§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)
I beg to move,That this House regrets Her Majesty's Government's decision to permit the withdrawal of subsidies to those rural bus services which have replaced discontinued rail services without taking adequate steps to measure the effect on rural populations and at a time when the replacement of these subsidies by local authority support is prejudiced by the severe pressure on local government expenditure from the central Government.Without doubt, this week has seen the pressures build up on the Minister of Transport's desk. On Tuesday, the Christmas traffic was threatened. Yesterday saw, I suppose, the gravest crisis that the British ports have ever faced. Today we are dealing with a new collapse in the rural transport industry. The Minister might wonder whether he was wise to have left the relative tranquillity of the Foreign Office. It is not as though I have a shred of hope to offer him, because the odds are 2 to 1 on that he will be sacked and not promoted at the end of his tenure of office. However, if the right hon. Gentleman believes that tomorrow never comes, I warn him that this is precisely the attitude on which so much of the Government's transport policy has been based and which has caused so many of the problems with which we are now dealing. That is why 702 the legacy with which this fourth Minister of Transport in four years is faced so serious and why the time for action is so imminent.
The rural bus services are, however, only a small part of the transport industry. However small they may be in turnover, in terms of human cost the situation is very poignant. We are familiar with the elderly couple who move to a quiet rural area to find that within a year or so the rail and bus links are cut off and they are without any means of communication with the neighbouring towns. We are aware of local parish councils watching young married couples taking their children away because they cannot get to play with children in neighbouring villages. We are aware of those who, because of physical handicap or the disinclination or incapacity to drive, are faced with increasing isolation in the countryside. The House is as familiar as I am with mounting costs, falling demand and deteriorating services in rural areas. The only group of people who have any incentive to cope with this problem, if it is possible to cope with it, are the local authorities directly concerned.
Local authorities have been, on the most charitable explanation, not kept in touch with the Government's attitude to rural bus services, but, at worst, have been deliberately misled about the Government's intentions in respect of certain of these services. I must take 703 the House back to the Transport Acts of 1962 and 1968, and particularly the 1968 Act, which is the root cause of so many of our transport problems today. As a background to the 1962 Act, it was provided that when British Railways withdrew services the bus companies might be invited to replace the rail services and that the subsidies necessary to maintain the bus services in operation would be financed and subsidised by British Railways.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) provided the ultimate protection for people living in country areas: that before any substitute bus services were withdrawn he would investigate the services which were being provided and the effects of the withdrawal. He gave no certainty of continuity, but he gave a guarantee of sympathetic investigation. The House and the Government fully accepted the implications of that policy.
The late Stephen Swingler, whom we all deeply miss in transport circles, spelt out the implications of that policy:The additional and revised bus services are a condition of the closure being effected. If, for any reason—for example, operators being unable or unwilling to provide them, or the traffic commissioners not licensing them —they are not provided, the closure cannot take place, unless or until my right hon. Friend varies the conditions. Let that be perfectly plain. The conditions are laid down and they must be satisfied according to these terms."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1965; Vol. 712, c. 871.]Both sides of the House accepted the full implications of that policy.
Section 54 of the 1968 Act related to these substitute services and gave the Minister power to vary the conditions, but of course Section 54 was never discussed. The Government saw to that. They guillotined it in Committee and on Report, and it was never possible for the House to examine the implications of the power which the Government took in 1968 to vary the conditions relating to the closures.
One thought which crossed nobody's mind was, not that the Government wanted to vary the conditions, but that the Government might withdraw the conditions. It was an almost inconceivable thought, but that is what was in the Government's mind. The House was not 704 told, neither were the local authorities. On the contrary, the right hon. Lady the First Secretary of State, then the Minister of Transport, painting a broad new horizon, said this:The Bill will come to the rescue of rural life in two important ways. …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1967; Vol. 756, c. 1301.]She went on to refer to the bus grants and the flexibility in the licensing system. Who could have thought, having heard what the right hon. Lady said, that this brave new gesture to the transport industry was not to inject new services and a new vitality but was simply to finance a subsidy which, until then, had been paid by British Rail. The right hon. Lady had done two things by her enthusiastic declaration of her new policy. First, she had created a sense of expectancy in the local authorities and the travelling public. Secondly, she had taken the power to pull the carpet from underneath their feet.
Her successor, the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), gave the first jerk. On 17th January, 1969, the responsibility for the replacement services was transferred to the National Bus Company, and still, neither in this House not in local government, were the full implications of what was happening appreciated or understood. It was not until 5th May, 1969, that the ever vigilant hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), in the way that we have come to expect from him, asked the Minister of Transport in a Written Question what were the new conditions which he sought to apply under that Section. The answer to Written Question No. 68 is tucked away at the back of HANSARD and was not widely reported or commented on. Indeed, it will come as no surprise to you, Mr. Speaker, that it was neither reported nor commented on because the effects were not noticed by anybody except the Ministry of Transport.
The effect was to leave it entirely to the National Bus Company to decide whether or not substitute services which had been in existence for two years should continue. It was a rolling programme and, as year succeeded year, a new set of substitute services came up for eligibility for the "chop".
A major departure from a pledge given by the previous Minister of Transport, 705 my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey, should at least have merited an honest public statement from the Government of what they had in mind. Before that pledge, honourably given and honourably accepted by that Government, was changed, at least somebody should have come to the Dispatch Box to tell the House and the country what the Government had in mind.
I have tried to find out the implications of all this for the local authorities by asking the only two representatives of people who have any real interest in combating the problems, the County Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association, whether or not they were notified of the Minister's intention, and whether they ever understood the implications of Section 54 of the Transport Act, 1968. The County Councils Association replied:In so far as I am aware, the Association has never been consulted about this change and its possible implications for local authorities.The Rural District Councils Association replied:The answer to both questions posed in your letter of the 25th is that the Association has not been consulted.The House is left with one question: is this simply an act of bad communications, or is it a hope that the problem would never come to light?
I am not here to attack the view that transport costs should be borne where transport costs arise. I suspect that is the only way in which rationalisation will be brought to the industry, and we have a long way to go to achieve that result. To change to a more market-orientated economy in transport without telling people what is intended, without helping them to understand the problems that arise, and without providing transitional aid to cope with these problems is a lamentable feature of government, and the chaos resulting from this is beginning to accumulate.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth) rose—
§ Mr. Heseltine
I must warn the Government that the 25 per cent. fare increases, the threatened withdrawal of transport services and the mounting resentment among local authorities is as 706 yet nothing to what will happen as this rolling programme of decimation of the rural services continues.
I have tried to find out how the figures balance. The Ministry does not know how much it is spending this year on rural grants. It does not know what is the figure for next year. It knows that the figure for last year was nothing, and that the estimates it has provided for 1969 have not been taken up. One reason why they have not been taken up is because no one has told the local authorities the criteria which they must satisfy to be eligible for rural bus grants. The clear and inescapable fact that emerges from my investigation is that the Government today are spending less on rural bus grants than the amount of the subsidy which British Rail has withdrawn from the provision of substitute services. The brave new world of the right hon. Lady has turned out to be an economy for the national taxpayer. That might be what the Government wanted, but it is not what the Government said. The local authorities were never encouraged to understand the implications of what was coming; they were never given the opportunity to participate or to take any action.
In the meantime the Western Morning News of 13th November, 1969, reports the National Bus Company, through its spokesman Mr. E. S. Fay, Q.C., as saying that the withdrawal of the £129,000 payment to the companies by British Rail as a contribution to the cost of running services which had refused or discontinued railway services was a major factor in increasing fares. He went on to say that the National Bus Company which acquired the companies at the beginning of the year was not prepared to reimburse them this sum of money.
Similar examples are beginning to emerge from all over the country—from Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk and Herefordshire. The Midland Red is seeking a discretionary fare increase in the Rural District Council of Atherstone, which will put up the fares in rural services to a greater extent than is the case on equivalent urban services.
This may be good transport economics, but I wonder how hon. Gentlemen opposite can square it with what was said by 707 the right hon. Lady the First Secretary of State in 1967:The National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group will have strong base from which to continue cross-subsidisation of rural bus services by healthier urban ones."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1967; Vol. 756, c. 1301.]That will come as no surprise to those of us who have laboured under the right hon. Lady's policies.
The Parliamentary Secretary then stood at the Dispatch Box in January 1968 to justify the expenditure of over £50 million of taxpayers' money in acquiring the Midland Red and British Electric Traction Bus Companies. He said they saw Exchequer paymentsas a means of cutting through the vicious spiral of decreasing traffic and increasing fares which has been a feature of all bus operations over the past decade",—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 1729.]We do not seem to have dented that spiral very successfully.
Wherever one looks the same inconsistencies apply. One finds the country buses of London being transferred to the National Bus Company at a loss so that the National Bus Company can subsidise the country bus services of London, but the country dwellers in the West Country, the Midlands and East Anglia are not permitted to do so.
It is not as if the Ministry of Transport representatives in this House even knew what was going on. As the Parliamentary Secretary will know, he told me on 13th November that there was to be no subsidy, but then, shortly afterwards, wrote to tell me that there was to be a subsidy to the National Bus Company after all.
What is urgently needed from the Government is an earnest declaration of policy in respect of rural buses. They must make it clear that they have a consistent attitude to what the ratepayer, the taxpayer and the fare-paying public at large pay. Wherever one looks one sees that their decisions are not taken on a basis of coherent transport policy, but on the basis of political opportunism and what they think they can get away with.
If local authorities are to respond to the urgent need in our rural areas, they must be given a clear declaration of what the Government intend to do. The Government must take this opportunity to experiment with a more flexible licence system, 708 for which we asked some two years ago. The present system was designed for the 1930s. It is administered by a Government which is designed for an age a great deal earlier than that. The system threatens to strangle transportation in rural life. If the Minister will accept the warning given to him by those of us on this side of the House, he will understand that another aspect of the Government's transport policy is crumbling. If he wishes to remove himself from personal responsibility, he has not much time left.
§ Mr. Speaker
I would remind hon. Members that there are many who still wish to speak and that this is a curtailed debate.
§ 7.35 p.m.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. BobBrown)
The Opposition's Motion deals with one aspect of a very important and difficult subject, namely rural transport. Greater car ownership together with de-population of the countryside over the years has caused passenger traffic on rural public transport services to fall off substantially. This has meant that these services, which at the very best have only been on the margins of viability, have become more and more under-used and more and more uneconomic; and all this has been happening in parts of the country where transport—of one sort or another—has a very special importance. So it is timely for us to look at these problems.
The Motion confines itself tothose rural bus services which have replaced discontinued rail services".It gives the impression that there has been a complete reversal of policy, with no concern for the needs of rural dwellers, but with devastating effects which will call for massive support from local authorities made impossible by the limitations on their expenditure.
I shall seek to show that this impression is misleading and that what has been done is no more than a logical, beneficial, and businesslike extension of the existing policy.
Let us look at the facts. The Transport Act 1962 provided that any proposal to withdraw all rail passenger services from a line or station to which an objection was made must receive the Minister's prior consent. It also provided 709 that he could attach conditions to his consent—including conditions requiring the Railways Board to provide or assist in the provision of alternative bus services for former rail users.
