HL Deb 18 July 1939 vol 114 cc298-310

5.17 p.m.

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR rose to call attention to the composition of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee; and to move for Papers. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I do not intend to inflict upon your Lordships too long a speech at this late hour in the afternoon, but I would like to say that I appreciate the kindness of the Leader of the House, who conveyed to me a message that I might perhaps postpone this Motion until tomorrow, when there was little on the Order Paper. Unfortunately, business out of town prevents my being present, and therefore I could not postpone my Motion. That does lead me to remark that it is rather extraordinary that a Motion which has been on the Paper for some time for to-morrow, and was on the Paper for that day so late as last Thursday, has disappeared. It was a Motion by Earl Howe on the dealings with the Report of the Select Committee on the Prevention of Road Accidents, so ably presided over by Lord Alness. That has disappeared, but no request came to me to take my Notice of Motion off the Paper—I presume because there is no reference to the Advisory Committee in the Report by the Select Committee.

It seems to me that anything which refers to the Select Committee is more or less taboo in certain Departments, and that there is a tendency for the Report of the Select Committee to be pigeonholed. They cannot very well pigeonhole the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, because they are in being, but it does not follow that the Traffic Advisory Committee are altogether satisfactorily constituted, and the Committee may be said to be not at all improved by the 1933 Act. Under the 1924 Act nineteen members constituted that body, and by the 1933 Act, an Act which was promoted by the London Passenger Transport Board, the numbers were increased to forty-one. The representation of transport and road vehicle interests was increased by the 1933 Act from four to seven, and the increase was effected by giving the London Passenger Transport Board two members, and the amalgamated railways two members, while one member represented taxi-cabs, one member represented mechanically-propelled vehicles and one member represented horse vehicles. The representatives of transport before 1933 were as laid down in subsections (1) and (2) of Section 1 of the 1924 Act. That Act lays down the constitution pretty elaborately and provides for one member to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, two by the London County Council, one by the City Corporation, two by the councils of Metropolitan boroughs, one by the councils of the administrative counties in the First Schedule, that is to say in the London traffic area north of the river, and one for those south of the river; one by the county boroughs within the London traffic area, one by the Metropolitan Police, one by the City Police, and one by the Minister of Transport.

It will be noticed that those are all official members, who are interested in road construction and responsible for the upkeep and improvement of roads and for the policing of the area, that is to say, traffic management. But the actual members representing the road users are extremely few, both under the 1924 Act and under the 1933 Act. The representatives of the transport interests on the Committee immediately before 1933 were one for railways, one for London Underground Railways and London omnibuses, one representing the London Omnibus Proprietors' Association, that is, the independent omnibuses, and one for other means of transport—horse vehicles, taxi-cabs and private cars. The effect of the 1933 Act was to increase the representatives of the other means of transport from one to three, of whom one represented taxi-cabs, one horse vehicles, and only one mechanically-propelled vehicles. There does not appear to have been any discussion before a Parliamentary Committee for the Bill of 1933, except for the application of the Westminster City Council for one member, which was conceded, and an application from the Labour Party for an increased representation, which was also conceded. The representative of the transport interests before the Act of 1933, Mr. Turner, was appointed by the Minister of Transport as a representative of the other means of transport on the nomination of the London Cartage Association, and he remains a member as representing the mechanically - propelled vehicles to-day.

The composition to-day is somewhat different. The Secretary of State still has one representative as before, the Minister of Transport has one as before, the London County Council has six instead of four; the City Corporation, one as before; the City of Westminster one against none before, and the remaining Metropolitan boroughs six instead of two; the Middlesex County Council and the Essex County Council have three instead of one; the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire County Councils, grouped together as being north of the river, have one, and the Surrey and Kent County Councils, being the areas south of the river, have two instead of one; the County Boroughs of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham have one between them, as before. The Secretary of State has one to represent the Metropolitan Police, as before, and the Secretary of State, as representing the County and Borough Police Forces in the London traffic area outside the Metropolitan area, has one; the Corporation of the City of London have one to represent the City Police; the London Passenger Transport Board have two (that is new); the four amalgamated railways have two; the Minister of Labour has six as against three, to represent the interests of labour engaged in the transport industry within the London traffic area. The Minister of Transport, to represent the interests of mechanically-propelled road vehicles within the London Traffic Area, has one, as before; the Minister of Transport, to represent the interests of persons providing or using horse-drawn vehicles, has one; and the Minister of Transport, to represent the interests of taxi-cabs, has one.

