HC Deb 29 July 1959 vol 610 cc550-631

Question again proposed, That this House takes note of the Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission for 1958 and of the Report reappraising the plan for the Modernisation and Re-equipment of British Railways (Command Paper No. 813).—[Mr. Nugent.]

Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add: and while welcoming the progress being made in the modernisation and re-equipment of the railways, regrets the actions of Her Majesty's Government which have damaged the financial solvency of the British Transport Commission and led to the curtailment in the services it should render in the national interest".—[Mr. Ernest Davies]

5.47 p.m.

Mr. Lindgren

When the procedural interruption occurred, I was addressing to the Minister a plea that there should be a real reconstruction of the capital finances of the British Transport Commission to bring about a relationship with the capital costs of the equipment which the Commission operates.

I was making the point, too, that no group of workers likes to be associated with an industry which is always operating with a deficit. If it has to operate with a deficit and it is a social service, then we accept it. But if there is a deficit when the Government of the day say that the undertaking must be run in such a fashion as to meet its costs, then those who invest their lives and their skill—all the capital they have—in the industry ask that the industry should be given a chance to pay its way by having a financial structure which has some relationship to the industry itself.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East called attention to the Commission's appreciation of the workers inside the industry and the manner in which they carry out their various tasks. There is one phase of the modernisation programme and the accounts which has not been taken into consideration—the possibilities of the future. In May, 1958, when we had the last wage negotiations, in which the Minister interfered in the same way as he interferes in other operations of the Commission, part of the settlement was that there should be an independent inquiry into the wage and salary structure of the industry.

It has been argued by those of us on the trade union side that the railwaymen in all grades, the salaried as well as the wages grades, have been grossly underpaid in relation to the responsibility and the duties which they carry. In order that that can be ascertained factually this independent inquiry has been set up. We do not know what the result of that inquiry will be, but we do know the wage and salary structure within our own industry and we think we know the wage and salary structure in other industries, and those of us associated with transport can see no other result of the inquiry than that there will be a showing of the under-payment of wages and salaries on the railways and the natural entering into negotiations between the Commission and the unions for a realignment of the structure of wages and salaries.

I want to make the plea to the Minister that on this occasion he should leave the Commission free to enter those negotiations with the unions, and leave the Commission and the unions to negotiate freely on the evidence before them. If we are to have an industry which has got to pay its way, then in the settlement of wages and salaries the Commission should be free equally to make arrangements to meet the costs satisfactorily.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who has just seconded the Amendment, was, I thought, a great deal more frank with the House than was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who moved it.

I find it almost incredible that within weeks or months, or whatever it may be, of the General Election, the spokesman for the party opposite, the Front Bench spokesman of the party which was responsible originally for nationalisation, and which has just now launched what amounts to a Motion of censure on the Government, found it impossible, in the course of a long speech, to devote even a few minutes to indicating what his party's proposals are for the difficult problems which undoubtedly, we all admit, face the British Transport Commission. It was an almost incredible speech. It repeated the themes which we have heard so often before, and without pausing even for a minute to make a single constructive suggestion.

Mr. Ernest Davies

We made constructive suggestions in 1947.

Mr. Peyton

I am so deeply obliged to the hon. Gentleman, whose only reply to me now is that they made their constructive suggestions in 1947. What a perfectly splendid admission: the last time they made a suggestion was twelve years ago, and they have not another one to make yet.

Mr. Davies

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman need get so excited over this. The policy which we laid down in the 1947 Act, as I pointed out in my speech, was working satisfactorily when the Tory Government came in in 1951. The policy of a planned, integrated, coordinated transport system which includes the renationalisation of road haulage is the policy to which we shall return when we get back to power.

Mr. Peyton

Let us with great effort haul ourselves back to 1959 and its problems. This is 1959 now. The hon. Gentleman seems unaware of that.

There were some points in the hon. Gentleman's speech with which I agreed. He mentioned particularly the difficulties facing the Transport Commission and the men throughout the railway industry in carrying on operations at the same time as a major reconstruction was going on. That is a very genuine point. I often think that the public do not realise the very considerable difficulties which face the Commission in this respect. Some of us from both sides of the House have had an opportunity of looking at some of the operations being carried on by the Commission at present. We have all admired the magnificent work which has been done to keep the operations going at the same time as a very major scheme of redevelopment has been carried out.

There is another point which the hon. Gentleman made to which I must refer. He reiterated the old parrot cry that the Government were responsible for the recession which has done so much damage to the industry. Very interestingly, very shortly afterwards he said that railways all over the world had been affected by the same circumstances. Either the hon. Gentleman still lives in such a tight little world of his own that he has no conception of what is going on outside, or, alternatively, he just omitted to advert to the fact of which he is perfectly well aware that every country in the Western world has been suffering from a considerable recession, in most cases with far more disadvantageous effects than has been the case in this country.

The hon. Gentleman went on to complain of the growth of private transport and said it had damaged the Commission. He did not really make it clear what he was going to do about this. Does he really thing that it is a bad thing, this growth of private transport?

Mr. Ernest Davies

I never said so.

Mr. Peyton

Am I right in supposing, then, that the hon. Member does not think the growth of private transport is a bad thing? Because that is a very welcome piece of conversion, if that is his view.

Mr. Davies

I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman always puts words into my mouth and misinterprets what I said. Nobody can deny that one of the main problems which confronts transport today is the growth of private transport. I have said frequently that the increase in private motoring will continue. Nobody is against the growth of private transport, but there are cases where some control is necessary, and some control is already exercised.

Mr. Peyton

It is the great difficulty that none of us knows what these controls to which the hon. Gentleman frequently refers in his speeches are; we do not know exactly what he means by them.

I must sympathise with the hon. Member about the inquiry into the transport of goods by road. He had, obviously, expected a very different result to be forthcoming. He has not been wise enough to keep quiet and bottle up his disappointment, but has let it out publicly, and he has made it very clear on a number of occasions that he is horrified, in particular, by the conclusion that C-licence vehicles are not inefficiently operated. That is a result very disappointing to him. Therefore, he claims that it must be entirely attributed to bias. He is blaming the referee.

The Opposition Amendment is really rather extraordinary, for the simple fact of the situation is that the Government are blamed for damaging the financial solvency of the railways at a time when we are investing, or providing taxpayers' money, to the extent of £1,500 million to help a very extensive modernisation programme. Really, one has to be subtle to follow the kind of argument which says that while we are providing £1,500 million of public money for a modernisation programme, with the aims of which none of us quarrels, we are damaging the undertaking's financial solvency.

I may have been unduly optimistic, but I had confidently expected to hear a little more about what is meant by "disintegration". Hon. Members opposite are fond of saying from time to time that they will produce an integrated system of transport. But what will happen? They nationalised 20 per cent. of the road haulage industry, omitting C-licence vehicles. Are they suggesting now that had that 20 per cent. remained in public ownership it would have made a vital difference to the finances of the British Transport Commission? If that is so, it is laughable.

Mr. Charles Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Why did the party opposite sell it if it was not profitable? I am rather interested in this disintegration. Will the hon. Member tell us what part of the industry the Transport Commission was forced to sell which was not making a profit?

Mr. Peyton

I was not talking about disintegration, but trying to understand the policy of the party opposite and why hon. and right hon. Members opposite have today tabled a censure Amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. This is one more bad bet made by the hon. and right hon. Members opposite. They have thought that here was something which might win. They thought that this was a good runner but, on the basis of speeches made from the Front Bench opposite, we can say now that it is not a winner. It would finish last in any political race.

There is no doubt that road haulage rates have fallen substantially since denationalisation. Is this something which the hon. Member for Enfield, East welcomes or not? If the party opposite comes into power, which I think is highly unlikely, will the hon. Member try to reverse the process and get back to a stage where prices can be expected to rise over the whole of the national economy? We are entitled to ask whether that is what the hon. Member wants. I am justified in making these points because we are left in the dark about the intentions of the party opposite. I may be wrong, but I understand that a high-powered committee of the National Executive of the Labour Party has been studying this matter for over two years, but has failed signally yet to produce any coherent policy for transport.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

What is the policy of the party opposite?

Mr. Peyton

Has the party opposite made up its mind whether subsidised transport is desirable or not? Has it made up its mind on any clear proposals to deal with C licences?

A number of other hon. Members will wish to speak in the debate and I have probably said as much as I ought to say about Opposition proposals. So far as we have been given any clue to what they are, the party opposite has offered no solution. For the most part we, the country in general, the transport user, the worker in transport, and the management in transport, are left entirely in the dark about these proposals.

A great many hon. Members opposite would do well to find out what proposals are being put forward by their own Front Bench. They should ask their Front Bench how it could possibly come about that a party which is meant to be a responsible Opposition launches a censure Amendment of this kind just before a General Election and, in the process, does not consider it necessary to put forward a single constructive proposal. That is a fact which must be almost without parallel in political history.

As to the work of the Transport Commission, reference is made in paragraph 180 of the Annual Report to the desirability of gaining or retaining worthwhile traffics. I do not wish to make much of the point, but I think that it would be dangerous if the Commission allowed itself to be led into uneconomic practices in order to hold traffic which, at some future time, might be useful and profitable to it. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Enfield, East appears to have left the Chamber.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Make a speech and get on with it.

Mr. Peyton

I agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, East about the Commission's capital reconstruction. We are rapidly reaching a stage where unreality has gone much too far. I hope that the Commission's expectations will be fulfilled. I believe that as soon as the Commission reaches a balance in its affairs it will be no longer wise or proper to postpone a really radical overhaul of its financial structure. There is no good reason for retaining this quite absurd and unrealistic present structure.

There is also a point to be made about the rate at which modernisation is proceeding. It is a fact not subject to controversy that over the years the railways have lost much of their proportionate share of goods traffic. But is the modernisation programme proceeding fast enough? Is the necessary degree of contraction being carried out quickly enough to match the fall-off in the volume of traffic?

The last major point on the Commission which I should like to make is its public relations. The Commission serves itself ill in the way it carries on this important department. The public are interested in the railways. It would be as well if the Commission lost no opportunity to inform the public of the efforts that are being made, of the difficulties that have to be faced, and the undoubted progress being made in this very comprehensive scheme of modernisation. All of us who travel by rail have to wait at stations and on those stations there is a great deal of free advertising space which the Commission has at its disposal to inform the public of its difficulties, its achievements, its progress and its hopes.

It would be no bad thing if the Commission were seriously to overhaul its public relations department with a view to giving adequate information to the public, who are not only its customers but its bankers. I hope that my right hon. Friend will commend this view to the Commission and that it will take note of it. I am sure that the Commission could save itself much pain and tears if it were to remind itself that the public are anxious to hear about its progress. In last year's Report there is a brief reference to the fact that it is not generally realised that the Commission runs double the number of restaurant cars that are run by all the railways of Europe put together. Why should it be generally realised? The public are not to be expected to read through these annual Reports, and I think that the Commission would be well advised to ensure that much more information is given in digestible form to the public.

May I offer my congratulations to the Commission and to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport? We have made our choice and have laid down the lines upon which to proceed. We have accepted the fact that modernisation must go ahead. It would be dangerous for politicians to suggest half way through the programme that it should be changed. I reinforce the plea made by the chairman of the Commission in the reappraisal document that there should be some certainty of continuity. It is a most important point and I hope that my right hon. Friend will go as far as he can to give the assurance there asked for, because it would be an important contribution.

I conclude by saying that at a time when, on the whole, it is more popular to complain about railways, to hatch all kinds of stories which reflect against them, I think we should note in this House the undoubted progress which has been made, the undoubted co-operation which has been forthcoming in no easy circumstances between all who are engaged in this great undertaking. It speaks volumes for the good will, for the intelligence and the courage not only of the Commission, but of every man who works in the industry, and, indeed, for the trade unions also, who have their own problems, as one readily admits.

I do not minimise in any way the serious problems facing the Commission. T am certain that it needs, as well as our criticism from time to time, our encouragement and our good will, and I hope very much that it will receive both.

6.12 p.m.

Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)

Among the mixture of hyperbole and mock indignation that has been characteristic of the speech of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) there were one or two things with which I could agree. One was the tribute that the hon. Gentleman paid to the Commission on the way it has overcome many of its difficulties. Previously, the hon. Gentleman criticised its publicity. I, on the other hand, give it full marks, and if the hon. Gentleman would visit any Underground station he would see there posters showing, for example, the Barking Cross-over and modern freight services. If the hon. Gentleman travels by railway he will see these posters and publicity, which are first-class, and I only wish other parts of the service were equally good.

The hon. Gentleman said that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) had made no positive suggestions. If he had listened to my hon. Friend and had not been so emotionally pent up while waiting to make his own speech—we know how frustrating this is—he would have realised that my hon. Friend made precisely the same suggestions as he himself made, namely, that there should be financial reorganisation of the British Transport Commission. So I regret the tone of the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

I begin by saying that the subject of railways is not sufficiently discussed in the House of Commons. We discuss it once a year when there are three days allocated to the nationalised industries or when there is a Private Bill. Yet this is a service which affects every one of us and it is rarely discussed in this House. I want to put in a plea for further accountability of the nationalised industries. I am a great believer in the nationalisation of our basic industries which, I think, have done a remarkably good job—including the Transport Commission—but there is one great weakness and that is the weakness in the construction of the Acts of Parliament that there is not sufficient accountability.

If I may say so with modesty and humility, I never found it difficult to deal with questions concerning the Post Office when I was Assistant Postmaster-General for five years. Many a thing that was going wrong was quickly put right. There are other ways of accountability. There is the Estimates Committee, there is the Public Accounts Committee. All those of us who believe fervently in nationalisation would welcome legislation for public accountability of the nationalised services, whichever Government was in power. Indeed, these are the only organisations which operate contrary to a constitutional doctrine, namely, they get supply without the redress of grievance, so I believe that the House must seriously consider this point.

I believe that the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation is far too big. The Minister deals with civil aviation, roads, railways, shipping, canals and also with London Transport. No one man can do all this and supervise it, no matter who he is. I am not criticising in a carping way, but the Department is far too big and it will have to be broken down. The same applies to the British Transport Commission to a lesser degree.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

It certainly does.

Mr. Hobson

I have the highest personal regard for Sir Brian Robertson, but one man cannot run the Commission. I recall the days when Sir Josiah Stamp was chairman of the L.M.S. Railway and I was negotiating with him on power station matters in Stonebridge. We got what we wanted. Sir Josiah was always genial and friendly and I remember him saying, "Hobson, L.M.S. is too big for any one man". I say that the Transport Commission is too big for one man, because it deals with railways, docks, shipping, canals—all the multifarious properties owned by the Commission. One man cannot possibly control all these in the way they should be controlled, so that is another thing which must be looked at.

Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)

Can the hon. Member tell me how long he has held this view?

Mr. Hobson

For a long time, and if the hon. Member had done me the honour of listening when I was speaking of the nationalised industries he would have heard me advocating this. I am not like some members of the Liberal Party—I do not speak with two voices.

Mr. C. Howell

My hon. Friend does not speak very often, either.

Mr. Hobson

It is regrettable that this debate comes at the end of our Session. Many hon. Members would have liked some Parliamentary continuity in respect of the problems of British Railways, because there is a lot to be said. As a result, my remarks must be general. I apologise for this, but I assure hon. Members that just as I have been tied up with my little argument with the Minister about the Parliamentary timetable, so the House is concerned about railways, because of the Recess and now, indeed, because of a possible General Election.

