HL Deb 30 July 1919 vol 36 cc89-119

House again in Committee (according to Order).

[THE EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Appointment of Minister of Ways and Communications.

1. For the purpose of improving the means of, and the facilities for, locomotion and transport, it shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister of Ways and Communications (hereinafter referred to as the Minister), who shall hold office during His Majesty's pleasure.

LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE moved to leave out "Ways and Communications," and insert "Transport." The noble Lord said: If this Amendment is carried the clause would then read: "It shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister Transport." This is not a matter of vital importance, and is not one that will raise a constitutional crisis between the two Houses. It is really more a matter of convenience than anything else. The names of many Bills which have been introduced of late are somewhat cumbersome. For instance there is one that is to be considered to-morrow which is called the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Bill. Though the name of the Bill we are now considering is not so bad as that, I think it is somewhat long and might with advantage be shortened. Various abbreviations have been already suggested, but they have been more or less of a failure.

I think the name by which this Bill is generally known is that of the Transport Bill. An Amendment was moved in the House of Commons to insert this word, and I understand that the Minister in charge of the Bill did not consider it unfavourably; in fact, he promised to consider it on Report, but when that stage was reached it was found that stress of business had prevented him from doing so, and the result is, I am informed, that the Amendment was rejected, though not by a very large majority.

I ask you to consider that you would earn the gratitude of all the people who in the future have to deal with this Bill if you made this alteration—men of business, typewriters, even the printers of your Lordships' House would feel it a relief if you would use the shorter title. I do not wish to alarm my noble friend in charge of the Bill, much less to threaten him, but I much fear that, if this Amendment is not adopted, recourse will be had to "direct action," and that we shall find that people will use the words "Transport Bill," whether we like it or not. Under these circumstances would it not be well for your Lordships to give a lead in this matter and to adopt the name by which the Bill is commonly known?

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 7, leave out ("Ways and Communications") and insert ("Transport").—(Lord Oranmore and Browne.)


This is not, of course, a question in which any principle is involved. It is not a matter on which the Government itself feels very strongly, and I am not disposed to contest the arguments used by the noble Lord. I think this is a more convenient title. But my noble friend has made a mistake in the account he gave of the treatment of this question in another place. He said the question was raised in Committee, that the Minister showed some sympathy with it and undertook to reconsider it on Report, but failed to do so, and that in a Division, in which the Government Whips were pat on, the Amendment was defeated. That is not the case. The Minister in the House of Commons took the view that I take here. He said this was a matter for the House to settle, and it was left entirely to the discretion of the House. No Government Tellers were put on in the Division, and the result was that the Amendment was rejected by 109 votes to 65. That is an indication of the opinion of the House of Commons, without any direct pressure from the Government. The Government was neutral in the matter. I propose to take the same position here. I cannot accept the Amendment. The Government think that this title is the better of the two, and the figures which I have quoted show that that is the view taken by the House of Commons. It is not a matter of great consequence, and if your Lordships feel strongly on the matter and are disposed to carry the Amendment of the noble Lord, I shall offer no opposition to that being done. If your Lordships divide upon it I shall personally vote for the title in the Bill as it stands.


I quite agree that this is not a matter of very vital importance; but, after all, Sir Eric Geddes in his original speech on the Bill, said that we had not got quite the equivalent of the American word "transportation" but we were getting very near to it. I think the word "Transport" might be agreed to, and I hope the Government will assent to it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:

Powers and duties.

2.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Minister in the exercise and performance of any powers and duties transferred to, or conferred or imposed upon him, by or in pursuance of this Act, to take steps to carry out the purposes aforesaid, and there shall, as from such date as His Majesty in Council may by Order determine, be transferred to the Minister all powers and duties of any Government Department in relation to—

  1. (a) railways;
  2. (b) light railways;
  3. (c) tramways;
  4. (d) canals, waterways, and inland navigations;
  5. (e) roads, bridges and ferries, and vehicles and traffic thereon;
  6. (f) harbours, docks and piers;
including any powers and duties of any Government Department in relation to any railway, light railway, tramway, canal, inland navigation, harbour, dock, pier, or other undertaking concerned with any of the matters aforesaid, and any powers of any Government Department with respect to the appointment of members or the procedure of any commissioners, conservancy board or other body having jurisdiction with respect to any such matters as aforesaid, and any powers of any Government department with respect to the making, confirming, issuing, granting, Or giving (as the case may be) of byelaws, regulations, orders, licences, approvals, or consents relating to any of the matters hereinbefore mentioned:

Provided that—

  1. (i) His Majesty in Council may by Order except from such transfer any particular powers or duties, or provide for the exercise or performance of any power or duty so excepted by the Minister concurrently or in consultation with or at the instance of the Government Department concerned, or by the Government Department concerned concurrently or in consultation with the Minister, or provide for the retransfer to any such Department of any powers and duties transferred to the Minister by this section; and
  2. (ii) Nothing in this section shall transfer to the Minister any powers or duties of the Admiralty exerciseable in or in relation to ports declared under the Dockyard Ports Regulation Act, 1865, 92 to be dockyard ports, but His Majesty in Council may by Order transfer to the Admiralty, instead of to the Minister, any of the powers of the Board of Trade with respect to dockyard ports, or with respect to the appointment of members of any commissioners, conservancy board, or other body having jurisdiction in the whole or any part of a dockyard port; and
  3. (iii) Nothing in this section shall transfer to the Minister the powers of the Board of Trade with respect to the appointment of members or the procedure of the Railway and Canal Commission, but His Majesty in Council may, by order, transfer those powers to a Secretary of State instead of to the Minister.

(2) His Majesty in Council may by Order make such incidental consequential and supplemental provisions as may be necessary or expedient for the purpose of giving full effect to any transfer of powers or duties by or under this section, including provisions for the transfer of any property, rights and liabilities held, enjoyed, or incurred by any Government Department in connection with any powers or duties transferred, and may make such adaptations in the enactments relating to such powers or duties as may be necessary to make exerciseable by the Minister and Ins officers or by the Admiralty and their officers, as the ease may be, the powers and duties so transferred: Provided always that nothing herein contained shall enable the powers so transferred to be increased.

