HC Deb 09 February 1953 vol 511 cc38-62

3.43 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I beg to move, in page 7, line 18. after "exceed," to insert: the aggregate of the following two amounts— (a).

Mr. Speaker

If it meets with general agreement, we might have a discussion on this Amendment and the next four Amendments.

Mr. Callaghan

That course would be satisfactory to my hon. Friends and myself and also, I take it, to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) in whose name two of the other Amendments stand. We shall thus have an omnibus discussion about lorries.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

Does that mean, Mr. Speaker, that we discuss all the Amendments down to the one in my name, in page 7, line 39?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, down to but not including the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Callaghan

The Amendment which I have moved stands with the other Amendment in my name in page 7, line 23, at the end, to insert: and in addition of the motor vehicles (so far as not included among such vehicles owned as aforesaid by such bodies corporate) in the following sub-paragraph referred to as such further motor vehicles' as at the passing of this Act are used by the Commission for the purposes of so much of their undertaking as is at that date carried on through the Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division of the Road Haulage Executive, and (b) of the total unladen weight of such further motor vehicles. We have put down a rather complicated formula here, but I hope it has meant something to the Minister. If it has not, I shall do my best to make clear now what the intention is.

Throughout the course of the Bill we have been discussing a proposition from the Opposition that the British Transport Commission should be able to keep a substantial number of vehicles in order to enable it to enter into competition with private hauliers. We must acknowledge that the Minister has moved considerably during the course of the Bill. Originally he indicated that it was the Government's policy not to permit the Commission to retain any vehicles at all to run on long-distance road haulage. He moved from that position after a very powerful speech by the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and he indicated that the Commission would be allowed to keep as many vehicles as the old railway companies had been using at the date of nationalisation.

It was then represented to the Minister that that was hardly fair because there had been a natural expansion in all road haulage fleets, whether nationalised or not, since 1st January, 1948. The Minister met that position by agreeing that they should keep six-fifths of the vehicles owned by the former railway companies on 1st January, 1948.

To the extent that the Minister has moved, the Bill is better from our point of view than when we first started, but from our point of view, from the point of view of the British Transport Commission and from the point of view of obtaining the best organisation of the road haulage industry, the Minister has still not moved far enough. The purpose of the Amendment is to persuade him that there is a case for his giving even more vehicles into public hands, not as a monopoly, against which he is vehement, but to enable them to run in competition with private haulage vehicles.

In the Committee stage the Minister gave us a large number of figures, which I have done my best to analyse, about the make-up of the Special Traffics Division of the Road Haulage Executive, which is colloquially known as Pickfords. He showed us that that Special Traffics Division is a most profitable one, making nearly £1 million a year profit. It is operated as a unit by the Road Haulage Executive and it has grown substantially since 1st January, 1948. On the Minister's own figures, Pickfords have grown far more than the 20 per cent. bonus which he is giving the Commission under the Clause.

At present, on figures given by the Minister, the heavy haulage vehicles in Pickfords number 426. I understand that, on the Minister's formula, they may keep only 197 vehicles. If I am wrong, I hope the Minister will correct me, because I do not want to found my argument on an incorrect hypothesis. Of the other service vehicles, of which Pickfords have at the moment 2,600 plus, they will be able to keep only 1,500. They will be able to retain 840 ordinary load carriers, the present figure of which the Minister did not give us, and my guess is that that figure is lower than the ordinary number of load carriers which Pickfords are operating at present. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether I am right. He said he would find out about that.

Finally, the general parcels service vehicles owned by Pickfords number over 3,400, but in this Special Traffics Division under the Minister's formula they will be able to keep only 2,100. As I add the figures up, Pickfords at present have 6,500 or 7,000 vehicles—I cannot be certain of the exact figure because of the unknown number of ordinary load carriers—and under the Minister's formula they will be able to have only 4.678 vehicles.

The second question I ask is what is the purpose of breaking up this Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division? The right hon. Gentleman must give us a reason for doing this. It has nothing to do with monopoly. He knows, as we all know, that Pickfords have no monopoly except in heavy haulage, and that grew up under private enterprise and has nothing to do with nationalisation. For instance, they have no monopoly in furniture removing or, indeed, in any other field. We have here a unit which is making a substantial profit, and doing it as a successful organisation in competition with private enterprise.

Apart from sheer doctrinaire policy, why should the Minister seek to break up this unit in the way he is proposing? He has not given us a reason why he should tear this one unit apart. This unit is making nearly £1 million profit which is going into the public coffers, and it is running in competition, and will do so increasingly in the future, with private enterprise road haulage. It is a nice, compact unit, as we all know, and I have not yet heard anybody make any substantial complaints against its efficiency.

