HL Deb 26 March 1953 vol 181 cc312-29

2.44 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move the Third Reading of this Bill. I am glad to have this opportunity to tell your Lordships what a great regret it was to me not to be able to be present during the Committee and Report stages. It is always unsatisfactory, when one has had a hand in shaping something and getting it started, to be prevented from seeing it through. However, it is something of a consolation to me to be here this afternoon, though I should have been much happier if I could have been through the Bill at all stages.

Of course, I followed the arduous proceedings of your Lordships' House with much attention and with great interest, although from afar. Indeed, perhaps the fact that I was not present but merely an onlooker, who proverbially in that position sees the best of the game, makes it a little easier for me to make comment. I have seen how the Bill has been amended as is customary in this House. In fact, I should like, if I may, to say with what admiration I read the Reports of the debates. Indeed, when I saw what a range of knowledge was exhibited on all sides of the House, I did feel some measure of trepidation and not a little respect for the way in which my noble friends dealt so thoroughly with the points raised. I hope I may equally be allowed to thank noble Lords opposite and noble Lords behind me and in all parts of the House for the public-spirited way in which they have made their contribution. I realise what time and trouble they must have given to the matter, and we are certainly indebted to all parts of the House for the help which they have given.

I am told that nearly a hundred Amendments out of a total of 211 on the Order Paper will have been incorporated in the Bill in its passage through your Lordships' House and, of these, over thirty must rank as major or important items. No mean achievement. The time was certainly usefully spent. As I said at the beginning of our proceedings at the time of the Second Reading, the Government have been ready at all stages, as indeed we should be, to listen to suggestions and have not hesitated to amend the Bill by a proper response to public opinion. I hope it will be accepted that this attitude has been maintained in your Lordships' House. Indeed, whatever may be the rights and wrongs in the matter in the reform of this House, it does seem to me—and I have not been here so long that I cannot still take a fairly detached view—that the manner in which this Bill has proceeded and the improvements which have been made in it are very strong evidence that this Chamber has a most valuable part to play in the framing of legislation. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Leathers.)

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, when we finished the Report stage, there were two questions to which I promised that the Government would give further consideration. First, there was the provision in the Bill that the Commission and the Board could reject a tender on the ground that road haulage might become concentrated in too few hands. I was impressed by the argument that this was a political rather than an administrative decision, and that it was, therefore, a decision for which the Minister should be responsible. The House will see that I have put down Amendments to Clause 3, which deals with the sale of units, and Clause 5, which deals with the sale of shares in companies, both of which Amendments provide that, where rejection is proposed on the, ground of the elimination or undue restriction of competition, the consent of the Minister shall be required.

The words "wholly or mainly" are used in those Amendments because there might be a case where restriction was a minor element but where the Commission and the Board have agreed that the tender ought to be refused on other grounds, even if the element of restriction were not present. Obviously, if the ground of rejection is quite irrespective of restriction, that is a matter which ought to rest with the Commission and the Board. The House will also see that I am asking them to substitute for the expression "too few hands," which I must admit is slightly vague, the words likely to lead to the elimination or undue restriction of competition in the carriage of goods by road for hire, or reward. That is exactly what was meant; and if it is what we mean, than we may as well say it as clearly as we can.

The other matter, which was a larger matter, was the procedure to be followed when the Minister presents to Parliament the railway reorganisation scheme. As I said in the last debate, we are all agreed that if there were substantial criticism, the Minister would want to take time to consider that criticism and to decide whether and in what way he should amend the draft Order which the Government would ask both Houses to approve. I think there is almost certain to be a good deal of discussion on the details as well as on the general principles of arty reorganisation scheme. After full consideration, the Government think it would be right to adopt the suggestion which was made by the noble and learned Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, that the Minister should produce a White Paper, which would contain all the details of the scheme, and that the draft Order should not be tabled at that stage. There would then be a debate in both Houses on the White Paper. The Minister, having considered all that was said in the debates on the White Paper, would table his draft Order end ask both Houses to give the necessary Affirmative Resolution.

