HC Deb 17 December 1968 vol 775 cc1242-303

Order for Second Reading read.

7.8 p.m.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Since the debate is taking place a few minutes behind time, I will endeavour to make my speech as brief as possible. However, hon. Members will recognise that while this is, I hope, a non-controversial Measure in the party political sense, it is an extremely important one.

We had a debate on the commuter problem of London only a fortnight ago. It emerged from that debate that the problems of London are very big and special to London. In an average working day, there are about 7 million journeys to or from work in London, about 2½ million of them to or from the central area. These are only journeys to work. Apart from these, there are business, shopping and leisure journeys, and the vast transport needs of industry and commerce which must be catered for in a large capital city.

There is no doubt that this is a most serious problem and that it is getting worse. This problem must be met, and I submit that there is only one way of meeting it, and that is on the lines which we are envisaging in the Bill; that is, to bring together all the inter-related elements—public transport, highways and traffic—so that there can be comprehensive policies for planning, operations and financing across the whole range of transportation in London, policies which take into account the social and environmental problems which are inherent in developing transport to meet today's needs. The Bill is the most comprehensive piece of urban transport legislation ever to be introduced anywhere in the world. It covers in one way or another the planning operation and, to a very large extent, the finances of road and rail transport, highways and traffic, in one of the largest urban areas in the world.

In taking the House through the Bill I shall obviously have to refer back frequently to the White Paper, "Transport in London", Cmnd. 3686. Unfortunately, we have not had an opportunity yet of discussing the White Paper. Eighty per cent. of our population live in urban areas. Nearly half of them live in cities and very large towns. With the increasing demands of mobility, and the rapidly growing use of private cars, urban transport is the biggest single problem of those concerned with transport. This is true in Britain as it is in most other developed countries. For the conurbations outside London, our policies have been given effect to in the passenger transport authorities which are being set up under the Transport Act, 1968. In London we need to go further, and we are able to go further.

What we are doing, therefore, in the Bill, inevitably goes well beyond the P.T.A. concept, but it is none the less consistent with it. There are differences. Because of the existence of the new local government structure in London we have had no need to set up a separate P.T.A. The Greater London Council takes on, in relation to the London Transport undertaking, very similar responsibilities to those that the P.T.A. takes for its Executive.

Again, the new organisation and the financial arrangements we are making have to allow for the different history of the London Transport Board, the different scope of its activities compared with those of the authority most concerned—the Greater bus undertakings which are being amalgamated in the conurbations.

The proposals have been developed in very close consultation with the major authority most concerned—the Greater London Council. I am not able yet to tell the House the formal G.L.C. view of the proposals, since the Council has been discussing the Bill only this afternoon. There may be some point of detail on which we shall not be in total accord, but we have in the Bill kept very firmly to the letter and to the spirit of the agreement of principle reached with the leader of the Council a year ago and later endorsed by the Council itself.

As to changes in the responsibilities of the London Transport undertakings, much of the underlying thinking of the Bill derives from the Joint Review which considered these matters under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend who is now the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security. I pay tribute to all those who were associated with that exercise.

The basic purpose of the Bill is to place the main responsibilities for transport in London where, in my view, they belong—with the people of London, through their elected representatives on the Greater London Council. We aim here to give the Council all the powers that it needs to carry out its job.

The key provision in the Bill is the duty placed on the Council in Clause 1 to develop policies, and to encourage, organise and … carry out measures, which will promote the provision of integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services for Greater London. Everything else in the Bill stems from this. The immediate practical application of this duty lies in the Council's obligation to prepare and publish transport plans for Greater London. What is important—and new—is that these will be plans for all aspects of transport prepared by a body with the powers needed to make the plans a reality.

The plans will be able to co-ordinate the efforts of those who provide public transport and those who determine, through traffic and parking measures, the environment in which public transport operates.

The Bill itself does not spell out the organisation necessary to put the new system into effect. In practice, new planning machinery will be set up under G.L.C. chairmanship on which representatives of the new Executive, the Railways Board and the Ministry of Transport will serve, consulting others as necessary.

It is through this machinery that the Greater London Council will have a rô le to play in connection with British Rail's suburban rail services. These will not be placed directly under the Council. Operationally, they are too closely linked with British Rail's long-distance and freight services. But it is right that the Council should be involved in planning for this network. The Bill provides for this involvement and enables the Council to take in due course a financial stake in the arrangements, also.

Within the formal drafting of Parts II and III lies one of the most dramatic parts of the Bill—the transfer of the London Transport Board from Whitehall to County Hall; from the Government to Londoners. I think that the House will agree that this new arrangement is logical and inevitable. The new London Transport Executive will be the body responsible for the day-to-day running of the bus and tube network in Greater London.

The smaller area—smaller, that is, than the present London Transport area—has been deliberately chosen, since it is regarded as the largest area over which the Council could exercise effective control over the very different elements of transport.

The relationship between the Executive and the Council will be broadly that which exists between the Government and a nationalised industry. Responsibility for day-to-day management will rest fairly and squarely with the Executive itself. There will be no question of the Council making itself the decisions which properly belong to management. The members of the Executive will be appointed by the Council, but the officers and staff will be appointed by the Executive itself. Since the point has been raised from time to time, I want to make it clear that these employees will not be local government servants. The Executive, as the employers, will be responsible for the machinery of staff negotiation on matters such as wages and conditions of service.

The most significant thing about the new London Transport—most significant, that is, for London travellers, anyhow—is the new financial and service obligations which will be placed upon the Executive. They derive directly from the work of the Joint Review, and the philosophy underlying them can be studied in the Report of the Directing Group.

A major difficulty of the London Board in the past has been that its two statutory duties—to pay its way and to provide an "adequate" system of passenger transport—are so framed as to be difficult to define and in practice impossible to reconcile. In the Bill, the overriding duty will be the financial one—to break even and to meet financial objectives set for periods fixed by the Council. This duty will have to be met, since the Council will be obliged under Clause 7 to take whatever action it thinks necessary to ensure that the Executive can meet it.

Subject always to the financial duty, there will be a duty on the London Transport Executive, under Clause 5, to provide such services as best meet the needs of Greater London, again defined in accordance with principles laid down by the Council.

These duties are completely interlocking. What they mean in practical terms is that the Council will be able to decide on the broad standards of service to be provided and will have, in return, the responsibility of ensuring, in one way or another, that the London Transport undertaking remains viable.

I want to mention a number of other special provisions. There is the question of manufacturing powers, which we have discussed from time to time in the Chamber. London Transport has traditionally done more in this field and has facilities for doing more, than the undertakings which will make up the new passenger transport executives. It has been inhibited in the past both in not being able to make full use of its resources and in its relations with its suppliers.

The Bill, therefore, proposes that, subject to direction by the Council, the Executive should have powers to manufacture for itself, for its subsidiaries, for the various members of the nationalised transport "family", and for the Council. London Transport will not be inhibited, as it was under the 1962 Act, from manufacturing vehicle chassis and bodies.

I must also mention at this stage the powers in relation to bus services that the Executive will have. The basic purpose is to place the London Transport Executive, within Greater London, in very much the same position as a passenger transport executive. The L.T.E. will, like the P.T.E.s, have, within Greater London, special rights in relation to what the Bill defines as "London bus services"—these are the ordinary stage and express services. No operator other than the London Transport Executive will be able to run such services, except under agreement with the Executive.

Existing services are, of course, protected under the provisions of Clause 23 and Schedule 4, and there is no question of the new arrangements depriving existing operators of services they are already running.

The special rights of the Executive apply, of course, within Greater London only. The House will have noticed that the operating powers of the Executive extend much wider than this area and, indeed, there is no geographical limit. This is because the size of London and its importance as the capital city makes it difficult to judge where a limit should be set which could be certain of not impeding at some time in future provision by London Transport of services genuinely intended to meet the needs of London.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

The right hon. Gentleman has made an important statement that people operating existing services will not have their right to operate taken away. But I understand that Schedule 4 provides a conditional right to operate those services. Surely that is a contradiction.

Mr. Marsh

I shall come to that point later. In so far as they run stage and express bus services outside Greater London, the Executive will be subject, among like any other operator, to control by the Traffic Commissioners. We want to enable the Executive, like any other bus undertaking, to make the best commercial use of its resources. The special rights of the Executive within Greater London do not extend to excursions and tour traffic, so that, in future, the Executive and other operators will be competing on equal terms subject only to the licensing system.

I turn now to the rô le of the G.L.C. in relation to the Executive. The main powers that the Council will have, apart from the power to appoint, will be to pay grant to the Executive for any purpose it thinks fit and to issue directions to the Executive. This gives the Council the right to prescribe the policy lines to be followed and to take financial responsibility for its decisions. This is very important, because if the Council wishes the Executive to do something that will cause it to fall short of its financial targets, it will itself have to take financial responsibility for it. The Council might wish, for example, the Executive to run a series of services at a loss for social or planning reasons. It might wish to keep fares down at a time when costs are rising and there is no scope for economies. It is free to do so. But it has to bear the cost.

The Bill also gives the Council other powers of control, especially over finance. The Council will have to approve the Executive's budgets—its capital and revenue accounts—and will have control of the Executive's borrowing. It will also be able to institute reviews of the organisation of the Executive and, if necessary, give directions to the Executive to implement changes which the Council decides are needed as a result. These reviews are not intended to cover detailed questions of management but broad questions of structure and organisation—for example, the extent to which the Executive operates direct or through subsidiaries.

Another specific power of the Council relates to the disposal or acquisition of particular services. Given the Council's responsibilities, it is right that it should be able to look at the pattern of services operated by the Executive. But hon. Members will see that this power, in Clause 20, cannot be exercised in such a way as to take away from the Executive its rô le as the main provider of transport in Greater London. Although in general we want to keep Ministerial intervention in the affairs of the Executive to a minimum, it is reasonable to build in this safeguard.

The last of the new responsibilities of the Council are those relating to fares in London. For various reasons, most of them historical ones connected with the monopoly situation of London Transport, people living in or near London have for many years been able to appeal to the Transport Tribunal. This has been unique to London. With the major changes in responsibility and organisation now proposed, this is no longer appropriate.

For the services of the new Executive—underground and bus services—the Council has all along asked for full control over fares. The Government accept that this is right. One could not impose upon a body the obligations of running an organisation of this size and refuse it control of revenue raising. It is consistent with what is proposed for bus services in P.T.A. areas, where fares will no longer be subject to the Traffic Commissioners but will be determined by the overall authority, the P.T.A. Outside the G.L.C. area bus fares will, of course, be subject to the Traffic Commissioners.

For surface train services, the House will be aware of the degree of commercial fredom the Government's policy insists on for the railways and of the view of the Prices and Incomes Board strongly in favour of a commercial approach by the railways. In these circumstances, it cannot be right that Londoners alone should have a tribunal which may, in interpreting its terms of reference, decide in particular circumstances to hold fares below what is economically desirable. The consequences fall not upon the London traveller nor upon the London ratepayer but upon the taxpayers throughout the country. We have therefore, thought it right to provide for discontinuing the London fares functions of the Transport Tribunal. Transport undertakings in London will, of course, continue to be subject, like all others, to the Government's prices and incomes policy.

The arrangements I have so far described are mainly those that will apply within London. But the Bill goes a great deal wider, since it provides for handing over the country or "green" buses and the Green Line coaches to the National Bus Company. Part III of the Bill provides the machinery for handover, on standard lines which have been followed in the past in other contexts.

I want to make it clear that there need be no fears among staff affected by the handover about their future. The Bill provides for transfer of pension rights and for compensation if anyone is adversely affected by the change. The National Bus Company has already set up a company—London Country Bus Services Limited—to receive the "green bus" organisation on vesting day. This is the company that the N.B.C. proposes to designate for the purpose under Clause 16.

