HL Deb 12 August 1919 vol 36 cc796-821



Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 2:

Powers and duties.

2.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Minister in the exercise and performance of any powers and duties transferred to, or conferred or imposed upon him, by or in pursuance of this Act, to take steps to carry out the purposes aforesaid, and there shall, as from such date or dates as His Majesty in Council may by Order determine, be transferred to the Minister all powers and duties of any Government Department in relation to—

  1. (a) railways;
  2. (b) light railways;
  3. (c) tramways;
  4. (d) canals, waterways, and inland navigations;
  5. (e) roads, bridges and ferries, and vehicles and traffic thereon;
  6. (f) harbours, docks and piers;
including any powers and duties of any Government Department in relation to any railway, light railway, tramway, canal, inland navigation, harbour, dock, pier, or other undertaking concerned with any of the matters aforesaid, and any powers of any Government Department with respect to the appointment of members or the procedure of any commissioners, conservancy board or other body having jurisdiction with respect to any such matters as aforesaid, and any powers of any Government department with respect to the snaking, confirming; issuing, granting, or giving (as the case may be) of by-laws, regulations, orders, licences, approvals, or consents relating to any of the: matters hereinbefore mentioned:

Provided that—

  1. (i) His Majesty in Council may by Order except from swill transfer any particular powers or duties, or provide for the exercise or performance of any power or duty so excepted by the Minister concurrently or in consultation with or at the instance of the Government, Department concerned, or by the Government Department concerned concurrently or in consultation with the Minister, or provide for the retransfer to any such Department of any powers and duties transferred to the Minister by this section; and
  2. (ii) Nothing in this section shall transfer to the Minister any powers or duties of the Admiralty exerciseable in or in relation to ports declared under the Dockyard Ports Regulation Act, 1865, to be dockyard ports, but His Majesty in Council may by Order transfer to the Admiralty, instead of to the Minister, any of the powers of the Board of Trade with respect to dockyard ports, or with respect to the appointment of members of any commissioners, conservancy board, or other body having jurisdiction in the whole or any part of a dockyard port; and
  3. (iii) Nothing in this section shall transfer to the Minister the powers of the Board of Trade with respect to the appoint 798 ment of members or the procedure of the Railway and Canal Commission, but His Majesty in Council may, by order, transfer those powers to a Secretary of State instead of to the Minister.

(2) His Majesty in Council may by Order make such incidental, consequential and supplemental provisions as may be necessary Or expedient for the purpose of giving full effect to any transfer of powers or duties by or under this section, including provisions for the transfer of any property, rights and liabilities held, enjoyed, or incurred by any Government Department in connection with any powers or duties transferred, and may make such adaptations in the enactments relating to such powers or duties as may be necessary to snake exerciseable by the Minister and his officers or by the Admiralty and their officers, as the case may be, the powers and duties so transferred: Provided always that noticing herein contained shall enable the powers so transferred to be increased.

(3) In connection with the transfer of powers and duties to the Minister, Admiralty, or Secretary of State, by or under this Act, the provisions set out in the First Schedule to this Act shall have effect.

(4) There shall be attached to the Ministry a separate department charged with dealing in the ordinary course of departmental business with road construction, improvement, maintenance, and development.

THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND moved, at the end of subsection (1), to insert the following new proviso— (iv) Nothing in this section shall transfer to the Minister any powers or duties of the Board of Trade with respect to the making, confirming, issuing, granting or giving of by-laws, regulations, orders, licences, approvals or consents relating to any harbour, clock or pier undertaking to which section four of this Act applies or with respect to the approval of any rates, fares, tolls, dues or other charges levied or proposed to be levied by the owners of any such undertaking.

The noble Duke said: I have put down this Amendment because I have been given to understand that a very strong feeling exists on the part of the clock and harbour authorities that this Amendment would be a valuable safeguard to protect them from any possible competition on the part of the Ministry. I should like to say at once that I do not intend to press the Amendment if the noble Earl informs me that, after due consideration, he cannot accept it. I realise that it may be said that the Government have done their utmost to meet the wishes of the clock and harbour authorities, and that those authorities have pronounced themselves fully satisfied with the concessions made by the Government. I admit all that; but at the same time I submit that this proposed new subsection will not hamper the Ministry in any way. If the Amendment is not accepted I think a very dangerous form of competition will be set up.

The principle conceded in this Bill is that the same authority which takes possession of certain services also makes bylaws and regulations for the conduct of those services. Whether that is or is not a good principle is a matter which I will not weary your Lordships by discussing. I should call it a wrong principle. The Government does not take possession of the harbours: it merely has a limited control over them. It seems altogether unfair and improper that the Government should be able to order the carrying out of certain definite acts and to interfere in the regulations that may be issued for the conduct of the business of the docks. In those circumstances I hope the noble Earl will see his way to accept this Amendment. These apprehensions, whether they are justified or not, are not altogether unnatural. They exist, and I venture to hope that he will do his utmost for us.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 2, line 40, at end insert the said new proviso.—(The Duke of Northumberland.)