It will not be practicable to insert provisions about laying a White Paper in the Bill; but I can give an undertaking that this is the course which will be followed in both Houses. The Bill will therefore stand as drafted, but the draft Order will not be tabled for approval until after the debate on the White Paper. In giving that undertaking, I should make it clear, as I did in an earlier debate, that this undertaking is intended to apply only to the original reorganisation scheme, what I called "the master plan," and is not intended to apply to subsequent amendments of the scheme, which under the Bill also require to be approved by Affirmative Resolution.

I should also make this further reservation. In another place a Select Committee is now sitting on the whole question of procedure by Order and Resolution; and there have already been discussions between Party Leaders in your Lordships' House on the question of setting up a similar Committee in this House. Clearly, if Parliament were to adopt some new procedure for dealing with Affirmative Resolutions in both Houses, an Order for railway reorganisation would fall to be dealt with under that procedure. But assuming that the procedure in Parliament has not been changed before the Minister presents his reorganisation scheme, then the undertaking which I have given to-day will stand. I am glad that we are able to propose these solutions of our two outstanding problems which will, I think, be in accordance with the general wishes of the House.

My Lords, I need not say much about the rest of the Bill. It has been fully debated in Committee and on Report, and a large number of important Amendments have been made. Among more important Amendments the House will recall that we extended the levy exemption limit up to 30 cwt.; and also laid down that when the scheme comes into being it shall provide for regional operating costs and statistics. We considered fully the size and character of the Transport Commission. This has now been enlarged to fifteen, and the Commission is to include four whole-time members in addition to the chairman; and last, but not least, the Commission will include at least two persons conversant with the special circumstances and requirements of Scotland. Then the pensions of the Commission's employees have been further safeguarded. Urban authorities with a population of over 50,000 are now to have a right of objection before the Transport Tribunal; and individual harbour authorities will be able to complain about railway rates placing them at an unfair disadvantage compared with the rates ruling to the Commission's ports. We have introduced an important new clause providing, in appropriate cases, for the constitution of companies, and for the sale of shares in these companies as an alternative method of sale to that of sale in transport units.

The position of the Transport Commission has also been improved in a number of respects. The number of vehicles the Commission will be entitled to keep has been increased to five-fourths, with a wider measure of latitude between the different types of vehicles which the Commission will be entitled to retain. Almost at the last moment on the Report stage we also made provision to increase the value of the assets of the Commission under the Third Schedule by £2 million in respect of tyres, tarpaulins and other articles, the purchase of which had been charged to revenue. The Commission have been given power to run contract vehicles from Sheffield and certain other towns, and they are to be free up to the end of September to carry all private parties booked up to the passing of the Act. The Commission will not be compelled to dispose of money or debts. In these and certain other respects the Bill leaves this House in a form considerably more favourable to the Commission. The Commission have always expressed a wish to retain a larger number of vehicles, and they have complete power to select vehicles of any kind. But in the opinion of the Government, and, as the House has shown, in the opinion of the House, to go further than we have gone would breach the essential purpose and structure of the Bill.

In general I think we can say that, subject to the rejection of Amendments which would have destroyed or gravely prejudiced the main object of the Bill, Amendments of a character that any Government, of whatever complexion, would have been bound to resist, a great number of Amendments have been considered impartially and on their merits, and as so often happens in this admirable revising Chamber a large number of Amendments have been made. I think we can say we have fully fulfilled the purpose which I invited the House to set as their goal when I wound up the Second Reading, in these words (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol 180, col. 817): …if we think that a Bill is a good Bill we try to make it better, and if we think a Bill is a bad Bill, we try to make it less bad. We certainly have made this a better Bill, and I should like to thank all noble Lords who have contributed to that result.

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, this is not an altogether easy speech to make. I wish I could concur with the views which have been expressed by the two noble Lords opposite. I am bound to say I can do no such thing. I can, however, strike this happy note. I am very pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, back in his place. Fortunately, political differences in our public life are never allowed to obscure personal friendships, and the noble Lord knows full well that he has as many friends on this side of the House as on the other side. We all rejoice to see him restored, and I hope soon completely restored, to his former good form. We are bound to ask ourselves at this stage, critically and seriously: What have we achieved by our intense labour on this Bill? I can say "intense labour," because your Lordships all know what a vast amount of work and interest my noble friend Lord Lucas has put into this task. I doubt whether there is anyone, even on the Ministerial side of the House, who knows more about this Bill than does the noble Lord. Certainly he has spared himself to no extent whatever in bringing his clear mind and his great experience of this problem to bear.

