§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Pybus)
I beg to move,That further proceedings on the London Passenger Transport Bill be further suspended till the next Session of Parliament.This Motion regarding the London Passenger Transport Bill stands in the name of the Prime Minister. What is it that the Motion is asking the House to sanction? We are asking that this Parliament shall have an opportunity—and for the first time—to discuss a Bill which has been sent down from a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. That is all we are asking for tonight; nothing more than that. What would result if the House should not pass this Motion to-night? It would at one moment sacrifice the work of 35 days in Committee—35 very hard days, as the 1,300 pages of closely printed evidence would indicate. Further than that, it would sacrifice, possibly in a way in which it could never be recovered, the great measure of agreement which has already been achieved with the undertakers in the areas concerned. Lastly, 1256 and this point is of real importance in these days of financial stringency, £40,000 of public money would be lost. In addition, it would mean that the years of hard work of negotiation with a view to meeting outstanding objections and to modifying the Bill in certain particulars since it left the Joint Committee, would also be wasted.
If the Bill is carried over by the House, it may, on the passing of a Resolution next Session, be brought before a Committee of the whole House and discussed Clause by Clause. The changes which we shall propose to make may also be carefully examined. They are the result of a sincere attempt to understand and meet certain objections made to the Bill in its original form both inside and outside the House. The principal modifications are set out in the White Paper which I circulated after the House rose for the Summer Recess. I believe that the Bill with these modifications incorporated in it is a businesslike solution of what has never been anything but a purely business problem. I am well aware of the infinite complication which surrounds the subject, for, in addition to technical difficulties, there has been, unfortunately, in the past superimposed upon them not a little political difficulty.
I should like to assure the House that from the moment I entered the Ministry 1257 of Transport I attacked this problem from only one point of view. I felt, and I am sure the House will agree with me, that the co-ordination of passenger traffic in the London area, the provision of adequate travelling facilities for the greatest urban population in the world, was not a political, but an essentially economic and non-political, task. I have read and re-read the history of the previous attempts to solve the problem, and I say without hesitation that whenever attempts have been made to give a political colour to any phase or solution, it has inevitably resulted in the proposal being lost and the problem remaining unsolved. Every day that has passed since the Bill was introduced some new complications have arisen and some new difficulty or interest has come into the picture, making an already difficult task well-nigh impossible.
I have often been asked why I do not go back to the Co-ordination Bills which were before Parliament in 1929. I should like to explain that point. I confess that in the early days of my term of office, I examined this possibility with very great care, but I have been forced to the conclusion that it was not feasible on many grounds which I felt to be essentials. I will mention one or two of them. I hope the House will not misunderstand me. I am not decrying the plans which have been brought forward from time to time for the co-ordination of passenger traffic in London. Two Private Bills, one promoted by the London County Council and the other by the Underground group were in my opinion clever and sincere attempts to achieve a compromise, for a compromise was necessary, because it seemed then impossible to obtain unified ownership of the enterprises concerned. If one reads through the relevant Debates and proceedings in Committee one finds over and over again expressions of regret by experts, famous in the realms of transport and local government, that the plans they had put forward were merely the best that could be devised, on the assumption that unified and common ownership was not then feasible. The London Passenger Transport Bill grasps that nettle and frames a scheme without any of the disadvantages of divided ownership of the enterprises, which must in my opinion be knit together in one 1258 harmonious whole if maximum efficiency is to be obtained. There are certain essentials which in my view must be incorporated in any plan designed to solve this great problem. I do not think that these essentials could at that time be included in the Co-ordinating Bills. Firstly, the scope and area covered by the Co-ordinating Bills was much too small, and since the idea was first conceived the problem has grown to such an extent as to make a reversion to the smaller scheme absolutely impossible. Again, the Bills did nothing in themselves, they merely empowered the parties to make agreements with one another. I do not think that I am over-stating the case if I say that if we were to consult the experts and the bodies who really understand this serious problem few of them would to-day claim that the Co-ordinating Bills present an adequate solution. Secondly, it is incumbent on Parliament to see that any scheme it sanctions is of a type which will operate efficiently not only to-day but in the future, functioning by virtue of its structure both technical and financial without any basic change as conditions change.
In my opinion, the first foundation stone of such a structure is a unified and common ownership of all the enterprises operating in the London area and the Co-ordinating Bills in my opinion suffered from an absence of this basic provision. But Parliament is fortunate in having among its hon. Members men of all shades of political belief who have studied this problem in all its varying aspects. Some of them objected to certain provisions of the Bill as it left the Joint Committee and wished modifications to be made. I have tried to inquire into every one of the objections of which I could hear, and I have tried in the case of those who object to the Bill as it left the Joint Committee to get my mind on to the same plane as theirs to see see whether I could understand their point of view and, if possible, meet it. As a result I felt that some of these objections were well founded and where it is possible, without destroying the efficiency of the Bill, I shall suggest modifications to meet these reasonable objections. These objections fell into two main classes. First, those concerning the powers of the Minister. That was a point which I felt was causing grave con- 1259 cern in many parts of the House and in many parts of the area affected.
In the second place, there were those concerning the provisions for the compulsory acquisition of undertakings in the event of failure to arrive at an agreement. Hon. Members who have read the White Paper which I published after the Summer Recess will see the nature of the modifications which I propose to make. First let me deal with the objection that the Bill in its original form gave the Minister too much control over the Board. We have met that objection. We now propose to take these powers from the Minister and place them in the hands of a body to be set up and known as the appointing trustees, to whom will be entrusted, instead of to the Minister, the important duty of selecting the board. There are other powers, particularly those concerning the facilities to which the travelling public are entitled. We have found it possible to arrange that these shall be transferred from the Minister to the Railway Rates Tribunal, as specially constituted for the purposes of the Bill. I suggest that this gives to local authorities and others much more power in representing the interests of the great travelling public of London than they have ever possessed before.
Then there was the second objection—the compulsory acquisition of undertakings. I am bound to say that I understood this particular objection at once. I feel a good deal of sympathy with it. When the Bill left the Joint Committee no agreement had been reached with the Metropolitan Company and the Bill provided for the compulsory acquisition of the company's undertaking by the Board on terms to be settled by an arbitration tribunal. There are, of course, numerous precedents for the compulsory acquisition of undertakings in this manner, but what was unusual, though not altogether unprecedented, was the provision that the company should be paid for the transfer of their property by the issue of stock without the option of taking cash. It was this particular proposal which roused so much opposition, but as the result of the agreement which, subject to the approval of this House, has been concluded with the Metropolitan Railway Company, with the co-operation of the main line railways, the position now is 1260 that none of the parties affected by the Bill will be deprived of their property without compensation in cash except such as agree to take, or express a preference for, stock. I believe that this does meet an objection which was deeply felt in many parts of the House, and I am glad to think that, subject to the approval of the House, we have been able to remove a cause for uneasiness which so many hon. Members have entertained.
§ Mr. PYBUS
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the observation. I do not wish to introduce a personal note into this matter but I think the House is aware that I am not entirely unfamiliar with the operation of great enterprises and modern methods of rationalisation. I have studied this problem closely for 15 months and my opinion, for what it is worth, is that this Bill, based on the experience of the last 15 years and the research undertaken by Royal Commissions, committees and independent persons, proves that there is one scientifically conceived and basic structure upon which London passenger transport traffic can be rendered cheap, efficient and financially sound. Whatever name is given to the Act of Parliament which authorises such a scheme the principles now included in the Bill before the House must be embodied. In the last few days I have been approached by many hon. Members who have been given the impression that once this Motion is passed there will be no opportunity in the next Session of Parliament for them to put down and propose Amendments, and that they must accept the Bill just as it stands. How this impression has got abroad I cannot imagine, but, of course, it is not the case. The Government will propose their own Amendments, and it will be open to hon. Members to put down their Amendments in the ordinary way. I am glad of this opportunity to clear up this point.
§ Mr. PYBUS
The Bill will be taken in the new Session on a Motion and will come before a Committee of the Whole House. In conclusion, cannot believe that this House will lightly follow those who are anxious to prevent the present House of Commons judging on its merits, and as modified by Government Amendments and Amendments put on the Order Paper by other Members of the House, a Bill on which so great a measure of agreement has been reached and on which so much public money has been expended. Before I came into the Chamber this evening I read an article in one of the evening papers, and I should like to call the attention of hon. Members to the last sentence of this article as it is very important for those who desire to have an opportunity of examining the Bill rather than reject it without any such opportunity. The article says:Meanwhile the problem remains increasing in size and urgency every day. Some solution we must have, and quickly. if it is not to overwhelm us. To throw the Bill out does not solve the problem.
§ Sir KENYON VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House declines to proceed with the consideration of a highly controversial Measure introduced seventeen months ago by an administration which no longer enjoys the confidence of the country or of this House, and resolves that, in view of the many urgent problems of national importance requiring the attention of this House, His Majesty's Government should withdraw a Bill for which it received no mandate from the electorate, and as to which no sufficient information has been furnished and no satisfactory Amendment submitted to this House since the Committee stage, and further declares that the precedent which it is sought to establish of carrying over a Public Bill for a second time to a subsequent Session is contrary to the best interests of Parliament.That is a statement of my own belief and a belief which is widely shared by many hon. Members of this House. The Amendment itself has, I must confess. been criticised on certain grounds. It has been urged that it is too long. It has been urged also that it is not worded in the most happily turned phrases to secure the widest measure of support. I 1262 plead guilty to natural shortcomings and to the possible fault of the wording, but at least the Amendment states what I believe to be facts and represents a firm measure of conviction.
The House has listened with much interest to the important statement made by the Minister of Transport. I have made a few notes of what he said, and on some of his points I hope to have an opportunity of addressing the House. One thing impressed me in what he said. He said that he deprecated the effect of political interference on Measures of this kind. In the course of my remarks I may have an opportunity of underlining the importance which he attaches to that view. The Minister also stressed the importance of approaching this question from a businesslike point of view. That is one of the criticisms of his attitude which in time I shall develop. It is not solely a question of a businesslike attitude, but also a question of due regard for all the interests concerned, and not only of those who happen to have disposed of their property. The Minister also made some reference to the grasping of nettles. I think there are far too many nettles both in the path which the Government propose to pursue, and in the consequences to many of those who may he led to pursue that path with them.
However, before I deal with the arguments which I shall put before the House I would remind it and those hon. Members who are not so familiar as the Minister of Transport with the past history of this controversy, of a few points of recent occurrence. This problem in its most modern form goes back not quite so far as the Minister suggested, but really to 1924. In that year events occurred which rendered necessary the introduction of the Bill of that year. As a result of that Bill there was set up the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, which has done some admirable work. That body framed the instrument which is well known under the name of the Blue Book. They made certain recommendations, and those recommendations were the basis of the Bills of 1929 and 1930. The fate of those Bills has been already touched upon by the Minister. While be may perhaps deprecate my using such language, they were in point of fact butchered to make a Socialist holiday. They had practically 1263 received the approval and legislative sanction of this House, but before they actually had the effect of law a General Election supervened, and a different control existed at the Ministry of Transport.
