HC Deb 04 July 1973 vol 859 cc540-605

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Fred Mulley

(Sheffield, Park): I beg to move,

That this House condemns Her Majesty's Government for allowing the uncertainty about the future of British Railways to continue and for its failure to produce a policy designed to ensure the utilisation of our railways to the greatest social, economic and environmental advantage.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: welcomes the continuing support which Her Majesty's Government is giving to British Rail and recognises the need for Her Majesty's Government to complete its assessment of the most effective future rôle of our railway system as soon as possible".

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that in the Vote Office this afternoon there were no copies available of the review of railway policy, which is central to the subject we are debating? I have succeeded in obtaining from the Library a relatively flimsy document consisting of a summary of the report of the Government on the subject. Should not hon. Members at least have this available to them to enable them to take part in the debate?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me, but I hope that the point has been noted and that something may be done to remedy it as quickly as possible.

Mr. Mulley

In view of your remarks, Mr. Speaker, about the large number of hon. Members who wish to speak I shall seek to curtail my speech, and this will involve my presentation of the case in outline. No doubt my hon. and right hon. Friends will put flesh and blood on the bare bones of my argument.

Our purpose in selecting British Railways for debate is threefold. First, the House should have the opportunity of making its views known to the Government before firm decisions are taken so that it can reflect the considerable public interest and concern about the future of the railways.

Secondly, we want to stress again the anxiety not only of the staff but of the general public at the long delay by the Government in reaching a decision about the future of the railways. We understand that the review was begun in June 1972, and, of course, matters were made much worse by the unauthorised publication—and the Government's handling of the issue—last October of a map showing a greatly reduced railway network. If something along the lines of that unauthorised disclosure were to happen it would be a national disaster.

Thirdly, we seek to set out in general terms, because we lack the detailed information for precise quantification, the kind of rôle we on the Opposition benches see for British Railways and the policy we believe the Government should pursue.

Recently we had the benefit of the publication of the British Railways Board's proposals to the Minister and the chairman's Press conference. They seem to be a modest set of proposals. In a number of respects, especially with regard to commuter services and freight, I should like to have seen a more radical programme. In the opinion of the Opposition, the Minister should review these proposals as a minimum basis for what is required and not as a maximum.

Having said that, I appreciate that the British Railways Board describes its proposals as interim only. But I believe that we have to try to look into the real rôle and future of our railways. I hope that we shall have from the Minister an assurance that, as well as the proposals of the British Railways Board, he will take careful note of and consider the representations which have been made to him by the railway unions. We have all been impressed, for example, to read the constructive proposals of the NUR which were published last week.

There is a consensus on one point at least. It is that the present railway network should be maintained and that the present mileage of about 11,500 should remain the minimum. I do not suggest that this means that no single mile of railway line should ever be closed. But, equally, we have to be prepared to consider the possibility of putting down new railway lines to meet new situations.

Many people have suggested for example—I am glad that the British Railways Board has caught up with this one—that we should try to reverse the trend of the abandonment of private sidings and that it would be a good idea if we subsidised firms to have private sidings so as to move goods directly by rail away from the point of production. Clearly, the Channel Tunnel will involve new railway lines, and if—though I hope that it will not happen—the Government persist in the Maplin development it is obvious that new railway lines will be required there.

I suggest to the Minister that, while he is making up his mind about the future of the railways, all closure proposals should be deferred. There is great concern that past policy may prejudice what we hope will be a dramatic change on the part of the Government. In case the Minister suggests, as he has done in the past, that his Government have a much better record about the closure of railway lines than that of the Labour administration, let me remind him that in the case of every mile closed since 1970 Labour Ministers had decided to keep it open. If we had not it would not have been there for the present Government to close. I hope that he will not elaborate that argument.

As for investment, we all pay tribute to British Railways for the way that the inter-city passenger services have been developed. I am sure that the House will wish the board well in its pioneering work with the high-speed train, which is to have its first public trial quite soon. Then will come the advanced passenger train of the future.

I am concerned, however, about the implicit suggestion that these services can be maintained only by higher and higher fares. In many ways such a policy will defeat the object of providing these first-class passenger services.

We hope that the Government, in their review, will consider providing a subsidy comparable to concessionary fares on public transport in cities in order to enable disabled people and old-age pensioners to travel free or at reduced fares in off-peak periods.

What is proposed by the British Railways Board in terms of commuter services is less satisfactory. Very considerable investment is necessary. I do not suggest for a moment that by developing railway commuter services all the very serious problems of congestion in our great cities will be solved. But I believe that the railways have a rôle to play in conjunction with the passenger transport authorities. All this will cost money, not least because the great problem of travel to work is the peak hours and the fact that equipment cannot possibly be utilised for the greater part of the 24 hours. It will be expensive. But against the purely commercial return we have to set the very important social and environmental factors involved.

The proposals in the British Railways document about freight are even more disappointing. There is a tendency to exaggerate the rôle that the railways can play in the moving of freight. It is suggested in some quarters that if only the railways were used properly virtually all commercial vehicles would disappear from our roads. I am sure that we all know that that would not be possible. On the other hand, if new measures were taken and if the management of British Railways concentrated on the problem a very considerable increase in rail freight would be possible. Certainly I should like to see the management more concerned about this than about its field reorganisation problems.

If, as I understand, the Government have rejected the concept of quantity licensing, about which I have always conceded that there are problems, other proposals have to be forthcoming because in many cases traffic will not go to the railways unless deliberate decisions are taken.

I have mentioned already the possibility of a subsidy to private sidings. I feel that this is a case where some form of environmental subsidy or formula should be devised.

In addition to getting traffic off our roads, we are all concerned now about the prospects of a world fuel shortage in the foreseeable future. This could be another factor in arguing for special con- siderations to get more freight on to the railways.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

May I put one question to my right hon. Friend? If he is not in a position to answer it immediately, perhaps he will let me have the facts later. It is alleged that under the Rome Treaty we are not allowed to subsidise the railways so as to give them an unfair advantage over road transport. Is that the case?

Mr. Mulley

I shall be coming on to deal with the problems which may be posed by Britain's entry into the EEC. In fact, I suspect that the boot is likely to be on the other foot and that the railways may benefit under EEC regulations. However, I want to keep my speech as short as possible. I shall be dealing with my hon. Friend's point in the sequence in which it appears in my speech notes.

I come now to what is the most important and probably the most difficult aspect of the problem. I refer, of course, to the financial structure of British Railways. Since the last war—and probably even before it—as a nation we have greatly neglected investment in transport infrastructure under successive Governments, especially in respect of the railways. The nation and the economy are suffering today as a consequence. It is clear that cutting manpower is not the simple answer to the problem of railway finance. I remind the House of the impressive record of British Railways over the past 10 years in reducing their manpower. The figures have been given by the chairman. From 439,000 employees in 1962 there has been a reduction to 230,000 in 1972. The board proposes to make a further reduction of another 40,000. The answer lies in much more investment rather than in concentrating on cutting manpower further.

We should pay tribute to the cooperation and increased productivity of all railwaymen of all grades over this period. But I do not think we should tax too much their dedication and loyalty. Equally, we need to make clear that the pay of people in the public sector should not be restricted or conditioned by the financial state of the industry for which they work, over which they have neither control nor responsibility, and whose course and condition are to a large extent dictated by Government policy.

The hard fact is that we cannot judge railway finances by the canons of commercial accountancy. We have to make allowances for the social and environmental benefits which the use of railways offers. In the 1968 Act, introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and carried through by Mr. Richard Marsh, the present Chairman of British Railways, this was recognised by payment on social grounds for unremunerative passenger lines. We can say now, with the benefit of hindsight, that it was probably wrong, even after allowing for that factor, to require the railways to work on a commercial basis, particularly in the carriage of freight, in every other respect. I think that my right hon. Friend and Mr. Marsh were wrong in not making sufficient allowance for the advent of a Conservative Government and their disastrous economic and industrial relations policies. For example, the industrial disputes in the coal and steel industries have had a dramatic effect on railway finances in the last two years.

We also need to remember that if we disregard the very substantial interest charges which the railways pay, they are still making an operating surplus. No country in the world has a railway system which pays, judged by commercial accounting standards. I do not know how much longer it is sensible for us to believe that we can be different from everyone else in this respect.

I have here the latest figures—for 1970—available for the other countries in the European Economic Community. British Railways in that year showed a deficit of £58 million, the Italian railways £335 million, the French railways £227 million, and the German railways £301 million. In round figures, whereas this country gave a subsidy to the railways of £100 million, the French gave £500 million and the Germans £700 million. We have all noted with interest the recent commitment in principle by the West German Government to give further support to the railways.

The right hon. Gentleman may have the effrontery to claim that the present Government have done more for British Railways than any other Government. I ask him to work out the arithmetic in real terms, allowing for rising costs over the last three years, and to deduct the losses which the railways have suffered through Government policy—for example, having to keep their prices down, having to suffer the losses, for which they have had no compensation, through industrial disputes, particularly in the coal industry, and from the rundown for a considerable period in the steel industry.

The short point is that we need a completely new financial structure for the railways on which the social and environmental factors should be built. We need to get away from the system, as I understand it is today, in which the railways are turning away goods traffic practically every day because they cannot justify carrying it since it could not be done on a strict commercial basis. I have already referred to the problems which may be created if the fares structure for passengers is also assessed on that basis.

What we must also know—this at least I hope to get today—is how the regulations of the EEC will affect the whole pattern of railway finances. We have to take account of a whole series of directives and so on, in particular directive 1192/69 which, as far as I know, the Government have said will as far as appropriate be implemented by us on 1st October. We need to know clearly today what the Government regard as appropriate, and to what extent, in terms of their pension funds, infrastructure costs, bridges, signalling and the like, the railways will receive compensation from the Government because they are unfairly placed vis-à-vis road transport, which has its roads, traffic lights, and the rest all provided.

If all these conditions are to come into effect on 1st October, difficulties arise for us because of the Summer Recess. We are now well into July, and I understand that we are about three weeks from the recess. If we do not have an opportunity this month to discuss the Government's attitude to the EEC regulations, we shall come back in October to find them already in force. It is imperative that the Government provide time for the House to be acquainted with this information and to debate it. I hope that we shall get a complete statement of Government policy towards the railways before the Summer Recess and that the Government will provide time to debate it. Certainly, before 1st October we need to know about how the Government see the development of the railways in the context of the EEC regulations currently in force and those which are likely to be introduced.

We cannot fail to note in this debate the immense change in the public attitude to British Railways. Not so long ago the railways were the cinderella of the public service. They had the image of slow, late and dirty trains and expensive tea served in chipped cups. Today they are the queen of the environmentalist lobby—

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)


Mr. Malley

—and it is claimed that nearly all our transport problems could be resolved by further investment in their use. Obviously, both these pictures are exaggerated caricatures of the true position, but they illustrate the great improvement in British Railways over recent years and—very important—the trend of public opinion.

What is unmistakable is the need for British Railways to play a vital rôle in our transport planning and our economy. What is also unmistakable is the existence of a strong body of public opinion that the railways are a great national asset and that it is in the national interest that they should be utilised to the greatest social, economic and environmental advantage. Above all, there is a determination that we should not take decisions now based on budget balancing and crude commercial accountancy which all of us will bitterly regret 10, 15 or 20 years from now. The Government will neglect this public opinion at their peril.

4.19 p.m.

The Minister for Transport Industries (Mr. John Peyton)

I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: welcomes the continuing support which Her Majesty's Government is giving to British Rail and recognises the need for Her Majesty's Government to complete its assessment of the most effective future rôle of our railway system as soon as possible". I begin with the point made by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett). The document with which he was concerned is not in any way a Government document; nor is it particularly the subject of today's debate. I have, however, made inquiries, and I understand that photostat copies are now available in the Library. Further copies are being made available in the Vote Office as soon as they can be got here from Marylebone.

I ought to say at the start how grateful I am to the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) for the mildness of his condemnation of the Government. and go on to say that I fully understand the reasons why he was so mild. We were all impressed by the charm and skill with which he reminded himself of the questions which had faced him when he was in office not much more than three years ago. I was sorry to find though that with the passing of the years he has not been any more successful in finding clear answers than he was then.

