§ Lords Amendments further considered.
§ Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 6, at end, insert new Clause "A."—(Transfer of property to companies with a view to the sale of their shares.)
§ (1) If it appears to the Commission that it is expedient that any property held by them for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking should, instead of being disposed of under section three or section four of this Act, be disposed of under this section and that such disposal will not prejudice the purposes to which the Commission are to have regard under subsection (3) of the said section three, they may make over that property, together with any such rights or obligations of theirs as in their opinion can conveniently be made over therewith, to a company under their control in the shares of which no other person than they themselves have any beneficial interest, with a view to the subsequent sale of the shares of the company:
§ Provided that the Commission shall not exercise their powers under this subsection without the approval of the Board, and the Board shall not give their approval unless it appears to them that the proposed course of action is expedient and will not prejudice the purposes to which the Commission are to have regard as aforesaid.
§ (2) Where any property is made over to a company under subsection (1) of this section it shall be made over at a price equal to the net value thereof as shown in the books of the Commission (but adjusted so as to take into account depreciation up to the time of the making over thereof so far as not already taken into account), increased by the value, if any, as so shown, of any rights of the Commission made over therewith, and decreased by the value, if any, as so shown, of any liabilities of the Commission made over therewith.
§ In this subsection "net value" means value after deducting depreciation, and the references to values shown in the books of the Commission are references to the values so shown after making, if the Commission, in making up their books for the year nineteen hundred and fifty-two or any subsequent year, depart to any substantial extent from the principles and practice applied by them for the years falling before the year nineteen hundred and fifty-two, all adjustments which are necessary to produce the result which would have been produced but for the departure, and the requirement that the net value shall be adjusted so as to take into account depreciation up to the time of the making over of the property shall be construed as a requirement that the additional depreciation shall be allowed at the rates at which, and in the cases in which, depreciation was allowed under the said principles and practice.
§ (3) Where the Commission have made over any property to a company under subsection (1) of this section, they shall proceed to the 1822 sale of all the shares thereof as soon as is reasonably practicable, and to that end shall, as soon as is reasonably practicable, by public notice invite tenders for the purchase (in one parcel) of all those shares, on conditions specified in the notice or ascertainable in a manner specified in the notice:
§ Provided that—
- (a) no invitation to tender under this section shall be issued without the approval of the Board; and
- (b) if it appears to the Commission that the sale of the shares by tender would be inappropriate and would be unlikely to secure the best possible price for the shares, they may, with the approval of the Board. sell the shares (in one parcel) otherwise than by tender.
§ (4) In determining whether any lender or offer for the shares of any such company as aforesaid is to be accepted or refused, the Commission shall have regard to the desirability of avoiding any step which is likely to lead to the elimination or undue restriction of competition in the carriage of goods by road for hire or reward, but no such tender or offer shall be refused wholly or mainly on the ground that it is likely to lead to the elimination or undue restriction of such competition as aforesaid without the consent of the Minister.
§ (5) No tender or offer for the shares of any such company as aforesaid shall be accepted or refused by the Commission without the approval of the Board, and the Board shall not approve the acceptance of any such tender or offer unless they are satisfied that the price is a reasonable one having regard to the value of the company's undertaking and the rights conferred by the subsequent provisions of this section.
§ (6) If any difference arises between the Commission and the Board under this section, the Commission or the Board may refer the matter to the Minister and the Minister shall give such directions as he thinks fit and any directions so given by him shall be binding on the Commission and the Board.
§ Where Scotland is affected, the Minister shall consult the Secretary of State for Scotland before giving any directions under this subsection.
- (a) the company were and at all times since the passing of this Act (or since its incorporation, whichever is the later) had been a subsidiary company of the Commission and the Commission were and at all times since the passing of this Act had been the holding company thereof;
- (b) the Commission, in every application made for a licence under Part II of the First Schedule to this Act, being an application made before the making over of the property, had signified to the licensing authority their desire that the provisions of the said section twelve should have effect as respects the company;
- (c) the reference in subsection (1) of the said section twelve to Part I of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, included a reference to section fifty-nine of the Transport Act 1947, subsections (1) to (5) of section six of this Act and Part II of the First Schedule to this Act:
§ Provided that this subsection shall have effect in relation to a company only as respects the period preceding the date on which its shares are transferred in pursuance of the sale thereof under this section.
§ (8) Where the shares of a company are transferred in pursuance of the sale thereof under this section, the First Schedule to this Act shall have effect as if the company had, at the time of the transfer of the shares, purchased as or as part of a transport unit all the vehicles owned by it on that date which were then authorised vehicles under an A licence granted to the Commission under Part II of the First Schedule to this Act or were specified in a then pending application for such a licence as vehicles intended to be authorised thereunder and as if all such things had been done as would have fallen to be done if the vehicles had been so purchased; and without prejudice to the generality of the preceding provisions of this subsection, references in the said First Schedule to transport units, to purchasers of transport units and to motor vehicles sold as or as part of transport units shall be construed accordingly:
§ Provided that—
- (a) the total number of trailers specified by virtue of paragraph 2 of Part I of the said First Schedule in applications for special A licences shall not exceed the number of trailers made over under subsection (1) of this section by the Commission to the company;
- (b) in paragraph 4 of the said Part I, the reference to the Commission shall be deemed to be a reference to the company and the reference to the publication of the public notice inviting tenders shall be deemed to be a reference to the date of the transfer of the shares.
§ (9) The Commission, in making over vehicles to a company under subsection (1) of this section, may, by notice to the company, designate certain of those vehicles as additional vehicles, and in that event—
- (a) any application by the Commission for an A licence under Part II of the First Schedule to this Act and any licence granted in pursuance of any such application shall lapse so far as it relates to any motor vehicles so designated, but without prejudice to the substitution of any such vehicle for another vehicle in accordance with the provisions of the said Part II;
- (b) the Commission shall give all such notices and make ail such applications as are necessary to secure that no such vehicle, being a motor vehicle, is included in an A licence so granted, otherwise than by virtue of such a substitution as aforesaid and that any such vehicle, being a motor vehicle, which has been included in such an A licence
1824 otherwise than by virtue of such a substitution is removed therefrom;
- (c) any such vehicles, being trailers, shall be left out of account for the purposes of paragraph (a) of the proviso to the last preceding subsection.
§ (10) Any property made over to a company under subsection (1) of this section shall be deemed for the purposes of section five of this Act to have been disposed of as or as part of a transport unit, but if, after any property has been so made over to a company but before the shares of the company have been transferred in pursuance of the sale thereof under this section, any property of the company (whether part of such property or not) is transferred to the Commission, the property so transferred to the Commission shall be deemed for all the purposes of this Act to become property held by the Commission for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking and shall be dealt with accordingly.
§ (11) A company to which property has been made over under subsection (1) of this section—
- (a) may dispose of any of its property in the ordinary course of its business; and
- (b) may, with the approval of the Board, dispose of any of its property to the Commission,
§ Provided that this subsection shall have effect in relation to a company, only as respects the period preceding the date on which its shares are transferred in pursuance of the sale thereof under this section.
§ (12) Until the shares of any company to which property has been made over under subsection (1) of this section are transferred in pursuance of the sale thereof under this section, any person employed by the company shall be deemed for the purposes of section ninety-five of the Transport Act, 1947 (which relates to terms and conditions of employment of staff), to be employed by the Commission and to be under the direct control of the Commission themselves.
§ (13) Where a company to which property has been made over under subsection (1) of this section has disposed of all its property, this section shall cease to apply to it unless and until further property is transferred to it under the said subsection (1).
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, as amended."
The House knows that this Amendment was amended by the Government accepting an Opposition Amendment in the latter part of last week. I recommend hon. Members, when they have time, to read again the debates on the Committee and Report stages of the Bill in this 1825 House for, although it might not so appear from the tone of the debate last week, it is, in fact, true that this Lords Amendment very largely gives expression to ideas from both sides of the House during those lengthy debates.
I listened throughout those debates and I heard with interest speeches by my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones), the right hon. Member for Lewisham. South (Mr. H. Morrison), all advocating, in Committee, something of this kind; and, on the Report stage, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) all advocated a structure somewhat akin to this.
I must say, therefore, that I felt that, when, after long deliberation and indeed at the urgent entreaty of the British Transport Commission, we decided on this Clause, it would have an almost clear run through the House. I am making no complaints and I certainly do not wish to create any "atmosphere," but we have already had two days on Amendments to this Lords Amendment, and a great many points which I would normally have dealt with at some length have already been discussed—why, for example, the shares are all to be in one parcel; why, for example, the Commission ought not to be allowed to retain a proportion of the shares and relieve themselves only of that part which gives them control; why the Disposal Board should play any part in company formation.
All these and many other points to which, normally, I should have directed the attention of the House have, I think, been quite thoroughly ventilated. Fifteen hours' debate on a Clause which largely expresses the point of view of both sides of the House and which was welcomed by the Labour peers in another place is, I think, giving fair consideration to a matter even of this importance.
The case, as submitted to me by the Commission, which I accept, was particularly this: It would, they said, assist 1826 them in the orderly disposal of the road haulage assets if there was some company structure of this permissive kind. It would assist them also in maintaining efficient maintenance and operation during the very difficult period of transition, and so would reduce disturbance and loss to traders. Here I may say that although the Association of British Chambers of Commerce has been frequently quoted in this House, the very generously worded letter from its President, sent to me some weeks ago, has not been much quoted from the benches opposite. I think it fair to say that the fear of trade and industry have been, in so far as they were real, largely allayed by this permissive company structure.
Again, the Commission argued to me that company structure of this kind would enable the book debts and records to be transferred in an orderly way, and that, with a living entity in the hands of the Commission one day and passed to a purchaser the next, there would not be the hiatus there might otherwise be with the sale only of transport units. They said, also, that it would ease the stocks position, and that, in their view—and this prevailed very much with me—it would reassure the members of their staff who, not unnaturally, are uncertain as to their own future position.
As I have said, the Government have accepted these arguments. They were advanced in the House of Commons with great eloquence by both sides. Some people, I think, advanced them because they hoped thereby that some of the purposes of the Bill might be, if not frustrated, at any rate, held up; and others, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, both advanced the argument because they wanted the Bill to work better, and believed that it would work better in this way.
I must, of course, make it quite plain that the main purposes of the Bill remain quite undisturbed. The Road Haulage Executive must dispose of its property as quickly as is reasonably practicable without avoidable disturbance, and allow a chance of entry or re-entry to people of slender resources. It seemed to us that the best way of achieving this object by the company structure was to amend 1827 Clauses 3 and 4 in the form of the new Clause.
If the House decides to accept this Amendment, additional power will be given to the Commission to make over to companies under their control such properties and rights as they think fit within the power to be exercised in agreement with the Disposal Board. As the House knows, disposal companies must be still owned by the Commission and all the shares must be disposed of in a single parcel. They can be sold by tender or, if the Commission and the Disposal Board think better, by some other means. The companies, as units, will carry with them five-year automatic licences and the capital loss position is altered to take account of this alternative method. The employees will remain under the negotiating machinery of the Commission until the companies are disposed of.
§ Mr. Joseph T. Price (Westhoughton)
Would the Minister care to explain, in the setting up of these companies by the Disposal Board, if any consideration will be included for the goodwill in that particular section of the Commission's property which is being disposed of? I refer to the global figure of £33 million of goodwill which, on present indications, is to be lost to the taxpayer because no provision has been made by the Government to recover it under the Bill.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Precisely the same procedure will be there as for the sale of units. We hope to get the best price both for the units and the shares in the company. Any gap between that and the value of the assets will be met through the levy. I would direct particular attention to the capital loss Amendments in the Bill under which a large, substantial, extra sum will be given to the Commission. If we get on, as I hope we shall, I can explain some of these points when we have reached Clause 12 or the new Schedule.
As I have explained to the House during the Committee stage, the employees of the Transport Commission will, of course, remain in their negotiating machinery until the transport units are sold. It would be impossible for them to stay under the same machinery after sale, but there are provisions for the protection of employees' interests and the wages council structure applies and will 1828 apply to these transport units sold as units. Precisely the same consideration will apply in the case of the companies, and the same protection under the wage council structure will exist there.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell(Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Are we to understand that if there has been a sale of these transport units or this company structure, the wages council structure of the transport industry will remain applicable to these employees who are being sold under these arrangements?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I would deprecate the suggestion that the employees are being sold. There is no such suggestion. Clearly, the arrangement arrived at between the Transport Commission for their employees and the Road Haulage Executive and the unions concerned cannot be automatically applied to the purchasers of the transport units. I do not want to give any such suggestion. They will remain, as I have said, in the company structure and within the negotiating machinery between the unions and the Commission up to the moment of sale of the companies. After that, of course, they will pass into the machinery provided for by the Wages Councils Act.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
Does the Minister mean that by the sale of every operable unit or group of lorries or whatever we call them, automatically the equivalent section of the employed personnel will be transferred, and, if so, is there any guarantee for them?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Of course not. I have been at pains to point out that there is no suggestion that people should be automatically transferred with the sale of the transport units or of the companies. It remains a free choice of the men concerned whether they choose to take employment in the companies before they are transferred, after they are incorporated or after their transfer. It equally remains open to the men to make their own decisions in regard to transport units. Those men who choose to go to the companies, to new purchasers, or others employed by the companies subsequent to the sale will be under the negotiating machinery provided for by the Road Haulage Wages Act and the Wages Council structure.
§ Mr. Popplewell
The position is rather complicated, and I suggest that the 1829 Minister is making rather heavy weather of it. Do I understand that what he is now saying is that the employees in these transport units or company structure, when the thing is sold, go over; or do I understand him to be now inferring that they may have the right to keep in the employ of the Commission, and the Commission will find a job for them?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If there is any danger of misunderstanding the position, I will explain it again, perhaps more clearly. It remains entirely open to the men to decide what they want to do. If they are in the employment of a company which has been created by the Commission but not as yet sold they will remain under the wages structure machinery negotiated between the unions and the Commission.
When the company is transferred it would clearly be impossible for the same machinery to operate because the agreements have been made with their employers—the Commission—and they would no longer be employed by the Commission. They would then pass into the ordinary structure of the Wages Council machinery. I hope that is plain. If a man does not want to take employment with the unit which is being transferred to a company there is absolutely no obligation on him to do so. If he seeks to find employment with the Commission in some other capacity and there are openings for him, naturally the Commission would consider that, but one must face up to the fact that the Commission, being deprived of the bulk of its road haulage activities, will not be able to offer such a wide field of employment as it can today.
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas
Apparently the right hon. Gentleman did not get my point. Does it mean there is no legal liability upon the Commission or those who purchase the transport units to maintain continuity of employment for the men concerned?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here throughout the lengthy debates we had on compensation, but it was made clear then that where people's positions were worsened because of the Bill the compensation provisions applied. If we are able to make progress, I should like to explain how one of the Lords Amendments deals 1830 with the need to look after people who, though they have not lost their employment in the legal sense, may, in fact, have lost it. This is a highly complicated matter. I am advised that if we transfer the Commission's activities to a company, in law, the men have not lost their employment although, in fact, they lose it. I hope the hon. Member realises that an interruption in the continuity of employment, provided the other conditions are satisfied, would qualify the men concerned under the regulations that I shall be obliged to make for compensation for a worsening of their position. We have had many arguments and discussions about this; perhaps they were not arguments, because there was general agreement in the House that the Government were proceeding in the right way by following the precedent of the 1947 Act, although doing it much faster than the Opposition did it.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
This is the first time that I have spoken throughout the stages of the Transport Bill, but I am interested in this point. I understand that when the lorries are transferred the men concerned have an option whether to go with them or not. If the terms of the Bill are carried out and an employer taking over lorries plus men tells certain men at the end of a fortnight that they are no longer required by the company because of certain factors, what is the position of the men?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Had the hon. Gentleman been able to attend the earlier debate he would have known that in dealing with the form the regulations would take provision was made for just that sort of case. It would clearly be inequitable to treat a man who was sacked a fortnight after the acquisition as being in a different position from someone who was not offered employment at all. The hon. Gentleman will find that that has been taken care of. The regulations can be discussed in the House when they come along, and I hope that they will be found to be wise and humane.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
For the same reasons that prevented the Socialists from putting the regulations in the 1947 Act, even though they were asked to do so by some of their back-benchers.
1831 I have been asked how many such companies will be formed. It must clearly be for the Commission and the Disposal Board to decide that. The companies are supplementary to the main proposal to sell by transport units, and it must not be thought that the bulk, or anything approaching the bulk, of the vehicles will be formed into the company structure.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who, as soon as constitutional points or lengthy debates are not in order, does not seem to take an active interest in the Transport Bill—I am sorry that he does not, for he has enlivened our debates a great deal by his interventions in the last few days—what power the companies had to operate vehicles. For the purposes of the record, their power will be in their memorandum of association and their right will be in their automatic A licences.
I am convinced, and the Government are convinced, that the company structure will smooth the transition and will be in every way advantageous to the Commission and the country alike, and this view is generally accepted by the Commission, by trade and industry and, I believe, at heart, by the two major parties in the country.