It may be, of course, that, in the longer term, the N.B.C. will want to make changes in this arrangement. There are problems, though they are problems which the present country bus management seems to deal with satisfactorily, about operating over an area which has been described by one of my officials as "a demented Polo mint, with a hole in the centre of up to 20 miles in diameter."

There is no question of any immediate transfer of the staff of the country buses to individual companies of the N.B.C. when the Bill comes into effect. Any changes will, of course, be subject to discussion with the staff in the normal way. In the country bus area, the Bill provides for existing services to continue automatically after the hand over, subject in the normal way to control by the Traffic Commissioners. In future, local authorities in outer London areas will, through the mechanism of public sittings and of appeal, be able to be closely involved in the form and frequency of services in a way that, in the past, they have not been.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that the standards of remuneration as well as of pension rights of staff will be safeguarded in the fringe areas which will be lopped off, since there is considerable disquiet and anxiety among the staff and it is essential that these should be set at rest from the start.

Mr. Marsh

As I have said, the Bill, as with nearly all other Bills of this type, contains Clauses for the protection of the staff in the usual way, and the fears which my hon. Friend quite rightly refers to are not likely to be justified in the event.

The transfer of the L.T.B. undertaking, and especially the major part of it which is to go to the G.L.C, inevitably has important financial implications. In the course of negotiations over the present proposals, the G.L.C. has made it clear that the undertaking must be viable at the time of transfer of responsibility. Viability is agreed to mean that the undertaking should pay its way with sufficient margin to create in the first year a reserve of £2 million and maintain it thereafter at that minimum level at least. This is the situation which the G.L.C. has insisted must be reached if it is to be willing to take over the London Transport undertaking.

The cost of urban transport should normally be met locally, whether through fares paid by the users, or otherwise. But special considerations apply to London. Therefore, a Government contribution to setting the undertaking on a sound financial basis is in my view fully justified. The Government's contribution consists mainly in the capital write-off of 90 per cent. of the Board's debt to the Government. Putting this in terms of a capital sum, the proposed write-off should amount, on present estimates, to about £244 million, depending on the time of transfer. In terms of annual interest payments, this should amount to a Government contribution of about £11 million per year.

All this is over and above the assistance which the London Transport Board has had on revenue account over the past few years and which it will continue to receive until the time of transfer. By that time, these revenue grants may amount to about £40 million, and, whatever complaints there may be, I think that Londoners have been spared some pretty considerable fare increases in recent years.

Even with all this Government help, however, there will still be a substantial gap to be bridged to make the London transport undertaking viable, and studies have been made by my Department and the London Transport Board—studies with which Greater London Council officials have been associated—to assess this "viability gap". Officials agree that the best estimate which can be made at the present time, on the basis of the assumptions adopted in the London Transport Board's forecasts, is that the gap will be about £8 million in the first year of the new undertaking.

As I have made clear, the Greater London Council does not intend to enter into any commitment, for example, to help bridge the gap by using the subsidy powers it will have. That being so, fares will have to be increased by the autumn of next year. The form of the increases is not yet certain. London Transport is preparing proposals designed to raise the necessary sum of about £8 million. The Government intend to refer these proposals to the Prices and Incomes Board, probably early in the new year, so that the Board can consider the pattern of fares increases necessary to achieve viability.

I now come to Part V—the provisions on highways and traffic. Our main object here is to strengthen the powers of the G.L.C. so that it can carry out more effectively its responsibilities as the "strategic" transport authority for Lon- don. In the three and a half years since the London Government reorganisation came into effect, defects with the highways and traffic powers have become apparent which have to be remedied if the G.L.C. is to be an effective transport authority.

First, we propose to make all principal roads in Greater London the responsibility of the Greater London Council. Principal roads are those roads—other than trunk roads, which are a Ministry of Transport responsibility—which are so significant for traffic that my Department pays specific grant towards their construction and improvement. Under the 1963 London Government Act, only some 550 miles of the 870 or so miles of principal roads have so far been the responsibility of the Greater London Council. The remainder, over 300 miles, have been divided between the London Boroughs, which also look after some 6,800 miles of local roads. But roads important enough to through traffic to be designated as principal roads should clearly be the responsibility of the "strategic" transport authority. We therefore propose to increase the G.L.C.'s responsibilities by these 300 or so further miles of road. For this, however, there is a quid pro quo. The London Boroughs have found some of the planning requirements under the 1963 Act irksome, particularly those about referring development applications to the G.L.C. Although the Greater London Council needs to control the construction and improvement of principal roads, there is no reason why the full system of development control which has accompanied their highway responsibilities should continue as at present.

In planning matters, the London Boroughs, as the local planning authorities, have an obviously important rô le. The Bill therefore proposes that the principal roads of Greater London can be divided into two categories for development control purposes. One category will comprise roads so critical to the network that, either because of their present traffic importance or their need for development, the Greater London Council must continue, for the time being at least, to control development. The second category will be roads where determination of development applications will be left to the London Boroughs—subject to their operating, for the treatment of the length of road in question, within a framework laid down by the G.L.C. I expect approximately 300 miles to come into the first category, and roads can, of course, be transferred from one category to the other as necessary. Although, therefore, the G.L.C.'s highway authority responsibilities will be increased, its control over development will be relaxed in favour of the Boroughs, and we intend that these two complementary provisions should come into effect together.

I also propose, jointly with the City Corporation and the Greater London Council, to undertake a special review of the status of the principal roads in the City of London.

The other really important provisions of Part V of those relating to parking, which is one of the most vital elements in traffic policies today. For on-street parking, we propose to strengthen the Greater London Council's existing control to facilitate the introduction of controlled parking schemes, especially the proposed Inner London parking area. The proposals for off-street parking, however, are entirely new.

The Greater London Council realises that if it is to operate effective traffic policies it must have power over off-street as well as on-street parking, and the 1963 Act is, in this respect, just not good enough. As traffic and transport authority, the Council needs to be able to ensure a proper balance between short-term and long-term parking supply; and to provide, if necessary, for sufficient off-street parking space to be available for residents in an area where on-street parking is completely controlled. And off-street parking provision may need to be related to the capacity of the roads around it, too.

It might seem to the House to be easy to deal with these matters by some sort of general policy objectives, but the only way to ensure that something actually happens is to introduce a licensing system. This is what the G.L.C. has asked for—and, I think, has rightly asked for—with the proviso that the licensing should be operated by the Boroughs. We agree. So the Bill provides that car parks available to the public for payment may be licensed by the London Boroughs in accordance with requirements prescribed by the Greater London Council.

Let me say at once that we do not envisage a car park licensing system coming into effect throughout Greater London the day the Measure comes into operation. Licensing of all car parks may seem to be a heavy-handed control, but it is intended to be exercised intelligently—and only in those areas where the traffic situation requires it.

The Bill provides, of course, for compensation if an operator is refused a licence, or if a licence is granted only on terms which damage his business.

Finally, in Part V there are Clauses which tidy up and improve, in keeping its new responsibilities, traffic responsibilities which the G.L.C. already has under the 1963 Act. An example is Clause 32. I intend to relinquish my present control over every individual pedestrian crossing in Greater London, and to introduce a quota system of crossings based on population which I have already announced for the rest of the country. It seems to me to be most extraordinary that any Minister should be responsible for every pedestrian crossing, and that is at least one piece of responsibility that I have been able to get rid of with everyone's approval.

I think that I have given the general picture of what we are aiming at. The Bill marks the end of one chapter in the transport history of London—the chapter which was originally written by a man who was for some years a friend and neighbour, and who was, perhaps, our greatest Minister of Transport—Herbert Morrison. The 1933 Act stood the test of time extraordinarily well, and it is no discredit to it that the vast changes of the past 35 years have at last made it out of date. The proposals in the Bill will put London once again well ahead of the rest of the world in transport and, with that in mind, I commend the Bill to the House.

7.39 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)

We are debating this Bill on the same day as Greater London Council has been debating it on the other side of the river. The Minister said that he thought it a non-controversial Bill and of course it is, in parts. I understand that Mr. Ted Castle, on the other side of the river, referred to it as the product of a shotgun marriage—evidently between his wife and Mr. Desmond Plummer. One would expect such a Measure to have in it some things objectionable from our point of view and there are one or two things which we shall have to contest in Committee, but I do not think anyone will quarrel with the main purpose, although there is often a vast difference between a purpose and the method of achieving it.

The purpose of the Bill is to achieve a new concept in transport planning so that all aspects of transport, cars, buses, railways and parking can be related to each other and to the disposition of office blocks, factories, shops, houses and the routes taken by people to get to work. This obviously has to be carefully coordinated with land use. This should be the first experiment in co-ordination on this scale that we have ever had.

I shall go through the points I wish to raise rather more quickly than I had intended because a large number of hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. The Minister pointed out that the first duty of the Council is to make a transport plan. It also has to make other plans. One is due next year—a general development plan. I wish to sound two notes of caution. In making any transport arrangements I should have thought that the easiest part was to make a plan. Only when one has made a plan and published it do the real problems start because then one has to go through all the democratic processes and none of us wants main roads through our constituencies; we all want the advantages without any disadvantages. The difficulty is not in the making of a plan but in what happens afterwards.

My second note of caution is this. It may well happen to the G.L.C. as with the concentration of powers in any organisation that it becomes too cumbersome. It could then be as difficult to achieve co-operation between the constituent parts of the whole as between different organisations. We should be well advised not to expect too much in the early stages of the development of this concept.

The Minister selected certain parts of the Bill and commented on them. I should like to follow him in some ways and to refer to one of the main features of the Bill, the transfer of London Transport to the new Transport Executive. I shall make my comments under the following headings, financial arrangements, duties, and powers. On the financial arrangements the right hon. Gentleman let off a little bombshell very quietly. Because this debate has come rather later in the day than we expected, the bomb went off without much of an explosion. It referred to fares, but I will deal first with the capital side. We are bound to look at this matter differently from the G.L.C. Quite rightly, the council's primary consideration has been that any extra burden arising from the Bill should not fall on its ratepayers. That is the angle from which the council should and did look at that matter.

We are transferring a great undertaking from one ownership to another and we have to look at it, not from the point of view of London's hon. Members, but of the nation as a whole. The Minister skated very quickly over some enormous figures. He pointed out that in capital we are transferring an undertaking for approximately one-tenth of its capital value. That is a very astonishing figure. We are writing off £244 million, but let no one be bemused by the easy phrase, "writing it off". It may be written off so far as concerns the G.L.C. and the Minister, but what remains when this accountancy transaction has taken place will be a block of Government securities of face value £244 million but worth nothing more than the paper they are written on, yet still drawing interest at the rate of £11 million a year.

I stress this because it is a literal example of how money invested in nationalised undertakings can become worth no more than the paper it is written on over a few years. The genera] taxpayer has to find that £11 million every year to service the Government securities. It will mean a permanent sub-sudy to London of £11 million a year from citizens over the rest of the country. Obviously we look at this differently from the G.L.C. No doubt London hon. Members will be delighted that this slice of capital has been written off, but it is not the only slice. If we add all the others written off by nationalised industries the sum comes to something in excess of £2,000 million—paper securities of £2,000 million no longer represented by assets.

I knew that if I did not bring this into the debate no one on the Government side would do so, but it is a serious point. The Minister no doubt thought extremely long and seriously before transferring assets worth £270 million for a sum of £27 million, which is considerably less than the capital spent on those assets even in the last two years. He has written off the cost of the Victoria Line before it has come into operation. If Shell or I.C.I, said to a rival that it would sell off the whole of its works for one-tenth of the value, the shareholders would be after them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Normally one sells only a bankrupt undertaking for one-tenth of its value.

