§ 2.50 p.m.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH rose to call attention to the failure of the existing road system of this country to match present needs, and to the inadequacy of the future construction programme to provide a sound system of communication to meet the anticipated expansion of the country's economy; and also to the need to inquire into the operation of the railway system in these regards; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I, without affront to noble Lords opposite, preface any arguments I may put forward in support of the Motion that appears on the Order Paper in my name by quoting, with some commendation, what appeared in the Conservative Party's Election manifesto? It said:
The rise in volume of traffic, a yardstick of the rise in prosperity, must be matched by an intensive drive to build better and safer roads.
I have never seen so much sense in a Conservative publication before, but unfortunately it is followed by the biggest piece of nonsense. This is what it says:
Our road programme is already the biggest we have ever had in this country. Over the next five years it will be twice as big as over the last five years.
Over the last five years it averaged £12 million a year, and in the next year the late Minister said that he proposed that it should not be less than about £60 million. So, in order to fulfil an electoral promise, Her Majesty's Government do not have to spend another halfpenny on the roads of the country.
When we come to the gracious Speech we find that it says:
In order to develop a sound system of communications throughout the country, My Government will press forward with their policy of building new highways and improving existing roads.
My Lords, that will remain an idle dream unless we have a new outlook at this matter, a vastly expanded programme compared to anything that has been discussed in Parliament before, a streamlined procedure and a clearing away of many obstacles that stand in the way of carrying out what I would suggest to your Lordships is one of the greatest commercial and industrial projects that
has ever been attempted in this country. I am not going to waste either your time or mine in trying to make a case for a vastly expanded roads programme—I doubt whether there has ever been a matter more universally acclaimed and completely non-controversial than the dire need for a new conception of what is necessary to sustain the industrial and commercial life of this country. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, in his excellent speech last Thursday, said he would put it as the first priority in this country—the first priority! I agree with him.
§ I think that it might be useful at this stage to attune your Lordships' minds to what it involves and what is necessary. In 1957, at a conference of the Institution of Civil Engineers, all these experts arrived at the conclusion that, in 1957, to have a highway or a road system, urban and country-wide, that would match the volume of traffic in existence then, £3,500 million would be required. That was when we had on the roads of this country 7½ million vehicles. To-day, we have 8½ million vehicles, and they are coming on to the roads of this country at the rate of half a million a year as a minimum. And the greater the success Her Majesty's Government have with their economic policy, the higher the standard of life, the fuller employment, believe me, the greater the number of motor cars. Your cannot stop it; it is the modern age measurement of economic well being.
§ I do not care from what angle you see it, one thing stands out as the crux of our road problem in this country: that we have got to replace the present Treasury piecemeal, year by year, financial handout and have a long-term policy, financially backed. I propose now to tell your Lordships what I think is necessary. I have taken five years as a minimum programme, not because it has a great deal of significance, but because five years is a period coinciding with the life of this present Government. I would suggest to the noble Lord who is going to reply to me that what should happen, in order to carry out a road programme that will come anywhere near what we all envisage to be necessary, is that the Treasury should put the Ministry of Transport in funds now. I have tried to arrive at a figure by taking into account what I think the country can afford, what 335 I think it can spend in that time, and what is the equipment in personnel, fixed plant, et cetera, needed in order to do it.
§ What should happen is this. We should start in the financial year 1960–61 with £150 million, and increasingly expand it over the five years to £325 million. That would mean a total expenditure over the five years of about £1,120 million. Anything over £1,000 million sounds a lot of money, but to-day the Government are taking from the vehicle user £500 million in taxation, and if the present rate of taxation goes on and is not relieved at all, in five years' time the amount will be £750 million a year.
During the debate on the Address from the Throne the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, "Of course we have not got the material or the labour." I know that he will forgive my saying that that is not correct. We have. I can excuse his saying that, because it has been the stock excuse of everybody who has talked on roads from that Despatch Box ever since I can remember—I have said it myself many a time. But we have the President of the Civil Contractors' Association saying only the other day
I should like to say emphatically that the civil engineering industry could quite easily handle a road programme double or treble the present size. The manpower is available, the materials are available, the plant is available and the know-how is available.
The County Councils Association have said, on behalf of the local authorities—otherwise the county councils all over the country—that they are quite prepared to double their efforts and their finances, and to treble them, in two or three years' time—naturally, if the grant aid is to be maintained. That is the sum of money which I believe is necessary and I do not think we can do it under that amount. Her Majesty's Government have an alternative to not spending this money: they can increase the petrol tax by about three times in order to keep cars off the road. They could, of course, even bring out a scheme for rationing production; but they would then be faced with such unemployment that they would not know how to cure it. You see, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government have no choice but to spend this money. They have no choice but to go on and prevent stagnation from creeping upon us as it is to-day. In
my view that is the crux of the whole matter.
§ Let us now look at our present methods and how they can be improved. I do not know how many of your Lordships have read this Report on Trunk Roads by the Select Committee on Estimates. It is interesting from every angle, from how (if I may use a colloquialism) the "buck is passed" as between the local authority and the civil authority, and between the Treasury and the Minister. I am not going to bother your Lordships with all the details, but in the end it comes to this: the evidence of the Ministry of Transport boils down to the fact that they do not know what finance they are to have except from one year to another, and they do not know why there should be all these conveyancing and land-purchasing delays. The Treasury Solicitor's Office say one cannot expect anything but delay because they do not know the programme from one year to the next; and on it goes.
§ I will give your Lordships one or two illustrations of the net result of all this in the building of roads. Your Lordships are acquainted to-day with that marvellous success, the M.1. I congratulate the engineers and those who formed the conception. I am not sure that other parts of the country have not had to starve for it, hence the delay in completing one of the most vital links in our industrial chain, the Birmingham—Bristol motorway. The start of that motorway has now been postponed, and the reason given for the postponement is that some of the side road details have to be resettled. I should not be rude enough to say that that is not the truth, but I doubt whether it is the whole truth. Whether it is true or not, it is the stock excuse, and in this particular case it quite neatly transfers the cost of the Birmingham—Bristol section of the motorway into next year's financial allocation, because, I suspect, the M.1 has cost a bit too much money this year.
