§ 3.40 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Fifth Annual Report, Statement of Accounts and Statistics of the British Transport Commission for 1952.This debate, which I have the honour to initiate, deals specifically with the events of last year. It is inherent in the topic and in the terms of the Amendment put down by the Opposition that we shall find ourselves, during our discussions, in 1953, and we may even peer forward into the future. First of all, I feel that both sides of the House will desire to express their satisfaction that the financial year under review shows a surplus of£8½million which, when one remembers the vast turnover of the Commission, approximates to the kind of equipoise which this House laid upon the Commission and hoped that they would achieve over the period of years in which they would be operating.
The introduction to the Report contains a somewhat querulous reference to the matter of consultation, and I want, if I may, to make a few observations upon that topic at the commencement of my remarks. The Government's intentions of making proposals to facilitate the extension of private road haulage activities were announced in the Gracious Speech from the Throne delivered by His late Majesty on 6th November, 1951. No further pronouncement of policy was made until 8th May in the following year, which was the date when the White Paper on transport policy made its appearance. No consultation with the interested parties took place until after the publication of that document.
Hon. Members will recall that when that White Paper was debated on 21st May last year, my right hon. Friend made reference to the constitutional position in regard to consultation, and quoted in aid a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), who was Minister of Transport in the Administration which preceded ours, in which he referred 1981 to the disability of the Minister to consult interested parties before matters of major policy had been disclosed to Parliament.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to a querulous statement in the early pages of the Commission's Report. Would he make it clear what passage he has in mind?
I think the whole introduction refers to that. I thought the word "querulous" was not an unreasonable description, but "complaint" might be a better word. The fact remains that it is suggested that consultation was lacking in some of the matters, and I was going to take the House through the course of the events in that connection in order to show where the Government stood and still stand on this matter. It will be found that the whole tone of the introduction rather strikes that note, and I think that is a fair point to make.
My right hon. Friend met the Commission on 22nd May, 1952, immediately after the debate on the White Paper had taken place, and the chief objective on that occasion was to discuss the conduct of their undertaking in the interim period before our proposed legislation could take effect. He undertook to supply the Commission with information on the proposals the Government had in mind for inclusion in the new Bill. My right hon. Friend told the Commission that, while the main policy must remain as stated in the White Paper, he would welcome suggestions from them as to the means by which the Government's aims could be achieved, including constructive criticisms of the proposals which the Government themselves had in mind.
It was in the early part of June, 1952, that the Commission were informed in confidence of the provisions which it was proposed to include in the Bill, and meetings were held on 17th and 28th June last year to discuss those proposals. Representations were made by the Commission on the draft provisions and these were dealt with in correspondence. The Road Haulage Executive representatives met officials of our Ministry on 23rd June to discuss the licensing provisions of the Bill.
The representations which the Commission made as a result of the conversa- 1982 tions at those meetings and in correspondence were taken into account by my right hon. Friend in the first version of the Transport Bill which, as hon. Members will recall, was published on 8th July, 1952. Consultations took place with the Commission after the publication of the first version of the Bill, and the later revised version which was published on 5th November last year, included changes made at the suggestion of the Commission, as they acknowledge in the introduction to which I have just referred.
May I add this? Consultation was a continuing process during all stages of the Bill, and many of the Government Amendments originated in the proposals made and in the suggestions offered by the Commission. We feel that the introduction to the Report ignores the consultations that took place between the publication of the White Paper and the presentation of the Bill. The impression is rather given that consultations did not, in fact, begin until after the Bill was published, and I want to make the position clear.
My right hon. Friend stressed the point in the last Session, when we were debating the Commission's Annual Report for 1951, that consultations started after the White Paper had been published. Although my right hon. Friend told the Commission at the meeting held on 22nd May, 1952, that the main policy as laid down in the White Paper must remain unchanged, there was ample scope for the Commission to make suggestions, as indeed they did, to mould the final shape of the Bill. Some of the Amendments which originated in suggestions by the Commission, as for example—and a very good example it is—the disposal of property by means of companies, went further than the original proposals in the White Paper, So in actual fact the representations of the Commission, reinforced, let me add at once, by the able speeches of hon. Members during the long debates we had on the Bill, had the effect of modifying the general policy that originally appeared in the White Paper.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Would the hon. Gentleman give us details of the proposals of the Commission which were rejected by his Department, so that we can see how important they were?
I think I should detain the House unduly were I again to 1983 go right through the various stages of the Bill. The hon. Member took a very active part in those discussions, and I am sure he will recall the many Amendments tabled as the result of the consultations with the Commission, though indeed there were many proposals we did not accept. The only point I am trying to make is that my right hon. Friend was not adamant in this matter of discussing these matters with the Commission.
May I come to the general progress shown in this Report, beginning with the railways? The Report stresses—and this has been borne in upon us throughout recent months and I am certain upon hon. Members in general—the serious effect upon railway programmes of the shortage of steel. It was not until the end of 1952 that the steel position began to improve. By the middle of this year the only serious shortage remaining was that of certain types of steel plates. The railways have done their best to meet this shortage by using rolled steel from Margam and a continuing improvement in the plate position can now be looked for; but all the programme of rolling stock, track; also civil engineering and building, suffered, though perhaps the most severe effects were felt by the rolling stock programme.
May I inflict one or two figures upon the House to underline that point? In 1952 the programme of new wagons was cut by 37 per cent., new locomotives by 50 per cent. and new carriages by practically 100 per cent. The workshops' staffs and production lines in general had to run down, but now, with the improvement of steel supplies, a steady build-up of production has begun, but this must take time to make itself felt.
The carriage programmes have suffered most severely. At the beginning of 1953 the railway workshops had a backlog of 1,545 passenger carriages to carry forward to the programmes scheduled for this year. Only 481 passenger carriages were actually built in 1952. Five hundred and thirty-five are expected this year, but by 1954 it is estimated that the railways will build 1,500, a figure approaching their total capacity. On freight wagons there is a backlog of some 12,000 to be added to the scheduled programme of some 19,000 for 1953, giving a total of nearly 32,000. Continued shortages of certain 1984 sizes of steel, coupled with inability to work up to full production, make it likely that no more than 13,000 will be produced this year, but during 1954 the railways expect to be working to their total capacity, namely, the production of some 20,000 wagons.
On locomotives the process of working up production is somewhat slower. At the beginning of 1953 the backlog for railway locomotives, including steam, diesel and electric, was some 170. The 1953 programme was 294. It was hoped to build 233 of these during the current year, but this figure, I am informed, may not be reached and the production for 1954 will still be short of the total capacity of the workshops of from 385 to 400. It is likely that the track maintenance programmes, however, will now be met in full and that during the next two years the arrears will be overcome. There is ample steel, not only for rails but for fastenings and other fittings.
I am not going to be tempted by the right hon. Gentleman so early in the day. There has been a corresponding improvement in the output of rolling stock under construction for the railways in private workshops. Here the claims of exports must be met, but the private manufacturers are showing their ability to increase their supplies, both for exports and to the home railways. There are encouraging signs, therefore, that not only has the steel position become almost free, but that the effect of the shortages of 1951 and 1952 has already been diminished considerably.
The result of these improvements on employment in the railway workshops, where redundancy disappeared during the winter, will, I am sure, be welcomed by the whole House and particularly by hon. Members representing railway constituencies, notably my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers), who made urgent representations on this matter as long ago as 21st March, 1952, when we had an Adjournment debate on this topic. It is gratifying to note a considerable acceleration of railway passenger services.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Before the Parliamentary Secretary leaves that part of his informative contribution, and to facilitate business, will he tell us at this stage the number of diesel electrics that have been ordered, and the number of gas turbines, because all this should be told in the story at the same time?
I am endeavouring to open the debate on somewhat general lines. I have not the figures for which the hon. Gentleman asks, but I am sure we can obtain them and no doubt my right hon. Friend will deal with that point when he winds up the debate later in the day. I am sure I have the support of all hon. Members in my desire not to occupy too much time at this Box, in view of the importance of the debate and the number of hon. Members who no doubt wish to take part in it.
I was just coming to a new topic which I am certain is of interest to the House. I was about to say something in regard to the considerable acceleration of passenger services which is taking place and which I am sure is gratifying to all those who use the railways. During this year a number of these have been speeded up following the improvements to the permanent way, to which I have just referred, owing to the improved steel position and the concentration on that aspect of the work.
Among the more noteworthy are the summer train services which were in force from 8th June to 20th September. I will give two or three examples. On the run from King's Cross to Edinburgh, Waverley, the "Elizabethan," the new express, covered the 392¾mile journey in 63¾hours, an average speed of over 58 miles per hour, 22 minutes faster than the day-time expresses on this route last year. This is a post-war record nonstop run. Nevertheless, it is as well to recall that before the war the "Coronation Scot," with two stops, was somewhat faster, but this was a strictly limited train. I do not think there is any point here about nationalisation. This is a question of the repair of the permanent way following upon the heavy burden which it carried during the war years, but if we are on that topic, the trains ran faster in the bad old days.
The "Flying Scotsman" and the "Queen o' Scots" Pullman were also 1986 accelerated. From Euston to Glasgow, Central—on the old L.M.S., as we used to call it—the "Royal Scot" was timed for a 7½hour journey, reaching either terminus at 5.30 p.m., which is 30 minutes faster than last year, and other trains on this route were faster by from five to 25 minutes.
If we look at East Anglia for a moment, the greatly accelerated services inaugurated on the Colchester main line with the "Britannia" class Pacific locomotives were followed this year by the introduction of this class of locomotive on the London—Cambridge—Norwich line, and trains serving Cambridge, Ely, Wisbech, Hunstanton and Bury St. Edmunds, have all been speeded up.
Other improved express services included the "Merchant Venturer" running between Paddington and Bristol, and Paddington services to Plymouth, Milford Haven and Birkenhead, and the "Pembroke Coast" express between Paddington and Pembroke Dock. The express services on the Cheshire lines between Manchester and Liverpool are now timed for a 45-minute journey. Then, looking at another part of the country, the Tees-Tyne Pullman, the "White Rose" to Leeds and Bradford, the Yorkshire Pullman, the "Heart of Midlothian" between King's Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh, the "Red Rose" and the "Merseyside Express" serving London and Liverpool, and the "Comet" and "Mancunian" running between London and Manchester, have also been accelerated.
Those were accelerated summer schedules, but many of them are being retained during the winter months. Compared with last winter 126 trains have been speeded up by from 10 to 60 minutes. Between Bristol and London—here I must disclose a constituency interest affecting my journeys when I go there to see my friends—a two-hour service is restored in both directions between Bristol and London for the first time since the war. If Birmingham hon. Members wish to visit their constituencies there is a two-hour service at 9 a.m. from both Paddington and Birmingham, Snow Hill, in addition to the two-hour timings between Euston and Birmingham, New Street, on the other route restored this summer.
1987 If one wants to go to Sheffield, Darlington and Newcastle there is an improved service at 7.50 a.m. from King's Cross which gives those who go to these places on business several hours at their destination with a return service the same day. All these are considerations of great importance.
I think the hon. Gentleman gets there and back without difficulty.
There are 27 start-to-stop schedules at 60 miles per hour or over being operated this winter compared with only three a year ago.
Now may I turn to a topic which is very much in the minds of us all here, and indeed of the public, at the present juncture, that of railway safety. In order to put this matter in its proper perspective, it cannot be too strongly emphasised that had not 1952 been overshadowed by the grievous disaster at Harrow, the safety record for that year would have been good, with only one fatality to a passenger in an accident to a train.
Although this debate is specific to last year, the House may desire some comment on the record to date for 1953. Unhappily, there have been two serious accidents. One was at Stratford, in April, where 12 passengers were killed in a collision in the tube tunnel. This was brought about by an inexplicable failure of the human element during unavoidable emergency working, when the exceptionally thorough technical safeguards which were provided could not be effective.
To put the matter in its perspective, however, let me remind the House that this is the very first time that a passenger has been killed in a train accident in the 60 years' long history of the London tube system. Surely that disaster throws into bold relief the admirable standards observed by the London underground system, and, as the son of one of its pioneers, I am very happy to stand at this Box and be able to say so.
The other serious accident was in August, at Irk Valley Junction, Manchester, where 10 persons were killed. The inquiry reports on both these accidents are with the printers and will 1988 shortly be published. Further comment must, I think, be deferred until we see those reports.
The Irk Valley accident occurred within a few days of the derailment of the "Royal Scot" express at Abington, where the track had become distorted by the heat of the sun. Here there were three serious and 26 slight injuries. There was also a passenger train derailment during August near Tamworth, involving four slight injuries, the cause of which is still under investigation.
Last month, some coaches of a passenger train were derailed at Bethnal Green, just outside Liverpool Street, with four slight injuries, due to the electrically-worked points moving irregularly under a train. There was a heavy buffer stop collision at Guildford, where, unhappily, the assistant station-master lost his life when an office was destroyed. Other accidents which occurred in August were the slow speed derailment of a passenger train at Gateshead—happily, with no injuries—owing to a broken rail in an awkward track layout, where maintenance, I understand, has always been troublesome; and a comparatively minor collision between a passenger train and a light engine at Nottingham (Victoria) Station, in which there were also no personal injuries.
While it is understandable that the series of accidents in August and September, including the serious case at Irk Valley Junction, which I have outlined, received much publicity, and have, naturally, caused a good deal of concern, especially when memories of the disaster at Harrow last year are still fresh in our minds, the figures for 1953 to date show that the accidents are not indicative of any general deterioration of the standard of safety on British railways. Would it not be fair to say that while there is no cause for complacency in this matter, there is by the same token no justification whatever for an alarmist view being taken of the situation?
The record of 1953 will, as is the custom, be thoroughly reviewed in the Chief Inspecting Officer's Annual Report for the year. The House will have noticed some public criticism of these happenings, but if this is not well balanced by appreciation of the real and creditable achievements, I suggest in all good temper that this sort of criticism 1989 is bound to exercise a discouraging effect on morale at every level upon our railways. Nevertheless, it would seem that the present organisational changes may provide the opportunity to railway officers, supervisors and men to redouble their energies in the field of better safety. I add, too, that we are confident that the great railway trade unions will cooperate fully. After all, none can do more in their own way to foster the highest professional standard among their members. While constructive public criticism of shortcomings is healthy, too much of the other kind can have a discouraging effect in the highest, as well as the lowest, quarters of the railway organisation, as I have suggested.
One subject of which we hear a great deal at the Ministry is the closure of branch lines. It is a matter of very considerable concern to individual Members on both sides of the House, as, not unnaturally, no body of constituents welcomes a decision of the Transport Commission to withdraw train services to which they have become accustomed over a long period of years, even if they have not often used them, and which they have counted upon always being there when required, no matter how infrequently that wish may be exercised.
The concern which is felt on both sides of the House in this matter is best illustrated by the number of occasions when the question of branch line closings has been raised on the Adjournment or dealt with in Parliamentary Questions. In this matter there is very often a natural conflict between a Member's support of a general policy and of its particular application when it affects his own constituency.
That is easily understandable and it is very human.
Perhaps I may put it to the House in this way, because I think that there is common ground here. The problem of unremunerative branch line services is one which faced the old railway administrations prior to nationalisation and, indeed, faces all railway administrations in highly developed civilised countries, whatever 1990 may be the method by which they are operated. It really is not to be expected that the present railway network of Britain, most of which was built 100 years ago, is the right pattern for an age of highly developed road transport. Indeed, had the railways been constructed after the age of the horse instead of during that time, many of these branch lines would never have been laid down.
The policy which the Transport Commission are pursuing—that of pruning uneconomic services wherever adequate alternative facilities exist—is one which has received the support of both the previous Government and of ourselves and is one which we continue to support. But having said that, let me add at once that it is of the utmost importance that the full implications of the withdrawal of services of this kind should be assessed in such a way that the interests of the public can be properly safeguarded.
As hon. Members know, there is now, and has been for some years, a complete examination by the area and central transport users' consultative committees of all railway proposals to withdraw services. It is evident that the railways do not move in these matters until they have very strong justification for doing so, that almost without exception the consultative committees have endorsed the views of the Commission in the matter of these closings. Where there has been a difference of view between the consultative committee and the Commission, the latter have shown themselves very ready to accept the committee's recommendations.
For instance—there is nothing like a concrete example—only within recent weeks the Commission have accepted, I understand, the recommendation of the central transport users' consultative committee that the Brightlingsea branch line should be restored as quickly as possible. I do not see the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) in his place, but he was displaying a good deal of agitation about that matter before we rose for the Recess.
It is often urged by hon. Gentlemen, again on both sides of the House, that branch lines could be saved and rendered solvent by operating them with diesel railcars. It is undoubtedly a fact that to make diesel railcars an economic proposition would require the support of far more traffic than the branch lines already 1991 closed ever seemed likely to offer. The plain fact is that, for most of the rural districts in our land, road transport, by the intimate way in which it serves villages and towns by taking passengers right into the centre of the population, offers far more convenient service than the rail could provide.
§ Mr. Sparks
The hon. Gentleman ought to give credit to the British Transport Commission for the fact that they have utilised their powers over road passenger travel and road haulage not only to close down uneconomic branch lines but to maintain the flow of traffic, Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what effect Government policy will have upon that development by depriving the Commission of that possibility now?
Perhaps the hon. Member will acquaint us with his views on that aspect of the matter, Mr. Speaker, if he catches your eye.
I am not engaged at the moment in getting myself involved in a debate on Government policy but am giving a review of transport work in recent months. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not quarrel with the statement that we are getting into the stage in which rural areas are better served by road passenger services, whoever operates them, than by the railways. I would remind the House that many of the branch line stations, for some reasons best known to our forefathers, are always a mile or half a mile away from the villages. [Interruption.] None of Her Majesty's present Ministers were responsible for the construction of the railways 100 years ago. No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite have many bricks to throw at us, but surely not that one.
The main thing is to see to it—and here again I am in search of common ground which I have been looking for all through this discussion—that when rail services are withdrawn the alternative road services, both passenger and carrier, are adequately developed to meet the needs of rural communities. We hope to make a contribution to the* carrier problem during the coming months, when road haulage returns to a more independent form of control and when the carrier will again 1992 make his appearance. These matters are under discussion and are a close concern of the Commission, the consultative committees and the licensing authorities. Continuing and developing attention must undoubtedly be paid to this aspect of the matter.
The House will have noted from recently published announcements that the Commission are embarking upon the development of a scheme for the provision of light diesel trains in suburban and lightly trafficked areas. I am sure that this development will be watched with interest. The whole problem of branch lines is acute. It was thrown into a special spotlight by the problems of the Isle of Wight, which has a great augmentation of population during the holiday months, and where my right hon. Friend was last Monday discussing local problems with all those who are affected.
I now come to a topic on which I do not expect to find the common ground that I have sought to achieve so far, the disposal of road haulage units. As the House is aware, the Commission, in consultation with the Disposal Board, have been engaged in making the necessary preparatory arrangements for the disposal of road haulage units, and, with the approval of the Board, the Commission announced on 12th October their programme for the first stage of the operation. This will involve the sale of about 1,500 transport units, comprising about 10,000 vehicles, in three monthly schedules. [An HON. MEMBER: "Lorries for the boys."] The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) was concerned in the later stages of the Bill with the geographical distribution of these units. They are well spread geographically over England, Scotland and Wales, and more than 2,000 vehicles will be offered for sale—this will interest hon. Members——
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps the hon. Member will assist me. I cannot find anything in the Report that we are discussing about the matter he is now on. I do not profess to have read the Report all through.
If I have gone a little wide I apologise, but the Report does deal with what I think is described as "The Road Haulage Executive" and with the problems that may arise as the result of disposal. It occurred to me that the 1993 House might be interested in a more or less up-to-date account of what is going on, but if you tell me that that is not in order, I will pass over it. I thought it did just impinge on the matter under review.
§ Mr. Speaker
There are references in the beginning of the Report, in the paragraphs on page 7, to integration and coordination, and reference is made there to what was forthcoming legislation at the time the Report was written. I should have thought myself that disposal came after the Act was passed.
§ Mr. Mellish
Surely the hon. Gentleman is in order. He has been explaining to the House what a great success the British Transport Commission is, as shown by this Report. Now he is going to explain why he proposes to destroy it.
§ Mr. Speaker
That may be a debating point between the two sides, but I am in a difficulty now in allowing discussion to go as far as the disposal of road vehicles, which is not mentioned in the Report.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I do not know whether I can be helpful, Mr. Speaker. As you say, you are in some difficulty. The interests of both sides of the House are involved. Taking the sections of the Report on pages 7 and 8, it is clear that the whole policy of disposal is involved in it. In the introductory part of the Report of the Commission, there are references to Government policy. There is also an Amendment on the Order Paper, as you know. If you would be so good as to exercise in this matter that tolerance for which you are famed, I think it would be for the convenience of both sides of the House if the matters connected with disposal could be freely discussed.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
Perhaps I might add to the suggestion just made by the right hon. Gentleman. Running through the Report of the Commission is the suggestion, which I agree is justified, that the Road Haulage Executive or the Commission are carrying on under great difficulties and uncertainties. In so far as the speed of disposal will help to relieve those difficulties, I should have thought it would be relevant to our discussion of the Report.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have no desire unduly to narrow the debate against the desires" of the House, but I had to point out the difficulties which occurred to me, because, the rules of order must be maintained. I, think I can leave it to the House not to; stray too far from the main Motion which is before us, and in so far as, references to disposal are in order they can be made freely.
§ Mr. Ellis Smithrose——
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Further to that point of order. If you, Mr. Speaker, are now ruling in this way, I hope that arrangements will be made to see that your successors in the Chair during the evening are acquainted with that position lest some back benchers are precluded from dealing with the same point.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
While I cannot anticipate an Amendment which has not yet been moved, I take it that nothing in your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, would impair discussion on further progress in a given direction which would arise on that Amendment.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that that would be quite in order. May I say, to finish this subject of what is in order and what is not, that the Amendment proposed to be moved would, if moved now, unduly limit the debate. I think that a convenient arrangement has been come to, by agreement of both sides of the House, that the actual words of the Amendment will be moved at the very end of the debate so that Members will not be restricted to the terms of the Amendment when they speak.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
May I say that we are all very much obliged to you, Sir, for that adaptability which is characteristic of you and of the great office that you hold? We are grateful.
If I should cross the line which limits the bounds of order, I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will pull me up at once, but this seemed to me to be a topic interesting to hon. Gentlemen and I was trying to give a kind of progress report in the matter. Perhaps I may be permitted to do so. I was proposing to make a passing reference to the Amendment before sitting down.
Invitations to tender will be advertised in the Press, and the first advertisement will appear next month. The programme provides for the disposal of these 1,500 units—10,000 vehicles—by the end of next April. The make-up of the transport units is a matter for the Commission and the Board, working co-operatively together. The units have to be such as to enable purchasers to engage in road haulage without delay, and in making them up the Commission are required to have regard to the desirability of securing that the small man has a reasonable opportunity of entering or re-entering this important industry.
§ Mr. Sparks
Could the Parliamentary Secretary say whether these vehicles are to be disposed of by public auction? If so, is a reserve price to be placed upon them?
I do not want to go into that matter at this stage; I am taking rather a long time.
In determining which tenders for units will be accepted and which refused, the Commission and the Board are required to prevent the property falling into "too few hands." My right hon. Friend does not come into the picture unless it is proposed to include in a unit more than 50 motor vehicles or motor vehicles of a total unladen weight exceeding 200 tons—no such units are included in these first three schedules—or the Commission propose to refuse a tender on "too few hands" grounds, or a difference arises between the Commission and the Board.
