganisation of the railways. He has not convinced us, nor have any of his hon. Friends who have spoken in this debate convinced us, of any reasons whatsoever why the Railway Executive should be abolished.
Certain questions which we have frequently put to the Minister—we raised them during the Committee stage—have not yet been answered. First, we were informed that the Commission had put a scheme to the Minister as long ago as last July. The Minister said during the Committee stage that he was not then free to inform us what were the proposals which the Commission put forward. He made it quite clear that the Commission were opposed to Clauses 14 and 15 as they are now written into the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that they had 168 put forward an alternative scheme in July and that he had discussed it with them, but he refused to tell us what that scheme was. What we would like to know is what has happened to that scheme. Has the Minister rejected it or is it still under consideration? Is he going to inform us of what it consisted?
The second and, perhaps, more important aspect in regard to the proposals of the Commission is the new clauses which they put before the Minister. During the Committee stage, he quoted the letter of the Deputy-Chairman, in which it was stated that the Commission could not accept the existing Clauses and had proposed two alternative ones. I asked a few minutes ago what had happened to them, and the Minister informed us that they had been placed in the Library.
The House has received treatment from the Minister in this particular which is not worthy of him. He told us quite clearly that he would publish in any seemly way the two Clauses proposed by the Commission. We pressed him and suggested that they could be included in a White Paper or some appropriate publication. He said that he did not think that that was appropriate, but that he would see that those Clauses were made available to the Opposition.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We have all been in the House quite a long time—at any rate, the hon. Gentleman and I have—and the phrase "made available to Parliament as a whole," which is the phrase that I used in column 1049 on 15th December, has in the eyes and ears of most Members a very definite meaning. "Made available to Parliament as a whole" means "being placed in the Library," and I did this straightaway. I am not at all sure that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) did not telephone me about it—some hon. Gentleman did from the Opposition benches—and I took the opportunity to see whether my promise had been carried out. That was quite shortly afterwards, and it has been available in the Library for many weeks for any Member to see.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We have bad two months since the Committee stage. If any hon. Member had asked me where they were, I should have said that they were 169 "made available to Parliament as a whole" in the well known way by being placed in the Library.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not think that Members are expected to go snooping around —[HON. MEMBERS; "What?"]—as sleuths to try to find out in what way a Minister has fulfilled his promise. When the Minister made that promise on 15th December, which was the fifth Allotted Day, we had two further days of debate on the Bill. During those two days it would have been possible for the Minister to tell us, or to inform us before we adjourned for the Christmas Recess, what had happened to his promise.
§ Mr. Davies
My right hon. Friend suggests that any decent Minister would have done SO. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is typical of the Government's desire to dodge the House and of their contempt for the House.
We still have not heard from the Parliamentary Secretary tonight exactly what it is proposed to put in the place of the Railway Executive. The Government have in their minds they must have—the plans that they propose to put before the Commission, because in his speech to the Committee the Minister said that they would be drawn on general lines which would be proposed by the Government. We think that at this stage we should be informed better as to what are the intentions of the Government.
There has been a lot of talk, and a lot of loose talk, this evening about de-centralisation. It has been assumed by Members opposite that one has merely to de-centralise the Railway Executive in some way or other and that immediately the operation of the railways will be more efficient than it is now. It seems that they are harbouring a great many illusions as to the extent of the efficiency of British Railways before nationalisation.
From speeches of hon. Members opposite one would think that the British railway system when operated by the four main-line companies was highly efficient, modern, keeping up with all modern technique and development and, in fact, leading the world. As it happens, the contrary was the truth. Even 170 today, despite the great improvements which have taken place in the efficiency of British Railways under nationalisation, we are a long way behind the railways of the Continent of Europe. There has been published recently the Annual Bulletin of Statistics of the Economic Commission for Europe for 1951. If hon. Members studied that they would be shocked to find in what particulars British Railways are lagging behind more recent development of Continental railways. Although they have caught up to some extent, the gap between the efficiency of our railways and that of the Continent is still very large. It would have been far larger but for the great improvements which have taken place since 1948.
§ Mr. Davies
The noble Lord questions that, but I will give him one figure. On the turn-round of wagons in this country the average period for goods wagons is just over 10 days. On most of the Continental railways the turn-round is from four to five or six days. That turn-round was even greater—
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
I take it that this argument is related to the necessity for the Railway Executive?
