§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mrs. Barbara Castle)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I should like to begin by saying how sorry I am that we are to have only one day's debate on the Bill's Second Reading. I would certainly have welcomed two days, but, unfortunately, the Opposition threw away the opportunity offered them by the Leader of the House by preferring to give priority to foreign affairs. I appreciate how urgent and important it is to discuss foreign policy, but I regret that transport will be the sufferer.
The purposes of the Bill are well known to the House, as they have been spelled out in detail in the four White Papers which I have published over the last few months. I do not think that more detailed background information has ever been given about a Bill's contents in advance of its Second Reading. It is true that if I had hoped to inform the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) by publishing all this material, I have failed. As each White Paper has appeared, he has been ready, regardless of its contents, with his instant stickers: "Wholesale nationalisation", "Whitehall domination", "£60 million burden on the rates". I doubt whether any exposition of the facts will ever shake him—he prefers prejudices. None the less, for the benefit of the House, if not for him, I would like to explain what the Bill is really about.
It is, of course, a massive document because it embodies a comprehensive policy. Its various parts comprise decisions already announced over the main areas of the transport field: freight services, the future of our railways, public transport and traffic and inland waterways. The Bill deals with these matters in very great detail—hence its complexity —but through all the 169 Clauses and 18 Schedules runs one unifying theme, what I would call practical Socialism. As a Socialist, I believe that transport is a vital service to industry and to our people and that, if economic planning or the 1282 physical planning of our environment is to make any sense at all, transport planning must form part of it. In the same way, transport services must be planned in relation to each other—not allowed to go their own sweet way regardless of consequences.
To me, therefore, the Ministry of Transport has always been a planning Ministry—not just a highways department with an appendix for deploring the railway deficit. It must create the administrative and financial framework in which transport can serve the nation's social and economic needs; it must be a power-house of research, both economic and technological. It must work closely with other Departments concerned with the same fields. All these things the Ministry of Transport is and does today, and the Bill is a product of its new personality.
Anyone who tries to plan transport today must start from two main facts. The first is the ever-increasing dominance of road transport in the movement both of people and of goods. By 1966, road's share of passenger-mileage had risen to 90 per cent. and of freight ton mileage to 60 per cent. This development has brought all the advantages of flexibility and mobility and we must ensure that the country can exploit these advantages to the full. That is why the Government are financing a massive and expanding programme of road building—twice what it was only five years ago.
The second fact is that we possess in our railway system a very important national asset. The railways in Britain—as in every country in the industrialised world—have been going through difficult times in recent years, but in many countries, too, they are taking on a new lease of life as the potentialities of steel wheel on steel rail for rapid transit and for relieving congestion on the roads are coming to be realised.
One of the main purposes of the Bill, therefore, is to build a new relationship between road and rail. They should no longer be seen as rivals—almost enemies—but should complement each other. The essential starting point is to integrate and expand our publicly owned road and rail services. But the ways in which we do this must vary according to whether we are dealing with passengers or freight. Freight transport is an economic service to industry and must be 1283 organised on national lines, whereas passenger transport is much more closely linked to local community life and has important local social implications. This is one of the reasons why I have decided not to re-create a British Transport Commission with responsibility over the whole publicly-owned transport field. Integration is not just a shibboleth to be satisfied by setting up a top-heavy centralised administration while every activity underneath it goes on just as before. Integration is a practical response to the needs of today and if those needs are to be met we must do some hard thinking about just where we want integration and why, and then decide the how.
Hence the creation of the National Freight Corporation—for which Part I of the Bill provides. The hon. Member for Worcester, in previous debates, has tried to claim that nobody wants it. I can assure him that he is wrong. Indeed, the case for the National Freight Corporation was put as well as I can put it, if not better, by Professor Alan Day, writing in the Observer the other day. He welcomed the National Freight Corporation as representingthe most exciting and promising proposals coming from Mrs. Castle and as providing a great oppportunity for making sensible use both of road and rail for carrying our goods ".The Economist finds the management structure of the National Freight Corporation "encouraging", while the Financial Times thinks there are strong arguments in favour of maintaining separate National Freight Corporation and British Railways organisations on the lines we propose.
I know that my hon. Friends, too, welcome the fact that we are to end the absurd situation in which Transport Holding Company road haulage services have been pitted against British Railways' freight services and in which the respective road services of British Road Services and British Railways have been cutting each other's throats. No one will ever be able to get rid of the British Railways deficit completely unless, for a start, the parcels and sundries services of the two bodies are brought under a single control. British Railways lost £25 million in 1966 on their sundries traffic alone. The National Freight 1284 Corporation will not be able to eliminate the loss on sundries overnight, but it should be able to do so over a period of five years and the Bill, therefore, provides for a diminishing subsidy to it over that period to cover the loss.
The whole purpose behind the National Freight Corporation is to ensure that we make integration a reality by grouping like with like. The National Freight Corporation will have a relatively small board, responsible for central planning and common services, while the day-today operations will be delegated to a series of specialised subsidiaries which make functional sense, and which can be held financially accountable for the work they do. In some types of freight business, removals, for example, there is obviously little scope for integrating road and rail, but in other types of freight activity road and rail are in direct competition and ought to be co-ordinated.
The new Joint Parcels Organisation, for instance, which is already at work preparing for the bringing together of the British Road Services Parcels and British Railways sundries services will in due course become the basis of one of the subsidiary companies under the National Freight Corporation.
In the same way, there is an obvious area for integration between road services and freightliners. This is an essential line of attack on the £35 million a year loss which British Railways incur on their general merchandise traffic. The whole secret of the freightliner is that it is a train load of containers and that these can be flexibly switched from road to rail.
It is technical integration in practice and it needs an administrative structure which will be able to exploit its potentialities to the full by offering a comprehensive door-to-door service to the customer. That is what the Freightliner Company, another subsidiary of the National Freight Corporation, jointly owned by British Rail, will be able to do.
British Railways will benefit from the vigorous marketing of a package in which their freightliners will form a key part, and reap their full share of the financial benefits from the freightliner, not only by the contract payments they will receive for running the trains, but also by sharing in the profits of the Freightliner Company.
1285 The simple principle behind the National Freight Corporation, therefore, is that it will be responsible for all freight traffic in the public sector which originates by road, while leaving to British Railways responsibility for traffic originating by rail—whether as complete trains or as wagon load traffic.
The flexible structure of the N.F.C. will enable it to respond, in partnership with B.R.B., to the exciting transport developments of the container age. It will provide a vital part of the total transportation system which the container age demands, providing comprehensive, country-wide inland transport links between the ports and industry, having a stake in the expanding network of inland clearance depots and developing its own links to Ireland and Europe by both container and roll-on/roll-off services. Its potentialities are immense and that is why the Opposition object to it.
If the House gives the Bill its Second Reading I intend to set up very shortly an Organising Committee to prepare for the setting up of the National Freight Corporation. Its chairman will be Sir Reginald Wilson, currently Chairman of the Transport Holding Company, which, in due course, will be wound up.
I am glad to tell the House that Sir Reginald has given me his assurance that he will be ready to serve as chairman of the N.F.C., subject to the proposals in the Bill being approved by Parliament.
To believe, as I do, that our railway system ought to be carrying more of the goods traffic of this country—and the N.F.C. will have a statutory duty to put traffic on rail wherever it is economic to do so—is not to belittle the importance of the road haulage industry. Indeed, it would be absurd to do so.
I am not a Canute, trying to hold back the tide of expanding road haulage activity. What I am trying to do is to define the proper social and economic rôle of the industry in our transport system as a whole. It is an important rôle, but it cannot be a freebooter one. One of the key steps must be to overhaul the road licensing system as we do in Part V of the Bill.
The proposals in Part V are a charter for a modern road haulage industry. They cut through the administrative 1286 tangle of the present licensing system with a bold act of liberalisation where control has become meaningless and substitute new, more limited controls to meet the needs of today.
The first form of control is designed to improve the quality of the industry—to get rid of sweated conditions and low safety standards and to do this by concentrating our checks to make them as effective as possible. So, under the Bill, out of l½ million vehicles subject to licence today, 900,000 vehicles under 30 cwt. whose roadworthiness is enforced by other means will be completely freed from licensing. The rest will have to obtain the operator's licence—what I have called the quality licence—spelt out in Clauses 56 to 66.
The standards we intend to enforce are high, but I believe that they are justified. Every sensible person accepts that it is in the interests of the road haulage industry, as well as the public at large, that we should get the killer lorries off the roads—and by prevention, not by prosecution after an accident.
Do not the Opposition agree? Is it not time that we stopped operators scratching a living by buying a lorry or two on the "never-never" and puttting them on the roads without the resources to maintain them properly? Is it not right that someone in a firm should be held responsible in law for the state of that firm's lorries, instead of the driver being left to "take the rap" if his vehicle is found unroadworthy?
I hope that no one will object to the long overdue reduction in drivers' hours. Indeed, it would be difficult for anyone to argue that statutory hours established 30 years ago are appropriate to the traffic conditions of today.
The second form of control is the quantity licensing, spelt out in Clauses 67 to 89. Here again, we have cut through the present largely meaningless widespread control, to concentrate on those road hauls with which rail is economically competitive. Having exempted 900,000 vehicles from licensing altogether, the Bill then goes on to exempt from quantitative control all vehicles under 16 tons gross weight, that is, 5 tons unladen weight. Of these heavy vehicles only those travelling over 100 miles— 1287 which at present carry half the ton-mileage suitable for transfer to rail—or those carrying certain bulk materials to be specified by regulations, will be subject to any limitation on their activities.
This will be for one sole purpose, namely, to ensure that where rail offers an equivalent service in terms of speed, reliability and cost, the goods concerned shall go by rail.
One of the intentions of the present system was to give protection to the railways, but there are so many loopholes in the existing "proof of need" formula, that the law has totally failed in this respect. If the intention of helping the railways was laudable in the 1930s, when the present system was introduced, is it not a great deal more so today, when congestion on the roads and under-utilisation of our rail assets are two of our biggest headaches? I believe that this is a legitimate social aim of road licensing policy and the criteria which must be satisfied before a road licence can be refused, which are spelt out in Clause 70, ensure that there will be no additional economic burden on industry. If there is, rail will not get the traffic.
This carefully-thought-out scheme could give a big boost to the freight-liners by reinforcing the sales drive of British Railways, aimed to divert to them some 4,500 million ton-miles a year of road traffic by the early 1970s—an increase of 30 per cent. on the 1966 rail ton-mileage. This is more than enough to offset the decline in coal and steel traffic which the railways will suffer. Yet the impact on the rising ton-mileage by road would be much smaller: about 10 per cent. or the equivalent of two or three years' growth in road transport.
No one can say this will mean a reduction in the size of the industry, or throw road transport workers out of work. I have no intention of introducing quantity licensing until the freightliners are capable not only of producing a comprehensive service, but a reliable one. There will be a separate appointed day for this group of Clauses. So it is now up to railwaymen to create the conditions in which I can bring it into operation.
As for bulk traffics, I believe that it is absurd that heavy materials like coal 1288 and steel should ever go by road where it is equally economic for them to go by rail—yet this is happening. As we have told industry, control here will be concentrated on a limited range of materials such as coal, iron and steel, and certain extracted materials, but it will operate for any distance, long or short.
If anyone thinks that this is a scourge invented for the road haulage industry by Barbara Castle, let me refer them to West Germany, where my counterpart has just presented to the Bundestag proposals which will prohibit the carrying by road in any circumstances of no less than 28 items of bulk materials. I can imagine what the hon. Member for Worcester and the Road Haulage Association here would say to that!
The same comparison with other countries is relevant when we come to look at the road haulage charges outlined in Part VI of the Bill. What an outcry we have had from the hon. Gentleman and others about this! We had it again at Question Time today. To put a burden of £30 million worth of extra charges on heavy goods vehicles will, we have been assured, lose us exports by making us uncompetitive. Yet the effect for most vehicles will be to add only 2½ to 3½per cent. to their operating costs. Moreover, most of the goods we export are of high value and move over relatively short distances to the ports. Transport, therefore, forms a low proportion of the final cost to the purchaser so that the effect of the charge on delivered prices will be only a fraction of 1 per cent. And I can assure the House that, compared with some of our competitors, British transport is getting off very lightly indeed.
§ Mrs. Castle
Perhaps my hon. Friend will excuse me if I do not give way, as I have a lot of ground to cover.
§ Mrs. Castle
I have put in my speech as much information as I possibly could in a time which, for the sake of the rest of the House, must be inevitably limited. If I give way to hon. Members, the House will get less information and not more. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] If I clear 1289 up one point, I shall have to clear up a number of other points, and I shall not be able to deal adequately with this massive Bill, and at the end hon. Members will say that I have dodged this issue or that. I am trying to make a comprehensive speech. Hon. Members, if they catch Mr. Speaker's eye, will have a chance to ask questions which can be answered by my hon. Friend the Minister of State when he winds up the debate.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
On a point of order. Is it not against the conventions of the House, when there is a Bill as intricate as this, and when the Minister has extended time for the debate, that she should not clear up points as she goes along on the important parts of the Bill? It is no good having just words if those words are not clear to the House because of the speed at which she is uttering them.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know that whether a Member is allowed to intervene depends on the hon. or right hon. Member who has the Floor.
§ Mrs. Castle
I do not wish to be discourteous to the House. This is a very detailed Bill and I am trying to give a lot of information. If my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) or the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) wish to ask a specific question on the road haulage charges, which I know form a particularly vital part of the Bill, I will give way; but it must not be taken as a precedent.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
The right hon. Lady said that there would be only a 2½ to 3½per cent. increase in the operating costs of vehicles. Is she aware, however, that on a machine tool weighing 76 tons the transport costs from the Midlands to Liverpool will go up from £500 to £900?
§ Mrs. Castle
I am talking about the road haulage charge. The hon. Gentleman may be referring to the abnormal loads charge. I am not talking about 1290 that charge. This is what happens when hon. Members interrupt and will not wait. I am talking about the road haulage charge, or what has been called the "wear and tear" charge. Only 2½ to 3½ per cent. will be added to the operating costs of vehicles and, therefore, considerably less to the ultimate cost of the produce.
I can assure the House that compared with some of our competitors British transport is getting off very lightly indeed. In both France and Germany increases in transport taxation are proposed which will add substantially to their transport costs and consequently to their export prices. Germany has long had a ton-mileage charge for own account vehicles, in addition to the normal excise tax based on vehicle gross weights, and the fuel tax paid by both public and private hauliers.
The German ton-mileage charge is now to be substantially increased on the larger own account vehicles and extended to public hauliers, though at a lower rate. The additional charges will mean increases of up to £800 per year on the heaviest class of vehicle operating on own account, and up to £600 per year on such vehicles operating for hire and reward, compared with the extra £190 extra which will be paid by a similar vehicle here under the wear and tear charge. And whereas my tax will add only 2½ to 3½ per cent. on to transport costs, the German proposals will add three or four times as much.
The new wear and tear charges are not a further device for diverting traffic to rail. They are merely an elementary act of justice to the private motorist and light vehicle operator, because the heavy lorry creates the need for costlier standards of road construction and maintenance as the previous Tory Government learned from their unhappy experience with the Ml. Nor is the new charge for abnormal loads designed primarily to divert these to rail. I know full well that the railways are incapable of carrying many of them. There just is not enough headroom in the tunnels and under the bridges. Here again, it is a question of fairness: these loads simply do not cover the congestion and police costs they cause, and I hope that the fact that they will now have to do so will make those responsible consider 1291 more seriously whether they could use coastal shipping or even rail in some cases or assemble more of those monster pieces of equipment on site. This tax will give them an incentive to do so. I recognise that this charge may bear particularly heavily on firms in development areas, which areas we want to help, and I should be prepared to consider in Committee whether and, if so, in what ways we could mitigate the effects of the tax on these firms.
I have already described to the House the part that the railways will play in the movement of freight. I now turn to the wider problem of their finances and management dealt with in Part IV of the Bill. When we last debated transport the hon. Member for Worcester complained that he had not had time to read the White Paper on Railway Policy and refused to comment on it. May I now ask him whether he agrees that, if confidence is to be restored to the railway industry, it must be given a sense of stability and financial self-reliance, both of which were impossible under the terms of the Transport Act, 1962?
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the basic railway network of 11,000 to 12,000 route miles which we have earmarked for development? If not, does he think it is too small or too large? And does he agree that, if Parliament decides to keep open certain passenger lines because they are socially necessary, even though they run at a loss, it is grossly unfair to railwayman to go on saddling the railway accounts with the cost? Whatever he may say, I know that there are a number of his hon. Friends who will benefit from our decision that these lines shall be considered for social grant, paid by the Government.
I see from the Press that, in the Western Region alone, British Railways are planning to submit a number of branch lines in Devon and Cornwall to us for the new social grant when the Bill becomes law and have been discussing this with Conservative Members of Parliament from the West country. All I can say is that I hope I shall have their support this afternoon.
The earlier Clauses of Part IV are based on the proposals of the Joint Steering Group which conducted the railway review. I am glad that the hon. Mem- 1292 ber for Worcester has paid a tribute this afternoon to the group and to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. The Joint Steering Group has devised a basis on which we can really expect the railways to pay their way: a condition essential both to morale and to financial discipline. They include three main elements. First, the grants for socially necessary lines. In our last debate, I described how these will work. The Joint Steering Group has put a tentative figure of £55 million a year on the cost. This is not an additional burden on the Exchequer, but a new, more logical and more effective way of controlling grants which the Government are already paying through a blanket subsidy for the deficit.
I also described the grant which we propose to encourage the elimination of surplus capacity, for example, four tracks where two would do. This is the really modern way to approach the railway problem: to streamline track instead of chopping off routes. The grant will taper off over five years and the maximum annual cost in the first year is likely to be about £15 million.
The third element consists of a far-reaching capital reconstruction. The Railways Board's debt to the Exchequer under the 1962 Act amounted to £1,562 million, £705 million of which was placed in a suspense account where it carried no liability for interest or repayment. The annual interest burden on the balance of live debt, plus borrowings from the Exchequer, since 1962 is about £52 million, with a further £13 million related to other liabilities such as pension funds, giving a total interest charge of about £65 million.
The Joint Steering Group estimated that, even with the grants which I have mentioned, and even taking into account the transfer to the National Freight Corporation of British Railways' sundries traffic on which the railways lose about £25 million a year, the Board's accounts would be likely to be in deficit by 1974 by up to £55 million. It is a cardinal aim of my policy that the Board should be given a financial target which it can fairly be expected to meet. I want to create the conditions in which we can get away from deficit financing. The Government therefore, propose, in 1293 Clause 39, to reduce the Board's commencing capital debt to the Exchequer to £300 million on 1st January, 1969. This will reduce the interest burden by about £30 million with a consequential reduction, also, in the depreciation which the Board will have to provide when its assets are correspondingly written down.
The new financial framework will also mean that there will be no provision for deficit finance. British Railways will be standing on their own feet and will be expected to pay their way.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
The right hon Lady has given her estimate of the saving in interest. Can she give her estimate of the saving of depreciation?
§ Mrs. Castle
If assets are written off or written down to the corresponding extent, there will be a corresponding writing-down of the assets. Thus, the depreciation element in the deficit grant will be correspondingly reduced. I believe that this is a fair challenge to the railway industry, but it will certainly be a tough one. The Joint Steering Group and the Government are under no illusion that a massive write-off debt will in itself make the railways financially viable.
The end of deficit financing will itself lead to a tightening-up of investment control by the Board, which will no longer be able to claim grants from the Government to finance depreciation allowances on assets the value of which is now shown to be inflated. The Joint Steering Group also recommends, however, that £a new type of Board is needed, somewhat smaller in size, whose members concentrate more on policy, particularly long-term policy, financial control and corporate planning, rather than on detailed executive matters. The Government are in process of implementing these ideas.
The Leader of the Opposition has described the Bill as irrelevant and objectionable. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Pavlov reactions of hon. Members opposite do not pay great testimony to their cerebral activity. All I can say is that such epithets come oddly from a party which left our railways in such financial chaos under its Transport Act, 1962.
1294 In no area were Tory policies more inadequate than in passenger transport, where the crisis now facing public transport demands urgent steps which Tory Governments never had the courage or vision to take. The seriousness of the situation in our conurbations is illustrated by comments such as those of the West Midlands Traffic Commissioners, who, alarmed by the vicious circle of rising fares and declining services, warned some time ago thatstage carriage facilities in this area have now reached the point of no return.Parts II and X of the Bill embody the Government's rescue operation for the deteriorating traffic conditions in our towns and cities. They embody, too, a basic principle of my policy: that local people should be responsible for transport policy in their own local communities. Any objective person reading these parts of the Bill must be struck by the revolutionary degree of devolution of powers for transport and traffic which they represent.
Local government has not had such a shot in the arm for years. For years we have been talking, and rightly, about the need to integrate bus and rail services, to create convenient and comfortable interchange points, park and ride or kiss and ride facilities, to use an Americanism. These are elementary steps if public transport is to play the rôle which it must play in moving millions of our people at the peak hours.
But integration must go further than that. In my view, there is absolutely no hope of coping with the traffic explosion in our cities unless those who plan them, who build the highways and the housing estates and site the factories and the overspill developments—and who manage the traffic—are also responsible for public transport.
It is for those reasons that I have decided not to re-create the nationalised Area Passenger Transport Boards of the Transport Act, 1947, but instead to take powers to create Passenger Transport Authorities controlled by people appointed by the local authorities in the designated areas. In our last debate, although I assured the hon. Member for Worcester that he was wide of the mark, he insisted on maintaining that I was going to swamp 1295 the authorities with my own representatives, appoint the chairman and rule the roost.
§ Mrs. Castle
It is no good saying "Hear hear", because Clause 9 and Schedule 5 to the Bill prove the hon. Member wrong. They provide that all but two or three of the members of the authorities shall be appointed by local authorities and that the authorities shall appoint their own chairmen, with my approval or that of the Secretary of State in Scotland and Wales, who will be responsible for the Passenger Transport Authorities in their areas.
An authority will have the power to hire and fire the members of the passenger transport executive. It will control the general level of fares and services. It will approve the executive's annual estimates, its investment programme, its reorganisation scheme for bus services, its agreements with British Railways and the comprehensive transport plan for the area.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)
Would not the Minister agree that all the points which she is listing will be subject to her final decision?
§ Mrs. Castle
Certainly not. Clearly, if I am to give the substantial financial grants that I shall give, I have to approve the schemes under which they are given. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that I should give 75 per cent. grants to road schemes which are never even looked at? It is time that hon. Gentlemen opposite changed the tune. This is not Whitehall domination: it is Whitehall devolution.
§ Mrs. Castle
No, I am sorry.
Is the hon. Gentleman trying to say that local authorities do not have control over their highways? Any Minister who gives Government money for schemes has control to that extent. This applies over the whole local authority sector. It applies to education, housing, 1296 and roads, and all I am saying is that the responsibility for public transport will now become one of the normal functions of local government, in the same way as local authorities are responsible for highways, housing, and traffic management, and nothing that hon. Gentlemen opposite say can invalidate that. I assure the hon. Gentleman that what I am proposing is a normal Ministry-local government relationship.
If local control is to have any meaning at all—and hon. Gentlemen must face this, because they want it both ways —it must be accompanied by local financial responsibility for public transport. I am vesting in the authorities the municipal undertakings of their constituent local authorities, and giving them wide powers to enter into agreements with other undertakings and with British Railways. Having drawn up their comprehensive transport plans, it will be for them to decide whether they want transport in their areas to pay its way, or whether they wish, as a deliberate act of policy, to subsidise it as a social service. But to help them they will have the new capital investment grants for which Clause 53 provides. These grants make history, because for the first time we have a Government willing to give Exchequer grants for public transport facilities at the same rate—75 per cent.—as they do for principal roads. At last, therefore, we shall have created the situation in which local authorities will have the same encouragement to produce a modern public transport system as they have to produce roads.
The imperative need for such grants has just been demonstrated by the Manchester Rapid Transit Study, which points out that no highway and parking system could be designed, let alone financed, to permit more than 25 per cent.-30 per cent. of Manchester central area workers to travel to work by car. That is why Manchester City Council and the Ministry have been studying the feasibility of various systems of rapid transit for Manchester.
The consulting engineers we employed found—as those in other countries have done—that a "steel wheel on steel rail" electric rail system would be as effective, and would certainly be cheaper to build and operate, than a monorail or other more dramatic-sounding system, and could 1297 be geared into existing B.R lines, bringing new life to them. In the light of their report, the Ministry and Manchester are now working out what would be the best combination of old and new rail routes to give a rapid transit network of high quality.
But these constructions are very expensive: the new rail link in central Manchester would have to be in tunnel. The cost would certainly be beyond the capacity of any local authority, or group of authorities, hence the need for capital grants. The hon. Gentleman keeps saying that my policy will put up fares. Has he really given any serious thought to this matter? Let me refer him to an estimate recently given by Mr. R. F. Bennett, Chairman of the Manchester Rapid Transit Working Party. He has calculated the fares that would be necessary on what might be the first portion of a rapid transit network for Manchester—that is, a 17-mile route from Bury to Cheadle Heath. He calculates that an average fare of 3d. per mile—no more than present bus fares in the area—would cover operating costs and debt redemption, given a 75 per cent. Exchequer grant towards the expenditure. So let me ask the hon. Gentleman: does he believe that modern rapid transit systems are needed in our conurbations? If so, does he not welcome the Government's proposed 75 per cent. grant towards the expenditure? Will he support Clause 53?
I am going to give the P.T.A.s power to reorganise bus services. I am also going to give them financial help. This is essential, because bus services, even in the conurbations, and certainly elsewhere, will carry the vast majority of passengers for many years to come. So the Government propose another revolutionary new grant—25 per cent. of the cost of equipping bus undertakings with modern fleets. The hon. Member for Worcester is always calling for the restoration of investment allowances as his panacea for the bus industry. In fact, of course, the loss of these allowances never affected London Transport or the municipal undertakings because they did not earn enough profit to benefit from taxation allowances. And to the sectors which were affected—the private companies and the T.H.C.—the loss never represented more than £2 million to £3 million a year.
1298 The cost to the Exchequer of my new bus grant scheme will be about £5 million in the first full year, rising possibly to as much as £10 million when it is in full effect. In addition, the rebate of fuel duty for bus undertakings is to be increased by 9d. a gallon from January, 1969: a saving to them of no less than £7 million a year.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
Why has not assistance over the cost of fuel been given to the private companies, which have been faced with such difficulties over the past three years?
§ Mrs. Castle
It will be given to all undertakings, and it is given now when it is appropriate to give a fuel rebate, for the reason that the better type of modern bus which we want to see the bus undertakings purchasing consume more fuel, and they have increased operating costs. This, therefore, is the appropriate moment to make this addition to the fuel tax rebate.
All these grants will help to reduce the operating costs of transport authorities. What then, about the alleged plot to dump railway losses on to the laps of the ratepayers? "£60 million on the rates" thundered the hon. Gentleman. Frankly, this figure is something he dreamed up in one of those nightmares to which he is so prone. Clearly—and I ask the House to face this because we are considering serious matters of administration and financial responsibility—if a Passenger Transport Authority is to draw up a transport plan which integrates road and rail effectively, it must be able to control the level of fares and services for all types of transport, and if it does that it must take financial responsibility for any losses it incurs as a result of its policies.
But, as Clause 20 points out, this provision will apply merely to those areas, whererailway passenger services have a particularly important contribution to make "—in other words, only to the suburban rail services in the conurbations. The total losses on these suburban rail services at present is about £8 million to £10 million a year—and that is before planning and integration of these services, with the consequent financial benefit, has even been tried. Against this loss, the Exchequer will pay compensating grants, 1299 starting at 90 per cent. and phasing out only as other Government help for transport is being phased in on an increasing scale.
The total value of the new Exchequer grants which I have described for public transport—excluding the grants for existing rail services—could amount to £20 million in their first full year of operation—1969—rising substantially in the 1970s. The Government's intention is to give massive net help to transport authorities, and that will be the result of their policies. The hon. Gentleman has hopped on the wrong bus.
The drawing up of successful transport plans will be greatly helped by the creation of the National Bus Company. The T.H.C. has in any case to be reorganised since its road haulage assets are to be transferred to the N.F.C. and it is proposed in the Bill to transfer all the T.H.C. interests in bus undertakings in England and Wales to the new National Bus Company, together with the remaining assets of the B.E.T. group of bus companies which the company has, as the House knows, arranged to buy.
The National Bus Company will be organised in subsidiaries as the T.H.C. has been and, like the T.H.C, it will be expected to pay its way. It will be a commercially viable undertaking.
§ Mrs. Castle
I said the T.H.C. plus the B.E.T. assets which the company is in the process of acquiring.
§ Mrs. Castle
Yes. There will be some outside.
Because of the special problems in Scotland—in particular, the importance of the local shipping services—a separate Scottish Transport Group is being set up responsible to the Secretary of State. The Minister of State for Scotland will deal with this in more detail later in the debate.