After some time for consideration the late Minister of Transport, the right hon. Herbert Morrison, introduced his Bill in 1931. It will be remembered that the Second Reading of that Bill was stoutly opposed by the party to which I belong. As the Minister of Transport at that time was proud to characterise it, it was the greatest measure of Socialisation in transport ever laid before the country. The challenge was accepted by the Conservative party, and the Bill was rejected with a Resolution in terms suitable to its character and its origin. Criticisms levelled against the Bill introduced then were as follows:That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which provides for the nationalisation of London passenger transport, deprives local authorities of control in respect of their various undertakings, takes the property of private owners out of their control and gives them no option of sale, invests the Minister of Transport with bureaucratic powers, and constitutes him, and not a judicial tribunal, a court of appeal in such important matters as the provision or withdrawal of traffic services and facilities.Some of those objections, but a comparatively small proportion of them, have been met by the concessions which the Minister of Transport has made and which are embodied in the White Paper. After the Second Reading of the Bill it went to the Joint Select Committee of both Houses. There, as the Minister has said, we had a long and patient hearing. I would remind the House that the Preamble was passed only by five votes to four. That is sufficient indication of the highly controversial character of the Bill—a characteristic which I have ventured to mention in my Amendment. In the course of the hearing before the Joint Committee it is quite true that many interests which started in opposition found their opposition dwindle. They found, shall we say, that the frozen atmosphere of their discontent was modified by the sunshine of concessions. The hot winds of their disapproval have been turned to genial zephyrs, so far as the Bill itself is concerned, but I think the hot winds of discontent have been ad- 1264 dressed rather to those who venture to criticise its provisions. The winter of their discontent has indeed been made glorious by the sun of concessions. As I venture to state, those concessions, however favourable they may be to the interested parties, are favourable at the expense of passengers, or will be favourable at the expense of passengers in London.
So much for the history up to that time. Then other changes of a more important character still, took place—a change of Government. Before the General Election this House was asked to approve of the carrying over of the Bill not only from Session to Session, but from Parliament to Parliament, a novel and, I believe, almost unprecedented operation. That was much commented upon in the House of Lords, where a prolonged Debate on the subject took place. I should like to read to the House the comments of Noble Lords on that transaction, but I fear I should exhaust the patience of hon. Members if I did so.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
The carrying over from Parliament to Parliament of such a Measure was, if I remember aright, carried in this House with unanimity.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I am very glad of the right hon. Gentleman's interjection. He leads me to deal somewhat earlier with a point which I should have made in due course. As far as I and many of those who object to this Bill in its present form and who objected to it then are concerned, we felt some reluctance in this House, in view of the national emergency, to embarrass the Government by dealing with controversial matters which might or might not require to be dealt with in a future Parliament, of which we might or might not be Members. Their Lordships however are in a different situation and they dealt with the subject faithfully, as will be found from the record of their transactions. They commented on the unprecedented nature of the proposal—unconstitutional, I believe—but, as I say, I do not deal further with that point lest I should exhaust the patience of the House.
We are now again asked to proceed on these unusual lines. We are again asked 1265 to sanction the carrying forward of this Measure, contrary to the usual practice of the House, on the ground that a substantial sum has been spent on conducting the investigations essential to a proper understanding of the nature of the proposals underlying the Bill. The long record of the minutes of the Joint Committee is a tribute to the great care with which the proposals were examined. It is no easy matter to delve into those minutes, running as they do to many pages, and to draw conclusions from them. At the same time some of us have had to spend a great deal of time endeavouring to do so. This justification—the expenditure of £40,000—important though it is, is really trivial compared with the importance of the whole subject. To ask Parliament to depart from constitutional precedent on grounds like that seems almost to be trifling with the importance of the case and the occasion. A sum of £40,000 is important, but, as those of us who were in the last Parliament will recall, the Minister of Transport when moving the Second Reading of the Bill said that so great was the problem and so vast the figures involved, that one farthing per passenger journey added unnecessarily on to the cost of the transport of the 4,000,000,000 passengers carried annually in the area concerned would amount to an annual sum, not of £40,000 nor £400,000, but £4,000,000. My submission to the House is that the operation of this Bill must involve the passengers in this area in large additional sums which I hesitate to put at £4,000,000 per annum—they may be less and on the other hand they may easily be more. The Minister of Transport said that he had endeavoured to look at this matter from a strictly business-like point of view. He has a record as an able administrator of businesses, but, after all, business concerns are not the only consideration before the House in regard to this Bill. We have to think of the passengers, and it is the interest of the passengers which I am endeavouring to present. I have alluded to that figure of £4,000,000 which rather sticks in my mind. There are also provisions in the Bill according to which it is obligatory on the operators to make the Bill pay. Any appeals against increase of fares or curtailment of facilities will have to be met by the assurance that nothing can be done because the Bill pro- 1266 vides that the Transport Board must make the scheme pay its way. It was shown in the evidence given to the Joint Committee by supporters of the Bill that the cheapest fares were those of the independent omnibus services and that the London County Council tramways cheap fares kept down the fares on the omnibus services on the tramway routes. I do not think that that statement can be challenged. Sir Henry Maybury, another witness for the Bill, admitted that fares would have to be raised but said that the local authorities would see that fares were "not inordinately raised." Mr. Herbert Morrison, as I have said, reminded us of that figure of £4,000,000 per annum—a sufficient warning I think of the serious character of the problem and of the dangers which await the passenger if these proposals be carried into effect.
As far as the financial basis of the Bill is concerned, Sir William McLintock, on behalf of the promoters, put in a pro forma financial statement which he described as a "static statement" in which he assumed a continuance of conditions as they were then, in 1931, without change, except for some economies from centralisation. That financial statement showed a balance of £132,928 after estimated expenses had been covered and the additional interest had been paid on "C" stock. Sir Leslie Scott pointed out that 1 per cent. increase in expenditure would wipe out the surplus revenue. What happens if that surplus goes? I think I am correct again in quoting Mr. Herbert Morrison. In answer to the question: "If there be a loss who is to meet the loss?" he confessed to the Select Committee that:any extra burden placed upon the Board has either got to be found out of extra fares charged to the public, or it reduces the security to the 'C' stock holders.Since then what has happened? There has been a fall in receipts which I hesitate to put at too high a figure, but I think that £750,000 per annum would not overshoot the mark, and there has been an increase in the cost of one important item at least and that is petrol. What must be the consequences of that? The economic basis of the Bill since it passed from the Select Committee has been modified by those important factors, if by no others, and there are other changes besides. The accommodation reached with the Metropolitan Railway 1267 must also have altered the financial basis of the Bill. I have perhaps stressed sufficiently what I apprehend as the danger to the passenger from increased fares and curtailed facilities. As I have pointed out, by all indications that I can see and all the implications that I can reach from the evidence, that is practically bound to happen, at least in the changed circumstances of to-day.
The hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport pointed out that the passenger has redress. That is true, in a sense. A local authority has the right of appeal against the curtailment of facilities or the increase of fares, an appeal to the Railway Rates Tribunal. That, with all respect to the Minister of Transport, is a local authority and does not cover the point which I should like to make, namely, that I want protection for the passenger. He may succeed or he may not succeed in moving his local authority to take action, and when a Member of the Government conies to reply, will he perhaps concede this point, that any substantial body of opinion shall be entitled to claim the rights of appeal now accorded in the Bill to a local authority; and will he perhaps go further, as I would desire him to do, and, somewhat on the analogy of the old rights of appeal included in the Tramway Bills of many years ago, allow a body of 20 and upwards the right of appeal? Something of that kind is urgently necessary to protect the travelling public against the danger which lies before them, and I should like a better form of appeal and an easier tribunal to approach than the Railway Rates Tribunal. I think that would he an improvement, but perhaps I ought not to go too much into details of that sort.
Here I must join issue with the Minister of Transport altogether. With great respect, I do not agree that there is this urgent necessity for doing anything at all. That may sound, after the history of these transactions, rather a change of mind. Well, if that is so, I will confess it, but there is not the urgent need for legislation on this subject which is often represented, and. as I have said, I cannot agree that the Government have any mandate from the country for dealing with legislation of this kind in the way proposed. I will now give a few quotations from the 1268 evidence of witnesses in support of the Bill. Sir Henry Maybury said that the London County Council tramways carry 722,000,000 passengers "at fares which are the lowest in the Kingdom "; they have "led the way in the provision of facilities for workmen" to meet the needs of the public by providing transport at low fares, "they have done extremely well." He said further, of the Metropolitan Railway, that it "is quite efficient and has served the public well." Messrs. Tillings, he said, arevery progressive and active business trans- port people; they were the first established omnibus company to adopt the motor omnibus, the first to introduce the double-deck omnibus, the first to run a long-distance omnibus service.Of the City Omnibus Co. he said:Your operating costs are low. Your people are extremely efficient.These are tributes which, am sure everybody will agree, are well deserved. Then, no less a person than Mr. Herbert Morrison himself, speaking at Transport. House on the 17th April, 1931, described the London Traffic Combine, that is, Lord Ashfield's undertaking, as "a very fine organisation." That is saying the least of it. We would all agree with that, and we would all pay tribute to the splendid organisation of Lord Ashfield's undertaking. The whole management of the traffic of London under his charge excites the admiration of observers and visitors to London, and one is only too glad to echo what Mr. Herbert Morrison said with regard to it and to pay tribute to its excellent administration under the present régime.
Well, then, why do von want to alter it? There has been a good deal of opposition, both inside this House and outside, to this Bill. It is opposed by the London County Council in principle. It is quite true that they have had to accept terms for their undertaking, as I would submit, under duress. That Bill, remember, was compulsory, and in Mr. Herbert Morrison's own words, when he brought in that Bill, he had not "a single agreement with anybody." The agreements which have been concluded under that Bill have been concluded under the stress of compulsion. I do not think there can be a shadow of doubt about that.
§ Dr. SALTER
The hon. Member says that the principle of this Bill is opposed 1269 by the London County Council. Is he aware that the London County Council has not passed any resolution in support of his Amendment or in opposition to the present Government Motion?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
So far as that goes, I could, if the House would wish me to do so, read the resolutions of the London County Council, but as we have the hon. Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) here, who will speak after me, I trust the House will forgive me for not dealing with that question.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The hon. Member asks me whether I am aware that the London County Council has passed no resolution in support of my Amendment. I do not know whether they have or not—I dare say they have not had time—but I do know this, that when a petition was prepared and circulated in this House, a similar petition against this Bill was presented for signature by members of the London County Council, and 83 members of that council appended their names to it as an expression of their opinion. I apologise for the digression. I was going to say that I understand the county council of Middlesex have recently circularised Members of this House in support of the Bill. They are one of the great authorities who have seen fit to give it their approval, but they are in perhaps an exceptional position. If one may describe that transaction with great respect, I should say that they have successfully landed their white elephant of a tramway undertaking upon the reluctant backs of a protesting public. That argument does not weigh very much with me.