First, I want to say some good things about the Transport Commission and the railways. I think that their catering is excellent in the dining cars and cheaper than anywhere else in the world. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Yeovil gave me my cue, because he gave the number of restaurant cars run in Britain as compared with the rest of Britain. Let us give credit where it is due. If anyone wants a good bottle of Médoc, he should buy it in one of the dining cars of British Railways, for he will get it at a very reasonable price.

I pay tribute to British Railways for the cleanliness of their named trains. There has been a tremendous improvement since our last transport debate. I should like to see it extended to what I call the cross-country services. If this were done, there would be little room for criticism.

We must also give the railways 100 per cent. credit for the magnificent way in which they have developed their diesel local services. They are efficient and regular and, by and large, are timed to meet the public needs. They are a revenue earner. The Leeds-Bradford diesel service is excellent, with three trains an hour, heavily loaded. As a lover of the railways, that is what I want to see extended.

Having said that, however, I have some criticisms to make. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) and some of my other colleagues who are associated with the railway world about the necessity for closing certain branch lines. Hon. Members will laugh when I say that I am making a plea to save one of my local lines which is earmarked for closure, but I shall give good and, I hope, cogent reasons why the Keighley-Oxenhope line should remain open.

I believe that the Minister of Transport is a Yorkshireman.

Mr. Lindgren

I knew that there was something wrong with him.

Mr. Hobson

The Minister closed one of my local lines between Keighley and Halifax. We argued the case, but we lost. The Keighley-Oxenhope line is an entirely different proposition. I am told on the best authority that this branch line loses £1,500 a year. I believe that savings in station staff have been agreed with the railway unions which would halve that figure. Although there are not many trains on this line, it carries a heavy load of workers down from the Bronte country to Keighley to work. It is a push and pull service. It carries quite a bit of heavy freight and coal up to Haworth and Oakworth. The service is a vital necessity in winter, because there are times of the year when snow prevents the bus services from operating.

It will be argued that there are guarded level crossings on the line, but there are not many trains. I suggest that there is no need for the guarded level crossings, because the use of "Caution" and "T" signs would obviate this. In this way, the losses on the Keighley—Oxenhope line could be translated into a profit. This is a branch line—and there are others elsewhere throughout the country—on which the losses are not great and where economies in the direction I have indicated would enable it to remain open.

I refuse to accept the doctrine that every line must pay for itself. If this were applied, the Great Central would be closed tomorrow. Money which was sunk into it when it was built between Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln has been lost. To apply the principle that every line must pay for itself would mean the closing of many lines, including main lines. We should have the same outlook towards railway services as to bus services. The No. 11 route is a money spinner. The No. 226, around Willesden, is not, but it is equally necessary.

Many of our branch lines are essential and necessary. I am not prepared to give the Transport Commission or the Ministry of Transport carte blanche automatically to close down these branch lines. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough said, that some lines should never have been built, but merely because the Ministry has pushed up its savings from £10 million to £20 million and £30 million there is a tendency to say that all branch lines which are not profitable should automatically be closed. That is wrong. I hope that the Minister will consider the situation from the viewpoint of public service.

I come now to the modernisation programme. I do not know where we are getting to. I do not know quite what we are after. I wonder sometimes whether the Transport Commission knows what it is after. Let me give some examples. In the modernisation of the main lines, some are to be electrified and some dieselised. Why have both? We are dieselising the North Eastern line out of King's Cross and, at the same time, it is being electrified. Why not keep the steam locomotives? They did excellent service. Why are we doing it twice over? I am told that the Western Region will not be electrified, but will be dieselised.

Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)

Will my hon. Friend tell us what is the difference in cost between electrification and dieselisation?

Mr. Hobson

I am not prepared to do that. In my opinion, electrification is far more economical in the long run, as has been proved beyond peradventure by the Southern Region.

Mr. Nugent

The consideration is mainly one of density of operation. If the density of operation is heavy enough, electrification is best. If it is not, diesel is the next best.

Mr. Hobson

That has not been the experience in France, which has probably the most efficient railway service in the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think so. In my view, there is no need for both systems. We should have gone straight away to electrification and kept the steam locomotives.

I am worried about the initial cost and the maintenance cost of diesel engines. It is no good making comparisons, as people sometimes do when calculating maintenance figures, with steam locomotives and including the boiler cleaning. That is not a real test. In the case of the diesel, the incidence of mechanical breakdowns is much higher, as they are bound to be by the very nature of the machine. Except for a steam turbine, it is impossible to have a simpler mechanical machine than a steam locomotive. If the Joint Parliamentary Secretary inquires, he will find that, for dieseis, the maintenance cost is very heavy. That is what I am informed by members of my union who work on the job.

I would like to see electrification given the go-ahead. Diesels could be kept for the branch lines or cross-country lines, but not main lines. The Commission supports this view by the fact that it is electrifying the Manchester—London line and the King's Cross main lines, as well as those from Liverpool Street. The Commission cannot have it both ways, because it also has diesels working on these lines. There is something wrong here and it should be looked at.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the proposed new underground line from Victoria. The Minister also has certain power stations under his direction. What is to be the future of Lots Road, Neasden and Greenwich? There has not been an extra kilowatt put in since early in the war. Against the national grid standard of 50 a 33⅓ cycle is used. The railways are already taking a lot of their current from the grid. Are they to be kept on? What is to be the source of power for this new underground line? These are problems which the Ministry must examine.

One annoyance from which all travellers on British Railways suffer is bad timekeeping. This wants looking at, particularly on trains out of King's Cross. What is wrong with trains on the Eastern and North Eastern Region? When was the Aberdonian last on time? Ten days ago the Queen of Scots Pullman was 75 minutes late. On Tuesday, the 8.23 out of Doncaster was five minutes ahead of time and had a splendid run down to "Ally Pally". What happened after that? There were about seven stops between Alexandra Palace and King's Cross. This bad timekeeping annoys the public more than anything else.

What method is adopted for dealing with this problem? Whatever one might say about the old company managers, in days gone by if a train was late the general manager bore down on the operating manager and asked why it was late and action was taken right down the line. The same thing must be done on British Railways. It is said that Sir Brian Robertson cannot do that because he is too occupied with other things. What is he paid for? People who are paid for accepting responsibility must accept it. That is a good doctrine. The Government ought to put pressure on British Railways to ensure good timekeeping.

I know about the difficulties in the renewal of stock and that sort of thing, but let us be fair about this. After all, the war has been over for fifteen years, and British Railways have had plenty of time to renew their stock. In France, bridges had to be rebuilt after the war. In Western Germany the density of traffic is very high, but the trains run to time. It is the duty of the Government and the Transport: Commission to look into this problem. People who believe in nationalisation, as I do, want an efficiently run service. The only way in which we can improve the service is to criticise it, and I have no hesitation in criticising the Commission for bad timekeeping.

What is to be the policy of the Transport Commission? We have heard favourable reports of a special 100 m.p.h. service between Manchester and London. I hope that that service develops, but it is asking a lot, because that is a very high speed. Even in France, where there is not the high density of traffic that we have in this country, no service operates at that speed.

Train services, particularly between Leeds and King's Cross, should be speeded up. The journey used to be done in 2¾ hours, but it now takes 3½ hours and on Sundays the journey cannot be done in under 5 hours, except by Pullman. That is the sort of thing that ought to be looked at. I know the difficulties about reconstruction, but the speed factor is very important to those of us who want the railways to continue to expand.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

I do not know whether my hon. Friend will believe it—I have not known it happen for a long time—but last Sunday morning the Pullman from King's Cross to Leeds arrived at its destination a minute before time.

Mr. Hobson

That is excellent. It may be the result of some people criticising the service. The faot still remains that on the North Eastern section timekeeping is bad.

Mr. D. Jones

I do not agree.

Mr. Hobson

I do not like the notice at King's Cross about delays to trains. The notice has been there for some weeks, saying that delays to suburban services are caused by dieselisation. That takes a bit of believing. One cannot believe that these teething troubles are confined to that one area.

I want to see a little prestige-building by British Railways. We must do something about St. Pancras and King's Cross. Improvements to railway stations in other countries are made by Government grants and not by money provided by the railways. I do not like the appearance of Harwich, which is the first station I see on my return from abroad. Foreigners do not make the mistake of having stations which offend the eye. It is essential that our stations at which visitors from abroad arrive should be models. Other countries do it and so can we. Some attention ought to be paid to the appearance of the trains that go to the Continent. The stock is available to do it.

I have never lost my boyhood love of the railways and I never shall. I want to see the railway service improve. One of the ways in which we can help is by having more debates about the railways so that we can point out some of the things that affect the public. If we do that, in a few years' time we shall once again have a service which is the envy of the world.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Thomas (Canterbury)

I am sure that we all enjoyed the forthright and interesting speech of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson). In view of his opening statement, it was a very courageous speech.

The hon. Gentleman started by saying that he thought my right hon. Friend's Department was much too big for one man to manage. Be that as it may, he went on to say that he thought that the British Transport Commission was too big an organisation to be effectively managed by one man. I entirely agree and I think that every hon. Member on this side of the House will agree with the hon. Gentleman, because he was really getting at the basis of the Opposition's policy.

The hon. Gentleman felt that the enormous growth that comes with integration gets out of manageable proportions. That was the essence of his speech and I hope that other hon. Members opposite will have the courage to be as honest as he has been, particularly in the light of the speech of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who, I am sorry to say, is not present at the moment. We all deprecate his personal attack on my right hon. Friend, but perhaps it covered a somewhat weak case.

I want to follow the line that the hon. Member for Keighley has taken up, because he has raised a point that I was going to touch upon. I am sure that all hon. Members must have given considerable thought to the problem of how big an industrial service like this can be—and I use the phrase "industrial service" because it is an industry and provides a service—before it gets out of manageable proportions. The Transport Commission, because of the vastness of its empire, has become too big for economy and efficiency. It is really an octopus.

The Commission is not only a railway operating undertaking, but a waterways and road transport undertaking. Further, it is an investment company. It holds shares in passenger transport concerns which it does not control. It holds shares in hotels and properties and, therefore, must have investment experts. These are all vast businesses in themselves. Would it not be in the interests of economy to divide up this industry? I am not suggesting that transport should be further denationalised.

I know that this impinges upon Socialist policy, but I should like to see British Road Services operating as a separate concern and competing with private enterprise road haulage. Analysing the accounts, one finds that a considerable amount of traffic is passed to British Road Services by the railways. It would be interesting to know whether that is done because it is part of the same concern, and what the difference in cost would have been if this traffic had been passed to private hauliers.

Mr. Monslow

Will the hon. Member say how, without integration, we can have either an efficient or a solvent transport industry in Britain?

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Member is saying that unless we have a complete monopoly we cannot have an efficient transport service. That is the real meaning of integration. As my right hon. Friend said in the debate in January, when we were discussing the Transport (Borrowing Powers) Bill, it is not merely the operators, the staff or the Commission who are being considered; there is such a person as the British consumer and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) pointed out, as a result of competition road freight charges have been reduced by nearly 25 per cent.

As for the great modernisation plan, I want to refer to the point about capitalisation, which was raised by the hon. Member for Enfield, East and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren). There is £1,500 million to be spent over the whole period of the plan. As the hon. Member for Wellingborough said, taking up a point that I made in January, we are here dealing with a tremendous capital of about £3,000 million. I agree that there must be some adjustment in the capital structure of this great concern. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil said that we ought to wait until we have crossed the line from the red to the black, and I agree with him.

No suggestion came from hon. Members opposite as to the form of the new structure, if there is to be one. I would ask them to bear in mind that the present structure, rigid as it is, is their responsibility.

Mr. Monslow


Mr. Thomas

Yes. They nationalised the railways in their present form, with guaranteed stocks.

I want to make a suggestion which may not be palatable to some of my hon. Friends. The new capital investment which is now taking place must be funded at some time. I suggest that it should be held as an equity by the Government. I agree with those hon. Members who have said that the railway service, with the structure of the Commission as it is at present, can at no time sustain a capital as great as £3,000 million without a Government guarantee.

We are finding about £1,500 million over a period of years. What is the Commission contributing towards this capital investment? At present, everything is coming from the Treasury. The Commission has many investments which are neither ancillary to nor required for the Commission's transport operations, whether they be road, rail, waterways or whatever. The Commission has in its accounts land and surplus property not required for its operational use. Account No. VI-12, on page 118 of the Accounts, shows that this land and property is producing a net revenue of over £4 million. That is more than a 14 per cent. return.

I suggest that my right hon. Friend, or the Treasury, or the Commission, should consider the revaluation of this property, whether it is Chiltern Court or land alongside the railway. In the light of the capital demands of the industry I think that the Commission should make some contribution. Why should not that property be revalued? At present, it is given the old book value. It should be revalued in the light of modern prices. The property market has been booming over the years. The Commission could take advantage of this fact and make its own contribution, no matter how small, towards the cost of the modernisation plan.

For many years some regions have been running their own refreshment services. A few years ago they bought out the Pullman Car Company. The extraordinary thing is that if a person goes to Brighton or Bournemouth he has to pay a surcharge for the pleasure of having his meal on the train, but if he is travelling on the Western Region he can walk into the dining-car free. That is a stupid and ridiculous thing. I have to pay a surcharge when I come up to town on Sunday night.

Mr. D. Jones

If the hon. Member travels on the South Wales Pullman, which leaves Paddington at 8.50 in the morning on Sundays, he will have to pay precisely the same charge

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Member is labouring under a misapprehension. A traveller does not pay a surcharge if he goes into a restaurant car which is run directly by the Commission, but he does pay if he goes into a Pullman Car Company car. I know. I have to pay when I travel up to town on Sunday night.

Mr. Monslow

The hon. Member always has paid.

Mr. Thomas

Yes, but hon. Members opposite are talking about integration and standardisation. Where is it?

Some of my hon. Friends might not think that I should make this point, but I think that it is a ridiculous situation, not only in regard to the surcharge paid by the passengers but also because men doing the same sort of job receive different rates of pay according to the kind of dining car in which they work, and the region in which they work. The whole situation is anomalous and absurd, and I do not regret having drawn attention to it. There should be a proper levelling up of standards and labour conditions. I know it may be said that private interests are concerned in this case, but in view of the fact that the trains are run by the Commission those private interests should be bought out.

In moving the Amendment the hon. Member for Enfield, East blamed the Government for the heavy deficits which the Commission faces today. That was the chief point of his speech. But he cannot really say that with sincerity, in the light of the recent world recession and after the debates on the economic situation which took place in this House just before Whitsun, because it was then revealed that during the recession this country was better placed than any other in the world. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny that the vast reduction in the revenue of the Commission over the past twelve months is not due to the competition from private industry to which he objects, but, in the main, is due to the setback in basic industries such as steel—which is now recovering—and coal. The setback in the coal industry is not due, as the hon. Gentleman knows, to Government policy, but to the fact, if I may use the words of my right hon. Friend in a previous debate, that the gain of oil over coal has been purely on a price factor.

Like other Amendments that we have debated in the past few days, I believe that this Amendment will be defeated, and with a bigger majority even than was secured against the Amendment which we debated last night. That will reflect the justification of the policy of my right hon. Friend and the energetic manner in which the Government have dealt with the problems of transport in this country.

6.52 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)

The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. L. Thomas) referred to the capital reorganisation of the Commission and twice the Joint Parliamentary Secretary referred to the Amendment to the Government Motion in the names of my hon. Friends and myself. I had not intended to present the case fully in support of the Amendment as I do not think omnibus speeches in the middle of a transport debate serve a very useful purpose, particularly if they are made by back benchers. I wish to discuss the Transport Tribunal and the transport users' consultative committees.