Before I leave this topic, may I say that the Commission are proceeding with the preparation of a further schedule or schedules so that further transport units can be offered for sale to meet any demand which is unsatisfied by the initial three schedules. Hon. Gentlemen will recall how, during the debate on the Bill, 1996 certain provisions were inserted to enable certain vehicles to be retained by the Commission and for the disposal of property otherwise than in transport units. All these matters were considered at that time. In view of what you have said just now, Mr. Speaker, I do not think I will go into any further detail, though I think it might be agreeable to hon. Gentlemen if the debate were to be widened to that extent.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The hon. Gentleman has spoken about disposal. Obviously if 10,000 vehicles are to be disposed of within a given period, as indicated, those vehicles must, I take it, be out of traffic during the sale and disposal period. The House ought to be informed what arrangements are being made by the Commission and the Government to see that traffic is carried between the various points during the time in which these vehicles are not available.
The answer briefly is that they will not be taken out of traffic prior to actual disposal, so the remainder of what the hon. Gentleman said, in the words we use at Question time, does not arise.
I wish to turn from that somewhat controversial topic back to one or two other matters in which the House is interested. I come now to London Transport. During the year progress was made in the modernisation and development of the London Transport Executive's road services within the London area, and I am sure that London Members will be interested to note that the Executive took delivery of 587 new double-deck buses, while 233 old double-deckers and all the remaining trams were withdrawn from service. The result of that has been that about 85 per cent. of the double-deck fleet now consists of modern vehicles compared with 79 per cent. in 1951. Three hundred and one of the new buses were used for replacement of trams and 158 were allocated to the country area.
Hon. Members who were observant noted, I am sure, how the tramway conversion scheme was completed in July last year on the remaining 60 miles of road, and in all 824 buses have replaced 824 trams and 16 trolley vehicles. The advantages of this system enabled the same standard of service to be given by fewer buses than was originally expected. 1997 The new bus services are more economical in operation and have proved more satisfactory. I think that hon. Gentlemen will agree that, as a result of this, street congestion has been greatly eased, particularly at a number of difficult traffic centres. The rapid conversion of the old tram track to a modern highway reflects the greatest credit on all who were concerned, and the operation was such as to excite the admiration of all who witnessed it.
As regards the operation of the London Transport Executive as a whole, the House will be aware that my right hon. Friend appointed an inquiry into the matter. Hon. Members may like to know that five meetings have been held since 8th July, but it is quite evident that a lengthy task awaits the inquiry.
The Commission's docks, harbours and wharves have shown improved financial results each year since the Commission's inception. Nineteen fifty-one was the first year in which they operated at a profit—three years after vesting day—namely,£817,000. In 1952, the year under review, the surplus rose to£2,398,000. This improved financial position was partly accounted for by an increase in dock charges which came into effect on 31st December, 1951, and partly by an increase in the volume of traffic passing through the Commission's ports; but it also reflects the close attention given to economies in the operation of the ports wherever these could be achieved without the sacrifice of efficiency. Total traffic rose by 7.8 per cent. from 63.9 million tons in 1951 to 68.8 million tons in 1952, entirely through the increase in outward traffic. Inward traffic fell by 0.3 million tons. A noteworthy increase in outward traffic was coal shipments, both foreign and coastwise, which increased in 1952 by 3.6 million tons compared with 1951.
When we were debating the Act of 1953, one subject in which the House took particular and anxious interest was that of compensation changes——
§ Mr. Mellish
There is one point to which I wish to refer. On page 10 of the Report of the Commission reference is made to the fact that trade harbour schemes were put forward to the Minister covering the Ports of Dundee, Aberdeen, the Hartlepools and the Clyde. These 1998 have been abandoned because of the present policy of the Government. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say a word about what is going to happen?
I think I have said enough words, and I still have a few more to say. We are only at the beginning of a long day. My right hon. Friend will be winding up the debate and we shall try to deal with the points as we go.
I was referring to compensation and pensions in which, quite correctly, hon. Members took an interest at the time when the Act was going through. The House will remember that Section 27 requires the Minister to make regulations regarding the pension rights of employees who cease to be in the employment of the Commission in consequence of the changes brought about by the Act. Section 28 requires my right hon. Friend to make regulations for providing compensation to those who suffer loss of employment or diminution of emoluments or pension rights as a result of those changes. The day when the House rose for the Summer Recess these compensation regulations were made, after the draft had been approved by this House on 27th July and in another place on 30th July. The title is "The British Transport Commission (Compensation to Employees) Regulations, 1953." They came into operation on 14th August but with effect from 6th May, the date of the Royal Assent to the Act.
Regulations for the preservation of pension rights were made on 29th September and laid before Parliament on 30th September. The title is "The British Transport Commission (Pensions of Employees) Regulations, 1953." They came into operation on 13th October, again with effect from 6th May. May I remind hon. Members that these are, of course, subject to annulment by Prayer within 40 days from the resumption of Parliament, but may I also add that they have been discussed and agreed in draft with all the interests concerned—the Commission, the unions and the life offices.
Last of all, and I apologise for the length of time I have taken, I would refer to the view contained in the Amendment on the Order Paper, which refers to integration and co-ordination, the 1999 heavenly twins, the Castor and Pollux of Socialist achievement——
Having been born myself under Gemini I think I am entitled to examine them.
Paragraph 12 of Part I of the Report records that the announcement of the Government's policy on transport in May, 1952, halted or at least seriously restricted prospects of realising major economies in the field of road-rail co-ordination—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—well, the effect of the announcement of the Government's policy on co-ordination and integration is also referred to in the third paragraph of the introduction to the Report. The Commission's claim that the announcement of the Government's policy halted or seriously restricted the realisation of the schemes mentioned in paragraph 12 is no doubt true, but the implication that it put a stop to integration is certainly open to question. The eight schemes referred to—valuable though they may be in themselves—can in no way be regarded as substantial achievements towards or as foreshadowing a real integration of our transport services.
In our view—and I am going to express our view—the nationalisation of longdistance road haulage and all that flows from it was a heavy price to pay for such results, even if they had finally been developed to the full and had produced all that was hoped from them. A year ago, when we were debating the Commission's Report for 1951, my right hon. Friend described that Report as relating to the "achievements of separate transport activities" and referred to "the absolute failure in the realm of integration." The references to this subject in the Report for 1952 may be intended to rebut this criticism by placing the responsibility for failure to achieve more by way of coordination and integration on the announcement of Her Majesty's Government's transport policy.
We feel, however, that it is apparent from the list of eight schemes briefly referred to in paragraph 12 of Part I of this Report that what the Commission claim as plans for integration amount to little more than plans for the establishment 2000 of improved working arrangements and of increased co-ordination between the road haulage and other parts of their undertaking.
It has been argued by hon. Members on this side of the House in support of our own transport policy that achievement of the integration of services enjoined on the Commission, not by our legislation but by Section 3 of the 1947 Act, is, however much the Commission may loyally strive for it, doomed in the main to fail, because of illogicality in the 1947 Act itself. Leaving aside the question whether integration according to the conception on which that Act was founded was desirable or otherwise, its practical achievement became impossible once the Act conceded freedom to operate vehicles under "C" licences without restriction of radius.
The effectiveness of this obstacle to the achievement of integration was assured by the obligation imposed on the Commission by Section 3 (2) of the 1947 Act to allow customers to decide whether goods entrusted to them should be carried by road or by rail. The logical and complete conception of a thorough integration of all services is no more than another name for naked and unashamed monopoly—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and as such proved unacceptable, even to the Socialist Government.
In this connection it may be recalled that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, during the debate on the White Paper on transport policy on 21st May, 1952, referred tothe classic Socialist argument—for forcing every load to be carried by the method chosen by the State.and he went on to remark:A transport system, whether 'properly integrated' or not, exists to serve the community and must be judged not by its quality of integration but by the quality of its service to the public."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May. 1952; Vol. 501, c. 532.]I submit that in the Commission's moves towards co-ordination the interests of transport users were very liable to become obscured in the almost inevitable preoccupation with the complicated processes of achieving compromise between 2001 the separate road and rail parts of its undertaking. Under the Transport Act of 1953, the Commission remain free, subject to licensing under the Act of 1933, to develop road services for freight traffic. They may retain control over a substantial nucleus of road haulage services, and provision is made for special consideration to be given by the licensing authorities to applications for licences for vehicles required in connection with the provision of combined road and rail services by containers and other methods for eliminating unloading and reloading.
I thank hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House for the patience with which they have listened to this rather lengthy opening speech——
In Parliament we do not meet to agree, we meet to discuss, and this is one of the opportunities to do so. I have put the view held by hon. Members on this side of the House and the hon. Member for Acton and his hon Friends will doubtless have an opportunity to return fire on the few remarks I have made. But it is inevitable, when dealing with so long a list of topics and such complex subjects as can be found within the pages of the Report, that the Minister presenting it to the House can touch only upon the most salient points unless he is to occupy an inordinate amount of time when many hon. Members are anxious to participate in the debate.
I trust that I have succeeded in deploying the essential matters which are at present attracting the greatest public interest. I have shown, I hope, that a large number of valuable improvements were achieved during the year. In asking the House to take note of the Report of the Commission for the year 1952, I conclude by expressing the sure and certain hope that under their new and distinguished chairman they will not weary of well doing.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
The speech of the Parliamentary Secretary was of a varied order. It is a good thing that we have been permitted some elasticity by Mr. Speaker in handling the Report both as to subjects and as to time. Inevitably, it is difficult to keep 2002 within a strict 12 months. What happened before and what will happen later has some relevance. We are all grateful to Mr. Speaker for his kindness.
The Parliamentary Secretary said a number of things with which we agree. Indeed, he was complimentary about a number of the achievements of British Railways—timing on important routes has been improved; various improvements have been made—and in other respects he rightly and fairly made complimentary reference to the work of the British Transport Commission and its subsidiary organisations. I hope that as time goes on we can find it possible to debate the work of publicly-owned industries with something approaching the impartiality with which we can debate the Post Office and its work. There is no need for party politics to haunt these publicly-owned industries all their lives.
That will not stop us having differences of opinion about policy or extensions of public ownership. I entirely agree—I hope the Minister does—on the point of the relationship between the Board and the Minister. The Parliamentary Secretary engaged in some courteous but frank criticisms of certain aspects of the Report. I do not complain. It is legitimate that Ministers should be free to say so if they do not agree with something in a Report. They should never be the slaves of the public corporations. They have a right to state their own point of view.
But I would say to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that, equally, as long as it is done with proper respect and courtesy, it is competent and legitimate for public corporations publicly to disagree with Ministers about certain elements of their own policy affecting the work of the public corporations. The relationship between Minister and corporation must be that of colleagues and co-operators, but there must be a right on either side to express disagreement one with the other so long as it is done in proper terms and with proper consideration and respect.
On the other hand, the Parliamentary Secretary came out with the slogans and sayings and rather worn-out shibboleths with which we are becoming familiar from his side of the House. They are a substitute for argument. There are cer- 2003 tain types of politician who, when they cannot easily think in detail on a certain point of policy, because the policy is difficult to defend, or when they find that the party has committed them to some dogma for which it is difficult to make a case in Parliament or elsewhere, think that the only thing to do is to fall back on shibboleths, sayings, and slogans.
Perhaps it was inevitable that the Parliamentary Secretary should do so. Possibly, it helped to cheer up the boys sitting behind him, though they did not cheer very much. However, it reminded them that he is still a good trusted Tory who can mouth slogans as good as anybody else at a Tory conference at Margate—and if it made them happy who am I to say them nay? I am all in favour of happiness, even in the Tory Party. What is important is that I like them to be specially happy when they are defeated at General Elections.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to what he thought was the querulous criticism of the Commission about what had happened in connection with the policy of the Government. They say that they were proceeding with an elaboration of a scheme of decentralisation or devolution and that they had sought an interview with the Minister on the subject. But they had no consultation with the Minister on the schemes that they submitted to him. No consultation with the Commission took place on them. That is a pity, especially as the Government had under consideration in a big way their own policy.
On 8th May a White Paper was issued. There was no consultation between the Government and the Commission before the White Paper forecasting legislation was issued. The Parliamentary Secretary answers that there was consultation between the publication of the White Paper and the publication of the Bill. But I would remind the House that the Commission points out in the Report that the Government had stated that the essentials of the Government's policy must be respected, and as to that there could be no argument. Therefore, the Commission were reduced to the point when they could make suggestions only on matters of subsidiary or detailed importance.
I do not think that carries out the spirit of the undertaking given by the 2004 present Home Secretary in the debate on the Address in November, 1951. He said:We are all aware of the risk in over-hasty action, which could result in some temporary dislocation. Before legislation is introduced, the Commission and the industry, as well as others, will have to be consulted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 728.]I agree that there was consultation before the legislation was introduced, but if the Government publish a White Paper containing what amounts to the heads of a Bill and says, "You cannot discuss the policy of this; you can only discuss details; you are not entitled to say anything at all about policy," that is not observing the spirit of the undertaking given by the Home Secretary.
I am not moving the Amendment now. That will be done later, as Mr. Speaker himself suggested that it would limit the style of the debate unless it was moved at the last minute. We have before us the Report for 1952. It is one of the best Reports of the Commission. It shows three things. It shows substantial financial progress; the development of substantial economies; and the development of substantial co-ordination and integration.
It must be remembered, however, that that work was by no means finished. It is not finished and the present Home Secretary said that it would take at least 10 years for that work really to get going in a proper sense. I do not think that even then he contemplated that it would be finished. It was the same story with the main line railway companies after the Railway Act of 1921. Having regard to the time during which the Commission has existed, by and large this is a good Report of good work and really substantial improvement.
Let us look at the financial results, which are considerable and which show a marked improvement. The overall working surplus, as far as I can see from page 15 of the Report, was£55.7 million, which was a better situation than in 1951 to the extent of£6.6 million—a substantial amount, though not as much as we would like. Against that, there were central charges, interest and administration amounting to£47.3 million, which was an increase, as far as I can see, though it is shown as a decrease for technical reasons, of£1.1 million. That 2005 left a surplus of revenue receipts over expenditure of£8.4 million, or an improvement of£5.5 million. The central charges for capital reduction and special items amounted to£3.9 million, which was£1.1 million against the Commission's net revenue account. Finally, after charging capital reduction and special items, a surplus was left of£4.5 million, or an increase of£4.4 million as compared with the year before.
That is a small surplus, but it must be remembered that the time factor in getting increases of charges—which is a controversial matter—is rather slow, though I understand it is being speeded up. I wish that we could avoid increased charges, although it has still to be said that the increases in transport charges are less than the general increases of prices in the commercial world as a whole. Moreover, salary and wage applications have been made from time to time, largely the direct result of the Government's policy in taking away the food subsidies and deliberately increasing the cost of living as far as food is concerned. They were inevitable, and the Commission have done their best to come to some general consultation or arbitration, but there they are and they have had their effect on the finances of the Commission. At any rate, there is an improvement in the finances of the Commission.
As I shall show substantial economies have been effected in the undertaking, and, despite the Parliamentary Secretary taking a rather indifferent line about what was achieved in co-ordination and integration, no fair-minded person can read paragraph 12 of this Report without realising that much was being achieved in this direction. The tragedy of it is that much that has been achieved has been advocated by every enlightened person in private enterprise even before there was nationalisation, and by nobody more than leading railwaymen in high positions, as well, as trade union leaders. All this policy was being advocated even by some in road transport, but along come the Government, who are, in a way, the victims of their own slogans. I know that all political parties become victims of their own slogans now and again, but this Government are particularly prone to be the victims of their own slogans. They come along and do this——
Mr. A. Woodbum (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
§ Mr. Morrison
My right hon. Friend says "criminal," and I agree with him—this destructive, almost vindictive thing, in smashing up, impeding and obstructing a splendid piece of constructive public work. Paragraph 12 says:The announcement of the Government's policy on transport, as outlined in the White Paper and later expanded in the Transport Bill, brought to a halt a number of schemes designed to produce a rationalised internal transport system.Later, it says:Brief reference to schemes which it has been necessary to put aside is made below.and they are there set out.
What are they? Clearly, it is desirable to pool the resources of the railways and of the roads in the collection and delivery of goods and parcels, and so on, in order that we might develop, over the country as a whole, a system of collection and delivery of goods from any point, even in sparsely populated areas, which is as reliable as the collection and delivery of letters by the General Post Office. I do not say as frequent; that is not practicable; but even with persons living in sparsely populated areas, the transport system ought to do the best it can for them, and, indeed, from the point of view of those people, it is a matter of indifference whether the goods go by road or by rail or whether they go partly by road and partly by rail as long as the delivery is safe and expeditious.
What were the Transport Commission, the Railway Executive and the Road Haulage Executive proposing to do? This is what they say:It was proposed ultimately to fuse the Railway Executive collection and delivery services with the local services operated by the Road Haulage Executive.That is a sensible thing to do. It is not a little thing; it is a big thing. It is the kind of thing which has been advocated, and which ought to be done. The Report adds:The immediate economy would have been substantial, with a progressive increase as the scheme was extended.Their next point was that they had been developing common commercial services in East Anglia, but that has been retarded by the change in policy. A common commercial service was also to 2007 be experimented with in the Hull and York districts, and, presumably, that will have to come to an end. There was also a general plan for the integration of the Railway Executive's and Road Haulage Executive's road motor engineering and stores organisations, which was completed in March, 1952. When they were both running these road repair and mechanical and technical services for vehicles, it would be better to do so, and it would mean more money saved. The repair service eventually would have catered for 53,000 vehicles. All this is to be broken up under the Government's destructive and negative policy.
There was another big scheme of trunk haulage by rail of Road Haulage Executive traffic between Glasgow and London, London and Cardiff, London and Exeter and Leicester and Glasgow. They anticipated that substantial economies would be achieved. It was not always the one way of carrying road traffic partly by rail. There was also the policy of the other way round, because they had a scheme whereby a number of zonal trunk services operated by the railway executive would have been transferred to the Road Haulage Executive.
What complete common sense this is to use a channel of transportation which is reasonable and economical in the circumstances, and in which we get a higher percentage of load factor on the railways and the roads. It is the very thing which has been advocated for years by railway-men, by some road transport people and people who can think in terms of transport, as the noble Lord who used to sit for Abingdon in this House used to say—men who can think in terms of transport generally, where many people only think in terms of the railways or of the roads or the hauliers.
In the event of war, the Government will have to exercise comprehensive control, and I believe that, whatever the colour of future Governments, some Government—and I hope it will be a Labour Government, but it may be a Conservative Government—will have to put this thing right. I do not believe that this anarchist policy can continue; there will be sufficient agitation from the people concerned to get that co-ordination going again.
2008 Then there was a great scheme for improving the transit time of smalls traffic on cross-country routes by transferring traffic from road to rail, again showing the impartiality of the undertaking. There was a scheme for heavy haulage, a common road-rail commercial service for the removal of heavy divisible loads so that the heavy equipment possessed both by the railways and by the road haulage organisation could be used to the best advantage. That is to be broken up. Then there were schemes for general terminals which could be used by either the railways or road haulage, an obviously sensible arrangement, especially for smalls and parcels traffic. That is to be broken up.
Finally, they mentioned accommodation, the development of plans for accommodating the road haulage undertaking in premises held by other executives. With the destruction of the Road Haulage Executive and the ownership of enough vehicles and properties that, too, is to be brought to an end. I will guarantee that that is not the whole story, but it is an adequate story from the point of view of condemning the policy which the Government have pursued, and for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that this is small stuff and of no great importance is really silly.
It was not the end of the story; this was only up to the year 1952, and they had not got to the point of the bigger and more imaginative schemes which would inevitably have become practicable as the years passed. In these matters, one has to evolve, to move step by step, and it is silly for people who do not believe in revolution not to believe even in evolution and to try and bring it to a stop. I do not charge the Conservative Party with being revolutionary on this point, but with being counter-revolutionary. They ought to be wise men and stand for reasonable progressive evolution.
Let us have a look at the story of British Railways, and I call as witness a man who has been distinguished in the world of railways and transport, not only under the Railways Commission, but under private railway companies, namely, Mr. John Elliot, who, at the moment, is Chairman of the London Transport Executive. Formerly, I think, he was chairman of the Railway Executive and had been, I believe, general manager, or a very high officer, of the 2009 Southern Railway when it was under private ownership. Therefore, he comes to this without political bias. I have really no idea what his political ideas are; he may be a politically easygoing individual who does not take an interest in politics at all. I should not be surprised if that were the case. But he took an interest in railways. He is President of the Institute of Transport, and takes a wide view on transport matters.
It is worth looking in some detail at the speech made by Mr. Elliot at the Institute of Transport when he took over the presidency of that organisation. It is very remarkable. At one point—this is very wise, and I will link it with something which has been said by one of the chief regional managers of the railway organisation—he said:The conception of a unified system of railways obviously created the need for a British Railways central management, otherwise unification would not have been implemented, for we are still human beings with distinctly individual preferences at times.How wise he was to say that we, the railwaymen, and even the high-up railwaymen, are still human beings with distinctly individual preferences at times.
I do not complain that the railwaymen had a sense of loyalty to the old Southern Railway, the Great Western Railway, the London and North-Eastem Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway any more than they would complain that railwaymen in the older days had an affection for the London Brighton and South Coast Railway, or even for the old London Chatham and Dover Railway.
It may interest the House to know that I was told that after the London Transport Board was established, of which I was the pioneer and planner—I did not like the changes made by the succeeding Government—the London motor busmen—not the old horse driver; he was a good Tory, if I remember him aright, and no one would charge the London motor busmen with that deficiency—had an emotional shock when the name of the London General Omnibus Company was changed and the word "General" went off the side of the buses and "London Transport" appeared instead.
All of these things are understandable, and it is a good thing if men get even an 2010 emotional affection for the great undertakings on which they are employed, just as it is a good thing that we should get a deep and emotional love of the House of Commons in which we spend so much of our time. But it can be a nuisance. I am not talking, of course, of the House of Commons, but of emotional affection for undertakings of a commercial character.
If one meets a Great Western railwayman, he tends to swear that various improvements made on that railway beat all the others. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is a "Hear, hear" already. There are others, employed by other railways, who are very proud of the improvements made by them and some railwaymen who worked with these undertakings and who left them feel that British Railways have standardised things too much.
Here is what Mr. K. W. C. Grand, Chief Regional Officer, Western Region, Railway Executive, is reported as saying in the Swindon "Evening Advertiser" of 20th May last. I would say that he is an important representative of some of the bigger higher ups of the Great Western Railway. He is reported as saying:' Standardisation is now a fetish in British Railways. I believe it may mean standardisation of brains. When you get this, it is the end of progress,' said Mr. K. W. C. Grand at yesterday's Mayoral luncheon in Swindon. Replying to the toast, 'The Industry and Trade of Swindon,' Mr. Grand said: 'You get standard engines, standard trucks, standard carriages, and standard designs in everything. We cannot recruit young men, technical fellows, into our drawing office. They say "What have we got to do?" They are told; "Pull out that drawer. There is the blue print. That is the standard for the next 100 years."'"—I do not know whoever said that—'Can you imagine any young fellow willing to come in and do that?'My friend, Mr. W. J. P. Webber, the General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, makes this comment on Mr. Grand's observation about young men leaving the undertaking. He says, in respect to the recruitment of technical staff:My Swindon Branch state that the dearth of qualified staff for the drawing office at Swindon is due to low rates of pay rather than the nature of the work. They say that during the last eight years more than 60 Swindon trained and qualified men under the age of 30—two-thirds of whom were graduates of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers—have left 2011 Swindon drawing office to go to more remunerative posts with other employers.Now let us have a look at the facts in relation to Mr. Grand's argument, because it just does not stand up. What Mr. Grand is pleading for is a policy of utter conservatism in industrial administration. I am not using that word politically. He is pleading for stodginess; he is pleading for waste and staying in a rut. What are the facts? This is what Mr. Elliot says:On the score of efficiency many facts could be quoted and of these I may mention just a few. During the years 1947 to 1952 inclusive the net ton miles volume of freight work done were greater than in any peace time year since such all railway statistics were first collated in 1950. Efficiency of freight working is best illustrated by the statistic net ton miles hauled per total freight engine hours which was 605 in 1952 compared with 547 in 1948 and 461 in 1938 and represented the highest level of efficiency in freight operating yet recorded in the history of railways in this country.The 1952 passenger miles—that is to say the number of passengers multiplied by the distances they travelled—at 20,260 million were higher than in any pre-war year with a lower passenger train mileage and passenger and freight carried in 1952 were 988 million, nearly 989 million and nearly 285 million tons respectively, a greater task than in 1948 accomplished with over 1,700 fewer engines and 40,000 fewer staff.What becomes of the cry that nationalisation means an artificial swelling of the staff when these great improvements have been made? I have given the financial results for the undertaking as a whole, but it is also true that the financial results of the railways alone were a record this year for some time past and they have distinctly improved. Mr. Elliot says that in 1951–52 British Railways paid their way in full and today in fact more work is being done with less equipment and relatively fewer staff than at any time in the history of our railways, leaving the war years out of account.
