§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
§ Clause 3:
§ Power to control temporarily rail ways, etc.
§ 3.—(1) With a view to affording time for the consideration and formulation of the policy to be pursued as to the future position of undertakings to which this section applies, the following provisions shall, unless Parliament otherwise determines, have effect for a period of two years after the passing of this Act, or where as respects any particular provision a longer period is expressly provided, for such longer period:—
- (a) Where at the passing of this Act possession has been taken of any railroad undertaking or part thereof in pursuance of section sixteen of the Regulation of the Forces Act, 1871, or otherwise, possession thereof shall be retained without any renewal of the warrant granted by the Secretary of State in pursuance of that section, upon the same terms as to compensa
212 tion as those heretofore in force, and the Minister may exercise over all such undertakings all such powers as have hitherto been exercised by the Board of Trade under the said Act or with the consent of the owners of the undertakings or otherwise, and such other powers as may be conferred by this section or agreed to by the railway companies concerned:
- (b) The Minister may, after giving not less than one month's notice in writing, take possession, in the name or on behalf of His Majesty, of the whole or any part of any other railway undertaking or of any light railway or tramway (other than a tramway or a light railway used as a tramway belonging to a local authority), canal inland navigation, undertaking, and subject as hereinafter mentioned any harbour, dock or pier undertaking, or of any plant belonging thereto or used thereon (exclusive of privately owned railway wagons), and of any barges, tugs, and other craft owned or held by the undertaking of which possession has been taken:
- (c) The directors and other persons concerned with the management, and officers and servants of any undertaking of the whole or part of which, or of the plant whereof, possession is retained or taken shall obey the directions of the Minister as to the user thereof, and any directions of the Minister in relation to any undertaking or part or plant thereof of which possession is retained or taken—
- (i) as to the rates, fares, tolls, does, and charges to be charged; subject, however, to the provisions hereinafter contained repecting references to the advisory committee established for advising as to directions on the matters aforesaid;
- (ii) as to the salaries, wages, and remuneration and conditions of employment of persons employed on or in connection with the undertaking;
- (iii) as to the working or discontinuance of the working of the undertaking or any part thereof including directions as to keeping open or closing of any stations;
- (iv) for securing that the permanent way, rolling stock, plant, appliances, or equipment, whether fixed or moveable, are satisfactory in type and design;
- (v) as to the carrying out of alterations, improvements, and additions which the Minister considers necessary for the public safety or for the more efficient and economic working of the, undertaking;
- (vi) for securing co-operation between undertakings and for securing the common user of facilities, rolling stock and equipment whether fixed or moveable;
- (vii) for affording running powers over their system, or any part thereof, to the owners of any other undertaking;
- (viii) for securing that manufacturing and repairing facilities and auxiliary and ancillary services shall be used, and the purchase and distribution of stores shall be conducted, in such manner as may be most conducive to economy and efficiency:
- (d) For enabling any directions given by the Minister under subsection (c) of this section as to alterations, and improvements and additions to be carried into effect the Minister may, by order, authorise the owners of any undertaking to acquire any land (including easements) and to construct any works, and the order may incorporate the Lands Clauses Acts, subject to such modifications as may be specified in the order, being modifications of those Acts made or authorised to be made by the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, or any other enactment, and may incorporate or apply any of the provisions of any enactment relating to the construction, maintenance, or working of railways, light railways, tramways, canals, harbours, docks, and piers, and any such order shall have effect as if enacted in this Act: Provided that nothing herein contained shall be deemed to empower the Minister to authorise the acquisition, otherwise than by agreement, of any land belonging to the owners of another undertaking to which this section applies, or of a local authority, or of a harbour dock or pier undertaking, but the Minister may authorise the acquisition of an easement or right of using such land for the purposes of any works the construction of which he may authorise under this section:
- (e) In the case of any undertaking of which possession is retained or taken by the Minister as aforesaid any rates, fares, tolls, dues and other charges directed by the Minister shall be deemed to be reasonable, and may, notwithstanding any agreement or statutory provisions limiting the amount of such charges or increases therein, but without prejudice to claims or complaints in respect of undue preference under the provisions of the Railway and Canal Traffic Acts, 1854 to 1913, be charged in respect of any undertaking during the period for which the Minister retains possession of such undertaking and for a further period of eighteen months after the expiration of the said period, or until fresh provision shall be made by Parliament with regard to the amount of any such rates, fares, tells, dues, and other charges, whichever shall first happen.
§ (2) Subject as aforesaid, any agreement made between the owners of any undertaking, of the whole or part of which possession has been retained or taken under this section, and any other person shall continue in force in like manner as if such possession had not been so retained or taken, unless the Minister considers that such agreement is contrary to the public interest, and in that case he may suspend or modify the operation of such agreement during the period of such possession and for a period not exceeding eighteen months thereafter, and any party to the agreement who suffers loss or Injury by reason of such suspension or modification, and any person who by virtue of any special statutory provision or agreement, is entitled to the benefit of any special rate, fare, toll, due, or other charge, and whose position relatively to other persons is prejudiced by any direction of the Minister altering such special charge, shall be entitled to receive such compensation as, in default of agreement, may be determined by the Railway and Canal Commission, regard being had to any change in circumstances.
§ (3).—(a) For the purpose of giving advice and assistance to the Minister with respect to and for safeguarding any interests affected by. any directions as to rates, fares, tolls, due, and other charges or special services, a committee shall be appointed consisting of five persons, one being a person of experience in the law (who shall be chairman) nominated by the Lord Chancellor, two being representatives of the trading interest nominated by the Board of Trade, one being a representative of transportation interests nominated by the Minister, one being a representative of labour interests nominated by the Minister of Labour, together with, if deemed advisable, one additional member who may at the discretion of the Minister be nominated from time to time by him.
§ (b) Before directing any revision of any rates, fares, tolls, due, or other charges, or of any special services, the Minister shall refer the matter to the committee for their advice, and they shall report thereon to him, and where such revision is for the purpose of an increase in the net revenue of any undertakings which the Minister determines to be necessary, the committee shall also advise as to the best methods of obtaining such increase from the different classes of traffic, having due regard to existing contracts and the fairness and adequacy of the methods proposed to be adopted.
§ (c) The committee, before reporting or advising on any matters referred to them under this section, shall, unless in their discretion they consider it unnecessary or undesirable to do so, give such public notice as they think best adapted for informing persons affected of the date when and the place where they will inquire into the matter, and any persons affected may make representations to the committee, and apply to be heard at such inquiry, and, if the committee in their discretion think fit, the whole or any part of the proceedings at such inquiry may be open to the public:
§ Provided that, for the purpose of this provision, any city, borough, county, or district council shall be deemed to be persons affected in any case where such council or any persons represented by them may be affected by any proposed revision as aforesaid.215
§ (d) The committee shall hear such witnesses and call for such documents and accounts as they think fit., and shall have power to take evidence on oath, and for that purpose any member of the committee may administer oaths.
§ (e) There shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament to all or any of the members of the committee such salaries or other remuneration as the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury, may determine.
§ (f) For the purposes of this section, special services means the services mentioned in section five of the schedule to the orders relating to railway rates and charges, and in the corresponding sections of the schedules to the orders relating to canal tolls, rates and charges confirmed by various Acts passed in the years eighteen hundred and ninety-one to eighteen hundred and ninety-four.
§ (4) Section twenty of the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916 (which relates to the establishment of new routes for omnibuses), shall continue in force until the expiration of two years after the passing of this Act, and shall have effect as if—
- (a) the following provision was substituted for subsection (2) of the section (that is to say):— (2) Except as provided in subsection (4) this section shall not be deemed to detract from any existing powers of highway authorities in regard to omnibuses; and
- (b) the following subsection was added to the section (that is to say):— (4) Where, upon application for a licence to ply for hire with an omnibus, the licensing authority either refuses to grant a licence or grants a licence subject to conditions, in either case the applicant shall have a right of appeal to the Minister of Ways and Communications from the decision of the licensing authority, and the Minister shall have power to make such order thereon as he may think fit, and such order shall be binding upon the licensing authority.
