§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The object of this brief debate is to raise and to discuss the situation obtaining on the railway routes in the south-east of England which are heavily used by commuter traffic. It is a situation which a number of hon. Members opposite who called upon the Minister of Transport last week are said to have described as the "inconvenience that their constituents are suffering as a result of the interrupted services". I must say that that is a masterpiece of under-statement.
The conditions could justifiably be described as an utter disruption of the pattern of life and of the business of hundreds of thousands of citizens who depend upon these services for their livelihood and for getting to work. I am sure that, before the debate has come to an end, the validity of that description will have been proved beyond question by the evidence which will be brought by hon. Members on both sides from their own experience and that of their constituents.
Last week end, the Prime Minister made a very remarkable statement in 1852 Durham. He said that "Britain could no longer afford workers who inflicted harm to production and the public with 'go-slows' or sporadic strikes in defiance of their own unions". He continued:… and if the magic phrase 'working to rule' means holding up production or crippling essential services then we had better change the rule.That is a statement which has certainly evoked an echo far and wide in the public; what we want to know in this debate is whether those were mere words, or whether to them there corresponds any intention, any policy, any course of action; for the circumstances to which they relate—the infliction of harm on production and the public by go-slows and sporadic strikes and the crippling of essential services by working to rule—are certainly fulfilled today and have been fulfilled for some time past. We are, therefore, entitled to ask what relationship there is between the Prime Minister's statement and the circumstances in which hundreds of thousands of people find themselves today.
It reminded one of another statement, which was made by the Minister of Labour a few weeks earlier when he found himself in the centre of a rather similar situation which had arisen at London Airport. When referring to those who had caused it, he said:These men have flatly contradicted their own union and they pour their spleen upon ordinary folk. These men have the power to disrupt the lives of good people. Those good people may, ere long, say that they have had enough and are not going to be pushed around any longer and they will have all my support.Again, what we want to know is, what is the meaning and practical application of a forthright statement of that kind which, again, is so very widely echoed amongst people of all parties and of none? Does it mean anything? Because the good people who rely on the commuter services to London have had, and are having, their lives disrupted and if there is a case for action, if these assertions by responsible Ministers mean anything, then this is an absolutely classic case and classic opportunity for putting them into practice.
What they cannot say is that they were taken by surprise—that they had their ideas and their plans but that this situation came upon them suddenly and unawares, and that it would not have been 1853 practicable for them to take the steps which they might otherwise have wished to take to make good their intentions. That is not the case here. The claim which lies behind the current difficulties is two years old. It was late last October when a go-slow on some of these lines was threatened, and by the early days of November—I think that it was by the 11th—chaotic conditions had developed on a number of lines. These continued until 19th November, when the action was called off, as the words ran at the time, "pending the outcome of national talks on a productivity scheme".
That was last November. Since then eight months have gone by. Sporadic trouble started again in the middle of June, but it was only on 8th July—a fortnight ago—that the services again started to be seriously interfered with. As the Committee knows, that interference, with all the chaos and disruption involved, has continued from that time till today, and unless there is some very recent news there is at any rate no immediate prospect of its termination.
All this time—ever since last October and November—all those concerned, not only the Railways Board and the unions but also the Government, knew quite well what the situation was. They knew what the risks were. They knew the prospect of the disruption of the lives of ordinary people. It is small wonder that a week or so ago the Labour Correspondent of The Times wrote:It cannot really come as a surprise either to the Railways Board or the unions that the men have become impatient again, after negotiations have drifted on for nearly eight months since the last work to rule.The difficulties moved to a crescendo at the end of last week, with the 24-hour strike in North Kent added and the spread of trouble to four other counties. Today, we learn that although endeavours are being made to bring matters on to a different footing there is no immediate prospect—unless the Minister has other news—of the disruption being terminated.
In these circumstances the Committee and the country are entitled to know what the Government intend to do—now, in this case, and also generally for the future. They have uttered bold words. They have attached their authority to assertions of intention which are very sweeping and which, if they could be 1854 carried out, would certainly meet the wishes of the great mass of our people. They are popular sentiments. What we want to know from the Government is what these sentiments mean in practice, and how they would be applied to this situation or to any other like it which might arise.
At the very best there has been an entire lack of foresight and an entire absence of correspondence between mere words on the one hand, and deeds and policies on the other. So, by virtue of their own declarations, the present situation is one out of responsibility for which the Government Front Bench cannot contract; indeed, they have deliberately accepted responsibility for the continuance of the present hardships and difficulties.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. R. J. Gunter)
The right hon. Member has made a rather interesting submission. He has already stated that the background of the dispute is at least three years old, but that nothing was done until last November. At least I intervened within four weeks of coming into office.
§ Mr. Powell
Yes, but it was last November that the go-slow arose for the first time, and ever since then it has been self-evident to those in touch with the position that there was a likelihood and danger of a recurrence. The right hon. Gentleman has been getting into this position with his eyes open during the whole time that he has been in office.
There is another reason why the Government cannot contract out of responsibility. This debate is taking place upon the Transport Vote. I noticed that the secretary of the union mainly involved—A.S.L.E.F.—said, a few days ago:What concerns me is this inconvenience to the public—The public are our customers.though he went on to add what I thought was psychologically a rather revealing sentence:Many of them are ordinary trade unionists like ourselves.The same point was put even more sharply by a Mr. Tinsley, from whom we used to hear regularly during the previous episode last November, and whose appearance from the scene has been missed on this occasion. On 15th November last he said:They"—1855 that is, the passengers—are our bread and butter, and, therefore, we must pay attention to the public.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to Mr. Tinsley, who is a constituent of mine. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that Mr. Tinsley was addressing a meeting of the Orpington and District Passengers' Association last night.
§ Mr. Powell
I am sorry that so far he has not had the success in being reported that he attained on the earlier occasion. However, we have his word, which I want to draw to the attention of the Committee, that the pasengers are the railway workers' bread and butter, and that they must pay attention to the public.
Alas, this is not so, for the British Railways Board is not operating a commercial undertaking which relies for its success and continuance upon the good will of its customers and for what they are willing to pay for the services, which, year by year, makes a commercial success of its operations by serving its customers.
There was a very remarkable letter in The Times yesterday from a Mr. Swift, a driver living in Peterborough. The whole of that letter is well deserving of study, but the sentence which struck me most was that in which he said:Any other industry that was running its concern as British Rail do today would be bankrupt within a fortnight.We all know that in the last 12 months the deficit of British Rail on working, alone, was £67½ million, although that was a lower figure than had been experienced for some years past. Before very long it will be necessary for the Committee to inquire what further progess is being made, or is expected, in the further reduction of this enormous working deficit, but what this fact means is that most of the bread and all the butter for British Rail comes from the taxpayer. It comes from the subventions which are provided, on the authority of the House, by the Minister of Transport.
It comes from the same people as taxpayers, who, as commuters are both paying higher fares than they have ever been expected to pay before and also subject to the disruption of their lives by the inadequacy and the interruption of the service. So long as that is the 1856 case, so long as the taxpayer at large through the Minister and the Ministry of Transport, is maintaining the railways by this colossal subsidy, so long will there be a responsibility upon the Government for the service which is rendered and for the maintenance of the service—another responsibility out of which the Government cannot possibly contract.
So on two counts, both by their words and declarations, accepting the responsibility for avoiding and preventing this kind of disruption of the lives of the public, and also because, as a Government, they maintain this railway service by means of huge public subsidies, the responsibility for the position which we are considering today is fairly and squarely the Government's. Let them answer for it.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. R. J. Gunter)
I do not know what effect the speech we have just heard, or the first part of it, had upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), but I can only say a solemn prayer and hope that the right hon. Gentleman never finds himself in the Ministry of Labour. His speech revealed a complete ignorance of how our system of collective bargaining works. It may be inadequate, but it does work. We shall certainly think of what we can do to further it, but there was not one point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which he offered one constructive idea as to what his party would do if it was in power. He never suggested how a Minister of Labour could automatically sweep into an unofficial strike.
I want to be very careful today not to raise any temperatures, because the position still remains a little delicate. All I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Committee is that I wish to set out the history of the present unfortunate happenings. The situation, as the right hon. Gentleman has rightly said, came about by unofficial action being taken by certain motormen, particularly on the Southern Region. I do not know whether this will be any comfort to the right hon. Gentleman, but I thoroughly deplore this action. It will not be any comfort to the commuters at Orpington but as Minister of Labour I thoroughly deplore it.
1857 However strongly these men may feel, however much they may feel they would have a strong case before any wage tribunal or arbitration, they have no right to continue this action. They had no right to start it. It is unofficial and it has continued now for a fornight in spite of the appeals of the general secretary of their own union, the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen. The appeal was to those who were taking part in the unofficial action to resume full co-operation and normal working. Despite the rather sneering attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, I am as conscious as he is of the hardships imposed on hundreds of thousands of our citizens.
The Committee will appreciate that, like all unofficial actions, this is damaging to industrial relations in the railways and generally. In the long run, action of this kind will benefit no one. The interests of workers in any industry can only be advanced in a satisfactory, sensible and fair manner by negotiations through the constitutional and agreed procedures. These depend upon the members of unions accepting fully their responsibilities to observe the agreements and procedures of the unions. Every hon. Member knows my views on this and I do not propose to say any more.
I think that it will be helpful if I explain why and how the present situation has arisen. I hope to be forgiven if I go back in time, but history in this matter is of some importance. Motormen in the Southern Region expressed dissatisfaction about their earnings, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, in the autumn of last year. Unofficial action of the kind which is now taking place was threatened in October, and was called off on the promise that further discussion between the Railways Board and the unions would take place. There were discussions in November, but no progress was made and a work to rule, or a withdrawal of full co-operation, began on 11th November. This unofficial action caused inconvenience and dislocation of the services. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that unofficial action always places me and my Ministry in a very difficult position.
Nevertheless, I felt at that time, although I ran a risk of interfering in 1858 unofficial action, that it was right, because of the hardship inflicted upon the public, that I should call the parties together at the Ministry. Talks took place there between representatives of the Railways Board itself and the general secretary of A.S.L.E.F. At that time it was agreed that a national claim for a productivity payment to all train crews, not only in the Southern Region, which had been submitted earlier in the year by A.S.L.E.F., should be the subject of further negotiations, within the agreed machinery of the railway industry. That was to take place immediately and the unofficial action stopped and normal working continued until the present trouble.
I turn to points made, legitimately in my opinion, about what has happened since November; I do not mean legitimate criticism of the Ministry, but perhaps criticisms of the parties. Within that machinery there have been discussions between the Railways Board and the two unions concerned. Discussions have taken place about productivity bonus payments to footplate staff, related to proposed changes in the manning agreements, which would result, as the Railways Board justifiably argued, in higher productivity. These negotiations, where were, in effect, what are now described as productivity bargains, raised many problems which were typical, both for the unions and the Railways Board. They have been examined over recent months by a working party of both sides.
I want to be honest. When I intervened in November I hoped, and I expressed my hope, that these negotiations, when they had been got back within the machinery of negotiation, would come to a conclusion at an early date. I hoped that they would reach a conclusion which was satisfactory, or that they would reach a stage where the board and the unions were clearly not agreed, and when some other action could be taken to settle the issue. I know that there has been criticism of the length of time that has been taken. I have expressed this position very clearly to both sides in the last 48 hours. I would certainly not try to apportion blame. Negotiations on productivity bonuses within so involved a wage structure as that which operates for British Railways are inevitably difficult and complex.
1859 Sometimes I wonder whether we have forgotten that one of the productivity bargains which received the greatest publicity, one of the gems of modern industrial relations, that between the Esso oil company and the unions at Fawley, took nearly two and a half years to negotiate. There are great difficulties, so we should not under-estimate this when we talk about productivity bonuses. They are complex things about which to reach a conclusion.
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he has very little understanding of the actions and reactions of men within this industry. The negotiations between the Railways Board and the unions have taken place against a very difficult background. First, in recent years there has been a tremendous reorganisation within the industry in an effort to improve efficiency. Inevitably, that reorganisation has led to considerable inconvenience, and in many cases hardship, to men who thought that they had secure jobs. It has made necessary some changes of jobs.
Secondly, because of the reorganisation there has been a steady decline in the numbers employed. I have said before, and I repeat, that it is very easy for us to talk, but the fact is that when men are insecure, and when the fear of redundancy is upon them, they cannot be expected to act in an entirely rational way.
Thirdly, and perhaps this is the most important point—there is a lesson to be learnt here both by this industry and by other sections of industry—while productivity bonus payments, work study incentives, mileage rates, and so on have been applied to certain categories of staff, what might be called substantial minorities, have, because of the nature of the job they perform within industry, never been able to qualify for these bonuses and incentive payments. This has disturbed the existing differential between different groups, and many of the men with whom we are dealing consider that this reflects on their relative value, and on their status in the industry.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
My information from the Southern Region is that in 1962, when it completed its electrification scheme, it carried, and did not declare redundant, the men who were, in fact, redundant. 1860 I accept the point which the right hon. Gentleman is making, that these disputes may arise out of a loss of differential, and a natural objection by motormen to being downgraded relatively, but he ought to make it plain that redundancy is not really the point at issue in this matter.
§ Mr. Gunter
I was only giving that as an illustration of the sort of thing that can happen. The fact is that we shall probably get assurances from British Railways that there will be no redundancies as a result of this increase in productivity.
The point to remember is that the general atmosphere in which we have to conduct industrial negotiations can never be as good as it should be when the industry is declining and contracting, because motormen, signalmen, controllers, and so on, are wondering and disturbed about whose turn it is to be declared redundant next. That is the background to what I was trying to say.
Whatever the explanation, the fact is that agreement has not been reached. The annual conference of the A.S.L.E.F. met in June. It was given a report of the negotiations that had taken place up to then, and it passed a resolution which precluded further negotiations involving changes in the manning agreement. I want to emphasise that this decision was taken by, as it were, the annual parliament of the union. It was taken in a constitutional way, but, inevitably, it affected the progress of discussions and negotiations between the Board and the unions, and, of course, the situation now is one of complete rigidity.
On the one hand, the unions say, "We want to talk about bonuses, but we are not prepared to talk about any alteration of the manning agreement". On the other hand, the Board says, "We are willing to talk about bonuses, but we are not prepared to talk about them without an alteration of the manning agreement". The result is that the motormen on the Southern Region have taken unofficial action and withdrawn full co-operation, or are working to rule, whatever one wishes to call it, with the consequences to which I have referred.
I have already said that when unofficial action of this kind is taken any Minister of Labour, in any Government, is in a 1861 very difficult position indeed, because it is important that anything that he does should not appear to condone the action of the unofficial workers or to weaken the constitutional procedures. Nevertheless—and I say this in reply to the right hon. Gentleman's statement that I seem to have done nothing—because the interests of the travelling public were involved, I was convinced that I had to intervene, even though the men's action was unofficial.
