HC Deb 13 February 1933 vol 274 cc694-705

5.40 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 42, line 26, to leave out the words "apply to the rates tribunal," and to insert instead thereof the words "make representations to the Minister."

I suggest that the Railway Rates Tribunal is an inappropriate body to which to make applications of this sort. It does not possess a qualified personnel, that is to say a personnel specially informed upon the problems of London traffic. It does not possess a staff which has access to the information necessary in determining these applications, and it has not the general experience. It is a body which has been established for a totally different purpose, and we suggest that from it, local authorities will not get the kind of hearing or the satisfaction to which they are entitled. Local authorities in London have some experience of the Railway Rates Tribunal, and have found it very expensive to make applications to that body. It is necessary for them to be represented by counsel, whereas if they could make representations to the Minister the cost would be reduced to a minimum. Further, the Minister has at his disposal in the Traffic Advisory Committee a body possessing both the personnel and the staff, with the experience, the information, and the records which would enable them to give fair and satisfactory decision. If this Amendment were adopted in place of the words at present in the Bill the Minister would be able to determine these matters after reference to the Traffic Advisory Committee and from every point of view I suggest that would be the more satisfactory course.


I beg to second the Amendment.

5.42 p.m.


I appreciate the fact that this Amendment is an effort to improve the Bill. I am not particularly attracted to the alternative of making representations to the Minister but on the whole I think it gives more opportunity to the public for ventilating grievances than application to the Railway Rates Tribunal. That body as far as it goes is an excellent authority. It has a good reputation because it is essentially of a judicial character. Its work in the past has largely been concerned with questions of fares, and has consisted of hearing evidence, and weighing up the pros and cons of a case and considering the point of view of finance and the point of view of the particular railway company concerned. Here however we are dealing with the daily transport of a population of about 8,000,000, a matter of vital concern and of a larger and a wider character than could be appropriately referred to such an authority.

I have all along felt that the vital weakness of this Bill is that it creates a monopoly in such an essential service as this, and that more direct contact with the public ought to be provided in it. I have always maintained that there is no substitute for local government in affairs of this kind which affect the daily lives of so many people. These transport services might be described as the lifeblood of an immense urban area, and I suggest that adequate protection is not provided for the public by entrusting these powers to a body like the Railway Rates Tribunal. As I say, I am not satisfied with the alternative of the Minister, but on the whole, with all his faults I think we would prefer him, because we can get at him and "chivvy" him, and make his life a burden and cross-examine him at Question Time and compel him to sit up and listen. After all, even the House of Commons has still some power, though it may be very limited. We have opportunities on the Adjournment. The Eleven o'clock Rule, with all its faults, gives us a half-hour in which to raise these questions if, for instance, some vital transport service is cut down, and we can criticise the Minister and make him answer for his sins on such occasions. Then there is the Minister's salary, always a vulnerable point with any Minister. We can move to reduce his salary. No Minister likes to be pilloried, and I suggest that, as we have an expensive organisation at the Ministry, with highly-trained officials who make a study of the whole transport problem, it is better to have that protection for the public than the original proposals in the Bill.

I understand that the Bill now attempts to placate the opposition—those who do not like this great monopoly—in a certain direction. Well, it has not placated the opposition, and now that the Government are setting up something on a scale unprecedented in our history, the House of Commons should keep control, should keep its hands on the machine in order to protect the public. I can understand that this monopoly when it operates may be harsh, very inhuman, very much out of touch with public opinion, and it may try merely to make the two ends meet, to consider the financial side of the problem. But there is something much more in a traffic service like this than pounds, shillings, and pence; it affects the very existence of our Metropolitan life. Therefore, on the whole, though I should like to see a more direct contact with local authorities, and a very different authority from the one set up under the Bill, I prefer to preserve the personal contact with the Minister and to put as much responsibility on his shoulders as the Bill will allow. I therefore support the Amendment.

5.47 p.m.


The hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) must know very well that the present Minister of Transport is far more adequate and capable than his predecessor, and I do not see why these quarrels between the different sections of the Liberal party should be brought up in this way. It is very unfair to the hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport. I hope the Government will absolutely refuse to have anything to do with the Amendment. If this Bill is of any value at all, it is because it keeps the Ministry out of it. There is far too much work being put to-day on the various Ministries, and we have got to decentralise. If there is any value in the Bill, it is that it is a great experiment in decentralisation. The Amendment really means that we are to go on having London Members taking up the time of the House of Commons with little tiny questions of a tramway here or an omnibus there. It is that sort of thing that we want to eliminate from this House—these small minds that want to deal always with these petty questions and to have this or that Minister on the mat for a few minutes. That is not what we are for, and I hope the Government will stand out against the Amendment. As to the hon. Member who has just had the satisfaction of pouring out the vials of his wrath upon our very good and competent Minister, I would remind the Government that he is one of the most disloyal of their supporters.

5.50 p.m.


There are quite possibly two views as to which is the better tribunal to settle questions of this nature, but I would remind those who think the Minister is the better tribunal and may, in the excitement of the moment, anticipate with delight the pleasures of cross-examining him and moving to reduce his salary, that in practice those methods are less efficacious than is sometimes thought. My experience is that no Minister cares a bit about a Motion to reduce his salary, provided always that he has a sufficient majority behind him to defeat the Motion. I do not know what satisfaction the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) would derive from moving to reduce the Minister's salary if the facilities for Bethnal Green proved inadequate. At the end of the evening I fancy he would find himself no better off. On the other hand, if his local authority could be persuaded to view the matter with sufficient seriousness to bring it before the Railway Rates Tribunal, they would be likely to get satisfaction. The House has already decided that the rates tribunal is to deal with questions of fares, and I do not think anybody has quarrelled with that decision. Fares and facilities are so intimately related the one to the other, that it seems to me that it would be an act of folly to allow one tribunal to settle the facilities and another to fix the fares. You would have a perpetual process of the dog chasing its own tail in order that facilities might catch up with fares or fares catch up with facilities.

We propose that the same tribunal shall settle the two questions. In modern Bills I think we are all in danger of being misled by a reference to the Minister. In these matters the Minister does not act personally; he cannot act personally. It is generally supposed that the Minister can and does decide all these questions such as are said to be referred to the Minister, but my hon. Friend the Minister, with the best will in the world, could not settle all the questions of facilities that would be likely to be referred to him if the Amendment were accepted. He may have, and I have no doubt he has, all the excellent qualities that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) ascribes to him, but even supposing we have a succession of Ministers with those qualities, after all they are not super-men, and they cannot settle all these controversies day in, day out. They will have to be settled by a number of inspectors and persons who will hold inquiries, and in the result you will have a tribunal called the Minister, but which is really a less expert form of the Railway Rates Tribunal. I suggest to the House that we should prefer the Rates Tribunal as being the body that is responsible for fixing both fares and facilities, and the body that will give the amplest opportunity to local authorities and members of the public for making such representations as they may feel to be necessary.

5.53 p.m.


I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has quite met the argument in favour of the matter being referred to the Minister, because he will appreciate that it requires a good deal of money to refer matters to the Rates Tribunal, but to refer matters to the Minister and for the Minister to institute an inquiry requires very little money. In fact, it requires no money at all. One of the difficulties as regards the present law is that there must be an initial expenditure in order to start the proceedings and carry them through by anybody who wants any alteration or who wants to object to the withdrawal of facilities. It is vital, if this Clause is going to work at all as it is desired it should work, that there should be easy access to some authority that can stop the withdrawal of facilities if they are threatened, without incurring a great deal of expenditure and prolonged and expensive litigation.