§ (5) The exercise by the Minister of any of his powers under this section as respects any tramway or light railway used as a tramway which a local authority, or two or more local authorities, have power to purchase under any Act of Parliament or order having the effect of an Act of Parliament shall not affect such right of the local authority, or authorities, and upon the purchase thereof such tramway or light railway shall cease to be in the possession of the Minister.
§ (6) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to exempt from any rate any undertaking to which this section applies.
§ LORD GAINFORD moved, in subsection 1 (b), to leave out from "after giving not less" down to "railway undertaking or," and to insert" confer with the owners or local authorities with a view to securing improvements in the service."216
§ The noble Lord said: I do not pretend that the words of my Amendment are in any way perfect; I do not make any claims to be a draftsman, but I think the point to which I desire to call attention is quite clear. My object is to take away from the Minister the new powers which are to be imposed upon hint as Minister of Transport for the first time. In Clause 3 these powers differ from those in Clause 2, because they give to the Minister for the first time powers over railway undertakings, light railways, or tramways, other than those which have already been given during the war to a Minister under the control system under which the railways have been managed recently.
The noble Earl in charge of the Bill used the following words on July 23 in this House—
There is no question of taking over and managing these undertakings and taking them out of the hands of those in whose hands they are at the present moment. We do not profess to be able to manage railways better than the railway companies.
§ It is on that issue that I stand; and it is with a view of carrying out the intention of the noble Earl that I move this Amendment to maintain the management in the hands of the railway companies. We all know that the railway companies have been to a very large extent abused by the public in the past, but I am satisfied that in their management they will meet the wishes of the traders and of the travelling community to a far better extent than if they are to be entrusted to a centralised bureaucratic control, even under the control of a man of the distinguished parts of Sir Eric Geddes.
§ It is on the assurance that the noble Earl gave us that, I think, many of us supported the Government on the Second Reading, and in the vote we gave the other night in support of the Bill. We desire to impose upon the Minister the duty to advise railway companies, and we desire to impose on railway companies the obligation to take into consideration the views which may be expressed by a Minister who is anxious to promote the efficient conduct of the railways of this country, and to establish both efficiency and effective service for the benefit of the public. To give a Minister arbitrary powers to direct, to require, and to obey, seems to me entirely uncalled-for. We do not want to be directed by a Minister of the Crown as to the particular route by which we are to travel either by rail or by 217 road. We want to have liberty; but at the same time we are anxious to see economies effected in the services, and to see that the competition between railways in the interests of special shareholders shall not be prejudicial to the interests of the travelling public. In my judgment it is right that a Minister should be appointed who shall have certain powers of making representation to railway authorities in convection with the management of their concerns; but to be able to direct and to control and to call upon them to obey in an arbitrary fashion is to me un-English and contrary to the necessities of the case. I object to the peremptory direction which is secured under the provisions of this Bill.
§ The Minister no doubt may be called upon occasionally to look after the interests of the general public, as against, possibly, the interests of special shareholders; but I am satisfied that with the influence that a Minister Possesses he can make representation to railway companies which will enable them to retain the responsibility of managing their concerns without having to obey directions given in an autocratic way. It is necessary, I believe, for Ministers, just as it is for other authorities, to be subject to some limitation and restraint. It is the duty of a Minister to co-ordinate, and to see to the co-operation of the various transport services of the country. I believe that if that power is exercised in a proper and reasonable way he will secure a magnificent response from the railway companies and the other authorities in this country with whom he is going to be associated in the future. The local authorities and the local railway companies have special knowledge connected with their localities. They understand their own districts; the directors are men who are specially qualified to express an opinion as to the policy which ought to be pursued; they are men of large experience and they can be trusted, I think, with the management of their railway systems.
§ I am opposed to handing over the management and responsibility of railways to an autocrat. It is not because I believe that those powers will be exercised in an undue way by a man like Sir Eric Geddes, whom I have known for a great number of years, but because on principle I think it is undesirable that a Minister should be entrusted with powers which are of an autocratic and dictatorial character. Dictation tends to produce friction, and I am 218 quite sure bureaucracy tends to increase expense. It is with the view of preventing that heavy expenditure on the part of a new Ministry, and in order to promote cordial relations between the Minister of Transport and the various railway authorities in the country, that I move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Page 3, line 36, leave out from ("may") to the second ("of") in line 39, and insert ("confer with the owners or local authorities with a view to securing improvements in the service ").(Lord Gainford.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
The noble Lord who has moved this Amendment is quite candid in the description he has given of the effect of it. He has told your Lordships that the object is to deprive the Minister of the powers of direction and control which are given to him under the Bill—that is, in fact, the effect of the Amendment. It will convert the mandatory hewers given to the Minister into purely consultative powers. If this Amendment is read in connection with others that the noble Lord has on the Paper later on the effect will be that, instead of having the power to issue directions to those undertakings of which he has taken possession, he is merely to be authorised to confer and to consult with the directors of those undertakings. I might point out, in passing, that no such power is necessary. He can confer and consult without being authorised to do so.
I think the noble Lord forgets, in the argument which he has used what is the fundamental fact which governs the whole situation—namely, that the State at this moment is the guarantor to these companies of their net revenue. So long as that situation lasts it is obvious that the State must also have power to secure to the public some advantage.
I would point out that there are a number of matters which the railway companies are quite anxious and willing to do but would be unable to do under their existing powers without a direction from the Minister. Without saying anything for the moment about the directions from the Minister which the companies might be unwilling to obey, there are many directions given in the course of subsection 1 (c) on page 4, notably an increase in their rates, which the railway companies are not able to-day to exercise without a period of 219 time so inserted as to make it impossible that any advantage may be derived within the next two years. I do not confine my defence of the powers in the Bill merely to the ground that there will be no direction from the Minister with which no railway company might disagree. The whole case rests upon the fact that during these two years during which the State stands behind the company in the matter of their finances, it is necessary that they should have some voice in the management of their undertaking. It is obvious that, if the State has got to pay, it must have some voice in the question of wages and salaries such as are mentioned in paragraph (c) of subsection (1). But it is not merely in the management of one particular undertaking, but in the supervision of the whole question of transport, that these powers are necessary in order to ensure that each undertaking is not managed merely from the point of view of its own interests, and that where possibly the interest of a particular undertaking might conflict with the general public interest in transportation matters, the Minister, who has his eye on the whole field, should come in and say, "This is necessary in the public interest."
We hold that that is necessary but we also admit that if, in the exercise of those powers, he inflicts any injury upon the undertaking, then the owners of the undertaking are entitled to some measure of compensation. That is provided for in another part of the Bill. I do not propose to enter into it now, but the principle is that if the Minister, in the exercise of his powers, causes any injury to the revenue-earning capacity of the undertaking, the owners shall receive compensation. Having provided against that, we hold that the ability of the Minister to exercise control during this period is absolutely vital to the objects we want to accomplish. The situation of the transport services throughout the country at this moment is much too serious to allow us to be satisfied with a mere consultative power on the part of the Minister. That being so, I can only say that the Amendment of the noble Lord strikes a blow at the very root of that principle and, of course, it is quite unacceptable to His Majesty's Government.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ EARL BRASSEY moved, in subsection (1) (b) after "The Minister may," to insert "with the consent of the owners of 220 such undertaking." The noble Lord said: This Amendment has a simliar object to that which was moved by Lord Gainford. The apprehensions which I expressed on the Second Reading of the Bill were founded on Clause 3, because the Minister practically has power to take over such an organisation as the London and North Western Railway Company at one month's notice, and I do not think any such power should be conferred on any Minister.
§ The noble Lord who moved the previous Amendment referred to the words used by the noble Earl in reply to the debate on the Second Reading. It may be the intention of the Government, and of the Minister-designate, not to interfere in the management of railways, but I think this should be made clear in the Bill. It is not clear now. This Bill is not only to provide for present circumstances but to provide for circumstances in which the noble Earl may not be in charge of a similar measure, and when Sir Eric Geddes may not be the Minister in charge of railways. I wish the noble Earl to understand that I myself believe there is a strong case for establishing a central authority to co-ordinate the system of transport in this country, and helping those who are responsible for the administration of our railways and other means of transport to remedy the disorder into which they have been thrown by the circumstances of the war, and not least by the concessions as regards hours and wages which have been imposed by the Government. Judging from the experience of our coal industry it would be absolutely disastrous for a Government Department, or Government officials, to interfere between employers and employed in the management of railways or any other means of transport. That is what I fear will be the result if this clause is carried in this present form. Divided responsibility is fatal.