The Minister of Transport made an effort to reconcile objections to this Bill by citing analogies of other legislation which has been passed through this House. I think that this Bill is entirely unprecedented in this respect, and in connection with that I will quote Mr. Wilfred Greene, who, in addressing the Joint Select Committee on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, said:I do not think there is any precedent for a transfer of public authorities' undertakings to a Board of this character …. A precedent must be created.That shows that a precedent does not exist. I apologise for having taken the 1270 time of the House for so long. I have not much more to say except to recapitulate the objections which I and many others continue to see to this Bill. The modifications which the Minister of Transport has made through the White Paper do not meet the grave objections which I see to the proposals. I contend that it is a Socialist scheme; that it imposes compulsory purchase without the option of payment in cash, except to a trifling minority of the undertakings which are taken over; that it does not give any representation on the board of management to the municipal authorities in the traffic area; that it gives no security that existing services and fares will be maintained, still less that better and cheaper services will be provided.
I submit that the financial basis of the Bill has been seriously changed by settlements which have been reached and by changed circumstances, and by other developments since the Committee stage, and that it requires reconsideration on a revised financial estimate. That investigation should be made by this House. I contend that the Board of Management is not effectively responsible to Parliament nor to the people in the London traffic area through the local authorities. Of course, the responsibility for pressing this Measure through rests upon the Government. On them must rest the responsibility for this fateful step. The grave misgivings felt by many Londoners are being ignored, and a most undesirable precedent is being pressed upon the House. The conditions have changed since the Select Committee. Will not the Government consent to send the Bill once more to a Select Committee, or, failing that, will they give the house the assurance that ample time shall be allotted to the Committee stage? That is, from my point of view, only a very unsatisfactory alternative, because it does not give the House the same opportunity for investigation which would be afforded by a further study by a Select Committee. I contend that the Bill was, is, and remains a compulsory Bill, and that it will form a precedent which will be the basis of future legislation. If it had come to the House as an agreed Bill on the lines of those which we supported in 1929 and 1930, of course that objection would not prevail. It was not agreed with anybody.
1271 I want to make one personal explanation. I am not the advocate of any interest except what I believe to be the interest of Londoners and London passengers. I am not anti-railway or pro any other industry concerned. So far as the railways are concerned, I do not think that I oppose it with any more force than they did, but I am perhaps rather less easily satisfied than they have proved to be. But I am pro-public and, so far as consistency is concerned, I believe that I stand where my party stood some 17 months ago. Where is that party now? The power of the Government to force Measures of this kind through the House is undoubted and it has to be accepted. As Voltaire said:God is usually on the side of the big battalions.But with power comes responsibility, and the Government must face up to the responsibility of what they intend to do. They were supported by the country in conditions of exceptional emergency to deal with national affairs, and not with the nationalisation of London transport. Such is my case. I am conscious of being, if a David at all, a very small David facing a very large Goliath, but when I use that comparison I am reminded of a story told of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who, when he was once twitted with being very small in stature, replied:In my part of Wales they measure men from the chin upwards.I have done my best to plead my cause, to discharge my self-appointed task. That is the care of those 4,000,000,000 passengers who move about the vast area covered by this Bill—nearly 2,000 square miles with a population of between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000. It is to them that Government consideration must be given. It is by them that the Government will be judged, and to them, I submit, the Government must be responsible.
§ Sir PHILIP DAWSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so because the subject of London transport is one in which I have taken an interest for a great many years past, and with which I have certainly some measure of acquaintance. I base my opposition to this Bill on the same reason which was given when it was opposed by 1272 the leaders of my party during the late Socialist Government in a statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) in which these words occurred:The framework of the Bill is fundamentally wrong.I contend that there is not a single alteration which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport which in any way alters the framework on which this Bill is laid down. I cannot see how any modifications will be of any use at all unless the Bill is built up from the very foundations and an entirely new Measure is introduced. Let me remind the House what was said about this, and the objections raised by the leaders of my party when the Bill came up first. The first objection was to the compulsory purchase of private property. That objection is not removed because a great many of the owners of that private property, realising that Parliament can force a Bill of this nature through, saw that it was better to come to an agreement now rather than to fight on and to come to an agreement when the Bill had become an Act, and it would be much more difficult for them to get a satisfactory settlement.
The next objection was to the creation of a cast-iron monopoly. Is there anything more dangerous than putting the whole transport, not only of London but of an area within a radius of 45 miles from Charing Cross, into the hands of a monopoly such as it is proposed to create, which will own as well as control all passenger transport in the area? Another objection is that this monopoly will not be responsible to Parliament or to any local authority. It can practically do anything it pleases as long as it makes both ends meet, though that will be the greatest difficulty which will confront it. It appears obvious to me that neither the Underground Railway nor the Metropolitan Railway would have agreed to terms which were not wholly satisfactory to them from the financial point of view, and the interest which will have to be paid to them, either in cash or in shares, will have to be found by the new Transport Board.
The next objection is that the financial position was not really a strong one at the very commencement, but I will not say much on that point, because my hon. 1273 and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment has already dealt with it at length. Questions as to how the agreements with the Metropolitan and the other railways would affect the net revenue which would be available to the new body from 1934 to 1941 have been asked in this House, but the Minister has never answered them. All he has said is that the information would be forthcoming. I do not know of any information, so far, which tells us what the financial position will be under the present proposals, having regard to the increased capital which will be required—the increase on the amount suggested originally—and the decreasing passenger receipts from which all methods of transport have suffered during the last two years.
The next point that has been criticised is that the Board is to be appointed by the Minister of Transport. I confess that under present circumstances I should prefer to see that Board appointed by the Minister of Transport rather than by a committee very few of whom really know anything at all about transport. If he wants to make the committee more able and more representative I suggest that he should add the President of the Royal College of Surgeons and the President of the Royal College of Physicians. I ask my hon. Friend, whose business ability I well know—the great work he has carried out in the past is known, I think, to every body connected with business in this country—what he would think if the executive of one of our great business undertakings was appointed by a committee which knew nothing at all about the business which was being carried on? Would such a company have any chance of success if the executive were nominated in that way? I suggest that the same considerations must apply when it is a question of electing the most important executive that this country has ever known—for London is one of the chief places in the country. When in 1926 we passed the Electricity Act we did not give ownership to the Central Electricity Board. We gave them a control over methods. If this Bill contemplated simply a body which should be advisory, and should control the methods to be applied in operating transport in and around London, I should not have the same objections to it as I have now.
1274 Who is going to settle the great and vital questions, from the economic point of view, of what services should be rendered by the Board and what services by the railways, and what the pooling scheme is going to be? Parliament will have nothing to say about it; it will have no control; that is to be settled by the Railway Rates Tribunal. What security have the vast population not only of Greater London, but of that greater district reaching nearly to the sea coast—it covers an area of 40 or 45 miles from Charing Cross—that fares will not be increased and services reduced? Then, as one who knows something about these things, I suggest that in considering the amounts to be paid to the outer railway undertakings, which will be settled by arbitration, the sums already paid to the Metropolitan and the Underground Railway Companies will be regarded as an indication of what is proper to award, and that in consequence those payments will be far in excess of the estimates made when the Bill was before the Committee. We know that the margin is already very small, or was very small at the time when the matter was considered by the Committee. What margin is left to-day; and, if a margin is left, how will it be possible for the Board to raise the very large amount of capital which it will have to raise if it is going to give the people of London and the larger area outside the services they require and to which they are entitled?
It is my view that this House has to look after the interests of the people of this country, and in this case it is in the interests of the teeming millions who every day have to be carried into and out of London by some form of transport. The only people who are really satisfied, and who proclaim from the housetops that they are amply satisfied, are the two railways whose purchase has been agreed upon, and the other railway companies who hope to reap a profit by dividing some of the profits now earned by other methods of transport. It is very interesting to read the speeches made by chairmen and directors and general managers of the various railway companies. They say that when this Bill becomes an Act it will be magnificent for the public, and they add, "And it will be a very fine job for us." I do not object; on the contrary, I hope the position of the British railways is going to 1275 be materially improved; but I suggest that it should not be done at the cost of increased fares and reduced services for the population of London. It is the duty of Parliament to protect these teeming millions, who have not got very much voice in things. Although they can express their opinion in elections and to their members, when this Bill becomes an Act they will have no voice at all and nothing to say.
May I remind the House that we have had monopolies in the past, and that these monopolies have not always safeguarded the big interests of the passengers they served? I will not mention any particular railways, but many hon. Members know that there are certain railways whose services to the public, local services and branch line services, are far from satisfactory and can be very much improved. They are being improved to-day. Why? Because the motor omnibus has come in, and they have competition for the first time in their lives. I suggest that to-day—and I speak with some knowledge on the subject—there is no city with the traffic and the population that London possesses, and with the difficulties which exist in handling that traffic, which has a finer service than London. I do not know a city in Europe or in the United States, with similar conditions, which has a finer service than that which we enjoy to-day. To these circumstances, I suggest that this Bill is not as urgent as has been suggested. Obviously there are certain parties who would like to see it passed at once, but the travelling public has not made a protest, as it undoubtedly would have done if the dissatisfaction had been so great.
If this Bill becomes an Act, it will be a precedent. I can foresee, at no distant date, proposals being brought forward in this House to deal with a very great and serious problem, that is, not road versus rail but road and rail, from the point of view of the problem of serving the public and of serving our industries. With all our railways and with all our methods of transport, by land and by air, the suggestion will be made that the only way of handling them will be to form another colossal trust, to deal with the whole problem for England, Scotland and Wales. I can see no reason if this Bill 1276 becomes an Act, why that proposal should not be made. The reasons would be quite as urgent, and perhaps more urgent than they are in London to-day, for dealing with the question of road and rail co-ordination. If that is done we may be faced with the suggestion, which has been constantly put forward by the hon. Members who are our opponents on the Socialist Benches, that we should deal with banks and insurance companies in the same way. Why should not the same reasons be alleged, by some people at any rate, as are alleged as the reasons why this Bill should be proceeded with?
I should like to say a word in reply to the suggestions made by the Minister of Transport, which are that his proposals deal with the objections; that the proposals are urgent and should be considered at once; that the proposals, which were practically through, and only missed becoming law because there was a change of Government, are sound in principle; that they practically carry out what we are anxious to obtain, a co-ordination of the various means of transport; that they were agreed measures. I do not think I am far wrong in believing that the measures were originally suggested by Lord Ashfield, who is one of the ablest men in the world of transport to-day. He was perfectly satisfied, and the county council were perfectly satisfied. There is no difficulty in enlarging the scope of the Measure, which was agreed to by everybody and there is no difficulty in including the railways, if the railways realise that a Bill of the kind is put forward, and that their co-operation is essential, and if the Bill is so worded that the railways understand that, if they do not agree voluntarily to co-operation on a proper basis, some other method might possibly be put into effect. I cannot see why that method would not he a success to carry out everything that is desired by the Minister of Transport and by all of us, avoiding all those pitfalls of which I think this Bill is full. You cannot build a house when the foundations are faulty. If you have a steel structure built, and you see that the whole framework is faulty, it is no good trying to put the panels in, because one day the whole edifice will collapse. Whatever slight alterations are suggested, do not alter the framework on which this Bill is founded. For these reasons, and many others which 1277 I will not mentioned now, I beg to second the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan).
§ Sir HENRY JACKSON
Once again, in considering London's transport, this House has a great responsibility and a great opportunity to-night. You have to take this Bill in your hands. You may kill it or, as I hope, you may hand it on to a Committee of the House to deal with further. My reason for intervening, and for offering my experience, for what it is worth, to this House, is that since 1924 I have been a member of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. I have taken part in all its work. I was one of a small group that was responsible for the Blue Report. I am sincerely of opinion that this Bill, which has been so much changed and has received so many Amendments since it was here on the last occasion, for its Second Reading, carries out the great, fundamental principles of the Blue Report, and it is because of that, that I am supporting the Motion.
