§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains proposals to nationalise further large sections of the transport industry instead of concentrating on practical measures to improve conditions for the travelling public and for industry.I am sure the House regrets that this debate is taking place under the shadow of a major railway disaster. I assure the House that any criticisms of the management or policies of British Railways are in no way connected with the railway's safety record, which has been outstanding over the years, or the diligence with which our railwaymen apply themselves to seeing that railway travel is safe and secure.
Last week's by-election results are perhaps a reflection on the fact that the Government's performance contrasts vividly with their plans. If the plans which have been published week by week, and month by month, had been fulfilled, or even started to be fulfilled, the Government's popularity would be very much higher, but instead we have had a long series of plans contrasting vividly with performance, and this is particularly true of transport.
An examination of the various forms of transport shows that in every sphere 648 Government policies are hindering progress. In aviation one finds that B.E.A.'s future is in jeopardy as a result of the constant delay and indecision of the Government on replacing the present B.E.A. fleet. If one considers future developments in aviation, internal air services, the development of freight air services, and the indecision, and probably wrong decision, on matters such as Stansted, one sees aviation once again being affected by the Government. It is remarkable that this industry, which could perhaps best be quoted as an industry of the future, is completely and utterly without investment grants as a result of the Government's policies.
When one considers shipping, and ports and docks, one sees that only last week the Confederation of British Industry and the British Shippers' Council gave their verdict on the Government's policy. Their verdict is summarised in a statement issued last Wednesday or Thursday:To face the industry with an administrative revolution when it is already grappling with great changes would surely reduce operating efficiency, retard evolution, increase costs, and thus, by raising the price of exports, damage the economy. No case has been made for fundamental change now or in the future. The Minister's proposals establish no reasoned case for a further change of ownership or control.On the railways, we see a fast increasing deficit, obviously completely out of the Minister's control. Indeed, it was the Minister herself who said in reply to a Question on 25th January of this year, at col. 1471 that the railway deficit this year would be £130 million, but we were told in a debate in another place that the figure was now likely to be £150 million. Labour relations on the railways have never been worse than they are at the moment, and the position of top management is in complete chaos.
One of the most fundamental needs is an improvement in the road building programme, but we see the Minister complacently going up and down the country boasting that at the moment expenditure on road building is higher than it has ever been in our history. This is a boast which every Minister of Transport has been able to make every year since 1950, but the real test of the Minister's performance—and that of the Government—is to see how the right hon. Lady has carried out 649 the road building programme which she inherited.
The programme was laid down in great detail in July 1964. It proposed Government expenditure of £1,200 million on road building in the years 1965 to 1970. The party opposite said that it was an electioneering offer, and something to entice the voters. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), who at that time was the shadow Minister of Transport, stated categorically in the Press and in speeches that the programme announced by the Tories for the period 1965–70 was too little and too late.
Let us examine what has happened to the programme which the present Government described as too little and too late. We can establish the exact figures because my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) published a White Paper setting out the Government's investment programme for 1967–68. He said that in that year at 1963 prices, £470 million would be spent by the Government and local authorities on roads in this country. Adjusted to 1963 prices, it would be necessary to spend £53 million this year to fulfil the promise which hon. Gentlemen opposite described as too little and too late. This year the Government and local authorities will spend £450 million on the roads, so this year alone they will spend £81 million less than that set out in a programme which they described as too little and too late.
The Government have stated categorically that in the period 1965–70—this information was given in reply to a Question—they will spend £1,100 million. This is £100 million less than the sum laid down in the programme which they described as too little and too late, and during this period the motorist has had an extremely bad deal. Comparing this year's figures with those for 1964–65, one sees that this year the Government will spend £70 million more on roads, but from the owners of motor cars they will get an extra £350 million in increased petrol tax, in increased Purchase Tax, and in increased motor vehicle licences. Thus, for every £1 extra which they are spending on reads they are taking an extra £5 from the motorist. This is the Government's record for the motorist and the roads.
The Government's record on the railways, in aviation, in shipping, and in 650 the road programme is bad, and what do they offer for the future? They have put forward a programme—which received enthusiastic support at the Labour Party conference as a good Socialist one for tackling transport problems—substantially to increase the nationalisation of public transport.
First, I turn to the proposals for passenger transport authorities. These proposals have no friends. Local authorities do not like them; industry does not like them, and the bus industry in particular does not like them. Everybody is opposed to them. The Minister says that this is not nationalisation, and describes me as illiterate for speaking of it as such. She claims that it is local ownership and not nationalisation. The only real ownership which will be given locally is the ownership of losses.
How can the Minister claim that these P.T.A.s will have local control? Let us consider some of the features of the proposal. These authorities will be very much in the hands of the Minister of Transport. First, the Minister will designate the boundaries of the P.T.A.s, and she has specifically stated that not only will she designate them but will allow no form of public inquiry into them, and there will be no appeal from her decisions. So much for local control of the boundaries.
Secondly, local control will consist of immediately confiscating the assets of all municipal bus companies—a very odd and peculiar way of giving local control—and doing away with local bus companies.
Thirdly, there will be considerable investment control in the hands of the Minister. Grants will depend on her being satisfied with the way P.T.A.s are run. Then, the Minister will have nominees on the boards of the P.T.A.s. Her first suggestion was that one-third of the representatives should be appointed by the Ministry of Transport and that the chairmen should also be so appointed. We are pleased to know that as a result of considerable criticism and pressure she has reduced her demands for representation, and the chairmen will now be appointed by the P.T.A.s. But let us remember that even if, for example, her representatives consisted only of 20 per cent. of the Board, this would be 20 per cent. more than the representation on the 651 boards which are now running local government transport. Also, if, in a public transport authority area, 60 per cent. of the authorities were Tory-controlled and 40 per cent. Labour-controlled, with the Minister's nominees and the Labour-controlled representatives the Minister's nominees would have a majority on the P.T.A. Under the P.T.A.s, many major boroughs will have no appeal on the question of fares or timetables.
There is much evidence that there is no great advantage in size, in respect of bus operations; indeed, the public will vouch for the fact that the bigger the size the less efficient is the bus company, the more inferior its labour relations, and the less direct contact it has with the public.
It is becoming more and more clear that all the local authorities in the major conurbations and elsewhere are becoming bitterly opposed to this project. The Minister will say that this is due to briefing and interference on the part of the Conservative Central Office and the leaders of Tory councils, but she should remember that last May the people of this country overwhelmingly voted Tories to their local councils, and they did not vote for them to give back into public ownership private and municipal bus companies.
But not only Tory councils are opposed to this scheme. One of the Minister's civil servants—a person who is particularly responsible for P.T.A.s.; a Mr. Locke—spoke to municipal operators, and if he reported accurately to the Minister he will have told her that local authorities are passionately opposed to her proposals. At the M.P.T.A. conference five Labour chairmen of local authority transport committees spoke in the debate upon the P.T.A. proposals. Every one was opposed to those proposals. Perhaps their objections were most appropriately put by Councillor Williams, chairman at St. Helens, who said:It would be a voice in the wilderness. I am second to none as a supporter of the Labour party, but this is not one of the things they ought to be doing.Another opinion—and I am sure the Minister will appreciate this, as she represents a Lancashire division—was expressed by Alderman Walsh, vice- 652 chairman at Bolton, who said that the whole programme could only be called aload of codswallop.It is understandable that local authorities should be strongly opposed to P.T.As. First, the ratepayers will have to bear the service charges necessary to compensate for the taking over of privately owned bus companies. Secondly, they will lose their municipal assets. Thirdly, they will have to make a contribution to the deficit of passenger railway services in their areas. Fourthly, fares will increase as a result of the levelling up of wages and conditions of all those employed in bus companies which are taken into P.T.As.
One of the proposals which will be greeted with great alarm is a clear undertaking that P.T.As. will have control over coaches and coach excursions going out of their areas. Many people travel by coach because of the cheap fares. To travel from Birmingham to London costs 34s. by coach, but £3 6s. by second-class railway fare. We can understand this Minister, for what she will describe as good transport planning, deciding that it is wrong to take this traffic from the railways and therefore placing considerable restrictions on coach services.
Alternatives to this programme are quite clear. They are immediately to repeal some of the policies which the Government have pursued, which are directly opposed to the efficient running of our bus companies. It was this Government who took away investment allowances for buses and coaches, immediately resulting in increased fares. It is this Government who made bus companies create an interest-free overdraft for the Government, in the form of S.E.T., and it is this Government who are dragging their feet on trade union reform, which would help to bring single manning and do away with some of the overmanning which exists today.
It is a remarkable thing that if there was one proposal which should have waited for the report of a Royal Commission it was the P.T.A. proposal, which should have waited for the report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. But the Government were determined to hasten through these proposals before the 653 published. What a different attitude to their attitude on trade union reform. The creation of passenger transport authorities will result in considerable increases in road fares and a great loss of freedom of choice in terms of transport for the individual, and we shall oppose this proposal.
The post-war history of the railways is that from the early 1950s, as people began to own more and more motor cars, and passengers turned from the railways to the roads, and as a great modernisation programme was required to change from steam to diesel electric, the railways ran into increasing deficits. It was then that a Conservative Government appointed Lord Beeching and a major reorganisation started to take place. The success of this was reflected in the last two years of Tory Government, when the railway deficit was reduced by £37 million. In the first three years of Labour Government it will have increased by over £30 million.
Today we have had published a White Paper. I say that it has been published today but, like all Government documents, it was really published many weeks previously in the Press. It is remarkable that every major proposal in the White Paper appeared in The Times of 26th June. That newspaper's transport correspondent described the proposals of the Joint Steering Group under the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary. He described its conclusions in respect of subsidies for services of social importance; he described the recapitalisation of the railways and the writing off of a great deal of capital. He described in detail the proposals for reorganisation of the main board and the doing away with regional boards, and he went on to describe the special subsidies for bridges, level crossings and railway police.
If that same correspondent wanted to summarise the Minister's White Paper he could not do better than repeat his article of 26th June. This is a terrible reflection upon Her Majesty's Government.
One political correspondent suggests today that the right hon. Lady should become the next Foreign Secretary. On Press leaks, she puts Lord Chalfont completely in the shade, because every major 654 proposal from the Ministry since she has been Minister has been leaked, in one way or another, beforehand. If these proposals were not leaked by the Ministry itself, the Ministry should have done something to give this House the White Paper, the details of which appeared in the Press in June, some time before November, a few hours before this debate. Instead, with the normal sense of priorities of this Government, the Press came first and Parliament came afterwards.
The White Paper carries the report and recommendations of a very distinguished firm of accountants, Cooper Brothers, who have done a great deal of work, and of the steering group which contained a number of distinguished men from industry and the British Railways Board, and a distinguished professor of finance, under the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary. The whole House will want to examine carefully its proposals, and we obviously have not had time to study some of the background facts and statistics; some of the figures, of course, are not available in the White Paper. But there are some questions which I should like to ask the Minister.
First of all, she states in the White Paper, in rather strange wording; that, after consultation with British. Railways, the Government have decided to adopt the proposals. Do British Railways agree with the proposals? I know that they had representatives on the Steering Group, but it has been said that the Chairman and many of the Board disagree with the proposals. We should like to know whether this is true or whether it was purely consultation, without the Board fully supporting the proposals.
One of the things which will dramatically affect British Railways is the Minister's proposals for a National Freight Authority. This Steering Group contains the advice of one of the best firms of accountants in the world, with men of considerable ability who have looked in depth into the management and financial problems of British Railways. I therefore challenge the right hon. Lady to ask this same Steering Group, with all its knowledge, whether or not it is in favour of the creation of the National Freight Authority. If it is, that will give great support to her case. If it is not, it will show that her proposals are 655 thoroughly irresponsible and against the future interests of British Railways. If the right hon. Lady declines that challenge to put that question fairly and straightly to the Steering Group, the country will realise why?
The real problem for the railways is not the proposals in the Report, interesting though they are and correct as many probably are. It is easy to study and decide what should be done, but the test is implementing that study. Everything that has so far happened has given us absolutely no confidence in the Minister's ability to bring this Report into being, because the essence is the attraction of top and good management. The railways today have labour relations problems, and a rising deficit, yet, for more than a week, 350,000 men employed by British Railways— an industry losing £150 million a year—have known that their chairman has been under notice to quit, but have had no idea who his replacement is to be. That is an appalling situation for any major industry.
Also, almost every national newspaper reported that, in the middle of the most crucial negotiations with the unions, in which a major strike was a possibility, the chairman of British Railways was called out to be hold by the Minister that she was going to offer him another job. What a way to handle top management. If this did not happen, the Minister should immediately have issued a statement saying that it did not, instead of leaving this situation for a week.
Everyone knows that the chairman has been offered another job but does not know his replacement. The vice-chairman has said that he will join a shipping company and has given notice to quit. Did the Minister tell Mr. Shirley that she would like him to go, after which he found another job, or did the reverse happen? As the Minister has constantly praised Mr. Shirley in the country for the wonderful way in which he has organised freight liner trains, why can she not provide him with the terms and conditions under which he could stay? Either he was important and successful, in which case it was her duty to see that he was kept or enticed to stay, or else he has been inefficient for some time, in which case she has been wrong to praise him all over the country. As well as 656 the chairman and vice-chairman, Mr. Fiennes, one of the most creative thinkers of all the general managers of British Railways, has been sacked and has left the service.
This is the position of top management in British Railways after the Minister has been in charge for a couple of years. She says in the White Paper that the real need is for stability of British Railways. What a lot of stability there is at present—an army without a general, a major industry not knowing exactly what will happen in terms of top management.
Who will be attracted to take on the jobs of top management? What is this Minister's record in this respect? Just look at the treatment of top management. First of all, the road construction units were created so that the county surveyors, who had been vocal critics of all Governments, would no longer have that same say. Then, Sir Alexander Samuels was removed from his position as road traffic adviser to the Minister because, as we knew, he was having a number of disagreements with her. Then, Sir Alfred Owen had views on the 70 m.p.h. speed limit and was removed from his position as chairman of the National Road Safety Advisory Council and replaced by the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Rochdale, who was Chairman of the National Ports Council, opposed nationalisation and was in favour of developing Portbury, so he was given another job and replaced by someone from one of the nationalised boards. This is a complete record of any person who disagrees with the Minister being removed to another job.
Who will take on the job of Chairman of British Railways, with this sort of background—[HON. MEMBERS: "George will."]—when the Minister has already stated that the track will remain at 11,000 miles, no matter what the commercial considerations? The new chairman will immediately inherit that fixed position. She has also said that she will take away from British Railways its most expanding element, the freightliner trains, and give it to the National Freight Authority. So the new Chairman will be told. "You will have to keep the track as it is and I am taking away the best potential for the future, but, apart from that, you have every freedom and may get on with the 657 job." This is an impossible position for top management.
Any top management coming into British Railways while the present Minister remains will, of course, remember her words at the Labour Party conference. When pressed to set up various organisations, she said:No, friends, when it comes to transport planning, I have got to be the overall authority.The real trouble is that any person working under this Minister knows that he will always be subject to considerable political interference.
The other proposal which will be in the Government's Bill, the National Freight Authority itself, also has no friends and no supporters in industry. No one in the railways supports it, either. There has been no pronouncement from the Railways Board or from the railway unions saying that it wants such an authority. Sir Donald Stokes, who would not be quoted as an enemy of the present Government, has made his position clear. He said:If we are going to have restrictions for Socialist doctrinaire reasons, it is absolutely crazy.He went on:… if they are going to restrict road transport, it is still worse, because in Great Britain we need above all a competitive transport system. This is the biggest machine tool of industry.Sir Donald Stokes has clearly stated his view, and so has the C.B.I.
The proposal for a national freight authority is a proposal to allow the nationalised industries to take over a large section of the road haulage industry without compensation. Seventy thousand vehicles will be subject to new tribunals. How many bureaucrats will be employed on those tribunals? What sort of people will decide, and what criteria will those people use?
The Minister has stated that licences will be taken away or refused only if it can be shown that the railways are faster, less expensive and more reliable. Those are the three criteria. Will all three have to apply or will it be a matter of balance? Who will judge the speed of British Rail? Will British Rail have to prepare a time-table? A lot of tribunals would not take much note of that. Who 658 will decide whether the reliability will be better or worse? Is this to be based on promises? Who is to decide on cost in its relationship with time?
We on this side of the House have made our position quite clear. We believe that the best people to decide how best to send their goods are the customers themselves, and not some bureaucratic tribunal trying to decide for them. The position is that £150 million worth of assets belonging to private road hauliers are in jeopardy without any form of compensation.
Let us just look at the handicap which the Government have put on those in the road haulage industry before they start: three increase in fuel tax, graduated pension contributions up, National Insurance contributions up, Selective Employment Tax, postage and telephone costs up, industrial training 1.6 per cent. up, road vehicles licences increased by 50 per cent. and investment allowances on road haulage vehicles completely taken away by this Government. The Minister has said that the N.F.A. would give the road haulage industry a good run for its money, and so I should think, with the handicap put on the road haulage industry before ever it starts.
In every sphere of transport the performance is bad, and instead of the Government offering remedies for these performances they are embarking on a programme of public ownership of all our ports and docks, considerable ownership of the bus industry, interferences in the ancillary services such as taxis and coaches, and a considerable extension of the public section of long distance road haulage. We on this side believe that this will make no contribution to efficiency. It is yet another attack on free enterprise by a Government that by now should realise that they are doing great harm to the country by their constant attacks on free enterprise, and that they will bring about a considerable worsening, and not an improvement, of the nation's transport system.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mrs. Barbara Castle)
This debate is on the Queen's Speech and our present discussion is geared to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) to the passage in the 659 Gracious Speech relating to transport. In that Amendment the hon. Gentleman complains that the Government are not… concentrating on practical measures to improve conditions for the travelling public and for industry".The passage in the Gracious Speech on which the hon. Gentleman bases this complaint reads:Legislation will be brought before you to provide for the better integration of rail and road transport within a reorganised framework of public control …That is an integration which has long been overdue and which the development of the container is making technically imperative.
The passage continues:… to promote safety and high standards in the road transport industry …Is not that a matter that will improve conditions for the travelling public and for the public in general, who have been complaining for years about the danger of "killer" lorries on our roads?
Then the Speech says:… to strengthen the powers of local authorities to manage traffic …Will any rational Member in this Chamber seek to claim that this will not be an important measure for improving the travelling conditions on the congested roads of our great cities? The hon. Gentleman did not have time for even a fleeting reference to it, although he asks the House to approve an Amendment condemning this whole paragraph.
The paragraph states, finally, that the legislation will:… reorganise the nationalised inland waterways with special emphasis on their use for recreation and amenity ".Is not that another matter in which the public is very interested indeed? The hon. Gentleman is always pressing me to produce my White Papers elaborating the different aspects of the Bill I shall be presenting to Parliament before very long. I gave him a White Paper on the inland waterways part at the beginning of September. I do not think that he has even read it, and today he has not made so much as a passing reference to it.
I will come in a moment to the perfunctory way in which he has dismissed another White Paper, which he has had 660 in his hands all morning.—[Laughter.] Yes, I know—the hon. Gentleman is slow to pick up new ideas, but in the other part of his speech he was complaining that the ideas were not new at all, so I do not know what further time he needs to discuss it.
Before I leave that aspect of the argument let us get the roads expenditure position quite clear. The hon. Gentleman believes in economy. He believes in economy in new speeches, and we have had this same one of his time after time. Let me therefore deal once and for all with this aspect of his argument, which is at the heart of the comparison between the records of the previous Administration and this Government in this important sphere.
Under this Government, the total Exchequer expenditure on roads in the five years up to 1970 will be greater than that involved in the previous Conservative Government's proposals—and let us remember that their proposals for the five years were merely paper plans. They had never got to the point of finding the money for them. They had never got to the point of having to turn a pre-election propaganda into concrete fact, but this is what we are doing.
§ Mrs. Castle
Just a moment. This is what we are doing.
The fact is that in the seven years 1964–65 to 1970–71, a period for which the Labour Government will be responsible, Exchequer expenditure on new and improved roads in Great Britain will be in the neighbourhood of £1,600 million. The total public expenditure on new and improved roads in Britain will be about £1,850 million. We have had to find the money, and we have been doing so, and we shall be doing so faced merely by demands from hon. Gentlemen opposite that we should cut public expenditure.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Will the right hon. Lady explain why, in reply to a Question on 28th February of last year, the Parliamentary Secretary stated that, for the years 1965 to 1970, Exchequer expenditure would be £1,100,000 on new roads, yet in July, 1964, my right hon. Friend stated that expenditure would be £1,200,000 for the same period?
§ Mrs. Castle
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the figures I have given exceed the proposal of the former Conservative Administration, just as the expenditure has exceeded it beyond all bounds. I remind the hon. Gentleman that this year alone—and let us talk about 1967–68—Exchequer expenditure on new and improved roads will be nearly double what it was in 1963–64, the last full period of Conservative Administration. That was the peak of their achievement after 13 years in office; and it really does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to keep bringing up this Tory charge.
The transport system which the Labour Government inherited required fundamental and practical improvement over the whole sphere. This was the approach which underlay last year's White Paper. It is the approach which will dominate the Transport Bill, which will give effect to it—except, of course, to the ports issue, which, as has been explained, is a matter for separate legislation later in the lifetime of this Parliament.
After that, I part company with the hon. Gentleman because his main preoccupation on every possible occasion, both inside and outside the House, is to denigrate public ownership. The Labour Government's approach is to recognise that public ownership must play a vital rôle in transport, and to ensure that the nationalised industries are given the right social and financial targets to enable them to play their rôles. The publication today of the White Paper on railway policy shows how successfully the Government are succeeding with that task.
It is no good the hon. Member for Worcester coming along with his sad story about morale in the railways. The constant propaganda of hon. Gentlemen opposite against the very concept of public ownership is one of the most damaging things that can be done to denigrate this publicly-owned industry. The fact is, of course, that the hon. Member for Worcester does not care about the railways. He does not care about any particular form of public ownership. My hon. and right hon. Friends, on the other hand, do care and we believe that the people of this country want to see their nationalised railways made a maximum success.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
Does the right hon. Lady recall that in our debate on 18th July, when we were discussing bus operators and road hauliers, she promised to publish a White Paper, to be laid in August, with the Bill to come in September? She has laid a White Paper today on the railways. Why has she not also laid a White Paper on bus operators and road hauliers?
§ Mrs. Castle
I promised—I intend to keep this promise and I am in the process of keeping it—to lay detailed White Papers on the different aspects of the Transport Bill, before the publication of that Bill, so that the House fully understands the implications of what will be a very detailed Measure.
I have already produced two of the White Papers and the remaining two, including the one to which the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) referred, will be appearing during the next few weeks. I assure the hon. Gentleman that he will get it well in advance of the publication of the Bill; and I shall be only too glad to enlighten him and his hon. Friend the Member for Worcester about some of the implications of the P.T.A.s, which he is so anxious to mis-represent.
I have told the House that the details which I have circulated about my proposals are for consultation only. Those consultations have taken place. Ideas have been advanced and these have been adapted in the light of those consultations. The results of the consultations will appear in the White Paper for which the hon. Gentleman has asked and I certainly do not intend to anticipate that White Paper today.