I hope the Minister will change his mind about this altered formula so as to enable this Pickfords Division to be kept intact, in the light of the modifications in the Bill which he intends to make later on whereby companies will be formed and shares marketed. That seems to me to alter considerably the complexion of the whole problem, because his original intention, what I might call the romantic folly of the road haulage industry comprising the small man with his lorry, has disappeared before the chill winds of reality. We shall have more approach to the reality of the existing road haulage organisation than hitherto we have had from the Minister.

I welcome it and I am glad to see the Minister moving in that direction. This interesting experiment that he is making in the way of the formation of companies seems to me to make it more than ever desirable that an efficient, coherent unit like Pickfords should be preserved in its entirety. To give the Committee the figures again, under the Minister's proposals the Commission cannot keep in their Pickfords Division more than 4,600 vehicles out of a total of 6,500 as a minimum of their present-day fleet, though perhaps it could be a little more.

I ask the Minister a third question. He said in the Committee stage that he would consider again some of the arguments I advanced that even his formula as drawn is unnecessarily restrictive upon Pickfords, because it requires them to keep not just 20 per cent. more over the whole of their vehicles, but to keep 20 per cent. more in each class of the additional heavy haulage carriers, the additional ordinary load carriers, the additional parcels vehicles and so on. In other words, he has put the Commission in a strait-jacket. The Minister said, on 9th December that he was impressed by my argument. Whether in actual fact he was, I do not know. I have not noticed any Amendment to meet this particular point, and I ask the Minister to give us the results of his further consideration.

That briefly is our case for this Amendment. I do not pretend that the wording would necessarily have to be the same if the Minister accepted the principle but I believe the principle I have enunciated is a strong one and I doubt whether it can be controverted. I hope that the Minister, whose mind is enlarging throughout the whole of the proceedings on this Bill, will see the value of the arguments put forward and will tell us now that he accepts the Amendment in principle.

Mr. A. Hargreaves (Carlisle)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

I think the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has correctly recited the recent Parliamentary history of this Clause, but he was a little bit confused when he started disclosing the analysis of figures which he has been making. I could not quite reconcile the total figure for the Pickford group of 4,678 which he gave with the figure which my right hon. Friend gave in Committee of 2,132 parcels' vehicles comprised in that total. I did not think that the Pickford group contained any parcels vehicles. I think my right hon. Friend's speech was referring to another part of the fleet of the Road Haulage Executive. But that is by the way.

Because the Amendments standing in my name and the names of my hon. Friends are included in the present discussion, I think I ought to explain their purpose. They are in page 7, line 18, to leave out "six-fifths," and to insert five-fourths," and in page 7, to leave out lines 25 to 29, and to insert: (ii) without prejudice to the preceding provisions of this proviso, the total weight unladen of the vehicles so made over which belong to each of the three following categories, that is to say:—

  1. (a) vehicles (whether motor vehicles or trailers) specially constructed to carry abnormal indivisible loads:
  2. (b) motor vehicles (of whatever character) which in the opinion of the Minister ought to be regarded as special vehicles constructed for special purposes;
  3. (c) other motor vehicles.
does not exceed thirteen-tenths of the total weight unladen of the vehicles so owned belonging to those categories respectively. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East missed the purpose of the second Amendment when he said that he did not see anything on the Order Paper which can give effect to any of the indications given by my right hon. Friend and by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee. As a matter of fact, both the Amendments do that. The first one gives effect to the pleas made by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) on the question of computing the loss to the Commission through doing away with the horse-drawn vehicles.

We have made a rough calculation here. What hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted in Committee appeared to us to add a fantastic figure to the Commission's fleet. We have added a rough number of 200 vehicles by amending the over-all figure which was in the Bill of six-fifths to that of five-fourths. This is meant partially to meet the case put forward that the Commission were entitled to have some figure representing the large fleet which used to be drawn by horses, part of which has now been eliminated and part converted into motor vehicles.

4.0 p.m.

The second Amendment takes care of the feeling of the entire Committee on 9th December, to which my right hon. Friend replied, that this application of a rigid six-fifths ratio for all the types of vehicle in the Commission's fleet would undoubtedly hamper their activities.

Although the words may seem to be complicated, if hon. Members will work out the little sum in the last line in regard to the thirteen-tenths they will see that the figures give latitude, as between the classes in (a), (b) and (c), for the Commission to raise the proportion upwards or downwards by 25 per cent. There will be a situation in which the Commission are allowed, over all, to retain 200 more vehicles.

In the category, vehicles … specially constructed to carry abnormal indivisible loads, are vehicles which transport giant transformers, ships' propellers, large girders and so on. In the second category, motor vehicles … which … ought to be regarded as special vehicles constructed for special purposes are such vehicles as tank wagons, insulated vans, timber wagons, and so on. In the third category, other motor vehicles, those which carry general loads there should be some latitude to raise the limit up to 25 per cent, and consequently downwards in other categories by 25 per cent. so as to equate the position to the figure of five-fourths.

