HC Deb 17 April 1962 vol 658 cc242-77

3.35 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

I beg to move, in page 4, in line 18, after "provide", to insert "such".

The Chairman

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we also discussed the following Amendment, in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, in page 4, line 19, after "Britain", to insert: as will meet the reasonable needs of agriculture, industry and the public.

Mr. Strauss

That would be agreeable, Sir William.

These two Amendments are exceedingly important. Indeed, they point to the difference between the attitude of this side of the Committee towards the railways and their functions and the attitude of the Government. In other words, in considering these Amendments, the Committee must decide whether in future the railways are to be a service, or are to be considered as a commercial concern, the sole consideration of which is the balance sheet.

The Committee should bear in mind the changes that have taken place in the directions which Parliament has given to the publicly-owned transport system since that system came under public ownership. In 1947, when the Labour Government nationalised the main elements of our transport system, they clearly stated in their Act that the British Transport Commission was to ensure that the service in Great Britain was adequate and that it should be economical, efficient, and so on.

The key words are that they should provide an efficient, adequate, economic and properly integrated system of public transport. Of course, we had in mind that it was the duty of a publicly-owned transport system to give a proper service to the public. When the Conservative Party came to power it put a new definition in the 1953 Act. A new directive was given to the Transport Commission. The word "adequate" was taken out and the Commission was told, under the provisions of the 1953 Act. that it was to provide a railway service for Britain. Nothing was said about adequacy.

In the Bill there is now a further stop back. During the Standing Committee proceedings the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised that no longer is the Railways Board to be asked to provide railway services for Britain, but railway services in Britain. The Government tell us that there is a considerable difference in that change of words. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that under present conditions the new Board would have new and different duties. All that the Board has to do in the future is to provide railway services in Britain. Nothing is said in the Bill about whether the services are to be large or small, adequate or inadequate. The Board would be fulfilling its function if it ran only one train each day.

There is no direction that the railway services are to meet the needs of industry, agriculture and the public. We think that is a serious deficiency which is not unintentional but purposeful, and that is why we have put down the Amendment. The Government have a new attitude of mind towards the railway system. If Parliament desires, as we believe it does, that the railways shall fulfil some public service, and we feel it essential that public service should be an element of its activities, then words to that effect must be put into the Bill.

We do not suggest that it should be the duty of the Railways Board to comply with every demand made upon it. We do not think, for example, that a branch line, carrying hardly any passengers and costing large sums to keep open, should be allowed to continue in operation. We suggest that in future the railways should be run in such a way as will meet the reasonable needs of agriculture, industry and the public. It seems difficult to understand why that injunction is resisted by the Government. They prefer to leave the matter open to the Board to run such services in Britain as it thinks desirable.

This raises the whole question of the extent to which the Board shall be free to carry out the policy, about which we have heard a great deal recently, of cutting down existing services wholesale and closing lines in very many areas of the country, particularly in the north of Scotland and in the west of England. The Board will be able to do that if the Bill goes on to the Statute Book without the Amendments which we propose. The excuse will be that Parliament by changing the Board's functions, endorsed a policy that the Board should no longer be considered to be running a service, but only such trains as it deemed remunerative.

The Government have given instructions that the main, if not the only purpose, of the Board in future is to cut existing losses on the railways irrespective of the consequences. The railways are to be considered in isolation and so far as possible the revenue from the railways must meet the expenses. No account is taken of the damage which may follow; the effect on people who need to use services which will be cut, or the effect upon industry if railway services have to be cut. Everything uneconomical is to be cut out. No longer is there to be any element of service.

3.45 p.m.

Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have complained—perhaps hon. Members opposite have complained more than hon. Members on this side—about the grave effect which this policy has already had upon a great number of people whose convenience has been affected by railways services having been cut. The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) has said a great deal on the subject and I am sure that she will have a great deal more to say about the serious situation which threatens hundreds if not thousands of her constituents. Unless Parliament takes strong action, complaints such as those which have been made by the hon. Member for Tynemouth will be multiplied a hundredfold during the coming years and will come from all parts of the country.

We think that the Government should consider the economic waste, as well as the hardship which will be inflicted on hundreds of thousands indeed millions of people, by the decision to cut out those parts of the railway service which do not pay. Almost automatically a far greater amount of public money will have to be spent in other directions. For example, more roads will have to be built to help to clear the congestion caused to those who in the future will have to travel by motor car, motor bicycle or motor scooter. An appalling congestion on the roads would be one of the economic factors which would follow the wholesale closing of railway lines.

Hon. Members on this side are not asking for anything which is improper, or that the present conditions relating to the railways should be maintained. What we say is that it should be the duty of the Railways Board to bear in mind that Parliament desires it to meet the reasonable needs of agriculture, industry and the public and not to carry out its task with the sole consideration of cutting losses whenever and wherever possible. We can afford a better railway service than that.

If the Board is to be concerned only with commercial considerations, what is the point of the railways being publicly owned? The whole purpose of a publicly owned transport system is to serve the public. Losses which result should be made up by the profits from those parts of the service where a profit can be made. If the worst comes to the worst the losses must fall on the Exchequer. In this country we must accept that, as in nearly every other country, railways are being run at a loss and will continue to make losses for reasons we all know.

The problem is to what extent the losses shall be borne by rail users and to what extent by the taxpayer. The losses must be shared in some way. No one believes that the £150 million losses on the railways can be paid wholly by the travellers. If fares were increased to meet those losses, people would not travel by rail at all; nor would goods be conveyed by rail. If we were to close all the railway lines which do not pay, the service would be cut by half, or more. There would be only a skeleton service.

The Minister of Transport would be able to say that the losses had been cut down, but the tremendous damage which would result to the country as a whole, to industry and to the convenience of the public is a factor which cannot be estimated in money. The taxpayer will have to shoulder a burden resulting from railway losses, for the social burden that would follow the wholesale cutting down of the railway services would be wholly intolerable.

It is ridiculous for the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to argue, as they have done on many occasions, that the test of whether to run a certain service is whether people are prepared to pay for it. That is bunkum. I accept that it is a test to be considered, but it is not the sole test. The arguments used by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have suggested that it is the sole test, but we cannot accept that for a moment.

We have therefore tabled these Amendments which suggest that the Railways Board should have among the considerations before it—a major consideration has already been put before it by the Minister, that of cutting losses wherever it can—the rendering of public service. Surely it is right for us to suggest the words contained in my second Amendment.

If any hon. Member votes against our Amendments and afterwards complains that his constituents have suffered as a result of services being cut, he will have no leg to stand on, because the immediate answer to him will be, "Why did you not see to it, when Parliament was dealing with this very important problem, that an element of public service was included as one of the duties of the Board?" That is what we are trying to do now. I hope that those who vote against the Amendments—I hope that many will support it—will never there-after complain if services in their constituencies are cut, for it will be hypocritical of them to make such complaints.