Now let us come to Mr. Grand's argument about the railways, because if gentlemen like him had their way indeed these financial results would not continue. When the railways were unified the four mainline companies had 400 locomotive types. That was the result of the enthusiasm of various locomotive engineers, railway companies and managers. The four companies between them, prior to nationalisation, had developed 400 locomotive types and that is not a good thing. This is the result 2012 of the pernickety ideas of the gentleman to whom I have referred. By progressive work and design incorporating the best elements the operating needs of British railways generally can be met by 12 classes of steam locomotives with a few types of diesel and diesel-electric locomotives.
The result of all this is that much greater economies have been effected and great improvements have been made. Indeed, the number of mechanical faults have markedly decreased and the loss of mileage in relation to each mechanical casualty has markedly decreased. That has partly been done by drawing on the experience of all the railway undertakings in locomotives, better maintenance and better organisation in numerous ways. This kind of philosophy of condemning standardisation merely because you want to preserve your own pet ideas in various ways is a backward view and ought not to be followed.
Supposing it had been the case that, instead of the 12 standard types of locomotive, British Railways after amalgamation and under public ownership had converted the 12 into 400 different types—what a stream of condemnation there would be as a result of nationalisation.
The cost of repairs has been reduced. It is well known that the abolition of the private wagon, particularly in respect of collieries, has saved enormous running expenses in the transport system. I think that is accepted by everybody because private wagons did mean an enormous amount of empty mileage and a lot of standing about of trucks in various places. That has been saved by the abolition of private ownership of trucks.
The railway marine fleet was 119 vessels at the end of 1952 and was doing approximately the work of 152 vessels before the war according to Mr. Elliot. The cumulative economies under nationalisation are now falling in at the rate of about£16 million per annum under public ownership. If they had been given the time, I am quite sure that those economies would have been increased. I want to be fair. It is true that Mr. Elliot is critical about some of the administrative set-up designed by the Labour Government under the Act of 1947. He 2013 is critical about that and he thinks other courses might have been better in the light of experience.
That is a legitimate point on which to argue and I quite agree. Even I am prepared to join the ranks of the critics because, when one sets up an organisation of this magnitude, it would be utterly foolish to say that one had come to an end and must not think again about it. But the fact that Mr. Elliot is critical about some particular points in the organisation and the Act of 1947 adds to the weight of his evidence which I have quoted in the House this afternoon.
Following the abolition of the Executives, including the Road Haulage Executive, Mr. H. E. Clay and Mr. A. Henderson have been given temporary appointments in a part-time capacity to advise on special matters. These two gentlemen were appointed and I think they served the country well—as will be agreed by all—with their knowledge of transport organisation and the organisation of workers in the industry. I think Mr. Clay was practically whole-time employed on the labour conditions side of the industry and the organisation of labour while Mr. Archie Henderson, who had been a traffic licensing commissioner in Scotland and had done good work there, was employed in another capacity.
When the Labour Government made these appointments to the Commission and to the Executives we decided as an act of deliberate policy that we should appoint competent and able trade union men to fulfil a proportion of these posts because of their valuable public spirit and the good work they could do. What I do not like—this is my own opinion—and what I thought was wrong was to plunge a trade union official into an advocate against the claims of a trade union which formerly he may have served, or against another union.
I believe that these gentlemen were quite conscientious and sought to be fair, but that is liable not to improve relationships with the persons employed because it does cause feeling. This is a personal opinion and I think it would better not have been done. The value of the experience which these gentlemen bring is very great and by appointing the executives we were able to see to it that such gentlemen as these were included among the membership with other people of 2014 other qualities and experience, whom we must also have.
Now the Executives have gone. The Minister does not appoint the Executives except the London Transport Executive. There are committees of management, though not for the railways, curiously enough. That undertaking is to be broken up and somehow the Commission are to be responsible for it. How are we to be sure that there will be an adequate proportion of people experienced in the organisation of workers on these committees of management so that they will have a proper position in the undertakings? Mr. Clay has become a part-time officer and so has Mr. Henderson.
I should like to know from the Minister whether the principle of having men with experience in the organisation of workers occupying high and responsible positions in the undertakings is to continue, or whether the new régime means that that is going by the board and that these positions are to be filled in the ordinary way of appointment as was done under the old companies. Is the subject of labour relations to be relegated merely to a part-time basis?
With the passing of the Railway Executive can the Minister tell us who will determine standardisation with a view to further economies being effected in relation to the matters to which I have referred? Is there really to be no board of management for the railways as a whole apart from the regional organisation which the Government and Parliament decided to set up? A committee of management is being set up for hotels, the docks and inland waterways and also the London Transport Executive. Is there to be no board of management for the railways? Who is to deal with labour relations in connection with these great undertakings?
As the Commission's Fifth Annual Report records, the road haulage undertaking is now being disposed of, and a large proportion of it will be disposed of in small lots of one to four vehicles without premises. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the pension schemes which had been discussed by various elements of the Transport Commission and were under consideration. What is to happen to those pension schemes now that the road haulage undertaking is to be broken up? I am referring to the 2015 operatives, the clerical, administrative and technical people who are concerned. Are we to understand that the prospects of special pension schemes have now been deliberately abandoned?
The small man had his place in transport and I am not saying that the small man should be completely excluded. The Labour Government did not completely exclude him. He had a place within a certain radius even in our original proposals for C licences, and I am not convinced that we were altogether wrong about that. In the original proposals we left room within a substantial radius for small men to do certain things. There is a place for the little man, but the present Government's scheme will create as many little men as possible, at the expense of co-operation, and we shall lose better direction, better management and maintenance of the vehicles, with consequent danger not only to the standards of labour and security of employment but to safety on the roads.
Incidentally, we are debating this subject in the middle of "Road Safety Week." Probably it will turn out all right. There is a strike on and we poor motorists will not be able to get petrol if we do not look out. If the Minister tells us in a fortnight's time what a wonderful success this safety week has been we must remember this situation in connection with petrol, though I hope that it will be solved.
This scheme of the Government's is deliberately creating a chaotic situation. Companies are to be formed to take over the undertakings. They will be promoted by the Commission, but there is a requirement that the Commission must sell the shares as soon as they can. This must mean some increase in the technical administrative staff in relation to the number of vehicles involved. That is to say, it could have been done more economically under the scheme which we instituted than it can be done under a whole series of companies. Therefore, there must be a relative wastage. Nevertheless, overall a large number of the present technical and administrative staff will find themselves displaced owing to the breaking up of the Road Haulage Executive. I have no doubt that this matter is being raised by the trade unions 2016 concerned in the appropriate quarter, but among the manual and brain workers of these undertakings there is inevitably a fear of displacement.
Will the Minister be good enough to say whether the special services, the Pick-ford's and Carter Paterson scheme, which were an increasingly valuable element are to be maintained in the new scheme? Will the scheme be flexible enough to preserve them? It would be madness to smash up that piece of organisation.
The Government made a great deal of propaganda, asserting that there was too much centralisation under the 1947 Act. They said that that was a vast bureaucracy and that everything was centralised. What are they doing? The purpose of the executives was decentralisation. There could be such decentralisation under them as was found expedient and sensible.
What happened was what happened under the 1921 Railways Act. In the early years there was a tendency towards centralisation, because that was the only thing to do to straighten things out. But, as the Commission's Report records, as the years advanced there was a tendency to decentralisation. The scheme was adaptable and administratively elastic. It could be done and was being done. There was no difficulty about it. But what are the Government doing now? They have abolished the Railway Executive. It is true that they are going to set up four regional managements, but the whole of the railway system in very important respects is to be centralised not under its own executive or board of management but under the Transport Commission, who have many other things to do and to supervise, including hotels, restaurants, docks and waterways.
This is the reverse process. This is more centralisation. A great deal of nonsense is talked about centralisation and decentralisation. What we want is centralisation when it is useful and valuable and decentralisation where it is good and it is not necessary to centralise. I am not a centraliser merely for the fun of the thing. There is a great deal to be said for decentralisation, but not to please Mr. Grand of Swindon, who wants to preserve various old ideas.
We welcome the Report. We hope very much that the transport undertaking 2017 can continue to make progress notwithstanding the difficulties that the Governmen have imposed upon it. But I want to reaffirm that we believe that this policy is wrong and we think it is inevitable that some Government or other, whatever the colour of future politics may be, will have to put this matter right at some future time.
I do not need to quote in detail my statement of 31st May, 1952—it is on the record—that when a Labour Government returns, as we on this side of the House hope it will at the next Election, we shall certainly put this matter right. We shall certainly see to it that the road haulage undertakings are restored to the publicly owned transport system, and we do not propose to pay twice for a thing that has been paid for once already. I am not advocating confiscation at all. There must be proper financial arrangements, but we do not propose that the public purse shall be robbed merely as consequence of Tory dogma. That is our intention. In the meantime, we congratulate the Commission on the success they have achieved, and it is our earnest hope, not only for their sake, but for the sake of our country, that further progress will be made by the Commission in the future.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) has used this debate to discuss again many of the major issues which arose during the controversy on the denationalisation of road haulage, and associated issues. I would not for a moment criticise his right to do so—obviously, if it were not in order, the Chair would have ruled it out—but I do suggest that it is not the best use that could be made of this debate. Those issues have been debated back and forth and back and forth until the ordinary citizen is absolutely fed up to the teeth with them, whether the remarks have come from this or the other side of the House.
I am quite sure that what the ordinary citizen and the worker in the industry wants is a reasonable settlement which will work. It seems to me, therefore, that we would be better occupied today discussing the practical issues facing the industry raised in the Transport Commission's 2018 Report rather than some of the political issues which have been argued for so long.
Perhaps I might reply to the right hon. Gentleman on one point, and that is the threat of the Labour Party that if they are returned again—as the right hon. Gentleman hopes they will be and as I hope they will not be—they will renationalise road transport. If they do put that forward as part of their Election programme I shall be delighted. I am sure that the people of this country do not want it and would not vote for it. I am quite sure that when this Government leaves office, transport will have been settled on a reasonable basis satisfactory to the industry and to the public. If the right hon. Gentleman really likes to go to the country and invite the electorate to vote for stirring up all these nationalisation controversies all over again, then I wish him luck and I shall be delighted.
§ Mr. Smithers
Now I come to the remarks which I wish to address to the subject of the railways, and I am glad to see a large number of my railway friends in the House. The right hon. Gentleman devoted some of his remarks to standardisation, and he made very free with Mr. Grand's criticisms of too much standardisation. I think that if he was more closely in touch with some of the great railway centres, one of which I represent, he would realise that Mr. Grand's ideas find an echo very widely in railway circles.
The truth is that standardisation is an excellent thing in some respects and a bad thing in others. I would hazard the opinion that, for example, the standardisation of wagons is a very good and sensible thing, but when it comes to locomotives it has been carried too far. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the fact that we had over 400 types of locomotives in operation was some criticism of chief mechanical engineers and others in the past. On the contrary, it was their glory. It was due to the competition of the great chief mechanical engineers of the past that this country evolved more efficient locomotives than any other, and that seems to me to dispose entirely of the right hon. 2019 Gentleman's argument that there was too much diversity.
Before I leave the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I want to make one other point. He made free with the remarks of Mr. John Elliot. I do not know whether he knows Mr. John Elliot personally. If he does, I am very surprised that he should hazard a guess that Mr. John Elliot might be an easy-going individual, because we in the south of England know quite different.
§ Mr. Morrison
It does not much matter, but I do not wish Mr. Elliot to think that I have been saying things which I have not. I only said that so far as politics are concerned—I do not know what his politics are—he may be one of those people who are easy-going about politics. I paid tribute to his ability as a railway and transport technician.
§ Mr. Smithers
The right hon. Gentleman has elaborated his first statement. I quite agree with his elaboration of it. I am glad he has made it clear.
The parts of the Report to which I want to devote my remarks are those dealing with locomotives, carriages and wagons. It was about 18 months ago that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham), myself and others raised in the House the question of carriage construction, and I should like to express my gratitude both to the Commission and to the Government for the help that has been given, particularly in the Eastleigh carriage works, in keeping together the band of skilled men who manufacture carriages. At that time my hon. and gallant Friend and I drew attention to the danger that, through the shortage of steel, the staffs of highly skilled men working there might be dispersed, and we pointed out that one day they would be most urgently required to make good the deficiencies in railway equipment.
I want to refer to that part of the Report which makes clear that during the next couple of years the making good of these deficiencies will be a very serious task. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary say that he hoped that in two years the track would be up to standard. That is a very vital matter and we are glad to hear that it is so. Of course, bringing them up to 2020 standard will place a considerable strain on our resources but if one looks at the locomotive picture, we see in the Report that the construction of locomotives during the past year fell considerably short of the authorised programme, and that although maintenance has somewhat improved, it is still not very satisfactory.
If the railways are to meet the competition for traffic which they must meet, it is essential that maintenance should be fully up to standard, and maintenance cannot be fully up to standard unless there are enough locomotives. I hope that during the coming year, with the better steel supplies now available, it will be possible to wipe out the arrears in locomotive manufacture.
I should like to make one point on maintenance. I suggest it would be a good thing to pay more attention than has so far been possible to the exterior maintenance of locomotives. The public are still often invited to travel in trains drawn by filthy locomotives, which are disgusting to behold.
§ Mr. Smithers
There has been a war, certainly, but there is not one now. It is to be hoped that considerable improvement will take place in this respect. I believe it would have a good effect on fares. A good many people travel on railways because they prefer them and they think they provide a more attractive means of travel than other forms of transport.
Now I come to carriages. Here is a position which is still less satisfactory. There are 2,177 carriages in arrear on the authorised programme. This is a large figure, and it is vital that we should make a tremendous drive to wipe off these arrears. I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the factories will be up to manufacturing capacity, or approaching it, next year. He did not say when they might make up the arrears. It must obviously take some considerable time. It is very important for efficiency that these arrears should be made up. Many hon. Members know as well as I do how wasteful and extravagant it is to 2021 run old carriages. That fact is clearly revealed by the amount of time which is still taken in repairing, and so forth.
§ On the question of the exterior and interior maintenance of carriages, the Report says that it is much improved, but there is still much scope for further improvement on the side lines, and I am sure that any expenditure undertaken to ensure better maintenance will be returned to the railways in increased earnings. The Minister cited a number of crack expresses, but we should not imagine that they are all well maintained. I am afraid that they are not. There is one called the "White Rose" which, until recently, has been known to many people travelling in it as the "Black Rose." I should like to feel sure that it would be a white one before very long.
§ Lastly, I want to say a few words about wagons. Here the situation is the least satisfactory of all. The Report reveals that wagon construction last year was the lowest since 1948, probably because of the steel shortage. The industry is still operating at 20,000 wagons below its capacity. Thirty-thousand wagons authorised for break-up are still in use and 100,000 are beyond their normal life. This is the same problem as the carriages, except that it is more aggravated. If the railways are to hold their own it is to be hoped that a really big drive can be made to get our wagon stock up to a reasonable standard once more.
§ Those are the three points which I wanted to bring to the attention of the Government and the House. I thank the Minister for the help that the railway industry has had from the Government, particularly in the matter of carriage and wagon building. During the coming year I hope that the Government will do everything in their power to facilitate the expansion of the manufacture of wagons, carriages and locomotives for the railways. As far as my constituency is concerned I am quite sure that, without regard to political prejudices or parties, or whether there is nationalisation or de-nationalisation, the craftsmen in the shops will give of their best.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent. South)
I have sat here today from 2.30, and all the time I have been divided between two loyalties. One was at Wembley and the other here, where I 2022 decided to stay in order to speak of the growing indignation in the area in which I live and have the privilege to represent.
On page 5 of the Commission's Report we find that all the diesel traction development which is to take place is to be in the Southern Region. Turning to page 6, I find that the firm where I spent many working years is responsible for co-operating with Brown-Boveri of Switzerland in bringing out the latest gas-turbine and diesel-electric locomotives. They are manufactured in our area, but they are used in the Southern Region. We also find that most of the electrification which has taken place has been in and around London. On page 7, we are told of the advantages of the extension of electrification from Shenfield to Southend (Victoria), and the extension of the Liverpool Street—Shenfield line to Chelmsford.
On page 84, we see that 1,750 h.p. diesel-electric locomotives, manufactured by Metropolitan-Vickers, in Trafford Park, Manchester—some of the finest locomotives in the world—are to be used in the Southern Region. Further, we find that Brown-Boveri have developed a 2,500 h.p. gas-turbine locomotive, which is to be used between Paddington and Bristol. We also find that the 3,000 h.p. Metropolitan-Vickers locomotive has been put on between Paddington and Plymouth.
Page 86 mentions the manufacture of diesel-electrics. In this country we are all so conservative—I am not speaking in the political sense—that we are daily burning coal, which is the finest asset we have. The whole world is crying out for our best coal, and yet, although in the United States of America they have converted to diesel-electrics to the extent of almost 90 per cent., in conservative Britain, in our very serious economic situation, and where our people, day and night, are giving of their best to increase production, we go on burning our coal and are not developing diesel-electrics or gas-turbines. We can produce them for all parts of the world except ourselves.
This reminds me of what occurred between the two world wars. Then, all the electrification worth talking about was on the Southern Railway. We made the equipment at Trafford Park. We worked for all parts of the world, but not for our own area. The time has 2023 come to show our determination to do our duty and speak for the rest of the country. It is the duty of the Government, no matter what its political complexion, to say to the Transport Commission, "Now that we are asking those engaged in industry to increase productivity, we should give super-priority in any future capital expenditure on the railways, to the place where the work is being done."
In spite of this we find that people have the audacity to put forward proposals to spend millions of pounds in the London area on underground car parks, so that rich men's luxury cars can be housed. While this is taking place, in the area within a 50-mile radius of Manchester—the greatest industrial area in the world—not a penny is being spent.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My hon. Friend says that it is not as big as London. Let us examine the question and approach this matter upon the basis of facts, so that this Report can be considered against the background of these facts and not of our individual opinions. It is time this was said in this House, because all political parties have been indulging too much in this kind of thing. I am not blaming hon. and right hon. Gentlemen as individuals; it is their duty to speak for the area they represent and, so far as I am concerned, the time has come when the facts should be stated, and I am prepared to state them if the House will consider them.
Within a 50-mile radius of Manchester the density of the population is approximately 2,000 per square mile. In London, it is 1,300; in Glasgow, 903; in South Wales, 620; and in the whole of Britain, 515. It is time we said that in any future development the Minister should recommend to the Transport Commission that priority should be given to this area. It is in the area for which I am speaking—the greatest industrial area in the world; the area making the greatest contribution to the economic survival of Britain—that our people have suffered through the lack of this kind of development. It is in that area where less capital development has taken place during the past 30 years than should have 2024 been the case. Development has nearly all been in London and the South. Within a 50-miles radius of Manchester, super-priority should be given from now onwards in regard to any future development.
Within 50 miles of the centre of Manchester live 10½million people, or a quarter of the population of England and Wales. I therefore make no apology for speaking in this way. I have done my duty for years, speaking for all parts of the country and all parts of the world, for I do not take a narrow approach to questions; but I must make these comments because of the rising indignation, which is based upon the long queues, the sickening experience of seeing bridge after bridge built over the Thames while not one bridge is built over the Ship Canal, the sickening experience of travelling in cold, slow, dark trains while we manufacture the most up-to-date equipment for all over the world—but not for our own people. That is why I am speaking as I am tonight.
In 1938, some of the finest transport authorities in the world, some of the most competent transport men in the world—including Mr. Ashton Davies, Mr. Stuart Pilcher, Sir Josiah Stamp—said at a conference in Manchester thatthe congested condition of the roads in the Manchester area have become a matter of great concern.If that was the case then, how much more is it so now? The fact is that it is a mid-20th century scandal. The roads in that area are out of date. The railways are out of date.
§ Mr. Smith
We are not out of date to the extent that we change our political party. We are still in the party which is the party of the people, to which we have always belonged. We have never thrown over our ideas; we are still in that progressive party and we are sticking to it. If the hon. Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) or any other hon. Member thinks that some hon. Members are out of date, let them come into any part of the country and we will debate the matter with them. We are prepared to accept the people's decision on our attitude to present-day problems.
2025 Before that interjection was made, I was saying that the area for which I am speaking produces electrical plant, diesel-electrics, jet turbines. It was the pioneer of the perfection of nuclear-fission; no matter what the Americans may say, it came from there in the first place. That is the area for which we are now asking super-priority.
We are not asking for large-scale capital expenditure; all we are asking for is a survey. I have here a map of the railways and on it hon. Members will see that lines are running within this area which could be coupled and could be surveyed and upon which gas turbine locomotives or diesel-electrics could be running, without the large-scale capital expenditure on which we have agreed to embark in the London area.
Some of us have worked for our living and are so up to date that we were engaged in some of the largest industrial establishments in this country. To enable them to hold their own they had to be up to date. Talk is so easy. It is when we come to translate it into reality that we are all put to the test. It is in these places that we manufacture all this plant. We are not so out of date as to advocate large-scale capital expenditure upon electrification. What we ask is that the Commission should, first of all, conduct a survey. They should then consider what is the best business proposition to modernise the railway system. We are so confident in our own ideas and so informed and up to date that we are not advocating electrification but gas turbines or diesel-electric.
All we ask is that what we say to the world we should also say to our own country. Metropolitan Vickers, the English Electric Co., Ltd., the General Electric Co., Ltd., British Thomson-Houston Co., Ltd., all pride themselves on advertising to the world, "We are the concerns to make a great contribution to the revitalising of industrial areas." We say that the time has arrived when we are entitled to ask for a contribution towards revitalising the areas which we represent. That is the reasoned case which we are making. No matter how we differ politically, there ought to be no difference on this. We are not entitled continually to ask for the maximum efficiency in industry unless our 2026 transport is also based on the maximum efficiency.
I shall never forget what the present Prime Minister said in a secret Session after he had made a visit to Manchester. He said quite openly that he came back nearly broken-hearted because he had seen hundreds of young girls standing in queues in rain, fog and sleet waiting for transport. Those are the people to whom we belong. Those are the people for whom I am speaking. Nobody is entitled constantly to appeal to them to increase output and productivity unless they are enabled to travel in modern transport.
We think there is an unanswerable case, for this area in particular. I respect the views of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but we hear so much talk about South Wales, so much talk about London, so much talk about Scotland. I give them all credit, but those of us who have subordinated the geographical needs of our own areas to those of the rest of the country—especially when we represent a large industrial area which includes some of our biggest cities, such as Liverpool, Preston, Blackburn and Manchester—should speak out.