I do not know what the Government will say about them, but these proposals seem to go some distance towards meeting what was considered in the Committee to be appropriate. I am sure that if my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) were here, he would endorse them.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) for endeavouring to facilitate an improvement in the position as it was outlined by us in Committee. We will wait to hear what the Minister has to say. He promised to make a statement in regard to the Amendment which I have put down on this matter.

I rise merely to ask what the right hon. Gentleman is going to do in connection with the proposals put before him for Scotland, and I should like to have a specific answer. If the formula of six-fifths is to include the Pickfords (Special Traffics Division) and the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend is not accepted, there seems to be nothing in the Bill to prevent Scotland from being denuded by the Transport Commission of practically all her existing vehicles. If all those vehicles are to go to the making of a Special Division in selected groups south of the Border, will the Minister tell us what guarantee he can give that the Transport Commission will be able to retain and to operate in Scotland any road service vehicles at all? There is nothing in the Bill to prevent all of them going from Scotland to make up units south of the Border.

Is the Minister able to assure us that if these special services are to be equipped Scotland will not be left, even at the best, with much less than six-fifths of the 1948 position? There is no suggestion in the Bill that Scotland will retain six-fifths to be administered there. I gather from what the Minister said on the previous occasion that there is a plan to co-ordinate Scottish transport, and I have noticed from the Press that discussions are taking place. It may be that during the debate the Minister will be able to give us the benefit of these discussions and say whether he has reached any conclusion about the co-ordinating plan for Scottish transport.

As I understood it, the plan was that there should be an authority in Scotland which would supervise and co-ordinate all the national transport in Scotland, including vehicles left under the control and in the ownership of the Transport Commission. If there are to be left no vehicles, or very few, based in Scotland, what vehicles are to be under the control of this authority which is to co-ordinate transport? It can hardly co-ordinate transport which does not exist. What assurances are we to have that of the Transport Commission vehicles there will be six-fifths, or some proportion, left in Scotland to maintain a nucleus of Transport Commission services?

This point is important, because I understand that another development is taking place which may create a very serious position in Scotland. I gather from the Minister's replies on the matter of goodwill that, when tenders are received, the value of the vehicles will not be only their material value, and that the price will cover goodwill. I am informed that syndicates are already formed in Scotland to see that the Minister does not get competitive tenders. The market will be rigged by the groups, who will arrange which vehicles they will tender for in order that the prices will not be high enough to include goodwill, or perhaps even to include the material value of the vehicles.

If that is happening within the groups in Scotland, it is conceivable that other tenderers coming from outside will do the same. Hypothetically, it is possible that many of the 3,600 road vehicles in Scotland will disappear from the services in Scotland. What arrangement is the Minister making to guarantee that road services will be carried on in Scotland in one way or another? From the Bill it appears that great injury will be done to the services which at present exist. There is no guarantee that they will be carried on in future, either by the Transport Commission or by private enterprise.

This is not a matter to be left to chance, and I should be glad if the Minister would make his proposals clear in regard to Scotland. We have made many attempts to persuade him to take us his confidence in the matter. If we can get the proposals satisfactorily outlined to us, we shall know where we are going. The time for discussing these matters is so short that I propose to leave these questions with the Minister, in the hope that he will be courteous enough to give us very definite replies.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I am not going to enter into argument with hon. Gentlemen opposite about the Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division, but I would observe, in passing, that the growth of Pickfords since nationalisation has not been wholly due to the ordinary development of trade, because a number of services that were part of other businesses that were nationalised were added to the Pickfords special division. If we are attempting to get back to an equivalent position, that which would have occurred if nationalisation had not taken place, it is appropriate that some part of Pickfords should be disposed of.

It has been clear from the outset that, while hon. Members on this side of the House wish to break the monopoly of road transport in so far as it existed with British Road Services, they have always intended to preserve for the Commission a proper share of road haulage. It is not proper to attribute every variation that may have since arisen in the Bill entirely to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). Long before he made that speech it was clear that those of us on this side of the House who supported the Bill always intended that the British Transport Commission should have a fair crack of the whip. The question is, what is a fair share for the Commission to retain to maintain a reasonable position?

The figures given by my right hon. Friend in the debate on 9th December clearly were based on the motor vehicles in the possession of the companies controlled by the railway companies before nationalisation. In that debate reference was made to horse traffic, and so it would seem appropriate that some variation of the figure of six-fifths, which was then mentioned, should be considered. One of the main features of our road transport service in the towns before the war were the magnificent van horses maintained chiefly by the railway companies and firms such as Carter Paterson. They were worthy successors of their direct ancestors, the war horses of Agincourt. With the passing of time, however, and more particularly with the introduction of traffic lights, they became less and less appropriate on the streets and their numbers, which in 1948 were over 900, have been reduced to under 300 today.