Most of the bus services so prescribed by successive Ministers have been bus services already operating in the area concerned. There has never been any question of a subsidy for these, nor has the Minister intervened in their regulation by the bus companies concerned subject to the overall control of the traffic commissioners. But the conditions attached to closure consents also often include conditions relating to additional bus services.
Until the Transport Act 1968, British Railways had to arrange with individual bus operators for such services to be put on after being duly licensed by the traffic commissioners. British Railways also met any deficits which these services might incur. The services could not be withdrawn or substantially reduced without the Minister's express approval. Some, but not all, of these services were in rural areas.
One of the features of the "new deal" for the railways announced in the White Paper on Railway Policy in November, 1967, was that the Railways Board should not be burdened with losses on socially necessary rail services, and that the community should explicitly take financial responsibility for such services. It was consistent with this philosophy that the board should also be relieved of its subventions towards rail replacement bus services. This cost, which in 1968 was running at the rate of £1 million a year, was part of the general deficit of the Railways Board which had to be met out of the annual Exchequer grant.
In paragraphs 59 to 61 of the subsequent White Paper on Public Transport and Traffic, Cmnd. 3481, the Government announced that the financial responsibility for these bus services was to be transferred from the Railways Board to the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group. The White Paper said that the negotiation of contracts for bus services—
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the financial responsibility. To the best of my recollection, the White Paper did not mention the word "financial".
The responsibility was clearly that of British Rail.
The White Paper said that the negotiation of contracts for bus services was not a proper activity for the Railways Board. It made it clear that the cost of providing additional rail replacement bus services had been taken into account in settling the financial duties of the N.B.C. and the S.T.G. These two bodies could provide the services either through one of their own subsidiary companies or by contracting with another operator to run a particular service. They would also take over from the Railways Board responsibility for existing contracts with private operators and would in future negotiate the renewal of such contracts. If an individual operator was not prepared to have his contract transferred to one of the two new bodies, it would have to remain with the Railways Board until it ran out.
Section 54 of the Transport Act, 1968, also enabled the Minister to attach conditions to his closure consents relating to the provision of alternative services by or through the N.B.C. or the S.T.G. which were to bear the cost of such services.
At this point, let me remind the House that the change of ownership of the nationalised bus industry from the Transport Holding Company to the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group gave the industry a substantial financial benefit. Under the 1962 Act the Transport Holding Company had to pay to the Minister part of the surplus that it made each year. On average, the bus side was contributing about £2 million to £3 million a year to the Exchequer.
The 1968 Act stopped this. There is now no requirement for the N.B.C. and S.T.G. to make any payment to the Minister on the former T.H.C. assets they now own. Moreover, the former B.E.T. companies which are now in the N.B.C. no longer have to think about dividends for the shareholders.
This change made it possible totrans-fer the financial burden of the rail replacement services to the N.B.C. and S.T.G. and still require them to break even. The Government were in effect, saying to them, "We will not meet the cost of these subventions as, in practice, we did with the Railways Board. Instead, we will 711 relieve you of the requirement to make extra surpluses and make payments to us." In fact, the Government are helping them even further, and other sections of the bus industry too by other measures introduced by our 1968 Act. Under this, the N.B.C. will receive in the current year some £1½ million in additional fuel tax rebate, and it received over £2 million a year from the 25 per cent. grant towards its expenditure on new buses. That is not a small financial contribution.
The financial duty of the N.B.C. and the S.T.G. is set out in Section 41 of the 1968 Act. They have to break even after taking account ofall charges which are proper to be made to revenue account".These have to be worked out. In any circumstances it takes time, and, in the case of the N.B.C, it had to create a new organisation, both operational and financial, when it took over the bus interests of the T.H.C. at the beginning of this year. All this was a brand-new organisation which had to be set up. So we have had this interregnum while the financial targets are being worked out.
Unfortunately this year the companies have been faced with sharply increased costs—largely arising from negotiated wage increases. So many of them have had to make application for increases in fares before they know precisely what financial targets the N.B.C. intended to lay down for them.
As a purely interim arrangement, therefore, the subsidiary companies have tended to spell out in their applications the effect on their finances of all the changes that have taken place since their last applications—as they have seen them at the time. By far the main factor has been the wage increases. On the debit side, they have also shown the payments previously made by the Railways Board. They have had offsetting credits; for example, the reduction in costs from the fuel duty rebate. From the evidence I have seen, they seem in the main to have adopted a very reasonable attitude in this interim period of claiming fares increases which would produce well below the total increases in their net costs.
All this was spelled out in the White Paper on Public Transport and Traffic 712 (Cmnd. 3481), and I invite the Opposition to read carefully in particular paragraphs 58 to 61.
In answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) on 5th May last to which the hon. Gentleman referred, my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) gave the House a progress report on the implementation of this policy. He said that the obligation in relation to services operated, or arranged, by their own subsidiaries had already been transferred to the N.B.C. and the S.T.G. He also said that negotiations about the transfer of responsibility to the N.B.C. for services run by independent and municipal operators were now to take place. These negotiations have not yet been completed. He also informed the House of a modification in the procedure. Formerly, the Minister's explicit consent was required for changes in the additional bus services, however long ago the rail closure had taken place.
In passing, perhaps I might say to the hon. Gentleman that if he thinks that my former Minister's statement was neither reported on nor commented on, he should have a word with his research department in Smith Square. Clearly, it has not been keeping him "genned up".
These additional services in practice are no different from all the other bus services in the area, which were already operating before the railway service was closed. They represent the best estimate which can be made at the time the closure is being considered of what provision is likely to be needed, over and above that offered by the existing services. But the additional services are considered, instituted, and in practice operated, by the bus operator as part of the general services in the area.
It was reckoned that after the rail service was closed the travelling public would take some time to adapt itself to the new circumstances. A new pattern of travel would emerge, which was not necessarily possible to predict with any adequacy when the closure was under consideration.
The responsibility of the National Bus Company and its subsidiaries is to provide, as far as practicable and subject to the necessary approval and consent of the traffic commissioners, the bus services 713 necessary to meet the needs of the travelling public in all the areas they serve, including those areas where rail services have been closed.
It was therefore thought quite logical and reasonable that after two years— during which the new travel patterns would have established themselves—it could safely be left to the National Bus Company to decide what pattern of bus services best met the local needs. Moreover, its operations were subject to the control and supervision of the traffic commissioners.
There is thus no question of the N.B.C. suddenly withdrawing these services which originally replaced closed railways, nor of local authorities being suddenly faced with an unexpected burden in terms of rural bus grants if they want them to continue. These services will already be part of the N.B.C.'s general network of services, and the N.B.C. will accept the same responsibility for them as it does for its non-paying services generally—by cross-subsidisation.
Some of these services—and the same applies to rural services in areas which have never had a railway—may sooner or later come into the category where, although they may be needed on social grounds, receipts are so low that no bus operator can be expected to maintain them without special financial help. This problem was recognised by the Jack Committee, appointed by the party opposite, which reported in 1961. I might ask at this stage why, when the party opposite introduced the 1962 Act, they did not take into it the recommendation of the Jack Committee and cater for rural services?
But the Government have thought of this problem, too. We have brought in the rural bus grant scheme so that local authorities can give financial help to these services with the central Government making a direct contribution of 50 per cent. This is an important new power, and we hope local authorities in all rural areas will look very carefully at the needs of their populace to see what assistance could, with advantage, be provided. This is directly in line with the recommendation of the Jack Committee which the party opposite completely ignored.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds) rose—714
I will not give way. I have not time. Many back benchers want to speak and, in fairness to them, I cannot give way.
So far we have had comparatively few approaches from any of them about these new powers. We have had discussions with them, and several councils are going ahead with small schemes. One very interesting development pioneered in Devon is that several local authorities have in mind to co-ordinate their policy within their county so that there can be a uniform approach to the problem and a planned allocation of resources. This will obviously be useful, particularly where the services provided by a predominantly rural bus operator are getting to the stage where help is needed for a number of them. So if any local authority wants to go ahead with a scheme, or to get advice about one, my Ministry will be glad to hear from them.
The last part of the Motion suggests that all this is useless because the local authorities are being asked to restrict their expenditure so severely. It is right for them to have the prime responsibility because transport should be a local responsibility. But the Government will be assisting them with over three-quarters of their costs. Rural bus grants by local authorities attract a direct grant of 50 per cent. But the 50 per cent. of cost falling on local authorities is taken into the reckoning of the rate support grant, which provides some 56 per cent. of local authority expenditure.
We know that local authorities are facing difficulties over their finances. But certainly the cost to them of any conceivable rural bus grants is marginal, to say the least—even in the transport scene. Their own expenditure on roads and public lighting was £422 million in 1968–69. It is a question of the priorities that they themselves set, and surely there is room for assistance to public transport.
From what I have said I hope that the House will agree that there is no question of the Government having contemplated as a general policy that rail replacement bus services—any more than any other lightly used services in urban as well as rural areas—should in future have to stand on their own feet so that if they could not pay they would be withdrawn unless the local authority met their cost.
715 What the Government have done is to transfer financial responsibility from one nationalised body, where it was not appropriate to two other nationalised bodies better fitted to the task, and to enable the transport needs of areas where rail services have been closed to be assessed as a whole and met in a flexible and integrated way by the operators on the spot and best qualified to form a judgment.
I am quite sure that these operators— the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group—can be relied on to give rural dwellers a square deal and to show by their actions that the Opposition's Motion is very wide of the mark.
The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) asked for an honest and clear declaration of our policy. I feel that I have satisfied the House in satisfying him.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. Many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Mr. Pardoe.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I must admit to being somewhat bewildered by the wording of the Motion, although I am in sympathy with any expression from the Conservative benches that the Government have no rural transport policy. I am not sure whether the Motion is asking us to say that the Government have done the wrong or the right thing. I fully understand that they promised one thing and, whatever the Parliamentary Secretary said, undoubtedly did another. That is absolutely true. But is what they promised right and what they have done wrong, or is it that what they promised was wrong and what they have done is now right?
The Motion does not offer any hope to rural transport passengers in North Cornwall, which is vitally affected by the whole pattern of rural transport. If the subsidies on these limited services were implemented, they would not make a great deal of difference. The difference would be marginal and, indeed, transitory, because rural transport is undoubtedly in decline. It has been in 716 decline for almost as long as anybody in this House can remember, and for a variety of reasons.
First, it exhibits all the classic ingredients of an industry in decline. For instance, it has personnel who are subject to an appallingly low morale because of the decline of the industry. They exhibit a sense of hopelessness in dealing with the problems taken to them by the travelling public. Their hopelessness is the only way that they can face the frustration and anger of the travelling public. I have sympathy with anyone working in this industry because nothing can be more depressing than to work in a hopeless industry.