The company structure also raises the question of credit facilities. It might be advisable to take this opportunity of making one further reference to credit facilities. In the debate on the White Paper in May last year I said:It is far too early to say whether any particular facilities will be needed by the intending purchasers of transport units other than those normally available to them, but Her Majesty's Government will watch this problem with particular attention. Any action which the Government may or may not be able to take must be consistent with general monetary policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 491–2.]My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer have recently made statements in the House about the provision of facilities by the banks. The relevant dates, for hon. Members who wish to refer to them, are 16th and 20th April, only a few days ago. The Chancellor said:The Government … have advised the banks that it would be consistent with Government policy that loans for such purchases 1832 should be made in suitable cases. It is, of course, in the national interest that road transport, by being returned to private enterprise "—I do not expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to accept this—should be able to give increased help to industry in general whether at home or in efforts to increase exports."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1953; Vol. 514, c. 642.]That is self-evident; I believe it will be the general opinion of the country after a little experience.
With reference to the banks situation, I was closely questioned last week about a statement made by the Chairman of the United Dominions Trust. I pointed out that the formation of the company to which he referred was announced in all the national newspapers on 5th February last. Nonetheless, some hon. Members—I do not think they were many—seemed to think that I was guilty of a lack of candour in not having mentioned to the House a fact that must have been read by millions. I hope I shall be forgiven for saying that the charge of lack of candour seems a little strange in the light of a Motion which is on the Order Paper about which I hope that at an early date the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) will think fit to say something.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I have always considered that a personal statement must be non-contentious and I could not guarantee that any comments that I would have to make about that would be non-contentious. But if the right hon. Gentleman cares to represent to the Leader of the House that he should give us time to debate the issue I shall be very happy to do so. I understand that some of my hon. Friends will want to put down an Amendment.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Far be it from me to interfere with such an important thing as the Parliamentary time-table. I am now engaged upon the concluding stages of the Bill. Certainly, the suggestion of a lack of candour came a little strangely at that time. I do not like charges of this kind, and I felt that that charge was singularly ill-deserved.
I have considered whether there might be any other aspect of the matter on which the House would like information in advance of the time when the ordinary procedure of the House would inevitably 1833 and rightly have brought it to their attention. There is one point which will eventually come to the House in the form of a Statutory Instrument, which can be prayed against. It will be in the name of the President of the Board of Trade. I have consulted my right hon. Friend the President who has authorised me to say that it is his intention in the event of the Transport Bill becoming law to make an order amending the Hire Purchase and Credit Sale Agreement (Control) Order, 1952, to exempt from the requirements of that Order hire-purchase agreements relating to the disposal of Road Haulage Executive vehicles. No facilities will be made available to the United Dominions Trust or their customers that would not be available equally to others.
In my concluding words in winding up my speech on this structure, I should like to suggest that the Opposition cannot have it both ways. If they are genuinely interested that there should not be large monopoly holdings so as not to be antisocial, there should be opportunity for some smaller people to play a part in road haulage. I believe that the Opposition think there is room for them, even though they think their role will be limited. Therefore, there must be assistance of some kind, for if assistance were not available to the small man many of them would not be able to re-enter the industry. In that case it would only be the buyers with substantial financial resources who could come in, a result which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite pretend to fear, and which our policy is designed to prevent.
I therefore commend to the House this Amendment to set up the company structure which, in the union with the sale of transport units, will make an efficient and businesslike disposal of the assets, as, indeed, is the intention of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
Listening to the Minister speaking, I was reminded very much of our proceedings during the Report and Committee stages, when we were operating under a Guillotine. I say that particularly because the right hon. Gentleman was following the old technique which he pursued during those proceedings. He would refer in the course of his speeches, as he did this evening, to Amendments on the Order 1834 Paper which he knew perfectly well would not be reached or discussed.
§ Mr. Davies
He had no intention that they should be discussed, and he was cynical in suggesting to the House that such Amendments would come under discussion. When he referred to the Schedule concerned with the losses on the disposal of assets he knew full well that within the 3¾ hours left to us it will be quite impossible to reach that Schedule, which is nearly at the end of the 70 Amendments from their Lordships' House, of which, so far, only 14 have been discussed.
The Minister referred to the length of time which had been taken over the discussion of this Clause and suggested that it was not necessary to discuss the subject further at any great length because we had a number of Amendments down which we had discussed. I would say to him that if he had accepted some of our Amendments then the time spent on this discussion would have been very much shorter, and, what is more important, there was every reason why some of our Amendments should have been accepted.
In replying to most of the debates on those Amendments, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury was most unconvincing. No convincing argument was forthcoming to justify the rejection of our suggestions, with one very minor exception. I refer, for instance, to the question of disposals in one parcel, on which there were some very strong arguments presented from this side of the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham (Mr. N. H. Lever), as well as others. In the face of those arguments the Economic Secretary was unable to justify the rejection of those Amendments.
The Minister has said that this Clause now expresses the general idea and views which were voiced from both sides of the House, but I question that. It has been interesting to notice that during our debate so far neither the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) nor the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) has expressed his view 1835 on any of the Amendments which we put forward. I hope that one or both of these hon. Gentlemen will this evening give us their views as to the extent that this Clause meets their desires as expressed during the Committee and Report stages.
The purpose of the proposals which were put forward from both sides of the House for having a company Clause along these lines was that it would prevent a disorderly disposal of the national assets of the Road Haulage Executive, and that a better price would, therefore, be obtained. Further, it meant that the existing services could be maintained, and, as a consequence, the amount which it would be necessary to raise by the levy would be less because of the reduction in the anticipated loss.
The Minister has told us that the Clause is somewhat akin to the ideas which were expressed, but I would submit to the House that there are a number of reasons why this Clause, providing for the creation of companies in exceptional cases, does not really meet our desires. In the first place, the Disposal Board are the final authority in deciding whether the companies shall be set up by the Commission or not. The original view that was expressed was that the Commission should decide when it was expedient to form companies because it would satisfy those purposes I have already referred to, more orderly disposal, better price, continuance of existing services without loss during the time of disposal—
§ Mr. Davies
In this Clause we have the power vested in the Board to veto the action of the Commission. The Commission are to be subject to the Board, and they cannot exercise their powers without the approval of the Board. This takes away from the Commission the final judgment as to the national interest. We have argued here—I do not want to repeat those arguments at length—that the Disposal Board are a prejudiced body, that they will not be able to examine these facts objectively, and if the Commission goes to the Board and put their proposals for 1836 the disposal of certain assets because they consider that that would be the most satisfactory way to do it, it may be against the interests of persons serving on the Disposal Board and they may exercise their veto. By bringing the Disposal Board in the Minister has prevented the Commission from deciding what is in the national interest and put that power in the hands of a prejudiced party.
Secondly, the Clause as it stands is unsatisfactory because it is inconsistent by insisting that Clause 3 (3) of the Bill shall govern whether these companies shall be formed or not. The House will recall that that subsection, in determining what are to be transport units, attempts to secure that persons desirous of entering or re-entering the road haulage industry should have a reasonable opportunity of doing so notwithstanding that their resources will permit them to do so only if they are operated on a small scale, and so on.
Then it limits the number of vehicles in any unit to 50 except with the consent of the Minister. Making that the test as to whether companies shall be formed or not, or insisting that regard has to be had to that primarily, means that in many cases where it might be desirable for companies to be formed, and where a better price would be obtained if those companies were formed, they will not be created because Clause 3 (3) will operate.
We had some argument on that during our debates last week and I will not go into it again. However, I contend that this Clause is inconsistent with the purposes of the Clause as stated by the Minister, which is to obtain a better and a higher price. It means that if there are people desirous of re-entering the industry, and they are available to do so, priority has to be given to the creation of transport units over the creation of companies. Those people may not be able to pay such a good price as would be obtained if the companies were formed and the shares were disposed of as favourable opportunity arose. In this way, however, the assets have to be disposed of in accordance with the priority given to the small man, whereas better prices could be obtained through larger units which cannot be formed unless the Board to approves.
Further, in connection with the question of the small man coming in and 1837 obtaining credit facilities, the Minister has made an important statement this afternoon. Again, I must protest that when we are discussing this Clause at this late stage of the proceedings under the threat of the Guillotine, the right hon. Gentleman makes an important statement regarding the hire-purchase facilities which are to be given to the small man entering the industry.
Why is the Minister so partial towards assisting financially those people? He is not content with disposing of these national assets, of breaking up this great national network of services throughout the country and of disintegrating it, splitting it up, atomising as it were; he is to assist people to purchase these national assets cheaply and to give them special favours, special privileges, special credit. That is unjustifiable. It is helping one's friends, as we knew the Government intended to do, in regard to the disposal of the road haulage assets.
What is the justification for giving special credit facilities for the purchase of these national assets when their purchase will contribute nothing whatever to production in this country? The basis of credit today, as far as priority is concerned, is increasing production and contributing to the export trade. In neither case does that apply to road haulage. If the Government enable small people to come in to the road haulage industry and create more competition on the roads, and if thereby there results a different type of service than is being provided today, that will not in any way contribute to production. It will not result in increased productivity nor will it in any way assist the export trade.
As I said before, transport does not produce anything. It does not create production. All it does is to carry that which is produced. So there is no justification for changing the credit facilities which are to be made available in order that the small man can come into the industry. In passing, I would refer to the reference of the Minister to the United Dominions Trust. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought it was quite unfair for my hon. Friend to have suggested that he was guilty of a lack of candour in this respect. He said it was monstrous.
I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. We were debating 1838 the Transport Bill on Report on 4th February and in the subsequent week, and during those debates no word was said by the Minister to us in the House about the discussions which had been going on with the United Dominions Trust. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was in the papers. On 5th February it was stated in the papers that arrangements had been made, but in that statement there was no reference to the fact that the Government were involved. The statement did not say that the approval of the Minister had been given.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants to go over again what was debated twice—once on an Adjournment Motion three days ago—and I do not suppose it would be in order. I made it plain that approval did not mean formal approval, but that it was consistent with Government policy and to that extent I had approved and welcomed it. I repeat, I welcomed it. It seems to me to be an inescapable part of the machinery to get the smaller men back into the business.
§ Mr. Davies
If the Government approved the action which was to be taken on this matter, if it were a matter of Government policy as the Minister states, then surely the House should have been informed at that time. The House was discussing the Transport Bill. Here was an important statement issued to the Press. No reference was made by the Minister to the fact that it had his approval. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that no Questions had been put down in the House at that time and he was surprised, but, clearly, the reason why no Questions appeared on the Order Paper was because we did not know that the Government had any responsibility in this matter; we did not know that the Government were involved in any way whatever with the United Dominions Trust.
At that stage, we had no reason to harbour the suspicions which we have since harboured and which we have since found were completely justified.
§ Mr. Davies
Another reason why this Clause does not fulfil the purposes for which it was intended is that the Commission are to be compelled to dispose of 1839 all the shares in these companies in one parcel. That nullifies the effect of the companies Clause of ensuring continuity of service and employment and the continuity of existing services and of orderly disposal. If the Commission, as soon as the company is formed or as speedily as is reasonably practicable, dispose of all those shares, it will have to offer them to the market and accept whatever tender is put up for that one parcel of shares.
Our idea, in putting forward our Amendments on this subject both in the earlier stages of our debates and during last week, was to enable the Commission to retain that interest in those companies where it was considered desirable that it should do so. Where it would have been possible to dispose of a certain number of shares and, by retaining part of the shares, perhaps a minority interest, there would have been a better price obtained because there would have been an operating unit which would continue in operation without a complete change of management, we envisaged their doing something with some section of the road haulage industry as is done in the case of the 'bus companies.
If the Commission were able to retain an interest, it would maintain those assets and enable their more orderly disposal as opportunity arose and thus ensure a smaller loss. Certainly, it could be done in the case of some of the existing services, whether one takes the Parcels and Smalls Division or the Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division or any others. As the Bill stands, none of these can be continued in operation, but if they were converted into companies it would be possible to continue a Commission share in them, and it would not then be necessary for them to be broken up and their assets dissipated.
I see that the hon. Member for Batter-sea, South (Mr. Partridge) is strongly objecting to what I am saying. If he wishes to intervene, I should be glad to give way. I have not heard him participating in our debates. The fact remains, however, that neither Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division, the Parcels and Smalls Division nor the trunk services, can be maintained if the Commission are limited to the number of vehicles which the Bill permits; but if the Commission were able to form those into companies and 1840 to retain a share in them, those existing services could be maintained. It is highly unlikely that any financial group would be able to put up the capital to take over any one of those sections of the road haulage industry and to maintain it as an existing service on its present lines. It would run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, and in the case of Pickfords probably well over £1 million, in order to do so.
The Minister found it necessary, in introducing the amended new Clause, to speak at some length, but he was not able to clear up quite a number of obscurities which are still in the Clause. He was able to make some important statements, but there is inadequate time to debate them if we are to get on to any of our other Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman has not revealed any justification for refusing to enlarge the Clause in such a way that it gives the priority of decision to obtaining the best possible price for the national assets. That is what should be in the forefront of the minister's mind the whole time in regard to the disposal of the road haulage industry.
This companies Clause goes a little way towards that, but a very little way only. Had the Amendments which we proposed been given greater consideration and been received with more sympathy and understanding by the Minister, instead of their automatic rejection, except for one very minor one, this companies Clause would receive far more support than, I am afraid, it will get. It does not go more than a very short way towards making the disposal of these assets more orderly.
The disposal of these assets is all that the Minister is concerned with. He wants to break up the road haulage undertaking, to scatter its assets among a large number of individuals and groups, and, in the process, to lose a substantial sum, which will ultimately have to be made up out of the levy. Far more important, however, is the fact that in that disposal—and in this the Clause makes very little contribution and gives little assistance—there will be disturbance and dislocation of the transport industry.
The Minister, in his usual manner, has tried to give the impression that he has been meeting the House in putting the Clause forward. It receives a large measure of support, but the right hon. 1841 Gentleman has not met the House more than a fraction of the way. Therefore, it does not go far enough and it cannot have our full support.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
It would be churlish of me not to express, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) and myself, our gratitude to my right hon. Friend for the Lords Amendment. I have been invited by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) to say whether the Amendment meets the purposes which my hon. Friend and I had in mind when we moved our original Amendment in Committee. My answer is, unhesitatingly, "Yes; it does meet our purposes."
§ Mr. Jones
The Amendment adds to the Bill a permissive power which before did not exist. Nothing, therefore, is lost. On the other hand, much is gained. Nothing that has been said in the course of the last week, and nothing today in the speech of the hon. Member for Enfield, East, detracts in any way from that central fact.
In so far as there has been controversy, it has been over two points. The first is over the question of the extent to which use should be made of the company procedure. As I understand the thought of hon. Members opposite, they would like a sale overwhelmingly by way of company. That has never been my thought. I have always thought that a considerable proportion of the undertaking of the Road Haulage Executive could be sold in small lots, and, therefore, to small men, without disruption. That was implicit in our original Amendment, and my hon. Friend and I made it explicit on the Report stage. On the other hand. I have always believed also that a residue of the undertaking could not be sold without disruption except by way of the company procedure. I have had in mind in particular the parcels service and some of the trunk services.
As I understand the Amendment in its present form, without prejudice to the needs of the small man it is for the Commission and the Board jointly to determine, in the light of the circumstances confronting them, how many companies shall be set up and what their size shall 1842 be. I do not think it is for any of us to prejudge their decision. I do not wish to do so, and for my part I prefer to leave it there.
The second controversy has been over the question whether the ownership of the companies when established should be single or mixed; that is to say, whether we shall provide for a company to be owned in part by private people and in part by the State or by the Commission. It is true that in our original Amendment on the Committee stage, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, and I made possible a mixture of ownership, but my right hon. Friend has rejected that aspect of our original proposals.
§ Mr. Jones
Despite that interjection, I think on reflection that my right hon. Friend is right, and he is right on a practical ground.
We have a precedent for mixed ownership in the case of certain bus companies which are in part owned by the Transport Commission and in part by the B.E.T. As far as I have been able to discover, and I have made what inquiries I could, neither of the two parties is satisfied with that arrangement. If the State ownership is more than 50 per cent. it might as well be total State ownership; if the State ownership is less than 50 per cent. it might as well be complete private enterprise. Any mixture in practice makes for a disunited Board and a lack of harmony in policy.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Would not the hon. Member agree, on the other hand, that in the case of some of the services to which he has referred, it would be well-nigh impossible to obtain the capital in order for them to be transferred to private enterprise if they are to be retained in their present form and if the existing services are to continue?
§ Mr. Jones
I do not think so. I grant that the proposal of mixed ownership has certain superficial attractions, to which I succumbed, but in view of the practical objections which I have stated I believe that the attractions should not lead one astray. When our Amendment first met with resistance, so impeccable and unexceptionable did my hon. Friend and 1843 I think it to be that we were rather surprised; but perhaps even submission has been shown to have its reward, and the earlier rebuff is now all the greater reason why we wish to say, "Thank you very much."
§ Mr. Popplewell
If the House wants any justification for the attitude adopted by hon. Members on this side in protesting at the limitation of time to which we have been subjected and at the procedure that is being followed with the Bill, there is no need to look any further than to this Lords Amendment for full and complete justification of the stand taken by my hon. Friends. We are in a real difficulty on this proposed new Clause because, in effect, we are now having a Second Reading debate after taking the Committee stage and that is bound to put hon. Members in a difficult situation.
