§ 3.50 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite)
I beg to move, in page 22, line 29 to leave out "one month," and to insert "three months."
The first two Amendments on the Order Paper, of course, go together. The House will recall that in Committee the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) moved an Amendment which sought to extend from one month to 12 months the period of grace allowed to the Commission in applying for licences for road passenger services which they provided. After a short debate, I indicated that, although we could not concede the full extension, we were prepared to go into the matter and, should the hon. Member for Swansea, West care to put down a further Amendment at this stage of the Bill to extend the period to three months, my right hon. Friend would be prepared to add his name to it and to see that it was incorporated in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Swansea. West has not thought it proper to put down the Amendment, but since the Committee stage we have given further consideration to the matter and we are satisfied that a period of one month is too constricted for this purpose, that a good deal of clerical work is necessarily involved and, by the same token, that by extending the period from one month to three months we should be doing something which would provide, as we now think, an adequate period for this purpose. For that reason I ask the House to embody the Amendment in the Bill.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was disappointed at the time that the hon. Gentleman could not accept the Amendment in the terms in which I moved it, but when he suggested that he would 230 extend the time a little, I was very grateful to him. He indicated that he would accept an Amendment from me or would himself put down one at the Report stage. I assumed, apparently rightly, that he would complete his bargain with me. I am therefore very glad to accept the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 22, line 30, leave out "that month," and insert "the said three months."—[Mr. Braithwaite.]
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
I beg to move, in page 23, line 8. to leave out subsection (4).
If I were asked to describe this subsection in relation to all the other proposals in the Bill, I would say that it was the meanest and most contemptible of any of the proposals which the Government have included in the Bill. It is not that the proposal robs the British Transport Commission of a considerable sum of revenue—revenue which is very useful and helpful—but that it prevents a large number of London people, including adults, but very largely children, from enjoying the advantage, particularly in the summer months, of day trips to the seaside resorts on the South-East and South Coasts.
Last year, no fewer than 3,350,000 passengers were conveyed by the London Transport Executive in contract carriages. That figure includes the passengers who travelled in contract carriages within the London Transport Executive's area, and the right hon. Gentleman is permitting the powers to provide that service to be retained. Nevertheless, if we make a modest deduction from that figure. we see that about 750,000 to one million passengers were conveyed by contract carriages or by private hire, which is more or less the same thing, by the London Transport Executive outside the boundaries of their area, which, for all practical purposes, means the seaside places on the South and South-East Coast.
I think the Minister could quite well afford to concede the purpose of the Amendment, because this service is used almost entirely by London people and very largely by children organised into parties to spend a day at places like Littlehampton, Bognor Regis. Worthing and other parts of the South Coast. This 231 service is run at a very low cost to them, largely because the London Passenger Transport Executive are able to use vehicles on Saturdays and Sundays which otherwise would remain idle in the garages.
We must bear in mind that the great peak of London road passenger traffic lies within the period Monday to Friday inclusive. On Saturdays and Sundays the general volume of traffic falls considerably. By this method the London Transport Executive are therefore able on Saturdays and Sundays to use 'buses which otherwise would remain idle and to use the staff who would not have adequate work to do. They are able to use these 'buses and the staff and to give the children of London a chance to spend a day by the sea at a very low cost. The right hon. Gentleman is depriving those children of that opportunity.
§ Mr. Sparks
It is not a bit of good the Minister saying, "Oh, no," because the only alternative is to travel by private coach at twice or three times the fares. In any event, the problem is that on Saturdays and Sundays it is very difficult to find private coaches available to convey children at a cheap rate to the seaside, largely because the coaches are booked. The charabanc and coach services run by private individuals are concerned more with adults, and their busy period is largely over the week ends. They cannot be bothered with young children.
In any event, they have not the facilities; they have not the double-decker 'buses. By using a double-decker 'bus the London Transport Executive can convey as many as 80 children in a 'bus. No private enterprise undertaking could convey anything like such a number in one 'bus. As a result, the cost of using the alternative of private enterprise is prohibitive.
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that his proposal will make no difference to London children and will not prevent them from being able to take a day by the seaside, he will find in the course of time that he has made a very great mistake, because the cost will be prohibitive, 232 and, further, private enterprise coaches will not be available for this kind of traffic.
The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are always looking backwards. They never seem to be able to look forward. They are more concerned with going back to the position as it was. In this subsection the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to reimpose upon the London Transport Executive boundaries which were laid down 20 years ago under the 1933 Act. We have moved a long way in the last 20 years. If the opportunity could be provided, a substantial case could be made for an extension and variation of the boundaries of the London Passenger Transport area, because London has been continually expanding further and further away from the centre. The built-up area is growing larger and larger.
To seek to crib, cabin and confine the great passenger transport undertaking of the London Transport Executive within a boundary laid down 20 years ago is rather like trying to put a quart into a pint pot. I suggest to the Minister that he has little, if anything, to lose by accepting this Amendment or making some variation. He admits in subsection (3) that a case can be made for maintaining these services. He goes so far as to say that he will permit any employees of the British Transport Commission to avail themselves, with their friends, of these contract carriages outside the London Passenger Transport area. Therefore, to some extent, he has given away his case. All that can be said in favour of that can be said in favour of similar facilities for the children of London, and their parents, too, who desire to spend a day by the seaside.
They need not necessarily spend the time exclusively by the seaside. There are many parts outside the London Passenger Transport area, with open woodlands and heathlands, and places like that, where the children of London, confined as they are to the smoke and grime of the built-up areas of the City, can spend a day. It is a great joy to take them out into the wide open spaces and to give them a run for the day on a heathland or moorland or anywhere, quite apart from a trip to the seaside.
