Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [29th April]:
That this House welcomes the Report of the British Railways Board on the Reshaping of British Railways as a major contribution to the development of a sound and well-balanced transport system for the country.— [Mr. Marples.]
Which Amendment was, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
calls upon Her Majesty's Government to defer making decisions on the major rail closure proposals contained in the Report of the British Railways Board until such time as a thorough survey of the nation's other transport services and facilities has been completed, and a national transport plan devised". [Mr. Strauss.]
§ Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
So far in this debate there have been 15 speeches. 908 Of these, 11 have been highly critical of the Government's proposals for railway closures and only four have supported those proposals, and I can reach that figure only by including, more on the basis of courtesy than on the basis of fact, the two Government Front Bench speeches which we had yesterday. I suppose that diligent research would enable us to find a more pathetic brace of speeches from the Treasury Bench in one day. All I can say is that it has been my good fortune not to have heard them.
Obviously, the Government must have a case, even if we have not heard it, and I propose to address myself to what I think that case is. Before I do, I should like to reply directly to the Minister's challenge to me yesterday about the possible strike. As will be clear from what I am to say, I regard the battle on the future of the British transport system as political. It should take place in the House and ultimately at the polling booths. Of course, there are questions, such as compensation and the protection of union members, which are matters for collective bargaining and for whatever industrial action is thought appropriate, but the Government's proposals for railway closures are a political matter and I shall have a lot to say about them this afternoon.
We certainly do not want a strike. The N.U.R. does not want a strike. I am not quite so sure about some hon. Members opposite. I acquit the Minister. I am sure that he does not want a strike, although I am bound to tell him on what I have heard that his inept and flatfooted handling of the meeting with the unions made a strike more and not less likely. The whole House yesterday saw just how inept the Minister can be. If there is a strike—and I profoundly hope that there will not be—the responsibility for it will lie clearly on the Government, who, for ten years, have systematically destroyed the integrated transport system which we had and who have undermined the whole financial structure of the railways. It does not lie in the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk about unconstitutional action when it was they who set aside the whole machinery of railway conciliation and arbitration eighteen months ago and imposed a wages diktat on the industry.
Having said that, the first thing that I want to say on the main issues that we 909 are debating is that we are not attacking Dr. Beeching or the Beeching Report. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said yesterday, within the narrow contents of his appointment Dr. Beeching has produced a Report which makes a valuable contribution to the basic information needed for the formulation of a national transport policy. Certainly, within the terms of reference that he was given Dr. Beeching has done a competent and efficient job.
Dr. Beeching was given a job of surgery to do, and he has done it, deep incisive, antiseptic; amputative surgery on the grand scale, although many railwaymen and railway users in Lincolnshire and many other parts of the country might prefer the word "butchery" to "surgery". But this was not Dr. Beeching's fault. He was told to apply surgery in a situation where surgery was not the main or relevant answer, and, as was made clear from the Minister's speech yesterday, the surgery has preceded the diagnosis.
The fault lies not in the answer that Dr. Beeching has given to the question put to him, but in the question that was put. The fault lies not in Dr. Beeching, but in the Minister, in the Cabinet and in the Prime Minister who, in his new vantage point from the 1970s, looks like succeeding in producing a situation in which, as my right hon. Friend pointed out in an example taken from the constituency of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), the speed of travel is reduced to the speed of the stage coach.
I want to put this plain challenge to the Minister, and if, as he intends, this ever-tolerant and long-suffering House gives him leave to reply tonight, I hope that he will reply to it. I want him to answer this question: suppose the Minister had given Dr. Beeching these terms of reference, namely, to survey the whole of inland transport, having regard to alternative services, to economic development, to social needs, to distribution of industry policy and to real cost, as apposed to narrow bookkeeping considerations. Does he think that we would have had the same Report? Of course we should not, or the same proposals for closures. So I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will answer that question frankly tonight.
910 This is not to say that some closures will not be necessary. We have never claimed otherwise. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall said this last year during the debates on the Transport Bill. Every union, including the N.U.R., has said it, too. No one wants to perpetuate the railway map of the 1860s, a map which shows the results of Tory private enterprise run mad. Because they were afraid of monopoly they built competing lines, and this fallacy of thinking that one has competition in rail transport is a fallacy in which Ministers themselves believed until Dr. Beeching came along this year.
Some of the railways of the nineteenth century were built by avaricious company promoters for their nuisance value in the hope of being bribed not to build by existing railway Operators, or, if they did have to build, of being able to sell at a profit. Again, the fantastic land costs and the Parliamentary costs of building these railways saddled the railway system with a capital burden which has lasted up to our times. We hold no brief for the mistakes of Victorian entrepreneurs. What we are trying to do is to ensure that Britain's transport problems are approached with more breadth and vision in the 1960s than they were a century ago.
Some cuts are necessary. The question is which, and how to assess them. I think that many businessmen, including, I suspect, some hon. Members, approach this problem on the basis of a false analogy with manufacturing industry. Consider any representative manufacturing industry. Consider the soap industry. If there are 12 soap factories producing below capacity, one might decide to close two and concentrate production on the rest. One will probably choose the two least efficient to close, and closing them has no effect on the efficiency of the other 10, nor is the consumer affected. He still gets all the soap he wants.
But this does not apply with transport. To close one sector of the railway system affects all the others, because traffic arising in one area affects the profitability of the rest of the system. All parts of the transport system are members one of another, so when one closes part of this it is not an ordinary business decision. It is more in the nature of an amputation. Moreover, to close 911 one sector means denying to transport users in that area transport facilities which they otherwise would have had.
Our attack on the Government is based on the fact that this Report is based on narrow book-keeping considerations. It bears no relation to wider economic considerations affecting the national interest as a whole, still less to the social considerations, because we are dealing in this debate, and in this Report, with a service, not purely an industry, which constitutes an essential part of what it is now fashionable to call the economic infrastructure of the country. That is why it is totally wrong to base a decision on a narrow obsession with railway accountancy. One has to take account of the wider effects for the country as a whole.
What would be the position if we were to apply the Beeching technique elsewhere? The Board of Trade runs a useful service for exporters, obviously at a loss. I only wish that more use were made of this excellent service. Because it makes a bookkeeping loss, should it be closed? It would save several thousands of pounds if it were but it would lose millions of pounds of export trade. I tremble to think of the Beeching technique being applied to another service, the Post Office. Should we close those post offices and those delivery systems which work at a loss, and keep only those that work at a profit? We apply the opposite approach in the case of rural electricity. The whole basis of rural electricity policy under successive Governments has been to extend rural services at a loss and to recoup them with the profits made on easier parts of the system.
So with the railways. We may close a railway losing £8,000 a year, but suppose this means spending £250,000 on improving the roads, on providing alternative services, or subsidising bus services in those areas. Suppose we save £8,000, and then add immeasurably more in social costs through increased road congestion? The Minister's advisers have calculated that congestion on the roads is losing £500 million a year through wear and tear and through loss of working time, to say nothing of the cost in human lives.
The Minister yesterday set out to reassure us. He did not altogether 912 succeed. He said that he will be the judge in every case, and he repeated the procedure that he is required by Statute—his Statute—to follow. In every case the decision will be taken, we were told, only after an impartial, cool, judicial appraisal by this the most judicial of Ministers. Nothing will be prejudged. He went on, careful to prejudge nothing, repeatedly to refer to the intention to close one-third of the railways. Indeed, at one point he said that when he had disposed of that he would have a look at the next third, which he regarded as somewhat more marginal.
This is the judicial procedure made familiar in Alice in Wonderland—sentence first, verdict afterwards. If I were casting for Alice in Wonderland, it would not be the Queen of Hearts that I would give the right hon. Gentleman. I think that he would be in the tea-party scene. This, at any rate, is the doctrine that we had yesterday—decide now and hear the evidence afterwards. I think that the right hon. Gentleman revealed the truth when he referred to Northern Ireland. His subconscious was certainly showing at that point. Nobody needs to worry that he will not be consulted before his own line is closed.
I want to ask the Minister, first, what consideration he has given to the economic consequences of his policy. Let us look at capital investment. We are spending £70 million a year on railway modernisation and, on the basis of Government figures, about £500 million on investment in road transport, including lorries. We are to save, we are told—although there is some doubt about it—between £30 million and £40 million a year gross by the closure policy, although part of it—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall made clear yesterday—will be achieved by transferring the burden from the railways to the National Coal Board and to coal, gas and electricity consumers. It is not a net saving from the national point of view.
How much more capital expenditure will this mean on roads, road haulage goods vehicles, and buses, and how much additional current expenditure will be needed to subsidise bus companies and for additional road maintenance? We should be given these figures before we vote tonight. I would regard it as inconceivable that this decision should have 913 been taken without the fullest costings. We must assume that the Minister has not taken this decision on future transport policy without having all these figures available to him. Will he give them to us in his winding-up speech tonight?
Secondly, I want to ask what thought the right hon. Gentleman has given to the problem of road congestion. What estimates has he made? Has he had surveys made, and estimates of the new building that will need to be done? In 1957, his advisers calculated that 62 per cent. of our trunk roads and 23 per cent, of our Class I roads were already, by that time, used beyond the Ministry of Transport design capacity. Thirteen per cent. of the trunk road and Class I road mileage was then being used at more than double the Ministry of Transport design capacity. That was in 1957, and we all know how much road congestion has increased since that date.
What will he do to solve this problem when he has closed one-third of our railways? Will he build more motorways? At what cost does he think this programme will be reasonable? How does he think that he will solve the transport problem? I cannot remember who said, recently, that the motorway is the shortest distance between two traffic jams. Perhaps he will tell us what will be the additional cost in road congestion, or what road expenditure will be required to avoid additional road congestion.
Thirdly, what consideration has been given to development district policy? Here we have the Government plan. Over thirty Ministers go to Chequers to look at Britain in the 1970s, but their plan for 1963, apparently—this is their idea of planning—is to spend millions in order to persuade industry to go to the development districts, while, at the same time, a different Department is closing many of the railways which are serving those areas. Is this planning?
We have read a statement by the railway authorities that the railway serving the Wiggins Teape area was likely to be closed, but is being kept open for the Wiggins Teape development. Last night, if I understood the Secretary of State for Scotland correctly—and that is not an easy operation—I thought that he said, referring to a railway in the constituency of one of his hon. Friends, that there were prospects of industrial development, and 914 that if that industrial development came along it would save the railway.
That is all very fine. But let us suppose that it does not come along this year. Let us suppose that the railways close down and that someone then wants to bring new industrial development into the area, next year or the year after. Let us suppose that the line to Fort William had been closed and there had not been a Wiggins Teape, but that a future Wiggins Teape came along. What would have been the position? The firm would not have been located there, because there would have been no railway. It is impossible to pursue a railway development planning policy with the approach of the Minister of Transport.
My fourth point concerns rural development. We all heard last night, or have read, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones). A Welsh Planning Bureau, or whatever it is called, is being set up, and the event is being celebrated by the closing down of most of the lines serving rural Wales! Has the Welsh Planning Bureau been consulted about these proposals? Yesterday, the Scottish Tourist Board issued a statement saying that it feared:that the proposed railway amputations"—those were its own words—would mean the withering away of whole Highland communities.Fifthly, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about national economic development. Was the N.E.D.C. consulted before the Minister came to the decision that he put forward yesterday? Has anyone worked out what the transport needs of the country will be, or even what the potential railway revenues will be, in the 1970s and 1980s, based on the N.E.D.C. plan of a 4 per cent. increase in production year in, year out, for the next twenty years? Or is the N.E.D.C. target meant to last just from now until the next General Election?
The Government believe in planning for this year, anyway, but on this major issue the Minister is allowed to close one-third of the nation's railways without even inviting the views of the N.E.D.C. There has been no such instance of administrative frivolity since the same Government decided to enter the 915 Common Market without asking their economic advisers what the economic consequences would be. Can the Minister say whether the N.E.D.C. was consulted before he reached the conclusion that he announced in the House yesterday?
Sixthly, I turn to the question of the docks. We are glad that, having taken this decision, the Minister is setting up a joint committee to evaluate the effect of what he has decided upon the implementation of the Rochdale Report. But why did he not take into account the full implications of the Rochdale Report before he came to his conclusions on railway policy? Is he satisfied that cutting the railways out will solve British Railways' financial problem?
Over the last ten years, 3,600 miles of track have been closed. That is 19 per cent. of the mileage previously in operation. Presumably this 19 per cent.—roughly one-fifth of our track mileage—must have been the least remunerative of the lot. Presumably that is why it was first selected for closure. Yet its closure saved only 7 per cent. of the working deficit of British Railways in 1960, and this takes no account of the additional cost to the nation of the closures, or the loss of main line traffic caused by the closures of feeder services. Will he explain his calculations?
If the closing of one-fifth of the track mileage makes so little difference to the operating deficit of British Railways, what will the next one-third do? Why should the Minister think that there will be any difference? Or does he agree with the Annual Report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee, which said:the negative policy of closing down uneconomic facilities, while contributing a small financial saving, is not the panacea it is sometimes made out to be.Will he comment on that Report, which I believe has been made to him?
I now come to the broader issue. The problem that British Railways face is one that is found in almost every country in the world. There is hardly a country where the railways pay their way. The problem is created, first, by the growth of private motoring—the avalanche that the Minister said would hit us in the near future—and, secondly, by the creaming off of the more profitable parts of freight 916 traffic by road haulage. Those are the reasons for the worldwide railway crisis, and the only way to solve it, as we have said repeatedly, is by an integrated transport policy which does two things: first, ensures that the profits creamed off from rail to road are brought into the transport pool, where they belong, and are not siphoned off by the owners; and, secondly, ensures an economic division of traffic between road and rail. These are the two essential items of an integrated transport policy.
That is what the Labour Government set out to do in the 1947 Act. I do not claim that we made no mistakes; of course we did. I will mention one. By fixing the value of compensation, the total monetary volume of transport stock, at the end of 1947, when low interest rates were ruling, and then appending an interest rate to that stock in 1949, based on higher long-term rates, we saddled the railways with an uneconomic interest burden, and made it a fixed charge on railway earnings.
But basically, whatever mistakes we made, we achieved viability for the transport system, a viability which continued until the wreckers got at it after 1951. Of course, British Railways were still paying their way until 1953. This was remarkable—it really was—because of the growth of road competition on a scale far exceeding pre-war, especially with C licences, because the House will recall that the privately-owned railway system was already facing financial disaster before the war.
We all remember the brave efforts of the Prime Minister, when a railway director, to work up the Great Western Railway into a profitable proposition. The year that he was appointed a director it paid £7 10s. per cent. on ordinary stock. In 1931, it paid £5 10s. per cent. on ordinary stock and in that year the G.W.R. asked the National Wages Board to reduce wages. In 1932, it was £3 per cent. on ordinary stock and again in 1933 it was £3 per cent. on ordinary stock. In November, 1932, the G.W.R. asked for a 10 per cent. cut in the wages of railway staff. Then it started paying dividends out of reserves.
Then, in 1935, the G.W.R. paid £3 per cent. on ordinary stock by dipping into reserves. In 1936, it paid £3 per cent. on ordinary stock for the previous 917 year, on earnings only slightly over 1 per cent. In 1938, it paid £4 per cent. on ordinary stock. This was achieved by slacking off on capital equipment, as the chairman pointed out that the company ought to postpone the provision of much needed capital equipment because of this dividend position.
We are now having to meet that expenditure. The plan for Euston Station was prepared years ago, but the private companies would not touch it. Now it is having to be done at much increased cost. By 1939, when the dividend was only 10s. per cent. on ordinary stock we were told that the company distributed for the purpose of dividends £8,210,000 when it was not being earned. After nine years of the right hon. Gentleman, the Great Western Railway lost its trustee status.
The reason why I am mentioning this illustration—and I could say that compared with this the L.N.E.R. was really a hair-raising story—is that already, in 1938, the railways were bankrupt. In 1938, they were plastering the bill boards with the demand "The Railways Demand a Square Deal Now," and by "Square Deal" they meant some kind of protection against the depredations of road haulage. Yet at the time there were only 513,000 lorries on the road. By 1952, there were 1,046,000, and yet British Railways were still paying their way, a remarkable achievement. In 1938, when the railways were screaming for a Square Deal, there were 365,000 C licence vehicles and in 1952 there were 834,000 C licence vehicles.
The reason why publicly-owned transport was still breaking even, even with all this increase in road haulage, was that of the lorries on the road 96,000 were publicly-owned and their profits contributing to the national pool. It was the 1953 Act which destroyed the ability of British transport to pay its way. It was the action of a Tory Government, not their first or their last, looting national assets to provide nice pickings for their friends.
The railway crisis began from the moment that a doctrinaire Government scrapped the idea of a national integrated transport policy, and the Beeching Report is the consummation of that policy. These closures, with all that they mean, are the direct consequence of poli- 918 tical vandalism, made worse by repeated political interference to stop British Railways charging economic rates, and, of course, by the continued and unregulated growth of private road haulage competition. As a result of ten years of this policy we now get the panic measures of the Beeching Report, at the very moment when the Americans are building new passenger lines for commuter services in their big conurbations.
The Government claim to be modern. They claim to be planners. Although they are a bit sheepish about claiming to be planners, they still claim it. This is not modernisation. It is a flat refusal to face up to modern problems. This is planning in blinkers. Let me mention the position in France, where war damage destroyed 75 per cent. of the rolling stock and most of the marshalling yards. But as a result of a vigorous policy of public enterprise, modernisation, high investment in new rolling stock and electrification, and although France has a bigger mileage of track than we have and with only half our numbers of locomotives, passenger coaches and wagons, their average load per wagon of 17 tons is about double what ours is. Their loss is minimal compared with ours. One reason why France has had this success is partly because its railways have tackled the problem of coordinating road and rail.
France has weighted taxes to induce road hauliers to concentrate on routes insufficiently served by the railways and it has higher taxes on road haulage where it is in competition with the railways and where the roads are congested. France has a system of fixing road and rail charges on the basis of the real cost of operation. We could do the same and win through, but the Government will not try it. In place of integration, which the French are trying, we have disintegration. We are even subsiding road haulage. It has been estimated—I know that there are many different methods of making the computation—that the 20-ton lorry is subsidised to the tune of £100 a week. The Beeching Report, valuable in its restricted field of railway economies considered in isolation, is the product of defeatism and refusal to face the future on the basis of a national transport policy.
919 Now I turn to what in our view we should do. First, on the Beeching closures. No decision, no major decision, on closures should be made until there has been a comparable and equally ruthless survey of transport as a whole. In every case, in every area, there must be a costing not just of railway profit and loss but of the real economic cost of providing alternative transport.
Secondly, the plan as a whole should be referred for a full-scale study of the national economic consequences, and I challenge the Minister when he replies to say that he will refer the whole plan to the N.E.D.C. before he takes a decision, first, for an expert appraisal by the skilled N.E.D.C. Secretariat and, secondly, for an assessment by the members of the Council of the national economic implications.
The N.E.D.C. should make estimates of the effect on the Beeching calculations of the N.E.D.C. Report. That Report, as I have said, involved an increase in the national production of 4 per cent. per annum. An increase of 4 per cent. per annum for twenty years gives about 100 per cent. Has anyone thought of calculating what this means in terms of railway traffic and revenue, or do the Government believe that we are not going to have a 4 per cent. increase per annum for twenty years?
But even more important than the effect of the N.E.D.C. plan on the Beeching plan is the effect of the Beeching Report on the N.E.D.C. plan. So I ask the right hon. Gentleman either to announce that he will have second thoughts, and make this reference to the N.E.D.C., and take no action in the implementation of the Report until the N.E.D.C. has been consulted, or admit that in this vital area of planning the Government refuse to plan.
Thirdly, the Government should make an estimate of future developments in the transport field. They are not looking ahead. They talk about being modern. The truth is that they are facing the problems of the 1960s with the restrictionist philosophies of the 1930s. This is the philosophy which inspired Shipbuilders Security Ltd., Jarrow, or the 1959 decision of the Government to consign the Lancashire cotton industry to the knacker's yard.
920 I therefore ask the Government to look to the future. What place has been given to the monorail in future transport planning in connection with urban transport? Can we really decide what we are to do about London transport, and the closure of commuter lines, until a decision has been taken about that? In connection with some of the more remote systems of transport, and in some of the areas which the Secretary of State for Scotland 'talked about last night, have they overlooked the possible future of the hovercraft—itself, if I may say so, a triumphant product of public enterprise?
Fourthly, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever replaces him, to begin again and to see what would be the future of British Railways as part of an integrated transport system. What thought has been given to the possible role of British Road Services as providing a modern and effective feeder service to British Railways, both of them under the same ownership, and not disintegrated as in the 1962 Transport Act?
Fifthly, having made this survey, let us have a national plan; a plan directed to national economic development; a plan integrated with, and not destructive of, sound regional and development area planning. I say seriously that this plan cannot work, nor can transport become a viable public service, except on the basis of the two principles which I have laid down: first, that the profits of all sections of transport, the more profitable and the less profitable, are more closely integrated; and, secondly, that there are effective means of securing a right division between road and rail traffics.
On the first of these, in "Signposts for the Sixties" we have said that an essential step must be to expand the public sector of road goods haulage, not only as a feeder service, but as a natural road service, by taking the artificial ceiling off the expansion of B.R.S. wherever it is economic and profitable for B.R.S. to expand. Equally, the plan must provide for the right distribution of traffic between road and rail. One essential part will be to make whatever changes are needed in A and B licensing regulations, including distance limits. Here we have the Government, after twelve years in office, and after deciding their rail transport policy, setting up an inquiry to look at a 30-year-old licensing system. Having done nothing about it for twelve 921 years, now they are to look at it, having decided on their rail policy.
Let us be frank. The problem cannot be solved without tackling the problem of the C licences and a national transport plan will have to provide for this. The number of C licences has risen from 365,000 in 1938 to 834,000 in 1952 and to 1,254,000 in 1961. It is impossible—the House must face this—to have an effective or viable transport system, or to avoid a degree of road congestion which will mean a total seize-up on Britain's roads before very long if the number of C licences is to continue to expand indefinitely.
Various suggestions have been made for dealing with this problem. One school of thought suggests much tighter licensing, the refusal of a licence except on the basis of proof of need and the absence of alternative transport facilities. I have my reservations about a licensing system which gives a vested position to everyone who has a licence at the time of the new system, while providing tougher tests for potential newcomers.
Some existing C licence holders may be as uneconomic from the point of view of the nation as new applicants. Transport managers, like the rest of us, have an innate tendency to empire building.
With road economics as they are at present, they are often able to persuade their board's finance directors to agree to a C licence fleet—even to operate at a loss sometimes—because of the value of filling the roads with moving bill boards advertising the firm's products on the roads and in the traffic jams. That is why some students of road-rail coordination consider that the problem can best be solved by stiffer charges for C licences, which would measure their contribution to the road traffic problems and which would make not only new applicants, but some existing licence holders, stop to count the cost. These are the sort of questions that a national transport survey and a national transport plan would have to solve.
Equally, there must be a more direct attack on urban road congestion. From some of the speeches he makes, I think that the Minister of Transport would like to introduce more stringent measures to deal with urban road congestion. I ask the right hon. Gentleman why should not the drivers of heavy lorries be for- 922 bidden to use city arid town centres except on proof of need? I invite any hon. Member to stand for half-an-hour in Parliament Square. Or, if he has not the time to do that, to keep his eyes open during one of the frequent traffic jams in Parliament Square, and to ask himself how many of the lorries which we see there really need to go through such crowded central areas? There are sand and gravel lorries, and all sorts of lorries with heavy loads of steel, using the centre of London as a mere convenience for driving from one part to another. One or two may be being used on important work delivering to building sites, but I very much doubt that. If access to urban centres were made more difficult, how many of them would use the ring roads, which is what we want them to do?
