§ [ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
We are now at the concluding stage, as far as this House is concerned, of a Bill to which much time and thought have been devoted in recent months, and I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Opposition for the courtesy and the good temper which have prevailed throughout our long-drawn-out discussions, and also for the practical help I have received both from the benches opposite and from my hon. Friends behind me in the shaping and re-shaping of this Measure.
Hon. Members opposite dislike, as we all do, the Guillotine procedure, but even here the calmness with which this vexed issue has been discussed has steadily improved from stage to stage. It was not only that towards the closing stages, and throughout, I think, the Report stage, that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—to whose ability in this matter I should like to pay my own personal tribute—found it possible to allow others rather than himself to be Guillotined as the discussion came to an end, but also that the amount of time spent in discussing the Guillotine steadily diminished.
Taking an average, which I think is a fair Parliamentary average, of eight words to a line—and there are 60 lines in a HANSARD column—and allowing a column for a fast speech of some six minutes, the Opposition spent one and a half hours in the Committee stage discussing the Guillotine Motion, but only eight minutes in the Report stage. I am very grateful for that.
We have had many days of debates; a debate on the White Paper, a debate last year on the Transport Commission's Report, a debate on the Bill in July, a debate on the Bill as reintroduced in November and 10 days in the Committee stage and in the Report stage. Though I do not Pretend that hon. Members opposite are 883 wholly satisfied, I think it fair to say that no major issue has failed to be discussed.
I agree that in its various stages through this House the Bill has been very considerably improved, and this is, indeed, one of the main purposes of Parliament. When we see this Bill again, after the calm and judicial approach to which it will be subjected in another place, I have no doubt that in a number of ways it will be still further improved.
In the Committee stage of this Bill, 247 Amendments were put down. Of these, 20 were Government Amendments and 161 were put down from the benches opposite. Of these 140 were debated, and nearly 100 Opposition Amendments were debated. In the Report stage we had a further 120 Amendments of which 31 were Government and some 61 came from the benches opposite, and 75 of these Amendments were debated.
I think I am entitled to quote the words used by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) when moving the Third Reading of the Labour Government's own Transport Bill, that the number of Amendments which had been considered was a justification for our Parliamentary procedure rather than any indication of weakness in the Bill itself. We feel that we have done even more by the House and the Committee in this question of Amendments, for in that major transport Measure of 1947, which is now being so largely amended, there were 805 Amendments on the Order Paper and some 279 of them were either not selected or were Guillotined, and on the Re-committal stage there were 424 more Amendments on the Order Paper of which some 219 fell by the wayside.
When there are criticisms, as there have been, of the number of important issues that have not been thoroughly discussed during the last few months, I would remind the House that in the Socialist Bill of 1947 some 35 Clauses and six Schedules were not discussed at all. Bearing in mind what is now happening in regard to the proposed increase of fares in London and elsewhere, it is of particular interest to note that Clause 78 relating to the alteration of charges schemes, Clause 79 relating to the review of charges schemes and the Tenth Schedule with the provisions about the Transport Tribunal were not discussed 884 at all, either in the Committee or the Report stage—a matter of some significance in these particular weeks.
Concerning the most important field of compensation, I would remind the House of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton) said—that the whole of the important Clauses dealing with conditions of employment, pensions, compensation to officers and servants were not only Guillotined in Committee, but were not discussed at all in the House in the Report stage.
I willingly confess that this Bill has enjoyed considerable improvement at the hands of hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House and of the Committee, and I can quote again the right hon. Member for East Ham, South, the former Minister of Transport who in his own Third Reading speech said;I admitted quite frankly that in framing a Measure of this magnitude we were unable, in the early stages, to consult the knowledge and experience prevalent in an industry of this character. I left myself completely free to improve the Bill by Amendments during the discussions in Committee and on Report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 37.]I think we have done the same, and that the Bill I now commend to the House is a vastly improved Measure. I have spoken on many occasions, and, I fear, at very great length, and though it may take a little time to make some of the observations which I have to make today, I hope to confine myself broadly to three groups of topics—to matters not fully discussed in the Committee stage, to one or two vital changes in which both sides have played their part in re-shaping the Bill, and to various issues on which I promised to make statements in Parliament.
All through the debates that we have had, the emphasis, as the Bill will show, has been on the interest of the consumers of transport, and right through from the early days of the White Paper it has been our aim always to remember that it is the people who are using transport who need the most consideration. In the field of railways, it is our hope that Clauses 14 and 15 and the wide measure of freedom given to the railways under the charging Clauses will enable the railways, on becoming really competitive, to offer a better service to the general public. The 885 Clauses in relation to road haulage will, we think, re-establish the close and personal links between the provider and the user of transport, and in Clause 8, which relates to the licensing procedure, our concern throughout has been the interest of the user of transport, as more important than the interest of the provider of transport.
There is another way in which we are hoping—and already steps have been taken to do this—to give further protection to the travelling public. I should not be in order on Third Reading in developing this theme at any length, but I should like to say that I am sorry indeed, personally, that the new Clause proposed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Sir G. Hutchinson) relating to the right of appeal to the Transport Tribunal of newer local authorities, particularly county boroughs and non-county boroughs, fell by the way, an omission which I shall hope to see remedied when this Bill reaches another place.
An issue of concern to the travelling public was raised in an Amendment to the old Clause 25—which now, with the dropping of Clause 21, has become Clause 24—by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster). It dealt with the matter of the provision of garage facilities at Commission-owned hotels. I am sorry that the Guillotine prevented me from saying that we would look at it again in the later stages of this Bill in another place.
I am glad that at five different places in the Bill hon. Members who examine it with care will see that the sovereignty of Parliament is preserved and that we have on no fewer than four different occasions in four different Clauses provided for the affirmative procedure rather than a negative Resolution, so that the real, effective control of this House can be properly exercised.
In no field of transport has the claim that the interests of the users must be paramount been more frequently and eloquently stressed than in regard to Scottish transport, and I should like, as I promised, to make a few observations on that, closely linked, I hope, with Clause 1 and Clause 14, dealing with railway reorganisation, and with Clause 27 of the Bill, as redrafted, dealing with the Consultative Committees. If I may by 886 way of introduction to this part of my speech, I would recall to the House words that I used on Second Reading in relation to Scotland and co-ordination.
I said then that we thought there was need for further consultative machinery, and I went on to say that I should be glad to discuss details with the Scottish Council and any other interested bodies, and with the Secretary of State for Scotland, and that, in order to facilitate the co-ordination of the various providers of transport, I would set up a committee composed of representatives of all the bodies responsible to the British Transport Commission for the provision of goods and passenger services both by road and rail and of the British European Airways Corporation and of Messrs. MacBrayne, and that through the chairman—though this was a matter for discussion—of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee for Scotland we should minimise overlapping and keep both bodies in touch with each other. We hoped that throughout the whole field of publicly-owned transport in Scotland would be kept under constant review and that in this way the public interest would he fully safeguarded.
I have had further talks with the Secretary of State for Scotland as to the best way in which this new co-ordinating machinery could be fashioned, and the best way in which the functions to be entrusted to this new body which will operate should be decided. I have had the benefit of other talks with the Scottish Council. I have listened throughout the debates to the views of hon. Members on both sides of this House, and I have heard the deputation from my hon. Friends the Unionist Members from Scotland.
It is the Government's view that the body might properly be called the Scottish Transport Council. It would probably be preferable that the chairman of the Scottish Transport Users' Consultative Committee should be a member of this body rather than its chairman, and if hon. Members will look at Clause 27 they will see that provision is made for the Consultative Committee. Membership of this body should be representative of all publicly-owned transport in Scotland. whether it be road, rail, sea or air, and they should be people of the highest standing in each branch of their own transport activity.
887 I have, of course, to remember my own responsibilities as Minister of Civil Aviation, and it is important in the field of air that nothing should be done which might undermine the Scottish Advisory Council for Civil Aviation, whose statutory responsibility it is to advise the two Corporations on civil aviation matters affecting Scotland; but in my other capacity I recognise that there is a need to co-ordinate air and surface transport in Scotland in such matters as, for example, the timing of services, and I am therefore proposing that both the British European Airways Corporation and the Advisory Council should be represented on the new co-ordinating body.
I have consulted the chairmen of both these bodies, and both the Corporation and the Council will be prepared to be represented. In addition, we shall have independent members. We shall have thus in Scotland two bodies, the Scottish Transport Users' Consultative Committee, as provided for in Clause 27, which is designed to protect the interests of the consuming public in the field of the British Transport Commission's activities, and the new Scottish Transport Council to cover the whole field of publicly-owned transport.
In regard to the first body, I should like to draw the attention of hon. Members to a further point in Clause 27, under which the Scottish Consultative Committee will have the right of direct approach to the Minister, and of making direct representations to the Minister, carrying with it supplementary power in the Minister to issue directions to the Commission direct on any matter that he thinks fit submitted to him by the Scottish Committee. While executive and financial responsibility must, of course, remain in the bodies and organisations whose duty it is to provide services, we none the less believe that in this new co-ordinating machinery we shall bring together at a high level all the various publicly-owned services in Scotland, and it is reasonable to expect that with much better co-ordination we shall get greater efficiency and closer identification of the interests of the travelling public with those who provide it.
I do not propose to define in any great detail the precise powers, but there is one small point in regard to Clause 14 to which I should like to draw the 888 attention of the Scottish Members in all parts of the House. Some anxiety has been expressed in regard to Clause 14 and to the constitution of the railway authority that will exercise delegated railway powers in Scotland under Clause 14 (7). While major questions of policy, of course, must rest with the Commission, the function of the delegated authority below the central Commission has caused a certain measure of anxiety, and I have been asked on more than one occasion whether it is likely that, under the wording of this Clause, it will be possible for a single individual to be a railway authority for Scotland.
I can certainly at this stage give this assurance, that the Minister would be most unlikely to accept as satisfactory a scheme which confined all authority in Scotland to a single individual. I hope that in these two fields with the Scottish Transport Council and the old Consultative Committee with its increased powers, we shall find a means to give in Scotland, through public services in Scotland, the service that the Scottish people deserve and desire. While, of course, I will answer any question now, if necessary, the Parliamentary Secretary, if there are any further points relating to that matter, will be quite ready to deal with them later tonight.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
There is one important point still to be got clear. If this Council is to control all the publicly-owned transport in Scotland, and if, as I postulated, it is possible that all publicly-owned road vehicles, or a large portion of them, may be taken away from Scotland, and none be left under the control of the Commission in Scotland, how will this Council exercise any control whatsoever over road transport in Scotland, if it is all in private hands?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, referring to road haulage activities in Scotland. The Disposal Board and the Commission together have got their statutory duty in the scheme. It would be impossible, or at any rate very undesirable, for the House to insist in the Bill that, in any one part of the United Kingdom, a fixed proportion of the assets of the Road Haulage Executive should be separately retained, but I have no doubt at all that the Commission and the Disposal Board, looking 889 at the problem of the United Kingdom as a whole, will have very much in the forefront of their minds the particular needs of Scottish road haulage. I think that we can safely leave it to their joint wisdom to see that adequate provision is made.
In addition, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there was for many years, not necessarily as good a one as we would like, but a very efficient and effective Scottish transport system in private hands, and it is our hope that, through the improvements, mechanical and otherwise, of the last few years, in private hands again that service will he even more improved.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I posed this question on the last occasion, when the right hon. Gentleman said that he would try to clear up the matter today. There arc certain areas, in the Highlands in particular, which I believe will he bereft of road transport after this Bill becomes an Act. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that where that situation develops, or may develop, the authority he is talking about would take protective steps to see that goods would be carried into these areas, as they are being carried today by British Road Services vehicles, and that the areas will not be left without any service?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I was at pains to point out that the new authority, the details of which I sketched, could not be entrusted with executive powers. These must remain the responsibility of the various component bodies. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that under Clause 8 and the First Schedule there are provisions whereby the purchasers of businesses who give certain undertakings—to serve a certain district or from a certain base—and then depart from them will forfeit their licences. It is our view that this protection will be to the advantage of the Highlands and other districts.
On the railway side of the proposals, I am most grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the help and encouragement they have given me personally and the Government, particularly in the field of greater freedom for railways in charging competitive rates. I should like also to thank representatives of trade and industry for the courageous and, I believe, statesmanlike view they have taken in helping to remodel anti- 890 quated legislation. I am fully conscious of the doubts many spokesmen of industry had in their minds about the use that might be made of this new freedom, but I am also confident that it will be to the joint advantage of the great British Railways system and our industrial and agricultural effort.
Perhaps I might now very briefly remind the House of the important changes in this field which Parliamentary discussion has brought about. In the first place, there is the protection for traders from this new opportunity to the railways to charge competitive prices. The Bill originally provided that the equality and the undue preference provisions, though imposing limitations on the making of agreed charges, should continue. I must confess that I was very glad when a chance arose for further consideration of that very important feature.
In the Bill as introduced in November, provision was made that these provisions should not apply to charges made under charges schemes or to charges which cannot be dealt with by schemes. At the same time, in November a new Clause was also inserted. which is now in the Bill, giving to traders whose traffic is substantially tied to rail protection against unreasonable or unfair charges. Then we had a further stage still, in Committee, and the result of that is now seen in the Bill. whereby the equality and undue preference of agreed charges provisions, instead of applying after a certain period of time after the making of a charges scheme, should apply immediately after the passing of this Bill. Then only a week or so ago, in the Report stage, we went one stage further, whereby undue preference relaxations were to extend to matters other than charges. In this field, therefore, there has been a steady improvement by Parliamentary discussion in which both sides of the House have played an equal part.
In regard to protection for competitors. there have also been striking and significant changes. The right of the road haulier to object to an uneconomic charge, which was deeply resented by the Commission as it could not be made mutual, and which was much disliked on both sides, has been removed. Clause 21 has been dropped, and the wide powers of protection for coastal shipping have been substituted, and limited powers also for harbour authorities. Here again, the 891 hand of Parliament has, I think, considerably improved that aspect of the Bill.
Then in regard to charges, in Clause 22, as it was—it is now Clause 21 after the Report stage—dealing with the "ceiling" on immediate applications for increased charges—what the Commission themselves gratefully called the "headroom Clause"—we have made two considerable improvements, both of which were supported from each side of the House. One has prevented the whole of the 10 per cent. increase in revenue being imposed on any one form of merchandise; and the other has limited any increase in the London passenger area to a sum not greater than so much of the relevant increase in the cost of the Commission as is properly attributable to the provision of transport in the London area. Both of these are improvements, I think. and definitely for the good.
In regard to Clause 15, dealing with the publication of railway charges, I had no opportunity on Report to deal with the very important improvement which has met a large part of the dislike of the Commission to this Clause. When the Bill was first published in November, power was taken for the Commission to be obliged to make available to the general public copies of any reorganisation scheme. Trade and industry were insistent that it was impossible to regard the railways solely as a business as they were the monopoly providers of railway transport.
On the other hand, the Commission argued with great vehemence and, I thought, a deal of sense, that if they were to be treated as a business it was highly undesirable that they should be obliged to publish to all the world their plans of internal reorganisation, and thereby find themselves subjected to all-informed or partisan criticism. They fully accepted the view that interests specially affected should have prior consultation between them and the Commission, and afterwards the right of objection; but they felt that the Clause as drawn went much too far. Hon. Members will now see, if they look at Clause 15, that we have removed from that Clause the requirement that the scheme should be published, and instead it lays on the Minister the duty of deciding which are the bodies which should be consulted when the scheme is submitted to him.
892 There is one other very important change which very much affects the railways. Government Amendments were moved, but not discussed on Report, to the old Clauses 26 and 27. They are now Clauses 25 and 26 respectively. Here I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) for the interest they have taken in this matter. The effect of these two changes is to extend the cover provided by the compensation and pension Clauses to include railway employees affected by reorganisation schemes under Clause 14.
I was very much impressed by the argument in Committee. It is, of course, quite clear that railways could have had reorganisation proposals without this Bill, but in so far as the reorganisation here is laid on them by statute it seemed reasonable that pension and compensation provisions, where appropriate, should be protected by statute as well. It was always possible if a railwayman found his position worsened, and he could prove that it was worsened, through the amalgamation of the four main-line companies in 1947, to get some compensation, but it would be based on his position in 1947 and not on his position in:952. That did not appear to us to be wholly fair, and I am glad to say that there will now be a statutory duty laid on the Minister, where appropriate, to make regulations to protect the pension rights of railwaymen affected by the reorganisation proposals under Clause 14.
There is one point which I should like to mention because I may have involuntarily misled the hon. Member for Swansea, West on this matter. I should like to say with what help and interest all of us have heard his speeches throughout these debates, because no one on either side has more practical knowledge of the working of the railway system. We were talking in Committee on 18th December about the compensation provisions, and the position of those members of the salaried staff of the Commission who have voluntarily agreed to have deductions made from their salaries in anticipation of the introduction of a pensions scheme. The hon. Member for Swansea, West, in the course of a speech on an Amendment, asked me a question. In reply, I said that they would get back their provisional payments. Later, following some further observation of the 893 hon. Member, I referred to a man getting back the employer's contribution as well as his own.
I can see, on looking back and reading the debate, that the two remarks taken in conjunction might have conveyed to the hon. Member that I was supposed here to be referring to the man making contributions under the provisional deductions arrangement. Of course, that was not the case. In that case, the employer has made no contribution; we do not even know what the contribution of the Commission is going to be, whether two-to-one or a fifty-fifty arrangement, and only a proportion of the road haulage people have come into this particular provision. I should like to make it clear that I was not referring to them, but referring only to contributions under regular pensions arrangements when I said that the employee would recover both his own and his employer's contribution.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
; I should like to be assured on this point. It still remains for the Commission to implement its promise to set up a scheme for these new entrants.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It certainly does. It is not the Commission's fault that there is no scheme to-day, but the difficulties are considerable and do not affect only transport interests.
The result, I hope and believe, of these various railway provisions will be a significant improvement in the railways' competitive position. We had made this improvement possible by introducing competition. As was said by the Conservative Party before the Election of 1951, the existence of some genuine competition will make it reasonable to give those in control of publicly-owned transport greater freedom in charging and in other matters than would be available under conditions of monopoly. That has been made possible by providing for competition.
This greater freedom, in its turn, has made it possible to drop the second part of the levy. This is one of the major changes that the pressure of Parliamentary opinion and feeling outside has made in the Bill. [Interruption.] If any hon. Gentleman is going to disturb the prevailing calm by making comment on that, I would say that this change, 894 although important, is certainly not more important than the changes made in the 1947 Act, when C licence control was dropped and a Bill which was meant to control some 850,000 vehicles ended up by absorbing only 41,000, though as a parting gesture putting in fetters the bulk of the transport outside.
The levy is retained, as the House knows, only for a very limited and defined purpose. The Bill has once more been amended even in this field because there is now a statutory obligation on the Minister to bring to an end the levy when the payment of the three specific charges has, in his view, been met. In a number of other ways, which I will not elaborate at any great length, on the road haulage side this Bill has been considerably improved.
The House as a whole showed great anxiety about the size of the Commission-owned businesses that should be retained by the British Transport Commission. At first it was intended that there should be full competition over the whole field. Later it was decided to allow the Commission to retain the equivalent number of vehicles that the old railway companies had had. Later, in November, this was increased to the old holdings plus 20 per cent., and then again, on Report, the 20 per cent. increase was raised to 25 per cent. and we have arranged within that overall-limit for some variations up to thirteen-tenths in any one of the three main categories in the road haulage industry. So throughout the debate there has been steady improvement.
Many of my hon. Friends have shown some anxiety about the period of transition—the passing from public to private control. I think that their fears are much exaggerated and that there is no reason to anticipate a disturbance even as great as that which took place when thousands of private hauliers were compulsorily acquired. One small point has been raised by a number of hon. Members and no opportunity has arisen up to now of dealing with it. It was whether a purchaser of a business who had himself no wish to run a transport business but solely to add to his C licence fleet would be entitled to buy a business, drop the obligation to engage in the carriage of goods for hire and reward, and only to add to the size of his C licence fleet.
895 Some words of mine in the Committee stage may have given the impression that this in fact would not be possible and that there would be an absolute obligation to carry on the business. This. am afraid, did go too far. I think that the interests of users of transport can be fully protected in a number of things. The price to be paid for the business will include not only the value of the vehicles and other physical assets, but also the automatic A licence and freedom from the 25-mile limit, and these very substantial improvements in his position will make it, I think, a singularly expensive procedure for someone who merely wanted to add to the size of his C licence fleet. It is intended, not least by the company structure but in other ways, to attach together not only vehicles but other sorts of rights and obligations so designed, and sold at such a price, as to attract only the purchaser who wants to go straight into the carriage of goods for hire and reward.
As I told the House on Report, it is proposed to introduce in another place important Amendments dealing with the provision of company structure for a limited part of the road haulage fleet. I hope that this will give a measure of confidence to those who are still disturbed about the transitional period, and I hope also a measure of reassurance to the men and women working in the industry. I was glad on Report, in regard to this class of very important people, to recommend to the House an Amendment which is now in the Bill under which workers employed by the Road Haulage Executive should come under the national negotiating machinery.
Another very important Amendment in the Bill, as the House will find relates to the 25-mile limit. I am very glad that it has been found possible to fix a definite date for the dropping of this restrictive practice which has brought hardship and inconvenience to thousands of our fellow citizens. At the time when the 1947 Bill was under discussion, the Opposition, who were then the Government, were repeatedly asked how any arbitrary mileage suitable for one district could possibly be suitable for another. The way in which this has worked out, no less for those who live near the sea, has created the most ludicrous circumstances. We know that people in the 896 class affected by the 25-mile limit have pressed for its immediate abolition.
As I have often said, both inside and outside the House, we could have abolished the 25-mile limit but we could not abolish the 25-mile limit and the Road Haulage Executive at the same time. If we abolished the Road Haulage Executive, then we would have had to retain the 25-mile limit for a limited period. I am glad that it is now found possible to amend the Bill to bring this definitely to an end at the end of 1954, and with this the undertakings given when in Opposition will have been fully honoured and, at the same time, the smooth transition to private ownership will have been secured.
Finally, I want to say a brief word about the Commission. I am grateful for the understanding and help which the Commission have shown me through these many months, which have not been easy either for them or for me. The Commission will have before them a very formidable task. The alteration in Clause 24, now Clause 23, relating to the composition of the Commission, will throw very great responsibilities on all the people appointed by the Minister, those experienced in the management of railways, road traffic or the organisation of workers, and those conversant with the needs of agriculture, industry or commerce. We believe that those responsibilities are no less great now that the task that we are asking them to carry out is capable of fulfilment.
I know I am expressing the hope of both sides of the House when I say I trust that the Commission, through their railways and the road haulage companies, and all in the private sector of the transport industry as a whole, will, together, be able to give the nation the economic service which it needs.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The Minister has been courteous and urbane this afternoon, as he has been throughout the proceedings on the Bill. He has also been fluent. He is always fluent. Sometimes it seems to us that he uses his fluency to darken our understanding rather than to illuminate it, but, in view of the contents of the Bill, I doubt whether we could criticise him much for that. When I consider that in the commendably brief speech which he has made—it has lasted for about 40 minutes—he 897 has spent only 10 minutes on the road haulage aspect of the Bill, it leaves me wondering what he would have found to talk about if the substantial Amendments made to the Bill during its passage through the House had not been made.
I heard the Minister congratulate my hon. Friends upon the improvements that they had effected, with his aid, during the course of the Bill. I was reminded of something that happened to me when I was a young man first starting out on trade union negotiations. I had led a deputation to the employers, and had been devastating in logic and swift in criticism and had overturned the employers at all points, but had got nothing out of them at the end. As I came away. one of the older members of my executive took me on one side and said, "You know, it is always worth remembering that more flies are caught by honey than by vinegar." I have a feeling that the Minister is a practitioner of the honey technique. but I can tell him that we disdain the honey as much as we dislike the vinegar, and hardened trade unionists on this side of the House will not be caught by either.
The way in which the Minister justified the use of the Guillotine led me to feel that he must have a singularly guilty conscience about its use. By the time he had finished he had nearly convinced me that the Guillotine was desirable and that it should be used on every Bill. [An HON. MEMBER; "That is the honey."] The truth is that the Guillotine has killed discussion on the Bill. It has driven hon. Members out of the Chamber instead of encouraging them to come into it. It has meant that the discussion on the Bill has been limited to a small number of experts on both sides of the Chamber who have sat here hour after hour carrying on the discussion and knowing when to curtail what they had to say. Looking round the House now, I see the familiar faces of hon. Members who know exactly what I mean.
The Guillotine is a bad instrument, and there is no doubt that during the debates on the Bill it has prevented the free play of opinion from focusing sharply on the Minister when he has been up against it. He had only to glance at the clock and wait for the moment when the Guillotine would next fall, knowing there was no opportunity for the full case to be 898 deployed or for the maximum feeling on a number of these issues to be brought out. The use of the Guillotine on this Bill has saved the Government at the expense of the nation, because a great many of the worst features of the Bill which have not yet been removed should have been exposed much more clearly than we were able to expose them because of the operation of the Guillotine.
My final word to the Minister in relation to his defence of the Guillotine is that it seemed to me that he came precious near to justifying its use to any future Government that might have to consider a Measure of this sort, and I have no doubt that those who will in future want to have recourse to the use of the Guillotine will find a lot of comfort in the speech which he has made this afternoon. For myself, I say firmly—I speak here for all my hon. Friends—that we feel that on this occasion the Guillotine has deprived us of our opportunities of developing the full case against the Bill. If we were able to get a large number of Amendments discussed, it was because we Guillotined ourselves within the limits of the Guillotine.
Unlike the Conservative Opposition in 1947, we wanted to discuss the Bill and not to prevent discussion. Because we regarded the Bill as so bad in its conception and so weak in its principles, we wanted to be able to take the House through all the Clauses so that its weaknesses might be fully exposed to the public view. We had no desire to linger on Clause 1 (1); we wanted to get through the Bill and because of that we limited the number of Amendments which we put down and limited the number that we discussed. The Minister has boasted of the large number of Amendments which were discussed. That was achieved by our agreeing on one occasion to discuss 18 separate Amendments as one. That is the way we got through the Bill, by discussing together points which could have been developed separately, and which, under the normal procedure of the House, should have been discussed separately.