233 The Minister should look at this matter again. It will mean little to him to make this concession. This work which he is seeking to take away from London Transport just cannot be undertaken by any private organisation. It is not worth their while. It is not an economical proposition for them to do it. The provision in this Clause will prevent a large number of London people from visiting the seaside.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I fully agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks). This must be one of the most obnoxious parts of what is, as far as we are concerned, a rotten Bill anyway. In the Committee stage the Minister said, in effect, that the reason for this subsection was that London Transport, because of their great resources, would be able to provide better vehicles at cheaper fares with a finer service than private enterprise. Therefore, he said, it was necessary, if private enterprise was to enjoy this wonderful free competition about which we have heard so much, to restrict London Transport and to confine them within a 10-mile radius so that they would not be allowed to compete. That is the most extraordinary Conservative philosophy of free competition.
We understood that everybody would be able to compete with one another and that the consumer would get the benefit of the service. That is not to be so here. We are bringing in a special Bill to determine that this type of competition shall be such that private enterprise will gain the plums of the trade. We have said in the past that we believe that the Conservative Party have introduced this Bill because they have received money from private road transport interests. They have denied that, but they have never published their accounts.
What else can be the reason for introducing a subsection like this, which restricts the Executive in such a way that it cannot compete, than that the Conservative Party have received something from private enterprise? This is a sort of payment for services rendered in the past. This is a most obnoxious subsection. The Minister cannot defend it, in view of what he has said about the great, 234 open competition which is to give great benefit to the consumer. How can he justify this subsection which will restrict London Transport from providing a finer service than private enterprise? Why not let private enterprise and the London Passenger Transport Executive go into free competition with each other, and let the public decide? That is happening at the moment. What is wrong with that in Tory philosophy? Why restrict one side? I ask the Minister to look at this position again. We shall be most interested to see what sort of reply he offers on this occasion.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
The sort of speeches to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) and the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) would, if my right hon. Friend were to give them any credence and to act on them to any degree whatever, lead to a demand on the part of my hon. Friends on these benches that something far more positive should be done to curtail the operation of the London Transport Executive than what we are doing in this Bill. The party on these benches is being extremely lenient to the Executive and its operations.
Its general operations will no doubt come up for discussion in a week or two as a result of certain Motions on the Order Paper. The idea that at this stage of the Bill we should give way to some of the bogus pleas made by hon. Gentlemen opposite on behalf of so-called miserable, unhappy children of London who are unable to get to the seaside, is one which I cannot imagine my right hon. Friend accepting for one moment.
It is time that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite realised that it is not part of our major intention to revert to the pre-nationalisation position. In 1947 certain changes were made in the functions and scope of operations of the London Transport Executive. Broadly speaking, we are attempting in this Clause and elsewhere in the Bill to go back to the position that prevailed under the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933. My hon. Friends and persons concerned in the road transport industry outside are much grieved to find that it is not possible to go back exactly to the framework that was then in existence; but we are content with that position and 235 we are prepared to see my right hon. Friend's proposals for the London Passenger Transport area go through in this Bill.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The 1947 Act gave the Transport Commission power to run contract carriages anywhere, though those powers were not generally exercised; but two or three years ago authority was given to the London Transport Executive to run contract carriage services 100 miles outside London and, so far as I know, they are doing that today. This is where the pleas of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite come into the picture. They ask why, if we have reached a stage where the Executive can run these contract carriages with London children to the seaside, we should now limit their operations and not go back to the position as it was before. I have never heard it suggested that, before 1947, the poor dejected children of London could not go to the seaside at reasonable prices in fact, they did so. If hon. Members opposite are now suggesting that they got there more freely and at lower prices than they did before, that is tantamount to saying that the London Transport Executive, by means of the general fares charged to passengers, were subsidising these journeys.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
Does the noble Lord not appreciate that this traffic has been built up to become one of the most profitable sections of the business of the London Transport Executive, and that, far from being subsidised by any other section of the business, it probably put something into the pool from which every other section has benefited?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Perhaps the figures will be brought out by my right hon. Friend showing the extent to which the ever-increasing fares now being imposed on the London public are due to the subsidising of these journeys. Nobody would suggest that such services should be withdrawn, and I am perfectly confident that, when this Bill goes through, there will be other services which will come along and provide for these children the facilities that were provided before.
236 Many people may claim that the present position in regard to the families and friends of employees of the Commission should continue, and again, there are people outside who think that this is a very great hardship on private enterprise and that this aspect of the London monopoly should be further curtailed, but on these benches we do not think so and we support my right hon. Friend in this proviso.
The whole case for our action rests upon this vast monopoly that has been created for the London Transport Executive in that no 'bus service run by private enterprise outside can be allowed to take up passengers in the London area, and as long as that situation persists it is clear that the London Transport Executive have an enormous field for their operations. They have only to offer a service inside the London area, where millions of people live, for that service to be taken up and used to their advantage.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
With great respect, Sir, I gave way to the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones).
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The London Transport Executive have a monopoly of all services inside the London area. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not contract carriages."] As far as I know, there are no contract carriages which can operate inside the London area, pick up or set down passengers, or indeed take a party from one end of London to the other.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have plenty of opportunity of speaking later on.
I was saying that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite make an entirely false plea in suggesting that the facilities 237 and opportunities of the London public will be curtailed in the least degree by the passage of this Bill. On the contrary, it is quite possible that, when the provisions of this Bill are enacted, much greater opportunities for journeying to the seaside at a much lower cost will prevail.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibson
It is quite obvious that the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) does not understand what happens in London, and that he is as hidebound with Tory ideology as anybody on those benches who talks about monopoly. There is no monopoly in this particular service. There are dozens of coach companies in London which run parties of children to the seaside on any day of the week, and which have done so for some time, in competition with the London Transport Executive on these services.
It seems to me that, when hon. Gentlemen opposite seek to justify the rejection of this Amendment on the ground that this service is a monopoly which London Transport ought not to have, they show a complete ignorance of this subject. The noble Lord simply does not understand the way in which the people in the large towns live.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Surely he is chairman of the party's Transport Committee?