Of course, a horse-drawn vehicle does not have the radius or carrying capacity of a lorry, so that in calculating the number of vehicles in the possession of the companies controlled by the railways before nationalisation, it is not correct merely to count the number of horse-drawn vehicles that have been replaced. For that reason the noble Lord and other hon. Members on this side of the House have suggested the figure of five-fourths, which is an increase on the figure of six-fifths in the Bill, and which we hope may be nearer the equivalent figure.

With regard to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn), we have a transport monopoly in other places besides Scotland. We have a transport monopoly in Cornwall where we are almost entirely dependent on the British Transport Commission for long-distance haulage.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

What is the service like?

Mr. Wilson

The second Amendment in the name of my noble Friend, to leave out lines 25 to 29 in page 7, attempts specifically to deal with the question of seeing that the whole of whatever proportion of transport is left to the Commission shall not be swept into one aspect of transport, leaving the rest denuded. In that Amendment we seek to insert a form of words in order to keep the proportion of the various services more or less as it was previously. If those words are not appropriate, perhaps the Minister will be able to accept the principle? I feel sure that the suggestion that one part of the country will be left without any service is an exaggeration.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

I want to carry a stage further the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson). The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) stated that the Minister's mind now seems to be moving in the right direction. We know that the hon. Member believes in monopoly, but I am sure he will not wish to claim a monopoly of wisdom in this matter. The Minister's thinking starts, as does the thinking of all of us on this side of the House, from our election statement that not only would we de-nationalise the nationalised road haulage, but that we would form public road and rail transport into regional groups of workable size. That conception was further expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and by other hon. Members from the Second Reading of the Bill onwards, when they stated that they wished they had heard more talk of public transport, where there is to be public transport, instead merely of road transport and rail transport.

4.15 p.m.

It was with the idea in mind of regional groups of workable size for public transport that presumably Clause 4 was introduced into the Bill. Since one of the objects of the Committee and Report stages of any Bill is to try to improve each of its Clauses, both sides of the House are now trying to improve Clause 4. The hon. Gentleman must not claim a monopoly in the matter, more especially if he would be so good as to consider the Amendments on the Paper in the name of my noble Friend, myself and others.

Mr. Callaghan

So far from claiming a monopoly in the matter, I specifically gave all the credit to the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). There was nothing in the Minister's mind about giving any vehicles to the British Transport Commission. Indeed it was excluded specifically in another place by Lord Leathers who, when asked a direct question, said there was no intention of giving the Commission any vehicles. That so aroused the indignation of the hon. Baronet that he made a most powerful speech on the Second Reading of the Bill which altered the course of the policy of the Government on this issue.

Mr. Renton

All I can say is that Clause 4 has been in the Bill since it was introduced. However, I do not wish to labour the matter. From the point of view of creating regional groups of workable size, the position is even more favourable to the Commission than may have appeared so far because, as I understand the matter, the Commission are in the fortunate position of having trailers thrown in as a "buckshee "addition to the unladen weight of tonnage provided by the Bill. There is a large pool of trailer tonnage and, as I understand the position, that will not count with any of the restrictive conditions of Clause 4. It is an important point to be borne in mind, and I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will clarify it.

Mr. I. O. Thomas (The Wrekin)

Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to define the term "buckshee"?

Mr. Renton

I am sure the hon. Gentleman has travelled about the world sufficiently to know the meaning of that expression. It is one used in many languages to describe something which is thrown in without one having to pay specifically for it. I hope the analogy is not too appropriate in this context.

In regard to the Amendments standing in the name of my noble Friend, the increase from six-fifths to five-fourths is no more than is necessary to ensure that those horses which came under the control and ownership of the Road Haulage Executive, and have now been replaced by mechanical vehicles, will not be overlooked in re-allocating the former railway-owned vehicles to the British Transport Commission. This figure must naturally be an approximation and perhaps I should add also that the word "horses" is correct and that "horse-drawn vehicles" would not be correct. That which I have described is the only effect and purpose of the Amendment in page 7, line 18 to leave out "six-fifths," and to insert "five-fourths."

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question?

Mr. Renton

I am sorry, but I am not going to give way again. I have given way three times already and we must get on with the business.

In the next Amendment in the name of my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), in page 7, to leave out lines 25 and 29, and to insert a new paragraph (ii), we have specifically dealt with the complaint which was made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he suggested that the Clause as originally drawn had placed the Commission in a strait-jacket. Candidly, I do not think that it did, because what was originally in the Bill was that the fleet to be transferred should be "comparable"—that obviously means broadly comparable and not with tremendous mathematical precision— … as respects the size, nature and quality of the vehicles comprised therein, to a fleet made up of the vehicles so owned. But to give greater tolerance still and to place the matter beyond doubt, we propose this further Amendment, which is cast in very wide terms indeed. Nobody could suggest that if the Amendment were adopted the Commission would be in any way fettered, so long as they acted broadly in the spirit of reproducing the old railway-owned fleets of vehicles, allowing for increases and allowing for horse-drawn vehicles, and arriving at a reasonable approximation.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) asked me about the position of Scotland in the event of Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division falling within the six-fifths over-all maximum. I hope on the Third Reading of this Bill, some time quite soon, to make a few general observations in some detail on the position of Scotland under the Bill. At this stage, I must say that I could not possibly bind the Commission as to the territorial distribution of those assets which they intend to retain.