Mr. Marsh

Is not the logic of what the hon. Lady is saying—although I am not sure whether she is reaching a conclusion—that the only conclusion she can reach is that the fares increase ought to be twice as high as it otherwise will be?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, the conclusion I am reaching is that this is a Bill which the Minister is presenting to the House with his approval. It is for him to justify the action he has taken. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will justify that action in this light when he winds up the debate.

Usually when one sells an undertaking or transfers it at vastly less than capital value it is because the capital value has been lost, as in the case of coal mines which have been closed. The capital is no longer revenue-producing. The Minister mentioned the Blue Paper which points out that it cannot be said that the assets should be wrtten down to anything like the new capital value. Indeed, the Blue Paper goes out of its way on page 57 to point out that it cannot be argued that the bulk of depreciable assets

are no longer capable of earning their keep. So the Minister is giving something valuable away for something very much less than its real value.

It may surprise the Minister to know that he is one of the first practical exponents of denationalisation by the Powell principle. If he reads the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), he will see that this is one kind of denationalisation which my right hon. Friend was advocating. I have some very pithy quotations with me, but time is short so I will not read them. I commend them to the Minister. I warn him that this will be a very useful precedent when hon. Members change sides in the House and we consider denationalisation proposals. We shall remember the action taken by the Minister and consider it possible to denationalise undertakings at less than their book value.

Mr. Newens

Does the hon. Lady agree that there is a vast difference between transferring assets from one public authority to another and retaining them in public ownership and the transferring of assets to private ownership? Will she also agree that private enterprise is subsidised to the extent of over £2 million a day? When she is talking about how public enterprise is to be subsidised should not this be borne in mind?

Mrs. Thatcher

Private enterprise pays an enormous amount in taxes to subsidise other services. It does not make any difference whether one transfers from one public authority to another or to private enterprise. There is still a block of securities to be serviced and unrepresented by assets. I see that I have stimulated some interest in this matter which is more than the Minister did for quite a long time in his speech.

I come to some of the revenue provisions and to the Minister's description of viability when he said that we are to have another reference to the Prices and Incomes Board. This is not the first reference to the Prices and Incomes Board. The first time the reference was made, the recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board were not followed. The Government made a reference which the Prices and Incomes Board reported on in March 1968 and the recommended increases did not then come into play.

On the first reference, the London Transport Board wanted a further £8.6 million. The figure is not very different from the figure mentioned by the Minister today. This was the point I wished to get across. The £8.6 million meant a 14 per cent. increase in fares. The Minister has agreed to make another £8 million available to make London Transport viable before it is handed over. That probably means an increase in fares, unless the structures are considerably changed, of 12 to 13 per cent. That is the kind of thing which he announced today, but he gave no indication of how large an increase in fares might result from his figures.

It was interesting to note in the last Report of the Prices and Incomes Board that a 14 per cent. increase in fares only produces about a 9 per cent. increase in revenue. That is because by increasing fares a number of passengers are lost. Undoubtedly, what the Minister said will come as a shock to many travellers on London Transport.

Last time a reference was made, the Prices and Incomes Board listed four steps which might be taken to put the revenue up without recourse to further fare increases. First, making good losses from fraud; secondly, improved marketing; thirdly, cost reductions, such as the rescheduling and re-routing of services, the introduction of buses with one-man operation, which is already going ahead, and revision of existing agreements with the unions affecting overtime and working conditions; and, fourthly, reduction in non-productive and administrative workers. Even so, the Board came to the conclusion that £86 million at that time might not be enough and the Government granted less than the full increase. I sometimes wonder whether it would have been better if they had granted the full increase, because we might have got away without a massive increase on this particular round.

Mr. Marsh

It was not the Government. It was the Transport Tribunal, which is an independent judicial body.

Mrs. Thatcher

Perhaps I should just say that the recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board were not accepted. Is the Minister saying that the data given to the Prices and Incomes Board are to raise a further £8 million per annum by increases in fares and revised structure in fares and that he will accept its recommendations? Is that what he is doing to make London Transport viable before it is handed over? Apparently we have now got it clear that he is bound to accept the Board's recommendations.

Mr. Marsh

No. With respect, the hon. Lady cannot bind the Government to accept anything which it has not seen from an independent body. It depends what it says.

Mrs. Thatcher

I wonder what the Minister is bound to do. He has put in a reference to the Prices and Incomes Board that it should make recommendations which will raise £8 million out of increases in fares. I think that we are agreed on that. The Minister said that the fares will probably be increased as from autumn next year. That will be about a year after the previous fare increases.

That completes the financial arrangements on the change over, capital and revenue wise—writing off nine-tenths and increases in fares of probably about 12 or 13 per cent. to produce the necessary income.

Some of the other aspects of the change over from the present Board to the Executive concern a change in duties. Under the old Act, London Transport had a duty, first, to provide an adequate service and, secondly, to break even. Under the change of ownership there will be no duty to provide an adequate service, but services which best meet the needs for the time being of Greater London, and the over-riding objective will be a financial one. That is, the Executive must not make a deficit two years in succession. The second year it will have to make up for the deficit of the first year and it will have to make sufficient to meet the outgoings in the second year as well.

I wonder whether I might question the Minister further on the financial objective. He said that if the Council decided that the Executive had to operate services which would make it uneconomic, the Council would have to provide a subsidy from the rates. What happens if a closure is put to the Minister and he decides not to grant it, nor to grant the money to keep the line open? The Minister has only taken discretionery powers to make a grant of money in lieu of a closure. He cannot be compelled to grant that money. One of two things would happen. Either the G.L.C. would have to make the grant from the rates because of the Minister's refusal to grant the closure, or the deficiency would have to be found by other transport users. Therefore, he is still taking—does the Minister wish to interrupt?

Mr. Marsh

No. I thought that the hon. Lady was making a comparison with a P.T.A.

Mrs. Thatcher

I thought that the Minister was trying to draw differences between the P.T.A.s and the G.L.C. It does not leave the latter totally free. They have to face the consequences of the Minister's action in the way they run the transport services.

Concerning powers, we are bound to come up against a little controversy, as the Minister indicated. I understand that earlier this afternoon the G.L.C. passed a recommendation in the following terms: That the General Purposes Committee do take such action as may be necessary to secure the amendment of Clause 6 of the Transport (London) Bill 1968 to ensure that the powers of the London Transport Executive to engage in manufacture and trade are restricted to the minimum necessary to enable it to perform its statutory function as a public transport undertaking. It is clear that at the moment the G.L.C. does not wish to have the extensive manufacturing powers granted to it under Clause 6.

I should like to make one or two comments about those manufacturing powers. The Minister will expect us to oppose some of them. The right hon. Gentleman referred particularly to the construction, manufacturing and producing powers in Clause 6 (1) (i). I have one special comment to make about those powers. Although certain of the other powers under that Clause are subject to the sanction that they should be run on commercial principles, there is no direction that the manufacturing powers should be run on commercial principles. The subsection is excluded from the sanction. As the Bill stands, it will enable the Executive to compete on an uneconomic basis with private industry and to deal with its subsidiaries and the other authorities on preferential terms. When the Parliamentary Secretary winds up the debate, if the Minister is giving these extensive powers, will he say why he is not asking the Executive to run them on commercial principles?

The Minister also referred to Clause 20. I understand that the second part of Clause 20 (1) (b) gives the Council power to direct the Executive virtually to take over any transport service or facility which for the moment is being provided by someone else. There is no protection that I can see for any private operator or anyone operating car park facilities in Greater London, because, under this subsection, the Council could direct the Executive to take over those facilities, and there is virtually no protection.

The Minister also referred to one or two other changes between the old London Transport Board and the new London Transport Executive. One is that the general powers will be vastly increased, because the G.L.C. will be able to operate services, so far as I can see, from here to the end of the world if it wants to do so. These are the most extensive powers which I have ever seen in legislation and I do not know whether there is any precedent for this Clause.

Clause 6 (1) (a) says that the Executive shall have power to carry passengers by any form of land or water transport (including in either case hovercraft) within, to or from Greater London; This does not seem to fit in entirely with the principles in the Blue Paper that the area over which the new authority should operate should be smaller than the area over which the old L.T.B. operated. Paragraph 48 of the Blue Paper said: The area served by the London Transport Board is much larger than Greater London. But the Government consider that the area in which the new Executive should have responsibility for public transport operations should in princple be Greater London. The "principle" of Greater London was translated into, almost, the greater world. That at least is one respect in which the Blue Paper was not followed when it was converted into this green Bill.

The Minister will understand that we shall have to take up some of these matters further in Committee. I want to deal quickly with the relationship with British Railways because we had a debate recently on commuter services. The right hon. Gentleman has announced references to the Prices and Incomes Board with regard to London Transport. Does it follow from what the Board said at the beginning of its Report last time that similar increases will be made for British Railways services operating in the London area?

Normally, the principle is that British Railways fares are assimilated to London Transport fares. There is no question of viability arising from takeover, obviously, but in the White Paper, we are told that the London commuter area services are treated as a network and that the object is to achieve viability by 1972. So the same phrase is coming in with regard to British Railways services in London as applies to London Transport. They must be viable by 1972, although British Rail will itself determine the fares in consultation with the G.L.C. Does the Minister expect that viability there will mean the same as viability in the London Transport area, and will mean that fares will go up?

I turn now to the Bill's effect on the motorist. We agreed the other day in our debate that it is advisable to attract some peak-hour travellers out of cars on to the public transport, but the word was "attract", not "compel", "coerce" or "force". We are now getting a less attractive public transport immediately, from the prospect of the fares increase. At the same time, the Minister is bringing in a Bill which gives very extensive powers over parking. So we will have less attractive public transport and very powerful measures over where motorists may park in Greater London. This means following policies which attempt to force him from his car onto public transport.

I refer particularly, of course, to the off-street car-parking provisions of Clause 36. Again, the Minister skated very lightly over this, saying only that the G.L.C. wanted licensing powers. This is obvious, but it is what he has tacked on to those powers which goes far further than licensing. He has not merely included powers to license off-street parking but has tacked on considerable powers in that Clause as to exactly how a particular car-parking facility should be used, what time it should open and close, and the availability of staff to supervise the parking place. He has taken powers over the accounts and other records to be kept, and to enter and make copies of or take extracts from any accounts or other records kept in connection with the operation of that parking place. These are draconian powers and are quite unnecessary if all he wants to do is have the power to licence car-parking facilities.

I notice that many of the motoring organisations and National Car Parks, which has about 100 car parks in London, are protesting vigorously about this. I am sure that the Minister will agree that, until now, they have co-operated both with him and with the local authorities in every way to produce the required kind of off-street facilities and that they have particularly co-operated with Westminster recently in the provision of the kind of facilities needed in that area.

Some of these powers seem far too extensive ever to be taken in a Bill like this. I notice that the R.A.C.—

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

Would the right hon. Lady also agree that National Car Parks have not really co-operated with the public?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have always found them very co-operative with the public whenever I have used their car parks. Even if the hon. Member's remark were true, it does not seem a very good reason for the powers taken in this Clause.

According to a document sent to us this morning by the R.A.C, Similar proposals have previously been made by the Glasgow Corporation in a Provisional Order presented to Parliament last year, but these were withdrawn after the motoring organisations had petitioned against this objectionable scheme. I hope that some of the powers now will be considerably reduced.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will also report to us on some of the other matters with regard to parking which were published in the Sunday Times of 1st December, 1968. It was said that an Amendment was expected to this Clause to widen the powers over parking not only to the licensed car parks but also to the West End hotels, and that the Amendment would include some control over the use of their garages. This is absurd and is taking control much too far. It will not help the motorist and I do not find the idea attractive of a Ministry or any official being able to differentiate between an essential and non-essential parker.