(3) In connection with the transfer of powers and duties to the Minister or the Admiralty by or under this Act, the provisions set out in the Schedule to this Act shall have effect.

LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU moved, in subsection (1), after "Department" where that word first occurs, to insert "except the special and temporary powers contained in the Defence of the Realm Act." The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment in order to ask the Government whether they intend to include in the powers given under this Bill the very special and exceptional powers given to the Government in many cases solely in consequence of the war. Under the Defence of the Realm Act there were temporary powers, what I would venture to call extraordinary powers, given, and I do not suppose that the Government want them to continue in time of peace. But I am advised that, unless some words such as I suggest are put in and this Bill passes both Houses of Parliament in, say, a week's time, the Minister would then be able to exercise the powers contained in the Defence of the Realm Act. I shall be glad if the Government can give us an assurance or information on that point.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 16, after ("Department") insert ("except the special and temporary powers contained in the Defence of the Realm Act").—(Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.)


I think I made this point clear when I was speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill. Such powers as are stow vested temporarily under the Defence of the Realm Act in the Government Departments whose functions are transferred under this clause will, of course, be, transferred, for the remaining period over which the Defence of the Realm Act operates, to the Minister; and I submit that it would be right and proper that it should be so. You cannot divide these powers and say that these Government Departments shall continue for a few weeks to administer temporary powers whereas all other functions dealing with these matters have been transferred to the Minister. But those powers, of course, are only temporary, governed by the duration of the Defence of the Realm Act. When the Defence of the Realm Act lapses, as it will six months after the signing of peace, then, of course, any powers under that Act which have been transferred to the Minister will lapse as they would have lapsed if they had been left to the Departments concerned.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU had an Amendment upon the Paper, in subsection (1), to leave out paragraphs (a), (b), (e), (d), (e), (f), and to insert "railways, railway undertakings, canals, and light rail ways."

The noble Lord said: I desire to conform, not only in letter but in spirit, to the decision at which the House arrived yesterday. I have given the Lord Chairman the Amendment, which I desire to move in place of the words down on the Paper. Instead of moving the words appearing on the Paper I desire to move to leave out the words "roads, bridges, ferries, vehicles, and traffic thereon." I do this in order to raise the question of roads at a very early stage of this Bill. If it is possible to arrange with the Government for a strengthening of the Committee which was conceded in the other House, it will probably be unnecessary to move the excision of roads, and bridges, and vehicles, and traffic thereon.

The fact is that the Committee given in Clause 20 is not, we think, a sufficient concession on that point, and we do not believe it will be sufficiently strong, or represent what I am sure it is the Government's intention that it should represent—namely, the view of those interested in road traffic not otherwise represented in the Ministry. All through the history of legislation, from the earliest days, roads have always been put in a totally different position from any other subject and when locomotion has been dealt with roads have nearly always received separate treatment. They differ in this Bill in that they are not a revenue-earning concern. They are already "nationalised," if I may use that term—that is to say, they are kept up by the nation out of rates and taxes, and are in a different position from railways, canals, or any other revenue-earning concern. In the last Bill which dealt with the subject—the Development of Roads (Improvement) Act of 1909—roads were dealt with even separate from light railways, and the then Government set an excellent precedent then when the roads were treated, as before, on a separate basis.

Perhaps the noble Earl has no idea of the magnitude of the interests in roads and road transport. With regard to the roads themselves, there are roughly 150,000 miles of secondary roads and 30,000 miles of main and principal roads. There is spent upon the roads, as the Minister-designate says, about £20,000,000 a year; but, on the other hand, the taxes on the roads in the way of petrol tax and other taxes bring in about £3,500,000 a year, which of course must be deducted. This question of roads and road transport also affects no less than six kinds of mechanical transport—namely, motor cars, motor 'buses, motor lorries, motor cycles, traction engines, and agricultural tractors, which have increased lately in great numbers. In 1915, the last year of which we could get a return, there were 1415,500 motor cars, 142,000 motor cycles, 35,000 commercial lorries, 33,000 hackney: carriages, and from 6,000 to 8,000 'buses, giving a total of 326,000 motor vehicles. It is estimated that by the end of 1920 there will be something like 700,000 motor vehicles. They are not represented in any way in the Ministry of this Bill. The drivers and mechanics employed number about 500,000 or 600,000 men, and it is estimated that between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 is directly invested in various factories which make motor vehicles.

There are also transferred under this Bill very considerable and far-reaching powers, which appear in the White Paper giving a return of powers and duties of the Minister of Ways and Communications. I will just lead one or two of the transferred powers. The Minister has taken over the power to make regulations in respect to the construction of motorcars and the use of the highways; lights on motor vehicles of all kinds; the speed of motor-cars and vehicles of all kinds; the prohibition of driving motor-cars on certain highways; the limitation of speed; identification and registration; the issue of driving licences; power to hold Inquiries; the control of international passes, and making regulations with regard to hackney vehicles. In addition to that, there is the very important power of determining differences between county councils and other local authorities and Government Departments. These are very special powers, which have hitherto been very wisely exercised on the whole, I think, by the Local Government Board.

I have not yet seen, though the Government may have it in mind, any mention of anyone specially versed in or acquainted with these subjects either in the list of those persons given by the Minister-designate in another place or in any debate or reply by the Government on this question. Moreover, mechanical transport is taxed. In 1918 I think there was an amount of about £800,000 in taxes. This year it is calculated £2,500,000 will be produced by the petrol tax at 6d. Motor vehicles are divided into two classes: what are called pleasure cars pay 6d. per gallon, and commercial cars 3d.

Then in regard to the improvement of roads. Taking that aspect, out of the £7,700,000 to be spent by the Government on the roads this year, something like £5,200,000 comes directly out of the pockets of those who have been taxed in respect of the petrol duty and carriage tax, and £2,000,000 out of the Road Board funds, so that really out of the £7,700,000 to be spent on roads and road improvement this year not less than five-sevenths, roughly speaking, comes out of the pockets of one particular class, which is not so far represented at all in connection with this Ministry.

