§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I beg to move,That this House, in view of the facts disclosed in the First and Second Reports of the Road Haulage Disposal Board and of the continued financial and operating success of British Road Services, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to abandon further sales of the vehicles and premises under the Transport Act, 1953.I suppose that there will be at least no difference between the two sides of the House that the Transport Act, 1953, was one of the brightest jewels in the Government's legislative crown of that Session. Equally, I suppose that there will be no difference between us that the core of that Act was the proposal of the Government to sell the nationalised lorries, of which there were at that time some 40,000, as quickly as possible. At least there will be no dispute among 1974 most hon. Members that the intention was to sell them "rapidly." That was the word which the Minister used at the time, although I notice that recently he has been slightly more cautious in what he has said about the pace of the sale.
I do not think I need go into details to show that it was the considered view of the Government that this process of disposal of the lorries should have been concluded within a reasonable period of time. In one incautious sentence, the Minister of Transport committed himself to the statement that the whole of the lorries would have been sold by December, 1953. I hope that he is not going to deny that. He later corrected that, at a later stage of the Bill, when he said that perhaps that was rather optimistic—and it has proved so.
After that, in the light of the experience he had, he went on to make some more rather rash comments. One was made in his name by his former Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine), at a very appropriate function, the annual banquet of the road hauliers last November when he read a message from the Minister in which the Minister said that 10,000 lorries would have been sold by the end of April, and he hoped that a fairly high proportion of the whole would have been disposed of by the time the Disposal Board had reached its first birthday at the end of May. That was the Minister's view as recently as last November.
Now, after a great deal of shuffling and equivocation at Question time in the House, he has attempted to prove that when he had sold some 20 per cent. of the lorries, it meant in fact that he had sold 86 per cent. of them. We have the facts from the Road Haulage Disposal Board. The Board says that, in a period of 14 months, out of 36,000 lorries fewer than 6,000 have been sold. British Road Services are, in fact, still operating more than 30,000 lorries. The Board says—to put it another way—that the value of the assets accruing to the Minister to be sold is £63 million. The purchase price of those sold so far, according to an answer which the Minister gave us last week, is £7.4 million. If I may translate this into percentages, 12 per cent. of the assets by value have been sold in 14 months, and 20 per cent. of the lorries by number have been disposed of.
1975 I do not know whether the Minister would care to say that he regards that as a fairly high proportion of the total number. I would not be surprised at anything which the Minister might say, but even he will find it a little difficult to persuade the House that that represents a fairly high proportion of the total number by the end of May. Certainly his expectations about most of them going quickly have long since whistled down the wind.
The plain truth is that these 6,000 lorries, which have been slowly and painfully disposed of, have been hawked round the country in one list after another. They have been offered and reoffered. The Disposal Board has now got to the stage when it has not only various lists but lists R1 and R2, which, I am told, mean "Rejected 1" and "Rejected 2." Some of the lorries among the 6,000 vehicles sold have been hawked round as many as two or three times and put up for sale in various combinations and conjunctions.
The truth is that the bids have been low and the number of vehicles sold few. That is in total contradistinction to the Minister's expectations and all the Government's forecasts when the Bill was being discussed in this House some 18 months ago. What is more, the 6,000 lorries have not been sold to former road hauliers who are now returning to the industry. This was the whole object of the exercise. We were told that the small hauliers were knocking on the door ready to return. What are the facts?
I want the Minister, if he will be good enough to do so, to tell the House how many lorries have been sold to new entrants. My information is that 80 per cent. of the 6,000 lorries which have been sold have been sold to people already in the business. Less than 20 per cent. of the lorries sold have been sold to small hauliers whose businesses were taken over, who were compensated and who have returned to the business. That means that one-fifth of these 6,000–1,200 lorries—is the maximum number, according to my information, of those which have gone to the small hauliers anxious and willing to return to the road haulage business.
I can tell the Minister in the jargon—perhaps the not very polite jargon of those 1976 in the trade—what has been happening. The Disposal Board of the British Transport Commission has not been able to sell businesses to any large extent. It has been able to sell individual lorries in two's and three's, and sell them to existing hauliers, for this reason. I am afraid that it is the case that existing hauliers have been breaking the law by running over the 25-mile limit. That is the information which I have. Although, no doubt, the Minister's officers have done their best to stop it, it is well-known in the trade that this is being done.
It is known that this is happening and, in the jargon of the industry, all that these previous hauliers have been doing is buying a lorry or two in order to acquire A licences to "legitimise their babies." They have, in fact, been getting hold of one or two A licences so that if their fleet is found outside the 25-mile limit and they are challenged, they can say, "We have got a licence," and so they have been willing to buy one or two lorries from British Road Services. I challenge the Minister to give any other view than that if he thinks it is appropriate. I have used the phrase that is commonly used in the road haulage business at the present time, and I ask the Minister whether this is what he anticipated and what he led the House to believe would happen when we had our long discussions about denationalising this service.
The Road Haulage Association, of course, have been busy trying, as we knew all the time, to get good bargains at cheap prices. I think it will be a long time before we see a greater degree of effrontery than the sight of that organisation going to the Minister and asking him to agree that when three or more bids were put in for any particular unit, the highest should be accepted. What an opportunity for rigging the market that presented. It is what I should have expected, and the Minister, to do him justice, of course rejected that proposal. But this is typical of the approach of that organisation to this problem. It was because the Minister relied over-much on that organisation, to which he was so foolish as to listen throughout the whole of our discussions, that he is in the difficulty in which he finds himself today.
I can describe the Minister's difficulty in a sentence. He cannot sell the lorries, and he has no powers to permit 1977 British Road Services to retain them. That is the dilemma in which he has placed himself by his over-confidence when the Transport Bill was going through the House. As far as I can see, no end to this process is in sight. Somebody said the other day that if the process continued at its present rate, it would take 15 years to sell off the lorries. Perhaps that is a little pessimistic—optimistic, perhaps, from our point of view; pessimistic from the Government's.
Does the Minister not realise the uncertainty into which he is plunging trade and industry and those who are relying upon British Road Services now to do their job? Does he not realise the uncertainty which the staff and the drivers are feeling about this situation? I know he has had letters about it, because I have had copies of some of them that have been sent to him, and I know of the representations that are made about the anxieties into which he is plunging a great many people because of his actions upon this matter.
There is a second complaint that I want to make about the Minister. I have already indicated that, despite his assurances to the House, he is not selling transport units as businesses in the way that he prophesied and forecast when the Bill was going through the House. This is what he said:It is our intention to break up the Road Haulage Executive into units. Those units would represent as near as possible the pre-nationalisation pattern…It will be difficult and in many cases impossible to restore the pattern as a whole, but, by and large, the old pattern represented natural development and it is our hope to see that restored."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 492.]That was the first thing that the Minister said.
Later, on 3rd December, 1952, the right hon. Gentleman said:I am sure…that as soon as the House has made up its mind on the Bill…there will be no difficulty whatever in disposing of a very substantial number of these businesses…What we are offering for sale"—I ask the House to note this—are not ordinary single vehicles. They are businesses with business connections and many other assets, in a wholly different category from…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1577.]the sale of single vehicles.
1978 Does the Minister really believe that he has carried out that intention? If so, let me quote from one of the most recent sales lists that was issued by the Transport Commission. Let us see how far businesses are being disposed of. I should like to go first to my own constituency, where there is a first-class depot which is being mauled and mangled through the Minister's Act.
In Cardiff—Ferry Road, Grangetown—there are, as the House can see from these lists in my possession, two pages of units. I should like to read out what constitutes a business. Here are the numbers of vehicles that are included. No stores, no buildings, no garage, no workshop—just vehicles, and nothing more. Here is the number they are selling which constitutes a business: one, five, five, four, one, three—and so it goes on. Are those businesses, or are they single vehicles?
One can turn to any page in the list and see that practically the same thing is happening. Look at London—Stratford. Remember what the Minister said—What we are offering for sale are not ordinary single vehicles. They are businesses with business connections and many other assets, in a wholly different category…from the sale of single vehicles. Listen to these numbers at Stratford. One, one, one, one, two, five, two, and so on. There are about half a dozen businesses in two pages of transport units. Is that what the House was led to expect would be done? The plain truth is that the Minister—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am sure that during our long debates I read it many times. I do not remember now what it was, but what is quite clear—
§ Mr. Wilson
Since the hon. Member has forgotten it, I will remind him of it:In determining what are to be the transport units for which persons are invited to tender as aforesaid, the Commission shall have regard to the desirability of securing that persons desirous of entering or re-entering the road haulage industry have a reasonable opportunity of doing so notwithstanding that their resources permit them to do so only if their operations are on a small scale.…
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am obliged to the hon. Member. He is, of course, demonstrating the point that I illustrated at the beginning. We have got hardly any 1979 new entrants. According to my information, the new entrants constitute less than one-fifth of the whole. What we have is a number of existing hauliers who are buying one vehicle in order to legitimise their illegitimate operations. The Minister has been forced into this position. He will disclaim any responsibility for it, but he gave the authority, under Section 6 (1), for it to happen.
The Minister has been forced into the position because it never was the case, it is not the case now, and it will not be the case, that there are hundreds of small hauliers desirous of returning to the road haulage business. But come what may, the Minister is determined to have these lorries sold irrespective of the effect on the national network of transport and irrespective of the loss that will be sustained by the community. That is exactly what the Minister's Bill has come down to at this stage.
We on this side thought that, although the Minister was keeping within the letter of the Act, he was getting well outside the spirit of the Act when, as early as 31st March, in answer to a Question in the House, he announced that he was ready to use the chattels section—under which vehicles could be sold not as part of businesses but as single vehicles—to dispose of the lorries.
The Minister told us, as I read earlier, that it was his intention to return to the pre-nationalisation pattern as far as possible. He is not going to begin to do so. He will be a long way outside it. Let me remind him of these simple figures. In round figures, about 3,000 firms were nationalised, covering the 40,000 lorries. So far, in selling 6,000 lorries, the Minister has created 1,887 units. This will be nothing like the pre-nationalisation pattern. The Minister is not breaking up British Road Services and selling businesses. He is atomising British Road Services, and he knows very well that what he has done has been to go into the second-hand market.
I should not be surprised, from some of the comments I have seen in some of the commercial journals, if there is not a disposition on the part of some Conservative back benchers to blame the Road Haulage Disposal Board and the Transport Commission for this. I hope they will not do so, because the Minister 1980 himself has paid a very-deserved tribute to the Road Haulage Disposal Board. He said in June:The Road Haulage Disposal Board is an impartial body and is doing its job to the Minister's complete satisfaction and with his full confidence.I am very glad he paid that tribute to it. It think it is so, and I am sure he will repeat it today, which will dispose of any criticism anybody on the Government side of the House wants to make similar to the criticisms made in the commercial journals.
For instance, the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) had a case of a haulier who complained to him, and it found its way into the trade Press. The Minister had to write back that the complaint had been investigated and there was no foundation for the assertion that had been made. I am very glad, indeed, that the Minister adheres to that view, because it is my own opinion that Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve has done a first-class job, but even he cannot create buyers when they are not there.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
How does the hon. Gentleman square his tribute to the Road Haulage Disposal Board with the terms of the Motion before the House?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The terms of the Motion that I have moved on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself do not condemn the Board. What they condemn is Her Majesty's Government. They are the people we are after, because that is where the mischief has been done and that is where the responsibility lies.
One word about the future. The Minister has got to the position where, in the words of the Road Haulage Disposal Board, it looks as though he will not be able to sell more than about 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles to small hauliers. What is he going to do? There are a number of rumours going round, about which the Minister might satisfy us today. There is the rumour that there are a number of City interests which will be willing to buy shares or have some financial interest in companies if the Minister will agree to set them up. For sheer, naked greed I have rarely seen anything like this. Wait until the House hears what the proposition is to be.
1981 The proposition is that the British Transport Commission should retain the management, that it should be even allowed to retain 51 per cent. of the shares in order to keep the management while the City financiers are going to take the profits of the 49 per cent. Let me read what appears in "Motor Transport":Although ways of getting round the Act have been considered, so far the Minister is opposed to any legal quibbling and any such schemes must be held in abeyance until it is decided whether or not to amend the Act to enable this to be done.I hope the words "so far" will continue to be true.It seems that private capital would be available for this company structure, the City being interested, but these merchant bankers require B.T.C. management to continue and are not concerned if its interest should be 51 per cent. to give it control. Their interest is in the profits that can be made, and if they put up 95 per cent. of the capital it would be effective enough.I think it would be.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
Is the hon. Gentleman quoting what he has called a City interest or is he merely quoting the view of a writer in "Motor Transport"?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I made it quite clear that I was quoting from what a special correspondent had to say when writing about the disposal of British Road Services. If the Minister is going to get up and say there are no proposals on foot to dispose of those interests on the basis of 51 per cent. to the B.T.C. and 49 per cent. to City interests—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am quite prepared to get up and say that that article is correct in saying that I will not sanction anything which would be a fraud on the Act passed in Parliament.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I notice that the Minister has not answered my question. Will he get up and say that there are no proposals on foot, being discussed informally either with the Minister or with other persons, to provide 51 per cent. of the interest for B.T.C. and 49 per cent. for private financiers?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
When I make my speech, I will deal with this and every other aspect of the matter, but meanwhile I reiterate that it is my intention to see 1982 that the Act is carried out and to call upon the Commission, with the sanction of the Disposal Board, to dispose of all the assets of the road haulage services other than those retained by the Commission. I have no intention of sanctioning anything which would be contrary to the intentions of Parliament.
§ Mr. Callaghan
In view of the Minister's failure to answer the question, we can draw our own conclusions, but I think the Minister, to do him justice, will find it difficult to deny the truth. It is well known that several bankers—I am not going to dignify them by mentioning their names; there are those in the House who know to whom I am referring—are financially interested in this proposition and are discussing it.
