§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Regulations, dated 25th May, 1949, entitled the Goods Vehicles (Permits) Regulations, 1949 (S.I., 1949, No. 1008), a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be annulled.These regulations are made under Section 53 of the Transport Act, 1947. If I might explain what is the instrument we are seeking to annul, I would say that Section 53 deals with those road hauliers who were not taken over and nationalised under the Transport Act, because there was not a sufficiency of their work of a long-distance character to bring them into the scheme. If they are to carry on their businesses at all, it is necessary 2095 under Section 53 that they should obtain permission to do so. Under the curious system which has been adopted by His Majesty's Government they have to make application to their principal competitors, the Commission, who are able to grant or refuse their application.
What we are concerned with here is about details as to who should make application for permission of that kind, which is called an original permit, the terms upon which that original permit can be granted, and the time limit within which the application must be made. There are two orders about it which have been made by the Minister. One is No. 1007, which fixes the appointed day at 1st July. We must not talk about that order beyond referring to the fact that that was the date, because it is not an order which has to be laid on the Table. We are not praying against it tonight. The order against which we pray is that which says that all applications have to be in within one month from that date-which, making allowance for the Bank Holiday and a few other frills of that kind, apparently comes out at 3rd August.
The first point on which I want information is: Who can make an application? According to paragraph 53 of the regulation as it is now drafted, a person, to be free to make an application, has to be an A or B licence holder who was carrying goods for hire or reward on 28th November, 1946. Suppose the person who was doing that subsequently turned his business into a private company so, technically speaking, being no longer a private individual; is he still free to make an application?
Suppose he was in partnership on 28th November, 1946, and that for financial or some other reason changed his partners, or they left him; is he still free to be treated as the same business—as in fact he is—as the one which was carrying on on that date? Suppose a person was the owner of a small business with two or three lorries on 28th November, 1946, and subsequently died. His widow is in possession of the business. Is she free to take advantage of this order, or not? My information on this subject is that these people are ruled out for some reason or another. I may be wrong. I ask the House to believe 2096 that these regulations are a little complicated. If they are ruled out, I am bound to say that the House has very considerable cause to complain and to look at the order extremely carefully before letting it go.
The second point concerns the policy which the Minister, or I suppose the Commission, will adopt in granting these orders. Sir Cyril Hurcomb, chairman of the Transport Commission and an influential person in transport policy, expressed his view on the matter quite recently. He said that the policy would be to be generous in granting the original permits, but when the renewal of the permits came up more difficult decisions would have to be made. I think I am right in saying that the difficulties he envisaged were not such as will concern Sir Cyril, but such as will concern the applicants for the permits when they come up on the next occasion.
At this stage of the proceedings, when we are dealing with regulations under which these applications are to be made, it is most important that prospective applicants should be told what the policy is. Are they to be invited to make an application for an original permit now only to be thrown out of business the moment they have served a useful purpose in one, two or three years' time? If that is the policy of the Government we ought to be informed before we let the order pass.
The people who can refuse the renewal of a permit are the commission themselves, and these people are the competitors of the Commission. If what the Minister has been saying recently is right, he is going to try to put up the profits of the road industry to try to pay the losses on the railways. It may be that individual hauliers running at economic road costs would knock the Commission out of business, in which case the Commission might easily refuse the permits in a year or two's time. We ought to be told this at any early stage.
