§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. HAROLD MITCHELL
I beg to move, in page 33, line 34, to leave out the word "thirty-one" and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty-two."
This Amendment is for the purpose of altering the basis of the average of five years which will be taken to limit the future production of the London General Omnibus Company's works at Chiswick. If there are to be any restrictions upon production based upon an average, that average should be as up-to-date as possible. Owing to the protracted discussions on this Bill the average stated in the Bill dates from 1st January, 1931. That is more than two years ago. It would not matter if production at the Chiswick works had remained constant, but in the last year or two production has increased very much, the works have been improved and it has been made possible to produce more omnibus bodies. In fact production has increased very much. For that reason, in fairness to the men employed in those works, I move to substitute 1st January, 1932, for 1st January, 1931. That would give an 691 average more in consonance with the present production. We are not imposing upon the Board anything which is undesirable. We are making it possible for them to manufacture in works which are at present the most efficient of their kind in the country.
§ Mr. MITCHELL
There is no question about it. If my hon. and gallant Friend can mention any works that are more efficient I shall be very glad to know of them. In this matter I have not only the support of the men employed at Chiswick and of the men's union, but I have authority to say that the London General Omnibus Company's works at Chiswick have the best conditions of employment of any omnibus works in this country.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment. The original date was put in the Bill two years ago. When you suspend a Bill from one year to another, as this Bill has been suspended, it is an additional reason for altering a date of this kind. I am not a bit in favour of this Clause, but if we are to have a date of any kind it should be one which bears some relation to the time when the Bill is likely to pass the House of Commons.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
I strongly oppose the Amendment. This matter was gone into very fully by the Select Committee. There was a distinct understanding, based on the figures produced before the Select Committee, that the date in the Clause would represent a fair compromise between the vast number of people employed by manufacturing organisations and those referred to in this particular Clause. There is no question as to the knowledge possessed by the Select Committee on this matter, and it will be within the memory of those who have studied the minutes that at that Committee it was first suggested that no manufacturing whatever should be permitted by this vast monopoly—in other words, that it was not to be allowed to interfere with private enterprise in other parts of the country with which it would be in favoured competition. A compromise was reached after consideration, and the original in- 692 tention of the Committee that no manufacturing powers should be granted was altered. It was agreed that the average of the five years definitely named should be taken as the basis upon which a certain amount of manufacturing should be permitted. That decision was accepted as an honourable compromise by both sides, and I appeal to the Government now to stand by the definite opinion of the Select Committee.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Dr. SALTER
I wish to submit an additional reason why the date should be altered as suggested in the Amendment. If the average be taken for the five years ended in 1931, it will mean the inclusion of the year 1926, which was entirely abnormal. In that year there was a prolonged coal strike, there was the general strike, and production in the works in question was abnormally reduced over a long period. In fact, I believe that work was suspended for some time. If the dates remain as they are now and if that year be included, then the average will be abnormally now.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The exact number of omnibuses which might be constructed at these works was a matter of controversy during the Committee stage, and indeed has been a matter of controversy since the Bill was introduced two years ago, when it was proposed that very extensive powers, in this respect should be given to the Transport Board. It was suggested during the Committee stage, I think by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), that the works in question were constructing 100 bodies per week at the present time. If the Amendment is accepted the number of bodies that could be constructed would be about 520—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
No, a, year. I do not know whether the figure which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave on the last occasion is anything like right. I cannot but think that there is a mistake about that figure of 100 bodies per week. The Government propose to accept the Amendment. We think it a-reasonable course to exclude, as the hon. Member opposite has just suggested, the year 1926, during which all industry was 693 to a large extent paralysed. We therefore propose to take the average over the years from 1927 to 1931 which we think will be a fair representation of the normal activities of this undertaking. I accept the Amendment therefore, without engaging in any controversy with the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland), who is rightly trying to protect the interests of his constituency. I do not think he will find that this will hurt the interests of his constituency. I believe that there will be plenty of work for the expanding trade of the hon. and gallant Member's constituency as well as for Chiswick.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I should like to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman because I asked him to look into this matter of the 1926 figures and he promised to do so. We of course are not satisfied with the mere alteration in the date. We should have liked an opportunity of dealing with what we consider to be the more important proposal which we had on the Order Paper in relation to the whole matter. Unfortunately, that Amendment has not been selected and therefore we must leave the matter as it stands.
§ Sir K VAUGHAN-MORGAN
Is it within the Attorney-General's knowledge that the fact that the proposed five years included 1926 was clearly before and was under the consideration of the Select Committee; and am I correct in suggesting that the five years now indicated in the Bill represents the period agreed upon among the interests concerned?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I cannot answer for what was before the Select Committee but I have reason to believe that all the facts relevant to this matter were before them, because they took a great deal of time. I think this point was before them. As to an agreement, I am not aware of any agreement which in any way fetters the action of this House in putting into the Bill what it thinks right.
§ Amendment agreed to.