HC Deb 22 May 1953 vol 515 cc2453-500

1.52 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

I wish to make it quite clear at the outset that throughout the debates on the Transport Bill we on this side of the House were opposed to the setting up of the Road Haulage Disposal Board, but now that the Board has been set up we feel it incumbent upon us to raise in the House this afternoon the composition of that Board and the functions on which it will be engaged.

We have believed all along that the Transport Commission, as a public authority, should be given the responsibility of disposing of that part of its undertaking which the Bill provided should be disposed of, and throughout the proceedings we tried to improve the composition of the Board and to make it a disinterested body. We suggested a change in its personnel, and we suggested, further, that in no circumstances should any member of the Board be interested in road haulage. But the Minister, in his rather brusque way, rejected all the Amendments we brought forward.

I recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) suggested that the Disposal Board should be made more of a judicial or semi-judicial body, and the Minister replied: It"— that is, the Disposal Board— demands a body of experts used to the industry who will be in a position to understand how the question of the disposal of these assets can best be solved as business propositions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1698.] Before the Bill was on the Statute Book the Minister invited nominations from interested parties, among whom was the Road Haulage Association. The Road Haulage Association, blown out with the successful lobbying on the Minister in which it had been engaged, rushed in and publicised the nominations. When we saw that their two nominees were very much interested parties, one being a director of a finance company interested in financing the purchase of the lorries, Questions were asked in this House by my hon. Friends, but the Minister, though pressed, refused to give any assurance whatsoever that he would not appoint to the Board persons who were as interested in buying the nationally-owned lorries which were to be put up for sale as in selling them.

In spite of the fact that the Minister refused to give us any undertaking whatsoever, yesterday, when he announced the composition of the Board, he did, in stating the names of the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman, show that to some extent he had come round to our point of view; that he was appointing as Chairman and Deputy-Chairman two disinterested, independent persons, who, in our view, should be able to act in a judicial capacity.

The way in which the Minister has treated the House in this matter is typical of his whole behaviour throughout our discussions on the Transport Bill. He invariably refuses to take the House into his confidence. He hides behind the protection of the Guillotine, which has helped him so much, and he will not tell us what his intentions are. In fact, he misled the House in this as he did in so many other matters. Why could not he have told us his intentions earlier in connection with the Disposal Board, following, presumably, the debates which took place in the House, that he was going to make it, partially at least, a judicial body by appointing an independent Chairman and Deputy-Chairman? Or is it that finally, thanks to the excessive zeal or confidence of the Road Haulage Association, and the pressure which resulted from this side of the House when their nominees were disclosed, he was compelled to give way and to decide that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman should act in this way?

There are just one or two questions I should like to ask the Minister about the Chairman. He is to be part-time and to receive £3,000 a year. That is not a bad salary, in my view, for a part-time job. Is he to adjudicate? Is the Deputy-Chairman, who is to be full-time—and to receive, incidentally, the same salary of £3,000 a year as the part-time Chairman —in effect to do the work of administration and organisation, and when there are difficulties, or when proceedings are necessary, is the Chairman then to come along and to adjudicate? It would be interesting to hear from the Minister how he visualises this Board working, in view of the rather unusual set-up upon which he has decided. The member of the Board representing the Transport Commission is Lord Rusholme, but the three remaining members are interested parties.

Lord Selkirk stated in another place on 9th March: The primary purpose of the Disposal Board, then, is to assist in keeping a balance between the different interests which exist. That is the first purpose of the Board."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 9th March, 1953; Vol. 180, c. 1062.] I ask the Minister this: Does he really believe that a representative of the Road Haulage Association can assist in maintaining a balance between the various parties concerned, the State on the one hand, which is ultimately the owner of the Road Haulage Executive vehicles, the purchaser on the other hand, and the Commission? Can he possibly expect the R.H.A. to act as a disinterested independent body in holding the balance in this connection.

The R.H.A. nominee, whom the Minister decided to accept, is Mr. Farmer. I am well aware that in the road haulage industry his reputation is good, and for all I know it may be that of the road hauliers who could have been drawn upon he is as good as any. But the fact remains that he is an interested party; he is a road haulier—Atlas Express Company, Limited. I want to know from the Minister this afternoon whether Mr. Farmer will have to divest himself of his interest in road haulage. He certainly should. If he is to serve on this Board in an impartial capacity he should divest himself of all his interests in road haulage.

After all, that is what was done in the case of iron and steel, and I cannot quite understand why there is this difference between the Road Haulage Disposal Board and the Iron and Steel Board. In the case of iron and steel the Opposition moved Amendments to ensure that members of that Board were not interested in the industry, and the Minister, while he did not accept the wording of our Amendments, later introduced an Amendment of his own to meet our point.

In moving it, the Solicitor-General said: It places fairly and squarely upon the Minister the duty to satisfy himself in relation to the chairman as a whole-time member of the Board before he makes the appointment that that person has no substantial financial interest in any undertaking of the iron and steel producers. My objection to the Road Haulage Association—

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

Before leaving the analogy of steel, will the hon. Gentleman say whether he is telling the House that members of the original Iron and Steel Board set up by his hon. and right hon. Friends immediately renounced all their interests on their appointment?

Mr. Davies

I am telling the hon. Gentleman that the Amendment moved, now incorporated in the Bill, reads: Before appointing a person to be the chairman as a whole-time member of the Board "—

Viscount Hinchingbrooke


Mr. Davies

the Minister shall satisfy himself that that person has no substantial financial interest….

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

If the principle is there, will the hon. Gentleman say why part-time was not included as well?

Mr. Davies

Because we wanted to include all members appointed, but the Government refused to accept the inclusion of part-time members.

My objection to the R.H.A. being invited to submit nominees and to one of their nominees being accepted is very simple. The gravamen of my charge is that the R.H.A. is an interested party and represents the interest of the purchaser and not of the vendor. It is a very queer act of salesmanship and a most peculiar type of auctioneer who is more interested in the purchaser getting a bargain than he is in the vendor obtaining a good price. That, in fact, is what is happening in this case. We say that to put nominees of the Road Haulage Association on to the Disposal Board makes as much sense, and serves the community as well, as employing a bookmaker as a jockey—it would have the same result. The public will not have a hope and the losses will be very great.

What is worse, or equally bad, is that the Road Haulage Association is also interested in financing the purchasers of these lorries. In other words, it has a dual interest. It is interested in purchas- ing the lorries on the one hand at the lowest possible price and on the other it is interested in that price being low so that the security which it has on those lorries which it finances will be that much the better. It has a double-interest in these vehicles selling at the lowest possible price in order to assist its members to obtain them cheaply and to assist the finance company in which it is interested with regard to the security.

I do not want to deal with the Transport Unit Finance policy, set up in association with the United Dominions Trust, which has been aired frequently in this House. I have here an advertisement which makes its position clear: A new company, Transport Unit Finance Limited has been formed jointly by the Road Haulage Association Limited and the United Dominions Trust Limited to enable haulage contractors and other users of commercial vehicles to purchase transport units from the Transport Commission under the Transport Act, 1953. Would-be purchasers requiring finance for this purpose are invited to get in touch with Transport Unit Finance. That is an advertisement in the Road Haulage Association's own journal. What is more, this is to be a private company, so it will not have to publish its accounts or balance sheet and will be able to carry on under the cloak of a private company; and we shall not know in what way it is working in association with the United Dominions Trust.

I think that it shows the attitude of the Road Haulage Association that when it submitted its nominees it suggested that Mr. Barrie should be a member of the Road Haulage Disposal Board, and Mr. Barrie was also appointed by the Road Haulage Association as a director of this Transport Unit Finance. Surely this shows the attitude and contempt of the Road Haulage Association for the national interest, and the confidence which it has in the Minister acting on its bidding. It is quite wrong that one of directors who is serving on this Transport Unit Finance should also serve on the Road Haulage Disposal Board.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Gentleman has no evidence of any such recommendation.

Mr. Davies

I certainly have. The Road Haulage Association has published the names of the two nominees it sent to the Minister—Mr. Farmer and Mr. Barrie—and also the names of the direc- tors it has nominated to the Transport Unit Finance.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Gentleman said that the Road Haulage Association had recommended these men in the light of their knowledge that they would continue to be members of the United Dominions Trust. That is not true.

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman must have misheard me or has not been paying great attention. I made no reference to that whatever. I did not use the word "continue" I said that the mere fact that they suggest that Mr. Barrie should serve on the Road Haulage Disposal Board when they had nominated him already as a director of Transport Unit Finance shows the contempt with which they regard the national interest.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the part which the R.H.A. has played in the proceedings which have led to the passing of the Transport Bill. The Minister because of the Election pledges which were given, and very suspicious reasons have been hazarded in this House as to why they were given, has acted throughout, in our view, at the bidding of the Road Haulage Association. He congratulated at the luncheon of the Road Haulage Association, earlier this week, the Secretary of the Association, who had, he said, "Educated him into the road haulage industry." Why did he have to go to the Road Haulage Association for his education?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I said that I had had much advice and help and that Mr. Morgan Mitchell had been among those who had helped to educate me in the road haulage industry. What the hon. Gentleman said suggests that my education in road haulage should be confined to those who have never had to operate road haulage activities.