I think it is not unknown among hon. Members that there are a number of rather fishy gentlemen who have been anxious to buy a substantial interest. I do not propose to dignify them either by mentioning their names, but what I say to the Minister is this—it is no use his looking to us for any help in putting amending legislation through to try to dispose of lorries by this method, because he will not get it. There will be no help from us for a Bill under which the Minister can sell 49 per cent, of the profits to private enterprise when they are not willing to do anything for the service. B.T.C. do not want the money, and we do not intend that this sort of thing should go through with our sanction or with our silent approval.
I should like to mention one other factor. There is a proposal on foot—perhaps the Minister will deny this, although I do not think he will—to buy Pickfords. What drove away the people who were interested in buying Pickfords? I should like to tell the House what finally made the people interested turn away from the proposal. It was the fact that the British Transport Commission is empowered under the Act to keep a large number of the vehicles which would be in competition with the vehicles of this private enterprise undertaking and it would have to compete with them. These gentlemen who believe in private enterprise are so confident of their ability to win against a nationalised undertaking that they backed down immediately they knew that the British Transport Commission would be operating its own vehicles.
1983 I say to the Minister that there is only one solution to this problem, and everything that has happened over the last 14 months convinces us that it is the only solution; that is, to maintain in public hands this singularly profitable organisation and to integrate it with other transport services. That is what we shall do.
I think the Minister is going to have more difficulty in selling the lorries. It is an ironic coincidence that, while he is breaking up the undertaking, British Road Services are becoming more efficient and more profitable. The British Road Services accident rate has been dropping and it has been welded into an organisation which, as every hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House knows, nobody in business today wants to see destroyed. Last year it made a profit of £8 million, and I ask the Minister whether it is not the case that its profitability this year is running at the same rate as it ran last year.
How different from the story that the Minister told us a few years ago about its being a financial incubus pressing heavily upon the British Transport Commission which ought to be relieved of it and which he was taking off it. How unfair hon. Members opposite were when they used to make their case against British Road Services. They knew they were being unfair, because British Road Services had not had the time to organise the job. They knew that the last firms were only acquired in the months when they came into office and they came to this House months later protesting that British Road Services were not making a profit.
They are making a profit now and they will go on making substantial profits, because I have no doubt at all that if the Minister abandoned the sale of these lorries and raised the 25-mile limit British Road Services could compete very successfully indeed with any private haulier who tried to compete with them. I think he ought to try that. That would be in line with Conservative philosophy about competition. He does not try it because he dare not try it. He knows that British Road Services are too efficient to put them in competition with private road hauliers.
I do not think there will be any challenge to that, but if there is, I came 1984 prepared for it. I have here a good many testimonials to British Road Services. Some people do not want their names to be published, and I will tell the House why. They are afraid of hon. Gentlemen opposite. How many times do people come up to us and say, "You know, British Road Services are doing very well but we understand we cannot say this publicly because it would make things difficult for us." That is said many times. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know it. The managing director of an important company wrote:Quite frankly, when British Road Services were formed I viewed the change with considerable alarm…. I have been most agreeably surprised. Your service has been excellent and most efficient. We have had every courtesy and understanding…There are dozens of these.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) can keep quiet. He made a speech last time based on one small concern in his constituency, tried to condemn the whole of British Road Services, and told us that he was not speaking for the Chambers of Commerce. He had his lesson afterwards, so he had better keep quiet.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We say that the Minister should abandon forthwith the sales of these lorries. If he did, he would be preserving an enterprise which has justified itself to the hilt. Moreover, he would be able to relieve trade and industry of a levy which amounts to nearly £4 million a year, which they are paying at present to make up for the deficit that is to be incurred while he indulges in his second-hand lorry sales. The right hon. Gentleman could relieve trade and industry of £4 million a year tomorrow. I ask him how he proposes at the end of September to calculate the amount of the loss which will be incurred, which he has a statutory duty to do. Under the Act he has to make a provisional estimate by 30th September of the total loss so that he can fix the levy. How can he do that when he has sold only 20 per cent. of the assets? Let him cut the sales now and recognise that he was wrong. He cannot recapture his reputation, but at least there is no reason why the right hon. 1985 Gentleman should make matters worse in the transport world than they have become since his intervention.
There is one other solution. He could, of course, resign. Or, if he does not want to do that, he could swop with the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education is very good at proving that the fewer schools are started the more school places there are. If she could translate her talents to his Ministry and prove that the fewer lorries are sold the more there are in private hands, I would be content with that logic. And when I recall the glibness with which the Minister of Transport can prove that 20 per cent. of sales is equivalent to 86 per cent. of sales, I feel that he is lost to education. Think what he could do with a backward form in arithmetic. The real solution is the one that we all hope will come very soon, and that is, not that we should exchange Ministers who have failed, but that the whole Government should resign and let us get on with the job.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
When the Opposition, in this Motion, invite the Government to abandon further sales of vehicles and premises under the Transport Act of 1953, they are under no illusion, nor has the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) sought to create any, as to what that invitation amounts to. It is, in fact, a demand for the repeal of the 1953 Transport Act under which these sales must take place. That is embodied in Section 1 of the 1953 Transport Act.
Now, no one can complain if the Opposition object to an Act which they opposed at every stage and put on the Order Paper a Motion which is a scarcely veiled demand for its repeal. However, the question to which the House must address itself today, and the question to which the public want to know the answer, is whether the experience of the last 12 months is such as to justify, let alone enforce, such a change of policy and opinion as to reverse the decision which the House took in the Transport Act of a year ago.
The Opposition have based their case upon two considerations: upon the process of disposal up to the present time 1986 and upon the financial results of the British Transport Commission in the last 12 months. We must, therefore, examine those contentions to see how far they would justify a demand for the reversal of the policy of the Government and of the decision of the House.
What we are considering is the result of barely six months' sales—the result of tenders which were to come in from the months of January to June inclusive. In those first six months of this year, 45 per cent. of the vehicles offered have been sold; of the vehicles which were offered without premises, 75 per cent. have been sold. Taking those crude and simple percentages for a start, there is no overwhelming evidence there of a failure in disposal of the British Transport Commission's road haulage undertaking. But I agree that we have to go behind those figures and look at the circumstances attending the first six months of this operation.
In the first place—and this has been emphasised by the Road Haulage Disposal Board itself—the initial stages of this operation were of necessity experimental. As is pointed out in the ninth paragraph of its Second Report,it was not until List 4, published in March, that a beginning could be made in offering units designed to meet particular requirements revealed in correspondence received in December and January…So at least the first three of these six months, at least the first half of the period of which we are considering the results, must be regarded, in fairness to the British Transport Commission itself, as an experimental period.
But there is more than that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) has reminded the House, the Act imposes an obligation upon the Commission to ensure that the sale takes place in such a manner that the small man—I will use that as a shorthand expression for the somewhat lengthier circumlocution embodied in the Act—has a chance to participate in acquiring the assets sold. There was only one way, so the Disposal Board decided and the Commission agreed, in which this duty—a duty laid upon them by Parliament—could be discharged.
This is mentioned in the seventh paragraph of the First Report:As a first step it was essential to test the market in order to be satisfied that the small 1987 operators have been given chances of buying transport units for immediate operation prior to the time when others will be in competition with them by reason of the removal of the 25 mile restriction at the end of 1954.And so, in this initial period of six months, the British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board were under an obligation to offer assets which could be disposed of in small units, and to satisfy themselves that the demand of the small man had been fairly met before they proceeded to larger operations of disposal. That is the background against which we have to view the results of the first six months. It is a background not created by the arbitrary decisions of my right hon. Friend. It is due to the British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board doing what Parliament ordered them to do.
Whatever may be the experience of other hon. Members, my impression is that the Commission have succeeded very fairly in reaching what they and the Disposal Board call "the small man demand" and satisfying it. I was delighted to see in the Press in my constituency a week ago a picture relating to a Mr. Smith, of Wolverhampton. The caption to the picture said:In 1948, he was the first man in the town to lose his vehicles and depot to British Road Services.The caption then goes on:Today…Mr. Smith became the first man in Wolverhampton to repurchase from British Road Services a sizeable transport unit and return it to private ownership and operation.…Mr. Smith has bought the depot together with nine eight-wheeled vehicles and six four-wheelers.Then, what I thought was very interesting:Most of those big wagons will be on the road later today, carrying goods.Above, there is a picture of Mr. Smith greeting as old friends the vehicles which he formerly owned and has now acquired back from the British Transport Commission. [Interruption.] I realise that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like that sort of thing. They do not like to see a small operator who has been doing this job up to 1948 getting a chance to do it again. For my part, I am delighted to see it. That is the difference between us. To me this is evidence that the British Transport Commission has been carrying out its duties under the Act in securing, as a first 1988 part of this operation, that the smaller operator gets a chance to participate in the industry in future.
§ Mr. James Harrison (Nottingham, East)
Would the hon. Member argue that the case of Mr. Smith is typical of the sale that has been taking place generally of these lorries in the last six months and of the re-entry of the old road haulier into the business?
§ Mr. Powell
That is what the hon. Member's hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) really said; but he wrapped it up a bit. He said that 80 per cent. of those who had been acquiring these vehicles were road haulage operators at present. Of course. Many of the men who were in road haulage in 1948 have stayed in road haulage within the 25-mile limit, and are taking this opportunity to engage in long-distance road haulage again. What we are securing is the re-entry of the small man into long-distance road haulage.
Now I want to turn to the financial side. Hitherto, we have been considering only the numerical side. I want to attempt, in spite of the fact that it may be a little premature to do so, to estimate the financial results of this operation as a whole.
The book value of the assets of British Road Services which are to be disposed of, is, as the last Report of the British Transport Commission shows, approximately £45½ million. If we make allowance for the 10 per cent. of those assets which will be retained under the Act by the British Transport Commission, we arrive at £41 million as the approximate book value of the assets to be disposed of. Out of the 13,000 vehicles offered—we have to work on numbers of vehicles as our guide—6,000 have been disposed of at a total price of £7½million. If hon. Members will work out the prices which can be expected for the whole of the vehicles, assuming that the remainder will be sold at the same rate, they will find that the figure is almost exactly £41 million.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I intervene so that we may get these figures right. The Minister of Transport said in a reply the other day that the total value of the assets was £71 million and that the assets to be disposed of were £63 million.
§ Mr. Powell
That is quite right. The figure included an element which I shall bring in, and that is the book value of the goodwill. I am talking at the moment of the book value of the assets.
Hon. Members will find in paragraph 8 of the First Report of the Disposal Board the figures I am using. Thus, on a very rough computation, which anyone might make to see how the sale is going and what sort of value will be obtained for the whole, we arrive at the conclusion that the assets will be disposed of for approximately their book value as assets.
There is no question, so far, of the British Transport Commission's being forced to sell off these units at knockdown prices. On the average, they are being disposed of at their book value as assets. That does not look like a forced sale of public property in job lots at low prices. Very much the reverse.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)rose—
§ Mr. Powell
Someone may object—probably the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) will object—that it is unfair to take these first specimens, the vehicles which have been sold out of the first 13,000 offered, and gross them up pro rata over the whole number. I appreciate that there are factors on one side and on the other. One may say that the fact that the 25-mile limit will be raised in just under six months' time gives the units disposed of up to the end of this year an extra value, which is obviously constantly diminishing, and that we shall not be able to reach that value after that date is reached. Certainly, we must take that factor into account. On the other hand, we have to take into account the fact that nearly all these vehicles have been sold without premises and there are still the premises and physical assets to be disposed of, which are left out of account by basing the calculation on the proportion of vehicles. I would feel, therefore that, though all this is a very rough estimate, merely a guide to the sort of thing which is going on, it is not unfair to claim that these vehicles are being disposed of at prices which fairly represent their book value as assets.
Now I come to the remaining element of value which was acquired from the private owners under the 1947 Act. the 1990 value of goodwill. It has always been implicit in the fact of taking businesses and merging them in a monopoly undertaking that we could not expect to recover the goodwill element. That has been acknowledged from the beginning on both sides of the House, as I will show. I noticed, for example, during the Second Reading debate on 18th November, 1952, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said:No one has had the courage to suggest that we could possibly expect to get a payment back for a goodwill that we had destroyed.…There had been two days during which anyone could have suggested it. I made the point yesterday afternoon and no one has dealt with it.Then, addressing the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), my right hon. and learned Friend said:If he thinks that after a Socialist Measure has destroyed profits we can expect people to buy back at the private enterprise rate of profit, I wonder what is the basis of his thoughts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1709–1710.]So it was recognised on both sides of the House when the Transport Act of last year was passed that the public should not and could not expect, and that the British Transport Commission was not required, to recover the price originally paid for goodwill upon nationalisation.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Would the hon. Member say that a business in private hands making £8 million per year profit had no goodwill? If not, what about British Road Services?
§ Mr. Powell
—1948 to 1952—which were the facts in front of the prospective purchasers or repurchasers of these assets, showed nothing like that rate of profit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This was not controverted during the passage of the Bill last year. The profits bore no relation to those which formed the basis of payment for goodwill on acquisition.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Will the hon. Member agree that a would-be purchaser, considering the business, would of necessity 1991 take into account the trading profits of recent years based upon the build-up of the particular business? Would that not be more material than the time when the businesses were taken over, when there was chaos?
§ Mr. Powell
I am afraid that the hon. Member has got it upside down. It is the £30 million for goodwill which was based on profits during his period of chaos before 1948. It is on the far lower rate of profit—in some cases negative—since 1948 that the goodwill realisable on sale must be based.
