§ Order for Third Beading read.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Pybus)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
In moving the Third Beading of this Bill, it may be worth while to recall for a few moments the Parliamentary history of the Bill itself. Few Bills have had so much history; furthermore, few Bills have received so searching an examination in Committee. The Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, under the Chairmanship of Lord Lytton, examined it for 35 days. During that time the transport and financial witnesses for the promoters and the Minister himself were exposed to cross-examination by much legal talent, and answered some 10,000 questions. Now the National Government, on assuming office, reviewed the position regarding this Bill. They felt that as it emerged from the Committee it embodied so large a measure of general agreement that it should be carried forward, if possible, into the new Parliament—a course to which both Houses agreed without a Division. We felt, of course, that it was impossible to do this unless substantial modifications in addition to those made by the Joint Commitee were made in the scheme of the Bill. These proposed changes were set out in a White Paper which I circulated as far back as last July, so that the modifications have been before Parliament for over six months. They were substantially adopted in Committee, and take their place in the scheme which the House is now asked to pass.
Like the Bill, London passenger traffic has had a long history, but it is, I think, sufficient to say that every successive inquiry into means by which we could solve this problem has emphasised the need for a more comprehensive scheme of co-ordination, and events have moved more and more towards a complete consolidation of the interests concerned. I understand that it was mainly lack of Parliamentary time that compelled the Conservative Government in 1928 to inform the London County Council and 844 the Underground Group that, as far as that Parliament was concerned, they would have to make what limited progress they could towards a solution by promoting private Bills of a merely enabling character. Frankly, I have always felt that at that time if such Bills had gone forward they might have been a useful step in the progress of London transport, although it is a fact that they only touched the fringe of the problem. But in the years that have gone by, I think it is without question that London passenger transport and its problems have run far beyond any partial solution. Finance alone now demands not only coordination of traffic, but, I suggest, a wide pooling of resources if the needs of the public for new and improved facilities are to be met without demand upon the public purse.
Let us look for a few moments at the methods which have had to be adopted in recent years in order to finance railway and other traffic improvements in London. A few years ago it was necessary to get a Treasury guarantee in order to finance two or three new tubes. More recently, in order to secure much needed extensions to Cockfosters and the line just opened by the Metropolitan Railway to Stanmore, it has been necessary to go beyond a guarantee, and to provide actual grants of substantial amounts over a long period of years from the Exchequer itself. In the Government's opinion, the provision of facilities like these should be found by the combined and pooled resources of the transport undertakings of the area. They should not be made a charge either upon the Exchequer or upon the London ratepayer. This Bill puts no charge whatever either on public funds or public credit.
We are satisfied that full efficiency and the necessary economies cannot be achieved except by unity of management, and, further, we are more and more convinced that unity of management can only be secured by complete amalgamation and unified ownership. Who, for instance, will seek to-day to justify for a moment leaving the Inner Circle railway any longer in two different ownerships, or the retention of the separate existence of nearly 20 tramway undertakings in the area over which the Bill will operate? The business of providing omnibus services only partially co-ordinated through the Underground organisation 845 must also take its place as an integral part of one transport whole. Excessive competition in transport, insufficiently controllable under existing London legislation, is such that neither the available accommodation in our streets, nor the public safety and convenience permit us to tolerate it, apart altogether from the unfair restrictions which this state of things brings about with regard to the absence of improvements such as the electrification of the suburban lines. We want, without delay, a public board which will view and tackle the problems of London transport as a whole, and not do it through any pair of spectacles distorted by tramway, tube, omnibus or coach, but free from any preconceived ideas in order to arrive at a correct solution of this urgent problem.
I have endeavoured to examine, free from any preconceived ideas as to the correct solution of this urgent problem, this scheme and all the schemes which have been hitherto proposed, and which have been examined at very great length by commissions and committees. We are convinced that a new public board of the type which the Bill proposes is the only practicable solution. After much consideration, the Government are satisfied that even if the present Bill were rejected and a new Bill brought in in its place, it would, in its chief characteristics and in its main basic principles, be similar to the one now before the House. A new and important factor is the pooling arrangement between the Board and the main lines. The inclusion of the main lines in the co-ordination through the pooling scheme brings those important elements in London transport into the closest practicable relationship with the Board, and is an essential feature of the Bill. Without such a provision the Bill would be sadly incomplete. With it, we may hope, I believe, for developments which are quite unattainable under present conditions. I may say that, with regard to such development, we are informed that the London Midland and Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway are prepared, as soon as the Board is set up, to table schemes for the electrification of their suburban lines, a step which would not only be for the great convenience of the travelling public, but would also provide a good source of em- 846 ployment to the workmen of this country. We claim that the Bill in its present form is not only technically necessary, but thoroughly sound.
Now as to the financial basis of the Bill. The tramways belonging to the local authorities presented a special problem. With the exception of two undertakings which have preferred to leave their claims to be determined by arbitration, the Board will acquire these undertakings by paying the authorities concerned either in a special prior stock or in cash to an amount equivalent to their outstanding debt. This was not unfair, for anyone familiar with the tramway systems of London will appreciate that, while some of the undertakings have not been equally prosperous and some indeed have been a charge on the rates, they are and will remain for many years an essential unit in the mass transportation of the people within the London area. The small omnibus companies will be compensated in cash unless they notify the Arbitration Tribunal that they wish to be compensated wholly or partly in Board stock. One substantial operator indicated to the Joint Committee that he wished to be compensated in the stock of the Board, and that decision was registered in the Joint Committee. The settlements with the other company undertakings have proceeded generally on the basis of an agreed exchange of stock. Broadly speaking, well secured debentures will receive "A" stocks, and well secured preference stocks will receive "B" stocks. Many of these stocks are already trustee securities. The Board will issue £12,500,000 of a special "T.F.A." stock, to be issued in exchange for debentures of the companies already carrying a Treasury guarantee under the Trade Facilities Acts.
The ordinary stocks of the companies presented a different problem. The terms for the- acquisition of the underground common fund companies were explained to the joint committee and are set out in the appropriate schedule. Generally, it will be seen that in exchange for the ordinary stock of the companies, "C" stocks of the board of a less nominal amount are allowed, and a limit, a strict limit, is placed upon the amount of interest which the "C" stock may pay. A standard rate is fixed—5 per cent. for the first two years and 5½ per cent. 847 thereafter, with a maximum participation up to a further ½ per cent. in any surplus earnings above 5½ per cent. The standard rate as not guaranteed and the interest is not cumulative, while the rate of return can never in the most favourable circumstances exceed 6 per cent. I hope the House has noted these figures, because I have heard, not inside the House so much as outside it, the most exaggerated statements regarding the position of the "C" stock. These arrangements were not reached in a haphazard way but after the fullest investigation and, we believe, are fair both to the public and to the interests concerned, for the reasons explained by Sir William McLintock in his evidence.
Similar principles were adopted with regard to the Metropolitan Railway, which I recently explained to the Committee. This agreement is set out at length in its appropriate Schedule. There has been some misapprehension and some rather cynical views expressed as to why the main line railways thought it worth their while to give the limited guarantee embodied in this particular agreement. There is nothing new in the desire of the main line companies to see the Metropolitan Railway part of the board's undertaking. They always took the view that the Metropolitan Railway should be fully merged in the undertaking of the board and not left merely as a separate party to the pool. The amalgamation of these interests gives greater security and stability to the fabric of London transport as a whole and at the same time makes it possible to accelerate both operating economies and superior services. In providing this solution, which cannot in any way prejudice the public and must assist both themselves and the board, the main lines have not acted imprudently. In concluding my remarks on the subject, I may perhaps give the House a few figures illustrating the scope of their liability under the guarantee? Let us take the worst case of all from the point of view of the main line railways in regard to the guarantee that they have given. Supposing all the existing stockholders entitled to do so took the assented stock. There would then be a margin in favour of the main lines jointly of about £10,000 when the "C" stock paid 5 per cent. If the "C" stock paid only 3 per cent. 848 there would be a call of somewhat over £100,000 to be met. This liability would naturally be distributed among the main lines in their pool proportions. Therefore, the House will see how limited both in scope and in duration is the arrangement that has been made.
The House will remember that at the request of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan), a revised pro-forma revenue statement was prepared by Sir Williaim McLintock and published as a White Paper. It has been brought as closely up to date as possible, to allow for changes in the capital position. The period on which the estimates of the earning power of the board are based have not been revised and, I suggest, for very good reasons, as the figures do not claim to be a definite forecast of what the board will earn year by year from its inception. Such a forecast depends on factors which cannot be quantified. It depends, for example, on the degree of efficiency with which the combined undertakings are conducted, and on the board's policy generally in carrying out the duties imposed on them by the Bill. It also depends upon the economies which can be effected and the rate at which those economies can be brought into operation. It depends also, as so many undertakings do, upon the state of trade, like the earnings of the present undertakings.
The primary purpose of Sir William McLintock's statement, as its heading indicates, is to illustrate the manner in which the board's revenue will be applied in accordance with the terms of the Bill, and it was only possible to arrive at the amount of revenue at the board's disposal by reference to the past earnings of the undertakings to be transferred. The figures therefore represent the estimated normal earning capacity of the existing undertakings judged by past results. To adopt as the basis for such a statement the earnings during a period of abnormal depression would surely be mistaken and entirely misleading. We are not legislating merely for the next year or two. It is necessary to take a long view in regard to London passenger transport. Sir William McLintock adopted the annual average earnings for the last three normal years, 1928 to 1930. Any hon. Member can form his own opinion as to the representative character 849 of that particular period. It was not a boom period, but surely no one is going to suggest that the eventual prosperity of this country, of London, or of London transport is to be judged by the trading results of 1931 or 1932. Is not the real question whether the financial scheme of this Bill is flexible enough to meet the exceptional circumstances in which the board will start its existence, and any other fluctuations of depression which it may encounter, in common with other enterprises? We think that the scheme does possess that degree of flexibility.
The "C" stock has been deliberately made dependent upon earnings, like the stocks for which it is given in exchange. The standard return upon it, as I have said, is strictly limited. If it can earn the standard rate, well and good, but as everyone familiar with transport conditions knows this kind of result is not and cannot be achieved merely by putting up fares. That is not the way to attract traffic or to increase receipts. If the standard rate is not earned then any shortage is not carried forward. Interest on the "C" stock is not cumulative. I should like to make that point very clear in case it has been misunderstood widely in the House. The rights of the stockholders to intervene by applying for a receivership cannot in any case be exercised for five years—instead of two years as was proposed by the joint committee—under a very useful Amendment made on the Report stage in this House. Before I leave the financial side may I refer once more to Sir William McLintock's pro-forma statement. Much has been said about the inadequate margin for the operations of the board when its undertakings are merged. The assumption on which the estimates are based are set out in the notes of the statement itself. This statement showed that after meeting the interest on the "A" and "B" stocks £1,620,000 is left to meet the interest on the "C" stock. It is noteworthy that after paying its fixed charges there is a margin of £1,620,000 left for the dividend on its "C" stock.
§ Mr. PYBUS
If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me, I would prefer to complete this part of my statement and to deal later with any queries. The "C" 850 stock does not carry the right to a fixed rate of interest unless it is earned. This figure we suggest is the measure of the flexibility of the scheme, subject only to the limited right of the "C" stockholders to apply for a receivership. Even when the interest has been paid on the "G" stock at the rate of 5 per cent. there still remains a margin of over £400,000 and when after the first two years the standard rate rises to 5½ per cent. a margin of over £280,000. I hope that these figures will do something to remove the impression that the scheme is working on too fine a limit. We contend that the scheme of the Bill is technically sound and, in spite of altered circumstances, financially sound.
We have made certain other changes, of which the House is aware. In the Bill as originally introduced there were many features which were regarded as wrong, or questionable in principle. The powers claimed for the board to run all over the country under the guise of working agreements were excessive, and have been reduced to proper proportions. The powers of manufacture which the Bill claimed for the board were excessive and were drastically curtailed by the Joint Committee. The powers proposed to be conferred on the Minister were also excessive, but the result of the action of the Joint Committee and the Committee of this House is practically to remove Ministerial control from the Bill. The factor of the enforced exchange of stock, an unusual although not an entirely unprecedented proposal, is replaced by agreement, and all those undertakings which desire compensation in cash will get it. The proposal to transfer to the board the extensive Surplus Lands undertaking of the Metropolitan Railway has been abandoned. The pooling agreement with the main lines, instead of being left a matter of discretion to the Minister, is approved and its framework laid down in the Bill itself. In many minor matters, too, the Bill has been modified and improved by the thorough process of revision to which it has been subjected in this Parliament as well as in the last.
With the modifications I have described, the Measure is one which the Government have no hesitation in urging the House to pass. I appreciate the feelings of those who have laboured for other solutions in earlier days, but is it not 851 time, is it not possible, to put the memory of these old struggles and disappointments behind us and to look forward to an agreed solution of this problem? It is, I suggest, peculiarly fitting that a National Government and a National Parliament, as we are, should take the responsibility of acting and of solving the problem which has too long been a perennial subject of investigation and controversy. We want to see controversy out of the way; we want to see the able technical and business minds in these various undertakings free to devote their energies to a co-operative effort to make the Bill and the board a success. It is of immense importance that, just as the board will be brought into existence with the consent of the major interests concerned, it should start its life with the assurance of the good will of Parliament, its creator, and of the public, whose needs it will be its duty to serve.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
Can the Minister of Transport give me the figures about the capital for which I asked? Mr. PYBUS: I will see that they are supplied later.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Dr. SALTER
We on these benches regard the Bill as falling far short of the needs of the situation in London, but, nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction, and we do not propose to oppose the Third Reading or to support the Motion for rejection to be moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Fulham East (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan). The Bill as it stands is a mangled edition of the Bill introduced by Mr. Morrison in 1930. Many of the most valuable provisions of that Bill have either been mutilated or spoilt. The Minister of Transport has described the alterations as modifications; we should call them emasculations, and we consider that the Bill, although it will affect an improvement on the existing situation, is quite inadequate to meet the needs of London. Even the Bill originally introduced by Mr. Morrison did not satisfy members of the Labour party. It was a compromise. Mr. Morrison was quite aware that he did not command a majority in the House, and he had to frame his Bill accordingly. We believe that nothing short of complete public ownership and control will provide a satis- 852 factory solution of the transport problem of London, and as time goes on the people of London will demand that such public control shall be exercised. The problem of London passenger transport is so urgent that we are glad to accept anything which will improve the existing arrangements. You have an over supply of transport on some roads and an under supply on others. You have increasing congestion in the streets, many blockages, with loss of time every day; and there is very little prospect of any improvement as things are now. On my way to the House this afternoon I was held up for six minutes in an omnibus at the Bricklayers Arms and for another 11 minutes at the Elephant and Castle. There was a waste of time of 17 minutes, on a journey which should, normally, not occupy more than 25 minutes. That is an experience which is, of course, general all over London.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Member relate the purpose of the Bill to this congestion, and explain how this or any other Bill will remove it?
§ Dr. SALTER
I will refer to that matter in a moment. There are huge outlying districts of Greater London which are inadequately supplied with passenger transport from which bitter complaints come to us day after day. There is no chance of additional tubes being laid down under present conditions. The Minister of Transport has said that the London Midland and Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway have intimated that as soon as the Bill is through they will be in a position to proceed with the electrification of their suburban lines.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The hon. Member will pardon me. The Minister of Transport said that they would be in a position to bring forward proposals.
§ Dr. SALTER
At any rate, the position is that they are not able to bring forward proposals at the present time and that there is no likelihood of any proposals being forthcoming until this, or some similar, measure has been carried by this House. Terrible inconvenience and much suffering is caused to hundreds and 853 thousands of people every day. The word "inconvenience" is really a misnomer. It is positive martyrdom for hundreds and thousands of people to get to and from their work. Recently letters in the Press have described how people from outlying districts get to their offices, and it was pointed out that they have to spend 1¼ hours and 1½ hours twice daily on a journey which ought not, with proper means of locomotion, to take more than half an hour or 35 minutes. It means that these people are being robbed of their rest and leisure, robbed of a part of their life, by the inadequate arrangements which exist at present. All the authorities and all interests concerned agree that there can be no improvement in any real sense unless and until transport methods are co-ordinated and unified.
A few years ago the London Traffic Advisory Board held an inquiry with regard to the facilities for travelling in South East London. There was great indignation in most of the south-eastern boroughs at that time and public meetings were held at which resolutions were passed demanding further facilities. It was decided to hold an inquiry as to how the facilities for passenger transport in this part of the Metropolis could be improved. The borough councils went to considerable expense in instructing counsel, and an enormous volume of evidence was collected. Many suggestions were put forward. The whole of the South London boroughs passed a resolution demanding the construction of an additional tube in the South East, particularly to lead from London Bridge or the Elephant and Castle to Woolwich. Money was poured out like water; and the inquiry lasted for weeks. What was the result? Absolutely nothing was done, and some time afterwards, when a deputation waited upon Lord Ashfield and urged upon him the desirability of constructing a tube in the South East of London, his reply was, and has been ever since to every such application, that his company could not do anything as long as the unregulated competition existed and as long as there was so much overlapping. That is the position to-day. There is no hope whatever unless and until this Bill, or a Bill on identical lines, is carried through co-ordinating the traffic arrangements. We then had Mr. 854 Morrison's Bill in 1930. I regard that as a monument of patient and skilful negotiation, but the events of August, 1931, led to that Measure being shelved or suspended.
The present Bill is just a salvage Measure. It saves a little out of the wreck of Mr. Morrison's Bill. Perhaps it salves some of its most essential features, but a great many of the best parts of the original Bill have gone. We accept the present Bill because it is better than nothing. We shall get unification and co-ordination, although not under the conditions that we want. The public also will benefit from it, but not as much as they would have benefited if the original Measure had been carried. In these days we have to be thankful for small mercies. While we are not satisfied with the Bill we shall not oppose the Third Reading, but I can assure the Minister of Transport that there is no element of gratitude in our support for the Measure. We accept it, although it is imperfect and unsatisfactory, as a small step in the right direction.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
The Minister of Transport has moved the Third Reading of the Bill in an interesting speech, which the House has followed with close attention. He laid stress, and properly, upon the importance of the inquiry carried through by the Joint Select Committee. The importance of that work will be realised by all hon. Members who are familiar with this question. He did not take into account, however, the fact that the inquiry of the Select Committee was not complete, and we are anxious for further and fuller information as to the situation to-day. The changed circumstances of the times have been, I think, brushed over too lightly by the right hon. Gentleman. It is interesting also to notice that he bestowed his need of praise on the two Bills introduced by the Conservative Government. With regard to these I shall have more to say.