Mr. Davies

Not at all. I was going on to suggest that if the Minister required education he might have gone equally to the largest road haulage undertaking in this country, which is the publicly-owned Road Haulage Executive, instead of going to a private operator.

The Minister need not be so sensitive, but perhaps we understand why he is sensitive on this matter, because the Road Haulage Association gave the whole show away this week. I have here "Road Way," which is their house magazine, and in it there is an article headed, "A Job Well Done," summarising the activities of the ad hoc committee on denationalisation from its appointment in June, 1951, until the passing of the Transport Act, 1953. A member of that ad hoc committee was Mr. Farmer himself.

The article goes on to describe the activities of the Road Haulage Association in relation to the Minister and the Ministry. It states that there were ten meetings with the Minister himself and that there were also numerous meetings with the Minister's officials at the Ministry of Transport, as well as with members of both Houses of Parliament. They drew up a memorandum asking that three things should be done: One, the removal of the 25 mile limit restriction; two, that the R.T.C. should be subject to the licensing provisions; and, three, that the R.H.A. undertaking should be disposed of. The last two were incorporated in the Bill. In the original Bill there was no time-limit as to when the restriction was to be brought to an end, but subsequently, owing to pressure, as the R.H.A. points out in its article, on the Minister, a time-limit was fixed.

I have no time to go through all the points made by the Road Haulage Association, but they say that, as a result of the meetings with the Minister, … road transport achieved the distinction of being selected as the first industry to be the subject of a denationalisation Measure. They took credit for that. They say that when the first Bill had been introduced, at the invitation of the committee the Minister of Transport attended a meeting with the National Council in October, 1952, for a full and informal discussion on the Bill. Following representations made by the Road Haulage Association and after Amendments in the Bill, the Transport Bill was issued in a revised form, and when the revised Bill was issued, a revised list of Amendments was immediately drawn up and discussed with the Minister. The story is one of the Road Haulage Association meeting the Minister and Ministry officials and pressing upon the Minister and discussing with him changes in his Bill, a very large number of which have been incorporated in it. The story has not ended, because this article ends by drawing attention to the Disposal Board and saying: It is the view of the Committee that the success of denationalisation will depend very largely on the manner in which the Road Haulage Disposal Board carries out its duties. Nobody will deny that, but the article suggests that it is essential that the Disposal Board should have the fullest information of the current needs of the industry and information has been sought through areas as to the the extent which members and others are interested in the purchase of R.H.E. assets. It is quite clear from this article that the intention of the R.H.A. is to endeavour to keep in close touch with the Disposal Board and presumably, if it were possible—and I trust it will not be possible—to exercise pressure there.

What a story this is! Was there ever so blatant a disclosure of sectional interests successfully lobbying a Minister of the Crown and achieving their objective? In this case there was a subordination of the national interest to the financial greed of the private road hauliers. In this case, the national interest was to protect the national assets, to see that they were not squandered in disposal; but the R.H.A. had no interest in that. What is their interest in all these proceedings? It is certainly not serving the community. It is not disposing of national assets to the advantage of the State. It is not establishing a more efficient transport industry better to serve the transport users. It is to obtain national property at knock-down prices in order to make a quick profit.

Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)

The hon. Member keeps talking about knock-down prices and the lowest possible price. Is he not aware that where there is a willing buyer and a willing seller there is a fair price? The lowest possible price I know is a peppercorn, and I do not think that even he suggests that that is to be the price.

Mr. Davies

Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us whether the Commission and the Road Haulage Executive are willing sellers. It would be the first time I had heard that. The Minister is very well aware of the strong objections on the part of the Commission and the Road Haulage Executive to disposing of their very successful road undertakings, and that is one of the reasons why we are so worried about this Disposal Board. Where there is an unwilling seller but a willing purchaser, it is essential that we should be as fair and just as possible. That is why, all the way through, we have urged that this should be a judicial body and not a body of representatives of sections of the community.

I should like to contrast the treatment which was meted out by the Minister to the Trades Union Congress with that which he gave to the Road Haulage Association. I am aware that from the beginning he invited the Trades Union Congress to come and consult him over policy when the White Paper had been issued. After the White Paper was issued the trade unions decided not to accept that invitation because they were uncertain, no doubt, as to what the policy was to be. They proved correct, because even after the first Bill was published Government policy was still uncertain. That Bill was withdrawn, through the incompetence of the Ministers concerned, and a second Bill had to be introduced.

After the second Bill had been published and definite policy was known, the trade unions then accepted the Minister's invitation, but the Minister was never really interested in meeting the trade unions in the same way as he was interested in meeting the Road Haulage Association. I say that because in this House on 2nd December, as reported in HANSARD, column 1701, the Minister stated: I have been throughout, at all stages, ready and anxious to have talks with the trade unions…. They have not … acceded to my request up to now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1701.] I had to intervene to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that a meeting with the trade unions had already been arranged for two days later and that the meeting had even been announced in the Press. Yet, at the time, the Minister did not know of the meeting; he was so anxious to meet the trade unions that he did not know he was going to do so two days later. I do not know whether the Minister heard what I said or whether he wishes me to repeat it.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I heard it very well.

Mr. Davies

Perhaps he will give me an answer when he replies. Perhaps he will tell me how he came to be so ignorant of the fact that he was to meet the trade unions if he were anxious to meet them.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am not quite certain whether I told the hon. Gentleman or not, but I knew I was meeting the trade unions but I was not certain that it was on this particular point. I have met representatives of the trade unions continually, and not only upon the Bill, since I have been Minister. I am content to leave the warmth of their welcome of the value of the talks to be announced by the trade unions themselves and not by some of their self-appointed spokesmen.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

When does the Minister expect a vote of thanks?

Mr. Davies

At least they will not find self-appointed spokesmen on the other side of the House. It would be interesting if a report of the meetings between the Minister and the trade unions were published. I understand there were three meetings, and my information—perhaps the Minister can confirm it—is that at one of these meetings he was present for only a short time and left the trade unions to discuss matters with the officials.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member is making certain comments and drawing certain deductions from matters of which he is very largely ignorant. I think it is fair to say that the trade unions have accepted my anxious desire to meet them on every possible occasion, and I have never once refused to see any trade union delegation or individual who has asked to see me. The reason why there was a third meeting was in part due to the fact that pressure of events for which I had no personal responsibility meant that I had to go to something else, which happens to all Ministers from time to time, and in the course of the second meeting we arranged a third. There could have been a fourth or fifth, and no doubt there will be. We are in the closest argument about practical matters, and I think that it is in that field that I can make the best contribution to help the trade union movement.

Mr. Davies

The reason may well be that further meetings were not considered by the trade unions to be of any great value in view of the small number of concessions which were made to the Opposition during the passage of the Bill through the House.

I must bring my remarks to an end. I have tried to give the House the story of the Minister's relations with the Road Haulage Association and to contrast his attitude with that towards the Trades Union Congress. I consider this to be a sordid story. It is rather an unpleasant episode because it involves an unnecessary liquidation of valuable national assets at substantial monetary and physical loss to the country. It will cause a grave disturbance to the rest of the transport industry.

Above all, the disposal of these national assets and their disposal through a board which is partially an interested body will involve the security and conditions of employment of all those engaged in the transport industry, and, in particular, of the 70,000 employees of the Road Haulage Executive. Those 70,000 employees, both administrative and operative, are worried today about their future. There has been no indication as yet by the Minister as to what is to happen to the Road Haulage Executive in the near future, or how the very difficult problems which will immediately arise are to be handled.

It seems to me that the Disposal Board was launched in very muddy waters and that it will take all the ingenuity of those at the helm, including the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, to steer it into cleaner channels. That can only be done if the Minister, who has considerable powers under this Act, keeps clear of the Board and allows it to carry out its job, and, above all, keeps clear of the Road Haulage Association and warns it off in the national interests. That is the least that the Minister can do.

2.17 p.m.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

The only individuals that I know of in the country who have muddied the waters in which the Disposal Board is now obliged to swim are sitting very close to us at this moment. I have seldom come across any other persons in the country who take any other attitude than that of wishing this Board well, and of congratulating my right hon. Friend on having chosen a set of men who will carry out their duties in a highly honourable way and will exercise a complete official and commercial impartiality.

The opposition to what my right hon. Friend has been so gallantly and effectively doing in transport dies very hard on the other side of the House. But it is indeed dying rather hard this afternoon. The public will note the sense of great enthusiasm which has greeted the words of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and how the serried ranks behind him cheered every sentiment of his speech. But the political clamour which has been raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and carried on by the hon. Member for Enfield, East is now clear, and in the public mind it is apparent that it has no substance in fact or foundation at all.

Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)

As to serried ranks, would the noble Lord care to follow the time-honoured method of looking at what support there is today for his right hon. Friend.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

This has been engendered by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are supposed to come here and to give their support and enthusiastic cheers to those hon. Gentlemen who seek to press home their charges. I can only point out as a result of the small attendance today that hon. Gentlemen opposite now realise that, with the appointments of these persons to the Board, there is no substance in any of the charges that they have been making in recent weeks. One can only express regret that they have not only made the remarks they have in the last few weeks, but they have not sought to apologise to certain individuals for what they have said in the past.