§ Mr. Gibson
That makes it worse.
It is a fact that there is a tremendous traffic at weekends from London to the seaside, particularly in the summer months, and the services which the London Transport Executive have been able to provide with their 'buses have been of inestimable benefit to thousands of Londoners and their families.
The rejection of this Amendment would be completely inconsistent, because, as my hon. Friend has said, although the Government did not put it in the first draft, they have now provided in the Clause that the London Transport Executive shall be permitted to allow members of their own staff, their children, relatives and friends to hire coaches or 'buses to take them on journeys, not merely to the seaside, but far into the country. I have known 'buses taking parties to the Cotswolds on very enjoyable outings which enabled large numbers of Londoners to see the scenery of part of our country 238 which most of them seldom have the opportunity of visiting. This opportunity will go if this Amendment is not accepted.
I am amazed that the suggestion that it should be rejected should be coupled with a threat of something worse if we do not drop it. That is something new. I thought we were a free democracy. I thought we were engaged in building up in this country a competitive service which would produce all those things which free competition produced in the London transport services before we had the first London Transport Board. I do not know whether the noble Lord remembers that or not, but some of us do.
We remember the mad, fierce competition, with the 'buses running behind each other or racing past each other to the danger of pedestrians, and the mad cutting of fares one against the other, with the result that the men who drove the 'buses and the conductors who worked on them suffered in the wages they were paid and in the conditions in which they worked. Does the noble Lord wish to go back to that? Of course not. He says that we ought to keep the London Transport Executive going, because London is a special case, but if that is so, they ought to be allowed to do the job properly and be enabled to continue this very valuable service for the people of London.
I want the Minister to use this opportunity. All that is happening now is that greater encouragement and assistance are being given to the private coach companies in the London area. The competition which they suffer at the moment will disappear, and the private coach companies will be able to do exactly as they like and run services where they can make a satisfactory profit out of them.
If the Government benches really believe in competition, this is the best kind of competition they could have. It is the competition of an efficiently-run organisation which has produced a service for tens of thousands of Londoners which did not exist before, and it has succeeded in competition with private 'enterprise. I suspect that the reason the Government are so hot about getting rid of it is that it has succeeded so well that it ate into the profits made by the coach companies running from London to the coast and other parts of the country.
239 To suggest that this is wrong because the Government are trying to return to pre-nationalisation days is nonsense. The Bill does not by any means take us back to pre-nationalisation days. The people of London will regard it as a punishment for failing to return Socialist Members of Parliament with big majorities, and they will remember it when the next General Election comes. In spite of the hot feelings about this, I hope the Government will seriously consider altering the Clause in order to give the majority of Londoners the same kind of service as may be given under the Bill to the employees of the London Transport Executive, their relatives and their friends.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am not in any way anxious to curtail the debate, but it might be of some interest to the House if I made a few observations now, on which, I do not doubt, other hon. Members will be able to hang their further comments. It might be as well, for the benefit of all, if I attempt two simple definitions.
There is no limitation on contract carriages. It is true that the London Transport Executive have no monopoly in contract carriages in the London area or elsewhere. However, in regard to stage or express services, an outside 'bus—using the phrase in the sense of a 'bus which is not part of the London Transport Executive's property—can pick up a passenger outside London and drop him within London or pick up a passenger inside London and drop him outside London, but it cannot pick up and drop a passenger within the London area, with its extension. In that field there is an undoubted monopoly. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It would simplify matters if hon. Members would listen to definitions. I was referring to that field alone. We were dealing with stage and express services; I have passed from contract carriages for the purpose of definition. In that field, and that field alone, there is a monopoly.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
I am sure the Minister will agree that that is not absolutely true. There are a number of coaches which operate from inside London. To name only one service, there is Birch's Coaches from King's Cross to my own constituency. They 240 can pick me up at King's Cross and drop me at Welwyn Garden city—they very often do—and that is in the London area.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman once worked in the Department over which I now have the honour of presiding as Minister. I wish he were capable of following an argument lasting only half a minute. That is what I said. Any 'bus can pick up a passenger in London and take him to Wellingborough—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
—but 'buses cannot pick up passengers within the London area and drop them within the London area.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
With an express or stage service that cannot be done, but it can be done with a contract carriage.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The Minister is wrong. There is a 'bus owned by Birch's which goes from King's Cross to Rushden. The right hon. Gentleman can get on the 'bus at King's Cross tonight and come home with me—I shall be pleased to find him a bed—and it will drop him at Welwyn Garden City, and that is in the London area. There are many such services.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Provided the House rises sufficiently early to enable me to take advantage of the hon. Gentleman's invitation, I will consider it on its merits.
There is in the control of the London Transport Executive a right to give privileges to certain specified London companies working by special arrangements with the London Transport Executive, but that right, which no doubt operates in the case of Welwyn Garden City and Rushden, is terminable at the will of the London Transport Executive. I am correct on this. There is no absolute right to pick and drop within the London area for anyone other than the London Transport Executive, though it may be, and it undoubtedly is so in some cases, that there are arrangements between private companies and the London Transport Executive which can be terminated when the Executive desire alterations of that kind.
241 I thought it as well to get this clear at the start in regard to the field where the monopoly operates. While I do not doubt that they will do so, I do not want anybody to interrupt what I am going to say by suggesting that the London Transport Executive have not got a monopoly. I concede straight away that the London Transport Executive have not got a monopoly in the field of contract carriage services. [An HON. MEMBER: "The noble Lord said there was a monopoly."] I am dealing with my own speech and not that of my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who is capable of looking after himself and does so with great effect.
I do not want to be too strict and legalistic, but whoever drew up the Amendment should have looked more closely at the Bill. I expected, after my talks with various hon. Members and after the eloquent speech in the Committee stage of the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), that there would be an Amendment to omit subsection (3), which is the operative part of the Clause. It is the part which says that it shall not be lawful for the Commission to run public service vehicles as contract carriages except in certain specified areas, which are in Subsection (4).