Perhaps I may be permitted to set the Minister right on one point, and that is that certainly we who oppose this Bill are opposing it for reasons which are good in our judgment, and not because 855 we do not view the problem through fair spectacles. We certainly do not look at it from any distorted point of view. If we had a chance we should not follow the same lines as those which the Government have adopted. As it is, of course, as the Minister has said, a certain number of the objectionable features which the Bill was bound to possess when introduced have been removed. There is no question, from our point of view, that it is improved, but there is room for so many further improvements that we do not consider the Bill suitable or proper for its task.
The Minister in his review made reference to the unusual history of the Bill. As he said, it has followed a course quite unprecedented in the history of Parliament. It was carried over not from Session to Session but from Parliament to Parliament. In the course of the long deliberations which have taken place since 27th October, when we had a Debate on the carry-over Motion, the four-and-a-half days of Committee and the Report stage which concluded yesterday, the Minister and his colleagues and those of us who have been closely concerned have paid great attention to the details, and I am sure we should like to express our thanks to the Minister and his Parliamentary colleague and the learned Attorney-General for the skill and attention which they have devoted to the Bill. As the Minister knows, we oppose this Bill as a matter of principle and not for any personal motives regarding himself or his colleagues.
The "Times" in one of the numerous and rather interesting leading articles which it has devoted to the problem of London passenger transport and to this Bill, stated that the Minister and his colleagues would require courage, cool heads and perseverance if they were to carry their task to a successful conclusion. If we take the last quality, perseverance, they have certainly been possessed of that. In fact I should say that the Government have evinced a far too great and most undesirable perseverance in pushing this Measure through in the way they have done. Cool heads of course they possess, and even if they did not they could always send one of their Ganymedes to the fountains of wisdom under the gallery to refresh the 856 heated brow or to get draughts from the fount of wisdom if they needed them. But when it comes to courage, of course modesty forbids me to indicate where I feel that courage lies; but I do not think the Government, supported by its vast majority, can claim any great amount of courage in pushing this Bill through in the way they are doing. The genial trio who have handled the Measure in the House, the learned Attorney-General, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, rather remind me, not so much in their geniality as in the severity of their attitude towards concessions, of three masculine Fates shearing the threads of London's liberties with their shears. I believe that the Fates, according to mythology, were ladies, and in this respect I am departing a little from precedent.
As regards the history of the Measure, the Minister has already referred to that, so perhaps we do not need to consider it any further. But the importance of the Measure is undoubted, inasmuch as the Government are insisting upon pushing through this monopoly, which must gravely affect the lives of 9,000,000 odd inhabitants of an area spread over 1,800 square miles and including those who make no fewer than 4,000,000,000 passenger journeys per annum. Continuity in policy, I was reminded by an answer to a question to-day by the Minister of Pensions, is a virtue in many directions. With regard to pensions, foreign policy and so on, it is undoubtedly a virtue; but continuity of policy applied to a Measure of this sort and carried to excess, certainly attains the dimensions of a vice. I can find it in my heart to regret very much that so much continuity has been insisted upon, instead of the amount of modification which we desired and which might have come about if the concessions that we asked for had been granted in more generous measure.
It is a case of then and now. The Bill when it first saw the light was denounced by the then Opposition. It has been improved since then, but not enough. The Bill to-day bears far closer resemblance to the original Bill than the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) gave it credit for. Its parentage is known. I can imagine this little Bill toddling along to its natural parent, the right hon. Gentle- 857 man who favoured the House with his presence under the Gallery during the long Debates on it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I refer to the original parent of the Bill, which Was introduced by the right hon. Herbert Morrison in 1931. Am. I not in order? I can imagine this little Bill toddling to its real parent and saying, with Shakespeare:It is a wise father that knows his own child.And perhaps it might say:Mistake me not for my complexion.The change is in appearance rather than in essential details. In the course of his remarks the Minister pointed out that in his view something must be done. We are familiar with that argument, and we do not deny it. All I have to say about it is that I do not think that the haste and the precipitancy which the Government have followed were necessary.
If we were given a chance of solving this problem we should solve it in a different way. We should go back to the famous Blue Report, in the framing of which the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) played a distinguished part. His work in connection with that report and the report itself were pronounced upon in terms of praise by the right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) when we were discussing this problem two years ago. We should start with the same foundation, namely, the Blue Report. We should secure co-ordination, we should secure common management and a common fund, based on voluntary co-operation. We should avoid compulsory acquisition, which is a disagreeable feature of this Bill, and above all we should not subject parties to the co-ordination scheme to the risk of compulsory sale without the option of cash. We believe that our measures would secure ample opportunity of public representation as to fares and facilities such as, I submit, is not sufficiently secured in this Bill by the very nature of its provisions. Our proposals would aim at protection against monopoly, freedom for enterprise and reasonable competition to present stagnation. This Bill falls very far short of those ideals. The monopoly which will be set up is undoubted. Stagnation is likely to result in the long run, not at once I freely admit.
858 The board to be appointed will consist of very distinguished people, men whose names are well known. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Is it not common knowledge that it will? If not, then I withdraw; if the board does not consist of those to whom public expectation points, I must admit that I am wrong, but I think there need be no doubt about them. As the Minister said, we are legislating not for a few years, but for a long time, if not for all time. What will be the situation in 1934 we may conjecture. But what will be the situation in 1954 or 1984, 30, 40 or 50 years hence? What can we expect from a statutory monopoly carrying out a service of this kind, and what must we look for when we look back upon the main line railways in the days of their monopoly and success? Those of us who as traders know what they used to be have very vivid recollection of the rigidity of their attitude and the stagnation that. resulted.
This Bill sets up a statutory monopoly, and in my view and that of many of my hon. friends there is insufficient and too remote opportunity for public control of the monopoly. The monopoly is a serious one. I regard the prospect as a very grim one for the passenger, in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey, and in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth, that "cheap and efficient travelling facilities are as important as cheap food and cheap houses." Is the public going to get those advantages? The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) observed on 6th December:There is not a citizen inside London or outside within 25 miles of Charing Cross, who will not be dependent on this particular transport and will not have a contingent liability to pay extra fares to pay the 5½ per cent."—[OFFICIAI, REPORT, 6th December, 1932; col. 1504, Vol. 272.]In October last, when the carry-over Motion was being debated, a good deal of attention was devoted to the question of compulsion and as to how far compulsion has been removed from the Bill in its present form. Compulsion in the first edition was admitted. How far it was removed in the second edition was the subject under discussion. The Secretary of States for the Colonies sought to make a case for the element of compulsion having been removed, but the learned Attorney- 859 General disposed of that argument in the course of the Committee stage. Compulsion certainly exists. As to what constitutes duress and what, does not, and what constitutes a degree of compulsion and what does not, we might perhaps learn in a discussion on matters of degree. But the learned Attorney-General certainly pointed out that if the Metropolitan Railway, to deal with only one case, had not been prepared to come in under a friendly agreement, there would have been an assessment by means of arbitration as to the value of that undertaking, and, as he said, nobody would suppose otherwise. I think that is compulsion. The matter is put still better by the right hon. Gentleman the noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who said:We are exerting the Sovereign power of this House and the Government to compel people to come into our amalgamation and to do certain things."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1932; col. 1516, Vol. 272.]I think the fact that there will be monopoly is admitted. The fact that there has been compulsion must be admitted also—two defects which were urged against the Bill in its first edition and which still remain with it to-day. If the great Metropolitan Railway Company had to yield to pressure of that sort, what about the smaller parties with whom dealings have been made? Has it not been made extremely clear to them that they had better come to terms in their own interests lest worse befall them? It is true that the Metropolitan Railway Company came to terms under this measure of compulsion, but the terms might be pretty good. They might have made a pretty good bargain, and yielded their freedom against compulsion but exacted a fairly generous price for it. As Sir Leslie Scott said in the course of the Select Committee deliberations:Every man, it is said, has his price,and in the case of the Metropolitan Railways it might have been a very good one. Sir William McLintock pointed out that every man might have his price, but also that every man might have his value. Of course, on that there would be no dispute. Those of us who have opposed this Bill would start with the same foundation, but would build on it a different structure which we believe would be free 860 from many of the great objections which we have urged against this Bill. Of course, we should provide proper co-operation. Everybody admits that is necessary. We should provide for common management and common funds, but we should not aim at or resort to, unified ownership any more than the Blue Report aimed at that, and still less a unified ownership acquired by exerting compulsion.
§ Dr. SALTER
Will the hon, Member say whether by his scheme he thinks he would be able to secure co-ordination without compulsion?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The answer is in the affirmative. The Blue Report advocated unified operation of the major transport services, with a pooling arrangement for the suburban sections of the main line railways which could cover exactly the same area as we are dealing with now; and a scheme providing for common funds and common management without change of ownership, except in the case of small independent omnibus companies which from their very nature would have to be acquired and paid for in cash.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
Oh, no, not as much compulsion as there is now. The scheme also provided for mutual safeguards between the central management and the constituent companies. I think this is a fair representation of the proposals of the Blue Report, which I have always adhered to. On that report were based the two Bills supported by a Conservative Government, with which I voted in concert with many of my colleagues. Public control and questions of development, a very important point, was to be vested in the Minister acting on the advice of an advisory committee, also a very important body, and such technical experts as he should see fit to appoint. Local authorities were to be empowered to make representations to the Minister as to fares and facilities. The difference between the Bill and the Blue Report is that the Bill includes unified ownership compulsorily acquired. That is very different.
I apologise to the House for having kept them so long, but those of us who have given a good deal of time and thought to this question have views which 861 we must put forward in order to justify to our fellow-members the attitude which we have thought right to take up. The advocates of this Bill have sought to make our flesh creep by threats that such is the condition of London transport that if the Bill is not passed fares will have to go up. That is where we join issue with them. We think it is inevitable that if this Bill is passed fares will go up. Advocates of the Bill have also endeavoured to charm us with promises and hopes, but where are the guarantees of these boons which we are likely to receive. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey referred to the very important report regarding the transport communications of South-East London issued under the aegis of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. Among other things which that committee advocated was that certain steps should be taken by the Southern Railway Company. These have not been taken, if I may rely on the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth. Why? Because the Southern Railway have spent their money not on that, but on electrifying the main line to Brighton. I had much rather they had devoted it to carrying out the recommendations of the Traffic Advisory Committee and left the main line railway to Brighton to take care of itself until a more favourable occasion.
What assurances, beyond the vague ones mentioned by the Minister, have we that the advantages for which we are asked to pay a price will ever really be ours? I am not sure if any hon. Member in the course of the Debate has referred to this matter, but the "Times" has mentioned the chaotic state of London passenger transport. That seems hard to suppose and impossible to accept. When one travels about the streets of London one does not see much signs of chaos. We see the busy omnibuses picking up and setting down at their appointed stopping places. Those of us who travel by public vehicles know and are familiar with them. We see the Underground thronged with passengers. We know the Tubes have been extended, and we are struck also by the great improvement in Tube stations. Is that a sign of chaos or impending collapse? It is incredible. It may be a very desirable thing for certain interests that this Bill should pass, but is it needed by the public? I 862 have said before that the passenger transport of London is the admiration of the world. There is no question about that.
The hon. Member for West Bermondsey referred to street congestion. But that is not the care of this Bill. This Bill does not deal with it. That is the care and responsibility of the London and Home Counties Advisory Committee, and very well they do their job. As regards long distance transport, that is the function of the Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1930. Reference has been made to the great economies which are to be effected and which should relieve our anxieties as to the burden, which is to be cast on the travelling public. Where are they to come from, and what guarantee have we of them? I am aware that the London Midland and Scottish Railway claims to have effected economies of £14,000,000 in three years. But the management of that great undertaking is different from that of the London Electric Railways and the omnibuses and the Underground Combine. I do not believe it possible that there should be such margins of economy as have not yet been taken into account as to allow the Underground Combine to make enormous economies of that kind all of a sudden. I credit their management with far too close attention to detail to render such a thing possible. The financial side has been dealt with by the Minister, and I will only repeat that falling receipts, additional commitments, and the increasing cost of certain commodities, render it inevitable in our judgment, on the figures placed before us, that the board on asuming office will find themselves faced with—let us put it moderately—a financial situation of great difficulty. I think the Government have not given us much proof to the contrary.
The Government demand the passage of this Bill in spite of protests. The Measure in its present form in my judgment is politically undesirable. It constitutes a precedent against the public interest. It imposes compulsion. It confers monopoly without any safeguards or control in the public interest. It gives no security to fares or services. It constitutes a board of management not effectively responsible to Parliament or the people in the area. It has been resisted and is resisted by the London 863 County Council, by the majority of the metropolitan borough councils and the metropolitan boroughs joint standing committee, responsible and important local authorities in the London area. I contend that now as two years ago there is no mandate for the Bill. I do not think I can improve on the words used two years ago by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) who said:The real fact that remains is that this matter has teen an issue at the elections, and it is ridiculous for anyone on the opposite side to say that there is a mandate for this Bill from the ratepayers of London, the "travelling public of London, or from any of the interests which are represented by the shareholders in the big concerns."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1931; col. 144, Vol. 250.]As regards the shareholders in the big concerns their position may have altered in the course of the last two years. It may be that the exercise of that compulsion to which I have referred may have been so far mitigated as to alter their position in some degree, but the point remains that there is no mandate from the ratepayers of London, from the travelling public, or from any other interest, save those which I have endeavoured to indicate. What the Government ought to have done I have tried to point out. They ought to have gone back—as we would propose to do—to the Blue Report. They ought to have revived the two previous Bills and amended them to meet the altered circumstances of today. They would then have produced a Measure free from the grave objections in the public interest to which I have drawn attention in the case of this Bill.
It seems what may be called an irony of modern democracy that this Government should find themselves carrying through, indeed pushing through, a Measure started by the Government which they have replaced, a Measure little altered—insufficiently altered—from the one which they denounced and which was promoted by their predecessors. I submit that there is not that need for the Measure which the Minister has tried to claim. I deplore the Government's haste in this matter. I think they have persuaded themselves of an emergency which does not exist, and that they have become the not unwilling dupes of their own unnecessary forebodings. Because 864 I am satisfied that this Bill, if it receives the Royal Assent in its present form, will subject the travelling public of London to grave disadvantage, and because I believe it to be my duty to those whom I endeavour to represent, it is my intention to press my Amendment to a Division and to vote against the Bill.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir PHILLIP DAWSON
I beg to second the Amendment. I agree with everything said by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, and I will not add anything on the lines on which he has dealt with this matter. I should like in the first place to thank the Minister of Transport and the Attorney-General for the very charming and pleasant way in which they have turned down all the various Amendments for which we have asked in connection with this Bill. They have done so in such a charming manner that one can scarcely feel annoyed with them, much as one would like to. The Minister in his very complete exposition of the intentions of this Bill pointed out that the tubes, and the extensions of some of the existing underground railways were only possible by means of guarantees or grants. What will happen now? The expense will have to be borne by the travelling public. It will not then be a matter for the ratepayers who can make a fuss when electing their representatives on the borough and county councils, nor will it be for those who elect members of Parliament, because Parliament will say "We have created this Board; they are carrying on the work and we have no responsibility for them." The travelling public will be told that if they want tubes they will have to pay for them, and it will only mean shifting the burden from one shoulder on to another shoulder which will find it more difficult to bear.
I can only touch on the financial issues involved in the proposals of the Bill. It is remarkable that the majority of London members who have given careful consideration to this Bill—and I think practically all the Members of the Conservative party on the London County Council which is responsible for a large transport system—are opposed to the Bill in its present form. It is remarkable that a Bill which affects not only the population of London, but the population within 25 miles of Charing Cross should be decided and the destinies of those 865 people in regard to transport should be settled by the votes of members who have nothing to do with London.
I firmly believe that if this matter had been left to Members who represent London interests and the interests of the people directly affected by the Bill, this Measure would have been thrown out. I also believe firmly that had the Bill been submitted to a free vote of the House it would never have had much chance of passing. The whips have been put on however, and the result now cannot be in doubt. At the same time much as I dislike voting against the party to which I have always belonged, to which I shall always be faithful, in this case I find that I must be faithful first to the people of that part of London which I represent in this House. I have recently received from the Town Clerk of Lewisham a letter dated 11th February dealing with this Bill as follows:The provisions of this Bill have been under consideration by the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, and at their meeting held on 6th February, 1933, resolutions were passed in the following terms:That the committee do express the strong opinion that the London Passenger Transport Bill is objectionable as a whole and should be strenuously opposed.That copies of the foregoing resolution be forwarded to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transport and the London County Councils, andThat the constituent councils be requested to communicate with their respective Members of Parliament urging them to oppose the Bill.I have been directed to ask you to be good enough to oppose the provisions of the Bill which is not in the interests of London as a whole and is generally considered to be financially unsound.My hon. Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) who spoke during the Committee stage and is very much in favour of the Bill is the nominee of this Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Committee on the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee.
§ Sir HENRY JACKSON
I must correct that statement at once. I am not the representative of the Standing Joint Committee at all. I am the representative of the Metropolitan Boroughs, and I would ask my hon. Friend, since he is giving information to the House, how many Metropolitan Boroughs are advising their Members to vote to-night against the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Sir P. DAWSON
I am informed that that body represents 29 of the London Boroughs, and that the resolution which I have read was passed by a large majority. It may be asked how it is that this objection has only been brought forward recently. I suggest it is for the reason that in any case, those boroughs which are represented by municipal reformers on the county council, or which have a (majority of municipal reformers on their own councils, after the strenuous opposition of the Conservative Members to these proposals in the time of Mr. Herbert Morrison as Minister did not for a moment believe that the pass would be sold or that two of the great objections which they always had to the proposals would remain untouched in this Bill. The objection to the proposed transfer of ownership is the most serious of all. The method in which this ownership will be paid for, as a result of this Bill, must in the opinion of those councils and in my opinion be to raise the fares.
