HC Deb 13 August 1919 vol 119 cc1570-81

(1) For the purpose of giving advice and assistance to the Minister with respect to and for safeguarding any interests affected by any directions as to rates, fares, tolls, dues, an a other charges or special services, a committee shall be appointed consisting of six persons, one being an impartial person (who shall be chairman) nominated by the Railway and Canal Commission, two being representatives of trading interests nominated by the chairman for the time being of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, one being a representative of agricultural interests nominated by the chairman for the time being of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and two being representatives of labour interests nominated by the chairman for the time being of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress together with, if deemed advisable, one additional member who may at the discretion of the Minister be nominated from time to time by him.

(2) Before directing any revision of any rates, fares, tolls, dues, or other charges, or of any special services, the Minister snail refer the matter to the committee for their advice, and they shall report thereon to him, and where such revision is for the purpose of an increase in the net revenue of any undertakings which the Minister determines to be necessary, the committee shall also advise as to the best methods of obtaining such increase from the different classes of traffic, having due regard to existing contracts and the fairness and adequacy of the methods proposed to be adopted. Before prescribing the limits of rates, tolls, or charges in connection with a new transport service established under Section nine of this Act, the Minister shall refer the matter to the Committee for their advice.

(3) The committee before reporting or advising on any matters referred to them under this Section, shall, unless in their discretion they consider it unnecessary or undesirable to do so, give such public notice as they think best adapted for informing persons affected of the date when and the place where they will inquire into the matter, and any persons affected may make representations to the committee, and, unless in their discretion the committee consider it unnecessary, shall be heard at such inquiry, and, if the committee in their discretion think fit, the whole or any part of the proceedings at such inquiry may be open to the public:

Provided that, for the purpose of this provision, the council of any city, borough, burgh, county, or district shall be deemed to be persons affected in any case where such council or any persons represented by them may be affected by any such proposed revision as aforesaid.

(4)The committee shall hear each witnesses and call for such documents and accounts as they think fit, and shall have power to take evidence on oath, and for that purpose any member of the committee may administer oaths.

(5)There shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament to all or any of the members of the committee such salaries or other remuneration as the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury, may determine.

(6)For the purposes of this Section, special services means the services mentioned in Section five of the Schedule to the orders relating to railway rates and charges, and in the corresponding Sections of the Schedules to the orders relating to canal tolls, rates and charges confirmed by various Acts passed in the years eighteen hundred and ninety-one to eighteen hundred and ninety-four.

Lords Amendment read a second time.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words six persons, one being an impartial person (who shall be chairman) nominated by the Railway and Canal Commission, two being representatives of trading interests nominated by the chairman for the time being of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, one being a representative of agricultural interests nominated by the chairman for the time being of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and two being representatives of labour interests nominated by the chairman for the time being of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress and to insert instead thereof the words five persons, one being a person experienced in the law (who shall be chairman), nominated by the Lord Chancellor, two being representatives of the trading and agricultural interests, nominated by the Board of Trade, one being a representative of transport interests nominated by the Minister, and one being a representative of the Labour interest nominated by the Minister for Labour. It is very important, in the view of the Government, that the chairman should be, if possible, a person trained in the law, who, if not a judge, is a person of large legal experience. It is felt that the Lord Chancellor is a better person to nominate such a chairman than would be the Rail-way and Canal Commissioners. There are three different Railway and Canal Commissions, one with a judge who presides in the Court for England, one with a Scottish judge, and there is an Irish judge presiding in Ireland. The Lord Chancellor would nominate a person to preside over this advisory committee representing the whole of the United Kingdom. As to the trading interests, it is better that the Minister should be able to select from all the bodies that are concerned either in the agricultural or trading interests than that he should merely consult with the chairman of the associated chambers of commerce, and the same remark applies to the Central Chamber of Agriculture. So far as the rest are concerned the House agreed unanimously, when the matter was before it, that it would be-better that the Minister for Labour should appoint the Labour representative on the Committee if we want a man who would look after the interests of the consumers. The Trades Union Congress, national as it is in character, does not represent actually all the consumers, or even the whole of the working-class consumers. I therefore ask the House to amend the new Clause and insert the words I have moved.


