HC Deb 20 July 1933 vol 280 cc2099-131
Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I beg to move, in page 41, line 31, column 3, at the end, to insert the words: In Section thirty-nine, the words 'shipping or,' and the words coastwise shipping or.' This is a Government Amendment consequential upon the insertion of a new Clause relating to coastwise shipping.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 41, line 49, column 3, leave out the word "The," and insert instead thereof the words, "Sub-section (5) of Section forty-six and the ".—[Lieut.-Colonel Headlam.]

9.5 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

We have now reached the last stage of this Bill in this House and some of us who have been following its career from the beginning are not altogether sorry that it is going to another place for a time. When my hon. Friend the Minister moved the Second Reading of the Bill lie showed—I think naturally—great pride in his offspring. At the same time he was not one of those foolish parents who are apt to consider that any goose of theirs must be a swan and who grow indignant when any criticism is raised against it. He therefore did what I think was right and proper. He invited the criticism of all sections of the House and he asked all hon. Members to assist him in making the Bill a better Bill.

I should like to say at once that both in Committee and during the Report stage we have received the greatest assistance from our critics who I am sure have been actuated by one desire only and that to make the Bill a more useful and workable Measure. Naturally, we have not been able to accept all the suggestions which have been offered to us. It seemed to us in connection with some of those suggestions that those who made them were influenced in favour of some form of transport or some particular interest and that partiality, in our opinion, caused them to lose sight of the main principles of the Bill, which are the regulation of goods traffic on the roads and the co-ordination of all forms of transport in the interest of the community as a whole. Nevertheless, I should like to assure the House that in our opinion the amended Bill is an improvement upon the Bill as it was originally introduced, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will be the first to admit that his infant has been developed on the right lines during its testing time in Committee and on the Floor of the House.

I should like now to draw attention to the snore important changes which have been made in the Bill since the Second Reading. There was a general opinion in the Committee that the scope of the operations to he conducted by traders under "C" licences should be enlarged, and consequently we have added new paragraphs to Clause 1, Sub-section (3) which will enable manufacturers or dealers to carry their goods in vehicles in respect of which a licence has been taken out under Section 9 of the Roads Act of 1920, or by a repairer under Section 15 of the Finance Act, 1922, in accordance with the regulations applicable to that licence. A paragraph has also been added to the same Sub-section (3) to meet the needs of manufacturers. This Amendment will enable a manufacturer, his agent or dealer, to carry goods in a vehicle under a "C" licence while it is being used by him for demonstration purposes. We understand that that will be of advantage to the trade and generally will have a beneficial effect. There are other Amendments of substance to Clause 1 in Sub-section (5) which contains the list of exemptions from the licensing provisions of the Bill. We have inserted new paragraphs which will have the effect of exempting vehicles for towing a disabled motor car; vehicles used for miners' rescue purposes under Section 85 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911; vehicles used by local authorities for certain sanitary purposes; and also vehicles belonging to persons acting in pursuance of contracts with local authorities and vehicles used for the purpose of the enactments relating to weights and measures or the sale of food and drugs.

In Clause 2, Sub-section (2) we have made an Amendment making it clear that canal, dock and harbour undertakings can operate vehicles under "A" licences. As a general rule, I understand harbour and dock undertakings do not themselves carry goods. The Sub-section as amended will authorise an "A" licence to be used in connection with such storage or warehousing of goods as may be incidental to the holders' business as a carrier. In Committee a certain amount of anxiety was expressed as to the procedure to be adopted in the application for licences. It was considered that the requirements under Clause 6, Sub-section (1) were somewhat too searching and inquisitive. We were impressed by the arguments brought forward in this connection and we have therefore inserted Amendments to make it clear that an applicant for a licence shall not be called upon to disclose either publicly, or to the licensing authority, whether vehicles specified on his licence are out-and-out in his own possession or whether he holds them under a hire purchase agreement. We have also inserted Amendments to limit the extent to which a licensing authority can ask for financial information about the business of a "C" licence holder. That was a point which was specially pressed and I think rightly pressed in Committee.

We have considerably revised Sub-section (2) of Clause 6 which deals with the discretion of a licensing authority as to granting or refusing a licence. The object of this Sub-section has, I think, as a result of these Amendments, been made clearer. It provides that the licensing authority when granting a licence is to have regard to the interests of the public generally, including those of persons requiring as well as of persons providing facilities for transport. We also inserted an Amendment, at the instance of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul) during the Report stage to the effect that the licensing authority should, if SO requested, give reasons for refusing to grant a licence. My hon. Friend while accepting that Amendment assured the House that he did not think it would make much difference to those concerned. At the same time he realised that there was a feeling in the House as there was in Committee that people who were not getting their licences should be allowed to know the reason and, consequently, we have made the Amendment which I have just indicated and which I think is generally acceptable. In Clause 8 which deals with the conditions of licences an Amendment has been inserted in Sub-section (3) providing that the licensing authority may attach a further condition to a "B" licence, namely a condition that goods shall be carried for hire or reward only for specified persons. That provision we think will be of assistance to those applying for "B" licences because if the applicant is limited in this way to what presumably is his usual carrying business it is less likely that his application will be opposed by competitors. Therefore, we think that that Amendment is of advantage to those in search of "B" licences. The next important change that has been made in the Bill since its Second Reading is an Amendment in Subsection (3) of Clause 10 which deals with objections to certain applications for licences or for variations of licences. The Clause now provides for the advertisement of applications for short-term licences. I think the change in this provision should prevent any possible abuse of such licences.

In Committee upstairs it seemed to be the general opinion that it would be fairer to all concerned if the licensing authority should, if so requested by the licence-holder, state in writing the grounds for the revocation or a suspension of a licence. A provision to this effect has been inserted in Sub-section (2) of Clause 11. My hon. Friend has inserted another provision to meet the views of the Committee stating that there shall be, if required, a public inquiry before the revocation or suspension of a licence. Much stress was laid upon this matter upstairs, and a great deal of Debate took place upon it. It was clearly shown that the general opinion was that the revocation or suspension of a licence should not take place without a public inquiry. Our intention in the matter from the beginning was in accordance with the recommendations of the Salter Report. When we first introduced the Bill it was our intention that the procedure with regard to the granting and revocation or suspension of licences should be made as easy and as cheap as possible for all those concerned. At the same time, we have always realised that a fair chance must be given to everyone, and so, when we found that there was a consensus of opinion among Members upstairs that the provisions in the Bill were not adequate for the protection of licence-holders, we were only too glad to make provision for the better safeguarding of their interests. For the same reason we agreed to insert an Amendment—Subsection (13) of Clause 13—enabling the Appeal Tribunal to remit fees in cases where the applicant may lack the means to pay them.