§ Mr. Davies
With all respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this is very relevant indeed to the abolition of the Railway Executive. The whole purport of my argument is that the Railway Executive have enabled considerable improvements to be made in the operation of the British railway system. My immediate argument on that point was that, compared with the railways of Continental Europe, we were still lagging behind and, if the Railway Executive is abolished and there is a return to the pre-war system of operation, I fear that efficiency will decline and our position will be even worse.
We have listened to the Minister in Committee and to the Parliamentary Secretary tonight. We are still convinced that any faults or deficiencies there may be and we admit that there are some deficiencies in the administration or organisation of the Transport Commission and particularly the Railway Executive—can be cured within 171 the present structure and without the Clauses in this Bill. There is provision in the 1947 Act for changes which are required. The Commission themselves are satisfied that they can carry out any form of reconstruction they consider necessary and have put forward proposals to that end. To bring about such reconstruction it is not necessary to destroy the structure and make the situation worse. In doing so the Minister promises that he will retain co-ordination and so on, but he is first destroying the coordination that already exists and then he proposes to attempt to rebuild. The Railway Executive can be reconstructed and revised to the extent necessary under the schemes which the Transport Commission can itself put forward within the terms of the 1947 Act. This subsection is unnecessary and we therefore consider that this Amendment to delete it and to prevent the compulsory abolition of the Railway Executive should be agreed to.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Renton
The approach of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) is somewhat different from that of his hon. Friends, all of whom were former railwaymen, who spoke before him. The former railwaymen worked themselves into a state of indignation because there was to be any change at all in the set-up of the nationalised transport industry. They are indeed the diehards of modern political life. [Interruption.] That seems to strike a chord in hon. Members opposite. I see them as Colonel Blimps upside down.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East has a very much fresher approach to the problem. I quote from page 8 of a pamphlet which he wrote, and in which he described the organisation of the Railway Executive and its relation to the British Transport Commission. He said, and we naturally took a great deal of notice of what he said:this type of organisation has its dangers. If it involves the passing of instructions from the centre right down the line, through the appropriate functional staff at each level, there may be too frequent reference back before decisions are taken. The results will be delay, inflexibility and bureaucracy.We on this side of the House certainly owe the hon. Gentleman a debt of gratitude, because he has found words to express just what we were finding and 172 what so many people in this country were feeling, including many of those employed on the railways.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
The mere fact that in that pamphlet it was pointed out that there were certain dangers of a functional form of organisation, is no justification for the abolition of the Railway Executive.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman cannot really excuse himself like that for having hit the nail so precisely on the head.
There are only four serious points which are at issue upon the Amendment which we are discussing. The first point, which has been made by several hon. Members opposite, is whether Parliament should have before it a detailed proposal, all of which it consents to or disapproves of. The answer is, of course, that eventually Parliament will have such a proposal before it, and the fact that at this stage, and in Clause 14, it is merely an enabling power which is being granted, does not in any way derogate from the ultimate responsibility which this House and Parliament generally will have in the matter.
§ Mr. Renton
Time is short, and I am afraid I cannot give way.
As to the abolition of the Railway Executive, quite candidly I should have thought that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) gave the answer to the measure of this problem when he told us that 70 per cent. of the Commission's revenue was derived from the railways. When we have hived off that most frightful encumbrance, the Road Haulage Executive, and given the Commission an opportunity to do much better financially than it is doing at the moment, then the Railway Executive will surely consist of much more than 70 per cent. of the total activity of the British Transport Commission, and if we get to that stage what is the point of having both the Railway Executive and the British Transport Commission? I should have thought that there would be very little change in that alteration; and certainly any human problem that is likely to arise is not likely to affect very many people.
As to the set-up of the area schemes, which is the third point, I apply the views 173 which I have already quoted, expressed by the hon. Member for Enfield, East, equally to the setting up of those authorities. That would provide the answer to the problem which he so aptly poses in his pamphlet.
Finally, on the general question of de-centralisation, whether there are area schemes or not, the Commission itself, and Sir Eustace Missenden, in a letter to "The Times," and other authorities have pointed to the need for constant vigilance on this question of decentralisation. The Commission, on page 91 of its last report, referred to further progress in de-centralisation of management. The Commission itself is embarking on a measure of de-centralisation, and there is no reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, as I say, have worked themselves into a state of great indignation about any change, should fear anything at all as a result of de-centralisation. There has been a great deal of spurious indignation in this discussion and hon. Gentlemen opposite, having got the steam so eloquently off their chests, will now, like Colonel Blimp himself, realise that they have seen better days.