It may be said that the system under which roads are repaired and transport on the roads is managed should be changed, but no demand has come from local authorities or anybody else for this particular change. Roads are not in the same position as railways and canals, which have their own special difficulties. I venture to say, as Chairman of the Joint Roads Committee, which has had the duty for a year past of repairing the special damage done by Government traffic during the war, that you could not spend more than you are spending now. We are spending as much on materials and labour as we can legitimately spend, and local authorities appear to be quite convinced of that, too, because when we offer them money they say they cannot spend more than we are able to give them.

There is no dissatisfaction either, I gather, with the Road Board as to the way in which it has done its work, for I find that 459 local authorities, including forty-one county councils, in England, Scotland, and Wales have definitely declared themselves in favour of a reconstructed Road Board with fuller powers, but against the Ministry of Ways and Communications taking over the management of the roads. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill quoted something which the Hertfordshire County Council had passed last night, but the Lancashire County Council, which is one of the most important of our county councils, whose opinion I think ought to carry weight with the Government, passed the following resolution in regard to the Bill—


Will the noble Lord give the date?


March 5, 1919. The resolution states— The Parliamentary Committee— that is, of the Lancashire County Council— view with great apprehension the effect of placing the roads and all traffic under the control of a Minister who has to deal with railways, light railways, and tramways, and of giving him the power of distributing money that may be voted by Parliament for the construction, improvement and maintenance of roads and bridges. I will not read the whole of it, but only this further sentence— The main roads have been developed for competition in traffic as against the railways, and it seems to the Committee inadvisable, as a matter of public policy, that the risk should be run that the future development of road traffic may be either directly or indirectly checked for the ulterior purpose of preventing inconvenient competition with railway interests, whether in the hands of companies or under State control. Thirty-nine county councils take more or less that view.

The proposed Advisory Committee, to be established under Clause 20, is only, after all, an Advisory Committee largely nominated by the Minister, and, of course, under the control of the Minister. With all due deference to the Government we do not consider that the Committee is anything like strong enough in its constitution, as at present proposed. There is another point about this matter, and that is that hitherto all our roads and the legislation with regard to roads and their construction have been devoid of politics. There is a danger of political influence, and it is greater to-day than ever it was. Mr. Lloyd George, when he set up the Road Board, said most distinctly that he set it up in the form in which it exists to-day because he was afraid of the danger of political influence in road-making. I am afraid in the future the Minister will be subject—and that is the real danger—to very strong political influence in the amount of grants he spends on certain roads. There might be quite big political questions arising on that point. In my opinion grants to roads should be entirely removed from the possibility of political pressure. Other noble Lords may not share my view. But on the Ministry, as announced, there will be only one person representing the great mass of roads out of nine members; I will not go so far as to accuse the others of bias, but there is only one person who knows anything about roads, and he knows nothing about transport, but only about construction. In other words he is a permanent way man; not a traffic man.

Do the Government propose to abolish the Road Board altogether? It is a statutory body, created in 1909, and though its powers are transferred it is not abolished. Is it still to exist without powers? We on the Road Board do not know as we have had no communication with the Minister-designate so far. There is also the point that the Minister is the final court of appeal on all road matters. Instead of being an impartial person it is possible that some other form of transport—railways—may clash, and it is obvious that roads would go to the wall. I hope the Government will take a broader view of the matter. I should not like it to confirm the impression, which is widespread and growing, that in order to make railways pay in the interest of State control the Ministry is going in for a policy of subordinating all other interests to those of railways. In other countries roads have been neglected where the railways have been State owned—and we are frightened of that happening here.

I make another appeal to the Government on the sentimental side. Roads are one of the oldest forms of civilisation, and poets and philosophers of all ages have descanted on the glories of the road. Roads have had their own special influence on civilisation; roads are to me almost a religion, if I may put it that way; and it seems to me you are diminishing the glories of the road, neglecting the traditions of the road—the roads of Telford and Macadam—and giving them a subordinate place in a Ministry whose chief aim, rightly, will be to make that other form of locomotion—railways—pay. The roads are national property to-day. We have on the whole the best roads in the world, and I suggest that the Government should give serious consideration as to whether they cannot improve Clause 20, or give those who are interested in road matters some indication of the policy they propose to pursue. I formally move the Amendment, subject to the reply I may receive from the noble Earl on the whole policy of roads.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 21, leave out paragraph (e).—(Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.)


The Amendment moved by the noble Lord gives me an opportunity of explaining the reason why I was unable to support my noble friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) last night. It seemed to me rather a strong order to expect this House to agree to bifurcate the Bill at this stage of the Session. That was one reason. Another reason was that the principle of the railways being included having been accepted, the question was really reduced to docks and roads. I have not very much experience of docks, but I was largely influenced in my vote by the speech of my noble friend Lord Emmott. I do, however, know something about roads, and I am not alarmed at the idea of the Central authority coming in now and then on the subject of roads.

I confess the enumeration of the number of vehicles that my noble friend opposite gave us just now does not frighten me, although one is thankful to think one has got the repair shop at Cippenham to mend them when they do reach those numbers. Obviously, what we have got to look forward to, if that enumeration is nearly a correct forecast, is an enormous increase of mechanical transport on the roads, and that will in all probability include a very much larger number of heavy lorries and omnibuses than are now running, and very possibly in some cases of light railways, and it does seem to me that where you have got public mechanical transport passing through the areas of more than one local authority it is absolutely essential you should have some central authority which ran control that transport.

In the past local authorities have suffered very materially at the hands of these roving and independent mechanical transport companies, which have put omnibuses on almost wherever they pleased. A little control has come in of late years, but a few years ago these companies put on routes of omnibuses wherever they pleased, passing through the areas of more than one authority, and where the two authorities could not agree to act together these roving companies were absolutely independent. They never have paid sufficient towards the rates for the amount of damage they do to the roads. That is one of the reasons why I feel justified in including the subject of roads in the Bill.