Finally, there is the broader problem of urban renewal, the reconstruction of our cities, the broader aspect of town and country planning. London's transport problem has been made infinitely more intractable by Ministerial cowardice in refusing to tackle the problem of office building in central London which, every year, adds tens of thousands of additional office workers to the numbers of our peak hour traffic. I think that I am right in saying—I do not think that the Minister of Housing and Local Government will deny the figure—that 40,000 new jobs a year have been created since the middle 1950s in the London conurbation, most of them in office employment in central London. Obviously, this adds to the problem of urban congestion.
Yesterday, we had the Minister's hints, thrown out pretty broadly, that his proposals—useless though we regard them even as a short-term measure—are intended simply as a stop-gap until we can replace our cities. For fifteen years, or whatever is the period, the right hon. Gentleman says that he will build roads in all possible directions, making us a nation of concrete. And then, suddenly, with a stroke of his Ministerial Biro, he is to rebuild all the cities. How in heaven's name does the right hon. Gentleman think that this is to be done? The Minister of Housing and Local Government cannot hope to remove all the slums in Liverpool by the year 2000 at the present rate of progress. Of course he cannot—and he knows it—at the present rate of progress.
923 How are we to get this major reconstruction? The road programme has been made excessively costly by private landlordism. I should like to ask what were the land costs of the Cromwell Road extension, or the Hammersmith flyover, or some of the other urban developments. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that there is no hope of any rebuilding of our cities, on the lines which he held out yesterday, on the basis of private ownership and private speculation in urban development land.
Our policy on urban land would have to be followed before there could be any hope of rebuilding cities on the lines which the right hon. Gentleman put forward yesterday. Because, of course, transport is not a single problem capable of being treated in isolation. It is part of the wider planning problem—economic planning, social planning, town planning—and this problem can be solved only by a Socialist approach. The Government cannot begin to solve problems such as this. That is why they have taken refuge in restrictionism and panic cuts.
I think, too, that there is a political motive in all this. They have deluded themselves, and I think that they hope to delude the country, into thinking that a savage closure policy can be represented somehow as modern, as tough—even as honest. They think that the electorate yearns for a policy of strength through suffering. Having won the last election on materialism, they hope to win the next on masochism. Of course, they will fail.
What is even more relevant to Britain's future is that the measures which they are now setting in hand, and which the Minister announced—or adumbrated, or whatever it was he did with his speech yesterday—will retard our economic development and that only by a broad, comprehensive and forward-looking national transport plan, which is part of a national economic plan, can we in this country face the challenge of the future.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
I always admire the skill with which the right hon. Gentleman the 924 Leader of the Opposition speaks in a debate of this sort. He maintains a rapid and apparently well-directed stream of fire on points just off the target. This afternoon, we had a very good example, because it was certainly one of his best speeches.
The right hon. Gentleman deployed, better I must say, than ever before—and I have heard it deployed a great many times—the Labour Party's transport policy in general. But an observer of this debate would, I think, have been hardly able to detect, throughout the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that what the Motion deals with, what it asks the House to view, is not a complete solution of all transport problems, but is, as the Motion says, a major contribution to the plan for the role of the railways, worked out after many years of careful study, directed to the precise points as to what a railway system in the 1960s and 1970s can do well and what it can do badly. That, rather than a refighting of the battles of 1947 or 1953, is the issue with which the House is confronted and with which, I think, the country is concerned.
I should say at once that the intervention of a Treasury Minister in the debate, not always, I am told, a wholly welcome fact in a debate, does not indicate an attempt to introduce what the late Aneurin Bevan once called the desiccated, calculating machine approach. I recognise that hon. Members on both sides of the House have genuine anxieties and worries about this matter. After all, we are a very conservative country and changes in our way of life, in our habits and in the way in which we earn our living we intensely and instinctively resent.
Many of the extremely sincere and very effective speeches—I heard most of them yesterday—made so far have reflected that very clearly. They have reflected, not the type of political approach which the right hon. Gentleman indulged in, in the concluding parts of his speech, but a real and genuine desire to think about, and to be reassured about, this very fine and carefully conceived piece of work in the railway sphere.
I recognise also that the House is always particularly sensitive, and, in my judgment, rightly so, to what concerns 925 the railways. The House recognises the importance of the railways to our economy—that they are very much part of our way of life—and it does not, or at least many of us do not, forget the way in which, less than twenty-two years ago, our railways were kept running under the threat of enemy bombardment. This is a matter, therefore, on which the House is, and rightly, extremely sensitive.
There has been, I think, some exaggeration—I would not altogether acquit the Leader of the Opposition of it—of the scale and scope of what is suggested in the Beeching Report. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "amputation". The Report proposes for consideration withdrawal of passenger services on 5,000 miles of route and the closure of about 2,300 stations. In fact, since 1948—since nationalisation—3,700 route miles have been closed to passenger traffic and 2,350 stations, rather more stations than are proposed in the Report, have been closed.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The point that I am putting to the House is that, although this is a further development in adjusting the shape and scale of our Victorian railway system to contemporary needs, it is not quite the startling innovation which, to listen to some of the speeches, one might have thought.
There has also been very considerable, excessive apprehension about the amount of hardship which, if the whole problem were finally approved by my right hon. Friend, might be caused.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It is only one point, but I can deal with only one point at a time.
If hon. Members will look at page 19 of the Report and the paragraph headed "Hardship" they will see that where traffic of more than 1,000 passengers a week is displaced that is, in the view of the highly expert people who framed the Report, a sufficient economic basis in the normal way for a bus service. It conveys very clearly that three-quarters 926 of the proposed track closure comes within this category, leaving one-quarter.
There is a very interesting and significant figure in respect of that quarter. There are only 122 miles of track where the railway service is not already paralleled by an existing bus service. I do not underrate—I hope that the House will accept this from me—the genuine concern of hon. Members and their constituents—my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Sir J Maitland) and my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) spoke about this yesterday; yet I suggest to the House that there has been some measure of excessive fear as to the hardship element.
To the Leader of the Opposition the considerations seem to be narrow, bookkeeping considerations—narrow accountancy questions—and the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) also suggested that the Report was more an accountant's than an economist's. I do not think that there is an enormous difference between us on this issue. I accept that the profitability of every section of the line is not the sole consideration by any means.
On the other hand, I thought both right hon. Gentlemen treated very lightheartedly the present state of affairs from the financial point of view. It cannot surely be other than a cause of concern to have a major organisation of this kind which can be kept in operation only by a subsidy from the taxpayer of £150 million a year, which, on top of that, cannot find a penny for its own capital investment but requires in the current year a further £110 million from the Exchequer by way of investment, and which has been faced with increasing deficits over recent years. To put the matter at its lowest, it means that this is an organisation whose customers are either unable or unwilling to pay anything like the costs of operating it.
The importance of this from the point of view of the economy as a whole is much more serious because of the major importance of the transport industry to our whole economy. Our total expenditure on transport generally is about £4,000 million, about one-sixth of the value of total national output, and expenditure on goods transport alone is about 10 per cent. of the total value of trade and production. If something 927 on this scale is wrong—is on old-fashioned lines in every sense of the term—that is a major difficulty, a major seriousness of situation with which any Government, and, I should have thought, any House of Commons, must be concerned.
After all, £150 million required by way of subsidy is about the same as our annual expenditure on the construction of schools and twice the amount of current grants to universities. Looked at in another way, it is the equivalent required to service a capital investment of £3,000 million. We have what, on the face of it, must seem to be a case in which resources are not being deployed or employed in the way most appropriate for the general efficiency of our economy.
The House must face the fact that if we insist and persist in applying labour and capital resources and equipment in a way which is not yielding anything like a reasonable return, and which requires this major subsidy to maintain it, then that diminishes the stock of resources available in other directions in which expansion of our economy is required. Therefore, I must press on the House that the size of the problem of the financial difficulties of the railways is a matter which the House must face. The concept that the railways should pay their way was not invented by this Government. It was put into the Transport Act, 1947, by right hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
They put the same concept into the Coal Industry (Nationalisation) Act, and into the Gas Act. Therefore, it does not lie in the mouths of right hon. Members opposite to make this complaint and to ride off lightly heavy deficits of this sort. Indeed, the riding off is carried very far. The hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. W. Jones) said last night—and it has been repeated in many places—that the railways should be operated as a social service. I have had a little experience of social services. I know, and I think the House knows, that the modem view of social services is that they ought to be concentrated very particularly in directions of individual need.
928 It would be very odd to initiate a new social service on the lines simply of maintaining in operation parts of a system first laid down by the original railway promoters for the totally different reason of private profit. I do not think the social service argument stands up. The benefit would not go on the basis of need, but on the pure chance of where one happened to live and where a railway promoter 100 years ago had happened to build a railway.
I want to make quite clear to the House, and to stress, that neither the Government nor the Railways Board are saying that every bit of track which cannot be shown to be remunerative should for that reason be closed down. That is the very opposite of what the Beeching Report itself said. I commend to the House what is said in the second paragraph on page 2 of that Report:It is, of course, the responsibility of the British Railways Board so to shape and operate the railways as to make them pay, hut, if it is not already apparent from the preceding paragraphs, it must be clearly stated that the proposals now made are not directed towards achieving that result by the simple and unsatisfactory method of rejecting all those parts of the system which do not pay already or which cannot be made to pay easily. On the conitrary, the changes proposed are intended to shape the railways to meet present day requirements by enabling them to provide as much of the total transport of the country as they can provide well. To this end, proposals are directed towards developing to the full those parts of the system and those services which can be made to meet traffic requirements more efficiently and satisfactorily than any available alternative form of transport, and towards eliminating only those services which, by their very nature, railways are ill-suited to provide.
That brings me straight to the Opposition Amendment—I mean the Amendment of the main Opposition, and not that of what I might call the "Teasy-Weasy" group below the Gangway.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I did not mention Mr. Edwards in case it should disturb my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro).
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The Opposition Amendment, and the Leader of the Opposition, both urge that we should take no action on the Report until the general surveys and policies to which the right 929 hon. Member referred have been worked out and concluded. The right hon. Member knows as well as any of us that there are profound and sincerely held differences between the parties on the major issues of transport policy which nothing in this debate can terminate or conclude. We take the view that integration, co-ordination, or whatever word is used for what the right hon. Member advocates, means an excessive interference with consumer choice—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
—with the right of people to choose whichever method of transport they find most suitable to their needs.
I know that hon. Members opposite take a different view. Otherwise, of course, they would not advocate it. The point I want to leave with the House is that it is riot necessary to conclude our argument on that—I do not suppose that we ever shall—in order to decide this matter.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Not now. I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me, but there are a great many hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate.
The reason I say to the House that we need not waste time on this issue—that is why I do not give way to the hon. Member—is that I cannot believe that any transport policy produced by any set of sane men would be designed and based on the view that we should retain one-third of a railway system which carries only 1 per cent. of the traffic.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
On the other hand, to defer for a considerable time, while the steps and stages which the right hon. Member advocates were carried out, would mean continuing to devote the equivalent of 6d. on the Income Tax year by year—and the figure would rise rather than fall—to maintaining in operation a system some parts of which are excessive. The very passage that I read a few moments ago, not from my right hon. Friend the Minister, but from the Report 930 itself, makes it clear that the closures recommended are those where it is clear that railway operation is not a suitable method.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain to us exactly how the system of consumer choice which he advocates operates in an area where the Government are compulsorily closing a rail service so that there is no freedom of choice? Although he is right in saying that there is a deep and sincere difference between the two sides of the House on the basic issue of transport policy, is it not a fact that there is no difference between us on the importance of the N.E.D.C.? Will he tell us why this question has not been referred to the N.E.D.C. and whether the Government now propose to do so?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
As the right hon. Gentleman may know, if the N.E.D.C. desires to consider a matter, it has its own means of raising it. It has the advantage, which the right hon. Gentleman may have forgotten, that Dr. Beeching is himself a member of that body. The point which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to avoid, but which I must press on him, is this. He must not be allowed to duck the fact that this is an analysis of railway operation, of what it can do well and what it plainly cannot do well. The point of consumer choice which the right hon. Gentleman raises is a perfectly simple one. As I said in my remarks—HANSARD will show this clearly—the right hon. Gentleman's policy gives an insufficient degree of consumer choice. Obviously, where there is not a system of any particular kind no consumer can choose to use it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that I carry hon. Members with me this far.
Where the difference comes is that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends say that it lies with the Government, rather than with the individuals concerned, to determine which of two available means of transport they should use. That is where we differ. The issue is not that into which I have been diverted of general transport policy, because I do not believe that any general transport plan evolved by sane and responsible men would advocate maintaining a railway system one-third of 931 whose mileage carries 1 per cent. of its traffic, nor maintaining a part of a railway system which, after expert analysis and expert review, has been found by those responsible for running it to be unsuitable for railway operation.
Hon. Members talk as if this were all a design of the Government. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) yesterday worked out a tremendous governmental plot. The Report is the work of people who were actually doing the daily job of running our railways and I think that the Report, though the House is entitled to take a different view, is entitled to considerable respect.
§ Mr. Manuel rose—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have much to say and many hon. Members wish to speak.
The Leader of the Opposition made a very revealing remark. He said that he objected to the Transport Act, 1953, because prior to that the railways had been kept going by means of the profits from the then Transport Commission's lorry fleet of 96,000 vehicles. That raises a very interesting point. What the right hon. Gentleman did not argue is that the railways, in the strict sense, were giving a proper return on the capital invested in them.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
But the right hon. Gentleman used the words "kept going by the profits of". He is right. That small profit—I think it was £3.7 million—disappeared in 1953. The argument, therefore, is that the railways should have been kept going, not because they were giving a proper return, or any return, on the resources invested in them, but because they were using the profits of another form of transport to subsidise them. That is a very interesting revelation of the policy of hon. Members opposite.
I do not for one moment say that it is necessarily a foolish or unsound concept, but it has this difficulty about it. If we seek to use, as in the nationalised industries generally we now seek to use, the return on capital invested as, at any rate, some indication of the extent to which resources are being properly used, to bolster up one form of transport by 932 the profits of another obscures that issue and masks the question which the House ought to face, which is the real cost, not to the railways, but to the economy and the community as a whole, of the operation of our railway system.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
Would the right hon. Gentleman care to apply that argument to rural electrification and tell us how he justifies what is being done there?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
First, that is a monopoly. Secondly, it is part of a system which overall earns a proper return on the capital invested in it as an enterprise as a whole.
I want to say a few words on what I think the House regards as one of the major issues—the effect on the staffs concerned. The position of the staffs concerned naturally arouses very considerable concern. It is not unique. Technical and technological change pose the same problems in other industries where changes are taking place. Again, this is a real problem which I hope the House will not exaggerate. If all the closures recommended in the Report are made, the most difficult time will be in the year ending 30th September, 1964, when there will be a reduction of some 26,000 jobs.
We must not ignore the fact that this is not a very striking alteration or innovation. Railway manpower has run down from 650,000 in 1948 to 475,000 last year. The reduction last year was just about the 26,000 which would be involved in this operation. That helps to make one feel and have some confidence that it will be possible to deal with these changes, in very large measure at any rate, by normal wastage, plus movement of staff, and only in a comparatively limited number of cases by actual loss of a job.
It is none the less a problem. There will be some people affected in this industry, as in others. The unions and the Railways Board already have an agreement in the case of those redundant. Beyond that, where people have to move there will be the help given in moving by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. If there is a question of retraining, the House knows that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is doubling the number of Government retraining centres.
933 I am sure that the right policy in this case, as in the other industries affected by these changes, is not to avoid making the changes but to try as far as humanly possible to ensure that those whose lives are affected by the changes are taken care of and helped in the changes that have to be. I am sure that that, rather than seeking to avoid changes which changing circumstances impose, is the right lesson for our economy, not only on the railways, but elsewhere.
No one underrates the difficulties and feelings aroused by changes of this sort. In this age of startling technological changes, and changes in tastes and markets, unless we are willing to switch resources and labour to the new directions, we have no hope at all of economic expansion. I suggest to the House that the right way for the railways, as for the other industries affected, to face these changes is to move our not unlimited resources to the directions where they can be most effectively employed; and it is only in this way that we can have an efficient and competitive Britain.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he saw some politics in this. I am bound to say that it would have been much easier for this or any other Government to have ducked this issue; to have avoided the kind of criticisms that have arisen in this debate by just letting our resources go on being misapplied or applied in places less effectively than they would be. I suggest that if we had done that it might well have been politically advantageous, but I am sure that we would have been failing in our duty.
I suggest that the crucial test for the country is whether we are prepared to face the challenge of change and make the changes; accept the challenge, face the criticism and do what is needed to give us the modern railway system and economy which we require.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
You will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that it is a relief to be fortunate enough to catch your eye. I listened to the whole of yesterday's debate and I must begin by saying that nothing that was said from the benches opposite in any way helped to change my views or even to modify them. Nor have the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman been any more successful today.
934 I am tempted to answer the right hon. Gentleman on the question of consumer choice, but since so many hon. Members wish to speak the kindest thing I can do is to draw a kindly veil over it. If the Prime Minister thinks that this is one of the forward-looking plans that will rally the people of this country to the Conservative Party, he is getting a different message through the grapevine from the one I am receiving.
In the past few weeks Dr. Beeching has come in for some very hard words. Despite this, it is not Dr. Beeching who is to blame but the Minister of Transport and the Government, because, after all, Dr. Beeching has merely carried out the job given to him. Then can be no doubt that he has carried it out efficiently and that had he been given a different kind of job he would have carried that out just as efficiently.
Because so many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, I will make only a brief reference to railway workshops. I appreciate that only a short reference to this subject appears in the Report. Some years ago the Dukinfield Carriage Works in my constituency were closed. I took the matter up with British Railways, met officials on the spot and was told, in effect, "You need not worry about the employment of the people here because any of those who wish to carry on with the railways will be transferred to Gorton." At the end of next month Gorton is to be closed, so where do we go from here? There are no others.
I have met some of the men and, while some of them have managed to get other jobs, I am worried about the sort of jobs they have been able to obtain. I regret that craftsmanship should be lost to productive industry. One man, aged 57, who will become redundant, spoke to me last Sunday. He has not yet found an alternative job, and at the age of 57 he does not stand much chance of finding one—and this is after a lifetime working in railway workshops. The more we cut down the size of the railway system the more we cut down the number of railway workshops—and that applies equally to the need for private industry in this connection.
My views are so fundamentally opposed to those of the Government that I should, perhaps, express my personal position. I am so appalled by 935 the slaughter on the roads that I would personally give a very large subsidy to the railways simply because the more we can attract traffic from the roads to the railways the better the situation will be. If I, in the national interest, am prepared to agree to a large subsidy for British agriculture, I do not see why I should have any inhibitions about proposing an enlarged subsidy for the railways.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet) rose—
§ Mr. Blackburn
I am usually prepared to give way, but the hon. Gentleman spent very little time in the Chamber yesterday. A lot of my hon. Friends are anxious to speak and I am anxious to register my views. In any case, I know that the hon. Gentleman is opposed to me, so there seems little point in my giving way to him.
There is a lot of talk about giving a subsidy to the bus services when the railways have been closed. "We may have to subsidise" is the sort of sentence we have been hearing lately, and I am wondering why the Minister should want to do that, especially since the Government have so far not been very successful in finding alternative bus services for those sections of the railways which have been closed down already. In this connection, has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion on the Order Paper in the name of a number of his hon. Friends entitled Rural Bus Services"? It reads:That this House urges Her Majesty's Government, when considering the proposals for the reshaping of British Railways, not to forget the urgent requirements of those areas of rural Britain which have already had their railway services withdrawn and have not yet had them replaced by alternative bus services.What guarantee have we that when the other closures take place the Government will be more successful in providing alternative bus services?
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro) rose—
§ Mr. Blackburn
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. We know that he is one of the chief defenders of the Government Front Bench.
The whole trouble, as has been said, is that Dr. Beeching was given the wrong terms of reference. It boils down 936 to the fact that the Government said to him, "Money is our god. We are concerned only with profit and profitability. Do not take into account the convenience of the public, the national interest, the strategic interest, the social consequences, the slaughter on the roads, the plans of other Ministries in regard to the location of industry or the movement of population. Do not worry because the Minister of Housing and Local Government may have plans for new towns, even if he does not know exactly where they will be sited. Just get rid of the railways and do not worry about the transport problems of the new towns."
Dr. Beeching has done just what was asked of him. As has been said—and the right hon. Gentleman's reply to it was not very convincing—the logical conclusion of this policy, if it is applied to the railways, is that it must be applied to other public utilities and services, The advantage of public ownership is that one can take these considerations into account, as my right hon. Friend said in regard to electricity. If this policy is carried to its logical conclusion, the Minister of Power will have to say to the electricity boards, "You will make more money if you stop connecting up the rural areas and farms." The Postmaster-General will have to say, "We will have to stop delivering letters in certain parts of the country and we will deliver them only in the congested areas. The others will have to collect their own."
I would have thought that the last severe winter would have convinced even this Government that it would be foolish to close a great many of the railway lines. Last winter, the line between Buxton and Ashbourne bad to be reopened—it had been closed under a previous closure—because the only way of getting communication with the villages that were cut off was by rail. Now, Buxton itself is to go. We know that, practically every winter, Buxton will be isolated. Poor old Buxton—it is not in my constituency, but I feel sorry for it.
I think that what ought to have been said to Dr. Beeching, and the sort of job that should have been given to him, should have been more or less on these lines. He should have been told, "We appreciate all the difficulties of the railways which, like practically every railway 937 system in the world, are losing money; we appreciate the increasingly intense competition which they are facing, but they are a national asset, and they can and must play an important part in our economy. We should like you to examine how the system can be improved, and particularly how more traffic can be attracted from our over-congested roads. At the same time, we should like you to examine the transport system as a whole—rail, road, air and water—and report en what you consider to be the most efficient transport system for the country making the best possible use of each medium."
Such a report would have been valuable. Certain parts of this Report would have fitted in very well with that idea. I welcome some parts of this Report, particularly the plans for attracting more traffic, but I can only deprecate the plan for the destruction of one-third of our present system without regard to the social consequences. There is, of course a threat of more to come. This is only the first bite. Page 2 of the Report states:For this and other reasons, it is impossible to plan the maximum use of railways consistent with profitability, for years ahead, without some risk that it will prove, in the event, that services have been over-provided and that overall profitability is not achieved.This, therefore, is instalment No. 1.
The Chief Secretary, and the Minister yesterday, made great play of the fact that the one-third of the system we are cutting off carries only one-third of the traffic—
§ Mr. Blackburn
I am sorry—1 per cent. Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that a great many of our roads do not carry 1 per cent. of the traffic? Are we to close all those? No—they have to be kept going at public expense. It is a great argument.
There is a tendency for us to look at our problems in isolation. We look at the loss on the railways, but do we, at the same time, think of the tragedy and the cost of road accidents? Last year there were 341,698 road casualties—some killed, some seriously injured, some slightly: injured. That is over 900 per day. If one-tenth of that number of accidents happened on any single day on the railways we would have headlines 938 in every newspaper the next day. We would have the television cameras out. But because these accidents happen all over, in different parts of, the country, we are content to overlook them.
We have to consider the cost to the nation of road accidents—the loss of life, the human misery and suffering, the increased cost for hospital treatment, the damage to vehicles, the insurance, the delays through congestion. Various estimates have been made of the cost of road accidents to our economy. I am not in a position to make any suggestions at all, but every figure I have seen makes the loss on the railways very small in comparison. Of course, this scheme is to drive more and more on to our roads, and when considering railway finances and the consequences of the present proposals we cannot overlook the cost of the additional road vehicles necessary, the cost of road maintenance, and the cost of the construction of new roads.
