HC Deb 28 April 1936 vol 311 cc761-813

Resolution reported: That—

  1. (a) the sum of five million two hundred and fifty thousand pounds shall be transferred to the Exchequer from the Road Fund;
  2. (b) as from the date on which, by virtue of any Act of the present Session relating to finance, the liability to issue 762 sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the Road Fund ceases—
    1. (i) there shall be paid into the Road Fund from time to time out of moneys provided by Parliament such sums as the Minister of Transport may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine to be required for the purpose of making advances to or in conjunction with highway authorities and for other purposes of that fund; and
    2. (ii) such expenses and other sums payable out of the Road Fund as may be specified in the said Act shall, instead of being so payable, be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament."
Resolution read a Second time.

4.20 p.m.


I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out "five," and to insert "one."

I am sure that the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been drawn to the very scathing comments which have been published to-day in the "Times" and also in other papers, and particularly to the report of the forty-ninth annual meeting of the Roads Improvement Association held yesterday in which the chairman had much to say about the raiding of the Road Fund. Whatever I might have contemplated saying was said more strongly and perhaps more cogently by the chairman at that meeting. This is an extract from a report of the meeting: The forty-ninth annual general meeting of the Roads Improvement Association was held yesterday at the Royal Automobile Club. Referring to the Budget proposals, Sir Arthur Stanley, the chairman, said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's raid on the Road Fund of £5,250,000 was serious, and had destroyed his optimism in the future improvement of roads. At a time when new vehicles were coming on to the roads at the rate of over 500 a day, road users had to continue to suffer from inadequate roads and increased restrictions. I do not know whether my hon. Friends on this side of the House will agree with me, but personally I never agree to the setting up of funds outside the control of Parliament. This was really a very special fund set up for a specific purpose. The motorists and road users of this country have a case when they say that the tax which was imposed upon them from which revenue was drawn should be used for the specific purpose of making better roads in this country. There is another feature of this case which I should like to stress. The money that was drawn into this fund was to be used for the purpose of doing something really of national importance, such as the making of great arterial roads for the construction of which local ratepayers would not be obliged to pay. The raid upon this fund and the fund falling into the hands of the Treasury in this way will mean that in the future, even in accordance with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech about the five-year programme, the local authorities of this country will be obliged to face large expenditure on any improvements.

If the original intention for which the fund was established were continued, it would mean that the local rates would not have to bear that portion of the burden at all. The £5,250,000 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken from the Road Fund ought not to have been in the fund; there ought to have been no surplus at all when it is so necessary to spend money in order to save human life now being destroyed upon the roads, and particularly when we find, not only the classified but the unclassified roads in such a state. A very strong statement has been made and published in the Press. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will appreciate the weight behind the statement, which is contained in a letter in the "Times" of to-day written by Mr. W. Rees Jeffreys, of the Roads Improvement Association. He says: The original intentions of Parliament have been brought to naught by successive Chancellors. Parliament contemplated that as motor traffic grew new roads of modern design should be built and maintained entirely at the cost of these trust funds, so that national rather than local needs should receive full consideration and the burden of the cost and upkeep of such new roads borne by motor traffic and not by local ratepayers. I will read on, because it is a significant letter: Not a single new arterial road has been built under Clause 8 (1) (b) of the original Act in 25 years. This is the prime cause of road accidents and traffic delays. Thousands of lives and millions of pounds are lost annually because political exigencies have secured the diversion of funds raised on trust for the service of the roads. Parliament may agree with the Chancellor that the need for armaments is greater than the need for making roads safe and adequate. The £5,250,000 of these trust funds which the Chancellor has now taken could have built many 100 miles of protected footpaths in the absence of which children have to play and to travel to school on the carriageway of important roads with no protection from the traffic which Parliament has legalised. Parliament taxes that traffic according to its weight and speed. The Government, having taken the money, fails to provide the road space for which that traffic has paid and cynically prosecutes those who make use of the normal speed and capacity of the vehicles for which they paid taxes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to meet a charge of that kind. If hundreds of children are being killed because the money in the fund has not been spent in providing proper footpaths, and if millions of pounds have been lost on traffic congestion, surely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to reflect again upon this matter. I realise that it is possible, particularly when the Ministry of Transport accounts come up for Supply, for Members of Parliament to press their claims for this, that or the other, but this fund will have been exhausted, and it will be very much more difficult in the future to obtain anything from the Treasury for any improvement that may be required than it was in the past while there was a surplus available in the fund for a specific purpose. In any case, that is the view held by motorists and by associations in this country. Although I am aware that this is just a precedent, anything upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to place his hands in the future will be used for the purposes of financing his Defence Forces. While we may be concentrating upon Defence, that is, dangers coming from afar, comparatively near to us persons are losing their lives because of the need of protection in regard to things at home, such as good roads, in order to meet the needs of the speedier type of transport that is being produced.

In moving the Amendment it is impossible for anyone under the Rules of the House to go the whole hog. I should like to go the whole hog, because the Road Fund is a special fund for a special purpose, and it ought to be spent in that special way. In future it will be much more difficult for us to get the amount of money that is necessary to construct new roads, which is the key of the problem of safety to-day. Safety on the roads calls for the construction of new roads, new carriage ways, new pathways and things of that kind. That is how I visualise it as a motorist who has been motoring 15,000, 16,000 and 17,000 miles a year for many years. It is practically impossible with the ever-increasing rate at which new vehicles are coming upon the road, heavier and speedier vehicles, to save human life except by the expenditure of large sums of money in the construction of new roads.

I heard what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget speech, and I should like to be assured that the five-year programme announced by him will go forward. I trust that anything that he can do to accelerate that progress he will do. I move the Amendment as a protest against the Government taking moneys that were to be used for a specific purpose, moneys that were put in trust for a specific purpose and reallocating it for a different purpose, when Parliament has not had a proper opportunity of discussing it.

4.32 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment briefly, because I and many other hon. Members will have an opportunity of speaking on the subject when ii comes up on the Finance Bill. I should, however, like to draw attention to the contrast between this action of the Government in raiding the Road Fund of £5,250,000, and the promises they made at, the General Election as to the great expenditure they were going to make in respect of the roads during the years they hoped to govern the country. One of their first acts is to deprive the Road Fund of £5,250,000 and thereby to lessen the spending power of the Government to that extent. If the roads of the country were perfect, if they were adequate for the traffic that desires to go over them, if they were safe, I should have no quarrel at all with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in appropriating this money for other purposes. But that is not the case. If we look at the country or the towns we find the roads very badly need improvement. We need new roads and by-passes on dangerous roads, and until we have these we shall not substantially diminish the number of accidents that take place on the roads.

I am very much surprised that the Minister of Transport is not on the Treasury Bench to-day to answer the charge, which is really a charge against him rather than against the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We maintain that this £5,250,000 ought never to have been a surplus in the Road Fund if the Minister of Transport had carried out his duties properly during the past year. Moreover, the raid last year on the fund should never have taken place. This £5,250,000 is the measure of the Minister of Transport's failure to be an effective Minister of Transport during the past year so far as the roads are concerned. What is the position in regard to the roads? Anyone with any experience of travelling on the roads will know that in the country districts there are main roads which are quite inadequate for carrying the through traffic that desires to pass over them, and that there are many roads passing through towns and villages which are death-traps to the people living in the neighbourhood, and which ought to be by-passed. Why do these inadequate roads exist and why have not the other roads been by-passed? Simply because the Minister of Transport's policy in regard to payments out of the Road Fund has not been sufficiently generous to encourage local authorities to carry out the work.

If the Minister of Transport during the past few years had adopted a more forward policy, a policy in conformity with his speeches, this money that is being raided to-day by the Treasury would have been spent in providing better roads. The local authorities want better roads. They are all crying out for better roads, but in case after case they are unable to spend the money on the roads which is so necessary because it is extremely costly expenditure and very often the local authority is poor, and the Minister of Transport who, finally, is the Treasury, is unwilling to make more than a certain percentage grant towards the cost of roads. Therefore, as the local authorities in many cases cannot afford to pay the balance, the inadequate and dangerous roads continue in their present condition. That is the position in the country. I know something about the position in London as chairman of the highways committee of the London County Council. And the same position exists in the cities. We hear speeches from the Treasury Bench by the Minister of Transport about the wonderful things he is going to do and the wonderful things he is doing. One would have thought that he is doing all that is possible by adequate subsidies from the Road Fund for the improvement of the roads of the country, but when one comes to discuss with the Minister of Transport what grants are to be given for this road or that, one finds that it is more difficult to get adequate grants out of the present Government and the present Minister of Transport than it has been to get a grant from any other Government or Minister. There is an amazing contrast between the speeches made about the great things that are being done on the roads, and the actual administration, when one comes to examine it.

This money which is being taken by the Treasury ought never to have been available for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raid. It is the fault of the Minister of Transport and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as custodian of the Treasury, because this money ought to have been spent in making roads safe, in reducing the casualties among men, women and children and in making the roads really suitable for the traffic that has to go over them. It is particularly bad at a moment when the vehicles on the road are increasing to such an extent that between five and six hundred vehicles a day are being registered, that the Government should come along and say, "There is a surplus of money here which should have been spent on the roads but has not been spent, and we are going to take the money for other purposes." I have great pleasure in seconding the Amendment and in asking the House to prevent the Government mismanaging their responsibilities in regard to the roads of the country in this appalling manner.

4.40 p.m.


I should like to say a few words in opposition to the Amendment and in support of the Resolution, because last year I objected to the abstraction of certain moneys from the Road Fund. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have apparently read only half the Resolution, paragraph (a) and not paragraph (b). I objected to the abstraction of certain moneys from the Road Fund last year because it did appear that the money available to be spent on the roads was likely to be conditioned by the amount of money in the Road Fund. This Resolution alters the whole position. It is clear that in future the Minister of Transport will be able to come along with his Estimates and will be able to gather the feeling of the House in a much better way than it has been possible to do in the past.


Where is the Minister of Transport?


This is a Treasury Resolution, and I presume the Minister of Transport will be on the Treasury Bench when the Resolution is being put to the House. I approve of the Resolution because it is doing two things at the same time. It is removing the balance from the Road Fund and at the same time it is providing that any amount that may be provided in the future will be provided by the Government. It seems to me folly to imagine that there is a necessary connection between the money that goes into the Road Fund and the amount of money that ought to be spent on the roads.