On the question of control and public accountability I have always maintained, even as far back as the debates on the 1953 Act, that any move in the direction of regional accountability and responsibility would result in the more efficient running of the railways. The Government have made a move in that direction by setting up area boards, but they have not gone very far. It would add to the efficiency of our railways, and ultimately to the understanding by Parliament of the relative efficiency of the different regions, if regional accountability could be achieved.

When such accountability has been secured, and though they would still be nationalised, I see no reason why the regional bodies should not be further separated from the Commission. They might even raise their own money in the same way as we advocate should be done by local gas boards which are already separately accountable. That would be getting back to the system on which the railways were run before they were nationalised without actually denationalising them.

From the point of view of Ministerial responsibility this presents a difficult problem. No solution is yet apparent to the problem of how the nationalised industries should be made responsible to this House. A Select Committee which has been sitting almost continuously has still not arrived at a solution, nor do I know of any solution which has been advanced from anywhere else. I suggest that during the interim period, while the reorganisation programme is being carried out, there is a great deal to be said for the Minister really exercising the powers which he already possesses—it need not be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to take more powers—to see that the policy of the Government, whatever it may be, is implemented.

Too often are we presented with plans for the saving of this or that. The Commission sends letters to the Minister to the effect that it proposes to do this or that with the result that millions of pounds will be saved. But that saving does not materialise. I think that the Minister rather likes the idea of being regarded as a tough character, and here is something which he could be tough about. He need not interfere in the detailed running of the railways or of the Transport Commission, but if the policy is to cut out unremunerative services, the right hon. Gentleman should see to it that they are cut out.

I remember in 1952, in one of the first debates on transport in which I took part, the current Report of the Commission stated that the suggestion that great economies could be achieved from cutting out unremunerative services and closing branch lines was an exaggeration. Little by little, more unremunerative services have been cut out. But when we look at the Commission's reappraisal of its modernisation plan we find that in paragraph 24 it states that between 1954 and 1958 the total route mileage of British Railways declined by only 300 miles, but that in the next four years it is expected that about 1,800 miles will be cut. Even at this late stage, and quite apart from whether anyone agrees with the policy of cutting out unremunerative lines, that is the avowed policy of the Government and the Commission. It is the implication of the 1953 Act because that Act does not make sense if the Commission is expected to go on operating unremunerative services. So that at this late stage the important fact is admitted that little has been done about cutting unremunerative services although in the next four years it is proposed that a great deal shall be done. We have heard so often from the Commission about what it will do in the future, but it never delivers the goods. All it delivers are bigger deficits.

I should like to see the Minister of Transport "deliver the goods" to Parliament. I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman say, "This is the policy and I shall see that it is carried out. If it is not, I shall resign." Only if the Minister has a clear policy which he is determined to see carried out shall we ever reduce this deficit even to manageable proportions.

On capital reorganisation, the hon. Member for Canterbury suggested that the new money that has been provided for the reorganisation scheme should be taken up by the Government as equity capital, implying that at some time the railways would make a profit and that the Government would then get dividend on the money. The hon. Gentleman immediately followed up with a sentence which implied that he did not think the railways would make a profit because the burden of the old interest charges and the new were far too great; the railways could never stand it. It was slightly disingenuous of him, therefore, to talk about providing new capital as equity because sometimes the Government might get a dividend.

We ought to deal with this matter as it would be dealt with if the railways belonged to a private enterprise company. Everybody knows what happens. If a company gets into serious difficulties and is almost bankrupt, somebody may say, "If we put a lot of new money into this business there is actually some good trade to be done." The people who formerly had their money in the company have lost it and the equity shares are worth nothing. There is then a great reorganisation scheme, in which the equity shares may get a little. The £1 shareholders may be told that their shares are worth 6d. All the new benefits created go to the people who are putting in the new money.

Surely this is the way to deal with the railway interest problem when the reorganisation scheme is carried out. I would not care to back this scheme at the moment, but if I felt there were drive behind the efforts to make modernisation get on apace and to attract new business, as well as to cut out unremunerative services, I would say, "This is a proposition". The House could then consider the complete obliteration of the interest charges on the old capital as far as the B.T.C. is concerned, which has ceased to have any market value because the business could not pay a dividend.

There is no doubt that the 1953 Act swung the Commission over from the Labour Party's policy of an integrated transport system and an absolute monopoly to the idea of a freely competitive system. The only weakness was that it was not free. Various anomalies were left by the 1953 Act, and they have bedevilled the activities of the Commission ever since and have affected the mind of the Commission. The Commission on many occasions still thinks of itself as providing a nationwide railway service and only cuts out unremunerative services with great reluctance. It is taking a great deal to change that attitude of mind of the Commission to a competitive one, in which the railways are ven- much up against fierce competition from other forms of transport.

If the policy of the Government is still that of pursuing this line, the Government must carry it out to its logical conclusion. I would call attention to the Transport Tribunal. Although the 1953 Act gave the British Transport Commission greater freedom with charges it still required, as before, that its charges schemes went to the Transport Tribunal. We have recently had the extraordinary case of the British Transport Commission Charges Scheme, 1958, being presented to the Tribunal in September last year and still not approved by the Tribunal. There was an interim decision, which meant precisely nothing, on 8th May this year. So far as I have been able to ascertain, nothing more has happened, except that there has been one more sitting of the Transport Tribunal.

The interim decision was released to the world on 11th May, and all the daily papers took up a very critical attitude on the following day. The Times and the Manchester Guardian had very critical leading articles on the whole set-up of the Transport Tribunal and its relationship to the British Transport Commission. The Manchester Guardian started off its leading article by saying: The Transport Tribunal's reluctance to allow the railways to run their passenger services as a business has made a serious financial situation much worse. We know that constant delay has taken place not only on this occasion but in previous cases, as the result of which the Transport Commission has been unable to get a rapid readjustment in charges.

If we were running an integrated monopoly there might be something to be said for continuing with a committee like the Transport Tribunal, but in a competitive system in which much more transport is already carried on the roads, both in freight and passengers, it is not logical any longer to say to the British Transport Commission, "You must act like a business firm; your deficit is absolutely monstrous", and then hamper it so—

Mr. Monslow


Mr. Holt

I cannot give way. The hon. Member can make the point in a speech later, should he catch Mr. Speaker's eye.

The time has come for the House to look at this position and for the Transport Tribunal to be wound up so as to allow the railways to make charges as they think fit. Some hon. Members fear they would use their freedom to make fantastic charges, but if private firms are concerned to keep the goodwill of their customers that is not the kind of thing they would do in the usual run of affairs. The British Transport Commission will wish to keep the goodwill of its customers, whether for carrying their freight or their persons. There is no reason for us to be concerned about what might happen in equity between one firm and another, or between people, if the British Transport Commission were allowed to fix its own charges. This would require amending legislation by the Government—

Mr. Nugent

I have been making myself more expert in the matter of the Transport Tribunal before I interrupted the hon. Gentleman. I would now remind him that the Transport Tribunal in fact approved the new charges scheme on 8th July. The hon. Member hardly did it credit when he said that it had not reached a decision.

Mr. Holt

I am grateful for that, but I tried to check this. I checked it in the Library and the document is not there. I did not recollect that I had seen it in the papers, but I am very glad to hear it. Presumably it means that the increase in rate per mile which the Commission wishes to charge for passenger services can now be put into force and the Commission can have greater scope to charge a higher rate on unremunerative services.

I do not think the Transport Commission has asked for anything like enough in this connection. Take a case where it is suggested that a branch line should be closed. There is a station, not in my constituency, but at Entwistle in the constituency of the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), who, I know, is very much concerned about it. There is a branch line to it which provides the only transport for that village. The nearest bus service is about two miles away. It might well be that people in that village would be willing to pay not just 50 per cent. more, but twice or three times the normal passenger charge if they could still use that station, but the Transport Commission has not the authority to make such high maximum charges in special cases of that kind. If a service is completely unremunerative the Commission is forced to close the service down. I cannot see that it has any other option, but, if it had powers to make much greater charges, or special charges, in these cases, it might well be that such stations could be kept open and not be unremunerative but serve the needs of special localities.

If the Transport Tribunal were to go, I think there is also a case for saying that the transport users' consultative committees should go. They are rather different from the Transport Tribunal in the sense that they have been most cooperative with the Commission. In the last annual Report for the year ending in 1958 that comes out clearly, and it also comes out in the two Reports we have before us today. The time for consideration of closing branch lines, and so on, has been greatly reduced.

The real trouble about the consultative committees is that attention is distracted from the proper activities of the staff, particularly on British Railways. If people have complaints to make they seem to make them to anyone but the consultative committees. They write to Members of Parliament. I have a long letter from the headmaster of Bolton Grammar School, who had a lot of trouble earlier this year over a party he was taking abroad and failed to get back to Bolton on time. He wrote not to the consultative committee but to the public relations officer of British Railways. It is the job of the public relations officer, the Stationmaster, the regional manager and so on to have most intimate contact with their customers, the users of the railways. It is to them that complaints should go.

One sometimes cannot help feeling when the holiday season comes and the railways are suddenly faced with great crowds of people that they look upon it as an awful nuisance instead of as a great opportunity to achieve increased revenue for the railways. They consider that it raises a lot of problems and is very tiresome. This attitude stems from having things like users' consultative committees. The idea is that any problems should be referred to the committee. If we want the railways to operate like a business enterprise their contact with their customers should be exactly the same as that of a private business enterprise with its customers.

If we were to do these two things and really give the railways the freedom we are always talking about—give them the opportunity to operate as a commercial enterprise—I have not the slightest doubt that they would greatly reduce their deficit. I do not think that by any means they would get it down to nothing without a capital reorganisation. How that ought to be dealt with I have indicated, but I think it important that the reorganisation and firm direction of the policy of the British Transport Commission must come first, before the capital reorganisation.

7.15 p.m.

Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)

I have, for me, a rather dreadful confession to make. I think that for the first time I am conscious that I am not trying to contribute anything to the main argument, nor to say anything of any importance, even seeming to me very important, with reference to earlier speeches.

I want to raise a point, in itself comparatively small, but one which I think ought to be raised; and about this point I make no kind of assertion, much less a criticism. By the accident of chronology, I have known about it only in the last few days. I do not therefore know enough to make assertions, but this is the last occasion to ask questions on the matter, especially as I think it will be a wholly accomplished fact—I was going to say before we meet again, if it is "we"—before some set of people meet again here at any rate.

This is the point I want to put. Several hon. Members have referred to the closing of passenger facilities, the closing of railway stations or whole branches. I am not concerned to argue that that has not been in each case for all I know to the contrary rightly done, and I am quite clear that in some cases, of course, it must be rightly done. What I am inviting the House to do is to turn its attention to the comparison between closure in the case of passenger facilities, stations and lines, and closure in the case of freight-carrying facilities and, most especially, the closure, or partial closure, of marshalling yards, locomotive yards and, in this particular case to which I refer, the partial closing of a tunnel.

The proposal is that a tunnel which badly needs repair should be repaired as a single-track tunnel instead of a double-track tunnel. I am not suggesting that there is any mistake being made there. I am not sure enough about that. Nor am I suggesting that any avoidable hardship is being inflicted. What I want first to know, and ask my right hon. Friend if he will be good enough to consult Sir Brian Robertson and others at that kind of level about, is whose duty is it in the case of the closing or partial closing of a tunnel, or marshalling yard where the marshalling yard is necessary and not being replaced by another—in either case—to be reassured that there is no strategic reason involved against the closure or partial closure?

With every respect to my right hon. Friend, it does not seem to me that the Minister of Transport is the person best qualified to deal with that. Indeed, if the Minister of Transport were Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, I should think that he would make a mistake in the exercise of that office in deciding the question which I am putting to the House. This is a question which has not been put in earlier debates or in earlier Reports and which ought now to be put.

There is a question connected with it to which, again, I do not know the answer. The men who came to see me about the Colwick-Netherfield marshalling yard and the Mapperley Tunnel were certainly qualified trade unionists. They were the qualified spokesmen of their unions and very experienced men. They were persuaded, it seems to me incredibly—I may have misunderstood them, but I do not think I did—that where a marshalling yard is closed down or, as in this case, partially closed down, it is impossible to move the labour as it is graded across a regional boundary. I hope that I am being clear.

The line is drawn in the middle of my constituency between the Midland Region and the Eastern Region of the railways. I find to my great surprise that that is the view held by these very experienced and responsible trade unionists, who live in a railway community—for Colwick-Netherfield is as much a railway community, almost, as is Crewe or Swindon. They were persuaded that one of the difficulties would be that 200 or so people might be redundant. I said to them that that might be true but that they had to understand that it did not mean that there were 200 people fewer in employment; perhaps there would be 200 more employed, for example, at Retford. The answer which I was given to that was that that might be so but that it would be difficult to move men, except at the lowest grades, from one region into another.

To me that was a new thought and a new difficulty which I had not heard of before. I should not have thought that it could be true, but I ask my right hon. Friend to make sure whether there is some agreement, explicit or implicit, between management and unions or otherwise which, in the case of the closing of tunnels or marshalling yards, makes it difficult to move men at the grades to which they are accustomed across a regional boundary. As far as I know, the point has not been specifically raised in the House before, and it ought to be carefully considered.

7.23 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

I feel that the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) probably misunderstood the people who made representations to him, because I imagine from my experience that no such difficulty would arise if there were redundancy. It may be that the men themselves felt that the difficulties arose from having to move their homes.

Sir K. Pickthorn

No. They understood this point as well.

Mr. Steele

I am still not clear that there should be any difficulty, because one of the things which happened when we nationalised the railways was that, on promotion, men could be moved from one country to another. It might not be generally known, but I am a station-master on leave of absence, and each fortnight I receive from the British Transport Commission a document indicating the vacancies which occur, for which sometimes I make application.

Mr. D. Jones

I would point out that in his maiden speech the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) said that he left the service of the Western Region because there was inter-regional promotion.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I did not say that. I said that inter-regional promotion was a bad thing at the higher grades.

Mr. Steele

I ought to continue my speech, because I have already suffered from so many interruptions from other hon. Members. The situation was reached in which I felt that perhaps I might not be called to speak at all.

I agree that the hon. Member for Carlton made an interesting point in the first matter which he raised. That is something which ought to be considered, but it raises a problem to which I will come later in my speech. It is a problem which faces the Transport Commission in the keeping open of lines which might be necessary for strategic reasons or the keeping open of branch lines to serve the public need. It is the problem of how to finance these matters. I believe that if a line has to remain open for strategic reasons, the Government ought to say so and to make a contribution to the Commission to enable it to be done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson), who is not in the Chamber, and the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. L. Thomas) apparently thought that the Transport Commission was far too big. I had hoped to interrupt the hon. Member for Canterbury to request him to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley whether he thought that the Post Office was too big. We all know the interest which my hon. Friend takes in the Post Oflice. I am sure that if the House said to him that the Post Office as an organisation was far too big and that something ought to be done about it, he would be the first to object.

I will deal with some of the other matters which arose as I proceed, but I begin by saying that I was delighted that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary paid such a high tribute both to the Commission and to those who work for British Railways. It was good to hear him say that it is essential to the national life that the railways be maintained, and that we need a modern railway service. I agree with those words. He indicated that he was painting a favourable picture about passenger services, where he had an optimistic outlook, and that he was not so happy about freight services. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who made a powerful contribution to the debate and whose first-class analysis of the situation answered the points made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.