§ That is one of the results of this ridiculous year-to-year hand-out of finance. As your Lordships will remember, the Road Fund, years ago, was put into the general Exchequer and now the spending is on the basis of yearly grant. Another result of this financial juggling which can be seen is that we have considerable mileages of trunk road that start nowhere and end nowhere. There 337 is no link whatsoever. Take the Ross Spur. That looks to me as though it is going to stand in splendid isolation for quite a long time before it is linked one way or the other. Take the classic example that I have quoted to your Lordships on many occasions, what I have called the "Clapham Junction of the South"—the Midland industrial road system, Oxford, and the ring road round Oxford. That is not yet completed. Sanction has not yet been given. Do your Lordships know that that was first projected in 1927 and that the Ministry asked for plans to be submitted for that last vital piece of road in 1947? The Oxford Ring Road now covers fifty-five minutes of the clock—five more minutes remain to be completed. In 1927 plans were asked for and nothing was done. In 1947 they were submitted again and the line has just been decided and settled—eleven years afterwards. Now the authorities are being pressed to submit new plans, I believe the third or fourth lot within five months. If there is not one hour's hitch over land purchase, contractors or anything like that, we shall still not get the finish of that road for two years; and in the meantime 400 tons of goods from the industrial area of Cowley have to go over Carfax in Oxford every day, and that is recognised as perhaps one of the most congested areas in any city in this country. That is what happens by present methods.
§ I am not going to waste time in apportioning blame. I want to see whether I can suggest to your Lordships how we can smooth out this procedure. The first thing for which I would ask is the appointment, directly under and responsible to the Minister, of a Director of Road Construction. He should be responsible to the Minister (for the Minister has many other duties) for seeing that the plan as decided upon shall be pursued vigorously; and, with great respect, the last person who should be appointed to that post should be a civil servant. What is wanted is an industrial operator of great experience who has the know-how and who will, if I can so put it to your Lordships, know all the adjectives as well. He should be the direct link with the contractors. And we have them.
§ I am not going into details as to whether, as has been suggested, we want consulting engineers or not—that is a matter of detail with which I am not 338 concerned—but we have men with sufficient qualifications in the county councils. Their skilled engineers and county surveyors and their assistants have the same qualifications as those in the Ministry of Transport. The lawyers have the same qualifications as anybody in the Treasury Solicitor's office; and, after all, they have to do all the acquisitions for all classified roads other than trunk roads; so it is no trouble to them. We have the administrative staff, spread over this country, if only we will use it and set up a system so that one engineer does not have to submit every little detail to another engineer at the Ministry of Transport and wait, because of the clog in the machine, five or six months, and sometimes twelve months, for answers. My Lords, I think that that is the only way by which we shall make any progress upon our road system or what is called the road programme.
§ I now come to what I believe your Lordships will agree is an even greater problem. It is no good building motorways; it is no good building a road on which traffic can travel at 75 miles in one hour and then shoot it out into a road where it takes an hour to travel the next 75 yards. That is just ridiculous. Here we have the biggest problem, which is to do away with the time-wasting congestion in our urban areas. My Lords, of course everybody has the solution to that problem, but the crux of their solution causes the maximum of inconvenience to everybody else and the minimum of inconvenience to themselves.
§ I do not care what is said, my Lords, we cannot turn money into roads overnight. We can alter our system a little upon the lines I have suggested by making, very likely, the Ministry of Transport responsible for all the motorways or restricted-entry roads right into the area of the London County Council, which has proved itself the biggest failure as a road authority. Consider, for example, the Hammersmith flyover. The Chiswick flyover, whatever we think about its æsthetic value—and everybody's opinion is worth just that to him—at least is already a flyover, and traffic is already going over it. The Hammersmith flyover, which was to be built at the same time as the Chiswick flyover, has only just been started. Indeed, I doubt whether it is started yet; and two and a half years have been 339 wasted by the wrangling between the London County Council and the Ministry of Transport. Chiswick, because it is in Middlesex and therefore under a county authority, got on with the job. Hammersmith is in the area of the London County Council who, as I say, have proved themselves the poorest highway authority in the country.
§ My Lords, when we come to start thinking about urban areas and the congestion, I am going to make six or seven suggestions as to how it can be overcome, because I do not think that we are using even our existing streets and roads to the best use. I know that perhaps the noble Lord who is going to reply to me may turn a sickly green when he hears something I am going to say about this problem, but if he knows of a better scheme perhaps he would tell me. First of all, the first prerequisite—and I am now supposing, that the whole of the community are going to co-operate—is to appoint a traffic engineer in every town. I do not mean a man who pulls up the road or digs things out. In any urban town the person best fitted to be the traffic engineer I have in mind is, very likely, the chief constable. I suggest that there would have to be a complete prohibition on vehicles stopping on main streets for loading or unloading of goods between a stipulated time in the morning until a stipulated time in the evening; and the period would of course be governed by the local traffic conditions of each town. I will give your Lordships an example. Between 8.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. no vehicle should be allowed to load or unload along a main road. If only your Lordships knew the chaos that is caused by waiting lorries and trucks cutting down four and five carriageway roads to not quite two! I know that it means staggering; I know that it means a rearrangement of hours; but I am working on the assumption that we want to cure this problem.
§ There should be a re-examination of the one-way traffic system for a new system. We have never intelligently applied the one-way traffic system in this country. And coincident with a one-way traffic system I would prohibit all right-hand turns on main roads. The right-hand turn is the biggest cause of traffic congestion and a most prolific source of accidents in built-up areas. 340 May I remind your Lordships that to make a detour of two miles at 20 miles an hour will take only six minutes. It is far better than being jammed in traffic for ten minutes, and cheaper. That is the next thing.
§ Another suggestion is that I would not allow any bus stop to be within 200 yards of a congestion zone. Again I would cite in the provincial towns the example of Carfax in the City of Oxford. I would have a complete ban on all types of vehicles waiting during peak hour traffic. That could be from 8 to 9.15 a.m.; 12 noon to 1.15 p.m.; and 5 to 6.30 p.m. Again I am talking only about main roads. I would also have a prohibition on all abnormal loads going through any town during the day. My next suggestion is that I would not allow any private vehicle to stop for more than fifteen minutes for the purpose of shopping, again on a main road.