If out of the 56 hours devoted to the Committee stage we spent one and a half hours discussing the Guillotine, the Minister need not regard that as being the measure of our irritation and resentment.
899 We were deeply resentful of the imposition of the Guillotine, and we still feel that it prevented adequate and proper consideration of the Bill.
As the Minister said, the Bill has changed shape considerably during the last few months. I do not know whether the House still remembers that we have had a number of versions of it. I have taken the precaution of bringing with me the first version to be presented to the House. The first sentence of the Explanatory Memorandum of that version said:The main purposes of the Bill are to provide for the disposal of the British Transport Commission's road haulage property …That was one of the main purposes of the Bill, as the Minister explained during the discussions which we had at that time.
In the early debates in May of last year, the Minister described in what way the road haulage organisation was to be altered to achieve that end. He said:It is our intention to break up the Road Haulage Executive into units. Those units would represent as near as possible the prenationalisation pattern. There are bound to be some modifications. Some premises have been sold, and many areas have been altered. It will be difficult and in many cases impossible to restore the pattern as a whole, but, by and large, the old pattern represented natural development and it is our hope to see that restored."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 21st May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 492.]That was the Minister's intention. His purpose was to sell back the road haulage property. That was to be the main object of the legislation which we are discussing. The aim of his method of doing so and the achievement at the end were to be the restoration of the prenationalisation set-up in road haulage. I put it to the Minister that it was the shock with which that came to public opinion, and certainly to informed and expert opinion in the transport field, which compelled him to modify the proposals which he had originally made, and to which I doubt if he now adheres. The British Transport Commission told him, as he faithfully reported to the House, that in their view this process was not only undesirable but unworkable; the trade unions said the same; the Opposition told him likewise; the Chambers of Commerce expressed their grievous concern.
900 Everybody focused upon the Minister to tell him that this conception, this romantic folly of his, was unworkable and should be ignored. It was the general opposition in the country and among his own supporters that led to the changes which were made—in the main purpose, mark it—of the Transport Bill. After all these months, we reached the Report stage last week and we are now at the Third Reading and it was not until we reached the Report stage that the Minister came to the House and told us that a large number of complicated Amendments would have to be put down in another place in order to try to meet the criticism which was focused upon him last summer.
I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman has allowed the House to go for so long in this way without explaining to us—and he has not done so this afternoon—what is his new conception of the method of disposal, and his new conception of what the road haulage setup after de-nationalisation is to be. Are we to take it that he still clings pathetically, like a shipwrecked mariner, to this nonsense, or has his year in office at last persuaded him that transport has altered since the 1930s and that he cannot return to the 1930 pattern? I believe that he is becoming aware of it; I believe that he does know this. I say, however, that he should have taken the House of Commons into his confidence. He should have made up his mind, by the time of the Third Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, what the method of disposal is to be and what the pattern of road haulage is to be after it is sold.
Here we are at the Third Reading, as much in the dark about the method of disposal and the pattern that the disposal is to take as we were before the Bill was introduced, because the Minister has changed his mind and he has not seen fit to tell the House of Commons how he proposes to put that change of mind into force. Much has been made clear. The Minister may not yet know how he is going to do the job; he may be waiting for the Bill to get into the House of Lords before he tells the country how he is going to do that job, but at least he knows the consequences of it, and so does the country.
We know, for example, that the Road Haulage Executive is to be sold at a loss. 901 There can have been very few occasions when we have ever written into a Bill in this House the proposition that there is to be a loss on the functions which the Government intend to exercise, but we know that the Minister intends to sell the lorries at a loss. We know that he is to charge commerce and industry a sum of £8 million in the next two years in order to try to make up that loss, and we know that they are contingently liable for another £12 million in the following three years and £12 million in the three years after that, until the loss is finally made up by way of the levy.
We know that the national road haulage service is to be broken up. We know that the network which has been established over the last three years of long-distance trunk services is to disappear. I have here some information that British Road Services are now operating 702 scheduled—that is, timetable—services, giving a 24-hour delivery, many of them running through the night. They are operating from and to 368 terminal depots, with localised arrangements for collection and delivery. Each day they are handling 34,000 tons of traffic. Express services are provided for machinery, provisions, goods for export, vegetables and fruit from the growing or producing areas to markets in all major towns and cities.
This network has been built up nationally. The Minister now intends to destroy it. He does not know how he is to destroy it; he does not know what the pattern of road services is to be afterwards. All he can tell us is that the Road Haulage Executive is to be destroyed. This is the whole trouble with the Government's policy on transport. Their so-called main purpose of disposing of the Road Haulage Executive has cast a spell over the whole Tory Party. They are filled with an insane desire at all costs to break up British Road Services. To that end, everything must be sacrificed. It has curbed the Minister's freedom of action and has certainly forbidden him to think clearly about this problem of transport.
I say to the Minister—I am sure he will acknowledge this—that no one can sit in his place at that Ministry for 12 months without constantly puzzling not only about how the best service can be given to the consumer but what is the proper relationship and the proper link between 902 road and rail services in this country. That question must have perplexed the Minister during the time he has sat there. Yet throughout the whole of our discussions he has never given us any inkling of how, in his view, we are to link road and rail so that they will serve traders, industry and the public to the maximum of their potentiality.
My major criticism of this part of the Bill and of the Minister's appreciation of it and the way in which he has placed it before us is that at no time has he let us see what is in his mind about how this link should be maintained, how he believes these services should be run together, and yet this is in some ways the most important part of the problem which we are discussing. That the Minister is aware of it was clear as long ago as 21st May, when we discussed the White Paper. On that occasion, he said to us:Should we, then, leave road and rail to fight out this ancient battle on their own?I ask the House to keep those words in mind as we consider what is in the Bill now that we have reached the Third Reading. He went on:Of course. we cannot do that. if road haulage lost the battle, a large number of private people in the new set-up would go out of business, which would be had for them and had for the country; but if the railways went out of business, of course the country would lose an absolutely irreplaceable asset.The Government had, therefore, to try to design—and we think we have designed—a plan whereby agreement can take place between road and rail,"—agreement, not competition; not war to the knife, but agreement—based on the advantages which each have to offer, and which will not run the risk of ruining the railways. This involves the freeing of long-distance road haulage and the levy, to which I will come, both of which are inseparable from the plan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 489.]What did the Minister mean? meant that he recognised that in free competition between road and rail there are many traffics for which the roads are specially designed and which they can take from the railways, and that he intended to make up that loss of traffic to the railways by compensating them from the levy. That was the object. But he took the view, "Let the roads expand." He knew that loss of traffic was inevitable. And then he came up against the anxieties of the road hauliers, who said, "What is this which is being offered to us? Here 903 we are going to win the battle and, when we have won it, we have to pay the spoils back to the railways. This is no job for us. We do not want that sort of set-up."
As the price of getting the road hauliers' support for the Bill, the Minister had to agree to cut out this part of the agreement which sought to avoid the ancient battle between road and rail. Instead, he substituted a provision by which the railways will be free to charge what rates they like. The Minister presented this to us this afternoon as though it were some new thinking by the Government, as though they had reflected on their policy and had come to the House to present some new phase in transport development which would free the railways from their anxieties and enable them to be rejuvenated in order to try to get traffic from the road hauliers.
It is nothing of the sort. It is part of the sordid and squalid bargain with the road hauliers to purchase their support for the Bill. That is all it is, but the Minister spent 30 minutes this afternoon telling us how wonderful it all was. The truth is that in his mind, as he has become attuned and acclimatised to this delicate question of transport, he has come to see the realities, and he now recognises that the disposal of road haulage is nothing but a secondary feature in the whole transport set-up and has nothing to do with the practical problem which he, as Minister of Transport, is in office to solve. He stands condemned because he has taken this Bill through, because he was responsible for the White Paper; he is the man who has defended it the whole time, when he knows that the solution which he has propounded in deference to what the Conservative Party promised at the last Election has no relationship at all to the problem of linking road and rail and developing the potentialities of both to serve the public to the best of which they are capable.
There is now to be an all-out war between road and rail. This is the reverse of the 1947 Act. The Tories are fond of saying that the 1947 Act has failed. It has not failed. It has not yet been tried. The Minister has not even given it a chance to succeed. After all, he tells us that he accepts nationalisation of the railways. He believes that there should be some de-centralisation, but I can assure him 904 that he does not need a Bill to achieve de-centralisation. That part of the Bill is meaningless. The power to de-centralise the railway system and to alter the set-up of the Railway Executive is contained in the 1947 Act, as he knows full well. He did not need a Clause in this Bill to achieve that end.
Let us consider what has been done in the field of road haulage since the 1947 Act. Altogether, 3,700 separate businesses were acquired in three years.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Over 41,000 vehicles were acquired. I am asking the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who interrupted from a sedentary position, to apply his mind to the point which I am making. The point which I am trying to make—and I hope it will impinge upon the hon. Member—is that it is a major task in a period of three years to absorb and amalgamate these businesses and to create a national network out of the 3,700 separate undertakings which had to be acquired. They had to build up the morale of the staff, to amalgamate the various services and to take over the businesses; and the point I am making, if the hon. Member for Truro will follow me, is that all that was achieved within a space of three years. In my view, it was a remarkable undertaking by the staff of British Road Services.
§ Mr. Wilson
I was suggesting in my interruption that the hon. Gentleman might give us an explanation of how he would integrate the whole of the railway services with a minority of the road transport services.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should like to follow the train of my own argument for the moment. The point I am putting to the Minister is that this remarkable process of acquisition was a first and essential preliminary to integrating and knitting together road and rail services. Until the private businesses had been acquired, until they had' merged into a national business, we could not go ahead with the physical process of merging road and rail.
If I may utter what is obviously a platitude, there are two processes in this integration. One is physical and the 905 other is financial. What has the Minister destroyed? On the financial side, he has destroyed something which would have been of great value to traders and to commerce and also to coastal shipping, because, as the British Transport Commission told us in their last Report, the Commission have prepared a scheme of national rates and charges for the carriage of all goods for trade and industry by road, rail and inland waterway. That had been prepared. It had not been submitted to the Arbitration Tribunal because the Tories were returned to power and announced that they intended to dismember the 1947 Act.
Agreement had largely been secured with representatives of the traders in this country and agreement had largely been secured with the coastal shipping interests. We were within sight, for the first time, of a national agreement on rates and charges for the whole of road and rail. The Minister is destroying the lot. He is sending them back to a rate war in which they will fight each other—and that after all the experience which we have had over the past 25 years.
That is not all. Physically, the acquisition was not completed until October, 1951, when the right hon. Gentleman's Government were returned to office. I think it is fair to say, therefore, that the 1947 Act has never been fully implemented. The Home Secretary told us that in his view it would take 10 years to implement it fully. I think that was pessimistic. In view of the remarkable progress which was made during the first three years, if no Tory Government had been returned I believe we should have been seeing substantial results in the transport field in seven or eight years, and certainly by 1955. But 18 months have now been wasted in a standstill process, with no progress being made in integration. Now the body is to be dismembered, and the vultures are hovering around waiting to pick the bones.
I feel that at this stage we ought to utter a word of thanks and encouragement to all the staff and the workers on the road haulage side. They have many anxieties, as our postbags reveal, and nothing which the Minister has said this afternoon will have relieved them, but I say to them, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, if I may, that their ex- 906 perience will be needed again. This is just a temporary setback and this whole process will have to be undertaken again. A national road haulage system will have to be built up. We can assure them that we will do it and will make use of their experience.
The railways made very great strides during the war. The Railway Executive have done first-class work in knitting the railway system together, and they have produced many economies and saved the nation millions and millions of pounds. Now de-centralisation is coming along. Is it the right moment? We must wait for the Minister to produce the scheme which he is to ask the Railway Executive to produce, and then we are to have detailed discussion of it. There are differing views on the matter.
The Minister might have told us his reactions to the scheme which the British Transport Commission submitted to him last July. What have they got to do now? Have they to send him a carbon copy of it? We have had many discussions about the proposed scheme. Why should he not have told us what is in the scheme and in what way he disagreed with it? Meanwhile, in that field he is again presenting 600,000 employees with considerable anxieties and uncertainties, and he should get ahead with whatever scheme he has in mind at the earliest possible moment so that the organisation can settle down and get on with the job.
If the railways are to be set free—I think that is the phrase the Minister likes—to compete with road haulage, they should in all fairness have a much greater allocation of capital investment than they have had so far. They cannot he expected to compete with one hand tied behind their back. If road haulage and the railways are to be fighting in this beggar-my-neighbour policy, the railways ought to have a fair chance of competing, of cleaning up their carriages, of doing all the things they want to do. They have plenty of plans if the Government will but give them the allocation of capital resources to which they are properly entitled. But as soon as the Minister of Transport takes that to the Cabinet, he will be in trouble because there will be a great scramble for the prior allocation of capital investment during the next 12 months. The truth is that the Government will not be able 907 to afford to give the railways what they should have in this field if there is to be this policy.
So what have we got? In short, we have a Bill to reorganise the railways—a Bill which in that sense is unnecessary—and to sell the lorries, but we do not know how they are to be sold and, even less, why they are to be sold. What is the reason? If my hon. Friends will cast their minds back to the events of last spring, they will find it. The Government were going through a period of great unpopularity. Tory Party meetings, so the rumour went, were disconcerted about the way in which the tide of public opinion was going against them. Their leaders decided that they must throw the back benchers a bone—"Let them see that we are carrying out our policy and let us get ahead with the de-nationalisation of road haulage, whether it has any significance or relevance." So the Prime Minister was sent down to the House to tell us that this was an urgent matter, more urgent than the de-nationalisation of steel, and that we must get ahead with it straight away.
This Bill will settle nothing. It brings the relationship of road and rail back into the political arena. The fight between road and rail is bound to have political repercussions. It always has done in the past; it will in the future I doubt very much whether the licensing system for road haulage vehicles will stand up to the strain to which the Minister is subjecting it. We all heard the interesting views of the Prime Minister on the wastefulness of C licences. If he has not already done so, I invite the Minister to apply his mind to the problem of the C hiring margin which is eating into the legitimate road haulage carriage services as well as into the carriage services of the railways.
It may well be the case that if companies with C licences feel it worth their while to buy special A licences—and they may do, for although the Minister thinks it not likely, they have the power to do so—the Minister may find that, instead of settling anything by this Bill, he may have brought upon his head a review and overhaul of the entire road haulage licensing system of the country. The Minister is not settling transport; he is opening it up again. In the words of 908 "The Times" this morning, he is opening it up by the way that he is living in the past. That is the worst condemnation that can be made of a Government in the 1950s which ought to be looking to the future if these islands are to come through the difficult economic storms that lie ahead.
This Bill will not endure. It will not remain on the Statute Book for long. The men are resolute against it. They have fought a good fight to convince the Government. They have held their own protest meetings all over the country. All the men in the road transport organisation, as far as I know, are opposed to what the Government are doing, and they are the people who are employed. Not a single trade union leader backs the Government. Indeed, they show their contempt for this process of disposal by refusing to serve on the Disposal Board.
If it is of any interest to those organs of the Press which are looking for splits between the Parliamentary Labour Party and the T.U.C., let me say that we have worked throughout this Bill in the closest harmony and that there has been complete agreement on policy and tactics. I do not know whether the Minister noticed that it was Mr. Arthur Deakin who, at the Labour Party Conference, moved the resolution condemning the proposals contained in the White Paper? He regarded the proposal to de-nationalise road haulage as evidence of a complete capitulation to the private vested interests in transport and a wilful sacrifice of the social assets so recently co-ordinated at public expense. He welcomed the undertaking given that, in the event of the Government's policy being implemented, the next Labour Government will restore the road haulage industry to public ownership. He believed that re-nationalisation should take place on such terms as will prevent private owners from profiting at the expense of the nation.
Let there be no doubt about it, we shall not be deflected from that purpose in any way, and that is what will be done. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), in a speech last May indicated what he meant. He said:… we shall see to it that the public purse does not pay again for what has already been paid for out of the funds of public 909 authority. Moreover. if the Government imprudently let the transport units go at a knock-out price, as it looks as if they will have to do, we will not let the nation be exploited as a consequence … such assets, if needed, will be re-acquired on terms that will not involve the public in loss."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 515.]Everyone who is thinking of going into this field, including the financial houses such as the Dominions Trust, are already at work. The boys are already looking round for the pickings—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Let the jackals beware, because there is no doubt that the next Labour Government will not compensate again on the terms employed in the 1947 Act. Let that be clearly understood.
In conclusion, I say to the transport workers everywhere and to the public at large that nothing which has been said deflects us from the view that the integration of road and rail under public ownership and control is the right policy to be followed in the interests of the nation. Nothing has been said to deflect us from our view that the basic industries and services of the nation shall be in the hands of the nation. This fight has not been in vain, because the public are convinced that this is a bad Bill. They know that it cannot endure. We undertake to repair the damage as soon as possible. Public ownership, public responsibility and the public well-being will prevail.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has asked some of the right questions in connection with the problems of transport, but is quite wrong regarding the alterations made between the first proposals of last spring and the Bill before us today. The alterations have commended themselves to the British public judging by the by-election results and by the reception which our Bill has had in many quarters.
§ Mr. Fort
The meetings which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite tried to stir up last autumn, as speakers in earlier debates have pointed out, were not attended with that success with which we were threatened when we were talk- 910 ing about denationalising transport in the early days of this Parliament.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
If the hon. Member will allow me to interrupt, is he aware that I addressed a meeting in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, where there was not an empty seat?
§ Mr. Fort
I am glad that some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite have not wasted their time, because there were certainly other and equally distinguished Members who loudly complained that they were addressing 50 or even fewer, in centres not, perhaps, as large as Manchester, but equally important. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Bradford and Chesterfield are two places to begin with.
§ Mr. Fort
No. I think we have heard enough on that point. The difficulty that the Opposition have been in, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East this afternoon and all the debates have shown, is that although they have talked so much about integration or co-ordination, they have no intellectual basis on which it can be founded. The only basis on which rail and road, or the different sections of road can be brought together is a cost basis.
One can talk about social costs or any other costs, but the fact comes back to the figures: is it cheaper to the person using the service and to the operator to move goods by this means or to move them by that means? Behind all the talk of building up centres and the different sorts of service which British Road Services can supply, has been the forgetfulness of whether British Road Services have the cost information to justify the organisation which they have tried to set up in the last three years.
One cannot help thinking—one knows, in fact—that British Road Services have not had that information. Have they introduced methods of operating without first making the necessary cost analysis, partly because they have not had time to collect the information and partly because they have driven ahead on a preconceived scheme without making the necessary financial analysis on which any improvement in operation must be founded, whether in transport or in any other industry?
911 If that is true inside the road transport industry it is even truer when there arises the problem of trying to integrate road transport with rail. The problem which the Socialist Party have entirely failed to face or think about has been this very one of getting the necessary cost information so that operators and users can know whether it pays them to use rail or whether, in certain circumstances, it pays them to use road transport.
What we have been doing all through the Bill has been to introduce a logical conception on which the integration could take place; that is, to try to arrange that the rail and road organisations can operate on a cost basis and, therefore, are able to supply the customer with the cheapest form of transport.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East gave a rather glowing account of the sections in the 1951 Report which referred to the charges, but, in fact, we know little or nothing about what the Executive has been able to work out about the freight charges. But we know the results of the Executive's analysis of the costs of passenger traffic. These show that on main lines it costs as little as one third of 1d. per person per mile to carry passengers, and that on branch lines the figure is up to 2s. 1d. If that is true as regards passengers, it is, almost certainly, equally true of freight. What we intend to see happen with the freedom which the railways are now being granted is that their freights shall be based on cost differentials, which are expected to be at least as large as those which we know them to be for passengers.
The truth of the matter is that ever since Parliament first, and for good reason, became interested in transport, over 100 years ago, the railways have been working on a system of internal subsidies. They have had to do so because of the restrictions which Parliament placed upon them. It is we and our predecessors in earlier Parliaments who have insisted upon this pattern of more or less uniform freight charges being imposed throughout the country. The consequence is that for 100 years or more in the railways we have had a system of internal subsidies.
Some hon. Gentlemen on the other side, indeed, have been not unfavourable to 912 internal subsidies paid by low cost parts of the service to the high cost sections. It may be that it is necessary. There are certainly Members from Scotland who have referred in debates to the difficulties of getting any form of transport in the more out of the way parts of the country. They have been enjoying these services so far by means of internal subsidies. What would be the right way of providing them with transport in these high cost areas is to grant them an open subsidy, so that we know here in Parliament, and so that the country knows, how much is being paid for services which may have to be provided but which should not be disguised merely by having flat-rate charges throughout the country.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
It is most interesting to hear the hon. Member making a contribution of this kind. Is he suggesting that the Bill in any way deals with a problem of that nature?
§ Mr. Fort
Of course it does. I can scarcely repeat all my arguments, but the Bill goes right to the very basis of that problem. It allows the railways to compete as they have never been able to compete before, so that when they have to quote freights in the out of the way parts of the country—the high cost parts of the country—they will have to quote freights, or will certainly tend to quote freights, which may seem disproportionately high. To give those parts of the country the facilities which they certainly will claim, they may have to have a subsidy in order to get freight rates which can allow goods, and even passengers, to move there.
§ Mr. Collick
This is most illuminating. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting, for example, that constituencies in the Highlands, which have been discussed many times during the passage of the Bill, should have to pay economic rates for their freight?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member ought to see the face of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman has introduced the Highland problem. I do not think he knows much about the Highlands or goes to hotels there, but is he aware that bread and other staple articles of diet, because of the imposition of heavy freight charges, are already much dearer in the shops there than in the larger centres?
§ Mr. Fort
I should not be surprised at all. As the hon. Member says, I do not know the place, but one thing of which I am quite certain is that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends will make us in the House very much aware of the situation. It will be for the House honestly to bring forward a subsidy instead of allowing the subsidy to be disguised, as it has been for so many years.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
We have with us on the Government Front Bench one of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland. I wonder whether he would nod agreement with the argument that the hon. Gentleman is putting forward.
§ Mr. Fort
I seem to have done what perhaps a Lancashire Member sometimes wishes he could do more often. I seem to have aroused the embattled Scotsmen to look after their rights, as I certainly think Lancashire Members should look after our country's rights. In parts of Lancashire we have an analogous problem to that about which Scottish hon. Members have been speaking.
Under the new dispensation, particularly since the old Clause 21 disappeared from the Bill on Report stage, we shall at last have real competition in the rail services of this country. If the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East complains so often that we do not talk enough about the road problem but too much about the rail problem, that is because the changes we have introduced into the transport system by this Bill are really revolutionary on the rail side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is on the rail side and hon. Members opposite, in so far as they can think about integration and co-ordination instead of just talking about it as a slogan, know that perfectly well.
914 The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East repeated what I think the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said in his speech of last May about re-nationalising the road haulage system sometime in the future when the party opposite have returned to power. It might be noticed, first, that the right hon. Gentleman qualified his remarks when he referred to those parts of the industry which needs be nationalised again, or words to that effect. That is a powerful qualification, but there is something more to be said about it. When hon. Members opposite talk about not paying money back again for what they took, are they really coming round to talk of expropriation? As the private enterprise road service is built up again people will be earning goodwill, buying new vehicles and improving those they bought from British Road Services. Are those to be taken away without paying compensation for the work they have done?
§ Mr. Fort
We commend this Bill on its way to the Upper House. It is without any doubt at all the most revolutionary Bill which has been introduced in the 915 House for many years. It has taken the chains off the transport of this country and will allow the railways and roads, by competition, to work out between themselves in a logical and straightforward way—
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
We have had a most interesting contribution from the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort). I only regret that the Minister did not have the advantage of hearing him. I am sure that the Scottish Press and those in the Highlands in particular will be most interested to read the contribution of the hon. Member. If I could make a suggestion to him, it would be that he might have a private conversation with the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), who sits on the Front Bench at present as Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, and who so often in this House has argued in relation to the Highlands of Scotland in precisely opposite terms from those used by the hon. Member for Clitheroe. I think we must leave them to argue that out between themselves.
I regard this Bill as the most unwanted Bill that this House of Commons has had before it for very many years. It is an unwanted Bill by an unknown author. As I listened to the Minister today making his claims for the Bill, the thought occurred to me, as it has done so often in these debates: why, if this is such a wonderful Bill, which is to achieve such an immense amount of good, has someone not claimed the authorship? So often in Parliamentary proceedings if a Bill is really a good Bill a Minister is most anxious that his name might be closely associated with it. Someone has said that this is an illegitimate Bill. It may be so. What we do know is that at least the Minister cannot claim paternity, because he inherited this Bill from his predecessor—
§ Mr. Collick
I am coming to that. I am not sure that the National-Liberal-Conservative-Unionist right hon. Member 916 for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) would even claim paternity for this Bill.
§ Mr. Collick
We have had the noble overlord of Transport and Fuel looking down upon us on these benches many times during the consideration of this Bill and exchanging glances with the Minister. One imagines the Minister glancing up at the overlord and saying, "Well, do you think I am making a very good job of this?" If the Minister has had any such thoughts, I can only say that—I think I must give the Minister some credit here—from his point of view he has handled this Bill no less ably than the noble overlord, who might actually be the author. Since this is the Third Reading of the Bill and it is about to go to another place, I hope that the noble overlord, if he is dealing with it there, will at least give the country the advantage of knowing whether he claims paternity for this Bill or not.
We have listened to the Minister saying that there is to be a smooth transition to the new form of road ownership. We shall see, but, if it is to be such a smooth passage and if everything seems so right in the field of transport, someone ought to claim authorship so that in the future we shall know who is actually responsible for this Bill, which I regard as the biggest mix-up in transport which the House of Commons has ever had to consider.