The T.H.C. acquisition is not, of course, nationalisation.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
It would greatly assist those who have spent a 1300 great deal of time trying to make our way through this morass of a Bill if the right hon. Lady would use words and not initials.
§ Mrs. Castle
I always begin by using words and then I hope that the initials can be deduced.
The T.H.C. acquisition is the result of a voluntary sale. The T.H.C. thought, and the Government agreed, that it made commercial sense. And it also makes administrative sense. The Opposition were quite shocked when I said in a recent debate that the basic services of public transport are no longer an appropriate field for private profit-making activity. Why should they be shocked? Do not they realise how far this process has already gone? Publicly-owned bus undertakings already carry 80 per cent. of all passengers on stage services. In the conurbations the percentage is even higher. We are now going to carry the process a stage further.
The T.H.C. acquisition, by bringing nearly all the main bus companies in the country under the control of a single publicly owned body, will enable sensible working agreements to be reached between the National Bus Company and the transport authorities. The necessary extension of the borrowing powers of the T.H.C. is the subject of a separate Bill now before the House.
If final proof were needed that nationalisation is the wrong word to apply to the Bill it lies in the agreement that I have just reached with the Leader of the Greater London Council to make the council the transport authority for London. This will require legislation and although the full details have yet to be worked out the agreement is directly relevant to our argument this afternoon.
What are we doing in London? We are putting the nationalised London Transport Board under the control of London's great local authority. And why? Because the Leader of the G.L.C., Mr. Desmond Plummer, agrees it is right and proper and long overdue for his authority, which is responsible for highways, town planning and traffic management, also to be responsible for public transport.
Of course it is—and here is the first Conservative leader with the courage to 1301 admit it. It really is time the Opposition got into line, because other Conservative municipal leaders are going to follow Mr. Plummer's lead, however much Conservative Central Office tries to stir them up against the P.T.A.s.
The kind of authority which will be needed in London is different from that needed in other conurbations, because the local government structure is very different. In the Greater London Council we have the fruits of London government reorganisation which has given us an administrative area under one authority large enough to make transport sense. So the process of setting up a P.T.A. is much simpler—we can just put the Greater London Council in charge.
Unfortunately, the Conservative Government, responsible for the 1963 London Government Act, were not very far-sighted about traffic matters, and divided traffic management powers between the G.L.C. and the London boroughs in a most inept way. Mr. Plummer has asked me to put this right and I have told him that I will be glad to discuss this with the G.L.C. and the boroughs and to legislate for a transfer of further traffic powers to the G.L.C.
In all this I have talked about the transport needs of our towns and cities because our country is so largely urbanised. But I realise that the transport problems in many rural areas are equally acute. What astonishes me is that Conservative Governments, who draw so much of their strength from these areas, have never done anything to arrest the decline of public transport there, despite the warnings and recommendations of the Jack Report.
The Bill will come to the rescue of rural life in two important ways—first, with money, through the rural bus grants provided in Clause 34 and, equally important, by relaxing the licensing provisions which at present prevent the development of more flexible forms of public transport than the normal bus. The National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group will have a strong base from which to continue cross-subsidisation of rural bus services by healthier urban ones.
But I believe that we have got to encourage all sorts of unconventional and imaginative ways of getting people from village to village. That is why the Post- 1302 master-General and I are experimenting with the G.P.O. minibuses, but I believe that private operators could play a role here by combining the carriage of passengers with other activities.
So we shall make it easier to get a licence to run bus services with small vehicles and make it possible for minibuses to be exempted altogether, provided that they do not carry more than 12 passengers. Incidentally, this will help the publican who wants to find a way of getting his customers home.
There is another section of our people to whom the Bill brings new hope—those who love and use our canals, whether for cruising, angling or just walking on the towpath, or who want to see stretches of canal in some of our unlovely built-up areas developed as centres of beauty and fun.
Part VIII of the Bill embodies the proposals outlined in the White Paper, British Waterways: Recreation and Amenity. The White Paper defined the commercial network of the canals, and we shall see that this is developed to high standards of efficiency, though, unfortunately, the narrowness of our canals makes it impossible to use them for commercial traffic as much as many of us would like.
The White Paper also gave a secure future for the non-commercial network by committing the Government to the necessary expenditure to keep it open and develop it for recreation. The response to that White Paper by waterways enthusiasts has been astonishing. The Tories just could not make up their minds what to do with the waterways. We have—and now there is an upsurge of hopeful development.
Ironically, it has needed a Labour Government to give the stimulus to private investment in boat houses, pleasure craft, and so on, which Tory vacillation held back. One Midland firm which makes cruisers said the other day, "We have been hoping for this step for over 20 years, and now it has come."
Some local authorities, too, are drawing up plans to turn their canals into "little Venices". Government help has transformed the situation. The Secretary of State for Wales tells me, for instance, that he hopes shortly to announce a scheme for restoring for recreation the Brecon 1303 and Abergavenny Canal, which runs through the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. I hope that, in their promised line-by-line fight against the Bill, the Opposition are not going to keep us up all night opposing that.
Finally, there are two further important pledges that the Bill fulfils. The first is the Government's promise to remove the restrictions on the manufacturing powers of nationalised industries. Clause 45 will remove the absurd limitations from which the transport boards suffer on the use which they may make of their resources, and will put them on an equal footing with private enterprise in being able to make full use of their assets and to diversify.
Of course, I as Minister must be satisfied that they are carrying on these activities reasonably and on strictly commercial lines, and, so far as is possible, I propose to see, as the Clause enables me to do, that they publish information in their annual reports to demonstrate that they are doing so.
This is not unfair competition: it is equality of opportunity. Why should not the fine new production line for containers at the Derby railway workshop, for instance, be used to win this country exports? And why should not the transport boards—including British Railways —be able to sell petrol at the car parks which we are all urging them to provide? It is just common sense.
The second point relates to travel concessions for old-age pensioners, the blind and the disabled. The concessionary fares legislation which the Labour Government introduced in October, 1964, has proved an enormous boon to those who most needed help —so much so that there has been a considerable outcry from those who are not served by municipal buses and so do not benefit.
For a long time, therefore, my hon. Friends have been pressing the Government to extend the power of local authorities to finance such concessions on non-municipal undertakings as well as on municipal ones. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Bob Brown) introduced a Private Member's Bill on these lines last year and was persuaded to withdraw it on the 1304 ground that we would be legislating in the Transport Bill. We have kept our promise, as Clause 152 shows.
If the Bill is approved, therefore, local authorities and P.T.A.s will be free to decide for themselves on which services, public or private, they will grant these concessions, provided always that they are prepared to pay for them themselves, without the benefit of rate support grant. Here is another area of free choice for local authorities.
This, then, is Labour's plan for transport. It faces modern needs boldly and flexibly and brings to the support of our socialist principles the highest techniques of management. It is based on the belief that transport has a social rôle to play, but this does not mean that it should operate without financial discipline. The Bill gives a new status to amenity in our national life. It ends the financial muddle which the Tories left, and offers to local government the most exciting new rôle it has had for years. I confidently commend it to the House.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
I must, first, comment on the right hon. Lady's opening remark, that she wished that we had had two days to debate this Bill, but that it was the fault of the Opposition that we had not. It is remarkable that the Government should now consider that the Opposition should give some of its limited time for a Bill introduced by the Government. It is particularly unreasonable of the right hon. Lady when she knows full well that what she has done with this Bill is to put under one title eight Bills in an attempt to steamroller the whole lot through the House—[Interruption.] The right hon. Lady laughs at this, but she knows quite well, for example, that this Bill is three and a half times as long as the Steel Bill, which got into Committee at the beginning of November, and is 80 per cent. bigger than the Transport Bill of 1962, which went into Committee two months earlier and received the Royal Assent on 1st August.
Therefore, it is perfectly clear that the Minister is trying to push on to Parliament a Bill which it will not have sufficient time properly to debate and amend. The reason is quite obvious to anyone 1305 who examines the Bill, when he realises its effect, the enormous extension of public ownership and increase in public expenditure which is involved.
This is an outrageous Bill to introduce within a few weeks of having had to devalue. Within two days of the Prime Minister telling the House from that Despatch Box that this Government would make a determined review of public expenditure, they introduce a Bill which, in terms of capital write-offs, fresh loans to nationalised industries and new grants, adds up to a total bill of £1,900 million. This is the action of a Government who are trying to give the impression abroad that they are serious about public expenditure.
When one considers the difficulties of properly amending the Bill, one can obviously examine only its major facets. It would be irresponsible of me to comment on all the various parts of the Bill, because there will be a limited time for hon. Members on both sides to discuss them. But very little in the Bill is concerned with the real problems of transport—the provision of proper management and planning. What really obsesses the right hon. Lady is not management or planning but ownership. All through the Bill there is the one theme of extending the public sector as quickly as possible.
First, let us consider the proposals for railway reorganisation. This Minister's record over the railways does not give us much confidence in their future so long as she remains Minister of Transport. Since she has been Minister, the railway deficit has soared. Indeed, only eight months ago the right hon. Lady was predicting in the House what this year's deficit would be, and already she has been proved more than £20 million wrong. Was that the Tory policy? Did she not know the conditions in which she was operating? In fact, since Labour came into office, the deficit has gone up by more than £30 million.
Not only that, but everyone knows that labour relations on the railways have never been worse than in recent months as a result of the right hon. Lady. They also know that the morale of top management has never been lower. What a remarkable sense of proportion the right hon. Lady shows when she can at the 1306 same time write off more than £1,250 million-worth of capital and yet refuse to pay the Chairman more than £12,500 a year. This is a remarkable sense of proportion which the right hon. Lady has of the Chairman of British Railways, who anyway was her second choice. She wanted Mr. Peter Parker first, and from her answer this afternoon it is clear that a considerable number of other people were approached to see if they were interested in the job and, if they were asked, whether they would accept. It is no use her saying that, only Mr. Parker was asked, because others were approached, as she well knows.
At present, therefore, British Railways is making a deficit this year of more than £150 million, with considerable labour troubles and great difficulties; yet for six weeks the right hon. Lady allowed the newspapers every day to be full of speculation about who the Chairman would be and whether Mr. Parker would accept or get the salary which he wanted. What support is there for the new Chairman when he has to say at his first Press conference, "Yes, I was the second choice; the Minister really wanted Mr. Parker, but he was unwilling to agree to the salary conditions".
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Member may not like it, but this affects the Bill in as much as this Minister will be administering it and I am trying to prove that she has shown herself completely incompetent at handling British Railways.
How are the Government tackling the problem of the railway deficit? Not by impoving management and by trying to recruit the right management at the right salaries. The Government are tackling the deficit by a series of accounting procedures to put the deficit elsewhere on the taxpayer. In fact, the taxpayer will still pay for the railways, but instead of it being called a railway deficit it will be called part of the national debt or a Government subsidy to the railways, or a tapering-off grant or part of the grant to the National Freight Authority, or a precept on the roads to the P.T.A. If the Minister were able to say in five years' time that the railways were no longer incurring a deficit, in fact it would mean that she was probably losing on the railways about £20 million more than when 1307 Labour came to power in 1964, if we added all the costs of the various accounting procedures that fell under those headings. It will all be disguised under different headings. Is that the way to make management face the realities of its task? There is no pressure for better management and no question of better salaries to attract the best management.
Next we have the concept of a subsidy. The right hon. Lady says, "Look at the way in which Conservative Members complain about the closure of railway lines". As she knows, during her period of office she will be responsible for more closures than those for which we were responsible. She knows that the closures which have taken place and which she will allow to take place—several thousands of miles of closures—were and are needed and were and are sensible. But she also knows that once she gets into a subsidy position the pressures will start building up. Every time it is suggested that fares should be raised the areas concerned will ask, "Why cannot we have the service on the subsidy basis which the Government are operating in other areas in order to keep lines open? Why do we have to pay higher fares?"
I turn to the P.T.A. concept. Putting the railways on a cost-plus contract is not the way to get the best management. The Minister's proposals show no indication at all that she will attract the right management to the railways. She will take the biggest asset—the freight liner trains—from them. She says that her proposals for quantity licensing will reinforce the sales drive of British Railways. What she means is that it will be a substitute for any sales drive which is in existence. Instead of British Railways achieving their marketing by management skills, they are to achieve it in future by Ministerial direction.
What of her statement about 11,000 route-miles? She knows that I have always made my position clear about it. It is nonsense, and she must know it to be nonsense, to say that in a railway system we are fixed to a rigid 11,000 route-miles. Patterns will change, and demands and needs will change. The only reason that the right hon. Lady chose the figure of 11,000 route-miles is that in the lifetime of this Government 1308 it is unlikely that it will ever fall below that figure—and when it reaches that figure it will, quite rightly, be reviewed in the light of existing demand. That figure is a piece of propaganda to give a false impression.
There is no indication that the right hon. Lady has any intention of tackling the problem of over-manning on British Railways. She knows that it exists. She announced the winding up of the Joint Steering Group. I dare her to publish the report of Cooper Bros, which was given to the Joint Steering Group. I dare her to refer two questions to the Group. I challenge her to ask them, before she winds up the Group, whether the members are in favour of the National Freight Authority as a concept. Let us get them to answer that question one by one. Let her also ask them what they estimate could be the reduction in the manpower force of British Railways if sensible managerial techniques were adopted. Let her publish that figure. But neither of those answers will ever be given by the Government.
It is impossible to talk about subsidies until British Railways are working efficiently under good management and with the proper labour force that is required. Every estimate which has been given by the experts who know the problems recognises that there is considerable overmanning on British Railways. I am the first to appreciate that if it is tackled it will create a social problem, and I should be the first to support every possible aid being given in terms of retraining and redundancy payments. But it is a nonsense for railwaymen to continue with an inflated labour force, because that will never get British Railways on a proper managerial basis.
I turn to the National Freight Authority. I said that it had no friends, and the right hon. Lady quoted in reply Professor Day in the Observer. I have the greatest respect for Professor Day's views, but I do not think it is surprising that an Observer commentator should be friendly to some of the right hon. Lady's views—particularly Professor Day, who is on one of the Government's Transport Planning Councils and, I believe, is Chairman of it.
§ Mr. Walker
The South-East Planning Council. I understand that he is Chairman of the Transport Consultative Council. If not, I apologise, but I believe that he is.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Morris)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that Professor Day's judgment is altered in any way because of some office that he holds?
§ Mr. Walker
Not a bit of it. If I have given that impression, I completely withdraw it. I respect Professor Day, although I disagree with him in many of his views. But I respect him as a distinguished man and, I am sure, as an academic of integrity.
The right hon. Lady also quoted the Economist. I do not know whether it affects his views, but the Minister no doubt knows that the transport correspondent of the Economist was at the last election Labour candidate at Folkestone and at present is Chairman of the Soho Labour Party. I am told that the Soho Labour Party is one of the few remaining branches.
The Minister was unable to quote any friend apart from that. Industry does not support the Authority. There is no vocal support for it from the National Union of Railwaymen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They have certainly not said so; indeed, a. their conference they were very critical of it.
§ Mr. Walker
I am talking about the National Freight Authority.
What is wrong with the Authority? It does not integrate road and rail. It integrates nationalised rail with nationalised road and, by so doing, it positively avoids a proper integration with all the free-enterprise road services. This is where the Minister has allowed her critical prejudices to affect her judgment. During our last debate, she accused me of wanting British Railways to be an iron bridge to be used by the free enterprise hauliers whenever it was economic for them to do so. That is exactly what I want them to do, and it is a great pity that the Minister did not try to get this form of integration. Her policy is by 1310 handicapping road haulage to shift freight to rail, not by increasing the efficiency of rail but by further handicapping road haulage.
The Minister is well aware of the previous handicaps, for she has approved them all. They include three increases in the price of fuel, a 50 per cent. increase in vehicle licence fees, the effect of S.E.T. and the abolition of investment allowances on all commercial vehicles. In their Report last week, the National Board for Prices and Incomes pointed out that in three years the imposed charges on road haulage had put up their costs by 7s. in the £.
The Bill introduces two new handicaps in case the other handicaps have not been enough. The first is the new tax, and the second is quantity licensing. Estimates of the new tax vary between £30 million and £40 million as to the total effect. And what a way to announce the new tax—to say, "We are doing this for reasons which we cannot yet publish". What a disgrace to the Minister that before the Second Reading of the Bill she has not published the Report on which she bases this tax. The whole argument is based on a Report which has been in her hands for some weeks, but which she has not made available to the House before Second Reading. One of the reasons for her failure to do so is that if the findings of the Report supported a £40 million tax, they would be more than questionable. Total expenditure on road construction and maintenance in this country, including expenditure by local authorities, was last year about £450 million. We know that from motor vehicle taxation of one sort or another the Government obtain almost three times that amount. Therefore there can be very little justification for such a drastic tax, which amounts to £15 a mile for some abnormal loads.
Consider the adverse effects this new tax will have, not to speak of the complacent way in which the Minister swept aside the adverse effects of it on our exports. "This will put up transport costs by only a few per cent.", she said. The Government should be concerned about any increase in export costs, particularly at this time. After all, two-thirds of our exports go to the ports by road, and that is bound to be affected by this new imposition.
1311 Then consider the development areas, especially Scotland. The Parliamentary Secretary spent most of Question Time today arguing that there was no case for Scotland and the development areas complaining about this proposal, because these lorries were wearing out the roads in Scotland just as they were all over the country; they were causing congestion and, therefore, the tax should apply in Scotland in exactly the same way as south of the Border.
This and former Governments have encouraged firms to go to the development areas. They have offered them aid, grants and subsidies. To add a tremendous tax on their communications—which is what this is; let it be remembered that some of the industries that will be most hard hit will be the heavy industries, which are situated primarily in the development regions—is ridiculous.
One of the largest projects in Scotland in the post-war period has been the establishment of big paper mills. I have seen a telegram saying that this Bill will do tremendous damage to that industry and to its future prospects in Scotland. The same can be said of the building industry. The Government have said that they are in favour of encouraging industrialised forms of building, but that will be adversely affected by the new tax since many of the components used in this form of building comprise abnormal loads.
So we have the paper industry, timber, agriculture, coal, local authorities and many other interests being adversely affected by these measures. Local authorities will be greatly affected because their vehicles will have to bear the appropriate increase which will have to be passed on to the ratepayers.
As if this tax were not enough, we have the quantity licensing system. The way in which the Minister defended this—as a great simplification and a dash for freedom—was amazing. We understand that 100,000 vehicles will be subjected to this form of licensing. That will apply if they wish to travel over 100 miles. For bulk carriers, if they wish to travel any distance at all—I refer to vehicles of 5 tons unladen weight or 16 tons gross—they will have to apply for special authorisation.
Did the Minister consider the effect of this on the motor industry? Did anyone 1312 tell her that, for example, Leylands and some other great companies have invested large sums of money to develop the articulated vehicle, which is becoming the most popular vehicle throughout Europe? Did anyone tell her that the result of her licensing system will be that whereas today firms may use the articulated vehicle of 30 tons gross—a flexible vehicle which is more manoeuvrable than the rigid type; and is 25 per cent. more efficient carrying loads—the hauliers concerned, instead of using the 30-ton articulated vehicle, which is made by British firms, will go in for two 16-ton vehicles and so completely avoid these licensing procedures? This means that instead of having one 30-ton vehicle on our roads we shall have two 16-ton vehicles. What a wonderful contribution to halting congestion! These are come of the direct results of the Minister's interference with the proper mechanism of the development of the road vehicle.
Then consider the unique Socialist system which the Minister has thought up for other vehicles. If one wants to travel over 100 miles one must send to the licensing authority the details of the vehicle, the details of the goods and the place to which they are being sent. When the licensing authority has received those facts it will send copies of them to British Rail and the National Freight Authority. Those two organisations will then have 14 days in which to object. The basis of their objection will be that, in terms of speed, reliability and cost, they are as good as the private haulier and that therefore they should carry the load.
Who will decide how the matter should be discussed? The answer is that those authorities will not be left to judge these matters for themselves. The Minister will make Regulations on how they must be judged—and we know what those Regulations are likely to be. And if by chance at the end of this procedure they are in doubt, the Minister has laid it down that the benefit of doubt must go to the National Freight Authority and the railways. It is a remarkable thing to have in legislation in this country that, if there is a dispute between an enterprise, an individual and the State, the benefit of doubt must go to the State in all cases.
1313 I accept that the individuals concerned will have a right of appeal. They will be able to go to the Transport Tribunal. The chairman will have a background of transport or commerce and members of the Tribunal must have knowledge of finance or economics. They will decide, and any person may be made to attend. If he does not attend he may be fined £25 for non-attendance. What a monstrous licensing system to impose. It is completely unnecessary.
Who are the friends of this proposal? Has the Minister heard of anyone who is prepared to support it? Certainly industry does not support it. Indeed, industry generally has come out violently against it. Agriculture is violently against it, and so are drivers throughout the country. The motor industry is strongly opposed to it, and, most of all, the customer is strongly opposed to it.
The customer is opposed to it, because his choice will be taken from him. Even if the management of our railways was so deficient that it was unable to market its goods and was unable to bring to the attention of potential customers its services—even if that were so, we would object; steps would have to be taken to improve its management—the Minister could adopt the Dutch system whereby the services which the railways can provide must be brought to the attention of potential customers. My hon. Friends and I believe that these proposals are dangerous and that their object is to create State management on the longdistance side.
Consider the dangers of direct action. Only a few weeks ago we were faced with a possible go-slow on the railways. British Railways contacted private hauliers throughout the country, asking them to stand by and, if required, to make the necessary arrangements. When the Minister has had her way and when there is one National Freight Authority, there will be no alternative. There will be no free enterprise hauliers for her to contact to make these stand-by arrangements.
We are left with the higher costs that this will bring about, the loss of choice to the customer and an enormous extension of public ownership. The House should make no mistake about realising that this is an extension of public ownership, for 1314 in the Bill the Minister—the right hon. Lady did not mention this—has made provision for the borrowing powers worth £300 million for the National Freight Authority. Will that sum be used for acquiring road haulage firms? Certainly the Minister has always been an advocate of an authority which would be able to acquire on a large scale. British taxpayers are being asked in this Measure, a few weeks after devaluation, to find £300 million for a buying spree by the right hon. Lady to extend nationalisation still further.
We have the other nationalisation proposal which the Minister has already achieved in the Transport Holding Company. It has already made a bid—we are told a successful one—for the bus companies of the B.E.T. It was a good way of making a bid. One publishes a White Paper saying that the bus companies will be taken over by compulsory purchase—[Interruption.] One says that the routes can be taken over by compulsory purchase, and then the Transport Holding Company says, in effect, "Why wait for it to be done in this way? Sell out now"—and the bid is successful. However, the matter must come before Parliament and, although the Minister is loth to provide time for a Parliamentary debate, my hon. Friends and I will certainly need at least a day in which to debate that issue.
The £35 million to be paid for that exercise is all part of the P.T.A. concept, with the Minister saying that this is a shot in the arm for local government. I suggest that it is a shot at local government. The Minister knows—whatever references she might make to the G.L.C. —that Mr Desmond Plummer will be violently opposed to a P.T.A. for London—[Interruption.] He has made it clear that he would be. The right hon. Lady must not say that Mr. Plummer will in any way support her idea. As a result of conversations that I have had with him, I assure the House that the one thing that he wants to avoid is the Government imposing a P.T.A. on London, and I am delighted that he is succeeding.
The Minister knows the views of the local authorities. The Municipal Passenger Transport Association left no doubt at its annual conference about how strongly opposed it was to this idea. The 1315 A.M.C. in its last report stated categorically its view that any P.T.A.—bus companies and transport—should be operated only after local government reform. The A.M.C. has made its position quite clear there. What will the Minister do if she finds that wherever she wishes to impose this scheme the local authority is opposed to it? Will she then say that it is a wonderful shot in the arm for local government, in spite of the fact that none of the authorities concerned wants it? Or will she consider why they do not want it?
The reasons why the local authorities do not want it are obvious. First, fares will be substantially increased—and the right hon. Lady knows it. She may say: "The hon. Member for Worcester says that fares will be increased, but look at the capital grant I shall give", but she knows full well that in Manchester, for example—and if she does not know this it is very remiss of her—the members of the Transport and General Workers' Union have already said to their negotiators, "We must negotiate not only to see that when the P.T.A. is formed our members get the best wages currently being paid by any bus companies and the best conditions currently being provided by any bus company, but we must also ask for more. The Minister is boasting that these authorities are more efficient, so we, the workers, should have more of the benefit of the extra efficiency they will create." The Minister knows, and she must be very worried about it, that there will be an enormous increase in fares as a result of this levelling-up process in wages and conditions—and further demands beyond that.
If the right hon. Lady wants examples of where this has happened she need only look at two P.T.A.S abroad—one in Ulster and one in Massachussetts. The P.T.A. in Massachussetts, almost identical in principle to that proposed by the right hon. Lady, is now the subject of study by a Senate Committee because it is doing so badly. It is making a loss of £10 million a year, and is having to increase fares by 100 per cent.
What of the precept on the rates? None of the local authorities wants to meet the railway deficit in its area. That is quite reasonable. Local authorities do not want to meet that deficit from the 1316 rates because they will have no influence on how effieciently or inefficiently the railways are being run.
What about planning? The right hon. Lady's great boast is that this is connected with planning, but how does she argue that? A county borough that now has planning powers will have only one member on the P.T.A. A city like Worcester, a county borough, will have one member on a P.T.A. in Birmingham, dominated by members from British Transport or the Birmingham conurbation. How will that link up with the planning demands of the county borough of Worcester? The same could be said of other local authorities. They remain independent for planning, but are joined for transport.
Above all, there is the domination from Whitehall. The Minister may well look to the heavens, because no Bill has ever been put forward which gave more power to a Minister over local authority affairs than does this Bill. Let me list the powers, and if the Minister wants to deny any of them, I will gladly give way to her.
First, the Minister will designate the areas in which the P.T.A.s will operate, and local authorities will have no right to a public inquiry. That is unlike the 1947 Act. Local authorities will not be able to go to public inquiry and in any way refute the boundaries drawn by the Minister.
Second, the Minister will have the power to approve or disapprove the chairman of a P.T.A. Third, the Minister will have the power to fix the salary of the chairman. Fourth, the Minister will have complete power over the authorities' capital expenditure. The right hon. Lady listed this as one of the powers she would not have, but if she looks at her own Bill she will know that that is untrue. The Bill categorically states that at any time the Minister can have the capital expenditure of P.T.A.s reduced, and the authorities must obey her directive on how it shall be reduced. There is no power there for local authorities.
Fifth, the Minister will have power to authorise or refuse the compulsory purchase of land by the authority. Sixth, the extent of the power to precept on the rates will be completely with the Minister. By Clause 13, the Minister is able to reduce the amount to be precepted 1317 on the rates. If the Minister is able to do that, she is able to influence the level of fares. Seventh, the Minister will lay down the form in which the accounts of an authority will be prepared, and will lay down the particulars they shall contain and the manner in which they will be compiled. All these are the powers of the Minister, who has just stood at the Dispatch Box and said the local authorities will have wonderful control over the P.T.A.s.
Let us go on—there are many more powers. About Clause 16, the Minister will take power to direct the P.T.A.s on how they will conduct the business of their subsidiaries. She will also have the power to direct the executives to discontinue the activities of their subsidiaries. No capital grants will be provided to the PT.A.s as of right, but only at the discretion of the Minister.
No investment grants for buses will be provided as of right—discretion there lies with the Minister. The right hon. Lady talked of investment allowances, but under that system every bus proprietor, municipal or otherwise, had the certain knowledge that he would get the investment allowance. The Minister knows that when the Government replaced investment allowances with investment grants, she and all her Parliamentary Secretaries went into the Division Lobby to do away with the investment allowances for buses, and then voted for a Bill on investment grants that provided no investment grants for buses. So even her last minute repentance on investment grants for buses, though pleasant, is rather sad, because it was not until the Minister had bought up the biggest private operator that she decided to give the bus operators the grant they deserve.
The Minister will be the sole arbitrator on arrangements between the P.T.A.s and British Railways. The Minister decides any dispute between the two bodies. A P.T.A. will be unable to transfer any part of its undertaking or property to a private operator without the permission of the Minister—not the permission of the local authority. No money can be raised by local authorities for the purpose of P.T.A.s without the approval of the Minister. The Minister will have complete power over what property and 1318 which employees of the local authority undertakings are transferred to the P.T.A.
Finally, just in case the Minister's powers are not complete, in the provision for the Minister making Orders setting up the P.T.A.S., the following words are added:Any order … may contain such supplementary, incidental and consequential provision as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient. …It is nonsense for the Minister to maintain that this is in any way local authority control. It is control from Whitehall. Whereas local authorities have previously been able to run their own bus services or make their own contracts with private enterprise operators, in future all the direction and power remain with the Minister and her representatives on the P.T.A.S.