May I say that in dealing with this matter the information on which my remarks are based is the best that I have been able to procure on these matters. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment asked the Minister to tell us the total capital involved. We are told that the calculations according to which various authorities are to be bought out, are based on the results of the years 1928, 1929 and 1930. The Minister is hopeful—and I trust that his hopes will be justified—that we may experience in the next few years times as good as those which we have had in the past, but the latest published results of the various undertakings are not very encouraging. Yet these various undertakings we are told are to be bought out on the basis of the earnings made during comparatively good years. I suggest that that is not a hopeful prospect from the point of view of the fares which will have to be charged in order to pay interest on the capital involved.
The figures which I have—and I give them to the House for what they are worth—show that the total decline in receipts for 1932 as compared with 1930 is £1,200,000 made up as follows: Underground group £755,931; Metropolitan Railway £182,883; London County Council trams £247,800; other trams, independent omnibuses, etc. £20,000. 867 Therefore, present conditions are worse than those of last year and are worse than the aggregate of 1928–1929 and 1930. But in addition since the Bill was introduced in 1931 the price of petrol has materially increased. On 28th April, 1931, there was an addition to the petrol tax of 2d. per gallon; on 11th September, 1931, there was another addition to the tax of 2d. per gallon and there was a rise in the price of petrol on 14th September, 1932, of 3d. a gallon. The average increase in the prices of petrol of various classes, as far as I have been able to estimate, is roughly about 4d. a gallon and the omnibus companies of London have a total estimated annual consumption of petrol in the neighbourhood of 30,000,000 gallons. An increase of 4d. a gallon is therefore an increase in the cost of working these undertakings of £500,000 per annum and that added to the figure already given represents a total difference of £1,700,000 compared with the figures for the three years on which the purchase is based. Sir William McLintock in his pro forma statement estimates a possible saving, but I do not think that that saving can possibly attain anything like the figure of £1,700,000.
I suggest that there will be a deficit on the estimate of Sir William McLintock of about £1,000,000 per annum. If the board is faced with such a deficit where will they find the money to extend tubes or increase services? They will have to find some way of making economies far beyond anything which is possible merely by better co-operation or co-ordination. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend who has already spoken that, having regard to the excellent and economic management of the Underground group Messrs. Tillings and the Metropolitan Railway, any possible saving by obviating expenses will prove to be smaller than some people seem to expect.
The board will have the alternatives of reducing facilities or of increasing fares. It should be remembered that the Underground and Metropolitan Railways carry only something like 12 per cent. of the total number of people carried in London, the remainder travelling by omnibus. The existing omnibus undertakings are perfectly happy and are earning a very good revenue, and under present conditions fares would not be raised. If, under present conditions, an attempt were made to 868 raise fares, I doubt very much whether any permission would be given to do so, but under this Bill, if the people were to complain of the raising of fares, the board would say, "We are under the obligation to pay the interest on this huge capital, and therefore we are very sorry, but fares must go up." What will the unfortunate public be able to do then? 'Nothing. The local authorities, who are most interested in the transportation of passengers to and from their homes morning and night, will have no say in the matter, and Parliament will have nothing to say either to the board which they have appointed with these great powers and obligations. I submit that that is not the proper way of dealing with this matter.
I do not see—and I entirely agree with the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend—why the ownership has been transferred. If it had remained where it was, and the unified management and pooling arrangements had been made, then whatever profit was reasonably earned would be earned, and whatever fares could reasonably be charged would be charged, and the net revenue would be divided between the different owners. The Minister suggested that only preference stocks would be receiving a guaranteed interest, but we are sorry to see to-day that there are many railways, extremely well managed, which have not been able to do that and that as a result some of the securities which for many years have been trustee securities are no longer so. From the point of view of the railways with which an agreement has been reached, I think they have made a very good deal for their shareholders. I do not object to that in the slightest. They have looked after the interests of those to whom they were responsible, but I am here, with my hon. and gallant Friend, to look after the interests of the people of Greater London to whom we are responsible. We are here to see that the position is clearly presented to the House, and we have done our best to show how dangerous the Bill will be to London's interests if it once becomes an accomplished fact.
It is rather remarkable that only those undertakings which have such influence that it could be exercised on the Government have had their undertakings purchased at an agreed figure, but when 1 asked that Messrs. Tilling, one of the best 869 managed and oldest omnibus undertakings in this country, should be taken over on the same terms, I was refused. Obviously the reason is that those who had to be bought have had to receive the price that had to be paid to them for their support, but those who have not had to be bought will have to make the best bargain they can, and I am afraid it will be nothing like as good as that made by the railways. I think the whole matter is deplorable from the point of view that this Bill is being forced on London, on a large number of people who do not realise what is happening, and who, when the Bill is passed, will be entirely inarticulate and unable to express their dissatisfaction with what the Government have done.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I think the House will agree that we have listened to two very interesting and powerful speeches from the two hon. Members behind who have preceded me. Each of them speaks with great authority upon this matter. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) not only speaks with authority as coming from a body which rules over a community as important and with as great interests as many of the nations that assert themselves so vociferously at Geneva, but as a member of the London County Council he has necessarily—
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The right hon. and learned Gentleman does me too much honour. I have certain associations with the London County Council, but I am not a member of it.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Then all that I can say is that my hon. and gallant Friend is very worthy to be a member of it. His advocacy of the point of view or what is supposed to be the point of view of the London County Council certainly deserves a halo of glory from that body and the earliest—shall I say—co-option that could possibly be adopted. Both of these hon. Members have spoken with both authority and experience. I, for my own part, although much less well equipped by nature, nevertheless have had in this matter some experience, which I think entitles me to address the House upon this very important subject. I have been for several years a director of the Underground Electric Rail ways 870 Company, which not only has holding interests in all the Tubes, in the London General Omnibus Company, and in certain other subsidiary omnibus interests, but is also associated with certain tramway interests in the traffic area of London; and all of these matters are very familiar to me.
I must say that I regret that this connection which I have had with the London transport system is to come to an end, because it has provided me with, if I may so put it, a window which opens upon a scene where the ebb and flow of a great tide of vast human interests are of perpetual interest to me, and not only of interest, but of education and illumination. But while I am sorry that this occupation is to come to an end, I am convinced that something like this Bill is absolutely essential if London traffic is not going to end in chaos and confusion. I say something like this Bill. With regard to it, I am sure that nothing so valuable has ever before been put forward. I say more; I say that if the House were to reject it, they would do a very great disservice to London, in spite of what the two hon. Members have said with regard to it, and if we were to delay, to wait for a better Bill, I am certain that we should get a worse Bill; and I say that from the point of view of Conservative Members who sit around me in this House.
I am not going to enter upon the details of the Bill—the Third Reading of it is not the occasion to do that—but before I pass to a major issue I should like to say a. word upon the question of finance, which has been introduced by the two hon. Members who have preceded me. The first thing which occurs to me upon that matter is, that if, as they say, the finance of this Bill is going to break down when all the various interests of London transport are collected into one whole, then it is going to break down much worse if they are all left separate and in sections; and so far from their ideal of cheap fares being realised by remaining as we are, either bankruptcy will occur to certain sections or the fares will have to go up. The only chance that you have of keeping moderate fares in London, such as no other part of the world is enjoying to the same extent, is by getting some such combination as is sought to be achieved by this Bill.
871 I have heard some extraordinary propositions from behind me this afternoon which I should scarcely have expected to hear from Conservative Benches. Indeed, while I have been listening to this Debate, it has seemed to me that an hon. Member who spoke from the opposite side might well have come from here and that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson) might well have come from the other side; for what is the doctrine which he puts before us? It is that the people who have put capital into this great organisation are not to be entitled to get their due reward from it, that after they have, for a long period of years, had no return for their investment and for two or three years have enjoyed only a moderate revenue, they now ought to have their interest bought out upon the basis of the worst years ever known in our history. Is that good Conservative doctrine; is it fair or just to the people who have invested in these concerns; and is it to be said that now the modest amount of return which this Bill does not even guarantee but suggests for them is to be denied them? Does my hon. Friend say that the figures in the Bill are too high? I should like to know upon what basis that is said. Is it said upon the basis that it is too high a return on the capital, or that after all the misfortunes that the shareholders have endured they are now to be bought out on a basis which would not by any means represent even a modicum of appropriate return upon their investment?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
So far as the purchase figure fixed for the Underground Combine, which is the term customarily used, is concerned, I do not think any basis on which the working out of the purchase was fixed has been explained to this House. A suggestion has been made that it is on the basis of 19½ years' purchase, but that has never been confirmed or refuted. I am afraid we do not know.
§ Sir R. HORNE
It is not for me at this stage of the Debate to begin to enter into the details upon which these things are based—it is obvious that that would take far too much time—but at any rate this can be said broadly upon the whole subject, that it was gone into by 872 the Select Committee which studied this matter, and I think the House may very well accept these figures from them. I should like to add this, as one other broad consideration in connection with the finance of the Bill, that although times have changed since these designs were made, nevertheless all the various interests will be affected equally; that is to say, that so long as the proportions which are stated in the Bill are kept, then everybody comes down equally in this time of depression. There are only some outside interests, particularly the local interests which have got special consideration, which have to be assessed separately. But these are to be considered in the light of the amounts which are given to the others, and accordingly it seems that the scheme can all be worked out quite fairly. That is as much as I am going to say upon this recondite question of finance. I am not entirely ignorant of either finance in general or of the finance of some of the very important undertakings concerned in this matter, and I can assure the House with complete confidence not only that the finance of London transport will be greatly facilitated by an organisation such as is contemplated by this Bill, but that, on the contrary, unless we can get some such combination as is here suggested, the finance of London transport will become impossible.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
Will the right hon. Gentleman be so kind as to inform the House of the number of years' purchase that are being paid? We have tried to find out, and we do not know. I am sure that my right hon. Friend must know.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have said that I cannot go into details in this matter. The Third Reading of the Bill is not the proper moment to ask me that question, and it is not my business to give details to the House. At any rate, the House can have some confidence in the committees which have sat on this matter and considered the question of finance, and I am perfectly certain that, on the broad issue, what I have stated is true. I come back to the main point to which I have asked the attention of the House. The finance of London transport cannot be managed upon the footing of existing conditions.
873 A rather prejudicial consideration which has been constantly urged by the opponents of this Measure in the House is that it is a Socialist Measure. More prejudice has been created against it by that single word than by any argument that has been advanced by anybody upon any actual Clause in the Bill. Mr. Herbert Morrison has been constantly quoted as saying that this was the thin end of the wedge of Socialism. There are a great many words that are loosely used, and if I might venture a suggestion, I am rather inclined to think that Mr. Herbert Morrison used that word as much to cajole the members of his own party as to frighten us. We ought to examine this Bill as it is presented without regard to descriptions of that kind. I am sure that the House will be perfectly willing to do that. I venture to say that if you do not have an arrangement for managing London traffic on the principle of complete combination you will inevitably lapse into real Socialism. Let me give something of the history of this subject. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham, using an American word, which is worse than any of the alleged American prepositions—the word "combine"— made a reference to the organisation to which I myself have the honour to belong. What is the history of that combination? I do not know whether the House realises that but for the prescience of those connected with the matter in buying up the London General Omnibus Company, the Underground Railways of London belonging to the Underground combination would have been in bankruptcy. London cannot do without that means of transport. What would then have had to happen? The State would have had to take them over, and that is what the State would still have to do if you played the fool with the organisation that you have got. You would get real Socialism then, real nationalisation.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Do I understand that the tubes, packed with passengers, are so badly run that they are run at a loss?
§ Sir R. HORNE
They 'are not badly run. London gets cheap fares, and I hear protests that they may have to be raised under the new arrangements. Over all, London gets the cheapest fares in the world, and the 'advantage given to the 874 London passenger is greater than that enjoyed by the citizens of Paris, New York or Berlin. Think of the protests that would come if you began to suggest putting up fares. I must tell the House that it is only the combination with the London General Omnibus Company that has saved these particular railways from bankruptcy and from being taken over by the State.
What has been the history since then? It may be said, "Very well, that was private enterprise, and private enterprise can still do these things." The fact that the organisation headed by Lord Ashfield took over the London General Omnibus Company did not prevent other omnibuses from coming or; the streets, and you had constantly new omnibuses—which were opprobriously called "pirates," but let me call them independent omnibuses-coming in to take 'a part of the traffic which the London General Omnibus Company had got. What did they do? Do you imagine that they went on to routes that did not pay? Nothing of the kind. They collected on routes which were the best paying, and if the General Omnibus Company had not been there to serve the outlying districts there were many districts in London which would not have had any omnibus traffic at all. It must be remembered that we are dealing with an enormous community for which transport must be provided, not merely on the routes that pay best, but on all the other routes that pay very badly or not at all. The outside people got the benefit of the good routes.
What was the result? The London General Omnibus Company was constantly buying up these independent omnibuses in order to prevent this inroad upon their traffic, but that was a very costly process and could not go on for ever. Now there is some kind of safeguard by the licensing arrangement whereby not more omnibuses can be licensed than the licensing authority is willing to sanction. That, however, started when there was already a glut of omnibuses, and that is why you see today on some of the omnibus routes of the City 'an enormous congestion of omnibuses running half empty. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham asked what this Bill will do for congestion. Once all these interests are under one hand unnecessary omnibuses will not be kept running on those routes. They will supply 875 only the number of omnibuses that are necessary to carry the traffic. At the present time on the best routes far more omnibuses are running than are necessary. You can make great saving by getting all these interests under one combined authority. Surely that must be obvious.
Let me come down to the present position. If London is to be served, there must be a constant development of transport systems which are necessary to meet the needs of the people, and you cannot always wait until the population is there. The Underground Railways have struck out into new suburban districts before the traffic was there to justify them, but they were bound to do it or it would have been impossible for them to meet the needs of the people when the demand came. How has that been done? Private enterprise could never have done it alone; it has had to seek the aid of the Government. It got the advantage of the trade facilities scheme by which many millions of money were borrowed. Upon another occasion they applied under a scheme of the late Socialist Government to obtain capital for these extensions. Why is that? The reason comes down to this, and this is the justification of this Bill, that it is impossible to find the capital necessary for the carrying on of the transport system of London unless upon the basis of the whole asset of London transport. You cannot do it as long as it is in competitive sections. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham, with great fairness and sincerity, no doubt, but, I think, not fully recognising the position which those of us who are dealing with these matters have had to meet and confront, says, "Let us have healthy competition."
I tell the House with knowledge that, in a situation such as we have, where it is necessary to have transport for such an enormous community, you cannot get the capital necessary to run healthy competition and meet the growing needs of this expanding community. You cannot get it except on the basis of a monopoly. Nothing less than the whole asset of London transport can form the basis of the finance which you require in order to make that transport effective. That is the position we have got to-day. It is the reason this Bill is here. I have had 876 intimate connection with this matter, and I am talking from knowledge. The Blue Report of 1927 to which my hon. Friend referred undoubtedly is the starting point for the consideration of the whole question. The Committee which drew up that report found that chaos and confusion could not be allowed to continue, and they asserted two things—that you must have a common fund, and that you must have common management. That is to say, you must have a fund out of which all interests can be compensated, because many parts of the transport system must necessarily be run at a loss and yet these cannot be done without. Many tramways in London to-day are running at a dead loss, and if you take them away, and do not provide something in their place, you will rob a large section of the community of its necessary form of transport. These things go on all the time. Therefore, you must have a pool out of which all the means of transport can be financed. A common pool is the first consideration.
The next thing is common management and that, of course, is necessary because you wish to be able to shut down a glut of omnibuses in one place and shut up an unnecessary tramline in another in order to make the organisation operate at a profit. But my hon. Friend, having announced these two propositions, amazes me by saying, "The merit of that report and the merit of the scheme that followed upon it was that there was no compulsion upon anybody." How can you make a co-ordinated organisation to operate the traffic of a town like London without compulsion? If I am managing a tramway system and refuse to come into the combination, what can you do with me? Without compulsion, where does common management come in? Then my right hon. Friend referred to the common pool, but if I am in control of an omnibus system and say that I will not pool with him, where does his common pool come in if he cannot compel me to become a part of the arrangement?
Reference has been made to previous Bills. In 1929 there were produced on the Floor of this House and afterwards sent to a Committee, Bills backed by the Underground Electric Company and the London County Council, but these were purely enabling Bills. They enabled the parties to enter into an arrangement for 877 co-ordinating the traffic of London, but there were no compulsory powers. I was concerned in many consultations on the Clauses of those Bills, and from the first we saw that their weakness was that we could not apply compulsion and that small owners or interests could easily defeat the whole scheme. Even at the last, if I remember rightly, we had not got a binding arrangement between the London County Council and the combination of underground railways and omnibuses. How, then, could it be certain that those Bills would succeed. I venture to say to the House that the present Bill is a great advance upon those Measures. I do not say it is perfect in its details, because there are many things in it which I would like to alter, but it is far better than anything which has yet been brought forward. When people call it a Socialist Measure I reply that I am not afraid of names.
What are the objections which are to be taken to this Bill? It is said that the shareholders are not very well treated and will not be quite certain of their returns; but the same hon. Member who referred with sympathy to the shareholders seemed quite prepared to destroy them when it came to the terms on which the shareholders were to be dealt with. I think the shareholders have been wise to accept the terms. Indeed, in the combination with which I am connected, the whole of them accepted the terms at meetings at which they had an opportunity to voice their views. I am perfectly certain that their hopes are not extravagant, but, as compared with the old cut-throat competitive system, this Bill will afford them a measure of security which otherwise they would not have had. As to the local authorities, I feel that they have been put in a very excellent position. Two members of the local authorities are to be upon this very small management board.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Well, two of them are in the position of assisting to choose the members of the Board. I thank my hon. Friend for his interjection. Two of them are members of the electoral college; and on the Traffic Advisory Board, which is the most powerful element, it seems to 878 me, in the whole of this system, there are about 23 representatives of local authorities out of 40; so they are in a position to dominate every situation as it arises, and in particular they are in a position to move the Minister, the Railway Bates Tribunal and the Advisory Board and to make representations such as they feel may be necessary in the circumstances. So far as the public are concerned, their rights are entirely defended, as it appears to me, because upon all questions of rates, the adequacy of the services and the proper running and development of the system, there is an appeal to the Railway Bates Tribunal, and I know of no more practical body of a judicial kind in this country. So the public are safeguarded.