On a point of Order. Is it competent for us to discuss the whole of the Resolution, or must we confine our discussion to the merits of the Amendment? Up to the moment the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) has been discussing the merits of the Resolution as a whole. While we have no objection to that, we should like to know where we are. So far we have left the other part of the Resolution out of our discussion, because we thought it would be out of order.


On the point of Order. May I point out that the Mover of the Amendment said it was purely a technical and symbolic Amendment and that he merely moved it in this fashion because he was not able to move the deletion of the whole lot. Therefore, as he was discussing the whole issue of the Road Fund I thought that I was entitled to do so.


The reason why the Amendment is in this form is because it is the only form in which it would be in order. The form which our Amendment would otherwise have taken would have been to leave all the money in the fund.


The Amendment and the Resolution seem to be so interwoven that it is rather difficult to separate them. When the Amendment has been disposed of, we shall have to put the Question; "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


I take it from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that I was not exceeding the limits of propriety. I was dealing as closely as I could with the specific point raised by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. It appears to me that the Seconder of the Amendment was wrong in suggesting that the Minister of Transport is in any way criticised by the Resolution, or that his powers are in any way diminished. The powers of the Minister of Transport are likely to be increased, because there is no reason in the future why he should consider that the amount coming into the Road Fund is of necessity the limit of his expenditure. He can come to the House and submit his Estimates, and hon. Members will be able to express their views about the development of the roads in a way that they have not been able to do in the past. Many hon. Members on this side of the House would not approve of the Resolution if they felt that it was going to have the effect suggested by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. We appreciate as much as they do the fact that the roads need development and that they are not satisfactory. Many hon. Members on this side would not approve the Resolution if they felt that the progress of road development would be diminished by the acceptance of the Resolution.

There is another reason to be considered. It has been the custom in the past to regard money paid into the Road Fund as appropriated revenue. Surely the House dislikes the idea of an appropriated revenue. It was rather unfortunate in the discussion on the Tea Duty yesterday that some hon. Members imagined that it was appropriated revenue to be used for some specific purpose. If all the taxes paid by the people were to be appropriated to this or that particular purpose we should get into a hopeless tangle. I welcome the Resolution because it removes the idea of an appropriated revenue in such a way that the purposes for which the Road Fund was established will not be forgotten. Indeed, the Minister concerned with the development of our roads will be in a far better Parliamentary position.

4.46 p.m.


I find it extremely difficult to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr: Mabane). I take it that one reason why Chancellors of the Exchequer have helped themselves to this fund in the past is the same reason that has led the present Chancellor of the Exchequer also to help himself to the fund. The real reason for the present Chancellor of the Exchequer's attitude is that he wants money. In his Budget speech he said that the reason for this change was not that his attitude towards road problems had altered at all, but that the system of feeding the fund was a failure. The real reason, of course, is that the right hon. Gentleman wanted the money, and this is the easiest way of getting it. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) heartily supported the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He, indeed, set the fashion some years ago.

I could not follow the right hon. Gentleman any more than I can follow the hon. Member for Huddersfield in the suggestion that it is a, monstrous thing to appropriate any particular tax from any section of the taxpayers for a special purpose. That is not the position at all. The Government of the day put a special tax on motorists and the motoring industry, and called it a special tax, in order that this new means of propulsion could be accommodated on the roads. The tax was so devised that as the problem grew, so did the means of solving the problem grow. That is the real position. It is not that any body of motorists have taken up the attitude that they are entitled to the money that has been paid. As a matter of fact, my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when introducing this tax in 1909, said: The Exchequer will derive no benefit whatever from it. All the money will go to the roads of this country. Motorists were not only willing but were anxious to pay this special tax, provided they had a guarantee that the moneys so taken by the Exchequer will be used exclusively for the roads of the country. That was the position. The question of appropriated revenue was decided at that time by the House of Commons, and, indeed, for many years afterwards it has been admitted as a perfectly fair thing to do. When the original tax was put on there was undoubtedly a feeling amongst motorists that there was a guarantee that the moneys taken by the Exchequer would be devoted entirely to the roads of the country. It was also the case with the Petrol Duty. It may be interesting to the House to know that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in the debates asked this question: Is it intended that the tax upon petrol, like the tax upon cars, should go to the roads or is it intended that it should go into the general Imperial revenue? Our attitude towards the tax will depend upon the answer to that question. If it is going to the support of the roads we think it is a fair proposition, but if it is intended to take it for general revenue then we shall oppose it. If that applies to the Petrol Duty it applies equally to the tax specially raised for the development of roads. The two things which were unanimously agreed to in that Budget—there were other provisions which were not unanimously accepted—were first, the tax on motors, and, secondly, the tax on petrol, on the assurance that the whole of the money would be devoted to the roads of the country. What has happened since? Millions have been taken out of the Road Fund, and the Petrol Duty in its entirety has gone to the Exchequer. If nothing else required doing to the roads of the country, if they were perfectly efficient, I should not complain so much. The right hon. Member for Epping in his speech said that he had blazed the trail. The right hon. Member does not often use wrong words in his speeches, but if he had used the word "blasted" it would have been more appropriate. But since the right hon. Gentleman blazed the trail, motor licences have gone up by 45 per cent., the number of people killed on the roads by 33 per cent. and the number of people injured by 66 per cent. This is not a matter which concerns motorists alone; it is a question which concerns the people of this country.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech said that in view of the unprecedented demands on the Exchequer he was entitled to survey all sources of revenue and direct them where they are most needed. I take it that he was referring to the extra expenditure necessary for the defences of this country. May I remind him of the casualties on the roads? There are other casualties besides those which occur in war. A study of the casualties on the roads of this country will convince anybody that there is a substantial war going on. In the last 10 years something like 2,000,000 people have been killed or injured on our roads. I doubt very much whether in any war, apart from the Great War, the casualties are comparable with those which have occurred in this country on our roads during the last 10 years. Our people are as much entitled to protection from this particular danger as they are from any enemy. Anyone who uses the roads will realise that they are still absolutely unsuitable for the motor traffic of to-day. Let me give one example which occurred in the last four days. I came along one of the biggest arterial roads in this country, and within a space of 20 miles there were five bridges on which no two cars could possibly pass. It is a physical impossibility for more than one car to cross the bridge at the same time. Two of them are old-fashioned, humpbacked bridges, and you cannot see what is approaching from the other side. They have not been altered since the days of the old stage coach. This is on one of the four main roads of the country, and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that he can afford to take millions from the Road Fund.

The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not propose to curtail the five-year plan. I can assure him that it is already curtailed. There are many local authorities who are quite incapable of playing any part in any big development of our roads. There are authorities whose highway rate is as high as 8s. in the £ in some cases it reaches 9s. in the £. In my own constituency the highway rate is 8s. in the £, and I have a depressed area in which unemployment is 35 per cent. How can you expect such an authority to participate as it ought in road development unless it gets money from national sources? I support the Amendment. The fund should not be utilised for purposes other than those for which it was created until we are satisfied that everything has been done to make our roads efficient. I think the fund should be utilised for this purpose. You should make the roads safer and more efficient and would save thousands of our fellow citizens from death and injury. Further, there is the not unimportant point that you would in this way give employment to many people at home.

4.56 p.m.


I should like to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on taking a step to abolish the Road Fund as a specific fund. I take a little pride in the proposal because I urged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take this step last year.


I think the Debate is now getting a considerable distance beyond the Amendment. The hon. Member is now speaking to the second part of the Resolution.


I had not finished my first sentence. Perhaps the hon. Member will exercise a little patience. I was going on to say that I think the Amendment has missed the mark and that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) was entirely beside the point. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to take over the liabilities of the Road Fund, if he is going to abolish the Road Fund as a specific fund and pay out of the Treasury all the sums necessary for the construction and development of the roads, he is entitled to take over the reserve which the fund has accumulated. It is only a matter of book-keeping. I suggest that hon. Members opposite, in the Amendment they have moved and in the explanations they have given of it, have rather missed the mark.

4.59 p.m.


I should like to address the House for a few minutes on the point that is raised by the Amendment. If the Amendment is carried I want to use the money which will be left. I have a road for it, or perhaps, I should say, I have a bridge for it. The fact that there is no representative of the Ministry of Transport on the Treasury Bench at the moment is an indication of the position which we have reached. Let me deal with the second part of the Resolution for a moment. What we see being done by this Resolution is to remove the Minister of Transport from first to second place in the consideration of expenditure which is desired upon roads. He is at the present time meeting representatives of local authorities and others who are urging the desirability of expenditure upon roads in certain directions. He knows that he has at his disposal a fund of a certain amount, he knows what commitments he has made for the year in respect of that fund, and he knows, therefore, what sort of indication he can make to those who are approaching him as to the prospects of meeting their claims.

But in the changed circumstances proposed by this Resolution, we find that not only has the Minister of Transport to be convinced himself of the rightness of some form of expenditure, but, after that, he has to go—without the power that he has at present of being able to say, "Here is a fund that at least should be under my control and that is allocated by Parliament for the job that I have to do "—he has to go to the Treasury, the hard-hearted Treasury, as it is usually described, and there, at second-hand, to convince the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the case that has been made to him by the people who wish to have expenditure sanctioned in a certain direction. There may be the criticism that that is what he has to do at present, and that in respect especially of major schemes he has to convince the Chancellor and the Treasury of the desirability of certain expenditure, but I think the very atmosphere of putting this fund in a new position—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

I think the hon. Member would be bore in order in making these remarks when I put the Question, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


On a point of Order. On being asked whether the Debate on this Amendment would be confined strictly to the Amendment or whether it would be in order to discuss the general question of the Resolution, Mr. Speaker laid it down that the paragraph in the Resolution to which the Amendment referred and the whole of the Resolution were so intertwined that it was not very possible to separate them. If I may say so respectfully, I agree entirely with that view, and I was going to ask whether it would not be for the convenience of the House that we should take rather a wider scope for the Debate on the Amendment and discuss the whole question on this Amendment.