It is not just the bus companies that are referred to. We have many other nationalised proposals. As to nationalisation, I say that Clause 45 should have been a Bill on its own—and the Minister knows it. But if it had been a Bill on its own instead of being just Clause 45 of this Bill, it would have been the most controversial nationalisation Measure in British history. It would have been a Bill of 22 or 24 Clauses, and it would have been debated throughout the country as a mammoth nationalisation Measure. In fact, the famous Clause IV of the Labour Party has been put completely into the present Clause 45. That will please hon. Members opposite below the gangway and, I believe, depress the rest of the country.
Let us look at the powers given by Clause 45 to each of the authorities concerned—British Railways, Inland Waterways, National Freight Corporation, and the rest. Subsection (2) states:Each of the authorities to whom this section applies shall have power… to manufacture for sale to outside persons and to repair for outside persons, anything which the authority consider can advantageously be so manufactured or, as the case may be, repaired by the authority by reason of the fact that the authority or a subsidiary of theirs have materials or facilities for, or skill in, the manufacture or repair of that thing in connection with some existing activity of that authority or subsidiary …Hon. Members opposite cheer, but let them notice that the word is "advantageously." The word is not "profitably" 1319 or "efficiently," but "advantageously"—in the Minister's view. In the Minister's view, anything is advantageous which destroys free enterprise. We know that that is exactly how the Clause will be operated.
It continues to provide that the authoritiesshall have power—(b) to sell to outside persons, and for that purpose to purchase, anything which is of a kind which the authority or a subsidiary of theirs purchase in the course of some existing activity of that authority or subsidiary".So these authorities will be able to go into the retailing business for all the commodities they buy as authorities. The Bill goes on to provide specifically for the sale of accessories for motor vehicles and for the provision of car parks by these authorities. It deletes powers not yet given to this nationalised industry.
I wonder whether the Minister mentioned to the cabin cruiser manufacturer, who, she said, was so delighted about her inland waterways provisions, that under Clause 45 in future the Inland Waterways Board will be allowed to make cabin cruisers. I wonder whether he was particularly pleased with that piece of news.
The authorities will have powerto manufacture road vehicles, bodies or chassis for road vehicles or major components of road vehicles".These powers will all be given to the nationalised industries in future. The Bill gives powers as to garages, motor accessories, repair shops and shipbuilding. The Clause provides the Government with the possibility of the largest extension of nationalisation in British history without ever again having to come to the House of Commons for legislation to do it. I defy any hon. Member to name one industry or one form of manufacturing or retailing that the Government cannot enter into as a result of Clause 45. The taxpayers' money will be used in all the acquisitions necessary.
In total the Minister has £550 million, which she will take from the taxpayers, in borrowing powers to speed up her acquisitions as a result of the powers to be conferred by the Bill. This is the policy of a Government who are reviewing all forms of public expenditure and 1320 who are endeavouring to say that we want to improve our export position. In the whole of the Bill no consideration is given for the consumer. Fares will rise. Freight costs will rise. Choice is lost between one company and another. The economy is not considered. Public expenditure, higher costs of exports, extension of public ownership—these are the great themes of the Bill.
I do not condemn the right hon. Lady for this. She has always been a Left-Wing, extreme Socialist. Those who I do blame strongly are the Prime Minister and the new Chancellor of the Exchequer for allowing this piece of legislation to come forward at this particular time. There is nothing in the Bill which will improve confidence in Britain. What the Bill proves beyond doubt is that the Government do not intend to use devaluation as a means of changing their course. They do not mean to use it to show that they have learned their lesson from the failure of the last three years. They intend to use it to go even further with their wrong-minded and Left-wing Socialist schemes. I believe that it is an immense criticism of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Prime Minister that the major piece of legislation in this Session of Parliament following devaluation should be a Bill that puts up the cost of transport and which goes in for a savage extension of public ownership.
There is obviously to be an attempt to steam-roller the Bill through. We shall certainly see that in the time which is given to us every bad proposal—and, my word, there are many—is exposed and debated. We shall unfortunately have to show that the Government have shown by introducing the Bill that they have no intention of pursuing policies which will stimulate the sector of our economy most necessary for our exports, namely, the free enterprise sector. Indeed, the Bill illustrates that it is the Government's intention to use the loans from abroad and the effects of devaluation to intensify their pace towards destroying a free economy. The Bill will cost Britain dearly, but the one advantage that it will have is that in the months in which it will be debated, both in Parliament and throughout the country, it will illustrate more clearly than ever the desperate need for this Government to go.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I am certain that the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has been looking forward immensely to this debate so that he could deploy all his debating skill in attacking the Bill. He has excelled himself in turning a discussion on a largely technical matter into a political debate. He has emphasised certain aspects of the Bill and invented others which, he suggests, have a big political content which does not in fact exist.
I will mention only two. The hon. Gentleman spoke many times about this being a Bill to extend public ownership. There is not one Clause in the Bill which will bring about any compulsory public ownership. How, then, is this a Bill to extend public ownership?
The hon. Gentleman laid enormous emphasis at the end of his speech, which was obviously the climax of his remarks, on the provisions in Clause 45 which enable the nationalised industries to undertake trading where they already have facilities for doing so, in the same way as private enterprise is able to do at present. It is inconceivable that hon. Members opposite, who say they want to save public money and are interested in efficiency, should continue to deny, for example, to a railway workshop the ability to use machines and the skill of men who are there when there is no work which the railways can give them. It is a most wasteful thing that those machines and men should stand idle when there is other work available.
What nonsense it is to say that, although railways may have big car parks adjoining their suburban stations, they should be prohibited from selling petrol at those car parks and from making repairs to vehicles that use the car parks. It is obviously in the public interest that public bodies should be able to do this in exactly the same way as private interests do. It is the fear of competition from public bodies which induces hon. Members opposite to take up this wholly anti-social attitude.
My right hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Gentleman suffered from a disadvantage in discussing the Bill, in that it is a whale of a Bill containing a large number of diverse proposals. It is a comprehensive Bill. It is a meaty Bill.
1322 It is impossible to discuss all its contents and many suggestions in the course of a short speech. As a backbencher who wants to confine himself to a quarter of an hour at the outside, obviously all that it is possible for me to do is to make a few brief comments on some of the issues raised by the Bill. I would not attempt to do so had I not been associated with Transport Bilk for very many years, from the time when I played a small part in carrying the original nationalisation Bill through the House in 1947. I have also played some part in every subsequent Bill dealing with transport matters. I may have a little knowledge of the subject. I therefore certainly have strong feelings about many of the proposals in the Bill.
Before making a few critical remarks and inquiries, I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend warmly on a number of things. I want first to congratulate her on providing us with three White Papers which set out in great detail, and very admirably, the background to, and purpose of, the proposals which she intended to bring before the House. Never has a Bill come before the House with so much information provided for hon. Members before its Second Reading debate.
Second, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her exposition of the Bill today. Third, I congratulate her on the contents of the Bill, which boldly tackles problems besetting almost every aspect of British Transport in one way or another. Although some people may disagree with the solutions which my right hon. Friend proposes, they are at least a serious attempt—and basically, I think, a correct attempt—to deal with present and future transport problems. Many of these have been neglected for far too long because they are difficult or controversial. In this Bill my right hon. Friend proposes many realistic and original solutions for them.
Furthermore, my right hon. Friend finally buries one myth which has clouded thinking on transport matters for far too long. She is no longer apologetic, and this party has for some time not been apologetic, about the need to give public funds to transport because transport is a public service. For far too long the party opposite has believed that there was something wrong and shameful in subsidising railways or other forms of transport. It has always been apologetic 1323 about it. Conservative policy towards transport has been and is based on the idea that any form of support from public money must, as the first major objective desideratum, be cut out. This was the reason for the Beeching Report and Conservative support for it. It was to make our railways viable. It would never have done so, in fact, but that was the purpose. Viability is desirable, but this Bill recognises that there are broad social benefits in many transport activities which can be financed only by society as a whole through taxes or rates. We are not ashamed of that.
One of the many examples provided by the Bill is the grant which the Government will give in respect of rural transport services. Six years ago, the Jack Committee made a survey of these services and came to the conclusion that they were inadequate and likely to deteriorate and that, unless certain public money was given to support them, they would become much worse. The Conservative Government did nothing about it. They were thinking about it, but no more. At last, the present Government have said that something must be done. They make provision for £2 million a year which, if the local authorities spend a similar sum, can be spent on maintaining and improving bus services. This provision is apart from the large reduction in fuel tax for buses. I mention that merely as an indication of the sort of thought which the Government give in the Bill to the social purposes of transport for which some financial support is needed.
My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated for her general approach to transport problems and, in particular, for devising machinery for integration, a matter which has for too long been no more than vague aspiration. We now have machinery proposed by which integration can be accomplished. I believe that it will work. For providing that machinery in a sensible way, my right hon. Friend deserves the support of this side of the House, and I am sure that eventually, when the process is seen to work in the country, she will earn the country's gratitude, too.
It is against that background of general enthusiastic support that I wish now to express anxiety about certain provisions. I shall deal only with the more important ones. First, my right hon. Friend 1324 suggests, more in the White Paper than in the Bill, that, after all "the financial readjustments have been made, the railways should become viable in the early 1970s. It is more than a hope; it is an expectation on my right hon. Friend's part. I hope that she will not pin her faith too closely to that expectation. Those who have long experience of the reorganisation of the railway system recall that, right from the time in the 1950s when General Robertson produced his great re-equipment programme—and a very fine programme it was—we have always been told that, in about five years, the railways would pay. But they never have.
Again and again, there seems to be an unfortunate rule operating in railway finances which provides that, whatever economies are devised and whatever financial benefits are envisaged as accruing from increased capital expenditure, at the end of the day costs and expenses swallow them all up. I fear that, however desirable it may be, after the financial changes now proposed are implemented, after the various subtractions and additions have been made on the debit side of the railway accounts, the railways will not be viable. But I do not believe that it matters very much so long as they are performing the services which they ought to perform and carrying freight and passengers in the way the nation needs.
My next doubt is in regard to the National Freight Corporation. This is an ingenious idea for integrating the country's freight transport, but I have asked myself one or two questions about it and I now put them to my right hon. Friend. Is it necessary to set up a new statutory body for this purpose? Is it the idea that that statutory body should be the first step towards the abolition of the Transport Holding Company? The National Freight Corporation will take over a large part of railway activities. It will take over the depots, vehicles, warehouses and containers of British Railways, though not the trains. Will not this be disheartening to all sections of British Railways, when they are deprived of the most promising and profitable development which they have? Will it not damage the morale, which is already low, of all railwaymen from the highest to the lowest?
1325 Second, will not the existence of this body create a large area of conflict between British Rail and the new Corporation, especially in regard to costs and charges? As far as I can see—I may be mistaken—there will be further areas of conflict between the Railways Board and the freight liner company which is, as it were, to be put in between the Railways Board and the National Freight Corporation and which will be responsible for the marketing and management of the whole freight system. The financial obligation is on the Corporation. Management and working is on the company. The Railways Board is to have only a 49 per cent. interest in the company. It seems to me that there is here the possibility of much conflict and confusion. Nevertheless, I hope that I am wrong and that everything will be resolved.
Would it not have been possible to bring about the desired co-ordination without setting up a new statutory body, which is undesirable if it can be avoided, by some co-operative method and without having a drastic surgical operation which is bound to be upsetting? We are told that there is already in existence a joint freight organisation between the Transport Holding Company and British Rail whose purpose is to promote closer inter-working between the two. Would it not have been possible to achieve the desired result through this body? It would certainly be more desirable to do so if that were possible.
Another statutory body is to be set up. It is a bad habit to set up more statutory bodies than are essential. There is to be a Freight Integration Council, whose purpose will be to advise the Minister about integrating the freight set-up and organisation. I cannot see what this body can usefully do. I should have thought that under the Bill's proposals integration will be complete and tight. I do not know what more can be done.
I am fearful that a body of this sort, established under Statute and containing a variety of important people, will either become an academic talking body or, if it comes down to earth and considers practical and detailed matters, will be interfering with the responsibility of British Railways, the Corporation or the 1326 Minister. This is an advisory body for the Minister. But the Minister could bring together an advisory body any moment she liked without having a Clause in the Bill demanding that she should do so.
The idea of the Passenger Transport Authorities is admirable, but, however much I hope they will work well, I cannot help wondering whether they can work smoothly until there has been a reorganisation of local government. Let us look at the proposed set-up. There are four bodies which will have some share of responsibility. There are the local authorities, which will be responsible for traffic management in their area. This is extraordinarily important. One cannot run buses and so on as one likes through a city unless one has some voice in the traffic organisation and management of the flow of traffic.
The Passenger Transport Authorities themselves will consist of nominees of the local authorities drawn from the whole area, and they will be authoritative bodies. They will consist of local government nominees of diverse interests and perhaps different political views. They may have strong and divergent views on whether rates should be paid by their local authority on some proposal to subsidise the commuter train service in another area.
The Passenger Transport Authority will be solely responsible for appointing the main body, the Executive, which will do the running of the whole scheme and receive the subsidies to be paid by the Minister. The Executive will receive them although it is a body appointed by the Passenger Transport Authority and, therefore, dismissable by the Authority. On top of that one has the Minister coming in all along the line. I do not object to that. It is inevitable if grants are to be paid by the Treasury, but one has a four-tier body to carry out the reorganisation and integration of passenger transport over a large area, and the key body is one which consists of people probably with diverse interests, ideas and objectives, nominees of the local authorities in the areas.
§ Sir R. Cary
The Executive would also become a monopoly not answerable to the Traffic Commissioners.
§ Mr. Strauss
That is a possibility. However, the Minister says in the White Paper that the relations between the Authority and the Executive will in many ways be similar to those between a Minister and a nationalised industry. But it will not be anything of the sort. A nationalised industry, through its chairman, comes to a Minister and says, "I want to do this. Do you agree? What shall we do?" The Minister will say, "Yes" or "No" or "I will consult about it and let you know." But here the Executive has to go to the Passenger Transport Authority, a body of 20 people with different ideas, and get its views. The local authority nominees on the body will be likely to find an important issue one on which they will have to consult their local authorities about, certainly if it is a question of a precept on the rates. I do not put it higher than that, but I see great difficulties in the running of these bodies, and I hope that the Minister has some ideas about overcoming them. I think it will be a long time before the bodies can work effectively.
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will decide to which hon. Gentleman he is giving way.
§ Mr. Strauss
I will give way to the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) and then my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins).
§ Mr. Webster
I am following the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making about the difference between the Authority and the Executive. Clause 13(6) says:Notwithstanding anything in this Part of this Act, nothing done by the Executive for a designated area shall be held to be unlawful on the ground that the approval of the Authority for that area to the doing of that thing was required by or under this Part of this Act"—
§ Mr. Strauss
My hon. Friend wanted to ask me a question, Mr. Speaker, and I am perfectly willing to give way to him.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins
Is it a fact that the chairman or head of a nationalised industry—British Railways, for instance —consults die Minister on questions of day-to-day management? Are not the bodies which are to be set up to deal with day-to-day management rather than questions of policy?
§ Mr. Strauss
My hon. Friend asks a very big question. All I can say is that when I was in charge of a nationalised industry the chairman and vice-chairman came to see me every week, and about not some detail but some important policy matter which had arisen. I am perfectly certain that in the work which the Executive has to do—it will be very important work, especially in the early years—important issues will arise constantly on which it will want some direction from its superior body, the Passenger Transport Authority.
The highly controversial point of the new quantitative licensing has been raised. I am not as frightened of it as the hon. Member for Worcester is. I think it is a sensible idea. I do not think that anyone would question that if the railways can carry a consignment as cheaply, reliably and speedily as can be done on the road it should go on the railways. The only question is whether this is the best way of deciding whether in any particular case this is so or not. Should one leave it to the consignor? Should one leave it to the road haulage company? The consignors may be set in their ways, or prejudiced. There may be a number of reasons why they may not take an impartial view. The suggestion is mat the Commission should do it. I do not see why it should not be able to. At worst after some trouble and time—consuming work on die part of the people involved, the consignments will in the end continue to go by road; but at 1329 best there may be a considerable diversion from road to rail, which everybody in the House wants.
I am not upset about the approaches made by the road hauliers. One is used to protests from them on every occasion when any change is proposed. They are exceedingly vocal. My views about their attitude were very well expressed in an article in the Sunday Times. I do not think that the writer of the article was a member of the Labour Party or a Labour candidate. In fact, I have no idea who it was. It was an unsigned article. It read.One cannot help feeling that they"—that is, the road hauliers—are really upset because the Bill will compel more vigorous competition than the industry has grown used to.I think this is probably true.
There are many other proposals in the Bill that I have not time to deal with, but I would just mention one or two briefly. The provisions of Clause 45 are long overdue. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has incorporated in the Bill the idea of allowing nationalised industries to enter into trade in certain conditions. A matter which is very important is the remission of a further part of the fuel tax for bus services. This is logical and, again, long overdue. Ministers of Transport and Members of Parliament have for a long time been saying that what we have to do is to try to get the public to use buses rather than private cars.
We have to make public transport—the buses—more attractive so as to get people to move to their use. Everyone has been saying it, Some of us have been advocating that the best way to do it would be to reduce the fuel tax on them, but this is the first time it has been done. It is a good thing and should have a marked effect in reducing bus fares. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has done it. I am a little doubtful about the huge tax on the transport of large and divisible loads. It is a technical matter which can be thrashed out in Committee, but it seems to me that it may be a burden on exports and, Under no circumstances, however theoretically justified it may be, should additional costs be added to such transport at a 1330 moment when we are trying to increase exports at all costs.
But, by and large, the Bill is excellent. It is based on sound principles. I think that we all recognise that it will not be easy to put some of the major provisions into operation. Carrying out the proposed changes will be far more difficult than devising them, putting them in a Bill and getting them through Parliament. Getting them into operation will indeed be a colossal task. There will be difficulties and opposition but it is all important that my right hon. Friend should succeed, and in that task I am sure that she will get all the support from this side of the House that she needs and deserves.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South-West)
I understand that there is a happy custom in this House which enables a new Member making his maiden speech to refer to his predecessor, and this I am pleased to do. Mr. Herbert Bowden, as he then was, sat for my constituency for 22 years, did much work for all sections of the constituency and was held in high regard by his constituents. I know also that he was much respected by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House and I am sure that they will join me in wishing him well in another place and in his new job.
I understand that I am also enabled to make reference to my constituency and this I am both pleased and proud to do. It is the south-west part of that great Midlands industrial city of Leicester. The city was reputed to be one of the most prosperous in Europe—a prosperity which I fear has somewhat faded in recent years. But it still compares favourably with most parts of the country.
Its prosperity is founded on a diversity of industries—engineering, footwear, textiles, hosiery, plastics and the like. I believe that its source was the traditional ability of the people of Leicester for hard work, high skills, enterprise, inventiveness and thrift. These are all qualities which I am sure hon. Members on both sides will recognise as virtues. Whether we would agree on how those virtues should be rewarded I will not venture to raise today.
It is because of this diversity of industries in Leicester that the cost of 1331 transport is of vital importance today. I want to refer only to that part of the Bill concerning the carriage of freight and to apply it to a commercial test—the test of whether the Bill will add to the competitiveness and efficiency of British industry, which, after all, must be our prime economic aim. Before applying that test, perhaps I should say something about my qualifications for doing so, so that the House can weigh how much or how little to attach to my words.
I say at once that I do not claim to write for the Economist—or so far I have not been asked to do so—so perhaps the right hon. Lady will be disappointed in that. It is perhaps important to refer to my experience in that Lord Robens commented the other day on the lack of experience of hon. Members in making commercial decisions.
I have the ultimate responsibility for the commercial decisions of a group of companies which cover 14 factories in the Midlands and the North. These factories supply components of many types to much of the footwear, motor car and clothing trades throughout the United Kingdom and many other parts of the world. To us, the organisation of transport is one of our key rôles. It is the conveyor belt of our industry and if it breaks down, or something goes wrong with it, not only do our own factories suffer or cease to function but we can cause chaos and hold up production in hundreds of factories throughout the country. So it is from the background of my personal experience that I approach this part of the Bill.
I ask myself what industry needs in transport. On both sides we welcome methods to improve safety for the operator or safety for the public. There are at present countless regulations providing for safety in transport. I shall not take up time in questioning whether these are fully effective or even whether the Bill is necessary in whole or in part to fill in any requirements still wanting.
I turn to what I consider to be the three commercial requirements of transport. One must be flexibility because, however carefully one plans one's transport to carry one's goods up and down the country and to the ports, the pattern of trade and demand will change daily and hourly and we must have, for indus- 1332 try, a flexible system which allows us, for example, to divert a lorry load bound for London to Bristol or Birmingham at short notice. The need for flexibility was never better illustrated by the recent dock strikes, when we had to divert lorries from port to port in order to catch shipping space.
This means two things. We have to have the choice, which we now have, to use our own transport, or to use private carriers or British Road Services or container services and the like. They all have an important part to play. Industry and commerce must have choice. We must have the ability to choose the right transport for the occasion. I believe that the third thing we need is competition, because it is only our freedom to switch from one carrier to another or to use our own lorries that enables us to get the keenest price and the good service we demand. I believe that these are the requirements we must have.
How does the Bill measure up to this? I believe that it fails on all these points. The right hon. Lady says that she intends to coerce people into using British Railways and gave as her reasons that only by making us use the railways will we realise how good the new services are and, secondly, that we do not know the true economic costs of our own transport. I think that the right hon. Lady is presuming to know more about how to run our businesses than we do. It is a dangerous assumption that either the lady or the gentleman in Whitehall necessarily knows best.
The right hon. Lady also said that the private sector would not be eliminated. I believe that the private sector will survive but I query how it can survive in any competitive form on the crumbs which fall from British Railways' table, or how it can survive when its only job will be to plug holes left by the National Freight Corporation. I wonder whether it can be competitive and prosper—or, if it does prosper, whether it will not commit the Socialist crime of prosperity, which would bring upon it the penalty of integration, rationalisation or co-ordination into the public sector.
I believe that the consequences of the Bill on industry—and I believe this out of my own experience, as I am trying to avoid political controversy—could be grave increases in costs due to the direct 1333 costs in the Bill, to the costs to people in building up stocks along the pipeline because they cannot be sure of deliveries they now know are certain, and to the costs of the administrative form filling and the bureaucracy that goes with it. These costs will be heavy on industry.
At this time, when industry has been reeling under blow after blow and when it should be straining every nerve and sinew to get on with the job of production, I query whether it is right to introduce this Measure. By the Bill the Minister intends to carry out a major surgical operation on the jugular vein of our industrial and commercial life, and if she has miscalculated—and can she be sure that she has not?—she could put in jeopardy the jobs of millions and the chances of our economic recovery.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, west)
It falls to me on behalf of the House to offer congratulations to the hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) for overcoming what to me when I came to the House was a very great problem. He has spoken effectively and quietly and with a little touch of humour which the House enjoyed. If later in his speech he strayed into matters which are rather more controversial, he was following the recent pattern of maiden speeches. I am glad that he paid tribute to Mr. Herbert Bowden, now Lord Aylestone, whom we all respected and I am glad to associate myself with those remarks and to join the hon. Gentleman in wishing Lord Aylestone well in his new job. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, on many occasions in future and give us of his wisdom.
Although I am tempted to comment on the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), I hesitate to do so, because so many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate. However, I must say that I was glad to hear the opening remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), because the rest of his speech did not seem to give much approval to the fundamental issues of the Bill.
I should like to begin with a quotation from a speech of a famous predecessor of my right hon. Friend. Having read the quotation, I will give her the refer- 1334 ence. It was during the Second Reading of a Railways Bill. I quote:I have endeavoured to put the case of a very voluminous Measure very shortly before the House. I believe if this Bill is adopted that, within a very measurable time, we can look forward to increased prosperity in the railway industry…".The concluding sentence is most relevant:I believe it puts the railways on a sounder basis than they have ever been on before, and I believe it will avoid a railway catastrophe such as that which is now disturbing the coalfields.The reference to that is Volume 142 of HANSARD for the 26th of May, 1921, column 359, and the Minister concerned was Sir Eric Geddes.
Ever since that time, which was when I started my railway career, every Minister of Transport bringing forward legislation has had the aim and object of a reorganisation to make the railways pay. None has ever succeeded. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall who put it in very cautious language when he said that he did not think that my right hon. Friend would succeed. I do not believe that she will succeed in making the railways pay.
It is true that she is relieving the railways of some of the burden because of the responsibility which the Ministry of Transport is adopting for subsidising what are called uneconomic lines, but the basis on which she is founding her hope is not absolutely right. First, paragraph 34 of Cmnd. 3470 makes the assumption that the railways will be left with 200 million tons of freight traffic, but 132 million tons of that will be coal and coke traffic, traffic which is bound to decrease over the years. Secondly, with the improvement and money spent on the roads and the great increase in the passenger traffic carried by private cars and, thirdly but by no means least, the fact that, although the great saviour of the railways was supposed to be the freight-liner trains, the railways are now to share those profits with the National Freight Corporation, this is not a basis on which the railways can be expected to pay in future.
I must make it clear that I think that there is a great deal of good in the Bill and if, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, I concentrate on my criticisms, I hope that my right hon. Friend will not get my views out of balance; there is so little time to develop all my arguments. It is plain that the 1335 Bill provides the new legislative framework for a new policy for the railways. Those of us who were here during the passing of the 1947 Transport Act believe that the right policies for the railways were prescribed by that legislation and that if that policy had been given time to work out, we would not be discussing this Bill today.
The provisions of the Bill will undoubtedly put the railways on a better footing, but one wonders whether this complex Measure, involving another dose of organisational changes—and, my goodness, during all my years, we have had organisation, disorganisation, reorganisation, integration, disintegration, reintegration, centralisation and regionalisation, until the railwaymen are absolutely sick of it—will be any better solution than that conceived more than 20 years ago.
However, I suppose that my right hon. Friend bases her arguments against the reintroduction of the British Transport Authority on the argument of paragraph 11 of Cmnd. 3470 which says:The lesson of the British Transport Commission between 1947 and 1962 was not that the concept of integration was wrong but that a body of that size and range of responsibilities found it difficult in practice to get to grips with the basic problems of reorganization …That is not only unfair; it is untrue. By 1962 British Railways were paying their way and the road services had made a profit of £10 million. It was because of the policy of the Tories in the legislation of 1953 and 1962 that the disorganisation took place. It may be that because of the disorganisation and reorganisation over the years this complicated solution is the only practical solution at this time.
I am prepared to accept this, but I am afraid that my right hon. Friend has not really given us authority or basis for this. She is in conflict with a very impressive body of opinion, including the T.U.C., the railway unions, the majority of transport experts, and last but not least, the 1967 Annual Conference of the Labour Party, which passed a resolution that all this could not be done without a central authority. This she has refused to have.
I understand that the original idea was that the Minister would have been the overlord, or should I say overlady, in this 1336 respect. This was discarded, rightly so, because quite naturally the Ministry of Transport is not equipped for the task of co-ordinating the various nationalised industries and their problems. I refer particularly to this idea of getting a proper integration between road and rail services. We have been offered a Freight Integration Council. This is the third occasion on which my right hon. Friend's Department has offered this kind of council to the House of Commons, in order to keep it quiet. The first time was in 1953. At that time, during the passage of the 1953 Act my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) and myself put down an Amendment to exempt Scotland from the provisions of that Act.
At that time Scotland was up in arms because it feared the loss of co-operation which then existed. The Conservative Party was worried and editorials were written in the Scotsman. Something had to be done. The then Minister of Transport, the present Viscount Boyd came to the House and said, "Let us have the Transport Advisory Council for Scotland." My right hon. Friend and I were not very strongly in favour of the idea. What was the assurance we got? The Minister said that he would not be a party to creating a body and asking important people to sit on it, if that body were to have no useful functions to perform. That body met once, decided that it had no useful function to perform and never met again.
That was the first occasion. The second occasion was during the passage of the 1962 Act and again the matter was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire who asked questions about the co-ordination in the Act and how this was to be achieved. The then Minister, the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) said he was to do it. What did he give us—the Nationalised Transport Advisory Council. When I ventured to criticise him he said that one could set up a committee as a facade, in order to deceive people into thinking that one intended to do something when one, in fact, did not intend it to work. He promised that this was not so on this occasion. I give the right hon. Member credit. I believe that he really meant what he said, but it has not worked.
1337 It has met two or three times, but it has been completely ineffective. Am I right to be suspicious about another advisory council from the same stable? This one will be just as ineffective as the others. In my view the failure to provide an overall authority for road-rail integration is the greatest weakness in the Bill. Without it the issues which will arise will lead to disputes and acrimony which will be absolutely insurmountable and the problems that my right hon. Friend had with the railway guards and drivers will be chicken-feed compared with what is likely to arise under the new set-up.
What is happening? First of all, British Railways as we know it will be broken up. The whole of the railways' sundries traffic, which provides employment for 30,000 railwaymen will be handed over to the National Freight Corporation. These men will no longer be railwaymen and I was rather disappointed to note that during the course of my right hon. Friend's speech, when she outlined the provisions of the Bill, she made no mention of the human problems which will arise through its implementation.