Time is short, and my hon. Friends and I—we hope that hon. Members on the other side of the Committee will do the same—propose to speak very briefly on the Amendments before us today. I have perhaps spoken at some length on the present Amendments, and that is because we regard it as of prime importance. They are probably the most important Amendments on the Notice Paper today. They decide what the future purpose of the railways will be and to what extent they will serve the public. We believe that service to the public should be a general direction from Parliament that the Board should take into account—we put it no higher than that—in deciding the future shape and size of the railways.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and his hon. Friends are in the same dilemma with this Amendment as they were in 1947 with their original Transport Act. One cannot provide transport as a service directly from the centre unless one takes control of the whole of it. It is not a bit of good giving a direction to the Railways Board to provide a service adequate to the needs of agriculture, industry and the public unless it has control of a much wider area than is at present proposed.

The 1947 Act failed because the British Transport Commission was given control of only a minority of the services available. It was put in charge of the railways, a small portion of the bus services and a minority of the road services, and an integrated service could not be produced out of that. Still less could the Railways Board provide for the needs of agriculture, industry and the public under the present set-up. If one wants to have full control, the only alternative is to set up a Communist State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in which the Government have full control of all forms of transport and nobody has any private transport—except the commissar with his private car—and no one has a private lorry service.

If one is not to do that, one can give the Railways Board the greatest freedom, as we have done, and let it run its services and allow the test to be that it shall run those services for which the people are prepared to pay, with the addition that in certain cases, referred to in later Clauses, if there is hardship somewhere a service may be run within the overall figures notwithstanding the fact that it does not pay.

I do not think that the Amendment would carry the matter any further. As I have said, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon Friends are in the same dilemma as in 1947, only worse.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) into the realms of the powers of either a Fascist or a Communist State, but I would reply to him that I do not consider—I do not think that any fair-minded person would—that the principles brought into being by the 1947 Act failed for the reason he gave. Much greater failures arose from the 1953 Act. If the hon. Gentleman will weigh those Acts in the balance, I am sure that he will see that the second one killed all possibilities of railways operating in this country as they ought to do in order to meet the needs of the people.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), who moved his Amendment in a very capable fashion, illustrated the fears of my hon. Friends and myself about the powers in Clause 3 with regard to the Railways Board. That Clause deals with the powers and duties of the Board, and it is clear that if we were to let the Clause go without putting on the record our feelings about the dangers inherent in it we should not be doing our duty as Members of Parliament who are looking to Britain as a whole and her transport needs as a whole.

We feel that there will be fairly large areas of Britain left without transport. The Minister sometimes tells us that if we do not have railways, we can use private road transport. That answer has become completely stale and does not suffice in modern times. If we are to have further contraction of the railways—for which the Minister is evidently hoping in order to secure the economic base for our railways system that he wants—there will be fairly large areas of Britain which, owing mainly to their sparse population and because they are uneconomic for the railways, will be denuded of any form of transport.

Where it is not economic to run trains for passengers or freight, in very many instances the same argument can be applied to road traffic. Already, branch line railway services are being withdrawn from areas where bus companies have already withdrawn their services. Consequently, in such areas there will be no transport at all except that provided privately by individuals. Not everybody has a car, or a motor cycle, or a scooter, and, therefore, we are confronted with this problem from which the Minister cannot run away. He must decide whether he will write off these areas about which I am talking, the largest portion of Scotland and fairly extensive areas in Wales, in which he and Dr. Beeching consider that there should be a complete contraction of the railways.

4.0 p.m.

There will be a social obligation on the Minister to decide whether there is to be this contraction in these areas, and we are desirous of getting the second Amendment adopted by the Committee so that we will have a level to enable us to say that the railway system that it is proposed to operate will not meet the needs of agriculture, industry, or the public. I hope that there is enough realism in the Committee to understand that it will be in our interests, and in the best interests of our constituents, to accept the Amendments, because, if they were not accepted, it will be impossible for us to raise questions about a whole area being denuded of transport. It would be a bad thing for the future of the country if we were not able to raise such questions.

I want to know how some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, on occasions, have been quite voluble in their complaints to the Minister about the closure of branch lines and the working of the railways generally, will account for their speeches, their questions, and their consciences, and live up to their constituency obligations, if they do not accept these Amendments.

I hope that the Minister will be a little realistice in his approach to the second Amendment. According to a report in the Scotsman, he met a Scottish journalist and replied to leading questions put to him about the position in Scotland. I thought that the Minister was sometimes a bit perky and cheeky. I am sure that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will tell him how best to approach Scotsmen.

It appeared to me that the sum total of the probing by the journalist boiled down to the Minister saying, "We can have either railways or roads. If I am taking off the railways, you will have to use the roads. Whether they are there in a sufficient number or not is not my concern. Similarly, whether they meet the needs of the area after I withdraw the railways is not my concern". In other words, the right hon. Gentleman was passing the ball to the Secretary of State for Scotland, but he must understand that if railways are taken off—and on the economic argument I agree that he could contract railways almost to nothing in Scotland; he could close all the Highland main lines—the roads in those areas will not be able to deal with the traffic; they will not be able to deal with the tourist trade; they will not be able to carry the coal necessary for central heating in the hotels and industries in those areas. The Minister will be a party to the further depopulation of the Northern counties, which would be unacceptable to everybody in Scotland.

I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will consider carefully the strength of my argument and agree that this Amendment contains something of value to himself as well as to those who would be able to use this provision to raise questions resulting from the contraction of the railways in Scotland.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

I do not intend to follow at length the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), least of all on the duties of a Member to his constituents, save for this observation, that it would be no bad thing if we were to urge on our constituents from time to time the need to have some regard for the national economy. To impose on it constantly the strain of an old-fashioned service is not the best way in which we can observe our obligations to our constituents, or, for that matter, to our country.

I would not have spoken had it not been for the rather loose way in which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) moved the Amendment. He spoke of the desirability, from one point of view or another, of keeping this service going, and he then used words which suggested that it would be just too bad if certain burdens had to fall on the Exchequer. I wonder how many times we have listened to such a conditional sentence, and I wonder in how many contexts we have heard it. I wonder, too, when we shall stop hearing it. Perhaps it would be unreasonable to hope that we will not hear it too much.

So long as we allow our policies to be seriously affected and influenced by such considerations, just so long will this country remain old-fashioned and out of date. It seems to me that the plea to which we have listened from the right hon. Gentleman is that we should remain wedded until death us do part to an old-fashioned system of railway transport.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

My right hon. Friend never said that.

Mr. Peyton

I am putting what could be called a liberal construction on the meaning behind the right hon. Gentleman's words.

Mr. Mellish

But where are they?

Mr. Peyton

I am doing my best for them.

I do not want to detain the Committee for long, but it seems of urgent importance that we should get away from the shackles of the past and lose as little time as possible in producing a modern, efficient, and streamlined railway system. Having said that, I would be disposed to accept that when such a system is in being it may well be necessary for us—and it may be awkward for some of us on this side of the Committee—to consider measures which are desirable in the national interest to bring traffic off the roads and on to the railway system. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not mind swallowing some party dogma, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite will have a taste of it, too. I should be most grateful.