Nobody seems very anxious to have this Bill. If hon. Members opposite were honest with themselves they would admit that. The only apparent justification for it seems to be that the party opposite have committed themselves to the road interests—how and why no one on this side of the House knows. They feel they have an election pledge to honour. If they were really honest with the House and the country, they would say that this Bill is brought to discharge the obligation they feel they owe to the road interests who backed them so much in the last Election. Leaving that aside, I submit there is no justification whatsoever for it.
The one thing which this Bill sets out to do is to break up that amount of co-ordination which so far has gone into the long-distance road haulage industry. 917 Apart from anything which so far has been said from this side of the House, I take the view that the Bill stands condemned from the transport angle by one very elementary fact. If it is suffering at all, this country is suffering, not from the fact that it has not enough transport, but that it has too much—
§ Mr. Collick
The hon. Member who had great experience. I believe, in the old Great Western Company's solicitor's office, may be of a different opinion. But anybody who knows anything at all about the transport problem of this country knows very well that there are tens of millions of pounds invested in transport undertakings which are showing no return at all. In the economic problems which this country has to face, one, greater perhaps than all others, is the problem of making the utmost use of very pound of its capital resources. Is it doing that? Certainly not. The railways are not working to anything like capacity, and nobody suggests that they are. The only time in recent years when they were working all out was during the war years, and we saw what was the result.
Now the railways are working under capacity, and if, as an intelligent community, we were making the utmost use of our capital resources, we should be seeing to it that from the colossal investments in transport we were getting every penny of advantage. I challenge anybody on the other side of the House, or anywhere else, to show how that can he done without an integrated policy in transport.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
Is it not obvious to the hon. Member that railway companies would reduce their freight charges and fares, and carry more people—as they are to do on the Starlight Express—and carry more goods? Is that not the only way to run a campaign?
§ Mr. Collick
I am sorry that the hon. Member had not the advantage of hearing the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe, because he said exactly the opposite. I wish hon. Gentlemen opposite would get together and clear their minds on the transport problem—
§ Mr. Collick
The hon. Member should get together with the hon. Member for Clitheroe and clear his mind—
§ Mr. Collick
We shall see. On the hon. Gentleman's own point, I have heard him before in the House asking about decreased fares and the rest of it, and I remember the examples he gave—
§ Mr. Collick
We shall be most interested to hear them, and perhaps there will be an interesting answer awaiting him from these benches. But I do not want to be tied up with these points, other than to say that in the light of what is to happen now I think the hon. Gentleman will have his answer on his own ground before very long—
§ Mr. Collick
Well, the hon. Gentleman may not accept it, but I think he will get it within a very few months, if this Bill becomes law.
§ Mr. Collick
I say that until this country follows a policy of integration it cannot get the utmost out of its capital resources and investments in transport—
§ Mr. Collick
The hon. Gentleman says, "We have had it." I will tell him what we have had. We have had about three years during which the Road Haulage Executive were tackling the problem of getting together the whole of those hundreds of privately-owned interests in the long-distance road haulage business. They had just got what was the semblance of an integrated long-distance road haulage service, and now, in this Bill, hon. Gentlemen opposite are breaking up the whole thing. That is about the only vital thing they are doing. This is a break-up Bill; the whole of that integrated service is being broken up. If 919 hon. Gentlemen opposite think that is the way to get the utmost use out of our capital resources in transport, I believe precisely the opposite.
If we refer to the White Paper—I do not know whether this still stands, because the Minister says there have been a number of changes—but the original White Paper postulated the policy—I think this part stands—that the operation of this Measure would take more traffic from the railways and put it on to the roads. What an intelligent idea. Every day 15 people are killed on the roads and over 600 people injured, because there is already too much unsuitable traffic on the roads. If this Bill achieves its purpose, and puts more traffic from the rail on to the road, it will inevitably mean an increase in road casualties
§ Mr. Collick
That is what the Minister must face, because the Government have no simultaneous proposal to increase to any large extent capital development in regard to the roads. Anyone who knows anything at all about road transport knows perfectly well that quite a number of the casualties on the roads are due to congestion. If we increase that congestion we must increase the death rate on the roads.
I wish to give the Minister his answer regarding railways. I share completely the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that, so far as railway re-organisation goes, the Transport Act of 1947 would allow the Commission to do anything which is covered by this Bill. There was no need at all for the proposals in this Bill in that respect. With the existing powers of the Transport Commission, and the powers attached to the Minister, any necessary re-organisation which is necessary could be achieved without the scope provided by this Bill.
I consider it quite wrong for the House of Commons to pass a Bill which forces the Transport Commission to put up a scheme to the Minister and tell him in advance what they are not to do, because that is what it does. The Railway Executive will have to go, they are told, and so their scheme must make provision for that. No railwayman in the country has a 920 clear idea of what is to take the place of the Executive, and for this House to pass a Bill to abolish the Railway Executive without being clear about what is to take its place, seems to me a wrong way to do the job. Therefore, so far as the railway side of the Bill is concerned, the Measure is condemned on its own showing.
I wish to make a few comments about the Guillotine procedure. I have always been opposed to the use of the Guillotine since I first saw it working. We cannot say that we have had good debates on this Bill. We have not had good debates, because there was never scope to argue out the merits of the Clauses. Even the Minister, who is perhaps the most fluent speaker in the House, found himself cut short again and again by the operation of his own Guillotine.
How can we discuss a Bill with ramifications such as this Bill has when working under a limitation of this nature? I suggest that, far from this Bill achieving what the Minister has claimed for it today, it will be shown very clearly that. because it has not been properly discussed in the House of Commons, there is weakness after weakness in the Clauses which the Government think are completely safe from their point of view.
I hope that we shall never again see the Guillotine in operation unless there has been deliberate Parliamentary obstruction, and nobody dare suggest that with this Bill. The Minister cannot say that. The Guillotine Motion was passed before the start of the Committee stage. Clearly, hon. Gentlemen opposite, for some reason best known to themselves, thought that we on this side would merely object to the Bill and hamper it throughout by unreasoning criticism. Let it go on record that precisely the opposite has been our intention from the first. We had no desire to do other than argue the Bill on its merits and its demerits. Its demerits were so patently obvious that we took the view that there was more than enough reason to argue them. I hope that we shall never again see the use of the Guillotine in this Parliament.
I am sure that I am voicing the opinion of all on the back benches on this side of the House when I say that I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East has indicated to the 921 country what our attitude will be when we return to power. When the boys go in to buy up their transport units let them be warned in advance what will happen to them. That warning has been clearly given today and the country should take notice.
I am sure that when this Measure is put into operation its defects will be obvious. I pay this compliment to the Minister. I believe that he must have seen the weaknesses of the Bill as he has been getting more experience in transport problems. If it had been his Bill it would have been different. I am sure that his experiences during the next 12 months will teach him the unwisdom of much that is in this Measure. We shall have to go back sooner than most of us now believe to some other system which will face the problem of the integration of road and rail transport.
I believe that the future of transport in this country lies only along that line if we are to get the utmost use from our capital resources which we have invested in the industry. The sooner the party of which I am a Member is returned to power to put into operation our policy, the better it will be for the country as a whole.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
Throughout all the stages of this Bill I have listened attentively to the objections advanced against it by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. At each stage I hoped that we should hear a constructive alternative put forward by the Opposition as their own transport policy. As far as I can see, their arguments have been entirely destructive. They have advanced no alternative of their own.
§ Mr. Carr
That is a reply I am glad to hear from the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who speaks and writes with what we presume is the authority of the Socialist Party on these questions. He says that the 1947 Act is still their policy. If that is so, it is a policy which I cannot understand. Whereas I can understand hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite having severe disagreements about what is the right thing to do for transport, I fail completely to understand their apparent attitude. as 922 confirmed by the hon. Gentleman, that nothing should be done about it.
§ Mr. Davies
The 1947 Act was the policy on transport of the Labour Government of 1945–50. It was carried out. That Act still remains in operation. Obviously, lessons have been learned from it, but the principle of integration of all forms of transport under public ownership which is the basis of that Act remains our policy.
§ Mr. Manuel
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that there is sufficient provision in the 1947 Act to allow us to reorganise and re-equip the railways to meet needs as they arise? If he examines the provisions in detail, he will find that they meet our purpose.
§ Mr. Carr
I must make my argument in my own way. I shall come to that question later. I must not allow myself to be led astray. Of course, we agree that there is need for co-ordination and the economic use of our resources in this just as in any other industry. Our view is that we cannot get that integration by the sort of structure of organisation which exists in the present nationalised haulage arrangements. Not only minor. but fundamental changes are necessary.
In any industry of this complexity where flexibility is essential, where special new needs are growing up year by year, it is impossible to impose co-ordination from the top. We believe that co-ordination and integration can come only by having flexibility motivated by consumer choice. That is the principle behind this Bill. It is no good talking about integrated services. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk as if they existed at 923 the moment and that we were breaking them up, but they do not exist and one of the reasons for the uneconomic use of transport about which the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) spoke is the failure to achieve integration in the system which apparently he supports.
§ Mr. Collick
The hon. Gentleman must accept the suggestion that there is more integration of long-distance road haulage today than every before. This Bill definitely breaks it up. There is no question about that.
§ Mr. Carr
That is just bringing me to the first reason why I welcome this Bill. The hon. Member says that the nationalised organisation has produced these integrated services. It may have done for a limited type of traffic. I do not speak as an experienced transport operator, but I speak with practical experience as an industrial consumer of transport. I am speaking as somebody who works in a company which used a considerable amount of public haulage to transport its goods about the country. What we have found since nationalisation is that the sort of specialised service which we need for our goods—and the company I am referring to is not exceptional—has broken down.
§ Mr. Carr
In the five years since nationalisation the company for which I work has been forced to treble the number of its C licence vehicles. A great deal of the work which we used to do by public hauliers can no longer be done efficiently under the existing organisation. A company like the one to which I am referring does not buy additional lorries for fun. I have stated during the earlier stages of this Bill that we do not want to use our scarce and limited capital resources on lorries. What we want to spend them on is better productive machinery.
We are not transport operators; we are manufacturers. We want to devote the maximum amount of our time and energy to manufacturing, and the minimum amount of our time, energy and capital to transport activities. We have only trebled our C licence vehicles because we could not get the service we used to have before nationalisation.
§ Mr. Mellish
Would the hon. Gentleman illustrate what type of work his firm wants done by the haulage people? Let us be clear about this. What is the difficulty about it?
§ Mr. Carr
If the House wishes, I will certainly go into details of one division of this company. When I have quoted one type of manufacture carried on by this company perhaps the House will excuse me from going into four or five other divisions of the company where the same arguments apply.
Among the things that my company make are collapsible metal tubes, the sort of tubes into which toothpaste is put. These tubes require careful handling and careful transport. Before nationalisation, we had a number of our own C licence vehicles serving the limited areas of the country where we had a large concentration of customers, and where it was economic to use our own transport. But there were large areas of the country, like Manchester, Nottingham, and Leeds, which it was not economic for us to operate ourselves, and we transported our goods to those areas by the services of privately-owned public hauliers.
To do this work we had a small number of hauliers, mostly two or three local firms round our works in North London and, of course, one or two bigger ones. They always sent to us the same group of drivers and the same sort of lorries. Those drivers got to know our trade and our customers as much as our own drivers did. The boxes with these tubes were loaded from our own loading banks in our works by these drivers on to the lorries and taken from there, without transhipment, to our customers. They were all delivered satisfactorily.
What happened after nationalisation? We got a lot of different lorries. Sometimes they were open lorries, entirely unsuitable for our goods, and instead of going straight from our loading bank to our customers' loading bank, the goods were taken to a depot and transhipped 925 by people who were no longer used to handling them and no longer appreciated the necessity for care. By the time they arrived at our customers' works a large percentage of these tubes, the open ends of which are rather delicate and have very thin metal walls, were buckled and broken and would not go into the automatic filling machines which are used by people to fill these tubes.
I am not exaggerating or making up this story in any way. It was only because of the complaints received from our customers all over the country and because of the very dramatic increase in returns which we had to accept from our customers that we were forced to increase the number of our C licence vehicles.
§ Mr. Carr
That is between 1948 and 1952. Hon. Members opposite may say that things have improved since, but for my company that is now beyond testing because in the interim period we were compelled to build up our own vehicles and do this work ourselves. What I am saying here about a particular case applies, I know, to a large number of other companies, who have also expanded their C licences. I believe that the day will come under this Bill when, once more, we will have a chance to employ our own private hauliers whom we know and who will develop their work to meet our special needs, as they did in the past. But I am not going to say that straight away we will sell our C licence vehicles. However, when the transport manager of our company asks for future capital allocations for transport we will examine more critically the whole issue of C licence vehicles and if we can once more get the service we used to have when public transport was privately owned we will certainly reduce the size of our C licence fleet.
I know from my own experience in industry and also from what I have learned of other companies that the basic reason behind the tremendous upsurge in the number of C licence vehicles is due entirely to this poor service and I agree with the hon. Member for Birkenhead that that represents an uneconomic state of affairs and contributes to overcrowd- 926 ing on the roads. But under nationalisation the only way to get over that uneconomic development is by nationalising C licence vehicles. That is one of the things about which we are anxious to hear from hon. Members opposite. Is the nationalisation of C licences once more the policy of the Opposition? I hope that we shall have a clear statement on that.
§ Mr. Collick
The House appreciates the honest way in which the hon. Member dealt with the query put to him, but what puzzles me is what he did about it, and perhaps he will tell us. We all recognise that there were certain teething troubles when the organisation was getting under way, but what we would be interested to know is whether the particular complaint to which the hon. Member referred was pointed out to the Road Haulage Executive, and in what way the Executive offered to meet it.
§ Mr. Carr
We made complaints in the earlier stages, but that is some years ago. I am not blaming the individual drivers who caused this damage, but what I do submit to hon. Gentlemen is that by its very nature, this huge centralised organisation, although it may be able to provide certain trunk services efficiently, cannot meet the specialised needs of many industrial companies in the way that the individual small hauliers, growing up in a locality, could meet them. That was because these small hauliers grew up as there was one specialist need to meet and that was the reason they came into being.
One of the hauliers I have in mind started as a greengrocer with a delivery van. Then he began to do a bit of haulage work, and largely through the business which one company was able to give him he built up a specialised service and developed it to a considerable size. It was these special cases which called forth these special services. However well the nationalised road haulage organisation is run, it cannot meet these special needs which industry must have met.
Therefore, I welcome this Bill because it offers to me, as an industrial consumer of transport, and to thousands of others throughout the country, the hope once more of being able to have special needs met without the necessity of having to buy C licence vehicles to meet them. 927 Therefore, I suggest that it will enable us to make a more economic use of our capital resources in transport.
I fear that I have spent rather longer on that section of what I want to say than I meant to do. but I hope the House will forgive me and realise that I was, at least, stimulated by hon. Gentleman opposite into doing so. I should now like to say something about one other aspect of this Bill which I particularly welcome, and that is the decentralisation which is envisaged in the organisation of the railways I would say to hon. Gentlemen opposite with complete sincerity that I think their fears on this subject are completely groundless. We on this side, as well as other hon. Members, recognise that the centralisation of the last few years has brought some very definite benefits, but it is not necessary to throw them away in order to decentralise the management of the railways in the way in which my hon. Friends and I have in mind.
I remember that, at one stage of the Bill, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said that the whole tendency in all industry, both in this country and in the United States, was towards centralisation, and, by implication, that to reverse the process was to go against the whole trend of modern industrial development. It may be true that the trend has been towards centralisation. It may be true that many advantages do come from centralisation, but, if these two things are true, it is also true that, more and more, industry is finding that centralisation has serious drawbacks as well as advantages. More and more, we are finding that we do not achieve in practice all the advantages which appear in theory. More and more, we are finding that a concentration of management produces losses in efficiency and in-human relationships which, in many cases, outweigh the advantages.
I suggest that the whole trend of the latest developments in industrial structure, the whole trend of the findings of research into management, is now on the side of moving back from the process of centralisation which went on before. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about I.C.I.?"] If hon. Gentlemen will be patient, they will find that that company illustrates the 928 very point that I want to make. In I.C.I., there is a certain concentration and centralisation of broad policy, but there is also the maximum local autonomy of management of individual units within I.C.I. that could possibly be imagined. The outstanding point about the organisation of I.C.I., it seems to me—and I am not in that company, but I have experience of dealing with it, both as a consumer and in selling products to it—is the enormous amount of autonomy which is given to the local units within it.
The point I am trying to make is that, as regards the railway structure, we want the central body or board of directors, laying down general policy, as we see in the case of I.C.I.. and also the maximum devolution of autonomy to regional levels, and that is what this Bill is doing. Anybody who has any experience of running an industry comprising a number of units within a company will know that to try to co-ordinate along parallel functional lines is absolutely fatal from the point of view of efficient organisation. We must devolve responsibility to managements. and have the functional lines spreading out from the general managers of each section. That is really the only efficient way of organising that sort of structure.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
I presume that the argument which the hon. Gentleman has latterly put forward refers particularly to the railway organisation. If it is valid in regard to the railways—and I, personally, see no reason why such devolution of administration cannot be effective under a co-ordinated national structure—why does he rule out its validity in the field of road transport?
§ Mr. Carr
There is a fundamental difference between the railways and road transport, and that is the reason why a different sort of structure of management, ownership and organisation is appropriate to the two cases.
What this Bill does is to put the railways in a far more competitive position than ever before, and, if they are to take advantage of that position, the urgent 929 need is to mould the organisation of the railways to make them commercially aggressive to meet that competition in increased efficiency and take advantage of that opportunity.
I suggest that that is why the powers of the regions must be sufficient for them to have the maximum autonomy in getting and moving transport, and that that need is not consistent with the present functionalised organisation. Decentralisation should come while retaining the advantages of centralisation which we have had in the past. If we have a national board supervising general policy, and the maximum devolution on non-functional lines through the regions, and, maybe, special co-ordinating bodies for technical standardisation, planning, and so forth, as in the case I.C.I., of we should give the consumer the advantages of centralisation and standardisation, plus the advantages of real decentralisation of power and authority in management, and that is the basis on which the railways must proceed if they are to render more efficient services to the consumers of this country.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am sorry to interrupt again, but would not the hon. Gentleman agree that all the points which he has dealt with about the railways could be covered under the Transport Act, 1947, and that this Bill is not at all necessary for any of the functions about which he has spoken in that connection?
§ Mr. Carr
I think my right hon. Friend has said—though I stand to be corrected on this point—that we on this side feel that it may be possible under the 1947 Act, but that we regard this matter as so important and so vital to the development of transport that it is essential to see that it does happen, and that it is, therefore, essential to put it into the Bill.
I should like now to move on to my third point, in which I am personally interested and which is also of immense importance. It concerns the welfare of those who work in the industry, because, although, as we believe, the reason for the existence of an industry is, in the first place, to serve the consumers, we also believe that consumers' interests cannot be served regardless of the conditions of the workers in the industry.
A lot of objection from the Opposition to this Bill has been based on the grounds of the interests of those who work in the 930 transport industry, and I realise that some genuine doubts have been put forward, based on experience in past years which may not have been as satisfactory as it should have been. But there has been a great deal of exaggeration. I admit quite freely that there were had employers, but there were probably many more good employers than there were bad. Some hon. Members with experience have genuine doubts on this matter, however.
In this industry as in every other industry enormous strides have been and still are being made in the field of human relations. It is nonsense to say that because there were bad conditions in the transport industry or in any other industry 20 or 30 years ago the same conditions will return if we put transport back into private ownership. I do not care what industry we take: industrial relations and working conditions have improved steadily and consistently, although perhaps much more in some industries than in others. I hope and believe that the process will continue. It will be a great criticism if in another 20 years we cannot look back upon further progress upon those lines.
With both the power of the trade unions and the outlook of employers, as they are today, I think that the fears about terrible working conditions are unjustified. Responsible trade union leaders admit that most employers are anxious to provide decent conditions of service for their workers. To that we must add the power which the Minister will have of supervising working and operating conditions.
Let us look for a moment, once again, at some of the employment figures in road haulage work. The labour turnover—I think we have had this figure before but I must trouble the House with it again—in British Road Services last year was, in round figures, according to their report, about 30 per cent., means that 30 per cent. of the workers left and had to be replaced. That is a high labour turnover by any standard.
§ Mr. Carr
I cannot give way at the moment.
That turnover does not indicate to me such wonderful conditions of employment under the nationalised road service. The number of lorries in the nationalised 931 service compared with the number in unnationalised service is such that that labour turnover figure is still more remarkable. There are approximately a million lorries in this country, but only 40,000 of them are nationalised. If the service in the nationalised industry was so much better than in private industry, as some hon. Members would have us believe, the pressure to get into the wonderful nationalised service would be terrific.
People are driving one million lorries in this country and if the conditions of service of those driving 40,000 of them were so much better, the queue to get into the nationalised service would be enormous. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is."] The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) tells me that there is a queue. There may be a queue to get in, but there is also a queue to get out. I am not going as far as arguing that nationalised conditions are bad. I am saying that the labour turnover figures show that conditions cannot be so exceptionally good or they would not be so disproportionate.
§ Mr. Sparks
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way on this important point. Surely he must understand that 12 months ago last October his party declared in their election propaganda that they were going to disband the road haulage service. Therefore, employees of the Road Haulage Executive naturally wanted to look after themselves and get other jobs. That will explain the high labour turnover last year as due very largely to that fact.
§ Mr. Carr
I have not the figures available, but I am almost certain that similar labour turnover figures have been shown year by year. If the hon. Member looks these up I think he will find that the picture was roughly the same and that what happened last year does not account for the figures.
Because of my interest in the welfare of transport workers I welcome very much what was said by my right hon. Friend earlier about security of pension rights to employees. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have been worried about what might happen, and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has been able to make that announcement today.
932 Finally I welcome the Bill because it seems to offer a new point of departure in the transport industry, and in the right direction. It applies to the transport industry certain basic principles which we on this side of the House hold in relation to industry. The first is the principle of planning and integration, about which we have heard so much, and which we think is best produced by the action of consumers choosing wherever possible among different services at competitive prices based on real costs. That is the only effective method of planning and co-ordination. However clever a man in Whitehall may be, he does not know conditions in the industry better than the people who are using its services. The second principle is that efficiency is best served by a competitive system, wherever that can be employed. I recognise completely that these principles divide us from the Socialist Party and that equally strong principles are held by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
We have a third principle in this Bill, which separates us from the Liberal Party. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think there is no alternative between their system of rigid control by public ownership and the system of complete private enterprise. We say that there is a middle course, and, therefore, we have embodied in the Bill a third principle which, while encouraging competition, recognises the duty of the Government to control and order it. The Government, in this industry and in other industries, have the duty both to stimulate competition and to limit it where necessary.
There, are examples of both these processes in this Bill. The increase of competition by putting road haulage back to private enterprise and by the freedom which is being granted to the railway, is stimulating competition. On the other hand, unlike the Liberals, we wish to control competition and to prevent an anarchic position such as may have existed in the past. We do that by the licensing system. Therefore, by this process of stimulation and control we try to put into practice the middle way between rigid control and economic laissez faire.
We believe that those are the right principles on which to go forward. They offer the way of combining economic efficiency and flexibility in industry with 933 continuing progress towards social justice, equal opportunity and fair working conditions. The lines which we have laid down in the Bill represent the industrial policy of the party on this side of the House. We believe that by putting them into practice we shall produce in this country a transport system which will become gradually more efficient over the years and will play its part in increasing efficiency over the whole of our industrial output, on which the standards of life and employment of our people depend.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
It will have been obvious to the House that the speech of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) was very sincerely delivered and that his views are very honestly held, but it will have been also clear that, as the hon. Member said in his peroration, certain principles divide the House on which obviously we may never get together. They are principles which eventually will result in the Tory Party being extinguished.
We believe that the fate of our basic industries should not be a matter for party politics. The hon. Member failed to mention in his speech that what we did in 1947 was not merely to put our ideology into practice but to enact something which Royal Commissions had previously suggested should be done. Furthermore, no Member of this House would say that conditions in road transport before the war were suitable. Yet this Bill proposes to put the industry back to where it was in those very days.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, it is typical of a Tory that, instead of looking forward, the hon. Member for Mitcham has admitted that he wants to see a return to the days before the war. He has said, "That is what I want road transport to be. It would suit me as an industrial consumer." He is not concerned very much as to how that will come about, provided his own firm obtain the satisfaction which they used to have before the war and which was provided for them at great cost indeed by the industry in those days.
The hon. Member spoke about his own experience. I want to put to him another example of which I have had experience. He talked about his firm experiencing 934 great difficulties with British Road Services. I suppose that my constituency is one of the most important in the field of transport in London because it is situated in dockland and there is a large number of transport firms in the area. When the 1947 Act came into operation. 68 firms were taken over in that district and were welded into two groups. Industrialists in the area write to me about all sorts of problems. I get those problems from the Chamber of Commerce, and if I find there is a fair case I take the matter up.
I give the hon. Member for Mitcham my word of honour that I have never had a single complaint from any consumer in my area throughout the whole of the period during which British Road Services have been in being. I have never been asked by any firm which used British Road Services to take up an individual complaint of bad deliveries. I have had many messages from firms in the area which stated how surprised and delighted they were with the quality of service given to them. They have said that today they are being given a better service in many instances than they ever had under private enterprise.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the depots and seeing how the transport service works. Before he visited a single depot the Minister of Transport produced a White Paper and a Bill to destroy this structure. Since then the right hon. Gentleman has visited these depots and I am sure that, as a result, he cannot disagree with me that they are doing a magnificent job. The tragedy of this Bill is that it has appeared when these depots are only just getting over their teething troubles, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East said. I have said that 68 firms were taken over in my area. Many mistakes, of course, must have been made in the early days. Today, however, the customer is being served with a better vehicle and the driver receives better wages and enjoys better working conditions.