It is quite true, as my noble friend says, that the first officer who will have to do with the roads, General Maybury, is not a mechanical engineer. I happen to know a great deal about General Maybury, because I was instrumental in getting him appointed Surveyor in Kent, from which position he has risen to his present great eminence by his own efforts. So far as the maintenance of the roads is concerned, where this heavy mechanical transport is going to increase so much and momentum is going to be the chief factor, it is important to have a man who is a first-class expert on the subject of road construction. Therefore I am not alarmed at the idea of having a central authority come in where necessary on the subject of the maintenance of roads, and the control of transport on the roads, because I am perfectly certain that in General Maybury we have a man who would not interfere unnecessarily.


The noble Lord who moved this Amendment asked me a question which I will answer at once in order to get it out of the way. He asked me what the effect of the Bill was upon the position of the Road Board. As I understand it, under Clause 2 the powers and duties of any Government Department in relation to roads, bridges, ferries and so forth will be permanently transferred to the new Ministry, and as in the definition clause the Road Board is included in a Government Department I can only conclude that the effect will be to abolish the Road Board, since its powers will be transferred under this Bill to another body.

There is one other point that I wish to deal with and that is the question of the attitude of highway authorities towards the Bill. It is quite true that I quoted the opinion expressed recently by one County Council, and the noble Lord to-night has quoted another, but I think that I am justified in making this general statement, that whereas in early days ninny resolutions were passed by highway authorities in opposition to the Bill that opposition, as was the case in the House of Commons, and as I believe will prove the case in your Lordships' House, was based upon a misunderstanding of the provisions and powers in the Bill, but of recent date we have had proof that the inclusion of roads under the powers of the new Ministry has the approval of the highway authorities of this country, in so far that is as any general organisation can speak for a collection of associations. Therefore without entering into an examination of what the opinion of one highway authority or another may be I feel justified in saying that we are satisfied that this Bill as it stands applying to roads has the approval generally of the highway authorities.

The Amendment of the noble Lord does of course raise a very sharp question of principle. It really strikes at the whole principle of the unity of control of transport which is embodied in the Bill, and having inflicted three long speeches upon your Lordships on the subject I have no intention of once more defending the principle of co-ordination. But I think I can save myself any necessity of doing so if I plead in aid the speech of the noble Lord himself because the speech which he has just delivered is in my opinion one of the strongest arguments for the inclusion of roads in this Bill. The noble Lord has given figures to show the extreme importance of roads as a transport service. It is just because it is in our opinion an absolutely essential transport service that we hold it should be included in the powers of any Ministry which has to deal with transport as a whole.

The noble Lord said he hoped that the Government would take a broader view of the question. Here again I cannot help feeling that we do take a broader view of the question than the noble Lord because we look at this issue from the broad standpoint of the transport interest of the country, while the noble Lord I think—I say it with all deference—is inclined to take a narrow view, because he approaches the question in the frame of mind of fear lest roads may suffer by conflict with railways. That is a narrower point of view than the one from which we approach it. The noble Lord thinks that roads should not be included in this new Ministry because he speaks of it as a Railway Ministry, and he has again to-night referred to the fact that there is only one man out of nine whose appointment has been announced in the House of Commons who is an expert in roads. It does not need any further tribute. Lord Harris has just mentioned the fact, which is known to all your Lordships, that General Maybury is the greatest expert living in road-making. The noble Lord who moved this Amendment says quite truly that he is not an expert in road traffic, and he thinks it is a mistake to hand over powers of control over road traffic, such as are now enjoyed by the Local Government Board, to a man who will be an expert merely in road-mending and road-making. But there is no justification for saying that these powers of control of traffic will be placed in the hands of a man who is an expert in road-making. It is quite true that no Announcement has been made of the personnel of the new Ministry beyond the important officials who were announced in the House of Commons. But surely we may take for granted that, if the new Ministry is to administer these powers, the Minister will take steps to ensure that they will be placed in the hands of persons of experience in carrying out these duties.

Without, going into the general question I want in very few words to show why I think that the position of roads, from the point of view of the road lover, would be much more dangerous if they were ex- cluded from this Bill than they would be if they are left in it. The noble Lord, I think without any justification, assumes that this is going to be a Railway Ministry, and a Ministry, therefore, which cannot be entrusted with the upkeep and maintenance of roads. We deny that altogether, and we say this is going to be a Minister who will look after the interests of transport generally. But what would be the position if you were to take roads out of his hands, and leave them purely with the Board of Trade, with the Local Government Board, and with the Road Board? The Minister would still have, as Lord Harris pointed out, full powers of using the roads. He could put upon the roads, as it is open to any company to do, the services of motor omnibuses to any extent, and the only control which the local authorities have over these motor omnibus services is contained in a purely temporary measure, the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916, which is perpetuated in this Bill, but which of course, would disappear if you were to take roads out of the Bill. In that case, the Minister would have power to use the roads to any extent, to cause the utmost expense to the local authority in repairing them, but he would have no power and no money to help in their maintenance, their improvement or their repair. I think that would be a much more serious objection than if you were to place them under a Transport Ministry.

I really would like to meet the noble Lord, if I can, and he has asked me whether I can tell him what would be our attitude when we come to consider the position of the Road Committee at a later stage of the Bill. I think it would be inconvenient at this stage to discuss in detail the clause which the noble Lord has put upon the Paper. I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope whatever of being able to accept that Amendment, because he, in fact, converts an Advisory Committee into a rival authority, having its own representation in Parliament, exercising itself, and not through the Ministry, the powers which will be transferred, and administering the funds which are at present used for road development.

The difference of principle between the noble Lord and the Government is this. We say that the Minister must be responsible for exercising these powers which will be transferred to him. We are perfectly prepared to listen to any representations the noble Lord may care to make as to the way in which the Minister should carry out those responsibilities and fulfil those duties, and we are prepared to listen also to any representations he may make as to the composition of the body which may advise the Minister; but that instead of leaving responsibility with the Minister some other body should be set up to divide that responsibility with him and to exercise powers independently of him, then there is a difference of opinion on which I fear I can hold out no hope we can come to an agreement with him. That is all I can say at this stage with regard to the matter which will come later; but I hope very much that your Lordships will not accept an Amendment to strike the roads out of the Bill.