The hon. Member for Worcester has really wasted an opportunity. Instead of repeating, almost verbatim, the speech which he made the last time we debated this subject, he might have given a little attention to the White Paper on railway policy, which, at last, should have enabled him to deal not with speculation but with fact. I appreciate that this document was available in the Vote Office only at 11 o'clock this morning. It was due for publication tomorrow, but when the Opposition chose today for this debate I thought it only courteous to expedite its publication. [Interruption.] If it had appeared tomorrow, when the debate was 663 over, I can imagine what hon. Gentlemen opposite would have said.
§ Mrs. Castle
I must get on. The Stationery Office worked overtime during the weekend to enable the House to have the White Paper in time for this debate.
I regret that the hon. Member for Worcester has seen fit to pay such perfunctory tribute to the outstanding work that has been done by the Joint Steering Group, under the chairmanship of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris). However grudging hon. Gentlemen opposite may be, I assure them that the Government are deeply grateful to the group for the long and arduous months of work they have put in.
As for the date of publication, the simple position is this. Although it is true that the final Report of the Joint Steering Group—the Report in its final form—is dated September, that was only one part of the process. The Government had to consider the recommendations, decide their action on them and write and publish a White Paper; and this is, in fact, what we have done. It would be no good giving the House the Joint Steering Group's recommendations without the Government's reaction to them. To have produced that White Paper as quickly as we have is an indication of the sense of urgency which the Government feel about the railway situation, despite the frivolity of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
This has been a novel kind of inquiry. On the Joint Steering Group have been representatives of the railways, of Government Departments and from outside. We are particularly grateful to the independent members who have worked tirelessly without reward and who have given us of their wisdom and long experience. The inquiry is also a shining example of worker participation because on the group and contributing his ideas was a rank and file railway man, in addition to representatives of the railway trade unions, who submitted their experienced views. I pay tribute to the masterly way in which this work has been chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary. The House should recognise the calibre of the Morris Report and pay tribute to all concerned.
664 The hon. Member for Worcester is always complaining about the Government trying to keep things from the House. I assure him that we have been a great deal more forthcoming than the Administration who produced the Stedeford Report, not a word of which ever got published. Indeed, I have not even been allowed to see it, though a succeeding Minister. There has, therefore, been a very different practice between the two Administrations in handling what is a matter of widespread public interest.
All that the hon. Member for Worcester could find to say was that there had been Press leaks. He said that The Times had it all on 26th June. He wanted to know what the Government were doing about it, what was the point of having a White Paper and what was the point of publishing the Report. The July Report of the group did not exist on 26th June. So the report was not even accurate. Certainly, the Government's decisions upon it did not exist at that time. So it is absurd for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that in some way I had leaked the matter to the Press.
I hope that the debate will now be concentrated on the White Paper and the indications that it gives of the kind of approach that we shall have in the Transport Bill. Let us look at what the White Paper says. It should be considered as one of the triumvirate. There will be other White Papers on the National Freight Corporation and the Passenger Transport Authorities, though the implications of the setting up of a National Freight Corporation on the finances of the railways are taken into account in Appendix B of the Report in the Annex, and also it is important to remember that the method of fixing the grants for the socially necessary lines will be appropriate whoever may become responsible for them.
Today's White Paper concentrates on two aspects which are critical to any business—finance and management. If these two are right there is a good chance that the business, whether it is private or nationalised, will prosper, and unless they are right, it will not prosper. But the railways are not just a business. That was the mistake that right hon. and hon. Members opposite made when they voted for the 1962 Transport Act. To treat 665 nationalised transport as a business or a series of businesses without taking account of the social aspects of a public service is not to have any real grasp of the needs of the travelling public.
The 1962 Act set up the railways as a separate entity, encouraged them to compete with other forms of nationalised transport and then left the profit and loss account as the sole criterion of success and did not even provide conditions in which the profit and loss account could be balanced. The Railways Board was early told to break even as soon as possible, but an open-ended grant was provided in case it failed. So it is not surprising that the deficit for the current year is almost as large as in 1962.
This fact is a complete indictment of the whole purpose and machinery of the 1962 Transport Act. It took no account of the social factors. It provided detailed machinery for closing lines but imposed no duty on the Minister to heed social considerations when deciding closures, still less the effect on the workers involved.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Order. The hon. Member must resume his seat unless the Minister gives way.
§ Mrs. Castle
I object to being harangued by the hon. Gentleman on his feet when I am on my feet. If he will behave courteously I shall be glad to give way.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady. But she made a charge against the previous Administration when she said that social considerations were not taken into account. I can categorically deny that and would like her to accept it.
§ Mrs. Castle
To the extent that they were taken into account they were in breach of the terms of reference of the 1962 Act. The hon Gentleman had better make it clear. The 1962 Act placed an obligation on the British Railways Board to break even as soon as possible. The very fact that the right hon. Member for 666 Wallasey (Mr. Marples) could not follow the logic of his own statute does not mean to say that that made the position any better. Indeed, I believe that one of the serious sources of the problems of the railway industry is that it has never been given any clear-cut financial target appropriate to the sort of social conditions that a railway business has to take into account as well.
During the 18 months from the publication of the Beeching Plan in March, 1963, and being swept out of office in October, 1964, the right hon. Member for Wallasey had already imposed on British Railways an annual burden of well over £1 million by refusing to consent to closures, which, therefore, showed the inconsistency of his own policy.
What we are doing—it is long overdue, and when the hon. Gentleman says that nobody outside approves of my policy I would tell him that every sort of financial and economic commentator has been asking for a very long time that this kind of separation of financial and social objectives should be carried through—is to recognise and face the fact that there are many railway passenger services which do not pay and cannot be made to pay but are an essential part of any foreseeable transport system.
This is what the White Paper is about. We said that, having decided that as a Government, and decided it as a point of principle, we ought to identify these services, consider whether they were of the right level, whether they should be increased or reduced, make sure that they run efficiently and then meet the full cost of any losses on these socially necessary lines, and meet that consciously as a community.
The Joint Steering Group's Report, which is annexed to the White Paper, explains in detail the procedure which has been worked out. I think that every hon. Member who studies that Report—and no one ought to talk about transport policy in future unless he has—will agree that the procedure has been systematically and carefully evolved to enable us to get the benefits of a social element of transport policy without undermining financial incentives and efficiency. For instance, the Report suggests that these grants, instead of being paid in arrears, should be based on estimated losses three years 667 ahead, with no repayment if the Railways Board does better than the estimates, and this is designed to give an incentive to the Railways Board to do even better than at first had been hoped.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have frequently asked me for the estimated total cost of the grants, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not consider even mentioning it in his speech. The best estimates that the consultants and the Group can make of what would be the total of these grants in any one year is a figure of some £40 million in 1969, plus £15 million allowance for interest, making £55 million in 1969, and reducing to some £50 million in 1974.
This decision, which is in accord with the Government's policy on nationalised industries, and is published in the White Paper, marks a major development in nationalised industry policy. No one in the House can talk about the need for greater efficiency in the Government or in the nationalised industries unless he fairly and squarely faces the fact that something of this kind had to be done. The hon. Gentleman who is so anxious to quote denigrations and attacks upon me might have paid a little attention to the leading article in The Times a day or two ago when it welcomed this new approach to the finances of the nationalised industries and said that it was imperative to their future efficiency that economic and social elements should be differentiated out from the financial ones.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
Did the right hon. Lady also notice the leading article in the Scotsman last Thursday, saying, "For integration read disintegration"?
§ Mrs. Castle
Yes, I read it. That leading article was applying to a wider field than just this. But I would tell the hon. Gentleman and the Scotsman that it is a curious definition of disintegration when the Government come along and say, "It is time the country established what size of railway network we need and then set about finding more intelligent ways of paying for it." In my view, that is not disintegration. It is the first ray of rational light on this subject for many a long year.
The Report also provides for a capital reconstruction of the railway industry so 668 as to give a really efficient target to the railways and provide the basis on which we can expect the railways to meet their charges, including interest, out of revenue by the early 1970s. Here again, a first-class expert job of work has been done by all concerned.
I think that it is helpful to the House to have had examined all the possible elements in railway costs that could be attributed to their social obligations. The Joint Steering Group, for example, examined the concept of stand-by capacity which the railways have argued for a long time as one of the excuses why they could not be expected to break even. The railways say, "The trouble with the public is that they want the railways, but only to use them very occasionally, so we should be compensated for an element of stand-by capacity."
This the Report has rejected, but it does point to the existence of surplus capacity in the railway system due to the duplication of track in many places where a reduction of track would achieve dramatic economies. Reducing tracks from four to two and, in some cases, from two to one can make a major contribution to cutting costs.
§ Miss J. M. Quennell (Petersfield)
The right hon. Lady keeps saying that the Report will be "useful" to the House. She has said that the Report was in the Vote Office at 11 a.m. I have been in the House all day and I did not know that it was available until I read about it in the mid-day edition of an evening newspaper. It was 2.15 when I got the Report, and it was not possible to read it sensibly before this debate.
§ Mrs. Castle
I also took the precaution of informing the House, in a Written Reply on Friday, that the Report would be in the Vote Office at 11 a.m. today. I am only too anxious to give the House as much time as possible to study the Report, but it was not I who chose the subject of today's debate. The best I could do was to expedite the White Paper as quickly as possible.
The Joint Steering Group's Report therefore proposed—and I think that the House will agree that this is an imaginative and constructive suggestion—that the best way of helping to reduce costs and the deficit was for track rationalisation to be pressed ahead with the help of a track 669 rationalisation grant which would taper off over the next few years.
The major part of the Group's Report is the emphasis it lays upon the management question. When capital reconstruction has been carried through, even if the Railways Board begins by breaking even, we know that it will have a very tough job to maintain that position. That is why an integral part of the Report is the emphasis that it lays upon the need to have another look at the management structure of the railways.
As the House will have seen, the Report recommends a somewhat smaller Board whose members should not be tied down by day-to-day executive responsibilities for particular functions. This would leave the Board freer to concentrate on policy questions and on the long-term planning and financial control of the industry, helped by the appointment of two senior members of the Board with specific responsibility for these two aims, in addition to a chief general manager and a member responsible for long-term development of labour relations in the industry.
The Government broadly accept these recommendations, which, clearly, will involve a considerable reorganisation of the Board's work. The hon. Gentleman raised with me the position of the chairman of the Board. I believe that this reorganisation must involve a change in the chairmanship and I am currently discussing with Sir Stanley Raymond the possibility of his taking another job in transport. The outcome of our discussions will be announced in due course.
As for the suggestion that there is some kind of breach between Mr. Philip Shirley and myself, I will tell the hon. Gentleman that Mr. Shirley resigned at his own request and that it was not as a result of any disagreement between him and me. I remind the hon. Gentleman that Mr. Shirley is, after all, a signatory of the Report which is in the Annex to the White Paper, and if there had been any such disgruntlement he would not have accepted my invitation to become a part-time member of the Board, which he has willingly done.
It is sad that the hon. Member had nothing to say about the merits of these proposals in the Joint Steering Group's Report. If he claims that he has known 670 for some time what was in the Report, then I should have thought that he would have been giving a litle thought to it in all his consideration of the problems of the railway system. If he has known, as he says he has, that the Joint Steering Group—and I have announced this to the House on more than one occasion—was working on the principles of a social grant to keep alive the socially necessary lines, he has had plenty of time to decide first whether he approves of the Government's proposals to pay such grants on the socially necessary services which do not pay their way and, secondly, what principle the Government should employ in fixing them.
The hon. Gentleman has challenged me more than once today. I challenge him now. It is not asking him very much, between 11 a.m. this morning—I saw that the hon. Gentleman had the Report; he got it personally—and 5 p.m., to decide whether he approves of the principle of paying grants on socially necesary lines which do not pay their way. Perhaps he will answer that one now.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
I did not receive the Report at 11 a.m., but somewhat later. I will judge this question on the criteria to be used for these services. I want to know how they are to be paid for. I am violently against their being paid for out of the rates. What are "social criteria"? The term can mean anything. I am not willing to commit myself to the details of the Minister's proposals until she has expressed them fully.
§ Mrs. Castle
That will not do. The hon. Gentleman is dodging it. If he does not know what social criteria are, he should ask some of his hon. Friends behind him. Week after week they ask that railway lines be kept open in their areas. They say that they should be kept open because they serve tourism or remote areas, or because their constituents would not have alternative means of transport, or because the lines are heavily used by commuters or because they serve areas scheduled for future development and to which industry is being attracted.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
If that is the right hon. Lady's view, where do the 3,000 miles of railway track that she is closing fit into these social criteria? May we have the answer to that?
§ Mrs. Castle
Certainly. The basic network published in the railway map some months ago was drawn up in full consultation with the regional economic planning councils and with the Government Departments concerned with development and the siting of new towns. All these factors were taken into account. But the 3,000 miles of line will still be subject to the full statutory procedure and it has been made clear that, as a result of the examination, some of these lines not marked for development in the basic map may be added to the "black line network". That has been made clear to the hon. Gentleman time and again. Some pruning of duplicate lines as well as duplicate stations is not only inevitable, but desirable in the interests of railwaymen themselves who have to live in an industry that ought to be able to afford them higher standards.
We need to find a balance between complete sentimental sterilisation of the status quo and an adjustment of the policy of drastic reduction which we would have been faced with under the 1962 Transport Act. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what are the social criteria. He knows perfectly well that there are lines which the right hon. Member for Wallasey refused to close and other lines which his hon. Friends would like to Government to refuse to close.
The question we now have to ask ourselves is, if, as a result of these examinations and the will of Parliament, some of these lines are to be kept open and will not pay their way, is it or is it not right that they should be included in the operating deficit of the Railways Board? Should they not rather be put into a separate account, carefully costed by the Ministry and the Railways Board, and have a proper grant affixed to them, the Government deciding to pay that grant? That policy will be widely welcomed by the travelling public and by railwaymen as one of the most practical contributions which the Government can make. It is a great pity that the hon. Member is still back in his July speech and has not moved a step further forward despite all the information and evidence we keep putting in front of him.
So much for this Government's interest in efficiency of the nationalised industries. There was not a word of 672 praise from the hon. Member, although we are debating the references in the Queen's Speech, for our intention through the computer licensing Bill to establish a licensing system for motor vehicle licensing and driver licensing. This is something which is urgently needed and which was welcomed by The Times Business Supplement. It reported that car dealers have to deal with 183 local authorities and they are expected to welcome this proposal as a practical contribution to the transport problem, but there was not a word from the hon. Member about it.
There was not a word from him about our White Paper on the inland waterways which, once again, has taken the chaotic, muddled situation left by the previous Administration and clearly separated the commercial from social activities. This is what a Socialist transport policy means and it makes practical sense. There was not a word by the hon. Member about all the other practical contributions we have made. He is concerned and obsessed about the conditions of the passenger transport authorities. As I said earlier, we shall discuss this matter in the light of the White Paper. I certainly do not intend to anticipate the outcome of the consultations, which will be reported fully to the House in that document.
In conclusion, I refer to one very practical activity in which the passenger transport authorities will be engaged. One of them is proposed for the Manchester area, S.E.L.N.E.C. area. The need for integration of road-rail services there, for something to be done practically and urgently to improve transport conditions for people using public transport, is demonstrable to anyone who ever tries to travel in that city.
No one knows this more than Mancester City Council. That is why it gladly engaged with us in the promotion of a rapid transport study towards the possibility of which we paid a grant of 75 per cent. That is something else practical done in this matter by this Government. The report is now available and will be published tomorrow. A Question is to be asked of me about it and I shall be giving fuller details. It begins to hold out exciting possibilities of a breakthrough in the improvement of public transport.
673 I merely say to the hon. Member—this is another of the practical things we have done to which he never troubles to refer —that my new power to pay capital grants towards the cost of new public transport authorities, a power I shall be seeking in the Transport Bill, will enable me to contribute to the cost of new major transport projects in Manchester, provided they form part of a comprehensive transportation plan.
Here we have been acting while the hon. Member has merely talked. That is why I say to the House that the local authorities, whatever the hon. Member may try to do, will welcome these passenger transport authorities and cooperate with them because they know that what is needed are practical measures and that they are getting them from this Government.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
I am glad to be answering the right hon. Lady the Minister of Transport straight away because I did not think her speech a practical speech at all. The theme running through the Gracious Speech which we are debating is a thoroughly dictatorial one.
On the constitutional side, we are told that the second Chamber is to be virtually swept away and to become the lackey to the Prime Minister so that he will have the power which any Stuart King would have been proud to have. On the industrial side, as a result of the proposed legislation, the tentacles of State control and influence are to stretch out insidiously to check enterprise by individuals and to subject every initiative to the whim of the Government. The wishes of the consumer, the customer, the man who pays are not to be taken into account at all. He has to learn to take it or leave it. Freedom of choice and variety, things which people in this country value very much, went out with the Conservative Party.
Nothing illustrates this arrogant attitude better than the Government's transport proposals. As spelt out in the Gracious Speech they sound innocent enough. There are vague references to integration, to public control, even to safety, the sort of thing which we have seen many times before in election manifestos. After the Government's three 674 years of office it is a perfect scandal that there should be so far no White Paper spelling out the details of this policy.
The right hon. Lady referred to the canals. She knows that this is not an issue between us and that there are other White Papers we want so that we can debate transport properly. As long ago as 18th July the then Parliamentary Secretary—who, we were glad to see, was recently promoted to the position of Minister of State and whom we congratulate on his elevation—chided us for debating transport before seeing White Papers. In effect, he promised White Papers. Now, 16 weeks after that, all we have is one White Paper, which was produced at 11 o'clock this morning. Apparently, like all the other Government promises, even the production of White Papers is beyond their capacity.
Here is a hopeful thought. Could this delay possibly be a sign of wisdom, a recognition of the extreme complexity of the problem of transport? I wish this were the explanation and that we could take encouragement from the delay and believe that the White Papers when they are eventually published will be fully debated in this House, because that is what the country expects, and that the opinions expressed in the debate on the White Papers will be carefully considered before legislation is introduced. If the right hon. Lady does that, she knows very well that there cannot be any legislation this Session because it is too complicated.
I am afraid, however, that this responsible approach is alien to the right hon. Lady's temperament. I cannot help feeling that the real reason for the delay is that her mind is already made up and she does not want to publish these White Papers in advance of her Bill because that will merely stimulate hostile comment. So she waits until the last possible moment when it is very difficult to do anything about it.
Although we do not know the right hon. Lady's intentions in detail, we have had plenty of indications of the way in which her mind is moving There is to be a National Freight Authority to take over the State transport interest in goods, both rail and road. This means breaking up the Transport Holding Company, which is about the only nationalized 675 concern which has ever worked successfully commercially. That would seem to be a stupid thing to do on its own. Secondly, setting up the National Freight Authority means the removal from British Rail of the freightliners, the one great innovation which held lucrative prospects for the future of British Rail. But they are to go, too. It is no wonder, when this is to be torn away from British Rail, that there should be dismay at the top of the railways industry and that people should be leaving it.
This brain drain—because that is what it is—from the railway industry has been an unfortunate feature of the management of the Labour Party all along. First, Dr. Beeching left. His place was taken by Lord Hinton, whose commonsense report was found so embarrassing that he had to leave, too. We have never heard what he reported, but we have a jolly good idea.
Although Lord Hinton left, it was not before the logic of his report had convinced the then Minister of Transport that the Socialist integration and nationalisation policies were irrelevant to the country's transport needs, and so even the then Minister had to be got rid of. That set off a chain reaction which has resulted in a Scottish Nationalist now representing the former Minister's old seat of Hamilton. This should be a warning to the Labour Party and to the Prime Minister that if he listens to these Left-wing lunatics that he will not last very long, because the country will not put up with this degree of centralised control.
So the drain goes on—Mr. Fiennes one day, Sir Stanley Raymond the next, and now Mr. Shirley, almost the last of the Mohicans. Nor is the City, so we hear, interested as the right hon. Lady hawks her tarnished wares down Lombard Street. I wonder whether it was because of her failure to attract top management that the right hon. Lady paid a visit to Hungary during the Recess. [Interruption.] It is all very fine for the right hon. Lady to say "Oh my God" and invoke the Deity, but we know that her visit to America was not exactly a success.
What did the right hon. Lady expect to bring back from behind the Iron Curtain which had any relevance to traffic conditions in this country—unless she hoped 676 to bring back a tame Hungarian who could turn her mess of pottage into a dainty dish to set before this House. [Laughter.] I am glad that I am getting the right hon. Lady to laugh. At least that is a change, because usually when I am speaking she looks very displeased, as she did earlier today when I interrupted her and pointed out how utterly wrong she was to say that social conditions were never taken into account by the previous Administration when they were considering the closure of railways.
In a way, I suppose that one can say that reorganisation within the nationalised sector of transport, whatever harm it does to the profits of the Transport Holding Company or the morale of the British Railways Board, is the right hon. Lady's business. But what is not her business is, having created, wrongly we think, this unnecessary organisation, for her then to protect it by imposing licence restrictions on private hauliers. If these restrictions were imposed for safety reasons or on amenity grounds, perhaps because of the noise or smell, one could consider that aspect, and since safety and amenity always cost something, one could consider whether it was a reasonable price to ask industry to pay; or if it were done to bring about less congestion on the roads, again that is something for which perhaps a case might be made out, although with over 90 per cent. of the traffic, according to a recent survey in Glasgow, likely to be caused by private cars in a few years' time, the argument about saving congestion on the roads would scarcely seem to hold water.
But, of course, it is not any of those. It is not road safety, it is not amenity, it is not even congestion on the roads which is responsible for this restriction on traders' freedom to choose the kind of transport system best suited to their business. The real reason was given by the Minister of State. Not off the record for a change, waiting for the "leak" which is customary with the Government, but quite openly he let the cat out of the bag when when he said:A lot of money has gone into freightliners. … The country simply cannot afford to see all this money wasted because some people refuse … to spend their own money sensibly when buying freight transport".So here we have the right hon. Lady in her best nannying mood, firmly convinced that she knows what is good for 677 people better than they do themselves. She is creating this new organisation, the National Freight Authority, and then ensuring that it will be financially successful by preventing competition where she thinks that it would hurt the new organisation most. But preventing competition undermines her whole case. If the Authority is all that it is made out to be, surely it does not require any help against competition, and if it is not, then directing traffic on to it which would naturally not go on to it and thereby imposing extra costs on industry and exports is just as objectionable as an outright subsidy. I am not certain that it is not worse, because it is not so clearly visible.
I suppose that what is at the back of all this is that the right hon. Lady wishes to keep the railways more or less as they are. We have been told thatThere must be a period of stability "—and that is in the White Paper published today. Why the railways should be feather-bedded any more than any other industry I cannot understand. "Stability" is a contradiction in terms. It is not possible to have a go-ahead industry and stability.
At any rate, the Minister wishes to have stability and, at the same time as keeping the railways, she wants to reduce the deficit, which is at the moment paid by Government subsidy. What simpler way to achieved this double aim, or at least part of it, than to direct traffic to the railways and then make that traffic foot the bill? It may be simple, but it is not democracy. It is totalitarianism and dictatorship, and that is what the Government are doing to the country. They are abolishing freedom.