Secondly, I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right when he says that matters of fares and facilities are the same thing or should be dealt with by the same tribunal. They never have been so dealt with. The matter of facilities has always been dealt with by the Railway and Canal Commission, and when the Railway Rates Tribunal was set tip to deal with fares and charges, it was specifically limited to that subject-matter, and the Railway and Canal Commission was preserved in its jurisdiction aver the whole question of facilities. This is the first time the Rates Tribunal is being given powers to come within the jurisdiction now covered by the Railway and Canal Commission, and I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if any tribunal ought to take over the question of facilities, so long as he is going to carry on the two tribunals, it ought to be the Railway and Canal Commission. He will remember that we pointed out during the Committee stage that you will inevitably have an over lapping, and if I may refer to Subsection (10) of the next Clause, Clause 31, where again a matter is referred to the Rates Tribunal for their decision, there clearly you will have many matters arising which would normally go before the Railway and Canal Commission, because those will be matters as regards the main line railways. We suggest that rather than give this perfectly new jurisdiction to the Railway Rates Tribunal, which it has never had before—


The rates tribunal.


I beg pardon—to the rates tribunal, a jurisdiction which is foreign to the class of matters which they are intending to hand over, he should, so far as facilities are concerned, deal with them by the very convenient method of allowing the Minister to act upon the advice of the Advisory Committee, which, after all, should be the best possible body to deal with such a matter as the withdrawal or granting of facilities. Then the Minister will be able, after getting a proper report from the Advisory Committee, which can hear evidence or anything else that they desire on the matter if they think it necessary, to act in the interests of the public as regards this matter, and it will not merely be dealt with as a bit of litigation between two parties, which is not the right atmosphere for a matter of this sort. One does not want to get into the atmosphere of the London County Council litigating with the Transport Board, with the appeal from the tribunal and all the rest of the paraphernalia which goes with litigation. One wants the matter settled from the point of view of the public after an inquiry by somebody who is competent to make that inquiry. We suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he might perhaps again consider this point, with a view to the possibility of introducing, in another place, a Clause, or altering this Clause, so as to leave the matter substantially as we propose, in the hands of the Advisory Committee, subject to the supervision and final determination of the Minister.

5.58 p.m.


I rather agree with the last speaker, but perhaps the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter), who moved the Amendment, was not quite conscious of what it implied. There is a provision later in the Clause which reads as follows: Provided that the rates tribunal in determining an application under this Section shall have regard to the desirability of the establishment and maintenance by the board of an adequate reserve fund, and shall not make any Order which would in their opinion preclude the board from complying with their obligations under subsection (4) of Section three of this Act, or which would necessitate the raising of additional capital save with the consent of the board, or which would necessitate an application by the board to Parliament for additional powers. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) as to bringing in the responsibility of the Minister, but would it not be possible for the learned Attorney-General to bear in mind, perhaps in another place, the possibility of bringing in both? I hope it is not proposed by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey to go to a Division.


It is.


Well, I suggest that we should not leave out this rates tribunal. The Minister could not provide for an adequate reserve fund, and so on, and do all the things which the tribunal has to do. Both are necessary, it seems to me, and with all respect to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, with whose speech I am largely in agreement,

I would submit that you cannot well destroy the machinery of the Bill by leaving out the rates tribunal. It has responsibilities. If the learned Attorney-General will bring in the Minister and still leave in being the rates tribunal, we shall have the best of both worlds, and it will lead to harmony all round.

6.1 p.m.


I want to ask the Attorney-General what are the serious grounds on which he asked us to reject the proposal? He said, in effect, that the Minister of Transport goes to his office in the morning and faces an enormous desk of papers, and, presumably, he is so busy all day that he is unable to make decisions himself and has to delegate them to others, and that, therefore, it is not right that the Minister should be given responsibility.

6.2 p.m.


No; I am sure that it is my fault, but my hon. and gallant Friend has misunderstood me. I said that the Minister could not possibly conduct the necessary inquiries. A decision when it is made must always be the Minister's decision. Under the Road Traffic Act the decision of the Minister is mentioned, but it is well known that he performs his duties by the help of inspectors who hold inquiries. Inquiries in the present case must be held not by the Minister, but by some tribunal, and I say that the rates tribunal is a better tribunal for this purpose.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 285; Noes, 33.