What about the position of Mr. Barrie? He was not asked to serve on the Board. He is a member of the Road Haulage Council, and he would have been a magnificent member of the Board if he had been chosen. He was not asked to serve on it. If he had been asked, in all probability, and quite certainly according to the terms of the Act, he would have been obliged to sever his connection with Transport Unit Finance. Yet it did not enter the thought of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East in all the questions that he has put that if this man accepted an invitation from my right hon. Friend to serve on this Board he would, in the same breath, have had to resign his connection with Transport Unit Finance.

Mr. Callaghan

Can the noble Lord say why the Minister selected Mr. Farmer instead of Mr. Barrie if Mr. Barrie would have been such an admirable member.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I am going to deal with Mr. Farmer shortly, but at the present moment I am on Mr. Barrie. What I am trying to tell the House is that so steeped in prejudice are certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that they do not even entertain the thought that a man can act honourably in his business relationships and is capable of resigning his connections with financial firms which are engaged in this business at the same time as he takes office on a statutory body.

Mr. Ernest Davies

If that is the case and if these resignations are going to be automatic, why did the Minister refuse time and time again to give an assurance to this House that nobody would serve on the Board who was also interested in purchasing as in selling?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Member must not direct questions to me about what goes on in the Ministry of Transport. The Minister is going to reply to the debate.

As to the case of Mr. Farmer, the hon. Member for Enfield, East persists in saying that he is an interested party and insists that he should divest himself of all interests in road transport. As I understand it. Mr. Farmer is a part-time member and will remain the managing director of the Atlas Express Company, Limited, which is his business. He is engaged in road transport. He did not stand for office in the Road Haulage Association, and if the hon. Member seeks to say that he is some way still connected with that Association as a member of their council and that through that there is some link with Transport Unit Finance, that is an entirely false view. He has no connection officially with the Road Haulage Association, but is a part-time member of the Disposal Board and he will continue as managing director of the Atlas Company. Why on earth should he not do this thing?

I would refer the hon. Member to Section 2 (7) of the Act, which quite clearly lays down how a member should comport himself. The Opposition accepted subsection (7) because they did not move an Amendment against it, nor did they speak against it. The subsection says: (7) A member of the Board who is in any way directly or indirectly interested in any transaction entered into or proposed to be entered into by the Commission with which the Board are concerned shall disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Board; and the disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the Board, and the member shall not take any part in any deliberation or decision of the Board with respect to that transaction. Is not that how Mr. Farmer will behave as a member of the Board when the Board takes on its duties? Quite clearly if there is any transaction in which his company is involved or any other company that he is interested in or connected with, not only will he not vote at the meeting but he will disclose to the Board his interest in the matter and so will all other persons upon this Board.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are not true to their own actions in the past. I have here a list of the members of the original Iron and Steel Board, announced by the then Minister of Supply, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) on 14th September, 1950, as follows: Chairman—Mr. S. J. L. Hardie, Chairman of the British Oxygen Company, Ltd. Vice-Chairman of Metal Industries, Ltd., and director of many other industrial undertakings. Could not the same suggestion have been entertained that in his position as Chairman of the nationalised Iron and Steel Board, Mr. Hardie, with his tremendous interests in business, might seek to further those interests? The Deputy-Chairman. Sir John Green, was in the same position.

Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)

Which he gave up.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I quite agree that subsequently the full-time members of the Iron and Steel Board gave up, but neither Mr. Farmer nor Mr. Barrie, if he had been chosen for the Disposal Board, would be full-time members and they are not obliged to give up their business connections any more than the members of the Socialist Iron and Steel Board. Other members of the Iron and Steel Board included: Mr. J. W. Garton, Chairman of Brown Bayley's Steel Works Ltd., and Managing Director of the Hoffmann Manufacturing Co. Ltd., and Mr. R. A. Macleon, Chairman of A. F. Stoddard & Co. Ltd., Director of Scottish Industrial Estates and a number of other commercial concerns."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1252.] They did not give up their business connections, and no more should Mr. Farmer.

I can quite understand the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East hoping that I will pass on to another topic, because I have been endeavouring to show to the House that the case he has made upon these matters is entirely without foundation. One will never get a fine herbaceous border if one strips the flowers of all their leaves, and we shall never get a useful Road Haulage Disposal Board that secures people who are what might be called disembodied spirits with no outside connections at all. Of course they must have had previous experience and must bring into the Board the knowledge they have acquired. They will have continuing contacts with the industry because one hopes that the Board will quickly dispatch its business and that its members will be able to revert to their normal business activities.

The point is how they behave as gentlemen with a job to do. They are tied by the terms of the Act to certain behaviour, and they have been chosen as zealous, keen and honourable representatives of various sections of the industrial world. I am certain that we can have absolute confidence in the men selected by my right hon. Friend.

It is only from hon. Members of the party opposite who are always concerned with perfectibility in human nature that one can secure what might be called disembodied spirits to serve on these national Boards. Let them go to H. G. Wells or to electronics or to Hollerith Processes in order to produce some kind of completely unbiased scientific type which will take a completely impartial view and will have nothing whatever to do with the facts and substance of human nature and the course of our daily life. Those people are not found in any country in the world, and it is only the doctrinal fallacy of right hon. and hon. Members opposite that leads them into these deluded courses.

I have one final word to say beyond congratulating my right hon. Friend, as I most warmly do, on the choice he has made and wishing the Board the utmost success, and that is to say, more in sorrow than in anger, that I hope the hon. Member for Enfield. East will not pursue these paths any more. He has won confidence in the House, if I may say so without being presumptuous, for his utterings on transport and for his wide experience and his informed knowledge of these proceedings, but when he tries to become the Sancho Panza to the political adventures of the hon. Member for Cardiff. South-East it scarcely becomes him. I can only hope that he will return to the well tried paths he has trodden in the past, because, otherwise. I am afraid that misfortune awaits him.

2.36 p.m.

Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)

I want to put one or two points. I say in all sincerity that if the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is asking for an example of disinterested service—and he says that it is possible to find someone capable of completely disinterested service—I would immediately point to the noble Lord himself. I will not say that he is a disembodied spirit, but he is disinterested.

It has been suggested that charges have been made against the honour of certain gentlemen who have been chosen to serve upon the Road Haulage Disposal Board. I am quite certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is making no such charge against this individual. But what seems quite clear is that this man is being placed in a completely impossible position. I am not saying that it is not possible for Mr. Farmer to behave honourably when a proposition is put before him in his capacity as a member of the Board. But he is the managing director of a company engaged in the business of operating lorries.

If his own company puts in a bid, he has, presumably, to leave the room. Supposing it is a competing company which has put in a bid, what sort of attitude does Mr. Farmer then take? What would the competing company have to say if the negotiations were going on between themselves and a body on which Mr. Farmer, a competitor of theirs in another sphere, had to help make the decision?

The fact is, as I say, that this gentleman is being put in a completely impossible position. I should have thought it right and proper and only ordinary human decency that his nomination should not have been accepted by the Minister. The Minister suggests, as did the noble Lord, that there is an analogy between the Iron and Steel Board and the Road Haulage Disposal Board. But it was hoped that the Iron and Steel Board would be a permanent institution, and that there was a life-time of work on the Board for the members who were chosen to serve on it. The Road Haulage Disposal Board is a temporary body set up for a specific purpose, and its life-time will be limited.

What is to happen to Mr. Farmer who, as has been said, has severed his connection with the Road Haulage Association? Is it being said that because he has chosen to serve for 12 or 18 months on the Road Haulage Disposal Board he is not in future to return to the Road Haulage Association and to resume his proper place in the life of the road hauliers? This is cramping his life and limiting his potential service to his fellow business men. It is making it difficult for him to give completely of the ability that he undoubtedly has in his own community without laying himself open to the charge of going counter to the undertakings given on his behalf by the Minister.

I should have thought that in the interests of the House and of the country and of the person concerned his resignation from the Board ought to have been accepted at the outset, which would have left everyone with a much cleaner taste in the mouth.

2.40 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)

I intervene only for a few moments. I cannot help thinking that it is a sad reflection on the integrity of hon. Members opposite that, whenever appointments of this kind are made, they immediately become suspicious. [Interruption.] It only shows that they are themselves—

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield. Attercliffe)

Jobs for the boys.

Mr. Marlowe

—incapable of discharging a public duty independently and with integrity and without being influenced by personal motives.

It so happens that there are a large number of people who are ready to undertake public duty without personal interest being involved. Perhaps one of the worst features which I have noticed since the first upsurge of Socialism in 1945 is that that principle has been so often brought into question by hon. Members opposite. It happened time and again. I remember, for instance, when a high appointment was given to Lord Waverley. No man of higher integrity could be found; but immediately the appointment was impugned by hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Beswick

Or Lord Douglas?

Mr. Marlowe

No one has ever impugned the integrity of Lord Douglas from this side. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, not his integrity. I should not have bothered to think of him had not the hon. Member mentioned it. His suitability for the appointment may have been questioned, but not his integrity.