In the Bill as it was introduced it was proposed to give powers to the examiners to stop vehicles on the roads. Apprehension was expressed by a good many Members of the Committee upstairs that those powers might work for ill and that evilly disposed persons might use the opportunity of posing as examiners in order to stop vehicles for their nefarious purposes, and it was argued that drivers of vehicles on the roads might legitimately be excused from paying no attention to signs to stop made to them by persons on the road. My hon. Friend was impressed by this point of view and decided that examiners should not he allowed to stop vehicles in motion. They will have power to detain them, if they so wish, when they are already at rest. Certain Members of the Committee expressed the opinion that this might greatly reduce the efficiency of the work of the examiners, but on the whole we think the change is likely to be in the best interests both of the people who work on the roads and of those who are charged with seeing that vehicles are worked under proper conditions.

Clause 24 of the Bill gives the Minister of Transport power to prohibit or restrict the use of vehicles on certain roads. It is a wide power, and when this was pointed out upstairs, the Minister agreed to insert an Amendment that no order made by him under the Clause should become operative until it had been laid before Parliament and received an affirmative Resolution of both Houses. I think that this provision will be welcomed by all those who consider that we are on "the slippery slope," as the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. McKeag) said early to-night, of bureaucracy, and that our liberties are endangered by the unfettered exercise of authority by Government Departments. Clause 25 was inserted in Committee, and it has been considerably discussed tonight. I do not propose to say anything more about it now. I have no doubt that the Debate to-night has rather cleared the issue and that the words of my hon. Friend on the subject will be studied by hon. Members opposite.

The main Clause perhaps of this Bill is Clause 30, formerly Clause 29, which provides for an important relaxation of the existing provisions governing the charges which may be made by railway companies. In the light of events since the passage of the Railway Act, 1921, and in particular the growth of road transport, in active competition with the railways, but free from the statutory limitations applying to railway rates, it has been apparent, and is generally accepted, that some greater scope should be allowed to the railways to enable them to adjust their charges to existing conditions. The changes that we have made in this Clause since it was introduced are as follows, if I may summarise them:

In the first place, the interests of a trader who considers that his business will be detrimentally affected if an agreed charge is approved, or that his business has been detrimentally affected as a result of the making of an agreed charge, will be safeguarded by the new Sub-section (5), which will give him the right at any time to apply to the tribunal for a charge to be fixed for the carriage of his merchandise. Thus the protection afforded by the right of a trader or a representative body of traders to object to the giving of approval to an agreed charge, for which the Bill as introduced provided, has been materially reinforced. An effective substitute for the existing provisions as to equality of charges and undue preference has been embodied in the Clause. In addition, a number of minor alterations have been made in order to meet points raised on behalf of the traders during the consideration of the Clause.

Secondly, in order to ensure that the interests of dock and harbour authorities are adequately safeguarded, Sub-section (9) has been inserted. Any such authority which has reason to believe that a railway company is, by an agreed charge, placing its port, harbour, or dock undertaking at an undue disadvantage as compared with any other port, harbour, or dock, will have the right to make complaint to the Railway and Canal Commissioners.

Thirdly, fears have been expressed that, armed with their new powers, the railway companies might adopt a policy which would prejudicially affect coastwise shipping to a serious extent, and in Committee upstairs it was strongly urged that in the national interest some protection must be afforded to coastwise shipping. We have, as the House knows, introduced a Clause which we believe will be an effective guarantee against any such injury being inflicted through a policy of diversion of traffic from coastwise shipping to the railways, and will assist in bringing about a measure of co-operation and co-ordination between the railways and the shipping interests.

I should like to take this opportunity to-night of recognising the fair and reasonable spirit in which the railway companies have co-operated with the Government in seeking to meet the views of traders and the claims of the transport undertakings. This general attitude of reasonableness which has animated all concerned—I do not limit that reasonableness to the railway companies—augurs well, I think, for that co-operation in transport work which is one of the main objects of the Bill. I do not propose to say anything further about the Amendments that have been made in the Schedules to the Bill. We have only just ceased discussing these, and there is a divergence of opinion still among hon. Members as to the right of representation given to the various interests concerned.

Our main idea in creating this Transport Advisory Council is that it should have represented on it all the interests which are connected with transport. It is not, in my opinion, a question so much of Labour being represented in the special way that certain hon. Members were urging just now. Labour and capital in an industry should present a common interest, and, when you say that railways are represented on this Council, you mean the whole railway interests, whether employers or employés. I should like it to be borne in more and more upon the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is the idea we have in connection with this body which we are creating to assist the Minister of Transport in the great transport problems of this country. One of the most important parts of the Bill is the institution of this Transport Advisory Council. Through its aid, if we are successful in our object, we shall get advice which will be based on the transport work of the whole country in its various implications and, on its advice, we shall be able to co-ordinate it and bring it together in the public interest. In recommending this Bill to the House for Third Reading, I am recommending a Bill which is in the nature of an experiment. It is an experiment which has been delayed 10 years too long. It will now shortly be put into operation and, I believe, its results will be that the conditions of public safety upon our roads will be materially improved, that the conditions of the workers in the industry will benefit considerably, and that the general co-ordination of the transport services of this country will be brought about in the interests of the public as a whole.

9.20 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: this House declines to pass a Bill for regulating road and rail traffic which shows insufficient regard for the public safety in its failure adequately to protect working conditions and fails to recognise the urgent necessity for a national coordinated system of transport. May I, at the onset of my remarks, compliment the Minister on his conduct of the proceedings on this Bill both in Committee upstairs, where we had 18 sittings, and on the Report stage here. For some 10 years I have had experience of the Committee work of this House, but I have never sat upon a more congenial Committee. That was brought about very largely as a result of the manner in which the Minister conducted those proceedings. It was not that we were in any way satisfied with the concessions he gave us—for he certainly gave us very little either upstairs or here—but he had such a pleasant way of saying no that it was almost impossible to resist withdrawing Amendments when he got up to put his point of view. Notwithstanding that, we are still hoping that, as a result of the conversations which he is going to have with the persons named in the course of the proceedings to-day, some concessions will be given which will make the lot of the men employed in the industry better than it would be if the Bill went through in the form in which it was introduced. We also attribute very largely the manner in which the Bill was dealt with in Committee to the very pleasant way in which the Chairman of the Committee performed his duties. I have never seen a Chairman who did his work in a more pleasant and tactful way than did my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins). It contributed very largely to the success of our proceedings.