In order that the House may realise what that Blue Report was, it is proper that I should tell the House the constitution of the Traffic Advisory Committee, because the Blue Report received the unanimous approval of that Committee, with the exception of the representative of a small group of independent omnibuses. The committee consists of representatives of the central Government, namely, the Ministry of Transport and the Home Office, the London County Council and the county councils of Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire, the City of London and the Metropolitan and county boroughs, the Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis and the City of London, and, in addition, it has upon its Board representation of the, great organised Labour groups, the National Union of Railwaymen and the Transport Workers' Union. In addition to that, it has, of course, representatives of the great undertakers, the Underground Group, the Road Haulage Association, the independent omnibus people and, last but not least, a representative of the four amalgamated main line railways.
What are the fundamental conditions which we unanimously adopted, and which must always guide any system of 1278 co-ordination of London Transport? They are these. We believe, first, that all forms of transport are necessary, that you cannot eliminate any, but that they are all vital to the great problems of to-day—the suburban lines, the amalgamated railways, omnibuses, tubes, electric railways, and the tramways. We believe, further, that there should always be some statutory controlling body, who should have no interest in any form of transport, but whose main consideration should be, precisely as my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) desires, namely, the interest of the travelling public. We also believe that all these various transport agencies must be self-supporting, that they should receive no subsidies either from the rates or from the taxes. We believe, too, that those people who invest their money in urban transport of all these various kinds, which, after all, is a public utility service, are entitled to a reasonable return upon their capital; and, finally, we say quite frankly that coordination on these lines does not absolutely forbid competition. What it does do is to give protection from the internecine competition which to-day has become so tragic in its consequences; and, in addition, it will protect the public and the taxpayer against the obvious disasters of nationalisation.
The Bill as it stands to-night—I am not now referring to the Bill which Mr. Morrison introduced—after all the long drawn out stages in the Select Committee, after the long negotiations which have been conducted with great patience and skill by the officials of the Ministry of Transport with all kinds of people during the last 18 months, and, finally, after the changes which the Minister has made and has embodied in his White Paper, is, I say in all seriousness, in definite agreement with the Blue Report. I would also say that, if the Conservative Government of 1924–29 had been returned at the General Election of 1929, I believe that a Bill very much on the lines of this Bill which is before the House to-night would have been introduced. I believe that it embodies great principles which they at that time would probably have brought forward themselves.
The story has been told again to-night that this is a Socialist Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham 1279 has made great play with that, and great play is made with it by various opponents of the Bill. I am not going to argue to-night whether the Bill as introduced by Mr. Morrison was Socialistic or not. All I am going to say is that at any rate the Socialist party do not think that it is Socialism. Mr. Morrison three weeks ago faced the Labour party's Conference at Leicester, and, in the name of the executive, proposed that the future Socialist policy for transport and power should be that the Socialist Minister of the day should introduce these great boards, which he should nominate. Mr. Ernest Bevin, who, I think, after all, in many ways is "His Master's Voice," would have none of it, and the result was that the Socialist party in their annual conference repudiated Mr. Morrison. They said, "This is not our Socialism. We repudiate the policy of the London Passenger Transport Bill; we repudiate any idea of conducting the transport of Great Britain on these lines."
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
Was not the objection raised against Mr. Morrison's proposal at the Labour Conference that it did not accord to the Transport Board a definite share of workers' representatives?
§ Sir H. JACKSON
Mr. Bevin made it quite clear that they would not accept Mr. Morrison's proposal, as outlined at the Conference, that the Minister should himself appoint the Board. They would not accept that as a Socialist policy, and, therefore, I think I am entitled to say that this Bill, whatever it may have been in the past, is no longer Socialism, and I hope that we have heard the last of that particular bogey.
Let me examine briefly the Bill as it is to-night. In the first place, the Minister of Transport, for all practical purposes, has disappeared from the Bill, and in future, if the Bill becomes an Act, the Minister of Transport will not be able to interfere with the conduct of local passenger transport in London. I think the Minister will agree that that is the net result of what has happened. With regard to public control—and here I want to try to reply to the objections which the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have raised in regard to fares—all questions of dispute in connection with 1280 fares must now be brought before a judicial tribunal. They will no longer be subject to the discretion of the Minister of Transport, but must be settled by a perfectly fair judicial tribunal, and I want to emphasise the fact that upon that judicial tribunal local interests will be represented. I may say in passing, as one who has had some share in local government in London, that I think that any group of ratepayers who feel aggrieved at the state of affairs will not hesitate, when they know of these conditions, to bring the matter before their local authority, the local authority will be able to make an appeal to the Railway Rates Tribunal, and there will be no difficulty about getting a fair hearing before such a judicial body.
With regard to services, also, the first thing that will happen if any local authority, or, indeed, any great body of public opinion, is dissatisfied with the services now in existence or with future services, will be that they will make their representations to the Traffic Advisory Committee. The new Traffic Advisory Committee is to consist of 39 members, of whom no fewer than 26 will be nominated by local authorities in this great area. That, therefore, is the first vehicle by means of which local opinion can make itself represented on a body which will be very largely local in character. The next step will be that they will themselves place before the judicial tribunal any of these complaints as regards services. Therefore, both as regards fares and as regards existing and new services, there will be that absolute public control which we laid down in the Blue Report as fundamental in regard to any proposal for dealing with London transport.
As the Minister has said to-night, perhaps one of the most important changes in the Bill is in regard to the appointment of the Board. I am not saying for a moment that the composition of the electing trustees Board is ideal. It may well he that during the Committee stage the constitution of the Board may be changed, if the House so desires; it is within the power of the House to do that in the Committee stage. It may well be that they will prefer a body which, perhaps, has a more familiar acquaintance with the problems of trans- 1281 port. But details of that kind will be dealt with during the Committee stage if necessary. Moreover, just as great care has been taken to protect the Board against political influence, by removing the whole thing from Whitehall, so equally, they have been also protected against the pressure of local influence by local authorities, and that again is a factor which is of great importance.
I have alluded to the new constitution of the Advisory Committee, by means of which, as I have said, local authorities are now to be strongly represented. I now come to the financial proposals, which received criticism from both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment. I am surprised at the type of criticism that we have had of these proposals. First of all, the Bill as settled by the Select Committee, which was determined in 1931, was really based upon the year 1930. It is common ground that the financial returns for 1931 were less than those for 1930, and it is a common prediction that the receipts for 1932 will be less than for 1931. Let me give an example. The London County Council in the present financial year will have their traffic receipts down 3.5 per cent. The Metropolitan Railways say their receipts are down 5.9 per cent. The common fund of the Underground is down by 3.7 and the London and Surburban Traction group show a deficit of 2.8. If all great components of the new great merger are in fact suffering alike, it will not really affect the financial stability of the Board. Nor will these participants be any the worse for being related together in one combined undertaking. That is the first thing—that if these conditions are common to all, it will not in any way affect the financial proposals. By Clause 14 (8) the arbitration tribunal set up has the power of dealing with these people who are outside the present agreement very much on the lines of the settlements already made. At the present moment there are not many people outside. There has been a very wonderful agreement as regards the finances under this Bill. The only people who are out are Tillings and the independent omnibus people.
Now I come to the position of the Metropolitan Railway, about which my hon. Friend has made play. With all respect, I do not think he has quite 1282 realised the full financial arrangements with the Metropolitan Railways. The Metropolitan position is to-day identical with the position of the District Railway, the London Electric Railways and the Underground Railways. The ordinary stock-holders are to receive C. stock. The Metropolitan Company are receiving from the pool exactly the same receipts that they would have received had they come in before the Select Committee concluded its labours, but where there is an advantage to the Metropolitan—and this does not affect the Bill in any way—is that the four main line railways have agreed to guarantee the Metropolitan ordinary shareholders a minimum rate of interest over a period of years. That money which may have to be found to implement this guarantee must come from the main line railway companies, and it does not in any way affect the Board. Therefore, my two hon. Friends who have been, saying that the settlement with the Metropolitan in some way would upset the finances of the whole proposals are quite wrong.
§ Sir H. JACKSON
The hon. Member is a Member of the Select Committee on this Bill and he should have put the question to the Minister of Transport.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
There was no suggestion that the main line railways were to guarantee the income of the Metropolitan or anybody else.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
This is a surprising development. Have the main line companies' shareholders ever been asked if they want this? It is most astonishing.
§ 9.30 p. m.
§ Sir H. JACKSON
For the moment I am dealing with the argument that the settlement with the Metropolitan will in some way interfere with the financial stability of the scheme and I am making a statement, which I am advised is correct, that any income which will guarantee the minimum interest will come from the pockets of the main line companies, and will not affect the financial basis on which the scheme is built. What the agreement is with the main lines is naturally outside my knowledge. I am merely making the point, in answer 1283 to my hon. Friend's contention that the Metropolitan agreement will in some way affect the finance of the Bill. The main factor to be watched is that all parties included in the Bill receive a proper proportion of C stock, which carries the risk of the Board's operations being successful or not. The groups who will receive very substantial preferential treatment are certain of the local authorities who are enumerated in the Fourth Schedule. That stock enjoys a very high priority because it ranks after the A stock, which represents the old debenture stock, and the T.F.A. stock which represents redeemable debenture stock. Therefore, these great local authorities are to be placed in a very highly privileged position. The chief authority to enjoy this advantage is the London County Council itself. If my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) follows the lead of the hon. and gallant Member for East Fulham and challenges the financial basis of the Bill, may I with all respect suggest to him that, in the first place, with cheap money and with reduced tramway receipts, the London County Council can make a gesture to the Board by offering not to take 4½ per cent. but 4 per cent. on the money? I merely mention that as an obvious gesture, and not because the financial position of the Bill is not sound.
I will not weary the House with the effects of the economies, and whilst it is agreed that any general reduction of staff must be ruled out we are convinced that this great merger will result in very great economies, and those economies will sooner or later have their effect in many ways. One thing on which I do want to comment, because nothing has been said about it to-night, is the relation of this Bill to the main line railways. Those of us who have considered this problem at great length have always found that a very great difficulty. We realised the difficulty to the full, but we could throw no daylight on how they should come into the scheme, and we left it to later on, and hoped that the Board would come to a permanent agreement with the main lines.
1284 This Bill contains a great experiment which may lead to a future development both as regards the main lines—especially in regard to their electrification—and the construction of new tubes. To my knowledge, this is the first real attempt in regard to co-ordination of main line traffic with road traffic. A settlement with the main lines, to my mind, constitutes a part of the Bill which is unique. I believe it is pregnant with tremendous possibilities, and if this London experiment succeeds over this great area, it may well be that an extension of it may be used to deal with the whole transport problem of the country. Because it is the first experiment, I do urge that it is worthy of acceptance by the House. My hon. Friend has asked the House to kill the Bill. I would ask the House to consider what would happen if it were killed. First, the tramways of London would once again become a charge on the rates. Then if we have reduced traffic receipts they would become an increased charge. As to increased fares, about which my hon. Friend talked, there would then be little alternative between going on the rates or increasing the fares. Similarly, for the other undertakings, increased fares will be the only remedy for the present depression. I am very much afraid that unless you have this great Measure, and all the economies which we hope may obtain, increased fares will probably result. Of this I am certain, that you are not going to get any development of underground railways or electrification of main line or suburban railways unless the financial basis of London traffic is settled as a whole as proposed in this Bill.