Every time that these issues arise, Members on the other side question the integrity of the person involved. Although it is not directly concerned with the appointments that we are now considering, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has, during the course of these debates, attacked those who were to finance the disposal of the vehicles—

Mr. Callaghan

Mr. Gibson Jarvie.

Mr. Marlowe

—particularly, as the hon. Member says, Mr. Gibson Jarvie. Mr. Gibson Jarvie is a personal friend of mine, and has been for many years. It is quite unjustifiable that he should have been attacked in that way by the hon. Member. As the hon. Member well knows, Mr. Gibson Jarvie has for many years been highly respected in the City of London and has carried on a prosperous and successful business, one in which, as the hon. Member knows, in its earlier days the Bank of England was not disinterested. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East had no justification whatever for impugning, as he did, the integrity of Mr. Gibson Jarvie and Mr. Carmichael, who was associated with him. They are both gentlemen who in this connection are doing a service in that they are providing the finance without which the disposal could not be completed.

What does the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East want? Does he realise that unless somebody finances this disposal, the job cannot be satisfactorily concluded? Somebody has to provide the money. It was most unfortunate—

Mr. Callaghan


Mr. Marlowe

I will give way presently —when in the earlier stages of the debate the hon. Member referred to Mr. Gibson Jarvie and used words of opprobrium which were totally unjustified. He used the words "slippery operator," and he had no justification for using the Privilege of this House to use words which he would never dare use outside in relation to Mr. Gibson Jarvie. He knows perfectly well that if he stood on the public platform and referred to Mr. Gibson Jarvie as a "slippery operator" he would find himself in the courts at once. The hon. Member took advantage of the Privilege of the House for the purpose of abusive words of that kind.

Mr. Callaghan

I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member thinks he is now abusing the Privilege of the House in view of the fact that the Motion that was put on the Order Paper has been withdrawn. If the hon. Member wants a separate discussion on that, let him put it back on the Order Paper and we will have it. I would sooner have the discussion than not have it. If the hon. and learned Member was a party to withdrawing the Motion—I am not sure whether he was a signatory—

Mr. Marlowe

I was.

Mr. Callaghan

—he ought not to start it up again now unless he is prepared to take the proper course.

Mr. Marlowe

The hon. Member cannot get away with it on that ground. That Motion related to an entirely different matter, when the hon. Member used his opportunities in the House to quote from a speech by Mr. Gibson Jarvie, made, I think, at an annual general meeting, and to give it a completely different interpretation from what the context justified.

Mr. Callaghan

I have it here.

Mr. Marlowe

That is what we were dealing with in that Motion.

Mr. Callaghan

Why did the hon. and learned Member withdraw it?

Mr. Marlowe

I certainly did not approve of its being withdrawn—I wished it could have been debated; but the top signatories, apparently, decided to withdraw it. They did not consult me. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that none of us likes to leave on the Order Paper Motions which reflect upon each other if they cannot be debated. They must either be debated quickly or be removed.

But that is a side issue and has nothing to do with what I was talking about. That Motion did not relate to the abuse by the hon. Member of persons in the position of Mr. Gibson Jarvie by the use of the term "slippery operator."

Mr. Callaghan

Does not the hon. and learned Member recall that his right hon. Friend the Minister made some halfhearted remonstrance against Mr. Gibson Jarvie's servants for going to local road haulage depots and trying to secure information in advance of other people?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Gentleman is very fond of answering one hon. Member by misquoting another. What I said was that I supported the action of the Commission in saying that if anybody came to their depot and asked for information about the carrying on of their business with a view to financing anybody who wanted to purchase it, the request should be referred to headquarters. I did not remonstrate in any way. There might be some perfectly harmless request of that kind which should have been conceded.

Mr. Callaghan

The Minister—

Mr. Marlowe

This is my speech.

Mr. Callaghan

—has not denied that those visits were made by Mr. Gibson Jarvie's servants to depots in an attempt to get information. He does not deny that, because he knows it is true.

Mr. Marlowe

I promised to be short, and I apologise for two other speeches being made in the middle of mine. What hon. Gentlemen opposite so often fail to realise is that we live in a commercial country. Once the matter of principle has been decided that an industry of this kind is to be denationalised and private enterprise is to be allowed to have it back, in some way or other it has to be financed. There is nothing derogatory about engaging in commerce, and yet hon. Members opposite have done their best to try to abuse those who are making the thing possible. Without the finance being provided by someone it would not be possible for the principle to be carried into effect.

I repeat that it is most unfortunate that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East should abuse the Privilege of this House to use opprobrious terms of the people who are financing, or are arranging the finance of, this operation, who are only carrying on a perfectly legitimate business. There is nothing discreditable in hire purchase. We are talking about the disposal of the road vehicles—

Mr. Pargiter

On a point of order. Are we discussing the question of appointments to the Board, or the hire purchase method of disposal and the people who are to finance it?

Mr. Speaker

We are really discussing the Motion. "That this House do now adjourn." That makes it difficult for the Chair to put any limits to the discussion.

Mr. Marlowe

The hon. Member knows that I am in order in what I am saying and is only prolonging my speech.

What ought to be fully understood is that the business of hire purchase is a perfectly respectable one which has been carried on for many years. It has provided the finance for an enormous number of people and has been of great convenience to the public. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East is vocal in his abuse of Mr. Gibson Jarvie. for instance, because he is facilitating the disposal of these vehicles, but I wager that there are plenty of Members opposite who are themselves involved in hire purchase contracts to buy their own motor cars or radio or television sets and who are quite content to take advantage of the system which is provided, but when it impinges on their political views they immediately resort to abuse.

I hope that at some time when the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East has given proper thought to this question, he will realise that he was in error in the attitude he adopted to Mr. Gibson Jarvie and, if, as I believe him to be, he is a gentleman of honest instincts, he should take a suitable opportunity of withdrawing and apologising.

2.50 p.m.

Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)

To deal briefly with one point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe), if the company of Mr. Gibson Jarvie is prepared to finance these vehicles on the same terms as the ordin- ary supplier of television sets finances them, he might be doing something of a service. But, to the best of my knowledge, the rate of interest which will be required by the company of Mr. Gibson Jarvie is very much higher than the normal hire purchase rate for domestic articles supplied over the counter. From that point of view he is not doing this out of a particular love for the vehicles but as something which he knows will be a very profitable undertaking, and in any case he will have such control over the assets that he cannot possibly lose but stands to gain much money out of it.

That is all right, and I make no complaint about it, but to come back to the point of argument, whilst it may be argued that there may be people in the industry with very considerable knowledge—and it is desirable that we should make use of that knowledge—there are also many who are not directly connected with the industry at present but whose services could equally well be used as those of people who have a direct interest.

Let us take the hypothetical case of a person who is a member of a board engaged in the industry. The first thing we have to consider is not only that justice must be done but that it must appear to be done. If the company is a successful bidder for any of the assets there is immediately a suspicion that the person concerned had the advantage of some particular knowledge, even if he has not used it, and that he has gained an advantage over other people. It is quite impossible to get away from that suspicion. It may be unfounded, but it is impossible to get away from it.

It is not only a question of suspicion engendered by hon. Members on this side of the House for, as hon. Members on both sides know quite well, it is a generally understood thing that it is thought that if a person has access to information it may be used directly or indirectly if that knowledge is available to him and not to others. That is not a reflection on the personal conduct of the individual at all, but the Road Haulage Executive will have submitted to it the minimum price that must be offered for certain assets. If it is to be a question of bidding, there will be a reserve price lower than which the Board will not be prepared to sell. With the best intention in the world, the person with the advantage of that knowledge knows the minimum bid and it is a very great advantage, whether commercial vehicles or anything else is being sold.

Let us assume that that person says, "I have this knowledge. It would be quite unfair for me to use it on behalf of my company; therefore I will do nothing about it and my company shall not bid." What is the position? As managing director of a company it is his duty to look after the interests of the company. If in order to be perfectly honourable he refuses to use the information available to him he must damage his company. I ask whether that is a desirable thing to do with regard to any individual? If it is not desirable, it is not desirable to have him as a member of the Board and place him in the invidious position of deciding whether to use the information directly or indirectly available to him, not to use it and to prevent his company from gaining an advantage, or to put him in the worse position by saying, "You must not bid because people will think you have information on which you have made the bid."

All the names are announced, but the Minister might well have chosen people with wide knowledge of the industry— people who have no direct connection with the industry but who know it from the point of view of vehicles, or construction, or the sale of vehicles or of the sale of assets connected with commercial vehicles and so on, all of which come into the kitty. They could have served on this Board and there would have been no suspicion—which is bound to arise now—that people use special information to their own advantage. I think it unfortunate that the appointment has been made and I hope that the Minister will find some means of rectifying the mistake.

2.56 p.m.

Mr. J. N. Browne (Glasgow, Govan)

The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mir. Beswick) seemed very sorry for Mr. Farmer, but I think that Mr. Farmer is probably one of those who puts national before personal interests. The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) was also sorry for members of the Disposal Board, but I think these gentlemen will limit their activities more than otherwise they would, in view of the very serious obligations they have to the nation.

I want to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). He seemed to see something sinister in representations being made to the Minister. Surely that is quite wrong. It is quite in order for any body of citizens to make representations to the Minister, and if the Government of the day think those representations are right it is right for the Minister to accept the representations. I deny absolutely that there is anything sinister in the fact that these recommendations have been published.