I want to declare my own interest in this matter in the sense that I am speaking on behalf of the Transport and General Workers' Union. That Union has a great interest in this Bill and its members have declared their point of view to the Minister in unmistakable terms. We in the union have had a difficult task. We have been sneered at and jeered at 935 because there has not been more agitation against this Bill. But the Minister owes a personal debt to the leaders of the trade union movement in this country for the fact that up to this stage they have been able to restrain their members from taking action against the Government on this Bill.
The trade union leaders have had to explain to the membership that this Government were given a mandate and had said that they would introduce the Bill. The trade union leaders have argued that in a democracy the right procedure is for the Government to introduce the Bill and for the unions to negotiate through the Opposition and to try to secure the best out of the Bill and to warn the Government of the day of the consequences, but that to take direct action during the passage of the Bill would be quite undemocratic.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The hon. Member is failing to distinguish between direct and industrial action on the one hand and legitimate political agitation and public expression of opinion on the other. It is to the absence, or the small volume, of the latter that hon. Members on this side of the House have drawn attention.
§ Mr. Mellish
We have had a great deal of that argument from that side of the House, but I do not think that hon. Members opposite are qualified to express an opinion. Have they called any meetings?
§ Mr. Mellish
I hope that we shall not go into this question very much. I should have thought that there were more important matters to discuss, but if hon. Members opposite want the Central Lobby crowded with every lorry driver in London. that can be easily arranged. If that would convince the Minister that this is a rotten Bill, the Transport and General Workers' Union would provide him with a display the like of which he has never seen before.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is it not a fact—it certainly is in the Midlands—that every attempt made by hon. Members opposite to call these so-called protest meetings 936 has resulted in a complete flop and an empty hall? In Kidderminster a meeting could not be got together, and in the end those concerned gave up the ghost and admitted that the effort was a failure.
§ Mr. Mellish
I cannot speak about the Midlands. My hon. Friends from the Midlands will no doubt deal with the position there. But I would draw attention to one meeting which packed the Albert Hall and during which there were thousands of people outside who could not be accommodated. There were demonstrations by lorry drivers and it was a tremendous meeting. I wish that the hon. Member for Kidderminster had been there. At that meeting Mr. Arthur Deakin, the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said on behalf of his people:Never in the whole of my long industrial experience have I seen evidence of such bitterness amongst the men on the job.The hon. Member for Kidderminster is noted in this House for exaggeration on almost every subject and I would rather take the General Secretary's word than his. The men on the job do feel unhappy about this Bill.
When the Bill was first formulated the Liberal Party—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where are they?"] Yes, I notice that they are absent from the Third Reading debate, as indeed they are from every important debate in this House—this great Liberal Party which one day is going to be the Government. The Liberal Party said that they thought the time had come when an inquiry should be held into the functioning of the British Transport Commission. I do not think that anybody on this side of the House would have objected to that inquiry.
We never declared that by the introduction of the Act of 1947 we should solve every transport problem. What we did was to introduce into the Act certain principles by which we stand today. We believe that the principle of the public ownership of a basic industry like transport is right. I do not doubt the sincerity of the hon. Member for Mitcham, and it may well be that in certain instances there ought to be some tightening up in certain depots which are not being run as efficiently as they could be. However, the industry is in a difficult period. This 937 nationalised industry has only been in existence for a few years, and I think that before we criticise it we ought to give it a chance to function properly.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Member for Kidderminster had a great deal to say about C licences. The vast bulk of these relate to milk floats and that sort of thing.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Yes; a large number of them require small delivery vans and have increased the numbers of their vans, but the great bulk of increases have taken place through firms buying lorries with C licences with which to travel long distances because of the incompetence of British Road Services.
§ Mr. Mellish
I do not accept the figures of the hon. Gentleman. I agree that there has been an increase in milk floats and that sort of vehicle, but a large number of C licences were taken out before the 1947 Act came into being.
What is this Bill going to do? That is the problem which faces us. What good will it do to the transport industry? Will it help integration in any way? It is a tragedy that the policy of integration has not been given a chance to work properly. In 1950 the British Transport Commission issued statements of policy on the integration of freight services, and in the latter part of 1951 the Railway and Road 938 Haulage Executives submitted a joint report containing proposals relating to the collection and delivery services of the two Executives. The implementation of these proposals would have been the first major step towards integration. The Minister's intention to de-nationalise the industry has meant that these reports, upon which a considerable amount of work has been done between 1947 and 1950, have been thrown aside because when these reports were about to be implemented this rotten Government came into power and all that work has gone by the board.
I say to the hon. Member for Mitcham. we want something real and not something in theory. The men who work for the Road Haulage Executive are today enjoying educational and training facilities. An apprenticeship scheme for boys was set up in 1950. Contact has been made with the various youth employment officers, and there is a considerable number of apprentices on these courses. The courses were designed to last for five years and they have been of great assistance. Owing to the threat of de-nationalisation the scheme has been temporarily closed.
The Executive had arranged for any member of the staff to attend courses in shorthand, typing, accountancy, management, engineering and so on, and employees were given time off from work to attend classes. All fees are payable by the Executive. Staff who are not able to attend, such as long-distance drivers, are given correspondence courses. I do not suppose the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) realises that there have been these training-within-industry courses from which the workers have been benefiting.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I was merely thinking that much of this had added to the financially top-heavy structure of British Road Services.
§ Mr. Mellish
Every driver in the country will know what the noble Lord thinks of these things. A staff college has been started at Watford and caters for all sections of the administrative and supervisory grades. They have started a cadet scheme designed to train suitable candidates in all branches of transport work. After two years' training they will be 939 capable of taking senior positions in the administrative section. In other words, there is a chance to rise from the bottom to the top. Among the 30 successful candidates last year, there were five lorry drivers.
§ Mr. Mellish
I will continue with my point and then I will deal with the hon. Member's interruption. Another thing which the Road Haulage Executive are doing is to introduce sick pay. The tragedy of this Bill is this. They were considering a pension scheme. The noble Lord may be interested to know that the average worker thinks it is important that he should be able to get a decent pension when he stops working. This was not practicable for transport men, generally speaking, in private employment, not because of bad employers, but because they did not employ enough people to make it possible to operate a pension scheme. This project has now been abandoned because of the Bill. I could go on giving these instances. There have been improvements in canteens, and sports and social clubs have been inaugurated.
All that has gone because of this Bill. The Minister has thrown it away. I say to him, on behalf of the lorry drivers of the country, that this is an action which they will not forget. There is no justification for this Bill. If the Minister wanted to get credit for his party on the question of transport, he should have said when he came into office "We are going to investigate how the British Transport Commission works." After all, it is the British Transport Commission; it is not the Labour Party Transport Commission; it is owned by Britain and by the British people. It is up to the Minister to make it work.
He should have set up an inquiry instead of introducing a White Paper and 940 a Bill which is not acceptable to the vast majority of people in the country. He is smashing up this industry because he hates it politically. He had not the guts to do it with the railways or the mines, but he is doing it with this industry because it is a profit-making section, so that he may give it back to the people who will benefit thereby. This section of the industry is making a profit. It made £3 million last year, and the Government are going to sell it back.
We have challenged the Minister before. He is giving this section back to his friends. We have asked him to publish a balance sheet to prove that his party did not get a rake-off from these people during the election campaign. He has never done so. We have every right to assume that this Bill is being pressed through not from any desire to help transport but to help the friends of the Conservative Party.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
; Notwithstanding the complaints of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) about the restrictions of the debates on the Bill, I do not propose to detain the House long because every argument that has been put forward today has already been put forward many times during the previous 12 days during which this Bill has been debated.
The one point to which I want to refer was implied in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in opening the Second Reading debate. It is the fact—which has not since been sufficiently taken into account—that not only is this Bill principally a railway Bill but one which introduces an entirely new element into railway law and is a landmark in railway history, if one considers the cumulative effect of Clauses 1, 3, 14, 16 and 19. Of course this is a railway Bill, because the British Transport Commission is mostly a railway undertaking. This is certainly not a de-nationalisation Bill because it does not propose to de-nationalise the railways, which are the principal part of the British Transport Commission.
Clause 14 proposes only to reorganise the railways. Clauses 1 and 3 propose only to de-nationalise a portion of that very small part of the road haulage industry which is all that has ever been nationalised. As for Clause 16, all it 941 does is to empower the Minister to direct the sale of not more than half the shares in that minority of road passenger services forming only 21 per cent. of the 'bus services outside London, where the control of the shares is at present held by the British Transport Commission.
It would put the British Transport Commission, in respect of that small section of the road passenger industry, in the same position as they are in regard to that other section forming 15 per cent. of the road passenger industry, in which the British Transport Commission at present operate in partnership with private enterprise.
The Bill is principally concerned with the railways, and it is doing something quite new in that it is freeing competition not only in the road section of the industry but on the railway side also. It is freeing it in a way that it has never been freed for the last 100 years. One hon. Member opposite earlier on replied to an intervention of mine by pointing out that I have been a railway solicitor. Possibly he thought that railway solicitors did not know anything about railways; but railway solicitors probably have a better picture of what happens on the railways than anybody in the operating departments, for it is the function of a railway solicitor to come in contact with all operating departments and not merely one.
The one thing in this Bill which appeals to me as a former railway solicitor is the vast importance of Clause 19. One can see the difference between this Bill and the situation existing before the war if one studies for a moment the history of transport during the last 100 years. In the very early days railways were controlled only by Private Acts of Parliament; but from the forties of the last century onwards they were rigorously restricted by Public General Acts, such as the Railway Clauses (Consolidation) Act, 1845, and the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1854. From then until about 1919 the railways had a monopoly of traffic, although they were in private hands, but they were very rigorously restricted by Public Acts of Parliament as to their activities.
From 1919 to 1930 they ceased to be a monopoly because they were subjected to increasing competition on the roads. That competition was not controlled in 942 any way; but with the passing of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, that situation aItered. This is a point about which hon. Members opposite seem to be constantly confused. They keep talking about this Bill "going back to pre-war days." They get muddled up about that. They confuse what happened before 1930 with what happened after 1930—because the conditions of transport between 1919 and 1930 were entirely different from the conditions which persisted between 1930 and 1933 and the outbreak of the war.
Before 1930 there was no control of the roads. After 1930 there was control of passenger vehicles on the roads, and after 1933 there was also control of goods vehicles on the roads; but in 1947, when hon. Members opposite introduced their Bill, they attempted to do something which was quite impossible. They tried to integrate the railway service with a minority of the services—passengers and goods—on the roads. They may have intended to produce a properly integrated service of public inland transport, as they said in Section 3 of that Act; but during the Committee stage they abandoned the attempt to nationalise the C licence holders. After that, the idea was dropped. Their own Act was dead and they knew it.
Ever since then it has been nonsense for them to talk of integration. They did produce some sort of system of transport but it was not integration and it could never be, unless hon. Members opposite are prepared to go back on their former decision not to nationalise C licence holders and go forward with the nationalisation of all the 'bus services and not merely rely on being able to buy up a few here and there. Unless they are prepared to do that, integration cannot be achieved.
We have the entirely anomalous position of the railways, with a few services attached to them. That was said to be integration, and for the benefit of this rather top-heavy, unwieldy and illogical conglomeration of transport all kinds of restrictions were put upon private road hauliers and attempts were made to start area schemes for 'buses, and so on. It was obviously not going to work. Something would have to be done about the 1947 Act. It is no use for hon. Members opposite to say they were content to let 943 the 1947 Act stay as it was; that could not have been done. Some variation would have been necessary.
This Bill proposes that we should improve the transport services by having a greater measure of competition. Several hon. Members opposite have used the old phrases about integration. Those phrases were not their invention; they never came from the Labour Party or from Transport House. They were all propaganda phrases put out by the railway companies in connection with their "square deal" campaign many years before the war, as part of the propaganda in favour of further restrictions on the roads when the railway companies found that they could not get what we are going to give them—the repeal of the ancient statutes referred to in Clause 19.
In their "square deal" campaign the railways first asked to be freed from restrictions. When they found that they could not get that, they switched over their propaganda and asked for some restrictions to be placed on road haulage. All those phrases such as "taking the cream of the traffic" and "wasteful road competition" were invented by the propagandists at that time, as part of the "square deal" campaign. They were invented by professional advertisers in favour of the scheme which was then being put forward. I have always thought they were of doubtful value; even before the war I was doubtful about them. But the situation now is certainly nothing like it was before the war.
Then we were in a slump period, and we may have had too much transport, but I contradicted an hon. Member earlier today when he said that we had too much transport at the present time because it is not true now. Here we are in 1953 with the same railways and with very much the same roads as we had in 1938. There has been hardly any capital development at all on the roads, except for a few roundabouts and a few extra by-passes here and there, and practically no development on the railways, in spite of an increased population and increased productivity. How can it be said that we are in the same position today as before the war? We are not. There must be a bigger demand for transport now than there was then.
944 If there is a bigger demand and if that demand is merely restricted by price, then the proper way to cut down the price is to have a little more successful competition and a little more freedom between the two types of transport. The success or otherwise of this Bill will depend very largely on what use the British Transport Commission makes of Clauses 14 and 19. Clause 14 deals with reorganisation, and it has been said that most of the re-organisation contemplated could have been carried out under the 1947 Act.
That may be true, but this high-lights the necessity for reorganisation, for something being done about it soon, and for the abolition of a lot of illogical nonsense which has crept in since the 1947 Act was passed, such as the Hotels Executive which controls not only hotels but dining-cars and refreshment-rooms so that people who operate the trains have no control over the dining-cars on those trains. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense; it is perfectly true. They are under a separate Executive.
§ Mr. Lindgren
We make a lot of allowance for the hon. Gentleman, who was only a solicitor on the Great Western, but surely he knows that the making up of the trains is really the responsibility of the district superintendent and the train control staff. The hotel services meet the requirements of those compiling the trains.
§ Mr. Wilson
The railway regions have no say concerning whether a railway dining-car shall be on a particular train at a particular time.
§ Mr. Wilson
They have no control over that. The staffs on the dining-cars are the servants of the Executive.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The staffs on the dining-cars are the servants of the Executive, but the hon. Gentleman said that those making arrangements for the trains had no control over which trains had dining-cars and which had not. It is a fact that those responsible for making up the trains determine what trains shall have dining-cars on them, and call on the Hotels Executive to provide them.
§ Mr. Wilson
It is illogical that they should be under separate executives. Incidentally, I hope that in future the 945 regions will be called railways. I cannot understand why they were called regions. I suppose the idea crept in that all transport was one. That was a popular idea at one time, but it is sheer casuistry to say so. The problems of road transport are quite distinct from those of rail transport. Everyone knows what is meant by railway and road, so why cannot a railway running between two terminal points be called a railway instead of a region?
I also hope that the British Transport Commission will make intelligent use of Clause 19, because on that depends very largely the success or otherwise of this Bill. We have had an example very recently of the result of competition between rail and road and how a railway can fight back in the introduction of the Starlight Express between Glasgow and London. That particular development may have been unfortunately timed, for some people believe that the Starlight Express ought to have been introduced months before. We in Cornwall have certainly been asking for something of that sort for quite a time now. We have been asking for a period ticket at a cheaper rate in the off season between holiday resorts on the North Coast such as Perranporth and Newquay and Paddington. There is no doubt that Clause 19 will enable this principle of fighting back to be carried out to a greater extent than is possible under the existing law. I hope that the British Transport Commission will make the best possible use of that Clause.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Will the hon. Gentleman impress upon his Minister not only that Clause 19 is needed, but also adequate rolling stock, locomotive power and staff, and that it is, in fact, the shortages that have been enjoined upon the railways by successive Governments that have prevented them from developing these services in the past, and that now that they are to be freed they must have more capital investment?
§ Mr. Wilson
I agree that it might be to the advantage of the railways to have more capital development than at present, and I do not think any railwayman would dispute that, but Clause 19 should be a great help.
Finally, one word about Clause 16. I cannot understand why this Clause engendered such a lot of heat when it was debated. It seems to me merely to 946 embody the extension of a principle already tested in practice and which has ample railway precedent, that is, the partnership between a railway concern and a private enterprise concern running 'buses. It seems to me that its extension would be a very typical British compromise between the arguments in favour of private enterprise and those in favour of nationalisation.
There are a number of 'bus companies at the present time in which that partnership exists and which seem to be working quite well. Under such an arrangement it is possible to get the advantage of the independence and initiative of private enterprise and, at the same time, sufficient control by the railway-appointed directors—in this case those appointed by the British Transport Commission—over what is happening. That seems to be a very reasonable compromise and one which the Minister might wish to extend. Far from objecting to such an arrangement, I should have thought that Parliament might have considered extending it to the transport companies envisaged in Clause 4 of the Bill.
I am sure that this Bill is a landmark in railway history and will bring about a very valuable improvement from the point of view of traders, the travelling public and those who work in the industry if, as I anticipate, it leads to a revival of transport and to the expansion of the industry both by road and rail.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
This Bill has now come to its Third Reading and at long last the Minister has made a statement on the Scottish position. We waited nearly 18 months to hear the details of this statement, and I can only say, as the French say, that the more it changes the more it is the same thing, because this statement today, so far as I can see, is a re-statement of the collection of statements that have been made on earlier occasions and explains no further what has been explained in the past; and we are no further forward from the point of view of understanding what is to happen in Scotland when this Bill becomes law.
The Minister said that over a long time there had been a lot of discussion and that no major issue had failed to be discussed. I want to say quite definitely that there has been no discussion of the 947 Scottish problem of transport. Not one Conservative Member has had the time or the inclination to make a contribution in regard to this question of Scottish transport in the whole of the proceedings on the Bill, and, so far as I am concerned, all that I have been able to do is to put forward the problems facing Scotland as I see them and ask for information from the Minister. So far I have had no information. Neither has the Scottish Press felt that it was being informed as to what was to happen. Today the new statement does not take us very much farther.
The Minister intimated that he is going to set up a Scottish Transport Council. No one can say what this Council is to do. Is it to have any power? We are told it is not to have any power. It is to co-ordinate publicly-owned transport. That is supposed to be a virtue, but then, one of the most important features of transport is being taken out of the Bill entirely and out with the control of the Scottish Transport Council. Therefore, the virtue of control and co-ordination which is being extolled in the formation of this Council is automatically destroyed by the Bill taking this out of public control. The Bill makes no provision at all for any publicly-owned road haulage in Scotland except that connected with the railways. All other transport is to be put up for sale, and there is no guarantee in the Bill that all the transport may not be sold outwith Scotland.
While the Minister has referred us to certain parts of the Bill, it seems to me that these give no solid guarantee at all. We are left to the good will of the Road Haulage Disposal Board and the Transport Commission, and it is entirely a matter for them to decide whether they take all the road transport out of Scotland, or a very large portion of it. Therefore, we have no guarantee that after this Bill has passed there will be provision in Scotland for transport throughout all the areas where transport is running today.
The Minister says that this is to be ensured by the licensing procedure. I cannot understand that, I should like to have some explanation of it. Any widening of the licensing procedure is purely negative. A licence can be refused, but there is no power given to compel people to apply for licences in the non-economic 948 parts of the country, and therefore there is the possibility that the Highlands may be denuded of transport altogether, or else, as the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) said, they will be provided with transport only at rates which no one in the Highlands can afford to pay.
The hon. Member suggested that transport in the Highlands must be put on an economic basis. Therefore, the solution for the Highlands, if there is to be no guarantee of transport there, must be a public authority, if economic rates are to be charged. Moreover, if these vehicles run only when it is economic, any type of regular service will certainly depart altogether from the Highlands. To the extent that this criterion of economic rates is applied, it will mean that there will be more de-population of the Highlands and many of the country areas in this land, and I can only say that, from the public point of view, that will be a tragedy.
The purpose of the Bill, we are told, is to get competition to get prices down. That can be done only by putting more vehicles on the roads, because we cannot have competition unless there are surplus vehicles. We are going to have cheaper rates by breaking the law, because all the experience of private enterprise shows that before nationalisation cheap rates were obtained by overrunning, over-loading, and under-maintaining the lorries, and creating danger on the roads. Unless the Minister can show us where the economies are to come from, we must assume that all of them are to come from this unwise process of exhausting the lorries, overloading them, and creating danger on the roads, which seems to me to conflict entirely with the Minister's duty in other respects.
I say—and I have the Scottish Press behind me, because they have heard the statement that the Minister has made—that the situation is still unsatisfactory. No one can condemn the machinery because no one knows how it will work. Nobody knows what the Minister is going to do. Nobody knows what this machinery is going to do. Who is to ensure that this body meets? Is it to be a council on paper only, or is it to be a council with the duty to meet at regular intervals and to supervise and co-ordinate what is going on in Scotland? What power is it to 949 have to deal with co-ordination? Lastly, what power will it have to deal with private enterprise vehicles which are entirely outwith its control?
It appears to me that the Minister must agree that, by breaking off the road vehicles, he has destroyed any hopes of success in integrating and co-ordinating transport in Scotland. It is realised in Scotland that it is only by a national network of services, such as we have, that we can have good service and real economy in transport. The Minister has not told us what will happen.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to me. He asked me who is to see that this new body meets, and questions of that kind. It is our intention, of course, to see that there are appointed to that body people who would not for a moment consider serving on it if it did not get effective powers of a co-ordinating character. They would meet regularly. Naturally, the arrangements for their meetings would have to be in their own hands. Of course, we have every intention of seeing that the people who are appointed are such that they would not consent to serve on a body which was hopelessly ineffective, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests this one is.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman knows, as is known to me and to others who have been Ministers in Scotland on earlier occasions, that we have had lots of experience with committees. No country in the world has had more committees than Scotland. Many of these have remained on paper. This body is another authority, another of the bodies within Scotland, for co-ordination. I take it that the Council is to make recommendations to parent authorities in London and suggest that this or that might be done. We want to know how it is to work, what it is to do, whether it is going to be any good or whether it is just a sort of gesture in response to the demand that has been made in Scotland.
The Minister has had consultations with the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Scottish Council, and the Scottish Unionists' Transport Committee; and after all these consultations, so far as I can judge, he has repeated the statement he made before the consultations, and therefore all I can do is ask him what 950 came out of those consultations. Has anything productive and constructive arisen from those discussions?
I must say that I am disappointed that the Minister, after the promises he made during the passage of this Bill that eventually he would elucidate his policy and would tell us what it was all about, has not been able to do so. I imagine the Scottish Press have the same feeling of disappointment, and that in Scotland generally there will be disappointment. We are no nearer an understanding of what is going to happen to the transport system in Scotland. It is not the Labour Party who will suffer—we are not the users of transport—but Scotland's economy will perish unless there is an efficient and economic transport system. and if that is destroyed by this Bill, every hon. Member who votes for the Bill must take responsibility when he does so.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The first thing I should like to say is that we in Scotland very much appreciate the time and trouble that my right hon. Friend has given to the discussion of the problems in Scotland. It is a very welcome contrast, I must say, to the proceedings at the time of the passage of the 1947 Act, when we were perpetually pressing the needs of Scotland, and the differences and the peculiarity of the conditions there, and of how it was quite impossible to impose a 25-mile limit and have satisfactory road services in Scotland. No attention whatsoever was paid to our representations.
The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) said there had been no statement of the case from this side of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I understood him to say that there had been no discussion at any time, during the proceedings on this Bill, of Scottish transport by any Conservative Member. Is that right? Very well, let us make the position quite clear. It so happens that I have been a spokesman for the Unionist side.
§ Mr. Macpherson
Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that in these matters we work together. Everybody knows that, and it would be quite wrong for us, having accepted combined sup- 951 port in our constituencies, to do otherwise. My right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) also took part in the discussions, so it is wholly wrong to say that there has been no discussion on this side of the House.
The right hon. Member for East Stirling said that we had got no further in the settlement made by my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend has made a clear statement of the nature of the council to be set up; he has indicated quite clearly how it is to be made up, on the one hand of representatives of the nationalised industries and on the other hand of independent members. What he did not say, and what I hope will be said in reply, is how those independent members are to be appointed.
What does the right hon. Member for East Stirling want these people to do? Does he want them to exercise complete control over the whole of transport in Scotland? Does he want complete financial control? Does he want Scotland to be cut off entirely from the road haulage and rail point of view? If not, how does he think it is possible, within the sphere of this Bill, to get an entirely different set up in Scotland from that in the rest of the kingdom?
We know that Scotland has peculiarities of distance and sea transport problems which make transport in Scotland somewhat different from that in the rest of the kingdom, but surely the right hon. Gentleman must realise that it is not so radically different as all that; that if we have one set-up in the rest of the country, then clearly within a United Kingdom we must at least have a similar set-up in the other part of the kingdom.
§ Mr. John Wheatley (Edinburgh, East)
Would the hon. Gentleman say, on behalf of his Conservative colleagues, whether he is content to have this council without any executive authority or power whatsoever?
§ Mr. Macpherson
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to develop my speech, he will see how we visualise this council working.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I am going to answer. The hon. Gentleman is extremely impatient, but I can assure him that how 952 we conceive this body will work will emerge from my speech.
This Bill provides for the disappearance of the Railway Executive. Let me say right away that the Railway Executive have done a good job in moulding together the railway companies into one. But it is a body composed of the heads of various services; it is a functional body, and, as such, perhaps not the best form of body to control policy. The danger in a functional body must always be that each member, in fighting for his own department, must sometimes lose sight of the common purpose. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen a paper presented by the Acton Society Trust, which appeared in last autumn's issue of "Public Administration," which points out that the disappearance of the Railway Executive could lead to more centralisation and not less. It says:The regional bodies will be still less able to resist the interference of the Commission than the Executive has been, and the net effect will be an even more serious degree of centralisation than before.How are we to avoid that happening? It is obviously a danger. I submit that we shall do so by the creation of part-time boards in the regions.
My right hon. Friend, in his Second Reading speech, paid tribute to the work done by railway directors when he said:I think it fair to say that railway directors. by and large, with their knowledge of insurance, finance, banking, shipping, industry and agriculture made an immense contribution to the development of British Railways."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November. 1952; Vol. 507. c. 1404.]I maintain that that contribution will be most of all necessary in the regions, and, particularly, in Scotland where there are many transport problems peculiar to that part of the United Kingdom.