Page 3, line 36, after ("may'') insert ("with the consent of the owners of such undertaking").—(Earl Brassey.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
The only difference between this Amendment and the one on which your Lordships have just come to a decision is that, whereas the previous Amendment would have prevented the Minister from exercising control or taking possession of any undertaking and would have confined him solely to consultative means, the Amendment of the 221 noble Earl would have the effect of preventing the Minister from taking possession of any undertaking without the consent of its owners. Therefore all the remarks which I made upon the previous Amendment are appropriate. I do not think it would be of any use my repeating them. The effect is simply that the Minister shall not have power except with the consent of the undertaking; and That, we are unable to accept.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I listened to the very lucid speech which the noble Earl opposite made upon the last Amendment, and I admit with him that from the point of view from which the Government regard the Bill it would have been impossible for them to accept the Amendment which stood in the name of Lord Gainford. This is, however, a much more moderate Amendment, and it suggests that all that the Government desire to accomplish in the matter of this subsection, which is only as regards the railway undertakings already in the possession of the Government, could be done with consent and without coercion. The noble Earl opposite thinks differently. If the Government upon their responsibility declare that it would be impossible to work the Bill from their point of view without this coercive power, I should hardly feel able, after the line which I took upon the Instruction which your Lordships rejected, to go into the Lobby against them on this question of their Amendment; because in the effort which I then made to persuade your Lordships, I stated that for my part I was willing to grant: great powers to the Government with regard to railways, which were in a special position, and which powers I did not think ought to be extended to other parts of the Bill.
I would, however, put it to the Government whether they are quite wise to take this very strong line about railways. Is it not a very Prussian view about treating independent Englishmen? Apparently in the view of the Government you cannot expect railway companies to act in a public-spirited sense unless they are obliged to—unless you have the power to order them to surrender their liberty of action into the hands of the Government you cannot expect them to take that view.
I ask the noble Earl, and his colleagues whether during this war they have experienced that refusal amongst Englishman to 222 co-operate with the Government, even to the abandonment of their own liberty of action, in order to fulfil a great public service. I submit to them that their experience is entirely in the other direction, and that they have not made any demands, of any kind or sort, so far as England and Scotland are concerned, which have not been met in the most generous fashion. Why then should they desire to force people to do that which they show no desire to resist? What is it which has infected them with these Teutonic ideas? Why not leave us to be free, as we always have been?
I admit that the Government have a strong case in one sense, that they are going to find the money and are therefore entitled to call the tune. I do not, however, make an appeal to justice in this matter. I appeal to common sense and to reasonable treatment, and I suggest to the Government that they might confidently rely, if they had any real faith in their countrymen, upon the co-operation of these railway companies if they allowed the words of my noble friend to be inserted. As I have said, I do not propose personally to go into the Lobby against them, because it would be inconsistent with the line which I took on another occasion. But unless the Government change their spirit they will find they will meet finally with the determined opposition of all Englishmen and Scotsmen.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ EARL BRASSEY moved, in subsection (1) (b), to leave out "one" and insert "three." The noble Earl said: This Amendment explains itself. I think it is quite unreasonable to give power to the Minister to take over the management of the North-Western Railway—the illustration I gave just now—on one month's notice. I am not sure that three months' notice is sufficient. But I think that at least three months' notice should be given of the intention of the Minister, and I beg to move the Amendment.
Page 3, line 36, leave out ("one") and insert ("three").—(Earl Brassey.)
§ LORD ISLINGTON
As I have the same Amendment down I should like to say a word in support of it. This subclause, and those that follow, open up the whole 223 operative powers of this Bill. This clause in all its varying and various sub-clauses empowers the Minister to control and conduct all these great undertakings throughout the country, and all these transport organisations upon which the complete commercial system of the country depends. This clause is perhaps the most far-reaching and comprehensive of any in the Bill, because it not only comprises the whole working expenses of these undertakings but it grants powers of such a character that they must if put into operation, at any rate in many instances, materially affect and influence for good or ill the whole conditions, social, economic, and commercial, of the locality in which they are imposed.
I agree with my noble friend Earl Brassey that one month is a totally inadequate period of notice that the Minister is to give to obtain possession of all or part of these undertakings. The Bill says that it is not to be less than one month. I propose, along with my noble friend, the extremely moderate extension that it should not be less than three months. One month would hardly enable time for the boards of management and for the governing bodies of these great undertakings to be called together. Still less would it enable them to discuss and decide as to the whole course they are to take in regard to the changes that will be effected preparatory to these vital and over-riding alterations that are to come about in regard to their own internal arrangements.
My noble friend may say, in reply to this that there will be plenty of time at a subsequent stage, as proposed in a later clause to the Bill, for the Committee to be set up to give its advice in regard to these undertakings. But, my Lords, I do not gather in the Bill that this committee will have the consideration and advice of all these matters that are enumerated in these various sub-clauses on page 4. The only matters that this sub-committee will have to deal with are such matters as rates, fares tolls, dues and charges. A very important question such as the salaries and wages of the employees, questions as to the working or discontinuance of the undertaking, the securing that the permanent way and rolling stock, plant, and appliances, and equipment should be dealt with or not, the carrying out of alterations and improvements, and the securing of co-operation—all these matters are to be dealt with in an 224 arbitrary manner by the Minister. And therefore I think it is incumbent on the Government, in the interests of all those concerned, to give a longer notice than one month.
I entirely agree with the main conception of this Bill which, as I understand it, is for establishing co-ordination of traffic. I voted against the noble Marquess the other day because I believe that that principle, if it is carried out in a moderate and reasonable manner in this Bill, is a perfectly sound one, and an essential one. But I am sure that many of your Lordships will share my view when I say that this principle should be carried out with due, proper, and reasonable consideration for those who are concerned, No one man, however able he may be and however fair-minded he may be, no one centralised Department, however efficient it may be, can do this successfully, unless the opportunity is offered of weighing the various conflicting effects that may result from this policy.
I think there are two blemishes in this Bill, and I hope, before it has passed through this House, that both those blemishes will undergo, at any rate, modification. In my humble opinion this Bill in many respects aims at too precipitate action. I do not believe that you are going to get any really permanently successful results from over-precipitate action. Secondly, I cannot see in this Bill at present—and I shall use my best efforts, along with your Lordships, to see it strengthened in this direction—that it furnishes a sufficient machinery for due and proper consideration for those vast and varied interests which will be affected when some of these powers are put into operation. Both those aspects of the problem should be given effect to in this Bill.
I have no confidence in a merely attractive and theoretical proposition in the four corners of a Bill. Unless it is coupled with careful and well-thought-out machinery for the consideration that can only be elicited successfully by examination from the interested quarters affected, I am sure that this Bill when it becomes a Statute, far from proving a blessing to this country, as I am sure the Government desire, will only bring about a very great calamity. It is in that sense that I shall address myself to the Bill, and that I support this, to my mind extremely reasonable, proposal of my noble friend for the extension of the time to three months.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
As my Amendment comes next to this and deals with the same subject I will speak now, and perhaps not move my own Amendment. I am quite willing to substitute for the words "twelve months" in my Amendment the "three months" which, I understand, has been moved by Lord Brassey. I think my noble friends made a mistake when they thought the London and North Western Railway is to be taken over. It is under the control of the Government already under different powers. As a matter of fact, taking one month's possession, or whatever the period is, only applies to a certain number of smaller railways, to a certain number of tramways and minor things. I am not saying that it is not important they should have justice, but it would not really affect the great railway companies at all. I think the Government might agree to not less than three months notice, which I think is the wish of the House. There are several smaller concerns—take the tramways round London nut municipally owned; I think it would be an outrageous thing to take them over at one month's notice. We have to think that the day may come when we may have a Transport Minister intent on very rapid and drastic nationalisation, and under this clause he could take possession of any of the privately-owned tramways or smaller railways. For that reason I shall support my noble friends if they go into the Lobby.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
The noble Lord who has just sat down has saved me the necessity of pointing out to Lord Islington that he was incorrect in speaking of these great undertakings as being affected by this measure. What we are dealing with are those undertakings not at the moment in the possession of the Government. The large railway companies are at this moment in the possession of the Government.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
They will be a very few railways—the District Railway, and the very small railways not now in the hands of the Government, and tramways, and canals. My argument on this Amendment does not, of course, rest upon that. I point that out merely by the way. I hope that I may be able in explaining this procedure to convince your Lordships that we are not such Prussians as the noble 226 Marquess conceives. If I understand it, the movers of this Amendment consider that it would be reasonable for us, on giving three months' notice to any undertaking, to obtain possession of it there and then without any further action. What I would like to point out to noble Lords who have spoken on the Amendment—
§ EARL BRASSEY
I had an Amendment on this clause which entirely qualified that. I did not think it was reasonable to take possession even with three months notice.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I do not think that the noble Lord has quite understood the procedure. What we have already given under the Bill is something far more than that. Noble Lords have overlooked the fact that in Clause 21 (at the top of page 23) before the Minister can exercise any of his powers under this subsection he has to refer to an advisory committee which is set up for the express purpose of examining the intentions of the Minister with regard to taking possession of any undertaking. Suppose the Minister decides that it is desirable to take possession of some undertaking not at this moment in his hands. He has first of all to refer this to the advisory committee; the advisory committee has then to hold an inquiry, and all the owners of the undertakings affected will come before this advisory committee and discuss them.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
Yes, I admit that. "The advisory committee to whom this matter is referred shall, if they see fit, give public notice and permit any person affected to place their views before them."