The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to the changes which have taken place in the various Clauses of the Bill. The principal change is with regard to the old Clause 29, which is now Clause 30. It was very interesting to see the very easy way in which the Minister was able to steer his keel through rocks. I thought it was almost impossible for him to satisfy the road and railway interests and I expected that the fight, which was rather a prolonged fight in Committee, would have been continued much more strenuously during the Report stage on the Floor of the House of Commons. I was agreeably surprised to hear the various interests, road and rail and coastwise, agreeing to a compromise which the Minister brought in himself without very much consultation with the various interests concerned, but which had the happy effect of at least withdrawing a good deal of the opposition levelled against the Clause.

While I say that to the changes which have taken place in the Clauses, I would have liked to have seen this offspring of the Minister made much more worthy of his efforts. It is, after all, only a patch on an overpatched coat. We are simply dealing with traffic, road, rail and coastwise, in a piecemeal fashion. During the last few years we have had six or seven Acts of Parliament dealing with traffic, but, notwithstanding all those Acts, there is now, after all this legislation, no co-ordination between one section and the other. That is what we are very concerned about, and this Bill may be regarded as a further testimony to the need for national regulation and co-ordination of the transport services of the country. For years those of us who sit on these benches have been urging the importance of this question to the industrial, commercial, and social life of the country. There is no doubt about the wisdom of our contention, because it is beyond question. There was abundant proof during the war years, when the railways and canals were under Government control and when road traffic had not developed as it has now, that there was a need for this national co-ordination. That was so evident that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), then a leading member of the Coalition Government, was impelled to declare for the complete nationalisation of the transport services. Then in 1920, as now in 1938, the vested interests were too powerful. Then as now the Government dared not tackle those vested interests and lift from the shoulders of the community the handicaps and hindrances which the present chaotic, competitive, and overlapping arrangements cause. Our policy has long been that transport should be organised on a truly national basis and that the railways, the road motor services, the coastal services, and, indeed, the developing air services, should all be regarded as part of a national system of transport, each playing its national part and working in co-operation instead of in competition.

We do not desire to withhold from the Minister of Transport the measure of credit due to him for the steps he is taking under the provisions of this Bill. He is seeking to bring about some measure of co-ordination and long overdue control of traffic on the road. This is now being carried on under conditions that are notoriously little short of a public scandal imperilling daily the lives and limbs of the road-using public. As the Parliamentary Secretary rightly pointed out, the Bill relieves the railways of some of the handicaps and unfairnesses under which they have laboured and which have helped largely to bring about conditions by which the interests of the railway proprietors and shareholders have been seriously affected, and, what we are more concerned about, it has also affected the employment of many thousands of the workers and their conditions have been placed in jeopardy. The plea for transport co-ordination is not a plea for any limited sectional interest. The First Schedule of the Bill shows how comprehensive are the interests involved. There are trading interests which include agriculture, harbour and dock authorities, railways, canals, the users and manufacturers of mechanically-propelled vehicles, local authorities, and, in fact, every section of the community.

A truly national Government living up to its name would recognise the imperative need of provisions for regulating all kinds of transport in the interests of the public service. Their purpose should be to provide means for meeting the needs not only of those who travel, but of trade and industry and their further requirements in the development of the country, more especially in regard to agriculture, new industries and the better housing of the people. One could deal at length with the remarkable change in the conditions of rural life which have been. brought about by the road motor omnibus services and could consider also the possibilities if these motor services for the carriage of passengers and goods were sensibly used in co-operation instead of in wasteful competition with railways and other forms of transport. In an allusion to the early days of railway development the Royal Commission on Transport said that many of the promotions were initiated and carried out in an atmosphere of ignorance and prejudice which had left a lasting mark on the economies of our railways. Every student knows that to be true. A similar situation has arisen in regard to the newer forms of transport, and we say that unless prompt action is taken with regard to the coordination of those services in the national interest, the same thing will happen with regard to other forms of transport.

This Bill does tend to some measure of supervision for vehicles upon the road and the nature of the traffic which may he carried. Is there any doubt that this supervision is very necessary? We support that part of the Bill unhesitatingly, and we have done so throughout the proceedings on the Bill. The roads of this country were never constructed to carry the traffic or the very heavy vehicles which we now see. Indeed, we say without any hesitation that a lot of the heavier traffic could be and should be carried by the railways. Under a co-ordinated system of transport there would be a natural allocation of traffic to road or rail or canal or, where time was important, the air services. There has been a disposition in some quarters to treat rather cavalierly the suggestion with regard to internal air transport. I think that the attitude of some of the railway companies in this direction is on the right lines. is there any hon. Member who, when using the roads, has not shuddered at the possibility of the danger of encountering some of these huge, cumbersome six- or eight-wheeled vehicles With their trailers we might say that they are small goods trains tearing up the roads, which, incidentally, the general taxpayer has to help to provide, and which, by their enormous height and width, block the view and endanger the passage of the normal vehicles. There is the possibility that the Minister will deal with that aspect of the problem through this Bill.

We are more concerned about the conditions of labour which should be contained in this Measure. While we are certainly rather pleased that the drivers of the vehicles which will come under "A" and "B" licences will have some guarantee as far as wages are concerned, I want to repeat the hope that the drivers of the vehicles which will have the "C" licences will be treated in a similar way. Unless the Minister concedes the point which we put to him, 75 per cent. of the usefulness of this Bill from the point of view of wages alone will be destroyed. Eighty per cent. of the road vehicles which are now upon the roads will come under the "C" licence, and for that reason we say and emphasise as strongly as possible that the "C" licence drivers should be treated as the drivers of "A" and "B" licences are treated.

Then there is the question of hours of labour. It cannot be said that we are by any means satisfied with the 11-hour day which is contained in the Road Traffic Act of 1930. I wonder what hon. Members would say if a Bill was presented to institute an 11-hour day in other industries where the public are not so susceptible to the slip of any one person as they are in the transport industry. I know that the charge which will be levelled against us is that the 11-hour day is contained in the Road Traffic Act of 1930. That is true, but before that Act was passed the hours of the drivers of passenger and goods vehicles were not limited even to the 11-hour day. They could work round the clock, although they had the safety of their passengers and of the public in their hands, without any statutory regulation of hours.

