§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF ERNE
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. The object of this short Bill is to place the payments to certain officers who discharge important duties of quasi-judicial character upon a definite and permanent footing. The Bill deals with two separate categories of people:—Firstly, the twelve Chairmen of Traffic Commissioners, including the Metropolitan Traffic Commissioner and the Chairman of the Appeal Tribunal—these are dealt with in Clauses I and 2—and secondly, the President of the Railway Rates Tribunal, who is dealt with under Clause 3. The present position of these Commissioners is that: these officers hold office for varying periods not exceeding seven years and can be reappointed by the Minister. Under this Bill the Commissioners are to be made permanent, with the proviso that they may be removed for inability or misbehaviour under the Road Traffic Act, 1930. Their retiring age shall be from sixty-five to seventy. If eligible—that is, after ten years' service—they shall be granted pensions on retiring on the scale laid down by the Superannuation Acts, 1834 to 1935.
As I have stated, the retiring age is sixty-five to severity as compared with the Civil Service sixty to sixty-five. This is a compromise between the age of seventy-two laid down for judicial posts and of sixty for the Civil Service. The civil servant joins the Service at an early 46 age and spends his whole life in the Service; but these Traffic Commissioners cannot obtain their posts at an early age, as they must be men of experience and standing and must, therefore, be of a certain maturity. If these men prove a success we wish to keep them on for a reasonable time, and by this arrangement we think we shall get the best men for these very important posts. Clause 3 deals exclusively with the President of the Railway Rates Tribunal. He is appointed by His Majesty on the joint recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Transport. He must retire at seventy-two unless the Lord Chancellor, the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Transport and the Treasury all agree that they want to keep him on till the age of seventy-five. An Act called the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act, 1925, deals with judicial and semi-judicial posts of this kind, and it is proposed to bring the President of the Railway Rates Tribunal under the provisions of this Act. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Erne.)
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, there are several very important aspects, as I see them, in this Bill. The first thing that strikes me about it is that the machinery which was set up under the 1933 Act is, at the present time, of a temporary and experimental nature, as it was bound to be when the Act was passed. The proposal here seems to me to go a good deal beyond the Act of 1933, and indeed to make a certain portion of the machinery of the Act of 1933 permanent. The road transport industry of the country has been doing its best to comply with the provisions of the Act which govern its operations. I think everybody knows that the Transport Acts are more or less experimental in character, and that a lot of experience has had to be gained of the working of those Acts. It is not at all certain that the working of those Acts has been entirely satisfactory, and it is obvious, I think, that the Acts will have to be modified to a certain extent in the light of experience gained.
The noble Earl who has introduced the Bill said that you could not expect to get good men unless you were able to ensure a pension for them; and that, if they were a success, we wanted to keep them. If 47 they are a success, well and good; no doubt they ought to be kept; but supposing, by any chance, one of the Commissioners happens to be not quite such a success and we want to make a change, do you not think that the effect of the provisions which are now proposed will be to make such a change extremely difficult? They can only, in fact, be removed under the provisions of this Bill for misconduct or inability. It is obviously a very serious step to take in connection with so important a person as a Commissioner, to remove him for inability or misconduct. I very much hope it will not happen, and probably it will never happen, that any one of them will be guilty of misconduct or be unable to perform his duties. On the other hand, it is possible to conceive that some of them may not be too successful. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill referred to the Civil Service and to the position of these Commissioners vis-à-vis the Civil Service. I should like to submit that the Civil Service is entirely different, because a civil servant can always be transferred from one Department to another. If he is not a success in one Department he can be transferred to another. But it does not seem to me that any such provision can possibly obtain in the case of these Commissioners.
I should like to ask the noble Marquess whether, for instance, it would be possible to raise the conduct of the Traffic Commissioners—not their moral conduct but the conduct of their office—on the Ministry of Transport Vote. It would be most important that that should be possible, if it can be done. Then, does not the proposal that is before us now place these Traffic Commissioners in practically the same position as His Majesty's Judges? It seems to me that this Bill goes a very long way. I do not at the present moment wish, and the interests for whom I speak do not wish me, to do anything to oppose the passage of the Bill, but we view it with great anxiety, and during the further stages of the Bill it may be necessary for me to place certain Amendments on the Paper. At any rate I hope that I shall be forgiven by your Lordships for having ventured to ask these two questions. The operation of the 1933 Act, as I have said, has placed the road transport interests of the country under the greatest possible 48 difficulty in many respects, and will require modification. I think it important that these points should be referred to.
THE EARL OF ERNE
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for throwing a rather new and unexpected line of light on to this Bill. I am sure your Lordships will forgive me if I do not give an answer now, because I cannot express the views of my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport at this stage. I can, however, assure the noble Earl that I will look into this question very carefully and notify my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport of the views of the noble Earl. I trust that in the meantime your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.