HC Deb 01 July 1919 vol 117 cc871-81

(a)For the purpose of giving advice and assistance to the Minister with respect to and for safeguarding any interests affected by the exercise of the powers and the performance of his duties under this Act in relation to roads and bridges and vehicles and traffic thereon, a committee (hereinafter referred to as the Roads Committee) shall be appointed.

(b) The Roads Committee shall consist of not less than ten members of whom five shall be representative of highway authorities, appointed after consultation with such authorities, and five shall be representative of the users of road traffic, appointed after consultation with the interests concerned, together with a chairman and secretary.

(c) The chairman. Who shall be a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Ministry, and the secretary of the Roads Committee shall be appointed by the Minister.

(d) There shall be paid to the secretary of the Roads Committee such salary as the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury, may determine.

(e)The Roads Committee may make regulations as to their procedure and method of voting and may at their discretion consider and report to the Minister upon any matters affecting the construction, improvement, or maintenance of roads or bridges, or the regulation of traffic thereon.

(f)Before exercising any powers or performing any duties of the Road Board under the Development and Road Improvement Funds Acts, 1909 and 1910, classifying roads, or establishing or supporting financially any transport service by road the Minister shall refer the matter to the Roads Committee for their advice, and they shall report thereon to him.

The Roads Committee shall make an annual report to the Minister, and such report shall be laid annually before Parliament, and if they think fit the Roads Committee may lay before Parliament any interim report upon matters on which advice is tendered to the Minister under this Section.


I am not sure that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Twickenham (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) would not come better as an Amendment to Clause 17. But perhaps it is a matter of taste, and he may prefer to move it now.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, That the Clause be read a second time. The House knows that for some time past the desirability has been discussed of inserting some Clause in the Bill so that the local authorities responsible for the roads and also the mass of traffic which uses the roads should have some say in the matters for which the Amendment provides. The fear we have always had—I have stated it quite frankly in this House and in Committee—was that the light hon. Gentleman, being under the necessity primarily of meeting the great railway deficit of £100,000,000 a year, would to some extent cripple the roads in order to meet that deficit—to turn the money as it were into the coffers of the railway company. We were the more frightened in this respect by a remark made by the Leader of the House on the Second Reading, that he hoped the roads at once would, turn to their original purpose as feeders of the railway. Incidentally, I may say we object to the roads being merely feeders of the railways. They are not that, and. should not be that, for they were there long before the railways were. Certainly, most of us in this House are pledged very strongly as to the future of the roads. I am not speaking now on the mere question of the pleasure use of the roads. But the Prime Minister himself, in his election speeches—and I think the right hon. Gentleman also in his speeches in this House —have realised that if the House of Commons develops all these great schemes of. reconstruction, small holdings and so forth, the roads must be enormously developed not only as feeders of the railway, but as separate sources of traction, so as to enable poor people to get further out into the country and the commercial public to-be taken from farm or factory direct to the place to which they wish to go. 1 am one of those who believe, quite frankly, that in a very few years the roads will be used entirely for short-distance traffic to the detriment of the railways, which will only be used for long-distance traffic. I think hon. Members will find that it will not be many years before that takes place. I do not, however, wish to go into the whole question of the roads, because my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have met us in regard to this Clause.

