§ 25. Mr. Peter Walker
asked the Minister of Transport what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in respect of the public ownership of road transport.
§ 29. Mr. Ian Gilmour
asked the Minister of Transport if he will give an assurance that it is not his intention to take any further part of road transport into public ownership; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Tom Fraser
I have no proposals to put before the House at present. I have, however, informed the Chairman of the Transport Holding Company that, subject to my normal control over investment and borrowing, their road haulage and passenger subsidiaries may regard themselves as free to expand their fleets, where they consider this to be advantageous in the normal course of business, by the freely negotiated acquisition of other undertakings as well as by the development of their existing fleets.
§ Mr. Walker
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the news that there is to be a general extension of the nationalised road haulage industry will be regretted throughout the country? [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Is he also aware that his failure to state clearly what is the Government's policy on this issue is causing a great deal of uncertainty in this industry, and will he quickly pronounce his full views on this subject?
§ Mr. Fraser
I have no doubt at all that the hon. Gentleman thinks that private enterprise road haulage companies should be perfectly free to extend their enterprises as they will to meet the needs of their customers, but I cannot for the life of me see why the same freedom should 189 not be afforded to the nationalised companies.
§ Mr. Gilmour
Is the Minister aware that in the National Opinion poll taken last week people were asked to choose the most important things to be done for the good of the country and the number answering "More nationalisation" amounted to only 3 per cent.?
§ Mr. Powell
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the threat to private road transport which is implicit in the policy and statements of the party opposite is doing grave damage by the uncertainty which it has caused, and that the Government are treating this industry exactly like the aircraft industry—causing uncertainty and doing nothing to remove it?
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman talks absolute nonsense. My duty is to do what I can to ensure that the essential needs of this country in relation to transport are met adequately. I do not see how I can properly discharge that duty by allowing quite unnecessary restrictions to remain on nationalised transport.
§ Mr. Powell
Then will the right hon. Gentleman give a clear undertaking that he will do nothing whatever to limit the possibility of expansion and freedom of operation to private road transport?