§ Mr. D. Jones
The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) seems to fasten on to a very small point and seek to make heavy weather of it. I think he would make a very good market place salesman for patent medicines. The whole purpose of this goes much further than the abolition of the Railway Executive. Indeed, the hon. Member quoted from Sir Eustace Missenden. But what Sir Eustace said was different from completely destroying the Commission. He went a good deal further than that. In his letter to "The Times" and in his lectures to the Institute of Transport he has sought to define a centralised organisation.
Sir Eustace, as hon. Gentlemen probably know, was originally general manager of the Southern Railway. He has had experience of a group company, and as chairman of the Railway Executive. He is not the only person who has subscribed to that view. Sir william Wood who had experience on the L.M.S. Railway and is now a member of the British Transport Commission, has subscribed similarly. Mr. John Elliott, who came from the Southern Region, wrote in 174 the "Derby Telegraph" on 28th July, 1951:Remember that the British Railways are but 3+ years old. Let those of us … who remember the painful beginnings of the L.M.S., L.N.E. and Southern groups, call to mind the heartburnings—in some cases even the personal animosities—and the upheavals, trials and tribulations of those amalgamations. …He goes on:The Chief Regional Officers and the heads of departments are fully consulted on all such questions, and full weight is given to their great experience. …If we are to believe what some hon. Members have suggested, it is simply a question of a directive being issued from the Railway Executive all the way down, and that nobody is entitled to express another point of view.
Mr. John Elliott has pointed out, basing his opinion on his own experience on the Southern Railway, that the chief regional officers of the six regions have far greater power than their predecessors, the general managers. Sir Eustace Missenden subscribed to that view and so did Sir William Wood, as one of those people who had some experience of railways after the passing of the 1921 Act. I know of some of the difficulties which arose and I can subscribe to the view of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), although for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman I would say that I was not a member of the Taff Vale railway staff.
There were difficulties. It was suggested earlier by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) that automatic train control had been in operation on the Great Western Railway since 1906. That is true. Can the hon. Gentleman explain why it was that neither the London North Eastern, the London Midland and Scottish nor the Southern Railway ever adopted automatic train control on their systems? I will tell him why. It was because the chief engineers of those companies did not accept the point of view of the chief engineer of the Great Western Railway. For precisely the same reason other developments introduced by the London North Eastern system were not adopted by any of the other groups.
One could give example after example. For instance, there is the instanter coupling of the Great Western Railway. It was many years before that was introduced by the other companies, because 175 we had four separate chief engineers who had their own ideas. I could make other comparisons. I do not deny that progress was made on the railways between 1922 and 1939, but it could have proceeded very much faster than it did if there had been some type of centralised direction.
Indeed, pre-war Tory Governments accepted that point of view. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson), who was the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Transport in 1937, in a debate in this House on 17th November subscribed to that point of view. He said that it was the aim and ambition of the then Conservative Government to secure co-ordination not on the railways alone but in transport as a whole. But they never did anything about it.
On this question of the division of the railways into six groups and the abolition of the Railway Executive, the Minister knows perfectly well that the morning after he abolishes the Executive he will have to put in its place some kind of centralised organisation. Does he propose to diversify the experimentation that is now going on into six different experiments? Does he propose to send out to the six regions all the development now
§ taking place at the centre? Does he propose to restore the more than 100 different types of locomotive in operation on these various railways before nationalisation?
§ When hon. Members talk about no development they should remember that standardisation of locomotives alone has saved many millions of pounds. They should remember that the bringing of wagons under unified and centralised control has saved many hours of shunting time at many marshalling yards. When the Minister divides the railways into six separate regions will he restore the marshalling yards which were abolished at the transfer points in existence before 1947?