This is one such problem, because these 30,000 men will no longer be railwaymen. Not only will their pensions be affected but their privileges, their perquisites, and everything associated with the job. I also know that with the falling membership of the N.U.R., there will be a problem between that union and the Transport and General Workers Union about the membership of these 30,000 men. I will not lay any bets as to who is likely to win but there will be problems. Only an overall authority in charge of both the National Freight Corporation and the Railways Board will be able to handle this.
There is an even more difficult area of conflict than that. The National Freight Corporation has placed upon it two obligations which are bound to create complications. The first one is in Clause l(l,a,ii):To secure that, in the provision of those services, goods are carried by rail whenever such carriage is efficient and economic;".That is a very good idea, but there is also, in Clause 3(1), a financial duty on the board—under the 1962 Act—which says that it has to pay its way.
1338 The fact is that the National Freight Corporation has no financial responsibility for the railways. Its only interest is in the freightliner company, which is likely to be the most profitable and of which it will have 51 per cent. of the profit. This is not a very good deal for the railways. The instinct of the management of the Freight Corporation will be to ensure the financial stability of its own business. There must be some overall authority or independent body to examine the workings of each board. It is all very well saying that the National Freight Corporation has the responsibility for seeing whether goods should go by rail or road, and in the event of disagreement there will be a new body with which to raise an objection.
It is a ridiculous situation when two nationalised industries will be fighting out problems with a licensing authority. If we had an overall authority it could do the costing which will be very difficult. I remember my experience in the Nationalised Industries Select Committee, when we had all sorts of ideas about railway costing. The Treasury has one method of costing, the Ministry another, British Railways have another, and they never agree. How costs will be arrived at in order to say whether it will be more economical by rail or road I have not the foggiest idea. Apart from the human problems to which the Steering Group rightly drew attention, there will be many serious management problems on which only an overall authority over these two bodies will have any effect.
I appreciate that many other hon. Members wish to speak and therefore I shall mention one or two other problems in which I am interested without dealing with them in detail. First, pensions. I do not think that the provision in the Bill is satisfactory because there will be fewer and fewer salaried staff employed by the railways and the burden on the superannuation fund will be great. We know that the railway superannuitants are always last in the line.
Secondly, electrification. My right hon. Friend announced today that, due to certain circumstances, the electrification of the line from Weaver Junction to Mother-well is not to go ahead. A lot of people will be very disappointed over this, particularly the new Chairman of the Railways 1339 Board. Electrification of the line from Weaver Junction to Glasgow and Edinburgh is now out completely. People who have been working on this matter will be disbanded. If the possibility of electrification is raised again in future, it will cost about twice as much as it would have cost now. I am tremendously disappointed that this decision has been made.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
Is my hon. Friend saying that he considers this to be an irrevocable decision by the Minister?
§ Mr. Steele
I do not see how it can be otherwise, because the gangs and technical staff and others who were making arrangements for electrification will have to be disbanded. In view of this decision, the capital investment of the railways will have to be aimed at diesels.
I should have liked to say something about board membership but time forbids. On redundancy, now that there is a new Bill in respect of redundancy for miners, clearly the redundancy provisions in this Bill must be changed because there is no reason why railwaymen should be treated less favourably than the miners.
I was delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend the Minister said about Clause 99 concerning abnormal loads and that she is having second thoughts about its application. It certainly heartened me. I was asked to speak today on behalf of many of my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies. We are very conscious of what would happen if this tax were imposed on vehicles. I agree with the hon. Member for Worcester that most of this material is built in the development districts. Scotland would be at a great disadvantage if this tax were imposed. It is irrelevant and unfair, and I should not be prepared to support it.
I am convinced that the great error is that we do not have an overall authority for integration between rail and road services for which we have always hoped. I trust that in Committee my right hon. Friend the Minister will remedy that defect.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. As hon. Members can see, almost everyone in the Chamber is trying to catch my eye. Reasonably brief speeches will help.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
I always follow what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) says with great interest. He talked about the 1921 speech of Lord Geddes, about the railway deficit and the 1923 regrouping. I remember that during the passage of the 1962 Act he tried, with great robustness, to resist the rearrangement of British Railways. I hope that, in view of what he has said today, he will, at the same length and with the same robustness, resist the changes now proposed for British Railways. I look forward to hearing from him at great length in Committee.
The point which the Minister left out of her speech was that the present railway deficit is less than the deficit in 1964. In 1964, the deficit was £120 million. Today, it is £150 million. But, in fact, it is 1 per cent. less because the cost of living has increased by 10 per cent. and the £ has been devalued by 16 per cent. I am sorry that the right hon. Lady missed that out of her speech. Perhaps she will make that point later.
The Minister's speech today and the Government speech yesterday on South Africa prove the complete incompatibility between pure Socialism and a prosperous country and responsible government. The Prime Minister's secret is that for the last three years he has managed to keep this from the public view, but now he is no longer able to do so. The crude cost to the nation of what the Minister proposes is an increase of £60 million on the rate burden without any right of appeal. Lest it should be thought that the taxpayer will benefit from the Bill, it should be pointed out that that will not happen.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am interested in the hon. Member's statement that there will be an increase in the rates of £60 million. Would he break that figure down so that I might understand it? It does not relate to anything in my Bill.
§ Mr. Webster
The right hon. Lady knows that the cost of setting up passenger services in urban areas is £60 million.
§ Mrs. Castle
We should get this matter clear. The Bill makes clear that the provision concerning the passenger transport authorities for suburban railway 1341 finances in their area is specifically confined to the conurbations where the losses are, not £60 million, but £8 to £10 million. The figure of £60 million applies to stopping services all over the country, and they are not involved.
§ Mr. Webster
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. I am always glad to give way to her, although she was not glad to give way during her speech. Clause 9 gives her power to set up a passenger transport authority in any part of the country. Therefore, what she says is absolute eyewash and is almost on the level of the parody which I put to her just now about how the railway deficit was less than it was in 1964.
There will not be a reduction in taxation. The taxpayer will have to pay £35 million to take over British Electric Traction. The taxpayer has already suffered an increase in the railway deficit of £20 million. There is an estimate of £40 million in the Bill in vehicle taxation alone. Is this justice for an industry which has had its excise duty doubled, has suffered three increases in fuel tax and has lost its investment allowances? If that is the right hon. Lady's idea of justice—I will not finish that sentence.
The name of the Home Secretary, not that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is on the Bill. The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should allow this Bill to be presented straight after devaluation, after the Prime Minister has forced a crisis of confidence and the £ is tottering again, despite the 16 per cent. devaluation, shows the inability of the Government to put right the affairs of the country. I shall probably be accused of being disloyal by pointing out the defects of the Government in trying to put the country right.
The point which my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) made about the chairmanship of British Railways being hawked around, it is rumoured, seven people, the Parliamentary Secretary's visit to Canada to ask a prominent railwayman there to become Chairman of British Railways and things of this sort are nothing compared with the Minister's failure to achieve an adequate salary structure for the Chairman and top management. If the Government want to obtain people who can put matters right, they will have 1342 to pay them properly and ensure that there are prospects for people further down the scale to be adequately remunerated for a very hard and thankless job. One sees distinguished and devoted servants like Lord Beeching, Lord Hinton, Mr. Shirley and Mr. Fiennes leaving the railways distressed and depressed.
This is the industry which has now also lost the freightliner train, which was to be its white hope, to the National Freight Corporation. It is simply a new bureaucracy with yet another bureaucracy —the Freight Integration Council—set up to try to make sure that there will not be friction between the N.F.C. and British Railways. I cannot believe that there will not be friction between them and so it may be, for once, that this new Council will have purpose in trying to prevent that type of friction. It is known that communication in the top ranks of railway management is not very good. To set in a new authority will make it much more difficult at this time.
The argument that licensing will relieve congestion is simply boloney. It will mean that a person is prevented from having a vehicle of more than 16 tons. Therefore, instead of using proper commercial judgment and getting a 30-tonner, he will keep his vehicle size at 16 tons or less, thus causing more than twice as many vehicles to be on the roads, particularly in the city centres, when using the railway depôts. The fact that what is called a special authorisation has to be given to operate a vehicle of more than 16 tons shows that the mentality of the Minister is that this is a privilege which is given to this type of haulier.
The railways will have the right to object and are given 14 days in which to do so. In planning matters, a person who applies for permission lodges his application. Nobody is advised; it is kept secret. In this case, however, the exact reverse will apply and those who might wish to object will be gratuitously informed at public expense. They then have to prove that on either one, two or three of the grounds of speed, reliability and cost, their service is almost as good as that of the person who is applying to give it, regardless of the choice of the customer.
If those who succeed in having an application for a special authorisation 1343 overruled then fall down and fail to carry out their undertaking—as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary told me today—no damages or compensation will be given to the person who has falsely been deprived of his licence. It should be almost a criminal matter with damages involved, but there will be none.
There is, of course, a right of appeal, but nobody can afford to keep vehicles when they become obsolescent and there is no use for them. Would somebody who was not allowed to use them wait and go broke in the hope that one day he might succeed in an appeal? There is also the possibility of appeal by the railways should circumstances change, when they can apply for a revocation order, with the result that a haulier who has invested in expensive vehicles could lose his fleet in the twinkling of an eye.
What about one of our best exporting companies, the Leyland Motor Co., well known for its commercial vehicle exports? One of the brightest things in British industry has been the functions of this company and its commercial vehicle exports. How will it manage to export if it does not have a safe domestic market? At a time when industrial management is being hectored and lectured by Ministers of the Crown, from the Prime Minister downwards, to work harder and to do better but is having its freedom of decision removed, it is small wonder that our application to join the Common Market has been turned down, because the Government's proposals would be completely contradictory to the Treaty of Rome. The Minister knows that an appeal is already being made against the German labour plan, to which she referred with great enthusiasm, to the Council of the European Economic Community on the ground that it is contrary to the Treaty of Rome.
What will happen to our people when we have the annual pre-Christmas railway strike and the annual pre-Christmas freeze-up of points? Who will deliver the perishable and essential goods that are needed to keep people alive?
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
The hon. Member will, of course, agree that the Leyland Motor Co. is not altogether condemnatory with regard to the Bill. He has not conceded this.
§ Mr. Webster
I wonder whether the hon. Member met any of his constituents who came yesterday to see Members of Parliament. I met a number of mine and some of my neighbours' constituents. I met a lot of people from Wales who had been waiting for about four hours. They said that no Member of Parliament had come out to see them and they were furious. They said that the effect of the Bill upon a development area would be exceedingly hard. They said that the penalty on heavy indivisible loads, on which there would be a tax of £15 a mile, would hit the development areas exceedingly harshly. I was glad that as a result of the pressure which we have applied, both at Question Time and in this debate, the Minister will relent. I hope that she will relent thoroughly and make matters a good deal easier.
I hope that the Minister will also relent regarding Schedule 11, which specifies a charge of £50 for a 3-ton vehicle and £190 for an 8-ton vehicle, because the development areas will be very hard hit by this. Many of the heavy loads are plant which is required by bodies such as the Central Electricity Generating Board, another nationalised industry.
I sympathise with the Chairman of British Electric Traction concerning the take-over of his company. He was treated to one of the most brutal forms of blackmail by threat and he was then given a tempting offer which, in the interests of his shareholders—who include many pension trusts with workmen's pensions involved; he had to consider this—he had to accept. This method of picking off companies like that, taking the biggest operator and then taking, as, I am sure, we will be hearing from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), the best routes of the other companies, is designed by the Minister to ensure the withering-away of private interest which has served the country well.
It is illusory to imagine that passenger transport authorities, for which Clause 9 provides, will be set up only in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Newcastle, because the Clause states clearly "any area". One-seventh of every authority is to be what are called "independent members" nominated by the Minister. With the different and varying 1345 authorities, there is bound to be difference of opinion and the Minister's nominees will always hold the balance, particularly if they have the way in towards the purse strings.
Clause 10(l,vi) deals with the paying of the railway deficit, which I consider to be nearly £60 million in these areas. If the Minister does not agree with my figures, will she please tell me what they are for the four areas concerned and in the urban areas?
§ Mr. Webster
I should be grateful if the right hon. Lady would publish the figures and give the methods by which they are calculated.
What incentive to efficiency will the Minister, as arbitrator, have between a passenger transport authority and a railway company where the railway company is simply the agent for running an unremunerative service and the P.T.A. pays the bill and precepts the local authority? What defence or compensation will there be to the ratepayer whose assets are being stolen from him under a formula the details of which were given to four hon. Members on this side of the House from Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle? It seems that nobody on the benches opposite is interested in this point. I hope that a number of hon. Members opposite will serve on the Standing Committee and take an acute interest in it. I gather that the formula is almost nothing.
Why do he have this P.T.A. business before local government reform? If it is right to do it after local government reform for the lesser areas, why do it for the most important cities before local government reform? Why do we have to give power to the Executive under Clause 15(6) when it states—this is one of the most outstanding Clauses I have ever seen:Notwithstanding anything in this Part of this Act, nothing done by the Executive for a designated area shall be held to be unlawful on the ground that the approval of the Authority for that area to the doing of that thing was required by or under this Part of this Act and that it was done without obtaining that approval.1346 I know of no blanker cheque in the history of mankind. Why are we giving this power to the Executive? I should like the Minister of State to tell us this when, in this intellectual dialogue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), he winds up the debate. I shall be grateful if he can tell us the purpose of this subsection.
We come, then, not only to Clause 10, which gives power to sell netrol and spares, but to Clause 45, which has been dealt with so adequately by my hon. Friend, which provides for the extension of public ownership enterprise, if that is what it is called. What is the purpose of these Clauses? What benefit will they give to anybody in this country?
I wonder why the Bill has been introduced. Is it that the Minister of Transport has said to the Prime Minister, "Either I have this Bill, regardless of the state of the economy or I go"? If not, why does not the right hon. Lady go. Surely we should all have the state of the economy as our prime interest, and not simply want to extend public ownership, despite the Letter of Intent. This is in complete contradiction of the Letter of Intent, and yet the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer propose to allow this Minister to try to gain control of the means of distribution of everything in this country. This will put at least 10 per cent. on all our export costs. It will take the cutting edge off the British economy. Why does the Prime Minister keep the right hon. Lady there, and tolerate her in this appointment? Is it that he is frightened that if she were to go to the back benches the Left-wing would really have a champion? My right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition said yesterday that the Prime Minister was first class at looking after No. 1, but he is allowing this Bill to go through, and it will be a first-class disaster to this country.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Unlike the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), I rise to give my warmest support to the Bill. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) suggested that the Bill was the result of the thinking of an extreme Left-wing Socialist. He will probably be surprised to find the Bill receiving 1347 unanimous support on this side of the House from all sections of the Labour Party.
I support the Bill because it accepts many of the principles which many of us have been advocating for many years. It accepts the principle that we can no longer go on with our overcrowded roads, with their daily death toll, while our railways are under-used. It accepts the principle of reducing the unfair charges which the railways have had to pay for far too long. It does this by proposing to write off the debts which have been accrued by the railways, largely because of these unfair charges. It also accepts the principle of assessing the true costs of transport under the different methods which are available to us.
I agree with the hon. Member for Worcester that it is a pity that we have been given only one day to debate a Bill of this size. This Measure contains at least four other Bills. I do not know why he should complain about this, because for this problem to be tackled comprehensively, if this Measure had not been introduced, four other Bills would have had to be brought before the House. The hon. Gentleman seems to be complaining about my right hon. Friend's productivity in bringing these four Measures together in one Bill so that everyone can balance one aspect of the problem with another when these issues are discussed in Committee.
Why is my right hon. Friend being so modest about road haulage charges vis-à-vis those in the great centres of private enterprise which are so often lauded by hon. Gentlemen opposite, for example, West Germany? Many of us would have liked to have seen a much more realistic approach, perhaps on the German lines, but no doubt this will follow the discussions on the true costs.
The hon. Gentleman repeated the usual charge that no such Bill as this should be introduced when the economy is in such a parlous state. It is just when the economy is in a parlous state that it is necessary to get on with reorganising the very basis of our economy, and in particular reorganising this great national service on which our economy and industry depends.
The hon. Gentleman also repeated, in slightly different terms, the charge made 1348 from the Front Bench opposite during our last debate on transport, that the Bill merely represented further nationalisation, and proposedsubstituting for a highly competitive industry a monolithic State enterprise….".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1967; Vol. 753, c. 750.]This is being said by hon. Gentlemen who represent the party which was responsible for the establishment of public ownership of London transport to deal with the chaos which existed then. After the 1951 General Election, one of their first acts was the nationalisation of MacBrayne Steamers in Scotland, part of the transport industry. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were also responsible for keeping the greater part of British Road Services nationalised, after their fruitless attempts to destroy it, and the reason for this was that our road haulage services had proved to be more highly efficient and effective than private enterprise had been, and even their own supporters demanded that they put an end to denationalisation.
The interesting thing to note about the phrase "substituting for a highly competitive industry a monolithic State enterprise" is that when the Conservative Party calls for sacrifices from the common people of this country, for one purpose or another, hon. Gentlemen opposite refer to us as a nation, but when they are opposing Labour or Socialist Measures they refer to us as a state. This is supposed to be an epithet, but it refers to the same thing.
The hon. Gentleman talked about a highly competitive industry. It is interesting to note that he did not say a "highly successful competitive industry", a phrase which one usually hears from the other side about private enterprise. The reason for this is that it has not been a highly successful competitive enterprise in any sector of the national transport scheme.
It may be that the hon. Gentleman is too conscious, of the fact that the present situation is a direct result of too much interference and hesitation by Tory Governments during the 13 years from 1951 to 1964. The Tory Government were never tired of praising the efficiency and enterprise of the British Transport Commission, but the hon. Gentleman is aware that the British Transport Commission, 1349 and the railways themselves, were, for the first time, earning a profit in 1951–52, when the Conservative Government took over and started interfering with them? This is where and when the story of the growing deficits began, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know this only too well.
In 1958, hon. Gentlemen opposite were claiming that but for the temporary economic recession at that time the B.T.C. would have been "right on target". Three years later, in November, 1961, they were telling us that despite the growing deficit in the railways' accounts everything was going to be all right. They chided those of us who had been talking of transport as a social service with the fact that if such wild ideas were put into practice we might have vast deficits amounting to as much as £100 million a year. The Minister then said, "We believe we have got the balance right". How did they get the balance right? The right balance, according to what was said in introducing the 1962 Bill, was a loss not of £100 million but £150 million, with an estimated £160 million for the following year, followed by a loss of £134 million in 1963 and £121 million in 1964—and now we understand that we are faced this year with a loss of £153 million.
The story of deficits in the railway industry began under a Conservative Government, and these deficits were maintained under Conservative Governments. We are therefore delighted that we are now reaching the point where we can say goodbye to this sorry story, which was described by a Tory Minister as "the right balance". Incidentally, in 1961, after Dr. Beeching's appointment, we were promised enormous savings to balance these deficits. During the six years since that time the savings arising from these wholesale railway closures have amounted to only £17 million.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
The hon. Member is expressing delight that the railways will be relieved of this deficit. Does not he appreciate that the deficit is being wiped out purely by a currency device?
§ Mr. Hynd
It is an accounting arrangement, but when a continual deficit of about £150 million, year by year, is loaded on to the railways—a deficit which will never be repaid, anyhow—it 1350 cannot make any difference if the deficit is written off and the railways are given a chance to begin to earn a reasonable profit on their activities.
We have had ample opportunity to hear what many hon. Members opposite have been saying about the closures under the Beeching régime, and we hope that they will take this opportunity of following us into the Lobby this evening.
The interesting thing is that neither in the last debate nor in this have we heard a word about any alternatives from hon. Members opposite, although they have opposed everything the Government propose. Is it that they are satisfied that the present situation should be allowed to rip? Are they satisfied that we should go on with these great deficits—£150 million a year—adding again to the existing confusion on the roads? Do not they want to do anything about this confusion on the roads, which costs so much in terms of the daily toll of lives, to say nothing about the estimated £1,000 million cost to the nation arising from delays and accidents? What is their policy? So far as we can judge from what they have said during the debate they are happy to continue with the impossible situation that they created during their 13 years of office.
I speak for many thousands of railway-men and others outside the industry in giving a warm welcome to the Minister for her courage and her practical new approach, which seeks to bring an end to the confusion and disasters of the Marples régime and restore the policy of integration of our transport services which, right from the 1920 Commission, has been the policy advocated by every independent body that has inquired into transport problems.
A Bill of this size cannot adequately be covered in the time available to a back bench speaker, involving as it does a complete reorganisation of this immense and complex industry, and containing so many proposals and involving so many facets of the industry's activities.
I confine myself to asking the Minister one or two questions about the details of the Bill. First, and probably most important, when may we expect to receive the results of the investigation into the true costs of road and rail transport, taking into account the £179 million 1351 annually loaded on to the railways in respect of tracks and signalling, for which there is no comparable burden on road transport?
Secondly, why should not all the pending and further railway closures be suspended until such time as this assessment has been made and the true comparative costs established? Until, for that matter, the results of the review of the Regional Economic Councils will be made known? It may prove, as it has in the past, that certain lines should not be closed. For example, under the Beeching Plan the railway line to Fort William was to be closed down, although another Minister in the same Tory Government was arranging for the building of a great new factory at Fort William. In the end, they had to cancel the idea of cutting out the railway line.
This could happen again. As a result of the investigation into the true costs of road and rail transport it could be that many of the lines and services which are now proposed to be closed down will turn out to be more economical than any available alternative form of transport.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the set-up, and especially with the freight services organisation? Would it not have been a much more practical proposition to restore the old British Transport Commission which, during its lifetime, proved so effective as the blanket organisation for the sectors of transport which it then covered? With all the separate organisations which now exist, or which will exist—the British Railways Board, the National Freight Corporation and Passenger Transport Authorities, to, say nothing of British Road Services, the port authority and, even, now the air services—there are bound to be clashes of interest, and decisions will have to be taken, many of them quickly.
I do not see how decisions can be taken effectively and speedily by the Minister or by an advisory council. Many situations are bound to arise in which urgent decisions are needed at top level which cannot be dealt with promptly and adequately by a Government Department, and which ought to be dealt with by an overall body. I would have preferred to see the restoration of the British Transport Commission.
1352 My next point concerns the separation of the National Freight Corporation from the railways. Sufficient has been said about this to make it unnecessary for me to go into details, but nobody has yet made the point that the Bill provides that the National Freight Corporation will cater for traffic originating by road and the railways for traffic originating by rail. Is the Minister satisfied that such a distinction can always be clearly drawn? Those with practical experience of transport know that it is not always easy to say where the traffic substantially originated. If a question of this kind arises, who will decide? If it is to be the Freight Integration Council it will not be adequate. It will not work speedily enough. I ask my right hon. Friend to look closely at this question.
I agree with what has repeatedly been said that the separation of the N.F.C. from the railways is taking from them one of the services upon which everyone had assumed they would largely depend for their financial viability. In the last year traffic increased by about 400 per cent., representing £2½ million. We understand that it will treble next year, if things continue as they are going. This must be a serious blow to railway finances. I do not understand the object of separating it from the railways, which are quite capable of managing the freight services.
Finally, there is the question of safeguarding the interests of both the railway employees and the public. It is true that the Bill proposes a certain extension of opportunities for appeals to the T.U.C.C.s, but most people who have had anything to do with those organisations are worried not so much about the opportunities for appeal but about their lack of powers and nothing in the Bill extends those powers to enable the councils to make more effective recommendations and take account of all the factors involved in considering whether a service should be maintained.
I know that my right hon. Friend fully realises the vital importance in this great new experiment of carrying the employees with her and bringing confidence into the ranks of the workers in the railways and elsewhere, but there is no clearly stated provision in the Bill about the rights of employees to full consultation up to the top level. What forms of consultation will be created—so far 1353 as I understand the Bill from a rapid reading, and no one could have done more in the time that we have had—are apparently to be left entirely to the Minister to decide later. She has not said on what considerations she will base decisions. This is highly important.
The unions are greatly concerned. They are already concerned about who will be catering for whom in these new centres where roads and railways will be mixed up and there will be freight liner employees, local passenger services and area passenger services employees, railwaymen, local authority employees and others. The delineation of some of these fields may be extremely difficult. It would reassure the workers affected by the Bill if the Minister made an early statement about what form consultations will take and about how the problem of who employs whom is to be resolved.
As so many hon. Members wish to speak and time is so short, I will confine myself to these questions at this stage, although I hope to have an opportunity of asking a number more later on. I hope that the Minister will consider that my questions are constructive and sufficiently important to justify an answer, since they urgently concern many thousands of railwaymen as well as others besides myself.
I repeat what I said at the beginning, that I give the Bill and its general purposes and principles the warmest possible support. I hope that it will be given overwhelming support in the Lobbies. I can assure the Minister that, given certain assurances, it will have the full support of the workers in the railway industry.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I would begin as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. John Hynd) did by dealing with the size and shape of the Bill, though I part company with him in what he thought about the Bill's having one day's debate. To bring in a comprehensive Bill like this, covering almost every aspect of our transport system and affecting almost every constituency, with only one day allotted for Second Reading is almost an insult to Parliament.
I am not in the least persuaded by the right hon. Lady saying so gaily at the beginning of her speech that she has 1354 been busy in issuing quickly four small White Papers through the Vote Office so that Parliament may be well-informed. Parliament is not well-informed about all aspects of this Bill. Indeed, it is raw and unfitted to receive the Bill.
This is as big as several Bills in the past—including the Butler Education Act of 1944, but we had wonderful preparation for that Bill. Other examples are the Army Act of 1955 and the Income Tax Act of 1952, but they were largely Consolidation Measures and much of the work was done in specialist Committees. I cannot agree with the right hon. Lady's claim that it was right to bring forward this Bill at this stage because she had prepared Parliament so well for its reception. In general, the House is grossly under-informed about many of the powers and provisions in it.
The Bill has been largely engineered by the Minister from behind closed doors, beyond the reach of the ordinary Member of Parliament. A classic example of this procedure was the appointment of Lord Hinton as the personal adviser to the right hon. Lady's predecessor, When we pressed her predecessor for Lord Hinton's findings, we could not get a word out of him.
For these reasons, what has happened today is a classic argument for setting up Specialist Committees away from the Floor of the House but composed of Members of the House with powers to send for persons and papers and really create a large informed body of hon. Members of both sides on so wide a subject as transport.
At this late hour, when there is little time left for back-bench speeches, I propose to be brief, and I hope that the Minister of State will try to deal with my points. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) on his excellent and hard-hitting speech. He likes speeches in that form and he made a much more telling speech in reply to the Minister than she made in introducing the Bill.
As the Minister of State will know, I am concerned only with Part II of the Bill. There are three main Clauses in this Part. Under Clause 9, the Minister will be required to make, in respect of each passenger transport area, an Order 1355 constituting the authority and the executive designating the area. Under Clause 17, she can make an Order transferring to the executive the undertakings of the local authorities and other bodies within the area. Her powers to make a transfer of control Order are enshrined in Clause 19.
But the most important aspect of those three Clauses was raised by the hon. Member for Attercliffe, and is wrapped up in the word "consultations". Before making a designation Order under Clause 9, the Minister is required, by subsection (2), to consult every local authority in the designated area or whose area is contiguous with that area and she must also be satisfied… that a reasonable opportunity to make representations with respect to the area to be designated by the Order has been afforded to any person providing road passenger transport services by stage carriages within or to and from that area.and representations must be considered before the designation Order is made.
I agree with the hon. Member for Attercliffe that these consultations will be extremely difficult. I wish that the right hon. Lady would stop using expressions like, "Public service transport should not be the subject of private profit." With a magnificent fleet of 135 vehicles, a neighbour of mine has just made a profit for the ratepayers of £37,000, and why not? Surely it is much better to make a profit on the vehicles which the people are using than a deficit and a consequent indent on the rate fund. Somehow the right hon. Lady always presents this matter as if to make a fair or reasonable profit by a municipality or a private body like my own company were an unsocial act. In transport we make only a fair profit. Indeed, some of the municipalities cannot even make a profit. I wish that the right hon. Lady would stop using such expressions, which she uses only in terms of political prejudice.
There are two main blemishes in the Bill about which I complain. First, it will give the public transport authority and its executives a virtual monopoly in the area and, worse still, it will free them from the control of the Traffic Commissioners. Secondly, the executives will have the power to refuse or revoke consents. In one part of the Bill the 1356 authority is to proceed by negotiation, but it will have power to take over certain services outside its operations. For example, consider some of the attractive services which I am privileged to operate as Chairman of the Lancashire United Transport. If I were compelled to surrender four or five of my best routes, that would probably reduce a healthy company to a state of marginal health as a business. If one were to go further it would be possible to depress my active and healthy company in such a way that I should be compelled to go to the authority and beg to be taken over. If that is not nationalisation on tiptoe, I do not know what it is.