§ Then, my Lords—this, perhaps, is the most revolutionary proposal—I would make it compulsory for all local authorities to provide off-street parking, and I would also allow them to borrow money for the purpose of doing so. I understand that to-day local authorities are not allowed by the Treasury to borrow money to provide off-street parking. It is the duty of a local authority to provide off-street parking, which does not necessitate building garages; and if we are going to wait until parking meters have supplied enough money for it we are going to wait until the traffic is at a standstill.
§ The other thing I would do is to make it compulsory for all heavy through-traffic to use by-passes. What is the good of spending millions and millions of pounds to build ring roads around cities if the heavy commercial traffic continues to go slap through the centre causing as much congestion as it did before? I myself made a survey in Oxford, where the eastern by-pass has just been completed. All the traffic funnelled in from Birmingham and the Midlands can now go round the northern by-pass, round the new eastern by-pass and on to the Reading road, with complete and free access to the south-east. I waited in my car for one hour the other day before I saw a commercial vehicle go down that by-pass. I turned round and drove into Oxford, and within half a mile there 341 were six of the heaviest laden commercial vehicles which had come from the north and were going straight through the city. Do not ask me how you are going to do this. That is for you. I have given you the big idea: it is for you to work out the detail. But, my Lords, I will tell you this: unless you do do something, the traffic will come to a standstill. So again you have no option. It is no good toying with this problem: and if you do not do it now, your task will become almost impossible.
§ My Lords, so much for the road angle. I have not tried to embellish anything that I have said. I have tried to put before your Lordships—not to discuss them, but merely to put them before your Lordships—some tangible suggestions, as a result of my experience, as to how to solve this problem in a practical manner. When I come to the next part of my Motion, I do not know whether I have any practical solution at all. I think that the railways of this country are providing us with an almost intractable problem. Quite frankly, I believe that the crisis in the railways of this country as a factor in our transport system—and it surely is not playing anything like its proper part in the economy to-day—will come within the lifetime of the present Parliament.
§ I am not going to speak too long, because I should like to return to this subject later, at some other date, but if I did I should be tempted to make some very severe remarks about it. I am not going to suggest that we want a high-powered inquiry into the operations of the British Transport Commission. Yet it is not right; it is not functioning properly. And the trouble is right at the top. I am not at all certain that Parliament is not largely to blame for this. We set up a massive structure which I think experience has proved is unworkable and is not geared to the modern age. We have an overall Commission of fifteen people, of whom eight are part-time, when the whole of successful industry to-day concentrates itself on executive, full-time directors.
§ I do not think that the public are being told the truth. I remember that when we debated the 1956 proposals for the railways, I said in your Lordships' House that they would not work. I said that the financial provisions would not be 342 met. I was right: they were not. So then we had to have a reappraisal. My Lords, the reappraisal will not be met either. We are supposed to have a five-year plan: a plan to bring them into a surplus state of anything from £50 million to £100 million in five years' time, based upon the financial end of 1957–1957 was going to be "scratch." In 1958 £35 million was lost, so at the end of 1958 they did not start from scratch. And while 1959, I would estimate, may show a loss of less than 1958, largely because of the imposed economies of £25 million ordered by the Minister, at the end of 1959 they will not have arrived at scratch; and they have only three years to go.
§ I hope that I do not use too strong an expression, but if the opening of the M.1, along which new coaches travel from Birmingham to London in the same time as an express train, and at half the price, does not put the fear of God into the British Transport Commission, I do not know what will. But I dare swear now, my Lords, that when, in two years' time, we have a reappraisal of the reappraisal, which we shall have, we shall be told, "Of course, the advent of the motor road and the advent of the 75-mile-an-hour motor coach were things which could not have been foreseen or taken into calculation".
§ Now, my Lords, I have just two further points, and then I will finish. I want to ask the noble Lord: what is happening to what I consider—and I think all your Lordships will consider—the greatest single relief of congestion of London traffic, the Victoria line? It has been accepted by all the experts. It is going to cost £50 million. What has happened to it? It was first mentioned, I think, five years ago. Are the British Transport Commission going to build it? Are the Government going to find the money, or what? It is said that the British Transport Commission cannot build the Victoria line because it is not profitable. Nonsense! They have to spread the cost over the whole of the London Underground service: to use the old Scottish expression, "The fat must fry the lean". How much property have the British Transport Commission got? Millions of pounds worth, eating its head off at a time when property values are at their highest. I am told that they 343 have no powers to exploit that situation. Have they asked for such powers? Is it not their responsibility to use the taxpayers' assets to the best possible advantage? And, if they have not got under the Act the powers to exploit this property worth millions of pounds which is spread all over the country, have they asked the Government for them? Perhaps the noble Lord will tell me. Perhaps they had better call in Mr. "Charlie" Clore. He might tell them how properly to handle huge tracts of property.
So, my Lords, with all this, I ask the noble Lord who is to reply to look into the construction of the British Transport Commission. He has at his right hand now one of the accepted experts of British industry, the noble Lord, Lord Mills. Why is he not here, at a time when we want the Government to have the best industrial brains? I understand that Lord Mills has been sent off to Australia to do a job which I should have thought could have been done just as well by any other noble Lord, such as one of the elder statesmen who sit below the gangway. Let him, as an industrialist, tell the Government what is wrong and how to put it right. Then, when we have a proper, national system of transport; when we have the roads, and when congestion is properly handled, then we may fulfil the intention stated in the gracious Speech:
to develop a sound system of communications throughout the country.
My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I do not intend to speak at any great length, but there are on or two points I wish to submit to your Lordships. We have just listened to a delightful, amusing at times, and interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Coming into this House from another world and listening to the noble Lord, one would not imagine that we have had a Socialist Government in this country; one would never imagine that we have had a Socialist Minister of Transport. All the blame is put on the Conservative Administration. But it is true to say that while the Socialist Government talked about an £800 million programme of roads, not one penny of that sum was 344 spent. Another interesting point the noble Lord mentioned was that the London County Council has proved itself a failure—at traffic control, he added quickly, because that is a Socialist body and I should think that it would be rather hard for the noble Lord to criticise them so directly.