Before the noble Earl replies, I would like to say a few words. This Amendment was moved in the interests of the docks and harbours of the country in the early stages of the Bill, but it was withdrawn because we understood it was part of the bargain that was come to between the Prime Minister and members of Parliament in another place that docks and harbours would be withdrawn from the control of the Minister. It was on that understanding that Clause 2 was to stand. I hope that the noble Earl will allow me to appeal to him to give his careful consideration to the proposed Amendment now.

I would like the House to understand exactly what it is that Clause 2 does. Clause 2 transfers all the powers and duties now exercised by the Board of Trade in relation to statutory dock undertakings to the new Minister. Those powers and duties include among other things the control of the issue of capital. If we, the Port of London Authority, for instance, wish to build a new dock or to make any large extensions in our undertaking necessitating the issue of new capital we have first of all to get the approval of the Board of Trade. In future, if the Bill stands, we shall have to go to the Minister of Transport, who will be able to put a stop to our schemes of improvement by withholding his consent to the issue of capital. Then, again, if we wish to improve the channel of the river—to deepen it in order that larger ships might come up—that again would necessitate the expenditure of a large sum of money and the issue of capital, and the Minister there also might withhold his consent to our issuing that capital.

Then he will have control of all our by-laws. He will also have the duty—and this point is, perhaps, more important than the other—of hearing and deciding upon appeals under the Port of London Act. Traders have a power of appeal to the Board of Trade in regard to certain matters, and that appeal would be transferred from the Board of Trade to the new Minister. What the transference of these powers really means is that to some extent, at any rate, the control which has been removed from the new Minister will be in his hands in an indirect manner, and it will be in the hands of a Minister who is about to become our competitor.

The noble Earl, in the course of his speech on the Second Reading, I think it was, told the House that the docks and harbours of the country might be divided half and half as between railway-owned docks and non-railway-owned docks. I do not quite know how he comes to that conclusion, but if you take the standard of value as your measure, the House may perhaps be surprised to hear that the railway-owned docks and harbours handle only 22 per cent. of the total trade that passes through the docks and harbours of the country, as against 78 per cent. handled by the statutory authorities; and that the Port of London Authority alone handles no less than 30 per cent., or a greater value than that dealt with by the railway-owned docks. It is now proposed that all these powers should pass into the hands of a Minister who is to be our competitor, and he is to act in a judicial capacity in relation to the statutory dock undertakings with whom he is competing. I earnestly appeal to the noble Earl to meet us if he possibly can.


I am very much obliged to the noble Duke for the tone of the remarks in which be introduced this Amendment. I regret that I am unable to accept it, but I can assure him that I have, in consultation with those by whom I am advised, given very careful consideration to it. I hope I may be able to some extent to remove the mistrust and suspicion which is at the bottom of the Amendment. The argument, if I understand it aright, is that the Minister of Transport will in future have possession and control of the railway-owned docks and harbours of the country and ought not therefore to be empowered, as he is under the Bill, to approve rates and charges, or by-laws and regulations proposed by the independent lock and harbour authorities.

My first answer to the noble Duke is that both the Amendment itself and the speeches which have been made in favour of it suggest that the powers of the Board of Trade in these matters go very much further than they in fact do. I agree that in the case of the Port of London the Board of Trade has more complete powers than it has with regard to the other independent docks and harbours in the country. Let me take first of all the question of rates, which is one of the matters raised by the Amendment. Generally speaking, the maxima of dock rates are fixed by the particular Acts which constitute the various docks and harbour authorities, and in this session of Parliament these authorities are, most of them, seeking to obtain powers to increase their maximum rates. In some cases the Board of Trade is authorised, tinder the special Act constituting the authority, to approve charges for some incidental services such as warehouses and weighing machines, but, except for those cases in which the Board of Trade approval is required, the alterations in dock charges to which the Board of Trade sanction is necessary are extremely few. Such approval of the Board of Trade has only been sought and given at six or seven places in the last fourteen years. The most important case was that of the master porters rates and tonnage dues on goods at Liverpool. In fact, in the case of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, that is Mae only rate to which the Board of Trade approval is necessary.

Very much the same thing applies in the case of by-laws. The noble Duke in his speech, I think, suggested that the Board of Trade makes these by-laws. That is not the case. Under the general Piers and Harbours Clauses Act, by-laws, which are in all eases made by the owners of the undertakings themselves, have to be approved by a Judge of the High Court or by Quarter Sessions, but not by the Board of Trade. In some cases, however, it is true that the special Acts of the dock authorities do provide that by-laws shall be approved by the Board of Trade. I merely mention this at the outset to show that the particular fear that is behind the Amendment is confined to far fewer instances than the Amendment itself, or the speeches, would lead one to suppose.

Now I come to the cases in which it is quite true the Board of Trade has a discretion. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, was that in these cases the Minister would be a competitor with independent dock and harbour authorities, by reason of the fact that under the Bill he will control the railway-owned docks. But I would point out to the noble Lord that the Board of Trade itself has been in that position precisely for the last five years, and I do not think that any suggestion has ever been made that the Board of Trade could not be trusted to carry out its powers with regard to the independent (lock companies because it was in possession, as it has been during the last five years, of the railways.