The third and last point is the question of time. We think the time is much too short. An appointed day on 1st July and all applications in by 3rd August is too short a period. We always say that it is all right in the House of Commons because we always suppose we can understand these orders—I am not sure that I always can—but it is not so easy for an 2097 individual haulier who sees this sort of thing. This is from paragraph 5 of the Order:For the purposes of subsection (2) of Section 53 of the Act … the prescribed period after any application so made has been dealt with by the Executive, until the elapse of which the condition provided for by subsection (1) of Section 52 of the Act is not to operate so as to prevent the doing of anything which could lawfully have been done if a permit had been granted in all respects in accordance with the application for an original permit, shall be one month or the period expiring one month after the day which is the appointed day for the purposes of the provisions of subsection (1) of Section 52 of the Act, whichever is the longer.I have no doubt that that is crystal clear to all of us in the House of Commons, but we have to bear in mind that the road haulier, who is doing an honest job of work—I am not saying that we are not doing the same here—may have a little difficulty in assessing the full implications of a passage of that character. Some lawyers might be a little puzzled about it. Yet the haulier is asked to do it during one month, the month of July, which many people—not hon. Members—regard as a holiday month. Many members of staffs will be away, and those who are present are probably working at double pressure. I believe that a substantial case is made out, and I cannot think that the Minister would lose anything in giving some extension of time so that this matter may be fully looked at. I know that the Minister will say that references have appeared in the Press, but it takes a little time to bring these things home.
The second point on time is this. In the application for an original permit it is necessary for the applicant to specify his operating centre, that is, the place from which he will operate. That is nothing like as simple as one might think. When we are dealing with a 25-mile limit it matters a great deal where one fixes one's operating centre. It may place a township just inside or outside one's sphere of operations. If there is any question about the operating centre, one has to apply to the licensing authority to fix it. At present hundreds of applications to licensing authorities have not yet been dealt with. That is to say, the very machinery which the Minister has set up has not yet functioned in order to tell these people where is the place which is their operating centre.
2098 It is perfectly true, and I know the Minister will say this, that the Ministry or the Transport Commission have said, "Do not worry about that. If you put in your application and say that you have already applied to the licensing authority to fix your operating centre, we will treat that as good enough." It sounds all right, but I do not think it lies in the mouth of the Minister to say to the road hauliers, "You do everything within a month although we admit that our machinery has not yet gone through its proper processess." That is not fair. If the licensing authority finds difficulty in doing these things, believe me, the small road hauliers find a great deal of difficulty too. That is a second and substantial argument for postponing the matter until the licensing authorities at least have done their work.
My third and last suggestion is this: why does the Minister rely simply upon occasional statements in the newspapers or over the broadcasting system? Why not for once—it is only for once—in simple language notify these hauliers, who are known and licensed direct, of their rights; it can quite well be done—and let them apply for their original permit or not. This is done regularly in other fields. Under the Road Haulage Wages Act, 1938, or now under the Wages Board, whenever there is a change in wages and conditions every road haulier has to be informed in order that he shall comply with those changes, and properly so. If it is the practice to inform the road haulier about the wages and conditions which he ought to have in his industry, surely it is not asking too much to inform him as to his rights of compensation and original permits?
I hope I have indicated to the House that here is a substantial matter which requires considerable investigation. There is a real point about who can apply, there is a real point about the policy to be applied, and in any event I suggest to the Minister that I have made out what I hope is a convincing case for some extension of time.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield)
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) has made rather a mountain out 2099 of a molehill over the order now before us. He is being a little naïve, may be consciously so, when he suggests that the road hauliers are not really clear as to what this order means, that they were more or less in ignorance of what would happen under this Act, and that now they are in effect taken by surprise and have not the time and wit to fulfil the requirements of this order. After all, the Royal Assent was given to the Transport Act on 6th August, 1947, and by the time this order comes into force, and a month expires, it will be practically two years since that date.
As we all remember, while the Bill was going through its various stages, the road hauliers were not unaware of what was in the Bill, inasmuch as we were all subject to considerable pressure from the Road Hauliers' Association, particularly as regards the small man, for whom the big organisations claimed they were speaking at that time. If that was so, surely they have kept him informed since? Again, the Minister in various ways has drawn attention to this order, and the Road Transport Executive has itself published an explanation of it. As far as the small man, or any road haulier is concerned, I cannot see that there is any difficulty whatever in fulfilling the requirements of this order in applying for permits.