I want, now, to turn to some constituency problems. I make no apology for doing so, because it is only when we consider the effect on people that we can understand exactly what the Report means to the country. Three of my councils have already debated this matter, and two have set up sub-committees to consider problems created by the closures, and to submit reports. The third passed the following resolution:That we notify the A.M.C. that we do not agree with the Beeching Report being implemented until a full inquiry has been made into integrating the road, canal and railway systems into an efficient transport system.Let me now say a word on the effect of these proposals on my constituency. Incidentally, the Report seems very keen to cut me off from constituencies occupied by Conservative Members. I am cut off from Macclesfield, from Cheadle and from the High Peak, so I do not know whether it is in my interests or not. We are to keep the one station, Stalybridge—in fact, it is to have a face lift—but no local services. At Hyde, we have four stations. This may seem rather generous, but four minus four is nothing. Page 115 of the Report mentions only two of the stations that are to be closed—Hyde, Central and Hyde, North—but since we find in page 105 that the railway line between Manchester and Glossop is to be closed, and as the 939 other two stations are on that line, there does not seem to be a great future for them, either.
I spent some time during the Easter Recess visiting one or two stations in my constituency. I went, first, to Hyde, Central. It is a very shabby building, and only stout-hearted people like my constituents would consider using it regularly. I do not think that it has had a coat of paint since it was first built. The storage place is like the Black Hole of Calcutta. The offices are the acme of discomfort, still lit by gas, and as the place is so gloomy I imagine that the lights have to be kept burning all day.
I met the station-master. I am very sorry that the Minister of Transport is not present now, because the first words the station-master said to me were, "I am sorry that I cannot give you any figures, because we have had strict instructions from above that no figures must be supplied". In this House we are accustomed, when dealing with matters of defence and foreign policy, to hear it said that it would not be in the national interest to disclose figures. That, I can understand, but since when has it been the policy that a Member of Parliament should not be given information on which to base his judgment? I want to know whether this is a direction from the Minister or a direction from Dr. Beeching, because, quite obviously, the matter cannot be left there. We shall require a much fuller explanation—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies rose—
§ Mr. Blackburn
No, I did not ask for the figures, because when I heard that I said, "You" need not worry, because what you have already said is probably more valuable than the figures. There is obviously something to hide."
One advantage of this station is that my constituents are able to book on the Pullman that leaves from Manchester. Of course, there is not any convenient train connecting with the Pullman—that would be too easy—but to be able to hook on the Pullman has been a conveni- 940 ence to my constituents. Further, at that station there are two very large and important firms in my constituency that have railway sidings—though, of course, they will probably send their stuff by road in future.
The other station is Hyde, North. That is on the main line to Sheffield, but one cannot go to Sheffield from Hyde, North—there is no platform on that side. Hyde, Godley, which is on the line to be closed, serves T. Wall and Son, employing a great number of people who come from all around.
I am sorry to take so long, but these are very important matters. The next matter to which I refer would be funny if it were not so serious. In my constituency, we are to receive about 16,000 people as overspill from Manchester. The houses are going up. Some will soon be occupied. There is a school ready for use. But there is no sign of any industry. I have here copies of letters—I shall not take time by reading them—which refer to the promise by British Railways in 1960 of an additional station. What is to happen to that station? It is not much use building it if there are no trains and no lines. There are in these copy letters references to plans to alter the position of the approach road in order to meet the length of the platform to be erected. What is to happen?
In my constituency there will be about 6,000 additional workers. When I approach the Board of Trade because there are empty industrial or commercial premises in my constituency, I am told that we come within the Manchester area where the unemployment figures are lower than in other parts of the country, so that nothing can be done for us. If we are to be regarded as being in the Manchester area, we should have some transport within the Manchester area to give these 6,000 workers the means to travel to work. How many additional buses per day will be needed for these people to go to Manchester to carry on their jobs, until we have some industry locally? If there are not the additional buses, people will be unemployed. Luckily, the latest unemployment figure in Hyde was 2.2 per cent., but, if one adds 6,000 unemployed, it will be 22.2 per cent.
It is no use having arrangements to accept overspill—part will come to 941 Hyde and part will come to Longdendale—if we are not to have within the area efficient transport services or industry to give people employment, and anyone who knows the area knows that the roads there are already very much congested. I sometimes wonder whether the Minister of Transport knows anything about road congestion. I think of him nipping in and out on his bicycle. But at rush hours the road from Ardwick Green to the centre of Manchester is just a bottleneck.
Next, I take the example of Broad-bottom station which also is on the line connecting Manchester with the constituency of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Walder), the line from Manchester to Glossop. Broadbottom is a village within the urban district of Longdendale, a village of about 1,100 people. It may be asked, why should very much attention be paid to a small village like that? But there is no industry there and hardly any possibility of employment. Of course, there is not much hope that we shall get help from the Board of Trade. I did not ask at Broadbottom station for the figures, but I am told by the clerk of the Longdendale council that over three-quarters of the working population of Broadbottom travel each day by train to Manchester.
At the present time, if they start work at eight, they can catch a train at 7.15 and, twenty minutes later, they are in Manchester. If the train is taken off, they will have to catch a bus at 6.49, they will have to change buses at Mottram, where the buses are already full with other workers from my constituency, and then, about an hour later, if they are lucky and there has been no congestion, they may arrive in Manchester. Therefore, in the morning and the evening they will have an additional hour of travel.
Has the convenience of the people been taken into account at all?
§ Mr. David Walder (The High Peak)
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that, compared with his London counterpart, the Manchester commuter will, if these proposals are implemented as they stand, receive a very raw deal indeed?
§ Mr. Blackburn
I agree entirely. There is no consideration whatever in these proposals for the Manchester commuter, compared with London.
These are considerations which really should be taken into account, and that 942 is what I meant when I said that I made no apology for raising constituency points. It is only when one shows what the effect will be upon the local people that the full implications of the Report are revealed. If the Government carry into effect these proposals, it will be one of the greatest crimes against the people of this country that they have committed.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) complained that he was cut off from Macclesfield. Perhaps I may remind him that, about ten years ago, we had a very congenial General Election battle together, and it was then than it happened and not since the Beeching Report came out. However, I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman in raising constituency points. We are elected by our constituents to air the problems which affect their every-day lives in a very large way, and I make no apology for doing the same.
I thought that the hon. Gentleman, like many of his right hon. and hon. Friends throughout the debate, squared himself with Dr. Beeching as well as he could. A year ago. Dr. Beeching was frequently looked upon as rather a joke, but I notice that he is treated today with great respect by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. They now say that they think that he is a very fine man and so on, but he was given the wrong task.
The hon. Gentleman complained also that he did not get some information. I have been trying for several weeks to get some information from British Railways, and I did yesterday morning receive same which was helpful to me. If the hon. Gentleman had asked for it, he would probably have got something, instead of which he obviously has not prepared himself for the debate as well as he might have done.
§ Mr. Blackburn
No. I did not want to embarrass the stationmaster by pressing him for information. Obviously, he had been given instructions that no figures should be given, so I took it for granted that none would be available.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman did not go through the right channels. I went to Dr. Beeching himself and asked for the information, which I shall refer to as I go on.
943 The Leader of the Opposition said that the Conservative Government had sent the textile industry to the knacker's yard. This is not right. We all know, if we are honest with ourselves, the whys and wherefores of the textile industry and what has been done in an effort to help it. It was world events which brought it to its present state.
The right hon. Gentleman's reference to the monorail, on the other hand, was very constructive. This is a scheme which I should like to see investigated. Lord Bossom, who used to sit in this House, spoke of it time and time again ever since the end of the war. I had the pleasure of riding in a monorail train in Disneyland in January this year. It goes for only two miles, but it gives a practical example of what can be achieved—a quiet, safe means of travel which can carry a great number of passengers in and out of large cities at comparatively small cast.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the United States railways system and what was being done for the commuter service there. Much is being done. It has to be done. People travel into New York from places 50, 60 or 70 miles away. But the American railway systems are doing their utmost to get the long-distance passengers off the railways altogether. If they could get the remaining few into the air, their problems would be simplified considerably.
Considering what is happening in the railway systems of the world, by and large, bearing in mind what has been done in Holland, Switzerland, France and—so I read a few days ago—in the Soviet Union, it is clear that every country today is having to examine its railway system in great detail and bring it up to date. We cannot afford to ignore this problem. In the House of Commons, we have a duty to get something moving. I do not agree with all that is said in the Report. In fact, I disagree with quite a bit of it, and I will try to explain why. But this is a matter of national importance which must be ironed out. It cannot be ignored. It should have been tackled years ago.
I am aware of what is being done in France. Through the bombing of the marshalling yards during the war, France has had to make a fresh start, with the 944 help of a great deal of American aid. The French have had advantages in some directions. I have the feeling that Britain is now getting into its stride competitively. Wages are going up in Germany and elsewhere and Britain is becoming very competitive. But the railway system must support the industry of this country to enable it to export successfully. We must face change in this industry as we must in many others. I am told that, unless exceptional measures are taken, by 1970 the loss of £150 million a year could increase to about £300 million a year. This represents a sum which could be applied to other things which the country needs.
Dr. Beeching's Report is based on hard economics; we all recognise that. But we have been told by the Minister that cases of hardship will be considered. He spoke yesterday about redundancy. One thing which he did not mention when he was speaking about a station master or railwayman who had to move to another area was whether a house would be provided for them or real assistance given to them to enable them to get a home when they moved to another locality. I should like an assurance on that point. The redundancy problem has been grossly exaggerated in recent weeks. If the Daily Telegraph's figures recently are to be believed—and I imagine that they are—wastage will amount to 46,000 and redundancy to 25,500. That means that there will be a staff shortage of just over 20,000. The problem is not nearly as big as we imagined it might be. But real hardship will arise, even if only in a small number of cases. If a man is sent to another part of the country, he must be given real assistance to help him to find a home in which to live.
I agree with the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde that we should have been given more information in order to debate this matter effectively. However, as happens to many of us, we must get what information we can and make our speeches accordingly.
I see no reference in the Report to what might be another method of transporting coal. It is rather assumed in the Report that coal will be transported by rail for an indefinite period. Experiments are going on in the United States and elsewhere in piping coal by water pressure. I am told that there are very good prospects that coal will be transported in 945 this way in future. The same will happen with coal as has happened with oil. Very little oil today is carried in rail cars. Has this possibility been taken into account in basing the broad principles of the transport system? I recognise the necessity for changes in the railways, some of which will have to take place, but social and economic consequences of proposed closures must be faced. I want more assurance from my right hon. Friend on this than I was given yesterday.
Is the Transport Users Consultative Committee suitable to act as a channel through which the case against closures can be put? The Guardian questioned that in an article some days ago. Yesterday the Minister said that only 1 per cent. of the traffic would be transferred to the roads, but he has taken an average over the whole country. It may be that the increase in traffic going into Manchester will amount to several per cent. My right hon. Friend cannot make a broad statement like that and be allowed to get away with it.
I make no apology for referring to my constituency's problems. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) yesterday and the Leader of the Opposition today referred to their constituency problems. My constituency's problem is linked with that of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak (Mr. Walder). I do not know whether he will be fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but his problem is more acute than mine. Buxton lies 1,000 feet above sea level and is frequently cut off by climatic conditions. About 1,500 commuters daily go to Manchester from Buxton. I realise that there must be reorganisation of small rural branch lines, but I do not understand how one can designate the closure of a line used by commuters going into one of the largest cities in the country.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
On page 22 of his Report, Dr. Beeching makes special reference to suburban services outside London and suggests that special arrangements may be made with local authorities and the Government to deal with them.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
That is all right. I heard my hon. Friend say the other day, when we were talking among ourselves, that he hoped that lie would not refer to constituency problems, but I think that 946 I must be allowed to develop my own speech, because thousands of people in the Macclesfield area are alarmed not about the general principle—they recognise the broad issues—but because this Report concerns their livelihoods and the value of their property.
I wish to refer to the town of Disley, one of the most attractive places in this part of the world. If the station is closed, all the traffic, bus and car, will have to go on the A.6, an already busy and overcrowded road into Manchester. Any of us who has travelled on that road between 8.30 and 9 o'clock in the morning knows what a crawl it is into Manchester. The train from Disley to Manchester takes about 19 minutes. By car one is lucky if one gets into Manchester in an hour or considerably longer. Many already take their cars into Manchester. Where will the additional people who take their cars into Manchester park them if the line is closed? The parking problem in Manchester will be more acute than it is. There is no other form of transport for the large number of workers.
There are about thirty rail services a day each way between the Piccadilly station of Manchester, Disley and Buxton. Many new houses have been built in the area. As I have often said before, Manchester has been late with its new house building programme. Macclesfield may become a satellite town of Manchester. It is already taking a large overspill population from Manchester. New industries are coming to the area, but if there are not enough, people will have to travel to Manchester to work. If one takes all the surrounding areas into account, Manchester is thirty miles across, almost bigger than London, and it has a far bigger traffic problem.
Commuters cannot be treated in this way. They have a special case. To close this line will disrupt many hundreds, and probably thousands, of lives. I am told that the deficit on the line is about £40,000 a year. In addition there are track and signalling costs which amount to £50,000, but these can be jointly attributed to passenger and freight traffic. Stock port could carry part of these costs. Since the loss on this line is of that order, it is extraordinary to me why it cannot be made to pay. This is not the responsibility of 947 the ratepayers or the local council. It is up to the railways to make it pay.
It may be that fares would have to be adjusted. That would probably be accepted because at the moment the rail fares are cheaper than the bus fares. Probably three or four stations on the route will have to be closed—that is, where there is a parallel bus service. If the signalling system were simplified and if other general modifications were made, probably with a skeleton service on Sundays, if any service at all, there would be a saving all round. All this would bring about reduction in manpower. I am not worried about a reduction in manpower on the railways in the Manchester area. All I know is that on the new industrial estate in my constituency, the biggest trouble will be to get sufficient workers to man the new factories. It is a pleasant situation to be in, but it will be a problem to get enough labour.
I am informed that about 80 per cent. of the first-class accommodation on the trains is unused. Surely, the thing to do with these short-haul diesel trains is to cut out the first-class and to have one-class travel.
In the same area, it has been suggested that the railways will close the Manchester-Romiley-Macclesfield line, which provides Bollington with its only direct link. It is in the same area but situated on an even more congested road. At present, one goes by train from Bollington to Manchester in about 40 minutes. There will be at least a 100 per cent. increase in time when the railway disappears. I envisage the whole area of Macclesfield growing into a large industrial area some 23 miles out of Manchester.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to look at this matter again. I am sorry that he is not with us this afternoon. While I agree with the broad principles of the Beeching Report, with modernisation and with cutting out real waste, I am of opinion that the Manchester area is getting a raw deal for the commuter services compared with London. Unless my right hon. Friend gives me the assurance for which I ask that this matter will be looked at on the broad issue of commuter traffic, I do not know that I can support him tonight. I shall listen to 948 what he says, but I hope that he will give me an assurance on the broad issue of commuter traffic.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
In some quarters, the Beeching Report has been hailed as a revolutionary approach to the railway transport problem. The great majority of the national Press has exploded that myth and is extremely critical of it, because it seems clear, as more people are realising, that Dr. Beeching has not been given the task of examining how the nation's railway needs fit into a comprehensive transport system but has had merely to fulfil the terms of his appointment, which is to make the railways pay according to a policy laid down by the Government.
During these two days of debate, it has become clear that there can be no shielding behind Dr. Beeching's Report as a plan for railway efficiency. The Report arises from Government policy that Dr. Beeching must do something to try to make the railways pay.
It is interesting that there is not one new suggestion in the Report for increasing the operating efficiency of the railways. Every suggestion which is made for increasing their efficiency of operation has been dealt with through the years by the old railway administration, but people have not been allowed to develop their theories because of the stop-and-start policy of the Government. Whenever they have started a new venture the Government have stepped in with a decree. Consequently, the old railways people have been left to incur a heavy cost and they have been unable to reap the full rate of remuneration for the job.
It is suggested that the liner service is a new idea. In his speech last night, the Secretary of State for Scotland exploded that myth when he said that the liner services had been in operation for many years—for example, the Aberdeen fish services. As a practical railwayman of many years' standing, I know of other good, fast freight services which have been increased at a reasonable tempo over recent years. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) need not get excited. I do not mind giving way to him.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
As a matter of curiosity, I should like to ask the hon. Member to say where there has been a service of continuously coupled low loading trucks, with specially designed containers, planned in conjunction with the road hauliers, to fit the train. I know of no such service.
§ Mr. Popplewell
The hon. Member must know of the services which use well trucks, with small wheels, on to which the vehicles are loaded. These vehicles have not been made up into through-train loads, but we have had the freight rate services with, for example, the fish, meat and banana traffic, which is the selfsame thing, even though it is not included in the same narrow definition.
This indicates how little knowledge the hon. Member for Truro has about railway administration and operation. The proposals in the Report are put forward as something new. They entirely overlook what has been suggested in the past and they do not give credit to the former administration.
I protest vehemently about what is taking place with the so-called new administration. One would imagine that the old railway administration was comprised of nincompoops and that everything starts from the appointment of the butcher, Dr. Beeching. What nonsense that is. Much, if not all, of his efficiency plan as outlined in the Report is based on many years' experience by the old administration. Let us be clear that what Dr. Beeching has done is to be given Government support with a view to expediting certain characteristics of this experience.
The useful part of the Report is where it breaks down traffic movements. This is an interesting analysis of what is happening with railway movements. It makes nonsense, however, of the suggestion that acceptance of the proposals represents a true reflection of the shape that the railways should take. The unknown quantity which is attached to each section of the breakdown, and even of the traffic needs, is a big factor.
Whenever we talk to Dr. Beeching about these proposals, he admits that they are very much of an unknown quantity because of various factors. For example, he was asked to consider only the railways and not the broad principles of transport. He has not been asked what 950 will happen in a given set of circumstances. He talks about the new liner services and of his proposal to approach the National Coal Board with a view to doing what can be done concerning the pits and the bends in the sidings. Good heavens, the old administration asked the N.C.B. to do this many years ago. There is talk about approaching the engineering works with a view to making the curves less severe so that the wagons can be accommodated and the liner service can be operated.
Dr. Beeching is faced with all this, but even his apparently new idea of the liner service is nothing new. Nevertheless, it is hedged around with many ifs, buts and possibilities about what other people will do. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and other hon. Members have pointed out, the cost of certain aspects is being hived off on to somebody else. So much depends upon the revenue that will be received provided somebody else effects improvements of certain types so that the special liner services can be operated.
We must also take note that these liner services will not come into operation anywhere at an early date. They will take two to five years. Meanwhile, the capital cost to the Railways Board in obtaining private capital, together with the interest charges, will be an additional burden on the Board if it is involved in making the special type of service suggested by the hon. Member for Truro. The Report is so involved with "ifs" and "buts" and questions of what may happen in various sets of circumstances that it makes very peculiar reading, to say the least.
Financial and manpower savings are quoted, but the only authentic figure is the estimate of the savings from the closure of about 2,200 stations and 5,000 miles of track. But the consequences of such closures make nonsense of the figures. The Minister talks of a redundancy, by the end of September, 1964, of only about 26,000 men. But that is wild guesswork. The consequences of the closures suggest that the figures may well be nearer 50,000.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Popplewell
The Chief Secretary shakes his head. After his exhibition today no hon. Member will take serious notice of him. It was the most pitiful 951 speech we have heard from a Minister for a considerable time. It was even worse than the speech of the Minister of Transport yesterday.
If 26,000 jobs are to be ended by September, 1964, does this mean that the Minister will give his decision that a vast number of branch lines, stations and passenger services are to be abandoned by then? If this figure is accurate, then it indicates quite clearly that the Minister will not act judicially at all—that he has already determined the policy and that it is only a question of approving what Dr. Beeching proposes.
In this unknown factor of manpower to be displaced, we come to the crux of the trouble building up on the railways. The Minister made a deplorable statement yesterday. He said:What does the National Union of Railwaymen want? It has asked for the plan to be carried out by natural wastage alone. This means that it would not be necessary for one man to move or change his job, even within the area where he worked. Logically, it means giving men the right to stay in the same job in the same place until they leave voluntarily, retire or die—and all this even if there is no work for them to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 29th April, 1963; Vol. 676, c. 727.]It is incredible that a Minister of the Crown should make such a nonsensical statement. Even the Chief Secretary gave the complete answer today. From 1948 to the end of last year the number of railway jobs has dropped by 174,000. That demonstrates the co-operation which has already taken place. It indicates that the unions have faced the manpower problem. There is no question of their wishing to keep a man in a job which does not exist until he retires. To claim otherwise was a distortion unworthy of a Minister of the Crown, and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in saying that if a railway strikes does take place it is the Minister who is chiefly responsible for bringing it about. Let us put the responsibility where it really lies.
The Minister is well aware of the redundancy agreement entered into in February, making provision for the transfer of men. If the Minister is sincere in what he says about a man's job and in all the sob-stuff he uses when talking of the effect on a home when a man is transferred, then, instead of 952 making nonsensical utterances, he might adjust his mind to considering how these difficulties can be alleviated. I suggest one line of approach.
The agreement lays down that a man shall continue to receive his current rate of pay for five years if he is transferred. Why not eliminate that period altogether and so maintain his pay level permanently? This is done with railway clerks, supervisors and others. Why not give the benefit all round? This would be a reasonable line of approach.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
The agreement was made between the railway unions and the Railways Board. Is the hon. Gentleman urging the Minister to intervene and ask for the five-year limit to be abolished? If he believes that it would be right for my right hon. Friend to do so, does he wish him to intervene on other things which have always been regarded as matters for industrial bargaining between employers and employed?
§ Mr. Popplewell
The hon. Gentleman is not his usual self. He makes a very naive suggestion. He will recall that when there was talk of a railway strike, some months ago, that publicity merchant, his master, went on television and offered to meet the unions, side-tracking Dr. Beeching and everyone else.
What I am saying is that there is a danger of industrial trouble and, although I am not authorised to speak on behalf of anyone, I suggest that there might be a way of avoiding that trouble. It is not beyond the ken of the Ministry of Transport to make some suggestions. After all, for years the Minister has interfered with railway administration almost daily—and the Treasury has interfered as well. Let all grades of railwaymen be treated alike. Five years is a long time, but it is not sufficient to meet all the difficulties.
If a railwayman has to give up his home and go to another part of the country, what are his prospects of getting a house? The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) spoke of this problem. A railwayman who was moved in this way would find it difficult to get on a council house register unless he resided in the area in question. Even if he got on the register, five years is a 953 comparatively short time to wait for a council house. I know of men in my own area who lost their jobs more than three years ago as a result of closures and who are still not rehoused and who have to travel long distances to work. I suggest that the five-year limitation should be wiped out of the redundancy agreement.
Under the agreement, a man transferred from one part of the country to another gets the magnificent sum of 70s. a week lodging allowance. It is not 70s. a day—he is not on the executive rate—but 70s. a week. He has to spend seven nights and seven days in lodgings. What lodgings can he get for 10s. a day? He may be away for weeks at a time before his shifts permit him to travel home. Although he may be able to go home at the end of a month on a free travel warrant, a man on the basic rate of between £9 and £11 a week who has to keep his family in a far distant part of the land and pay rent of £2 or £2 10s., or £3 a week and his normal stoppages for insurance stamps, and so on, which amount to 14s. a week or so, is left with very little at the end of the week. He cannot manage on that money and we all know it. Does he have to go about like a schoolboy, without a penny in his pocket? If the Minister wants to avert trouble, this is something else to which he should give consideration.