I would further point out to your Lordships that the whole of the stall of the Board of Trade, who have hitherto administered matters with regard to railways, will be transferred to the Minister of Transport and, therefore, it will be precisely the same personnel who will be administering railway matters and, incidentally, railway-owned docks. The same personnel will be dealing with them under the. Ministry as previously dealt with them under the Board of Trade. Not only that, but the authorities of the Board of Trade who previously dealt with such questions as approval of by-laws or rates from docks and harbour authorities which -came before the Board of Trade, will also be transferred, even if this Amendment were accepted, because their duties will be required in connection with other parts of the Bill. Therefore, the Board of Trade will be deprived of the personnel which in the past dealt with these matters, and precisely the same individuals will in future be dealing both with railway and dock matters under the Ministry as pre- viously dealt with them under the Board of Trade.

I think I an entitled to say that that staff administered these powers to every one's satisfaction during the period in which the Board of Trade was in precisely the same position as the Minister will be in under the Bill, and had possesion of these railway-owned docks. No suggestion of partiality or unfairness was ever raised. It is true that an agreement was arrived at between the Minister and those interested in harbours and docks under which Clause 4 was inserted in the Bill, but no request was made by them at that time that this particular point should be met. I think I may attribute this Amendment to the last flickering of that flame of suspicion and mistrust which has manifested itself throughout the discussions on this Bill, but, alter the facts which I have laid before your Lordships, I do moat sincerely hope that the suspicion which gave rise to this Amendment will be dispelled and that no mistrust will be felt as to the impartiality of the authority that will deal with these matters in future.


If anything would dispel the feeling of suspicion with which undoubtedly this Bill has been received, it is the very conciliatory attitude and courtesy of my noble friend in charge of the Bill. Unquestionably, as has been already said, he has done a great deal towards mitigating the feeling with which this Bill was regarded, but I am afraid that the feeling of apprehension is too deeply founded even for the skill of my noble friend entirely to eliminate. I think a good deal really turns upon this. My noble friend perfectly sincerely regards the Bill as one the operation of which will be of two years duration. If that were so, no doubt, almost everything he said in answer to my noble friend, the noble Duke, would be sound. He said "Here you have the Board of Trade which has managed docks which compete with the free docks, and has had control of the free docks to a certain extent during the last five years, but it has not misused its power; why should you think that the new Ministry of Transport will misuse its power in the two or three years ahead of us?"

That is a very reasonable contention of course, but most of us are convinced that-this Bill will not last for two years only, but, in perhaps a modified form, will be a permanent measure; and if you have a permanent Act in which you have the same Ministry running a particular class of docks for profit and controlling their competitors to some extent, I think most of us will agree that human nature being what it is—even Ministerial human nature—it is not likely that the free docks will always receive perfect impartiality of treatment. Those are the reasons for which, I understand, my noble friend, the Duke of Northumberland, and Lord Ritchie have advocated this Amendment. They have done so in moderate language and they have indicated that they do not intend to press it. Therefore, I will not detain your Lordships, but I thought it right to say this much in order to show that, so far as I am concerned and others who think with me, we do think that the apprehensions of my noble friend are well founded and that the sequel will prove that to be the case.


I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3:

Power to control temporarily railways, etc.

3.—(1) With a view to affording time for the consideration and formulation of the policy to be pursued as to the future position of undertakings to which this section applies, the following provisions shall, unless Parliament otherwise determines, have effect for a period of two years after the passing of this Act, or where as respects any particular provision a longer period is expressly provided, for such longer period:—