The object is to stop long-term parking and turn everything over to short-term. It is all very well for us to agree to that—I do not necessarily agree—but we at least have long-term parking facilities here, so we should not—[An HON. MEMBER: "We are very lucky."] Yes, we are very lucky, but we should not necessarily stop the provision of this same thing for other people when we need it so much.

The Londoner will not look at the powers in the Bill, the integration, the co-ordination or even the change of ownership. What he will want to know is whether the buses will run better and the trains will run on schedule, and whether he will get better facilities to take his car into London. He will probably still write to his M.P. to complain. I take it that he will now have to write to his G.L.C. councillor or to the consultative committee of the G.L.C.

I sometimes wonder whether councillors, who are voluntary after all, know what they are letting themselves in for with the very extensive postbag which they will get from London Transport users. The consultative committee which is to be set up has no power over fares or closures, but we shall of course have to tell compainants, "The powers no longer reside in us but with the G.L.C, except in so far as the Minister still has residual powers." We shall be passing great powers not only to councillors but to officials, because councillors have not a great deal of time and people over there have not yet got much experience—they cannot have—of running transport concerns, as distinct from traffic management.

In theory, if the Ministry of Transport staff contains people who were dealing with London Transport, that staff should be reduced and the Greater London Council staff increased by the same number. I hope that there will not be an increase in G.L.C. staff without a reduction at the Ministry.

The Bill undoubtedly provides a great opportunity for planning improved transport services in London. We shall object to some of the powers and attempt to modify others. But the Bill will not be judged by the public on the general plan. In the end, we and the public will have to judge on the results, and they will take a long time to achieve.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

It was remarkable that it was only at the tail end of the speech of the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) that she found a word or two to say about the general travelling public. Before that, she seemed to concentrate on high financial philosophy. If the people standing in the rain in the bus queues tonight had heard that sort of speech, they would have given up hope of ever having a decent London Transport system. Her speech was appalling. There was not a touch of humanity in it about the big problems of people trying to move from one place to another—going to their place of work and travelling home from it and doing social travelling.

The hon. Lady even seemed to argue all ends to the middle. To her, when my right hon. Friend spoke about garages, the proposal would drive the motorist off the road, because it would be much too expensive. But it seemed to me that it would make a contribution to the viability which she said would not exist without increased charges for this, that and the other. When my right hon. Friend says that he will try to increase the inflow of finance to London Transport, that is wrong. When he takes opposite steps, that is also wrong. I hope that the hon. Lady's colleagues at County Hall have a much more humane, adventurous and imaginative approach to this great problem than she has shown tonight.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)

Did my hon. Friend also notice that the hon. Lady did not make one mention of the work people concerned? Many of them could be adversely affected by the reorganisation.

Mr. Molloy

I realise that, and acknowledge what my hon. Friend said. When the hon. Lady harps on about subsidies, has she ever considered what could happen to all the factories, all the great industries within this city and its immediate environs, if only 50 per cent. of London Transport did not function one day? I have told the House before that I remember an industrialist telling me that because a number of big, red London buses did not run for a couple of days or a week, skilled craftsmen could not get to their place of work and his firm lost £3,000 to £4,000. It never struck him that he was, therefore, receiving a massive subsidy from London Transport, nor has it struck the hon. Lady.

When my right hon. Friend said that the Bill would be a non-controversial matter, it seemed to me that the few points of controversy would have to come from this side of the House. I think that it will be a remarkable debate, because I have a few points of criticism to make. I am delighted that, for once, we have had a debate initiated by two Front-Benchers in which the criticisms coming from the other side of the House have been the kind that we on this side have a right to expect. They have been concerned fundamentally with capitalist philosophy and have had very little to do with all the human aspects.

I turn to some of the points on which I wish to question my right hon. Friend, and which I hope my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will deal with. The Blue Paper says that all forms of associations or bodies that the Minister believes can make a contribution in advising the new Executive will be allowed to do so. Is that what is meant in Clause 14 with regard to the consultative body which will be set up? As I understand it, there is a difference between what is said in the Blue Paper and what Clause 14 says. Paragraph 42 (3) on transport planning, on page 9 of the Blue Paper, says: They will be required to prepare and publish from time to time Transport Plans (consistent with the Greater London Development Plan) for aspects of transport and for periods of time agreed with the Minister. That is the point. In framing Plans the Council will consult the Minister. London Transport, British Rail and other bodies which in their view can make a substantial contribution to coping with the problems. I want my hon. Friend to make clear what is meant by those "other bodies". Some months ago the London Federation of Trades Councils, representing about 1.5 million work people in London, established a specialist transport committee. Its members have been working in their spare time, which reminds me that I appreciate one point made by the hon. Lady, concerning councillors who will be involved in an enormous project in their spare time. We should take note of this. Her very valid point recalled to me the voluntary work that has been done by a number of trade unionists from practically every trade union represented in London in examining all aspects of the problem of London transport. The Federation set up its specialist committee to do that. These men and women have taken on a great deal of responsibility in trying to make a contribution to solving the problem of increasing the value and standard of life in London by having an adequate and sensible public transport system. I hope that my hon. Friend can say that such bodies, which have established themselves voluntarily and are doing a great deal of voluntary work, will receive the recognition they deserve.

My right hon. Friend said that the Tribunal would have to be abolished, and I confess with some reluctance that I regret its passing. It has not given in immediately to demands from the London Transport Executive for increased fares. The Tribunal's findings have not always been in favour of those demands, and it has compelled London Transport to look again at what it proposed. Very often London Transport has come up with a more efficient answer which has not necessitated the full increase in fares that it proposed. It has managed to gain the revenue in other ways.

Whilst we are speaking about the aspect of revenue and the system paying its way and providing adequate public transport, it is relevant to repeat what I have said here before, that we are asking for the impossible. I acknowledge that other parts of the country probably make a contribution in subsidising Londoners' fares, but one can make that argument the other way as well. London being an extraordinarily attractive city, it also makes a contribution to aiding other parts of the nation, in terms of people who visit it. I should like to know more about the details of what other parts of the country contribute in subsidising Londoners' fares.

Let us not be too absorbed in trying to have a transport system which is at the same time completely adequate, makes everyone happy and pays its way almost overnight—in terms of this problem, when one speaks of doing it in 12 months or two years, one is almost speaking of doing it overnight. It is absurd to imagine that one can achieve any such thing.

We are paying today for what happened in the past, when the party opposite had responsibility for several years. London Transport paid its way, but the service deteriorated. When it was found that London Transport was in danger of not paying its way, services were reduced in order to cut back expenses. The result, as the hon. Lady herself pointed out, was that more people, not being prepared to pay the higher fares, took to private transport, making in their turn a further contribution to the clogging of the roads, which made it even more difficult for the buses to get through. More Londoners then got "browned off" and were unwilling to go by bus, and they in their turn found their own means of transport. So it went on and on.

In my view, we ought to have been doing something along the lines of this scheme 10 years ago, instead of waiting for the Labour Government to bring forward a realistic appraisal of what has for long been a serious state of affairs.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the truth is precisely the reverse of what he suggests? In fact, the development of the car attracted people away from public transport. That is why there was a decline in the usage of public transport, with consequent increases in fares to meet the level of costs which remained fixed.

Mr. Molloy

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening to what I said. That is what I was arguing. It is dismaying if a simple point like that cannot be appreciated by someone who is supposed to have a contribution to make in these matters.

The hon. Lady, quite rightly from her point of view, argued that the system must pay its way and that, given that requirement, fares may be have to be put up to follow an increase in costs. The point I was making, which the hon. Gentleman did not understand, is that people refuse to pay the higher charges and for them it seems cheaper to use the private car. This is what happened. London Transport lost the revenue of the man or woman who used the private car. The people using their cars, thousands more of them every week, helped to clutter up the roads and make things more difficult, with the result that more people still became dissatisfied with London Transport.

The argument hitherto has been that, despite all the mess, the snarl-ups and the injury to London's industry, if London Transport paid its way somehow, everything was all right. No one looked hard enough a: the other side of the equation to see whether it was giving an adequate service. For far too long, we were eating the seed corn. Now, however, these proposals do something in the right direction.

We must all recognise the enormous problems which will be put on the shoulders of councillors across the river. The idea commends itself to me in many ways, since I want to see more local participation, but the House of Commons must not, with the small authority of two hours of debate on the Second Reading of a Bill, imagine that everything is done with and responsibility can be passed over to County Hall. We cannot leave it at that. A great deal must be done to assist the Greater London Council—my party is not in control now, but that makes no difference—in preparing to face the problem and to make its plans so that the scheme now before the House can become a successful reality. I hope that my right hon. Friend will recognise that need and afford as much aid and advice as possible to those in County Hall who will have ultimate responsibility for running this great service.

As my right hon. Friend said, it is an enormous service. Greater London is probably the greatest conurbation in the world. Every year, about 7,000 million passenger miles are covered on journeys by bus, train and underground into and out of London, and even skilled administrators, assisted by Parliament, will find it a challenging task. Snags and difficulties will arise for the Greater London Council and other local authorities, and we must rely upon the Minister of Transport to give them all the help and advice they need.

When we realise that there are 7 million journeys a day made to and from work in Central London, half of them by train, a quarter by bus and a tenth by car, we have some idea of the size of the problem. There is, however, an associated problem to which not enough attention has yet been given. It is not only Londoners who travel in from the suburbs who have trouble. People who live and work in the same area have difficulty in going to and from work. This happens in Ealing and Hammersmith now. My constituency has a large amount of important light industry—factories such as Optrex and Hoover, household names—but the people who live in the area only a few miles from their place of work find it difficult to go from home to work and, sometimes, even more difficult to go from work back home.

Moreover, we must give attention—my right hon. Friend did not mention this, but I wish he had—to the important social and recreational side of public transport. We must not regard London Transport as merely the means of carrying men and women to and from work. In a civilised society, public transport has a valuable rô le in providing for social and recreatonal journeys.

I am glad that the new scheme deals not only with the vehicles and trains which provide London's transport but covers also the question of roads and connected matters. We must ask industry to co-operate. Industry as well as Parliament must give full co-operation to the Greater London Council in its efforts to make the scheme a success. In this connection, it is high time not just to talk but to do something about staggered hours and getting rid of the rush hour. If London industrialists and trade unions could come to an agreement soon based on a realistic appraisal of the problem of staggered hours, this in itself would make a great contribution in helping the Greater London Council to fulfil its enormous future responsibilities.

I was pleased to note that the remarkable and ever-increasing problem of parking is to be dealt with as part and parcel of these proposals. I am gravely apprehensive about many of these problems. We should have embarked on their solution a long time ago and many of them could have been foreseen ten years ago. We are late in tackling them, but I hope that we are not too late. These proposals should have the support of trade unionists and industrialists and everyone else concerned with transport in London.

If the Bill fails, we shall face such chaos in this great city that the financial losses will be such with the breakdown of London Transport that the figures quoted by the hon. Lady will fade into insignificance. When the scheme gets under way, I hope that assistance will be forthcoming from those I have mentioned, but that foremost in the minds of the G.L.C. and the other local authorities will be the view that this massive exercise is designed fundamentally to improve and enhance the quality of life of the average Londoner.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

I shall attempt to be very brief because I know that many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen wish to take part in this important debate. For that reason I shall not comment on all the remarks made at such length by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), who spoke for 20 minutes. However, I must take issue with him on one matter. He said that the 1933 Act did not place an obligation on the London Passenger Transport Board to provide adequate services to meet the needs of the travelling public in London. He was quite wrong. The 1933 Act specifically made that provision, whereas this Bill has totally different wording. Clause 5 does not contain a requirement on the Council or on the executive to provide an adequate service. On the contrary, it is drafted to secure the provision of such public transport services as best meet the need for the time being of Greater London", and in my view that is a totally inadequate provision.

