HC Deb 06 December 1932 vol 272 cc1441-66

I beg to move, in page 31, line 28, to leave out the words "omnibus bodies," and to insert instead thereof the words: rolling stock, vehicles, appliances or apparatus. 3.52 p.m.

This Amendment is more restricted in character than the Amendment I moved yesterday. Under the Bill the board are compelled to purchase the repair shops of the London General Omnibus Company at Chiswick and subsidiary undertakings, but restricts them in the use which they can make of the repair shops they have to buy. It is unfair to the board to compel them to buy a particular part of a business and not permit them to put the part they have to buy into full operation. The number of omnibus bodies which they can manufacture under this Clause is not up to the full capacity of the works at Chiswick, which are quite up to date, and it also excludes the whole output of the works at Teddington. This restriction on the operations of the board was made at the request of omnibus bodies manufacturers. It was wrong. It has enabled them to compel the board to buy from private contractors omnibus bodies which the London General Omnibus Company and Messrs. Tilling were perfectly able to manufacture for themselves at their own works. There are one or two questions I want to put to the Government. Why is this restriction applied to the board? Is it in order to retard their usefulness? Is it in order to cripple their activities; to hold them back from carrying out to the full the great duties imposed upon them? Is there a conflict of private interests as against the interests of the community? I wan', to know whether the financial interests of a few are to be allowed to override the progress and the success of the board?

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

It seems to me that the hon. Member is now dealing with a later Amendment on the Order Paper; and I should like to know whether that is the case. The Amendment before the Committee is to leave out the words "omnibus bodies" in order to ascertain whether the board shall he allowed to manufacture other articles; but his argument is more appropriate to a later Amendment.


I am moving the first Amendment, and I am only asking a few questions now in order to elicit information on particular points which will come up for discussion later. I was asking whether the financial interests of a few were to be allowed to override the interests of the board and to retard the progress and success of the scheme. In justice to the board they should be permitted to carry on these works up to their full capacity, just as they were at the time when the agreement was made with the late Minister of Labour. If that was the case progress would be made. Moreover, it is convenient to combine a repair shop with the manufacture of omnibus bodies. They are not separate operations; they run together, and help each other both in the matter of cost and efficiency. There is also the point of view of the workpeople concerned to be considered. The restriction in the Clause is to be regretted because it must mean a reduction in the number of people employed. Of course, the number of people who are thus put out of work will be calculated in the figures of unemployment, and I think this Committee will regret to see this morning that the number in that direction has increased to a very alarming extent. We ought not, therefore, to do anything to cause a further number to be added to the unemployed, and this does mean increasing the number of people out of work.

Then the question arises whether these people should be made the victims of the motor-body manufacturers. I think that they ought not to be. It is possible, though it is not certain, that dismissed workmen may be compensated under the Bill. If that were so, it would be drawing upon public finance in order to satisfy the interests and the desires of the motor-body manufacturers. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment, because I consider it necessary that the board should have the power for which we ask. I think that they ought to be given all the powers possible in the way of manufacture and running the workshops from the best utilitarian point of view to which the board can apply them. We are not asking for a great thing, but it is something which would be in conformity with the agreements which were made first of all.

There is also the question of the reduction of staff employed at Chiswick. That must be regarded by every Member of the Committee, and particularly from the trade union point of view, because the London General Omnibus Company has always been understood to be one of the best employers in this kind of work, and if the Chiswick works have to be closed down, it will not only throw people on the Unemployment Fund, but will rob many people of what has always been regarded as a very good position for work. We feel that the board ought neither to be fettered nor over-ruled by the private interests in this matter. They ought to be given power to operate in the direction which they believe to be right, in order to meet their requirements in the great undertaking which they have in hand.

4.4 p.m.


The effect of this Amendment, together with the Amendments which follow, would be to empower the board to continue to use any premises that were used before the date of the transfer by the undertakings to be transferred to the board for the manufacture of rolling stock, vehicles, appliances or apparatus which they require. To accept this Amendment would reverse the decision which the Committee arrived at on Clause 3. It would give the board, in fact, the power to manufacture anything which they liked to manufacture. The whole question as to the powers to be conferred upon the board with regard to manufacture formed the subject of considerable discussion before the Joint Committee by counsel representing the various interests concerned. We have carefully considered the matter, and we have come to the decision that generally the decision of the Joint Committee was a wise one.

We discussed this matter at length yesterday on another Amendment, and I hope that the Committee will accept the decision that the board should not be allowed to embark upon great schemes of manufacture, and that we may pass to the next Amendment. The hon. Gentleman raised a question about chassis. Is he aware that at Chiswick there is no plant whatever for the purpose of manufacturing chassis, and for the board to embark upon a scheme for the manufacture of chassis when the country is provided with plant capable of manufacturing chassis would be an uneconomic proposition. The board will be in a position to buy its equipment at a fair and competitive price, and on these grounds I must ask the Committee to refuse the Amendment.


