HC Deb 19 April 1944 vol 399 cc312-42
Captain Strickland (Coventry)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order in Council, dated 25th February, 1944, made under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, 1939 and 1940. adding Regulation 73B to the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, a copy of which Order in Council was presented on 29th February, be annulled. The Regulation which I am praying His Majesty to annul was made by the Minister of War Transport in connection with a scheme devised by him and known as the Government Road Haulage Organisation, which has been in operation since early in 1943. Regulation 73B has been published by the Stationery Office as Statutory Rule and Order, 1944, No. 184. It is printed as the third of three Orders which appear on the same sheet, which contains Orders 182 and 183, relating to different matters. The Regulations were laid on the Table on 29th February. In accordance with custom they must lie on the Table for 28 days before becoming operative, unless a Prayer is presented. The period for presenting that Prayer expires next week, and I have taken the opportunity to present this Motion.

The essence of the Regulation is contained in Paragraph which states: The Minister of War Transport may, by Order, provide

  1. (a) for prohibiting the carriage of goods or any particular class of goods by road in mechanically propelled goods vehicles, for a distance of So miles or more, except in accordance with an authority given by or on behalf of the Minister of War Transport;
  2. (b) for exempting any class of such vehicles from the order;
  3. (c) for preventing evasion and …
  4. (d) for any incidental or supplementary matters far which the Ministry of War Transport thinks it expedient for the purposes of the Order to provide."
This Regulation proposes to give to the Minister very great power indeed over a certain class of road vehicle, which up to the present has not come so immediately within his purview. He will be able to prevent any goods traffic vehicle on the road from travelling more than 60 miles, unless by the direct sanction of the Minister or one of his officers in the Ministry.

The Regulation will apply equally to all three of the road licences which, I need hardly remind the House, are A, B and C licences. The A licences relate to hauliers who practise haulage as their sole occupation. B licences are for those who have vehicles of their own which have spare time, and can indulge in road haulage occasionally. The C licences apply to a very large and important body of people composed of traders and manufacturers who have their own fleets of vehicles and use them solely for conveying about the countryside goods which they make or sell. The Regulation has been made by the Minister of War Transport and we now seek to ask him how he justifies asking the House of Commons to give him these extraordinary powers of action. It may well be asked how it happens that the Minister requires this war restriction on the transport of goods by road, and for what purpose it is to be used. I think the Minister's answer is to be found in the Memorandum presented to Parliament in explanation of his Order —Command Paper 6506—and entitled "Long Distance Road Goods Traffic." It describes the Minister's Road Haulage Organisation in paragraph 4, and says: The object of Defence Regulation 73B, which has recently been made, is to enable the Minister of War Transport to make Orders which will ensure that the long-distance traffic referred to in paragraph (2) above, is not carried otherwise than by the Road Haulage Organisation unless exemption is given under paragraph a (a) or (b) of the Regulation. Without the power to make such Orders, the Minister has not been able to ensure that the purposes of the organisation were fully attained; much controlled traffic has, in fact, been carried by operators outside the Organisation. What are the purposes of this scheme? They are described in paragraph 1 of the Memorandum as being to save fuel and labour, to have a reserve of long-distance vehicles in readiness, and to make full and effective use of road transport in times of stress. The method adopted in the scheme was to substitute control by the Minister of War Transport for the control which has been exercised up to the present time by road haulage firms engaged in the industry. The principal road haulage firms were invited to become controlled undertakings under the scheme. Their vehicles were to be used as directed by the Minister, and the consideration was a payment of a fixed annual sum based on their pre-war profits, which was to continue for the period of control irrespective of the work that was done. Their profit was guaranteed for the war period if they came into this scheme. This invitation was addressed by the Minister to most of the larger firms. They were free to accept or refuse the invitation. Other firms who were not invited to 'become controlled undertakings, particularly the smaller firms, the little men of the industry, were enabled to offer their vehicles for hire, the Government undertaking to pay them according to the distances run on a hire rate as occasion might require.

This scheme has been in operation since the Spring of 1943. The controlled vehicles are still under the management of the firms owning them, but the roads and journeys are directed, not by the owners of the vehicles but by the Minister, through his Departmental officers. The following quotations from particulars supplied by the Minister at the time when the scheme was started in 1943 are evidence that haulage firms would be given a free choice to become controlled firms under the scheme or to remain outside. I quote from the Press release which was issued: Controlled undertakings will be selected by the Minister. Other carriers should make application … Operators of vehicles engaged in the longer distance haulage will he invited to enter into agreement. A number of hauliers have been invited to make their businesses controlled undertakings. Others who were not invited will be given the opportunity of hiring their vehicles. For purposes of administration the Minister has appointed 12 Divisional Road Haulage Officers, having under them 54 Area Road Haulage Officers, who in turn have 360 Unit Controllers. Many of these officers and controllers are drawn from the industry itself.

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)

All of them?

Captain Strickland

Not all of them, but included among them are a number of permanent and temporary civil servants who have had no previous connection with the road transport industry.

Mr. Brown

Will the hon. and gallant Member forgive me for interrupting? There are no permanent civil servants among them.

Captain Strickland

Then temporary civil servants have been appointed. I was under the impression that some of them were permanent civil servants. At any rate temporary civil servants who had no previous knowledge of road transport have been put in control of the directions given to these people who have become controlled undertakings. The firms who refused the invitation of the Minister to become controlled firms have continued to carry on business independently of the Government scheme. They appear to be fully occupied day after day making journeys about the country, and are certainly run very efficiently, and much more economically than the Government have run their scheme. They are engaged by Government Departments, and they are also engaged on ordinary commercial work. Many of them have vehicles which are used in industry for urgent loads, say from munition factory A to some spot in the country. It may be very urgent indeed. The Minister states in paragraph 4 which I have read— much controlled traffic has, in fact, been carried by operators outside the organisation. He appears to regard this as something very unfair to the controlled undertakings over whom he exercises direction.