Why should this principle of subsidy be accepted so readily? Why should people get transport cheaply? If anything is to be cheap, why transport? Why not people's heating and clothing? What is so special about transport that it should be subsidised, particularly the transport of commuters? I hope that we shall have an answer to that, because it is fundamental to our debate. In a way, this is a debate about subsidies. We want to know the reason for the subsidies and who will pay them. We still have not been told that.
678 The right hon. Lady is always talking about co-ordination and integration. These are her party's "O.K." words now for nationalisation. But co-ordination and integration is not required in transport operations half so much as it is required in Government activity. Today, we have one Department which is trying to prevent people from moving to the conurbations and to attract them to development areas. But it finds its work undone by the activities of the right hon. Lady, who apparently, blissfully unaware of all that her colleagues are doing, is making the attraction of the large cities almost irresistible by putting more sweetness in the honey pot in the form of subsidised transport to commuters.
The Minister will forgive my saying that this policy of hers seems to me to be utterly and absolutely "crackers". The real problem of transport does not consist of hiving off subsidy from the Exchequer for somebody else to pay—sweeping it under the carpet, to employ a favoured phrase of the Prime Minister—but making the system efficient so that it can pay its way. That is what we ought to be directing our minds towards and not merly transferring the subsidy from one person to another.
The problem of transport is far less a problem of the ownership or organisation of transport undertakings. One does not need to be a Minister or an official to make a success of that an ordinary businesman could do it well enough if the circumstances were right. This is where the Government come in, because the problem of transport is much more one of clearing the decks, displaying the true costs of the various kinds of transport, encouraging each kind of transport to develop its capacity to the maximum extent and then allowing the customer to choose what is best suited to his needs—in fact, freedom and competition. That is the only way to check mounting costs and to get an efficient system which provides what people want and not what the Minister thinks they should have.
It is all a problem of organisation inside the Government far more than inside the transport industry. That is why the Government are failing, because instead of going to the root of the problem they are tinkering with the foliage and the branches. Therefore, their legislative 679 proposals, this Session, although doubtless admirable from a Socialist doctrinaire point of view, are utterly irrelevant to the practical needs of transport in a country which must earn its living in a harsh competitive world. Because it must earn its living in a harsh competitive world, transport equally should not be feather-bedded but should be made competitive. For that reason, we will vote against the Government tonight.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Trevor Park (Derbyshire, South-East)
The Amendment which the Opposition have moved refers to the need for practical measures to improve conditions for the travelling public. I am sorry that Opposition spokesmen, up to this stage at least, have shown themselves so unwilling to take their own advice. Instead of talking about practical measures, they have produced their usual dogmatic, doctrinaire and utterly negative reaction to all proposals for change and improvement which come from this side of the House.
The issue which I wish to raise is a practical one of great importance for a substantial number of my constituents, as it is for many of the constituents of other hon. Members throughout the country. Had the Opposition been concerned with genuine transport problems, they would have raised this point. As usual, however, this kind of question has to be left to back benchers on this side of the House.
The problem which I wish to raise arises from anomalies in the operation of the Travel Concessions Act, 1964, the very first Measure to be introduced by the Labour Government. It was one in which that Government took particular pride and to which the Prime Minister has on more than one occasion referred in glowing terms. Its intention was simple: to provide cheap bus fares for old-age pensioners. Its passage through the House was relatively uncontroversial.
As a result of the Act, large number of pensioners have obtained substantial concessions and have on many occasions expressed their appreciation of the high degree of priority which the Labour Government gave to that Measure, from which a large number of pensioners have bene- 680 fited. In many parts of the country, however, including my constituency, equally substantial numbers have obtained no benefit whatever. That is through no fault of their own. It is the result of the accident of their residence and it has been in no way related either to their means or to their needs.
Pensioners who are fortunate enough to live in an area whose local authority operates its own transport undertaking have in most cases been able to obtain the full benefits of the Act. Many pensioners do not so live. I will give two examples, although I am sure that other hon. Members could supply many more. In the Alvaston area of my constituency, the local authority is the South-East Derbyshire Rural District Council, but the rural district does not possess its own transport undertaking. Transport services are provided by the County Borough of Derby. Pensioners residing within that county borough obtain the full benefits of concessionary fares. Those living a few yards down the road in the rural district obtain nothing at all. A journey which costs only 3d. for a county borough resident may well cost a resident of the rural district as much as 1s. 6d. Hon. Members will not be surprised to hear that many of my elderly constituents feel a keen sense of injustice about this situation and do not share the appreciation which others have expressed of the Government's actions.
It is, of course, true that if the county borough and the rural district could reach agreement about costs, the anomaly would be put right, but they have been negotiating unsuccessfully with each other ever since the Act was passed. After three years, they are no nearer agreement than they were when they started.
It is not my duty this afternoon to apportion blame between them. Perhaps, indeed, the blame, like the costs, should be fairly shared. What concerns me is that because two local authorities cannot reach a sensible compromise on what ought to be a straightforward matter, hundreds of old-age pensioners are denied a benefit to which they should be entitled and which the Government intended them to have.
My second example is from another area of my constituency. The Stanley and Stanley Common areas are also parts of 681 the South-East Derbyshire Rural District. Their transport services are provided, not by the County Borough of Derby, but by a private company, the Trent Motor Traction Company. It happens that in those areas there are large numbers of elderly people of only moderate means. It also happens, as is frankly admitted by the bus company, that the fares charged in the area are higher than those charged by the same company elsewhere.
Again, it is not my function to criticise the decisions of the traffic commissioners, although there may well be cogent grounds for doing so. I only say that if an old-age pensioner wishes to travel the few miles into Derby with his wife to visit a cinema or look at the shops, it will cost no less than 7s. 8d. and he will gain no benefit whatever from the operation of the Travel Concessions Act.
The general manager of the bus company, to whom I protested about this, was quite unrepentant. He wrote to me as follows:I would suggest that it is not really up to the Bus Company to subsidise pensioners to the detriment of its other passengers who have to pay the standard fares. I am, of course, aware that a number of municipal omnibus undertakings offer cheaper fares to old-age pensioners, bat I am sure you know that relief can be gained from the rates where that is done. The present provisions of the Transport Concessions Act, however, do not make it possible for a company, even if it wished, to be compensated for making lower charges to any class of passengers, including pensioners.I make no comment on the commercial ethics of the Trent Motor Traction Company. What I do say is that this reply reveals a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs which ought to be put right at once.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport must be aware of these anomalies, and she knows that, although this afternoon I have taken examples from my own constituency, the problem is in fact nationwide. I was assured in August by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that the Minister is reviewing the general anomalies which exist and that she intends to make a statement soon about the position. I want to suggest that a review and a statement are not enough. What thousands of pensioners want is action, and action now, to ensure that they can obtain the concessions now denied to them but which they have a 682 right to secure. If legislation is necessary, then let us have the legislation.
It is possible that the reorganisation of passenger transport on a public authority basis, which my right hon. Friend has promised to introduce, will rectify the anomaly, but I want to suggest to her that the old-age pensioners of Stanley and Alvaston and other parts of South-East Derbyshire and of countless villages and towns throughout the country have waited long enough. Action is overdue, and action should be taken now, if the claims of justice are to be met.
My right hon. Friend's plans for transport reorganisation are, as the reaction of the Opposition this afternoon has shown, more than a little controversial, and it is possible that they may run into difficulties in another place, and that is one reason why I welcome the Government's intention to reduce the powers and to eliminate the hereditary basis of the other place. These transport changes are necessary, and to make such of their implementation the Government should be prepared not only to eliminate its hereditary basis, but its hereditary representation in order to make sure—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
The effect of the Amendment before the House is to restrict the debate today to transport. The hon. Member is getting out of order in mentioning another place in this way.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
Will the hon. Member find a parallel with the method of consultation about the Government's intentions for the other place and also for the victims of the P.T.A.?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Let me deal first with the point of order which has already arisen. Whatever subterfuge the hon. Member is using, I hope that he will not bring the other place into this debate.
§ Mr. Wilkins
On a point of order, for our guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are debating the Queen's Speech and there 683 is a proposal in the Speech to do certain things with regard to the other place. It must be in order for my hon. Friend to make reference to this. I suppose that, technically, I can talk about economic affairs today, irrespective of the agreement to discuss transport?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that it is perfectly in order to make a passing reference to proposals relating to the other place, and that I allowed, but the effect of the Amendment is to restrict the debate on the Queen's Speech to the subject matter of the Amendment, which is transport. This follows the rule of the House.
§ Mr. Park
I promise that the reference which I have almost completed making will pass very quickly, as, I trust, will also the plans for transport reorganisation which my right hon. Friend has in mind. Indeed, if those plans are to pass into operation with all possible speed it is likely to be essential to eliminate the delaying powers which the other place at present possesses.
I shall deal no longer with that particular topic, but the issue of consultation was raised by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), and I would remind him that this Government and, indeed, the Labour Party, have already consulted on those plans a much larger and more important body even than the party opposite—
§ Mr. Park
—in 1964 and again in 1966, and consulted them about their plans for transport reorganisation and their plans for modernising the Parliamentary procedure.
Now I draw my remarks to a close. I trust that when my hon. Friend replies to the debate tonight he will attempt to deal with the points which I have raised, and in particular the point about concessionary fares. It is an important issue. It is an issue which involves Members on both sides of the House, and I trust that the Government will do everything they can possibly do to rectify the anomalies which at present exist.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Park), as he was kind enough to consult me on the subject of consultation. I think it goes to show that if there are concessions rather than proper pensions we cause more anomalies than we do good. I shall not follow the hon. Member into House of Lords reform, because I know that that would cause me more than a little trouble with the Chair.
I myself would congratulate the Minister of Transport upon her brilliant performance at Gorton last week, for she apparently single-handedly won one seat for Labour in the little "General Election". I do not know what she promised them. If she promised them the Gorton version of the Humber Bridge, it seems to have come off, and I do give her my congratulations.
Also, I have no wish to undermine her great generosity. She knew as from last week that there was to be an Amendment to the Motion for an Address, an Amendment on the subject of her various activities and what she proposes to do by means of the Bill which is to come before the House. She had the immense generosity to let us see a very large White Paper at 11 o'clock on the day of the debate, but it took the Cabinet two months, and incidentally, the first half of this document was finished in January of this year and the second half was finished in July of this year, and there were some slight delays while one or two changes in spelling and punctuation were made.
The document came out in September, but the House is given four and a half hours to digest the document which took the Cabinet two months. I am not surprised that the Minister has gone away, perhaps to think over the next proposition.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
Would my hon. Friend not agree that it seemed from the speech of the right hon. Lady that she expected us to discuss only the inland waterways today?
§ Mr. Webster
Yes, I think so. I think that she wanted us to go canoeing, and that she wants to go canoeing throughout the country.
685 However, we will do our best in the circumstances. We have seen through this tactic by the Minister of Transport to keep the House from discussing the very serious matters concerning the public transport authorities.
The House will remember clearly that the right hon. Lady did her best during the summer to keep the matter secret. What she did was to designate the four areas. She then went to each of the four areas, and, before meeting the local authorities concerned and having consultations, she held a Press conference in the morning, followed, no doubt, by what she would call a "working lunch", which is a perfectly ghastly idea to me. She then met the local authority representatives in the afternoon and became involved in not unacrimonious dispute. At the end, no doubt the local authority representatives said that they wanted to make an agreed statement to the Press, only to be told that the matters discussed were confidential.
That is like saying to a man, "I propose to cut off your head. Come and discuss with me how I should do it."[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) does not represent one of the potential Public Transport Authority areas, but I can assure him that the idea will spread to Bristol.
§ Mr. Webster
Not at all, but I will explain the proposals to the hon. Gentleman, because his constituency will become involved after the four major conurbations have been dealt with. It is proposed to take over, lock, stock and barrel, the whole public transport investment of the cities concerned, without any compensation, except a funding of its floating debt, if that is the correct term. In the case of Birmingham, the asset value is £10,000, and there will be no compensation as there is no floating debt.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I was a member of the Bristol City Council in 1936 when the city took a half share in the private undertaking. I was one of two members who voted in favour of the municipality taking over the whole undertaking. If 686 it had done so, Bristol would have been a lot better off today.
§ Mr. Webster
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad that he has gone back into ancient history—
§ Mr. Webster
We see the threat that the ratepayers in these areas will suffer. First, they will have their property sequestrated from them. There are hon. Members of the House who represent constituencies in Gateshead, Newcastle, Birmingham, Salford and Liverpool who should consider themselves to be the custodians of the ratepayers' money. I hope that a number of them will serve on the Committee which considers the Bill.
We shall want to know what they are doing for ratepayers in their constituencies and what is to be the benefit in return for the sequestration of their property. If the journey by bus is to be allowed, will it be cheaper, will it be faster and more frequent? We shall want to know the improvement in conditions of the people who travel.
The Minister has clouded the issue by putting up as a smoke screen a White Paper which took the Cabinet two months to discuss. She expects the House to discuss it at four hours' notice. That is the issue which she should have answered, and I hope that the Minister of Technology will be able to give us the answer.
The whole matter has been concealed from the ratepayers concerned, and they want to know what is to happen to their property. This is not the Conservative Party saying, "We do not believe in public ownership." This is the property of great cities. If it is to be taken away and given to anonymous public transport authorities with no compensation in return, it is highway robbery to the nth degree. If there is a bus service running parallel to an unremunerative railway branch line, will it be closed? The ratepayers' property having been taken from them, will the bus route be closed, obliging people to travel by rail, knowing that railway stations are less frequent along the line? In addition, will the ratepayers of those cities have to take over the local railway deficits in their areas?
687 As the Minister has asked us to talk about the White Paper, may I point out that paragraph D.9, headed, "Passenger Transport Authorities", makes reference to compensation and says that the Minister will examine costings in exactly the same way as in the case of other unremunerative branch lines which are to be kept on for social purposes. If that is the case, is she to be the person who makes the decision, and are the ratepayers to be precepted in respect of an unlimited amount? If so, the ratepayers wish to know about it.
I have about 50 Questions waiting to go down on the Order Paper asking about this point. I will not weary the House with them today, but I know that, if I had put down similar Questions before, I should have got the Minister's usual genial answer that I should await the White Paper. Having waited for the White Paper, I shall have to put them down again and ask if she is able to answer them. The consultation is inadequate and will have to continue after publication of the White Paper with the industry, with the ratepayers and with their interests very much in mind.
The Minister has insisted that we have a special debate on the White Paper which she has generously published today. However, we shall need another debate on her White Paper dealing with the National Freight Authority, a second on that concerned with her licensing proposals, and a third on that dealing with the P.T.A.s. Three separate debates will be required before we come to Second Reading. As the Minister insists on having specific debates on the White Papers, she has set herself a precedent, and, if she wants to discuss inland waterways as well, we shall give her a Friday morning for that.
Why is there delay in issuing these White Papers? Is there disagreement between the Minister and the local authorities, or is there concealment of the facts? In either event, we want to know, and the matter should be raised in the House in full debate on the White Paper, with hon. Members representing the local authorities concerned taking a full part. We want to hear hon. Members from Manchester, Liverpool and Gateshead looking after the interests of their ratepayers. If they do not, the rate- 688 payers will push them, as we have seen in the case of various parts of Scotland and the regions—[Laughter.]
The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray) thinks that it is very funny. I wonder whether he is aware that, should his own local authority wish to object against the sequestration of its transport undertaking, there is no provision for it under the Bill.
§ Mr. Albert Murray (Gravesend)
In my local authority area there is much more dissatisfaction with the private undertakings than with the municipal undertaking.
§ Mr. Webster
I can hear rumblings from some of my hon. Friends who appear to hold an alternative view. In his desire for his undertaking to be taken over by a P.T.A., with only one local authority representative on it, will he allow this Measure to go through with no objection about the terms of the designation order and the sequestration?
What facts are there to prove that this is a better system and that a bigger bus undertaking is more efficient than a small one? In an excellent document, Mr. Glasborough has proved that the cost per bus mile is least in an undertaking of less than 30 buses, that they are more intimately connected with the needs of the area, and that they serve it properly, more efficiently, and with greater care.
What objections can a local authority make if it has an unending rate precept for a deficiency in the buses and for a large section of the railway deficit? These are matters which hon. Members opposite should ponder before we come to the Committee Stage, otherwise they will be in a very embarrassing situation with their constituents.
We want to know what is to be the Treasury compensation and what will be the terms of it. If there is Treasury compensation, Treasury takes charge. That is the direction from the centre at Whitehall. Why have we got to have this before there is the Royal Commission's report? The Minister of Transport has given evidence to the Royal 689 Commission on the question of boundaries. Why all this rush? Does it mean that the Royal Commission on local government will be held up unduly as an excuse for not having boundary commission reform? There is great hurry in this side of it, but no such great hurry when it comes to conurbation transport authorities. I hope that the Minister of Technology is taking very careful note of that and will let me have an answer.
What are to be the suggestions for reduction of congestion in these areas that the traffic commissioners, with 30 years of excellent and devoted service behind them, cannot give? We want to know the facts; we do not want nostrums. Why have traffic commissioners to be abolished? The Minister gives them power. If she does not like the power that they have she can change it, and the House would help her.
What advantage is there in forcing commuters on to the railways? Why create a series of London Transport boards which, before this Government took office, were balancing their books, whereas in the last three years £16 million of central taxpayers money has gone to subsidise the poor citizens of London? This is because the service has deteriorated. They are the licensing authority. They keep their own competitors off the road and they need not bother a hoot about the service they give to the user. This is what happens and this is what the Minister is trying to propagate. There have been many expensive women in the history of this country, and the present Minister of Transport is very high in that league.
Then we go on to taxis and hovercraft and things like that. A nationalised taxi service! What a charming thought.
The area of freight proposals of this Government is littered with the resignations of distinguished men. Lord Beeching and Lord Hinton both left because they were unable to express an independent opinion. Gerald Fiennes expressed an independent opinion and then left, and a lot of us sympathised very much with what he had to say. Mr. Shirley, who has rendered splendid service for the railways in the freight liner system, has also left. There is also doubt and speculation as to the future of Sir Stanley Raymond.
690 This is bad for the industry. It means that management is not allowed to fulfil its proper function of getting the maximum earning from its assets and, f not, to either get the central taxation or the local taxation to assist. It is nothing new to this Minister to suggest this. It has been suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and it has been suggested by Lord Watkinson in the past. There is nothing revolutionary about that.
I come now to the subject of quality control. I have visited industrial firms regarding the aspect of the traffic manager. I hope that the Minister of Technology can help me here. If he looks at the conditions of the quality control of the traffic manager he will find that the responsibilities there are impossibly onerous, because this man will be personally responsible for his traffic manager's licence for the maintenance of the vehicles. What happens if there is a splitting of depots and the actual distribution is from one depot and the maintenance is from another? The responsibility must surely be equally that of the engineer as of the traffic manager. What happens, for instance, if a traffic manager demands from the board of his company better facilities for maintenance and the board refuses? The traffic manager then loses his licence—or this is the fear, and I would be grateful for clarification—whereas the fault is not his, but that of his board of directors. So he loses his livelihood, or, if he wishes to keep it, he has to give evidence in court against his own board of directors. I would be grateful for clarification on this and so would many other people in the industry. I read the excellent paper by Mr. Featherstone, but I have been to my old company, the British Oxygen Company, and the same anxiety was expressed to me by people trying to operate these traffic fleets.
I feel that quantity licensing is complete lunacy. It is happening in Germany and it is probably one of the reasons why the German Government are now beginning to go through "rocky" times. There seems to be an unholy alliance between our Minister of Transport and the German Minister of Transport. She seems to be getting nearer to Europe for the first time. They do not like it in Bonn and they will not like it here.
691 One hundred miles freight will be appealed against by the railways on the grounds of speed, cost, or reliability. What happens if it is one of the three or two of the three which are equivalent to the applicant road haulier? What is the definition of bulk? Is it bulk cement, bulk iron ore—I see my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson) —or bulk broccoli coming up from the West Country? What is the definition of bulk, because this is the objection of over 25 miles carrying and this is absolutely unlimited?
What happens if the railways, which would be the National Freight Organisation, give evidence, their evidence is accepted, the application is turned down, and the railways, not for the first time, are unable to fulfil their promise? We should have in that event, not only compensation, but damages, because freight fleets will have gone out of business and will not be there to come back because they will have been destroyed.
What happens if there is a strike? What form of flexibility will there be? What happens if the railways object and then it is given to the B.R.S.? These are some of the thoughts which I leave with the Minister of Technology. I say to him and to the Minister of Transport, who is busy, that the road haulage industry, over the last three years, has tried genuinely and sincerely to co-operate with the Government, and successive Ministers of Transport have paid tribute to it. It has almost leaned over backwards to co-operate.
I now have the feeling that it has been abused and that it knows it has and that this consultation has been completely phoney. It has simply been a picking of its brains. I would remind the Government that their function is not to get control of every aspect of the economy of this country, but to improve the betterment of the conditions of the people. If they failed to do it, the country will return its verdict in the near future.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)
The frightening feature of the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) was its utter lack of constructive suggestions. It was frightening 692 because he speaks for the Opposition as the shadow Minister of Transport, the alternative to my right hon. Friend. The present Minister of Transport is petite, everyone would agree, but she deserves a bigger shadow than that. I was wondering why the Opposition should have chosen a shadow with so little substance till I heard the two speeches that followed from his hon. Friends.
It is quite clear that the Opposition has no transport policy whatsoever. One of them suggested that my right hon. Friend should go to the constituencies where there are by-elections and save the seats for Labour. I would not recommend that. I would prefer to send the shadow Minister of Transport to tell them what the Tory policy is, because that would bring us a harvest similar to the one in 1966.
What did the shadow Minister say? First, he expressed his concern over the remarks of the C.B.I. The hon. Gentleman so often supports vested interests that it must be an embarrassment to the new image which the Conservatives are trying to create to make less conspicuous their regard for property.
What caused nausea in my stomach equal to that which I felt when an hon. Gentleman supported the Tolpuddle Martyrs was the discovery of the Opposition's regard for the municipal ownership of transport. They are suddenly concerned about municipal ownership. I hope that they will remember this when we next debate housing.
It is remarkable that hon. Gentlemen opposite should object to the principle of the new conurbation authorities, because the principle here is much the same as that of the London Transport Board which they set up many years ago. I am not suggesting that we should have the same kind of structure, but the argument which hon. Gentlemen opposite have been using against the new conurbation authorities could have been used against setting up the Transport Board.
When the hon. Gentleman dealt with the central problem facing the road-rail relationship, he attacked my right hon. Friend for attempting, for the first time in our history, to tackle this difficulty, but he went on to say that the deficit on the railways had been growing since Beeching's day. It has been growing 693 simply because this problem of the road-rail relationship has not been tackled. Other countries have had to cope with this problem, and as soon as they have tackled it they have reduced their deficits. Europe and Japan have dealt with the problem by direct Government intervention.
The Opposition maintain that there must be the maximum amount of competition in transport, but they do not always apply that principle to the merging of various concerns to create a private monopoly.