In another passage, talking about off-street parking, the noble Lord said: "We must have more garages. We must put up the money to build them." Yes; we can build as many garages as the building industry can cope with, subject to its existing commitments, but how are we to compel people to use them? There is a big garage at the back of Selfridge's, but it is never more than half full.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, shall I tell the noble Earl how? —by banning parking on main streets.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I quite agree that that should be done, but I do not think, even when parking on main streets is banned, that motorists will retire to the garages built at such vast expense. Probably they will go round the corner to the nearest mews or side street.
From that point I should like to pass, with your Lordships' permission, to rather more fruitful topics. First of all, those noble Lords who have travelled by car throughout the length and breadth of this country will have realised, if they have used their powers of observation, that there is an enormous road programme going ahead. Whether or not it is big enough is a matter of opinion. If it is not big enough, that is largely due to the sort of gap that was left by the Labour Party in not having provided enough money for the programme going ahead. But I feel that a great deal of credit is deserved by the Ministry of Transport and the late Minister of Transport for what they have managed to achieve. They are going ahead. They have told us their difficulties. It takes four years to get a motorway going, owing to the elaborate procedure that has to be gone through.
Anybody who goes up the A.1 to the North will know what is going on there. Those who went to the opening of the new motorway between London and Birmingham will have seen the work begun on the Barnet By-pass the whole way along. Talking about the Barnet By-pass, I was interested in what the noble Lord, 345 Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said about indivisible loads. Those of us who went out to the opening in the morning, at about half past eight, found a big indivisible object being towed along the Barnet By-pass, the biggest I have seen in years, and behind it, crawling, quite a mile of traffic held up by it. Could I make this appeal to the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Ministry of Transport: can the authorities do something to see that, if these indivisible loads must go along our crowded arteries of traffic, they go either by night or, at any rate, at times which do not coincide with the peak hours of traffic?
Now we have a new Minister of Transport. Those of us who have followed his great record in the past are expecting great things from him. And the first thing many of us may ask is: Will he do better than his predecessor? Here is a little element of competition. Perhaps the new Minister of Transport will be able to do it. But I was not very much encouraged the other day by the first speech which the Minister has made since he assumed his high office. I have here an extract from a newspaper report, in which he said, referring to the new motorway:We are keeping an open mind at the moment on the question of speed limits. We will see what happens.Is that not surely an obsolete theory? First of all, we build a motorway designed for high speed. Are we not going rather to nullify that if we fix a speed limit? What would the appropriate speed limit be, and how would it be enforced? That is the sort of question that springs to mind, and I cannot help feeling that it is a step backwards to suggest that there may be a speed limit.
Before a speed limit is imposed, I think that other things should be tried. How would it be, as opposed to the idea of a speed limit, to select special "traffic cops," give them the fastest motor-cycles which are made (I could give the name but perhaps I should be accused of advertising the machine), bicycles which could catch anything on the motorway, and send them out on patrol, not necessarily in the first instance to secure convictions but rather to act as "courtesy cops"? When they see a vehicle whose driver is obviously thinking of other things, or is not obeying 346 the rules of the motorway, they could catch up with him, ask him to pull up and point out to him where he has gone wrong. I should very much like to see that idea tried out before there is any question of further action of an unduly restrictive kind.
There are certain things that "traffic cops" may be expected to look out for. The most important thing, as we all know, is lane discipline. Lane discipline must be enforced if we want to get the proper use of these very expensive arteries of traffic. May I give your Lordships a personal experience? Going down to the opening of the new motorway the other day, I found myself following a medium-sized car. There was nothing else in sight in any direction. I thought to myself that I could easily go by on the near side, but that was naughty and I must not do it, so I flashed my headlights behind the car in front, thinking that he might see them. He did not pay any attention. I got closer and sounded my horn—no attention. I then got closer still and sounded my horn for all I was worth. Very reluctantly, he pulled over just enough to let me get through. I looked in my mirror when I was past and saw that he was back on the centre line of the motorway. The motorway was not open at that time because the Minister had not yet performed the opening ceremony. But that sort of driver needs a lot of advice from somebody in authority, and probably nobody could do it better than the police.
May I make another suggestion with regard to the motorway? Might it not be a good thing for the authorities to insist that all vehicles be fitted with either trafficators or "winkers"? There are going to be commercial vehicles on the motorway. It is not enough for the driver's hand to come out of the vehicle at the last moment. If he were given trafficators or "winkers," the drivers coming up astern would be able to see that they had sufficient distance to be sure of what was going to happen.
One thing I notice in connection with the London—Birmingham motorway is that where you come on to it at the south end there is a surface which looks like concrete—whether it is or not, I do not know—but at intervals after that there are bridges which go under the motorway, and at every one of these 347 there is a tarmac surface. I think it is essential that motorways and all these great arteries of traffic should have a homogeneous surface. The tyre friction on a concrete surface probably differs greatly from that on a tarmac surface. On one or two of these tarmac patches the road bends a little, certainly enough to make a car start to skid. I am thinking of this only in the interests of public safety. Further on, I was told by one of the officials of the contractors that the surface is homogeneous and all tarmac. I do not think it matters whether it is tarmac or concrete so long as it is the same, but to have it varying is a trap.
We have come to the end of the construction—or nearly come to the end, except for the Watford Spur, or whatever it is called—of the London—Birmingham motorway. But is it not rather a poor reward for the wonderful effort made by this firm, by all its workers and staff, to secure the completion of a motorway of this magnitude in almost record time, that they cannot be quickly turned on to another job? What is happening about the Yorkshire section of the motorway? I hope that when the noble Lord conies to reply he will tell us that we may expect construction on that section of the motorway to start, and if possible give us an idea when it is likely to be completed. As things are at the moment the contractors are having to discharge some of their men, and they are finding it difficult to secure employment for all the wonderful machinery which they assembled in order to make the motorway. I cannot help thinking that this matter should be treated as one of priority—perhaps it is so being treated, but one does not know—and that we must get on with the next section of the motorway, or, if not that, then with something equally important.