I am privileged to represent part of Manchester and I therefore have a dual interest in that I speak on behalf of that city and on behalf of a large operating company. If the authority proceeds in the way that I have indicated it will cause so much bad blood within the industry and so many difficulties in the consultations which must take place that I beg the Minister of State to think again. If the Traffic Commissioners are to be destroyed and if the authority and the executives are not to be placed within the control of the Traffic Commissioners, then I foresee difficulties. I ask the Minister of State not to allow the authority to be able to appeal to the Ministry of Transport for power to take my routes away from me. That would be the worst kind of monopoly and a sneak-thief way of bringing everything into one basket.
What happens if the authority and its executives, possessing powers which are often against the interests of the industry for which I am privileged to hold direct responsibility, behaves in the way which I have indicated? What would happen to many of the excellent managers, operating engineers and others in the industry? Far from harmonising transport, it would do more harm than has been done in this country for many years. The Government should not think that giving peremptory powers for the authority to do this most difficult and sometimes most unpleasant duty to its neighbours and friends is a certain way to bring social peace. It will work in exactly the opposite direction.
This is a comprehensive Bill of 169 Clauses and 18 Schedules, many of them 1357 technical and requiring detailed consideration. Many hon. Members are extremely well-informed on the subject, but they have had to devote their working days to it. My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) and Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) have devoted hours to the subject. Can they be expected to spend all their time, almost representing the House of Commons, in discussing the details of such a Bill? It almost compels Parliament to set up specialist Committees.
Both the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester know that it has been said in the last few years that the public service vehicle, the bus, was on the way out. At the P.T.A. conference at Folkestone, I heard the Head of Economic Research of the Transport Holding Company refer to the bus passenger as a person who might be considered a second-class citizen. Perhaps I might tell a personal story. My small granddaughter, Charlotte, goes to a rather smart school in Kensington, travelling every morning by bus. Most of her school friends travel by motor car, some of them by Bentley. When they ask her why she travels by bus she replies, quite properly, "Because I am the only one among you who can afford to go by bus."
The worst mistake which the United States made was to allow a decline in its public vehicle service because it became hypnotised by the motor car. We must not fall into that trap. In the year before his death President Kennedy sought appropriation to spend £199 million in rehabilitating the public service vehicle in the United States.
If the Bill improved the public service vehicle and the public service I should accept it, but that needs much more analysis and thought than is contained in the Bill. Any attempts along those lines ought to be made openly by Parliament without conferring power on a remote authority in a way which might lead to local quarrels.
§ Mr. Swingler
The hon. Member knows a great deal about transport. He referred to President Kennedy's action. Does he not realise that the Bill is presented precisely in order to take power to make grants which have never before been made in this country—for example. 1358 capital grants and bus replacement grants—to rehabilitate public transport under locally controlled transport boards. That is exactly what is proposed in the Bill.
§ Sir R. Cary
Then the Minister of State would be helpful if in Committee he allowed us that degree of redrafting of many of the Clauses which would perfect the Bill. If he will give an undertaking to the Opposition that he will carefully accept such redrafting, I will even vote for the Bill.
Apart from my illustration vis-à-vis the late President Kennedy and the United States, a classic example occurred in this country the other day. I was glad to hear the right hon. Lady say, in effect, "We must remember that millions of our people must be carried by public service vehicles for some years to come". In Nottingham the managing director of Griffin and Spalding, that great store in the centre of the city, found that the store was empty and the goods unsold, with the entire Nottingham municipal bus fleet on strike. He offered to pay the men in the depôt the £1 a week extra which they were seeking, provided that they brought their vehicles on to the roads and the customers of Nottingham to his and other stores.
That implies that there is a responsibility on individual retailers and business men to see that public service vehicles maintain a viable and healthy service. The Bill in general, and Part II of it in particular, with the power which the Minister proposes to confer on the Authority and the Executive, is not the right method of achieving that aim.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
I am extremely worried about the effect of the Bill on Scotland. This feeling is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House who, like me, represent Scottish constituencies.
It has been estimated by the Confederation of British Industry that in Scotland the increase in transport costs as a direct result of the Bill will be over £30 million and that a disproportionately large amount of that will come from Scotland. This must substantially reduce the effectiveness of the incentives which the Board of Trade gives to encourage industry to come to Scotland and I am sure that at 1359 least some firms will be deterred from coming north of the Border when they see what these extra charges mean.
Perhaps the most important point is that many existing industries in Scotland may decide that it would be worth their while to leave Scotland and establish factories south of the Border, nearer to the large centres of population. While I accept that the incentives which the Government have offered to industry to come to Scotland have, to some extent, been successful, I fear that industrialists will be deterred from coming to Scotland, remembering that those which have come north would not have done so without these incentives.
A large firm in my constituency makes big electricity transformers. These units cannot go by rail. It is impossible to get them on the railways. They must, therefore, go by road. The cost of this proposal to this firm will be such that already the company is considering the possibility of closing down in my constituency and opening a factory somewhere in England. Such a step would be a disaster not only for my constituency but for the Government's policy of encouraging industry to go to development areas such as mine. There is nothing to be gained from this proposal. The obvious reason for this charging system is to transfer a substantial amount of goods traffic from road to rail. However, the transformers produced by this firm cannot go by rail. Its products must go by road, whether or not these additional charges are imposed.
My right hon. Friend said earlier that the amount of heavy traffic on the roads was causing congestion. This congestion will still be caused because transformers of this type, and some other components, cannot go by rail. They cannot be sent by aeroplane and I assume that they cannot go by submarine. Nothing, therefore, will be achieved by this additional charge, except the placing of extra costs on firms which were encouraged in the first place by financial incentives to come to Scotland.
As well as being geographically furthest from the main centres of population, Scotland has the disadvantage of having a disproportionately large amount of heavy industry. Scotland will, therefore, be harder hit than even many of the other development areas. I was 1360 pleased to hear my right hon. Friend say that she will be prepared at least to consider this aspect in Committee. She must consider it if Scotland is to continue to attract new industry.
I am a member of a trade union which caters for road transport workers. The Bill will not advantage them. Its effect on road transport will be drastic. It has been estimated that the amount of transport using our roads is increasing all the time. I accept that, but nobody knows how successful the proposed policy will be in transferring traffic to the railways. After all, when goods cannot be carried by rail anyway, how can this policy succeed for those goods? Such goods will carry the biggest penalty and, in that respect, the Bill will defeat what I assume is its main purpose.
The Measure states that goods should be carried by rail when it is efficient and economic so to do. In other words, if the balance is even between road and rail, there will no longer be a choice on the part of the customer. The goods must go by rail. This being so, my right hon. Friend may be interested to know that some of us have had experience of trying to discover how the railways cost certain lines. I used to be a member of a transport users' consultative committee. It was an enlightening experience. That was before the time when we decided that the only ground on which to argue against closing a line was that of hardship. Before then, we could question the cost element and many times I tried to question it. However, I could never obtain satisfactory answers from railway officials, though I was a member of a transport users' consultative committee. Proper systems of costing do not exist.
All sorts of anomalies arise. For example, when it was proposed to close the local line between my constituency and Tayport we found that the railways were charging for a station which was not even on that line but which happened to be in the vicinity of the line. This could mean that the railways could attract loads which they want because, not having a proper method of costing loads, they would be able to cook the books, if I may put it that way. Indeed, I accuse them of doing that in the past.
1361 The railways are able to say that a load will cost less to transport by rail simply because an adequate system of costing does not exist. In any case, such system as does exist will not be divulged by railway officials to anyone, not even to members of transport users consultative committees. If we are to drive traffic off the roads and on to the railways on this basis, it means that something is far wrong and that this proposal needs careful examination. We were told earlier that three different sections had different methods of costing: only a proper costing system such as would be accepted by the Treasury as accurate should be accepted.
Why do private firms use road transport? They do so for the very reasons argued in the Bill in favour of rail. They say that it is cheaper, more efficient, speedier and more economic. It is for those reasons that the railways, which at one time carried a great deal of the traffic, no longer do so. We think of the losses that have been incurred over the years by the railways, but we should also think of the gains that the Government have had out of motor taxation. Motor taxation was originally meant to pay only for the building and maintenance of roads, but the amount now collected is three times that spent on the roads. It looks as though the Government are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
While my union believes that this Bill has many good points in it, and supports it, it also believes that certain parts must tie considerably amended. This could fairly be described as a railwaymen's Bill. Our union, which represents road transport workers, believes that integrated transport does not simply mean the transfer of all available traffic to one form of transport. That is not our idea of an integrated transport system.
To take the matter to its logical conclusion, it can be said that even if all the goods that are now carried by road could be and were transported by rail to the nearest station, we would not have solved our congestion problem. The biggest congestion exists in our cities and towns. Even if the goods were taken to the nearest railway station, the initial part and the. final part of the journey would still have to be made by road. The worst congestion occurs, not on the motorways 1362 or the dual carriageways but in the cities and towns, and that congestion would not be diminished one little bit even if it were possible to transfer to the railways all that is now carried by road.
The next excuse given is the cost of wear and tear caused by these very heavy road vehicles. As I have said, the money originally raised for roads and road maintenance went to the Road Fund. That fund was subsequently done away with, but what is now collected from road transport is three times as much as is spent on the roads. Therefore, if it is claimed that wear and tear is not being paid for, I believe that the only thing wrong is the division between cars and lorries. It is not that the authorities are not charging enough—they are already charging three times too much. If a fairer distribution between heavy vehicles and motor cars is wanted, by all means let us have it, but it should be done by an increase in road vehicle charges and a reduction in motor car charges. As it is, this talk of wear and tear is only an excuse for making an extra charge.
It is necessary to have union representation on the executive body and on the regional committees and that representation ought primarily to be that of road transport workers, not railway workers. I say that, because 82 per cent. of the goods are carried by road, so the biggest stake is in the road transport industry. Let that not be forgotten. Further, 90 per cent. of passengers are carried by road. There can therefore be no doubt that in this association, as it were, the road transport side is the larger partner and the railways are the junior partner. The road transport side ought therefore to be represented on these various bodies.
The Bill exempts vehicles of 30 cwts. unladen weight from any licensing system at all. Many of these vehicles will continue to ply for hire or reward. They can carry up to five tons and, in some cases, even more. If they ply for hire or reward they ought to be controlled, otherwise the door is left open to abuse of the regulations laid down for other vehicles. It would also allow abuse in the shape of a lowering of the road transport industry wage structure. There would be no control at all. We say that existing controls of wages in the industry should continue whether or not the vehicles 1363 have to be licensed. The road transport workers' wages must be protected.
The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) and one of his hon. Friends were very worried because we were paying only £12,500 a year to the Chairman of the Railways Board. Later, the same speakers expressed concern that, as a result of the Bill, bus drivers would ask for more wages because there would not be the same amount of overtime available; that, as they would not want a drop in their earnings or a lowering of their standard of living, they would need higher rates of pay for the reduced number of hours worked. It is rather strange that those hon. Members should be worried lest the bus drivers and conductors and the lorry drivers might get a bit too much, but equally worried at the other end of the scale because the Chairman of the Board is not getting enough at £12,500. Nothing could show up more clearly whom those hon. Members represent—or, in fact, equally clearly whom we represent.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
But the point surely is that it not what the top man gets but what the people in the layers below him get, so that one can afford to hire the best men for the jobs at those levels.
§ Mr. Doig
Yes, and it goes all the way down. What we cannot understand is why it should be thought that £12,500 is not nearly enough for the man at the top, while there should be worry lest the bus drivers should get the best rate being paid in the area at that time. It is a strange attitude—that the sky should be the limit for the man at the top while the man below must be kept to the lowest possible level.
If his system of licensing and managerial control is to be effective, it will require a tremendous army of inspectors for its enforcement. I suggest that we should stipulate a minimum of ten vehicles in any particular group or firm. In present conditions, that would eliminate about 80 per cent. of the operators, because a very large number are one-man businesses, with only two or three vehicles. The advantages would be tremendous. It would not mean that the 80 per cent. would go off the road, but simply that they would amalgamate into small combines or companies which would then 1364 be able to pay proper wages, service their vehicles properly, and take those precautions which I imagine the Minister wants to ensure that all vehicles, road and rail, are efficient. The question of a minimum of 10 vehicles for any firm or group should be considered. Control and facilities for proper inspection would be made easier.
After all, amalgamation is Government policy in other fields. The Government tell us that there must be larger units if the aircraft industry is to pay. We are told that, for other industries to be economic and competitive, there must be larger groups. Yet in this industry we are to carry on with a system by which about 80 per cent. will be tiny groups. This means that, if a man has one vehicle and a regular contract to carry a load from Aberdeen to London, he will take that load whether his brakes are working or not. To get proper maintenance and proper standards of safety there must be a unit of at least ten vehicles.
The Bill gives enabling powers in relation to a starting date for the reduction in the number of hours. This is not good enough. With an enabling date, excuses can always be made for delays in promulgating this provision. A definite date should be inserted so as to ensure that these improved conditions, which will increase road safety and reduce the number of accidents, come into effect on a given day.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the results she has achieved with the breathalyser, which has substantially reduced the number of accidents, at least in England and Wales. Today a rather different figure was announced for Scotland, and the reason for this is not yet known. On the whole, the figures available up to now show a substantial reduction. The figure for those killed and seriously injured, often disabled for life, on the roads every day is a ghastly one. This problem has never received serious attention from any previous Minister of Transport. My right hon. Friend has done at least one thing which has brought about a considerable reduction. The operation of the Bill could bring about a further reduction, because once the number of hours that drivers work is reduced fatigue is lessened and the chance of accidents is reduced.
1365 The Bill makes exceptions to the rule concerning 11 hours of rest before driving. Those working on farms, and part-time drivers, are excepted. There should be no exceptions. If a driver is to go on the road with a killer vehicle, because that is what it is if he is tired, he should have 11 hours of rest beforehand.
The Bill contains many good points, but I have naturally dwelt on those with which I disagree. This does not mean that I disagree with the Bill in toto. The Bill contains many points with which I agree. I welcome it and hope that it will be possible to amend some of its other provisions in Committee.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will have been very interested in what the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) said about the Bill at the beginning of his speech. It was a sign of an awakening on the part of hon. Members opposite, other signs of which we saw earlier today, vesterday and very recently about the road activities and policies of this disreputable Government. Yesterday a Scottish Member stood against a policy which would mean unemployment for his constituents. Today the hon. Member spoke forcibly about the Bill, which will be catastrophic for Scotland and for other development districts. I ask any Government Minister who doubts how serious I am to reflect that more than half of those present in the House now are Scottish Members. The Minister of State, Scottish Office, should ask himself why this is. Why are Scottish Members so concerned?
Why has almost every organisation concerned with Scottish affairs written in and protested? Does the Minister of State know the name of one reputable organisation concerned with the development of the Highlands or of Scotland in general which has written in welcoming these proposals to add to the burden on road transport and to place further restrictions on it? I will gladly give way if the Minister of State can tell me the name of one organisation which has welcomed the proposal about the abnormal load levy. Does he know the names of one, two or ten such organisations? There are many organisations in Scotland, but the hon. Gentleman cannot 1366 tell us the name of one which has welcomed this proposal. This is why Scottish Members are concerned. This is why the Government are going through a period of unprecedented unpopularity. This is why the worst effects of the Bill must not be applied to Scotland.
The Minister of Transport said that this was practical Socialism. We know that it is economic madness. Since devaluation the Government have given us two economic measures. One was the cancellation of a valuable order for ships for South Africa. The second is the Bill, which involves the writing off or the spending of £1,900 million of public money. The people of Scotland are not happy about it, but I am sure that the gnomes of Zurich will be even less happy. It is certainly economic madness.
I want briefly to say something about the railways and about Scotland. The impression has been given by some Government spokesmen that the Opposition are in some way opposed to railways and are against railway development. This is utter nonsense. My right hon. and hon. Friends who take an interest in transport are enthusiastically for the railways in every sense of the word. We have shown by our policies of expenditure on capital works, on electrification, and on liner trains, that we are interested in giving the railways a really go-ahead future, a future which can be helpful to the economy as a whole and one which can envisage profitability.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that at a luncheon yesterday a leading Opposition spokesman said that, if the Conservative Party was allowed to make it an efficient organisation, 100,000 men would be made redundant and, in the process, £100 million in wages would be saved?
§ Mr. Taylor
Although I greatly respect the hon. Gentleman's point of view, that is not quite a literal interpretation of what was said. What was said was, and what is absolutely true is, that there is a large number of men employed by British Railways who are not efficiently employed. It is crystal clear that at present British Railways employ a substantial number of men whose efforts are not being fully utilised. There cannot be modern and efficient railways on the basis of inefficient working. This must 1367 change. This is one of the many problems in connection with the railways. Briefly, the problems are those of manpower, such as over-manning, modernisation, management, and economy. The plain fact is that the Bill does not do one thing to help solve those problems.
What has the Minister done about management? She has given us a Chairman, one whom I greatly respect and whose qualities I very much admire, but one who is starting out on his job in the firm knowledge that the job was hawked round the City of London before he got it. This is not a very nice way for a man to start on a major job. The Minister has undermined the authority of Mr. Johnson before he starts to do his job, although I wish him every success in it.
Secondly, the Bill sets out to reorganise the financial accounts. We have been asked what we would do about the railway deficit. We have been asked how it can be got rid of. We have been asked to say what our answer is to this grand plan to get rid of the railway deficit. How do the Government propose to get rid of the deficit? They do not propose to do it by getting rid of any money in the deficit. It will be called different names. There will be grants, subsidies and many cross-transactions which have no financial meaning but which simply keep the deficit there and call it by a different name. One action is to write off £1,200 million of capital and put a capital value on British Railways assets of £300 million. Railway investment even over the past five years has been much in excess of £300 million. Plainly, that figure has no meaning or relevance. All the Government are doing is juggling about with figures and pretending that the deficit is not there.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
There is an important question of principle here which has not been answered so far by the Opposition. What would they do with railway lines and services which do not pay?
§ Mr. Taylor
The previous Conservative Government said that, if a railway line was vital for the development of an area, provision would be made for it. That was done. But the question the hon. Gentleman has raised does not touch the problem of the deficit. The deficit is 1368 still there, and one does not get rid of it by juggling about with the figures.
All who believe in the future of the railways regard the Minister's decision to take the freight liners away from British Rail as utter madness. Who is in favour of taking the liner trains from British Rail and giving them to the National Freight Corporation? Is the N.U.R. in favour, are passengers and users in favour, is anyone in favour of it? Perhaps the Minister of State would care to intervene at this point and tell us of anyone who is in favour of taking the liner trains from British Rail and giving them to the National Freight Corporation. He did not answer my previous question about the abnormal loads levy, and, apparently, he will not answer this one either.
A major expansion of the powers of nationalised industries is now proposed. Clause 45 gives this nationalised industry power to do anything except mine coal, and, knowing the Minister of Transport, we could even expect an Amendment in Committee to give it power to do that as well. Proposals to extend the powers of the railways do not touch the basic problems of management, manpower, modernisation and economy. These are the problems calling for attention, yet the Government blatantly ignore them. They are playing about with the balance sheet, fiddling with the figures and trying to pretend that the deficit is not there.
I turn now to the effects of the Bill on Scotland. I am amazed at the Secretary of State's attitude. Scotland has its representative in the Cabinet, and the right hon. Gentleman has several assistant Ministers, the Minister of State and the two Under-Secretaries, yet time after time, legislation is presented which plainly discriminates against Scotland. The people of Scotland wonder what our voice in the Cabinet has been saying. How can these measures be brought in?
A recent example was the Selective Employment Tax. How could a Cabinet Minister representing the interests of Scotland allow that to go through without major protest or resignation? Now we have another example in the present Bill. The provisions relating to road haulage will be catastrophic for some areas of Scotland. How is it possible that our voice in the Cabinet remains silent? Unless these provisions are changed 1369 drastically, any Secretary of State for Scotland with "guts" and spirit ought to resign and condemn such proposals from the back benches.
I have already referred to the abnormal loads levy. How can this be anything but bad for Scotland? On average, there is more heavy industry in Scotland than in other parts of the country, and goods have to be carried by road. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) has given me one example of the effect which this levy will have on a firm having to carry a pressure vessel from Annan to Milford Haven. The extra cost, on top of the present £1,100, will be £965. We could give many more examples, and the Government can take it that they will be brought up in Committee We do not have to tell the Government about them, of course; they know already. Every Scottish Member has received a communication from the C.B.I, setting out its view that, with all the additional taxes, Scotland will inevitably bear a disproportionate weight of excess cost. How it is possible to justify the abaormal loads levy in relation to the situation in Scotland I do not know. It is a foolish proposal which may have devastating consequences.
The proposed increase in licence duties for road haulage vehicles will discriminate against Scotland, where transport costs are vital to industry and commerce. There is the further plan to limit road haulage vehicles, except in exceptional circumstances, to a 100-mile radius. Just think of some of the journeys in Scotland —Oban to Inverness, Inverness to Aberdeen, Aberdeen to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Carlisle—all over 100 miles. Those few examples give some idea of what utter nonsense the proposal is and how out of touch the Government are with the real situation in Scotland. It might be possible for a Socialist to argue a case in relation to the South of England or the Midlands, but it is impossible to justify such a measure in Scotland.
How can there be fair competition? The Government say that they want to force traffic on to the kind of transport which is best from the point of view of speed, reliability and efficiency. Do they suggest that the average businessman presented with a form of transport which is better, more reliable, speedier and more efficient will turn it away and insist on 1370 using road haulage come what may? The Government, surely, cannot suggest that the average businessman goes deliberately out of his way to use a form of transport which is more expensive, less reliable and slower than that which could be provided by a Government-sponsored organisation. Yet this is the basis of the argument. They say that they want to force people to use efficient transport. The Bill removes a vital freedom from businessmen, freedom to choose the best form of transport for their particular circumstances. It also removes for many the freedom to operate their own transport.
The Bill should be universally condemned in the Lobby tonight by Scottish Members and by others similarly affected elsewhere in Great Britain. I promise the Government that Scottish Members on this side at least will fight it with everything in their power, and we trust that the Government will amend it to take account of our views. But it is more than a question of changing the Bill. The Bill as a whole is nonsensical. It is dangerous in our present difficult economic circumstances, and the best service the Government could do would be to withdraw it altogether.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Dr. J. Dickson Mabon)
I shall be very brief in view of the interest in the debate of hon. Members from outside Scotland as well as from Scotland.
I take it from what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) said, or did not say, that even though he is not willing to accept the whole Bill, he will at least welcome the formation of the Scottish Transport Group. He made no reference to it, but this is one of the fundamental parts of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman wants to destroy the Bill, he will want to destroy the Scottish Transport Group. I have heard no evidence, nor has the Secretary of State, to the effect that we are wrong in proposing the formation of this Group. Even the bitterest critics of the Government—
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
I do not think that any hon. Member has mentioned the Group. It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is just intervening and wasting the time of the House.
§ Dr. Mabon
Scotland will note that the only person objecting to my intervention in the debate is the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith). If I had not intervened, that would have been the subject of complaint. The fact is that the Minister of Transport made direct reference to the Group and promised that there would later be some elaboration of what she had said.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) is very much interested in the activities of the Scottish Transport Group. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hillhead must not be selfish and imagine that because he is not involved nobody else ought to be involved or concerned about it. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire will, I am sure, welcome the provision in the Bill to bring the activities of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company under this Group. The aim is to develop the transport system. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead may be interested in Passenger Transport Authorities in Scotland. There has been a great deal of comment about them. Who is to know what other hon. Members from Scotland following me may not want to ask questions about the Authorities in Scotland, where the situation is entirely different? The presence of the Scottish Transport Group creates a position, as regards Passenger Transport Authorities, quite different from that in England.
I will not go over the Parts of the Bill that concern both countries, but I feel it right to respond to a number of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig), as well as make a few comments about the Scottish Transport Group and Passenger Transport Authorities.
§ Mr. Brewis
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Clyde shipping going over to the Scottish Transport Group. Why has the Stranraer-Larne Ferry not gone over to that organisation? Is he aware that the service is making a very large sum of money. Surely he should fight to keep it in Scotland and not let it stay with British Rail?
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. Gentleman will be able—[Interruption.] May I be 1372 allowed to answer some points made before the intervention as well as the intervention. We can debate the matter in Committee when we come to what the Group should hold. If it is argued that we should hold that service, no doubt the case will be put forward in Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West said in praise of the Bill that it was a good one but that it had a number of defects which ought to be put right in Committee. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart immediately concludes that it is a catastrophic Bill because there are certain points to be amended in Committee. But this is a matter that we can discuss in Committee along with several others. The hon. Gentleman almost devalues hyperbole when he talks about the Bill being economic madness in relation to Scotland without taking into account the parts of the Bill which are advantageous to Scotland.
First, in Scotland our bus services are highly integrated, as they are not in some parts of England, under the Scottish Bus Group. We hope that this process will be taken further as a result of the negotiations going on with Glasgow Corporation. Secondly, we have more internal shipping services in Scotland that almost any other country in Europe. Thirdly, we have a developing tourist industry for which the new Group could become an important instrument.
The new Group will be appointed by the Secretary of State directly, and he hopes to establish it in 1969. We have done a good deal of advance planning and have consulted existing transport undertakings. The new Group and the National Bus Company will have a number of interests in common, and we shall make sure that there is a degree of common membership of the two organisations.
The main powers of the Scottish Group are described in Clause 26. There will be powers to carry passengers by road, sea or hovercraft, and also by subway, since we are anxious for the Group to have powers to operate the Glasgow underground. As to freight, the Group's powers will be limited to the Highlands and Islands, where the shipping services carry both cargo and passengers. It is 1373 not our intention that the Group should compete in this field with the main National Freight Corporation network, which will, of course, serve the whole of Great Britain.
Many of the essential shipping services in the Highlands have to be subsidised, but the House should not be under the illusion that this burden will make the Scottish Transport Group commercially unviable. Where necessary, the services will still be assisted by the Secretary of State under the Highlands and Islands Shipping Services Act, 1960. Clause 157 of the Bill will extend that Act to the County of Bute to enable the Secretary of State to pay grant to the Caledonian Steam Packet Company's services in the Clyde.
The Scottish Transport Group will be a holding company. It will be neither a monopoly nor a monolith. We contemplate that it will operate services very largely through subsidiary companies to serve local needs. If necessary, the Group could acquire other transport undertakings by agreement, and any major acquisitions will require the consent of the Secretary of State.
I am certain that the Scottish Group will be a vigorous instrument. Looking at some of the critics of the Government, it is remarkable that we have almost unanimous praise for the fact that the Group is being included in the Bill in this form.
The setting up of the Group is relevant to the question of a passenger transport authority in Scotland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not yet clear, nor are the local authorities, whether we should set one up quite soon. We have undertaken to discuss it with the local authorities when the Bill becomes law and we have in hand transportation studies for the Glasgow and Edinburgh areas. In the meantime, Part II of the Bill gives these permissive powers and the local authority associations have been consulted about including them in the Bill in case, at a later date, the Secretary of State or the local authorities want to see the formation of a P.T.A. in Scotland.
I will not say any more about grants other than what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and what will be said by my hon. 1374 Friend the Minister of State. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will have the same power as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in relation to grants for capital investment in transport facilities such as railway improvements and bus stations, which is a logical extension of the present system.
I come now to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West and also to the catastrophic, economic madness of the hon. Member for Cathcart. There will be plenty of opportunity in Committee to deal with Amendments to the clauses dealing with road haulage. But both my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, at Question Time today, in response to the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in her speech gave an assurance that we could consider the influence of abnormal load charges in the development areas.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already asked, in the knowledge that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport would say this, the Scottish Economic Planning Council, of which he is chairman, to request its Transport Committee to take evidence and examine the problem of the large, indivisible load and to report the findings of the Transport Committee to my right hon. Friends urgently. We will have them when debating the subject in Committee.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
I think that the hon. Gentleman is not quite correct. His hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport replied today that the Minister would need to give further consideration to the question of abnormal loads. This is clearly printed in the Answer.
§ Dr. Mabon
There is obviously a misunderstanding but I rest on the words of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, which can be read in HANSARD. I repeat that we have already put in hand an examination of large, indivisible loads which do affect certain industries in Scotland and that we must consider the effect of the charges as they are proposed on these industries. The results of this examination will be made 1375 known to both my right hon. Friends during the Committee Stage.
§ Mr. William Baxter (Stirlingshire, East)
We must give a certain amount of thought to this problem. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said today that, over the board, these extra costs of the Bill would increase industrial costs by approximately 2½per cent. and as it is likely that the largest proportion of that percentage will be applicable to Scotland, what is the percentage extra cost which will apply to industry in Scotland due to the implications of the Bill?