According to the evidence given before the Joint Committee last year, 1,600 bodies were made by the London General Omnibus Company at their own works.


But this Amendment asks that the board shall be allowed to manufacture anything in any works. The Amendment proposes to leave out the words "omnibus bodies" and to insert the words "rolling stock, vehicles, appliances or apparatus," which means that, even if these things were not already made at Chiswick or any other works they could be made by the board and possibly plant would have to be installed. I am afraid that we cannot accept this Amendment.

4.6 p.m.


Surely the hon. Gentleman does not expect Members on these benches to accept the very flimsy excuse just given. After all, this Amendment seeks only to secure the opportunity for the board to make use of various works which the Bill itself will compel them to take over. The Bill imposes this obligation upon the board. They must take over Chiswick, Tillings and certain other places, and all we ask is that, having compelled this board, representing the whole of the 8,000,000 travelling public of this great City, to take over those works, they should be permitted to use them to produce exclusively for their own use rolling stock, vehicles, appliances or apparatus which would be used in any part of their undertakings. Does the hon. Gentleman think that he can advance the argument that, merely because a separate company other than the board is in business for the purpose of making profit—for that is its primary object; ser vice is purely secondary—it is likely to produce more cheaply than this board, and does he imagine that that board of supermen are going to be so foolish as to commence the building of chassis, steam engines or engines for the Under- ground—


I think I must point out to the Committee that the whole question of manufacture by the board was discussed and decided upon yesterday. If this Amendment were carried it would merely permit the board to manufacture certain articles specified in the Amendment in the case of a company taken over by the board which already manufactures them. We cannot go into the general question on this Amendment.


May I draw attention to the fact that in Clause 5 (4) the board have power to manufacture anything which their predecessors in title have power to manufacture, and therefore are not limited by Clause 3, because under Clause 5 they have also powers which are equally strong?


They may be strong; I am not disputing what the hon. and learned Gentleman puts forward. I am only pointing out that the question of manufacture was dealt with yesterday. This is a very limited power where premises are taken over by the Board, and is a specific argument.


Further to that point of Order, Clause 21 definitely gives power to the board to manufacture a limited quantity of certain articles. While omnibus bodies remain part of the Clause, then the limitation is upon the number of omnibuses produced by the board. The Amendment suggests the elimination of the words "omnibus bodies," and the insertion of the words "rolling stock, vehicles, appliances or apparatus," but with the recognised restriction that they can only be produced in the works which are taken over by the board compulsorily as a result of the passing of this Bill. That I hope, will surmount the problem you were raising.


I think the hon. Member has overlooked the words: where immediately before the date of transfer any premises were being used for the purpose of manufacturing. That could only apply, if this Amendment were accepted, to cases where that was being done before the passing of this Bill. It is not a question of general manufacture.


That was my very point. Clause 21 does permit the Board to manufacture a limited number of omnibus bodies. We suggest, therefore, that in the works which the board take over compulsorily the same limitation for the purposes of this Amendment shall apply to rolling stock, vehicles, appliance or apparatus, and, to that extent, I think this Amendment is quite in order. The hon. Gentleman opposite produced the argument—if it can be dignified by the word "argument "—that because an Amendment was decided yesterday, it ought to be sufficient to turn down our Amendment to-day. We are not satisfied that this great board, representing as it will 8,000,000 of the travelling public, ought to he compelled to purchase articles which they will ultimately use from companies who are in business, not to serve the board but to produce for themselves as much profit as they possibly can. If I may illustrate my view of this question, I can do so in regard to coal. We have seen colliery companies losing money, and workmen's wages reduced, because the price at which the coal was sold was uneconomic, but on further investigation we have discovered that the raw material has been sold to a subsidiary company which has obtained a profit thereby.

We do not want a similar set of circumstances to obtain here, because of the higher price the board may be called upon to pay to outside companies for any of their rolling-stock. We think it is a fair proposition that, instead of limiting the board to the production of omnibus bodies on the five years average down to 1930, they ought to be permitted to produce any of the appliances which they are likely to use on the basis of the output for 1931. That, we think, would be a very fair proposition. It would give the board an opportunity not only to co-operate with the Government for experimental and research purposes, but it might conceivably help the Government towards the solution of that great mining problem by the utilisation, in the right direction, of the raw material, instead of being used as it is to-day. But if you restrict the board to a very small production of omnibus bodies, cutting out any possible chance there may be for the production of the chassis or anything they may use experimentally, they will be put at a disadvantage. They will be thrown holus bolus into the arms of profitmaking companies outside. From that point of view, we are wholly dissatisfied with the hon. Gentleman's reply, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen sitting on both sides of the Committee who have an interest in the travelling public in this great city will support the Amendment, and insist upon power being given to the board to produce the things which they will ultimately use.