I do not want to spend too long over this, but it is worth while pointing out what would be the consequences if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Clapham were accepted. The hon. Member said that if his Amendment were not accepted all sorts of alarming things would happen. Alarming things would happen if we accepted his Amendment. Subsection (4, a) applies to the Commission the provisions of Section 15 (2) of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, and defines the power of the Board to run contract carriages. The Opposition have asked us to omit that. The result would be that the limitation on the running of contract carriages in subsection (3) would become an absolute ban on the running of contract carriages by the London Transport Executive even in the London area.
Subsection (4, b) corresponds to Section 15 (3) of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, and this exempts the Commission from the obligation to 242 obtain road service licences for their services in the special area. Hon. Members will know the difference between the London Passenger Transport area, the London Traffic area and the special area. I have learned that very hard lesson in the course of the last few months. The result of omitting subsection (4, b) would be that in future the Commission would have to apply for road service licences for all their services in the special area. I imagine that that is not the intention of the hon. Member for Clapham.
At the moment, under the Bill the licensing authority have to take into account the obligation and special duty on the part of the Executive in regard to the London Transport services when the London Transport Executive apply for road service licences outside the special area. The last consequence would be that the licensing authority would not have to take that into account at all.
All this shows the danger of amending a Bill without all the advice which one gets when one has the great resources of a Government Department and its legal advisers behind one. Nevertheless, it is a rather curious omission. All the arguments which have been advanced today could well have been advanced—indeed, could more properly have been advanced—on subsection (3). We have had a very interesting recapitulation of the arguments put forward with a great deal of vigour on the Committee stage.
I wish to tell hon. Gentlemen frankly my own feeling in this matter. I am, and would be, extremely reluctant to do anything which would appear to be mean or petty. I am also, and would be, extremely reluctant to do anything which would add to the financial difficulties of the London Transport Executive. Although they have never put forward this case on the grounds of finance, there is about £40,000 gross profit from these services, and every little helps. A lot of passengers have to be carried at 2d. each to make a profit of £40,000.
I approach considerations of this kind with a good deal of sympathy, provided that they do not cut across the absolutely inevitable approach in this field. I have. for example, looked at the question, in consultation with the Executive, of the 243 double-decker 'buses and how far they, as the only owners of them, are in a special position to take parties of children and others at cheaper rates. But we must remember the heavy losses of the London Transport Executive, the inability to meet their full central charges and costs, and so we cannot make too much of that.
I have also looked into the question of the vehicles—I think some 40 of them—which they purchased for this special purpose, and the question of vehicles, particularly at weekends, to see whether there was here sufficient justification for making an inroad into this general approach in this matter. I must tell the House that it is not simply solved merely by paying quite definite regard to facts of that kind. I have here to recognise that, although, I repeat, there is no monopoly in the field of contract services, that field is one in which the private operator can fairly expect to operate without competition which comes from those who over the whole of their internal London passenger field are able to keep him outside altogether.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) chided me rather by asking, "Does not the Minister believe in competition—great open competition—and why can we not have both sections of enterprise, London Transport and the private operators, competing together in this field?" If the hon. Member is prepared to accept that, he would then have to allow the private operator to come into the London Transport special area for ordinary express services. Otherwise, it is very unfair that a large monopoly in the field of express services. the precise overheads of which, we hear from the chairman of the Commission, can never be accurately assessed in respect of any one part of the undertaking, should be able to use that monopoly position in one field to enter into another field while the people in the other field are not able to break into the monopoly field.
Accordingly, I very much fear, despite the arguments which have been put forward with great vigour, and I recognise with great conviction, that in the interests of that fair competition which runs right through this Bill and is the main purpose of the Bill, I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
In his closing remarks, the Minister was speaking with great plausibility, but I am afraid that his argument is not valid. The reason is that the argument he was applying against the London Transport Executive operating contract carriages outside their special area could well apply to private 'bus undertakings which in every case in all the larger cities of this country operate contract carriages where they are not operated by municipal enterprise, and even in some such cases they are under no restriction as to the area over which they operate. If the Minister would apply the same principle to the B.E.T. as to the L.T.E., his argument would be logical and perhaps reasonable in that regard. However, the fact that the right hon. Gentleman applies it only to public enterprise and refuses to apply it to private enterprise shows where his prejudices lie.
It was rather hard on the Minister that he had to get up and explain to the chairman of the Tory Transport Committee what contract carriages were and what the actual monopoly position of London Transport Executive was. After all, I presume that it is the chairman of the Conservative Transport Committee, the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who has been advising the Minister on this Bill, and the muddled confusion of the Bill is a reflection of his ignorance.
This action of the Minister is mean and petty. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not wish to be mean and petty, but I cannot help feeling and sharing the views of my hon. Friends that the action he is taking in this case is despicable. What has the Minister got against London? Why is he treating London in this way? He himself pointed out that the income from the operation of contract carriages was comparatively small. He promised in the Committee stage to give the figure, and he now states that it is about £40,000. The figure I had was £45,000, though that is net, and I think the Minister's figure is gross. The Minister is stopping the London Transport Executive carrying on the services which enabled children to go on cheap outings to the coast and country, and parties generally to travel outside London at a reasonable rate.
What private enterprise will be losing as a result of the London Transport 245 Executive engaging in this operation is £45,000. Is private enterprise so hard up today that it will not allow the London Transport Executive to earn that additional income and the public of London to receive the additional advantage which results from the L.T.E. operating contract carriages? Is private enterprise really in such a bad state that it cannot stand this particular form of competition from the London Transport Executive the earnings from which amount to £40,000 gross, to use the Minister's figure? It is a silly action, involving an insignificant amount, for which there is no justification whatever, which the Minister is taking.