The central problem in transport is under-used capacity. This is why many transport concerns do not pay their way. Any organisation which gets rid of duplicated services and increases the use of other services does a lot to increase productivity and pay its way. The situation today is that the railways have a deficit of £130 million a year because they are under-used. If they were used to capacity, or even nearly so, they would show a handsome profit. The roads, on the other hand, are over-used, with a loss to the nation of at least £1,000 million a year due to congestion, and perhaps £240 million a year through accidents.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Has the hon. Gentleman calculated how much less congestion there is likely to be on the roads if the Government's proposals are carried out?
§ Mr. Atkins
It is impossible for me to make such a calculation. My statement about a loss of £1,000 million is based on scientific studies carried out by official bodies. It is believed that in a few years' time the cost of congestion will be about £2,000 million, which is equivalent to the biggest item of State expenditure at the moment, namely on armaments.
My right hon. Friend is attempting to get things right. She wants to use the railways to the full, and by so doing change a deficit into a profit, and at the same time reduce the cost of congestion on the roads. I agree that the roads will still be congested, but at least a partial solution to the problem will have been found.
There is a lot of opposition from hon. Gentlemen opposite to traffic going on to the railways, and we know why they take this view. They say that the roads pay 694 their way, or, to put it another way, that the expenditure on roads is less than the revenue received from road users. What they conveniently forget is that the capital charges for the majority of our roads have never been paid by road users, but by the taxpayers. Much of our road network was completed before the heyday of motoring, and the capital cost was enormous. This should be remembered when there is an argument about the relative profitability of roads and railways.
I think that we should remember, too, the cost of congestion on the roads. Although the figures are not shown in any company returns, road congestion results in a great loss to the nation, both directly and indirectly. It also adds to our export difficulties. The cost of accidents is estimated at about £240 million a year, but one cannot calculate the cost in terms of human lives.
Even if we accept that revenue from the roads meets the cost of expenditure, or exceeds it, this does not settle the issue, because it is necessary to analyse the amount received from road users. The majority of motorists do not use the roads for commercial reasons. They are either private motorists, or they use company cars which are not run very economically, particularly as, to a certain extent at any rate, the Exchequer pays for them.
Commercial road users, because they are in a minority, under-subscribe to the cost of the roads, and therefore receive a cross-subsidy from the private motorist. Because of this they have an advantage when they compete with the railways. It is unfair to allow unfettered competition between road and rail, particularly as the motorists who pay most of the cost to maintain the roads suffer most from the congestion caused by heavy traffic. It is this heavy traffic which my right hon. Friend wants to put on to the railways.
We should remember, too, that in the past the railways have been fettered by the restrictions imposed under the common carrier obligations on their freedom to engage in commercial activity. But this system gave a start to commercial road users which is enabling them to go forward at a great rate.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
But does not the hon. Member agree that, as an economic principle, if motorists are going to use the roads and pay for them to be built 695 it would be silly of us not to use them also as the most economic method of transporting freight?
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Member overlooks the fact that heavy freight is not merely using the roads but wearing them out. The American state authorities have looked into this question very closely, and although these figures are not always accepted in their entirety they express a valid principle. In the United States some roads are used exclusively for certain kinds of traffic and the state authorities have worked out a ratio to the effect that the cost of wear and tear of roads varies according to the weight on the axle of the vehicle, to the fourth power. In terms of numbers this means that 1,000 12-ton lorries do as much damage to a road as 1,600,000 motorcars. It is easy to see why the slow lane of the M1 has so quickly been worn out.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
There is also the third point, that the bridges have to be made that much stronger in order to carry these lorries.
§ Mr. Atkins
That is true, and at the moment British Rail is involved in considerable costs in strengthening its bridges. We must also remember—and here I have sympathy for the many respectable and responsible lorry firms—that pirate lorry firms are able to grow by their sheer inefficiency and tendency to break the law. We have all seen them. Someone buys up second-hand lorries, rejected by British Road Services or some other reputable firm. He does not garage the lorries; he leaves them in a public car park in a town, at no expense to him. He does not maintain them properly, and he makes sure that his drivers break the law in order to earn a living wage.
My right hon. Friend is going to change that. She is going to consider the question of licensing much more carefully. That will help not only the railways but also the respectable and responsible firms, whose costs are higher because they run their lorries as they should be run. This reform is long overdue.
Much road traffic is carried for no commercial reason. I have made some inquiries into this. I have gone to the transport departments of various firms. 696 I remember one in East Anglia. I asked the transport manager how he sent his goods, and he said, "Oh, always by road. Sending them by rail is hopeless —slower, dearer", and the rest of it. In the meantime, I made some inquiries about this man and I discovered that he had a brother in the transport business and that his firm's goods were being carried by his brother's firm.
A little later there was the danger of the closure of the railway line which served his factory, and the owner of the factory, wanting to save the line, decided to send his goods by rail. Two or three weeks later the Press asked him how things were going, and he said, "Very well. Speed and price are comparable. As a matter of fact, using the parcels service means quicker deliveries." We should not assume that everyone in society is a rational, economic man; he is not. Many things like this happen.
I can cite a further example of uneconomic transport by road. A few years ago a diesel locomotive was sent from Glasgow to Olympia. One would have thought that it would have gone under its own power, but no; it was taken on a large lorry, the journey taking a fortnight, during the August Bank Holiday. It was escorted by the police all the way, and caused so much congestion that the Press were concerned about it and asked why this diesel locomotive should have to go by road. Question and answer went as follows: "Is it cheaper by road?" "Oh, no. It is much more expensive." "Is it quicker by road?" "No. The locomotive could have got there in half a day." "Then why was this done?" "So that the locomotive could arrive in the exhibition in mint condition."
My right hon. Friend is taking power to stop this kind of chaotic nonsense. It has already been stopped in other countries and this has helped to solve their transport problems. Why cannot it be done here?
§ Mr. G. Campbell
Surely the hon. Gentleman has taken the most extraordinary example in referring to a bit of a train that was taken by road. This House is not disputing that in that case the locomotive might well have gone by rail. What most of us are concerned with are goods used by industry and commerce.
§ Mr. Atkins
It certainly is an extraordinary example, but no doubt there are others. It proves that goods are being carried on the roads quite uneconomically, merely because things are allowed to drift. We have many inefficient firms, as well as efficient ones. We should not allow the inefficient ones to drag the country down into economic depression, and some direction must come from somewhere if economic forces do not act rationally, as is frequently the case.
If the result of the Minister's action is to increase the use of British Rail there will be an enormous increase in productivity and profits. Nothing would boost the national economy more than solving our transport problem. One of our greatest problems is getting prompt deliveries of goods not only abroad but internally. It is remarkable how many times a firm may have to wait for six months for components from another firm. This is one reason why so many efficient firms are adopting the company train system. It enables them to begin to solve their problems.
There has been much criticism about the National Freight Authority. At first I was concerned about it, and would have preferred to see it under the control of British Rail, but since I have investigated the matter I have begun to appreciate the reason for my right hon. Friend's decision, although she has not stated it. Considering what Members on both sides of the House have said in the past in criticism of British Rail management, it is remarkable how much they love that management today.
We frequently criticise British Rail management for looking back too far and particularly for its weakness in sales promotion, which, according to my fairly considerable experience is its greatest weakness. This National Freight Authority will be a sales promotion body under different management and we may stand a better chance of co-ordinating our freight transport services by taking as much freight as possible by rail instead of otherwise.
Those who are concerned about the reputable road transport firms should remember that they will not suffer, because road traffic will increase enormously and, if we do not do something to settle the congestion, the national 698 economy will suffer and they will suffer as well. If the Opposition took this problem out of party politics, as it has been taken by Conservative Government in Europe, we would arrive at the solution to this terrible problem, which is worse in Britain than in most of our competitor countries. We would then strike a blow not only for good transport but for a strong national economy.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I support the Amendment. As one who spent 20 years in the railway service, including one year with British Railways, and, as far as I know, the only hon. Member who is a member of the Institute of Transport, I would say that none of us can go into the Minister's speech in great detail, because her concluding sentences referred to something which she will publish tomorrow and most of the rest to a White Paper based on a Report which was prepared in September, although issued only at 11 o'clock this morning, and which none of us has had much chance to study.
However, she challenged this side about whether we believe that an uneconomic railway service should be kept going for social reasons. She should study the history of railway debates in this House over a period, because this matter has been of interest for a number of years and was considered by Conservative Governments. The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, under the chairmanship of Sir Toby Low, as he then was, recommended that an uneconomic branch line which was necessary for social reasons should be kept open and subsidised by the State, and in a White Paper the then Conservative Government did not reject that recommendation but left a decision open.
Subsequently, the Coal Board was inclined to take advantage of the proposal that an uneconomic service should be subsidised as an argument in favour subsidising uneconomic coal pits so, instead of accepting that recommendation of Sir Toby Low's Committee the Government issued a White Paper saying that they had considered that the financial objectives which a nationalised industry should be required to find should take into account those sums which the industry was called upon to pay because of Government 699 decisions. Thus in effect, the Conservative Government did accept the proposal.
There is a passage in the Beeching Report in which Dr. Beeching said that there would be instances in which, for social reasons, commuter services would have to be retained, so it is not true to say that Conservative Governments have always rejected the proposition that an uneconomic line should be closed despite social consideration. It was clear from the statement made to the House by the then Minister of Transport my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) when closures were first considered that social reasons would be considered by the Ministry.
The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins) seemed to be repeating many of the old nationalisation arguments. It seems to be taken for granted by hon. Members opposite that there is some inherent public advantage in public ownership and that competition and the incentives of the profit motive are wasteful of resources, and that central planning is all that is necessary. They make no attempt to show that change in ownership or the structure of industry will result in any cheaper or more convenient service.
We on this side are Tories, not Whigs. We have never advocated and do not believe in unrestricted laissez faire activity. We have always maintained that it is the duty of the Government, in the public interest, to lay down guide lines within which private enterprise should operate but that those guide lines should be wide, to allow for the initiative and the inventive genius of individuals. This is particularly so in transport. The hon. Member said that we do not like competition because we agree to amalgamations in industry, but this is a different matter. In transport, there should be wide opportunities for competition, because the pattern always changes all the time and in recent years has changed rapidly.
Hon. Members opposite never appreciate that transport is a means to an end and not an end in itself. As I have said before in this House, a person transports himself or his goods from one point to another for some purpose of his own and decides whether to do so by one form of transport or another, according to his estimate of which form is the cheaper or 700 the more convenient or by some combination of the two factors, which vary so much that no one else can estimate what judgment he is making.
The hon. Member for Preston, North talked of someone transporting a railway engine by road because he wanted to keep it in mint condition; in other words, he did not want it to be scratched or damaged. Apparently, the person transporting it wanted it on show and thought it important that it should not be damaged—
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins
Perhaps I should explain. It would hardly have been scratched on the way down, because, unlike conditions on the roads, vehicles on the railways do not overlap the width of the track. The trouble would come from a little heat in the diesel engine, perhaps making the paint less bright and requiring dusting and cleaning in Olympia, which they did not want to do.
§ Mr. Wilson
In that case, the owner thought that it was worth paying the extra cost to avoid that disadvantage, and only he could decide—
§ Mr. Wilson
In his estimate, he was being efficient. The value to him of having the machine presented in mint condition at Olympia was worth the extra cost. The only point which arises is whether he should be allowed to take advantage of that value by inconveniencing other people on the roads—
§ Mr. Wilson
All right—perhaps we may leave that point.
It is extremely difficult to decide the advantages or disadvantages of any form of transport, and the best a central authority can do is to estimate the average advantage. That is not good enough for a great many people who have a special need and the effect is stultifying. This comes about not because the management of a nationalised industry is lazy or incompetent, but because a monster central organisation just cannot adapt itself quickly enough to the ever-changing needs of the public.
701 I believe that the pattern of transport is already too rigid and does not allow sufficiently for development. A freer system would allow either the passenger or the trader to meet his own needs, or the enterprising private man to meet the peculiarities of any particular need in the hope of making a profit. If I am right in that, we need a widening of the guide lines now restricting private enterprise and not a narrowing of them. As it is, we already have too many of these massive centralised boards and bodies, and the Government and the right hon. Lady apparently propose to have more.
First, we are to have the National Freight Authority, of which we have heard very little except that no one seems to like it—neither the railways, the holding company nor the road hauliers. We have net been told what benefit it is supposed to bring to the public but no doubt we shall have opportunities of further debate on the subject.
We heard a great deal about the passenger transport authority and what we have heard is much more disturbing, especially to a Member of Parliament like myself who comes from a rural area which is particularly dependent on transport. Cornwall is a peninsula sticking out into the Atlantic and everything we buy and sell has to come from and go in the one direction—eastwards. Anyone visiting us must come from the east, and anyone wishing to leave the county also has to go eastwards. We are therefore, very dependent on transport, and long distance transport at that.
Apparently, the passenger transport authorities are to be set up in the first place in the conurbations, but it is specifically said that they will not be limited to the boundaries of the built-up areas, and rural districts will therefore be included. It appears that this state of affairs could be extended anywhere in the country.
It appears that the public transport authorities are to be given powers that would be the envy of Cecil Rhodes. Hon. Members will remember that Cecil Rhodes was supposed to have said of the South Africa Company that he regretted it had not been given the power to make war, because every other conceivable power was included in its charter. The public transport authorities are not being 702 given power to make war, but they can do almost everything else—run charter buses, operate hovercraft, monorails, taxicabs, restaurants and almost anything one can think of.
It is well known that most bus companies, whether wholly nationalised, as are the Tillings Group companies, which are owned by the holding company, or partially nationalised as are the B.E.T. companies, which are partially owned by the holding company, cross-subsidise their unprofitable rural services from their profitable routes in the towns. If we are to take away their profitable services in the towns and give them to someone else, it follows that the rural population will get a worse service because the bus companies will not be able to cross-subsidise the rural services.
It also appears from what we hear of these authorities that if the bus services or the railway services in their area make a loss and a subsidy is called for, the money will be obtained by precept from the county council which will, in turn, get it from the local authorities. The rural ratepayer may thus find himself not only paying for the town services but getting a worse service himself.
It is all very well for the Minister to say that we shall be increasing democratic control and municipal ownership, but the point has already been made that, whatever may be the exact composition of these authorities, the Minister will nominate some of those serving on them, even if she does not nominate the chairmen, while the other persons to be nominated will be subject to her control. There is not very much democratic management there.
It may be good to have vehicles under 30 cwt. free of all licensing, and a good deal can be said for qualitative licensing. In some respects these proposals follow those made by the Geddes Committee, but the general tenor of that Committee's Report was that it would be good to have greater competition among road hauliers on the ground that it would produce a better service; that circumstances had entirely altered from the 'twenties and 'thirties when the licensing system first came in and that it was time to have a rather freer system.
However, there seem to be serious objections to quantitative controls, with the 703 railways being able to object to hauls of over 100 miles or bulk traffic hauled over 25 miles. We will probably debate the details later, but how is it proposed to provide for the comparatively common case of the normally short-distance haulier who yet does a few long-distance hauls, perhaps to keep the goodwill of a certain customer or on a particular occasion? Has he to go through all the paraphernalia of getting a special licence instead of licensing his vehicle as at present he may do?
When we speak of bulk hauls over 25 miles, what is meant by "bulk"? My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) asked whether it would apply to broccoli. As a West Country Member, I hope that it will not. It presumably will apply to coal and to china clay. At present, an appreciable quantity of coal comes into Cornwall by road and a larger quantity of china clay leaving Cornwall goes by road. It is quite remarkable and undesirable that traffic eminently suitable for rail should go by road, but the answer is not quantitative control, and insistence on people dealing with the traffic in a way they do not want to do. The answer is to allow the railways to compete.
I accept a certain responsibility for the mistake we made in including Section 53 in the 1962 Act. I was a member of the Standing Committee that included this Section on the assumption that we would be helping coastal shipping. Section 53 enables anyone interested in coastal shipping to object to the railways charging less than the full economic cost of transport for goods that could be earned by coastal shipping. We thought that it sounded very nice and would help coastal shipping, but Mr. Fiennes, when general manager of Western Region, told me that as a result he was unable to reduce the carriage charge on coal into Cornwall or on china clay out of Cornwall, although he was willing and anxious to do so and had the spare capacity on the railway which would have enabled him to do so.
It is not a good thing to proliferate authorities or to have too rigid a form of central control. These matters only add to the complications of our transport system and, for all these reasons, I support the Amendment.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Murray (Gravesend)
I welcome the passage in the Queen's Speech indicating that legislation will be introduced to integrate Britain's road, rail and other forms of transport. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) used so many clichés in their speeches that if those clichés were miles of road and were laid end to end my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport would have sufficient roads to solve the motorway problem.
If we have today seen the massive attack from hon. Gentlemen opposite that we were told to expect at the time of the Tory Party conference, one need only look at the almost empty benches opposite to realise what an empty attack this has been. Like so many fireworks on Saturday and Sunday night, this attack has turned out to be a damp squib. We had a shadowy attack from the shadowy Minister of Transport, which proved to be no more effective than his speech at the Tory Party conference.
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson) said that people should be allowed to form their own judgment of the best means of sending their goods. One would like in all circumstances to allow people to choose for themselves but, particularly when considering transport problems, one must consider the effect that this type of choice has on other people.
I live in and represent a constituency within the commuter belt of London. My constituents do not have much choice. They can commute by either road or rail. We have no inland waterways, except the Thames—and not many people want to commute by that means.
If we are to allow London's roads to become more and more clogged with traffic—with ever more transport making its way into the centre—chaos will result. There must, therefore, be some restriction and I would welcome any restriction on heavy transport which would be to the benefit of the community generally and not just to the profiteering of so-called private enterprise.
To solve London's traffic problem, bold steps must be taken. A new tube to Brixton is to be welcomed, but the 705 Government should be more farsighted and extend the tube right out, right around London, even to Dartford, Bromley and similar areas, and particularly those places which at present are badly served by trains.
The hon. Member for Hillhead asked why commuters should be subsidised. If he had to travel to London on some of the trains on which my constituents travel he would be pressing for commuters to be paid.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Gentleman has explained that conditions are very bad, and no one is denying that. However, why should people in other parts of the country subsidise London's commuters when the Government say they are trying to spread industry to those oilier parts?
§ Mr. Murray
Successive Governments have built up London as a vast office centre. Whereas in the past families were able to obtain housing and businesses obtain their labour locally, that is no longer the case. While London is the centre of government and commerce, labour is vital; and this means people having to live a considerable way out of the centre, where they are able to obtain housing. It is virtually impossible to buy a three-bedroomed house in or very near London for anything like £4,000.
If we are asking commerce and Government to be maintained in London, we must draw people in from the outskirts to operate London as a commercial centre. I would welcome the Government decentralising some of their offices into my constituency and elsewhere, but this is a vicious circle and I fear that for a long time these difficulties will not be overcome. I therefore see no reason why, if London is to be a commercial and governmental centre, the commuters who are asked to come in to operate that centre should not be given some sort of subsidy.
The real problem, of course, is that our railways are under-used. There would be no need for great subsidies if our railways were used to the extent we should be using them. That is why I say that adequate and proper services, particularly like the tube, are necessary. 706 While being careful at present when speaking of Anglo-French relations, I am sure that hon. Members will agree that the metro express services now being developed in Paris seem to be a partial answer to the traffic problems of that city. A greater development of the tube concept in and around London would help to solve our problems.
It is no good the Government saying, "We cannot afford to do these things". With the present build-up of traffic in the South-East, they must afford them. The time is coming when, with the Channel tunnel and other developments, provision will have to be made for masses of industry and housing in this part of England. Something must be done to take off the pressure, particularly for commuters.
Reference is frequently made to the cost of travelling. Since the war successive Governments in virtually every democratic country have found it impossible to keep prices down. There is, therefore, no reason why the railways should say, "We charged £X in 1945 for a season ticket. We should charge the same now". While I accept this state of affairs, it seems that whenever a price increase is mooted, particularly on the buses, the bus companies always win, despite the machinery of the Commission for consultation. Complaints are made, but in the end the fares go up. The system of consultation needs strengthening and I do not see why, on some occasions, the fares should not go up.
In my constituency there are two forms of bus transport. The first is covered by London Transport while the other is covered by the Maidstone and District Bus Company. As I pointed out in an intervention earlier, I receive more complaints about the privately operated bus services than about London Transport.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
About this so-called privately operated company; is it in the ownership of the holding company, either through the B.E.T. or the Tillings Group?
§ Mr. Murray
Not to my knowledge, and I certainly hope not, because some of the company's holdings are displaying anti-nationalisation posters.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
To be fair, will the hon. Gentleman admit that his constituency is also one terminus of a successful private venture, the Thames Weald Travel Company, which I helped to start and which runs buses from Sevenoaks to Gravesend—thereby filling a gap left by the abandonment of the route by London Transport? The hon. Gentleman should pay tribute to the service provided by this private company and I hope that he will not let any P.T.A. muck about with it.
§ Mr. Murray
I will pay tribute if the hon. Gentleman promises not to put the fares up in the next couple of years. Certainly it is filling a gap and is very widely used, but the hon. Gentleman must face the fact that the service represents a rather dicey operation. Even the owner drives it on some occasions, and there is also a doctor involved. It is not the sort of service about which one can say, "I guarantee the times when the bus will come along this road" because the doctor might be delivering elsewhere. It does not seem to me that one can equate this with a genuine bus service. But the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it is valuable where there is no other bus service.
§ Mr. Onslow
That service is a great deal better than no service. This is private enterprise filling a gap left by State industry.
§ Mr. Murray
The hon. Gentleman must know that there is not an absolute guarantee such as one has with a larger undertaking that, for instance, the 130 bus will be on time. But people may use his bus service and have a great deal of praise for it.
As I was saying, we have two bus services in my constituency, and I get more complaints about the privately owned one than I do about the London Transport one. This goes particularly for a recent increase in fares, which I asked my right hon. Friend to pass on to the Prices and Incomes Board where I thought the charges were exorbitant. If we get an efficient all-round service with stability in fares, the new undertaking, which I hope will cover my area, will be very welcome.
Road safety has been overlooked in the debate. I am sure that hon. Members 708 will recently have received leaflets, usually all addressed in the same hand, about breathalysers. Obviously, they were handed round in pubs for signature. I do not know whether it was at closing time, but I cannot always read some of the signatures. However, I think that the Minister ought to clear up the question of random testing. It appears from letters that I have received that other steps are being taken to stop the carnage on our roads. But it ought to be made clear that there will not be any random testing, and a more definitive statement ought to be made.
I should like to know whether all the smaller interests are to be considered in the reorganisation of ports. It seems to me that if smaller groups are not careful their voices will be swamped by the bigger organisations such as the Port of London Authority, some of the shipowners, Trinity House and the Transport Board. I hope that the views of some of the smaller groups—such as the pilots, who are almost self-employed and are in very small groups because there are not many of them, and trades like lighterage, again a small group and a trade which is losing members year by year, the tug boat owners and watermen —will be given just as much weight as those of the larger organisations. I look for an assurance that that will be SO.
As a representative of a riparian area, I feel that we tend to ignore the possibilities of the River Thames through London. We go back again to the vicious circle as we did with the Brentford Dock. Because of railway difficulties and closures, it was allowed to die. When it came up for a change of ownership people said that it was not being used enough. It meant that anyone coming from the west of London after the closure of the dock had to go right through to the ports on the eastern side of London, again adding to London congestion.