The implication of paragraph 4 of the Memorandum is that if these outside firms who are now competing with the Minister's scheme had become controlled, the scheme would have been a success. Those who have read the 3rd Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure criticising the scheme, will appreciate that the scheme has failed through inherent defects and mistakes in administration, and they will be very sceptical about the prospects of securing improvement by giving the Minister the powers asked for and contained in Regulation 73B. I think it is fair to say that seldom, if ever, in recent history has there been such a revelation of Government muddle in the control and direction of an industry as is disclosed by this Report. There is no need in my judgment to make it an offence to carry goods more than 60 miles by road without the Minister's permission. The Minister can and does exercise restrictions through his Road Transport Officers by the issue of fuel coupons. These officers require these unattached men, when making application for the issue of fuel coupons to carry on their work, to state in a form of application the purpose for which the fuel is required. The vehicle owner is bound by the terms of his application, and by the conditions which may be imposed by the Road Transport Officer. If these are not observed then his fuel ration may be reduced, or indeed cancelled, and for certain classes of traffic these Commissioners limit the journeys of the applicants to 60 or 40 or even 30 miles according to their view of the necessity for the grant of fuel for this purpose. That fuel must be used for that purpose, otherwise the next time the firms concerned apply they can have their fuel refused or reduced because they have taken on certain work they ought not to have done. It is an effective form of control which is already in the hands of the Minister.

The Minister's authority for these restrictions is contained in the Control of Motor Fuel Order, 1944, S. R. & O., No. 281. This was a consolidation of previous Motor Fuel Orders. In the circumstances I submit that the House may very well ask how the Minister intends to apply this new Regulation. Does he intend to use it to coerce the firms who have declined his invitation to become controlled? Does he now wish to force all these firms, including the small men of the country, who contribute tremendously to the road transport scheme, who are engaged in long distance traffic, to come into his scheme? That apparently is the object which we may presume he has in view, and it would have had the effect of silencing a certain amount of criticism, and of removing comparisons between the work done by these outside firms and the work done under the authority of the Ministry by the controlled firms. Regulation 73B is also regarded in some quarters as a very serious menace to the smaller haulage firms. There is an apprehension amongst these firms that the Regulation may be used to enable the larger controlled firms to capture their business so that when the control terminates with the termination of the war their customers may have been absorbed by the controlled firms, and their goodwill destroyed. Another aspect of the effect of this Regulation is tide position of the trader, or manufacturer who runs his own transport in C licence vehicles. They will be equally liable to prosecution under this Regulation although they are in no way concerned with the control of long distance traffic under the Minister's scheme. Many of them, engaged on urgent Government work, require to run their vehicles for longer trips than 60 miles.

It would be a serious hindrance to the war effort if they or their drivers were liable to prosecution under this Regulation. One can imagine it being necessary to take an emergency load. An application would have to be made to one of the Ministry's offices in one place; and he, probably, would not be able to deal with it on the spot, and would have to refer it to somebody else. Then, in perhaps a week's time, the journey could be undertaken. In war-time you cannot tell what loads you may want taken, and if these people have to get permission before they can say whether they can undertake a journey, it will be a serious blow to the war effort. Could not the House ask that the Minister should remedy the defects in his own scheme, particularly those mentioned in the Report of the Select Committee, before he receives further powers to force outside firms to accept control under the scheme?

The representative organisations in the road transport industry are seriously alarmed about this Regulation. They are convinced that this Regulation is not required, and they are not satisfied with the explanation given in Command Paper 6506. These organisations carried out the original consultations over the scheme, through the Standing Joint Committee of Road Hauliers' National Organisations. This is a Committee representing the A and B licence holders of the following as- sociations: Associated Road Operators, Commercial Motor Users' Association, National Association of Furniture Warehousemen and Removers, National Conference of Express Carriers, National Road Transport Employers' Federation, Scottish Carriers and Haulage Contractors' Association, and Scottish Commercial Motor Users' Association. This Committee accepts no responsibility whatsoever for the Government's haulage scheme, but, in the national interest, it has endeavoured to help the scheme through, and to make the best of a bad job. The Committee does not suggest that it would be prudent, or even practicable, to scrap this Government organisation scheme at the present moment, as the industry has been thoroughly disorganised through bringing the scheme into operation. The Committee, however, adheres to the suggestion, which was accepted by the Government when the scheme was instituted, that the scheme should come to an end at the conclusion of hostilities. Paragraph 1 (d) of the Regulation is very wide in its terms, and would enable the Minister to do anything he thought fit, without control from this House, It reads: The Minister may by Order provide for any incidental or supplementary matters which the Minister thinks it expedient for the purposes of the Order to provide. Can you imagine a freer hand being given to the Minister of War Transport than by the powers which could be exercised under such terms? This paragraph should certainly be omitted. But I would remind hon. 'Members that it is impossible to amend a Regulation; and we are, therefore, praying that the Regulation shall be annulled. I hope the Minister will see his way to withdraw this Regulation, to give the matter further consideration, and to bring forward another scheme.

Briefly, the purpose of this scheme is to prevent the waste of petrol and of rubber, but there are thousands of gallons of petrol 'being wasted every week by empty running of Government vehicles, which I suggest could be stopped. There are still loads to go. I have tried to bring before this House instances of actual loads which have been refused by the Minister's officers in certain areas, and of vehicles having to go back empty, because of the restrictions placed upon them. There has been a considerable increase in the cost of the carriage of these things. It does not matter now to these people. They say, "You are not in competition; if something has to be done, let it be done. If you have to send your vehicle from London to Edinburgh, send it. What does it matter when your profits are guaranteed by the Government?" This is the loose way in which the Minister has administered the Department in the past. What guarantee have we that if we—

Mr. Speaker

Now the hon. and gallant Member is discussing the general administration of the Minister, not the subject of the Prayer.

Captain Strickland

I bow to your Ruling, Sir. It is only because the Minister cannot cope with the work he is doing that we are seeking to save him from himself in the carrying out of fresh work. These free vehicles enable criticism to be made. The Parliamentary Secretary takes refuge in the necessity of loads. There was a case where mere was no vehicle to take rag dolls fox export, and a lorry had to be sent to take them. With regard to the non-availability of return loads, I instanced a case where a whole consignment of 80 tons of wire was waiting in London to be taken to Manchester, and 10 vehicles, capable of carrying 83 tons, applied to the Minister's officers for permission to take this wire back. They were told, "It has to go by rail." There were the vehicles running 'back empty to Manchester when they could take a load back. The Minister, through the Parliamentary Secretary, says: "Of course, if we sent these goods 'by road we should be running empty railway wagons." It is absurd to suppose that these wagons would be running empty because you filled up your road vehicles.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)

On a point of Order. If my hon. and gallant Friend deals with detailed cases, like a load of rag dolls, I presume that I shall be allowed to make my answer?