Then, what is the position of the four main railway lines running into London from outside? People have talked about Socialism in connection with this Bill, but I do not think there are any bodies more averse to anything in the shape of Socialism or nationalisation than the boards of the four great railway companies. It is a thing they abhor and detest, as my hon. Friends opposite very well know. What action did they take in regard to the Bill? They have been so convinced of the necessity of combination in the organisation of London transport that they have pooled their receipts from the local traffic of London, and have taken upon themselves the burden of guaranteeing the Metropolitan Railway Company a certain dividend upon its stocks for a period of years. I am amused at the kind of criticism passed upon the main line railway companies. One speaker gets up to say "This is something in favour of the railway companies," and another speaker, sitting beside him, gets up to say "How you are throwing away the interests of the railway shareholders without consulting them, making them give a guarantee which they would not have given if they knew about it! "Those two statements cannot live together. I am a director of a main line railway company, and I can tell the House with the greatest possible candour why it is that we have become a party to this scheme. It is because we are absolutely convinced that the transport of London cannot be managed if there are anything like competing interests in the area. I think that I have 879 said enough to commend this Bill to the House. The chief objection which I had to the original Bill was that it left it to the Minister to elect the board to manage this scheme. I saw in that, a very dangerous innovation, because it meant political control of a great industrial organisation, and as soon as you bring in political control, with the possibility of appointments being made from political motives rather than from those which ought to guide men in the conduct of a commercial or industrial organisation, you not only create difficulty but you create danger. This Bill eliminates what, in my view, was the worst element in the original Bill presented by Mr. Morrison, by providing that an outside body shall elect the board. It provides, also, that in all quarrels or controversies that arise an outside body like the Railway Rates Tribunal is to decide what ought to be done. This Bill, so far as I can read it, completely eliminates political influence. I say "So far as I can read it." I cannot imagine that the Minister is in a position to do anything more than is purely administrative.
§ Sir R. HORNE
For incompetence, or for some other very good reason; but one cannot imagine that a Minister is going to use his power to get rid of people for political reasons when they are doing their work well.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I really cannot believe that we are committing to the Minister any 1 power which he can in any way use unscrupulously, and accordingly I venture to think that the worst elements of the old Bill have been removed. I hope that my colleagues on these benches will agree that I am not a bad exponent of the Conservative faith, and I hope they will think, also, that I am not unduly tainted with the Socialist faith. But let me say this about Conservatism. In the Conservative party we have never been ruled by dogma; we were never doctrinaires. We always took a different attitude to the affairs of life from that of the 880 Liberals. They have been dominated in their political allegiance by words like "Peace, retrenchment and reform," without regard to the particular circumstances to which they had to apply them. Provided the great constitutional doctrines of our party were observed, we were always prepared to meet every situation as it arose, and, without undue regard to fetishes, come to a practical result. Conservatism is much more an attitude of mind than a creed or a doctrine. Anyone who looks back over the last century will find that it was always Conservative statesmen who were responsible for the great changes made in the lives of the people, often by actions which were objected to by all the doctrinaires of the Manchester School. Sometimes when I am listening to speeches from these benches I am inclined to think that some of my hon. Friends are reverting to the laissez faire doctrine which we long ago disowned.
In dealing with the problems facing us to-day we have to take things as we find them. I am no lover of monopoly, but I tell the House frankly that you cannot manage London's transport without a monopoly. Of course, we must safeguard the people. But you cannot finance these great undertakings, or provide for the necessary developments which London demands, unless you get as the basis of your finance the whole asset of London transport; and I do not think I am erring against Tory doctrine if, when I find myself faced with a practicable proposition like this, I advise the House, with full conviction, to accept the Bill presented to it.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Miss PICKFORD
As a Member for a London Division, largely a dormitory area, I feel that I should be doing less than my duty to my constituents if I did not express the great apprehension which I feel about this Bill. Like the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home), I am not afraid of the bogy-man of Socialism being raised if it is a Measure which will produce what is good for the people, but I cannot convince myself that this Measure will be for their benefit. We have been told that great changes have been made in this Bill, but I cannot feel that what was a wicked Socialist Measure when it was left to the Minister 881 to appoint seven members to the board becomes a perfectly innocuous national Measure when the appointing trustees select seven persons to the same kind of board to carry out the same policy. I dislike the powers of the board. It is the creation of a monopoly that I fear, and I fear it in the interests of the travelling public. I do not wish for one moment to go over the arguments that have already been brought forward, but I fail to understand how, if trams are run at a loss or if the Underground Railway is run at a loss, the omnibuses are to make up those losses without some enlargement and increase in the fares to the travelling public.
The experience of the House and of history will show that a monopoly has never been in the interests of the people as a whole, and that it has not produced a plentiful and cheap service, but far otherwise; that it has been not only the competition from outside but the fear of the competition from outside that has, all over the country, kept the transport services more or less up to date. Probably there is not one of us but can bring forward instances of where the existing transport, whether it be tram or rail, has not been improved by the competition of the independent omnibuses coming from outside and by being obliged by that competition to make improvements in methods and working. This Bill creates a monopoly as regards road and rail both above ground and under ground.
By a new Clause which was introduced yesterday, and which I welcomed, that monopoly is extended to water. That was inevitable because, under the existing law, the London County Council was the only power that could put boats on the river and had not done so, and unless those powers, before vested in the London County Council, had been transferred to the board, there would not have been any possibility of using them. That Clause also provided that if the board did not or would not provide those facilities, they should be provided by private enterprise. There is only one element which is left for private enterprise, and I hope that I, as well as other hon. Members, may live to see the day when an enterprising private company puts the first service of aerobuses into the air.
882 I feel the gravest apprehension as to what will be the future for the travelling public and as to whether they will have the same facilities. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead has said that many omnibuses will inevitably be taken off, because in certain parts of the route they do not run to full capacity. Is it the case that they do not run in other parts of the route to full capacity Is it likely that any company would run omnibuses which were not required? It would be far too great a financial undertaking. Therefore, it is inevitable, as he said, that services will be decreased. I fear also that it is inevitable that fares will be increased. The right hon. Gentleman, referring to the financial arrangements, said that the Third Reading was not the appropriate time to enter into details. The whole of the House will agree with him on that, because the financial arrangements ought to have been made clear to the House at a very much earlier moment. We are obliged to accept or reject this Bill very much in ignorance of what those financial provisions will be, and without knowing what the financial provisions will be it is impossible to tell what will be the effect of them upon the travelling public.
In those circumstances I could not possibly vote in support of this Bill. The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson) said that he quoted a resolution which he had received from his local council. If I had received a similar resolution from the borough of Hammersmith, which I represent, I should have felt obliged to go into the Lobby in support of the Resolution which was moved by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) and supported by the hon. Member for West Lewisham. But as the Borough of Hammersmith has not sent forward such a resolution—I fear that many in Hammersmith are not aware of the dangers to which this Bill exposes them and therefore have not voiced their objections—I shall abstain from voting.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The hon. Lady the Member for North Hammersmith (Miss Pickford) has based her objections to the Bill upon the monopoly which is granted to the board. She seems to view with apprehension the granting of any monopoly for anything. Surely this House and this country have become sufficiently 883 accustomed to municipal monopolies and other monopolies of all kinds, where it has been found essential in the interests of the population to take over essential services, and to take them out of the area of private profit and private enterprise. We may, even in matters of transport, look to such great areas as Birmingham, where, no doubt under the guidance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the complete monopoly has been granted to the municipality as regards the whole of the transport facilities within the town and area of Birmingham. I have never heard it suggested that that great monopoly enterprise does not deal adequately with the traffic problems of Birmingham, and does not supply the citizens with an ample and cheap form of transport.
The speech which interested me enormously was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Billhead (Sir R. Home). We there see the inexorable logic of experience leading him along the path to Socialism. He is one who has been at the centre—I should say at least two centres—around which this Bill circulates; first of all, the London traffic combine, and then the great main line railways. He told us that there were only two alternatives—some form of combination such as the present one, or bankruptcy and taking over by the State. We appreciate, of course, that the end of all capitalist enterprise is not the grave but bankruptcy and then taking over by the State, and the right hon. Gentleman realises that as well as we do.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I should not like to suggest that he was in that category. That is no doubt why he is starting along the far better course of Socialism, at which goal we hope he will arrive. Then he will join this side of the House rather than remain where he is. The reasons which he pointed out, and which are perfectly sound reasons, were really that it is absolutely essential from a financial point of view that the whole of the London traffic area should be run as one single transport undertaking. Otherwise you could not possibly get the capital which is constantly required for the extension of the services into new areas, and for maintaining the increased services that are constantly demanded by 884 the population of London. In order to bring about that single body, it is, as he pointed out, absolutely essential to have compulsory powers.
The alternative solution was suggested, I think, in 1928 or 1929, when the Traffic Combine and the London County Council brought forward an enabling Bill, which everybody must have realised could not possibly have worked, because they would have left outside the area of the combination a whole lot of independent bodies that would have been able to butt into their area and to take away portions of lucrative traffic which at all times would have led to a great hazard for the large central enterprise. It is that necessity for providing transport, not because it produces a profit but as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, because it is wanted by the people of London, that leads to the necessity of basing the board upon a monopoly. That monopoly must either be a monopoly in the hands of private individuals, or, in some form or another, must be run for the public good, and not merely for the private good.
We believe that this Bill as it stands is tending to make the worst of both worlds. It is neither accomplishing a real public service under public ownership, which is one logical method of carrying it out, nor is it making it a great private trust monopoly, which might be another way of doing the same thing—we think a very inefficient way, and one which is not likely to lead to the best development of London transport. The one factor which we think it is most unfortunate to find removed from this Bill, is the factor of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead called "political control." I fail to understand the mentality which always looks upon Ministers as potentially unscrupulous people, even Conservative Ministers, whereas a banker, chartered accountant, or lawyer is always, apparently, a scrupulous person.
§ Sir R. HORNE
A banker acts for excellent banking reasons, but politicians do not always act in the best interests of the State.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
There are some people who believe that banking reasons are not always in the best interests of the State. A great many people have stood up in this House and said so from time to time. 885 Even the right hon. Gentleman himself has said that the policy of the Bank of England has not always been in the best national interest. All I am saying is that there is no reason why one should suspect Ministers of behaving in a less desirable way as regards the appointment of persons to run a board, than a representative of the banks, the chairman or president of the Law Society or anybody else. A very important aspect of the problem is how far the public are going to be able to control. The right hon. Gentleman, I imagine, approves of this Bill strongly because there is an element of public rather than private control; it is a public board which is going to provide service, not in the interests of shareholders, but in the interests of the travelling public of London, which he said in his speech was the essential thing. If that be so, we believe it is essential that there should be some element of Parliamentary control in order to exercise that public control, and that it cannot be exercised in any other way. That is why we are so opposed to the setting up of what I may call this comic opera system of appointing trustees. Its only counterpart is to be found in the "Times," and that does not seem to us to be any very good reason for keeping it in a London Transport Bill.
There are, however, other reasons why we believe that this Bill is not nearly as good as the one which preceded it. I do not want at this stage to go into any of the details of those reasons, but I do want to draw the attention of the House to one aspect of the matter. After the Bill had been through the gruelling experience of the Joint Select Committee, it came out as a Measure which had been considered by the semi-judicial mind of the Joint Select Committee after long and careful argument. The Government then made a great many alterations, but all from one side, and they converted it into what we believe is now a lop-sided Bill. If the whole thing had been reconsidered, if all the financial provisions and everything else had been reconsidered, there might have been some reason for going into the entire matter again. We think it was most unfortunate that only. the Conservative mind was brought to bear on it after it had been through the Joint Select Committee, and not a national mind in any sense of the 886 word. That has been perfectly obvious as the Bill has gone through this House.
Then the question arises whether what is left of the Bill, in the form in which it now remains, is worth supporting or not, and, on the whole, we have come to the conclusion that, in view of the desperate straits of the London traffic problem, it is essential for the people of London that some co-ordinated monopoly should be set up. This form of co-ordinated monopoly is not the one that we should have liked. We think that it has no relation to Socialism, except as a faroff passage to Socialism. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it cannot be called Socialism. Nevertheless, in view of the fact that it does offer some approach to a solution of the problem, we certainly shall not go into the Lobby against it.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM RAY
I am rather interested in the statements made by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), because I think he is paving the way for a retreat for the party which was originally responsible for this Measure when its full unpopularity becomes apparent. The hon. and learned Gentleman is going to support the Bill, but, at the same time, he points out certain defects which are in it now and were not in. it when it was frankly known as a Socialist Measure; and so, when London passengers, in all probability, find fares increased and facilities reduced, the party opposite will be in a position to say to London, "If only our Measure had been the one that was adopted by the House of Commons, and not a Measure emasculated by the Conservative party, this failure would not have been brought about." I congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman on being able to find a way of retreat even before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
I followed with enormous interest the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home), for whom, it is unnecessary for me to say, I have a deep admiration. I followed with interest his history of the London traffic problem. If it had been addressed to a gathering of London Members, I think it might have been of great interest to us all, but probably the right hon. Gentle- 887 man thought that there were so many Members in the House who were not London Members that it was necessary to have a review of the traffic problem in recent years. So far as his review was historical, I find myself in complete agreement with it, but so far 'as it leads up to the Bill which is before the House to-day, I am afraid I cannot find myself in full agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. To-day we are not asked to deal with the problem of the co-ordination of London traffic. This House agreed in 1929 that co-ordination of London traffic was desirable and essential, and, therefore, it is no use pleading for the Bill to-day on the ground that, unless we get this Bill, we shall get nothing. Ways have been pointed out of dealing with the unification of London traffic without introducing a compulsory Measure of this kind. If the Bills of 1929 had been accepted as readily by the then Conservative Government as the Socialist Bill has been accepted by the present National Government, the case might have been different, but there is a great difference in the way in which the respective Bills have been received by the two parties. The avidity with which the National Government have seized upon this Measure is amazing, but, nevertheless, it is there, and we must face it.
If the 1929 Bills had passed—they did pass, but, owing to procedure, they had to come before the new Socialist House of Commons—we should have had by now, or at all events within the next year or two, a proof of the value of co-ordinated working and management, because there is no doubt whatever that the heads of agreement between the London County Council and the Underground Group in 1929 had been arrived at. We should have had an opportunity of judging by now as to the real value of a semi-monopoly, and it would have guided us as to whether the monopoly proposed to-day would be of real value to London or not. We have seen the establishment of gigantic trading undertakings in this country since the War. We can all mention great industrial corporations, tremendous in their magnitude, and we all know that they are not really the successes that were anticipated.
I dread the establishment, without previous experience on a smaller scale, of a gigantic monopoly of this kind at the 888 expense of London. If hon. Gentlemen opposite have their way, and if the Front Bench has its way, it cannot stop at London. The problem is as vital in Lancashire, in Yorkshire, in the Midlands, and in some parts of Scotland, and I am sure that the Minister of Transport will have his hands full of Traffic Board Bills for the next two years following on this precedent. I, for one, regret that this great area of London, with its teeming millions and with its excellent traffic facilities to-day, should be selected for an experiment without a smaller experiment being tried first, as could usefully have been done in the way suggested only two or three years ago. If I wanted to make a speech against this Bill, I should read from the OFFICIAL REPORT the proceedings when the Conservative party en masse opposed this Bill. I say "this Bill" advisedly, because the Conservative party opposed the Bill on six counts, and on only two counts—the last two mentioned in the Resolution—has any alteration taken place. I make no apology for referring to the Conservative party in this connection, because, in the case of a Bill in which I was interested, namely, the Bill of last year dealing with Waterloo Bridge, one Member of the Government opposed another Member of the Government, and the Member of the Government who opposed the Bill appealed to the Conservative party on this side for support. Therefore, I have no hesitation in asking the Conservative party now—
§ Sir W. RAY
Even on the Front Bench; but I do not think I should get their support. I maintain that the Conservative party opposed the Bill in 1931, not on the details which we have been amending during the last few weeks, but on principle. The principle of public ownership cannot be eliminated from this Bill. It is a principle which even the hon. and learned Gentleman who is leading the Opposition to-day cannot deny is what his party stands for, and it is on that point that the Conservative party are again making a concession to Socialist principles which some of us, at all events, find it very difficult to follow.
It has been said that this is not in the interests of the shareholders. Most of us who are concerned with London affairs 889 are interested in London government problems from the point of view of the London citizen, but, if this Bill and its financial implications is not in the interests of shareholders first, I want to know what is. The very financial provisions of the Bill, standing as they are, point to the fact that the first negotiator, the late Minister of Transport, was overwhelmed by the qualities and calibre of the gentlemen who were conducting the negotiations from the other side. We asked some time ago—it was a very small request—that the Bill should go back to the Committee for the purpose of investigating its financial provisions, but, because the Metropolitan Railway and the main line railways had come in, that request was refused. We feel to-day that Sir William McLintock's revised figure for the eight years succeeding the first two years, showing a miserable £158,000 surplus, is a very small estimate indeed on which any successful undertaking could capably work. The Minister in charge would not even recommit the Bill on that one point.
We feel that inasmuch as the undertaking has to be made to pay, it will be made to pay at the expense of the London passenger. There are bound to be increased fares; there are bound to be decreased facilities. The board can raise fares, because they take over the statutory rights of the various undertakings, and many of the undertakings are not charging the fares allowed by Statute to-day. It is true that the local authorities can appeal, but, inasmuch as the board must make the undertaking pay, and if the present fares are raised because they are not statutory fares, it is perfectly obvious that the fares can go up willy-nilly, and we have no guarantee that the fares to which London has been educated in the last 12 years—the midday fares, the 1s. all-day fares, the holiday facilities and all the rest—granted both by the omnibus companies and by the London County Council, are going to be continued by those who will be responsible for running this undertaking.
As a very old Member of the Conservative party who worked for it outside for many years before I had the honour of coming into this House, it is a very deep regret to me to find myself in opposition to men with whom I have worked for so many years, but I fail to see how one 890 would be doing one's duty by London, which has elected me for nearly 21 years to the London County Council, and to the people of London, by acquiescing in the passage of a Bill in which one does not believe in principle, and, leaving the question of principle out altogether, a Bill which one believes is unsound financially and, which, in the long run, will prove unfair to the travelling public in every possible way.