This Report states that the London Passenger Transport area covers a population of 9¾ million. The area for which I now speak covers at least 10¼ million. Manchester is having to consider taking thousands of people miles outside the city because of its population difficulties. It is true that some of the upper middle class of certain areas do not like the transfer which is being proposed, but it will have to be done, and when it is done we shall not be entitled to ask the people to give of their best unless we provide them with the most modern transport possible.
Those are the lines on which we think we must speak more and more. Those are the lines on which we make a constructive proposal. We are confident that we have an unanswerable case. We shall be satisfied if, in his reply, the Minister will undertake to consider the advisability of having a survey made in the area about which I speak. We are so confident of our facts that if that survey is made we are sure it will lead to super-priority being given to the area in future capital expenditure.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
I am very tempted to follow the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), as perhaps he deserves to be followed, on purely party lines, but I remember that earlier in the debate the deputy-leader of the Labour Party said—and I agree with him—that the time had come when transport should be taken out of the political field——
§ Sir F. Markham
—and I, for one, support that very strongly indeed, and I want in my short remarks tonight to keep very much to what one may call the purely practical points raised in the British Transport Commission's Report.
This Report has been welcomed on all sides of the House, and I add my welcome to it. More than that, how gratifying it is that the Parliamentary Secretary has recounted what has happened since this Report was presented to the House. After all, this Report in many ways is an ancient document. The most recent fact in it is 10 months old, and so much can happen in 10 months that, were it not for the Ministerial statement we heard today, we should be debating a Report which has very little contact with the actual realities in the transport world at the moment.
I hope it may be possible in the future to speed up the presentation of these reports to Parliament. If the Report could be put in the hands of Parliament by, say, the end of April each year, that would enable Parliament to debate it by July, and then we should be dealing far more realistically with events than we are at the moment when we are debating a Report which, at the most favourable count, is 10 months in arrears.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to know, as I think he does, that this Report was ordered to be printed by this House on 17th June this year. The point is that the House went into a very long Recess. I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in regretting that we have not debated it before, but it is not fair to attack the B.T.C. because we have not. It was our fault for not being here to discuss it.
§ Sir F. Markham
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is always an interval between what one may call the first reading of the Report and the subsequent debate. If the Report were in the hands of the House by the end of April, it would be easy to fix a date for discussion of it before the end of July.
§ Sir F. Markham
Yes, but I am making this point—and I am glad to know that so many hon. Members agree with me—that this Report should be in our hands earlier and should be debated earlier than now, when so many of the statistics before us are out of date already; and it is only because of the wide review we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary today that we are able to keep up to date and have some knowledge of the reality of the situation today.
I welcome the Report. I welcome still more my hon. Friend's supplementary report of what has happened since last December, and I am particularly grateful for his references to myself and for his indication that the railway workshops of this country will be—if I am not misinterpreting him—in the fullest possible production during 1954. My remarks from now on are designed to be helpful to him and to the Commission in ensuring that that is so, because, unless certain alterations are made, the railway workshops will not achieve the fullest possible efficiency during the next few months.
When one reviews questions of production one thinks in terms of three factors—men, money, and materials. With regard to the second, money, I do not think there is any great difficulty. Last year the Commission, for various reasons, could not spend the amount that was allocated for capital improvements, but if there is a possibility this year that their money supplies may run short I hope that the Government and the Commission between them will see to it that that at any rate is not a hindrance to this much-needed task of bringing the railways of this country up to date.
My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers) has already told us how much we have got to do to bring our railways up to the standard of efficiency of those of Switzerland or 2029 Sweden, and it is my belief that we shall not bring them up to that standard in five or six years at the earliest, and possibly not for 10 years, without the most terrific efforts. Last year, according to the Commission's Report, only 675 new coaches were created in the B.R. workshops as against the desiderata of 3,000 coaches. Three thousand we should be turning out every year for 10 years to bring the railways up to the state of efficiency we want them to have. Last year the number was down to 675.
One of the reasons given for this in the Report is one which to some small extent is still operative today. On page 4 it is said that during 1952 the difficulties of the supply of steel restricted production, and that although the general situation became easier later in the year certain shortages persisted, particularly of steel plates and forging materials. The Report says that the railway shops were so affected that they were kept to little more than half of their capacity. Deliveries from contractors were also affected.
These shortages of special steel parts and of steel supplies continue but in a much smaller measure, and I ask the Minister to take up with the Commission particularly and urgently the necessity for getting in at least five years' forward supplies of these parts in short supply. They seem to me to be parts constantly used in industry, ⅛inch steel plates, special T-sections, and so on. Why the railways should be short of them and production at Wolverton and other centres was held up so persistently is a matter which should be dealt with, with the greatest possible urgency, by both the Ministry and the Commission.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
I am only trying to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but it seems to me that what he is trying to argue is that the Government should control steel allocations, and I always understood that the party opposite were completely opposed to controls of that kind.
§ Sir F. Markham
No, I am not advocating steel allocations at all. What I am saying is that we know that these parts are in short supply for railway purposes, and it should not be beyond the wit of the Transport Commission, with help from the Government, to get over these difficulties. They must be got over if 2030 we are to get our railway stock up to date.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
On this question of steel, perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow one who knows about steel to try to help him. In my constituency one of the finest steel sheet producing works, owned by the Commission, has been turned over to a product which gives a greater profit, denuding the country of steel sheet production, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman went into the Lobby a short time ago to return that industry to that particular state of affairs.
§ Sir F. Markham
That is an ex parte point of view. There is another side to that story which, I think, the hon. Member knows. Steel allocations have finished. Steel supplies have become much greater.
§ Sir F. Markham
That is one thing holding up certain railway construction, and it is obviously a point that the Commission, with the help of the Government, must turn attention to in the very near future if they are going to reach, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, full production in the railway workshops during the next few months. Is there any disagreement there? I do not think so.
§ Mr. Collick
In other words, if there is any logic in what the hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying, he is asking the Government, pleading with the Government and the Commission, to get greater steel supplies into the workshops, and that can only be done, surely, by some method of control, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has always been opposed.
§ Sir F. Markham
The point is that it can be done and is being done in other industries, and I do not see why it cannot be done in the railway construction industry.
The next point I want to make is this. It is not only a question of steel. I think the House will agree with me that there is no difficulty on the money side, and the only difficulty on the side of materials 2031 is with certain sections of steel and certain steel plates. The third difficulty is on the question of men, and this, to my mind, is the greatest possible difficulty, because of inherited bitternesses from the old days of the Labour Government. I would remind the House that we on this side also have done our fair share for the industry of this country in many ways. I was a railwayman for three times as long as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was a miner.
§ Sir F. Markham
When cheap jeers are made from that side about hon. Members on this side not working, let me say that our industrial past will bear comparison with any of theirs.
Now I come to the question of men. There are two important reasons——
§ Sir F. Markham
I do not agree with hon. Members taking an hour for a speech, but if there are many more interruptions I shall have to take a full hour, as other hon. Members have done.
With regard to men, two things have aroused bitterness and frustration which has materially affected the output of railway workshops over the last few years. If hon. Members opposite like to take this as a party point for the Conservative Party, they are welcome to do so. Hon. Members opposite should not forget that they were in power when it was announced that 26,000 men were to be sacked from the railway workshops because of redundancy and it was only when the present Government came into office that the most strenuous and successful efforts were made to retain the men in the industry. However, that has left a legacy which I can only describe——
§ Mr. Woodburn
Might we clear up the point? Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggesting that his Government retained in industry people who were not needed and that there was something wrong in the Labour Party's efforts to get industry working on the most efficient and economical lines?
§ Sir F. Markham
If it had not been for the representations made in the House and by Members of the Government to the Transport Commission, the 26,000 men would have been sacked.
§ Sir F. Markham
The most callous allegations were made by hon. Members opposite. The previous Member of Parliament for my constituency said that it did not matter if the men were sacked because there were plenty of jobs for them elsewhere. Nevertheless, it broke down something in the hearts of railway-men. I speak as an ex-railwayman with much longer service in that occupation than the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale had in the mines.
§ Mr. Manuelrose——
§ Mr. Manuel
I also have long railway service. I object to listening to the tripe, tosh and utter nonsense which the hon. and gallant Member is trying to make the House believe. What he says will not stand up. No hon. Member on this side of the House is prepared to demand redundancy resulting in unemployment, but we are prepared to advocate that redundancy should be cut out where it is necessary and the released labour employed in the most productive fashion for the country.
§ Sir F. Markham
It is very nice to hear that sort of speech coming from the hon. Member now, but he made no protest in the House when the public announcement was made two and a half years ago that the men were to be sacked. Not a protest came from Members of the Labour party. They waited for a Conservative Government to stand up for the railwaymen. We used our influence to keep the men in work. As my hon. Friend the Member 2033 for Winchester has said, had we not helped to keep that fine body of men together in the railway workshops they would have been lost to us for ever and we should now be in greater difficulties than we are.
To come back to my point, the threat of redundancy, the threat that we, and not hon. Members opposite, were able to avoid, broke something in the railway-men. Hitherto our railway services had been looked upon as one of the industries in which there was a tolerable amount of security, and it was because of that higher rate of security, contrasted with, say, the motor industry, that the men were always willing to work for a slightly lower rate of pay than in certain other industries. Under the Labour Government that security was broken, and in consequence a much greater number of young men are leaving the railways today because, without the added element of security which existed in the past, there is no reason why they should not go to Vauxhall, Rolls-Royce or B.T.-H. for the extra 10s, 15s. or 20s. a week, and often more. In consequence, there is an unforgivable wastage of railwaymen who are coming to their prime in craftsmanship.
The Transport Commission must face this matter if we are to attain full railway production in carriages, wagons and so on over the next few years. Every one of the young men trained in the railway workshops will be needed there in the future, and they ought to have the feeling that they will have security in the future. Great damage was done by the move two and a half years ago, and I hope we shall repair it before too long.
The frustration still remains. I could say—but I will not—that it is another legacy of nationalisation. Frustration is a feature found in railways throughout the world which have been nationalised, but I propose to let that pass and not to make party politics out of it.
There is need for much greater devolution of responsibility. The Conservative Party are pledged to that. I want to see it operate right down to the foreman level or works management committee level. One of the unsatisfactory things about the railways today is that most railwaymen feel that all the suggestions which they make and the grievances about which they complain take far too long to be 2034 considered. In other words, there is not enough devolution of responsibility, beginning with the superintendent of the works and going right down to the foremen, so that quick decisions can be given on such questions. Devolution should be speeded up. It should not be difficult to provide something equivalent to the welfare officers in comparable industries.
There is one group of railwaymen which is rarely mentioned in this House. I do not know a debate in which they have ever been mentioned. They have some of the stiffest jobs to be found on the railways. I refer to those who work in the foundries. Foundry work is very hard. It means heavy lifting at awkward angles, and after 25 or 30 years' service in the foundries many of the men are beyond the job. There are good judges as to whether men are reaching that stage or not, and men ought to be transferred to less onerous work in the railway workshops before they get to that point and ought not to be kept on until they crack up at the job and become industrial casualties. I urge the Commission to consider the position of the men in the iron and brass foundries.
One great disappointment I have about the Report relates to the section dealing with research. Looking down the list of research items, one is struck by the fact that railway research tends to become more and more minute on items of less and less importance. I should like to see railway research devoted to what might be called the major lines of railway development over the years. To give one example at sheer hazard, there was a report in the Press two days ago about atomic power now being tried out for the propulsion of submarines.
I believe that atomic power is the power of the future and of all the ways in which it can be developed industrially, I believe its use as the motive power for our trains may be one of the best. However, there is no hint in the Report that anyone is even thinking along those lines. Everyone is still thinking along the lines of the steam locomotive or, at the most, of going on to the diesel engine. I should like to see the research section of the British Transport Commission's activities brought up to date and driving ahead, so that our railways shall again be the first in the world—they are not today—as they were only 20 years ago.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I should like to follow up at least three of the points which the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) made in the course of his speech. I think it is desirable not to trespass upon the railway side of his argument, but to leave it to those of my hon. Friends who are associated with that section of the industry. I propose, therefore, to confine my remarks very largely to road transport, with which I have been connected for many long years.
First, I should like to support what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said about its being time we took transport out of politics. The Minister of Transport knows that I have been saying that in this House since 1945. I believe that to allow our transport system, which is vital to the industrial prosperity of this country, to be played about with on purely political grounds is one of the greatest tragedies and dangers to our industrial revival. I want to be frank. I supported the Bill to nationalise transport, which was presented by the Labour Government in the 1945–50 Parliament, not merely because of its political implications, but because I sincerely believed that it was the only possible way of finding a solution to our transport problems, the only way by which we could get a proper co-ordinated and integrated system of transport which would serve the common interests of industry and the general public.
Those of us who were connected with transport over the past years know perfectly well what happened prior to the First World War and, with greater emphasis, after the First World War. We know that the cut-throat competition and lack of organisation were something which were not in the interests of transport generally in this country. So far as I am concerned, I make no apology to anyone for again appealing in this vein: "For goodness sake, let us try to keep transport out of politics if we want to serve the interests of the nation."
My complaint against the present Government is that, in spite of the warnings from all responsible elements in the industry, the impartial, non-political transport Press and all those who were in a position to advise them not to interfere with the Act of 1947, the Government rushed in and did that very thing. They have put 2036 on the Statute Book something which very speedily will have to be undone in the interests of the nation. We have had the instance of the Minister of Transport going to the Despatch Box and telling us that his connections with the Transport Commission were more or less a question of telling them that the Government had decided the policy to be embodied in the new Transport Act, and all they wanted from the Commission was their observations upon the various Clauses in it. It was made perfectly clear to the Commission, and the Minister made it perfectly clear in this House, that in no circumstances were they asking the Commission for any expression of opinion upon the policy which the Government were applying.
It seems to me to be inconceivable that here we had a Transport Commission, composed in the main of men who have had considerable experience of every form of transport and who were in a position to advise what was necessary, and, on the other hand, we had a Government, and a Conservative Government above all Governments, deciding upon a policy which ran counter to the best advice that these experts could give. Instead of saying to the Commission, "This is what we are thinking of doing, can we have your general observations and reactions, and will you point out the flaws in it?" they said, "We do not want any advice from you on the question of policy, but we should like some observations upon small matters relating to some Clauses in our Bill."
Though it may be just a mere coincidence, it is a fact that we are debating transport matters during the National Safety Week. I think all sides of the House would like to congratulate the joint organisers of this campaign, and sincerely express the hope that the efforts they are making during this week will considerably assist in the great task of trying to reduce the alarming number of deaths and injuries upon our British roads. If I were to venture yet another slogan, it would be: "Better roadworthiness of your vehicles." There is no doubt about it that many of the accidents on our roads are due to faulty vehicles in some way or another.
It seems to me to be ironical that here the Government are supporting with all their power this drive for road safety, and 2037 yet the whole of their transport policy is liable and designed to endanger safety on the roads, though quite unwittingly I agree. The Government have a slogan which will not be published on the hoardings, but none the less it sums up their policy. That slogan is: "Private profit first, public safety last."
If we look over the past history of road transport, it will be found that the most essential and important factor is that the vehicles should be properly maintained and serviced by the undertakers. That is why I am frightfully concerned about the Government's policy for the small individual units under their disposal plan, because I know that the smaller the unit the greater the danger that there will not be that adequate attention to the essentials of the vehicle's roadworthiness. To me it is regrettable to realise that the fine system of maintenance and repairs being built up by the Road Haulage Executive, which would have ensured considerable safety on the roads, will be thrown to the wall. When we get the small units nobody knows what will happen, because they will be concerned first of all with the race to get the cream of the transport world.
I want to make a further appeal to the Minister—whether too late or not, I cannot tell. It is a sincere appeal that even at this late hour the right hon. Gentleman should exercise his influence to try to get large company holdings established rather than small units. I believe that they would give greater security on the roads and would maintain the transport system far better than would be the case under the small unit system.
I also appeal to the Minister to pay at least some regard to the representations which may be made by the Transport Commission upon all the difficult matters that will arise from the sale of these vehicles. It is a tragedy that we should auctioneer road transport vehicles as though they were odds and ends at a jumble sale. It is a shocking reflection upon the conduct of the Government, and I see no benefit accruing to the nation by the application of this method. Indeed, there are considerable dangers in it, because it is important to ensure that there should be no break in the system of transport service to our industry, and I fear that this sale of transport means that we shall not get that adequate service.
2038 This debate is in many ways a sad one, because it is rather overshadowed by the Transport Act which has just been passed through Parliament. I am sure that the Labour Party were right in the decision at their annual conference that, as and when Labour return to power in this country, they will return the transport of this country to public ownership and control. I believe they were right in that decision because I believe it is in the best interests of industry and of the travelling public.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
With much that has been said by the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) I have been able to find myself in agreement, particularly in regard to his remark that it is highly desirable that politics should be kept out of transport. I am bound to say, however, that, so far as many of my constituents are concerned, they have not found in the five years which the British Transport Commission have been in existence that the Commission have helped them at all; indeed, the reverse has been the case.
§ Mr. Speir
No, it is in the last few years that one branch railway after another has been closed down and that bus services have been withdrawn. I think that the majority of the public do not care two hoots whether transport is nationalised or de-nationalised, whether it is standardised or not, or whether it is centralised or de-centralised. What they want is some kind of service, and many of my constituents are now getting no kind of service at all. In the urban areas it may be all right. There may be moans about the adequacy or otherwise of the service, but in the area I represent, which is what is called in Northumberland an out-by area—namely, a rural, sparsely-populated area—they are now getting no service because the branch railway lines have been closed down and the bus services are continually being cancelled.
The point I wish to make to the Minister is that this lack of transport in the rural areas will hit agricultural production seriously. We all know that there is now a drift from the land, and that drift will be accelerated unless 2039 adequate transport facilities are provided. We cannot hope for extra production from the land unless we can at least maintain its present labour force. Whenever I discuss this matter with the Minister I am told that there is no way in which he can force operators to run un-remunerative services, and that many of the bus services in the rural areas do not pay their way. Well, we in the rural areas accept that fact, but the same can be said perfectly well of the Post Office and the facilities it provides.
§ Mr. Speir
It is the same with regard to transport, and I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary, in his opening remarks, referred to the closing of branch railway lines, but there is one sentence in the Report we are discussing which irks me. It is at the beginning of paragraph 21, which reads:The Commission continued their policy of closing unremunerative railway lines to traffic where satisfactory alternative services were available.That has not been the experience in my constituency, because two branch railway lines have been closed regardless of whether or not adequate, alternative services have been available. In one case, I dare say, alternative services were available when the line was closed, but in the last two years bus services have continually been withdrawn and some of my constituents are now completely stranded miles from villages or towns.
I believe that if nationalised transport had really made an effort to convert some of these branch lines into light railways and to employ either diesel cars or some other form of rail cars, they could have effected considerable economies in regard to running costs, and they could have provided a reasonable 2040 service for the population of these rural areas. I have often pointed this out in correspondence with the Minister or with his Parliamentary Secretary. All I have found out so far is that British Railways, after a great deal of effort, have instituted one diesel car service between Bangor and some place which is unpronounceable to me but which is spelled A-m-l-w-c-h.
I say that if the Transport Commission insist on closing the branch railway lines, they have a duty to provide alternative bus services. It is no use the Minister or the Commission retorting that operators cannot be forced to run unremunerative bus services, because so far as the North-East is concerned that answer will not do. The Commission themselves own the majority of the bus services in that area, either through United Automobile Services or through subsidiary companies owned by that company. At present, United Automobile Services are taking the cream of the traffic in the area and are disregarding the unremunerative services. The result is that they leave many of the routes isolated and deserted. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to discuss this matter with the Commission to see whether they cannot mend their ways.
We may be asked why these services are unremunerative, and it may be said that there are not sufficient passengers to occupy the seats which are available in the vehicles. I quite agree that the area is sparsely populated and it is almost inevitable that in present conditions these services will not pay their way. But the Government have, nevertheless, a direct responsibility for this position because it is partly due to Government action that the cost of running these services is so high.
The trouble is that the tax on liquid fuels has consistently been augmented. I suggest, therefore, that the Minister might discuss this problem with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and draw his attention to the adverse effect that excessive taxation on these fuels is now having. I should like to suggest that the Government might consider the possibility of reducing the tax on these fuels for bus routes in the rural areas which are not paying their way, just as the tax is reduced on fuels 2041 employed in farm tractors. If it is suggested that this is administratively impossible, then it strengthens the case for reducing the tax on these fuels all round.
The lack of transport in the rural areas really is a serious problem. It is useless to go to the enormous expense of providing electricity and telephones in these areas if they are to be denied transport. The population will simply pack up their bags and desert the areas. The lack of transport will not only kill the geese which are laying the eggs, but it will prevent the Government from getting that 10 per cent. increase in production from home agriculture during the next three years for which they are asking so vehemently. The loss of that production is in no way necessary, and it would be a tragedy if it were allowed to happen simply because of lack of transport in the rural areas.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I do not blame the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) for making a fair plea on behalf of his constituents, but in making that sort of speech he was speaking from the wrong benches. From the Tory benches he asked that the profit motive and everything in which Tory philosophy believes should be removed, and that service should be given to the public even though it would cost money and would not yield profit. The hon. Member is right. Whatever the Commission have not done in that area in the past ought to be done in the future. I quite agree that, even though the population are only few in number, they ought to be given an adequate transport service, but the hon. Member is not likely to get much help from the private operators, who are not likely to run services unless they make a personal profit in doing so.
The whole basis of the arguments arising from the Commission's Report is the Tory Party's principle that State ownership is a bad thing and private ownership is right. If the hon. Member's party were to get their way completely on transport, I do not think he would ever get any of these bus services.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am glad to hear it. Those private operators are certainly running at a profit or they would not do it. Obviously, they will not take in the other areas where no profit is being made.
I want to deal mainly with the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. He and I do not have a lot in common. One thing that we share is our affection for the Surrey Cricket Club, but once that is removed we are usually a long way apart in anything that we like. The hon. Gentleman's speech today was quite fantastic. It was intended to prove how wonderful are the Transport Commission, that they have done a first-class job of work, are a credit to the nation, and have produced a fine Report. It was then that I put a question to Mr. Speaker, when I wanted to know why the Government were now taking steps to deprive the country of this great organisation which has been doing such good work.
It is a tragedy that the Report was not in our hands during the various stages of the Transport Bill. The whole of the Report is proof that nationalised transport has done a first-class job under great difficulties. The story told by the Report is that after five years' battling against adversities consequential mainly upon the war, the Commission have now broken through and can see greater things ahead and are making a substantial profit. It is the profit aspect which should appeal to the hon. Member for Hexham. The Commission have made a great deal of money. As the Parliamentary Secretary admitted, they made over£9 million in the last year, which is not bad for a State industry.
One aspect of the Report which has not yet been touched upon is the human part of it dealing with individuals. On page 58 there are references to staff policy and relationships between employees and the Commission. The Minister will not deny that in their Report the Commission have been extremely modest. They could have told a wonderful story of what has been going on in the last few years, particularly in the road transport commercial section, with regard to staff relationships.
The sections dealing with consultation and machinery of negotiation show that 2043 the Commission have at all times cooperated with the unions and have today established what is undoubtedly a first-class machinery for the ventilation of complaints. In the transport industry things had even got as far as the stage where the ordinary lorry driver was able to express a point of view and the local depot manager was able to take a decision on the spot.
This machinery of negotiation and consultation produced an important result for the nation. Throughout the period covered by the Report, the number of days lost as a result of disputes in this vast undertaking, which, incidentally, employs 4 per cent. of the nation's manpower, represented less than 1 per cent. of the 1,800,000 days that were lost through all industrial disputes in the country. That is proof of the first-class machinery which was established to cater for the men who were doing the work. Even the Tory Party must admit that an employer who can make his employees happy and contented will get the best out of them, and, consequently, his profits will improve.
