HC Deb 18 December 1946 vol 431 cc1973-2097

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [16th December], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add, "upon this day six months."—[Sir David Maxwell Fife.]

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

3.57 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. G. R. Strauss)

I will attempt this afternoon to deal with the many questions and arguments that have been raised in all parts of the House during the last two days, except those which were dealt with so fully by my right hon Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, and I will try to amplify one or two of the points which were made in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister—a speech which, I think, was appreciated on all sides of the House. It is inevitable that on a Bill of this scope and importance, affecting the lives of so many people, there should be great controversy and passion. I know that Members have received letters and telegrams from all sorts of people, many of them genuinely expressing anxiety about the disturbance that may affect them under the Bill, and many of them, of course, organised by the Road Haulage Association. I think it might be of interest to the House, in regard to some of the telegrams which have been received in different sections of the House, to have their attention drawn to a document that has been given to me. It was sent out by the Road Haulage Association, and in it, very specific, and very curious orders were given to the members of the Association as to the wording of their telegrams. These were the instructions: On the morning of 17th December, without fail, send a telegram to your Member as follows, Conservative, Liberal or Socialist, condemning the Bill. Apparently the Communist Party are left out of this. The document goes on to say: You should remember that all Conservative M.P.s are on our side, and word your telegram, therefore, more politely to them than to the supporters of the Government. I think the Association are optimistic if they believe that on this Measure, hon. Members opposite will be any stronger in their opposition if they get polite telegrams, or that hon. Members on this side of the House will in any way lessen their support of the Measure, if they get rude telegrams.

I should like to deal first with the main charge which has been made against this Bill. Later, I propose to deal with some of the specific criticisms made by the Opposition. The general charge against us is that we have brought forward this nationalisation Measure unnecessarily, and solely or mainly, because of an obstinate adherence to our political prejudices. Of course, all of us on both sides of the House have political prejudices about the relative merits of private and national ownership of basic industries. I would, however, invite the House, at the outset, to disregard all preconceived theories and to consider the future of the transport industry objectively, as a technical problem of hard facts that are known to us all.

What are the alternatives before us? I suggest that the most significant feature of the Debate so far is that no alternatives have been suggested except in a few words by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). There are, as far as I know, five, and only five, alternatives. They are, first, that there should be no amending legislation at all; second, that there should be more competition in the transport industry; third, that there should be a permanent subsidy to the railways; fourth, that there should be some form of co-ordination without nationalisation; and, fifth—the one on which we are proceeding—nationalisation. I shall consider each of these alternatives separately and in detail.

The first is that we should do nothing at all and let the industry sink or swim. I think anyone connected with the industry, particularly anyone in the railways, who knows the difficulties and the near chaos that came about in the 1930's, would not support that solution. They would realise that if we are to let the transport industry sink or swim by itself, without any change, most of it—all probably except a few favoured units—would sink, and probably drag with it, metaphorically, our coastal shipping industry. Every authority agrees—and I could quote Conservative financial papers at length in support of my statement—that something must be done with the transport industry.

Next, the suggestion is put forward—I do not think anybody in the industry has put it forward but it has been indicated by one or two Members—that the real solution is to have more competition than there was before. I submit that would only bring about a renewal of the conflicts which we had in the' thirties, only they would be far worse than ever before. We should soon arrive at anarchy in the transport industry. If we had more competition, if that policy were accepted, it would be wholly contrary to the views expressed and action taken by every Conservative Minister of Transport during the last 20 years, contrary to the recommendations of every Committee of Inquiry. I suggest, then, that the second solution, that of more competition, is out of the question.

The third alternative is a permanent subsidy to the railways. The London and North-Eastern Railway Company have recently put forward a scheme along these lines, disguised in the form of the Government taking over the track, and letting it back to the railways at a profit. Incidentally, that scheme was not supported by the other railway companies. I do not think there is any need for me to argue before the House against any proposal of this sort. I am sure that Parliament would not tolerate paying a permanent subsidy to a particular section of privately owned industry when, plainly, that industry as a whole, if properly organised, could be self-supporting.

The fourth alternative is, I suggest, the only real competitor to our proposal, in the field. I think the House will expect me to deal with it in some detail. Its advocates accept the need for co-ordination, but maintain that this can be achieved by some internal arrangement without all the disturbance involved in nationalisation. I think I have stated their case fairly. Those who take this view maintain that either the co-ordination proposals of the Transport Advisory Council, in 1939, or those recently put forward under the road-rail agreement would be a solution of the problem. What, exactly, is this problem In short, it is that the railways, without any legislative change and left to their own resources, have not been able to compete successfully with road haulage operators in the past, and would not be able to do so in the future. This competition became increasingly serious and intense during the 'twenties and 'thirties, and by 1938, it will be remembered, the stability of the railways became so seriously undermined that they launched their nation-wide "square deal" campaign, demanding legislation that would give them freedom from competition. The Government of the day, appreciating the seriousness of such continued competition—serious not only to the railways but to the country—referred the whole question to the Transport Advisory Council for report. That Council, in due course, made certain recommendations designed to harmonise the charges of road and rail. They were, in fact, a series of precarious compromises between vested interests. They were capable of many interpretations, but almost certainly incapable of effective implementation.

Indeed, the Transport Advisory Council only put forward these proposals as a stop gap for about five years and expressed the hope that meanwhile, somehow or other, some real form of cooperation would emerge. The most authoritative comment on these recommendations came from Lord Leathers, whose judgment in these matters is, I suggest, respected by all. As Minister of War Transport, and speaking presumably for the whole National Government, Conservative as well as Labour and Liberal, he said in another place in October, 1943: In my view, these proposals … that is, the "square deal" proposals— fail to reach the root of the problem and indeed both the Transport Advisory Council and the then Minister regarded them as merely a stop gap arrangement. He went on: Even if it should be proper, in the postwar circumstances, to proceed with the 'square deal proposals, I am firmly convinced that some more radical solution has still to be found, although I am not yet able to bring forward any precise suggestions. I hope the words some more radical solution has still to be found will be particularly noted, and that they will be accepted by hon. Gentlemen opposite as an effective argument against proceeding with those particular proposals now.

Recently, however, a further attempt was made by the leaders of the road and rail services to devise a formula to relate their rates to each other in such a way that both should be able to pay their way. Their solution, published a little time ago with a flourish of trumpets as an alternative to nationalisation, was, in fact, an elaboration of the earlier Transport Advisory Council's scheme and it was equally unsound and impracticable. The plan was couched in such loose phrases that it would have been difficult to discover what the proposals really meant had it not been for a fairly precise interpretation put forward by the Road Haulage Association in a journal called "The Commercial Motor," in reply to some comments which I ventured to make at that time. The Road Haulage Association said: The significance of the new proposal, in so far as rates are concerned, is that, for the first time, road cost is being recognised as a deciding factor in both road and rail rates of the future, and both sides recognise that the railway companies would have to adjust their rates to road costs. This means that the 48,000 road hauliers, whether long-distance or local operators, would all have to observe a specified rate schedule and standard conditions of carriage. Any one with any knowledge of the road haulage industry knows that it would be quite impossible to make sure that every one of these road hauliers observed these standard conditions and that schedule. It would require an army of "snoopers" to make that proposal effective, which this House would certainly not tolerate. Incidentally, I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that, in contrast to the road and rail proposals of the industry, the Bill proposes no new restrictions whatever on the short-distance road hauliers, who comprise the great majority in the industry.

But suppose, for the sake of argument, that it was possible for a road rate structure to be established and observed, what would happen when the next stage of these proposals was reached and the railways adapted their completely different structure to that of the road industry? The main purpose of these proposals, it must be remembered, is to achieve a higher revenue for the railways, but the railways would plainly not be able to charge any higher rate on their valuable traffic, and. indeed, would probably have to charge less. They would, in fact, have no alternative but to make a steep increase in their rates for their low value traffic and the basic raw materials of industry, such as coal and minerals, with a disastrous effect on the whole national economy Such would be the inevitable and dire result of adopting, even if it were practicable, this solution of relating rates between road and rail with each other, without first establishing a community of financial interest. I am quite sure that no Parliament would permit a private monopoly of our transport services to create such havoc in our industrial system as the adoption of that scheme would involve. The fourth alternative is, therefore, I submit, equally out of the question.

That leaves us only with the one in the Bill—the obvious one, and the one which, with greater or lesser emphasis has been endorsed by every Commission of Inquiry that has considered this problem, namely, the complete unification of our transport services. Unification, if it means anything at all, as has been pointed out in many of the financial journals, must mean financial unification under a single ownership, and I should have thought that, on both sides of the House, it would be agreed that, if there is to be a single ownership of our transport services, the owner must be the nation.

I therefore repeat that, it this problem is considered objectively it will be seen that there is no other solution. I should, however, like to add this subjective comment. All the plans which have been put forward to co-ordinate without financial unification have been prepared by interested parties with the object of avoiding the one solution which they know perfectly well is the correct one, but which, because of their doctrinaire attitude and financial interests, they desire to avoid or delay at all costs. As Lord Leathers said in the quotation which I gave just now, a "far more radical solution must be effected," and we, in this Measure, are adopting the only possible one—

Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)

He did not say nationalisation.

Mr. Strauss

Certainly, he did not say nationalisation, but I have been trying to show that there is no other solution but nationalisation, and I suggest that we are, in this Measure, adopting the only solution that is capable of resolving the deep economic conflict within this industry. I have been trying to show that, in principle nationalisation is unavoidable, if we want a sound, healthy and economic transport system.

I shall now deal with some of the major criticisms of the Bill which have come from hon. Members on the other side. They have suggested, and it has been suggested outside the House in a number of responsible journals, that the integration proposals in our Bill are not sound, and would not achieve the result that is desired. That point was made particularly by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), who went so far as to argue that this scheme, on the contrary, would perpetuate the demarcation of functions between the various transport services. I cannot see the force of that contention. Indeed, I cannot envisage any structure, other than the one we suggest, that is more likely to bring about integration. May I point out the facts? The Commission will be the controlling body, the policy-making body and the body charged with bringing about integration. It may be said, indeed, it has been said, that that is all right, but that, in practice, it will be the railway and other Executives, with their separate entities, and separate, and, maybe, conflicting, interests, who will be in control of the situation. But why should they be? The Executives are going to be the agents of the Commission. They will not be independent separate bodies. The Commission will have to delegate to the Executives certain managerial functions in a document, which will have to be approved by my right hon. Friend the Minister, designed to ensure in every way that, by the setting up of the appropriate machinery and whatever else may be necessary, the objective of integration will be fully implemented.

It seems that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are under the impression that the Executives will consist solely of professional people; that, for example, the Railway Executive will consist only of railway people only interested in railways. Nothing of the sort. As set out in the Second Schedule of the Bill, the Executives will consist of men who have had wide experience and have shown capacity in transport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, in administration, or in the organisation of the workers. Of course, there will be men on the Railway Executives with railway experience, and, on the Road Executives, men with experience in road transport, but on each Executive there will be men with general business experience, and there will be men on each Executive, in all probability, with experience in branches of transport other than that with which their particular Executive is dealing. The Bill obviously cannot set out the detailed machinery for achieving integration. What it can do, and, I submit, what it does, is to establish a sound basic structure, upon which integration can be built.

The criticism has been made by some hon. Members that it would be much better if we established a structure on a regional basis, and that, thereby, integration could be better achieved.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

Since the Executives are to be the agents of the Commission, why are they not to be appointed by the Commission instead of, as the Bill says, by the Minister?

Mr. Strauss

The members of the Executives are to be appointed jointly by the Minister and the Commission in consultation, but the Minister is taking personal responsibility to the House for the appointments. I can assure the hon. Member that the appointments will be made only after the fullest consultation with the Commission. The reason why the regional basis was not chosen was that, if at the beginning a regional basis of integration were set up, those regional bodies would, inevitably, be under the domination of the railways, who are the major transport interest in each region. That would be contrary to the objective of integration. Secondly, although, later on, it is quite possible that a regional organisational scheme may be developed, it was obviously inevitable that, in the first place, the structure should be the one suggested in the Bill, namely Executives established at the centre to take over managerial responsibility for each separate service. It would be quite impossible to start the scheme without some such structure.

Another point which has been put forward is that there is too much Ministerial interference in these proposals. As my right hon. Friend has stated, it is not our intention that there should be any interference at all in the ordinary day-to-day duties of management of these Execu- tives. But, surely, it must be conceded that, in setting up an organisation of this sort and importance, on which the prosperity of our industries and the welfare of our people depend, the public should have an opportunity to express its will through Parliament. Moreover, transport must always be an essential feature in any orderly planning of our national resources, and such planning is the firm policy of His Majesty's Government. I cannot, of course, forecast in any way the sort of direction which the Government, through the Minister, may want to give to the Transport Commission. I can, however, indicate to the House one or two hypothetical ways.

It may, for example, be in the national interest to direct the Commission to take some action—either changes in the rates or the affording of better, or more extensive facilities in certain areas of the country—with the object of preventing a development area lapsing once more into a distressed area. It is conceivable that, faced with a trade depression outside our control, the Government may consider it desirable to ask the Commission to expedite its capital expenditure, or even to order a temporary reduction in some or all of its freight rates. Again, the Government may ask the Commission to make some developments in a rural area in the interest of the people in that area which would, otherwise, not be undertaken by the Commission. In all these ways, the Government may want to interfere, but, surely, it is essential that, in a public transport system of this sort, the Government, in the national interest, should have the power to interfere if it becomes necessary so to do. I suggest to the House that it would be madness for the Government to establish a system of transport of this sort which would not be responsive to the public whenever the national interest may be involved. Criticism has been made—

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

Is it not a fact that the Bill provides that the Minister is the person who shall determine when the national interest is involved?

Mr. Strauss

Naturally. Nobody else except the Government, with Parliamentary backing, can decide when the national interest is involved. The criticism has been put forward that the Bill does not set out in detail the new charges structure which is to apply to the nation- alised industry. It is remarkable that the same people who complain that the new charges structure is not incorporated in the Bill, also complain that the Government have not made any previous inquiry before proceeding with this Measure. Surely, the complex technical and economic problem involved in drawing up a charges structure is just the sort of question on which there should be the most careful inquiry by the people most capable of carrying it out.

Mr. Jennings

Would not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that the Government should be absolutely satisfied about the charges structure before entertaining such a proposition?

Mr. Strauss

No, Sir. The Government are perfectly satisfied that the principles of this Bill are correct. But what the exact charges structure is to be, is something which should be worked out by the best people who can technically carry out that task. Obviously, the people who have the duty of carrying out that task are the Commission, who will be able to get what experts they desire, and who will then place before the Government and industry a charges structure which will be subject to criticism and objection and which, only after all that has been gone through, can be adopted. I cannot say what that new charges system is likely to be. I can only reasonably forecast that it will not be based, like all recent explorations into this problem, on the need for, somehow, relating road and rail charges on a profit basis, but on principles which are best likely to serve the national interest.

Contrary to what some hon. Members have suggested, the trader will not be forced under this Bill to send his goods either by road or by rail. On paying, of course, the appropriate rates for the two services, he will have a free choice.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

Could the Parliamentary Secretary give some idea of what the principles are to be? In the past, there have always been definite principles; sometimes it has been "What the traffic will bear," and sometimes it has been subsidising the heavy class of goods at the expense of other classes, and so on. There has always been a principle known to and, indeed, prescribed by Parliament. What are the Government going to have now?

Mr. Strauss

No, Sir, I cannot go farther than what I have already said. It is a technical problem, which will be much easier of solution once there is a community of financial interest in the transport services. It is a problem which could not be satisfactorily settled before, but, under our proposals, it can be satisfactorily settled. It is the responsibility of the Commission, after taking such advice as they think desirable, to propose a new charges structure which will be carefully examined both by industry and Parliament.

The other major criticism of this Bill which has been put forward is that of interference with the "C" licensee. It has been argued that the "C" licensee should be wholly exempted. In reply, I would say, first, that the vast majority of "C" licensees only operate within the 40 mile limit and will, therefore, be automatically exempted. Next, I would remind hon. Members that, under Clause 57, anybody who desires to run his "C" licence vehicles beyond 40 miles can do so if he can establish, not before the Commission, but before the licensing authority, with the right to appeal to the Transport Tribunal, that it is necessary for him to connect two or more sets of premises which he owns, or if there is any significant additional cost in packing or handling, or in the risk of damage to his goods, by having to use vehicles other than his own. He can, moreover, advance any argument showing general adverse effects to his business by being unable to run his "C" licence vehicles more than 40 miles.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

Will the licensee constantly have to go before the authority to ask for a licence every time his business alters, or will he receive a licence covering the necessary journeys?

Mr. Strauss

Certainly. It will not be a licence for each journey, but a general permit to run his vehicles to certain places over 40 miles. I would add that if the Commission is to run a good, efficient and cheap service, it is essential that it should have a fair share of the remunerative traffic of road haulage. If a man engaged in a small industry cannot afford, or does not need, to have his own lorries, and is to enjoy a cheap transport service from the Commission, the Commission must become the carriers of that most remunerative type of transport—the long-distance hauls of the big industries. Moreover, some big traders carry their easy traffic in their own vehicles and send their troublesome consignments by public transport. For example, a trader having goods in a number of small parcels, to deliver to a number of different consignees, will use the railways because it is a very tiresome thing for him to handle. It then becomes the trouble of the railways, and he then sends his bulky goods to one consignee, in his own vehicle. This obviously places an unfair burden on public transport, for which the small trader ultimately has to pay in higher transport charges. There is no doubt that initially many traders will be able to make out an unanswerable case for sending their vehicles more than 40 miles, and there will be a case for many other traders to send their vehicles beyond the 40 mile limit because of the particular type of their trade. But, generally, it will be the object of the Commission to provide the service which the traders require, and to provide it so efficiently as to be able to show that the use of the trader's own vehicles is neither necessary nor economic.

Comments have been made, chiefly by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, on Clauses 07 and 69 which deal with the setting up of area schemes for road passenger services. It has been suggested that those Clauses are not mandatory enough. It seems to me that the wording, as it stands, it satisfactory. Of course, it is the intention of my right hon Friend that area schemes should be established all over the country, to integrate with the general transport services of the country, and that these schemes will incorporate all the main road passenger services under public ownership. We will, however, willingly consider in Committee whether the wording of these Clauses needs amendment. If they do, we will amend it but, having studied these Clauses very carefully, I am doubtful whether they need any strengthening. If they do they shall be strengthened.

All Members, particularly those from outside the London area where complete co-ordination has already been established, must be aware of the inconvenience now caused to the travelling public by the competing passenger services and the restrictions which the Traffic Commissioners, under the Act of 1930, are bound to place on their services in respect of routes, fares, stopping places and so on, and of the great inconvenience to passengers in sometimes having to change their bus or tram. when they reach the boundary of a local authority. Although it will, inevitably, be a few years before the various area schemes can be drawn up and put into operation, there can be no doubt that the ultimate benefit to the public of the changes proposed, particularly in rural areas, will be immense.

Some of my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite have raised points concerning our intentions in regard to docks and harbours. I was particularly surprised to find complaint by the Chamber of Shipping about our proposals, and to learn that they were opposing this Measure on account of the Clauses relating to docks. In the past, the shipping interests have complained over and over again about the inadequate facilities in our docks which, they have alleged, have handicapped them against the better dock facilities in other countries; and I felt sure that when we produced this Bill we would be certain to have the enthusiastic support of the whole of the shipping industry.

Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)

I was rather surprised by the hon. Gentleman's statement because, turning to one of the documents of his own party, the name of which he was kind enough to give me, I found that his own party made this statement that, broadly speaking, dock and harbour facilities in this country had a high efficiency.

Mr. Strauss

There may be a difference of opinion, but it is the shipping people who have always maintained that the facilities are inadequate. I would like to give a couple of quotations from their own document. In a publication issued by the Chamber of Shipping in 1929—I could quote many others, and subsequent ones if necessary, because I have a whole dossier with me—they support a statement that had previously been made by the shipping industry, which reads like this: The State should be prepared to assist in the development of the ports of the United Kingdom which are of national importance. Also in the 1920's, the Port Facilities Committee of the Chamber of Shipping said: Where there is excessive delay due either to lack of or inferior facilities or out-of-date methods, recommendations should be made for modernising or extending appliances or equipment or other facilities and, if necessary, the Government should be urged to assist the authorities concerned to provide these facilities either by grant or by loan. Surely, it is not suggested that the Government should hand out money to these authorities without any reorganisation, or any insurance that the money given, should be economically used in the right ports? Surely, it is not suggested that anything of that sort would be feasible without a measure of co-ordination under public authority?

Mr. Maclay

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving way to me. I would like to point out that the quotations he has given are very old. Even taking them as they stand, however, there is no conceivable reason why the State should not, in certain circumstances, lend or grant funds to harbour undertakings with suitable safeguards, if it is in the national interest. It is quite unnecessary to have State ownership to do that.

Mr. Strauss

It is only by having authority over the docks, by grouping them into effective and economical groups and surveying all the docks in the country, by developing those which should be developed in the national interest, and not developing those where development is undesirable, that we can get a really effective national dock system. I suggest that the unification of our dock activities is essential to ensure the modernisation of appliances and equipment which the shipping industry requires. The regional schemes which we propose to set up, will ensure that the necessary finances will be available, which has not always been the case in the past. The form which these schemes will take will be adjusted to local circumstances, and will make the best use of local initiative, on the clear understanding, of course, that the nation's port facilities must be regarded as one and not a series of competing units. I suggest to the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) that the Cooper Report on the Clyde Estuary gave a clear indication of what may be achieved.

Mr. Maclay

But the hon. Gentleman will agree, I think, that the Cooper Report did not go very far with regard to grouping. It only went geographically as far as the Cumbraes, It did not suggest a great wide region, and, no doubt, there were good reasons for that.

Mr. Strauss

I think it went as far as it could, in the then existing conditions The proposal might possibly have gone further, if it was thought that something bigger and better was possible. One of my hon. Friends expressed the fear that when the Commission becomes the owner of all the railway docks, it will compete, maybe unfairly, with the other docks to the disadvantage of those other docks. There is nothing in this contention. The responsibility for all the major docks and harbours will rest on the Commission, and as soon as they have drawn up these schemes and the schemes have been approved, the Commission will be responsible for their welfare. Therefore, there can be no possible rivalry between these two sets of docks, because it will be the duty of the Commission to ensure equally the welfare of both.

The Bill has been criticised on the ground that it will not immediately bring any great benefits to transport or the nation. Of course, its enactments will not automatically and at once, create that homogeneous and efficient transport system which we all desire. It will, however, automatically and at once remove those hitherto insoluble conflicts in the industry which I mentioned just now, and which have been so harmful to the interests of the nation, and particularly to the interests of the hundreds of thousands of employees involved, and their families, for so long. I agree it would, inevitably, take some years before the full fruits of integration envisaged in this Bill will be seen, although I have no doubt any holdup in the railway, or any difficulty that may eventuate the day after the Royal Assent has been given to this Bill, will be blamed on the Government by the Opposition. The fact that it will take some time to reorganise this industry on a sound and stable basis, is surely an argument not for delay, but for quick action? Moreover, as the House knows, apart from the arrears of maintenance, for which sums have already been set aside under the railway control agreement, a vast expenditure is required to overtake the accumulated obsolescence of the railways, and for which the railway companies, on their own statements which I could quote, have no resources.

That obsolescence occurs in relation to tracks, workshops—many of which are in a very bad condition—and the stations, the condition of which has been mentioned many times during the Debate. I, myself, would like to emphasise the dingy and forbidding atmosphere of the waiting rooms; I would also like to emphasise the lack of any proper amenities for the railway staffs. All this obsolescence, which at the moment is a millstone round the necks of the management, has to be overcome. But heavier still will be the cost of the extensions and improvements, including possibly the electrification of the railway system. In and around London alone, it is reckoned that at least £400 million will have to be spent. Obviously most of that cannot be spent for some time; but a strong case has been put up for the early spending of about £200 million in improvements to conform with the planning arrangements which have been put forward. It is therefore essential to proceed with this Measure quickly and to put the companies on a secure financial basis as soon as possible, otherwise it will be impossible to raise the money for and proceed with these essential and overdue projects.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether it is proposed to abide by the various sections of the trust fund, as it stands today, and as it affects each company, or whether the whole lot will be pooled, and put wherever the Commission like?