Accordingly, on Friday of last week I had talks with the Chairman of the Railways Board and with the general secretaries of the A.S.L.E.F. and the N.U.R. I was told—what, in fact, I already knew—that there was to be a formal meeting on Tuesday of this week of the Railway Staff National Council. I sought to acquaint myself with many of the complications that were not then apparent. I had long talks with them, even down to surveying what might happen if certain events took place at the meeting of the Railway Staff National Council.
I could then do no more than wait for the outcome of Tuesday's meeting. As the Committee knows, and as I had expected, it ended in deadlock, but on the Saturday I had told the A.S.L.E.F. that if the meeting on Tuesday ended in deadlock I expected them immediately to call its executive committee and report to me that night, however late it might be. I saw the members of the executive committee on Tuesday. They explained that they were faced with serious difficulties which they would have to consider carefully but one decision at which they had arrived was that they should recall their annual delegate conference which had tied their hands completely. They proposed to meet again on Wednesday morning to consider the date of the recall and the proposals which should be put to the conference. They promised that they would report what steps were to be taken about the unofficial action.
I had a further meeting with the executive yesterday, and perhaps I might summarise their decisions on three points. The annual conference is to meet again on 10th August—that is, in just over two weeks' time. Some people may say 1862 that that is too far ahead, and ask why it could not have been convened earlier. This is a point that I put most forcibly to the members of the A.S.L.E.F. executive. They had gone away on Tuesday promising that they would consider seriously the possibility of recalling the conference, at the latest, on the following Monday or Tuesday. However, they explained to me yesterday that they were in some difficulty. They had given the fullest consideration to my request, but had decided that it was impracticable to recall the conference within so short a time because they wanted to send out a full and complete statement of the situation to all their branches and give them time to consider it before the meeting was held.
What is more—and perhaps this is the most reasonable consideration of all—they wanted to give all their members the opportunity of attending branch meetings at which these serious matters could be discussed. We all appreciate the nature of railway work. Many of the men are away from their homes at awkward times, and have to work a roster system. The executive committee told me that if all the members of the union were to be given an opportunity of expressing their views before the annual conference was recalled, so that the representatives at the conference would know what was at issue, they had to rule out the earlier date which had been discussed.
Now that the executive has decided to recall the final authoritative body in the union in accordance with its rules and constitution, the important thing is that those members who are taking unofficial action should realise that the constitutional way of dealing with the issue is the right way and should cease their unofficial action forthwith.
The executive committee informed me that it had passed a resolution appealing to all members to be loyal to the decision of the executive committee by resuming normal co-operation and working pending the decision of the annual conference. The resolution is being brought to the notice of all branches immediately, and the executive committee gave me its full assurance last night that it will do all it can in the next day or so to impress upon its members that their recommendations should be accepted without reservation.
1863 The third decision taken by the executive committee was on the recommendation that it proposes to put before the recalled conference. The essence of this is that it asks conference to give the committee powers to continue negotiation for a productivity payment for all footplate staff on the basis ofobtaining the highest possible payments and the minimum relaxation of the manning agreement.There is a break, and it goes on to list certain points of particular concern with which I do not think I need bother the House.
The constitutional democratic process of the union will now ensure that all members will be able to make their views known on the issues which affect them very closely. It will be clear, after the conference, on what basis the issues can be further discussed by the constitutional representatives of the union. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that unofficial, unconstitutional action by members should cease. It is the only basis on which negotiations can proceed in an orderly manner and which provides the only assurance that the interests and views of all members of the union can be properly looked after.
As the result of the events of the last few days, and now that this major development has taken place, I am certain that every member of the public, whether he or she has been affected or not by the unofficial action in the Southern Region, will consider it absolutely unjustifiable for such action to continue. I would say to the House, as I said to the executive committee of the A.S.L.E.F. last night, that, however great the value we put on disputes being settled through agreed constitutional procedures, if the unofficial action does not stop and hardship to the public continues, the Government cannot and will not stand aside.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst)
I am sure that the views expressed by the Minister in his final remarks will find a very sympathetic welcome on both sides of the House. As one who represents a constituency which is in the most heavily commuting area, I think it only right that I should underline what my right hon. Friend the Member 1864 for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the Minister have referred to—the quite appalling conditions under which my constituents have had to travel to and from their work in past weeks.
It is fair to go back a little and to see what they have accepted as part and parcel of the reorganisation of the railways in the post-war years, a reorganisation which has lessened the service available and in the planning of which successive Governments have played their part. In that period from the 1950s to today, they have paid ever-increasing fares, they have fewer trains and they have greatly increased overcrowding, not only as a result of fewer trains but also as a result of a very greatly increased population, particularly in my own constituency where, since 1950, we have absorbed 16,000 from London into a very large London County Council estate.
I was interested to compare an A.B.C. of 1950 with the current edition. The fares from Sidcup and Chislehurst have gone up from 3s. 3d. return to 6s. My constituents have swallowed that increase and balanced it against increased wages and higher cost all round. But it is of interest to find that, whereas in 1950 on weekdays—and that is the traffic which is of interest to commuters travelling to and from work—there were 70 services a day from Chislehurst to Charing Cross and other stations, in 1965 there are 43. From Sidcup to London there were 90 services a day in 1950, and today there are 59. By and large, that has been accepted on the basis of the introduction of faster and perhaps longer trains that would carry more passengers in the peak hours. Many of the services that have been cut out have been afternoon and evening trains. As the figures show, overall they have been cut down to about two-thirds of the number of trains. All this has been accepted by commuters over the years, in the hope that they would, when they got a train, have a faster and good, prompt, punctual service.
With only about two-thirds the number of trains and practically double fares, the Southern Region of British Railways admits that in this area there is over 30 per cent. overcrowding in the peak rush hours. Commuters pay for their season tickets and have a one-in-four chance of getting a seat up and down. Anyone who has travelled down from 1865 Cannon Street, Waterloo or Charing Cross will know that in the peak hours passengers are very tightly jammed in the trains, even when they are all running on time. It is against this background that we have had what has been the last straw to people who take a pride in being at their work on time and who are just as much workers as those running and operating the public service of the railways.
When some reports have said that trains were running 10 or 14 minutes late, there have been vitriolic letters and hollow laughter from my constituents. They say, "It is all very well to say that the 5.3 was 12 minutes late, but what about the 4.30 which they cut out altogether?" Some of my constituents have waited for an hour at Cannon Street and have arrived home anything up to two hours late, and they have been anything up to an hour late getting to work in the mornings. They are decent working folk who want to do their jobs, and they think that it is not only an imposition on them but on their employers because of the enormous number of man-hours they have unwittingly lost over the past few years.
I am one of those who take pride in the structure of this country and the joint industrial employer-employee negotiations which we have. I am not one of those who would like to see industrial wages and working conditions imposed by Government action. I believe that both sides in their respective industries can work out from their knowledge and skill the conditions, wages and the reorganisations that from time to time must come.
If for any reason they fail in that duty and if they hold many thousands of the public to ransom, as they are now doing, then we have reached a stage when we must say to the unions, "You are vast, you are powerful and when you want a closed shop and some independently-minded little chap will not join the union, you can get rid of him quickly enough. When you have rebels, why cannot you yield the same power of sanction when executive agreements honourably made across the table between both sides of an industry, pledges and promises solemnly given, are constantly broken by a rebel and destructive minority and sheer chaos is created for thousands of people travelling on the railways?" I believe 1866 that it is time that the executives of these unions were sharply reminded by the Minister that they have the power and that it is their responsibility and that if they are to continue to have freedom of negotiations jointly with the employers, they must accept the responsibility of disciplining their own members.
§ Mr. Gunter
I am following this argument with interest. What has always baffled me about this argument, which I have heard frequently, is that if a trade union is to discipline a member, in other words, to expel him from membership, it is a meaningless exercise unless there is a closed shop so that he loses his job at the same time. The right hon. Lady should make her choice.
§ Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith
I would not say that the trade union movement was devoid of powers to discipline members on a go-slow.
We have paid higher fares and every time we have been promised better services. We now have fewer trains and not the swifter and larger trains we wanted. If part of the drive for efficiency means new manning arrangements, no one will argue about the bonus for the new system of manning. But what we appear to be being told is that the cause of the rebellion and the go-slow is that the rebels are asking for the bonus as a reward for more concentrated effort, but are refusing to accept the new form of manning being tied to the bonus.
Mr. Greene has been reported as describing defiance of the executive's advice as leading to anarchy. My constituents are sick and tired of the Government regretting and the union deploring. As they say in letter after letter and 'phone call after 'phone call, it is always the travelling public which pays.
I hope that the Minister will increase his endeavours to bring a very speedy solution for the long-suffering people in the commuting areas who are spending up to three hours a day more than they need in wasted working time and lost leisure.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Murray (Gravesend)
During the last nine months we seem to have had the age of discovery by the Conservative Party. After 15th October, the Conservatives discovered pensioners. 1867 Within the last couple of months they have discovered rising prices.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Samuel Storey)
Order. There is nothing about pensioners or rising prices in this Vote.
§ Mr. Murray
I was drawing an analogy.
Now they have discovered commuters. One would think from the argument of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who is not a commuter and who does not represent a London commuting constituency, that the problems of commuters had suddenly arisen, but the commuters of North Kent have been suffering severe hardships from overcrowding and other travelling difficulties since the end of the war.
The reason for the debate is that the Opposition are trying to make political capital at a very difficult time in the midst of trade union and employer negotiations. The problem of commuting travel has not just appeared. I have received letters from commuters not since being elected, but since being the candidate at Gravesend, letters complaining about difficulties getting to and from work. These were commuters between 1951 and 1964, commuting on the most heavily used line anywhere in the world, and the Conservative Party did not seem to make any effort to solve the problems during that time.
Indeed, the transport legislation of 1962 aggravated the problems of commuters outside the area of the London Transport Board. My commuters know their trains, not affectionately, as the "sardine specials" and the "cattle trucks". If the R.S.P.C.A. found cattle travelling in the same sort of conditions, they would probably have sued the Minister long ago.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West spoke about redundancy, but how many hon. Members opposite know the fears of redundancy among men who have been working at their jobs since they were boys? It is possible that I will become redundant [Laughter.] I have worked in a job which has known the fears of redundancy and hon. Members opposite will not gain the political capital they want by jeering 1868 and laughing. I was on Gravesend station at a quarter to eight this morning—
§ Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)
As the hon. Member was presumably sent here largely because his party offered to the electorate at the last election fewer strikes and lower prices, and as exactly the opposite has occurred and we have had almost record increases in both, does he not at least feel that he ought to express some regret?
§ Mr. Murray
I offer no regret at all to the hon. Gentleman. I cannot recall that my election manifesto spoke of fewer strikes. A change of Government does not change the hearts of many employers. Has it changed the attitude of the gentleman we were discussing earlier, a gentleman named Harvey, of the British Printing Corporation?
The problems of the commuters should have been considered not just by the last Conservative Government, but by the Labour Government before that. In the South-East we have reached saturation point, whether travelling by road during the rush hour, or on the heavily over-crowded trains. About 2,000 commuters travel from Gravesend during the peak hours and they want something to be done. They want to know that there is to be some relief in future. They appreciate that this is not just a short-term problem and that the Government have to take some vital decisions about their future well-being.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
How can the hon. Gentleman reconcile his statement about the South-East with the decision of the Minister of Housing and Local Government to allow development between Hartley and Ash, in Kent, development which will grossly overload the existing facilities?
§ Mr. Murray
I am coming to that. I wish to make a criticism of the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
Commuters from Gravesend and most other parts of Kent who travel during a working life of 40 years will spend about three years on a train, most of the time standing. The Government should not be panicked by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, but should consider its long-term propositions 1869 for the commuting in this heavily-built-up area. All credit to the staff of British Rail, who have had real difficulty in putting two quarts into a pint pot.
I want the Minister of Transport to consider providing another pot or two. We need to look at the termini in London, because these are where the difficulties occur. We should examine the difficulties created at places like Dartford and Dartford Junction, where three of the lines from North-West Kent converge, or at the Borough Market Junction. These are the points where the difficulties for commuters occur because of the convergence of the lines from North Kent at these important points.
One thing which should be done, and British Rail has made a start, is that all commuter trains should be declassified. All trains during commuter peak hours should have only one class. It has been found that first-class compartments are, at maximum, only 60 per cent. full and, at minimum, 25 per cent. full. British Rail has already tried this on one or two trains and finds that it is working most successfully. These are some of the things which are needed to relieve the discomfort of people spending, in normal times—if travelling in commuter trains can ever be called normal—three hours each day standing in a train either going to London or returning to their homes.
We should also consider whether more Government Departments can move out to the areas from which commuters are travelling, to help with employment in these areas. One of the things missing in all the areas concerned is Government Departments and offices. We need more Government encouragement to light industry. In my constituency land is available for light industries, to give people the opportunity to work in their own areas.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that we should have many more Government offices, in addition to those we already have?
§ Mr. Murray
This is a question of dispersal. I had hoped that the hon. Member, who represents Gillingham—a commuting constituency—would understand.
We should also consider the good old London tube. The Borough of Camberwell asked in 1921–44 years ago—for a tube extension to Camberwell. If we are 1870 to relieve the pressure in Central London, different forms of transport must be provided. If proceeded with, this tube would cost a great deal of money, but we have to consider new projects like this for their social benefits rather than their purely financial implications.
We might find methods of easing people's difficulties by way of some more surveys like those which they have in the United States on commuter problems. It would be interesting to find out from doctors in commuting constituencies how many of the illnesses and complaints with which they deal can be attributed to the stresses and strains of commuter travel. I am certain that, by providing a new tube to what is, I believe, the only part of London not provided with tubes nearby, we should be getting nearer to solving people's problems.
The provision of a new tube would cost a great deal of money, but when one thinks of the amounts of money which have been spent on things like Blue Streak and abortive weapons over the years, one realises that 1 per cent. of the total of £20,000 million defence expenditure in the last decade would have solved the commuting problem in the South-East. I hope that the Minister of Labour's survey on the co-ordination of transport will give many answers to the commuting problems, but it is not just the answers we want: we want the will of the Government to put through measures which will give not just short-term relief which hon. Members opposite have spoken about, but real, long-term, benefits in travelling for our constituents, the people of south-east England.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I should like to spend one moment reducing the temperature. I take no exception to the survey which the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray) has just made of the commuter problem. Most of us with experience of it would agree that many of the things he said were correct, but he left out of his speech perhaps the most important fact, which is that this debate is about the action of a minority which has led to the situation which now has to be discussed—
§ Mr. Deedes
I have no wish or intention to argue the details of this dispute, over which none of us has any influence, and, possibly, in the light of what the Minister said, the less we try to argue the details the better. This is not an occasion for recriminations. It is more profitable to look at some of the very serious implications which arise from the situation and to see what, if anything, can be done to avoid a repetition of this disastrous occurrence.