After what the noble Earl has said, I do not press my Amendment. You will find on the Paper to-morrow an Amendment to Clause 20 which will further deal with this matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

VISCOUNT DEVONPORT moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "the appointment of members or." The noble Viscount said: This clause proposes, inter alia, to transfer to the Ministry the powers of any Government Department with reference to the appointment of members of any body having jurisdiction with respect to harbours, docks, and piers. This means taking away the existing powers exercised, for example, by the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, and other Government Departments, in connection with the appointment of members to various dock and harbour boards. As regards the Port Authority, the number of members of which is thirty, no less than ten of these are appointed members, the remainder being elected by the payers of dues. There is not a shadow of a doubt that this clause will take away from the Board of Trade the appointment of the two members that they have hitherto appointed. It will also take away from the Admiralty the one member they have appointed.

I desire to refer to the definition clause—Clause 27—in order that I may get some explanation on a point I am going to put and upon which we are advised that, if this works out in the way it is suggested to us it may work out, it will have very far-reaching and serious consequences. Clause 27 says— In this Act the expression 'Government Department' includes any Government of other public Department.

This certainly seems to imply—and we have been advised accordingly—that certain public bodies who appoint the Port Authority will lose their right. I have already explained that out of about ten appointed members three are appointed by strictly Government Departments, and that the seven remaining members are appointed by public departments which we fear will come within the definition of "Government Department." The London County Council, for instance, appoint four members to the Port Authority, the City Corporation appoint two, and Trinity House appoint one. If this power is going to be transferred to the Ministry, I do not hesitate to say that it will vitiate the principle of securing a representative body to which Parliament in 1908, when it passed the Port of London Act, attached the first importance.

If I am right in my surmise—and I would be glad to hear from the noble Earl what his view is—it will be most serious we think. Without saying anything of an offensive nature as to what the new Ministry is likely to do or not to do, it cannot be denied that it will not be on the question of appointment such an independent body as the Board of Trade; because the Board of Trade is an administrative body pure and simple; it has no interest in docks, whereas the new Ministry will have a very great interest in clocks, and will have control of the whole of the railway docks, which of course would be competing docks. I submit they will find it very difficult indeed to discharge, this function of appointment. I do not say their interests will be in conflict, but it will be very difficult to keep out of their minds altogether the possibility of bias. At the present moment we have the security of the appointments coming from the Board of Trade as being a thoroughly independent body, and we are much exercised in our minds at the idea that the whole appointments are going to pass from the representative body into the hands of the Ministry. I shall be glad if the noble Earl will give us some assurance on that point.

Amendment moved— Page 2, lines 2 and 3, leave out ("the appointment of members or").—(Viscount Devonport.)


I gather that the noble Viscount is afraid lest this clause as it stands may interfere with the appointments of the Port of London Authority. I am advised that the only two Departments which would be included under the words "Government Department" are the Admiralty and the Board of Trade. The Admiralty being exempted by a later clause, it is confined solely to the powers of the Board of Trade. Any other public body to which the noble Viscount has referred having powers to nominate to the Port of London Authority would, I am informed, not be affected by this clause.

That, therefore, leaves us merely with the question whether the nomination of the Board of Trade should remain with that Department or be transferred to the new Ministry. I confess I really thought that this Amendment was consequential upon the previous one, which the noble Viscount has not moved. It seemed to me that if you are transferring the powers of the Board of Trade with respect to harbours and docks, then it is only right that you should transfer also the right of nomination to the Port Authority. If you do not, you will leaving nomination in the hands of a Government Department which will then have no interest and no concern with docks at all. The noble Viscount may say that it will be an impartial body. I do not admit that the new Ministry will not, by reason of having an interest in clocks, be qualified to make appointments to the Port of London Authority. It seems to me that the appointment must be made by a Department which is concerned with docks and not by a Department which, as the Bill now stands, will have, no concern with docks at all.


May I ask the noble Earl what Le takes to be the meaning of the expression in Clause 27, "In this Act the expression Government Department' includes any Government or other public Department"? What is a public Department which is not a Government Department, if the term excludes such bodies as the noble Viscount (Lord Devonport) mentioned?


I am afraid I am not in a position to give the noble Marquess instances of what such a public Department may be.


Perhaps the noble Earl will inquire?


I will inform myself as to that.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


The next is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 13, leave out ("or the Admiralty") and insert ("Admiralty or Secretary of State").—(The Earl of Lytton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD STRACIHE moved, after subsection (3), to insert the following new sub-section— (4) There shall be established a separate Department of the Ministry (hereinafter referred to as the Roads Department) to which all matters relating to the exercise by the Minister of his powers and duties with reference to roads, bridges and ferries, shall stand referred, and the Minister before exercising any such powers shall receive and consider the report of the Roads Department with reference to the matters in question.

The noble Lord said: I have put this Amendment down at the request of the County Councils Association, and it seems to me—I think the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will agree—rather a compromise between the views of my noble friend Lord Montagu and the Bill, upon this question of the control of roads. It has been stated in a previous debate that a large increase in motor traffic is likely in future, and that it is desirable to have a central control.

The House will see that my Amendment does not at all interfere with central control. All that it does is to ensure that the control should be efficient and, to a certain extent, in touch with local authorities. Lord Lytton said that the Road Board was abolished. If that is so, does it not seem desirable that there should be some other body, such as is here suggested—a Department of the Ministry which should be a Roads Department—to which all matters regarding roads should be referred? The Minister would consider their reports and then would exercise his powers as he thought fit.

I think the noble Earl said that, generally, local authorities approved of the Bill. That may be so as regards the roads being entirely under the Minister of Ways and Communications, but I venture to suggest to the noble Earl that the mere fact of the County Councils Association desiring this Amendment shows that it is desirable that, in these circumstances, there should be a special Department whose duty it should be not to lose sight of the great interests of the local authorities as regards roads. The County Councils, as he knows, are very much interested in the roads of the district. It is not, I think, unreasonable that there should be this special Department, a friendly Department, to which the local authorities can go with the knowledge that their views will be placed with force before the Minister, who, of course, will have other questions also to consider. The Department will be in direct contact with the Minister and the local authorities.