On the point made by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on the subject of the EEC regulations, these are long and complicated. They owe their length and complexity to the number of people who took part in framing them; but it was clearly the intention, and has certainly since been the practice, of most of those who did frame them to give whatever help they thought fit to their own railway systems, and that they have done resolutely. I have no doubt that no Government in this country which wished to help the railways would be in any way inhibited from doing so by the EEC regulations to which reference has been made.

Mr. Mulley

I was hoping the regulations might persuade a reluctant Government to give help to the railways. Is not that also implicit in the discussion?

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman ought to wait. I have congratulated him and thanked him for his mildness and also for his modesty. I believe that is a very becoming quality in politicians in approaching the subject of the railways, for we have over many years exhorted, legislated, interfered with and almost managed but never solved the problems of this extraordinary industry about which so many people feel more deeply than they think.

Soon after Mr. Marsh became Chairman of the British Railways Board I invited him and his board to examine the industry and to advise me as to what choices in terms of railway policy could be put before the Government and Parliament, what rôle the railways could perform to the advantage of our country in the decade ahead, and what it would cost. I am grateful to him and to his staff for the time and energy which they have applied to this very baffling task and for the patient way in which they have responded to the goadings of my Department and myself. The board's part in what has been a very substantial exercise was pretty well completed last month when it delivered to me its last document. At the same time the chairman gave an outline of the board's conclusions to the unions, whose patience during this long process I most readily acknowledge.

I have myself already seen the three general secretaries and I am having a further meeting on Friday with them and members of their executives in order to hear their reactions to the chairman's statement. I will in due course be discussing with them the Government's proposals before reporting these in detail to Parliament, probably as part of a larger transport document, after the recess. While this debate has come, therefore, a little earlier than I myself would have chosen, it is useful in that it will give the House an opportunity to express its views on what Mr. Marsh has said, an opportunity which will be renewed in the next Session of Parliament when the Government's own ideas will be put before it.

Meanwhile, I should perhaps tell the House that Draconian cuts of the kind at one time rumoured following the escape of a regrettably mobile document are not, in the view of the Government, the answer to the industry's or the nation's problems. The House will, I am sure, be conscious of the fact that pending the completion of the examination I have considerably slowed down the rate of passenger closures. The right hon. Gentleman, whose clarity of thinking I have always applauded, seemed to get a little confused on this subject. If I could just refresh his memory as to what has been going on, whereas under the late administration 3,430 route miles were closed, in the past three years the figure has been a mere 135 miles—something which really must come to the right hon. Gentleman as a considerable shock after what he was saying only a moment ago.

Mr. Mulley

On the contrary, I am, of course, extremely pleased. I am only sorry that the Minister has thought fit to close 135 miles which, rightly or wrongly, we decided to keep open, otherwise they would not have been there for him to close.

Mr. Peyton

I am almost overcome by the sympathy which I feel for the right hon. Gentleman and my sorrow that somebody who is such a good judge of a case should have ventured to make that point then. But, still, policy must be the explanation.

I am persuaded also that in looking at the problems of the system a distinction should be drawn between those parts which are well used and those which are used, as it were, only by hearsay. The House will, of course, be aware of the fact that under European legislation the previous limit of three years which attached to undertakings to pay grant on unremunerative services disappears. I believe many people will feel that this is a change for the better, as the previous arrangement inhibited good management and certainly discouraged even the most minor improvements which might have helped the services towards better results.

I believe it is very important that we should at least try to learn from the past. It seems to me that ever since the war the railways have tended, often enough with the encouragement of Governments, to live somewhat in the past. They have not been alone in that. They have been optimistic about their ability to hold and win traffic and contain their costs. They have not always related their investments to financial return—and the 1967 White Paper very properly drew attention to this. They have paid too little regard to the sensitivity of their business to the national economy as a whole and they have underrated the effect of better roads and the expansion of the road haulage industry, which, with its greater flexibility, offers a service with which, at least over short distances, the railways cannot easily compete.

It has to be admitted that Governments have been equally slow to move with the times, instanced by the continuation, long after it was justified, of the common carrier liability and the imposition of financial duties the performance of which must have been perceptively impossible even at the time that they were laid down.

Having called attention to some of the failures, I think it only right to take note of the considerable achievements of the industry during years of difficulty and change. The labour force has been more than halved since nationalisation, with a reduction of over 200,000 men since 1962. While passenger miles and freight ton miles remain at much the same level as in 1965, wagons have been reduced by 60 per cent., marshalling yards by 70 per cent., carriages by 45 per cent. and locomotives by 50 per cent. At the same time greater productivity, better planning and marketing, and the safety record—which is probably without equal anywhere in the world—are features which should not be ignored and in which all concerned can take pride.

It would be appropriate if I were to spend a few moments dealing with the suggestion frequently made—I appreciate that the right hon. Member for Park restrained himself in dealing with this point—that our problems would soon be over if only the Government would do the sensible thing and direct freight from road to rail. It is worth noting that, whereas in the 1968 Act the Labour Government introduced a system of quantity licensing, they did not, under the right hon. Gentleman's wise stewardship and management, go to the folly of putting it into effect. Had they done so they would have found themselves and our transport system enmeshed in a bureaucratic cobweb of nightmare proportions, without conferring any reasonable benefits on the railways. The more one interferes with and slows down the movement of goods, the more one tends to add to the number of vehicles and the cost of moving the same quantity of goods.

I recognise that there can be few people who have not felt how wonderful it would be if the contents of the monster immediately ahead of them on the road or the Leviathan which had just churned its way through a once peaceful village could be interred decently and peacefully in a rail wagon.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

The Minister has pointed to the greater flexibility of road transport and also to the fact that because we pay for the roads and other services the roads are cheaper in terms of overheads than are the railways. How will it ever be possible to attract freight back to rail if we are to leave it simply to mere competition?

Mr. Peyton

This is a difficult point, and I shall leave the hon. Gentleman to make his own speech, the contents of which will be fully observed and noted.

Quite apart from the fact that customers usually have very good reasons for picking their own means of transport, there is clearly, as the right hon. Gentleman said, only limited scope for transferring freight from road to rail. Most journeys in this country are short. Indeed, the average freight haul is only about 40 miles—or, to put it in another way, four-fifths of the goods carried on our roads travel for less than 50 miles. What the railways are properly looking for, with my active encouragement, is blocking traffic, either on a merry-go-round basis or over long distances. To put the matter in perspective, a 50 per cent, increase in rail freight would only reduce total road traffic by less than 2 per cent. and would reduce goods traffic on the roads by less than 8 per cent. Any benefit in terms of reduced congestion would be eroded in under six months by normal growth.

Nobody can pretend that the financial history of the railways since the war has been anything other than disappointing. In the last 10 years over £3,000 million of assistance by way of write-offs, loans and capital and revenue grants has been made available by successive Governments. Between 1963 and 1968 losses amounted to £800 million. The 1968 Act wrote off a debt amounting to £1,200 million. Over the three years during which the present Government have been in office Government assistance to the railways by way of grant and loan has amounted to £422 million. In 1972 the total payments by the Government to the railways was £138 million. This year the figure is likely to be considerably higher.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster) rose

Mr. Peyton

I want to come quickly to the end of my remarks because I have already been reminded by Mr. Deputy Speaker that there are many hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate.

We should all by now at least be familiar with the difficulties, disappointments and dangers. We have no alternative but to accept that none of the nostrums or prescriptions which have been tried hitherto has worked. Mr. Marsh—I am most grateful to him for taking the chair at this difficult stage in railway history—has at least had an opportunity of looking at the problem from two angles. He has put forward some proposals which would, if accepted by the Government, involve a further and express commitment to the railways. The Government and Parliament now have to decide—or will in the near future be faced with this decision—how far we should be justified in accepting a series of proposals which, even if they prove to be effective, would certainly not be cheap.

I end on this note. It is easy enough to debate, in a rather cursory manner, the affairs of a great industry such as the railways and to make inadequate mention of the men who have given a lifetime of service to it and whose concern at a time of uncertainty must naturally be great. I am very conscious of this, and I should like to work as quickly as possible towards a solution, but in recent months I have been powerfully reminded of how stubborn and difficult a problem this is. I hope that I may have the indulgence of the House in asking for a little further time.

4.40 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Transport Industries on his modesty in defence of the Government's policy. He has a great deal to be modest about.

It is typical of the present Government, and sadly typical of the Department on whose behalf he is speaking this afternoon, that we should be having this discussion about the future of our railway system, not only without a Government document on railway policy, but without a Government document on transport policy at all. Vital as it is for us to have this debate and to force the Govern- ment into the open as to their plans, it is appalling that we should have to discuss the subject, with all the economic implications which have been indicated, without even having had a clue about the Government's overall transport strategy.

The House will, I am sure, forgive me a certain amount of ironical satisfaction when I look back at the attitude of the Conservative Party during the passage of the Labour Government's legislation on transport. Never will those of us who were engaged in the all-night sittings on the Transport Bill forget how the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, with his running mate then and now—the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping—used to keep us up in a desparate attempt to prevent that Bill from reaching the statute book and, in fact, staking their whole political futures on achieving that end.

Never shall we forget how the Conservative Party and its various allies in industry poured out millions of pounds in propaganda posters all over the country—"Kill Transport Bill". Not only did they not succeed in killing the Transport Bill, but they have not even attempted to kill the Transport Act. The right hon. Gentleman may remember, after his few fleeting and superficial remarks about the proposals for quantity licensing, that there was a pledge in the Conservative Party's election manifesto that when they were returned to power they would repeal that iniquitous provision in that Act.

Mr. Peyton

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for reminding me of this. I assure her that it has not been forgotten. What she has to deal with is the fact that her own Government failed to put her scheme into practice.

Mrs. Castle

I am coming to that. The right hon. Gentleman cannot stay broody for too long. We are desperately waiting to see what egg he lays, and what part the Transport Act plays in his policy.

I remind the House that we have been extremely patient with the Government. By the time that I had been Minister of Transport for less than a couple of years, I had put before the House a detailed analysis of the transport problem in this country, as I saw it, in four or five White Papers.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) had presided brilliantly over a joint steering group of British Railways and the Ministry of Transport to analyse the whole future of the railways and consider what we should do to give them financial stability. Above all, we had produced and begun to carry through the House a comprehensive and mammoth Transport Bill. Yet now, three years after the Conservative Government came to office, we are still waiting for the right hon. Gentleman to produce his policy document, and I suggest to him that when he does it ought not to be a White Paper but a white sheet, and the slogan ought to be "Forgive us, Barbara; we knew not what we did."

One thing is surely clear, though there was no indication of it in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Even recognising that the right hon. Gentleman is still in the early stages of policy pregnancy, I think he might have given us a slightly more worthwhile analysis of the problems to which he said he was addressing his mind. There can be no sensible discussion of railway policy except in the context of a Government statement of their national transport plan.

I therefore begin by asking the right hon. Gentleman to ensure that when he does put a document before us after the recess it shall not be merely a narrow and, therefore, totally unsatisfactory document dealing with the railways as though one can deal with them in isolation from everything else in the transport field, but will tell us what parts of the analysis of the Labour Government's Transport Act the Government repudiate, and, if they do repudiate some parts of it, what they intend to put in their place in comprehensive terms.

It is no part of my case to claim that the Labour Government's Transport Act cannot be improved in any respect. In transport, things change rapidly. The traffic and environmental problems in this country have changed in the past five years, and we must take account of that, just as in drawing up the Transport Bill in 1967–68 I had to take account of the vast changes that had taken place since the first Labour Government's Transport Act of 1948.

None the less, I suggest to the House that the logic behind the 1968 Act was so compelling that the Government have not been able to get away from it. They have made no move to alter any of its provisions in the three years that they have been in office, despite the fact that they said that they were going to do certain things immediately.

The Government have been sluggish or downright negligent in taking advantage of the provisions of the Act in order to achieve its aims. What were those aims, and what should be the aim of any national transport policy? What was the Act's philosophy? First, we argued that if we were to save our urban and rural environment from further and further devastation we must make the revival and expansion of public transport our key priority.