The point surely is that we are reaching a stage where it would be wrong and foolish in the extreme to go on very expensively backing two horses in the same race. At some time or other, we have to make up our minds what sort of transport system we want. Having produced the railway system that we want, which could pay its way, we should make sure that it has the opportunity, given efficiency on its part and the provision of good services, to carry the traffic upon which its whole prosperity would depend.

This subject of transport has for far too long been bedevilled by wishful thinking and party dogma, not only by hon. Members opposite, but on this side of the Committee as well. We have had a lot from the hon. Member for Ber-mondsey (Mr. Mellish) on this subject. I conclude by saying that we should try to get away from this ghastly gospel with which the right hon Member for Vaux-hall always approaches this subject—that because a thing is desirable we must always have it, no matter what the cost.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I must restrain myself and not be tempted to follow the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) in his essay into the shackles of the past. It is rather paradoxical that hon. Members who, in many ways, have been the chief defenders of tradition should now be rising to speak about the shackles of the past, when the context happens to suit them. There have been other occasions on which the hon. Gentleman has approached public questions with perhaps a more progressive mind.

Mr. Peyton

The hon. Gentleman has absolutely failed to perceive the burden of my attack. What we on this side of the Committee find so strange and surprising is that he and his hon. Friends should be so intolerably conservative, with a very small "c".

Mr. Price

In the very short time that I wish to detain the Committee, I do not want to be led too far astray by polemical arguments of that kind. I think that probably we could have a very good time on it one evening when the House is quiet.

What I rose to do was to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said so pointedly in opening this debate. It is that, right at the root of the Transport Act, 1947, which brought the railway system under national control, was the conception of public service. That is something implicit in the Act, as it was explicit, and we are quite entitled, without any apology today, to draw attention to the gross omission from the Bill, which has already been noted, by which the public service has ceased to be a factor in the mind of the Government.

May I illustrate what may appear to be self-evident and obvious? If this criterion of whether or not a particular section of the railway system is producing a profit in terms of commercial enterprise were applied to other sections of our national and international activities, where should we be? My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) has referred to the closure of railway lines in Scotland, part of which country he represents in this House. For example, if we apply the criterion of profitability to all the railway system north of the Highland line, which I think would be roughly north of the Firths of Clyde and Forth, the whole lot would have to close down.

There could be no defence for a railway system at all in the mountainous areas of Scotland. There could be no defence for a railway system in Wales, but when the Transport Commission took over the responsibility for the Cambrian Line under the Transport Act, 1947, it was well-known that that system, even long before nationalisation and right back into the days of the old private enterprise, was a completely bankrupt concern.

When the hon. Member for Yeovil, in his good-natured and pleasant manner, tries to do a bit of peddling of heresy in this committee, let him remember that if the sort of conception which he was trying to put forward this afternoon were applied, for example, to the Post Office, we would not only have no railways in Scotland, but have no postal deliveries, either. I want to ask him this question. Is he prepared to Sit quiescent in this situation and see section after section of the railway system close down? There will come a time when the delivery of mails will become a major question, particularly in bad weather.

4.15 p.m.

At this stage of the Bill, when we have had months in Committee discussing all these matters in great detail, we have little hope of impressing our ideas on the present Administration. It is true that if Dr. Beeching had his way, and I believe that he is on record as having said this—in terms of economics of the railway system, which are admittedly in a very bad state at the moment, and none of us runs away from that terrible responsibility—it may be his intention to close down at least 50 per cent. of the track miles now left with the Transport Commission. That would be a grave matter for this country, not only in peace time, but if we were ever again faced with a great national emergency, the greatest asset that we had in conducting our fight on the last occasion would be taken from us.

I know that the Minister has given evidence of his good intentions, and has said that the Government want to relieve the railway system of this great burden of £150 million accumulated debt. We welcome that, but if, in the process of making the railways viable, in terms of book-keeping and figures in ledgers, we finish up with a state of affairs in which there is actually no permanent system of railways, we shall not only get more congestion and more murder and terror on the roads than we have already, but we shall also fail in our task of transporting the products of our industries and thereby become more handicapped in our fight to restore economic well-being.

This may be regarded as polemics, but we on this side of the committee unrepentantly declare to the people of Britain that if they want a railway system, they must make some contribution towards it. No country in the world, with some rare exceptions, is running railways and making profits. In France and Italy, they are facing very grave losses on their railway systems. It is well known that this is political dynamite. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Holland?"] In Holland, which is a relatively much smaller country, they have other handicaps, not entirely associated with the railways; the loss of their colonial empire, for example.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry) rose

Mr. Price

I cannot give way; I do not want to be too long, and I do not want to labour this point too much.

It is true that this is the sort of political dynamite which prevents continental politicians—or opposite numbers in France and Italy, in particular—from carrying out the kind of surgical operation which has been undertaken by Dr. Beeching.

When hon. Members opposite charge us with being conservative in wishing to hold on what we have, I would remind them that our railways form the most wonderful network of communications in the world, bearing in mind the size of our island. It is fascinating to travel all over our railway system. I have travelled over most of it, including the remote branch lines, out of sheer curiosity.

In 1954, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of Pensions and National Insurance introduced a railway reorganisation scheme to which the Government undertook to devote about £1,200 million, over a period of fifteen years. Part of the debt now standing on the books of the Commission is in respect of that reconstruction of a railway system that had gone to complete ruin and desolation under generations of neglect, during previous Administrations.

With that rather controversial statement I shall sit down. If my history is at fault I stand corrected. I am willing to be caned by anybody in the Commit- tee. But I think that I am right. Therefore, from the point of view of the welfare of the railway system—one of the major aspects of the economic lifeblood of the nation—hon. Members on both sides should support the Amendment, so as to write into the Bill a conception of public service which is appropriate to a vital nationalised industry.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

The main arguments for the Amendment have been adequately put by my right hon. and hon. Friends, but two further points should be made. I want to emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said about the importance of the Amendment. What we have now to decide is whether the Bill will place any obligations upon the Railways Board, or whether the Board will think only of making the railways pay without having any regard to the nation's needs or, in the terms of the Amendment, the reasonable needs of agriculture, industry and the public. In the past, Acts of Parliament have always laid some obligations upon such boards, and we must consider whether that process should be continued by the Bill. I believe that it is essential that something of this kind should be done.

The speech of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) fell into two parts. One dealt with party dogma, with which he accused the whole Committee of being concerned, but his other point was a real one, with which I agree generally. I have some regard for the hon. Member's opinions. I had the pleasure of sitting with him during the long sessions of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries when we examined British Railways. Irrespective of what my hon. Friends may say, I am sure that the hon. Member wants to see an efficient railway service which is also able to pay its way.

Nevertheless, I must tell him that his form of words—what he referred to as a liberal construction of what my right hon. Friend said—amounted really to a liberal misconstruction of what my right hon. Friend said. The hon. Member was guilty—as most Conservative Members are—of making a speech on a public platform which misleads the public about our nationalised industries. When people like the hon. Member sit on Committees such as the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries and hear the facts for themselves they come to the conclusion—as the hon. Member did today—that what we require is a planned transport system, in which each part will fall into place in order to provide for our reasonable transport needs.