I do not envy the job of the Minister of Transport in a Conservative Government. I can understand why he sometimes becomes irritable, argumentative and angry, because he has an impossible task to perform. I often wonder whether people understand that transport is not a productive industry. We have a certain volume of goods to be transported in the country, and they will be transported by road, rail or sea.

But the amount and volume of traffic are dependent purely on the national economy. If we achieve efficiency and modernisation of one section of transport, that does not necessarily mean that we will increase the volume of traffic. It only means that we might transfer the carrying of those goods or passengers from one method of transport to another. The Estimates Committee criticised the Minister recently on his road programme. My main criticism of the Minister is that in this matter neither he nor the Government appear to have any national policy for transport as a whole.

What will be the result of this Government's transport policy? First, in ten years' time we will have roads which will enable traffic to move on them, but those roads were necessary perhaps ten years ago. We are engaging in heavy capital expenditure on the railways, but the railways will have a decreasing volume of traffic. Therefore, we shall have overcrowded roads and under-used railways. It seems to me that the Minister is not a Minister of Traffic, but is, in fact, a Minister of Bedlam.

I live beside the main Glasgow-Carlisle road. The volume of goods traffic using that road has to be seen to be believed. They are not only long-distance road hauliers, but C-licence holders as well. What is the average man's attitude to what he sees on the roads? Without thinking a great deal about it he says, "This traffic should not be on the roads at all." Anyone who believes that a motorists goes on the roads today to derive any pleasure from motoring is living in a fool's paradise, because the roads today are terribly overcrowded, while the railways are not being used to capacity.

It may be that the Minister will say that C licences are being used economically, but the number of C licences has risen from 300,000 in 1946 to over 1 million in 1958 without any great work being done on our roads to enable them to travel.

There has been a great deal of criticism of the Transport Commission and of the closing of branch lines and country stations. The reappraisal indicates that this is to be speeded up. I agree with what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said. I was a Stationmaster at a country station. I had the job of trying to find traffic for the railways when they were privately owned. I know the problems with which we were faced. We must recognise the changing habits of the people and what those changing habits mean.

In an agricultural community today farmers' feeding stuffs come by road. Farmers' livestock travel by road. The old conception of a farmer taking his livestock along the road to the station is no longer possible, and, in any case, the farmer does not have the staff to do it. Further, when the farmer and his family go anywhere they travel by car. This is done not because of heavy charges made by the Transport Commission, but because it is convenient. Agriculture today is the most heavily subsidised industry in the country. The standard of life of a farming community today is maintained because of the agricultural subsidies. I do not disagree with it, but it is a fact that must be faced.

If a local shopkeeper has no customers coming to his shop, the shop very soon closes and that is the end of it. Customers and traffic are not coming to country stations. The first questions I asked those who come to me complaining are, "When did you last travel on the railway? When did you last use it? When did you last send any traffic by rail?" The answers I receive are surprising. Therefore, we must face the fact and admit it.

The problem caused by the increased number of C-licence holders is a real one. I agree with my hon. Friends that many C-licence holders transport their goods in that way for prestige purposes, not because it is economic, but because of the advertising value associated with it. Another disturbing feature is that it is not only private enterprise which is using C licences. It disturbs me to see other nationalised industries, such as the National Coal Board, gas boards and others, building for themselves great transport fleets which require staffing. Private industry is doing the same.

All this is resulting in heavy overcrowding on the roads. This trend, which is continuing and looks as if it will continue, must be seriously considered. It is not a question of what controls we will use. It is not a question of what one party says or another party says. The simple facts are that our roads are overcrowded and our railways are not fully used.

Industrialists must do a lot of hard thinking about this. If they are to increase the numbers of their C-licence vehicles and if they are to go out and use the roads as they are doing, they must pay more for this privilege. The heavy vehicles are the ones which do damage to the roads and slow up traffic. If C-licence holders continue to do this, they must pay more for the privilege, not only for using the roads in this way, but for the increasing number of accidents which are taking place and which are beginning to be looked on as normal to our road use.

We in Scotland are particularly vulnerable. We have large areas which have to be served by public transport. It is only natural that we believe that it can be done only with some kind of co-ordination of transport. Unless something is done, many of those areas will be left without any transport at all, because the populous areas are no longer as profitable as they used to be. Both the railways and the bus companies, whether private or public, are finding, again, that with the changing habits of the people—television and other things—the traffic offered is getting less and less, and that unless they increase their charges or cut out some of their uneconomic running they will be "in the red." The private car, too, is one of the big factors.

We have to face up to these things, and so have those people who ask for branch lines and country stations to be kept open. We have to ask ourselves: is the Transport Commission to be a public service, or has it, as the Act says, to pay its way taking one year with another? If it is to be a public service, then we, in Parliament, must take this decision and, in taking it, must realise that it means that we have to provide the money to enable it to be done.

I must add, as a railway employee, that I and my fellow workers disagree violently with the placing of this responsibility on the Commission, and the workers in the industry then being victimised to the extent that their wages and salaries have to be affected because the Commission is compelled to keep open uneconomic routes.

During the passage of the 1953 Act those of us on this side representing Scottish constituencies put down an Amendment asking the Government to keep Scotland out of that Measure altogether. We were defeated, but it should be borne in mind that our suggestion was supported by prominent businessmen in Scotland, and by the Scotsman, the national newspaper of Scotland. We pointed out the special problems arising in Scotland, and we were promised a Committee to examine questions of common interest to transport undertakings, etc.

Ultimately, on 7th September, 1956, this Committee was set up. As I say, its function was to examine transport in Scotland and to arrange for its coordination not only with the nationalised interests but with interests outside. The committee had as its chairman Mr. C. D. Shaw. May I ask the Minister how often this Committee has met? It is unnecessary for him to make a note of that question, because I can tell him the answer. The Committee has met only once. Nothing has happened. Having met, the Committee realised that it was set an impossible task and that there was nothing it could do. It was a Committee without power. I said at the time and I think that there is now evidence to prove it, that this was, in fact, only a piece of Tory window-dressing. It is an example of the generally irresponsible attitude adopted by the Government to transport.

It is generally agreed that the reorganisation of capital is necessary, but I want now to say a word about the staff who will be concerned in the reappraisal, modernisation and rationalisation of British Railways. I think that the Commission has appreciated, as did the Parliamentary Secretary, what all this means to the men concerned. It is a difficult problem, and, as I know, the unions have approached it with rather different views. Everyone appreciates that there are difficulties, but the difficulties in Scotland are rather greater than those south of the Border.

We have had debates in this House on industry and employment in Scotland. Our problems are greater. When work is available, employment in Scotland reaches a lower figure than that in England. When unemployment is with us, it is higher than it is south of the Border. It is not only a question of the Commission looking upon the problem sympathetically, and saying that though there may be redundancies there may not be any loss of jobs. There will be loss of opportunity for young people to become apprentices, and at this time, with the greatly increased numbers of school leavers, this is, indeed, a serious problem.

Rightly or wrongly, the men concerned are seriously perturbed about the present situation. Some of their fears may be unfounded, they may misunderstand the situation, but I should like to draw the Minister's attention to what is said about the Commission's workshops in page 44 of the reappraisal plan. It states: The Commission's policy for the future will be to continue to use their own workshops for the manufacture of equipment and components for which they are laid out as well as for the repair of all equipment. Unfortunately, there is an understandable proviso here: This is subject to the proviso that their costs are competitive. From among the men in Cowlairs and in St. Rollox—two shops that will be particularly affected—my hon. Friends have had a deputation. The men do not seem to be aware of the terms of the promise in this policy statement. I understand the terms, and appreciate them, but I hope that the Minister will have a word with the Commission about this, and ask it to make clear to the men in those two shops just what it means—and make it clear not only to the union representatives but to the men themselves just exactly what it means I am sure that the men will be co-operative, but it is important that those who are to be affected like this should understand the problem. If the Commission's attitude is that all the repair work on carriages, wagons and locomotives is to be done in the raiway workshops, I hope and trust that it will make a clear statement to that effect to the workmen concerned.

I conclude by saying that so far as the men themselves are concerned, I appreciate their problems and difficulties. The Transport Commission has said to them that no one will become redundant in the sense that he will have to leave the railway service, but that he may have to go to some other job which he has not been doing in the past. I say that they should treat that offer with respect, and should treat it seriously, because I and my hon. Friends on this side of the House know only too well that the industrial situation in Scotland at present is such that any offer of employment, whether it be along the lines of work to which they have been accustomed in the past or not, is not to be sneered at.

The situation arising particularly in the shipping and other industries means that the job itself is likely to be tremendously important in the next few years. I say this not in any party spirit, because I think it is too important, but even if we do have a Labour Government, or, with the best intentions in the world, a Conservative Government, the situation in Scotland is such that the remedy for the bad location of industry and the bringing of the improvements we all want will not be easy for any Government which has the job to do.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

As there are a large number of hon. Members who still wish to speak, I shall endeavour to be as brief as I possibly can. As is not unusual in debates on transport, we have ranged over a large number of subjects, many of them concerning small points. As has happened before in such debates, there is the danger that we might lose sight of the wood for the trees, an exception being the speech of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who kept the facts in front of him all the time.

I should like to recapitulate very shortly what seem to me to be the fundamental points in regard to the transport situation at the present time. To begin with, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West that transport is in any sense a cake of a fixed size, or that transport is dependent on the economic condition of the country at any given moment. That is, of course, a limiting factor, but only within a very wide range, because people travel or send their goods from one point to another for one or other of two reasons. It is either because of the cheapness or the convenience of the service offered, and if the service offered is so cheap or is convenient enough, the mere existence of the service creates its own demand and multiplies the amount of traffic which it is necessary to serve.

The main feature of the transport situation in this country at present is that British Railways are not paying their way, and the reason why they are not doing so is not merely that they were not modernised before the war, during the war or in the years immediately after the war, though modernisation is a contributing factor. That is not the main reason for the decline of British Railways. As the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) pointed out in his speech, the decline of railways is common throughout the world, despite the changing pattern of transport in many different countries. It is always very dangerous to compare conditions in one country with those in another, but there is a common factor in that railways in most countries—practically everywhere—are declining. In this country at least the decline is certainly not mainly due to the competition of public road hauliers or bus companies.

That is strikingly confirmed in two paragraphs in the reappraisal Report of the British Transport Commission. In paragraph 78, referring to goods traffic and competition from road haulage, it is stated: The main competition is not so much from public road hauliers, important as that is, as from the increased tendency of traders to carry their own goods. and in paragraph 82 referring to passenger traffic, after stating that competition had increased, the Report says: Passenger traffics … have been well maintained … notwithstanding greatly increased competition from three main directions; first from the sustained growth in the numbers of private cars, motor cycles and scooters and so on. As the railways are not paying their way, assuming that we, as the guardians of the public purse and of the nationalised industry, will have to find the money out of the pockets of the taxpayer, and assuming that we are not prepared for that condition to continue, there are only three policies which could possibly be followed.

Two of them involve modernisation, but mean something else as well, while the third does not. It is a very simple, but not a very practical one. It is the one that is proposed by the Railway Conversion League. It says quite simply that, as the roads now carry 56 per cent. of the goods carried and the railways only 44 per cent., and the percentage is increasing in favour of the roads, we should accelerate and encourage what is already a natural and inevitable tendency and pull up the railway lines and use railway land for building roads. That is a beautifully simple solution, but I do do not think that any practical person would agree with it.

To begin with, there would be very formidable engineering difficulties in the conversion of railways to roads, particularly in regard to the clearances of over-bridges and in the maintenance of the weight-carrying capacity of the railway embankments, most of which would have to be rebuilt. Apart altogether from that, the transfer on to the roads of the 1,100 million railway passengers who make journeys every year would make absolute chaos of my right hon. Friend's road programme and would make the rapid improvement of roads almost impossible.

Writing off that solution, there are two others. There is, first of all, the policy of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, which may be described as the integration of road and rail transport, of which the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West spoke. That involves some sort of super-planner, who will make full use of all existing facilities, but the use of the existing facilities would not be enough, because the integration of all the existing facilities would still produce a concern that does not pay.

If we look at the consolidated working results shown in the accounts of the British Transport Commission, we see that the gross receipts of British Road Services are about £50 million net, and, after deducting working expenses, about £2 million net. Even if those receipts were very much increased, even if they were doubled or trebled, the receipts from British Road Services would still not be anywhere near enough to make any impact on the losses on the railway services.

Moreover, if we refer again to the paragraphs of the reappraisal plan which I have quoted, it will be seen that the Commission itself says that its main competitors are not the public road services, the hauliers, or the bus companies. In other words, the mere integration of public services would not be enough. There would still be very great difficulties. Unless hon. Members opposite are prepared to go much further than saying that they will increase the charge for the C licences, which was the policy suggested by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), and are prepared to set up what would virtually be a police State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—and select a few people to carry their own goods in their own lorries or themselves in their own cars, integration will not work, and it is no use trying to pretend that it would. That is the second possible policy.

The third policy is that which has been advocated by my right hon. Friend, and that is to help transport to find its own level. Like water, it does so if not obstructed. If we cut down the excessive amount of rail services to a more reasonable size and build more roads so that the public can, if they so wish, use public vehicles or their own vehicles on these roads, we can encourage fair competition between the various forms of transport. To run such a policy means the use of a good deal of public money in order to modernise the railways so that they can play their part, but there is no reason why that policy should not succeed. We have an example in a neighbouring country, Holland, where that has happened. Mr. Den Hollander has made a good job of modernising the Dutch railways and by concentrating on the most convenient services and paying traffics he has produced a railway which is paying its way. The British Transport Commission has had the advantage of his advice and I have no doubt that the Commission has taken many of his ideas. Certainly one can see very great progress being made in the British modernisation plan.

There are still many services, both goods and passenger, which the public would, no doubt, find more convenient if the services were rationalised properly. But this involves fair competition with the hauliers, of course, and I think there is some case for the question of fuel taxation as between the road and the railway services to be reconsidered, because it is rather odd that one of these comparable services is paying tax and the other is not. The most reasonable arrangement would be to equalise the tax, but that, no doubt, is a matter for another debate.

In addition, one would have to make sure that the competitive rates which now can be charged by the railways as against the road hauliers are genuine rates and not merely rates which take advantage of subsidies from the taxpayer. Given those two points, I can see no reason why there should not be free and fair competition between road and rail, and why both sides of the industry should not make a reasonable profit.

This does not at all affect the main proposition that in the national interest it is a good thing to continue the modernisation of the railways. In view of the striking results which have already been achieved, we may hope that in the not too distant future the predictions of the Commission will be justified and that the account will be squared, as has been done in Holland. I certainly see no reason to grudge public funds for the further improvement of the railways.

I am very glad to welcome the Accounts of the British Transport Commission and the reappraisal of its modernisation scheme.

8.4 p.m.

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)

It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) because he speaks with great experience on railway matters, having spent his life in the somewhat rarified higher level of the railways. I will comment on some of his observations as I proceed.

I want to deal with the reappraisal plan and not with the accounts. I welcome, as no doubt we all do, the speeding up of electrification and modernisation of the railways, but this whole problem raises four rather important general issues. The first is railway finance. The second is the nature of the railway undertaking and whether it is to be regarded as a normal commercial business undertaking or a service provided in the public interest. The third, which affects my constituency considerably since I represent the railway town of Crewe, is the position of the railway workers. The fourth matter is the question of road haulage.