THE EARL OF LYTTON
Yes. But this committee is appointed for the express purpose of advising the Minister whether or not it is advisable that he should take possession.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
The composition of the committee does not really arise at this point. This committee is appointed for the purpose of advising the Minister as to whether he should exercise those powers. Surely it is inconceivable that the committee can offer any advice at all unless they have consulted the persons who will be affected by it. If any opposition is expressed on the part of an undertaking to be taken over it is obvious they will make representations. Whether a public inquiry will be held or not is, it is true, at the discretion of the Minister. The owners will, at all events, have had notice from the Committee to whom the matter is referred that it is intended to take over the undertaking, and will have an opportunity of making representations to that Committee. All that process of inquiry may take a very considerable time. All that is stated here is that when that Inquiry is complete, and after the representations, if they have any claim it should be made to the Committee. Then, and not till then, shall one month's notice be given. By that time the whole purpose of giving notice will have been obtained, and there will be really no necessity to give any notice at all, because there is no preparation required on the part of these undertakings. The process is simply that the undertaking is taken over, and an official rubber stamp is placed upon their business. They have not to make any preparation for which notice is required. All their interests will be considered much more effectively in the preliminary negotiations than they could be by merely giving notice. By the time all that procedure has been gone through I feel sure the noble Lord will see that the undertakings concerned will have much more opportunity of making representations on matters concerning their interests than they would have by the mere receipt of notice, whether it be one month's, two months', or three months'.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I think we have all heard on this side of the House the speech of the noble Earl with great regret. A most moderate proposal is made, and really the noble Earl gives us the impression that moderation does not produce the result we should have expected in a case like this. What is the proposition of the Government? They have declared that they do not want to control but merely 228 to advise. In this clause the words as to control are as absolute as anything can be. We are not at war; we are not at grips with any crisis, and there is no reason for this extraordinary haste. The noble Earl puts up as a plea that before doing anything the Minister has got to make an Inquiry. What is the Inquiry? An inquiry by his own nominees. It is not necessarily a public Inquiry; it may possibly be secret. We know what the Government think about Inquiries from the Coal Inquiry. The fate of the greatest industry of this country was decided upon under pressure in about three weeks, to the eternal damage of the whole industry and of the country. Under those circumstances the Government do not come before us with clean hands about inquiries. I can quite imagine that a Minister might be appointed who would tell the Committee to consider the matter and report to him in forty-eight hours, and if he did so he would be giving a great deal more time, considering the relative importance of the things, than was given to the Coal Inquiries.
It really seems that the object of the Government is that the Minister should use at any moment powers which might have been tolerable in war but which are quite intolerable in time of peace. This is a Bill with control in every line. In those circumstances, even though the Bill has been brought up at such a late hour, when there is not the same attendance as there would have been at an earlier hour, if my noble friend goes to a Division I shall certainly go with him.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
May I put this case to the noble Earl who is in charge of the Bill? I will give an instance which, I think, he will agree is a possibility, and a fair instance of how it would work. Supposing the Advisory Committee were to report against taking over one of the concerns at present uncontrolled, like the Tubes or the London United Tramways, the Minister has a right to override that decision. He then overrides the decision, notwithstanding the report, and he can take over the undertaking at a month's notice. I do not say he would do so, but he has the power to do so. We are not always dealing with Sir Eric Geddes. We may have somebody who is determined on ruthless nationalisation at the earliest possible moment, and if that Minister chose to put his powers into operation he could, even against the advice of the Advisory Com- 229 mittee, take possession of the concern at one month's notice. I do not think any one call say that is fair.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
I look at the Amendment, as the noble Earl knows, from a point of view entirely friendly to the Bill, but I hope he will give a little more consideration to the matter. I listened carefully to his argument, based upon subsection (2) of Clause 21. I noticed he said that under the Bill the matter must be referred to a committee before notice is given under subsection (1) paragraph (b) of Clause 3. I doubt very much whether that is the effect of his Bill. If the noble Earl will look at page 23 and subsection (2), Clause 21, he will see that it provides that, before exercising any of the powers in subsection (1) (b) of Clause 3, to the exercise of which the owners of the undertaking concerned object, the matter shall be referred to a committee. I think that implies that notice has been already given to the owners of the undertaking because, until they get notice, they have no opportunity to object. I think the effect of the Bill is that the Minister might on the same day give his month's notice and refer the matter to his Committee. The Committee might possibly meet at once and dispose of the matter in a very short time and the effect might be that really the owners of the undertaking would have no more than a month's notice. I venture to think that the point requires consideration, and, if I am right; in my reading of the Bill, one month is really too short a time in which to expect the owners of a business undertaking to prepare to hand over their concern.
THE EARL OF LYTTON:
Of course, we are really concerned with undertakings that do object, because obviously if an undertaking is willing to be taken over, it does not require a day's notice. In such cases, the undertaking will come to the Minister and say, "Please take us over to-morrow." The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, said a case might arise in which, a matter having been referred to the Committee, the Committee might advise against it. Of course that might happen, but what no speaker in support of the Amendment has shown, is the necessity, from the point of view of the undertaking, of receiving notice. Nobody has said what inconvenience would be inflicted upon any undertaking by the fact that the owners knew that at the end of a month 230 they would be taken over. In what respect would any undertaking be better off if it knew it would be taken over in three months instead of in one month?
I think it is necessary before we are accused of doing something which is unfair, that it should be explained to us what advantage there is in the Amendment. What advantage is there to an undertaking, after its interests have been considered, to know that it will be taken over in three months instead of one? The disadvantage is obvious. It means delay. I did not say anything about the noble Lord's Amendment but it really is ridiculous. The Minister has only power for two years, and the noble Lord suggests that he should wait for twelve months before he did anything at all: I only mention that to show the disadvantage of extending the period, as it is obviously important these powers should be exercised as soon as possible. No attempt has been made by those who support the Amendment to show that any injustice or inconvenience will be imposed by reason of the shortness of notice.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I appeal to the Government on this matter. Is it quite reasonable that they should insist on only one month's notice? It must be the experience of every noble Lord present that it takes a month in the ordinary way to get an answer from a Government Department, and is it reasonable that the Government, on its side, should ask a commercial undertaking to decide in less than a month whether they are willing, and have no objection, to the Government taking complete control of their concern. I maintain it is not a reasonable time to give.