Take the appointment of the Roads Committee. The proposal is that it shall consist of not less than ten members, five of whom shall be appointed by the Minister, and shall represent the highway authorities of the Kingdom. The Ministry is to have great power over the roads and highway authorities—the authorities which are primarily responsible for the well- being of road locomotion and road traffic. There will be five members representative of the users of road traffic appointed by the Minister after consultation with the interests concerned. I think this is not unreasonable. I have had a request from the Cyclists' Union that they should be considered in this matter; and I have no doubt my right hon. Friend has heard from various sections of road users other than the particular section with whom I am supposed to be more immediately connected. These ten representatives will be in addition to the chairman and secretary appointed by the fight hon. Gentleman. I am assuming, of course, that the services of these gentlemen will be purely voluntary, for I suppose it will not be difficult to get ten gentlemen willing to give their services for the good of the country. In paragraph (e) we provide that The Roads Committee may make regulation as to their procedure and method of voting and may at their discretion consider and report to the Minister upon any matters affecting the construction, improvement, or maintenance of roads or bridges, or the regulation of traffic thereon. I do not say that this Clause is all "for which I have been asking. I do not say it is all that my friends, either inside or outside the House, hoped for. We had hoped that the old Road Board, which has done excellent work since instituted by the Prime Minister some ten years ago, and until quite recent date, and until stopped by the War would have been continued. However, my right hon. Friend did not agree to that, and one cannot get everything that one desires in this weary world, particularly from the House of Commons. Therefore I do not press that matter now. But 1 do say that, however difficult it is for me to approach my hon. Friends both inside and outside the House, I do think my right hon. Friend and the Minister have met us fairly in this matter. We have not got all we asked for. The Minister hopes to do a great work. I think the Roads Advisory Committee elected, as I have suggested, will be of very great benefit to the Minister, the local authorities, and the road-users of the country.


I beg to second the Motion.

I wish to say how satisfactory it will be to all the large county councils and other highway authorities throughout the country. There has been a very great feeling on this subject, and although it does not go as far as we hope to go it does set up a road committee which will give to the Minister appointed under this Bill a body to advise him as to the roads. I can never understand why there is a certain amount of feeling amongst the Labour party about this Road Committee, because there are more people amongst the working classes who travel by motors and rubber tyres than any other class. In London alone you have only to look at the motor 'buses every day. There are great industries that are unable to get their material by railways, and they are supplying work for men throughout the country and they depend upon the roads entirely for their material. I am sure this Committee, which is some help to us, will be very much appreciated by all the great highway authorities in the country.


I cannot quite understand why hon. Members seem to imagine that national interests end and begin with railways. We naturally imagine that roads, docks, and all other means of communication are also national in their ramifications and interests. We have discovered during this Debate that in the case of railways everybody is willing to give way, particularly those who are thinking they arc going to get something out of it. All the others say, "Do not touch our property, we are local, and have nothing to do with national interests." Liverpool dominates London, and Glasgow controls the lot, and so we have a combination of interests which leads us to imagine that the promises made before the last election were so much camouflage. What is proposed in this Amendment? It is suggested that the roads shall become competitors with the railways without any regard to national interests. May I point out that if it is true what has been suggested that motor traction is going to be the great force of the future, the only conclusion we can arrive at as ignorant Members on the Labour Benches, and particularly those on the Back Bench of all is that the railways—the first means of national traction—are going to be destroyed by the last means—the motor.

We believe in the unification of all forms of traction, whether on the road, the water, or the air, and if that be so, what becomes of this Amendment? They look very nice on the paper, but it is not on the paper that we have to look, but to the spirit behind the paper. With all due deference to some of those who are moving these Amendments, I suggest that vested interests count for a great deal more than the mere figures on the paper. As members of the Labour party, we stand for the unification of all forms of transit as the greatest means of reconstruction. This Bill was put forward in the first days of this Parliament as the greatest Bill in the Government programme of reconstruction, and we have supported it right through, not because we agreed with every detail, and not because we imagined we were going to get a new heaven and a new earth, but when we find Amendment after Amendment curtailing the purposes of the Bill, destroying its objects, and limiting its capacity, then we suggest that all this talk before the election was simply promises made never to be performed.

We are asking that at least some section shall be retained to give us power over our great national highways. I am a member of a road authority, and we have to maintain roads; but some of those speaking in favour of this Amendment use the roads and pay nothing for them. In the London area who are the members of this road authority going to be? Are they those who stand for the maintenance of public roads, or for the maintenance of private rights? We oppose this Amendment, because it means to limit the possibilities of local and public control. It seems to me, when I read the Amendment in regard to the bigger authorities, that the road authorities say to the 'bus companies and the tramway companies, "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours," and when these Amendments come forward we will all back one another up, just to show there is no ill feeling. We want public control of pubic authorities, and roadways are really public, because the public have to pay for them. We claim in the establishment of a Ways and Communications Authority that the Minister ought to have first control and take into consideration those public interests which have to pay the bill.