Mr. Molloy

I want to make only two comments about that. I know the 1933 Act well, because I have studied this problem for a long time. While it put an accent on making London Transport pay its way, it did not put the same accent on the provision of an adequate transport system. I spoke for 20 minutes because I am a London Member and not just speaking in order to make a contribution from the Liberal Party, as the hon. Gentleman is.

Mr. Bessell

The hon. Gentleman made a long intervention. London is not the property of London alone. Its transport services are provided not merely out of the pockets of Londoners and ratepayers in London—and I happen to be a London ratepayer myself. They are provided by taxpayers throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles and it is therefore quite right that there should also be contributions from hon. Members who do not represent London constituencies.

As I have said, I want to be very brief and I shall therefore mention only one or two points which should be discussed this evening. Basically, the Bill is acceptable. There is a need for the comprehensive planning of London Transport and there is therefore a need for legislation to enable such comprehensive planning to be put into practice.

There are curious differences between the Bill and the Transport Act, 1968, which was the subject of so much debate in the House and in Standing Committee earlier this year. The Chairman and members of the London Executive are to be appointed by the Greater London Council. Under the terms of the 1968 Act, passenger transport authorities in passenger transport areas are to be appointed partly by the constituent councils and partly by the Minister, and the Minister will therefore retain a certain degree of control over the activities of the passenger transport authorities and, for that matter, the executives which are themselves; appointed by the authorities. In this case, however, the G.L.C. will be solely responsible for the appointment of the executive which is to control London's transport. While I prefer this democratic method and regard it as a considerable advance on the system adopted in the Transport Act, I find it curious that this distinction should be made.

The second difference is related to the first. It is that the passenger transport areas of the 1968 Act will be composed of many local authorities. We argued in Committee, during Second Reading and on Report, that this would create considerable difficulties for small local authorities, who might find themselves out-voted by one large local authority; or, conversely, one might have one fairly large local authority outvoted by a large number of small local authorities within the designated area. Here, at least we have a very much better principle, that the Executive will be appointed, controlled, and directed in all things that it does by the Greater London Council which is the elected representative of the people of London. This system is a very much better one.

I turn to one Clause, Clause 36. I would have liked to refer to Clause 20 but, leaving aside that Clause, Clause 36 to my mind is the one most objectionable feature of the Bill. Off-street car parking will have to be provided by private enterprise. It is ridiculous to suppose that the entire off-street car parking essential for a city the size of London with its present growth rate can be provided by the G.L.C. through funds provided in turn by the ratepayers.

It is therefore necessary that encouragement should be given to private developers. Anyone who has had experience of developing multi-storey car parks, underground car parks or any other form of car parks, is aware that the cost is disproportionately expensive in the centre of London in comparison with other parts of the country. This is because of the very high cost of the land upon which these car parks will be built. It is therefore necessary to impose very much higher parking charges. This cannot be avoided. It must be faced. It is no use attempting to encourage developers to put up a car park, multistorey or otherwise, unless they have freedom to charge a price which will enable them to service and amortise the loan capital which will be involved in the development of such a car park.

I have particular experience of this as some hon. Members are well aware because I have quoted this on other occasions. I refer to the position in the United States, particularly New York, where car parking facilities, are, particularly in Manhattan, more readily available than in Central London. This is because of the development which has been undertaken by private enterprise. The charges are stratospheric; they are as much as 10s. for one hour's parking, but at least this ensures that there is a method of parking, even if the price is too high.

The hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has expressed most adequately, in an admirable speech, the dangers which will emanate from this Clause. I do not think that any developer is likely to accept the vast powers of control and the rights to demand inspection and disclosure contained in this Clause. The Government and the G.L.C. will find that when the time comes there will be little if any opportunity to attract private investors into an area of development which is essential for smooth traffic flow and the advance of London in terms of transport.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield


Mr. Bessell

I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman because it is not fair that I should speak at length. I want to make my points quickly and resume my seat. I am disappointed to find there is no provision in the Bill to ensure that the Executive takes any necessary steps to protect the safety of bus operators, and bus drivers and conductors and the inspectors on the routes. Many of us are seriously alarmed by the growing violence in our cities. We can understand the concern expressed recently by drivers and conductors within the City of London.

If I were in their position I would share the alarm that they have expressed for their safety. The people of this country, and therefore Parliament, have a clear responsibility to protect their public servants. We cannot shy away from it. The right hon. Gentleman showed no reluctance to introduce new Clauses in the 1968 Act during its Committee stage, and later, and I would say that he should introduce in Committee, a new Clause to make it compulsory for the G.L.C. and the new Executive to engage and train a special police force to be available to protect the drivers and conductors of our buses in the City of London. Many other suggestions have been made by the drivers and conductors, and I am not adament about my suggestion, but it is important that powers should be clearly spelled out in the Bill to ensure that steps are taken to overcome the threatening situation which has caused such alarm and justifiable concern to drivers and conductors.

Overall, the Bill is a far more democratic piece of legislation than the 1968 Act from which it departs, in some ways, in quite startling but very pleasing manner. Therefore, with the inevitable reservations which I have mentioned, and some which were mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley, I welcome the Bill. The 1933 Act has served London well, in spite of its critics. The London services are not above criticism, but they are far superior to those in most, if not all, capital cities. The Bill can be a means of improving those services, and it will help to meet the vast new demands created in the 35 years since the 1933 Act was passed.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)

It is always a pleasure to sit opposite the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and to hear her dis- course. As always, her financial acumen was impeccable. It stands out a mile to anybody who reads the Bill that the writing off of the large sum mentioned in it is only a write-off concerning the Greater London Council, and the taxpayers will still have to contribute £11 million per year. As a London Member and resident, and a non-driver, I look on this with a good deal of approval, but I am surprised that we do not have masses of provincial Members present to give voice to their protest. I shall be interested to hear what the hon. Lady's colleague has to say in the Opposition's concluding speech.

I cannot follow the hon. Lady in her political strictures. She made some tart remarks about the nationalised industries. She might have referred to the fact that in London Transport we have something which is, by its very essence, uneconomic to run. It is interesting to note that the G.L.C, when it takes it over, even though it will have what is equivalent to a subsidy of £11 million a year from the taxpayers, will not be able to run London Transport without increasing fares to which my right hon. Friend the Minister alluded. It must be obvious that London Transport's problems can never be solved in the context of the transport system alone.

I turn briefly to one point which arises in the Bill. I do not wish to go into Clauses 32, 34 and 35 in detail, and certainly not at this hour, but I wish to mention the principle which seems to me to underlie these three Clauses. They propose to transfer certain powers in controlling pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and street parking from the boroughs to the G.L.C. It is in Clause 35 that the underlying principle is most clearly manifest, and it fills me with a little apprehension.

Clause 35, dealing with the control of street parking, explicity provides that if there is any difference between the G.L.C. and the boroughs the view of the G.L.C. shall prevail. That is based on the assumption that the G.L.C. is a superior authority and the boroughs are lesser authorities. It is precisely this assumption which I wish to challenge.

The London Government Act, 1963, expressly provides that, although there are two types of authorities in Greater London, we do not have a two-tier local government structure. The Greater London Council has its powers, which are appropriate for those which need to be exercised over a wide area. The boroughs have their powers, which are more appropriate to be exercised locally. There is, however, no suggestion that the G.L.C., because it is larger and occupies a greater area, is, therefore, more important, superior or overriding as against the boroughs. Having served on the council of a borough, I know that boroughs take pride in their achievements and look with just a little apprehension at the mighty power of the G.L.C.

The Bill expressly sets out, not without justification, to make the G.L.C. more powerful, and in the control of London Transport I fully accept this; but because the Bill will make the G.L.C. more powerful than it was, we should be careful to look cautiously at the additional powers that we are giving to the Council lest we make it far too powerful in relation to the London boroughs. As Shakespeare said, O! it is excellent To have a giant's strenth, but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant. I would not like it to be assumed, as the Bill appears to assume, that the G.L.C.'s power shall automatically prevail in any dispute which it may have with the London boroughs.

I do not want to argue about the powers that the Bill proposes to transfer from the boroughs to the G.L.C.—that can be discussed in Committee—but it seems to me that the case for transferring them should be made with a good deal more cogency than is done in the White Paper.

I thought that the powers to be transferred were, in large measure, local powers and, therefore, that there might be something to be said for leaving them with the London boroughs. It is the underlying principle to which I most particularly object. In the event of a dispute, why must the views of the G.L.C. prevail? Why cannot there be set up an authority to arbitrate between the two?—not the Minister; I do not want him to fulfil that rô le, because he has drawn up the Clause. Therefore, if we were to do this, we know on whose side he would come down. Why not have a more impartial body, perhaps the London Boroughs Association, to decide in the event of a dispute?

These powers which are being transferred are not of enormous cosmic importance, but it seems to me that the principle underlying the transfer should be considered at the outset, lest on a future occasion more and more powers are transferred from the boroughs to the G.L.C. I would not like to see this done.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)

I wish to join in the general welcome that the House has extended to the Bill in broad outline. It certainly makes sense that there should be co-ordinated into one hand the powers of planning, the general highway functions and also public service transport. It is also right that these functions should be concentrated in a body which is responsible and answerable to the people of London through its elected members.

It is appropriate at this point to congratulate the Greater London Council on the tough and successful bargaining which it has had with the former Minister of Transport in ensuring that 90 per cent. of the capital debt is wiped off before it assumes responsibility for the transport services in London. The right hon. Lady has suggested that the Minister has made a bad bargain, and perhaps she is right. That does not, however, prevent a London Member congratulating the G.L.C. on making a very good bargain for its ratepayers.

There is one aspect of the Bill on which I have reservations. I know that the G.L.C. will be assuming responsibility only for general policy but not for the day-to-day running of the transport services. The day-to-day running will be the responsibility of the new London Transport Executive which will be appointed by the G.L.C. I feel that in some respects this is a mistake. All hon. Members know the frustration of trying to deal with constituency complaints against nationalised industries. No Minister is responsible for them, and no Minister can be brought here to be questioned about them. In one respect, of course, the time of the House is saved. We do not have to deal with a great deal of detail, but, at the same time, there is left the feeling that these complaints do not receive the kind of attention they would do if the Department were responsible to a Minister who, in turn, was responsible to this House.

This is the situation with the London Transport Executive. Members make representations, they are courteously received, but they are often left with the feeling that the complaints are not dealt with as urgently as they would be if the L.T.E. was under the direct control of the House.

The situation will be very similar between the G.L.C. and the London Transport Executive if the Bill remains in its present form. I should like to see the officers of the L.T.E. as a Department which would be dealing with day-to-day complaints directly responsible to the G.L.C. rather than being responsible to the L.T.E. I feel that if that were the situation there would be a greater sense of urgency in dealing with complaints. I appreciate that the work of the G.L.C. cannot grind to a standstill at Question Time because of chairmen of committees having to explain why the No. 11 bus was late on a certain day, or why it arrived in a convoy of five or six. Questions of that kind would be intolerable, but, on the other hand, there are questions which ought to be dealt with directly with the G.L.C.