Many private operators served Scotland before nationalisation and many will do so again. In deciding what proportion of the Commission's assets should be in Scotland, no doubt the Commission will have their own point of view and will have regard to their own interests in Scotland and, in consultation with the Disposal Board, will decide what they will do. Were I to tie them to a particular proportion in Scotland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) reminded me—although Scotland is truly a nation and Cornwall is a county—the Commission would be in great difficulty. They would be in great difficulty if the Government tried to bind their distribution on a geographical basis.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

Could the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that where the Commission operated uneconomic routes in Scotland there will not be any withdrawal from those routes in the Highland counties and that those areas will not be left without adequate transport?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

This is a United Kingdom and the Bill applies to the country as a whole. What applies to Scotland would apply to any other part of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) apologised for the complicated nature of the Amendment which he moved and the Amendment to which he referred. I should like to congratulate him on the facility with which he explained the Amendments and, if I may say so without offence, on the skill with which he disguised their full implications.

I accept as broadly accurate all the figures which the hon. Member gave but, if looked at in detail, the consequence of the Amendment which is before the House would be that the British Transport Commission would retain, as under the Bill as it is now drawn, six-fifths of all the old railway and canal companies' business. Under the first Amendment they would also receive six-fifths of the tonnage of other vehicles not already covered by the Bill but in use with the Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division of the Road Haulage Executive. Under the second Amendment they would receive a further tonnage equal to that of the vehicles of the Special Traffics Division not already covered by the Bill.

The net effect of both Amendments is to add to the six-fifths, eleven-fifths of the tonnage of other vehicles now in the Special Traffics Division which did not come over to the Commission with the railway and canal companies. I have looked at this matter in detail and have had the benefit of expert advice, and that is my conclusion. Perhaps the hon. Member did not intend to go so far, but if he did he must have realised that these Amendments strike at the very root of the first three Clauses of the Bill.

Nevertheless, I recognise that the House as a whole feel the need not only of a modest increase in the over-all total which the Commission might receive but the need for greater flexibility within that over-all total. In the last few weeks I have been at pains to try to find means to give expression to the common view of the House. At the same time, it is the view of the Government and their supporters that in any greater flexibility that we can give to the Commission there cannot be continuance of a preponderating interest in any of the special road services.

I congratulate my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) on the skill with which he gave expression to what was certainly the general feeling of the Government benches on the Committee stage. Let us assume that the two Amendments in his name in fact broadly represent the approach of the Government today. I am going on with that assumption in unravelling this rather complicated story. Let us assume that he is right and for six-fifths we substitute five-fourths. Later on, I will come to the greater flexibility within the over-all total.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Truro said, Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division as we know it is not just the old Pickfords writ large by normal expansion but quite a different organisation built round the old Pickfords. There is a danger sometimes when we use the word "Pickfords" of using it in the old or in the new connotation and sometimes confusing hon. Members on both sides of the House. Incidentally, my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who has undoubtedly played a very important part in the debates on this Bill, is far too modest to think that he has wholly altered the whole trend of Government policy.

The road haulage companies controlled by the old railway companies on 1st January, 1948, operated some 3,900 road vehicles. I think that that is accepted. These included—

Mr. Sparks


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I do not want to be interrupted until I have concluded this rather complicated part of my speech.

These included 164 heavy haulage vehicles and 1,257 other special vehicles apart from normal haulage vehicles. On this nucleus the Pickfords (Special Traffics) Division as it is today has built. I repeat that it is not a natural growth, though it is perfectly proper and it has been very efficiently run, but the Special Traffics Division built round the old Pickfords. I understand from the Commission that this division today comprises 426 heavy haulage vehicles and 2,665 other vehicles, including special vehicles. Under the proposals of the Government, in the Bill as now drawn, the Commission, under the six-fifths formula, would be able to retain 200 heavy haulage vehicles, 1,500 other specials and 2,970 ordinary load carriers. If I accepted the principle behind my noble Friend's Amendment and accepted a five-fourths instead of a six-fifths limitation, the Commission would then have 210 heavy vehicles, 1,630 other specials and 3,220 ordinary load carriers. I think that is a fair statement of the two situations—one with the Bill as it stands and the other if we accept my hon. Friend's Amendments.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Callaghan

How many vehicles does that mean that Pickfords will now comprise altogether, and secondly, what is the present size of Pickfords?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I can tell the hon. Gentleman the present total tonnage of Pickfords, which I understand is at present 13,708 tons. The total number of vehicles which they took over was 3,330, to which they have added 593 by voluntary acquisition and 659 as their share of compulsory acquisition. I think that answers one part of the question, and I am not quite certain what the other part was.

