HC Deb 28 May 1968 vol 765 cc1568-93


Mr. Swingler

I beg to move Amendment No. 157, in page 54, line 18, at end insert: (6) For section 19(3)(ii) of the Act of 1962 (which provides that the aggregate amount outstanding in respect of the principal of any money borrowed by the London Board under that section and that Board's commencing capital debt shall not exceed £200 million or such greater sum not exceeding £270 million as the Minister may from time to time by order specify) there shall be substituted the following:— '(ii) for the London Board three hundred million pounds.' The purpose of this Amendment is to raise the limit on the London Board's borrowing powers from its current level of £270 million to £300 million.

Section 19(3)(ii) of the Transport Act, 1962 prescribed an initial limit of £200 million on the Board's aggregate outstanding total of capital debt, the principal of any money borrowed by the Board from the Minister and any temporary borrowing from banks. The limit has twice been raised by Order so that it now stands at the absolute ceiling of £270 million laid down by the 1962 Act. The second Order raising the ceiling to its present limit came into effect on 18th April, 1968.

There are two main reasons why the Amendment is needed. First, the present ceiling of £270 million is likely to be reached some time during 1969, the exact date depending on the net revenue position of the Board, the phasing of particular investment projects and the extent to which the Board may receive infrastructure grants and new bus grants for which provision is being made in Clauses 53 and 32 of the Bill respectively. The Board's borrowing stood at £231.3 million at 31st December, 1967, comprising £161.8 million of commencing capital debt and £69.5 million of loans from the Minister under section 19 of the 1962 Act. Its borrowing requirements are likely to be some £25 million in 1968, £16 million in 1969 and £16 million in 1970.

Secondly, although the Minister has agreed in principle with the Greater London Council to transfer responsibility for London Transport to them, the Board's borrowing ceiling may be reached before the transfer can be made, or, indeed, before the necessary legislation can be enacted. Unless provision is made for a higher ceiling in the Bill it is possible that the Board's investment programme could be dislocated. The new ceiling does not imply any relaxation of control over the London Transport Board's investment—the control exercised by the Minister through the annual investment reviews and through purchase approval procedures.

The object of the Minister will be to keep down Exchequer loans to the minimum figure consistent with the statutory obligation on the London Board. The new ceiling has been fixed at a level sufficient to meet the Board's needs until responsibility is transferred to the Greater London Council, and, therefore, it includes a margin for contingencies.

I have given the amounts of expected borrowings up to 1970, but if further figures are required I will endeavour to provide them. On our calculations the figure proposed here would leave a margin of £8 million for contingencies. This will be increased to the extent that the Board might receive capital finance through infrastructure grants and new bus grants and other things of that kind. We saw no alternative to the course of bringing forward this Amendment, to secure the increase, on account of the danger of reaching the statutory limit fixed in the 1962 Act in advance of our being able to legislate about London Transport.

I regret that we have not been able to bring forward legislation about the future of the London situation, but to avert the danger it appears that it will be necessary to raise the ceiling for the borrowing powers in this way.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Walker

I must protest strongly at the late stage of the Bill which has been chosen to introduce this Amendment. If the Government had decided to have increased the borrowing powers of London Transport by £30 million it would have formed a very major Clause in the Bill, and have been the subject of a good deal of debate and discussion. Not only did they fail to put this in the Bill on Second Reading, but they failed to deal with it in Committee. It is only now that the House has been given any opportunity of discussing this, without any previous background information.

The information giving reasons for this large borrowing and large extra payments by the taxpayers to London Transport came only a few minutes ago. If it had been published when the Bill was published, the Minister would have had to make an explanation on Second Reading. If it had been brought in in Committee the Government would have had to give an explanation. Now, on Report, it has been slipped into the Bill—an Amendment costing £30 million, as if it was of little importance at all.

I remember debating the increasing of borrowing powers previously. The phraseology then used was almost identical to that used by the Minister of State, "We hope that we will not need to use all of this money, we are budgeting generously for what is required, we put this as a safety limit".

Now they have got through all the margins and another £30 million is needed. A significant question, that has to be asked is why should the ratepayers and taxpayers of other parts of the country have to pay to meet the costs of their transport undertakings locally, and then pay a further subsidy to London Transport.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

This is quite a common form for ratepayers. They spend money on running Parliament, for example.

Mr. Walker

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman is so complacent that his constituents—

Mr. Manuel

I never mentioned my constituents.

Mr. Walker

I realise that the hon. Gentleman did not mention his constituents. I am doing it for him. His constituents will have to meet the full cost of their bus fares and also help to pay extra taxes to subsidise the bus fares in London.

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is only in London that public funds will be used to help public transport services? I was under the impression that this will happen not only in the City, but in whole countries, for example, in Scotland.

Mr. Walker

I know of no other part of the country where the bus losses are subsidised by taxpayers.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

May I give an example? Glasgow has the "blue trains" running at a loss, and B.E.A. in Scotland do likewise. Under the new arrangements in the Bill public funds will be used.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman has clearly demonstrated that he cannot name any bus service that is currently running at a loss and that loss is being met by the taxpayer.