That is what we have not got, and that is what all my inquiries in the Select Committee failed to bring out from the Ministry officials who came before us.

Mr. G. Wilson

The hon. Member has referred to my speech. I said that we cannot have a planned economy unless we are prepared, by force, to direct all forms of transport.

Mr. Steele

I shall come to the hon. Member's speech in due course, if he will contain himself. If he will read the evidence given before the Select Committee he will find that nobody at the Ministry of Transport has the job of sitting down and trying a little crystal gazing, to see what the probable form of our transport system will be in ten years' time. That is what we should be doing, so that we can plan each section of our transport system to meet public needs.

The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) gave us the kind of speech that he has given us in every transport debate. It is a record that is beginning to wear thin. The 1947 Act was passed a long time ago, and the hon. Member seems to forget that the 1953 Act, brought in by a Conservative Government, was supposed to cure all the evils of the 1947 Act. Of course, it did not do so; in fact, it made matters worse. During the debate on the 1953 Measure I made a speech on this point, in which I said that we would soon have to have another Bill because the 1953 Measure could not possibly do the things which the Conservative Party claimed it would do. The Conservative Party gave some medicine to the patient in 1953, and, that medicine having failed, it is now to double the dose. That is what the Bill does.

The Amendment brings out the difference between the Government's approach to the problem and the recommendation made by the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries. The Government have the responsibility to ensure that adequate services are provided, and where the new Railways Board is unable to provide an adequate service because it will be uneconomic, provision should be made for the Minister to ask the House to provide money for that service, as the Select Committee suggested.

This suggestion is already in operation. There would be no services to the Western Isles and to Orkney and Shetland unless this responsibility had been accepted by the Government. MacBrayne's steamers and buses are subsidised by the Government, because the service they provide must be maintained to meet a social need. There is no difference between those services and the services which will be required in many other parts of Scotland.

4.30 p.m.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said, where the railways are now running services which are not economic, it is not economic for bus companies to run services. In many cases, when the railways have closed branch lines they have subsidised bus companies to run the services, because it has been found cheaper to pay a subsidy to a bus company than to continue a railway service in its present form.

We are not clinging to out-of-date ideas about transport. The habits of the public have changed. If people want to stay in at night and watch television, they do not use the buses to travel to the pictures. Perhaps they have a private car. But where there are new electrified services, as in my constituency, the trains are being used. In my constituency people leave their private cars at home and travel to Glasgow by electric train. So there could be a reversal of the present trend. We have to study the habits of the public, but in any case what we want is an adequate service, by road, rail, or some other means, and in many of the areas concerned, in Scotland for example, unless they are subsidised by the Government, there will not be any services.

That is why I think that, like the 1953 Act, the Bill will not be satisfactory. I am convinced that in the end the Government will have to return to the recommendation of the Select Committee and that in six months the Minister will find that the decision is on his plate. Dr. Beeching will not make a decision. He will make his reappraisal of rail services, but he will not take the responsibility for closing down the many lines which, according to the Bill, is what he will have to do. He will put the decision on the Minister's plate and the right hon. Gentleman will have to decide. In those cases where it is necessary to continue the services for social reasons, I think that the Minister will have to accept the Select Committee's advice and ask for money for those specific purposes.

Mr. Gower

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), although they denied it, betrayed their nostalgia for the sort of railway system which used to exist and largely still does. With a good deal of feeling, the hon. Member for Westhoughton said what a wonderful system it was—in his own words, the best in the world, the most involved and elaborate in the world, and all within these small islands.

Mr. Manuel

That is not what we are talking about.

Mr. Gower

It is what the hon. Member for Westhoughton was talking about.

The nub of the problem is that the Transport Commission inherited and until recently possessed that sort of elaborate railway system which was apposite to our needs when the railways had a complete monopoly of inland transport. Hon. Members opposite have suggested that the Government are departing from the idea of social need and are substituting merely financial considerations. But that is not the case. In judging the public needs, the Commission has something better and far more accurate than mere financial considerations. In other words, it can look to the degree to which the public uses the services. That is a very accurate barometer and is far more accurate than the Commission's overall financial position.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton said that if the public wanted a railway system, it had to be prepared to pay for it. We have the railway system and if the public wishes to keep it, it must use it.

Mr. Manuel

The hon. Member is talking complete nonsense. No hon. Member of the Opposition at any time during the long Standing Committee proceedings on the Bill nor any knowledgeable person connected with transport, including the trade unions, has ever suggested that when trains are running empty or without goods to convey the services should be continued. What we say is that where because of the sparsity of population the services are uneconomic but are being used to the extent that the population can use them, they should be continued because of the social implications of their withdrawal. Would the hon. Member apply his argument to his constituency and withdraw the uneconomic services in Wales?

Mr. Gower

I have said that I do not consider only the question whether the services are paying. What is more important is whether they are being used. For example, if there is a service serving an area in which a fair proportion of the population is using the service, I have little doubt that it will be continued. At present, we have a situation in which this elaborate system of railways, largely representing the sort of system which we possessed many years ago, includes many lines which, unfortunately, for various reasons the public is not using, either for personal travel or for sending goods. I am not discussing particular areas, but the broad question as it affects the entire country.

As the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West said, there may be special social reasons, as in the case of the Outer Islands, for making special arrangements, but I am discussing the general system. The system already exists and we do not have to create it. In some cases we may have to improve it, but it does not have to be built. It is not like a system of roads which has to be built. All we have to do to keep it is to use it.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton said that if the system were depleted still further, in some areas it might not be possible to deliver the mails. That shows how his thinking is circumvented by present conditions. We can all envisage a time, at not too distant a date, when helicopters will be used for delivering mail. That time is not so remote, for this is a world of rapid change—very rapid change. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West said that it should be easy to produce a plan to meet all our rail transport needs.

Mr. Steele

I did not say that. What I said was that there was nobody in the Ministry of Transport whose job it was to consider what transport would be like in the future with a view to planning to meet the need, that there was not even anybody looking into the crystal ball to get some idea of the future shape of transport.

Mr. Gower

In no field is there anything more difficult than estimating the future of public demands and requirements for transport.

Mr. Mellish

How does this square with the fact that last week the hon. Member himself promoted a Private, Member's Bill to enable local authorities to take passengers by road? He said, during his argument, that many branch lines would close. That was the whole purpose of his Bill. He has been talking about the future, but did he not promote his Bill in a measure of panic because many branch lines will be closed irrespective of whether there is a social need for them?

Mr. Gower

I do not think that what I did last week was at all inconsistent.

I have already said that I regard the special arrangements made by Messrs. MacBraynes as an exception to this rule. If there is a particular need in rural areas which is not met by existing rail or bus services, I should not think it strange to devise a remedy to meet that need, but I should not suggest that we should keep the old-fashioned system running for those areas. In many cases the old-fashioned system is not suitable for those areas. The stations are in the wrong places, villages have grown in different directions, and so on. The whole point is that the wording suggested by the Amendment put forward by the Opposition is a harking back—

Mr. Mellish

Does the hon. Member mean the wording: as will meet the reasonable needs of … the public".?