On the point of Order. Though Mr. Speaker did say what the right hon. Gentleman has just recalled, he also said that when the Amendment had been disposed of there would be the Resolution to vote upon, and that before that vote was taken there would be an opportunity for discussing the whole proposal of the Resolution. I had hoped that the points were sufficiently distinct for us to have two separate Debates. I agree that the Debate has ranged over a rather wider ground than I had anticipated, and if it is the general wish of the House that the two Debates should be taken together and you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, wish us to proceed along those lines, it will be possible to take that course; but I think that the two points are quite distinct. The first is whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take the money, which is the specific issue of the use of funds already in the Road Fund, and the second issue, covered by paragraph (b) of the Resolution, which will be voted upon after the Amendment has been disposed of, raises a matter of principle, namely, whether for years to come the Road Fund, as a distinct entity fed by funds which the Chancellor has specially to take by Resolution if he wishes to raid it, shall exist any longer. I suggest that those two are very distinct points, and though I would fall in, if it were the general wish of the House and your Ruling, with the idea that we should take the two discussions together, I would still prefer that they should be taken separately.


Further to the point of Order. I raised the point of Order to Mr. Speaker when the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) was addressing the House, and Mr. Speaker very distinctly said that, although he thought the two issues were intertwined, nevertheless he would permit a wide discussion on the Resolution itself. Indeed, I submit with every respect that it is more desirable that we should have the discussion on the general Resolution, because hon. Members might not feel disposed to support the Amendment, as by so doing they would be upsetting the balance of the Budget, but, having disposed of that point, they might feel themselves disposed to oppose the principle, because that would have no hearing what- ever on the Budget. I therefore submit, in the interests of a proper discussion, that the discussion on the Amendment should be strictly confined to the point raised by the Amendment, and that it should be open to us to discuss the general Resolution afterwards.


Further to the point of Order. May I point out that one of the reasons which I gave in my Budget speech for asking that this sum should be transferred to the Exchequer was that I was about to propose the change embodied in the second part of this Resolution? It is difficult to defend the first part of the Resolution without raising the question of the second part. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I could find another reason if there had not been that one. I do not wish to deprive anybody of full opportunities of discussing the question; I was merely making the suggestion because thought it might be more convenient for the House.


On the point of Order. I can well understand that the point which the Chancellor has placed before the House would have been appropriate had he put it before the Amendment had been moved, but realising that the mover and seconder and supporters of the Amendment thus far have been narrowed to the terms of the Amendment, surely the right hon. Gentleman is taking advantage of the House.


Further to the point of Order. As I was the speaker who was interrupted originally, may I say that it would be difficult for us to argue on the Amendment without including a good deal of discussion on the general Resolution, if we took the view that we could support the proposal made in paragraph (a) of the Resolution on account of the proposal contained in paragraph (b), and on that account only? Further, when I was interrupted I pointed out—and I think I was supported by the Chair—that the proposer and seconder of the Amendment had in fact ranged very widely indeed.


I am in the hands of the House, of course, but it makes it very difficult, from the point of view both of hon. Members and of the Chair, if some hon. Members speaking to the Amendment are going to discuss what is really the second part of the Resolution, if the Government are going to reply to that, and if then we are going to have the same Debate raised by other Members on the question, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution." If the House desires to take a general discussion on the whole of the Resolution on this Amendment, I see no objection to it.




Then I think we had better confine ourselves to the Amendment.


In view of the obvious desire of the House and of your Ruling thereupon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will divorce my remarks entirely from the second part of the Resolution. It was simply in order to put the point that I wished to put on the Amendment, of the use of the money that is being appropriated by the Chancellor, and to enable him to understand the purport of a question which I wished to put to him, that I felt it necessary to say something about the general principle; and in any case I did not want to take part in the discussion on the general Resolution. I was saying that if the Committee supported this Amendment and thereby saved £4,000,000, I had a way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could expend that £4,000,000. A very strong urge has been going on for a number of years, and it has got stronger within the last few months, in favour of a very large grant of public money being made in order to build, first of all, a bridge across the Forth near Queensferry and, as an auxiliary to that, as a consequence almost of that, to build another road bridge over the Firth of Tay near Dundee. I want to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what way, if at all, the prospect of getting a grant from the Minister of Transport is being altered by the change that the right hon. Gentleman is making here.


Does the hon. Member mean the taking of the £5,250,000? If so, the answer is, "In no way."


The Chancellor, in saying that in no way whatever will there be a change, repeats a statement made by the Minister of Transport himself, and yet I think that when Members come to deal with the second part of the Resolution, they must be convinced by the very nature of things that a change has been made. The point that I want to make in supporting the Amendment, in view of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, is that here is the amount of money that we require for the building of these two bridges. We have striven to get a. declaration from the Government that they will make a grant of this amount in order to enable these bridges to be proceeded with. It is wrong that the money should be taken from the Road Fund while there is this opportunity of spending that money in a way that would provide not only a great national asset, but an opportunity for a vast amount of work in a part of Scotland which badly needs that work to be provided, and in a way that will not only affect that particular part of Scotland, but will provide employment in the steel district of Lanarkshire in providing the necessary material for the building, first of all, of the Forth road bridge and, secondly, of a bridge over the Tay as an accompaniment of it. It is for considerations like these and the fact that I believe there is a vast opportunity at the present time—a neglected opportunity I would call it—that I want to give an indication apart from what I have said of reasons for expenditure upon roads.

I have had the experience in my own constituency, in travelling by an ordinary passenger omnibus, of seeing people becoming positively ill because of the nature of the road, on account of the way in which the road had to be negotiated. I do not suggest that too great a speed was attempted, and I do not wish to use the expression that they were "seasick" in a omnibus, but naturally the feeling I had was that they were actually made seasick by the rocking of the omnibus, which was entirely due to the condition of the roads. There, it seems to me, is another indication of the need for a vast amount of expenditure to be incurred out of the Road Fund in order to enable such conditions to be remedied. So long as they are not remedied, there is no justifiaction whatever for this money being diverted from the purpose for which it was intended and taken out of the Road Fund by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be used for ordinary purposes.

5.16 p.m.


I wish to say a few words on the Amendment before the House passes to the general Resolution. On many questions I find it difficult to reconcile the attitude of hon. Members in the House with their private attitude. I suppose it would be impossible to talk on this subject to any hon. Member, no matter to what party he belonged, without his expressing the deepest feelings concerning the appalling casualties on the roads. Last year there were 228,000 people killed or injured on the highways of this country, and I believe every hon. Member will agree that that appalling casualty list could have been appreciably reduced had there been better roads. I think there can be no doubt that had there been cycling tracks, proper pathways for children, improved corners, non-skid surfaces, and so on, there would have been a very substantial reduction in the number of casualties. On that I think all are agreed. Yet hon. Members are discussing in a spirit of cynical indifference—I use the word advisedly, but hon. Members will see that the benches are almost empty—the appropriation of £5,250,000 that could very well have been spent by the Minister of Transport this year. The same thing happened last year.

Every month the newspapers of the country contain leading articles on the appalling number of casualties on the roads, those articles being written by special writers who try to rouse public opinion on this problem. Yet hon. Members opposite are supporting a Government which takes £5,250,000 that ought to have been spent to reduce those casualties. Hon. Members opposite do not attempt to justify the attitude they are taking, and I have not heard a single hon. Member this evening attempt to justify it. Either the Chancellor is to blame because he has prevented the Minister of Transport from spending the money, or the Minister of Transport is to blame. If the Minister of Transport is to blame—if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have permitted him to spend the money and he deliberately did not spend it—he ought to resign, in face of that list of casualties. If, on the other hand, the Chancellor of the Exchequer prevented him from spending the money, the Chancellor ought to resign.

I submit to hon. Members that this is a problem which affects every member of the community. There is something rather appalling and grotesque in a child going out to play and in an hour coming in a mass of blood and bruises. The risk is one which is unnecessary, and I should have thought there would have been agreement among hon. Members that all the resources of finance, wisdom and experience, ought to be pooled in order to reduce the proportions of this tragedy. Instead of that, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a spirit of sarcasm, stands at the Treasury Box and enjoys raiding the Road Fund, as though in doing so he were showing himself to be a strong man and as though he wanted to get a reputation as a man who seems to delight in taking an unpopular course. For two years now he has raided the Road Fund and made himself the assassin of hundreds of little children. [Interruption,] Let hon. Members consider the facts and see whether the language is too strong. Admittedly there is in the fund a large amount of unexpended money. That is not denied. It is admitted also that the roads of the country need to have a great deal of money spent on them in order to make them safer. Therefore, is it not admitted that had the money been spent the roads would have been safer, and that if they had been safer the children would have been alive? How can you refute the submission that the Chancellor is a cynical assassin?


On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to describe a right hon. Gentleman in this House as a cynical assassin?


Further to that point of Order, may I mention the fact that much worse language has frequently in the past been applied to Ministers of the Crown?


I am amazed at the hon. Member's point of Order. The fact of the matter is that it is now impossible to state realities on the Floor of the House. Hon. Members have to speak with twisted tongues. It is impossible now in plain, ordinary language to describe the facts. I challenge any hon. Member to reply to what I have said, because there is not a single argument that can be used against it. No hon. Member can argue that, I am incorrect in saying that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in refusing to permit this money to be spent, has made himself responsible for those deaths. That is the obvious and logical inference. If hon. Members say it is the fault of the Minister of Transport, then he must be described as an assassin.

These facts are appalling. In many areas of the country—in the area from which I come—there are scores of thousands of men who have been idle for four, five and six years and who might have been employed in repairing the roads; and yet we now find ourselves faced with this surplus of money in the Road Fund. Every authority responsible for the roads in the country has approached the Minister of Transport and asked for additional grants. Every week he has been approached. Schemes have been turned down. All we have had from the Minister of Transport and from the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been rhetoric about five years' plans, as though the local authorities of the country had not got the machinery with which to spend this money.

The reason the money is there is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, conspiring with the 'Minister of Transport, has prevented the local authorities from having the grants. A few years ago it was the practice of the Minister of Transport, in co-operation with the Minister of Health, to give 100 per cent. grants for the construction of many new roads in this country. Those grants have now almost entirely stopped, and local authorities have to pay from 50 to 75 per cent. of the cost of road construction, the result being that many of them cannot afford to construct roads. Even if the local authorities had reached their limit, that limit could have been raised if the Chancellor or the Minister of Transport had increased the percentage of grants.