There is nothing really complicated about it. Any of us can get up in this House and read out a Statutory Instrument very quickly so that nobody, even the expert connected with the industry, is able to understand it. All Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments require to be studied to be understood. That is not the fault of the draftsmen but because of the technical matters involved. It is not fair to this House merely to read certain extracts from an order out of their context for the purpose of suggesting that the Measure is a complicated one. The order is in the road hauliers' own interests, as they are very well aware. They are not lacking by any means in looking after their own interests. If they apply for the original permits and are refused, they can ask to be taken over compulsorily and will receive ample compensation. If, on the other hand, the Prayer were accepted and the order, in consequence annulled, it 2100 would mean that those who want to apply for permits would be prevented from doing so and there would be no machinery by which they could be compulsorily acquired.
The order is necessary because only by its acceptance can the next step in the nationalisation of road haulage be carried out. Until the order is effective and these permits have been granted, it will not be possible for the Minister to fix the date subsequent to which no one will be able to carry goods for hire or reward without a permit beyond the 25-mile radius. As it is essential that that date should be fixed soon, it is necessary that the order should come into effect as speedily as possible. Until the date is fixed, we shall not be able to complete this process of nationalisation, which, in my view, has been too long delayed.
My criticism of the order is not that it gives insufficient time to road hauliers to file their applications for permits but that it should have been made many months ago. During those months of delay there has been a deterioration in the road transport industry as far as future acquisition by the nationalised industry is concerned. The process of integration of the public transport system has been delayed and many of the difficulties we are now experiencing as regards both railways and roads are due, not to any fault of my right hon. Friend the Minister, but to the failure to speed up the process of acquisition of road transport. Therefore, to state now that after two years this order requires further consideration and delay is only a manoeuvre on the part of the Opposition to postpone what they consider to be the evil day when the complete nationalisation of road transport is effected.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)
It has been refreshing once again to listen to the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) trying to arouse interest and enthusiasm on subjects which we debated at length when the Transport Act was passing through the House. Tonight the hon. Member has put three issues before me. The first relates to persons for whom provision was made in the Act to claim rights in the form of a permit under Sections 52 and 53. The question I am asked is whether that right has been lost 2101 in the intervening period if there has been any change of ownership, either in the form of a partnership or company or because of death, as the case may be.
Let me state at once that that is the case and that that right cannot be transferred. But whether the regulations are annulled tonight or not cannot in any way affect the situation. Licences never have been transferable, and in Section 53 of the Act it is laid down quite clearly that the right to make a claim or to submit an application for a permit rests with the individual owner of the licence at the date specified.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question on that? Owing to the Guillotine procedure on the Transport Bill, arrangements which would have safeguarded widows and others concerned were cut out. I cannot think the right hon. Gentleman would willingly accept that situation. Does he really mean that when a man has died and his widow has taken on the business, she is to have none of the safeguards of the Act?
§ Mr. Barnes
That matter was determined when the Transport Act was passed by this House, and it has never been the case that licences could be transferred. We are dealing with regulations under an Act that has been already passed, and I am dealing with a specific point put to me and explaining that it has no relation to the regulations.
The second point about which the hon. Member asked was whether I could disclose the policy of the British Transport Commission towards hauliers who should succeed in getting a permit under these regulations. I cannot foretell what will happen in regard to these matters, hut I am entitled to point out that the whole purpose of the Act was to give the British Transport Commission a monopoly of long-distance road transport. That was the policy and purpose of the Act. The hon. Member contested that Act under all the facilities provided by Parliament, but eventually Parliament endorsed those provisions. All the regulations do is to put those provisions into operation. I do not consider that his criticism is justified.