Railwaymen are not Luddites. They have proved in the past that they are prepared to co-operate in making the railways efficient. I suggest that the Minister reconsiders the graduated payments for those railwaymen who are not to be offered other jobs. I do not decry the agreements on all these matters which have been reached by the unions and the Railways Board. They are the best agreements yet in any industry, but we are here dealing with dire circumstances. I wish that the Government would postpone their action, but I do not think that they will. They want to do things in a hurry, all within twelve months, and there will be this terrific jump forward. They think that they will solve the financial problem of the railways, but I do not think that they will. Nevertheless, here is another act of generosity by which they could demonstrate that they mean all the sob-stuff about the disruption of men's lives.
954 The Minister's argument on this issue yesterday was nauseating. He said that he had to draw the attention of the House to the serious financial position of the railways which had a deficit of £874 million. However, as we have so often pointed out, that deficit of £874 million has arisen only since 1953. Before that the railways were earning a profit. The Minister said that the nation had to do something about that deficit. I do not agree with any subsidies for the transport system provided that there is a co-ordinated transport system, but under the present set-up the taxpayers' money is necessary.
The 1962 Act laid it down that there would be a further accumulated deficiency of £450 million in the next five years. Although the Parliamentary Secretary pooh-poohed the suggestion, the Financial Secretary had to agree that the Government would have to ask for more money in two years.
§ Mr. Hay
I am sorry to have to interrupt again, and I ask the hon. Gentleman and the House to forgive me, but I think that his memory is playing him false. I remember very clearly the statement which my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury made and it was certainly not what the hon. Gentleman said he said. Speaking purely from memory, like the hon. Gentleman, I believe that my hon. Friend said that he thought it likely that that would not be the end of the story and that when the five years had elapsed it might well be necessary to provide further money, but that everything would depend on the speed with which the railways reached viability. He did not say that after the first couple of years the money would be exhausted.
§ Mr. Popplewell
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD. I do not have the quotation with me now, but I will supply it to the hon. Gentleman later.
Although there has been a certain writing off of railway deficits under the 1962 Act, the Parliamentary Secretary knows full well that the truncated Railways Board will still have to meet interest charges of more than £100 million a year. How will a reduced, truncated system be able to produce £100 million for interest charges, apart from meeting the present working 955 deficit? This is an Alice-in-Wonderland approach to say the least.
I wish that the Government would face the fact that the solution to these problems does not lie in individual gestures like the Beeching Report. We have to consider transport as a whole. It has been said that the transport problem affects all nations everywhere, and this is only too true. We are a small, densely populated, and highly industrialised island. This country does not consist of wide open spaces such as are to be found in other countries. It is, therefore, imperative that we look at transport as a whole and ensure that we use all forms of it to provide the community with the best possible service.
The Beeching Report has been under preparation for three years. Recently, we have had the Rochdale Report on the major ports in Great Britain, and the Minister says that some of the items referred to in this Report will have to be further considered. We have had the Jack Report on rural bus services. Colin Buchanan's report on towns is expected towards the end of the year. We have had the report of the county surveyors who point out that the Minister's plan to provide 1,000 additional miles of roads will not meet the needs of the nation. The Minister of Transport has himself put forward his proposals for the development of the motorways, and a further study of roads and the licensing system is inevitable. We have had all these reports and ideas, and now another committee is to be set up.
The present situation is farcical. As Dr. Beeching points out in his Report, each Committee has to stay within its terms of reference, and thus these reports are completely unrelated to one another. This is incredibly stupid. Surely no Government in the middle of the twentieth century could be stupid enough to reject any form of co-ordination in planning our transport system.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned the transport services in the Highlands and Islands. The Cameron Report was a co-ordinating one.
§ Mr. Popplewell
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I appreciate his 956 interest in the Highlands and Islands. I mentioned only a few committees which had considered the transport problem.
We are told that this Report represents the first bite at the cherry and that we shall later have to consider how to deal with the North and South Tyne-side Electric. Once the Report is accepted the Government will have another bite at the cherry and decide what to do about the eight commuter areas referred to in it.
The Report estimates that of the 305 million tons of mineral and merchandise traffic, 223 million tons are carried by road. It further estimates that an effort will be made to get 93 million tons to be carried by rail, thus leaving 130 million tons to be carried on our already overcrowded roads. Since 1950, 1,560,337 licences have been issued for the carriage of traffic on our already heavily congested roads. We are told that only 1 per cent, of railway traffic is carried on a high proportion of rail mileage. What is the position on the roads? We find that 25 per cent, of all road traffic is carried on 1 per cent, of our roads, while 60 per cent, is carried on 10 per cent, of our roads, compared with which about half the rail traffic is carried on 5 per cent, of the railway system.
Together with this problem, which has been accentuated by more and more heavy traffic going on to the roads, we now have 10½ million vehicles on the roads. It is estimated that by 1970 there will be 17 million and that by 1990 there will be 30 million. Could anything be more stupid than to close down the alternative transport system at a time when our roads are becoming more and more congested?
The Minister is not keeping pace with the building of roads necessary to deal with our problem. There are about 190,000 miles of roads in this country. What has been done so far to cater for the enormous traffic growth on the roads? The Chief Secretary used to be Minister of Transport. After twelve years of Conservative rule we find that only 199½ miles of motorway have been built. Plans have been put forward to complete another 138 miles of motorways by the 1970s, and it is proposed thereafter to build another 635 miles of motorways, making a global figure of 973 miles to 957 deal with 17 million vehicles. And it must be remembered that 600 miles of these roads are still in the planning stage, and it is a long step from the planning stage to completion.
In the programme put forward by the Minister we see that between 1954 and 1963 there was a gap of £249 million in the work authorised and the work completed, and this again shows that the present set up is ridiculous.
How does this compare with the expenditure on the roads? Between 1959 and 1962 central and local government spent £550 million on new roads and road maintenance. Let hon. Members compare the deficit of the railways with what has been expended on the roads and say whether there is any true comparison. Let them say whether the railways have been more favoured by subsidies. The figure that I have given does not take into account the police services, or anything of that sort; it is just paying for the broad highway.
There has been little or no support by back benchers opposite for what the Government are doing, judging by the speeches that have been made. There is an overwhelming case for postponing any further development of the Beeching plan until there has been a full investigation into all forms of transport, which will enable us to establish the correct relationship of rail transport to the transport needs of the nation.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
The remarks that I have to address to the House this afternoon will be mercifully short, in contrast to the speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell). I recognise the hon. Member's sincerity, but there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak, and I take the view that anything that an horn. Member wants to say ought to be said in the shortest possible time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) referred to the transport users consultative committees. On 29th November I drew the attention of my right hon. Friend to them and I draw the attention of the Chief Secretary—who has spoken about the great financial implications which would be involved in reshaping the rail- 958 ways—to this subject. I drew attention to the great problem which would arise in respect of the place of these consultative committees in the implementation of the whole plan. However the Beeching proposals are implemented, everybody agrees that there will be many passenger closures. Whether or not action is postponed, some closures will be eventually necessary.
Very little reference has so far been made today to the consultative committees, except by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield and the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), who referred to a letter in The Times, written by Mr. Ernest Whittaker, the chairman of the Transport Users Consultative Committee, and saying that it would take three years for the regional committees to assess the hardships involved by the proposals contained in the Report. I do not know whether that is an accurate estimate, but if it is it is clear that these committees will be a key factor in the whole system and procedure for closures.
When I raised this, matter in the debate on the Report of the British Transport Commission, on 29th November, I asked whether these committees were advisory to the Minister, or were quasi-judicial. Up to now the Minister has said that they are advisory and are not judicial in character, but I personally think that we have now reached the stage in which they ought to be independent tribunals, of a quasi-judicial character.
In my view, this is because circumstances have changed the position of these committees, as a result of the proposals contained in the Beeching Report, and also the enactment of Section 56 of the Transport Act. Under this, these committees must consider possible hardship and also proposals for alleviating that hardship, and then report to the Minister. That places them in a very different position from that of mere advisory bodies, and it is necessary that they should be regarded as independent tribunals in the future.
My right hon. Friend has said that he will bear those points in mind. On 27th March, he also said:I shall see that, where necessary, adequate alternative means of transport are available before a railway passenger closure takes place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1963; Vol. 674, c. 1320.]959 To arrive at a decision in these matters he must be fully informed and, I suggest, informed by a more permanent body than is available under the present system, through the existing consultative committees. They are now a great deal more than mere consumer councils. Although from time to time they have done a good job always on a part-time basis, and in one or two cases have convinced the Minister not to close a line, it would be much better if their proceedings were now treated as being more in the nature of planning inquiries.
We were told by my right hon. Friend that transport planning must be part of national planning. Therefore, these bodies should be of the planning character that I suggest. The part-time committee members to whom I have referred are unpaid. They do their best, but I take the view that they should be independent of the Railways Board in every way. Their offices and secretariat should not be supplied by the Railways Board. The Minister should set up an inquiry to see how best he can arrange for the appointment of independent paid chairmen, preferably with legal qualifications, and with functions similar to those of the planning inspectors. They should be required to consider the social needs which arise as the result of closures.
I also feel that these committees have a rather misleading title. I would rather like them to be referred to as "railway closure boards". It is clear that this process of closure will go on for some time and that the existing committees will be undertaking an enormous responsibility. I am not satisfied, as a result of previous constituency experience, that the present part-time members are equipped to carry out this work.
My other point concerns procedure. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been disturbed about this, and especially by the statement which has appeared, I believe, in the handbook of the Central Consultative Committee to the effect that it is entitled to decide its own procedure. I am not satisfied about this. When many controversial closures are being investigated and objections are being considered by these committees, the procedure under which they operate should be clearly laid down.
960 I suggest that the procedure should begin with a reasoned statement by the Railways Board, which should provide adequate and reasonable information, first, on the question why the line ought to be closed and, secondly—and perhaps more important—what alternative transport is available. Copies of this information should be supplied during the period of six weeks' notice which is given by the Railways Board. There should be a right to cross-examine witnesses. It is important that the Board should begin the proceedings by giving its evidence and should then be cross-examined on it.
The public have thought in the past that these committees were in the nature of "stooges" of the railways. I do not know whether that was unfair, but that has been the general public impression that I have noticed when dealing with these matters. On 11th April the Guardian said that these committees were "both lightweight and improvised", compared with other committees conducting public inquiries. Is there any reason why they should be? They will have a big job to do.
We all agree that some closures are inevitable. I suggest that inquiries into closures should be carried out quasi-judicially, and that these committees should immediately be reformed for the reasons that I have given.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has made some extremely valuable and very constructive suggestions about transport users consultative committees and the way they might be recast. One hopes that the Minister will take note of these suggestions. My own view is that the powers of the committees are more restricted. They cannot go into the question of freight closures or whether one or more trains should be cut out on a line resulting in great social hardship, especially in respect of commuters who rely on a late train service. These matters are not within the purview of the committees, but, so far as they have powers, I welcome and support the proposal made by the hon. Member.
I am not sanguine about the extent to which hardship is to be taken into account after the speech made yesterday by the 961 Minister, and particularly after the speech today by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, which I found depressing in the extreme. He started by minimising the extent of projected closures, comparing these with the mileage already closed. He failed to observe that the more line that is closed the greater the extent and the increase of hardship. A start may be made with lines which are hopelessly uneconomic. But gradually progress is made up the scale and the cut into various amenities becomes deeper and deeper. The right hon. Gentleman said that the railways were run by responsible people and that we must not criticise them. So far as I can see, nobody has ever done so. He ended with a stirring call to the Conservative Party as the martyrs of the future and said they had a great duty to perform.
The only thing which the right hon. Gentleman did not do was reply to the very straightforward question put by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, will the economic effect of these closures be referred to the N.E.D.C.? The right hon. Gentleman said that no doubt the N.E.D.C. could examine this if it wished to do so. No doubt the N.E.D.C. could examine the relative merits of detergents. It could, if it wished, assess the comparative strength of different brews of beer. It could discuss anything. But the fact remains that this is a body which was set up by the Government, and it is the Government who refer to it the problems of the day which they want answered. That was not an answer to the question put by the Leader of the Opposition, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. Although he failed to answer that very straightforward and clear question, I hope that it will be answered by the Minister of Transport at the end of the debate, if the right hon. Gentleman speaks, with the leave of the House.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I hope I made clear that the question of dealing with one-third of the track mileage carrying 1 per cent, only of the traffic was fundamentally a question of what railways could properly and efficiently do and not, as I see it, a question of major economic policy.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If that is the view of the right hon. Gentleman, what a horrify- 962 ing prospect for this country. What a horrifying prospect for a country which is hoping to increase its economy by 4 per cent, per annum. The right hon. Gentleman may laugh. But I represent an area where there is a high figure of unemployment and which will be deprived of its railways. What a horrifying prospect in relation to a policy whereby we are trying to create industry in areas of unemployment; where we are trying to get a proper spread of the population which is to increase by 17 million in the next 40 years—and still the right hon. Gentleman laughs—in a country where there has been a depopulation of villages sometimes to a population figure of 100 years ago—and still the right hon. Gentleman laughs. If this be the attitude of the Government Front Bench, heaven help this country and its transport policy.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The right hon. Gentleman may laugh now, but when the next batch of by-election results are announced I suspect that the smile will be wiped off his face, as it has been before, [HON. MEMBERS: "Wait and see."] I wait most anxiously, and I look forward to it.
May I refer to the Liberal Amendment, which differs in two respects from the Opposition Amendment. First, we welcome the bold proposals for the modernisation of the railways and accept that as inevitable, and we wish to be on record to that extent.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman can put his argument, but he cannot attach it to an Amendment which has not been selected.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The second matter which I should like to stress is that there is a general feeling, at any rate among hon. Members on this side of the House, that there is a total absence of overall policy for transport on the part of the party opposite. When the right hon. Gentleman says, "Well, we give the consumers freedom of choice; that is why we are cutting by one-third the passenger lines," it means, presumably, that the choice is made easier because there will be only one choice to make. I suggest that not only is there no overall transport policy to co-ordinate road and rail, 963 but—and this is the point which the Chief Secretary appears to have overlooked in his moment of mirth—that such a transport policy should be deliberately used as an instrument to stimulate regional development in those parts of the country where development is desperately needed. I believe that for the Minister of Transport to decide railway policy in isolation from transport problems generally is like a judge making up his mind on the evidence of one expert witness.
If one had any doubts about the dangers of deciding railway policy in isolation from other aspects of transport, those doubts would have been removed by the speech made yesterday by the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that there was an interdepartmental study going on at the present time. There was to be an inquiry into the licensing system and we were to have the Buchanan Report. Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that all those Reports are to have no bearing at all on railway policy which he ought to pursue? Is he really suggesting that they are so irrelevant to the future pattern of the railways that he can start axing the railway lines of this country without waiting for these Reports to be submitted? Is he really suggesting that? Because even the Hall Report, which was made to the right hon. Gentleman only a few weeks ago, stated, in paragraph 6,No systematic studies have yet been completed of the transport situation in cities in the United Kingdom and far too little is known, about the factors generating demand for either goods or passenger transport in urban areas.Again, in paragraph 12, the Report states:Moreover, even total transport demand is, in the long term, dependent on industrial location as well as the level of industrial output, while at the same time industrial location is itself influenced to some extent by the availability of transport facilities. It is not, therefore, possible to make any simple statement about the way in which transport, travel and industrial location will inter-act in the future. This does, in our view, emphasise the importance of local or regional studies of transport in relation to changes in population and industry.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
Did the hon. Gentleman observe a question from me on 27th March which was answered by the Min- 964 ister after he had made his regional statement on transport? I asked how the services were to be co-ordinated with the reshaping of the railway system, and the answer was:The question of co-ordinating other forms of transport with the newly reshaped railway system will be brought before the Transport Advisory Council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1963; Vol. 674. c. 1324.]That is quite a powerful body.
§ Mr. Thorpe
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I am not sure that that takes us much further.
The point is that, presumably, the Minister wishes to have a volume of evidence submitted to him on matters relating to road transport. That is why he has set up various committees. Presumably, therefore, the information will be valuable. But the right hon. Gentleman is to start on wholesale changes in the railway pattern of this country—which, once carried out, can be reversed only at great cost—without waiting—
§ Mr. G. Wilsonrose—
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am sorry, I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman is pushing ahead with the closure of passenger lines as fast as he can without waiting for that volume of information. I suggest that that is planning run riot. It is not planning, it is wholesale axing, without even waiting for the information which the right hon. Gentleman has asked others to provide. On the record of this Government regarding transport matters, I believe that we are entitled to say that they should not move until they have the maximum possible amount of expert evidence before them.
In 1947 members of the party opposite said that theywould overhaul the organisation of industries which remained nationalised and submit them to the highest possible test of the highest standard of commercial efficiency.This has meant that the railways were taken over when they were economically profitable. Since 1951, £1,240 million has been invested. And in 1962 the Government end up with a deficit of £160 million and an accumulated deficit of over £750 million over the past 8 years. That is the party which in 1955 referred to their modernisation programme as 965 "courageous and imaginative". When a Tory Government says that something is courageous, it probably means that it is unpopular because it is socially inequitable. When they say that it is imaginative, it usally means that it is financially unsound. That was the view of the Select Committee in 1960, which referred to this "courageous and imaginative plan" as ahotchpotch of things, which were ill-qualified and not readily explainable.I say that before the right hon. Gentleman is let loose with his axe we are entitled to have comparable facts and figures provided in regard to roads and other transport matters, just as we have been given them for the railways. Then we shall have a clear picture.
I believe that if this plan is implemented as it stands at the moment, it will not be a plan for reshaping the railways, but a plan for the urbanisation of Britain. Indeed, there has been far more mention of social conditions and social effects mentioned by Dr. Beeching than by any of the spokesmen on the Government Front Bench. In the Beeching Report, page 56, he mentions the four factors which he has not been able to take into account but which, he says, should be taken into account in assessing whether or not lines should be closed. They are: rationalisation of transport as a whole; total social benefit as distinct from immediate profits; long-term trends in the location of industry and population; and the prevention of industrial growth by withdrawal of railway services. Dr. Beeching realised that there were these other social factors about which we have heard very little indeed from the Front Bench opposite.
I want to suggest that transport policy, whether by road or rail, should play its part in the regional development of this country. May I give one or two examples? What is to be our policy with regard to population movement in this country? The Registrar-General, in the latest figures for the fourth quarter of 1962, pointed out that in 40 years' time there will be 17 million more people and that there would be an inward migration of 100,000 people this year, presumably towards the "coffin", as the planners call the London-Manchester axis, and a notional 50,000 a year inward migration thereafter.
It has been suggested by one authority that by the year 2,000 we shall have a 966 population equal to the total population of these islands living under city conditions from Dover to Bristol and from Lancashire to Yorkshire—solid lines of conurbations, two-thirds of which will be in really heavily populated areas. What is the Government policy with regard to population? Have they got one? Do they want to prevent depopulation of the rural areas? Do they want to prevent mass overcrowding in our cities? What is their policy on population for the next ten or twenty years, because if they have a policy—and I very much doubt it—obviously the transport system which we have will vitally affect it.
What about employment? What is the Government's policy there? Of course, this is a Government which has great experience of unemployment. They have had the highest rate we have seen in this country for 22 years. What is their policy there? In the rural areas we suffer from two problems in regard to employment—high unemployment and lack of alternative employment.
I want to mention two cases. I have a town in my constituency which has persistent unemployment of between 9 and 12 per cent, and which is scheduled under the Local Employment Act, namely, Ilfracombe. In the next door constituency of Torrington, which also has a scheduled area, a shipyard has closed down and unemployment is up to nearly 30 per cent. In this connection, I wish that the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne), who is a constituent and a very good friend of mine, were able to be here today. As the House knows, he has not been well, and to the very great regret of hon. Members on both sides of the House has had to announce that he will not be fit enough to fight the next election. I am sure that it is the wish of us all that he shall have a speedy recovery and return to this House, although, as I have told him, not necessarily for that constituency or even for that party. But seriously, we all hope that the loss of his companionship will be only temporary.
What is happening in regard to these areas of high unemployment? I ask the Minister of Transport what plans the Government have for improving road and rail communications in the areas of high unemployment. On 24th April he said:Areas of high unemployment will benefit from continued investment in our road and rail 967 services in accordance with the Government's policy of an efficient and well-balanced transport system. We have authorised additional road schemes in areas of high unemployment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1963; Vol. 676, c. 28 and 29.]The "continued investment" which we are to have, as suggested by the Beeching proposal, is that all lines for passenger and freight leading from Barnstable to Ilfracombe, which has 12 per cent, unemployed, and leading to Appledore, which has 30 per cent, unemployed, will be axed. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that will make it easier or more difficult to attract new industries to those areas? I know from my own experience what the answer is. Every industrialist to whom I have spoken says, "What is to happen to the railways? What is to be the position with regard to freight? We know the position with regard to the roads. They are hopeless for three or four months of the year, and it is vital to have railways".
Dr. Beeching in his Report said that probably industrial development could be taken into account but not hypothetical development. It is the policy of the Government to pump red blood into these areas, but they will not do it if the Minister of Transport at the same time cuts the arteries down which the blood must flow.
The case of Wiggins Teape has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition and others. Who doubts that if that line had been closed there would be no Wiggins Teape in the future going to Fort William and that that area would have continued to suffer depopulation.
I ask the Minister of Transport on this question of employment: does he agree with the policy of the President of the Board of Trade in trying to attract industries to those areas of high unemployment? Does he support the incentives that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget statement to encourage industrialists? Does he support the Minister of Labour in his efforts to create employment in these areas? Because, if he does, he cannot axe and cut communications which lead to these areas.
There is the equally serious rural problem, and that is the lack of alternative employment. I could take the right hon. Gentleman to villages which have a 968 smaller population than they had a hundred years ago. There are some in my own constituency. We heard a very moving speech from the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) as to the position in his constituency, where there has been consistent depopulation. Why do the people leave? In many cases, it is because they lack essential services. While Ministers meet at Chequers and try to project Britain into the 70s there are still many villages in Britain which want to get into the twentieth century, with electricity, water, drainage, and bus services, I have some villages which lack all these essential services, and now they will in many cases lose the railways which connect them with the outside world. This is why I find in my area that each year two-thirds of the graduates from the technical college leave because there is no employment for them locally. This is a rural area with no alternative employment or communications. Therefore, they have to leave.
The right hon. Gentleman must be very careful indeed to see that the alternative transport that is provided is such that it will not accelerate the drift from the land which has been going on for forty or fifty years. I think that the right hon. Gentleman let the cat out of the bag yesterday when he said:in many rural areas where there has never been a railway the problem is more acute than it is in those areas where railways have been closed down."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29;h April, 1963; Vol. 676, c. 740.]Of course, that is because they have been for so much longer cut off from the outside world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. If one is many miles from a main road and thirty miles from a railway station—
§ Mr. John MacLeod
Does the hon. Member appreciate that it will be 100 miles distant in the Highlands?
§ Mr. Thorpe
It will be 120 miles in the Highlands. As I listened to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, I thought that if air services cannot operate because of weather conditions in the winter, either Caithness will not see its Member or this House will not see the hon. Member. If one lives thirty miles from a railhead and a bus service is unusable for two or three months in 969 the year because of snow and ice, such as on Exmoor, of course it will be difficult to get employment in such an area. Of course, these people have suffered more because they have had this hardship for longer.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also say something on the question of redundancy, particularly with regard to the South-West? He mentioned yesterday that 261 people in the South-West will be redundant. They are in one area which will suffer. It is an area where there is very little alternative employment. Tourism has been mentioned and the devastating effect closures may have on this industry. The right hon. Gentleman says that the closures will put only 1 per cent, more traffic on the roads. Perhaps we could stand that if it were evenly spread, but it will be 1 per cent, on the Exeter bypass and the bypass to North Wales—1 per cent, on the main roads going to tourist resorts. That is where it will be concentrated, not spread evenly over the whole United Kingdom.