4.15 p.m.


A word or two in reply to the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken would perhaps be hardly a waste of time. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) really touched on the whole question in a single phrase. He pointed out, by way of plea for the Amendment, that all these various kinds of apparatus would be produced, so far as they can be produced at Chiswick, exclusively for use by the railways and the omnibuses of the Board. The purpose of the Joint Committee was to leave the manufacture of all these different kinds of appliances, particularly chassis and anything to do with the Underground Railway and so forth, to private enterprise, because these private manufacturers do not manufacture exclusively for their own use, but by manufacturing all these different articles build up the trade of the country, and incidentally the export trade of the country as well. We do not want a great corporation of this kind to be able to manufacture everything they require exclusively for their own use, and to shut out from the general manufacturing industry of the country the whole of this great source of productive work. That is really the reason why the Amendment should be resisted.

It is difficult to say anything in reply to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment because, as was pointed out by the Deputy-Chairman, the hon. Member dealt almost exclusively with three other Amendments on the Paper and not with that which he moved. I shall confine myself to the question whether it is desirable or not that not only omnibus bodies but everything else required by this great undertaking should be manufactured to the limit of the board's capacity. We ought to make some answer to the argument put forward by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that if the Amendment and others are not accepted we shall be doing something which will cause further unemployment. I hold that that is not so. There is not a single chassis or Underground carriage or engine, nor even an omnibus body, that will not be manufactured in Chiswick and required by the undertaking, which will not be manufactured somewhere else. The only question is whether the whole shall be done by the undertaking itself or whether a considerable part, taking the rolling stock as a whole, Underground and overground, should be produced by private enterprise. I hold that there is likely to be more employment and not less if private enterprise is allowed to come in. If there is a man or two less, if there are 100 fewer employed at Chiwick next year or the year after in consequence of this Amendment not being passed, I hold that there will be that same number, and very likely more, employed by outside companies.

The hon. Member for Don Valley sees in this matter nothing but a question of production for profit. Production for profit is the basis of the industry of the country, and therefore we have to accept it. Personally I think that that is the basis on which industry is likely to prosper. We do not want outside industries to be deprived of the opportunity of producing everything that is necessary, save for certain exceptions made in the Clause, for this transport undertaking. The transport undertaking of London has the finest vehicles in the world, and these will probably be regarded as the model. It will be of enormous advantage to our manufacturers to be able to say throughout the world that they manufacture the chassis and the machinery for the finest and the largest transport undertaking in any single area in the world. That will help them to sell similar goods in other parts of the country and elsewhere.

4.21 p.m.


I think it is a fact that up to the present time the undertakings which are to be taken over by the board have not manufactured either rolling stock or chassis, and that is perhaps the best answer to the Mover of this Amendment. Experience has shown these undertakings, trading as individual concerns, that it is more profitable for them to purchase rolling stock from other concerns which are devoted entirely to that work. The Mover of the Amendment said that the Amendment implied more than it expressed. I think hon. Gentlemen of the Labour party are rather inclined to attempt too much. Under a scheme of this kind we would be putting an enormously difficult task on the board which is to take control. The co-ordination of London traffic in itself is an enormous task. If the arguments of the Mover of the Amendment were carried to their logical conclusion we should be saying that the board must have power not only to manufacture rolling stock, but power to manufacture any single article which it needed for the purpose of the transport business. That is the whole purpose of the Amendment. What the Mover of the Amendment had in his mind was not only the co-ordination of London transport, but a system under which this board was to have something in the nature of a huge monopoly on State lines, which was obviously to be the forerunner of a greater and wider scheme of nationalisation. That is a sort of thing to which Members of my party are strongly opposed.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) that the arguments used about unemployment are futile. The Clause provides that such work as has been carried on for the five years up to December, 1930, shall continue to be carried on at Chiswick. There can be no possibility of any diminution in the number of men employed at Chiswick. So far as the private manufacturers of tramways and transport apparatus are concerned, I can say from my own knowledge that their works are modern and well equipped, and that they are in every way competent to carry on any work which this board may want them to do.

4.23 p.m.


In this matter I support the Minister with all enthusiasm. This Amendment has to be considered from two points of view. There is the purely business point of view, that in general it is obviously de- sirable that manufacturing should be carried on by the people whose business is manufacturing instead of being carried on as a side line by people whose business is transport. I should have thought, as the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) said yesterday, that the experience of the main line railways and the reaction on locomotive building in this country, were sufficient to show how very important it is not to hamper the general development of the manufacturing industry which is capable of supplying these vehicles to dozens of other companies in this country, and also in the hope of building up an even more important export trade than we enjoy at the present time. But hon. Gentlemen on the Labour benches are not concerned at all with business considerations. Their reasons are purely political. They are Socialists and they are entitled to be Socialists. I am not a Socialist. They move the Amendment because they think it will help forward their doctrine of Socialism, and they think that for this board to do something is more Socialistic than for an ordinary company to do it. They endorse our view that this Bill is more Socialistic than the Bill of 1928. I agree with regard to that. But that is no reason why we should adopt a wrong principle.