If I have spoken with vehemence it is because the subject is one on which hon. Members ought to be vehement. There is not a single hon. Member who would dare to go to his constituency and defend the policy of not spending £5,250,000 on the roads; but hon. Members come to the House and discuss in art atmosphere of complete indifference the appropriation of £5,250,000 which might easily have been used to save the lives of children. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has a lop- sided mind, for in one part of his Budget he proposes to give additional allowances for children, presumably because he wishes to encourage an increase in their numbers, and in the other part he appropriates money from the Road Fund which might easily have been used to keep children alive. I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is smiling, but I see nothing to smile about. If in this matter the right hon. Gentleman had a little more imagination and a little more of what he calls arithmetical probity, we might have been able to get a move on, but the Chancellor is notoriously lacking in imagination. The proposals are a disgrace, and I submit to hon. Members that unless they are able to make a reasonable and decent reply to the arguments which have been advanced against them, they ought in decency to prevent the Chancellor of the Exchequer from raiding the Road Fund in this way.

5.28 p.m.


I will not deal very long with what I consider to be a disgusting and disgraceful attack upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. To my mind the Chancellor has not said that he would not spend £5,250,000 upon the roads, but has stated that he is willing to provide enough money out of the Exchequer for the upkeep of the roads. I submit that it is not money but legislation that will prevent accidents. It is a question of imposing certain rectrictions upon motorists and pedestrians alike, and inculcating into their minds the necessity for road safety. I consider that no one has done that better than the present Minister of Transport, and that under no Government to date has there been so much improvement both in our roads and in our traffic regulations.

I do not wish to see too much money spent on the roads under present conditions. The money which has been spent on many of the roads in this country has been wasted because the local authorities which had power to construct those roads did not know what was the best type of road. For some time past I have pressed for the establishment of a central highways board, which would be able to control road services and to see that money was not wasted on putting down roads which have "skiddy" surfaces. I submit that the solution of the accident problem is to provide a uniform system of road surfaces and lighting, as well as uni- formity in other matters appertaining to the roads. I support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his so-called raid on the Road Fund and I hope that the Government will see fit to establish a central highways board in the near future. I do not suggest that such a board should be directly responsible for all the roads in the country. They would have to delegate responsibility to local boards but they should be indirectly responsible for the general system of road communications in the country.

5.31 p.m.


The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) is apparently willing to set up all kinds of new authorities in order to construct roads, but he entirely fails to say how those roads are to be paid for, and that is the point which is in the mind of most of us this afternoon. The line of argument which has run through most of the speeches during the last hour has been directed towards the effect of this proposal on the road system and on the efforts of the Ministry of Transport to reduce the number of road accidents. In spite of what was said a short time ago by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) I submit that this is not only a Treasury matter. I suppose there is not a Member here who does not realise that the proposal to transfer this £5,000,000 is the preliminary to transferring the whole fund next year, and that it is going to have a considerable effect on the activities and on the status of the Ministry of Transport.

I wish to reinforce the observations made by several hon. Members above the Gangway on the fact that neither the Minister of Transport nor the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport is present on this occasion when we are debating a matter which is obviously of great importance to that Department. Neither of them has seen fit to be here at any time during this Debate and I think that when a subject of this kind is under discussion we have a right to expect the attendance of a representative of that Ministry. In order to call attention to their absence, I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."


being of opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the House.

5.34 p.m.


I wish to reinforce the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) who spoke earlier about people being sick on the roads. [Laughter.] Hon. Members appear to take a great deal of fun out of the fact of people being sick and being killed on the roads. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) made what was regarded as an offensive reference to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he might have used the term in the plural instead of the singular and included in the accusation a lot of the Chancellor's supporters. I was in an omnibus the other night with a brother-in-law of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), a gentleman of the cloth, and in the omnibus a woman passenger became so sick that she had to stagger to the door. That is an actual experience showing the condition of the roads. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury spoke the other night about schemes for a road here and a road there, but instead of providing money for new roads the Government are taking that money away from new road works. Instead of making new roads they are relaying an old road, the road that led to 1914, the road that led to death and desolation.

I want to know why there is such a persistent refusal, for instance, to put down money for a road bridge across the Forth. Nobody can go through that area without recognising the urgent need for such a bridge. The money is there and the labour is there. The Government are encouraging the establishment of a steelworks in one of the derelict areas and the steel girders could be made there. The bridge could be started at any moment. Hon. Members say they want to see money used to provide employment. I ask them to use their power and influence to stop this attempt to divert money which is so urgently deeded for this purpose at the present time. A bridge across the Forth may cost a million or so, but instead of that, hon. Members are prepared to spend £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 or even £100,000,000 on a bridge across the Jordan and will drive the youth across it like sheep to the slaughter. We do not want money wasted on weapons of destruction. Apparently, in the view of the Financial Secretary and his colleagues the making of guns and bombs is a work of great national importance but to make the roads safe for the people of the country is not a question of national importance. I see that the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) nods her head.


No, I was shaking my head, because I think the roads would not be safe for the people if there were no means of defending the people against attack.


When the hon. Lady shakes her head I understand there is nothing in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] But everybody recognises that bad roads are unsafe in these days, when there is so much heavy motor traffic and children are in danger all the time they are about the roads. I have been in a car which was thrown into the ditch, not through bad driving but through the badness of the road, and I have known of many cases of people being killed or injured as a result of faulty roads, which make it impossible to exercise any real judgment in driving. It is necessary that we should have the best and widest possible roads in every locality if we are to reduce the number of accidents. We are living in days when the road has become popular. All our roads carry continuous streams of traffic of all kinds and you cannot spend too much in widenings and improvements which will help to ensure safety. I join in the protest against this raid on the Road Fund, and I echo all that has been said by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I do not consider that he used insulting language. No doubt it is very sad for hon. Members opposite to listen to their Chancellor of the Exchequer being attacked in the terms used by the hon. Member, but I dare say that-the right hon. Gentleman had harder things said about him last night by hon. Members opposite though they did not express their views openly in the House. However sad it may be to hon. Members opposite to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to in that way, it is sadder still for a mother to gather up the dead body of her child on the road. There is no reason whatever why these children should be sacrificed.

In every area we find that where the streets are narrowest and the traffic densest the greater number of accidents occur. There was a place somewhere about West Ham which used to be called "Death Corner" or some such name, where children were killed every week because of the character of the thoroughfare and the amount of traffic. I consider that it is a crime against the people of this country and especially against the children of this country that there should be such an act of robbery as is here proposed. If "robbery" is not the proper term to use, perhaps some other hon. Member can supply the correct term. But this is a proposal to take away £5,250,000 which ought to be at the disposal of the local authorities for the purpose of making the roads safe for the people of the country and especially the children. In conclusion I again appeal to the Financial Secretary to tell us what is the objection to the making of a grant for a road bridge across the Forth. I repeat that such a bridge is a necessity, that it will provide work for the unemployed and will be of the greatest advantage to that countryside; and I hope we shall be told why a blank wall is opposed to us every time we try to get some consideration for that project.

5.45 p.m.


I propose in my reply to try to confine myself as nearly as possible to the Amendment, in view of the desire of hon. Members opposite for a further discussion of the wider question of the Resolution as a whole, but if I am to deal adequately with the position I cannot entirely leave out of account the second part of the Resolution. This question of the withdrawal of £5,250,000 from the Road Fund has been the subject of much windy declamation and denunciation, most of which has been founded upon a complete misunderstanding of the effect of the second part of the Resolution. I do not think that the hon. Members on the other side who have spoken have a very good idea of how the Road Fund is administered. Let me say once again that you cannot take money and throw it about here and there without previous preparation, nor can you listen to any particular Member who happens to have a loud voice and advocates the claims of his particular locality without reference to the claims of other localities. These things have to be done on a system and according to rule. You have to lay down categories of roads and definite percentages of grants that should be given to each category. You cannot burst through all these rules and make exceptions simply because there is an outcry from one particular Member or locality.

It takes a considerable time to prepare for any extensive programme of road improvement or construction. First, the plans have to be considered, discussed and checked, and after they have been made and the proposal has been submitted by the local authority to the Ministry of Transport and arrangements have been made between the Ministry and the local authority—


The plans submitted for road schemes are often turned down.


That is precisely what I am saying. There has been a lot of preparation, and, even after the local authorities have submitted the plans, they have to be considered by the Ministry of Transport, and it is possible that consent may not be given, as the plans may not be considered to be good plans. Even after the plans have been agreed to, it may be some considerable time before money can be spent upon the actual work. It may be that land has to be acquired, that contracts have to be placed, that material has to be accumulated, or that a road which has been carried to a certain distance meets with some obstruction, and that there is some difficulty in carrying it through. In a great number of ways it is difficult beforehand to say exactly at what moment it will be possible to begin a particular work of construction and at what moment it will be possible to end it.

Some hon. Members opposite have said that this surplus had no business to be in the Road Fund. I cannot understand what they mean by that, but what I have said about the difficulty of estimating, beforehand how fast money can be spent when the commitments have already been entered into will give one reason why it is impossible to estimate accurately the amount of money that may be left in the Fund at the end of a particular year. Of course, there is another point. There is an income of the Road Fund as well as an expenditure, and one of my objections to the present system is that that income is in no way related to the needs of the Road Fund but is merely the varying produce of a particular duty which may or may not be equivalent to the needs of the Fund. As a matter of fact, the produce of the duty has been growing rapidly as the number of cars in use has increased, and that, of course, is one reason why the surplus is in the Road Fund to-day. It would have been impossible to prevent it getting there unless you had taken steps to prevent a certain number of cars from coming on the road and paying the Licence Duty.

It is stated that the withdrawal of this sum out of the Road Fund, the Minister of Transport will be prevented from carrying out certain works which would contribute to the value of the roads or to the safety of the public. I do not subscribe to the theory that you can measure the safety of the roads by the amount of money you spend on them. The proof of that is to be found in the fact that the more money that has been spent on the roads the larger has been the number of accidents. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The facts cannot be denied, and I ask hon. Members whether they can deny that fact.


Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that the fact that there are more accidents when more money has been spent on the roads is a case of cause and effect?


I do not know whether that question is serious, but my statement is serious. I certainly do say that the more roads there are and the more cars there are on the roads contribute to the accidents, and that if you make more roads you make more opportunities for accidents. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] All I am saying is that there is no direct relation between the amount of money spent on the roads and the number of accidents.