These proposals can have as profound a social effect on this country as any single factor since the Industrial Revolution. They can cause depopulation, make it more difficult to site industry and cause the tourist industry to decline. These are all very grave problems which the Minister has to face. Just as Clemenceau said that war is too serious a matter to leave to the generals, so I believe the social effects of transport policy are far too serious to leave to the Minister of Transport; they are matters for the Government as a whole.
What does the Minister mean by alternative forms of transport in the rural areas? Is he suggesting that the present bus services are an alternative? The railways refuse to publish the timetables, or indeed to refer to the existence of buses in their maps or timetables, and the buses seldom meet the trains. What we need as a substitute are modern country coaches, with through-tickets, operating in relation to the railway maps and timetables, which will wait for trains. They must terminate at the railway stations. They must take luggage in advance and be an extension of the railway line. Anything else would involve very grave hardship.
Not only those in the local areas will be affected, but main line traffic will 970 suffer because people will not travel on these lines if they cannot get to the destinations they wish to reach because the railway comes to an end without adequate bus connections. Before the right hon. Gentleman continues with this policy of closure we are entitled to know what is to be the social cost, the economic cost, of building roads and, in particular, what he proposes to do about the Jack Report. We should know the extant of subsidies he is prepared to give to rural bus services and how he intends to operate services in the winter months when many rural areas are completely cut off except for trains. We are entitled to have full information about the alternative means before any question of closure is accepted.
There is grave disquiet—more than that, anger—in many rural areas. In my constituency, there is an action committee on which many distinguished Conservatives are serving. There are people on it from all the parties and from none. We have commissioned a survey by a traffic expert to go into all the alternatives and costings. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider reports of that nature? This is vital to people who feel that their case should have a proper hearing. Are we to have proper notice of alternative means of transport before a service is closed?
This plan in isolation could produce an unsound and ill-balanced transport system. We can plan only if we have the full facts, both as to road and rail. I say to the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite that, if logic and persuasion fail, the rural areas in this country are not going to stand for a deterioration in their communications. If the Government do this, there will not be a safe rural Tory seat left in the country. The people will turn on this Government, and it will be a fate that this Government will richly deserve.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
As you may remember, Mr. Speaker, there are three different railway lines into Whitby, and all three are to be closed. My right hon. Friend the Minister will realise that during the whole of the Easter Recess I have had to spend most of my time talking, and, indeed—sometimes a harder thing to do—thinking about the railways.
971 I have told my constituents that I shall support the Beeching proposals because I believe that they are good for the country and because I am convinced that adequate alternative transport will be provided, or, if it cannot be provided on account of the cost, closures will not take place. It is said that transport is a national service which must be provided. I accept that, but I think that the taxpayer is entitled to some consideration as to by what means that transport shall be provided. More important is the point—which has not come out in this debate, except in the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury—the economic waste which is occurring.
At present, many men, through no fault of their own, are using such material and producing very little. Not only that, but the cost of distribution of goods is excessive and the delays are excessive. These things have a great bearing on the growth of the economy. Hon. Members opposite, in particular, like to attack the Government because our growth is not so great as that in certain other countries. That is true partly through nobody's fault, because those countries started at a lower level than we did. Partly it is due to the fact that there is not enough enterprise in some managements and too much of restrictive practice among some workers.
But I believe that it is quite a lot due to pressure to bolster up declining industries. That we cannot afford. The sad thing is that these measures, in the long run, will hurt the very people that they are designed to help. Unless, in this very competitive world, we can be competitive, we cannot export. If we cannot export, we cannot import. If we cannot import sufficient machinery and raw materials, we shall destroy ourselves as a great country. In a changing world we must be prepared to adapt ourselves to rapidly changing conditions. Changes hurt. I cannot think of any great change in history which has not hurt somebody, but there can be no progress without changes.
I want to put these questions to my right hon. Friend. First, on the timing of the closures. I believe that there is much anxiety—entirely misplaced—that the railways will be closed without any 972 additional services being provided. Where there are rail closures, there must be more bus services, some of them express. They must be timed to fit in with business requirements and with arrivals at the main stations. They must collect and set down passengers in the station yards. They must be prepared to carry far more baggage than is carried at present. I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that these facilities are provided, not simultaneously with the closing of lines, but before lines are closed, because that will make the switch-over much easier.
The second point concerns places where railways are retained for goods only. Is it impossible to run a very restricted passenger service, perhaps on single track and with no stations? Is it possible to run a mixed cargo? I am thinking of the fact that the Whitby-Middlesbrough line will not be closed for goods if the potash developments take place, because it is estimated that there will be 800,000 tons of potash to carry. I estimate that this will mean about 40 trains a week. This may be to railwaymen a shockingly unorthodox and perhaps impracticable suggestion, but would it not be possible to mix passengers and potash? I would put them in different compartments! Potash is not a perishable commodity. It could, therefore, be used to balance the load. When there were few passengers, there would be lots of potash. When there were many passengers, there would be little potash. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider that suggestion.
Thirdly, I want my right hon. Friend very seriously to consider how to deal with snow. This does not apply in a large part of England, except in a very exceptional year. But I and other hon. Members represent exceptional places where this applies every year. In my constituency last year one bus service missed 51 days betwen 30th December and 2nd March. On two separate occasions it was out of action for over a fortnight. This happens year after year, though not to that extent. The solution would be for the Minister of Transport to make available a pool of snow ploughs and snow moving machinery on call at convenient situations where the local authority could get at them easily.
§ Sir A. Spearman
My hon. Friend says that this is done, but to be particular it has not been done to the extent I would like in the area I represent.
§ Mr. Hay
It is true that we keep such a pool. The difficulty during the last few months, when we had this very exceptional and severe weather for a long period, was that the pool of equipment, which is normally quite adequate for all light falls, was spread so thinly throughout the country because there was so much to do that there were shortages in a number of places. We are looking into this matter to see what we can do to improve the situation.
§ Sir A. Spearman
I am very glad to hear that. I accept that last year it was reasonable for it to fall short, but it would not be reasonable for it to fall short again.
I want to emphasise the need for considerable additional service's by giving some brief particulars of conditions in my own constituency. More than 80,000 people arrive in Whitby by train in August. This is about five times as many as arrive in the winter months. I am sure that very large numbers of people go to Wallasey. No doubt there are very good and substantial reasons for them to go there. But I have not yet heard of anyone going to Wallasey for pleasure or for the benefit of health. People go to Whitby in very large numbers for these reasons. Whitby depends for its livelihood chiefly on catering so admirably for this need.
In the Esk Valley there are not hundreds but literally thousands of people who are now well served by the railway, but in many villages there are no buses. There are no buses because the roads are tortuous, narrow and very steep—what we there call "banks"—steep up to gradients of 1 in 3. No less than 250 children come into Whitby to school from outlying villages, some of them 20 miles away. Whether it is a good plan to have children so far from the school is an education problem, but it exists. I think that it is an important problem for my right hon. Friend to consider. I ask my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to ask the Minister of Transport to confirm tonight that he will give very careful consideration to all these points before finally agreeing to any closure.
974 I have been very impressed by the number of tributes which the Opposition have paid to Dr. Beeching. Some hon. Members, almost in the same breath, have attacked the plan and praised the Report. They have been willing to wound, but afraid to kill. I can understand hon. Members opposite feeling unhappy about this plan. It is always very annoying and frustrating when the other side gets in first with a good plan. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), in his agreeable speech last night, rather gave the show away when he said, "I only hope that we"—that is, the Labour Party—"can find men of the calibre of Dr. Beeching to prepare reports for us as Dr. Beeching is now preparing reports for the Conservative Government".
I believe that this plan is a determined and, because it is temporarily unpopular, courageous plan to modernise Britain. I believe that it is absolutely essential to modernise Britain if we are to maintain—let alone raise—the standard of living. I see no evidence of hon. Members opposite, under the present leadership, having the courage, the unity of purpose and the determination to do that job.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman), but he can take it from me that things are much more difficult in my constituency. The Minister has decided to close the four lines coming into Brecon. The bus services were supposed to start on 1st January. Because of the bad weather, for 10 weeks the buses did not run to three villages in Radnorshire, St. Harmon, Pantydwr and Tylwch. In Breconshire, the buses did not go for 10 weeks to Llangorse and Trefeinon. The same thing applied to villages on the Hereford line. I shall not dwell for even one and a half minutes—the time the train stops—on all the stations which will be closed in my constituency, otherwise I should speak for a very long time. If I stopped on both platforms, it would be one and a half hours.
It means that 42 stations are to be closed in one constituency. I have one of the largest constituencies in England and Wales, but the net result of the 975 Beeching plan is that there will be no rail services at all in my constituency. It is worth remembering that for two weeks during the 10-week exceptionally heavy winter spell I was unable to get here to see you, Mr. Speaker. That was a terrible thing, because I like to see you when you are calling me at Question Time. I like to ask Questions.
The provision of alternative services is of the utmost importance, as is that of the hardship that will be caused; and the remarks of the Chief Secretary about hardship were at the heart of the problem. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary could have reassured the House on a number of points and I regret that he is not to take part in the debate. He has been an extremely good Parliamentary Secretary and if I had had my way I would have given him the opportunity to have said a few words. However, I am not in charge of affairs opposite.
The attention of the Minister of Transport should be drawn most seriously to the situation on the Central Wales line. The hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) and I have been attempting to catch your eye during this debate, Mr. Speaker. I am glad that I have succeeded and I am disappointed that the hon. Lady has not. We are concerned with a line which was the subject of the first closure under the Minister's last Measure. In this connection, both of us were for two days at the public inquiry which took place on that closure. I have attended other inquiries for a total of three days, so I can assure hon. Members that I have had five days of attending public inquiries and am fully conversant with the procedure at them.
I have with me the report of the T.U.C.C. as a result of the public inquiry into the proposed closure of the line through Central Wales about which I have been speaking. It reports that widespread hardship would arise and that the main section of the line runs 100 miles through a rural locality. The T.U.C.C. states:The Committee of Inquiry are unable to suggest means of alleviating the hardship on the main section if the service is withdrawn.Surely, after what the Chief Secretary has said about hardship, the Minister of Transport must take this sort 976 of report and the sentiments of people who know the locality into consideration. In any case, why should it take the right hon. Gentleman six months to decide whether or not a line should be closed? I believe that it takes this long because no alternative service is available. In this case, it means that for 100 miles through a rural locality no bus services can be provided as an alternative means of transport.
We have been told that the Minister intends to await the results of six studies which are being carried out, one of them in Central Wales—not in my constituency—and that those results will not be available until the mid-summer. Are my constituents and the employees of this section of the railway—which runs from Carmarthen to the Craven Arms—to be forced to wait until mid-summer?
Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman say, "In view of what the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor has said tonight and the interests of the people of Carmarthen and Brecon and Radnor and this rural locality I have decided not to close this line"? That is the only course open to the right hon. Gentleman and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who I see shaking his head, will give me that assurance if his right hon. Friend will not.
§ Mr. Hay
I was not shaking my head in assent, but at the naivety of the hon. Member in believing that my right hon. Friend would be prepared to do a thing like that tonight. The case in question is under consideration and an announcement will be made when my right hon. Friend has reached a decision. In the meantime, the line goes on.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for assuring me that the line goes on and that no immediate action will be taken—that is, will not be taken even next weekend.
What is the reaction of the people of Wales to the Beeching plan? The Welsh Tourist and Holidays Board has summed up the general feeling of the Principality by stating:The Board views the Beeching proposals with deep concern and a certain amount of alarm.Why is the Board anxious? The answer is simply that the tourist industry of Wales is the fourth largest industry in the Principality.
977 Recently published was a report about the rural transport problems of Wales. Despite this, I did not hear the Minister of Transport say yesterday that he intended to consult the Minister for Welsh Affairs about rail closures in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman has agreed to such consultations for Northern Ireland and Scotland, but not for Wales. It is some consolation to know that the Minister for Welsh Affairs is interested. He had the courtesy to tell me yesterday that he regretted not being able to be here to hear me speak in the debate.
It should be remembered that 18 per cent, of holiday-makers in Wales come by train—720,000 people—but well over ¼ million railway passengers will be deprived of these facilities to travel. A number of well-known stations will be closed; stations like Prestatyn, Abergele, Porthcawl, Llandrindod Wells, Builth Wells, Llanwrtd Wells and Llangammarch Wells. Many of these areas will be deprived of any kind of railway service.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Is my hon. Friend aware that Llanfair-pwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll - llan-tysiliogogogoch Station is due to be closed, as well?
§ Mr. Watkins
Perhaps the only consolation might be to send the Minister of Transport the largest ticket that he could possibly receive. That, at least, would ensure that he knew exactly where that place is and how to spell it.
Facilities for buses are not available in the northern part of Wales or even in the South, and this will cause great hardship, particularly in the holiday season. The lack of railway services in mid-Wales will mean a reduction in the number of tourists. The map of Wales shows where the rail closures will take place. It is like the letter "E". Seventeen passenger services are to be closed under the Beeching plan, affecting 190 stations. Already, 13 railway services have been closed, that is, closed before Dr. Beeching was appointed. Those closures affected 168 stations. We can never get to Heaven by rail, that is certain.
The unanimous reaction in Wales—whatever the party or political allegiance—is against the Beeching plan. Even Conservative Members have attended the all-Wales conferences to dis- 978 cuss the plan. Conferences were held in February and July of last year to discuss the Welsh rail closures and—if I may do a bit of advertising—the next one is to take place on 24th May next. That forthcoming conference will be unique in that it has been recalled to resume its earlier discussions. Never before in the history of Wales has such a conference been recalled to hear further protests about the transport problem.
I do not wish to introduce too much emotion into my remarks, but the Minister must realise that a drastic problem is involved for the local authorities. It must be drastic for them to have banded together to appoint a committee to investigate the subject. If I may declare an interest, I have been appointed vice-chairman of that committee, while the chairman is the representative of the capital of Wales. Next Saturday, there will be a terrific demonstration in Swansea due to the reaction of railway-men and miners towards the proposed closures.
I should make it clear that this demonstration, and the other reaction I have described, is not solely because of the forthcoming redundancy in Wales. It is not a question of these men finding different jobs in the area. There will be no stations for them to go to and it will mean that they will have to find work outside Wales; many of them going to Slough, London, Reading and the Midlands for work. This means not only the uprooting of the Welsh people, but the loss of their culture, and, if they are not held together, they will even lose their religious ties.
The Brecon and Radnor Conservative and Unionist Association sent a resolution of protest about the closures to the annual conference of the Llandudno Conservative Association. Why was that resolution not on the agenda? I think that I know why. When the Minister of Transport wants to consult someone about Welsh transport problems he should consult Lord Brecon and the Minister for Welsh Affairs. After all, Lord Brecon lives in a district where closures have taken place. I hope that the Minister of Transport will consult the Minister who is responsible for Welsh affairs. I shall be happy if I can get an assurance to that effect from the Parliamentary Secretary.
979 Those of us on this side of the House who are concerned with this state of affairs in Wales submitted a Motion for consideration by other hon. Members last January. In addition, I was a member of a deputation from the All-Wales Committee which saw the Minister. He was very courteous. We described a number of things that were really quite relevant, such as depopulation, industry, tourism, agriculture, unemployment and redundancy, road traffic conditions, alternative services and personal hardship. Yesterday, the Guardian published an assurance that buses would replace Scottish railway passenger services. Can we have a similar assurance for Wales? Is there a method by which all the bus people can be consulted? The expected saving effected by the closures will be £41 million, but to get that saving 25 per cent, of railway mileage will have to be sacrificed. The cost in other than money terms had been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
The deputation I have referred to told the Minister that £1,500 extra would have to be paid each year by the education authority for the conveyance of school children by bus rather than by rail. His reply was, "Oh, well, the rate deficiency grant will meet that"—but the taxpayers will have to pay just the same. The same will apply to the postal services, newspaper delivery, visits to clinics—it all means extra money paid out.
I could dwell a good deal on the bus services themselves. When we were told that the Minister expected that the Brecon closures would be put into operation in July, we immediately asked the British Transport Commission to submit to us at once the bus schedules that were to operate. We got them, in fact, in the September. There was no intimation whatever of whether or not the local co-ordinating committee, of which I was chairman, would have an opportunity of discussing the schedules at all until we kicked up such a row, as we do in Brecon, that the schedules that had been agreed were amended. The schedules were so bad that the traffic commissioners changed the time-tables and, in addition, allowed two private enterprise services to augment the others. I advise hon. Members, if they get these closures, 980 to see that the people concerned have plenty of time beforehand to study the bus schedules.
With all these stations being closed, one could display real hywl, Welsh emotionalism. I do not want to do that, but I do ask the Minister—and, in particular, the Parliamentary Secretary—to look again at this Central Wales line, where the hardship of closure has been proved. Let them hurry up with their decision, for the sake of my constituents, the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen, and the redundant railwayman.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
I am very pleased to follow the hon. Members for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), because many of the problems to which they referred exist in my part of the world. It is important to keep alive the culture in the rural areas and not to have people rooted out of their own communities and forced to go South, as has happened so often in the history of the Highlands and of Wales.
The Minister of Transport said yesterday that these were only proposals and that he had not made up his mind, but I am beginning to wonder whether he has made up his mind in the last few days. There is this tremendous problem of providing other jobs, but in places like Kyle of Lochalsh there is no other employment available and implementation of the Report would cause very great personal hardship. While I appreciate what is being done to try to alleviate that hardship, this is something that must be considered.
Under these proposals, all passenger services north of Inverness are to be done away with. That is a ridiculous and preposterous suggestion. I could not agree more with the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor than in his remarks about the consultative committees, but that procedure applies only to passenger services. There is no consultation on freight services, and the Beeching Report deals mainly with freight. Dr. Beeching believes that by 1970 he will make the railway freight services pay. I hope that he does, and I believe that the Report contains a 981 number of sound proposals in that respect. It has been said in this debate that the proposals have been thought of before; that may be so, but they have not been put so constructively before. However, I am afraid that if the passenger services are closed down the freight services will follow unless the Minister takes very serious account of my speech.
I believe that in my area we want, as the Minister said—and I hope he was sincere in saying it—a co-ordinated service. Everyone must agree that there is bound to be a social and strategic side to a public service. At the same time, we want transport users to have a choice of service. If we are to do away with the rail services north of Inverness, the people living there will have no choice at all. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor said that there are certain mileages without buses. In some of the areas in my constituency, the bus services run by MacBraynes already have a subsidy of about 50 per cent.—and those services are taking business away from the railway.
The assurance that in Scotland there will be bus services to replace the rail services is ridiculous, because adequate bus services will not be able to run, for example, on the roads between Kyle of Lochalsh and Inverness. The cost of widening certain sections there—not the cost of making new roads—to a width of 18 ft. will be £65,000 a mile, and all the bus operators now say that a width of 22 ft. is the minimum for a safe bus service. The proposals for Scotland are far too drastic.
I agree with the hon. Members for Devon, North and for Brecon and Radnor that for areas such as theirs, and in the Highlands, we cannot possibly use the same arguments as can be used for the more prosperous south. If these proposals are carried out in the Highlands, there will be people living 134 miles from the nearest railhead. Conditions are entirely different.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I quote from a Report on the services in the Highlands and Islands. The trouble with such reports is that, particularly in the Scottish Office, so many of them get pigeon-holed and nothing more is heard about them. I will therefore take this opportunity to mention one or two parts in this Report which make my case much 982 easier, because it was made by a body set up by the Ministry of Transport. It was conducting its survey at the same time as Dr. Beeching was looking into his organisation, and, since it was set up by the Minister of Transport, he ought to take cognisance of its findings.
In paragraph 84 of this Report on Transport Services in the Highlands and Islands—I do not suppose anyone else has a copy, but I hope that the Minister has one—it is said:We do not imagine that the loss attributable to the Highland lines can be more than a very small percentage of the total (and it' should be kept in mind that the mileage of the Highland lines only represents about 3 per cent, of the mileage of the British railway system)".So we are not in this area talking about the saving of an awful lot. I appreciate that the losses are there, but the alternative expenditure will be immense. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor spoke about transport services required for education and all the rest, and it is public money, taxpayer's money, which will have to be used if these comparatively small losses are done away with.
I accept, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) said we must, that we all want to see modernisation on the railways and we must reckon on closures. I have accepted closures in my own area. My goodness—before the Beeching Report came out, stations had been closed in my area already and the whole line between Muir of Ord and Fortrose had been closed for both freight and passenger transport. Of course, we are ready to accept closures.
In paragraph 85 one finds a very interesting historical fact.Going back into history, we draw attention to the financial assistance given in the 1890s to the completion of the Kyle railway line and in the early 1900s to the building of the Fort William-Mallaig line".So it is no new thing to have Government assistance to the railway services of this country. There will certainly have to be more Government assistance, as I hope to show in a few minutes.
In paragraph 96 of the same Report, we find this said:The Highland railways are still to a great extent the main permanent transport link with the rest of the country".983 I cannot be accused of being biased in putting my argument. This is the argument of an independent Report asked for by the Minister of Transport and the Secretary of State for Scotland. The paragraph goes on:They provide essential long-distance passenger transport and offer some facilities that bus services have not yet challenged.…Yet these are the services which it is proposed to close altogether.
In this Report there are references to many other points, for instance, the peak traffic load in the summer time. It is noteworthy that the Beeching survey figures were taken in April, 1961. April is a ridiculous month to take in the Highlands for passenger services. In the peak periods from May through to September, and now lengthening into October, these services operate in an entirely different way. For instance, an observation car, as an innovation to attract passengers, has been put on to the Kyle-Mallaig line, and these services are absolutely full in the peak periods. They are very popular, yet now it is proposed to do away with them altogether and our tremendously important tourist industry will be damaged. There is no adequate alternative.
I do not want to take too long, and I am trying to leave out some parts of the speech which I wanted to make. An important point about industrial development was made by the hon. Member for Devon, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), The Highland area is scheduled as a development district. I have always maintained that it is essential to have a greater distribution of industry in this country. Fort William and Invergordon are showing that the Highlands can play and are playing a part in bringing this distribution of industry about. Wiggins Teape at Fort William have made a 20-year agreement with British Railways. I agree with hon. Members who have said that, if the railway had not been there, that company might well not have gone to Fort William.
I turn now to what is happening in Invergordon in my constituency. A distillery has been set up there and it is doing very well. It has built sidings there recently. There has been a dynamic advance in the distillery company since 984 it began. It only started in July, 1961, so the figures taken in April by the Beeching survey cannot have taken into account the potential volume of siding-to-siding traffic which can be developed in that area. Yet this is part of the main argument in the Beeching Report for the liners, the containers and so on going from siding to siding as much as possible as their points of destination, not wasting time in between, as has been done in the past, in being shunted between points A and B.
The estimated traffic input and output of this company in Invergordon for 1964 is 79,900 tons, and for 1967 it is 138,300 tons. It is estimated that in 1964 £180,000 will be paid to British Railways and that in 1967 £377,000 will be paid. Surely, this must be of some consequence to British Railways. This company would be quite in order in coming to an arrangement, as the Fort William company did, for a 20-year agreement to keep the railway open. That is only one business which has started in the area, but it means, literally, the revival of a town, because the company hopes to employ directly, in the next three years, about 400 people, and it hopes to be employing 1,500 people indirectly. The community will, virtually, depend upon it for its economic existence.
Those are very important figures in an area which has suffered from unemployment and depopulation for so long, and these things mean a tremendous amount. Here again, I do not think that that company would have established itself there if there had been no railway. If it will increase railway revenue by the figures I have quoted, is it not nonsense to think of doing away with the railway system?