The whole speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was a denunciation of profit. He seems to be under the impression that there is some difference between producing for profit and producing for use. No. If you started business and produced things that no one used you would not make any profit. That is the simple answer. It is obvious that in the long run the most money is made by the man who renders the best service. That is why some barristers are paid more than others. Really the supporters of this Amendment have not brought forward a serious argument. This enterprise is intended to be profit-making, even though it is of a Socialistic character. The hon. Member for Don Valley is not proposing that the stockholders and the board are not to be paid interest.


The hon. Member is going a long distance from the Amendment.


The hon. Member for Don Valley raised the question of profit, and implied that if omnibuses were bought from an outside concern a profit would arise, but that if the omnibuses were made by the board there would be no profit. He assumed that the board would not make them efficiently.




If that was not the assumption, the hon. Member was assuming something for which the Chair has already called me to order. If outside concerns can make the omnibuses cheaper the board can buy them.

4.28 p.m.


The Amendment seeks to give the Transport Board power to do that which was done by the undertaking which it is to take over, and to do nothing more. The last speaker has said that from a business point of view that is bad. Quite frankly I prefer the business experience of Lord Ashfield to that of the hon. Member. That eminent Noble Lord found that it was a good thing to do, to carry on these jobs which the undertaking has so far been carrying on, and that was why they put their money into it. I have never yet heard anyone accuse them of being inefficient in that matter. Therefore from a purely business point of view we have the proved fact of what is efficient, and that is to have these workshops and to do those things which so far

have been done. I do not understand the arguments of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). Once we are to have a Transport Board I cannot understand why we should proceed to hamstring it by not enabling it to do all the things which private enterprise was allowed to do and in fact did. If one was going to launch a Transport Board for London one would do everything possible to give it every advantage that it could be given fairly. Those advantages would be coterminous with the past experience and the advantages which the undertaking that it is going to take over has had in the various lines of activity that it has pursued. That is why we think it unwise and unfair, when starting a board of this kind, to cut down those very activities which its predecessors found to be useful and profitable and good business. We ask that this board should be regarded as something which ought to succeed to the fullest extent, and which ought to be afforded every opportunity of success. We believe that by putting in this limitation the Government are seriously limiting the board's chances of success and we ask that the limitation ought to be taken out of the Bill.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 257; Noes, 32.

Division No. 18.] AYES. [4.31 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cadogan, Hon. Edward Culverwell, Cyrll Tom
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds W.) Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Curry, A. C.
Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Campbell. Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley) Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)
Atholl, Duchess of Carver, Major William H. Davison, Sir William Henry
Baillie, sir Adrian W. M. Castlereagh, Viscount Dawson, Sir Philip
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cautley, Sir Henry S. Denman, Hon. R. D.
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Dickie, John P.
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Donner, P. W.
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Chalmers, John Rutherford Drewe, Cedric
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Duckworth. George A. V.
Bernays, Robert Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Christie, James Archibald Dunglass, Lord
Blindell, James Clarke, Frank Eden, Robert Anthony
Boulton, W. W. Clarry, Reginald George Edmondson, Major A. J.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Clayton, Dr. George C. Elliet, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Colfox, Major William Philip Elliston, Captain George Sampson
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.) Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Elmley, Viscount
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Conant, R. J. E. Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Cook, Thomas A. Entwistle, Cyrll Fullard
Broadbent, Colonel John Cooper, A. Duff Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Cranborne, Viscount Fermoy, Lord
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst
Browne, Captain A. C. Crooke, J. Smedley Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin
Buchan, John Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootie) Fox, Sir Gifford
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Fremantle, Sir Francis
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Crossley, A. C. Fuller, Captain A. G.
Burnett, John George Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard Ganzoni, Sir John
Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Lister, Rt. Hon. sir Philip Cunliffe Ropner, Colonel L.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Llewellin, Major John J. Rosbotham, S. T.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Ross, Ronald D.
Glossop, C. W. H. Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn.G.(Wd.Gr'n) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Rothschild, James A. de
Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Goff, Sir Park Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (l. of W.) Runge, Norah Cecil
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) McKie, John Hamilton Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Granville, Edgar McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Salmon, Major Isldore
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James l. Salt, Edward W.
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Magnay, Thomas Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Hamilton, sir George (Ilford) Maitland, Adam Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Scone, Lord
Hammersley, Samuel S. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Hanbury, Cecil Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Hanley, Dennis A. Martin, Thomas B. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Hartland, George A. Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kennlngt'n) Mayhew, Lieut-Colonel John Skelton, Archibald Noel
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Slater, John
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Smith. Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Headlam. Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Somerset, Thomas
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T, E.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur F. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Southby, Commander Archibald R, J.
Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Mulrhead, Major A. J. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)
Holdsworth, Herbert Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Stones, James
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Strauss, Edward A.
Hopkinson, Austin Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersl'ld) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Hornby, Frank North, Captain Edward T. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. O'Donovan, Dr. William James Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Horobin, Ian M. Peake, Captain Osbert Tate, Mavis Constance
Horsbrugh, Florence Pearson. William G. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Penny, Sir George Thompson, Luke
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Percy, Lord Eustace Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Peters, Dr. Sidney John Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Petherick, M. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Turton, Robert Hugh
Iveagh, Countess of Peto. Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Potter, John Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Jennings, Roland Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Procter, Major Henry Adam Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Pybus, Percy John Wells. Sydney Richard
Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Ker, J. Campbell Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ramsden, E. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Kerr, Hamilton W. Rankin, Robert Womersley, Walter James
Kirkpatrick, William M. Rathbone, Eleanor Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Knight, Holford Rea, Walter Russell Worthington, Dr. John V.
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Law. Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Lees-Jones, John Remer, John R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rentoul, Sir Gervals S. Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward and Lord Erskine.
Lindsay, Noel Ker Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Adams. D. M. (Poplar, South) Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) McEntee, Valentine L.
Banfield, John William Grundy, Thomas W. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Batey, Joseph Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Maxton, James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, George Hicks, Ernest George Price, Gabriel
Cape, Thomas John, William Thorne, William James
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Daggar, George Kirkwood, David
Edwards, Charles Lansbury. Rt. Hon. George TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Logan, David Gilbert Mr. Groves and Mr. G Macdonald.
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Lunn, William