For large numbers of commuters, no matter from whose constituency they travel, this has been disastrous. It has not been simply inconvenient or troublesome; it has been disastrous. This episode reminds all of us that for some hundreds of thousands of people round London—not simply in Kent, but elsewhere—the railway has become a lifeline. I am not sure that this unwilling dependence of so many on a railway line is socially a very good thing, but we have at least been reminded of how much they count on it.
If anything goes wrong with that lifeline, they are in trouble. I want to stress this, because it helps to explain the indignation and high feelings which have been shown by some commuters. This has not simply been a display of bad temper or exasperation with the trade unions. It is not simply that fares have gone up regularly about once every nine months over the last 10 years. It is not simply the discomfort of daily travel, overcrowding and the occasional delay which no one is able to explain.
What has been going on in recent weeks on the Southern Region has, in the minds of a great many daily travellers, imperilled their jobs. When we talk about the fear of unemployment or redundancy in relation to this problem, this is something which we should bear in mind. There is a limit to how often one can arrive in the office 30 minutes late and say, "I am sorry: it is the railways again." There is a limit for many people. A moment comes when the head of the department says, "Either you change your home or we must change your job." That has been the underlying stress in the minds of a great many people—
§ Mr. Deedes
Perhaps the hon. Member would let me make my speech in my own way and later he may be able to make a speech of his own.
Nobody discussing this problem should underrate the anguish of mind in many family circles to which commuters belong. These drivers who—as they see it, justifiably—hesitate to accept the strings attached to this bonus on the grounds that it could imperil their future employment should have this thought at the back of their minds. We should be clear about this. Tens of thousands of people are living and travelling very near the limit and on very narrow limits. They are dependent on a handful of railwaymen. Indeed, they may be dependent on one railwayman. I agree with the hon. Member for Gravesend that the load, the peak, has reached such a stage, certainly on the Southern Region, that one mistake can disrupt the working day for tens of thousands of people.
That being so, it is hard to imagine a more critical sphere for unofficial industrial action by a minority. That is why all hon. Members will applaud the words with which the Minister of Labour concluded his speech. They were quite unequivocal. They were not calculated to inflame, but they left us in no doubt as to what is in his mind.
When such action is taken, and apparently self-justified as a legitimate exercise in collective bargaining—as a means of securing something better or avoiding something less good—we have an immensely serious industrial situation. It is, perhaps, as well to put on the record something which the hon. Member for Gravesend did not say; simply that the action is wrong. That is why I applaud what the Minister of Labour said because he admitted that it is wrong. Industrial language can be used today to make words mean anything their user desires them to mean, often in phrases calculated to conceal the merits of the case.
This minority action is wrong and impossible to condone, however much sympathy one may have with the background. Coming from a railway town, I do not lack sympathy with railwaymen, but this view must be made clear because if it is not we will get into a fearful state of confusion. I find it harder to assert that the circumstances leading 1873 to this wrong action were wholly within the control of the railway engine drivers. In reality, the blame rests impersonally on the hopelessly outmoded wage structure of the railways and the outmoded system of wage negotiation. These are things in which neither side has any confidence and, for this, management, Government—the former Government and the present one; I concede that readily—as well as the trade unions share some blame.
Dr. Beeching went a long way towards modernising the railways. He got nowhere at all towards modernising the wage structure and bargaining machinery. I therefore ask the Minister of Transport and his colleagues this crucial question. Is this subject going back on the shelf again when this dispute ends? It will be scandalous if it does. Surely it is not beyond the wit, the reason, of management—
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
Why did not the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues do something about it when they were in power?
§ Mr. Deedes
—and unions, in the light of this affair, to devise somewhat better machinery which may avoid the repetition of a situation which is disastrous to both sides.
§ Mr. Deedes
I must make it clear to the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) that good trade unionism is bleeding to death in this dispute. The dispute is bad for the railways, passengers and management—but for trade unionism it is absolutely deadly. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will fasten their minds on that fact. The Minister of Labour knows it and I have no doubt that the Minister of Transport does, too.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) must not keep interrupting. If he wishes to speak later he will, no doubt, try to catch my eye.
§ Mr. Deedes
The hon. Member for Carlisle should take note of what I am going to say next. The root of this dispute lies in one simple fact which must be understood, whether or not it suits hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the last four years British Railways has reduced its staff by 100,000, probably more proportionately than any other industry. About 2,000 miles of track has been cut out, along with 700 stations and 900 freight depots. That has been right. It was inevitable in the present condition of the railways and for the benefit of the railwaymen in future. Indeed, the process continues.
The Minister of Labour may be right or wrong but, as I understand it, the scheme which it was desired to attach to this purpose was designed to ultimately lead to a reduction of 10,000 footplate men and a saving of about £7 million. That is really the crux of the matter. In this most difficult situation I am not saying that the scheme has been ill-handled. My experience is that a railway town management has an enlightened and straightforward way of dealing with trade unions, keeping all concerned in the picture about the major changes which take place.
The point to remember for the future is that the railways are still going through this difficult phase of reducing manpower to the level that is needed in 1965. There-in lies a lot of trouble for the future, unless some lessons are learned from this dispute. The most depressing thing about the dispute is the inevitable setback which has been given to the railway's recovery, particularly on the Southern Region, especially to the re-establishment which was going on of the railwaymen in public esteem. It revives the ugly disposition which I had hoped was behind us—of people speaking more in anger than in sorrow about the railways being "a shambles" and "a scandal". It revives some of the old antagonisms which we had between staff and passengers some years back. And it is unfortunately equally bad for the morale of those who work in and travel on the railways.
Having said that, I must say that I do not think that this is irreparable. If there is a settlement reasonably soon—and 1875 I thought that the progress set out by the Minister of Labour sounded quite alarmingly protracted—I believe that the position can be repaired. However, no hon. Member should run away with the idea that the situation which has given rise to all this will solve itself if it is left alone, because it will not.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain how his remarks about the current difficulties can be related to the broad and difficult problem of commuters to and from the Greater London area? He has spent a considerable amount of his speech talking of this local, present difficulty, but has not the broad problem of travelling in Greater London yet to be dealt with?
§ Mr. Deedes
If the hon. Gentleman had waited for me to say one more sentence he would have had an answer to that question.
As I was saying, this difficulty will not solve itself by itself. Three factors at least enter into it; first, the growing pressure on the commuter services, secondly, the urgent need for large new capital construction, and, thirdly, the outmoded machinery for wage negotiations and negotiating the manpower situation. These are all potentially explosive factors. I am tempted to add "trade union law", but I will not do so in this debate. None of these three factors will get better if they are left alone. Sooner or later they will lead inexorably to a repetition of this terrible imposition on travellers.
It is, therefore, to be hoped that Ministers, against whom I have avoided all recrimination in this matter, will realise these factors and bring their influence to bear, not just now, while the current dispute is going on, but afterwards. So often we meet these situations with promises to look deeper into them, but when the dispute has been solved the problems are again put to one side. If the Ministers concerned will deal with these matters and follow through the dispute after it has ended some good may ultimately emerge from this miserable affair.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
My remarks will not follow closely on those 1876 of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) because, like other hon. Gentlemen opposite, he rather overworked one aspect of a complex and very big problem indeed. Even taking the one aspect of the labour problem, as it were, affecting commuters' travel, the right hon. Gentleman dealt only with the immediate dispute situation which, one hopes, will disappear as soon as a settlement is reached.
For many hundreds of thousands of people around London the problem of London's commuter services is not so much when the trains are not operating but when they are operating; this is when the real problem arises. Even dealing purely with the labour side, if I may emphasise the narrowness of approach here, one would hardly think that one of the most difficult problems facing the London Passenger Transport services was the shortage of labour.
Yet many vehicles are not being used because of lack of recruitment of men for the long-distance buses, and so on, which are all part of the commuter problem. This approach has been overworked. I shall not follow that line, but will, instead, turn to what I believe to be much more fundamental aspects of the problem.
As I see it, we are faced with three important problems. Before I deal with those problems, let me say that by "commuter travel" I mean the journey to work. That at once brings into the picture at least one factor that has so far been left out. There are many London transport problems, but the journey to work is the crucial problem. It is the problem of getting people into London to work between 7 o'clock and 10 o'clock in the morning, on a great tidal wave, and out again in the evening between 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock.
Almost the first principle which must guide policy is that we must be concerned with the amount of work in the major city centres. I do not want to be unduly aggressive to hon. and right hon. Members opposite, but I do not think that any of them would now agree that the policy of not controlling the location of work, of offices, in the centre of London during the past 13 years was wise—in retrospect, at any rate. I am sure that they do not now agree that it was 1877 wise. I except the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) from these strictures, of course.
Today, 1,300,000 people are being dumped in the centre of London between these hours, and an extra 200,000 have arrived here during the last 10 years. Further, although the first thing my right hon. Friends did on coming to office was to put a stop to new office building, there are now another 200,000 jobs in the pipeline; buildings now standing empty that must be used, and others half constructed. Therefore, the problem has been enormously accentuated during the years by the lack of control over the location of work in the heart of London, and we have not developed pari passu with the growth of work in the centre, a growth of the public transport services. Until recently, there has been no attempt to co-ordinate the two, or event to think of them in terms of related and linked policies.
The collection of people from their homes to their places of work is a second major problem. We have to be clear that any sensible policy for dealing with this aspect must accept that it will be a job for the public transport services—there can be no argument about that at all. Why one says that with such conviction is that we all know what it is to try to drive around London in our cars, even outside the worse periods of the day. We know how desperately difficult and slow the journey is across London in those hours.
As a result, we have to maintain public transport services of a very high order. That they have not been built and maintained to the standards required was graphically described by the right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith); people are being squeezed together, and have been for years. It is absolute misery for them, and there is no prospect of relief, because the planning and programming of new transport facilities for commuters has fallen way behind the actual growth of work in the centre.
What is the third basic factor in public transport for the commuter in the London area? It is that public transport will not be able to operate on ordinary commercial principles. It will not be able to pay for itself, and accumulate the 1878 surplus needed for heavy capital investment in things like tube lines, major extensions of Southern electric railways, and so on. It will not be able to do that.
I should like to quote the concluding words of the introductory statement in the Annual Report of the London Transport Board for the year ending 31st December, 1964. I think that the Board meant all of us who read this document to note this in particular. It states:The adverse trends shown by the year's working, and the need for heavy expenditures on new underground railway construction to meet changing demands, must now begin to cast serious doubts on London Transport's future ability to reconcile the two main duties laid on it by Parliament—to provide an adequate service to the public in the London area, and at the same time to pay its way.Before we get polemical about the public transport services paying their way, I think that we can all agree that the problem facing those services in London is unique—and particularly because of this tidal flow of commuters in the morning and in the evening. As I understand it, during the rest of the day London Transport buses and trains are used to only 10 per cent. of capacity, while they are used 100 per cent. during the peak hours. The enormous over-investment in that sense to meet this terribly uneconomic need for a short period of the day is bound to be formidable.
Having said that, I should like to look now at the solutions. We are getting rather tired of the attempts made during the years—and I say "we" because I speak now almost as a commuter—to solve the problem. One way is to do what the right hon. Lady and others complain about—continue to push up commuter fares There is not much promise in that line of development, first, because I sympathise with the commuter and, secondly—and thinking, perhaps, in more practical terms—every rise in commuter fares sends an extra margin of people away from public transport to try to use their own private vehicle. That fact has contributed to the vicious circle, particularly in road transport, with less use of public services, and so on. So a solution will not be found just by pushing up commuter fares.
What is the second solution? I do not know what is in my right hon. Friend's mind, but he made an interesting 1879 announcement a month or two ago. He said that London Transport would this year run into the red unless he allows a fares rise, so he proposes to operate a subsidy for this year, at any rate. Looking at the long-term intentions, we may accept the logic of this decision, because those who say that we do not want commuter fares put up must agree that this is the logical alternative. I am told that many other countries do this, and that many other big cities have to pay some form of subsidy.
However, I can understand why Ministers have in the past always been slightly reluctant to embark on this policy, because once we start paying subsidies we are never quite sure about how efficiently the thing is being run. Also, in the light of the tight Treasury situation we face today—a situation with which hon. Members opposite were faced not so long ago, and which I consider we are likely to be faced with in years to come—those heavy payments which will have to be made if we are to get any improvement in the commuter service will mean that Ministers of Transport will have to be extremely aggressive men to get their share from the Treasury.
With that in mind I have thought of an alternative which I put to my hon. Friend with some diffidence. If we accept the argument so far it seems that there is only one alternative to a subsidy or constantly rising fares. The proposal I wish to throw into the pool—perhaps to have it knocked back at me—is that we should put the full cost of the journey to work on to the employer, but only the full cost of the journey to work. This may seem a strange suggestion, but the argument for it would be on the lines of social costs generally. I think all hon. Members would agree that people do not naturally as a matter of free choice get into these "sardine trucks" and travel in these awful conditions in and out of London in peak hours for five days a week. Why do they do it? Because their job is there.
The employer, by making his decision to locate his office in the heart of a great city, creates individual and social costs which are then inflicted on the rest of the community just as in a sense we may say that an employer who burns things which 1880 through his chimney produce smoke pollution produces a social cost which he—not the community and not the individuals living there—should meet. So I put to the Minister the proposition that there may well be a case—I do not say all at once, this could be gradually introduced to see whether the argument would stand up—for putting this cost which is essentially a social cost, mainly on employers for the journey to work, and only the journey to work.
§ Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith
How does the hon. Member reconcile loading this responsibility on the employer with the deliberate policy of all authorities in the great cities of transporting to out-county areas their inner populations in order that they may have a house and garden in a green belt district?
§ Mr. Shore
I think there is no conflict here. In a sense we want to do both things. The ideal policy is not only to get people out of the centres of cities but for them to take their work along with them. This is the concept of new towns to which we have all subscribed ever since the war.
The suggestion I put forward seems to have one or two quite obvious advantages. It would mean that the extra revenue would accrue directly to the providers of public transport and the Minister of Transport would not have to fight—as I am sure he will have to fight—against the Treasury to get his share if the alternative subsidy proposal is adopted.
A second advantage would be that this would have a positive effect of encouraging employers to stagger hours, because the essence of the proposal would be that the cost of the journey to work would fall upon them only if they brought people to work within the hours of peak congestion. It would be open to them to mitigate their costs and avoid this obligation because they would not be creating a social cost if they asked people to come to work after 10 o'clock in the morning when ordinary transport facilities can cope with the problem. This would apply only if they insisted that everyone should come to work within the crowded peak hours.