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will not pursue the line he is taking now. The point is a very narrow one, and if he goes into the question of the general administration of the Order, he is outside the scope of the Prayer. That is a matter which could be raised on Supply, but not on this occasion.

Captain Strickland

I thank you, Sir. I would urge the House to take this matter very seriously. We have had so many of these Statutory Rules & Orders going through that it is very difficult to track them down. We have an opportunity now of stating that, in the view of this House, the administration of the Department has not been sufficiently brilliant to warrant the House giving the Minister the extra powers he seeks under this Order.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Blackburn)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. and gallant Friend has covered the ground so thoroughly that there is no reason for me to go over it again. I am not concerned with the interests of the road transport industry. I second this Motion because of complaints from Blackburn. The last time that this Regulation 738 came up, I was sent for by the Blackburn transport people. We went into a meeting at about 6 o'clock at night, and we did not get out until after to o'clock. I remember the meeting very well indeed. There were some 30 people present, representing five different organisations. One of the questions I put to them was, "Why do you not get into one organisation? You would be much stronger." I suppose it was Lancashire independence that made them prefer to have five different organisations, but they all had the same complaint.

The last time I went up, as a most loyal supporter of the Government, I did my best to support the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport. I painted him in the most glowing colours as one of the finest fellows I ever met, who had, all his life, been devoted to the small man and to preserving him in industry, and said that the last thing he would think about would be putting any small man out of business. When I came out of the room, I could not recognise the Parliamentary Secretary from my description, and I am quite sure neither he nor any member of his party would recognise him either, but the people were reasonably satisfied until this new Order came along. I would just point out to the Parliamentary Secretary, in an aside, that these Government regulations do not necessarily satisfy me that they make for efficiency. I belong to a chamber of commerce in Northern Ireland, and, as the Parliamentry Secretary well knows, in Northern Ireland, for the last seven or eight years, we have had a nationalised road transport industry. Only last week I was reading complaints from some chambers of commerce who wanted to introduce private lorries again because the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board was not quite as efficient as they had hoped for. But that is by the way.

Now the Minister complains that long-distance traffic is being carried by firms outside his control. Why are these firms getting that long-distance traffic? I suggest that it is for exactly the same reason that we go to a particular shop when we want to buy a new pair of shoes or a suit of clothes. We go to the shop where we can buy the cheapest and most efficient goods, and it is for exactly that reason that these small firms are getting this business which the Parliamentary Secretary thinks should be carried by his own baby in this industry. I understand also that traffic is likely to increase rather than decrease in the future, and that possibly the railways will not be able to carry all the traffic that there is about, and that some traffic will have to be transferred to the roads. Who is going to carry that increased traffic? I suggest that, at the present moment, although a lot of those firms who are outside the scheme are small firms financially, they still run very efficient lorries for this long-distance work. They have six-ton, seven-ton and, I understand, even ten-ton lorries, which are more efficient than the smaller lorry of the three-ton variety, which is better suited for the shorter journeys. I also understand that, at the present moment, there are a tremendous lot of lorries returned from the Army. These are reconditioned three-ton lorries, and I submit that if you sent these lorries long distances they would waste labour, rubber and fuel and not be so efficient as the six-ton lorries would be. I do not believe that this new Order will save rubber, fuel or labour, but its effect will be to make the small man lose his good will, customers and his business. For that reason, I second this Motion.

Mr. Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Along with other hon. Members on this side of the House, who are interested in this question from two angles—first, from the angle of the men engaged in the industry, and, secondly, from the angle of British subjects who are unhappily engaged in a war—I have listened very carefully and with considerable interest to the two hon. and gallant Members who moved this Prayer, and it has been very difficult to understand from their speeches precisely what are the grounds upon which the Prayer is moved, until we have the rather naive suggestion from the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) that chambers of commerce in Northern Ireland would prefer that their effective and very efficient road haulage system in Northern Ireland were handed over to them for their exploitation. That is not a very surprising statement, and I should have been very much more surprised to have learned otherwise, for the Northern Ireland capitalist has not a very much different mentality from the capitalists of other countries.

I think few good reasons have been advanced in the speeches, and I do not think it is very difficult to see what is in the minds of those responsible for the Prayer. Indeed, I have to-day received a communication from one of the organisations engaged in road haulage concerned, and they make it quite clear that what they are concerned with is not so much the operation of this control at the moment, as their alarm that the regulation fails to set a limit to the period during which the restrictions will be enforced. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Prayer underlined the argument that he was concerned mainly with the fact that this control should not be extended after the war. What is the purpose of this Order, about which so much concern has suddenly been shown? The Order provides that the Minister may prohibit the carriage of goods, or any particular class of goods, by road by means of a mechanically-propelled vehicle, for 60 miles or more, except by authority given by the Minister of War Transport. What is wrong with that in war-time? Is there anything excessive in the way of control of national affairs in comparison with the control that is exercised by other Government Departments in other aspects of national life in the present situation? The Order is purely permissive. It says the Minister may make, or is empowered to make, such orders, and I cannot see that there is anything very sinister in that.

What I do see sinister in the whole business is the purpose behind the minds of those responsible for moving the Prayer, and I would again remind the House that we are at war, that the whole nation is mobilised for the purpose of war, and that this House, and the country, have handed to the Government the responsibility for conducting that war with one sole, selfless objective—the objective of ensuring the national existence and early victory. We have given the Government power to mobilise without, so far as I am aware, any qualification or provision, the men and women of the country and take them from their homes, their jobs, their careers and their families, and now we find, in the midst of a situation like this, when we understand that we are on the brink of one of the most vital and dangerous enterprises which this country has ever undertaken, a group of road haulage operatives, speaking through hon. Members of this House, pleading that the first consideration in this situation shall be the safeguarding of their interests after the war.

Captain Strickland

I hope my hon. Friend will not endeavour to mislead the House. I know that is not his intention, but he will realise that the main opposition comes from the manufacturers who are making the war armaments. The "C" licence men are in it as well, but the hon. Member must not give the impression that it is a trade or professional objection.