§ Dr. Mabon
Broadly in relation to load charges, the charges paid will be the same, but in relation to abnormal load charges, there is, prima facie, a case for examination. Hon. Members opposite have argued their case in extreme terms in the country and have excited and worried a lot of people into a state where they are making claims about the Bill which are not true. But I believe, as do my right hon. Friends, that the case merits full examination, not in the hothouse of political debate but in a calmer atmosphere, where we can make assessments.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
My hon. Friend should be able to give us answers to simple questions on this. This will be a great burden on the industrial well-being of Scotland. I represent a number of paper mills, etc., and the cost which will be put on them and the inconvenience will in all probability put them out of business. It is as serious as that. If the Government's calculations are taken at their face value, Scottish industry will have to bear £30 million extra cost. I have practical experience of running a business involving 12 to 14 lorries and I have reason to believe that a proper estimate of the costs to Scotland would be about £50 million. If we can make these calculations, why cannot the Minister of State?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
I hope that hon. Members will realise that there are many who wish to speak and that they will keep their speeches as short as possible.
§ Dr. Mabon
This is a British Bill and we are entitled to debate its effect on Scotland or on any other part of the United Kingdom. I resent the implication that we should have this discussion in the Scottish Grand Committee instead of on the Floor of the House. This is the second time that there has been an objection to consideration of Scotland's interests tonight. I have been on my feet for only 12 minutes and I have been interrupted five or six times.
The fact is that we tried to take evidence and estimates from industry before the Bill was published. I agree that the point about abnormal load charges requires further examination. That examination has already been commissioned, not just tonight, and is being carried out and the results will be given to both the Secretary of State and the Minister. We shall be able to debate the effect and the general position in Committee when we shall be able to give the Government's assessment of the cost.
We all admit that the freight-liner system offers tremendous advantages to Scotland, but I hope that the House will remember that the White Paper on freight transport made it absolutely clear that the quantity licensing proposals would not be put into effect until the freight-liner system had proved itself in practice. There is no need to continue this atmosphere of alarm. There are good parts of the Bill which no one can dispute, good for Scotland, and those parts which may seem to have some drawback can be discussed in Committee where these matters can be thrashed out and brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
Can not the Minister of State give the answer about the Stranraer-Larne ferry? That is a matter of principle. Surely he can make a comment.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)
I must add my voice to those who have already protested from this side of the House that a debate of this importance should be 1377 confined to one day. We had a 62-min-ute speech from the Minister and a 15-minute intervention from the Minister of State, Scottish Office, and I suppose that the Minister of State, Ministry of Transport, will want 30 minutes for his winding-up speech, which will mean that one and three-quarter hours of the time of the House will have been taken up by the Government Front Bench. I think that most right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will agree that that is disgraceful.
Ever since the right hon. Lady's predecessor, Mr. Tom Eraser, announced to the House that he was to present a fully integrated and co-ordinated transport system, we on this bench have been waiting anxiously for the Government's proposals. Liberals applaud the idea of an integrated system. As my party's spokesman on transport, I felt that I should have the pleasant task of welcoming the right hon. Lady's proposals. This was not to be. From the moment when the first of the White Papers appeared it became all too apparent that the Government's ideas for an integrated transport policy ran contrary to those of my party and moreover, like most of the Government's legislation would prove to be costly without being efficient. Indeed, in many ways the Bill is more disastrous than anything foreshadowed by the White Papers.
I say that because it contains measures which provide powers of Socialist nationalisation of passenger transport services, something which I had thought even the Labour Party had abandoned along with Clause 4 in the late 1950s. There is also Clause 45, which the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) mentioned, which, while it may not be a nationalisation Clause, provides the most extraordinary powers for the Government to introduce State ownership.
I would not complain so much about this, even though I would oppose it—because I recognise that it is Socialist doctrine—if it had the slightest relevance to the needs of modern transport. But the effect of this proposal, along with many others in the Bill, will be to increase costs, enlarge the already pregnant Civil Service, reduce efficiency, minimise fair competition and merely take into the control of the State that which is far better in the hands of local authorities to private enterprise.
1378 The Minister has honestly and honourably admitted that this is a piece of Socialist legislation. That is exactly what it is. For that reason she will not be surprised if we on this bench oppose it. Nevertheless, the Bill is not without some merits, although one has to dig very deep into the mess of verbiage to discover its qualities. The most commendable sections are those dealing with railways, because the Minister has realised the necessity of retaining some uneconomic but socially important rail services.
I would have pointed out to the right hon. Lady, if we were privileged by her presence, and we have not seen much of her since she made her 62-minute speech, that it was not necessary to introduce this Bill to take this excellent step. In my view she could have exercised her powers of discretion in the public interest under the terms of the 1962 Act, but if she contends that she needed specific powers, the 1962 Act could have been amended long ago. I am disturbed that there is still within the Bill provision to make further closures. In fairness I must add that my party also welcomes the proposals in the Bill to subsidise British Railways for the purpose of maintaining these socially essential services.
There is merit in the proposal to reduce the debt position of British Railways. It is clear that there is no hope of this being repaid and I would go as far as to question the Minister's wisdom in not making the reduction considerably larger. No doubt this is something which we shall debate in Committee. It is a matter of genuine disappointment to me—and I hope that the right hon. Lady, if she reads my speech, will accept that I mean this sincerely—that after ten days, during which I have studied every one of the 169 Clauses and 18 Schedules with the utmost care, I can find very little else to commend in her proposals.
A total of 154 of the Clauses are objectionable to me and my party on issues of principle or in detail. Of the Schedules, 15 are objectionable for the same reason. It is true that the regulation of the carriage of goods by road and the need to define quantity and quality of such goods is long overdue, but the throttling restrictions envisaged in Clauses 55–110 are such that they will place an intolerable burden upon the 1379 users of road haulage. Equally, the fuel rebates for bus operators are, in part, something which we would welcome.
It is not sufficient for me merely to condemn this Bill or for my party to oppose, it Clause by Clause, subsection by subsection. It is essential to state the ways in which my party would seek to change its content and to indicate the measures which we would take to bring about a genuine integration of British transport. I have already promised that I will be brief and I shall confine myself now to a few headings, although if I am fortunate enough to find myself on the Committee I shall argue these and many other matters in much greater detail.
The Minister has lost a golden opportunity and has instead taken the short, easy and ineffective cut towards decentralisation in her proposals for the passenger transport areas. I would wish to see regional transport authorities established for the areas of England which have already been designated as development areas, together with separate authorities for Scotland, Wales and even for Cornwall.
I would not give these authorities powers to nationalise passenger transport but I would certainly wish to see them have the power of co-ordination, the ability to provide financial assistance to a co-ordinated passenger service whether road or rail and at the same time to take responsibility for safety in general and the safety and licensing of goods vehicles in particular.
I turn to taxation. I am appalled that the Minister is seeking to introduce an additional form of taxation, not only to restrict the freedom at present enjoyed by the owners and users of goods vehicles on the roads, but also without any intention of utilising this additional revenue for the construction of new roads, which would be the only proper use for this money. It has always been the contention of my party that much of the present revenue derived from the road users should be utilised for the purposes of road construction. The only thing which I can say in mitigation of this part of the Bill is that I am glad that in her speech today the Minister gave an undertaking to consider Amendments in Committee concerning the development areas.
1380 It is a basic principle of the road haulage system in this country that manufacturers shall have the freedom to choose the most economic and most efficient methods of transportation at their disposal. A manufacturer may at present use British Rail services, British Road Services or independent hauliers, or he may operate his own vehicles. The new system of licensing proposed in the Bill is a gross interference with this freedom which will result inevitably in increased costs at a time when economies are vital to the export programme and to assist in obtaining full employment. I share the amazement expressed by many hon. Members on this side of the house and some hon. Members opposite that this Bill should have been introduced at this moment of time in Britain's grave economic plight.
Moreover, the particularly unwholesome proposal with regard to licensing will require yet another legion of Government civil servants to administer it. I recognise the need for improvements in relicensing. For my part, I should like "quality" and "quantity" to be dealt with by methods similar to those adopted by the Dutch Government or, if they do not commend themselves to the Government, a combination of the Dutch, Canadian and United States systems, all of which provide maximum safety together with as much freedom as possible for the user. We shall seek to amend the Bill on these lines in Committee.
I have said that I would wish to offer the Government positive proposals for a sound system of integrated transport based on regional authorities, new licensing methods, encouragement to British Rail and provision of additional capital for the modernisation of the railways, some control of heavy goods vehicles and a road building programme financed, not by additional taxation, but by public loans to be repaid in some instances by direct tolls.
As I do not wish to delay the House and thus prevent right hon. and hon. Members from having the opportunity of speaking, it will suffice if I say to the Parliamentary Secretary—I see that we are now devoid of any senior Minister—that as I fear that the Bill will be granted a Second Reading tonight, I shall seek 1381 to table over 200 Amendments immediately. I have prepared them in anticipation that the Bill will obtain a Second Reading. Afterwards, in conjunction with a special panel of experts from every field of transport who will be working with me in the months ahead, the Government may expect several hundred additional Amendments to be tabled by my party. At best, I hope by this means to persuade the Minister to modify her Bill and produce a constructive Act of Parliament. But if I fail in this objective, as I recognise I may—
§ Mr. Bessell
No, he would not. This is the only Liberal voice to be heard in the debate and I am determined that my speech shall be shorter than the average speech made today.
If I fail in my objective, as I recognise I may, I shall at least have the satisfaction of showing to the Government and, I hope, to the country the kind of legislation which, in my opinion and in that of my right hon. and hon. Friends, is necessary to put this country's house of transport in order. The Minister, for whom I have considerable admiration and respect, and who has shouldered her burdens as Minister with courage and determination, has, alas, been gravely misled or ill-advised in presenting this massive Bill to the House. She is sowing the dragon's teeth. Unhappily, if the Bill becomes an Act in its present form, it is the taxpayer, the road user and the British economy which will reap the wild wind.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not follow the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell), because I cannot think of 200 Amendments that I would like to make. I welcome the Bill because it takes so many decisions which until now have been shirked.
This is the first Bill which has taken a decision on what to do with our canal system. That is something which hon. Members opposite shirked last time. This is the first Bill which has taken the complex decision about what to do with the socially desirable services, both rail and road, which do not make a profit. It is also the first Bill which takes a decision 1382 on things like road congestion and the seriously increasing difficulties which we are experiencing in our cities. We have now got to the stage, at last, where after 13 years of dithering about and doing nothing, and then three years of bringing forward preparations, we can take fundamental decisions, which I firmly applaud.
The second reason why I applaud the Bill is that, at last, we will get away from the Road Traffic Acts of 1930 and 1933, which still form the basis of our transport legislation. We are still operating lorries on A, B, C and even F licences which were dictated in the 1933 Act, which has no relevance to modern conditions. We are still operating bus services under the 1930 Act, which, again, has no relevance to the crowded urban conditions and the sparsely populated rural areas.
My third reason for applauding the Bill is that, at last, we have a transport Measure which looks at transport from the point of view of the country as a whole and not from the viewpoint of any one sectional interest, as distinct from the 1953 Act, which heavily favoured road transport, and certainly the 1962 Act, which also heavily favoured road transport. At last, thank heavens, we have a Transport Bill which looks at transport from the point of view of the country and not of any one section.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have been hypocritical about nationalisation. They were the party who, in 1953, had so little faith in competition that instead of raising the 25-mile radius limit which had been placed upon private road hauliers in the 1947 Act—they had no faith in competition of that kind—they thought that to get the kind of competition which they wanted, they had to sell off British Road Services vehicles with the licences on the cheap so that they would provide the competition.
It was the party opposite who were so in favour of competition that they fudged all the way along the line, the disposing not only of British Road Services general haulage but certainly B.R.S. parcels services. Had they wanted to return to competition and to free enterprise in 1953, they had their chance well over 15 years ago but they fudged it. They went even further and in 1954 they nationalised the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company because they wanted a ferry service to go with British Road Services. The party 1383 opposite have tonight come before us and talked about competition and enterprise. They are being a bit hypocritical.
Apart from that, right hon. and hon. Members opposite were so in favour of private enterprise that they never took the restrictions off either British Railways workshops or the Bristol bus-building firm which would have permitted the firm to get up to its capacity to compete against the private coach builders, so enthused were they with competition.
The Bill contains proposals especially for vehicles between 30 cwt. and 5 tons unladen which will introduce into road haulage a greater amount of competition within that range than we have had since the 1933 Act. Not one hon. Member opposite has come out in favour of that greater amount of competition. I wonder whether that is because the Road Haulage Association, in its proposals to the Geddes Committee, which the party opposite set up to consider licensing, said that it wanted an even tighter licensing system than the present one. Perhaps this is why we have not had so much enthusiasm from the other side of the House this evening for genuine competition.
I have been branded as the personal friend of the Road Haulage Association. In fact, in my post this morning I received notice of an auction which is to take place in Nottingham tomorrow of a certain Nottingham road haulage firm, and on the front it says:Dear Leslie, please pass it on to Barbara and Harold.I have had one or two of these in my post, and I would like to make it quite clear that if I speak on transport matters I want to talk about transport. I do not want to talk about it from any particular sectional interest, as so many hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to have done tonight.
The, Bill introduces some basic principles of which I am in favour. In it, we have the first segregation that we have had this century of the social and commercial sides of British Railways. I am reminded of those 1953 figures, when the cost per passenger mile of British Railways was given as 3d. for the long-distance express services, 1s. 2d. per passenger mile for the cross-country mail-stop, and 2s. 1d. for the suburban. Here we have the crux of the problem, namely, that the more we 1384 get into the suburban areas, the more we encounter the problem of the peak, and the more we encounter the problem of losses. This is something about which, despite the protestations of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), the 1953 and 1962 Acts did nothing.
We have here a problem which has to be accepted, that if we involve ourselves in running services which come to their peak of fitness, if one likes to put it that way, only twice a day, we run the risk of incurring loses. We also do this with some unremunerative rural services, particularly in the North of Scotland, and I am amazed that we have not had more Scottish support from both sides of the House for the large subsidies which are to be given to the British Railways Board for the operation of these unremunerative, but socially desirable services. I am glad that at last we have a Government and a Minister with the courage to come forward and segregate the commercial and social aspects of British Railways.
This Bill, for the first time, again since the 'thirties, comes forward and puts public passenger transport on what I call a sensible social mechanism. I mean by that that at the moment the only provision that we have for subsidising unremunerative bus services in our towns is the 1d. rate which local authorities I think, are permitted to levy for their bus services. Some of these do it without the levy, others do it with it, but, generally, it has led to the proliferation of small municipalities very often running bus companies and fleets which are not of a size which one could justify economically, and, because they are making losses, they have to be subsidised from the rates, and often it is a very small rate product as well. I am pleased that we now have a provision, via the rate precept, for subsidising public transport, and it may need subsidising, but of course this will be a local decision. I am glad that we have a provision for subsidising this on a rural, regional, and much grander and economically sensible scale.
The other reason why I am glad the Bill has been introduced, and the third principle which it brings in, is that it can help the road haulage industry to come of age. I think that I can speak with a certain amount of personal experience. 1385 At the moment, the road haulage industry carries about 82 per cent. of the tonnage in this country, and does 61 per cent. of the ton miles. To hear the petulant pleadings of the Road Haulage Association, and its mates in Aims of Industry, one would hardly gather that this was the sector of the transport industry which carried the bulk of the freight in this country. I have said on many occasions, both inside and outside the House, that they do their cause a great deal of damage by coming forward with the completely irrelevant accusations which many of them have made against the Bill.
I now turn to the question of the railways. In the last century there was a proliferation of small country halts, many of which were designed simply to get the traffic quickly and then forgotten. Then we had the protectionism of the 1930 legislation, and then the British Transport Commission, with its doctrine of a social contract with the people in the areas it served. But never, until this Bill, did we have the mechanism to deal with matters which were intrinsic in the thoughts put forward both in the last century and in this one.
In the past the railways have been determined to provide a public service, as they should, but until this Bill there has been no mechanism enabling them to do so. If we run our railways as an instrument of social policy some private operator—usually a bus operator—will skim off the cream. That is what has been happening. Because the railways have had to cross-subsidise these services, which, in 1953, were costing 1s. 2d. and 2s. 1d. per passenger mile, the bus operators, including many of the half nationalised transport holding companies, have skimmed off the cream. I am glad that we now have definite proposals to help those services which, in 1953—and I apologise for not having the latest figures —were costing 1s. 2d. and 2s. 1d. per passenger mile.
I have a vested interest, because my father is a member of A.S.L.E.F., and works in the constituency of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker). I can assure the hon. Member that the railwaymen of Worcester would love to have a talk with him. We were 1386 all disturbed when, yesterday, we heard this figure of over-manning in British Railways to the extent of 100,000 men. I do not know where the hon. Member gets this figure, but he certainly will not find that it is true of my constituency—
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The hon. Member will find it in the National Plan, in Part II, page 204, Section 36.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I would remind the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that when the National Plan was brought into being the changes envisaged in this Bill were not thought of. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, very respectfully and deferentially, that the emphasis in respect of labour requirements has slightly changed with this Bill. If the surplus of 100,000 railway workers is to be found it will not be found in my constituency, where, for the past month, about 20 railwaymen have been under threat of redundancy and under notice, and have been happily employed, half for 60 per cent. of the time and half for 80 per cent. of the time. We now have a situation where, in order to reduce its labour requirements, the Board appears to be actively playing off one depot against another. I can quote instances where one or two trains are being delayed and others speeded up to prove that a certain depot can work better than another.
If we are going to talk about reductions in British Railways' labour force let us not talk about it on the present basis, which is giving a great deal of dissatisfaction to railwaymen in all three unions.
In my constituency traffic is being sent from Nuneaton to Coventry—which is joined by a railway line only eight miles long—via Stafford. I do not know how many hon. Members have a rough idea of the railway map of the West Midlands, but it appears to me that when we have a railway line linking Nuneaton and Coventry and that line is only eight miles long it is stupid to send goods to Stafford and all the way back to Coventry, especially when my constituents then have to take a light engine to Coventry to meet the traffic when it comes back. But that is the situation in my constituency, so I hope that the changes in British Railways' managerial structure, 1387 which I would also like to see, will get rid of that kind of thing.
I am also rather suspicious about the claims of the railways to provide reliable services to the customers that they want to get. A firm in my constituency produces granite and sends it all over the country and would love to send far more by rail, but a couple of weeks ago, when it had an order of 25 railway wagons full of granite to go from Nuneaton to the Chelsea Basin, it could not get the wagons. I spent a not very happy week on the telephone to British Rail trying to get those wagons for my constituents. I hope that this will not happen when the railways get the traffic that they should have.
The present structure of the Transport Users Consultative Committees is completely inadequate. We have now reached the stage at which the public have been so put off by the ineffective powers of these committees that they no longer bother to take time off work to appear before them. We can consider only hardship: people are not coming along. I firmly favour, therefore, the extension of these committees' powers.
On the passenger transport authorities, reference has been made to the annual report of the West Midlands Traffic Commissioners, which said that if something is not done shortly, there will be a serious decline in the bus services provided by many of our large conurbations. One of the companies which, thank heavens, we have just nationalised —the Midland Red—has had almost an annual fares increase since 1951. In this situation, something radical must be done. Piecemeal changes like bus lanes and bus priorities are not enough; there must be a radical overhaul, and the P.T.A. mechanism will provide this.
I am also very concerned that the local transport decisions should be taken by local people. In my constituency, transport decisions are not taken at all in my part of the West Midlands but at the Midland Red headquarters in Bearwood on the other side of Birmingham. This is not conducive to the effective running of local transport which I hope will be possible with the passenger transport authorities.
But the P.T.A.s will do more than that. They will at last make possible the con- 1388 struction and financing—possibly the deficit financing—of rapid transit systems. The present mechanism has never offered a means of setting up and operating such systems. I hope, for instance, that the railway line connecting Wolverhampton, Birmingham Snow Hill and Solihull, not to mention the line in my constituency connecting Nuneaton, Coventry and Leamington Spa, could now become the basis of rapid transport systems.
However, although the P.T.A.s may have the power to set up these systems, I am also very concerned that they should not be left with the "rubbish" in the provision of passenger transport. It still seems that, as long as there are powers for private companies to continue running the excursions and some of the more profitable bus services, there is a real danger of this.
There are also some serious difficulties over wages. Coventry bus workers, just outside my constituency, make over £1,000, but some Midland Red bus workers are lucky if they get much more than half that.
I also welcome, of course, the provision for fares concessions by local authorities both to municipal companies and to those which are not municipally owned, as well as the definte subsidies to rural buses.
Some glowing tributes have been paid by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the flexibility and the personal service offered by the road haulage industry, but I wonder how much of that flexibility depends on the driver being dragged out of bed at 2 o'clock in the morning and told to get down the road to Cardiff to get to the docks on time. I know, from a certain amount of personal experience, that there is flexibility, but all too often it is achieved by the personal sacrifice—very often of social and family commitments —of the drivers.
Also, a driver is certainly not well paid. One has only to consider the Third Report of the Prices and Incomes Board to see the low basic rates which people in the road haulage industry are getting. That Report also said that the average earnings in the industry are £22, but added that almost 40 per cent. of the drivers must work more than 60 hours a week to get it.
1389 The Chairman of the Prices and Incomes Board has said that the 11-hour day in the road haulage industry is far too standard. He is slightly wrong there, because it is the 14-hour day rather than the 11-hour day which causes concern. Lorry drivers call this a "14-hour spread". They are supposed to work only 11 hours driving time of that spread, but all too often they carry on working for a 14-hour day. Therefore, I am glad that at last we have a Minister of Trans port who will do something about recognising that a lorry driver has a right to live a decent social and family life, because that has not been the case—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not wish to appear discourteous to the hon. Member, but I would remind him that many of his colleagues have sat here all day trying to get into this debate.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I will be very brief, Mr. Speaker.
I should also like to have mentioned the National Bus Company which will, I hope, for the first time permit the setting up of a national bus timetable, and also the National Freight Corporation. But I will sum up very briefly.
First, this Transport Bill at last faces the problems which have never been tackled since the end of the last century. They were certainly not tackled by the 1930 Road Traffic Act. It also breaks the vicious circle implied in that Act of fares rising, passenger revenue declining and fares rising again. I hope that the quality licensing part of the road haulage proposals will permit the industry to come of age. If we are to have operators' licences and examinations and qualifications, surely this is the kind of thing which the very people who have been complaining—the Road Haulage Association-should have introduced.
I am glad that we have had the courage to go ahead with the Bill on a 1967 lather than a 1947 basis. I think that the kind of solution to transport problems which were implied in the 1947 Act, with its multiplicity of operations, would have been the wrong solution today, with so many private operators who would have been willing to skim off the cream. I am glad that we have decided to integrate like with like—as with the National Freight Corporation—and that we have decided to have public passenger 1390 transport on a local basis, which again is like with like. I am glad that we have chosen to integrate on this basis, and I wish the Bill a speedy passage through the House.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) said that the Minister had shown an unbiased approach to the Bill. On the contrary, I believe that for political reasons she has aimed the Bill against private hauliers. But if the hon. Member will forgive me, I will not follow his argument. His speech took 25 minutes and he has prevented at least two other hon. Members from taking part in the debate. I have undertaken to speak for only 10 minutes and that I propose to do.
It is monstrous that the House of Commons should have to deal with such a massive piece of legislation, containing 260 pages, in a short debate lasting only one day. As my hon. Friends have said, this Measure contains seven separate Bills at least and each of those Bill should have had a day to itself. I object deeply to the methods which the Minister has adopted in presenting the Bill to Parliament, which I believes damages the democratic process. As parliamentarians, on all sides of the House we have been given the minimum possible time to make our studies of the Minister's proposals. Two of the White Papers which he have to study were produced in November and one of the White Papers was produced only three days before the Bill. I very much doubt whether as many as 20 hon. Members out of 630 have had an opportunity to study the Bill in full.
We have no knowledge of any of the advice which the Minister has been given and no knowledge of the detailed research which it is alleged has been taking place in the Ministry. There has been a total lack of consultation with the interested parties, which, one after the other, have been rising in anger throughout the country. Yet we all know that if it goes through the Bill will revolutionise transport in this country and that the effects will be felt for very many years.
This procedure makes a mockery of Parliament. As has been said, it emphasises the need for Specialist Committees to enable hon. Members to play even a 1391 small part in the framing of policy. Such Committees might enable the two sides of the House to try to achieve some common ground and agreement which would make the subsequent deliberations a little more fruitful. But we realise that the Minister's intention is to bulldoze the Bill through Parliament with ruthless and indecent haste.
Thus, we shall have one of the toughest political battles for many years, and it will be a battle of the right hon. Lady's own making. This cannot be the way to govern a democratic country. It is typical of the Labour Government's attitude to Parliament. I do not intend to make a purely political speech, but I feel that that the Opposition are being treated with utter contempt in this matter and that I bitterly resent it.
Having got that off my chest, I wish to deal now with only one aspect of the Bill, and that is contained in Parts V and VI concerning road haulage licensing and charging. These Parts of the Bill are bitterly resented by every road haulier and we will fight them, as we will fight other parts of the Measure, with all the power at our command. The Government's proposals in this matter are described in Part V of the White Paper "The Transport of Freight", paragraph 36 of which states:An intensive study of road track costs is now complete …It later states that this is…the background against which the Government proposes to introduce the new charges…In spite of this, the House has been given no information about the study, which is to be published later. How can hon. Members possibly form a proper view of these proposals today, before we have read the results of that study? This, again, is an example of the way in which the House is being treated with discourtesy on this subject. It was mentioned earlier that this study has been in the Minister's hands for some weeks. Despite this, it has not been presented to us. Has the Minister something to hide? Many of us are justifiably suspicious.
The Government admit that their purpose is to try to move traffic from road to rail, yet in paragraph 39 of "The Transport of Freight" we are reminded that the Geddes Committee came to the 1392 conclusion that a transfer from road to rail could not be achieved by a licensing system. Apparently the Government know better than the Geddes Committee. They suggest in paragraph 39 that the Geddes Committee could not have taken into account all the new and improved services which have been introduced on the railways. That argument will not do. Of course the Geddes Committee took those factors into account. After all, it made its Report as recently as 1965, and took evidence from the Railways Board which must have known of all the new services, including the freightliner trains which it was intended to introduced.
The Geddes Committee studied the matter in great depth over a very considerable period, and its conclusions are set out quite clearly in page 760. In case the right hon. Lady has not read the conclusions, I will read the conclusion in paragraph 9.51. It reads:We find that … since the war, the licensing system has not had any significant effect in influencing traffic from road to rail. We do not see how the system could be altered, to give effect to such a policy if that were the wish of government, without an administrative machine of inordinate size, of doubtful efficiency, and without placing a heavy burden on industry and trade.That is a very clear statement by the Geddes Committee. In spite of it, the Government ignore that advice and bring in their licensing proposals. Let me look for a moment or two at those proposals.
In the first place, 900,000 vehicles are to be freed altogether from carrier licences. I do not object to this in principle, but I believe that this weight limit of 30 cwts. may cause anomalies. We shall pursue this point in Committee. Secondly, a quality licence is to be introduced for the remaining 600,000 vehicles, and a condition of this licence will be the holding of a transport manager's licence. We shall need to know a great deal more about these proposals before we are satisfied with this aspect of the Bill. It seems to me that the responsibility resting on the transport manager is far too heavy because, in theory, he could lose his entire livelihood if one vehicle were to receive a prohibition notice for a trivial defect. I know that this is unlikely to happen, but that power is in the Bill, and it will require amendment.
Finally, we have the proposals for quantity licences. To these we are utterly 1393 opposed, and a number of hon. Members opposite seem also to be opposed to them. The proposal for a radius limit of 25 miles on certain bulk traffic is arbitrary, and is quite unsupported by any argument, logic or reason. It is quite true that in certain situations the railway offers a good service for bulk traffic, and where the railway is used it is because, in the commercial judgment of the user, this is the best solution. If, however, consignors of bulk traffic in future are not to be able to use road transport when, in their commercial judgment, they would like to do so, very considerable difficulties will follow.
The Minister does not seem to realise that transport problems can arise at very short notice, and utter chaos will result if separate authority has to be obtained for every new route for bulk traffic for distances over 25 miles. Flexibility must be maintained for transport to function at all, as was brought out in an excellent maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman). He spoke from practical knowledge of the transport industry, and stressed the need for flexibility. All the large hauliers I have met, and I met several in the House yesterday, all made this point.
The proposal that a quantity licence will be necessary for all traffic carried in heavy vehicles over 100 miles is equally objectionable. No evidence of any kind has been given why this figure of 100 miles has been suggested. Many, many deliveries by road which involve journeys of over 100 miles involve cross-country journeys which will bear no relation at all to the railway service. The Minister may say, of course, that in those cases licences will be granted, but how can the haulier be absolutely certain about this? It is precisely because of this uncertainty today that these hauliers do not know whether to invest further in heavy lorries—investment which is so vital to the economy of the country. Indeed, one of the most damaging features of this whole wretched Transport Bill has been the total uncertainty that it has placed on the whole haulage industry.
Finally, I want to spend two minutes on the question of the charges themselves. I believe this to be the most wicked feature of the whole Bill. These 1394 charges will add nearly £40 million to the cost of transport. They are bound to result in an increase in the cost of living and in the price of British exports. This is a vicious political attack on private hauliers, who have already been sufficiently punished by Socialism over the last three years. At the same time as the Minister reduces the liabilities and commitments of the railways, she adds enormously to the difficulties of the private haulier. There is no equity in this. There is no fairness in this. There is no sense in this.