I will confine my remarks to the simple point of this Road Advisory Committee. In agreeing to adopt a special Advisory Committee for roads the Government was actuated by the somewhat peculiar position in which roads are compared with any other form of transportation, and I include them as one of the means of transport. There are 2,000 authorities in this country dealing with roads and they are not maintained by a limited number but by a great number of boards, and it is manifestly the right thing that roads and road traffic should form—I do not wish to commit myself too definitely —a separate branch of this great Ministry of transportation which I hope will prevent the unnecessary competition of the various means of transportation for which the nation pays.

We have provided under Section 17 of the Bill in Committee for advisory committees on all these various subjects and various cardinal matters which the Bill deals with, and this Advisory Committee is one which I think is thoroughly justifiable in a particular way, and specifically so because of the peculiar position of roads. They are maintained locally. The users and road-maintaining authorities are different people, and it seems reasonable that we" should specifically say more than under Clause 17 that there shall be a special Advisory Committee. What I wish to point out is that this special Advisory Committee has not got the right to say that this or that shall or shall not be done. It is simply an Advisory Committee and has no executive power. The powers are exactly the same as they were when the Bill left the Committee. It is merely advisory and I hope my hon. Friend will not vote against this Amendment because it does not in any way restrict the powers of the Ministry.


Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how is it possible for a Committee appointed by the highway authorities to give him advice and assistance with regard to the construction of roads and bridges?


The Committee is appointed by the Minister and not by the highway authorities.


The words are, "After consultation with the highway authorities."


My hon. Friend will not deny that the highway authorities have amongst them some very eminent specialists in road construction on their staff, and I cannot imagine that it is in the least likely that they will appoint someone who knows nothing about roads. The appointments rest with the Minister right through.


I think the hon. Member who has just spoken has a right to speak with regard to road construction, for he has in the past given very valuable assistance to road authorities. I can speak as a member for the last twenty-five years of one of the county councils whose area takes in almost all the roads that radiate north-east or west of the Thames. I cannot understand the objection urged by the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. Jones) for the constitution of this Committee. It is not a Committee which has executive powers. It is only a consultative and advisory Committee, and it is constituted in such a way which I should have thought would have put upon it the complexion of democracy as a restraining authority against autocracy. I should have thought the hon. Member would have welcomed anything which restrains autocracy in matters of this sort. It seems essential that we should have a road authority of this description in place of the Road Board, which but for the War would have gone on carrying out some very valuable improvements. This kind of work is far better carried out in consultation with a Ministry of this sort than it would be if left entirely to Departmental officials. I am quite sure time will prove that this is a wise suggestion. While it does not enable this Committee to supersede or even suspend any work the Minister may take upon himself the authority of carrying out, it does at any rate give him the advantage, not only of expert advice, because it is absurd to think that those who are appointed without salary on matters of road construction will not be men of practical experience with very long years of experience in road making.

8.0 P.M.

I wish my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden had been with us this afternoon. He himself has complete confidence in General Maybury. General Maybury, I understand, will remain in charge of this Department at the Ministry, and he has demonstrated as a member of local authorities, the chairman of county councils, etc., that he is a man to be trusted. He is to remain. What better guarantee is there than that such a man should be in charge of the Department? My hon. Friend is unduly suspicious. Those who live on these roads have their nights rendered sleepless by the shaking of the modern house when these huge cargoes of timber and other material are brought along the highway. I am convinced that there is nothing in this quali- fication of the Clause as it left the Committee which ought to disturb the mind of any Member.


