HC Deb 05 March 1934 vol 286 cc1577-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Transport under the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919; Expenses of the Railway Rates Tribunal under the Railways Act, 1921; Expenses under the London Traffic Act, 1924, and the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933; Expenses in respect of Advances under the Light Railways Act, 1896; Expenses of maintaining Holyhead Harbour, the Caledonian Canal, Crinan Canal and Menai Bridge; Advances to meet Deficit in Ramsgate Harbour Fund and for Expenditure in connection with the Severn Barrage Investigation.

5.28 p.m.

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

There appears to be quite a number of items included in this Supplementary Estimate. The Committee will notice that the increase and the appropriation-in-aid amount roughly to the same total, and therefore the amount for which I ask is in the nature of a Token Vote. Hon. Members will realise that it is not possible to increase the amount which is taken as an appropriation-in-aid above the original Estimate without submitting it once again to the Committee. The principal item of increased expenditure is that of £8,000, in connection with the licensing system for goods vehicles set up under the Road and Rail Traffic Act. That Act was not only not passed, but was not even published, at the time that the last general Estimates were laid, and this expenditure therefore had not been foreseen.

The licensing system in its entirety has not been brought to the full, but all the preliminary stages of setting up machinery are being taken. It is necessary to provide the Traffic Commissioners with clerical assistance, and £8,000 is the expenditure estimated by them for this work during this year. It is, of course, a cost recoverable from the Road Fund. Next is, I think, a sum of £500 by way of additional provision required by the Traffic Commissioners for that part of their duty which consists of enforcing the provisions of Part IV of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which is the licensing system for passenger vehicles. It is the duty of the licensing authority, the commissioners, when any breaches of the regulations are brought to their notice, to enforce the maintenance of the regulations by legal action. Hon. Members will realise that it is not possible to forecast quite accurately the total amount that will be expended in any one year, and that is the reason for this Supplementary Estimate. This amount, too, is recoverable from the Road Fund.

The next item is the sum of £1,420 required for the repair and improvement of a house which is harbour property at Holyhead. The lease under which that house was held has recently come to an end, and it was necessary, before a new tenant could be found, to re-decorate it and put in certain improvements. Under the terms of the old lease, £750 has been paid by the estate of the late tenant, and that £750 is one of the items making up the total Appropriations-in-Aid, namely, £10,140. The net expense, therefore, which will fall upon the Ministry in respect of this house is reduced to £670, a sum which it was absolutely necessary to expend if we were to be able to find a new tenant for the house.

The last item is for expenses of the London Passenger Transport Arbitration Tribunal. That tribunal was set up under the London Passenger Transport Act, and its chief function is to arbitrate between the board and those companies which the board is absorbing, as to the compensation to be paid to them. The expenses of the tribunal fall, in the first instance, upon the Ministry, and they are recoverable finally from the London Passenger Transport Board. The sum asked for is for clerical and office expenditure which has been necessary during this year; it does not represent anything for the remuneration of the tribunal. Of course, the whole of the £1,150 will eventually, when the proceedings have terminated, be recoverable from the London Passenger Transport Board.

The Appropriations-in-Aid are composed of the items I have mentioned, and various small increases on the estimated appropriations included in the general Estimate. The only other point is in regard to the reduction of the expenditure by the sum of £920, which represents an anticipated saving on Ramsgate Harbour. Hon. Members will be pleased to learn that receipts from that harbour were larger than was anticipated.

5.33 p.m.


I am very glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's remark about Ramsgate Harbour. Apparently nothing has been spent on it during the present year, and the sum of £920 is being returned. I should like to ask the Minister whether it is the case that there has not been any expenditure at all this year, or whether the income has more than met the expenditure. I should also like to hear whether, in view of its past, it is likely to become a paying proposition. I know it has been a bit of a bugbear from one point view and another, and I am wondering whether this will be the end of the liabilities on Ramsgate Harbour so far as the Ministry is concerned.

With regard to the item for salaries, wages and allowances, I understand that these are recoverable, but the expenditure incurred in the Minister's Department for carrying out the work of the licensing system and so on will be charged to the Road Fund, and I should like to hear from the Minister that separate accounts will be kept regarding this expenditure, in order to see that no inordinate calls are made on the Road Fund. I am not suggesting that there would be anything of that kind, but only want to be sure that there will be no overlapping in the book-keeping, and that money will not be called for from the Road Fund which might be better spent in connection with road improvements and so on.

On the question of Holyhead Harbour, I am satisfied from the statement of the Minister that the money has been spent in a proper manner, and that what has happened is quite a usual thing in view of the lease falling in. There is not very much to be said about these Estimates. They are quite plain, and the Minister has made a very clear statement to the Committee. There is on the Paper in my name an Amendment to reduce the Vote by £5, but, as it is only a token vote of £10, I think we can trust the Minister with that amount of money until he comes to ask for a further sum; I do not think he will run away with it. The Department have come out very well as compared with the Estimate of last year, and I hope that the Estimates for the coming year will come out equally well, and that we shall be able to suggest further developments when the Vote is before the Committee of Supply.

Forward to