The final aspect of this disposal is whether, in the course of the disposal, the interests dependent upon road haulage in this country have been put to any disadvantage; for, of course, it is a duty laid on the Transport Commission by the terms of the Act to minimise that disadvantage. This is a matter in which all hon. Members are bound to rely upon their own experience. I can only give mine to the House. It is that in the first two years in which I was in the House—1950–51—my postbag was never free from letters from firms, large and small, in my constituency complaining of the services which they got from British Road Services—
§ Mr. Powell
—but, in the period of the last six months in which 15,000 of the 36,000 vehicles—nearly half—of British Road Services have been under offer for sale in transport units and in which private enterprise has been taking over gradually from British Road Services, I have not received a single criticism giving evidence of intermission of service. Nor have I seen a single case reported in the Press in my area. This is a matter in which every hon. Member has to rely on the evidence of his own constituency, the evidence of observation in the area where he lives and works. I have given mine to the House for what it is worth.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred in passing at the end of his speech to the financial results of the working of British Road Services over the last year or so. I have seen in certain o journals a forecast that when the British Transport Commission publishes its 1992 Report for 1953 the working surplus of British Road Services will be found to be in the region of £8 million, which compares with the figure of £1.6 million for 1952. I have no reason to know whether that figure is simply a guess, or perhaps a leak, or perhaps in some way inspired. Should it prove to be correct and should it prove that the working surplus of British Road Services has been very much better in 1953 than in 1952, I should be the first person to be gratified.
The volume of road transport—as, indeed, the volume of transport generally—is one of the best indices we have of commercial activity. The improvement which we all hope we shall see in the turnover and working results of British Road Services in 1953 compared with 1952 would be the very best tribute that could be paid to the success of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues in restoring the country from its financial difficulties of 1952.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May it, then, not be the case that the comparatively small profits of British Road Services in 1952 were due, not to its inefficiency as the hon. Member used to claim, but to the low level of commercial and industrial activity?
§ Mr. Powell
That may be so, but the hon. Member will also accept the lower working results in previous years, in 1951, 1950 and 1949—
§ Mr. Powell
—had a similar origin.
However, it never has been on the basis of the financial results of British Road Services that the case for the 1953 Act—which hon. Members opposite are now claiming should be repealed—has rested. The issue between the two sides of the House over that Act and the issue today is one of principle, of our general approach to the organisation of transport in this country. It is whether the co-ordination of transport—which, in the sense of the most economical use of our resources, both sides of the House want—is best secured by single ownership and 1993 central control, or by separate ownership and competition. That is the issue of principle.
Therefore, when we are asked in this debate to accept the repeal of the 1953 Act, when we are asked on the very flimsy evidence of the experience of the last six months to accept a reversal of what we then decided, it is fair to look, if only for a moment, at what the alternative is. In "Challenge to Britain" there is one sentence on this subject which expresses what the Opposition would put in the place of the 1953 Act. Here it is:Labour will remove all restrictions which are aimed at preventing the British Transport Commission from developing a fully-integrated public service of road and rail transport."Labour would remove all restrictions" preventing that desirable result. One would think that very happily phrased. Fortunately, we are not left entirely without further interpretation of what this sentence might mean; for the Labour Party is assisting the country in the understanding of "Challenge to Britain" by publishing a series of "Challenge to Britain Policy Pamphlets." As a pamphleteer myself, I am never loth to advertise the work of other pamphleteers.
In Pamphlet No. 1 we find the alternative policy, which the House is being asked this afternoon to accept, expressed in a little more detail. We find that the purchasing road haulage operator will,like other operators, be subject to any general limitation on private operation which the public interest demands. There must, for example, at least be some limitation on the area of private operation, possibly a 25-mile radius from the operator's base.So we get the 25-mile radius back under the "removal of all restrictions." This is one element of the freedom which is offered by the Labour Party to the road haulage industry.
The pamphlet continues:Further, when his licence expires he cannot automatically expect its renewal. If the B.T.C.'s road haulage undertaking is able and willing to carry the traffic, the need for his services will no longer exist.Surely there are no "restrictions" there: the operator just does not get his licence. So there is another element in Labour's policy for the co-ordination of transport—the 25-mile limit, plus the removal of licences from private operators 1994 where the British Transport Commission is considered able and willing to undertake the work.
And what about the C licence operator, that phrase which veils the reality of a man carrying his own goods in his own vehicle? The pamphlet says:There are consequently strong arguments for a restriction of 'C' licence operation, either by making the grant of a 'C' licence conditional on proof of need or by limiting the radius of 'C' licence operation.One has to prove one needs to carry one's own goods in one's own vehicle. That is because the Labour Party thinks we should avoidthe socially undesirable result of the 'C' licence operator carrying those goods which are easy to handle and offering difficult loads to the public transport services.So again, we are to have the "removal of all restrictions" by the C licence holder, the man who carries his own goods in his own vehicle, being gagged and reduced to impotence.
If the Opposition are confident of the popularity and the soundness of their alternative policy I cannot think why it is that they did not go into a little more detail in this Motion; why they contented themselves with asking the Government, in a veiled form, to repeal the 1953 Act. Why did not they go on and write into the Motion a statement of exactly what they propose to do with road transport? It is because they know perfectly well that if that reality were understood by the public it would be ignominiously rejected. They failed to get their proposal through when they attempted to do so in this House in 1947, when they had a majority of 200; and they know that it would be hooted off the stage if they advanced it now.
We are today embarked upon realising the alternative method for the coordination of transport to that imperfectly sketched out in the 1947 Act. It is, to assume, as we are prepared to assume in many other fields, that if the consumer is allowed to choose between services offered to him at genuine prices, his choice will commonly be the right one. That work must go on.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
I listened with some interest to what the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) had to say. I was hoping 1995 that he would be able to indicate to the House the reason for the failure of the Road Haulage Disposal Board to dispose of those vehicles which it has offered for sale and also that he would inform the House how the remaining vehicles left unsold would be rapidly disposed of. But I listened in vain for that information. The hon. Member gave no explanation of the fact that the Road Haulage Disposal Board has been in existence now for 14 months and has offered over 13,000 vehicles for sale in seven separate lists, but has only been able to sell less than half of them, namely, 5,900, leaving a balance of 26,500 still to be sold.
What my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said in opening the debate is true, that during the passage of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman did not anticipate that he would experience this difficulty in disposing of the vehicles. I am sure that now the Minister realises that much of the criticism we offered at that time has proved to be correct. The fact is that the public do not wish to see the road haulage activities of the British Transport Commission disintegrated in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are endeavouring to do.
I am sorry that the former Member for Abingdon is not with us today. His views on this problem are very important and, as everyone in the transport world will agree, very progressive. On more than one occasion he spoke in this House about transport problems and said that we are moving rapidly into an age when we must talk of transport rather than of road haulage or rail operations; that the evolutionary trend of transport in this country is inevitably in the direction of integration. But the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are trying to reverse the evolutionary trend and throw transport back into the conditions of private competition which existed 50, 60 and more years ago.
The right hon. Gentleman will find that a return to the days of "jungle warfare" in transport would be disastrous for the future of this country. It is such a "jungle warfare" which is embodied in the principle of the Act and in the function which the Road Haulage Disposal Board is now undertaking. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will 1996 dispose of the remaining vehicles belonging to the British Transport Commission in a short period. At the present rate of disposal it will take at least five years to get rid of the remaining 26,500. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can hope for a more rapid disposal rate because experience has already indicated to those people who have purchased units that there is not as much business available as they had hoped.
More than one road haulier who has already bought vehicles from the Road Haulage Disposal Board would be ready to sell them back tomorrow for the same price because they have found that, having bought the vehicles, there is not the amount of traffic available which they had hoped there would be. Why is that? It is 'because the senders of traffic, those who have been accustomed to use the British Transport Commission's vehicles, have continued to allow the Commission to carry their traffic. A second reason is that the services of the British Transport Commission today are more economical. Its vehicles are more heavily loaded than before. The efficiency of its fleet has increased. It is now carrying more traffic than before with a smaller number of vehicles.
As time goes on, experience will indicate to any prospective purchaser that it is bad business to buy these vehicles. Sooner or later the Minister will find that he will have to decide either to draw a line and permit the remaining vehicles to remain with the Commission, or to give away these lorries at discreditable prices. I hope, therefore, that this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman will be forthcoming in his approach to this question. There is no doubt that the policy of the Government in this respect has completely failed, and the sooner the right hon. Gentleman realises that, and faces the consequences, the better it will be for the prestige of the Government—that is, if the Government have any prestige left, and I do not think that they have very much.
This is a very sorry business. There was the Commission with a fleet of just under 45,000 road haulage vehicles. It had built up a grand organisation which was being integrated with railway operations. It was integrating transport to the point where greater efficiency and mobility were being achieved. Just imagine the problem of the Commission 1997 with the threat of the consequences of this Act hanging over its head. It has to denude itself of three-quarters of its vehicles. How is it to arrange its operations and to keep traffic flowing, not knowing from month to month whether it will have sufficient vehicles to enable it to undertake the responsibility of conveying the traffic?
Those responsible for the road haulage section of the Commission have an almost impossible job. They are trying to juggle about with the traffic offered to them at a time when they are uncertain what number of vehicles will be available on any given date. They are uncertain what exact basis of operation they can expect. The Commission deserves the greatest credit for carrying on its road haulage services as it has done in the last 14 months. From the point of view of efficiency in transport, the sooner the Minister ends this uncertainty the better it will be for all concerned.
I assure him that not only is it offering considerable problems to those responsible for management, but it is causing great disquiet among the staff in the railways as well as in the road haulage section of the industry. Although the recent strike of locomotive men was not directly concerned with the problem with which we are dealing today, nevertheless those men have at the back of their minds the action of the Govern-meet who are deliberately seeking to disintegrate the most lucrative part of the transport system.
Every railwayman knows that the future of the railways is closely bound up with the development of road transport. We are not living in the time of Queen Victoria. We have gone a long way ahead since then. Every railwayman knows that the future success of the railways is intimately linked with the development of road transport. The sooner that is realised by the Government, the better it will be for the country and for national transport.
To cut away, as the Government have done, that part of transport which is better able to secure a surplus on its operations, and to leave the railway alone and isolated to carry on a service which with the passing of time it is becoming more and more difficult to operate economically, is ill-advised. It would be out of order to discuss the railway 1998 side of the operations of the Commission—but it is history. They were built to serve an age which has passed away. The railways must re-adapt themselves to new conditions. They were able to cope with the transport problem in Queen Victoria's day, but road transport, a comparatively modern development, also serves the need of our time. There cannot be any successful future for the railways, with their overcapitalisation, except by considerable capital investment to modernise equipment, stock and operations generally. Their future lies in co-ordination of road and rail so that one section is able to help the other.
In the Post Office organisation the same principle applies to some extent. There are certain parts of the Post Office service which are run at a loss, but nobody suggests that they should be discontinued. Especially in Scotland many postal services are run at a loss, but in other parts of the country a surplus is made. The surplus balances with the loss, and we get an equilibrium. The same principle must inevitably apply to transport. We must be prepared to combine in a unified system not only that part of transport which is modern, but that other part of the system which is not so well equipped to meet the needs of our time.
Railwaymen are well aware of the ill-effects of the policy of the Government in this respect. When the Government take action to deprive the Commission of the most remunerative part of its enterprise, and then expects railwaymen to make sacrifices, they are most unreasonable. I appeal to the Minister to examine the position again. An attempt has been made to carry out the principles of the Act. Fourteen months is long enough for the experiment. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to dispose of the vehicles available and that a prolonged continuation of this uncertainty is bound to have damaging effects upon our transport organisation, to say nothing of the discontent among the staff, must be taken into consideration.
The Minister would be doing the best thing in the interests of the country if he announced a final date beyond which there would be no more disposals of road haulage vehicles. The Commission would then be able to arrange its enterprises in 1999 the certain knowledge that on an appointed day the uncertainty would cease and that, from then on, its organisation could be consolidated with the equipment and vehicles which it could expect to have left. To proceed in a piecemeal way, offering vehicles for sale, getting no response and withdrawing them and having to reshuffle them and offer them again, to find that many are still unsold, causes great difficulty and damage to our national transport system.
The Minister has had a good innings and the Government have had a good opportunity to test their opinion and their policy. I suggest that at last they should realise that the policy has not been successful and that they should decide from now on to permit the Commission to retain the unsold vehicles which it now possesses. The Government should call a halt to the uncertainty and enable the Commission to carry on its good work of improving the transport of our country and giving the nation the efficient system which it must have if our industries are to be properly equipped. Also, such an action would give greater peace of mind to the staff who have to operate these enterprises.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
The speech of the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) was at least less vague than the Opposition Motion, although the hon. Member seemed to be wandering between two methods of thinking about the problem. He was arguing that because the sales of units had not gone on as fast as some people might have expected, the whole scheme ought to be stopped. But, peeping through his argument the whole time was the good old word "integration." The hon. Member put his finger on the weakness of the Opposition's case when he said that the railways needed the profitable side of road transport. The hon. Member was, in effect, saying that the provider of transport is all-important and that the user is unimportant.
§ Mr. Sparks
I thought I emphasised that the users of transport are satisfied with the service which they have had because they are allowing their traffic to remain with the Commission and not letting it go with the lorries which are sold.
§ Mr. Maclay
If we went into the argument as to whether the users of transport are satisfied with the British Road Services at this moment or not, many things would be said in the debate which could not easily be answered by those about whom they were said, so I do not propose to go into that matter. Very large numbers of transport users are by no means satisfied at the moment with the services provided by British Road Services. I do not want to say more than that. I do not want to give detailed cases. There is a cure for every detailed case that one produces, but the problem crops up again somewhere else. One can always run down inefficiency in a large organisation and put it right—
§ Mr. Maclay
One can get single instances of inefficiency in nationalised industries put right, but one cannot get the whole thing put right. If there is inefficiency in private industry the section concerned goes down and another section which can do the job comes up. That brings us to the major argument against State ownership. I want to keep reasonably to the Motion, but not very close to it because I do not believe that its substance—
§ Mr. Callaghan
How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his experience of numerous complaints against British Road Services with the experience of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who had had none?