Although I have made certain criticisms of the transport policy by saying that I think there are certain things which ought to be done, for too long we have waited for a Government prepared to do something about our transport system. For too long we have had competing interests, not competing interests in dealing with the general public but competing interests in terms of the profit 709 that could be made from certain journeys. These competing interests have brought danger to our roads. I wonder how many hon. Members going home tonight in cars will see lorries with only one light working and with mudguards flapping, the sort of thing that should be stamped out on our roads. If we are to have road transport integrated with our rail system, it should be safe not only for the users but for the rest of society.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The speeches by the hon. Members for Gravesend (Mr. Murray) and Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins) had one thing in common. They took the view that someone somewhere in authority knew best what the form of transport should be for the average person and firm in this country.
One hon. Member said that the rail services were cheaper and that if only people knew about the services that were available they would choose them. I ask hon. Members seriously to consider whether the average businessman is prepared to throw away a service which is cheaper, more efficient and speedier for something which is more expensive. Clearly he would not do so. The discipline that we have at present arising from the limited amount of competition between road and rail is, I feel, well worth while. The tragedy is that the Government have shown that their policy is to take away the amount of freedom and competition which is available and themselves decide what is the best form of transport available.
In opening the Minister expressed the hope that the debate would be about the White Paper on the railways, which was available at about 11 o'clock this morning. It was a little unfair of her to suggest that we should be able to discuss it effectively when hon. Members had not had it until 11 o'clock.
I have tried to read it as carefully as possible in the time available. Some questions immediately spring to mind. First, the White Paper is described as a document on railway policy. Having read through it, admittedly in the space of only three hours, I suggest that it is a White Paper not on railway policy but on accountancy procedure. What is sug- 710 gested is that, instead of having an all-round deficit of £130 million, we should be taking the various loss-making parts of the service separately and giving a grant in respect of them so that at the end of the day the railways might be able to break even. There might be a case for saying that certain services which the Government insist should be provided should receive a financial contribution, but it is going a bit far to suggest that this is a railways policy.
I remind the Minister that recently we had another such railways policy provided in the National Plan, and there it was pointed out that the deficit would probably be eliminated by 1970 if certain specific things were done. But in none of the cases referred to—progress of closure, a start on the concentration of trunk routes, increased productivity through agreements with the unions—has progress been sufficient. The Government have all too often brought out White Papers and policies, but we have not had the action.
Let us look at the policies that are put forward in the document. I would first draw attention specially to Appendix G.1 on page 62, which declares what the assumptions are on which this new railways policy is based. One of the assumptions is an increase in industrial production of 3.3 per cent. in real terms. That is a wild assumption to make at present. The second assumption is that coal production, which is vital for British Railways, for it provides, I believe, about 60 per cent. of its bulk freight traffic, will be concentrated largely in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. It is all very well for the Minister of Transport to make such an assumption but the Minister of Power is shortly to bring out a new fuel policy.
Bearing in mind the representations being made from all over Britain, and particularly from Scotland, I doubt whether the new fuel policy will suggest the concentration of coal production in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire. It might be wise for the Minister of Transport to have a word with members of the Scottish Coal Board who take the view that Scottish coal production will go up and not down because of the new pits being opened.
Another assumption is that steel production will go down and I doubt whether our friends in the steel industry will accept 711 that. A fourth assumption is a network of 11,000 miles. All these assumptions are being made and planned and no doubt can be given the same weight as the National Plan and many other Government plans.
The right hon. Lady said that to change the financial arrangements would provide a real incentive to the railways to break even. How can she claim that there is a real incentive here when the White Paper provides that any surplus made by the railways should be returned to the Treasury? Is it an incentive to an organisation to make money if any profit has to be returned to the Treasury, bearing in mind that the estimates will prove to have been miscalculated?
Then there is the questiton of the freedom in which the Steering Group operated. The document is supported by the majority of members of the group. This was a high-powered committee of intelligent and knowledgeable people. What freedom did they have to make the right decisions? First, there was the decision to appoint a National Freight Authority, which meant that there was limited scope for the steering group to come to a conclusion on that. Then there was the decision to have a network of 11,000 miles. It was an insult to such a Steering Group to suggest that it should consider the future of the railways when these decisions had already been made.
On page 24 we see a sign of these frustrations in the face of the restrictions placed on the Group's activities. It states that one member suggested that the best way of arranging the finances of the railways was if the Government became an equity holder in the railways. The Report adds:Since, however, we have been informed that the Government would be most unlikely to accept this, we have not pursued the matter further.The Group has not had the freedom of action required. We have had a form of activity from it but not action.
What concerns us is how all the actions of the right hon. Lady in transport have had an ideological base. Were this not so, how could one justify a situation in which every new proposal has meant more State control, more State inter- 712 ference in some aspect of transport? We have not had one instance of the Government deciding for economic or other reasons that there should be a hiving off of some of the existing State-controlled transport services.
On economic grounds, it might be advisable to hive off British Railways Hotels, which get a pitiful return on capital. Why not bring an element of private enterprise into catering, where a turnover of £16 million produces a 1 per cent. return? Why not cut down the activities of railway workshops instead of extending them?
We have been told that we must guarantee the existence of railway workshops, but what about the private sector in carriage and wagon building? Between 1959 and 1966, the number of railway workshops declined from 22 to 14 but in the private sector the number of carriage works declined from six major works to one and the number of wagon workshops went down from 16 to four. We can only regard the Government's proposals as ideological, because they move in only one direction—that of more State control.
It is unfortunate that there is no reference in the White Paper to the position in Scotland or to the substantial effect that these proposals will have on Scotland. This is particularly so in view of the decision taken by the Scottish people last Thursday. Clearly, the people of Scotland are getting fed up with more centralisation and State control and feel that the Government do not pay attention to the real interests of Scotland.
For example, the right hon. Lady said that we were having a new system of vehicle licensing being concentrated, with a computer, in one office. One thing of vital importance to Scotland is to know whether this will cover Scotland as well, where offices have been provided by local authorities or the Secretary of State. Are all our local offices to be closed? Is all the work to be moved to Cardiff? We have never been told. We were not told in the Gracious Speech.
We would appreciate knowing whether the Secretary of State for Scotland was consulted and what point of view he took. Are Scottish offices to be concentrated in Cardiff to establish the changeover? What will be the position of the 713 local authorities which have provided office staff and equipment for this work?
A second and vital matter for Scotland is the concentration which is to take place of the seagoing activities of British Railways. On page 29 it is stated:All these considerations … suggest an increasing trend towards the centralisation of the planning of railway operations with at least the main trunk services, passenger and freight, being directed from the centre.In his brilliant speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) pointed out that many of these proposals have been mentioned in newspapers before, but one which particularly concerns Scotland is the suggestion that there will be centralisation of the seagoing activities of British Railways. This has attracted a great deal of comment in the Scottish Press. In the Scottish Daily Express, an article pointed out the effect this will have on Scotland. It stated that the decision had been taken to concentrate the management of the ships on Stranraer-Larne crossing in London. That point of view might be acceptable to the Ministry of Transport but was the Secretary of State for Scotland consulted?
When this decision was made, did the Minister bother to look at an old Report in her Ministry—the Report on the "Princess Victoria" disaster published in 1953? Over 100 lives were lost in that disaster on the Irish crossing. I have been able to find only one copy of the Report available in the House. It stated that the court was of the opinion that the evils of remote control were apparent in that case. It complained bitterly about the fact that for the master to get authority or advice it is was necessary for him to get into telephonic communication with the head office at Euston, 400 miles away. This is just one example of the many that remote control is not good for efficiency. I assure the right hon. Lady that it is not good for Scotland.
We have another problem like this with the ships on the Stranraer-Larne crossing. We have a new ship, the "Antrim Princess". We also have the "Caledonian Princess", which is to leave the crossing. Another vessel has been hired from Sweden and is to be taken away in 1968. In this vital and growing service we are to lose the Swedish ship in 1968 714 because of a Government decision in London and we are also to lose the "Caledonian Princess" which made £500,000 profit last year. All the arguments were in favour of providing three ships on that crossing. The traffic was there and the profit was there, but unfortunately this decision was made, so far as I know, without adequate consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland. One wonders whether he existed so far as concerns this decision.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Does the hon. Member know if any consideration has been given to using hovercraft on this route?
§ Mr. Taylor
I understand that careful consideration has been given to that. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) follows these matters carefully. He will be aware of the experiment we had on the Clyde in building and operating this craft but I understand that no specific plans have been put forward and it would be a long time after any decision before we had hovercraft going across the Irish channel. We have two ships, one of which has been taken away, and the hire contract for the other ends in 1968.
People in Scotland are concerned about our interests not being considered. The interests of Scotland were not mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and in this debate the Minister did not mention Scotland. I hope that before the debate ends we shall have an undertaking that our interests will not be neglected. Has the Minister considered what effect the new licensing proposals will have in Scotland? New legislation is being brought forward which will restrict to 100 miles the journey which a private road haulier can do unless he can prove to a court that his service is cheaper, or that it is in the public interest that he should undertake it.
Hon. Members have talked about the criteria for the new licences being cost and speed of service but they have not mentioned public interest. This also has to be taken into account under the proposals. Any Government who bring forward a policy such as this without realising the devastating consequences for Scotland do not deserve to be allowed to manage the affairs of Scotland.
715 I wonder to what extent the Secretary of State for Scotland and officials of the Scottish Office have made their views known. It is a rather sad fact that there has been no representative of the Scottish Office present during this debate. I am sure that they are busy looking after the interests of Scotland, but it is rather tragic that not one of them has been here to listen to the debate in which Conservative hon. Members have taken part, and particularly to listen to the brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith).
To restrict to 100 miles radius the activities of C licence holders is perhaps not a bad thing for the London commuter centre, because 100 miles is a long distance for very slow traffic around London, but does the Minister realise what will happen in Perth and Inverness where industries are being built up? They will have to use slower transport which experience has shown to be less reliable and expensive. This is the position which the Government will force on Scotland. I plead with the Minister to investigate the Scottish position, if she insists on going ahead with this policy, to see whether there is a case for making a greater distance the limit in order to encourage Highland development and Scottish industry.
The proposal will mean that Inverness will be cut off from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle. It will be impossible for a C licence holder to drive goods from Glasgow to Newcastle unless he is able to convince the transport tribunal that it is in the public interest for him to do so. Transport is vital, the cost of transport is vital, the speed of transport is vital, but these new arrangements will not help to deal with the situation.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the condition which would be created by a limitation on C licence holders such as he suggests would be made infinitely worse in many areas by the way in which the right hon. Lady, in spite of what she said this afternoon, has frequently sanctioned closures even when a T.U.C.C. has recommended that the removal of those services would create grave hardship?
§ Mr. Taylor
The whole House is aware of the efforts, made by my hin. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) in this matter. I hope that he will have more success when one of my right hon. Friends becomes Minister of Transport.
The arguments which have been used with reference to the passenger transport authorities are not relevant to the Scottish position. Are the Government aware that the Allen Report of 1964 showed a rating burden in Scotland considerably above that of the rest of the country? It was 4 per cent. of our national income in Scotland and 2.9 per cent. in the rest of the country. Yet now we have proposals which will add to the burden of Scottish ratepayers very considerably. Glasgow, for example, is about the highest rated city in the country. Commercial concerns there are being forced to close or to move out.
There is a splendid electric train service, appropriately called the "Cathcart Circle", on which the Minister travelled a short time ago. This very efficient service runs at a loss of about £500,000 a year. Does the Minister seriously suggest that the burden of £500,000 should be borne by Glasgow ratepayers? Under the proposal no one else could take the burden but the ratepayers of Glasgow and the surrounding area. For Scotland this proposal is completely ridiculous.
I plead with the Government on their licensing proposals, and their proposals for the passenger transport authorities and their proposals for the steamers, to look carefully at the interests of Scotland. I hope that there will be full consultation with Scottish Ministers and that, unlike what has happened in the past, Scottish Ministers will be seen to be fighting for Scottish interests. Otherwise our future will be much darker.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)
I propose, Mr. Speaker, to try to follow the rule you impressed on me when I came here as a new Member, and to be brief. I shall try to compress my remarks into 10 minutes.
The events of the last week should have given this debate a greater significance. Some of us on this side of the House should now realise that it is not for us to provide the opposition to our 717 own Government, that now the Conservative Party is possibly an alternative Government. It is in the light of the possibilities which this poses to us in Wales that I wish to deal with the speech made from the Opposition Front Bench. I have tried to find what the Conservative Party would offer us in Wales. I have tried to find this from the speech made today by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) and the speeches of other members of the Conservative Party.
The only two things I can find which they would do, as underlined by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), would be to revert to the Beeching proposals and to apply the principle expressed by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) that the only criterion by which British Railways should be run is that they should make maximum earnings from existing assets. If we were to apply that criterion to two railway lines in my constituency, in fact to most of the railway network in Wales, we would probably have only a few miles of railway line.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Cathcart, who holds himself out to be the only remaining champion of pseudo-nationalism in the Conservative Party, say that he would abandon the principle that certain railway lines must be retained in areas like Wales and Scotland because of the social need. If he were to compare the Beeching proposals with the proposals in the White Paper concerning the railway lines which must be retained at all costs, he would find that the vast majority of railways lines saved by this Government lie in his country and mine.
What does this mean to Wales? It means that a major railway line—it is major to us; it may not be important to people who sit in London and pontificate about what we should do—namely, the railway line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth, will be retained, however British Railways or the steering group look upon the railway structure. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for telling them that, whatever their proposals, these railway lines must be retained.
The railway line from west of Swansea is important if we are to develop Pem- 718 broke Dock, and it must be retained. The railway line which runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno which serves the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd must also be retained. If our proposals to develop nuclear power, to create new sources of energy and to build up new industry mean anything, we must retain this railway line.
I am sure that there are many lines in Scotland which have been and which will be retained simply because my right hon. Friend did not follow the advice of the hon. Member for Cathcart and did tell the steering group that it had to work on the basis of retaining 11,000 miles of railway line.
I am sure that I would have been joined in what I am saying by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) if he had been here. He has said that all the railway lines in Wales are making a profit. That statement has been made outside the House on a number of occasions. I know that the railway lines in my constituency are not making a profit. There are lines in my constituency which cannot make a profit. But they must be retained because they are of social consequence.
The railway line which runs from Pwllheli and joins the Aberystwyth-Shrewsbury line at Machynlleth is under threat of closure. It was developed by a private company and it never made a profit. What was done in order to try to make it make a profit? It was in the hands of the local landowners. They developed communities alongside the line which depend entirely on the line. It is not only a means of communication and the only form of transport between communities; it also provides the sea defences.
I should like everyone in Wales, and in my constituency, to realise that the alternative to the proposals of the Government is the proposals of the Conservative Party, which clearly would lead to the closure of nearly every major railway line in Wales. Any hope for the industrial development of Mid-Wales and of parts of South Wales would be completely finished. People in my party tell me that I should not be too concerned about the threat of nationalism. I am not as concerned about the threat of nationalism to Wales as I am about the threat of having 719 a Conservative Government controlling the English economy and the network of transport and industry in such a way that is affects Wales.
If we were to follow the rationale of the speeches of hon. Members opposite, there would not be any railway lines in any of the South Wales valleys. It is clear that as coal mines in some of those valleys close, as they will close, there will be no freight for some of the railway lines which we should maintain and which have to be maintained in accordance with the proposals in the White Paper and with the plan prepared by my right hon. Friend.
Having said that in commendation of what the Government have done, I should like to mention one or two points in my right hon. Friend's proposals which affect my constituency. They are also of general importance. When she considers the question of licensing lorries, I ask her to be very careful that she does not follow the advice which she is getting from many quarters to relate the cost of licences to the true cost of operations. It is very dangerous at this time, when we are concerned about the cost of our products, to bring forward proposals which will add to the true cost of industry. Eighty per cent. of all freight in this country travels by road. If the cost of the licences of private hauliers is increased, it will reflect itself, very considerably, in the cost to industry.
If we go into the Common Market—and I hope that we shall—we will be very glad to retain this subsidy for industry. Every country in Europe subsidises its industry in some form or another, and we will be very grateful for this form of subsidy.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the points made by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson). If the Crosville bus company, which operates in most of North Wales, and particularly in my constituency, were to lose the very profitable services which it operates, from and on the fringes of Merseyside, then the cost which would have to be borne by local authorities in my area to provide transport would be prohibitive. I ask my right hon. Friend to let us know whether she has considered what would happen in very poor and remote rural 720 areas like my constituency if they had to pay for the operation of public transport services from the local rates.
I shall keep my promise to be brief. As a Member representing a Welsh constituency which expected a great deal from a Labour Government, I should like to say this to my right hon. Friend. In common probably with all the other constituencies in Wales, my constituency has been very loyal to the Labour Party for many years. We relied on this Government because we thought that they would achieve many of the things which were perhaps irrational and of which the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) would not approve because they would probably limit the rights of the powerful and wealthy individuals. Mine is a poor area which depends on political power to do the things which are perhaps irrational but yet the things which we in Wales demand should be done.
When we were in opposition, we made promises to areas like the coalmining areas of South Wales that we could do things which were irrational and that all that we wanted in order to do them was power. We promised the rural areas of Wales that when we came to power we would not apply the criteria of Dr. Beeching and of the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), that we would look only at the social cost and social needs and would not "reason the need" but would meet it. If we had Ministers who translated those promises into positive action in the areas which have relied so much on the Labour Party, we should not have faced the difficulties, tragedies and disasters which we have had in the last few weeks.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
It is tempting for someone representing a commuter constituency to talk about train services. Many hon. Members have spoken at length on this subject. I shall limit my natural interest in it to one question to the Minister. In the reports of the tragic accident at Hither Green we have seen suggestions that it may have been due to a break in one of the new continuously welded rails which have been introduced into Southern Region during recent months.
Whether that is so or not, can the Minister give commuters an assurance that 721 particular action will be taken by British Railways, or is already being taken, to use their new examining equipment to inspect rails that were laid at about the same time as the rail which, it appears, might have been responsible for the accident? If there is to be an intensification or examination, as I think there should be, it ought also to be concentrated on rails which may be similarly suspect and which might break and cause a similar accident.
Having said that, my purpose in intervening in the debate is to talk briefly about a form of transport which, so far, has received little mention, and that is aviation. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), speaking from the Front Bench, rightly criticised certain aspects of the Government's attitude to aviation and he showed a welcome realisation that aviation is a form of transport. That is not a realisation which the Minister appeared to share in a speech which was remarkable for its versatility in contriving, at the same time, to be boastful, bad-tempered and boring. The right hon. Lady nevertheless also contrived to neglect entirely to follow up any of the remarks which my hon. Friend had made on this important subject.
I realise that aviation is not a direct responsibility of the Ministry of Transport and that it is a responsibility which is shared between the Board of Trade and the Minister of Technology. I am delighted to see that the Minister of Technology is now with us. Anybody who argues powerfully for an integrated transport system should, however, adopt an integrated approach to transport and should realise that transport by air is an increasingly important feature of the country's communications system, internally and externally, and that it would be a good thing to adopt as a philosophy an approach which conceives of communications including all the different forms of transport by road, rail, water and air.
There are a number of aviation matters about which the House looks with urgency to the Government for information. We want to hear from the Government fairly soon their intentions with regard to Stansted, whether a rethink is going on, whether there is now an intention, with a new Minister, to take a dif- 722 ferent and, perhaps, better decision. Is there to be a realisation of the importance of considering the location of the third London airport in a wider context than the Ministry has hitherto been prepared to accept?
What, in particular, are the Government's thoughts on the development of regional air services, which will require the development of more airports and in which there is great scope, particularly in the South-West and in the North of England, for air travel to be developed as a conscious act of policy as a substitute for other forms of transport which, in many cases, may prove to be uncompetitive with it if air transport opportunities are maximised.
What thought are the Government giving to the problem, which will arise if air travel to this country increases and if, as we hope, more and more tourists want to come here, that unless new hotels are built urgently in our major cities and tourist resorts, there will be nowhere for the tourists to book their rooms? When they come off the jumbo jets, they will find that there is no room at the inn. This is a matter of considerable urgency which is commented on in the annual reports this year of both B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. and on which the Government have a responsibility and should declare their policy.
More particularly, and, regrettably, topical, what progress is being made with the departmental inquiry within the Board of Trade into air safety matters? We await with interest the report of that inquiry, which was set up some time ago, even if it goes only to show, perhaps, that the Board of Trade has been understaffed to carry out adequately its functions as a scrutineer of the air safety standards maintained by airlines. Can we be told when the inquiry will report and when its report is likely to be followed by either departmental action or legislation? The Minister or the Government Front Bench will again be aware that there is a feeling that the present machinery of accident inquiries contains grave flaws.
I speak not simply of the aftermaths of the Munich disaster, which are still not by any means satisfactorily resolved. I have in mind particularly the lessons which must be drawn from the tragic Vanguard accident at Heathrow, not 723 long ago. The inquiry in that case appeared to be more interested in establishing who was legally not to blame than in establishing the technical reasons which caused the tragedy.
Whatever may be the purpose of holding accident inquiries, the reason why they must be pursued with the utmost expertise is to make sure that technical brains are applied and that causes are identified and eliminated. For all I care, the lawyers can fight for what is left, but let us have the reasons for the accident. Let us find out and prevent it happening again.
The House will want to hear from the Government what progress is being made with the Edwards Committee inquiry into the future of British civil airline operation. The setting up of that Committee was announced with haste in July. The names of the chairman and vice-chairman were announced after a matter of weeks, but the names of the other members of the inquiry were not revealed until about a fortnight ago. If this inquiry is to press ahead with speed, as it must, that is scarcely the most encouraging way to see it start. If we are to have legislation early next year, as we should, it seems most unlikely that that Committee will provide much assistance in the framing of that legislation.
Civil airline operators, both independent and nationalised are going through a difficult period. The independent operators are suffering from the prevailing climate of indecision. They cannot make large capital commitments because they do not know what route mileage they can look forward to operating on a steady and continuing basis over, say, the next 15 years. Economic pressures are bearing heavily on some of their traffic, on holiday traffic and trooping traffic, in which business has, for one reason or another, fallen away from the independents. They very much need to know whether it is a business in which they will be allowed to have an expanding future. The Government should tell them.
We cannot wait until the Edwards Committee reports in full in 18 months' time, when the independents may be in even greater difficulties. The longer that this uncertainty continues, the less con- 724 fidence they must become of their position. In this context, the House would like to know what is the Government's attitude to the Air Transport Licensing Board. If there is to be any legislation in this direction, as many people believe that there should be, let us have it as soon as possible.
On the side of the nationalised Corporations, I do not intend to press for a statement on the Government's attitude to the work-to-rule by B.O.A.C. pilots, but I would like the Minister, in winding up the debate, to let us know when a decision will be given on B.E.A.'s need to re-equip its fleet to the full. A half decision has been made, and I suppose that one should welcome such mercies as one gets from this Government, but the Minister knows quite well that the main part of the decision, the most important part of the decision, still remains to be announced.
That is whether B.E.A. is to be allowed to buy the aircraft it wants, which is the BAC211, or whether the Corporation is to be ordered, instructed—I do not know what word may be used: "ordered" is perhaps the right word—ordered by the Government to buy some aircraft which does not conform to B.E.A.'s best commercial judgment of the proper purchase if it were left free to make it.