Mr. Gower

—to the idea of integration, the sort of idea which motivated hon. Members opposite when they wanted to monopolise transport under the ceiling of the 1947 Act. They cannot appreciate the fact that the consumer has made his choice. The public has made its choice. We have not to devise a remedy to tell the public what to do, but a remedy which will meet the public need. What the Opposition have in mind would not make the position of the Transport Commission more easy; in the long run, it would make it more difficult.

Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)

The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has dealt with the historical position of the railways. I was in this House when the Bill which nationalised the railways was passed. Looking back to that time I am satisfied that when the railways were taken over they were a lot of scrap iron, for which we paid extortionate sums of money. I am not blaming the railway companies for that. We had had five years of war and there had been a run-down of the railways which accounted for the fact that they were in that position at that time.

The Amendment says that they should meet the reasonable needs of … the public". It does not refer to excessive needs, or even the demands of the public. Am I to understand that the Government are not prepared to meet the reasonable needs of those who send us to this House? I believe they are so prepared but the Government want to introduce another measure. Apart from the needs of the people, they consider the question of whether the railways are making a profit. The measure used by the Government is profits, but the measure used by hon. Members on this side of the Committee is the needs of the people. We measure all our social services, not particularly by the profits they make, but by the services they give to the people.

4.45 p.m.

Could we produce a balance sheet of the expenditure and income of our hospitals? Of course, we could get at the expenditure, which may be millions of pounds, but the income is to be found in the health and life of the people. We have to measure one against the other. Private enterprise has, of course, always stood for profits. We believe in public enterprise which looks after the needs of the people. We want the railways to be run not so much for a profit as to meet the needs of the public. Personally, I do not care whether they make a profit or not.

We do not make a profit on defence. We spend £1,600 million a year on defence, but the Government never ask what profits we are making; they say that we have to spend that amount to defend ourselves. The same applies to other Services. Our Health Service is not run for a profit, but because it is a service for the community which the community needs. In all these services we must provide for the reasonable needs of the people whether it be in railways, hospitals, the Health Service, or any other service.

Mr. G. Wilson

Would the hon. Member have helicopters and private cars and everything else supplied in that way?

Mr. Awbery

This should apply to everything that gives a service to the nation.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)


Mr. Awbery

Everything that the nation uses in its services, and which is run by the nation, should be measured not by the amount of profit made, but by the service given to the public.

Mr. Mellish

We give a subsidy of £300 million a year to the farmers, so we are paying for our food.

Mr. Awbery

I have heard Dr. Beeching himself say that he will close a line which is not providing a profit. If the Government say that that line must be maintained, the Government must pay for the losses sustained on that section of the railway.

I have a complaint from my constituents. I have written to the Minister about it. I apologise for not informing him that I intended to raise it in this Committee. I have written to Dr. Beeching and I have written to the manager at Paddington. I have written to the consultative committee on the question. It is that one side of the station at Stapleton Road, Bristol, has been closed to the public. It had been open ever since the railway started. A tavern was built outside to meet the needs of the people. [Laughter.] I am looking after the needs of my constituents. If hon. Members opposite wish to laugh at that they may do so.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

Can the hon. Member tell us how many people use that station?

Mr. Awbery

I am informed that £1,000 a year will be saved by the closing of one side of the station. Whether that is correct or not I do not know, but I am satisfied that inconvenience and trouble will be caused to hundreds of people every day. They will have to travel 400 or 500 yards to get to the other side of the station. The little tavern will practically be closed, because the custom comes mainly from the railways.

The needs of my constituents in Bristol are not being considered at all. All that the Government are measuring is the amount of money which will be saved by closing this side of the station. Indeed, the position is even worse than that. There is a step leading to the main road from the station. That will be closed, and the road in which the tavern stands will be a cul-de-sac. Instead of having hundreds of customers it will probably have ten. I am satisfied that the Transport Commission is doing the wrong thing by closing this side of the station.

I apologise for raising the matter here, but I ask the Minister to take it up with the Commission and see whether anything can be done to meet the needs of the people instead of merely trying to make a profit.

Mr. Marples

I promise the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) that I will look carefully at his letter and go into the question very carefully, because I, and not Dr. Beeching, have to decide whether that station shall be closed. I will see how it meets the needs of the people. I take it that he is not asking me to subsidise the tavern, which also meets the needs of the people.

Mr. Awbery

I did not ask the Minister to subsidise the tavern. I asked him not to take away from the tavern the customers who are already there on the pretence that he will save £1,000 a year, albeit to the inconvenience of hundreds of people every day.

Mr. Marples

All I am saying is that various people have their own assessment of what is reasonable. Many people think that the tavern supplies them with reasonable needs far more than does a railway journey. But if the hon. Gentleman wants me to subsidise the tavern, and asks me in his letter to do so, I will promise only to consider the matter—but I do not think that he will ask that.

If, as the hon. Member claims, extortionate sums of money were paid for the railways, for scrap iron, as he called it, then the Labour Party is guilty of paying extortionate sums of the taxpayers' money for property which was not worth it.

Mr. Mellish


Mr. Marples

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) is on the wrong point. What should be paid is not under the cost, or over the cost, but the actual cost.

The hon. Member for Bristol, Central said that it was extortionate, which means that it was over the cost and that the taxpayer was paying more than it was worth. The hon. Member for Bermondsey suggested confiscation, which means, in effect, paying less than it is worth. The sum paid should be reasonable. The hon. Member's argument means that the Labour Party paid more than it was worth.

Mr. Awbery

We found the railways in a deplorable condition. I called the system scrap iron because I am convinced that much of it was. Then, under difficult circumstances, we had to rehabilitate the railways and build them up to what they are today by the investment of capital.

Mr. Marples

The sum should be not extortionate and not insufficient, but a fair price. If the Labour Party cannot assess a fair price it would not be very good in business.

The hon. Member said that the railway should meet the reasonable needs of the people and not the excessive needs—and that is a fair point. The Select Committee said that this confusion in judging between what is economically right and what is socially desirable has played an important part in leading to the situation in which the Commission now find themselves. In other words the Commission has been trying to balance two irreconcilable things—what is socially desirable and what is economically right—and it has fallen between two stools.

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

Mr. Marples

I do not wish to be discourteous, but there is a Guillotine on, and Recommittal must be finished by 6 p.m.

It would be for the convenience of the Committee if I summarised the arguments made for the Amendment and the Government's argument against it and then answered points made by hon. Members. After that the debate can be continued, and no doubt the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) will be able to catch your eye, Sir William.

The purpose of the Amendment is to lay a duty on the Railways Board to provide such railway services in Britain as will meet the reasonable needs of agriculture, industry and the public. We discussed this exhaustively in Standing Committee. I find that 45 columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT are devoted to it. The right hon. Gentleman has produced in a much shorter form some of the arguments then put forward. The two main points which the Opposition made upstairs, and which they have made again today, are, first, that the Railways Board is not placed under a comparable duty with that on the British Transport Commission under the Transport Act, 1947, to provide adequate railway services; and, secondly, that considerations of public service should not. and I repeat not, be completely subordinated to financial considerations. That point has been elaborated at some length.