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Member must be careful about that. I tried not to get dragged into the argument too much, because it is a bad one. I did not say that I had heard of numerous complaints against British Road Services. I said that hon. Members opposite seemed to think that throughout British industry and commerce there was the belief that British Road Services were the answer to the transport needs of the country, and that that could be argued for a long time.
Let us look at the Motion. Part of it has been dealt with completely in the admirable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). One reason given by the 2001 Motion for calling upon the Government to abandon further sales of vehicles and premises is:… the facts disclosed in the First and Second Reports of the Road Haulage Disposal Board…It really is a very ingenuous approach to the problem to produce that as one of the reasons. It would not have been practicable to go faster than the Disposal Board has gone while honouring the pledges which the Minister gave during the debates and which the Act required to be honoured.
The second reason given in the Motion is also an extremely ingenuous one:…the continued financial and operating success of British Road Services …That might constitute a case for saying that all road transport should not be taken away from the Commission if the Government intended to do so, but the Government do not intend to do so. When the Act is fully implemented the Commission will remain by far the largest single owner and operator of road transport in the country.
As was said yesterday in an admirable leader in "The Times," there is probably a very important part for nationalised road transport to play in the nation's transport services provided it continues to be well managed. I am making no reflection upon the management of British Road Services, because I have always believed that it was up against an impossible task in trying to operate on too large a scale.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am putting my point of view. The fact that at the moment there is continued financial and operating success is not a case for reversing the decision represented by the Act.
One has to go back to the motives which persuaded hon. Members opposite to nationalise road transport. What produced the 1947 Act? There were two main reasons for it. One was the simple belief of hon. Members opposite in the pure milk of Socialism. They believed that nationalisation would, in some magic way, produce wonderful results which have never yet been brought about in this world by Socialism. Many people really believed that there was 2002 magic in the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. I do not propose to deal with that matter. I do not know whether any hon. Members opposite are still fooled by that phrase, and by the idea of Socialism, as the answer.
The fascinating thing about the past arguments relating to Socialism is that they always were based on the basic idea of the nationalisation of means of production, distribution and exchange, but no one ever went further into the idea to find out why that should produce an ideal world.
§ Mr. Sparks
Surely the right hon. Gentleman completely forgets the volume of expert opinion, having nothing to do with Socialism, which was in favour of nationalisation.
§ Mr. Maclay
As I said, there were two main reasons for the 1947 Act. One was that based on Socialism. I take it from what the hon. Member said that he has abandoned the rather elementary approach to the problem that pure Socialism answers everything. I hope he will be able to tell me that his colleagues have done the same and that he will explain that to the electors.
A great many people who still vote for the Labour Party have not the slightest idea what they are voting for; they are voting for a lot of words and they have not the slightest idea what they are going to get. If the hon. Member and his hon. Friends will explain to those electors that they are still voting for the nationalisation of all industry, I shall be very grateful to them for they will have done a good deal of our work for us.
I now come to the other section of thought, which I respect. There were those who sincerely believed—many experts were with them—that integration, which could only be carried out under single ownership, was the proper answer for transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West touched on this matter, but I wish to develop it a little further.
It was quite clear that the hon. Member for Acton still believes that integration is the answer. What does integration mean in the long run, particularly under common ownership? It means that we get the rail services carrying those things which somebody thinks should be carried 2003 on the railways, the road services carrying those things which somebody thinks should be carried on the roads, and the coastwise shipping services carrying those things which somebody thinks should be carried by coastal steamers.
Who is that somebody? There is only one class of persons who can determine how goods should be travelling in the interests of the country and that class consists of the users. The great flaw in the arguments of those who were tempted into the integrating theory on transport was that they were thinking far too much in terms of integration in the interests of the provider of transport.
The former hon. Member for Abingdon, Lord Glyn, an old and much respected friend of mine, also, I believe, fell into that fallacy. His thinking was dictated by his railway experience. That approach was based on how we could build up a system to preserve the railways without too much difficulty and without the railways being forced to meet the full weight of road competition—and that is an approach based on the interests of the providers of transport and not on those of the users.
§ Mr. Maclay
It simply does not follow. It is a fascinating theory, but it does not work out that way.
What has happened? The railways can play a tremendous part in the future of this country. They have been undoubtedly starved of the capital which they have needed since the war. I am not blaming anybody for it; we can all remember the ugly struggles to get the steel and the capital that was going. But, if the railways can get the right type of man, with young men coming up with the right type of ideas, I believe that the railways can give road haulage a terrific run for its money over the next 20 years. The one thing that will stop that happening is if the railways become frozen in a theoretical protected pattern in which it is determined that one type of goods go by rail, another by road and another by coastal shipping.
I mention coastal shipping because I think it has some very awkward problems to face. If it is subjected to the full 2004 weight of inland transport competition when inland transport competition becomes as efficient as I believe it will when the Minister has succeeded in implementing the Act in full, then it will be up against graver difficulties than it would be in conditions of "integration." But in which conditions will goods be carried at the lowest cost? I have no doubt as to the answer. I believe we must break down this theory of complete integration, whereby everything is judged from the point of view of the provider of transport, and not the user. If not, we should have the goods of the country moving nicely and tidily in the directions in which somebody thinks it is right for them to move, but not necessarily in the way they should move.
There were two flaws in the 1947 Act, from this point of view. The first, of course, was that there was written into the Act during the Committee stage a provision that preserved the right of the user to choose his own means of transport. That would not have been so bad for the user if the means of transport which he wanted remained available, which would not necessarily have been so if full integration had come about. The other flaw was C licences.
These two things, the right of the transport user to choose his own method of transport and the granting of C licences, were concessions by the Minister to common sense, but I have never forgotten the face of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) when he was sitting in that Committee and heard that the C licences concession had been given. The hon. Member is unashamedly and professedly a believer in the complete integration of transport, and he has got a very good case. All that I am trying to rub home at the moment is that that case is a good case only from the point of view of the provider of transport, and that the hon. gentleman completely forgets the people for whom the transport is provided.
One could demonstrate this by a dozen illustrations, and one has only to look abroad to see what happens when excessive centralisation is applied to intricate operations. I will not talk about Russia—although that country is not lacking in examples of extreme industrial inefficiency. Let us take another country and a different type of dictatorship—Argentina—where there is always a difficult job 2005 in getting a lot of cereal products, such as maize, grain, etc., down to the ports in order to catch the appropriate ships. Before the war, it was not easy to get ships loaded there fast, but it could be done. Today, it is quite impossible, unless one is privileged by the dictator Government to have priority.
What they are trying to do there is to run on a State-controlled basis one of the most complicated businesses which one could try to run. It is the whole business of collecting the cargo up in the country, getting it down to the ports and loaded into the ships, and, from time to time, ships are lying there idle for weeks. In that sort of system we get the same type of clumsiness in operation as we could get here if the entire transport system is ever integrated under centralised direction.
There is another illustration that is worth mentioning, because I saw an example of it with my own eyes during the war. It related to the transport of cargoes from North America during the war, when there were tremendous problems in getting the cargoes down to the seaboard and into the ships. The authorities thought that this could be conducted as a military operation, that they could do without the small men who had been doing the job along the line, and could run the whole thing under one central control. They tried it and within a very few weeks they had to give it up. They returned to the old system in which a large number of individuals played each his own small but important part.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman knows that we had to abolish that because of the competition? When it came to the ships that were handling the cargo, it was nationalisation, but, prior to the cargoes reaching the ships, they were handled by private enterprise, and, because that part of the system did not work, we had to abolish it.
§ Mr. Maclay
After a month, they had to go back to private enterprise, because they found that they could not get the job done otherwise. I know that these cases are not strictly comparable, but they are to a certain extent comparable—
§ Mr. Collick
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? He has considerable experience in shipping, and I think he will know from his own experience 2006 that we did not have very much complaint at the way in which the co-ordinated transport system of the country was delivering cargo to the docks, but that, particularly in the ports in the North-West, the trouble was with the private enterprise people.
§ Mr. Maclay
What I know about this matter is exactly the opposite. There are serious difficulties in the minds of manufacturers as to whether the cargo will reach the ship in time or not, and I have had complaint after complaint about that. Whereas previously one could depend on the 12, 24 or 36 hours delivery being carried out, today one cannot depend on it, and people are missing the ships with their deliveries. The key "little" man who has got to get the stuff up to the ship has temporarily disappeared.
§ Mr. Collick
The difficulty is in getting the private road hauliers to get their stuff there in time; that is the problem.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is precisely the opposite of what I have been informed consistently takes place at these ports, and I think it is very extensive.
I am only trying to get home one point, and it is on this question of integration, which is the one thing that matters in this argument which is going to go on for a long time to come, and I say that integration in the interests of the provider of transport must be wrong for Britain, of all nations, because costs will be more and more important to our national survival in the critical years that are approaching pretty fast. The system of integration in which the consumer is allowed to express his views as to the best way of carrying his cargo is the one which we want to see operating.
I have the utmost admiration for the way in which the Minister of Transport has been trying to do an exceedingly difficult job. I confess that to undo mischief is not an easy thing, and I hope the House will confirm its complete confidence in the policy of the Minister and in the way in which my right hon. Friend is tackling this extremely difficult task.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I entirely support the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in 2007 what I thought was a very good speech which, as far as the Minister of Transport is concerned, was unanswerable. The Minister will remember that, from this side of the House, and particularly from those hon. Members associated with the transport industry, he was warned of the folly of the Transport Act, 1953. He was warned, not only that it was bad for the industry and for those engaged in it, but that it would not work in the way suggested in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, remembers very well being strongly urged from this side of the House that, if he was determined to destroy the system of nationalised transport, he should at least take the precaution of reorganising road transport upon the company basis.
An argument put forward to the right hon. Gentleman at the time—and particularly by myself—was that it would be a greater safeguard to the industry and to the people engaged in it, and that, in the long run, it would be of greater service to the industrial life of the nation as well. We now find that the Measure which the Minister pushed through this House, and to which he would not accept any reasonable amendment from this side, is unworkable.
It has been disclosed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that only 6,000 vehicles out of a total of 36,000 have been sold. It is no use hon. Members opposite trying to argue that this is not the correct way in which to describe the percentage of sales. The fact remains that the Road Haulage Disposal Board had on several occasions to put up lots once, twice and even three times because it was unable to get purchasers for the vehicles.
I submit to the Minister and to the House that one of the greatest difficulties of the transport industry is that, for far too long, it has been bedevilled by political interference. I wish to make an appeal to the Minister on behalf of the industry and from the industrial point of view. Is it unreasonable to ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the whole position arising from the failure to sell the vehicles?
The Motion before the House…calls upon Her Majesty's Government to abandon further sales of the vehicles …2008 I think that the Minister might well accept the Motion, not as a political attack, but rather as an opportunity to take a step which events have proved is the only practical one to take in the interests of the industry.
I should very much like to see a way found of getting over the various differences on both sides of the House whereby the transport industry, whether it be rail or road, could at least have a period of stability so that it could feel that it was not to be played about with and would not find itself in the position of being denationalised under one Government and renationalised under another.
I hope that common sense will prevail between the parties in this House, and that they will pay more regard to the representations made by the industry so that in a matter so vital to the well-being of the industrial life of the country, we can, even at this late hour, apply some common sense to the problem. I believe, and I said so at the time, that the Act of 1953 was an act of folly. I still believe that to be so, and events have proved that I was and am right.
I am not after the political blood of the right hon. Gentleman, because he is not the only politician in this House who has made a mistake—
§ Mr. McLeavy
—but I do say that he would gain very great respect and credit throughout the country if he would at least admit that in error he put too great a regard to the representations made by the Road Haulage Association, and was not prepared to listen to the views of those representing the workers in the industry.
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to think again, and to see whether it is possible for both sides to get together in an endeavour to find an amicable compromise between one point of view and another so as to relieve the industry and the workers in it of the anxiety of disturbance and unemployment, and in an endeavour to give British industry generally some security so far as transport is concerned.
I feel very strongly about this matter. I would rather see a reasonable compromise arrived at on all sides which produced an adequate and efficient transport 2009 system for the country, than I would the confusion of a dog fight between one side and the other on the question of denationalisation and renationalisation. As I have said, I think that this is an occasion on which an element of common sense might be introduced into the discussion of this matter.
I believe that if we were prepared to look at it from the purely industrial point of view, and tried to forget our political allegiances and views, we could arrive at a compromise satisfactory to all sections of the industry, and one which would at least give the prospect not only of peace in the industry, but the prospect of being able to render still greater service to the welfare of the nation and to its industrial development.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
We have just listened to two very interesting speeches from hon. Members opposite. I very strongly dissent from the speech of the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), because I simply do not believe that the railways are a dying and derelict concern dependent on subsidies from road transport. Nothing could be further from the truth.
§ Mr. Sparks
I hope I did not say what the hon. Gentleman has just attributed to me. What I was trying to say was that the railways were, of course, laid down and built in the time of Queen Victoria, when conditions were quite different from what they are today, and that what they need more than anything else today is immense capital investment in order to bring them up to modern requirements.
§ Mr. Wilson
I think the hon. Gentleman is putting into his speech what was subsequently said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay). It simply is not true to say that at the present time the British Transport Commission is dependent on the roads for the maintenance of the railways, or, indeed, that it has been at any time since the passing of the 1947 Act. That does not bear any relation to the truth at all. The greater part of its revenue still comes from the railways and not from the roads.
I do not wish to develop that theme, nor do I propose to follow the very interesting speech of the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), although 2010 it was a very interesting contribution to come from the other side of the House. It is certainly time that we began to think of something more than the perpetual battle of denationalisation and nationalisation, but that is not what the Motion calls for. It calls for the abandonment of further sales under the Transport Act, 1953, in view of the facts disclosed in the First and Second Reports of the Road Haulage Disposal Board.