I hope the House will not follow the advice of the Government, but will accept the Lords. Amendments as they stand. It is quite obvious that in the conditions in which this discussion must take place we cannot discuss the matter fully, nor will we find it altogether safe or extremely easy to decide. The proposal of the Government as it left this House was that the Advisory Committee should consist entirely of nominees of the Government. The chairman was to be nominated by the Lord Chancellor, and others by the Minister under this Bill and the Board of Trade, and so on. The result must have been that the President of the Board of Trade would inevitably have selected a person who would be acceptable to the Minister of Ways and Communications, and the same in other cases. The Committee would not be in any sense independent of the chairman or represent outside interests. That would necessarily happen if those persons only were nominated who were agreeable to the Transport Minister. I do not think that is a sound system. If we are to have these advisory committees, a committee should be representative of much more than the departmental view of the Ministry or the Minister. The whole point of it is the desire to bring in outside opinion, which would prevent the extenson of the bureaucratic character of the general scheme of the Bill. That being so, I cannot help thinking that the Lords have made a great improvement in the original scheme. It may be said that the nominating bodies they suggest are not properly selected, but I still think that most of these authorities are well selected for the purpose. The Railway and Canal Commissioners are an extremely important body with great experience of these matters, while the Lord Chancellor has had no particular experience of the kind. It is quite true that the Lords would be well advised not to insist that the chairman should not be a lawyer. I have still sufficient sympathy with my old profession to say that a lawyer usually makes the best chairman. I think it is probable that the chairman would be a lawyer in any case. To go to the chairman of the Associated Chambers of Commerce is, I am sure, the right way to get good work done and there are to be two nominated by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress. I confess I do not sec how the Minister expects that hon. Gentlemen opposite would rather not see a representative of Labour chosen, by a Labour organisation than chosen by the Minister for Labour. It seems to me he would be far better chosen by Labour men, and in other cases I do not think that Ministers would be the best persons to nominate representatives of the different interests or to see that they were fairly representative of the different bodies mentioned in the Amendment. It all depends upon what kind of a. committee you want. If it is a committee that will take its orders from the Minister in charge, and do exactly what it is told, the scheme of the original Bill of the Government was the right one.

If, on the other hand, you want a Committee which is going to bring in some kind of fresh view, some kind of independent attitude, and an independent angle of vision, then it seems to me that such a Committee as is suggested by the Lords is the right Committee, and I venture to hope that this House, even in the very unfortunate circumstances in which we are considering this question, will agree with the Lords and disagree with the Motion.


I do hope the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will consider the possibility even now of a compromise. I do not know that I want to insist on every word of the Lords Amendment, but here the Lords are more democratic than we arc. They really provide for a Committee which shall be representative of interests affected, whereas the right hon. Gentleman's Committee is undoubtedly representative, as my Noble Friend said, of the Departmental view. I may tell the House of what took place in Committee upstairs. This was not my right hon. Friend's Clause; this was our Clause. When we first moved this Clause, my right hon. Friend will remember, it gave rise to the classical expression of the Home Secretary: "This-will knock the bottom out of the Bill." They fought this Clause for two days before they would consent to an alteration of the Bill. We had to adjourn the Committee in order that private negotiations should take place before we could get any kind of Committee at all. They did not like Committees. They did not like anybody who would interfere with the autocracy of my right hon. Friend the Minister. And so, upstairs, we had to be content with the Committee we could get. Now the Lords have taken upon themselves to make a more democratic Committee, and we who wanted a democratic Committee are entitled to avail ourselves of the Lords Amendments and ask the House to reconsider them from the Lords point of view. The House knows that this is a Committee to consider the whole question of railway rates. Under the provisions of the Bill any railway rates at all, in spite of all the Acts of Parliament to the contrary, made by the Minister, are to be binding on all the traders of this country. That is the Bill as it started. Then we got a Clause in that a Committee should be appointed to whom appeals might lie in regard to alterations of rates made by the Minister. Now, if they want to deal with rates concerning commerce, agriculture and labour I do suggest that the Lords have done the right thing in providing for the appointment of the members of this Committee. The representative of commerce to be appointed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, of agriculture by the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and of Labour by the people acquainted with Labour. You would then get a really representative Committee, a Committee which would give my right hon. Friend very great assistance in dealing with these difficult matters and I hope in this case the House will, even if it be modified, insist on some sort of compromise.