Mr. Manuel

There is MacBrayne's, upon which £250,000 is spent in subsidising West Coast buses and steamer services. The company is allowed to earn up to 6 per cent. before there is any lowering of the subsidy.

Mr. Walker

The Transport Holding Company operates those buses and shows an overall profit on bus services throughout the country. What we are getting here is a Government decision, which has been in operation for some time, that the deficit on London Transport should be met by the country's taxpayers. I am surprised at hon. Members from Scotland being in favour of that principle. I am even more surprised that the Government should come along upon Report and ask for another £30 million in order to continue doing this.

There has been no explanation of the failure to meet the proposals made by the Select Committee that looked into London Transport some years ago, and made a series of proposals as to how efficiency could be improved.

As far as we know very little progress has been made along these lines, and if there has been any the Minister did not mention it this afternoon. He could not make any comments about the reason for this increasing deficit of London Transport, or how it was being tackled. All that he said was that the Government were to hand it over to the G.L.C. in the future and in the meantime it would lose another £30 million. After that, they say, they will come along for help to meet the deficit. This is a remarkably complacent way for a Government to act and it shows a typical disregard for public expenditure which has caused so much of the Government's troubles.

Mr. Swingler

I was not in any way speaking about deficit grants to London Transport. We are talking here only about the borrowing power of London Transport, the power to borrow money on which it has to pay interest. We are considering here such things as the extension of the Victoria Line. When I was talking about the £16 million in 1969 and so on, I was referring to the Victoria Line and other investment projects which my right hon. Friend had approved. I was not talking about the revenue deficits which the House would discuss quite separately, if there is any question of subsidies being given.

Mr. Peter Walker

This Government considers that if one is borrowing money one is not spending it. If one borrows £30 million and spends that because one cannot meet the £30 million requirement out of current income, this say the Government, is of no importance—borrowing money is not the same they say. This is why they are so heavily in debt as a Government. We have had no detailed justification for this extra borrowing at all. I urge my hon. Friends to divide against this, and to see that we do not grant £30 million of taxpayers' money in this appallingly complacent way.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

I am surprised at some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker). He speaks about transport as if he were totally blinded by what happens outside his own close circle. He spoke about public service transport throughout the country and throughout Europe normally making a profit. For one reason or another, public service transport in this country is not making a profit. There are various ways in which public service transport undertakings in our cities receive assistance. On the Continent, city after city is helped either by the national Government or by the local government because of the difficulties of running public service transport.

When the decision was taken to build the Victoria line—and who, after all, decided that?—it was known that it was bound to lose money. It did not matter whether that money would be recouped from other passengers of the London Transport Authority. Because other passengers not using the Victoria Line are pushed off London Transport due to increased fares and London Transport loses money and has to be subsidised by the local authority, does not exonerate the last Government for having embarked upon a scheme that was bound to lose money. It is not honest to speak in that way.

There are inconsistencies in other matters. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) spoke earlier about the extra cost of coal in Scotland. If this does not involve transport, I do not know what does. There is also the extra cost of gas, and so on. He asks for help from the public authority in one sphere and objects if it comes in another. There is inconsistency in the Opposition's attitude towards public transport. They give the impression that London Transport, because it is not making a profit, is inefficient.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

It used to make a profit.

Mr. Atkins

So did public transport everywhere in the world when there were not so many cars. The excessive use of the motor car in our cities is the main reason for the difficulties of public transport today.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

It is a great coincidence that when this Government come in and undermine confidence generally, it is about that time that public transport starts losing money.

Mr. Atkins

If hon. Gentlemen opposite will consider what is happening in Europe they will find that Britain is getting transport on the cheap. Although there are various ways of hiding it in France, Germany and other European countries, the public contribution through taxation to public service transport in Europe is a jolly sight more than in this country. If one looks to the great home of private enterprise—America—one finds cities there spending enormous sums of money on city transport. In San Francisco, the figure is 1 billion dollars. It is wrong of hon. Members opposite, when we are asking to borrow money to make London Transport more efficient, to say that it is coming from the taxpayer.

Mr. Michael Heseltine rose

Mr. Atkins

I will give way in a moment.

The hon. Member for Worcester speaks differently when he speaks to the G.L.C.—for instance, when he asks for more money for roads and for more money to be spent on improving transport within the City limits. How does he think he will help the G.L.C. if he ties the hands of London Transport and prevents it embarking on new and more efficient methods of running the City's transport?

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Does it not raise the slightest doubts in the hon. Gentleman's mind about the commercial talent of this Government that they should have discovered the need for this £30 million in the three weeks which elapsed between the end of the Committee stage and the beginning of Report stage?