I believe that the Road Haulage Association, whatever the hon. Member for Nuneaton thinks about it, has done its best to co-operate with the present Minister. Its Chairman recently used these words:Mrs. Castle will go down in history as the Transport Minister who did more damage to Britain than any other.We on this side would like to save the Minister from such an unkind epitaph, so we will do our best to prevent her from passing the Bill, and the entire nation will be behind us.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom McMillan (Glasgow, Central)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) said that a large number of Scottish Members had remained throughout the debate because of their great fears about the effect the Bill would have on Scotland. When my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) asked the hon. Gentleman what he would do about uneconomic lines, the hon. Gentleman did not answer the question. I will answer it for him. In 1963 the Scottish railway workers formed a committee to fight the Tory Government's railway proposals and the Beeching cuts. I was appointed chairman of the committee. During the campaign Dr. Beeching granted us an interview. When asked what he would do with uneconomic lines, he said that his remit was to make all lines economic. When asked whether if the Government were to step in he would resign, he said that he would have to consider his position if the Government interfered with his process of making all lines economic or of retaining only economic lines.
I want to be one of the few to congratulate my right hon. Friend and all those 1395 responsible for the Bill. The Labour Party, my own trade union, and the trade union movement as a whole, have been crying out for integration and co-ordination for many years, although many of us knew the great difficulty there would be in securing it. The ingredients of a fully integrated and co-ordinated service lie within the Bill, although we are unhappy at the fact that the umbrella central structure of a body like the British Transport Commission is not there. We are also unhappy because there is the belief that Dr. Beeching brought in liner trains. He did not. Liner trains were there in the pipeline. It was the railwaymen who brought them forward. We as railwaymen are sorry that we are losing something which we brought about over the years.
The Minister has gone as far as introducing the Bill, which I am sure that the House will agree with, but she has left out many vital ingredients. I will mention some of them. I will leave aside some of the high academic arguments which have taken place and go to what I consider to be the most important aspect of the Bill, namely that affecting those who will work under these conditions. There are union interests involved here. Road and rail overlapping will occur. There will be different grades and different wage structures. Every tender spot likely to cause trouble is present in the Bill. Yet the Bill does not clearly spell out the machinery for overcoming such difficulties.
I am convinced that the only machinery which can overcome the difficulties is workers' participation. I am thoroughly convinced that, if there is worker participation from the highest managerial level downwards, proper communication to the workers on the shop floor will be secured. The interests of the workers will be looked after and there will be a good chance of the Bill when enacted being operated smoothly through its transitional period and full integration and coordination taking place.
We must carry the workers with us in this. They must be in high positions. It is not new for railwaymen to have worker participation. A section of the railway industry had it for over 22 years. In the railway workshops, from the highest level right down the line the 1396 works committee negotiates. Every job is considered. The problem of who does what is dealt with. Because workers participate in management, this branch of the industry has a fine strike-free and trouble-fee record.
However, that kind of thing does not come under what is referred to in the Bill as "consultation". We want participation. My experience of consultation was that I was sent for so that the management could tell me that workers were spending too long in the toilet. We need provision in the Bill for workers' participation at every level of management, and I hope that the Minister will consider including it.
Now, the question of line closures. It is good, in a sense, for railwaymen to have a standard system of 11,000 miles to work on, as people will have a certain job or function and be able to go ahead with a clear idea of what their work is. But I want my right hon. Friend to bear in mind the pending closure of many lines which ought to be held open until the working of the Bill is seen. I want decisions on these closures held in abeyance, with special regard to the position in development areas and the Government's efforts there. Closures are taking place or pending in the east of Scotland now. In the light of the development which must take place in the mining areas and elsewhere, final decisions to close these lines should be held in abeyance until we see how they fit in. Already, with the reorganisation which is going on in and around the City of Glasgow, we are very sorry about the closure of railway lines in that area. We ought not to repeat the same mistake again.
Another worrying aspect of the Bill is that there is no clear definition in it of the duties which the workpeople will have to undertake under its provisions. Vehicle repair and servicing, for example, is to be transferred to the National Freight Corporation. At present, railway workshop men do this work. If we are to have stability in the industry, if we are to take away fear and get people working willingly along the lines we want in order to make the railways a success, we must spell out clearly in the Bill who will do these various jobs. Will the railway workshops continue to do the work to which I have just referred? This is an important question, and there are other parts 1397 of the Bill which do not give the workpeople a proper idea of the work which they will have to do.
My last point is to ask that, in fairness to everyone who will participate in this enterprise, the real costs of road and of rail should be taken into account when the question of comparative cost comes up. Fair play must be done and be seen to be done. I take no sides on the question whether traffic should go by road or rail. Let it go by the right method.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
Until the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Tom McMillan), the right hon. Lady's Bill had not been given a very enthusiastic reception from either side. Perhaps that is why the Government found it necessary to put in an extra Minister half way through, to make sure that someone said something kind about it. He did not do much else.
It is sometimes said that we should be thankful for small mercies, and it is in this spirit that I have examined this enormous Measure. It would be ungracious of me not to recognise in it the presence of at least one small mercy in Clause 157—it took a good deal of reaching—which extends to the County of Bute the provisions of the Highlands and Islands Shipping Services Act, 1960. In other words, it allows the islands of which title County of Bute is entirely composed to be recognised for what they are, that is, islands. I have for years urged this on successive Secretaries of State, and I am glad that the right hon. Lady's feminine intuition, if that is what it was, finally enabled her to do something of which mere men showed themselves incapable.
I have no doubt that the islands of Bute, Arran and Cumbrae will benefit from the application to them of a Measure which, though Tory in origin, was acclaimed by the party opposite for its alleged sound Socialist principles and which, therefore, did something which we all try to do, though rarely succeed in, namely, pleased everybody.
I hope, too, that the islands in question will benefit from the new grants for improvement of ferry services. Here I have in mind the Kyles of Bute ferry, 1398 which could certainly do with improvement, and the new pier installations at Rothesay. I have in mind also—this is something which deserves attention—a possible new car ferry from Arran to Kintyre, which could benefit both Arran and Kintyre enormously by making possible a most attractive new round trip for motorists. These are certainly projects that merit every possible encouragement.
Clearly, much will depend on the functioning of the new Scottish Transport Group. Here we can only wait and see and hope. Certainly if it manages to combine the worst features of MacBrayne's and the Caledonian Steam Packet Company the Group should plumb, if that is the word for it, some interesting new depths. On the other hand, it should be admitted that both companies have their good points, the very high quality and cheerfulness under often adverse circumstances of their personnel being a most important one. So let us hope that it will be the good points rather than the bad that predominate.
What I also hope is that the Secretary of State for Scotland, now that he is to have these extended powers and responsibilities, will lose no time in taking a hard, long look at the shipping services in the Clyde as a whole. I have mentioned the Islands of Arran, Bute and Cumbrae. Most of the problems of these islands, and they are very serious ones, stem from the fact, as I have already indicated, that they are islands and from the vagaries of their sea communications. However, higher freight charges and passenger charges and inadequate steamer services act as a millstone round the neck of the inhabitants. The same conditions, I may say, apply to a good many isolated places on the mainland as well.
One big trouble in the past has been the difficulty of finding anybody to whom one could make effective representations. The Caledonian Steam Packet Company possesses to a high degree the illusiveness which characterises all public corporations. It is a very slippery body, very hard to get hold of. We hope that in future we shall know exactly where to take our troubles and complaints.
I hope that one of the first things that the Secretary of State will do, assuming that the Bill becomes law, will be to call a meeting of the representatives of 1399 the local authorities from the whole of the Clyde area and any other interested parties, and listen very carefully to what they have to say. I can assure him that they will have a great deal to tell him and that he will find himself confronted with some very difficult problems indeed.
But I also believe that there is another side to the picture, and that with enough enterprise and imagination the shipping services in the Clyde could, from an ugly puzzle, which is what they are now, be converted into a very great asset and bring new prosperity to the whole area. But perhaps that is rather much to hope for in present circumstances.
These shipping services are only one aspect of a much larger whole. The remainder of this mammoth piece of legislation seems to be uniformly deplorable, especially where Scotland is concerned. It is, first and foremost, yet another exercise in what the Minister called practical Socialism but I call "Left-wing doctrinaire Socialism—mass nationalisation for the sake of mass nationalisation". If one looks at it closely one sees that the Minister herself made no bones about that at all. What she is saying, in effect, is "Love me, love my dogma". However lovable the right hon. Lady may be —we have all been reading about her in the Evening Standard, and I am sorry that she is not in her place to receive this tribute—her dogma, to me at any rate, is much less attractive. It is also before it is finished with going to be extremely expensive to the taxpayer, to the ratepayer and to the public at large. Finally, this will produce a whole litter of Frankenstein monsters which no one, except possibly the right hon. Lady, will be able to control.
Hon. Members have drawn attention to the apparently limitless powers of the new area executives under Clause 10, and, of course, there are also the powers under Clause 5. The right hon. Lady is trying to drive traffic off the roads on the railways by deliberately reducing the profitability and efficiency of the railways' competitors—in other words, trying to make the railways competitive by eliminating all other competition, by levelling down rather than levelling up. She says so openly in one of the most ominous sentences in the White Paper:Some rail services which are at present not paying their way may become profitable 1400 if bus services are organised so as to make it more convenient to use rail.What a way to run a railway, and what a wealth of meance in that sentence! When one considers what a state the railways are in today, one can imagine to what state the bus services would have to be reduced to make passengers willingly fall back on the tender mercies of Southern Region. But the right hon. Lady will do all right. When all the bus lines and free enterprise transport have been nationalised, they will be as chaotic as Southern Region.
One of the most unattractive features of this unattractive scheme is the ruthless way in which any surviving private enterprise operators are to be squeezed out by unrestricted competition from nationalised transport, which can draw on what it regards as the limitless resources of the State to indulge its whims and cover its losses. Its competitors will be ruined by enormous ton-mileage charges and other charges.
The immediate result of this will be an enormous increase in Government expenditure and increased transport costs, which will be reflected in the economy as a whole and in an enormous escalation of the cost of living. We shall know who to blame. Yet this comes several weeks after devaluation, and it makes one wonder whether the Government are serious about anything except their own internal quarrels.
Finally, to judge by what has been happening on the railways, what the right hon. Lady is doing is bound to be followed not only by heavy losses and escalation of costs all round, but also by a sharp deterioration in labour relations right throughout the industry with the usual disastrous consequences for everyone.
I said that I believe the effect of the Bill will be worse in Scotland than in England. It is well known that heavy transport costs are at the bottom of most of Scotland's economic problems. The Bill will make those costs much heavier. It will do so in the effect it will have on farmers, on industry, both light and heavy, and on the development areas. I want to draw attention to the position of firms which, by the nature of their business produce, in the main, abnormal loads, so-called loads which cannot in 1401 any case be carried by rail and which, unless the right hon. Lady relents, are to be heavily penalised and in practice priced out of the market. For example, such firms include those producing nuclear equipment, boilers and excavating equipment, like the Motherwell Bridge Company, Euclid, and Babcock and Wilcox. Some of these firms are in areas where there is already serious redundancy.
Scotland's problems require transport flexibility. The Bill will reduce flexibility and limit the choice open to the user. We know that the right hon. Lady's intention is to shift traffic off the roads on to the railways by putting the squeeze on road transport, but what about parts of Scotland where rail charges are prohibitive or where there are no railways at all and road transport is vital? Has she thought about the effect there? Evidently not, or otherwise how could she have made the 100-mile radius applicable to Scotland? Once again it is a case of the gentleman, or rather this time the lady, from Whitehall knowing best and Scotland just having to take it.
It is no wonder that the Scottish Nationalists are so upset. I wish that the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) had been in her seat. We hear that they are worried because many small and medium-sized companies in Scotland will be driven out of business, so they say. The only flaw in their argument is that their own programme, so far as they have one, provides for the nationalisation of all transport and communications so that the tears which they are shedding are proper crocodile tears, and this is one of the fairly frequent occasions when the Red Flag is run up alongside if not above the Saltire.
I said at the beginning of my speech that I was grateful to the Minister for finally recognising that Bute, Arran and Cumbrae were islands, but her knowledge of geography seems to stop there and takes no cognisance whatever of Scotland's other special economic problems, any more for that matter than she takes cognisance of the appalling economic problems now besetting Great Britain as a whole. All this to her and the Government is as nothing compared with the demands of doctrinaire Socialism. So once again, today as yesterday, it is ideological considerations. 1402 not to say internal party considerations, which have won the day.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
One of the pleasures of hon. Members on this side of the House taking part in transport debates is that the Minister concerned is never ashamed of saying that she is motivated by Socialist considerations and although that does not commend itself to hon. Members opposite it is something which we on this side find very reassuring. If my right hon. Friend is as tough in her dealings with the Road Haulage Association as I am glad she has proved to be in dealing with the licensed victuallers in the matter of the breathalyser test, we shall find that we have value for money in the Bill.
I can think of about eight reasons why this is basically a good Bill. First, it is the first determined attempt by a Minister of Transport to deal with the problem of urban congestion, which has been tackled only half-heartedly and piecemeal over the last 20 years or so, or at any time since long before the war when road traffic problems first began to show themselves.
Secondly, it is the first attempt to rationalise the road haulage industry and to recognise that it is as true of road haulage as of almost anything else nowadays that we are dealing with bigger and fewer units of organisation. This applies as much to this kind of business as to any other.
Thirdly, it is commendable that an attempt has been made to relate road revenue to road usage. I have some criticisms about that which I will make if I have time, but the principle is wholly commendable.
Fourthly, by creating passenger transport authorities the Bill provides not only a way of sorting out the chaos of rural bus services, but also a shot in the arm for local authorities. One criticism which used to be made of the Labour Party was that we neglected local authorities and that one consequence of Labour policy was to take many functions away from local authorities. Here is a deliberate attempt to give local authorities a very important service and to do so in a way which should accord with the kind of development of local authorities which 1403 can be expected when local government reorganisation is complete.
Fifthly, it is an attempt to solve the railway problem, at any rate to the extent of giving us some idea of the size of railway we want. I think that the Minister may not have gone quite far enough in this respect, but many of us on this side of the House—and the view seems to be shared by some hon. Members opposite—at least recognise the value from a morale point of view if nothing else of writing off the enormous accumulated deficit of the railways.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Does the hon. Member really think that it is right to try to solve the problem of the railways by undermining one of the greatest industries of the country, which depends upon the export of the bigger trucks—the over 16-ton trucks—for that purpose?
§ Mr. Lee
I do not see that this has very much to do with it. What perhaps commends itself most to hon. Members on this side of the House is that, at last, the exploitation of road haulage drivers is being tackled and many of us would say "ditto" to almost everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) was saying about the need to deal with hours and conditions under which so many drivers in the road haulage business have been compelled to work for a long time.
I am surprised that hon. Members opposite did not at least have the grace to pay some attention, and to give a welcome, to the attempt to revive the moribund waterways. Not only from the point of view of their economic value, and this is constantly under-rated, but also from the point of view of essential amenities, this is important. There are other sections of the Bill, subsidiary in importance but not without importance, such as the efforts to improve parking and control of pedestrians, and other forms of traffic also deserving of attention.
That does not mean to say that I believe the Bill to be without faults. Possibly a weakness is the undue reliance upon the licensing system as a means of planning. This is an error into which other Ministers of this Government have fallen. Although the licensing system is quite the most rational that we have 1404 had, I fear that it may take too long before it is fully effective in shifting the amount of traffic off the roads on to the railways, something which we all know needs to be done.
My fear about this, when all the ballyhoo that we have been having from the Road Haulage Association is over, is that the scale of charges will not be tough enough. I hope that they will be tough and I hope that regulations will be such as to enable the Minister, if she finds that the charges are not being as effective as they might be, to increase them still further. I trust that the National Board for Prices and Incomes will be held in readiness so that should there be any attempts to pass on to the consumer the cost of these charges, where this is obviously undesirable, a reference can be made.
I also share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. John Hynd)—
§ Mr. Lee
No. I have given way once, to an irrelevant interruption. My hon. Friend said that the National Freight Corporation may find itself in conflict with the Railways Board. I would have prereferred to have gone back to a British Transport Commission. It will be found that when these two bodies get to work, there must inevitably be some conflict of interests.
My other criticism is that the Minister is being a little sanguine if she thinks we can look forward to the day when railway deficits will be behind us. Even if this massive programme of reform is implemented—as I am sure it will be—while it will be of immense value to the community, it is well to bear in mind that there are very few railways in the world that pay their way. The Minister was chancing her arm a little too much if she really believes that we will see the railways in working balance.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I had thought that I would be able to hail the speech of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) as the first in the debate which wholly came out on the side of the Bill, but, rather to my disappointment, even he mingled his commendation with criticism. There has, however, been one contribution, although perhaps only one, which I think 1405 was to the taste of all who heard it, and that was the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) who argued his case with cogency and with serious and sober argument. I fear that we are not always perhaps completely sincere when we say to a maiden speaker that we hope often to hear him again, but, if my hon. Friend—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ That the Proceedings on Government Business mav be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Swingler.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Powell
—maintains the standard which he has set for himself today and speaks with a combination of personal knowledge and a sense of local as well as national responsibility, that often expressed wish will, in his case, always be true.
Otherwise, I cannot think that the debate has been gratifying to the Minister. Even two or three speeches from hon. Members opposite which might have been counted as favourable to the Bill very soon took the form of criticism. There were three major assaults on the Bill from the benches opposite each of which, in its way, was memorable. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) demolished the P.T.A.s with a thoroughness which left little over. I think that I can assure him that his remarks will be sure of a niche in notes for Conservative speakers on this subject for some time. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) did the same service by the F.T.C. Finally, the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) emphasised—many other hon. Members did so, but he did it with special severity—the significance and danger for the remoter parts, and particularly the development areas, of what the Bill does for road transport.
I must add mine to the many voices which have been raised in complaint about the way in which this massive legislation is to be pushed through Parliament. There used to be a rule against "tacking"—that is, attaching one Bill to another. But this is attaching six or seven Bills to one another and attempting 1406 to push them through together. This Bill implements at least four White Papers, each of which would have merited in legislative form at least a full day's Second Reading debate, as well as covering a series of other matters.
There is no possibility that all the important subjects which the Bill covers can possibly be considered adequately by a single Committee of the House. However many sittings there are interposed in this Session, it would only be by presenting this legislation, as it should have been presented, as several Bills and therefore enabling several committees to work on it simultaneously that proper discussion could have been given to it. It is a Bill which not only involves great principles throughout the realm of transport but in detail affects the rights and prospects of individuals and of different areas of the country, all of which it is the duty of the House to bring into account.
There are aspects of the Bill, particularly those concerned with road safety, with working conditions and with traffic control, which we on this side of the House approach, in principle, sympathetically. Here again, it is a thousand pities that these measures and proposals, important in themselves, should have been jumbled up with so much which requires a very different treatment and which cannot possibly be examined and debated properly.
The truth, of course, is that the Government and the Minister do not intend that their proposals in the Bill shall be properly debated. After all, the basic tenet of a Socialist is that he or she is always right. Therefore, it is a mere superfluity, a mere obeisance to tradition, to allow a degree of debate.
This is a Bill which is designed to take away the opportunities of true daylight comparison between the alternatives which should be open to the citizen. One cannot imagine a clearer statement than the Bill of the gulf which separates the two sides of the House. The Minister was certainly not claiming too much at Scarborough when she said:It will give us all"—those who want it and those who do not want it—a socialist transport policy.1407 The fundamental question at issue tonight is not whether there is to be integration and co-ordination of transport. It is who is to do it. Is it to be the customer and the consumer choosing between alternatives those which they prefer and rewarding with profitability those who give them what they prefer? Is that how transport is to be developed, co-ordinated and integrated? Alternatively, is it to be done by the State, by public authority armed with powers to impose its decisions by eliminating all alternatives?
The answer of the Government to that question is given in the forefront of the Bill in Clause 1, in subsection (l,a,ii). The function of the National Freight Corporation isto secure that… goods are carried by rail whenever such carriage is efficient and economic.The most efficient? No. Efficient—on what standard? Efficient—in whose judgment? Economic—on what assumptions? Economic—on what scale of charges? These are the questions which crowd upon one as one reads those words.
The function laid down for the National Freight Corporation is not to secure that freight is carried by whatever method is most efficient and economic, still less by whatever method is chosen by those who are sending and receiving the freight as most efficient and economic, but to ensure that an arbitrary judgment is brought to bear to ensure that the goods are carried in a particular way. As the British Road Federation has very well put it,There would be no point in the relevant proposals in this Bill unless it was the intention to force trade and industry to use rail transport in circumstances when by free choice they would not do so.That is the whole kernel, purpose and effect of the Bill. If that were not the effect, a great deal of the Bill would be superfluous.
In such a system as that, where the choice of the consumer and the judgment of comparison and the market are to be denied, there is no place for private enterprise or for private ownership. The Minister has always been consistent about this. She has always said:' I do not believe that public transport is a suitable field for private profit-making.It goes further than that, however. In 1408 such a system as die party opposite want, there is not even room for independent public authorities. A whole aspect of the Bill is concerned with the eliminating of independent undertakings in public transport and subordinating them to the State. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), in opening the debate for the Opposition, gave a devastating demonstration of die fact that these proposals amount to a deliberate demunicipalisation of public transport. It is the elimination of local authority control of transport, and the substitution of the control of the centralised authority of the State.
The right hon. Lady has not even kept faith with the local authorities on consultation. I have in front of me a letter from her Ministry—this was in September —promising that the Minister'sdetailed policy in relation to passenger transport authorities will be set out in a White Paper which will be published in good time for public discussion before the presentation of the Minister's Bill to Parliament."In good time," as between the right hon. Lady and the local authorities, was 48 hours.
The proposals for the public transport authorities represent, in the Minister's own words,a dramatic extension of public ownership".They do, indeed. Public capital, taxpayers' money, ratepayers' money, tax impositions, all are to be used to drive private ownership and enterprise not only off the roads, but from much else besides.
I begin with the public transport authorities, the P.T.A.s. The remit to be given to them is completely comprehensive. Clause 10(1), which defines their function, says that it isto carry passengers by road within, to and from that area.It is an absolutely complete, unlimited blanket authority and remit, and the Minister herself spelt out at her Party Conference the extent to which it was intended that the logic of these words should be carried.
She said then:… I intend to empower them to engage in a whole range of ancillary services, their own vehicle repair shops, refreshment rooms and bookstalls at bus stations, the provision of parcel services. I will empower them to run 1409 taxi services or to enter into agreements with taxi cab operators to provide a more flexible service than applies now. I shall give them the power to organise ferry services, hovercraft services"—[Interruption.] I am merely putting on record the determination of the party opposite to drive private enterprise not only off the roads but out of a great deal besides, and this is one of the instruments chosen for that purpose. As I was saying, the right hon. Lady said:I shall give them the power to organise ferry services, hovercraft services, hire-car services, express bus services, tours and excursions in competition with private enterprise.
§ Mr. Powell
But let us look at the provision in Clause 19 for that competition with private enterprise. These authorities are to be the masters. These authorities are to say which routes will be licensed for running by private enterprise. They are to be the complete masters in their areas, to say yea or nay to all the routes on which passenger transport can run.
The right hon. Lady has taken some credit, I gather, for the fact that there are no overt powers of compulsory purchase in the Bill. If one can take a man's livelihood away by giving his competitor the right to license him to exercise it or not, one does not need the power of compulsory acquisition. He will come to one and ask humbly to be relieved at the end of the day of the wreckage to which one has reduced his business. The P.T.A.s are deliberately being armed with powers which give the whole of private enterprise into their hands in the areas where they operate, and in the activities in which they decide to engage with the assistance, with the backing, of subsidies of public money, both ratepayers' and taxpayers' money.
So much for public transport. I turn now to road haulage, and first to heavy goods vehicles, which are to be subjected to additional payments. It used to be said—and the right hon. Lady used to claim—that the additional payments to be imposed on heavy goods vehicles were intended to bring about an equity of competition between road and rail, to equalise the conditions so that there could be fair competition between the two forms of transport.
When the Transport Holding Company —whose Chairman is to be the Chairman 1410 of the National Freight Corporation—had this matter examined in 1964, with the Ministry of Transport's own figures, it came to the conclusion that "neither society generally nor the railways, as a separate entity, is being called upon to make a contribution, open or hidden, to the viability of road transport in whole or in part." That was in 1964, since when taxation upon road haulage has been increased by about 50 per cent.
We had understood that the right hon. Lady was to produce figures which would overturn that contention. They have not been forthcoming. She offered a different explanation today—very significantly, I thought. She said that the object of the impost on heavy traffic vehicles is to equalise the situation between the lighter and the heavier road transport. If that is the intention, let her relieve the lighter road transport of taxation. That will produce the same effect. Let her redistribute the burden, if redistribution as between different forms of road transport is her objective.
Then there is the imposition in respect of abnormal loads. This constitutes pure taxation. It is mere taxation for taxation's sake, or penalty for penalty's sake, since it is imposed upon loads the great great majority of which ex-hypothesi cannot be conveyed by any other means. Many estimates have been made of the sort of increase which this will mean. I noticed earlier this week that a boat manufacturer who makes catamarans for export to the United States has found that it will now cost about £5,000 to send them by road from Totton to his export point—they have to go by road—and it will cost £4,000 to send them to the Boat Show.
That is the sort of increase that is being piled on the operating costs of those who manufacture and therefore have to transport these increasingly important elements in our export trade. This point has been emphasised by hon. Members on both sides of the House today, and the right hon. Lady, at the outset, said that she was weakening and was prepared to reconsider the matter in Committee, and was open to suggestions. I am ready to offer the right hon. Lady a suggestion—drop it altogether.
Then there are the licences or special authorisations for large goods vehicles, which are set out in Clause 70, where the 1411 judicial procedure—if it can be so described—is mentioned. The best view that one can get of the effect of the licensing procedure is to be obtained from the White Paper Cmnd. 3470, in paragraph 59 where.if, when all the evidence has been produced and examined the licensing authority finds that neither the applicant's case nor that of the objector is conclusive the need to ensure maximum economic use of rail transport should tip the balance towards the objector."—that is, the railway or the N.F.C. In other words, putting it in simple language, whenever possible the case is always to be decided against the private citizen. It is always to go on the side of the public authority. This provision, with its infinite bureaucratic complexity in application, will prove a great hindrance to many sections of industry, not least the agricultural industry, where the development and flexibility of bulk transport is an increasingly important factor today. So these are the specific measures by which this Bill aims to drive private enterprise and private competition out of transport.
But it goes beyond transport, for there is the "nationalisation charter" laid down in Clauses 45 and 46. These endow the old and new authorities, those set up in the Bill as well as those pre-existing, with rights to manufacture for sale to outside persons and—if I may emphasise an aspect which my hon. Friend did not—… to sell to outside persons… anything which is of a kind which the authority or a subsidiary of theirs purchase in the course of some existing activity of that authority or subsidiary.It would be very difficult to find something which some of these authorities in some of their activities or of the activities of their subsidiaries did not have occasion to purchase. To all these fields, the entré is given. It seems almost a work of supererogation when, at the end of the same Clause, without prejudice of course, they are told that they are permitted… to sell … petrol, oil and spare parts and accessories for motor vehicles …This is, broadly speaking, as Miss Chata-way might have said, "the lot".
But perhaps not. There was something still missing. True, the public authorities were given unlimited power to manufacture and to sell—in retail trade and manufacture. There remained one thing, the 1412 development of land. It would be a pity to deprive them of that, and accordingly they are given the power in Clause 46 to develop other land than that which they own for their statutory purposes, whether or not it appears to the Minister… that the other land cannot be satisfactorily developed unless… adjoining land is … acquired.In other words, regardless of its relevance to their statutory functions, these authorities are erected into land developers in their own right. They need only to own a parcel of land somewhere and they become land developers in that area. This Part of the Bill represents a threat, direct or indirect, to each and every private trading interest in the country, and if hon. Members opposite think this is either jocular or unimportant at present, they will presently discover that the interests and the individuals whose livelihood is affected by these provisions will bring them to a different frame of mind. After this legislation, new-style nationalisation, there might scarcely be any need for further nationalisation legislation.
As I have said, our objections to the Bill on this side of the House are fundamental. It would be a bad Bill at any time, but that such a Measure as this should be brought forward and forced through now, of all times, is an aggravation. Since devaluation it would be perhaps optimistic to say that the regrowth of confidence in sterling and in this country's economy has been slow and hesitant.