I am a member of the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel, and I hope that the Minister will take into account the views of that body which has been set up to advise the Secretary of State. It has come out unanimously against these closures until there are adequate alternative services. It wants to know what "adequate" means. Its transport committee is doing just what one hon. Gentleman suggested, trying to find out what the cost would be of adequate alternative transport services. They will be startled, because I have been told that to make an 18 ft. wide road in my constituency 985 would cost about £6½ million. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) yesterday said that there were only passing places along 51 of the 84 miles of Kyle of Lochalsh road. That is in very rocky and difficult country. Tremendous costs will be incurred before adequate alternative services can be provided.
It has been said that the alternative to going by train to Wick is to sit in a bus which has no heating for nine-and-a-half to ten hours. One of the buses for that area, a double-decker, has a door at the back which does not even close. It is not very pleasant sitting in such a bus in the winter. It is not fair to ask the public of the Highlands to accept a bus service as an alternative to the train service. There have been great improvements in the Highland area alone over the last ten years. It is a distinctive economic region. That has been proved by the legislation that we have had over the years. It is already proving difficult to make bus services in the area pay. If the railways are done away with, the area will be in a very difficult position.
I wish to make another reference to the Report on the Transport Services in the Highlands and Islands.
I must get this on the record in case it is pigeon-holed in St. Andrew's House and gets lost. In paragraph 111, it is stated with regard to the Highlands:Our further consideration of their transport problems certainly confirms us in our earlier view that special measures are necessary to ensure the supervision of the development of Highland transport.In the same paragraph it is suggested that a body should be set up to coordinate the transport services and to advise the Secretary of State.
Paragraph 112 states:One of the principal functions of the body we have in mind is to be found in advising the Government as to the manner and extent to which financial assistance, where necessary, should be applied.Paragraph 119 states:Our conclusion is that on practical considerations alone, effective transport planning and the control of financial assistance would be made easier if the task of administering assistance to Highland transport services and facilities were concentrated on the Secretary of State for Scotland…I do not know whether hon. Members opposite would agree with that. The 986 paragraph later says that the Secretary of State is… primarily responsible for arterial transport and communications to and in the Highlands, and at the same lime acting in consultation with the Ministers of Transport and Aviation"—I hope that the Secretary of State is not merely consulted but that he has a real say in the matter and is not dictated to by the Minister of Transport—and assisted by such body as we recommend with a clear remit to supervise the general pattern of public transport in the area and to make recommendations on its own initiative, a rational and efficient solution to the Highland transport problem should be attainable".I am in favour of such a body being set up.
I could have raised many other points, but I have probably already spoken for too long. I will not support the Government tonight unless I can get an assurance that they will reprieve the lines north of Inverness for at least ten to twenty years. I am assured that it will take that time to put the roads into such a state that they are adequate enough to provide alternative transport. I am told that tremendous savings could be made on the line to which I have referred. I have spoken about the popularity of the observation-car, which has been in existence for only a couple of years, but which it is now proposed to take off. If what I have suggested were implemented, it would give Dr. Beeching and his successors the chance to modernise the railways, because that is what we want, and not closures.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whitlock (Nottingham, North)
I represent an area which does not compare in any way with that of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod). I sympathise with him in the problem which he faces.
I wish to speak briefly about the impact of Dr. Beeching's proposals on Nottingham and the Nottinghamshire area. To some hon. Members this may sound rather parochial, but it is desirable that all of us who feel that the concern of our localities should be voiced in this debate should make clear what our people are thinking.
On 27th March Dr. Beeching launched his Report at a Press conference here in 987 London. The London correspondent of the Nottingham Evening Post asked him:Do you agree that Nottingham is the worst hit city in the country and is now only at the end of two branch lines?Dr. Beeching replied:I have not singled out Nottingham for special attention.Few people in the Nottingham area can accept that the Beeching plan is anything but special in its treatment of Nottingham. The vast majority of people in the area are shocked by the proposals and feel that the Beeching axe has fallen with particular savagery on the East Midlands services. There is to be wholesale discontinuance of local lines, and people in the area have referred to this as virtual madness. The comments which have come to me are such that I will not attempt to repeat them in this Chamber, but they are couched in very strong language, particularly those coming from the City of Nottingham itself.
The City of Nottingham has been described shortly as coal and chemicals, tobacco and textiles, engineering, electronics and education, lace and lingerie. Long before it became famous for all these things, it was important for another reason. Down the ages—under the Romans, in Anglo-Saxon times, during the Danish invasion, after the Norman Conquest, and in every period of our history—Nottingham has been important as a communications centre. Now the "Queen of the Midlands" is not to be on a main North-South railway line, and the surrounding areas are to be almost completely stripped of their links with Nottingham and of their commuter services. This is lunacy.
With one foul stroke, the Great Central line through Leicester to Marylebone is to be wiped out. The Midland link through Melton Mowbray to St. Pancras is to disappear. The people of the pleasant City of Nottingham, which is known around the world for its products and for part, at least, of its history, feel justifiably annoyed about the proposals in the Beeching Report.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) referred yesterday to the difficulties of Skegness if the proposals are implemented and the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland) 988 told us in a powerful speech of the chaos, confusion and hardship which will result for Lincolnshire if the Beeching proposals are put into operation. The Lincolnshire coast is popular with the people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. Under the proposals, the whole of the east Midlands area is expected to travel to the Lincolnshire coast exclusively by road. I warn the Minister that, if he operates this plan, in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire he will be hated even more than is the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham of television notoriety.
Incredible though it seems, the Nottingham—Boston line is the only one which will continue to offer a local train service from Nottingham in this important area. Two of my hon. Friends representing the Nottinghamshire area—the hon. Members for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) and for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey)—have asked me to comment briefly about the impact of the Report upon their constituencies. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield points out that although Mansfield, on the Nottingham-Worksop line, was promised a fast diesel service five years ago, the Beeching plan proposes to cut off Mansfield's only remaining passenger link.
The Mayor of Mansfield commented upon this proposal as follows:It is preposterous that a town of over 50.000 inhabitants should lose its only rail link. It is a crazy way of doing things.The secretary of the Mansfield Chamber of Trade described the proposals as a "colossal blow" and the Mansfield Trades Council equally condemned them as a disaster.
Reading the Beeching Report, one would think that the line from Nottingham to Mansfield passes through a rural area, whereas it services a heavily populated urban area. It passes through that part of Nottingham which is in my constituency, the area of Bulwell, and Bulwell Market station is to be closed. The people of Bulwell already feel deprived of many services. They will feel even more deprived if their station is taken from them.
The line then passes through the area of the Hucknall Urban District Council, a prosperous mining town of 24,000 people in my constituency, then, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield, through the Kirkby area, 989 with its 23,000 people, and through Sutton, with another 44,000 people, to Mansfield, with its 50,000 inhabitants. It is not as though the line is to be closed to all traffic. It has to be maintained in any event, because it carries a highly profitable coal traffic. This is the most prosperous mining area of the country.
Therefore, from this area—I have many letters about it—have come expressions of astonishment, alarm, anxiety and indignation from councils, bodies representing traders, trades councils, the East Midlands Non-County Boroughs Association and the Nottinghamshire Association of Parish Councils. It is significant that all these people and all these organisations, faced with the consequences of the Beeching proposals, demand a study of transport in all its facets.
Another body demands an examination of transport as a whole. The Minister's own Central Transport Consultative Committee demands an examination of overall transport costs. It states, in paragraph 18 of its Reports:There is an urgent need for the study of over-all transport costs, including social costs (such as congestion, accidents and health services), for all forms of transport, and this should be published. The effect of subsidies, open and hidden, may be giving a completely false picture of the cost of various methods of transport.The Committee also has something to say about closures. It states in paragraph 17:All the information which we have obtained on closures during the past twelve years has, however, convinced us that, while it is obvious that apart from the conurbations and suburban services there are many local trains which must be losing money, the negative policy of closing down uneconomic facilities, while contributing a small financial saving, is not the panacea it has sometimes been made out to be. Each closure diverts some business to the roads.Surely, the whole purpose of the closures is to divert business to the roads. We could be excused for thinking that all this is done in the interests of the road transport concerns, for we have a Government which hates public transport and we have a Minister of Transport who hates the railways in particular.
The Report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee—which, incidentally, was published after the Beeching Report—deals also with the proposed closure of the Great Central line and in paragraph 22, dealing with 990 the proposal to withdraw services between Rugby, Leicester and Nottingham, states:They were of the opinion that considerable hardship would arise if people living and working in this area or between these places were to be left with nothing but the skeleton semi-fast service … which did not run at times suitable for workmen and business people. They did not consider that any suit-able alternative bus service could be provided for the majority of the 3,860 passengers who made a daily journey wholly or partly between these points.This seems to be in conflict with the Beeching Report. I am convinced that if the area transport users consultative committee considered the proposals in the Beeching Report it would come to similar conclusions to the ones I have quoted—that to close many of the lines it is proposed to close would involve great hardship and that they should instead be maintained.
It is obvious from all these comments that many people feel as we on this side of the House feel—that there is need to look at transport as a whole. The whole question is succinctly summed up in the April issue of Industrial Nottingham, the Journal of the Nottingham Chamber of Commerce, which says:Dr. Beeching has produced a report on how to make the railways pay which is really a brilliant piece of analysis. It is clear and concise, as one would expect, and demonstrates a remarkable grasp and understanding of railway problems. Few people can have any doubt but that the adoption of the measures proposed in this Report would make British Railways an efficient and paying organisation.But that is only one side of the coin. Dr. Beeching has done precisely what he was asked to do in producing proposals on how to make British Railways pay. The adoption of these proposals would cause hardship, or at least very serious inconvenience, to millions of people. It would throw an immense volume of traffic on to our roads which even now are incapable of providing sufficient accommodation for the traffic on them. It might well increase the transport costs and problems of industry and commerce, both for passengers and freight, in many parts of the country. It might well deter industry in the more prosperous areas from expanding or moving to those areas where labour is available.That is what we have been saying over and over again.
Industrial Nottingham goes on:These are political issues which Parliament must consider very carefully. It is essential to balance between a condensed British Railways working efficiently on a paying basis, and an untidy sprawling monster losing millions and millions of the taxpayers money but providing a service of some sort to most people.
991 Of course the railways are an untidy, sprawling monster, parts of which have never made a profit, but which, like the roads, provide a service to some people. They key word is "service". Although, obviously, the pattern of the railways must change, the service element must be maintained. Unless and until the question of service and the cost of the whole transport system are looked at from the point of view of the interests of the people of each area, we shall never have the transport system which will enable us to meet the problems of our time.
The railways have been the victims of the doctrinaire hatreds of hon. Members opposite. If they wish to show a change of heart, if they wish to demonstrate that the feel that our transport problems should be met in a non-party spirit, then they will vote tonight for the Opposition Amendment. I hope that they will do so.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
One of the features of the debate and of the structure of the House is that we represent constituencies, and hon. Members have constantly and quite rightly represented their constituency aspects throughout the larger part of the debate. For this reason, the debate has dealt very largely with the amputational—or possibly I might call it the negative—aspect of the Report.
It is, however, very important to consider most seriously that when a branch line or service is closed, not only should a bus service adequate for the needs of the locality be provided but also that the road service parallel to the railway service that is being closed or withdrawn be improved to the full standard of traffic it will have to bear under the new assessment, and that this should be done at central cost and not at local cost.
As a West Country Member I also think that that area is where an excellent system of motorway service is to finish. I view that with great regret. The motor road service will finish at the south end of my constituency which is also completely cut off by this Report. AH this will be completely damaging to the West Country. We are not just an area to which visitors come on holiday, and where our people wear strings round their trousers in bad weather. We are not just a lot of bumpkins. If there is to be full develop- 992 ment of the West Country, there must be full development of the motorway service. If we do not get that, and if there is to be withdrawal of railway services as well, then the West Country will become a development area.
Having listened to most of the speeches I think that one essential factor has been omitted—the costing of branch lines. This is a very essential and deep factor. I understand that, according to Maintenance Scale D, a single track line costs £2,000 per mile per year to maintain. If we add all that up over that part of the system which is carrying 1 per cent, of the passenger traffic and 2 per cent, of the freight traffic, the cost is immense. I do not, however, propose to dwell on these simple cost accounting aspects, because I do not want to prolong my speech or its essence; but they are important. The whole argument can be carried out, as it is most succinctly by Dr. Beeching in his brilliant Report.
The essence of what the Government are trying to do in accepting the Report is to change the railways from the system that prevailed 120 years ago, when there was no competing form of transport except the horse and buggy and the horse and cart. Then it really was more profitable to produce railways, though possibly less profitable than King Hudson and other speculators of the 1840s thought. There was created a duplicated system, with each railway station having a catchment area of 2½ miles. The result was that we got single wagon haul.
Dr. Beeching is endeavouring to get away from the single wagon haul to the single train haul. That is the essence of his whole Report. For railwaymen, it is their hope for the future. It is certainly so regarded by the road haulage interests, who have been painted as the sinister influence behind the Tory Party. I have spoken to many of them in the last few weeks and they regard this as a very great challenge.
It is absolutely essential to get away from the system of the single wagon starting out at the little local station, shunted to the next station, labelled in the precise direction, going in the general direction of where it is to be sent, to be shunted around again at a marshalling yard. Indeed, in the old days at a town like Peterborough, there were four quadruplicating marshalling yards in which 993 the wagons were shunted about at an average speed through the system of one mile an hour. That sort of thing is death to the competitiveness of the railway system.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
Is the hon. Member not aware that the railway management has been trying to get trainloads for as long as he and I have known railways? These single loads in parcel lots which Dr. Beeching says are uneconomic have been carried for many years under the common carrier clause under which the railways have been giving a service to the country at very cheap rates.
§ Mr. Webster
I was very glad to be a member of a Standing Committee which, despite considerable objection from the Opposition, passed an Act which removed the common carrier liability. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) voted steadily against the Government throughout the Committee stage of that Measure, and I hope that he will now support us at least on that aspect.
The important factor is whether we can improve the catchment area of railway stations from 2½ miles to, say, 10 miles. There are areas, like the north of Scotland and central Wales and the far south-west of England, where the catchment areas, of necessity, will be greater. I have talked about the complementary road services there. The railway unit will have to be the train itself.
I am a great believer in the view that the speed of a railway service is like the speed of a Service unit—that of the slowest man. It is essential, however much locally we may disapprove—and in my constituency I have two branch lines which are under the axe—that we should cut out from the system the incubus which prevents us from setting up a railway system of train units. While saying that he is pressing for the train unit for the movement of freight, the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) must accept that that cannot be done while there is so much shunting of wagons blocking the whole system.
I have dwelt upon freight because the £300 million receipts a year from the carriage of freight are double pas- 994 senger receipts. If we can get the freight service right, we will have the key to the whole problem. But to do that it will be essential for us to lose many of the passenger services upon which we have relied when our motor cars broke down but otherwise seldom used. I think that these can be made more competitive in areas which are near towns.
The key to the problem is in the freight service and in removing the wagon unit from the system and getting rid of having branch line stations every 2½ miles. This is so much the key that I am sticking to that essential. Despite the fact that I shall lose railways in my constituency—and I shall press very hard about them on the appropriate occasion—this excellent Report is the greatest hope the railways have for the country's future.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
The best I can say about the speech of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) is that it obviously showed a great deal of thought and that if, on one logistical matter, it was controversial, as a speech it had the great merit of brevity, and I propose to try to follow suit.
Many tributes to Dr. Beeching have been paid during the debate of the last two days. I cannot be quite as uncritical as many speakers. Having listened to every speech but two so far, I cannot understand why Dr. Beeching ever accepted this brief. He is a highly intelligent man, and although my personal experience of him has been extremely limited, he is obviously an efficient statistician and a man of some imagination.
Having been offered a very bad brief, if I had been in his position I would not have accepted it. The debate has shown beyond any doubt that the whole plan is illogical and uneconomic. If the nation gets the opportunity to read the reports of this debate in the public Press—and I suspect that the Tory Press will try to suppress the important factors—it will come to the inevitable conclusion that the scheme is bad now and worse still for the country's future.
There is a matter concerning the West Midlands to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention, because it seems to show a curious error in the Report concerning the planning of industry and 995 population, more especially as they affect the West Midlands. On page 56, discussing the pattern of the distribution of population and industry, the Report says that the assumption is also made that the pattern will continue to be basically similar to that which exists at present and that no radical change is likely to justify changing the planned principles of building up a mainline network and withdrawing rural services. How can that statement be justified by what is happening in the west Midlands? The Report goes on to say on page 57: that the Railways Board has taken account of any development sufficiently specific to be probable. That is just not correct, and I am restraining myself from using stronger words.
The overspill planning of the West Midlands is the subject of a tripartite contract among the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the planning authorities of the west Midlands, for instance, Staffordshire—which is only one of the receiving areas—and the receiving local authorities concerned. That tripartite agreement provides for the transfer of population and industry on a very substantial scale.
I have listened to speech after speech about unemployment and other problems of areas like Wales and Scotland and the West Country. While I am sincerely sorry for the stories which they have to tell, it seems to me that nobody should turn a blind eye to the industrial and export significance of the west Midlands. When we consider the figures involved in this forced migration of both industry and population under the planning, how can it possibly be said that no specific plan has been ignored? This is a sepicfic plan and it is now in process of operation. Let me demonstrate what is taking place.
In 1951, the population of the towns of central and south Staffordshire—and I emphasise that this is only one of the receiving areas in the west Midlands—amounted to 293,000. These figures are to the nearest thousand. By 1961, it had increased to 377,000, an increase of 84,000. It is estimated that by 1971 the population in the same area will have increased by another 93,000. With the population is going industry and the proposals of the plan make it impossible to cater for what is happening in that part of the country.
996 Let me break this down in my constituency. In the City of Lichfield the estimated increase in population during the next ten years is 6,000. In Lichfield rural it is 3,000; in Rugeley urban it is 8,000; and in Tamworth borough it is 7,000. The process has already started, and industry is moving with it.
In 1954, bookings at Rugeley Station, which it is proposed to close, totalled 54,000. By 1962 this figure had increased to 85,000. During that period the biggest coal pit in England was opened, at Lea Hall. An immense power station is now in operation there, and there is a big private electronic industry in the area. All these have contributed to the increase in the decanting of population from Birmingham and Walsall, yet it is proposed to close the town station.
Many people who work in these industries will still have to commute to Birmingham and Walsall, and I am advised that if the population which now moves between the two areas has to go by road, which involves a journey of between 25 and 30 miles, it will add 90 minutes travelling time to each day. On the basis of the Beeching Report, if 1,000 passengers transfer from rail to road this means an additional 8 buses each way per day. For Rugeley this will mean an additional 13 buses a day each way.
I think that the figure of 1 per cent. given by the Minister yesterday in connection with the added burden on the roads if the scheme is brought in is highly suspect. It just does not make sense. References have been made to the seasonal fluctuations on the roads, but has the Minister thought of the effect that this plan will have on the type of vehicle that will go on the roads? The transfer of traffic from rail to road does not necessarily mean an increase in large coaches. It may mean a tremendous increase in the number of motor-scooters, minicars, and other small vehicles, and a minicar is just as lethal a weapon as a large coach. Proliferations of motor vehicles will ensue if the plan goes forward, and I am surprised at the Minister of Transport, who is an intelligent man, daring to put forward a figure of 1 per cent.
Coming back to the case of Rugeley, has any account been taken of the fact that the National Coal Board proposes 997 to close two pits in the Cannock area so as to concentrate production at Lea Hall? If the Report really means what it says, that no specific plan has been ignored, how comes it that there has been no local consultation? I have circulated each of the four local authorities in my area. There has been no consultation with the City of Lichfield, none with Lichfield rural, none with Rugeley urban, and none with Tamworth borough. Nor has there been any consultation with Staffordshire County Council, the planning authority. How, then, can it be said that no specific plan has been ignored under the scheme?
How will local authorities be able to deal with the Government's policy of concentrating technical colleges in the main urban areas, a policy which obviously has some merit? How will students from the rural areas get to Costa Green Advanced Technical College? How will the student nurses who fill so many posts in the big Birmingham hospitals get to Birmingham if the scheme will mean an additional 90 minutes travel each day? It must be remembered that nurses complete their duties at irregular and inconvenient hours, and they will not be able to get buses to take them home.
I was surprised at the Minister's un-responsive attitude to the point that was made about road accidents. I put the question once more. What are the estimates of increased road casualties if this plan is put into effect? I can tell the Minister of the casualty figures at one hospital. Between 1958 and 1962, road casualty cases at the Stafford Infirmary increased from 720 to 937, an increase of 13 per cent. What will happen if all the additional buses go on to the roads?
The access roads to Birmingham are so congested now that people cannot get into the city easily. What will happen if the Beeching plan is put into operation? What are the estimates of increased road casualties? The rebuilding and replanning of roads will take years, and, in the meantime, for political reasons, there will be terrific pressure to close down quickly stations and to provide increased road transport on roads which are incapable of taking that increased traffic.
If there is a case for closing Rugeley Town station, in spite of this great in- 998 crease in traffic resulting from a deliberate transfer of population and industry, I wonder how many times this can be repeated in other parts of the country? I can only suggest that serious note is taken of the speeches made from my Front Bench. The country can survive only if we have a properly integrated transport system. The Government are doctrinaire. I believe that there is political malice against the railways, and that the best thing to do with the plan which has been produced in vacuo is to take it away and cut its throat.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
Those who have listened to the speeches made during this long two-day debate have heard a number of claims put forward by hon. Members as to why their problems differ from those of other hon. Members. The reason I can claim my problems differ from those whose speeches I have heard is that I have the advantage of three travel associations, all of whom represent different branch lines which are being closed.
There is one other point which I think is of substantial importance and to which no reference has been made. The only speaker who got near it was the hon. Member for Devon, Norfth (Mr. Thorpe), who referred to some of the points which Dr. Beeching said should be taken into consideration before a line is closed.
One of the associations to which I have referred is the Winchelsea and District Travel Association, which was formedto ensure that adequate alternative transport is available and put into operation before the proposal is effected.I was under the impression that the Minister had said on various occasions that certain things would be taken into consideration before he made an order. I listened carefully yesterday to find out whether he would say anything of the sort again, but although I heard his speech and have now looked through my copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT I cannot find that he said that.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
The quotation can be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 27th March, at column 1320. Speaking about passenger services, the Minister said:Under the Transport Act, 1962, each proposal must be published in advance. Objections can be made to the transport users consultative committees, which will report to me on any hardship involved.999No opposed closure may be carried out without my consent, and I shall take into account all important factors, including social and defence considerations, the pattern of industrial development and possible effects on roads and road traffic.The Report makes it clear that in the remoter areas of the country there will be special problems. This applies not only in Scotland and Wales"—
§ Mr. Wilson
but in some parts of England, and to communications with Northern Ireland. But in this country a widespread network of bus services already exists, and I shall see that, where necessary, adequate alternative means of transport are available."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1963; Val. 674, c. 1320.]
§ Mr. Pannell
On a point of order. Are we really to tolerate speeches interlocked into other speeches, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? This surely is an abuse of our custom of intervention?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
The hon. Member is quite right. The hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine), who had the Floor, gave way, and I thought that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) was going to ask a question or make a brief intervention. The intervention that he is making is out of order.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but my hon. Friend asked for the quotation in which the Minister said this.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
What I was saying when my hon. Friend interrupted was that I was under the impression that the Minister had said just that, and that I was hoping that he would have confirmed it yesterday in the speech which he made on the Floor of the House. I hoped that he would say that there were certain things that he would take into consideration.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
If my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary assures me that the point that I was trying to put has already been dealt with there is nothing further I wish to say. I wanted to make clear that that was the assurance I had been looking for. I wanted it to be made quite clear that such an assurance had been given in order that I could support the Government this evening.