The Parliamentary Secretary, in Standing Committee, answered those points under six clear headings. The first is that the Government's policy frankly now recognises that the railways can no longer be regarded as a milch cow, torn between considerations of public service and profitability. It is no good saying, as was said in the 1947 Act, that they should pay, taking one year with another, and then saying that they should have social considerations in mind. Hon. Members may have which they like but they cannot have both.

Mr. Awbery

We had both.

Mr. Marples

The present difficulties partly arise from the fact that the 1947 Act placed two irreconcilable duties on the Transport Commission.

Secondly, in the present declining traffic situation of the railways, it is illogical and meaningless to place any obligation on the Railways Board towards any particular class of user. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) and an hon. Member for a Scottish constituency mentioned the Post Office.

Mr. Manuel

No Scottish Member has mentioned the Post Office in this debate.

Mr. Marples

There is a difference between the railways and the Post Office which is crystal clear and ought to be made crystal clear to the Committee. The Post Office is a monopoly and the railways are not a monopoly. I have the figures here for the freight carried by road and rail and the comparisons between 1952 and 1961. In 1952, road vehicles carried 18.3 thousand million ton-miles and in 1961 they carried 28 thousand million ton-miles. In 1952, the railways carried 22 thousand million ton-miles, which was more than that carried by the road, and in 1961 they carried 17 thousand million ton-miles. In other words, rail is now carrying less traffic than the roads.

Mr. Popplewell


Mr. Marples

It may be tragic, but it is a fact.

If that is so, it is no good saying that the system which carries the least traffic should have an obligation imposed on it. I could understand the argument if it were a monopoly as is the Post Office. I recollect that when I was Postmaster-General some of the islands off the north-west coast of Scotland were very expensive to service: it was expensive to send a letter there. I know of one island in respect of which a man on it received only two communications a week, one being the local paper and the other being the football pools. We paid him 30s. a week to row his own boat across and to collect these two packages.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

What about it?

Mr. Marples

It was quite right and proper to do so, because it was a monopoly, but the railways are not a monopoly. If the man wanted to travel there he could walk or go by car or go by rail or go by air, for example. There is an immense difference between the two circumstances.

Mr. Ross rose

Mr. Marples

I would rather not give way to the hon. Member.

Mr. Ross

This is important.

Mr. Marples

What I am about to say is even more important.

Mr. Ross rose

5.0 p.m.

The Chairman

Order. Only one hon. or right hon. Gentleman can be on his feet at once.

Mr. Marples

The third point—

Mr. Ross rose

Mr. Marples

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can make his speech afterwards.

The third point is that to impose such an obligation would, I think, conflict with the financial duty of the Board, and would, in the interim period, impose an obligation on the taxpayer. I would say to the hon. Member for Westhoughton—who is, unfortunately, not now in his place—that it is not a question of profits. We are here talking about a loss of £151 million a year, which is equivalent to 8d. in the standard rate of Income Tax. Nobody can say that the Government have been sordid and mean in what they have done. It was a most enormous loss.

The fourth point is that the Select Committee said that the best test of public need of a service is what the public are prepared to pay for it. It is just no good hon. Members thinking that they are in a position to assess what a customer needs. The person who is in that position is the customer, and he will pay for what he wants—as, indeed, customers do in all walks of life. The Select Committee pointed that out, and I agree with it. Incidentally, two hon. Members opposite—at least two—were on the Select Committee, and gave valuable assistance to it.

The fifth point is that the particular needs of agriculture, commerce and industry may, and, in my view, almost certainly will, be reflected by those Board members with knowledge and experience of such activities. For those reasons, the Government cannot accept this Amendment.

The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) summarised the aims of the Amendment very fairly. There is no doubt at all that there is a difference of principle between the two sides of the Committee. The extreme case of the party opposite was given by the hon. member for Romford (Mr. Ledger), who suggested that all railway services should be free, and their cost paid for out of the Exchequer. I think that that view is regarded as extreme by most hon. Members opposite, but it really epitomises the Opposition's approach to this problem. We on this side think that if the customers want the service they will pay for it. They can have any rail way, or any branch line, they like as long as they are prepared to pay for the service they get, and do not expect the general taxpayer to pay for the particular travel—

Mr. Manuel rose

Mr. Marples

No. It is not discourtesy or anything else that prevents my giving way, but the fact that T know that we have only a limited amount of time and that a number of hon. Members wish to speak. I think that it is in the interests of all hon. Members that we should make our speeches in an orderly manner and without interruption. If I keep on being interrupted we shall be too late, and we shall be blamed afterwards for it, which I do not like. I hate to be blamed for anything.

The right hon. Gentleman said that what was wanted in 1947 was an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system, but my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) shot him down in flames, because the Labour Government funked it in 1947. Under pressure, they allowed C licences, rightly or wrongly, and one can only have an integrated system provided that one has a dominated and dictated system; provided that one controls all forms of transport. We shall never have an integrated system here unless we control all road transport—A, B, and C licences—the railways, the air services and the like. As my hon. Friend said, the party opposite funked that in 1947.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) mentioned an article in the Scotsman this morning. I apologise for not having yet read it, but I will look at it very carefully. I have no doubt that it will be full of the most powerful arguments if it was an interview with me that actually took place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) made a brave and candid speech. It is time that we faced up to our responsibilities. We spend eleven months of the year saying that we should have extra expenditure, and three or four days telling the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to spend so much money. That was what my hon. Friend said, and it is about time we thought what effect all this has on the taxpayer and on the national economy.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton asked what sort of transport plan we were to have, and I will tell him this in his absence—he can read my remarks tomorrow. At the end of this year we hope to have completed traffic studies that will tell us those traffics that it is profitable for the railways to take and those traffics that it is not profitable for them to take. Where it is profitable for the railways to take a traffic, and they are suitable, technically, to take it, the services will be expanded; where it is not profitable and suitable they will be reduced. The main point is to run the service as efficiently as we can in the interests of the nation—

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

The Minister has made the important statement that at the end of the year we are to have the results of traffic studies based on traffic costings only. It has been hitherto understood that those costings would have a relationship to track costings and to all associated matters. Do I understand now that these costings are to be exclusively confined to loading traffics, and so on?

Mr. Marples

The hon. Gentleman worked for the railways for a very long time. I really think that the studies that have been undertaken represent probably the biggest costing study of its kind ever undertaken, and I think that we had better see what comes out of it, rather than try to forecast the result.

One thing that is crystal clear is that with the changing pattern of transport it is no good thinking that the railways can compete with road transport in the carriage of certain goods. In the case of other goods, they certainly can, and should, and they should concentrate on the goods that they can carry best both for themselves and for the customers. That is how we see it.

If a case is wanted, I can instance the fishermen of Mallaig, in Scotland, who send fish to Central Scotland by road. On the other hand, we find that oil goes by rail. If the fishermen of Mallaig wish to send their fish by rail they can do so, because there is a rail service, but they opt for road transport. They do not do so because they are stupid or silly, but because it suits their purpose—

Mr. Manuel

Has the Minister travelled over that road?