We hoped that the Minister would have improved upon that in this Bill. One would have imagined that in 1933, when we talk so much about eight hours' work, eight hours' sleep, eight hours' play and "eight bob a day," that demand would have been a reality. Indeed, we are talking about a six-hour day, and in America they did produce legislation for a five-hour day; but under this Bill provision is made for an eleven-hour day. What we are concerned about, and I know that the Minister is also concerned about it, is the difficulty of getting the owners of passenger and goods vehicles to recognise that an eleven-hour day is too long for their drivers. I wonder what the House would think if the railway companies insisted on an eleven-hour day for the drivers of passenger and goods trains. I know the Minister may say "Well, we have followed the example of your Bill," and I admit that conditions are better than those which existed before 1930, but we would have liked the Minister to reduce the hours of labour still further.

He has amended the Road Traffic Act in one respect which, in his opinion, is going to be an improvement, and we wish it could have also been improved in this direction. We have received assurances from the Minister that the provisions of this Bill will enable him more rigidly to apply the law as to hours, and we on this side of the House will do all we can to assist him, because I think the cases mentioned in which men only had the opportunity of sleeping in their beds on Saturday and Sunday nights and on other nights had to sleep on their vehicles constitute a scandal. It is an improvement that he should have agreed to consider, in consultation with the Attorney-General, whether some provision can be inserted in the Bill whereby drivers will be enabled to take their rest away from the influence of their employers. That will be an improvement, but even that will not satisfy us. Under a co-ordinated system of transport an eleven-hour day would not be tolerated for a single moment, and we will press on every possible occasion for a reduction of the hours of labour. To repeat what was said in the discussion on the Schedules, we are by no means impressed by the addition made to the number of Labour representatives upon the Advisory Council. We still think we have been unfairly treated. The minimum representation given to the trade unions should have been at least five members.

I am not going to deal with Clause 30. When it was before the Committee we allowed the road and rail interests, both of which were well represented there, to fight the matter out. We said, "As long as there is the system of competition you will always have difficulties between the different forms of service." Unless we can have a co-ordinated system such as we ask for in this Amendment no one will be able equitably to allot the traffic between the road, rail and coastwise shipping facilities. Even if the Minister himself had it in his power to make the allocation he would not be able to satisfy the various interests, which will always fight for the purpose of maintaining the profits of their own concerns. But whilst we allowed the fight to he conducted by the interests representing road and rail and coastwise shipping, and whilst we want to see the railways get a fair deal and want to see the railways taking over quite a lot of the heavy traffic which is a menace to the roads and to the public, at the same time we hope there is nothing in this Bill which is going to stop the legitimate development of road transport.

We cannot allow our roads to become what the canals are at the present time. We have a development of road traffic as a result of scientific knowledge, which has given greater facilities to a large number of people, and we hope that this Bill will not in any way retard the further development which we think ought legitimately to take place. If there were co-ordinated system there would be a proper allocation of traffic. The roads would do their job, the railways their job and coastwise shipping its job, but without co-ordination we shall not be able to bring about that happy state of affairs. The Minister has a responsibility not only to the various road, rail and coastwise shipping interests but a responsibility to the nation at large. As the Parliamentary Secretary rightly said, this Bill is an experiment. Unfortunately, all the legislation dealing with transport during the last 10 years has been in the nature of an experiment. We think the time has come when these experiments should be examined, when in the interests of the nation as a whole, in the interests of public safety and in the interests of proper development there should be a co-ordinated system of transport. For that reason we move the Amendment which I have submitted.

9.53 p.m.


I would like to make a few observations on the Third Reading of this Bill, in which I have taken a keen interest ever since it was introduced. The speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) does not meet with my Whole-hearted approval, because he introduced as his contribution to the solution of this problem a principle with which I do not agree; but there is one point on which I can agree with him entirely and whole-heartedly, and without wishing to add to the embarrassment of the Minister I join in saying how very much everybody on the Committee appreciated the very skilful way in which he has piloted the Bill through. The hon. Member for Aberdare has already said that the Minister did not give much away. I am not going to be ungracious. He did give me a few things, and for what he gave me I am thankful; but such small things as he gave us he gave with the air of handing over whole Clauses. One of the main factors in the successful passage of the Bill through Committee was the way in which he gave us nothing and made it appear that he was giving us something.

Up to now the Bill, although an important and highly complicated Measure, has had a life of extraordinary serenity. Through every stage its passage has been serene. It has passed through the House of Commons with a serenity which is almost majestic, and now it has arrived at its Third Reading. When it was first introduced, I said that I thought the House would raise no great objection to the general idea which was supposed to be actuating the Government in introducing it, which was that road traffic should be regulated, and that in nearly every portion of the House there would be agreement that transport facilities and services should be co-ordinated. With those objects in view some of my hon. Friends and myself have been looking at this Bill from the start. I am wondering, now that we have got to this stage, and when all the alterations that can be made in this House have been made, how far we have gone towards attacking the problem. The first thing that we have done towards the regulation of transport on the roads is to set up a most elaborate system of licensing. Many arguments have been put forward in favour of licensing, but the most important, and the really overwhelming argument that defends a system which I do not like, is that you could not otherwise secure safety conditions on the road, and that you could not, under existing legislation, ensure proper hours of work and proper rates of wages in the transport industry.

We have gone a very great deal further than we needed, in the system of licensing, in order to achieve that end. We have divided the licences into three classes. There will be quite a lot of argument and complication, before this Bill has been in operation very long, as to who is which, and what kind of licence is to be available here or there. It is quite easy for us to lay down provisions in this Bill, but when we come to apply them there will be much complication for a long time. We shall have to watch with the very greatest care the administration of the provisions, so far as licensing is concerned. I should not worry very much if the present Minister were to be Min- ister of Transport in perpetuity, because he has expressed himself very definitely and consistently on the question of records. The Minister of Transport, however, will not always be the same man, and there is room, under the provisions of Clause 14, which lays down the records which are to be kept, for oppression to take place and very heavy burdens to he placed on the people engaged in the industry, and more especially upon people who are not in the transport industry for a living. That applies particularly to the "C" licensee, to whom road transport is simply an auxiliary to help him to carry on his other business. Unless the provisions of Clause 14 are to be applied in a very common-sense and sympathetic manner, I can conceive of the "C" licence-holders finding themselves in very great administrative difficulty when attempting to comply with some of the provisions of the Clause.

I have voiced the opinion before, and I say again now, that a little more discretion should have been allowed to the Minister as to the amount of information which he requires, and perhaps there should have been a little stronger provision for the advice given by the Transport Advisory Council to be made effective in regard to the drawing up of the requirements of this Clause. The practice of tribunals is one which is growing up, and it has grown up under the Road Traffic Act. I hope most sincerely that some of the very serious complaints which we have heard from time to time, in regard to the tribunals under the Road Traffic Act, will not be repeated under this Bill. No doubt there have been very serious complaints in the early days, and it is quite possible, if this Bill were not to be applied by the traffic commissioners in a sympathetic way, that great difficulty might arise in the conduct of business on the road through their action. The House of Commons will have to keep a very careful watch on this, and an eye on the effect of the late Clause 29, which is not dead but has reappeared in its new garb as Clause 30, and which deals with. the rights of railway companies, with the approval of the Railway Rates Tribunal, to make agreed charges for the carriage of merchandise.