I have many hon. Friends in this House who represent constituencies in East London, South-East London and North London, and in that great outer fringe of London where new towns and almost new cities are growing up, to whom cheap and efficient travelling facilities are as important as cheap food and cheap houses. They are clamouring for new facilities, new electrified suburban lines and new tubes. I am advised that, until something of this kind is put through and the question of London traffic is settled as a whole, you may dismiss almost for a generation the possibility of these great traffic improvements. You may kill this Bill to-night— 1285 I do not think you will, but, if you do, the problem of London traffic will still be yours. The House will not escape the burden of dealing with the problem by rejecting the Bill. Although the role of the prophet is dangerous, I predict that any fresh Bill, introduced by this or any other Government, will have to follow very closely upon the lines of this Bill. If it is killed, the responsibility is on those who are opposing it to offer some acceptable solution. We have heard nothing but destructive criticism—not an atom of constructive criticism. London transport for a, generation has been the plaything of political parties, who have been lisping their old shibboleths. Now we have a National Government which I am sure will treat this as a great national problem. Once again to-night—it may be the last time—there is an opportunity of dealing with the problem, and I beg the House not to throw it away.
§ Mr. SAMUEL SAMUEL
I fully support my hon. Friends the Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) and the hon. Member for Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson) in what they have said against the Bill, but I have a complaint to make against the Government, that in 1931, when it was first introduced, it was strenuously opposed by the Conservative party, and, in fighting it, the then President of the Board of Trade made a most delightful speech after which it was utterly impossible to have any other opinion than that the Bill was absolutely rotten. In the Division 224 Conservatives voted against the Second Reading, and 271 Socialists, with the assistance of about 45 Liberals, voted in its favour. The origin of the Bill was simply to squash the Bill that had already been introduced by the county council, which would have had for its object the defeat of the socialisation and nationalisation of the transport of the country. Mr. Morrison, in winding up the Debate, told the House very frankly that this was Socialism in our time. He repeated the words of the President of the Board of Trade, who warned the House that, if they voted for the Bill, they were voting for the nationalisation of transport. I am absolutely anti-Socialist and I am dead against nationalisation. In rejecting this Motion, you are no more killing the 1286 Bill than if the Motion is carried. It simply means that, if the Bill is carried forward as it is, the Government are pledged to carry it through all its stages during the next Session to a successful issue.
I have a very strong objection, as many of my friends in the House and a great many outside have to the administration of the Department. The Ministry of Transport is Socialist to the backbone. The so-called protections that are put in have no meaning at all. If you told them to a lot of unsophisticated school children they might swallow them. They tell you that they have set up a body of experts, or very great authorities, to make nominations to the management. It is simply ridiculous to tell people of the slightest intelligence that these five thoroughly representative men in their own trade would be capable of selecting men to the management of an association of interests such as this will be. The Ministry of Transport are going to obtain by the passage of the Bill an enormous patronage. We have seen that at present they make appointments for purely political purposes, and we shall see before many years are out that any one who wants employment under this authority will be asked in the first place: "Will you undertake to support the socialist organization?" In the course of a few years you will not have a single man working on that enormous area who is not pledged to support the Socialists. I had a very unpleasant experience a short time ago in regard to the appointments which this Department was making, and I wish to point out the danger of placing patronage in the hands of a department which has authority to appoint members on representatives bodies. On one occasion a representative was elected apparently without any reason, and when I asked the Minister of Transport the reason why they should choose a political representative, I was told that there was an arrangement with the Labour party that that party was to be represented on all such bodies.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I think that I can shorten this matter and ease, my hon. Friend's conscience. I have made inquiries, and I am informed that under this Bill, as amended, the Minister of Transport will not have one single appointment.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do not want to contradict the right hon. Gentleman, but, being a practical man of business and with some common sense, I do not think that the Minister of Transport himself had anything to do with it. He would not know until he had made inquiries. I was told that Mr. Bevin, the head of the Transport Workers' Union, was asked to nominate a man for this position in respect of which politics had never been taken into account before.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The man who was nominated by the Transport Workers' Union had no connection with business whatever. He was, no doubt, a very good man, but he was the leader of the Socialist party in Sunderland and used, no doubt, to speak at the street corners and preach Socialism.
§ Mr. PYBUS
The hon. Gentleman has informed the House, in an act of kindness to me personally, that doubtless I know nothing about this particular appointment. The facts are that I went into this particular appointment very carefully indeed. The gentleman whom the hon. Member suggests was so deeply wronged by being replaced was 82 years of age and was possibly for natural reasons incapable of carrying out the work any further. The work was intimately connected with transport, and the gentleman who was appointed was experienced in this particular question and was consequently appointed. I take full responsibility for the appointment upon myself.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
When they heard in Sunderland that the gentleman who had represented the Government for about 30 years was not going to be re-appointed the shipowners and the merchants of Sunderland appointed him as their representative. He was the man whom the Ministry of Transport did not re-appoint. I wish, therefore, to point out the great danger of placing powers in the hands of the Department when it is known that it is dominated by politics. The Bill was introduced last year, and the Conservatives in the Government, on account of 1288 the General Election, carried it over. It was carried over almost without any discussion, and the Bill should have been allowed to die a natural death. I recollect in the last Parliament, when there were about 45 Liberals and 280 Socialists, the Liberals used to follow the Socialists into the Lobby, and we nicknamed them the "Patient Oxen." Now that we have 400 Conservatives and about GO Liberals and Socialists, I should like to know what the Liberals are to call us. If we patiently sit quiet and allow a lot of Socialist legislation to be passed, it will really be a question of the tail wagging the dog. I am, of course, speaking for myself. The attitude of the Conservative party is bound to create a bad impression in the country, and I think that in the interests of the country the Conservatives ought to hold to their principles and not follow blindly the Socialist principles.
§ Dr. SALTER
I rise on behalf of my colleagues upon these benches to support the Motion of the Minister of Transport and to oppose the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan). The Bill in its broad outlines and principles, apart from minor details is desired by almost everyone concerned with, or interested in the London traffic problems. It is desired by everybody, except a few people, who as the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel) admitted, allow their political prejudices to override all other considerations. We had a complete demonstration of that from the hon. Member. The Bill represents—I think I can claim it quite definitely—the greatest measure of agreement ever secured upon the London transport question, which up to the present has baffled Government after Government. Hon. Members ought to be very grateful to Mr. Morrison for his great work in this regard and his success in reconciling all kinds of divergent claims and previously irreconcilable difficulties. It was a very great triumph on his part of patience and of negotiation.
I would remind the House that bodies concerned directly in London transport either support or accept the Bill or have made agreements with the present Government or the last Government. First of all, there are the whole of the tramway-owning local authorities in greater London. The City Corporation have 1289 passed a Resolution in favour of the Bill. The City Corporation possess tramway powers although they do not exercise them. The London County Council have come to a financial understanding with the Government on the matter, and, as I mentioned earlier in my challenge to the hon. Member for East Fulham, they have not declared themselves against tonight's Motion by the Minister of Transport. It is not supporting officially the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for East Fulham, but I make this further challenge that any member of the London County Council who speaks or votes for the Amendment is doing so purely in his individual capacity, and not in his capacity as representing the London County Council. The Middlesex County Council, I am given to understand, has sent a wire to every one of the representatives in its area in this House calling upon them to support the Bill. Lord Ashfield's groups of companies—the omnibus companies and the tube companies—have approved the Bill, and Lord Ashfield has publicly, on several occasions, expressed his support of the Bill as it stands at the present time. The Metropolitan Railway, which has been mentioned on several occasions, is now supporting. A number of independent omnibus and coach companies are also supporting, but some groups of what is known as "pirate omnibuses" are opposing. The whole of the main line railway companies are supporting the Bill. The hon. Member for East Fulham talked about the 4,000,000,000 passengers carried each year in London. I would remind him that 93 per cent., if not 95 per cent., of those passengers are transported by concerns who are now supporting the Bill.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I do not think that I have ever denied that the interested parties who have had their claims satisfactorily settled are now supporting the Bill.
§ Dr. SALTER
I am trying to demonstrate the tremendous measure of support which has been and is being given to the Bill at present before the House. The Opposition is really organised by the London Municipal Societies, as the hon. 1290 Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) knows perfectly well, and it is being organised for political reasons and not with regard to any consideration for the public welfare.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I desire absolutely to challenge that statement. I have stated, in the hearing of the House, that I am not concerned with any interest which is anti-railway or pro-road, or anything of that sort. I stand here in my endeavour to defend the interests of a vast number of passengers, and to protect what I believe to be their interests, and no other.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Dr. SALTER
The question is not whether this is a Socialist Bill, or a non-Socialist Bill, or an anti-Socialist Bill. The question is whether it is a sensible Bill, a, practical Bill, and whether it will do anything towards solving the terrific problem of London transport. That is the only consideration that should be in the minds of hon. Members when they go to the Division. The Mover of the Amendment said that, from his point of view, there was no ground or reason for doing anything in the matter at the present time. He added that he was more concerned, and he has just repeated his concern, for for the interests of the passengers. The unification and co-ordination of London transport represents a problem which is desperately urgent, and something must he done in the matter. There are millions of people in the Metropolis who are suffering untold miseries every day through the lack of a co-ordinated transport system. Traffic blocks are growing worse week by week. Some London streets are becoming almost impassable, and the poorer people who have to get to their work at fixed times are being subjected to greater discomfort day after day. Discomfort is hardly the word to use to describe what these people have to put up with. Yesterday morning I had to go from my own district in Bermondsey to Liverpool Street Station. It is a straight omnibus run from my door to the station. I could walk the distance in less than half an hour, but it took me 48 minutes by omnibus to cover that 1291 distance. That is only one illustration. Everyone who is familiar with London knows perfectly well that the blockages are becoming worse each week. Nothing has been done and nothing will be done and nothing can be done unless this Bill, or a Bill on somewhat identical lines, is passed.
The Amendment if carried would postpone anything being done for at least another 12 months, and probably two years. That would inflict unnecessary hardship upon the 4,000,000,000 passengers for whom the hon. Member for East Fulham is so concerned, by delaying the passage of the Bill. Five years ago there was a public inquiry by the direction of the Minister of Transport, on the problem of London traffic. It was initiated owing to the representation of the London borough councils in consequence of complaints which had been made to them by the inhabitants of their district as to the difficulties under which they were travelling to and from their work. All kinds of recommendations were made, but nothing whatever has been done since that time to ease the problem, except the drafting of this Bill.
§ Sir WILLIAM RAY
May I remind the hon. Member that his Government killed the two Bills that would have solved the problem.
§ Dr. SALTER
Everyone who knows anything about the problem admits that those Bills are completely out of date.