Mr. Hynd

I thank the hon. and gallant Member for that confirmation that this group of capitalists are not isolated in this, but I had in mind the fact that the only representation I have had has been from the British Road Federation. The hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn cited other organisations concerned in this particular industry. I object that these interests, and hon. Members who have spoken on the Prayer, are endeavouring to exploit the present situation in order to discredit the Government by a series of Questions on the Order Paper, over the last two or three weeks, which have been most effectively answered by the Minister. I regret that they should, in the interests of groups of private investors, seek to exploit the situation and try to advertise their trade for after the war.

Captain Strickland

Would the hon. Member also acknowledge that "cooperative societies also run vehicles as well, and I do not know that they claim particularly to be capitalists?

Mr. Hynd

Again, I have only the evidence of representations made to myself and of hon. Members who have spoken, and co-operative societies are not backing this particular Prayer. We are told that the real reasons for this attack upon Government control of road haulage is that there is tremendous inefficiency throughout the industry. Questions raised in the House in the past few weeks have generally dealt with isolated cases of the empty return loads, or of overcharging. The overcharging has been effectively answered, and, as far as empty loads are concerned, anyone connected with haulage knows that, while it may be a simple and reasonable matter in peace time to hold up a load in order to get the assurance of a return load, it is not possible in war-time. I do not think that those who are pressing the Ministry of War Transport to operate on that basis would have the nerve to make the suggestion that the same sort of commercial tactics should be adopted in time of war.

If the Ministry were as inefficient—and the Third Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure has been referred to—as is suggested by hon. Members, and in that Report, I would ask that they should give us a little more substantiation of the facts. We are given to understand that the unit controllers have entirely failed in carrying out their responsibilities. The hon. and gallant Member made rather an unfortunate gaffe there, because I think his intention was to suggest that this was Civil Service administration as against the administrators of big business and private enterprise. I think he rather came a cropper there, but the fact remains that the unit controllers were drawn from the industry. These are the men who, according to hon. Members opposite, are more capable of running big enterprises in situations like this than are civil servants or Government Departments. These unit controllers are not civil servants. They are temporarily promoted to Civil Service grade but they are drawn from the industry itself. I give that to the Civil Service and thank the hon. Member on their behalf for that piece of propaganda, which, no doubt, will be very useful to them in the near future.

There is the more serious allegation that the road drivers are no longer economic or efficient. I reject and repudiate any suggestion of that kind on behalf of the workers in the industry. I would like the hon. and gallant Member opposite, if he wants to go any further on that line, to give us a little more information, because I can assure him that, if any questions were raised on that, the trades unions and the men concerned would very soon deal with them. Why should it be so urgently suggested that the Government or the Ministry of War Transport as a body should be determined, apparently with deliberation, at this stage, on the very threshold of the second front, to suppress economy and efficiency—because that is obviously the charge that is made? If hon. Members opposite and the road haulage people are serious in their claims that they do not want to upset the arrangement of control at the present time—the reason which they will give is the imminence of the second front—and if there is so much inefficiency and unjustified extravagance in the running of this control, will they tell us why they do not want it to be upset? Surely, the second front, in all operations, will depend on the maximum efficiency. I really cannot see the logic of the argument at all. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Prayer suggested that the main reason for this inefficiency was that there was no financial incentive for the unit controllers or those responsible for operating it. They say, "What does it matter if they are only empty lorries and, if you are being extravagant, there is no financial incentive. You are not working for the firm, but for the Government and the nation and the second front."

Captain Strickland

I think the hon. Member has rather got the wrong end of the stick. The point was that the people concerned who control the industry itself, had no control of the expenditure. They are directed by the Minister to go from here to there. They would not do it if they were running their own business, because it would be inefficient and expensive and unnecessary. That was my point, and not that these people were able to throw money about.

Mr. Hynd

That was not the point of the hon. and gallant Member but his explanation. What he actually said—and I refer him to the OFFICIAL REPORT—is that those who are operating the industry at the present time are saying, "It does not matter because we are not having financial incentive; it is under Government control, and we work not for the firms, but for the nation, the second front and victory. It does not matter."If that is the spirit to be expected of that particular class, whoever they may be, whether road haulage contractors or unit controllers or other capitalists, it is certainly not the spirit which permeates the workers in the industry. That is why I repudiate, on behalf of the workers, the allegation that has been made against them in connection with the charge of inefficiency. I strongly ask the House to reject the Prayer, but I hope, nevertheless, that hon. Members opposite will press their Prayer to a Division. I would very much like the country outside, the workers in the road haulage and railway industry and the men in the Army to realise precisely what this House thinks of an instrument of this kind and realise how definitely and categorically the House will reject this unfortunate Prayer.

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)

The main ground which has been advanced by the mover and seconder of this Prayer is, first, that the organisation controlling transport is inefficient and ought not to be extended, and, second, that the Minister has already too much work to do, is not doing it properly, and that, therefore, we ought not to ask him to do any more. The House ought to be made aware of some of the facts relating to the haulage system in order that the merits of this Prayer may be judged. There are approximately 20,000 vehicles operating under the control of the Minister of Transport. These are owned by about 600 controlled undertakings, that is to say, undertakings which the Minister invited to become controlled and which have agreed to become controlled, and 2,700 individual owners. It is over that second field that the Minister is asking for more power and the Prayer is that he shall not be given it. The basis of the system which the Minister controls and the efficiency of which is attacked consists of 500 of the largest transport undertakings of the country. They are known as controlled undertakings. They provide one or more unit centres from which vehicles operate, and the strength of a unit may be from 50 to too vehicles. In full control of each one of these units is a man taken from the transport industry. Not one of the unit controllers is either a permanent or a temporary civil servant.

Sir Joseph Nall (Manchester, Hulme)

They are not in full control. That is. what is the matter 'with the scheme. They are ordered about by the Minister.