Chapter Four goes on to deal with wages claims and makes interesting reading. It mentions details of wages claims and states that in the two years 1951–52 the British Transport Commission met a bill of no less than£64 million for wage increases, plus, of course, the activities of this Government with its petrol tax and other difficulties and rising costs throughout the country. That, of course, was why the claims were made—because this Government were in power and the cost of living went up. They met those charges, and what did they get for doing so? They had criticism from right hon. and hon. Members opposite because they were compelled to increase their charges to the public.
Then we come to the training, education and general welfare of the staff. This sort of thing had to be started on a gradual basis. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) is present because, as Minister of Labour, he was particularly keen to see that welfare and training facilities should apply throughout industry as well as they could be applied. Here the Commission did great work. For example, in London Transport alone 2044 more than 1,000 people took one of the courses during 1952, and 12,000 of the Railway Executive staff and 6,200 of the Road Haulage Executive staff took courses to improve their knowledge of the industry with a view to taking better jobs, managerial jobs.
That is the sort of thing about which we on this side of the House have preached so that the workers in industry should be given a chance to know about management and to take executive jobs. There is no question that as time went on we would have had many people in the top jobs who had lived their lives in the industry. A welfare organisation was established, particularly in the road transport section, and this arrangement was beginning to function. There were welfare officers, and lorry drivers were going to them with their problems and getting a great deal of help from them
Another very important matter which I was glad to hear mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) is pensions. Of all the shocking things that have resulted from the de-nationalisation policy of the party in power at the moment, just as they bring in this de-nationalisation it is announced that, for the first time in their lives, lorry drivers could contribute to a pension scheme. The moment that is done de-nationalisation is applied and more than 10,000 vehicles are to be sold. We can gather that 10,000 lorry drivers, clerks and all the paraphernalia which go with them will be unable to participate in this scheme. What a galling experience that is.
The lorries are being put up to public auction and the men, too, are put to public auction. It is a question whether or not a person who buys the vehicle will engage the driver of that vehicle. That is very chancy, particularly if the driver is about 50 years of age. What a lot of nonsense the Parliamentary Secretary talked about one-man employers going to buy vehicles. He must know of the talk about groups of people going to buy the most lucrative groups of vehicles, and he may be sure that when the lorries are bought they will be amalgamated. All this one-man stuff is really nonsense. A number of questions were asked about it and the right hon. Gentleman did not give a reply, and I do not think he knows 2045 anything about it. In regard to the pension scheme, these people will suffer a great injustice.
The hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) made some reference to faults in the scheme. One thing I liked about him was when he disported himself as a sort of working-class Tory, which is a wonderful character. It is a weird and wonderful character and the party must be grateful to a man with a trade union ticket, when they can run him down to Margate to their conference and cheer him when he goes to the rostrum. The hon. and gallant Member talked about his lifetime in the railways, and so on. I would say to him from my knowledge of transport that the 1947 Act for the first time gave hope to transport workers for the future. This Report proves that.
All that had been dreamed of by many of us was beginning to come to fruition. The Home Secretary said that it would take at least 12 years to come into being and I think he was right. But certainly in the not-too-distant future we would have seen the fruit of what we were trying to get—not a Labour Party transport system, but a British transport system for the benefit of the people and the workers in the industry. It is being destroyed now in order to satisfy the ego of people who do not know the industry and who are wedded to a rotten policy which the Report completely condemns.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) spoke of the profits of the Commission, and in a moment I intend to invite his attention and that of the House to some parts of the Report in which their financial position is considered. Meanwhile, may I make a more general comment? The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) both appealed for transport to be taken out of party politics, but they concluded their speeches quite joyfully by saying that they hoped the British Transport Commission would be re-nationalised on its old basis. It is a little difficult to do both those things.
Like the hon. Member for Bradford, East, I have attended every transport debate on the Annual Reports of the 2046 Commission, as have other hon. Members. It is my impression that in each debate the gulf between the two sides of the House has got a little narrower, and I think that has been true tonight also. My prognostication, for what it is worth, is that in the course of time that process is likely to continue. It will continue for two reasons. The first is that the scheme contained in the 1947 Act was such a leaky monopoly that it could never lead to the integration which the Act contemplated. The second reason is that the Act introduced by my right hon. Friend is such a useful compromise, in that it contained some of the, now I admit proved, advantages of centralisation, subject to what any railwayman may think about them, whilst discarding the great public disadvantage of monopoly, whether leaky or complete.
§ Mr. Manuel
I do not know what geography the hon. Member has in mind in regard to de-nationalisation of road transport; but has he applied his mind to the effect on the remote areas, especially in the Highlands of Scotland? Possibly his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) can tell him how his constituency will suffer in this matter.
§ Mr. Renton
Far be it from me to usurp the functions of my hon. and gallant Friend and take up time, which would be used to better advantage by him, in discussing the Highlands, although I spent a very pleasant time in his constituency during August. Speaking for my rural constituency in England, I say without any hesitation—I do not want to repeat what I have said in this House—that in my opinion the flexible, ubiquitous and readily available system of private enterprise transport, based on small units, is far more valuable to the users of transport in the countryside——
§ Mr. Renton
As for the passenger services, may I repeat the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) that even the nationalised large bus companies, with all the protection they have been given in the licensing authorities' courts, have not managed to provide that service which it was hoped, and no doubt intended by hon. Members opposite, they should provide when they were nationalised. I must proceed from 2047 the hon. Gentleman s interruption to what I wish to say.
§ Mr. Renton
No, I am not going to give way again.
I wish to say, as a final comment about transport and party politics, that the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) specified a period of five years which he hoped would be one in which tremendous results would be shown. He said that in that time more would be done than in five hundred years under Tory administration. He had his five years. All I suggest is that, if hon. Gentlemen opposite really want to get transport out of party politics, they should give my right hon. Friend's Act as good a chance as the 1947 Act has had.
I go further, and say that if the British Transport Commission and the system of limited competition which is to accompany it in future, produces results which are beneficial to the community, I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will have the sense not to be too doctrinaire about any step which they take in future. I was very glad to see that "Challenge to Britain" very wisely "leaves the door open." It does not pledge or bind hon. Gentlemen opposite to any specific measure of re-nationalisation of transport. That is very wise.
§ Mr. Woodburn rose——
§ Mr. Renton
Even to right hon. Gentlemen I must not give way.
I wish to turn particularly to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bermond-sey about the profits he mentioned. Last year he said, the profit was£8.5 million; but that was without deducting approximately£4 million which his own party decided should go towards capital redemption.
§ Mr. Renton
If it is something which his party has done which is shocking that is something which the hon. Gentleman must argue with them. We took those obligations as we found them; and we thought that honourably we should do so.
2048 That is not the only fact which it is relevant to consider when assessing the true value of that£8.5 million profit last year. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to bear these further facts in mind. First, there was a large accumulated net deficit, which even with last year's profit stands at£31.5 million——
§ Mr. Renton
—and the position with regard to the liquid resources, the working capital, would be even worse than the Commission describe it—I shall come to that in a moment or two—if their method of depreciating wasting assets—rolling stock and other moveable property, which has to be replaced—had been regarded in a more prudent and provident manner, for unfortunately the Commission did not follow the old railway companies in their depreciation practice.
The private railway companies worked on the basis of replacement cost. I am not an accountant; and it may well be that this sort of point—vitally important as I consider it to be—is one which should be considered by a Select Committee of the House; but we have not got such a Select Committee and I am inviting attention to the matter. The historic cost basis has been used; and provision for replacement does not appear to have been made. That is pretty clear from a note on page 154, in the "Notes on Accounts," where the Commission say:As and when earnings are available for the purpose, it is intended to make allocations"—they have not made them—to a Replacement Reserve towards meeting the amount by which the current cost of replacement exceeds the gross book values"—that is, the historic cost—upon which the depreciation provision is computed.They say that in 1952 they ought to have been able to make—we know that they have not made it—an allocation of£20 million towards the replacement reserve for that year. Research among previous Reports shows that the total amount which should in the five years have been put by to replacement reserve and has not been, is no less than£60 million—and that on top of an accumulated net deficit of£31.5 million.
Having mentioned those facts, I wish now to consider what the Commission 2049 have to say about their capital position, which is mentioned on pages 52 and 53 of the Report. The amount of short-term capital fell in 1952 by£62½million; and owing to a funding operation and the raising of fresh long-term capital, thereby increasing their commitments, the long-term capital was raised by£122 million, which is more than the short-term capital fell. We should in fairness bear that in mind.
The Commission are nevertheless somewhat disturbed about their position, because on page 53, in paragraph 135, they saythe decline in the ratio of liquid funds, both to net current assets and to total assets, must be noted.They are saying, in other words, bearing in mind all the replacement which has to be done—and it should be remembered that they underspent their capital allocation in each of the last four years—that they will not have enough working capital.
In paragraph 136 they draw attention to the fact that the new Act abolishes the special limit on temporary borrowings, but leaves at£275 million the amount which they may borrow. They ask the following question, which is in fact a question to the Minister and I should be grateful if he could give me any views about it:Although a proportion of these commitments will be financed out of depreciation provisions which will have been made before the commitments actually mature"—I find it most puzzling to understand, if they have not made depreciation provisions and yet they say they will make them, how they are going to do so in their present financial position—it seems inevitable that the Commission's borrowing powers must be amended in the near future.The Commission's borrowing powers are, I understand, limited by Act of Parliament. They are, therefore, inviting the passing of an amending Act. Obviously if the Commission are to pay their way, are to modernise, are to meet the obligations, in matters of efficiency, which both sides of the House place upon them the important question of whether they have the liquid capital resources to do so is one which has to be faced and one to which this House has to give its very special attention. I am sorry to 2050 mention such a detailed and technical matter, which I do not claim to grasp, by any means. I think it is so important, however, that we should try to find out what the Minister has to say about it.
The other matter I wish to mention relates to some of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite. They keep on saying, as the Commission themselves say in effect, that integration has been interrupted by the Act which the present Government passed.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Gentleman said that the Commission had had five years to introduce and develop its schemes. I am sure he does not wish to be unfair, but he knows that when the Government came to power and intimated they were going to de-nationalise certain aspects of transport, that put an end to the development which was going on. Therefore, the Commission have had approximately two-and-a-half years and not five years.
§ Mr. Renton
I am prepared to agree that the right hon. Gentleman has made a good point, but it still leaves a period from somewhere in the middle of 1947—no, it was about August, 1947—until the announcement of the General Election on 23rd October, 1951, a period of something over three years. Certainly they have had that—no, it is nearly four years——
§ Mr. Renton
It is from August, 1947, until October, 1951, and that is just over four years. What happened in that time? Most certainly the functional Executives throughout that period paddled their own canoes as strenuously as they could and there was nothing, in the first three Annual Reports at any rate, to show there was road-rail integration. There were some pious hopes of it, but nothing to show in that time. There were certainly no schemes either for trade harbours or passenger transport, nothing of the sort envisaged by the 1947 Act as an essential feature of integration——
§ Mr. Renton
I am not giving way.
2051 A further point I would advance as evidence of the proposition that there was no real advantage taken of the opportunity for integration is that a freight charges scheme was supposed to have been introduced within 12 months after the passing of the Act. Yet, after four years, no freight charges scheme was in existence. Finally, the Commission themselves mentioned a number of schemes which, rather late in the day, have undoubtedly been put forward. They are set out in paragraph 12 of the Report, on pages 7 and 8.
An interesting thing is that these various forms of integration which were just coming about were not the sort of integration which benefits the consumer, the user of transport. They were matters of internal convenience to a monopoly trying to rationalise itself as a monopoly. So I say in all sincerity that I do not consider we can be accused of interfering with integration, because integration has taken place to such a very meagre extent. I will not elaborate upon the results.
Now that the Transport Commission have been shorn of the financial and physical encumbrance which the Road Haulage Executive constituted upon an otherwise quite efficient organisation in many respects; and now that the railways have been given some freedom and the spur of competition, I believe that the British Transport Commission will forge ahead. But we must be very careful to ensure that it has the liquid capital to enable it to meet its obligations.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I should like to say right away to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) that I do not like sharp practice or smart Alecs and the challenge he threw out about giving the Government five years. He knows very well that in the second paragraph of the Report it is clearly shown that the position of the longdistance road haulage undertakings was not complete until mid-1951. Obviously, the only thing to be renationalised is long-distance road haulage as the only thing which has been denationalised is long-distance road haulage. The hon. Member is completely wrong, therefore, to let it go out from this House that five years have been available to the Trans- 2052 port Commission to make a success of their undertaking
The other thing about which he appears to be completely ignorant is the service that B.T.C. on the road side has been giving to the remote areas in this country, particularly in Scotland. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) will know that in his constituency there was a service from the piers which people were lucky to find available once a fortnight to get supplies to their crofts and holdings. They are now getting a regular service twice a week from British Road Service vehicles and this service, which is being rendered in the Adamurchan area, is quite uneconomical. It is not paying——
§ Major D. McCallum (Argyll) rose——
§ Mr. Manuel
The Transport Commission finds it does not pay to deliver these goods. There is not the volume. But the richer and more lucrative areas throughout Scotland and the rest of the country pay for the service to the crofters in the remote areas.
§ Mr. Manuel
I appreciate the distinction which the hon. and gallant Member is making. But MacBraynes is subsidised per year to the tune of£600,000. I baited that hook for the salmon to bite and he took it. Whether it is MacBraynes or British Road Services it is all one. MacBraynes said that they would not run the vehicles unless they had the Government subsidy and threatened to withdraw that service until we made the last agreement with them.
I was pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary pay tribute to the speeding up of trains. As a member of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen—I am very proud of that membership—I appreciate that this tribute was paid indirectly to the enginemen who played the prime part, with other staffs——
§ Mr. Manuel
I said that with other staffs they played a prime part in achieving that which the Parliamentary Secretary was praising.
I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should have been more direct and a compliment should have been paid to the men on the job who made this possible. Very often a Tory, when talking about records being achieved, completely forgets the human element. I wish to say that the achievement of these records has taken something out of the men. A greater responsibility is placed upon the signalmen and the drivers and firemen and I wish to see some recompense made to them, in the form of better working conditions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) said that too much money was being spent in Southern England. In the motive power depots in Scotland of which I have personal knowledge a great deal of money needs to be spent So provide the ordinary decencies of lavatory accommodation, washing facilities, canteen arrangements, adequate locker accommodation and amenities of that kind. These facilities are not provided at many depots. Their provision is most necessary at a large number of depots in Scotland. I appeal to the Minister to make what representations he can about the employees of the Commission so that when they are asked to make a greater success of their job and to speed up trains they will know that attention is paid to the conditions under which they work and especially to the conditions at the depots.
We ought not to be appealing for adequate lighting at locomotive depots where its absence causes accidents and sometimes death. That is a great problem. The men have to work with gas lighting instead of electricity when electricity is available at the end of the road leading to the depot. Such a state of affairs is intolerable. We fought for better conditions for many years under private enterprise and we could make no headway. I know that the Commission intend to improve the position. They are doing work now, but not enough money is allocated to allow it to be done speedily so that the men realise that those responsible are concerned about their welfare.
2054 Anyone who reads the Report will agree that it is a good one. I think it is the best we have had so far. Paragraph 2 on the first page has not been quoted although it has been referred to. It should be quoted. It says:The acquisition of long-distance road haulage undertakings was not completed until the middle of 1951, and the national network of road services had only then assumed shape. By the date of the General Election, in October of that year, little more than three years had effectively been available for furthering the policy of Integration for which the Transport Act of 1947 had provided.Nevertheless, plans for such integration, including long-distance feeder road/rail services, joint engineering services and joint use of depots and equipment, had been brought to an advanced stage, and, after protracted negotiations with the trade unions, broad agreement had been reached in respect of transfers of staff. The new Government's policy obviously necessitated the suspension of most of these plans and, in particular, a halt to the progress which was being made towards a national integrated road/rail service.That is the answer to the hon. Member for Huntingdon, who claimed that nothing had been done.
On the financial side a substantial surplus of nearly£8,500,000 has been achieved. After paying off charges for redeeming capital a surplus of nearly£4,500,000 is available for the reduction of past deficiencies. This is a very good record. Coupled with it we have the fact that full integration plans had been brought to the stage where they were about to be applied. That is clearly shown in the paragraph I have read.
I am pleased that the Opposition have put down the Amendment. The Amendment indicates that in their opinion the policy of the Government is wrong and will lead to chaos in the transport industry. My main concern is about the future of British railways. It is indicated on page 70 that increased devolution of authority was taking place in the regions. The Commission announced in 1948 that the railway service would be reviewed and, if necessary, revised after the experience of the first two or three years. It is clear that there was elbow room for whatever revision was necessary to decentralise, to get power back to the regions so far as was necessary.
I hope that the Minister can tell us just what will happen to the railways. We are completely in the dark. The Railway Executive has been disposed of. 2055 The Minister must tell us whether it is to be more centralisation or how the decentralisation which was so bitterly complained about will be put into effect. We have heard something about management committees in the regions. The Minister must tell us what is the limit of their authority. What can they really do? He must tell us what authority there is at the centre.
We know what has happened about rate fixing, despite what was said in the debate about Scotland. I am pleased to see the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on the Front Bench. He replied to that debate and rather indicated that the people in Scotland would be allowed to fix fares and freight charges. I challenged him on that occasion and he would not give way. I am convinced that the intention is that fares and freight charges for Scotland will be fixed in London whether we like it or not.
§ Mr. Manuel
If the Under-Secretary of State can tell me that I am wrong nobody will be happier than I.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
If the hon. Gentleman will carefully read again what I said in the earlier debate I think he will get the answer to his criticism.
§ Mr. Manuel
We have not got much further. I hope that the Minister will answer that point later. I hope that he will tell me what is to be the future of British Railways and how devolution is to take place.
As an engine man I am concerned about motive power in British Railways. The Report indicates on page 5 that certain thought has been given to the problem by the Commission. It indicates that they have been thinking about the balance of advantages. I agree that the Commission should adopt a form of motive power to suit the various sections and traffic needs.
I ask the Minister to tell the Transport Commission that they have been thinking about this for long enough. I am getting bitter complaints from the men on the job about the motive power units which they are asked to work. Whether or not we 2056 decide on a change from the locomotive as we know it to some other power unit on certain sections of the railways, it is certain that there are many sections that are now being worked with steam locomotives which will be working with those steam locomotives for a long time yet, though the locomotives are not in a fit condition, or at least not as good as they should be. Some of them are in the repair shops far too often, and the men on the job are complaining.
I want the Minister to recognise that he has some responsibility for making recommendations when complaints are made in this House. We are able to make these complaints today; we could not make them when the railways were privately owned. We could make no complaints then, as the Minister very well knows, and we could not do very much about it. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman because I think it is his duty as the Minister—though he seems to think it is not—that when an hon. Member makes a complaint about things that might lead to the unsafe operation of our railways it is his job to point that out to those responsible.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not know what is in the hon. Gentleman's mind when he suggests that I do not conceive it to be my duty to deal with complaints. Of course I do, but I do not think that anybody would think it a good thing for the Minister to assume day-to-day responsibility for the running of the railways.
§ Mr. Manuel
I agree, and I do not ask for that at all. What I said was that there is a section in the Report dealing with motive power, and that I think we have talked about it for long enough. Many of the motive power units the men are using are too old, and they want new ones. I ask the Minister to get on with the job and see that these men get better machines with which to work, whether they are of the locomotive type or any other unit of motive power. I ask him to show a greater sense of urgency about the need for efficient motive power units.
I should like to say a word about electrification. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South spoke about the Manchester area, but I should be very pleased, so far as Scotland is concerned, if we could get some electrification there. It would save using a considerable 2057 amount of the coal that is now used on British Railways in the Scottish Region. Glasgow and its environs is crying out for electrification. The railway between Glasgow and Largs runs partly through my constituency, and the line from Glasgow to Ayr branches off the line to Largs. These lines carry very heavy traffic—coastal traffic in the summer and heavy business trains in and out of Glasgow night and morning.
It is time that the Minister took cognisance of the fact that we have no electrification in Scotland, and that all the money that has been spent on electrification schemes so far has been spent, in the main, in Southern England and mostly in the London area. The schemes envisaged in the Report indicate that further millions of pounds are to be spent in this area in Southern England, while the Commission are thinking about and studying certain plans for Manchester and Glasgow. This is not good enough, and I suggest to the Minister that in Glasgow we have a situation which has been crying out for years for electrification. We have had reports from very responsible people assuring us that such a scheme would be a success and would provide a cheaper method of travel, after the initial capital expenditure.
The present situation is not good enough. We have to remember, also, that in Scotland the Hydro-Electric Board, in 1952, generated 1,237 million units of electricity, as against 710 million in 1949, and, in that steady expansion, supplied to the British Electricity Authority, in 1949, 56 million units and, in 1952, 304 million units. Now, we are reaching the stage in Scotland when, instead of exporting these millions of units to the Electricity Authority, we ought to be using some of them in Scotland in electrifying certain sections of the railways, notably in Glasgow and district. I ask the Minister to take note of that point.
I appeal to the Minister to give active support on this matter. He was in Glasgow recently and must have been made aware of its necessity, although at the time he was talking about tunnels and other things. It would be a tragedy if plans for the provision of tunnels under the Clyde were agreed to without full cognisance being taken of this aspect of the matter, and the bearing of such an 2058 electrification scheme on those tunnels being considered at the same time. The electrification of the railways ought to be considered along with such tunnel schemes, and I hope that the Minister will take up that point and let us have some action. I have mentioned two suitable routes, but there are many others in the Glasgow district area. There is also the Cathcart circle and the inner circle round Glasgow which are already ready for electrification.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to say something about linking Glasgow and Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Manuel
I would do all I could to link Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I am delighted to have the support of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) in my appeal to the Minister. I hope that, behind the scenes, he could do some secret boring and probing that will perhaps get the Minister to do something, but which I may not be able to do.
§ Mr. Manuel
I hope those things will be fully considered, perhaps in a Tory Party meeting, to try to get the Minister to take action.
This Report is one not of failure, but of increasing success by the Commission, and this House ought to be careful in curbing and retarding the work of the Commission. I hope that the day is not far off when we can give to our transport undertakings the all-clear signal and tell them to go forward and complete the job which they so ably started before the present Government put back the clock.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Major D. McCallum (Argyll)
It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), because invariably in his speeches he manages to bring in the part of the country which is his home, which) is one of the loveliest spots, not only in my constituency, but in the whole of Britain. I think, however, that he should have his facts correct before he brings them out in debate in the House. I interrupted him just now to say that, in fact, the road transport service in 2059 Ardnamurchan had recently been taken over by Messrs. MacBrayne from a very small private organisation which could not carry on any longer, and MacBrayne are no part of, nor do they come under the control of, the Transport Commission.
If the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire were to go to these crofters and smallholders and talk to them about their road haulage requirements, he would find that they would not ask for any British Road Services or any MacBrayne lorries to take their produce to market. They would ask for a steamer, or else would send to Fort William or Oban for a private haulier to take their stocks to market.
I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) here, because a year or two ago he did us the honour of coming up to Inverness and addressing an organisation to which I belong. He also addressed a political meeting exhorting the Highlands of Scotland to mend their ways and to return Members of the Labour Party to this House. I can assure him that if he and his party—if they ever do get back to power again—re-nationalise road haulage in the Highlands and remote parts of Scotland, he will have lost all possible chance of getting any Highland constituency to return a Labour Member.