I now turn briefly to the general question of the adequacy of the roads. Here I am on slightly stronger ground. The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that I have been in correspondence with him for a considerable period about the Folkestone-Honiton Trunk Road, the only road in my constituency which is his responsibility. I cannot recall the exact date on which this road will come into being, but I can recall that I have had some correspondence with my hon. Friend about a small portion of it. When he last wrote to me about it he explained that the difficulty was that the stretch of this road with which I was concerned was not heavily used except during the summer. He said:At present we must concentrate our resources on the improvement of routes which carry large volumes of industrial and commercial traffic throughout the year.In those circumstances, the question of adequate roads in my constituency seems to present formidable problems. We have heard the Minister say that only a very small proportion of the railway traffic is carried over a very large proportion of the system. But the same consideration applies to the roads. In the quotation which I have just given the Parliamentary Secretary says that these roads are not used very much anyway, and that resources must be concentrated elsewhere. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is in his place. He will know what the roads are like on the marshes. There are right-angled bends and narrow bridges and, at best, there is room for only two lanes of traffic. A lot of heavy traffic carrying shingle from different parts of the area uses these roads, and if they are to be turned into anything that can be regarded as adequate alternatives to the railways the Minister will have to do a great deal of work and a lot of money will have to be spent.
1001 I want to refer to two other parts of my constituency. There is a village called Crowhurst, which is not far from Bexhill, and which is on the railway. That railway is scheduled to be discontinued. But it happens to be surrounded by some very pleasant and rolling country, and the Minister will have a job on his hands if he is to provide adequate road services into and out of Crowhurst.
Finally, at the far end of my constituency, in Horam, Heathfield and similar places, no road system exists which could carry the sort of traffic which must be envisaged if we are to have an alternative to the railway. The journey from Horam to Eastbourne takes 60 minutes by bus, although it is only 13 miles. Similarly, a bus takes 60 minutes to travel the distance from Rye to Ashford, which is 19 miles. That gives an indication of the type of road which is available today.
I have here some correspondence in which the Town Clerk of Bexhill asked for information about one of the possible closures. He got a letter from the line manager to say that the Transport Users Consultative Committee'ssole function in regard to closure proposals is to consider the degree of hardship arising—without reference to the financial merits of what is intended—and to report thereon to the Minister of Transport who alone is empowered to authorise closures. In these circumstances, there would be little point in furnishing your council with the information they now seek".I understand that some of the information has subsequently become available. But I suggest to my right hon. Friend that if these proposals are to go forward it would be very helpful if he could indicate that the maximum amount of information should be given to the town clerk or anyone else who wishes to know the position.
I have already mentioned that I have three associations in my constituency, each of which is seeking information on certain points about the way in which the railway works in its area. The association to which I have just referred has the impression that the loss on its railway from Rye to Ashford is only about £400 a week, and it feels that there are a great many ways in which a smallish sum of that sort could be covered were the association able to have a look at the matter.
1002 The Hastings and Bexhill Season Ticket Holders' Association has produced figures, and I have also received a very helpful memorandum from the Town Clerk of Bexhill indicating the degree to which traffic has grown on the Bexhill West branch of the railway. It grew from 20,580 in 1956 to 35,929 in 1962, which is an increase of 15,000 on a base of 20,000, quite a substantial increase for any organisation in six years. At Sidley, also scheduled to be closed, there were 1,617 people using the station in 1956 and 7,201 in 1962, so that during that period there was an almost four-fold increase.
There is another railway in my constituency which is also on the list. The East Sussex Travellers' Association feels very strongly about it because this railway was expected to be electrified in the near future. In one paragraph of a report which the association has sent to me it is stated:The Southern Region Board (appointed by the Ministry of Transport) showed faith in the future of the lines by announcing in 1959 that the line would be electrified by the summer of 1964. … Work was to have started last year on completion of the Kent Scheme but was postponed under Treasury financial cuts for nationalised industries in 1961. The Minister's proposal now to close the lines has been referred to locally as 'bordering on sharp practice'.The association refers further to the fact that it sees the major reconstruction of bridges, viaducts, drainage works and improvement to stations which has just been completed and that now it has received the news that the railway is not to be used at all. Adequate information must be given to people in that situation or else the Minister may find there will be a lot of resistance on his hands before any order can happily be made.
There have been surveys of rail traffic in east Sussex in the past. I am told that ten years ago there was one which indicated that the Brighton line was then working more or less to its full capacity and that it was not expected that it could take an increase of mare than about 15 per cent. Now we find that the carrying capacity of the railways which were at that time regarded as the ones which would take the extra traffic, the railways from Hailsham and Heathfield and from Hastings to London, are to be closed or their service reduced. If the Minister is looking at 1003 this part of England and considering the way in which the increasing traffic is to be carried, it seems odd to close down or curtail materially the services on lines which have been recently regarded as the ones which would enable more traffic to be dealt with.
The Government have indicated that it is desirable to move offices from London to areas outside London. Some of these offices have come into my constituency and are working very happily there, but if it should be found that it is impossible to get people to and from them because there is no railway, how are we to encourage these dispersals? As I know from recent correspondence about revaluations that have been taking place the pressure of population in the south-east of England is very heavy. That being so, surely it would be wise to have a look at these lines, with all this in the background, to make sure that if we are to have a steadily increasing population in this part of England we do not close down the railways first and have the population increase afterwards.
There are two further points which I should like to mention briefly. One is that Rye and Bexhill are coastal areas where people go particularly in the summer. If the railways are not to take peak traffic in the summer, it is very difficult to find out how people can travel. Anyone who has used some of the roads in the south-east of England over a fine week-end during the months of June, July, August and September will know that, unless there is very great improvement of the roads, it will take so long to get there and back that the journey will not be practicable. If that is so, the hotel industry and the economy of the towns will be very severely hit, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at the hardship which will be caused to seaside areas if some of the proposals are carried out.
There is an indication of the difficulties in a letter that I with other hon. Members have received from the amusements caterers. They say that to convey 10,000 people by road to a seaside area would take 250 buses and it would need a football pitch on which to park them. If any seaside resort has 10,000 people 1004 coming in, that will give them an indication of the difficulties.
Finally, both the areas of Rye and Bexhill have considerable educational facilities. Many children travel to and from both those places by railway to get to their schools. That not only contributes to the prosperity of both the towns, but it also means that if the railways were not available they would have to travel in some other way and the cost met by the county council. That is a further factor which should be taken into consideration. These are the points, as briefly as possible, that I want to put forward on behalf of my constituents, and I hope that the Minister will consider that.
§ 8.44. p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
Yesterday afternoon the Minister of Transport did his best to give the impression that the Beeching Report was that of the Railways Board. I feel quite sure that the closure proposals are those of the Government. I do not think for a moment that an intelligent man like Dr. Beeching and the team which sat with him would ever have envisaged such a massacre of the railway system unless they had been given these terms of reference and had known from the first that it was the Government's policy to massacre nationalised transport.
Some hon. Members on both sides of the House who have made a case against closure of railways in their constituencies have said that we should put the interests of the people first. Those hon. Members now have an opportunity to do that, even if it means bringing the Government down. Those hon. Members opposite who have said that we should put the interests of the people first should come into the Lobby with us tonight to vote against the Government. No one could do a greater service to the community than voting against this Report, which is Government policy. There has been evidence which may have been given earlier in the debate, when I was out of the Chamber seeking refreshment, that this is the policy of the Government.
The Parliamentary Secretary, speaking at an after-dinner meeting, referred to certain astonishing facts. Speaking about the road policy of the Government, he said that he knew thatthe Government's idea of getting advice on the detailed application of Government policy 1005 towards the railways from a group of businessmen with wide experience of large-scale industry is a sensible approach which will commend itself to those present at this dinner.The hon. Gentleman went on to say to the Road Haulage Association that the road haulage programme would give themtangible evidence that in search of transport efficiency the Government is prepared in a most practical way to do what it can to help. You and we worked together against the threat of nationalisation of road haulage. We won that battle. Now we must show that we were right to win it. What the country needs of us, and has a right to expect, is a vigorous and efficient road haulage industry.Later, the hon. Gentleman said:We in the Government will back you all we can, by providing surely a really first-class network of trunk roads on top of the extraordinarily dense network of still quite serviceable roads which this country already has … We shall press on with this programme. We shall try to make sure that the roads we have and the new roads we build give the best dividend possible by concentrating a good deal of our attention on the traffic problem. Sometimes in this we shall be forced to require some sacrifices by individuals or groups in the interests of the many, and road haulage will enjoy many of the benefits from improved roads and improved traffic flow.No wonder hon. Members on this side suspect Government policies. This is what the Government's proposals mean. Some of my hon. Friends may feel that I am trespassing upon matters which concern their constituencies. I assure them that I am doing so only because I know full well that they will not be able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
I have attended meetings at which the public and railwaymen themselves have made very strong protests. I have here a letter from a crippled old man who asks me to plead on his behalf for the retention of the Wigan-Liverpool, Lime Street fine, which the Government propose to close. It is proposed to close the Liverpool, Exchange-Southport line, which carries 100,000 passengers a day.
My own station, St. Helens Shaw Street, is quite new. It was a showpiece when it was opened. It was the new plate-glass station of the North. It is admitted that it cost £80,000 to build eighteen months ago. Three thousand passengers a day will lose their means of transport to and from work if the line 1006 is closed. Constituents do not know how to get to work.
The Government are not satisfied with closing the two stations on the one line that gives my constituents access to the North and South routes of the railway network. They propose to close Earlestown and Warrington Bank Quay. Other stations and railway workshops are concerned in my area—the Earlestown railway workshops and the St. Helens sheet works. I know that these works do not employ many people, but the Railways Board proposes to transfer this work, although for about 100 years railway sheet has been manufactured and repaired here. My constituency has suffered one of the steepest rises in unemployment.
We hear much about the co-ordination of transport, but what is needed more than anything else is co-ordination of Government Departments, because it appears that when the transport sector decides to cut out large sections of the railway network the Ministry of Labour knows little about it. My hon. Friends and I know the dangers of unemployment, know what it does to people, that it destroys their souls.
We are determined to fight for the right to work. Yet we have to listen to people like the Minister of Transport, speaking on behalf of the Tory Government, who was prepared to say yesterday that jobs will be offered to redundant railwaymen. He should talk to some railwaymen before he makes speeches. Then he might talk with more sense. Often a redundant railwayman is offered a job 200 miles away from his home.
If the closures go through many of these men will have no transport to and from work. Many workers are told when applying for jobs that they will receive what are called "residential passes" to enable them to travel free of charge. It often happens that because of this travel concession the jobs are accepted. How will these people be able to get transport to and from their work?
I know the feelings of the men who live in the area around St. Helens, men who have given a life time of service in the railway workshops. They are proud of their craft and they cannot grasp what the Government really intend to do. I hope, therefore, that the Beeching plan will not 1007 be put into effect and that many of these proposed closures will be withdrawn. They are too savage. They represent not just cuts in the number of stations and lines, but the complete massacre of nationalised transport.
I repeat the challenge. If any hon. Members opposite has the nerve to tell his constituents that he opposes the closures in his constituency he owes a duty to them, and not to his party, and he should vote with us in the Lobby. Any hon. Members opposite who has the courage to vote with us will be welcomed by my hon. Friends. I urge hon. Members opposite to make the Government understand once and for all that they have gone too far in their opposition to public ownership, that they are affecting the whole of the nation and that both sides of the House are united and will stand together on this issue. We must prevent the plan going through, if necessary by bringing down the Government and putting the issue to the country at a General Election.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper) rose—
§ Mr. Spriggs
I know that my right hon. Friend is eager to speak, but I hope that he will spare me a couple of minutes longer.
When I asked the Minister of Transport the other day how many mechanically propelled vehicles were on the roads, he told me that there were 10½ million. It is worth considering how many new licences for the operation of road haulage vehicles have been issued since the party opposite gained power in 1951. If the Minister considers that the cost of running the railways as a whole bears too heavily on the Exchequer, would it no be worth his while reconsidering putting money into the railway industry rather than overcrowding our roads, particularly in view of the number of people killed on the roads?
Some of us remember some of the good people killed in road accidents; wonderful human material that has been lost. I believe that many of those deaths rest on the shoulders of the Minister of Transport and the Government because of their policies. [HON. MEMBERS: "oh."] I urge hon. Members opposite not to pooh-pooh this, because it is true. In October, 1962, 642 people were killed in traffic accidents. In November that year the 1008 number was 632 and in that December it was 675. Very few deaths occurred on the railways.
I appeal to the Minister and his colleagues to think seriously over what has been said in the debate. I plead with him to remember, when he meets representatives of the Railways Board and any of the trade unions concerned, that consultation does not mean what he said yesterday, when he was asked about the closing of the Stranraer line. He then said that that line would be closed after consultation. If the Minister believes that to be consultation, he has a shock coming to him.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I assure my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) that I will always spare him two minutes, and much more, but I must say that the reason for my reflex action at that moment was that what he said sounded such a magnificent peroration. I was not to know that it was not, but it was a magnificent line. We were all glad to hear my hon. Friend say it, and glad that he had the chance to say it.
I feel that this debate has been marked by two characteristics. It has been marked, first of all, by a series of speeches from both sides that have been condemnatory of the Government for suggesting that they were to press ahead with the proposals in the Report regardless of what might be said. These have been sardonically called constituency speeches. There have been suggestions that we should not make constituency speeches, but, after all, it is the sum total of our constituencies that makes up Britain, and if the sum total of all our constituency speeches is that the plan is, overall, not very good, it is not good for Britain. There has literally not been anyone, not even the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman), who has really been able to say that he thought that this proposal should be carried out without some other things being done, and there have been heard no speeches in support of the Government except those from the Treasury Bench.
The nature of those speeches from the Government Front Bench has been the second characteristic of the debate. I will not add to what my right hon. 1009 Friend said earlier today about the first effort of the Minister of Transport. The right hon. Gentleman must be as aware as anyone of its effect. He is to have a second go tonight, and I merely enter a brief reservation about this growing habit of Ministers speaking twice in a debate.
This is the third example in a very short space of time of this growing practice. If the Parliamentary Secretary is not, in the view of the Minister or of the Prime Minister, capable of carrying his corner—and it is not my view, I may say—there are other Ministers who could be brought in. There is the Leader of the House—that is one of the jobs he is there to perform. Too often we are getting a Minister in charge of a Department hogging the thing—doing the beginning and the end. I am not at all sure that it is good for Parliament. I leave it at that.
Apart from the speech of the Minister of Transport, about which I shall say no more, we had that of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman is a man of considerable competence and ability; a man who, when I listen to him, I normally expect to feel that I am really facing a formidable opponent. I think he will agree that he, too, has made rather more powerful speeches than the one he made today. It is interesting to note that we have had no Front Bench speaker able to make a case—and if the Chief Secretary cannot do so there must be something the matter with the case.
I picked out some of the things he said. There was his unfortunate reference to freedom of choice for the consumer. He objected to our proposals propounded by my right hon. Friend because he thought that they would interfere with freedom of choice. It took him a very long time, although the penny dropped in the end, to realise that if one takes away the only other transport service open one leaves people with no freedom of choice. He got it in the end, and then he very quickly hurried off it, saying that it was not really relevant to the point he was making.
Then there was his extraordinary inability or refusal to consider the fact that the railways have reached the position they are in now, their position of deficit, which he thought gave the great case for the plan, because of actions taken by the 1010 Government of which he has been a significant member. He must have understood the point himself, but he refused to recognise it at the Box today. Then there was the declaration which he made, not in his speech but in an intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), that this had nothing to do with the N.E.D.C. Really, this is going a bit far. If the planning of our transport services has nothing to do with economic planning in this country, we are standing everything on its head. It is an absurd proposition.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent what I said. I did not say to the hon. Member for Devon, North that this had nothing to do with the N.E.D.C. Indeed, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, I said that if the N.E.D.C. wishes to discuss it no doubt it can and the chairman of the Railways Board is a member. What I said to the hon. Gentleman was that it did not seem that this particular set of lines, the subject of the proposals in the Report, which carry 1 per cent. and no more of the total traffic, was of such major economic significance as to demand that the Government should refer the matter to the N.E.D.C.
§ Mr. Brown
Yes, the Government do not regard the consequences of this Report. The right hon. Gentleman need not ask the Minister of Transport whether that was all right. He does much better on his own feet. I must say that, if I were told by the Minister of Transport that something I had said was all right, I should begin to get a bit worried. If the Chief Secretary honestly believes that the consequences of this Report are not of such major importance that the only national planning body we have in the country should consider them, then I can only repeat what I said before. I am very surprised indeed.
Since the Minister of Transport is plainly now regarded by Treasury Ministers as the one who speaks with the authoritative and definitive word, perhaps he will deal with this question. Quite apart from whether the Government should refer the matter, if the N.E.D.C. should intimate that it thinks it relevant to its affairs, will the Minister hold up action on the Report while the Council considers it? Perhaps the Minister of Transport will answer that.
1011 There was more in the Chief Secretary's speech which surprised me. There was his extraordinary inability to understand or to admit the fallacy in saying that it is right to give subsidies—he said that it was—which obscure the real cost of rural electricity but wrong to do the same thing for rural trains. This is a remarkable proposition. Either both are wrong or both axe right. One cannot be right and the other wrong. That was another characteristic of the debate and the total inability of Ministers to make a case.
In my view, the Beeching Plan has been very much over-sold. One of the great mistakes was the way in which it came out and was publicised. It is fashionable now for everyone to say what a wonderful man Dr. Beeching is and what a great Report this is, as, in a sort of way, it is. It is a very ruthless, clear and concise explanation of a limited problem. But I think that there would have been less trouble subsequently if it had come out with a little less fanfare, than in fact, it received. The consequence of the way in which it was over-sold was the effect on people, and on nobody so much, in a way, as on the railwaymen.
Of course, when their jobs are at stake people get anxious and worried, and if they get sufficiently anxious and worried they get irrational. Anyone could have explained to the Government or to Dr. Beeching—indeed, he should have known it—that this was the point at which they should have been tremendously careful about how the plan was let out. On the contrary, we had this great build-up of it and all the consequences were exaggerated in order, as it seemed to me, to make it sound like a great, magnificent, new and modernising effort, with many references to redundancy of 70,000 and 80,000, and we have never caught up on that since.
If the information about the numbers of redundancies and the limited extent of the problem which has been made available subsequently by the Railways Board had been carefully made available at the beginning, a great deal of the atmosphere which has grown up in the railways would never have grown up. Once we frighten people we cannot restore the position subsequently by releasing the 1012 information. The Minister of Transport must know that when information about the Report's implications was originally asked for it was refused.
When Dr. Beeching was originally advised to let this information out at the beginning and to deal with the matter very fully and frankly, he, or, perhaps, his advisers, said that it could not be done. Subsequently it has been done, but meantime a terrible lot of harm accrued and an atmosphere was created which takes a very great deal of getting over. It is no good lecturing in this Chamber. I have enough experience of industrial relations and, I suspect, some hon. Members opposite have enough experience of industrial relations to know that lectures here, however well meaning, do not help outside. This is the problem.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has, I trust, made the position of this party very clear. I will not attempt to restate it except to point out one thing. I, and I suspect every one of us, understand the feeling and worry of railwaymen. I understand why they have got into this state. I say this to my railway colleagues: they have a case and some genuine problems, and I am not at all sure that, even though it is recent, the redundancy agreement totally meets a situation of this kind. Let me say this to them: the real strength of the case against implementing this Report as it stands is in its effect on the public. It is the consequences to the public which is the strength of this case. Therefore, the case against the Report is a political one, and the fight against it and the objections to it should be made politically. I ask the railwaymen to let us make that political case in a political way in the political forums of the nation. I am sure that that is right and that it is better for them. We will do it, and can do it, with very great strength.
I think that it is worth drawing the attention of railwaymen to the atmosphere and attitude in the House. The extent of the opposition to this by public representatives throughout the House must impress itself on them. I very much doubt whether this plan will or can be carried through by this Government in what remains of their term of office. It is all very well to be ruthless, far-reaching, courageous, or any of the other terms 1013 which have been used, but, if we become so ruthless, far-reaching and courageous on a narrow area and leave out of account all the consequences, we end up, I am afraid, by defeating our own object, and we cannot do what we want to do because so many other consequences begin to pile up and people begin to see them.
The third consideration arising from this debate is to recognise that those who have urged upon us the need for change and the need to face modernisation must themselves understand that it is not simply change that is desirable, but sensible changes, changes at the right moment, changes that take account of the consequences and provide for them. I get the impression that some Conservatives are moving into the stage where, having said, as Baldwin said many years ago, "We are all Socialists now", they want to say, "We are all Radicals now, in favour of change". The point is not to declare that one is in favour of change, but to understand what change means and to be willing to stand up for it.
I do not believe that the plan by itself is sensible. I do not believe that it can be done by itself. I do not believe that the consequences can be ignored. The best case I have heard made for the Beeching Plan was made outside the Chamber to me by a colleague, who said, "The only case I can see for it is that it manages to get rid of Huyton, Belper and Saffron Walden all at one go." [An HON. MEMBER: "Birds of a feather."] Whoever said that had better have it out with the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). We are all right.
Throughout this debate, there has been one fundamental difference. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that there was a difference between us, but he did not state it rightly. We on this side look at the railways, or any other public service, as to their place in the economy as a whole, whereas the Government consider them from a much narrower point of view and, on the whole, because they are a public service, as something which is undesirable. To the Government, anything that is spent on communal provision is a loss, whereas there are many things that can only be communally provided and they tend to be the things that make all the difference between living in a civilised way and existing in an uncivil- 1014 ised way. This is the fundamental difference between us about the Report.
The second thing is the failure of the Government and their supporters to recognise that if the case for the plan is the size of the deficit into which the railways have run, the responsibility for that is on them. In the 1953 Act, they specifically set out to break up the co-ordinated policies which had flown from the 1947 Act. This they did as a matter of doctrine and belief. They reintroduced competition between road and rail on most wasteful terms. They ended the things that had enabled the road services then owned by the British Transport Commission to operate.
The competition that the Government introduced was not genuine. They gave the road hauliers a lot of freedom. They left the railways shackled and prevented them from competing on equal terms. Subsequently, in the case of the railways, as in the case of the other public services, they used the investment programme as an economic regulator with no reference to railway needs.
In 1961, as the last of a number of examples, the Minister of Transport butted in and not only cut the investment programme of the railways but refused to look further forward than 1961 as to their needs. The consequence of all this was that what was tremendously urgent then—modernisation—was very much set back and the deficit, already there, began to mount.
The Government cannot escape this. When they took over, the railways were paying. They had a very considerable surplus. The Government have succeeded in turning the surplus into a very large deficit. When we were in office, if anything we did did not pay, that was felt by hon. Members opposite to be a clear criticism of our ability. By the same test, the present Government are totally responsible for what has happened. They have managed to turn the railways that were running at a profit into railways running at a very heavy loss.
The Minister of Transport cannot blame all of this on the increase in the number of cars, although there may be a correlation between the two. Nor can the Government say that their policies which have resulted in the railways becoming a heavy loss-maker—Members 1015 opposite like that phrase—have nevertheless given us a better transport system as a whole. They have done nothing of the sort.
The Government have not merely broken up our transport services. Indeed, they have fragmented them even more than they were before nationalisation in 1947. Even. B.E.T., which is not devoted to nationalisation, in its Report for 1962, pointed out that the 1962 Act contained provisions which would destroy the financial partnership between road and rail which had operated successfully for over thirteen years.