There sits opposite the Chairman of the Surrey County Council, and he can bear out what the right hon. Gentleman says, for since the Kingston by-pass was opened, after an immense amount of money had been spent on it, the place has been nothing but a butcher's shop.


It will probably be agreed by a good many hon. Members that the consciousness of motorists and the care and attention which they can be induced to give to their driving have more effect in stopping accidents than anything else. It is a fact that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has done more than any other Minister has clone to reduce the number of accidents by calling the attention of motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and everyone else who uses the roads to the necessity of reducing this toll of life.

Having made that remark about the connection between accidents and the money spent on roads, let me go on to say that it is a fallacy to suggest that the use of this £5,250,000 this year for purposes other than the Road Fund will deprive the Minister of Transport in future of any expenditure which Parliament may be willing to sanction for road works. The second part of the Resolution proposes a new procedure altogether, and if I am taking this £5,250,000 now from the Road Fund, and if thereafter that amount of money is wanted, Parliament has only to vote it and it will be restored to the Road Fund. In future, instead of the Road Fund being limited by the amount of money which is produced by the Licence Duty in any one year, it will be limited only by the will of Parliament.


The right hon. Gentleman says that Parliament can vote this money, but is it not a fact that it will only be on the initiative of the Government that Parliament can vote it?


It has always been on the initiative of the Government, but if the Government are not spending enough money the House can turn them out. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) made an interesting speech in which he endeavoured to sustain the argument that the Fund was instituted for the purpose of devoting the whole proceeds of the Motor Licence Duty to the roads, and that it was a diversion of the purpose for which the Fund was instituted to use the money for anything else. The hon. and gallant Member has a hereditary interest in this matter, and I do not quarrel with him for reminding us of the circumstances in which the Fund was instituted, but I would say to him in all seriousness that the situation to-day is very different from what it was at the time when the Road Fund was established. He himself spoke of the new means of propulsion, and it is true that at the time of which he spoke it was a comparatively new means of propulsion that had just occurred and there was need for a very exceptional effort to get the people of the country to understand the new importance which roads had taken on in view of this new method of propulsion.

That, to my mind, was a justification at that time for the exceptional view that it was desirable to earmark this form of revenue for this particular purpose. That time has passed away now, however. There is no need to remind the public to-day about the necessity for roads or for new roads or wider roads, as there was in the past. It is a thing that is dinned into us every day, and as long as a number of the public to-day use a car or a motor cycle or a cycle and have their daily attention called to the value and importance of the roads in our national system, it, cannot be said that there is any call for the exceptional treatment of the roads. I am not now going to enter into any further defence of the proposal in the second part of the Resolution, because that is not what is dealt with by the Amendment. Once again, I call the attention of hon. Members to the fact that cannot be denied that the Road Fund programme is in no way suffering from the removal at this moment of this £5,250,000, which cannot be spent. The commitments that must be entered into before it could be spent have already been entered into, and there is enough money for them in the fund. If the £5,250,000 needs to be spent, it can be provided in future years.

5.57 p.m.


For two or three years I have spoken on the Finance Bill with regard to the duties levied on vehicles, and every time we have had the argument trotted out that the House did not understand how the money is raised for the Road Fund. Every time the Chancellor has reiterated that it takes a certain amount of time in order to draft road schemes. There is no one in the House who is ignorant of these matters, and we do not need to be told by the Chancellor once again how the Road Fund is raised and how there is a certain interval of time before a scheme can be brought into operation. We are aware of that, and we are aware also that for two or three years local authorities have not been encouraged, as they ought to have been, to bring schemes into operation. Had they been encouraged two or three years ago to forward schemes to the Ministry of Transport this £5,250,000 which is now in the fund could have been brought into practical application at this moment.

The Chancellor did not deny what the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) said as to the purposes of this fund when it was inaugurated, but he argued that circumstances were now different. Last night, in order to get out of another argument, he told us that we could not compare direct taxation with indirect taxation because the fiscal system had altered and the circumstances were different. It seems to be his favourite argument. While it is true that circumstances have changed in the degree of the necessity of the Road Fund, it is also true that it is more desirable than ever that there should be a Road Fund because of the added traffic on the road compared with the time when the fund was inaugurated.


Does the hon. Member understand that there will still be a Road Fund?


Yes, and we understand also that when the right hon. Gentleman has taken the money he will be able to come to the House and say, "We cannot afford this expenditure, we want the money for other purposes." The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the House has absolutely no chance of stopping a Chancellor, with a majority behind him such as the present Chancellor has, if he decides to take this money for other purposes. It is idle to tell the House that it has control. In theory, Yes, in practice, No. So long as it is said from that Box that the money is wanted for other purposes the House will have no chance of voting the money for the roads. When the Finance Bill is discussed I shall take the opportunity, if I have the good fortune to be called upon to speak, to oppose this proposal that the Road Fund, which I look upon as a trading Department, shall be taken over by the Chancellor. I was astounded to hear the Chancellor say that the more money we spent on roads the more accidents there would be. It is true that in theory that observation could be justified, but more accidents do not follow because more money is spent on the roads but because there are more vehicles on the roads. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) put a very good point when he asked whether it was suggested that it was a case of cause and effect.

Why does not the Chancellor come to the House and say frankly, "I need this money for other purposes,"—and not try to ride off on any question of accidents on the roads? If the Government regarded the situation with respect to road accidents seriously they would realise that there are plenty of opportunities for using this money for the specific purpose for which it was raised, and I hope that every hon. Member who is interested in the question of road accidents will say, "The people who possess vehicles pay this money for this specific purpose and by my vote I will not allow it to be used for any other purpose." It would be far better if the Chancellor were frank with the House as to why he is taking the money, not trying to defend his action by a, specious argument that the more money that is spent upon roads the more accidents there will be, because such an argument is unworthy of him.

6.3 p.m.


I should not have spoken but for the fact that I was directly challenged by the hon. Baronet the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel). He drew attention to a particular road and suggested that it had been turned into a butcher's shop. If the statement behind his suggestion is true, I think it was ill-timed levity on his part to refer to the accidents on that road in such a way. Daniel O'Connell once saw Sir Robert Peel sitting on the Treasury Bench and smiling, and remarked, "The smile becomes the right hon. Gentleman's face as well as a silver lid would become a coffin," and I think the same retort ought to be made to the attempted jocularity of the hon. Baronet the Member for Farnham.


Will the hon. Member explain what he means?


The hon. Baronet alluded to a certain highway on which it is notorious that a number of accidents have occurred, and said that it had been turned into a butcher's shop.


Is not that true?


No, it is not. I certainly do not regard dead human beings as butcher's meat, and think that the hon. Baronet might very well have chosen some more appropriate figure of speech. I do not mind taking that road as an example. Four or five years ago there were as many motor licences in the county of Surrey, in proportion to population, as there were in the United States, although as a country we were supposed to have far fewer motor cars proportionately than the United States. Every year since has created a record in the issue of new licences in that county. There has been such an addition to the traffic that roads which 10 or 12 years ago were regarded not merely as adequate but as indicating that considerable foresight had been shown in their planning, have come to be hopelessly inadequate. Sometimes I go along the Kingston by-pass and at other times through the main streets of Kingston, and I venture to say that any one who was acquainted with Kingston before and after the construction of the by-pass will agree that there is more traffic in Kingston to-day than before the by-pass was built.

The Minister talked about the relation between the expenditure on roads and the number of deaths, but is it not the fact that this £5,250,000 remains in the Road Fund because the revenue derived from the increase in the number of motor cars has not been spent but has been allowed to accumulate? The very provision which was made in 1909 to enable the roads to meet the demands which were being made upon them has been destroyed. It is notorious that until just before the General Election local authorities were discouraged from submitting big schemes. Only when the General Election was approaching and it was necessary to have some tale to tell to wipe off the arrears of the previous five years were local authorities called upon for schemes; and nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman, whose chief claim to fame rather than to notoriety is that he has been a successful Lord Mayor of Birmingham, that you cannot get local authorities suddenly to reverse the engine.

The fact that £5,250,000 is still in the Road Fund and that there has been delay in preparing schemes is entirely due to the policy of the Government in the last Parliament. There is not a single county council which is showing a reduction of rates for the year 1936–37 as compared with 1935–36. Most of them are showing substantial increases, because they are now called upon to shoulder the new five-year programme which was brought forth just before the General Election. This £5,250,000 ought to be left in the fund to enable road works to be financed. I hope I may be allowed to follow the Minister as far as he went into the second part of the Resolution. I do not want to do more than that, because I realise the desire on this side of the House to have a general discussion afterwards, but I view with great concern the fact that in future the Ministry of Transport will in this respect be under Treasury control.


indicated dissent.


In the last eight or nine lines of the Resolution there appear these words: The Minister of Transport may, with the consent of the Treasury. That puts the Minister of Transport under Treasury control in these matters.


He is under it now.


But, after all, there is the knowledge that this sum of money is available. In future, after we have secured the consent of the Minister of Transport to any scheme, we shall be told that we must get the consent of the Treasury. That is what we are frequently told in education matters. I see the President of the Board of Education on the Treasury Bench. Perhaps he is there in place of the Minister of Transport because he was the Minister of Transport before the present Minister. It is my view that the Chancellor has this afternoon treated the House to nothing more than a series of jests, with his particular form of logic about accidents.

The growth of traffic on the roads makes it highly essential that roads which were laid down only a few years ago should have further consideration. As the hon. Baronet knows, the Kingston by-pass is now being divided into two parallel tracks, so as to prevent head-on collisions, and I venture to say that a great number of other roads will have to be similarly treated. Just before the Easter vacation I left this House at 20 minutes to eight one evening and went along the Holyhead road as far as Lichfield. I was astonished at the amount of heavy traffic on that road between 10 and 11 o'clock at night. It makes it essential, in my opinion, that that road should in the near future undergo an elaborate widening. There is not a single road leading from London to the South Coast resorts which ought not to be doubled in width. There is a general desire in the country that footpaths should be provided beside every road which carries any substantial amount of traffic. All these are works which ought to be met out of this fund.