Mr. Atkins

The biggest impression on my mind is the use by the Opposition of procedural tactics to attack public transport, whereas the only thing they can attack is something which has happened in the procedure of the Bill. They like to keep away from discussing public transport as public transport. They just want to attack the Government all the time. The Opposition ignored transport until 1962, when they introduced a Measure which destroyed public service transport. When we start to put things right they sneer enviously, for no other reason, at the same time hankering after their traditional position of keeping the cream, wherever possible, for private enterprise. They have made absolutely no attempt, like their Tory colleagues in Europe, to settle the problem of public service transport. It is a pity that the present Government, in making the first serious attempt to settle our transport difficulties for at least a generation, should be hampered and snapped at by people who are not concerned with the need to provide the people with good public transport.

Mr. Bessell

We have just heard a most extraordinary attack upon the Opposition's attitude to the Bill. I found it difficult to relate some of the later comments of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins) to the Amendment we are discussing, but I will try to be a little more precise.

When I saw the Amendment on the Notice Paper I was disturbed to find that, once again, we had a late Amendment which involved a considerable amount of money. I accept that we are discussing an increase in the borrowing powers of a public body; that we are not suggesting that we should make a grant or that there should be any money forthcoming from the Treasury which would not ultimately be repaid. But our experience is that when the borrowing powers of public undertakings are increased, they are quickly absorbed and there is not the slightest chance of the money ever coming back to the taxpayer who, in the end, has to provide the capital sum.

It has to come from the Treasury. Because it comes from the Treasury we cannot look at this matter in the light-hearted manner of the Minister in introducing the Amendment. He has explained that he would have preferred this to have been part of a Bill dealing with the future of the London Passenger Transport services. I can understand that it may be necessary to increase the borrowing powers, because of issues like the Victoria Line, but it is imperative that this should be done at the right time and in separate legislation so that the House may have a proper opportunity of debating it.

The Minister gave some interesting figures which I noted down. He said that at the end of 1967 the use which had been made of the borrowing powers of the L.P.T.B. amounted to £231.3 million. He then said that, in 1968, it was estimated that a further £25 million would be needed, plus a further £16 million for 1969 and the same in 1970. But if we take the figures to the end of 1969, that is still a total borrowing requirement by the L.T.B. of only £272.3 million, and its present borrowing capacity is limited to £270 million.

Presumably, legislation will be introduced before the end of 1969 to settle the future of the L.T.B. I cannot understand why it is necessary to have £28 million over and above the requirement which the Minister of State expects will be needed between now and 1969, by which time the future of the L.T.B. should have been decided.

For this reason, it is extraordinary to ask us to approve an increase of this magnitude in its borrowing powers. If the Minister of State was satisfied that the figures of £25 million for 1968 and £16 million for 1969 are accurate, it would have been enough to introduce an Amendment enabling the L.T.B. to increase borrowing by a mere £5 million, and it would still have a £3 million leeway. Why this excessive increase now?

Mr. Swingler

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not mean what he just said. He will surely realise that there is general approval in the House for such investment projects as the extension of the London Underground, which is not a one-year project but must be planned and paid for over many years. One would scarcely initiate such a project in the knowledge that, the year after, one would make a drastic cut in the investment programme. One must decide either that one will make a drastic cut in the investment programme, in which case it would be better not to start the project or that one will initiate the project, in which case it would be right to provide, for the finance over the years that it would have to be paid for.

Mr. Bessell

I accept that that would be a valid argument, but for one fact, which the Minister of State himself mentioned. The former Minister entered into an agreement with the Greater London Council about the future of the Metropolitan passenger transport services and the Minister of State expects legislation to settle the future of the L.T.B. If the control of the Board's present services were to remain as at present, he would have a strong case, but neither we nor he can know what the future form will be. Therefore, it is wrong to legislate in advance of knowing how the Board will be managed in future and, consequently, how the money is likely to be spent.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned certain essential projects, but they will not be administered by the present set-up. Therefore, we want to know what that set-up will be before we authorise a sum in excess of the Board's requirements, at least over the next 18 months. If this were merely a small sum to cover the interim between now and the new set-up, we should not worry, but this is so greatly in excess even of the requirements up to the end of 1970.

This is a period of severe credit restrictions. Even now, meetings are taking place between representatives of the clearing houses and the Bank of England about the problems of overdrafts, the effects upon investment in industry and expansion in export trade, and all the consequential difficulties. The Government, the bank and many financial experts accept that, to get Britain out of its present economic difficulties, there must be a severe restriction on borrowing powers. Yet when Government and bank alike are encouraging people and the private sector of industry to restrict borrowing, they are telling the L.T.B. "You can have another £30 million of borrowing powers, even though we have no evidence that you will require anything like as much up to the end of 1970." Even then, the maximum amount required, on the present estimates, is about £288 million. Therefore, I cannot understand why this considerable increase is necessary at this time.

The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) asked why the general public in places like Peterborough, Bodmin or Central Ayrshire should be asked to subsidise the travelling public in London. I accept the answer which he was given, that this is not a subsidy or a grant, but his point was that, if the London Transport Board was managing its affairs efficiently enough to produce a profit—as it did in the past—it would not need this facility, which is inevitably subsidised by the taxpayer.