The Government, having given the railways this isolated situation, then appointed Dr. Beeching to try to balance the books. But even in the context of the situation the Government have created the closures proposed will not deal with the deficit. Indeed, they will come nowhere near doing so. Dr. Beeching's claim was that unremunerative services were costing about £40 million a year, but the best estimate is that, when all the closures and modernisation have been achieved, the railways will save between £31 million and £34 million a year. That does not come anywhere near the problem. Yet these closures will cause very much hardship, as has been stated by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The solution, therefore, lies in looking again at the policies which produce the problems. We are concerned with the overall effect of the closures. It is no use the Government shutting their eyes to them. It is no use Ministers pretending that the effect on rural and coastal areas will not be tremendous, because it will. It is no use saying that the services will be replaced by buses.
Do not Ministers ever look at the areas they are talking about? My constituents like to go to Skegness on holiday. Let the Government try getting into Skegness on these roads with hundreds more buses. Their claim is nonsense to any man who has ever done the journey. The same applies to the Highlands, Wales, Cornwall and Devonshire. It even applies to Derbyshire, and we are near the heart of England.
The Government cannot sensibly do away with the railways in all sorts of 1016 places and say that the roads can take the traffic displaced. Even if the roads could do so in such areas, one is bound to ask whether the cost would be sensible. Then there are the areas of high unemployment. What is the use of Ministers talking about plans to get industry to those areas, stressing the importance of amenities and communications and then cutting their links with the rest of the country? I will not go through the whole case.
During the tour which I undertook when the late Leader of the Opposition was ill—as it subsequently proved, dying—one of the places I visited in his stead was the constituency of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I saw what the situation was and the economic difficulties there and what ought to be done about them. I had many discussions, and I was very impressed by what the problem was. What are the Government now doing to help this area? They are cutting the only link which these two little cotton towns have with the great cotton metropolis of Manchester. Ministers talk about roads as an alternative, but someone should go to Nelson and Colne and look at the roads between there and Manchester.
Mr. A. Bourne-Acton (Darlington)
The right hon. Gentleman speaks of areas of high unemployment. Surely he will recognise the need of these areas to be able to have means of transporting their freight very rapidly to and from other conurbations of that kind.
§ Mr. Brown
I am obliged to the hon. Member for his help, but he ought not take my time to give it. I thought that I was doing all right as I was going. That is the point, nevertheless. If the link is cut, the difficulties are increased.
In the same way, there is the problem of commuter services. I was very impressed by what the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) said. As a Derbyshire Member, I know the problem of the journey from Buxton to Manchester. There is also the decision to cut the heavily used commuter service between Southport and Liverpool.
It is no good saying that these services can be replaced by road transport. Has anybody tried to get into these big cities early in the morning or out of them late at night? Several train loads leave 1017 Belper for Derby in the morning and return at night. It is now said that those passengers will be taken into and out of Derby by double-decker buses, but they will never get into Derby and it is ridiculous to suggest that they can. Present passengers cannot be carried by road now, except at the cost of enormous delay, and it will be a jolly sight worse if the train services are cut.
This was pointed out to the Government last year by Sir Robert Hall's study group on the transport needs of Great Britain. The pretence that the plan can be carried out ahead of studying the other factors, and not only studying them but providing for them, is absurd. Even more absurd is the pretence that they can be provided for on the roads. We have to face the fact that it may cost money to keep the railways open, but that the social and monetary cost of not keeping them open will turn out to be even greater. Any sensible Government would start by looking into all these things before announcing this kind of lunatic scheme and pretending that it can be implemented.
As has been said again and again, the Report should be not on the reshaping of the railways, but on the future of public transport in Britain—what needs we now have in this new motor age for public transport, how we can meet them, what the forms of public transport are to be, what its costs are to be, what it means in terms of roads, not only of lorries and buses but road provision, how far coast-wise shipping and waterways of one kind and another can be used. That is what we need investigating. Given that, we could see what to do about the railways; without it, we cannot.
The experience gained in America ought to help the Minister, because to a large extent what has happened there is what the Minister is proposing to do here, and they are now regretting it. They have allowed the railway lines to go into disuse and have landed themselves with a road problem with which they cannot cope. The Amendment does not ask the Government to criticise the Beeching Report. Let us accept it as a valuable contribution dealing with one aspect of the problem.
The Minister has said that he has many other studies on the go. There is Colin 1018 Buchanan's study on cities to come, and the right hon. Gentleman mentioned several others, in addition to the one that he is now starting. Let us get all the pieces of the jigsaw. Let us then fit them together. Let us then announce to the nation the provisions that we propose to make for a public transport service to add to and support whatever people do for themselves by way of private provisions. This is the way to deal with the problem. It involves waiting for some reports. It involves some solemn and cold consideration. It involves taking into account the economic and industrial needs of our nation. When we have all the pieces of the jigsaw we can work it out. Until then do not mess about. Do not drop things that we need. Do not send the railways into disuse so that later we find that we cannot complete the jigsaw because we have broken an essential piece of it.
That is what our Amendment says. Having listened to most of the debate, that seems to be the view of most hon. Members, and I ask the House to support us in the Division Lobby in urging this course on the Minister.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I am speaking to the Amendment and, technically, it is not necessary to ask the permission of the House to speak again, but I would, nevertheless, like to have that permission.
I told the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) why I wanted to speak again, and this is the first time since I became a Minister that I have spoken twice in a debate. The reason is that I am very keen to answer the points raised during the debate, as I know that a lot of them are sincere points and have been made with emotion. I also want the House to know that I and nobody else bear the heavy responsibility of having to decide some of these closures.
Many hon. Members have not been able to take part in the debate, and if they care to write to me setting out their points I shall do my best to answer them. Several hon. Gentlemen have already written to me, and I make that offer to them, too. I want to try to answer the points raised in the debate, particularly the points made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), 1019 and the three or four points made by the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition, including the point about N.E.D.C.
I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for giving us his definition of what the party opposite meant by integration. I shall not speak to that tonight, because I want look at what is in HANSARD tomorrow and study it very carefully. I want to answer the right hon. Gentleman's other points, but if there is time at the end I shall deal with integration, which means the dictatorship of transport by the party opposite.
We are debating proposals which are railways proposals, and the Government have agreed in principle that the railways require re-shaping. Every detail in the Report will be discussed in the Ministry of Transport in two ways. On passenger closures, the Transport Users Consultative Committees will have to sit and take evidence, and then decide on the matter and make a report to me on two questions: first, are there any alternative services; and, secondly, What degree of hardship is involved? Any representative of a user can come before a committee and give evidence. That applies to any Member of Parliament who uses the line in question.
The Transport Act 1962, gives me power to stop a railway closure, and also to substitute an alternative bus service if I wish, with or without the payment of a subsidy, according to the circumstances. The Guardian asked whether I was considering this question with an open mind, and whether I would decide on the merits. The answer is that I shall certainly decide on the merits, to the best of my ability.
The right hon. Member for Vauxhall yesterday said:My first comment is that when the Report leaves the field of ascertainable fact and enters that of forecasting it appears to be dangerously overoptimistic, in exactly the same way as were the forecasts contained in the modernisation plan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1963; Vol. 676, c. 746.]We cannot be expected to endorse every detail, because we have had the Report for only two months, and it requires detailed study.
But we are not given to over-optimism. The right hon. Gentleman will remember 1020 that in February, 1960, the Government imposed an investment ceiling of £250,000, and permission had to be given by the Government before the British Transport Commission could spend that money. That scheme is still in operation. It was brought out because we thought—as did the Select Committee—that the Commission was not selecting the right investment criteria. Over the last few years we have carried out much research into methods of finding the right technique to use. Social benefit studies have been carried out—my hon. Friend and I have tried them out on the Victoria to Walthamstow line. We are looking into the question of the Great Northern suburban electrification by means of this technique. We are told that this could be applied to conurbations, where suitable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) raised a point about Manchester. I am aware of the difficulties there and the difficulties of other urban areas. The Report contains many proposals for rail closures in urban areas, but it says that these are not the cases where the cost to the community of a closure would outweigh the cost to the railways. I will read this passage, to refresh my hon. Friend's memory. It says:Outside London, there are only eight areas in which rail services are major contributors to the total daily flux of people in and out of the focal cities, these being Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff".In those cases social benefit studies are probably the right answer. We will go into that question most carefully. If the railways were to submit to me a closure proposal in isolation, which I thought ought to be considered as part of the conurbation problem as a whole, I would refuse to allow the closure to take place. I think that that is reasonable enough.
We cannot decide today about all the individual closures. I cannot give a detailed answer, because I have not the detailed evidence before me.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Since my right hon. Friend told us yesterday that he is the final judge in these matters, will he go slightly further and say that he will give sympathetic consideration to the commuters in the Manchester area?
§ Mr. Marples
I certainly will. Every major conurbation will be given the study that it deserves.
The railways have approached the authorities in two or three of the cities that I have mentioned and asked them to get together with them in order to carry out a joint study of the bus and rail services. I think that this is the way to tackle the problem.
In the rural areas, especially the South-West, my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn), my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard), my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) have stressed several points.
Their first point was that if they were deprived of the railways would I take into account that their roads were more backward than other areas? Secondly, some of the roads were not classified roads and, if they had to be improved, the whole cost would fall on the ratepayers and not on the central fund. I should like to look at that point very carefully—[Laughter.] I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition do not want me to answer some of the right hon. Gentlemen's points.
There is another Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton which, in the general sense, I think is acceptable. But there are one or two words to which I should certainly take objection. May I take the right hon. Gentleman's point—
§ Mr. H. Wilson
Can we get this absolutely clear from the right hon. Gentleman? He has said, we understand, that every closure requires his consent and that he will look at all sorts of points that he never thought of looking at before; but we understand that he intends to look at them. [HON. MEMBERS: "He said so."] All right, he will look at them. Will the right hon. Gentleman now tell us—we accept that he is free to turn down any proposed closures from the railway authorities—whether it is still, by and large, the policy of Her Majesty's Government that they intend that approximately one-third of the rail- 1022 way system is to be closed? Without giving us details on the individual closures, do they still intend that?
§ Mr. Marples
That is unworthy of the normal intervention that we get from the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Now, Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] What the right hon. Gentleman asked is coming in the answer to the question that he asked earlier, if he will only listen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The real answer, Mr. Speaker, is that the Opposition do not want to listen. If they have no case, the best thing they can do is to make a hell of a noise, and that is what they are doing.
The right hon. Gentleman asked that no major decision should be taken on closures before there had been a survey of the transport system as a whole and that point was repeated by the right hon. Member for Belper. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman really appreciates the scope of what he is suggesting. As he knows, we have initiated a number of studies. I should like to read what The Times leader had to say on Monday:What has been exposed is that, of several horses backed by the Minister of Transport, one has far outpaced the field. The London traffic survey. Buchanan on environment, Jack on rural transport, Rochdale on ports, Hall and Crowther on long-term transport—each has contributed, or will do new and necessary thinking on Britain's transport problems. Only Dr. Beeching has produced a plan of action, ready to be carried out.This is the right hon. Gentleman's point:Is Dr. Beeching, then, to wait, as Labour apparently feel, until the other horses catch up? Patently not. … And retrenchment is unquestionably necessary to that evolution. There is a large part of the system doing work for which it is manifestly not suited, whose retention will never be justified by any conceivable new criteria".As I said earlier, we shall look carefully at the details of these things, but reshaping generally is desired.
The second question the right hon. Gentleman asked was this: have transport needs been estimated for twenty years ahead; do they take into account any N.E.D.C. estimation of a 4 per cent. growth rate? The right hon. Gentleman attached considerable importance to that point. The Hall Group's Report on The Transport Needs of Great Britain in the Next Twenty Years takes the assumptions into account of a 1023 growth of the economy, first, of 3 per cent. per annum, and, secondly, of 4 per cent.
The N.E.D.C. office was represented on the group which produced the Hall Report, so it knew all about it. It had something to say about it. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition has read that Report, although I do not believe that he has. It was published two months ago and it made estimates of the demand for transport and of railway revenue up to 1980. I should like to read to him paragraph 14—[Interruption.] Somebody has to educate the right hon. Gentleman. It says:Economic growth"—The right hon. Gentleman asked this question, and if he wants to listen to me, will he ask his hon. Friends at the back to be quiet?Economic growth on the scale that we have assumed is not likely"—[Interruption.]I will start again:Economic growth on the scale that we have assumed is not likely to give rise to any large shift in traffic, whether by road or by rail, towards those areas which are at present lightly trafficked.It also said:Both the road and rail systems have a large mileage of very lightly trafficked routes. Again the area of distribution is very similar, most under-utilised railways being in those areas where the road system also has spare capacity.In other words, if the right hon. Gentleman had read that he would not have asked his question.
The next thing that the right hon. Gentleman asked was: why not refer the Beeching Report to the N.E.D.C.? I have no objection at all to N.E.D.C. studying the transport industry, the Beeching Report and all the rest of it. But I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman—I shall not agree with him—that all action on the Report should be deferred until such study has taken place. The case for so much of what Dr. Beeching proposes is so clear. I must repeat that part of the system is scarcely used at all.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) said, we cannot allow these resources to be used in the wrong way. A third of the system carries less than 1 per cent. of the passenger miles and 1024 only 1.5 per cent. of the freight ton miles. Let we make clear that the Government intend that the railways should now start to put to the T.U.C.C.s their proposals for passenger closures. They will still be only proposals and each one will come to me for decision. To delay these proposals would not be in the wider interest of the country as a whole.
The fourth question which the right hon. Gentleman asked me was: what will be the economic consequences of the closures? How much more investment will be required on the current annual investment in road transport of £500 million? I think that he said that included trucks on the road and investment. The proposals in the Report will affect, in some cases, investment in trucks and buses, leaving aside, of course, the question of what individuals might invest on private account.
Our present annual roads programme is £130 million. Given the size of this programme and its flexibility, with a three-year rolling programme, which we shall now extend if we possibly can to five years, it is very considerable, and the possible effect of the Beeching proposals we estimate will be relatively small. My divisional road engineers have made a survey of all the roads parallel to these lines that are to be closed. There will be no net increase in investment needed over the freight transport industry as a whole, because the railways expect to capture freight traffic from the roads.
The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) asked about the position in Wales. The provisional estimate we have from the bus operators is that they will need only 700 more buses in addition to their present fleet of 93,000, a once-for-all investment of about £3½ million. Those are small figures to set against the savings quoted in the Report. The 700 refers to the whole country.
We had a very interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), who is himself a bus operator. He asked whether there would be consultation. I can tell him and the Leader of the Opposition that the figure of 700 more buses came from the first consultation we had with the undertakings. They included the Scottish buses, the B.E.T., the Tilling 1025 Group, the Passenger Vehicle Operators Association and the municipal owners. All promised wholehearted support and co-operation, including the municipal owners. I am quite certain that we shall be able to manage with about 700 more buses, 600 in England and Wales and, I think, 100 in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) asked whether we would see that the times of buses coincided with the times of railway trains in his constituency and other places. The answer is, "Yes, we will". My hon. Friend the Member for Withington asked about buses taking prams. He said that he had a large Victorian pram which at times was a little difficult. It is interesting to know that he has use for a pram at his time of life. An experiment was tried in the Isle of Wight. The Vectis Company took out six back seats of a bus so that that space could be used for prams and all sorts of things—[Laughter.] Luggage.
§ Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, following that experiment, if our railways in the Isle of Wight are closed and we have to have 60 buses an hour running to and from Ryde Esplanade, the company will abolish that system and reserve seats to put prams on?
§ Mr. Marples
Whether they have folding seats or remove the seats, so long as they get the prams on board it will be all right. [Interruption.] We gave the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) a fair hearing. I hope that he will listen to me, because now I shall talk about integration. When I saw him at the Dispatch Box with his list of prepared questions and quips, it reminded me of "That Was The Week That Was" and David Frost.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there were two major points about integration. The first was that road traffic in private hands would get the cream of the traffic. He would take some of the profit from those owners and put it in a traffic pool. I do not know how he would assess which private road haulage company had made a profit, or how he would take it away. We would want to know that in due course.
The right hon. Member said that we must have a system of sharing between road and rail and that it must be economic. Who is to decide that?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that we should debate this in a serious manner. I think that it would be in the interests of the House as a whole and of its reputation to do so.
§ Mr. Marples
The second part stems from the statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best.
§ Mr. Marples
On 21st November, 1961, my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, said, on Second Reading of the Transport Bill:My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) said yesterday that he did not agree with integration and co-ordination because it meant "dictating to industry exactly how it is to transport its goods.The hon. Member for Bermondsey said, "Why not?" My hon. Friend said: "Because I do not think: that industry should be dictated to as to how it transports its goods.The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) said: "We did it during the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1961; Vol. 649, c. 1279.]Therefore, I maintain—this is one of the principles held by this side of the House—that the consumer should have the choice of which way he sends his goods. If he wants to send them by road, he should send them by road. If he wants to send them by rail, he should send them by rail. The railways here carry only the equivalent of just over 1 per cent. of road traffic. If they take only 1 per cent, of road traffic, it is obvious that that part of the proposals made by the Railways Board and put forward to the Government for closing are not, in effect, taking appreciable traffic. Therefore, we do not believe that the industry should be dictated to. We do not believe that its profits should be altered, taken away and put into a transport pool.
I hope that the House, on this occasion, will have nothing whatever to do with the Amendment. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Huyton has made two speeches—one earlier in the day and one skiing down tonight. This one is better than the previous one.
§ Mr. Robert Mathew (Honiton)
Before my right hon. Friend finally sits down will he reply to the questions which were put to him over and over again during the debate by hon. Members on both sides, about seaside resorts and country districts?
§ transport. This is one of the things which we will ensure will be done.
§ I hope that the House will not support the Opposition Amendment.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 323, Noes 248.1031
|Division No. 104.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Cunningham, Knox||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Allason, James||Curran, Charles||Hobson, Sir John|
|Artbuthnot, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Dalkeith, Earl of||Holland, Philip|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Dance, James||Hollingworth, John|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||d'Avlgdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John|
|Balniel, Lord||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W, F.||Hopkins, Alan|
|Barber, Anthony||de Ferranti, Basil||Hornby, R. P.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.|
|Barter, John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)|
|Batsford, Brian||Doughty, Charles||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Drayson, G. B.||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||du Cann, Edward||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Duncan, Sir James||Hurd, Sir Anthony|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Eden, John||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Elliott,R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Jackson, John|
|Biffen, John||Emery, Peter||James, David|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Jennings, J. C.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Errington, Sir Eric||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Black, Sir cyril||Farr, John||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Fell, Anthony||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Fisher, Nigel||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith|
|Box-Donald||Fletcher,Cooke, Charles||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Foster, John||Kerans, Cdr, J. S.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(Stafford &Stone)||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kerahaw, Anthony|
|Braine, Bernard||Freeth, Denzil||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kirk, Peter|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gammans, Lady||Kitson, Timothy|
|Brooman-White, R.||Gardner, Edward||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Gibson-Watt, David||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bryan, Paul||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Leather, Sir Edwin|
|Buck, Antony||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bullard, Denys||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Burden, F. A.||Godber, J. B.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Goodhart, Philip||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Goodhew, Victor||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Cambell, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Belfast,S.)||Gough, Frederick||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Gower, Raymond||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Green, Alan||Longbottom, Charles|
|Carry, Sir Robert||Gresham Cooke, R.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Gurden, Harold||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hall, John (Wyconibe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||MacArthur, Ian|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McLaren, Martin|
|Cole, Norman||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Cooke, Robert||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere(Macclesf'd)||Maclean,SirFitz roy (Bute&N. Ayrs)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col, J. K.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Cordle, John||Hastings, Stephen||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hay, John||Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)|
|Costain, A. P.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Coulson, Michael||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Macpherson,Rt.Hn.Niall(Dumfries)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maddan, Martin|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hendry, Forbes||Maglnnis, John E.|
|Hicks Beach, Mal. W.||Maitland, Sir John|
|Crawley, Aidan||Hiley, Joseph||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Critchley, Julian||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Marlowe, Anthony|
|Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Marten, Neil|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Temple, John M.|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees, Hugh||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Mills, Stratton||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ridsdale, Julian||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Morgan, William||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Robson Brown, Sir William||Turner, Colin|
|Neave, Airey||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Roots, William||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Russell, Ronald||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||St. Clair, M.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Seymour, Leslie||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sharples, Richard||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Shaw, M.||Walker, Peter|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Shepherd, William||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Wall, Patrick|
|Partridge, E.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Smithers, Peter||Watkinson, Rt. Hon, Harold|
|Peel, John||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John||Webster, David|
|Percival, Ian||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Peyton, John||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Whitelaw, William|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Speir, Rupert||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pitt, Dame Edith||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pott, Percivall||Storey, Sir Samuel||Wise, A. R.|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, w.)||Talbot, John E.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Tapsell, Peter||Woollam, John|
|Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Pym, Francis||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Ramsden, James||Teeling, Sir William||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Abse, Leo||Cronin, John||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)|
|Ainsley, William||Crosland, Anthony||Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Albu, Austen||Crossman, R. H. S.||Gunter, Ray|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hamilton, William (West Fife)|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol Central)||Dalyell, Tam||Hannan, William|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Darling, George||Harper, Joseph|
|Baird, John||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Barnett, Guy||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Healey, Denis|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Delargy, Hugh||Herbison, Miss Margaret|
|Bence, Cyril||Dempsey, James||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Diamond, John||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Benson, Sir George||Dodds, Norman||Hilton, A. V.|
|Blackburn, F.||Donnelly, Desmond||Holman, Percy|
|Blyton, William||Driberg, Tom||Hooson, H. E.|
|Boardman, H.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S.W.)||Edelman, Maurice||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hoy, James H.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Bowles, Frank||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Boyden, James||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N,)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Fernyhough, E.||Hunter, A. E.|
|Bradley, Tom||Finch, Harold||Hynd, H, (Accrington)|
|Bray, Dr, Jeremy||Fitch, Alan||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Fletcher, Eric||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Forman, J. C.||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jeger, George|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Callaghan, James||George, Lady MeganLloyd(Crmrthn)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ginsburg, David||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Chapman, Donald||Gourlay, Harry||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Greenwood, Anthony||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Collick, Percy||Grey, Charles||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Keiley, Richard|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Oswald, Thomas||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|King, Dr. Horace||Owen, Will||Stonehouse, John|
|Lawson, George||Padley, W. E.||Stones, William|
|Ledger, Ron||Paget, R. T.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Lea, Frederick (Newton)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Pargiter, G. A.||Stross, Dr. Baroett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Parker, John||Swain, Thomas|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Parkin, B. T.||Swingler, Stephen|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Paton, John||Symonds, J. B.|
|Lipton, Marcus||Pavitt, Laurence||Taverne, D.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Peart, Frederick||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Pentland, Norman||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|McBride, N.||Popplewell, Ernest||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|McCann, John||Prentice, R. E.||Thornton, Ernest|
|MacColl, James||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|MacDermot, Niall||Probert, Arthur|
|McInnes, James||Proctor, W. T.||Timmons, John|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Tomney, Frank|
|Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Randall, Harry||Wade, Donald|
|MeLeavy, Frank||Rankin, John||Wainwright, Edwin|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Reahead, E. C.||Warbey, William|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Reid, William||Watkins, Tudor|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reynolds, G. W.||Weitzman, David|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Rhodes, H.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Manuel, Archie||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mapp, Charles||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Whitlock, William|
|Marsh, Richard||Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)||Wigg, George|
|Mason, Roy||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Mellish, R. J.||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Ron, William||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Millan, Bruce||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Milne, Edward||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Moody, A. S.||Skeffington, Arthur||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Morris, John||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Moyle, Arthur||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mulley, Frederick||Small, William||Woof, Robert|
|Neal, Harold||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Snow, Julian||Zilliacus, K.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|O'Malley, B. K.||Spriggs, Leslie||Mr. Short and Mr. G.H. R.Rogers.|
|Oram, A. E.||Steele, Thomas|
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House welcomes the Report of
the British Railways Board on the Reshaping of British Railways as a major contribution to the development of a sound and well-balance transport system for the country.