In December this matter of establishing companies was referred to by many hon. Members, but the Minister said today that although we discussed it in December and on Report stage, in February the Government were still not in a position to make these alterations and we had to wait until the matter was discussed in the House of Lords. We are not really surprised at that, because it is in keeping with the muddled thinking of the Government on this Bill and the de-nationalisation proposals from the start. If the Bill continued under discussion a little longer one does not know whether there would not be great and cardinal changes yet made in the mind of the Minister because changes have been taking place from day to day since its inception.
In Committee we supported the idea of the company structure. We supported the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) and the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) because we realised the necessity for adopting something on these lines. But we violently disagree with the Minister on the way in which he proposes to establish these companies for disposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) rightly drew attention to the Minister's decision to dispose of all these shares in one parcel, but the Minister was adamant about it and at once destroyed the argument he previously put up about trying to safeguard the interests 1844 of the small man. Only by the small man coming into the company structure and being able to amalgamate can he come into this business. Alternatively, we are in favour of them having the same power to take over these companies as the United Dominions Trust and others.
Surely the Minister must know that it is wrong to give the purchasers of these transport assets the right to decide through their Disposal Board how the companies shall be made up. Surely everyone will agree that it is wrong to allow purchasers to decide what they want, but that is what the Minister is saying in this Clause. He is giving that right to the Disposal Board, consisting in the main of representatives of the purchasers of the assets, and taking away from the Commission the right to decide how the companies shall be made up. That is wrong and justifies one of my interjections in which I suggested that it was a sell out.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We dealt with the position of the Disposal Board—which it would not be in order to discuss now—in the general debate and showed that what the hon. Member is saying is not so.
§ Mr. Popplewell
It may have shown that to the Minister, who is prejudiced, but everyone else knows that my words were justified then and are now. The Minister comes down at this stage in these proceedings, as distinct from the stages of the Bill, and makes an important announcement saying that he will give to the small businessmen the rights of the hire purchase system, that he is going to give them financial assistance and has had a word with the banks and told them to give assistance to the small men equal to that of the United Dominions Trust and equal in priority to export orders.
That is a very important statement because it is indicative of the rake's progress which the Government are making with this Bill. It is indicative that they know very well this is not a popular Measure in the country, it is not a popular Measure with the users of transport, but is a popular Measure with the Road Haulage Association, which contributes to the Tory Party funds, and only to that Association.
1845 7.15 p.m.
Knowing this, the Government have to give additional financial inducement to these companies about which they propose the Disposal Board shall decide the way in which they are to be made up. This is a shocking piece of Parliamentary legislation, and I desire at this late stage to register the strongest possible protest at this sell-out.
We were interested to hear the Minister explain what is to take place so far as employees are concerned. He made a big point of the fact that until the date of disposal they would remain the employees of the Commission. I do not know why he elaborated that point, as it was obvious that they would so remain. We are interested to know what is to happen to them after that date. The Minister says that they can go to the companies or else—or else what? They can go on the streets and look for employment. There was no guarantee of employment by the Commission themselves.
If these assets are disposed of, a lot of these men will be looking for work when the companies are established and they will not be sure of the same fair and reasonable conditions of employment as under the Commission. People engaged in these undertakings which will be transferred must realise full well that, when the transfer takes place, for a lot of these men it will mean a return to the old philosophy of walking the streets to find another job. We can wrap up compensation Clauses for people disposed of in this way, but, as we know from past experience in the industry those Clauses will not meet the full needs of these people who would lose their jobs.
We are considering the Second Reading of this important Clause and I suggest that the House would be well justified in registering emphatic protest, by the largest possible vote we can muster against it, about its make-up and the way in which it is to dispose of the assets.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I was rather surprised when I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) considering that when he proposed his Amendment on the company structure I was impressed and thought at that time he and I had a common view on the matter.
1846 In opening the discussion this afternoon, I thought that the Minister was rather unfair to hon. Members on this side of the House when he suggested that all the virtues for suggesting the company structure and all the honesty of purpose belonged to hon. Members opposite. I went to very considerable lengths to assure the Minister on many occasions that the introduction of politics into transport is destroying a vital service to the nation; and the Minister knows very well that I made clear, even when the original Transport Bill was before us, that I believed that the application of the provisions of that Bill were essential to the well being and the development of our transport industry.
The hon. Member for Hall Green has really eaten all words he uttered when he moved that very important Amendment on the company structure, because the Minister has told us this afternoon that the company structure is only complementary to the selling out of the transport industry to small holders. What the Minister has told us this afternoon is that the Government have accepted the arguments on the company structure but are only to allow it to apply in the last resort, when all other methods of disposing of the assets of the Road Haulage Executive have been exhausted. That is contrary to the conception which any reasonable-minded individual would have of the best interests of the road haulage industry.
What is essential is not that the Government should sell in small units to small individuals who cannot possibly give the service to industry that is required: the essential need, if we have to sell out at all, is to sell to large holding companies large blocks of the road haulage assets in order that they can be run in the interests of industry. It is no use the Minister coming to this House and saying, "We have arranged that the President of the Board of Trade shall come along and announce some kind of amendment of the credit provisions in order to allow special credit facilities for people buying the assets of the road, haulage undertaking."
I wish to remind the Minister that there may well be quite a number of people who may come along in a speculative mood and purchase certain sections of the transport industry, and they may not 1847 understand the industry. They may fail to render that service to industry which is essential to our export drive today and to the development of our industries generally. The Minister and the Government are taking a very grave risk in bringing forward this Amendment today. The principle of company ownership is important only in so far as it is able to provide the service which industry requires.
I have on many occasions told the House the tragic experience of ex-Service men who after the First World War went into the transport industry, putting in the money which they had accumulated—their compensation or whatever it may have been. They went to the wall and lost their money because they did not understand the job, and also because they were not able to provide that type of service which industry required. The same will apply today. People will be tempted to buy under the special facilities which this Government are proposing to give, and they too will fail to be able to carry on; and it may well be that the United Dominions Trust will, by that method, be able to get hold of quite a big number of defaulting small firms, and in that way we shall get a system of large ownership.
When the Minister was speaking my hon. Friends raised many points on the question of the employment of the men engaged in the industry as and when the units were transferred to their new ownership. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to tell us that prior to the transfer to new ownership the employees would still continue under the conditions of employment and rates of pay agreed upon with the Transport Commission. The Minister did not go far enough and explain to the House what the position would be where the vehicles would be purchased and the men would not be taken over with them.
It is quite true that the Minister said that he would bring in regulations to meet that position, but it is obvious that the whole of this Bill has been designed, in the first instance, and has been repeatedly amended by the Government both in this House and in another place, in order to assist all along the line the purchasers of these vehicles and to give them special consideration, attention and 1848 protection; but there has been nothing in the Bill which can really be said to give protection, or adequate protection, to the workers engaged in the industry.
Here we are today dealing with these Lords Amendments, with a Guillotine in operation, in circumstances which will prevent us from being able to debate to the fullest possible extent the outstanding Amendments sent to us from another place, or those Amendments put down to the Lords Amendments, and we are in some difficulty because of that fact. We shall have to tell our people in the transport industry that with all the good will in the world we have not, in view of the limitation of time, been able to go into these Lords Amendments, and particularly this one, in the way we ought to.
I am sure that our case on the Disposal Board is a good one. I hope that the Minister will not insist upon the one-parcel disposal of the shares or the stock of the Transport Commission because if he does that we shall not get the type of company required. I would have thought that it would have been far better for the Transport Commission to be allowed to retain some, even if only 40 per cent., of the shares. That would not give them control over the industry, but if they were allowed to retain 40 per cent. there would at least be at the disposal of the new organisation some section of it capable of giving advice drawn from experience in the transport industry. This Clause has gone some distance towards the viewpoint we had, about the company structure, but it has not gone as far as is necessary in the interests of the industry, and industrial development in this country.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
The hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) seemed to say that this Bill, this new Clause, was largely designed to assist such people as the United Dominions Trust and the people who will buy the new transport undertakings. I hope that is not the case. I trust the primary purpose is to give an adequate transport service to the people who use it, and to protect the workers in the industry through the normal laws and the activities of their trade unions. A great deal has been said about the profits 1849 which may be made by the new undertakings. For those who believe in private enterprise, it is of the essence of the system that there are losses as well as profits, and, however unpleasant it may be, we have to face the fact that there may be a considerable loss made in the transport industry.
Like the hon. Member for Bradford, East, I regret that this Clause has been brought in from another place. In the debate in Committee the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), to whom we are much indebted for the existence of this Clause at all, said it was the pivotal Clause of the entire Bill. That was in Committee. Surely there should have been an adequate debate at that stage on the pivotal Clause of the Bill, and if necessary, further debate on the Report stage which followed. I think it a pity that the Minister rejected the arguments advanced from his own side both on Committee and on Report and then brought this matter back from the Lords.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the hon. Member will refer to the debate on Report, he will see something quite different from what he has just said. I expressly announced that I would be asking the House to consider such an Amendment which I would be introducing in another place. I said:I would ask hon. Members not to be deceived by the volume of lines which may be necessary in order to give effect to this very simple improvement, but to realise that, though the machinery may appear complicated, on closer examination it will not be so formidable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1953, Vol. 510, c. 1935.]The hon. Member can hardly describe that as rejecting the Amendment.
§ Mr. Grimond
I very much doubt whether it is an adequate answer to lay before the House. I notice, on turning over the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT, that the discussion on that point ended within half a dozen columns or so, and that was the whole of the discussion in this House. It was extremely short on a point described by the Minister's own supporter as the pivotal Clause in the Bill. However, I withdraw my accusation that the right hon. Gentleman rejected it out of hand on Report.
1850 This is an extremely important Clause and an improvement to the Bill. There has been considerable discussion on the merits of selling off the units as what were called "going concerns" or as "physical assets." That has sometimes taken the form of debate between the advantages of a big company and the small man. I am a supporter of the small man, not for any sentimental reasons, and not because I like to see a lot of people of different names running vehicles on the roads.
If the small man cannot offer the service which a company can offer, then regretfully I think he must go to the wall. But the whole argument is that there are certain types of transport services which the small man could do best were he given the opportunity. In certain circles which normally support the small man there seems to be an air of defeatism. It is argued that we must protect the small man, bolster him up and give him special help. But I believe that in certain types of transport the small man can do better than the big company if he is given a fair chance, and that is what we want to see.
§ Mr. Grimond
In my constituency there are jobs which a man who is almost a half-time operator could do better and more cheaply than a company. That is all I am saying. I do not wish to see him bolstered up or supported if he cannot give as good a service as the big man.
§ Mr. Popplewell
I should like the hon. Gentleman to say what type of transport undertaking a small man can do more efficiently than a company which has schedules and a collecting service.
§ Mr. Grimond
Where a schedule is needed, or a collecting service, the company could do the job better. But in the rural areas, where a man who wishes a special job done can ring up his neighbour who has a lorry and who would be able to do it for him.
I think it fair to say that if we are going to de-nationalise the transport industry, special credit provisions will have to be provided. We are not allowed 1851 to debate the principle of this Bill, which is that the industry shall be denationalised. But it is a unique type of operation and I do not think it unfair for the Minister to say that it requires a certain relaxation of credit or hire purchase facilities. I think it vital, however, that in this connection there should be no favouritism, and I should have welcomed some further statement from the Minister about how that is to be done. In the granting of credit it will, in my opinion, be only too easy to weigh the scales in favour of one undertaking or type of undertaking.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. R. Maudling)
That is not a matter for the Government. The granting of credit will be done by the banks themselves. All we have done is to make it clear that the granting of credit in those circumstances is within the four walls of Government policy.
§ Mr. Grimond
I am always charmed by the modesty of the Treasury, but I can only assume that the Economic Secretary has not spoken to his bank manager lately. Has he tried to get any credit out of his bank manager? If so, he has been told by his bank manager, "I am sorry, but it is the Treasury who forbid me to do this." I do not think the Treasury are so ineffective as they like to make out during transport debates.
There is also the question of selling of shares in one parcel. I am a little doubtful about what that means, and I doubt whether it is right. During our discussions on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Hall Green I raised the point, and I thought he agreed with it, of a man who wanted to buy back a transport undertaking and could not do so because he could not raise the money which might be required. I suggested that he might be allowed to purchase the controlling equity capital while the Commission retained an interest through debentures. I am not certain why that cannot be done. I do not see why the sale needs to be done in one parcel.
I realise that one of the matters at the back of the Minister's mind is that he does not want nationalisation through the back door. He does not want the Commission hanging on to the assets. But we must assume that we are all eventually 1852 going to bat on the same side, or else the transport system of this country will never work. There may be occasions when the buyer will not want to buy a whole parcel. He will only be able to do so, if at all, by raising money at exorbitant rates. I think that the Minister might look at that again. I do not see that it will mean any more than a slight altering of the wording, but I am not at all convinced that it is necessary to write in so firmly a provision that the shares must be sold off in one parcel.
§ Mr. A. Hargreaves (Carlisle)
Like many other hon. Members, I want to address myself, not to the Clause itself, but to what the Minister said about it. Originally, I think it would be accepted by the House, the suggestion was welcomed on the grounds that it would help to carry out the purpose of the Bill.
The Minister said this afternoon that this Clause would be used only in exceptional cases, and the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), going back to the Committee proceedings in this House, when the Minister opposed the Clause, now says he visualises this Clause being used to dispose of the residue of the undertakings. His actual words were "the residue of the undertaking being sold through the formation of companies"; in other words, to deal with the whole of the parcels services and the trunks services, both of which are very considerable services.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me to clarify what I meant? I meant a residue in time. First, one ought to detail and market the small lots; there is no difficulty there. Then, we come to the more complex structures, which are a different proposition and require much more attention. As I see it, the demarcation of companies is secondary in time.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I am glad of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, because he used the word "residue" in relation to parcels and trunks services. I can understand his point of view regarding the residue of the parcels service, but the House should be made aware of the immense size of the present parcels and trunks undertakings.
The small man, who has been quoted so often in our debates, is covered by an earlier Clause of the Bill—Clause 3 (3)— 1853 and this company structure, welcomed as the Minister said it was in another place, ought to be regarded as the main means of disposal after Clause 3 has been used in the way which the Minister outlined to us; in other words, to facilitate the entry of people with little capital.
All of us will recognise that the attractive part of an undertaking is not comprised in the buildings, stores, depots and so on, but those things which acquired a scarcity value for so many years; in other words, the vehicles, and especially those vehicles which have been modernised in accordance with the new trend in vehicle building. I mean vehicles of a larger size and greater unladen weight. If we take into account the trend of recent years, vehicles ought to be fairly easy of disposal, but there is a danger inherent in that disposal from the Government's point of view, in that the vehicles which are attractive will be quickly and easily disposed of, and the undertaking will be left, not with the smaller part of its assets, but with the greater proportion, in value.
If we take the value of an undertaking as a whole as £100 million, vehicles will represent £40 million and buildings, stores and depots £60 million. If we are to dispose of the more attractive part of the undertaking—the vehicles—we shall then be left with the unattractive part, which would be a bad bargain from the Government's point of view.
I therefore suggest that the Minister might have second thoughts, not upon the Clause itself, because his approach to the company structure is conditioned by the words he used in the House and not by anything inherent in the Clause itself. What I am suggesting is that whether the company structure is to be relied upon for the disposal either of the greater or the lesser part of these undertakings is a matter, presumably, of Ministerial decision, and, on business grounds, the facts to which I have referred must be taken into account in a business-like manner in assessing the means whereby these exceptionally large undertakings are to be disposed of.
May I emphasise another point which has been referred to more than once in the debate and to which I should like the Minister to pay exceptional regard? The men engaged in the industry have 1854 been disturbed in their minds for a long time, and we must admit that this Clause relating to the company structure is not an attraction to people who have been playing a part in a national road haulage undertaking, with hours and conditions of service negotiated on an easily recognised national basis, with steady prospects of employment facing them and with conditions of service which have improved in recent years.
The Minister must take his stand in regard to the points I have been making about the use of the company structure in the disposal of a greater proportion of the undertakings, but he must know that, ever since May of last year, these people have been disturbed and rightly concerned about their future and their conditions of employment. That must be understood by us all, and anything that we can do to help to minimise their fears as to their future conditions we certainly ought to do.
If the Minister could say that an extension of the company principle would be considered by him, in the interests of the staff, I think that would help, because the smaller the employer, in general, the less secure are the conditions which he can offer over the distant future. I think we must all recognise that the larger the undertaking the greater the security which can be offered to the workpeople, and the more easily employer and employee can negotiate wages and conditions of service. I think that workpeople everywhere recognise that wages and conditions of service are much more easily negotiated with the larger undertakings who are able to offer more secure conditions of employment.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
What, then, are the basic sociological reasons which cause hon. Gentleman opposite to object to what they call "Tory Party big business"?
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
I am afraid the discussion is getting a little wide of this Lords Amendment.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I ask the Minister to consider using the company principle in a much wider sphere than his earlier 1855 remarks today would lead us to suppose that he will. I have attempted to argue that owing to the fact that conditions of employment are usually better in the larger organisations, the natural fears of the people employed in the industry will be more easily allayed if the Minister will have some regard to the arguments which have been addressed to him on those lines.
The interjection of the noble Lord makes plain his total lack of knowledge of these things and what he said is not worthy of attention. I enjoy his occasional excursions into our debates because I recognise that they are fanciful ones.