Secondly, it is an industry in decline because of increasing prices, increasing costs, about which we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary, and, of course, the vicious circle which, because of the decline, means that costs will inevitably increase. To travel around by bus in North Cornwall is for many people, particularly those on supplementary benefit and the greater part of those who do not have private transport, virtually prohibitive. Because it is prohibitive there are fewer passengers, and those passengers are making fewer journeys. National buses in the rural areas of Cornwall at any time of day or night are invariably empty, or have just one or two passengers.
Thirdly, there is an inevitable desire on the part of those running the industry to crowd in a few more stops between the main points. This slows down the journey between the bigger towns from where the bulk of the traffic comes. This makes for longer journeys, so the whole thing goes on declining.
The reasons for the decline of rural transport are fairly easy to adduce. We have more cars. Cornwall has a particularly high incidence of car ownership in the population. This is not because people in Cornwall are wealthier than elsewhere, but because they cannot get around without a car. In fact, very few people can get to work without a car. So we find people in Cornwall on a low level of family income having to give a high priority of that income to the ownership of a car.
There has also been an increasing centralisation of the population in towns in 717 rural areas. This can be seen, for instance, by the varying demand for council houses in the villages, which has almost dried up. More and more we find that people do not want to live in the villages; they want to live in the towns.
Moreover, like most industries in decline, rural transport in Cornwall is caught with the wrong sort of equipment and the wrong sort of organisation to adapt to a modern 20th century task. Most of the buses are designed for bigger loads. Indeed, they cannot be diverted to pick up a few passengers from this or that hamlet because they are too big for the lanes. Because of the introduction of a new size of bus, it is often found that they have to change routes and miss out certain villages or hamlets. This is what I mean when I say that they are caught with the wrong kind of equipment and the wrong kind of investment. Unfortunately, because the industry is in decline, it has no capital to adapt. Therefore, it is forced to make do with existing buses, which will never be profitable because they are the wrong kind of equipment.
If the industry is in decline, what should we do about it? How do we ensure that rural transport remains? Indeed, is it necessary that there should be any kind of public rural transport? The first essential element in the demand for public rural transport is from those people without cars. I accept that in Cornwall we have a larger incidence of ownership, but, nevertheless, there is still a very large proportion of the population who do not have cars. Perhaps it is a declining proportion, because to a large extent it is made up of older people who never did have cars, and therefore perhaps have never qualified as drivers, or who do not drive, or who cannot drive for health reasons, and perhaps people who are too young to drive.
The second major factor of this demand for public transport in rural areas comes from housewives whose husbands have cars and use them to get to work, with the result that the housewife has no car to fetch her children from school, to do the shopping, or to lead any kind of free existence. But housewives need cars for reasons other than doing the shopping and taking their children around. The 718 influx of new industries into some of these development areas means that there is at least a demand for their services in light industrial works, but, unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for them to get to that work.
I have here a letter from the manager of one of the new factories at Launceston He says:The general difficulty of bringing employees in to work from the villages is one of the company's main anxieties.I have had repeated discussions with the industries in that town, and in other parts of the constituency, to try to solve that problem, but I do not believe that it can be solved through the existing National Bus Company.
This factor of no transport to bring labour in from the villages, labour which is there and anxious to work, is grossly uneconomic, because it means that these people are living on unemployment pay, or supplementary benefits, when they could be deriving wages in the factories, and the lack of transport is inhibiting industrial and economic progress.
Another factor is the tremendous demand in rural areas for school transport, and I do not see how, in assessing the whole problem of rural transport, and whether we ought to be paying subsidies, we can separate that from the massive problem of school transport. Earlier this week I asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he would amend the regulations relating to school transport to bring them into line with new factors such as the massive incidence of traffic on the roads. The idea that a child of eight could walk two miles to school may well have been all right in the early fifties, but with the massive incidence of traffic that we now have, it is dangerous.
The factor of school transport is of immense importance, as some figures which I have from the Cornwall Education Committee show. Conveyance costs alone in 1967 were £218,000. The total number of children for whom conveyance was provided was 10,900, nearly 11,000. There were 36,000 children who were not conveyed. In addition, there were 1,250 children who had permissive seats on contract conveyances and paid a flat rate of 15s. for that. The total cost in 1967 of return pupil journeys was £2,187,000, 719 and they cost almost exactly 2s. per journey. If one compares that with the total number of public transport journeys in the area of Cornwall, one sees that that is an immensely important item in the total number of journeys being traversed. It is true that the education committee is keeping certain buses going on school services in order to ensure that the N.B.C. keeps those buses operating on a scheduled service for later in the day. It could well provide school transport services at less cost if it were to do that by private contract, or even by owning its own buses.
What are the solutions? First, there is the solution of subsidy, which the Motion is primarily about. I want to express the dangers of this. I had hoped that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) was going to honour us with the kind of speech that he made during the hotel debate, when he came in late in the proceedings and told his Front Bench rather more of what they ought to know about economies than they apparently knew.
There are grave dangers in accepting too facilely the idea that we can go on subsidising the running costs of all rural transport ad infinitum. How do we know that we shall have the subsidised services where they are needed? How do we know that the subsidies are going where they are most needed? In rural areas the problem is one of deciding the minimum demand which justifies the provision of a public service, and there is a chronic lack of market information on which to base this.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party commissioned a report from a private consultant on the transport problems of his constituency of North Devon. One phrase of that report reads:… a field where"—it is talking about rural transport—for 40 years it has been generally assumed that the producer knows best.That is what I mean when I say that there is a chronic lack of market information. There is no point in going on subsidising these services for the sake of it if they are unwanted services, and if there are no objective criteria on which to decide whether they are wanted or not.
720 I accept that a local council—and this, I think, is the point which the Tory Front Bench is making—can undoubtedly judge better than the Government or the National Bus Company exactly where these services should be, but it cannot judge it better than the consumer, and I should much rather have a market orientated service in the long run.
Moreover, those who want public transport are not necessarily the people who pay the highest rates. If one bears in mind the incidence of water supplies in rural areas, one appreciates the prejudice against spending rates to supply mains water to the people who pay the lowest rates. It is this attitude which will be prevalent in providing subsidies for rural bus services.
I do not think that the attitude of local authorities will be very generous. From my experience of trying to persuade them to take up the Government's idea that they should supply concessionary fares to old-age pensioners I know only too well that it is virtually impossible. When the Bill was passed, I wrote to all eight local councils in my constituency. Every one of them said that the pensioner was the problem of the Central Government, and that they did not want to know about it. The problem of persuading them to do this is somewhat difficult.
I think that subsidies must be regarded with great care, and indeed scepticism, and it seems to me that if we are to have subsidies—
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of his local authorities subsidising old-age pensioners, or against it?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I see no reason why local authorities should not come to an arrangement with existing bus companies if a scheme can be adapted, and I put forward a scheme whereby that could be done.
In the general context of rural bus services, if we are to pay subsidies at all, I want them paid only in the short term. They should be capital subsidies which enable rural bus services to adapt to the new situation. I do not want them to be running cost subsidies at all, because no community can have any self-respect if it is dependent on charity. I do not 721 want the rural areas of Cornwall to become Red Indian reservations.
Rural transport policy should be a policy, not to provide subsidies ad infinitum, but to adapt and overhaul rural transport so that it can stand on its own feet. What is needed is an acceptance of the fact that fare stage operations in rural areas is virtually dead. There is no future for it. The N.B.C. loses money on its fare stage operations throughout the South-West, and it makes it up by mystery tours and contract work. We need much greater flexibility than fare stage operations can offer. We want buses where they are wanted, for those who want them, and subscription co-operative transport associations if necessary. The difficulty of setting these up is a capital one. It is also a difficulty of persuading the local bus companies to accept competition on their routes.
The last matter is the need to use existing services to a much greater extent. I have already mentioned school transport. Although school buses run at odd times of the day for most passengers, they could be used to a greater extent than they are now by the travelling public. A great deal of hospital transport crosses these rural areas and is not used by the general travelling public. It could be so used. In my constituency, the members of a doctors' practice recently wrote to me saying that they are now, having invested considerable sums of money—not all theirs: some of it is the Government's —in providing new practice premises in five areas, making soundings about a practice minibus. That would save an immense amount of time in running the practice, but there are major difficulties in raising capital. I hope that the Government will consider this carefully.
By using these sorts of services, by extending the contract system, by admitting that the fare stage is dead and should be buried as a rural transport concept, I believe that the Government will be able, in the long term, to do far more to help rural transport stand on its own feet. I shall vote for the Motion, not because I agree with every dot of every i or the cross on every t, but simply because it is the Government's job to bring a rural transport Bill before us, and this they have manifestly failed to do.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I do not intend to detain the House very long, because some of my hon. Friends are keen to speak. But I wanted to refer to the fascinating display given by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Heseltine). I do not think hon. Members opposite realise what they are doing. They seem to be convinced that they should advocate the running of uneconomic rural bus services, which should be paid for ever from public subsidy. They would never adopt this philosophy for private enterprise or in their own businesses and it is not to be found in the strand which holds the Tory Party together. They believe that the profit motive is the deciding factor and that whatever is not making a profit should go into oblivion and wither away. One of the Whips there, the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson), has often advocated this in the country and I am sure that he would not deny it tonight.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Tavistock has left us. He talked of the massive resentment of local authorities about this. The uneconomic services of British Rail could not be carried for ever, and I am pleased that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) recognised this. Obviously, it would have been grossly unfair on British Rail to have to continue shouldering that onerous burden. If, after two years, the Government decided that they would transfer these services to the National Bus Company, the people in the area would have a second avenue, because the local authority could come to a very good arrangement whereby the deficit would be halved between it and the Government.
We should not forget that, although the growth of the motor car has caused many problems in these areas, it has strengthened the rating return because more garages have been built. If the local authority wants some return here, they should allow more garages to be built, and the provision of more cars which weakens the rural bus services could help to pay for the continuation of the bus services.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths rose—723
§ Mr. Manuel
No, the hon. Member is very good in other debates, on America and so on, but I do not want to give way now.
Another point which should be driven home is that these services replaced withdrawn rail services. Local authorities can get massive help for replacement services from the Government. Surely hon. Members opposite would not say that we should continue to support the philosophy that British Rail, which cut out very uneconomic rail services should for ever carry a loss on the bus services which replace them. If we have done this for two years, we are doing quite well.
I would advise local authorities to go into this in detail and accept this gift from the Government. A Tory Government would never have offered this. I went right through the Committees on the 1962 Transport Act before many of these youngsters came into the House, blown in like froth at a general election that little material considerations was given to the real problems. But now they come along with transport philosophies, many of which cannot be considered if we are thinking in terms of a healthy rail system and of treating other transport services as they should be treated.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)
I recognise the vested interests of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) in the railway system, but have not been accustomed hitherto to hearing him as a champion of the rural bus services. He did not seem to advance the argument much further than the Parliamentary Secretary did, which was not very far, apart from a vicious, quite unprovoked attack upon my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond. Yorks (Mr. Kitson). It is clearly understood that Whips are muzzled and cannot defend themselves on these occasions. It seems unfair to pick on an hon. Member who has the largest rural constituency in England and attack him as having adopted a Powellite line, to the detriment of rural bus services. I am sure that my hon. Friend frequently supported the subsidisation of rural bus services by various means—and quite right too.