  1. (a) Where at the passing of this Act possession has been taken of any railroad undertaking or part thereof in pursuance of section sixteen of the Regulation of the Forces Act, 1871, or otherwise, possession thereof shall be retained without any renewal of the warrant granted by the Secretary of State in pursuance of that section, upon the same terms as to compensation as those heretofore in force, and the Minister may exercise over all such undertakings all such powers as have hitherto been exercised by the Board of Trade under the said Act or with the consent of the owners of the undertakings or otherwise, and such other powers as may be conferred by this section or agreed to by the railway companies concerned:
  2. (b) The Minister may, after giving not less than three months' notice in writing, take possession, in the name or on behalf of His Majesty, of the whole 805 or any part of any other statutory railway undertaking or of any light railway or tramway undertaking (other than a tramway or a light railway used as a tramway belonging to a local authority), or of any canal or inland navigation, undertaking, and subject as hereinafter mentioned of any harbour, dock or pier undertaking, or of any plant belonging to any such undertaking as aforesaid or used thereon (exclusive of privately owned railway wagons), and of any barges, tugs, and other craft owned or held by the undertaking of which possession has been taken.
  3. (c) The directors and other persons concerned with the management, and officers and servants of any undertaking Of the whole or part of which, or of the plant whereof, possession is retained or taken shall obey the directions of the Minister as to the user thereof, and any directions of the Minister in relation to the undertaking or part or plant thereof of which possession is retained or taken—
    1. (i) as to the rates, fares, tolls, dues, and charges to be charged subject, however, to the provisions hereinafter contained respecting references to the advisory committee established fur advising as to directions on the matters aforesaid;
    2. (ii) as to the salaries, wages, and remuneration and conditions of employment of persons employed on or in connection with the undertaking;
    3. (iii) as to the working or discontinuance of the working of the undertaking or any part thereof including directions as to keeping open or closing of any stations;
    4. (iv) for securing that the permanent way, rolling stock, plant, appliances, or equipment., whether fixed or movable, are satisfactory in type and design;
    5. (v) as to the carrying out of alterations, improvement s, and additions which the Minister considers necessary for the public safety or for the more efficient and economic working of the undertaking;
    6. (vi) for securing co-operation between undertakings and for securing the common user of facilities, rolling stock and equipment whether fixed or moveable;
    7. (vii) for affording running powers over their system, or any part thereof, to the owners of any other undertaking;
    8. (viii) for securing that manufacturing and repairing facilities and auxiliary and ancillary services shall be used, and the purchase and distribution of stores shall be conducted, in such manner as may be most conducive to economy and efficiency:
  4. (d)For enabling any directions given by the Minister under the last foregoing paragraph as to alterations, and improvements and additions to be carried into effect, the Minister may, by order, authorise the owners of any undertaking to ac pin: any land (including easements) and to construct any works, and the order may incorporate the Lands Clauses Acts, subject to such modifications as may be specified in the order, being modifications of those Acts made or authorised to be made by the Development and Road fin Improvement. Funds Act, 1909, or any other enactment, and may incorporate or apply any of the provisions of any enactment relating to the construction, maintenance, or working of railways, light railways, tramways, canals, harbours, docks, and piers, and any such order shall have effect as if enacted in this Act: Provided that nothing herein contained shall be deemed to empower the Minister to authorise the acquisition, otherwise than by agreement, of any land belonging to the owners of another undertaking to which this section applies, or of a local authority, or of a harbour dock or pier undertaking, but the Minister may authorise the acquisition of an easement or right of using such land for the purposes of any works Ale construction of which he may authorise under this section;
  5. (e)In the case of any undertaking of which possession is, retained or taken by the Minister as aforesaid any rates, fares, tolls, dues and other charges directed by the Minister shall be deemed to be reasonable, and may, notwithstanding any agreement or statutory provisions limiting the amount of such charges or increases therein, be charged in respect of any undertaking daring the period for which the Minister retains possession of such undertaking and for a further period of eighteen months after the expiration of the said period, or until fresh provision shall be made by Parliament with regard to the amount of any such rates, fares, tolls, dues, and other charges, whichever shall first happen.
  6. (f)Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act the rights of a consignor or consignee of goods or minerals, any trader or class of traders, or any port or harbour authority or dock company to complain to the Railway and Canal Commission under the Railway and Canal Traffic Acts in respect of undue preference or undue disadvantage or allowances or rebates in relation to the provision of station accommodation or terminal services shall not be deemed to be affected, and it shall be no answer to any such complaint that the railway company in respect of which the complaint is made was acting under the directions of the Minister.

THE EARL OF LYTTON moved, at the end of subsection (1) (c), to insert "Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising the Minister to compel the owners of any such undertaking either to incur capital expenditure or to draw upon their reserve funds for new works or capital improvements to an extent which would seriously interfere with their finances, it being the intention that the financing of the undertakings from a capital point of view shall remain as far as possible with the owners," The noble Earl said: This Amendment was inadvertently omitted during the Committee stage, although it was on the Paper. I do not think I need say much about it. It was to meet an undertaking which I gave to the Earl of Bessborough when he pointed out that possibly the finances of the railway companies might be injuriously affected. These words, I understand, have been approved, and I beg now to move them.

Amendment moved— Clause 3, page 5, line 12, at end insert the said words.—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment on line 17 is merely drafting.

Amendment moved— Clause 3, page 5, line 17, leave out ("including") and insert ("or").—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

EARL BRASSEY moved, in subsection 1 (e), to leave out "notwithstanding" and insert" subject and without prejudice to." The noble Earl said: I have been asked to move this Amendment on behalf of the Mansion House Committee of Traders. They feel that the Bill sweeps away a great deal of the protection which they at present enjoy under various Acts of Parliament, and the remedies which they now have if they are not being properly treated by the railway companies. They feel that the powers of the Minister should be subject to what Parliament has laid down as proper restrictions for many years.

Amendment moved— Clause 3, page 6, line 1, leave out ("notwithstanding") and insert ("subject and without prejudice to").—(Earl Brassey.)


I do not know whether the noble Earl realises what would be the effect of the Amendment. If it were accepted it would make it impossible for any rates beyond the existing statutory maxima to be increased under this Bill. I do not propose to enter once more into a discussion as to the necessity for the raising of rates; it is a matter on which every one is agreed. If the Amendment were passed we might as well strike out the subsection altogether. The whole point is to enable the Minister to raise the maximum rates on the railways notwithstanding the statutory provisions limiting the amount of such charges. To omit these words would deprive the Minister of that power.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9:

Power to establish transport services.

