HC Deb 22 July 1959 vol 609 cc1260-2
27. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) what consultations were held with the Road Research Laboratory, and what assistance was obtained from it, before the Report on the sample survey of the transport of goods by road was prepared and published;

(2) if he will provide the Road Research Laboratory with the replies to the questionnaires received in connection with the sample survey of the transport of goods by road, and request it to prepare an objective analysis of them for presentation to Parliament.

Mr. Watkinson

There was no need to consult the Road Research Laboratory in the preparation of this Report. It contains an objective analysis of the material obtained during the survey, made by qualified statisticians of my Department.

Mr. Davies

Does not the Minister think that it would have been better if these facts and figures had been given to the Road Research Laboratory to analyse, as it has a world-wide reputation for objective analysis in its researches? Does not he agree with the opinion of The Times that the conclusions reached in this Report are partial, and that the figures are insufficient to allow any conclusions to be reached upon the efficiency of the relative sections of the road haulage industry?

Mr. Watkinson

All I can say is that these figures and facts were obtained by qualified statisticians of my Department, who received no instructions as to how they should be prepared or analysed. They did the job as professional assessors, and I believe that they have done it as accurately as they possibly could.

Mr. Peyton

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is quite plain that that supplementary question came from someone who had made a wrong guess, and who is very disappointed at the authoritative answer that he received?

Mr. Strauss

As it is the main responsibility of the Road Research Laboratory to give advice on planning future roads, and problems of transport, would it not obviously have been much better to consult the Laboratory before the survey was undertaken, so that information which the Laboratory required could also have been gathered by the statisticians?

Mr. Watkinson

I think that this survey was done in exactly the same way as were previous ones. These results are open to the Laboratory, and no doubt it will make very good use of them, as it does of all this work. The Question implies that in some way these statistics were not fairly presented, and I have said they were fairly and impartially presented.

Mr. Davies

In reply to my second Question, will the Minister now hand over the results of the survey and questionnaires to the Laboratory and ask it to make an objective report? In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman says, the Press has taken the view that this is a blatant misuse of Government information.

Mr. Watkinson

That is a very wide generalisation. The Press has all sorts of views on all sorts of things. All I wish to say is that this survey is open to the Laboratory if it wishes to make any use of it. It is fully available to the Laboratory. I am not prepared to go further than that.

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