The Parliamentary Secretary did not answer the attack made by my hon. 724 Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine). In a speech which had obviously been carefully prepared before my hon. Friend spoke, he omitted to include an answer to the gravamen of the attack, which is simply that these bus services have now been removed from a special position, with the guarantee which was clearly understood in advance, and have been put in a position which, as the Parliamentary Secretary himself said, is exactly the same as those of the other bus services run by the rural bus companies.
This is precisely what we complain about. It is no good the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire saying that the local authorities can give massive help. They cannot, in this instance—
§ Mr. Manuel rose—
§ Mr. Maude
Local authorities will still have a considerable responsibility to undertake.
The removal of the special position which these services have had is alarming those who rely on rural bus services where rail services have been closed down. This particularly applies to those who are faced with the future closure of rural railway lines, for they know that the arguments which were put forward at the time of the inquiry—I have a case like this in my constituency—have now been changed.
Local authorities which will be relied on for this massive assistance were not consulted before this change was made, and this is a genuine criticism of the Government's action. These services have been put in the same position as rural bus services, which are subject to a continuous downward spiral of service. This worries the people who use these services.
The Parliamentary Secretary was challenged to produce a policy for rural bus services which would be some encouragement to the people who rely on them. He gave no encouragement and there is no reason to suppose that the situation will improve. As for the special services, it is clear that the position will 725 get worse—and we know from experience that the ordinary rural bus services are getting worse all the time. Thus, the position of village dwellers and others who rely on local services is becoming progressively more serious.
I do not blame the bus undertakings for this state of affairs. I never have. I have always consulted the local management when an issue has come up, and I am satisfied that local managements are right when they say that, with costs rising and with the number of motor cars increasing, it is becoming progressively more difficult for them to operate economically.
We know this to be true, and when I get complaints from a small village about the absence or cutting back of a service I go to great trouble to discover the potential number of travellers that the village is likely to raise. I often find that the number is four, five or six, It is clear that a normal bus is a totally uneconomic undertaking in such circumstances. There is far too little flexibility in the choice of buses and services.
Moreover, this is a downward spiral because, as costs increase, rural services serving small villages or acting as feeders to main routes become less profitable. Fares are raised, not only on those services, but on other routes which are subsidising the smaller and less frequented routes. Then passengers drop off, even on the profitable routes, as the result of fares being increased. The total result for urban and rural bus services is lower profitability, a lower rate of use of the capital involved and a downward spiral of service to all.
At some stage somebody must make up his mind about what must be done in this situation. I am not saying that any Government have really faced this problem entirely, but it must be faced before long. The private motor car will not meet this problem and some new thinking is required. Either we must recognise that this is a matter for subsidy, because it is a social service, or find another solution; but I would prefer to find an alternative solution, and to this extent I agree with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe).
We may have to put services for very short routes out to tender to small private contractors with vans or mini buses, the 726 contract going to the contractor who requires the lowest subsidy. We could see how that worked out for one year and at the end of that time it might be possible to lower the subsidy.
Sooner or later the Government must consider the possibility of doing what is done in other countries which is using the postal service for passenger transport. We have small postal vans going to every village and travelling almost every route at some stage in the early morning and often in the afternoon and evening as well, delivering and later collecting.
As these vans must be replaced, it should be possible to replace them with dual purpose vehicles. I appreciate that this might be difficult, for security reasons, for the Post Office, but I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of man to devise a system to use the postal services—full-time labour is already being used and a considerable amount of fuel is consumed for the loads carried—for passengers, too. I hope that we will have the Minister's views on this subject.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
Charles Dickens defined a hypocrite as being like a signpost which points the way to go somewhere but never goes there itself. Opposition spokesmen who have taken part in this debate are guilty of this sort of thing. On the one hand we have had strident cries of cutting public expenditure and going back to the harsh law of the market a la Powell, but when it comes to the crunch they come out in theory in opposition as much softer. We have had a similar exercise over agricultural price support. We first heard about supporting the farming community through the market, then there were the braces and now the belt and braces as a result of the latest Press conference of the shadow spokesman for agriculture.
What is the history of this rural bus problem? Clearly, as the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) suggested, it is the problem of an industry in decline faced with the massive onset of the motor car. The Jack Committee in 1961 recognised this and recommended a fifty-fifty share of subsidy between central and local government. This was of course ignored in the subsequent 1962 727 Act which led to a wholesale series of rail closures and has led in part to the problem we are discussing.
I recall my right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Defence, Equipment, saying that whenever hon. Members opposite complained to him on behalf of their constituents about rail closures in their areas he had in his pocket their voting records on the 1962 Act and brought them out to suggest that they might have thought of raising those objections when voting on that Measure.
The leading spokesman for the Opposition this evening suggested that the Government were wrong in removing these bus services set up after rail closures from the privileged position they now enjoy. Part of the answer is that one cannot expect these bus services instituted after rail closures, indefinitely to have such a privileged position. One has to look at the total rural bus services to make the best assessment. Of course there is no reason for alarm given the policy so far pursued by the National Bus Company and the financial assistance to the N.B.C. which the Parliamentary Secretary outlined.
The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) quoted from letters he had received from the County Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association saying that they had not been consulted. I am sure that if in those letters they had gone on to complain about the action the Government have taken, the hon. Member would have been very quick to have continued quoting from those letters. He did not do so and that omission is very significant.
The hon. Member also suggested that the withdrawal of this subvention had been a major factor in the increase in costs of the South-West group of companies. I had assumed that this point would be raised and I came armed with figures of what he called a major contribution to increased costs. According to the figures the bust companies put before the Traffic Commissioners, the total in increased costs of the three companies since the last fares increase application was made was over £500,000. Of this the loss of subvention by British Railways for the replacement bus services was £129,999, showing the "major factor" which the hon. Member sug- 728 gested. Even if we were to assume that the whole of the loss of subvention had to be made up by fares increases, the average effect on fares would be just over 2 per cent. on this account.
§ Mr. Anderson
I am socking it to him.
This is the "major factor" in escalating costs suggested by the hon. Member for Tavistock. It is rather useful that one can answer this by the relevant figures. The 1968 Act adopted the Jack solution of a fifty-fifty subvention by local authorities and the Government. This is likely to provide the best solution in the short term, relieving British Rail of social costs and transferring them to the other nationalised body by putting a social obligation, not on British Rail but on the N.B.C.
Having tried to expose what I consider the very opportunist attack by the Opposition, I agree that there is a very real problem in rural transport today. I was very struck by two cases recently brought to me. One was in the Llanthony Valley in my constituency where an isolated old person told me that she was afraid to ask people who were using their cars to go to town to transport her when the bus service had been removed. She was a completely isolated unit as a result of the withdrawal of the rural bus service.
In another case in my constituency, a public meeting was called to discuss the impending withdrawal of the local service and a poor farmer said that rich commuters living around him said, "We don't want a bus service; we all have cars." This poor chap was afraid to speak up and his sole communication with the outside world has been cut off.
I know of several groups of council houses in my area which now stand empty because of the changing pattern in the countryside and the withdrawal of rural bus services. The solution of course lies in part in the subsidy arrangements which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary outlined. It can also be tackled in a much more imaginative way. Ways have been suggested by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). One suggestion was that Post Office vans should be used. One is now operating in Machynlleth in Montgomeryshire. The use of school buses to transport isolated people in the countryside, and any other 729 means of public transport, such as hospital mini buses, would help.
The other provision of the 1968 Act providing concessionary bus fares for old people in the countryside should also help to solve this problem. These, with the subvention described, should go part of the way to solve the problem.
I am confident that the House will reject this very opportunist Motion.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
Eleven years ago the Council for Wales established a committee to inquire into the question of rural transport in Wales. That Committee antedated the Jack Committee by about a year, but its findings were almost exactly the same as those of the Jack Committee. The conclusions of the Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Aaron were:The Council are satisfied that, while minor alleviations may be possible, the problem cannot be solved without some provision for financial assistance from outside the industry itself.It found thatthe decline in rural bus services has caused hardship and serious inconvenience' to a significant minority of people in Welsh rural areas.Nothing was done after those Reports were published. Ten years later still nothing has been done. The position in England is similar to that in Wales but is not as acute. The position in Wales is very grave because of the great social affliction of depopulation. It is not only rural depopulation, but it is found to a great extent in rural areas, it is true. The populations of eight of the 13 Welsh counties are smaller today than they were in 1921. The equivalent number in England would be 24 counties; but in fact not one English county has a smaller population than it had in 1921.
Although depopulation has many deep seated causes, the matter of transport is an important contributory cause. It aggravates the situation. In my constituency, which is a very large one geographically, a substantial number of small rural communities are now completely isolated in the matter of public transport. Since the Reports of the Aaron and Jack Committees were published, many Welsh railway lines have been closed. This has aggravated the situation. No assistance 730 has yet been given to rural bus companies. Many such companies in my constituency are in serious difficulties. In two cases which have occurred recently the difficulties were caused by the recent closure of lines—that is, within the last few years—and by the withdrawal of the public bus services. Places with lovely names like Llanartlnau and Llanpumpsaint now have no services.
The inhabitants often have to work in the nearest town. The population of Carmarthen, which is only 13,000 by night, rises to 27,000 to 28,000 during the day. People must come in from rural areas to work in Carmarthen. They are finding it very difficult, and the difficulty is growing.
I have just had another instance of this kind of thing. The village of Penygroes has lost its bus service. People there—about 30 of them—used to use the bus to go into Llandeilo to work. Many of them have been unable to continue working at Llandeilo and have had to find employment elsewhere, which is a great hardship.
The situation also affects the schools, especially the secondary schools which in rural districts draw pupils from a very wide geographical area. One of my boys is now taking part in the school play, which means that he must stay at school after school hours for the rehearsals. Such extra-curricular activities are very difficult for rural children to take part in. But for a bus running from Llandovery to Llangadog, he would be unable to take part in the play, and the service is in serious jeopardy. Thought is being given to withdrawing it, which is a grave matter for people in my constituency.
We have heard tonight from many hon. Members that the main cause of the problem is the great increase in the ownership of cars. It has become increasingly difficult for people in rural areas without cars even to get to work.
But there are other matters which put the rural bus companies in a grave predicament. It is almost impossible for many of them to carry on. The growth of television has meant that cinemas have closed, and they are still closing. Shopping in towns is made less necessary by the growth of mobile shops and so on. Whatever one may say about the speed of rural buses, there is no doubt about 731 the speed at which their operational costs are rising and their custom is declining. In this crisis of their existence, at least six companies in my constituency have made appeals for public assistance. They have said that they cannot carry on unless it is quickly forthcoming. Two or three companies have already gone out of operation.