I believe, with another hon. Member who has spoken, that it is high time we took a realistic view of the finances of the railways. Their position is quite different from ordinary private enterprise companies, and that fact is referred to in paragraph 117 of the reappraisal Report. The Commission says: … Central Charges are both fixed and inflexible, consisting as they do mainly of interest on borrowings. In good years and in bad years this interest must be paid in full; there is no equity capital. Fluctuations are inescapable in a business with a high proportion of fixed costs, especially when adjustments of charges take as long as they do. The Commission"— and this is to be noted— as a newly constituted undertaking, started without any reserves available to take the shock of fluctuations in their financial fortunes and they have not since been allowed to build up any such reserves. That view is supported by the Manchester Guardian in a recent article on 24th July which said: … the Commission is … right to claim that its existing financial burdens should be reconsidered. It is now inconceivable"— and I agree with this— that the past deficits will ever be repaid; and the existence of this huge liability can only undermine morale. The sensible answer is to wipe the slate clean. That would give the Transport Commission a chance.

I now turn to the second matter which naturally worries the Commission in connection with the whole of its transactions, and that is the question which it raised as to whether this is to be a service or a normal commercial undertaking. In paragraph 62 of the reappraisal Report the Commission says: A matter of first importance is the rôle which the Commission's various transport services by rail and by road will be expected to play as part of the transport industry of the country. On the one hand the services are asked to compete, and they must accordingly be permitted, both by Government and by general and business public opinion, to act like a normal commercial undertaking . . But they are not. As has been pointed out earlier today, time after time Her Majesty's present Government have interfered and have prevented the Commission from taking the steps which any ordinary businessman conducting his own business would have been allowed to take.

I remember the famous occasion of the London County Council elections when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) refused to allow fares to be raised when the Commission had made out a complete case for raising the fares. He was playing party politics with the Commission. [Interruption.] If hon. Members were not here, I cannot go through all the cases, but my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) mentioned a number of them in his speech.

The Report goes on to say: On the other hand, the Commission's services are often expected to be guided primarily by the public interest. Many of these services represent facilities which are essential to the life of a modern society, and without them the extremes of peak demand and of demand which is thinly spread could not be provided for. These two approaches, the commercial and the often unprofitable public service, frequently conflict, and though the economic benefits to the community of the latter are often substantial, these benefits"— I ask hon. Members to note these words— are not reflected in the revenue account of the Commission". As a result, the railway workers, when they apply for wage increases, have their claims levelled against the money in the till, but the money is not in the till, not because they have not done a good job but because, in the public interest and as a public service, they have provided facilities that do not pay, cannot pay and never will pay. That is a point that must be considered.

The Times, in an article last December on this very subject, said: If the Government want to see the deficits under control, they must allow the B.T.C. to be in control—to carry full responsibility and, within the framework of existing legislation, to choose its policies freely. Either we must allow the British Transport Commission to operate as a great public service, which I should like to see and which I am sure my hon. Friends would like to see, or we must let it be a business commercial undertaking, in which case the Government should take their hands off it and allow it to make profit and to conduct its enterprise as private enterprise.

When I was a young boy I was taken from Birkenhead to London and back again on a visit. The fare then, in 1913, was 33s. return. Today, the fare is 65s. No private enterprise concern could come anywhere near that. In 1913 a box of Swan Vesta matches was ½d. Today, a box is 4d., eight times as much. The Government must allow the British Transport Commission to operate as private enterprise operates or it must be run as a public service. With this tugging of Sir Brian Robertson, one arm being pulled one way for public service and the other arm being pulled the other way for profits, I wonder the man has not split in the middle. His cri de coeur comes in the reappraisal Report. The Government should not leave him on a plank. It is time that they threw him a lifebuoy. The Government should decide whether the Commission is to make profits on a business basis or is to operate as a public service. If the latter, the Government should give the Commission the necessary financial help it needs to carry out its work as a service.

I now turn to something that is most important to me, and that is the position of railway workers. In this reappraisal Report, there is one word that I do not like very much. It is "rationalisation". I am old enough to remember rationalisation between the two wars. I was about to say that it was a brutal thing. Companies were amalgamated and rationalised and black-coated workers and manual workers lost their jobs, but the profits of the combined companies went up. That went on throughout the country. Rationalisation, as it was called, produced a great deal of unemployment from which we suffered.

Rationalisation has other unfortunate features. The fears of the workers in the railway industry are now widespread, particularly in the railway workshops. I do not know whether it is fully realised what sacrifices railway workers have already made. We learn from the Report that in December, 1957, there were 573,000 workers in the industry. A year later there were 550,000. As a result of the policy of rationalisation, 23,000 railway workers have lost their employment. There was a banner headline in the Sunday Times the other day stating that the unions were worried. That does not surprise me. Every railway trade union leader is worried. He spends his days and nights trying to find a solution to the redundancy being created.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us where it will all end. I have not the figures, but the article in the Sunday Times states that 14,000 men in railway workshops in the last three years have been declared redundant and a further 11,000 scheduled to leave railway workshops. When one reads the Report, figures of that nature are not surprising. The Report states that 1,000 stations are being closed, 1,800 miles of track are not to be used and there will be a reduction in stock. The number of railway wagons alone is to be reduced from 1¼ million to 750,000. Many of the 1¼ million are wooden trucks, but, as I understand it, the 750,000 are to be modern steel wagons. There will not be one-tenth of the repair work on that fleet that there was on the £1¼ million.

I think I am right in saying that the steam engine covered 94,000 miles a year. The diesel engines will cover 204,000 miles a year. It needs very little imagination to realise that that means redundancy on the railways. It means loss of jobs for the men. The number of marshalling yards is to be reduced from 158 to 47. It is true that they will be better and probably bigger marshalling yards, but they will not all be situated in the areas where they are now. Redundancy and unemployment will result from disbanded marshalling yards.

As I have said, a number of repair shops are to close down entirely. We have been given the list, and it is considerable. We in Crewe are fortunate. We are not to close down. Crewe has probably one of the greatest railway works in the world, certainly in this country. It is a very great national asset. At the moment, we are doing comparatively well, compared with the situation in some of my hon. Friend's constituencies. But the men walk round with a fear in their hearts. They know what is happening. From day to day they read about the closure of shops. It is not only the men who are redundant who are afraid. They have had it, but the men, now working, unless the Government can give them confidence, fear that they will be next on the list.

I have quoted the Sunday Times too often. It is not a newspaper which I rely on entirely, but this week it used these words: Service and maintenance can eventually be cut by as much as four-fifths. If the repair work in railway workshops can be cut down by four-fifths, great hardship, redundancy and grave threats to employment will result.

We who represent railway workers and railway towns demand of the Government that the maximum use be made of railway workshops owned by the State. There are two reason for this. First, the railway workshops are State property. Secondly, the workers are there; they have been giving loyal service to this great railway industry. The property has been paid for by the State and it should not be closed down while work is passed out to private enterprise. We are wasting a very valuable national asset. What the Government are doing is tantamount to the sabotaging of a nationalised industry. These are not my words. The men employed in the railway workshops throughout the country are saying that as they see work being passed out to private enterprise. The present policy throws out of employment tens of thousands of railway workers who have served the industry and the nation well.

The railway workers claim that they can make as good diesel engines as private enterprise can make. I am given to understand by a very high authority that the diesel-hydraulic locomotives built in railway workshops are giving much more reliable service than the very same models built by private enterprise. No doubt the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has some information about this. If I am wrong, I will withdraw the statement, but I make it on information given to me from a very high authority. I understand that the railway workshops have beaten private enterprise on reliability.

Mr. Nugent

I am not able to confirm or deny what the hon. and learned Gentleman says. I shall inquire and confirm or refute it as soon as I have the information.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

I think the answer will be that I am right. I do not wish to give the source of my authority, but, if the hon. Gentleman inquires, he will receive the same answer.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

And there is the cost of production too.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

As my hon. Friend says, the railway workshops are superior in their costs of production.

Mr. Nugent

Is the hon. Gentleman referring to Swindon?

Mr. Scholefield Allen

Yes, it is Swindon, but I will not give the exact details of the comparison. I gather that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows more about this than he is willing to admit. The railway workers at the Swindon works are making more reliable diesel-hydraulic locomotives than the private enterprise company to which the Government are putting out the work.

Railway losses and unemployment, in my submission, have in no small measure flowed from the policies of Her Majesty's Government. We have accused the Government from these benches time and time again during the last twelve months of perpetuating a policy of stagnation. This is something for which we have authority and support in the White Paper now before us. On page 30, paragraph 15 says: There has been a relative standstill in the general level of industrial production since 1955, but a rise in the total transport facilities available in this country. This is not a political pamphlet, but that sentence expresses what some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have been endeavouring to convince the Government of for some time. We have been trying to tell the country that since 1955, contrary to the annual rise in production which the Labour Party produced when in office, this Government have allowed production to stagnate. That is exactly what is said in this non-political White Paper, signed at the end by Sir Brian Robertson.

Twelve months ago last October, after those four years of stagnation, there was the credit squeeze. The credit squeeze was responsible for more of the redundancy in Crewe. This is referred to on page 6 of the White Paper. One finds great support in this document for what we have been trying to say, although we have been accused of talking party politics when we have said it. In paragraph 14, the Commission, speaking of the state of its accounts, says: The Commission attributed the worsening of their financial position to the sudden decline in their traffic receipts, particularly the bulk traffics, which was occasioned by the fall in the level of activity in the industries vital to the railways. Who caused the fall? The Government cannot have it both ways. They engineered the fall themselves, deliberately, by a 7 per cent. Bank Rate. They wanted it, and so they imposed the credit squeeze. Not only did they impose the credit squeeze, but they withdrew money from the British Transport Commission which it otherwise would have spent. In fact, they set back the modernisation plan twelve months ago.

The other accusation I make has been made before. The Government have disintegrated the plans of the previous Government and of the Commission itself by handing back large portions of the road transport industry to private enterprise—a policy of jobs for the boys and rewards for contributions to Tory funds. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) referred to this, and the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) spoke about private enterprise road haulage attracting the traffic. I tell the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that it is said by almost every man in Crewe that the position today means "muck for the railways". The railways can carry the muck, and the private enterprise hauliers can carry the traffic which is clean and well-packed and which yields high profits.

Mr. G. Wilson

I think the hon. Gentleman misunderstood my argument. I did not speak of road haulage particularly. I said that any transport service which is either very cheap or very convenient will create its own traffic. That happens very frequently in the railway passenger service where, for instance, if the service is cheap for people to go to the seaside, large numbers of passengers who would not otherwise travel will use it.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

I stand by this, and I know that every railway worker takes this as the issue before us. Every one of the workers at Crewe has told me the same. It is muck for the railways, the coal, the dirty and unpleasant or heavy cargoes which no one else wants, while the profitable ones go by road to be carried by private enterprise. In a short time the party now occupying these benches will be able to repeal that part of the legislation and hand back to the British Transport Commission those other services. We shall have a coordinated road and rail service.

We are glad to see that the Commission has a word for the staff. But the staff are watching very carefully what is happening about redundancy in the railway workshops, on the stations and in the marshalling yards. They have noted the compensation available for cotton capitalists. We are not far from Lancashire in Crewe. In my party it happens to be part of the same committee; we call it the Lancashire and Cheshire Committee, and I have to listen to these arguments. People there do not listen much to me because Crewe has too many problems itself. They know in Crewe that the cotton industry, parts of which are to be closed down, has been given £30 million. They will want to know, if they are thrown out of work, why there should be this compensation for cotton capitalists and not for railway workers and why there should be compensation for directors for loss of office, free of tax. They are asking these questions, and soon we shall be demanding compensation and consideration on a like basis for all displaced and redundant railway workers.

8.31 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) will forgive me if I do not follow him on the problems of redundancy—a very human problem of which he has great knowledge and of which I have had no experience at all. The only plea on the human side that I should like to put forward is that the Government should ask the Transport Commission to do something for the railway superannuitants, mostly of pre-war years, who are not getting anything like the pension which people in other walks of life are getting and some of whom are having a very hard time indeed. I know that that problem has been discussed, and I would ask that it be considered once again, because this comparatively small body of people have been very badly treated in the light of modern conditions.

I pass to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson), who touched on a number of topics, and with much of which he said I agree. He praised, for example, the railway restaurant car service. As I sometimes criticise the British Railways—as I shall do in a moment—I should like to join with him in that praise. It is an excellent service and far cheaper than that in many foreign countries. He also praised the fact that trains are cleaner than they used to be, and, again, I agree with him. I should like, however, to join with him in the strictures that he made about punctuality.

It is all-important, whether our railways are run as a nationalised industry or by private enterprise, that they should maintain a very high standard of punctuality. That goes for the airways Corporations as well. They are not, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley said—and I have some experience of the East Coast, because I have a home in the North of England—maintaining the standard of punctuality that they ought to. One night, I came back from Newcastle on the Talisman. It was 40 minutes late owing to the train in front running a hot axle box. I do not know why trains run hot axle boxes unless there is some fault in the greasing or maintenance but I would suggest that that is something that ought not to happen as a regular feature of British Railways.

On another occasion, I was on the Flying Scotsman, which broke down for two or three different reasons, the last of which was engine failure. The passengers had the annoyance of being parked in the middle line at York for a quarter of an hour while a relief train from behind came into the adjoining platform and went out again without any opportunity being given, to anyone who might have wanted to, to change into the train which had started last and was intended to get to its destination first. I think that punctuality is a very important point to which more attention ought to be paid than seems to be done at the moment.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present

Mr. Russell

As I was saying when the interruption occurred, the question of punctuality is important.

The hon. Member for Keighley, who raised the point, referred to the railways of France. Having had experience, as a member of the delegation to the Council of Europe, of travelling on French railways in the last year or two, I cannot remember an instance when any one of the express trains on which I have travelled has been a moment late. If French railways, which started more or less from scratch after the war, can manage to do this, I do not see why British Railways should not do the same.

The hon. Member for Keighley discussed, also, whether modernisation would be by electrification or the use of diesels. I have some sympathy with him. I do not know whether there is any confusion in the intentions of the Transport Commission. We seem to be adopting both policies, one on the East Coast main line and another on the L.M.S. from Euston. I only hope that we do not repeat the experience which appears to have been followed on certain foreign railways, of first electrifying and then running diesel expresses underneath the overhead wires. That seems to me to be a stupid policy.

An example is one of the Transeuropsan Expresses, which runs from Amsterdam to Zurich. It is operated by a diesel locomotive, yet most of the system over which it runs is already electrified. It seems to be a complete waste to put up overhead wires and then to run a diesel express beneath them. I trust that this will not happen in anything that the Transport Commission is doing.

Reference has been made to speeds. I wonder why our trains today are not as fast as the fastest before the war. I am comparing, for example, the speed of the Talisman on the East Coast line and the Coronation and Silver Jubilee before the war, which were faster. Corresponding trains on some of the French railways have higher speeds. Perhaps the reason is that the track is not yet up to the requisite standard throughout, or there is too much congestion. I wonder whether we can be told some time why we are not back to pre-war standards in that respect and why we are not up to the standard of the French railways.