It is eminently satisfactory, I think, that we have got rid of that clause about "too few hands." Speaking as a fairly old Parliamentarian, and having had charge of a great many Acts of Parliament in my time. I say that I have never in my life seen such an utterly "half-baked" clause as that was. The provision that the decision as to what were "too few hands" should be left, not with the Minister, whose job it is to take a political decision, but with the Commission, was quite unparalleled, I humbly say, in its folly, in any Act of Parliament which I have ever seen. It is a striking fact, however, that to get that provision in more sensible form and shape we have had to wait until Third Reading. Fortunately, in this House we have the very valuable power to move Amendments on Third Reading. I am glad that that Amendment has been made. It was in no sense a Party political point. It was, in fact, a perfectly sound Parliamentary point, as every person who cares about the condition of the Statute Book and the elementary principles of government will realise. But I am bound to say that I think it is a matter of regret that this Bill has had that obvious blot upon it for so long.

I am very pleased at the acceptance of the suggestion which I made—though I believe it was Lord Fairfax of Cameron who originally threw it out—that we should have this procedure of a preliminary canter on the proposals with regard to the railways, so that we could look at them before the Minister propounded his ultimate solution. That, again, is in no sense a Party political point. It is in accordance with what your Lordships were always telling me for many years when I occupied the position of Lord Chancellor, and I should like the noble Marquess the Leader of the House to understand plainly what I feel about it. I realise that the proposal I originally made—as a matter of fact, I raised it simply for the purpose of discussion—of having Amendments moved to a statutory instrument, is quite impracticable. We cannot make the two Houses work together on that basis. I said that at the time. I simply raised the proposal for the purpose of discussion. Where you are doing what is obviously a very important thing, namely, reorganising the railways, for a Minister to stand up, as Lord Leathers stood up, and say: "We are not going to air our views about what ought to be done about the railways what we are going to do is to get an enabling Bill, discuss it with other people, and then come here and give you a piece of paper on which is set out what we are going to do"—that, as I said, is a Parliamentary outrage; and I believe that statement to be true. I may have done worse myself in the past; I do not know; but I think it utterly wrong that such a proposal should ever have been made. The Government have seen fit to give way on this point.

When we come to points which are not Parliamentary points, but points in which Party politics are concerned, I am bound to say that we have achieved almost nothing. It is true that we have got some concession about the size of the Commission. I think it is common knowledge that the Minister had previously said to the T.U.C. that he was prepared to make that concession; consequently, we did not really need to have much debate about it here. We have had a concession about pensions. We pointed out some slight error in the Bill about pensions, which the Government were quite ready to put right. We have also got, from our point of view, this most substantial Amendment made, whereby the six-fifths of the vehicles taken over in 1948, being the quantity of vehicles which the Commission were to be allowed to keep, became five-fourths. That improvement, however, was rather destroyed by the acceptance of the Amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, saying that in no particular category of the three categories mentioned—I think this is in Clause 4 at page 5—could the increase be more than thirteen-tenths. We moved an Amendment to omit the words "other motor vehicles," but we failed to get it carried. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, during the course of the discussion on that Amendment was clearly under a misapprehension. He said to the House, not once but several times, that the Commission had expressed the view that this provision was workable and they were satisfied with it. If necessary, I can turn up the quotation. It is obvious to me he was under a misapprehension.


No, I was not. I have asked again about this, and I am informed that the Commission have never contended that this division into three categories was not entirely workable.


Would the noble Viscount do me the goodness to consult the Minister about this?


I have done so.