The right hon. Gentleman said in his Budget speech that when he came to look for money he discovered an anomaly in the Road Fund and that he was going to abolish it. I can only think that it was not the anomaly but the £5,250,000 which attracted his eagle eye, and that if it had been a deficit of £5,000,000 the anomaly might very well have been allowed to continue. I hope the House will show that it does regard the action of the Chancellor as a retrograde step and will take every opportunity of saying that this road expenditure ought to be financed out of this particular fund.

6.13 p.m.


I agree with the denunciation of the action of the Chancellor in taking £5,250,000 from the Road Fund, but I certainly do not agree with the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in regarding the remark of the hon. Baronet the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) as being of an insulting character or as treating human life with levity. The hon. Baronet only used a quite common term in dealing with accidents. Even when a man has cut his hand and blood is scattered around people will say "You are making the place like a butcher's shop." As to the statement of the Chancellor that the more money that is spent on roads the greater the number of accidents, he simply put the cart before the horse. If he had said "There are a greater number of motor cars on the road; then you are compelled to build more roads and get more traffic; and as a consequence you have a larger number of accidents," it would have been all right. All that was wrong with his statement was that he put the cart before the horse.

Three or four weeks ago I was induced to keep a friend company on a night journey by car from London to Glasgow. We went along the Great North Road, and after we had wit beyond London we ran into a fog, I suppose a ground fog, which was very thick. For 60 or 70 miles the driver had to keep peering through the glass, and the strain of doing so must have been tremendous. I discovered an amount of heavy traffic on that road such as I never suspected was on the roads of this country during the night, and it occurred to me that money ought to be spent to illuminate such roads from end to end because of that traffic. That would ensure against accidents, and would protect life and add to the comfort and convenience of those who use the roads during the night. The cost should be borne by a fund like the Road Fund.

The Chancellor said that there would still be a Road Fund. Might I add to the Chancellor's statement that while it is true that accidents have increased with the increase in the number of motor cars which have taken the road, it is also true that had money not been spent during the last five years the number of accidents would now be much greater than it is? To take £5,250,000 out of this fund is, in my estimation and without using language that is extreme, criminal. That is simply a statement of fact without being extreme in any way. The money ought to be used for the protection of human life. We are told that there is money for the widening and construction of roads. I could point to a large number of death-traps that should be removed from the roads in Lanarkshire, particularly surrounding Glasgow. We are told that questions relating to bridges often become disputes among the railway company concerned, the local authority and the transport Department, but such death-traps should be removed. If you abolish the fund you remove the opportunity of adding that amount of protection to human life and for that reason the £5,250,000 should be retained in the fund.

We know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his extremity to get money for death-dealing instruments of warfare, has had to raid other funds. This fund, which is subscribed for the protection of human life, is taken for the destruction of human life, and that is the real reason why I object to the abolition of it. I would say, in passing, that in order to be logical we should oppose the imposition of the extra 3d. upon the Income Tax because that money, too, is being used for the armaments to which we are opposed. The Road Fund was subscribed by users of vehicles for the maintenance and construction of roads. When the Chancellor uses the cheap argument that this House can pass the necessary legislation for the construction of roads, we remember the limitation upon the power of an Opposition or of a Private Member to induce the House to vote sums

of money. It is usually impossible to do so because the Government has a docile majority, as almost all Governments have had, upon which to depend to vote down any demand that may be made from other sides of the House. If there is a Division in connection with this fund, I shall certainly go into the Lobby in its favour, because I am against the taking away of money which ought to be used for the protection of human life but is being devoted to the destruction of human life.

Question put, "That the word 'five' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 267; Noes, 124.

Division No. 153.] AYES. [6.20 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Heligers, Captain F. F. A.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Craddock, Sir R. H. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Albery, I. J. Crooke, J. S. Hepworth, J.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd.) Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Cross, R. H. Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Crossley, A. C. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)
Aske, Sir R. W. Culverwell, C. T. Holmes, J. S.
Assheton, R. Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir.J. C. C. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Davies, C. (Montgomery) Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Horsbrugh, Florence
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Davison, Sir W. H. Howltt, Dr. A. B.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Dawson, Sir P. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) De Chair, S. S. Hudson, R. S. (Southport)
Belt, Sir A. L. Denman, Hon. R. D. Hulbert, N. J.
Bernays, R. H. Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Hume, Sir G. H.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Hunter, T.
Bird, Sir R. B. Dower, Capt. A. V. G. Hurd, Sir P. A.
Blair, Sir R. Drewe, C. Jackson, Sir H.
Bllndell, Sir J. Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop) James, Wing-Commander A. W.
Boothby, R. J. G. Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)
Bossom, A. C. Dugdale, Major T. L. Keeling, E. H.
Boulton, W. W. Duggan, H. J. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Duncan, J. A. L. Kirkpatrick, W. M.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Dunglass, Lord Lamb, Sir J. O.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Dunne, P. R. R. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.
Boyce, H. Leslie Eckersley, P. T. Latham, Sir P.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Edmondson, Major Sir J. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Emery, J. F. Leckie, J. A.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Emmott, C. E. G. C. Leech, Dr. J. W.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Emrys-Evans, P. V. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Entwistle, C. F. Levy, T.
Bull, B. B. Erskine Hill, A. G. Lewis, O.
Burton, Col. H. W. Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Liddall, W. S.
Butler, R. A. Everard, W. L. Lindsay, K. M.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Fox, Sir G. W. G. Lloyd, G. W.
Cartland, J. R. H. Fremantle, Sir F. E. Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V.
Cary, R. A. Furness, S. N. Loftus, P. C.
Castlereagh, Viscount Fyfe, D. P. M. Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Cautley, Sir H. S. Ganzonl, Sir J. Lumley, Capt. L. R.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Gledhill, G. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chlppenham) Gluckstein, L. H. MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh Goldle, N. B. M'Connell, Sir J.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N (Edgb't'n) Gower, Sir R. V. McCorquodale, M. S.
Channon, H. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Gridley, Sir A. B. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Grimston, R. V. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) McKie, J. H.
Clarke, F. E. Gunston, Capt. D. W. Maclay, Hon. J. P.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Guy,.J. C. M. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Cobb, Sir C. S. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Magnay, T.
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P. Hamilton, Sir G. C. Maklns, Brig. Gen. E.
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Hanbury, Sir C. Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Hannah, I. C. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon H. D. R.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Harbord, A. Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.
Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hartington, Marquess of Mayhew, Lt.-Cal. J.
Courtauld, Major.J. S. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stourton, Hon. J. J.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Ropner, Colonel L. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Moreing, A. C. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Morgan, R. H. Rowlands, G. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel St. E. A. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester) Runciman. Rt. Hon. W. Sutcliffe, H.
Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J Russell, A. West (Tynemouth) Tate, Mavis C.
Munro, P. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Salt, E. W. Thomas, J, P. L. (Hereford)
O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham) Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. Sandys, E. D. Titchfield. Marquess of
Orr-Ewing, I. L. Savery, Servington Tree, A. R. L. F.
Palmer, G. E. H. Scott, Lord William Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Patrick, C. M. Selley, H. R. Turton, R. H.
Peake, O. Shakespeare, G. H. Wakefield, W. W.
Peat, C. U. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E. Shepperson, Sir E. W. Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Petherick, M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Warrender, Sir V.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'll'st) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Pilkington, R. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Wayland, Sir W. A.
Porritt, R. W. Smith, L. W. (Hallam) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Pownall, Sir Assheton Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Wells, S. R.
Radford, E. A. Somerset, T. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Raikes, H. V. A. M. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) Williams, H. G. (Croydon. S.)
Ramsbotham, H. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Wilson, Lt.-Col, Sir A. T. (Hitchla)
Ramsden, Sir E. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.) Spens, W. P. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Rayner, Major R. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'i'd) TELLERS FOR THE AYES —
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Dr. Morris-Jones and Lieut.-Col.
Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Storey, S. Llewellin.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Paling, W.
Adams, D. (Consett) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Parker, H. J. H.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Hardie, G. D. Parkinson, J. A.
Adamson, W. M. Harris, Sir P. A. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Ammon. C. G. Henderson. A. (Kingswinford) Potts, J.
Anderson. F. (Whitehaven) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Pritt, D. N.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Holdsworth. H. Ritson, J.
Barnes, A. J. Holland, A. Roberts. Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Srom.)
Barr, J. Hollins, A. Roberts. W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bellenger, F. Jagger, J. Rowson, G.
Benson, G. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Seely, Sir H. M.
Bevan, A. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Sexton, T. M. Shlnwell, E.
Brooke, W. John, W. Shinwell, E.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Short, A.
Buchanan, G. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Silverman. S. S.
Burke, W. A. Jones, H. Haydn (Merloneth) Simpson, F. B.
Cape, T. Kelly, W. T. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Cassells, T. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Chater, D. Kirby, B. V. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cluse, W. S. Kirkwood. D. Sorensen, R. W.
Cocks, F S. Lathan, G. Stephen, C.
Compton, J. Lawson, J. J. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Cove, W. G. Leach, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Daggar, G. Lee, F. Taylor, R..J. (Morpeth)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Leonard, W. Thurtie, E.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Day, H. Logan, D. G. Viant, S. P.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lunn, W. Walkden, A. G.
Ede, J. C. Macdonald. G. (Ince) Watkins. F. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McGhee. H. G. Watson. W. McL.
Fletcher. Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. McGovern, J. Welsh, J. C.
Foot, D. M. Mac Laren, A. Westwood, J.
Frankel. D. Maclean, N. White, H. Graham
Gallacher. W. Malnwaring, W. H. Whiteley, W.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mander, G. le M. Wilkinson, Ellen
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Marklew, E. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gibbins, J. Marshall, F. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Milner, Major J. Windsor. W. (Hull, C.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Naylor, T. E. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Oliver, G. H.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Owen, Major G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Mathers and Mr. Charleton.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

6.32 p.m.


We have had a fairly full discussion on the Amend- ment that was brought forward by my hon. Friend, and I do not think it will be necessary to have any long further discussion on the Resolution. As there are other important matters to be discussed to-night, I hope we may be able to deal with this matter fairly shortly. But I am bound to say I was amazed at the reception which the Chancellor's proposals have been given from the benches of his supporters. A great many hon. Members opposite are keen motorists, and even those who are not themselves motorists must recognise the effect that these proposals will have, not only on the motor industry, but on the other users of the roads, who need improved roads in order to protect the lives of themselves and their children. Really, the motorists have had a very "raw deal" over the Road Fund. As an hon. Member on the Liberal benches has already pointed out, there is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when the Road Fund was originally established, gave a specific pledge that the Motor Licence Duties and the other taxation would be used for the purpose of improving the roads.