The Clauses we have been previously dealing with belonging to this Bill have given colour to the suspicions which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Silvertown. The object of the Amendment seems to be that vested interests upon the roads are going to be invested with undue authority as against the public interest. The object of this Bill is supposed to be that, first and foremost, of transport convenience for the public, and if this Amendment is carried in its present form with five members representing those who use the roads and traffic, it seems to us that you are not looking after the interests of the public, but that this Amendment has been drafted with the object of giving undue preference to those who will use the roads as against the means of transport which the Government are running in the interests of the public. The last speaker has said the suspicions are groundless because the functions of this Committee will be purely advisory, that they will not have any definite powers of their own. The only thing that they can do is to report to the Minister who will have charge of the transportation of the country. If that is perfectly true, if they have no power, what guarantee have we after what we have seen this afternoon, after the Labour Members, fighting side by side with the Government in Committee to save them and their Bill from disaster, when the Government received, even last night, a deputation representing vested interests, and have to-day transformed in certain important particulars their own measure— what guarantee had we if you have a Committee of this character who are only acting in an advisory capacity, that they are not going to have the same influence over the Government with their recommendations as the four or five people had last night who had determined a fresh policy to-day than that which they pursued in Committee? In view of the changing policy of the Government in respect of the vested interests, first in the docks and harbour and canals, we feel that we cannot even trust the Government to do justice to the public interest as against private interests, and if there is to be a private Committee, so far as these benches are concerned, we would rather have that Committee representative entirely of the highway authority, the elected body of the district, and not by powers representing private interests. If these powers are contributing to the rates it is in a small manner, and really the whole burden of maintaining the roads and bridges falls upon the public bodies. We have been told that the local authorities may have representatives who do not understand roads. I think it would be fair to say that as far as London traffic is concerned there is not one out of every 100 who have vested interests in London traffic who know a single thing in road construction, and yet they

have the right to send five representatives whether they know anything or not. They would have the right to submit the names to the Minister. So far as the Labour party is concerned, if there is to be an advisory committee, we believe that committee should be entirely representative of those people who send them to the highway authority, and not representative of any vested interest at all.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 47.