§ VISCOUNT DEVONPORT
I should like to point out that this period of one month cannot be deemed to have been carefully thought out because when the Bill was introduced there was no period stated at all. A month was inserted while the Bill was before the House of Commons. Secondly, as regards the Advisory Committee. That was not in the Bill when introduced. These are Amendments which have been imposed on the Government during the consideration of the Bill in another place. As regards the statement of the noble Earl that nobody has given any reasons why this month was too short a period, I agree with Lord Emmott that a great undertaking requires time to get the Board together to consider what their 231 action will be. It is perfectly impossible for them to accept the notice and act upon it until they have had some sort of breathing time for consideration. At certain periods of the year it might, indeed, be difficult to get the Board together in a month. If the Government assume that on the mere fact of giving notice the persons affected will fold their arms and surrender that is another story, but that is not their intention, and certainly one month will prove, in practice, to be highly inconvenient. I think the Amendment to extend it to three months is in every way reasonable.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I do not venture to comment on the criticism made by Viscount Cave, but Lord Lytton informs me that it was not the intention of the Government that the notice should be given on the same day so that the month should actually include the time during which the Advisory Committee is going to act. The Bill says absolutely in clear terms that before the Minister exercises any of these powers he is obliged to refer the matter to the Advisory Committee.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My noble friend will most readily look into that point and consult his expert draftsmen, and if they agree in what Viscount Cave has said the matter can be revised. I was, however, rather surprised to hear the interpretation of the noble and learned Viscount. What I wanted to deal with is the reference that Lord Montagu, Lord Brassey, and Lord Islington made to Clause 21. I think by some of your Lordships it may not have been fully appreciated that this preliminary step did exist.
It was said, I think by Lord Midleton, that the Committee were nominees of the Minister. I am not quite sure that that is entirely the case. The Statute lays down 232 very specifically the qualifications of these gentlemen, and they are pretty stringent qualifications. They have got to be experts, to be impartial, to enjoy wide commercial and trading experience, and the Consultative Committee cannot be appointed except after a consultation with the various interests and parties concerned, and also with the various classes of undertakings affected by this Act—canals, railways or whatever it may be—and finally with the local authorities and other interests. One can hardly say that an advisory committee formed according to so stringent a Statute call consist of mere nobodies who are going to do whatever the Minister may give them a hint that he desires them to do. Then the Statute says how the Committee is to be formed and that once it is formed the Minister has got to refer to it before he can take action.
Then lastly this advisory panel, or any committee of it, before reporting or advising are entitled—it does not say they shall but are entitled—to give public notice and to permit anybody to appear before them. I think it is impossible to say everybody should have a right to appear before them, because the Committee must have some safeguard about preserving its own views of locus standi. I think, however, with these three provisions nobody can say that the case of these undertakings has not a chance of being placed before the Committee, which, although it may be nominated by the Minister must clearly represent all interests.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I am sorry to delay the Committee, but I ant not impressed at all by anything which has been said by the Government. Whether my noble friend is right or not in his interpretation of the Bill I cannot see that it affects this matter. My noble friend Lord Lytton has asked for a reason why we should stipulate three months. The reason which I give is this, that assuming all the arrangements have been discussed at the Advisory Committee, and assuming that that precedes notice, although it is very doubtful if it does, even then there must be all kinds of internal arrangements of administration of these concerns which it is incumbent upon the management of these concerns to consider in view of being taken over by the Government. To ask them to make these internal arrangements within a month is to my mind unreasonable.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I do not think there is really very much between us. What we all, I think, agree about is that any undertaking must have due notice before it is actually taken over. It has always been the intention of the Government that that should be the case. Lord Cave pointed out that no undertaking can say whether it will consent until it has been given notice of the intention of the Minister to exercise his power, and therefore the first thing the Minister must do is to give notice to the undertaking. It was never the intention of the Government that that should be construed as notice to take possession, but if it be so construed subsequent discussion might not be terminated in one month, and in order to make it quite certain that full notice shall be received by the undertakings I am willing if the noble Lord will agree to extend it to two months.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ LORD ISLINGTON moved, in subsection (1) (b), to leave out "take possession," and to insert "assume control." The noble Lord said: This may appear to be a mere verbal Amendment, but I think there is more in it than meets the eye. This Bill, as we all understand, is to create a Ministry with power to control and co-ordinate the various forms of transport throughout the country, and, if that be so, why should the Bill be drafted in such a manner as to amount in its impression to nationalisation. "Possession" by a Ministerial Department which has become an integral part of234
§ EARL BRASSEY
For my part I am not prepared to accept the offer. I think three months is the minimum notice required in this case. I did not refer to Clause 21, because I think all reference to that clause, if the noble Lord will excuse my saying so, is completely beside the mark. As pointed out already, the panel set up under that clause are the nominees of the Minister. If the Minister wants them to decide it, they will decide it in a day. It does not afford the least protection to the undertaking that the Government wishes to take over. I therefore press my Amendment.
§ On Question, whether the word "one" shall stand part of the clause?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 34.233
|Bradford, E.||Peel, V.||Newton, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Craven, E.||Annesley, L.||Ranksborough, E.|
|Jersey, E.||Clinton, L.||Shandon, E.|
|Lytton, E.||Cochrane of Cults, B.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Colebrooke, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Harris, B.||Wyfold, E.|
|Churchill, V.||Hylton, L. [Teller.]|
|Northumberland, D.||Devonport, V.||Islington, L.|
|Hood, V.||Joicey, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Belper, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Brassey, E. [Teller.]||Bledisloe, L.||Montagu of Beanlieu, E.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Ribblesdale, B.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Morton, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Denraan, L. [Teller.]||Strachie, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Ebury, E.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Emmott, L.||Sudley, B. (E. Arran.)|
|Erskine, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Cave, V.||Forester, L.|
§ the Government can only mean, to the ordinary mind, possession by the State, and will undoubtedly be construed as such by all those who desire to consummate the policy of nationalisation.
§ I am told that these words have been. taken from a previous Act of 1871, the Regulation of Forces Act, that it is merely a technical term, and that it does not, in fact, mean possession, but only control, as it did in that Act. But I do not think that is a very valid reason for its survival in these days. In 1871 there was no question in the country of nationalisation, there was therefore no danger in wording an Act in a somewhat vague form, as that Act was worded. But we live in very different times 235 to-day. Nationalisation of the industries of the country is rapidly veering to the forefront as an issue of the most prominent controversy in the country.
§ This Bill, when it becomes law, will have to be complied with by a very large number of interests in the country, embracing large sections of the public, most of whom had been brought up to regard a word in the English language to imply what it means and to be recognised as such. "Possession" is a perfectly simple word and every one understands what it means. "Control" means something quite different. I venture to say that it is control and not possession which is the principle of this Bill, and if that be so why should it not be embodied in the Bill? In this Bill we are breaking entirely fresh ground; and in view of what I have said, merely for the sake of preserving an obsolete uniformity of drafting, we should not introduce into this Bill a word which is not really meant, and which, perhaps, in a few years—indeed, in a few months—may be administered by a Government which will give effect to it in its literal sense. I think there is a grave danger in this, and that it is incumbent upon His Majesty's Government to avoid lending assistance to it. Therefore I would ask them to accept the substitution of these words which really embody the principle of their Bill, and get rid of the old phrase which is so vague.
Page 3, line 37, leave out ("take possession") and insert ("assume control").—(Lord Islington.)
THE EARL OF LYTI'ON
There is no point of substance involved in this Amendment. It is really a mere matter of words. There is, however, a considerable objection to accepting the noble Lord's Amendment, for this reason. At the present time the Government is in possession of the railways, of which they have taken possession under the Act of 1871. No alteration of the words here can alter that fact. Now, if it is said that the Government are in possession of undertakings which were taken over during the war under the Act of 1871, and possession of which is now retained, but that in respect of other undertakings control is assumed under the powers of this Act, then surely it will be assumed that there must be some difference between the powers of the Minister with respect to those undertakings of which he has assumed 236 control and those of which he is in possession. That would lead to considerable confusion and, I think, would be a puzzle.
It really is not a question of substance, because the powers of the Minister, whether you say he has assumed control or taken possession, are the powers contained in the further subsections of this clause. If there should be any doubt that these words "take possession" had vested the property of the undertakings in the Ministry, of course that could be cleared up. It has never occurred to any one that because the undertakings have been in the possession of the Minister under the Act of 1871 the property is vested in the Minister; and it never would occur to any one under the wording of this clause, I think. If it should be necessary to insert words to make that clear I believe it could be done. I am of opinion that it would be a mistake to give rise to the opinion that there will be any difference in the powers exercised between one set of undertakings and another.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
Would it alter the position if the Government put in the words as in the Act of 1871?
