§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I desire to raise a matter of general interest concerning the circumstances in which supplies of trolley-vehicles to the London Passenger Trans-port Board can be tendered for. I think it will be generally agreed that, unless there is some very strong reason to the contrary, when powers are given to a great public board of this kind equal facilities should be given to contractors of all kinds all over the country to tender for and to obtain the orders, if they can, on their merits. I understand that it is, as a matter of fact, the intention of the board to pursue that practice and, in so far as all established firms are concerned, to give them an opportunity of tendering for orders freely and fairly; and if that is done, there can be no possible complaint. Among such manufacturers—and there are many in the country—there are 482 some who have had a considerable experience of the types that are likely to be required where this regenerative control has been adopted, and I want to ask whether those in charge of the Bill will be good enough to give the assurance, which I believe they are perfectly ready to give, that it is the intention of the board to submit these tenders for the supply of trolley vehicles to open competition.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
In this Bill the promoters are asking for certain powers in reference to trolley vehicles similar to the powers they already have for running omnibuses, and for powers to fix fares and to arrange stopping places. Therefore, it is germane to the question to consider how they are using their present powers, so as to give one an idea as to how they are likely to exercise the extra powers if they are given them. I would like to mention a certain kind of comment that one hears from one's constituents in the country. Obviously, in the main, evidence will come from the London area direct, but at the same time the provincial ring around London has to be considered, and on the 483 outskirts of Hertfordshire we get the powers of the London Passenger Transport Board affecting us, both in my own part of the area, and also further west, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means—who, of course, cannot take part in the discussion to-day—at Watford.
There is great and widespread dissatisfaction in some of these areas as regards the working of the scheme at present, and it is only right to call attention to the complaints that one hears. A question was asked to-day on the subject by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter). There are complaints that the omnibus services have been reduced and stopping places altered, to the very great inconvenience of passengers themselves, though they were altered, I have no doubt, for special large-scale reasons which do not appeal to the people who use these vehicles. It would require a considerable amount of explanation before one could be satisfied that there had been any good reason for the stopping places being altered as they have been. In many cases the fares have been increased, very often in an unreasonable way, and these grievances have not been given the consideration due from a body like this, established for the public convenience. I have, for instance, the evidence brought before me of complaints by a minister of religion, who has a large and poor parish where he sees the actual hardships that are inflicted upon people who are the users of omnibus services and train services.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the hon. Member that, except to a very small extent, this Bill affects neither omnibuses nor trains.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
It affects the people in my district in regard to trolley vehicles because the proposal is to have trolley vehicles in the outskirts as well. Possibly the board may adopt a change of front and a different spirit in using trolley vehicles than they have adopted in regard to omnibuses. The children's fares on omnibuses are being doubled, and that is a great hardship to the children who use the vehicles regularly. If the board are going to do this now that they have become a monopoly, it 484 seems probable that from the point of view of a long policy they are looking at it as a matter of business. When we give a big board a monopoly to run services in the public interest, the danger is that in order to be efficient they may try and make a complete businesslike service regardless of the needs of the public. While in general they agree to consider the needs of the public, in actual practice they seem to overlook them. It is in order to call attention to this kind of complaint, for it is right that we should have an explanation from someone speaking on behalf of the Transport Board and a promise that they will pay more attention than they have seemed to do to these minor questions of public convenience in the services which the board ask us to extend.
§ 9.8 p.m.
Sir GEORGE HAMILTON
In answer to the question of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), I am authorised to say that the London Passenger Transport Board will, of course, put out public tenders for any machines that they buy under this Bill. With regard to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), to which I have listened with great interest, I can only assure him that it will be read by the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman, and all the board, and that they will take into consideration every word that he has said. Otherwise, I am afraid I was not able to see how his speech was connected with this Bill.
§ Bill, as amended, considered accordingly.