For example, the L.T.E. is converting double-decker buses, with a driver and conductor, into single-decker buses operated by one man. These buses are fine in Central London, operating between the five major termini, conveying a vast number of people quickly through Central London, but they are hopeless in the London suburbs. I have received numerous complaints from constituents about these buses, particularly from older people who are frightened of getting on and off these buses, and from small children who are often not seen by a driver, and are left behind when the bus moves off. I have had discussions on this matter with the L.T.E I have been received courteously, and been listened to attentively—but, no dice. I have been promised minor modifications, but the real problem cannot be dealt with. This is something for which an elected representative should be responsible, a person whom the ratepayers can approach to ensure that something is done.

There is some hope in the general consultative committee which is to be set up under Clause 14. I see that that body will have the power to receive representations by or on behalf of users of the services and facilities. It may be that this consultative body acting between the L.T.E. and the G.L.C., will serve the purpose, but it will do so only if it is given appropriate powers, and made a vigorous body which will be listened to. It will be useless if it is to be a sieve, or a means of getting difficult complaints hived off, pigeon-holed, and put away.

I notice from the Report of the Steering Committee of the G.L.C, which was published today, that the precise form of this organisation is still under study, that it is not known what form it will take. I therefore take this opportunity to urge that this consultative committee, this consumer protection council for bus and tube users, be given the greatest possible power, and be made up of people of the highest possible calibre who will be prepared to investigate complaints and to make the strongest possible recommendations to the G.L.C. to make sure that the day-to-day running of the L.T.E. is carried out in accordance with the wishes of the general public in London. The value of the Bill will not be judged by the public in terms of integration, co-ordination, planning, highway functions and the other modern terms which roll off the tongues of politicians. They will judge the Measure by what it does for the services they are using.

If the general public decide that, despite the Bill and our words, the consultative committees and other bodies which are to be set up—including the 14 per cent. increase in fares which I am distressed to hear we may face—the services which they use are not more efficient, they will say that we have wasted our time. I want to see a responsible body being concerned with the running of London Transport, which is accountable to the electorate and which is determined to ensure that London's transport system operates efficiently.

Local councils should be given a statutory right to representation on the new organisation which we propose to establish, although provision for them to be so represented is not contained in the Bill. Local authorities know more than anyone else what is needed in their areas.

There are other matters which I would have liked to have raised, such as the provisions in Clause 6 concerning the right to sell petrol, run car parks and so on. I am unhappy about some of these matters. I do not want to see the G.L.C. competing with private firms in this sphere.

If time permitted I would have said much about Clause 36, which deals with the licensing of off-street car parking places. It seems that the G.L.C. is assuming tremendous autocratic powers in this matter. It seems determined to drive the all-day commuter's car—the one man, one car commuter—off the road completely It seems that it will do this by interfering with—indeed, by virtually taking over—all privately-owned off-street car parking facilities in the Greater London area. Whether or not this is desirable is a matter for grave doubt and I would liked to have seen the problem tackled in a different way. I have doubts about these provisions, which I hope will be carefully scrutinised in Committee.

I have cut short my remarks because the debate started later than we expected and many hon. Members still wish to speak. I join in the general welcome which has been given to the Bill but I have strong reservations about some of the detail in it. I hope that the outcome of the Measure will be a far more efficient transport service for Londoners.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. I hope that other hon. Members I may call will emulate the brevity of recent speeches. Mr. Huckfield.

8.58 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

Much has been made of the Bill, but I hope that we will not kid ourselves that it represents a great revolution. We are merely giving control of local transport to local people. Every other major capital city in the Western world has done this, so that, in this respect, instead of leading the world we are trailing behind it. I have always been in favour of as much local partcipation in these matters as possible. That is what we are doing today—nothing more.

Much has been said of the comprehensive powers which will be given to the new authority which will be set up under the Measure. The trouble is that they will not be comprehensive enough. If one compares this proposed body with any organisation in, for example, North America or the Continent, one sees that these foreign authorities have a far greater measure of control over their freeways, bridges, tunnels and so on than our authority will have.

In San Francisco the tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge will be used to subsidise the Bay area rapid transit system. Similarly, the tolls to be charged on the Chicago expressways will be used to subsidise the Chicago State Transport Authority. Similarly, the tolls on the Triborough Bridge of the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be used to subsidise public transportation.

My right hon. Friend states that he is giving the Greater London Council and the London Transport Executive sufficient powers but then excludes things like the motorway box. I believe that he has not gone far enough. We are not only discussing the future revenues of the Authority. We are talking, especially if we are considering things such as the motorway box, about the potential competition public transport will have. I believe that we must be even more comprehensive.

Various people have praised the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933 and have alluded to the London Government Act, 1963. I believe that London Transport has always had one major failing. It can run buses independently to a certain extent. It can run tube trains independently to a certain extent. There has never been any proper measure of co-ordination. What has been happening in Hamburg for the past two years makes the Bill about two years out of date. What happened with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority makes the Bill about 10 years out of date. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members would study the facts about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, instead of reading pamphlets written by people who have every reason to be biased, they would reach a different conclusion.

This is a Measure which I hope will promote much more co-ordination and interchange facilities between the various London Transport media. The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) referred to the viability of the system. I was very distressed to hear the hon. Lady refer to the London Transport Executive in the same terms as companies like I.C.I, and Shell. One major difference between the L.T.E. and such companies is that London Transport must concern itself with social costs and social benefits. It is not making chemicals. It is not marketing. It has to deal with things like congestion, the cost of congestion, and the social costs involved in not having a properly viable, efficient and co-ordinated transport system. Any reference to costs and revenues—any reference to viability—which does not include a reference to social costs is wrong. We all know that congestion on the roads in Central London can cost untold millions of pounds in wasted time and effort. I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not mention this aspect.

It has always seemed to me that, though public transport in Britain is better than it is in certain North American and other cities—here I agree with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell)—we still do not cater for those who are very dependent on public transport. We do not propertly cater for the disabled and old-age pensioners. In this Bill we should be thinking about those who have not a hope of getting a driving licence or access to a private car. Los Angeles, where 43 per cent. of the population, because of the freeway system, do not have this access, has totally failed to provide for these groups. I hope that the Bill will not fail in this regard. Let us hear far more reference to things such as the provision of concessionary fares and to providing public transport for those really depending on it and who do not have access to the private car.

I was also distressed to hear the references by the hon. Member for Bodmin to not having control over private car parking concerns in Central London. I do not like National Car Parks Ltd., I think it should be taken over. I do not agree that we should give it near-monopoly sites in Central London and not have any control over them.

Mr. Bessell

It has not got a monopoly.

Mr. Huckfield

If the hon. Gentleman examines the site at Euston I am sure that he will agree that it is a near-monopoly for parking at Euston Station.

Mr. Bessell

At Euston Station, but not in London generally. There are many other private operators. There is no question of a monopoly for one company.

Mr. Huckfield

What the average driver wants is a parking space near to his destination and he finds that, in many instances, National Car Parks Ltd. has the monopoly. We should have more supervision over these near-monopoly sites.

Another aspect is the degree of coordination of transport. There should be much more co-ordination between the suburban parts of the British Railways regions and the London Transport Executive. The Minister has grant aid powers; the G.L.C. is to have subsidy powers and the National Bus Company has a certain amount of power for bus subsidies. We should be thinking seriously about whether we have the right means of differentiation between British Railways and its subsidiaries, the London Transport Executive and its subsidiaries and the National Bus Company and its subsidiaries. The whole thing must be better defined.

We have heard much reference to the status of public transport employees, for which I am grateful. We have to achieve a radical change in their status. It is often forgotten that we are talking of lower-paid workers when we refer to bus drivers and conductors. I believe they should be put at the head of the queue for pay increases and better status. Without them, London simply would not function. We must achieve greater status, financial and otherwise, for them.

It is all very well talking about financial viability of a public transport system, about directing car traffic and about conveying people far more efficiently, but let us realise that many people will never have a car nor access to a car in their everyday lives. These are principally the people we shall be dealing with and I hope that, during the passage of the Bill, we shall consider them a lot more than we have tonight.

9.8 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Berry (Southgate)

I must begin with a protest. I am sure that today will be looked upon as a back benchers' day but the time we should have had for the debate has been savagely curtailed. I wish that the Leader of the House had announced last Thursday that the Motion for the Adjournment on Friday would be taken today, for we might then have asked for an extra hour of debate on this Bill and I am sure that, with his usual courtesy, he would have agreed.

I think we are all agreed that something must be done not only about car parking spaces but about the use of the roads leading to them. I shall continue to question the Government and, later, the G.L.C. about this matter. If they are going to prevent or discourage people from bringing their cars into central London, they must provide more parking space on the outskirts so that people can leave their cars there and travel on by public transport. About a year ago, I asked the Minister of Transport how many additional car parking spaces additional to the existing 7,700 were being built at underground stations during 1968. The figure given was about 2,500. Yesterday I asked how many had been completed, and I was told 2,000. When I asked how many new spaces it was expected would be built in the coming year, I was told that no forecast was available for a full year but that the number so far approved was 143. Provision on that scale will not solve the problem. The Underground stations around London must be supplied with proper parking facilities for commuters.

I should have liked, had there been time, to discuss the very remarkable powers that the new body will have in connection with the use of nationalised industry. My hon. Friends will not be surprised to know that I would have turned, in particular, to the Waterways Board, which was given vast powers by the 1968 Act. I cannot see why the G.L.C. should need to construct, manufacture and produce anything for the Waterways Board, as this Measure will allow it to do. Again, the 1968 Act put a limitation on hovercraft of about 25 miles outside a P.T.A. area, but the Bill makes no such limitation at all—the scope is world wide.

I hope that the Londoner and all who use transport in London will benefit from the Bill, and I feel sure that, in the long run, they will. The Blue Book states that the intention is to give Londoners the chance to create the transport facilities they need, but I hope that Londoners will now have the transport facilities which it is their right to enjoy.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

It will be generally agreed that the one coherent theme running through these deliberations is that the principle of trying to centre these transport functions on the G.L.C. is accepted and welcomed on all sides. We discussed that principle earlier in the year in relation to passenger transport authorities, and we have always been united in the belief that it was essential to get larger units which could administer local transporation services. The qualification we make is that the authority to which the powers are to be transferred should be of a sufficiently comprehensive transport nature to command the resources in men and materials to carry out the job on the scale which the complexity of today's problems demands.

One justification for the acceptance of the principle, and one which my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) touched on very pertinently, is that it enables the local community, as defined by the transport unit, to bear the cost of the services that those in that community require. They will the means and, having done so, they must expect to bear the cost. Listening to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) I wondered whether he realised that there is a direct relationship between a community's demands for transport services and the fact that someone ultimately has to pay for them. In some way, he seemed to think that one could avoid that direct responsibility.

But the chief criticism under this heading must be reserved for the Minister himself—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is used to the idea that the principal criticism must be reserved for him. Having said quite clearly in the Blue Book: The Government do not think it right that transport for Londoners should continue to be subsidised at the expense of taxpayers throughout the country …". the Minister comes to an arrangement with the G.L.C. which writes in for all time a permanent £11 million a year subsidy at the expense of our taxpayers and to the benefit of the citizens of London. He has told us today that that is the basis of the arrangements on which viability of London Transport has been arrived—

Mr. Marsh

Perhaps I should ask the hon. Gentleman the question which I asked his hon. Friend earlier on the same point: is not the logic of what he says that the fares increase should be higher?

Mr. Heseltine

That is an extremely sharp political question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought it a very good question when the Minister asked it of my hon. Friend and I think it a good question now, but it is a political trick question. Having laid down the fundamental principles upon which the scheme he is introducing rests, the Minister finds the logic of the scheme inconvenient. He finds that it would be undesirable for him to advance to Londoners the suggestion that their fares should be increased by an additional £11 million, and he immediately violates the principle. When we draw attention to the fact that he has violated the principle, he asks whether we would not have done the same. That does not justify the fact that he has set out a set of policies based on the principle and then violated the principle.