Therefore, a situation is developing in rural Wales in which only people who can afford cars will be able to live in the countryside. A Welshman looks with envy at Switzerland in this matter as in so many others. The Swiss Post Office operates the kind of service that two hon. Members have suggested tonight. We have an experiment along those lines in Wales, but not long ago Switzerland could boast that not a single bus service run with the mail had been withdrawn, although even as long ago as 1958 75 of the 440 routes in Switzerland averaged only three or four passengers. There is reason for us to look with envy at that kind of situation. Alas, we are not governed as efficiently as the Swiss, and are not likely to be from this place. There is no hope for that kind of public support for our rural bus services in Wales.
But a substantial amount of public financial assistance is absolutely necessary, and it is needed most urgently if we are to retain even the skeleton services that we now have. I hope that it is not too much to ask that within six months assistance will be forthcoming from public funds so that those services which survive will be kept in existence. It would cost only a small fraction of the £250 million that the Government have just written off for London Transport.
Welsh local authorities, including my own county authority for Carmarthen, are very anxious to help. I do not think that there would be any difficulty in getting them to co-operate. They are impatiently awaiting a communication from the Welsh Office. The Secretary of State, whom I am glad to see here tonight, has told me that he will before long give them a code of guidance. I hope that financial help can be speedily organised.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I have been in this House for nearly two and a half years and it is a long time 732 since I heard such hypocritical humbug from hon. Members opposite as we have suffered tonight. Essentially, what we are discussing are the Tory chickens of 1962 coming home to roost. No doubt the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker), when he comes to wind up, will make great play of the safeguards which the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), when he was Minister of Transport, was thought to have inserted in that famous, monumental structure which devoured the railways— the Transport Act, 1962.
If the hon. Gentleman carefully examines how effective those safeguards were and are, he will see that what has happened in case after case is that, very quietly, bus companies have applied to withdraw their services, and have consulted the traffic commissioners, which have said that they could not find sufficient evidence of demand and have consequently consented to the withdrawals. I would not mind betting that the hon. Gentleman will not produce any figures, because he would not like to, of the number of bus services which have been withdrawn despite the safeguards which the right hon. Member for Wallasey was supposed to have inserted in the 1962 Act. But if those safeguards were not adequate, that is another reflection on the Tory policy which led to the Act.
In 1961 the Jack Committee represented that, on a subsidy by contract basis, the central Government and the local authorities should contribute 50–50 to rural bus services. What did the party opposite do? Nothing. In 1962 a second study in Wales and Monmouthshire was initiated and gave a slightly different recommendation. It recommended that a subsidy should be paid by the traffic commissioners. What happened? Nothing. What happened when the Tory Party in 1961 instituted a rather similar inquiry, for perhaps rather similar reasons, which came to be called the Highland transport inquiry? That inquiry again recommended subsidies, by a different authority. Again, there was no action. We now have the spectacle of the Tory Party lamenting the withdrawal of subsidies when, in office, they did nothing about three consecutive reports which lay before them recommending the use of subsidies for rural transport.
733 On top of that, in the 1962 Act they ensured that, by restricting the powers of the Transport Users' Consultative Committees so that they could only consider hardship, more and more railway closures than ever before could take place. One of the things which sickened many people, both inside and outside the House, was that some hon. Members opposite, having voted eagerly for the Act and for the Beeching Plan, were the first to go cap-in-hand to the Ministry of Transport when their own particular railway lines were due to be axed.
We shall see the same thing under the Transport Act, 1968. The same Tories sitting opposite tonight fought tooth and nail against that Act, voting against the railway subsidies and the bus subsidies that it included. But as soon as their bus services or railway lines start to be affected, they run to the Ministry to the steps of St. Christopher House with their begging bowls.
This is why we are having such an unparalleled barrage of humbug from the benches opposite tonight. We have had many examples cited to us of the rather different financial arrangements which now exist under the 1968 Act. If the hon. Member for Worcester wants to appreciate some of the unparalleled financial arrangements introduced by his party when in office, he should look at the 1962 Act.
This was an Act which placed pretty well the same obligations on British Rail as the 1968 Transport Act places on the National Bus Company; namely, the duty of making a return on capital, but at the same time subsidising services which no one else wants to subsidise. What happened when there was a conflict under the 1962 Act between the duty to make the railways pay and the duty to keep uneconomic services going? The uneconomic services were discontinued, without the kind of safeguards to which the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) has referred. Yet the hon. Member has the cheek to come here and accuse this side of the House of trying to follow his party's example in the 1962 Act. It is not so.
The 1968 Act has improved the situation in the country. Let me refer to some of the speeches made by the hon. Member in Committee and on Report during the 1968 Bill. It was that same 734 Member who steadfastly day after day and night after night defended the present system. "It's O.K.", he said, "Keep the traffic commissioners. They are doing a very good job. Although conditions in the countryside might be getting a little worse, let us keep the system going as it is." Yet that same hon. Member tonight makes a massive attack on the traffic commissioners because he says the whole system is falling to pieces. I suggest that either the Tory research department at Smith Square, if there still is one, or at least his own research assistant, tries to write some kind of continuity into his speeches.
I am not denying that the National Bus Company is about to try for a change in subsidy policy for rural transport services. No one is denying that. What I am saying is that in the 1968 Act there are more safeguards for rural transport than any other Government, on either side, has ever put into a Measure. For the first time since the 1930 and 1933 Acts, which are still the major Road Traffic Acts governing licensing, provision is made for the flexible licensing system that the hon. Gentleman has demanded time and again.
I respectfully suggest that at least hon. Gentlemen should do this side of the House the courtesy of reading our legislation. The 1968 Act involves a more flexible licensing system for smaller buses, which will deal adequately, I hope, with several points raised by hon. Gentlemen. As has been said, for the first time in a piece of transport legislation, a Government—from this side of the House— have made definite provision for rural subsidies. That will not be found in the 1953 or 1962 Acts. This has been done by this Government as a declaration of faith in rural transport.
It has also been suggested that the National Bus Company will run down the services in the areas surrounding big conurbations. The hon. Member for Worcester must remember all the arguments he used against the passenger transport authorities. It is these same authorities which will have the power to keep rural transport services going. In addition, we have the rather generous grants, totalling £60 million to £70 million in a full period, from the Chancellor to get rural railway services going. If all of that does not add up to a pretty generous 735 piece of assistance for rural transport I do not know what does. But that is not all.
For the first time, rural bus operators will qualify for capital grants, exactly the same kind of grants for which the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) was asking. Apart from that, bus operators, particularly in the rural areas, will be able to quality for an additional fuel tax rebate. Not only will rural bus operators get their capital costs reduced but they will also get their running costs reduced with a total fuel tax rebate. In addition, the National Bus Company has been relieved of some of its capital payment obligations to the Treasury.
Hon. Members opposite should read about these things. The Transport Act, 1968, was a pretty comprehensive and far-reaching piece of legislation. I suspect that many hon. Members opposite who have spoken tonight have not read it. Before they have the temerity to complain as they have done tonight, they should read it. Anybody who takes the care to look at the policy of the Opposition and the Government on rural transport will know which party has made a sounder declaration of faith in the rural areas.
On those grounds, the House should totally reject the Motion.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
Having listened to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), I am more alarmed than when I read the Motion. What surprises me is that there has been very little recognition from hon. Members opposite of the social need for rural bus services. There will always be a social need for rural bus services. Their existence is of even greater moment in Scotland, where distances are greater and populations sparser, than it is in England.
When railway closures have taken place considerable savings have been made by introducing express bus services. While they are not as satisfactory as train services, they accomplish a very large saving to the national Exchequer. When the Stranraer-Dumfries railway line in my constituency was closed, I was relieved to be given a firm assurance from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), who was 736 Minister of Transport at that time, that there would be as many express buses as there had been trains and that they would take only about ten minutes longer on a journey of two and a half hours than the trains had taken. The Labour Party showed a great deal of interest in this line, and its candidate in the 1964 election gave an express assurance that the line would be kept open. As soon as the election was over, the Labour Government broke that pledge and closed the line. Therefore, I am naturally suspicious of what they intend to do next, and I want the firmest assurance that the express buses will continue with at least the present frequency.
I would not exclude a review of the time at which they run, but I strongly resist the suggestion of the former Minister of Transport in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), that such special services should be properly regarded as part of the general public transport system. If this were accepted, the journey from Dumfries to Stranger would take at least four hours. It already takes a person wanting to visit a relative in Dumfries Hospital practically the whole day to get there and back. If the service were withdrawn considerable hardship would be caused in my area. It would make a complete mockery of the assurance given to the people of the area when the railway was closed.
I emphasise the great dissatisfaction which is felt in rural areas about ever rising fares and the lack of frequency of the services. I would guess that the cross-subsidisation of rural services by urban services is beginning to break down.
Some years ago an excellent report of a Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Kilbrandon suggested that there should be a new body equivalent to the traffic commissioners which would subsidise these services. It was a great pity that the Transport Act of 1968 adopted the Jack Report and gave the power of subsidising to the local authorities. The local authorities with the largest area of country road are usually those with the lowest rateable value, and the subsidising of country services is therefore much more difficult for them to afford. I do not see any solution to this problem 737 coming from the Wheatley Report, which gives larger regional groupings to the Highlands and the South-West.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield
I am at a loss to understand why the hon. Gentleman is bewailing the financial responsibility being a burden on the rates. Surely he knows that the local authorities to which he referred are those which will receive most in rate support grant from the central Government?
§ Mr. Brewis
I concede that, but, even so, it is to much for counties in the Highlands and the South-West to subsidise out of their rateable value all the services which should be subsidised. The proposal made by Lord Kilbrandon was much more satisfactory. I would prefer to see a proportion of the hydrocarbon oil duty earmarked to subsidising rural services.
Mr. David St. John Thomas, in his book "Rural Transport Problems", suggested that a comparatively small sum of £3 million to £5 million spread over the entire country would be enough to keep a reasonable service going if the distribution were left to a body such as the traffic commissioners.
Country buses are largely a problem for country women. The men are likely to be employed on the farm, in the next village, or at any rate within bicycling distance. The wife needs to shop and the daughters want a job in a shop or office in the town. We have heard much about the family car, but the possession of a family car is not enough. It may not be available when it is needed, and a high proportion of country women even now cannot drive a car.
If we want to stem depopulation, we must pay as much attention to rural transport as to rural water supplies, housing grants and agricultural subsidies and, as the Government are clearly trying to get out of their obligations to rural transport, I am glad that we shall be voting on the Motion.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
I am glad to participate in the debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) on his most able speech. He put his finger on one of the central 738 problems, the most unfortunate procedures resulting from the 1962 Transport Act.
In terms of railway closures, the procedure which this Act inflicted upon British Rail was quite fantastic, in that British Rail had to propose a closure and the public then had to fight an uphill battle against British Rail to prove the case for keeping the line open, thus creating the maximum ill-feeling between the public and British Rail and giving the impression that British Rail wished to shut down a line when the matter was still open for decision. I also agree that the remit to the T.U.C.C., being confined to hardship, was ludicrously narrow and long-winded, and frustrated large sections of the community who wished to make a much more positive case for the retention of services.
The second weakness of the Act relates to the lack of safeguard in the subsequent withdrawal of bus services. Hon. Members are right when they say that, an express bus service having been offered as an alternative to a rail service, it is possible for this bus service to drift away, to be cut down bit by bit, so that the alternative no longer remains, or no longer remains in the original form.