I should like to pass to a point concerning an attempt which is being made to obtain an increase in traffic and to profit from the congestion on the roads. I refer to the car sleeper service which was introduced last summer on one or two routes. I wonder whether it will be extended. It would attract a good deal of traffic and would certainly take something off the roads. From the London end, however, the only service of this nature is from King's Cross to Perth. I believe that there is also one from Glasgow to Bournemouth, or to Dover for people who want to go to the Continent.

It would be worth trying out similar services on other routes. For instance, why only from London to Perth? Why not to the North of England—from London to Newcastle, for example—or from Paddington to Cornwall, to take the holiday traffic and to enable people to avoid the congested roads to the West of England? This is something which might be considered and I hope that it will be tried.

Paragraph 129 of the Report of the Transport Commission deals with the provision of car parks in the London area, but no doubt the problem affects other cities. The Report gives an account of what is being done to provide car parks, not only at London Transport stations, but at stations on British Railways. The plan was proposed by my right hon. Friend to try to prevent people bringing their cars into the centre of London by allowing them to park their cars in convenient places and come on by London Transport.

Surely more use could be made of the vast amount of space occupied by railway yards and railway property of different kinds. Buildings might be erected over these places and used for car parks, possibly in conjunction with offices. I gather that it is not economic to build a car park over a railway and use it simply as a car park, but surely it is economic to do what has been done at the West London Air Terminal, where the building will be of some use both as an office and a car park.

Where technical conditions allow, is it possible to erect a building over a railway and combine the need for increased office accommodation with the need for space for car parking? I am thinking, for example, of West Hampstead, where there are several different railway lines and also sidings and other railway property. This area could provide an excellent place for people to park their cars and come on by train from Finchley Road or West Hampstead stations. A great deal of ground around Kentish Town is occupied by the railways. Would it not be possible to build over this area and provide car parks, and possibly an office block, and meet an important demand in that way?

Will the introduction of the new diesel unit service provide a better service on one or two of the lines for which it is scheduled than the existing service? I have some experience of the St. Pancras line, because I live at Radlett, in Hertfordshire. The people there are very worried, because they have been threatened that when the diesel service is brought into operation there will be shorter trains. This means fewer passengers in each train and the existing trains are already crowded. I have not been able to get a satisfactory answer from the Transport Commission whether the new service will cope with the same number of passengers. It may be that the Commission will be able to run a larger number of trains than can be done with the existing steam service. I hope that that is the case.

That brings me to ask whether the same improvement will be made to the track on that route as is being made on the King's Cross line. The Report states that the tunnel at Hadley Wood is being duplicated, so that there will be a four-track line a good distance out of King's Cross where there is now this bottleneck. There is a similar bottleneck between Kentish Town and Finchley Road on the line from St. Pancras where everything has to pass over one pair of rails through a tunnel. There is a parallel tunnel used for goods traffic only, because I gather that damage to the tunnel prevents it being used for passenger traffic. Is there not a chance of the tunnel being repaired and brought into use as a passenger line so that the bottleneck between Finchley Road and Kentish Town is removed and two additional lines made available for passenger traffic? If this is done it will greatly improve the services from St. Pancras, particularly local services.

There are many other points that I should like to make, but I know that other hon. Members want to speak. I would merely say that I hope that the modernisation programme, as reappraised in the White Paper, will be a great success. I am sure that we all wish the Commission and the railways all possible good will in the task which lies before them.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

In the debate upon the Transport (Borrowing Powers) Bill last January I said: the best thing that the Minister can do is to introduce a Measure which will entirely reorganise the Commission's financial arrangements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January. 1959; Vol. 598, c. 350.] It is very interesting to see that at long last some hon. Members opposite have been converted to this idea. The proposal is long overdue, because the task facing the Commission is impossible. Every realist knows that that is so. In the light of the present situation, for the Minister or the Commission to talk of breaking even with the modernisation programme in a short time is just wishful thinking, and a refusal to face realities. The nation must face the fact that a railway system is essential for its well-being. The National Coal Board and such organisations as the Federation of British Industries, various chambers of commerce and representative private industries pay service to this idea. That being so, we must face the fact that in order to have an efficient service the Government must give the Commission the wherewithal to allow it elbow-room. It can then provide a system of which the nation can be proud.

Let us look at the very serious financial position of the Commission. The Government must accept their responsibility for bringing it about. When we nationalised transport we laid down certain conditions and commenced to build an integrated transport system. Within a very short period the Act came into operation. That was in 1948. By 1951 we were showing an overall surplus after paying interest and central charges, and that trend continued. In 1952 there was a surplus of £8 million, and in 1953 a surplus of £4½ million. Then the dead hand of the Government came into operation. What have we found since? There has been a breaking up of the integrated transport system; the Government have refused to allow the Commission to increase its charges as agreed by the Transport Charges Tribunal, and from 1953 onwards there has been a deficit which has increased year by year.

Today, instead of a surplus the Commission is faced with an overall deficit of £300 million on revenue account. That is one reason why, in 1958, the Commission had to find no less than £78,391,000 in interest charges alone. How is it possible for an undertaking to make headway with such a tremendous burden?

It is interesting to note from the last page of its Report that it has been necessary for the Commission to borrow £50 million with annual instalments of principal of £2 million and interest charges at 6 per cent. per annum on the amount of the advance outstanding during the preceding year. What a fantastic position—£50 million borrowed for 25 years at 6 per cent. This follows a whole series of previous borrowings under the provisions of the Transport (Borrowing Powers) legislation when the interest charges varied from 5 per cent. to 5¾ per cent. That is the burden shouldered by the Commission, and it is one which the Minister should take over in the course of reorganising the financial position of the Commission.

in its reappraisal the Commission suggests that it might be able to break even, and perhaps even to make a surplus of £50 million to £100 million, when the modernisation scheme begins to operate in 1963. But the Commission and the Minister know that this is just a fantasy. The Commission, naturally, has safeguarded itself by saying that this depends upon an increase of 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. in traffics. A large amount of the freight carried by railways is provided by the iron and steel and the coal industries, and everyone knows that production is stagnant in those industries.

The necessary increase in coal production, or iron and steel production, between now and 1963 to give a surplus for the Commission of between £50 million and £100 million is very unlikely to materialise. We are all aware of the tremendous stocks of coal at the pithead and in the hands of distributors. We know that there has been a reduction in iron and steel production and the Minister and the Commission must be aware that there is little prospect of a 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. increase in that type of traffic.

Coal represents 61 per cent. of freight earnings or 36 per cent. of the freight and coaching stock earnings. Iron and steel production is running at from 70 per cent. to 75 per cent., so that it is wishful thinking to say that there will be a sufficient increase during the next three years to enable the Commission to make a surplus such as has been referred to. Iron and steel accounts for two-thirds of the traffics or 24 per cent. of the freight tonnage or 15 per cent. of freight traffic receipts.

From these figures alone one realises that it will be impossible for the Commission to break even. At the present time it faces on overall deficit of £300 million. That deficit has grown during the period of office of the present Government. When the last Labour Government left office the overall deficit was about £27 million. Now it is £300 million. Due to the high interest charges imposed since nationalisation the Commission has found itself saddled with a debt which by the end of 1958 amounted in cumulative interest charges to no less than £567 million. Today it has an actual deficit of £300 million.

Is not this "Alice in Wonderland" finance, to say the least of it? It is the present Minister who is the dead hand, responsible for placing the Commission in this absurd position. What hope can the railwaymen have in the committee of inquiry that has been working for the whole of this year and will probably go into next year before it issues its report, in face of this startling financial position and of the interest and other charges with which the Commission is faced?

We welcome modernisation and think it is right, but the attitude of the Minister has brought about bewilderment. It has resulted in redundancy for about 27,000 people in the last two years, while the present workshop policy will mean redundancy for 11,000, at the minimum, and probably for a number far greater than that. This is in spite of increased efficiency. Had I time, I could point to large increases in efficiency brought about in railway operations by the Commission, but the men engaged in the industry only get three different types of redundancy agreement. Instead of getting compensation on the scale paid to captains of industry, railwaymen who are in the evening of their careers merely have the benefit of three miserable redundancy agreements. Even so, the Commission is more generous than the private enterprise railways were in pre-war days; but the agreements are pretty miserable.

I am intrigued about the Ministry's workshop policy. I questioned the Minister whether the Commission would have a free hand in deciding whether to equip the railway shops for making coaches and wagons. Can they do so? It has been an interesting point of debate. It has been held that where railway shops are laid out suitably they will continue to be used for the manufacture of components. I would ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary whether that means that the railway locomotive shops will be able to produce the motive power component parts for diesel and electric locomotives. I gather that he agrees that they can.

Mr. Nugent

I do not want to take up more time than is necessary. The hon. Gentleman had better look at my answer in HANSARD tomorrow.

Mr. Popplewell

I stand corrected. If the Commission has that power, I hope it will use it. Why should railway-men who have been engaged all their lives in building steam locomotives be turfed out? We know there is a reduction in the wagon fleet in the transfer from wood to steel, but in spite of this, cannot the railway wagon shops build London coach stock and wagons? These have always been handed out to private enterprise, but here is an opportunity to let the shop workers do the work that they are used to. If there is surplus shop floor space in railway workshops why cannot the Railway Executive utilise it for producing its own civil engineering outdoor machinery, motor, signal and telegraph equipment? That is a reasonable proposition which I hope will be followed.

The Commission has done a very good job with the resources available. The Government have placed steel bands round it by their financial arrangements, high interest charges and refusal to allow it to expand. After the General Election I hope that we shall sit on the benches opposite and be able to give the Commission that freedom of movement necessary to allow it to build up the efficient system it so desires and which is so essential for our national well-being.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

I wish to express my gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) for leaving me a few minutes before he speaks in the debate. I shall try to deal with one or two of the points I had in mind, but I have not time to develop the main case I had hoped to put.

As a trade unionist, I think that we should take notice of what the Commission says in paragraph 12, on page 5, volume 1, of the Report issued last December. That paragraph says: In a year of changes and financial stringency, bringing many potential causes of strain between management and staff, it could be said that on the whole there has never been a better spirit of co-operation and mutual desire to face up to the realities of the situation. Later in the paragraph the Report says: The staff of no private undertaking work under the same glare of public criticism as those employed on the railways and road transport and in the catering and other branches of the Commission. Their steadiness and their continued efforts to maintain the generally high standards of public transport service which this country enjoys are in the Commission's view meritorious. If public transport is to provide still higher standards of convenience and efficiency for its users the morale and keenness of the staff must be correspondingly high. Good internal relations must march with the modernisation of the equipment they use. That was one of the Commission's principal aims in 1958. Because I have no further time to deal with this part of the Report, I merely say this about the financial structure of the Commission to which hon. Members who have spoken from either side of the House have referred, and I hope that hon. Members will listen carefully. I am one of the last railwaymen to leave the industry and to enter this House. We look at the figures of wage and salary rates received by men carrying responsibility and we know the difficulties when an application is made for an increase. We are all aware of the reply of the Transport Commission. In effect, it is, "There is nothing in the kitty." I shall give a few figures in relation to a number of men who are carrying responsibility and doing arduous and difficult work.

I start at the top, because I have no prejudice against those who hold higher posts than I ever held in the industry. Stationmasters, yardmasters, goods agents, and so on, receive £12 15s. a week. Inspectors, foremen and supervisors receive £11 12s. a week. This is one of the reasons why men in the lower grades of the industry will not take promotion. They have good reason to refuse. Because of the financial structure, men with the ability to take up responsible positions are refusing to accept them.

Let us consider the wages of the men who are doing the dirty work—the men who are on the engines and in the signal boxes. A driver's wage is £11 2s. a week; a motor man, who drives the electric trains, receives £11 2s. a week; a fireman, who handles tons of coal to keep up the steam pressure, receives £9 7s. a week; a guard in charge of a train, perhaps with hundreds of lives in his hands, receives £8 19s. a week; a shunter receives £8 13s. a week.

I must conclude, but I am very much obliged for the few moments which my right hon. Friend has permitted me to take. I regret that I have not time to tell the House and the country what the railwaymen are suffering under the present financial structure.

9.6 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), had to curtail his remarks, as he was making a most interesting speech. I am sorry that he did not have time to develop it. But I have to intervene to put various points and questions to the Minister.

This may well be the last major debate in the present Parliament, and although it has not aroused the interest or the passions which we had in last night's debate, we all agree that the subject we are discussing is of very great importance and that the future and the welfare of industry and our country depends largely on the policies adopted by the Government of the day towards our transport system.

There has been general agreement in the debate on at any rate two matters. One is that no branch line which runs through anybody's constituency should be closed down, however uneconomic it may be; and the second is an appreciation of the extraordinary progress made by the British Transport Commission in executing its modernisation plan. Nobody who reads the Report can have any doubt that the Commission possesses immense vigour and determination and that this is also possessed by its administrative and technical staff. The Commission's achievements so far have been most striking and deserving of the highest praise. There is also a general desire on the part of all hon. Members that the Commission should be allowed to continue without any question or doubt to carry out its plans as quickly as possible.

The speech made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary earlier was almost his first entry into the political arena, for previously his speeches on transport have been on more technical matters. While listening to it I could not help asking myself what his attitude and that of his right hon. Friend would be to the railways today, and what they would do about them, if they were not already in public possession. They would have to be modernised and re-equipped on a vast scale. Had they not been publicly owned, what would the right hon. Gentleman have done about them? Would he have nationalised them? I do not think he would have had any alternative. The only possible alternative would have been to provide Government money to privately-owned companies on so huge a scale that I do not believe even a Conservative Government would have dared to do. So I think that not only the nation but also the present Minister and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary should be grateful to the Labour Government in 1947 for introducing their Bill nationalising the railways.

In this connection we remember what happened when the railways were under private ownership in the 1930s. Many of them were unable to modernise themselves and adopt proper equipment, because they could not raise the money. We remember also that at the same time the Government refused to take any appropriate measures to overcome that difficulty. Today the nationalised industry and the State are to some extern carrying the burden inherited from the time when the railways were privately owned and we had a Conservative Government who refused to take the necessary steps to put things right.

The railways are now owned by the State and there is a direct responsibility on the Government for their general welfare. The Minister will no doubt repeat in very vigorous terms the case made by the Parliamentary Secretary, who said that the Government accept that responsibility and deserve high praise all round for backing the modernisation and re-equipment scheme of the British Transport Commission. The hon. Gentleman went further, but I think that he must have had his tongue in his cheek when he argued that when the Labour Party was in power between 1945 and 1951, it did nothing to re-equip the railways and therefore we should now praise the Government for what they have done.

Yet we are seriously criticised for not having spent vast sums of money during that period for doing this job. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it was impossible to do so at the time. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not in the House at the time, but he should have been told that time and time again during that period when the Labour Party was in power Conservative Members on the Front Bench as well as on the back benches attacked the Labour Government for indulging in too much capital expenditure. They said that we were doing far too much in that direction and that we would bankrupt the country. That was their constant criticism of the Labour Government. It is obvious that at that time any drastic action in this direction was impossible. Our industry had to be wholly re-equipped for peaceful purposes. The 1939–45 war had just ended and we were in a period of rearmament for the Korean War, which was supported on all sides of the House.

If the Parliamentary Secretary boasts today and tries to take great credit for backing the modernisation scheme, one must ask him whether he has any choice. Can he do anything else? If someone has a house which is beginning to crumble through lack of repair over many years, there is no great merit in spending money to make it habitable and put it in order, especially if there is no alternative house to live in. There is no alternative to our railway system. It is a vital national service on which the welfare of the State depends. The taking of steps to render it capable of fulfilling the national needs was inescapable and does not merit the gushing admiration that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary appear to expect. The fact is that they had no option.