§ Sir R. HORNE
May I ask my hon. Friend—I trust his judgment—one question before he sits down? Would he put restrictions to-day upon private enterprises who were desirous of raising their fares in order to meet their charges, and, if he would, what would become of the freedom of private enterprise?
§ Sir W. RAY
If private enterprise is not compelled by a monopoly to go into an undertaking, I leave private enterprise to do exactly as it likes, and the public would take its revenge on private enterprise.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
The Bill has had a long and stormy passage. It has been before the House of Commons for nearly two years, and I do not think it is untrue to say that, as it proceeds on its journey, it does not collect more friends. It certainly collects some new friends, but not more friends. Even its parents seem to a certain extent, to have lost affection for it. My hon. and learned Friend opposite does not like it in its changed form and he is prepared now to disown its parentage. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) has gone, after interrupting my hon. Friend below the Gangway, but I want to refer to his speech. I am sorry to have to do so in his absence. He is always brilliant, persuasive and understanding and has great knowledge of the traffic problem, and it is always very interesting to me when a Glasgow Member butts into our London problem. We do not object to Members from other parts of the country butting in especially if the object is to give us a better service, a better organisation and a better undertaking. I could not help wondering, when the right hon. and learned Gentle- 891 man was speaking, what Glasgow would have had to say if a Bill of this character had been introduced—I am glad to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman is back—and had been passed through this House taking over the Glasgow tramways, the underground and the main line services for local purposes. I wonder whether he would like to see an electoral college drawn, not from the solicitors but from the learned society which is equivalent in Scotland, the Scottish Banks and one or two other bodies.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I cannot promise to stay for all the hon. Member's remarks. The answer is, that he must deal with each question upon its merits.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I have never been very keen on Scottish Home Rule, but the constant intervention with the suggestion that Scottish Members can tell us how to run London government almost reconciles me to the loss of the services of Scottish Members, at any rate in local matters. But I think that we have this in common. We say that London is entitled to the same kind of service and consideration as other parts of the country. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there is much to be said in favour of private enterprise. In competition the strongest and most efficient succeeds, and the weakest and incompetent goes to the wall. It does give the public a choice of services. If the public at present are not satisfied with municipal tramways, they can travel by the London General omnibuses or the various varieties which offer their services in different parts of London. This is where I stand. If it is necessary for the convenience of the public, and to get efficiency, to have a monopoly, if a case can be made out, it should not, as I have always maintained, be a private monopoly. I am surprised that my hon. and learned Friend opposite did not take exactly the same lines. It should not be run for private profit, but should be a public authority under public control and amenable to public requirements. This is a gigantic trust run for profit in the interests of a great variety of shows. The Minister in charge to-day, almost for the first time, attempted, perhaps wisely, to elaborate the financial side of the proposal. There are five different kinds of stockholders all with 892 various claims to the profits of the undertaking. The percentage ranges from 4½ to possibly 6½ per cent. at a time when money is available at 3½ per cent. There is a queer mixture of five different kinds of stockholders—"A" shareholders, "B" shareholders, "T.F.A." shareholders, "LA." shareholders, and, last but not least, the "C" shareholders, who, for the first two years, can claim 5 per cent. as a reward for their investment and even, should the undertaking be a success, can claim no less than 6 per cent. It is a very good opportunity for the investment of capital.
It is not a public authority; it is an ordinary business undertaking. The only difference is that the board is to be elected in a peculiar way. I am not sure whether it makes it better for shareholders or the public, if on the whole you are going to have a more efficient board and a more efficiently run undertaking, if the board is responsible to somebody. I would rather have the board responsible to shareholders to be called to task at the annual meeting than responsible to no one, and even not responsible to the House of Commons. This is rather an interesting experiment. I hope that it will be a success. I wish it were in the interests of the travelling public. I hope it will not be made a precedent, as it is thoroughly unsound.
The real difficulty in London is the peculiarity of its system of government. If we had a homogeneous council like that of a provincial city we should have a place for an experiment of this kind. In Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow they are able to manage the whole of their service transport. They run omnibuses and trams which are under public control and in contact with the public. I recognise that this is where the difficulty in London lies. First of all, we have a coordinated system of government inside the county, and outside the county we have a conglomeration of all kinds of authorities, councils, urban districts and municipalities. That is, of course, the justification for the Bill, but even that is not insuperable. I fail to appreciate the prejudice against a directly elected board. We have had experiments of the kind already. Not only have they been successful, but they have given satisfaction to the public and to the ratepayers 893 in the areas concerned. There is the Metropolitan Water Board. I know that my friend Mr. Herbert Morrison has been very contemptuous about the Water Board, but, on the whole, London has a good water supply, and the quality is as good as that of any other part of the country or of the world. There is the experiment of the London docks. Before the Port of London Authority was created, the London docks were a disgrace and a scandal and subject to all sorts of criticism. With the Port of London Authority, London, in spite of the general depression, has an efficient service, has maintained its trade, and, on the whole, has given general satisfaction to the traders, the users, the shipowners and all the interests concerned. It is unfortunate, if it is necessary to have a monopoly of this kind and, in the interests of the travelling public, necessary to unify all the various interests, that there should not be an authority created which is not in contact with the people who are so dependent for a good service on the machinery of organisation.
There is, perhaps, a more serious side to this question. We have heard this afternoon a good deal about the congestion of the streets and how the various trams and omnibuses are held up because there are too many vehicles on the road. The only way to improve the position is to widen the streets. One of our troubles in the past has been the divorce between those running the services and those responsible for street widening. We are approaching this problem on wrong lines. I think that the late Minister of Transport, Mr. H. Morrison, wanted to embark upon a new experiment in the hope of compromising various interests. Compromise is always unsatisfactory. I am afraid that in the long run the travelling public will suffer. There will be no opportunity for them to ventilate grievances, but if fares are raised, or, as is perhaps more likely, facilities are decreased because of the necessity of meeting the claims of stockholders,' there will be no power to redress grievances because contact between local authorities is so indirect and nominal that it will not be felt by boards sitting in solitude quite out of contact with them. I hope that the Bill will do what its creators hope 894 for it. I hope that it will, but I cannot say that the particular scheme has my approval.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Major GLYN
The hon. Baronet who preceded me began his speech by somewhat objecting to persons not connected immediately with London traffic, intervening in this Debate. I would like to remind him that this is not a problem in London only. It is one of the greatest problems in the world to-day and is exercising the minds of those who are responsible in Chicago, New York, Berlin and Paris. The problem is world-wide in its scope. Another point which has not been mentioned is the intimate connection between the solution of transportation and housing. Unless you have got housing available in the cheapest manner, it means that you have got to provide efficient transport, or you will not be able to have your workers and artisans living in outlying areas. Therefore it is not merely a question of transportation. It is a question of social well-being, and it is a question, to my mind, of paramount importance.
I have listened with some amazement to my friends who call themselves Conservatives. It seems to me that a great many of their arguments were directed entirely against private enterprise. I do not quite know what label to tie round my neck these days, nor do I particularly care what label I tie, provided certain definite principles in which I believe are carried out. I believe that in these days public utility companies are going to have a larger and larger part. I would like to see the private money of individual citizens invested, preferably, in concerns and undertakings which are to the public good. I understand by public utility something which must be subject to control, something in which an investor can be sure of getting a fair return for his investment. I, therefore, strongly object to it being thought that those who may be Conservatives, or whatever is the label, have any objection to compulsion being used, if it is in the public interest to use compulsion—provided always that the people who are compelled shall have the right that their property shall get a fair return or, if not a fair return, a fair equivalent which shall be decided by an entirely impartial body. One hon. Member—I think it was 895 the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson)—spoke of Tillings—an admirable organisation—not being fairly treated. Hon. Members will see that there is power in the Bill to go to the arbitrator appointed by the Lord Chancellor who will be able to give to any applicant absolutely fair terms and conditions. I do not think, therefore, that we ought to be swayed because of the statement that by this Bill that kind of people will not have a fair deal, or will not have their position considered by an entirely impartial authority.
There is one other matter which, I think, is of great importance. I do not look upon this Bill as a political Measure. I try to look upon it as a tremendous economic problem to be solved on commonsense lines. It is utterly impossible to build a tube railway if you are to have on the surface an uncontrolled stream of omnibuses which will rob the tube of the whole of the traffic. It costs £1,000,000 a mile to build a tube. It costs a comparatively small sum to buy an omnibus. In the rush hours you cannot deal with the population who have to get in and out to their work, unless you use the tube railways. We have not the problem they have in New York where every fresh skyscraper means 20 minutes hard packing in the subway. They have all to go home and leave at the same time. They can only go by various means, some on the surface and some underground. Each skyscraper means congestion by the population of that skyscraper in the overfull subways. We have not been able, in this country, to devise a commonsense arrangement whereby people would go to work, and return from it, at slightly different hours. Everybody rushes in between eight and nine o'clock, and it is not recognised that of the 100 per cent. of the underground staff utilised in the rush hours only half are required to meet normal requirements. About 25 per cent. more are used for the shopping hours and lunch time, but you have to provide 50 per cent. on your normal requirements for rush-time traffic.
I was twitted just now by the hon. Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan), because I made a speech against the Bill when introduced. A great many of us did. I am in favour of this Bill because it is an entirely different Bill. It would be extraordinary if, 896 after so many changes in this Bill and so many excellent Amendments moved in Committee and on the Report stage, one was so foolish and churlish as not to recognise it is a different instrument. It will accomplish what we all want—the co-ordination of transport in London, and it will bring about something which will be for the improvement of housing and the health, especially, of everybody who works in London.
I do hope that when this Measure goes to another place it will not be unduly delayed because of what is at stake. The sooner this Bill is passed the sooner it will be possible for the main line railways to undertake the electrification of their suburban lines. Plans are ready in some instances, but it is impossible to spend the millions of money necessary to electrify the suburban lines to the north and east of London until there is some definite, concrete, orderly scheme such as is embodied in this Bill. If this Bill becomes law, plans will immediately be undertaken for the electrification of these lines, which means giving employment to the heavy industries, and locally to many men. It is just the work that employs all sorts of labour. Until this Bill becomes law, that gigantic amount of work, which will be given to factories and workshops, will be held up. This Bill is needed not only from the point of view that it is long overdue, but it is needed to start again a great many industrious operatives, who are out of work and will obtain employment the moment this Bill becomes law.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
As one of the London Members, representative of great travelling interests—not only of those in the borough I represent who travel to many parts of London, but the population of from 100,000 to 200,000 people who come into the central borough of Finsbury to find their daily occupation—I have no hesitation in supporting the principles of this Measure. Not only has my connection been with London as the representative of a central Division but, like other Members, I have had the privilege for a number of years of serving on the London County Council. I confess that I have heard with a good deal of amazement some of the speeches delivered this afternoon. For some years I was member of the Highways Committee of 897 the London County Council. I remember especially—it seems to me a long time ago—a meeting of that committee which was authorised to consider the traffic position of London.
A fact impressed upon my mind was that every person, to whatever party he belonged—whether Conservative, Liberal or Labour—was definitely of opinion that the traffic problem of London was going to be solved only if we had one authority in complete control of the whole of the traffic problem. I have, therefore, been surprised to hear the speeches of hon. Members about the possibility of private enterprises competing one with another. I think it is impossible to solve the traffic problem on these lines. It is no more possible to talk about private enterprises with competing policies than it would be to say that you should have two electric light companies and two gas companies putting down competing services in a town to see that the services should be kept as cheap as possible. I need hardly remind my hon. Friends connected with the London County Council that 10 or 15 years ago we had a great problem that beset the London County Council. It was that the London County Council had, in previous years, invested large sums of money in municipal tramway services. To-day there is something like £8,000,000 of capital unpaid, which was incurred for the laying down and purchase of that system.
I remember the days of Sir John Benn, who was a great believer in the tramway system. It was believed by many men, well qualified to form an opinion, that the future of London traffic lay with the tramway services. Then there came into existence the omnibuses, and some of us who lived in certain streets learned the blessings of private enterprise by having our houses shaken by the competing private omnibuses. The two systems, of tramways and omnibuses, the one private and the other municipal, competed for our custom. At last an arrangement was made to cut down to a certain extent the losses of both parties. I believe it is essential to have one service. I think the experience of London has proved that you have changing traffic conditions. The fact that the London County Council have, rightly or wrongly, expended a large amount of money in 898 order to purchase their tramway system naturally inclines them to adhere to that system. But there are many towns where the tramways have been pulled up, and, in many parts of the country, it may have been a wise thing to do.
You cannot move the population of London without having the tramway service, but you have, at the same time, to consider that now you have tubes also. You have the tramways, the omnibuses and the tubes and you will have one hand upon this threefold service deciding which is the most effective in moving the great population of London. If that hand is specially interested in one service, and not so interested in the others you will never get your traffic system adapted as rapidly as possible. The time may come when those responsible for the traffic problem of London may see that the day of the tramway is over. They may find some millions of money still unpaid, but it may be quite possible for them to divert the stream of traffic into the new tube or omnibus systems so that they will be able to refund the tramway debt out of their income. Under the old system to which I have referred, where you had two distinct financial systems, such a change was impossible and it resulted simply in the fact that the people of London who had put their money into tramways had to keep up the roads in order that motor traffic might go along them. I have no doubt that this matter has been fully recognised by those responsible for the government of London to-day.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green, South-West (Sir P. Harris) naturally pointed out that one of the great difficulties in London in regard to the kind of body that should be responsible for London traffic is partly due to the fact that we have no great municipal body that covers the large area represented by the traffic of London. He asked what Glasgow would think of a scheme of this kind in regard to its traffic. In Glasgow and other great cities there is a body that virtually covers the large traffic areas in which they are interested. Twenty years ago it seemed as if the London County Council might represent the kind of body of which I am thinking, but to-day we all know perfectly well that when you talk of the 899 problems of the traffic of London the London County Council area is far too small. Therefore, a municipal body became quite impossible.
There have been discussions to-day as to what political party was responsible for the Bill which is now before the House. Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn), I am not specially smitten by any label that may be applied to me to-day. Possibly the original Measure was the work of Mr. Morrison, but I have sometimes wondered whether it was not true to say that, although the voice was the voice of Morrison, there was another hand in the fashioning of the original Measure, which might seem to have been more closely connected perhaps with the actual working of London traffic than even Mr. Morrison, and that we were not dealing really with a Measure specially drawn up by a Ministry of Transport entirely under the control of Mr. Morrison. In those days we were told by Mr. Morrison that this Measure was a Socialist Measure, and I agreed on that point. But it was very interesting to note that at the Labour Conference about a year ago when Mr. Morrison went down there and suggested that a Measure of this kind was a new kind of Socialism he was informed that that did not agree with the views of the members of the Labour party. Therefore, I have no idea whether that Measure could be said to be a Socialist Measure or not. But I do not think it matters very much now whether or not it was a Socialist Bill.
The great essential thing is that you must have a Measure that is going to put the control of the whole of the traffic of London into the hands of a small body of people. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green, South-West, suggested that the Metropolitan Water Board had been a very successful experiment. I doubt whether we should find that the sort of people appointed on a body like the Water Board, representative of the municipalities, would be likely to supply the necessary driving power and initiative required for the management of the transport of this great area of London traffic. That is where I see a strong point in Mr. Morrison's original Bill. What is very essential, as every business man 900 knows, in regard to a great combine, is to be certain that you are going to have the control placed in the hands of four or five men who will direct its destinies. To-day we know how the appointments are to be made. I do not agree with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) that the Bill has been so profoundly altered as he made out. The fundamental ideas that Mr. Morrison put forward are still in the Bill, and it will be a most interesting contribution to see, shall I say, a new form of organisation that is increasingly to be brought into existence for dealing with great problems of this kind.
It may not be very long before the greater question of traffic all over the country will have to be tackled in a somewhat similar way to that in which we are tackling the London problem. If the hon. Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) will excuse my saying so, I do not think that he is logical in the line he has taken to-day. He stands in the public eye as a great apostle of economy. You are never going to have any economy in the competitive system which he has recommended to the House. Economy is possible only if you have a body similar to the one outlined in the Bill. Hon. Members have told us that the travelling facilities will be reduced. I believe they will be reduced. I do not believe that in this country or in this city we can afford to go on running extravagant traffic in order that people may say whether they would rather go in a tram or in an omnibus. I believe that our conditions to-day are such that we can no longer afford to provide facilities of that kind for the people, and that we shall have to reduce the number of vehicles. If some persons would like to go into an omnibus and there is a tram provided they will have to go in the tram, and we shall have to do that just as much for the purpose of economy in London traffic as for the purposes of economy that are being carried out in national and municipal, and also in private life.
I believe it will be found that there will be very large economies effected as a result of the cohesion of traffic. It is on these grounds that I support the Measure. Although I do not entirely agree with all the recommendations, I can see no other plan for solving this traffic problem, or one more likely to do so, than that which 901 is put forward in the Bill. The question whether the Minister should or should not appoint is a secondary question. It is an interesting experiment. The fundamental principle remains that you have to take out of London traffic all the extravagance that you find in it to-day, and for that purpose you must have a coordinated system. It is on these grounds that I welcome the Measure.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I am sure that we have enjoyed the interesting speeches that have been made. There is one point on which the whole House is agreed, and that is that a supreme authority is to be set up in order to control and coordinate the passenger traffic of this great Metropolis. I would have much preferred a controlling body to an owning concern. It would have been interesting had the members of the London County Council who have spoken enlightened us a little more in regard to the great tramway system which they own and control. In my experience where a tramway is run in London the omnibus fares are moderate, but where the trams do not run the omnibus fares are much higher. It would have been interesting to know whether the London ratepayers are losing large sums of money or not on the tramway system. We should have been much obliged to the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) if he could have given us further information on this point.
It is very difficult for a back bench Member to judge the financial scheme of this Measure. We have not the expert knowledge or the expert assistance that is at the disposal of the Government. They have access to the various contracts and the financial arrangements which are so necessary to bring about this great amalgamation. I was glad to hear from the Minister of Transport that he is confident that the financial scheme is sound and that it is all that it should be. I am a little apprehensive, seeing that the receipts of the Underground group are falling, that the receipts of the General Omnibus Company are falling and that certainly the dividends are falling. Therefore, I should have been pleased if there could have been a revaluation of the assets. It is unfortunate for the shareholders when they have to stand the risk of their property 902 depreciating, but I see no reason why they should get the same returns as when times were better.