Secondly, we argued that on social as well as economic grounds this country would need a substantial railway network for as far ahead as we could see and the country must be ready to pay the price. That is why, when I took over as Minister of Transport, although I found in the pipeline, in accordance with the Beeching philosophy, proposals to slash the railway network to 8,000 miles, after mature and detailed consideration of all the things that a Minister in that situation has to take into account—economic, financial and social factors—we produced a plan to stabilise the network at 11,500 miles and thus put into reverse the previous Conservative Government's policy.

Thirdly, we argued that if the social and environmental aims were to be achieved we must plan the integration of movement by road, rail, air and water as a deliberate aim of Government policy.

I am sure the House will agree that since that Act was introduced the environmental arguments have been strengthened enormously. When I took over as Minister of Transport, the most vociferous lobby in this country was that represented by road interests. The propaganda and pressure groups, let by the British Road Federation, said that we must concentrate all our national resources on building the first 1,000 miles of motorway.

The environment lobby had barely been born, and when I tried to suggest that there were other considerations that we should bear in mind I had an uphill task because almost the whole of public opinion and the then Opposition were against me, and what alarmed me this afternoon was to hear the Minister at that Dispatch Box mouthing arguments that were already out of date in 1968. He put forward the argument that the road system must always prevail on economic grounds.

Mr. Peyton indicated dissent.

Mrs. Castle

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will read HANSARD, if he does not manage to cook it before it goes to press. He has said it before. To hear the right hon. Gentleman, one would think that speeches had not been made throughout the length and breadth of the country by representatives of the Department of the Environment. The Government must make up their minds about whose side they are on. Are they on the side of the environmentalists, whose favours they are currently wooing with words? If so, are they prepared to back that with action and with finance?

One the integral parts of the policy of the Transport Act 1968 was that we should seek to restore the morale of railwaymen, which had been depressed over the years by not only the railway closures and continuing uncertainty about their future but the fact that they lived all the time in a deficit industry. That was one of the prime aims.

If one cares about the workers in an industry, one has to think of the psychological factors that affect their morale. All the time that the House of Commons was having to have debates about the losses on the railway system, this was helping to make railwaymen feel that they were second-class citizens; hence the financial solution that was worked out so ably and so thoroughly by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon and the other members of the joint steering group on railway policy. Incidentally, we put a working railwayman on that group in order that we should have first-hand access to the views of the rank and file.

From that grew the decision for the vast writing off of capital debt—£1,200 million, as the right hon. Gentleman has said—and the introduction of grants for clearly defined and carefully costed social purposes. The grants were not only for the socially necessary railway lines. The steering group analysed all the other overheads that it felt that the railways were expected to carry unjustifiably, in connection with level crossings, bridges and so on.

Yet now, five years later, we have Mr. Marsh telling us that there is no such thing as a viable railway network. He says that he must have a more "flexible" financial framework with greater financial support, and, as an interim measure, he wants to double investment to £1,700 million over the next decade, with no guarantee that this will enable the railways to pay their way.

The House would not be discharging its economic responsibility if it did not examine such a proposal very carefully indeed.

Let me say at once that I agree with Mr. Marsh on one thing. Slashing the railway network will not make it viable. We must never again pursue the Beeching mirage, the feeling that there is somewhere a hard core of high-speed intercity railway lines which, if the system be cut down to that hard core, can be made to pay its way. Mr. Marsh is right. That is purely illusory. He is right, too, in saying that the right way is not to cut the network of 11,500 miles but to see that it is better loaded, to make more economic use of its capacity. But, that said, I must add that the House could not be expected to authorise investment of £1,700 million on the basis of such a superficial and slipshod document as British Rail has put before the Minister.

Anyone who has been in government knows that money does not grow on trees. We know that the financial resources are inevitably limited and, therefore, that one can only have one form of expenditure by forgoing another form. That is why we need to have detailed plans worked out much more scrupulously.

In answer to Mr. Marsh's demand that he should be given a more flexible financial framework, I say that the way that he has presented his case is the best justification for refusing—as we refused—to continue writing off from time to time capital debts accumulated as a result of over-optimistic forecasts, and instead, as we did in the 1968 Act, making a clear distinction between the areas and forms in which we ought to subsidise the railways on social grounds and, on the other hand, those areas of the board's finances in which it ought to be subject to commercial discipline.

I am ready to wager that when the right hon. Gentleman at last comes to laying his long-delayed egg, I shall find that he agrees with that fundamental analysis.

Perhaps the 1968 Act did not leave British Rail enough financial help. I am prepared to accept that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon was tough. He was told to be tough, and he was tough. But he tried to be tough and fair.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said, the railways are peculiarly susceptible, on the freight side, to fluctuations in the state of the national economy. If there is a slump, the freight that they carry slumps too, the bulk traffic, and so on, and they are down in the red through no fault of their own. Perhaps we were too tough and did not give the railways enough financial elbow room. Perhaps new areas of British Rail's activities ought to be identified for Government support. I shall come to that matter shortly.

However, the principle of the 1968 Act is right. It is a pity that Mr. Marsh, while praising it as a notable step forward, does not even suggest ways in which the principle that I have outlined might be extended while keeping the essential financial discipline for which we have a right to ask. Indeed, the railways are their own worst enemy when they ask that their financial framework should be flexible, because the great danger is that the country may pick up some of the arguments that the right hon. Gentleman used this afternoon and begin saying "We cannot continue finding this money. Let us slash the lot."

In looking at what needs to be done, we must break down the problem into its two main elements—passenger and freight. I want to make some constructive suggestions under both those headings. Let us take, first, the passenger services. Here, our first priority must be to maintain the passenger routes, to maintain the 11,500 miles network, and not least to maintain the routes in the rural areas. That is one of the most essential steps that we can take to help the environment.

I repeat that we are today looking at railway policy in the context of a new sense of public urgency about the need to preserve the environment. Rural transport is a mess. Despite the new powers, opportunities and grants given in the 1968 Act, effectively nothing is being done in that field. It is a scandal that the counties do not have a rural transport policy and that the Government do not have a policy for making the counties have a policy.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the right hon. Lady to take up such a large proportion of the time at the disposal of back benchers?

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

The hon. Lady will learn something if she listens.

Mrs. Castle

Despite the hon. Lady's interruption, I intend to continue to the end of my speech. She can leave the Chamber if she finds it totally unpalatable.

I was saying that our first aim must be to maintain the network. Last year the Government spent £68 million on grants for the socially necessary railway lines. We must be prepared to increase the level of those grants, if necessary. We might at least have had from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon an indication of whether he is prepared at least to do that.

If we are to afford an expansion of these grants we must look carefully at other proposals for financial expenditure, like the rather sweeping proposals for electrification and development of faster intercity services. From an environmental point of view, that should be the priority: whether electrification on selected lines can actually enable the railways to compete with the air routes, as has been done as a result of electrification to Manchester. If we can do that and reduce air flights we are helping the environment. This is all very desirable, but it must be selective.

We must throw all our money and strength behind the development of commuter services. When railway men got depressed about the shrinkage of traffic on certain railway lines I always said to them that I foresaw the future of the railways lying in the development of new rail services in the congested commuter areas. Thanks to the 1968 Act, that is happening. If the right hon. Gentleman is honest he will admit that the proposals of that Act, for setting up passenger transport authorities with powers for drawing up integrated transport plans and the introduction of 75 per cent. infrastructure grant for new forms of public transport have been a most helpful development yet produced in solving our urban transport problem. The Act set up four passenger transport authorities. They varied in effectiveness. What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to bring them all up to the level of the best'? If he cared a damn about transport policy he would at least listen to the questions instead of carrying on a running conversation over his shoulder. He has treated the House with indifference in his speech. He might at least listen to the debate.

Mr. Peyton

I assure the right hon. Lady that I have been listening to her—for a long time.

Mr. Heffer

No, the right hon. Gentle. man has been talking.

Mrs. Castle

We would have welcomed a longer speech from the right hon. Gentleman if it had contained anything. His speech took at least three times as long as anyone else's would merely to say nothing.

I am asking him what he is doing to bring all the passenger transport authorities to the level of the best and to encourage their plans for rapid transit schemes What can be done has been demonstrated in the Newcastle area by the Tyneside Passenger Transport Authority, through its rapid transit schemes. This is directly relevant to the problem of the railways and their finances. In the Tyneside Passenger Transport Authority area there are about 30 miles of existing British Rail track losing £1,500,000 a year on commuter services. These are now to be linked up by rail, by means of a tunnel and bridge, to create one integrated rapid transit scheme.

I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for this. I understand that last year, under the infrastructure grants provisions, he announced that he would give this authority a grant of £60 million towards the rapid transit scheme when it has obtained the necessary powers from the House of Lords. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on that, but I ask him why he is dragging his feet over a similar scheme in the SELNEC Passenger Transport Authority, in the Manchester area, where the authority got powers a year ago to build a rapid transit scheme linking the commuter rail services north and south of the city by a central area rail tunnel. This requires a grant of £70 million, consisting of £40 million for the tunnel and £30 million for upgrading 35 miles of existing track and increasing its reliability. The authority is ready to go to contract. It went to see the right hon. Gentleman about it last month, yet he has still not announced his willingness to give a grant.

There are areas in which we can expand and revitalise our railway services so that they can make a massive contribution to the problems of congestion in our urban areas. On the freight side there are two clear policies that the Minister could adopt. One has already been outlined by my right hon. Friend. Far from spending a lot more money, as Mr. Marsh seems to propose, on the wasteful and money-losing wagon-load traffic which is supposed to have been rationalised in the last 10 or 15 years and on which he does not yet have a rationalisation plan, it would be far better if he seriously explored the suggestion of the Labour Party and the railway unions that the Government should subsidise the development of private sidings. We all know that the private siding-to-private siding rail traffic could be one of the ways to take juggernauts off the roads. Why, then, does he not take this proposal seriously?

Secondly, I suggest that, far from repealing the quantity licensing provisions of the Transport Act, the Minister should extend and modernise them. He said that this would involve us in a vast bureaucratic jungle. What—a bureaucratic jungle merely to say that 100,000 of the heavier lorries should be licensed if they were going more than 100 miles.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The right hon. Lady has been speaking for almost half an hour.

Mr. Heffer

Why not?

Mrs. Castle

And I intend to go on.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

I think the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) knows that that was not a point of order.

Mrs. Castle

I know that hon. Members opposite are deeply uncomfortable, but I intend to go on filling the gaps in the speech of the so-called Minister.

What is so bureaucratic about saying that a heavy lorry should have to be licensed to carry bulk traffic over any distance—coal, steel or other materials which should be on rail—or that a heavy lorry intending to take a vast weight of goods over 100 miles should have to get a licence from independent licensing authorities? What is wrong with suggesting that British Rail or the National Freight Corporation should be able to object to that licence being granted and argue that rail could carry the load equally speedily, at the same cost and with equal reliability?

The time has come to take the environmental argument seriously—not only to activate those proposals but to extend them and give anyone whose environment is threatened by the intrusion of the juggernauts the right to protest and object to such licences before the licensing authority. Not least, why should we not alter our whole attitude to planning powers? Why should we not, for instance, take seriously the suggestion that local authorities should be compelled, in their structure plans, to place industrial development by a railway siding where-ever possible?

What we need, despite the lip service paid by Conservative Members, is a fundamental change in attitude to the whole problem of our environment. We have not begun to do that. It is because we on this side know that the railways can, as no one else, make their contribution to the saving of our environment that we ask the Government at least to begin to treat this problem seriously.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

It is with some trepidation that I make my speech after two ex-Ministers of Transport as well as my right hon. Friend. One observation which comes to mind after what the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs Castle) said is that the railway sidings of old went alongside our dark satanic mills and could never have been regarded as an environmental asset. I have an office beside a railway line and I have good personal reasons for not regarding railways an environmental asset either. When talking about environmental nuisances, this can apply to the railways as much as to the juggernauts. It is necessary to put this matter into perspective. In this debate so far we have been raking over some very cold embers. My mind too goes back to 1968, when I was one of those whom the right hon. Lady had sitting up in a Committee room until a late hour with her. She brought back today many of the arguments that were relevant then.

Mrs. Castle


Mr. Osborn

We have debated these matters before. I have witnessed this dialogue over a number of years in the periods of Conservative and Labour Governments. In 1962 we had the Transport Act of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and the Beeching Plan, and I believed at that time the first steps were taken in the right direction. The right hon. Lady talked about previous Ministers being forgiven, but she should remember that when she was in power car-stickers used to say "Come back Marples: all is forgiven".