It is not right to allow this measure to be slipped into the Bill. It would be far better for the Government to introduce it alter the Recess, which would be in ample time for the Board's requirements and would enable us to debate it thoroughly on its merits. Now, we know nothing of the Board's requirements and do not know the real purpose of this increased borrowing power. My party will certainly vote against the Government on this Amendment.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

I may not be very popular with my hon. Friends nor afford much comfort to the other side if I point out the real facts behind this Amendment. London's bus transport is the only bus transport in Britain with a general subsidy from the taxpayer. We on our side should recognise this and recall how it began. It was perhaps justifiable at the time, but I can see the need for part of the Amendment.

Perhaps, if the G.L.C.'s borrowing powers and this loan were for the construction of a London Underground, one could go a long way with it, but if this £30 million is to be taken up over an unspecified period and involved in the purchase of buses and such equipment as provides normal passenger transport at preferential Government rates of interest, which Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow and other Corporations could not get on the open market, this continuing preference for the capital city would not be justified.

Social aid is justified in transport only when the nature of the transport, whether passenger or freight, meets a sparse demand from the aged, the very young or the less affluent. Then there are arguments—for instance, in the Scottish Isles —for a form of subsidy.

5.30 p.m.

There can be powerful arguments for a railway system right across Britain. But if there is a combination of 10 million people within 20 or 30 miles of Charing Cross then, apart from the great capital expense of putting in a new form of London underground which will save tremendous overheads as against putting a similar service across the floor of the Metropolis, where there would be a case on which an appeal could be made to the rest of Britain for some form of public borrowing requirement, some of us in the provinces who like to feel knowledgeable on these things will feel that we do not want this subsidy to continue. It crept in, as it were, on stockinged feet and some of us who take a broad line on transport are unhappy about it.

If in the age of the motor car, in one of the greatest cities in the world, we cannot find over a period of time ways and means of getting a right balance between the various forms of transport, whether it be a London bus or my car going down the Strand, if we cannot get forms of discipline in public transport which can be viable over a period of time, we shall never succeed in planning the transport economy of the country. I am not seeking to deny the Minister this Clause and I hope that my hon. Friends on this side will not regard a contribution of this kind as one that seeks to defeat it. It seeks, I hope, only to call attention to the facts.

I hope that in due course, the Minister will be able to assure me and I hope others, perhaps on both sides of the House, that the new London authority, when it comes—and the sooner the better —will take over the whole of its capital requirements and will have no more preferential treatment in terms of capital investment than any other passenger transport service in conurbations such as we have been discussing, when they come into being. But there are as many people within 20 miles of Manchester town hall as there are within 20 miles of Charing Cross and we should keep the balance of the problem before us.

I concede the need for this continuing Clause. I was not upstairs when this was discussed—and in some ways I am glad I was not; but I gather there was a full discussion on this Amendment and I would venture the opinion, and I would have made the same contribution had I been sitting on the other side of the House, that we should be careful to try to find a real balance in relation to overland bus transport and one that is fair to all. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind and that when the new authority takes over, this and any other preferential borrowing power in relation to Government loans will be withdrawn.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) has made a reasoned and forceful appeal to the Minister which he should heed. We do not want provincial cities to feel at a disadvantage compared with the capital, which is something which could flow from this kind of extension to the Bill which was not thought of at the time of the Committee stage. I reinforce the point made by the spokesman of the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell). I do not know what has gone wrong with this Government. I only wish they would give thought to their timing.

On the very day when the banks are told that they cannot increase overdrafts, when people in private business are having to cut down on overdrafts, which will mean that many businesses may have to go out of existence—for make no mistake the help that people get from the banks has been cut to such an extent that many will be unable to stock up and carry on—on the very day when, on the advice of the Government, the Bank of England have had to ask banks to tell owners of private businesses that borrowing has to cease, the Minister comes to the House and asks for a free hand with another £30 million.

I do not want to repeat arguments already well put on the merits. It is one thing to make provision for an extension to the Underground for which the money had to be found so that in the long term the service would be more efficient; but we are asked for £30 million in extra borrowing powers without any specific information on how that is to be spent.

Mr. Swingler

A great deal of this is for the new Victoria Line. The decision on the extension to Brixton was announced by my right hon. Friend.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

If I as a private businessman asked a bank for a large sum of money and told the bank how a good part of it was to be spent, the bank would want to know how much was "a good part". I would have to be much more specific. I would ask the Minister whether inter-departmental Cabinet Committees have ceased to exist, because in the days when I was privileged to sit on those as a member of the Cabinet quite a lot of thought was given to timing for the good of the nation. I cannot understand how the hon. Gentleman's colleagues on the Front Bench have allowed them to add this extra £30 million on the very day on which many people are being told they cannot continue in business. This kind of action gets government into such disrepute that we may well meet with some of the problems which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Technology tells us are round the corner.