§ THE: MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I had always understood that the words "take possession" only meant to give control. I confess that I think it is most unfortunate, if I may say so with respect in the presence of the noble and learned Viscount, that legal language is sometimes very deceptive to the ordinary reader.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I live and learn. I did not know that there was a distinction between the two; but I shall remember hereafter, on the authority of a great light of the Bench, that statutory language is not always legal language. I think, at any rate, it is very unfortunate, and I should not perhaps have been called upon to trouble your Lordships with a single word if it had not been that there seemed to be a lingering doubt in the mind of the noble Earl whether there was not possibly some question as to the meaning 237 of "take possession" and as to the way in which the Act of 1871 has been interpreted. He, however, says that if there should be any doubt as to "take possession" involving becoming the owner of the property of the railway, he would take care to clear it up. I think that is a very fair offer. If he would consult his legal advisers and find out whether it is absolutely clear, and, if not, undertake to put it right, I should have thought that would be sufficient for our purpose.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
In the circumstances I would suggest some such words as, "take possession with the object of control."
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
Would it not be better if my noble friend would put in the simple words "as defined by the Act of 1871"
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I think that is covered, because it states that, "Where at the passing of this Act possession has been taken … in pursuance of Section sixteen … possession shall be retained." That is in subsection (1) (a). I think it may be assumed, when the words occur in subsection (1) (b), that it is possession in the same sense. If, however, there is any doubt as to the exact meaning of the words, and it may be thought necessary to define them further, I will consider the matter at a later stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD JOICEY moved, in, subsection (1) (b), after "any other" to insert "statutory." The noble Lord Said: There is no definition of what a railway undertaking is in this Bill, and I gather that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government simply to take possession and deal with railways which are what I call statutory railway undertakings. There are scores of railways in various parts of the country which are private railways, which are owned by various industries that are used entirely for the carrying on of those industries. The traffic upon them generally goes at about 8 or 10 miles an hour. There is some anxiety about this matter in the North of England and other places where these railways exist, and I have been asked to have this point properly defined. 238 I gather from the noble Earl that he will accept the Amendment.
Page 3, line 39, after ("any other") insert the word ("statutory").—(Lord Joicey.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I am quite willing to accept this Amendment, which makes clear the intention of the Government.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ISLINGTON moved, in subsection (1) (b), to leave out "other than a tramway or a light railway used as a tramway belonging to a local authority." The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment with a view to elicit front His Majesty's Government a statement why this most important link of the scheme of national transportation is to be omitted. I must frankly admit that in moving this Amendment I do so solely on my own responsibility, and I have no authority to do so from any local authorities that possess these tramway or light railway systems.
§ The tramways and light railways owned by local authorities are extremely numerous in this country. I have not been able to obtain the figures, but I do not think I am incorrect in saying that there are probably more tramways municipally owned than those owned by private companies. Whether that is so or not, the exclusion of tramways belonging to local authorities will undoubtedly dig very deep into the proposals for effective co-ordination as proposed in this Bill. Whole slices of country, and this, indeed, the most industrial and populous, will be bereft of those advantages of central direction and co-ordination which the Bill seeks to grant to the country. It will create a series of transport anomalies and partialities throughout the country. These very links and connections in the chain of transport, especially in relation to tramways, are to depend, not on the necessities of the case, not on the intrinsic requirements of the localities, but merely on the fortuitous circumstance of ownership. These tramways owned by public authorities are in the most industrial localities, most thickly populated, and one of the chief objects of this Bill, as I understand it, is to assure, through this new Ministry, an effective form of co-operation between transport and housing.239
§ These new schemes of housing that are so urgently needed, especially in our thickly populated industrial districts, will require for their success absolutely the best form of regular traffic and transport. It is in these very centres, with vast population now inadequately housed, where great schemes are being projected to supply houses for the population, that it will be found that the existing tramway systems, owned by local authorities, will not have any of the advantages of this Bill. I think that is a very important point, because these housing schemes, for their utility and success, must depend upon the extension of the tramway systems. It is true that there is a provision in the Bill to give the Minister power to establish these lines himself, but that does not appear to me to be a very practicable arrangement. The practical course would be to come to some arrangement with the local authority so that the local authority might extend its own tramway systems. I suppose the reason that influenced another place to omit the tramways owned by local authorities was that they were owned by those authorities, as distinct from private ownership, and that therefore, they should not be interfered with by a central authority. By this Bill the Government are placing roads under the Ministry, and roads belong to and are maintained by—
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I am not asking for this Ministry to take possession of the locally-owned tramways. I am asking them to have the power of direction, so that in co-operation with them the local authorities can extend the tramway systems to meet the demand of fresh housing. I give another instance. Last week in clause after clause in the Housing Bill powers were given of the most drastic character to the Ministry of Health over local authorities in the matter of housing schemes, and I really think there should be no diffidence on the part of the Government in asking local authorities to act under central direction and thus give effect to a complete and perfect system of transport throughout the country. Rapid, regular, and cheap tramway facilities are an integral and indispensable part of a successful housing scheme, and there can be no argument on the merits for the omission of tramways. It must certainly impair the 240 success of the housing schemes and it will also impair the whole system of coordinated traction throughout the country.
Probably the Government are not prepared to accept the Amendment in its bald form, because I can quite see that difficulties would arise. I can see that the whole system of tramways in London would have to be dealt with in another fashion, as well as the tramways systems in our great cities. But before passing the Bill I hope the Government will give due consideration to the points I have put forward. I ask them to see that in our industrial centres they must play an important part as a connecting link in the whole traction system and should be brought into closer co-operation with the new Ministry.
Page 3, line 40, leave out from the first ("tramway") to ("canal") in page 4, line 1.—(Lord Islington.)
§ LORD JOICEY
I support what has been said by Lord Islington. It is most important that there should be a complete system of tramways and that the Government should have some control over municipal tramways. Municipalities sometimes quarrel. I have known a case where two municipalities kept the tramways separate, and unless there is some central authority you will find there will be difficulties in some industrial districts. Now that the housing question has become so important it is necessary there should be a complete tramway system for the people who will live in these houses. This is a very important point.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I differ from my two noble friends. I do not think it is practical politics to attempt to take out these words. Objections might be made by local authorities. Neither have they brought forward anything to show that the tramway systems would be better worked than by local authorities. The duties which the Bill imposes are vast enough without adding to them the care of all the tramway systems now controlled by local authorities. On the whole I would trust local authorities about these matters rather than give the Government power to take possession. It is not advisable to give the Government power to take possession unless it can be shown that local authorities are making a bad use of them.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
It is rather a novel and pleasant experience to find noble Lords anxious to impose upon us powers and duties which we have not asked for in the Bill. I rather gather from the speech of the noble Lord who moved it that he was not so much anxious that we should take possession of these municipal tramways as he was to make a point at the expense of the Government for not having been consistent in maintaining their Teutonic attitude upon all points.
It is true that in the first draft of the Bill powers were asked to take possession of these tramways, and I do not think the Government would offer any objection if your Lordships once more placed these under their control, but the argument of the mover has really been met by the last speaker. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment is quite right in saying that the real importance of tramways is in regard to housing, and that the Government could not honestly say that these local authorities had in the past shown any reluctance to meet the housing needs of the country by extending their own tramway systems. As the noble Lord has pointed out they have powers under the Bill should that be the case to start or extend tramway systems of their own, but owing to the very strong opposition expressed by various municipalities the Government had to consent to put in these words which the noble Lord now wants to strike out. As I have said, if your Lordships decide to reinsert these words we shall not quarrel, but I can hold out not much hope that they will be reinstated by the House of Commons.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I share the view of Lord Emmott on this matter, but I was very much interested to hear how the dexterous speaker who has just sat down would get out of the logical difficulty put to him. I cannot understand the ground upon which the Government made this distinction between one set of tramways and another, but I am only too grateful that some tramways have been spared, and therefore do not desire to press them at all. These are, however, signs of the battlefields in the House of Commons—the various measures of retreat as the Government have been driven from point to point. This is one of them. As the Bill was introduced all tramways were included, but I think I am not wrong in saying they were 242 induced in Standing Committee to give up the municipal tramways, just as they were induced to give up power to take over other vast undertakings permanently, which was the original Clause 4 of the Bill. Under all these circumstances I am inclined to hope that my noble friend will not proceed with his Amendment, but let us save, at any rate, the municipal tramways.