I want to say a word or two about other parts of the country. If the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, had concentrated on Devon and Cornwall I should have been one of his foremost supporters. Many of your Lordships know that district well. It is one of the great holiday areas of the country, and masses of motor cars go down there in the holiday season. But the roads are 348 just not there for them. There is one road in Cornwall that I have been along myself—probably there are more—where only one vehicle can go along at a time, and if another appears going in the opposite direction both drivers have to pull up and decide which should give way. Many of your Lordships will know of the state which the Exeter By-pass gets into at the holiday time of the year. But then think of the road between Exeter and Torquay. I was told by a high civic official in Torquay that in the ordinary way it takes him a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes to get from Torquay to Exeter. He has to do that journey once a week all through the year. He then said that during the holiday period it took him as much as three and a half hours to get from Torquay to Exeter. It may be asked why he could not go by train, but I do not know the answer to that; that is his business. But it does mean that the roads in that part of the country are unable to handle the traffic which tries to use them.
Finally, there is the position of London. Many of your Lordships go abroad to Paris and you see there sixteen or eighteen tunnels carrying heavy traffic: we might call them underpasses, but whether they are underpasses or tunnels, Paris has them. One point I want to impress on the Minister of Transport is that the French have a special system for lighting their tunnels. We have the big Mersey tunnel, and I do not know of a worse lit undertaking anywhere. You can go into that tunnel on a bright day, and be completely dazzled and unable to see after you have gone about 100 yards. You cannot stop—you are not allowed to—and you are not allowed to use headlights. Also, you are not allowed to vary from one lane to another and must keep a minimum speed of 21 m.p.h.—why it is that figure, I do not know, but that is laid down. If we are going in for tunnels, as I think we should in London—although I believe we have only one under construction—I hope that the Minister of Transport will do what he can to see that they are adequately lit.
The other point I want to make is one that I have made in your Lordships' House many times before regarding the matter of overhead roads and the arcading of streets, which could be done to reduce congestion in certain streets. 349 If Bond Street were arcaded the whole way along there would be a great increase in its width. Think of an overhead road, which may be like the one they have at Chiswick—although I have not been there yet; at any rate, like they have in Brussels. If they can do it in Brussels, surely it might be helpful to do it in certain areas of London. I throw out these suggestions in the hope that they may be helpful, and I should like to thank your Lordships for having put up with me for so Long.
§ 3.48 p.m.
My Lords, in view of the tremendous publicity that our first motorway has gained I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, could have chosen a more appropriate moment at which to initiate this debate. I must say that I agree with a great deal of what he said, but I think he was a little unduly pessimistic about the progress of our road construction. I admit that it is not as much perhaps as we want; we should all like to see things going ahead faster. But the noble Lord must realise that we are not as yet a very wealthy country, and we have other matters to consider—our defence scheme and other things like that—all costing vast sums of money, and we cannot spend the lot on roads, much as some of us would like it. What we have done is to increase the expenditure, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord has seen this book called Basic Road Statistics. If he looks at it he will see that the level of expenditure has kept up quite satisfactorily with the level of income for the last two years, and the estimate for the coming year is well ahead of it. While we should like more done, I do not think we can lay too much blame on the Ministry of Transport.
However, what I do think needs to be considered is the way in which this money is being spent. I was under a misapprehension some time ago when I imagined that a good deal of this road improvement was purely at the discretion of local councils, but I see in a recent number of a motoring magazine which I take that they can make no expenditure on road improvements unless they have the approval of the scheme from the Ministry of Transport. I hope that that is true, and I have no doubt the 350 noble Lord who is to reply will confirm it. If that is so, I can only say that the Ministry of Transport seem to have some very peculiar ideas. For instance, there is one road—an A. road, granted, but not one that is very much used—quite near me. That is a road which leads between Newbury and Andover. A few years ago quite a large sum was spent on straightening out a certain double S bend near Hurstbourne Tarrant—I do not know whether any of your Lordships happen to know that road. That must have cost a considerable amount of money, and to my mind it was completely unnecessary in view of the amount of traffic the road has to take. Surely, the Ministry could have said that for the moment, with the crying need for improvements to roads like the A.1 and similar roads, minor improvements of that type could be postponed until such time as we had the money to do it.
There is also the question of road signs. Apparently they also have to be approved by the Ministry of Transport. How is it, then, that they approved of two examples which I can give your Lordships on that same road at a certain steep hill? At the top of the hill there is the usual sign, "Steep Hill. Keep in Low Gear." If you approach the hill from the bottom you will find the same sign. Do the Ministry of Transport approve that? Not far from there there is a certain cross roads. The road which runs across happens to be the county boundary. On the one side you see the ordinary multiplication sign for cross roads, and on the other side you see "Slow, Major Road Ahead." Hampshire considers it a major road and Wiltshire does not. Is that approved by the Ministry of Transport? I feel that these matters should be much more carefully looked into, and there should be a much more careful examination of road signs by a central authority over the entire country, because these things can be very confusing to motorists. I am not saying that those two instances cause any confusion at all, but there are places where there are very misleading signs.
The same applies to signposting. For instance, only the other day I was coming up from the country on the A.4, the Cromwell Road Extension. At Hammersmith it peters out completely, as the flyover has not been even started yet, and you find yourself in Hammersmith 351 Broadway. There is no indication whatsoever to tell you which way to turn to get on to that Extension again. Because I happen to know it, it was perfectly easy for me, but for a stranger it might be very difficult. Those things, unimportant though they may seem, may cause a motorist who does not know the district to hesitate; and to hesitate or to waver in traffic can be a fatal thing. Therefore minor matters like that should be much more carefully examined.