The advantages of such a body lie in the pooling of wisdom drawn from a wide range of users of transport—not excluding workers in the industry—as regards the needs of transport users, the best way to meet them and the implications of the policy adopted. Above all, they will bring their experience to bear on policy at its formative stage, before the British Transport Commission or the regions are committed to a certain policy. We believe that in Scotland such a body should be appointed by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Minister of 953 Transport, who would, naturally, consult the Commission.
On that point, I think it is fair to recognise that the Commission are likely to have certain doubts, for difficuIty has arisen from the fact that the Railway Executive was appointed by the Minister, and it was not easy for the Commission to exercise control over it in all circumstances so as to secure that the Commission's policy was fully carried out. We agree with this, and my right hon. Friend has said during the passage of this Bill through the House that the ultimate authority of the Commission must be beyond dispute, and it is not our desire to weaken the authority of the Commission in any way within its proper sphere.
But surely the Commission will gain and not lose by the fact that the part-time body will have a greater prestige in Scotland, as well as a surer judgment and a wider experience than any chief regional officer could possibly have. A part-time body is more likely than a chief regional officer to stand up to the Commission if it thinks that the Commission is wrong, provided it is given sufficient powers to attract good men. That will be an asset to the Commission, and will prevent it making many mistakes such as were made, for example, over the Clyde steamer service a year ago.
§ Mr. Wheatley
This is very important. In view of the seeming revolt by back benchers opposite against the Minister's proposals, would the hon. Gentleman explain exactly what powers he envisages this part-time body having? That is very important, because if he does not define them he is just dealing in a lot of persiflage.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I would not have described it in any such way. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not clear about the difference between the railway authority about which I am talking and the council which is to be set up.
§ Mr. Macpherson
Then let me make this point. We have plenty of examples of part-time bodies. There is the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, which is wholly part-time. The Gas Boards have a whole-time chairman and deputy chairman, but the rest are part-time— 954 except in Scotland, curiously enough. Perhaps the nearest parallel is in the National Broadcasting Council for Scotland, which is given complete control over the Home Service in Scotland but, nevertheless, comes under the British Broadcasting Corporation. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the British Transport Commission to devise a system similar to that.
Let us make no mistake about it. This is an enabling Bill; it lays upon the Commission the duty of defining their scheme and presenting it to the Minister in the first place, for the decentralisation of the railways. It is up to them. It is not for us here and now to say in detail what should be the particular powers to be exercised by the part-time body that we suggest should run the railways in Scotland.
§ Mr. Manuel
This is most important. So far, on this particular problem, we have been quite unable to get an answer from the Minister. Do I take it that the point of view which the hon. Member is putting forward regarding powers will cover the area in the Highlands which, after the sale of British Road Service vehicles, will be denuded of transport? Would this body which he is talking about have the power to see that goods are carried into the Highland area and that it is not completely denuded of transport? I do not think that the ex-Minister of Transport, with all due regard to him, could give advice on this particular point. I think that the hon. Member should say what powers he has in mind when he is telling us about the purpose.
§ Mr. Macpherson
The ex-Minister of Transport was asking me a question and not giving me advice. Let me deal with one subject at a time. At the moment, I am dealing entirely with the railway authority.
We recommend a part-time body as the railway authority in Scotland. We are suggesting that the chairman of that body should be a member of the council. We are suggesting that under the same scheme of devolution, where the Commission has other organisations based solely in Scotland, they should have part-time bodies as authorities in Scotland and the chairman of each part-time body should sit on the council. We suggest that where there is no such body in the 955 case of other nationalised transport industries, a representative of that nationalised industry should also sit upon the council. In that way, we shall have a body of heads of organisations—responsible people all seeking to get the best possible transport system for Scotland, working together for that common end and shaping the co-ordination of the services in Scotland.
§ Mr. Macpherson
The power that they have is the sum of the powers that they bring. After having discussed the matter and reaching agreement, the head goes back to implement it in his own organisation within, of course, the limit of his powers, otherwise he would have to persuade the Commission first. What greater power can they be given unless Scotland has an entirely separate organisation for transport?
One of the great advantages of a part-time member is that a part-time member can bridge the inevitable suspicion which does exist between officialdom and the business community. That is a good thing. The chairmen of part-time bodies will be much better able to co-operate and negotiate with private transport interests than can any official of the British Transport Commission. It is only in that way that we shall get co-ordination between the Transport Council and the road haulage units and companies which are to be created as the result of the operations of the Disposal Board.
I believe that as the result of this type of co-ordination we shall have a lot of the difficulties and absurdities that still exist ironed out. For example, where a branch line has stopped, one can now look up in the railway time-table a destination which was on the branch line and one cannot find how to get there or when to get there. Surely that is a farcical result of "integration." I believe that in Scotland we could have some kind of co-ordinated time-table as a start. Among other absurdities—and I can assure hon. Members that this is happening in my constituency—where a branch passenger line has ceased to work and the 'bus takes its place, the 'bus is arriving one minute after the train leaves from the other end. That is a ridiculous situation. I am talking of the com- 956 munications between Dumfries and Locherbie.
I do not want to detain the House much longer, but I do want to support what has already been said from these benches. Some alteration in the present transport system was bound to have occurred. The reason is that the present artificial system cannot continue. The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) said, earlier in the debate, that the principle of the integration of all forms of transport under public ownership—and he emphasised "under public ownership"—still remains the Opposition's policy.
The fact is that it was necessary either to go in the direction of placing the C licence holders and the A licence holders within the 25-mile radius at the mercy of the British Transport Commission or, alternatively, to free road haulage. There were only two courses open. The only aIternative to what we are doing in this Bill would have been to say, "Not only have you to get the Transport Commission's permission if you want to operate beyond 25 miles from your base, but you also have to get it to operate within that radius."
We protested at the time that the Transport Act, 1947, was going through the House. Even if it was practicable for the more densely populated districts, it was wholly absurd for almost all other parts of Scotland to set up a 25-mile radius, and it tended to create an unwholesome monopoly in Scotland. The extent of monopoly in Scotland is greater than it is in any other parts of the country. I would say that if the law is to be held in respect, it must appear to be reasonable and not purely arbitrary, especially where it is not too easy to enforce. It is nonsense that it should be lawful to carry goods for a certain fixed distance, but not for a quarter of a mile more without the permission of one's chief competitor. I am quite sure that such a system cannot work. It is, in fact, breaking down now. We have two alternatives, and this Bill offers the alternative that we on this side believe will work far better in the interests of the country as a whole.
In conclusion, I should like to give a very general welcome to the Bill and to say that if we cannot see how in detail it is going to work out, it is because it is an enabling Bill. It sets up a Disposal 957 Board to break up road haulage into units; it enables the railway authority to make a scheme for decentralisation of the railways; it gives back to the individual consumer the choice of transport, and, in as much as it does that, I believe that it will work for the betterment of the industries and ultimate greater prosperity of the country.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
I followed the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) on the Second Reading of the Bill, and on that occasion I found it very difficult to make a contribution on what he had been saying. On this occasion one or two things have come out much more clearly than they did then. The hon. Member paid a very high tribute to the Minister for the time and trouble he has devoted to dealing with the Scottish position. We do not see any difference; the statement made today does not differ from that made earlier, except that we have now learnt that the chairman of the Consultative Committee will not be the chairman of the new Transport Committee.
The hon. Member asked a series of questions. What Scotland wants is simple; it wants an effective transport service. We believe the Bill to be a bad one because it would destroy the hope which the 1947 Act gave us. The hon. Member represents a constituency in which an integrated service would show good results. He must admit that he has in his constituency a road haulage depot which is very efficient.
Speaking, as he does, as chairman of the joint consultative body of National Liberals and Conservatives in Scotland, the hon. Member gave a considered statement on its desires. I hope that the Minister was not in agreement with any of the statement. It was difficult to understand what it was intended should be done by the body which the hon. Member desires to be set up under Clause 14 for railway reorganisation. It appears that he wants to return to the type of body that we had on the L.M.S., a Scottish ConsuItative Committee consisting of part-time directors. I was a station master on the L.M.S. in Scotland. We had our own opinions about the L.M.S. Scottish Consultative Committee.
§ Mr. Steele
One of their functions was to get into a railway coach with the chief officer for Scotland and spend days travelling through the Scottish area of the L.M.S. putting station masters through a "Spanish Inquisition." As a station master, I had some experience of it. Certainly the chief officers were able to ask me questions, but the other members of the delegation were not very interested in what was happening, particularly if they were late on their time-table.
During the Second Reading debate dealt with points raised by the hon. Member for Dumfries about the functions such a body would have. The Minister had every opportunity in Committee to tell us about this, and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland attempted to give us some information, but at present we have no conception of what reorganisation in Scotland means.
This afternoon the Minister quoted statistics about the amount of time taken in discussing the Guillotine and the number of Amendments discussed. It is a great pity that he should ask his departmental officials to prepare all those statistics for the purpose of a few remarks on Third Reading. They would have been better employed examining the work of the Road Haulage Executive, for they could then have provided us with much more useful information.
The Minister has accepted that Scotland is in a different position from the rest of the country. He accepted an Amendment to Clause 3 from the Government side of the House to provide that he is to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland if there is any disagreement between the British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board. That is an indication of the genuine anxiety which exists in Scotland and of the pressure of Scottish public opinion.
The House has also indicated its anxiety to retain the Pickfords Special Division. We are anxious to ensure that the Pickfords Special Division and other services in England are not maintained purely at the expense of Scotland, and that sufficient transport is retained in Scotland to give Scotland the transport service that it requires. I hope the Minister will give this matter further consideration. He has already agreed to alter the six-fifths provision, and I hope he will also find some method whereby the 959 British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board can ensure that Scotland has the service which it requires.
I thank the Minister and the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) for the consideration which they gave in Committee to our Amendment dealing with horses. I wonder whether the Minister has found it possible to calculate on the basis of each horse-drawn vehicle being deemed to be a motor vehicle at an unladen weight of one ton for each horse owned. I shall be glad if he will examine the matter again, because I am not sure that what the Parliamentary Secretary said in Committee will give us a fair basis.
The livelihood of those engaged in transport will be affected once the Bill has been passed. Goods vehicles will be sold from a Road Haulage Executive which has been well organised, and we shall see an unholy scramble. There will be intense competition not only between road and rail but also between road haulage units. Before the war this matter was giving grave concern to those engaged in the industry. During the war when the Road-Rail Committee was in existence, I remember reading many informed articles in "Modern Transport," especially by Mr. Sewell, about what would happen after the war. At that time what was in mind was an integrated system of road and rail transport. They recognised that unless there was integrated transport or some form of co-ordination between road and rail, particularly on charges, both services were going to suffer, and frankly what is going to happen is a return to low wages and a low standard of maintenance of vehicles.
We are going to have a rates war. I dealt with this during my Second Reading speech, but hon. Members on the other side have stated that the railways are to get freedom. What kind of freedom are they to get? It is not freedom to increase their charges. Indeed, it cannot be that at all, and it is going to be a curious kind of freedom. The road haulage firms will compete against one another to get the traffic away from the railways, and the kind of freedom that the railways will get is power to reduce their charges. That is a rates war, the very thing which in the inter-war years created such difficulties for us all.
960 What will be the result of it? First, there will be economies, which mean reductions in staff and uneconomic working. The Railway Executive is bound to get into financial difficulties. The Railway Executive is to compete with a road haulage industry in which the vehicles are modernised, but because of Government difficulties, it has not been able to modernise. Only last week Mr. Elliot, in a speech in Glasgow, was able to say that at long last the speed restrictions on the main line between Glasgow and London had been lifted. During the whole of last year the Railway Executive were unable to build any new coaches, and very few have been built this year. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is frowning, but what I say is true. The Railway Executive has been hampered all the time because of lack of capital investment.
In 1931 I was working in an office in Carlisle, and surely that is a city where railway integration is necessary. Before 1921 there were seven different railway companies running into Carlisle. Every one of them had an up-and-down shunting yard, and after the amalgamation in 1921 it was thought desirable to have some kind of modern methods. In 1931, when I was there, the L.M.S. had a plan for a modern shunting yard, but it has never been put into operation for the simple reason that in the inter-war years the L.M.S. never had the finances to do it. If it had been put into operation in 1931, the manpower and time saved during the war in that place would have been immense.
These are the problems which the Railway Executive have got to face in the future. I can understand the Government's attitude to capital punishment. But what are they doing here? I cannot really understand the determination to ensure that the Transport Commission be encouraged to commit suicide. I hope that the Government will reconsider some of these matters. They are determined to get this Bill through, but once the effects of it are seen in operation it is quite clear that another Bill will have to be presented to this House.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
I was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) say, in his speech, that not one Scottish Unionist Member had spoken 961 in the debate on this Bill, because he is usually so fair-minded. I must remind him that some of us did try—certainly, I did—to get in on Second Reading and failed. I also attempted to speak on a new Clause which concerned the Highlands, but, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) knows, he forestalled us by withdrawing his Motion.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I was in no way condemning the hon. Member or any of his colleagues. I was simply pointing out that the imposition of the Guillotine had made it impossible even for Members on the Government side of the House properly to discuss Scottish affairs.
§ Sir D. Robertson
I do not know whether I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the Guillotine, but I am very glad that he has put the matter in a different light, particularly for hon. Members on this side of the House who, from time to time, during the debates on this Bill, have greatly appreciated the speeches made from both sides of the House by men who have been on the footplate, in the ticket office, acted as station masters or have been solicitors to the old railway companies. They were all very important cogs in the machine.
I think that Britain has the finest railway system I have seen anywhere in my travels, and it was built up by people like these I have mentioned and others who went before them. My only regret is that the enterprising spirit which animated people who ran the railways in the early days is not so much to the fore today. They overcame many difficulties, including public prejudice, road transport; there was a considerable amount of that in my own native City of Gasgow, and competition from the canals and intense competition from coastal shipping.
Ever since the internal combustion engine was invented the railways have been running away, and then there was the monopoly formed as a resuIt of the Act of 1947. It is that monopoly about which I wish to speak for a moment, and particularly its effect on the area that I have the honour to represent here. It is not only the road and rail monopoly of this Act, but the other monopolies that flow from it. We have a shipping monopoly which is privately operated by a company who maintain their rates about 10 per cent. below the railway level. 962 Then there is the Chamber of Shipping which fixes the rates for coastal sea transport and charter rates for coasters.
So here we have a series of monopolies which flow from the major one, and the results were indicated by the right hon. Member for East Stirling when he spoke of the difficulties from which we have suffered in the Highlands for so long. They have been accentuated because some traffics do not move. It is sometimes better to let the crops rot in the ground and not to make goods we can make rather than send them away because of the rates we have to pay.
I came into conflict earlier in the debate with the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) when he challenged anyone on this side to say how the railways could be made to pay. I am a very great believer in railways. There cannot be a successful Britain without a prosperous railway system, in which well paid, satisfied employees will be engaged and which will give the consumer the service he requires and which he used to get when I was a young man. I know the grievances of hon. Members opposite. Many of them are not stating what they know are the facts. Railwaymen did not get high wages, nor did anyone. but the cost of living was low.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Will the hon. Gentleman accept it from me that I was working in a railway signal box in 1939 and getting £3 a week for doing it'?
§ Sir D. Robertson
I accept that if the hon. Gentleman says so. I would remind him of an equally great railwayman in Ayrshire, who was getting a lot less than £3 per week and who brought up a fine family, one of whom was a teacher in Glasgow University. In those days, the value of money was different from what it is today.
Before I became a Member of this House I was asked by the railway companies to go to an inquiry at which the present Minister of Labour was the advocate employed by the companies to oppose a road transport application to run fish from Aberdeen to London. I thought that was wholly wrong. That traffic should go by railway, but I am not blaming anybody for sending it by road if road traffic costs much less and the service is much better. 963 I am wholly convinced that if the railway will only do as they are doing in the case of the "Starlight Express" some of their problems will be solved. The railways are only doing that under the threat of this Bill. That is the only reason we are getting it. Under the stimulus of this Measure they know that we are going to set the people free to travel according to their means. Does any hon. Gentleman believe that people sit in long-distance coaches from London to Glasgow or Edinburgh for 12 or 14 hours because they like it? They do it because coach travel is half the price. I say that the railway—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for giving way. Enterprise has not departed from the railways, and he is not entitled to condemn all railwaymen as having barnacles growing over them. He must face the fact, and so must the Minister of Transport, that successive Governments since 1939 have condemned the railways to a low level of replacement of rolling stock which has not permitted them to run the attractive services that they have wanted to. It is no use relieving them of their legal obligations unless we give them the physical resources with which to run the services.
§ Sir D. Robertson
The answer is that trains are running, but they are empty or only half full. The only people who travel by train in my area are either Members of Parliament or Government snoopers and troops on leave.
I am convinced that the views I am expressing are right. I have no political bias in this matter. I look at it as a commercial man, if you like. If ever there was an industry which could pay by increasing its sales and its turnover it is the British Railways. Could we replace the railway system today for anything like what was paid for it? Of course not. It would cost many times more. The rails are there and the stations, marshalling yards and signal boxes are manned. British Railways should run 20 trains instead of 15, four trains instead of two. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman.
I will give the House an example of what I mean. I understood that the railways complain that they cannot compete and that if they give a 964 special rate it must be advertised and thereafter it applies to all similar goods for similar journeys. But I have found that that is not so, and that when it suits the railways to cut rates for one customer they do so. I want to declare an interest in the matter that I am going to speak about, namely, the moving of dross from Sutherland where it is produced by a coalmine of which I am a principal shareholder. The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, which is doing such a very fine job in the Highlands—
§ Sir D. Robertson
I played some part in bringing it about. They realised the difficulties which exist in what is now an industrial area. They wanted us to send dross to the power stations at Wick and Inverness. Our company went to the railways and found that the rate was about 20s. a ton. That is an approximate figure. We could get it done by road transport for about 10s. We told the railways that we were not paying them that figure because we were simply acting as agents to the Hydro-Electric Board. We sent it to Wick for 10s. a ton, using a small haulage contractor.
After about a month, British Railways went to the Board and said, "We want your traffic," and they cut the rate by more than 50 per cent. That is vicious competition. The local haulier lost the job, and the dross went by rail. The railway did the same sort of thing in Inverness, cutting the rate by 30 per cent. I am not in favour of vicious competition of that kind; very much the reverse. The power stations at Wick and Inverness were shut down as the hydro-electric works developed, and the dross is now going to Aberdeen. The railway rate was 33s. 1d. a ton and recent increases would make it 35s. 9d. per ton.
I asked the railway for a special rate because I thought that the traffic should go by rail. The empty rail trucks go down from Caithness to Aberdeen overnight, they carried fertilisers and other agricultural products north and they come back empty. Our company mine coal, and bring it to the surface; and they fill the empty railway wagons which could then be hitched on to a train, not tonight, or tomorrow, but to any train. The mine company is paying out about £100 a week to the Railways, almost found money 965 because they incur no extra expense, but the little mine company loses 16s. a ton. The more they sell, the more they lose.
This is the kind of traffic referred to by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) in a recent debate, when he said that it ceases to move, because of penal transport rates. This traffic did not cease to move at once. I brought the matter to the notice of the Minister and asked for that rate to be examined and a more favourable rate quoted. I did not get a reply from the Minister. I got it from the British Transport Commission. They said they would give me a special rate of 28s., provided 100 tons a week were sent.
We had to explain that our business was not a sausage machine. We were working in the bowels of the earth, and could give no guarantee of that kind. All that the company could do was to send the dross, everything we had to send, by rail from Aberdeen. Negotiations have been going on for nine months. We have brought the traffic practically to an end, because a briquetting plant has been ordered which will turn the dross back into household fuel for sale in the Northern Counties. I am telling the House these things because they are facts that the House ought to know. This is a case of penal rates causing goods not to move. The right hon. Member for East Stirling made a reference to what might happen to the Highlands if the Bill became law. Nothing worse could happen than has happened under this monopoly.
Let me give the House a final story. There is a huge area of Sutherland, Ross-shire, and Northern Caithness where there are no railways, and where an old motor service has been operated by the descendants of an old stage-coach family. They had had difficulty in keeping the service going, and when the winter came two years ago they could not maintain it any longer. They made money in the summer but they were losing heavily in winter and so this vital link was to be closed down. This time I did not go to the Minister but to Lord Hurcomb and said, "This must be your responsibility. If there is any justification for a monopoly, it must be a universal service." Does anyone deny that? His lordship said, "We took over no transport organisation in Sutherland or West Sutherland other than the railway."
966 The people there would have been walking on foot to the railhead at Lairg but for the right hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil), who realised how wrong was this situation and how impotent he was to compel the rail monopoly to fulfil its public responsibility. He went to a great landlord the Duke of Westminster and persuaded him to take over and operate the service. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He has not even got a vote, so he is of no importance to me. He took it over, not the Socialist Government, in spite of the monopoly they created.
Things could not possibly be worse for us than they have been under the monopoly. Nobody comes in by rail other than the varieties of people I mentioned earlier. It is true that we have had two good seasons since petrol rationing ceased. People have come in busloads and in Austins and Rolls-Royces. But the bulk of our people have not got cars and we should have a "Starlight Express" running to the North, not every night but once a week and, if it succeeded, twice a week.
I ask the Minister and the council which he is creating to restore courage and enterprise and common sense to the railways and to road haulage. Then they will be a success and we shall get the service we need.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
We have just listened to an interesting speech from a representative of Scotland. I submit that the only hope for sparsely populated areas is for them to be regarded as a public responsibility, and that we cannot have a public responsibility if there is to be the free play of private enterprise, because the latter means that those areas will be left to their own resources and, therefore, become derelict. For instance, if the postal service of this country were run on the principles on which the Government want to run transport, it would be impossible for a letter to be delivered in out of the way parts of Scotland, much less for us to provide any proper transport.
One of the outstanding features of the happenings in this House since 1945 has been that the Tory Party have ceased to represent the railways. Before 1945, when the railways were great private enterprise concerns, they were strongly 967 represented in this House by a large number of directors who were members of the Tory Party, but immediately the railways were nationalised that party ceased to take any interest in them. However, it must be said to the credit of one or two members of that party, notably the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) that they kept a balanced view of the situation, quite unlike many of their hon. Friends.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) asked who was responsible for this Bill. One of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who is most responsible for the antics of the Tory Party as regards transport is the President of the Board of Trade. If he had been here defending this Bill since its inception, I do not think we should have had the improvements that have been made by the present Minister of Transport. Yet it would have been poetic justice if the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) had been called upon to defend the nonsense that he spread throughout the country by advocating a free-for-all in transport matters.
Originally this Bill was much worse, and the House of Commons must take the credit for improving it. I shall not be so ungenerous as not to say that a certain amount of the credit belongs to the present Minister of Transport. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman recognises that the first proposals of his party were so utterly foolish that they could not be defended. Incidentally, I regard it as a national disaster that he was taken from the Colonial Office where his gifts could have been used to much better purpose than in lessening the efficiency of our transport system in the House of Commons, because that is one of the evil consequences of the decision of the Tory Party in pressing this Bill through the House.
What is its central purpose? It is torequire the British Transport Commission to dispose of the property held by them for the purposes of the part of their undertaking which is carried on through the Road Haulage Executive;to hive off from the national system the long-distance road haulage. If that had been carried out in its entirety it would have been a national disaster and would 968 have done untold harm to our economy. It has been lessened to some extent by allowing the Transport Commission to retain that portion of road transport which the old railway companies held in pre-war days plus 25 per cent.
I hope that when this Bill goes to another place that figure will be increased. As time passes the educational process continues with a certain amount of success, and I hope that the eloquence of noble Lords will have the same effect upon the "overlord" of the transport system as it does upon the Minister in this House. This Bill is an unwanted one. As drafted it had no support from any class of people.
§ Mr. Proctor
Of course the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) often ploughs a lonely furrow and no doubt he claims to be its supporter, but the Bill was unwanted by the present road hauliers of this country. In return for what services they gave at the General Election—which have not yet been revealed—the Tory Party promised them that the 25-mile limit would be extended. What have they got? There is to be a sale of the assets of the Transport Commission at knock-down prices to new competitors and the 25-mile limit will not be abolished until the end of 1954, according to the Minister's statement today. I say, therefore, that the present road hauliers are not enthusiastic about this Bill.
Now I turn to the persons at present employed by the Transport Commission. Both management and workers are 100 per cent. against the change. In the days when we nationalised a portion of the industry there was considerable opposition amongst the private hauliers but we had a great deal of support from the workers. It is astonishing that today 100 per cent. of management and workers are against these proposals of the Government. Well may they be against them, because at this present time a cruel and wicked thing is being done to our fellow citizens. There can be nothing worse in these times than to destroy a man's job, and when we are talking about managers, workers and others who have put their hearts and souls into making the scheme a success, I say that to see them turned out on the road or to be sold to little 969 concerns, if they are lucky enough to keep their employment with the concerns, is a shameful business altogether.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) is not in his place. He has made some of the most astounding statements with regard to the Bill. He said that in his opinion it was mainly a railway Bill. My description of the Bill is that it has two purposes: to bankrupt the railways and to enrich the Tory Party friends of the Government. I hope that even at this late stage the Government will recognise that in the national interests there is no justification whatever for going on with the Bill.
I want to say a word about the Guillotine. The Bill should have had much more consideration by the House of Commons than it has had. When the Minister introduced the question of the abolition of the Railway Executive and revealed to us, like a bolt from the blue, that the Transport Commission supported him in the suggested abolition of the Railway Executive, a whole day could easily have been spent on discussing that aspect of railway administration. But we did not have the time, because the Tory Party had decided that, despite the small amount of important business that the House has in hand, the Bill was to be rushed through on a time-table basis.
There have been one or two highlights during the discussions on the Bill. One of them came when the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) was addressing the Committee. He refused to be silenced, aIthough appeals were made to him that time was short. He warned the Government of the possibility of a terrible national disaster as the resuIt of throwing more traffic on to the roads. He said that if the Bill went through and as a result the roads were choked with extra traffic, what we have done up to now would appear to be only child's play and that far more drastic changes would have to be made to retrieve the situation.