Surely any impartial consideration of the Board's First and Second Reports will show that not only were the Reports written with admirable clarity and candour, on which the Board should be congratulated, but that the Board and the Commission quite rightly tackled first what is perhaps the hardest part of their task, namely, the giving of an opportunity to the small man to come back into the business. I have already quoted, in an interjection, Section 3 (3) of the Transport Act, 1953, which imposes upon the Commission a duty and states:In determining what are to be the transport units for which persons are invited to tender as aforesaid, the Commission shall have regard to the desirability of securing that persons desirous of entering or re-entering the road haulage industry have a reasonable opportunity of doing so notwithstanding that their resources permit them to do so only if their operations are on a smaller scale,…That was an absolute duty imposed upon the Commission and those words did not get into the Act by accident.
Similar words are employed in two pamphlets issued by the Conservative Party—the one issued for the last Election, entitled "Britain Strong and Free" and the other the "Manifesto of the Conservative and Unionist Party" also issued for the General Election in 1951. "Britain Strong and Free" said:Private road hauliers will be given an opportunity of coming back into the business…The "Manifesto of the Conservative and Unionist Party" said:Private road hauliers will be given the chance to return to business …Section 3 (3) was deliberately inserted into the Act in fulfilment of Election promises and it seems right that the Road Haulage Disposals Board, in paragraph 18 of its First Report, appreciated that that Section was important.
2011 The First Report stated:In order to comply with the provision… the Commission suggested and the Board approved, that the first offers should be so framed as to contain a large proportion of transport units satisfying this need.That is the need of those operating on a small scale. In the next paragraph the Commission stated that:Over 2,400 of these vehicles will be in small units of one, two, three or four vehicles without premises.Table 5, at the back of the Second Report, lists the number of vehicles sold and analyses them according to size of units. It is very interesting to note that 389 vehicles have been sold in units of one vehicle, 950 in units of two vehicles, 690 in units of three and 632 in units of four. That totals 2,661. Admittedly, it appears from the footnote at the bottom of the list that the list is not identical with the vehicles to which paragraph 19 of the First Report refers, but it is interesting to note that the figures are substantially the same, and that the Board and the Commission have carried out what they set out to do. They have disposed of 2,661 vehicles in small units. That seems only to be the fulfilment of a promise—
§ Mr. J. Harrison
There is one point which I should like the hon. Member to emphasise, so that there shall be no misunderstanding. The Road Haulage Disposal Board disposes of so many small units, but we must not be under the misapprehension that because the Board disposes of small units those units go to small road operators. There is a difference there and I am sure that the hon. Member would not like to deceive us.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am coming to that point. The Board's obligation was to give opportunity to the small man to come back and the Board did that. That is why we had the list of a large number of small units to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred. It was to meet that point that the list was prepared.
It is a very creditable result that so many have been sold when one considers the intensive propaganda of hon. Members opposite, who have done everything they can to discourage the small man from going back to business by 2012 frightening him off. It must be remembered that he is the man who would have most difficulty in raising money and would be most likely to be put off by threats of re-nationalisation without compensation. It is admitted very candidly by the Road Haulage Disposal Board, in their Reports, that there was a miscalculation of the number of purchasers of small units who would require premises as well as vehicles. About 73 per cent. of these vehicles have been sold without premises, but only 18 per cent. with premises.
I do not blame the Board for that failure to dispose of vehicles with premises. It might very well have been supposed that very small men would have required premises. As has been revealed in a number of speeches in this debate, in many cases buyers have not been men who were starting in business for the first time or were going back into the industry. They have not been out of it in all respects as a result of nationalisation. They have been largely people who were already in the industry and had a few lorries, but wanted to buy a few more. I see nothing wrong with that. It is a very good thing.
All this disposes of arguments frequently heard in the debates on the Transport Act. We were told that people to whom we would sell the lorries would be inexperienced men who would go into business with insufficient capital and that we should return to the chaos on the roads which it was alleged existed in the early 1920s and 1930s, when men with no capital went on the road with a lorry and took any kind of load in the hope of scraping a living. It is clear that the lorries have not attracted that type of man at all and have not gone for knockdown prices. Far from it.
The Opposition's Motion is based on evidence in the Board's Reports, but there is ample evidence in those Reports that the lorries did not go for knock-down prices. Many tenders were considered to be too low and were not accepted. In List R1, 709 vehicles were offered and 476 were sold and the total of all the highest tenders received showed an overall increase of 42 per cent. over those received for the same units on the first offer. The Second Report adds:For 31 units the highest tender was more than double.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Does the hon. Member not realise that the dilemma the Government are in is that if the vehicles are offered at the proper prices they cannot be sold and that if they offer them at knockdown prices they will sell the vehicles?
§ Mr. Wilson
I suggest that the first units have been small units and have been put up, as it is right that they should have been put up, so that an opportunity should be given to the small man to return to business, as we in the Conservative Party pledged in our Election addresses. That promise has been fulfilled, the opportunity has been given and it has been partially taken. It is right that that opportunity should have been given first. If the giving of that opportunity and the miscalculation to which I have referred have caused a delay of three months, I think that the three months have been well spent.
The Report admits that this mistake will cause some delay, but, of course, so far only the small units have been dealt with. We have not yet reached the company structure. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East made some reference to that point. I do not know quite why he was so worried about it. I myself, and I think many hon. Members, have always been a little doubtful about the wording of Section 5 (3) of the Act. It says:Where the Commission have made over any property to a company under subsection (1) of this section, they shall proceed to the sale of all the shares thereof as soon as is reasonably practicable, and to that end shall, as soon as is reasonably practicable, by public notice invite tenders for the purchase (in one parcel) of all those shares, on conditions specified …That means that they have to sell the whole lot at once and is a point with which many hon. Members, I think, do not agree because, to some extent it will complicate the sale. Nevertheless, they think that the company structure will enable a large number of vehicles to be disposed of in a reasonable manner.
Incidentally, the company structure may possibly tie up with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford, East—who, unfortunately, is not in his place at the moment—because it might provide some opportunity for agreement on long-range policy, and on road transport we might come to a compromise so that it is not constantly being nationalised, denationalised, and renationalised.
2014 So far as the Reports are concerned there are also the 7,000 to 8,000 vehicles referred to on pages 8, 9 and 10 of the Second Report under the heading "Special Traffics, Contract Hire Vehicles and Parcels." From those Reports it is clear that quite a number of vehicles are not included in the lists which have already been submitted, and that many, for one reason or another, are being negotiated for by private contract. In the case of contract hire vehicles it appears that the results have been disappointing, but from the Reports it appears that in some other cases it is anticipated that there will be more purchasers than vehicles.
While, on balance, it must be admitted that the sale has gone more slowly than expected because of difficulties in connection with the sale of vehicles without premises, I think it is absurd that the Opposition's Motion should have been framed in such terms and I hope that the House will reject it.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. James Harrison (Nottingham, East)
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) has at least told us two things that I have not heard before in these transport debates. The first is that the ex-road haulier was to come back into the business. Yet the hon. Member admits quite definitely that the road haulier who went out of business owing to the nationalisation Act has not come back.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
I did not quite say that. We have already had an example given in this debate of a road haulier who was nationalised and did not go out of business, but went on to short road haulage. There are quite a number of those—I have several in my constituency and I believe that a number of them are included in those who are coming back.
§ Mr. Harrison
I would not suggest for one moment that we are speaking about the road haulier who remained in business. One of the main factors behind the Tory move to pass this Act of Parliament was their desire to bring back into business the road haulier who was a road haulier before the nationalisation Act. The hon. Member for Truro admits that that particular return has not been achieved. That is the first thing that I am very pleased to hear him admit this afternoon.
2015 The second thing which he admitted, and it is very important, was that the small man was to come back into the industry. I remember vividly the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) sketching a picture of a lorry being stuck in someone's back yard and the driver and owner taking 10 minutes off for a bit of food and dashing off again. Those were the men we were to get back in the business through this Act. We are now told by the hon. Member for Truro and others that these small men have been given the opportunity, as the Tory leaflet says, but have not come back. From those particular points of view the position is not very satisfactory.
Then we had the pleasurable experience of listening to our right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay). We always listen to him with pleasure, but not always with agreement, because he is an expert, although it is true that it is mainly with ships that his interests lie. As one of his main points he brought out the bogy that integration of transport denies all consumer choice. That argument was previously used time and time again and disproved as many times by everybody who supported the nationalisation Bill. We have not the slightest desire to deprive the ordinary trader of a choice of transport.
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not wish to interrupt, but this is the key point of my remarks and the key point of the debate. What does integration mean unless, in the long run, it does not eliminate certain methods of transport now available?
§ Mr. Harrison
We visualise that any trader who desires to send his goods from Nottingham to London by road has the right to specify that he wants his goods to go by road. That selection would be given every consideration and would be carried out under an integrated system.
§ Mr. Maclay
What about the industrialist, the manufacturer who has to get a piece of machinery quickly to Newcastle-upon-Tyne? How does he get that done, once there is integration? He just does not get it done, and I have warned about that already.
§ Mr. Harrison
The fallacious argument that integration means lack of choice was 2016 used to discredit the nationalisation Bill. In drawing up that Bill and working it out in detail—and as it proved in operation—we have always stressed the need to give the consumer the right to determine what form of transport should be used. If he selected road rather than rail, and it proved slower or his goods were damaged, we expected the consumer to accept the responsibility of his choice. We say, however, that such a service would mean that ships, lorries and railways would be so integrated as to give the most efficient service to the trader. If the trader selected a special service he did so at his own risk and with our consent. That was our idea of integration—not the red herring of "no consumer choice" that has been used too often, and discredited too often by the specialist, to carry much weight. It is rather late to use that argument.
§ Mr. Maclay
Thank goodness there is still time before we get such an integrated service, and before consumer choice, in its widest sense, disappears.
§ Mr. Manuel
Is my hon. Friend not aware that the right hon. Member who is cross-examining him by means of these repeated interventions has destroyed, in the rural parts of his constituency, a service which was given when British Road Transport vehicles came into operation?
§ Mr. Maclayrose—
§ Mr. Harrison
The right hon. Gentleman can answer my hon. Friend at some other time.
I should like to refer to something that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said. To some extent, I share his experiences since we have had this Act denationalising road transport. I have received hardly any complaint about British Road Services since this Act was passed. There has been almost a complete cessation of complaints against British Road Services in the last six months. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West suggested that the reason for that is that the service has improved to such an extent that there is no need to complain.
2017 My explanation is completely different. The fact that I have received no complaints is due to this, that prior to the passing of the denationalisation Act complaints were deliberately created by interested parties to try to damage the reputation of British Road Services, and since the passing of the denationalisation Act there has been no need for such complaints of a political character. The cessation of complaints proves to me that the complainers have achieved what they desired—the breaking up of British Road Services. Those complaints were inspired on political grounds.
To come to the sale of the lorries, only a small number have been sold successfully. Hon. Members opposite suggest that given another six months, we shall have better results. My suggestion is that in the next six months it will become more difficult to sell these lorries than it has been in the first six months of this year, because in six months' time the 25-mile limit on the operation of road hauliers will be lifted, and then it will be possible for anyone to buy a lorry, and go wherever he likes. Surely it is not suggested that a man will buy a second-hand lorry from British Road Services if, in six months' time, he is to be at liberty to run where he likes on a B licence.
As for those lorries which have already been sold, I should like to point out that when assessing the value of a lorry it is not only the value of the actual lorry which has to be taken into consideration, for one has to add to the value of the lorry the value of an A licence. We must bear in mind that today a B licence in the open market—and there is an open market for B licences—is worth about £200, and I suggest that an A licence is worth between £200 and £300, apart from the cost of the vehicle.
Therefore, there is no difficulty, in certain circumstances, in selling some of the lorries to operators already in the business, because to bring into an already established business an extra A licence is worth quite a lot. I suggest that the Ministry should take that factor into account when considering the whole position.
I do not usually read the "Western Mail," but I noticed in today's issue that it is reported that the licensing officer has been very gracious and he has been 2018 convinced that it is necessary to grant some new A licences to general applicants. What I am afraid of is that if the Minister cannot sell the British Road Services lorries fairly satisfactorily—and it will be difficult for him to sell them unsatisfactorily because there is already a provision which makes him accountable for that—another method will be adopted to bring in the private operator, and they will be granting almost ad lib A licences up and down the country for indiscriminate road use, thereby destroying the value of the assets to be disposed of by British Road Services.
That was the report published today in that South Wales newspaper on the granting of these extra licences. If that goes on generally, it will destroy quite a lot of the value of the assets which are being sold, and that point will have to be borne in mind. If the Minister proceeds as he is, without making some modification of the terms of the Act, he will have great difficulty in disposing of the assets of British Road Services during the next six months, and British Road Services will remain as they are at the present time.
It would be disastrous if it were found that the Minister was contemplating, by one means or another, disposing of these assets unreasonably. We are afraid of an unreasonable sale arising from this difficulty, and we want to register that fear in this debate. If we register that fear, we shall probably have done something worth while for the future consideration of the disposal of British Road Services' assets.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I hope that the House will have noted the language used by the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. J. Harrison) when he spoke about the integration of road transport policy. He said that if a consumer—I emphasise "consumer"—wanted to send goods from Nottingham and decided to send them by road, his request would receive every consideration, and, in another example, he said that if someone wanted to send goods by some novel means he would do so at his own expense and with the consent of the central integrated authority. For a moment I was wondering whether he had been living in this country or in a dictatorship State.