There is another point in connection with the Clause to which attention ought to be paid and which originated in the quarter from which we expect this kind of excursion to come. On the Committee stage of this Bill, an Amendment was moved which the noble Lords in another place have reframed, recognising that it was utterly silly and illogical in its origin and phraseology.
I refer, of course, to the phrase "too few hands" which has been debated many times. The same kind of phraseology is used in the Clause at it comes from another place. This phrase, surely, is another means whereby a dozen different meanings might be attached to the whole of the Clause which attempts to deal with the avoidance of competition. The care that has been taken in this Clause to confine the work of the Commission regarding the company structure is patently different from the method adopted later in the Bill with regard to the railways.
I think that the Clause might have been much more broadly framed in order to allow the Commission to carry out the principle of the Bill along the broad lines announced by the Minister in the same way that, later on, the Minister says to the Commission, "I want from you a means whereby the House can take cognisance of a method for reorganising the railways." Such a method might well have been the basis for a Clause such as the one with which we are dealing at the moment, thus leaving the broad lines of policy to the Commission.
I am sure that had that been done there would have been a different approach from that outlined by the Minister, that 1856 is, concentration on the sale of units as such. By using the three methods of disposal in order to meet the requirements of each geographical area we should avoid the real disturbance which I fear the Bill will cause, not only to the Transport system throughout the country, but to the people engaged in the industry. The fears which they express have been with them for more than 12 months and have not been dealt with by the Government in this Bill.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
One can well understand this particular Clause being introduced in another place. It is, of course, just another example of the various admissions which the Government have made since the original White Paper concerning the awful mess in which we find this Bill. Had we been able to debate these Lords Amendments more fully instead of having a Guillotine Motion, this would have been all the more patent. It is, in fact, an admission by the Government that they are unlikely through the Disposal Board to dispose of the assets. After all this talk about letting the little man come in and do the job, about free enterprise and about Tom, Dick and Harry buying a lorry apiece, they have now come to the conclusion that a modern transport system cannot be run in that way.
If companies are to be formed, the people concerned must have some idea which of the assets they can acquire before forming a company. Under the procedure devised, the Commission will form the company in the hope that it will be sufficiently attractive to outsiders, not because they are interested in transport, but so that they may look at the structure of a particular company in order to decide whether it is worth investing their money in it. Will that be of any assistance to transport?
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
Are not the remarks of the hon. Gentleman very much in conflict with observations made from his own Front Bench by speakers who have pointed out that the Lords Amendment is very much the same in principle as one which was proposed from these benches and with which hon. Gentlemen opposite were in general agreement?
§ Mr. Pargiter
We may have been in agreement about something which seemed 1857 a more beneficial way of disposing of the assets, but that does not let the Government out. They have had to some here today with this proposal because their other method was doomed to failure.
§ Mr. Harvey rose—
§ Mr. Pargiter
I cannot give way again. It is obvious that in the circumstances something has to be done to save the face of the Government. We shall have the Commission forming companies in the hope that the units will be sufficiently attractive for outsiders to invest money in. In order that there shall not be concentration of vehicles in too few hands, I presume that the company formation will take place after everybody has decided what vehicles he wants and how he wants them. The Disposal Board will have to change their minds as they go along, according to how sales are effected and how they are able to attract customers. What that will lead the Commission to do in the way of company formation I do not know.
The obvious thing is to decide in advance that some parts of the assets are to be disposed of in large parcel's and other assets in small parcels. If that is the intention of the Minister, that is all right, but let us have that clear at the beginning. It ought to be clear that there are certain transport units so large that to be run efficiently they will not be generally available to small people or to small companies; they will need people with considerable assets to take them over. If that is the proposal, we ought to get clear about it at the beginning, and the Minister ought to tell us that company formation will be an integral part and not a residual part of the structure. It will be done in the first instance, in order that transport units can be divided up in to reasonably economic lots.
Whether we believe in nationalisation or not, we want an efficient transport system. If we are to have transport units which are large enough to be economic that should be decided at the beginning, and not at the end after somebody has picked out the best so that the Commission will be obliged to make units with what is left over. That would be entirely wrong. The units would not be attractive, and would have to be disposed of at knock-out prices. If we make these units, they must be attractive, and then the 1858 chances are that the Disposal Board will be able to dispose of them at rather attractive figures that will show little loss on the transaction. For the life of me I cannot see why they should not do it in that way.
In view of the fact that these companies have to be disposed of in single lots, how will that be done? Will finance houses, like the United Dominions Trust, come into the picture again? Will they find a means by which they will acquire some of these units which they would not be able to secure by any other means? They could finance people to acquire them. I can readily understand and appreciate the Minister's point of view. He thinks that these are philanthropic people who will finance small men to acquire a small number of vehicles, in the interests of private enterprise.
As one who knows something about these things, I know that finance houses must live and must charge something for their money. They tie the assets up pretty closely so that if anything happens they can get them. In view of the fact that they allow only 18 months' purchase for second-hand cars and the interest is now 14 per cent., approximately 10 per cent. per annum, and if that is to be the rate of interest that the transport people are to pay, these people will have to earn a good deal of money before they can pay their way and pay the interest on the capital.
Let us assume that the units are formed into companies. The United Dominions Trust will be able to set up a group of people, saying: "You form a company and we will find the money." I have an idea that there will be a good deal of concentration in too few hands unless we are very careful how these transport units are disposed of. I feel that we may not be doing this transaction in the best way.
Why must we dispose of the transport units in one parcel? Why cannot shares be offered on the market in the usual way and let people come in an buy them? Let the small investor come in and invest a few pounds if he wants to. Why should he not? If hon. Gentlemen opposite desire a property-owning democracy this might be a very good means by which to start. Form a company and invite people to buy shares, and let us have arrangements by which shareholdings can be taken up and money provided for part 1859 of the company units, and there would not necessarily be concentration in too few hands.
What are these companies to be? Primarily they will be people with a purely financial interest and not an interest in transport. They will hire brains to run the organisation, in the sort of way that such companies do. We ought not to assume that they will be much concerned with transport but only with whether it is profitable to put money into it or not. The argument that I have put forward seems to show that it will not be profitable if we leave a lot of people to get the best parts of the assets and leave the unwanted units to be disposed of at the best price we can get by the formation of companies.
The Bill represents a departure from the original White Paper with its conception of everybody being able to go in and run the transport of this country in small units. The Liberals' point of view is that the small man can do some things best, but the Liberals do not say what he can do best. There is no need to dispose of these assets to assist the small men; they are already there; it is only a question whether they can operate within the 25-mile radius. If the Government were concerned about the small man, they would have chosen a different way of disposing of these national transport units, but they have chosen this way. We shall find not only that the nation will lose but that this company structure method, while it is an improvement upon the original proposal of the Government, will fall very far short of looking after the interests of the country in obtaining an efficient transport system and disposing of national assets to the best advantage.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
I want to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) with regard to the introduction of this Amendment in another place. The hon. Gentleman said that my right hon. Friend had not had the courage to introduce it here. I should like to express my appreciation of the courage of my right hon. Friend, because he did not wholeheartedly accept the Amendment originally moved from this side of the Committee.
The hon. Member for Southall cannot have this both ways. When this matter was originally discussed in principle, his 1860 hon. Friends were very much in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) and myself, to such an extent that it almost became an embarrassment.
§ Mr. Pargiter
Although we are willing to discuss the way to dispose of this transport cake, the hon. Member must not assume that we are willing to dispose of it at all.
§ Mr. Harvey
That is not the point I am making. The hon. Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend of cowardice in this matter in allowing the Amendment to be brought in in another place.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Is the hon. Member aware that the Amendment was moved initially in the Committee stage and that by the time the Report stage arrived, the Minister had not had sufficient courage to adopt it?
§ Mr. Harvey
I am very well aware of the history of the matter, perhaps more so than the hon. Gentleman. I was challenged by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) to show how I stood with regard to the justice of the Amendment that has now appeared. The position is exactly that which was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green, and I would take the opportunity of associating myself with the views then expressed to the Minister in this matter.
§ Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)
The Minister, when he was introducing today the Lords Amendment containing this new Clause, told us it was a long, complicated and difficult Clause. With that I agree. It is a long, difficult and complicated Clause, and I think I know the reason for that. Here I cannot follow the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) in his thanks to the Minister. I can join him in thanking the Minister for having accepted the idea, but the objection I have is to the way in which the Minister has framed the Clause and the way in which he proposes to carry out what I said was the good idea of the hon. Member for Harrow, East and the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones).
Certainly it was our intention on this side that any new Clause introduced to deal with this point of the company structure should be a workable one. and 1861 one of some real value both to the Commission and to those employees who will come into the employment of the companies to be formed. The crux of this matter is whether or not this Clause does in its present shape actually meet the point of view of the hon. Member for Harrow, East and his friends and of the Opposition who put down an Amendment to seek what the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends were seeking.
It seems to me that in the long time between the Committee stage of the Bill here and its consideration in another place the Minister thought, "We must try to give an appearance of meeting my hon. Friends and the Opposition in this matter of the disposal of the road haulage undertaking by the company method. We will put down an Amendment in another place which we will head,' Transfer of property to companies with a view to the sale of their shares.'" He even thought the new Clause should say:If it appears to the Commission that it is expedient that any property held by them for the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking should, instead of being disposed of under section three or section four of this Act, be disposed of under this section …That is all right, but it seems to me the Minister went on to say, "How much of that can we whittle down by means of all sorts of provisos?"
He said, first of all, that regard must be had to Clause 3 (3) which says that companies must not be formed for this purpose until regard had been had to a number of very important considerations. The Commission, for example, must have regard to… the desirability of securing that persons desirous of entering or re-entering the road haulage industry have a reasonable opportunity of doing so notwithstanding that their resources permit them to do so only if their operations are on a small scale.That is one of the things they must take into consideration. They must also take into consideration that… no transport unit shall, without the approval of the Minister, include more than fifty motor vehicles.They must also have regard to getting the best possible price.
Then the Minister sought to meet, I understand, some points put up to him by his supporters here and in another place by saying in this Lords Amendment that… the Commission shall have regard to the desirability of avoiding any step which is 1862 likely to lead to the elimination or undue restriction of competition in the carriage of goods by road for hire or reward.8.15 p.m.
There we have it. The Lords Amendment which supposedly gives the Transport Commission the power to set up such companies makes it practically impossible for the Commission to take advantage of their powers. This is really nonsense. It makes nonsense of the idea of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrow, East. It makes nonsense of the idea of the hon. Member for Hall Green that there should be created a company structure. Although the Lords Amendment has the appearance of meeting their point, it destroys its reality.
This is the thing to which we take serious objection, and if we have discussed this Lords Amendment, this new Clause, at some length, at least I believe it deserved such discussion. It was right to have that discussion. It was right that we should expose, as we have exposed, by moving Amendments to the Lords Amendment and by considering the Lords Amendment now, the intention of the Minister and the shocking content of this new Clause which he has drafted and presented in this way.
The Minister said—and he has said it again today—and, apparently, he says it with great sincerity, that it weighed very much with him that the company structure brought greater security into the lives of the workers. What does he mean by this? He surely means that if we are going to form a company there is a reasonable chance that the men working for the company will have continuity of employment in the conditions of service produced when the company comes into being. When this point was raised before, the Minister replied:Lord Hurcomb and others repeatedly said that the best interests of the workpeople in the Commission's undertaking might be helped in some way by the company structure because they would feel part of a living organism which would pass smoothly into other hands.Delightful; excellent. The Minister accepted the point, but he has destroyed the whole value of that point as he is also destroying the whole value of the idea of the new Clause by whittling it down. A little later he said:The duty of the Commission is to get rid of the Road Haulage Executive properties. If they find difficulty in getting rid of them in 1863 the particular shareholding groups in which they have been established various machineries I have outlined are open to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1953; Vol. 514, c. 1344–6.]He went on that such vehicles as were not disposed of could be disposed of as chattels. That means, of course, that the men who are going to work on those vehicles will feel no continuity of employment if those vehicles can be disposed of as chattels.
It is all right for hon. Gentlemen sitting on those benches to regard men who were employed on this undertaking as chattels, something to be disposed of. I do not usually speak in this way in this House, but I cannot help being bitter about this. The people sitting on the benches opposite do not know the hell of uncertainty that comes to employees, and it is that very hell of uncertainty that we create as a result of the Bill and of this Lords Amendment, the Minister's remarks upon which today the hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrow, East commended to the House.
Let us have regard to the employees as well as to the users of the undertakings. I believe that if that had been done we should never have been presented with a new Clause such as this, but would have been presented with a Clause which would have met the intention of hon. Members opposite and given it some reality in legislative provision and would have given some security to those who are employed in these groups which might be made into companies as a result of the Clause.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
Hon. Members opposite have professed to accept the new Clause as something which carries out their intentions when they suggested the Company structure, but I should like to point out that the basic principle of the proposals which they advanced was that the Commission should have a financial interest in the new companies. The fact that the Government and the Minister—and I blame the Government in the main—have failed to carry into effect a provision whereby the Transport Commission would have a financial interest in these companies and would keep them in being, making sure that they were properly run, undermines the whole basis of the Opposition's support of the original idea.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
May I correct the hon. Gentleman? That was only one aspect of the argument, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) made it perfectly clear, in what I thought was a very reasonable speech, why we accepted the Government's arguments in this case.
§ Mr. Proctor
I understand that it was only one aspect, but to us it was a vital aspect. Having failed to convince the Government and having had what was virtually a slap in the face, hon. Members opposite have turned round and thanked the Government for what they have done. The back bench Members opposite adopt a very subservient attitude. Talk about turning the other cheek. They thank the Government for having undermined the whole purpose of what was a useful suggestion and they say, "We have been convinced of the lack of wisdom of our proposals," when we know that in fact they have not been convinced of it at all.
The original purpose, from our point of view, was that the proposals would have afforded the Government and the nation an opportunity to keep in being the wonderful services which have been built up at such expense and run so efficiently and so safely, by comparison with the position which will exist under private enterprise if we introduce many of the things which we thought had been banned from our roads for ever. These incomparable services would have been of great value to us if we had created them before the war and had been able to use them during the war. They are much more efficient services than the temporary service which had to be created when the nation faced the emergency.
The next purpose, which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) has stressed with such power, was that of retaining the jobs of the loyal workers who have worked to build up these services and to work them effectively and efficiently throughout the country. That was our second purpose.
Next was an attempt to lose less money for the State in implementing the Bill. The Government forced their decision to de-nationalise transport through the House and we thought that here was an 1865 opportunity to see that the State lost less money than they would lose if the original intention were carried out and than they will lose under the present arrangements. This proposal has been twisted in quite another direction. It is now to be used to make more money for the people in the City. This is a more effective way of handing out the financial benefits to the City than would otherwise have been the case.
The Transport Commission now have to set up these companies on an efficient basis and to hand them over in one parcel of shares. Only the big men can buy in a single parcel. They are not bound to be handed over to anyone else in a single parcel. The big financial trusts and corporations, which have been set up and have been given such unwarranted facilities by the Treasury to make these financial arrangements, will make a packet of money out of this. Far from serving the purpose which we thought it would serve when we supported the idea, the new Clause will now redound to the benefit of the financiers and not of the nation.
Something has been said about the Minister's courage in these matters. I am one of those who say that he has very great courage. Anyone who takes on his job in these circumstances must have very great courage. We know that the job was being hawked around in the Tory Party and that it was only a man of courage who would undertake the distasteful job of dismantling the great services we have in this country.
The House is faced with an extraordinary situation. The Prime Minister makes the decisions and issues the directions—I was going to say to his colleagues, but I will say to his Ministers. Then he goes away and we have to argue with Ministers in the House of Commons, but they have no power. If the Prime Minister intends to set the people of this country free, the first people he should set free are his own Cabinet so that they can have some authority to come to the House and argue with us. Consider the extraordinary position we had last week. The Leader of the House had to confess that he had not even the authority to give us an extra day to discuss these matters. We had to await the Prime Minister's return from a dinner before 1866 the necessary authority could be obtained from him.
§ Mr. Proctor
I should like to return to the narrow point of the Amendment a little later, like the Prime Minister returned the other evening, although perhaps not as full of the spirit of combat as he was. The situation is extraordinary. The Prime Minister knows little about transport. The other day, when he condescended to talk to us about it, he said we had paid too much for the railways by paying £300 million. He did not even know that we paid £1,100 million, not £300 million. The extraordinary fact is that we have someone controlling the affairs of the nation in this manner, and one of the reasons why we spend so much time before a decision is reached on the Clause is that the Minister of Transport has to persuade the Prime Minister to change his mind before he can announce to the House that he has accepted the sensible concessions which we have convinced him are absolutely necessary. Taking this new Clause to the House of Lords gave the Minister a further opportunity of urging the Prime Minister to do the sensible thing.
I say that here was a great opportunity. The Opposition, recognising that the Government had forced this Bill through the House of Commons, were hoping to see if they could not save the whole situation by means of the company structure suggestion. I say that if we had disposed of the whole of the road transport of the Commission on the basis of the company structure, and had allowed the Commission to retain a financial interest in it and had kept in being all this splendid organisation, we might have avoided, first of all, the financial loss, and, secondly, the loss of jobs so far as the employees are concerned, and we might not have split the nation in the stupid fashion which the Government are doing at the present time.