Half-way through his speech, the hon. Member did something which was unusual. He had so much opposition from behind him in the Tory Party that he turned round, with his back to us on this side, to address the Members on his own side and to tell them how foolish they were to proceed with the Bill. One of them said, "Nonsense," and he replied, 970 "I have heard that word before, but many times have I been proved to be right." The Government should take great notice of what the hon. Member said on that occasion.
There can be no shadow of doubt that if the Bill succeeds in its purpose, a large amount of traffic that at present runs by rail will be taken by road. If as a resuIt the railways are denuded of traffic and are not able to pay their way, the burden must not be thrown upon the railwaymen. It will have to be borne by the community. If we deliberately take this step which disorganises the railways, we shall have to subsidise them in order to maintain decent conditions for the railwaymen, or face industrial struggle of a very bitter character,
One of the wicked things about the Bill is that it sets the climate for industrial strife—it almost makes it inevitable; and I appeal to the Government, who in the present economic circumstances, and with a grave international situation pending, must feel that if a crisis should come upon us it will be absolutely necessary to have some such organisation as we have now in the road services that have been built up by the Transport Commission. I ask the Government to consider this carefully and to put aside the party strife and all the promises that they have made at elections. They have gone back on most of their other promises, and it is a great pity that they should carry out a very bad one.
All the things that they propose to do with regard to what they call decentralisation, and any greater efficiency that could be brought about, could be achieved under the present law; there is no necessity whatever to introduce a Bill in order to accomplish that. When I look at the Government's interference with the structure from top to bottom, when I see them sweeping away various administrative organisations, I am moved to wonder what are their desires.
I remember that at a Tory Party conference all those people who came to assist the State and the efficient organisation of the nationalised industry were described as quislings. The hon. Member for Kidderminster will remember seconding that resolution, in which these gentlemen who have given such great service—I am the first to thank them for it—in 971 organising the nationalised industries were described as industrial quislings.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Of course, the hon. Member has not told the House to which Tory Party conference he was alluding. If he means a conference when my hon. Friend the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury moved a resolution, which I had the honour to second, it was in connection with the staff and the origins of the higher executives of the nationalised industries. The terms of the resolution made no reference at all to the word "quisling."
§ Mr. Proctor
Certainly. I have the copy of the report from the Library. At the conference, the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury was speaking.
§ Mr. Proctor
The hon. Member has an accurate memory. The only word that he appears to forget is "quisling" but I hope he will remember it by the time I have finished. The present Financial Secretary to the Treasury said:There is only one other thing I want to say, and I am putting this by way of warning. In the industries which are menaced by nationalisation at the moment, there is a very small minority of people who do not resist the Government wholeheartedly in its nationalisation measures because they have got at the back of their minds the hope that they are going to get a job on these National Boards. Let us, therefore, make it quite clear that there is no misunderstanding in the minds of these industrial quislings that betrayal and appeasement never pay in the long run, and that they will find that they will not serve their selfish interests by betraying the industries with whom their first duty lies.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member distinctly said—the OFFICIAL REPORT Will confirm it—that the terms of the resolution refers to quislings. All he has done is to read a speech made by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Proctor
I have given the reference; it can be confirmed.
Let us look at the difference between the attitude of the Tory Party and of the Labour Party on this issue. At the 972 time when we were passing our nationalisation Measures, they were, according to the speech of the present Financial Secretary, bringing the greatest pressure on those people who were in administrative positions to resist the Government of the day. Every speech and every act on the part of responsible trade union leaders and leaders of the Labour Party has been to do the direct opposite as far as the workers are concerned. Had we followed the lead of the Tory Party, the lead which was so clearly given in that speech, we could have had the country at present in an industrial turmoil.
In that passage of the speech the Tories warned those who came to serve us that they would not benefit by it in the end. When I see that at present they are taking the necessary measures to make vacant all these positions which they can possibly get vacant by reorganising the railways and doing everything else that they can in that direction, it makes me wonder whether they are going to carry out this threat to victimise the people who came along and served us under nationalisation.
The statement was made that we failed in the Committee stage to nationalise the C licence holders. We never proposed to nationalise the C licence holders. It was never in the Bill and never our intention. [Laughter.] If hon. Members care to look the matter up, they will see and they will not be laughing in the end. He who laughs last laughs best. What we proposed in regard to C licences was to control their increased issue in the future. We never proposed to nationalise them, but to restrict their operation.
One Department of the State which ought to be looking into the question of C licences is the Treasury. I believe that many of these road transport fleets have been built up to avoid the payment of Income Tax. I believe that many industries have a resource there which is free from taxation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Everyone may give an opinion and I say that the Treasury ought to have a careful look at the accounts of firms which have built up big road transport fleets to see whether they have not built them up at public expense.
I believe this Bill is going to be a great disaster for the employees of the Commission. The Government have 973 promised to consider the question of company structure to see whether something can be done when disposing of the road transport concerns to introduce a company structure for parts of the assets they take away. I make the suggestion that in the company structure it may be possible to bring in a new form of company where the workers engaged in the operation of road transport at present might have a chance to purchase these concerns. I believe that with the great Co-operative movement and the trade unions, plus the workers, we could make an offer to the Government to buy the lot. If they would agree that we could run these things in conjunction with the Transport Commission, making any arrangements we thought fit, financial and otherwise, for close working, it might be possible to mitigate the evils of the Bill.
I throw out to the Co-operative movement and the trade unions and to workers in the industry the suggestion that we should try to purchase these great concerns and let the workers have a greater interest in them than otherwise would be the case. I want to make it quite plain that this is a personal suggestion and has nothing to do with the Labour Party or the trade union movement. I think we should all look for a way out of the situation, because I am quite convinced that if the Government go on with this business, throw thousands of men on to the roads, destroy the structure which has been buiIt up and lessen the efficiency of our transport system, nothing but national disaster faces us.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
The hon. Member referred to thousands of men being thrown on to the roads; will he say exactly what he means? Does he mean that they would come from the Transport Commission?
§ Mr. Proctor
I say quite definitely that if this vast quantity of transport is sold it may easily mean that thousands of men will lose their jobs. At least, their jobs will be in jeopardy and the kind of jobs they have in the future will not compare with those they have at present.
§ Mr. Fell
I am grateful to the hon. Member for allowing me to interrupt him. Earlier he said that the result of this Bill would be that a vast amount of goods at present carried on the railways would be carried on the roads, If that is so, 974 how does he work out the theory that thousands will be put out of their jobs on the road?
§ Mr. Proctor
If a man loses his employment, it may mean that someone else gets another job, but that does not affect the managers and employees of the Transport Commission. If hon. Members care to ask the employees of the Road Haulage Executive for their opinions, those men will express a grave fear for the future, and my prediction is that these men will suffer as the result of the Bill. That is my opinion of what will happen. Time will tell, and I hope that the Government will relent.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I am grateful for the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) because many of his arguments coincided with those of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick), who spoke two or three hours ago. Both hon. Members said that this Bill was quite unwanted. The hon. Member for Birkenhead queried the paternity of the Bill and inferred that it was an unwanted child. That is a bitter and purely partisan viewpoint. There are countless thousands of industrial undertakings in this country—there are, indeed, millions of consumers—who look to the Conservative Government not only to implement the promises given at the last General Election to decentralise the railway system and denationalise road transport, but also to offer suitable opportunities for road hauliers to go back into competitive business.
§ Mr. Nabarro
They are getting a great deal more red meat than they have had at any time in the last seven years. If the hon. Member wants to enter into a controversy with me about food supplies he will get a very good return for his money, I assure him.
The hon. Member for Birkenhead stressed that no one wanted this Bill. That is quite untrue. Industry and commerce want it; vast numbers of consumers want it. The Government have been and are pledged to put this Bill through in accord with the general principles which have been enunciated. I think I recognise the pamphlet which the 975 hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) holds. It is that of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. If he reads that pamphlet he will see in it a statement that the chambers of commerce do not dissent from the general principle of denationalising road transport. I have not brought the pamphlet with me and I quote from memory, but I believe that to be an indubitable fact.
I am sorry to stress the speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead continually. He said that there was too much transport in this country, and perhaps that is so. It is very difficult to adjudge what should be the optimum number of commercial vehicles operating in the United Kingdom at any given moment, the optimum number of railway locomotives, railway passenger carriages and railway wagons for freight conveyance. Any figures of that sort can only be theoretical, but if his statement means anything it is an inference that the number of road vehicles has increased quite disproportionately in the post-war period to the volume of merchandise available to be carried.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) carried on the argument about the increase of C licences. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr). Let me declare an interest. In the last few years I have been the managing director of several industrial companies, mostly concerned with engineering. I share the experience of my hon. Friend that, in business during the post-war period there has been an impetus, a temptation, to all industrial concerns having to deliver their goods in the United Kingdom to buy their own vehicles and operate them on C licences in preference to using vehicles of the British Road Services. Why? My hon. Friend said, because there was less damage to the goods being conveyed. My hon. Friend said that in many instances it was a matter of convenience. What my hon. Friend did not say though, to complete the trinity of reasons why C licences have been greatly increased is the element of cost.
It is my experience in industry—and here I speak not in any partisan spirit, but with sincerity that the costs involved in operating a C licence vehicle for the delivery of manufactured goods in the United Kindom have, generally speaking, 976 been lower than by using the nationalised vehicles. That consideration includes all depreciation charges on the vehicles, all labour charges, maintenance charges, taxation and duties. The costs have been lower than they would have been for carrying those goods by the equivalent British Road Services' vehicles.
I go much further than that. My experience is that the costs have been lower to the tune of 20 per cent., in spite of the fact that the average C licence vehicle can operate with a load only one way, and only on rare occasions can it secure a return load with raw materials—and not for hire or reward—back to its works of origin. I do not wish to dogmatise in this matter. I am quoting from actual experience and with sincerity. I do not brand the whole British Road Services as an inefficient organisation, and I have never done so. I have said continuously that on the main trunk routes, British Road Services have proved, by and large, to be quite efficient. I refer to such trunk routes between London—Birmingham—Manchester—Liverpool—Glasgow—Newcastle—and so on. But those are the routes where British Road Services inherited highly efficient long distance trunk services from pre-nationalisation owners.
The hon. Gentleman cannot quarrel with me when I say that Bouts Tillotson, MacNamara, Southern Roadways, Young's Express Deliveries, in Scotland, or Edward Box, in the North of England—those famous long-distance road haulage concerns in pre-nationalisation days—were highly efficient, and that it was British Road Services who took over from them. But whereas British Road Services are efficient on those long-distance trunk routes, they are very far from efficient in the feeder and cross-country services which were largely within the general jurisdiction ownership and control of small haulage firms. It is largely because of that inefficiency in the cross-country and feeder services that so many individual commercial concerns have bought C licences in order to deliver their goods more cheaply than by using the British Road Services' organisation.
§ Mr. D. Jones
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not deny that the trunk services have been expanded substantially since British Road Services took over— 977 indeed, they are twice as great today—or that the vehicles have been improved and the conditions of employees improved out of all recognition?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I subscribe to none of the three views expressed by the hon. Gentleman. First, the number of long-distance main trunk route vehicles has not increased. Secondly, the terms of employment of operators on those routes have not been improved; and the third point—if the hon. Gentleman would repeat it—
§ Mr. Nabarro
The condition of the vehicles, in my view, is certainly no better today than it was before.
I wish to take the matter of C licences a stage further. The hon. Member for Eccles said that it was never the intention of his party to nationalise C licences. What a whopper! Though the party opposite did not intend to nationalise them, they certainly intended to strangulate them; because the intention in the original 1947 Transport Bill, as it was presented to this House, was to restrict the operations of C licence holders to a radius of 40 miles. That meant that only the little delivery vans could have continued to operate under a C licence. The long-distance vehicles would have had to give up business over 40 miles and become a succulent prey for British Road Services.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to the increase in the number of C licences since nationalisation. I do not say unequivocably that it is entirely due to the methods and the practices of British Road Services. If the hon. Gentleman will look up the figure of the increase in equivalent commercial vehicles in most Western European countries he will find that there are similar trends. But it was inaccurate for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that all the increases in C licences had taken place as a result of a larger number of delivery vans being operated. On the contrary. The number of vehicles of over 30-cwt. capacity has very substantially increased. It might be pertinent 978 if the House considered these figures for C licences since nationalisation. In December, 1947, there were 487,151: in December, 1948—
§ Mr. Nabarro
I will come to that.
In December, 1948, the figure was 590,516; in December, 1949, 672,301; in December, 1950, 733,044; in December, 1951, 796,343; in December, 1952—and here is the all-time high record-833,936. Whether it is correct to compare the last mentioned figure with the figure for December, 1947, or whether the December, 1947, figure truly reflects the correct period in which nationalisation actually came into practical effect, is controversial.
It might be a good point that a number of people went in for C licences in anticipation of nationalisation. But I have Just worked out that, comparing the figure of December, 1947, of 487,151, with the figure for December, 1952, of 833,936, there is an increase of 72 per cent. over the five years, or 346,785 vehicles. I suggest that figure is disproportionately high. I have no wish to be dogmatic about it, but it is a reflection upon the efficiency or otherwise of British Road Services, and I believe that "otherwise" is the word which should truly be emphasised in that connection.
§ Mr. Collick
The hon. Gentleman does not seem to appreciate the other side, even of his own picture. Does not he really understand that a large part of that increase is due to the expansion of trade and industry which took place under a Labour Government? If he looks at the figures a year or two hence, with trade and industry going down as it now is, he will find that there will be a contraction and not an expansion.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member has considerable telepathic powers. He has anticipated exactly the point I was about to make. Of course there has been an increase in production, at an average rate of 4 per cent. per annum during the period which I reviewed. I will not anticipate what may be the increase or the decrease in the next few years. In the five-year period to which I refer I am concerned only with the matter of C licences.
979 Here is a good example. These figures come from the Midland Federation of Brick and Tile Manufacturers. I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) for providing them for me. This is the position. In 1947, roughly at the time of nationalisation, this organisation represented 178 C licences. In 1952 it represented 293 C licences. They were all for vehicles of over 30 cwt. That was an increase of 65 per cent. in that five-year period.
In the same period the national production of bricks was, in 1947, 380 million bricks and, in 1952, 550 million bricks. Production increased by 42 per cent. whereas the number of C licences handling the Midlands' proportion of that production increased by 65 per cent. in the same period. The increase in the number of Midlands' C licence vehicles was one-half more than the general increase in the production of bricks. While one case is not conclusive, it confirms the trends which I quoted showing the general increase of C licences.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is it not a fact that from 1939 to 1946 the issue of C licences was almost stationary? The hon. Gentleman says that the average from 1946 to 1952 was 72 per cent. Can he say what the average was from 1939 to 1952?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I did not anticipate that I should have to answer questions about every statistic, but on this rare occasion I shall oblige the hon. Gentleman. The figure for C licences in the last pre-war year quoted ending in June. 1938, was 365,025, and the figure for the first postwar year ending in June, 1946, was 306,443.
§ Mr. Nabarro
A slight reduction, but that was largely due to the concentration of industry during the war and the fact that, by Government control, there was a general regulation that where possible goods should be carried by rail. The point I wish to make is that we on this side of the House are devoted to our Government's cause in denationalising long-distance haulage. We believe that it is the only efficient process that can be adopted to give the consumer interests in industry and commerce the services that they need.
980 I turn to the question of the railways. Clause 14 and 15 provide for a substantial measure of railway reorganisation on an area or regional basis. I re-echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham who said that he wanted the greatest possible degree of autonomy to be given to these areas or regions. I want something more. I want the nomenclature of the famous British railway systems to be reintroduced. Above all, I want those magic words, "Great Western," painted on the sides of the world's most famous locomotives.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Sit down. I am well aware that the hon. Gentleman who represents The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) spent many years on the footplate of a locomotive. I, unfortunately, was denied, rather later in life than I had originally anticipated, the pleasure of entering the profession of railway engineering. I share the admiration of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick), the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), and many other former servants of the Great Western, for the world's most efficient railway system.
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite not to take it in any partisan spirit when I say that much of the corporate pride that reposed in the Great Western Railway system before nationalisation, and in many other railway systems, has passed away from it as a resuIt of the mediocrity and standardisation that has come since nationalisation. What is more, that is not only the viewpoint of a railway enthusiast such as I am and always have been: it is the viewpoint of countless thousands of employees on the Western Region of British Railways today. They would like to see that nomenclature restored. I hope that when schemes are introduced under Clauses 14 and 15 that will be possible.
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas
We are all most interested in what the hon. Gentleman says about a desire for a return to the old company initials of "G.W.R." and so on. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would include companies such as the old Somerset and Dorset, the Taff Vale or the S.E. and C.R. If there were such a fundamental urge for a return of these "old boys" would the 981 hon. Gentleman be good enough to explain why a Conservative Government —or, at least, a Coalition Government—found it necessary to amalgamate the multiplicity of railway concerns, of which there were 30, 40 or 50, into the four companies under the Railway Act? Another point—
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman asked for it. When he mentioned the desire of the workers on the railways for a return to the old systems, on whose authority does he speak? Does he claim to speak on behalf of the organised trade unions?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Before the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) replies, I should like to say that we ought not to go back to a discussion of the old Act now.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was about to ask your protection against the depredations of the hon. Gentleman. Of course, I do not suggest for one moment that there should be a return to any of the arrangements that appertained before the 1921 Act, or before the 1923 amalgamation.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The 1921 Act and the 1923 amalgamation. All I said was that I wanted the nomenclature of the principal railway systems as they existed before nationalisation in 1947 to be restored. The hon. Member for The Wrekin referred to the Taff Vale railway. His ignorance of railway systems is abysmal. The Taff Vale railway disappeared as a nomenclature in 1923, not in 1947. I was pleading for the restoration of the pre-1947 position.
I want to say a word about inland water transport. During the Committee stage of this Bill we had only two very short interventions in connection with canals. As the 1947 Act has developed it has resulted in the Inland Waterways Executive becoming very much the junior partner of the Railway Executive. Many useful canals that were in good operating condition prior to 1947 have now largely fallen into disuse. I have a particular 982 constituency interest here because the link between the Severn and the Mersey canal systems starts at Stourport-on-Severn in the west, and was originally referred to, in 1770, as "Brindley's stinking ditch." It was built primarily for the conveyance of coal and other traffic of that type.
Since the nationalisation of the mines, the electricity industry, railways and gas works a great deal of the bulk traffic that was formerly conveyed most efficiently and most cheaply by the canals has been grabbed by the Railway Executive, and canal transport has very largely been squeezed out of existence. More and more canals are falling into disuse every year that goes by, under nationalisation. I regard that as a tragedy. I admit that many canals also fell into disuse in the early days of this century, but I am talking of the principal canals such as those joining the Rivers Severn and Mersey, which are capable of being used today for a great deal of bulk traffic.
When the time comes for the rearrangements to be carried out under this Measure and my right hon. Friend is considering the railway schemes I would ask him to take fully into account the prospects for using the canal systems for the conveyance of the maximum volume of suitable goods. In my constituency there is a well-known power-house, at Stourport-on-Severn, to which many thousands of tons of coal have to be sent every year. That coal is drawn largely from the Staffordshire and Warwickshire coalfields and yet the coal is taken to the powerhouse by rail and, in some instances, even by road transport. In every case that fuel should be moved in by canal, which could do the job much more cheaply; but, unfortunately, that traffic has been largely squeezed out as a result of what I believe to be the machinations of the Railway Executive. The Inland Waterways Executive should be strengthened in future and given the necessary powers to secure such bulk traffic, which I believe can be carried most economically by that means.
This will probably be nearly the Bill's valedictory speech from a Private Member on this side of the House before it departs to another place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] There may be only one, or perhaps two more speeches. I hope that the Bill will find its way through another place very rapidly and 983 will not be substantially amended except in respect of certain Government Amendments which have already been announced.
I hope that the general effect during the next two years—I give it no longer than that—will be to carry out the intentions of the Conservative Party as proclaimed to the country, before the last Election. Very simply expresed, they are the denationalisation of road transport and the decentralisation of the railway system. Only by these means can costs in industry be reduced and efficiency restored to transport as a whole.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
One of the significant features of the debate today has been that no hon. Member or right hon. Gentleman opposite has quoted a single transport expert in support of this Bill. They have found it very convenient to forget old friends—men like Lord Stamp, the late President of the L.M.S.; Mr. William Whitelaw, of the L.N.E.R.; Sir Alfred Read, of Coastline Shipping, and Sir Eustace Missenden, former general manager of the Southern Railway. Although the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) engaged in many generalisations, even he failed to quote a single authority in support of his argument that there is a demand for this Bill from any substantial private or public source.
Let us compare for a moment the position that faced the Labour Minister of Transport in 1945 with that which faces the Tory Minister of Transport in this Government. The Labour Minister of Transport inherited a railway system that was completely bankrupt in 1938.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman is talking about generalisations. He represents Swansea on the Great Western system. Did the Great Western Railway ever default on its preference shares? Of course not. Then how could it be bankrupt?
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Gentleman criticised one of my hon. Friends, but his own knowledge of railway administration and finance is abysmally ignorant. I suggest that he should read the financial records of the railway companies of this country. I see that our legal pundit has returned. He has tried on more than one occasion to disprove the official statistics published about the railways.
I challenge the hon. Gentleman to disprove that the railway companies came to the Government in the three years between 1935 and 1938 begging for financial assistance and saying that unless they were given assistance the transport system of this country would degenerate into absolute chaos. I reaffirm that the Labour Minister of Transport inherited in 1945 a railway system that was already bankrupt in 1938 and that he had to face the accumulated difficulties caused by six years of war with arrears of maintenance of rolling stock. All the other things incidental to a prosperous railway system had been allowed to get into arrears.
The present Minister of Transport is faced with a very different situation. As far as the road haulage industry was concerned, the Labour Minister was faced with a sweated industry where fewer than 3,000 out of over 17,000 employees were covered by agreements initiated with the trade unions. But now, as a result of such negotiations, the road haulage employees are being given adequate wages and proper accommodation. No fewer than 4,000 businesses and 40,000 vehicles were acquired and welded into a single undertaking.
As has been pointed out several times today, a network of services with properly equipped vehicles covers the whole country, and this is what the present Government are putting up to auction. They propose to take this organisation, tear it to pieces and throw the pieces as one throws bones to a dog and let their friends enjoy the proceeds of a co-ordinated system which has taken three years to set up. But for this coordinated system the transport of this country would have been absolutely chaotic during the past three years.
I invite the Minister, or the Parliamentary Secretary who is to reply, to quote a single authority which has asked for the production of this Bill other than 985 members of the Road Haulage Association whose chairman was frank enough to say at the annual meeting at Torquay in October, 1951—just before the General Election—that they were banking upon the Tory Party redeeming the promises, made at all levels, to return the industry to private hands. This promise is now being redeemed at the expense of the public interest.
A similar position has arisen on the railways. Some nebulous body is going to take the place of the Railway Executive, but what kind of body nobody seems to know. When I asked the Minister if he could tell me, he said, "Oh, the B.T.C. will be asked to devise a scheme." He wanted them to do it because they were railway experts. But does not the Minister realise that the railway experts have been in charge ever since 1945? We have not had workers' control on the railways. I am not an advocate of workers' control, although I would urge that the workers should be given a greater share in the management and control of the industry. The railway experts have been in charge since 1945 on the B.T.C. and the Railway Executive. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell me, if he will, who are the experts he is going to call upon outside the men whose names are so familiar to us in this House and in the industry itself.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster joined others in hoping and praying for the day when we shall return to the competitive system so far as the railways are concerned, but why is it, if the competitive system is such an excellent system. that it failed in pre-war days?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I made one single point about the matter today. I appealed for the restoration of the nomenclature of the main-line railway systems. That has nothing to do with the competitive system.
§ Mr. Morris
I gave the hon. Gentleman credit for a little more sense than that. What is the change of name going to mean? Merely to call something the Great Western instead of the South-Western, or something else. If that is the only change he wants, perhaps the hon. 986 Member will indicate what difference it will make.
I should, however, like to deal with something much more important. Will the Parliamentary Secretary indicate what provision is to be made in the future to unify the resources and equipment amongst the various regions? Are they going to compete with one another? As a resuIt of nationalisation, all the workshops have been at the disposal of all the regions. I quoted figures last week to demonstrate that this unification has been very much to the advantage of the transport system of this country. Am I to understand that the chief regional officer of each region will be expected to compete with his colleagues, and that the chief regional officer who spends the least amount of money will be first in the line of promotion irrespective of any failure to give an efficient and satisfactory service?
The hon. Member for Kidderminster, who ought to have known better, mentioned the canals. The railway companies urged us, the employees, to do our best as far as road and rail were concerned, but they said, "Do not bother about the canals." If the canals in this country are in a shocking state, it is due to indifference in that direction at the time of the railway companies, before ever we had nationalisation and the advantage that this unification has brought about.
I will quote one witness to that advantage. Mr. W. L. Kelly, the assistant director of marketing of the National Coal Board, made this statement:It seems only right that as one of the railways' biggest customers we should acknowledge what the Railway Executive and the Regions have achieved together during the past five years, and the co-operation that they have given the Board at every level in handling the great volume of rail-borne traffic. Coal traffic provides 60 per cent. of the railways' revenue, producing a freight tonnage equal to nearly 3,300,000 tons a week in 325,000 wagons.Mr. Kelly added:We have seen the great effort of team work, and we cannot afford to see this achievement weakened.He was speaking from his experience in directing one of the most vital industries of this country.
Then there have been complaints made today that the railways have not kept their systems in order, that they ought to have built more coaches, that they ought 987 to have extended their services, and so on. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who spoke earlier from this side of the House, has intervened on more than one occasion to say that the difficulty has been almost entirely due to the restriction of capital expenditure. Mr. John Elliot, quoted in "Modern Transport," said:The aim must be to increase the capacity of the railways to meet traffic requirements, but, unfortunately, last year the steel received could be used to build a little over 200 locomotives instead of 300 and 10,000 freight wagons instead of 19,000. There was no allocation of steel to enable the building of a single new passenger carriage in the 1952 programme, although the Executive had planned to build 2,000. How can they extend and improve their services if they are denied the physical materials that are necessary for the work?It is a sheer injustice to the Executive and to the B.T.C. to criticise them for failing to do work for which they had no material provided.