It is refreshing in the midst of all our weariness to find, in the words of a Noble Lord, the House of Lords objecting to excessive bureaucracy. I think we are all thankful to the House of Lords for having made this Motion. On the other hand, I think it is nothing short of base ingratitude for the right hon. Gentleman to refuse to accept this Amendment after the valuable assistance the Labour representatives have given to him to carry this Bill through. I speak as a member of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress. The suggestion is that the trading interests shall nominate members to serve on the committee. But surely the trading interests will nominate them through a representative body, and, if that is so, why are not the organised trades of this country, which represent four and a half millions, to have the same privilege as an organised body of the trading community? I trust the right hon. Gentleman will explain this point, even at this twelfth hour, because we do not want to have to vote against the Bill; but I do think the suggestion of the Lords is, strange to say, the democratic one, and on those grounds I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment.

The MINISTER (Designate) Of TRANSPORT (Sir E. Geddes)

The Amendment which the Government proposes to insert in the new Clause of the Lords is, in fact, what was agreed in Committee upstairs after considerable debate, and, although my right hon. Friend the Baronet who has just spoken claims the Clause, I have some claim to it too. [Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS: "We share it."] We share it. More than that, the Amendment we made upstairs was an Amendment agreed to by all parties, Labour taking a very active part in it; and, though I am speaking from recollection, I think I am right in saying there was no Division on it. My hon. Friend who has just spoken made the point that if organised trade was to nominate a member of the committee, organised labour ought to nominate a member too. I agree that there is a great deal in that. But organised trade is not going to nominate a member. Under the Amendment the Board of Trade nominate the trading representative and the Ministry of Labour the Labour representative, and he is not a representative of the workers in transportation, but a representative of the consumers in the country as a whole. That is the composition of the committee. If it were a question of getting workers in transportation on the committee it would be quite another thing. The proposal now is that this committee should be formed by the nomination, independently, by great trade and labour organisations—that, in fact, the members of the committee should come as delegates representing particular interests, to do—what? To perform a Very vital, intricate, and difficult function. For, at any rate, two years during which this Bill provides for the control of transportation undertakings this committee, as far as I can see, will be working the whole of the time and occupied all the time on very difficult and intricate work. There is no legislation, I should imagine, that is more confusing than railway rate legislation, and whatever this committee does it must stop for the future all railway rates legislation, and, I hope, for some of the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles has in mind as to the disintegration. That committee is not a committee which can be usefully formed by delegates nominated by specific interests. It is more than an advisory committee. It is a committee which receives, as hon. Members will see, a mandate from the Government so to apportion the increase of railway rates which we all know to be necessary to adjust the balance in railway earnings at the present time, and to so apportion that as to do the least possible harm in the country to trade and the community. It is not an advisory body to which you simply refer a matter and they meet and talk, each member representative of his own interest, and they say, "Well, this is rather too much," or "That is too much," "That is too much on bacon," or "That is too much on coal." That is not the sort of committee wanted.

Whatever this Committee does, it must build for the future a Railway Rates Legislation Act—I hope from some of the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles has in mind. That is the spirit of the Committee that is wanted. This Committee, with functions which this House put upon it, must, in fact, be, although advisory in character, part of the machinery of the Department. If it is not to be so, it is inevitable that a smaller body should be set up, and the functions laid down should be changed if the character of the committee is changed. It would be impossible for a purely advisory body, nominated by outside, independent interests, to undertake the work of this council. I hope, with regard to the peculiar character of this committee, that the House will not take the view that it could be a committee of delegates. That is proposed by the Amendment, that various interests should appoint nominees, who should come with the mandate of those who sent them. That was not the intention upstairs in Grand Committee, and in these circumstances I think it would be in the highest degree disastrous, in the work of this important part of the Department, if the Amendment of the Lords was accepted for the composition of the committee.