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 31, line 32, to leave out from the word "undertaking," to the end of the Clause.

This Amendment involves what is almost a repetition of the argument already submitted, its point being 4.40 p.m.

that the board ought not to be restricted in the production of omnibuses or omnibus bodies for their own use. The Amendment, however, excludes considerations as to engines and chassis and all apparatus of that kind and is concerned entirely with the question of omnibus bodies. The Clause in its present form would give the board power to manufacture omnibus bodies up to the average of the annual manufacture at the Chiswick works for the five years ended 1st January, 1931. We should like to know why the figures for the five years 1925 to 1930 have been taken for this purpose in preference to the figures of the output for 1931 or for the first six months of 1932. The basis proposed in the Clause we regard as very unfair particularly to those employés who have earned the right to a continuity of good, solid, secure work at reasonable wages, or adequate compensation.

We think that the board should be permitted to produce the output for 1931 or for the first half of 1931, or, preferably, that they should be empowered—whether they exercise the power or not is quite another matter—to produce as many omnibus bodies as they feel disposed to produce. We do not consider that the limitation contained in this part of the Clause is one which ought to be imposed upon this great body. It is not as though they would be incapable of producing good bodies at economic prices. These works have proved, beyond peradventure, highly efficient and the fact that the board is in production at all will be a guarantee against exploitation by outside companies. Hon. Members who opposed the last Amendment have referred to those companies. So long as companies which are working on efficient lines and meeting the export demand, can supply to the board at a price less than it costs the board to produce the articles quite obviously the board will continue to buy from outside firms. But the very fact that they have the power to produce themselves to meet all their needs will in itself place a certain bargaining power in their hands.

4.44 p.m.


I wish to ask whether the Government cannot see their way to accept this Amendment. I hope that no Conservative Member will be disposed to take up a hostile attitude towards the Amendment merely because it has been moved by an hon. Gentleman opposite. We are not dealing here with the principle, as a whole, of manufacture by the board. That was disposed of yesterday. We are considering here a specific point in regard to the works at Chiswick which are to be taken over by the board. This works is one upon which the finance of the board depends, and unless the works and other portions of the undertaking can work successfully, it is obvious that the whole financial basis of the board may be imperilled, which would be a most serious thing. On these grounds, I would ask the Government if they cannot meet us at any rate in some respect, because if, as a result of works like this not producing to full capacity losses are incurred, then everybody, the Government included, will incur odium under the Bill.

There is all the difference in the world between a factory producing only to part capacity and a factory running full time, and more particularly so in the London area, where site values are high and rates and taxes considerable. It is only by having the maximum amount of efficiency in any given works that you can hope to run to the best advantage. I cannot help feeling that when the financial arrangements were made between the London General Omnibus Company and the board, the company, when assessing the value of their works, must have considered their works at their present production value and not at their production value limited to an average of five years. It is obvious that if you take over a works which is restricted in output, it is not such a valuable asset. I should like to emphasise the fact that the works at Chiswick are not merely a repairing depot, but that they are in addition an important centre for manufacturing omnibus bodies. I think the lion. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) suggested yesterday that they were principally a repairing shop.