9.—(1) It shall be lawful for the Minister to establish and either by himself or through any other person to work transport services by land or water, and to acquire either by agreement or compulsorily such land or easements to construct such works, and to do all such other things as may be necessary for the purpose:

Provided that—

  1. (i) no new transport service shall be established by the Minister until an estimate of the capital expenditure required to complete it accompanied by details of the scheme for the establishment of the service has been approved by the Treasury;
  2. (ii) if in the case of any such service such estimate as aforesaid exceeds half a million pounds, or if the establishment of any such service involves the acquisition of land or easements compulsorily, or the breaking up of any roads, the Minister shall not exercise his powers of establishing the service unless authorised to do so by Order in Council a draft whereof has been approved by a resolution passed by both houses of Parliament, and the Order may incorporate the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts, subject to such modifications as may be specified in the Order, being modifications of those Acts made or authorised to be made by the Development and Road Improvements Funds Act, 1909, or any other enactment, and the Order may also incorporate or apply any enactments relating to the construction and maintenance of the works in question;
  3. (iii) where it appears to the Minister that the establishment of any such service could properly be undertaken by the owners of any existing undertaking, the Minister shall not himself establish the service without first giving to such owners an opportunity of establishing the service, and where such an opportunity is given to the owner of an 809 undertaking of which possession has been retained or taken under section three of this Act and those owners prefer that the establishment of the service should be undertaken by themselves rather than by the Minister, they may require the Minister to give them directions under that section to that, effect, but shall not be deemed to have thereby concurred in those directions; and
  4. (iv) the Minister shall not after two years from the passing of this Act, unless Parliament otherwise determines, commence the construction of any new works, or, provide equipment for any transport service not established before that date.

(2) The Minister or other person working a service established under this section may subject to reference to the Advisory Committee on Rates hereinafter established charge such rates, fares, tolls, and charges in connection therewith as may be prescribed by the Minister, and the expenses of working such services shall be paid out of the revenues derived therefrom, and the Minister shall keep or cause to be kept such accounts of the receipts from and expenditure on the services and in such form, and those accounts shall be audited in such manner as the Treasury may prescribe.


I ask permission of your Lordships to call attention to a printer's error in Clause 9. I know it is not in order to bring up on Third Reading an Amendment which is not on the Paper, but as this is really a printer's error—an Amendment has been inserted in the wrong place—I ask your leave to call attention to it in order to have it put right. In the Committee stage I moved an Amendment to meet a point made by Fart Grey. I objected to the wording of his Amendment and the place in which he proposed to insert it because it would go further chant he intended. I moved in Clause 9, subsection 2, after the word "Minister" ["prescribed by the Minister"] to insert the words "subject to reference to the Advisory Committee on rates hereinafter established," but they have been inserted at the point at which Earl Grey proposed to insert his Amendment—namely, after the word "may" in the same subsection. I ask leave to give an Instruction that the Bill may be printed with the words inserted after the word "Minister."


It does not change the sense at all?


Yes, it changes the meaning, because the words inserted there would give to the Advisory Com- mittee, as I pointed out on Earl Grey's Amendment, the right to consider all day to day changes in rates anti not merely the maximum and minimum limits. That is a matter which is done by a rates clerk, and there are as many as 30,000 alterations in a, month. These are things which are a matter of day to day administration which it would be impossible to refer to the Committee. If the words were left as now in the Bill it would mean that the Minister in regard to any new services he may start would go to the Advisory Committee and after consultation with them fix not only the maximum but the minimum rates, but also these further concessions.


Will the noble Earl read the clause exactly as it-should stand?


It would run—" The Minister or other person working a service established under this section may charge such rates, fares, tolls, and charges in connection therewith as may be prescribed by the Minister, subject to reference to the Advisory Committee on Rates hereinafter established." and so on.


I understand that the effect of this change will merely be to bring it into absolute accord with the provisions as to rates and charges applying to any undertaking.


That is so, and the words as they stand do not do so.

Amendment moved— Clause 9, subsection (2), That the words ("subject to reference to the Advisory Committee on Rates hereinafter established") be transposed as indicated.—(The Karl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 19:

Provisions as to the Railway and Canal Commission.

19. The provisions of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888, as amended by any subsequent enactment, relating to the procedure for the determination of questions by the Commission under that Act, including the provisions relating to appeals, shall apply to the determination of questions referred to the Commission under this Act, as if they were herein re-enacted and in terms made applicable to tins Act:

Provided that—

  1. (a) the Commission may, in any case in which they think it expedient to do so, call in the aid of one or more assessors, specially qualified, and hear the case wholly or partially with the assistance of such assessors;
  2. (b) the Commission may hold a local inquiry for the purposes of this section by any one of their members, or by any officer of the Commission or other person whom they may direct to hold the same, and the said provisions of the Railway and Canal Traffic, Act, 1888, except the provisions relating to appeals, shall, so far as applicable, apply to such inquiries, and any officer or person directed to hold an inquiry shall have power to administer oaths and shall report the result of the inquiry to the Commission;
  3. (c) the discretion of the Commission with respect to costs shall not be limited in the manner provided by section two of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894.

EARL BRASSEY moved to leave out subsection (c). The noble Earl said: I formally move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Clause 19, page 21, lines 39 to 42, leave out subsection (c).—(Earl Brassey.)


The effect of this Amendment would be to leave out the discretion of the Railway and Canal Commissioners with respect to costs. A similar Amendment was moved by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu in Committee and I have nothing to add to what I said then. At the present moment the discretion of the Railway and Canal Commissioners in awarding costs is limited to cases which, in their opinion, are frivolous. That provision was inserted for the protection of small traders. Under this Bill the kind of questions which will be referred to the Railway and Canal Commissioners has been largely extended. There will be great and important questions between the Government and large Railway Companies, which in no way interest or involve small traders, and for that reason we have proposed to give to the Commissioners the same option in regard to awarding costs as is enjoyed by any legal tribunal and not to restrict them to cases which they regard as frivolous. I think it is a right and proper discretion to give them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23:

Advisory committees.