Mr. Strauss

I imagine it will be pooled, and the arrears of maintenance will be overcome in those places where it appears to be most urgent. That, I suggest, is another advantage of our nationalisation proposals. Two or three small but important points were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. P. Morris), with which I should like to deal quite shortly, about the Railway Clearing House. The Commission will have to survey the Railway Clearing House situation and decide what parts of it, if any, it is necessary to retain. We must leave that to the Commission. Meanwhile we want to retain also the benefits under the Railway Clearing System Superannuation Scheme for those involved. If the Bill, as it stands, does not fully carry out that intention, we will alter it in that direction. The hon. Member also raised the question what would happen in regard to Northern Ireland, and the L.M.S. interests in the Northern Counties Committee. That will be a matter for discussion between my right hon. Friend or the Commission, and the Northern Ireland Government. It may be that some problems will arise about a nationalised industry belonging to one country being in the territory of another, and discussions will have to take place about that. I can assure my hon. Friend that every endeavour will be made to protect the pension interests and rights of the railwaymen concerned.

I must say one or two words about the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I looked forward to his speech, but as he developed it, I was left in a considerable state of suspense. He sat on the fence for a long time, and at the end suddenly came down—perhaps "tumbled down" would be a more appropriate phrase—against the proposals of this Bill. Some of his criticisms were detailed. For example, he said it was wrong that an agriculturist should no longer be able to take his agricultural produce anywhere he likes over the 40 miles' limit. The answer to that, of course, is that under this Bill he still can do so.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

If he gets a licence.

Mr. Strauss

Oh, no. The agriculturist in his own vehicle can take his produce anywhere he likes over the 40 miles, and he does not have to get a permit.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)

This is a very important point. Would the hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear? Does he say that under this Bill, a farmer who wishes to take his vegetables from a market garden in Monmouth to Covent Garden in London, in his own vehicle, can do so?

Mr. Strauss

Yes, Sir, that is exactly what I do say. I will give the hon. Gentleman the reason, and perhaps he will then appreciate it. A farmer taking his own produce in his own vehicle does not require to have a "C" licence at all. Therefore, he is able to take his own produce in his own vehicle 400 miles if he wants to, without asking anybody's permission. I hope that, in view of the answer to that minor point made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, he will revise his views. His major argument, however, was that he would not support the Bill because, he said, there had been no proper inquiry into the actual lack of coordination and rationalisation. I must confess that argument took me aback. Apart from all the other inquiries that have taken place, there was one which, I should have thought, the hon. and learned Gentleman would have considered a divine revelation. There was the inquiry made by the Liberal Party itself, published and distributed to the public in this attractive pamphlet called: The Future of British Transport. Propocals by the Liberal Party. Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Seebohm Rowntree. One shilling. Liberal Party Publication. The distinguished people who sat on that committee of inquiry were: Sir Seebohm Rowntree, Chairman; Major - General Grey; the right hon. Sir Percy Harris—an individualist and anti-Socialist if ever there was one, as all hon. Members who knew him when he was in the House will appreciate—Mr. K. H. Johnson; and Mr. F. D. Stuart. This was a most exhaustive, informative and utterly conclusive inquiry by Liberal Party experts.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

What is the date?

Mr. Strauss

Before the Election. To what conclusion did they come? They say that after going over the facts most carefully they have reluctantly—which is understandable—and against their will, come to this conclusion: We therefore recommend that the control and ownership"— note, "ownership"— of railways and the long distance road haulage and passenger transport industry should be transferred to a public utility corporation. Well, our Bill fully endorses those general principles. It may well be that the hon. and learned Member may have some criticisms of the details; but he was against the Bill as a whole, and I suggest that it is most extraordinary for him to indicate that he and his Friends are going to vote against this Measure—

Mr. C. Davies

I said that I was in favour of the nationalisation of the railways, canals, and the harbours, and that I would give full power to the railways to use to the full such road haulage as they would need, and to compete. I was against the stopping of competition.

Mr. Strauss

The report is in favour of handing over long-distance road haulage, as well, to the public utility corporation, and I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is in favour of this report or not. Is he in favour of the report?

Mr. C. Davies

That is not merely in that report, but, I believe, in the manifesto issued by the Liberal Party. It said that we were in favour of the nationalisation of the railways, and of the lorries belonging to the railways.

Mr. Strauss

That is a repudiation of that report. I suggest to the hon. and learned Member that this is a serious point. This booklet before the Election was brought out and offered for the public to buy on the bookstalls, and I am perfectly certain that many people, anxious to know how the Liberal Party stood on these matters, bought this booklet and said, "Ah, this is fine. The Liberal Party, while preserving its fine old Liberal traditions, has now become modern, and has accepted the necessity for planning our national resources, and even the nationalising of some industries." They would have said, "This is magnificent. We are now going to vote for the Liberal Party, because it is clear that the radical element in it are in the ascendant and that the old fogeys are nowhere." I am sure many people voted on that understanding—well, some. What happened? The Election takes place, and it is not a question any more of issuing booklets, but of action and of voting; and then we find that the Liberal Party in the House of Commons—I am sure, against the natural inclinations of their leader—decide, when it comes to action, to vote against the nationalisation proposals recommended by their own experts and published to the country. I would only add this. It is not yet too late for them to recant. They have from now until 10 o'Clock to read this booklet. I will willingly hand my copy to them, because it seems to me that most of their Members could not have read it up to now. I will hand them my copy, and I hope they will study it in the next few hours, and change their minds, and stand by the hopes they raised at the Election.

There are only two or three other points I want to make. Comment has been made on the personnel who are to run this organisation. I agree fully that, from the Chairman of the Commission to the ordinary labourer on the railways and in the garages, they must have the spirit of public service if we are to achieve our objective; and I have no doubt that that will be obtained. We are particularly fortunate in that there exists, especially, but not solely, on our railway systems, a large and exceedingly able body of technicians, who fully proved their qualities during the war. The railways have also an advantage, in that they have working for them an operative staff with a real pride in and loyalty to the industry they serve, and it is our firm intention that the experience and devotion of these men should be fully used at every level to render our transport service progressive, proficient and imaginative. We shall, therefore, I suggest, have all the essential features to ensure success—a sound scheme and men of high technical ability and public spirit to operate it.

Having dealt with those points—first, that there is, in fact, no practical alternative to nationalisation, that is unification under public ownership; and, second, that the proposed structure which, in spite of the criticisms which have been put forward, is a sound one, and that the fears expressed in many quarters during the Debate are unfounded—I want to sum up in two or three sentences our main purpose. The key policy of the Bill—

Brigadier Mackeson (Hythe)

On a point of Order. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, in nearly two days and a half in which we have been Debating this Bill, the hotel services, which are a very big factor, have not yet been mentioned.

Mr. Strauss

I do not want to lengthen my speech unnecessarily. I have been too long already. I want to say only this. The key to the policy of the Bill is, of course, in Clause 3, where emphasis is put on an "efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated" system of transport as our objective. This postulates not merely cheapness, but high quality. It is the real cost of the service which counts, the elimination of unnecessary duplication and overhead charges, and the closer linking of the various forms of transport so that they become mutually complementary, and better methods of standardisation where desirable, and specialisation of function. We are confident that the Commission will be able to serve the public better than it has ever been served in the past in the way of transport, and at substantially less real cost to the nation than is possible under the present system.

I must go back to the main argument put forward by hon. Members here and by interests outside the House. That is the constant demand that there should be an inquiry before we proceed with this Measure. I do not know whether this demand for an inquiry prior to action is seriously meant. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there is no industry in the country that has been so frequently and so thoroughly inquired into as this one, and the upshot has been to show the desirability of some form of unification. But, because of the doctrinaire attitude of the various Governments in power at the time unification proposals have not been implemented, and, meanwhile in spite of these excellent reports and their recommendations, the financial stability of the industry continued to deteriorate. It may be truly said of prewar British transport that its road to hell was paved with good inquiries.

Now we are being asked to postpone action, and have yet another inquiry. Why? Is it so that the Conservative Party will be able to accuse us at the next Election of not carrying out our last Election pledges? Or is it so that we could be held responsible for the uncertainty and chaos in the transport world that would increasingly develop during the months, and probably years, the inquiry would take? Or is it because the appointment of a delaying commission is a traditional Tory device for shelving any economic or social problem? Whatever the reasons may be, the Labour Government refuses to dither with this problem any longer. Some finality is required, some effective solution; and the one we propose is, in fact, fully in accord with the unification recommendations of the many inquiries that have taken place. In this connection, I should like to remind the House by way of contrast, that it was not only the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but Mr. Lloyd George who, at the end of the 1914–18 war, favoured nationalisation. But, of course, there was no nationalisation—the Tory majority in the House saw to that.

At the end of the second world war, however, the Government in power is one that is determined to tackle our basic social problems even when this involves drastic and far-reaching reforms which disturb powerful vested interests. Indeed, it was for that purpose, and on that pledge, that this Government was elected. In this Bill, in many ways the Government's most far-reaching, drastic and pregnant economic reform, we are carrying out a pledge which we made, clearly and explicitly, in our Election appeal. The Bill frees our vital transport industry from the sordid wrangles that have bedevilled it in the past, and creates a sound structure, on which a healthy and progressive transport system can be built, the pride of all who work on it, and a vital instrument in planning the reconstruction of our country on new and better foundations.

5.1 p.m.

Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him in all or even most of the points he has made in the course of his speech. I may be able to pick up some of them as I go along, but I have a few things that I want to say on my own account, and I do not wish to detain the House too long. I have, first, to make it clear that I have a personal interest in this matter I am a director of a railway company, and I was the chairman of the Port of London Authority, but I hope the House will accept my assurance that in what I have to say this afternoon, I shall not be influenced in any degree by any personal interests.

As the House knows, the Port of London is already in public ownership. Every element of private profit has been effectively eliminated as a result of legislation passed by Parliament at the beginning of this century. That being so, no hon. Member will, I am sure, expect me to present myself as a bigoted opponent of the principle of public ownership. I have never had any difficulty in picturing circumstances and conditions in which public ownership might be the best system. In general, I consider competitive private enterprise to be the appropriate technique in a free community—of that I have no doubt at all—but I do agree with an observation of the Lord President of the Council, one of many observations that he has made on this topic, that the onus rests upon those who seek to establish a case for national ownership, and that the criterion should be the public interest. It is from that point of view that I should like for a few moments to examine the proposals in this somewhat complicated Bill.

Is a case for public ownership here made out, and if it is, is the system proposed in the Bill the best that could be devised? I propose to address myself to those two questions. The Bill takes, as everyone will recognise, a very wide sweep, and covers a number of quite different services, but I intend to direct my remarks primarily to the case of the railways and the ports. If the House will pardon a personal reference, I have been in a position in the course of my life to examine fairly closely the merits and the demerits of our railway system. I was Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping from its inception in 1916, until the middle of 1919. The Ministry of Shipping was primarily concerned of course with oversea transport, but the Port and Transit Executive Committee, which was responsible for maintaining the flow of traffic through the ports, was brought within its jurisdiction, and the Ministry was closely concerned with the performance of the railways of the country. There was then no Ministry of Transport.

I well remember that during the first European war, one of our very great anxieties was in regard to the situation that might arise if the Continental Channel Ports were to fall into enemy hands, with the result—the inevitable result, as it was supposed, and probably rightly supposed —that the ports in the eastern portion of this country would be more or less out of action. The conclusion that was reached at that time was that, since the railways had all been constructed with a view to the conveyance of traffic from east to west and not from west to east, the life of the country could not be carried on efficiently if those ports were not fully in operation.

Having that recollection clearly in my mind, when I came to be associated very closely in the recent war with our public affairs, I approached the problem of the railways with a good deal of misgiving. I was the Chairman of a Departmental Committee which sat practically continuously, during the time of the heaviest bombardment, to study every aspect of the transport problem with a view to seeing how the consequences of enemy attack could best be overcome, and I had then an unrivalled opportunity of observing the performance of the railways and forming an opinion. I want to say this: Starting, as I have said, with some bias, perhaps even some prejudice, I was immensely impressed by the service that the railways were able to render during that period. It seemed to me almost incredible that they should have maintained their efficiency under the conditions which then prevailed, and for that credit is due to everyone concerned—the directing staffs, the men in the marshalling yards, the men on the footplates, the repair gangs, the platelayers, everyone concerned acted as part of a highly efficient organisation.

Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)

Under Government control.

Sir J. Anderson

I know very well, and I think hon. Members know very well, to what extent Government control increased the efficiency of the railways. They know perfectly well. If the railways had not been thoroughly efficient they could not possibly have met the demands that were then put upon them. I say that this country is under a very great debt to the railways for the services they rendered during the war. Certain obvious defects in the railway systems were disclosed by the extraordinary problems they had to meet. There were bottlenecks which had to be eliminated, there were services which had to be duplicated. Provision had to be made against the contingency of one or more of the few exchange lines which. maintained traffic between north of the Thames and south of the Thames being put out of action.

In all these matters the railway organisations, developed as they have been under private enterprise, were fully equal to the situation, and that fact ought to be recognised, because it is very relevant in this connection. I say, therefore, that whatever the case may be for a change in the system of ownership, it cannot be established on the score of inefficiency. I very greatly regret the disparaging remarks, which I thought were made, of the Minister of Transport, and the almost contemptuous references of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the condition of the railways. They were, of course, speaking, although they did not say so, in terms of the consequences to the railways of road competition over a long period of years. It is quite true that the new transport agency, road vehicles, looked for a time as if it were going to serve the railways as the railways themselves had served, almost a century ago, their competitor, the stage coach. But what about this competition, which has long been recognised as a serious problem? It is true, I think, that it was that which probably gave the first impetus to a demand for nationalisation of the railways, although that demand may have been further stimulated by a belief, which I imagine has long since been exploded, that somehow or other nationalisation was going to operate very much to the advantage of the men in the railway services.

The position of the railways vis-à-vis road competition was obviously very unfair, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) has already pointed out in the course of this Debate. After much deliberation, after a road-rail conference, over which my right hon. Friend presided, and after all the discussion on the "square deal," at long last agreement has been reached. Co-ordination between rail transport and road transport is obviously necessary, whatever the basis of ownership, and that must be quite frankly recognised. I would point out it is not the case, as the Parliamentary Secretary sought to indicate, that the road-rail agreement, recently arrived at, was put forward as an alternative to nationalisation. It was, in fact, the outcome of long deliberations by persons connected with road and rail transport, who, I must say, should be presumed to know their business at least as well as Members opposite. What was perfectly clear was that the railways, controlled as they have to be controlled in the public interest, and maintained as they have to be maintained in the public interest, could not compete with road transport uncontrolled, unregulated, free to cream traffic, with no obligation to maintain a regular service and under none of the obligations of a common carrier. The purpose of the road-rail agreement, under which competition could continue, was to put the railways and the road services on a comparable basis. That agreement should be given a fair trial.

Among the arguments put forward by the Minister of Transport, in favour of nationalisation, were two which seemed to me to be very odd. He suggested that there was a scramble for materials and for capital, under the existing system, which would be avoided under nationalisa- tion. I really cannot understand what he meant. These are matters of priority, and priorities do not settle themselves; they have to be settled by a process of argument, and I should have thought that he would have discovered, as a result of his experience, as I have discovered in the course of a somewhat longer experience, that arguments are carried on, with a greater intensity and over a longer period of time, between Government Departments, and even between different branches of the same Department, than they ever can be between people engaged in private enterprise.

As to finance, I see no reason to suppose that where finance is required for development or improving services under private management, it will not be made available in the future as it has been available, often, perhaps, too freely, in the past, nor, on the other hand, can I suppose that a nationalised service will at any time be able to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury with a demand, and have it granted on the nod. The Treasury is not, in my experience, and ought not to be, so tender as all that to demands which are sponsored by other Departments. The Treasury have a very special responsibility for regulating, controlling and checking the financial exuberance of other Departments. Passing to the question of roads, if road services are to be regarded by themselves, the case for nationalisation seems to me hardly arguable, but if on the other hand, the nationalisation of the road services is to be regarded as merely consequential on the nationalisation of the railways, that seems to me to be a very strong argument against the nationalisation of the railways, if the case against had not already been fully established.

A word now about the ports, which for the most part are already publicly owned. In the case of the important ports and harbours, they are in the hands of a public trust, or a local authority, or are owned by the railway companies. Quite obviously, if the railways are to be taken over, something must be done about the railway ports. I suggest that there is no sort of case for any change of ownership so far as the others are concerned, leaving out of account the very small ports to which special considerations may apply. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport put forward two arguments about ports. He talked about the need for finance, which I have already dealt with, and made a reference, which I confess I could not understand, to decasualisation. It is, of course, fully recognised that there ought to be a great measure of decasualisation throughout the ports, but I really do not see what bearing that has on the question of public ownership. There may be a point which I have missed, and perhaps it might be cleared up, but at the moment I simply do not understand it.

I should like to stress the very special position of the ports. The Bill does not say that the ownership of any of the ports, apart from the railways, is necessarily to be changed; it says that ports and harbours are to be kept under continuous observation, schemes are to be put forward and there is reference to co-ordination. Of course, there is a case for a better coordination of the ports, and that has been recognised for a long time. As the Minister knows very well, the Dock and Harbour Authorities Association, a considerable time ago, submitted to his Ministry a proposal for better co-ordination, directed, in the main, to avoiding unnecessary and wasteful duplication of equipment and resources. That is the sort of coordination which is most needed if we are to make the most economic use of our national resources.

What I want to stress here, in a few words, is this: that the ports are a link between sea and land transport. That is obvious. The proposal to fuse the port services into a reconstituted land transport system ignores altogether the vital position of the ports in relation to sea transport. There, I think, the Bill contains a very serious blunder. The flow of traffic through the ports, and the quick turn round of ships, is by far the largest controllable factor in economical sea transport. Ports have their own individual characteristics; they have, in many cases, their own trades, for which they have provided special facilities, and it would be disastrous if a change in their constitution were brought about which made it more difficult for the ports to respond quickly and effectively to the varying demands of our shipping industry. I would say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is vitally concerned in our overseas trade, that there is a great danger, if this Bill comes into operation in the form which appears to be contem- plated, of rendering a very great disservice to our national interest, for the reasons I have indicated. It need not necessarily be the consequence of the passing of this Bill, but it is a possibility which seems to be envisaged in the Bill, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport said that he was very ready to consider any arguments addressed to him on the details of the Bill I hope that this will be a matter which he and his colleagues will take very fully into consideration.

I had not intended to say anything on the subject of compensation, but in view of what the Chancellor said about the bearing of the cheap money policy on the proposals in the Bill I think I had better make a brief reference to the matter, for fear of being otherwise misunderstood.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the ports on the Southern coast were likely to be closed, and that as a consequence ports on the East coast would be in difficulty. He said that the railways running from West to East were quite useless, because the railways running from East to West were running for certain purposes. I have been trying to figure out what he means. Can he explain it?

Sir J. Anderson

The point I made was that before the regrouping of the railways, at the end of the first World War, the question arose whether, in the event of the Channel ports—not the ports in this country, but the French and other ports on the Continent—being occupied by the enemy, with the consequence that the ports in the East and South-East of this country might be largely put out of action, the railways could cope with the increased volume of traffic that might come into the country through west coast ports. The considered conclusion that was presented to the Government of the day at that time was that they could not possibly do so. I pointed out, however, on the other hand, that in the recent war, after reorganisation, the railways had been subjected to that very test, and had responded magnificently. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to make clear the point, which may have been obscure, and if I have now disposed of it satisfactorily perhaps I may return to the subject of compensation.

If I were to deal fully with the question of compensation I would have to do as the Chancellor did yesterday, and devote my whole speech to it. I have no intention of doing that. I would, however, like to illustrate the rather capricious way in which the Stock Exchange value basis will work, and for that purpose develop further an illustration which was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) yesterday. I know the arguments for the Stock Exchange basis, but let me point out this: there are two debenture stocks of the Great Western Railway, one 2½ per cent. and the other 5 per cent. The Stock Exchange price—and, therefore, the compensation value—of the 2½ per cent. stock is £95 10s., and the corresponding figure for the 5 per cent stock is £142 7s. 6d. Both stocks are irredeemable. Both rank pari passu, and are served from the same source. The real value of the 5 per cent. stock, in terms of maintainable income, as distinct from Stock Exchange value, should be double that of the 2½ per cent. stock, but it will be clear from the figures I have given that the Stock Exchange values do not reflect that relationship. The Chancellor pointed out, quite rightly, that the difference between the present yield of those stocks and the prospective yield of the transport stock which will be issued at the rates I have mentioned represents the value of the Treasury guarantee. What I have said shows that the value of the Treasury guarantee varies rather widely in the two cases.

Passing from the particular to the general, the Chancellor spoke of the bearing of the cheap money policy on all this, and I would like to submit this to the House: it is perfectly clear that the application of the compensation terms proposed in the Bill would involve a measure of hardship, varying in individual cases. No statistics and no arithmetical processes can dispose of that undoubted fact. It may be said—and I give the argument due weight—that that is the result of the cheap money policy. I am bound to agree that the cheap money policy is a good policy, provided, and only provided, that it is not carried too far, as it well may be. But while the ultimate cause of the hardship, to which many Members have referred, may be the cheap money policy the proximate cause is the proposals in this Bill, and that fact is an additional argument. I suggest against carrying out the proposals of this Bill at the present time, when so much unmerited hardship is being suffered by many sections of the community. I should like to pass to a quite different point.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of compensation may I point out that two years ago the Government of which he was a Member and which was predominantly Conservative passed the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, and it laid down, as the basis of compensation, 1939 values in cases where property was being compulsorily acquired in the national interest. We are now proposing, as an act of generosity, that 1946 values should be given for railway shares in spite of the fact that much of the increased value is a direct result of the war, and of the cheap money policy.

Sir J. Anderson

I should be out of Order if I proceeded to develop an argument on the subject of compensation under the Town and Country Planning Act. The basis of the 1939 values was subject to an important qualification, which is being considered now, I understand, by the War Damage Commission. As regards compensation for land which is taken over for different public purposes, I, myself, in this House indicated the circumstances in which the 1939 basis might be improved upon. That, I think, is all that I can say on that topic.

With regard to the method which is proposed by the Government under this Bill for giving effect to their nationalisation projects, have the Ministers of His Majesty's Government realised what an extraordinary expansion of bureaucracy they appear to be envisaging? What really is the case for this extraordinary three-decker plan, as I must call it, under the Bill? The public services have no greater admirer than I, but I think that we can have too much of a good thing. Here we have the Minister, the Commission and the Executives. It is not nearly so simple as that, because the Minister has his staff—he must have a large and competent staff—the Commission will have their staff, the Executives will have their staffs—and the Executives, despite all the Parliamentary Secretary has said, are to be a separate organisation. They may be expressed in the Bill as agents to exer- cise delegated power, but when the powers are delegated they have to act as the responsible body. They are appointed by the Minister, and they are paid the salaries which are to be determined by the Minister. [An HON. MEMBER: "There will be one railway Executive.] I am talking about the perpendicular development of these organisations—the Minister, the Commission and the Executives—not one Executive only but a string of them, and all with their own staffs. The Minister said that the Commission will be responsible for policy, and the Executives will have the duties of management. I should be very ready to concede that policy and management might appropriately be entrusted — I should like to have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman because this is very important —to different organs of the same body, but to give them to different bodies is, I think, a profound mistake. The divorce which is sought to be made here between the responsibility of the Commission for policy and. the responsibility of the separate executives for management is, in my view, thoroughly unsound.

When we come to the case of the ports, the three-decker organisation becomes a four-decker organisation, because the ports, with their own special, problems, must each have a responsible directing body of its own. What, I wonder, will the public think of this extraordinary proliferation of the public services? Ministers may say that this is to be a very special public service, and that it will not be composed of civil servants as we have known them in the past. I would agree that State Departments, as they are now organised, would not be suitable bodies for the sort of responsibilities contemplated under this Bill. That is no reflection on the civil servant as a civil servant. But under this Bill, I warn the right hon. Gentleman that, by reason of Parliamentary and Ministerial control, he will have just the same over-elaboration, the same multiplication of cross-checks, the same tendency to curb enterprise and deaden initiative as has been so often charged against that admirable body of men who constitute the Civil Service. Beware lest in the process of carrying out this plan, we merely create a large, new and inferior bureaucracy, lacking the traditions of the old and not having the same carefully-elaborated system of selection. It is a real danger of which right hon. Gentlemen, if they listen to me, will beware.