Mr. Brown

The only point I am making at the moment is that if all this criticism of inefficiency were well founded, it would merely prove that the transport industry does not know its job and not that the Minister does not know his job. There are 12 Divisions in the organisation, which correspond with the 12 Regional Divisions in Britain. There is what is known as a Divisional Road Haulage Officer in charge of each Division. These officers are temporary civil servants. They have been made temporary civil servants for the duration and purposes of the war, but in every case, without a solitary exception, they were also drawn from the road haulage industry. There, again, if there is any basis for the charge of widespread inefficiency on the part of the Minister and his subordinates, these road hauliers are attacking themselves. If there is anything wrong with my right hon. Friend's Department—and I am loath to believe that, because I take a favourable view of that Minister—the trouble is not that there are too many civil servants there but that there are far too many petty-minded road transport officers who are not familiar with the problems of large scale organisation. If the Minister wants to improve his organisation in the Ministry my advice is to sack these persons and to get some competent civil servants in their places. I do not believe for a 'moment that this case has been made out. I can well understand that individual hauliers do not want to be controlled by Government. Who does? It has been well said that there are only two types of Government—the good, which has never yet existed, and the bad, which consists of transferring the property of its enemies to the pockets of its supporters. Nobody likes to be controlled by Government, and the less control we have the better.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)

Tell them that on the other side.

Mr. Brown

I shall hope on another occasion, probably tomorrow, to address a few remarks to the House in strong opposition to the proposed extended control over the bodies and souls of the workers, and I shall address that to both sides. I am no lover of control for control's sake, but it is of the essence of war that we have to have the maximum total mobilisation of the physical and spiritual energies of the entire people, and I am amazed that the time of the House should be occupied by a Prayer directed against giving the Minister power to order some lorries about. If we have to protest against Government control, I can think of 5,000 better cases for protesting against it than a proposal that the Minister should be enabled to put the house of transport into something like order. For this reason I oppose the Prayer and hope that the House will reject it. On this occasion the whole of my party will go into the Lobby in support of the Government.

Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)

I do not want to stand between the House and the information we hope to get from the Minister, but I want to indicate why I have put my name to this Prayer. Generally speaking, I agree with the hon. Member opposite who declared that this House has determined that the Government should have all necessary powers to organise the country for war. I think that latterly the House has not given the Government that steady support which they deserve and ought to get. In spite of this spirit, which is pretty widespread, I have been getting a considerable variety of letters protesting against this Regulation, some from hauliers, but most from persons who are interested in having their goods transported. Directly I received those letters I asked them what injury they had suffered. I hold the view that if we give the Government powers we here should protest directly those powers are misused. That is our business. When I ask what injury they have suffered, I am told that the Regulation has never come into operation. Here is a Regulation which is urgently required under the emergency legislation, and yet I am led to believe that it has never been operated.

That is a gross misuse of the whole system of emergency legislation. Nothing is done under the Regulation, and I can, therefore, find no ground for saying that it has been proved to be injurious. One knows that regulations might be needed for future use to meet any emergency that might arise, but the Minister is debarred from that explanation because he has given as a reason that the regulation is needed to fill a gap and to take the place of one that operated unfairly. It was unjust to the control operators. When a regulation is operating and is unjust, and you amend it, you put your amendment at once into force. I think the House deserves some very plain explanation of why there should be a priority in emergency regulations which are not put into operation until there is quite a considerable agitation against them, based not on ascertained facts as to their administration but on fears as to what may happen from experience. There is no doubt that the basis of hostility against this regulation is the fear arising from what has happened under previous administration. There is resentment to the extension of a scheme alleged to be wasteful and inefficient. That is not debatable here, because it is under another regulation, but that is the basis of this resentment. It is a great pity that this was not promptly put into operation so that we could tell whether, in fact, it leads to any abuses against the hauliers and contractors.

Mr. Montague (Islington, West)

The limitation upon the discussion, by which it is impossible to deal with individual cases of administration, makes it unnecessary for me to occupy as much time as I might upon this subject. I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Members who spoke at the beginning of this discussion, the hon. and gallant Members for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) and Coventry (Captain Strickland), what kind of policy do they agree with, or disagree with, for the Ministry of War Transport in respect of road haulage at the present time in the middle of the most gigantic war in history? We did not hear a word from them as to the kind of war policy—

Captain Strickland

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I think you ruled that we were not permitted to discuss the administration but merely the matter of the Prayer. If my hon. Friend and the House will give me permission, I will adumbrate a programme—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is not dealing with administration. He is putting a debating question which may or may not require an answer.

Mr. Montague

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I shall not attempt to go further than he went himself and, so far as he was in Order, I hope I shall be considered to be in Order. I had a great deal to do with the Road Haulage Consultative Committee and I was its first Chairman. Before that, or at any rate before 1941, the question of regulating road haulage was left to the automatic adjustment of allocation of petrol. I think I am entitled to ask those hon. and gallant Members whether they wish to go back to that kind of control of road haulage traffic at the present time, and whether they think it is possible to go back to that kind of control. One subsequent speaker did indeed hint that that was all that was necessary, in spite of the experience of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of War Transport. Now the policy of the Ministry is one of efficient operation of transport for war purposes, and particularly in respect of saving expenditure in oil and in rubber under conditions which make it very necessary for the I4Iinistry to consider not only road haulage but also the railway operations of the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Coventry said that the administration of the Ministry of War Transport was one of muddle, as disclosed by the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I cannot deal with that in any detail, or with the allegations which are held to support a charge of that character, but I think I am entitled to say that never in my experience in this House, during which I have read a large number of the Reports of this Committee, have I seen such a patently biased document as this. I ask hon. Members to read it. It is divided into two parts, one of which deals with the railways and—

Mr. Speaker

That is outside the Prayer. The Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure has nothing to do with this Prayer.

Mr. Montague

Charges have been made which have been based on the Report of this Committee and I do not want to deal with any one of the charges individually, but the basis of the Prayer itself is that the Ministry are not conducting the transport and road haulage of this country on efficient and economical lines. I shall find it very difficult, if I am not allowed to refer to the nature and character of that Report, to deal with this subject at all.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member will remember that I stopped the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland) when he started to criticise the administration of the Ministry of War Transport. I said then that that would be out of Order.

Mr. Montague

I do not want to criticise or deal with the administration of the Ministry of War Transport. I want to criticise the Select Committee on National Expenditure.

Mr. Speaker

That is quite out of Order and is outside the Prayer.