Before coming to the terms of our Amendment, I should like to say one or two words about the present position of the railways and their current losses. This has already been said before, but it is worth while repeating it, because people must realise it. It is suggested, although not by the Minister, that the losses being made by the railways today are directly or indirectly connected with the fact that they are publicly owned. That argument is obvious and absolute nonsense, as practically all the railways in the world today, whether publicly or privately owned, are losing money, and for exactly the same reasons. That is particularly true of the railways on the eastern side of the United States. All railways are facing the same difficulties of road competition.

There is another point in connection with these losses that everyone should bear in mind. They should look on the other side of the balance sheet. The amount of the losses involved is well known. Those losses may not continue—we hope they will not; we hope, of course, that they will be turned into a profit—but the benefits of having an efficient railway system are incalculable, and nobody can measure them. The prosperity of a large part of British industry depends on an efficient railway system.

If the heavy costs of modernising the railways were not now being incurred one thing is absolutely certain, and that is that the losses would not only continue but would get very much worse in future years. That should be borne in mind when the losses are considered, and when people talk of the burden that they place on the State. The railways certainly cannot be closed. Their existence is vital and, at the end of the day, the State will always have to ensure that they continue to operate.

That raises a very important question that is exercising the minds of many people today, including the Commission, as will be seen from its Report. The question is the extent to which the railways should be regarded as a business enterprise whose viability is of primary importance, and the extent to which they should be regarded as a national service. The Government's actions make it quite clear that they give priority to the first consideration. They regard the railways from, if I may so put it, a capitalist rather than a Socialist angle. We differ fundamentally.

Of course we want the railways to be efficiently run, and to cut out all wasteful and unnecessary expenditure—as, indeed, we require the hospital service to do—but we say that the prime function of our nationalised transport system is to serve the public and that the amount of profit it makes is no proper test, as the Parliamentary Secretary suggested it was, of the efficiency of the industry.

Our criticism of the Government is that during the years that they have been in power they have blown hot and cold on the Commission. For example, they say that the Commission should be run on purely commercial lines, and then prevent it getting the revenue to which it is entitled. They back the modernisation plan, and then take steps to retard its operation. This inconsistency has been damaging to the Commission, and the effect has been to prevent it developing its services as they could have been, and should have been, developed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has gone over, in some detail, the various actions of the Government—actions on the lines that I have just indicated—and though I do not wish to refer to then again in detail I must mention them. There was, of course, the Government's attempt in their early days to sell to private enterprise the profitable road haulage section. That attempt was made to appease the Road Haulage Association and the Government's many political friends and supporters.

The attempt did not succeed completely, largely because there was revolt from the industry, the chambers of commerce and a large number of hon. Members on the benches opposite. However, it succeeded partially, and to the extent that it succeeded it did serious financial damage to the Commission which, year by year, has been deprived of millions of pounds revenue that it otherwise would have enjoyed. That was one act that made us say in our Amendment that we regret … the actions of Her Majesty's Government which have damaged the financial solvency of the British Transport Commission … That was one of them, and I should have thought it undeniable.

In this connection, what we are very concerned about are reports from fairly informed sources and semi-official sources that the Conservative Party and the Minister, if he gets the chance, want to go further. I am referring to reports not only in the independent Press, but in the Conservative Press, and particularly in the Sunday Times, in front page stories, that it is the desire of the Conservative Party, and will be the policy of a Conservative Minister of Transport, to sell off further profitable sections of the Commission to private enterprise. Of course, the Minister says that that is not the policy of the Government. It is not, today; of course, it is not. Naturally, it would not be just before an election, but, since they have done it before, we wonder whether, if they got the opportunity, they would follow the same course again and sell off these sections to private enterprise, which private enterprise would love to have, because they are highly profitable. Such a policy would be in complete accordance with the outlook of the Conservative Party.

We refer in our Amendment to other instances, which we regret and which we invite the House to regret, by which the solvency of the Commission has been damaged by the actions of the Government—if not by the present Minister, by one of his predecessors. There was the occasion when, because an L.C.C. election was pending, the Government took deliberate action to postpone the raising of fares in London, using the British Transport Commission as an instrument to further the political fortunes of the Conservative Party. Is that denied? Can it be seriously denied? We regret that, and that is one of the things covered by our Amendment.

We also regret that later on, when the Commission—and this matter was referred to by my hon. Friend—wanted to raise freights by 10 per cent., a rise which the Transport Tribunal said was urgently necessary, the Government said, "No, we must postpone it for six months", and the Transport Commission lost many millions of pounds by that postponement. Is that fact denied? The Government may try to justify it on the grounds that the national economy required it at the moment, but we dispute that very much. It is the fact that there again the solvency of the Commission was adversely affected by the deliberate action of the Government.

Then, of course, more recently, just as soon as the modernisation plan was properly launched and all the plans were made and under way, the Government said, "We must carry out an economy policy, and we must cut down the expenditure to be incurred by the Commission, all organised, arranged and provided for in the coming year, so as to make some economies in that direction". There could not have been a more false economy. It retarded and upset the plans for making the Commission a viable organisation, and, of course, it had repercussions in other directions.

Those who have read the recently published Annual Report of the Iron and Steel Board will see that the reduction in capital expenditure for the railways in 1958 had a serious effect on the fortunes of the iron and steel industry and was responsible for substantial unemployment there. The actual figures show that in the second half of 1958, the railways bought only 369,000 tons of steel material, including rolling stock, against an average of over 500,000 tons in the previous half year and in the two half years prior to that. We have strong criticisms against the Government for their actions in that direction.

Most important of all is the attitude of the Government, which has been made clear by recent actions of the Minister, saying that the over-riding requirement of the Transport Commission at present is "economy, economy, economy—at all costs." When the Transport Commission proposes as an economy the cutting down of services by £20 million a year, they say, "That is not enough. You have got to cut down by £30 million". There is no doubt that it is as a result of pressure from the Ministry of Transport that the Commission proposes that in the next four years, instead of cutting down the railway services by 300 miles, as was done in the last four years, it is to cut them down by 1,800 miles—all in the sacred name of economy.

What about service to the public? Is that not to count? In our view, from all the actions and statements by the Government, that is today comparatively unimportant. The only thing that matters is the balance sheet of the Commission. We regard that as wholly wrong.

If the Minister says that the Commission has no option in the matter because by law it is bound to make both ends meet, taking one year with another, our reply is that it also has another obligation which is to provide an adequate and properly integrated service of public inland transport. Which is the more important? If it now appears after twelve years that there are burdens on the Commission which are insupportable and which could not be anticipated in 1947, it is the duty of the Minister of Transport to come forward and to say of which burden it shall be relieved and how it is to be done. We do not know what are the Minister's ideas about changes in the capital structure. He should have some ideas. A proposal was put forward by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. L. Thomas)—

Mr. L. Thomas

Purely personal.

Mr. Strauss

Purely personal, but a proposal which I welcome very much. I do not say that it is acceptable but it is the sort of thing which will have to be done. I refer to his suggestion that the capital spent by the State on the modernisation plan should be taken up in equity shares—in other words, that the interest should not be an annual burden on the railways if the railways in any year are unable to make both ends meet. That is the sort of thing which we expect the Minister of Transport to suggest to us. But nothing of the sort. All he suggests is cutting down and retrenchment in the railway services. We strongly object to that attitude, as we regard the railways of the very highest importance as a service.

Mr. L. Thomas

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the British transport service must be a viable economic unit or that it should become a social service?

Mr. Strauss

I say that primarily it should be a social service. Every effort should be made to make it viable, but the prime thing is to make it a social service. If the two things are incompatible, the need to make a good service of our railways is the more important. Of course, I do not object—no one does—when a small branch line is closed down, if it is losing heavily, if very few people are involved and a good alternative form of transport can be provided. But where such forms of transport cannot be assured and very large numbers of people will suffer hardship as a result of closing these lines, they ought not to be closed. But that is what will happen in the next three years on a large scale if the policy of the Commission, under the pressure of the Minister, is carried out and 1,800 miles of railway line are closed.

To sum up, we are critical of the Government in their behaviour towards the railways. We deny that they are entitled to claim great merit to themselves for backing the modernisation plan. They have no option but to do so. And we are full of criticism of the actions of the Minister of Transport and his predecessors. We hope that this evening he will not, as he so often does, regard any criticism of his Ministry as an impertinence. We hope, on the other hand, that he will give us a reasoned reply.

Our indictment is that in the past the Government have adopted policies which have often damaged the transport system, undermined its solvency and restricted the services that it should and could give industry and the public. We say that these policies have been often irresponsible and frequently irreconcilable one with the other. Now the Government have overtly adopted the dangerous policy that the balance sheet of the railways, and not the service that they render to the nation, is the only thing that matters. For these reasons, we have moved our Amendment and we claim that our action is fully justified.

9.31 p.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

Despite a rather more spirited winding-up speech by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), with which I will deal in due course, I think that the major portion of the debate falls more naturally under the words which my right hon. Friends and I put on the Order Paper, which ask the House to take note of the Report, because the majority of the speeches today and the general debate certainly have not taken the complexion of what I suppose is meant to be a Motion of censure on the Government. I therefore wondered whether this was not a last-minute attempt to make the end of term a little more interesting. I wondered also whether the debate was not originally intended to be the sort of debate that we have every year on the British Transport Commission's accounts, when hon. Members, rightly, try to study the problems of this great industry, which, after all, is still the country's largest employer of labour.

First, I should like, in the calm atmosphere that the words "take note" imply, to deal with some of the major and important issues raised in the debate. I will deal with the right hon. Gentleman's speech and the Opposition's Amendment towards the end of my remarks, but, first, there are some important things that must be said for the sake of the railways and all those men who work on them.

I would not wish to address the House without doing what I usually do, always with a sense of great sincerity. I should like, at least for one moment, to join with the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) in saying that the House should be grateful to Sir Brian Robertson and his colleagues. They do a very fine job under very great difficulty. When I say "his colleagues" I hope the House will accept that by that I mean every man and woman working for the British Transport Commission. They are all trying to do the same job.

Mr. Lindgren

They do not think that of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Watkinson

That is the hon. Member's personal opinion. He made exactly the same speech last year. I do not take any notice of his speech because it is certainly not justified by the very pleasant personal relations which I am honoured to say I enjoy with the railway trade union leaders when I meet them.

Mr. Lindgren

The worst Minister of Transport!

Mr. Watkinson

What I have said happens to be true.

I now come to the general proposals made in the reappraisal plan of the British Transport Commission. Here again, the Opposition's attitude is singularly confused. Both the right hon. Member for Vauxhall and the hon. Member for Enfield, East have said rightly that, except perhaps on the west coast of America and in Holland, there is not a major railway system in the world that is not making very heavy losses. Certainly as chairman of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, I have had that brought very forcefully to my attention. But then they went on to say that in some mysterious way all would be well with British Railways if it were not for the policy of the Government. They cannot have it both ways.

If world conditions are bringing on almost every major railway system very heavy losses, then all that we in this country can hope is that we can weather the storm and gradually get the position right. It is not fair to the railways of this country to assume that they are in some specially favourable position here. In fact, they are not. It is only fair to those who work on the railways to say that they are facing a situation which is common to almost every railway system in the world.

I must make another point because, again, the Opposition's attitude is certainly not clear to me. What the Opposition have said, and what the hon. Member for Enfield, East has said, and which I quite accept, is that their view has always been that the British Transport Commission is gradually running up a very heavy debt and interest burden. Of course it is. What does the hon. Gentleman propose? Is the modernisation plan, with all this material and effort, to be put in for nothing? Are the Government to give the railways the modernisation plan? Are the Government to encourage the Commission to repudiate all its liabilities? That is not what the hon. Gentleman's 1947 Act said. The Act says that the railways are required to pay, taking one year with another.

If that is no longer the policy of the Opposition, they should say so. It would be a very important change of policy. I do not know whether that is what the right hon. Member for Vauxhall means when he says that if the Opposition have to choose, they choose the railways as a social service. If that means that in future the railways are to be allowed to repudiate their general liabilities, to take large sums of money from the taxpayer without any effort to repay, I must make it quite plain that that is not the policy of the present Government. While we accept the difficulties—I shall come to the problem of capital liabilities in a moment—we certainly do not take the view that these are things to be shrugged off and ignored. The sums of money are large and it is public money into the bargain.

The Opposition go on to say that the Government have seriously underestimated railway deficits. Nothing was said about this from the Opposition benches, but it is only fair to Sir Brian Robertson and his colleagues to say that the plan on which the House lent the Commission a great sum of money would still be running very much as it should have been had it not been for the complete failure of the nationalised coal industry to sell its products. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not comment on that except to say that 44 per cent. of total freight receipts come from coal traffics. Anybody who has studied railway finances will know that the main cause of the railways' increased deficit has arisen from the disastrous—that is the right word—drop in their coal carrying.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

It was the Government's policy of stagnation.

Mr. Watkinson

To that extent the future position of the Commission changed, and Sir Brian Robertson very quickly came to me and the House last autumn when he realised that he would not be able to keep his bargain.

I make this point because I think it right that the House should realise that what the Government have done—I propose to say this in more formal terms in a moment or two—has been to take the judgment of Sir Brian Robertson, as chairman of the Commission, and his colleagues about the course of the railway industry and to support them in what they thought was right. We did that when they came forward with their plan saying that they hoped to break even in 1961–62. When things did not go as planned—I have given the House the reason—Sir Brian Robertson came forward quickly and gave the House the facts through my Ministry. At that time I asked him to produce this complete reappraisal and reassessment of his position.

Much has been said about this today. The right hon. Gentleman said, and the hon. Member for Enfield, East said much the same in somewhat less precise terms, that it was pressure from the Government, through me, which caused Sir Brian Robertson and his colleagues to bring forward this document in the form in which it was laid before the House.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting what my right hon. Friend and I said. We said not that it was the terms of the White Paper which were influenced by the Minister but the action which has been taken in regard to economies forced upon the Commission.

Mr. Watkinson

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman because perhaps I did not make myself plain. I thought that is what the right hon. Gentleman just said, that the rationalisation plan and the cuts are a result of Government pressure. I had the opportunity of consulting Sir Brian Robertson on this, as I had the opportunity of consulting him about the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East that top executives of the railway management and members of the area boards did not agree with the plans in this document.

I must make the chairman's position quite plain by telling the House that, when I consulted him, he asked me to say that this plan is put forward as the best judgment that the Commission can make, it is put forward entirely on the Commission's own initiative, it is entirely supported by the Commission, by the area boards, by the senior executives, and it represents their best judgment of their future on which they ask for Government support. That is a very good example and a complete answer to the allegations which have run all through this debate that a Minister of Transport in a Conservative Government exercises improper pressure on the Transport Commission.

Mr. Strauss

I never talked about improper pressure. In fact does not this plan reflect the policy believed in and expressed on many occasions by the Minister during the last year or two?

Mr. Watkinson

The right hon. Gentleman cannot get out of it like that. That is not what he said at all. He said that it was a policy almost forced on the Commission. In fairness to the Commission, I want the House to understand, because it is very important in the light of future examinations which will be made of this document, that this document represents the Commission's own plan, and I thought that it was very unjustifiable to imply, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East did, that this is not an agreed plan which the whole Commission supports.