There is every argument why London Transport should be allowed to carry on these services. The main reason is that it is good business for a large undertaking to be able to employ its vehicles during the off-peak periods. It can employ its vehicles at the weekend, when some of them would otherwise be lying idle. It can also employ them in the summer time when, during certain hours, they are in less demand. Further, it is good business for London Transport to engage in this form of enterprise. After all, the Minister has had to come to this House on several occasions and ask for further increases in London Transport fares, and although the figure which he has given us is not large, the actual operation and use of the vehicles brings an indirect advantage to London Transport.
The Minister explained the position on the question of monopoly, but it is necessary for the House to bear in mind that, in regard to the operation of contract carriages, there is no monopoly so far as London Transport is concerned. The Minister himself said that. There is free competition between public and private enterprise, and there has been this free competition for the last two years. All through the debates on this Bill, the Minister has been arguing in favour of free competition. Yesterday we were talking, in relation to goods haulage, about increased competition which the Minister is allowing, and his stated purpose was to increase competition. But here, as soon as it is competition to the advantage of public enterprise and it is competition between public enterprise and private enterprise, he says "We cannot have this competition it is not fair for 246 public enterprise to compete with private enterprise, and it must stop." So he is getting rid of it.
We had every intention of dividing the House on this Amendment. We consider this to be an important Amendment and we feel that the Minister's action is quite unwarrantable. Unfortunately, we are operating under the Guillotine and our time is short. This brutal Guillotine prevents us from expressing our views in the Division Lobby, but I think my hon. Friends have expressed them very forcibly this afternoon.
I hope the Minister was sincere when he said that he did not want to be petty and mean. If he was sincere in that, can he not give further consideration to this matter between now and the time when the Bill reaches another place? Can he not consider whether private enterprise is able to stand up to this competition and whether it is possible to allow the public of London to enjoy contract services at a reasonable rate as they have done during the past two years?
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As the Minister has pointed out, there has been an obvious slip in this Amendment. What appears as subsection (4) should be subsection (3). This was not a printer's error. Everyone has been talking persistently about subsection (3) and not subsection (4).
§ Mr. Mitchison
I can see the Minister nodding agreement, and I am sure that he would not want to take advantage of a slip, which I am sure is not the responsibility of the Table or of printers.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charley MacAndrew)
I have been in the Chair only for a short time. If what the hon. and learned Gentleman says is true, I am not to blame.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
May I say that, as I have three slips to confess in some subsequent Amendments, I am only too ready to concede this point.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Further to that point of order. There must be at least two slips in this case, because there must be an 247 error not only in the number of the subsection but also in the number of the line. It should presumably be line 1, subsection (3). We therefore have to assume two independent errors which both have the same result—something which is very remarkable.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
Further to that point of order, and to prevent the party opposite falling into an error which I am sure they would not wish to do, may I say that it is on record that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has said that it was intended to move to leave out subsection (3)? I do not know whether he appreciates that if he were to do that he would be taking away from the employees of the Commission a very great benefit which it is the intention of the Government to give them. Surely he does not want to move to leave out a subsection which confers such a great benefit.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
I beg to move, in page 24, line 18, to leave out subsection (6).
As far as I can understand this somewhat difficult subsection—it is a little difficult to be quite certain what it means—it appears to us to signify this: where the Commission, through a body corporate, and probably through a company, owns shares in a company which is operating passenger transport undertakings or public service vehicles, then the Minister may direct that all the shares of the Commission in the company shall be disposed of, or that such lesser amount shall be disposed of, or at any rate that sufficient shall be disposed of to prevent the Commission having control.
I think I am right in saying that under the subsection the Minister can direct one or any of those things to be done. This seems to me to be unreasonable. By Parliamentary enactments the private railway companies could invest money in or operate public service vehicles, if they could get the necessary acquisition or the investment. Indeed, 248 it was urged by the railway companies so that they might promote co-ordination between road and rail.
Moreover, in the case of a railway authority, whether the old companies or the present Commission, desiring to close a branch line, it is easier to do it in the public interest if, at the same time, they can substitute a 'bus service or a coach service in order that the public may be catered for. Therefore, on practical grounds of co-ordination of transport, on the ground of the substitution of one form of passenger transport for another where the public interest is furthered thereby, and on the ground that Parliament has for long years—at any rate, for a good many years before the war—enabled private companies to engage in passenger transport business, I ask why the Government are suddenly cutting in and proceeding to treat the British Transport Commission worse than Parliament, under Conservative majorities, treated the old private companies.
The arguments for the companies are well known; they are within the recollection of hon. Members. It seems to me that the case for the companies was fairly strong, and I should have thought that the case for the Commission having the power to do the same thing is no less strong. Therefore, we ask the House to reconsider this matter with a view to preserving the right of the Commission to hold on to the shares it has got in passenger transport undertakings, to have the power to invest in passenger transport undertakings as time goes on, so that the policy of co-ordination, of bringing the services together and substituting road for rail on branch lines where that is expedient in the public interest, may be facilitated.
We trust that this Amendment will commend itself to the House. We are on a point of fundamental principle, and we think that the fundamental principle of this subsection is wrong. We believe that the fundamental principle of our Amendment is right. If our Amendment should not be accepted, we shall later come to another Amendment whereby we propose that the Minister shall not interfere with the Commission beyond the point of ensuring that they have not got a majority of the shares; that is to say, that the Minister would have the power to prevent them having control. That, 249 however, is a separate Amendment, and, frankly, we prefer this Amendment, so that the Commission can enjoy that degree of commercial freedom which the old main line companies possessed.