This extra £30 million of borrowing power will undermine the confidence of people who have to keep most of the business in this country running. Even at this late hour, I ask the Minister to heed the advice of his hon. Friend and see if he cannot remove this provision from the Bill and come back later, when there is some more specific project on which the Government wish to spend money, and argue the case in the House then.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

One is tempted to intervene in this debate when one hears so much nonsense being talked on the other side of the House, when it is suggested by the Government that £30 million should be allowed to be borrowed—not granted. I was astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman say that it is not a loan. Perhaps he will tell me where one can get a loan that one does not have to pay back.

Mr. Peter Walker

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the next Clause he will see that the Government are writing off £700 million of loans to British Railways.

Mr. Dempsey

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will bear with me. His argument is, first of all, that it is unfair at three weeks' notice to ask for borrowing powers to the extent of £30 million. But he knows perfectly well that when his party was in government it was nothing unusual to have only three days' notice and then find, not that money was being borrowed to the extent of £30 million, but that over £70 million was going to farmers in food subsidies—not loans but grants from the taxpayers' money. In another case, £81 million was handed back to Surtax payers at a few days' notice. The hon. Gentleman knows that this is part of the administration of the House of Commons. I am amazed at the suggestion that simply because public enterprise in London is told it can borrow up to £30 million that excludes all other types of enterprise from securing loans to develop.

Mr. Bessell

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned farm subsidies. Does he realise that those are designed to keep down the price of food in London while subsidies to London Transport are only for the convenience of London users?

Mr. Dempsey

Of course farming subsidies are ostensibly for the purpose of keeping down prices. They are also for the purpose of giving profits to farmers. The hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do. In Scotland we have a saying, "What's good to gie is good to tak'." If it is good to give the farmers money to keep down food prices it is surely as good to give the London Passenger Transport Board a subsidy to keep fares down. That is a logical attitude.

It is claimed that the only development in the United Kingdom for which money can be borrowed is in London, but that is not true. In Bonnie Scotland we are spending millions of £s on new roads and bridges. If the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) comes to Scotland, he will see a well known firm of private developers from London spending £35 million building private enterprise industrial estates. No one takes exception to that sort of development. The firm is able to get loans from some source in order to provide more work and jobs and there is money available under the Local Employment Act. All the hotels which are being built by the brewers get assistance and subsidies. Hon. Members opposite never complain about the taxpayer subsidising whisky manufacturing. This attitude of theirs today is merely Tory propaganda.

No one seriously suggests, surely, that only Londoners will get the benefit of this £30 million. I advise the hon. Member for Peterborough to be in London tomorrow evening, when he will see 100,000 people from the Midlands who have come for a very important football match. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) is making noises on the Front Bench opposite. He brings many parties to London. They use the Victoria Line as well as Londoners.

Let us be fair. This project is an essential part of our transport development. Without means of communication, London would be paralysed and the country with it because we depend for our trade, commercial development, exports, and so on, on a sound, well managed London. That is why the Minister's request is reasonable.

Indeed, £30 million is not a very large maximum to seek as borrowing power. If we want an efficient transport service, it must be efficiently financed and managed. All the provision asks is that we give the Board the right to borrow this money. It is not an unusual request and is consistent with Parliament's policy in the past. I am surprised by the amount of bother going on in the country when all that hon. Members opposite can point to is this issue. It makes nonsense of their arguments. It indicates that they are so bankrupt of ideas that they are getting down to the denigration of an important service without which the whole country would be paralysed.

Mr. Anthony Berry (Southgate)

Once again the Minister of State has treated us disgracefully by using the Bill as a dumping ground for anything about transport which has come to mind in the last few months. Nothing he has said convinces me of the urgency of including this £30 million borrowing power. The Victoria line extension was announced a long time ago. The project will not grind to a halt because this power is not provided in the Bill.

Last night, the hon. Gentleman and I had an exchange about the G.L.C. arrangements. He said that the White Paper would be published by the end of June. Having waited so long, why could he not wait a little longer? Let us see the information in the White Paper, have time to consider it carefully and be able to come to a proper decision on the basis of the facts and figures.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Manuel

It is abundantly clear that we are being subjected from the Front Bench opposite, their back bench supporters and their cohorts in the Liberal Party to political motivation and to the stirring up of political hatred in order to create in the country a feeling that the Bill is not a good thing.

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it out of order to talk politics in the Chamber?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

I should have thought not, but it is incumbent on hon. Members to adhere to the Amendment and I hope that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) will do so.

Mr. Manuel

Perhaps I may be allowed to follow some of the points made by hon. Members opposite. Today the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) reached a new low. We became accustomed to him in Committee being superseded by the youngsters around him, but today he even got beneath the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), and that is low enough.

When the hon. Gentleman indicated that the Amendment would be harmful to people in the regions and to Scotland and Wales, he spoke as if the Government were giving a grant to the London Passenger Transport Board. Either he is woefully ignorant of the Amendment or he is wilfully trying to be dishonest in arguing that the money will be wasted and will have to be found from the whole of Great Britain. That allegation is quite untrue.