This is a most important question. It is much more important than whether B.E.A. ultimately buys the airbus, if an airbus is built. The aircraft which B.E.A. wants—and I believe the BAC211 is the right one—is one which will carry most of its future traffic on all but the most densely used routes. The Corporation cannot defer a decision very much longer. It has been made to defer it far too long as it is. If it is to be in a competitive position at all in three or four years' time it must know now what aircraft it is to have.
If the BAC211 is to be built in time for B.E.A. to have it, a firm decision has to be taken in the next four weeks. I believe that the Minister knows this, and that it would be of great assistance to the House, to B.E.A., and to the industry if he could tell us something of his attitude to this decision this evening.
There are some other aviation matters which I could touch on. I know, however, that other Members wish to catch 725 the eye of the Chair, so I shall not dwell on them. All I will say, in conclusion, is this. The Minister criticised my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester for not referring to the Queen's Speech. I believe that he was quite right in not referring to it. I myself have found it impossible to refer to it in the context of aviation, because there is nothing in the Speech about aviation at all. This is a scandal. I believe that there needs to be much greater recognition from the Government benches of the importance of aviation and much better support for it, and that it is time that we got from this Government, however much longer they may defer their final doom, at least an indication that, in the field of aviation, the travelling public and the needs of industry really will get some effective support.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wallace (Norwich, North)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow). He seems to be steeped in gloom, and I would advise him to leave the Chamber, get a refreshing cup of tea, and so feel much better.
§ Mr. Onslow
As a matter of courtesy, I was intending to listen to some of the hon. Member's speech, but since he gives me leave to go, I will.
§ Mr. Wallace
I am very pleased. Good evening.
As a commuter of many years' standing, and sometimes sitting, I would like vigorously to support the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray) in the plea he made for the London commuters, who, I would add, include people of many nationalities, including Scots. I am a genuine London commuter in as much as I have travelled by train for many years on the Dartford loop line, which some of us refer to as the loopy line. To be fair, I would say that recently, through the new timetables, there has been a considerable improvement, and I would like to congratulate and to praise those who have been responsible for nearly solving a problem which seemed incapable of solution.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Will the hon. Member make it quite clear that his remarks apply only to the Dartford loop line, since there is a serious deterioration elsewhere in the Southern Region?
§ Mr. Wallace
I am sorry to learn that, but I was referring to the Dartford loop line in particular.
There have been great improvements there, where there have been difficulties beyond all imagination in the past, and travelling conditions beyond description here, but having praised everyone I would like to add this word of warning, and I am rather prompted to give it tonight in view of what has happened at Hither Green.
The speeding up of our trains at Sidcup —and I live at Sidcup—means they are very fast there now. Some people, by the time they reach their destination, have been through a very unnerving experience, with the swaying of the coaches at the rear of the train being rather like the wagging of a dog's tail. It is no joking matter. It is very serious. Although we have had these improvements the result has been this serious lack of control of the rear of the train, which causes me a great deal of worry and has alarmed many other people.
I would briefly welcome the proposals for our waterways, which, for far too long, have lain in disuse and could be efficiently used. I would mention, as an East Anglian representative, the measures to preserve and enhance the Norfolk Broads and rivers.
I come to the question of an integrated road and rail transport system. This is vitally necessary in the country's interests, but one of the most serious problems which we face today for the nation's economy is that of securing access roads to our docks, particularly the London docks. It is absolutely useless modernising London's docks and bringing in some of the most modern systems of lifting, and so on, unless we have access to the docks. I speak with some degree of experience inasmuch as my job in the past used to be the organisation of transport to and from the docks of perishable commodities, including meat.
The cost to the consumer of waiting time due to traffic congestion and lack of proper access roads has been enormous 727 in the past, and still is today, and all this cost goes on to the import or the export and eventually on to the housewife. I know that there is to be some modernisation at Tilbury, and the building of the Dartford Tunnel and the other measures will, I hope, improve the situation, but what I say about London applies equally to other large dock areas, and we shall not get an efficient dock system till we have adequately solved the basic problem of providing access to the docks.
As an East Anglian Member I would say that the transport situation in East Anglia gives me cause for a great deal of serious concern. It is only fair to say that that situation is a result of past neglect, and a lot of it is due to the Beeching era. A considerable portion of rail mileage has been taken away altogether. If one could see a rail map of East Anglia before Beeching, and another afterwards, the comparison would be startling, I believe, because the bulk of the rail system in the country areas has been taken away; added to which, of course, as many hon. Members will know, the majority of the roads in Norfolk are not really adequate for modern traffic.
This brings me to the issue of the Common Market. Should Britain enter the Market the situation in East Anglia would be even more serious, because if Britain were to enter the Market expansion of the East Anglian ports would be absolutely essential to the success of Britain's entry into the Market. East Anglia is the nearest point of Britain to Europe and this leads us face to face with the absolute necessity of very shortly getting down to the problem of providing road and rail development in that region. At the moment, I would go so far as to say that it is a neglected area in transport development. I do not—I shall not be expected to—blame the present Government. This is due to many years of neglect.
I come to the question of concessionary fares. British Railways have, in my opinion, done a good job in encouraging off-peak travel with concessionary fares, and this has helped housewives and many other people. There is not much sign of it in road transport.
In 1964, the Government introduced a Bill to provide for concessionary fares 728 to old-age pensioners, but, although local authority owned undertakings have adopted it, very little has been done by privately-owned undertakings, as far as I am aware. I think that we would all agree that anything which will tempt elderly people to get out and about instead of being housebound is to be encouraged. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that an effort will be made to extend concessionary fares for old-age pensioners and other elderly people and not confine it just to one or two areas which happen to have local authority owned undertakings.
I have had numbers of letters from old people in my constituency, the City of Norwich and outlying areas, where the transport undertaking is the Eastern Omnibus Company and is not owned by the local authority. Old people in my part of the country need concessionary fares, and what goes for Norfolk applies to many other areas as well.
Finally, I would remind the House that I represent quite a large number of transport workers. The Minister of Transport has been villified, attacked and made the subject of cartoons and comment of a personal nature. She may be a woman and a person who does not hold a driving licence. However, the transport workers in my constituency say that she is the best, most down-to-earth and positive transport Minister that the country has ever had.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
I must start by disagreeing with the sentiment which has just been expressed, for reasons which will become clear during the course of my remarks. I shall not pursue the points which the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Wallace) has raised, because I wish to address myself particularly to an important part of the proposals which we understand are to appear in the new Transport Bill as foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech. I refer to the quantitative licensing proposals for road vehicles.
I am concerned to know how the new method of licensing will affect freight services generally, both road and rail. The proposal is to restrict the licensing of the heavier kind of lorry on hauls over 30 miles for bulk loads and over 100 miles for all other kinds of goods, and this includes lorries owned by manufacturers and 729 traders who hold 'C' licences under the present system.
The proposals were circulated to the transport operators concerned during the summer, and they have now been confirmed, not only in a letter which I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry, but also by the spokesman for the Government in the other place during the debate on Wednesday of last week. The noble Lord was a great deal more forthcoming about these proposals than the Minister has been today. As a result, they are public, although the promised White Paper on them has not yet appeared. I hope that my remarks will be taken into account before the White Paper is completed and put before the House.
Under the proposals, British Railways and the new National Freight Authority will be able to object to the grant of licences, in the words of the Government spokesman in the other place,… if they reckon they can carry the traffic more quickly, reliably and cheaply." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 1st November, 1967; Vol. 286, c. 57.]The weakness in that form of words is the phrase "they reckon". It means that British Railways or the new freight authority may argue a case in theory, but that the results may be quite different in practice, particularly on the reliability element and the question of delays. Therefore, under the new proposals, the licensing authority will have to take decisions with few hard facts about future performance, especially on price.
British Railways may well submit special low undercutting freight charges in order to capture certain traffic. Behind them they will have all the financial resources of the Government, because the deficit of British Railways is financed by the Government. A year or two later, however, they may put up those freight charges. There are always plenty of pretexts for increasing charges. I shall give one example in a moment. By that time, the available road haulage firms probably will not be on hand to come in again and apply for licences. That is especially true of the remoter areas of Britain.
If road haulage businesses are not allowed licences for distances of more than 100 miles, either they will move into 730 other business or to other parts of the country. The result of that will be bad for industry and commerce, because the customer is the person who will suffer—the customer, that member of the community for whom the present Government have so little consideration.
In another place, no doubt trying to give some sort of assurance, the Government spokesman said that there was no question of forcing traffic on to rail where the service which rail could offer was inferior. Here again, in the last analysis, only the customer can decide whether or not the service is inferior.
Under the new procedure for licensing, the job of deciding is to be given to a new licensing authority which will have to do almost metaphysical calculations to reach its decisions. I submit that the whole procedure is entirely unnecessary, and that is apparent from the very words of the Government spokesman to which I have just referred.
Where the railways can provide a better service it will certainly be used by industry and by customers in general. The traffic will divide on the criterion of efficiency. Moreover, competition rather than a monopoly will encourage efficiency. On the other hand, the Government's proposals are damaging to efficiency in transport.
I have always urged that there should be fast rail freight services, and I welcomed the concept of liner trains. In the last three years I have supported and hoped for the early putting into practice of the freight liner concept. It was recommended by Lord Beeching, and in my view was the most important part of his Report. Like many others I regreted the delay which occurred in the launching of the freight liner system because of the objections of the unions.
Together with the container system the railways should be able to provide a first-rate service for the kind of consignment and for the distances for which freight liner trains cater. There should be no need to force customers to use these and similar fast and reliable rail freight services. They will get the business if they are efficient and can compete on charges.
The licensing system therefore, is unnecessary, unless there is some more sinister purpose in the Government's 731 proposals—because it makes us suspect that they are trying to carry out a doctrinaire policy of integration of transport by gradually eliminating the private sector from the long distance traffic. We have all heard about back-door nationalisation, but, as regards transport, I suggest that this is back-seat nationalisation.
There are two points which immediately come to mind on this. The first is that there are, in the Government's proposals, quality requirements for a licensing system of road haulage. Several hon. Members opposite, in particular the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins)—I am sorry that he is not here at the moment—pointed out that for safety and similar reasons it was necessary to have a licensing system. However, what he has not realised is that that is also in the Government's proposals. I think that the majority on both sides of the House will agree that there should be quality requirements concerning safety and qualifications and other matters, which no doubt the House will be able to debate in detail. I am not here concerned with that; I am concerned with the quantity restrictions which will be damaging and in which the Government appear to be taking no account of the customer's wishes.
My second point concerns large indivisible loads which cannot go by train. There are very large loads which cannot travel on a train because they are all one piece and cannot be divided. They cannot go through the tunnels or under the bridges. They can go very little distance by rail also because they would jut out and strike a train going in the opposite direction, so it seems that these large indivisible loads will have to go by road anyway.
The Minister of Transport said today that so many motorists wanted to get some of this heavy traffic off the roads. How many times have hon. Members been held up on the roads by police escorts, with their headlights on, and then some enormous lorry, which appears to be carrying half a ship, bears down upon them; or alternatively, have had to trail for miles at about 5 m.p.h. behind such a load? If there is no sea route between where some very large indivisible object has been manufactured 732 and its destination, such as the screw of a large ship or a complete boiler or some large item of machinery, then it seems that it must go by road, so that these very large, difficult vehicles will be with us for many years to come.
If I am wrong, I hope that the Minister of Technology, who is to wind up tonight, will tell us what proposals he has, because the House will be interested to know whether the Government have any proposals for getting off the roads these very large, difficult and unwieldly loads which at present cannot be transported by train. These are the sort of vehicles which cause most trouble on the roads.
There are general objections to the Government's proposals on quantitative licensing. One is that the flexibility in industry will be impaired. Road transport is used by industry in Britain as a 100 per cent. guarantee of being able to get from one place to another quickly components, spares, and stocks, often in fairly small consignments but essentially needed in some other part of the country for a factory or for urgent delivery or perhaps to go into store for use at short notice.
I think it is common ground between both sides of the House that the railways are increasingly concentrating on what they can do efficiently; that is, taking fairly large consignments, at reasonable notice, some considerable distance; but the flexibility which the road system gives to industry and commerce would be broken up by the proposals which the Government will be putting forward.
There is also the point put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster): what happens if there is a strike at a freight liner terminal, as there was at Stratford some months ago? If by that time there is no road traffic licensed to do the particular haul, industry will again find itself unable to move goods which it is essential to move at short notice. A monopoly would be created which would hamstring vital parts of our economy.
This arbitrary distance of 100 miles, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) pointed out, may make sense in the London area or in the congested 733 areas of England, but in the north of Scotland distances of 100 miles or more are normal, so it makes absolute nonsense in Scotland. It could be extremely damaging to our economy. It is all very well for the Minister to smile, but I notice that there have not been any Scottish Ministers here this evening during the course of the debate, and the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible for roads and road traffic in Scotland.
To illustrate the distance problem, the House should realise that I travel 100 miles south from where I live in my constituency before I reach Perth. That means that industry in that area of the North is bound to be dependent for buying and selling on long distances north and south for supplies and markets. If the Government go ahead with these proposals, with an arbitrary 100 miles figure, it could lead to a monopoly by the new National Freight Authority or British Railways and this could only have a bad effect on the question of price. The railways can do that—
§ Mr. Campbell
I will give way to the Minister in a moment. The railways, as I had said earlier, can do the job of conveying freight in consignments which they find convenient and at the notice which they find convenient extremely well over long distances, but if they make a bid to try to capture most of the other traffic as well over distances of 100 miles they could virtually get a monopoly and then the customers in the north of Scotland would be at the mercy of the freight rates which the railways demanded.
§ Mr. Swingler
I am sure the people in Scotland have studied recent reports by experts — not politicians — like the McKinsey Report which shows that in Scotland, like other places, for distances of 100 miles or more the haul of freight on the railways is reckoned to be the most economic. I am also sure that the hon. Gentlemen will see that the whole matter is to be judged on the basis of safety, reliability and cost, and there is no built-in preference for the railways in that system. However, these will emerge, as the Minister said, when we publish the White Paper on the subject.
§ Mr. Campbell
I do not know whether the Minister was here when I started, but I did touch on these points then. I said that the Government spokesman in the other place had given these three criteria, but that the licensing authority would then have to make an extremely difficult judgment based on guesswork for the future and it was the customer who could tell what in fact would be the most efficient.
Secondly, as I have just told the House, I know that the kind of service which the railways provide in their freight liner trains is a good one and is being used and will be used.
I am glad that the Minister has intervened, because I am coming to the example which I said I would give. It is an example of a constituent of mine who sends meat to London. I do not want to give a constituency plug, but it is well known that beef from Morayshire is the best in Britain, and is therefore in great demand in London. This constituent, who does not have a large business, sent his beef by rail in insulated containers, each taking three or four tons. Recently, British Railways altered the system for conveying his meat. They said that in future he could send it only in very large containers, starting about 70 miles away from the original despatch point. The effect of this was to treble the charge, and the effective result to my constituent would have been that instead of paying about £17 a ton he would have had to pay about £50.
I realised what was happening. British Railways were concentrating on the bigger consignments on which they could do well, and using a bulk load train or freight liner service from Aberdeen to do it, but the effect on my customer who was sending three- or four-ton containers, not just small parcels, was that he had to go over to road transport. He could not pay three times the amount for freight. I hope that this will bring to the attention of the Minister of State the point which he was querying.
Freight liners can deal efficiently with traffic which is in large consignments, but there will always be these businesses, certainly in the North of Scotland, which will need to send smaller consignments which cannot be handled economically by rail.
735 The Minister's assurance, and the assurance given in the other place, that in this sort of case the licence will be given—that is more or less what he was saying—is no assurance at all. It is not enough, because if these proposals go through with a 100-mile figure in them we will have no assurance that the kind of business which wants to send the consignments of three or four tons 600 miles to London will be able to send them by road, as my constituent is now having to do. He would have been happy to go on using the railways at the previous price.
Let us suppose that when my constituent was paying the lower price the licensing procedure had been introduced, road transport had not been granted a licence, and about a year later the railways made the kind of change to which I have just referred and my constituent was told that he could use only big containers which would mean that he would have to pay three times more than he was paying or not use them. What would happen then? Alternative road haulage transport would not be available. One cannot expect road haulage firms to wait if they are not given a licence. One cannot expect them suddenly to come and apply for a licence when British Railways change their methods and their charges go rocketing up.
There are other examples which I could give the House but I will not do so, except to mention that in the north of Scotland there are textile firms, firms making woollens, worsteds, cashmere materials, and so on, who send about 70 per cent. of their manufactured goods abroad. I spend a lot of time congratulating them on behalf of the Government, and have done over the years, for their export performance. Their main complaint is about hold-ups on the railways, because of the size of their consignments.
It must be remembered, too, that there are many distilleries in my constituency, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. Nearly all the whisky they produce goes south. Some is, of course, drunk locally, but a large amount goes south before part of that goes abroad. It is a great exporting industry and it is industries like this which will be faced with problems. It is no good the Minister saying that it does not matter in 736 the north of Scotland. These are important products as I think even the Minister will agree.
I raised these issues with the Minister of State during the Recess when these proposals came out. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary's answer was most unsatisfactory because he merely said that the licensing authority would weigh up the pros and cons. But this must be an academic assessment of claims and performance, and that is no assurance at all. This scheme is wrong-headed from the point of view of industrial efficiency but it is entirely wrong for Scotland. It is yet another example of the Government applying a measure to the whole country without taking account of conditions in Scotland.
I might at this moment be described as an angry Scot but I have plenty to be angry about and there are many more angry Scots in Scotland, as the Government will increasingly discover. For the last three years the Government have been dictating from the centre with the S.E.T., with extra transport costs, with the imposition of unsuitable measures such as this proposed one, and so on. The Government have had what may be the unique experience of being criticised in leading articles in both the Scotsman and the monthly review entitled "Scotland". On Thursday, when discussing these proposals in a leading article, the Scotsman said, "For integration read disintegration".
There is another reason why this proposed licensing system is nonsense in Scotland, and that is the uncertainty of Ministers themselves about the future of railway lines in that area. After capturing the traffic as a result of this new licensing procedure, a railway line could disappear. Many people in the North of Scotland have been exasperated by the Minister's public handling of the proposals for the main line to the north, that is the line from Perth to Inverness. This is also known as the case of the phantom axe. On this line we have a perfect example of the fabrication of a non-event and of the methods employed by the Government.
At various times during 1966, both in Questions and in correspondence, I raised with the Minister the rumour that there was a proposal for closing this line. I did 737 not know of any having been put forward. There was a special reason for this, namely, the huge development of winter sports and the tourist industry generally at Aviemore. The Aviemore centre was opened less than a year ago and already it has won this year's Oscar, that is to say the annual award of the Travel and Holidays Association. It was therefore important to know what the Government's intentions were for this line. All the way through 1966 the answer was, "There is no question of this line being closed. There is no proposal for closure."
Then we come to 16th March in this House—the day after the Minister made her announcement in the House about the future of the railways. The Minister's announcement was fairly straightforward, but the next day most of the British Press reported that there had been a reprieve for this line. I went to the Library of the House of Commons to see what had been said at the Press conference, because nothing had been said in the House. What the Library produced contained nothing about this line. I wrote to the Minister of Transport about it and the reply that I received from the Parliamentary Secretary said:It is true—as has been pointed out in previous correspondence—that the Perth-Inverness line has never been formally proposed for closure. Nevertheless, in the view of the Railways Board, it is one of those which, under normal commercial practice, they would have very probably have had to put forward …Those are the words in the letter. Never have I had such an example of double-talk. If that was the situation, why are all these replies given, including in the OFFICIAL REPORT, that, in fact, there was no proposal for closure? This was the axe that never was. The Minister was claiming a reprieve and trying to get credit in respect of a line which had apparently had no proposal for closure.
The correspondents attending the Press conference could not have been expected to know the latest position about this line in the North of Scotland. People in the North of Scotland knew, and when they looked into the matter they were exasperated by the way in which the Minister had behaved. The newspaper correspondents had to meet their deadlines and did not have time to inquire about the situation. This was a blatant 738 attempt to conceal what was new in those proposals. The only new proposals which the Minister of Transport was putting forward for the North at the time was for closing lines. The two lines to the North, from Inverness to Wick and to Kyle of Lochalsh, which had been retained by decision of the Conservative Government upon the Beeching Report, were no longer to remain intact. One was still there but the other had been put into a new grey category for eventual consideration for closure—the line to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Furthermore, there was another line to Mallaig in that category. The proposal simply amounted to the removal of two lines, one of which the Conservative Government, after Beeching, had decided to retain.
Why could not the Minister have said that, instead of producing something out of the hat and pretending that she had reprieved a line, which had not been threatened? My sympathies are with the Press. The Foreign Secretary has been critical of the Press but, as far as I know, in the case of this Press conference the information was both attributable and on the record.
My sympathy is also with the general public in the North of Scotland, who have found it difficult to know from week to week what the Government intend to do with the one main line to Inverness in the North. No wonder Scotland is fed up with this Government—their methods and their deviousness in seeking favourable publicity.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
I do not propose to detain the House for long. Truth to tell, although I am a member of the Transport Group on my side of the House, my interests are rather more general than to do simply with the running of the railway system. I am not qualified to discuss matters that relate to the railways.
In a sense, I was rather disappointed to discover that the debate was apparently rather circumscribed and would deal mainly with railway transport. However, I find that the debate has gone much wider, although references have not been made to inland waterways, on which I had hoped to hear something. I am, however, encouraged to say some of the things that have occurred to me as the debate has gone on.
739 I do not propose to follow the remarks made by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell). Having listened to him, as well as to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), I realise that something has happened to hon. Members opposite since the by-election result at Hamilton. They felt that they had a responsibility to come here and utter loud noises, telling us where the Government were wrong and where they had neglected Scotland. My word! In 22 years I have heard this theme time and again. I wonder what would happen if Scotland ever achieved home rule, especially if she were thrown on her own economic resources—
§ Mr. G. Campbell
I have been making speeches about this point all through the Recess, and this is my first opportunity of actually taking it up with the Minister, to whom I have written during the Recess. As for what happened on Thursday, I should like to know where the Scottish Ministers are; they are the ones who can do something to help Scotland.
§ Mr. Wilkins
Of course, the hon. Gentleman knew that the by-election was pending, so he made these speeches. I do not blame him; I would probably have done the same with a by-election in the offing.
I am disappointed that the debate has not ranged wider, but, even more, because I wish that it had been more objective. This problem has been with us during all my years in the House and with the country for even longer. We have never given sufficient attention to certain aspects. For example, we usually discuss the railways on the profit and loss basis of whether they should be subsidised or treated as social services, but I can remember no hon. Member giving regard to the strategic requirements. These should not be overlooked, as they were invaluable in the last war. I wonder whether some of the present ripping up of tracks will not be regretted one day.
The main arguments today have related to the profitability of the railway system and the profitability as against the social requirements of that part which 740 we maintain. This is why I could have wished for a little more objectivity. We must all recognise in our hearts, what we have at least said, that there have been more protests and requests about the retention of branch lines from hon. Members opposite than from this side of the House. Again, I do not criticise, but only point out that we should be honest and recognise that some of these lines should not be closed.