I ask the Minister to explain why the Commission should be denied powers that the old private railway companies possessed. We just do not follow it, and I think he ought to tell the House. The Commission ought to enjoy proper freedom in this respect; and for those reasons, and having regard to the time factor under which we are working, which is pretty terrible, we hope that the Amendment will commend itself to the House.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) is, I am sure, inadvertently mistaken in supposing that the powers referred to in this subsection have anything to do with substituting a 'bus service for a branch line. There are other statutory provisions which have long been in existence under which railway companies could operate such a service.
The proposal in this subsection seems to me very modest indeed. All it does is to permit the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury, to direct the Commission to dispose of the majority holding in the 42 'bus companies, which own 14,391 'buses, which are in the monopoly control, or in which the Transport Commission has the majority holding of the shares. It is not a complete holding even there. It is only 99 per cent. I believe.
This subsection would put them in the same position with regard to these 'buses as they already are in the case of some 31 other 'bus companies in which they are in partnership, mostly with the B.E.T. and in which, I understand, they hold shares varying from about 33 to 50 per cent. each to the B.T.C. and the B.E.T. That group contains some 10,370 'buses. Actually, this subsection is a very modest proposal in that it is designed to follow the example of the old railway companies. The old railway companies, and particularly the Great Western Railway, of which I speak from experience as a former solicitor to that company, were pioneers in the motor omnibus services for many years, particularly in the West Country.
In the course of time it was found unsatisfactory from the point of view of 250 general management for the 'buses and railways to be under the same control, because the railway companies found themselves being accused of running 'bus services for the benefit of the railway, in the same way as they were constantly accused of closing uneconomic canals for the benefit of the railway. These accusations were quite unjustified very often, and it was more convenient to allow 'bus companies to be run by people who ran 'buses and at the same time to maintain a share interest in those 'buses so that the railway companies would know what was going on. The railway companies did that long before the war and they divested themselves of their majority interest in the 'bus services. If my right hon. Friend is going to follow railway precedent, that is what he ought to follow in this case.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I understood the hon. Member to say that the Great Western Railway Company developed, as I believe it did, these 'bus services. Does he realise that at that time the company controlled the 'bus services and that this Clause would prevent the Commission from doing exactly what the Great Western Railway were able to do and did to everyone's advantage?
§ Mr. Wilson
No. The hon. and learned Member has not listened to what I have been saying. I said that the old railway companies, and particularly the Great Western Railway Company, were pioneers of 'bus services but that over the years they found that the position was unsatisfactory and so they gave up a 50 per cent. interest in their 'bus services, and that is exactly what this Clause enables the B.T.C. to do now. If we want to follow the precedent of what happened in the old railway companies this is a very good precedent to follow.
Incidentally, I think this is the reason why a large number of 'bus drivers are members of the N.U.R. and not of the Transport and General Workers' Union—because the companies in which they serve were originally companies controlled by the railway companies and the men were railway servants. If this railway control of 'bus services was found unsuitable in those days, it might very well be found unsuitable now. I have gone into this matter very closely and I make it my business to keep in contact with all sorts of organisations, official and unofficial, which take an interest in 251 transport on land, sea or air. Far from satisfying everybody, this is a very modest Clause and many people would like to see it go a great deal further. I do not think that there is any ground at all for the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) for the way in which he moved the Amendment, and even though I am not able to accept it I can promise him slightly more favourable treatment when he moves the subsequent Amendment to which he has referred. But in order to keep the two issues distinct, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said that they were, although they intrude on each other, I will not make any definite reference to the second Amendment now.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me why we propose to restrict the Commission's passenger undertakings in a way in which the old railway undertakings were never circumscribed. I am advised that there were all sorts of regulations which hedged round the freedom of the railway companies in this field and which deprived them of that degree of freedom to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, so that they did not go as far into that business as otherwise they would have done. I do not develop that point or give a great deal of reliance on it. The real answer is that the scope of the Commission's interest in passenger undertakings has enormously outstripped the holdings which the old railway companies enjoyed.
We discussed this matter on the evening of 10th December last, and I said on that occasion:I will not weary the Committee with figures, but in 1948, which is the first full year of the Commission's activity in this field of road passenger service they acquired the remaining half interest in the Tilling group which was still privately owned …At the end of the year their interest in road passenger services amounted to £31 million."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1952; Vol. 509, c. 594.]As was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South on 10th December, their investment is now some £50 million.
252 So the matter has an altogether different complexion from what it had before. If we are right, as we believe that we are, in our view on monopoly on road haulage, why should we not take steps to protect' the public interest and to equip the Minister with powers that may be necessary in this field of passenger service as well? On 10th December the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) reproved me for quoting from a newspaper rather than from the Commission's own Report, and in the hurly-burly of discussion there appeared to be at first sight a certain inconsistency in the figures which were quoted.
I am glad to say that exhaustive investigations have shown that we were both right. As I indicated, with the exception of the Midland Red, all the shares were ordinary shares, and in all the companies which I mentioned, B.T.C. had a holding of ordinary shares equal to the holding of B.E.T. I am glad to say that there is no inconsistency between what the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said and what I said in that field.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South asked why it is necessary to equip us with this power and what we propose to do about it. We feel it necessary because in certain parts of the country the Commission are becoming almost the only providers of passenger services. We believe that this is wrong. I am not going into the vexed question of London Transport Executive activities. We have Amendments down on the Order Paper on that subject on Clauses which we shall consider later, and one in particular on Clause 22 on which I hope we shall have a profitable discussion.
But I think we would all agree that, while London may well be a special case, it is a good thing that the public as a whole elsewhere should have a right to choose the form of passenger transport services which they prefer, and that any undue accumulation in the hands of any one body is to be deprecated. I apply that equally to a private company as to a public company. We have said that we take these powers and would not propose to use them until—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I was going to submit in the case of British Electric Traction that there were areas in which they had complete monopoly. If the Minister 253 takes this view, which I understand but with which I do not altogether agree, can he tell us why he is taking powers to enable a private company to have a monopoly over a region?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is not possible for a private company outside London to get an absolute monopoly by statute as is the case in the London Transport special area. In the London Transport special area they are protected by statute and no one can come in. I do not deny that over a great many areas where private companies have for long had the main control it would be extraordinarily difficult for people to come into the business; but they are still free to do so. That is the difference between the two illustrations.