Perhaps the most interesting comparison to make is between the representatives on the Committee who pay into the Road Fund and those who do not. The London Passenger Transport Board have got two representatives. Of course they pay in respect of public conveyances such as omnibuses, although I believe they do not pay in respect of trolley-buses because these do not use petrol. They have a police licence, of course, but I am not quite sure that trolley-buses pay anything into the Road Fund. It is interesting to note in this connection that when the London County Council many years ago tried to get power to run trolley-buses so as to improve the traffic of London they were turned down time after time by Parliament, but as soon as the London Passenger Transport Board came in—a nominated and not a representative body—that Board got the powers; which does not seem to be quite in accord with the idea of representative institutions as far as local government is concerned.

The London Passenger Transport Board, as I say, have two representatives, and they may be said to be representing those who pay into the Road Fund. Then there is a representative of mechanically-propelled road vehicles—they pay into the Road Fund. Then horse-drawn vehicles—they do not pay into the Fund, but taxi-cabs do. So that really you have only got on the Advisory Committee four representatives of those who pay into the Road Fund. The rest of the Committee consists of people who draw money out of the Fund, and they are thirty-seven in number. It is therefore thirty-seven against four on this Advisory Committee which is advising the Minister how to carry on the traffic of London on behalf of road users, I presume, as well as on behalf of those responsible for the construction and improvement of the roads. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. It is unsatisfactory notwithstanding recent legislation, and the legislation, be it noted, was not a Public Bill but a Private Bill promoted in 1933 by the Transport Board—a nominated body, a Board which owes its existence very largely to the Act of 1930 passed by a Labour Government. Our right honourable friend Mr. Morrison was responsible for the London Traffic Act of 1934 too, but I always understood the Labour Party stood strongly for representative institutions. It is a curious thing that two of the Acts originated by a Labour Government put in nominated bodies rather than duly elected representatives to carry on the public service of London.

My point this afternoon is to make representations to the Ministry of Transport that it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs that people representing the expenditure side of the Road Fund should so outnumber the users of the roads on this Advisory Committee. The users of the road, if they had sufficient voice, would be able to move the Minister to action, but when they have only got four representatives out of forty-one obviously they have not very much influence on the Advisory Committee, which is supposed to advise the Ministry on all matters relating to the use of the roads, as compared with those who derive benefit by getting large grants from the Road Fund which is contributed only by the people who use mechanically-propelled vehicles on the roads of the London traffic area—that is, roughly speaking, Greater London. I do not think I need say more than point out the rather absurd position in which we find ourselves in this matter, and I beg to move for Papers.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, it is regrettable that I should have to take up your Lordships' time at this hour, but there are points about this debate which have to be made. Although I quite realise it will involve legislation to alter the constitution of this Committee I am—I shall probably find, ultimately, foolishly—an optimist. I hope the Minister will be bringing in legislation to implement some of the recommendations of the Alness Report. If he does that, he will have a suitable opportunity for altering the constitution of this Committee. I am also further sufficiently an optimist to have a faint hope—I admit it is a very faint one—that the words spoken in this House are sometimes read in the Ministry of Transport. I therefore feel that it is possible that at least consideration will be given to making the London Traffic Advisory Committee representative of all classes of that traffic. The railways admittedly have their own tracks in London, but I cannot really see, beyond their need for delivering goods, what their need is for a very big representation on this Committee.