The feeling that I have is that the travelling public of London will have very little or nothing to say in regard to the fares. I know that there are ways and means of going before the Railway Rates Tribunal, but that means a very long and-tedious task to get the fares reduced. Therefore, I am a little concerned in regard to the finance of the Measure. I do not believe for one moment that there is the risk of a receiver being appointed. A far more formidable weapon in the hands of those who will control the board will be to raise the fares. I should like to hear from the Minister of Transport, or whoever replies for the Government, what power the travelling public possess in regard to keeping the fares at a reasonable level. The County Council trams have done much for the travelling public in this respect. They have kept the fares at a reasonable level, but when this amalgamation passes into law I am afraid that fares will be raised. I hope that the Government will consider the interests of the travelling public and will see that those interests are safeguarded. On those grounds, I shall have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. LESLIE BOYCE
I am very glad that this Bill is about to have its Third Reading. It is a very good and a very necessary Bill. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) expressed surprise that the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home), despite his great knowledge and experience of London transport, should have "butted in" on this Debate. The hon. Member for Lewisham West (Sir P. Dawson) was also critical of certain hon. Members who have participated in the Debate and who are not London representatives. It is an entirely new and novel doctrine to me that when a Measure comes before this House only those hon. Members whose constituents are directly and permanently affected thereby should participate in the Debate. The hon. Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) declared that if this Measure passes into law the fares must go up and the facilities for the travelling public in the London transport area must be curtailed. I do not share his apprehensions. 903 On the contrary, I am convinced that, by eliminating uneconomic and wasteful competition, and by making it possible to find the necessary capital upon reasonable terms in order to provide increased facilities and new developments, the fares will not be put up and the facilities will not be curtailed.
During the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead certain questions were asked regarding the basis upon which the undertakings were being taken over by the board. So far as I understand the position, they are not being taken over on the basis of a given number of years' purchase, but that a sum has been fixed in regard to which the London General Omnibus Company and the four underground railways are considered as a whole, and this sum is divisible between the five different undertakings, which are so closely associated that it was not considered expedient to separate them at the time when the negotiations were being carried through.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
May I ask the hon. Member two questions? Is he speaking officially on this matter of a lump sum; and what is the lump sum?
§ Mr. BOYCE
The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) always makes a point of interrupting an hon. Member before he has had time to explain. I will give the hon. Member, who appears to derive great pleasure in hearing his own voice when other people are trying to make themselves heard, the answer for which he is asking. The capital amount which is payable in respect of these undertakings has been available to the hon. Member if he had chosen to go to the Vote Office and get it. It is in the White Paper. The amount is £111,370,057, and, as I understand it, it includes the capital amounts payable to those undertakings which have reached a settlement with the Minister and the estimated amount of undertakings like Messrs. Tillings which have not succeeded in reaching a settlement with the Minister. The House listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Fulham, East (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) who has constituted himself the leader of the opposition to this Measure. As far as I gathered from his speech, his main objection to the Bill is that this sovereign assembly is about to impose an 904 element of compulsion upon the different undertakings envisaged in the scheme. The hon. and gallant Member has been in this House for many years and has participated in hundreds of Divisions in support of many Measures which have been passed. Perhaps some of these Measures were purely declaratory and some merely permissive, but I suggest that in a large proportion of them this sovereign assembly imposed some element of compulsion.
He also contended that this House has no mandate to pass this Bill. If constituents in the London transport area follow the proceedings of this House they will know that one of the last acts of this House before the last election was to pass a Resolution to hold over this Bill to the present Parliament. Why? In order that it may be passed into law—and for no other conceivable reason. He also deplored the haste with which the Minister of Transport is carrying this Measure into law. The hon. and gallant-Member may deplore the haste with which it is being carried through Parliament, but I venture to think that there have been very few Bills, if any, during the last 100 years which have been on the stocks as long as this Bill. It has been in existence for a long time, and many changes have been made in it, and during all the time it has been in existence it has become increasingly manifest that a Measure of this kind is absolutely necessary. The touchstone by which this and all similar Bills must be judged is undoubtedly the public interest, and in this case the public interest is mainly the interest of the travelling public in the London transport area.
All the principal undertakings engaged in London passenger transport are agreed that a measure of co-operation is required if the transport facilities of the public are to be fully developtd. It has been frequently stated in this House, it has been stated to-day by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) and by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn), that the Underground group find the provision of new tube railways impracticable so long as competition in street traffic facilities remains unrestricted. The same may be said of the power of the main line companies to improve and extend their facilities to the public so long as the competition for suburban traffic precludes the 905 earning of the additional revenue required to give a reasonable return on the capital which would have to be expended. The position is illustrated by the proceedings in the inquiries held in 1925 by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. In that year three inquiries regarding traffic facilities were carried out in respect of the North, the North, East and the South East of London.
At the first of these the two principal directions in which it was alleged the travelling facilities fell short of requirements were, first, the need for an extension of the tube railway northwards of Finsbury Park and, secondly, the need for electrification by the London and North Eastern Company of their railways through Finsbury Park. As to the first of these, Mr. Pick in giving his evidence on behalf of the underground group stated that some means whereby the provision for street traffic facilities were kept within reasonable bounds was a condition precedent to the building of a tube railway at that time. On the second point—the electrification of the London and North Eastern Railway through Finsbury Park—the railway company stated that they could not pledge themselves in the then position of the railway industry to adopt the proposed scheme of electrification, and one of their reasons was that the existing conditions in respect of the competition for suburban traffic did not permit of a reasonable return on the necessary capital which would have to be expended on local railway transport. The Advisory Committee in their report said:Finally, the Committee desire to add that they have been impressed by the contention of the representatives of the railway company and the management of the tramway undertaking that the main difficulty in the way of the provision of additional through facilities is the acute and wasteful competition between various passenger transport agencies operating in the area.In their report on the second inquiry regarding traffic facilities to and from the East of London, the Committee said:Finally, the Committee desire to add that the evidence submitted at this inquiry strengthens their view that no lasting solution of the London passenger transport problem can be secured so long as the present competitive methods are pursued. Only by the elimination of the wasteful and uneconomic competition between passenger transport agencies will it be possible for 906 any considerable improvements to he effected, particularly in the way of the construction of new underground or surface railways.The fact that since these inquiries were held the Underground Company have proceeded with the construction of what is known as the Cockfosters extension does not in any way detract from the force of these arguments, because it is very unlikely that this work could have been undertaken without assistance in the form of a grant from the Treasury under the Development Act of 1929. A certain section of the public may derive a temporary advantage from services which are unnecessary and uneconomic but in the long run such competition can only deprive the travelling public of those transport facilities which are sorely needed. I submit that this Bill provides the correct solution to the problem of London passenger transport. It ensures that the needs of the public in the London passenger transport area will be surveyed by one authority in collaboration with the main line companies. It ensures that the capital for future extensions will be available without risk of loss due to wasteful competition. It also provides for the coordination of services provided by the board and those provided by the four main line railway companies and for the setting up of a joint committee for the initiation of schemes of co-ordination. It further provides for the pooling of the receipts of the board and those of the main line companies and a division of those receipts on a basis which is fair and equitable. As a result of all these proposals I submit that the necessary measure of security and stability will be given to the two groups of undertakers; they will be provided with the necessary facilities for raising new capital, for increased facilities and for new developments; and that the general public will greatly benefit directly, immediately and permanently by the passing of this Measure.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
The hon. Member has mentioned my name during his speech. Will he permit me to say one or two things in reply?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member is entitled to correct an inaccurate statement but he must not make another speech.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I did not wish to make another speech, and in view of what the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Boyce) has said I will not ask for the further indulgence of the House.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Sir H. JACKSON
I have had a rather long and close connection with the problem of London passenger transport. For eight years I have been a member of the London Traffic Advisory Committee and have been associated with all its public inquiries. I am one of the authors of the famous Blue Report. I am sincerely of the opinion that the Bill in its present form represents the principles of the Blue Report and, therefore, I hope the House by an overwhelming majority will reject the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Fulham East (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan). The Blue Report was the considered opinion of an impartial body, non-political in character, and representing all the interests in London traffic. That report postulated certain fundamental principles which, I assert, are found in the Bill. Much play has been made on the fact that compulsion has been brought to bear in dealing with this matter. Let me read the following paragraph from the Blue Report:The ownership of existing undertakings would remain with the present proprietors, whether they be municipalities or private companies, but an exception to this principle may be necessary in the case of small omnibus proprietors having regard to their number and the small interests which they severally represent.It is a fact that at the present time 93 per cent. of the capital involved in this great merger is coming in perfectly voluntarily. There has been no compulsion of any kind used, and the fact that that large figure has come in quite voluntarily is to my mind entirely in accordance with what we on the advisory committee felt, that there should be no 908 compulsion applied in connection with these great concerns. It is true that there are still a few outstanding small concerns. They, too, will have no grievance, because when the Bill becomes law we shall have set up an arbitration tribunal which will see to it that they are not worse treated than those who have already come in. That was our first postulation. The fact that this overwhelming mass have come in perfectly voluntarily and are satisfied with the terms obtained, is entirely in keeping with what we postulated, viz., that there should be no compulsion.
Then there is No. 2. We said there must be safeguards in the public interest. The public must be safeguarded in the matter of fares, in the adequacy and development of services, and so forth. All these find a place in the Bill. There is a recognised judicial tribunal watching in every one of these instances the interests of the travelling public. You have increased contact between the great municipalities over this Greater London, a much greater contact than you had in the old Bill. Finally, we have that great agreement with the main lines. I would like to quote a rather famous paragraph from the Blue Report regarding what were our hopes in those rather far-off days about the main lines:Negotiations could also be entered into with the main line companies with a view to reaching agreement relative to the provisions to be embodied in any Bill to enable any of the constituent parties to the scheme to enter into agreement with these companies, or any of them, for the routeing, exchange and clearance of traffic, the provision of through services, the pooling of receipts and also for the leasing and /or working of any of the suburban lines.That was our dream in 1927. That dream has been more than realised in this Bill, and the great agreement with the main lines is to my mind one of the chief values of this Bill. The Bill for the first time outlines an experiment in the co-ordination of traffic with these great main, line companies. That is a fresh departure, and may very well form a precedent when an attempt is made to deal with the transport problem of the country as a whole. It is urgently necessary that this experiment should be put in hand and tested before the larger problem is dealt with. So I whole-heartedly say to the House that 909 all those great principles which this great impartial judicial body, representing every phase of activity from the transport point of view in Greater London, postulated as necessary, now find a place in the Bill.
There has been, of course, a fundamental change since the Second Reading of the Bill. Some kind of criticism is made against Members who, perhaps, voted against the Second Reading two years ago but are to vote for the Third Reading to-night. But there has been a fundamental change made which fully justifies that action. It is this: The Minister has now for all practical purposes disappeared from the Bill. The Minister now has practically nothing left for him to do by way of interference with the conduct of London Passenger transport. What minor powers are left to him by way of regulations, determining the form of accounts or approving financial measures, are to a large extent qualified, for he must consult the Treasury in all these matters. This great fundamental objection of Conservative Members in 1931 has now gone. The Minister is for all practical purposes washed out of the Bill. I do not think I can do better than read a few most admirable sentences which appeared in the "Times" on the morning after the Second Reading of the Bill two years ago:As Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister pointed out last night in moving the Unionist Amendment for rejection, the Bill gives the Minister powers without responsibility. There is nothing to prevent him appointing a completely Socialist Board. The provisions of the Measure make the Minister the arbiter on the withdrawal or provisions of facilities; and enable him, directly or indirectly, to override every one of its safeguards. A board that is not only appointed by but also controlled by a political Minister may be composed entirely of eminent business men but it may not be in a position to be guided only by business principles.And the article stated also:In its present form, with the threat of nationalisation which it contains, Mr. Morrison's Bill is bound to meet with the vigorous opposition of the Conservative Members of the House.That objection to the Bill has gone. I would point out that the Bill contains two very important fundamental aspects in reference to the London transport problem. In the first place it has placed the responsibility for London transport in 910 the hands of a competent and clearly defined body. This means a small executive body, largely expert in character, but at the same time containing members who will have contact with commerce, banking and local traffic. In the second place, it has exceptional organisation for focusing local opinion, this again under a perfectly definite and distinct body. Under the Bill the new London Traffic Advisory Committee will consist of 39 members, of whom 23 will be appointed by local authorities. Local authorities will, therefore, have a predominant voice, and, as the House has decided, the Chairman is to be elected from one of their members. Provisions are made so that the body may function with the main line railways, with every other form of transport, and with labour. For these reasons those of us who have been studying this problem for years are unanimously of opinion that the Bill as it stands fulfils conditions which an impartial body regarded as fundamental for London traffic.
Since the Bill has been in Committee we have heard a certain amount of criticism. The suggestion has been made that the risks of difficulties of working will be increased by unification of these great transport undertakings. That criticism cannot be accepted for a moment. With unification of ownership and management, the board will be much better able to experiment so as to ascertain the best means of affording the facilities required, and it will be able to abandon without undue loss methods that have proved to be unsatisfactory and uneconomic. Another suggestion which has been made is that the great merger will find greater difficulties on the labour side. That again, I say, is entirely untrue. If we assume that labour is to have reasonable security of tenure and a reasonable rate of wages, there is far less danger of labour trouble in a great organisation than under separate ownership. We have been told again and again that the elimination of competition will result in decreased facilities. It should not be overlooked that if the Bill passes into law there will be for the first time in the history of London transport an authority with a statutory duty to provide adequate transport needs of the whole area. The provision of adequate facilities postulates that facilities should be afforded not only on lucrative routes but on all routes. We 911 see to-day reluctance among the great organisations to tackle the unremunerative routes. They all wish to come into the great central area where there is trade and traffic. Finally, we are told that in some way the terms of acquisition of the transport unlertakings have been substantially altered since the Bill was introduced. As has been shown more than once, that is absolutely untrue.
Those, then, are some of the objections that have been raised on matters of detail and organisation. We have been met to-night by a suggestion that in some way the financial basis of this great settlement is obscure, that there is something sinister about it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) was rather heckled on the terms of settlement of one particular organisation with which he is connected. What are the facts of the case in regard to that? As I understand it, Sir William McLintock made a detailed examination of the affairs of all these various companies. He sought to determine and continue the maintainable net revenue. There was no suggestion of so many years purchase. He then came to certain definite conclusions as to the basis upon which a settlement should be made. That basis was then subject to a final negotiation between the Minister and the companies concerned, and the main principle of Sir William McLintock's settlement was maintained. The next stage was that this settlement came before the Joint Select Committee of the two Houses. Upon that Select Committee were not only Members of this House drawn from all parties, but members of the other House, and Sir William McLintock went into the box to be cross-examined, not only by the Committee, but by the representatives of the Parliamentary Bar who were there. He was cross-examined about these financial conclusions. That was the occasion when questions should have been put to him; that was the occasion for him to be heckled. The Joint Select Committee accepted Sir William McLintock's financial proposals and the basis upon which they were submitted. It is a little unfair, at this late stage of the Bill, for an individual Member to be asked to be put into the witness-box as Sir William McLintock was. We have the assurance of the Select Committee, 912 as shown by their report, that this great financial settlement had their approval.
Then we have heard the old, old story that this Bill is a Socialist Measure. It is true that it was introduced by Mr. Herbert Morrison. It is true that Mr. Herbert Morrison nearly succeeded in killing it by claiming that it was a triumph for Socialism. But I seriously ask my Conservative friends how in principle does it differ from the Central Electricity Board and the Imperial Cable Company Bills which were the children of our own party?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
It was stated in evidence, in the course of the hearing by the Select Committee, that this Measure is without precedent.
§ Sir H. JACKSON
Most Members of this House are well acquainted with the story of the two great combinations I have referred to, and I leave the House to form its own judgment. This great transport merger is privately owned. Further, the Minister's reasoned Amendments have, to my mind, entirely withdrawn it from any kind of State control. It is entirely withdrawn from Whitehall, and does not cost the taxpayers of the country one single penny. In view of these facts, I seriously ask how this Bill can be denounced as a Socialist Measure. Finally, we are told it is a monopoly. I grant it is a monopoly, but is there anything new in that? The Metropolitan Water Board is a monopoly, and yet apparently it is working well and to everybody's satisfaction. If there is one public service in which this kind of monopoly is needed it is in a great organisation entering intimately into the lives of nearly 10,000,000 men, women and children living in Greater London. The present internecine competition and war has resulted in useless duplication, congestion and delay. It is precisely because of the failure of internecine competition that we have asked that this Bill should be introduced.
I will not weary the House regarding the suggestion that fares will be raised. I have tried to deal with that question previously. But if by any misfortune the Bill should be rejected to-night on its Third Reading, I ask you to contemplate what will happen, putting aside all shibboleths and trying to realise the position of the millions of Londoners 913 who are asking for better traffic facilities. It will mean that the London County Council trams will go back once again to the rates and continue to be an increasing burden on the ratepayers of London. Instead of that, the County Council is to have 4½ per cent. of the guaranteed interest on £8,500,000 of their tramway stock. Either the trams will become an increased charge on the rates, or alternatively the fares on the trams must be increased. We have heard a doleful picture by some critics of the reduction in receipts in the other great transport undertakings in London in the last two or three years. Unless you have some Bill of this kind increased fares will have to be introduced on all forms of transport if present conditions continue. Many people seem to think it is an idle threat to say that unless we have this Bill we cannot get more tubes and more suburban electrified services. That is no idle threat at all. The Underground group and the railway companies have made that statement definitely. I would ask my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in the East, South-East, North-East and North of London to ponder very seriously before they vote against this Bill, in view of the repeated requests from their constituents for improved travelling.