I say that the five years' average hits these works particularly hard, because, as the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has just said, in recent years their output has been increased simply because the company have entirely reconstructed the works and made substantial alterations, which now make them the most efficient works of their kind in the whole country. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), who, I am sorry, is not here at the moment, suggested a short time ago that if any men were thrown out of employment, they might find work somewhere else. He even suggested that more people might be employed; but the important thing is that the board should be efficient, and surely if more people were employed as a result of restricting the work at Chiswick, that would only prove that the Chiswick works were more economical than the works of other undertakings. I feel that the present restrictions that are proposed do not meet the case and that the position of the workers in Chiswick may seriously be prejudiced by the five years' average. This is a matter which affects not merely the borough of Brentford and Chiswick, but other districts of Greater London, because many of the workers live in other districts.

I would like to ask at this stage if the Minister could not give us some concession. I realise the difficulties, and that he does not think it desirable that the board should become a great manufacturing body, but I think it is a mistake to take over an asset, to pay in money or in stock for that asset, and then not to work it properly. I appeal to the Minister, as a business man, to look at it from the point of view of the efficient manufacture of omnibus bodies, and, having admitted the principle that omnibus bodies may be manufactured at these works, to allow them to work to their maximum capacity. In that way I believe the new Transport Board will be able to function more efficiently than by the method proposed in this Clause.

4.50 p.m.


I am very pleased to hear the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell) defending his own constituency, because the London General Omnibus Company happen to have their headquarters, from a manufacturing point of view, in that district. I represent a district which is going to be absorbed by the new Traffic Board, so far as our municipal transport services areconcerned. We have for years conducted the making of our own tramways, and, apart from the chassis, we have had the making of the bodies for the trams. As I understand it, if this Bill becomes law, our department will be closed down, or else it will be taken over. I know what will happen; it will be transferred, and the London General Omnibus Company, with Lord Ashfield at its head, and the other big people who have been running London traffic now sub rosa, will take complete control of all the London traffic arrangements, and our men will be discharged. There is not much hope for them, and I would like to ask why we cannot have a real authority in this matter, so that the men who are working in the outer parts of London may be in a better position.

West Ham happens to be the orphan of the storm, the Cinderella of London traffic. We are the only traffic authority outside London proper that has control over its own roads and the making of its own vehicles. Leyton, East. Ham, Ilford, and the other outer areas are practically under the control of this new dominating factor. Where do we come in? Nowhere, because the name of West Ham stinks in the nostrils of hon. Members opposite and their associates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] It is no good saying "Order." It is true, and I will vote against anything that is going to offend the people whom I represent. What hon. Members opposite want is the protection of private interests. It is going to be the creation of a monopoly, and I want to see a different kind of Bill.


The hon. Member is now getting a very long way from the Amendment.


Yes, Sir, I hope so. What are you going to do in the manufacturing part of this Bill? The London General Omnibus Company has, in connection with it, the Associated Equipment Company. Have any of those who are supporting this Bill informed us what is going to be the position of that company? To all intents and purposes, to those who do not know, it is an independent body, but, as a matter of fact, it is the manufacturing authority in connection with the Underground Railways and the London General Omnibus Company, and I can quite see why you are cutting manufacturing out of the Bill. You want this company to become a dominating factor in the provision of all the necessary equipment in connection with the new Traffic Bill. They are to be the competing force in connection with the supply of materials and bodies and all the other equipment required for the running of the traffic of London, and it will be a, safe investment for the gentlemen who are always on the main chance. Heads they win, and tails we lose, every time. I want some hon. Members to explain, if they know anything at all about it, what position this Associated Equipment Company will hold in connection with this Bill.


I think the hon. Gentleman should have raised that question on Clause 6.


I do not care on what Clause I raise it, but I want the Minister to explain the matter. We in West Ham make our own bodies in connection with our own trams, but under this Bill we shall be absorbed. We shall have no control, and I suggest that we are entitled to ask what is the relationship of the local authorities to the new board in this connection. We are the only one left now. When the Bill becomes law we go West, and we have a right to ask where we stand in connection with the manufacture of our own rolling stock. Are we going to be told: "There is nothing doing. We will take you over and do what we like with you, and you are not going to have a means of protesting? "

4.56 p.m.


I should like to ask the Minister to accept this Amendment. The principle of economy which we all imagine will come out of this Bill is that you will do away with competition arid that it will be possible to run the whole of London's transport with a single eye to its efficiency and co-ordination. If you have a. plant for the production of bodies already in working order, I cannot see why there should be any idea of imposing a quota upon its production. It is already provided in the Clause, even if it is amended in this way, that the new concern is not to enter into competition in the market generally with other manufacturers, and I suggest that the Government might accept the Amendment in order to enable the works to be conducted as efficiently as possible.