Mr. Callaghan

I am much obliged to the Minister. My argument is directed to this: in the words of the Minister, this division is very efficiently run. For the information of the House, may I be told, therefore, what is the present size of the division and how many fewer vehicles there will be under the Minister's new formula—because the size will be smaller than the present size.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I said that the division was efficiently run, and I was anxious to pay a tribute to the people who work in it; but I did not say that the grouping within that division of this large multiplicity of vehicles was in itself a good thing that is quite another matter. I should not want anybody working in the Pickfords Division to believe that they were not thought to be, as indeed they are, putting their whole heart into it and doing a very efficient job within the organisation which they are set to run, but whether that is the best organisation is quite another matter. I have given the hon. Gentleman the totals under both the six-fifths and the five-fourths formulae and also the present position of the Pickfords Division. I do not think I can break up those figures in any other way, even to help the hon. Gentleman to make any other point.

Mr. Sparks

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I ask whether he has made any allowance for the horse-drawn vehicles?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I was just coming to the horse-drawn vehicles. I was about to move towards the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for East Stirling, or the Amendment which he would have proposed had this debate arisen on that Amendment in page 7, line 23, at end, insert: and for the purposes of this proviso motor vehicles shall be deemed to include motor vehicles brought into use by the Commission subsequent to the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-eight, to replace horse-drawn vehicles in use at that date. I was impressed by the argument which was advanced in the House about the mechanisation which had taken place and the consequent loss which the Commission might suffer if no regard were paid to it in our calculations. But, of course, we have to remember, in arriving at a fair total to allot to the Commission for this conversion—if we decide to allot a total at all—the services which horse-drawn vehicles can give compared with the services which motor vehicles can give, and we have to give proper weight to that factor in any of our considerations.

This is an important matter, for we are dealing with a very large number of vehicles indeed. We should also remember that when the licensing authorities issue B licences, in replacement of licences for horse-drawn vehicles, for example, it has been their practice to limit, those licences to a radius, from the centre where the horse-drawn vehicles were operated, roughly equivalent to the radius which the horse-drawn vehicles could cover. It is by no means as simple a matter as might at first appear.

Nevertheless, I am anxious to make some gesture in this field because, as I have said, I was impressed by some of the arguments which have been used. I accepted in principle that something ought to be done, but certain suggestions have been made and certain figures given in various organs of the Press which suggest that we ought to have regard not only to those horse-drawn vehicles which are within the control of the Road Haulage Executive but also to those which are within the control of the Railway Executive where conversion has taken place over the last four or five years.

This does not appear to us to be a reasonable thing to do because, after all, none of the collection and delivery vehicles of the Railway Executive are to be taken over at all, and it would not be fair to make an allotment, against what the Road Haulage Executive were to receive, of some allocation in respect of the large number which the Railway Executive have converted when those Railway Executive vehicles were not to be taken over at all. The total fleet, if I may use that phrase about horse-drawn vehicles, of horse-drawn vehicles of the Railway Executive in December, 1948, was some 24,000. That is now down to some 8,000. On 1st January, 1948, the railway-controlled companies had some 3,868 horse-drawn vehicles. They transferred 300 to the Railway Executive, 2,800 were disposed of and 700 are still with the Road Haulage Executive.

It is this more limited field which I have had to consider in arriving at a fair proportion to add to the total which the Commission will be allowed to retain. I have borne this very carefully in mind in arriving at an over-all figure and I am to inform the House that, broadly, the two Amendments moved by my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South appear to represent what we think would be an equitable and a reasonable solution.

Perhaps I may say a word or two about those Amendments and about the reason I cannot accept them at the moment, quite apart from the fact that they have not been moved. I will detain the House for only a short time. Taking, first, the first Amendment of my noble Friend, in page 7, line 18, in paragraph (1) of the proviso in the Clause the over-all tonnage is limited, as the House now knows, to the pre-nationalisation tonnage plus 20 per cent. The effect of the first Amendment would be to increase by a further 5 per cent. the tonnage of motor vehicles owned by the former railway companies, raising the proportion from 20 per cent. to 25 per cent., increasing the total unladen weight of the motor vehicles to be retained from six-fifths, in the Bill, to five-fourths in future.

I will give an undertaking on behalf of the Government that, after a few more of the talks which I am having with the Commission on this matter, I will cause to have introduced in another place an Amendment to give expression to that undertaking, so that the total unladen weight of the motor vehicles to be retained by the Commission will rise from six-fifths to five-fourths.

As I told the House, I am also anxious to allow for greater flexibility within the various categories, subject to the consideration that at no point must we allow the retention of a preponderating interest in any one of the categories, because to do so would strike at the very root of the Bill and would be contrary to the declared intention of the Government.