It is a tremendous step forward that the Government have agreed to a measure of subsidy of rural transport. I should like to consider the best use of the total resources in an area with social subsidies of this kind. I am worried that we are still not getting the balance between the different forms of service as accurate as we could for the needs of each particular area.
When it is decided whether a railway line should be closed down and a bus service supplied as an alternative, there is a great difference between the small rural villages and the commuter centres outside the major city. They are in two different categories. To take the commuter services and the provision of bus services as an alternative, there is a single formula which determines social cost. In weighing up the loss on the line and the social cost of putting a whole number of extra private cars and buses on the roads, there is a satisfactory formula in terms of total individual content, but it does not fit each area in the same way.
I would be much less hesitant in accepting an express bus service as an 739 alternative to a commuter train where there was a good bus company operating modern, warm, efficient buses, and on a motorway. People would then know that if they got on a bus they would arrive on time and would enjoy reasonable facilities and comfort. This makes a difference when calculated in terms of social cost. However, in parts of my constituency roads into the city are very bad. There are traffic bottlenecks, and an extra 200 or 300 cars or buses on the roads would add enormously to the congestion and the travelling time.
We are offered as an alternative an allegedly express bus service which fails to keep to the timetable. It is not getting people to work on time. All sorts of difficulties make such a bus service not strictly comparable to the rail services for which it is supposed to be a substitute. For instance, it worries many people in areas where the bus goes out to the rural village through the suburbs of the city that it may often fill up in the suburbs, leaving no room for the villagers on the outer fringes.
One then has services in which buses are inadequate, break down, and are cold and draughty. I have had voluminous correspondence with the Scottish Ministers and the Scottish omnibus companies protesting about old, broken-down, inefficient buses which are not providing an adequate service as an alternative to rail. Their reply has been that they cannot get crews for the buses, cannot get the proper maintenance carried out, and that the pressure of summer bus excursions is too great. All these matters should be taken into account by a local passenger transport authority when it is considering the proper use of social resources in subsidising a given area. These matters cannot be adequately worked out by hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench or the officials in London since they do not know the local roads and other characteristics in the areas concerned.
I was surprised to hear the Joint Parliamentary Secretary say that he expected certain of these bus services to be cross-subsidised by other bus services. This was not taken into account in deciding on the economic case for closing railway lines. If we had been told whether or not the bus services were to be subsidised, it would have been an important factor 740 to be taken into account. One assumes that the bus services are supposed to make a profit and that if they do not make a profit the bus service in a particular area will be allowed to decline. If that is the case, then that is the sort of matter to be considered.
I suggest that as part of the policy of Government subsidy for these areas they should consider even more integration. We should also take into account the state of the roads in deciding how much we are prepared to subsidise a railway line in such an area We should try to put road and rail together in some instances by having the bus station beside the railway station and having transferable tickets so that members of the public can take either the available restricted train service or, if it is better, the bus service.
We could do much more in our rural areas to make an intelligent use of what we have. In the case of commuter services, we should either run feeder buses to the stations or provide more parking space at stations so that commuters become accustomed to driving in, leaving their cars, and using the commuter train service to town.
Thus, I have now dealt with the problem from the point of view of an area such as my part of the country and the commuter service from a rural area into a city.
Quite a different problem is that of a small village off the main road where possibly there was once a train service which no longer exists. It is a problem of the cyclical decline spoken about by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). These are villages which are beautiful to live in, entirely rural in character, whose life has changed completely in the last 20 years. Whereas before such a village was the centre for an area into which people travelled to do their shopping and so on, it is now a place for people to live, and it is empty during the day because its inhabitants go where there is industry. The vast majority have cars. We are faced with a situation where people living in such villages have their own transport and tend to do their shopping in the local county town or the nearest major town. As a result, there tends to be a closure of the facilities in such villages, which become dormitories to the larger towns round about.
741 It is more disastrous for the people who are left in them. They have not the shops, the post office, the place where they can get a haircut, and so on, and we have to consider how best to meet their needs.
I have the good fortune to have a postal minibus service in my constituency, and I am grateful to the Minister for the co-operation which I received in this matter. I suggest that a great deal can be done with these minibus services if a few changes are made. At the moment the minibus service in my constituency is subsidised by the post office. It has to fit in with post office runs. That is understandable when it is run mainly by the post office. As a result, the minibus cannot offer the service that people want, because it goes slowly out to the outlying villages in the morning, delivering all the way, and comes quickly back.
What is wanted is the reverse. People in the villages want to be run to the county town in the morning and brought quickly back at night. What is necessary to make the minibus service pay and not require subsidy from the post office is the recasting of the postal delivery service to fit in with passenger needs. I appreciate that that is difficult, but I believe that a lot of people in my area would not mind getting their letters delivered later in the morning if it meant, in addition, having a local bus service in and out of the town when they wanted it. In addition, where the Government and local authorities are committed to running school bus services, it should not be impossible to run minibuses offering passenger facilities as well. In some areas it might be a little easier to run a school bus service if there were other passengers in the vehicles along with the children.
I see no reason why we should not have a more flexible policy of this kind designed to give bus services to our remoter rural villages where transport is needed. Where we have decided to provide social subsidies for commuter areas where there is a restricted or discontinued train service, we should calculate our social costs on the basis of the problems of the area, related to the area and to the demands of the people in the area.
That is why I welcome the possibility for people to contribute something in the form of subsidies to the maintenance of the transport system in their areas. In 742 this, we have the bones of a policy. We need to decentralise it and to decide our passenger transport requirements area by area based on a knowledge of local conditions. We need to be more flexible, taking into account the capacity of local bus services, the state of local roads, the desire of local people, and their shopping patterns. If we can do that, we can offer a service which will meet our needs at least for the next decade.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) said that we were discussing the Conservative Act of 1962. That was a Parliamentary blunder of the first order. We are not discussing anything of the kind. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) fell into the same error. He made a delightful speech and I enjoyed listening to it. But it is time that we came back to the Motion, which is that the Government, within the last six months—it is an extremely narrow Motion—have committed one particular blunder for which in particular circumstances they should be condemned. That is the Motion before us tonight.
I represent a constituency consisting of five towns and 60 villages. If it was not 9.15 in the evening I should enjoy delivering to the House my philosophy of what a complete rural bus service should be. I do not intend doing that. We are not discussing that tonight, and I am anxious to indicate where the Government have blundered, how they have blundered, and why.
Their first blunder—I do not mean this in a personal sense, but in a Parliamentary sense—is Parliamentary arrogance. The Motion would never have arisen and the debate would never have taken place had the Government allowed proper discussion of the 1968 Act. It is because Section 54 was never discussed in the House that this debate is taking place.
Like other hon. Members, I am often asked to talk to sixth formers, rotary clubs, and so on, about the way that Parliament works. Over the years all of us have done this. I have always proudly said that while we differ on many matters, nothing ever goes through by accident. We have Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage, Third Reading, and 743 the House of Lords. We are thorough. Everything is properly discussed. That was the speech I used to make. I am increasingly uncertain whether I can make it truthfully now. That is the charge of Parliamentary arrogance.
The second charge, which I think is well substantiated—I will try not to use harsh words—is sharp practice. This is how the matter arose. The Government took some action, as the Parliamentary Secretary conceded in his speech, which cost bus users about £1 million a year. I am not now arguing whether that action was right or wrong, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not conceal that that action was taken without consulting local authorities and without any announcement to the House. Indeed, but for a Written Question by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), which caught the sharp eye of a Dorset town clerk, I doubt whether this would have come to light. The Answer, which ran to 37 lines, was in terms of such gobbledegook that nobody understood what it meant. This is where the sharp practice comes in. If a Minister seeks to remove £1 million, however good a case he may have, he should at least say so and see that it is understood.
The third charge is muddle. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will not take it just from me. I have here the transcript of an inquiry held by the traffic commissioners of the western traffic area in which an application was made by four bus companies, which cover inter alia the area of Dorset with which I am particularly concerned, for a substantial rise in fares. The chairman of the commissioners in giving his decision and having to decide whether the increase in fares is reasonable or unreasonable is required to have regard to all the facts. He opened his judgment, after referring to considerations of matters which appeared to have beenlegislated for by Ministerial letter and answers in the House"—we do not make the task of people who have to deal with the results of this type of legislation any easier—with these words:We are still in the dark as to the precise position",and being in the dark he is called upon to give a decision which will greatly affect 744 the amount of the fares paid by my constituents.
So is arrogance proved. So is sharp practice proved, so is muddle proved, and finally before the traffic commissioners themselves, one gets at least the likelihood, through no blame on them, of injustice proved. Those are the charges which we are discussing tonight, and those are the charges to which I at least propose to stick.
The next charge is to some extent that of callousness, and here I come to my constituents. I do not wish to say of them anything that I would not equally say of rural populations in many other parts of the country. In the Western area alone, of which Dorset forms a part, the amount of cash taken out of their pockets by this act is £129,000. That is the amount established by the chairman of the traffic commissioners who investigated this case. That is a large sum. I am not for the moment concerned with future policy. This is the immediate effect upon a rural population which has been hit hard and many times by this Government.
I could not help noticing this afternoon that in answer to a question it was said that a London docker is dissatisfied because he has been offered only £33 a week. I make no comment on that. I do not represent him. If he can get it, well and good, but the Government are paying to a docker in Portland, a man primarily employed by the Government in the dock-yard there, a sum which does not amount to £14 a week. That is the contrast between the rural dweller and the urban dweller. A couple of months ago, for the first time in the history of our yards so dissatisfied was the Portland docker that he went out on strike and asked me to address a strike meeting outside the dock gates. My sympathy was with him. Many dockers live in Weymouth, and their bus fares will be put up over everything else. A man there is required to keep a family on £14 a week, and yet have to pay additional bus fares.
I shall not dwell on the difficulties which arise in rural populations. The House is familiar with them, but I draw the attention of those who dwell in towns to the fact that we have a 4½ per cent. unemployment rate, something which not many people associate with Dorset. It is a low-wage area, and hon. Gentlemen 745 opposite who are familiar with wages paid in towns may find it difficult to realise that the wages paid, often by the Government, in the area that I represent ere beginning to impose hardship after hardship, and that the rural areas are rapidly growing poorer whilst cities get richer.
That is the charge against the Government. It is one to which I hope the Minister will respond. The charges against them are Parliamentary carelessness. The Bill was never properly debated. They are charged with inefficient practice. Having taken what I believe to have been an unwise decision to remove £1 million, there was no proper consultation. They are charged also with muddle, in that when the cases came before the Traffic Commissioners the Chairman was forced to take decisions on the basis of insufficient information. Finally, they are charged with callousness, because by this Measure there has been imposed on at least one rural population a greater degree of hardship than the people there ought to be called upon to suffer.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)
I realise how few minutes there are left, so I will confine myself to one or two important points.