§ LORD ISLINGTON
I do not propose to press this Amendment, but I am bound to say I do not think the answer of the Government is a very adequate one.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 3, line 40, after the first ("tramway") insert ("undertaking").
§ Page 4, line 1, leave out ("canal") and insert ("or of any canal or")
§ Page 4, line 2, after ("mentioned") insert ("of")
§ Page 4, line 3, leave out ("thereto") and insert ("to any such undertaking as aforesaid").—(The Earl of Lytton.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU moved, at the end of subsection (1) (b), to insert: "at the end of two years from the passing of this Act the possession of any undertaking possession of which has been retained or taken under this clause shall be restored forthwith to the owners of the undertaking, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine, and it shall be the aim of the Minister to restore such undertakings in such a condition in respect of efficiency and reserve earning capacity that no expenditure of public money shall be necessary for their upkeep."
§ The noble Lord said: This is a rather important Amendment and is supported by various commercial bodies and others, and it aims at securing that if nationalisation does come we shall not glide into it without Parliament having an opportunity of expressing its opinion. We have heard from the Government that they do not consider this Bill is a step towards nationalisation. I differ from them on that point. Moreover we are told that it is rather the other way, and that if it was not for this Bill we should have to have nationalisation. This is an endeavour to avert what I may call the glide into 243 nationalisation without Parliament or the country being consulted upon it. Although the preamble to Clause 3 says "the following provisions shall have effect for two years," and although this clause, I take it, is governed by those words, these things are, I imagine, a preliminary to consultation about the policy to be pursued. Nothing is done specifically to show that after two years the Minister, if still in possession under the terms of the Act of 1871, is under any obligation to give up these undertakings or return them to their original possessors. I think we ought to make it clear that it should be the Minister's statutory aim to restore the railways in a revenue earning condition at the end of the two years, and that if he runs them on the lines of certain municipal trams—namely, not to pay but to be a public service, merely to earn their expenses and nothing more—then it will be absolutely impossible in my opinion to avoid nationalisation, because the State cannot go on subsidising the concerns at the end of two years; and the companies, in the second place, will not want them back.
§ I move this Amendment for the purpose of ascertaining whether the Government can give us any clear statement of policy as to what they intend to do at the end of the two years, and to avert as far as possible the gradual and irresistible glide into nationalisation without the previous authority of Parliament or the country. I do not move this in any spirit of hostility to the Bill, but in order that the Government may give us information, and, if they are sincere in their statement that this Bill is not a step to nationalisation, I hope that they will accept the Amendment.
Page 4, line 7, at end insert ("at the end of two years from the passing of this Act the possession of any undertaking possession of which has been retained or taken under this clause shall be restored forthwith to the owners of the undertaking, unless Parliament. shall otherwise determine, and it shall be the aim of the Minister to restore such undertakings in such a condition in respect of efficiency and reserve earning capacity that no expenditure of public money shall be necessary for their upkeep").—(Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I think the noble Lord has moved this Amendment under a misapprehension The first words of the Amendment I can assure him, are entirely unnecessary. I do not think there 244 is any doubt whatever, under the words of the Bill as they stand, that if power is given to the Government to take possession of any undertaking for two years, that at the end of that two years possession must revert to the owners of the undertaking unless of course Parliament decides otherwise in the meantime. All that the noble Lord is proposing to do in the first part of this Amendment is to say that that shall be the case. I say that the words are unnecessary because that must be the case. With regard to the second part of the Amendment I think the words are objectionable. I really do not quite know what some of them mean, and in ally case I think that it is very undesirable to put into an Act of Parliament the expression of a pious opinion that it should be the aim of the Minister to do certain things; certainly it will not be the only aim of the Minister to do these various things stated in the Amendment. Except on that ground I should have no objection to its being said that it should be one of the aims of the Minister to restore such undertakings in a condition of efficiency. But I have an objection to the last words of the Amendment. As I say, I do not quite know what they mean, and it seems to me that they imply an obligation—
THE EARL OF LYTTON
"No expenditure of money shall be necessary for their upkeep." That seems to me to imply an obligation on the part of the State to give to those undertakings some assistance out of public money other than in the form of compensation. The policy of the Bill is this. The Government is given possession or control over these various transport undertakings for a period of two years. At the end of that time they will be handed back to the owners of the undertakings, and Clause 8, which we shall come to presently, sets out the conditions which shall attach to their being handed back. It is there set forth that, if the undertakings have been improved by the Minister, then the owners are not to have the benefit of that improvement. If, on the other hand, they have been depreciated, then the owners are not to bear the expense of that depreciation. All that is set forth in Clause 8, and that represents the obligation 245 of the Government in the matter of compensation. I really do not know what is meant by the noble Lord in these words. I object to putting into an Act of Parliament words saying that "it shall be the aim of the Minister to restore such undertakings," using the words of the noble Lord's Amendment, and I object to the implication contained in the last words that there is any obligation to spend money at the end of these two years upon the undertakings otherwise than in the form of compensation, which is provided for in Clause 8.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I think that the object of the Amendment is one that the noble Earl cannot altogether deal with, because at present every railway tries to make the best of its undertaking. By hypothesis the Minister, in taking them over, is not going to study the advantage of any particular undertaking, but of the whole of them. What my noble friend wants to avoid is leaving some of the undertakings, one or two, in such a condition that they have really been acting as feeders to others, but not to their own advantage, so that they cannot be taken back except with the greatest possible difficulty by the shareholders. All that, I am afraid, must follow upon the main principle of the Bill, which some of your Lordships disapprove, but which at the same time is the substratum of the Bill, and therefore I do not think it is worth while pressing the Amendment at this stage.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I am not quite reassured by what the noble Earl has said, but I understand him to say that automatically at the end of two years these undertakings are restored, unless Parliament otherwise determines.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY moved, at the end of subsection (1) (b), to insert: "There shall be paid to any company whose railway undertaking or light railway or tramway or any part thereof may be taken possession of in pursuance of this 246 section, such fall compensation for any loss or injury they may have sustained by the exercise of the powers of the Minister under this section as may be agreed upon between the Minister and the said company, or in case of difference, may be settled by arbitration in manner provided by the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845."
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to secure that any undertaking at present not controlled and not taken over shall, should it be controlled and taken possession of, receive at least as fair treatment, as the result of the process, as has been received by the undertakings which have been taken over.
§ A short time ago the noble Earl in charge of the Bill expressed the laudable desire to adhere to and repeat the spirit and the exact wording of the Statute of 1871, under which the great railway undertakings have been taken over. This Amendment adopts verbatim the wording of the third paragraph of the very section under which those undertakings have been taken over. It provides in like manner for full compensation for any loss or injury that they have sustained by the exercise of the powers, and that, if compensation should be agreed upon between the parties, or should agreement fail, it should be referred to arbitration under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845. I think that such an Amendment hardly requires elaboration or persuasion, and a heavy presumption in its favour throws upon those who propose to resist it the duty of showing any reasons why any undertaking, which up to now has been providing for the requirements of the public and which it is proposed to take over in the general interest, should suffer in treatment in any respect worse than the undertakings which with such great advantage to the State have been taken over by the State daring the years of the war under the powers of the Act of Parliament which I propose to make applicable totidem in verbis to the case which my Amendment is designed to meet.
Page 4, after line 7, insert the said words.—(Lord Stuart of Wortley.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I suggest that this Amendment is out of order at this point. This clause deals with the powers of the Ministry and the Amendment deals with the question of compensation. I do 247 not press the point, however. The Amendment seeks to provide a scheme of compensation under the Lands Clauses Act. The Government have in Clause 8 a scheme of compensation, which has been agreed with all the railway companies, whereby the Tribunal shall be the Railway and Canal Commission. I cannot help thinking that hopeless confusion would result if more than one Tribunal were set up under the Bill to deal with the claims for compensation. I cannot discuss the matter in greater detail at this moment beyond saying that the Government's policy with regard to compensation is dealt with in Clause 8, and that this is a clause which meets with the approval of all the railway companies. I cannot, therefore, accept the Amendment.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment is in the name of the Earl of Bessborough. I would suggest to the noble Earl whether it is necessary that those words should be moved. It seems to me that if the noble Earl obtains his proviso lower down on page 5, line 5, the words will not be necessary. If he does not, they mean nothing.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
I understand that it is purely consequential, and I will leave it to a later stage, and not move this Amendment now.