I have always been most sympathetic to the claim of the railway companies that they should be freed from some of the restrictions which have hampered them in carrying on their business, but in releasing the railway companies, as we have done in Clause 30, from many of the statutory obligations with which they have had to comply in the past, we have taken an unusual step, and no one can say what the effects of that step may be, unless the House watches very carefully. One effect to which it may lead, unless it is properly applied, is not towards co-ordinating the traffic of this country, but towards a war consisting of an attempt on the part of the railways to murder road traffic, and an attempt on the part of road traffic to bring down the railways still further by retaliation. I hope that nothing of that kind will happen, and I am sure that common sense will prevent it. I hope that the House of Commons, having taken this unusual step, will watch the effects of it very carefully, and will see that it really carries out its function of helping the railways without doing damage.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature about the passage of this Bill is the extraordinary apprehension which was manifested by the canal people, the docks and harbour authorities, the shipping people—-coastwise and deep sea—and by the trades of this country, when Clause 29, which is now Clause 30, was first introduced. I do not want to ascribe, or to attempt to ascribe, any reasons for that apprehension, but it was a very eloquent if not a very flattering commentary on the use that the railway companies have made of their opportunities in the past. The apprehension was very great, and there is no doubt, as has been said by the hon. Member for Aberdare, that the Minister has shown the greatest skill in getting the Clause through in its present form.

I want to remind the House of one other point. We have divided arbitrarily, although reasonably, all road traffic into three distinct categories. We have called the haulage contractor an "A" licensee; the man who uses his transport solely for his own business a "C" licensee; and the man who does part-time haulage work a "B" licensee. If. in order to regulate road transport and prevent congestion on the roads, you remove vehicles from the road, you must do it at the expense of the man whose sole livelihood is road transport, that is, at the expense of the "A" licence man. Suppose that you say to the "B" licence man: "You cannot have a 'B' licence, and we will not allow you to come into the business any more," and you do not take his fleet of vehicles off the road. He carries on with his vehicles for his own business as a "C" licence holder. If you remove a haulage contractor's five vehicles from the road for various reasons—traffic facilities being sufficient, or for some other reason—your action in reducing that fleet, or in driving that man out of business, is completely nullified, so far as congestion on the road is concerned, by the fact that the "C" licensee may walk in, on the very same day, and get a licence for 15 or 20 more vehicles, as he likes, without any possibility of objection. That seems to me to be an anomaly. I was rather surprised that the Minister, when introducing a category of this character, and proceeding on these lines with the object of regulating road traffic, did not take the very much simpler course of regulating the size and weight of vehicles on the road. If he had done that, half his troubles would have been solved by a stroke of the pen. That was an omission which I think he will one day have to remedy.

The last question to which I desire to refer is the question of co-ordination. How is the Bill going to deal with that question? The greatest weakness is the one which has been expressed with great force from the benches opposite. The cost of running a five-ton vehicle is the same per mile wherever it is run. The only possible difference that can be made in the cost of running a five-ton vehicle is in the wages of the driver. If there is going to be, as there is going to be, regulation of the wages of the driver who is working for a haulage contractor or for a part-time haulage contractor, and this door is going to be left open to the "C" licence-holder to have as many vehicles as he likes, and if at the same time the question of the rates of wages which are to be paid to the drivers of vehicles owned by "C" licence-holders is not dealt with, there will not be created in the transport trade conditions which will enable the merchant to say, "It does not matter to me whether I send my goods by road or by rail. I do not want to keep my own fleet any longer, because it costs me the same to run my five-ton vehicle as it costs the haulage contractor. I much prefer to get rid of the trouble of running my own transport, and give it to the man whose business it is to run it." That cannot be done as long as there is a different rate of wages, because it does not give a proper comparison of costs, and, until you do that, you are not taking any proper step towards the regulation of transport on the roads.

Similarly, in the case of the railways, unless the merchant can be got into the position—in which he is not put by this Bill—of being equally able to say, I will send my goods by a road haulage contractor," or "I will send them by rail because they are more suited to rail transport," I do not think that any great step is being taken towards the co-ordination of transport. This is really the main point on which I differ from the hon. Member for Aberdare. He wants to nationalise the system of transport, as it were, artificially. I do not want to do that at all; I want to see the Government creating conditions in which transport will co-ordinate itself because of its own common sense, and in which the trade that goes by road and by rail will automatically and naturally find its right place. To that extent I am rather disappointed that the Bill does not take into consideration one or two points. I apologise for detaining the House for so long, but I want to say, before we part from the Bill, that I really do not feel now that we are saying farewell to it, and I do not think we are saying farewell to the road and rail traffic problem of this country by any manner of means, although this Bill may perhaps—and this is as good a thing as I can say of it—prove to be a foundation upon which future legislation which will lead to proper co-ordination may be based.

10.10 p.m.


For a long time past I have taken a great interest in the railways. That has not been because I have had any financial interest in them, because, luckily, I have never owned 6d. in any British railway; but I have taken an interest in them from the point of view of the public. To my mind the position of the railways during the last 10 years has been very desperate. In that period the actual receipts of the railways have fallen by no less than 25 per cent., and, looking at that fact from various points of view, we see how important it is. From the national point of view it is extremely important that the railways should be kept in a proper state of efficiency, but it has been difficult to do that in face of the great loss of revenue. As regards the employés, it has been pointed out by an hon. Member opposite that they have been in jeopardy of losing, and did in fact lose, some of their employment. The stockholders, too, have suffered great losses, affecting no fewer than 800,000 people. I was astonished to hear, in the Debate on the Second Reading, a view expressed by a Member on one of the back benches opposite, to the effect that he did not see why the Government should interfere to help the railways in any way whatsoever, any more than they should interfere with any other great British company. He forgot, of course, the statutory rules and regulations giving them powers and also restraining their energies and putting obligations upon them; and he forgot another thing which ought to be remembered, namely, that this House put the railway stocks into the list of trustee investments, that is to say, it enabled trustees, without incurring any liability, to invest trust funds in various railway securities. A lot of money was so invested by trustees under these statutory powers, and has been lost, and not only a very great many poor people, but benevolent institutions and, I think, trade unions and other social institutions of that kind, have been gravely affected.