Division No. 40.] AYES. [6.3 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Belt, Sir Alfred L. Brown, Ernest (Leith)
Albery, Irving James Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks., Newb'y)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Bernays, Robert Buchan, John
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Burgin, Dr. Edward Lestle
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Burnett, John George
Aske, Sir Robert William Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Butt, Sir Alfred
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Cadogan, Hon. Edward
Atholl, Duchess of Blindell, James Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)
Atkinson, Cyril Bossom, A. C. Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Boulton, W. W. Caporn, Arthur Cecil
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Carver, Major William H.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Castlereagh, Viscount
Balniel, Lord Boyce, H. Leslie Castle Stewart, Earl
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Cautley, Sir Henry S.
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Broadbent, Colonel John Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Ramsbotham, Herwald
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Rawson, Sir Cooper
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Ray, Sir William
Clarry, Reginald George Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Rea, Walter Russell
Cobb, Sir Cyril Iveagh, Countess of Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Conant, R. J. E. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Cook, Thomas A. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Cooke, Douglas Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Remer, John R.
Cooper, A. Duff Ker, J. Campbell Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Kerr, Hamilton W. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Kirkpatrick, William M. Robinson, John Roland
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Ropner, Colonel L.
Cross, R. H. Knight, Holford Rosbotham, Sir Samuel
Crossley, A. C. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Ross, Ronald D.
Culverwell, Cyrll Tom Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rothschild, James A. de
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Runge, Norah Cecil
Davison, Sir William Henry Levy, Thomas Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Dawson, Sir Philip Lewis, Oswald Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Denville, Alfred Llewellin, Major John J. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Donner, P. W. Lloyd, Geoffrey Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Doran, Edward Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Duckworth, George A. V. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Savery, Samuel Servington
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Selley, Harry R.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Mabane, William Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Dunglass, Lord MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Patrick) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Skelton, Archibald Noel
Elliston, Captain George Sampson MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Elmley, Viscount Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Somervell, Donald Bradley
Emrys-Evans, P. V. McKie, John Hamilton Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Soper, Richard
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) McLean, Major Sir Alan Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Macmillan, Maurice Harold Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Everard, W. Lindsay Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Marsden, Commander Arthur Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Martin, Thomas B. Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Fox, Sir Gifford Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Strauss, Edward A.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Strickland, Captain W. F.
Fuller, Captain A. G. Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Ganzoni, Sir John Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Glossop, C. W. H. Mitcheson, G. G. Sutcliffe, Harold
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Glyn. Major Ralph G. C. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Morrison, William Shepherd Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Muirhead, Major A. J. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Grimston, R. V. Munro, Patrick Turton, Robert Hugh
Gritten, W. G. Howard Nail, Sir Joseph Wallace, John (Dunfermilne)
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hales, Harold K. North, Captain Edward T. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon) Nunn, William Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A. Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Hanbury, Cecil Palmer, Francis Noel Wells, Sydney Richard
Hanley, Dennis A. Patrick, Colin M. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Peake, Captain Osbert Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Hartland, George A. Pearson, William G. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Percy, Lord Eustace Wills, Wilfrid D.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Perkins, Walter R. D. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Petherick. M. Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wise, Alfred R.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n) Withers, Sir John James
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Pickering, Ernest H. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Worthington, Dr. John V.
Holdsworth, Herbert Potter, John Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Hopkinson, Austin Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Horobin, Ian M. Procter, Major Henry Adam TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Horsbrugh, Florence Pybus, Percy John Sir George Penny and Mr. Womersley.
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney. N.) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Cocks, Frederick Seymour Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
Attlee, Clement Richard Cripps, Sir Stafford Edwards, Charles
Batey, Joseph Daggar, George George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Graham, D. M. (Lanark. Hamilton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Thorne, William James
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Lawson, John James Tinker, John Joseph
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W). McEntee, Valentine L. White, Henry Graham
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Harris, Sir Percy Maxton, James Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)
Hicks, Ernest George Milner, Major James
Jenkins, Sir William Parkinson, John Allen TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
John, William Price, Gabriel Mr. Groves and Mr. C. Macdonald.