Mr. Marples

The hon. Gentleman's point is that it is a bad road and that the fishermen should not use it, but they do choose the road, even though it is bad. I would not wish to dictate to them, as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would, and tell them that they must send their fish by rail. We on this side say that if the fishermen of Mallaig want to send their fish by road they should be allowed to do so. The party opposite would say, "You must send it by rail whether you like it or not"—

Mr. Steele

The right hon. Gentleman has made a very important statement. Once these traffic studies have been made those concerned may then decide what traffics are best for either road or rail, but the key to it is how it will be determined that a traffic shall go in one way or the other.

Mr. Marples

We shall look at the results very carefully. We cannot really decide until we have the results of the traffic studies. Anybody who thinks he can reach a conclusion before he has the evidence belongs to that side of the Committee. and not to this.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who made a very reasonable speech, as always, said something which I should like to answer now. He said that nobody was looking into what our traffic needs will be in ten years' time—I think that that was the period—or later. That is not quite right; we are looking into that. We have a special department, which I set up a considerable time ago, to do exactly that. I am certain that it can be done. and I hope soon to give some details in answer to a Parliamentary Question. Nevertheless, that is a valid point, because we do want to know what people's needs will be. We want to know whether they will wish to go from London to Edinburgh by air or by train.

So air, road, rail and the rest of it are being studied, but I did not want to make a song and dance about it because questions would appear on the Order Paper regarding the completion of these studies. However, as I say, I recognise that it is a valid point.

Mr. Manuel rose

Mr. Marples

No. Time is pressing and we have many other matters, including coastal shipping, to consider. It is rearing six o'clock and there is the Guillotine. I do not mind giving way normally but, in this instance, I must press on. In any case, the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire made his speech and I listened to it most carefully.

Mr. Manuel

The right hon. Gentleman has been giving way.

Mr. Marples

I agree. I think that I heard an hon. Member say "too much", and, accepting that admonition, I will not give way any more.

Another argument advanced by hon. Members opposite is that of the remote village which might not be supplied in bad weather. I received a deputation yesterday and its members pointed out that a certain village did not receive supplies of food, and so on, in 1947—fifteen years ago. That village has received its supplies during the past fifteen years and the only case is that on that one occasion fifteen years ago the supplies were not received.

Surely, to cover this sort of eventuality, there are now other ways of supply. For instance, helicopters were not nearly as good fifteen years ago as they are now. I maintain that it is better to use R.A.F. helicopters, which are quite capable of dropping food and other supplies, once in fifteen years than to keep a railway track going for fifteen years to cover that one eventuality.

The Select Committee said: For the Commission to continue to provide some services that are bound to be run at a loss is to continue to drive the railway accounts into deficit. This makes it impossible for them to carry out their duty of balancing their revenue account, taking one year with another. Hon. Members must decide what we want the railways to do. One thing we know for certain; they cannot do both. I agree in principle with the Select Committee that if anything is needed on social grounds it shall be a political decision and not a decision of the management of the railways and that Parliament itself will provide the moneys for those services. However, it must be a specific matter, and £151 million a year is too big a burden on the taxpayer.

I am absolutely opposed to the views of the Opposition on this matter. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will reject the Amendment decisively.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Ross

Had the Minister given way I could have made my point quite briefly. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman set a bad example when he spoke of the gentleman in the Western Isles in relation to the postal services. Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that that is one part of Britain where transport is provided by the nation simply because if the nation did not provide it there would be no transport?

The right hon. Gentleman is now telling us that sitting down somewhere in the offices of the railway boards are people working out what should happen according to a formula about which nobody knows anything. They are, according to the right hon. Gentleman, working out a costing system and will decide, from a railways' point of view, which traffics can be discarded and which can be expanded. From a railways' point of view that is probably a perfect state of affairs, but will anyone consider the other traffics? This matter does not appear to have entered the question.

Dr. Beeching says, "Let us discard £53 million worth of traffics. What the result will be is not Dr. Beeching's or the Minister's concern, or the worry of anyone connected with the new railways set-up.

Mr. Marples rose

Mr. Ross

The Bill does not explain just whose concern it is.

Mr. Marples

The hon. Gentleman could not have read the Bill because it is clear that the T.U.C.C., when it is proposed to close a passenger line, will consider what hardship will be imposed on passengers. Therefore, this matter must be considered and it is also included in the Committee's reports.

Mr. Ross

The right hon. Gentleman cannot deceive me or anyone else. When Dr. Beeching talks about the various kinds of traffic he is not talking about passenger traffic. He is referring to the closing down of these facilities for passenger purposes and of keeping them open for freight. The right hon. Gentleman should be aware that my hon. Friends and I have met Dr. Beeching once or twice.

This is all the fault of the Government. As was pointed out, one must have a unified ownership if the job is to be done properly and the great tragedy results from what took place in 1953, when a move towards this end was destroyed. Things are a great deal different and we have a great deal less now as a result of that 1953 action, which left us with the burden of the common carrier.

We have a great national transport asset and the main question is: shall we use it properly? The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was right when he said that hard decisions will have to be made concerning which traffics can be taken by road and which by rail. Despite this, it is proposed to discard £53 million worth of railways and no one seems to be concerned about what will be discarded and where the breakdown will take place. It is one thing for the fishermen of Mallaig, for they have a choice between rail and road. But what if a road does not exist? What happens then? Naturally, the railways will not be concerned. It appears that, if the traffic is not economic, they will go. This points the danger to what can happen in the future.

We have had this sort of problem in Scotland before—in the Western Isles and, more recently, in Orkney and Shetland. The Liberal Party may be prepared to accept this state of affairs for its Leader, and to support the Bill, but it is on matters such as this that the Minister has completely failed to wake up to the facts. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that in his former job as Postmaster-General he subsidised uneconomic services such as rural telephone kiosks. People could send letters and use telephones. When in that office, the right hon. Gentleman ensured that those services would be continued.

The question of a monopoly does not enter into the matter under discussion. We are considering the topic in relation to railway services in difficult rural areas. If this is to be judged from a profitability point of view it will mean that a considerable part of the services provided by the railways will be abolished in these difficult areas and. as a result, the people living in them will suffer.

Division No. 160.] AYES [15.21 p.m.
Ainsley, William Cullen, Mrs. Alice Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Albu, Austen Darling, George Galpern, Sir Myer
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Davies, Harold (Leek) Ginsburg, David
Awbery, Stan Davies, Ifor (Gower) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
Bacon, Miss Alice Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Greenwood, Anthony
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Deer, George Grey, Charles
Beaney, Alan Delargy, Hugh Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Bence, Cyril Dempsey, James Gunter, Ray
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Diamond, John Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Benson, Sir George Dodds, Norman Hamilton, William (West Fife)
Blackburn, F. Donnelly, Desmond Hannan, William
Blyton, William Driberg, Tom Harper, Joseph
Boardman, H. Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Hart, Mrs. Judith
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Hayman, F. H.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Edelman, Maurice Healey, Denis
Bowles, Frank Edwards, Rt. Hon. Noes (Caerphilly) Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)
Boyden, James Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Herbison, Miss Margaret
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Hill, J. (Midlothian)
Brockway, A. Fenner Evans, Albert Hilton, A. V.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Fernyhough, E. Holman, Percy
Butler Herbert (Hackney, C.) Finch, Harold Houghton, Douglas
Callaghan, James Fitch, Alan Hoy, James H.
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Chapman, Donald Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Cliffe, Michael Forman, J. C. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Hunter, A. E.