This is a. really great London problem. As far as I know, this is the first real attempt at planning in national transport. It puts an end to that competition which has meant cut-throat warfare in which no one is strong enough to feel confident he is the victor, and equally it puts an end to any idea of nationalisation or State control. It is taking the middle course between unrestricted competition on the one hand, and what I think would be the equal error of nationalisation and State control on the other. These great transport undertakings will for the first time receive guaranteed protection on the understanding that they do their job well, and the State will see that they have a fair deal. It will give security and a fair return of interest on capital to the men who put their money into the great public institutions. Finally, it will bring hope at last to that patient travelling public which is growing up in increasing numbers in the new cities arising on the fringe of London. For these reasons, I am sure the House will, by an overwhelm- 914 ing majority, reject the Amendment if it is pressed to a Division.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
I congratulate the last speaker, though I do not agree with what he has said, on the fact that he has supported the Bill as a representative of a London constituency. If there is one thing more remarkable than another it is that this Bill has been supported by speaker after speaker who is not a representative of the area with which it purports to deal. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Boyce) said the touchstone of this Bill was public interest. I would ask the House who is the best judge of the public interest of London—the hon. Member for Gloucester or the local authorities of London? The borough councils, through the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, have practically unanimously passed a resolution—
§ Dr. SALTER
I cannot allow that statement to go by without contradiction. A number of the boroughs, and certainly the Labour boroughs, have been unanimously in favour of the Bill.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
The Metropolitan Boroughs Committee, at their meeting a few days ago, practically unanimously, I believe with two dissents—[Interruption.] Is not that practically unanimous? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Certainly it is. That is an idle interruption. By an overwhelming majority if you like, the Metropolitan Boroughs Committee expressed disapproval of this Measure and asked the boroughs to request their representatives to vote against it. The London County Council which, as the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) said, is a body comparable to some of the Great Powers represented at Geneva, surely knows what is in the interests of London. It is opposed to the Bill, and yet we have the hon. Member for Gloucester and the right hon. Member for Hillhead and Members from other parts of the country saying that the Bill is in the interests of London. I suggest to the House that the Metropolitan Boroughs and the London County Council have had before them and are fully alive to all the points which the hon. Member for Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) and the Minister of Transport have made.
§ Sir H. JACKSON
I put to the hon. Member the same question that I put to the hon. Member for East Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson). Can he tell me the names of any number of the Metropolitan Boroughs, there are 28 of them, which have decided to oppose this Bill on its Third Reading and have instructed its Members to do so to-night.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
That is not the point at all. I say that in the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Committee, which represents the Metropolitan Boroughs in the same way as this House represents the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Of course, it does. It is idle for people to shake their heads. By an overwhelming majority at a meeting a few days ago, when the Third Beading of this Bill was definitely under consideration, they passed a resolution that the Bill should be opposed and that it was not in the interests of London. I challenge anyone to deny that statement. I further add that the London County Council, the great municipal authority representing this area, is also opposed to the Third Reading of this Bill. The hon. Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray), the leader of that body, has made a statement to that effect I understand, earlier this afternoon. I say, therefore, that the local authorities of London have passed this Resolution and are opposed to this Bill, and I object to Members from Gloucester and Glasgow saying it is in the national interest that the Bill should be passed.
I think we Londoners who live and move about in London are a great deal better able to judge what is in the transport interests of London. We consider it most undesirable that there should be no competition among the undertakers of traffic in this vast area. It is like putting the whole of the traffic of Denmark or Belgium under one authority. We say it is a tremendous undertaking, and it is not desirable that all competition should be done away with. Secondly, we would point out the great danger in the event of any industrial dispute in London if the whole transport of London is under one authority. What would have happened in the North of Ireland if all the omnibuses and trains and other services had been under one authority? It would have meant that the Government would have had to provide for the necessities of the people. I say it is very 916 undesirable that the whole transport undertakings of a vast and important area like London should be non-competitive and should be in the hands of one authority.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
I would like to apologise for not being in attendance yesterday when an Amendment in my name was brought forward, and I would like also to thank the hon. Member on the Opposition side for having raised the matter. My objection is that there is no proper provision in this Bill for the hundreds of workers who will be thrown out of employment. It says in the Bill that the staff will be compensated, but what is meant by the word "staff." Those who have been in the army know that there it does not mean the rank and file. Does it mean in this case that the black-coated officials and the executive will be compensated, but that the lower grades will receive no compensation whatever? If it means that they will all be compensated, surely there is a great danger of the employers saying they cannot afford to compensate all these men thrown out of work, and therefore they will transfer them to various parts of the country. If that were so, there would be a danger of railwaymen being sent up to Newcastle for example. I consider it is a great danger, and, in putting this point to the Attorney-General and the Minister, I hope they will give it their serious consideration. If there is any danger of compensation not being paid to all grades, or of men being transferred from London to Newcastle or other parts of the country, I must vote against the Bill.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) has performed a very real service to the House to-night. Not only has he taken the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) under his wing for a short time—that is always a valuable thing to do, from every point of view, in this House—but he has provoked an interruption from the hon. Member who supported the Bill so violently from the Socialist benches earlier this evening in which he said that it was the Socialist boroughs in the London area which were supporting the Bill. It has been our contention all along 917 that this is only a slightly disguised variation of the Bill introduced in the last Parliament by Mr. Morrison, and if this Bill had been given its real title I should call it the "Morrison (Increase of Fares) No. 2 Bill, slightly amended from No. 1."
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
"Slightly" has different meanings. We may make a good many Amendments without vitally affecting the basis of a Bill, and, on the other hand, two or three Amendments may entirely alter its whole character. I listened with interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson), who, I think, is the only Conservative Member for London who has spoken in favour of the Bill. There is hardly anyone in the House for whose opinions I have more respect, or in whose honesty I have greater trust, and I believe he will go into the Division Lobby in the sincere belief that this is a good Bill; but when we see hon. Members like him and the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) being completely hoodwinked by the extraordinary capacity of the Minister of Transport for persuading the House that black is white, it is essential that some of us should lay down very clearly why this Bill should be opposed on Third Reading.
I am satisfied in my own mind that it is now a very much better Bill than when it went into Committee. Three Amendments were inserted yesterday all of which I seconded, and obviously they would improve the Bill. One of those Amendments introduced a new Clause which lays down a most important principle in connection with steamboats. That Clause allows the board to contract out in the case of steamboat services, and I think that, sooner or later, the board should be able to contract out in the case of other forms of transport, allowing them to go back to private enterprise. I believe that sooner or later this experiment of setting up a great trust for the whole of London will break down; like other great trusts, it will become far too heavy in itself and innumerable things will have to be contracted out. That new Clause sets up a precedent which will very likely be useful 918 when it becomes a question of introducing a small amending Bill to permit other forms of transport to be contracted out. An hon. Member who spoke a few minutes ago asked whether members of the Conservative party and representatives of London would like to see the London tramways on the rates again instead of getting 4½ per cent. on something like £8,000,000, as will be the case under this Bill. That 4½ per cent. will have to come from somewhere, and if it is not to come from the people in that area of London which was foolish enough to allow the County Council to have anything to do with tramways it can only come from a general increase in fares to the public, including people in places as far outside London as Windsor and Reading.
I do not see why we should be asked to pass such a Bill as this at the present time. There are several principles in the Bill which are clearly against any pledges we may have given to our constituents at the last election. I do not dispute that there must be some form of unification of transport in London, and I do not say that the Bill has not been vastly improved by the exclusion of the Minister. No more true statement has been made—and this is an answer to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)—than that made by Mr. Morrison in this House on 23rd March, 1931:When we know how Members of this House are squeezed upon this or that subject at elections—I say quite frankly I have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, a politician as such is better outside the function of management."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1931; col. 55, Vol. 250.]We have an improved Bill in the sense that we have taken things almost entirely out of the hands of the Minister of Transport; even if the Bill did nothing else that would be a good thing, because it may give us a chance of eliminating this entirely unnecessary Ministry in the immediate future. That is no reason for opposing the Bill, however, and the first point on which I would oppose it is its deliberate attempt to get outside the London area. I do not see the hon. Members for Windsor and other places in that neighbourhood in the House at the moment, but they put up a prolonged fight to try to exclude areas such as Windsor and Reading, though, unfortunately, the Government did not see 919 their way to meet them. The second point on which I think it is essential to oppose the Bill—and I am obliged, very reluctantly, to do so very bitterly—is that the finance of the Measure has been, if I may put it in that way, shrouded in a certain mystery. This afternoon I asked a question of the right hon. Member for Hillhead. No one is clearer on finance than he is, but he was unable to give me an answer. Over and over again we have asked, first from one Member of the Government and then from another, what is the precise position under the Bill.
Then we had that great financial expert, the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Boyce), who said he did not know the position and who seemed to be a little involved. I asked him a question, and he referred me to a paper, and the bit of it to which he referred me had absolutely nothing to do with the sum which was to be paid in compensation, but was merely a quotation of one of the stocks. After the pleasant things that he said about me, I conclude that he will be able to read his own notes, with difficulty, but that he does not understand the White Paper, because it is clear that he was not answering my question in any way whatever. He is not here now, which is very often the case with those who interrupt other hon. Members. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh at me, but I think they will find that I very seldom interrupt anyone while he is on his feet in this House. I have made a good many speeches, but I very seldom interrupt other speakers, and any Minister in the late Government will know that. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition has never been interrupted by me when he was making a speech, although he might like to have suppressed me once or twice.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on being right for once in his life. The exception proves the rule. I think the House is entitled to know quite clearly what is the compensation which is going to be obtained or what is the amount for which the four great railway companies are liable to the Metropolitan Railway and on what basis of years the compensation is to be made. I believe my right hon. and 920 learned Friend the Attorney-General is going to reply. If I may say so with very great respect, there is no one whose honesty and character are more Valued in the House as a whole. Everyone knows that if he says a thing, he means it absolutely, but some of us who have been watching him during these debates must be aware that he has had some very difficult times when he has had to get up and support the Bill. I think he would much rather have been in the position of those Cabinet Ministers, such an the Postmaster-General and others, who bitterly opposed this Bill formerly and who have been absent so continuously during these debates. I think the Attorney-General would rather be making opposition speeches than some of the speeches that he has had to make in support of the Bill.
The Bill will undoubtedly have very strong financial provisions of some kind, which will make great differences to many of the great companies, and I think the House is entitled, before passing it, to have a clear explanation of its provisions. We must remember that sooner or later, if it passes in another place, the whole of the means of transport of some seven or eight million Londoners will be dependent on the finance of this Bill, and if that finance is unsound, if it is not on a right basis, if certain companies are getting more than they should do, it means inevitably that there must be a great rise in the fares in a part of this area.
I do not know whether I should apologise as representing a constituency outside London for taking part in the Debate on this Bill, but I would like to say to the Government that I can remember the 1918 Parliament, that I can remember things that happened then, and that this Bill and some other Bills are very like some of the things which caused that Parliament to break up. It is the deliberate driving into the Lobbies of vast blocks of Conservative Members to vote against what they know in their heart of hearts is wrong which will smash this Nationalist Government. I may not be one of those who always do exactly as they are told, but I have been a whole-hearted supporter of the Government and of my own party, and I say quite frankly that if there are many more Bills of this kind, whatever may be the guiding or ruling force behind them, whether 921 it be the Prime Minister or whoever else it may he, some of us are not going to be driven into the Lobby to vote for such Measures, which are wholly against the principles in which we believe and which cannot in any way be justified by any of our pledges at the last election.
If this kind of thing is going on, much as I regret it, I say that it will endanger the really very fine work which the Government are intending to do. I regret that the Government should waste the time of this House with Measures like this, which is merely a legacy from the previous Government, and I hope this is one of the last things of this kind that we shall see produced by the present Government. I am in no sense blaming the present Minister of Transport. I believe he has done his best, and he has been extraordinarily patient during the whole of these Debates, but I very sincerely hope that he will never have the unpleasant duty of trying to force through the House of Commons any other Bill of this kind.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. HOWARD
The borough council of Islington, which is the second largest borough in London, representing some 300,000 people, has sent a circular letter to each of its four Members of Parliament asking us to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill to-night. Their reasons are, in the first place, that they consider it is an attack upon private enterprise; secondly, that they fear that this monopoly can only result in increasing the fares to Londoners; and thirdly, that it will take away facilities. These are the three chief reasons for which we are asked by this large borough council to vote against this Measure. We have heard already to-night in this House from the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir G. Gillett) that it will mean that the monopoly will dictate to the people as to whether they shall travel by tram or omnibus and that it is illogical that there should be two kinds of services operating on the same route. That is one of the things we have feared all along. We think that the people of London, who have been accustomed to choosing whether they should go by tube, tram or omnibus, should not be dictated to and given only one facility of travelling. They will feel this interference with their individual 922 liberty to a very great extent. Omnibuses will be taken from the streets, a number of London County Council trams will be withdrawn, 1,500 drivers and conductors will lose their means of employment, large losses will be made unless fares are increased, and I venture to predict that this Measure will go down to history as "Morrison's monster."
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
My hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) complained that the Government in this matter had proceeded with undue haste. That was a curious observation to make when one remembers that the question of London traffic and the creation of an authority to take control of it has been discussed by this House, by Royal Commissions, by Select Committees, and by Ministers for something like 25 years. During the whole of that time the problem has become steadily more intractable and difficult. As long ago as 1919 a Select Committee of this House reported in no unmistakable terms as to its opinion about the steps that ought to be taken. The Committee said that it was the absence of a supreme traffic authority for greater London possessing executive powers of control and able to safeguard and further public interests that was responsible for the demoralisation of traffic in Greater London. They went on to say:The immediate creation by Parliament of a London traffic authority can alone remedy the present intolerable conditions.I am well aware, of course, that the authority which is now proposed to be set up is possibly a very different authority from that which was contemplated by the Committee to which I have referred, but when we reflect that in 1919 the conditions of London traffic were described as intolerable by a Committee of this House, it surprises me that my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham should rebuke the Government for having proceeded to deal with this question with undue haste. My hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) seemed to think that the Government were inducing a large number of people to vote for this Bill who would thus vote against their consciences. I have noticed before in the House that if anybody desires to vote against the majority of his party, he generally announces his intention of 923 so doing by supposing that everybody else is dishonest, and that he alone is reputable. My hon. Friend has no right and no authority to make the suggestion that those who vote for this Bill, or the majority of them, will not, broadly speaking, believe in the Bill which they are asked to support.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend, when he considers the matter, will never for a moment imagine that I would accuse any Member of my party of giving a dishonest vote. Nothing would be further from my intentions. I do say, however, that the power of the Whips can drive people into the Lobbies against their wishes, and that I do not think the Government would have got this Bill if they had throughout taken the Whips off.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My hon. Friend took down the hon. Gentleman's statement. He said, "The majority were being driven into the Lobby to vote for what they know to be wrong." That is a fairly emphatic and expressive charge of what I may call intellectual dishonesty, if not moral dishonesty. So far as I am concerned, my hon. Friend was good enough to suppose that I disbelieved in the Bill, and that I was preparing a number of arguments from time to time which carried no conviction to my own mind. My hon. Friend is entitled to his own opinion, but I should like to say that the more I have become acquainted with this Bill, and the longer the process of my initiation into the questions connected with London traffic, the more I am persuaded that some such system as this is the only possible solution for the problem.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I may assume that my hon. Friend will no longer believe me to be opposed to what I am commending to the House. The longer the settlement of this question is postponed, the more difficult is it certain to become. I may remind the House that in 1924 the London Traffic Act was passed, conferring considerable powers upon the Minister and creating the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. In 1930, the House passed another Measure, the Road Traffic Act, con- 924 ferring much more drastic powers upon the Minister, and upon certain officials who were appointed under the Act, than was contemplated or could have been contemplated in 1924. I am persuaded from my experience of these matters that the longer we postpone some such treatment as this, the more we will be driven to try and create some sort of super-Ministry composed of officials who will attempt to do that which this new authority will, I hope, do with success after the Bill is passed.
The fact is that the choice at present before the House is not between doing nothing and passing this Bill; it is a choice between conferring much more extensive powers on what is sometimes called the bureaucracy and setting up the authority or something like the authority that is proposed in the Bill. The Bill is, in fact, the first attempt to take a really long view of this question. There have been many half-hearted, timid proposals made from time to time. This Bill takes a comprehensive grasp of the whole of the problems. I am not going to suggest for a moment that the Bill is infallibly designed and that everything in it must be regarded as if it were inspired We are human and the House must do the best with the materials that are at its command, but the Bill does make a genuine attempt to envisage the whole of the problems and difficulties connected with London traffic, and to make some comprehensive settlement of this question, not for a year, not to stave off some other measure, but for the purpose of putting it on a firm, permanent and satisfactory basis.
The Bill has evoked criticism from two different points of view. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) described it as a mangled edition of the Bill of the Labour party, and said that it fell short of what it ought to do. On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Sir K. Vaughan-Morgan) described the Bill as a much-improved Bill. Those are two opposite points of view and the Government may take courage from the customary reflection on such occasions that the middle course is possibly the safest course. We are neither being driven into the ranks of the Socialist party nor are we resting in the tents of the reactionary forces. The hon. Gentleman opposite said that 925 nothing but public ownership and complete control would ever satisfy the Socialist party. I am not surprised then that this Bill does not satisfy him because it is certainly a long way from providing for public ownership and complete control. [HON. MEMBEBS: "Hear, hear!"] I hope that those cheers will encourage some of my faint hearted friends who sit behind me.
I have said that there have been tentative proposals for dealing with this question. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham was much intrigued by what he called co-ordination and I gather that "co-ordination" to him is like the blessed word "Mesopotamia" and holds a warm place in his affections. He suggested that there should be a Bill for common management, for co-operation based on voluntary arrangement. My hon. Friend with all his powers of sweet reasonableness would probably find it difficult to devise a supreme authority for London traffic if sweet reasonableness were the only weapon at his command. He based himself upon the Blue Report. I have obtained that interesting document to which he has paid so much attention, and I may remind the House of some of the things in it. It first describes the powers conferred upon the Minister by the London Traffic Act of 1924 as being quite inadequate as a means of eliminating the existingwasteful uneconomic and unnecessary competition between the several transport agencies.My hon. Friend attaches great value to the Blue Report. What about the freedom of private enterprise if you are going to limit free competition? I thought that the essence of the freedom of private enterprise from my hon. Friend's point of view was that there should be no interference with it; in other words, that there should be unrestricted competition. The Blue Report describes the competition that exists as "wasteful, uneconomic and unnecessary." Then my hon. Friend went on to represent to the House—I am sure with perfect honesty and believing it to be right—that there was no element of compulsion in the Blue Report. But I find that the common fund—which is described as the foundation of any successful treatment of this question—is mentioned in that report in connection with compulsory powers: 926Whilst it is hoped that this will be effected by agreement such powers must be conferred on the appropriate authority by Parliament as would ensure that all the undertakings concerned become parties to the common fund.What then is the position of my hon. Friend with his hatred of compulsion and his reliance upon the Blue Report?