I submit that this Bill will fail because it is unsound administratively. Nobody has told us so far how they will distribute the road haulage system. It will prove unsound operationally, unless it means that these various regions will again have to build up their separate engineering resources, and that will involve a tremendous increase in cost.
This Bill will fail, and fail badly, in the field of human relationships, mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr). Reference has been made to the Great Western Railway. Sir Felix Pole set up the "social and educational union on the Great Western Railway." I do not think he was conscious of it; he thought it meant welfare, but it was sheer patronage and nothing more. Although he might have been full of good intentions, until nationalisation not one railway company, and certainly none of the road haulage associations, made any attempt to provide proper welfare facilities for their staffs. Let me give some crude but actual illustrations.
Do hon. Members opposite realise that at many of our stations there are no toilet facilities for men and women railway workers, except the public lavatories, and that a member of the staff who had to use one of those lavatories would be expected to take a penny and put a bit of sticking-plaster over it with his initials on 988 it if he wanted to reclaim the money? There was no separate provision for washing the hands before or after meals. As for rest accommodation and mess accommodation, there was nothing of the kind. In fact, we were supposed to be quite indifferent to the decencies and amenities of life.
Since nationalisation all that has undergone a change. The Railway Executive have listened to our plea and said, in effect, "Let us be reasonable and proper. We will do our best, but we cannot do it all at once, and we will give you a list of priorities."
I have referred to the simple things, but what about office accommodation? What about accommodation for shunters in the yard on nights such as we have had during this winter?—men working in utter darkness, in blinding snowstorms or torrential rain. What provision was there for them when they wanted to take a little shelter or to have a meal? Is it really suggested for a moment that the railways did anything about welfare? The hon. Member for Kidderminster talks about nomenclature, and asks us to use the name "The Great Western" again, and says that a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Let us have the decencies of life for these people.
As I said last week, the claim of men and women to be encouraged to take a deep and intense interest in their industry is now recognised; are they again to be denied the necessary educational facilities?
This Bill is a step backwards, and I want to prove to the House that it is the only kind of Bill we can expect from the Tory Party. I am glad to see the Liberal Party represented by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), although as they will not listen to one another it is hardly necessary for me to say much to them. Mr. Kenneth H. Johnston, a member of the Liberal Committee on Transport under the Chairmanship of Mr. B. Seebolm Rowntree, published a book in 1949 on "British Railways and Economic Recovery." He said:To the landlords of the 19th Century the era of railway construction was an incomparable opportunity for recouping the losses due to the repeal of the Corn Laws. To lawyers of the same period it afforded occasion for realising scores of millions of pounds without making any constructive contribution.989 That is where the trouble started. When the railway era commenced, the landlords of this country held the railways up to ransom. Many railways then had to take devious and circuitous routes and incur additional expense and difficulties because of the rapacity of the landlords. But presently, when the landlords thought that the railway was a coming thing, they started to invest their money in the railway. Someone has mentioned the Taff Railway—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think that the hon. Member is getting a little wide of the Bill.
§ Mr. Morris
This Bill is really a reflection of the Tory mind, but it is no improvement upon the Tory mind of the 19th Century, and the facts of history prove that this has been the attitude of Tories towards transport all along the line, except when they managed to conciliate the landlords by paying high prices. The landlords then joined hands with them and eventually the coal owners, and they have brought blood on the mines and on the railways. It was not until 1947 that prosperity first came to the industry in a right and proper sense.
I commend to the Liberal Party and to hon. Members opposite a statement in the book published by Mr. Kenneth Johnston, who proved conclusively that unless something is done to co-ordinate and electrify the transport of Great Britain on the railways, we cannot hope to have an efficient service.
I will give one more quotation. Mr. John Stuart Mill said:The countries which at a given moment are not masters of their transport will be condemned to ruin in the economic struggles of the future.Those are the words of a very wise man, and I think that they may be proved to be true if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
My final warning to hon. Members opposite is this: They ought to take very great care. They are driving many ordinary people in the transport industry into the Communist Party. That is the last thing that they really want to do. But if these people feel that the Government are going to abuse their power in the House of Commons and destroy the industry in which they are engaged, they are going to seek refuge elsewhere. As an 990 hon. Member pointed out, the Minister does not realise the debt of gratitude which he owes to responsible trade union leaders in the transport industry who have prevailed on their members to recognise that the day will come when, if this Bill becomes an Act, the Labour Party will have the opportunity of rectifying it when they get into power again.
This is a bad Bill, full of defects, contrary to public opinion and contrary to the advice of the transport experts. In fact, it is a Bill to redeem political promises, and the Minister ought to withdraw it or be thoroughly ashamed of it for the rest of his life.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
I am proud to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker immediately after the speech by the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris). That is because I wish, with full sincerity, as a layman knowing nothing at first hand about transport, to say how deeply I, for one, was moved by the pleas which he has made more than once in our debates on this Bill for the welfare of the manual workers. Their skill and reliability is indeed the staff and the stuff of the whole industry.
By the same token, it is only with reluctance that I intervene at all, particularly in the presence of transport experts, including the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) and the right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). Both of them, as is evident from the speeches which we have heard from them, have given an enormous amount of detailed study and personal research to the transport problem, particularly as it affects Scotland. It is, therefore, only with a sense of a layman's deference to experts that I intervene.
The hon. Member for Swansea, West posed the question: Where is there a demand for the Bill? I believe there is an answer to that question, and I hope to show one source among those whose labour directs and runs transport, from which such a demand has indeed come.
Before I make explicit reference to that quarter, I want to advert to one point which has emerged as the debate has proceeded. Listening to it as a layman, I was struck by the claim made from the benches opposite at the beginning that integration had proceeded far and was proceeding well. We were challenged 991 by the Opposition to give precise, exact, accurate examples to show that integration had failed. I speak only from constituency experience, but it is only fair and proper that the few examples which have come to my notice casually in my constituency should be made known.
I have had constant complaints from people living in Biggar that since the railway to Peebles was closed down there has not been adequate road passenger transport to the nearest railway station at Symington. Pleas have constantly been uttered, but such a service has not been provided. It is my belief and hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, will indicate that the Scottish Transport Council, the establishment of which is a matter of pleasure to my hon. Friends and myself, will be able to take cognisance of lacks of transport facilities. That is merely one example, in 1953, of the failure to integrate.
Not long ago I sought to dispatch some furniture from London to a house in my constituency. I approached British Road Services. They have trucks which pass through Lanark within a mile and a half of the house to which I wanted the furniture delivered. They refused to undertake the consignment. When I suggested that they might take the furniture to Glasgow and that the railway could take it on to Lanark and then deliver it to my house, they again declined. I do not know whether these examples prove much; but there they are for what they are worth.
An example of integration which I find more tragic, grave and serious than any small instance of B.R.S. failing to provide a service is the experience of some transport workers in a small depot which, they have told me, is matched by the experiences of similar workers in other small depots. One of my first tasks after arriving in this historic House was to meet about 30 members of the Transport and General Workers' Union who served—notice the past tense—the B.R.S. from the depot at Symington. That depot was small and dirty and many argued it to be inefficient. It was a depot which had originated, naturally, under private enterprise, and it had gradually become absorbed in a bigger enterprise.
Now a strange and really puzzling situation arose. How correct was the observation of the hon. Member for 992 Swansea, West when he said that it was human relations in industry which were the key to the whole process. When I have found myself in conversation with businessmen, or managers of nationalised industries, it has constantly come to my attention that if efficiency is desired it is the good will and the pride of the men which is the first and perhaps final need. Management is invaluable, as also is cooperation between the two sides of the industry; but without the good will and loyalty of the men, we could not get anywhere.
Here was a case, then, where I was shocked and puzzled; indeed I intervene in this debate because I cannot in conscience see this complicated Bill pass through this House without, in loyalty to these constituents of mine, making some reference to their experience. In December, 1951, they came to me with a story which frankly I could not comprehend, being totally ignorant of the whole circumstances. Their story was about two of their trucks being withdrawn from the fleet which operated from that depot. The first thing that struck me was the intense pride which the men had in their fleet of trucks, and the second thing was that they had not been given the real answer to their complaints about it.
They had asked the district manager or whoever was the person responsible—I am not familiar with the exact titles of the officers of B.R.S.—for the reasons for withdrawing these trucks. They were given contradictory reasons. I made my own inquiries as best I could, as a fumbling newcomer more blessed with enthusiasm and zeal than with discretion. Eventually I was given a promise, which originated in the office of Lord Hurcomb, that that depot would not be closed down.
I had no right or claim to judge the merits of the depot as such, nor its economic position in the whole problem of integration. I could not claim to argue whether or not it was economical, nor could I argue about it from the point of view of whether it would be economical if it were at some spot 10 miles away. All I did was I put the case with all the zeal and sincerity that I could command on behalf of men who had a certain loyalty to a tin shack with a lot of trucks.
993 Their homes were spread over an area within a 10 mile radius, and their whole lives were focused on the operation of that depot. It was, in effect, the centre of their social life and well-being. When I met the men on several occasions they invited me to go and see them, and it is perfectly true that the children would come up to me and say, "Is it going to be all right, Mister?" I only mention that case, because here is something which gripped and, in a sense, psychologically paralysed a whole community.
When the Transport Bill was published I studied it as best I could with my untutored ability in these matters. And I was heartened to see that there was a system for breaking down these enormous road monopolies into transport units. I might explain in parenthesis that I did not myself take steps to institute inquiries of the men of that depot. I left it to them to get in touch with me, because I did not want anything through any fault of mine, to worsen union relationships. Such information as I received came voluntarily from them, and it was they who at once said, "Is it true that we may be able to take over our old garage?"
This was after the depot had been practically closed and the men transferred for the most part to one something like 30 miles away. This had meant an ensuing hardship of travelling anything from two to three hours a day to their work. That is a serious matter when men are working a trunk route, like that to Manchester. That extra two or three hours, or even one hour, per day is a serious consideration from the point of view of safety, a driver's own health and family relationships, especially when he comes back home feeling very tired. These considerations are germane to efficiency and to the whole issue of integration. I will not attempt to argue the detailed, expert economic argument for or against integration, and I am not expected to do so. But I am sure that all will admit that there is a strong human element in this problem.
Now, it has been widely said, though sometimes contradicted, that these trade union protest meetings have been a flop. I can only give two examples from my own personal knowledge. I regret that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) is not in his place now 994 because I should like to ask him how many were present when he came to Motherwell in Lanarkshire two months ago. It was just before Christmas. He came to address a protest meeting. possibly some hon. Member on the other side may know the answer. I was told, for what it may be worth, that there were not more than 50 or 60 people present.
I was approached by the agent for the Labour Party in my constituency, who forwarded to me a resolution against this Bill alleged to have been passed at a protest meeting at Carluke. It had been billed beforehand as "Lanark's Protest." When I wrote back and asked how many people had been there, I got no answer. I was told by one source that there was nobody there at all. No doubt there have been meetings of the kind, of which an example was quoted from Manchester the other day, and at which we were informed that 600 people were present. But I feel that a strong, negative argument could be adduced from the seeming lack of enthusiasm at some of these protest meetings, and from the fact that road haulage workers do not seem to have responded to their unions' encouragements to fight this Bill.
Since I referred to this matter the other day without having the text, I would ask the leave of the House to refer to it again. I have the text now and it is only fair that I should give it. I made an allegation that the national secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, Mr. T. B. Meikle, and the commercial convener, Mr. William Schooles did, from the Glasgow office of the union, 24, Park Circus, under the reference Cycle 162/52, send round last May a circular addressed to "Commercial Officers, Branch Secretaries and Collectors."
It referred to de-nationalisation of road transport and it adumbrated many of the arguments we have heard, if not ad nauseam at all events sufficiently, in recent weeks. It informed the recipients that an examination of the White Paper proposalsreveals what will be considered by our members as a major disaster "—note, "will" be considered by our members—which, if given effect to, are bound to have a serious effect on the nation in general and on the workers in the industry in particular.995 I am bound to say that if from my own union, the National Union of Journalists, I received a circular of that kind I should consider what action had to be taken, and the action recommended.
I need not trouble the House with the argument adduced, but the action recommended—what is more it was underlined to draw special attention to it—was as follows:Branches are therefore requested"—
§ Mr. Awbery
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it right for an hon. Member to bring a private letter to this House and read it aloud?
§ Mr. Maitland
My argument was directed and is directed toward suggesting that there are many road transport workers who do not feel sufficiently angry or frightened or alarmed by this Bill even to write to their Members of Parliament, as they were invited to do.
Be that as it may, I suggest with respect that one has reason to hope that such problems as the ones that arose in this case at Symington will be of a kind that can be referred to the Scottish Transport Council when it is set up. I hope that in his final remarks the Parliamentary Secretary will describe in as much detail as possible the intended functions and work of that Council. There is much work for it to do—even if not of integration, because that word is tabu. There is co-ordination to be attempted and there are problems that can be referred to that body, whereas hitherto one could only go to the Transport Commission.
In the hope that I shall not further stray from the bounds of order, I only draw the following conclusions from the negative evidence that I have adduced; I submit that so far from there being intense, heated, furious political anxiety 996 amongst the road haulage workers anywhere in my constituency about this Bill, there is the hope, and indeed the confidence, that it will be passed. There is the hope that their former depot will again become a transport unit to which they can become attached. There is the belief and hope that transport may indeed be taken out of politics and that this Bill, to which I wish God-speed, will help to that end.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
This is indeed a black and sorry day for the transport organisation of our country. Here we are gathered to give a Third Reading to a Bill which seeks to disintegrate and disorganise one of the greatest efforts ever made in our history to make our transport organisation serve the greater needs and commerce of our nation. When the right hon. Gentleman gets up to defend the principles of this Bill, he and his political friends stand absolutely alone in its support. I doubt whether he could find from all the transport experts in our country, irrespective of their politics, 5 per cent. who would support the proposals embodied in this Bill. It is in direct opposition to all the evidence and all the expert opinion that has come down to us from the inter-war years when this problem existed in an acute form.
The right hon. Gentleman is putting back the clock. I know he will say that in doing so he is endeavouring to free the railways to some extent from restrictions on levying charges on traffic. If the right hon. Gentleman and his friends seem to think that that step, and that step alone, will put the railways upon their feet financially, I am afraid that he and his friends are very greatly mistaken.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to think—and these were the words that he used—that the railways will become really competitive under the terms of the Bill. But it is quite impossible for railways to become really competitive with road haulage under the conditions of the Bill without a considerable financial reorganisation of the capital commitments of British railways. The Minister and his friends do not seem to realise that the railways are very seriously handicapped by the heavy financial capital burden which they have to carry, in the original 997 acquisition of their land, the laying out of their railway tracks and the circumstances of their system of control, where as the road haulage organisations have none of this capital cost to meet year by year.
Even if the right hon. Gentleman is correct in his supposition that the Bill will at last restore a basis of competition between road and rail, he does not realise that capitalist competition has worn itself out. We are no longer living in the days of Queen Victoria. The capitalist competitive principle is a retrograde step in the world of today. Consequently, if this so-called competition is to succeed, what will it achieve?
If the right hon. Gentleman is leading us to believe that the railways will be able to take traffic away from the road hauliers, how much does he expect to get for the Road Haulage Executive vehicles when he auctions them? Who is going to pay a good price for the Executive's vehicles if people believe, as the Minister says, that the railways are now able to compete with the roads and will be able to take their traffic away from them? Any purchasers would be mad to give anything like a good price for vehicles under such conditions.
Even if the Minister is wrong and the railways are unable to compete, and the road hauliers secure the traffic from the railways, what, then, is to happen to British Railways? The railways will sink deeper and deeper into the financial mire and will become a greater and greater financial burden to the community.
Even so, the very principle of competition itself contains the seeds of its own decay, and the right hon. Gentleman will find that this process of "beggaring my neighbour" that will take place between the railways and the road hauliers will drive the weakest to the wall; and if the weakest road hauliers are to be driven to the wall, presumably by the railways, will not their undertakings be acquired by other road hauliers until, in the end, the process will lead us to a private monopoly of road haulage competing against the railways system? We shall have repeated once again those pernicious conditions which existed between the wars, where railways and road haulage were trying to destroy each other in fruitless competition for the limited traffic which was available for conveyance.
998 Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's policy leads us absolutely to disaster. There is no single person among the transport experts who would support the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward, because they know that his proposals will be disastrous to our transport organisation and will reduce it again to chaos. And so we shall have once again, by and by, to reverse the process that is now taking place in the Bill, because the integration of road and rail transport is an economic inevitability.
Apart from wider considerations, the last war left us with very considerable problems of production and organisation for export. In the revival of our productive activity as a nation and in the development of our export trade we cannot afford to have the arteries of commerce and transport divided and rent asunder, competing with each other and endeavouring to destroy each other in the process. This country can only survive if it is prepared to plan its economic resources and only on condition that its great arteries of transport are unified and integrated into a system which gives the greatest results and the greatest efficiency. I think that time will prove that the proposals contained in this Bill will be a great evil and will destroy the effective transport organisation of our country.
Hon. Members opposite tell us that the proposals in Clauses 14 and 15 dealing with the reorganisation of the railways will restore competition. It is quite impossible to restore competition by having painted on Western Region engines "Great Western" instead of the words "British Railways." The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) seemed to think that everything in the garden would then be lovely. Hon. Members opposite have some very weird ideas about railway organisation.
In this Bill the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to displace the Railway Executive. If he did so what would he put in its place? Clause 14 contains a mass of machinery provisions such as we have never heard of in the history of the railways. It is intended to supplant the Railway Executive. The Clause talks of co-ordinating the co-ordinating committees and contains a mass of machinery which, if the British Transport Commission attempted to implement it would 999 completely paralyse the railways from one end of the country to the other. Therefore, the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman for reorganisation of British Railways do not really exist.
Such proposals as the Transport Commission have already advanced he has turned down and he has made the position of the Commission absolutely hopeless. He places upon them the responsibility of providing a new organisation in place of the Railway Executive and when they do that he turns it down. When they produce another plan, which the Minister may accept, before agreeing he has to submit it to a lot of outside private interests. They will look at it and, if they do not like it, will tell the right hon. Gentleman so. I should like to know what he will do in that case. Will he force on the Transport Commission a reorganisation scheme which meets with the approval of outside people?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I dealt with all that at considerable length when dealing with Clause 15 in my speech this afternoon.
§ Mr. Sparks
Yes, I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that. But my point is that he is placing the Commission in an impossible position. Why does he turn down their scheme? After all, they know a little more about the problem than he does, and I think they know more about it than private enterprise interests outside the industry. The Commission are expected to produce a reorganisation scheme. How are they to do what the Minister wants, to have competition among the various railway groups, when they have to maintain a national financial control of the undertaking?
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that we have moved miles and years away from the old competitive order. British Railways have evolved uniform standards of operation, the standardisation of rolling stock and many other national standard methods of procedure, as well as financial organisation. So long as that exists we cannot revert to the small-man idea of one region competing against another. The proposals of the right hon. Gentleman will fail utterly and completely and the result will be chaos for our great transport industry.
1000 On the question of permitting the Commission to retain six-fifths of the former railway-owned road haulage undertakings, the right hon. Gentleman recently agreed to increase that number to five-fourths. As I understood, the right hon. Gentleman was doing so to make an additional provision of vehicles in lieu of the horse-drawn vehicles which belonged to former railway-owned road haulage undertakings, and for which no calculation was made in the original figure. The right hon. Gentleman said: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 with which the Commission will be allowed to retain."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 9th February, 1953: Vol. 511, c. 55.]I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he considers an addition of 200 road vehicles adequate compensation for the 2,800 horse-drawn vehicles disposed of at the formation of the Road Haulage Executive? It is true that they still retain 700 horse-drawn vehicles. Is the extra allocation of 200 based on the figure of 700 horse-drawn vehicles held by the Commission, or is that 200 intended to relate to the 2,800 which were taken over by the Executive and disposed of—
§ Mr. Sparks
I cannot give way, I have not much time.
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman about these 2,800 horse-drawn vehicles, and I suggest that more than 200 road vehicles are necessary to replace them. The Minister should look into the matter again. If he intends to be fair and just he should appreciate that his additional allocation of 200 vehicles is totally inadequate to take the place of the 2,800 horse-drawn vehicles which were subsequently replaced by other road vehicles.
In conclusion, I cannot wish the Bill a successful passage through the other place. I do not think that the Minister is prepared to effect many changes in its provisions and the Measure as it stands will be disastrous to the industry. It will disintegrate a fine system which the Commission have built up during the last four or five years and once again plunge the 1001 industry back into that morass in which it wallowed for more than 20 years between the wars.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
To those of my hon. Friends who have not been fortunate enough to catch your eye today, Mr. Speaker, I would say that they will have ample opportunity on other occasions because I am confident that this will not be the last Transport Bill which we will have to consider. This Bill is of such a nature that inevitably it will be replaced by another Measure before very long. It is very different from the Bill which was predicted when the White Paper on transport was published about nine months ago.
I was rather surprised this afternoon that the Minister seemed inclined to boast about the changes which have taken place in this Bill as it has evolved from the White Paper. I was surprised that he showed no embarrassment or shame that the Bill first presented to this House had to be drastically improved upon and, as he said, changed before it left us. What is more, when the Bill reaches the other place there are to be further substantial changes.
Throughout our discussion there has been a marked conflict on the benches opposite between what one might call the Tory diehards and the diversionists. The diehards have been guided by political prejudice and perhaps they are best characterised by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) who seems on questions of transport to live in a land of make-believe where competition and private profit still march hand in hand with efficiency. On the other side have been the diversionists who have had experience of transport and industry and who are well aware of the change which this Bill will bring about.
I was disappointed that some of those voices were not heard this afternoon. We have not heard anything from the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) or one or two other hon. Members who have spoken from the back benches opposite against certain aspects of their Government's Bill. I regretted 1002 that they did not have the courage to go into the Opposition Lobby to vote for their own Amendments and against their Government. Perhaps they were frightened that the Chief Whip might stage a political trial.
The Minister has learned something as this Bill has gone through its various stages. Of course, he started from scratch. I have been sorry for him. He was presented with a policy which he was not responsible for formulating and in which, as he learned something about transport, I think he has ceased to believe. It may be that he was forced to pursue this policy first by the Prime Minister's fleeting interference with transport—an interference which seems to have ceased, as we have not had the honour of his presence in any of our debates. It may also be that the Minister is perhaps not altogether a free agent; there is an "overlord" in another place. But we have heard very little of his part in this policy during our debates.
This co-ordinator, who was at one time an advocate of the co-ordination of transport, has become one of the greatest de-co-ordinators, as it were, and he has quite a lot to live down. I have here some speeches of his, from which I could quote if I had time, in which he deplored the existence of so many small units in the road haulage industry and indicates that we cannot have an efficient transport system as long as the industry is so organised.
This House must take a serious view of the way in which the Minister is leaving it to the Upper House to make substantial Amendments to this Bill. When legislation is initiated here it is normally the prerogative of this House to see that that legislation leaves here in a form which, if not final in every detail, is final as regards major matters of policy. I think the Minister is treating this House with contempt and disdain in deliberately refraining from introducing here certain of the final measures which the Bill is supposed to incorporate, and leaving it to the other place to do so.
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry; I cannot give way. At the moment I am addressing my remarks to the Minister. The Minister is treating this House somewhat with 1003 disdain, because when the Measure comes back to us from another place we shall be faced with the position of taking it or leaving it. It is possible for Amendments to be made to Lords' Amendments, but the process is difficult and it is by no means easy to have an adequate debate thereon.
§ Mr. Powell
Has the hon. Member forgotten that it was his own Government who left it to another place to insert the provision making possible the imposition of charges under the National Health Service?
§ Mr. Davies
That was not a major incorporation at that time. We do not yet know what is going to be the final scheme for the disposal of the undertakings of the Road Haulage Executive, which is one of the main purposes of this Bill. Nine months have passed since the White Paper appeared and in those nine months the Minister has not been able to present a final proposal for the disposal of the undertakings of that Executive.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) said, this is an unwanted Bill. I doubt whether there was ever a Bill which came to this House in one form and was forced through in another form in the face of so much informed opposition. No one who understands transport and who is fully cognisant of the operations of the industry wants this Bill. It has come into being solely because of promises given by the Government to a certain section of the community, which resulted in pressure from their back benchers at a time when Tory stock was low.
Further, the policy is contrary to the advice of all those who are engaged in the industry, from the management to the workers, and most of those whom the transport industry serves. The destruction of the publicly-owned transport system—which will be the inevitable result of this Bill—will be a small reward for those within the industry who have so assiduously devoted themselves to building it up.
Again, this Bill is being forced through this House under the Guillotine procedure and contrary to the advice of the Commission itself, contrary to the opinion of the Chambers of Commerce, and contrary 1004 to the opinion of the technical and the national Press. There is no demand whatever in the country for this Bill; but the Minister has taken it upon himself to ignore the advice of the Commission.
On the two major proposals contained in the Bill, the question of the disposal of the road haulage undertaking and the matter of the Clauses dealing with railway reorganisation, the Commission has stated its opposition. In the Committee stage, the Minister stated that the Commission were completely opposed to the provisions in regard to the disposal of the Road Haulage Executive and that they thought not only that it should not be disposed of, but that the methods which the Government were proposing were unworkable.
Could anything be more definite than that? Here is the Commission, which has been responsible for building up the Road Haulage Executive undertaking and which has made a successful job of it, telling the Minister it is opposed to the sale, and that even if he insists on the sale it is opposed to the method which he puts forward. It is true that in the other place the Minister proposes to go a little way towards meeting the opinion expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House that the disposal should take place through the company structure; but he will not go the whole way and organise the existing undertaking into companies, though he is going to allow some companies to be formed. I repeat that we do not yet know how the disposal is to take place.