23.—(1) For the purpose of giving advice and assistance to the Minister in connection with the exercise and performance of his powers and duties, the Minister shall set up a panel of experts, and of impartial persons of wide commercial and trading experience appointed from nominees, after consultation with the various undertakings and interests concerned, of the various classes of undertakings affected by this Act, and of labour, trading interests, local authorities, and such other interests as he may deem desirable.

(2) Before exercising any of the powers under subsection (1) (b) of section three of this Act, to the exercise of which the owners of the undertaking concerned object, or establishing new transport services by land or water, the Minister shall refer the matter to a committee selected by him from the said panel.

(3) The advisory panel or any committee to whom any matter is referred under this section shall, before reporting or advising, if they see fit, give public notice and permit any person affected or likely to be affected to place their views before them either orally or in writing.

(4) Any member of the advisory panel, or any committee thereof, or of any other committee established under this Act, for giving advice and assistance to the Minister, shall be considered to be acting entirely in a confidential capacity.

LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved to leave out subsection (4). The noble Lord said: I am in a little difficulty about this Amendment, as I do not know what exactly will be the attitude of the noble Earl. I rather gathered last night that he was going to look into the matter in order to see whether some words may be put in to limit the effect of this subsection. I can quite understand that there are some points in which it is absolutely necessary to preserve strict confidence, but it is quite clear that some of the Committees which are to be appointed under this Clause to deal with local affairs, will be unable to discharge their duties and let their transactions remain absolutely confidential. The people who appoint them should have a means of knowing what advice they have given, and so far as I am concerned I would be quite satisfied if the Amendment of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, were accepted.* In that case I would not move mine, but in order to save my own position I am obliged, technically, to move the Amendment. If I withdrarw it now and the noble * The Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of the Marquess of SALISBURY was as follows: Clause 23, page 25, line 4, at end insert ("in respect of any matter coming to his knowledge in the exercise of his duties under this Act which it would be contrary to the interests of any private individual or trader to make public"). Marquess moves, I have lost my chance of moving it, and so technically to put it in order I move to omit this subsection, without repeating the arguments which I used last night, in order to see whether the noble Earl has anything to say on the subject at large.

Amendment moved— Clause 23, page 25, lines 1 to 4, to leave out subsection (1).—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


It is quite true that there was an understanding that we should give consideration to the points raised in Committee, and see whether some words of a limiting kind could be introduced. I have given the matter such consideration as was possible in the very short time at my disposal, but, for the reasons which I shall explain in a moment, I am unable to suggest any form of words which would meet the objections raised in Committee without at the same time taking away the purpose for which the words were inserted. I see my noble friend, the noble Marquess opposite, has also been thinking the matter over, and has put down on the Paper words which in his opinion would meet the point. Now the noble Marquess has, I think, quite fully and properly met the point which I used when defending this particular subsection in the Bill. I pointed out to your Lordships that in the interests of many private traders who would come before the Committee it was necessary that they should have some guarantee that the information which they laid before the Committee should be treated as confidential, and not used against them. The noble Marquess therefore puts in an Amendment to restrict the confidential character of the Committee to such matters.

I ventured to say yesterday—what I referred to in Committee—that there may not only be cases where the interests of private traders might be prejudiced by the disclosure of facts which they had laid before the Committee, but cases where the interests of the State would be prejudiced and the interests of individuals would be unduly favoured if other facts were revealed. The instance I quoted was this: Supposing the Roads Committee had under consideration an alteration in the rates on a particular class of goods, say coal or any other. While that matter is under consideration there are a number of contractors who are arranging for the delivery of coal at a particular place. If one of those contractors obtained information, either that there was to be no change in the rates or that a certain change had been recommended, with that information at his disposal he might go and make a contract, perhaps for twelve months ahead, to deliver coal at a particular place at a particular price, whereas all his competitors might be still waiting back and unable to make a contract until they knew what the result in the matter of the rates was going to be.

Therefore there are cases where secrecy is necessary not merely in the interests of the private trader but also in the interests of the State, to prevent a private individual from benefiting by disclosures made to him by a breach of confidence on the part of any member of the Committee. Therefore I cannot accept the Amendment of the noble Marquess, because it would still leave that particular breach of confidence possible. It is my inability to cover those two cases which has compelled me to admit that I see no other way except to allow the subsection to remain in time Bill.


I am sorry that the noble Earl takes this line about this Amendment. I had hoped, having listened with all the attention I could to all the discussions, that I had at last been able to meet the views of the Government. The last argument of the noble Earl I think, as he will see, anyhow as he states it, will not hold water. He says that an evil might be produced, if there was an intention to raise the rates or lower them—I am not sure which—




—by a breach of confidence, whereby the trader got to know it before others, but the noble Earl will not prevent breaches of confidence by this clause. It is, in fact, exactly the thing which the clause will produce. There will be partial disclosure and that is precisely what is such a mischief. I am not bringing a charge against the gentlemen who will be members of this committee of sinister design or corrupt motives. Nothing of the kind. It is not every body who can hold his tongue, and in fact it is a rather rare quality, and the noble Earl will find that all sorts of information will creep out, and it is the partial disclosure which does so much mischief. The noble Earl seems to forget—he has so many things to think of—what was said yesterday. The whole of the argument both of himself and of the noble Earl who sits besides him was directed to the protection of the private trader.