I said previously that these powers were being taken to be used only if the Government felt it necessary to use them in the light of the report which they will be receiving from the Gerald Thesiger Committee, which was appointed on 27th October last to make an inquiry into the working of the 1930 Act. I have given a number of reasons why it seemed to us desirable that there should be this inquiry. One of the reasons was the price disparity in many parts of the country—particularly near R.A.F. stations—between the 'bus charges and railway facilities which may be offered. Another reason was the accumulation of what might appear to be predominant holdings in the road passenger undertakings, and the third related to the interpretation of the law with regard to contract carriages.
The position remains exactly as it was. The Thesiger Committee, on which a number of most eminent people are sitting, and where pretty well all those interests which have the right to be represented are represented, is getting on with its work. Sitting on that Committee is Alderman Lyne, former Lord Mayor of Bristol and once Deputy Traffic Commissioner for the Western Area; Sir Ronald Matthews, who needs no introduction to old railwaymen; a former Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Mr. Reid; Mr. Speight. Chairman of the National Road Transport Federation; Mr. Tiffin, of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and Mr. F. Williamson, Licensing Authority for Roads Goods Vehicles, North-Western Traffic Area. 254 I shall be guided very much by what these people say as to the working in practice of the 1930 Act. If they report that some action should be taken to see that the Commission do not have direct or indirect control in this field it would be unfortunate to have to introduce amending legislation later on. It seemed desirable to make this provision in advance.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend is taking permissive powers to enable him to cause the B.T.C. to dispose of any majority shareholdings they may have in public 'bus companies, either directly or indirectly. There was a demand that my right hon. Friend should have gone much further than this and that he should have been required by legislation to see that the Commission disposed of these holdings, because there is very great resentment about the way in which the British Transport Commission wield such a tremendous power in the field of road transport 'buses.
It may be that in another place attempts will be made to harden the legislation which now confronts us. If there are, no doubt we shall look at them when the Amendments return to us; but for the present I think we are satisfied that this Clause is correctly framed.
A great many mis-statements have been made in the country and in the House about the position of the British Electric Traction group of companies and the Transport Commission. The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) spent a long time in Committee detailing a whole series of companies which, he sought to convey to the Committee, were monopolies of the B.E.T. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), the actual position now, as it was then, is that the holdings of British Electric Traction group of companies and the Transport Commission are identical.
There is no monopoly control in the series of companies listed by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools. His list began with the Aldershot and District Traction Company and continued with the Birmingham Motor Bus Company; the South Oxford Motor Bus Service, Limited, and about 15 or 20 other companies. The companies which are con- 255 trolled directly by B.E.T. form a very select list and, in order that it may be established what companies are included. I propose to list them.
They include the Mexborough and Swinton Traction Company; the Potteries Motor Traction Company; the Rhondda Transport Company and the South Wales Transport Company. Those are the major concerns, with a total of something like 1,000 vehicles. Then there are three minor concerns—J. James, Company and Son, Limited; Afan Transport, Limited and Thomas Brothers (Port Talbot) Limited—with about 70 vehicles between them.
The ratio of the interests directly controlled by the B.E.T. and those controlled by the Transport Commission, either alone or in partnership with B.E.T., is fantastically small. The B.E.T. company on their own control only 1,150 vehicles in all. In equal partnership with the Transport Commission they control 10.370 vehicles; whereas the Commission controls over 24,900 vehicles, including those in the London area. The Provincial and Scottish companies control 14.391 and London Transport, 10.543—a total of 24.934 vehicles.
How long must the House listen to these bogus pleas from hon. Members opposite about the monopoly position of private enterprise in the field of road passenger transport? It is nonsense from beginning to end. It is about time we exploded the views which have been constantly reiterated by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) and his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench.
There are places which are suffering very acutely in the present situation. In my own constituency of South Dorset a branch line has been closed arbitrarily and with inadequate notice by the Transport Commission—a very well-known branch line between Weymouth and Portland of strategic importance. There have been many complaints about it. What is offered in its place? Are private 'bus companies allowed to come in and convey passengers to and fro between Weymouth and the large dockyard of Portland, at fares below those that were charged on the abandoned branch line? Not a bit. The only interest that is 256 allowed to come into the field because of the licensing position and the monopolies set-up is the local 'bus company—one of the group dominated by the Transport Commission—in the hands of Dorset Motor Services, Limited.
When these 'bus companies come in, do they provide a service at a lower price than was charged by the branch line railways? Not a bit. People have to pay one-third or half as much again. These are the things which should be looked into by the committee which has been established by my right hon. Friend. It is a position which should be rectified and, if it is not rectified here, the legislation may have to be hardened in another place.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I beg to move, in page 24, line 35, at the end to insert:Provided that the securities to be disposed of shall not be more than is necessary to divest the Commission of control of the first-mentioned body corporate.The Government have us absolutely by the throat in these discussions. It is possible for their supporters to get up and talk, however irrelevantly they may speak and however inaccurate may be their statements, and for us not to reply if we have a later Amendment upon which we wish to concentrate.
I say that only by way of preface, because I should not like it to be thought that I accepted anything that was said by the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) as representing the position of the British Electric Traction Company. I despair of ever educating him. For the Minister I have considerable hope, because he has shown that he is ready and quick to learn. But I cannot give the noble Lord such a good report at the end of the term. Nevertheless, as it is the Minister who is important in this connection, thank goodness, and not the Chairman of the Conservative Party Transport Committee, I still entertain the hope that we may get enlightenment on some of these matters.