Mr. Montague

If that is the strict limitation of the Debate, Sir, then I have nothing more to say upon the subject, because the whole case of the Ministry—which the Labour Party supports on this question—rests upon the charges made by the Select Committee and the use which has been made of them by those who have introduced and supported this Prayer to-day. I feel strongly the difficulty of being restricted in that way. I do not want to talk for the sake of talking or to talk at length: I merely want to defend the Ministry without going into any details of their administration. It is, however, exceedingly difficult if one cannot deal with the fact that the Select Committee on National Expenditure have issued a biased statement, upon which the whole of this agitation depends. I think it is necessary that the Ministry should have the fullest possible powers in dealing with the administration and the business of road transport in this country at the present time. I remember the difficulty we had when the Consultative Committee was first formed, when ships, bringing food and munitions to this country, were, at a moment's notice, transferred and allocated to other docks far away and the whole road and railway haulage system was split into two. This meant that there were bound to be anomalies which had to be dealt with by the Ministry with the powers they then possessed.

They did not possess sufficient powers at that time and their powers had to be increased. The Labour Party is prepared to support this War Ministry, appointed to exercise powers during the war, in order that we shall have efficient control of road haulage and that the transport shall be used, for the specific policy which has been adopted by the Ministry and by this House. I do not know that I can in the 'Circumstances add to what I have said. I did not want in any case to deal with the details of administration. That I would rather have left to the Parliamentary Secretary himself. There is a perfect answer to these charges, and I am sure that what is at the back of the mind of hon. Members who are raising this question is not war-time efficiency but the efficient exploitation of road haulage after the war without any conception of Government or national control whatever.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)

If I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Captain Strickland), he wanted me to give an assurance that this Regulation would lapse when Government control over road haulage is ended and the road haulage organisation is broken up. I have no difficulty at all in doing so, but I cannot give him any hope that the Government will accept the Prayer. On the contrary, my Noble Friend and the Government are convinced that they must have this Regulation and must have it now. Hon. Members have opposed it on various grounds. They have declared that it is unnecessary because long-distance haulage can be controlled by the existing machinery of fuel rationing. They have said that it would be oppressive to the hauliers and inconvenient, even dangerous, to the traders whom they serve. They say that it will add to the burden of the road haulage organisation, that even now that organisation cannot adequately handle the task with which it is charged, and that therefore the new traffic which will be diverted to it will make confusion worse confounded, and in support of that contention they have spoken with vigour and conviction about inefficient organisation, empty running, elaborate office routine and the incompetence of those who run it, and they have quoted the Select Committee's Report in support of their view. Similar arguments have been used by the leaders of the industry itself and by the Standing Joint Committee of the road hauliers' organisations which for reasons of brevity I will familiarly refer to as the S.J.C.

The attitude of the industry is most important, and I make no apology for referring to the memorandum that the S.J.C. have sent to some hon. Members. I read it with some surprise for two reasons. The first takes me back to the early stages of the war. Right at the beginning the Government thought it necessary to establish complete control over most means of transport—ships, railways, docks and so on. That control gave them the power to settle what the services should be, to determine the priorities of traffic, to decide what kind of traffic should not be moved at all, and so on. It was no less desirable to do the same with road haulage. We wanted to release drivers and mechanics for the Forces, to save imported fuel and rubber, to release manufacturing capacity for making tanks, and I have no doubt that the control would have been established, as with railways, at the beginning of the war but for the way in which the industry is run—400,000 road goods vehicles, 150,000 of them with A and B licences plying for hire and reward belonging to 60,000 owners, two and a half vehicles each on the average. That fact, and I believe that fact alone, led the Government to try to control, road haulage by the system of fuel rationing.

I do not exaggerate when I say that that system never succeeded at all. In 1940, great difficulties arose, particularly in the ports, and in a letter to the Commissioners in January, 1941, the then Minister spoke of those difficulties and said: Neither shadow grouping, nor other methods which have been adopted, have produced vehicles in the quantity, or with the rapidity, required. In other words, we had very great difficulty in moving the urgent traffic which we had to move. At one time, four companies of the R.A.S.C. had to be called in, and they helped us for a considerable period of time. Of course, there was an unnecessary amount of running of traffic which need never have gone by road. These difficulties led the Minister's Road Haulage Consultative Committee, for which my hon. Friend spoke in his speech and over which he presided at the end of 1940, to recommend to the Committee that a real Government control should be set up. How was that Consultative Committee composed? It had a Government chairman, hut 14 members were chosen by the S. J.C.—the industry. Two were chosen by the trade unions. That was all. In effect, it was the S.J.C. What did they say in a unanimous resolution adopted in December, 1940? They said: In order to secure the best use in the national interest of long-distance haulage, steps must be taken to provide more effective machinery of control than now exists. They said, secondly: It is desirable that some combination c.1 central and local control should be set up. They said, thirdly, that control should be exercised directly by the Minister of Transport, through an organisation which will be, as regards both its central and local controls, an integral part of the Ministry. That was a plain, unvarnished and unanimous declaration, in December, 1940, that fuel rationing was not enough, and that for long distance road haulage a real Government road haulage organisation was imperatively required.

The House will therefore understand that I was surprised when I read the S. J.C.'s statement made in March, 1944, when conditions were so much more difficult in every way, that nothing but fuel rationing was required. My second reason for surprise was that. After that resolution had been adopted it had been implemented to a certain extent, when the meat pool vehicles, 1,400 of them, became, in the words of the recent pamphlet of the Associated Road Operators—the A.R.O.—a branch of the Ministry and —again in the words of the pamphlet—were an outstanding success. On the rest of the control, and of the organisation that was needed, the S.J.C. changed their minds. To try to meet their wishes my Minister accepted a different, plan, based on what was called the principle of partnership between the industry and the Department. Unfortunately, circumstances changed. Fuel and rubber shortages grew very acute, and it was quickly plain that this plan of a Government-chartered fleet, and a road-hauliers' national traffic pool, unlike the meat pool, was outstandingly unsuccessful.