What was provided in section 53 was that any haulier engaged in long-distance transport in November, 1946, could apply to the British Transport Commission, 2102 but I must emphasise that the Act laid down quite clearly that it is within the discretion of the British Transport Commission whether they should grant that permit or attach any conditions to the permit. Parliament through this Act proceeded to give the operator, if for any reason the British Transport Commission decided not to grant him an original permit, or if they attached conditions which substantially injured his business, the right to request the British Transport Commission either to acquire the whole of his business or a part of his business, and these regulations are simply giving effect to that provision.
The real point of this discussion comes down to the timing of these regulations. I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) has pointed out. I also accept the position that as Parliament has made these provisions, it is very desirable that every person entitled to them should have the fullest opportunity of exercising his rights. I do not dispute that for a moment, but share with everyone the desire to do everything possible to make sure that individuals know what their rights are under the Act.
Where I differ from the hon. Member for Monmouth is that I cannot conceive for a moment that any haulier in this country can be unaware of the situation. When the Act was passing through Parliament, the Road Haulage Association undertook a nation-wide campaign, and I doubt very much whether any haulier in the country was not fully acquainted with what Parliament and the Labour Government were doing at that time. In the provisions of the Act arrangements were made whereby the Commission could acquire haulage undertakings by a process of agreement. For a long period ever since the passing of the Act the British Transport Commission have been engaged in the process of acquiring some of the most important road haulage undertakings in this country by a process of voluntary acquisition. These acquisitions have been fully publicised in the Press and the trade papers and are generally known throughout the industry.
With regard to the framing of these regulations, I can assure the House that the Road Haulage Association, which acts for the private hauliers, have been consulted at every stage. As a matter of 2103 fact, in some respects the regulations have been altered to meet the wishes and representations of the body acting for the road hauliers. In regard to publicity, the Ministry have notified the Press, both national and local, and all the trade and technical journals of this industry, and have arranged for a broadcast. The Road Haulage Association have circularised all their members.
The plea of the hon. Member for Monmouth comes to this, that there may be some person, or a few persons—I do not know—who have shut themselves off from their trade Press and are not even members of their trade association, who have not been provided for. This is the kind of question put to us on an important matter of this description after two or three years of voluntary acquisition. We have not used the compulsory powers under the Act immediately the Act was passed. We have allowed such a considerable period to elapse that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) has pointed out, the British Transport Commission, and myself, if you like, could almost be subjected to criticism for not applying these regulations earlier than we have done.
I assure hon. Members that we are going to carry through the same process during July. We are going to notify the Press and circularise all the technical and trade journals again. I should like from this Box particularly to appeal to the local weekly journals throughout the country to publicise this date in case there should be any person who has not yet come across this information. I could hardly conceive for a moment, with all the arrangements we have made, that there is any foundation for the case put forward tonight. I think we can all realise that what it really comes down to is a last fling by the hon. Member for Monmouth against an Act of Parliament that he detests in principle but which we have been successful in carrying against the opposition of the hon. Member and other people.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
I was, frankly, rather horrified by the attitude taken by the right hon. Gentleman. I have known him for a considerable while, and it has always struck me that if there was anyone on the other side of the House who might have some sympathy 2104 with the smaller people of this country, it would be the right hon. Gentleman. I also thought that at the back of his mind he had a great deal of the feeling which exists in so many people's minds—a lack of desire to set up monopolies. Yet tonight he was rejoicing because the Government, through this order, complete the monopoly which is working so badly today.
I thought that after the appeal which the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) made, the right hon. Gentleman might have given some further adjustment—a few weeks in which to give these people time to make their preparations. I quite realise that they have a very efficient organisation, and I realise, also, from what the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) said, that that organisation is pretty thoroughly disliked in some quarters of this House. Hon. Members opposite always seem to dislike anyone who opposes their ideas. But because there is an efficient organisation, that is no reason for pushing through an order of this sort, after a delay of two years, with only one month for those concerned to carry it out.