§ Mr. Albert Evans
My hon. Friend's novel suggestion is of great interest, but I cannot see how it would be possible to 1881 lay upon employers who insist on bringing staffs into great cities the cost of travel in and out of London. I do not see how it would be possible to fix the cost on the employers who insist on bringing their people into London.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Thomas (Canterbury)
The short intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) exposed the fallacy of the argument of the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) when he suggested that the cost of individual commuters' travel should be imposed upon employers. The effect, as she rightly suggested, could have the most serious implications for housing and planning authorities in the Greater London area.
I agree with many of the arguments of the hon. Member, particularly when he referred to something between 1 million and 1½ million commuters to London daily and said that the increase in the last 10 years has been about 200,000. He was quite right to bring out those figures. They show a trend which will go on unless something is done about development in the City of London and the Greater London area. Possibly further more strenuous action will have to be taken about staggering office hours. There has been a considerable amount of talk about that, but little action. Much more has to be done in that direction.
I was very much impressed by a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) when he spoke about redundancy. He was contradicted by an hon. Member opposite, who is not now in his place, who suggested that there should be no fear of redundancy or insecurity in the minds of London commuters. I can assure the Committee, as one who represents a constituency in the south-eastern section of the Southern Region in which there are tens of hundreds of commuters, 1882 and as president of a commuters' travel association, that many men and women have come to see me at my "surgeries" and expressed this fear.
The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray) assumed that hon. Members on this side of the Committee were not conscious of the implications and fears of redundancy in the minds of working people. I remind him that there are hon. Members on this side of the Committee who have far more experience of the working class, particularly of railwaymen, going over a longer period than he has. If he reads the recommendations of the Boundary Commission about constituencies he might find growing fears of redundancy creeping into his mind before the next election.
About 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. of my postbag comes from commuters to London who are suffering from the present strained labour relations on the Southern Region. Over a number of years I have received a heavy post containing complaints from travellers on this section. Over the years they have suffered possibly more than any other section of the travelling public. There has been a series of incidents and accidents, ranging from burned out signal boxes, which caused much more disruption over a much longer period than has the present labour dispute, to continual points failures, signal failures, poor rolling stock, overcrowded sardine-like conditions, and now working to rule and unofficial striking. The life of the commuter on the North-East Kent line particularly has become one of frustration and misery and his life has been completely disrupted.
§ Sir L. Thomas
It is a question of what support the hon. Gentleman will give his own Front Bench in doing something about this. One of the things which causes a sense of frustration has resulted from a piece of legislation which my party passed when it was in office. I supported it. I refer to the jurisdiction of the Railway Rates Tribunal over the fares increases imposed by the management on those who live outside the London Transport area. I represent commuters who live outside that area. The Railway Rates Tribunal refused to allow 1883 the railways to increase their fares in the London Transport area last February, but some of the commuters I represent suffered an increase of up to 7 per cent. They travel in trains to the same destination with people who are benefiting from the decision of the tribunal. When people sitting in the same carriage discussing the effects of increases in fares on their pockets, and when it is found that one section is being discriminated against, there is bound to be a frame of mind which is not conducive to good public relations between the customer and the man supplying the service.
The opening speakers confined themselves to the existing dispute. There are many reasons why the commuting service to London has deteriorated. I hope that in the not-too-distant future, even after this dispute is settled—I hope that it will be settled quickly—the Minister of Transport will come with me to Cannon Street when some of my constituents are departing and see for himself the conditions in which they have to travel distances up to 80 miles. The general manager of the Southern Region wrote an article which appeared in the Evening Standard a few weeks ago in which he said that, if he was to make the railways pay, he would have to pack the passengers in rather like sardines. There is no doubt that today, particularly as British Railways have this terrific monopoly outside the London Transport area, the management or executive has diminished the service provided to the customers. Tea cars and buffet cars have been taken away. There is poorer rolling stock. There is overcrowding. There are increased fares.
§ Mr. Gordon A. T. Bagier (Sunderland, South)
Would the hon. Gentleman say whether this has happened during the last nine months?
§ Sir L. Thomas
I will give the hon. Gentleman another indication. I spent the first years of my working life on the railway. I worked in a timetable department. The management recently announced summer schedules to the public. Last Sunday when I travelled up to London I saw a notice in front of the booking office regretting that certain trains would have to be withdrawn because there were not the guards to man them. What an extraordinary situation. 1884 This never happened in my time. After all the work that goes into the preparation of a timetable it is apparent that the management has not consulted the personnel side to ensure that it can be done.
At this moment—I hope that it will be very temporary—commuters are suffering from strained labour relations. The Minister of Labour has given us the timetable of events over the past few months. I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. This decision by the motormen or by some of the motormen in this section to work to rule is nothing by a war of attrition directed at the management to force a decision in their own favour. I do not think that anyone can deny that. It is the commuters who are suffering. Serious incidents have already occurred. The Minister of Transport knows that I went to see him. He knows how perturbed I was about it. I saw the Minister of Labour last Monday fortnight. If this goes on, there is no doubt but that there will be even more serious incidents. Perhaps this might be a good thing in some ways, if it opened up a new approach in the negotiating machinery and in the long run led to improved labour relations.
I believe that in the negotiations between management and trade unions for conditions of service and conditions of pay two main principles must be borne in mind. If trade union leaders cannot exact from their followers that respect for their authority which is their due and if their authority is completely ignored, if the trade union leaders have lost the respect of their men and it is time they went and handed over to somebody who can exercise authority and produce a proper sense of discipline
I believe that management and employers, whether in the nationalised industries or in private industry, must never concede to force, as we saw in the unofficial strike last Friday and in this work-to-rule action of the militant section in the south-eastern area. They must never concede to force those things which they are not prepared to concede to reason and across the negotiating table.
This problem of the committee falls under the two heads of cost and efficiency of operation and labour relations is included in the latter. But there is no 1885 doubt that the commuter to London has not had value for his money under either of those heads, and the efficiency of the national economy is daily and hourly becoming impaired. I would remind management and the trade unions and those who are working to rule that the commuter is the one who is paying the price. He is not only paying ever-increasing charges but as a taxpayer he is meeting the subsidies which keep the railways moving and the management and the railwaymen in their jobs. If the situation is allowed to continue I do not think that the London commuter can be expected to maintain his patience much longer.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wallace (Norwich, North)
We have heard in the debate so far—and I am sorry that I was not here during the early stages—a great deal about the commuter. The Committee is looking at one at this very moment. I do not run a car and I have been a commuter of long standing, in both senses of the word. I raised this question of the problems of the London commuters and of London travel about 20 years ago in this Chamber. Since then there has been very little improvement. In some respects the situation has become worse.
The real root of the trouble is the unrestricted office building which has been allowed to go on in London. This not only provides a travel problem for the commuter but an increasing problem of where he or she can get lunch. Today in London it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a meal during the lunch hour provided by employers.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who is not now in his place, referred to the present dispute. I feel that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee should try to steer clear of any speech which might increase the present difficulties. The hon. Member said, first, that the present dispute would cause many people to lose their jobs due to their arriving late at the office. I cannot accept that as a fact. Before I came to the House I was an office manager, and I can tell the Committee that the experiences of the commuter owing to the present unfortunate dispute are experiences which he has frequently undergone in trying to reach the office in winter in fog, ice and snow.
1886 Many a time, with fellow-travellers in the true sense of the word, in stations like Cannon Street people have fought not only to get on a train but to stand up straight and breathe when they have got on it. Some of the situations in the past have been shocking. Mob rule has nothing on it. For all these years crowded travel by train has been a tremendous physical ordeal. One has often had to open windows to prevent a young typist or a youth from fainting.
The travel problems which have now arisen are not due to the present strike. They have been growing over a period of years and have been bedevilled in many ways because of office building in London. It is true that there is now restriction on office building and that many industries are moving out into the outer London ring. The result of the present situation may be to persuade people to work locally. They will probably receive a smaller wage packet, but they will derive benefit from saving on railway fares and in having a decent time for meals.
There is no short-term solution to this problem. One of the things which need urgent attention is the replanning of London stations. Cannon Street is undergoing tremendous alterations, but London Bridge needs a face-lift, if not something more drastic. The situation there is chaotic during the rush hours. We should push ahead with the provision of lines to places like Hither Green where commuters can change trains and avoid main line trains coming into London.
Although I represent an East Anglian constituency, I live on the outskirts of London in the commuter belt, and one point about commuter travel has puzzled me for many years. We hon. Members often go out on the Terrace on a fine summer evening when we get one, on an average once every two or three months, and we watch the River Thames. It beats me why on earth we do not use the Thames more. Now, with modern developments, we have high-speed river craft which could be used. To a great extent the travel problem could be eased by more extensive use of London's river. Some years ago an employer of mine, since deceased, a member of the other place, in association with other people, started a river bus service, but it was not publicised enough or supported enough. 1887 I am sure that with the co-operation of employers it would be possible to set up a transport system on London's river. Continental cities like Stockholm use river services. Why do not we use the Thames more and ease things for the commuter?
All we want is a seat on the train, time to have lunch and the means of getting home in reasonable time, ready for a little relaxation, instead of being utterly exhausted and upsetting the wife and the rest of the family and feeling only too pleased to get to bed.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
Every hon. Member who has spoken from the back benches so far either represents a commuter area or is himself a commuter, like the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Wallace), who has just spoken. To a very large extent, my constituents are commuters. Many thousands of them travel into the centre of London every day. It might be thought that they are more fortunate than others because they have a choice of three forms of public transport open to them, the Southern Region of British Railways, the tube or the buses. But, as I shall show, even though they have these three choices, they are not as fortunate as all that. I wish to speak about these three different forms of commuter transport and make one or two suggestions to the Minister.
I say at once that recent events on the Southern Region, with the go-slow of the motormen, have not so far, happily, affected my constituents. There was a little delay last night at one of the southern railway stations, I believe, but, by and large, we have not yet been affected, and I hope very much that we shall not be. There is little that I can usefully add to what has already been said about this particular dispute. Indeed, I think that there is little any of us can say to help to solve it, as we all want to do, except that I echo what has been said from these benches in saying how delighted I was to hear the Minister of Labour's firm statement of his position and firm feelings about the action at present going on. I hope that, through his good offices, the dispute will be solved quickly. I hope, also, that both he and 1888 the Minister of Transport will direct their minds to ensuring that, so far as possible, it does not develop again. If it is just left, as it could so easily be, with the press of other events upon Ministers, it will raise its head again at some time in the future.
I wish to speak about some of the slightly longer-term solutions to the commuter travel problem. Some of those hon. Members whose constituencies are affected by the present dispute have tended to speak as though it has made travel very difficult, whereas, in the ordinary way, it is quite comfortable. In tact, it is not comfortable at all. Anyone travelling into London by rail, tube or bus faces a long and exhausting struggle, morning and evening, five or six days a week. On many occasions during the rush hours, I have been to the tube station at Morden, which is at one end of the Northern Line, and seen the vast numbers of people struggling, first, on to the platform and then struggling to stand jammed shoulder to shoulder and face to face in the trains.
There does not seem to me to be a great deal one could suggest to improve this particular situation. One hon. Member suggested that we might extend the tube. Simply extending it would make matters no better. It would probably make them worse because, if one extended the tube beyond Morden, for instance, it would simply mean that my constituents would find the trains full when they tried to get on them.
§ Mr. Murray
I was not suggesting that the existing tube should be extended in that way. I suggested constructing a tube where there is no tube at present.
§ Mr. Atkins
I am grateful for that correction. Constructing a new tube line would provide some solution, but—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—it would probably be the most expensive solution one could devise. Such a scheme for the Northern Line was considered some years ago, the idea being to duplicate the tunnel so as to run extra services. I cannot remember the figure now, but the estimated cost about ten years ago, when I looked into it, was quite astronomical, and it would be even greater now. Moreover, there would be no hope of it being remunerative.
1889 There is little chance that more trains can be run on the tubes as they are. The trains are run as close together as is safe now, and no one would suggest that they should be run closer than London Transport regards as safe. Nevertheless, there are possibilities for alleviating some of the trouble. For instance, it might be possible, without enormous expense, to elongate some of the stations so that longer trains could be run. I realise that they are very long now and they fill up the platforms of the present stations; but, if the platforms were made longer, two more coaches could be tacked on to each train. This would require no more staff at the stations or on the trains, but it would provide extra capacity.
One act of Government policy, both of the previous Government and of this, has made conditions on the tube in recent years rather worse. I refer to the encouragement given to London Transport to provide car parks at its tube stations on the outskirts of London. This has been done and has, naturally, helped the car traffic problem in Central London, but it has not made travel by tube any easier because there are, if anything, rather more people using the tubes.
The third means by which my constituents commute is by bus, both the London red buses and the Green Line buses as well. It seems to me that the main disadvantage of travelling in and out of London by bus or coach is the uncertainty about how long the journey will take because of varying traffic conditions. We all realise the extreme difficulty of maintaining schedules in present traffic conditions. However hard the drivers try—I have a great admiration for the London bus drivers, taken as a whole—they find it almost impossible to maintain schedules. We can reasonably look for some improvement here, not, perhaps, in the immediate future but later on, and any improvement one can make in the bus services available to carry people in and out of London would ease the load on the trains and be a great advantage.
In recent years a great deal has been done in London by traffic engineering schemes to keep traffic flowing more freely than before and faster than before even though the volume has increased. This must have helped the buses, too. If the Minister who is to reply can spare 1890 a moment for this subject, I shall be glad to have his assurance that traffic engineering schemes are going ahead just as fast as they were previously and that he has in mind, perhaps, further schemes for what is called tidal flow similar to that in operation over Albert Bridge. Has he schemes in mind for applying this kind of flow not just to bridges over the river but to the main roads into London? Has he plans to adopt a practice which is common in some other countries of altering the number of lanes in a road available for traffic moving in one direction or the other, either in the morning or in the evening? All this could help.
There is another way of helping to speed traffic particularly on the main roads, that is, by using one of the many schemes now available to link traffic signals so that through traffic does not have to stop more often than necessary. There are several systems of this kind, and some are in operation on the Continent. Is there any hope of such a scheme being used on the main roads into London?
Now, a longer-term solution. There are many ambitious schemes of road improvement and road construction in and around London. For example, there are plans to bring the M.1 motorway nearer to the middle of London. Over a period of years, the main roads into London are to be improved and extended and new ones will be constructed. We are all now accustomed to the idea of setting aside parts of the highway for different uses, pavements for pedestrians, special tracks for cyclists, and so on. Has thought been given to providing separate tracks for public service vehicles along new or improved roads?