An extension of borrowing powers like this is common form. It has been done on hundreds of occasions. But it is only necessary in this case because of the actions of the last Government, who were supported by the hon. Member who is now making such uncouth noises.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham) rose

Mr. Manuel

Just a moment. The hon. Gentleman must take his medicine. The railways were a paying proposition until the Conservative Government came to power in 1951. Indeed, they returned a profit until 1953. But because of the excess of hatred of nationalised transport exhibited by the Tory Government, whose administration lasted thirteen years, the situation was created in which more and more borrowing became necessary. No wonder I am disturbed when I hear the sort of propaganda we have been hearing today in this Chamber from the Opposition. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) told us that he was disturbed about these borrowing powers. In Committee, he was so often disturbed that I am amazed he did not have a mental breakdown. He was disturbed on every Amendment he moved. He disturbs me more than he disturbs himself.

May I give a word of warning to my dear old friend the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), who seemed to be giving some joy and comfort to the Opposition Front Bench. He is a very old campaigner and very astute. He was not antagonistic towards the Amendment. He would not oppose it. I hope that this will be a lesson to the hon. Member for Worcester. If he had not made his obnoxious speech, this debate would have ended long ago. If we on this side of the House speak we are filibustering. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite are the best groaners I have ever heard. If we do not speak we are not supporting our Front Bench. I have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.

Mr. Swingler

I have attempted to talk about the borrowing powers of the London Transport Board. Perhaps I shall be permitted to recall that in Committee the Government produced an Amendment in the presence of the hon. Members for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) and Bod-min (Mr. Bessell) which raised the ceiling on the borrowing powers of the British Transport Docks Board by £40 million. I do not recall any uproar, indignation or protest about increasing the borrowing powers of the Docks Board. There was no Division on that Amendment. If the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) had been present, the story might have been different, but that is a matter between him and the hon. Member for Worcester. There seemed to be universal recognition in Committee that the docks had been so neglected that it was exceedingly important that their capital investment programme should be expanded and, therefore, that it was right in the interests of Hull and Southampton as well as of Tilbury and Merseyside to increase the borrowing powers of those responsible for the docks and harbours.

I do not know whether hon. Members opposite are suggesting that the capital investment of London Transport should be cut. I have not heard that. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), on behalf of people outside London, some of whom I represent, I am more than unhappy about the payment of subsidies to London Transport. I am more than unhappy about the deterioration which has come about in public transport in London during the last 10 years. Do not take it from me. Let the hon. Member for Peterborough read the annual reports of the London Transport Board over the last 10 years and study the steady deterioration of public transport in London and in the financial position of the Board.

Is the conclusion which we should draw from what hon. Members opposite say that the investment programme should be smaller or bigger? The hon. Member for Bodmin suggested that we should not do anything about the statutory ceiling on the borrowing powers of the London Transport Board. Apparently, the Board should spend the money illegally. He referred to the fact that the Board had already borrowed £270 million, would require another £25 million and, in the following two years, £16 million per annum. He suggested that this should be done without raising the statutory ceiling but it would have to be raised before the end of 1969 for the borrowing to be lawful.

Mr. Bessell

The hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting me. I said that, on the figures which he gave, for this year there was a requirement of £25 million and a further requirement of £16 million for next year, which would bring the borrowings of the London Transport Board to £272.3 million. At present, the ceiling is £270 million. If the Board were given further borrowing powers, that would carry it through to the end of 1969, by which time there would have been a reorganisation of the Board and the hon. Gentleman could legitimately present a new Bill to increase its borrowing powers.

Mr. Swingler

That is not my recollection of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but if that is what he said I accept it and withdraw what I said.

The hon. Gentleman suggests that it would be a wise policy to go up to the limit. He knows that we cannot introduce legislation about London until the next Parliamentary Session. It must take its place in the legislative programme. We would go into 1969, when the London Transport Board, if it was to carry out its capital projects, would be going up to the statutory limit fixed by the 1962 Act, before Parliament was able to approve an extension of its borrowing powers. That means that should Parliament not accept such legislation or should it alter it, then at the shortest possible notice the London Transport Board would be compelled to change all its projects. That cannot be done in respect of a project like the extension of the Victoria Line to Brixton.

Mr. Peter Walker

Could the hon. Gentleman explain why he came to the Dispatch Box eight weeks ago and asked for borrowing powers up to £270 million? He stated that that would last until mid-1969. If that is still true, surely the right thing to do was, not to introduce this Amendment during a guillotined Report stage, but to introduce, as he has done before, a one-Clause borrowing powers Bill before mid-1969.

Mr. Swingler

I was coming to that point. We went to the limit of £270 million permitted by the 1962 Act, but in the knowledge that if we did not have a Bill about London and its public transport in this Session exceptional measures would have to be taken.

Hon. Members, and particularly hon. Members like the hon. Member for South-gate (Mr. Berry), will be aware that last year negotiations were going on between my right hon. Friend's predecessor and the Greater London Council. They will also be aware that political changes took place in London at that time. It was not until right at the end of the year that agreement was reached between my right hon. Friend's predecessor and the G.L.C. about the future organisation of London transport, including the assurance that my right hon. Friend would put London Transport in a financially viable state before it was transferred to the G.L.C. But there still seemed at that time the possibility that a Bill about London would be introduced in this Parliamentary Session.