I was also very sorry when I heard the right hon. Gentleman saying that he could not give any help at all in the case, say, of a business being carried on by a son whose father had died. That, apparently, is ruled out by the policy that the licence shall not be extended in those cases. We have in this order, as was said by the hon. Member for Enfield, another step towards fuller nationalisation in this industry. There has been a delay of two years. We have learned a great deal about nationalisation in those two years. The public has also learned during that period, that it is not getting any benefits at all.
§ Mr. Williams
I was just referring, Mr. Speaker, to what the hon. Member for Enfield said, namely, that this was a step towards fuller nationalisation. It is a step which has been hurried on. Surely, after two years' consideration, it is not very much to ask for rather more than a month. That is all we are asking tonight. I regret that the Minister will not meet the position of small people and of others in this respect. I do not think anyone listening to this Debate could be other- 2105 wise than astonished at the complete lack of sympathy for anyone but the great monopoly which has been shown by the hon. Member for Enfield and the Minister. I am glad to be able to say that the Tory Party has always stood by the small man. The main force of the appeal behind this Prayer is not the big haulage systems, but rather the feeling of many of us who thoroughly believe that an exemption should be made and a longer interval given, in the interest of the whole industry, and particularly those in whom we are interested—the small men.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
I hope that the House will forgive my not being present at the beginning of this Debate for reasons which it will readily observe. I am inclined to agree with the Minister, that the most important point about the order is the question of timing. It is to that point that I wish to address my few remarks. Fifteen years ago the Road and Rail Traffic Act was brought into being, and all those operators who previously had served the community by carrying goods for it were made to put in applications. If they became founder members, or basic operators, as they were known technically, they had the right to start operating without proof of public need and all the trouble which was at that time involved.
Now we have a closely analogous system. Those who make their applications within the time specified will become founder members under the new order. It is not an order which I welcome personally, but we owe it to the people who are now providing services for their neighbours, for the community, that if they are genuine operators, they should have every opportunity to make their applications. It is because we believe, for reasons which I will detail in a moment, that not all the operators in this country who are providing such services will have had the opportunity of filling in their forms correctly in duplicate that we think some more time should be granted.
The Minister has, if I may say so with respect, hidden behind the skirts of the Road Hauliers' Association. He has probably negotiated with them; but two factors, I suggest, he has overlooked. First, not all the small operators are members of the Road Hauliers' Association, 2106 and there are a large number of operators—small ones, especially in the more remote rural areas—who do not have the advantage of the information services which that excellent association provides; and I know from my own knowledge in my constituency that there is frequently to be found the case of the small man who is really very busy with his one or two vehicles and who can give really very little time to the reading of the instructions of a most voluminous nature put out by the Government, the B.B.C., the haulage associations, and what have you.
It would be a thousand pities, not only for these operators, but, more important, for the people they serve, if they were excluded from the provisions of the order and put to the considerable burden of going to a licensing court, proving against all the weight of the Transport Commission that they are people who have been serving their neighbours and who can go on serving them, and who have every right to do so. The hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) tried to say that every small operator in this country should have been expected to understand that by the end of July, or the beginning of August, he had to put in his application to be a founder-member. But I suggest that that is a false assumption to make; many of these people were perhaps lulled into a sense of false security, and here, perhaps, the hon. Member for Enfield has a point.
I do not agree with him that the operation of the Transport Act should not indefinitely have been postponed; but I do not agree that the delay in putting the Act into operation is a thing for which we should castigate the Government. I think the greater the delay the better in many ways, because it gives a greater opportunity for the forces of freedom to work for the benefit of the community. But the fact that there has been this delay may have lulled a number of small people into a sense of false security because they have not had the opportunity to take a close note of all the regulations which have come out. They thought they were safe and outside the provisions of the Transport Act; now, from this order, we find that they can be got into the net.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Surely the hon. Member will admit that every road haulier has been examining his position, 2107 vis-à-vis the Act, ever since it was introduced into this House? He would not deceive himself into believing that the Act would not be carried out, and that the Minister would not fulfil his functions under the Act.