4.57 p.m.

Captain NORTH

I feel that if we are to have this Bill, we ought to make it pay.To my mind, that is a central point about it. I do not approve of the board manufacturing anything, whether in Chiswick or elsewhere, but if we are to manufacture something, let us do it as cheaply and as economically as possible. Under this Clause you will take over this factory at Chiswick, and the moment you take it over you will limit its capacity, and that does not seem to he an economic proposition at all. If you are going to take over a factory—as I say, I do not think it is a good thing to do at all—for goodness sake make it pay. I feel that the Government would be well advised to reconsider their attitude on this point.

4.58 p.m.


I have only risen because I know exactly what happened with reference to this Amendment, which, I believe I am right in saying, was put into the Bill, after its Second Reading, by the Select Committee upstairs, and it was put in owing very largely to the representations which were made to that Committee by the National Vehicle Owners Association. That association, of which I happen to be an honorary member, placed the view before the Committee that it was unfair to take away from them the building of the bodies which they were at present making for various private undertakings in no way connected with the London General Omnibus Company. This limitation was put in by the Select Committee as a fair compromise to the objections which they raised.

There was really not very much point in the argument used by the hon. Member for Brentford and 'Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell). The hon. Member told us that if the. London General Omnibus Company's works at Chiswick, which I know very well as thoroughly efficient and well managed, are limited to the number of bodies they are to turn out, it will acid to their cost. They will, however, know that they are to he allowed to manufacture approximately the same number of bodies that they have been manufacturing, so that they can arrange their overhead costs accordingly. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) stated that this will be a means of exploiting the board and will have the effect of raising costs. That is not so, for the reason that it is generally found that the prices of bodies in the ordinary body building shops is rather low in comparison with the larger concerns. There are so many body builders in the country that all the competition that is necessary will be available to keep the prices within reasonable limits. It may be information to the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) that the Associated Equipment Company do not build bodies but only chassis. They therefore do not come into the discussion of this part of the Bill in any respect. I hope that the Minister will resist the Amendment, because these words were put in the Bill by the Select Committee after bearing both sides on this difficult question and as a compromise between the various interests concerned.


May I ask the Minister of Transport if, during his reply, he will give us the figures for each of the five years which are referred to in the latter part of the Clause?

5.3 p.m.


I want to add my appeal to the Government not to give way on this Amendment. I do so for much the same reason as that given by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer). In this Committee, we are to a tremendous extent working in the dark. We have not had the advantage of the evidence that was given to the Joint Select Committee, but there can be no question as to the decision at which that Committee arrived. I believe that they were largely guided to that decision by the fact that there is such an area of capacity of production at Chiswick that, unless this limitation were put in, it might render nugatory the idea which the Joint Committee had in its mind, namely, to confine the manufacture at Chiswick to the average for the past five years. The capacity exists for increasing the buildings that stand on the land and the incorporation of fresh buildings on that land which might well come within the term "premises" which is contained in the Clause if there were no limitation. I want to emphasise that the main purpose of the Bill is not the production or the manufacture of vehicles but the co-ordination of London traffic. I feel strongly that one of the great weaknesses of the Bill is the introduction of these manufacturing powers to compete with other industries in the country. The compromise offered and accepted on the Joint Committee is one which, I think, taken broad and long, is extraordinarily fair. It maintains the work that has been done at Chiswick with regard to omnibuses at the average of five years. I urge the Government not to give way in view of the conclusion which the Joint Committee reached after careful consideration.

5.5 p.m.


I have listened with interest and sympathy to the arguments which have been put forward by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson), and other Members, but we cannot disguise from ourselves that the object of the Amendment is to remove the limitation of the number of omnibus bodies which may be manufactured by the board for its own purposes. This power is limited so that the number of omnibus bodies which may be manufactured by the board in any year shall not exceed the average of the number of bodies manufactured annually by the London General Omnibus Company at their Chiswick works during the five years preceding the 1st January, 1931, that is, the five years preceding the sitting of the Joint Committee. The matter was examined very carefully by the Joint Committee, which decided that these five years were fair in all the circumstances. We were informed by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) that the Chiswick works would be very well employed under these conditions.


Will the Minister give the figures from 1926 to 1930 to show how the manufacture has increased at these premises?


The average for the five years was 416 bodies a year, and the capacity is undoubtedly more than that.


Is not the average 100 a week now?


I have seen no figures showing as much as 100 a week.


Will the hon. Gentleman give the figures for the last two years?


I have not those figures now.

5.8 p.m.