The Parliamentary Secretary remarked that no constructive criticism had been made in the course of discussion of this Bill. It is not part of the duties of the Opposition to make constructive suggestions; but I am going to make one here and now. If I could conceive myself as undertaking the most uncongenial task of putting a Bill of this kind into operation, I should choose a very much simpler set-up. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, why not have just one executive body for each section, in the form of a trust, it may be, owning, managing and financing that particular section, with general controlling and co-ordinating power in the hands of the Minister, subject to Parliament? The Minister could also be entrusted with the function of raising capital with the assent of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Why do we require anything more elaborate than that? It would work. We would get rid of the difficulty that arises, as the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) pointed out, in the case of the ports where it is proposed, by a very lop-sided sort of arrangement, to entrust to the self-same body that will become the owner of the railway ports, the duty of supervision and control over ports which, in the first instance, at any rate, will be in other hands.

I say, therefore, that the scheme which we have before us in this Bill is a bad scheme. I say, first of all, that no case has been made out; and I say, secondly that the methods and machinery proposed in this Bill are unsuitable. It is not as if this thing could be tried and discarded in a short time if it were found to work unsatisfactorily. My right hon and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell-Fyfe) said it would be 10 years before the scheme could be brought fully into operation, and he cited the experience of the very much simpler grouping scheme at the end of the last war. I go further and say that the final test cannot be applied to a scheme of this kind in less than a generation. If this scheme is carried into effect, all the material resources and all the trained personnel that will become available will have been the product of private enterprise. The ultimate test cannot be made until this scheme has been in full working for at least a generation. It may be that Ministers will be encouraged, in what I have just said, by the thought that they will all be dead and gone before the full extent of their wrongheadedness can be appraised.

Finally, what a time to choose for this scheme. If this were the best scheme in the world—and it is certainly not that—could we afford, I ask, either the diversion of energy or the shock to confidence involved in bringing it into operation? The task is a tremendous one, and it is going to fall on the shoulders of people who have many things to do, and many more urgent things to do. No single body of traders in the country, so far as I know, has expressed itself in favour of the scheme. Is not that a very significant fact? I say that before a scheme of this kind was introduced, there should have been an inquiry covering the whole range of the proposals of the Government and taking account of conditions as they are now, and not as they were 10 or 15 years ago. There is no great urgency, as far as I can see, except on the assumption that the Labour Party have only a short time in which to carry out their long cherished projects. If an inquiry is now denied before this plan is put into operation, then, for the first time in my life, I shall be really sorry for my country.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Rogers (Kensington, North)

I want to add my voice to the general clamour of welcoming approval which the Bill has received from this side of the House. I want to congratulate the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the very strong case they have made out for our point of view, and I want to commisserate with the Members of the Opposition Front Bench who have been unable to make a stronger case, because, to my mind, the speeches of hon. Members opposite have demonstrated very clearly the paucity of thought of the Conservative Party in regard to economic development. I am convinced that in their attitude to this Bill is to be found one explanation why they are unable to procure a policy. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted some words of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), the leader of the rising young Liberal Party. I want to quote something said by a right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Front Bench about this subject which does not accord with the present policy of the Conservative Party. When the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking today, there were some jeers because he said that on a certain issue there were differences of opinion, as though hon. Members opposite had forgotten that the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) disagreed with the Members of his own party on some occasions.

I should have thought that, in discussing the unification and coordination of transport, hon. Members opposite would have been proud to point to the undoubtedly successful example of the London Passenger Transport Board, which was partly their own creation, in which they were ably assisted by one of the leading members of my party. One hon. Member opposite actually went to Nazi Germany for an illustration of the failure of the unification and coordination of transport. Before the war, we used to read in the Press loud praises from hon. Members opposite of Nazi Germany for its efficiency. Now that the war is over and Nazi Germany is in disgrace, we are, for the first time hearing about its inefficiency. We have in this country a perfect example of the way in which coordination and unification of a public service can benefit the people in the London Passenger Transport Board, and that excellent example has been entirely ignored by the Opposition, partly because it illustrates the fact that we on this side have learned the value and success of that experiment and have decided to carry it a stage further. When the London Passenger Transport Board was referred to by the Minister on the first day of this Debate, there were some jeers from the Opposition. Before the war—no doubt he has changed his opinion as a result of the shock of war—the right hon. Member for Bromley wrote a book called "The Middle Way," and in that book, in a reference to the London Passenger Transport Board, he said that there could be no doubt that, as a result of its co-ordination and direction of London transport development, a much higher degree of efficiency have been secured for the benefit of the travelling public. Yet, because we on this side propose to extend the same principle to every section of British transport, we meet with opposition on the ground that the same principle is likely to be ineffective and a complete failure when extended to the rest of the transport system of this small island. We have been told that if the transport industry is to be successful, we must have competition, and yet the right hon. Member for Bromley, writing in the same book, said: One is led, in fact, however unwillingly, to take the opposite view, that the most efficient industries are the most highly organised and integrated industries, and that competition is quite as often an obstacle as a spur to efficiency. Those are the words of one of the most thinking Members of the Opposition Front Bench, and yet his own supporters—and even he himself—are apparently not prepared to bring forward that very sensible point of view in support of the Government's Bill. I claim that the public ownership of transport is a natural outcome and development of the whole history of transport. We have seen in this country a gradual development from the small man, using his own labour as his capital and getting his material from where he could, right through the larger stages of organisation, in which we learned to utilise capital and control the activities of men, to the great combines in which vast sums of money were aggregated and directed by small groups of men. We have seen that gradual development in transport as in other industries until, at the outbreak of the war, there was a definite and firm tendency towards the creation of a monopoly, and had it not been for the war, I have not the slightest doubt that there would have been something approaching a monopoly in the transport industry. One has only to remember the suggestions and activities of the Waldorf group and the group of men who said that those hauliers who had fewer than 20 six-ton lorries should either expand their businesses, or be forced to close down, or be confined to local work. I have had a very long connection with London transport and transport finance, and I know some of the internal machinations that have gone on for the establishment of a monopoly in the transport industry. When competition is between large groups and small men, capitalists like competition, but when it is a cutthroat business between large combines, they usually amalgamate and come to some agreement. That was happening in the case of the railway companies and the large groups interested in road haulage, and eventually the small men would have been swallowed up.

It is said that the road haulage employees are in opposition to this Bill and, further, that the road hauliers are almost unanimous in their opposition. Neither of these statements is true. The associate editor of the New York "Saturday Evening Post" came to find out the reactions of typical English towns to Socialist legislation. He went to Banbury in Oxfordshire where he interviewed a road haulage operator who happened to be a member of the fair sex. She ran 14 vehicles, and after telling him why she was opposed to nationalisation she suggested that he should talk to the men. Ernest Hauser wrote in the "Saturday Evening Post" that to his amazement, when he interviewed the drivers of the 14 vehicles and the relief staffs, he was surprised to find all of them in favour of nationalisation. When he asked one employee why his employer did not know their views on the subject he replied that they kept it from the "old girl" because they were afraid she might sack them.

I received a letter from a road haulier in Surrey—not in the savoury atmosphere of my constituency in North Kensington, but in the pleasant Surrey countryside. I think the House ought to hear this letter because it does give quite a different point of view. The writer says: I started business in 1919 as a carrier on demobilisation from the Army. The writer is one of those ex-Service small men of whom the Opposition have suddenly become so fond. With the help of my brother I turned the business into a limited company in 1926, and by 1933 we had five vehicles operating a daily service from London to Surrey. In that year the Road-Rail Traffic Act was passed which froze the industry, and cut out all further initiative. The result of this Act was a steady decline in the number of vehicles owned by hauliers, and an increase in the number operated by 'C' licensees— ancillary users. From the passing of the Act we had but two years of security of tenure—a friend of mine lost his licence on the ground that the G.W.R. could handle the traffic—and the licences were not transferable. So before we could sell our business we would need permission from the licensing authority to do so, but, who would want to buy a business with such restrictions imposed? And, please remember, there was no mention in the Act of compensation for loss. It was plain expropriation. In spite of all these difficulties road traffic still increased at the expense of the railways, owing to many technical advances in the construction of road vehicles. So we had 'The Square Deal Campaign' by the railway companies. There is no doubt that but for the war, our industry would have had to endure further restrictions. Your support for the Government's new Bill is requested, as only by nationalisation can the country still have a real, live road transport industry. That is the opposition view in the road haulage industry about which we have heard so little. It is certainly not true to say that the workers in the road haulage industry are against this Bill. I have received literally hundreds of letters from workers who, knowing my interest in this matter, have written to me giving me detail after detail of the bad treatment they have received from their employers not in the days preceding the passing of the Act which protected their position, but today. I am satisfied that the great majority of road haulage workers, as in the case of the great majority of railway workers, wholeheartedly welcome this Bill as at least some sign that there is hope for them in the future.

It is really extraordinary how much one has heard from the Opposition about the small man, as though a typical road haulage business was the concern of father and son. That is far from being the case. The Opposition talks about the small man and the need for sympathy and yet that party contains the great monopolists and the great combines in the transport industry. It speaks for both sections in the haulage industry. While in Parliament hon. Gentlemen opposite quite sincerely talk about the desire to protect small men, in the background the big business man is getting on with the job of eliminating the small man from the business. In the years preceding the war, while they talked about the rights of the small shopkeeper, the small shopkeeper was being eliminated from the streets of our cities and towns by the multiple stores. [HON. MEMBERS: "By the Co-ops."] I accept the implication in that suggestion for the present.

It is said that under nationalisation we will get an increase in red tape and that more forms will have to be filled up. I was connected with London transport in 1933 when the Bill setting up the Board came into operation as a measure of co-ordination and unification. On the very first day, that is, 1st July, 1933, the thousands of vehicles owned by the new authority had on them at 8 o'clock in the morning the words "London Transport." The same spirit of "Go to it" and enter- prise animated the London Passenger Transport Board right up to the outbreak of war, when conditions somewhat changed the capacity of the Board to make improvements. I am certain that just as we successfully coordinated the component parts of the London Transport, so we can as successfully co-ordinate the mechanisation of the new British Transport Commission. Hon and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who presumably have large experience in large-scale business, talk as though the benefits of coordination were not obvious. If an hon. Member opposite has 12 small businesses and does not know how to cut down overhead costs by coordination, I am prepared to do it for him. I will do it tomorrow. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well, as any combine leader such as the Chairman of I.C.I. will tell them, that they can cut down overhead costs in considerable quantities by amalgamating a number of businesses.

Even in the bulk purchase of stores there can be enormous saving in modern industry, as we found out in London Transport. When we took over London Transport we had 12,000 forms in use by the underground railways, the Metropolitan Railway and the various bus companies. It is said that this form of organisation increases red tape in the number of forms that have to be filled up, yet today in London Transport the number of forms in use is not 12,000 but 4,000. That is not an increase. It seems to me a very substantial decrease. Similarly there were numerous stores departments in all the undertakings They were all put into one big stores department, with branches wherever they were needed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that in every sphere of the transport industry there can be performed the same simple co-ordination and cutting down of overhead costs by considerable amounts.

In 1921 hundreds and thousands of railway workers were made redundant by the co-ordination effected by the passing of the Act. Hundreds of thousands of clerks were stifled for years and were refused promotion because they were redundant. For years they led drab lives on less than £4 a week. It is said that there will be an increase in bureaucracy under this Measure as though the thousands of road haulage and bus companies were not to lose their boards of directors but were to remain in existence, whereas, in fact, they will be entirely eliminated. The British Transport Commission can take over all the redundant staffs in the transport industry and supply the Ministry with the extra personnel it needs from that surplus. There will be no need to increase at all the number of people employed in the industry as a whole since we must include the Ministry of Transport as part of that industry, and, in fact, there will be a large number of surplus workers whom, in happier times, we can transfer to some other industry where their capacity can be more effectively used. The fact is we do not criticise the small road haulage man for inefficiency. His inefficiency lies in the fact that he is an uneconomic unit in the terms of modern business organisation and public need. It is a plain and simple fact that there cannot be a minimum on-cost percentage and a maximum of efficiency when we have a number of businesses of small organisation without any effective co-ordination.

I have some criticisms of the Bill to make, but most of them are Committee points and I do not propose to indulge in them now. I do think, however, that the Minister ought to give very grave consideration to the question of the form of accounts to be adopted by the Commission. This point was raised yesterday by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and I think it is very important because the form of accounts used by the L.P.T.B. has been by no means satisfactory to those who are interested in finding out how London Transport really stands financially and where its money has gone. If the British 'Transport Commission is to be publicly accountable in the proper and full sense, I think that the form of accounts should be very closely studied. We want, too, to see some further declaration of the rights of the staff in so far as their compensation is concerned. I think that is very important because the railway industry today, so far as the workers are concerned, is something like a dormant volcano. The workers have been very faithful during the war, and there has been very little trouble, but I know from numbers of gatherings that I have addressed that they are now very restless and ready to "blow the lid off" They are merely holding their fire because they believe that the Transport Bill offers some hope of an improvement in their conditions. And these improvements are needed because the standard of living of many of our transport workers is still very low, especially when regard is had to latter day prices and the general cost of living. The conditions under which many of the employees work is a disgrace to any civilised nation. Many of the offices and workshops in which railwaymen perform their duties were built when the railways were first erected and have been improved very little since then.

If hon. Gentlemen opposite want to see the kind of thing on which there will be some capital expenditure I advise them to have a walk round the Railway Clearing House in Seymour Street. It would do them good to see the kind of dark dungeons in which many of our people have worked. This Bill is very much overdue, and I do not agree with those who say that this is not the time to introduce it. If a patient is desperately ill we do not shrink from performing a serious operation merely because it is serious; we perform it because we know that it will save his life. Shakespeare said: There is a tide in the affairs of men…. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.

6.3 p.m.

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

The main argument of the hon. Member for North Kensington (Mr. Rogers) seemed to be based on the analogy of the London Passenger Transport Board. I do not think anyone in this House questions the achievement of that Board. It was an innovation, for which the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council deserves the main credit, although it was actually put into law by the succeeding Government which was composed of the opposite political party. It is now, and has for long been, an accepted part of our transport system. But to jump from that to this scheme—a more completely bureaucratic system covering everything from docks to trams and from ports to trains throughout the country— really is too much. This Bill must be considered on its own merits, and we cannot derive any useful conclusions by consideration of the L.P.T.B.

If I have any claim to the attention of the House tonight, it is not because I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport during the war, since I was then mainly concerned with ocean shipping which, though not unaffected by this Bill, is not included in it. But for five years previously I was Chairman of the Railway Wages Tribunal, which was able in this period in every dispute to propose a settlement which was accepted by both the railway managements and the railway unions. During that time I necessarily learned a certain amount about the economic background of the British transport system. Before that, as the Minister of Transport reminded the House on Monday, I was Chairman of the Road-Rail Conference of 1932, whose recommendations, as enacted in the Act of the subsequent year, are the framework of our present transport system.

Unlike a number of hon. Members on this side of the House who are supporting the Amendment, I do not approach this problem with any prejudice against socialisation. On the contrary, for 20 years, in speech, writing, and official conduct, I have been agitating for the socialisation of monopoly public utilities, and I have advocated an effective, and, if necessary, enforced, coordination of road and railway. If the Government were to produce a Bill designed—and well designed—to secure the economies of coordination, while at the same time showing that they were clearly trying consistently with their main purpose to preserve as much as possible of the freedom of industry and of the trader to use his own lorries, as an incentive to efficiency and a barometer and test of efficiency, I should certainly support it. But this is not a Bill of that kind.

There is, of course, one criterion and one justification for a transport Bill. It is that it should secure a more convenient and economical transport system than either the present or any other practicable system. Does this Bill offer any prospect of that kind? I propose to take a few witnesses. I do not apologise for making quotations because I think that on this problem all of us—and this includes the Minister—should endeavour to obtain as much collective expert opinion as possible. But I shall cite no one who is interested in any industry that is being nationalised by this Bill, nor any political opponent of the Government. Who are really best competent to judge as to whether a more convenient or economical system is likely to result? Clearly, the transport users. Let me say, incidentally, that I shall not deal here with anything that touches passenger transport—in which the travelling public is the user— but only with the carriage of goods and traffic, in which the user is the trader.

I have before me the very definite and clearly expressed views of the most authoritative body of transport users possible—the Central Committee of Transport Users. The only interest of the people on that Committee is to obtain the best system of transport; that is to say, that in this matter their interest is identical with that of the nation. What do they say? Their comment is: There is no indication in' this Bill as to how coordination can really be secured They add that they are dismayed at the restriction on the "C" licence holders. That is the most authoritative possible witness of those who are interested in securing the most convenient and economic transport system. What does the Minister quote against them? He said that the Trades Union Congress, the Labour Executive, and the Co-operative Congress had expressed themselves in favour of nationalisation. On this specific and limited point as to whether these proposals will give more economical transport, who is more likely to be right —three political bodies who were doctrinally committed to, and were in favour of, nationalisation before the Bill was produced, or the actual transport users, after they have examined the Bill?

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman could give us the name of the organisation which he is quoting and the date on which it came into existence. I am only asking for information.

Sir A. Salter

I am quoting from the Central Committee of Transport Users in a statement they made about three days ago. They include representatives of chambers of commerce and the Federation of British Industries, all important bodies, and other people who were there as transport users.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that co-operators, to whom he has referred, are also transport users?

Sir A. Salter

I agree that co-operators do use transport. But in this case they have another, a political, aspect as well. I suggest that when they express themselves in a dogmatic way it is because as politicians they take a general line in favour of nationalisation, and their opinion in favour of nationalisation was expressed before this Bill was presented.

I will now come to "The Times," which has been studiously fair, and often more than studiously fair, to the proposals of the Government. This was their comment upon the Minister's exposition on Monday. They said that the Minister contributed nothing to allay the fears that the structure proposed is most unwieldy and most unlikely to lead to the effective coordination of road and rail. They added that it was greatly to be hoped that the Government would recast their plan. I come now to the "Economist." The Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted the "Economist" in his own support yesterday. He also relied heavily upon its support during the Debate on exchange control last week. It is clear that the "Economist" supports the Government when its professional judgment allows it to do so. What did the "Economist" say about the Bill? It said this: The conclusion will seem to be that the harm this Bill will do is very clearly visible, while the good is doubly hypothetical, first because nobody knows how much good there is to do, and secondly because the structure set up does not seem well designed to do it. It called for a searching inquiry, and in contradiction to the Minister's statement on this subject, it says: If the facts on this crucial matter are known to the Government they are not known to the public. There has never been a public inquiry into the issue on which the Bill turns. There has never been a Reid Report for transport. Now I turn to the Road-Rail Conference. In their report, they made some very interesting and very relevant recommendations with regard to the problem which is now before us. First, they recommended that there should be a scientific inquiry into the most economic form of transport for each class of goods for each length of journey. Secondly, they recommended that, a fair basis of competition having been established, both railways and road hauliers should each be subjected to the competition of the other. Thirdly—and this is the most remarkable—they recommended unanimously that the ancillary user (that is the ordinary industrialist and trader, the "C" licence man), should remain free to utilise as many motor vehicles as he finds his business requires. They went on to say: This freedom is the best security that the economic enterprise of the country will have the most convenient and cheapest form of transport that is practicable. With this safety valve we need not fear that any form of semi-monopoly which may develop by a large-scale organisation of the haulier industry, or close relations between that industry and the railways, will be against the public interest They recommended that both these great services should have a stimulus to afford common carrier services which, with the advantage of the economies and the combined facilities so possible, would make it worth while for the trader and industrialist to resort more to them and less to the employment of vehicles of their own. The right of the ancillary user to employ his own transport would be a more effective safeguard than any possible system of public supervision against the dangers of abuse in large-scale organisations. That recommendation is remarkable, for the reason that the Conference consisted of the four general managers of the great railway companies and four men of as nearly as possible corresponding authority from the road hauliers. The whole of their business interest and bias would have been in the direction of the suppression or restriction of the "C" licence holders, but they had sufficient confidence in their efficiency, they were sufficiently conscious of the great dangers of a great monopoly exempted from the incentive and test of competition; they were sufficiently public-spirited to make the recommendation which I have just quoted. It is rather regrettable that the Minister of Transport has not a similar and equal confidence in the ability of his proposed organisation to make, on its own merits, its transport so attractive that traders would choose it instead of running their own vehicles. It is regrettable that the Minister, who by virtue of his position should be the guardian of the public interest should, in this matter, be less public-spirited and have less confidence in his State scheme than the members of the Road-Rail Conference had in theirs.

Lastly, I would ask whether the Government themselves really believe that they will get better and cheaper transport as a result of the scheme. The acid test here is their attitude towards the "C" licence holders. If they believed in their own scheme they could afford to leave the licence holders their present liberty. But if the Government believe that transport will become less convenient and dearer, then, of course, their only escape is to deprive the public and the trader of any alternative, to prevent the "C" licence holder from carrying his own goods and his own traffic. What is the Bill in fact going to do about the "C" traders? The Minister spoke smooth words to us yesterday. He said that no trader who is carrying his own goods for a bona fide purpose need have any anxiety but only traders who seek to undermine or to sabotage the work of the Commission. I do not question the sincerity of the Minister; but we are legislating. We are being asked to give powers which will continue to be available for the successors of the Minister. This is one more instance of this House being asked to put very wide powers in the hands of a Minister—powers which not only might be, but are likely to be—abused, because the particular Minister who asks for these powers at the present time, may have a relatively moderate policy and purpose. It is our duty to look at the actual provisions of the Bill and to ask what they allow and in what they are likely to result. The Clause in question has a very appropriate marginal explanation of its contents—"Additional restrictions …" At present, apart from certain provisions which are not really relevant, the "C" trader has a definite right to get his licence, but under this Bill the licensing authority may grant or may refuse. They will do so, on going into the particular circumstances of the trader's case. As the Transport Users' Committee thought, the dice will be very heavily loaded against the trader.

What will be the position? We want to know what the considerations will be. I ask the House to consider the Minister's statement in relation to the rather disturbing explanation given by the Parliamentary Secretary this evening. The Minister said that only the trader who seeks to undermine the work of the Commission need fear. What does "undermine" mean? The Parliamentary Secretary said today that the general State system could not afford to lose a profitable part of its earnings on the traders' long-distance custom. This is a curious and very disturbing interpretation of what "undermine" will mean. A trader who genuinely has a need to carry his particular class of goods more than 40 miles, is undermining the Commission—so I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary—because that profitable bit of business is taken away from the State machinery. The State system cannot afford to lose that class of business, says the Parliamentary Secretary—

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I definitely said that if the man can prove a genuine need for carrying the goods on his own vehicles, he will be permitted to do so.

Sir A. Salter

Yes, but if the man has to prove a need before a State-appointed licensing authority, against the objection of a representative of the State system, who is naturally rather annoyed to lose a profitable piece of business for his system and finds in every legitimate or plausible application from a trader a reflection on the efficiency of his system, what kind of chance will the man have?

This indicates a very significant distrust by the Government of the possibilities of their own scheme. Think of the advantages the Government are giving—some fair and some unfair—to the State system to compete against the private trader. First, there are the terms of compensation. I am not now speaking of equity to the stockholders, but from the point of view of competitive advantage, it is a great advantage to have the annual charge in respect of railways alone reduced by over £17 million. A similar advantage will be available in regard to any future capital expenditure which will have the advantage of State credit. In addition, there is the advantage of financial pooling over the whole of this vast concern, so that inefficiency and loss in one section can be covered up and off-set by transfers from another part. These are all advantages at somebody else's expense. But in addition, there is the legitimate, real and natural advantage, which is the only justification for a Bill of this kind, namely, the economy of the combined services of the railway and of coordination in the carriage of goods from the factory to the railway and again from the railway termination to the factory. There is a further great advantage as against the private trader in that the State organisation can get return hauls, as he cannot.