§ Does he propose to allocate to each of the six separate railways a proportion of the wagons and then transfer them at operating points? Does he propose to enter into all this useless expenditure? We are not averse to change—
§ It being Half-past Ten o'Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 237; Noes, 216.179
|Division No. 8O.]||AYES||[10.30 p.m|
|Aitken, W. T.||Burden, F. F. A.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R F|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Flet[...]her-Cooke, C.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Campbell, Sir David||Fort R.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Foster, John|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Carson, Hon. E.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cary, Sir Robert||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Channon, H.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||George, Rt Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr J. M.||Cole, Norman||Godher, J. B.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Colegate, W. A.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A|
|Banks, Col. C.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gower, H. R.|
|Barber, Anthony||Cranborne, Viscount||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Barlow, Sir John||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Baxter, A. B.||Crosthwaltd-Eyre, Col. O. E||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Crouch, R. F.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harden, J. R. E|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Crowder, Petra (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hare, Hon J. H.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)|
|Birch, Nigel||Davidson, Viscountess||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Bishop, F. P||Davies, Rt. Kn. Clement (Montgomery)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Deedes, W. F.||Harvey, Air Cdre A. V. (Macclesfield)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Digby, S. Wingfield||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Harvle-Watt, Sir George|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hay, John|
|Brains, B. R.||Donner, P. W.||Heald, Sir Lionel|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Heath, Edward|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G (Bristol, N.W.)||Drayson, G. B.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Duthie, W S.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bullard, D. G.||Fell, A.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Finlay, Graeme||Holland-Martin, C J.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Fisher, Nigel||Hollis, M. C.|
|Holt, A. F.||Markham, Major S. F.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr R.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon Henry||Marlowe, A. A. H||Shepherd, William|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Marples, A. E.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Maude, Angus||Smyth, Brig. J. G (Norwood)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Medlicott, Brig. F||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Mellor, Sir John||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Molson, A. H. E.||Speir, R. M.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Nabarro, G D. N.||Stevens, G P.|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Nicholls, Harmer||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Storey, S.|
|Jenkins, R. C D (Dulwich)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Nugent, G R. H.||Summers, G. S.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Nutting, Anthony||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Kaberry, D.||Odey, G. W.||Teeling, W.|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G||Osborne, C.||Tilney, John|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K||Peyton, J. W. W||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Leather, E H. C.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Vesper, D. F.|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Pitman, I. J.||Wade, D. W.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A T||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Linstead, H. N.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G (King's Norton)||Profumo, J. D.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Waterhouse, Capt Rt. Hon C.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col J C.||Redmayne, M.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Low, A. R. W.||Remnant, Hon. P||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S)||Renton, D. L. M||Williams, Rt Hon Charles (Torquay)|
|Lucas, P B. (Brentford)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Robertson, Sir David||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roper, Sir Harold||Wills, G.|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Russell, R. S.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||York, C|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Schofield, Lt.-Cot. W (Rochdale)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Scott, R Donald||Mr. Drewe and Major Conant.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanel[...]y)|
|Albu, A. H.||Crosland, C. A. R.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Crossman, R. H. S||Hale, Leslle (Oldham, W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cullen, Mrs A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Caine Valley)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hannan, W.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Baird, J.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hargreaves, A.|
|Balfour, A||Deer, G.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Bartley, P||Delargy, H J||Hastings, S.|
|Bence, C. R||Dodds, N. N.||Hayman, F. H|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Donnelly, D. L||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Benson, G.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Beswick, F.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Edelman, M.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Blenkinsop, A||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Blyton, W R||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Fernyhough, E.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Fienburgh, W.||Irving, W J. (Wood Green)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D||Finch, H. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Janner, B.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Fo[...]lick, M||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Foot, M. M.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Forman, J. C.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Carmichael, J.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Champion, A. J.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Chapman, W D.||Gibson, C. W.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Chetwynd, G R||Glanville, James||Keenan, W|
|Clunie, J.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Kenyon, C.|
|Coldrick, W.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossenda[...]e)||King, Dr H M|
|Collick, P. H.||Greenwood, Rt Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Grenfell, Rt. Hon D. R||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Cove, W. G.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Parker, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Paton, J.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Pearson, A||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|McGovern, J.||Popplewell, E.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Mclnnes, J.||Porter, G.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|McLeavy, F.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Proctor, W. T.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Tomney, F.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reeves, J.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Manuel, A. C.||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Viant, S. P.|
|Mayhew, C. P||Rhodes, H.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Richards, R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Messer, F.||Robern, Rt. Hon. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Mitchison, G. R||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||West, D. G.|
|Monslew, W.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Moody, A. S.||Ross, William||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Morley, R.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Short, E. W.||Whitt, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Moyle, A.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Wigg, George|
|M[...]lley, F. W.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Nally, W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Slater, J.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Orbach, M.||Sorensen, R. W.||Winterbettom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Oswald, T.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Padley, W. E.||Sparks, J. A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Steele, T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Pannell, Charles||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Holmes.|
§ Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions on Amendments, moved by a Member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Half-past Ten o'clock.