I admitted that, but I said I had another argument which I used in Committee, and which was not covered by the Amendment.


I have not refreshed my memory on that head, but let me remind your Lordships what the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, said— Here, for good or for bad, we have put a statement in an Act of Parliament, that where matters dealing with the private affairs of persons or corporations are considered under these statutory powers the discussions are to be taken as confidential. It would be unfortunate if Parliament deliberately cut out these words"—mark these words!—" which are inserted solely as a safeguard to the trading community.


If I said that, I clearly made a mistake. I have always avowed that this safeguard was bilateral, one for the trading community and the other for the Ministry.


We all make these mistakes, but unfortunately if we make them they are very legitimately quoted hereafter.


And corrected also.


Yes certainly. But after all it was not the noble Earl who was in charge of the Bill, but my noble friend Lord Lytton, and I almost took down the words which he used, and I have tried to reproduce them in my Amendment. If the Government will not consent to accept my noble friend's Amendment I do hope that they will consent to the one which I have put on the Paper. We are most anxious to prevent any hole and corner business. We want if possible to avoid partial disclosures by indiscretion, which might do all sorts of harm, and we want if possible to keep that hold upon administration which the absence of secrecy always produces.


Like the noble Marquess, I certainly supposed that yesterday His Majesty's Government attached great importance to the point to which I no doubt had not given full atten- tion—namely, that the disclosure of certain facts might adversely affect the interests of individuals, and I am quite prepared to admit, as I have said, that it did not occur to me with full force that it may be necessary to place some safeguard of the kind in the Bill. I do, however, very strongly object to the retention in the Bill of a general injunction to members of these Committees to behave like men of honour. No penalty is mentioned in the Bill for a breach of confidence of this kind, and it is, as I ventured to point out before, and as I firmly believe, entirely without precedent to place in a Statute a command or even advice to people who sit in private that when they come out of the room they must not talk about what has occurred during the meeting of the Committee to which they belong. It surely is an improper innovation for an Act of Parliament. I hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will consider whether it really is not an active error to attempt to deal with a matter of this kind in this way, and that they will agree to accept the Amendment of the noble Marquess, which does cover the point that might not otherwise be met. I confess that I was impressed by what the noble Earl said yesterday that, this provision having once been inserted in the Bill in the interests of traders and others, it might be a shock to them to see that it had disappeared. This being so, the obvious plan is to accept the Amendment of the noble Marquess.


After what has been said, I shall not ask the House to divide on my Amendment, but I would point out that, according to the strict interpretation of the words of the sub-clause—" acting entirely in a confidential capacity"—a man so placed may not even discuss with a single person questions about to be raised. If that is the correct interpretation it would be, if there were a conference beforehand to discuss a matter with the representatives of the different interests, a perfectly impossible position. You are laying upon the person an obligation which, if he is to do his duty, he cannot carry out.


May I point out how it would work. Assuming that there is a question of making a great new road from London, the London County Council would have to be consulted, and also the Middlesex County Council, and possibly other county councils, and this committee—which is to safeguard the interests protected and to report to the Minister—would not be able, according to the strict terms of this subsection, to have even a meeting with the representatives of the county councils. I am sure that cannot be intended, and I think it is unreasonable. What I think will happen in practice is this. The subsection will be entirely ignored in regard to road matters and questions of that sort. Where you have a representative committee sitting it will become an absolute dead letter. Whether the noble Marquess's Amendment be carried or not, as far as the roads are concerned I am sure that it will become a dead letter. Under these circumstances is it wise of the Government to insist on their attitude? If the noble Marquess goes to a Division I shall certainly support him.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment moved— Clause 23, page 25, line 4, at end insert ("in respect of any matter coming to his knowledge in the exercise of his duties under this Act which it would be contrary to the interests of any private individual or trader to make public").—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)


The noble. Marquess said that I had failed altogether in the remarks which I made just now to establish any case for refusing this Amendment, but it seems to me that the speech which he made exactly confirmed the argument that I used. He said that the words of the clause as they stood were not required to prevent the kind of case to which I referred—namely, where a breach of confidence might, lead to the forestalling of the decision of the committee on the part of a particular contractor. He said. "That is exactly what will happen." If the noble Marquess really thinks that that kind of breach of confidence is what will happen under the Act, then the importance of retaining these words is emphasised, because—though it is quite true, as has been pointed out, that there is no penalty in the Act—after all a breach of confidence is a question of honour, and people will really have to satisfy their own conscience whether in fact they have failed to carry out the intentions of the Committee. If it is stated that members of the Committee are to be regarded as being in a confidential capacity, then obviously they are bound in honour to act throughout in a confidential sense, but if you expressly say that their confidential duties are only in so far as the interests of any individual or trader is concerned then just the case which I mentioned—and which I do not think the noble Marquess defended—would be permitted. If his words were inserted that would obviously be a breach of honour which would lead to the advantage of a particular trader and to the detriment of the State—detriment of the State at any rate during the period in which the State control the railway companies—because it would mean that upon a particular line the effects of the rate would be minimised, and that one particular contractor would benefit by a breach of confidence at the expense of another. It seems to me that it would be no argument at all on behalf of this Amendment to say, "Precisely what would happen if this Amendment is rejected is almost certain to happen if this Amendment is inserted." But if this Amendment is not put in, and the confidential nature of the duties is not defined, then if a man acts contrary to what is stated in the Act, it will be obviously a breach of honour which he may settle with his own conscience and with those who will be affected by his breach of confidence.