Various changes were made later in the form of the taxation, but after a few years it settled down into a fund derived purely from motor licences. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made two changes. He had heard a good deal from the motorists to the effect that they thought a tax upon oil might be a better form than the Motor Licence Duties, so he committed upon them the rather grim joke of retaining the Motor Licence Duties and adding Oil Duties as well; and he proceeded to take the Oil Duties, and further to deplete the Road Fund, fed by the Motor Licence Duties, for the purposes of the general Exchequer. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposes finally and definitely to abolish the separate existence of the Road Fund, and to bring the whole entirely under the jurisdiction of the Treasury. Outside this House, associations connected with the motor industry are passing very vigorous resolutions about the Road Fund, local authorities up and down the country are anxious for money to assist them to build and improve the roads, and the Chancellor himself, at the General Election, created the impression that he was going to extend and enlarge the use of the Road Fund. Now, when he comes forward with a kind of inversion of his promise in the shape of his present proposal, not a Tory dog barks. The only comments that have been made from his own benches consist of the purring approval which he has received from his supporters. Not a single speech has been made from the benches opposite in defence of the Road Fund.

What is the principle which the Chancellor is proposing? He is proposing to abolish definitely the separate earmarked fund, and I am going to say something which no doubt the Chancellor will be very pleased to hear. On principle I have a great deal of sympathy with his attitude in the matter of earmarked funds. The whole system of finance in this country is built up on what one might call the global system, under which we do not have separate funds, but the whole revenue of the country is available for the whole expenditure of the country. Therefore, in principle, I am inclined to agree with the Chancellor. But we have to remember that this is a very special case. It is a special case, first of all, because of the promise that was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carvarvon Boroughs when the fund was originally started. The present Chancellor says that circumstances alter, and you cannot expect promises to live for ever. There may be something in that argument, but the real gravamen of the charge against the right hon. Gentleman in this matter is that we know quite well the purpose of this change of form. It is in order that less money may be spent on the roads, and more money may be available for rearmament; and it is because that is the real purpose of this change of procedure that we are against the Chancellor's proposal.

I have been amazed by the statements that have been made by the right hon. Gentleman himself and hon. Members supporting him. He began by saying that this change would really make very little difference—that there would still be as much money spent on the roads as heretofore. But his supporters, in their anxiety to approve of his action, have gone further than that, and have maintained that, if this change is sanctioned by the House, actually more money will be available in the Road Fund than there was before. The Chancellor himself has made a new plea, and to some extent, I think, has given the quietus to the view that his proposal was going to make more money available, by the amazing argument that because, with the increase of motors and the increase of roads, there have been more accidents in the country, in some mysterious way it is the increase of roads rather than the increase of motors that has been the cause of these additional tragedies.

The logical conclusion is, not that the Chancellor has been hitherto repressing his urgent desire to spend money on the roads, and therefore is bringing in this new procedure in order, as hon. Members seem to think, that he might more lavishly endow the roads of the country, but that in fact it is very doubtful whether money spent on the roads is worth while at all, and that possibly, if the amount of money spent on the roads were reduced, there might be fewer accidents. That kind of "Alice through the Looking Glass" logic may appeal to hon. Members on the other side of the House, but it certainly does not appeal to us on these benches, and I venture to think it will not appeal to the local authorities, who have a certain amount of common sense on this matter of road building. I think, too, that it will not appeal to the motorists of the country, and still less to the persons who suffer from the accidents which have already been referred to, and which make such a tragic story in our history. That being so, I think there can be very little doubt that this new proposal is likely to do a grave injury to the country, because Chancellors of the Exchequer are driven to take every means at their disposal in order to achieve the purposes which they then have in mind. The present Chancellor has warned us quite clearly that there is going to be a rising expenditure—I think he will agree that I am not overstating his remarks on this occasion—on the defence forces of this country, and that that rising expenditure will probably be met out of revenue. Therefore, we may be quite sure that in the years immediately in front of us the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have a greater and greater temptation to cut off the supply of money for every other purpose, so far as he can do it with satisfaction to him- self, and at any rate without the definite opposition of this House.

In his speech just now the right hon. Gentleman used what seemed to me to be an entirely fallacious argument. I ventured to interrupt him, but I think the point is so important that I must, put it forcibly and make it quite clear. He said, "After all, what difference does it make? The House has control of the Road Fund to-day, in the sense that it can give or withhold its assent to my raiding the Road Fund. It will still have control under my new scheme, because it will be for the House to decide whether or not we shall spend money on the purposes for which the fund exists." The real distinction, which I ventured to put before the Chancellor, is a perfectly clear one, and we have had an illustration of it only recently in this House. So long as there is a Road Fund which it is the normal business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spend in improving the roads of the country, it is only by a positive resolution of this House that he can raid it; but if the money is in the general control of the Treasury, it is not open to the House on its own initiative to move to take the money for the roads; that can only be done on the positive initiative of the Government.

The other day the House clearly expressed its view, with regard to the matter of the Civil Service, that a certain sum of money should be spent in a certain way. The Government said it was not for the House to tell them how to spend the money; the Government alone could decide what money it wanted to spend. The only power the House could have was to refuse to allow them to spend the money in that way. That is precisely the case here. It is not true that the House can compel the Government to spend money on the roads under the new scheme. If the Government wishes to spend the money the House can give or refuse its assent, but it cannot take any initiative whatever in the matter. The Chancellor may say that that is to some extent true even at present. After all, if the Government refused to spend money on the roads out of the Road Fund, the House could not by an initiative Resolution propose to do so. I think the situation is substantially different, because there is money in the Road Fund and the normal thing is that the Government is expected to spend it and, if it does not, it has to account for it to the House. That is an entirely different situation from that which will arise under the new procedure.

The principle that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to create in this Resolution is a very great danger at this present time. The number of motor cars is increasing with enormous rapidity. That is the reason why this fund is so large. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to take a new means in order that the increase in that money should be diverted from its original purpose. I think the needs of the country and the needs of the roads are such that we should spend the whole of the money in the Road Fund, and this action of the Chancellor in keeping control of it and diverting some of it is against the interests of the country.

6.48 p.m.


The hon. Gentleman said he was astonished at the reception that this proposal has had from supporters of the Government, and pointed out that some of us are keen on motoring and others are interested in the roads for other reasons. The plain fact of the matter is that this proposal has nothing whatever to do with motoring or with the user of the road for other purposes. It is simply a question whether the money required for the upkeep of the roads should be found in a particular way or not. The question we are asked to discuss is whether it is a good or a bad thing that a specific revenue should be allocated for a specific service. I have always felt that it is a bad principle to earmark particular revenues in this way, for two reasons. First of all, it is most difficult to estimate with any accuracy what the yield of a given source of revenue will be over a period of years, because of changing circumstances. Secondly, it is very difficult to estimte with any accuracy what the need of a given service will be over a series of years, owing to changing circumstances. Therefore, if you earmark a particular source of revenue for a particular service, what happens is that, as time goes on, either the service does not get the sum it requires or else it gets too much. If the money available is not enough for the service there is either an outcry, and other sources of revenue have to be tapped, or else the service is starved. If the revenue is too great, money is spent on the service which could be better used elsewhere, or else the Chancellor is tempted to raid the fund. In either case the result is equally undesirable.

I have always felt that this arrangement of the Road Fund is a bad one, and I am glad the Chancellor has determined to put an end to it. From the terms of his own speech the hon. Gentleman would be unable to put up a good case against the argument that specific sources of revenue should not be allocated to specific services. He has only been able to attack the proposal at all by drawing the red herring across the Debate that this is in some way an effort to restrict the amount spent on the roads, whereas of course it is nothing of the kind.

6.51 p.m.


Some of us regard this Resolution with the greatest misgiving for two reasons, that it will probably mean that less is spent upon the roads and that a new form of general taxation will be found which is very undesirable, namely the taxation of distribution. With regard to the first point, whether less will be spent on the roads, and whether that will or will not affect the accident rate, I have been looking up the facts about accidents and expenditure on the roads to see whether the Chancellor's amazing statement can be corroborated. Ten years ago there were 98,000 accidents that affected life or limb. In 1934 that number was 204,000—nearly double. The number of vehicles had similarly practically doubled in the same period, but the amount spent on roads remained almost exactly the same. To put that series of facts in another way, it means that, because to-day we are spending only half as much per vehicle on the roads, the accidents have doubled. You cannot take the gross figure that is being spent. The figure that clearly must affect accidents is the amount that is being spent per head, and that to-day is half what it was, and the accidents are doubled. That entirely disproves the Chancellor's statement as to the relation between the rate of expenditure and accidents.

With regard to my second point, the transport industry is very heavily taxed at present. Of the £72,000,000 that is raised from the tax on petrol, in addition to the Road Fund proper, the commercial side raises very nearly half. It amounts to an expenditure of practically 2d. a vehicle-mile, which is a very heavy charge indeed on an important branch of the distributive trade. With regard to passengers in omnibuses, I do not know whether it will make them feel less unwell if they realise that out of every shilling that they spend between 2¼d. and 2½d. goes in taxation. Five and a quarter million pounds is being taken this year and, if the present basis of the Road Fund is altered, we shall have less control over the taxation of distribution, which I believe to be a, bad tax. It affects particularly all the country districts and all the smaller towns. It affects the farmer and the dweller in the country more than the town dweller. I believe it is an unjust tax and for these reasons anything that will restrict the control of Parliament and change the basis of this tax from that of being a tax to improve the roads, which is badly needed, to a general tax to raise revenue is thoroughly unsound.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he first began this policy—he did not dare in those days to go nearly as far as the Chancellor has done—made no disguise of the fact that the question of competitive transport must be considered, and he showed in his Budget speech that he was taking the position of the railways into account. I want to give one figure to show how the taxation of road transport compares with railway transport. A six-ton to seven-ton road waggon pays in licence £55 a year. In petrol it was estimated by the Salter Report that it pays another £133—a total tax of £188. The earning capacity of a 10-ton goods waggon of a railway company is £190 a year, so that road transport is paying in taxation practically the total equivalent of a railway waggon of similar capacity. It illustrates the very unfair incidence of this taxation. Some of us will most certainly vote against the Resolution, because we believe it is the thin end of the wedge which will be used as a ready source of income in the future, and we believe that is highly undesirable.