To all intents and purposes the London Passenger Transport Board are as much a railway as a road body, and one would have thought one representative for them would have been plenty. The four amalgamated railways have two representatives, and then in the representation of trade unions appointed by the Minister of Labour we find representatives of the National Union of Railwaymen and the Railway Clerks' Association. Really, I would ask, what has the Railway Clerks' Association got to do with London traffic? I cannot see the connection. I think we might abolish some of the railway representation and replace it with road users' representation. It appears to me that the private car owner is represented by one man who is appointed by the Employers' Federation, which I believe is itself largely railway-controlled. In all common fairness the lorry owner, the coach driver, and the private owner ought all to have a proportionate number of representatives, and I suggest a very fair proportion out of a total of forty-one would be six. If we can get something of that nature, then we may possibly get a fair deal for the private owners of vehicles on London streets. At the present moment the recommendations that come from that Committee strike me as being absolutely and utterly designed to drive the private owners of vehicles off the streets of London altogether. I very much hope the Minister, when next he is introducing legislation on motoring matters, will incorporate an alteration in the constitution of this Committee.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I would like to apologise to the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, who has introduced this debate, for the postponement of a Motion which I had on the Paper for to-morrow. I withdrew it, I may say, at the urgent request of the Minister of Transport and not because of my own wish. If I had had my way that Motion would certainly have remained on the Paper, and we should have had a debate about it. The Minister however, pointed out that he was not yet in a position to discuss the Alness Report in Parliament, and that he had given a certain undertaking in the other place in regard to his future action in reference to that Report. Therefore a further debate at this stage would merely be a rehash of one we have already had in your Lordships' House, and I do not think would have led to any particularly useful result.

On the subject of the Motion before us to-day, I want to do what I can to try and support the points made by the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, who have preceded me. From the point of view of the motor world the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee—I must give it its correct title—is really a most one-sided body: There are forty-one members on the Committee. One almost prays for a committee on which forty-one members sit if one really wants to get any sort of work done. However, let it stand. Out of forty-one representatives the ordinary private car owner, as has been pointed out, has one representative who really is the head of a great organisation to deal with the road transport industry. In fact it comes to this, that the private car owner, who is providing scores of millions of pounds a year in taxation, has no representation on this Committee at all.

I have in my hands the last issued Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, and it deals with Sir Charles Bressey's Report, it deals with the Blackwall Tunnel and Charing Cross bridge, and it deals with cycle tracks and the widening of streets and closing of streets, and with traffic lights and all sorts of things like that. But, above all, it has several pages under the heading "Traffic Control" devoted to proposals with regard to waiting vehicles. I am not going into those proposals but am merely going to refer to them in this way by saying that if brought into force they would affect the owner of every single motor vehicle that comes near the central area of London, an area that starts at Shepherd's Bush and goes on well through the City the other way. I mention that merely to show the magnitude of the problem with which this Committee deal.

We ought not to forget that a third of the population of the British Isles lives, I believe, within fifteen miles of Charing Cross, and, presumably, the greater number of motor car owners are concentrated in that area. It seems to me to be extraordinary in fact to be a gross injustice, that in the composition of a Committee of forty-one that deals with matters that affect the motor car owner at every stage and for which he is largely paying, he is given no real effective representation at all. The county councils, borough councils and so on have an enormous representation—twenty-two, I think, out of a Committee of forty-one. Then the taxicab owners have representation. It is true, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, that they do contribute in motor taxation, and therefore it is perhaps a good thing that they should be represented. I do not know how many taxi-cabs there are supposed to be on the streets of London—sornething between 10,000 and 14,000 I believe. How many private motor cars are there on the streets of London? Several hundred thousand.

Again, take the railway interests. I really cannot see why the railway interests should have such an enormous representation as they do have, because not only have they their direct representatives but they have indirect ones as well. The Minister of Transport appoints a representative of horse-drawn traffic, and the distinguished representative who is appointed to represent that interest is Major Paterson, of the well known firm of Carter Paterson, which is owned by the railway companies. Therefore he is another indirect representative. Moreover, the London Passenger Transport Board and the main line railways have representation between them. I cannot see what possible reason there can be for those interests having any say about traffic lights and cycle tracks and things like that. It cannot concern the representatives of the main line railways very much how the cyclist gets in or out of London, nor can they be expected to take a very lively interest in whether the cyclist has a good cycle path, because if he has the chances are he will go out into the country on his bicycle on a Sunday instead of patronising the main line railways. Therefore I feel that it is somewhat of an anachronism that the dice should be loaded so heavily in favour of the railway interests as they appear to me to be.