I do appeal to the Members of this House to accept the Amendment as sent down from the Lords. I do not wish to repeat anything that has been said except that it is quite true that we were agreed upstairs, after all the fighting had obtained as much as we could, but would it be believed that the Home Secretary, supported by the Minister-designate, put into you a manuscript Amendment which, if I heard it aright, does not even carry out what was proposed upstairs. Upstairs it was proposed that the traders of this country should have by far the greatest interest in this Bill and should have two representatives appointed by the Board of Trade. I am not quite sure, but I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to say what is the proposal of the Home Secretary?


Two being representative of trade and agriculture, nominated by the Board of Trade.


The House of Lords, very likely, would Eave included a representative of the agricultural interests, in addition to the two representatives of the commerce and trade of the country. That is the Amendment we were dealing with in Committee for nineteen days upstairs. I cannot find words within what I consider Parliamentary language to express what I feel about that. The whole trade of this country is, under the suggestion of the Home Secretary, to be represented by one representative appointed by the Board of Trade, and we are told by the Minister-designate that he is not going to be a representative of trade. He has just told us that they do not propose to put any representatives of trade. They propose to put in a representative of the Ministry, and I do appeal to the House to accept the Amendment of the House of Lords as it comes to us here.

Major E. WOOD

I only want to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill whether there is really as much proposed in the decision he has come to? A great many Members listened to the explanation of the Home Secretary, and they would also like to hear from the other side of the House. I want to urge one point of view. It could be shown that agricultural interests should be represented on that committee by someone who knows their needs.


I was one of those who laboured upstairs on this Bill, and I would remind the House that there was no Division on the Bill for any advisory committee. That institution of a committee was established by the Standing Committee upstairs for the purpose of modifying the arbitrary deeds of the Minister. That is the whole question between what was constituted by the Committee and what is suggested by the House of Lords.


It was appointed solely for giving advice and assistance and for safeguarding any interests affected by the decision.


I think it was intended to do so. The difference between the two forms of committee is that, will you have an advisory committee that will co-operate with the Minister, bringing its knowledge of the various points for his assistance and guidance, or will you have delegates sent from outside to contend for the various interests of those who send them? That is the essence of the whole question. Let me call the attention of the House to the wording of this proposed Clause B as suggested by the House of Lords. It is provided that there shall be six persons, one an imparital person—let the House follow that clearly—two representatives of trading interests, one representative of agricultural interests, and two representatives of labour interests—that is to say, one impartial person and five representative persons.


That was in the Bill as it was sent up to the House of Lords.


Not in the same connection. These representatives are to come from outside without the knowledge either of the Minister or of the Government. The Minister is to be responsible for the proper working of this Bill, and the Government of the day is responsible, through the Minister, to Parliament. Are we going to commence the labours of the Ministry of Transport with the assistance of a committee skilled in these various branches, but so nominated and appointed as to start in sympathy and with the object of working together to make the Act and the Ministry a success; or are we going to start with an advisory committee coming from outside for the purpose of representing as delegates the various interests by which they are sent? I would remind the House that this Bill is limited in its existence and operation to two years; but to two years of what? Two years of experiment; two years of provisional working of this organisation and co-ordination of transport. If, in that

short period of two years, you are going to begin by having a small internal Parliament or debating society, with antagonistic interests to be reconciled, and not simply advisory, then you will so handicap the Ministry as not to give them a fair chance, especially having regard to the time limit. For that reason, which I think I have definitely and frankly stated, I support the Amendment of the Home Secretary, because I believe it to be right and I believe it to be the only way of giving the Ministry a fair chance of carrying out its duties within the limited time available under the Bill.