The most important feature of the 1968 Act is that quantity licensing was not imposed by the previous Government and that my right hon. Friend will almost certainly feel inclined to repeal it in due course.

Having gone over all this ground, what is new about the situation facing railways throughout the world? What progress has been made in the last decade? What lessons can be learned from other countries?

First, we can take pride in British Rail. Its image has improved over the last 10 years. This is something for which both Governments can take some credit, but the initial steps were taken early in the 1960s. There would be the advanced passenger train and the highspeed train. By contrast, the United States of America has let its railways disintegrate over the last 10 years. The railways have given way to the monsters on the road and to the airlines. This has been regretted in the United States

Europe has had some added protection, largely through the tariff quota system. There are grave doubts about the financial performance of all railways in European countries. In the Commission, those concerned with transport are asking what has gone wrong. In a recent report by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport. it was stated: Rail traffic is expanding slightly, or in some cases marking time in absolute terms, but is still losing ground to other forms of transport. Varying figures are given for subsidies. In Britain, the lose of £26 million must be augmented by the grant of £95 million. In West Germany, there was a loss last year of £143 million and in Italy of £273 million. But these figures depend on which charts we consult.

What is certain is that railways, in spite of tariff quota protection, and longer journeys in Europe, present a problem to all countries that own them. I welcome the fact that because of Regulation 1192/69 there is to be normalisation of accounts. It is reasonable that charges which are to be put on railways should not include the cost of level crossings and bridges, for instance. The cost of these developments should be put where it belongs.

Ten years ago the South African system of rigid laws to put traffic on freight was relevant to our debate. But the advantage there lies in the fact that freight journeys are much longer than they are in this country.

What has been the performance in Great Britain in the last 10 years? Between 1962 and 1971 the tonnage taken by rail in this country fell from 228 million tons to 196 million tons, yet the total tonnage of goods has moved up by 30 per cent., going mainly by road, in that time. In this period passenger miles have risen from 173,000 million to 268,500 million. Passenger miles on the road have risen by 55 per cent. in that time, while the number of rail passenger miles has remained almost static dropping 4 per cent. at 22,000 million passenger miles in 1971.

In this country 85 per cent. of our freight moves by road and 63 per cent. of ton miles are on the road. The figures in the annual report of British Rail show that there has been a remarkably limited increase in turnover, in spite of increased fares and the subsidies and social grants given to passenger traffic. In fact, the number of passenger miles are down and the freight turnover is down.

The right hon. Lady has criticised the Government for doing nothing, but it is reasonable to say that while her efforts and those of her right hon. and hon. Friends who were Ministers have resulted in a facelift that we are proud to see they also resulted in a reduction in the use of the railways over the past 10 years and particularly over the past five or six years, during the passage of the 1968 Act and immediately afterwards. In the annual report of the British Railways Board, there is reference on page 7 to the extensive use that is being made of road transport.

What are the realities that face the nation, citizens, Parliament and the Government? In spite of the 1968 and 1962 Transport Acts, more passengers and freight have gone by road, which provides an advantage compared with steel wheel and rail.

The point was brought out at a Council for the Protection of Rural England conference in the Sheffield area by someone who said that when they first owned a car many people in the east end of that area were liberated, being no longer tied to timetables, and that they had a freedom which was denied to them hitherto. Many new motorists value the freedom and opportunity given to them by owning a car. There is the same flexibility in moving freight by the juggernaut, however unpopular it may be environmentally.

What more can we do to direct freight back on to the railways? Over the past 10–12 years there has been an increased use of the freightliner service. It is estimated that whereas it is transporting 5 million tons per year now, which is small compared to the whole, this figure may rise to 11 million tons in 1981. That will be a 120 per cent.

increase, but it is still scratching at the problem. My right hon. Friend was right to remind us that those who want to transport goods from one place to another by road and the juggernaut frequently do so because that method is flexible and reliable and has economic advantages.

I turn to the future. My right hon. Friend said that average freight journeys in this country are 40 miles. Freight journeys are longer in Europe, and a bonus of the Channel Tunnel which was explained to Members who listened to a recent presentation is that our freight journeys into Europe could well increase.

But moving freight by rail does not reduce congestion, as was pointed out in the debates on the 1968 Act, when quantity licensing was considered. I remember citing the example of a motor component factory in Sheffield sending components to Luton, Coventry and elsewhere. It costs money to fund large stocks that are not in production, and many customers now want regular deliveries by the hour and not by the day or the week. They cannot afford to have key components lost in a goods wagon on a siding. If lorries are used for journeys from the factory, reliability can be achieved.

But the same journey by rail would mean a lorry to the Sheffield depot and would clutter up roads in the city. At the Sheffield depot, the goods would have to be transferred to a railway wagon to go to another depot near the customer—a motor works—transferred to lorry at the far depot and then taken to the customer. Congestion could well be increased again. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider these issues when reviewing the alternatives before industry and society, but moving freight by rail today does not necessarily reduce congestion in our conurbations.

One of the difficulties of using public transport is that those who use it are at the mercy of those who provide it, and too frequently in recent years those who provide it have been able to hold users to ransom.

Flexibility is an added advantage when the mobile transport unit is used. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) has produced a Bill to restrict some environmental consequences of heavy lorries and juggernauts. The lorry presents us with environmental problems. My right hon. Friend the Minister has announced a reduction in the road programme, of which he gave details in a Written Answer yesterday, at a time when investment is going ahead in our car and vehicle factories to deal with future opportunities.

Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the closing down of unprofitable railway lines and services has directly encouraged the appalling growth of equally unprofitable motor traffic, which threatens to extinguish all hopes of a reasonably healthy life in our towns and cities? Should not that be taken into account when we consider the statistics?

Mr. Osborn

It must be taken into account, and there must be a correct method of measurement. However, it could well be that some of the space should be devoted to tracks for independent vehicles, not steel wheel on rail but perhaps rubber on tarmac. These alternatives could well be examined by the "think tank", because they may provide the public transport that is needed.

If goods are taken by a longer route, this must inevitably increase the cost of manufacture and distribution. The prices that are paid in the shop are of concern to the housewife and Parliament. If use is made of longer routes, with more costly distribution, on environmental grounds or for convenience, the price of goods in the shops must rise. The industrialist has a duty to choose the most economic route to move his goods from the factory to where they will be used. It will be essential to know the increased cost to the housewife and the consumer of using the longer route, but I readily take my hon. and learned Friend's point.

We must look to the future. British Rail must be allowed to go into the rest of the century with confidence. The construction of a Channel Tunnel will be advantageous in making it possible to put freight on direct route from city centres in England to the EEC countries and other European countries, but there are difficulties, which have been outlined to us, and the tonnage of freight so moved—5 million tons—will be small.

Energy has been mentioned during the debate. The Government must decide, perhaps not in the context of this debate, how future trains are to be propelled. If there is an oil crisis there must not be too great a reliance on diesel oil and there is a case for increasing electrification more rapidly, but such a crisis in this country is by no means certain.

The man in the street wants to own a car because of its convenience. Similarly the small, flexible transport unit, whether a juggernaut or some other method of conveyance, has economic advantages in moving goods from where they are made to where they are to be used, at the most convenient time and without being confined to timetables.

My right hon. Friend has been right not to be too dogmatic at this stage. When considering the short term, he must also consider the long term. It is reasonable that we should know his views. To have a White Paper on transport policy may be asking too much— [Interruption.] The right hon. Lady laughs, but many plans produced in the late 1960s can now be torn up, because they were based on the wrong assumptions. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not fall into the same trap as did the right hon. Lady and some of her hon. Friends.

There should be a survey of the alternatives. We should know what we can do to improve our environment, to encourage the railways and to limit the juggernauts, which are causing such concern to so many people who have to live near new roads.

5.25 p.m.

Mr. Walter Johnson (Derby, South)

I must at once declare an interest. I am an honorary officer of one of the three railway unions—namely the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association. I am certain the House will agree that we are facing a transport crisis. For too many years we have lived with the philosophy that services which do not pay should be withdrawn or at best provided for one or two years with a grant which may or may not be renewed. As a result of that attitude, public transport has declined and its efficiency has been seriously impaired.

Large areas of the country are now many miles from the nearest railway and many villages have no bus services. Traffic congestion in our towns and cities is increasing as more and more people travel by car because the public transport service as an alternative becomes less and less attractive. In a desperate attempt to solve the increasing traffic problems, the central Government and some local authorities have initiated massive trunk and urban motorway construction and road widening and improvement schemes. As people have realised the social and environmental consequences of such a policy, as well as the financial expenditure involved, hostility to such proposals has grown.

People are no longer willing to see communities broken up by motorways being driven ruthlessly through their midst. They are no longer willing to see their environment destroyed. They are no longer convinced by the distorted economic logic which is used to justify such proposals. Fortunately there are signs of an increased awareness of the rôle which public transport must play in future if the quality of life is to be maintained.

The Minister referred to a report which appeared in the Sunday Times of 8th October 1972. Admittedly it was supposed to be a confidential report. It was one of a number of reports which the Minister was considering. The blue book contained proposals for reducing the present British Rail network of 11,600 route miles to 7,000 route miles or less with the idea of a network of 3,800 miles not being ruled out.

In addition to the passenger traffic which would be shifted from rail to road by such changes, the document envisaged the possibility of transferring about 62 million tons of British Rail's yearly 190 million tons of freight to the roads, resulting in heavy lorries travelling an additional 450 million miles on the roads each year. What a prospect! It is disturbing that such a policy could even have been contemplated.

During the last decade the rail network has been substantially reduced. That is a policy which has solved neither the nation's transport policy nor British Rail's financial position. The motion puts the blame fairly and squarely on the Government for their failure to give a lead to future development and for the reduction of the railway network.

Conservative Members have never fully and properly understood the unnecessary anxiety and worry which such uncertainty causes. People who have invested their working lives in the industry are entitled to be treated better than that. The railways have suffered massive redundancies during the last 10 years. In 1963 British Rail employed 490,000 people. Today the figure is 230,000 and it is shrinking all the time. Thousands of railwaymen have been forced to uproot their homes, not once but many times, because of reorganisation schemes and massive redundancies.

It is only possible from experience to know what it means to have to uproot a home, to find new schooling for the children and to cope with the problem of housing, as well as all the difficulties of moving away from friends and family. Such uprooting must stop. The railwaymen are not prepared to put up with further massive redundancies. If the right hon. Gentleman produces a plan which will cause further redundancies, I can assure him that he will have a massive fight on his hands not only with the railway unions but with the general public.

There is great awareness today that the public will not put up with more rail closures. The trade unions know that a so-called field organisation scheme is going through which could cause between 4,000 and 6,000 redundancies. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take that very much into consideration when he is drawing up his plan. He said that he is to meet the railway unions on Friday. I assure him that he will get some straight talking, as he always does, from the union leaders and their executives. Further, I can assure him that the unions were quietly relieved when they heard about the Marsh plan just over a week ago. Nevertheless, they will not put up with a situation which will produce further redundancies.

Mr. Ernie Money (Ipswich) rose

Mr. Johnson

The railways have suffered massive cutbacks. First there was the Beeching Plan, which slashed the railways throughout the country. Suc- cessive Governments have not faced their responsibilities. I do not absolve the last Labour Government, although they made some efforts in the right direction. The fact is that our roads cannot take the volume of freight and passenger traffic which is increasing all the time.

It is a sobering thought that today there are 16 million vehicles on the roads and that by 1980 there will be 23 million. Pollution must be considered. Surely it is common sense to make the most effective use of the railway network which we have at present and to enlarge it wherever possible. To do so would cut down pollution. As a first step, the Government should give the all clear to British Rail to electrify all services. I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) in that respect. Electrification would cut down diesel fumes and at the same time produce a fast and efficient passenger and freight service.

Industry should be encouraged to make greater use of the railways for freight traffic. That would remove from the roads some of the heavy lorries which pollute the air, contribute to traffic congestion and create a noise problem. In Derby, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) knows, there is a ring road around the town which lorries use night and day. The House can take it from me—I have been there night and day—that it is sheer hell for the people who live in the vicinity. In many ways it is worse than living near an airport. Much of that traffic could be carried by rail and there would be no noise problem.