Division No. 52.] AYES. [8.9 p.m.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Dewhurst, Lieut.-Com. H. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Dockrell, Sir M. Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)
Astbury, Lt.-Com. F. W. Doyle, N. Grattan Joynson-Hicks, William
Atkey, A. R. Duncannon, Viscount Kellaway, Frederick George
Austin, Sir H. Du Pre, Colonel W. B. Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)
Bagley, Captain E. A. Edge, Captain William Kiley, James Daniel
Baird, John Lawrence Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) King, Com. Douglas
Baldwin, Stanley Elliot, capt. W. E. (Lanark) Knights, Capt. H.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Eyres-Monsell, Commander Lane-Fox, Major G. R.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. N. (Gorbals) Farquharson, Major A. C. Larmor, Sir J.
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Fell, Sir Arthur Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)
Barnett, Captain Richard W. FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A. Lister, Sir R. Ashton
Barton, Sir William (Oldham) Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)
Beck, Arthur Cecil Foreman, H. Lonsdale, James R.
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Forestier-Walker, L. Lorden, John William
Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth) Fraser, Major Sir Keith Lort-Williams, J.
Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich) Galbraith, Samuel Loseby, Captain C. E.
Benn, Cant. W. (Leith) Gange, E. S. M'Curdy, Charles Albert
Bennett, T. J. Gardiner, J. (Perth) M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)
Bigland, Alfred Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Cambridge) Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Stirling)
Birchall, Major J. D. Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)
Blades, Sir George R. Gilbert, James Daniel Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Blair, Major Reginald Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)
Blane, T. A. Glyn, Major R. Mallalieu, Frederick William
Boles, Lieut.-Col. D. F. Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A. Martin, A. E.
Berwick, Major G. O. Gray, Major E. Mason, Robert
Bowles, Col. H. F. Greame, Major P. Lloyd- Meysey-Thompson, Lt.-Col. E. C.
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E. Green, A. (Derby) Middlebrook, Sir William
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Green, J. F. (Leicester) Mitchell, William Lane-
Brackenbury, Col. H. L. Greer, Harry Moles, Thomas
Bramsdon, Sir T, Gregory, Holman Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz
Breese, Major C. E. Gretton, Colonel John Moore-Brabazon, Lieut-Col. J. T. C.
Broad, Thomas Tucker Griggs, Sir Peter Moreing, Captain Algernon H.
Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham) Gritten, W. G. Howard Morris, Richard
Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H. Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic., Loughboro') Mosley, Oswald
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Gwynne, R. S. Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert
Burdon, Colonel Rowland Hailwood, A. Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S.)
Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes Hambro, Angus Valdemar Murray, John (Leeds, W.)
Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay) Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Luton, Beds.) Murray, William (Dumfries)
Campbell, J. G. D. Haslam, Lewis Neal, Arthur
Campion, Colonel W. R. Henderson, Major V. L. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)
Carr, W. T. Hennessy, Major G. Nield, Sir Herbert
Carter, R. A. D. (Manchester) Herbert, Denniss (Hertford) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Casey, T. W. Hilder, Lieut.-Col. F. O'Neill, Captain Hon. Robert W. H.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Hills, Major J. W. (Durham) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Chadwick, R. Burton Hinds, John Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.) Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G. Parker, James
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Hood, Joseph Parry, Major Thomas Henry
Cheyne, Sir William Watson Hope, Harry (Stirling) Pearce, Sir William
Coats, Sir Stuart Hopkins, J. W. W. Pernefather, De Fonblanque
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley) Percy, Charles
Cohen, Major J. B. B. Horne, Edgar (Guildford) Perkins, Walter Frank
Conway, Sir W. Martin Howard, Major S. G. Philipps, Gen. Sir I. (Southampton)
Coots. W. (Tyrone, S.) Hudson, R. M. Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles
Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan) Hughes, Spencer Leigh Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray
Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff) Hunter-Weston, Lieut-Gen. Sir A. G. Pratt, John William
Courthope, Major George Loyd Hurst, Major G. B. Prescott, Major W. H.
Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.) Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York) Purchase, H. G.
Craik, Right Hon. Sir Henry Jephcott, A. R. Rae, H. Norman
Curzon, Commander Viscount Johnson, L. S. Raeburn, Sir William
Davies, T. (Cirencester) Johnstone, J. Raffan, Peter Wilson
Dawes, J. A. Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke) Ramsden, G. T.
Randles, Sir John Scurrah Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.) Watson, Captain John Bertrand
Raper, A. Baldwin Smith, Harold (Warrington) Weigail, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.
Remer, J. B. Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville Whitla, Sir William
Remnant, Col. Sir J. Farquharson Stephenson, Colonel H. K. Wigan, Brig.-General John Tyson
Renwick, G. Stevens, Marshall Wild, Sir Ernest Edward
Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend) Sugden, W. H. Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)
Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Surtees, Brig.-General H. C. Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor) Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield) Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)
Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.) Taylor, J. (Dumbarton) Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Rodger, A. K. Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.) Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.
Roundell, Lieut-Colonel R. F. Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.) Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)
Royden, Sir Thomas Tickler, Thomas George Winfrey, Sir Richard
Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill) Tryon, Major George Clement Wolmer, Viscount
Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood) Turton, Edmund Russborough Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)
Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney) Vickers, D. Woolcock, W. J. U.
Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.) Waddington, R. Worsfold, T. Cato
Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur Walker, Col. William Hall Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton) Wallace, J. Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Seager, Sir William Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Seddon, J. A. Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E
Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock) Wardle, George J. Talbot and Captain F. Guest.
Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Hartshorn, V. Short, A. (Wednesbury)
Arnold, Sydney Hayday, A. Sitch, C. H.
Bowerman, Right Hon. C. W. Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Smith, W (Wellingborough)
Briant, F. Holmes, J. S. Spencer, George A.
Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute) Jones, J. (Silvertown) Spoor, B. G.
Cape, Tom Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander Swan, J. E. C.
Carter, W. (Mansfield) Kenyan, Barnet Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Lunn, William Tootill, Robert
Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H. Morgan, Major D. Watts Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)
Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe) Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles) Waterson, A. E.
Edwards, C. (Bedwellty) Nall, Major Joseph Wignall, James
Entwistle, Major C. F. Newbould, A. E. Williams, J. (Gower, Glam.)
Glanville, Harold James O'Grady, James Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)
Griffiths, T. (Pontypool) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Grundy, T. W. Richardson, R. (Houghton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Lt.-Col.
Guest, J. (Hemsworth, York) Royce, William Stapleton Thorns and Mr. Tyson Wilson.
Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Sexton, James

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendments made: In paragraph (c), leave out the words "who shall be a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Ministry."

Leave out paragraph (d).

Leave out paragraph (f).—[Mr. Shortt.]

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.