Although some improvements have been made to the Bill, it is no more acceptable to hon. Members on this side than was the policy outlined in the White Paper. We remain unchanged in our view that the Bill is unnecessary, is contrary to the public interest and is a bad Bill which can only lead to a deterioration in the transport services of this country. It will bring to an end a great experiment in the integration of transport and in the building up of a national transport system.
Although many of my hon. Friends have paid tribute to the work done by the British Transport Commission and have drawn attention to the great achievements of the Road Haulage Executive and of British Railways, I do not think sufficient credit has yet been given to the 1005 achievements of this publicly-owned transport system. In the first place, there has been a unification of the railways which has resulted in very great economies being achieved in their operation. As a direct result of this unification, the sum of about £16 million per annum is being saved.
There is the build-up of the British Road Services, a matter with which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) dealt this afternoon. But I do not think the Minister fully understands exactly what the British Road Services really are. He does not yet understand the system which is operating and which enables a national service of road haulage to be provided throughout the country. At 222, Marylebone Road, the headquarters of the Road Haulage Executive, there is a map room. In that map room one can see the areas which are served by the British Road Services, the divisions, the districts, the groups, the sub-depots, and so forth; and if one studies that map, and studies at the same time the plan of the teleprinter system which is operated, one cannot but realise how complete is the service which is being provided today.
Does the Minister realise the difference between the operation of road haulage in this country today and its operation before the war? Does he realise that, through the teleprinter system, if an order is received, say, in Newcastle for sending goods by lorry to Southampton, Southampton is immediately informed that those lorries of British Road Services are bringing down those goods and will be available in Southampton for return loads? Throughout the country, through this integration of the road haulage undertaking, it is possible to eliminate a great deal of the empty running which existed before, and to provide industry with the certainty of road haulage being available as and when required.
Then there has been built up the Pickfords Special Traffics Division dealing in specialised traffics and the parcels service, which enables parcels to be sent from any one part of this Kingdom to another through the same organisation. There has been—it has not been mentioned in our debates—the extension of the road passenger services by the British Transport Commission, and a great deal more has been achieved. It is these achievements that the Minister is now destroying. He is destroying all this.
1006 As to the railways, it is quite unnecessary that there should be introduced into this Bill Clauses covering the reorganisation of the railways. The railways could have been reorganised, and would have been reorganised to a certain extent along the lines the Commission itself proposed, without the introduction of this Bill.
British Road Services, quite clearly, cannot continue to operate after this Bill becomes law and is implemented, nor can private enterprise continue to provide the same service, because the organisation will be broken up. It will be impossible for private enterprise, split up into a large number of separate undertakings, some small, some larger, to have that co-ordination which enables a national service to be provided today.
The Minister has not told us how he is going to ensure that competition which he talked about so glibly, and of which his hon. Friends behind him have spoken so much today; how competition is going to ensure that those services provided today in the sparsely populated areas are going to continue. Does the Minister really believe that if the vehicles of the British Road Services are sold off and are purchased by small men, he will be able to provide services which are unremunerative? He knows full well that the services the small men will provide will be those on which they can make the greatest profit, through creaming off the traffics not only from the railways but from other hauliers, through cut-throat competition between one and another.
This afternoon the Minister suggested that the Bill provided that any entrant into the industry who ceased to provide the same service would be subject to the sanction of the licensing provisions. All that is provided in the Bill is that if he changes his base he will be so subject. Different services can easily be operated without changing the base. All the Minister has to do to appreciate that is to look at the map of British Road Services to see, for instance, that from Glasgow the sparsely populated area along the Clyde previously serviced by steamship is now served by road and is not remunerative. The same centre, Glasgow, can serve a very wide area where remunerative traffics are available. What is to stop the purchaser from switching to the latter?
1007 Little has been said today about the levy, but proposals which both we and the Minister's hon. Friends made would, if accepted, have enabled the levy to be dropped. The levy has no friends. Its original purpose, which was to compensate the railways for loss of traffics resulting from competition from road haulage, has been dropped. Because the Minister let his friends down when he introduced the levy, he changed the Bill, but he has not got rid of the levy; he has maintained that pernicious tax.
The case the Government have tried to make for this Bill is built on a number of fallacies. The first is that the 1947 Act has not achieved its main purpose of integration. The Home Secretary has already been quoted as saying that it would take 10 years to bring about the integration envisaged by the 1947 Act. In four years a very great deal has been done. First, each form of transport must be integrated, and that process was almost completed, with the unification of the railways and the building-up of British Road Services. After each form of transport has been integrated, the various forms of transport have to be integrated. That was the next step, which we were ready to proceed with, and the British Transport Commission had prepared a freight charges scheme which would have contributed substantially to the greater integration of transport, but the Commission was prevented from carrying that through and proceeding with integration by the action of this Government.
The second fallacy on which the Government based their case is that the Commission enjoys a monopoly of long-distance road haulage. That is not so. The Commission is subject to competition from the C licensees, about which we have heard a great deal of misinformation this afternoon. The Transport Commission does not enjoy a monopoly of long-distance traffic. Pickfords compete with private enterprise in specialised traffics and removals. There is ample competition, of course, on short distances. The Commission owns only 40,000 vehicles out of more than 1 million vehicles running on our roads today.
The third fallacious argument is that the Road Haulage Executive has been 1008 inefficient, but no evidence has been produced by hon. Members opposite to substantiate their claim that industry has not been provided with the service it required. On the contrary, we have had statements made by industry itself and by those engaged in the transport industry that the B.R.S. are serving their customers well. I quote from what has been said by representatives of the Road Haulage Association in the North-East. It says:The traffic personnel of B.R.S. know each and every kind of specialised traffic, and they move it with great efficiency. Firms are appreciative of this excellent service.There is the evidence of the Road Haulage Association itself.
Another fallacy is that competition between road and rail is desirable and that it can be free and equal. The Minister said this afternoon that he was enabling the railways to become really competitive. But it is not possible for railway and road to be competitive on a fair and equal basis. The railways of this country have to carry all the traffic that is offered to them, and so long as there is available a public service provided by the railways, then the trader will place on the railways those goods which it does not pay him to carry himself and will carry those goods only which it pays him to carry in his own vehicles or which the public haulier carries more cheaply. That is to say, the railways can never compete with road transport on an equal basis because they are obliged to carry all the goods offered, unremunerative as well as remunerative.
I think that for this major political blunder which the Government are making in forcing this Bill through under the Guillotine, the country will have to pay. The country will pay ultimately for this disruption of the transport service which will inevitably take place. The community will pay financially through the sale of its national assets at a loss, and industry will pay in higher transport costs over much of the system as a result of the levy. Transport users, passengers and traders, will pay more for a worse service at higher cost. A worse service at higher cost will be the result of the inevitable deterioration in the financial position of the Commission. This Bill cannot succeed. It can only result, in my view, in the splitting up of the transport industry into a series of unco- 1009 ordinated parts, divided between the public and private sector, competing wastefully with each other.
They will compete wastefully because it means that there will be more facilities provided through a greater number of vehicles on the road, but there will be, of course, no more goods to be carried. I think that this will result in a return to the jungle of chaotic transport operations. I suggest that many of those who enter the industry as a result of this sell-off of the nationally owned transport undertaking will burn their fingers, and, if they do, we have made it quite clear they will not be compensated again.
I predict that, within a few years, industry and the public will be crying out for the reorganisation of the transport industry under planned public control, if not under public ownership. I say that whatever Government is in power, it will have to come to this House with another Transport Bill to undo the unnecessary harm which will be wrought by this Bill. I am confident that it will be a Labour Government which will come here with a new Transport Bill and that it will be with full public support that it will introduce a Measure more comprehensive than the 1947 Act and re-create a publicly-owned national transport service, and in the process, as has been stated from these benches, no one will be compensated twice. I do not believe that the case for the Bill has been proven, I do not believe any evidence justifying it has been produced, and I invite the House to reject the Bill.
§ 10.1 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite)
A Third Reading is traditionally the occasion for retrospect and recapitulation. Arguments which have passed across the Floor during the lengthy previous debates are restated with the same conviction and emphasis, and it is usual on this occasion to make some reference to those who have played a major part in the proceedings. In this case, the list would be such a long one in respect of both sides of the House that it would leave me with little time for other topics about which I am anxious to say a few words before we come to the Division.
1010 The speeches today have reached, as they have throughout the proceedings, the high level with which the debates began last November. I wish to refer in particular to two speeches. I did not hear the first, that by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), but its fame reached me in the precincts of the House. There was also the outstanding contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr). I thought my hon. Friend made an unanswerable case for what I would describe as the virtues of competitive integration which will operate under the Bill.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) will not think it disrespectful of me if I say that throughout these lengthy debates a great deal of the burden and the heat of the day has been carried for the Opposition by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). If I may say so across the Table, as a successor in the office which he once distinguished, during the process of the Bill he has added several cubits to an already considerable Parliamentary stature.
My right hon. Friend has handled the Measure with consummate ability and regard for all shades of opinion throughout all the stages of the Bill. He has listened sympathetically to all points of view, both in the House and outside. During the long Summer Recess he held conferences with all those concerned, and coupled this with visits to many parts of the country for the purpose of studying these intricate problems on the spot. Never can a Minister have been more receptive to representations from all quarters. In consequence we now have a Measure which bears the hallmark of Parliamentary debate. Here is a Bill not put through in a stern and unbending manner, but fashioned—
I came to it many a time during the period when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in office. 1011 The Bill has been fashioned in all its Clauses and in all its stages with both the Government and the Opposition playing their part. Here I will recount the major changes which have been made, for they ought to go on record in this last debate. I begin with the disposal of the Commission's existing road haulage undertaking. Much reference has been made to the fact that the Government have had second and third thoughts on this matter. It is always good when Governments reconsider these things. We welcomed it in the case of the Bill promoted by the Socialists when they had second thoughts on the matter of C licences.
The earlier Bill, introduced on 8th July last, would have allowed the Commission to retain an interest in road haulage to about the same extent as that of the former railway companies at the time when their undertakings became vested in the Commission. That interest, as hon. Members will remember, took the form of control over road haulage companies, and the earlier Bill imposed a limit in terms of aggregate unladen weight on the vehicle fleet over which the Commission might retain control in this way. It also required that the fleet should be comparable, as respects the size, nature and quality of vehicles, with the vehicles owned by the former railway controlled companies.
This Bill provides that the aggregate unladen weight of the fleet which the Commission may keep, under company management, may be higher by 20 per cent. During the Report stage my right hon. Friend indicated that in another place a Government Amendment would be introduced to raise this 20 per cent. to 25 per cent., and to permit, within that overall limit, some variation in the proportion of the total number of vehicles falling within each of the three main categories, namely, heavy haulage, other special vehicles, and ordinary load carriers. Here may I say a word in reply to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) who raised the question a few moments ago. The hon. Member is not in his place just now, but I will put this on record so that he can read it in the morning. This increase is expected to cover the horse-drawn vehicles or their substitutes.
1012 During the Report stage three Amendments relating to the disposal process were made. The first was to guard against the possibility that the Commission's road haulage property on disposal might become concentrated in too few hands. The second is to require the Minister to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland before giving directions to the Disposal Board about matters affecting Scotland. The third is to enable the Minister, when directing the Commission to sell road haulage property otherwise than in transport units, to require the Commission to obtain the approval of the Disposal Board to the contemplated course of action.
May I here interpolate a word in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland). The points which he has made have been carefully noted, but are matters primarily for the consideration of the Consultative Committee.
An Amendment was also made on Report stage to secure that workers employed by road haulage companies which remain under the control of the Commission would continue to rank as employees of the Commission for the purpose of negotiating machinery for wages and conditions of service. On the first day of the Report stage my right hon. Friend gave the House to expect that in another place Amendments would be introduced to allow part of the Commission's road haulage property to be made over, at the discretion of the Commission and the Disposal Board, to companies with a view to all the shares in each company being subsequently sold to an individual purchaser, this to be an approved method of disposal, alternative to direct sale in transport units under Clause 3 of the Bill or otherwise with the Minister's consent or by his direction under Clause 5.
Again, I think the next Amendment is important and wise. The present Bill provides for the mileage restriction imposed on A and B licence vehicles by the Transport Act, 1947, to end on 31st December next year instead of, as provided in the earlier Bill, on a date to be fixed by the Minister in the light of progress made with the sale of transport units.
May I say a word here about the licensing of the Commission's road haulage vehicles. We made an Amendment 1013 there, on representations from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The period within which the Commission must launch applications for carrier's licences in respect of vehicles in their possession when the Bill becomes law, if they were to receive automatic licensing, was amended on report from three months to six months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham made a point of considerable substance when he mentioned the relations among the staff of British Road Services. He said that if all was as painted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was remarkable that so many men were leaving the employment of British Road Services and were seeking it elsewhere under private enterprise. At that stage, the hon. Member for Acton interjected that men were leaving the employment of the Road Haulage Executive in such numbers because of the advent of a Tory Government and because they realised that the abolition of the Road Haulage Executive was imminent. I thought that interruption was of such great importance that I caused a little research to be made. This is what I found.
In 1951, out of a staff of 75,540, 23,045 left the employment of British Road Services. In 1950, when there was no sign of a Tory Government on the horizon, out of 67,289 employees the wastage was 22,364. In other words, there was a very greatly higher percentage that left the employment of the nationalised body for private enterprise in 1950, before the Tory Government appeared on the horizon. If we go back to 1949, which might be described as the honeymoon period, when those employed by the Road Haulage Executive increased from 23,000 to 67,000 because of the rate at which companies were then being acquired, 15,182 employees sought release from the bonds of matrimony.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Did not the hon. Gentleman's researches also discover, and has it not even occurred to him, that the reason for those large-scale desertions from British Road Services was that those who were taken over were counted as being members of the staff at the moment of being taken over, and that a large number of them were sent away within a week, a month, three months or six months of being taken over? That number was a considerable proportion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is true, and it 1014 is no use hon. Gentlemen on the Government side denying it.
That is the kind of argument one sometimes gets into about statistics. When one looks over the three-year period, it establishes the only point that I am trying to make, that there is no substance in the plea of the hon. Member for Acton that loss of personnel from the Road Haulage Executive to private enterprise was due to the advent of a Tory Government. In fact, the political colour of the Government of the day has not the slightest effect in these matters, It is surely the general conditions of employment which count in the decision of those concerned.
I pass now to the Transport Levy, the purpose of which is now confined to making good any loss which may occur on the disposal of the Commission's existing road haulage undertaking under the Bill, including expenses incidental to the disposal, and compensation to the employees, which is a good example of what we had in mind in this connection. In regard to compensation to the Commission for loss due to disturbance caused by this process, whereas the previous Bill, as hon. Members will recall, provided for the Minister to decide how much compensation should be paid to the Commission for loss incurred from disturbance while the road haulage undertaking was in course of disposal, the present Bill specifies a once-for-all payment of £1 million on this account.
Then the levy has been made payable from 1st January, 1954, whereas, under the earlier Bill, the Minister was to fix a date for that purpose. It is an advantage that payment should commence as soon as possible since the sooner it is begun, the sooner will it be ended. Also, the present Bill was amended on Report in order to impose on the Minister a specific obligation to terminate the levy when, in his judgment, the proceeds from it would have sufficed for all the payments which the Bill requires it to provide.
Now I want to say a word about passenger road transport, beginning with the contract carriages. The prohibition in the earlier Bill on the use of the Commission's 'buses and coaches as contract carriages, except within and immediately outside the London Passenger Transport 1015 area, has been modified in the present Bill to the extent of allowing their use for pleasure parties consisting of employees of the Commission, their families and friends. Also, the provision in the present Bill which prohibits the Commission, except with the consent of the Minister, from acquiring control of passenger road transport companies was extended by an Amendment in Committee to apply also to acquisitions by companies already controlled by the Commission either directly or indirectly.
Another Amendment had the effect of bringing within the scope of the power of the Minister under the present Bill to require the Commission to relinquish controlling interests in passenger road transport companies, subsidiaries of their own directly controlled companies. The relevant subsection was further amended on Report to make it clear that the Commission could not be required to give up more than the minimum number of shares which would result in their relinquishing control of the companies. That was an Amendment put down by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Again, on the representations of the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) a minor Amendment was made extending from one month to three the period within which the Commission should lodge applications for road service licences for their 'buses and coaches on regular services so that they could continue operating them during the transition period.
Some fears have been expressed in certain quarters by some of my hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) today, as to the effect of any railway reorganisation scheme on the functions of the Commission relating to docks and inland waterways. In drafting Clause 14 the intention has been to give to the Commission, within the provisions set out in the Clause, the utmost freedom to make proposals as to the shape and details of the future organisation of the railways. I do not think that anyone will disagree with this course and I foresee that it will provide a valuable opportunity for the Commission to embody in its scheme the fruits of those six years' experience in handling huge and complicated responsibilities over the whole transport field.
1016 The wide terms in which the Clause is drawn, however, have given rise to some anxiety which may be unnecessary. I should therefore like to take this opportunity of repeating the assurance which my right hon. Friend gave during the Committee stage to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). In reply to a question, my right hon. Friend said that there was no intention that the dock and harbour activities at present carried out by the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive of the Commission should be handed over to the decentralised railways, and similarly there is no intention in general of vesting in the new area railway authorities the inland waterways controlled by the Commission which happen to be situated in their areas, or any administrative functions relating thereto.
I now come to the reorganisation of the railways. The present Bill when introduced differed from the earlier one in providing that any schemes of reorganisation should be published and that the Minister should consider any views expressed to him by bodies representative of those likely to be affected. These requirements were replaced on Report stage by a provision requiring the Minister to consult such bodies. Both Bills provided for what we call schemes to be approved, amended or rejected by Order of the Minister which would be subject to annulment by Resolution of either House of Parliament.
We made the Amendment on Report to substitute for that procedure an affirmative Resolution of both Houses which, hon. Members will appreciate at once, gives far better scope for debate. Again, the Bill was amended in Committee to make it clear that a provision by which railway reorganisation schemes might amend existing statutory provisions, or apply them with or without modifications, would be effective only for the purposes of the scheme.
Reference was made earlier today by my right hon. Friend to the charges provisions, which will give new opportunities to the railways, and in particular the headroom clause which gives a very considerable protection in our opinion to the London travelling public so far as the fares charged by the London Transport Executive are concerned. I refer to what is generally known as the headroom 1017 Clause. Substantial changes to this effect were made during the Report stage, and the position now is that a new provision requires that the increase in revenue from London Transport passenger charges shall not be greater than so much of the relevant increase in the costs of the Commission as is properly apportionable to the provision of London Transport passenger services. This, I think, will be of great benefit to the London public.
Pensions are to be covered by the Minister making Regulations about the rights of persons losing their employment with the Commission as the result of disposal of their road haulage undertaking under the Bill or of the modification of the Commission's functions affected by the Bill. The provision referring to the desirability of the membership of the Commission including someone who has had experience in the organisation of workers was amended on the Report stage to obviate the possible inference that only one such person was to be included. The Coastal Shipping Advisory Committee was dealt with again by a Report stage Amendment which gave that body a statutory basis for taking action to promote consultation between coastal shipping interests and other carriers.
I should like now to say a few words about a matter which caused some concern, I gathered, to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. It was referred to again by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) in winding up, and we have heard a good deal about it during the whole course of our proceedings: the time-table procedure.
I am bound to say that during the time that I have been in the House, I have found that one's attitude to the Guillotine procedure is apt to be affected by environment, as to whether one sits, Mr. Speaker, on your right hand or on your left hand. Studying the course of the discussions on the Guillotine, I find that while hon. Gentlemen opposite, apart from the debate on the Guillotine Motion, occupied one hour and 30 minutes in attacking this procedure and the wickedness of the Government in putting through a major Measure by such a method, they occupied a considerably longer period of time in 1947 in advocating and extolling precisely the same procedure when their own Bill was going through.
1018 It is worth reminding the House, and the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South will be the first to remember this, that 35 Clauses, almost exactly the length of the present Bill, went on that occasion entirely undiscussed. It is interesting to notice that the bewailing of the Opposition about the Guillotine procedure on this occasion exceeds in verbal output nearly three times the whole of the Old Testament Book of Lamentations. We had an interesting example—[Interruption]. I am now being interrupted by a number of hon. Members who have not been listening to the debate. Had they been with us earlier they would have heard the complaints of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, and his hon. Friends at the operation of the Guillotine and I think I am entitled to say a word or two about that.
I wish to say, in the best possible temper, that this is an example of how history is apt to repeat itself. Some 30 years ago the late Sir William Ray, leader of the Municipal Reformers on London County Council, went to the length of describing the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South as Robespierre, with an adjective which I will not expose to the House. The healing hand of time has expunged the adjective, but he must have been gifted with prophecy, for was it not Robespierre who, after sending tens of thousands of citizens to perish on the guillotine, himself perished by that fearful instrument? I cannot help thinking that the feelings of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South tonight can be not dissimilar to those of Robespierre as he ascended the scaffold.
There has been in my view adequate opportunity for discussing all the main issues laid out in this Bill. We have had good debates, we have covered the points raised in Committee and on Report and today again we have had the main issues considered and debated. The Bill emerges from all its stages and after all these debates and all the divisions and controversies with the main object of the Government fulfilled; that is—[An HON. MEMBER; "To smash the industry up."]—to restore long-distance road haulage to private enterprise without, at the same time, imposing any unfair burden whatever upon the railways. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh."] On the contrary, giving to them far greater opportunities for 1019 competition than they have enjoyed at any time during the last 100 years, when so many restrictive statutes were placed upon them.
My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the courage with which he has tackled that jungle of legislation just as he is to be congratulated on the
§ brilliant manner in which he has conducted this Measure through the House. I now ask hon. Members to set the seal of their final approval upon this timely, realistic and progressive Measure and set it safely on its path to another place.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 296; Noes, 257.1023
|Division No. 94.]||AYES||[10.30 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Donner, P. W.||Hyde, Lt-Col. H. M.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Jennings, R.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Drayson, G. B.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Drewe, C.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Duthie, W. S.||Kaberry, D.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Keeling, Sir Edward|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Kerr, H. W.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Erroll, F. J.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Banks, Col. C.||Fell, A.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Barber, Anthony||Finlay, Graeme||Langford-Holt. J. A.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fisher, Nigel||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Fletcher-Cooke, C||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Fort, R.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Foster, John||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lansdale)||Linstead, H. N.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Llewellyn, D. T|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Birch, Nigel||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bishop, F P.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Black, C. W||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Longden, Gilbert|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Godber, J. B.||Low, A. R. W.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Gough, C. F. H.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Gower, H. R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Graham, Sir Fergus||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Braine, B. R.||Gridley, Sir Arnold||McAdden, S. J.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Grimond, J.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Harden, J. R. E.||McKibbin. A. J|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Bullard, D. G||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Harrison, Col J. H. (Eye)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Butler. Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Carr, Robert||Hay, John||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.|
|Channon, H.||Heald, Sir Lionel||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Heath, Edward||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marples, A. E|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Maude, Angus|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maudling, R.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hirst, Geoffrey||Mellor, Sir John|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hollis, M. C.||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hope, Lord John||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Horobin, I. M.||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.|
|De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Hurd, A. R.||Nutting, Anthony|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Odey, G. W.|
|O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hots. W. D.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Orr, Capt, L. P. S.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Scott, R. Donald||Tilney, John|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Osborne, C.||Shepherd, William||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Snadden, W. McN.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Soames, Capt. C.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Speir, R. M.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Profumo, J. D.||Stevens, G. P.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Raikes, Sir Victor||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Redmayne, M.||Storey, S.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Robertson, Sir David||Studholme, H. G.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Summers, G. S.||Wills, G.|
|Robson-Brown, W.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||York, C.|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Teeling, W.|
|Russell, R. S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Sir H. Butcher.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Deer, G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Adams, Richard||Delargy, H. J.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Albu, A. H.||Dodds, N. N.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Donnelly, D. L.||Janner, B.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Edelman, M.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Balfour, A.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bartley, P.||Fernyhough, E.||Keenan, W.|
|Bellenger, Rt Hon. F J.||Fienburgh, W.||Kenyon, C.|
|Bence, C. R.||Finch, H. J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Fletoher, Eric (Islington, E.)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Benson, G.||Follick, M.||Kinley, J.|
|Beswick, F.||Foot, M. M.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Blackburn, F.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Boardman, H.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Gibson, C. W.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Gooch, E. G.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Braddock, Mrs Elizabeth||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||McGovern, J.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McInnes, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Griffiths. Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||McLeavy, F.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hale, Leslie||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield. E.)|
|Carmichael, J||Hamilton, W. W.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Hannan, W.||Manuel A. C.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hargreaves, A.||Marquand, Rt. Hon H. A|
|Chapman, W. D||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Hastings, S.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hayman, F. H.||Messer, F.|
|Collick, P. H.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Corbel, Mrs. Freda||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Cove, W. G.||Herbison, Miss M.||Monslow, W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Moody, A. S.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hobson, C. R.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Holman, P.||Morley, R.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Daines, P.||Houghton, Douglas||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon H.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Mort, D. L.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moyle, A.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Mulley, F. W|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Murray, J. D|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Nally, W.|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|O'Brien, T.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E||Usborne, H. C.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Short, E. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Orbach, M.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Oswald, T.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Padley, W. E.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Paget, R. T.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Weitzman, D.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Slater, J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||West, D. G.|
|Pannell, Charles||Snow, J. W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Parker, J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Paton, J.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Peart, T. F.||Sparks, J. A.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Steele, T.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Popplewell, E.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wigg, George|
|Porter, G.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B|
|Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Willey, F. T.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Pryde, D. J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Swingler, S. T.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Rankin, John||Sylvester, G. O.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Reeves, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Rhodes, H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Richards, R.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Thornton, E.|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Thurtle, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ross, William||Tomney, F.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Shackleton, E. A. A||Turner-Samuels, M.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.