Therefore, we must face the question of how we will pay for them. We cannot hope to pay for the unprofitable but socially necessary services simply by increasing the fares or freight charges on the main line services which pay. This is why I wish the House would, for once, consider this in the national interest rather than on narrow or insular considerations of whether the railways are taking this or that freight.
This brings me to one of the observations of the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn. We will have to give consideration, whether we like it or not, to the serious problem of getting back on to the railways—I am considering this on the basis of the traffic rather than on doctrinaire principles—some of the traffic which is now using the roads.
We all have our own ideas of what is and what is not suitable rail traffic, and in cataloguing a few items the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn referred to ships' screws—which I suppose the average man calls propellers. Only three or four years ago the House was told of a wide and massive propeller manufactured in Birkenhead and sent by lorry to Falmouth. The journey took 10 days, and was made at the height of the holiday season. One can imagine the "pleasure" that load gave to those trying to drive down to the West Country. It was asked at that time why the propeller should have been sent by road to Falmouth, which has a dock, and not by coastal shipping.
There is room for consideration of some of the wide and massive manufactured articles now being sent on our roads. Only last Friday afternoon, which is about the worst possible traffic peak there is in Bristol, a wide load was taken four or five miles through the city, police escort and all the rest, with all the other traffic trailing along behind. That sort of thing is sheer nonsense, and there is no doubt 741 at all that the general public will bless the day when the Minister of Transport insists on some of this traffic going by rail or, if it must go by road, travelling by night with a police escort.
Are we to have some explanation tonight of what the taxi drivers are calling the nationalisation of the taxis? My taxi driver spoke to me about this last week when I was going to Bristol, and when I told him that it was the first I had heard of it he flourished a letter. I am not sure where the letter came from, but there is an organisation of licensed taxi cab owners and it may have come from there. There seems to be an impression among the taxi-cab men that the Minister of Transport intends to nationalise all our taxis. If my right hon. Friend can do that, and does, she will be a magician, because I cannot conceive how it could be done. There is no doubt an explanation, and my right hon. Friend may have some ideas of where such a service might be provided in certain circumstances.
I feel very strongly about road congestion. If I were asked my main interest in transport matters I would say that it was our roads. I am not now pressing the case for the South-West, as I have done on several occasions before, and I do not want the Minister to take it in that sense if I refer to the A.38. We have to look seriously at what we consider to be the priorities in the road programme.
Like many people, there was a time when I was inclined to hold up both hands in favour of M-roads. I thought that we could scorch our way from Lands End to John o'Groats in 10 or 12 hours and that all our traffic problems would be over. However, experience has shown that M-roads only create bottlenecks, irrespective of where they are. Apart from the Ross Spur, which seems to be carrying the traffic away quickly, at the end of virtually every motorway traffic congestion can be found.
While not saying that we should stop the building of M-roads and dual carriageways, I suggest that we need to reconsider our priorities. If we are to relieve traffic congestion, we must—and I have used this phrase before—get the traffic in, through or over our cities. In other words, by the use of underpasses— 742 like the one we are building on the Eastern Road in Bristol—flyovers and bypasses we must get the traffic away from cities.
Time is short and I am not able to mention many of the other subjects that are also important. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) runs about the West Country like a scalded cat promising the people of Bristol and elsewhere in the vicinity that we will have Portbury, and many other things. My only fear—and I hope that my right hon. Friend will take this kindly—is that pressure will be put on her and her Department not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the people on the Welsh side often indicate, but by the Railway Transport Docks Board, which may try to exert pressure on her when formulating her plans.
I hope that while my right hon. Friend will listen to those representations, she will also heed the representations of Bristol and remember that there was a time when we were the second greatest port in the country. We would like to regain that eminent position and, with this in mind, we have made proposals to her for the improvement of our dock facilities.
I will conclude, because a number of hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate. I hope that, so far as it is possible, the House will consider our transport problems generally in a completely objective way because to solve them is in the national interest, which is what we all have in mind.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Tim Fortescue (Liverpool, Garston)
I understand that at least one of my hon. Friends hopes to speak in the few remaining minutes before the winding-up of the debate. I will, therefore, be brief.
Much of the debate has hinged on the view, expressed in many quarters, that British Railways are under-used and that, therefore, traffic should be diverted to them. I do not wish to enter into the merits of this argument tonight, but I do wish to draw a parallel between the positions of the railways and our civil airlines.
The Air Transport Licensing Board, which is responsible for giving licences to civil operators, must, by its terms of reference and in accordance with Statute, 743 take into account the objections of any airline to any proposed new air service. I will give an example of how this has worked out recently in a case affecting my constituency.
An independent airline, having made its researches in Liverpool, came to the conclusion that there would be a profitable air service to be run between Liverpool and Paris. I assure the House that businessmen in Liverpool are as anxious to go to Paris as businessmen anywhere else. The airline applied to the Board for a licence to run jet aeroplanes between Liverpool and Paris daily in the time of 1½ hours.
B.E.A., the nationalised concern, promptly objected and stated in this case that such a service would interfere with its services from Manchester to Paris which, it said, were under-used. So it filed its formal objection. At the same time, a British European Airways subsidiary, Cambrian Airways, also filed an objection and a counter proposal that it should be allowed to operate between Liverpool and Paris via Southampton with Viscount turbo-prop aircraft which would do the journey in four hours, including the stop at Southampton.
The Air Transport Licensing Board looked into the two applications and the B.E.A. objection, and came to the conclusion that the Liverpool businessman must have the worst of all worlds and have the slow service via Southampton because a quick service without a stop would interfere too much with the nationalised service from Manchester. It is clear to anyone who knows the area that it takes one and a half hours to get from Liverpool to Manchester by road and that a service from Manchester in no way meets the requirements of the Liverpool businessman. However, the Board was right in what it did according to its terms of reference, because the Statute says that it has to take objections into account.
The Edwards Committee, appointed the other day, must look into the terms of reference of the Board because the terms of reference of the Committee say so. I having like the Civil Aeronautics Board suggest, first, that the Committee should consider the possibility of the Board be-of the United States, which not only does 744 not discourage enterprising private air lines from running services but positively demands that they should. It sends for airlines and says, "You will operate from this point to that point for an experimental period of, say, three years. Do your best to make a go of it. If you do not, we shall not look sympathetically on your applications for other services."
The Edwards Committee will be looking into the civil aviation industry, and we look for a method of removing the iron hand which is causing stagnation in industry. I suggest to the Government that the Committee should put this matter at the top of its agenda and be asked to make an interim report on the terms of reference of the Board by next spring at the very latest.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. James Bennett (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I wish to ask a series of questions in the few minutes allotted to me. They are neither political nor controversial, but genuinely seek information.
I wish to refer to one aspect of road haulage, and that is the growing number of articulated wagons on our roads. What is the maximum length of the platform at this stage? How does my right hon. Friend perceive the future length of the platform on the articulated wagons to come? Is it visualised that the manufacturers of these vehicles will be allowed to build them up to Continental standards? It is a recognised fact that in inter-continental traffic there is a growing use of these vehicles going without unloading from one country to another.
The value of articulation is recognised, but the conditions in parts of the country are against the greater use of these vehicles. I cannot help thinking that, despite the improvements that can be effected in manufacture and the greater length of platforms on articulated wagons, so long as the road conditions that obtain at present in Scotland remain we shall be prevented from experiencing the benefits which come from the greater use of articulation.
I should also like to know what my right hon. Friend's attitude is towards clearing houses as such. Clearing houses, as we understand them, are merely places for the receiving of goods. Very few 745 have their own wagons or initiate wagon movement. Their main function appears to come into operation when a long-distance tanker driver arrives, unloads his goods and does not have a return load; he then has to cast around to discover whether a return load is available, and finally he goes to the clearing house. These clearing houses in most cases do not have wagons, but merely operate as depots. Consequently, when a driver has to make a return journey he often has to accept a load at below the normal rate.
Road haulage companies usually operate a considered time table but this does not apply to clearing houses as such. Indeed, a driver who has secured a load from a clearing house is under no obligation to deliver it on a specific date. This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Does my right hon. Friend intend to exercise a measure of control over clearing houses? Or does she intend that they shall no longer exist? So long as they exist under the present set-up, the customers will not be provided with a satisfactory service.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will also give thought to the growth of articulation on the roads, to what extent the platforms will remain at their present length and to whether it will be possible for manufacturers to manufacture generally and not have to build separately for the export market and the home market as they must do now. If this were possible, it would reduce their costs considerably.
I would be grateful to my right hon. Friend if she would put her mind to the questions I have raised and allay some of the suspicions in my mind.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)
Perhaps the gravest omission from this debate is discussion in detail of proposals we were promised by the right hon. Lady at the Labour Party conference in October. She promised us details of the proposed passenger transport authorities. But she has been promising this for many months, during the course of which she has told us repeatedly that there will be publications of one sort or another. We should by now have had a White Paper about her proposals.
746 The country was given an assurance that the White Paper would be produced during October. None has yet appeared. Superficially, this might cause surprise to hon. Members on both sides, but the explanation is, I suspect, quite simple. It is that the Minister in her travels has found that the opposition she obviously expected in some measure to her proposals as we know them to exist is stronger felt than she imagined.
During the Recess, I went round the country to the principal areas affected by the Minister's proposals and had long and detailed discussions with men and women who live in these conurbations of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. The one impression that one is left with is of the deep resentment towards the proposals, as people understand them, which the Minister is to include in her White Paper.
I suspect that the reason we have not got a White Paper yet on these passenger transport authorities is simply that she has not been able to persuade the people who would have to implement them of the wisdom of the decisions she wishes to implement in them. I have discussed these problems with those concerned—local councillors, those running the local bus services, both municipal and private, ratepayers and members of the travelling public and there seem to be five principal objections.
The first is that there is deep resentment at the lack of consultation with many local authorities. It is true that some of them have been treated to the benefit of a speech by the right hon. Lady on these proposals, but large numbers have had no real consultation at all with the Minister.
Secondly, there is deep resentment at the proposal to remove from municipal or private ownership the ownership of the buses in these areas. It is not considered necessary for the purposes she has in mind.
Thirdly, there is deep resentment at the proposals to appoint Ministerial nominees to the authorities. This is taken to conflict with her original undertaking.
Fourthly, there is anxiety about the level of deficits to be transferred from the railways on to the backs of the local ratepapers, first because rates do not seem a worthwhile vehicle for this process 747 and, secondly, because people in these conurbations are apprehensive following the precedents in the gas and electricity undertakings with which they have been confronted in recent months.
Fifthly, there is an overwhelming fear that the Minister, who has consistently refused to produce any indication of cost, is refusing to do so because the costs are either so high or because she does not know what they are.
These are five reasons which have provoked deep hostility to the right hon. Lady's proposals throughout the four conurbations which will be affected when she eventually publishes a White Paper. It is an extraordinary thing that in this debate on transport after the reference, scant though it be, in the Queen's Speech we are still not in a position to consider the proposals because the Minister continues to delay publication of her White Paper.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Barber (Altrincham and Sale)
I agree with everything that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) about the proposed passenger transport authorities. I shall have a little to add to the outline he gave.
At 11 o'clock this morning the right hon. Lady presented to Parliament a White Paper on railway policy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) rightly said, this was a smoke-screen. It was a device to avoid discussion of her proposals for more nationalisation.
The Amendment we are discussing begins with the words:But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains proposals to nationalise further large sections of the transport industry.My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), moving the Amendment, dealt at considerable length with the Government's nationalisation proposals, with the proposal to nationalise further parts of the road haulage industry, with the proposal to nationalise private enterprise bus companies, and with the proposal to nationalise the docks.
There was virtually no comment from the right hon. Lady and the reason she gave for not commenting on the main 748 point of this Amendment was, she said, that she did not propose to say anything about the White Papers which were to come, but the truth, as we all know, is that she was not prepared to defend her new nationalisation proposals because she knows that everyone who has studied them is against them.
There was absolutely no reason why she should not have told the House quite frankly of her intentions. If anyone doubts my words, if anyone thinks the reason she gave was a genuine one, I hope that the Minister of Technology, in reply, will explain how it comes about that last week in another place in a full day's debate on the Queen's Speech the main speaker for the Government, Lord Shepherd, spent more than half his time addressing their Lordships in dealing with these nationalisation proposals. If their Lordships can be told about these proposals, why cannot we have from the Minister of Transport answers to the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester?
As for the White Paper, with which we were presented at 11 o'clock this morning, as my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare also pointed out, hon. Members had this 60-page Report by the Parliamentary Secretary's committee only four-and-a-half hours before this debate. Yet we now know that it was in the Minister's hands for at least two months before that. Why could we not have had it when we resumed at the beginning of the new Parliament? This is just one more instance of the Socialist Government treating the House of Commons with utter contempt.
What is strange is that at a time when the economy is in the most dire straits and when the by-elections have shown that the right hon. Lady's party is discredited and distrusted, she should still think an extension of nationalisation is good for Britain and is what the nation wants. It is, of course, neither, and I shall show that if the right hon. Lady ever gets the chance to implement those proposals they will have two consequences: they will make life even more frustrating for the travelling public, and they will make our industry less competitive. To pretend otherwise is as illusory as that by-election structure known as the Humber Bridge.
749 Shortly before the right hon. Lady took office in 1964, she addressed the nation in words which were as forceful then as they are hollow today. I should like to quote what she said:The world is waiting for the return of a Labour Government. The interest is phenomenal. Even in America they are praying for it. Not because they approve of our Socialist policies, but because they want to see this country under a Government that will stop this nonsense about an independent nuclear deterrent".But on the home front, the right hon. Lady has changed neither her opinion nor her policy. She remains—and she is proud of it—an out-and-out Left-wing Socialist.
As she put it earlier this year:… in transport the only practical policies are Socialist ones".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 1741.]Last month, at the Labour Party conference she concluded her survey of the Government's transport proposals with these words:It will give us all a Socialist transport policy.In following this Socialist policy, the right hon. Lady will achieve three things: she will blunt our industrial efficiency and our international competitiveness; she will provide solace, as we have just seen, for her unhappy Left wing who are actively maintaining in office a Government of economic stagnation and record unemployment; and she will help her Prime Minister to drive the Labour Party into political oblivion. Make no mistake: if the recent by-elections have shown anything, they have shown that the British people are sick and tired of Socialist claptrap.
Consider first the right hon. Lady's proposals for the freight industry. Most of the information which I have has come, not from her speech to the House today, but from her speech to the Labour Party conference. The Government proposes to set up a National Freight Authority to take over British Rail's container freight business and the existing nationalised road haulage industry. It is arguable whether this is the best way of changing the structure of the existing nationalised sector. But it is only the beginning, for what the Government have arranged and what they mean to do is to take over, to nationalise, whole sec- 750 tions of the freight industry which is now operated by private enterprise.
The right hon. Lady told the Labour Party conference, with her customary modesty:Friends, when it comes to transport planning I have got to be the overall authority.This is the Minister who, in an unguarded moment, said earlier this year:With my encouragement, the National Freight Organisation will pursue an expansionist policy. It will actively promote voluntary acquisitions …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd February, 1967; Vol. 741, c. 1735.]In other words, the private enterprise haulage industry is for the chopper.
I will tell the House precisely how the Government intend to set about it, but first let me warn the Government that both in the House and throughout the country—[Laughter.] The right hon. Lady may laugh now, but I warn her that my right hon. and hon. Friends who serve on the Committee considering the Transport Bill will do everything they can, within the proper limits of the Constitution, to frustrate her objectives, because we believe that this extension of nationalisation is both vicious and stupid.
The right hon. Lady talks euphemistically about "voluntary acquisitions". The private enterprise haulier had better understand here and now that if this legislation goes through he will not stand a chance. I will say why. First, however inefficiently the National Freight Authority may operate, it will have one unique advantage. It will have behind it the unlimited resources of the State to enable it artificially to cut its rates and to squeeze out the private haulier. Secondly, as I shall show, the new quantity licensing proposals are specifically designed to favour the National Freight Authority as against the private haulier. Thirdly, when the private haulier is ultimately forced to his knees, the right hon. and benevolent Lady will effect what she is pleased to call a voluntary acquisition.
The right hon. Lady is substituting for a highly competitive industry a monolithic State enterprise backed by the bottomless purse of the State. There will be none of the financial disciplines inherent in private enterprise. The choice available to the customer will be whittled away and the taxpayer will foot the bill. This is the essence of Socialism, as we 751 have seen time and time again with other nationalised industries.
If anyone doubts what I say, let me remind the House that since nationalisation the railways have lost over £1,300 million and the annual deficit of the railways is now equivalent to more than 6d. on the standard rate of Income Tax. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) wants to intervene, I remind him that during the last two or three years of the Conservative Administration the deficit was being reduced, but that since the Government—
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The right hon. Gentleman is talking about the deficit. If he thinks that nationalisation is so bad, is it part of Conservative Party policy that the railways should be denationalised and run privately?
§ Mr. Barber
The hon. Member knows our policy perfectly well. When we were in government, we set our mind to reducing the deficit. Under the Labour Government, it has gone up consistently year by year.
The cost to the taxpayer is not the only cost to the nation. As my hon. Friends the Members for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) and Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) rightly said, this policy would have most damaging consequences for Scotland. It is common ground on all sides of the House that the cost of transport is a major item in the overall costs of industry. It is common ground that the cost of transport is a major item in the profit margins of our exporters. Here, however, in the midst of a balance-of-payments crisis, the Government are deliberately setting out to force our manufacturers to rely more and more on nationalised transport. This, I suppose, is what the Prime Minister meant when he talked about his Government becoming "a forcing house of change."
At present, manufacturers have the chance of transporting their goods either by road or rail, whichever is the more efficient. Socialist Ministers now take the naive view, however, that they know better. They propose that in future, in respect of certain heavy vehicles, the 752 choice will no longer be left to the manager, but to the bureaucrat. The proposed system is as simple as it is crude. All the remarks which I make on this aspect are based on information which has come either from Ministers at the Ministry of Transport or from official handouts.
In future, in respect of certain heavy vehicles, the choice will no longer be left to the manager. The exporter who has vehicles of his own wants to send his own goods in his own vehicles to the port by road, but the new National Freight Authority will object because it wants the business, and so the bureaucrat will decide. But one would at least have thought before the bureaucrat decided it would be up to the National Freight Authority to show that it could do better. After all, they are the people who are objecting. But not a bit of it. This was made absolutely clear last week by the Government spokesman in another place. The onus is entirely on the manufacturer. That is what the Minister made clear.
It is up to the manufacturer to show that his transport by his own vehicle is superior to rail in terms of speed, reliability and cost. This is the onus which is on the manufacturer who wants to send his goods to the port in his own vehicle. I believe that it is utterly wrong that the onus should be on the manufacturer. If rail is more suitable, then let the railways provide the service and they will get the business.
It is little wonder that British management have turned against this Government. They can no longer decide their prices without the intervention of the bureaucrat; they can no longer decide with the unions their wages without the intervention of the bureaucrat; and now, without the same sort of intervention, they are to be prevented from choosing the form of transport which they consider to be the most efficient. And why? Because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester and my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare pointed out, the Socialist Government believe that the bureaucrat knows better than the manager.
Let me quote to the House the pure milk of Socialist arrogance. This is what the Minister of State at the Ministry of 753 Transport said in a speech which he made. He said on this point:You may say that any sensible transport manager makes just this kind of investigation before deciding on what transport to use. If rail services are so good and cheap why do not manufacturers flock to use them? I agree in part with this, but some people are remarkably slow in seeing a benefit when it is dangled before their eyesThen he went on to say:The country simply cannot afford to see all this money wasted because"—these are the managers—some people refuse, whether through ignorance or for some other reason, to spend their own money sensibly".So a manufacturer will in future have to seek permission to use his own vehicle carrying his own goods, and if that permission is not granted he has to use the nationalised transport which he considers to be inferior. He is then left with his fleet of vehicles which are now absolutely useless and he is entitled to not one penny of compensation. This indeed is Socialism with a vengeance.
But this is only part of the straitjacket which the Government have designed for the transport industry. There is also to be a new form of quality licensing. Nobody would deny, least of all my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith), who spoke on this point, that it is a good thing to bring in new measures for making transport vehicles more safe, with proper maintenance, reasonable hours, and so on, and, obviously, for this there must be some form of licensing arrangement. But here again, the Government's solution is to form any army of bureaucrats to inquire into matters for which they have no competence whatsoever.
There are, after all, about 600,000 vehicles over 30 cwt., operated by thousands of private enterprise hauliers, large and small—thousands of them; and yet, in the purported interest of road safety, what does each one of those firms have to do if it is requested? I will read from the Ministry of Transport handout —and remember, these are owners of some 600,000 vehicles, if they are requested, this is what they have to do:The applicant would have to satisfy the licensing authority that his financial resources were commensurate with his proposed scale of operation and that he had sufficient business 754 in prospect to maintain reasonable financial stability.This is what a junior civil servant or somebody appointed as part of a licensing authority will have to judge.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Would my right hon. Friend agree that the Government would not pass that test?
§ Mr. Barber
I hesitated about giving way to my hon. Friend, but I thought that he was on to a good thing.
If the right hon. Lady is so concerned about the financial plight of the road haulier, perhaps she will get her right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology to answer these questions. Why did the Government take away the investment allowance from the commercial vehicle? Why did they increase the cost of the vehicle excise licence? Why did they impose the Selective Employment Tax, which has increased the cost of repairs and insurance? We have had no answers to these questions, yet we are now told that one of the reasons for these sorts of questions is that the Government are afraid that certain of these companies may be in financial difficulties.
Let me turn to consider the Government's proposals for passenger transport, in particular for the buses. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) has outlined the proposals which once again involve an increase in the nationalised sector. However the Minister may seek to avoid the politically unpalatable truth, this is nationalisation. Again and again, she says that it is not nationalisation. But what has she said herself? She said that it means… a dramatic extension of public ownership, because I have made it quite clear in the House of Commons that I do not believe that public transport is a suitable field for private profit-making.The right hon. Lady nods assent; so, in her own words, this is… a dramatic extension of public owner-ship.But, she says, it is not nationalisation. She shakes her head. It is public ownership, but not nationalisation.
§ Mr. Barber
I will quote the Prime Minister, who said, with his usual disarming frankness: 755When we say 'extend public ownership' in any industry, we mean take over, nationalise.Because the right hon. Lady does not believe that public transport is a suitable field for private profit-making, she is out to grab the lot. There is no pussyfooting here. There is no talk here of "voluntary acquisitions" of bus companies. As she told the Labour Party conference, but not this House, the new passenger transport authorities are to have powers to acquire bus undertakings compulsorily. The passenger transport authorities which she is to establish will be bigger than anything at present existing outside London.
What will she achieve? When the next bus strike comes, it will be a bigger one. When the next fare increases come, they will be over a wider area; and the declared intention of the right hon. Lady is to extend the system over the whole country. I think that she will agree with me that, eventually, there are to be no exceptions throughout the country. It is her intention to grab every private enterprise bus company in the land.
We on these benches intend to tell the travelling public precisely what is in store for them, whether in Gorton, in Cambridge or in Leicester. In future, the travelling public will have a simple choice: either higher fares to meet the deficit or higher rates to meet it.