I want to go on with the re-examination of the Commission's future. I think that this is a very important task. After all, as I have said, this industry is the country's largest employer of labour and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it is certainly essential to our commercial efficiency. I propose to complete my survey of its future before I turn to more political matters.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) made what I thought was a very acute speech as a railwayman himself, and he raised some matters which, I think, will need re-examination, for example, the fringe areas where there is a delicate and difficult balance between a service which possibly may never pay, but which is a service which should be kept on perhaps because there is no alternative means of transport.

I say that this document will be most carefully examined now by my Ministry in conjunction with the Treasury and other Departments which are interested. We shall try to examine the issues raised in it and look at the difficulties which arise in the fringe areas. We shall look at the question of capital structure, although, again, I must make it quite plain to the House that I have had no plan, no recommendation and, indeed, no discussion with Sir Brian Robertson on the capital structure of the Railways.

I was impressed by what my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has said, and I thought that he was quite right that perhaps we ought to wait a litle longer before we come to decisions on this very broad issue. All I can say at the moment is that if the Commission comes forward with any particular proposals they will be carefully and sympathetically examined.

The next question with which I want to deal is that of modernisation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall said that we should not claim any particular credit for modernisation and that modernisation was not really the key to the future of the railways.

Mr. Strauss

I did not say that.

Mr. Watkinson

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman did say that we should not claim too much credit. The point I wish to make is this, because it is important to the future of the railways. I do not know how many hon. Members have had time to study the pictorial section of the first part of the Annual Report and Accounts. There they will see in pictorial form some of the end-products of the very large sums of money with which the Government are backing the Commission. In these things—new diesel locomotives, new track laying and overhead electrification—lies the future for every railway man and the hope of a railway system that will in the end pay its way.

I accept that the Socialist Government may have been in financial difficulties that did not allow them to do as much as they wished for the railways, but I must say in fairness to the railways that had more modernisation been done in those early years after the war, their position today would have been immeasurably improved. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Vauxhall dealt with the situation before the war and made the case that the railways were then run down and in sad need of help. I must remind the House of the railways' record during the war, which, as every one of us knows, was completely outstanding. At least, the railways did that on the equipment which they had before the war.

In the year 1959, £178 million worth of Government money is going into railway modernisation. Sir Brian Robertson himself has said that it is as much as he can usefully spend. Thus the second broad allegation that the Government are not supporting the railways to the maximum of the Government's capacity, and, indeed, to the maximum of what the Commission itself can use, is, again, not proved. The future of the railways, which depends upon modernisation, would certainly be prejudiced by a Socialist Government which, because of recurring crises, would not be able to find the capital investment.

I have dealt with the major issues which have been raised in the debate concerning the reappraisal. Now, I must turn to the Opposition Amendment. It uses the word "regrets", which makes it tantamount to a Motion of censure. Therefore, I have listened very carefully throughout the debate to the reasons on which the Amendment was based and I have listened even more anxiously for some kind of policy on which the Opposition would base the future of the railways. I have heard neither.

What I have heard is a repeated charge of interference, in fares and in a great many other things. If I interfered on fares, I was in very good company. I was in company with the Socialist-controlled London County Council and literally dozens of other local authorities throughout the country, and with trade unions, all of whom, as one hon. Member opposite said, have consistently always opposed fare increases and have opposed them as vigorously as ever they could.

Therefore, I make no apology to this House for saying to the Commission from time to time that it should keep its fares and charges as low as it reasonably can. Indeed, the Commission itself said in September, 1956, that on the railways in particular, the general merchandise traffic continued to decline and could not, therefore, be recouped forthwith in higher transport charges. If the charge is that the Government have made their attitude plain on fares from time to time, I do not regard that as being anything other than the natural duty of a Government which wants to keep price stability and to halt inflation.

I now come to the last general point, again not mentioned by hon. Members opposite. It is the freedom which the 1953 Act gave British Railways on their charges. That Act freed them from their old obligations, and gave them a chance to charge what they thought they needed to charge to get the business. Although that Act in Socialist eyes may have had other more unpalatable results, it freed the railways and gave them a chance to live in a more competitive world.

We are debating two different ways of running a great industry. We have made our way plain. It is to modernise the railways and to decentralise them, because we believe in the area boards. We believe in the method of line management. We believe that the nearer we bring the management to the customer the better it will be. Our policy and practice is, therefore, quite plain. We do not intend to throw the industry back into the melting pot with some great attempt to denationalise the whole thing. We intend to decentralise the railways, make them more efficient, and thus make them serve the public better than they have done.

Throughout the debate I have waited to hear the Opposition's policy. The hon. Member for Enfield, East said that the Opposition's policy was to provide a planned, publicly-owned transport system, operated in the public interest. I do not know what we can construe from that, but I prefer the assessment of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil who said that the Opposition's policy, meant they had not learnt a single thing since 1947.

That is true because the hon. Member for Enfield, East, when challenged, said that the Opposition rested on the basis of the 1947 Act. I therefore take it that the policy of the Opposition is to go back to the complete nationalisation of road haulage, presumably with the C-licence holder thrown in. I hope that the Opposition will make that alternative rather more plain to the country than they have here tonight because that policy is not one that the country finds particularly attractive.

I promised the hon. Member for Enfield, East that I would reply to his unjustified allegation about my Ministry and its enforcement policies. I am willing to be charged with a desire to defend my Ministry when it needs defending. The hon. Gentleman said that my Ministry's enforcement policies were deliberately slack and that we did not follow them up. The figures show that by the end of the year we shall have increased our enforcement staff by 50 per cent. We are prosecuting 11,000 people a year, and we have just extracted a line of £20,000 in one case. The hon. Gentleman's attack is an example of the sort of broad, general, quite unjustified allegation by which the Opposition are trying to disguise their lack of any practical policy.

During the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall I waited anxiously for a clear statement of the Opposition's policy, but the right hon. Gentleman took us back to the 'thirties. He talked about inconsistency, our policy of selling off road haulage and all the rest, but not a word about an alternative policy. That is what I am interested in. If our way of running the railways is wrong it is for the Opposition to demonstrate that their way is better. As far I can gather, the Opposition's policy rests on the re-enactment of the 1947 Act.

If that is what hon. Members opposite think, I hope that they will be fair enough to make it plain to the country that that is their policy, because it is beginning to dawn on the Opposition that nationalisation as a theory of management is quite unsuitable in the second half of the twentieth century. It has nothing to do with the politics of the issue; it is merely that it is unworkable in practice. Yet the Opposition say again and again that they intend to go back to the full rigours of their nationalisation policy. I cannot see how that can do anything for the railways in their present circumstances.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to denationalise them?

Mr. Watkinson

I am delighted to answer hon. Members on that point. They are not prepared to accept that we are not unduly doctrinaire in this matter. We have merely developed, in the railways and the other nationalised industries, a decentralised and better managed unit which, if it is allowed to go forward on the path we have set out for it, in the end will turn these nationalised industries into something which might do the country a little good instead of being a millstone round its neck.

I now sum up. The reassessment is the honest opinion of the Commission, and the Government accept it as such and will give it the most careful study. Allegations that it is a document provided by a divided Commission are quite unfair and utterly unjustified. As to the future of the railways, our way to run them is quite plain, and it is entirely opposed to a return to the 1947 Act, which appears to be the Opposition's policy.

As for the way in which we would go on with the railways in the future, I would say that we would hope to go further with the policy of decentralisation and greater regional autonomy, giving a greater chance to railway regions to run their own affairs in their own way, subject only to broad policy control from the top. The right hon. Gentleman said that we were going to sell it off in bits. I do not know anything about that. But I know that I intend to press forward with greater decentralisation and greater efficiency.

Therefore, I do not accept the Opposition Amendment. On the whole, the debate has followed its normal course. It would have been of much greater value to the Commission and to all those who work on the railways if we had gone through the normal practice of examining

this great industry, which at least I hope we all want to see succeed. I ask the House to reject the Opposition Amendment. It has not been supported by their arguments and I am certain that it is unjustified by the facts.

Question put, That those words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 304.

Division No. 177.] AYES [9.58 p.m.
Abse, Leo Gibson, C. W. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfld, E.)
Alnsley, J. W. Gooch, E. G. Mann, Mrs. Jean
Allaun Frank (Salford, E.) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Grey, C. F. Mason, Roy
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mayhew, C. P.
Awbery, S. S. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mellish, R. J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mitchlson G. R.
Baird, J. Hale, Leslie Monslow, W.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Moody, A. S.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hamilton, W. W. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Benson, Sir George Hannan, W. Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)
Beswick, Frank Hayman, F. H. Mort, D. L.
Blackburn, F. Healey, Denis Moss, R.
Blenklnsop, A. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Moyle, A.
Blyton, W. R. Herbison, Miss M. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Boardman, H. Hewitson, Capt. M. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hilton, A. V. O'Brien, Sir Thomas
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Oram, A. E.
Bowles, F. G. Holman, P. Orbach, M.
Boyd, T. C. Holmes, Horace Oswald, T.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Houghton, Douglas Owen, W. J.
Brockway, A. F. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Padley, W. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Paget, R. T.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hoy, J. H. Palmer, A. M. F.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pannell Charles (Leeds, W.)
Burke, W. A. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pargiter, G. A.
Burton, Miss F. E. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Parker, J.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hunter, A. E. Parkin, B. T.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Paton, John
Callaghan, L. J. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Peart, T. F.
Carmichael, J. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Pentland, N.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Popplewell, E.
Champion, A. J. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Chetwynd, G. R. Janner, B. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Cllffe, Michael Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Probert, A. R.
Coidrick, W. Jeger, George (Goole) Proctor, W. T.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.) Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Randall, H. E.
Cronln, J. D. Johnson, James (Rugby) Rankin, John
Crossman, R. H. S. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Redhead, E. C.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Reid, William
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Reynolds, G. W.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Rhodes, H.
Davies S. O. (Merthyr) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Deer, G. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Kenyon, C. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Delargy, H. J. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Diamond, John King, Dr. H. M. Ross, William
Dodds, N. N. Lawson, G. M. Royle, C.
Donnelly, D. L. Ledger, R. J. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Short, E. W.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Skeffington, A. M.
Edelman, M. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Lindgren, G. S. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lipton, Marcus Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Snow, J. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) McAlister, Mrs. Mary Sorensen, R. W.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) McCann, J. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Fernyhough, E. MacColl, J. E. Sparks, J. A.
Fitch, A. E. (Wigan) MacDermot, Niall Spriggs, Leslie
Fletcher, Eric Mclnnes, J. Steele, T.
Foot, D. M. McKay, John (Wallsend) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Forman, J. C. McLeavy, Frank Stonehouse, John
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stones, W. (Consett)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mahon, Simon Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Watkins, T. E. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Sylvester, G. O. Weitzman, D. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Symonds, J. B. Wells, Percy (Faversham) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Taylor, John (West Lothian) wells, William (Walsall, N.) Winterbottom, Richard
Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A,
Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Wigg, George Woof, R. E.
Thornton, E. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Tomney, F. Willey, Frederick Zilliacus, K.
Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Williams, David (Neath)
Usborne, H. C. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Viant, S. P. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Wilkins.
Warbey, W. N. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Agnew, Sir Peter Dodds-Parker, A. D. Howard, John (Test)
Aitken, W. T. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Doughty, C. J. A. Hughes-Young, M. H. C.
Alport, C. J. M. Drayson, G. B. Hurd, Sir Anthony
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) du Cann, E. D. L. Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.)
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Duncan, Sir James Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)
Arbuthnot, John Duthie, Sir William Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Armstrong, C. W. Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hyde, Montgomery
Ashton, Sir Hubert Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry
Astor, Hon. J. J. Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle uponTyne, N.) Iremonger, T. L.
Atkins, H. E. Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Errington, Sir Eric Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Baldwin, Sir Archer Erroll, F. J. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Barber, Anthony Farey-Jones, F. W. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Barlow, Sir John Fell, A. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Barter, John Finlay, Graeme Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Batsford, Brian Fisher, Nigel Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Baxter, Sir Beverley Fletcher-Cooke, C. Joseph, Sir Keith
Beamish, Col. Tufton Foster, John Kaberry, D.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks S.) Freeth, Denzil Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Gammans, Lady Kershaw, J, A.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Garner-Evans, E. H. Kimball, M.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) George, J. C. (Pollok) Kirk, P. M.
Bidgood, J. C. Gibson-Watt, D. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Biggs-Davison, J, A. Glover, D. Leavey, J. A.
Bingham, R. M. Glyn, Col. Richard H. Leburn W. G.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Godber, J. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bishop, F. P. Goodhart, Philip Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Black, Sir Cyril Gough, C. F. H. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Body, R. F. Gower, H. R. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)
Bonham Carter, Mark Graham, Sir Fergus
Bossom, Sir Alfred Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside) Linstead, Sir H. N.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon, J. A. Green, A. Llewellyn, D. T.
Boyle, Sir Edward Gresham Cooke, R. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Braine, B. R. Grimond, J. Longden, Gilbert
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Loveys, Walter H.
Brewis, John Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Gurden, Harold Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Brooman-White, R. C. Hall, John (Wycombe) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Macdonald, Sir Peter
Bryan, P. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Harris, Reader (Heston) McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Waiden) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Campbell, Sir David Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Carr, Robert Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)
Cary, Sir Robert Harvie-Watt, Sir George McMaster, Stanley
Channon, H. P. G. Hay, John Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)
Chichester-Clark, R. Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Cole, Norman Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maddan, Martin
Cooke, Robert Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Maitland, Cdr, J. F. w.(Horncastle)
Cooper, A. E. Hesketh, R. F. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Corfield, F. v. Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hirst, Geoffrey Marshall, Douglas
Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hobson, John (Warwlck & Leam'gt'n) Mathew, R.
Crowder Sir John (Finchley) Holland-Martin, C. J. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Crowder, Petre (Rulslip—Northwood) Holt, A. F. Mawby, R. L.
Cunningham, Knox Hope, Lord John Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Currie, G. B. H. Hornby, R. P. Medlicott, Sir Frank
Dance, J. C. G. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Davidson, Viscountess Horobin, Sir Ian Moore, Sir Thomas
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Horebrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Deedes, W. F. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
de Ferranti, Basil Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Nabarro G. D. N.
Nairn, D. L. S. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Neave, Airey Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Thomeycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Nicholls, Harmar Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Roper, Sir Harold Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard Turner, H. F. L.
Noble, Michael (Argyll) Russell, R. S. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Nugent, Richard Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Vane, W. M. F.
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Sharples, R. C. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Shepherd, William Vickers, Miss Joan
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.) Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Wade, D. W.
Page, R. G. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale) Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Partridge, E. Speir, R. M. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Peel, W. J. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Wall, Patrick
Peyton, J. W. W. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Ward, Rt. Hon. G. (Worcester)
Plckthorn, Sir Kenneth Stevens, Geoffrey Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Pike, Miss Mervyn Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Webbe, Sir H.
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Webster, David
Pitman, I. J. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Pitt, Miss E. M. Storey, S. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Pott, H. P. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Powell, J. Enoch Studholme, Sir Henry Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Price, Henry (Lewlsham, W.) Summers, Sir Spencer Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Profumo J. D. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wood, Hon. R.
Ramsden, J. E. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Woollam, John Victor
Rawlinson, Peter Teeling, W. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Redmayne, M. Temple, John M.
Remnant, Hon. P. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Renton, D. L. M. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) Mr. Heath and Mr. Legb.
Rlppon, A. G. F. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Report and Accounts of the British Transport Commission for 1958 and of the Report reappraising the Plan for the Modernisation and Re-equipment of British Railways (Command Paper No. 813).