§ EARL BRASSEY moved, in subsection 1 (c), to leave out "obey the directions," and insert "give full consideration248
§ I have adopted the exact wording of the old Act of Parliament, that I should be faced with a difference of procedure; and after all, Clause 8 does not apply to this case at all. That clause applies to the return of the undertakings which have been taken over. My Amendment applies to the act of taking over, to the doing of damage in the taking over, and the terms of the agreement under which the undertakings are to be taken over. Clause 8 applies to a later stage of the proceedings, and I respectfully differ from the noble Earl. My Amendment rests upon abstract justice and upon the practice already adopted by the Government.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed shall be here inserted?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 20.247
|Northumberland, D. [Teller.]||Selborne, E.||Erskine, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Forester, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Wicklow, E.||Islington, L.|
|Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Brassey, E.||Hood, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midlelon.)||Strachie, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Stuart of Wortley, L. [Teller.]|
|Morton, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Annesley, L.||Hylton, L. [Teller.]|
|Chesterfield, E.||Belper, L.||Joicey, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Newton, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Clinton, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Colebrooke, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Peel, V.||Harris, L.||Wyfold, L.|
§ to any suggestion." The noble Earl said: The part of the clause which my Amendment proposes to alter states that the directors, officers and servants of any undertaking which is taken over shall obey the directions of the Minister. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill, as I and others have pointed out, has asserted that he desired that this Minister should work through the existing management of railway undertakings and not supersede it. What I wish to submit to him and also to your Lordships is that you will get much better service out of any body of Englishmen, whether they be employers or workmen, if you make suggestions to them and appeal to them to put forth their best energies to carry out what you wish them to do, than by placing them in the position in which they would be placed under the clause as it stands. I therefore beg to move.249
Page 4, lines 11 and 12, leave out ("obey the directions") and insert ("give full consideration to any suggestion").—(Earl Brassey.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I feel that the point has been already covered by the discussions which have taken place on previous Amendments on which your Lordships have come to a decision. It raises once more the whole question whether the Minister is to exercise his powers under the Bill in giving directions to the undertakings or merely in receiving suggestions from them. I feel that it would be merely wasting the time of the House to discuss the whole question again.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I confess I do feel that that is so—that this point has been already decided in principle by your Lordships, and I think perhaps it would not be right or proper for us to go into it again. My noble friend knows that I have general sympathy with a great deal of what he said, but I hope he will not press the matter.
§ EARL BRASSEY
In response to the appeal of the noble Marquess I am willing to withdraw the Amendment, but I wish to express again that I do feel that a great mistake is being made by treating Englishmen as they are being treated under this proposal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH moved, at the end of subsection (1) (c) (viii), to insert the following new paragraph: "(ix) Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising the Minister to impose on the owners of the undertaking without their consent the obligation to make any expenditure or incur any liability which in the opinion of the owners would seriously interfere with their finances."
§ The noble Earl said: I venture to submit to your Lordships that the scheme of this Bill is that the railways should be preserved intact so that they may be handed back, or possibly handed back, to the commercial management of the companies at the end of the two years period of control. It is obviously necessary, therefore, that if they should be so handed back, they should be returned with their financial resources unimpaired. It appears that if the Boards of Directors have some 250 voice in the management of the undertaking that the question of the finances should be under their care. The Amendment provides that the Minister shall not be in a position to oblige the Company either to burden itself with new capital against its consent or be called upon to deplete its reserves. In these matters I submit that the financial control of the Company must be left undiminished in the hands of the Directors.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 5, line 5, at end insert the following new paragraph:
(ix) Nothing in this section shall be construed as authorising the Minister to impose on the owners of the undertaking without their consent the obligation to make any expenditure or incur any liability which in the opinion of the owners would seriously interfere with their finances."—(The Earl of Bessborough.)
THE EARL OF LYTTON
I am quite willing to agree in principle with the Amendment. The noble Earl, as I understand it, wishes to make sure that a railway company at the end of two years shall not be compelled, by any action the Minister may take, to borrow capital on disadvantageous terms, or unduly deplete their reserves. It is certainly not the intention of the Government to place such an obligation on the companies. I am not, however, able to accept the Amendment in the words in which it has been moved. The last words "which in the opinion of the owners would seriously interfere with their finances" are rather too vague, but if the noble Earl will withdraw the Amendment I will undertake to consult with him how this point may be met by the insertion of some such words as "capital expenditure," or words which will limit the Amendment to the points he has raised. I am confident we shall be able to find words to meet the point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 5, lines 6 and 7, leave out ("under subsection (c) of this section") and insert ("the last foregoing paragraph").—(The Earl of Lytton.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.251
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Before the noble Earl, Lord Brassey, moves the next Amendment I should like to ask the Government how long they propose to sit to night. The next Amendment will probably take some time. It raises the considerable point as to what the powers of the Advisory Committee are to be. It would not do for me to discuss it now, but I should like to suggest that, as it raises an important question and is likely to take some considerable time, this is a convenient moment for the debate to be adjourned.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
In response to the invitation of the noble Marquess, I think perhaps it would be convenient if at this stage our proceedings were adjourned. In moving that the House do resume, I desire to call attention to a matter, and to offer a personal explanation with regard to a passage in Viscount Devonport's speech on the Second Reading. I do not see the noble Viscount in his place. He was here just now, and I should like to make the explanation I have to make in the presence of the noble Viscount.
As, however, it is a matter of very considerable importance, I feel bound to take the earliest opportunity of bringing it to your Lordships' attention. Speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill, Lord Devonport used these words—Sir Eric Geddes did not pay any tribute of praise in respect to that management.He is speaking about the Railway Executive Committee—He said that the control was bad. I think I must quote what he said, if I may be allowed to, because it has a very important bearing. He said, 'During the war they were worked under an executive committee composed of the general managers of the principal lines—'Then he went on to quote the following from Sir Eric Geddes's speech in the House of Commons—I have seen it suggested that the executive committee might go on. Any one who suggests that railways could go on for another two or three years in the position in which they are to-day, working under the executive committee of general managers in the position in which they are to-day, really does not understand the proposition at all. It is quite impossible. That control, which was bad during the war, is trebly bad now. It is almost impossible to expect development under it.The noble Viscount continued—That is an astounding statement. It is one more of those statements which are not true in fact.252 The noble Viscount, in using those words, did a grave injustice both to Sir Eric Geddes and to the Railway Executive. He informed your Lordships that Sir Eric Geddes did not pay any tribute of praise to the Railway Executive. These are the words which the noble Viscount left out of his quotation. They occur between the two parts which he quoted from the speech. The words omitted are these—The executive committee have done a work of which they are justly proud, and for which the country should be grateful, but they were an emergency committee. They did not really run the railways. They have no power over any capital expenditure, and no power to do anything but keep the thing moving. It is quite impossible to go on with that system. Development which is necessary has been dead, and economies on a large scale are really impossible as long as railways have separate interests to consider.Again, Sir Eric Geddes, speaking on the Third Reading, said, after giving an account of the position in which the Railway Executive is placed—Therefore, though they have done most excellent work in a most patriotic way, I think it may be necessary to some extent to modify the procedure and powers and constitution of the Railway Executive Committee.Those words were precisely the same as were used by Lord Devonport himself when he said that in his opinion there was undoubtedly a case for changing the method of control.
I call attention to the passage omitted because the noble Lord gave an impression to your Lordships that Sir Eric had underrated the work done by the Executive Committee, had condemned their work as bad, and had paid no tribute of praise in respect of it. Yet between the two passages which the noble Viscount quoted occurred these words paying a very great tribute of praise to the Executive Committee. I cannot help feeling that the noble Viscount must have been supplied with the passage from which these words were omitted. I do not believe he omitted them deliberately. I impute no motive to the noble Viscount, but I only feel that, in justice to those affected, I should make this explanation.
§ House resumed.