At this hour I am not going to weary your Lordships with a long speech, but I do venture again to plead with the Government that the composition of this Committee might really be seriously considered so as to make it more representative of the interests with which it has to deal. I feel that that is really what Parliament intended when the Committee were set up, but I think the Committee have gradually drifted away, as the noble Marquess has shown, very far from what Parliament intended. I plead with the Government that greater representation should be given—in fact that some representation should be given—to the car owner. He has none at the moment; he is quite unrepresented; he is paying all the money; and I say if you pay the money you should have some say in calling the tune.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for being here to answer the Question of the noble Marquess, but my noble friend who would have done so has been called away on official business, and the task of replying has been handed over to me. The noble Marquess has called attention to the composition of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. He has described the representation on that Committee, and other noble Lords who have spoken have discussed the Committee's constitution, and have complained that the private owner is not sufficiently represented on the Committee. As the noble Marquess said, the Committee under the 1924 Act consisted of nineteen members, and under the 1933 Act that was increased to forty. I will not bore your Lordships by enumerating the exact numbers of these representatives, but the point I want to make is that twenty-three members of that Committee represent local authorities. The reply to the complaint of the noble Marquess that the number of representatives of transport interests is comparatively few is that the problems which the Committee have to consider are essentially problems of local government. Outside the London traffic area the matter is dealt with entirely by the local authorities. It is doubtless for that reason that Parliament decided that the predominant representation on the Committee should be that of local authorities.

The purposes for which traffic regulations might be made under the London Traffic Act, 1924, were specified in the Act. Those purposes include prescribing the conditions subject to which, and the times at which, vehicles may be loaded or unloaded; prescribing the conditions subject to which vehicles of any particular class or description delivering or collecting goods or merchandise may stand in streets; and prescribing places in streets where vehicles of any particular class or description may or may not wait, either generally or at particular times. The question of vehicles waiting in the streets was referred to, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Howe. It may interest your Lordships to know that regulations as to "No waiting" have been in operation in Piccadilly Circus, St. Giles' Circus and Marble Arch since 1930, in Oxford Street and certain side streets since 1931, and in Wigmore Street, including Cavendish Square and part of Mortimer Street, since 1936. Generally speaking, there have been no complaints that trades have suffered or that private motorists have been inconvenienced.

I understand that the Advisory Committee recommended that these restrictions should be extended to other parts of London and that the Minister of Transport has received protests and complaints from various bodies and persons following notice of his intention to make the regulations. The Committee's recommendation has been referred back to them, and at the Minister's request the Committee are holding public sittings in the autumn to give all those who have made representations an opportunity to explain and amplify their views in public should they so desire. When the public sittings have been held the Committee will report to the Minister whether they desire to modify or alter their recommendation in any way. It will then be for the Minister to take a decision, and your Lordships may rest assured that he will do so only after most careful and personal examination of all the available evidence. I understand that the Minister has undertaken to publish the proceedings at the public sittings and the Committee's report to him. I apologise for having so very inadequately dealt with this subject of which I only had very short notice, but I can assure all those noble Lords who have spoken that the matters raised will be represented to the Minister of Transport.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, may I venture to say that the answer given by the noble Earl is not one which will satisfy a good many members of your Lordships' House? We have put forward a simple request that we should receive more representation, a fair deal and a square deal. We feel that important interests are not being listened to by the Minister of Transport. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, put a very important Motion on the Paper, and very considerable pressure, he told us, was put upon him to withdraw it. If I may say so, I am afraid he has listened almost too closely to that pressure. We feel that the interests of private motorists and others are more and more being made subservient to already established interests, and we hope that the matter will receive very careful consideration at the hands of the Minister of Transport in the near future.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think there is need for me to say much in reply. I feel considerable sympathy with the noble Earl in having to reply on a subject on which he has not been primed beforehand, but it is satisfactory to hear that the Advisory Committee are likely to sit in public to receive representations about the "No waiting" regulations. It would not be a bad idea if the Committee always sat in public. Then people would know what they were doing. They usually sit behind closed doors and no reason is given in public as to why they come to certain conclusions. As the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, said, our grievance is that the Committee are wrongly constituted for their work, and I was glad to hear the noble Earl say that the matters raised in this debate will be brought before the Minister of Transport. In the hope that the Minister will pay close attention to what has been said in your Lordships' House I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at three minutes before six o'clock.