I do not suggest for a moment that the Government are responsible for seeing that all trustee stocks should be maintained at their proper level, but I think that, having made these statutory enactments regarding the investment of trust funds in railway securities, they have a certain amount of responsibility to view the matter seriously, and to deal particularly with the interests of the railways. That, undoubtedly, they have done up to a certain point. The benefit given to the railways under this Bill has been very gratefully received by the railways, but I think that, if it is examined, it will be found to be extremely small in effect. Really it comes to this, that for the first time the railways are enabled to make bargains with their customers, subject, of course, to very stringent regulations which have been put in the Bill. One welcomes very much the provision for some regulation of road traffic, and one might also suggest its possible extension to coastwise traffic.

It is a very extraordinary position that, while there are three competing methods of carrying traffic—railway transport, road transport and coastwise transport—two of them, namely, road transport and coastwise transport, are absolutely free to quote any terms they like and to make any bargain that they like with any one of their customers. The railways now for the very first time are at last able to make agreed charges, subject to the most elaborate provisions, appeals to all sorts of tribunals appointed by the Minister, and so on. What would happen supposing that sort of restriction was put on lines of hauliers running from Edinburgh to London and that they had to submit their terms to a tribunal? There would be a nice outcry. Still, one must not be critical. The railways have this, and they are very pleased to have it, but it is, of course, an anomaly. The Bill is imperfect and does not carry out co-ordination altogether, but it is a beginning, and I think all who are interested in the problem look upon it as a beginning. The ultimate object of all legislation of this kind ought to be to carry out that very useful and thoughtful suggestion in the Salter Report, the co-ordination of all systems of traffic. I welcome the Bill as a first step towards that, and I hope that greater development will take place in the co-ordination of all systems.

10.16 p.m.

Commander MARSDEN

I should like to say a few words in support of the Bill on behalf of coastwise shipping. We felt some anxiety when it was first introduced, because, surely, of all the methods of transport the most ancient and the most economical is that of the sea, and for heavy loads, where time is no object, or is a less object, it still remains the most economical form of transport. Hon. Members lay great stress on the fact that, of the three methods of transport, the road can charge any rates that it likes. That is true. The railway is restricted, which is also true. They say coastwise traffic is also perfectly free. But, unfortunately, there are restrictions on coastwise traffic not through man-made law but through far greater economic laws by which, if each voyage is not paying, the ship ceases to operate and the owner of a small venture has to stop work altogether. The capital invested in coastwise shipping amounts only to £20,000,000 while the railways, who are its serious competitors, have an enormous amalgamation of many hundreds of millions of pounds. With their great lines and their trains running to scheduled time, anything that they can take is acceptable. All is grist that comes to their mill. If they can get agreed rates and flat rates, which under ordinary economic laws are not sound, so much the better for the railways. But the sea cannot operate like that. If ships cannot make a definite profit on practically everything they handle, they go out of action altogether. But that position, I am glad to say, has been largely rectified.

Another of the weak points of coastal traffic arises at the terminals. Both at the commencement and the termination of their voyage in nearly every case they are in the hands of the railway authorities. I do not think anyone has suggested that they have been unfairly or harshly treated. But, when we are passing legislation like this for the future, the House would wish to cover any possible point that might be a source of difficulty. Coastwise shipping likes to quote through rates. Then every trader knows where he is. Taking an ordinary rate of about 10s., do hon. Members fully realise that the actual money earned over the water is about 25 per cent. of that? The actual amount earned on a 10s. rate by coastal shipping, as far as shipping is concerned, is about half-a-crown. The remaining 7s. 6d. is taken by the railway companies through the rail haul at the beginning or end of the voyage and by dock and harbour dues. Any trader in the country sending a small bale of goods who thinks an agreed rate is militating against his business has a right to go to the tribunal and put his case. The Minister, I am glad to say, has appreciated the point. I am very pleased to see that coastwise ships have got practically all that they have asked for. If there is a case when they feel that there is a discriminatory rate against them, they can, through what I personally consider an unnecessarily circuitous route, make an appeal. I hope the occasion will never arise, but I am sure the House will realise that it gives the coastal trade a great feeling of confidence that they can protect themselves and can go to the tribunal if necessary.

I should like to refer to the question of certain docks and harbours. I have read the end of Clause 30 very carefully, and I am not certain that it quite embodies the right of appeal to all docks and harbours. There are some harbours which by their constitution have to use all their surplus profits either in reducing dues or improving the amenities of the harbour. All such harbours exist entirely upon shipping dues, generally speaking, from coastal ships coming into the harbour. If those coastal ships did not come in, the harbours would be allowed to silt up and disappear. When the road and rail interests talk about the national point of their various enterprises, I do not think that there is any Member of the House who would not say that the sea and coastal harbours were not even more important than any national character which might be given to road and rail. Such harbours as those to which I am referring have had that fear. If I am in order, I would like to say that I did not pursue various Amendments to which my name was subscribed because I felt that under Clause 30, if the large volume of heavy traffic coming into some of those harbours was lost through the railways getting flat rates or agreed rates, cutting out this trade and thereby ruining the harbours, the appeal could come direct from the coastal trade itself. If my supposition on that point is correct, I hope that the Minister may mention it when he replies.

I have nothing more to say except that I join in the general chorus of praise about the Committee. Not having had much experience of committees, I usually sit in the background and write letters, but in this particular Committee the various points were of absorbing interest to most of us. I think that practically everyone on the Committee who had Amendments had them well thrashed out and discussed, and the Minister gave very fair and, if not always satisfactory, at least ample answers to everything we had to say. I join with my hon. Friend who spoke last in saying that we certainly cannot consider the Bill satisfactory, if it is to be considered final, as settling everything for ever. But f think it is a serious attempt to regulate traffic, and inasmuch as the Bill does now what it did not do before, namely, include some regularisation of the coastal shipping, I give it my hearty support.

10.24 p.m.


As a member of Standing Committee A which has had the duty of considering the provisions of this Bill in detail, I should like to congratulate the Minister of Transport on the accomplishment of what I consider to be a very difficult task. I recollect that a few months ago we were in the throes of an acrimonious controversy about road versus rail traffic. The noise of the warfare of words has died away, I am glad to say, and to-day we are at the final stage of passing through this House a Road and Rail Traffic Bill. The Title of the Measure seems to indicate most happily the aim which the Committee has had in its consideration of the provisions of the Bill. We are not now considering how best to settle the controversy, but we are presenting to the House for its final decision a Measure for the co-ordination of road and rail traffic.