I wish to take up with my right hon. Friend two points which, though they might be considered rather parochial, are very important points concerning the Transport Commission's operations and this Report. The first is the question of the Clyde steamer services. He will remember that when the present Government came into office, a most unholy row was going on about the muddle over the Clyde steamer services. Thanks to his immediate predecessor's instructions—and I am sure thanks also to his own since then—a great measure of improvement has come about in these services. Indeed, those who direct these services today have a much better consultative arrangement operating than existed when the late Government went out of office.
§ Mr. Manuel
I do not want to have this tug-of-war all the time, but I cannot accept what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says about the road haulage ser- 2060 vices in the Highlands of Scotland. I know the services which the people there want. Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, in substance, the complaint about the Clyde steamers is nothing by comparison with the complaint against Messrs. MacBrayne? In his own constituency far greater delays are apparent than on the Clyde coast.
§ Major McCallum
I must not be drawn into an argument about Messrs. MacBrayne, because that would be out of order. I am merely making a plea to the Minister, and through him to the Transport Commission, that these Clyde steamer services shall continue to have their very close attention because the local authorities and the public of the Clyde coast resorts are by no means completely satisfied with the services available at the moment.
It is quite true that some of the piers which were to be cut out have been reinstated, but there are certain piers which serve very important communities consisting of 2,000 or 3,000 inhabitants, which are still not getting the service to which they are entitled. Communication between one side of the Clyde Estuary and the other is still not as good as it should be.
The Transport Commission appointed an official whose special duty it was to keep in touch with the local authorities and the Clyde coast resorts, to listen to their suggestions, and generally to consult them about the services. The man they appointed was a Mr. Marr, and he has done some splendid work. I believe there has been a very great improvement in the services since his appointment.
But there is still a certain amount of doubt concerning these consultative arrangements. In the debate on this subject last year, I asked the then Minister if something could be done about reorganising or re-appointing the Transport Users' Consultative Committee for Scotland, which, I think, was the body which the Railway Executive said they had consulted before they created that mess at the end of 1951. Since then we have had set up a Clyde Area or Clyde Coast Resorts Consultative Committee, which is an improvement, but there is still room for even better services.
I cannot believe that, if the proper people had been consulted, the British 2061 Transport Commission or the Railway Executive would ever have gone to the expense of buying the "Countess of Breadalbane" and transporting her overland from Loch Awe to the Clyde and putting her into service there. She was unsafe on Loch Awe, a freshwater loch with no bad weather and should never have been put on the Clyde Estuary with its notoriously wild weather. I received letter after letter of complaint from users and parents of children travelling on her, saying that she was absolutely unsafe. I hope I am right in saying that she has at last been withdrawn from service, but, if she has not, then the sooner she is withdrawn the safer it will be for the travelling public.
The other point I wish to raise is that of Connel Ferry Bridge. I wrote to my right hon. Friend about this matter and he replied saying that he must consult the head of the Transport Commission before he could come to a decision. That very distinguished officer, I presume, is still unable to take up his duties as Chairman of the Transport Commission, but are there no means of arriving at a decision, either to make some concession as to the tolls levied on the bridge or to abolish them altogether?
It has been stated as the policy of more than one Government that no toll should be levied on any bridge or ferry connecting two sections of a trunk road. The high tolls levied on this bridge are a great handicap to industry, as was explained to my right hon. Friend by the deputation which I brought to see him. I ask my right hon. Friend to give this matter his attention in the fairly near future.
There has been a certain improvement in that the bridge is now kept open day and night, but these heavy toll charges are crippling the existing industries in the area and deterring new industries to the north of the bridge from starting up. I understood from the responsible Minister in the 1949 Government that within a few weeks—it was the summer of 1949—the toll would be abolished altogether. Then came one of those recurring economic crises in the late Government, and I understand that it was owing to the decision of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Ministry of Transport were forbidden to carry out that project.
We are not accustomed to having these crises in our own Government. I hope 2062 that my right hon. Friend will look at this question again and that he may be able, especially in view of the profits which we are told were made by the railways last year, to give instructions that these tolls shall be abolished altogether, or at any rate cut down very considerably pending their abolition. It is an important issue both for industry and for tourism. The deputation which I brought to see him pointed out that it is a matter of urgent importance to that part of my constituency.
I finish by referring to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy). He mentioned the very important point of road safety and the terrible toll of casualties on the roads today. I want to give my testimony to the remarkable skill and courtesy in driving of the lorry drivers, whether they are employed by British Road Services or by private enterprise. I go about a great deal by road, and I find that one could not have more courteous or safe drivers than these drivers of big vehicles. It is not they who are responsible for accidents, but the careless drivers of much smaller vehicles.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I shall not follow the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum), if only because I feel that it would be impossible to say anything more about Connell Ferry. I should, however, like to come back for the moment to the main lines of this Report. Hon. Members with local troubles and grievances in Hexham, Argyll or wherever it may be, or who are merely inspired by the habit of having a grievance about British Railways, such as seems to be particularly virulent with the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), ought to look at this Report as a whole and recognise it for what it is—a story of astonishing success in very difficult circumstances.
I am no expert on transport, but it hits one in the eye. If one starts with the railways, I prefer a test of efficiency to a pure financial comparison in transport. It is exceedingly difficult to make the latter. Things change from one year to another. Alterations in fares, costs, methods, and the rest of it invalidate any superficial financial comparison. The most striking thing in this Report as far 2063 as the railways are concerned is the test of efficiency in operation—the test of the use made of engines by miles and by tons—which appears in the Report itself and shows a steady and rapid increase not only since the war but from the period before the war. Without going into details, I feel that it is not too much to say that we ought to be proud of our railways by comparison with those of any other country, and this Report shows it.
I mentioned difficulties just now. It is perfectly clear that the railways are still labouring under a load of difficulties, which are not merely wartime but prewar difficulties. As this Report brings out again and again, that is the case not only with the track but also with the engines, trucks and the passenger carriages, to varying degrees. As I see it, the trucks are the worst part of it, but that is a nice question which I can leave to others. The point is that they are still badly handicapped by out-of-date stock, inherited from the prewar railways and held by those railways for too long. Now, with the whole position aggravated by six years of war and all the stress which was put on the railways in those days, to have made this operational success and this mild but quite definite financial success is an achievement to be proud of.
One can add one or two other little troubles, such as having had over£1 million put on them by the fuel oil tax. If we look somewhere else in the Report we find that they are having another£1 million put on them by way of interest charges because of this Government's financial policy, by having to convert a cheap debt into an expensive one. I am not going into that question. I simply say, once more, that this is a success story under real difficulties.
The same thing applies to the other branches of the transport undertakings. First, let us see how we stand as regards the road haulage vehicles which are going to be handed back now, partially, at any rate, to private enterprise. We are told that these people have had plenty of time to work in road and rail together, but the Report says the direct opposite. It says that it was not until 1951 or 1952 that the transfer to them of the road undertakings and the vehicles connected with them was anything like complete.
2064 If one turns to another passage in the Report one finds that theheavy programme of acquisitions was completed in just under four years, and the Executive's fifth year (1952) was the first in which the staff were free of the complicated administrative work associated with the process of acquisition and the constant influx of undertakings that had to be built into and made part of the organisation. The main feature of 1952 was therefore consolidation, the threefold emphasis being upon (i) streamlining the organisation and concentration of resources into fewer and more manageable units, (ii) improving customer-relations, and (iii) increasing operational efficiency by carrying more traffic with fewer vehicles.That being the state of affairs as regards road haulage in 1952, how anyone can complain because no further progress had been made in the integration of road and rail I absolutely fail to understand. In those circumstances, in that transitional state of affairs, with their job just beginning, they did exceedingly well to make the profit they did, apart from anything else.
I have less to say about passenger road vehicles at the moment, because we are particularly concerned in this debate with road haulage and the railways. There being this amazing success story in this Report—not the success story of an established, easy-going enterprise, but an enterprise which was just beginning to get on its feet and find its way out of very considerable difficulties—what else can we find in the Report?
Let us consider whose Report this is. It is the Report of a number of gentlemen who know a very great deal more about this transport industry than—I was going to say—anybody in this House. I shall not go as far as that, but they certainly know more than most people here, and many of the people who have spoken today. This is the Report of men who have spent their lives on this job, and who were chosen as the most competent people to run what everybody recognised as being a transport enterprise vital to the prosperity of the nation.
It is not a Report of people concerned with party politics, one way or the other. They are simply concerned with an efficient transport system. It is those people who feel called upon in the very Report which signalises their success, to point out in no hesitating terms that the Government have been doing a fatal thing 2065 to prevent the further progress of the transport industry. What they have done is quite simple: they have cut apart road and rail. They have left some road transport with the railways. It is true, too, that there always was some private road haulage, but the main point is that they have taken a definite step towards the severance of road haulage and rail transport, and by doing so they have taken a step backwards towards what the position was before the war.
I shall not go again into all the arguments which were raised when the present Transport Act was under discussion. I am merely referring to what is in this Report, and what is perfectly clear is that these people, who are concerned only with transport as a whole, who are transport people, who are experts who know their job, regard this as a colossal and fatal mistake. I do not think it matters to exactly what degree the integration had proceeded. The point is that on any view of the matter this action was the wrong action to take in a technician's opinion. There is not the least doubt about it.
The Commission give some evidence, for they point out that the things which they have had to give up include long-distance feeder road-rail services. I should have thought that was the absolute essential of integration between the two. They have had to give up joint engineering services and the joint use of offices and equipment. Those are the general words they use, and in paragraph 12 they give what are, after all, merely instances, as far as they have gone, in the very limited time possible and having regard to the rail haulage situation to which I have referred.
One hon. Member said, "Yes, but none of these affect consumers." That seems to me to be a foolishly narrow and stupid point of view. Consumers are affected not merely by an immediate reduction in some charge or an immediate addition of some service. They are affected by getting a highly efficient road transport system all over the country, and they are just as much affected as the men who work in the industry. As far as the latter are concerned, there is no doubt what their view is.
What strikes me about every one of these things which have been interrupted is that they are all of the nature to effect 2066 economies and they are all said by these experts to be likely to make economies. Yet here we have the Government, which is urging everybody to make economies, which cuts this, that and the other and produces, for instance, the half closing of museums in this country or threatens to cut the grant of the Workers' Educational Associations—here we have this fanatically economical Government doing something which is bound to involve waste and greater expenditure. It is bound to make us miss the very savings which are promised in this Report by men who know what they are talking about.
What is the reason for it? I tell the right hon. Gentleman, quite frankly, that all through the debates on the Transport Bill we were asking that question, but we still do not know what is the real reason for handing road haulage back to private interests. Is there some question of principle involved? Frankly, we never found out what it was, and we have been forced to the conclusion—and I am not speaking for myself alone in this matter—that the effective reason why road haulage is being handed back to the private road hauliers is that they have votes and money which they can spend for political purposes whereas this Commission have no votes and no money for that purpose.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. N. Browne (Glasgow, Govan)
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), made a very important statement in his opening remarks. I took it down. He said he hoped the day would come when it would be possible to debate the work of publicly-owned transport without party politics. I can assure him that since he made his political speech himself, there has been no speech today, with the possible exception of that of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), which has dealt with party politics. I have listened throughout the debate. A few speakers have tentatively attempted to bring party politics into their speeches, but the points which have generally been made have been points of substance.
This is the shareholders' meeting of the British Transport Commission and I think we are fulfilling our proper duty, 2067 as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Smithers) said, not in making party political points but in making points of substance. Moreover, nobody has mentioned the Amendment put down by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, except, perhaps, the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), who made a passing reference to it.
I want to speak, briefly, about the people who use our railway transport, because they have not been mentioned very much this evening, and I want to make only one point on the subject. What is the greatest difficulty for those travelling on trains? It has always seemed to me to be to find out what stations they have reached. May I speak for a moment about station name signs? I have travelled quite frequently by train and have been unable to find out the name of the station. In fact, the only clearly legible notice which I can see often looks to me like "Cheltenham." The other day a friend told me of a visitor to this country who was extolling the beauties of the little village of Wimpey. So it goes on.
How can this situation be improved? I should like the railway authorities to think about this. Could we not have the signs in a V-shaped form, so that when we lean out of a train we can see what they say and what the names of the stations are? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum), who comes from the Highlands, is no longer here, but those who know the Highlands will confirm that many of the station names there would be far better in the Department for the Preservation of Historical objects, mentioned on page 67, than left where they are.
I have one other comment to make. I wonder whether the local authorities look at their stations. I wonder how often they consider the value of the railway station to the district in which they have the honour to serve. I should like local authorities to go to their railway station, and, with the Stationmaster, ask themselves four question. First, would it be a good idea if the name of the place could be read by people passing in the train? Secondly, would it not be possible to improve the legibility of the station name, so that people stopping at 2068 the station by day can look out of the carriage window and see what station it is? Thirdly, could the same apply at night? Fourthly, is the station a fitting entry to the little hamlet or the big town which the local authority serves? The value of such advertising is not sufficiently appreciated, and the value to the traveller of knowing where he is makes a railway journey much more interesting.
May I turn to one last point, also in connection with advertising? I have always felt that the advertising revenue of British Railways and the Transport Commission is a most important factor. I am sorry to see, from page 43 of the Report, that the revenue is down from£2.03 million to£1.86 million, but this is still a very substantial revenue indeed and I believe I can make a suggestion whereby it could be improved. At present, it is the policy of the railways to advertise on the best sites. They use the best sites on our railway stations for their own advertising. In other words, they spend the most valuable sites on advertising the railway companies.
To whom are they advertising? They are advertising to people who travel on the railways. They are advertising to their own customers. What they should do is to allow other advertisers the use of their best sites and keep railway advertisements either on the not-so-good sites or on sites which will be seen by people who are using buses and alternative forms of transport. If they did that, I can assure them that advertisers would use these best sites. We should then find, next year, that instead of the revenue being£250,000 down it would be£500,000 up.
I commend the Report. I think the Amendment is not necessary and is not asked for by the country.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) suggested that this was a meeting of the shareholders discussing their property. I should have thought that if he regarded himself as a shareholder of the Transport Commission's undertaking he would have taken some note of what the chairman of the directors has to say in the preamble to this Report. If ever there was a condemnation by a 2069 chairman of a board of directors, if that is what the Commission are to be called in the view of the hon. Member for Govan, it is the condemnation of the Minister of Transport which is contained in this Report.
The Minister, when he took over his present position, said he knew very little about transport, but hoped to learn as the days and months went by. During the debates on the Transport Bill some of us had some suspicions about where he got the greater part of his information. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) today, in quoting a speech by one of the chief regional officers, now, I presume, a chief regional manager, supplied part of the answer, I thought. If we are to examine this Report as shareholders we ought to pay attention to the damage that has been done to our business by the interference of the Government in the interests of some other organisation. This Report makes it quite clear that the activities of the Commission have been stopped as a result of the action of the Government.
Earlier speeches in this debate indicated that the work of the Commission ought to have borne fruition by now. I think it was the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton)—I am sorry I did not hear all of his speech—who said that the integration and co-ordination of transport, which was the responsibility of the Commission, had shown very little result at the end of some three and a half to four years.
It was the Home Secretary himself who made a claim that the 1921 Act, which undertook a much smaller task than the 1947 Act, took more than six years to reach fruition. It is admitted on all hands that the task of reducing over 15 main line companies to four main groups was a long job. Indeed, the Act was passed in 1921, but the final result was not seen until 1931 in a pooling arrangement between the old London, Midland and Scottish and London and North-Eastern Railways.
It was 10 years afterwards before two stations in a certain town in this country came under the control of one station-master. If, therefore, it took 10 years to bring to complete fruition the 1921 Act, how much longer time ought we to have given the Transport Commission in 2070 this case to complete the task that was set them?
I listened to the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham). I do not know whether he has any experience of a railway. He did not demonstrate by his speech tonight that he knew anything of railway conditions in the years between the wars. When he says that there is greater frustration on the railways today, when he says there is greater redundancy on the railways today, than there were in the interwar years, then he obviously does not know what he is talking about.
It was my fortunate, or unfortunate, experience to spend the years between the wars on the railways of South Wales, and I know men still employed on the railways, whose names I would be willing to supply to any hon. Member of this House, who had 14 different jobs in 14 different towns in five years, and each time they pushed a man out from the bottom.
The hon. and gallant Member went on to make the claim that the redundancy that took place at the Wolverton works in his constituency was avoided as the result of an Election. He first of all made the claim that the redundancy was created during the régime of the Labour Government. I think the Parliamentary Secretary today supplied the answer about the redundancy in railway workshops. He gave some figures which showed that the productivity of the railway shops is not yet up to its maximum capacity, due, in the main, to a shortage of steel. It is true that that shortage is being overcome, but it has taken a long time.
There was some redundancy at Wolverton. It is not true that it was only the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham who raised the matter. The files of the 31 craft unions that have members employed in the Wolverton shops, and the records of the National Union of Railwaymen, prove that long before the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham came back in this House in the guise of a Tory Member, having gone out in 1945 as a National Labour Member, the question of the shortage of steel had been raised time and time again.
I was a little sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary today, who claimed that he was on non-controversial ground so far 2071 as railway safety was concerned, sought to make what I thought was a very cheap party point when he said that he hoped that now decentralisation was to be brought about there would be greater opportunities for greater safety on the railways. I thought it was quite unworthy of the hon. Gentleman.
Nobody regrets it more than the men who are employed on the job when an unfortunate incident happens, when the human element fails, and, as a consequence, lives are lost. Those of us who have been fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to have spent a large part of our lives in signal boxes past which large numbers of trains have to pass at high speeds, know that whenever we read of an accident somewhere else in the country we always say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Therefore, I think it is quite unfair that cheap party points should be made about this problem of safety on the railways.
I believe that the Commission, in the four or five years they have been in control of the railways, have done a tremendous amount of work in an effort to make our railways far safer than before. They are now the safest railways in the world, mainly clue to the high degree of intelligence, skill and enthusiasm that all grades in the railway service bring to their work. I am sorry sometimes to find in the Press that, without knowing the facts of the situation, and without having the technical knowledge, people tend to magnify the difficulties, make party points out of the problem and argue that the degree of safety on the railways today is less than it was because of a greater degree of frustration on the part of the employees.
That there is frustration in the railway services is understood. The frustration and the fact that men are leaving the railway service are due, generally speaking, to the same causes. Men will not remain in the railway service at comparatively low rates of wages when, by stepping across the road, they can get higher wages for less responsibility in less exacting jobs. I do not place responsibility for that on the Transport Commission. I remember the time, only 13 or 14 years ago, when the platelayers on our privately-owned railways were getting 44s. a week.
§ Mr. Jones
At that time signalmen in class IV boxes, handling many trains a day, got 55s. per week. I did that for years.
When the Commission took over in 1948 they had the task of starting from a very low figure. In those days the wastage of manpower on the railways was less, and hon. Members should remember that the reason for its being less was that there were not other jobs to which the men could go. Walking through the streets of most of our industrial towns, the railwaymen saw queues of their fellow workers at the employment exchanges. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), who is sitting opposite, knows that that was true of the town which he represents. But today the men can step off the railway premises and find jobs at far higher wages and with far less responsibility.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the Parliamentary Secretary. I noticed that he went into some of the operations of the Transport Commission for 1953 and gave us some figures. I was hoping he would tell us the financial results of the Commission's road services up to date compared with 1952. My information, such as it is, is that 1952 was a better year than 1951. My information, which is third or fourth hand, is that in the first nine months of this year, in spite of all the frustration imposed upon them by the machinations of the present Government, British Road Services showed better financial results than they did in 1952.
§ Mr. Lindgren
If my hon. Friend looks at the statistics he will find that for the first 36 weeks in 1953 British Road Services receipts were£53.4 million, which is an increase of£1.1 million over the same period last year.
§ Mr. Jones
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I had not noticed that.
If we were to have some of the statistics for 1953 which suited the Parliamentary Secretary, we are entitled to ask for the others. I have a good deal of sympathy with the Parliamentary Secretary. I wonder whether he will do me the honour one of these days, when he has a little spare time, of comparing the 2073 speech he made this afternoon with some of the speeches he made during the Committee stage of the Transport Bill, in 1947. The speeches he made then would make interesting reading. Here we have the example of the poacher turned gamekeeper.
I wish to ask a question about the technical staff employed in the servicing depots of the British Road Services. On page 8 of the Report there appears under the heading "Engineering and Stores" a paragraph reading:A general plan for the integration of the Railway and Road Haulage Executive's road motor engineering and stores organisations was completed in March, 1952. The repairs service would eventually have catered for over 53,000 vehicles and 25,000 trailers.Some of the repairs depots—my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has in his constituency as good an example as there is in the country—have a large number of technical staff who, but for the Government's interference with the process of integration, would be engaged upon the task of maintaining British Road Service vehicles in first-class condition.
I heard the Parliamentary Secretary say that already plans have been drawn up for the disposal of 10,000 vehicles in the next four or five months, but he did not say a word about the unfortunate technical staff who will be deprived of their livelihood in consequence of the dividing up of the fleet of vehicles among 1,500 other people.
I should like to know what provision is being made to absorb this staff into other useful employment. I am informed by the general secretary of one of the railway trade unions that it is anticipated that work will be found for between 2,000 and 3,000 only of the 16,000 clerical workers now employed by British Road Services in the road haulage organisation. Can we be told what steps the Minister or anyone else is taking to find employment for the remaining 13,000 clerical and professional people who will be deprived of their employment in the Road Haulage Executive when the vehicles are dispersed over the country?
I should like to congratulate the Minister upon having changed his mind and the minds of some of his colleagues about eminent military men being capa 2074 ble of handling jobs in transport. Members of the party opposite, when they were on this side of the House, hurled abuse at my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) when he appointed some eminent military men to positions on the Railway Executive and the Road Haulage Executive. I should like to know from the Minister of Transport why this sudden admiration for military men compared with the views that the Tory Party used against their predecessors in office for doing that which they are doing now.
I should also like the Minister to tell us, in the interests of the Commission's operations and of their staff, when it is likely that the new Chairman will take up his post. Thousands of people, and certainly those who earn their livelihood with British Railways, regard the Commission's operations as important, and yet the executive head of that organisation has been absent from his post for many months. No one has a greater admiration than I have for the man who has occupied the position of acting chairman, and I appreciate that he has all the qualities necessary to do a first-class job. But it is unfair to him, it is unfair to his staff, and it is unfair to the railway services that they should be without their executive head for so many months. Can we be told tonight when the new chairman is likely to take up his post?
I agree with previous speakers that this Report is an indication of the progress that is being made by the Commission. Anybody who viewed this task impartially would have no doubt that it was a long job, and that it would take more than a couple of years to reach the goal set by the Labour Government's Transport Act of 1947. The Report indicates that as the years roll on that task is being accomplished, but anyone who has the interests of transport in this country at heart must regret that the present Government have, for purely party purposes, sought to break up the organisation which had been created and which was beginning to come into its own.
That decision was taken merely to carry out rash promises that had been made by the Tory Party before they became the Government, and it is a pity that the Prime Minister did not re-read the speech he delivered from this side of the House some years ago before the present 2075 Government introduced their Transport Bill. In that speech he told the last Labour Government that because there were a few words in a party manifesto that did not lay an obligation on them to carry them out when they became the Government. Everybody interested in transport regrets that the right hon. Gentleman did not apply that principle to the transport industry.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I want to say a few words about the relation of this Report to Scotland, which is a long, long railway or bus journey from London. The Amendment on the Order Paper very properly expresses gratification at the progress of the nation's transport system and the steps taken towards national integration and co-ordination under the Labour Government. It very properly regrets that the present Government's policy impedes further progress. That is realistic, because integration is being wrecked. This reversal of policy has one very damaging effect upon Scotland. It prevents these islands from being treated as a unit, and thereby penalises trade and industry and conflicts with well settled principles already laid down by transport experts engaged in work with this Commission.