§ Mr. J. Harrison
I accept responsibility for the hon. Gentleman's misunderstanding. Probably I did not make myself sufficiently clear. I did not suggest anything about a central committee. What I had in mind was that if a man had a lawnmower in Nottingham—I am exaggerating the case, so that the hon. Gentleman will understand it—and wanted to send it to London by road at once a lorry would be put at his disposal, but he would have to pay for it. If the customer selects the means of transport and desires the speed, and if there is a partial load, we say, "We will take it for him." The customer is right every time, but it will cost him a bit more.
§ Mr. Cole
I am glad that I have elicited from the hon. Member the admission that the customer is always right. That, at least, is some progress. I am glad to be able to clear his reputation in the minds of the British public by showing that he is not a budding commissar.
In referring to the time taken to sell the first vehicles the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) talked about a period of 14 months, but he knows as well as I do that the period is much shorter. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) pointed out, it is only the best part of six months. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East almost brought tears to our eyes when he told us how wrong we were to arraign the British Transport Commission when it had completed its last acquisition only eight months before we took office in October, 1951.
§ Mr. Cole
In this case a matter of only six months has passed since the first effective sale. It is apparently wrong for us to arraign the Commission, but it is not wrong to arraign the Disposal Board for the disposal of these assets. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West in another connection, used the phrase "rash and premature," and 2020 that is the best description one could give of the Motion.
Hon. Members opposite should remember that four years after the passing of the 1947 Act various assets were still being acquired by the Commission. They must bear in mind that it is very much easier to acquire assets than to sell them. In the case of the acquisition of assets the first thing that happens is that vehicles and premises are taken over. The question of compensation follows later. It is true to say that compensation payments for the acquisition of vehicles and premises by the Commission are still being worked out, seven years after the Act was passed. There is also the question of the sanction of law. In the final issue a man had to sell to the Commission, because the law said so.
In this case, on the contrary, the sale of vehicles is taking place in an atmosphere of freedom. No vehicle changes hands until the money is forthcoming from the purchaser. The purchaser, in turn, is free to bid or not to bid, and there is no legal sanction. It is still a free country, despite six years of Socialist Government.
There is a whole world of difference between compulsorily acquiring these vehicles under the 1947 Act and their voluntary purchase by members of the public under the 1953 Act. All those inescapable facts have to be borne in mind, but the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East is moaning—there is no other word to describe his tone—because of the fact that after six months the Disposal Board has sold only 45 per cent. of the vehicles.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am not complaining because the vehicles have not been sold: I am delighted. All I was doing was contrasting the slow rate of sale with the foolish optimism of the Minister when he brought the denationalisation Measure before the House.
§ Mr. Cole
I am sorry that the hon. Member had no better reason to occupy three hours of the time of the House. He was not raising a point of principle in connection with the transport position, but was merely drawing attention to a statement made by my right hon. Friend in the past. I should have thought that we had much better things to do than to put such considerations in the form of a Motion.
2021 I should like to refer to the First Report of the Disposal Board, which was published as long ago as November, 1953. Pointing out the difficulties of the position, the Report says, in paragraph 8:It would be wrong to think that the disposal by the Commission of its road haulage undertaking (without avoidable disturbance of the transport system of the country and at a reasonable price) is a fairly simple matter capable of extremely quick solution.If that is not enough, the next paragraph says:We feel it right, in fairness to the Commission and to prospective purchasers"—and, it could have added, to the Socialist Party—to express our clear and unanimous view that the disposal of this undertaking at a proper price and to the proper people cannot be rushed. The Commission assure us that they are endeavouring to carry out their duty of disposing of the existing undertaking as quickly as is reasonably practicable.That is a clear statement, made as long ago as last November, of the difficulties involved in this process.
What has happened? On the one hand, we had protential purchasers seeking quite properly to obtain these vehicles at the most reasonable prices to themselves, and, on the other, the Board endeavouring to obtain the maximum possible price for the sale of these vehicles. From somewhere between those two very proper endeavours there has emerged the right price for the 6,000 vehicles which have been disposed of. That is a very proper process, and nothing for which any member of the Board could be criticised.
That being so, why are we having this debate today? During the whole six months' course of the Transport Bill in 1952–53 the cry which resounded from the benches opposite was, "Job lots for the boys." It has now been proved beyond a shadow of doubt, by the prices which have been obtained for the vehicles and the integrity of the whole proceeding, that that cry was entirely unfounded and unjustified. We now have the cry, "Abandon the whole procedure." I would ask the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East whether his party talked about "Job lots for the boys" at first because they did not want the vehicles to go back to the public, and now, finding that that 2022 expression of criticism has not been justified, they want the process stopped for reasons which they know best themselves.
Whatever their reasons, I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend will pursue the duty and responsibility laid upon him by the 1953 Act. I hope that he will go on with this process, which is in keeping with the Government's policy, in other spheres, of restoring national stability, getting rid of rationing, and restoring freedom to the people everywhere. I believe that in one or two years' time hon. Members opposite—who now think that they are having such a wonderful time at the expense of other people—will live to regret the remarks they are making today and will find that the argument behind the Motion has not been justified.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
This has been a genuine debate, I think, in the best sense of the term. I do not remember any transport debate in the last two years in which there was so much give and take of a friendly and constructive kind. Who is being educated, I do not know. Let us hope we are all being mutually educated together. I must apologise for getting up now, but I have promised the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) to sit down at a certain time so that he can wind up the debate.
I should like to start my observations, as I told the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that I should, by once more thanking the British Transport Commission and the Disposal Board for the work that they have done in this field. The Commission has carried out what must be a most unwelcome task with complete fairness, and the Disposal Board, with no precedents whatever to guide it, has discharged its duty with zeal and success. Whatever may be our respective views about the wisdom of the Government, on whom, I recognise, the responsibility alone lies for the action that was taken in the Act of 1953, no one on either side would be churlish enough to charge either of those bodies with not fulfilling their respective rôles admirably.
If I may be allowed another and more personal tribute, I should like to say what a particular pleasure it was to hear my predecessor, my right hon. Friend 2023 the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), whose most happy intervention, I think, charmed Members on both sides.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
My right hon. Friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) launched a series of well aimed torpedoes into the Opposition's conception of transport integration and into the very illogical basis on which their Motion is founded.
I would straightway deal with one point that has nothing to do with the Motion but which was raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. J Harrison), for I think that that would be a good idea. The hon. Gentleman, apparently having strayed away from his normal tea table, picked up a piece of information that, I must say, leaves me a little dumbfounded. He said that somebody was suggesting that there might be a widespread granting of A licences which would have the effect of making the existing A licences of less value in the market or to the owners, whether the Commission or the private operators.
I am at a loss to understand how that most inconceivable rumour could have arisen. There could be no question of the licensing authorities, who are independent authorities, taking any action of that kind with an eye on the Act for which I was responsible. As I try to carry out my responsibilities under the Act scrupulously, neither twisting it nor defying its spirit—no doubt, the process of disposal could be speeded up if that were done—so do the licensing authorities, under the two Acts that govern their actions, pay scrupulous regard to those statutes.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East began by poking some perfectly proper fun at the relatively slow process of the disposal business. I think it is reasonable that we should at this review of the work of the Disposal Board and of the disposal procedure in general cast a glance for one moment at the respective difficulties of nationalisation and of 2024 denationalisation. Though, of course, I could argue—it has indeed, been suggested—that it is much easier to do mischief than to undo it, it is not only on that legitimate ground that I am going to suggest that there are one or two differences.
Considering the process of nationalisation of transport, and the measure of denationalisation in one part of the last Act, from the point of view of getting vehicles into the hands of the people who are going to operate them, nationalisation is bound to be quicker and easier, since the question of compensation, which was guaranteed by the Government, can be settled at leisure after the vehicles have changed hands. As against that, the disposal of vehicles on denationalisation must be an operation complete in itself, with the price to be settled and the ability of the buyer to produce the cash ascertained by actual receipt of the money at the time that the transaction takes place and the vehicles are handed over. That means a wealth of difference between the two problems.
§ Mr. Collick
If the Minister was right, when he introduced his Measure, in his anticipation that there would be such a demand for these vehicles, why is there any difficulty in finding the money?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am not suggesting that there is any difficulty in finding the money, but a great deal of preliminary work has to be gone through to satisfy the Commission and the Disposal Board that the applicant is in a position to honour his bond. It is a very different matter to deal with compensation guaranteed by the Government.
There is this further difference as well. The prices to be obtained for the units have to be subject to the process of public tender, followed by careful consideration of the bids put in, all of which is naturally a slower process than nationalisation, which leaves all these troublesome matters to be settled afterwards and at leisure. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East might, I think, have mentioned, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South reminded him, that the acquisition of road haulage undertakings started in 1948 and went on till the end of 1951, and yet it was a much easier procedure. When I say, as I am entitled to say, that the troublesome 2025 matters under nationalisation can be settled at leisure, there has been quite a delay in getting them settled in a number of cases.
I am not making any charge, because I know the extraordinary complexity of this business, and I know that some of the problems confronting the Commission with people who still want more money to be paid thorn depend on legal actions that cannot be unduly hurried. So I am not making a charge of any kind, but it is, of course, a fact that there are some cases of acquisitions that were completed in 1951 in which compensation has not yet been settled. How much easier and quicker it is to nationalise when the compensation is guaranteed by the Government than it is to denationalise, when each operation must be a complete business in itself. The fact that the task is a complicated one is no reason why it should not be tackled if the result is highly desirable.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East and one or two other hon. Members wanted to know when the disposal process is coming to an end. As everybody knows, I think, who has followed the Act and the transactions under it, the Act itself lays down no time limit to the disposal procedure, but I readily recognise that the provisions relating to the ending of the 25-mile limit at the end of this year, and the obligation on me by 30th September to make a provisional estimate of the road haulage capital loss, led hon. Members and others to think that the process of disposal would be well advanced by the end of this year. Though I shall be very careful not to give estimates, I do not think that that was a wrong anticipation, and I think that it will not be all that out in the event. I shall be in a better position to answer the hon. Gentleman, I think, in the autumn, by which time the small-man demand will, I think, have been met, probably completely, and a start will have been made with offering the vehicles in larger groups.
The hon. Gentleman, quite properly, chided me with one or two optimistic observations I made about the speed with which the disposal could be carried out. It is not altogether surprising if in about 250 speeches in this Chamber I made one or two remarks that, one thinks on closer examination a yeas or so later, 2026 could have been more happily expressed. Is it altogether wise of hon. Members to complain of the delay? Perhaps I took some notice of the speeches which were made when I suggested that this would be a relatively speedy procedure. I remember the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) saying, "Do it gradually." I can stil hear his confidential voice saying:Do it gradually. Do it as any sensible man would do it, in such a way as to get the best price according to the market at the time.On 4th February, 1953, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said to the House:We do not see any disadvantage in delay.Then, speaking for trade and industry, he said:They do not mind whether the process of transferring these from public to private ownership takes nine months or three years if they can be assured that this network of services and the efficient organisation will not be broken down in a mad rush to get hold of lorries at the cheapest price."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1954; Vol. 510, c. 1881–96.]
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman admit that his friends of the Road Haulage Association have let him down? He said on 3rd December in the House:The questionnaire put out by the Road Haulage Association among their 17,000 members … elicited only 2,000 replies. Those 2,000 replies gave an indication of an interest in some 10,000 vehicles.… We have had many indications to suggest that considerably more will be forthcoming to apply for these transport units."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1589.]Why does not the right hon. Gentleman admit that he was badly advised?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think if I attempted to answer that question at any length it would prevent me from answering the debate which has taken place. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the ingenuity with which he has made his speech after all.
If I had been ready to twist the spirit of the Act, no doubt it could have been hurried a good deal, as it could if I had been ready to disregard the provisions in the Act that there should be no avoidable disturbance of the transport system of the country. We are entitled to say that a substantial operation involving the payment in cash of £7½ million in the first few months of the disposal has led 2027 to no serious disturbance of the transport of the country, and where there are local difficulties they are likely to be only temporary. But by some curious Socialist reasoning, the fact that there has been no disturbance and that the British Road Services have done remarkably well is used as an argument for abandoning the Act.
Despite all the wild accusations which roamed about before, no suggestion has been made in the debate that anything underhand has happened in this major operation which, had it not been in scrupulous hands—talking about the Commission and the Disposal Board and, I hope, myself—could so easily have lent itself to something sinister and corrupt. When I hear hon. Members today using very extravagant language to describe their fears of what will happen, I am a shade distrustful, for I remember the language which they used about what would happen as soon as disposal started.
§ Mr. Manuelrose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am sorry. I cannot give way.
"Muddle and confusion for industry," said the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. "A raw deal for taxpayers." "Throwing 40,000 lorries on the market at bargain prices," said the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes). "Very near corruption," said the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), and "foreign to the British way of life." "Barefaced robbery," said the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell). The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said, "The boys are already looking round for pickings." "The jackals are out," said the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price).
Everybody was going to gang up over helpless British industry and to make corrupt deals behind closed doors. Even the smaller companies which were to be formed, or the larger ones, were, according to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, to be no more than financial marionettes dancing to Mr. Gibson Jarvie's tune. What has happened to all these prophecies? I hope I may be forgiven the language if I say, in the words of the poet:In the name of the Prophet—figs!
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Minister appreciates, of course, that the lorries on which Mr. Gibson Jarvie loaned money are still his property until those who have nominally bought them have paid off the last instalment.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the hon. Member examines the whole of the transaction he will find that the rôle of the finance houses has been extraordinarily modest in the transaction so far.
I said all along that, providing that a good Disposal Board was appointed, and with the people likely to be sitting on the Transport Commission—and this applies just as much to Lord Hurcomb as to General Sir Brian Robertson—it was inconceivable that this business would not be carried out in a proper and honourable way. I said that the law would be scrupulously observed, and the taxpayers' interests continually protected. I recognised that what was unwelcome to the Commission would be honourably carried out, and I made various observations of this kind.