Let me warn the Government of this. Danger will arise when it comes to the day when men's jobs are being done away with and this great service is being broken up. The people working in it at the 1867 present time and who see its efficiency and helped to create it cannot believe that the Government are going on with the work of wrecking it. What a difference it would have been if the Minister had been able to say, "We accept this compromise. We will do the best we can for these new companies. We will keep this great service which has been created in existence."
Then we could have turned to the foreign policy field and the other great matters which confront the nation. The spirit displayed in this House on the question of this Bill this week shows that the Government have no concern for the real interests of the nation. They should do only one thing more, and that is go to the country at once. I am ready to challenge the Government to go to the country on this great issue of transport and on the other issues which confront us, because I believe that the people of this country realise that only by getting a Labour administration and adopting a sensible economic arrangement which Labour stands for is there any hope for the future of the country.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
In view of the fact that this is our last opportunity to express our opposition to this Clause and to the principles of the Bill, I think it is desirable that we should repeat briefly our objections to it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) directed attention to our fundamental objection, namely, that a great service like the transport service, which is as essential to the well-being of the community as water, electricity and gas, has been taken out of public ownership and returned to the field of speculative enterprise. We feel more strongly than ever that to make transport the subject of rent, interest and profit is to render the country a great dis-service.
If one were to engage in a retrospective study of transport, one would have to acknowledge that immediately the country is in a state of emergency its transport is nationalised, and that will happen again in the future if we are unfortunate enough to have another war. We submit, and there is evidence in our favour, that if it was essential to have transport nationalised during the war, it is equally 1868 essential that we should have it at the country's disposal during the economic war. This Bill, in fact, is dislocating transport and creating, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. J. Champion) said, a great deal of uncertainty.
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but his speech so far has been a Second Reading speech and has had nothing to do with the Amendments to this Bill.
§ Mr. Morris
I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but you will recognise that in this fleeting moment we want to repeat as widely as we can, subject to your Ruling, our fundamental objections to this Bill.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East rendered the House a service when he tried to remove the complacency in the House this afternoon as a result of something which the Minister of Transport said. Listening to the Minister's observations, one would have concluded that all was well so far as the staff are concerned. He pointed out that there were such things as compensation regulations, and he referred to the fact that he would be discussing these matters with the authorities concerned; and that if a man were removed from the service of the Commission and placed in private employment he would then come under the supervision and direction of the wages council.
But that is only half the story. The right hon. Gentleman must be reminded that there are at least 15,000 to 20,000 employees of the Road Haulage Executive for whom there is no such thing as a wages council, and it is only when they come under the supervision of the B.T.C. that we can help them at all. Judging by the figures in respect of their salaries and classification of posts, the B.T.C. has proved to be their salvation. But now, under this uncertainty, they will go back to private employment. What will the Minister do to ensure that these men have the decent conditions of service which they have had during the past few years? I imagine he will do nothing at all unless he has changed his mind since we last discussed it.
The Liberal Party is divided in its support. They say that they would like to 1869 support the one-man unit in view of the special services which it can render. How will the one-man unit compete with the great companies and give its solitary employee a decent salary, decent hours and other conditions?
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
The Liberal Party have never said that. We want to see one-man, two-men or three-men units given a proper chance in the sphere in which we think the small unit can do best, but in the other spheres it may be that the larger company, which will be floated by shares, will provide the best service to the community. We want the right type of structure in the right place.
§ Mr. Morris
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the only sphere in which the one-man unit can function successfully is that of the 25-mile limit? We must not leave out the human aspect. I do not propose to detain the House on this, especially if I can get the Minister to reply. What steps will the Minister take to safeguard the interest of clerical and administrative workers who were paid a mere pittance before the B.T.C. took them over? Now that they are being handed back to private enterprise, what encouragement will he give them to render equally efficient service in the future?
I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman has ever been faced with such a situation, and I hope he never will be, but it is a terrible thing for a man who has spent a lifetime in one sphere, such as transport, and qualified by virtue of experience and training, suddenly to find himself hurled on the market without any prospects of decent employment. Where will such a man turn? He will have no special qualification for employment in any other industry. Such men will be left high and dry, and they will have to thank a Tory Government for that.
I urge the Government to respond to the appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East and remove the uncertainty. If these public assets are to be handed over to speculators and private enterprise, I beg the Government to ask for a quid pro quo on behalf of the men whose votes they will be seeking at the next General Election. I urge the Government to treat these men decently and honourably and 1870 let them feel that in the great speculative field of transport the Government have not forgotten their prior claims.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
Being a simple sort of person, every time I look at the Bill and this Clause I become more and more mystified. Many changes were made to the Bill before it got its Third Reading here, and further changes were made in another place, producing this Clause, which mystifies me as much as did some of the actions of the Government in the earlier stages of the Bill.
Clause 3, which deals with the sale of transport units, lays down that the Commission shall get, in the aggregate, the best possible price. It is difficult to know exactly what that means in the minds of a Tory Government. The Clause which we are now considering says that the price shall be equal to the net value of the property as shown in the books of the Commission. We are entitled to know which of these definitions of the price at which transport units shall be sold is the correct one and how it is to be applied.
It is wrong for hon. Members opposite to assume that there is no concern in the minds of road transport workers about the damage the Bill and the Clause will do to their working interests. I have heard it suggested that great care is being taken to protect the security of the lorry drivers and those who are going to be thrown on to the scrap heap. Although I am a member of the union which organises most of the transport workers, I have never heard one worker praise this Bill, but I have heard them say that this Bill will remove from their lives and the lives of their families that sense of security and well being which they have had under the Transport Commission.
The real feeling among the transport workers is that they are being sold down the street in the interests of high finance, and it would be quite wrong to imagine that they have anything to say in favour of this Bill. The fact is that for tens of thousands of them they have had, for the first time in their lives, a sense of security, a high standard of wages and good working conditions under the Commission, but what is equally as important, they have had a well cared for lorry to drive such as they never had before.
In the past, road transport workers have been the victims of cut-throat competition on the roads, particularly at 1871 night. Under nationalisation they were building up a first-class service, and there was a feeling of confidence in the men who drove these lorries. To break this service up in the way proposed in the Bill is going to make the lives of the workers more difficult, and the fears they have, even if we adopt this company structure for the sale of some of the transport lorries, is that their lives will be very much more insecure than they have been during the last two or three years. They fear that they will return to the old mad, cut-throat competition of pre-war days.
Anyone who knows anything about the conditions on the roads in pre-war days knows that the men got a very tough deal in every possible way. Therefore, it would be quite wrong to think that among the workers in the industry there is any support for this Bill. They want to keep the present method of organisation in their industry, which they think should be organised as a public service for the good of the nation as a whole, rather than as a service the primary aim of which will be providing profits for private individuals.
I notice that the Clause we are discussing provides that in determining whether tenders or offers for the shares shall be accepted or refused, there must be taken into account whether such acceptance or refusal will lead to the elimination of competition in the carriage of goods by road. Then in the next line we have the suggestion that that must not be the whole or main reason why the offers or tenders are refused, but that such a step should not be takenwithout the consent of the Minister.I wondered why that was put in, and I have come to the conclusion that it is because there are big financial interests, some of which have been discussed in this House during the last few days, who have the intention of getting hold of a large number of these lorries so as to organise them—as any sane person versed in the economics of transport would want to organise them—in a big way, because that will bring economy in the use of the lorries, efficiency in providing the service, and much greater profits than if they were organised in the old haphazard way of one or two lorries, a scheme in which the Liberal Party believe and which is 1872 something similar to what we knew before the war.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Holt
As I understand the argument of the hon. Gentleman, if the industry remained nationalised all the people at present employed on road haulage would continue in employment whereas, if it went back to some loose private enterprise system, as he visualised the Liberal suggestion, a lot of people would be thrown out of work because they were surplus. Surely, therefore, his argument is that there are far too many people at present employed in the road haulage industry?
§ Mr. Gibson
I think it is true that in many parts of the country there was an enormous wastage of transport facilities when the industry was organised in groups of one or two lorries and that there were many occasions when the lorries returned empty. That is not economic and there is no doubt that the efficient use of lorries and the provision of loads on the return as well as on the outward journey is important in effecting economy and in making the industry profitable. I should have thought that experience all over the world would have proved that a transport service must be organised on national lines if it is to be of that value to the community which everybody says it should be.
Therefore it would be better to scrap this Bill and let the British Transport Commission carry on with the work of organising the services which this country needs if it is successfully to get through the next few hard economic years. The Government, however, have determined to do otherwise and have introduced this Clause into the Bill to meet some of the criticisms which have been made but also. I suspect, to meet some of the demands of people in the finance world who would like to milk this industry.
I have come to the conclusion that this is a rustlers' Bill. In America rustlers used to be shot for stealing horses, but here we have the Government deliberately arranging for the legal rustling of the best part of our transport industry. What is more, they are apparently lending support to the big boys in the industry, who will be given a legalised status to do their rustling on a big scale. I think that is wrong, the men in the transport industry 1873 think it is wrong, and I believe the country will think it is wrong as soon as they realise what tricks the Government are up to in this Bill.
I hope that the day will not be far off when we shall be able to test in the country whether the Government policy on this matter, as well as on other matters, has the support of all the people. I do not believe it has. I am sure it had not at the last Election when the Labour Party secured more votes than the Conservative Party, although the Conservative Party became the Government because of the way in which our political system works. But if it is a question of votes, if it is a question of public support for the policies we advocate, then there is no doubt that those who vote in this country voted in a majority for the maintenance of the present system of nationalised transport.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is the speech of the hon. Gentleman in order?
§ Mr. Cecil Poole (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I hope the Minister will acquit me of any discourtesy in that I was not here to hear him moving this Clause. Unfortunately, I had to be in another part of the building at the time. I do not propose to make the speech I intended originally, because of the limitations of the flesh, but there are one or two points I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman.
I heard a good deal of the debate on this Clause during the discussion of the various Amendments, and having devoted more time to this Lords Amendment than I have devoted to any other piece of Parliamentary legislation in the 15 years that I have been in the House, I confess that at the end I am more confused than I was at the beginning. I do not see how the new Clause can be read into the Bill as it went to another place. If the Minister, when he replies, can help to clear up the complete contradictions which it contains, I shall be grateful. I do not think he can clear up the point, which has been so often stressed, about the little man being given his place to tender for the units. I should, however, like the Minister to clear up this point for me. Are 1874 these units to have a maximum size of 50 vehicles?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That was dealt with very clearly by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary, and it answers at the same time the question raised by another hon. Member. It does not apply.
§ Mr. Poole
I heard the Economic Secretary say that, and I noticed him shake his head when my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) asked the question again today. Will the Minister say under what Clause other than Clause 5 he has permission to make these units of a size larger than 50 vehicles?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The limitation only applies, and this is the only part of the Bill which applies, to transport units of 50 vehicles and 200 tons unladen weight. As the limitation applies only to units, there is no need to exclude the companies from something which does not apply to them.
§ Mr. Poole
My hon. Friends and I have tried, but have failed, to find just how the Minister will overcome all this. However, it is the Minister's worry. He has taken the final power, it is he alone who can give directions to the Board, and it is he alone who exercises the final jurisdiction as to whether a tender is accepted. Therefore, it is not for me to take upon my shoulders the right hon. Gentleman's worries.
I should, however, like to ask the Minister a question regarding the companies which are established and their ultimate destination, and I hope he will be perfectly frank. What protection is offered in the new Clause or anywhere in the Bill to ensure that these new companies which remain in the form in which the Commission sell them—that is, in one parcel—shall not be subsequently bought up by large combines and trusts, and that we do not have amalgamations and trustification in the industry, and monopoly practices creeping in?
I see not safeguard for the position which will arise when the Commission form the company with up to 50 vehicles—or perhaps more, as we are now 1875 told, and possibly as many as 100—with all the garages and equipment that go with them. The Commission can market the shares in one parcel, but in many cases the little man has limited resources.
What is to protect the little man who rakes up the capital to buy up these units of 50 or more vehicles and all that goes with them, if within a month a dozen other companies similarly formed are bought up by some financial trust or combine, or an amalgamation takes place? The little man may have placed himself in financial bondage for the rest of his life to get hold of a unit of 50 vehicles, only to find that he was competing with an amalgamation of other companies with 1,000 vehicles and all the resources which are at their disposal.
At this late stage, I ask the Minister to give an assurance. If he is interested in safeguarding the small man, for whom he has made special provision in the Clause and who is to have an opportunity of coming in, how is that small man to be protected from trustification and monopoly practices? If the Minister answers this question to the satisfaction of the House we shall know that he and his party are interested in the small road haulier, but if he refuses to answer we can only draw our own conclusion that all that has been said about the rights of the little man in this industry has no meaning at all but is just froth and bubble.
This is a most serious matter. If the Minister were interested in achieving competition in this industry, I could have done so for him in a two-Clause Bill much more satisfactorily than this Bill which requires a four and a half page Lords Amendment even to put in this provision. I would have taken the present A licence vehicles and removed the 25-mile restriction. Then we would have had the units sought under this Clause already operating and had twice the number of vehicles competing with the B.T.C.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am sure my hon. Friend will remember that that in effect is what the Conservative Party proposed in their Election manifesto. He will agree that this Bill has no relation to what they put to the country.
§ Mr. Poole
That, of course, is what we all know. Not only is it what they put 1876 in their manifesto, but an even sadder point is that the man who lost his business by nationalisation will be the last man who can get an A licence to come back into the industry. If the Conservative Party only wanted competition in the industry, they could have liberalised the A licence holder and flooded the roads of the country with twice as many vehicles as the B.T.C. to provide competition without a four and a half page Lords Amendment but with a couple of Clauses in a simple Bill.
It has not been for the purpose of competition nor for helping the little man that this has been done, but to destroy nationalisation—to destroy it effectively and completely. I am sorry, because what is being destroyed today is not merely some idea that we of the Socialist Party enjoy; it was the only hope there was of an intelligent, integrated transport system in this country. The integration of the transport industry was a view shared out of the depth of experience by the noble Lord the Minister for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power. I do not know why he does not hang his head in shame when he reads some of the things he said—
§ Mr. Poole
I do not know whether in a Second Reading speech I should be allowed to refer to the noble Lord, but I am referring to the new Clause which has the blessing of the noble Lord. In relation to this Clause he would be well advised to read some of the things he said about integration and co-ordination of transport and how integration of small units was desirable in days gone by. His capacity for eating the words of his own speeches must have grown enormously as the years have gone by.
That is all I want to say on this new Clause; I do not understand it. I am sure the Minister does not understand it. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, by his replies, has proved conclusively that he does not understand it, and the hon. Member opposite who thought the Clause was an answer to his prayer on the Committee stage obviously does not understand it. It will not work, and therein lies our only hope of salvation.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
It is a scandal that we are not having an opportunity to discuss more of the Lords Amendments, but I think it fortunate that, even within the limited time at our disposal, we are having an opportunity to say something more about this Clause. As other hon. Members have pointed out, this Lords Amendment is almost a new Bill in itself, and it is ridiculous that we should be asked to accept or reject it like this without having had an opportunity of discussing it in detail. Except for the Amendments that we were able to bring forward from this side of the House, we have not been able to give it a proper Committee stage, as we ought to have been able to do. That is one of our main complaints against it.
While I join my protest with that of others about the whole procedure on this Bill, I would point out to my hon. Friends that we must not be too despondent about it because the method under which we are now working may be very useful to us when, after the next Election, we introduce our re-nationalisation Bill; if the other place send us some hundreds of Amendments to it we shall, under this new procedure, be able to vote them all down in one vote, and get rid of them very quickly.
The main part of this Lords Amendment to which I object is subsection (4), in which it is stated:In determining whether any tender or offer for the shares of any such company as aforesaid is to be accepted or refused, the Commission shall have regard to the desirability of avoiding any step which is likely to lead to the elimination or undue restriction of competition. …We know why that form of words has been introduced. It reflects the clear difference in political thought between the other side of the House and this. They believe, at least they say in their propaganda they believe, in competition; we frankly do not believe that cut-throat competition is the best way of getting the best service at the lowest possible price. Although the party opposite say they believe in competition they do not really do so; their whole history proves that.
If we take just this one industry of transport, its whole history has been one long series of amalgamations of all these small concerns into bigger concerns, and 1878 of examples of concerns, where they have not completely merged, having come to working arrangements between themselves to avoid competition. It is sheer hypocrisy for the party opposite to say that they believe in competition when in practice they do not. Let the House consider the difficulty which anybody had who was not already established in the road transport industry in trying to get into it. He had to present his case before a tribunal, where he was opposed by legal gentlemen representing those people who were already in on the ground floor. He was very fortunate indeed if he was able to get in.
The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) expressed the concern of the Liberal Party for the one-man, two-man, or three-man business. We can well understand his concern for these very small businesses because he is the only Member of the Liberal Party present, if I may for the moment except the Chair, and the Liberal Party is one of these small concerns. Accordingly we can understand his theoretical concern for them. But even the hon. Member must admit, if he has followed the history of the transport industry, that what I have said is correct about the gradual and progressive elimination of competition all the way through.
Indeed, at the beginning of the war, when the transport industry had gone to a great deal of trouble to produce a report because of the difficulties in which it found itself, its suggestion for the future was not competition; it wanted a private monopoly. So why do we have, in this Lords Amendment, this idea of insisting on competition? What does this insistence mean? Does it mean, as it would appear to mean, that the Minister is to insist that there shall be more than one operator in any particular district, whatever the needs of that district may be?