It seemed to me at the outset that we had two problems to consider. The first was to bring into association the two systems, and to recognise, in relation to rail transport, the new conditions which it now has to face. The second was that we had to formulate a code of road transport and to provide regulations to fit the needs of the conditions of carrying freight by road.

Anyone who has studied the working of road transport will admit that it has been suffering from the vagaries of adolescence, and I think this Bill will provide a very good corrective. Our first purpose of adjusting the relations between road and rail transport has been achieved, and, I think, by provisions to which no one can reasonably take exception. We recognise that the railways no longer possess the monopoly of freight carrying, and in consequence the restrictions and limitations which had been placed upon them, although suitable for a monopoly, no longer apply. They may now agree with a trader to carry at special rates on the best terms obtainable, and are no longer required to quote flat rates which are available to everyone. Thus we have given the railways an opportunity to meet competition from road transport. In that way equilibrium has been restored between road and rail. At the same time the element of competition has been maintained. Whether the railways will be able to maintain their fair share of freight. carrying now depends on their efficiency as carriers. One thing is certain, and that is that they will no longer have cause to complain that they are handicapped in getting freights by the operation of limitations and restrictions which are out of date according to modern lights.

I should like to turn for a few minutes to consider the Bill in relation to the regulation of road transport. This is a service which has extended and developed enormously during the last few years. The extent of the development can only be fully appreciated by those who motor over our arterial roads, especially at night. Regulation in the interests of transport owners certainly has been long overdue. There are those who have taken the road transport business very seriously, who have expended huge sums of money in the purchase of vehicles, in maintaining them in good condition and in providing regular services. They have not been exempt from competition, nor will they be exempt from it in future, either from the railways or from other road users, according to the provisions of this Bill, but the competition that they will have to meet will be fair. The system of licensing for such classes of vehicles as are used to maintain regular services will prevent pirates from jumping in on favourable occasions and skimming the cream off the traffic and then disappearing from the roads during the leaner periods when the volume of traffic is far less to handle.

If we are to have an efficient road service, maintained in good condition, paying fair wages, seeing that the drivers are not called upon to work unreasonable hours, and that we shall have well-conditioned vehicles on the road, this Bill is necessary. It seems to me to provide the means of granting facilities in any area where one desires to have goods transported by road, and at the same time it keeps the door open to that fair competition which ensures reasonable traffic rates. The "C" licence, granted to firms who use their vehicles for their own trade-carrying, will be issued under normal con- ditions without any trouble whatever, because the question of facilities does not arise. It is fully recognised that the owners of such vehicles have full right to use their vehicles for their own trade carrying purposes.

A more difficult problem is presented by those firms who use their vehicles not solely for their own trade purposes, and in the case of those vehicles which carry goods for other firms the service is very much akin to that of the regular road haulers. The licence which is issued to these owners of vehicles to carry return loads is admittedly a, cross-breed between an "A" and a "C" licence, since there is both carriage for hire and reward and carriage for own trade purposes. It seems to me that there is some danger of an excessive use of these vehicles for carriage for hire or reward; and it is possible that an excessive use will disturb the regulated facilities in an area which is working under conditions attaching to an "A" licence. But I believe that that danger is avoided by the provision in the Bill for a yearly renewal. That provides ample opportunity for restricting the use of "B" licences, and of reviewing the facilities of that particular area, and in that case the use or excessive use of "B" class vehicles for' hire or reward would not have any great effect on the regulated road haulers who are working under an "A" licence.

In addition to the co-ordination of traffic services which the licence system provides, it will also have other equally important effects on the efficiency of road services. I refer to the security conditions contained in the provisions of the Bill. They require licensed vehicles to be kept in a fit and serviceable condition; limits of speed and weight and loading have also to be observed; the hours of continuous duty in which drivers may be employed are subject to control; and records of hours worked, speed and loads, must be kept. I can see no objection to these provisions. Ill-conditioned vehicles, vehicles travelling beyond the speed limit, vehicles over-weighted and badly loaded, and vehicles in charge of tired drivers, are beyond doubt a menace to other road users and pedestrians. Road transport has been too long unregulated, and there was more than a danger that this growing industry might fall into disrepute. I think that the Bill will do much to put it on a satisfactory footing, and I am glad to have been associated with the Committee that has had the framing of the Bill.

10.34 p.m.


I am glad to have an: opportunity of saying a word on the last stages of this Bill. In my view this is one of the most ill-digested pieces of legislation that has ever reached this stage in this House. It is a highly technical, complicated and far-reaching Measure, and, having regard to the great potentialities for mischief inherent in it, it should, in my humble view, have received much more careful and minute examination than has been accorded to it. It is true that there have been many sittings in the Committee stage, but they were not by any means sufficient to thoroughly consider a Bill of this description.

On Second Reading I expressed the hope that the Committee would take this Bill and cut its dirty throat upstairs. The Committee has not even succeeded in washing its neck. That was largely been due to the consummate skill and determination with which the Minister of Transport has resisted almost every Amendment to the Bill. He has displayed stone-walling ability of no mean order, and I think he would be the first to acknowledge that he has not been subject to any body-line bowling. Indeed those Members of the Committee who were opposed to much that it contained in the Bill refrained from utilising what I believe is a legitimate Parliamentary-weapon, the weapon of obstruction. Had it been otherwise, I do not think the-Minister would have been in the happy position of seeing 'this child of his receiving its Third Reading to-night.

While paying tribute to the Minister's undoubted skill, and while I do not desire in any degree to fix responsibility on the hon. Gentleman, I do want to take-this opportunity of deploring the-objectionable practice which seems to be growing up, of making the test of a Minister's capacity the rapidity with which he is able to carry a given piece of legislation through all its stages to the Statute Book. That is a practice which is very much to be deprecated, and it is causing grave anxiety to judicial authorities throughout the country. Surely the proper consideration of a Bill is of much more importance than the mere date of its passing. With the greater portion of the Bill I find myself in entire disagreement. I have never shared the view which appears to have been taken by the Minister, that the Bill can be regarded as a perfect specimen of the draftsman's art, and that its precise terms should be regarded as sacroscant. On the contrary, I am convinced that its provisions will cause grave harm and mischief to the trade and industry of the country, and that Members of this House will only realise that in one or two years' time, when they are inundated with urgent appeals from their constituents who happen to be road hauliers to enable them to have many of their grievances redressed. It will then be too late; the mischief will then have been done.