It surprises me—perhaps, on second thoughts, it does not—that the Opposition have made no attempt to justify the central theme of their Motion, that the railways should pay subsidies to those bus services which replace rural train services. There will always be difficulty in running rural bus services profitably, as there is with rural railway services. It is sensible that the Government should arrange for these services to be subsidised from public funds, with half the cost borne by local authorities.
If the local authority is partly responsible, it will be more moderate in its demands. In the past, when they had no financial responsibility for bus or rail services, local authorities made many demands as long as they did not have to pay for the consequences. Now they will have to consider whether a service is worth while and the money spent is justifiable, and many of their electors will have to bear in mind, when making demands, that they will have to pay for them as ratepayers.
746 Most important of all, they will do something to remember the importance of rural transport when they are planning. I was a member of a rural district council, which was also a planning authority, for nine years. Every time we considered plans for houses, schools or anything else, we did not consider the accessibility to public service transport. Yet this should always be considered when planning. If we want public services to prosper, we must feed them. For instance, if we are concerned about an area's accessibility to sewers, why not consider its accessibility to transport? Schools and council houses should be built on main bus routes.
So far, this factor has been totally neglected in planning. Local authorities may take more care of this in future, when they have some responsibility for these services. Many public passenger services have failed because this point has been neglected. In parts of Wales and East Anglia, council estates have been built after a public transport service had been withdrawn. If the plans had been known beforehand, the services could have been maintained.
There will always be difficulties in running rural services, but public transport will have to be helped, partly by public funds, but most of all by planning. This new half-and-half method of financing which the Government have adopted is just the right way. The whole cost would be too much for local authorities. This is nothing new, since we are merely following the example of many European countries, where local authorities contribute to public transport services.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
This has been an interesting debate in which we have heard from the Leader of the Welsh Nationalist Party in the House of Commons, which is always pleasant, and from the Liberal Party. Somebody once said that the Liberal Party was rather like a herring in that its backbone was to the left or the right according to how one opened it.
The first part of the speech of the hon. Member who represents the Liberal Party was to the right, when he said that there should be no subsidies whatever, while the second part was to the left, when he advocated capital subsidies, subsidies for old-age pensioners and the rest. It was a typical Liberal performance.
747 My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) made a number of constructive suggestions, while a cogent analysis of the parliamentary record of the Labour Party on this topic was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King).
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) accused my hon. Friends of ranting and raving at times, a matter on which he is a great expert, both as a practitioner and as one who analyses it. I remember the days when Midland Red was under free enterprise. At that time the hon. Member for Nuneaton ranted and raved throughout the Midlands about the fares being charged and the services being provided under free enterprise. I hope to hear him ranting and raving now that Midland Red is increasing its fares throughout the Midlands and is, in the view of those who use it, providing services which are not seeming to improve.
The Opposition Motion has exposed a remarkably incompetent state of affairs resulting from the policies of the Government. The Parliamentary Secretary's explanation of what has been happening was remarkable because he said that the National Bus Company would lose about £1 million in subsidies from the railways but that it would gain because it no longer had to provide £2 million to £3 million in profits, with the result that, on balance, it would be better off than it would have been under the old system.
Yet the National Bus Company is, throughout the country, asking for increased fares on the basis that its financial position has deteriorated. If the Parliamentary Secretary is correct, it should be asking for reductions in fares. "Ah," the hon. Gentleman explains, "the major part is the cost of wages. On balance, with the subsidy, it is better off." Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the National Bus Company is appearing before traffic commissioners throughout the country giving as one reason for its request for fares increases the fact that it is losing the subsidy?
The Parliamentary Secretary tried to brush this off by saying that the National Bus Company had been formed, that it had lots of subsidiaries, that in its first 748 year it did not know what its subsidiaries were doing and that it had not given financial targets to those subsidiaries. The subsidiaries were, therefore, applying for increased fares because they had not been instructed from the centre and, in any event, they really did not need the extra fares.
The Parliamentary Secretary revealed a remarkable state of affairs. It was peculiar, to say the least, to hear a Minister admit that a nationalised industry for which he is responsible is in such chaos that it is making representations to traffic commissioners throughout the country when those representations are absolutely untrue and unjustified.
One hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned the Rural District Councils Association and accused my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) of reading only one portion of a letter which the association had sent out. I will read more of the letter. Writing to my hon. Friend, the association said:You already know the situation in their Western Area, where the information about subsidies for rail replacement services came out at the hearing of an application for a fares increase.That was the only one mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary. He referred to it as a sort of mistake on the part of a subsidiary.
The association went on:A similar application from one of the major bus operators in East Anglia, Eastern Counties, is being considered by the Traffic Commissioners for the Eastern Area today. Last week there was a joint hearing of the Traffic Commissioners for the East Midlands, Eastern and Metropolitan Areas to consider an application for an increase in fares by United Counties, when reference was made to the loss of the subsidies. Two South-Eastern and South Wales Traffic Commissioners said that the question of such subsidies has been raised with them.All over the country the National Bus Company, for which the Minister is responsible, is asking for fare increases on the basis of losing the subsidy; yet the Parliamentary Secretary says that overall it is better off than it was. This demands an explanation. It demands that the Minister should call on the chairman of the National Bus Company to explain why the subsidiaries are making wrong applications. Representing a 749 subsidiary of the National Bus Company, Mr. Fay, Q.C. said:The applications firstly resulted from wage increases and secondly from the withdrawal of £129,000 payment to the companies from British Rail to contribute to the cost of running services which had replaced their discontinued rail equivalents.He went on to say:The National Bus Company which acquired the companies at the beginning of the year is not prepared to re-imburse them this sum.This is the case put before the traffic commissioners by the National Bus Company; yet the Parliamentary Secretary says that the N.B.C. should be going to the traffic commissioners and saying, "We have lost £129,000 in railway subsidies, but we have gained about £300,000 by not having to show a profit." A terrible act of non-disclosure is going on. The Opposition will have brought to the attention of the country that never again can the National Bus Company make that sort of representation.
The complacency of hon. Members opposite as to the costs of the rural bus services is quite remarkable. We have heard a great deal about the workings of the various Transport Acts. Hon. Members opposite have spoken about railway closures being the responsibility of the 1962 Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Central Ayshire (Mr. Manuel), with his considerable knowledge of this subject, knows that there have been more miles of railway closed during the lifetime of this Labour Government than there were during the lifetime of the last Conservative Government. If hon. Members opposite are to talk about humbug on this side of the House when appealing for the reopening of railway services, we should call attention to the humbug of hon. Members opposite who fought the whole policy of railway closures and who since they came to power, have closed more lines of fail-way than any Government in history. This is a simple piece of hypocrisy.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we closed 11,000 miles against the 8,000 miles recommended by Beeching.
§ Mr. Walker
I recognise that the hon. Member made a mistake, one of many. It cannot be maintained by hon. Members opposite that it was the wicked Tories who brought in a policy of railway closures because the party opposite continued that policy.
The remarkable case of the Parliamentary Secretary was that all is well with rural bus services. When people living in rural areas read of the complacency with which the Parliamentary Secretary presented his case they will be shocked. He said that was is happening is reasonable. There are at present applications for increases of 25 per cent. in rural bus fares all over the country. If this is the Parliamentary Secretary's view of what is reasonable following the 1968 Act, it is in direct contradiction to all the speeches made by hon. Members opposite at the time of the passing of the Act. They tried to create an atmosphere which suggested that the rural bus services would be considerably aided and would obtain additional assistance. As he well knows, the safeguard of the bus services resulting from railway closures has been taken away by this Government—and taken away by a parliamentary procedure designed to obtain the minimum of publicity.
I again quote the words of the late Minister of State:The additional and revised bus services are a condition of the closure being effected If, for any reason—for example, operators being unwilling or unable to provide them, or the traffic commissioners not licensing them—they are not provided, the closure cannot take place, unless or until my right hon. Friend varies the conditions. Let that be perfectly plain. The conditions are laid down and they must be satisfied according to these terms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1965: Vol. 712, c. 871.]It is this safeguard that the Government have taken away.
When the Labour Government came to power, a general impression was created in a number of rural constituencies that the Government were dedicated to giving more help to rural bus services. The nearest estimate which can be made is that rural bus fares have risen by between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent. since October, 1964. At present, following the 1968 Act, following all the assistance that the Government stated would go into rural bus services, there are many 751 proposals throughout the country to increase rural bus fares by a further 25 per cent.
So under the Labour Government rural bus fares will have the distinction—it is a rare distinction—of having risen faster than the general cost of living.
It is not only the question of the subsidies that we raise tonight. As the Minister well knows, when Labour came to power petrol was 4s. 9½d. a gallon. It is now 6s. 6d. It is true that the Government have produced legislation for this to be rebated, but it is rebated three months in arrears. The result of its being rebated three months in arrears is that the total cost on bus services of the increase in petrol, despite the rebate, is about £½ million a year.
There is then the question of the impact of the selective employment tax on rural bus services. At present the bus companies make a permanent loan to the Government of £7½ million as a result of selective employment tax. That £7½million loan has to be financed at the enormously high rate of interest imposed by the Government.
Rural bus services, as well the Minister knows, do not obtain much benefit from the investment allowances for new buses because, by their nature, rural bus services tend to use the older buses and not the newer buses. [Interruption.] Then in Scotland they are very lucky: they have all new buses in the rural areas.
I am saying that bus operators in both urban and rural areas, quite understandably, put their older stock into the rural areas rather than submit the newer stock to that use. Therefore, rural bus services are particularly hard hit by the high cost of repairs. Likewise, selective employment tax adds to the cost of insurance.
So the Government have on petrol, on selective employment tax, on the cost of repairs, and on insurance costs, added to the burden of rural transport. The Government have mismanaged—at least, the National Bus Company has mismanaged it for them, so it is said—the manner in which they considered that they would aid rural bus services. What we have 752 exposed tonight is an appallingly incompetent state of affairs for rural transport, and, what is much worse, a complacent Government who are not interested in the fast spiral of fares and costs for rural transport.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Frederick Mulley)
Hon. Members who have heard the whole of the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) will realise that the hon. Gentleman has relieved me of a good deal of responsibility for replying, as the hon. Gentleman put it, to the very narrow point about increased costs occasioned by the switch of the former Railway Board's subsidies. Having made this first point about the vote of censure on the Government, the hon. Gentleman went on in most eloquent but somewhat exaggerated terms to give a thousand and one other reasons why costs over the whole sector of public transport have risen, and thus he put that small sum of the subsidy into proportion.
I shall endeavour to deal with the other points which he made as I go along.
I welcome this debate—I am sorry that it has been so short—because it gives me an opportunity to state the Government's policy. In view of the short time, I thought that I should not ask for too long to reply, so I ask hon. Members who have raised detailed points to allow me to answer them in writing. To the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), who asked for an immediate reply, I say straight away that some of his interesting suggestions were considered by the Jack Committee, on certain of which it made recommendations which have been put into effect, and with others of which it found reason to disagree. I shall send him a note about the interesting points which he raised.