It may well be, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bolton, West, that in a particular area there is need for only one small transport concern. But that is not good enough for the Minister. He says in this subsection that we must have competition, that there must be more than one concern. That does not make sense. It is not conducive to efficiency in the industry, which is what we must assume the Minister is attempting to achieve. Supposing he obtains this system and all these small concerns are competing with 1879 each other. What safeguard is there that, after the sales have taken place, these small concerns will not amalgamate—as they always have done in the transport industry in the past—so that we shall have one concern, with none of the competition required by this subsection?
I see no safeguard against that at all, and I do not believe the Minister has prepared any. If he has, I hope he will tell me, because it means that I am under an entire misapprehension about the meaning of this Clause. I can well understand the theoretical concern, the political concern, of hon. Members opposite over competition in industry generally as we understand the term. But I would support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr P. Morris), that this is more than an industry; it is a public service.
We do not attempt to have several gas companies or electricity or water companies in one town, and neither should we attempt to have several competing transport services in a particular district. It is a mistake, and I believe that if the Minister could view the road transport industry as a public service rather than as something from which his friends can make a profit, he would have different ideas about how to achieve the kind of efficiency which everyone desires.
By insisting on this degree of competition in which they do not believe, but which is done to impress their political followers, hon. Members opposite are showing no real concern for the public welfare. For that and for many other reasons I consider this whole Bill is dishonest. Take, for example, their concern about nationalisation. I can understand hon. Members opposite saying they do not believe in nationalisation—
§ Mr. Hynd
This Clause is fairly wide. I was about to point out that under this Clause hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to say that they will denationalise road transport. But if they are so much against nationalisation, why do not they denationalise the railways? They do not wish to do that, because there would be no profit in it. Tonight we on this side of the House are helpless. Hon Gentlemen opposite have the majority, and I 1880 have no doubt that this Clause will be voted through and added to the Bill. The only question which remains is whether the next Election will come in time for us to rescue this industry from complete chaos.
§ Mr. Callaghan
My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) said that he regarded this as a "rustler's Clause," because under the business ethics of the Wild West, once one had succeeded in shooting one's way into the town and got away with the swag one was all right. That was regarded as a conventional business practice and, presumably, formed some part of the capitalist system of those days. I remind my hon. Friend that the Wild West films that I used to see always ended up with virtue triumphant and vice defeated, and I have no doubt that that will be the end of this Bill, too. I would also remind him that the rustlers always got shot, and that this Government are going to get shot for what they are doing in this particular Bill. [Interruption.] Well, I would cheerfully put a ringer to the trigger and shoot the whole lot of them when I consider what they are proposing to do to the road haulage industry in this Bill.
I wish to refer to the origins of this Clause. You have complained, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that in some ways we were going rather wide in the comments we were making, but I would say, with respect, that this Clause, which runs to some four and a half pages and has about 13 subsections, in fact touches on the whole fabric of the Bill and the method of disposal of these units, and that is one reason why we have gone rather wide. I should like to go back to the discussion we had at the beginning of the day.
Away back in December, many dreary months ago, when we were all comparatively fresh on this Bill, the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) and the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) moved and seconded an Amendment which provided for the company structure. I have been extremely surprised tonight to learn that both these hon. Members are apparently satisfied with what the Government are doing. I must say that they are easily satisfied, and I should like to take the opportunity of reminding them of what their attitude was on this matter when 1881 they originally moved to include this proposal in the Bill.
If I may so remind the hon. Member for Harrow, East, what was said then by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Clause bears very little relationship to what now appears in the Bill, and, in order to be better armed, I have brought the particular references to which I want to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman. The mover, the hon. Member for Hall Green, said—and I am not going to read it all—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman can read both the comments, and, in this case, any quotation he likes.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I will come back to that point at a more convenient moment in this discussion. What the hon. Member for Hall Green said was this:We could, in the first place, proceed by detaching certain blocks of property from the undertaking of the R.H.E. and selling them merely as blocks of property, merely as physical assets. The other way would be to break down the undertaking into units capable commercially of subsisting on their own; in other words, to break the undertaking down into business units, as distinct from physical assets which the purchaser has to reshape into business units.Then, a little later, the hon. Gentleman said this:The purpose of the Amendment is … to lay it down as a matter of priority that sale should be primarily by way of business units and only secondarily by way of mere blocks of physical assets."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 9th December, 1952; Vol. 509, c. 245–6.]There are several other things that could be said here, but I do not wish to read the whole speech. I think that that quotation is sufficient to indicate what was certainly in my mind when I heard the hon. Gentleman speak this evening. On 9th December, he had clearly in mind that the main method of disposal which he wanted was the selling of business units rather than mere blocks of property, and, as I understand his speech in HANSARD of that day, it was devoted to an Amendment for the formation of company units rather than the sale of transport units in groups of a handful or so. I gather that he is satisfied with what the Minister is now doing, so I take it that he has changed his mind on that.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones indicated dissent.1882
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If he is not, then in that case I suggest he was rather too fulsome to the Minister for not doing what he asked him to do when he moved the Amendment in the first place. I notice also his view that it is impossible to have a mixture of public and private ownership. Apparently he was originally attracted to that idea, but now believes it to be impossible.
§ Mr. Callaghan
No doubt, when we come to re-nationalise this property, as we shall in due course, the hon. Gentleman will not attempt to have this Clause inserted. I would certainly like to see an election at a very early date. If there is to be an election in the autumn, no one would welcome it as much as I would, and nobody would get a greater shock than hon. Members opposite. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will be able to resume his holiday in Italy and stay as long as he likes. He will not be troubled when he is on this side of the House. He can even go to Spain to see General Franco again, where I have no doubt he will be very welcome.
I now come to the next point. [Interruption] The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) has only been in the Chamber for about the last 30 minutes and does not know what was said by his hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green and did not hear the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East.
§ Mr. Callaghan
In that case, I apologise to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It must have been an unknown and anonymous hon. Gentleman opposite who interjected and who also, in all probability, was not present either.
The Minister ought to congratulate himself on the effect of the Guillotine. Never have I seen it so quickly capable of destroying real combat and clash of opinion in the House of Commons. It has been quite remarkable today to see the way in which the Minister has been able to sit back waiting for the Guillotine to operate without bothering to answer what was said to him in any way at all.
§ Mr. Callaghan
No, not at the moment. The Minister made an offensive personal remark to me just now and I do not intend to give way to him to enable him to do so again.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
All I was going to say was that I had already spoken for half an hour, a fact to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention, and that if he likes to stop before 10.30 I will repeat the performance.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not repeat his argument, even if he repeats the performance. Some of my hon. Friends have asked some very pertinent questions to which they have received no reply. The Minister might have dealt with them in his first speech had he been concerned with the subject, because they should have been in the front of his mind.
I now come to the credit facilities and hire purchase, and wish to make reference to the position of the United Dominions Trust, as did the Minister during his speech. There has been a most remarkable change in the Government's attitude on the provision of credit facilities. In the House of Lords on 26th March, the spokesman for the Government, the Earl of Selkirk, said:What the Treasury have done is this. They have informed the banks that they consider this—that is, the action under this Bill—a suitable subject for credit in the national interest. This is common practice, just as a particular line of business or export may get dollars."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 26th March, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 328.]That was the first intimation we received that there were to be some exceptional facilities for the purchase of these road haulage units.
I then put a Question down to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for 16th April, and it was answered by the Economic Secretary. I asked him:… if he will reverse his advice to the banks that loans to finance houses and other private persons for the purpose of buying lorries from the Road Haulage Executive may be given the same priority as loans for export, defence. 1884 agriculture and Commonwealth development, in view of the present restrictions on borrowing.The Economic Secretary replied:This is common practice, just as a particular line of business or export may get dollars."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th March, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 328.]He justified why he did not feel that it was right to change the Government's credit policy. I then put down a Question to the Prime Minister, which was transferred to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking:What considerations of national interest have led the Government to advise the banks that loans advanced by them for the purchase of lorries from the Road Haulage Executive are to be regarded as having the same priority as loans to encourage exports to dollar countries.At this stage some doubt seems to have crept in. I suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer saw it for the first time. He replied in person:The Government have not advised the banks to give the same priority to loans for the purchase of these lorries as to loans for the export trade. They have advised the banks that it would be consistent with Government policy that loans for such purchases should be made in suitable cases. It is. of course, in the national interest that road transport, by being returned to private enterprise, should be able to give increased help to industry in general whether at home or in efforts to increase exports."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th April. 1953; Vol. 514, c. 642.]This is inconsistent, if we take the three replies together. First of all the Government spokesman in the House of Lords says: "This is going to get the same sort of priority as dollar exports get." Then the Economic Secretary says: "I do not intend to reverse that as a statement of policy." Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer said: "We have not advised the banks to do anything of the sort." What a lot of muddle and confusion the Government have got themselves into over this question of credit facilities.
As I understand the position now, it is that the Government are advising the banks that they may give credit to financial houses—I take it that that includes 1885 the United Dominions Trust—in order that they should be able to finance the purchase of lorries. I still do not know why, when those questions were being put to the Government no reference was made in the answers to the fact that United Dominions Trust were to be used as an instrument of Government policy in this connection. It is quite clear that it is. Mr. Gibson Jarvie has said that it is with the Minister's—what is it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Full knowledge and approval."]—full knowledge and approval that it is being done.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is not only Mr. Gibson Jarvie who says that. It is the Minister of Transport as well.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We all know that the Minister said that when it was dragged out of him. We wish he had said it very much earlier, when a great deal of unpleasantness might have been avoided. It might be worth while asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he knew about these arrangements that the Minister of Transport had made with the United Dominions Trust. If he knew of them, and neither the Economic Secretary nor himself referred to it in the answers they gave to the questions, this must be another illustration of the fact that the Government have been putting themselves into a position where they seem to be reluctant to expose the arrangements they are making for the purchase of these lorries.
Now we see the effect of what we have been saying on the Minister of Transport. This afternoon he told us of yet another step which is to be taken; hire purchase credit facilities are to be relaxed in the case of the purchase of these lorries. We can therefore sum up the position by saying that the Government intend that these nationalised lorries shall be sold at a loss. Even though they are to be sold at a loss, they are still not sure they can sell them. Therefore, they are giving the United Dominions Trust credit facilities for borrowing money. [Interruption.] But it is only the United Dominions Trust that has received the Minister's approval in this matter.
§ Mr. Maudling
An inquiry came to us from the United Dominions Trust as to whether the formation of a company for 1886 this purpose would be within the Government's existing credit policy. We answered, as we should answer an inquiry of that kind from any quarter: Yes, it is; but it must be perfectly clearly understood that this applies to every company or individual who inquires.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is, of course, a very different matter from having the Chancellor's full authority and approval. Is the House to take it that the Chancellor gives the same blessing to the United Dominions Trust in this connection that the Minister avers he has given?
§ Mr. Maudling
If the Chancellor is asked whether a certain thing is within his policy he naturally gives an answer.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is not the point. The question I am asking is whether the Chancellor has given his approval to the United Dominions Trust as an instrument of Government policy for receiving credit facilities in this matter.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
With great respect to the Minister, I think the Economic Secretary is quite capable of looking after this, and quite capable of answering for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this matter. He is, after all, the representative of the Chancellor. This does seem to me to be a point on which we may have some enlightenment.
§ Mr. Maudling
I have clearly given the attitude of the Chancellor in this matter, and he has already stated it himself. The Minister has made even more clear the attitude of the Government, which is one of approval.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am still not clear from that whether the Economic Secretary associates the Chancellor with the words of the Minister in this connection.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I see. I can only assume from the hesitation of the Economic Secretary that he is much more lukewarm in his approval than is the Minister of Transport, and I am not surprised, because the Chancellor probably has some regard to the facts of this particular situation and to the inroads that will be made on the credit facilities in this connection.
1887 We learn today that not only is the Minister enabling credit facilities from the banks for this purpose in order to enable the small man to purchase lorries, but the Government are actually ready to amend the Hire Purchase Order in order to give the United Dominions Trust a better opportunity of lending more money than they borrowed from the banks. Why make an exception in the case of the United Dominions Trust? That is, with the blessing of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has tightened up on credit policy.
I think the House and the country will be interested to know, what is there in this Bill and in the breaking up of the Road Haulage Executive which justifies all these special exemptions, which do not apply to normal business undertakings, being applied now to the United Dominions Trust and to those who want to borrow money from it? What justification is there for this particular exemption from the general operation of the Hire Purchase Order, which has been made applicable to every article that is sold subject to price control in any way?
The Government are now to make a special exemption, apparently, for this purpose. I am not surprised to hear it because it is quite clear from all the special financial exemptions that they are now having to undertake that they are desperately anxious, no matter what the cost, no matter what exemptions they may have to make to general financial and economic policy, to get these lorries sold. That is the only justification that can be given for taking this series of steps which together put the United Dominions Trust in a privileged position over and above the general body of traders and finance organisations in this country.
It is quite clear that exemption is not to be made in respect of other commodities. Or is the President of the Board of Trade, when he introduces his relaxing Order, also going to relax it for other things besides the purchase of lorries. I am not talking about second-hand vehicles. I am talking about the assets of the Road Haulage Executive, some of which are new and some second-hand. It cannot be argued that this is not an exemption, unless the President of the Board of Trade proposes to loosen the hire purchase arrangements which at the 1888 moment impose great restrictions on ordinary citizens buying ordinary goods.
The Minister observed that I could read the whole of the quotation about the United Dominions Trust if I wished to do so, and I observe that there is on the Order Paper a Motion—
§ [That this House deplores the conduct of the honourable Member for Cardiff, South-East, during the course of debate on 22nd April, 1953 (HANSARD, Column 1215), in quoting words from a pamphlet and representing that they expressed the views of Mr. Gibson Jarvie, whereas the immediate context of the quoted passage showed clearly that Mr. Gibson Jarvie was, in fact, reprobating such views; regrets that the honourable Member has failed to withdraw his imputation, although invited to do so; and considers that his conduct constitutes an abuse of Parliamentary privilege and is contrary to the accepted traditions of fair and responsible debate in this House.]
§ —in the name of the Attorney-General's Parliamentary Private Secretary—
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Attorney-General's Parliamentary Private Secretary signed it in the first place. No doubt the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) is a standard bearer for him. The hon. Member never makes a speech except from a sedentary position. I do not suppose he is capable of doing so.
§ Mr. Partridge rose—
§ Mr. Partridge
I am quite capable of making a speech in this regard but it will be very short, sharp and to the point. My thoughts about the hon. Gentleman would never alter, but I might have to— [Interruption.] For the moment I will keep my words silent, but I shall still think.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think my hon. Friends should have kept silent in face of a maiden speech of that character. I have great pleasure in congratulating the hon. Member upon it and I hope we shall hear many more. The whole House will listen to him with the same attention and 1889 regard which we have given to his maiden speech.
We have not heard from the Attorney-General since he was submerged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) last week. We have now a Motion which stands in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon). As I said to the Minister earlier today, if he will prevail on the Leader of the House to provide time for a debate on the Motion, nothing would please me more. We should recover the extra day which we have lost through the operation of the Guillotine.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
Would the hon. Gentleman not say that before putting down the Motion I gave him an opportunity for a personal explanation?
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is quite right. The hon. and learned Member is repeating what he has said in his Motion. I have already told the House this afternoon, when the hon. and learned Member was not present—I do not necessarily blame him for that, but if he intends to interrupt he might at least make sure what has been said—that I understand that a personal statement must be non-contentious, and I guarantee that my statement will be very contentious when it is made.
I do not intend to abuse the privileges of a personal statement in order to make a speech to which reply cannot be made at that time. If time is provided by the Leader of the House—and I think there is a very good case for saying that time ought to be provided for the discussion of a Motion of this nature, to which I understand some of my hon. Friends intend to put down an Amendment—I shall be happy indeed. No one could be more glad and more ready to discuss it.
I am bound to say that the other part of the speech which was made on the same occasion by Mr. Gibson Jarvie I most certainly would not be able to sustain now. He then said that credit facilities were denied to his company by the Capital Issues Committee, which, he said, smacked of Star Chamber procedure. I am sure he will not want to say that 1890 about this Government, whatever he may have said about the last Government; for this Government have given him exceptional credit facilities and on his behalf are relaxing the hire purchase restrictions which they are not prepared to relax in respect of other commodities. So much for that.
I come to another question, and that is: What in the Minister's view—and here I should like to hear from him, and I am sure that he will have the permission of the House if he will reply—will be the effect of this Clause upon the Bill, and, indeed, upon the operation that is to be carried out? As I understand it, and I can summarise it in this way, there are now three ways of disposing of the assets of the profitable Road Haulage Executive undertaking, which is operating at a profit this year and is continuing to operate at a profit. They can either be sold as transport units, or companies can be formed and the shares sold, or they can be sold as chattels.
From what I have been able to make out so far, the Minister's general conception is that transport units shall be formed and sold to small men. He is not giving the small men any protection, and he is certainly giving no guarantee to the House against the formation of rings. The United Dominions Trust is quite capable, if it lends money to all these people and has a hand in these things, of gathering the financial strings together and effecting something pretty akin to a private monopoly in many parts of the country. There is no guarantee against that. That is apparently to be the general form and set up of the road haulage industry.