§ Mr. Renton
I make no such admission for the very simple reason that the party opposite are frequently and falsely pretending to be the friends of the small man in any kind of business. They are always stressing the fact that the Socialist Government are taking over the railways and the long-distance big hauliers, and many small people have grounds to believe that they will never be touched in their businesses. But this order, unless they scrutinise it carefully, get hold of the right forms, and fill them in correctly, will deprive them, possibly forever, of their businesses, and I speak not without experience of the Act of a previous Government, the Act of 1933, which I mentioned; and if they do not succeed, having failed to surmount this obstacle, in later proving their needs, which will not be an easy matter to prove technically, then, as I say, they will be out of their life's business and their neighbours will be deprived of their services.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman must have a woeful lack of knowledge of what goes on in rural areas if he seriously believes a 25-mile radius enables many of the journeys, which are needed to be performed by villagers, to be covered. I do not wish to weary the House with this point, although it is a very important one. Frankly, I very much doubt if a useful purpose would be served by dividing against this order; but I can think of one very useful thing that might be done, and that would be if this Government were thrown out of office by the people of this country so that this Transport Act which is going to prove so disastrous to industry——
§ Mr. Renton
I think that this order has been very badly timed indeed and that, in spite of the Minister's effort to give publicity, not enough publicity has been given to the people who are concerned and I see no reason at all why an individual notice should not have been 2108 sent to each operator. The licensing authorities have, or should have absolutely complete, records of every single operator in this country; and when one thinks of the amount of paper that is poured out from Government Departments, there is no reason at all why an order should not, and there is every reason from the point of view of fairness and justice, why an order should be, sent to every operator affected by this regulation. If there had been an individual notice sent, then perhaps we should have had much less reason for complaining about this order. It is not too late for the Minister to rectify this order and mend his ways by sending out an individual notice, and I strongly urge him to do so.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I frankly confess I knew nothing about this order until I saw it on the Order Paper, but the House has heard sufficient to admit that there is some substance in the claim made by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). It is said that we will not divide the House on this question, and I do not want to divide, but none the less I think the House should give some small attention to the fact that this is obviously an order which is imperfectly understood throughout the country. I can understand that the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) is familiar with it. He has given very creditable and long service to the study of this question, but I can assure him that the hauliers I know, have not his intellectual grasp nor his passion for nationalisation. The hauliers I know are persons very much of my own mental calibre and the document I have looked at seems a very incomprehensible one even to persons who have some familiarity of documents of that kind.
The Minister is aware of the kind of men he is addressing in this order. They are men who live hard and laborious lives—[Interruption.] Someone may indulge in mocking laughter, but I repeat that road hauliers live hard and laborious lives. They do not know an eight-hour day or a 42-hour week. They serve the public as and when the public demand their services, and the public are not always careful or considerate in their demands. I suggest to the Minister that he well knows that these men live hard 2109 and laborious lives. They are not men of culture; they are not men of knowledge and experience in public affairs. They work night and day.
I agree with my hon. Friend for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) that their reluctance to accept this order is very natural. Let the House consider the man who, at the end of the 1914–18 war bought a lorry and set up in business as a haulier. He can hardly believe that the Government, which doubtless he supported, are now proposing to take from him his livelihood. It is difficult for him to believe that he is to be deprived of his business which he has operated for over a quarter of a century and with at any rate a modicum of public support. I can understand the stupefaction with which these men have heard of the action of the Government, and it is for that reason that I submit this plea that the Minister should reconsider this order and give us, shall we say, another 30 days, which would meet the view that it is not sufficiently widely known.