I suggest that it could fairly readily be done on new constructions and it could, perhaps, be extended to the old roads when they are improved. If this were done, the public service vehicle would have a clear run like a train and would be able to keep to its schedules. In this way bus travel would become a much more attractive proposition for commuters in and out of London and pressure on the railways, both above and below ground, would be relieved. If we are to build new roads in any case, it might well be possible to incorporate some such scheme at the construction stage at a lower cost than in any other way. But I am not an expert. I do not know whether 1891 this is feasible. What I want the Minister to do is to assure me that proposals of this sort are being studied. I do not believe that the problems of London commuters will be overcome by just one solution. There must be a series of solutions added together in an endeavour to make life slightly easier for these people who at present have such a very difficult time.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)
There is a saying that it is an ill wind which blows no one any good. A consequence of the go-slow by the drivers over the last fortnight is that it has forced this House to take stock of a situation which has been bedevilling the whole area for over 30 years. I agree with the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) that there are certain comments which one might want to make about the present situation, but there is a danger that if they were made, even with the best will in the world, it would be much more difficult to solve the problem. Therefore, we must be careful about what we say.
The hon. Member for Merton and Morden suggested that it might be helpful if after a certain time the number of routes to and from London were changed. This seems an excellent suggestion, and there might well be roads on which it would be of great value. I look forward to the answer which is given to the hon. Gentleman. In the last day or two, however, I have been travelling from Dartford during the busy period. I do not find much difference in conditions either into or out of London. Commuters are trying to get out and lorries and other vehicles are trying to get in. The trouble is the terribly antiquated road system along the Thames.
There can be no doubt that when this go-slow is over, which we all hope will be soon, the situation of commuters will still be scandalous. Judging from some of the planning which is going on, it looks as if it will get very much worse. Let me give two examples. Along the river from Woolwich to Erith it is proposed to build houses for tens of thousands of people on the marshes. We are deeply concerned about this and we cannot get any answers to our questions 1892 Since people cannot get on the trains, and since it is obvious that only a small percentage of those affected by the planning will get jobs in the locality, tens of thousands of extra people must be thrown on to the roads unless someone gets to grips with the problem soon. Plans for the houses are already going forward.
Approval has been given for the building of a big village at Hartley. Commuters in that area are scandalised because no proposals have been made about providing extra transport. Of course we must have houses, but provision for them must be made in conjunction with the facilities available. What is the good of living there if one cannot travel to and from the area?
I deplore, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has deplored, the fact that the drivers have decided to continue the go-slow after they have forcibly brought their complaints and claim for bonus money not only to Parliament but to the notice of the nation. I went to Dartford from the North 30 years ago. As a Northerner, I was astounded at what people in the South would put up with in travelling to and from work. I was astonished that they could be so docile. I found when working in London that I lost a great deal of energy in travelling to and from work, not only in winter, when I was held up by fog, but during the summer because the ventilation was absolutely terrible and I felt like a wet rag.
I would say that the commuters are a lot to blame themselves. They have put up with intolerable travelling conditions for far too long. I warn the Minister of Transport and those who succeed him that I believe that this situation is coming to an end. I see in my area a new spirit among commuters who will, in future, make sure that their claims are very near the top of the list. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will speak to the Chairman of the Railways Board about this matter. There is a great need for better public relations between commuters and the travelling authorities so that people know what plans they have in mind. People will put up with many things if they know not only that their point of view is understood but that everything humanly possible is being done about it.
1893 I hope that in the next few months the Railways Board or some other organisation will take it upon itself to offer its services to enable visits to be made to various commuting areas for the purpose not only of telling commuters what it is proposed to do but of inviting them to advance their ideas about what they would like done. Some splendid ideas are put forward if we want to build a cathedral. People are invited to put forward their ideas and prizes are awarded. As I have indicated, there is a rebellious spirit among many people and there must be better public relations to ensure that proposals are discussed fully and frankly with the people who are affected by them.
Commuters who used to enjoy travelling by train have found that, as a result of staggered office hours, all the trains are packed, or employers have altered working hours in the belief that it might make travelling easier. But there is now no easy time for travelling. Many commuters have been forced to use the roads. They are between the devil and the deep blue sea. There is an impossible situation on the railways. Traffic on the roads from Dartford, Gravesend and Erith to London is paralysed because we still use Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge must cost this nation a fortune because of the traffic congestion which it causes. This wonderful bridge which so many visitors come to see is an absolute nightmare for commuters on my side of the river, whether they travel by rail or road.
I hope, therefore, that from present experiences there will be a determination by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to have talks with the Railways Board and with everyone else concerned, including the Minister of Housing and Local Government and those who are responsible for the roads. As my right hon. Friend knows, the four Labour Members who met him a week ago are waiting to get this over so that we will be able to know what is to be done about something which has lasted for much too long. In our own constituencies we are to have meetings with the commuters to get their ideas. Unless somebody moves and get some answers there will be some rough questioning in the House of Commons in the not too distant future.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Wallace) said, we 1894 who live by the river would like to know why the Thames cannot be used more than it is. In addition, there has been talk for years about a monorail. It is said that it costs a lot of money, but it costs a lot, not only in health but in plain economics, not to have these things. The economic situation for employers is desperate because of hold-ups on the roads. If we cannot have an underground railway, let us have some Hovercraft. At least let us have some ideas.
It is no use saying that none of these things is good enough. I do not have any ideas—it is not my job to get them—but if invitations for ideas were issued and if there were then genuine consultations, I am sure that if I am not capable enough of giving the ideas many of my constituents are.
I ask that before it is too late, before we start throwing too many bricks at each other—we are all in this—we should try to work together non-politically for the purpose of getting a solution for a problem which is a nightmare to so many people and which is a drag upon the nation in getting out of the economic doldrums.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
We seem in this debate to have concentrated on two things. One, to follow the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds), is the adaptation of our transport system to the long-term needs of the population in the South-East and the other is the immediate issues which have been posed by this dispute on the Southern Region of British Rail. I agree very much with what the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford has said about the long-term needs of the area. We have got to explore all these possibilities and the Minister of Transport must evolve a transport system which will cater for the future population growtth in constituencies such as his own.
The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford has mentioned the Erith Marshes development, which, I believe, will house 25,000 people over the next few years.
§ Mr. Lubbock
In my constituency we have the redevelopment of St. Mary Cray, several hundred houses going up on Crofton Heath, a further large estate 1895 in the village of Farningham and the new town map for Biggin Hill involves, I believe, an additional population in that area of something like 12,000.
The population of my constituency has gone up since the war from about 36,000 in 1946 to the present day level of 82,000—it has more than doubled during this period—and the substantial number of people who have come to live in my constituency since the war have added to the traffic on British Rail. This applies throughout the whole of the southeastern division of British Rail and to a lesser extent on the other divisions serving London.
I very much agree with the hon. Member that we have to explore the other possibilities such as he has mentioned, including the use of the river. Here is an idea of great imagination. We would like to see the British invention of the hovercraft applied to a greater extent than it has been so far in this country. It has been a disappointment to some of us who are interested in technology to notice that the first order for the new 150-ton Westland Hovercraft has been placed by a Swedish firm and not by a British company. Surely, the economics of these new forms of transport are such that they could be considered in the problem of commuting.
We have this free highway of the Thames running through the centre of the Metropolis. According to my observations, it is hardly used. Even for freight, I am told that the large volume of coke and fuel traffic that used to go by lighter is now being transferred to the roads and adding to the congestion.
As to the more limited issue of the dispute on the Southern Region of British Rail, I hope that we will avoid recrimination and saying things in this dispute which are likely to worsen the already very bad situation. I do not like saying this, but the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) disappointed me in his speech this afternoon, because he is the only one in the whole dispute who has at least appeared to try to make a political issue out of this. It was not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman or up to his usual standard. It is much better that we should consider the dispute in a rational and logical way if we are to arrive at a solution.
1896 Let us by all means ventilate the grievances of our constituents. I agree with everything that was said by the right hon. Lady the Member Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) on this subject. Her constituency is served by the same line as my own. I agree with the right hon. Lady that the word "inconvenience" which has been used concerning the situation that the commuters face is indeed a masterpiece of understatement and that we should speak of the sufferings of our constituents in the present situation.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Has not the Liberal Party—I speak not personally but of the party as a whole—given thought to the real issue here, which is not even the misery to the commuters but whether those in the public services of the country—the railways, electricity and so on—do not owe a higher duty than those not in the public service with regard to the withdrawal of labour—I always understood that the Liberal Party really thought about that—and as to whether some sanction, under the criminal law or otherwise, should be applied to those who withdraw their labour from the public service? Has not the Liberal Party given thought to this?
§ Mr. Gunter
Does not the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) recollect that for 13 years the Conservative Party made sure that the members of the public services were the lowest paid?
§ Mr. Lubbock
When the hon. Member's party was in power for 13 years, it did not dare to make such an extravagant proposal as that during the whole time it was in office. I hope that that will not become the official policy of the Conservative Party. What the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has said in his intervention illustrates the dangers of this dispute. I intend to discuss the topic which the hon. Member has raised, but I prefer to deal with it in the order in which I have planned to make my speech.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was strongly critical of both the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Transport, but he did not produce any constructive idea about what should be done, not only to 1897 solve the dispute but to prevent its recurrence. It did not seem to me that the right hon. Gentleman had any appreciation of the difficulties involved.
What we have to understand is that, as the Minister said to the House, any action that he may take must not appear to condone the action of unofficial strikers or to weaken the official negotiating machinery between British Rail management and the unions. This creates great difficulties in the way of his intervening in the dispute, although, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, on the last occasion when we had a go-slow on the Southern Region last November he at least went as far as to bring the parties together in the offices of the Ministry of Labour under his auspices, and on that occasion he was successful in bringing a temporary end to the dispute. This indicates that it would be a good idea for him to contemplate any action, however unorthodox it might be, which might prevent the dispute dragging on, rather than to play it entirely according to the book and allow the lives of millions of people who have no part in the dispute to suffer. I certainly would not presume to say what sort of action that would be and it would be unwise to discuss it during this debate.
There is an analogy here, after all, with the action which was taken by the Prime Minister in the case of Vietnam. Some people criticised him for sending on a visit to Hanoi the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. They criticised that on the grounds that this was unorthodox. The Prime Minister's answer to that was that any action, however unorthodox, he could take to bring about a settlement of the dispute in Vietnam must be taken. Although this situation is, of course, not as urgent as that, still, in the lives of many people, it is important that the Minister should take any action, however unorthodox, which is open to him, and I would ask him to consider that analogy, because unless we can find machinery to deal with this case, and others like it, whole sections of the public who are perfectly innocent and who take no part whatever in the disputes will be made to suffer, and there will be voices, such as that of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, raised in favour of more drastic and authoritarian solutions. There are people such as Lord Thomson of Fleet, for whom 1898 I have the very greatest respect, who would like to see all unofficial strikes and unofficial industrial action declared illegal because they can see no other way of dealing with what we must recognise is a cancer eating away at the nation's prosperity. It is up to the Minister of Labour—I am directing my remarks particularly to him—to demonstrate that there are other ways in a free society of bringing about industrial harmony without limiting the ultimate rights of organised labour.
I would make three suggestions to the Minister of Labour. They have been put to me by the Orpington and District Railway Passengers' Association, which held a meeting in Orpington last night. There were present Mr. Huskisson, the manager of the South-Eastern Region, Mr. Pullen, London organiser of A.S.L.E.F., and Mr. Tinsley. My constituents had the chance to put their views to both sides in the dispute. I should just like to say, in case anyone read the account of this meeting published in the Daily Mail this morning, that that account was misleading and, I think, grossly inflammatory, when it spoke of certain drivers leaving the meeting and of critical remarks which they made when they were outside. Those drivers were not from Orpington. Mr. Pullen did not leave, nor did Mr. Tinsley. Personally, I think the chairman was quite correct in not allowing those drivers to put questions to Mr. Huskisson, because the purpose of the meeting was to enable commuters to put their views to both the management and the trade union side and not to allow a fracas to develop between Mr. Huskisson and those representing the unofficial and official sides of the workers at the meeting.
The first suggestion which they made was that they should get away from nationally negotiated wage agreements on British Rail and that the British Railways Board and A.S.L.E.F. should be encouraged to negotiate a bonus for the south-eastern division drivers, based on their own improvements in productivity and not on other factors which are irrelevant in the division. This, I know, is not fully acceptable to either side. I should be grateful if the Minister would be good enough to listen to this.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I am talking of the idea of regionally negotiated bonuses for the drivers on British Rail, and I was just saying that I know that this is not fully acceptable either to the British Railways Board or to the representatives of the drivers, but I should like to point out that many of the improvements in productivity which the British Railways Board would like to see are already effected in the south-eastern division, and many others which have not been mentioned. Over the last few years we have introduced 10-car trains instead of the six or eight which are still prevalent in other divisions. In the eastern division I think they have six-car trains. The productivity, therefore, of drivers in my division is over half as much again what it is in the eastern division. I should also like to point out that since the new timetable was introduced the number of trains has gone up in the rush hour from 45 to 54, an extra nine, without any change in the number of drivers. So, there again, their productivity has increased quite substantially. One thing which the Board has mentioned continuously is single manning. We have in the south-eastern division almost entirely single manning.
So when criticism is made of the unofficial strikers—and I join in what has been said on that: I think it is deplorable; however serious the grievances of the drivers are, they should not take this way out—I am disappointed that no one in the debate so far has recognised that these drivers have something to be upset about, and I hope that that will be recognised by those hon. Gentlemen who have criticised the drivers for their unofficial action.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I fully accept that, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.
I wanted to point out to the Minister that precedents exist for local bonus agreements. I am informed, for example, that the drivers in Birmingham, or some of them at least, have a local bonus, and in Tonbridge the staff who are 1900 employed on goods handling had a local bonus as well.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
May I, as an ex-railwayman, or a retired railwayman, point out to the hon. Member that bonus schemes on terminals and various other operations are 30 or 40 years old? There is nothing new in this at all.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Gentleman is supporting me in my case. As he knows, in the present dispute all we have heard about are nationally-negotiated bonus agreements for drivers, covering the whole of the country, and as far as I know it has not been suggested yet, except by drivers in the south-eastern division, that there should be local variations of these when they claim, as I have shown they can claim, that they are entitled to a bonus because they have already made advances in productivity sought in other regions.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
As to the increase in productivity about which the hon. Gentleman is talking—10-car trains in the Southern Region, and only six-car trains in the Eastern Region—is he really advocating that in the Eastern Region where there are fewer people the trains should bump along with some empty cars?
§ Mr. Lubbock
No. I am not advocating that at all. What I was saying, as the hon. Gentleman would have known had he been listening to me, was that the drivers in the south-eastern division had accepted an increase in the number of cars, and I think they are entitled to some recognition of that in their wage packets. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of intervening later, and if I go on speaking too long I am sure I shall upset some hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I understand that up to 1963 the N.U.R. was willing to encourage local productivity agreements, but that A.S.L.E.F. was against them in principle. I understand that it no longer is against them in principle, and therefore I think that they might at least be explored.