Even with all these advantages, the Government dare not leave this system to make its traffic attractive to possible users and leave them a free choice. Why? Maybe the Government are right to fear a test because of the inherent defects in their system. First, there are the notorious weaknesses and defects of a vast bureaucracy. Secondly, there will be the result of the abolition of any of the incentives to efficiency and of any barometer or test of efficiency. Thirdly, there will be wage and salary pressure for higher rates out of relation to the general rates applicable in other industries. Fourthly, there is likely to be political pressure to run uneconomical services. Indeed, the Minister almost claimed this as an advantage in one connection. Lastly, there are the defects of structure, emphasised by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). The fact is that the Government dare not face the test.

What then is this Bill? It is a vast monopolistic bureaucracy. It is an octopus with tentacles extending from tugs and port facilities to railways and the road haulage, with even a tentative tentacle stretching out towards coastwise shipping. It includes the power and the threat at any moment, to kill that remnant of the transport system of the country which for the moment is left outside immediate nationalisation.

Mr. Gallacher

It will be taken in time. It is a woeful future for you fellows.

Sir A. Salter

Exactly. My right hon. Friend said rightly that the main purpose of the ports is to serve shipping. It is true that ports serve trains too, but every ship has to start and end its voyage at a port, and only a fraction of the trains do so. Obviously, the merit of any port system must depend upon how it serves shipping. The people who are really in the best position to judge—those who run the still unsocialised and not to be nationalised industry of shipping—do not like this Bill, not because it is giving more coordination, which we all know is needed in the port services of this country, but because it is doing it in the wrong form, in adding one more department to our vast bureaucratic system. The shipowners point out in their memorandum that there is all the difference in the world between doing that and the extension of public trusts which at present control many of our ports. This overriding of the opinions and desires of the people most concerned—the shipowners in this case—throws a sinister light on the relation between the State industries and those left to private enterprise. The State is reaching out from its own sphere into a sphere which for the moment they profess to leave uncontrolled. I am less disturbed by the precise frontier between the nationalised and private enterprise industries than by the fear that the Government will commit aggression across the frontier or will create such conditions in the industries which they nationalise, that the free industries—the private enterprise industries—on the other side of the frontier will find it impossible to carry on successfully. That is one of the reasons why I think the Government in this matter should particularly take into consideration the views of the shipping industry as to how the reform and the better coordination of the ports can best be effected.

The House will agree that this is far the most important of all the instalments of socialisation which the Government have yet put forward. I think it is also, by far, the worst. It is so because the injuries it will do are greatest in proportion to its very doubtful benefits. It is the worst because it is being put before us against a mass of authoritative advice, and without any inquiry into the actual conditions and needs of the present time. It is the worst, because the particular form of control, the particular Measure proposed, is against the evidence of those best qualified to judge. It is the worst, because, to an extent quite unnecessary for its main and legitimate purpose, it deprives the trader of his freedom of choice; and deprives him of his right to carry his own goods in his own vehicles. It is the worst, because its structure is cumbrous and hampering and typical of the worst type of bureaucracy. Lastly, it removes incentive unnecessarily. It attempts to escape the test of failure and success by removing any alternative and every form of internal or external competition. For all those reasons I would ask—and I hope the House will ask—the Government to take this Bill back and think again and, in the words of the concluding sentence of the leader in the friendly "Times," "to recast their plan."

6.32 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, I said that he would always be above the battle, and one of my hon. Friends said, "No, you are wrong, Ellis; he always begins by supporting us and then turns against us." I wish that the millions of poor men and women in this country who built up the great co-operative movement could have been present on Monday when a representative of that movement, born, trained and educated in it, presented this Bill in the House. I am sure that all right hon. Members and hon. Members will join with me when I say that, irrespective of our political differences, we recognise that the task imposed upon anyone introducing a comprehensive Measure of this description is one which would test most men and that the way in which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport introduced the Bill and stood up to all the questions put to him is a tribute to the education of our country and to British democracy. I also want to pay a tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary for the way he dealt with the Measure today.

In my view this Bill is the most comprehensive ever introduced into the British House of Commons, and it contains the most courageous proposals that have ever found expression in a Bill. From almost any point of view in our country I think men will agree that it is easy to build up a big indictment in regard to the lack of co-ordination in transport in this country. Where people differ is in their approach to a solution of the problems presented by transport. As far as we are concerned, the last General Election decided what form of coordination and ownership should take place. May I remind the House that there have been Royal Commissions and that, as far as this party is concerned, "Macdonaldism" is finished. Royal Commissions were looked upon in former days as a means of sidetracking public opinion. There have been departmental committee reports and mountains of proposals, during past years, but at last, as a result of the introduction of this Bill, action is to be taken.

In the industrial centres of our country there is too much traffic on the roads and too little upon the railways and canals, with the result that the proporion of our people in the industrial centres who lose their lives and run the risk of accident, is far higher than it is in other parts of the country. The overhead charges superimposed upon productive industry in our country are far too high. In the past, when proposals have been made to reduce overhead charges, it has always been wages that have been reduced but, in future, we hope that we shall reduce costs by improved organisation and policy, and more efficiency.

In Lancashire there are 2,124 people per square mile. In London, there are 1,313 people per square mile. In Lancashire the density of population is greater than it is in any other part of the world. The population of Lancashire, North Staffordshire and Cheshire is equal to that of the Continent of Australia. Within ten miles of Manchester, 2,250,000 people live. Within 50 miles of Manchester 10,500,000 people live—over a quarter of the population of England and Wales. This proves the urgent need for efficient transport services in that area, and in Lancashire alone there are 40 different road transport concerns. The result is chaos and lack of organisation. That proves the urgent need for modernising transport. In Manchester there are some of the largest works in the world, and they have produced electrical railway equipment for places all over the world except the counties in which we live. There is now no part of the world more urgently in need of a coordinated system of transport than those large industrial centres of Lancashire, North Staffordshire and Yorkshire We need increased travelling facilities, and we need electrification of the railways. This area within a 50-miles radius of Manchester is the biggest indictment of the private ownership of transport that one could produce, for most of the prewar capital expenditure on the railways took place in the south of England. If 75 per cent. of the railways of our country were electrified, the difficulties of the Minister of Fuel and Power would be solved immediately. Some 10 million tons of coal would be saved per annum. This would increase traffic capacity three and a half times and increase the frequency and speed of trains, which would also be much cleaner.

All men and women who approach this problem and consider it in a big way are bound to come to conclusions similar to those which the Government have reached. We have not stressed enough the technical advantages of large-scale national ownership. It is admitted by the captains of industry, even by those who oppose us politically, that the time has now arrived when key industries like power, fuel, and transport should be nationally-owned, in order that we can have a national plan, and eliminate overlapping and duplication. In the area I have the honour to represent, there were, not many years ago, 58 bus companies scrambling for passengers. So concerned were the local authorities and the police about the dangers on the roads that after consideration the city council of Stoke-on-Trent, which was made up of 50 per cent. of Labour members and 50 per cent of members opposed to Labour—and therefore, it was not a political decision—decided to consult other local authorities, and to prepare a Private Bill to enable them to take over the transport of the area, as London had done. They were prepared to pay compensation, and 90 per cent. of the bus companies agreed to compensation of £4,000 per bus. But one company, which was linked up with a holding finance company, decided that democracy should not function. They decided that we should not have the Bill. In four years, the shares of that private company went up from 9s. 6d. to 52s. 6d. The Bill came before the House of Comm6ns. It is usual to allow a Private Bill to have its Second Reading in the House and then have it sent to a Committee, but this Bill was killed. For 10 years the friends of those who opposed it had drawn large dividends at the expense of people in that area. It is that kind of Conservative private non-enterprise, which has held our country back far too long. Here is a copy of the Orders of the Day for 8th February, 1937, and showing those who were responsible for killing that Bill. Who were they? Mr. Croom-Johnson, now a judge, and Mr. Herbert Williams, since knighted What they did with our Bill, they would do with this Bill, if they could have their way.

Mr. Gallacher

But they cannot do it.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Fortunately, as a result of the advancement of British democracy, there is now a powerful majority in this House determined to carry out promises made to the people of this country.

I plead with the Government to put down an Amendment to Clause 67. The people's needs are urgent. We have been held back in the industrial centres far too long. I ask the Government to see that the policy of the Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress, and the co-operative movement finds expression in Clause 67. They are all in favour of the nationalisation of the passenger road transport of this country now and not in years to come. It is urgent that we should have this nationalisation in this Bill. If it is right to nationalise other sections of transport, it is a thousand times more right to nationalise the passenger road transport of the country. The lack of adequate travelling facilities for our people in the industrial areas is a national scandal which needs to be remedied as soon as possible. Every great progressive in our country is supporting this Bill. Manchester, when proposing the Ship Canal, had to fight the Lords, and had to fight the cotton interests, shipping, and the rings. But the Manchester Ship Canal is a monument to the courage and the public spirit of those who rallied the people of Manchester to carry out that great project. The Ship Canal has been of great economic value to the Manchester area, and to the country in general. I believe that, in the same way, we are pioneering today by introducing this Bill, and that, in time, it will prove of great economic advantage to our country. We cannot afford duplication, out-of-date methods, and lack of enterprise, any longer. Our aim should be an efficient national transport system, with the lowest possible costs, at the service of the nation, having regard to the welfare of those engaged in the service, and introducing better organisation, and more welfare facilities for those employed in the industry.

I appeal to the Minister to make a new approach to our national problems, and to pull together the trade unions and take them into his confidence, placing before them his plans and targets, and winning their good will. Just as we obtained their maximum energy to enable us successfully to prosecute the war, so, if we take into our confidence the people of our country, will they support us in these big Measures in the same way as they patriotically supported us in the war. Just as we won on the military field, so we can win on the economic field. I welcome the Bill, and hope it will be strengthened in Committee. I hope the Minister, who is a man with a big outlook, will make a new approach to our problems in the way I have suggested. Believing this to be the aim of the Minister, and of the Bill, I have no hesitation in asking all those who place the welfare of their country before any sectional interests, to go into the Lobby in support of the Bill this evening.

6.49 p.m.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)

I think the whole House will agree that from this side we have today had two interesting and valuable contributions. One was from my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and the other from the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter). I happen to be the first Tory to speak in the Debate today, and it is a position I am very proud to occupy.

I have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), and I think there was only one point in it with which I agree. That was when he said that this was one of the most important and comprehensive Bills that had been introduced into the House of Commons. I agree with him when he says that it touches on a great range of problems, and affects a great variety of interests. I would add that it touches at many points the liberty of individual men and women in this country. If ever there was a Bill in which the whole wealth and range of knowledge and experience in the House of Commons should be mobilised, in order to examine and improve it, it is this Bill. I understand that the Lord President of the Council, speaking as Leader of the House, says that he is going to send it to a Committee upstairs. I think that is a pity, and that it will be a worse Bill as a result of that. The best democratic principle, in my view, would be that Members in all quarters of the House should be able to bring their experience to bear in Committee of the whole House. I am sorry that the Lord President of the Council does not believe in democracy upon those terms.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, in the speech with which he opened the Debate today, and which, if I may be permitted one courtesy, I much enjoyed, spent a good deal of time talking about the evils of competition, the difficulties and the troubles which had arisen before, because of too much competition. That is a per- fectly arguable case, but if that is his real belief, this is a most astonishing Bill. People have talked about the Bill and the industry it is to take over. Let me say a word about the part of the industry which is to be supposedly free, those road hauliers who are now to be concentrated into artificial transport cells limited to a 25 miles radius, competing one against the other. If competition before the war, on a declining market, led to chaos, competition in these transport cells will lead to a fantastic situation. In many cases the men themselves are divided by some arbitrary boundary from the destinations which they ordinarily serve.

I am informed that licences are now being given quite freely to operate within these narrow limits. I have not the slightest doubt about what the Government have in mind. They want to have chaos in that area. This is only the first step. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) was absolutely right in what he said. The position of the Government is well known to everybody. It is no good coming to the House of Commons and pretending that this is a moderate approach to the matter. One thing we can say about the Socialist Party is that they have this, if nothing else, in common with Adolf Hitler, that what they say may be crazy, but they go on with it. We made the same mistake with Hitler. Everybody thought he was so crazy that he would not go on with it—but he always did.

On this matter the Socialist Party, or rather that part of the Socialist Party which calls the tune, the Trades Union Congress, have made their position quite plain. In the document to which the Minister paid a proper and dutiful respect, and which he quoted as his own authority for introducing the Bill, these words appear: The degree and direction in which the activities of the Authority"— that is, the transport authority— will first expand will depend not solely on the technical aspects of the problem; public opinion is bound to be taken into account. I thought that was rather a concession. It is nice to think they still pay a little attention to the House of Commons. Our proposal to acquire the main line railways for public operation will clearly entail less opposition than will result from a proposal immediately to acquire all the many thousands of road hauliers. Public opinion is not, however, a fixed quantity, and could be influenced by the successful operation of the preliminary stages of the transfer of the industry to public enterprise and by adequate public relations activities. We all know the public relations activities of the Lord President of the Council, those little pamphlets with "Central Office of Information" in large type, and underneath, in very small type, "His Majesty's Government." There is no doubt whatever that it has been their expressed intention. Let us face it and realise it, this is just the first step. Perhaps it is almost irrelevant whether they swallow the "C" licence holders by taking one bite or two at the cherry—they mean to have the lot.

I want to turn to what I regard as the main principle of this Bill. I do not think that main principle is the question of who owns the railway companies. I do not think it is even the injustice which is being done to many hundreds and thousands of railway stockholders, an injustice defended, I admit, with considerable dialectical ability by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, but, nevertheless, an obvious and manifest injustice. I do not think that the main principle of the Bill is even the restrictions which are being piled on the industry and on the road hauliers operating in this country. The main principle which we have to decide in this House of Commons is whether we want to have a monopoly of inland transport or we do not. That, I hope hon. Members will agree, is the main principle. That is the sole subject on which I wish to address the House of Commons this evening.

Let us be in no doubt that this Bill sets up a great State monopoly of transport. I wish to make my position plain; I am against a monopoly of transport. I regard it as likely to injure the interests of the consumers and users of transport. It is equally likely, indeed certain, that it will hamper and restrict the future progress and development of the transport industry. I wish to be quite plain about this: I am equally opposed to a public or a private monopoly of transport. I do not share the rather facile optimism of hon. Members opposite, who think that just by taking a private monopoly and turning it into a public monopoly it suddenly assumes such virtues as it never possessed before. A monopoly is generally a racket at the expense of the consumer, and is still a racket, even though it has one or two of His Majesty's Ministers mixed up in it. That is the case I wish to propound.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

May I ask the hon. Member whether he is opposed to the private monopoly proposed by the Road Hauliers Association and the railway companies?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I intend to deal with the road-rail agreement, and I will say this to the hon. Gentleman—I am sorry I missed his speech; I read it with interest—

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

It was a good speech.

Mr. Thorneycroft

It was—the road-rail agreement is not Conservative policy. It is an agreement between the road and rail interests. But I would add just this—I think that agreement has many faults, but it does at least preserve the freedom of the "C" licences. To that extent it is a far less objectionable measure than that before the House of Commons this evening.

I will, for the sake of greater accuracy, indicate the three major parts of my argument which I wish to put forward. First, I want to say something about the transport problem. It is time that someone on the Government benches got up and said what kind of problem it is they are seeking to solve, what great evil it is they are seeking to remove. Have the users of transport throughout the country suddenly come forward in great deputations and begged the Government to remove some tolerable hardship? What relevance has this Bill to any of the real problems which confront the Government at the present time? Secondly, I want to say that in my view this Bill is not an answer to this problem. Thirdly, if I have sufficient time, I want to make a few general, and I hope broadly constructive, suggestions on the transport situation as I see it today.

The problem of transport is not one that stays the same. I do not know whether I can persuade hon. Members of this, but problems do change from time to time. The question of the nationalisation of transport was being urged 20 or 30 years ago. At that time the railway companies in this country, broadly speaking, had a monopoly of goods transport. Their only competitor was the horse. It was fair to say they had a monopoly and, in the sense that they had a monopoly, there may have been some people saying that the State might perhaps take them over. At any rate, I am fortified by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I understand he took that view in 1918. I think there is something painfully disgusting in the way the Lord President of the Council hunts like a jackal after the cast-off policies of nobler animals than himself. Be that as it may, 20 years pass and we come to the period of 1936.

Whatever the problem was in 1936, it certainly was not the problem of monopoly. We have heard a lot about the intensive competition which was fierce, cut-throat and all the other adjectives which the Chancellor of the Exchequer always adds to the word "competition." When that competition was raging in the transport industry, they had this problem. There were difficulties because they were competing on a declining market, but it was not a problem of monopoly. How did the Socialist Party adjust itself to that change? It prescribed precisely the same remedy as it had prescribed for the situation which was monopolistic. I want to be fair. I suppose it is just conceivable that a solution which was proposed for one problem in 1906 might be suitable to a wholly different problem in 1936. All I say is that it would be the most remarkable coincidence if it was so.

The Bill which is before us is a 1936 Bill. It is not a 1946 Bill. I know it quite well. I was at the Ministry of War Transport. This Bill has been knocking around the pigeon holes of the Ministry for 10 or 15 years. It is an old friend. I have read the speech which the Minister of Transport delivered in introducing the Bill many times. I must say, to be honest, that I did not think that it had improved with keeping. I thought it was a little motheaten. I admit quite frankly that these Bills, papers, and schemes lying about the Ministry sometimes have been slanted in the direction of public ownership and sometimes in the direction of private ownership. Sometimes they have been supported by railway directors anxious to maintain the dividends of railway stockholders; sometimes they have been supported by Socialists who wanted to buy the votes of 600,000 members of the National Union of Railwaymen. The basic factor was always the same—that the position of the railway should be maintained not by improving the services, but by cutting the throat of its principal competitors. That was the basic principle which was underlying all those schemes. I know, of course, that the same idea is present in this Bill today. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Fuel and Power let the cat out of the bag at Bournemouth. Incidentally, I wish the Socialist Party would make available in the Library of the House a report of their Bournemouth Conference. They should not be shy about it. They may not want to read it, but many of us do. This is what the Minister of Fuel and Power said: If the railways, under nationalisation, are to succeed and pay their way, they cannot be divorced from road transport. Of course, they cannot. The Socialist Government know perfectly well that if they nationalised the railways and left them open to the virile competition of a free road haulage industry, they would be showing the most colossal losses within about six months.

This is the 1936 Bill. I do not want to invite the Parliamentary Secretary to look at the future. I would not invite any Member of the Treasury Bench to look at the future. I want to invite them to look at the present situation rather than at the past. Do let us stop quoting what Sir Eric Geddes said about wasteful competition. After all, Sir Eric Geddes was a great railway operator. No doubt, he did think harsh things about the railways. I would observe, however, that it did not prevent him in later life from building up the Dunlop Rubber Company, so I think he may have overcome his scruples in that matter. I invite the Government to look at the real problem. It is a serious problem which confronts them now. The problem at the moment is neither monopoly nor the question of competition on a declining market, or anything of that sort. The problem is how to expand production, how to get our export trade going and how to cheapen transport costs. Those are the sort of things we have to do.

What does this Bill do about it? What does it do about cheapening transport costs? The Minister and the Front Bench speakers have been pressed to say upon what basis their rate structure is to be put forward. Not one of them has produced an answer. It really is no good saying that an inquiry is wanted for that matter and for nothing else. It is the key matter of the Bill. The ordinary trader is not interested in some Socialist idea, or even a Conservative idea, about private or public ownership. He wants to know what the cost is to be. If there has been no inquiry on that subject it is really a waste of time bringing forward the Bill. Moreover, it is no good waiting two years. Business cannot wait for two years. It has to get on with the job.

Under the Bill the Minister is responsible during the transitional period. On what principle is the Minister going to carry on in the transitional period? We on this side of the House want a direct answer on that subject from the Treasury Bench before we part with the Bill this evening. I think there is a kind of cynical inconsequence about a Government who come down to the House of Commons one week and talk about the need for increased production, expanding economy and all the rest, and then come again the next week and tell the traders they cannot even carry their own goods in their own vehicles. Where is the sense in that?

The fact is that the Government do not care what the problem is. They do not mind. Monopoly or competition, boom or slump, restriction or expansion, they have one sovereign remedy—nationalisation. This is a political and not a practical decision. If the Lord President of the Council can keep on terms with the hon. Gentleman immediately upon his left in politics and in the Labour Party, he thinks he may scramble into the position at present occupied by the Prime Minister of England. That is the sort of factor. Let the Government but seize the key—and they know what the key is. They want these great services and basic industries not for efficiency, but in order to get power. That admirable man, the Minister of Fuel and Power—if hon. Members will forgive me for referring to him in those terms—made this matter clear, again at Bournemouth. Perhaps hon. Members will accept it from me if not from him. He said: The crux of the whole problem is that, when we have at our disposal the basic industries and services which minister to the national needs, we shall be possessed of an instrument of great power and influence in the land. When that has been achieved, then the movement can ask for more. I hope that it will ask for more. This is the necessary preliminary manoeuvring before they introduce the grand national Socialist system on the big scale.

I turn from the problem to the effect of these proposals. One thing which these proposals will not do is to co-ordinate transport. I do not like co-ordination. I do not think that it is something that comes about suddenly; it is something that creeps up gradually, and a great deal of co-ordination has already taken place. The kind of co-ordination that matters is not a mere fixing of rates between road and rail, but co-ordination between the transport industry and the traders whom it is trying to serve. We have had some experience of Government attempts at coordination. We had that road haulage organisation, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary and I both know something about that. I do not think that anybody would pretend that that was a good system of co-ordination. It was examined by an impartial, all-party Committee of this House, which produced one of the most damning reports on a Government organisation that has ever been produced. It was condemned by the employers, the traders, the workers and by the House of Commons. The Government, in fact, have not a very good record on this subject.

May I now give an example which came to me the other day? A man who lived on the Clyde and was a manufacturer, in the course of his export trade, which the Government wish to promote, made some machinery for a sugar factory in Madagascar. The Clyde is a river, but, when he wanted to send his goods to Madagascar, the Minister of Transport had forgotten that it was a river, and so ordered him to send his goods by rail to London. Was that coordination? When they got to London, they missed the boat. Was that coordination? It was a great mass of machinery, a whole train load, and they then put it into a factory, but forgot to tell him about it. When he got it back, it went down to the docks, but there was a strike and it caught the boat after the next. When eventually it arrived in Madagascar, it was found that, somewhere in this manoeuvring, one vital part had been lost. That is the kind of thing which will happen under Government coordination. Clearly, that man on the Clyde could have fixed up the whole thing in three or four minutes on the telephone with one of his friends in Glasgow.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I only interrupt the hon. Gentleman to ask him if he will give me particulars of that case, when it took place and who was responsible.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will. The main argument against monopoly in transport is the argument on behalf of the users. In my view, the user of transport is the only man who knows what transport he wants. In transport, the customer is always right. He knows far better than any Government Department just exactly what are his requirements. He has all the factors and really understands the wishes of the consignee. Both the hon. Gentlemen opposite and I have been the Parliamentary Secretary to this Department, but neither of us knows about that, nor will any Parliamentary Secretary ever know about it, for only the trader himself understands these things. This Bill takes away from the private trader the right to choose his own form of transport. I noticed that an hon. Member tried to challenge that fact in the Debate yesterday and suggested that, under this Bill traders would have a free choice of transport. Does anybody suggest that now? If any hon. Gentleman suggests that traders under this Bill can have a free and unfettered choice of the form of transport which they want, let him get up and say so, because, in point of fact, it does nothing of the kind.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means. If he means whether a trader will have an opportunity of deciding whether to send his goods by the road or rail services of the Commission, of course, he will have the choice, if he considers one more suitable for his type of goods than the other.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I know. I do not think that is a very proper and open way of tackling this question. The Parliamentary Secretary knows perfectly well that, once he has got this rate structure, he can preclude the use of any particular form of transport. May I refer again to the statement of the Trades Union Congress on this matter, because it illustrates the way that this is being sold to the public and the intention behind it. It may, however, be necessary to retain for a period a degree of consumer's choice as to the method of transport, in which case the rate structure must form the machinery by which the flow of traffic is directed. If they run a monopoly, they have only to come and ask for it. The only real remedy for a dissatisfied trader is for him to go straight away and patronise another form of transport, and thousands of them do it every day and there are always changes this way and that. What is substituted in this Bill? There is a Transport Users' Advisory Council. Think of all the decisions they will have to take. The Minister himself had such little faith in it that he said it would meet twice a year. It is a mere creature of the Minister, appointed by him and dismissed by him. The Bill abolishes that great safeguard for the trading community, the free right to operate "C" licences or, at any rate, largely prescribes it. I do not understand the position about "C" licences. The Minister talked the other day about "C" licensees who were going to sabotage the Bill. Will somebody tell us what he means by that?