6.59 p.m.


I do not think it is necessary to say very much on the Resolution. The arguments which the hon. Member has just addressed to us are, no doubt, very interesting, but I found some difficulty in relating them to the subject before the House. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has admitted that in theory there is everything to be said for the plan which I am proposing to follow, and in order to find a reason for opposing in practice what in theory he approves, he has been in some little difficulty. He has found a happy solution of his trouble in the theory that money that should have been spent on the roads will be taken and spent on armaments. Unfortunately for his argument, that idea will not hold water, if I may use that expression, because I have already stated that the programme which happened to be announced during the Election, but had been in preparation long before then, would not in any way be affected. We are pledged to that programme, and whatever happens there will be no derogation from that pledge. On the other hand, I have already intimated to the House that we can see ways and means of financing the armaments programme, but as the programme which I announced in the course of the Election for the roads is a five-year programme, it is quite impossible for money to be taken from the roads for the purpose of armaments.

But a situation might arise where it would be necessary to say whether there should be a further threepence, or perhaps more on the Income Tax, or that other taxation should be increased in order that the money might be spent on the roads. I think it is a monstrous thing to say that the House should not have the power to decide if faced with a possible alternative of that kind that it would prefer to go without additional expenditure on the roads rather than increase taxation, and when any hon. Member comes down to this House and suggests that I have got to make out a case for my proposal I would put it to him that he has got to make out a case for the continuance of the present situation. Why on earth should roads be put in a different position from any other kind of service? The hon. Member says that the needs of the roads are so great that it is necessary to earmark revenue to them contrary to all his cherished theories. Why should more importance be attached to roads than to other services such as education? The reason why my hon. Friends on this side of the House, who are, as he said, keen motorists and deeply interested in the development of the roads, have taken these proposals calmly and are not alarmed at them is because they realise that the House will have power in the future, if it chooses, to see that money should be allocated to the roads to an adequate degree. If they do not choose to accept the views of the Government on that, they have the alternative, as on any other matter, of turning the Government out. I ask the hon. Gentleman, who laughs at that as ridiculous, why the House should have greater power over one form of service than over another? Until he can answer that question, I submit that my proposal is not only constitutionally right but is a piece of common sense.


The position is not why this service should be treated differently, but why was it arranged to be treated differently?

7.6 p.m.


There is an adequate answer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that the House has control over the service at the present time through the Treasury. I think the Chancellor denied art interruption that there would not be a Road Fund. This House has control over all expenditure, and everybody knows that money cannot be spent out of this fund without the Treasury giving permission, and the Treasury is responsible to the House for that expenditure. There is a very adequate reason why there should be a special arrangement with regard to this particular fund. What industry has a specific tax on it for a specific purpose other than the road industry? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has often suggested in replying to me when I have been speaking about the Petrol Tax that it was a luxury tax. He has never asserted that the licence duties were luxury taxes. When the licence duties were introduced they were introduced so that motorists could contribute for a specific purpose, and the Chancellor of

the Exchequer has not made out any case why that position should be altered. It is perfectly true to say that it may have been necessary to come along to the House and ask for special grants. The case for asking for 3d. on Income Tax does not arise when one thinks that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken taken almost the exact amount which 3d. in Income Tax would bring in in his two raids on the Road Fund. Taking them with the raid which the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made, there would have been no need to ask for a special increase of 3d. on the Income Tax, if those amounts had been left in the Road Fund. There will be a Road Fund, it is true, when this comes into force, but it will be possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say, "I cannot afford this money this year; the roads will have to be left for the time being." Whereas it is far more difficult for him to make that assertion when we know that there is a specific fund. It is for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to justify why he asks for a change, and he has done nothing of the kind.

7.9 p.m.


I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer this one question. At the moment there is published annually a very full report of the Road Fund account—the amount which comes in and what is paid out—in considerable detail. Under this new arrangement will there be as full an account published as is published at the moment?


I can only answer by leave of the House, but I should imagine not, The account to which the hon. Member refers was in order to allow the House to preserve some measure of control over the expenditure of the Road Fund. Now, it will be able to control it in the usual way.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 236; Noes, 123.

Division No. 154.] AYES. [7.10 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col, G. J. Alien, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Assheton, R.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'k)
Albery, I. J. Aske, Sir R. W. Beit, Sir A. L.
Bernays, R. H. Gridley, Sir A. B. Palmer, G. E. H.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Grimston, R. V. Patrick, C. M.
Blair, Sir R. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Peake, O.
Blindell, Sir J. Guns ton, Capt. D. W. Peat, C. U.
Bottom, A. C. Guy. J. C. M. Petherick, M.
Boulton, W. W. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Bowater, Col, Sir T. Vansittart Hamilton, Sir G. C. Pllkington, R.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Hanbury, Sir C. Pownall, Sir Assheton
Boyce, H. Leslie Hannah, I. C. Radford, E. A.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Harbord, A. Ralkes, H. V. A. M.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hartington, Marquess of Ramsbotham, H.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Harvey, G. Ramsden. Sir E.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Haslam, Sir J (Bolton) Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Bull, B. B. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Rayner, Major R. H.
Burton, Col. H. W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Butler, R. A. Hepworth, J. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Cartland, J. R. H. Herbert, Captain S. (Abbey) Rlckards, G. W. (Skipton)
Cary, R. A. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Holmes, J. S. Rowlands, G.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel S: E. A.
Channon, H. Hopkinson, A. Runciman. Rt. Hon. W.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Horsbrugn, Florence Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Choriton, A. E. L. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Clarke, F. E. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Salt, E. W.
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir G. P Hunter, T. Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Hurd, Sir P. A. Sandys, E. D.
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Jackson, Sir H. Savery, Servington
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) James, Wing-Commander A. W. Scott, Lord William
Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Selley, H. R.
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Keeling, E. H. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Craddock, Sir R. H. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Simmonds, O. E.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Latham, Sir P. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Groom-Johnson, R. P. Leckle, J. A. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lfst),
Crossley, A. C. Leech, Dr. J. W. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Cruddas, Col. B. Lelghton, Major B. E. P. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C. Levy, T. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Lewis, O. Somerset, T.
Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil) Lindsay, K. M. Somervell sir D. B. (Crewe)
Davison, Sir W. H. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Somervllie, A. A. (Windsor)
Dawson, Sir P. Lloyd, G. W. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lottus, P. C. Spears, Brig. -Gen. E. L.
Dospencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Spens, W. P.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Lumley, Capt. L. R. Stewart. J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dower, Capt. A. V. G. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Storey. S.
Drewe, C. MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Stourton. Hon. J. J.
Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop) M'Connell, Sir J. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Duckworth. W. R. (Moss Side) McCorquodale, M. S. Strauss, H. C. (Norwich)
Dugdale, Major T. L. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wright) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Duggan, H. J. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
Duncan, J. A. L. McKle, J. H. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Dunglass, Lord Maclay, Hon. J. p. Sutclife, H.
Dunne, P. R. R. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., SO
Eastwood, J. F. Magnay, T. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Eckersley, P. T. Makins, Brig. -Gen. E. Thomson. Sir J. D. W.
Edmondson. Major Sir J. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Titchfield. Marquess of
Elliston, G. S. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Emery, J. F. Maxwell, S. A. Tryon, Major- Rt. Hon. G. C.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J Tufnell, Lieut. -Com. R. L.
Entwistle, C. F. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Turton, R. H.
Erskine Hill, A. G. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Wakefield W. W.
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Everard, W. L. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Morelng, A. C. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Morgan, R. H. Wells, S. R.
Furness, S. N. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wickham. Lt-Col. E. T. R.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester) Williams H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Ganzoni, Sir J. Mulrhead, Lt-Col. A. J. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Gledhill, G. Munro, P. Womersley. Sir W. J.
Gluckstein, L. H. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Goidle, N. B. Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Gower, Sir R. V. O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh TELLERS FOR THE AYES —
Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral) Ormsby-Gore, Rt, Hon. W. G. Dr. Morris-Jones and Mr. Cross.
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Orr-Ewlng, I. L.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke Barnes, A. J. Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)
Adams, D. (Consett) Barr, J. Buchanan, G.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Ballenger, F. Burke, W. A.
Adamson, W. M. Benson, G. Cape, T.
Ammon, C. G. Bevan, A. Cassells, T.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Brooke, W. Chater, D.
Cluse, W. S. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Ritson, J.
Cocks, F. S Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Compton, J. Kelly, W. T. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Cove, W. G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Rowson, G.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Kirby, B. V. Seely, Sir H. M.
Daggar, G. Kirkwood, D. Sexton, T. M.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lathan, G. Shinwell, E.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lawson, J. J. Short, A.
Day, H. Leach, W. Silverman, S. S.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lee, F. Simpson, F. B.
Ede J. C. Leonard, W. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwelity) Leslie, J. R. Smith, Ben (Rotherhlthe)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Logan, D. G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Foot, D. M. Lunn, W. Sorensen, R. W.
Frankel, D. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Stephen, C.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) McGhee, H. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght`n-le-Sp'ng)
Gibbins, J. McGovern, J. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) MacLaren, A. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Maclean, N. Thurtie, E.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) MacNeill, Weir, L. Tinker, J. J.
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Mainwaring, W. H. Viant, S. P.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Markiew, E. Waikden, A. G.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Marshall, F. Watkins, F. C.
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Mathers, G. Watson, W. McL.
Hardie, G. D. Messer, F. Welsh, J. C.
Harris, Sir P. A. Milner, Major. J. Westwood, J.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Montague, F. White, H. Graham
Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Oliver, G. H. Wilkinson, Ellen
Holdsworth, H. Owen, Major G. Williams, E. J. (Ogrnore)
Holland, A. Paling, W. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Hollins, A. Parker, H. J. H. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Jagger, J. Parkinson, J. A. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Potts, J.
John, W. Price, M. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —
Johnston, Rt. Hon, T. Pritt, D. N. Mr. Charleton and Mr. Whiteley.

Resolution agreed to.