I have endeavoured to indicate that I am utterly opposed to many of the features of this Bill, and in particular to the restrictive nature of its provisions. There are some especially objectionable provisions. The Bill creates innumerable new crimes, and I can almost foresee an enlarged addition of Stone's Justices' Manual to contain references to it. The Bill perpetuates the obnoxious system of legislation by reference and places immense additional powers in the hands of the Departments. It sets up a new and complicated system of licensing, which in my view will be most irritating and certainly unhelpful to the road transport industry, which is the handmaiden of general trade and industry. Moreover—and this is a very regrettable feature of the Bill—it gives power to licensing authorities to dispense their judgments behind closed doors where the light of publicity cannot penetrate and I have very grave misgivings as to the large amount of dissatisfaction and sense of grievance which this provision will, in many cases, create.

The ex-Solicitor-General speaking on the Report stage yesterday said the Bill would prove to be the opening of a paradise for lawyers. It will indeed be a veritable godsend to the legal profession. Its provisions are so complex that the road haulier who does not enlist legal aid will be a fool. It may well be asked, why should I as a lawyer grumble about a Bill of this nature. Great though may be my concern for the well-being of the members of my profession, that concern is outweighed by my serious apprehension and anxiety at the ever-increasing restrictions and regulations which are shackling and hampering us as a people and gradually but all too surely filching away our liberties. I regard the Bill as thoroughly vicious and as a mischievous interference with legitimate interests. Safety on the road, limitations on the loads of vehicles and their use on the roads—all those matters could easily have been seen to without setting up this elaborate machinery for crushing the competitors of the railway companies.

I cannot remember now how many scores of millions of pounds have been spent in recent years on the construction of roads in this country. Now, when all that money has been spent, we are setting up this elaborate machinery to restrict the number of vehicles using those roads. It would almost appear as though the money had been employed in a merely wasteful endeavour to cater for a form of transport which the present Government seems to regard as an improper use of the roads. No doubt the railway companies in connection with this Bill will follow the practice which they have followed under the Act of 1930 and will oppose every application for a licence under this Measure. If that is done, thousands of pounds of the railway shareholders' money will be squandered, and I suggest to those who have any influence with the railway companies that that money might be more usefully employed in securing a higher degree of efficiency on the railways which is by far a better and a more legitimate way of meeting the competition of road transport.

10.45 p.m.


In contradistinction to the last orator, I rise to give my entire blessing to this Bill. I speak mainly for pedestrians and dwellers in cities, and I am bound to say that nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see in this Bill a number of new penalties invented. The reason is that new crimes have been pervading the whole country in the direction of the misuse of motor traffic, and it is necessary to deal with them severely. Just as new legislation is due at present against the highway robber and the bag-snatcher, so there is a great deal of legislation long overdue against the misuser of our public roads. The most precious parts of this Bill are those Clauses called "Miscellaneous." I see there an enormous number of useful indications of the way in which the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill intends to treat motor traffic. I see possibilities of restricting rates in certain places, of prohibiting certain routes for certain sorts of vehicles, and of making it possible to secure quiet in certain districts. Of course, it is not an ideal Bill, but it puts an end to the chaos and misuse of the roads by what has been growing to be an anarchical oligarchy; and, therefore, I bless the Bill for what it does, and I sincerely trust it will be very carefully and rigidly administered.

10.47 p.m.


I should not be expected to be, and shall not be, found among supporters of the Amendment so reasonably moved by the hon. Member on the Front Bench opposite, an Amendment which seeks to apply to this Bill and to transport generally, both on the ground and in the air, and underground as well, the panacea or cure-all of nationalisation, which is so popular with hon. Members opposite, a panacea rather unlike other cure-alls in this respect, that it cannot possibly produce in its advertisements any of those scores of alleged unsolicited testimonials which are generally brought forward:to back up cure-alls of another kind. I am sure that the wiser and more discreet of hon. and right hon. Members opposite would be exceedingly careful not to produce in this case any such testimonials, solicited or unsolicited, inasmuch as if they did, they know perfectly well that it would generally prove that wherever their particular panacea has been applied, it has either been very damaging or in some cases entirely fatal.

I hope I have made my position towards the Amendment and the Third Reading clear. The fact remains that it must not he taken that I approve of everything in the Bill. I do not say that I am unique in that respect, for probably a large number of Members in all quarters hold the same view, but I think the Bill has been enormously improved since the beginning, due to the sweet reasonableness of the Minister in charge and, no doubt, to the immense amount of time and trouble that have been spent upon it. When it was first printed and its pro- visions became known in the country, there were a good many small men in particular who were very much afraid of the effect that the limitation of the free competition that hitherto existed might have upon their own interests. I do not mean for a moment small men who are themselves specially engaged in the transport industry by road. I mean the small men in business, like the corn merchants, the agricultural merchants, and other small traders, who have benefited to a great extent by the competition which has hitherto gone on and who were filled with apprehensions, well founded or otherwise, as to what the results of the provisions of this Bill might mean for them. I know that a good deal has been done for their protection, particularly in the very long Clause 29, now re-numbered Clause 30. I hope that in the case of this Bill, which will undoubtedly obtain the Third Reading, the Government will give even more than their usual after-service. Many of these small men have had their interests protected to a certain extent, but of course apprehensions of this kind die very hard. There is no doubt that small men in this country and in other countries have in recent years seen their interests subordinated to those of larger bodies. We cannot therefore blame them for being somewhat fearful on this occasion.

There was one particular body which appealed to me, and which made a great deal of impression on me by their arguments. They were removal contractors, who not only had reason to be afraid of this Bill but who have also had a very heavy blow from the Budget this year. The average mileages, which were used as the basis for increasing the licence duties of certain road vehicles, were quite three times their average mileage. They are not like the ordinary road haulers. They use their motor vehicles not for running enormous distances but to take people's furniture distances of half-a-mile or a, mile or perhaps five miles. They have not only had these new heavy duties under the Budget, but they feared that the additional restrictions upon them in this Bill would operate to their disadvantage. This evening one of the points they were particularly worried about has been conceded to them by our genial and wise Minister. They were very rout afraid of their men being stopped on the road and examined, but that has been dropped.

There are provisions in this Bill that may create difficulties in the future which not all the combined wisdom in all quarters of this House can foresee at present. It:s for that reason that, realising the Bill will pass this House and become law at no distant date, I appeal to the Government that an eye may be kept upon these matters and that the Transport Advisory Council and the Ministry may watch the effect of these drastic and somewhat revolutionary proposals, and see that what was intended to be a boom to all classes of the community may not operate in an unfair and harassing manner against certain classes and certain individuals.

Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Captain Margesson.)

Debate to be resumed to-morrow.