With the improvements to our roads, there has been, as your Lordships know, the usual correspondence in the newspapers about higher speed, whether it is going to mean increased fatalities, and all that kind of thing. I hold firmly to the view that higher speed in itself, on a road that is suited to it and by a driver who is suited to it, can be perfectly safe. But there must be both. We are going to improve the roads and we have, as your Lordships have heard, made our first new motorway. But we must also have drivers who are experienced enough to use those roads. That is why I feel very strongly in favour of a system of graded licences. I feel that the driving test as we have it to-day is little more than a farce. It gives you absolutely no indication of what to do in an emergency. It does not necessarily test your reactions; it does not give you any indication of what it feels like to drive at a high speed, and it does not test what I might call your natural road sense, which, of course, is a thing which one develops only after one has been driving some years.
That is why I feel that it is dreadful that a young boy of eighteen can pass his official driving test on, perhaps, an aged Austin 7, which will do at the most only 35 to 40 miles per hour, and he is then at least legally qualified to drive an Aston Martin if he wants to, which will do 140 miles per hour. I do not think that that sort of thing is suitable. We should have first of all a beginner's licence, which will enable him to drive cars up to 10 h.p., and after five years he should be qualified to pass the second test. The second test should be something on the lines of the test at present used by the Institute of Advanced Motorists—in other words, a test in which the examiner does not ask you questions but merely watches your 352 driving. Then, after that time, if the driver can pass that second test he is free to do as he likes and is an experienced motorist.
That would abolish a great deal of this utterly reckless driving by young and inexperienced drivers who have vehicles in their hands which are too fast for them to know how to drive. Often one sees instances of young men who perhaps wish to show off a little to their passenger and who sweep by a lot of other traffic which is standing in a queue very much to their own danger and to the danger of traffic coming in the opposite direction. That sort of thing can be prevented only by hard and painful experience, which we want to avoid, or by the development of road sense that will come after some years of driving and seeing what can happen.
I heartily agree with my noble friend Lord Howe on the question of lane discipline. That is a thing which I think should be much more rigidly enforced, and not only on the motorways. In the Highway Code as it stands to-day there is quite a firm passage in the motorway section about lane discipline, but it does not say a great deal about it on the ordinary roads. First of all, I would ban entirely overtaking on the near side, with the sole exception of cases at cross roads where a driver has given a visible indication that he is about to turn right. But of course one also comes across certain difficulties. I am thinking of a stretch like the Great West Road between the Chiswick flyover and London Airport, where there are three lanes in each direction, but unfortunately the middle lane is the only one where one can be certain of getting an uninterrupted passage, because if one gets into the right hand lane one is apt to get behind a right-turner and be held up a long time; if one gets into the near lane, unfortunately parking is allowed on that road, so that one has to be constantly dodging round the parked cars. The middle lane is the only uninterrupted one. To my mind, in a road of that sort parking should be banned altogether.
Another regulation which I should like to see reviewed very thoroughly is the comparatively new one about the double white line. That has had a great deal of publicity and people have said what 353 a wonderful thing it is. I am afraid I cannot think it a wonderful thing. On a two-lane road—that is to say, a road with one lane running in each direction—I cannot see that it has the slightest significance whatsoever. You get to a section, say, where the broken line is on your side, which enables you to overtake; perhaps you cannot because there is something coming. You get to the next section where the continuous line is on your side; you can see ahead, everything is clear, but you cannot overtake. It seems to me that there is no real virtue that at all. The rule about safe driving and overtaking is that one should never, in any circumstances or on any road, overtake until one can see that the road is clear.
I am convinced that more accidents are caused by unwise overtaking than by any other cause, although actually I believe statistics give turning right without due warning as the priority cause; but I think that probably more serious accidents at any rate are caused by unwise overtaking. Surely, one of the first principles one should teach a learning driver is that he should never overtake anywhere, whether there is a double white line or not, until he can see that the road is clear. It has been said that there are some places where you can see ahead in one direction, as for instance when the road is bending to the right, and you cannot see from the other direction. Well, if any noble Lord cares to come home with me to-morrow night I can show him plenty of places on the A30 where the continuous line is on your side when you can see ahead, and the broken line on your line side when you cannot.
Another point which arises—it is getting rather away from the essential matter of the noble Lord's Motion, but I think it is not an inappropriate time to mention it—concerns hand signals. I would do away with hand signals altogether. They are more apt to be misleading than helpful, and very often, if one happens to be behind a lorry which has a very large body and a very small cab, one cannot see the driver's signal unless one happens to be pulled right out into the middle of the road, which, of course, one wants to avoid. So flashing signals or trafficators seems to me the only way of enabling one to see at once, without pulling out, what the driver in- 354 tends to do. To my mind, a good addition to the mechanical signals we have now would be a green light at the rear which signifies "I am willing to be overtaken", or "I am ready to be overtaken". That could be controlled by a push button to avoid any possibility of its being left on, and would save a lot of confusion that results from signals such as some waving of the hand which may mean, "I am going to turn left", "I am going to slow down"; it may mean "Come on", or anything. Some of these signals are so hopelessly vague one cannot tell what they mean. You see a hand waving and it probably means, "I am shaking the ash off my cigarette." So I think mechanical signals are far better.
I heartily agree indeed with my noble friend Lord Howe about the necessity for off-street parking, particularly in London. I was talking to a friend not long ago who, not knowing London, had driven up to somewhere near Hanover Square, and she asked a policeman where she could park her car. He said. "Take it along across Bond Street into the parking meter area. You will find a place there." She drove up every street in that area which had parking meters and there was not one place. That sort of thing when it was new was a good thing, but it will soon cease to have very much value. I think that these are points which should be considered in conjunction with the improvement that we are rapidly making on our roads—and I say "rapidly" with possibly a slight doubt, because it certainly is not as rapid as we should like; but if the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, had to do all the wrangling with the local authorities and the legal authorities and the various other authorities which the Minister of Transport has to do before he starts any scheme, perhaps he would not be quite so pessimistic about the progress we are making.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with those who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for initiating this debate; and I should like at the same time to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, whom I see in his place, the more especially as I propose to give a Scottish turn to one or two of the points that I intend to make.
355 I could not agree more with many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth; at the same time, I could not agree less with some others of them. He emphasised the relations between good communications and high productivity. "Good communications" I take to mean swift and safe communications; and high productivity is, of course, strictly related to full employment. If I say no more on this particular score it is not because I have not got it right in the forefront of my thinking—indeed, we should all have it there, especially if we come from Scotland, where unemployment is standing at so comparatively high a level and where communications leave room for so much improvement.