Only, apparently, in exceptional cases are companies to be formed. I put this to the Minister. Supposing that the Commission is faced with this dilemma of having on its hands a large number of vehicles which it cannot sell as private units, that is in groups of five, ten or whatever it may be, there are only two things which it can do. It can either sell them as chattels, in which case there is no goodwill of any business—they are just sold as second-hand lorries to whoever will purchase them at an auction sale or, alternatively, it can form companies.
Then it is for the Minister under subsection (6) to decide what can be done. 1891 Subsection (6) says that the Minister may,If any difference arises between the Commission and the Board … the Commission or the Board may refer the matter to the Minister and the Minister shall give such directions as he thinks fit….I ask the Minister whether, in fact, in circumstances like that, he is going to insist upon these lorries being sold as chattels or whether he would not in those circumstances, irrespective of whether it was an exception or not, permit the Commission to form companies for the purpose of selling these units. It seems to me that the least he could do is to say that he is not going to adhere to his orthodox way of selling these as chattels—as mere second-hand vehicles at an auction market—if the Commission can get a better price by selling them as companies.
I ask the Minister to justify, if he will, his view that this formation of companies should be an exceptional matter. I ask him to consider the circumstance I have outlined, which is only one of many operations and circumstances, and say whether, in this circumstance, he does not think that the Commission should be free to form companies if they believe they are going to get the best price. If the Minister was really concerned about getting the best price he would not say that this was an exception; he would say that the formation of companies was to be the general rule, and that would ensure a better price than the mere breaking up of the Road Haulage Executive property into small units to be sold as small blocks.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the point that the Trust would lend money to people to purchase lorries, and he made reference to some sort of strings which would bring them back again under the control of the Trust. Is he suggesting that this Trust would apply special powers to break an agreement, even if the borrowers did not break the agreement? Surely no one would borrow on such terms.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should not think that they would do so for a moment. Does the hon. Member know what are to be the terms of the agreement? Does the Minister know what are the terms of the 1892 agreement with the United Dominions Trust because, if he does, the House would be very interested to hear them. I do not know, that is why I am making this point. The House has absolutely no guarantee that this cannot happen.
My next point is one which has been made by a number of my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole)—who speaks tonight under very great personal difficulties; I hope he will soon feel better—made the point about the effect on the employees of this way of disposing of the Commission's assets. My hon. Friends the Members for Eccles, The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) and Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) and others have made the same point.
As we get nearer the time when the Bill is to become law it must become clearer to all of us if we are in touch with road haulage men how bitterly and deeply they resent the break-up of the Road Haulage Executive. At first, many of them did not believe that the Government were going to be such fools, and even a few months ago a great many did not believe that this would happen, although they could see the axe swinging over their heads, but now that it has really come people are extremely concerned. I have had many instances of this, including a meeting with a number of lorry drivers in my constituency last Saturday. One of them told me that he was a Conservative but proposed to vote for me from now on. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many drivers were there?"] It was a deputation of four. One Conservative out of four is not bad, anyway.
I have today received a letter from a man employed in a British Road Service depot in East London who comments on a visit by some "flashily-dressed gentlemen" who tried to pump him about the number of employees and whether a profit was being made. That is interesting confirmation of a number of things that we know to be happening, for which the United Dominions Trust is responsible. I am not saying the Trust was responsible for this, because the man did not say so and he did not know who the persons were, but I have made it clear that the Trust is responsible for this, and I include one of its directors, and this has 1893 never been denied, because it cannot be denied. The man said:I must add that the feeling against denationalisation is very bitter in this depot. I can see that big trouble is coming in road transport, and at the moment we would rather smash the vehicles than let Churchill sell them.
§ Mr. Partridge
In view of all the charges of bad faith which have been made, I should like to know when the hon. Gentleman dictated that letter.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am sorry, but I cannot congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon his second speech as much as I did upon his maiden speech. That did not seem to be quite up to the standard.
The Minister must say something to us now about the effect of the break-up of the Road Haulage Executive and the disposal of its assets in this way upon the employees. He has not given us a very clear idea that he understands what this will mean. Between 60,000 and 70,000 employees of the Road Haulage Executive will lose their jobs. The Minister told us that he could not transfer them with the companies when they were sold or with the units. Even assuming that when the units are sold the men will find fresh employment, the Minister must realise the disturbance which is caused to a man who loses his job and does not know the terms on which he will go back, especially if he is transferred from a Road Haulage Executive, which has concluded trade union agreements which are satisfactory to him, to employment with a small man with perhaps four or five lorries who does not necessarily have the obligation to meet the trade union conditions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) said it was no use thinking that the Road Haulage Wages Board would look after 20,000 employees that did not come within the ambit of their powers.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I thought my hon. Friend said 20,000, but he is present and he can tell us what he said.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Apparently the Minister was right on one of the very few occasions during the course of this Bill. I am prepared to split the difference with him and make it 17,500. I heard one figure and the Minister heard another. Possibly, we both heard what we wanted to hear. He wanted the smaller figure and I wanted the larger one. It is between 15,000 and 20,000 road haulage employees who do not come under the Road Haulage Wages Board. What happens to them? They are going to lose their jobs and then be taken on again. What is wrong with that? The Minister has told us they are not going to be transferred to the new undertakings, so presumably they must lose their jobs and a large number of them will be reengaged. Is that not so? I do not know what was meant by the Minister's gesture of impatience.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Minister says he is going to answer the point, but what I am saying is that these men would be transferred from trade union rates and conditions of service that have been agreed between the unions, particularly the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and the Road Haulage Executive, to small employers with four or five lorries who have not entered into any agreement with the Road Haulage Wages Board. Is there any guarantee at all that these men are to have even approximately the same conditions of service that they had under the Transport Commission? Of course, there can be no guarantee.
I do not believe that the Minister has genuinely understood this point, and I ask him to reply to it, because this is a serious matter to men who may be getting £8 or £9 a week under the present trade union agreement and who may find themselves transferred to a smaller employer who will tell them, "I will take you back and will pay you £6 a week." What is to prevent them doing that? The Minister must appreciate the importance of this matter.
From my own contacts with a number of these men they feel very deep anxiety about the future, and as this is about the last opportunity that the Minister has got of giving any reassurance about this 1895 matter, I hope he will accept it and give these men some assurance. I know it is a sore point with them judging from my own correspondence, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman must have had letters about it which show that the subject is deeply troubling a great many people. I ask the Minister to refer to these matters in a further speech, for which I am sure the whole House will give him permission so that we may find out as much as we can before we finally part with this particular Clause.
In conclusion, I say that the breaking up of the Road Haulage Executive into companies as an exceptional measure is a bad feature of this Bill. We believe that if the Minister were going to dispose of them he should have disposed of them in the form of companies, at any rate as far as a great number of them is concerned. Instead, he has come down on the side of the company as an exceptional measure, and we hope that he will reconsider that matter and use the powers taken under this Clause to make it possible for the Commission to form these companies not merely as an exceptional measure but as a general measure so that the public can know that they are going to get the best possible price when these vehicles are sold, and so, incidentally, that the levy can be kept smaller than it would otherwise be.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
By leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I will make a few observations. I had not intended to speak again as I made a speech of nearly half-an-hour in introducing this Lords Amendment, and I have replied to a number of issues raised in the course of the last three days when we have been considering the Lords Amendments. I hope I shall be allowed to say that the anxiety of the Opposition to prolong the debate on this one Lords Amendment, and its subsequent Amendments, to three full days, and not to reach any of the other points on the Order Paper, has led me to believe that it sprang from a feeling that, if the other issues were debated, the hollowness of their general charge would be demonstrated.
Anyhow they are now able to say, though I do not think many people would believe them, "Look at the large number of issues we have not been allowed to discuss." I say in advance that to spend 1896 three days on a new Clause that was welcomed by their own spokesmen in another place—[An HON. MEMBER: "Never discussed here."]—and on which full information was given there and much advance information was given here —[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and then to complain that there has been no opportunity to debate consequent Amendments is a piece of monumental hypocrisy.
As the Opposition have asked me to make a speech, I shall take the opportunity of reading something that I forgot to read when I spoke originally. I would refer hon. Members to the debate on the Report stage of the Bill on 4th February. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) for having recognised that he was scarcely fair to me in saying that I had rejected this Amendment on the Report stage. This is what I said:I have been urged by the Commission that it will help them in their own internal problems, and I am very anxious to do so.I was speaking of the company structure.Some difficulties yet remain to be settled if we are to decide to do this—Incidentally my advisers and I were in almost daily consultation with the Commission right up to the time of consideration of the Bill by another place—and I think the arguments are extremely strong and weighty. It will necessitate some rather complicated Amendments. The principle is simple. The Amendments may look formidable, but they will not be formidable save in words.Every time hon. Gentlemen wave the Order Paper, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) did a night or two ago, and say "Three and a half pages"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Be accurate."] I will be accurate. This is virtually the fifth day of the debate. There is another point of accuracy of which hon. Gentlemen opposite should be reminded. I had given them advance notice that the Amendments would look complicated and formidable, but that they would not be formidable save in words. I added:In substance the machinery would be perfectly simple. If, as I hope, it is possible to introduce Amendments in another place, they will then come back to this House where we shall have a chance to consider them and their full implications.Now we have had a chance—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We have had three 1897 Parliamentary days for debate, two complete ones and a large part of today, in considering this new Clause alone. I added:They will not involve any great changes, certainly no changes of principle, but they will be an improvement in machinery which has been asked for from both sides of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1953: Vol. 510, c. 1935]I welcomed the speeches made by my hon. Friends the Members for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) and Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey)—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
—despite the fact that those speeches were ridiculed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) and subjected to a rather prim lecture by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I am grateful to my hon. Friends for making it clear that in their view the purpose they had in mind has been, with Amendments, fulfilled and that they are glad to see those Amendments.
I know the House was interested to hear the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole), and it has been a matter of great regret to his Friends on both sides of the House that for so much of our debates he has been absent through illness. Because of our sympathy with his illness and our affection for himself, we were quite ready to listen to an even longer Second Reading speech than he made on this Lords Amendment, but I hope he will forgive me if in what I have to say I do not go in great detail into some of the general issues.
I will, however, deal with one or two of the points made by the hon. Member, and not least with the uncertainty in the minds of individual men, for whose welfare I am just as conscious and anxious as any hon. Member opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not know what Members on the other side mean. How can they imagine that large numbers of my hon. Friends and myself are consistently returned to this House by enormous votes if they did not come in large part from the working class? If any hon. Member likes to come to my constituency and investigate on the spot, he would be welcome to do so.
1898 The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) said that we had tried to give the impression that we were meeting the arguments from both sides of the House and then began to whittle down what we were giving by a series of provisos and considerations. But we always made it plain that the purpose of the company structure was an alternative method of disposal which should not be allowed to frustrate the declared intention of the Government. That is why there were these considerations and provisos. Incidentally, the hon. Member was wrong in thinking that the limitation of 50 vehicles or 200 tons unladen weight would apply to the company structure. It will not do so, as has been said in the House at least twice.
The hon. Member for Eccles, who in his speech enlivened everybody by his plea that the Cabinet should be set free, raised among a number of other issues the question of the employees, and a number of other hon. Members also have raised this matter. I am glad to make a few more observations, although I have made them all before at the relevant stages of the Bill. I think that the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) knows that I have been particularly anxious and concerned about these problems.
We must not treat the situation as if those employed by the British Transport Commission never changed their employment. I make no charge against the Commission. I think they are very good employers, and I am certain that the best of private employers are just as good. The figures ought, however, to be remembered. The total employed by the Road Haulage Executive in January, 1951, was 68,491. The total dispensed with during the year was 23,045; that is to say, the Road Haulage Executive dispensed with 30 per cent. of their employees.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It does not do the Opposition any good, and it is not fair to private employers, to suggest that there is all that difference in security between working for a nationalised corporation and working for private industry.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The same thing has happened more or less two years running. It cannot be attributed, as some interjectors have suggested, solely or mainly to the fear of the Bill.
Of course, there is disturbance to anybody whose employer is going to change—we all know that. Most of us, I think, have noted the curious fact that the more Socialist one is, the more conservative one is about personal change. None the less, the overwhelming proportion of these men will, we hope and believe, be re-employed, and re-employed in jobs as good as those that they are now filling. If their position is worsened, there will be provisions for compensation, which I have explained in detail in the House and which the Government have improved in another place, in response to requests both from this House and from another place. It is one of the misfortunes that we have not been able to get on to do much that we could have done and that I have not been able to deal with points really touching the lives of the employees.
I regret the disturbance caused to individuals and the uncertainty as to their future, even though I think that political pressure is being exerted to play on their natural fears. It is fair to remind hon. Members of the many thousands of small hauliers who not only lost their jobs but lost their businesses that they had taken pride in building up—[An HON. MEMBER: "They had compensation."] All right, they got compensation, but it must be a very material person—and most true Socialists are true materialists—to think that compensation is by itself adequate to make up for losing something which has formed one's life's work.
In reply to direct questions by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) and the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves), the position will be as I said it would. When the companies are formed and before the units are sold, the employees will remain within the wages 1900 structure agreed between the unions and the Commission. After that they will pass to the companies. The units will be sold and the employees will have the protection afforded under the Road Haulage Wages Act, 1938, and the Wages Councils Acts, 1945, and 1948, and Wages Regulation Orders made by the Minister of Labour after submission from the Road Haulage Wages Council. These wages councils do provide proper protection. If at any time improvements are needed the unions are powerful—rightly so—in our land. It is open to the unions to submit any opportunities or cases they may have for improvement in wages council machinery.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West made the point that 15,000 or 20,000 people would have their position worsened and they might not find jobs. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, with his glorious disregard for accuracy, said that they would lose their jobs. There is no possible case for arguing that they would lose their jobs. The greater proportion, we hope, will be absorbed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I must finish the argument. I submit to the hon. Member for Swansea, West, who is President of the Railway Clerks' Association—an office he has held since 1948—that there is a very powerful Transport Workers Salaried Staff association. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are the same."] I am perfectly aware of the connection and the similarity. I suggest to the hon. Member that he and his colleagues can be safely relied upon to use their position in the industrial negotiating machinery to protect the interests of any of their people whose conditions may be worsened.
§ Mr. P. Morris
I am obliged to the right hon. Member for giving way. As a matter of interest the Railway Clerks' Association and the Transport Workers Salaried Staff Association are one and the same. We divided our spheres of influence under the Transport Act, 1947. With all respect, he has missed a very important point which concerns the men who leave the service of the Road Haulage Executive and are employed by private employers. What will the Minister do to prevail on those private employers to maintain comparable conditions of service with those we have been able to obtain from the Road Haulage Executive?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The duty and opportunity will be with the union to organise that with the employers concerned. I cannot imagine that the union would welcome direct interference by the Government in a matter which has always been held to be one for negotiation between employers and unions. I was quite aware that the two unions were the same. I am sorry my joke fell rather lamely. It is as if I were addressing the Minister of Civil Aviation in my present capacity, but no doubt a sense of humour will return as we get nearer to half-past ten.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) welcomed this Amendment and I am very grateful to him. He asked me a question and apologised for the fact that he would not be here to hear the answer. He asked in regard to the question of the sale of shares in stages and suggested that it would have been prudent for the Government to have accepted that Opposition Amendment. I agree that the arguments are fairly evenly balanced: there are arguments in favour of the Opposition Amendment on that issue; but I think that the arguments the other way really win the day. Quite considerable difficulties of fixing a price for the shares and assessing the capital loss would undoubtedly arise, and in our view it is better to have the sale in one parcel, as has been provided for in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) made two distinct charges. He said that we were being urged to adopt this particular procedure because we feared that we should not be able to sell the road haulage assets. I can assure him that that played no part whatever; we were anxious to dispose of the assets in an orderly way, the Commission had assured us that this would help them, and that is one of the main reasons we followed that advice. The hon. Member said that only the large people would be able to buy the larger companies. That is why we are not laying down any rigid number of companies, large or small, that should be provided for.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, in winding up this debate for the Opposition, return again to the charge about the United Dominions Trust.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the hon. Member had not, unhappily, been away at an earlier date he would have heard me speaking about that. I was asked that previously on the question of transport units; the same considerations apply in regard to companies. There is no assurance that there will not be mergers after purchase. There never has been, and the Government have never pretended that it would be either desirable or possible to prevent such a development, but the whole history of road haulage runs counter to that idea.
I have constantly quoted in this House figures that have never been challenged, that there were only 79 companies with more than 50 vehicles and only 22 with more than 100 at the time of nationalisation. The bigger companies were taken over first, and there were some 14,000 vehicles in those taken over. The remainder, about 30,000, can safely be assumed to have been, in large part anyhow, composed of smaller units; it has been suggested that the average was between three and four vehicles. I do not think it fair to say that a danger now lies ahead which did not exist before. Indeed, I believe that one of the questions that the licensing authorities were entitled to ask an applicant was, "Have you a licence elsewhere?" It was a practice not much used because it was found that the social danger which had caused provision for that question to be put in the Act did not arise.