I approach the serious topics involved in this matter with an argument, which I hope will commend itself to the House, on behalf of Scottish trade and industry and distribution of population. The Report which is under consideration today must be considered with the Reports for previous years. If nothing else is integrated and co-ordinated in this discussion, at least the various Reports for the various years should be considered together. I shall refer, therefore, to page 74 of the Report for 1951, which deals with freight service costs, in order to show that where Scotland is concerned the British Transport Commission today do not pay due or full attention to their own arguments enunciated in previous Reports by experts in transport.
Transport has been aptly called the conveyor belt of industry. It affects not only Scotland but also the whole of Britain, economically, politically, socially and strategically. For these reasons, British transport should treat the whole of Britain equally and fairly as a unit; but 2076 it does not do so, it penalises Scotland. This need not be so, for reasons set out in the Reports themselves, if they were fully implemented, but they are not being either fully or fairly implemented. The result is that we have bad distribution of population, bad distribution of industry and trade, and bad distribution of employment.
All these things are closely connected and inter-related. We should have a properly co-ordinated and reciprocal system of transport run like the Post Office, for service before profit, at a flat rate of freightage or, at worst, at a tapering rate of freightage. Scotland and England have much to offer each other for the common good with a proper reciprocal system of transport. On the one hand, there are large supplies of technical equipment, fresh fish and vegetables; on the other hand, there are vast areas of factory space in the Highlands awaiting exploitation if a proper transport system were applied.
These problems can be solved. The Report for 1951 itself says in paragraph 22:…it is possible to discern the major factors which govern freight transport costs, to analyse them and to assess the effect on them of the various patterns of traffic and operation.The Report then very reasonably proceeds to indicate what are the chief factors affecting freight costs. I shall mention what the Report says about them. It says that they are loadability of traffic, length of haul, speed, regularity, volume, balance of the traffic flows and size of consignment. Paragraph 26 of that Report goes on to show the great economy of the heavy train over a reasonable distance at a reasonable speed. All these features apply to the journey from England to Scotland or from Scotland to England. Paragraph 26 of that Report contains these words:The great economy of the heavy train, once it is loaded and put in motion over a reasonable distance at a reasonable speed, is sufficient to outweigh the disadvantages of higher terminal charges and the costs of marshalling the train and of possible intermediate shunting of wagons.The Report also indicates the conditions in which the flat rate or the tapering rate of freight can reasonably be provided. They apply to the carriage, for instance, of such things as fish from Aberdeen to Billingsgate Market, a matter of the 2077 utmost consideration and importance to the fishing industry in Scotland and also of very great importance to the large consuming centres of the south of this island. The Report applies to the carriage of various other types of goods.
Look at the details of these factors in relation to the journey of goods from Scotland to England. First, loadability; fish from Aberdeen, Wick and Thurso—indeed, from the whole north of Scotland—are sent in a way which complies with the requirements of loadability. They are sent in neat boxes, regular in size, easily packed in a train.
Next, length of haul. From Aberdeen to London by rail is 527 miles, so that every time I visit my constituency I take a journey of about 1,100 miles. It is one of the longest hauls in the country, and it therefore complies with the requirement with regard to length of haul. The next factor is speed. That journey from Aberdeen to London is along lines which are long, straight, through flat country and where the trains can, and do, attain a high rate of speed.
Regularity is the next requirement, according to the Report. The fish comes daily at even and precise times, which is necessary for the markets of the South. Next, volume; it is always considerable. Finally, balance and size of consignment. This is always much the same, which makes easy the marshalling of trains.
The same reasoning applies not only to fish, but to other classes of goods. Indeed, proprietary brands of cigarettes and other commodities are sold at the same prices all over this island, thereby showing that they must be, and in fact are, carried at a flat rate. A packet of Player's cigarettes or a bottle of Guinness stout is the same price in Aberdeen as in London, Liverpool or Manchester. If this principle is applied to proprietary items of that kind, why can it not be equally applied to the much more nourishing and succulent food which Aberdeen supplies to Billingsgate Market? Judged by these tests, it is incredible that the British Transport Commission refuse to introduce the flat rate, which was so successfully used during the Second World War.
I wrote to Lord Hurcomb about this, without any satisfactory result. I have written again to the new Chairman, General Sir Brian Robertson, and I have 2078 appealed to his Service training to induce him to see the importance and utility from a strategic point of view of preserving the fishing communities around our coasts, whose men were of such service to the country in time of war. I hope that the general will have greater imagination and courage in the great tasks arising from transport. In writing to Sir Brian Robertson I stressed the strategic importance——
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not know whether he has taken up office or not, but I hope the letter will be on his table when he comes from Egypt, or wherever he is, and takes up the duties of his great post. In writing to Sir Brian, I said:To one of these points I think your Service training will favourably predispose you. It is this: Britain is treated as a unit for defence purposes; the fishing communities dotted all round our coasts supply skilled and valiant men in time of war for mine-sweepers, etc. Yet in time of peace the very existence of fishing communities in the north of our island is imperilled and they are in danger of extinction because of high transport rates; to save them there should be a radical change in the system of charges for the carriage of fish. I suggest that this island should be treated as a unit for the transport of fish as it is for the carriage of letters and postal packets and that such fish should be carried (as the Post Office carries letters within this island) at a flat rate.There are three very important aspects of this matter which I wish to stress and to which I draw the attention of the House. First, the flat rate was a success in the Second World War. If it is a success in war when the nation is highly organised for war purposes, why can it not be applied with equal success in time of peace? Was that the last war? We know not; we may require the services of these men of the fishing communities once again. Do we want to stamp out these fishing communities round our coasts? I say it is our duty to preserve them. To argue otherwise would be callous, short-sighted and disgraceful.
The second aspect I wish to stress is this. The arguments for a flat rate have been fully developed in this House and elsewhere, but they have never been fully answered in this House or elsewhere. I particularly draw the attention of the Minister to the debate which took place in this House on 21st March, 1952, when 2079 he was present and did not adequately answer the arguments which I adduced in favour of a flat rate on that occasion.
§ Mr. Braithwaiterose——
I very well recall the occasion on which the hon. and learned Member introduced this most important topic on a Friday. We had a lengthy debate upon it and, consequent on my reply, the hon. and learned Member was so impressed that he talked out his own Motion.
§ Mr. Hughes
The arguments I adduced in favour of a flat rate were not adequately or persuasively answered.
The third point I wish to stress is that one of the colleagues of the Minister, the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), gave evidence before the Barlow Commission on the Distribution of Industrial Population as far back as 31st March, 1938, in which he argued strongly in favour of the flat rate for the carriage of freight, as I am arguing now. If he was sincerely in favour of that, why does he not impress it on the Government now? Alternatively, why does he not resign from the Government which carry out a policy of which he is not in favour?
There can be no doubt that the plan which was articulated by the right hon. Gentleman, and which I am pressing on the House now, would be of great strategic importance for our nation. It would assist industry and employment everywhere, particularly in Scotland. It would accelerate the growth of industrial communities. It would thereby increase productivity and exports. It would make fuller and more economical use of manpower. It would conserve natural resources now in danger of being wasted. It would arrest the decline of population in remote communities; and it would help the development of our material and social assets.
I am not alone in arguing on these lines. The important Scottish Council (Development and Industry) recently made excellent and constructive proposals to solve these problems in its excellent Cairnross Report, which recommended a flat rate and a tapering rate 2080 of charges. These proposals should have been accepted by any Government which had the welfare of the country at heart—but not this Government, which rejected them out of hand on the ground that they conflicted with the Government's doctrinaire policy and ideology. Intelligent Scottish people and newspapers were at once up in arms. They condemned the Government for their contumaceous intransigence and ideological bigotry, which is contrary to the interests of Scottish and British industry.
I shall quote three Tory newspapers upon this subject. The "Scotsman" said:It is in the interest of Scotland as a whole that there should be greater diversity of industries and particularly that the growth of those based on scientific research should be accelerated. The need for a greater variety of employment may be urgent in expanding and fairly prosperous districts.That is impossible without a flat rate for transport.
I now quote the "Glasgow Herald," another Tory newspaper:The number of English and North American firms who are prepared to consider Scotland as a location for branch factories is obviously still substantial. Redistribution of population necessarily involves some redistribution of industry.That also is impossible without a flat rate for the carriage of goods.
The "Press and Journal" in my own constituency of Aberdeen, in the course of a trenchant leading article, described the Government's policy asA policy which in the conditions of full employment is lop-sided and unfair to the other areas.It added:This is the first rebuff the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) has had in its labours for Scotland. The pity is that the rebuff should have come from a Scottish Minister.It might have added, from a Tory Minister at that.
The fact is that Scotland's trade, industry and commerce, her distribution of population and industry, indeed her social life and destiny, have been profoundly influenced for good or evil by unrelenting geographical facts, by mileage and freightage, by the need for a fair system of transport, and they have not got that.
There is much more that I wish to say along those lines, but as time is short 2081 and I see there is an hon. Gentleman opposite who wishes to speak, I end by urging the Minister to take into account the considerations which I have put before him with a view to formulating a more just system of transport for the north of this island.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I thank the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) for giving way. I really cannot, at this late hour, go into the question he raises with regard to flat rate charges. It is a very long and complicated problem, not nearly so simple as he seems to suppose.
I am much more tempted to attempt to make some reply to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). I happened to be present at that meeting at which Mr. John Elliot gave the lecture from which he has quoted. As the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, there was a lot that Mr. Elliot said on both sides of this question and there were a number of quotations one could give from his address in which he pointed out the defects of the system which arose under the 1947 Act and in particular went out of his way to compliment the present Minister of Transport on what he had done in recent months.
At this late hour I do not propose to go into that or into the question of Swindon. As a former employee of the Great Western Railway, I have a great respect for Mr. Keith Grand. I think he was right in his remarks about the Swindon drawing office. I think there is a danger of over-standardisation when it comes to certain things, particularly with railway engines.
The particular point I wish to make is one merely of general principle which seems to me the chief defect of this Fifth Annual Report of the British Transport Commission, which in other ways is such an admirable document. It does not seem to be indicated anywhere in this Report that the chief problem of British Transport at the moment is not really integration at all but how to provide a sufficient public transport service at a price which the public will pay.
I think we have been wrong in our approach to transport matters on this 2082 question in this House for the last 20 years. In the transport chaos after the First World War, when the railway monopoly was first breaking down under the pressure of competition from the roads, the old railway companies made tentative suggestions that there should be some relaxation of the onerous statutory obligations which had been piled on them in the previous century when they were a monopoly. That idea did not go down very well at that time. In the most recent Act we have removed a number of those onerous provisions, but at that time it was not a popular idea. So the railways then switched to a different form of propaganda and accused the roads of unfair competition. It was that "Square Deal" campaign which gave rise to many of the phrases which have become commonplaces and shibboleths, as the right hon. Gentleman said in another context—the accusations of wasteful competition and taking the cream of the traffic, and so on. They all come out of that campaign.
Some regulation of road transport was in any case necessary, but the Road Traffic Act of 1930 and the Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933, the first regulating road passenger traffic and the second goods traffic, were based on the theory that we had too much transport and that what this nation had to do was to regulate and restrict the quantity of transport so that it was, so to speak, rationed out and not wastefully used. Whether this theory was right or wrong at the time I do not know and I do not propose to argue about it now; but it is not true now, and I think it a pity that the same principle was introduced into the 1947 Act on which the British Transport Commission is still based. The principle of regulation in the belief that there was too much transport quite clearly appears from the famous Section 3 of the 1947 Transport Act, which instructs the British Transport Commission to set up aproperly integrated system of public inland transport for passenger and goodsand clearly implies that the task of the British Transport Commission was to regulate and restrict and ration out the forms of transport between the various parties.
I do not think that at the present time that is our difficulty. If we contemplate 2083 the congestion on our roads, it is quite clear that a large number of people are going on to the roads because they are not getting the efficient and reasonable public transport they want. The overcrowded condition of our roads is not due to the midget British Road Services which anyway have only 41,000 vehicles. It is not due to the Tilling Group or the nationalised bus companies, or to private road haulage, which is still restricted to 25 miles. This vast congestion on the roads comes from the private motorist and the "C" licence holders. They are using their own means of transport because they do not get a sufficient service from public transport.
If road congestion is due to people finding their own means of transport, then the efforts of the Commission ought to be concentrated on providing a cheaper and more efficient method to attract those people back to the public service. Need in transport, like water, finds its own level. These people provide their own form of transport instead of using the public service only because they find it cheaper or more convenient.
It is time for me to conclude. I hope that under the management of the new organisation every effort will be made to concentrate on providing a cheaper and more efficient form of transport in the public service as a counter to the growing congestion on the roads. That can be done by a variety of means and not necessarily by putting everything under one control in a centrally integrated service.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) had to cut his speech short. We are all working against time this evening. I am also sorry that some of my hon. Friends who speak on behalf of some of the great trade unions in the transport world have not had the opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Perhaps we shall divide at 10 p.m. Therefore, I must sit down at the time I have agreed with the Minister, who needs a reasonable period in which to make such case as he may find himself able to develop.
I start by commenting on the railways in the last year and by making some comments 2084 on their position this year, too. I praise the increased efficiency as shown by the statistics which are produced every year by British Railways. I gather that the statistics are not challenged. There is a statistic on page 34 of the Report which is known as "net ton miles per total engine hour in traffic." That is a nice one if anyone cares to work it out. It is the statistic which I am told railway-men traditionally rely upon to measure their efficiency. It was a statistic used in the days before nationalisation and it is still used today.
The Parliamentary Secretary made a moderate speech. He actually found occasion to praise certain parts of the nationalised concern. That was a refreshing change. It certainly takes some of the responsibilities off our shoulders if Ministers are beginning to accept some of the responsibilities that properly fall to them. I welcome the changed tone of the Parliamentary Secretary's contribution in that respect. As he has decided that perhaps everything in the nationalised system is not necessarily bad, this is one of the statistics that I call to his attention for use next year if, by some misfortune, he should still be occupying the same office which I doubt, because if the Prime Minister has any sense he will go for a General Election soon before his total support drops away completely in the country.
It is shown that every year since nationalisation, according to this index of measurement, efficiency has increased. I will read the figures starting from 1948. The index of efficiency is: 1948, 547; 1949, 563; 1950, 578; 1951, 595; and 1952, 605. Every year there has been an increase in this statistic—this index of efficiency—until now it is 10 per cent. higher, roughly speaking, than it was in 1948. To refer to this classic test in the 'thirties, when everybody knows that we had the most modern and efficient system working as economically as possible, the index today compared with 1938 is 605 as against 461.
I hope that either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will accept or challenge this index. Every year the Commission include it in the Report. I believe I am one of the few people who have spoken, either from this Bench or that, in these debates since nationalisation, and every year I have taken the 2085 opportunity of quoting these statistics. This figure was never commented on by the Government, or, as they were then, the Opposition; it is never repudiated, never challenged, and never accepted, but it is a real index worthy of consideration when we are judging whether the nationalised industry is going up or down, forward or backwards.
I affirm that this index on page 34, not so far challenged, although it has been in existence as a measurement of efficiency on the railways for many years, really reflects that, under nationalisation, efficiency has constantly increased every year and is now far higher than it was in the days before the war.
The second word of praise that I should like to utter to the Transport Commission is this. Let me say, in passing, that I do not feel this evening, in view of the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary, that I have wholly to praise them, but I shall have some criticism to offer later. We see that the result of people taking up their responsibilities in a comparatively objective way is to enable the discussion to take place here in the form in which it ought to take place.
This development was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) in his speech this afternoon, though I think it is a great pity that we have had to wait two years for it, and have had to conduct these debates every year in an atmosphere in which everything that the Commission did was wrong on that side of the House or correct on this side. I welcome this change.
§ Mr. Braithwaite indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Do not slide back; you have done well this afternoon.
The comment I would make is on something on which we ought to praise the Commission, and that is the way in which they have successfully kept their increases in fares lower than their increases in costs. It is quite true, as the hon. Member for Truro said, that the job of British Railways is to find a way of operating an efficient transport system at a cost that people can afford to pay, and that must clearly always be in the forefront of their minds. Costs have been going up against them all through the last eight years, and, indeed, before that 2086 during the war, and I think it is worthy of comment that British Railways have successfully managed to keep their fares increases much below their costs increases.
They give the reasons for it on page 26. where they say they are as follows:
These are factors which have resulted in the fares being kept at a lower level than would otherwise have been the case, and I should like to say to my railway-men friends in the country—who, at every meeting to which I go, question me and say, "Did we not pay them too much compensation when we took them over in 1947?" and this view is held almost universally by railway workers up and down the country—that, even if this was so, at least it can be said that the remuneration of capital has been greatly diminished, and, in my view, properly diminished.
- (a) the loadings on the services are much better;
- (b) there has been an increase in travel;
- (c) the renewal of the undertaking is not being provided for on the same basis as pre-war; and
- (d) the remuneration of capital has been greatly diminished."
I am glad there is a fixed interest payment now to shareholders, because it does mean that every increase in efficiency that takes place can be returned either to the workers in the industry or the public at large, instead of going to the shareholders if there was much ordinary capital in the industry. I am very greatly in favour of fixed capital and fixed rates of interest.
The third measure of praise that I should like to confer—if they will take it from me, and I do not mean to be patronising to the Commission—refers to page 74 of the Report, where, in regard to freight traffic, the Commission comment on the great advantages they have been able to secure by the abolition of the regional boundaries in moving freight. They say:Regional boundaries have been disregarded and British Railways looked upon as a single operating system for which a central operating organisation is essential. The benefit to trade and industry, especially in the winter months, has been established and acknowledged by traders and their organisations in many parts of the country.I feel that these items are worth bringing out because they have morals and lessons for us in our consideration of the 2087 general aspect of the Commission's Report. There are two criticisms I wish to make. The first is that I have been concerned for more than a year with the inadequate account that we get of the research organisation of the Transport Commission. The number of paragraphs devoted to this seem to dwindle in succeeding reports.
We have here an organisation with a capital of£13 million, and the research organisation should be playing a most important part. May be it is playing an important part in British Railways today. I do not know. Perhaps the Minister knows and, if so, perhaps he will enlarge on these meagre paragraphs. I hope that in their next report the Transport Commission will tell us something about the research which is going on, its nature and direction, so that we in this House may judge whether they are putting into research the amount of money necessary in an industry with a capital of this description.
I also wish to criticise the railways for what is said on page 84 of the Report about diesel-electric locomotives. Apparently they have not moved ahead since the days when I was at the Ministry of Transport, which is a long time ago. They seem to have the same two diesel-electric locomotives on the Southern Region, the same two on the London Midland Region and also some mixed traffic diesels.
I have been very surprised at the lack of initiative shown by British Railways in going much further into the advantages and disadvantages of diesel-electric locomotives. I feel in my bones, although I could not produce chapter and verse for it, that there has been a prejudice among certain officials who were brought up in steam, and who still believe it is the best thing.
Anyone who has had the advantage of travelling in the United States and has seen the way in which that country has turned over almost wholly in two or three years from building steam locomotives to building diesel locomotives can have little doubt that there should be a proper investigation on a substantial scale in this country of the advantages and relative disadvantages of diesel locomotives in one form or another.
I am very disappointed that British Railways have not gone further in that 2088 direction, but I must say, in fairness to them, that I have followed their progress in regard to freight locomotives, shunting and general haulage on the freight side, and that there is no doubt that they have gone a long way in that direction. But on the passenger side they have done very little indeed, and until these locomotives were transferred to the Southern Region—I am glad they were, and according to the Report, they are doing good work on the West of England passenger trains—I do not think there was a will to investigate diesel locomotives.
Has the Minister inquired into this? I would like to know his views about it. It is essential that a larger number of diesel electric locomotives should be obtained or built, that British Railways should have at least a minimum of 20 or 30 of them so that they can have proper servicing, can be run as a proper unit and so that a real test of them can be made and a judgment formed of what they can do.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It has been proved in other countries, but whether it has been proved on British Railways I should not like to say, because the Report on this subject is very thin.
I should just like to say one other word about a subject which the Parliamentary Secretary raised, because, strangely enough, I am going to support him. He will not be surprised when he hears that it is on the question of branch lines. In this House we all have to prosecute our constituency grievances when branch lines are closed down; that is generally recognised. But it is essential, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, that we should also recognise, as a House of Commons, that a pattern of railway network which was designed 100 years ago, for the most part, is not really suitable or adequate for transport communications today. There must be much greater reliance upon road services in many directions.
I have taken the Parliamentary Secretary with me so far. I shall not take him the next step, but at least my hon. Friends will support me in this: If we are to tell British Railways, the Transport Commission and the public that there is to be a closure of branch lines, hon. Members on this side of the House feel that 2089 there is every case for saying that the British Transport Commission should have the opportunity of substituting services on the roads, and that they should, through what we call integration and coordination—I know they are words at which the Ministers tends to jeer, but they have a real connotation in this particular aspect—be empowered to take over these services and run them. That situation was beginning to develop under the 1947 Act, and it is that which the Minister has thrown away, among many other things
I now turn to the question of capital investment, to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred. I am extremely surprised to see the way in which the Government have allowed British Railways to run down since the Government have been in office. The railways have not had the same allocation of steel; they have not been able to build the same number of wagons, or the same number of locomotives; to relay the same amount of track, or the same number of passenger coaches as they did in the difficult years between 1945 and 1951.
I am the more surprised at this because I took encouragement—although I did not show it—from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said when he made a speech in the debate on the Address on 7th November, 1951. This was so vividly impressed on my mind that I was able to go straight back to it today and find it where I wanted it. He said this:…our basic industries of coal, steel and transport, are not productive enough to provide the basis for an economy adequate to our needs …—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 193.]He went on to indicate that one of the primary tasks of this Government would be to give to that industry and to the other basic industries concerned the capital that would be needed to increase their production in order to get a secure base to our economy.
Why, then, is it that we are faced with a position today in which the Government have—I will not say deliberately—allowed the railways to get into a state where they are getting even less than they were in the days before this Government were returned? I could advance many reasons for that. The economic pundits are now telling us that consumption is too high. Articles are appearing in the weekly papers telling us that the Government 2090 had better beware, because not enough capital is invested and there is too much consumption.
The Government can at least judge this. I am not surprised if we are getting into that position, in view of the tax remissions which were given in the last Budget. It always seemed to me to be an odd outlook to think that when we give people tax remissions they will save more. They do not save more; they spend more. The tax remissions given in the Budget, in my view, have resulted in increased demands and increased competition for resources, which have left the railways, I will not say high and dry, but in a more difficult position than they were three years ago.
Let me back up my opinions and dogmatisms by one or two figures. The figures for wagons, if I may quote them very roughly, are: 40,000 built in 1948; 32,000 in 1949; 27,000 in 1950; and 36,000 in 1951. That is how it went. I quote from page 88 of the Report: last year theturnout of new vehicles was the lowest in any of the years 1948–52, and the total wagon building capacity of the railways and the trade was under-used to the extent of more than 20,000 wagons;This at a time when the Commission itself reckons the number of wagons still in use which ought to be withdrawn from service as of the order of 340,000. Last year this Government, which was going to put us into a position where our economy would be broadly based, allowed the building of new wagons to dwindle to the point at which it was the lowest ever.
If we turn to other things—all on the same pages—we find a similar situation. I have worked out the figures for new carriages. I shall not go through them in detail, but will ask the House to accept my figure. Last year, 790 passenger carriages were built. I think that is the technical term for what we lay people call coaches. In addition, 214 non-passenger carrying vehicles were put into traffic. I ask the House to accept the fact that from what I can see the lowest figure previous to this was 1,334 in 1948. Since then it has varied between 1,500 and 1,600. The number of new passenger coaches put into service last year was one half that of the previous year.