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I think in regard to that matter I am in the same position as the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My hon. Friend cannot get away with it like that. He objects to compulsion. He and I are in different positions. I am defending a moderate measure of compulsion as necessary to ensure a great object. My hon. Friend protests against compulsion and yet in the same breadth recommends to the House the alternative remedy of a Bill based on the Blue Report. References to the Blue Report ran like a sort of refrain through his speech. But, according to the Blue Report, compulsion is fundamental to the adoption of its proposals. I am sure that my hon. Friend will not quarrel with that statement.
§ Sir K. VAUGHAN-MORGAN
I proposed to take the Blue Report as the basis or the foundation on which to build. I also mentioned that a Conservative Government had introduced two Bills based on the Blue Report, and I desired to proceed on those lines rather than on the lines adopted in the present Bill.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My hon. Friend now says—indeed, I gather he tells us that he had said so in his speech—that the solution of the problem is the solution contained in the two Bills which are called the Co-ordination Bills. The Co-ordination Bills entirely failed. They failed to satisfy anybody in the House for the very good reason that they left out that element of compulsion which the Blue Report described as essential to the creation of any proper authority. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] The Coordination Bills had their opportunity,, and they failed for the reason I have 927 mentioned. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am entitled to express my opinion. I believe I am absolutely justified in saying that they failed to satisfy the House and public opinion merely because they were so many vague aspirations towards so-called co-ordination and contained little or nothing to ensure that any proper measure of co-ordination would be effected.
I am opposed to the political opinions of Mr. Herbert Morrison who took such a great part in connection with this Measure, but I am ready to pay a tribute to any quarter where I think a tribute is due. Nor am I going to be deterred by any fanciful suggestion from any hon. Member that I am half a Socialist or anything of that kind. Mr. Morrison was, I believe, on the right path so far as the measure of compulsion introduced into this Bill is concerned. He and those who agree with him in this respect are what are fashionably called realists in that they recognise that you cannot deal with this problem without having some weapon in order to bring everybody into your scheme. It is no good bringing in half or three-quarters of the people concerned, and I venture to think that the element of compulsion in the Bill can be justified by the success which has attended the efforts of the present Minister so far. It can be justified by the example of those who have realised that it is in the public interest that they should be compelled if necessary to come into a common organisation; who have shown themselves to be reasonable and public-spirited people by agreeing to make voluntary arrangements for settling the claims of various interests concerned in London traffic. I do not regret at all that there has been such a large measure of voluntary settlement on questions arising as to the compensation payable for the investments taken over.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
Is it not a fact that the one party standing out when this Bill was before the Committee was the Metropolitan Railway and that they came in by agreement and not by compulsion.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That is the point which I am endeavouring to make. Whether it was the measure of compulsion that lay behind the Bill or not, a 928 great authority like that which he has mentioned came in and made an arrangement as satisfactory to themselves as to the Minister negotiating the Bill on behalf of the travelling public. I suggest to any hon. Members who may have been a little frightened by the frequent repetition of the words "monopoly" and "compulsion" and words of that sort that they may take a little courage when they reflect upon the way in which the Conservative party has many times in the past found it necessary in the public interest to require certain owners of property or interests to place that property or those interests at the disposal of the public in return for fair compensation. This Bill, I unhesitatingly say, provides for fair competition between the board and the persons whose property is concerned.
That brings me to the question of finance. The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Sir P. Dawson) put forward some criticisms of the finance of this Bill in Committee. He was not here yesterday, though we had seen his shadow in the form of a printed statement which was circulated with his name. He will, I hope, forgive me if I say that that statement was thoroughly misleading. I am not suggesting for a moment that he intended to mislead hon. Members, and I am quite sure that he believes what he said, whatever the rest of us may think. He prophesied that the scheme would result in a deficit of at least £l,000,000. Let us see how he arrived at that figure. He ignores, first of all, the elasticity in the financial structure of the Bill by reason of the existence of the "C" stock. He does not make any reference to the fact that the interest which is to be earned by the "C" stock is in the same position as the return to be paid upon the ordinary stock in any undertaking. He uses the word "deficit" in a thoroughly misleading sense. It cannot be said that an undertaking is making a deficit, even if it does fail to pay the highest rate of interest which is capable of being earned on its ordinary stock, or upon its "C" stock as in this case. The "C" stock depends upon the earnings of this undertaking, and the interest is not cumulative. I am sorry that the use of the word "deficit" has the high authority of the hon. Member for West Lewisham. 929 Let us see how this £ 1,000,000 is arrived at. My hon. Friend takes as the basis of his comparison the two years 1932 and 1930. He finds a reduction in the gross receipts as between those two years of £ 1,200,000. He adds to that, for the increase in the price of petrol, £500,000, which makes £ 1,700,000. He then takes, as if he were dealing with the same subject matter, Sir William McLintock's estimated surplus of £ 400,000, and he adds to that the sum of £ 300,000, which he suggests may be realised by means of economies. He makes £ 700,000 out of those two sums, deducts it from his £ 1,700,000 deficit and says: "I have arrived at a deficit of £1,000,000."
Let us see the mistake that he has made. He has taken, for the purpose of getting to his riginal sum of £ 1,700,000, the comparisons between 1932 and 1930. Sir William McLintock was not dealing with 1930; he has taken the three years 1928, 1929 and 1930, and, in as much as the 1930 receipts exceeded the average receipts for those three years by £ 600,000, the hon. Member for West Lewis ham, by taking the year 1930 as if it were Sir William McLintock's, has falsified the whole of his calculation by no less a sum than £ 600,000. His so-called deficit is thereby divided in half. Then what does he do? He adds on, in a light and airy fashion, £500,000, as being the increased expenditure by reason of the added price of petrol. My hon. Friend is, I know, a great authority on finance. If he had studied the figures which have been provided only to-day in the accounts of the five companies, he would have found that the reduction—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I wish he had had an opportunity of studying them as I have today, and he cannot complain about my giving the true facts because he has been too busy to study them. The accounts that have been published today show a reduction in 1932 as compared with 1930 of a very much smaller figure than the hon. Member has assumed in his calculations, and any increase in the cost of petrol to the companies is offset by economies that have been achieved by so much more than he anticipates, that actually the expenditure in 1932 is some —500,000 less than the expenditure in 1930; that is after the 930 original cost of petrol has been charged against the expenses. There goes another £ 500,000 of my hon. Friend's facile calculation.
When a document was produced so late as the last two or three days, and is only brought before the House this evening when there are no other facilities for examining it than those afforded to a Poor Law officer who knows nothing about finance, one can understand how unreliable my hon. Friend's calculations are. If there had been anything in them, I cannot help thinking that it would have been discovered several weeks ago during the Recess, and since we discussed this Bill in Committee. I do not place much confidence in calculations by round figures of half-millions that are brought forward at the eleventh hour, instead of being brought forward at the earliest possible moment.
I may still be asked how I justify the finance of this Bill. I do not attempt to justify it on my own authority; the House is in a position to judge about the value of the estimates that have been placed before it by Sir William McLintock's examination of the figures, and I venture to suggest that it is a counsel of despair to take those estimates and to say that they are unjustified by the experience that we are likely to meet in the next few years. Sir William McLintock has not made any prophecy about what is going to happen. He has taken the three years as a fair basis of the financial statement which was produced and offered to the House as long ago as last November. If it is suggested that the margin of about £ 150,000, after paying the interest on the "C" stock, is a very small one, let me remind the House that the "C" stock is intended to provide for that elasticity which you are bound to have in any well-managed undertaking. You cannot guarantee that the profits shall always remain at a precise level.
The earnings of the "C" stock may go up to 6 per cent. One of my hon. Friends said that it may go up as high as 6½ per cent. That was a mistake. They may go up to 6 per cent. If in any particular year the earnings of this concern are not enough to pay 6 per cent., the holders of the "C" or of the ordinary stock as I call it, will have the same experience as other investors in 931 trading companies. It is quite wrong to say that this Bill is a mistake and ought not to be accepted by the House because the Government cannot guarantee a rate of interest of 6 per cent. upon the ordinary stock of the undertaking for ever. We offer to the House, and I offer to the House, which is so much better able to judge of its value than I am, the estimate that has been prepared and laid before it as to the probable course of events. When one reflects that the estimate has not taken into account any economies that may be effected and, as I have shown, have already been effected, in these great undertakings, I think the House may have a good hope that, with proper management and control and by the elimination of that wasteful competition which everybody has recognised, prosperity awaits this undertaking.
I was asked a question about the amount of the "C" stock. The calculation of the amount of the "C" stock has not been based upon any rule-of-thumb calculation of past profits. The Minister has had to take into consideration the factor of security and maintainability of the profits. There has been an estimate of capital which has not yet come into full value, but there has been no attempt to capitalize past profits or the share of any particular operator in the common receipts, and it is quite impossible to answer the question, which has been asked this evening, as to what is the number of years' purchase given to a particular undertaker. I made the point in Committee, and I was very sorry to hear the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Miss Pickford) say that we have kept back from the House details about finance. I hope the hon. Lady will allow me to say that I do not think that that charge is quite justified. We may not have been able to give an answer to the question, which was put in Committee and has been repeated today, as to how many years' purchase have been given to a particular operator, but that is not because we have kept back the information, but because it is impossible to give an answer to the question, since the calculations have not proceeded on that basis.
§ Miss PICKFORD
What I wanted to convey was that it has never been made plain to the House, and particularly to 932 those new Members who did not hear the Second Reading Debate or the proceedings before the Joint Select Committee.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am not sure what the hon. Lady refers to when she says that it has never been made clear to the House. I am not sure what it is that has never been made clear to the House. As long ago as November, the broad outline of the financial structure of the Bill was made plain to the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Oh, yes, it was. It is no use the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) protesting, unless he has not read it.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It is quite possible that I do not understand it, but I think that a great many other people understood it, and that even I understood the broad outline set out in the White Paper. When it is suggested, further, that the details of the finance have not been explained to the House, I must join issue with the hon. Member for North Hammersmith, because there was a great deal of discussion in Committee about the financial details of this scheme, and, so far as I know, except for the question about the number of years' purchase, any question that was asked was answered. I should like any Member here present who may care to interrupt me to tell me of a single question that was not fairly answered except this question which I have mentioned, and to which I say there was not an answer, because there was no attempt to take profits and multiply by the number of years to give so many years' purchase. All sorts of other considerations were taken into account besides the mere amount of profits in a particular year or on an average of years.
§ Mr. CAPORN
Did not the right non. and learned Gentleman tell us in Committee that it was impossible to give the details of the finance because there were other persons concerned, and the matter would have to go to arbitration?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I certainly told the Committee that I was not prepared to give a calculation of the compensation paid to a particular 933 operator, because of the settlements that had still to be arrived at; but that refusal is not a refusal to explain the financial structure of the Bill. I am sure that anyone who is acquainted, as my hon. Friend is, with arbitration about compensation, knows perfectly well the difference between the two statements.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
Was it not made clear this afternoon that the Minister himself could not tell us the total sum involved?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I was not present during the whole of my hon. Friend's speech, and I did not hear anything to that effect, but I cannot imagine that my hon. Friend would have found himself in a difficulty of that sort, because all that it was necessary for him to do was to refer any hon. Member to Command Paper No. 4204, which gives the answer to that question. I suggest once more to the House that there has been a disclosure of the financial structure upon which the Bill is reared. It may be that some hon. Members think that the structure is unsound; it may be that they think that too optimistic an opinion has been formed of the chances of success of this undertaking; but that is very different from saying that the financial features of the Bill have not been fairly explained to the House. I hope I am right in saying that there has been no refusal of information.
I will now deal with another point remotely connected with finance. I was asked by the hon. Member for North Southward (Mr. Strauss) what guarantee there was against the raising of fares. That question has been put from more than one quarter, and it rather surprises me that it should be asked by some of my hon. Friends behind me. Is it really the suggestion that, indefinitely, the taxpayers of the United Kingdom are to subsidies the traveling public of London? That is what the request for a guarantee by the Government that fares shall not be raised means. I am not suggesting that fares will be raised; I am not attempting to prophesy. I have given reasons for thinking that, when proper economies have been effected, the management of London traffic will be more efficient than and just as cheap as it has been in the past. But let us suppose that the necessities of the situation do result in fares being raised. Is it sug- 934 gested that that is wrong, and that the London population of 10,000,000 or 12,000,000, or whatever is the number affected by this Bill, are indefinitely to have cheap transport at the expense of the taxpayers of the whole of the United Kingdom? Some of my hon. Friends behind me seem inclined to ask for a measure of Home Rule for London, and to wish to prevent anyone from speaking about London except the representatives of South Kensington and Fulham—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Those who seem to take that rather parochial view of this problem cannot expect the London traveling public to be subsidised for ever by the taxpayers, any more than the citizens of Bristol. My hon. Friend refers to Bristol. Why should Bristol be deprived of cheap traveling facilities if London gets them at the expense of the taxpayers?
§ Sir W. DAVISON
We suggest that, owing to the proceedings of this combine, it is very likely that the transport will cost more than if it were in the hands of individuals who would look after the matter, while in that case, if any loss were incurred, it would be borne by the shareholders and not by the taxpayers.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If all that my hon. Friend is doing is to prophesy as to what is very likely to happen, I am not going to compete with him. I am not aware, if my hon. Friend will allow me to say so without any offence, that he has qualified as a financial expert on the very complicated details of transport finance in London. He may be right or he may be wrong. I say deliberately, however, that at the present time the London traveling public is being subsidised by the taxpayer. Let me give one illustration. In the case of the tubes that have been recently constructed or are now being constructed, the Government have given a subsidy to the extent of 3 per cent. upon the capital for 15 years. Why has that been done? Because the traffic in London at the present time is not being carried on on a self-supporting basis. Who can defend that? It is tolerable in order to carry us over a period of difficulty, to tide us over a 935 few years; but it would be an intolerable burden on the taxpayers of this country if it were to go on for ever. Are we to be deterred from setting up a state of things by which economies can be effected, by the somewhat vague and gloomy anticipations of my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington? If we were to approach this problem in that spirit, we might just as well throw up our task at once, and say that London traffic in the future must be left to look after itself, because the House of Commons is helpless since it cannot guarantee the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) said that he was in favor of a smaller experiment first. He did not tell us what was the smaller experiment.
§ Sir W. RAY
Pardon me, I did. I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was in the Chamber.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I apologies to the hon. Gentleman. I think I heard the whole of his speech, but I am sure that it is my fault if I did not understand the smaller experiment. That was the topic upon which I began my few observations. This House has been engaged in making smaller experiments for the last 25 years, and it is time that we undertook something a little more courageous and comprehensive than what my hon. Friend calls the smaller experiments. I do not regard this Measure—even if I did I should not be frightened by it—in the least as a Socialistic Measure, or, as a step towards the time when what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) described as "the far off approach of Socialism" would be realized. We are
§ all accustomed to read prophecies of astronomers who look forward to the time when the exhaustion of the Sun will reduce us all to icicles. The prospect of this country. turning to Socialism is about as remote as that. I certainly shall not be deterred by prophecies of that sort.
§ The progress of this Debate seems to have lasted only seven or eight days. Perhaps some hon. Members who have had to listen to me think that it must have lasted a great deal longer. The fact is that it has lasted 25 years, and certain broad conclusions have been hammered out in the course of that generation—the conclusion that the condition of London traffic is intolerable, the conclusion that there must be some co-ordination, if I may borrow my hon. Friend's expression, the conclusion that there must be some measure of compulsion, and the impossibility of dealing with this question unless every phase of traffic is brought under the same central control. I do not think that there is a single Member in the House who has studied this question who would deny those broad propositions. I have head it said that the Bill has much more in it of agreement than compulsion, though I recognise that compulsion lies at the back of this long-needed Measure, which has been produced by many different authorities, and I ask the House now to send it forward in the hope that it will prove to be a permanent contribution to the well-being and efficiency of this great City.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 232; Noes, 46.937
|Division No. 44.]||AYES.||[9.18 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Gazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Boothby, Robert John Graham||Clayton, Dr. George C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Borodale, Viscount||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Boulton, W. W.||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cooke, Douglas|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brass, Captain Sir William||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Balniel, Lord||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Banfield, John William||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burnett. John George||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Crossley, A. C.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Daggar, George|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Cape, Thomas||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)|
|Bernays, Robert||Carver, Major William H.||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Cassels, James Dale||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Dickie, John P.||Law, Sir Alfred||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Lawson, John James||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Leckie, J. A.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Edwards, Charles||Levy, Thomas||Ropnar, Colonel L.|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Lewis, Oswald||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Elmley, Viscount||Liddall, Walter S.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Logan, David Gilbert||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Salt, Edward W.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Seaham)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||McEntee, Valentine L.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark. Bothwell)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Shaw. Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McKie, John Hamilton||Shepperson. Sir Ernest W.|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Shute, Colonel J, J.|
|Goff, Sir Park||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Slater, John|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Magnay, Thomas||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Grimston, R. V.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Soper, Richard|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Martin, Thomas B.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Hales, Harold K.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Sr'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Moore. Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Stones, James|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Storey, Samuel|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Morrison, William Shepherd||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Munro, Patrick||Templeton, William P.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Nathan, Major H. L.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hornby, Frank||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Nunn, William||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Horobin, Ian M.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Owen, Major Goronwy||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Parkinson, John Allen||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pearson, William G.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C)||Peat, Charles U.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|James Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Penny, Sir George||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Petherick, M.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Peat, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bliston)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Potter, John||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Price, Gabriel||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Captain Austin Hudson and Dr. Morris-Jones.|
|Knight, Holford||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Holdsworth, Herbert||Remer, John R.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Hopkinson, Austin||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Howard, Tom Forrest||Selley, Harry R.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hume. Sir George Hopwood||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Knox, Sir Alfred||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lees-Jones, John||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Doran, Edward||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Fermoy, Lord||Marsden, Commander Arthur||wells, Sydney Richard|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Mitcheson, G. G.||Williams. Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nall, Sir Joseph|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Harris, Sir Percy||North, Captain Edward T.||Sir Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan and Sir William Davison.|
|Hartland, George A.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Ray, Sir William|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.