I notice that the noble Earl said there would be persons of experience in road management on the Committee, and he evidently contemplated that there was to be a separate Committee for the purpose. Therefore, I think it is only going a little further if you meet the wishes of the County Councils Association in this matter. I freely admit that the Minister is responsible. All I am asking is that there should be a body to take the place of the Road Board, and called the Roads Department of the Ministry. I am certain the Government can only desire that there should be no friction but good feeling between the local authorities and the new Ministry. Therefore, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 14, after subsection (3), insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Strachie.).


Before the noble Earl replies, I should like to support the Amendment. It does net clash in any way with the proposals for the Road Committee in Clause 20. It will strengthen the position of the roads. And it is supported by the County Councils Association, whose opinion should carry great weight, and all people connected with the roads question. I should be very glad if the Government could make Sir Henry Maybury's Department into a proper Roads Department. He is the present engineer to the Road Board, and we have great confidence in him. We would like to see his Department made into a special Department under the Ministry. It would not clash with any proposals I have later in the Bill.


I hope I may be able to satisfy both noble Lords and also the County Councils Association on whose behalf they speak. I am unable to accept the Amendment—it is not necessary in order to carry out their purpose—as it is objectionable for two reasons. I hope I shall be able to satisfy noble Lords if I assure them that it is the intention of the Minister to have a separate Road Department, and that that Department will be in charge of Sir Henry Maybury, in so far as those matters are concerned in which he is an acknowledged expert.

But I have two objections to the Amendment. Both are serious objections, though the first is not so serious as the second. My first objection is, that it would be a great mistake to single out one sphere of activity which this Department will have to deal with, and it is admittedly a subject which falls within different Departments, and the administration must follow those lines. if you say that there must by Statute be a special Road Department, then I shall have requests to make a special Department for canals, tramways, and so on. That is, I think, a serious objection.

My second objection is much more serious—it is an administrative one. I have told the noble Lord that the Minister has undertaken to have a special Road Department. Obviously, that Department will not only be consulted in the exercise of the powers of the Minister in regard to roads, but he will also act on their advice. But if you say that the Minister is never to take any action until he has received the report of a. Special Department of his Ministry, then it is a serious interference with his administrative control. After all, a Minister must be left free to organise his own Department as he thinks best. He has assured us that he intends to have a special branch of his Department to deal with roads, but to say that he cannot take action on his own responsibility until certain members of his own staff have submitted a report will be to put a serious limitation on the Minister.


I understood the noble Earl to say, at a former stage of the Bill, that those who were entitled to speak for the highway authorities accepted the Bill as it stands. Perhaps the noble Earl merely meant that they accepted the inclusion of roads under the Ministry, but clearly, as he put it, it would appear that their acceptance went further than he intended, because now they move this Amendment, which does involve a change, not of great substance, but of some substance in the Bill.

The objection of which the noble Earl spoke as being so grave is the prospect of interference with the Minister's arrangement of his own Department. It is quite true, of course, that in a sense public Departments are usually organised, so far as the office arrangements are concerned, by the Minister in charge, but I think there is this difference of principle between the noble Earl and the highway authorities for whom my noble friend behind me spoke, in that they do regard the whole business of roads as being somewhat different in character from all the other sub-departments included in the Bill; so that even although, as the noble Earl said, those interested in light railways ask for a separate light railway department, and these interested in canals make a similar request, it would not be difficult to show that the case of the roads stands on a different footing altogether.

As was pointed out by Lord Montagu on the Second Reading, roads differ from all other services in that they in no way represent a profit-making concern. They simply represent a public service costing money, and that surely does put them on a different footing from either railways, light railways or canals. Many of us hold that it is desirable to mark that distinction by creating this statutory department. It is no slight on the Minister who is about to start this Department, to give this direction of Parliament. The noble Earl has stated that it is the intention of the first holder of the Office to create a Department of this kind, but he may change his mind later on, or his successor in the office may take a different view, and may merge this Department in the general work of the office. I confess I do not entirely apprehend the force of the reasons which appear to the noble Earl to be conclusive as against this Amendment, and I trust on reflection he may take a more favourable view of it.


I should like to add one word to what hasfallen from the noble Marquess who has just sat down. I do not think the argument which my noble friend opposite has used in respect of this Amendment—namely, that it would create a dangerous precedent which would be followed by all the other interests—is quite sound, because roads evidently stand in a special position. The roads are already under a. public authority. They differ therefore essentially from any other of the various means of transport which are included in the Bill. They are already under local authorities who are responsible to the ratepayers, the local electors of the country. You may, if you think it wise in the public interest, invade the rights of control which are exercised by railway companies or dock companies or any other companies—your Lordships may agree or differ on that—but at any rate those stand on quite a different footing from invading the roads of the ratepayers who control those roads, and therefore I do not think that it would be correct to say, as my noble friend opposite said, that to give a sub-Department of the Office to roads by statute would create an embarrassing precedent for him in dealing with other interests in the Bill. Roads obviously stand quite apart.

The second contention which I would urge is that he has more or less put forward his support of these provisions in his Bill on the ground that they have the general consent of a large majority, he thought, of the road authorities. Surely the fact that the County Councils Association have thought it necessary to put forward this Amendment would to that extent vitiate the contention of my noble friend. It can no longer be truly said that in this respect he has behind him the support of all the road authorities. They themselves put forward this Amendment, and have laid, as I am informed, great stress upon it. In these two respects I think that my noble friend's argument fails.

Then my noble friend says "Do not be afraid. The Minister has announced that he has every intention of dividing up his Department into sub-Departments, and the roads will be one sub-Department and your Lordships will get all that you require, not by statute, but, by the act of the Minister." The noble Marquess who has just sat down has pointed out that these arrangements which are made by the Minister departmentally are not quite the same thing as a statutory provision. The Minister may change his mind. I do not think from what I know or have heard of Sir Eric Geddes that he is likely to change mind, but what is much more likely is that Sir Eric Geddes will not permanently continue in office, in fact that is almost certain, and when a charge takes place—it may be in the dim and distant future, or it may be in the course of a very few months—the new Minister, who may not be one of the political friends of the Government opposite, may take a wholly different view of the proper means of organising the Department. In that case, although of course in that respect the Minister-designate will have kept his word, yet the local authorities of this country and the County Councils Association may be deprived of that very security which my noble friend opposite most candidly and frankly admits they ought to have. That is a very strong reason, is it not, for making the intentions of the Minister-designate a statutory obligation? There is no objection to it on the ground that it would set up a precedent, because the roads stand on a special footing. There remains only one difficult argument left, and that is that the Minister may not wish to refer every matter for report to the new sub-Department before he acts.