Once a branch line is closed—and this is the relevant point made by the hon. Member for Yeovil and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele)—one must consider what will be the position in ten years' time. The Minister talks about a "consumers' choice". Surely he knows what he has had to do in London about consumers' choice regarding car parking. He has a pink zone and people cannot come anywhere near it.

Mr. Marples indicated dissent.

Mr. Ross

They must pass through it and not stop. The right hon. Gentleman has spent a good deal of time telling people how the system works.

Mr. Marples

It does work.

Mr. Ross

What will be the position of road traffic in ten years' time? Might we not have to take the sort of unpalatable decision about which the hon. Member for Yeovil spoke? I feel very strongly on this point. We have a national asset and it may be that to meet an immediate and shortsighted need we shall destroy part of it. We should consider these matters much more seriously from a social and industrial point of view.

Question put. That "such" be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 193, Noes 259.

Hynd, H. (Accrington) Neal, Harold Sorensen, R. W.
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Oliver, G. H. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Oram, A. E. Spriggs, Leslie
Janner, Sir Barnett Oswald, Thomas Steele, Thomas
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Owen, Will Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Jeger, George Padley, W. E. Stones, William
Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Paget, R. T. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pannen, Charles (Leeds, W.) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Pargiter, G. A. Swingler, Stephen
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Paton, John Taverne, D.
Kelley, Richard Pavitt, Laurence Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Kenyon, Clifford Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Peart, Frederick Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
King, Dr. Horace Plummer, Sir Leslie Thornton, Ernest
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Popplewell, Ernest Tomney, Frank
Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Prentice, R. E. Wainwright, Edwin
Lipton, Marcus Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Warbey, William
Loughlin, Charles Proctor, W. T. Watkins, Tudor
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Weitzman, David
McInnes, James Randall, Harry Wells, Percy (Faversham)
McKay, John (Wallsend) Rankin, John Whitlock, William
Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Redhead, E. C. Wigg, George
McLeavy, Frank Reid, William Wilkins, W. A.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Reynolds, G. W. Willey, Frederick
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Manuel, Archie Robertson, John (Paisley) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Mapp, Charles Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Willie, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Mason, Roy Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Mayhew, Christopher Ross, William Winterbottom, R. E.
Mellish, R. J. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Mendelson, J. J, Short, Edward Woof, Robert
Millan, Bruce Silverman, Julius (Aston) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Milne, Edward Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Zilliacus, K.
Mitchison, G. R. Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Monslow, Walter Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Moody, A. S. Small, William Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and
Moyle, Arthur Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Mr. Lawson.
Mulley, Frederick Snow, Jullan
Agnew, Sir Peter Clarke, Brig Terence (Portsmth, W.) Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)
Allason, James Cleaver, Leonard Goodhew, Victor
Ashton, Sir Hubert Cole, Norman Gower, Raymond
Barber, Anthony Collard, Richard Grant, Rt. Hon. William
Barlow, Sir John Cooper, A. E. Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.
Barter, John Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Green, Alan
Batsford, Brian Cordle, John Gresham Cooke, R.
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Corfield, F. V. Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Costain, A. P. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.
Bell, Ronald Craddock, Sir Beresford Hall, John (Wycombe)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Berkeley, Humphry Cunningham, Knox Harris, Reader (Heston)
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Curran, Charles Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Bidgood, John C. Dalkeith, Earl of Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Biffen, John Dance, James Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Biggs-Davison, John d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Harvle Anderson, Miss
Bingham, R. M. de Ferranti, Basil Hay, John
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Digby, Simon Wingfield Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Bishop, F. P. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Black, Sir Cyril Doughty, Charles Hicks Beach, Maj. W.
Bossom, Clive Drayson, G. B. Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Bourne-Arton, A. Duncan, Sir James Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Box, Donald Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. Eden, John Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Boyle, Sir Edward Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hirst, Geoffrey
Braine, Bernard Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hocking, Philip N.
Brewis, John Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Holland, Philip
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Errington, Sir Eric Holt, Arthur
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John
Brooman-White, R. Farey-Jones, F. W. Hopkins, Alan
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Farr, John Howard, John (Southampton, Test)
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Fell, Anthony Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Buck, Antony Finlay, Graeme Hughes-Young, Michael
Bullard, Denys Fisher, Nigel Hulbert, Sir Norman
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hutchison, Michael Clark
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Freeth, Denzil James, David
Cary, Sir Robert Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Channon, H. P. G. Gammans, Lady Jennings, J. C.
Chataway, Christopher Gardner, Edward Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Chichester-Clark, R. George, J. C. (Pollok) Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Gilmour, Sir John Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Glover, Sir Douglas Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
Kerby, Capt. Henry Montgomery, Fergus Stanley, Hon. Richard
Kerr, Sir Hamilton More, Jasper (Ludlow) Stevens, Geoffrey
Kimball, Marcus Morrison, John Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Kirk, Peter Nabarro, Gerald Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Kitson, Timothy Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Storey, Sir Samuel
Lagden, Godfrey Noble, Michael Studholme, Sir Henry
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Langford-Holt, Sir John Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Tapsell, Peter
Leather, E. H. C. Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Leburn, Gilmour Osborn, John (Hallam) Temple, John M.
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Page, Graham (Crosby) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Lilley, F. J. P. Page, John (Harrow, West) Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Lindsay, Sir Martin Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Linstead, Sir Hugh Peyton, John Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)
Litchfield, Capt. John Pilkington, Sir Richard Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Pitman, Sir James Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Longbottom, Charles Pitt, Miss Edith Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Longden, Gilbert Pott, Percivall Turner, Colin
Loveys, Walter H. Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Lubbock, Eric Prior, J. M. L. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Proudfoot, Wilfred Vane, W. M. F.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Pym, Francis Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
McAdden, Stephen Quennell, Miss J. M. Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
MacArthur, Ian Rawlinson, Peter Wade, Donald
McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Walder, David
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Rees, Hugh Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.) Renton, David Wall, Patrick
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Ward, Dame Irene
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Ridsdale, Julian Webster, David
McMaster, Stanley R. Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Maddan, Martin Roots, William Whitelaw, William
Maginnis, John E. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Maitland, Sir John Russell, Ronald Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Markham, Major Sir Frank St. Clair, M. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Scott-Hopkins, James Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Marshall, Douglas Seymour, Leslie Wise, A. R.
Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Sharples, Richard Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Shaw, M. Woodhouse, C. M.
Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Skeet, T. H. H. Woodnutt, Mark
Mawby, Ray Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick) Woollam, John
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Smithers, Peter Worsley, Marcus
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Mills, Stratton Speir, Rupert TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Peel and Mr. McLaren.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.