§ Dr. SALTER
They are completely out of date and would not be introduced by any responsible Minister at the present time. The hon. Member knows that perfectly well. The boroughs at that time felt so strongly about the matter, and that the question was so urgent, that they went to very considerable expense in engaging counsel to represent them, and to urge a number of solutions which were put forward. Nothing has been done and there is no hope, let this be plainly understood, of getting any relief tube service in the metropolis unless we pass this Bill. The hon. Member for Richmond and the hon. Member for East Fulham know that.
§ Dr. SALTER
It has been stated by Lord Ashfield. Lord Ashfield who, as everyone knows, controls the tube railways, has stated that there is no prospect of his companies doing anything in this regard unless this Bill is passed. The chairman of the London and North Eastern Railway has also stated publicly that there is no prospect of any further suburban electrification of his line unless this Bill is carried. I do not say that that applies to the Southern Railway, but I do say that it applies to the London and North Eastern Railway, which has to convey the teeming millions of passengers to and from the North and North-East of London. I support the Bill because I am satisfied that it affords a really effective solution of the London transport problem. Apart from a group of politicians, who oppose it on political grounds, it is supported by nearly all the great business interests in the City of London and throughout the Metropolis and by people who understand the problem and desire something to be done. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that the Bill would put the London transport services into the hands of a solid monopoly. May I remind him that he was one of the strongest supporters of the Electricity Bill, which did precisely the same thing to what he is now objecting.
§ Sir P. DAWSON
The Electricity Bill was quite a different thing to the present Measure. It provided for supervision but not for ownership.
§ Dr. SALTER
The hon. Member is mistaken. The grid is owned not merely controlled by the Central Electricity Board.
§ Sir P. DAWSON
The hon. Member is quite incorrect. The Central Electricity Board do not own any power stations of any kind.
§ Dr. SALTER
It owns the grid which is the vital means for conveying electricity. As a matter of fact, the framework of this Bill is precisely the same as that of the Electricity Bill which provided a monopoly and was moved by the president of the Anti-Socialist Union. About £40,000 of Government money has already been expended on this Bill and I understand that from £60,000 to £80,000 of 1293 shareholders' money has also been spent in representation before the Joint Committee and other ways. The whole of this expenditure on behalf of the public and shareholders is now to be thrown away merely to satisfy the dignity and political prejudices of the London Municipal Society and a few of its adherents.
§ Dr. SALTER
The Labour party are not satisfied with the Bill as amended by the Joint Committee. It does not go anywhere near as far as we desire. We are also strongly opposed to the suggested Government amendments, and we shall have something to say on them when the Bill reaches Committee. But we are not going to support what is a wrecking Amendment and, speaking for my hon. Friends, I have to say that we shall vote with the Government to-night, somewhat reluctantly so far as our own political prejudices are concerned, for the Bill and against the Amendment.
§ Mr. HUTCHISON
My chief concern about this Bill is that I cannot see that it holds out any hope of cheaper or more efficient transport for the 139,000 constituents I represent. There is no doubt that there is a great need for cheaper transport. Let me read a letter I received last June from a man giving his weekly budget. He earns from the State a weekly wage of Ms. His rent is 14s., fares 10s., insurance 2s. 6d., furniture 2s., milk for the baby 4s. 6d., and himself 1s. daily, which leaves 11s. for the whole of his family for food and clothing for a week. It is obvious that such people need as cheap and efficient transport as they can get to and from their work. This is a growing district. The electorate has increased by 14,000 since October last year. One feature of this Bill is the elimination of competition. Competition has been the very essence of transport extension around London.
Let me give one instance. Where the London County Council tramways run there is a mid-day fare of 2d. the whole way. The omnibus company which runs over the same routes also have a mid-day 2d. fare, but as soon as they reach the end of the tramway system they pass on to the full ordinary fare, they do not extend the 2d. fare, which proves that 1294 competition is valuable in keeping fares down. Neither are new services likely to be developed by the body which is to control all the London traffic. I do not suppose that the London Advisory Board will be very interested in extending a service to Sunny Town, or some such new conglomeration of buildings which are arising almost every day in some part of London. They will not do it for the simple reason that most probably it will not pay them to run the larger coaches which they run to other parts of London to these new conglomerations. In the past this has been undertaken by individuals who could afford to run cheap omnibuses, which were adequate for the people until the district had grown so large that the larger omnibus services came in and reaped a pleasant profit for themselves.
It is obvious that any suggestions for the improvement of traffic will be mainly viewed by the Board from the dividend earning point of view. If, for instance, an underground service is to he accelerated by 50 per cent., the acceleration will have to be paid for by other services, and the traffic will be diverted as far as possible to the underground, while the other services will be cut down it means that competition will disappear and the whole thing placed in the hands of the underground. If the scheme is a success everything will depend on the genius of the five members of the Board. These are the Chairman of the London County Council, a representative of the London Advisory Committee, the Chairman of the London Clearing Bankers, the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and the President of the Law Society. These gentlemen, probably most admirable in their own posts, surely do not understand the London traffic problem. But when this Board has been appointed there is no provision in the Bill for their removal if they are inefficient. Surely this is much too rigid for a Bill of this sort.
The whole financial structure of the Bill seems to me unsound, especially when one remembers that this Government proposed the conversion of War Loan not so long ago, and that it was admirably carried through by the people of this country. Surely in these days of cheap money 4½ per cent. to 6 per cent. is too 1295 much to expect to pay people as dividends. If private enterprise builds a new tube or extends an omnibus service, that private enterprise has to make the service pay or go under. Under this scheme it is obvious that the Board, or whoever it may be, who carry out these new schemes, will not go under, because they will have the power to increase the fares so as to make the whole scheme pay. They will have to make it pay because they will have to pay dividends to their shareholders. The shareholders are far more concentrated than the people living in the outer districts of London, and as a body are far more able to make a protest than the few individuals who live outside.
Another question is, how are those people who live in Essex and other districts to voice their disapproval of this scheme? They have to do it through some local body. Is every individual to call a meeting in his district and to get the local council to make a protest because the omnibus service is not adequate? It seems almost ridiculous, considering the number of complaints there are continuously. It is obvious that as a result of these operations the whole tendency will be to eliminate and reduce services from the outside of London into London. The latest infliction on omnibus users, under another semi-State-controlled board, the Traffic Commissioners, is a minimum fare. People who recently have been travelling for fivepence and seven-pence by omnibus cannot travel by omnibus now unless they pay 1s. That is the sort of thing we already see where competition has been ruled out.
Is this gigantic scheme really necessary? Would it not be much better to proceed gradually as we have been proceeding Transport in London is not completely chaotic. It is quite easy to get outside London, as I know, for I use the omnibus and tram services to reach various outlying districts. Would it not be better to consider how the interests of town planning can be developed with the transport interest? A great many of the complications of London transport to-day are due to the fact that there has not been town planning, and that small districts have sprung up without any planning whatever.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON
It is not often that I feel I can address the House clothed in a white sheet, but I do so to-night because I was not a Member of the last Parliament. I feel that in my absence the Conservative party committed a very grave error. To-night I hope later to listen to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies bringing his mind back from our distant Colonies to a speech which he made in the last Parliament, and I hope he is going to contradict many of the things he said at that time. He then endeavoured to defeat this Bill in general principle, and I hope he is going to try to support it to-night. I had the temerity during the last Parliament to take exception to a memorial which was presented to the leader of our party by some of the more virulent opponents of this Bill. I was immediately taken to task by my late boss and called Bolshevik, but to-night I am delighted to be able to support the Government in supporting the Bill, and to receive, I hope the praises and smiles of the Whipsnade end of the Treasury Bench.
The greatest mistake ever made in connection with this Bill was that the late Minister of Transport described it as a Socialist Measure. I believe he only did so in order to get a little more support from his own party but that speech damned the Bill from the point of view of the genuine old standard Conservative. That speech has been quoted ever since as a damning indictment against this Measure. The hon. Member who has just spoken brought into the Debate what I thought we should hear about—"the merits of healthy competition." I hope that in matters of transport the House will realise that if there is anything which will damage the efficiency of transport it is what is called "healthy competition." The germ of this Bill is to be found further back than the Minister suggested. It goes back to the period of the War when Lord Ashfield got leave from this House to pool the resources of the omnibuses and the tubes. They were potential competitors but when that consent was given, for the first year the tubes kept the omnibuses going. Afterwards, the conditions of traffic changed. The motor omnibus was introduced and from that time until now the omnibuses of London have kept the tubes alive. Had it not been for that community of interests I 1297 think that tubes to-day would be dead. The omnibuses contribute no less than £500,000 a year. That is the germ of the Bill.
We have progressed from that stage to a visualisation of something even bigger from the point of view of merging receipts. I think it was a pity that the late Minister of Transport did not accept the two Conservative Measures. They would not have stopped the development of this Bill but the consideration of London traffic problems has been allowed to get into such a party spirit, that the position has become exceedingly difficult. From my point of view it is pleasant to see the National Government dealing with this question from a rather bigger point of view than that which has been presented by the municipal party on the London County Council. I was on the London County Council and I have a tremendous respect and admiration for those who lead the London County Council. They could teach Members of Parliament more about party politics than most Members of Parliament know. Consequently when one is opposed to them one has to listen with grave attention to all that they say but I cannot help thinking that the London County Council appear to me always to have viewed traffic questions through tramway spectacles. Consequently their general outlook on traffic has never been a healthy one. London from a traffic point of view, is like the Curate's Egg. Parts of it are excellent. The West End is well served, but what about those new cities which are growing up on the east and the north? The hon. Member who has just spoken says that they will be supplied by private omnibuses.
These new towns which are growing up are too far from London to be served by omnibuses. They want railways and tubes. Who is going to put in those tubes? You will not get the public to subscribe to make a tube to an area which is not developed. Consequently you will find a number of these outskirt towns absolutely divorced from communication with the centre of London. It is only by viewing this thing from a big point of view, and putting the whole resources of every form of traffic into one pool, that you will be able to build such a thing as a tube railway to an area which, at first, perhaps, will not pay, but which by virtue of the very 1298 railway which you are building will develop and eventually bring in a profit to the whole system. I do not want to go into what are really Committee points, nor is this a Second Reading Debate Surely we have investigated the subject long enough and do not want to throw away all the money that was spent on the investigation which was made last. Session. Let us start again next Session where we left off last time.
§ Sir W. RAY
I am following the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon), not with a great degree of pleasure, because when he offered his services to us on the other side of the water, we did not have him with us long enough to appreciate him to the full. Consequently, I can forgive him for saying that the London County Council has always looked upon the question of London traffic through tramway spectacles. That might have been said 26 or 27 years ago, when the Liberal Progressive party was in power in London and simply looked at everything from the tramway point of view, but in recent years the tramway side has not made that appeal to those responsible for London administration that some hon. Members still might think. We have not the slightest objection to the London tramway service passing under common management and being worked on coordinated lines. I want to disabuse the mind of the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey and anyone else that we are rigidly adhering to the possession of the tramway system. We have shown ourselves in recent years perfectly willing to throw our tramway system into the common pool, so long as the first principles in which we believe are observed at the same time.