I agree with the hon. Member for Worcester that it would have been much more desirable to have included this point, which is connected with the discussion of the future investment programme of London Transport and its financial viability, in a Bill about the future of London Transport. That has not yet proved possible, but it will be

shortly. I hope that before the summer adjournment the House will perhaps have a debate in which all the issues which hon. Members wish to raise about the organisation of London Transport may be heard.

6.0 p.m.

The situation here and now is an urgent one from this point of view, that if London Transport is to have an assurance of continuity in planning its capital investment programme in the next two or three years, and if its borrowing limit will have been reached by 1969, it is urgent that the ceiling on its borrowing powers should be lifted now.

Mr. Peter Walker

The Minister has not answered my point. The point is that during the last eight weeks the Government have decided they wanted to lift the limit to £300 million, but only eight weeks ago the Minister of State himself asked for greater borrowing powers up to £270 million which, he said, would last till mid-1969. Why has he decided to do this by an Amendment on the guillotined Report stage of this Bill, rather than by means of a borrowing powers Bill which he could introduce any time between now and 1969?

Mr. Swingler

We are in this Bill dealing with financial provisions affecting all the nationalised transport undertakings. It would have been rather peculiar on our part if, in a Bill dealing with all these transport undertakings and seeking provisions for them all, we did not provide also for London Transport. We naturally brought forward this proposal here and it is an urgent proposal for the reasons I have given. It is not on account of any increase in the Board's investment programme but on account of maintaining the continuity of the investment programme that it is an urgent proposal, and I trust that the Amendment will now be approved by the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 287, Noes 236.