They were all disregarded, but it is interesting to read now in a recent issue of "Motor Transport," under the signature of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies):The Board and the Commission could lower their sights. They have quite rightly refused to do so, and justify their refusal by standing by the Act's requirements that a reasonable price would be obtained.Had any of these wild accusations been justified, the opposition would then have been able to move a very vigorous vote of censure on the Government which had allowed that situation to come about. The Motion on the Paper is based in part on what is thought to be the conclusions to be drawn from the Second Report of the Road Haulage Disposal Board—on the facts disclosed; and the use of the phrase "the facts disclosed," if read outside by the general public who might not have read these for themselves, would suggest that there is something sinister disclosed in the Report.
What does it show? It shows that of the first seven lists of units offered for sale, 45 per cent, of all the vehicles have been sold. The hon. Member for Enfield, East said, "The sights have not been lowered." That is, 6,000 in all. While only 18 per cent, of the vehicles 2029 with premises have been sold, 73 per cent. of the vehicles offered without premises have been sold. This is in the preliminary work of disposal, with Lists 1 and 2 having been avowedly experimental and the Board and the Commission feeling their way.
Of course, the relatively low figure of 45 per cent. for the whole field compared with the high figure of 73 per cent. of vehicles sold when offered without premises is due to the fact that there has been very little demand for the vehicles with premises. As the Board explain in its Report, with each of the premises it was necessary to offer a sufficient number of vehicles to make an economic unit. This has meant that a high proportion of the total vehicles offered has been in units with premises. Of the 13,200 vehicles offered, 8,400 have been vehicles offered with premises. As only 18 per cent. of those have been sold, it has pulled down the overall figure.
It is clear that the disposals are attracting, in the main, existing operators who already have premises and who are enlarging their fleet. They are not necessarily big men; as has been pointed out, many of them may be small men who are entering the long-distance field through the provisions of an unrestricted A licence.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East asked me how many of the vehicles had been sold to people at present operating in the industry and how many to newcomers or re-entrants. The Commission tells me that there are no available figures of the numbers of vehicles sold to existing operators, re-entrants and newcomers, respectively, but it has managed to classify the successful tenderers, and that will go some way to give the hon. Member the information which he wants.
I recognise that there is a lesson to be learned from these figures, but I would point out that, when we talk about existing A and B hauliers, many of them may be people in quite a small way who have been restricted under the present legislation and who are now taking advantage of the automatic A licence to expand their activities. The figures are in respect of the first five lists: to existing A and B hauliers 647; to A and B hauliers whose businesses were taken over in whole or in part 165; to completely new entrants to the industry 63; to C operators 30; to 2030 passenger vehicle operators 14; and 39 are classified as unclassified, if I may use that Irish phrase.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East read out lists from Cardiff and Stratford in ones and twos and said that this was not the sale of the businesses which the House had been promised. He neglected to point out, in the words of the Disposal Board, that of the first 10 lists those lists were almost entirely designed to meet the requirements of the small man and the larger businesses are now coming along.
There are points on prices which I should like to have dealt with. I have not been asked many questions about prices, surprisingly enough, but I should like to make one or two observations. There is always bound to be disagreement between someone who is selling and someone who is buying as to the appropriateness of individual prices. The only satisfactory way—and that is not entirely watertight—is to have an arbitrator. Here we have the Disposal Board, whose duty it is to see that the price is the best possible price from the point of view of the national interest, and fair to the seller and fair to the buyer.
The Board cannot have a reserve price for obvious reasons which I need not give to the House. No one has suggested that it should. The only advance figure available to it is the Commission's combined valuation of the vehicle and the A licence. This is a very useful guide indeed to the Board. As the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Norman Smith) said, an A licence is a very valuable thing indeed. The Board has to decide what would be a reasonable price for a given unit in the light of the information which it has from the Commission, and in the light of the quality of the bidding for that unit and any other consideration that emerged when it examined the list of units and the tenders made.
I think it will be agreed that the Board cannot settle a price before it sees the bidding clearly. It is right that the bidding should be a major factor, but not the overruling factor in deciding what prices are reasonable. To those who feel that if the Commission and Board had lowered their sights there would have been more sales, in fairness to both I should like to say that I have myself with great care, and with them, examined what 2031 would have happened had they been lower, and I am satisfied that there would not have been a substantially greater number of vehicles sold, unless the Board had been prepared to accept prices so low as to be quite indefensible.
There are other points which, no doubt, at Question time and in other debates on this question of prices I may be asked about, and I will do my best to deal with all of them, although naturally this is a running and continuing transaction and it would not be proper for me to disclose to the House and to the public -at any one stage particular negotiations that the Commission or the Disposal Board may, under the terms of the Act, be carrying out.
There are some observations which I should like to make, dealing with the concluding remarks of the hon. Gentleman, about future policy. The Disposal Board has dealt in its Report very carefully with future policy in a number of clearly-written paragraphs. It has taken first the position of the small operator. Seven lists have now been dealt with and the List R3 has been issued, and List 7 will be published on 28th July. In all, there will have been 10 lists, which have been designed almost entirely to meet the requirements of the small man, and 15,000 vehicles will, under these lists, have been offered.
On the available evidence, both the Commission and the Board feel that this is about the maximum which needs to be set aside to satisfy the requirements of Section 3 of the Act that the small man has a reasonable chance of re-entering the business. While they have been doing these first lists, both the Commission and the Board have been active in preparing the way for disposals in larger groups. A list is to be published on 14th July of 50 units with premises, the majority of which are medium or large groups and, as I think the House knows, the sale of large groups is possible under the Act either as units, although I have to give my consent in every case if there are more than 50 vehicles if the unit principle is followed, or by company groups, in which case, normally, I would not come into the picture.
Finally, with regard to future policy, there remains the question of the very 2032 large, extensive and, I recognise, admirable parcels and smalls service of British Road Services. A great number of other firms before nationalisation also gave in their own localities valuable service in this field.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is proposed, if we look at the Disposal Board's Report, to dispose of the bulk of the parcels and smalls organisation intact. There has been a demand for a few hundred vehicles, parcels and smalls—I think 460 is not enough to disrupt the service—and these will be made available in small units, but the main bulk of parcels and smalls will be disposed of under satisfactory conditions, if forthcoming, intact.
The Commission now inform me that it has had further discussions with the Disposal Board and has formally agreed that the best course under the circumstances is for the whole of the property used in connection with the parcels network, other than the parts hived off, to be transferred to one company with a view to the shares being sold in accordance with Section 5 of the Act of 1953. Although it is not for me to take action in the matter—this is entirely within their discretion—I think that it has arrived at a wise solution.
I am conscious that I have not been able to deal with all the points which have been raised. I also recognise that there are many other opportunities which, no doubt, will be freely taken for hon. Members to cross-question me. The basis of the Opposition Motion is the facts disclosed in the Report and the success of British Road Services. I hope that I have shown that the facts disclosed certainly do not warrant the interpretation placed upon them in general, but not in particular, by hon. Members opposite on the success of British Road Services this year, and I think that they would themselves welcome the new competition which they are getting which can scarcely be said to be a justification for undoing the Act. As I have said, we were prepared to face the inevitable disturbances caused, but we have not been prepared to undo the Act, and I hope that in the light of these circumstances the House will reject the Motion.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
I am glad to see that the Minister has recovered his good-humour, because his face and that of his Parliamentary Secretary were very grim during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). The bouyancy which was such a characteristic of the demeanour and speeches of the right hon. Gentleman during the debates on the Bill in 1953 seem to have completely disappeared. He was only able to smile when my hon. Friend suggested that it might be a good exchange if he changed places with the Minister of Education.
This afternoon the Minister has completely failed to answer the grave indictment made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. The chastened tenor of his speech revealed him in an entirely new light. He is obviously a little sensitive and conscious that he has been batting on a very poor wicket. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman's failure. The dictum attributed to the late. C. P. Scott. of the "Mancheser Guardian," still holds good: "Comment is free, facts are sacred." Those adduced by my hon. Friend are incontrovertible, and the Minister has failed to refute them.
The right hon. Gentleman must be grateful to the author of the Second Report of the Road Haulage Disposal Board for coming a phrase which enables him to describe a scheme that has failed as one that has had moderate success. The irony of the situation is heightened by contrasting the very limited degree of moderate success with the overwhelming success of British Road Services during the past 12 months, although management and staff have been working under difficulties in an atmosphere of uncertainty.
Major G. N. Russell, the competent chairman of the Road Services Board, addressed a meeting of the Merseyside and District section of the Institute of Transport in February last. Among other things he said:I am glad to say that we have had quite remarkable improvements over the last three years. Whereas the road accident rate in the country is increasing, ours is very substantially decreasing….In the first place, the number of loaded miles per vehicle has increased by nearly 20 per cent. in the last two years. Our maintenance costs in terms of pence-per-mile were lower in 2034 1953 than in 1952, in spite of heavy increases in wages and the cost of materials.…We have absorbed the increases in wages and costs which have taken place since our last modest increase of 5 per cent. in charges over a year ago and yet our trading surplus for 1953 will prove to be some £7 million or more.Major Russell may be charged with being a biased witness in favour of his own cause, but quite recently we had details of a sample survey conducted by the Minister's own Department. In a paper addressed to the Royal Statistical Society by two of the Minister's statisticians, it was made abundantly clear that the 39,000 vehicles of the British Road Services were doing work equal to that of the 116,000 vehicles operating under private enterprise.
If further evidence is required of the confidence of the public in British Road Services, one can turn again to the Second Report of the Road Haulage Disposal Board. In paragraph 39, the Board points out:The Commission own some 2,900 vehicles which operate under a contract of hire for a particular customer.In accordance with the terms of the Act, the Commission wrote to those people and pointed out what the Commission was expected to do and asked, "If we are able to dispose of this contract vehicle, are you prepared to transfer the contract and to be served by somebody else?" Of 2,900, only 600 availed themselves of the opportunity; 2,300 preferred to remain with British Road Services.
Despite the eloquence of the Minister this afternoon, he has evaded the one cardinal point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East. Referring to the forecast by the Minister that there would be a queue of people waiting to acquire the vehicles, that they would soon be disposed of and that the public were yearning for a private transport service, my hon. Friend pointed out that that had not happened. He asked why it had not happened, and we are still waiting for a reply.
The scheme has failed for two reasons. First, because it was conceived in ignorance and born in prejudice, and, I must add, wilful ignorance. These may seem harsh terms, but let me prove my case. The Minister spurned the advice of every competent expert in the transport industry. The legacy of knowledge and 2035 experience gained by men like the late Lord Stamp, Lord Ashfield, Sir Frank Pick, Mr. William Whitelaw and others did not interest him. He rejected the counsel of Lord Hurcomb, who is regarded as an international authority and who served Governments for nearly 40 years at the Ministry of Transport and Shipping. The cumulative experience of Sir Eustace Missenden, Lord Latham, Sir John Elliot and many others was of no avail. The Minister's only objective was to repay a political debt to the Road Haulage Association. The men whom I have mentioned devoted the whole of their time and talent to a study of transport. They eschewed politics, and consequently the Minister regarded them as hostile witnesses.
In his speech this afternoon, the Minister said that we ought not to complain about the slow progress in the disposal of vehicles because, after all, the acquisitions occupied a period from 1948 to 1951 and he thought that that was reasonable. If so, was it not very unreasonable in 1952 to denounce British Road Services because they had not achieved tremendous success before they had had time to put their house in order? Lest I forget, I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the Commission and to the members of the Road Haulage Disposal Board. It ought to be pointed out that the second body is really an approval and supervisory body, as mentioned in its Report. It is not responsible for the sales. The initiative and the work of disposing of the vehicles rests with the Commission, with the men whose advice was rejected altogether, and it reflects very much credit upon them that they have been able to serve the Minister with such loyalty and efficiency.
The Transport Commission ventured to tell the Minister two things: first that he was pursuing a mistaken policy; and second, that the methods of implementation that he had in mind were unworkable. These two criticisms have proved to be correct. "Modern Transport" warned the right hon. Gentleman in its issue of 19th July, 1952—two years ago—that:This, of course, is nothing more nor less than a gamble, at a time when the country is in no state to take such a risk. The Commission may well be left with some 15,000 or 20,000 vehicles on the least remunerative services.2036 The "Economist" a week earlier, on financial grounds, said:It would be a wise course for the Government to do some hard thinking on transport policy before it is too late.All this was like water on a duck's back so far as the Minister was concerned.
If further evidence is needed, I quote from an inquiry presided over by a gentleman then known as Sir Arthur Salter. The inquiry came to this conclusion:We must recognise that the existence of so many small units in the Road Haulage Industry increases the difficulty of bringing about permanent co-ordination between it and other forms of transport.The Minister not only rejected sound advice, but failed to inform himself of the actual facts. As far as I know, he has not visited a single one of the 1,500 depots, workshops, etc., throughout the country. He did not have the remotest idea of what was going on.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boydindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Morris
When the Prime Minister was speaking in the debate on the White Paper, primed, presumably, by the Minister, he clothed the figures by saying that the Road Haulage Executive had built up a gigantic headquarters staff of 12,384 clerks.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If I do not interrupt, it is not that I accept as true what the hon. Member said about me. It is not so at all.
§ Mr. Morris
The right hon. Gentleman can refer to HANSARD. The point he is making, I presume, is that he did not give the figures to the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I did not know the hon. Member was going to move on to a larger quarry. I thought he was going to continue to talk about me. When he said I have not been to the depots and met the people, that is just not so.
§ Mr. Morris
I shall be very happy to give way if the right hon. Gentleman will tell us where he went, when he went and how many he visited.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I certainly went on two different occasions to different sets of depots, some of them in the South of England and some around London. I saw a great number of people which is 2037 the way I had to deal with it under the high pressure of the time. It was the only satisfactory way of learning all points of view.