Mr. Strauss

Yes, Sir. I certainly will. It was the experience in Ireland that leaving the "C" licensees free did, in fact, very largely destroy the scheme—as a result of the Northern Ireland Government inquiry—because the "C" licensees carried goods of their own and also of other people.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Surely, that only means that the present law is not being properly enforced? The "C" licensee is not entitled to carry the goods of other people. If the Government cannot enforce the law as it stands, how do they expect to enforce the vast mass of new laws? Supposing that a "C" licence holder comes along and can show that he can run his transport cheaper than the public transport run by the Minister, will he be allowed to run it?

Mr. Strauss

Under the conditions set out in Clause 57. I talked about that for a long time this afternoon, and I do not want to repeat it.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I would not ask the hon. Gentleman to repeat anything. We have the Minister coming along and saying that these provisions are a little complicated, but any bona fide trader—whatever the right hon. Gentleman means by that—who comes along will in fact be given this right. I wonder When I read Clause 57, I read it in a directly contrary sense. I do not make any accusations against the Minister in this matter. Perhaps he has not read the Clause, or else has forgotten about it. I will give the Parliamentary Secretary the reference. It is Clause 57 (3, b). If he will look at that he will find that the Commission can come along to the tribunal and represent that it would be against their interest—not the traders' or the public's interest—to have that competition from that particular "C" licensee. The true facts were those so admirably set out yesterday by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Antrim (Major Haughton), who speaks with great knowledge on this subject, and who has had experience of this kind of operation. He said that the overhead factor in this vast bureaucratic machine set up there had been the freedom given to the "C" licence holder. In Northern Ireland it had been of great value and had given a sense of security and fairness, and had spurred on the transport organisation. Why do not they do the same thing here? Why are they so fearful of it? As the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) pointed out, so far as the free section are concerned, they are subject to that and subject to it with a 15-mile bias in favour of the "C" licence holder. If free hauliers can face up to that, surely, the Government can face up to a little competition from the "C" licensees.

I do not want to speak for much longer, but there is one further criticism of monopoly I should like to make, because it is monopoly that we are discussing. I believe that the great evil of monopoly is that it will stabilise, or tend to stabilise, the transport system of the country. There is a sort of tendency in all generations to think that they have reached the final stage in industrial and technical development. All history will not teach them the vanity of their conceit. In point of fact, it is only within a comparatively small space of years that we have seen stage coaches replaced by a great development of the railway system, the invention of the internal combustion engine, tar macadam, road competition and the beginnings of civil aviation. Immense developments, it is true, but that is only the beginning and not the end of the story. Suppose that before the story started there had been a transport commission looking after the railways. Imagine the attitude of those great Victorian commissioners who, when the first gentleman was walking along a dusty road with a red flag, were asked for permission to create a road haulage system. Think of the contempt and scorn that would have been poured upon them, particularly if it had been State capital involved rather than private capital. What chance would there have been of these developments which, with all their problems, have been of inestimable benefit in creating the wealth and prosperity of this country.

I oppose monopoly because it seems to me to substitute for that free development the arbitrary decisions of a great Commission. I do not believe that any commission, however much it might desire to do so, can get that kind of development. What should we do then? First of all, let us stop this chant about coordination, integration and unification. It goes on and on, and the Ministry of Transport is absolutely riddled with it. People do not understand what they are talking about, and it has become practically meaningless. The key to the transport policy does not depend upon some trick of organisation of the transport industry. It depends upon expanding production. If there are goods and passengers to be carried, then transport is prosperous. If the nationalised coalmines are producing coal, if the Minister of Health is building houses, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues arrange matters so that people wish to come as tourists instead of not wishing to come, then transport is prosperous. If those things are not happening, then transport is poor, and the matter cannot be got over by some trick of organisation.

The other day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after some characteristic sneers at the past history of the railways, criticised competition. He said that free and unfettered competition would create a hopeless situation. I will mention the three assumptions that he made. First, he assumed that the Road-Rail Traffic Act would be swept away. I do not think he was justified in assuming that. I do not think that the road hauliers are entitled to a closed shop, nor would I maintain one for them. But, at the same time, I think we should keep that Act and speed up the entry of new lorries and firms into that industry in order to keep pace with production. The second thing he assumed was that we should have the same slump conditions as those under which transport and other industries suffered in the years between the wars. Is that a fair assumption? Do the Government intend faithfully to reproduce the worst effects of booms and slumps, because, if they do not, the argument makes nonsense? Thirdly and lastly, the Chancellor assumed that the railways would be kept with all the restrictions, regulations and the burdens that were imposed upon them when they really were the monopoly of our Victorian ancestors, and when their only competitors were the stage-coaches. Has it occurred to the Government that it might be possible to remove some of those restrictions? Has it occurred to them that, instead of imposing more restrictions upon the roads, they might remove one or two from the railways and thus enable that great system to get on and make its contribution to the transport problems of this country?

Why not let the roads run their own business for their own profit and to the benefit of the community as a whole? It has been asked what is our policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who opened the Debate yesterday, made our points plain. We stand for free choice by the users of transport. We believe in the right of an individual transport user to pass on the results of his increased efficiency to the trader, because that is the way to get progress and to compete in the markets of the world. We believe in freedom of the "C" licence holder, and we believe in a progressive increase in the flow of new entrants into the transport industry.

A lot has been said about the country districts. But one does not get transport in country districts merely by shouting about unification. One gets transport there by allowing country villages to run their own carriers. The answer is not unification and restriction; the answer is to allow men in their own community, or village hauliers, to take some responsibility for solving their own local problems. The Government have not inquired or thought about any possible alternative to the solution which they first propounded in the year 1906. They think it would be dangerous to have an inquiry. I agree that it would be extremely dangerous to themselves, because it would demonstrate that this is a political rather than a practical Bill.

I oppose it because it is all of a piece with the rest of this Government's legislation. It seeks restriction where it should seek expansion. It is timid where it should be bold. It seeks stability when what is wanted is progress. Meanwhile, the Lord President of the Council goes about the country making great speches on the theme of planning for freedom. Is the purchase of a few road hauliers' lorries really planning? Is the prevention of men from carrying their own goods in their own vehicles the Government's idea of freedom?

I conclude with the following remarks, and I apologise for having delayed the House for so long. Two men came to see me the other day. They had been in the haulage industry, and had gone off and joined the R.A.S.C. during the war. They were coming back to their business. They asked me whether they should sell out, leave this country and go to Canada or Australia or some other country where they could make another start. I asked them why. They said it was because of this Bill. They did not want to be taken in just as State servants in some small capacity. They had helped to transport the British Army from El Alamein to Tunis. They thought they had a contribution to make to the transport industry and they asked me, as many hundreds of other young men have asked hon. Members on this side of the House, if they should sell out and, if I may use their words which, perhaps, are unparliamentary, "get the hell out of it." I told them to stay and fight it out, because, although the odds were two to one against us in the House of Commons, the time would come when these men and hundreds of thousands like them would rise and sweep this Government out of office.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. Irving (Tottenham, North)

As one who has spent many years earning a living in the transport industry, I welcome this Bill. I was particularly interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). For some years it was my job to negotiate with his predecessor at the Port of London Authority. I hope my successor is having a better time than I had. From the inside of this industry, I have watched the struggle between private profit and human lives. The right hon. Gentleman was in some doubt about decasualisation. I remember the time, not many years ago, when at the London docks casual labour was the common practice. Men crowded round the gates at eight o'clock in the morning, and were taken on for half a day, paid off at midday, and probably did not get any more work at the docks that week. That is casual labour. There always was the struggle between private profit and human lives. Much of the gear that was used at the docks was unsatisfactory, and there were many accidents which ought never to have occurred. I have known men injured at the London docks and at other docks in the country. The employers called for the ambulance; the men were sent to hospital, and at the end of the week, 2s. 6d. was stopped out of their pay packets to pay for the cost of the ambulance. As a matter of fact, a former hon. Member for St. Helens suffered that misfortune.

There has been much talk by Opposition Members about compensation. On the workers' side there has been a long struggle for workmen's compensation, and only recently 30s. a week was the maximum amount paid to a man in the industry who suffered total incapacity. There has, as I say, been this struggle between private profit and human lives, particularly in the water transport industry, but I have heard no reference to that aspect, from hon. Members opposite. The workers engaged in the transport industry and the travelling public will welcome this Bill. One hon. Member asked: Why not leave the railways alone? We have left them alone too long. Look at Liverpool Street station—an ugly, dirty monstrosity, and a monument to private capitalism. If there is one section of the railway system in this country which is really depressing, it is that section of the London and North-Eastern Railway from Liverpool Street to Enfield. One starts at the depressing Liverpool Street station, and every station along the route is equally depressing. When one uses the rolling stock one is faced with the necessity of having a wash because of having opened a carriage door. Once inside a carriage one has the choice of two evils—either sitting down or standing up—and the chances are that one will stand us even if seats are available because the coaches are so filthy.

This has some bearing on public health. Every one of the local authorities in North London has approached the London and North Eastern Railway Company year after year for the last 20 years, asking them to electrify that section of the line; and as recently as last year the local authorities approached the company on that issue, but the company held out no hope. This section of the railway passes through densely populated areas. Every day at frequent intervals, there are showers of cinders and clouds of smoke. Is that in the best interests of public health? While local authorities are spending taxpayers' and ratepayers' money on public health, there is no co-ordination, collaboration or assistance from the privately owned railway companies

I have one criticism to make of the Bill. The Bill proposes to abolish the Lee Conservancy Board. That Board is not only a navigation authority; it is responsible for the prevention of pollution of the River Lee and for conservation of water in that river. The state of London's water supply is becoming very serious. Every year the consumption of water in the metropolitan area increases. That may be a source of satisfaction to the 23 Members who voted for one of the Amendments in the Civic Restaurants Bill yesterday in Committee upstairs. But while the consumption of water increases, the reserves of London's water supply decrease. This authority is charged with conserving the Metropolitan Water Board's supplies. Under this Bill those powers will go. The amazing thing is that the Thames Conservancy Board will be left. Why should the Thames Conservancy Board be left, and the Lee Conservancy Board be taken out? The Minister will remember that in 1943 the Central Advisory Water Committee made its report. It dealt with the question of the water supply in the country, with particular reference to the rivers. Paragraph 68 of the Report reads: The evidence we have heard indicates that the existing system is working satisfactorily as far as these rivers are concerned. Those are the Thames and the Lee. There is already complete coordination, and there is no reason to disturb the present arrangements. I would further point out that under the Act of 1930, the Lee Conservancy Board is responsible, together with the West Ham corporation, for the prevention of flooding in the lower reaches of the River Lee. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to reconsider Clause 117 before the Bill goes to Committee.

7.40 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Irving) will forgive me if I do not follow him with regard to the Conservancy Board, about which I know very little. What I want to say first concerns the question of compensation, which was the main subject of discussion yesterday. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to consider that the compensation was fair and reasonable, but I certainly do not consider it fair and reasonable. I do not think I have been called to Order in the House for 15 years and I have warned the Minister that he should be on the Government Front Bench tonight in view of what I intended to say, namely, that in my opinion the compensation is sheer robbery. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite are prepared to accept a statement such as that without protest. However, if they are not prepared to protest, there is no need for me to repeat it.

I should like to give one example with regard to a small road haulier who is to be nationalised under the Bill. The Government have referred to this question, as if they were dealing only with large and rich concerns. There are many small concerns; and in my own constituency there are many men who have just two or three lorries engaged on long-distance haulage. Take, for instance, the case of the man I have in mind. The firm is making £1,000 a year. He will get in compensation between three and five years' purchase which, at a middle figure, is £4,000; he may get another £2,000 for his two or three lorries, making a total of £6,000. If that fund is invested, even in speculative income, all he will get will be £200 to £300 a year in place of his £1,000. I know it will be said, "Yes, but his time will be his own." That would be a most unfair thing to say, because many of these men are 40, 50 or 60 years of age. How can they start again, probably in some new industry, at that age? The fact that their time is their own, in this case really means that they will have their time in poverty. They will be unemployed as a result of this Bill.

I have one or two other remarks to make, about which I have given warning to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, in reference to certain statements made by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech. However, apparently the right hon. Gentleman is determined not to worry about verifying any statement which is made, because neither he nor the Parliamentary Secretary has taken the trouble to be present, although they were warned by me personally that I intended to raise this matter. He said at the beginning of his speech that there was no need to worry how many firms were concerned. He went on to say: I anticipate that some 2,000 to 2,500 undertakings will be brought within the compulsory terms of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1630.] I am glad to see that the Minister has just come into the Chamber. I was drawing attention to his statement that only 2,000 to 2,500 firms would be taken over under the Bill, that being the number of long-distance road hauliers that were, in fact, controlled before. That estimate was based on a time when long distance was regarded as 60 miles. Now, firms engaged upon long distance will be regarded as all those who operate over 25 miles. I have gone to the trouble of checking the number of firms engaged primarily in long-distance haulage over 25 miles. They, in fact, number 10,000. If that is so, I think we are entitled to be told whether a large number of firms engaged almost exclusively in long-distance work are not to be taken over. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give me an answer.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman must have misunderstood me. This provision deals with those who will be taken over compulsorily and the majority of whose traffic is over the 40 mile limit. Our estimate—I quite agree one cannot give an accurate estimate, but it is approximate—is that that part of the Clause will affect from 2,000 to 2,500 undertakings.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the information I have is that that is the number of firms who were engaged, when the long-distance haul was one of over 60 miles? Does he mean that no more will be taken into the net when he has reduced the 60 mile limit to 40 miles?

Mr. Barnes

Again I would emphasise that this Clause applies only to those undertakings whose traffic is predominantly over 40 miles. There will be others that may be subject to severance, and those which have the right to opt into this scheme. This Clause, however, applies only to those whose traffic is, predominantly, over 40 miles.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I can only say that that will give good heart to a number of firms which, although dealing in long-distance haulage, apparently will not be taken over by the right hon. Gentleman. Otherwise, there will be no difference between 60 and 40 miles as far as the number to be brought into the net is concerned.

There are two other points which I think the right hon. Gentleman should have brought to the notice of the House. The first is, that the Government, in taking over these firms which are largely engaged in long-distance road haulage, are, apparently, to operate all their small distance business in competition with the small distance hauliers who are not to be brought into the nationalisation net. I think hon. Members should realise that the Government will also start engaging very actively in the short-distance business. In that case those who have seen this sort of thing grow from time to time are bound to realise that it is only a stage in a process, at the end of which the Government will eventually take over the whole of the transport, whether long-distance or short-distance. I presume the right hon. Gentleman acquiesces, when I say they will take over that short distance business, and run it in competition with those who have not yet been swallowed up. The second point is this. Although there are exceptions in the carriage of certain goods in certain industries, the Government will take over Carter Patersons and Pickfords. I gather those firms are both actively engaged in the carriage of many goods which are exempt under the provisions of the Bill. I think, therefore, the House should realise that those exemptions do not mean that the carriage of those particular goods will not be carried on by the State, but left to the firms who have done it so excellently and splendidly in the past. On the contrary, they are to be subject to the hot competition of the privileged State-run services.

Those are the two points I wish to bring to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he has not hurried over his meal or his cup of tea in order to come to listen to them. The hour is getting late, and I do not wish to keep the House much longer. After we have listened to this Debate for nearly three days I think we are entitled to say that the Opposition have proved this to be a thoroughly bad Bill. One of the reasons for the Bui, advanced time and time again by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that this must be an encouragement to the industry, and that they are going to do all this in order to help production. Yet I have a folder here full of letters from industrialists, great and small, all of whom damn the Bill. There is not one in favour of it. So why thrust it down their throats? Why force the patient to have medicine he does not want? [HON. MEMBERS: "Because it is good for him."] Well, I would rather leave the trader to decide what is good for him, than accept the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman and of hon. Members opposite. Even the most optimistic say that the road haulage side of the Bill cannot be put into operation for five or six years—not even, perhaps, in the next 10 years, I have heard it said.

Sir P. Hannon

Not for a generation.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

Look at the cost. Look at the uncertainty that is bound to be felt by everybody engaged in this industry and by everybody who relies on transport. Look at those who are contemplating, or who were contemplating before this Bill was brought forward, the enlargement of their transport services, who were contemplating spending capital on improvements and on giving more facilities. What are they to do? They will sit down and say, "Sooner or later we are bound to be swallowed up, so we will just let it 'tick over'." Then the Government will, no doubt, say, "Look at the failure private enterprise is," without recognising that they were responsible, in many cases, for making it impossible for private enterprise to function efficiently. The Government will turn round to private enterprise and say, "Look how bad you are. We are going to take you over." Really, that does not wash.

We have here the question of the road haulage organisation. This was the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure upon the Government's undertaking: That the Ministry should immediately and closely re-examine the charges. Because they were too high. That the Ministry should re-examine the routine of the office work entailed with a view to simplifying it. That is what is required when the Government take over management. The Report said that close scrutiny should be made of the area haulage organisations, and, more particularly, of the unit controls, with a view to more economical use being made of the lorries and of their carrying capacity. That was what the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure said. It shows what happens when the Government attempt to run a transport organisation. It shows there was inefficiency; it shows the public did not get what they wanted; and it also shows that there was no economic use of the lorries. The Government organisation was necessary only at that time, because petrol and rubber had to be conserved.

As an agriculturist I see no prospects of improved transport for agriculture—with certain exceptions, for which I thank the Minister, in the case of the carriage of livestock. But what is to happen about the carriage of fruit and vegetables and eggs? What is to happen about the carriage of grain, and of cereals, and of wool, for which my part of the country is famous, to Yorkshire? The contact between the farmers and the carriage of their produce is a most intimate one. It varies from day to day. A storm today may mean that tomorrow one has to change entirely the type of produce to be sent. One may have to change markets at a moment's notice Does anyone imagine for one moment that under a State-run show, one could, at a moment's notice, change the vehicle, change the market, change the whole of the order one intended to give? It would be absolutely impossible. I do really think that agriculture, and the marketing of agricultural produce, are bound to suffer.

I admire the Government for having the courage of their convictions. But I am sorry for the public, because I have 110 faith whatever in the result. I have a great admiration for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister. We have worked and fought on Committees together. I ask for no more sporting opponent. But in my opinion the years will show that the public will as a result of this Bill get an indifferent service; that production, which, at this very moment, we should be stepping up for all we are worth, will be reduced; and that uncertainty will be increased. I think that, in four or five years' time—I say this, perhaps, with more kindness than my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft)—or in one year's or two years' or three years' time, but certainly eventually, we shall find the transport industry in a most unholy mess; and then we shall have to clear up that mess, and hand back transport to the people who previously ran it.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. Sparks (Acton)

I am very glad to have an opportunity of intervening in this Debate. I am exceptionally interested in the Measure, because for 28 years of my life I have been in the service of the Great Western Railway Company, and this industry has been my life's experience. Therefore, I welcome the Measure which the Government have introduced to bring transport under a form of public ownership. I want, in the brief time available to me, to make one or two remarks in regard to the industry with which I have been so long associated.

I was particularly interested in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) had to say. He paid a fitting tribute to the great work which the railways did for the nation during the war. They performed a very fine service to the country, and the efficiency of our railway transport system contributed, in no small measure, to the efficiency of our general organisation of the war effort. But the right hon. Gentleman claimed that this efficiency was maintained under a private enterprise organisation, and there, I believe, he is quite wrong; because I do not believe that the railway shareholders or the railway directors can claim any great share, so far as their responsibilities were concerned, in that magnificent wartime organisation. The efficiency with which our railway system operated during the war was due to the men who ran and operated the railways. It was due to the staffs and managements, and the way in which they were able to cooperate together to get the job done. The directors and shareholders were far in the background, and were, generally speaking, more concerned with profit making motives.

Sir P. Hannon

I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman but he must be aware that during the war, in the case of the Great Western Railway every one of its directors was engaged on important work of public interest and showed very valuable qualities?

Mr. Sparks

I am referring specifically to railway operation. I had often wondered, if a rate book was put in the hand of a director of a railway company, whether he would be able to tell me what would be the cost of carriage of a truck of coal. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why should he?"] Because I think he ought to understand the industry of which he purports to be a director. I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. During the war period, railway transport was so important to the life of the nation that it could not be entrusted to the four private companies which were nominally responsible for the industry. A form of national control had to be established, in order that the nation's interests, which were paramount, should prevail in regard to railway transport organisation. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman claims that the efficiency of the railways during the war period was due to the private enterprise form of organisation, I think he is wrong, because the form of organisation which saw us through the war successfully was a form of national control in the interests of the country, and as the railwaymen saw our nation through the perils of the war, so they will in the future see our Government through on this great Transport Bill.

A great change has taken place among the ranks of those who are generally known by the other side as "work people." When the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) was speaking yesterday about the great courage of British engineers and British railway companies in establishing and building up our railway system, I asked him what about the railwaymen, and where they came into the picture. I want to impress upon hon. Members on the other side that a very great and fundamental change has taken place in the outlook of the people whose labour runs the railways and makes them an efficient organisation. They are no longer hewers of wood and drawers of water; they are men whose livelihood, and the livelihood of whose families, is so intimately bound up with their industry that they are more concerned than ever they have been with questions of the management, control and efficient organisation of the industry upon which they depend. As a result of this change of outlook on the part of the railwaymen—and not only the railwaymen, but the workers in other industries—they are rapidly arriving at the conclusion that the time has come when their skill and energy shall be devoted to the public welfare rather than to the private interests of a small section of the community.

The public ownership of the transport system, in so far as it relates to railways, is really a logical step which would have had to be taken ultimately as a result of the development and regrouping of the railways under the 1921 Act. The 1921 Act was a great step forward in the organisation and efficiency of the railways, and when the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) said just now that he was opposed to public and private monopoly in any form, I wondered whether he realised that the railways are, essentially, a private monopoly. If he is going to carry the principles of private enterprise and competition to their logical conclusion, he must agree to go back to the era before 1921, when there were about 130 separate railway companies, all fighting each other for the traffic of the country. We realise that not one hon. Member on that side would attempt to champion a return to that state of affairs; the grouping of the railways into four main units was an inevitable step in the evolution of our transport system, and the proposals of the Government at the present time are a logical consequence of that step.

The House might be interested in a very important quotation, made by Sir Eric Geddes, when he was Minister of Transport, on the Second Reading of the Railways Bill, from the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the railways which was established in 1911. I know that is rather a long time ago, but this quotation is as apt today as it was in those days. This is on the authority of a Committee of Inquiry set up specifically for this purpose: The effects of the limited degree of competition still existing between railway companies are not necessarily to the public advantage, and. having regard to the fact that much of the unnecessary burden which competition undoubtedly imposes upon the companies themselves, is likely in the long run to be passed on in one form or another to the public, we cannot doubt that the balance of advantage, not only to the railway companies, but also to the country, would be found to attach to a properly regulated extension of co-operation rather than to a revival of competition. With the coming of the 1921 Railways Act, and the putting into operation of the proposals it contained, there were very considerable improvements in operating efficiency. For instance, during the 25 years which have elapsed since the passing of that Act the number of company owned mineral and merchandise vehicles has been reduced by 65,114, but despite this reduction, the tonnage capacity of wagons in use has increased by one million tons. The average wagon capacity today therefore is 2.49 tons greater than it was in 1921. The average wagon load has increased from 5.34 tons to 7.44 tons, in other words the average loaded wagon today carries 2.1 tons more of goods and commodities than it did in 1921. So far as empty haulage is concerned, this in 1920 was 29.26 and last year it was 25.44, a big reduction. The average length of haul of traffic increased from 57.73 miles to 77.33 miles, an increased haul of 19.60.