For myself, I do not think that that would be in practice any real difficulty—the Sub-Department will be under his own roof, so to speak, it will be part of his Office, and there will be no difficulty whatever in communicating. And it is not altogether foreign to the structure of the Bill, because, as we shall see when we come to consider the Committee which is to preside over the question of the raising of rates and fares (though I think that clause very insufficient), yet there does appear the very principle against which my noble friend protests. There the Minister is called upon to refer any question of the raising of rates to the Committee, and to receive their report before he acts. So that that principle is involved.

But if the noble Earl thinks that principle very difficult in connection with this Amendment—I mean in connection with roads—personally I should be quite content (I am only speaking for myself) if, at any rate so far as this particular stage is concerned, the last sentence of the Amendment were left out, as to referring everything to the Sub-Department before acting, and not acting until a report is received. I do not know how that suggestion might be viewed by my two noble friends who spoke. I think the existence of the Sub-Department, existing by Statute, would probably secure, not all, but most of what my noble friends suggest, without making it absolutely necessary that by Statute every decision should be referred to them before it became definite.


I hope the noble Earl may be inclined to accept the suggestion of the noble Marquess. If he was willing to do so I should be quite willing to take the responsibility on behalf of the County Councils Association to leave out of my Amendment the words "before exercising any such powers," because I take it that that is what the noble Earl objected to. He said his principal objection to the Amendment was the fact that it made it obligatory on the Minister to have all these matters referred to him, and he could not exercise his powers before he considered them, and that it would cause delay. I admit there is a certain amount of force in that, although I do not think in practice that it would matter. I hope the noble Earl will meet me in this matter on behalf of the County Councils Association, which I am sure he will agree is a very important body in this country. I would remind the noble Earl that the Government said yesterday that they would accept any reasonable Amendments which would improve the Bill.


If the noble Lord is either in any doubt as to the intentions of the Minister to create a Department or in any fear lest, if he does so, some other Minister may go back upon that, I can certainly meet the noble Lord on that point. It must be obvious to any one that it would be impossible to administer this Department in any other way. If, therefore, noble Lords will be satisfied with putting into the Bill words to say that there shall be a special Roads Department, I am prepared to do that. But I cannot meet noble Lords with regard to any other point, as to the fact that everything shall be referred to this Department. For this reason. It really would be administratively impossible, if you will consider for a moment. Any man who has been in an administrative Department knows that a great deal of his work is done verbally by consultation with his officials. If you are to put. upon him the statutory obligation that he is never to exercise any function in relation to a particular Department without referring to some member of his staff or branch of his Department, that will preclude him from doing any business verbally at all.


I offered to leave that out.


What I am pointing out is that it will not be left out merely by doing what he suggests. I am willing to say that there shall be a separate Department of the Ministry to deal with roads, but I cannot do more. If the noble Lord is satisfied with that, I will consult him between now and the Report stage as to how the matter can be met, or I can accept his words down to "Roads Department."


Down to "referred."


I am sorry that the noble Earl is unwilling to meet me. I thought that I had met him quite fairly. I offered to strike out "before exercising any such powers," which leaves the Minister with free hands. I regret that I cannot go any further, and I stall have to ask the House to go to a Division on this.


The noble Lord said he was prepared to meet me, but he has not met me. If he wants me to put in certain words to the effect that the Minister must refer to this special Department, that will preclude him from making any verbal reference. He will have to do everything in writing. The noble Marquess talked about the question of rates, but that is a different matter. This is to say that the Minister shall not exercise his powers on a great question of policy. It is also stated in another part of the Bill that he shall not exercise his powers in taking over a new thing without referring it to a committee. The noble Lord says he will take out "before exercising any function," but I cannot accept words which will put upon the Minister the obligation of keeping a written record that he has referred a matter to a certain part of his Department.


I think I follow the point of the noble Earl, that his main objection now applies to the words "stand referred"; that he conceives that this places a duty on the Minister to put in writing before this Department for their advice the details of any powers which he desires to exercise. I confess that I myself should not have interpreted the words in that very strict sense. What is desired as part of the Statute is that there should be a definite statutory Roads Department to which would be entrusted in the first instance, of course subject to the final decision of the Minister, the whole care and administration of matters relating to roads. I can hardly think that my noble friend, or the County Councils Association which he represents, would desire to nail his colours to the mast with these words "stand referred"; and I suggest that between now and Report my noble friend and the noble Earl should consult as to the addition of some words, making the sense of what I have roughly expressed—namely, that this would be the Roads Department having charge of the administration of matters relating to roads, with a view to their insertion in the Bill. I do not myself think that it would be sufficient merely to say, "There shall be established a separate Department of the Ministry (hereinafter referred to as the Roads Department)." I think the words require some amplification, and I hope the noble Earl will agree.


I am quite prepared, and I think my noble friend who moved his Amendment is prepared, to accept the words of the noble Marquess and to leave out the words "shall stand referred." I think that is as far as we can go. The noble Lord can therefore have this Amendment with the omission of the words "shall stand referred, and the Minister before exercising any such powers." With those words cut out I think we could accept it. The words "shall receive and consider'' should stand, we think.


I think this matter should stand over until a later stage of the Bill. I thought I made it clear where I am prepared to meet the noble Lords. If it is merely a question of words, we can agree between now and the Report stage. If it is more than a matter of words and we are unable to come to an agreement, then they can bring it up on the Report stage and the House can exercise its decision upon the matter. I am quite willing to meet the noble Lords between now and then.


We must press it to a division, because the County Councils Association are very anxious indeed that the view of the House should be taken on this.