I have no wish to detain the House longer, but I cannot accept the view of the noble Earl that standards of honour or breaches of confidence can be defined or in any way sanctioned by words in an Act of Parliament. Supposing a man does what, the noble Earl fears he may do—that is to say, something which is to the profit of a private trader (a friend of his) but to the detriment of the State. If it is discovered that he has so acted, the obvious course is to remove him from the committee, and to avoid his society in the future as far as possible. These cases conceivably might arise in hundreds every day in connection with the committees of county councils and other public bodies. No oath of secrecy is taken by the members of those bodies, but it is quite conceivable, if they were to go out of the committee room where they met and to communicate to somebody what had passed in anticipation of the action of the public body, that person might turn it to profit. These things cannot be guarded against by public injunction. Therefore 'the point of the noble Marquess's Amendment is somewhat different, and, as I understand, it is put in simply for the satisfaction and consolation of traders and other individuals who think that some harm might be done to them if the words are explicity struck out. But for that I should gladly have supported the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour. To my mind the whole subsection approaches the bounds of nonsense, and would be far better away. I am quite willing to admit that there may be reasons for keeping in this part of it, but I think it is objectionable to maintain the rest of it.


The noble Earl in charge of the Bill has exhausted his right of speech but is most anxious to meet the views of your Lordships, if possible. The difficulty he feels is in limiting the Amendment to cases in which it would be contrary "to the interests of any private individual or trader" to make public such matters. It seems to me that my noble friend is clearly right in his opposition to an Amendment so expressed as being too partial. If the noble Marquess would move his Amendment in this form my noble friend's opposition would be withdrawn: "In respect of any matter coming to his knowledge in the exercise of his duties under this Act which it would be contrary to the interests of the State or of any private individual or trader to make public."—inserting the words "of the State." I imagine that that would not conflict with the principal purpose which he had in mind.


There is an immense difficulty in Amendments on the Third Reading, because that is the last chance, so far as your Lordships are concerned. In the earlier stages we can always put things right on the Third Reading if a mistake is made, and it is for that reason that your Lordships make the very necessary rule that no Amendment can be moved on Third Reading except with notice. I do not mean to say that that would make a change of the kind that the noble and learned Lord proposes out of order, but in the spirit of that rule of the House it would be very unwise of me to accept that additional word on the spur of the moment. What I would venture to put to the Government is this. Allow me to put the words in and then in another place they can consider them if they like and alter them, and we should have a further opportunity.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 27:


I have a drafting Amendment on this clause.

Amendment moved— Clause 27, page 26, line 33, leave out the second ("the").—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 30:

Short title and interpretation.

30.—(1) This Act may be cited as the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919.

(2) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression "government department" includes any Government or other public department and any Minister of the Crown acting as the head of a Government Department, and for the purposes of this Act the Road Board and the Lord Lieutenant and the Privy Council of Ireland and the Commissioners of the Caledonian Canal and the Commissioners of the Conservancy of the River Mersey shall be deemed to be Government Departments, and the expression "tramway" includes a trackless trolley vehicle system and the expression "easement" includes any right in or over land, and the expression "undertaking" includes any services carried on as ancillary to the principal business of the undertaking, and the expression "transport services by water" shall not include any transport service by sea other than such as is, or could under their existing statutory powers, or any extension thereof which may hereafter be authorised by Parliament, be established by the owners of any undertaking of which the Minister is for the time being in possession under this Act, and where an undertaking is leased to or worked by a company or person other than the owners, the expression "the owners of an undertaking" shall include that company or person, except where such an interpretation is inconsistent with the terms of the lease or working agreement, and except for the purposes of the provisions of this Act relating to payments to be made to or by the owners of an undertaking in respect of any reduction or enhancement of the value of the undertaking.

THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "or other public" ["any Government or other public department"]. The noble Duke said: The object of this Amendment is to define more clearly the meaning of "or other public department." The noble Earl on the Committee stage of the Bill made it quite clear that these words could only refer to the Irish Board of Works and the Congested Districts Board. In those circumstances I submit it is desirable to put in those two bodies. If the words "or other public department" are left in they are a very indefinite and vague term, and may lead to a certain amount of misunderstanding.

Amendment moved— Clause 30, page 28, line 15, leave out ("or other public").—(The Duke, of Northumberland.)


The words "or other public department," are taken from other Acts. So far as I am able to learn, they only apply to the particular departments named. Therefore I shall not oppose the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I move the consequential Amendment.

Amendment moved— Clause 30, page 28, line 18, after ("Ireland") insert ("the Irish Board of Works and the Congested Districts Board of Ireland").—(The Duke of Northumber[...] and.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move that the Bill do pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.