Again, there has been a very great increase in the productivity of labour on the railways. During the past 25 years the number of railway staff has been decreased by 113,500, in other words railway staffs are 15.4 per cent. less than they were in 1921. Nevertheless net ton miles—and here I might explain that net ton miles is a formula devised to measure the volume and density of railway traffic—have increased from 13,564,000,000 to 22,023,000,000, an increase of 62.3 per cent. Measured in terms of the productivity of the average railwayman, it means that 18,433 net ton miles were carried by the railways per railwayman, in 1921, as compared with 35,402 for 1945, or an increase in productivity of labour of 92 per cent. These have been substantial advantages in operating efficiency. I would say to those who think that railwaymen are being exceptionally well paid, that the average earnings of the conciliation staffs was ins. 3d. a week, in 1945, which is 13s. 1d. below the average wage per week for all trades in the country. In the case of all railwaymen employed on the railways, their average earnings were 116s. 10d., in 1945, which is 7s. 6d. below the average rate per week for all trades in the country.

Sir P. Hannon

Are not wages of railwaymen of all grades adjusted by the National Wages Board representing both sides of the industry? Are there any complaints?

Mr. Sparks

They are adjusted, but not always to our satisfaction. We confidently look forward to public ownership as a means of improving or helping to improve the standard of living of the people who run the railways. After all is said and done, the criterion of any publicly owned system must be that it pays its people, upon whose labours the industry depends, a reasonable wage to provide a reasonable standard of living. In passing, I would mention that quite a number of very competent and able people, in the clerical and operative grades, are leaving the railways because of the poor standards offered as compared with those in other concerns. More than 25,000 highly skilled railway workers have left the industry since the Essential Work Order was withdrawn a few months ago. When hon. Members put questions to the Minister of Transport about the late running of trains between certain points in the country, and about delays in goods traffic, the fundamental difficulty is the shortage of experienced and skilled staff who are not being paid sufficient to retain them in the railway industry.

I wish to refer to what I consider to be two very serious respects in which the railways are technically backward at the present time. We have heard very little in the House about electrification of our railway systems. In 1929, the Minister of that day appointed a Committee for the specific purpose of inquiring into electrification of our railway systems, and that Committee recommended a general electrification of the main railway systems, mainly on account of increased speed. It was anticipated, for instance, that electrification would save three-quarters of an hour on a steam freight journey of three and three-quarter hours. What progress has been made in this direction by the railways during this period? The G.W.R., in 1921, had eight electrified route miles, and in 1938 they had not increased that figure by one mile. Their record is the most deplorable of all the companies on this question of electrification. The L.M.S. electrified route miles were increased from 97, in 1921, to 124, which is not very much. The L.N.E.R. had 56 miles in 1921, and that figure has gone down to 51. The London Passenger Transport Board increased their figure from 96 to 125, and the Southern Railway, upon whose system two-thirds of the electrified route miles are situated, increased their figure from 87, in 1921, to 622 in 1938. If the Southern Railway could introduce electrification to that extent, it passes my comprehension why the other three main-line companies could not do the same thing. The fact of the matter is that out of the total route miles of the whole country, only 4.79 per cent. are electrified.

I should also like to mention the question of speed. Speed is very important, because it is the main commodity which the railway companies have to offer to the public. The Royal Commission on Transport, in 1930, in their final Report, stated: The railways had lost passenger traffic by failing to make full use of their capacity for speed. It is certainly remarkable that there has been practically no improvement in locomotive speeds in this country during the last 80 years. What improvements have been made in speed during the past 25 years? In 1920, per passenger train-hour, the average speed was 13.04 miles. In 1945, the passenger train-hour mileage was 13.86—that is taking the average, including slow and fast trains. The increase in passenger train speed is .82 miles, which is very small indeed. So far as freight train traffic is concerned, the average miles per freight train-hour was 7.83 in 1920, which fell to 7.44 miles last year. These two points need great consideration by the new transport undertaker. I feel sure there is no improvement we can expect in operating efficiency except by a system of public ownership. In this connection, the railway companies have issued a very interesting booklet, called "British Railways in the Future," in which they put forward the developments and improvements they intend to carry out. I am inclined to think that had there been no prospect of this Bill, we should not have heard Anything about these so-called improvements, which are considerable and creditable to the companies.

The fact of the matter is that they simply cannot get the capital to carry them out. The railway companies have had to beg in the past, and a railway finance corporation had to be set up to loan the money, because the railways could not get sufficient money by way of public subscription. The Government have sponsored, through financial corporations, the lending of £62¼ millions to the railways for development, and have guaranteed the rate of interest at 2¾ per cent. I think it will be clearly appreciated by everyone interested in the transport problem, that we can hope for a far greater degree of efficiency through publicly owned enterprise.

I conclude with a quotation. I hope the House will excuse me for making it, but I think it is important, as it comes from a gentleman who knows more than I do about this question, despite my lengthy service with the Great Western Railway. I think his opinions are as worthy of consideration as those of any Member opposite. This is the opinion of Mr. William Whitelaw, who was Chairman of the L.N.E.R. In a statement which he made on 29th December, 1937, he said: It appears to me that any political argument against State ownership is demolished by the facts of the situation. I have also no doubt that eventually State ownership is inevitable. My reasons for wishing to see State ownership are as simple as would be the actual transaction. Perhaps the chief advantage would be the elimination of wasteful competition. Some of this has disappeared, but we still see the running of unnecessary trains, the maintenance of unnecessary works and shunting sheds and depots in the same towns, and the competition between road and rail systems, which is often detrimental to both interests. There is no doubt in my mind that State ownership would result in rationalisation and improvement which would reduce the cost of competition in passenger and industrial transport. It should be remembered that much extension and improvement of the present railway systems is being carried out by money advanced by the Government. The money is in the course of being spent on schemes for which the railways alone could not have paid. There has never been a time when there has been greater need for a general reconsideration of the whole transport problem. And this, as it affects both road and rail, must be regarded not in a piecemeal fashion, but as a great national responsibility. I would thank hon. Members for having allowed me to trespass upon their time—rather too long perhaps—to put these points. I have tried, during these three days past to make a contribution to the Debate, and I hope I shall be forgiven if I have gone a little beyond my allotted time.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)

I hope the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his informative speech, but I must go on to what I have to say in the seven minutes which remain to me. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) touched today on the port and harbour questions which arise out of this Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities pointed out certain dangers that lie in some of its provisions, but said that the Bill is permissive. One is left in considerable doubt, therefore, as to the intentions of the Government with regard to ports and harbours. The Bill itself, in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, says, in the first paragraph, that its object is to— … set up in Great Britain a publicly owned system of inland transport (other than by air) and of port facilities. If we turn to page in we find a definition of port facilities. They mean—and I ask the House to note this— … the constructing, improving, maintaining, regulating, managing, marking or lighting of a harbour or any part thereof, the berthing, towing, moving or dry-docking of a ship which is in, or is about to enter, or has recently left a harbour, the loading or unloading of goods, or embarking or disembarking of passengers in or from any such ship, the lighterage or the sorting, weighing, warehousing or handling of goods in a harbour. How many Members who are not paying close attention to this Bill realise how far the Government's powers go in this Measure? If I had had the time I would have liked to describe in some detail what happens when a ship enters harbour, how everybody concerned with the operation of that ship is on his toes. The berth must be arranged, tugs and pilots; stevedores have to get their men and equipment ready, the receivers of the cargo must see that lorries are available, and that trucks and railways wagons are there; check-weighers and tallymen must be on the spot. The whole operation is a most vital and coordinated piece of work and can be carried out only by men at the peak of efficiency, men who are willing to answer telephones day and night. That happens because ships must get to sea quickly, because the shorter the time the ship is in port the lower the costs are, and also because the ship is often working against dates to pick up the next cargo. I ask the House whether they think that kind of operation could possibly be handled efficiently by any kind of monopoly, public or private?

Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

Is it not done in major ports?

Mr. Maclay

If there are any signs of a monopoly the first people to get after it are the shipowners. I have a personal interest in this subject, because I am a shipowner, and I am speaking, to a certain extent on their behalf. We are opposed to monopolies, whether they be public or private, in anything to do with ports.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to two extraordinary Clauses which give powers to set up—well, we do not know what kind of monopoly. If Members look at Clauses 70 and 71 they will find that schemes may be promoted for all sorts of things. Unlike the case of passenger road transport, where the interests concerned are consulted before schemes are put forward to the Minister, when it comes to docks and harbours there is no provision for prior consultation with the interests concerned. I hope that when this Bill comes to the Committee stage this will be considered, and that if there are schemes to be put forward to the Minister they will be put forward only after the fullest consultation with all concerned. There is also power to licence people before they can provide facilities in a port and penalties for anyone who dares to do a job in a port without permission—

Mr. Keenan

Are not stevedores already licensed, for that purpose?

Mr. Maclay

If the hon. Member will study the Bill he will see that the intention is to prevent new people coming into the harbours. If that is not so then I hope we shall be told, because it would remove an enormous load from our minds. We say that efficiency can only be kept at a high pitch if there is competition. The Parliamentary Secretary in his speech—and I would like to thank him for his courtesy in giving way to me three times —rather surprised me by saying that he was surprised that shipowners were objecting to this Bill. He used certain quotations from certain documents put out by the Chamber of Shipping several years ago. This is all great fun. He has one document, I manage to get another, then he caps it and I have to go on chasing his. He stated that the Chamber of Shipping, 16 years ago, produced a report on port facilities, in which they made certain recommendations and said that certain improvements were desirable. I am informed, on good authority, that in the 10 years from the issue of that report, to the outbreak of war practically 90 per cent. of the recommendations of the Chamber of Shipping were carried out by the docks authorities, working in exactly the form in which they are working in today, not nationalised. Let me be clear. We all know that improvements are still necessary in the docks and harbours of this country. It may even mean some form of State assistance. Members on the Government side say that only nationalisation can do the trick. We are utterly unconvinced. No person who is interested in the trade of this country which flows either in or out of the ports and harbours, whether shipowners, traders or others, believes that this Bill can possibly do anything but damage to the trade of the country in the future.

8.31 p.m.

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

We have now arrived at the last round of what has been a prolonged three days' discussion of this Measure. I do not think that the Lord President himself would maintain for a moment that the Opposition Were unjustified in asking for three days, or, indeed, that the Government were unwise to grant it. A Measure of this kind certainly justifies the consideration which has been given to it.

I would like to start by referring to almost the only aspect of this three days' Debate on which there has been agreement on both sides of the House. Wide though the divergencies are, as this Debate has shown, there is one issue upon which we are all agreed. This is the most important legislative Measure of the present Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "Up to date."] I do not think that the Gadarene swine could get much further, or over the precipice they would go. It is, for the moment, I agree, the most important. If passed into law this Bill will affect the fortunes of British industry and of the British nation for many years to come, because transport enters into every aspect of industry and private life. So I say that no Bill could be of greater concern to our industry, and to the average citizen of this country. That is one of the subjects upon which we are agreed.

Therefore, the dominant reflection which has been forced on to my mind, as I have listened to this three days' Debate, is that there can be no Measure which more closely affects the livelihood and future prospects of a great section of His Majesty's subjects. Where does that lead? To the fact that we are dealing in this Bill with a wide variety of problems which cover, for instance, municipalities and other local and public authorities, and an infinite number of individual livelihoods, to say nothing of their unparalleled complexity, which, I think, even the right hon. Gentleman will admit. If all these arguments are accepted, then I say to the House that these factors make it absolutely indispensable that this Bill should be taken on the Floor of this House. I submit to the Leader of the House that there is no other way in which Parliament can fulfil its duty to the nation.

The Bill itself is long, involved and difficult for the layman to study, yet we will have perceived that its examination aroused, even before this Debate opened, widespread anxiety in quarters which have never been regarded, since this Parliament met, as hostile to the Government. Articles in such newspapers as "The Times," the Government's staunchest supporter, the "Manchester Guardian," the next most faithful, the "Economist"—none of these articles in these newspapers can, I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit, be lightly set aside as either partisan, or as merely reactionary Tory prejudice. So it was that, having examined the criticisms of the Bill before the opening of this three days' Debate, we all listened to the Minister's opening speech, hoping that we should hear some answers to the questions that have been in the mind of everyone who has attempted to study the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman completely failed to give these answers. He gave us virtually no information that was not already available in the unhappy context of the Bill itself. He said nothing to justify the nationalisation of this industry, except, of course, that the electors had put hon. Members opposite into power; but the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit that that is not in itself a conclusive reason for passing any particular Bill. The nationalisers have to prove their case in every specific instance, and I look to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who is to reply tonight, to prove this case.

Still less did the Minister show why this particular form of nationalisation which is before the House tonight is going to be of any assistance, at this particular time, to British industry in the vital struggle which now confronts it to hold its position in the markets of the world. A few days ago the President of the Board of Trade made what I thought was both a realistic and a courageous speech to the leaders of British industry. He did not attempt to minimise the difficulties that lie ahead if we are to raise the level of exports and to maintain a fair standard of living for our people. I had supposed that the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech introducing the Bill, would relate this Bill in some way to that necessity which his colleague had. described. He did absolutely nothing of the kind. There was not a mention throughout the speech of how it was going to assist in this effort which has to be made for increased exports. If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me saying so, his speech, although agreeable, was a vague and academic discourse which might have been made by any theorist at any time, and I was not at all surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) say that the Minister must have found it in the pigeon holes.

I will try to sum up, at the end of this long Debate, our detailed criticisms and the points upon which we still ask for replies from the Government. First of all, I would point out that never in peacetime has so much power been given to any Minister under any Bill. I have a feeling that the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, the Minister of Fuel and Power, must be getting almost restive about the powers, which his right hon. colleague has in this Bill. Despite the Chancellor's observations about the Leader of the House, the Minister of Fuel and Power was the dictator in that row of Ministers until tonight, but if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport gets a Second Reading for this Bill, he will be on the way to far surpassing the Minister of Fuel and Power in the powers which he will enjoy. Almost the only fact which emerges from this Bill is that the Minister's power is virtually unlimited. Everything else is nebulous.

Despite the Parliamentary Secretary's assurance earlier today, I must tell him that the Commission's position seems to us to be profoundly unsatisfactory. They are nominated by the Minister, but they do not—and I ask the attention of the House to this—in their turn nominate the Executives who, we were told this afternoon, are to act as their operative agents. There will be consultation, the right hon. Gentleman says. No doubt, but the nomination of the Executives rests with the Minister, as does the nomination of the Commission, and yet on the Executives will fall the day-to-day responsibility for the execution of the policy over which the Commission are, apparently, to brood at leisure. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, where is integration here? Whoever be appointed on the Executives, clearly the major part of the business will be done by the Executives' staffs, who will be the experts specialising in their own form of transport. That being so, in whatever form the scheme may be, the real power under this Bill will rest, apart from the Minister, with the Executives and not with this Commission, and the whole effect of this part of the Bill leaves the impression on our minds that there will not be any effective integrating at any level lower than the Minister himself. My forecast of what the right hon. Gentleman will find is that the Executives will be strong and the Commission will prove to be too weak.

Let us turn for a moment to the other end of the scale. What is to be the organisation below the level of the Executives? We have not yet been told. What we have been told, if I understood aright the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport this afternoon, is that the areas as they are known now and as they are now served by the railways will not continue How is the responsibility for the areas at present served by the existing companies going to be distributed? There is nothing about that in the Bill. And how is it going to be worked, as it has to be worked out according to the terms of the Bill, by the time the existing companies cease to exist a year from now? I forecast that the right hon. Gentleman is going to find that an impossible task.

I come to another aspect and that is, What is the position of the trader tinder the Bill? The Minister of Transport said on Monday night—and it was repeated today by the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary—that the customer will still have a choice between forms of transport. I want to probe that just a little further, because it is of the utmost importance to industry. Where is that laid down in the Bill? I ask the Lord President of the Council, when he comes to reply tonight, to give me an answer to that question. I have not found it, but what I have found is the quotation from the Trades Union Congress—the father and the mother of the Bill, as it has been called—which quotation was read by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth in his brilliant speech tonight. The purpose of that quotation is absolutely clear, that there should be no opportunity to the trade to have alternative customers to whom they can turn except perhaps for a little while as a face saving device. Say the Government, "We must pretend for a while that there is an alternative choice before the trader; then it must lapse." We should like to know. We are also told: The Government can achieve most cheaply and most thoroughly by a completely co-ordinated service in which the consumer does not specify the form of transport … I do not want to read it all again, but if we are right in out reading of that quotation it is quite clear that the Trades Union Congress did not contemplate the continuation of alternative opportunities for the trader. We want to know where the Government are in that respect.

Here I must tell the House and the Government a national aspect of this problem which disturbs me, if the Government are going to proceed by the methods foreshadowed in this Bill, and I I might carry the Lord President of the Council with me, at least with regard to the history of this. There can be no doubt that the development of the canals in this country suffered from the rivalry of the railways. They suffered because the railways, to a large extent, took over the canals, and they certainly did not take steps to foster the competition of this rival form of transport. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad we are agreed about that.

May I tell the House what is happening under this Bill? I think that the Government are assuming an immense vested interest in the railways, financial and political. There will certainly be great pressure upon them to ensure the prosperity of the railways, even at the expense of essential rival means of transport, especially the roads, and when one considers how enormous has been the development of road transport, even in our lifetime—from the day some of us can remember when a man with a red flag had to walk before any motor transport vehicle upon the road, until now—it is, from the national standpoint, alarming to reflect that the political and financial pressure on the Government will all be on the side of the railways as against the roads. Certainly there is nothing in the Bill to prevent such a practice, nor any form of accounting which would enable that practice to be checked.

The second point which is of the utmost importance to traders—it has been raised before but I wish to press it further tonight—is the freedom of the "C" licence holders. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how it is possible to justify the restriction of the "C" licensee. Is anybody really going to accept what the right hon. Gentleman said earlier about traders using their own vans to sabotage the Commission? I heard the hon. Gentleman's explanation, but if the Commission can provide better and cheaper transport, of course, the traders will use it. They are not going to cut off their noses to spite their faces. In fact, the Parliamentary Secretary disposed of this himself when he told us this afternoon that it would be the job of the Commission to provide a service so cheap and efficient that traders would prefer it to using their own vehicles. All right. If he admits that cheapness and efficiency are the reasons which determine traders in their choice of transport, why does he have to protect the Commission with these restrictions on "C" licence holders? Let it be fair competition.

There is another aspect of the "C" licence problem which the Government have really only partly faced. I listened to the hon. Gentleman's retort to the Leader of the Liberal Party below the Gangway, but at least he did not meet our criticism. Let me give an example—that of the special carrier, which I choose because it is of great importance in the rural areas and is not unknown to hon. Members who represent rural constituencies. Take the corn and grain merchants. What happens? Has the right hon. Gentleman read the statement in which they outline their case for exclusion from this Bill? It is a very powerful case. I understand that during the war the Government of the day, quite rightly, made an examination as to how work of this kind was done. At that time they were considering whether the Government ought not to take over the work for the period of the war, and the Ministry of Food—as I think the right hon. Gentleman will find if he asks them—decided not to take over the work those merchants were doing since they were so well organised already that only a relatively small percentage of the return carriage was empty. In conclusion of this part of my argument, what I ask the right hon. Gentleman to face is this. Without much wider exclusion of perishable products than the Bill at present allows, essential parts of our national economy, and particularly our food producing economy, are going to suffer most severely because this organisation of corn merchants, which works in large parts of the rural areas of this country, carries these perishable foodstuffs. As at present arranged under the Bill they will not have the scope or the freedom which they enjoy today and which they must command.

I come now to the position of "A" and "B" licensees under this Bill, but before I come to that subject, there is one more thing I want to say about the "C" licensees. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, What is the explanation of the figure of 40 miles? Why that limitation? Why not 50, or 60 or 70 miles? What is the magic in this figure? Conditions vary widely in different parts of the country, and it is incomprehensible to me, from what I know of rural areas in my constituency and in other parts of the country, to imagine on what basis the figure "40" has been chosen. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us some explanation, or, better still, will tell us that that limitation will be taken out of the Bill.

Now I turn to the "A" and "B" licensees. The Government may say that the "A" and "B" licensees can still offer their services within a 25-mile radius. As I always regard the right hon. Gentleman as a fair controversialist—

Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)


Mr. Eden

Because I do; and if I put this question to him there is some chance of getting the answer I want. I put this point to him. Is it a fair basis of competition? Would he consider it a fair basis, for instance, between himself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Government organisation, with all its resources, is able to operate against these "A" and "B" licensees, while it is unlimited in respect of its radius of operation? Would the right hon. Gentleman really consider that point? We were told this afternoon that "A" and "B" licensees could always apply for permission to operate more than the 25 miles. What is the use of that? If they apply, they can only apply to the Commission, their own competitor in business. The only conclusion we can draw from this situation—the conclusion that I do draw—is that the Government want to put the private haulier entirely out of business. If that is what the Government want to do, it would be fairer and juster for them to say so.

On this point I want to trouble the House with a quotation from a newspaper. [An HON. MEMBER: "Another one?"] The first one that I have used. I have not used one before. There may be others yet. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this quotation. It seems to sum up the case against this part. of the Bill: A study of Part V of the Bill shows that transport users would have no means of ensuring a fair deal. The Rates Tribunal would be reduced to a mockery by eliminating all the local, private goods transport. The scheme will remove the most powerful incentive to progress at a time when far-reaching capital changes in both road and tail transport are taking place. It would finally deprive the public once and for all of any power to measure the real state of transport efficiency. I think that is a good summing up of this part of the Bill. It is not from a Tory paper but from the "Manchester Guardian." I invite the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply tonight, to give us his answer. I do not know what effect this will have below the Gangway.

I ask the Government if they will tell us what they have not yet told us. What are the positive economic advantages the Bill will give the nation, especially in those two particular respects? How will the Bill bring about operative and administrative economy? Can we be given some examples of the economies that will be effected under the Bill, and which could have been effected in no other way? It is really no use the right hon. Gentleman trying to justify, as he tried yesterday, the inclusion of ports in the Bill by referring to their need of new equipment. What industry, from the dairy industry to the Board of Trade, does not need new equipment today? They all need some new equipment. Of course, they do, but integration—now the favourite word on Government platforms—does not, merely by pronouncing the word, bring economies.

The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that it is possible for organisations to be too large as well as too numerous and too small for efficiency, and a great many people in this country had begun to think that our existing railway companies were fully large enough. So I say not that the Government are unjustified in seeking integration, but that they have to show us how the integration they are going to carry out will produce economies and increase managerial efficiency. Of that we have had absolutely no evidence at all. The right hon. Gentleman will remember, even if his colleagues do not, that the only economic justification for this Bill is greater efficiency and lower costs We should like to be shown how these are to come about under this Bill.

I now ask the right hon. Gentleman the other question. What is to be the basis of the Commission's charges? On what principle are the new rate structures to be built. Taking the Bill as a whole, this question is the most important for trade and industry in this country—

Mr. H. Morrison

indicated assent.

Mr. Eden

I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me. The Minister the other day criticised the complexity of the present rate structure. He refused, however, to give us any information at all as to the Government's views on this matter which is of cardinal importance. This afternoon the Parlia- mentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport admitted that the Government had not even begun to think about this problem and the principle which is to underly the rate structure. It is a most extraordinary state of affairs to bring this Bill before the House with the most important individual item in it completely undecided and, at the same time, to refuse all kinds of inquiry on the aspects, of the Bill as a whole, but to say that this particular cardinal matter is going to be inquired into by the Government—

Mr. Barnes

By the Commission.

Mr. Eden

I am surprised to hear that, because under the Bill the Minister will give the Commission directions on matters that are in the national interest—surely, a wide enough phrase. He will also be able to give his directions to overrule the Transport Tribunal. I submit to the House—and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention to this question—that if there is a single matter within the purview of this Bill which is of national interest for transport it is, surely, this question of charges, and if there is a single matter in the set-up of this Bill which is essentially a matter for the Ministry, it is this question of charges. Yet the Minister has no ideas in respect of charges, he says, and despite his wide powers he is going to remit all this to the Commission without first telling Parliament the Government's ideas. The House cannot regard that as quite a satisfactory way to leave this cardinal and most important part of the Bill. I hope the Minister will tell us something more about charges tonight.