I join in welcoming the Government's expression of faith in their road development as declared by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, in Thursday's debate, though I personally do not believe that the Government have set their sights high enough. However, the noble Earl made the point I wish to make when he said—I quote [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 219 (No. 5), col. 160]One reason why industries will not go to Wales and Scotland is that they are such a long way from the big industrial markets of Britain, and one way of getting more industries to go there is to improve road communications in Britain as a whole.That is what the noble Earl said: and of course the importance of efficient transport in the world to-day is absolutely manifest.
The noble Lord who introduced this Motion divided his theme into two parts—roads and railways. Their problems are the same in some respects, yet widely different in others. In terms of similarity, both systems in this country need more money; in terms of difference, rail transport is not earning its keep and road transport is loaded with a heavy burden of taxation, of which most of the proceeds are diverted from strictly transport ends. In both cases the Treasury have the ultimate control of development. I shall turn to the Treasury again in the course of my speech.
When I apply my mind to the problem of roads, I shall not attempt to range over all my views on the myriad aspects of the subject, but I propose to con- 356 centrate on what, for want of a better word, are known as bottlenecks. In my thinking I divide them into three—urban bottlenecks, trunk route bottlenecks and others. As I see it, the urban problem is divided into two: the major obstruction to long-distance traffic which is caused by the whole town or city, and the minor obstruction, which is the obstruction within the city or town itself. I refer to these separately as I propose to make specific suggestions in respect of both. On the major problem—I think of the Preston by-pass, the development of M.1, the Forth road bridge, and also, as I saw this morning, the new Clyde tunnel. All these are in the same class. All major improvements to through-routes are welcome, if belated, steps in the right direction of what the country needs. But their value, as other noble Lords have pointed out, is limited by the bottleneck at one or both ends. Take M.1. I have reason to suspect that the junction between the motorway and the Watford by-pass is going to give a bit of trouble when it is opened in a month's time.
My particular point now, however, is in connection with the Forth road bridge, which was originally intended to synchronise with the major by-pass route to the south of Edinburgh. The bridge, quite properly, has been brought forward; but not so the by-pass. Indeed, the southeast approaches to the bridge have been turned round so as to channel all the south-bound traffic from the bridge straight into the centre of the already overburdened City of Edinburgh. Other noble Lords have referred, and will refer, to the trouble which through-traffic gives in regard to city streets, so I leave it at that. But I will liken the City of Edinburgh to others and take it as an example—a beautiful city threatened with thrombosis, but a city which has a ring road already actually planned. May I appeal to the noble Lord the Minister of State to have a look into this problem as soon as he is able, and to accelerate that ring route to meet with the southern end of the bridge?
§ LORD FERRIER
I may be wrong there. It is now part of what they call the twenty year plan, wherein the bridge was. That is the point. The bridge has been brought forward, but the road has not been similarly accelerated.
That brings me to a point which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made in his speech on Thursday, which I mention only in case other noble Lords here today were not present when he made it. I personally am sorry that he cannot be here to-day, but I hope that he has a happy landing in the U.S.A. His point was the effect which through-traffic has, not only on existing urban traffic but on the ordinary business of a city, including the trade of the shopkeepers. On that point I must say that I worry a little when people say that heavy vehicles must be compelled to do so and so. Surely drivers of heavy vehicles will, as they should, take the road which best suits their job. I personally cannot see how compulsion can be brought to bear upon them, unless one is going to dictate to them or put physical obstacles in their way. Surely the best compulsion is the economic one, to provide a route for the freight vehicle which it will pay the driver to take in the interests of his employer.
To return to the point of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in part of his excellent speech he used these words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 219 col. 196]:… although better roads are important, the humanities of our countryside and the essential character of our great cities and towns are even more important.Our ancient cities are part of our heritage, architecturally and spiritually; and, like Edinburgh, their beauties run the risk of being whittled away, bit by bit, chipped and scarred, year after year, for lack of by-pass roads. Incidentally, talking about by-pass roads I often wonder whether the slowness of land acquisition projects could not be reduced and the whole thing speeded up by a different approach to the compensation paid for land acquired. Here again, the Treasury come in. I think that this was a point that the noble Lord opposite made that the Treasury can have a tremendous measure of power in the 358 speeding up of one of the most difficult problems in terms of establishing new through routes.
As for the inner bottlenecks—I hesitate to use such an awful expression, but it describes the problem of urban parking, in so far as through-traffic is concerned—all are agreed, I think we can accept, that this problem must be tackled sooner or later. Obviously, from what we have heard already this afternoon, opinions differ as to exactly what should be done, especially as the all-day parker is really a scrounger; and why should he not scrounge if everybody else does? That is the way I feel about it, and I have an odd reflection, from the income tax angle, which I should like to put to the noble Lord who is to reply.
Many of the cars which are parked all day in front of, or near to, so-called business premises, cars which are often unused all day, are so-called "business cars" in terms of an amenity to the owner as arranged with the income tax authority. I am not suggesting that they are not business cars within the limits permitted by the income tax authorities, but surely the attitude of those authorities towards cars perhaps affects the locality in which they are parked during the day. Would the Treasury think it perhaps worth while to look into this and loosen up or, alternatively, tighten up the regulations, so that an assessee does not lose his amenity by leaving his car at home or in a garage short of his work? I am informed that this problem of the income tax approach to cars used for business purposes directly affects the position of all-day parkers; and to my mind that is something which can be tackled forthwith, or within a very few months, by the issue of regulations to clear up the matter.
Turning to the bottlenecks on through-roads, I will confine my attention to the railway overbridge. There must be many thousands of these throughout the land, impeding and endangering road traffic. Take, for example, the one at the end of the Guildford by-pass, or those dreadful death traps that lie between Brough and Penrith, on the route over the Moor. Many of these masonry or brick bridges are chipped and scarred with marks of road crashes, the overall cost of which, 359 in terms of death and loss, pain and grief, is far more than would be the cost of putting them in safe condition. A vast sum would be involved in doing that, but a vast sum has already been lost in accidents which arise from those dangers.