Some of us believe still, possibly being old-fashioned Tories, that private ownership is still superior to public ownership. Some of us believe that it is quite possible in these days to get a co-ordinated system of traffic, with common management and all the rest of it, without the abandonment of the principle of private enterprise and private ownership, and we have shown to London—and this House accepted the proposals which we put forward—that we were able to produce a scheme which would have produced everything that this vaunted scheme is alleged 1299 to be going to produce, and yet at the same time retain the very principles for which the Conservative party have always stood. It seems to be unfashionable in this House at the moment to mention the word "Conservative," but perhaps it will do no harm to use it once or twice. I would have the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey to believe that in the efforts which we made a few years ago to solve this problem we were only animated by a desire to carry out what the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) firmly wished us to carry out in those days, but which he seems to have conveniently forgotten to-night.
The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth and others were responsible for what is known as the Blue Report on the London traffic problem, a report which advocated common management, the pooling of receipts and expenditure, and all the advantages which co-ordination could give. The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth tells us to-night that this Bill contains all the fundamentals of that report, but he does not tell us that it contains something which was not a fundamental and that is the public ownership of the whole of these undertakings, the very rock on which we are splitting to-night. The Blue Report was a basis on which we acted in maintaining——
§ Sir H. JACKSON
Believe me, there is no public ownership in this Bill at all. Every shareholder will still own his stock.
§ Sir W. RAY
It is a most extraordinary thing that the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth was one of those who, inside and outside, joined in the denunciation of the Bill two years ago, when it was looked upon as a Bill to provide for public ownership. Things alter very much in the course of a couple of years. On the whole, we still prefer to believe that, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, the Bill possesses the fundamental vices that it possessed two years ago. I am extremely sorry to find myself in opposition to the leading men of the party tonight. I am particularly sorry to find that I am in opposition to my own representative in Parliament, but I know that he will forgive me on this occasion. The 1300 hon. Member for West Bermondsey, I am afraid, does not know much about the proceedings of the London County Council, although he ought to do so. His "better half" is there, at all events, and I think that he might be better informed of what we are doing. If he were, he would never have imagined that an Amendment tabled in this House about a week ago would reach the County Council in time for discussion before to-night. It was unfair of the hon. Member to twit the hon. Member for East Fulham, because the Amendment in his name had not received the support of the London County Council.
§ Dr. SALTER
You have had a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee of the London County Council this afternoon. Did you then recommend the County Council to pass a resolution in opposition?
§ Sir W. RAY
The hon. Gentleman does not yet know, evidently, that the London County Council had confined the whole of their attention, as they rightfully should, to the local government aspect of the problem. They do not interfere in party politics. They confine the whole of their criticism, except at one point in the preamble to a report on the principle of the Bill, to the points connected with the local government side of the problem. I wish to say, on the matter generally, that those of us who have been interested in London government, and particularly in London traffic for some 20 years, feel that this is not necessarily the right solution. We feel that this House to-night, a House composed very differently from the last House, is being asked to take something on trust.
Without venturing to go too far, I think that one can safely assert that the great majority of Members of the House have only a. passing knowledge of the contents of the London Passenger Transport Bill. It cannot be expected that a body with such a large number of new Members should know very much about the details of the Bill, which occupied so much time in the last Parliament. If the Government were asking the House to refer the Bill once more to a Select Committee, there would not be a word to be said against it. I for one would not say a single word in protest against an action of that kind; but I do suggest to those 1301 in charge of the Bill that to come to this House and ask that a Bill which only went through Committee in this House by the vote of the Chairman—[Interruption] —I do not say the casting vote. The Bill was only passed by the vote of the Chairman. Anything of importance was passed by only five votes to four, and the remission of this Bill to the House was carried by that single vote of the Chairman. Therefore, I maintain that we have a case when we ask that it should go back to a Select Committee of the House. I do not think we are asking anything at all unfair.
When hon. Members realise that the Bill was strongly contested all along the line before the Committee and that the divisions throughout were so acute and so close, we have a right to expect that it should receive greater consideration than a Committee of the Whole House can give to it during a couple of days, perhaps, or something like that. Before a Committee of the Whole House it will not receive the examination to which it is entitled as a Bill concerning between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000 people in an area of over 1,800 square miles, and affecting considerably more than £100,000,000 of capital. In view of the fact that the Bill was almost approaching defeat in Committee in the last Parliament what we ask is only fair to a new House facing new problems and facing the demand of some people, at all events, who know what this problem is. I beg those on the Government Front Bench to satisfy some people who are longing to follow them on all occasions and regret it very bitterly when they cannot. I beg them to throw a sop to us.
We will withdraw all our opposition to-night if they say the Bill will be sent back to a Select Committee. [Interruption.] I am extremely sorry. Apparently it points to a determination on the part of the Government to flout the will of a great many of their supporters. I bitterly regret to have to say it, but it means that the Government intend to-night to flout the opinion of 220 men who voted with the Colonial Secretary on his Motion a year ago, to flout the opinion of at least 150 Members of the House who signed a memorial to the Lord President of the Council on the matter. All these things could be avoided if we were only assured that the 1302 Bill would receive proper consideration, but we do not feel that a two days' Committee stage before the whole House can settle the enormous problems which face anyone who is going to tackle a problem of this kind. I regret very deeply that the suggestion that has been made cannot be carried out.
I shall be told that the Minister of Transport, by the electoral college he has set up, has removed all the objections that were made some little time ago. There are four -or five estimable gentlemen, the only name missing, I think, is that of "Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all." Instead of the Minister appointing a junta of five to run London's traffic in an area of 1,800 square miles we are to get five men appointed by the electoral college. I have no objection to that. I do not trouble a great deal about the details of the Bill. Probably they will make as good appointments as some Ministers of Transport—I am not referring to the present one for whom I have respect—would make, and consequently I have nothing to say on that matter, but I say that for a Government which has been elected on a very broad issue to place the control of policy in the hands of five selected officials, is the very negation -of what the people of this country want.
On every side we hear talk of the rangers of a bureaucratic form of Government. I do not see for one moment why five paid officials, whoever selects them, should control the policy of this great London area. There is no body, private or public that I know of, and no public company, which would allow its officials to dictate its policy. I believe that the London County Council was quite correct in asking that a policy board should be placed over the officials who are appointed to carry out the day-to-day administration. I think the Government is wrong in its efforts to let paid officials dictate the policy of the great area of which London will be the centre. [An HON. MEMBER: "A Soviet."] A Soviet, if you will; I do not mind what you call it. The word "Soviet" was used in the Debate a year ago by a much greater nine than I am. The word might well be applied to some of the things that are being done to-day.
These are a few points that I wanted to place before the House, in considera- 1303 tion of the claim that we have made that it is not fair to ask us to take this without protest. The official attitude of the Conservative party on that famous Second Reading contained six specific items. The Mover of the official Amendment objected to the Bill on the part of the party, because it provided for the nationalisation of London passenger transport; it deprived local authorities of control in respect of their various undertakings; it took the property of private owners out of their control, and it gave them no option of sale. I maintain that those four points are still within the framework of the Bill. The bureaucratic power of the Minister has been taken out, and an alteration has been made in the tribunal in regard to appeals, but the first four points, on which the Conservative Members were asked to support our Front Bench a year ago, are still in the Bill. Consequently, we have a right to expect much more consideration in regard to this matter than is proposed to be given to us in remitting this Bill to a Committee of the Whole House.
I will not quote anybody else, but dangers were pointed out with respect to the Bill at that time. I am puzzled, as I am sure many Member's of the House are puzzled, as to why this change of opinion has come about. I used to come into the Lobbies and Committee rooms of this House on the invitation of leading Members of the party in those days, and we were asked to continue strongly our opposition to the Bill; but the Members of the party who begged us in those days, a year ago, to fight this Bill to the bitter end, are to-day the leading supporters of the Measure. Why is that? What is the reason for it? Is there something connected with the remarkable generosity which has been discovered by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth? Is it because the main line railways are generously going to provide everything that the Metropolitan Railway wants? They will be coming along and subsidising the London County Council's tramways before they have finished. We cannot understand what is the reason for the change of heart and the change of mind, and I am sure we are all anxiously waiting to hear the Colonial Secretary tell us how it is that this remarkable conversion and wearing of a white sheet has become so necessary.
1304 So far as London traffic is concerned, it is wrong to suppose that this is necessarily the last solution. It is wrong to believe, as has been said to-night, that there is no prospect of money being obtained for tube extensions unless this Bill goes through. All these semi-threats have been made from time to time. It is a well known fact, however, that many of us who are interested in London local government have stated that we have always been prepared to come into this affair on the principle of mixed ownership and mixed management. The London County Council and the great municipal authorities of the area would not stand out in regard to the provision of the necessary capital if private enterprise could not raise it. But there is a difference between full public ownership and what is known in many countries as a type of mixed undertaking, and those hon. Members who feel that this is the only solution can disabuse their minds of that idea to a considerable extent, because we are not so little public-spirited that we are not prepared to take our share in whatever burden is necessary in the interests of London traffic.
That is all that I have to say on this matter. I recognise that the battalions are against us—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then shall I say the big guns? I feel that it is impossible to come to this House to-night, after having for nearly 21 years taken part in London government, and allow this proposal to go through without making some form of protest. At the same time, every protest would be withdrawn if we could only get, as I ask once more from the Government Front Bench, their consent to this Bill going again to a Select Committee.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am very glad to respond to the appeal of my constituent and old friend to reply, not only on behalf of the Government, for whom I will give a brief but very full reply, but also on behalf of myself. I say at once that the very last thing I am going to do is to stand in a white sheet. If I may say so to my hon. Friend with respect, I am fully entitled to speak in this House to-night as to what were the motives which actuated the Conservative party, whom I had the honour of leading on this subject in this House in a Parliament of which I was a Member and my hon. Friend was not, in framing that Resolution, and, at any rate, what were 1305 the objections which I raised to this Bill in its original form. To that I will come in a moment.
Let me deal at once with a point which he raised. He made an appeal to the Government not to flout the opinions of the House. The last thing in the world the Government would wish to do on this or any other matter is to flout the opinion of its supporters or of the House, but the hon. Gentleman must not claim in that behalf to dictate precisely how the opinion of the House shall be taken. He is quite entitled to say that on a Measure of great importance like this the House should have a full opportunity of expressing its opinion, not only on principle, but on detail. That is quite right, but the opinion of the House means an opinion given by all the Members of the House, and not the opinion of two or three people.