I ask the Minister why he is taking powers in relation to the Transport Commission that he consistently refuses to take in connection with the British Electric Traction Company or their subsidiaries who, by whatever name, do not smell as sweet? The iron hand is hidden 257 in the velvet glove in the long list of 'bus companies which my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) read out during the Committee stage. I would put it to the Minister that under the licensing laws—which he understands, but to which the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South has never applied his mind—it could, and does, happen that the Transport Commission's licensing position in one area is precisely the same as is that of the Electric Traction Company in another area.
They are both subject to the same licensing laws. The Transport Commission, on behalf of its subsidiary companies, has to get licences for its vehicles. The Traction Company, on behalf of its subsidiary companies, has to get licences on behalf of its vehicles. So the same degree of monopoly, whether it be great or small, applies both to the Traction Company's companies and to the Commission's companies. Is that disputed by the noble Lord? I think not.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I take no account of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who has just entered the Chamber, and to whom I would not dream of giving way on this Amendment. He has been here only two minutes and has not listened to this debate at all.
§ Mr. Callaghan
These are facts which we are now discussing. We are not in the realms of fantasy into which the hon. Member for Croydon, East would like to lead me.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
In Cornwall, both the 'bus company and railway company are 100 per cent. owned by the Transport Commission. They were an ex-Tilling company. There can be no transport monopoly, except in the case of the Commission, as the B.E.T. do not own railways.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I follow that, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will disagree when I say that licensing obligations laid upon any company, whether it be nationalised or not, are the same.
§ Mr. Callaghan
No, I will not. I am not usually reluctant to give way, but I see no reason why I should give way to an hon. Gentleman who walks into the Chamber and, within 30 seconds, expects to take part in the debate. I have no intention of giving way to the hon. Member for Croydon, East, but I am ready to give way to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) or anyone else taking an intelligent interest in our discussion.
I do not think that the Minister is unfavourably inclined to the wording of this Amendment. Indeed, I should be surprised if he were, considering its origin. If I may let the House into a secret, we put down an Amendment which did not seem to find favour with the Minister, and he suggested to us a form of words not very dissimilar from those which now appear on the Order Paper. We are, by this Amendment, trying to make certain that the Minister shall not require the Transport Commission to dispose of all the shares in a company, and so prevent them from having even a minority interest.
We should like to see them have a majority interest in a great many of these companies. That is our ideal, and I give fair warning that that is the position we shall return to as soon as we are able to do so. In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation as we find it and hope that the Minister will allow the Transport Commission to have a minority shareholding in these companies so that they may draw some revenue from them.
If I am asked the justification for that, I would say that if the railways are to close a branch line which is making a loss because it is the public interest that it should be closed, and a more modern form of 'bus transport take its place, there would be no attraction to the railway to do so unless they could feel that they would still get additional revenue from some other direction. If, by virtue of their minority shareholding in one of these companies, they could be 259 certain of getting some revenue, it would seem to follow that they would be more favourably inclined to look into the matter of closing down a branch line in order that people might be better served by other transport.
It is for that reason that we move this Amendment, and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it. I would remind the House that we have to complete this part of the Bill by 5.30 p.m. which is the reason we did not divide the House on the two previous Amendments. I therefore trust that we shall be able to complete our discussion by that time.
I hope that my few remarks will have a soothing effect upon the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), but I must spend a moment on his King Charles's head, which has crept once again into our discussions, namely, the B.E.T. The short answer to the two main points he made are these. First, the Commission has control of rail as well as road, thereby constituting a monopoly, whereas the B.E.T. are in no such position. Secondly, so far as the licensing point is concerned, I think the hon. Gentleman will concede that the railways would not oppose an application from the Transport Commission for these road services, but if the application were made by a private operator they most certainly would.
In moving the previous Amendment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) made it clear that if the Opposition could not get that Amendment, this would be a second best, My right hon. Friend hinted, and so did the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that it might find favour with us, which it does. It seeks to ensure that the Commission can only be directed to dispose of such value of securities as are necessary to remove control. This was already the purpose of the subsection. It would, therefore, be possible to argue that this Amendment is redundant, but there was come discussion in Committee and we felt the point needed clarifying. As, in any case, it was our intention, and as this Amendment merely underlines it, and in view of the time, I am only too pleased to accept it.
§ Sir H. Williams
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who is not very good mannered when someone seeks to intervene who, according to him, has listened merely to his speech and not the speeches of other people, made a statement that the two bodies were in exactly the same position. I happen to be concerned with the area run by the London Passenger Executive—I think that is what they call themselves now—[HON. MEMBERS: "Transport."]—the London Transport Executive. Hon. Members opposite are, by those interruptions, merely depriving themselves of the opportunity to speak.
I happen to live in the area which used to be the London Passenger Transport area. When another operator wanted to start a service, it was not merely a question of going to the Commission, the original licensing officer—they change their names so quickly but he also had to get the permission of that body as well. In other words, there was a complete barrier to starting a 'bus service in London, imposed by an institution which was nationalised in 1933. I opposed that Bill at all stages. I knew that it would give us a worse service in London and in my constituency than we enjoyed before.
When the hon. Member was making his statement, and was being totally inaccurate, I wanted to point out the extent of his error, and because he would not let me point it out then I am pointing it out now in greater detail than I should have done but for his bad manners in not giving way when I asked him. It is all very well, but these smart Alecs from South Wales ought to be more careful about people from North Wales. There should be proper reciprocity and if the hon. Gentleman would extend a little courtesy to other hon. Members he would get far more consideration.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
We are much obliged to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for accepting this Amendment. It does not fully satisfy us, and if it is rather quaint that we on this side should be moving an Amendment to prevent a public authority from having a majority control, it does at any rate give it power to have up to an) minority holding, and we are obliged to the Government for accepting it.
I would only say to the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) that 261 we have not been discussing London in this respect. It is a totally different proposition. We have been discussing transport outside the London passenger area.
Amendment agreed to.