It might be possible to do it again. I have seen a letter about it. I am not accustomed to making wild statements about these things. The Commission have expressed the view in plain terms that they are extremely dissatisfied with this arrangement about categories. What the noble Viscount said was that the Commission had expressed the view that they were satisfied. It does not follow that the Commission are right or wrong, what we have here is a pure issue of fact as to the satisfaction of the Commission with regard to this scheme. As I say, I have seen a letter, and the Commission have, as I know, expressed the view that the yare entirely dissatisfied with the scheme.


Will the noble and learned Earl permit me to intervene again for a moment? I, also, am rather careful in coming to the House and making statements. Not only did I consult the Minister, who met me throughout every stage during the proceedings, but I have also consulted the Minister, and my noble friend Lord Leathers this morning, and the statement which I made to-day is, I am sure, absolutely accurate. The statement was to the effect that, so far as the practicability of the scheme goes, the Commission are satisfied that it is completely practicable. Actually, under the Bill as it stood, the Commission would have been rigidly limited in the different classes of vehicles. What Lord Teynham's Amendment did was not to restrict the power which the Bill gave the Commission, but to give them further power by giving a wider margin of tolerance. That, I am assured—and I have asked again this morning—is practicable. As regards my statement that the Commission were satisfied, I said quite clearly that the Commission would like to have far more vehicles than five-fourths, and that they would also like to be able to choose the whole of one class of vehicles. I also said—and I stand by it—that the Commission preferred, not unnaturally, to have five-fourths rather than nothing, which they had to start with, or the smaller amount which was given later, and preferred to have a wider measure of tolerance than no tolerance at all.


There is a very remarkable difference of view about this. This Amendment, of course, has to go back to another place, and the Minister will be able to look at the matter and, in particular, will be able to look at the letter. I hope he will quote the letter which I have seen, which indicates to me plainly that the Commission are completely dissatisfied with the arrangement proposed by Lord Teynham. So, if it proves that I am right, I hope that the Amendment will be reconsidered.

With regard to the Bill as a whole, I am bound to say that the results we have achieved seem to me to be very meagre. The mountain has laboured, there is no doubt about that; but all that it has produced is a ridiculously small mouse. I entirely agree that no Opposition can expect to have Amendments on points of principle accepted. I will go further: I think no Opposition can complain if their Amendments, even on points of detail, are not accepted. The Government must govern. But what every Opposition are entitled to expect is that all their Amendments shall be carefully considered and treated as serious Amendments, and that argument shall be met by counter-argument. That is the minimum—I think we shall all agree about that. Whether or not you should accept certain Amendments depends, to my mind, not on Parliamentary tactics but on different considerations altogether. In the political circumstances of to-day, I should have thought it wise in framing any legislation to consider what the consequences were likely to be, and not to trail one's coat. If there was a reasonable opportunity of compromise without giving anything away, I should have thought it was desirable to lake that opportunity in the circumstances of today. I am bound to say I cannot think that that opportunity has been taken.

Divisions in this House prove nothing at all. We all know that there is a great Conservative majority in this House, and the Government can obviously vote us down. What does matter in this House is that we shall go away satisfied that our reasoned Amendments—and we have not put them down lightly and without consideration—have been met by counter-reasons, which we may not accept but which should make us feel to ourselves that the Government had good ground for taking that line. One of my noble friends in the course of the debate—the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will remember it because he picked him up at once—said something about obstruction. That we have not done. We never have, we never shall, and we never can. That is not our tradition at all. What is likely to occur is something different and much more serious.

To tell the truth, some of us are getting rather old; and some of us have not very much money and we are bound to ask ourselves, "Is our journey really necessary?" When we come to the House on these Committee stages and find we are not going to do any good or make any alteration, it well may be that we shall gradually fade away. Your Lordships know that that is a real danger which confronts us. There it is.

For that reason I very much hoped that we should get more satisfaction. It is too early to judge on this Bill, because it is only the first of the highly controversial Bills which are being brought forward. I should be wrong not to tell your Lordships that, far from being satisfied with what we have achieved, we are completely dissatisfied. We think there were ample grounds on which we might have been met. After all, the two points we sought to achieve were simply these. We accept the principle, because the Government plainly had a mandate for carrying through this Bill, but we wanted to get disposal at the best possible price—and I cannot think there can really be any conflict of interest about that, because it is the taxpayer's property which is involved and we should realise it at the best advantage. The second point was about the size of the fleet to he left to the Commission. We wanted them to be able to carry on, at any rate with the main trunk routes, though subject to competition. As it is, they are so reduced as to be quite unable to carry on trunk services or anything else efficiently.