We are certainly prepared to accept the spirit of the second Amendment which the noble Lord has drawn up. Under this Amendment the Commission would be limited only in the tonnage made over in each of the three specific categories, the limit being a tonnage equivalent to the tonnage of the old railway companies plus 30 per cent.; that is within each of the three categories they will have a further freedom of 5 per cent. Subject to this, they may select any vehicles they like up to this tonnage in each of the categories, provided that the total tonnage of vehicles does not exceed the overall limit of five-fourths. If they exceed the 25 per cent. limitation in any one category, there must be a corresponding reduction in another category.

My noble Friend recounted the various categories, and I do not think I need weary the House by reading them again. They appear in the Amendment on the Order Paper. That will be broadly the form which the Amendment will take in another place.

I believe that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will be more interested to know what will be the total number of vehicles and the total tonnage consequent upon the change and what will be the improvement from the Commission's point of view. Let us take the three categories. First, heavy haulage: the present number of motor vehicles is 164 and the unladen weight in tons is 1,884; while the new proposals would allow 210 motor vehicles of a maximum unladen weight of 2,500 tons. Under other special vehicles, the figures are 1,257 vehicles with an unladen weight of 3,806 tons; while the new proposals would allow 1,630 vehicles of an unladen weight of 5,000 tons. In the third category, that of ordinary road carriers, the figures are: number of motor vehicles, 2,478, and unladen weight in tons, 8,033; and under the new proposals, the number of vehicles would be 3.220 of an unladen weight of 10,500 tons.

The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) asked me about the position of trailers. Except in the first category—heavy haulage—in which the vehicle specially constructed to carry abnormal loads is the trailer and not the driving vehicle—the Commission will be entirely free to have as many trailers as they wish. Because in the first category—heavy haulage—it is the trailer which is the important part of the operation, that proviso will not extend to that category.

I apologise to the House for the inevitably complicated nature of what I have had to say. I hope that hon. Members who have been able to follow it, and all who will be able later to read it, will agree that it fulfils the intention of the Government as I broadly hinted at it just before Christmas. It retains the investment of the old railway companies in road haulage; it retains a substantial road haulage undertaking for the Commission; and, subject to the consideration that there cannot be a preponderating interest in any one category, it allows for that flexibility the absence of which was commented upon on both sides of the House, and to which the Commission has drawn my attention.

I hope that in the light of this explanation the Opposition will decide not to press their Amendment to a Division but to await the Government Amendment in another place, consideration of which, when reported here, we shall have a chance of undertaking.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 194; Noes, 231.