When the hon. Member has been a little longer in this House, and has bad as much experience of it as he has had of lie London County Council which he has led so ably, he will find over and over again Members of this House say they do not get enough chance of considering Bills on the Floor of the House. They get the Second Reading, and the Bill goes upstairs to a small Committee. That is said even when the Committee represents all parties in the House and has 60, 70 or 80 Members on it and still more of a committee consisting only of a few Members who are put there not really to represent the opinion of the House but for the express purpose or hearing evidence given by witnesses and hearing their cross-examination and making their report to the House. That is not the way the opinion of the House, as a House, is expressed. The way that opinion is expressed is, in the first place on Second Reading where principle is decided. I say frankly to the House that the Debate to-night, whatever it may be in form, is, in fact, a Second Reading Debate, where the House is deciding whether or not it is going on with this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel) in a very pleasing speech, in which he paid off some old scores at his late friends, said that what we had to do to-night, was to give the Bill a quiet burial and to see that it died. It would really have been more 1306 accurate for him to have said: "Let us see that the Bill is strangled at birth. That is what we wish to do and that is the issue that the House will decide." I am all for getting the opinion of the House, supporters and opponents, and of the Whole House, on the principle, and on that principle we are going to vote. [HON. MEMBERS "Take the Whips off."] Certainly not. No Government worthy of its salt is going to do other than stand by its policy, or is going to say to this House that it does not know its own mind and then to go to some other body for directions. In this House the Government makes its policy plain, stands by it, puts on its Whips, and uses the ordinary Parliamentary procedure and no Government worthy of its salt would do anything else. We are going to take a decision now, and then the Bill will come before a Committee of the Whole House exactly in the way that hon. Members insist that they ought to be able to deal with 1.he details of a Bill, and the fullest opportunity will then be given of criticising the Bill Clause by Clause, and debating not only Government but other Amendments. Talk about flouting one's supporters or the opinions of the House! There is no other practical way in which you can get the genuine opinion of Members of the House on these important questions than by bringing the Bill to the House in that way. I give the assurance on behalf of the Government that I was asked to give, that full opportunity of discussion will be given when the Bill comes before a Committee of the Whole House.
In form this is a Motion to carry over. The Amendment is framed on two grounds, one constitutional, and the other on merits. We have not heard very much about the constitutional argument. So called constitutional arguments are apt to wear a little bit thin. The last Parliament took a much more novel step than the House is asked to take now when it carried the Bill over not from one Session to another, but from one Parliament to another. That was indeed unusual. Why did it do that? In order that the time that had been spent on the Bill in detailed consideration should not be wasted and in order that the Bill might be brought up and considered in the new Parliament. It is idle to say there was not a mandate to deal with this in the next 1307 House. Of course it was before the country. The last Parliament had passed the Bill over into the next Parliament and everyone knew that it was bound to come up.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
There was certainly a statement made that controversial matters would not be brought forward. One might have taken that as too definite an assurance, but it certainly weighed with many of us.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
My hon. Friend is quite wrong. That was in the first National Government. Will anyone suggest that this Government is to be precluded from dealing with controversial subjects?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
This is a Bill introduced by a previous Government and strongly opposed by a particular party in the House, and it was not a Measure of that sort that was expected to be regarded as non-controversial.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
My hon. Friend must really be fair and must not allege that the Government has broken pledges. No pledge was given about introducing non-controversial Measures assuming this to be a controversial Measure. On the contrary, this Government asked Parliament to pass the Bill over to the next Parliament. Automatically the Bill comes up for consideration, not before a Select Committee, but before a Committee of the whole House. That was why the thing was done, and it had to be done. [Interruption.]
I come to what I think is very much more important, and that is the merits of the Bill. I am not going into any detailed Committee points. The Bill will be fully considered in Committee. But I am very much concerned to meet the argument that the Bill, as the House will be asked to consider it in respect of Government Amendments which have been announced, will be the Bill which. I invited the House to reject two years ago. I say emphatically that if it were that Bill and if the Amendments to be moved by the Government and for which they take responsibility were 1308 not to be moved, I should not be supporting the Bill to-day. I am entitled to express an honest opinion as much as anyone else in the House. I respect my hon. Friend's opinions. If he conscientiously objects to the Bill let him vote against it, but do not let him or my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) impute other motives to those who have served this House equally long and with an equal tradition for sincerity in their opinions.
I will give my opinion frankly. I would not hesitate in a, national Government in a national crisis to compromise on any Act, but I am supporting this Bill to-night not as a matter of compromise, but on its merits, because in the form in which we have it now it is not only desirable but right and necessary. I will explain why. When I moved the rejection of the Bill two years ago, I stated, on behalf of my party, that we thought co-ordination of London traffic absolutely essential. I speak now for myself. I made it plain on that Bill in all discussions with the London County Council or anybody else that the essential to co-ordination was executive control of the whole organisation. I did not believe that it would work in any other way. I said so repeatedly, and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond will remember that he and his friends had a discussion with me and Sir Laming Worthington-Evans as representing the leaders of the Conservative party as to the exact line we were going to take. I challenge him to deny that this was the line we took.
§ Sir W. RAY
I have not copies, naturally, of those discussions with me, and I should neither challenge nor do otherwise than accept anything the right hon. Gentleman said.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. Member will recall that the view that we expressed was that co-ordination was necessary, and that if you were to have co-ordination you must have executive control. You must have the control of the whole operations of the board in the hands of the executive. That I regard as absolutely essential. I say frankly to my hon. Friend that I never shared his penchant for municipal Socialism as distinct from State Socialism. The real burden of his song was that municipal tramways were not to be taken over but should be run as municipal tramways.
§ Sir W. RAY
May I appeal for your protection, Mr. Speaker? What I stated to-night was that I had not the slightest objection to municipal tramways being taken into an undertaking with common management, with a common pool and with common receipts. I said distinctly that the other point of view was almost pre-Adamite Liberal-Progressive.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am delighted, because we are much nearer agreement than I thought. If that be so, then my hon. Friend does not object to the amalgamation of the tramways?
§ Sir W. RAY indicated assent.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am delighted. I thought that was the bone of contention. He does not object to the tramways and other undertakings being taken over into one amalgamation which will run as a single entity. The only dispute then is as to what sort of board should run it. There again I am perfectly clear. I have always expressed this opinion that I am opposed to some immense board consisting of representatives of every kind of local authority. I do not believe that a board of that kind could run a great transport undertaking. The real complaint to-day, the complaint that hon. Members have made in all quarters of the House about railway hoards, was that they were too large, that you want to have a small effective, expert, executive board devoting the whole of its time to the management of the business. I think there is great force in that criticism. That is the kind of board we want, and that is the kind of board that is going to be set up.
What did I quarrel with in the Bill? I said, in the first place, that the power ought not to be in the hands of the Minister. I think that is absolutely essential. If the Minister had the power to appoint the board, that would be Socialism, because he could appoint anybody he liked. It would be a ministerial appointment, without any responsibility for how the thing would run. The Board will be appointed by trustees. I am not going to discuss whether you have the best set of trustees or not. I was originally in favour of the shareholders, whether of main railways, underground railways, or of tramways, appointing a board exactly as a private undertaking would 1310 do, but it has been put to me, not least by the London County Council, that that would put, the appointment of the whole board into the hands of the largest unified group, and, therefore, you must take some system of the kind now proposed. My first objection is met. It is taken out of the hands of the Minister.
My second objection was that the Minister ought not to be a court of appeal on fares and facilities, but that it should be left to an independent tribunal. That is now met. We have a Government Amendment tabled, so that the Minister will have nothing to do with it, and it will go, as the Conservative party asked for when we were opposing the Bill before, to the Railway Rates Tribunal, which is the proper body for the purpose. A further objection that I put was this. I said to the Minister of Transport at the time: "Why should you come down now with a Bill like this? You ought to conduct your negotiations with the different parties, with the various municipalities, with the main line railway companies, the Underground railway companies, the Metropolitan Railway and so on. You ought to get agreement over a wide field and then come to the House for an enabling Bill and no one will oppose you." That is exactly what has happened. We have had three agreements entered into, but not under duress. There are people in the House who represent the main line railways, there are people who can speak for the Metropolitan Railway and people who can speak for the Middlesex County Council, as I can, and they can say that the agreement has not been made under duress. These people must he presumed to know their own business best. We have therefore been met on these essential points on which I, on behalf of the Conservative party, opposed the Bill. We have the Bill now in a form in which I could have supported it if it had been introduced by any Minister or by any Government. I do not think anyone who realises what London traffic is to-day and the position of the main line railways, the need for co-ordination, not merely or chiefly in the interests of the railways and railway development and survival, but also the vital need for economy and co-ordination in the interests of the people for whom hon. Members claim to speak and for whom I claim to speak—the travelling public— 1311 can doubt that if some measure of coordination does not come, the travelling public would seek in vain for those facilities which they have a right to demand. That is the issue on which the House is asked to vote, and it will have a full opportunity of discussing the Bill in all its details when it comes before the House in Committee. I beg the House sincerely to support the Bill which is now in a form in which I believe the majority of those who acted with me on the previous occasion would have been only too glad to have supported it.
§ Sir J. NALL
I only rise to ask the Colonial Secretary if he will answer one point which has been made during the Debate, and to which I am astonished he did not refer in his speech. At eight o'clock I had no intention of making a speech, and when I listened to the Minister of Transport I was disposed to vote for the Bill on the clear statement which he made. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) interrupted the Minister of Transport and said that if.the Metropolitan shareholders were satisfied who need Object? The hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) later on said that the main line shareholders had given a guarantee to the Metropolitan shareholders. Therefore the Metropolitan shareholders did not object. The House has not been told, and I have seen no record anywhere, of the form or manner with which the main line companies have agreed to guarantee anything to the Metropolitan company, and I want to ask the Minister of Transport or the Colonial Secretary to tell us what is the amount of the contingent liability which the main line shareholders have guaranteed, in what proportion it is guaranteed by the four main line companies, and under what conditions is the guarantee likely to he called upon; also whether it will rank before the guaranteed stocks of the main line companies or after the guaranteed stocks? I was astonished that the Colonial Secretary, in the light of the disclosure made by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth, should say that, on this Bill, at this stage and in this Parliament, which was mainly elected for the purpose of reversing the things which the last Parliament did, it is not necessary to have 1312 a Select Committee, when entirely novel matters are to be introduced in Committee stage of the whole House. That is an entirely unprecedented thing, and in my view, an improper thing, to do, on a Bill of this kind. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) said that the Board is modelled on the lines of that in the Electricity Act. He is not wholly right. The Central Electricity Board have raised stocks which are not guaranteed, they are subscribed by shareholders, who have no remedy if they get no return on their investment. There is no guarantee of any kind in the case of the Electricity Board. In this case there is a guarantee; the consumers have to pay, and the main line shareholders have to pay. In these circumstances I do not think that this House is justified in giving what amounts to a Second Reading vote for a most obscure and contentious Measure.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Let me answer at once. If my hon. Friend looks at the White Paper he will see exactly the terms on which the Metropolitan Railway has its stock guaranteed.
§ Sir J. NALL
Will my right hon. Friend say in precise terms what is the contingent liability lying on the shareholders of the main line companies, in what proportion is it to be borne by the four main line groups, and does it rank as a liability in advance of the guaranteed stocks of the main line companies?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I have listened with great care to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, and on the faith of his assurance that due time and the fullest opportunity will be given to discuss this Bill in all its details on the Committee stage, while I regret that he has not seen his way to go further in the direction which I suggested to him, I do not propose to ask the House to vote for my Amendment, and I ask the House for leave to withdraw it.
§ Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.
That on any day in that Session a Motion may be made, after notice, by a Minister of the Crown, to be decided without Amendment or Debate, that proceedings on that Bill may be resumed:
If that Motion is decided in the affirmative, Mr. Speaker shall proceed to call upon the Minister in charge to present the Bill in the form in which it stood when the proceedings thereon were suspended, and the Bill shall be ordered to be printed and all Standing Orders applicable shall be deemed to have been complied with and the Bill than be deemed to have been read a Second
time and to have been reported from a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons and shall stand re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
That this Order be a Standing Order of the House."—[Mr. Pybus.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.