Mr. Marsh

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member so soon again, but this gives him an opportunity to answer the question which I put to him.

Mr. Heseltine

It is a very fair question—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—and the Minister knows that there is another answer. It is the answer already drawn to his attention by the Prices and Incomes Board Report—[HON. MEMBERS: "Is it your answer?"] I will deal with the management of London Transport Board when I get to it and with the costs which may be saved there, as opposed to dealing with it now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I will answer the question. I have said that there is another way, as Mr. Awbrey Jones made clear, by which administrative costs could be saved in the London Transport Board situation. I shall come to that later in my speech. I am sure that hon. Members have read the Report of the Prices and Incomes Board. It makes quite clear that there are economies and there is an alternative—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Heseltine) is addressing the House. I want to hear him.

Mr. Heseltine

I shall wait until I get to that part of my speech rather than repeat the argument on two separate occasions.

Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)

It would be a fair answer if the hon. Member would say that he would save the whole of the cost by tuning up the whole administrative side. If that is the answer, he should say so.

Mr. Heseltine

It is quite impossible for anyone in opposition to know exactly what economies are possible from administrative efficiencies of London Transport Board. One thing which is clear is that until we have examined that possibility—and it will be more important when we come to the management of British Railways—we have no right to expect Londoners to pay increased fares to save the trouble of probing managerial inefficiency. I shall come back to my point about the Prices and Incomes Board in the appropriate part of my speech. These principles are at the centre of the Bill. The large unit should bear the costs where they originate. There I think I command the support of everyone in all parts of the House.

We do not need to dwell on the capacity of the G.L.C. to deal with this situation. It has the financial resources, it has a large enough area and it has the men with skills to do so. The point has been made by many hon. Members, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, that in drawing up legislation it is all too easy to see the main purpose and to define it in a Bill and then to surround that main purpose with a whole range of contingency powers for which there is no need in the first place. It is much more easy to put it in the original legislation than to have to come back later to some particular item which one might have left out.

The danger is that once one has put it in the legislation, little by little the use of these powers will go on until, by Parkinson's Law concerning Government or municipal machinery, it has spread to a much wider field than was necessary or was intended by the House. Looking at some of the powers which concern us, we find the first and obvious one is in Clause (5 (1) (a) to run any form of transport services, particularly buses, anywhere to and from London. This means not only in the United Kingdom, but overseas as well. We have never been convinced, and I hope that the G.L.C. will not be, that there is any need for this wide extension of operational capacity over and above that which has existed in various forms prior to this legislation.

I should like to take up an assurance which the Minister gave to the House in connection with this point, and which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will continue I understood the Minister to say that the existing operators of stage and express services will go on. The Parliamentary Secretary nods his head, so I think I may take it that we have agreement about that.

That being so, I should like the hon. Gentleman to explain precisely what is meant by the condition or right to cancel certain consent provisions in Schedule 4, paragraph 13. I understand the provisions are those to be found in the Passenger Transport Authority provisions. We dealt with this matter at great length in Committee. I understand that existing consents will go on up to the moment, but not a minute later, that the London Transport Executive decides that it will cancel them. It is important that the words used by the Minister are set right by the Parliamentary Secretary, because bus operators within the newly established set-up will want to know whether what is in the legislation is the same as in the Passenger Transport Authority areas, or whether there is to be some change in the provisions of this legislation to give effect to a new set of circumstances.

I now turn to Clause 20 (1) (b). I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will follow me, because this is an important new provision which did not appear in the Passenger Transport Authority provisions. I confess it is one which I have misunderstood. It is so extensive in the powers that it appears to convey to the London Transport Executive that I cannot believe it was intended that it should be included. I am at a loss to understand that the G.L.C. ever intended this power to appear in the legislation. Paraphrasing, it says that specified transport services which the Executive has the power to provide should be capable of being transferred to the Executive if the Executive wants them transferred. I understand that to mean that the London Transport Executive has the right to find any facility provided by the private sector and, if it feels that it can do it, for whatever reason it likes, it has the right to have that facility transferred to it.

I will put some examples of what I have in mind to the Parliamentary Secretary. First, taxicab services. Do I understand that companies owning taxi-cabs are to find themselves under threat of a message from the London Transport Executive that the shares in the companies are to be taken over by the L.T.E.?

Secondly, owners of garages with parking facilities. Are they to find themselves in a situation where they could receive a similar message?

Thirdly, companies manufacturing spare parts for the L.T.E. or the G.L.C. Are they to find themselves in such a situation?

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not on the former Transport Bill now.

Mr. Heseltine

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Fourthly, garages situated close to transport facilities owned by companies. Are they also to find themselves in a situation where they can be taken over by the London Transport Executive?

If my suspicions are not right and there is no intention of the L.T.E. taking over these facilities of privately-owned companies, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me why there is provision in the legislation to pay compensation to people operating those facilities.

Moving on, there are the familiar situations concerning the transfer of land. We are not satisfied that it is necessary for land to be transferred to any partner that the L.T.E. should take up. We will be concerned in Committee with the value of any transfer which may take place.

There is the familiar situation, which I am delighted to hear that the G.L.C. this afternoon rejected, that it should be permitted to manufacture anything for the purpose of the nationalised transport authorities. A new question comes to light here. I will not go over the ground that we covered on the extension of the nationalised industries, but one specific question occurs to me.

It is obvious—it is on the record—that there has been a substantial clash of opinion between the Ministry and the Greater London Council concerning these ancillary powers. My opinion is that G.L.C. believes that it has introduced certain safeguards into this legislation. I am interested to know exactly how safe those safeguards are.

The question arises under Clause 6 (1) (i). by which the Executive can manufacture anything for the purposes of the national transport authorities. Am I to understand that the purposes of the nationalised transport authorities include the Clause 48 powers in the Transport Act, 1968? If that is within the definition of the purposes of those transport authorities, the Executive could manufacture items which could then be wholesaled or retailed by the other nationalised transport authorities which have the power to do so under Clause 48. I would like a specific answer about this.

Under paragraph (j) of Clause 6 (1), we are back on the old arguments of the provision of petrol, oil and sundry services. I am sure that the Minister has read frequently the utterances of the Prices and Incomes Board that the industry is already over-capitalised, that too many people are engaged in it, that the margins are too small and how much better a contraction would be than an extension. Nevertheless, one cannot help sympathising with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) in making the point that we were not able to explore this at great length this afternoon. It will be no surprise to the Minister that we shall explore it at length in Committee.

I cannot understand why the powers in Clause 6 (1) (g) are not covered by the Executive's mandatory duty to behave in a commercial manner. These powers include those of repair, maintenance and supply. I cannot understand why the Executive should not have exactly the same powers imposed on it as relate to other semi-commercial activities.

It is our contention that an organisation such as the G.L.C. should be empowered to provide basic transport services. It is a large task and an immense challenge. To clutter it up with a whole range of ancillary services which no nationalised sector is fitted to provide is merely to divert it from its main purposes

Those are examples of what I believe to be wrong decisions. It is true that they involve only the handing over of permissive powers; there is no guarantee that any of these things will ever come about. Nevertheless, we on this side believe that for this House to hand over permissive powers is wrong. If the G.L.C. is able to persuade the Minister to change his mind on these powers as a result of its resolution, I shall be pleased.

I move on to the parking powers as listed in Clause 36. The House is giving up a decision in the question of parking matters. As has been explained today, the powers in the Bill are, in our view, far more comprehensive than is justified to achieve the ends, which may in themselves be desirable, which the Government, the Ministry of the G.L.C. has ever said that it wishes to achieve.

I accept at once that it is impossible to have a coherent transport policy for traffic management and highway construction and to face the general challenge presented by the growth in the use of the motor car without power to control parking; but the powers which we are talking about, which we shall want to examine in Committee, are much more detailed than we believe to be necessary for this purpose.

I hope that we can persuade the Government to re-examine many of these powers in detail. I hope that when the G.L.C. exercises them, it will do so with the greatest care, for two reasons. First, simply by the very nature of the G.L.C, it is bound to be the experimental cockpit of Britain. It will be in advance of all the other experiments in parking. Obviously, everybody will watch to see how well it does, and the mistakes which it makes are likely to cause ripples in the other conurbations. It is, therefore, important that the Council should try to involve those of us who live in its area and who travel into it in its plans from the outset. I hope that it will not feel that it can devise a policy which is kept very close to its chest, and take decisions without trying to get us all involved in the choices it makes on our behalf. I hope that it will try to bring the matter into the open so that we can all understand what is going on.

The private car park operators are an example of why this is essential. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) is a very scathing critic of certain private car park operators, but I believe that they have done a good job. It would be disastrous if the private sector were driven out of the provision of off-street parking, if we found a situation similar to that in the provision of private houses. That market is virtually non-existent today because the owners of risk capital will not move into it for fear of Government action. They are afraid of the rent controls which successive Govern tnents—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will talk about the Bill.

Mr. Heseltine

I accept your ruling, of course, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that Government or G.L.C. intervention will not be carelessly handled at this stage in a way that deters the private sector from injecting risk capital into the provision of off-street parking. When I read the comments of the leader of the G.L.C. about his desire to get rid of non-essential parking, I wondered whether those words would send a chill down the spine of all those likely to wonder whether they should invest their money in the provision of parking. What is non-essential parking? How does one define it? Are we to understand that there will be a grading of each journey undertaken by people going in and out of London? It would be impracticable. Shall we be able to draw as clear a distinction as the phrase might imply between commuters and those coming in for short periods? Are we to penalise the man who comes into London to run a substantial company, and who wants all-day parking facilities, by classifying him as non-essential, while somebody who drives into Central London to buy candy floss and then drives out again might come within the definition of essential travellers? Those are the difficulties one faces when one tries to make hard and fast rules about the sort of people one will try to provide facilities for.

I hope that the G.L.C. will take the public into its confidence over its plans. We must make the ordinary citizens understand the problems that will arise from the doubling of the number of cars in 12 years. Every time the proportion of car ownership rises, the number of times each car is used also rises. These two factors will place great burdens on the decision-makers in transportation. We should try to get public awareness of the problems and costs involved.

I now turn to the widest aspect of the Bill which concerns me. A problem that has not been explored by hon. Members at the length one might have expected is the relationship with British Rail. The Blue Paper clearly shows that British Rail is responsible for bringing in well over half the people who come into Central London. The bus services bring another quarter. Only 27 per cent. of those coming to work do so by car, so the essence of the financial problem lies with the bus operators—the London Transport Executive, as it will be—or British Rail.

The Bill does not come to grips with British Rail. It is apparent to all who have read it that the Ministry and the G.L.C. have not reached agreement on this, and there is no provision for them to do so. A series of plans has been produced and a series of investigations will take place, but there is nothing that ends the honeymoon period. The only thing that can do so is a totally frank investigation of the problems of financing British Rail in the areas around London and those serving it.

I understand from the White Paper that the suburban network could break: even by 1972. If that is so, the Ministry must know what the detailed figures are for British Railways within the London area. If it knows those figures and can make forecasts about breaking even by 1972, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us why it does not know the detailed figures for the Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool conurbations.

which it has taken them more than a year to discover.

The truth is that, in order to bring financial balance into the economy of London's transport, it is essential that we come to grips with the problem of the losses on British Railways relating to the London area. It is a sad reflection on the Minister that he has not been able to come to an agreement with the Greater London Council which would deal with that situation.