Let me deal with the first of those two points. As I said it is the taxpayers' money which is concerned. We all want to make the levy as small as possible, if we are to have a levy. The noble Lords opposite have said that goodwill is already lost. In the balance sheet, which is signed by two of the most eminent accountants in the City of London, the goodwill stands at some £33,000,000 for the road haulage vehicles; that is said to represent a true and fair account of the companies' business, and signed in the ordinary way. I cannot accept the view that the goodwill is not there to-day. What the Government are doing about this Bill, by breaking this organisation up into a thousand parts, may well be to destroy this goodwill. But that is their deliberate act. That is why a levy has to be introduced, to make good that serious loss of goodwill. According to the poet: You may shatter the vase if you will, But the scent of roses will cling to it still. It may be so in poetry but it is not so in real life. And if we shatter the Commission into a thousand pieces, the goodwill, the smell, and everything else might easily be destroyed. I can well understand that the goodwill will be destroyed, but it is there to-day.

In the first clause of the Bill, which deals with the disposal and sale of the Commission's road haulage assets, we asked that the words "as quickly as is reasonably practicable" should be taken out, because, though we have no objection to doing this quickly, we do want to have regard to another factor—the doing of this efficiently. By that, I mean doing it in such a way as to get the best price. We did not like the emphasis which was placed in that first clause on speed, without some corresponding emphasis on efficiency. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, regarded that as a matter of great principle, and he so said. But the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, thought it a matter of mere detail, because he thought the principle was conceded in a later clause. If that was so, why were we not given this Amendment? But apparently the two noble Lords differ on this point. There it is, in the very forefront of this Bill the Government emphasise speed, and do not take the trouble to emphasise that the Commission should also get the best price.

I want to ask a question, to which I know I shall get a perfectly clear and categorical answer. It is being said and I am only giving voice to rumour—this is very important, and I would ask the noble Marquess who is going to reply to listen to me for a moment—that the United Dominions Trust, or some similar financial corporation, are to be placed in a privileged position. Is that so? Are the provisions of Statutory Instruments Nos. 121 and 724 going to be waived? It is being said (I myself have had people say it to me, though not allowing me to quote them) that the banks have been "tipped off" to relax credit restrictions and give credit facilities to the buyers of transport units. I thought it desirable that I should mention this rumour and get a categorical answer and, I hope, a denial of it. But if it is so—if the rumour is true—we ought to be told quite plainly that a privileged class is being created. A builder or an engineer who wants to extend his business at the present time has to face all the rigours of credit restriction. But is it to be said that by Government decree one cannot have credit facilities to extend this business or enter that trade, but that one can have the facilities if entering road haulage? If this is so, I feel, and I am sure your Lordships would agree with me, that we should be told quite plainly, so that the public may know that a privileged class is being created. I very much hope that the noble Marquess will be able to give a perfectly clear and categorical answer to this question, and that his answer will be that there is no truth in this rumour which I, and I strongly suspect many of your Lordships, have heard.

I pass to the second point. Under the Bill, the Commission are allowed to operate vehicles only to the extent of some 17,000 tons. If you express that tonnage in terms of 3½-ton vehicles, you get one result; if you express it in terms of 8-ton vehicles, you get another result—a smaller result. But, however expressed, it is far too small a figure to enable the Commission to continue even their trunk service. Surely, here was a case where we might have been met. It was not as though you were destroying the Commission altogether: you are allowing them to continue in business to some extent. Certainly you allow the Commission to continue in competition although you destroy their monopoly—that is part of the scheme, and I do not question it. But why not put the Commission in a position where they can be effective competitors? Why make them go into the competition with their hands tied behind their back? Why limit them to such number of vehicles as will make it impossible for them to carry out the trunk services which have been so efficiently carried out in the past? I said the other day, and I say it again, that I think the doctrine that private enterprise is always efficient and right and that the competitive system must always be adopted, is a foolish doctrine—almost as foolish as the doctrine that public enterprise is always right; that every public enterprise is efficiently run, and that every problem is solved by nationalisation. Those are pagan gods, and sensible people should worship at neither shrine.