§ Mr. Morris
If the right hon. Gentleman said he could not go because of pressure of work I would accept that, but when he says he went on one or two occasions when there are 1,500 depots throughout the length of Britain and that he had a clear picture of the position, I say that that is really deceiving the House.
May I resume my reference to what he has described as the larger quarry? The Prime Minister got up and accused the Road Haulage Executive of having set up a gigantic headquarters with over 12,384 clerks. The actual number was less than 300. When my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East challenged the accuracy of these figures the Minister himself said that they were taken from the Report of the B.T.C. He discovered later on that the figure of 12,384 covered the whole of the professional, technical, administrative and managerial staff employed throughout the whole country. We had the unusual experience of the Road Haulage Executive having to write a corrected statement to the Press. It is not surprising that after such muddled thinking the Minister is faced with the dilemma that we are discussing today.
My hon. Friend has given details of the lists. There were five original lists and two lists containing the rejects offering altogether over 13,500 vehicles, but only 5,773 have been sold. Two other lists have been circulated and four others are in the process of preparation. Some vehicles have been advertised on several lists because they have failed to find purchasers. Including those re-advertised, 20,000 vehicles have been offered for sale and less than 6,000 have been sold. In view of this, how can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the majority of the vehicles will be sold by the late autumn?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I gave no such assurance. What I said was that by the late autumn the demand among small men should have been satisfied. If I am asked what I mean by "small men" I will say the man with a few lorries, not with large businesses. But I do not think an interpretation clause is required for 2038 such a simple matter. I also added that by the autumn the process of disposing of the larger units would have started. We would, therefore, be in a much more suitable position to see in what way progress is going.
§ Mr. Morris
The right hon. Gentleman on this occasion preferred not to make any forecast, and we are delighted that he has profited from his experience on an earlier occasion. We venture to tell him he will not have sold the majority of these vehicles by the autumn. If we prove correct will he make up his mind that it is high time to call it a day and say to British Road Services, "You have won, you carry on," and the people of the country will benefit?
It has already been pointed out that two-thirds of the vehicles sold were purchased by existing hauliers now operating within the 25-mile limit. I only want to refer to one aspect of that. How does the right hon. Gentleman check the man who buys an additional vehicle in order to have the benefit of the extra 25 miles? In fact, it has given him an opportunity for evasion because it is difficult to check these vehicles in any way. It simply means that the right hon. Gentleman has made it easier for the unscrupulous haulier in the transport industry.
The Act of 1953 also permits the reassignment of vehicles by successful tenderers. A man having bought a vehicle is not bound to operate it. He can sell it again and be content with the profit from the sale. In fact, as the records show, considerable reassignment is taking place. There is also evidence that permission has been given for changing the operating base, and this is bound to result in unremunerative routes being left with reduced road services, or, perhaps, no services at all, particularly in places like the Highlands of Scotland and the remote parts of Wales.
We have heard this afternoon that the profit of British Road Services in 1953 is likely to be near £8 million. Despite the fact that they have had such a measure of success, the Minister feels he ought to continue to dispose of their assets.
I want to say one word about the staff. I am very glad that the members of the 2039 Road Haulage Disposal Board in their Report—no—I think it was the Joint Consultative Council according to what my trade union colleagues tell me—paid tribute to the efficiency and loyalty of the staff during the past 12 months. I hope the Minister appreciates that these men, who are faced with insecurity because they cannot be given any superannuation provisions, sick pay or holiday conditions, may be on the market looking for a job.
When I asked the right hon. Gentleman to do his best to ensure that the men who are made redundant are employed in conditions equal to those provided by British Road Services, he dismissed me with a wave of the hand and said, "That is the work of the trade unions." He made no reply when I pointed out that, under private enterprise, of the 17,000 administrative staff only 3,000 were covered in the negotiations conducted by the trade unions. He is content to leave the present staff to go back to conditions of that kind, but despite the difficulties facing them the stall has rendered loyal and efficient service. The Minister ought to recognise it and reach a final decision and acknowledge that it is hopeless to be able to dispose of these assests in a satisfactory way.
What is the right hon. Gentleman's greatest dilemma at the moment? He is waiting for the Road Haulage Disposal Board, after conferring with the Commission, to submit to him the lists of people who are interested in what one might term bulk purchase which covers presumably fleets of more than 50 vehicles. It was discreet on the right hon. Gentleman's part to ignore the remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East when he said that there were City interests, financial bodies and people waiting in the wings interested in transport. They have suddenly discovered the shocking thing that a Government Department can run a business and make nearly £8 million profit. That from their point of view is a scandal.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the hon. Gentleman went to the next luncheon of the British Transport Commission and called it a Government depot he would be rather surprised at its reaction.
§ Mr. Morris
The dialectic skill of the Minister will not detract the House from the truth of what I am saying. If the British Transport Commission could convince him that the Government ought not to bother it it would be in a very much happier frame of mind. But for his particular purpose he regards it as one of his most useful Government Departments.
These City interests have suddenly become alive to the fact that British Road 'Services have made nearly £8 million profit last year and given a proper opportunity, could make an even greater profit. In fact, the position up to July of this year is equally promising.
That being so, they say, "That ought not to be left in the hands of the Government, it ought to come into our hands." The ironical feature is that they want the B.T.C. to do the work and they will take the dividends and profits. What answer has the right hon. Gentleman given to that? Why does he ignore that fundamental point in the speech of my hon. Friend? The fact is that the Tory pattern is being repeated over and over again and, so far as transport is concerned, a desperate effort is being made to restore it to private interests, despite the fact that when they had it in their own hands, both railways and road transport, they became bankrupt concerns. When we are debating the issue of the railways in a coming debate, the right hon. Gentleman will be reminded of that fact.
I would remind the House that in his very chastened mood this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman has found it convenient to evade arguments, to dodge facts, and to content himself by making a speech which was nothing more than a repetition in his own language of the Second Report of the Road Haulage Disposal Board. He might as well have said, "Mr. Speaker, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen need not listen to me if they will read the Second Report. That is all the information I have." For he did not amplify it in any way and, what is more disappointing, he has completely failed to make the slightest suggestion or give us the slightest encouragement as to what will happen by the end of the year. I ask the right hon. Gentleman once more, how long is this going on? By 1st January, 1955, the 25-mile limit will be abolished. Is he going to tell us at the 2041 end of the year, "I have sold them all," or "I have not sold them"? If the Minister will do that, we shall know where we stand.
But let me be fair to the Road Haulage Executive. They have done a splendid job in spite of great difficulties and in record time. They are proving themselves to be of tremendous value to this country, and yet the Minister persists in trying to destroy a service which has proved to be a great national asset.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
Is the hon. Gentleman familiar with the fact that in List 1 the British Transport Commission made perhaps the only serious mistake it has made over this disposal, in that it included a large number of vehicles, some of which had not been on the road for months, in fact a good many were pre-war vehicles? And, when he is praising the Commission, he should bear in mind that the process of disposal was not helped by the selection of the vehicles in List 1.
§ Mr. Morris
All those facts were known to the right hon. Gentleman when he decided to hand the vehicles over to private enterprise. He had been complaining about the long nature of the process, but he must have anticipated that, and he should have been aware of the difficulties that we experienced when we took over vehicles that were almost—[An HON MEMBER: "Obsolete."]—unworthy of the road.
§ Mr. Renton
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that those facts were known to my right hon. Friend and he trusted the Commission in this matter. The interesting thing is, however, that the existence of that trash amongst the vehicles was always denied by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Morris
In conclusion, I say to the Minister that he is destroying an organisation which has proved to be a great national asset for the public and the trading and business community of this country. A Minister who, for political expediency deliberately destroys a national asset, forfeits the confidence of the country, and a Government that permit him to do such a thing, in spite of all the facts that have been revealed in the Reports, have not got the confidence of the country. We are still able to remind right hon. Gentlemen opposite 2042 that we had more votes than they did at the last General Election, and when the facts that we have dealt with this afternoon are known to the British public, they will realise once more that their greatest friends on Government Benches are those who now sit on Opposition Benches, and I declare on behalf of the party that, so far as we are concerned, we shall not hesitate to re-nationalise the services when we get the opportunity.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I reply to one of his questions? I should not like it thought that I had deliberately avoided an answer to the question that he reiterated, first asked by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), about suggestions which they said might have been made that there could be a partnership between the British Transport Commission and some private interests in varying proportions, the management being left to the B.T.C. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Act provides that the shares of a company must be disposed of in one parcel. It would have been technically possible within the Act for the British Transport Commission to divest itself of the shares to some private purchaser and to buy back a proportion of the shares—[An HON. MEMBER: "Good Lord!"] I say, it would be possible, but I would regard that as defying the spirit of the Act and I would not approve of it. That is my answer to what he asked, and I hope it has cleared up the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Popplewell
Would the Minister say whether he would have approved a proposal that allowed the British Transport Commission to own 51 per cent. of the shares with managerial functions, and the outside interests 49 per cent.?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
No, I am sorry that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) has not followed my remarks. The whole purpose of my intervention was to make it plain that although it might be possible so to work that part, and it could be done within the framework of the Act, I would regard that as defying the spirit of the Act and I would not approve of it.
§ Mr. Callaghan
In that case, when shall we have an amending Act to deal with the 20,000 vehicles the Minister will not be able to sell?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Then the hon. Gentleman admits, no doubt, the speech made by the hon. Member for Bradford, East which was full of an appeal for a bi-partisan approach to transport, although he himself dealt with the matter in a somewhat different way when saying that there would be no co-operation in the unlikely event of an amending Act being necessary?
§ Mr. Morris
But my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) made the wrong assumption that the approach made by the Government was on commonsense lines.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 264; Noes, 294.2047
|Division No. 187.]||AYES||[6.58 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Adams, Richard||Fernyhough, E.||Logan, D. G.|
|Albu, A. H.||Fienburgh, W.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Allan, Arthur (Bosworth)||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Follick, M.||McGovern, J.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Foot, M. M.||Mcinnes, J.|
|Attlee, Rt Hon. C. R.||Forman, J. C.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McLeavy, F.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Freeman, John (Watford)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Baird, J.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Balfour, A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Bartley, P.||Glanville, James||Manuel, A. C.|
|Beattie, J.||Gooch, E. G.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mason, Roy|
|Bence, C. R.||Greenwood, Anthony||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Benson, G.||Grey, G. F.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Beswick, F.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hale, Leslie||Monslow, W.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Moody, A. S.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hamilton, W. W.||Morley, R.|
|Boardman, H.||Hannan, W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G||Hardy, E. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hargreaves, A.||Mort, D. L.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Moyle, A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hastings, S.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hayman, F. H.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||O'Brien, T.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Healy, Cahir (Fermanagh)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Herbison, Miss M.||Orbach, M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oswald, T.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hobson, C. R.||Padley, W. E.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Holman, P.||Paget, R. T.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Holmes, Horace||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Champion, A. J.||Houghton, Douglas||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hoy, J. H.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Clunie, J.||Hubbard, T. F.||Pannell, Charles|
|Coldrick, W.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Collick, P. H.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parker, J.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Parkin, B. T|
|Cove, W. G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Paton, J.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pearson, A.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Peart, T. F.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Janner, B.||Popplewell, E.|
|Daines, P.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Porter, G.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rankin, John|
|Deer, G.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Keenan, W.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Kenyon, C.||Rhodes, H.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Richards, R.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||King, Dr H. M.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Kinley, J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edelman, M.||Lawson, G. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Ross, William|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Royle, C.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lindgren, G. S.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon Sir Hartley|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Sylvester, G. O.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Short, E. W.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wigg, George|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Willey, F. T.|
|Skeffington, A, M.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Thornton, E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Timmons, J.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Tomney, F.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, J.)|
|Snow, J. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Willis, E. G.|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Usborne, H. C.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Viant, S. P.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Warbey, W. N.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Steele, T.||Watkins, T. E.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Weitzman, D.||Yates, V. F.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||West, D. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Swingler, S. T.||Wheeldon, W. E.||Mr. Wallace and|
|Mr. James Johnson.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hollis, M. C.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||De la Bére, Sir Rupert||Holt, A. F.|
|Alport, G. J. M.||Deedes, W. F.||Hope, Lord John|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hornsby Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Horobin, I. M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Doughty, C. J. A.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Drayson, G. B.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Duthie, W. S.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Barber, Anthony||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Erroll, F. J.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Finlay, Graeme||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Fisher, Nigel||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)||Jennings, Sir Roland|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fort, R.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Birch, Nigel||Foster, John||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Kaberry, D.|
|Black, C. W.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Keeling, Sir Edward|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Fife, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Kerr, H. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lambton, Viscount|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gammans, L. D.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Braine, B. R.||Garner Evans, E. H.||Langford-Holt, J. A|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Glover, D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Godber, J. B.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Gough, C. F. H.||Lindsay, Martin|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Gower, H. R.||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Grimond, J.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Harden, J. R. E.||Longdon, Gilbert|
|Carr, Robert||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Low, A. R. W.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Channon, H.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Harvey, Air Cdre, A. V. (Macclesfield)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cole, Norman||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hay, John||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Henry|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Heath, Edward||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Raikes, Sir Victor||Summers, G. S.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Ramsden, J. E.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Marples, A. E.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Redmayne, M.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Maude, Angus||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Teeling, W.|
|Maudling, R.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Renton, D. L. M.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Mellor, Sir John||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Robson-Brown, W.||Tilney, John|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Roper, Sir Harold||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Turton, R. H.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Russell, R. S.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Neave, Airey||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Vosper, D. F.|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Wade, D. W.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Scott, R. Donald||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Nutting, Anthony||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Shepherd, William||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Odey, G. W.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|O'Neill, Hon Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. O.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Osborne, C.||Snadden, W. McN.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Page, R. G.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Speir, R. M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Wills, G.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Storey, S.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Profumo, J. D.||Studholme, H. G.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Sir Cedric Drewe.|