1901 Another suggestion put forward at the meeting was much more far-reaching and much more a Ministry matter, perhaps, than wages, and it was that there should be a public inquiry into the South-Eastern Region to cover management, operations, economics, including investment decisions, and staff relations. My constituents believe that this go-slow is merely a surface manifestation of much more deep-rooted troubles, and I think that it is not without significance that the go-slow has been much more successful in the south-eastern division than in the other two sectors of the Southern Region.
Operating problems in this division have been much the greatest because it has had the largest increases in passenger traffic. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford will, I know, agree with me on this. This, in turn, has stemmed from the lack of Government policy on regional planning and acceptance of the population drift to which many hon. Members have referred during the debate. It has been aggravated by British Rail policy of electrification on the Kent coast lines which has not been accompanied by any improvements in the bottlenecks near London termini. This is why I say that the situation is worse in this region than in any other and why it is so bad that it warrants the inquiry which my constituents are demanding.
There is a precedent for the Minister to have such an inquiry, in that the Minister of Aviation in the last Government commissioned a firm of management consultants to carry out a survey into certain aspects of the management of B.O.A.C., but on this occasion I should like the findings of the survey to be published because I think that there is great public anxiety about it and we are entitled to know the answers.
This does not attempt to deal with the national problems, and the Minister may feel that consultants ought to have wider terms of reference than those which I have suggested, and that they should look at the rule book. As the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West pointed out, in a weekend speech, the Prime Minister said that we should change the rules if they operated to the detriment of economic prosperity. 1902 I am told that this rule book has been in existence since 1931. I do not know whether that is correct, but if it is, then it is high time that we altered it.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
A number of loose statements are being made. The rule book may have been in existence since 1931, but it is constantly being amended. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate, as I hope the Committee will, that most of these rules deal with safety precautions. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the bonus payments to which reference is being made for enginemen are linked to mileage payments? They depend on the mileage operated each day.
§ Mr. Lubbock
These are some of the issues which I suggest ought to be looked at by consultants. The whole question of the wage structure of British Rail, which many hon. Members have criticised, appears to be a matter for investigation, but this problem has arisen because some persons are able to have incentive schemes. The character of their work is conducive to measurement, but other people are not able to have such schemes. This has upset the whole wage structure of British Rail over a period of years, so that now we have people who are less skilled earning more money than drivers. This is one of the bases of the grievances, but it is not limited to the drivers. I am told by friends of mine on the railways that many other grades are in a similar position. It may, therefore, be a good thing not only to accept this demand being made by my constituents for an inquiry into the South-Eastern Region but to ask consultants to look into the wage structure of British Rail as a whole.
The commuter is not usually informed of the issues involved but he knows that last November there were serious delays, and that following the intervention of the Minister of Labour the problem was solved temporarily. It was obvious to him then that unless British Rail and A.S.L.E.F. could come to an agreement quickly there would be a repetition of the trouble. From what the Minister said this afternoon—although he dressed this up a little in the language that he used—it would appear that no progress whatesoever was made from the middle of November, when a temporary settlement was arrived at, until July, when 1903 the trouble recurred. This is a shocking indictment of British Rail for its dilatoriness in settling what appears to the average commuter to be a relatively simple issue. It also appears from what the Minister said this afternoon that if this offer which it is now talking about of a three guinea bonus in return for a productivity agreement had been made in November none of this trouble would have happened. It would all have been settled, and services would have been operating normally today.
§ Mr. Gunter
For the sake of the record, perhaps I might point out that the three guinea figure which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned has never been the subject of negotiation. This is the figure arrived at by the unofficial strikers.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Perhaps I went too far in the gloss that I put on the Minister's speech, but, as I understand it, the chance of arriving at a settlement in which the bonus payment was linked to productivity was deliberately thrown away by British Rail's dilatoriness, and the closer we came to the A.S.L.E.F. conference in June the more remote became the chance of arriving at a settlement. We now know that the A.S.L.E.F. conference is being reconvened on 10th August. I appreciate the reasons for that, as explained by the Minister this afternoon, but, looking at it from the commuters' point of view, it appears that neither British Rail nor the A.S.L.E.F. appear to appreciate the need to act urgently.
It is nearly two years since the claim was first produced, and yet we are no nearer a settlement. I think that the passengers have been amazingly long-suffering in putting up with the disruption of their working lives, not only for several weeks in July but last November as well, and on many occasions before that, due not to the dispute but to fog, ice and snow, to which one hon. Gentleman referred. All these things are piling up, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that my constituents are not going to put with this state of affairs for much longer. I appeal to him to do everything possible to arrive at a settlement of the dispute, and to carry out the suggestions that I have made for a more long-term overhaul of British Rail.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I should like to dispel the view that the commuter problem is peculiar to London and Greater London. It is not. It is a worldwide problem. One hon. Gentleman talked about tidal waves in and out of the city. One finds the same sort of thing in Philadelphia. There are 21 or 22 entries to the city, and they allocate 11 or 12 coming in in the morning and 11 or 12 going out in the evening, but one still gets traffic jams. Every major city in the world suffers from this problem, and I should like the Committee to get this problem into its proper perspective. As I have said, it is not peculiar to us. I am not arguing that we should be satisfied because it is a universal problem, but I think that we ought to get it into its proper perspective.
The right hon. Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) talked about high fares. They were the result of the policy of the Government of the day. It was Conservative policy that British Railways should be financially viable. They had to put their financial house in order, with the result that fares were increased.
That state of affairs was brought about by the uneconomic planning of the whole transport system. It is absurd that the only time our public transport system is used to the full, and used economically, is between 7.30 and 9.30 a.m. and 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. For the remainder of the day the capital assets are left completely idle. They do not earn a penny. It is not possible to take people on and put them off to run the services in the morning and in the evening. They have to be employed all the time to cater for those peak periods. The overheads are the same throughout the day. It must follow, therefore, that British Railways will always be financially embarrassed, and they try to help this situation by raising fares to recover some of the money. It is the policy adopted by the Government of the day which determines the fares charged by the railway, and it is therefore no use putting forward this argument about high fares in an effort to exert pressure on railwaymen who are being difficult.
It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to tell my right hon. 1905 Friend what he ought to do about the commuter problem. I led a number of deputations to the previous Minister to point out the difficulties of commuting to London every day, and dozens of reports have been submitted on this topic. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) has seen many of these reports, and some of his friends from Lewisham were with me on the deputations which, since 1956, have been pressing for something to be done.
As my hon. Friend said, my colleagues in that authority have been doing it year after year. We held our last meeting a year ago, when we thought at long last we had seen the end of a series of reports all highlighting the problems of the South-East and all telling the Government of the day what ought to be done. However, no one has done anything about it. Last year, we got a tentative promise that after the Victoria Line was completed a look would be taken at the South-East, and we thought that we were at last going to get the problems of the commuter settled to some extent. It is interesting to recall that when the cost of the job was first estimated in 1948 it was going to cost £1 million from the Elephant and Castle to Camberwell Green. Last year, it was costed again and found to be £10 million.
It is quite wrong of hon. Members opposite to try to create an atmosphere where it is alleged that the problem has just arrived or that it is tied up with the action that the railwaymen are taking today. It is quite unfair and not in accordance with the information that many hon. Members have.
The one issue from which everyone has sheered away is that there is an answer to the problem, and why everyone is running away from it, I do not know. The former Minister of Transport ran away from it regularly. Every report issued on the problems of commuting comes back to staggered hours. It is said that if only people's hours of work could be staggered the whole problem could be solved, and any Government of the day could do it by bringing in controls to enforce staggered hours. But no Government for the last 13 years has wanted to do it, because politically it is a dead duck.
1906 They could have taken another step which would have solved the problem. Quite clearly, the period of petrol rationing was the only time that the road passenger transpore services ran properly. If the number of private cars coming into the centres of towns is reduced drastically the buses will run regularly, and satisfy all commuters. The solution is to keep out private transport. Any Government could have done that and brought in controls forcing people with cars to keep out of town centres. Ring roads round the outside of London have been created to force industrial traffic to stay outside. The last Government knew that it was a possibility, but they would not do it because they knew that politically it was dead. It is no good standing up in the House making high falutin' suggestions of what might be done. There was every possibility of solving the problem years ago.
The previous Administration not only argued that financially they were not prepared to help the South-East. They went further. The answer we got from the Minister of Transport of the day was that the figures provided by his inspectors and by the Transport Users Consultative Committee was that the services in the South-East were adequate. Trains were running through such stations as Lewisham and Greenwich which were packed in the first four carriages and empty in the rear four, because everyone wanted to get out first at Charing Cross or Cannon Street. That was the argument that the right hon. Gentleman used against conceding our case. That is why I say, with great respect to the hon. Gentleman opposite, that it does not do to start complaining today that the whole problem of commuter troubles in the South-East arises because the railwaymen are taking unofficial action.
I want to turn now to the subject of the go-slow. I have never quite understood what that means. However, I do understand the expression "working to rule". We have reached the ridiculous situation where a set of rules has been laid down and then when someone works to them it is argued that they are saboteurs and are doing something which hon. Members opposite want to take sanctions against by law. They want to make such action criminal. How silly can one get?
1907 I have heard enough today of strictures on the railwaymen. I support my right hon. Friend when he says that the action that they are taking is wrong. What I want to address myself to is the sniping comments that have been made about the go-slow and the work-to-rule.
I have a case in my constituency where a man worked as a guard for British Railways for eight years. He was a married man with five children. Recently, when carrying out his duties, he was killed. An inquiry was held, as it always is, to determine the cause of the accident. After eight years on the railway, having been taught to work to the rules of the railway, my constituent was found, posthumously, to have contributed to his death by his own negligence, having failed to work to the rules. All that man had done was what is the custom and practice in order to expedite railway working and get trains out of the marshalling yards quickly. I have had to peruse the report of the inquiry in order to bring the case to the authorities, and there were two or three others of the staff whose attention was drawn to the fact that they were habitually not working to the rules.
§ Mr. Doughty
Assuming that the deceased man was a member of his appropriate railway union, did the union support the widow's claim in common law?
§ Mr. Brown
Indeed they did, and they have been very helpful in advising me of their attitude to the case. That does not alter the fact that by law, because he was negligent, that woman and her five children do not get a penny piece. I am raising it with my right hon. Friend to see if he can possibly help my constituent and her five children to get some compensation from the railways as a result of her husband's death.
§ Mr. Doughty
What was the result of the action which the widow took with the assistance of the union?
§ Mr. Brown
As I have tried to explain to the hon. Gentleman, it was turned down. She has received no compensation because her late husband was negligent, having contributed to his own death by not working to the rules. It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head, the man's widow and children and unable 1908 to get any money. It is a very serious case for me, but I do not want to impose on the Committee my own constituency problems. What I want to establish is that here is a case of someone who did not work to the rules, and what I am trying to establish as a general case is that many railwaymen spend their days desperately trying to keep the railways running by deliberately flouting the rules, and every commuter says, happily, "We are grateful to you. You are good fellows. You are getting us there on time."
I do not know if the hon. Gentleman knows what the duties of a guard are. He is responsible for seeing that all doors are securely shut. If he starts a train and a door flies open which hits someone he is the man who will be censured for failing to carry out the rule. When one talks about working to rule, the whole system is run on rules, but it is only when railwaymen fail to work to those rules that the service operates more speedily than otherwise it would do. Therefore, I hope that we can get away from the strictures and the idea that someone who works to rules laid down by the management is in some way a criminal.
One quite understands the problems of negotiating bonus schemes in conditions of this type. One might question whether a bonus scheme is the right method. Considering the infinite variety of constraints outside its control, how can the productivity of a train crew be measured? A man can be paid for his productivity only when he has complete control of his ability to produce more, but train men depend on the platform staff, on the passengers, on the signalmen, on whether the track is being repaired and a vast number of other factors.
There are bound to be problems in trying to produce a bonus scheme for this type of worker, because he wants to know that he will justly get what he believes that he has earned. The consultants of British Railways have been discussing this problem. One of the views of the railway unions is that not only train staff but signalling and other staffs should join a group scheme, because all staffs contribute to the total productivity of on-time starting and on-time arrival.
§ Mr. Lubbock
What I said was that if the consultants in the Ministry accepted my suggestion they would look at the 1909 whole wage structure of British Rail and not just the wage structure of the drivers
§ Mr. Brown
There may be some merit in that. I know from personal experience that there have been many such reviews. There were reviews into manpower arrangements under Dr. Beeching. But there are certain problems in the railways which are not always apparent in other forms of industry.
I have tried to highlight the factors. The problem is serious and there is no doubt that the transport situation needs overhaul. It takes my constituents as long to go about half a mile as it takes to go from Orpington to Charing Cross. It takes as long as 40 minutes to go from Finsbury Square to the Bank and that is a matter of only a few hundred yards. It is not only the railways, but all forms of traffic in the towns which have these problems. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is seized of the importance of considering the whole problem of transport, and I am sure that after this debate at least he will be able to look at his plans afresh and bring some hope to the people of London.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I should like to ask the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. R. W. Brown) to send me the facts and the name of the case to which he referred and the date on which it was tried in the High Court, because I would like to inquire into it. I have certain suspicions about it.
He said that it was all right to work to rule because the rules were laid down. I can tell him what working to rule in these circumstances means. It means turning up to do the job and then not doing it properly. We can do it in the House of Commons if we want, as long as we keep within the rules of procedure. I have been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Dr. King, and I am therefore now entitled to speak until 10 o'clock. I shall keep within the procedure and I shall work to rule, but I should not be thought to be doing my job properly, and I should not expect any hon. Member to give approval to my conduct. In fact, I propose to be reasonably short.
I do not wish to say anything more about this dispute which would exacerbate what is undoubtedly a difficult situa- 1910 tion. Many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have asked why British Railways have not acted more quickly. I and my late father before me have been concerned in many negotiations, and it is my view that to try to rush too much is to harden opposition until each side is forced to take up an uncompromising position so that the last situation is worse than the first. It is very often the case that moving a little more slowly is the best way to work to the final conclusion.
It is important that the members of the union should have the final position explained to them, should understand it and should support their own elected leaders. It is because they have not done that that the railwaymen have incurred the undoubted criticism of the travelling public. I say no more than that, because I do not wish to say a word to criticise anybody concerned in this matter, but I hope that a final conclusion will be reached in the near future.
I represent a constituency which is concerned in this matter, although not so much as the Kent constituencies. However, as the whole of the Southern Region of British Railways, from Kent, Surrey, or Sussex, meets up as it approaches inner London, any hold-up or disarrangement of any part is infectious throughout the system and my constituents are therefore concerned, perhaps indirectly, with the results of the last few weeks.
The important part of the matter is that it is the final straw which has broken the camel's back. It is the final straw which has caused the commuting public, as it is called, to say, "We have had enough; we have been pushed around for too long". They have suffered very much over a great many years.