Division No. 76] AYES [4.45 p.m
Acland, Sir Richard Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hardy, E. A.
Albu, A. H. Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hargreaves, A.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hastings, S.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Deer, G. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)
Ba[...]on, Miss Alice Delargy, H. J. Herbison, Miss M.
Balfour, A. Dodds, N. N. Hobson, C. R.
Bartley, P. Donnelly, D. L. Holman, P.
Bence, C. R. Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)
Bonn, Wedgwood Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Houghton, Douglas
Benson, G. Edelman, M. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)
Beswiok, F. Edwards, John (Brighouse) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Blackburn, F. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Hughes, H[...]ter (Aberdeen, N.)
Blenkinsop, A. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Hynd, H. (A[...]rington)
Blyton, W. R. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Boardman, H. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Bowden, H. W. Fernyhough, E Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Bowles, F. G. Fienburgh, W. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Finch, H. J. Janner, B
Brockway, A. F. Follick, M. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Foot, M. M. Jeger, George (Goole)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D Forman, J. C. Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Johnson, James (Rugby)
Burton, Miss F. E. Freeman, John (Wa[...]ford) Jones, David (Hartlepool)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Callaghan, L. J Gibson, C. W. Keenan, W.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Glanville, James Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Champion, A. J. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. King, Dr. H. M.
Chapman, W. D. Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Kinley, J.
Chetwynd, G. R Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Clunie, J. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Collick, P. H. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lewis, Arthur
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Griffiths, William (Exchange) MacColl, J. E.
Crosland, C. A. R. Hale, Leslie McGovern, J.
Crossman, R. H. S. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) McInnes, J.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Daines, P. Hannan, W. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Mainwaring, W. H. Pursey, Cmdr. H. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Reeves, J. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Manuel, A. C. Reid, William (Camlachie) Thurtle, Ernest
Mayhew, C. P. Rhodes, H. Tomney, F.
Mellish, R. J. Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Turner-Samuels, M.
Messer, F. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Mikardo, Ian Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Viant, S. P.
Mitchison, G. R. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Wallace, H. W.
Morley, R. Ross, William Weitzman, D.
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Shackleton, E. A. A. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. West, D. G.
Moyle, A. Short, E. W. Wheeldon, W. E.
Mulley, F. W. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flim)
Nally, W. Slater, J. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Oliver, G. H. Snow, J. W. Wigg, George
Orbach, M. Sorensen, R. W. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Oswald, T. Sparks, J. A. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Paget, R. T. Steele, T. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Pannell, Charles Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Winterbottont, Richard (Brightside)
Parker, J. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Paton, J. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Yates, V. F
Pearson, A. Swingler, S. T. Younger, Rt. Hon. K
Plummer, Sir Leslie Sylvester, G. O.
Porter, G. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughlon) Taylor, John (West Lothian) Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Wilkins.
Proctor, W. T. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Aitken, W. T. Crowder, Petra (Ruislip—Northwood) Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Cuthbert, W. N. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Alpert, C. J. M. Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Hurd, A. R.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Davidson, Viscountess Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Deedes, W. F. Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.
Arbuthnot, John Digby, S. Wingfield Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Donner, P. W. Jones, A. (Hall Green)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Kaberry, D.
Baldwin, A. E. Drayson, G. B. Keeling, Sir Edward
Banks, Col. C. Drewe, C. Kerr, H. W.
Barber, Anthony Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Lambert, Hon. G.
Baxter, A. B. Duthie, W. S. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Fell, A. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Finlay, Graeme Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Fisher, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Linstead, H. N.
Birch, Nigel Fletcher-Cooke, C. Llewellyn, D. T.
Bishop, F. P. Fort, R. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)
Bossom, A. C. Foster, John Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Bowen, E. R. Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell Low, A. R. W.
Boyle, Sir Edward Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Braine, B. R. Garner-Evans, E. H. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr G. (Bristol, N.W.) Godber, J. B. LytteIton, Rt. Hon. O.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. McAdden, S. J.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Gower, H. R. Macdonald, Sir Peter
Browne, Jack (Govan) Graham, Sir Fergus McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Bullock, Capt. M. Hall, John (Wycombe) Maclean, Fitzroy
BuIlus, Wing Commander E. E. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Burden, F. F. A. Harris, Reader (Heston) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Harvey, Air Cdre A. V. (Macclesfield) Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Campbell, Sir David Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Carr, Robert Hay, John Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.
Cary, Sir Robert Heald, Sir Lionel Markham, Major S. F.
Channon, H. Heath, Edward Marlowe, A. A. H.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Higgs, J. M. C. Marples, A. E.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Maude, Angus
Clarke, Brig Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Medlicott, Brig. F.
Cole, Norman Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Mellor, Sir John
Colegate, W. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Molson, A. H. E.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Holland-Martin, C. J. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Hollis, M. C. Mott-Radclyffe, C E.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Holt, A. F. Nabarro, G. D. N
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry Nicholls, Harmar
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Crouch, R. F. Horobin, I. M. Nicelson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hersbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Nield, Basil (Chester)
Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Nugent, G. R. H. Russell, R. S. Tilney, John
Nutting, Anthony Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Touche, Sir Gordon
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Turner, H. F. L.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas Turton, R. H.
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale) Vosper, D. F.
Osborne, C. Scott, R. Donald Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Peyton, J. W. W. Shepherd, William Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Pitman, I. J. Soames, Capt. C. Watkinson, H. A.
Powell, J. Enoch Spearman, A. C. M. Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Speir, R. M. Wellwood, W.
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.) Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Profumo, J. D. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Raikes, Sir Victor Stevens, G. P. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Remnant, Hon. P Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Renton, D. L. M. Storey, S. Wills, G.
Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Robertson, Sir David Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Wood, Hon. R.
Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Teeling, W.
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Roper, Sir Harold Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith and
Mr. Redmayne.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I beg to move, in page 7, line 39 at the end, to insert: (4) So long as any company to which property has been made over under this section remains under the direct or indirect control of the Commission, 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 itself. The purpose of this Amendment is to give effect to an undertaking that I gave in talks with the Trades Union Congress. I have always been anxious that no unnecessary disturbance should arise in any of the arrangements that have been made for negotiating wages or conditions,of service or any other kindred subjects. But as, no doubt, will be known by those who have followed the Bill in any detail, the effect of the creation of the company structure is to take men working for the Commission out of the machinery for arriving at national agreements which have prevailed hitherto when they have been directly employed by the Commission. I was anxious to take steps to avoid this, because I knew that this was what the unions concerned desired and what the parties on both sides of the House were anxious to achieve.

The effect of this Amendment is to exclude from the Road Haulage Wages Council machinery set up under the Wages Councils Act those employees who will be in companies created under Clause 4 controlled by the Commission, and to leave their terms and conditions of service for negotiation centrally under the machinery set up in accordance with Section 95 of the Transport Act, 1947.

There is a further Amendment in Clause 6, page 9, line 17 which should be taken in conjunction with this, and I feel that I can commend these two Amendments to the House, because the Wages Councils Act machinery was set up to provide the negotiating machinery where there was no adequate machinery already in existence, and as there is now adequate machinery for all the employees of the Commission in road haulage, I am very anxious not to disturb that machinery. I think there is nothing inconsistent in this point of view because of the original purpose of the Wages Councils Act. I hope that this brief recommendation of these two Amendments will lead to their acceptance without a Division.

Amendment agreed to.