Something new was needed, so my Noble Friend, in October, 1942, decided to implement the resolution of 1940 and to set up the organisation which now exists. After some hesitation, a large number of hauliers decided to accept the invitation to come in. There are now 21,000 vehicles, 15,000 of them long-distance, under our control. We estimate that they represent, roughly, 90 per cent. of the long-distance lorry capacity of the country, that is to say that 90 per cent. of the hauliers made what I think was the patriotic decision to come in,. while about 10 per cent., for reasons which seemed good to them, stood out. But the S.J.C. never pretended that they liked the scheme. My Noble Friend set up machinery for consultation with them. In November last, five months ago, they laid before that machinery a long catalogue of what they called the organisation's "grave defects." Their paper was very thoroughly discussed. As a result, the rates of remuneration to hired operators were adjusted to the satisfaction of the S. J.C. A few minor changes in the administration were brought in. No major improvement—I hope the House will note the point—of any kind resulted; no proposal for any major improvement was even put forward by the S. J.C. Then, at the end of these long conversations, late in January, the S.J.C. joined with the Ministry in making a joint public appeal to all operators: To accord that full measure of co-operation in the working of the road haulage organisation which is essential"— Note these words: for the success of the coming 'all out' effort to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. My Noble Friend read that as a public pledge that the S.J.C. would support the organisation, and that they urged others to do the same. He learned with surprise, therefore, that they had now sent out this memorandum marked "Strictly private and confidential" in which they oppose the Regulation and justify their opposition by an attack on the whole organisation to which, in public, only three months ago, they pledged support. The S.J.C. say, as my hon. Friends have said, that the organisation is inefficient. They put forward the general proposition that "the efficiency attainable under Government control falls far short of that which would obtain under ordinary commercial conditions." [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] My hon. Friend says "Hear, hear." The hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) said much the same. About that as a general proposition, of course, hon. Members will take different views, but I ask the House to notice that that proposition begs the whole question which we have to decide. We are not working "in ordinary commercial conditions." Of course, if we were we would never ask for this regulation. We should not have set up our control. Under ordinary commercial conditions, profit to the haulier would be the measure of what would be right. We have very different standards. We are working with a transport system that has been controlled and revolutionised to meet the requirements of the war.

Let me restate the purpose my Noble Friend had in mind when he decided to establish the organisation in 1942, and for which we need the regulation now. It was not to make a money profit for the Government on road transport. It was not to show a commercial profit on every journey. It was not to carry every ton of traffic we could find, irrespective of the effect on the general transport situation. If it had been, with our control of traffic, we could have beaten the percentage of loaded running which any haulier has ever shown, except in freak cases. But we had quite different purposes in mind. We had to save fuel and rubber. While we were diverting traffic from the roads we had to keep road haulage firms alive. We knew we should need them when we passed to the offensive later on. We had to think of road transport, not by itself, but as part of the transport system as a whole. We had to be ready to carry urgent traffic, which had to go by road even if there were no back loads to be obtained. We had to ensure that priority traffic should really get priority, even if it were less profitable than other traffic which was less essential.

We had to be ready to clear sudden congestions in the ports, or on the railways, and to do so with the least possible delay. We knew that that might mean sending off a lorry without even trying to get an outward load, or refusing an outward load that was offered. If you take an outward load it may mean adding 50 per cent. to the total journey-time,. It may mean losing a vital day in unloading a ship. We had to be ready to plan longterm, large-scale movements concerned with operations, the most important of which concerned the second front. None of those things could have been done without the organisation which my Noble Friend has set up: with it, we have done them all.

I understand from your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that you do not desire us to discuss to-day in what degree we have succeeded, with efficiency, in carrying out those purposes. I share the hope, expressed by one of my hon. Friends, that we shall have a Debate, perhaps on an Allotted Day, in which we can go into this matter properly; perhaps, through the usual channels, that may be arranged. Nothing could be more satisfactory to my Noble Friend and to myself. But I must say one or two words about the observations of my hon. and gallant Friend, who remarked that rarely in history has there been such a revelation of Government muddle as was shown by the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and who said that the House should ask the Minister to remedy existing defects in the organisation before it gave him further powers. He talked of empty running. I will not go into that matter at length—I hope to do so another day—but a good many of my hon. Friends have a false idea of what percentage of loaded running we ought to expect.

It is a basic economic and transport fact that traffic generally is unbalanced between any two given points: there is more in one direction than in the other. Therefore, there must be empty running, by road, rail or canal, in one direction. The railways have received great praise for the job they have done. Last year we made immense efforts to push traffic on to the railways. There, the loaded running was 66 per cent.

I do not say it to run down the railways or to make any comparison between road and rail, but simply to illustrate the fact that traffic is unbalanced. Take the examples which the Select Committee reported. In one case over 99 per cent. That is a freak result. It was half a mile for getting fuel, for getting to the loading and unloading points in every 100 miles of running. Ninety-five per cent.—that might have been some very exceptional balanced traffic, or else the case, perhaps, of a clearing house, which could skim the cream of the work for its own vehicles, and leave for the rest only that which it could not take itself. But no one could deny that, in war-time, 81 per cent. to 85 per cent. is very good. In the Report we had one example that showed that, after we had saved more than 50 per cent. of the mileage by diverting traffic on to rail, a fleet of 172 vehicles had an average of 85 per cent. of loaded running. That is quite supported by the other statistics we have got. We have had various checks around the country. Some day I will give the details. They come out at 81, 82, 80 per cent., covering the whole country. No one who understands road haulage organisation will say that that is inefficient. I hope I have said, enough to end the questions on this subject.

Something has been said about our office routine, and the generally cumbersome operation of the organisation that we control. On that, I only say that a great economy of man-power and of accounting has resulted from Government control. Appreciation has been expressed by a leader of the industry of the conditions of carriage which we have introduced. It is said we use too much paper. There are no more forms or documents used in our organisation than were used in peace-time by any large road haulage firm with branches throughout the country. My hon. and gallant Friend expresses doubt—

Captain Strickland

I do.

Mr. Noel-Baker

A few weeks ago, we had a conference in the appropriate panel with the Standing joint Committee, and we discussed the documents with them, and went through every single document. They did not withdraw one. They confirmed one about the use of which we ourselves were in doubt and they added another of their own.