This is a case where an ugly and awkward fact has overthrown a preconceived theory. The fact is that the transport service run by this Commission has been an exceedingly efficient service, and for that very reason it has got to be sacrificed. The instinct of humans to sacrifice to the gods is a very old one, from Abraham to Jephthah—who in some respects resembles the noble Viscount opposite—who, in return for his victory over the children of Ammon (and I do not refer to our late Chief Whip), promised to sacrifice whatever first met him on his return. What first met him on his return was his own daughter. After two months of bewailing, she had to be sacrificed. This public enterprise has had to be sacrificed, just because it has proved itself so completely efficient. There have been 2,691 columns of Hansard spoken about this Bill. Not one single instance has been given by any person speaking on behalf of the Government of any single efficiency against this organisation—save one: the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, referred to a gentleman who lived at Welwyn Garden City who had had three parcels misdelivered—and that out of a number of parcels delivered of the order of 1,500,000 a week. It is the literal fact that no endeavour has been made to prove that this has been an inefficient organisation. I maintain that, so far as the main trunk services are concerned, this has been a wonderfully efficient organisation. If your Lordships want proof of that, it is to be found in the fact that such a tremendous proportion of the vehicles are fully laden on their return journeys. We who have to use these outmoded roads in this country will find what is going to happen to us if the number of these great vehiclesis largely increased, because the same vehicle cannot be used fully laden on its return journey. I quoted before, and I do so again, what the Vice-President of the Association of British Chamber of Commerce has said—and, of course, he is in favour of private enterprise. He said: Experience has shown that there are services which can best be given by a larger and co-ordinated road haulage unit. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, wound up his speech on Second Reading by quoting as the higher objective of the Bill the attainment of a properly coordinated system in which each form of transport was able to render those services which it was economically and technically best suited to do. What hope have the Government of doing that now under this new scheme? That is surrendered for ever, unless and until this Bill is repealed. The noble Lord, Lord Leathers, said in his speech that there had been little progress in integration. He never referred us to the statement, published in 1950 by the British Transport Commission, Integration of Freight Services by Road and Rail. There, a complete scheme of integration is set out, which it was proposed should serve as a directive from the Commission to the Railway and the Road Haulage Executives. I wish the noble Lord had told us about that. It is quite idle to say that there were no plans for integration—there were. Under the new scheme there is no hope of integration.

There it is. We are not going to divide on the Third heading of this Bill. Your Lordships plainly have a mandate for it, and it has been discussed. However, I am bound to say that I wish I could feel happier about the whole procedure. This House—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, here—as it is constituted to-day, was of great value when we had a Labour Government. The mere fact that the greater numbers were on the opposite side made it necessary that Labour Minister; should go out of their way to conciliate and meet, and should try to deal with the arguments advanced. Do not let it be said that this House is effective only when a Labour or Liberal Government are in power. If it be the fact that we have a bicameral system only when we have a Labour or Liberal Government. and that when we have a Tory Government in power we have a single-Chamber system, then indeed, the ranks of those who desire to speak against our House will be greatly increased.


My Lords, perhaps I might answer one point that has been raised by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. He asked whether any privileged class had been created. That is not so. What the Treasury have done is this. They have informed the banks that they consider this—that is, the action under this Bill—a suitable subject for credit in the national interest. This is common practice, just as a particular line of business or export may get dollars.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, if my noble and learned Leader found his speech difficult to deliver, I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that my speech will be even more difficult to deliver: first, because I am a relatively new Member of your Lordships' House, and secondly, because I have to follow someone of such outstanding importance and ability as my noble and learned friend Lord Jowitt. I hope it may be understood when I say, as one who has been actively associated with the transport industry from 1900 for more than half a century—a lifetime spent actively in transport work—that the passing of this Bill is to me a matter of profound regret, sorrow and disappointment. As long ago as 1918, the Association in which I took some part sponsored a Bill for the co-ordination of all forms of inland transport under public ownership. In season and out of season, responsible trade union leader sin this country have urged that the right and proper way to ensure for the trading and travelling public the best possible service and, at the same time, to maintain reasonable standards of employment, is a co-ordinated system of inland transport under public ownership. That solution became all the more urgent and pressing when, almost immediately after the end of the First World War, the railways were confronted with bitter and intensive road competition.