What do we mean by "commuting public"? We mean those who come from their houses outside London to the London termini and then travel on by public transport to their places of work. Two hon. Members have already mentioned that it is unfortunate that hours of work are not staggered more than they are. I have been told by British Railways that they are much less staggered than they were before the war. Everyone seems to come in with more of a rush than before the war. With that situation the railways cannot cope and they must 1911 rely to a great extent on the co-operation of the travelling public.
The position has been deteriorating over many years. The chief reason is that there has been a movement from the centre of London to outlying areas, sometimes 60 or 70 miles away, with people travelling backwards and forwards every day. That is the ordinary, normal and natural way of things. It is no good talking about restricting development. Even in Tudor times that was discussed when it was complained that London was becoming too big.
If it is a fact that office building has been reduced, it has been reduced around the Home Counties as well. I will not pursue that matter which can be discussed on a different occasion and which I would be out of order to try to discuss now, anyway.
There is this vast increase in the population in outlying areas travelling to London, because that is where it works and where it must work because the offices and businesses have to be near the banks and insurance companies and solicitors and so on, and so they must be in the same sort of area. One asks whether the commuting services, the public services, have kept up with the changed demand and the changed position of the demand, and the answer is emphatically no.
The lines are pre-war. The rolling stock is virtually all pre-war and certainly of a pre-war model, and in some cases is pre-First World War. The only substantial change since before the First War has been electrification. I have omitted one of the most important matters, which is the vast increase in the cost of season tickets for this travel. This is a cost which has to be paid, for people have to travel and they have to have a ticket before they can travel. Therefore, they are at the complete mercy of British Rail. One hon. Member talked about making the employer pay the fair. I can deal with that very shortly, particularly on behalf of those in the outlying parts. They would, of course, have more difficulty in obtaining employment than those near their work, because the employer would not have to reimburse them for their fare.
There is a more sensible suggestion. These are necessary expenses incurred 1912 for the purposes of their work. They do not travel for pleasure. They do not get pleasure out of it. If they were commercial travellers and had to travel to take their goods to another firm, it would be part of their reasonable expenses. Why should not all or part of a commuter's travelling expenses also be properly charged for tax purposes as part of his reasonable expenses? I throw that suggestion out, I think it is quite a helpful one, which will assist in halting these vastly increased expenses, which go up every year. I may be told that one cannot increase—
§ Mr. R. W. Brown
Would the hon. Member indicate what he believes the situation is for the people who are of such an income level that they do not pay tax but who live outside London? There are a vast number of those as well.
§ Mr. Doughty
Most of those who live there are amongst those who pay tax and are aware of the level at which they pay tax.
I would make a suggestion—which could be criticised right away—about the people who have these necessary expenses. If we have reasonable expenses, properly incurred, we are all entitled to charge them for tax purposes. These travelling expenses, or a proportion of them, ought to be included.
I am told that we cannot increase lines because there is no space to build them. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) suggested that a monorail might be put over the lines. Monorails are extremely quiet, efficient and fast, and they carry large numbers of people though not, of course, compared with those carried by a train. They are expensive to erect, but on very busy routes the expense would be covered. They could not be built on routes which are less patronised because the expense would be prohibitive.
The failure to modernise and cope with the vast increase in population must be considered in relation to the fact that the stations—except in a very few cases where platforms are being lengthened—are exactly as they were when I was born. That is many years ago now, and next year it will be one year more. They are worse today, because many of them have two entrances, one on each side. 1913 One is often closed, and more passengers want to use it in the commuting hours. They find it closed on grounds of economy, but it is the passengers who have to suffer. When they arrive at stations, they find that they are as they were in those beautiful Victorian pictures of the stations immediately after they were built.
Take Victoria in the morning. Hundreds of thousands of people line up in all weathers. It may be raining or very hot, and people still have to wait to get on to a bus. Cannot that station be redesigned? The large stations of London occupy enormous acreages and should be redesigned. The only station which I can think of where the space is used for proper purposes is Baker Street. A large block of flats was built there before the war, which probably meant a good revenue for the Railways Board. The whole station was rebuilt. We want an increased number of platforms, perhaps on two levels above flats and offices—if that last word does not offend the other side of the Committee—stations would benefit from large rents, which would pav for the cost of transforming them and making proper interchange places, whether with buses or with underground trains.
I am glad that the new Victoria Line has been begun. This was long overdue. I hope that it will be completed as soon as possible. We want more underground lines in London. The only way in which we can cater for large numbers of people is by electric trains, whether they be on the surface or underground. Buses cannot do it, even if they had the whole road to themselves. We cannot keep private cars out of London. I would not advocate that for a moment, though I would—this is another subject—advocate not using the streets for car parks.
Why should not trains be air conditioned? This is done in other countries with far smaller populations than ours. It would make travelling far more tolerable if when one opened a window one did not get a lot of air. There is a good deal of modernising and redesigning to be done by those who are responsible for providing these services. The trains travel on lines which are not welded. Modern line is continuous and provides much smoother travel. This is a matter which should be considered. It 1914 is no good saying, "We get the customers. They have to use the trains. They have to buy the season tickets whatever we charge." That is no answer. If a public service is being provided, the customer should be considered even more than in the case of the provision of a private service, which faces competition.
I can promise the Minister of Transport—I hope that this goes for most of the "commuter" members in the House—the fullest co-operation in letting him know what the travelling public require. If he will tell us what the plans are for the future I promise him—I think that I can speak for many other hon. Members on this side of the House—that we will let our constituents know what is going on. At the moment, they are dissatisfied—and with reason. They are extremely disappointed at the service they are getting and they are very angry about the fares they have to pay.
This little matter of the work-to-rule is the last straw which has brought matters to boiling point. This has brought the whole question of commuter travel before the House. The Opposition is today using one of its Supply Days so that the matter can be fully ventilated and, I hope, brought to the attention of the Minister, of whatever party he may be. I hope that commuters in future will be able to have a better service, to arrive fresher and better at their work and in the same spirit when they return home in the evenings.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
The debate this afternoon has been taking a strange guise. When I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) from the Front Bench opposite, I was also watching the faces of hon. Members on the back benches. I saw a certain amount of amazement in their faces. Later, when the Minister got down to the real problem, not of politics but of human relations, it was quite clear that the motive behind today's debate was not the subject of industrial relations at all. With a railway background behind me—I declare that interest immediately—I want to look at the contribution of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.
1915 I feel that the debate today is politically timed. No one has said so. It has a reference to what is happening in Brighton. The hopes were, probably, that this would be front page and six o'clock news in Brighton unless something else had taken it off this evening. It has been a cynical electoral use by a political party of an industrial difficulty. The speech of the right hon. Member was cynical in many ways. What is more, as one who spent his life on the railways, not least involved in negotiating on both sides of the table for and in the railways, I would say that the right hon. Member's speech will find its reflections in the lower and bottom level negotiations on both sides of the table.
If it was his intention and purpose to add an air of acidity to that of frustration on both sides of the table, he may have achieved it. In alignment with so many railwaymen I know of all grades, I would say that the speech of the Minister this afternoon was in total contrast to the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. I could not help thinking that his speech was vicious in background, venomous in content and vitriolic in delivery. My mind went back to the record of economic depresession suffered by the railways in recent years, caused mainly by political events.
I must remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the railways were largely viable up to 1953. The industry was faced with technical as well as other problems even at that time, but the Conservative Party, since that date, has made political decisions of an immense character which, from the economic point of view, had disastrous effects on the railways.
If there is a "commuters' group" on the benches opposite, as we have been informed there is, why did the members of that group not bring their influence to bear on the former Administration in the formulation of their transport policies? The last General Election took place without there being any sort of transport policy formulated by the party opposite. It still does not have one.
I said that industrial relations at all levels would not be helped in the transport industry by the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South- 1916 West. It will make negotiating more difficult because on both sides of the industry—at all levels—we find a bad atmosphere, with paralysis on one side and frustration on the other.
I do not know how many hon. Gentlemen opposite have worked in a trade or industry which seems to be consistently in economic difficulties and facing an economically bleak future. That has been my experience of this industry since 1919. I began on the railways at what had been the first railway station to be opened in Britain. Apart from the difficulties which the industry has faced—the rigid track on railways and the internal combustion engine in the road transport industry,—it has also faced political blows which, in recent years, have been extremely severe.
Is it any wonder that the railwaymen are frustrated? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that commuters have reached the end of the road, so to speak. That may be so, but would they not also agree that the railwaymen had long since reached the end of the road? It is only when they take unorthodox action of this kind that one can think of the end of the road from the workers' point of view. I will not say that I disapprove of the action they are taking. I do not like it, but I understand the motives which have brought them to it. As one in the industry who has tried to coax them into other ways, I am bound to understand the human motives underlying the action they have taken.
Today's debate has, as I have explained, been timed for a political purpose. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West spoke this afternoon in the midst of a difficult industrial situation. He must have known that his remarks would not be helpful, to say the least. In the right hon. Gentleman's speech last night he propagated a philosophy which, I hope, is isolated to him. Indeed, in that speech he argued the case that in a selfish society people should take selfish actions to preserve their economic status.
If that is a right interpretation of his argument, and I think it is—although the right hon. Gentleman may not like my using the word "selfish" but that is, nevertheless, the criterion he adopted—then will he tell me what is wrong with 1917 the action the railwaymen are now taking and what is wrong with a man who decides to go on strike if he believes that his labour can, in an existing difficult situation, command higher remuneration? Is it that the right hon. Gentleman considers that this kind of jungle action is all right in the world of commerce and the money market but is all wrong in the labour market? I hope that we will move into a more orderly way of looking at these problems, but speeches of the sort made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West cannot be helpful to either responsible management or responsible labour.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown
Is my hon. Friend not seized of the importance of what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) actually said, since he suggested that anybody who exercised restraint was a saboteur? Those are the significant words which the right hon. Gentleman uttered and I shall remind him of them from time to time.
§ Mr. Mapp
I was obviously being rather generous to the right hon. Gentleman. However, he must realise that by using language of that sort he is turning the clock back. If he wants to turn the clock back, then I must ask what will be the philosophy of the rest of his party, of which he is a prominent member, on issues of this sort.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The argument is a simple one. It is that if one is a servant of the House of Commons, a civil servant or working in a position of responsibility—and railwaymen are serving in a nationalised industry and are supposed to be serving the nation—and if one goes on strike in breach of one's contract and obligations, it is worth considering whether some Government action should not be taken about it. That is the problem. I will not have an opportunity of addressing the Committee, but I hope that you will apply your mind to this matter.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman must not ask me to apply my mind to anything but the rules of order.
§ Mr. Mapp
The question of the judgment and relatively of what one attaches to work is, in the main, based on the response that one receives in the sort of organisation that exists—that is, the team spirit and humanity that exists in any industry or firm. That is the true position and there is no point in the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) having some other conception of things. One cannot have the sort of political argument that was adduced last night on such an important principle and at the same time say to busmen, railwaymen and others that the same philosophy should not apply to them. It ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to take that attitude.
Although we have heard a number of speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite criticising the present arrangements, it is to be wondered why, when they were in office, they did not do something to cure the difficulties. Perhaps it is belated recognition on their part that something was wrong. The railwaymen will deplore many of the things said by hon. Gentlemen opposite and will have even less confidence in their party. They will not be able to forget that this debate has been used for an event in Brighton and purely for the narrow, short-term political interests of the Tory Party.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
This debate has enabled a number of hon. Members to call attention to the very real hardship and inconvenience suffered by so many of their constituents—in the South-East, particularly—during recent weeks. My right hon. Friends the Members for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) and Ashford (Mr. Deedes) particularly brought out this aspect. In addition, a number of points have been made by hon. Members who though their constituencies are not so much immediately affected by the present issue, have tried to look at the problem as a whole.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) and my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) made some very sound and practical suggestions, but one difficulty in such a debate as this is that 1919 uppermost in the minds of most, and certainly it must be in the mind of the Minister of Labour, is the need to try to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion. It was my experience when I held the right hon. Gentleman's office, and I am sure that it is his, that public comment by those with special responsibility for industrial peace must be made, very carefully, otherwise it can do more harm than good.
I therefore intend to be somewhat restrained in what I say, because I do not want to exacerbate things. I shall certainly not follow the example of the present Prime Minister who, when I was at the Ministry of Labour, on several occasions attacked me in the middle of disputes. That certainly made my task very much more difficult. Nor will I claim that there is political motivation here.
I listened carefully to what the Minister of Labour had to say this afternoon. At the very beginning of his speech he told us that he thoroughly deplored this unofficial action, and made his concern for commuters quite clear. He has made himself clear on this subject before, and there is no doubt that everyone knows where he stands.
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman in detail, but will make one or two general observations. First, it has certainly been my experience that in most industrial disputes the blame is seldom entirely on one side. The glaring fact about this particular problem is the length of time during which this matter has been under consideration. The Minister faced up to this, and said that he accepted that there was some justification in the criticism and that it had helped to exacerbate the problem. He traced the proceedings through from last October, and said that there was this gap between November and this summer when very little materialised, although negotiations were no doubt going on. This is the sort of thing that, time and again, causes trouble. The men's impatience increases, and the one or two who want to stir up trouble by building on feelings of frustration find the opportunity in such delay as this. While I understand the problems involved, I am quite sure that there has been a failure 1920 at some stage, somewhere, on someone's part over these months.
I do not know what steps have been taken by the Railways Board or by the official union leadership during this period to get the real facts of the case and of the problems confronting the railways over to the men concerned. What I do know is that if anyone wants to stir up trouble, his task is made easier if insufficient care is taken by management to give the facts. It is the job of management to do this. The right hon. Gentleman knows that this was an issue on which I felt very strongly when I was in his position, and I should like to know what arrangements the management has, other than through the unions to provide proper communication with the rank and file.
I have never felt it to be the job of the unions to explain the management's position to the workers. It is for management, by proper communication, to get that over. I have always looked on railwaymen as I have looked on other workers as very sensible people when the facts are given to them. I think that there has been a slip up here and I hope that those responsible for railway management will consider whether there is not more they can and should do. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport will be able to say something about this. One or two hon. Members suggested that management consultants should be brought in. I do not know whether that is necessary but, again, the right hon. Gentleman may be able to tell us what is being done in this respect, particularly in the Southern Region.
Secondly, co-operation in increased productivity is absolutely essential in every section of British industry today. It is the only way in which a high and rising purchasing power can be achieved by the people—and that cannot be said too often. Those who oppose such a basic principle are working against the interests of themselves and their colleagues, as well as of the community as a whole. If other countries can go on increasing productivity at a rate higher than wage increases, surely we can do the same.
Thirdly, unofficial action in any union is harmful to the whole body of trade unionism in this country. It destroys the value of the men's own elected leaders, 1921 and makes it impossible for them to negotiate effectively. Those who want to see sound industrial relations in this country, wherever they may sit in this House, must have the courage to speak out firmly against unofficial action, as the Minister has done this afternoon. Hon. Members opposite who have talked a good deal today did not face up to this necessity, despite the lead given them by their own Front Bench. It is a pity. The Minister of Labour has said this, so has the General Secretary of the A.S.L.E.F., any they must have the support of those who represent them in the House.