It is nonsense to pretend that there is any lack of co-ordination between existing undertakings or between road and rail operators which cannot be remedied. If there is room for improved co-ordination in some areas, it is ludicrous to pretend that the only way to deal with it is through common ownership.
The reason for these proposals has nothing to do with efficiency or with the welfare of the travelling public. The real motive is exposed by the right hon. Lady's ingrained hostility to private profit, and she has said it about this industry in the words which I have quoted already:I do not believe that public transport is a suitable field for private profit-making.Public transport may or may not be a suitable field for private profit-making, but of one fact we may be quite sure, and that is that, under public ownership, it 756 will become an eminently suitable vehicle for loss-making.
Then there is what the Minister calls "the whole range of ancillary services" with which this new nationalised sector will delight the travelling public. Publicly owned refreshment rooms—need I say more about that? Nationalised tours and excursions—arranged no doubt under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport.
Then there is what the Minister calls, rather ominously I thought, more flexible taxi services. I frankly doubt whether the travelling public has, as yet, any conception of the new vista which is about to open up before them. This will really hit the Costa Brava, I am sure.
Let us consider a typical Socialist evening in the life of the British working man. He is, of course, unemployed. But life is rather dreary, because they have banished his favourite "pop" station. Of course, it does not matter really, because in any event he will not get that new transistor, for the simple reason that they have stopped all the nonsense about cigarette coupons. So he thinks he will go down to the local for a quiet drink. But it is no good—the breathalyser has driven the boys away. Then it suddenly dawns upon him in a flash: where is the gayest spot in town?—the nationalised café in the publicly owned bus station.
The right hon. Lady's proposals for both road haulage and the travelling public are economic nonsense, and I believe that in her heart she knows it. To extend the area of nationalisation at any time would be folly for this country; but to do so at a time when our economy is at its lowest ebb since the post-war Labour Government is criminal folly. With unemployment at its highest autumn level since the 1930s, with industrial production back to the level of January, 1965, with successive falls in our reserves and with sterling under pressure, is there no single right hon. or hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite who realises the harm that will be done by yet another dose of nationalisation?
I have been considering, as has the right hon. Lady and others, the merits of this form of nationalisation, but I do not believe that any Government would be doing themselves justice and acting responsibly if they ignored the present situation in which we find ourselves and the 757 sort of impact which these proposals will make both at home and abroad. It is true that the right hon. Lady will not admit that this sort of proposal will do harm. She is on record as saying,Public ownership must be the basic structure of our new society",and the Prime Minister, too, is on record with similar remarks:By our nationalisation policy, and only by that policy, can we carry out a plan essential for Britain's future.The Government could hardly have chosen a worse time to put this obsession with nationalisation before the national interest: the Steel Nationalisation Act, the Industrial Reorganisation Act, and now the so-called Industrial Expansion Act and the Transport Bill which we have been told the right hon. Lady will bring forward shortly. This is a pattern of legislation which will do untold harm to our economy.
All we do in this country, and all we want to do, is dependent upon a thriving industrial base, and that means private competitive enterprise. But still, despite the unemployment, despite the stagnation, the Prime Minister and his colleagues, impervious even to the message of the by-elections, plod doggedly on with their Socialist folly. The verdict of the nation is clear, "You are ruining Britain —get out".
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)
I suppose that I should congratulate the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) on his maiden speech as Chairman of the Conservative Party and say that if we have many more hammer blows of that kind with his sort of feather duster he may go down very well with Central Office, but he would be the first to admit, I think, that he said very little indeed about the issues which are principally before us—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must insist that the House listens to both Front Benches in exactly the same way.
§ Mr. Benn
Before I come to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, may I deal with some of the questions which were raised by those who addressed themselves to the problems of our transport policy.
758 The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) again quoted figures to suggest that the transport investment in roads was less than had been planned by his party. The figures are as follows; the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) forecast a programme of £1,200 million during the period 1965–66 to 1969–70. My right hon. Friend's programme is £1,250 million, that is to say, higher than that which had been put forward and condemned by my colleagues as being inadequate. These are comparable figures, and if the hon. Gentleman is to speak again on this subject perhaps he will put the correct figure.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how it is that the programme for 1967–68, which was set out in the Conservative Government's White Paper published in 1963, provided for £470 million to be spent this year, which at 1963 prices that would be £531 million, and the Government are spending only £450 million, £81 million less?
§ Mr. Walker
Will the right hon. Gentleman now explain how expenditure this year is £81 million less than we proposed?
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman had better refresh his mind about what he said. He was talking about the five-year forecast before the 1964 Election, and if he looks at the figures he will find that he is wrong. This is difficult for him to take, but I would be grateful if he would acquaint himself with the figures and withdraw what he said.
§ Mr. Barber
This is important, because my hon. Friend quoted these figures earlier and asked for an answer. Perhaps I might put a simple question to the right hon. Gentleman. Does he agree that the amount being spent this year is £81 million less than the amount proposed by the Conservative Government, a sum which was described by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) during the 1964 election as being "too little and too late"?
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman —[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am in the process of doing so. The right hon. Gentleman has confused two issues. One was in relation to what was promised before the last election, and the other is the figure, exactly comparable, which is our current programme. Our programme is greater than that which was promised before the last election.
A number of detailed points were raised during the debate, and I would like to refer to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South-East (Mr. Park) referred to the anomalies under the Travel Concessions Act. I know about this, because I have had similar experience in the City of Bristol. My right hon. Friend has reviewed the problem, and the P.T.A.s, as they come out, will qualify under the Bill.
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) raised a number of questions. He accused my right hon. Friend of concealment in relation to a White Paper that had not yet been published. In fact the passenger transport authority proposals the White Paper proposals are now being circulated for consultation and they will be brought before the House at the right time. It is no good hon. Members opposite saying that there is not proper consultation, and, at the same time, grumbling because the final proposals to be brought forward by the Government are going out for discussion with those who are most likely to be affected.
§ Mr. Webster
Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the White Paper will be published, and guarantee a debate on it?
§ Mr. Benn
The White Paper will be coming out in the next week or two and by the time it comes forward the results of the consultations that have taken place will be available. There will be adequate opportunities, in the course of the business of the House, for proper discussions on all aspects of Government transport policy.
The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale said that he could not see any difference between public ownership and nationalisation. He should have listened to the speech made by his hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare, who made a great deal of the 760 fact that, as he saw it, the P.T.A.s would involve a change of ownership for those who had municipal bus services. There are various types of public ownership and municipal ownership is one type. The P.T.A.s which my right hon. Friend is now considering will be based upon the local government system and will represent an extension of democracy in local council planning.
Members of the party opposite made no reference in the debate to the fact that modern transport planning in urban areas requires to be integrated with the needs of the whole community in those areas. The idea that we can have, in a large city, a transport system based entirely upon 19th century principles of profit making was rejected by the Party opposite long before the last world war.
I now come to the real element of choice, to which the party opposite devoted no attention in the debate. The party opposite is supposed to be the party of businessmen who really understand the balance of advantages. Where, in their cost figures, do they take account of the cost to the community of the under-use of the railways system, and where do they take account of the cost due to congestion on our roads? Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have made no attempt even to confront the central problem of transport, which is that if we base the whole thing upon the idea of private profit—which is what the right hon. Gentleman suggested—we leave absolutely out of account these other considerations.
I want to quote from the Report of the Select Committee on the railways, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson). This Committee was under the chairmanship of Sir Toby Low—as he then was—and it had this to say about Conservative transport policy, when talking about what happened after the 1953 Transport Act:In the competition that then ensued, the functioning of the railways did not have to be regulated for any needs of strategy. Nor, it seems, was there an attempt to co-ordinate, in any hard and fast way, the development of national transport resources;That was not a Labour spokesman; that was Sir Toby Low, in 1960.
The Report went on:capital investment, whether in a road or in a railway project, was considered in each 761 individual case on its own merits, including the amount of public pressure for it… There was no national planning about how the competition should develop; it was for the railways to assess their own future prospects (although the Ministry would then, in a non-technical way, consider whether the assessment seemed to be valid, before consenting to plans for investment based upon them".This was the situation into which railway planning had been allowed to get about seven years after the 1953 Transport Act.
Indeed, the hon. Gentleman, who has followed transport for many years in the House, will remember that, in the Select Committee's evidence arising out of this Report, many questions were put to the Ministry of Transport about whether or not it had any procedure for appraising the various projects which came to it, and it was quite clear from the answers that there was, within the Ministry, no appraisal machinery whatsoever for calculating what sort of investment ought to be in different types of transport.
Various other questions were raised, one from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) about the position in Scotland. He faces this problem: that no part of the country stands to gain more from the freight liner service than Scotland. Members opposite ought to make up their own minds whether they want to support the British Railways development of the freight liner service—I am talking about freight liners which will be carried on British Railways —or whether they are so concerned to attack public ownership that they will discourage possible users from using the freight liner service.
So this, from their side, has been such a very bad debate because none of the difficult choices has been faced at all by any of the speakers—
§ Mr. Benn
No, I have a large number of points to which I want to refer and I cannot give way to every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate.
I want to turn now to the White Paper on railway policy, to which the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale made no reference whatsoever. He said nothing about the key issues of whether or not the party opposite believes that there are social considerations which ought to be taken into account when deciding the size of the railway network. He said 762 nothing whatsoever about the problem of surplus capacity, which has been a problem for British Railways for some time, nothing about the need for a realistic capital structure, nothing about the new management proposals and nothing about the need for long range planning and corporate planning within British Railways. If he had devoted rather more attention to the actual problems confronting the railways, he would have contributed more usefully to the debate—
§ Mr. Barber
The simple point is that this is a 60-page Report and very detailed, and we had four and a half hours in which to read it. I devoted myself not to the White Paper, but to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Wilson
When I mentioned the Report of Sir Toby Low's Committee, I pointed out that it recommended social reasons which should be taken into consideration and that the Conservative Government did not refuse that, and, in effect, accepted it.
§ Mr. Benn
If you do not refuse to do it, but do not do it, that is just about the same as doing nothing about it. One of the great problems of the Members opposite was that they expected British Railways to carry responsibilities which had nothing whatever to do with its job of running an efficient railway system. This is the change which my right hon. Friend is bringing about—
§ Mr. Benn
No, I cannot give way to every hon. Member who spoke in the debate. I am trying to do the House the courtesy of answering the serious points which were raised and I think that I should be allowed to continue.
763 The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) raised a number of questions about aviation. I shall have to deal with them briefly, but I want to refer to them one by one. First, he talked about Stansted. This matter was fully debated in the House in June and I do not think that I can add anything to it now. There has been some question about when the Order is made, but my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade must be allowed time to play himself into his Department. There is nothing I can add.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about hotels—
§ Mr. Webster
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During your absence from the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker ruled that one had to speak on the Amendment now before the House. Is the Minister of Technology doing so?
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If points are raised, he cannot object if an attempt is made to answer them.
A question was raised about hotels. As the hon. Gentleman knows, B.O.A.C. is in discussion with International Hotels, a Pan-American subsidiary, about the possibility of providing hotel accommodation of the kind required for the Boeing 747 jet passengers.
The hon. Member also asked about the air safety review. This is likely to be ready in a few weeks' time, and the conclusions will be published. He also raised, as did the hon. Member for Garston (Mr. Fortescue), a number of questions arising out of the Edwards Committee dealing with the Air Transport Licensing Board and the independent operators. We must await the report of the Committee.
But the hon. Gentleman's major question, and one of considerable importance, was the matter of B.E.A. re-equipment. He criticised the Government for being slow about this. When B.E.A. first came forward it did so with the request for American aircraft, and I take it that the hon. Gentleman does not criticise us for not having agreed to that request in August of last year. Therefore, had we been as quick as he 764 wanted us to be we would have done the thing he did not want. It is one reason why Governments have to look carefully at such proposals.
The first orders for BAC111/500 were approved in December—the "half decision" as the hon. Member called it —and we now come to the much more difficult decision of the interim buy of B.E.A. There is the BAC211, which has been urged by B.E.A., and there is the possibility of the Trident 3B. There is the VC10 possibility, and the possibility of existing types. No decision has been reached on the matter, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the most careful consideration is being given to it. It raises a number of very big issues, including the question of the Government contribution, the export prospects, and so on. A decision is expected quite soon, but that is as far as I can go on that issue now.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
Before the Minister leaves the subject of air transport, we have noticed over the weekend that the Government have announced through a series of off-the-record non-attributable Press reports that they have abandoned the idea of Stansted airport. Will he confirm that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is now reconsidering the whole question?
§ Mr. Benn
The escalation of Opposition interest in this debate is very flattering, but I have said all that I have to say—[Interruption.] Nobody better than the right hon. Gentleman ought to know—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—the difficulty that faces somebody confronted with the sort of speculation of which he has experienced a great deal in recent weeks. I have nothing further to say about Stansted than I have said now.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the Minister does not give way, the right hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Benn
Although the House has not left me much time, I wish to turn to an element of transport policy which received absolutely no attention at all from hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is the effect upon transport development in this country of the technological changes which are now taking place. We had from the 765 hon. Member for Woking—and I was glad that he put it forward—the idea than when one talks about transport one should include air, waterway, railway and road transport.
The really big change that has come over transport during the last few years has been the development of container methods of transportation. It is a curious reflection on the contributions made to the debate by hon. Gentleman opposite that this very large revolution, which has made possible new thinking about freight handling, should have received so very little attention from them. Those who argued for a long time about the need for a better integrated transport system have now found that this will be possible as a result of containers which are able to go by road, rail and sea.
We have done quite a lot in this sphere, first, to bring about international agreement about the standardisation of containers and, secondly, to bring forward an approval scheme, for which my Department is responsible, which will certify that containers are fulfilling the requirements needed of them. Anyone in transport will know that containers will do more to change the pattern of transport over the years than any other single factor. They will be at least as important as the development of road transport was for the railway system.
It is of great importance that we should get for British shipyards the opportunity to build container ships. I am glad to say that, partly as a result of the reorganisation of British shipbuilding—which we have been able to help through the Shipbuilding Industry Board—some very important container ship orders have been brought to this country and that our shipbuilding industry is now able to participate in the development of this new technology.
When one combines this with what my right hon. Friend is doing on container berths in Britain, when one considers the growth of the freight liners—where, in 1966, there was an increase about tenfold in the use of containers on freight liner trains—and when one takes with it the point which is shortly coming up for decision—the use of standard containers in road transport—one gets an idea of how we shall be able to make use of one 766 of the most important developments in transport for many years.
This brings me to a point which I was surprised no hon. Member brought forward; that the balance of research on transport in Britain has been much too heavily weighted in favour of research into air matters and that not enough has been spent on research for surface transportation. On the most recent figures—which were those published in the Triennial Survey of Scientific Research in 1964–65—in that year, £140 million was spent in the aircraft industry, of which £116 million was provided by the Government; £32 million was spent in the motor vehicle industry, of which only £375,000 came from the Government; and £4 million was spent in the shipbuilding industry, of which £2 million came from the Government.
The fact is that the balance of research on transport has not been in accord with the needs of the travelling public or, indeed, of the potential needs and possibilities of the exports that exist here. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Ministry of Transport and my Department have now set up a joint research organisation which, it is intended, will begin to right this wrong balance.
Under the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Transport there is an assessment group, a consortium of scientists and engineers from the Royal Aircraft Establishment, the Atomic Energy Authority, the British Railways Board Research Association and the Road Research Laboratory, which is now working on a programme of forward transport research designed to solve problems which will be of far more importance to industry and the travelling public than the sort of stuff that we had from the right hon. Gentleman in his winding-up speech.
Indeed, a very great deal of effort already is going into this. I have from my own research establishments now about 90 qualified scientists and engineers and a budget of £750,000 worth of research projects bearing directly on transport needs in terms of vehicles, roads and bridges, air pollution and noise. It is from the development of new transport systems that we shall be able to meet the much more sophisticated needs 767 of the transport user in the 1970s and beyond.
For a long time the Hovercraft was about the only example of advanced transport thinking that could be referred to. Next year there will be, with the SRN4 operated by British Railways, a trans-Channel Hovercraft service. The N.R.D.C. programme of hovertrain development using the linear induction motor is going ahead. There is no doubt whatever that we can really provide some useful reinforcement and, indeed, replacement of existing transport methods as a result of the work that is beginning and will be further developed.
If I may add to this one reference to the view we take about the need to get much more of this research out in industry itself, a reference was made to the Industrial Expansion Bill. The right hon. Gentleman called it the Industrial Expansion Act, which was a very wise piece of prophecy. But the whole purpose of the Industrial Expansion Act—[Laughter.] —Bill, which I shall be introducing into the House later on, is to give us the same opportunity in this country as, say, the Americans through their very large expenditure on space and defence—particularly space—have got, of stimulating modern technology in British industry, including technology on the surface transport side.
The argument tonight has not really been, as the right hon. Gentleman would
§ have us believe, between those who favour free enterprise and those who are absolutely unregenerate Socialists. The argument has been between those who have argued about transport in terms of its technical possibilities and have faced the actual problems of management in the field of railway management, conurbation development, freight liner services, and so on, and those opposite who have taken this opportunity—and this is to be the pattern for the future—of making this debate into a platform for their general political philosophy.
§ But if I were to say the harshest thing I could about the right hon. Gentleman, it would be that his speech tonight was entirely irrelevant to the problems that actually confront this country, he said nothing about his own views on transport policy, he confronted none of the basic choices and none of the difficulties, and made no attempt to defend the policy which we inherited and found to be wanting. He merely made it the opportunity for a jolly maiden speech as Chairman of the Conservative Party.
§ I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject the Amendment, above all because, like the party opposite, of its massive irrelevance to the problems now confronting this country.
§ Question put, That those words be there added:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 239, Noes 325.771
|Division No. 2.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Astor, John||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Bullus, Sir Eric||Doughty, Charles|
|Awdry, Daniel||Burden, F. A.||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Campbell, Gordon||Drayson, G. B.|
|Balniel, Lord||Carlisle, Mark||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Eden, Sir John|
|Batsford, Brian||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Channon, H. P. G.||Emery, Peter|
|Bell, Ronald||Chichester-Clark, R.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Clark, Henry||Eyre, Reginald|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Clegg, Walter||Farr, John|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Cooke, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Biffen, John||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Fortescue, Tim|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cordle, John||Foster, Sir John|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Corfield, F. V.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Costain, A. P.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.|
|Blaker, Peter||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Boardman, H.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan|
|Body, Richard||Crouch, David||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Crowder, F. P.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Brewis, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Glyn, Sir Richard|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Dalkeith, Earl of||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Bromtey-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Dance, James||Good hart, Philip|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Goodhew, Victor|
|Gower, Raymond||Lubbock, Eric||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Grant, Anthony||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||MacArthur, Ian||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Grieve, Percy||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Royle, Anthony|
|Gurden, Harold||McMaster, Stanley||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maddan, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||Maginnis, John E.||Scott, Nicholas|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Sharples, Richard|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Marten, Neil||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maude, Angus||Silvester, F. J.|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mawby, Ray||Smith, John|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Maxwell-Hyslop, R, J.||Stainton, Keith|
|Hastings, Stephen||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Hawkins, Paul||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Miscampbell, Norman||Tapsell, Peter|
|Heseltine, Michael||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Monro, Hector||Taylor.Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Montgomery, Fergus||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Temple, John M.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hordern, Peter||Murton, Oscar||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Hornby, Richard||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Tilney, John|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Neave, Airey||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Hunt, John||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Noble, Rt, Hn. Michael||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nott, John||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Onslow, Cranley||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Wall, Patrick|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Walters, Dennis|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Jopling, Michael||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Pardoe, John||Webster, David|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Peel, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Percival, Ian||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Peyton, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pink, R. Bonner||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Lane, David||Pounder, Rafton||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Prior, J. M. L.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Pym, Francis||Wylie, N. R.|
|Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. selwyn (Wirral)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Longden, Gilbert||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Mr. R. VT. Elliott and Mr. Jasper More.|
|Loveys, W. H.||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Abse, Leo||Brooks, Edwin||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Anderson, Donald||Brown,Bob(N,c,tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Archer, Peter||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Delargy, Hugh|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Buchan, Norman||Dell, Edmund|
|Ashley, Jack||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'bum)||Dempsey, James|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dewar, Donald|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dickens, James|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cant, R. B.||Dobson, Ray|
|Barnes, Michael||Carmichael, Neil||Doig, Peter|
|Barnett, Joel||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Donnelly, Desmond|
|Baxter, William||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Driberg, Tom|
|Beaney, Alan||Chapman, Donald||Dunn, James A.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Coe, Denis||Dunnett, Jack|
|Bence, Cyril||Coleman, Donald||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Concannon, J. D.||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Conlan, Bernard||Eadie, Alex|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Edelman, Maurice|
|Binns, John||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Crawshaw, Richard||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Blackburn, F.||Cronin, John||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Ellis, John|
|Booth, Albert||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||English, Michael|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dalyell, Tam||Ennals, David|
|Boyden, James||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Ensor, David|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Ledger, Ron||Rankin, John|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Finch, Harold||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lee, John (Reading)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Richard, Ivor|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Foley, Maurice||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lipton, Marcus||Robinson.Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Ford, Ben||Lomas, Kenneth||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Forrester, John||Loughlin, Charles||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Freeson, Reginald||McBride, Neil||Rose, Paul|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||MacColl, James||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gardner, Tony||MacDermot, Niall||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Macdonald, A. H.||Ryan, John|
|Ginsburg, David||McGuire, Michael||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Sheldon, Robert|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mackie, John||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mackintosh, John P.||Short. Rt. Hn. Edwart (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Maclennan, Robert||Short, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Hamling, William||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hannan, William||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Harper, Joseph||Manuel, Archio)||Small, William|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mapp, Charles||Snow, Julian|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Marquand, David||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Haseldine, Norman||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, w.)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mason, Roy||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Maxwell, Robert||Stonehouse, John|
|Heffer, Eric 8.||Mayhew, Christopher||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Henig, Stanley||Mellish, Robert||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mendelson, J. J.||Swain, Thomas|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mikardo, Ian||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town||Millan, Bruce||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hooley, Frank||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Taverne, Dick|
|Horner, John||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Molloy, William||Tinn, James|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Moonman, Eric||Tuck, Raphael|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Howle, W.||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Hoy, James||Moyle, Roland||Wallace, Brian (All Saints)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Murray, Albert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold||Wallace, George|
|Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Newens, Stan||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Norwood, Christopher||Weitzman, David|
|Hunter, Adam||Oakes, Gordon||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hynd, John||Oram, Albert E.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Ome, Stanley||Whitaker, Ben|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oswald, Thomas||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Whitlock, William|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Padley, Walter||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Paget, R. T.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Palmer, Arthur||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewieham, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Park, Trevor||Williams, Mts. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W. Ham, S.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Judd, Frank||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Winnick, David|
|Kelley, Richard||Pentland, Norman||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||) Woof, Robert|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Yates, Victor|
|Lawson, George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Price, William (Rugby)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Probert, Arthur||Mr. Brian O'Malley and Mr. Charles Grey.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
§ Main Question again proposed.772
§ It being after Ten o'clock and objection being taken to further proceeding, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be continued Tomorrow.