If the Government have not produced arguments to justify the Bill, they have certainly heaped plenty of abuse on our existing railway system. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said last night that the railways are a disgrace to this country.

Mr. Gallacher

We agree with that all right.

Mr. Eden

I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman make that statement. Has he already forgotten, the war and the immense contribution made by the railways towards winning the war?

Mr. Kirkwood

Was it not the railway workers?

Mr. Eden

Of course, it was the railway workers. I agree, but it was not only the railway workers—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who else?"] If the railway companies had not shown some foresight, would the staff have had the tools to carry out their job? I say this—and I will establish what I say if the House will listen—that the efficiency of the prewar organisation of the railways and the high standard at which their lines and rolling stocks had been maintained before the war, despite the difficulties which they suffered from industrial depression, enabled them to meet the heavy demands arising out of the war. I would say this—I ask the hon. Gentleman to challenge it if he disagrees, but I believe it to be true—that before the war the permanent way and steam locomotives of the British railways were recognised as the finest in the world.

Mr. Walkden (Doncaster)

Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt? Is he not aware that on one particular railway, at least, most of the railway engines are now known to be nearly 40 years old?

Mr. Eden

I am coming to the question of railway engines. There is quite a lot to say about the Government's part in that. What I am saying at the moment, however, is that if the railways had been the inefficient organisation, the derisory organisation which the Chancellor described them as being last night, they could not possibly have played the splendid part they did in the war. There I stand. Let me add this—the right hon. Gentleman will probably remember but he can turn it up—that during the war on three separate occasions the United States Government, on their own suggestion, sent over experts to inquire into the working of our railways and to see if they could send help. Lord Leathers has told me that those men told him that they were so impressed by the management, and the way the railways were run, that they had absolutely no suggestions of any kind to make. Would it not have been fairer to say that, instead of trying to depress the article because the Chancellor wants to buy it?

If the right hon. Gentleman wants a final piece of evidence, let him turn up in the Cabinet files—I suppose it is there somewhere, for it was made public—General Eisenhower's tribute to the way these railways were managed and run during the war. The right hon. Gentleman made a lot of play about the present arrears of maintenance and obsolescence of some of the railway equipment. It has been suggested that the railways are not in a position now to finance the necessary renewals. In fact the Chancellor said so last night. What are the facts? The arrears of maintenance on the railways are at present piling up—

Mr. Walkden

Hear, hear.

Mr. Eden

Yes, but not because the railways have not got the money to pay for the renewals; they are piling up because they cannot get the necessary materials sanctioned for their ordinary maintenance work. I do not say the Government are wrong not to give that sanction, but where I say they are wrong is in blaming the railways for not doing what they themselves are preventing them from doing.

Let the House see what is the present position. The balance of the reserve fund of the railways is accumulating at this moment. Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have known, or someone at the Treasury could have told him? Would the right hon. Gentleman like to know what it is now? About £200 million set aside for depreciation by the railways for arrears of maintenance and renewals, and a further £40 million which are claims of the railways against the Chancellor of the Exchequer for extra wartime wear and tear. That is what, there is, and the railways cannot get sufficient steel or materials to construct their rolling stock or repair their lines.

Now for locomotive construction. It is quite true, of course, that locomotive construction has been curtailed to enable more repairs to be carried out. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct in that, but the construction of locomotives in outside workshops for export has been given priority over construction for the British railways. Again I do not say that is wrong; it may be right; it is arguable that you must export your locomotives even at the expense of your railways because it may be that dollar necessities drive you to it. What is wrong is to take no account of those factors when attacking the railways. I am told that there are, at this moment, 400 heavy engines belonging to the Ministry of Supply that have been idle ever since the end of the war, because they cannot be repaired in the overloaded railway workshops, and no arrangement has been made by the Ministry of Supply to get them repaired anywhere else Is that so? That is what I am told is the position. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer says it is a disagreeable thing to travel about in this country now, there are two reasons. The first is the war strain that was put on the railways, and the second is because the Ministry of Supply will not let the railways get on with the job. Then there are the railway stations. I agree that many of these railway stations are admittedly monuments of Victorian gloom. But, does that really apply only to those particular buildings, of that particular date? Is it not also true of post offices? Is it not true of museums, and even of some Government Departments? The right hon. Gentleman himself has been wise enough to move out from the neighbourhood of the Palmerstonian Foreign Office to Berkeley Square.

A lot of time was devoted yesterday to the question of compensation, and I am not going to say much about that. The case put forward by the Chancellor did nothing to allay the resentment, and widespread sense of injustice, which have been caused by the Government's compensation proposals. We regard them as confiscation of income for many who could ill-afford it, and confiscation of livelihood for many who have done nothing to deserve it. However much the Government may argue the technicalities, and however specious their arguments are on price compensation, they cannot get away from the fact that they are doing by this Bill much injustice to many who have done them and this country no harm at all. So far, in this Debate Government spokesmen have said nothing that in any way leads us on these Benches to modify our opinion that this Bill is ill-conceived, ill-considered and ill-timed. So far from reducing costs, or increasing efficiency, it is liable to increase the overhead burden of transport charges throughout the whole of British trade and industry at a time when, by the admission of the Government themselves, it is vital for us to eliminate every unnecessary item in our production drive. We say that the structure of this British Transport Commission, as outlined in the Bill, confirms these apprehensions. What this Bill does in truth is to erect this Commission as a kind of facade, and leave the practical operation of transport to a series of organisations which, although they are now called "executives," do no more than continue the existing functions which the Government regard as disintegration, and of which they themselves have complained.

It is clear enough that it is the intention of the Government under this Bill to perpetuate this system for so long a time as it takes them to discover a transport policy for themselves, and this, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, may be a pretty long process. Meanwhile, the uncertainty the Government are creating and the injustice they are perpetrating, are hindering that expansionist economy and indispensable increase of production, upon which the life of the nation depend. It is my utter conviction that this Bill, as at present drafted, if it should pass into law, will be nothing less than a major national disaster. If the Government are really determined to nationalise the railways, let them do it in a Bill which has a chance of working and not by one which has been, riddled by every critic and every person who is not already in the Government Lobby as an ardent supporter. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to take the advice given to him earlier in the discussion to withdraw this Measure, and to produce something better 'in its place.

9.10 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

I think my hon. Friends, as well as hon. Gentlemen opposite, would wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) on having finished the Debate for his side with a good, resounding, fighting speech to which all of us, including myself, listened with great pleasure, even though we did not wholly agree with it. If, by comparison, I am mild and gentle, I ask to be forgiven, in the hope that nobody will provoke me into fiery strains similar to those of the right hon. Gentleman, because contrast in debate is all to the good. This has been an interesting three days' Debate. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are all agreed about one thing—that this is the most important Bill yet introduced by this Government. I would not commit myself to that, because there are many of my colleagues sitting on these benches, and they may all think that their own Bills were the most important. But I agree that this is an exceedingly important and powerful Bill. Whether we agree with it or not, it is a Bill of great significance. We both recognise that the provision of three days for the Debate a very exceptional arrangement, and it was in very exceptional circumstances — circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman recognises as exceptional—that three days were allotted.

Certainly the Debate in the House has been a hard-hitting one, on both sides, and I have never known, on any Bill introduced by this Government, or indeed by any other Government for quite a long time, such a vigorous campaign conducted in the country as we have seen on this Bill. Somehow or other, suddenly, out of the night, all sorts of organisations came into action, almost as if somebody, somewhere—I suspect the address—had pushed a button. And I believe that brand new organisations came into existence. It may be that this Transport Users' Committee, about which I have been hearing, is an old established firm. If so, my memory fails me, but I have a feeling it was brought into being specially for the occasion. I do not remember a campaign conducted with such vigour since the campaign against the Licensing Bill of the Liberal Government in the early years of this century. It has certainly been most vigorous. The road haulage people, part of whose communication as regards the metropolitan district was quoted by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, and who have also had a Yorkshire edition—the South Yorkshire area—have been very vigorous and have been good customers of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. The organisation have been very helpful to all their members, who were asked to send telegrams. I regret this tendency to standardisation, even of language. I regret the effort to act against the individuality of the citizen. They asked their members to protest to Members of Parliament and I am sorry to see that they went on to suggest the actual words in which the telegram should be communicated to Members of Parliament. It is true that they introduced some variety, but it is a standardised variety. All their members are advised in this circular as follows: Below are a few suggestions if you are in doubt as to the wording of your telegram … I admit that here individualism comes back— but it will be better if you use your own wording. This is the specimen of wording for the telegram: Please vote against disastrous Transport Bill

Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)

We have heard this once already.

Mr. Morrison

Well, the hon. Gentleman can hear it again now. I want him to take this back to the next Oxford Union debate. Other suggested specimens are: Expect you to throw out uneconomical Transport Bill. Request you oppose unworkable Transport Bill. It seems that some people have not heard this before. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is having a good time. Listen to the song that is in his heart. Then they go on: Demand"— [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) should not be so depressed:

Demand you smash unjust Transport Bill. Demand you condemn iniquitous Transport Bill. Then it adds: or, if it is preferred, 'damnable Transport Bill' and/or 'tyrannical Transport Bill'. Well, there it is. A good time has been had by all and now we vote upon the Second Reading of the Bill. In the course of my observations I think I shall take up, and comment upon, all the main points that have been made, at any rate in the course of today's Debate. I cannot promise to deal with every one of them, because there will not be time, but I will do my best.

Mr. Hogg

The right hon. Gentleman has wasted time already.

Mr. Morrison

The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington in a passing reference—it would not have done for it to be any more than that—has said that this Bill is of such great importance that it ought to be taken on the Floor of the House. It is curious that although the Leader of the Opposition got excited about the constitutional character of this Bill, no speaker from the Opposition Front Bench, or from anywhere else, as far as I know, has attempted to show that the Bill deals with fundamental constitutional issues. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Bur- gess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) has said that this Bill has been condemned by "The Times", the "Economist" and so on, and that in fact nobody has a good word to say for it. We have a lot of good words to say for it and so have a good many newspapers; but, as a matter of fact, the policy behind the Bill was actually supported by the "Economist" when it said this: To regard transport as one whole appears so evident today that past resistance to this principle is the more surprising. It is obvious that this principle of regarding transport as a whole and the technical integration which follows it can only be achieved by some form of unification of ownership.

Sir A. Salter

With great respect, I did mention the "Economist" and I quoted what the "Economist" said when it had seen this Bill—

Mr. Morrison

I am coming to that.

Sir A. Salter

It criticised the actual structure of this Bill, and gave the considered opinion, after examination, that the benefits were doubly hypothetical.

Mr. Morrison

I was coming to that in a moment. I have quoted what the "Economist" said.

Hon. Members


Mr. Morrison

I will tell the House when. It is perfectly true that it was before the Bill was published. It was on 5th October, 1946.

Sir W. Smithers

My birthday.

Mr. Morrison

I do not know that that improves the situation, though it has cost a full minute of my time. That was what the "Economist" said, and this Bill is based upon that principle. The trouble with the "Economist," although it is a very great newspaper and I have the deepest respect for it, as I have for "The Times," is that there are occasions when the "Economist" is pretty difficult. But it said this—and it was a great additional comfort to the Government to know—that we were going upon the right lines. But, as soon as the Bill is published the "Economist" thinks that it must switch right round and attack this Bill, because the Bill goes upon the principles on which the "Economist" had earlier urged that the Bill should proceed—which is curious. There is another comforting fact—that even the Socialist "New Statesman," which very rarely supports the Socialist Party, has, on the whole, welcomed this Government Measure, and that is the most significant support of all. Not only have the principles of this Bill been supported—I admit before it appeared—by the "Economist"; they have also been supported by the "Financial Times" and I give the date forthwith. It was 2nd or 3rd September, and I hope that that is not anybody's birthday. The "Financial. Times "said on either 2nd or 3rd September—it was about that time: Open competition is too costly to con template "— This throws over the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), who, I understand, plumped for free competition today and was speaking for his party—so that we know where they are now, or, at any rate, a good many of them. The "Financial Times" said: Open competition is too costly to contemplate, and it is likely to lead to the breakdown of the public services, and no effective middle course appears to be possible without subsidies. It went on to say: The complete co-ordination of transport by means of a scheme of unification is now the only way to get the best possible service at the lowest economic cost. Well, I do not quote the "Financial Times" because I value its evidence highly, but because it is valued highly on the other side of the House, and, therefore, note ought to be taken of it. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington that it is evidence proving, that there is a good deal of support for this Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman is very cross with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer because he made some critical observations about the condition of the British railways. Let me say now, that I take the view, and I am sure my right hon. Friend takes it, that British railways, management and men, did a great job for the country in the war, and, of course, it is true that a good many of the railways difficulties are due to wartime strain and the difficulties of replacement and repairs, which are inevitable at the present moment. But, when all is said and done, it is the case that a good deal of the British railway system was really not very creditable before the war. If we take the example of the rolling stock of the Great Eastern section of the London and North Eastern Railway before the war, it was pretty bad. The same is true of a good deal of the old Great Northern section of the L.N.E.R., and so were some of the others.

I know that some right hon. Gentlemen are sensitive. The trouble is that there are so many railway directors on the other side of the House. They are really a bit touchy. If we Ministers were as touchy as they are, there would be great trouble in the House. There was great difficulty with the rolling stock, and there was much sheer obsolescence. It has been said, and is now admitted, that many of the railway stations were the most dreary things imaginable. Some seem almost to have been invented to make it most difficult to see at which station one had arrived. The same thing applied to the refreshment bars, and so on. Therefore, I think it was legitimate to make the criticism that was made, that there was a good deal of out-of-dateness and obsolescence on the part of the railway companies. I do not hesitate to agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and also the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) that all of us owe a debt to the railway companies, at any rate to the management and the men, because they are the chaps who did the work of making the railways go, and who served the country in time of war under a good deal of danger and stress.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we cannot defend the change of ownership on the basis of the railways having been inefficient. Before the war, the railways lacked a good deal of efficiency, and were capable of material improvement. Nor can it be argued that public ownership will decrease the efficiency, because the British Post Office, which is a direct piece of State management, compares very favourably with any one of the four main line railway companies.

Mr. Hogg

That argument has fallen flat.

Mr. Morrison

I listened to the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition, but if this is going to be an effort to barrack and to interfere, let me know, and we shall have a "free for all." As regards the Post Office, to which I was referring, I think that everybody will agree that while this Bill has been under consideration the telegraph service has been exceedingly efficient. The right hon. Gentleman wanted to know the principles upon which the rates and charges would be framed. I will deal with that point, but, in the meantime, I would say that the Front Bench opposite cannot have it both ways. If it is argued that the Minister is having too much power—and that is the argument of the Opposition—why is it now argued that this enormous, vast power, affecting the life of the industrial community, should be used to dictate in the Bill to the transport industry by the political Minister, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, the system upon which the railway charges shall be based? I really do not know which way the Opposition want it. One minute they are arguing that the Minister is doing too much and taking too much power; the next minute they are arguing that he is not doing enough. I think that they should make up their minds.

In the course of this Debate, it has been repeatedly argued that this Bill ought not to be proceeded with or, indeed, ought not to have been produced, without a proper and exhaustive inquiry into the whole problem. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport dealt with that point in his opening speech. I, personally, thought that he made a competent and convincing case for the Bill, and I should like warmly to congratulate him on his speech. There really has been no deficiency of inquiries into the transport problem. Since 1922 there have been about twenty important inquiries into inland transport. I concede at once that it may be that none of them covered exactly the ground covered by this Bill, but, between them, I think it would be a wonder if twenty inquiries and reports have not covered the ground in one way or another. But the fact is that the basic problem remains. It keeps cropping up in the Debate when hon. Members talk about coordination, and the necessity for it. Surely, it ought to be admitted that patchwork will not serve any longer.

All the facts and the arguments are known or can easily be ascertained. A great deal of valuable experience has been obtained during the wan If we had an inquiry, who would conduct it? The people in the industry? That would hardly do. They would not be regarded as an impartial committee of inquiry. If not the people in the industry, it would have to be the people outside the industry, and if it came to that I suggest that His Majesty's Government and hon. Members between them are as competent to judge what is the right policy, as a committee of non-technicians and non-experts, especially when all of us have available the reports which have previously been made. It was said in the House of Lords by Lord Portal, the former Minister of Works—and he is quite right: Let there be no mistake. Any effective solution to the transport problem will be controversial. Therefore, if there is an idea that there should have been an. inquiry, and that out of it could have come peace, agreement and unanimity, it is quite wrong. The report would inevitably have been controversial. It would have been a wonder if there were not a series of reservations and minority reports, and when the report was out the argument would have begun all over again. I suggest it would be a waste of time. Possessing, as we do, among us, the facts about this matter, it is better that the matter should be dealt with directly by legislation, by the Government and Parliament. The broad lines must be laid down in the Bill. We, therefore, regard this demand for an inquiry as not a real demand but as a time-wasting expedient with a view to preventing us getting on with the job.

I entirely agree with the view that has been expressed, that the test of this Measure is whether it is likely to be conducive to efficiency and good and economical public service in the transport system of the country. That is the fundamental point, and on that point I will seek to show that the Government's case is that this is calculated to improve the situation. I make no complaint of the continued quotation of the declaration which I made in Canada, and which I have repeated elsewhere, that there is an onus on the socialisers to prove the case for socialisation, but I must point out that I went on to say that there is an onus on the anti-socialisers to prove that private enterprise is better able to deal with these problems and to suggest means whereby private enterprise can equally well or better serve the public interest. I am bound to say that, so far as I know, nobody has attempted to prove that case; for, excepting the hon. Member for Mon- mouth who, being a Tory Reformer, is well on the right wing of his own party—and I respect him for his courage—nobody has advocated: "Get away from this idea of coordination. Down with all monopolies, whether they be public or private, and let us have a free-for-all competitive fight in the transport world." That is what I understood him to say. I am sorry that I missed his speech.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The right hon. Gentleman has misquoted me.

Mr. Morrison

Well, that is what I was told, and I understand that it went down very well with the Conservative Party. However, I will certainly have the pleasure of reading the hon. Gentleman's speech in HANSARD tomorrow. Does any responsible person, other than the hon. Member for Monmouth—if he did so—advocate unbridled competition in inland transport, with full sway for so-called private enterprise?

Sir W. Smithers

Hear, hear.

Mr. Morrison

I have a feeling that the hon. Gentleman is in such a pleasant mood, that he is liable to say, "Hear, hear "to almost anything I say. With the exception that I have mentioned, nobody now advocates free-for-all competition in the world of transport. Indeed, the tendency of legislation has been to eliminate the competition. It started with the Railways Act, 1921, which reduced the number of railway companies from hundreds down to four; it continued in my own Road Traffic Act, 1930, which imposed a licensing system of a national character on the omnibuses, and that was supported by all parties in the House. The real choice, therefore, is between State-regulated coordination or private quasi-monopolies, and an integrated national system. Neither the Opposition nor the transport interests have put forward any detailed alternative schemes. Parts of the field, such as the transport of goods by road and rail, have been sketched out. For the rest, reliance is placed, for the most part, on the magic word "coordination." In this, I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth I think the word "coordination" is a much abused word in Parliamentary and political language in these days. It has varying and conflicting interpretations, according to the point of view of those who use it.

The railway companies and the main road haulier interests are on the horns of a dilemma. Either they themselves propose something which borders on the nature of a monopoly, by the coming together of the two of them, and the settling of standard conditions of road charges; or they still envisage the wasteful forms of competition which, in the years between the wars, were stifling the railways—and, let me add, would in due time stifle an efficient road transport service as well. If the road and rail interests are to do a deal and to divide the traffic between them, then in that case, it is far better to bring all the main forms of organised transport under one control. If that is to be done, is there really any doubt who that one control and ownership will have to be? Surely, it will have to be the nation? There can hardly be any dispute about it. If, on the other hand, there is to be real competition between road and rail, then the Government and Parliament will find themselves with the railways, and possibly part of the road transport, on their hands in a sick condition. The experience between the wars bears that out. Road competition was becoming increasingly serious and aggressive against the railways—which road competition had every right to do. It was the railway individualists—if it is possible to call them such—the directors of the railway companies and the general managers, who were increasingly condemning free competition between the railways and road transport, and demanding that by some means or another they should be pulled together. One of the consequences of this state of affairs was that the railway systems were unwilling to modernise and to improve themselves. When I was Minister of Transport I appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Weir on the electrification of railways. One of the things that gives force to the Chancellor's argument that the railways have not been able to keep themselves up to date is that miles and miles of the railways in this country ought to have been electrified years ago. The Weir report on railway electrification recommended electrification, and held that it would give a profitable return of 7 per cent. The railways said that 7 per cent. was not enough. [Interruption.] It is arguable. It was 7 per cent. gross, overall. I think they were wrong, because I think that the cleaner and brighter railways it would have brought would have paid them. They also said they wanted to know how much, if any, subsidy the State would give to enable them to do it. I pointed out to the railway companies that if they had got to the position in which they would not give a decision on electrification until they knew whether or not the State would subsidise it, "You have degenerated into a poor law frame of mind that will utterly undermine capital and the private enterprise industry in the railways if you go on." But that is where they had got to. It was a confession that they could not adequately do the job.

In the public ownership scheme which we envisage, capital—and cheap capital—will be available for electrification as soon—and I quite agree it cannot be done at once—as it becomes practicable and expedient.

I would assert that, as long as the competitive system remains, there is no guarantee that the transport needs of a less remunerative kind will be met. That is part of the case for public ownership. I would add this, that under public ownership we shall find it easier, in my belief, to find for the seats on the public boards men of the necessary enterprise, initiative and ability. I say nothing about any railway directors as individuals, but I do say that the directors of the railway companies—not in all cases, but in a good many cases—have been chosen for their respectability, for their social position, which gives a status to the company and a sort of confidence to the shareholders that the till is all right, rather than on grounds of competence and ability. They have not all been of that type, but there have been too many of that type. Therefore, I believe that the Minister of Transport, who is directed to choose people on the basis of competence and ability for the position, will succeed in obtaining a greater average of ability for the Transport Commission and Executives than has been obtained in the case of the railway companies. [An HON. MEMBER: "If they join the Labour Party."] No, it is not a question of joining the Labour Party. There is a good deal in history that, indeed, turns that moral against the Conservative Party. At any rate, we have not had many directorships to hand out up to now. There was no guarantee, when I went out of the last Government and became an ordinary Member of Parlia- merit, that, automatically, I should become a company director—still less, that I should become a director of several companies.

Moreover, there will be, under the new regime, a splendid opportunity for the Commission to weld an efficient instrument to meet the transport needs of the country. They will have freedom to handle the physical assets of the industry—and that will be for the first time, because it is the case now that, between the separate ownerships, the numerous ownerships, of the various transport undertakings there is not enough freedom to move, to adapt, to alter and replace the physical assets of transportation. This new concern will be absolutely free to go for sheer efficiency right from the beginning, and to use assets in the way that is best. They can write off assets which are proved to be ineffective or uneconomical. They will be able to write off those miserable rolling stocks in which the lower middle classes and the working classes of Greater London on the eastern side have to travel. They will have at their disposal ample capital, at low cost and at low interest rates, unwelcome though that is in some quarters. We can use, in these new circumstances, skilled minds in this vast industry to the best advantage; and they will enable, with the new conditions, a bold and considered programme of transport development to take place, which would have been utterly impossible in the conditions of the transport industry between the wars.