The right hon. Gentleman wants a committee, not merely including one impartial person, but consisting entirely of impartial persons. I am not quarrelling with the method of appointment that he suggests. I think that the members should be really members of the committee, and not delegates to it. We want them to work to make the Act a success, and as far as we are concerned we will support the right hon. Gentleman.


I think this matter is very simple, and it has been placed before the House by the right hon. Gentleman in such a simple manner that we can come to a decision quickly on the very words he has put before us. He states plainly that he wants a Departmental Committee, and I think the question before the House is whether we are to have a Departmental Committee or an independent Committee such as would be set up under the Lords Amendment. I hope the House will adopt the Lords Amendment, and that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.

Question put, ''That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Lords Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 14; Noes, 130.

Division No. 106.] AYES. [6.58 a.m.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Stevens, Marshall
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Joynson-Hicks, Sir William Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Bower man, Rt. Hon. C. W. Knights, Captain H.
Foxcroft, Captain C. Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Greame, Major P. Lloyd Raeburn, Sir William Lord Robert Cecil and Major E. Wood.
Johnstone, J Rogers, Sir Hallewell
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Beck, Arthur Cecil Bromfield, W.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Belt, James (Ormskirk) Brown, Captain O. C. (Hexham)
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. c. H. (Devizes) Brown, T. W. (Down, N.)
Atkey, A. R. Blades, Sir George R. Buchanan, Lieut. Col. A. L. H.
Baird, John Lawrence Blair, Major Reginald Campion, Colonel W. R.
Baldwin, Stanley Brackenbury, Captain H. L. Cape, Tom
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Briant, F. Carr, W. T.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Bridgeman, William Clive Casey, T. W.
Barnston, Major Harry Briggs, Harold Child, Brig.-General Sir Hill
Colvin, Brig.-General R.B. Jodrell, N.P. Royce, William Stapleton
Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan) Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen) Samuel, S. (WandsWorth, Putney)
Cozens- Hardly, Hon. W. H. Kellaway, Frederick George Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur
Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.) Kerr-Smiley, Major P. Seddon, J. A.
Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H. Kidd, James Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John
Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe) Kiley, James Daniel Sexton, James
Davies, Sir Joseph (Crowe) King, Commander Douglas Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)
Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander H. Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Doyle, N. Grattan Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.) Shortt, Rt. Han. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)
Du Pre, Colonel w. B. Lindsay, William Arthur Simm, Colonel M. T.
Edge, Captain William Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Hunt'don) Smith, W. (Wellingborough)
Elliott, Captain W. E. (Lanark) Lort-Williams, J. Stanier, Capt. Sir Seville
Eyres-Monsell, Commander Loseby, Captain C. E. Stanley, Col. Hon G. F. (Preston)
Farquharson, Major A. C. Lunn, William Stephenson, Colonel H. K.
Fitzroy, Capt. Hon. Edward A. M'Curdy, Charles Albert Strauss, Edward Anthony
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Sugden, W. H.
Forestier-Walker, L. Mitchell, William Lane Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke) Morden, Col. H. Grant Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Cambridge) Nall, Major Joseph Townley, Maximilan G.
Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham heal, Arthur Tryon, Major George Clement
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter) Vickers, D.
Glyn, Major R. Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G. Wallace, J.
Green J. F. (Leicester Parker, James Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Griffiths, T. (Pontypool) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Grundy, T. W. Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike Weston, Col. John W.
Hailwood, A. Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge) Wild, Sir Ernest Edward
Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Perring, William George Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)
Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham) Pratt, John William Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Pulley, Charles Thornton Woolcock, W. J. U.
Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F. Purchase, H. G. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Hirst, G. H. Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)
Holmes, J. S. Renter, J. B. Younger, Sir George
Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Hughes, Spencer Leigh Robinson S. (Brecon and Radnor) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster) Rounded, Lieut.-Colonel R. F. Lord E. Talbot and Captain F. Guest.
Inskip, T. W. H.

Lords Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Proposed words there inserted.