Division No. 184.] AYES [6.2 p.m.
Abse, Leo Allen, Scholefield Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)
Altai, Austen Anderson, Donald Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Archer, Peter Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice
Alldritt, Walter Armstrong, Ernest Barnes, Michael
Barnett, Joel Cray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Maxwell, Robert
Baxter, William Gregory, Arnold Mayhew, Christopher
Beaney, Alan Griffiths, David (Bother Valley) Mendelson, J. J.
Bence, Cyril Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Mikardo, Ian
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Griffiths, Will (Exchange) MilIan, Bruce
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Miller, Dr. M. S.
Bidwell, Sydney Hamling, William Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Bishop, E. S. Hannan, William Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Blackburn, F. Harper, Joseph Moonman, Eric
Blenkinsop, Arthur Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Haseldine, Norman Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Booth, Albert Hattersley, Roy Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hazel I, Bert Moyle, Roland
Boyden, James Heffer, Eric S. Murray, Albert
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Heing, Stanley Neal, Harold
Bradley, Tom Hilton, W. S. Newens, Stan
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby,S.)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hooley, Frank Norwood, Christopher
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oakes, Gordon
Brown,Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Howarth, Harry (Weillingborough) Ogden' Eric
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Howarth, Robert (Botton, E.) O'Malley, Brian
Buchan, Norman Howelt, Denis (Small Heath) Oram, Albert E
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Howie, W. Orme, Stanley
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Huckfield, Leslie Oswald, Thomas
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Roy (Newport) Paget, R T.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hunter, Adam Palmer Arthur
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara, Hynd, John Pannell, nt. Hn. Charles
Chapman, Donald Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Park, Trevor
Coe, Denis Jackson, Colin (B 'h' se & Spenb'gh) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Coleman, Donald Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Concannon, J. D. Janner, Sir Barnett Pavitt, Laurence
Conlan, Bernard Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n'& St.P'cras,S.) Peart, Rt. Hn Fred
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pentland, Norman
Crawshaw, Richard Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Crossman, Rt, Hn. Richard Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Price, Thomes (Westhoughton)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones, Dan (Burnley) Price, William (Rugby)
Dalyell, Tarn Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham,S.) Probert, Arthur
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Randall, Harry
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rankin, John
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Judd, Frank Rees, Merlyn
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kelley, Richard Reynolds, G. W.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kenyon, Clifford Rhodes, Geoffrey
Davies, Ifor (Cower) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Davies, S. o. (Merthyr) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lawson, George Robertson, John (Paisley)
Delargy, Hugh Leadbitter, Ted Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)
Dempsey, James Ledger, Ron Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Dewar, Donald Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lee, John (Reading) Roebuck, Roy
Dickens, James Listor, Miss Joan Rose, Paul
Doig, Peter Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Driberg Tom Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham. H.) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Dunnett Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Ryan, John
Dunwoodv Mr. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lipton, Marcus Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th &C'b'e) Lomas, Kenneth Sherdon, Robert
Eadie, Alex Loughlin, Charles Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Laurd, Even Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Ellis, John McCann, John Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
English Michael MacColl, James Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Ennals, David MacDermot, Niall Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Ensor, David Macdonald, A. H. Skeffington, Arthur
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) McGuire, Michael Slater, Joseph
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Small, William
Faulds, Andrew Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Snow, Julian
Fernyhough, E. Mackie, John Spriggs, Leslie
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mackintosh, John P. Stonehouse, John
Fletcher, Raymond (IIkeston) Mactennan, Robert Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Summerskiil, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Foley, Maurice McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Swain, Thomas
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) MacPherson, Malcolm Swingler, Stephen
Ford, Ben Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Symonds, J. B.
Forrester, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Taverne, Dick
Fowler, Gerry Malialieu,J.P. W.(Hudder'sfield, E.) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Manuel, Archie Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Freeson, Reginald Mapp, Charles Thornton, Ernest
Galpern, Sir Myer Marks, Kenneth Tinn, James
Gardner, Tony Marquand, David Tomney, Frank
Ginsburg, David Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Urwin, T. W.
Varley, Eric G. Whitaker, Ben Woodbum, Rt. Hn. A.
Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Whitlock, William Woof, Robert
Walden, Brian (All Saints) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Wyatt, Woodrow
Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch) Yates, Victor
Wallace, George Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Watkins, David (Consett) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Willis, Rt. Hn. George (Edinburgh,E.) Mr. Neil McBride and Mr. Charles Grey.
Weitzman, David Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Wellbeloved, James Winnick, David
Alison, Michael (Barkston Aish) Fraser.Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford&Stone) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Marten, Neil
Astor, John Gibson-Watt, David Maude, Angus
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Mawby, Ray
Awdry, Daniel Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Glyn, Sir Richard Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Balniel, Lord Goodhart, Philip Miscampbell, Norman
Batsford, Brian Goodhew, Victor Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Cower, Raymond Montgomery, Fergus
Bell, Ronald Grant, Anthony More, Jasper
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Grant-Ferris, R. Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Gresham Cooke, R. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Grieve, Percy Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Bessell, Peter Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Biggs-Davison, John Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Murton, Oscar
Black, Sir Cyril Gurden, Harold Neave, Airey
Blaker, Peter Hall, John (Wycombe) Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Body, Richard Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nott, John
Bc[...]som, Sir Clive Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Onslow, Cranley
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Braine, Bernard Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Csborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Brewis, John Harvie Anderson, Miss Page, Graham (Crosby)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hawkins, Paul Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Bromley-Davenport.Lt.-Col.SirWalter Hay, John pardoe, John
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Heald, Rt.Hn. Sir Lionel Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Health, Rt.Hn. Edward Pell,John
Bryan, Paul Heseltine, Michael Peyton, John
Buchanan-Smith.Alick(Angus,N & M) Higgins, Terence L. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hiley Joseph Pink, R.Bonner
Bullus, Sir Eric Hill, J. E. B. Pounder,Rafton
Burden, F.A. Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Campbell, Gordon Holland, Philip price, David (Eastleigh)
Carlisle, Mark Hooson,Emlyn Prior, J.M.L.
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hordern, Peter pym, Francis
Carry Sir Robert Hornby, Richard Quennell, Miss J. M.
Chichester-Clark, R. Howell, David (Guildford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Clegg, Walter Hunt,John Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cooke, Robert Hutchison, Michael Clark Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Corfield, F.V. Iremonger, T. L. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Costain, A.P. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, Julian
Craddock Sir Beresford (Spelthorn) Jenkin,Patrick (Woodford) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Crosathwaite-Eyre Sir Oliver Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Crouch David Jones, Arthur (Nothants, S.) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Crowder F.P. Kaberry, Sir Donald Royle, Anthony
Cunningham,Sir Knox Kerby, Capt. Henry Russell, Sir Ronald
Currie G.B.H. Kerchaw,Anthony St. John-Stevas, Norman
Dalkeith Earl of Kimball, Marcus Scott, Nicholas
Dance Jame King Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Scott-Hopkins, James
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Lambton, Viscount Silvester, Frederick
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sinclair, Sir George
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lane, David Smith, Dudley (W'wick&L'mington)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Langford-Holt, Sir John Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Doughty, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Speed, Keith
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) stainton, Keith
[...]son, G. B. Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Stodart, Anthony
Eden, Sir John Lubbock, Eric Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McAdden, Sir Stephen Tapselt, Peter
Emery, Peter MacArthur, Ian Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Errington, Sir Eric Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty) Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow.Cathcart)
Eyre, Reginald Maciean, Sir Fitzroy Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Farr, John Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain Teeling, Sir William
Fisher, Nigel McMaster, Stanley Temple, John M.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Macmihan, Maurice (Farnham) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Fortescue, Tim Maddan, Martin Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Foster, Sir John Maglnnis, John E. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Wells, John (Maldstone) Worsley, Marcus
Vickers, Dame Joan Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Wright, Esmond
Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley) Williams, Donald (Dudley) Wylie, N. R.
Walker, Peter (Worcester) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater) Younger, Hn. George
Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Watt, Patrick Winstanley, Dr. M. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Walters, Dennis Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. Hector Munro.
Weatherill, Bernard Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Webster, David Woodnutt, Mark
Forward to