Again, those who really believe in a healthy and sound trade union organisation—and they are certainly not confined to the benches opposite—have to face up to the harm that is done by disputes in public services, where grave hardship is caused to the public at large. We have had two occasions this summer, both unofficial, when the public have had to suffer. There was the Whitsun strike at London Airport, of which the Minister of Labour had personal knowledge, and now we have the trouble that has given rise to this debate.
No one denies a man the right to withhold his labour; this is a basic freedom, just as is freedom of speech. But freedom is not licence. One may take freedom of speech as an example, but there are also laws of libel and slander. In the same way, there must be concern for and control of the use of any kind of freedom—otherwise, eventually, it is lost. People must face this fact, otherwise hardship is imposed on, in this case, the travelling public.
There is a problem here, because one of the old sanctions against strikes in the public service has gone. A strike originally started as a means of bringing pressure to bear on the employer, particularly on his pocket but, as has now been made clear, a strike in a public service does not affect the employer, except that the taxpayer is the employer—the commuter, who really bears the full brunt, pays through his suffering and through his pocket too. He is the person with no control over the issues concerned. We have to find ways, particularly in the public sector, by which the public can be safeguarded. Otherwise we shall get the very worst effects. 1922 We shall see public anger growing more and more against trade unionism in a way which basically is probably unfair to the men concerned. On both sides of the Committee we must face this.
The Minister told us today of the actions taken so far in this dispute and he brought us up to date on the matter. He told us that he saw the A.S.L.E.F. leaders on Tuesday night and again yesterday and that they have now agreed to recall their conference for 10th August. I guess that he feels as I do, that it is a pity that that is so far ahead. I should have hoped that it would be possible to have it earlier. I noted the reasons the right hon. Gentleman retailed as given to him. This matter is in the hands of the union, but it seems a pity that it should be so long ahead. However, if they have to take this time they can press on all their members to honour the appeal made to them from all concerned to end the go slow in the meantime.
I think that should be asked for by both sides of this Committee. If that is so and at the conference greater freedom is given to the leadership, I hope it will lead to wiser counsels and a solution which can be honourable to all concerned. I do not wish to deal with that further now because it is unwise to speculate more about it. This is where the issue is left at the moment. I thought that words I read in the Daily Mirror today were very much to the point in regard to this dispute. It said at the end of a leading article:Responsible trade unionism is impossible if union negotiators cannot rely on the loyalty of the members who elected them.I thought that hit the nail on the head and I hope that it will have been read very widely.
This debate will have failed if we and Ministers particularly do not take away with us a very firm determination when the dispute is finally disposed of as disputes have to be—they are burning issues at the moment but people are glad to let them drop eventually—to consider very carefully the lessons to be learned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford was right when he said that lessons have to be learned from this dispute and we have to see that this sort of thing cannot arise again, at any rate in this 1923 form. We have to see if necessary that the negotiating machinery of British Railways is looked at afresh.
I recall vividly a debate, not on the railways, which we had upstairs recently, when an hon. Member explained that sometimes unofficial strikes take place because the negotiating machinery is so bad in an industry. He used this as a justification. I think the Minister of Labour recalls the speech to which I refer and recalls the name of the hon. Member who made it. This sort of thing is nonsense. If there is something wrong with the negotiating machinery we have to get it right when the heat is off. No doubt this is something which the Minister will want to consider. There are lessons to be learned from these unhappy events and the sooner we learn them the better.
Perhaps the commuters who have suffered will not mind their suffering so much if it is seen to have been not in vain. This issue coming at this time and the other issue will, I hope, cause an analysis to be made of what has happened and that it will go to the Royal Commission on Trade Unions for that body can draw a lesson from it. If it is able to put forward ideas as a result this may have been in some sense a blessing in disguise. I hope that this will happen and that people will not just shrug the matter off and leave us to carry on as before.
The Minister of Labour, at the end of his speech this afternoon, said:If the unofficial action continues the Government cannot and will not stand aside.Those were brave words. The Minister has used brave words before, but he did not give us any explanation of what he had in mind. I realise that it would be unreasonable of me to expect a precise explanation in regard to this because of the negotiations in which he is involved. I am not asking for that now, but I am reminding him that those words are on the record and if he does not follow them up there will be bitter disappointment.
§ Mr. Gunter
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for the way in which he has approached this matter and particularly for the fact that he is not pressing me to explain what I have in mind, but I repeat what I have said. I have 1924 explained to A.S.L.E.F. that if by the end of the week there is not a cessation of the trouble we shall certainly take action.
§ Mr. Godber
I shall not press the right hon. Gentleman further. I am glad if we can bring this unfortunate matter to a close on this note, and I hope that that is so.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Tom Fraser)
I have listened to virtually the whole debate and I have no complaint to make about the time it has taken. I was a little apprehensive before the debate lest speeches might be made which might make the position worse, particularly in the Southern Region, and make a settlement of the problem even more difficut. I can say now at the end of the debate that no such speeches have been made. The debate certainly cannot have done any harm and I hope very much that it will have done some good.
I also observe, as I start what I hope will be a very short concluding speech to this discussion, that no one in the whole debate has accused my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour of not taking action as soon as he reasonably could. Without making too much of a party point of it, I think it will be readily conceded that when we have discussed these things in the past we have discussed them in circumstances of there having been widespread criticism of the Minister of Labour at the time for not intervening as quickly as he might have done and for waiting until there was great public agitation in favour of intervention. That has not happened on this occasion.
§ Mr. Godber
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would specify the occasions. I recall no debate when this happened, but I remember some rather intemperate attacks being made by his Leader.
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman would not recall the debates I have in mind. I have in mind a good many debates on occasions when there has been industrial trouble and the Minister of Labour has not intervened at all. On many occasions I remember his pleading that it would not be timely for him so to do. I merely observe that on the occasion of this debate, in speeches today, no one has accused the Minister of Labour of dragging his feet.
1925 The speech to which we have just listened from the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) I thought a very good speech in the circumstances, one, I should have thought, calculated to help to find a solution to the problem. It was in striking contrast to the speech with which the debate was opened. In the past I have had a certain admiration for the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I do not remember a single occasion on which I have agreed with him, but I have often recognised the logic of his argument and respected the sincerity with which he held and expressed his views. But this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman made a few quotations. He indulged in some rather cheap party politics. He went on to argue, I thought most illogically, that, because British Railways has an operating deficit which must be met by the taxpayer, therefore the responsibility for finding a solution to the dispute lies, not with the Railways Board, not with the trade unions, certainly not with the commuters, but with the Government.
I did not follow that at all. The responsibility for the running of the railways was put fairly and squarely upon the Railways Board by the 1962 Act. When the right hon. Gentleman was making his point about the deficit, saying that the taxpayer was providing not only most of the bread but all of the butter, he was right on the edge of arguing that the commuter should pay a good deal more than he is paying at present. No sooner had the right hon. Gentleman sat down than his right hon. and hon. Friends made their speeches more directly on behalf of the commuters, saying that already fares are too high.
Before the debate had gone very far I could see once again, as I have seen so frequently in the course of the past eight or nine months, that the Party opposite is totally divided on this issue. The right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) complained about the great financial burden carried by her constituents in the high fares they had to pay. Her constituents have not had a penny increase in fares since the change in Government last October. The increases in fares she talked about since 1950 were all applied during the period of the Con- 1926 servative Government. Her constituents would have had an increase in fares more recently had I not stepped in and appealed to the London Transport Board and the Railways Board not to increase fares in the London area.
I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West thinks that I did the right thing. Commuters from outside the London passenger traffic area have paid more. They have been paying more since the beginning of the year. I have had very strong representations against the ability of the Railways Board to increase the fares of commuters from outside the London passenger traffic area without going to any tribunal. The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) decided that those who live outside the London traffic area ought not to have any right of objection to fares increases imposed by the Railways Board. At one time they had such a right. There was the Fares Tribunal before that, but not after the passing of the 1962 Act. After that, the only body of railway passengers who were to be given any protection at all by an independent tribunal were those within the London passenger traffic area. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Wallasey ought to have listened to some of the speeches made by his right hon. and hon. Friends during the course of the debate.
§ Mr. Fraser
If the right hon. Gentleman heard them, he did not hear them from the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. Fraser
If the right hon. Gentleman heard them, perhaps he will be able to give the answer to his right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ The Chairman
Even front benchers must conform to the rules of the House, and if they want to intervene they must intervene in the proper way.
§ Mr. Fraser
Dr. King, I believe that in this place we are expected to work to 1927 rule. A good deal was said by hon. Members opposite about the deterioration in the services as well as about the increases in fares. It is not for me to make a long speech today about the improvement in the services or about the capital investment in the whole of the southern area over a period of years. I shall not make that type of speech. There is not the time. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members opposite would in other circumstances have claimed that the Railways Board and the London Transport Board had done not badly in the past 10 years in the capital investment programme which has been carried through with a view to increasing the seating capacity of nearly all the commuter services we have been discussing, and lengthening platforms so that, where additional trains could not be put on, at any rate longer trains could be put on. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said that the Railways Board used coaches which dated from pre-war—if not before he was born, he said.
§ Mr. Doughty
I said that the stations dated from before I was born and that the trains, if not pre-war, were of pre-war pattern and design.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not think that even the hon. and learned Gentleman would want the Railways Board or the London Transport Board to replace stations from time to time. They might modernise stations. I should like it very much if stations were modernised, but the stations are there in these commuter areas. A good deal of the rolling stock has been renewed since the war. Much of it has been renewed in the last 10 years. I make these points merely to show that there was a little extravagance about the the accusations which were made about the failure of the Railways Board, and therefore of the Government of the day, to meet the needs of commuters in London and the London area.
The right hon. Member for Grantham said that there had been some failure on someone's part in that these negotiations had continued for so long without a solution being found. I think that he is right. He asked me if I would in the circumstances say what I thought about the way in which the Railways Board had carried 1928 through its communications with its employees. I think that on reflection the right hon. Gentleman would want me to reserve my answer for another occasion because, if I were at this point of time to start to apportion responsibility for the delay as between the Railways Board and the railway unions, I think that I would then be doing that which I have congratulated right hon. and hon. Members opposite on for not doing in the course of this debate—I should thereby make a solution just a little more difficult.
§ Mr. Godber
I understand the Minister's difficulty. The point I was getting at was not only about the dispute, but that whilst the dispute was pending the Board itself ought to have got the facts over. This is a communications exercise as distinct from the dispute. This was the real point I was arguing at that moment.
§ Mr. Fraser
I appreciate the point. I appreciate, too, that the right hon. Gentleman was asking if we could get the Railways Board to do rather better at other times. He did not want it related only to this dispute, but he asked me the question within the context of this dispute having dragged on for such a long time. I could deal with the question only by referring to the failure during this period, and I do not want to start apportioning blame on one side or the other.
§ Mr. Deedes
I appreciate the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making about the dispute which is now on, but will he answer the question which I asked? When the dispute is over, is he prepared to examine the conduct of this machinery and satisfy himself whether it is adequate or not for the future?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am not satisfied with the working of the existing machinery, but I am not satisfied either that I or my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour could possibly impose new machinery upon the two sides in this industry. We must work for a greater measure of agreement for the acceptance of machinery which would make it easier and not more difficult to resolve differences when they arise. It is apparent already that the Government have not shrunk from the possibility of looking for solutions of difficult problems. Reference has been made 1929 by the right hon. Member for Grantham to the Royal Commission on trade unions and the whole question of determining incomes.
As a Government we have carried out this whole philosophy of having prices and incomes determined rationally on a national basis. We have gone further than any other Government has gone in this country. We are seen to be facing up to these problems in a way in which they have not been faced hitherto. This does not mean that we can look at a piece of negotiating machinery in one industry or another and say that that machinery is wrong and that some other machinery is right and then impose it.
Let us have discussions with the Railways Board and the unions, with the employers' representatives and representatives of workers generally and try to create a new atmosphere and, where need be, new machinery which will enable our differences to be resolved more readily in the future. Some of the suggestions made have not been very helpful. The right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst appealed to the trade unions. She referred to trade unions which sometimes send a man to Coventry, or some such phrase, because for reasons which seem to him good and sufficient he will not join a trade union. At the same time, she said that the trade unions should take definite action against the motormen who are working to rule.
The right hon. Lady was cheered and many hon. Members said that they accepted every word she said. My right hon. Friend interrupted to ask what the right hon. Lady had in mind and what the union executives should do, but no one has answered that question. Equally, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that responsibility for the solution of the dispute lay with the Government, but he had no single suggestion to make as to what action the Government should take to bring the dispute to an end.
In the same way, when it has been suggested that A.S.L.E.F. should take action against the motormen who are at present working to rule or going slow, no one has suggested what is meant by taking appropriate action against those people, because no one has the slightest idea what it means. It sounds well. It will look well in the local newspapers 1930 and it may please some unthinking commuters, but it will make no contribution to the solution of the difficulty.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
I have received a communication today asking me to speak for the very members who are involved and I propose to submit the communication later to the Minister. Any replacement of the organisation, with which I have had a long association, is an idea which I hope will be dispelled. Every conceivable step has been taken by the organisation, its chief administrative officers and its executive committee for constitutional action. I want to say a few words about—
§ Mr. Monslow
I appreciate the point but I was hoping to make a statement which I thought would be helpful. I have no desire to make a speech. I put a further point to the Minister, as to whether he is aware that there are considerable feelings of frustration owing to the procrastination that has taken place in expediting a decision.
§ Mr. Fraser
I appreciate my hon. Friend's intervention, but I think that in the course of the debate there has been a good deal of recognition on both sides of the Committee that the motormen have a grievance. It has been recognised on both sides of the Committee also that the union has been doing its best to get the men on to normal working to enable the negotiations to proceed. There has been very little criticism of the way in which the participants have behaved, except that there has been repeated regret that it has taken such a long time to find a solution, and there has been great regret and widespread recognition of the hardship and misery caused to the commuters who, after all, are the victims.
It is because it would be easier for me today to make things more difficult than to make them less difficult that I am very reluctant to go any further than I have gone. I do not think that those who have asked me a number of questions want me to give them answers today, although I have provided myself with a number of answers for them.
1931 I think that we might well end up the debate by letting it go out of the Committee that all of us are determined to do what we can to find a solution of the problem. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has spoken of his determination not to shrink from his responsibility if further action on his part should be required. That having been accepted by the right hon. Member for Grantham, it would be better now if I were to resume my seat and allow the Committee to discuss other matters. I do so, repeating my gratitude to hon. Members in all parts of the Committee for the way in which they have debated this matter.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.