My hon. Friends and I have also made representations to the Minister. I refer to a phrase in the statement of the Minister yesterday in which he said: Lord Bilsland has agreed to make himself available for consultation on all questions involving Scottish interests."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 2267.] My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) raised this point on 3rd December on the Committee stage of the Bill and put down an Amendment, the effect of which was that one member of the Disposal Board should be appointed after consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland. In moving that Amendment he realised that there were special difficulties. He referred to the problems of Scotland and also to the problem of Scotland being represented and realised the weaknesses of the Amendment. He underlined the difficulties in these words when he referred to the Board as being: broadly representative of particular sections of those who are interested in transport, whereas a Scottish representative would have to cover all those interests in his person. Though he put down this Amendment, he did not have the right solution in his mind. But he put the idea into the head of the Minister, an idea with which no good Scot would disagree. He said: that it would be virtually impossible to get eight distinguished persons without having a Scotsman among them, and that, therefore, it is likely that there will be a Scotsman on the Board in any case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December. 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1679.] Encouraged probably by the expert opinion of my hon. Friend, the Minister replied: I will certainly do my utmost to see that one of the representatives of the various interests appointed is a Scotsman. It is almost certain that that will be so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1702–3.] Alas and alack, Scotland has been rebuffed. She has been rebuffed before and I suppose once again we have to stand up to a rebuff to our pride. The Minister tried to find a Scottish representative from among the names given to him and failed. What he did was to find an even better solution in appointing Lord Bilsland. We are indeed fortunate that the services of Lord Bilsland will be continuously available for consultation on all questions involving Scottish interests on the Disposal Board.

As president and chairman of the Scottish Council there are few people in Scotland who know Scottish problems better than does Lord Bilsland. In him we in Scotland have on the Board somebody who has the respect of all sections of the community. Unlike some of those whose names have been bandied around today, he has the respect and confidence of both sides of this House. He is a man who has always shown himself above party or sectional interest. He has always put Scotland first. I should like to thank the Minister sincerely for finding a happy solution to a very difficult problem.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)

I should have liked to be in the position of being able to congratulate the Minister on his English choice just as the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) has been able to congratulate him upon his choice for Scotland, but I am afraid that the choice for England will be received with serious concern by those engaged in transport and especially those on the workers' side of the industry.

There was one point in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) with which I entirely agreed. It was that there are thousands of men and women inspired with a desire to give public service. They belong to all political parties and some are without party. They could have been drawn upon by any Government Department to serve on boards of this character. Among them are people who have actually been associated with the industry. My criticism of the Minister is that he did not avail himself of the number of persons available who were entirely disinterested.

It is all very well for the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) to suggest that when the proposals about the appointment of the Board were before the House we on this side did not put down Amendments to the appropriate part. On reflection, the noble Lord will probably wish to withdraw that imputation. In fact, we tried to amend the provision about the appointments to the Board, so that those appointed should divest themselves on appointment of any transport interests which they might have.

I say with a sense of responsibility that we are dealing with an Act of Parliament which comes perilously near to public corruption. We are dealing with an Act which has been put on the Statute Book at the behest of one section of the transport industry who appear to have dictated the policy of the Government in this respect. The appointment of Mr. Farmer to the Board is, I believe, a most regrettable step. It is regrettable because, whatever may be the sincerity and honesty of purpose of Mr. Farmer, he will be misunderstood on all sides—even on the business side—in any advice he tenders to the Board.

Indeed, if interests with which Mr. Farmer is, or was, associated manage by good fortune, or by making the highest bid, to get hold of some of the plums of this transport undertaking, Mr. Farmer will be misunderstood even though he may have declared his own interest. He may have taken no decision on the matter, but the fact that he is on the Board, that he is in close contact with all the other members of the Board, will cause suspicion not on the workers' side but on the side of the owners who will be scrambling to get the vehicles which the Board have for disposal.

It was very unfortunate indeed that Mr. Farmer should have been appointed to this Board. The Minister has agreed that Mr. Farmer was a Vice-Chairman of the Road Haulage Association, and I should have thought that, in his own interests, and having regard to the fact that he has had so many long conferences with the Road Haulage Association, even the Minister would have realised that this was the last appointment he should have thought of making in these circumstances. So far as the workers in the industry are concerned, this Act is bad enough. To provide for the sale of these vehicles is bad enough in itself, but we are gravely concerned lest the decision of the Board in the disposal of the vehicles should be a reckless decision which would result in creating unemployment in the industry and, finally, in reducing the standard of efficiency of the services which the Road Haulage Executive has given to industry, and substituting for it a competitive but inferior service.

The Minister has not denied that the road haulage section of the transport industry has given good service to industry generally. This Disposal Board is vitally important to the industry, because, wicked as this Act may be, the fact remains that everyone engaged in transport is extremely anxious that everything should be done, both by the Minister and the Board, to try to avoid any disastrous effect on the industrial life of the nation. It may well be that, unless the personnel of this Board have a purely national and not a private interest to serve, unless they put the national interest against a sectional interest, we may be landed in a position in which the industry will be so broken up and disposed of that no great service will be rendered to the industry, to those engaged in it or to industrial life in general.

Therefore, I am surprised that the Chairman of the Disposal Board is to be part-time, while the Deputy-Chairman is to be whole-time. I say to the Minister —and perhaps this is the only word of congratulation I shall offer him today— that it is these two appointments which show an appreciation of the pressure and the arguments which have come from this side of the House. I regret, nevertheless, that the Chairman is to be a part-time and not a full-time member. It means that with all the good will in the world, and although the Chairman is respected for the splendid work he has done in various capacities in the past, if he is appointed on a part-time basis he will not be able to apply the consideration to the problem that his Deputy-Chairman will be able to do. That is a misfortune, and I urge the Minister to see whether this question could not be reconsidered, so that the gentleman concerned could give his full time to the job in order to give greater satisfaction to the industry.

It is very regrettable that the Disposal Board should be necessary at all. In spite of the bad structure of this Bill—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is now an Act of Parliament. The hon. Member has referred to it in very critical terms on several occasions. He knows that there is a rule of order which prevents Members reflecting, beyond a certain point, upon Acts which have been passed.

Mr. McLeavy

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker.

I again appeal to the Minister to reconsider the question of the Chairman being a part-time member of the Board. He is a man who enjoys the general confidence of all parts of the industry and of the industrial life of our nation, and we should feel a little happier if he were able to give his whole time to the job of Chairman of this important Board.

3.12 p.m.

Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)

I find the opposition to my right hon. Friend's selections for the Road Haulage Disposal Board, to say the least, disingenuous. In considering the membership of the Board one thing about which we should be concerned is to make sure that the members are those who will best enable the Board to carry out its job. The object of the Board is to see that the road haulage vehicles are disposed of to private enterprise smoothly, with efficiency, and with justice to the public interest. When I use the word "efficiency" I am thinking not only in terms of the actual process of disposal, but of the pattern of the transport industry which will emerge from the disposal. It is necessary that transport should be increased in efficiency as the years go by.

If we are to have a Board which will effect this object in the full sense it is inevitable that it should consist of men with practical and up-to-date experience —and I stress both "practical" and "up to date"—of the different sections of the road haulage industry. If we admit that, I do not see what other course my right hon. Friend could have taken in his selection of the men who will serve on this Board.

We are entitled to rely on the Board discharging the purpose we have given it, on two grounds. First, we have a full right to rely upon the absolute integrity of the men who have been chosen. I am sure we can depend upon that. Secondly, we can rely on the fact that this Board is comprised of a balance of different interests, so that even with the best of intentions, if one of the members of the Board were prejudiced in his outlook or judgment, that prejudice would be corrected by the counter-balance of the other interests. With those two factors, I believe we shall find that, as at present composed, the Board will do its job to the satisfaction of the House and the country at large.

The only regret that I have about the membership of the Board is that it has no trade union representative. The balance of interest would be much more complete if it had one. I do not for one moment quarrel with the trade unions for opposing the Bill if they disagree with the principle of denationalisation, for it is only fair and right that they should do everything they can to oppose it if that is their sincere belief, but, the Bill having become an Act of Parliament in a democratic manner, I regret that the trade unions have not seen fit to accept the suggestion which was put forward from these benches that the Board should include a trade union representative.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) that the interests of the transport workers are greatly affected by the way the disposal is carried out. Those interests would have been the more certainly safeguarded if they had had a representative on the Board, and, also, from their great experience of the industry, they could have contributed something of real benefit to the furtherance of efficiency in the industry on which so much depends. But for that one regret, I feel such that my right hon. Friend has chosen the best possible Board and that it will do its duty to the satisfaction of the House and the country.

3.17 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) said that he did not see that the Minister could take any other course in the appointments if he wanted on the Board persons with a knowledge of industry who would be in the best possible position to advise what the selling price should be and how the units should be made up. It would be out of order to go into past debates, but the answer is simple, that one does not need a Disposal Board at all and that the British Transport Commission should have been allowed to sell it own assets in its own way, knowing far more about their composition than anybody else in the country. That was our whole case, and it must appeal to the hon. Gentleman as being the obvious alternative to the course he has suggested.