The Minister should consider the following basic conditions of getting more passenger and freight traffic on to the railways. First, they make no further visual intrusion. Secondly, they cause virtually no pollution. With electrification there would be no pollution. Thirdly, they make more economical use of the land. Fourthly, they cause far less noise nuisance.

Further, the Minister should encourage local authorities to study the possibility of keeping private motorists from the centre of large towns. That would require adequate car parking at the perimeters and fast, efficient and reasonably priced public transport. That would greatly relieve traffic congestion and would help to eliminate exhaust smog in towns and cities.

I know it is said that we cannot keep lorries out of the centre of towns because most railway stations are sited in the centres of main towns. But surely it is not beyond the wit of British Rail, with the support of the Government, to build sidings or terminals outside the towns. Lorries could be loaded and unloaded at those points and there would be no necessity for them to go into city centres. Surely that is common sense.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

Does not that mean building ring roads to ensure that the lorries go round the towns and not through the middle of them?

Mr. Johnson

It does not mean that at all. If one made a proper study one would realise that many of the ring roads to which I have referred could be eliminated. What I have suggested is a constructive way to deal with the problem of lorries going into the centres of towns.

Critics may say that that is all very well, but what about the cost? If we want to maintain the quality of life and to keep our railways solvent and running efficiently, surely we can afford the cost of doing so.

Total public support for continental railways is much higher than it is in Britain. France, Germany, Italy and Japan spend far more on their railway systems than we do, yet their road systems are hardly inferior to ours. The true subsidy of German railways in 1971 was £525 million. According to a report last weekend the Germans are prepared to spend £1,200 million this year in support of their railways. The French railway subsidy is expected to be £500 million, as it was in 1972.

The Department of the Environment in its report on the future size of the railway network is obsessed with the idea of making the, railways nay. But the railways are unfairly saddled with charges which do not apply to road operators and which distort the commercial argument. There are the costs of track, signalling, policing, lighting, bridges and so on. The fact remains that a modern railway system must invest or rust away.

To enable it to press on with major new developments and investment programmes, British Rail needs to know the permitted extent of its operations not for one or two years ahead—as under the present system of social grants—but for 20 years ahead. It also needs money, public money. In 1971 British Rail spent £26 million on maintaining and renewing its track, and it paid interest of nearly twice that amount on capital. In the same year about £850 million was spent on roads. No interest charges were levied on that money which came from the public purse, as for a free social service. No one suggests that the roads should be anything but a free social service.

We must also take account of the social cost of roads. Last year 8,000 people were killed on the roads and there were 129,000 bad accidents. We must take into account what that means in terms of the heartache of the families concerned, the cost of hospital treatment and the loss of production. It must be common sense to take some traffic off the roads and on to the railways, thereby making more effective use of our railways.

Future generations will not forgive the Government if they do not face the realities of the problem with all the available knowledge at their disposal. I ask the Minister to be bold, to be imaginative, to put Britain first rather than the Tory road lobby and some of the Tory Party paymasters. The people who work for British Rail are a loyal and devoted body. They want the opportunity to do a job of work for the country and for the railways. Give them the opportunity, produce a plan, and they will deliver the goods.

5.38 p.m.

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Walter Johnson) refer to the document that my right hon. Friend called a mobile document. A few weeks ago my right hon. Friend suggested that it had found its way into print largely because of a leak in a high quarter of British Railways and that nobody had traced how this had occurred. The document gained wide credence and contained figures that were exceedingly disturbing. They were that the railway network would be reduced from 11,600 miles to 7,000 miles with a prospect of a further reduction to 3,800 miles. Such a scheme would be utterly unforgivable having regard to the traffic statistics before us.

The road vehicle population has increased so that for every one vehicle in 1947 there were approximately three vehicles in 1972. It has trebled. In the next 25 years it is estimated that it will double. In other words, there will be six road vehicles in 1995 for every one vehicle in 1947

Accompanying this has been the progressive rundown of the railways, as manifest by a reduction in manpower from approximately 420,000 to 220,000 men. That is almost exactly the same rate of reduction as occurred in the coal mines, where the number of men employed has gone down from 710,000 at the time of nationalisation in 1948 to about 285.000 today. I have said on other occasions that the rundown in the coalmines has been much too fast and much too great. I say this evening that the rundown in the railways has been much too great and much too rapid. It has denuded us of a method of transport which is invaluable to the economy and invaluable to us in the medium term and for the transport requirements for the rest of this century.

The amount of money that has to be invested—and this may form the nub of the argument in the next few months—will undoubtedly hinge on what Mr. Richard Marsh has to say. He claims that the figure is £1,700 million a year. I claim that that figure is probably slightly exaggerated. Whether or not it is exaggerated, we can none of us afford a railway system that is either too small or that places an unnecessary burden on roads that are already grossly overloaded and cannot carry any more traffic.

I am critical of motorways. Motorways in Worcestershire, as elsewhere, have played a prominent part in recent years. There is great objection to motorways carving their way through small and happy villages, which would otherwise remain relatively undisturbed. Motorways have been built on too large a scale in the non-commercial and non-industrial quarters of Britain. Motorways face special legal and financial difficulties, and a brake will have to be placed on their construction in the next few years because we are planning more motorways than we can possibly afford to finance.

Let us take, for example, the motorways from east to west that are planned to link the West Midlands with the East Midlands and East Anglia. If the estimates are correct, they are to be constructed at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds—many of them evidently without any intense traffic justification.

All the while they are being constructed at the expense of the railway system, without any due regard to building up, by a commensurate volume of traffic, the amount of freight and passengers that could otherwise be carried by rail. I claim that that is a wrong system, that we ought to concentrate much more heavily on our railways and that certainly we ought to provide for an investment of approximately £1,000 million in the railway system during the next few years if we are to prove successful in the kind of transport era that we want into the 1980s.

I cannot talk in depth about these railway requirements because I have no knowledge of what the Minister proposes. I will caution him about one matter which is near to my heart because it affects the only railway line left in my county, namely, the four-cities line—the railway line from Paddington to Oxford, to Worcester, to Hereford. This, I believe, is doomed to failure due to the lightness of the traffic on it, and at present it is attracting a subsidy—I call it a subsidy, but it is really a grant in respect of a line said to be unremunerative if calculated on an economic basis, leaving out questions of social audit to which the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) referred—costing £575,000 a year to keep open.

The railwaymen have done everything possible to keep it open. They have reduced the track to a single line, they run only seven passenger trains a day between Paddington and Worcester, with one or two going on to Hereford. In my judgment it is not possible to reduce the £575,000 a year any further. The line is doomed to lose that money for all foreseeable time in the future. Suggestions are already coming to me that the line must be closed and that the huge investment in electrification from Euston to Coventry, to New Street, Birmingham, to Wolverhampton Low Level, to Stafford, to Crewe and on to the North-West must be called into action, and that the Worcestershire and Hereford route must be diverted via Birmingham.

It would be a long way round. It would take a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes longer for each journey undertaken. Then, the whole of the Worcestershire and Herefordshire countryside virtually from Moreton-in-Marsh, in Gloucestershire, right through to Worcester, on to Great Malvern, over the Hereford border and down to Hereford city, would be totally denuded of railway line. The economists will say that it does not pay, how can we make good the revenue? I say that the socially desirable railway lines under the Act of 1968 must be perpetuated and that any attempt to cut them out will deprive large communities in Britain of essential transportation services.

In his calculations and in the voluminous railway White Paper that my right hon. Friend will undoubtedly produce—he is looking pregnant, I fancy he will deliver shortly—

Mr. Peyton

I hope that my hon. Friend will not follow the example of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) in attributing this state to me too often, because I can assure him that there are no foundations for it. There may subsequently be a production of a paper. I do not like heavy papers but there may be the production of a paper of considerable dimensions, not limited to railways.

Sir G. Nabarro

My right hon. Friend and I have co-operated over 20 years in this place and I know him well enough to know that he is exceedingly distasteful of any form of bureaucratic activity. I repeat, whatever is the form of documentation that is eventually decided upon, be it a voluminous paper or a White Paper, he will have to delineate his policies. When he does so, I trust that he will spare a merciful thought for the kind of uneconomic activity, uneconomic that is in a strictly economic judgment of whether it pays its way, taking into account every penny spent, and have some regard for the social consequences of shutting down lines which link such important communities. On that I close and wish him well with his transport activities, for I am certain he will produce the best plan that we have had in recent years.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)

I have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and have been thrilled by the tour that he gave us of the railways in his part of the country. I must first of all declare my interest, in that I am an active member of the National Union of Railwaymen.

I first indict whoever was responsible for this debate because they have allowed only three hours for it. This is the first major debate on British Railways in this Session. It is confined to three hours, half an hour of which was taken up by one Member. Ten Adjournment debates in this Session have been associated with railways, dealt with from a local point of view with hon. Members fighting closures in their areas.

Since the end of the war there have been four Acts of Parliament, all of which, in the main, were designed to make the railways pay, with the possible exception of the 1947 Act, although it was designed to that end. The 1947 Act brought the railway system into public ownership. There then followed the Acts of 1953, 1962 and 1968. Over these years, largely as a result of those Acts, the railways have suffered from a succession of reorganisations, rationalisations and legislative changes.

At times there have been centralisation schemes and at other times decentralisation schemes. Many of these have meant that it has been necessary to change horses in mid-stream which has not been good for British Railways and the morale of their staff. A great deal of money has been involved in conforming to such policy changes.

From time to time the railways have been used as a political shuttlecock and their financial principles have not been clear. I am glad to note from what the Minister indicated this afternoon that he is to start consultations with not only the Railways Board but the rail unions. The newspapers gave the National Union of Railwaymen a bad Press following the disclosures of Mr. Marsh's plans. I put on record now that our criticism of those proposals was that they did not go far enough. Of course we were pleased that he agreed that there should be no cutting back below 11,000 miles. However, I believe—and I am sure that the unions will put their view to the Minister—that not only should there be no further rail closures but that every rail closure in the pipeline should be halted. I am thinking especially of a line which joins villages which are often isolated in winter by heavy snowfalls. It runs from Alston to Haltwhistle. The greater part of the line runs through the constituency of the Secretary of State for the Environment who is in a difficult position over this. At times when the roads have been blocked even things like funerals have to be put on the railways because they are sometimes the only system of transport available in those bleak months.

A wonderful thing happened just outside the constituency of my Member of Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). If I do not speak up for him, very few people will. I have a good Member. He is loyal and enthusiastic and he is highly thought of. Just outside his constituency a few weeks ago a railway station was re-opened—Alfreton and Mansfield Park railway station, and from all accounts it has proved a going concern. Surely that is a lesson for any Government to learn about the railways.

In spite of our sacrifices to the Common Market, Britain still needs an efficient, adequate, reasonably cheap and environmentally acceptable transport system for freight and passengers Market forces do not produce such a system. Market forces have produced the juggernaut which no one in this country wants. Market forces have created half-used railways and the city traffic jam. An efficient transport system means planning. I argue, as does my trade union, that the first task of the planners in the Department of the Environment should be the transfer of some—and I underline the word some—freight traffic, particularly long distance, from road to rail. Every private motorist will echo that sentiment. It is necessary on grounds of efficiency, as well as on environmental grounds, and to save scarce fuel resources.

We would argue that such a transfer is unlikely without an extension of public ownership and I would argue for that. The railways should continue to be used for the tasks to which they are best suited, but that should not be carried to an absurd degree by relegating the rôle of the railways to carrying bulk loads for a restricted number of customers. It is one thing to say that the railways are well rid of local sundries traffic but it is something else to say that anything less than a full wagon load fails to pay its way and should be abandoned. No one dares to say that about commuter services because during the recent unofficial strikes many commuters could not get to work.

The profit of a transport undertaking cannot be the only test of whether traffic should be carried. If we do not subsidise rail, public transport in towns will soon be unable to get commuters to work, and the sooner we face up to that the better. Financial resources for public expenditure fall short of requirements and the present balance of investment between motorway and railways makes no sense. The 1968 Act gave the railway workshops wider powers to manufacture, yet since the Bill became law the workshops have been inhibited from developing those powers to the full. They are permitted only to use their spare capacity for such work and they are hampered in their efforts to obtain work which involves retooling, capital expenditure and so on.