Captain Strickland

I certainly understood my hon. Friend to say that the forms now in use were no more than those in use before the Government took control To say that, now, under Government control, those forms were agreed, is quite a different point. My point was that you were using far more forms than road hauliers.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will give the hon. and gallant Member a double answer. The S.J.C. agreed that the documents are required and that the thing is efficient, and the documents are not more numerous than were used by considerable firms with branches before the war. I now come to the questions asked by the hon. and gallant Member about bad operation. The hon. and gallant Member spoke about a load of rag dolls. He and other hon. Members have up to date asked me Parliamentary Questions about the movements of more than 6,000 vehicles. They have put to me scores of Questions over a period of weeks, and in three cases only —three individual lorries—have I had to say that I was not satisfied with the operation. What were these three mistakes? In Cambridge, a driver mistook his orders, went to the wrong office and the vehicle went astray. In Birmingham, a unit controller took as urgent traffic that had been urgent a few days before. Thirdly, there was the load of rag dolls from Guildford to London. It may be wrong to make rag dolls in war-time, but, if it is, it is not for my Noble Friend but for the Board of Trade to say so. These dolls were, in fact, made for export to buy food abroad. They were made of material that would otherwise have been wasted. They were made by ex-Servicemen who could do no other work. They could only be sent by road. I have examined every detail of the operation of this vehicle. There was nothing wrong in it except this—that it was short-distance traffic and our unit traffic controller ought not to have used a vehicle from the organisation, but should have left it to the consigner to make his own arrangements with the trade. Even for that, there was the excuse that, for two years, every fortnight there had been a vehicle sent to this undertaking to carry Government traffic which had to go by road.

Mr. George Griffith (Hemsworth)

The hon. and gallant Member is speechless now.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Who made these three mistakes—bureaucrats, or civil servants, or were they the result of our general instructions? Not at all. They were made by unit controllers, who some people say are not up to their work. I think that is a libel, but, in any case, they have been chosen by the industry—every one, without a single exception, by the controlled firm itself, and not by us. Secondly, they are under the direction of our area road haulage officers-54 of them, one in every area. There were only two in 54, who did not come from the industry. The area officers are under the control of divisional officersg12 of them, and all from the industry and many recommended to us by the Standing Joint Cornriiittee themselves. In the headquarters staff, we have had the help of two founder members of the Standing Joint Committee. These men have done extremely well. They do not need an extra financial inducement to do better, as some people have suggested. [Interruption.] Oh, yes, it has been suggested. They are just as patriotic as the railway staff, but they do need encouragement and support and they do need this Order.

Until they get this Order, they cannot fully do their job. Until they get it, they are surrounded by difficulties that they ought not to have, and the purpose of the Regulation is not to force outside firms to come in. These firms chose to stay out, knowing that we meant to control long-distance traffic. They are still able to carry traffic up to 60 miles, and excluded traffic, smalls and so on, and long-distance traffic, if they can show that it is in the national interest that they should do so. This Regulation is not intended to oppress the C licensees. They can get exemptions if their goods must go by road and if there is no saving in sending them through the road haulage officer. The purpose of the Order is to help unit controllers to carry out Cabinet decisions and to carry out the Government policy that goods shall not be moved long distances, unless it is in the national interest to do so. Very often the unit controllers have watched traffic, which ought not to go by road, being moved by the to per cent. of the hauliers who stayed outside the organisation. Sometimes a clearing-house would offer traffic and be told that it should go by rail, and would hold it back until it became urgent, and, furnished with that excuse, send them in an uncontrolled road vehicle. Some traffic would be carried for 60 miles, and then transferred to another vehicle from another area. Sometimes the haulier would take a specially profitable load and carry it on his monthly fuel ration, which he gets in advance, and when the commissioner questioned him afterwards he would say, "I am very sorry, I thought it was urgent, or essential or permitted traffic." The next month the offence would be a little different and another excuse could easily be found.

In these ways the purpose of the Government control has been defeated. These things are contrary to the national interest. They lead to needless expenditure and they reduce the power of the organisation to mobilise the resources of the nation for the really urgent jobs. They defeat the purpose of the Government scheme. If it happened on a large scale, as it might if this Prayer was accepted, during the coming year, it would very seriously reduce our capacity to deal with emergencies which we shall surely have. These practices are very unfair to the go per cent. of long distance hauliers who have come in. These men have to carry the essential traffic we give them, while they watch the ten per cent. who stay outside doing less essential work, but, nowadays when there is such a pressure, more profitable jobs. They have to watch the ten per cent. encroaching on their goodwill and taking over their business connections and damaging their prospects for the postwar trade. That is why so many hauliers demanded this Regulation. I know that the Standing Joint Committee have sent a memorandum against it. I find it difficult to believe they were unanimously agreed. We have had insistent demands for it in the meetings of the panel of controlled undertakings. We have had demands in the Inland Transport War Council and demands from hired hauliers from the small men. It really shows a misunderstanding of the system to suggest that the object can be had by the existing machinery of fuel rationing. That is, in any case, a disastrous argument for my hon. Friend to use because, if he uses it, he admits that the abject is by implication right. But if it is right to make the control effective —and what hon. Member will seriously argue that it is not?—then let us do it straightforwardly and efficiently by means of this Regulation. Fuel rationing is not effective for the purpose. It is absurd to suggest that we can prevent undesirable movements of traffic by a series of prohibitions. We have done that to the very limit already. We cannot issue disallowance notices on every fuel ration to every haulier in the land. The negative control of traffic by fuel rationing is utterly inadequate to our present needs. Such positive control as it affords is ineffective for our purposes at this stage of the war.

We need the Regulation, and my Noble Friend is resolutely and firmly of that view. Let no one think that it will cause difficulties for traders, as has been suggested to-day. There is provision for exemptions, if they are needed, for every individual consignment or for regular flows of traffic, as the case may be. The machinery for granting exemptions is simplicity itself. I have had to argue to some extent about the general efficiency of the organisation. It does not mean that in moving an immense tonnage—and we cover the movement of 100,000 tons a day—no mistake is being made. Nor does it mean that the organisation cannot be improved. It would be a miracle if that were so. If the Standing Joint Committee still think that there are defects, let them come and talk about them with the consultative bodies we have set up. We welcome any suggestion they can make. But I have shown that in general the organisation has done extremely well. Let us work together to make it better still. Let us have that full measure of co-operation which the Standing joint Committee after our long consultations with them appealed for three months ago. Let all the industry give us that co-operation without hesitation or reserve. Let the House give us this overdue, this essential Regulation. If they will do so I am confident that the organisation will render signal service to the nation in the crucial months ahead, and that when the war is over a story will be written of which the Government, the industry and the nation may well be proud.

Captain Strickland

In view of the Minister's comprehensive statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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