I cannot acquiesce in this order at all unless my information is complete on this matter. These are questions which any hon. Member would be entitled to ask, but I am certain there are few hon. Members who know the answers. To how many operators in Scotland does this order apply? For how many are we legislating? Upon whom are we laying this burden? To how many vehicles does this apply in the United Kingdom? How many have agreed to the settlement to which the right hon. Gentleman refers? I know the "big fellows" have. The Scottish Motor Transport Corporation—a great and successful corporation—has made an agreement. The Tillings Company have fixed up their agreement. But what about the hundreds—maybe thousands—of little men? They have made no agreement, either through inefficiency, ineptitude, ignorance or sloth. Surely they are entitled to further consideration. I wish to know how many employees are concerned in this business? What is their balance sheet? What is their contribution to the national revenue? How much do they pay in motor licences? What do they pay in local rates? These really are facts we ought to know.
The Minister has said that the trade Press deals with this. I happen to be a newsagent, among other things; I sell papers for a livelihood. I do not know 2110 of any journal which deals with this business. I can assure the Minister that in the couple of businesses I operate I do not know the name of any journal. I know the name of the "Daily Herald" and the "Spectator" and a dozen other papers, but I do not know the name of any journal to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. Its circulation must be very limited, and I would suggest that it is not widely read. If there is such a journal—and I accept the assurance of the Minister that there is—it must be mainly composed of advertisements in connection with oils and motor bodies and things of that character. I suggest that his claim that he has published this information in the trade journals is not true. Since when has it been the function of a trade organisation to do the work of the Government? I understand that the trade unions are not compelled to require their members to understand the Government's policy. How, then, are trade associations compelled to tell their members these things?
I suggest that these are pertinent points in supplement to what we have heard already, and I beg the Minister, as a concession, as a mark of grace, to show that he feels there is something in the arguments which have been advanced from this side tonight, by giving another 30 days before he makes this order.
§ 10.55 p.m.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
I am sorry that throughout the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) the Minister seemed to be treating the whole thing as a joke. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in many of the areas of Scotland he will find many people connected with the Road Hauliers' Association and the road haulage enterprises all round who would agree with every word which my hon. Friend said. As representing a very large, sparsely-populated area in Scotland, where road haulage bulks very largely in our life, I must point out that the Minister must study the map every day in bringing out these orders and he must appreciate the situation. He should seriously think again before imposing this order in the high-handed and arbitrary manner in which he is imposing it.
I see some hon. Members opposite indicating dissent from that and tacit assent with the Minister's action, but this is a serious matter, affecting the livelihood 2111 of small people in this country who have invested a large proportion of their capital or their small savings—hon. Members opposite may prefer that word—in this kind of enterprise and who now are being ruthlessly, at very short notice, deprived of their whole life's work. What is even more important, it is likely that large numbers of the public in the rural areas will be deprived of their transport as well. The Minister is, no doubt, conversant with the many stoppages of transport in this country, and he may not think this a serious consideration, but I can assure him that in agricultural circles, when this Debate is read, what he has said tonight will be received with a large measure of disapproval, and that what my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh said on this matter, as it affects rural areas, will meet with a large measure of approval.
This matter has not been raised in a spirit of seeking to score points against the Government. Perhaps when hon. Members opposite sit on this side of the House in the next Parliament—as they surely will—they will seek to score points simply for the purpose of doing so, but that is not our purpose—very much the opposite. We have raised the matter simply to try to serve the people whom we have been sent here to represent to the best of our endeavours. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the spirit of levity with which he has approached this Prayer will, if the report of this Debate is read—and I hope it will receive the widest publicity—by those who are most intimately concerned, be regarded, in rather cheap language, as very poor stuff indeed.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to realise that the kind of way in which he is trying to jeopardise the interests of the small haulier and, even above that, of the whole system, may easily injure rural transport in the sparsely-populated areas, and jeopardise its efficient running. Surely he will see that there is considerable substance in our arguments that the period should be extended. I hope he may seek permission of the House to speak again, or perhaps one of the Lords of the Treasury, or the Chief Patronage Secretary will speak, and tell us that the Government will vary this order.
§ Question put, and negatived.