§ Mr. D. Jones
Will the Minister deny these facts—that between 1938 and 1946 the number of A licence vehicles dropped by 7 per cent. but the number of separate licence holders dropped by more than 30 per cent.?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Member may well be right, but I am afraid that I have not got the figures here and I am not in a position either to challenge or confirm them. Precisely what moral the hon. Member is drawing from that I am not quite sure, because we have the evidence before us which confronted the last Government when they nationalised road haulage.
1903 Finally the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East raised again the question of the United Dominions Trust. He tried to find some inconsistency between various statements made by Her Majesty's Ministers. When he was assured that the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed with the Minister of Transport he expressed surprise. I must indeed, I suppose, allow with tolerance for that sort of surprise, because of his own experience of his own Administration, but the suggestion that Ministers do not agree is one which it is difficult for this Government to comprehend.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Is the Minister going to explain the difference between Lord Selkirk and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am coming to that. If I read only the last few lines of what Lord Selkirk said, it is because the other sentences can be read in HANSARD and I have no wish to mislead the House. The last sentence reads:This is common practice, just as a particular line of business or export may get dollars."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords 26th March, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 328.]The hon. Gentleman twisted that to suggest that the noble Lord said that any facilities were to rank equally with dollars for exports or facilities for export. All the noble Lord said was that just as a particular line of business or export might get dollars—by way of illustration. He said nothing whatever about priorities, and to take from that the assumption that the Government do not regard the export drive as being the first consideration is wholly unwarranted. I cannot do better than read again the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with which apparently the hon. Gentleman claims to find some variation:The Government have not advised the banks to give the same priority to loans for the purchase of these lorries as to loans for the export trade. They have advised the banks that it would be consistent with Government policy that loans for such purposes should be made in suitable cases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1953; Vol. 514, c. 642.]There is no conflict whatever between what my noble Friend and what my right hon. Friend said a few days ago.
The hon. Gentleman turned, as he was fully entitled to do, to the statement I made on hire purchase relaxation. I was 1904 not attempting to foreshadow what would be in the Statutory Instrument. All 1 was concerned about was to search my memory in every possible way and to be certain as I can that anything that could be held to be remotely connected in the general sense with these proposals would be mentioned in this House in advance of it appearing here in the normal way. The purpose of that, and I hope it will be successful, was that offensive insinuations would be even less deserved than before.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked me what would happen if the Commission were left with vehicles on their hands which they could not sell as units. Would they be allowed to form them into companies or must they be obliged to sell them as advertised? I do not know where he got that assumption. There is nothing whatever to stop them forming companies. The time limit has gone from the Bill, as he may not have noticed. They can form them into companies or sell them as units in whatever way would seem best to the Commission and the Disposal Board. It is our belief that this Amendment which I have moved will be a supplementary means of achieving the clear intention of the Government.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I had thought it would be a good thing if we divided at this stage. On the other hand, I am not clear why we should spend the last quarter of an hour in the Division Lobby when we have this severe Guillotine imposed upon us.
The Minister finished with a reference to the unhappy things which have happened in relation to the United Dominions Trust. I have been listening carefully to the Economic Secretary. He was careful not to identify himself with the language of the Minister of Transport that the action of the Trust as claimed by the Chairman had full authority and support—as is boasted by the Minister of Transport—but I did not think that language applied to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Does it specifically have the full weight and support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? That is a straight question.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Maudling
What has the approval of the Government as a whole has the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is not the question—the full support and approval, the full authority and approval. Anyway, can the Economic Secretary to the Treasury answer "Yes" or "No" whether the Chancellor associates himself with the precise language used by the Minister of Transport? Will he tell us that?
§ Mr. Maudling
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is making such mischief about this, but the answer is "Yes."
§ Mr. Morrison
So, first of all, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State for the Colonies has quite enough trouble on his hands without barging into the United Dominions Trust. I only wish sincerely that the right hon. Gentleman had got the full approval of the united Dominions and Commonwealth behind him. Let him not walk into this.
I would remind the Economic Secretary that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East asked repeatedly whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer identified himself with the language of the Minister of Transport, but it was obvious that the Economic Secretary was doing his best to evade it.
§ Mr. Maudling indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Morrison
I then come along and ask the same question. He said it was the decision of the Government as a whole, still evading the precise language of the Minister of Transport. I ask him again whether he accepted the same language as the Minister of Transport, and the hon. Gentleman said it is clear that the Chancellor must have approved. This is not the answer.
Then, there was some coming and going by the Parliamentary Private Secretary behind so that the Economic Secretary could get, not the authority of the Chancellor, but, presumably, the authority of an officer of the Chancellor, and, lastly, after all this cross-examination, which the learned Attorney-General will recognise as very good cross-examination—I do not want to provoke the hon. and learned Gentleman—at last, the hon. Gentleman says "Yes," and identifies the Chancellor with the language of the Minister of 1906 Transport. The House will see that the Front Bench is in a state of shuffle and evasion, and, as for a united Front Bench, there was no united front until they were forced back to the issue and had to answer "Yes" or "No."
The Minister has said that he was now going back to the statement of the noble Lord, who is a member of the Government, the Earl of Selkirk, in the House of Lords on 26th March, as to credit facilities. This is what the noble Lord said:My Lords, perhaps I might answer one point that has been raised by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. He asked whether any privileged class had been created. That is not so. What the Treasury have done is this. They have informed the banks that they consider this—that is, the action under this Bill—a suitable subject for credit in the national interest. This is common practice, just as a particular line of business or export may get dollars."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th March, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 328.]What does this mean, and what is the good of denying what my hon. Friend alleges? The question was put as to whether this represented the policy of the Government—although my hon. Friend could not put it in that form, but put it in substantially the same terms as those employed by Lord Selkirk in another place, when he was asking whether they would reverse the policy. The answer was:No, Sir. The general priorities which the banks have been asked to apply in accordance with the Government's credit policy remain unchanged. They have been told that the provision of credit for the purchase of assets from the Road Haulage Executive, in accordance with the Bill now before Parliament, will be regarded as consistent with Government policy. It must, of course, be left to the banks themselves to decide whether to provide facilities for individual customers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1953; Vol. 514, c. 312.]That is a very different story from what was said by Lord Selkirk in the House of Lords. This statement is bad enough, but it is a distinctly milder version. It is merely to the effect that the Government will regard such a procedure as consistent with Government policy, and then it is left with the banks.
But what different language from the positive approval and authority that lifted this business right up to the high priority of exports for dollars and a particular line of business. It means that the Government are affording to the United Dominions Trust, and, I gather, 1907 certain other organisations as well, credit facilities ranking equal with exports for dollars. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But it is said by Lord Selkirk, and it has not been repudiated. He said, "This is common practice." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members will listen, I will tell them. After all, we have not got long, and I should have thought that having done what they have today, it would not be a good finish if hon. Members opposite prevented the final spokesman of the Opposition from saying what he has to say. But they can if they like. This is what was said:This is common practice, just as a particular line of business or export may get dollars."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th March, 1953; Vol. 181, c. 328.]That is giving this a very high priority, and, in our judgment, it is giving it a high priority because the Government wish to give particularly favourable treatment to a procedure of de-nationalisation. Why did they want to step in and give particular credit facilities to the process of de-nationalisation and to undertakings which are providing finance for these businesses and for the purchases? Moreover, they have relaxed the regulations about hire purchase all in the interest of this business.
The Government are playing about with their own regulations and orders of various provisions, both in respect of credit facilities and in respect of hire purchase. They are giving these special facilities as an act of political partisanship for the furtherance of their party political policy and in the interest of their friends outside who helped the Government at the General Election. They are departing from the fair and impartial administration of orders and regulations which ought not to be administered in a partisan spirit or for particular friends of the Government. That is what they are doing, both as regards credit and hire purchase.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) raised the question of the unions under this Clause. I agree with him that they are going to be in an un-fortunate position because, when the property passes from the ownership of the Commission to private ownership, there is no guarantee whatever that proper trade union machinery for negotiation will be recognised by the new employers. There 1908 is an obligation on the Commission as regards property that remains in their possession to give the same facilities for trade union negotiation as obtained under the 1947 Act. That is my impression. There is no such facility as regards property which passes under the Bill from the public authority to private owners.
Therefore my hon. Friend is perfectly right in saying that the Bill contains no provision whereby there will be proper trade union recognition and negotiation. It is well known by my hon. Friends here who are in the trade union movement that in the road haulage industry before nationalisation the machinery for collective bargaining was exceedingly imperfect. Indeed, some of the firms would not give facilities for collective bargaining at all. So bad was the machinery that whereas on the railways and certain other undertakings comprised in the Transport Commission the Commission and the unions were content with the machinery of trade union negotiation, in the case of the Road Haulage Executive, because of the imperfect nature of the machinery for trade union negotiation, the Executive agreed with the trade unions to set up a special, direct machinery of negotiation.
That could be done when the public authority took over from private industry, but the process is now the other way about, the public authority undertaking being broken up and scattered among a mass of private firms. Therefore there is no guarantee that the men will retain their jobs or that there will be effective trade union negotiation. Indeed, we shall all be very lucky if some difficulty does not arise in this dangerous process.
The Minister, like the Leader of the House, has argued that the Opposition have used up unnecessary time in consideration of the Lords Amendments, and particularly on the new Clause which is before us, I would ask hon. Members to read the Clause and to note the numerous issues that it raises, the many restrictions that would be imposed upon the Commission and the irritating reservations and restrictions indicated in the Clause, as well as the considerable number of specific matters that are dealt with in it. Suppose that the Clause had been dealt with in the ordinary way. The Minister could have brought it in on the Report stage in the House of Commons if he had wanted to. He says he told the 1909 House earlier on what he was going to do, but that amounted to very nearly nothing. There was nothing in that. Suppose the Clause had been added to the Bill on the Committee stage, it would have to have had a Second Reading. It could have been examined in Committee on Amendments, and it would have been subject to Amendment on Report stage before it went through.
The new Clause was started in another place. It is a big Clause, but it comes here without any Second Reading, with no Committee stage and no Report stage, and we have to deal with it as best we can by way of Amendments to the Lords Amendments. [An HON. MEMBER: "You had three days."] Even if it is three days, which I am not admitting, this is a big
§ Clause, equivalent to many an Act of Parliament, and it affects the livelihood of thousands of honest, decent British workpeople. It was right that it should be properly examined. Therefore, it does seem to me that it is utterly unreasonable that when this new Clause comes here for the first time from another place—
§ It being Half-past Ten o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to Order this day, put the Question that the Lords Amendments, so far as not already agreed to or disagreed to, and the Amendment to the Bill (Schedule 4, page 50, leave out lines 22 and 23) standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Lennox-Boyd, be agreed to.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 304; Noes, 276.1913
|Division No. 161.]||AYES||[10.30 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Cranborne, Viscount||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Hay, John|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Crouch, R. F.||Heald, Sir Lionel|
|Arbuthnot, John||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Heath, Edward|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Crowder, Petrie (Ruislip—Northwood)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Cuthbert, W. N.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Hill, Or. Charles (Luton)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Baldock, L.-Cmdr. J. M.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Deedes, W. F.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Banks, Col. C.||Digby, S. Wingfield||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Barber, Anthony||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Donner, P. W.||Holt, A. F.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hope, Lord John|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Drayaon, G. B.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Drewe, C.||Horobin, I. M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Erroll, F. J.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fell, A.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Birch, Nigel||Finlay, Graeme||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fisher, Nigel||Hurd, A. R.|
|Black, C. W.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Bowen, E. R.||Fort, R.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Foster, John||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Jennings, R.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollak)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Gammans, L. D.||Joynson-Hicks. Hon. L. W.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Kaberry, D.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Keeling, Sir Edward|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Glyn, Sir Ralph||Kerr, H. W.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Godber, J. B.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gough, C. F. H.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Warden)||Gower, H. R.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Graham, Sir Fergus||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Carr, Robert||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grimond, J.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Channon, H.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Churchill, Rt, Hon. Sir Winston||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Harden, J. R. E.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Cole, Norman||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Osborne, C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Partridge, E.||Stony, S.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Perkins, W. R. D.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Studholme, H. G.|
|McAdden, S. J.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Summers, G. S.|
|McCallum, Major D.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Suteliffe, Sir Harold|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Pitman, I. J.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Powell, J. Enoch||Teeling, W.|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L||Thomas, Lestle (Canterbury)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Profumo, J. D.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Raikes, Sir Victor||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. laid (Enfield, W.)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Thompson Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Redmayne, M.||Thornton Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Roes-Davies, W. R.||Tilney, John|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Renton, D. L. M.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Turton, R. H.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Markham, Major S. F.||Robson-Brown, W.||Vane, W- M. F.|
|Marlowe. A. A. H.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Marples, A. E.||Roper, Sir Harold||Vosper, D. F.|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wade, D. W.|
|Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Russell, R. S.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Maude, Angus||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Maudling, R.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Mellor, Sir John||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Scott, R. Donald||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wellwood, W.|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Shepherd, William||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Williams Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Wills, G.|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Snadden, W. MeN.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Soames, Capt. C.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.||York, C.|
|Nutting, Anthony||Speir, R. M.|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Odey, G. W.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, K.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Sir Herbert Butcher.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Adams, Richard||Callaghan, L. J.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Albu, A. H.||Carmichael, J.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Finch, H. J.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Champion, A. J.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Chapman, W. D||Follick, M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Chetwynd, G. R||Foot, M. M.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Clunie, J.||Forman, J. C.|
|Baird, J.||Coldrick, W.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Balfour, A.||Collick, P. H.||Freeman, John (Watford)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hen. A. J.||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Bartley, P.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N|
|Bellenger, Rt. Han. F. J||Crosland, C. A. R.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bence, C. R.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Glanville, James|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Benson, G.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Beswick, F.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Grey, C. F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Griffiths, David (Rether Valley)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Deer, G.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Boardman, H.||Delargy, H. J.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Bottomley Rt. Hon. A. G.||Dodds, N. N.||Hale, Leslie|
|Bowden, H. W.||Donnelly, D. L.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hannan, W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Edelman, M.||Hargreaves, A.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Brawn, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hastings, S.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Smith, Norman (Nettingham, S.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Morley, R.||Snow, J. W.|
|Holman, P.||Morris, Perey (Swansea, W.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Houghton, Douglas||Mort, D. L.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Moyle, A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Mulley, F. W.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Murray, J. D.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Nally, W.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Hynd, H. (Acorington)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Oldfield, W. H.||Swingler, S. T|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oliver, G. H.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Orbach, M.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Oswald, T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Janner, B.||Padley, W. E.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paget, R. T.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jeger, Dr. Santos (St. Pancras, S.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Pannell, Charles||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Pargiter, G. A.||Thornton, E.|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Parker, J.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Paton, J.||Timmons, J.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Peart, T. F||Tomney, F.|
|Keenan, W.||Plummer, Sir Charles||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Kenyon, C.||Poole, C. C.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Popplewell, E.||Usborne|
|King, Dr. H.M.||Porter, G.||Viant, S.P.|
|Kinley, J.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Proctor, W. T.||Weitzman, D.|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Pryde, D. J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Rankin, John||West, D. G.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Reeves, J.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Logan, D.G.||Reid, William (Camlachie)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Rhodes, H.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Richards, R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|McGovern, J.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wigg, George|
|McInnes, J.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McLeavy, F.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Willey, F. T.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Ross, William||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Royle, C.||William, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||William, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Short, E. W.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Marquand,Rt. Hon. H. A.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Winterbottom Richard (Brightside)|
|Mason, Rey||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Messer, F.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Yates, V. F.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Skeffington, A. M.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Monslow, W.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Moody, A. S.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Arthur Allen.|
§ Mr. Speaker
With regard to the Amendments which I have indicated previously as involving questions of Privilege, I will cause a Special Entry to be made in the Journals.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is important to know about those questions of Privilege, which we have not had any opportunity of discussing on their merits as we went along. May we know which are the questions of Privilege about which you wish to cause a Special Entry to be made, in case we wish to suggest any additions thereto, and the reasons that are to be given? We ought to know.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Amendments concerned are: page 15, line 34; page 16, line 45; page 18, line 11; page 27, line 13; page 46, line 45; page 47, line 8; and page 47, line 34. I can give the right hon. Member a copy of these later on if he desires it.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am sorry to bother you, Sir, but you will appreciate that we have been subjected to a pretty shameful gag on this business. Therefore, we have not been able to discuss this point of Privilege, or even to mention it as we went along. It would be useful to us, Sir, and right to the House, if you would be 1915 so good as to indicate the reasons for regarding these as Privilege Amendments.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not got them all by me, but in general they all involve, directly or indirectly, some slight charge on the Exchequer. It is quite common for the House to agree to Lords Amendments which do that, generally for the convenience of the House, but in those cases, in order to prevent the matter being overlooked, it is usual to make a Special Entry, and I will see that it is done in due course.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May I add with great respect, Mr. Speaker, that it is the case, is it not, that at least the last two Amendments which you read out make a substantial difference to the charge? One is in connection with a levy and the other involves a sum of £2 million. In those circumstances, would you not regard those as something to which special attention should be paid?
§ Mr. Speaker
I will pay attention to what the hon. Member has said and will consider it. If I consider it necessary to make a Special Entry of a different character, I will do so.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The logic of that statement is that the Lords have intervened in a question of finance and prevented the elected representatives of the people from discussing it.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member may put what construction he likes upon it. No doubt there will be various opinions in the House.