My noble friend has gone as far as he can to meet Lord Montagu and Lord Strachie. May I point out to your Lordships that as the Amendment stands it has clearly been drafted by persons who have seldom had to take charge of a large Government Office. It says that every duty and every power of the Minister shall be referred to a subordinate department of the Ministry before the responsible Minister can take action—that is to say, every question relating to roads, or to ferries, or to bridges has to go to the Roads Department. The Roads Department has to report on ferries before the Minister can take any decision. That sounds to me anomalous. The Roads Department cannot take any action, I take it, per contra without taking the decision of the Minister. The result is going to be almost ludicrous and impossible, I think. The Minister by statute has to refer to his Department. There is no guarantee that the Minister shall have to accept the advice that Department may give.

I put this also to your Lordships as an anomaly that must arise. When the Minister has by his duty got to appoint a new head of the Roads Department, he has to submit that point to the Department before he comes to a decision. Is that possible? He has to ask the advice of a subordinate Department without a head who shall be made the head of that Department. That is perfectly impossible, and I do not think it ought to be pressed.

The Minister will have duties to the Cabinet which he cannot always discuss with his Department. He must, in the first place perhaps, take the views of the Cabinet without a written report from anybody in his Department. He has powers which, in nine cases out of ten in great Government Departments, are settled between the head of the Department and the Minister concerned. This prevents him settling anything verbally. Is that your Lordships' desire? I have seen the inside working of several Government Departments, and if a Minister is precluded from discussing confidentially and verbally with the heads of his Department on matters relating to the interests of that Department, the work of the Department is going to be wrecked. I beg your Lordships not to impose by Statute so very grave an infraction of the duties of the Minister concerned.


We have tried to meet the noble Earl in every way. He said he was aware of the working of Government Departments. I venture to think his argument as regards responsibility is not founded on a very strong basis. May I read to the Committee the Amendment which I suggest the Government should now accept? That there should be established a separate Department of the Ministry, hereinafter referred to as the Roads Department, to which all matters relating to the exercise by the Minister of his powers and duties with reference to roads, bridges and ferries, the Minister shall receive and consider the report of the Roads Department with reference to the matters in question. That leaves out all the matters which the noble Earl said were contentious, and I would suggest that he might meet the County Councils Association by putting in this Amendment, and if he found there was any objection, on Report the Government might propose separate words.


May I point out that that Amendment hardly makes grammar. How does the sentence end?


I agree that this does not read. I suggest that it only wants slight alteration— That there should be established a separate Department of the Ministry, hereinafter referred to as the Roads Department, to deal with matters relating to the exercise by the Minister of his powers and duties with reference to roads, bridges and ferries, and the Minister shall receive and consider the report of the Roads Department with reference to the matters in question. That reads, and I think it meets the noble Earl's point, because it does not fetter the Minister in any way.


I am not prepared to accept words hurriedly prepared and read out by noble Lords opposite. I think they are unreasonable. I have undertaken to discuss the drafting of the Amendment and meet them if I can. If they are not content with that I must abide by my decision.


I think the noble Earl is quite right in declining to accept an Amendment until he has had the opportunity to consider it. I agree that an Amendment of this kind is really required in the Bill and should be inserted, and I do not think my noble friend opposite goes quite far enough in the words which he has stated he would accept. I think you require further words, and with a little trouble, if we were not quite so sleepy, we might, even on the present occasion, find suitable words.

I do not think the words read out by Lord Strachie, if he will forgive my saying so, are grammatical, and after all, one must try, even at twenty minutes before midnight, to be grammatical. Therefore, I think the proper course is not to press the Amendment, but to bring it up at a future stage of the Bill. I hope my noble friend will to do that. He has the absolute promise of my noble friend, who is incapable of breaking any promise, that he will accept at any rate the first words, and he will no doubt construct following words between now and the Report stage when we shall be able to press that view on the Government, and, I hope, convince them.


After the appeal of my noble friend behind me (Lord Montagu) I will, of course, consent, especially as he is an important member of the County Councils Association.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

House resumed.


May I ask the noble Earl if it is the intention of the Government to proceed with this Bill to-morrow as the first Order?


We desire to take the Housing Bill to-night after this, but if the noble Marquess is not staying I should like to make a short statement as to the course of business. We propose to ask your Lordships to continue the Ways and Communications Bill in its normal position on the Order Paper to-morrow, which will be after several Motions of which notice has been given.


At what hour does the House meet to-morrow?


At 3 o'clock. Your Lordships will remember that on Monday there is the Royal Pageant on the Thames. The procession is expected to pass Westminster Palace at 4.45 p.m., and take about half an hour to pass. I propose to-morrow to consult your Lordships privately as to the most convenient course to take. We might meet at 3 o'clock on Monday and adjourn at 4.30; or else we might meet at 5.15 for business. I am not quite clear whether it would be most convenient to meet at 3 o'clock and adjourn after an hour and a quarter's debate, and then resume business. It is clear that we shall have to sit on Monday night after dinner, and the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, proposes on Monday to move that for the remainder of the sittings Government business should take precedence, except on Wednesdays.


I do not know whether the noble Earl realises that people who will desire to attend the House on Monday will have the greatest difficulty in getting here, as Monday is a Bank Holiday, and in addition there will be the Royal Procession. I should have thought it would have been possible for the House to meet on Friday and adjourn over the Monday.


The House of Commons is meeting on Monday.


It does not matter what the House of Commons does.


I think a large number of members of both Houses will be here in order to see the Pageant. I am afraid it will be difficult, at short notice, to arrange for a Friday sitting. We have a great deal of business to do, and our sittings up to now have been extremely short. We shall have to ask your Lordships to sit on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday next week.


On Monday the trains will only run as on Sundays. There is no train at all for some time to get back by.


I hope the noble Earl will not finally decide against sitting on Friday, and perhaps to-morrow he will tell us whether, with this Bill before us, it would not be an advantage to have a Friday sitting. I agree that in all the circumstances it would be a pity not to sit on Monday. A great many of your Lordships will find your way to the precincts of the House for the purpose of watching the procession, and it would be a pity not to have a. sitting. I hope the noble Earl will not altogether dismiss the idea of a sitting on Friday.


Of course, I will not dismiss that idea. I merely desire your Lordships to know that those who have Government Departments to look after have outside engagements. I have twelve or fifteen engagements on Friday, and all of them must be put off if this House sits on Friday. I think we shall have to sit on Monday in any case.