We were delighted to hear the Minister's indication that there would be no action on the lines of what had been suggested in the Sunday Times article to be the proposal. That was the implication that the right hon. Gentleman gave. I was delighted to hear that there had been a modern Saul of Tarsus to the Minister in connection with railway thinking. The right hon. Gentleman was very conciliatory and at times very modest. When he meets the railway unions, I hope that he will continue in that vein and not adopt the kind of attitude of which we know him to be capable when he is challenged.

I may be called a pessimist, but the railways have been chopped, changed and harried, and still they do not pay. I venture to assert that whatever happens we shall still be in the same position many years after the passing of the next Act of Parliament concerned with the railways. Very soon this House and the country must face the fact that if we want our railway system it must be paid for in terms of subsidies.

With that in mind, I hope that the Minister will take note of the closing words of the editorial in the Evening Standard on Monday of this week. It reads: Instead of its piecemeal approach, the Government ought now to be working out a new and integrated transport system. If the Government will do that, they will have the backing of every railwayman in the country.

6.6 p.m.

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemp-town)

My comments will be brief and to the point. I ask the forgiveness of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) for not commenting on what he said. I merely make the point that I thoroughly enjoyed his speech and found it in complete contrast to a much longer speech from the Opposition benches to which we listened earlier in the debate.

We are seeing the beginning of a new era for our railway system. There is a ground swell of opinion that is growing daily, and I have little doubt that the British people, if slowly, are steadily falling out of love with the motor car. especially as pollution increases and motorways eat up more and more countryside and building land. In this connection we may be able to learn a lesson from the United States of America before it is too late. Recently the Governor of New Jersey said: We are choking on the fumes of our own exhausts. We are spending literally millions of unproductive hours examining the bumpers of our neighbours' cars and we stand immobile waiting for trains that never arrive. The time has come to say, 'Enough'. That lesson is one that we in this country can learn, and I believe that we shall learn it before it is too late.

I want to turn to some of the special problems facing the south-eastern area of England and, in introducing those problems, to quote the words of Mr. Ray Buckton, who wrote, in an article in a leading Sunday newspaper: A major factor crucial to our success in Europe will be our ability to provide a transport system for industry to move raw materials and the finished products swiftly and efficiently. When we talk in terms of economics—of the railway system paying or not paying—I suggest that we have to take a much wider view than simply asking whether a given track or part of a railway system shows a profit at the end of the year. In the context of Ray Buckton's words, perhaps I might make a number of specific suggestions. I emphasise that I am concentrating on the area with which I am principally concerned, namely the south-east of England.

I hope that a halt will be called to all further closures. I must tell my right hon. and hon. Friends that if there are any further attempts to close any railway lines in the south-east of England they will have one hell of a fight on their hands—

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

From whom? From the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Bowden

My second suggestion is that grant-aided passenger services should be funded for a minimum of 10 years. It is quite unreasonable to expect the management of British Railways to be able to live on the hand-to-mouth basis of a year, 18 months or even two years in advance. The basic minimum should be five years, and I ask my right hon. Friend to consider 10 years.

I suggest, thirdly, that we go ahead with the construction of the Channel Tunnel. This is essential unless the whole of the south-east of England is to become totally unrecognisable within the next 40 or 50 years. In conjunction with that—and I know that I am moving on to very much more difficult ground—I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to look carefully at the provision of some form of incentive for industry to use the railways on a bigger scale than it has been doing in the past.

The last of the precise suggestions that I wish to make is that if we are to succeed in coping with the problems of transportation in terms of our railways we must have a greatly expanded research and development programme. Have not we really got matters a little out of balance when on the high-speed train we have spent £10 million, and when, in the same breath, we talk gaily of other schemes involving hundreds and even thousands of millions of pounds?

I end on a somewhat local note. Most hon. Members have passed through Brighton station, and I hope in the next few years that once again we shall be able to invite Members to their party conferences in Brighton. I can assure the House that I am pushing ahead with this as fast as I can, with great respect to those hon. Members who represent Blackpool constituencies.

Many thousands of my constituents are commuters. With the help of the Central Division Manager of British Railways Southern Region, Mr. Paterson, a number of meetings were held on peak-hour trains between London and Brighton to give commuters the chance to put direct questions to the chief railway official in the division, Mr. Paterson, and me. The newspapers came to call them "Grumblers' Specials". A large number of useful ideas came out of these meetings. I know that Mr. Paterson found them very helpful. My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Mr. Luce) has adopted the idea and has had at least one similar meeting in his own area. I commend the idea to other hon. Members who feel that it might be useful in their different parts of the country.

I have come to know many members of the railway staff at Brighton. I have been extremely impressed by the vast majority of them, their courtesy and their determination to be helpful. I believe that there is a new pride growing among all the staff of British Railways as they come to realise that the nation and, I believe, the Government are rethinking these problems. The nation will rue the day unless we ensure that our railways are financed and equipped to meet the demands of generations to come.

6.15 p.m.

Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)

I shall take only five or six minutes, and therefore I shall refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Bowden) only in passing. But I should certainly comment on the morale of the railwaymen. Kettering Station is 72 miles from St. Pancras, but we are in a commuter area because the fastest trains take less than an hour to do the trip and even the slower ones take only one and a quarter hours. The morale of the railwaymen has recently been rising because of these improvements in the service, which has enabled many people to live in Kettering and work in London.

I shall not comment on what is known as the "mobile plan", which escaped from the Ministry and was published in October in the Sunday Times, because there is not enough time. Instead, I draw the House's attention to the coincidence that at the very same time there appeared an article in an OECD publication that brought to the forefront a fact about the use of energy for transport. It was claimed that the energy required for transport by road was three times the amount required for equal transport by rail.

I do not know whether that is correct. I hope that the Government will, one day soon, comment on it. Until recently, it was possible for Ministers to ignore references to energy, but it no longer makes economic sense for them to do so. It would be irresponsible for them to ignore the fact that we face the possibility of a shortage of the raw materials required for producing energy.

I had hoped that Transport 2,000, the organisation representing the environmental bodies and the rail unions, would have the resources to alert all hon. Members to the dangers of the Government assessing the "most effective future rôle", as the Prime Minister terms it, for the railway system. Yesterday I received the usual stuff that one gets before a debate like this from the British Road Federation, but nothing from Transport 2,000. I hope that it would bring to the attention of all Members of the House the fact that even if our railways are subsidised by £100 million a year, France pays five times that amount to her railways and West Germany pays eight or even 10 times that amount to hers. If they find it worth while to do so in order to keep their railways going, why should not our Ministers study their example?

I have here Regulation 1192/69 of the EEC Council of Ministers. Under it the Government have certain obligations to British Rail. It is not a draft from the Commission. I ask the Government, is it not a regulation made by the Council of the Community under which member Governments must compensate the railways for costs imposed on them which are not shared by other forms of transport?

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) appeared to get the matter completely the wrong way round when he intervened earlier. Is not the effect of the regulation to protect the railways, their users and their staff, from unfair Government subsidised competition from the roads? Will not the Government have to compensate the railways, for example, for their expenditure on road bridges and level crossings and on staffing and maintenance and operation of the signalling system? If this is so, it will come to a considerable sum. I have seen a calculation that it could be up to £100 million. Is the figure as large as that?

We must have an independent inquiry into the effects of various forms of transport on our environment and our national resources. That inquiry must consider the balance between subsidising the railways and subsidising road transport, because road transport is being heavily subsidised. I do not believe that it is for this Government to assess the most effective future rôle of the railways because the Government could do a great deal of harm. Rather it is time for an inquiry, and I would even go so far as to suggest a Royal Commission for the purpose, even though that would mean delay.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)

I hope that the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) will forgive me if I do not follow his speech save in one respect—that, like him, I shall not pay overdue attention to the motion, which I am sure was drafted with many tongues in many cheeks. I do not think that any right hon. or hon. Member opposite has directed much of his attention to the motion.

I want to concentrate on the report to the Government by British Railways. Once again we are faced with losses. I do not accept that they are due simply to inherent difficulties in running any railway system in the 1970s. One should acknowledge that there are sometimes defects in the service, but that is not my theme tonight. I make it clear that I am entirely opposed to the wielding of any axe and to the closure of any more lines.

We cannot ignore the enormous sums of public money already spent on the system; it is there with us and we have paid for it. We cannot ignore the uncertainties about future fuel supplies. We cannot ignore the present concern for the environment. Any Government who ignored that concern should think again very quickly, because today few issues concern people more. We cannot ignore the great inconvenience that would be caused in certain parts of the country if there were any more closures.

What I am advocating is that more thought should be given to where new capital expenditure ought to go. I am extremely sceptical about the proposals for a substantial development of the intercity services and vast further expenditure on the electrification of more main lines. I concede that main lines, like those from Manchester to London and Liverpool to London, used intensively by businessmen, ought to pay. But what evidence is there that an electrified east coast route would have the same potential? What evidence is there that a marginal improvement in the service between here and Bristol would attract very much more traffic, when the service between here and Bristol and South Wales is already very fast and efficient?

Much more attention should be directed to a matter not dealt with at all in the report—feeder lines. Here, I shall go in for some special pleading. I refer to the lines from Preston to Manchester, Manchester to Blackburn and Preston to Colne. They are not so much country lines connecting small towns as lines connecting outlying areas with main line stations, and British Rail surely has an interest in putting on a good show on those feeder lines, so as to encourage people to use the main lines rather than travel to London from north-east Lancashire, for instance, by express bus. But little or no effort has been made so far, and I am not surprised that these lines have to be subsidised.

The service on the line from Preston to North Lancashire is diabolical, with dirty, rattling, malodorous rolling stock, devoid of any power of acceleration worth talking about, creeping and clanking across the land and taking as much as an hour to cover 17 miles from Preston to Accrington. One travels in contraptions that one mounts from decayed, dilapidated stations equipped with no more than a tiny shelter—and for what reason? The only reason I can see is that British Railways have always adopted the view that as Government grants were probably not going to last for very long there was no point in doing anything about the service.

I would have thought that there is really the strongest case—and I invite the Minister to consider this very carefully—for making these social grants available for a minimum period of, say, 10 years so that British Railways will know precisely where they stand and will have an incentive to improve the kind of line to which I have referred. Then we may see the day when refurbished main line stock hauled by diesel engines will be back on those lines and there will be a return to civilised rail travel.

Lastly, I hope the Minister will never allow himself to think that because the lines to which I have referred have been allowed to decay they can be closed without trouble. If he thinks that, he really has another think coming. Only if road and rail links with the central Lancashire new town are improved can we in northeast Lancashire, for example, be expected to survive the impact of the new town—and the only way the Government of the day managed to reduce to some extent the enormous opposition towards the proposal that there should be a central Lancashire new town was by assuring north-east Lancashire towns that there would be an improvement in communications between them and Preston. That is the issue for which we fought and fought again.

We fought for the Calder Valley road, and now we are fighting for our railway service—and we intend to continue to do so. So I urge the Government to close no more lines and to realise now that concern for the environment is so great that people are not prepared to put up with the great inconvenience that railway closures cause to those living outside large towns. I urge the Government, therefore, to accept in part the proposals put forward by British Railways—those proposals that suggest that there can he no cutting down in the size of the overall network. I urge the Government, instead to think again about those proposals that would involve the Government in enormous capital sums, which would not necessarily attract to the railways any more passenger traffic.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

I have been in this House now for three years, and this is the first occasion in that time that we have had a debate on the railways. It is a shocking thing that the debate should take place in Opposition time and should be of only three hours' duration, because it concerns a subject that concerns most hon. Members. Many hon. Members here today will wish to speak but will not have an opportunity to do so. I sincerely hope that the Government will soon have a debate about the railways, and, indeed, about transportation generally, lasting a full day and in their own time.

I represent Swindon, which was at one time a great railway town. I am also a member of the Electrical Trades Union, which has members within the railway organisation. I have to say that over the years Swindon has suffered very greatly from rail closures and the rundown of the railway system. Indeed, the number of people employed in the workshop at Swindon has declined from 15,000 to 2,000, and a further 300 are to be made redundant after their return from holidays this year. So my constituents are very concerned, because in the past, though not so much at present, their fate has been tied up inextricably with the fate of the railways.