If your Lordships will allow me, I should like to illustrate that point by reading an addendum to the findings of the National Wages Board for March, 1931—an addendum signed not only by the trade union representatives but by two of the independent members of the tribunal, Mr. Henry May and Sir Arthur Pugh. If my recollection serves me aright, I think the railway companies were asking for a 10 per cent. reduction in wages and salaries and for an easement in conditions of service generally. This is what the addendum said: Whilst concurring in the findings which provide a measure of assistance for the purpose of enabling the companies to encounter the immediate difficulties, we desire at the same time to state that in our opinion this inquiry has clearly revealed the necessity for other action, in order that the industry may be in a position to provide the transport facilities desired by industry, commerce and the travelling public.…Modern requirements make further co-ordination imperative, and the present inquiry has reinforced our opinion that only along the lines of comprehensive national organisation of all forms of transport under public ownership and control can the problems of the transport industry be overcome. More than twenty years ago, representative men with whom I was associated put that opinion on record.

As I ventured to say in my Second Reading speech, enlightened railway administrators, from Sir Eric Geddes in 1918, to the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, himself, in 1944, came round to that point of view. I will not trouble the noble Lord with the quotation, because I am sure that it is well in his mind. I submit to your Lordships that, broadly speaking, the 1947 Act gave expression to those conceptions of a co-ordinated system of inland transport under public ownership. I should be the last to claim that the 1947 Act was the final word; that is was not capable of amendment, adjustment and improvement. But I do submit to your Lordships that, without our departing from the fundamental principles embodied in the 1947 Act, that Act was capable of adjustment and amendment. In that connection, I should like to refer your Lordships to a remarkable paper read to the Institute of Transport on March 16, by Mr. A. J. Pearson, Chief Officer (Administration) The Railway Executive. I will quote to your Lordships his opening sentences. This is what Mr. Pearson told the Institute of Transport: In the years 1935 and 1945, Lord Hurcomb"— who, owing to the working of the machine, has been unable to be here to state the facts accurately— recorded for the Institute of Transport, in memorable form, the developments that occurred in the co-ordination of inland transport in this country after the First World War. The outstanding trend of those developments in the twenty-five years was from unrestricted competition towards a harmony of operation of the different agencies of transport in the interests of the community. Lord Hurcomb did not conclude that harmony had been achieved, nor did he minimise the difficulties still to be faced, but he did outline the steady progress that had been made towards that goal. This Bill completely reverses that trend of transport development. In the words used in a leading article in The Times a little while ago, it will be, with some insignificant exceptions, war to the knife between competing forms of inland transport. I recall a profound saying of Bishop Butler: Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be. Why then, should we deceive ourselves? This Bill will not bring harmony, good will and prosperity in the transport world; it may well bring bitter industrial strife. I ask your Lordships to remember that wages and salaries absorb almost 70 per cent. of the net railway revenue. As a matter of fact, in 1932 the railway companies put the proportion as high as 75 per cent. With a due sense of responsibility, I say that any attempt to worsen these conditions of service must inevitably lead to a bitter struggle. Should that unfortunately arise, as a direct result of this Bill, and should there arise bitter warfare between all forms of transport, and pressure aimed at bringing down rates, at a time when the energies of us all should be concentrated on restoring economic stability to this country, then a very grave responsibility will rest upon the shoulders of those responsible for this measure. Finally, may I mention that on the morrow of the return of the Conservative Government the chairman of one of the road haulage associations claimed the fruit of victory. I would ask the road haulage interests to bear in mind that it may be that, instead of rare and refreshing fruit, the fruit of victory, as provided for the road haulage industry under this Bill, will prove to be both bitter and dangerous for them.