Mr. Carr

I agree that that might be a tenable argument, but we have passed an Act of Parliament which has laid down that there should be a Disposal Board, and, given the fact that there is a Disposal Board, we are discussing what the correct membership should be. I believe we have the correct membership with the one exception which I have mentioned.

Mr. Callaghan

I was going to say that we were faced with the position that there is a Disposal Board and that the argument cannot apply, but if the hon. Member had lent us support earlier the Minister would not now be in the difficult position of trying to find suitable persons, who will appear to be above suspicion in every way, for the purposes of this task.

Yesterday was a melancholy day, with the Minister announcing the setup of the Disposal Board; melancholy because it is the first time that a special board has been set up by the Government to sell assets making an annual profit worth up to £100 million, and to sell them at a loss, which is apparently to be so great that the House has written into the Act provisions to make it up. What a melancholy task that is for any disposal board to undertake. I wish them well in their work. The measure of their success will be the smallness of the loss which they incur. The original estimate of the loss was £20 million, and I suppose if the they can keep it down to less than that the Minister will feel very satisfied. To that extent, I suppose, we shall feel he has achieved his end, if they can keep it down to that figure.

The fact that we do not feel that there was any need for this proposition increases our hostility to this Act. We shall scrutinise its operation, and follow it through its course with the closest vigilance possible. We shall do that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is our considered view, and the view of a great many people associated with the transport industry, that this legislation is not final and that the pressure of events will compel any Government to consider the future of this industry once more; and there will have to be new legislation. That will certainly be our intention. I say no more than that about it.

One of the best jobs that the Road Haulage Association can do for its members now is to advise them in relation to their financial position vis-á-vis Transport Unit Finance in the event of some further legislation. It would, for example, be very unfortunate if any purchaser of a road transport unit today became indebted to Transport Unit Finance and found that because of fresh legislation that became necessary he was left owing money to Transport Unit Finance although he might not have his business. I hope that the Road Haulage Association will watch that aspect of the matter very closely indeed, because it can obviously be a very real problem to those small men who are to become indebted to this company.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), whom I congratulate on raising this matter today, referred to the fact that this company which is being formed to finance these units has significantly been made a private company. Why not a public company? Why does the United Dominions Trust think it necessary to shroud from the public view the operations of this company? Why should the public not be allowed to see its balance sheets? Why should not the public be allowed to see the rates of interest at which it is lending money, and the profit which it makes, so that it can be determined just how far the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) is accurate when he refers to the great patriotism of those who are financing Transport Unit Finance, and just how far their patriotism turns out to be profitable to them?

Mr. Marlowe

An hon. Gentleman opposite sought to suggest that the rates of interest would be disproportionate. I did not have the figures at my fingers' ends at that moment, but since then I have checked the position, and I understand that the rates of interest will be extremely favourable, a good deal less than those charged in ordinary hire purchase. If they are proportionate to domestic hire-purchase terms the hon. Gentleman will be perfectly satisfied, I gather, but they will be a good deal more favourable.

Mr. Callaghan

I hope that we shall have some public statements from Transport Unit Finance to enable my hon. Friend to make up his mind about this, and also about what the Government intend to do about the hire-purchase agreements, so that Transport Unit Finance will have its repayments spread over a period which, I understand, may be from three to five years, instead of the normal period of repayment of a member of the public when he goes to buy his television set or his radio. I think it is significant that a private company is formed. I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman was not present during all our debates on this matter previously. I do not blame him for that, because a lot of us would have liked to have escaped from them, but during those debates I made a suggestion that the right way to finance this business, if it had to be financed, was by means of a Government corporation without loss to anybody.

Mr. Marlowe

The hon. Gentleman is overlooking the fact that he has just threatened to ensure that there is a loss. A moment ago he was making quite sure there would be a loss by talking of subsequent legislation. That would be a deplorable way to deal with public money.

Mr. Callaghan

What I am quite sure of is that Transport Unit Finance will not finance their operations so that they will make a loss on this particular transaction. Apparently, the hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with me that that is so. It looks as though the man who will suffer will be the small man who is to be financed by them. I hope that the Road Haulage Association will watch the interests of their members in that direction.

The Minister, of course, has pressed on with all haste in this matter in order to set up the Disposal Board. He is so interested in selling the lorries that he does not pay sufficient attention to the future of the Road Haulage Executive itself. I do not know whether he would be prepared to answer this question this afternoon, but perhaps he would consider it now and answer it, if possible—and I certainly hope it will be possible—when we get back.

What is to be the future of the Road Haulage Executive? Is he going to abolish it or not? If he is going to abolish it, he should say so very soon so that the British Transport Commission and its officers know what their position is likely to be. I think he will agree that he has at least an equal responsibility to tell them what their future on the Road Haulage Executive is as he has to get the sales of these lorries going, so I give the Minister notice now, if I may, that, if he cannot reply to this question this afternoon, we shall certainly be asking him when he intends to announce—and I imagine it is his decision—what the future of the Road Haulage Executive is to be.

I fully agree that the Minister made a concession to our point of view in his appointment of the Chairman, and in the fact that he did not appoint the incredible Mr. Barrie. I only say incredible because of the position in which he was placed by the Road Haulage Association, in which he was apparently to serve on the finance company and on the Disposal Board at one and the same time. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) says he would have resigned from the finance company in that case. If the noble Lord really believes that, why did the Road Haulage Association nominate him for both these posts at one and the same meeting? It was a rather odd situation, unless they were backing both horses and hoping that one would come home.

I really cannot understand why they should have nominated him to serve on the finance company and on the Disposal Board at the same time, unless they believed that the Minister was ready to accept such a course of action, which would have exposed the Minister and made him very vulnerable indeed in the eyes of the public. I am very glad he did not make that appointment, and I hope that we contributed to his not making the appointment.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd indicated dissent.

Mr. Callaghan

Apparently we did not contribute to it; he was going to refuse the appointment in any case. I am very glad that at any rate we made it easier for him to refuse that appointment by bringing the matter out into the light of day.

As far as the Chairman is concerned, here again the Minister has made difficulties for himself, for during the passage of the Bill we put down Amendments in which we suggested that this Board should be of a semi-judicial character, but he brushed them aside. As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East said, he did not even give us a hint of a concession, that perhaps he might appoint someone who had the distinguished legal qualifications of Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve. How much easier he could have made his own path if he had done something like that. Or is it that he did not intend to do it and has only been forced to do it now through the persistent volume of criticism to which he has been subjected from this side of the House? I do not pretend to know; only he knows which is true.

I would point out to the hon. and learned Member for Hove that it was not this side of the House which called members of the public who serve on public boards "quislings." It was the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury who invented that eloquent expression for those who serve on public boards. Apparently a man is a "quisling" if he serves on a public board set up by a Labour Government but not if he serves on a public board set up by a Conservative Government. He might well remember that when delivering his strictures.

We all have an affection for the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) referred. Stalin once said of Bernard Shaw that he was a good man fallen among Fabians. The noble Lord is a noble man who has fallen among Tories. I was very interested indeed in his comparisons with a herbaceous border; it set my mind at work as to where we ought to place him. I think he is clearly the lily, "unstained and pure," standing above all others, and is certainly one of the finest flowers in the border. [HON. MEMBERS: "Dandelion."] No, not a dandelion.

It reminds me that when I was in Ceylon I saw flowers called sori. It is not a very elegant name but it is a vivid, brilliant, highly-coloured, brazen and shameless flower. The only way in which my comparison falls down is that it was of vivid red colour, and no one could accuse the Minister of that. The Road Haulage Association is easy; clearly, it is the mistletoe—a parasite which feeds upon its host and eventually strangles it, but perhaps I had better not continue this analogy too far.

I want to come to the question of the Road Haulage Association's representative on this Board because, in the light of the other appointments the Minister has made, his is the appointment which we think leaves the Minister most vulnerable to criticism. As the right hon. Gentleman told us yesterday, Mr. Farmer was a vice-president of the Road Haulage Association until the day before yesterday, and apparently he severed his connection on being appointed, or knowing he was to be appointed, to this Board.

I want to put this to the Minister. We all know that the Road Haulage Association intends to prepare a scheme to achieve the complete denationalisation of the industry. "Road Way," their journal, told us that, To solve this dilemma, the Association is offering to assist all members and former members known to have an interest in the purchase of transport units. The National Council has decided that an extensive enquiry be undertaken in all areas and sub areas … Each operator concerned is being asked by his Area Secretary to give as detailed particulars as possible of the type of unit, number and type of vehicles and premises for which he would be prepared to tender. If his business or part of it has been acquired, he is asked to indicate its nature and to say whether in the main it can still be identified as an independent unit. The object is that the national representatives will be able to submit this plan to the Disposal Board, confident that it can be made to work and will meet the wishes of the members. That is a perfectly fair thing for them to do. It is indeed their function; they are the trade union for the road hauliers. There is no reason at all why they should not do this.

What I say to the Minister—and I am surprised that he does not seem to see this—is that, having done that, and having submitted the scheme to the Disposal Board, it should then be for the Board itself to adjudicate upon the scheme. It should not be for one of the interested parties to adjudicate. It is difficult to dissociate one's recollection of Mr. Farmer from the fact that he has been a national vice-president for many years and the fact that he will have links, as he is bound to have links with these people advocating this scheme.

