HC Deb 07 December 1938 vol 342 cc1161-4
40. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the Minister of Transport whether the report of the Transport Advisory Council submitted to him in July, 1937, recommending certain steps towards the creation of a system of rates for the road haulage industry, has now received his consideration; and when he proposes to take steps to implement it?

Mr. Burgin

Yes, Sir. I am anxious to bring into being as soon as possible a comprehensive rate system in the road haulage industry. The Transport Advisory Council recommended that an opportunity should be afforded for road hauliers to build up a rates structure for their own industry and should be given time in which to do it. A liaison committee has been set up within the industry, and I understand that real progress is being made with what is admittedly a difficult problem.

Sir F. Sanderson

Can my right hon. Friend state approximately the time it is likely to take?

Mr. Burgin

I am afraid I cannot. The problem is an extremely important one, and I think it is far better that the rate structure should be evolved from within than that it should be imposed from without. It is a tremendous problem, and I am quite satisfied that those working upon it in the industry are working in the right direction.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does the Minister not think that the time has now arrived, in view of the trouble between the rail and road transport systems, when the Government should devise ways and means to nationalise the transport system of this country?

Mr. Burgin

That is a rather different question.

Captain Strickland

Is it intended that these road rates should be published rates, and, if so, has the Minister abandoned any idea of the abolition of published rates for the railways?

Mr. Burgin

It is intended, as the Minister has tried to say, to await the proposals from within the industry for a road rates structure which is applicable to that industry, and I do not want to speculate on what form it will take.

Captain Strickland

But is it to be published?

Mr. Burgin

Well, that is one of the questions.

55. Captain Strickland

asked the Minister of Transport whether the reduction of work of the goods-vehicle licensing authorities and their staffs resulting from the longer period of the A, B and C licences recently introduced will permit their employment on any fresh duties to be undertaken by the licensing authorities in the future?

Mr. Burgin

Until experience has been gained of the work involved in collecting licence fees by instalments I cannot be sure that there will be a net saving to the licensing authorities and their staff of work as a result of the longer licence periods. My hon. and gallant Friend will recall that the Transport Advisory Council in their report on periods of validity contemplated that any time which might be saved should be utilised "in dealing more comprehensively with the prevalent disregard of the law."

56. Captain Strickland

asked the Minister of Transport what additional staff, borne on the Estimates of his Department, has been required in the current financial year compared with previous years to enforce the conditions of road transport carriers' licences; and what has been the additional expense?

Mr. Burgin

During the current financial year an addition of 32 indoor and 30 outdoor officers has been made to the traffic area staffs for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, and the conditions attached to carriers' licences. The additional cost will be £5,500 this year, involving an ultimate cost of £16,000 a year.

57. Captain Strickland

asked the Minister of Transport the nature of the administrative work of the licensing authorities for goods vehicles which is contemplated in connection with the rates charged by road hauliers for the transport of goods; and what additions to the staffs are contemplated for that purpose?

Mr. Burgin

My hon. and gallant Friend will be aware of the terms of the report of the Transport Advisory Council on service and rates and of the activities of a committee of the industry which, in accordance with that report, is attempting to evolve a rates structure which shall be "the product of the industry itself." The additional staffs required must depend largely upon the nature of the rates structure, and upon the steps which may prove necessary to secure the enforcement of rates, as envisaged by the council in their report.

62. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Transport whether, on granting hauliers' licences to railway companies for road-haulage vehicles, care is taken to ensure that the rates lo be charged are adequate to cover the cost of the services to be performed; and whether he is aware that any losses on road transport services sustained by railway companies can be made good from other sources of income and that independent transport concerns are compelled to accept the same rates and, having no other revenue, are only able to discharge their obligations under the Traffic Acts with considerable difficulty?

Mr. Burgin

When granting carriers' licences the traffic area licensing authorities have no power to attach conditions as to the rates to be charged, but I understand that they take into account any evidence that traffic is being obtained by unfair means. I cannot assent to the suggestion contained in the latter paragraph of my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Butcher

If I send my right hon. Friend particulars of rate-cutting will he look into them?

Mr. Burgin