The Beeching "axe" was certainly a local disaster for Swindon, but it was also a national disaster, from the point of view of its effect not only on the transportation system but on the environment of this country. Although the 1968 Act certainly did something to halt the decline in the railway system it still did not recognise the central truth that railways could not be made to pay when they were competing on an unequal basis. I believe that that central fact is still not recognised by the Government. Until it is recognised by the Government the railway system will not have ploughed into it the capital that is necessary, nor will it be given the financial assistance that is necessary if the railways are to play their proper part in our total economic and environmental life.

The British Railways Board has concentrated—and to some extent I agree with it, for it has certainly been successful—on inter-city trains, often to the detriment of local services, and certainly to the detriment of freight. I have a suspicion that the railways have been deliberately turning away freight traffic which they could otherwise have had from industrialists who would have been only too pleased to send it by rail. My own experience of a firm in Swindon confirms this. Because British Railways have not recognised that they could have freight traffic the roads between Swindon, Oxford and Longbridge have been cluttered with lorries carrying car bodies which could far better have been carried on the railway system. It needs new thinking on the part of British Railways and a new approach to their duty and their rôle in the carrying of freight in the future.

The latest review of railway policy, which has been submitted by the British Railways Board, encourages one to think that the railways at last are beginning to believe in themselves. It is important that they should. For a long time they have not—and because they have not, other people have not been prepared to believe in them. At last they are beginning to realise their central and real rôle in our transportation system and their importance to economic and environmental life. Nevertheless, their thinking is still not bold enough.

The board says that there will be a capital requirement of £1,700 million to be invested in the railways over the next 10 years. I submit that that is altogether too modest, because when we think about it it compares with a proposed Government investment of £4,250 million in roads over the same period. If we add to that figure the total investment of the country in vehicles, we are talking of a total investment of between £16,000 million and £20,000 million in the road system. There is a terrific disparity between the two. I believe that it is necessary for the railways to be rather more bold.

The board's proposals on freight simply do not meet the real needs, and the need to reverse the trend of carrying goods by road. What it is actually planning for—and one accepts that there will be a total expansion of freight carriage—is a much lower proportion of an increasing volume of freight traffic. In my view, that is an act of folly, and I hope the Minister will make clear to the board that he thinks it is an act of folly, and that it should not be so timid in its proposals. He should send the proposals back and ask the board to be much bolder in its approach to this problem.

I hope that the Minister will draw attention to the fact that the planned reduction in the wagon fleet is not good enough. If he makes sure that the wagon fleet is kept at a high level—and it will need to be if it is to have an expanding rôle in the transportation system—it will help the country, the environment and the economy and it will also help my constituents, as I am sure the Minister wants to do.

It is always difficult for staff, and for a board running an organisation, to be constantly reminded of the fact that it is being subsidised. We must somehow get away from this attitude. I suggest that it is the country's duty to pay the railways an annual sum for providing the infrastructure, so that it may be available to us all whenever we need to use it. In the same way that a motorist pays £25 a year so that the infrastructure of the roads can be provided, so the taxpayer should pay a substantial amount to the railways to compensate them for keeping that infrastructure available to us all as taxpayers.

I have listened to the whole of this excellent debate. Incidentally, we have seen some radical conversions on the Conservative benches. It is important that the House should recognise that the railways will succeed only if the morale of the people working on them is kept at a high level. I hope that this debate and future debates will increase the morale of the workers on the railways, and that this consideration will colour the Minister's attitude so that we shall have a railway system that is the finest in the world.

6.37 p.m.

Mr. Tom Bradley (Leicester, North-East)

This has been a very useful but all-too-short debate on a vital topic. It has mirrored the anxiety of the country and of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have expressed similar fears for the future of the railway network. There is anxiety and fear in the country over the Government's intentions, and it must be said that those anxieties were not allayed by the Minister's speech this afternoon.

The right hon. Gentleman entertained us but he did not enlighten us. He permitted himself to say that the British Railways Board's policy review would not be cheap. I remind him that neither would the alternative to it be cheap. The Minister made great play of the Government money which has been expended over the years in support of our railway system—money provided by Governments of both political complexions. But the Minister did not acknowledge the fact that the board has paid back to the taxpayer over £180 million in the last four years in the form of interest on its fixed-interest debt, there being no equity capital. But for that fact, the Railways Board in the last four years of operations would have made a surplus of £163 million.

The Minister gave us no inkling of his intentions. Apparently we must wait until the autumn for the full details of the Government's research and consideration, and this despite the fact that only last July in this House he gave me an assurance that he would consider as a matter of urgency the publication of a White Paper. In the meantime, in view of his statement this afternoon, uncertainty will continue in the industry and among the population. This is just not good enough. The Minister at least should have committed himself categorically to an assurance that he will make a full statement to the House before we rise for the Summer Recess.

There have been many references to the blue book which was leaked to the Sunday Times, a book which the Minister's Department had not the competence to conceal. I have no wish to dilate on what was said in the blue book as reported in the Sunday Times, because it has been mentioned over and over again in this debate. However, I find it incredible that such an option was even considered as one of the alternatives open to the Department having regard to the country's appalling and worsening transport problems. We must be the only country in the world that is giving consideration to that kind of retrograde step when most other countries are thinking of expanding their railway networks rather than reducing them.

I have no time to discuss the consequences of road congestion, social inconvenience and environmental pollution which has resulted from the substantial reduction of the rail network during the last decade and the natural growth of road transport. What is clear beyond doubt is that the rail network surgery has neither solved the nation's transport problems nor improved British Rail's financial position. The Minister seemed to get himself and other hon. Members involved in a discussion of what Beeching did and what the Labour Government did. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was an earlier Conservative Government which by its votes in this House secured endorsement for what was laid down in the Beeching Report on the reshaping of our railways. Their balance sheet mentality produced a bigger crisis than they set out to solve.

We now have the startling revelation from the British Railways Board that its computers have thrown up the information that there is no such thing as a viable railway network. We are told that the smaller the system, the less viable it may become. Some of us may be forgiven for saying that we have been offering that view, with the aid of far less technology, for years.

I have no intention of getting bogged down in the road versus rail argument. It is largely sterile. We know the relevant figures and what can and cannot be done in regard to transferring traffic from road haulage to rail. But a great deal of the traffic conveyed by road would be unsuitable for conveyance by rail because of the special nature of the traffic involved or because of the short journeys. Nobody can fail to be alarmed, however, at a situation in which a growing proportion of freight traffic is passing on overcrowded roads alongside an under-used railway system. It should be part of a national transport policy to use rail to the maximum possible extent. The railways policy review is an interim strategy only. It is pending the Government's consideration of social, economic and environmental questions. Goodness knows how long we shall have to wait for that, but it is a matter of extreme national urgency that the Government should get on with the job.

Richard Marsh is right. It is a matter not only for the size of the existing network but of what is carried on it. The problem is one of allocating appropriate cargoes to the best mode of transport, taking into account social and environmental costs. Except for bulk carriage, rail transport tends to become competitive only with loads over 75 miles. That is in commercial terms. But the freight business of British Rail is restricted to such terms. By national decision, many passenger services are not confined to commercial terms. Rail spare capacity is such and road congestion so severe that a case exists for subsidy to British Rail freight operations. The time has arrived for suitable loads to be diverted from road to rail, either by direction or by financial inducement.

The board's recent review of railway policy is far too defeatist in its approach to wagon-load traffic. One wonders why £12 million has been invested in a system called "Tops" to identify the placement of wagons throughout the country. It is a profound mistake for the board to work itself out of this type of business, as many of us think it is doing as an act of deliberate policy, while making the excuse that it is all concerned with what are called market forces. There is great scope in this section especially if industry can be attracted to the use of private sidings. The Government give help towards the cost of such sidings in development areas, but there is now a strong case for a far more widespread application of such grants to enable more wagonload traffic to be trunked by rail, bringing with it valuable social benefits.

The authors of the 1968 Act clearly intended that most long-distance freight should be diverted to rail. They instanced two means of doing this. They expected that good relations between the board and the National Freight Corporation would lead to the latter allocating as much traffic as possible to rail. Things have not worked out that way. In fact, competition within the public sector of transport between British Railways, British Road Services, the National Freight Corporation and National Carriers Ltd., is as fierce as it is outside the public transport service. Much trunking of traffic is going on by National Carriers Ltd. that was never originally intended, but the Minister has shown no inclination to get the Freight Integration Council, whose job it was to look into this question, to work. It has had one meeting since the last General Election, and I hear rumours that the Minister intends to wind up the council. I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman on another occasion about his intentions in that regard.

I was amazed that the right hon. Gentleman got himself involved this afternoon in the controversy over quantity licensing. Indeed, it was one of his first actions after being appointed to his office. He could not get down to the House fast enough after the General Election to withdraw the relevant provisions. Anxious to justify his membership of the Monday Club, he appeared within one month of the election to say that what he called the cumbersome regulations would never be operated. Had they been operated, as they surely would have been by now had another Government been in office, we should not have had this difficulty.

The Minister should not be surprised that morale is low and that expectations are not high within the industry. It has been plagued since the war with one reorganisation—I should say disorganisation—after another by a management obsessed with playing about with its managerial operations and structure. Morale in the industry is low, and it will not be improved as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's performance this afternoon.

We are right to condemn the Government for their inaction and for the confusion which they have created. Those Conservative Members who have this afternoon spoken so feelingly about the preservation of our railway system should join us in the Lobby tonight in condemning the Government for the present unsatisfactory situation.

6.47 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)

The closing words of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley), and even what he said about morale, have been contradicted by his right hon. Friends who have pointed out to the House that morale is remarkably high.

This has been a useful debate. I agree with the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) that it has been too short, but everything that has been said by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides will be taken into account.

I must point out to the House that it is only 16 days since the British Railways Board's studies were published and that discussions are continuing with the board. I must also point out, as virtually everyone has agreed, that no previous Government, of any political persuasion, have got this problem right. It was not got right in the 1968 Act and it is a little unreasonable, within 16 days of receiving these studies from British Railways, to expect my right hon. Friend to make a full policy statement.

The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) asked about EEC Regulation 1192, and this was referred to also by the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas). The Government accept that under Regulation 1192 they are obliged to make payments to British Railways in respect of level crossings. We are also considering the validity of the board's other claims under these regulations. The House should know that some of the obligations are discretionary, and these will be considered overall in the light of the Government support that we have to give at the end of the policy review.

The right hon. Gentleman and others raised the question of private sidings. The situation is that help could be given in certain circumstances in assisted areas under the Local Employment Act 1972 or the Industry Act 1972. I accept much of what has been said and the force of the argument, but without any more commitment than this I say that we are considering the question of private sidings in the context of this review. I can say no more.

The right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) gave us a vintage speech, polemically short of firm ideas but not, alas, in time. I agree with two or three of the things said by the right hon. Lady. I agree that in the past the railways have made over-optimistic forecasts. I agree, too, with the right hon. Lady and with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) that investment must be continually and critically looked at. That is right, but the right hon. Lady will realise that one reason for this debate, and the reason why my right hon. Friend asked British Railways for their studies, is that we did not get it right in the 1968 Act. As the right hon. Lady said: British Railways will be standing on their own feet and will be expected to pay their way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December 1967; Vol. 756, c. 1293.] We know that that did not happen, and that is why for the last year we have tried, and for the next few months we have to continue to try, to get this thing right.

The right hon. Lady criticised the fairly brief report which is more by way of an aide-mémoire to the unions from the British Railways Board and Mr. Marsh, and clearly the report and everything else that we are considering is much greater than that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) made the not unimportant point, which is sometimes overlooked, that there can be environmental minuses in rail or any form of transport development. I suggest that if there is a new motorway, a new marshalling yard, a new airport and a new oil pipeline terminal, they can seriously affect the people who live in the areas involved. It is nonsense to pretend that transport does not bring its own environmental problems. I suspect that 70 or 80 years ago horse carriages in London may have been good for window boxes, but environmentally they were not very sweet.

I urge the House to remember that we are facing all these transport problems because people demand a higher standard of living. If they have that, it means that people and goods tend to travel more and further afield. That means increased transport to cope with the people and goods travelling more and further afield. It leads to difficult decisions, and there is no easy solution.