The world is watching us. The world is seeing how we handle our affairs. And so they say, "What, pray, are the British doing in Parliament in this last week before the Christmas Recess?" Yesterday they were deciding not to have an export order of £200 million. Today they are deciding as a matter of urgency to nationalise the still un-nationalised parts of their transport system. They are deciding to put at least £40 million a year, a bureaucratic superstructure and crippling restrictions on the most efficient way of getting their exports to the docks. They are deciding on means of holding back the profit-makers for the sake of the loss-makers. They are writing off public capital on a huge scale and then providing more public money for the purchase of going private enterprise concerns, for perpetuating deficits which 1413 should be eliminated and for extending subsidies. That is what the world sees the British engaged on. Their first reaction must be one of incredulity and then, afterwards, the dawning suspicion: "It must have been true after all. The British really are mad."
The effects of this legislation will be incalculable. We cannot estimate the loss which will flow to this country over die years from the elimination of choice and competition in transport, from the multiplication of bureaucracy and centralised control and from the extinction of those sources of change and initiative which How only where there is competition and the opportunity and the reward for enterprise.
I had a letter this morning from a small firm in my constituency.As an example of rail service",said the writer,last week we finally took delivery of some machine parts which were sent from Manchester by passenger train 15 days previously. Only several phone calls from us and the senders managed to persuade British Railways to find the crate in the heap of unsorted parcels lying at Wolverhampton station.Then comes this last sentence:If this is the situation now, what would it be like if road freight were restricted?This is what more and more of those on whom the viability and the future of this country depend are asking themselves as they see this sort of legislation being driven through the House of Commons.
The motto of this Bill, as indeed the motto of the Labour Party, is to be found in a sentence at the beginning of the right hon. Lady's last White Paper:Transport must become the servant of the planners".There speaks the voice of Socialism. To us on this side of the House transport is not the servant of the planners or of anyone but the customer and ultimately the consumer. Whatever is to be the fate of this wicked piece of legislation, it will be our intention and our ambition when our opportunity comes to see that transport becomes once again, and in greater measure than ever before, the servant of those whom we are here in the House to serve—the public.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)
I begin by joining with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in congratulating the hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) on his maiden speech. We were pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to his predecessor, Mr. Bowden, who rendered distinguished service in the House. I, too, am sincere in expressing my admiration for the cogent and confident delivery of the hon. Gentleman's maiden speech, and we look forward to a future occasion when we shall be able to cross swords with him in debate.
Having listened to nearly every speech made today, I have come to the conclusion that my hearing is slightly different from that of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, because I detected quite a lot of support for my right hon. Friend in the presentation of the Bill. With a massive Bill of this kind, it is natural that hon. Members may have some criticisms of its detail, but I am glad to recall that, I think unanimously, my hon. Friends have expressed strong support for the principles involved in it and of the way in which my right hon. Friend has applied the Measure.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West began by complaining of the time for this debate. My right hon. Friend has already dealt with this point. If the Opposition really felt so strongly about the time for the debate they could have done something about it—[Interruption.] Yes, they were in a position to do something about it, but instead they chose to take a different attitude and to select other subjects for debate.
The right hon. Gentleman has made a temporary return to transport, and this fascinates us. I am sure that it is only temporary, because he is liable to make incursions into many territories. He is a much more convincing critic than his hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), who specialises in the exploitation of grievances and the misrepresentation of facts and figures—
§ Mr. Swingler
—as I shall show. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, 1415 South-West, on the other hand, is a convincing critic because I honestly think that he believes that all railway lines which are not profitable should be closed and that public transport in the urban areas should be carried on as a kind of jungle warfare among municipal operators, national operators and private operators. I think he really believes that there should be cut throat competition and that road haulage should drive the railways into the ground. I also believe that if the right hon. Gentleman had had the power he would probably have applied the proposals of the Beeching Report with iron logic—but he would not have had the support of a substantial number of his hon. Friends.
It is not surprising that it has been well represented in the debate that my hon. Friends are well aware that for the past three years many hon. Gentlemen opposite have been queueing up outside the Ministry of Transport to plead for unprofitable lines to be kept open—[Interruption.]—at public expense. It is, perhaps, not surprising that in many cases they have kept quiet about the parts of the Bill which rectify the terrible errors that were made in the Transport Act, 1962. That is a most important reason for the urgency of the Bill; to remove the statutory provisions of the 1962 Act in order to provide realistic financial targets for the railways and a proper method of dealing with the social costs in which the railways are involved.
The right hon. Gentleman made a number of extraordinary allegations. First of all, he applies to the Clauses of the Bill which deals with the reform of the licensing system the phrase "infinite bureaucratic complexity". We are asked to accept as the description of a Bill which provides for freeing 900,000 out of the 1½ million vehicles in this country from licensing altogether—in other words, which abolishes licensing for 900,000 out of 1½ million vehicles—the phrase "infinite bureaucratic complexity". We are reducing the system of quantity licensing so that it applies to less than 100,000 vehicles out of a total of 1½ million vehicles in the business—and that is described as "infinite bureaucratic complexity".
It provides, in the application of quantity licences for the small sector of 1416 the road haulage business quite clearly set out in the Bill, for the tests of speed, reliability and cost to be applied equally to what the railways can provide in freight delivery and what road haulage should provide in order to decide whether it is in the national interest that more traffic should be transferred to the railways. I want to make it plain that the major part of this Bill relates to the abolition of bureaucracy and of time-wasting form filling. That is the major advance made in the Bill, and my right hon. Friend has deliberately concentrated a system for the future quantity licensing of transport on the small sector where it is most important to apply it.
The right hon. Gentleman described these authorities which will be charged with the responsibility of judging these matters of speed, cost and reliability as exercising an arbitrary judgment. I would point out that these are independent authorities. They are authorities which, as many hon. Members know, have worked for years—indeed, for decades—in judging these sort of questions, and we have not been constantly told that they have exercised arbitrary judgment.
This description is on a par with the right hon. Gentleman's description of that part of the Bill that deals with the future organisation of public transport as the "elimination of local authority control". That is said of a Bill that provides for an extension of municipalisation—because that is all one can call it—over wide areas of the country, and in which Schedule 5 makes it clear that five-sixths of the members who will exercise the powers and functions of the passenger authorities must be drawn from the local authorities themselves. That is described as the "elimination of local authority control."
Whatever hon. Members opposite may think, this proposal has gathered some support that, I think, cannot be entirely attributed to Labour candidates who work, apparently, on all kinds of journals. For example, the journal Municipal Engineering of 8th December, described the White Paper as… a conversion to the true democratic principle…and said that it was clear that for the first time the basic planning of local public transport was recognised as a 1417 function of local rather than of central Government.
The Times, in its leading article on my right hon. Friend's White Paper "Public Transport and Traffic", which is implemented in this Bill, said:Public transport cannot go on as it is. The private car is winning hands down. And it is not just trains and buses that are losing, it is the entire community, including car users.It went on to say:Somehow public transport must be resuscitated. In broad outline, Mrs. Castle's strategy is correct.That is what The Times said about the provisions of a Bill to rehabilitate public transport organisation by setting up passenger transport authorities with these powers and functions.
Incidentally, let me tell the right hon. Gentleman, who talked of executives and authorities having sweeping powers in relation to private enterprise operators, that, of course, this part of the Bill applies only to stage services. The passenger transport authorities are to be charged with the planning of the stage services of public transport. It is only in relation to those services that they will have to negotiate with the private operators and take decisions about them. And, of course, there is provision for compensation to be offered if they should decide that those services are not required.
Let me return to the hon. Member for Worcester—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because in his attack the hon. Member for Worcester produced a grotesque and fantastic misrepresentation of the financial facts in the Bill.
Many hon. Members on both sides have been concerned about certain of the financial provisions in the Bill. I therefore want to set out quite clearly the financial proposals which are made here, the reasons why they are urgently necessary to get a higher standard of efficiency and realism, and what they involve, especially as the hon. Member for Worcester said that our producing the Bill in a situation following devaluation was profligate of public money, although he is constantly giving interviews to the newspapers suggesting that he would be throwing money all over the place on a bigger road building programme if only he had his way. He is quite capable, not 1418 only of misinterpreting the figures we produce about the road building programme, but of making all sorts of promises of how it should be very much bigger.
My right hon. Friend explained that what is done here is to reduce the commencing capital debt of the British Railways Board under the 1962 Act from approximately £1,562 million to £300 million on 1st January, 1969.I know that this sounds a tremendous reduction. The point is that the write-off which is proposed is a reflection of the unprofitability of the railways, not just in the last few years, but as all hon. Members know, over the last decade. Hon. Members opposite should remember that the losses which have been brought about and which lead to the need for this write-off have been incurred under the financial regime, or financial straitjacket, which was laid down by the Transport Act, 1962, for which the Conservative Government were responsible.
The fact is that most of this write-off is notional. I think that hon. Members know that. There is no real loss to the Exchequer, which has for some years been financing, through the deficit grant, the payment of interest on the capital now being written off. In fact, as my right hon. Friend said, £705 million of the debt now being cancelled was put into a suspense account by the Tory Government themselves at the beginning of 1963. That puts the matter into proper perspective. The effect of the write-off will be to reduce the board's interest burden by about £30 million per annum.
Equally with the financial reconstruction of the British Waterways Board. The board has a most creditable record in reducing the loss which it inherited from the British Transport Commission by about a quarter. The effect here will be to make the board's accounts more realistic and to reduce its interest burden by about £580,000 a year.
The point is that both these Boards will thus get the opportunity of maintaining commercial viability without depriving the Exchequer of any income whatsoever. If time shows that the Boards can be more successful than we hope, the Exchequer can benefit since there is provision to enable my right hon. Friend to recover for the Exchequer any revenue which is surplus to the requirements of the Boards.
1419 I turn to the question of the financial assistance to the Railways Board, the Waterways Board and the London Transport Board on revenue account. The Waterways Board will not require any additional assistance. What is important for hon. Members to realise is that the power to make deficit grants to the railways will cease after the end of 1968. In the meantime the existing statutory limits on the amount of grants will be abolished. We estimate that the additional amount which may be issued as a result, over and above the £826 million already authorised, will be about £40 million—that is, taking into account the position of all three boards.
In the case of London Transport, it will be necessary to make issues out of these additional moneys in respect of its revenue deficit before the Bill receives the Royal Assent. My right hon. Friend's intention is to draw on the Civil Contingencies Fund for this purpose, the advances being repaid by moneys provided following Supplementary Estimates which she will submit for the approval of the House at a later date. There will be no need for any similar action in the case of the Railways Board.
The third main element in the new power is that my right hon. Friend is initiating the system of specific grants to assist public transport. The Railways Board will be the main recipient of these new grants. We estimate that the grants for unremunerative passenger services will amount to £55 million per annum, and for surplus track and signalling equipment £15 million per annum initially. As I have said, the Board will be relieved of £30 million interest payments, so that it will benefit to the tune of £100 million as a direct result of the Bill's provisions.
I think I heard an hon. Member say something about sophistry. The point about the specific grant system, as I said at the outset, is that it recognises the social importance of unremunerative railway lines, lines which have so often been the subject of representations to me by Tory Members during the past three years. We are deliberately taking this step of introducing the specific grant system in order to put the finances of the railways on a realistic basis.
But the Railways Board is not thus getting an easy option, even though the 1420 loss on the sundries traffic, which amounted to £25 million last year, is being transferred to the National Freight Corporation. There is provision for a grant to the National Freight Corporation in respect of the loss on this traffic, but it will diminish to nil after five years, and in any case we expect it to be no more than £15 million in the first year. The remainder of British Rail's deficit is to be accounted for by reduced depreciation and by increased efficiency.
The Bill provides for other new grants to be made. I have scarcely heard any hon. Member dispute the need for this support and assistance for public transport. Indeed, I know one hon. Member opposite who, I am quite certain, believes that these steps are necessary. They include the additional rebate on the bus fuel tax, which in the first year may amount to as much as £7 million; the capital grants which my right hon. Friend explained, which might amount to as much as £7 million; new bus replacement grants, which in the first year might amount to £5 million; and special assistance to rural transport.
I do not believe, especially in regard to the rural areas, that there is an hon. Member who seriously contests the merits of these proposals. We have not heard much opposition to them, in spite of the generalised charges of throwing money about.
We believe that these new grants may well result in a net saving to the economy of this country if they have the effect of producing the more efficient system of public transport which we very much need.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the actual cost to the Exchequer of the Bill in the first year?
§ Mr. Swingler
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has been following. I have endeavoured to set out in great detail, point by point, precisely the effect—
§ Mr. Swingler
—on the Exchequer of the write-off and what its effect will be in terms of the accounts of the Railways Board. I have just said that the grants to the Railways Board will amount to £55 million. But they will, of course, be 1421 introduced in substitution for the Exchequer deficit payments which the Board has received. Further, I have just explained, for example, the rebate on bus fuel tax, which I quantified at £7 million in the first year, the capital grants—
§ Mr. Swingler
I gave the figures, showing that the cost of the new grants would amount to £20 million in the first year. If the hon. Gentleman has followed what I have been saying he will be able to add up the figures for himself —the grants to the Railways Board, the effect of the write-off of capital, and £20 million for the specific grants here set out.
I shall come in a moment to the fact that on the other side of the picture there are certain charges imposed by the Bill. Those hon. Members who are concerned about the cost of some of these grants that have been introduced will no doubt be interested in the fact that the Bill provides, on the other side, for raising £30 million of revenue by means of certain charges.
§ Mr. Swingler
I think I have set out in sufficient detail exactly the financial implications.
I want to say something about Part X of the Bill because in the debate not very much attention has been concentrated on it, which is very natural because most hon. Members wanted to discuss the future of the railways, the National Freight Corporation and the system of organising public transport. But Part X once again expresses my right hon. Friend's faith in the future of local government because it provides for local authorities, in addition to responsibility and power over public transport, much greater scope in the management of traffic.
§ Mr. Goodhew
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We have been told only recently that we have to face the fact that in this country we have to have no areas which are sacrosanct in relation to our efforts to recover from devaluation. Yet the hon. Gentleman—
§ The Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to make, on the pretext of a point of order, a point in debate. He cannot do that.
§ Mr. Swingler
Part X is designed, in conjunction with the establishment of Passenger Transport Authorities, to give local authorities greater powers for the management of traffic. I should have thought that there were many hon. Members interested in local government who would be extremely concerned about this Part. As we explained in the White Paper, Public Transport and Traffic, this part abolishes the need for local authorities hitherto to come running to Whitehall for approval of a great many of their traffic orders, for example about street parking and pedestrian crossings. I know that very many hon. Members have made representations to us about, for example, the system of providing pedestrian crossings. We are now going to fix a system of a quota for each local authority area in order to prevent the proliferation of crossings, but it will give the local authorities themselves the decision—it will not require Ministerial approval—to deal with this matter. It also enables them to use revenue from parking meters for a greater variety of purposes, including purposes that will benefit, improve and extend public transport.
I appreciate that many hon. Members may find Part X and the Fifteenth Schedule difficult to follow because they are drafted, necessarily, in the form of amendments to the Road Traffic Regulation Act, 1967. The Bill provides for that Act to be reprinted as amended by the Bill, and for the reprint henceforth to be the authentic version. I am sure that hon. Members, especially those who are going to serve on the Committee, will be glad to know that we shall be producing a dummy version of the reprinted Road Traffic Regulation Act incorporating the amendments in the Bill in time for the Committee stage in order to assist the work of the Committee and help other hon. Members and others such as local authorities and road users who are interested in it. But I emphasise that this part of the Bill is a genuine extension of the freedom and power of local authorities for the conduct of the traffic management measures which they can 1423 use in conjunction with the control of public transport.
A great attack has been made by the right hon. Gentleman and others on the manufacturing powers in the Bill. It was a piece of gross misrepresentation by the hon. Member for Worcester to read a part of Clause 45 in such a way as to manage to lose the last three or four sentences. He lost subsection (2,a), which says that these manufacturing powers are to be extended to the manufacture of those things which are considered to be advantageous on the part of the nationalised board… by reason of the fact that the authority or a subsidiary of theirs have materials or facilities for, or skill in, the manufacture or repair of that thing in connection with some existing activity of that authority or subsidiary;".This makes it plain that these powers are restricted to things in connection with existing activities. The hon. Gentleman tried to raise the wind that this would enable the nationalised boards to go into the manufacture of anything they liked. That is not so. By not reading out, or by losing those sentences, he missed out the fact that they can only apply for my right hon. Friend's approval for the extended use of these manufacturing powers if they are connected with an existing activity or because they have the skills or materials to engage in such manufacture. That is a most important condition of the exercise of these powers.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Would the hon. Gentleman point out anything in the Clause which says what they cannot make or do? If they purchase anything, could they then decide to manufacture it, with the right hon. Lady's approval?
§ another provision about what they may be able to sell. I am talking about the exercise of manufacturing powers, and in connection with those powers, which require the Minister's approval, she can lay down conditions. It is made plain in Clause 45 that it only applies where they have the materials, facilities or skills in their existing establishments. We know that these are on a wide scale and we want to see these materials and facilities used in the export trade, but the nationalised boards could only apply to the Minister for her approval in order to be able to use these assets to the maximum extent.
§ We shall be dealing shortly with many further details in connection with this colossal Bill. It is a great challenge to all. We know that we depend upon the workers in the transport industry and services for success in this endeavour. My right hon. Friend has endeavoured in the Bill to provide for them the progressive framework that we have long needed in substitution for the Transport Act, 1962. I believe that, in carrying this Bill through, we shall take a great step forward not only towards realism in the conduct of the management of the great nationalised transport but towards a great improvement of the efficiency of public transport for our people.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Silkin)
rose—in his place and claimed to move. That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 325, Noes 251.1429
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Albu, Austen||Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bidweil, Sydney||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Binns, John||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)|
|Anderson, Donald||Bishop, E. S.||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Archer, Peter||Blackburn, F.||Buchan, Norman|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Boardman, H.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Booth, Albert||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Boston, Terence||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James|
|Barnes, Michael||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Cant, R. B.|
|Barnett, Joel||Boyden, James||Carmichael, Neil|
|Beaney, Alan||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Bradley, Tom||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Bence, Cyril||Brooks, Edwin||Coe, Denis|
|Coleman, Donald||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Moyle, Roland|
|Conlan, Bernard||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Murray, Albert|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Howie, W.||Neal, Harold|
|Cronin, John||Hoy, James||Newens, Stan|
|Crosland, Ht. Hn. Anthony||Huckfield, Leslie||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Ogden, Eric|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hunter, Adam||Orbach, Maurice|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hynd, John||Orme, Stanley|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Irvine, Sir Arthur||Oswald, Thomas|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Padley, Walter|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jeger, Mrs.Lena(H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Dell, Edmund||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Park, Trevor|
|Dewar, Donald||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Dickens, James||Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Dobson, Ray||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dunn, James A.||Judd, Frank||Pentland, Norman|
|Dunnett, Jack||Kelley, Richard||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Kenyon, Clifford||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Eadie, Alex||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lawson, George||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Leadbitter, Ted||Probert, Arthur|
|Ellis, John||Ledger, Ron||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|English, Michael||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Randall, Harry|
|Ensor, David||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Rankin, John|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lee, John (Reading)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Richard, Ivor|
|Finch, Harold||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lipton, Marcus||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lomas, Kenneth||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Foley, Maurice||Loughlin, Charles||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow. E.)|
|Ford, Ben||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Forrester, John||McBride, Neil||Roebuck, Roy|
|Fowler, Gerry||McCann, John||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacColl, James||Rose, Paul|
|Freeson, Reginald||MacDermot, Niall||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Macdonald, A. H.||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Gardner, Tony||McGuire, Michael||Ryan, John|
|Garrett, W. E.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Ginsburg David||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mackie, John||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mackintosh, John P.||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Maclennan, Robert||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Gregory, Arnold||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Griffiths, Ht. Hn. James (Llanelly)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Small, William|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Snow, Julian|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mapp, Charles||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hamling, William||Marks, Kenneth||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Hannan, William||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Stonehouse, John|
|Harper, Joseph||Mason, Roy||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mayhew, Christopher||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mellish, Robert||Swain, Thomas|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mendelson, J. J.||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mikardo, Ian||Taverne, Dick|
|Hazell, Bert||Millan, Bruce||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Henig, Stanley||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Tinn, James|
|Herblson, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Molloy, William||Tomney, Frank|
|Hilton, W. S.||Moonman, Eric||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hooley, Frank||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Horner, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Wilkins, W. A.||Winter-bottom, R. E.|
|Wallace, George||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Woodhurn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Watkins, David (Consett)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Woof, Robert|
|Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)||Yates, Victor|
|Wellbeloved, James||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Whitaker, Ben||Willis, Rt. Hn. George||Mr. Brain O'Malley and|
|White, Mrs. Eirene||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)||Mr. Charles Grey.|
|Whitlock, William||Winnick, David|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. selwyn (Wirral)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fortescue, Tim||Longden, Gilbert|
|Astor, John||Foster, Sir John||Loveys, W. H.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Awdry, Daniel||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Gibson-Watt, David||MacArthur, lan|
|Balniel, Lord||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Mackenzie, Alasdalr(Ross&Crom'ty)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Batsford, Brian||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Glover, Sir Douglas||McMaster, Stanley|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)||Glyn, Sir Richard||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maddan, Martin|
|Bessell, Peter||Goodhart, Philip||Marten, Neil|
|Biffen, John||Goodhew, Victor||Maude, Angus|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gower, Raymond||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Grant, Anthony||Mawby, Ray|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gresham Cooke, R.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Blaker, Peter||Grieve, Percy||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Boardman, Thomas (Leicester, S.W.)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Body, Richard||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Gurden, Harold||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Monro, Hector|
|Braine, Bernard||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Brewis, John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Murton, Oscar|
|Bryan, Paul||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)||Hastings, Stephen||Neave, Airey|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hawkins. Paul||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hay John||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Burden, F. A.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Nott, John|
|Campbell, Gordon||Heseltine, Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Carlisle, Mark||Higgins, Terence L.||Orr, Capt. L. p. S.|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hiley, Joseph||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hill, J. E. B.||Osbom, John (Hallam)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Holland, Philip||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Clark, Henry||Hooson, Emlyn||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Clegg, Walter||Hordern, Peter||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hornby, Richard||Peel, John|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Howell, David (Guildford)||Percival, Ian|
|Cordle, John||Hunt, John||Peyton, John|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Costain, A. P.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Crouch, David||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Pym, Francis|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jopling, Michael||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Dance, James||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Kershaw, Anthony||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Kimball, Marcus||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||King,Rt. Hn. Dr. Horace(S'ton,Itchen)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kirk, Peter||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Kitson, Timothy||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|du Carm, Rt. Hn. Edward||Lambton, Viscount||Royle, Anthony|
|Eden, Sir John||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lane, David||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Emery, Peter||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Scott, Nicholas|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Sharples, Richard|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Farr, John||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Smith, John||Tilney, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Stainton, Keith||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Stodart, Anthony||Van Straubenzee, W. R.||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Vickers, Dame Joan||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walker, peter (Worcester)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Wright, Esmond|
|Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||Wall, Patrick||Wylie, N. R.|
|Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Walters, Dennis||Younger, Hn. George|
|Teeling, Sir William||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Temple, John M.||Weatherill, Bernard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Webster, David||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Wells, John (Maidstone)||Mr. Jasper More.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Whitelaw.]: —
|Division No. 27.]||AYES||[11.14 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Astor, John||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Drayson, G. B.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Awdry, Daniel||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Jopling, Michael|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Eden, Sir John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Balniel, Lord||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Emery, Peter||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Batsford, Brian||Errington, Sir Eric||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Eyre, Reginald||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Farr, John||Kirk, Peter|
|Bessell, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kitson, Timothy|
|Biffen, John||Fortescue, Tim||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Foster, Sir John||Lambton, Viscount|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Calbraith, Hon. T. G.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gibson-Watt, David||Lane, David|
|Blaker, Peter||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Boardman, Tom||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Body, Richard||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Glover, Sir Douglas||Lloyd, Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield>|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Glyn, Sir Richard||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. selwyn (Wirral)|
|Braine, Bernard||Goodhart, Philip||Longden, Gilbert|
|Brewis, John||Goodhew, Victor||Loveys, W. H.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gower, Raymond||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bromley Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Grant, Anthony||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mac-Arthur, Ian|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Grieve, Percy||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)|
|Bryan, Paul||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Buchanan-smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lam|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Gurden, Harold||McMaster, Stanley|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Burden, F. A.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maddan, Martin|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Marten, Neil|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maude, Angus|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harrison, Brian (Matdon)||Mawby, Ray|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Clark, Henry||Hastings, Stephen||Mill, Peter (Torrington)|
|Clegg, Walter||Hawkins, Paul||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hay, John||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Cordle, John||Heseltine, Michael||Monro, Hector|
|Corfield, F. V.||Higgins, Terence L.||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Costain, A. P.||Hiley, Joseph||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hill, J. E. B.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Crouch, David||Holland, Philip||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hooson, Emlyn||Murton, Oscar|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hordern, Peter||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hornby, Richard||Neave, Airey|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Howell, David (Guildford)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Dance, James||Hunt, John||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Nott, John|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Iremonger, T. L.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Dcedee, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
§ The House divided: Ayes 249, the Noes321.1433
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Royle, Anthony||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Russell, Sir Ronald||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Page, John (Harrow,W.)||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Scott, Nicholas||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Peel, John||Sharples, Richard||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Percival, Ian||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wall, Patrick|
|Peyton, John||Silvester, Frederick||Walters, Dennis|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Sinclair, Sir George||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Smith, John||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Pounder, Rafton||Stainton, Keith||Webster, David|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stodart, Anthony||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pym, Francis||Summers, Sir Spencer||Winstantey, Dr. M. P.|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Tapsell, Peter||Wotrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Teeling, Sir William||Wright, Esmond|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Temple, John M.||Wylie, N. R.|
|Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Younger, Hn. George|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Tilney, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Mr. Jasper More.|
|Abse, Leo||Dalyell, Tam||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Albu, Austen||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Anderson, Donald||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hamling, William|
|Archer, Peter||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hannan, William|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Harper, Joseph|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davies, Ifor (Cower)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Haseldine, Norman|
|Barnes, Michael||Delargy, Hugh||Hattersley, Roy|
|Barnett, Joel||Dell, Edmund||Hazell, Bert|
|Baxter, William||Dempsey, James||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Beaney, Alan||Dewar, Donald||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Diamond, Rt, Hn. John||Henig, Stanley|
|Bence, Cyril||Dickens, James||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dobson, Ray||Hilton, W. S.|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Doig, Peter||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dunn, James A.||Hooley, Frank|
|Binns, John||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Horner, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Blackburn, F.||Eadie, Alex||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Edelman, Maurice||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Booth, Albert||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Howie, W.|
|Boston, Terence||Ellis, John||Hoy, James|
|Bottomtey, Rt. Hn. Arthur||English, Michael||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Boyden, James||Ensor, David||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bradley, Tom||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Faulds, Andrew||Hunter, Adam|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fernyhough, E.||Hynd, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Finch, Harold||Irvine, Sir Arthur|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Foley, Maurice||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Buchan, Norman||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jeger, Mrs.Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Ford, Ben||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Forrester, John||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fowler, Gerry||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Freeson, Reginald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Gardner, Tony||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Coe, Denis||Garrett, W. E.||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Coleman, Donald||Ginsburg, David||Judd, Frank|
|Concannon, J. D.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Kelley, Richard|
|Conlan, Bernard||Gourlay, Harry||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter &Chatham)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Cronin, John||Gregory, Arnold||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lawson, George|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llancily)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Ledger, Ron|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Newens, Stan||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N 'c' tle-u-Tyne)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Norwood, Christopher||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Oakes, Gordon||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Ogden, Eric||Slater, Joseph|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Oram, Albert E.||Small, William|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Orbach, Maurice||Snow, Julian|
|Lipton, Marcus||Orme, Stanley||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Oswald, Thomas||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Owen, Wilt (Morpeth)||Stonehouse, John|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Padley, Walter||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|McBride, Neil||Paget, R. T.||Swain, Thomas|
|McCann, John||Palmer, Arthur||Swingler, Stephen|
|MacColl, James||Pannel'l, Rt. Hn. Charles||Taverne, Dick|
|MacDermot, Niall||Park, Trevor||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|McGuire Michael||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Thornton, Ernest|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Pavitt, Laurence||Tinn, James|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Tomney, Frank|
|Mackie, John||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Pentland, Norman||Urwin, T. W.|
|Maclennan, Robert||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, s.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Wallace, George|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Price, William (Rugby)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Probert, Arthur||Weitzman, David|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Randall, Harry||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mapp, Charles||Rankin, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rees, Merlyn||Whitaker, Ben|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Reynolds, G. W.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mason, Roy||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Whitlock, William|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Richard, Ivor||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mellish, Robert||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Millan, Bruce||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Robinson, Rt. Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c' as)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Molloy, William||Roebuck, Roy||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Moonman, Eric||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Winnick, David|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Rose, Paul||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Ryan, John||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Moyle, Roland||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)||Yates, Victor|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Sheldon, Robert|
|Murray, Albert||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Neal, Harold||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Mr. Brian O'Malley and|
|Mr. Charles Grey.|
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).