In coming to the Committee to deal with the discussion on this Clause, the Minister might have taken the trouble to find out the figures of manufacture. The hon. Gentleman knew that the question to be debated was whether it was fair to put this type of limitation upon the manufacturers. We have no material about it, and it is im- possible for the Committee to discuss the matter when no information is provided on which to discuss it. The period taken is the five years prior to 1931. The first comment on that is that it does what has never yet been done in calculations with regard to any question of a quota or anything of that sort—it includes the year 1926, which was the year of the General Strike. That was a year in which every factory had an abnormally low output, and it has always been excluded from calculations for that very reason. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why in this case it is right and proper to include that year in the average of five years. Everybody realises that the figures for that year are abnormally low and are not fair figures on which to base any deductions. Why have the Government taken five years? For the purpose of acquiring these concerns, I understand, three years has been taken, but when it comes to the question of the amount of manufacture why go back five years? The answer is that the earliest years have the smallest production.

If the Minister cannot give us the figures, let me give him figures which I have had put. before me. Whether they are accurate or not, I have not any idea. These show that the manufacture at the beginning of the period was something like seven bodies a week, and that at the end of the period it was more like 100 bodies a week. I am dealing not only with Chiswick, but with all the other manufacturing premises where bodies are manufactured—Tilling and so on, where a large number of men are engaged. What possible justification can there be for this limitation except that, as the Minister has said, the Joint Committee, when they were considering this matter over a year ago, came to this conclusion? What possible justification is there, if the Government are going to allow these people to manufacture at all, for cutting them down to a figure which is perhaps one-tenth of their possible production? It is wholly and obviously uneconomic. You might just as well take away the right to manufacture if you are only to give them a right which is uneconomic.

The Government have admitted in the part of the Clause with which we have already dealt the principle under which they are to be allowed to continue to manufacture omnibus bodies, and I presume that they are to be permitted to do it because they make the best omnibus bodies in the world, and that that is a good reason why they should go on doing it. Nobody can guarantee that any private manufacturer can produce such extremely good bodies, because they are outstanding examples of body manufacture. Be that as it may, if these people are to be permitted to manufacture bodies, it is obviously wrong, from an uneconomic point of view, so to limit that production that the manufacturer cannot use the available factory space to its proper and full amount. There is no reason for doing it except pressure by private interests. We have heard the private interests of Coventry put for ward—


Hear, Hear !


I know that the hon. and gallant Member is frank about it, and he has a brief for the Coventry manufacturers—


May I ask what the hon. and learned Gentleman means by "brief"?


That the hon. and gallant Gentleman is putting forward a case for them.


What does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean by "brief"?


I mean that the hon. and gallant Member is putting forward their case, which is the ordinary meaning of the term. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] I can assure hon. Members that it does not mean that you are paid to do it. To be briefed means that you put forward somebody else's case and not your own. That is the ordinary meaning of the expression. In the same way, the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell) put forward the interests of the employés of the Chiswick factory. We ought not to regard either of them. The proper attitude of this Committee is to find what is best for the efficiency of the London Transport Board, and there can be no possible doubt in anybody's mind about what is best for that. If the board is to manufacture omnibuses, and if you make it buy a large plant which is capable of a production of, say, 10, 20, 30 or 40 omnibuses a week, and then limit it to a production of only five, six or seven a week, it is obviously imposing inefficiency upon them. I am surprised that anybody can support it. I ask the Minister to consider this matter again, and, if he cannot give way altogether, to alter the five years so as to take out 1926, which must have been a bad year, or, on the other hand, to reduce the period of time so as to get an average which is nearer the true average of what the company can now manufacture.

5.15 p.m.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)

The hon. and learned Gentleman has rather 5.15 p.m. shifted his ground. The purpose of the Opposition Amendment was to leave out the whole of the last part of the Clause. If the Amendment had been designed to substitute two or three years for five we should have been armed with figures to enable us to discuss the merits of two or three years against five years, and I hope the Opposition will not regard it as any lack of interest or courtesy that we have not those figures at the moment. The hon. and learned Gentleman has suggested that the year 1926 ought to be left out of the calculation because it was the year of the General Strike. I can promise him that the figures will be considered to see if there is any substance in that point, and if that is found to be a wholly illusory year so far as working is concerned, the Minister will see whether some adjustment is possible on that ground.


If 1926 was a bad year, surely that would apply to all the other companies as well as to this particular concern.


Yes, but we are not engaged in comparing other companies with this board. As I understand it, five years is regarded as a representative period, but if it is not so by reason of the fact that there was a complete sterilisation over a considerable part of 1926, I should think we might agree that that year may have to be reconsidered.

5.16 pm.


While we wish to express our gratitude to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the forward step he has taken, I would like to remind him that in moving the Amendment I did make reference to the peculiarity of a period ending January, 1931, and I said that I would take 1931 or the first six months of 1932. However, in view of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, we are quite willing to withdraw this Amendment, so as to enable the Minister to provide some alternative Amendment on the Report stage; but should anything not happen between now and the Report stage we should then press this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.