The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Walter Johnson), my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne seem to have misunderstood, or not to have heard, what my right hon. Friend said about grants under European regulations for unremunerative passenger services. It means that these grants will not be limited in term as they are now, and I repeat what my right hon. Friend said about that.

The hon. Member for Derby, South repeated, as others have done, the hoary comment about the document that was stolen last October, and I stress the word "stolen". The matter was more than adequately dealt with by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huck-field) and myself during a debate on 31st January. If anybody wants to read the full history, and to read a good railways debate too, I suggest that he reads the Adjournment debate on that date, and for goodness sake let us get this document dead and buried. It is no longer relevant to any of these discussions.

I do not underestimate the point made by the hon. Member for Derby, South, but I quarrel with him when he accuses my right hon. Friend, myself and others of a lack of sensitivity towards the feelings of railwaymen. I cannot accept that. On many occasions my right hon. Friend has said how much he sympathises with and appreciates the problems of the railways and the unions. My father-in-law spent more than 60 years on the railway, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that from close personal knowledge I appreciate the problems of what I call the old-time traditional railwaymen on whom this country has relied for many years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), in his usual pungent way, had a go at the motorway network. Two motorway sections which are opening this week should bring considerable relief, one to the towns of Huddersfield and Brighouse and the other to Highbridge in Somerset. I could not accept my hon. Friend's blatant strictures.

I note what my hon. Friend said about the four cities railway line. In my early and formulative years I did all my railway-spotting at Evesham, and I have some sympathy with him.

The hon. Member for Carlisle spoke with great feeling and sincerity and made a thoughtful speech. He will understand that I cannot go along with everything he said, but I agree that the four Acts passed by Parliament since the war to make British Railways pay have not done their job, and that is why we are having this crisis again.

Both the hon. Member for Carlisle and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. David Steddart) referred to railway workshops in somewhat gloomy terms. I do not wish to bandy this about as a political argument, but closure aid under the present administration compares very favourably with that under the previous administration. Much more important is the question of external sales, which were just over £2 million in 1969 and £6.7 million last year, of which £3 million was for exports. I understand that the trends here are very good indeed and very encouraging. I hope that the hon. Member for Carlisle and the hon. Member for Swindon will not be too pessimistic about them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kemp-town said that people were falling out of love with the motor car. They may be, but I am bound to tell my hon. Friend that driving test applications were up by 20 per cent. last year on those of 1971 and so far this year they are up by 26 per cent. over last year, so someone somewhere is still wishing to drive a motor car. Nevertheless, I accept and understand what my hon. Friend says about the problems of rail closures in the South-East.

The right hon. Member for Kettering referred in glowing terms to the rôle of railwaymen. I agree with him. He referred to the Transport 2,000 Group. At my right hon. Friend's invitation the group came to see my right hon. Friend and myself on Monday of this week. We had a most useful discussion with them, which was particularly relevant in the context of the debate.

I note what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne said. He said that we should have a very searching analysis into the merits of electrification. I would not necessarily disagree with that.

The hon. Member for Leicester North-East referred again to the blue book. I certainly would not wish to open that one up. He also referred to the question of the road-rail argument, which was also put very sensibly by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park. It is no good deluding ourselves that there is some easy solution. There are no soft options in tackling these immense transport problems. The future of our rail system is a good one, but it would certainly cost a lot of hard cash to the taxpayer whatever we intend to do.

As the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn said. resources are limited. This means that any commitment to the railways along the sort of lines being suggested will inevitably mean that equally desirable spending programmes in other fields of policy will have to be curtailed. The House, the Government and British Rail have to face that problem.

Bearing in mind that last year about £170 million of external support was given to British Rail and that the Marsh plan envisages a net cash support of £1.900 million over the next nine years, we can see that there are major problems.

My right hon. Friend told the House—I re-emphasise it—that these critical decisions on British Rail are being looked at in a wider transport context. We expect to bring our conclusions to Parliament and to the public in the autumn. We shall certainly welcome the views of Parliament and the public on these conclusions.

Meanwhile, however, I suggest that the Opposition motion is an amalgam of inaccuracy, prematurity and muddled thinking. I confidently invite the House to support the amendment of my right hon. Friends.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Waddington

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Chair knows, the debate was scheduled to last for only three hours. I should like to remind the Chair that one particular back bencher spoke for no less than half an hour. I should like guidance from the Chair about what protection other back benchers have against the gross discourtesy of individual Members of the House who abuse their opportunities to speak in that way and prevent others from speaking.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. As I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, that is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Waddington

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I have some guidance from the Chair as to whether there are any other ways in which this matter can be raised or other channels through which it can be dealt with?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have already said that this is not a matter for the Chair.

The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 255.

Division No. 185.] AYES [6.59 p.m.
Adley, Robert Buck, Antony Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Bullus, Sir Eric Dixon, Piers
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Burden, F. A. Drayson, G. B.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Butler, Adam (Bosworth) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Dykes, Hugh
Astor, John Carlisle, Mark Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Atkins, Humphrey Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Awdry, Daniel Cary, Sir Robert Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Channon, Paul Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Chapman, Sydney Emery, Peter
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Eyre, Reginald
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Chichester-Clark, R. Farr, John
Batsford, Brian Fell, Anthony
Bell, Ronald Churchill, W. S. Fenner, Mrs. Peggy
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)
Benyon, W. Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Cockeram, Eric Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Bitten, John Cooke, Robert Fookes, Miss Janet
Biggs-Davison, John Coombs, Derek Fortescue, Tim
Blaker, Peter Cooper, A. E. Fowler, Norman
Boardman, Tom (Leicester. S.W.) Cordle, John Fox, Marcus
Body, Richard Cormack, Patrick Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Costain, A. P. Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.
Ransom, Sir Clive Critchley, Julian Gardner, Edward
Bowden, Andrew Crouch, David Gibson-Watt, David
Bray, Ronald Dalkeith, Earl of Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Glyn, Dr. Alan
Bryan, Sir Paul d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Dean, Paul
Goodhart, Philip MacArthur, Ian Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Gorst, John McCrindle, R. A. Rost, Peter
Gower, Raymond McLaren, Martin Russell, Sir Ronald
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McMaster, Stanley St. John-Stevas, Norman
Gray, Hamish Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Scott, Nicholas
Green, Alan McNair-Wilson, Michael Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Gummer, J. Selwyn Maddan, Martin Shersby, Michael
Gurden, Harold Madel, David Simeons, Charles
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Maginnis, John E. Sinclair, Sir George
Hall, John (Wycombe) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Skeet, T. H. H.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Marten, Neil Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Hannam, John (Exeter) Mather, Carol Soref, Harold
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Maude, Angus Speed, Keith
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Spence, John
Haselhurst, Alan Mawby, Ray Sproat, Iain
Hastings, Stephen Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Stainton, Keith
Havers, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanbrook, Ivor
Hawkins, Paul Mills, Peter (Torrington) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Hayhoe, Barney Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Stokes, John
Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Heseltine, Michael Moate, Roger Sutcliffe, John
Higgins, Terence L. Money, Ernie Tapsell, Peter
Hiley, Joseph Monks, Mrs. Connie Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Holland, Philip Monro, Hector Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Holt, Miss Mary Montgomery, Fergus Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Hordern, Peter More, Jasper Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N W.)
Hornby, Richard Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Tebbit, Norman
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Temple, John M.
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Morrison, Charles Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Howell, David (Guildford) Mudd, David Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Murton, Oscar Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Hunt, John Nabarro, Sir Gerald Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Hutchison, Michael Clark Reeve, Airey Tilney, John
Iremonger, T. L. Nicholls, Sir Harmer Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Irvine, Bryant Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Trew, Peter
Godman (Rye) Nott, John Tugendhat, Christopher
James, David Onslow, Cranley Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally van Straubenzee, W. R.
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Jessel, Toby Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Vickers, Dame Joan
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Waddington, David
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Parkinson, Cecil Welder, David (Clitheroe)
Jopling, Michael Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Pike, Miss Mervyn Wall, Patrick
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner Walters, Dennis
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Ward, Dame Irene
Kershaw, Anthony Price, David (Eastleigh) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Kilfedder, James Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. White, Roger (Gravesend)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Proudfoot, Wilfred Wiggin, Jerry
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Wilkinson, John
Kinsey, J. R. Quennell, Miss J. M. Winterton, Nicholas
Kitson, Timothy Raison, Timothy Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Knight, Mrs. Jill Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Knox, David Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Lamont, Norman Redmond, Robert Woodnutt, Mark
Lane, David Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Worsley, Marcus
Langford-Holt, Sir John Rees, Peter (Dover) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Younger, Hn. George
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Ridsdale, Julian TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Longden, Sir Gilbert Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Luce, R. N. Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Mr. Walter Clegg.
McAdden, Sir Stephen
Abse, Leo Boardman, H. (Leigh) Clark, David (Colne Valley)
Albu, Austen Booth, Albert Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Boothroyd, Miss B. (West Brom.) Cohen, Stanley
Allen, Scholefield Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Coleman, Donald
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Concannon, J. D.
Ashley, Jack Bradley, Tom Conian, Bernard
Ashton, Joe Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Corbel, Mrs. Freda
Atkinson, Norman Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Crawshaw, Richard
Barnes, Michael Buchan, Norman Cronin, John
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)
Baxter, William Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Dalyell, Tam
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Darling, Rt. Hn. George
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Carmichael, Neil Davidson, Arthur
Bidwell, Sydney Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)
Bishop, E. S. Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Pardoe, John
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Delargy, Hugh Jones, Dan (Burnley) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Pavitt, Laurie
Dempsey, James Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Pendry, Tom
Doig, Peter Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Perry, Ernest G.
Dormand, J. D. Kaufman, Gerald Prescott, John
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Kelley, Richard Price, William (Rugby)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Kerr, Russell Probert, Arthur
Driberg, Tom Kinnock, Neil Radice, Giles
Duffy, A. E. P. Lamble, David Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Dunn, James A. Lamborn, Harry Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Dunnett, Jack Lamond, James Rhodes, Geoffrey
Edelman, Maurice Latham, Arthur Richard, Ivor
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lawson, George Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Leadbitter, Ted Robertson, John (Paisley)
Ellis, Tom Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n & R'dnor)
English, Michael Leonard, Dick Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Evans, Fred Lestor, Miss Joan Rose Paul B.
Ewing, Harry Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Faulds, Andrew Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rowlands, Ted
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lipton, Marcus Sandelson, Neville
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lomas, Kenneth Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Loughlin, Charles Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Foot, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Ford, Ben Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Forrester, John McBride, Neil Sillars, James
Fraser, John (Norwood) McCartney, Hugh Silverman, Julius
Freeson, Reginald McElhone, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Galpern, Sir Myer Machin, George Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Garrett, W. E. Mackenzie, Gregor Spriggs, Leslie
Gilbert, Dr. John Maclennan, Robert Stallard, A. W.
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Golding, John McNamara, J. Kevin Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Gourley, Harry Mallalleu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Stott, Roger (Westhoughton)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marks, Kenneth Strang, Gavin
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Marquand, David Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Marsden, F. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Marshall, Dr. Edmund Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Hatton, F. Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mayhew, Christopher Tope, Graham
Hamling, William Meacher, Michael Torney, Tom
Hardy, Peter Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Tuck, Raphael
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mikardo, Ian Urwin, T. W.
Hattersley, Roy Millan, Bruce Varley, Eric G.
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Miller, Dr. M. S. Wainwright, Edwin
Heffer, Eric S. Milne, Edward Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hilton, W. S. Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Wallace, George
Horam, John Molloy, William Watkins, David
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morgan, Elysian (Cardiganshire) Weitzman, David
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Wellbeloved, James
Huckfieid, Leslie Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Moyle, Roland Whitehead, Phillip
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Whitlock, William
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oakes, Gordon Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Hunter, Adam Ogden, Eric Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) O'Halloran, Michael Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Janner, Greville O'Malley, Brian Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Jay. Rt. Hn. Douglas Oram, Bert Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena Orme, Stanley Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Oswald, Thomas Woof, Robert
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
John, Brynmor Padley, Walter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Paget, R. T. Mr. Joseph Harper and
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Palmer, Arthur Mr. James Hamilton.
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles

Question accordingly agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


That this House welcomes the continuing support which Her Majesty's Government is giving to British Rail and recognises the need for Her Majesty's Government to complete its assessment of the most effective future rôle of our railway system as soon as possible.