The danger of bureaucracy and over-centralisation can be prevented. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.".] Yes, it can be prevented, and we believe that the new administrative set up, on which much has been said, is a good set up. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) argued that the Minister had gone against integration and moved rather towards disintegration because, in addition to the British Transport Commission, he was setting up this series of Executives. Other hon. Members, on the other hand, have argued that the Minister is going for bureaucratic centralisation. Somebody must be wrong, either the one or the other. The set up, as I see it, is right.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities, who has a great experience of administration, advanced a scheme for which, I am bound to say, I was surprised he took responsibility. He said, "Let each of these Executives be separate, let each of them separately be answerable to the Minister, and let the Minister supervise them and arrange the necessary coordination between them." That seems to me to be administratively bad, and places far too much direct economic and managerial responsibility upon the Minister of Transport. It is organically and administratively wrong, and moreover it preserves the separate ownerships, the separate identities, of the railways, roads, docks, harbours and so on. I believe that as long as we keep those separate ownerships we are impeding the capacity for physical adaptation of the undertakings to give us the best possible public service, and I believe that we must have a common ownership vested in one undertaking, before we shall get the necessary freedom to make these concerns as efficient as they ought to be.

Then, in that case, the onus would be upon the Minister himself to handle all these complex problems of so-called coordination, and that means a high degree of political interference with these undertakings. Either the Conservative Party believes in political interference or it does not. I believe in political interference to the extent of holding and safeguarding the essentials of good public policy, but I believe fervently that, in regard to the detailed management of an undertaking, in its day-to-day activities, the Minister had better be out of it and Members of Parliament had better be out of it as well. With great respect to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, he is trying to land the Minister in a position of detailed responsibility which is very undesirable indeed. We had better get these undertakings commonly owned by somebody, and then there will be no vested interests of ownership conflicting and fighting with each other and stopping the unification and integration of the policy of the undertaking.

Some others, as I said, have argued that my right hon. Friend's organisation is top-heavy. The scheme is this. The British Transport Commission will own—what is it?

Sir J. Anderson


Mr. Morrison

I thought I heard something which would have been interesting. The British Broadcasting Corporation will own—[Laughter.] I am sorry, we finished that the other night. The British Transport Commission will own the whole of these undertakings. I think that is right, for the reason I have indicated. In addition, it will control the high finances of the combined undertakings. It will be the body to sanction capital expenditure, the body to deal with the essentials of high policy, the strategy, so to speak, of British transport, and will be the body to initiate and elaborate the issues of policy involved in the structure and actualities of rates, fares and charges. It seems to me that that is right, and that it would not be appropriate for the Minister to be driven to do all these things; nor do I think that these things can be adequately done by each of the Executives. It will be noticed, by the way, that in due time, not at once, there is to be a separate Hotel Executive, which will look after the railway hotels, the refreshment bars and the dining rooms. That will be a very great improvement from these things being conducted by gentlemen who are concerned with railways, and in these matters tend to get their minds running on the rails as well as the trains.

In the administrative scheme, it is the intention of the Government to prevent over-centralisation. There will be the maximum practicable amount of devolution, firstly, to the Executives, which exist for each of the Departments of transport operation, and secondly, there should be the maximum—I entirely agree with this, and it will be wise for both the Minister and Members of Parliament to watch it—degree of decentralisation within the administration itself. I hope in due course—one cannot be final—that we may evolve the possibility of a regional set-up, in which rail and road and other forms of transport will meet within the regions. That was done by the late Sir Kingsley Wood with the Post Office in setting up a regional organisation. There are difficulties because you cannot cut up the railway lines at the regional boundaries. If we can regionalise within the Executive, and then fuse so that there is cooperation at regional level, I believe that it will be a very good thing indeed.

This unification of the railways, canals, long-distance road haulage and London transport will be used to prevent the over-departmentalisation of the various types of transport. I believe that one of the difficulties of transport has been the mentality of the men who have worked with the railways for a long time, who get a little bit shaped with the materials upon which they have been working, and the fact that trains move upon the rails. On the other hand, I believe that the mentality of the men who work on the roads can become a little unenterprising. Surely, the advantages of this new scheme is that we shall be able to mix up railway men and road men a little more? I think it is a sensible idea that they should move about from department to department. I am surprised that some hon. Members opposite should embrace the doctrine that a departmental man has always to remain in a particular department. I believe that it will be a good thing in transport for folk to move about and get experience. The fact that the employer is fundamentally the same concern, is one of the things which will be an advantage from this process of collective socialisation.

The exact form of administration and set-up for all time is not laid down in the Bill, and it has been complained that all these things ought to be set out in detail. I do not think that that is reasonable. Similarly, it is argued that we ought to provide for the rates and charges in the Bill. I think that that would be wrong, and that it is better for the Commission to elaborate its policy, and then have the obligation to take it to the transport tribunal where all the opponents, critics and parties can appear and the case can be argued out, and the transport tribunal can give a fair decision upon the facts which are before them.

The set-up, therefore, is such that everybody will be heard, and I believe that fair decisions will be reached. Much importance has been attached to the position of the road hauliers, especially the "C" licensee. In our judgment, a situation cannot be left whereby railways are subjected to cut-throat competition, nor can road undertakings also be subjected to what used to be known as "pirate competition," or the creaming of the traffic, which endangers the whole of the undertakings. Unless there is a proper degree of consolidation and co- operation the system will not work, and we must get that consolidation and co-operation. We said that having got that—and the public can choose whether to send their goods by train or road, whether they will travel by motor coach or train—it is not in the interest of these undertakings to cut each other's throats because, if they do, the financial welfare of the undertakings will sink, and they will all become inefficient owing to their financial inability to remain efficient.

Having established the principle, we said, "In what area, in what radius, is it reasonable and proper that private enterprise should continue to function?" When it was known that "A" and "B" licence holders could function up to 25 miles, and that "C" licence holders, as of right, could function up to 40 miles I think it is true to say that they were pleasantly surprised that the Government were so reasonable. But we go further than that. The "C" licence holder can go to the licensing authority and argue as he likes, in the light of his business, and, in addition, the licensing authority is directed to take into account certain circumstances which give them a lead in favour of granting a "C" licence. I say to the House that the Government have been reasonable, tolerant, and broadminded about this matter, but what we are not going to do, what I should not be a party to, is to socialise the railways and leave them to be the victims of cut-throat competition by anybody—just as the railways themselves, under private ownership, are not content that cut-throat competition should continue against them.

If we are to socialise let us make a businesslike job of it. We believe it is right that these undertakings should be consolidated, that there should be co-ordination and unification and that all practical economies should be obtained, as a result, as we go along. We contend that that is better than having separate ownerships with conflicting competition. The Government have brought in this Bill as a result not of abstract, dogmatic or doctrinaire beliefs, but because they believe in it. We believe that it will improve the efficiency and public service of British transport. We believe that the Opposition have not made out any case against the Bill. Certainly, they have not produced any practical alternative. Indeed, they have manifested in the Debate the bankruptcy of their ideas, and the bankruptcy of their case. We ask the House to give us an overwhelming majority for this Bill, which we believe will render a great service to our people.

9.59 p.m.

Sir Stanley Holmes (Harwich)

In all the speeches winding up a great Debate on a major Bill, I have never heard anything more frivolous and less convincing—

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. William Whiteley) rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 362; Noes, 205.

Division No. 39. AYES. [10.0 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Butler, H. W. (Hackney S.)
Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South) Benson, G. Callaghan, James
Alexander, Rt. Hon A. V. Berry, H. Carmichael, James
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Castle, Mrs. B A.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Bing, G. H. C. Chamberlain, R. A
Allighan, Garry Binns, J. Champion, A. J.
Alpass, J. H. Blackburn, A. R. Chater, D.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Blenkinsop, A. Chetwynd, G. R.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Blyton, W. R. Clitherow, Dr. R.
Attewell, H. C. Boardman, H. Cluse, W. S.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. O. R. Bottomley, A. G. Cobb, F. A.
Austin, H. L. Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Cocks, F. S.
Awbery, S S. Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Coldrick, W.
Ayles, W. H. Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Collick, P.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Collindridge, F.
Bacon, Miss A. Bramall, Major E. A. Collins, V. J.
Baird, J. Brook, D. (Halifax) Colman, Miss G. M.
Balfour, A. Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Comyns, Dr. L.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Brown, George (Belper) Cook, T. F.
Barstow, P. G. Brown, T. J. (Ince) Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)
Barton, C. Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Corlett, Dr. J.
Battley, J. R. Buchanan, G. Corvedale, Viscount
Bechervaise, A. E. Burden, T. W. Cove, W. G.
Belcher, J. W. Burke, W. A. Crawley, A.
Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Jay, D. P. T. Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Crossman, R. H. S. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Paton, J. (Norwich)
Daggar, G. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Pearson, A.
Daines, P. John, W. Peart, Capt. T. F.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Perrins, W.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Piratin, P.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Keenan, W. Porter, G. (Leeds)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kenyon, C. Price, M. Philips
Deer, G. Key, C. W. Pritt, D. N.
Delargy, Captain H. J. King, E. M. Proctor, W. T.
Diamond, J. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Pryde, D. J.
Dobbie, W. Kinley, J. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Dodds, N. N. Kirby, B. V. Randall, H. E.
Donovan, T. Kirkwood, D. Ranger, J.
Driberg, T. E. N. Lang, G. Rankin, J.
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Lee, F. (Hulme) Rees-Williams, D. R.
Dumpleton, C. W. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Reeves, J.
Durbin, E. F. M. Leonard, W. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Dye, S Leslie, J. R. Rhodes, H.
Edelman, M. Levy, B. W. Richards, R.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.) Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lewis, J. (Bolton) Robens, A.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Lewis, T. (Southampton) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Lindgren, G. S. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Rogers, G. H. R.
Evans, John Ogmore Logan, D. G. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Longden, F. Royle, C.
Ewart, R. Lyne, A. W. Sargood, R.
Fairhurst, F. McAdam, W. Scollan, T.
Farthing, W. J. McAllister, G. Scott-Elliot, W.
Field, Captain W. J. McEntee, V. La T. Segal, Dr S.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) McGhee, H. G. Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.
Follick, M. McGovern, J. Sharp, Granville
Foot, M. M. Mack, J. D. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Forman, J. C. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Shurmer, P.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) McKinlay, A. S. Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Gaitskell, H. T. N. Maclean, N. (Govan) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Gallacher, W. McLeavy, F. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Simmons, C. J.
Gibbins, J. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Skeffington, A. M.
Gibson, C. W. Macpherson, T (Romford) Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Gilzean, A. Mainwaring, W. H. Skinnard, F. W.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Gooch, E. G. Mann, Mrs. J. Smith, Ellis (Stoke)
Goodrich, H. E. Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Marquand, H. A. Snow, Capt. J. W.
Solley, L. J.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Marshall, F. (Brightside) Sorensen, R. W.
Grenfell, D. R. Mathers, G. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Grey, C. F. Mayhew, C. P. Sparks, J. A.
Grierson, E. Medland, H. M. Stamford, W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Mellish, R. J. Steele, T.
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Messer, F. Stephen, C.
Gunter, R. J. Middleton, Mrs. L. Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Guy, W. H. Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Strachey, J.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Monslow, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Hale, Leslie Montague, F. Stross, Dr. B.
Hall, W. G. Moody, A. S. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Swingler S.
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Morley, R. Symonds, A. L.
Hardman, D. R. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Hardy, E. A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.) Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Harrison, J. Mort, D. L. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Moyle, A. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Haworth, J. Murray, J. D. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Nally, W. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Naylor, T. E. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Herbison, Miss M. Neal, H. (Claycross) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Hewitson, Capt. M. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Thurtle, E.
Hicks, G. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Tiffany, S.
Hobson, C. R. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Timmons, J.
Holman, P. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Titterington, M. F.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Noel-Buxton, Lady. Tolley, L.
House, G. O'Brien, T. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Hubbard, T. Oldfield, W. H. Turner-Samuels, M.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Oliver, G. H. Ungoed Thomas, L.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Orbach, M. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.) Paget, R. T. Viant, S. P.
Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Walkden, E.
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Palmer, A. M. F. Walker, G. H.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Pargiter, G. A. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Irving, W. J. Parker, J. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Parkin, B. T. Warbey, W. N.
Watkins, T. E. Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen Woodburn, A.
Watson, W. M. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) Woods, G. S.
Webb, M. (Bradford, C.) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland) Wyatt, W.
Weitzman, D. Williams, D. J. (Neath) Yates, V. F.
Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
West, D. G. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley) Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Westwood, Rt. Hon. J. Williams, W. R. (Heston) Zilliacus, K.
White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.) Williamson, T.
Wigg, Col. G. E. Willis, E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B. Wills, Mrs. E. A. Mr. Whiteley and
Wilkes, L. Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J. Mr. R. J. Taylor.
Wilkins, W. A. Wise, Major F. J.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Gridley, Sir A Nutting, Anthony
Aitken, Hon. Max. Grimston, R. V. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot. Univ.) Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Osborne, C.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Harris, H. Wilson Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Astor, Hon. M. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Baldwin, A. E. Haughton, S. G. Pickthorn, K.
Barlow, Sir J. Head, Brig. A. H. Pitman, I. J.
Baxter, A. B. Headlam, Lieut-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Prescott, Stanley
Beechman, N. A. Herbert, Sir A. P. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.
Bennett, Sir P. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Hogg, Hon. Q. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Boothby, R. Hollis, M. C. Rayner, Brig. R.
Bossom, A. C. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Bowen, R. Hope, Lord J. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Bower, N. Howard, Hon. A. Renton, D.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Hurd, A. Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bullock, Capt. M. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Jarvis, Sir J Ropner, Col. L.
Byers, Frank Jeffreys, General Sir G. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Carson, E. Jennings, R. Sanderson, Sir F.
Challen, C. Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W. Savory, Prof. D. L.
Channon, H. Keeling, E. H. Scott, Lord W.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Shepherd, S. (Newark)
Clarke, Col. R. S. Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Lambert, Hon. G. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Langford-Holt, J. Smithers, Sir W.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Snadden, W. M.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Spearman, A. C. M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Spence, H. R.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Cuthbert, W. N. Linstead, H. N. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Lipson, D. L. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Davidson, Viscountess Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Lucas, Major Sir J. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
De la Bère R. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Sutcliffe, H.
Digby, S. W. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd'ton, S.)
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W. Macdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight) Teeling, William
Dower, Lt.-Col A. V. G. (Penrith) Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Drayson, G. B. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Drewe, C. Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster) Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) MacLeod, Capt. J. Touche, G. C.
Duncan Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Londs) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Turton, R. H.
Vane, W. M. F.
Duthie, W. S. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Wadsworth, G.
Eccles, D. M. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Marlowe, A. A. H. Walker-Smith, D.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Marsden, Capt. A. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Erroll, F. J. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Maude, J. C. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G. Medlicott, F. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Mellor, Sir J. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Molson, A. H. E. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Gage, C. Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D Morris-Jones, Sir H. Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
Gates, Maj. E. E. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
George, Maj Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Glossop, C. W. H. Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. York, C.
Glyn, Sir R. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Nicholson, G.
Grant, Lady Nield, B. (Chester) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Granville, E. (Eye) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Mr. Butcher and
Mr. Naill Macpherson.

Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 362; Noes, 204.

Division No. 40.] AYES. [10.15 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Jay, D. P. T.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Deer, G. John, W.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Delargy, Captain H. J. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)
Allighan, Garry Diamond, J. Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Alpass, J. H. Dobbie, W. Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Dodds, N. N. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Donovan, T. Keenan, W.
Attewell, H. C. Driberg, T. E. N. Kenyon, C.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Key, C. W.
Austin, H. L. Dumpleton, C. W. King, E. M.
Awbery, S. S. Durbin, E. F. M. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.
Ayles, W. H. Dye, S. Kinley, J.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Edelman, M. Kirby, B. V.
Bacon, Miss A. Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.) Kirkwood, D.
Baird, J. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lang, G.
Balfour, A. Edwards, John (Blackburn) Lee, F. (Hulme)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Barstow, P. G. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Leonard, W.
Barton, C. Evans, John (Ogmore) Leslie, J. R.
Battley, J. R. Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Ewart, R. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)
Belcher, J. W. Fairhurst, F. Lewis, J. (Bolton)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Farthing, W. J. Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Benson, G. Field, Captain W. J. Lindgren, G. S.
Berry, H. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Follick, M. Logan, D. G.
Bing, G. H. C. Foot, M. M. Longden, F.
Binns, J. Forman, J. C. Lyne, A. W.
Blackburn, A. R. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) McAdam, W.
Blenkinsop, A. Freeman, Peter (Newport) McAllister, G.
Blyton, W. R. Gaitskell, H. T. N. McEntee, V. La. T.
Boardman, H. Gallacher, W. McGhee, H. G.
Bottomley, A. G. Ganley, Mrs. C. S McGovern, J.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Gibbins, J. Mack, J. D.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Gibson, C. W. McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Gilzean, A. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Glanville, J. E. (Consett) McKinlay, A. S.
Bramall, Major E. A. Gooch, E. G. Maclean, N. (Govan)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Goodrich, H. E. McLeavy, F.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Gordon-Walker, P. C. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Brown, George (Belper) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Brown, T J. (Ince) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Grenfell, D. R. Mainwaring, W. H.
Buchanan, G. Grey, C. F. Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Burden, T. W. Grierson, E. Mann, Mrs. J.
Burke, W. A. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
Callaghan, James Gunter, R. J. Marquand, H. A.
Carmichael, James Guy, W. H. Marshall, F. (Brightside)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Mathers, G.
Chamberlain, R. A. Hale, Leslie Mayhew, C. P.
Champion, A. J. Hall, W. G. Medland, H. M.
Chater, D. Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R. Mellish, R. J.
Chetwynd, G. R. Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Messer, F.
Clitherow, Dr. R. Hardman, D. R. Middleton, Mrs. L.
Cluse, W. S. Hardy, E. A. Mitchison, Maj. G. R.
Cobb, F. A. Harrison, J. Monslow, W.
Cocks, F. S. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Moody, A. S.
Coldrick, W. Haworth, J. Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Collick, P. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Morley, R.
Collindridge, F. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Collins, V. J. Herbison, Miss M. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Colman, Miss G. M. Hewitson, Capt. M. Mort, D. L.
Comyns, Dr. L. Hicks, G. Moyle, A.
Cook, T. F. Hobson, C. R. Murray, J. D.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Holman, P. Nally, W.
Corlett, Dr. J. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Naylor, T. E.
Corvedale, Viscount House, G. Neal, H. (Claycross)
Cove, W. G. Hubbard, T. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)
Crawley, A. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Crossman, R. H. S. Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J. (Derby)
Daggar, G. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Noel-Buxton, Lady.
Daines, P. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) O'Brien, T.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Oldfield, W. H.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Irving, W. J. Oliver, G. H
Davies, Harold (Leek) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Orbach, M.
Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Shurmer, P. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Palmer, A. M. F. Silkin, Rt. Hon. L. Viant, S. P.
Pargiter, G. A. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Walkden, E.
Parker, J. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Walker, G. H.
Parkin, B. T. Simmons, C. J. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Skeffington, A. M. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Paton, J (Norwich) Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Warbey, W. N.
Pearson, A. Skinnard, F. W. Watkins, T. E.
Peart, Capt. T. F. Smith, C. (Colchester) Watson, W. M.
Perrins, W. Smith, Ellis (Stoke) Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Piratin, P. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Weitzman, D.
Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield) Snow, Capt. J. W. West, D. G.
Popplewell, E. Solley, L. J. Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Porter, G (Leeds) Sorensen, R. W. White, C. F (Derbyshire, W.)
Price, M Philips Soskice, Maj. Sir F. Wigg, Col. G. E.
Pritt, D. N. Sparks, J. A. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B
Proctor, W. T. Stamford, W. Wilkes, L.
Pryde, D. J. Steele, T. Wilkins, W. A.
Pursey, Cmdr. H. Stephen, C. Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen.
Randall, H. E. Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Ranger, J. Strachey, J. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Rankin, J. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Rees-Williams, D. R. Stross, Dr. B. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Reeves, J. Summerskill, Dr. Edith. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Reid, T (Swindon) Swingler S. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Rhodes, H. Symonds, A. L. Williamson, T.
Richards, R. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Willis, E.
Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet) Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Robens, A. Thomas, D E. (Aberdare) Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley) Wise, Major F. J.
Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Woodburn, A.
Rogers, G H. R. Thomas, George (Cardiff) Woods, G. S.
Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R (Ed'b'gh, E) Wyatt, W.
Royle, C. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) Yates, V. F.
Sargood, R. Thurtle, E. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Scollan, T. Tiffany, S. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Scott-Elliot, W. Titterington, M. F. Zilliacus, K
Segal, Dr. S. Tolley, L.
Shackleton, Wing-Cdr E. A. A. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sharp, Granville Turner-Samuels, M. Mr. Whiteley and
Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Ungoed-Thomas, L. Mr. K. J. Taylor.
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Usborne, Henry
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Aitken, Hon. Max. De la Bère, R. Herbert, Sir A. P.
Amory D. Heathcoat Digby, S. W. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot. Univ.) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hogg, Hon. Q.
Assheton Rt. Hon. R. Donner, Sqn.-Ldr P. W. Hollis, M. C.
Astor Hon. M. Dower, Lt.-Col A. V. G. (Penrith) Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)
Baldwin, A. E. Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Hope, Lord J.
Barlow, Sir J. Drayson, G. B. Howard, Hon. A.
Baxter, A. B. Drewe, C. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Dugdale, Maj Sir T (Richmond) Hulbert, Wing-Cdr N. J.
Beechman, N. A. Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (City of Lond.) Hurd, A.
Bennett, Sir P. Duthie, W. S. Hutchison, Lt -Cm Clark (E'b'rgh, W)
Boles, Lt.-Col D. C (Wells) Eccles, D. M. Hutchison, Col J R. (Glasgow, C.)
Boothby R. Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Jarvis, Sir J.
Bossom, A. C. Elliot, Rt. Hon W. E. Jeffreys, General Sir G.
Bowen, R. Erroll, F. J. Jennings, R.
Bower, N. Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L. Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Keeling, E. H.
Bracken, Rt. Hon Brendan Fox, Sqn.-Ldr Sir G. Kerr, Sir J. Graham
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale) Kingsmill, Ll.-Col. W. H
Bullock, Capt. M. Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P M Lambert, Hon. G.
Butcher, H. W. Gage, C. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Langford-Holt, J.
Byers, Frank Gates, Maj. E. E. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Carson, E. George, Maj Rt. Hon. G Lloyd (Pike) Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H.
Challen, C. Glossop, C. W. H. Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Channon, H. Glyn, Sir R. Lindsay, M. (Solihull)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Linstead H. N.
Clarke, Col R. S. Grant, Lady Lipson, D. L.
Clifton Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Granville, E (Eye) Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Gridley, Sir A. Lucas, Major Sir J.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Grimston, R. V. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow) Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hare, Hon J. H. (Woodbridge) MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. E Harris, H. Wilson Macdonald, Sir. P (Isle of Wight)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Mackeson, Brig H. R.
Cuthbert, W. N. Haughton, S. G. McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Darling Sir W. Y. Head, Brig A. H. Maclay, Hon J. S.
Davidson, Viscountess Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)
MacLeod, Capt. J. Prescott, Stanley Sutcliffe, H.
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Price-White, Lt.-Col. D. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Taylor, Vice-Adm E. A (P'dd't'n, S.)
Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Ramsay, Maj. S. Teeling, William
Manningham-Buller, R. E. Rayner, Brig. R. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Marlowe, A. A. H. Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Marsden, Capt. A Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Renton, D. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A. F.
Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Touche, G. C.
Maude, J. C. Roberts, H (Handsworth) Turton, R H.
Medlicott, F. Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall) Vane, W. M. F
Mellor, Sir J. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Wadsworth, G.
Molson, A. H. E. Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland Wakefield, Sir W. W
Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Ropner, Col. L. Walker-Smith, D.
Morris-Jones, Sir H. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Morrison, Maj. J G. (Salisbury) Sanderson, Sir F. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Savory, Prof. D. L. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. Scott, Lord W. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Neven-Spence, Sir B. Shephard, S. (Newark) While, Sir D (Fareham)
Nicholson, G. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Nield, B. (Chester) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Noble, Comdr A H. P. Smith, E. P. (Ashford) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Nutting, Anthony Smithers, Sir W. Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Snadden, W. M. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Orr-Ewing, I. L Spearman, A. C. M. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Osborne, C. Spence, H. R. York, C.
Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Pickthorn, K. Stewart, J Henderson (Fife, E.)
Pitman, I. J. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities) Mr. James Stuart and
Mr. Buchan-Hepburn

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Mr. Eden

I beg to move, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 203; Noes, 360.

Bill committed to a Standing Committ