I say that it would have been better for the Minister to have chosen a haulier who had nothing to do with the Road Haulage Association except, perhaps, as being an ordinary rank and file member somewhere in the provinces who played no part in the job at all. One might further say that it would have been far better not to have a haulier on the Board at all because of the particular difficulties in which we are placing them.

There is a very good Civil Service code of conduct which the Minister has not followed in this case. I well remember that, it was brought to my notice when I first entered the Civil Service. I will paraphrase it: it is that a member of the Department is not expected to subordinate his private interests to his public duties, but nor is he supposed to put himself in a position where the two may conflict. That was the code, and as far as I know it may still be the code, which applies in certain Departments in the Civil Service. Can the Minister say that he has not exposed Mr. Farmer to that particular difficulty? I believe that he has exposed him to it. He is not supposed to subordinate his private interests to his public duty and he is being put in a position in which his ties, links and knowledge of the schemes of the Road Haulage Association are going to conflict with his duty as a member of the Disposal Board. Let us remember that the duty of the Disposal Board is quite clear. It is its job to get the highest price and in the aggregate the best possible price for the units which are to be sold for the public. That is not the duty of the Road Haulage Association. It is the reverse. It is to keep the units at the lowest price and make the best possible bargains for their members.

The two things are in conflict. How can it be said that a member of the Road Haulage Association who has played such a prominent part in the affairs of the Association and who, I believe, has been a member of the negotiating team—and Mr. Barrie whose nomination was also put forward and rejected—all through the Bill and who has been meeting the Minister regularly—and I expect the Minister has formed a very high opinion of his activities—is not being put in the position where his private interests to the members of the Road Haulage Association and his public duty to the Road Haulage Disposal Board to get these units at the best possible price do not conflict?

It seems to me that the Minister has made a mistake in relying so much as he has done throughout the whole of the debates that have taken place upon the Road Haulage Association in this connection, and we regret it very much. We shall watch the activities of the Disposal Board very closely. With Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve in command, none of us believe that he would be a party to any "finagling" of any sort, and, of course, no one would dream of suggesting it. We shall certainly try to ensure that so far as the future of the road haulage industry is concerned the best possible price is secured for these public assets, as we hope and trust that it will be.

We also hope very much that the Minister will have regard not only to the Disposal Board and to the work that it is doing, but also to his very much greater responsibility to the British Transport Commission and to the public at large, including the Road Haulage Executive, which still remains in being and will still perhaps have as many as 5,000 or 6,000 vehicles, so that we can know that he is interested not only in carrying out what was an Election pledge that was made by the Conservative Party, but also in carrying out his public duty as the Minister responsible for well-organised transport in this country

3.38 p.m.

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

I think that we can all welcome the concluding sentences of the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). In particular, I was glad to hear him say, "We all hope that the Disposal Board will get the largest possible sum of money for these public assets." I think I heard him say, "We will all do all that we can to help to bring that about." Was I right in saying that he also said that he not only hoped that the Disposal Board would get the best possible price but that, "We will all do all we can to help them do so?" I think that HANSARD will show that he also expressed that view.

I am sure that I need not remind him that the Government and the Opposition have duties in this field. The greater responsibility is that of the Government. The Opposition, if some day, however unlikely, they become the alternative Government, have their responsibility, and I think that the concluding words of the hon. Gentleman, on what I believe is the 30th day we shall have debated some aspect of the Transport Bill, will be of very great interest to all concerned.

As the House knows, it is my responsibility to appoint the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman and the four members of the Board. I appoint the Chairman and Vice-Chairman without asking anybody to submit suggested names to me. In the case of the other four members, I am, under Section 2 of the Act, under obligations to make certain consultations with bodies representative of trade and industry, with bodies representative of persons holding A and B licences, with bodies representative of C licence holders, and with the British Transport Commission itself.

I have, as I have already told the House, carried out all these consultations. I asked for suggestions from the British Transport Commission. In regard to trade and industry, I approached the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, the National Union of Manufacturers, the Federation of British Industries and the Traders Co-ordinating Committee on Transport. In regard to persons holding A or B licences I approached the only national organisation in that field. I am under a statutory duty to consult with such a body representing persons who have A and B licences. There is only one such body of a national character, and as has long been known I am under the duty of consulting with it.

Mr. Ernest Davies

The Minister says he has to consult these bodies, and that is perfectly true, but consultation does not necessarily imply that he has to ask these bodies to nominate names. Surely it is within the power of the Minister to suggest that the Board should consist of certain names and should consult with them concerning their views.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is quite open to me not to accept any of the names.

Mr. Davies

Or to ask for them.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Or to ask for them, but it would be a curious form of consultation if I do not take the advice of the persons concerned. For example, the British Transport Commission suggested one name in particular to me. Would the hon. Gentleman suggest that I should have rejected that name and should have nominated someone quite different to represent the Commission?

Mr. Davies

Since the Minister has asked me a question, perhaps I may be allowed to reply and to point out that Section 2 (4, a) is very different from subsection (4, b and c), in that he must specifically accept one of the nominations received from B.T.C.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am coming to this and I hope the hon. Gentleman will see why I followed the course I did.

With regard to persons holding A or B licences, I repeat that I consulted the only national body covering A and B licence holders. In regard to persons with a C licence I consulted the Traders Road Transport Association, which has a large and influential membership. I made certain selections which I announced to the House.

I very much welcome the statements that have been made from both sides of the House today in regard to the Chairman, Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, Q.C. The hon. Member for Bradford. East (Mr. McLeavy), the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and the hon. Member for Enfield, East on the Opposition side and hon. Members on this side endorsed the particular qualifications of Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve as Chairman. I must say that I find it a rather curious illustration of a rather strange mentality that I am almost put in the dock for choosing somebody against whom it is impossible to find any complaint. Hon. Members opposite have jibed continuously because I have deprived them of the opportunity of being able to censure my choice. Throughout the last few months there have been stronger attacks on me than this, and if at the end of the day this is about all that is left I do not think we have done too badly after all.

Mr. Callaghan

This is not the end of the day; it is only the beginning.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It is not the end of the day in a way, but I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that everything possible would be done to make a success of the disposals.

Mr. McLeavy


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot give way again.

As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East said the Chairman is a man who has already had a long period of disinterested public service, and I should like to thank him personally on behalf of Her Majesty's Government for his acceptance of this most important duty. Governments of very different views have had on occasions to rely on his integrity and judgment, and we all remember the services he has rendered the State in many capacities when he was appointed to, or confirmed in, his office for various tasks under the late Socialist Administration. Whether it was the War Works Commission, the War Damage Commission, the Local Government Boundary Commission, or the Central Land Board, no one has ever suggested that he could not be relied upon to bring a disinterested mind to bear on vital national problems.

I was glad to read in the "Manchester Guardian"—a newspaper which has not been uniformly friendly to every aspect of the Transport Act, but which has been a great deal more friendly recently— that If the Board contains a leavening of practical knowledge of road transport. Sir Malcolm's experience of general administration and of Statutory Commissions should ensure a smooth transfer within the 18 months which the Government hope will prove enough to complete the task. I was asked by one or two hon. Members why it was that Sir Malcolm was a part-time Chairman. I do not share this passion for full-time chairmen. I believe that the public service frequently loses a great deal by the desire to appoint somebody to give the whole of his time to a particular task. I would rather have the part-time services of the best man than the whole-time services of some indifferent alternative. We believe that this body, working together with the Deputy-Chairman as a full-time member will achieve very satisfactory results.

Mr. McLeavy

I entirely agree with what the Minister has said about part-time members if they are not the chairman or the head of a board. But surely the head of a board should be a full-time member.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think experience will show that under the general guidance and the final responsibility of the Chairman, even though he is described as a part-time chairman, we are getting the equivalent in service to what other people might call full-time contributions. I think we can claim that the Board contains a great deal more than that leavening of practical knowledge of road transport to which the "Manchester Guardian" drew attention.

I also wish to thank on behalf of the Government a friend of many of us in this House, and a recent friend of mine, Mr. Orchin, who has consented to act as Deputy-Chairman. He has had very long experience of transport, having entered the Railway Clearing House as long ago as 1899. He was the Director of Finance in my own Department some years ago and after his retirement from the Civil Service he went as Chief Financial Officer of the Road Haulage Executive itself, though he ceased to hold that position some time ago.

With his very wide experience, I think he is a valuable choice, and all that I and others have seen of him so far makes one confident that he will do the task admirably. Regarding the other members whom I have appointed, as I told the House, Mr. Gordon Graham has been appointed after consultation with bodies that seem to me to represent trade and industry. Mr. Gordon Graham is a former managing director of Morris Commercial Cars, Limited. After consultation again with C licence holders, I have appointed Mr. Greenwood, transport manager of Messrs. Thomas Firth and John Brown. Limited.