I hope an explanation can be given because this Government said it would 2091 make available to our basic industries and services the capital investment which would be necessary to enable them to become fully productive again, for they said that they were not fully productive when the Government came into power. Another example is in respect of locomotives. The number of new locomotives has varied between 1948 and 1951 between 317 and 410 a year. Last year, the figure was 274—again the lowest.
I wish the House and the country to note that arrears of replacements are mounting up here, and some future Government, and the country generally in the future, must overtake them if the railway system is to be maintained at its present level of efficiency. When the job comes to be done—and it will have to be done—I hope there will be no squeal from hon. Members opposite about the way in which it is being done, because the document "Challenge to Britain," which was agreed at Margate, makes it quite clear that the Labour Party intend to see that we put into our basic services and industries the productive capital which is necessary in order to make them fully efficient. I charge the Government today with having allowed the railway replacements to decline in order that they might give a little away on the Income Tax to those who are wealthy.
§ Sir F. Markham rose——
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Minister will reply to these matters and I shall be happy to listen to him when he does because he carries a lot of weight in this direction and it is against his administration that I make the charge.
In the two or three minutes which remain to me I want to turn to one or two other considerations. We ask the Minister to tell us, if he can, what is to be the line of command from the Commission to the railways, what is to be the division of labour, what is to be the form of organisation and, finally, when they are to get a chairman. They have been without a chairman since 1st August, and I have no hesitation in saying that the biggest single lack which the Commission has today is the lack of an effective chairman at the top.
To say that is no disrespect to Sir John Benstead, but he is not the chairman; he has not the authority to do the jobs 2092 which the chairman has to do. In our view it is essential that the chairman of the Commission should take up his duty at the earliest possible moment, despite the pre-occupations which we know exist in Egypt today.
There is very great uncertainty in the railway system. The Minister knows this to be the case. He must have had representations along those lines. He could give the Commission some help if he would with the scheme he is expecting them to prepare. Indeed, I am surprised he has not given them any help so far. If he has, perhaps he will tell us. But they are charged in the 1953 Act with preparing and producing a scheme by May, 1954, unless he gives them some longer time for the reorganisation of the railways.
I want to remind the Minister in case it has slipped his memory that he did tell us on Second Reading and again in Committee on the Transport Bill:Any detailed scheme for railway decentralisation must, of course, be prepared by railwaymen, and I am not posing as a railwayman, nor am I claiming that the Government of the day, in the Bill before Parliament, are attempting to draw"—This was one of the Minister's long sentences that he gets out with remarkable celerity, and is always rather surprised, when he gets to the end, that he still understands it. I shall try quoting it again:nor am I claiming that the Government of the day, in the Bill before Parliament, are attempting to draw in any great detail the form of decentralisation which they have in mind, but this I do say: it is right that the Government of the day should lay down certain fundamental criteria and a framework within which a scheme can be prepared with the sort of principles which they feel should apply in any decentralisation plans."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1414.]I cannot say all that as well as the right hon. Gentleman does.
He went on in the same passage, to lay down some general principles. What I want to say to the Minister is this. As I understand, both then and during the Committee stage he was promising the Commission and the House that he was going to give them guidance. I think there are other people who understood him in this way—that he would give them guidance on the general form their decentralisation measures should take.
2093 I ask him, has he given them that guidance? Does he intend to give them guidance? If he has not given them that guidance, will he do so, because if he has no intention of doing so I put it to him that in the absence of the Chairman of the Commission, when the poor chap gets back to take up office he will have to be led around the place for the first six months or nine months, and it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman must give the Commission some general lines to help them. How Sir John Benstead is supposed to do it I do not know, unless the Minister can give them some indication other than that contained in the speech to which I have referred. I think it is vital the Minister should do this to overcome the uncertainty that exists in the railway services at present.
I must sit down at 9.30, and I have no time to comment on a number of other matters to which I should have liked to have referred. We shall move our Amendment at the end, so as not unduly to curtail the Minister's speech. I would say a word about the Amendment although my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) has spoken of it. My right hon. Friend referred to economies that are on the point of being made, and he quoted in detail the Commission's Report. There is no answer to these economies.
Can a Minister be so thoroughly in opposition to his own commission as this Minister is to the Transport Commission? Because the Minister told us this when we were discussing the Commission's Annual Report last year. We had a Motion, part of which he quoted. He said itjustifies this report of the Commission as marking a further stage in providing an efficient public transport system through the integration of road and rail traffic under common ownership.' How ridiculously untrue, as a statement of the existing situation or of any foreseeable situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 303.]The Commission completely contradict him. That can rarely have happened, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out in great detail, and would not have happened if the Minister had had the patience to allow the Commission to take their job in hand.
Let us say, for the record, that integration has not been tried by this Gover- 2094 nment. It has not been allowed to develop. The arguments against integration have never been made from the benches opposite; certainly, they have never been made by the Minister. The men in the transport works of this country are concerned about the integration and the co-ordination of our transport system, and believe that public ownership will help us to it. That is why the Act of 1953 is temporary. That is why, as my right hon. Friend said, amendments will have to be made to it by a succeeding Government, of whatever complexion it is. I believe that it will be a Labour Government, and we shall then take the opportunity of restoring to public ownership and control this basic industry which the present Government, by their own neglect, are allowing to flag badly.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
We have had a very interesting debate, and I shall do my best to answer the points which have been raised.
Certain hon. Members, notably the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), contrived to make very vigorous speeches reminiscent of the Transport Bill debates. For the record, I must correct the hon. Member for Bradford, East on one point. We are, as hon. Members have realised, in the middle of Road Safety Week. No one can have heard, as I did early yesterday evening, with complacency that the increase in accidents this September compared with September last year has been the highest monthly increase since the war, and I should not like it to go out that a conceivable consequence of the Government's transport policy is to add to the dangers on the road. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is."] Hon. Members must let me develop my point. There are one million goods vehicles on the roads of the country, and in the road haulage disposal process we are concerned with some 32,000 vehicles——
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
—and as hon Members are so fond of pointing out, it will be—I hope it will be—largely the 2095 same people who will be driving the vehicles and showing the same care.
I have heard something of every speech and nearly all of most speeches, but I am sorry that I did not hear the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). Like him, I am anxious to see the North of Scotland furnished with good roads and proper road and rail communications. This is not the time to talk about proposals for the interrupted plans for the crofter counties, but they have not been forgotten. In the field of road haulage disposal I was particularly glad to notice that the chairman of the Disposal Board used this phrase:The units for which tenders are to be invited will be well spread geographically over England, Scotland and Wales.I can assure all Scottish Members of Parliament that I and the Disposal Board have that very much in our minds.
We are met today to discuss the Report of the British Transport Commission. I take up at once what the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said about the great difficulties under which the railways have laboured in the field of raw materials, but he must have forgotten that 1952 was a year of heavy re-armament and a year in which we had also to preoccupy ourselves with the export programme. Without an export drive we could not have achieved the measure of success which has been achieved. I do not pretend that in the stimulation of exports of steel and in the concentration on defence needs the railways have got anything approaching as much steel as they ought to have—they were 20 per cent. below their requirements—but we hope that this year it will be possible for them to build 253 locomotives, 1,121 carriages and coaching stock and between 38,000 and 39,000 wagons.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That may be too low, but it is better to be realistic than to make promises which cannot be fulfilled. Not that I think it the least likely that any hon. Member opposite will have to carry out promises that we make. In the next year, 1954, the railways hope to build 312 locomotives, 2,783 carriages and 53,000 wagons. Bit by bit we hope the backlog will be overcome. I can 2096 assure hon. Members that we on this side of the House are fully conscious of the prime importance of Government responsibility.
I accept also what the hon. Gentleman said about the table on page 35 and the net ton miles per total engine hour. Indeed, I used that information once in the House and a number of times outside, so fascinated was I by the lesson it gives and by the phrase itself. I recognise it as an indication of technical efficiency. It does not follow that people are always getting the service they want, but it is an indication of technical efficiency.
I agree also that the fare increases have been kept below cost increases, which is another very good achievement, and I agree again that in the field of finance the Commission have every reason to be satisfied with the year's working. We know, of course, the qualification about replacement reserves, which, if put aside, would have been something in the region of£20 million, and we know also the complicated problems of the contribution to central charges. But by and large it has been a very successful year, and the railways can certainly claim, not only to have met their operating costs and made a profit, but also to have paid a reasonably adequate sum towards central charges.
The Road Haulage Executive faced a year of great difficulty and uncertainty, as I recognise and have never attempted to hide. They have not been so successful and their contribution, if demanded, to the central charges would not have been met. I do not deny that they have had exceptional difficulties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Because of Government policy."] Government policy, whichever party is in power, may well have an effect on individuals and on organisations, but it is the duty of a Government to do what is right for the country as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), at the start of his speech, said that he hoped the time would come when we would approach these problems in as impartial a manner as we discuss the Post Office. I hope so, too. I do not think it is possible to take politics out of transport, but perhaps we can take party politics out of transport. I agree also with his picture of the proper relations between a Minister and the board 2097 of a nationalised industry. Clearly I must not be a slave of the Commission. I do not think I have been. Also, a board must be able to express their views annually in their report and use what language they like.
I have from time to time mentioned in the House that pretty rough remarks were made to me by Lord Hurcomb about Government policy. Although I recognise that he is a Member of another place, constitutionally it would have been unwise for him to make speeches there. So I have gone out of my way to tell the House frankly what the Commission have felt all along the line, and I do most gladly pay tribute to them for the success they have achieved this year in the financial results.
Nor do I dissent from what appeared in the speech delivered by Mr. John Elliot, whose appointment to London Transport will, I hope, be welcomed on both sides of the House. It was a remarkable address which he gave to the Institute of Transport. I only wish that the right hon. Gentleman had also quoted the very flattering references to myself in that address, but no doubt time did not allow.
The right hon. Gentleman did quote Mr. Elliot's references to the fact that there were faults in the organisation set up in 1947, and advocated a measure of de-centralisation. The first step in this de-centralisation came into operation on 1st October last. It is an interim proposal and, as the House knows, the full scheme of de-centralisation, and really re-organisation, will be brought before Parliament and interested bodies for examination when it is available.
I join with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East in hoping that the immediate preoccupations in Egypt will not unduly prevent Sir Brian Robertson from coming at an early date to take over this great responsibility—I think it could be regarded as the most important office in British industry, or perhaps in industry in the whole world—of having the welfare of nearly a million employees and the prosperity of the State in his hands. I am glad that he was bold enough and confident enough to take on a job of this kind in which his qualities of leadership will find full play. That 2098 is the answer, I think, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones).
The proposals of an interim kind by the Commission go all in the right direction. The general tendency of the intermediate proposals is to define what is the responsibility of the centre and then to leave everything else to the chief regional managers. That has been the view of this Government and, I think, of many hon. Members opposite and of many railwaymen for a long time. The actual wording in the Press announcement was:Each chief regional manager will be responsible for all railway activities (commercial, operating and technical), in his region and will report directly to the Commission.I wish it had been possible to go in greater detail into that interim plan, because I realise that this is one of the most important aspects of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) affected to see something inconsistent in the Government, on the one hand, working for de-centralisation and, on the other, by abolishing the Executives increasing, it was argued, the power of the centre. It seems to me that this is rather a superficial reading of the problem or of the solution. Surely what matters is the ultimate distribution of powers between the centre—which is now the Commission—and the regions.
These interim re-organisation arrangements have largely increased the power of the regional general managers, and I have yet to meet a railwayman who did not think that was a good thing to do. What matters is not so much the number of links in the chain of command as the enlargement of the scope of those regional matters which need not be referred back along every link of the chain. I believe that is happening in the interim scheme and will happen still more in the full and final scheme.
The right hon. Gentleman referred also to staff relations. I recognise gladly the good relations that exist between the British Transport Commission and their staff, and I think they have every reason to be satisfied with those good relations and with the machinery which has been set up for joint consultation. I have given particular and personal attention to problems of pensions and compensation, as I 2099 think many hon. Members on the other side of the House will recognise, privately anyhow. We have introduced into this House compensation regulations and pension regulations. On one we have to get an affirmative Resolution, the other is subject to Prayer. I took up vigorously with the Commission the entire question of the increase of railway pensions, and though the result was only some 6,000 people to be benefited, I realised the financial difficulties for the Commission.
I have actively pursued, in discussions with unions and others, the question of pension schemes for salary and wage grades, but I would not at this hour go in detail into those, realising as I do that many hon. Members on both sides of the House know of the present situation in regard to those schemes for both salary and wage earners.
§ Mr. Mellish rose——
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am sorry, I cannot give way because I have to sit down before 10 o'clock in order to allow the Amendment to be moved.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked me if I could say what the Commission would keep under Section 4 of the Act as their future road haulage ceilings. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that it would, at this stage, be unwise—indeed, improper—for me to disclose this figure, available as it would be to all who will be the Commission's competitors in the field of road haulage. We have, however, arrived at an agreement with the Commission as to the ceilings for the three categories. As this is so important, I should like very briefly to mention it.
For category A—motor vehicles and trailers specially constructed to carry abnormal indivisible loads—we have agreed on a ceiling of 2,743 tons; for category B—motor vehicles regarded by the Minister as special vehicles constructed for special purposes other than the carriage of abnormal indivisible loads—3,831 tons; and category C—other motor vehicles—9,642 tons.
As hon. Members know, whatever they may feel about it, plans for disposal are well under way, and I hope that when this issue is cleared out of the way the Commission, with, as they will have, the 2100 largest fleet of road haulage vehicles in the country, will be able to concentrate on the things on which we are all agreed.
I had intended to take up in detail the challege about integration, made by the right hon. Gentleman and supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East, but it involves a detailed examination of the eight cases mentioned in the Commission's Report. Although, in some instances, I recognise that there is a very strong case for what the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend said, there is also another point of view which must be borne in mind when the alternative to what the Government are doing would have been to have had virtually a monopoly of road haulage in the hands of the Commission. I am afraid I shall not be able to deal with that point. As it is partly a partisan point, or might be so regarded, perhaps it would be more profitable if I passed on to the next item that was raised.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) and other hon. Members raised the question of electrification and diesel development. In regard to electrification, I was a little surprised to hear the violently-worded speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, in which he suggested that Lancashire was starved and the south of England was getting continual bounties.
With the steady increase in the amount of work being done on the Manchester—Sheffield—Wath electrification scheme, this will be the first example of a completely electrified main line in service in this country carrying heavy freight. Part one of the scheme is finished. We hope that part two will be finished by next June and that part three will be in operation by October next year.
That is a formidable contribution, and when the hon. Member speaks of the sickening experience of Lancashire, when bridges are being built over the Thames and nothing in Lancashire, I suggest that he tell that to the people of Dartford and Purfleet. The only big bridge that I have authorised since I became Minister is the Runcorn—Widnes Bridge in Lancashire, and three weeks ago I was able to write regarding the Barton Bridge to the Eccles local authority giving them hopeful news there, too.
2101 The same hon. Member and others raised the question of diesel development. I was very glad to hear the words of the former Parliamentary Secretary. The more we press on with discussions of this kind in the House, the more helpful it will be. I share the conviction that there is a great future for diesel development in this country and that every possible encouragement should be given to the Commission to get on with it faster than is happening now. The position is not quite as bad as the hon. Member or others might have thought, but there is, I recognise, great room for improvement; and that is accepted by important people in the railway world also.
In regard to mainline diesels, the Commission tell me that it is difficult at the moment to arrive at any final conclusion. They have only a limited number—I think an hon. Member said there were four of them—each costing£78,000 in comparison with the "Britannias," which cost£23,000. They say that of course the diesel can make two round trips between Exeter and Waterloo in 24 hours, a performance never before attempted with steam, but there are problems in regard to maintenance, and it would be idle to sweep them away. If I do not deal with them, it is not that they do not exist, but because the time is slipping away.
The Commission also tell me that they have had two prototype gas turbine locomotives under test in the last two years and are prepared to contribute one-third of the cost of an experimental coal burning gas turbine locomotive, and they are partly switching over to diesel shunting locomotives. In this field they have already orders out, I believe, for some millions of pounds and they do attach a great deal of importance to the matter. They tell me they have actually given orders for£11 million worth of diesel shunting locomotives, which is a formidable amount. I share the interest in railcars and multiple-unit light-weight diesel trains, but here the Commission have come up against a number of difficulties which they have not found in the multiple-unit diesel trains, the construction of which they announced last November.
The hon. Member for Bradford, East may be glad to know that the fast and frequent inter-urban services between Halifax, Bradford, Leeds and Harrogate 2102 will need eight of these units, and in West Cumberland, Lincolnshire and East Anglia they are prepared to go ahead. I am sure there will be much profit in it for the railways. In Scotland the Commission have asked the Railway Executive to prepare a scheme for multiple-unit train sets to operate between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which they believe one of the most suitable places in the United Kingdom for this form of enterprise.
I must apologise to other hon. Members if I leave out some of the points they have raised. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham that I share his anxiety, as I showed by going to the Isle of Wight two days ago to preside at the joint conference between the Commission and the county council on the consequences of the loss of local railways. I must support railways in trying to make their enterprise a commercial proposition. I am very anxious that there should be adequate alternative bus services and it may be that in Hexham there were such services when the line was withdrawn, but are not now. I will look again at that particular problem. We have a system of consumer consultation here which is probably unique in the world. When I went to Brussels last week to a conference of transport ministers, I heard of a system of local advice which resulted in people sometimes accepting the loss of their local railways.
My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) asked about the borrowing powers of the Commission and about their liquid capital. The Commission still have£108 million unused out of the authorised borrowing power of£275 million. I recognise that in a year or two I, or my Conservative successor, will have to ask the House for legislation to increase that borrowing capacity. I am told that the liquid capital of£89 million is adequate for the time being for their needs. I can assure my Scottish friends, the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) and the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) that I will give immediate attention to the points they have raised and I know that the Commission will have listened with interest to what they said. I hope to be able to say something to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll 2103 at a fairly early date in regard to the Connel Ferry.
I wish to end by saying I am sorry that we cannot just take note of this Report and leave it unamended, but that is not to be. There is a wide field on which I think we all agree. I should like personally to thank those members of the Executives and staffs who have given such good service over the years—the Executives having now been abolished—the London Transport Executive for the work it has done, and the Commission itself. Though we have from time to time had great disagreements, my personal relations with Lord Hurcomb have left me with feelings of the highest respect for him; I hope that they are mutual. The same applies to Lord Latham, though naturally there the same field for argument has not existed.
I should like to say goodbye, on behalf of the Government, to Sir Michael Barrington-Ward and Sir William Wood in the railway world, and to a number of part-time members of the rail and road Executives who have given such good work. I welcome Mr. John Elliot as Chairman of the largest urban transport undertaking in the world. Finally, I know that Sir Brian Robertson, when he is released from his present responsibilities, will have a warm welcome from Parliament and the railway world itself. It is the greatest industrial job in this country. That being so, we think it is also inevitably the greatest industrial job
§ in the world. I have every feeling of confidence in the choice we have made and in the work he will do.
§ I was asked to compliment Sir John Benstead. It is not necessary for me to say more than that I have limited my observations to those who are leaving the service. Those remaining on the Transport Commission, or joining it, know that they have the full confidence of the Government, and I think of the Opposition as well. The way in which Sir John Benstead is carrying on the task under his personal difficulty of not being Chairman is in the highest tradition of the service to which he belongs.
§ I am sorry that we cannot leave this Motion unamended. Perhaps this time next year tempers will have cooled and we shall be able to propose, "That this House takes note of the Report" and there will be no Division on it. I have promised to sit down in order that an Amendment, about the precise terms of which I still remain a little vague, may be moved from the Opposition benches.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I beg to move, at the end to add:and is gratified at the evidence of progress made towards the integration and co-ordination of the nation's transport system, but regrets that the policy of Her Majesty's Government impedes further progress in this direction.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 229: Noes, 256.2107
|Division No. 225.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Burton, Miss F. E.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)|
|Adams, Richard||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Callaghan, L. J.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Carmichael, J.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Champion, A. J.||Ferny hough, E.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Chapman, W. D.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Finch, H. J.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Clunie, J.||Follick, M.|
|Baird, J.||Coldrick, W.||Foot, M. M.|
|Bartley, P.||Collick, P. H.||Forman, J. C|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, John (Watford)|
|Benson, G.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Crosland, C. A. R.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bing, G. H. C||Crossman, R. H. S.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Blackburn, F.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Daines, P.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Grey, C. F.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bowden, H. W.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanetly)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Deer, G.||Hale, Leslie|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Delargy, H. J.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Dodds, N. N.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Donnelly, D. L.||Hannan, W.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Edelman, M.||Hargreaves, A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Hastings, S||Moody, A. S.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Morley, R.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Sorensen, R. W|
|Holman, P.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Sosklce, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Mort, D. L.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Moyle, A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Mulley, F. W.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Murray, J. D.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Hudson, Jamas (Ealing, N.)||Nally, W.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oldfield, W. H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Oliver, G. H||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Orbach, M.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Oswald, T.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Padley, W. E.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Janner, B.||Palmer, A. M. F||Thomson, George (Dundee, E)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T||Pannell, Charles||Thornton, E.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Pargiter, G. A.||Timmons, J.|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Paton, J.||Tomney, F.|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Peart, T. F.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Popplewell, E.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Keenan, W.||Porter, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Wallace, H. W|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Proctor, W. T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Kinley, J.||Pryde, D. J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Webb, Rt. Hen. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Rankin, John||Weitzman, D.|
|Lewis, Arthur||Reeves, J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lindaren, G. S.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Reid, William (Camlachie)||West, D. G.|
|Logan, D. G.||Richards, R.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|MacColl, J. E.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|McGovern, J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|McInnes, J.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wigg, George|
|McLeavy, F.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wilkins, W. A|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Ross, William||Willey, F. T.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Royle, C.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Marquand. Rt. Hon. H. A||Short, E. W.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Mason, Roy||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Messer, Sir F||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Skeffington, A. M.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Mitchison, G. R||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Monslow, W.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir I (Richmond)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. I||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Bullard, D. G.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Eden, Rt. Hon. A|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Campbell, Sir David||Erroll, F. J|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Carr, Robert||Fell, A.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Cary, Sir Robert||Finlay, Graeme|
|Barber, Anthony||Channon, H.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Baxter, A. B.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Colegate, W. A.||Fort, R.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Foster, John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Birch, Nigel||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Bishop, F. P||Crouch, R. F.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Black, C. W.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Godber, J. B|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Cuthbert, W. N.||Gough, G. F. H|
|Bowen, E. R.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gower, H. R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Digby, S. Wingfield||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Braine, B. R.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Grimond, J.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W. J||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Donner, Sir P. W||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Hay, John||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Heath, Edward||Mannlngham-Buller, Sir R. E||Speir, R. M.|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Marples, A. E.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maude, Angus||Storey, S.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr S. L. C||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mellor, Sir John||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Hollis, M. C.||Molson, A. H. E.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hope, Lord John||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Teeling, W.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Neave, A. M. S.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nicholls, Harmar||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P||Tilney, John|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh. W.)||Nugent, G. R. H||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hutchison, James (Sootstoun)||Nutting, Anthony||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Oakshott, H. D.||Turton, R. H.|
|Jennings, R.||Odey, G. W.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Vosper, D. F|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Kaberry, D.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Kerr, H. W.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wakefield Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Perkins, W. R. D||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Powell, J. Enoch||Wellwood, W.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Redmayne, M.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Wills, G.|
|Lookwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Robertson, Sir David||York, C.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Roper, Sir Harold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Sir Cedric Drewe and|
|McAdden, S. J.||Russell, R. S.||Mr. Studholme.|
|McCallum, Major D.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Main Question put, and agreed to.|
|That this House takes note of the Fifth Annual Report, Statement of Accounts and Statistics of the British Transport Commission for 1952.|