There are real difficulties in road passenger transport in urban as well as rural areas, and I shall not disguise from the House that these difficulties will not be easily resolved. We all know that the difficulties arise not from policy decisions but from the basic circumstances of the situation. The increase in motor cars, the spread of television, which has meant 753 less demand in off-peak times to go to the cinema and so on, the staff difficulties—all these were well analysed by the Committee on Rural Bus Services set up by the party opposite in 1959, under the chairmanship of Sir Daniel Jack, which reported in 1961. Most hon. Members who have spoken have accepted and discussed these basic difficulties.
With the exception of the two Front Bench spokesmen and the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King), I think that all hon. Members on both sides have tried to address themselves to the genuine problems. Fare increases are, obviously, extremely unpopular, but we ought to be a little careful in bandying percentages about. If one has to increase a 2d. fare it can be increased only to 3d., and that is a 50 per cent. increase. Equally, if one increases a 3d. fare to 4d. it is a 33⅓ per cent. increase. It is easy for hon. Gentlemen opposite to maximise and make the most they can of it. I noticed that they did not attack the London newspapers which this week put up their prices by 20 per cent.—the only way to do it with the only possible increase being 1d.
The Front Bench opposite has tried to make a lot of political capital out of very little factual evidence, financial or statutory—and how little I shall endeavour to show. Broadly, they set their record against ours, and their claim is: "Trust us, and we shall help rural bus services". Perhaps the hon. Member for Worcester is glad that he did not put it in quite those terms, because he would come very badly out of it. I did not hear from any hon. Member opposite the favourite theme of their weekend speeches about reductions in taxation. We should be interested to hear how these unspecified, unquantified subsidies are to come from a lower tax revenue.
The Opposition have rightly said that this is a narrow point, the question of the former Railways Board subsidies being withdrawn after two years. First, one should make clear that it has never been the practice to subsidies all the alternative services which are there when a railway is closed. In most cases, the alternative services are existing services. 754 The element of subsidy applied only to the additional services which the Minister required to be instituted.
I turn for a moment to the valuable ultimate safeguard for the rural communities established under the 1962 Act, as the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) described it when he referred to the work of his right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), the rural population's friend. His subsidies amounted in 1963 to £92,000, and in 1964 to £81,000. These figures are all in the Railways Board's reports. It is true that under the present Government by 1968, when the Transport Act changed the situation, the figure had risen to £1,012,000.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Does the Minister agree that that is the most conclusive proof we could want that the present Government have closed railways faster than we did?
§ Mr. Mulley
Not faster. We have been in power longer since the closures than the party opposite. Hon. Members opposite want to divert me from the real facts that I want to put before the House.
The 1962 Act, which was claimed to be the friend of the rural communities, followed the Jack Committee Report, of 1961, which analysed all the problems of rural transport and made many recommendations on how to cope with them, including local authority subsidies shared with central government. Although that Act came only one year after its Committee had reported, the party opposite did absolutely nothing in it to help any kind of road passenger transport, although it was a general Transport Act. [Interruption.] The sum of £81,000 was the total subsidy by the party opposite, through the medium of the railways to the whole of road passenger transport when the present Government took office. At the same time as the right hon. Member for Wallasey was paying out through the medium of the railway deficit the handsome sum of £81,000, he was taking back from bus companies between £2 million and £3 million by way of dividend, because the 1962 Act laid on the Transport Holding Company, the publicly-owned section which has since become the National Bus Company, the obligation to operate as a 755 commercial enterprise. Section 29 of that Act provided that it had to operateas a company engaged in a commercial enterprise…When we quite properly introduced the National Bus Company in the 1968 Transport Act its terms of reference included collecting for its combined revenues not less than sufficient to meet the charges properly chargable, taking one year with another. It is not required by Statute to make a surplus for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. No wonder the party opposite thought that the 1962 Act was so wonderful. It was paying out £81,000 and getting back £2 million or £3 million from the rural bus services.
If the hon. Gentleman does not understand why bus fares have increased in the circumstances that have occurred throughout this century, he is beyond redemption.
§ Mr. Peter Walker rose—
§ Mr. Mulley
I must get on.
The hon. Gentleman made a point about the bus fuel grants. The tax paid by bus companies today is 2s. a gallon. In 1964, when we came to office, it was 2s. 9d. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that one loses that 9d. because one gets the refund only after three months, I wonder how he gets on in the City, what he really pays by way of interest charges. In the present year in the Estimates we are providing £6 million clear, over and above any increase that there has been in the case of fuel, for the whole of the road transport industry, of which about £1¼ million goes to the National Bus Company. In addition, we are providing a new bus grant of £5¼ million, making a provision of £11¼ million, much of which goes to rural communities. Next year we are estimating a total of £14½million, against the £81,000 that the party opposite was giving in 1964, at a time when they were taking £2 million to £3 million from the bus companies.
Does anyone really believe that undertakings charged by Statute to operate as commercial enterprises were going to take a more reasonable view of cross-subsidisation and running uneconomic services than undertakings on the traditional and proper basis of the nationalised 756 transport industry? In addition, we provide infrastructure grants and, under Section 34 of the 1968 Act, the opportunity not having been taken in 1962—[Interruption.]—we implemented—
§ Mr. Mulley
In Section 34, we implemented the main recommendations of the Jack Committee, the Tory Government, whose report it was, having neglected to do so in 1962. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) rather suggested that this had not been done and a number of other hon. Members asked about the provision. It is true that at present only a small number of local authorities have made application under Section 34, but I pay tribute to the Devon County Council here, which has been a pioneer in this and has had consultations both with the Ministry and the National Bus Company. I am only sorry that when the hon. Member for Tavistock conducts his investigations, as he calls them, he does not do it a bit nearer home, since he would then realise that people actually concerned with these problems are aware of what has been done.
If rural people were asked to choose, they would have no doubt as to their choice. [Interruption.] I know that they are intelligent enough to realise that £14½million is better than £81,000. They also know that, if the 1962 Act had been carried out further, it would have been a total disaster for the rural areas.
I do not promise any easy solution. It would be dishonest for me to do so. Yet that is the impression which the party opposite is trying to create. There are extremely difficult problems in road transport, urban as well as rural. The case hon. Members opposite have tried to put together in this Motion is nonsense, and I invite the House to treat it as such. If the Opposition have followed the debate, as I hope they have, and have learned a little about the statutory position, they will withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the main point of the debate. 757 He has talked of the increase in Government subsidy but has not said a word about increases in fares.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 235, Noes 283.761
|Division No. 20.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Goodhew, Victor||Monro, Hector|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Gower, Raymond||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Grant, Anthony||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Astor, John||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Grieve, Percy||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Gurden, Harold||Murton, Oscar|
|Balniel, Lord||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Neave, Alrey|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Batsford, Brian||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Bell, Ronald||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nott, John|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr, Capt. L P. S.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hastings, Stephen||Pardoe, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Hawkins, Paul||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Hay, John||Percival, Ian|
|Body, Richard||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Peyton, John|
|Bossom, Sir dive||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heseltine, Michael||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Higgins, Terence L.||Pounder, Rafton|
|Braine, Bernard||Hiley, Joseph||Price, David (Eastleign)|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pym, Francis|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Holland, Philip||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hordern, Peter||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bryan, Paul||Hornby, Richard||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. sir Peter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N & M)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hunt, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Burden, F. A.||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Carlisle, Mark||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Royle, Anthony|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jopling, Michael||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Clark, Henry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||St. John-stevas, Norman|
|Cooke, Robert||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Scott, Nicholas|
|Cordle, John||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Corfieid, F. V.||Kershaw, Anthony||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Costain, A. P.||Kimball, Marcus||Silvester, Frederick|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Crouch, David||Kitson, Timothy||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lambton, Viscount||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Speed, Keith|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lane, David||Stainton, Keith|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Stodart, Anthony|
|Dance, James||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dean, Paul||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'd field)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||MacArthur, Ian||Temple, John M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Tilney, John|
|Eden, Sir John||McMaster, Stanley||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||McNair-Wilson, Michael||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Emery, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maddan, Martin||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Farr, John||Maginnis, John E.||Waddington, David|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marten, Neil||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maude, Angus||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Foster, Sir John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Wall, Patrick|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Mawby, Ray||Walters, Dennis|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Miscampbell, Norman||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||Worsley, Marcus||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||Wright, Esmond||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard||Wylie, N. R.||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
|Abse, Leo||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Albu, Austen||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric(Islington, E.)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Allen, Scholefield||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Anderson, Donald||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Luard, Evan|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Ashley, Jack||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Ford, Ben||McCann, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Forrester, John||MacColl, James|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Fowler, Gerry||MacDermot, Niall|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Freeson, Reginald||McElhone, Frank|
|Barnes, Michael||Gardner, Tony||McGuire, Michael|
|Barnett, Joel||Garrett, W. E.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Beaney, Alan||Ginsburg, David||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Golding, John||Mackie, John|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Binns, John||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Gregory, Arnold||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Blackburn, F.||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Booth, Albert||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Manuel, Archie|
|Boston, Terence||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mapp, Charles|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Boyden, James||Hamling, William||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Bradley, Tom||Hannan, William||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Harper, Joseph||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Brooks, Edwin||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Haseldine, Norman||Mendelson, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Hazell, Bert||Mikardo, Ian|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Millan, Bruce|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Henig, Stanley||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hilton, W. S.||Mitchell, R. c. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hobden, Dennis||Molloy, William|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hooley, Frank||Moonman, Eric|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Horner, John||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Howarth. Robert (Bolton, E.)||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Moyle, Roland|
|Chapman, Donald||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Coe, Denis||Huckfield, Leslie||Murray, Albert|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Newens, Stan|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hunter, Adam||Oakes, Gordon|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hynd, John||Ogden, Eric|
|Cronin, John||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Janner, Sir Barnett||Oram, Albert E.|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orbach, Maurice|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Orme, Stanley|
|Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Padley, Walter|
|Dell, Edmund||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Dewar, Donald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Paget, R. T.|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Dickens, James||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Dobson, Ray||Judd, Frank||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Doig, Peter||Kelley, Richard||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Dunn, James A.||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Dunnett, Jack||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Pentland, Norman|
|Eadie, Alex||Latham, Arthur||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lawson, George||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Leadbitter, Ted||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|English, Michael||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Probert, Arthur|
|Ensor, David||Lee, John (Reading)||Randall, Harry|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, yardley)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Rankin, John|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Fernyhough, E,||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Richard, Ivor|
|Finch, Harold||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Small, William||Weitzman, David|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Spriggs, Leslie||Wellbeloved, James|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kennet (St. P'c'as)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Whitlock, William|
|Roebuck, Roy||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Swain, Thomas||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Rose, Paul||Taverne, Dick||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Rowlands, E.||Thornton, Ernest||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Ryan, John||Tinn, James||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Tomney, Prank||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Sheldon, Robert||Tuck, Raphael||Winnick, David|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Urwin, T. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Varley, Eric G.||Woof, Robert|
|Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N. E.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptord)||Walden, Brian (AH Saints)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Silverman, Julius||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. Neil McBride and|
|Sheffington, Arthur||Wallace, George||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Slater, Joseph||Watkins, David (Consett)|