A great deal has been said of the possible disturbance to trade and industry through this Measure, and through the Disposal Board in particular. I think the fact that we have been lucky to secure these two gentlemen with their wide experience of trade and industry is all to the good. Also, as the House knows, we have appointed Mr. Farmer, and I shall deal in greater detail with some of the rather wild statements made about that selection later on. Mr. Farmer is a very responsible member of the national organisation of A and B licence holders and managing director of the Atlas Express Company.

Finally, we have appointed Lord Rusholme at the request of the British Transport Commission, who, in addition to being a member of the Commission, is a director of other associated companies controlled by the Commission, not the least of which is Thomas Cook and Sons. I think that all those on both sides of the House who know him well will know that he will carry out his task which I recognise, for him, must be a particularly difficult one, with good taste and good judgment.

As I announced yesterday, in all Scottish matters affecting Scottish interests, the Board will act in consultation with Lord Bilsland. I should like again to thank Lord Bilsland for the ready way in which he has accepted the suggestion. He has agreed to make himself available for consultation on all matters affecting Scottish interests. He is. as the House knows, chairman of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). I am sorry that there are not many Scottish Members here, but I am grateful for the kind things said by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne). I was much impressed by a number of the arguments that were made in the House, not least those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson).

The appointment of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman was wholly in my hands. I concede myself to have certain obligations to consider seriously names put forward by the other bodies whom I had to consult, but I felt that Scottish interests would be fully protected in this way. As the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), who told me in advance that he could not be here today, said in the House on 17th November, the Scottish Council represents, as far as can be achieved, a cross-section of all interests in industry, commerce and business in Scotland. And he added, which is rather welcome nowadays: It has no politics."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1457.]

Mr. Callaghan

Will Lord Bilsland have a vote when it comes to the discussion of Scottish matters on the Disposal Board?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No; he is not a member of the Board. As the hon. Member knows, the Act provides for the Chairman of the Board to come to me on certain occasions, and I do not doubt that if there was a conflict of opinion on a matter of importance it would be brought definitely to my attention.

Now, I come to the only charge which has been seriously advanced. That is, the suggestion that I should not have appointed from among the names submitted to me by the Road Haulage Association any ex-officer, and some say not even any ex- or present member. It is a little difficult to know wherein the substance of this charge lies. I thought at first a week or so ago that criticisms in this field concentrated solely on the possibility that I might appoint a gentleman who had also been nominated a director of a finance company that is interested in the provision of finance.

Mr. Ernest Davies

We stopped that.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The hon. Member waxed very eloquent about that. He says, "We stopped that." Far be it from me to deprive him of any feelings of power. I am all for associating the Opposition with the Government of the day whenever possible, and provided we are allowed finally to make up our own minds, to give any credit where it is due. But I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member. That was actually a decision made independently of the debate; but I am sustained by the view that the hon. Gentleman put forward.

I did not appoint that gentleman, many though his qualities are and absolute as his integrity most certainly is. I did not appoint him, but the hon. Gentleman had to find something with which to sustain a further debate on transport before we rose for the Whitsun Recess. And so the new suggestion was made that now it was not a question of appointing somebody who was associated with this finance house, but a question of appointing somebody who was a former official of the Road Haulage Association. The suggestion has even been made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that it would have been better not to have had even a member of the Road Haulage Association, and not even a haulier.

Mr. Callaghan

I think so.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Surely nothing could be more utterly fantastic. It would debar those people who know best the pattern of industry and of demand from playing any effective part in the work of the Disposal Board. It would be as logical to debar any shareholder of any finance house which might conceivably advance money to any potential purchaser, or to debar any member of a local Co-operative society which might have shares in the C.W.S., which might be interested in the purchase of vehicles. There could not be a more absurd suggestion. Indeed, as I have already pointed out in this House while there are arrangements for recouping the Road Haulage Associations for expenses forced on them through the formation of the company, not only will the directors of the new company be unpaid, but they have absolutely no financial interest whatever in that new company.

It has been suggested that I was wrong to work with the Road Haulage Association at all, but that is in the Act, Under the Act I am obliged to do so and, as you have pointed out, Sir, it is now an Act of Parliament and there is a statutory obligation on me to consult bodies representative of A and B licence holders. It is not merely my Act now, but an Act of Parliament. I take it that the opening words of the hon. Member apply to the whole field of the Act itself I am under statutory duty to appoint one member … after consultation with such bodies representative of persons holding A or B licences as I think fit. Where else could I go save to the Road Haulage Association?

If hon. Members are interested in the reasons why I have acted as I have they should consider the figures. The Road Haulage Association has 17,000 members. I must say, as I have said before, that I think it remarkable the way in which they have kept together despite the difficulties imposed upon them under the 1947 Act and the absurdities of the 25-mile limit, which we hope will soon come to an end. There are 12,000 A licence holders in the country. I am not now talking of membership of the R.H.A. There are 5,000 A contract licence holders and 31,000 B licence holders. including a very large number who are not really in the transport business but are mainly in retail trades. I think it fair to say that the Road Haulage Association has the overwhelming majority of genuine A and B licence holders in their ranks and they are most certainly the only national association.

I am under statutory duty to consult a body which seems representative to me. I could not deny that this body is the most representative. It has been known from the start, of course, that as soon as these words appeared in the Bill—it cropped up constantly in debates in this House—that the next step I would have to take, among others, would be to consult the Road Haulage Association.

The Opposition from time to time tried to alter the basis of the Disposal Board in order to prevent anyone serving on it who has had experience in the last three or four years in road haulage—a particularly foolish suggestion. But they have known they were dealing with names which might be suggested to me—almost certainly would be suggested—by the Road Haulage Association. I repeat that they are the people who have the best knowledge of what is most likely to meet the needs of those who today, at this particular minute, are either anxious to re-enter, or to enter the road haulage business.

Also, as the representative body looking after the interests of A and B licence holders—and this applies also to names suggested by C licence holders— they represent the interests of people who will have to pay the levy. So it will be naturally in their minds that the loss should be the least possible.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I should like the right hon. Gentleman to try to get this point straight. On this side of the House the main charge has not been against consultation with the R.H.A. in regard to appointments to the Disposal Board. The charge has been that the right hon. Gentleman has selected one of their nominees who is a national vice-chairman, which is quite a different matter. We do not object to consultation —which, as he said, is in the Act— but we are attacking him for the person be chose after consultation.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I quite realise that, but it would be a curious form of consultation when, if names were suggested which came from members of this Association, I repudiated all those names, despite the fact that they have the overwhelming majority of genuine road hauliers in their ranks, and took someone from outside, whose knowledge is most unlikely to be as detailed and up-to-date.

It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Sir H. Butcher]

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The financial interest of any member of the Road Haulage Association in any individual transaction because of the creation of this company between the R.H.A. and the United Dominions Trust is so remote as to be absolutely negligible. It is far and away less than the interest that a shareholder might have in a company which was interested in the acquisition of assets.

My object and my duty throughout, both in the drafting of the Bill and now in the carrying of it into effect, is to produce a representative and well-balanced body of persons whose knowledge and experience will help and guide the Commission in this task of disposal. If the logical conclusion of some of the charges from the other side was in fact followed, what would be the result? I should have to show that there was no one on the Board who had a direct or indirect interest in what might happen. The party with the greatest direct interest in the disposal either of companies or units is the Transport Commission itself. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite seriously suggest that they should not have a representative on the Board?

Mr. Callaghan

They are a public authority.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

None the less they have a definite interest in the matter. They may be a public authority but they will be engaged in competition with a lot of other people whose freedom will be acquired through the operation of the Board. Even after the Board has done its work as a result of this Act. the Commission will be the largest owner of road haulage vehicles in the country. If the argument advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite is correct I should not have a representative of the Commission on the Board.

Mr. Ernest Davies


Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot give way. I sat here for the whole of the debate. I listened without interrupting unduly.

Mr. Davies

It is fantastic.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

We have another 28 minutes left. Anybody else can talk who wants to, subject to what Mr. Speaker says. It could be argued that the Commission is the only body with an actual interest in individual transactions by the Board. I do not know whether this has penetrated the minds of some hon. Gentlemen. The other three people appointed after consultation are interested in the general results. The Road Haulage Association is interested in the general results in the interests of the A and B licence holders generally; trade and industry in trade and industry generally, and C licence holders in C licences generally. But the Commission will be directly interested in a lot of individual transactions. One does not conclude from that that it would be wrong that they should serve on the Board.

Running through the minds of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, though they have not been prepared to say so, was the belief that it would be difficult to find people with an up-to-date and extensive knowledge of transport who would find it possible to act in a public spirited way without constantly remembering that they had their personal interests outside. Hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that if situations arise with firms in which members themselves might be interested —or if somebody else is going to bid for the same business as they know their own firm might bid for—they will take no part in the deliberations.

All this is clearly provided for in the Act. We had a long discussion on this part of the Act—

Mr. Beswick

Two hours.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Two hours on this subsection was not bad time. I appeal to hon. Members. At the start the hon. Member for Enfield, East said that, though they never welcomed the Act, the Labour Party now felt it incumbent upon them to apply their minds to the composition of the Disposal Board. We have settled the composition of the Board, and I think we can now all apply our minds to the creation of the climate in which it can operate and in which it can work. I should like to conclude by again thanking the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and the other members of the Board for their acceptance of these most responsible posts.

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