There are several hon. Members present—I am one—who do not represent London constituencies, and we are bound to judge these proposals very much in the context of constituencies elsewhere in the country. We know that in this area the taxpayers, our constituents, are paying a heavy subsidy towards transport in London. This matter will never be put right until all the information which is at present hidden either in the Ministry or in British Railways is brought out into the open so that we may examine it and settle the problem once and for all.

There is now presented to the Greater London Council one of the most fabulous opportunities which could be conceived. For the first time, the councillors of London are elected to represent a generation who will probably replan, rebuild and recreate the environment of the society within which they themselves will live. No generation in history has ever had such an opportunity. In the context of the enormous sums of money involved, the £860 million to be spent on road works alone by 1983, and so on, one realises how magnificent is the opportunity presented to those responsible in the Greater London Council. We in the House wish them the best of luck. I only hope that they will have the resolve and determination to resist just a little longer the worst doctrinaire approaches of the Minister in the sort of powers which he is trying to foist upon them.

9.37 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)

My right hon. Friend did not attempt in opening to cover every detail of this complex and comprehensive Measure. None the less, some of the less fundamental elements which he men- tioned in passing call for a somewhat fuller explanation, and I have in mind also the comments and questions which hon. Members have made. In the light of what has been said, I hope now to fill in some of the details on matters of interest to the House.

The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) made great play of giving the Greater London Council £270 million worth of assets for £27 million, and she went on to labour the point that the taxpayer will have to find £11 million annually in interest charges. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) said much the same. I wonder how the hon. Lady and her hon. Friend can talk in such terms about those £270 million assets, which have been non-asset for a long time. She implies that, if the Government pay the £11 million, they are saddling the taxpayer with that annual charge. Clearly, the G.L.C. will not pay it. If the Government are not to pay it, who is to pay? I suggest that the only people who can pay it are the London travelling public, through increased fares above the £8 million about which the hon. Lady already complains—

Mr. Ellis

Or London ratepayers.

Mr. Brown

Or, as my hon. Friend says, the ratepayers of London.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

I did not put this question specifically, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say how much economy he thinks could be achieved from the suggestions made on page 19 of the Report of the Prices and Incomes Board on London Transport?

Mr. Brown

I am delighted that the hon. Member has intervened, because I am coming precisely to that. The hon. Lady cannot have her cake and eat it. She cannot complain about the proposed fare increases next year and at the same time berate us for saddling the taxpayer with this £11 million a year subsidy.

Mrs. Thatcher

Many different sorts of financial arrangements could have been made and I do not know what course the negotiations took. This is the arrangement which the hon. Gentleman has recommended.

Mr. Brown

I am coming to that. The hon. Lady made a general statement about the write-off and about the other write-offs of other nationalised industries, but in fairness she must concede that this writing off on behalf of the nationalised industries was something in which her own Government had their share.

The hon. Member for Tavistock and the hon. Lady flogged the issue of the National Board for Prices and Incomes and its suggestions. The hon. Lady mentioned non-producers and the hon. Gentleman mentioned administrative staffs and suggested that economies could be made in those directions. I find it amazing that their underlying suggestion seemed to be that if we got shot of those non-producers, we would save this £11 million a year in interest charges. If the L.T.B. is carrying so many non-producers—

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman must be fully aware that the Aubrey Jones Board's recommendation was centred around the re-negotiation of a productivity agreement with the unions.

Mr. Brown

I am coming to that. All the things which Aubrey Jones and his Board suggested—one man operation, automatic fare collection and so on—have already been put in hand to some extent and the effects are already accounted for in the financial arrangements proposed in the Bill.

I remind the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends that the N.B.P.I. approved fare increases amounting to £3 million more than LT.B. was able to introduce The L.T.B. was prevented not by the Government, but by the Transport Tribunal. It will be up to the N.B.P.I. when it gets its next reference on fares to decide whether the proposed £8 million is justified.

The hon. Member for Tavistock asked about present operators in London other than the L.T.B. Under Schedule 4 they will clearly get an automatic right to continue within their present rights. Prevailing rights differ in different cases. Some have rights for a further 12 months, and some have indefinite rights. If these rights are not renewed, compensation will be paid under the same type of provision as is made in the Transport Act.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) spoke about consultation. I am shortly to meet the Executive of the London Trades Council. If it is wise, and I am sure that it is, the G.L.C. will use all the powers for consultation at its disposal and if it is to enter consultation with all manner of bodies, the Federation of Trades Councils should be consulted.

The hon. Member for Tavistock mentioned Clause 20 (1) (b) which gives the G.L.C. the right to instruct the Transport Executive to make proposals for taking over other transport facilities or services. These proposals would normally incorporate some form of agreement for buying or otherwise taking over, but not compulsorily taking over against the will of the present operators.

The provisions for compensation would relate to the staff affected. The hon. Member mentioned the powers in Clause 6 (1) (i); the safeguard for commercial operations is in Clause 12, enabling the Minister to direct the Executives to discontinue or modify any activity which is not being operated economically. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) asked me to elaborate on the travel concessions provision. As one who takes some pleasure in regarding himself as the author of Section 127 of the Transport Act, 1968, dealing with travel concessions, and as I have introduced two Private Member's Bills on the subject, I am naturally delighted to do so.

The Government have, as a matter of policy, thought it right since 1964 progressively to widen, as the legislative occasions have arisen, the opportunities for travel concessions on public transport for the elderly, the disabled and the blind. Under the 1968 Act we gave this power to most local authorities, but we left London to await this Bill. Under the Bill local authorities inside and outside Greater London can make arrangements for concessions with the L.T.E. and the other bus operators in the London area. With the Green buses, the arrangements will also apply to the London Country Bus Services Limited, the subsidiary of the National Bus Company, which will be taking over these services in the area at present covered by the L.T.B. The Bill enables concessions to be arranged on the tube services as well. We are giving the responsibility to the London boroughs and the Common Council of the City of London.

In our view, these are the right bodies to carry out the job. They have welfare responsibilities, which the G.L.C. has not. Because they are more closely in touch with the particular needs of the people, it is for them to decide the scope and type of concessions that they are willing to grant. They are not fettered in any way at all, there is no mileage limit. I realise that some hon. Members feel that London needs an overall scheme, devised and operated by the G.L.C, but we do not believe this is the right answer. The London boroughs are large compared with some of the small authorities which have been given this power under the Transport Act. We have given it down to district council level in other parts of the country, and if a district council can successfully operate these concessions, there is no London borough which should not be able to do so, given the will to do so.

Mr. Molloy

Can we assume that the local authorities giving the concessions will be able to think not merely in terms of the district they operate, but of all the local authorities?

Mr. Brown

I have already said that there are no mileage limits placed upon them. It might be that the London councils will get together and agree on a London-wide scheme. This is a matter for them to discuss.

The hon. Member for Finchley made great play about operating powers. I want to continue with the bus and Underground services, and deal with the operating powers to be given to the L.T.B. The hon. Lady argued that they are too wide and that we should take steps to place a mileage or geographical limit on the exercise of these powers. In the Government's view, these arguments are misconceived.

London is a special case. It is the capital city. The geographical extent of London is very wide, and I am referring not only to Greater London, but to the wide catchment area surrounding London whose transport services must be related to the existence of London. These facts mean that future transport developments might well make any limitation completely unrealistic. We need to place the L.T.E. in a position to do the job laid down by the Bill—to provide services which best meet the needs of Greater London. That is what the Bill does. We split hairs when we talk about providing adequate services and providing services which best meet the needs of Greater London.

To give an example, it might be decided that a new London Airport should be situated well outside the Greater London area. Perhaps London Transport has the skills and experience to build and operate the kind of rapid transit link needed to get passengers into central London. It would be patently absurd to discover at that stage that the Executive did not have the basic capacity and power to allow it to offer such a service.

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that precisely this power is built into the 1962 Measure.

Mr. Brown

We are simply putting it in today's legislation, which is right.

There are plenty of safeguards to ensure that London Transport cannot go beyond its terms of reference. Clearly, there is no intention that it should run long-distance rail services or compete on an overnight coach service to Edinburgh. Its services will be related to London and its environs, as the Bill makes clear. There are adequate safeguards in the form of Parliamentary procedures involved in, say, a railway extension, and traffic commissioner control on longdistance bus operations.

We have heard about the fears of independent bus operators concerning the freedom which the Bill will give the L.T.E. in carriage contract operations. I agree that the Executive will have a freedom of manoeuvre which it has not had before, and these services are not subject to road service licensing. The fears have been overstated. In practical terms, the job of the Executive will be basically the job which it has at the moment.

The question of manufacturing powers has aroused great interest. This is clearly a thorny subject with hon. Members opposite. Strong views on it are held on my side of the house, too. It is fair to say that the G.L.C. is not entirely happy about it. On the one side, it has been argued that we should hold back the scope of London Transport more than we have in the Bill and that we should place it in the same position which it was in under the Transport Act, 1962. On the other hand, it can be strongly argued that we should confer on the Executive the manufacturing freedom which the nationalised industries generally enjoy under the Transport Act, 1968. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends would strongly argue this point.

The proposals in the Bill are generally tailored to match the resources and new status of the London Transport Executive. The Executive will not be a nationalised industry. It will be a body placed in a novel way under local government control. It must have all the powers it needs to do its job properly, and it must be able to make reasonable use of the facilities and skills which it possesses. The Executive will be able to manufacture for itself, for the nationalised transport authorities and for the Greater London Council. This gives the Executive a wide field for development of its facilities. We do not think that it is right to deny an undertaking of the size and with the facilities of London Transport the basic powers which it needs to manufacture to this extent. We clearly must hold to this. The G.L.C. has no legitimate cause for complaint given the powers of direction that it will have.

There have been criticisms of the same kind about the powers concerning garage facilities at car parks. A similar power is conferred on the passenger transport executives under the Transport Act. Again, we believe it to be essential to give London Transport this power to provide such services on its own property. It may well be that it may not want to use the powers, and it might proceed by way of letting out concessions to other operators, but it should have the basic power if it wants to use it, again subject to G.L.C. directions, in case of need and also to put the Executive clearly on equal terms with other car park operators in negotiating concessions.

Great play has been made with the traffic and parking measures in the Bill, and the new licensing provisions for car parks have aroused interest not only in the House tonight but in this morning's newspapers. The first thing that I wish to make clear is that this is a provision that the G.L.C. has strongly urged upon my right hon. Friend. After listening to the Council's views and discussing the matter with the London Boroughs Association, my right hon. Friend came to the opinion that the G.L.C. needed the powers in question. This is not a case of my right hon. Friend foisting anything on the G.L.C. This is something for which the G.L.C. has asked.

Hon. Members opposite have argued that the provision in respect of off-street car parking provided far too detailed control. What is proposed in Clause 36 is a new departure, and the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) asked a question about this. At first sight it might seem revolutionary. Close examination does not bear out the theory that the control is too detailed. After what my right hon. Friend has said, I hope that hon. Members will feel able in general to accept the principle of full control over the provision of off-street car parking. It would be convenient if such control could be exercised by a general statement or pious expression of broad policy such as that the Council could exercise broad control over the amount of off-street car parking in particular places and over the general level of the charges made for it.

The trouble is that any such arrangement is untranslatable in terms of a Bill and would be quite ineffective in operation when dealing with the situation which we are trying to deal with in London. The only way to turn a general parking policy into practical reality in the existing London situation is to devise a licensing system and to specify in detail points which may be considered in the licensing arrangements.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Ordered: That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection:

Ordered: That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

  1. (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than 14th January, 1969, and
  2. (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen 1303 during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents:

Ordered: That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee:

Ordered: That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition:

Ordered: That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them:

Ordered: That Three be the Quorum.—[Mr. Marsh.]