On this point I have a suggestion to make for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government: that a special "Task Force" should be established specifically to tackle these bottlenecks where railway bridges cross roads at an angle of less than 90 degrees, or even at 90 degrees, and involve a narrowing of the road. Working parties could be established, complete with heavy, specially designed equipment and standard types of form work and steel work, rapid hardening cement to be used throughout, if needs be, with everything and anything to speed up the improvement of these black spots.
As for minor roads, one of their worst problems—in my view their worst problem, but one, may I say, which I believe is most easily overcome—is that of the vehicle parked on the roadway. I have been unable to trace (perhaps some noble Lord can tell us) any analysis showing the actual number of accidents which arise through collisions with parked vehicles, and, further, how many accidents arise through people turning right without notice, or having to swerve to the right, because of a parked vehicle. I believe that the problem of vehicles parked on narrow roads, or on any road for that matter—what Americans call parked "on the pavement," which is exactly what we do not mean—calls for special measures, measures as fierce as the attacks which are now being made on the drunken driver. For instance, motor licensing authorities, on issuing a licence for a tradesman's vehicle—and, after all, many of those in country places are really travelling shops—could see that licences were accompanied by a pamphlet or "hand-out" drawing the special attention of the owner and driver of that vehicle to the fact that he has a responsibility to the community, and that his vehicle should be pulled off the highway when it is stationary for the purpose of carrying out its business. In the last year or two, for example, I have noticed a remarkable change in regard to Post Office vehicles. I do not know whether other noble 360 Lords have done so. Post Office telephone vehicles on the road today are very careful about pulling off the roadway if they have work to do.
To return to this question of railway bridges, such alteration work will call for close liaison with the railways whose hands are already absolutely full to overflowing with reconstruction work—all the more reason, I say, why this work, which must be done, should be done speedily. To this end, my suggestion of working parties under a special "Task Force" is designed to make the work repetitive and therefore all the more speedy. Do I not know what it means to a railway to have to cope with the endless speed restrictions which follow from work on road bridges! Here may I join my voice to that of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, when he appealed to us all, last Thursday, to stop what I would call girning at the nationalised industries; because I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that the problem of the railways cannot be solved or is insoluble—I believe that was the word he used.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I did not mean to convey that. I thought I said that it was an intractable problem, not an insoluble problem.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon. There I would agree. Intractable is a mild term. But it is an enormous problem and I have no doubt that a beginning has been made—that is my own feeling—and that if only we can provide the railways with the money and the resources, then the job, this enormous job which they have had to tackle and are tackling, will be done sooner than seems possible at present.
I propose to make only one suggestion to your Lordships' House on the subject of the contribution from the railways to the solution of the problem before us, and that is the development of the car-sleeper and the car-passenger coach special train services. It is all very well to say that a time of two and a half hours between Birmingham and London compares very favourably with the railway, but to those who live 400 miles or more away, the idea of spending a night in a sleeper in a motor coach does not somehow give me much of a 361 thrill. There are long-distance runs, not only northwards but southwards and westwards, where, I believe I am right in saying, these car-sleeper services have proved of the greatest value. I believe that they can be developed. I say that because, although at the moment there is no car-sleeper service on the London-Edinburgh route, that has been pressed for; and I believe that that, and others, could be introduced if the railway authorities would grasp the fact that the passengers have their transport with them and that they need not be run into, say, Euston or King's Cross but can be discharged in a goods yard well outside the centre of the city which is their destination. If those services do not pay—and intrinsically they may not pay—may I again bring in the Treasury and suggest that the Treasury might help here with a subsidy towards the taking of long-distance private car traffic off through-roads and carrying it on the rail?
I come now to the Treasury. I have already said that the Government have set their sights too low in terms of money: a four-year development programme at £280 million—call it£70 million a year. And yet £533 million was collected from road transport in motor vehicle taxation in one year. Can we not spare more for road development? I say this with full knowledge of the fact that there is, of course, a limit to the men and materials which are available, but I feel that there should be no limit to the financial resources which are put at the disposal of the road development authorities for the development of the road plan. Men and materials may fall short, but the money limit should not be the upper limit of the work which can be undertaken. That is the way my mind works. Though there must be limits, physical limits, to the men, materials and money available, there need be no limit surely, to the energy and the determination with which my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport can address himself to this vital programme. It is a "crash programme", as a well-known weekly described it in a leader only last week.
What can the public do? I should like to congratulate my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport upon the success of his public relations campaign when he was Postmaster General. 362 In the matter of public relations on this score, I feel very certain that the noble Lord the Minister of State for Scotland also can help in our part of the country; and I urge them to unite public opinion in support for this drive for swift, efficient transport with safety. Do not let muddles like the Prestwick Airport bypass question occur again, or a dispute like the Randolph Crescent dispute. I apologise for being a little parochial on the subject, but they are both pertinent matters to the point I have to make: that motives or actions of Government which show lack of sympathy with the opinions of people in localities deter the general feeling of public support, for which the noble Lord opposite appealed. He spoke in terms of encouragement for this road plan which is needed so grievously by the public as a whole.
For instance, can the right honourable gentleman convince the public that all-day parking is becoming a scrounge? In fact, it is almost a "fiddle". Can he satisfy the public and the farmers that agricultural land acquired for roads is needed if it is to be acquired; that everybody is satisfied that this land is required in the interests of the public and would be better employed as a road than as agricultural land, and that the farmer is properly compensated for his loss? I feel that is an important factor to our speeding up the work on ring-road establishment. The whole problem is in fact a major operation. It is a campaign in itself which calls for overriding powers for someone to that extent. I have sympathy with what has been said already to-day—that it may be well worth while to have a special officer for the development right at the top, of first-class stature, because it is going to be a four-pronged advance: Treasury, roads, railways and public opinion. All have to be integrated. My Lords, I trust that I have not wearied you with my contribution to the debate. I have only one other word to end with, and that is that if my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport wants a code word for this great task, may I suggest "Operation Overdrive"?
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I do not wish to appear rather defeatist, but it seems to me rather a moot point whether any future road construction programme in 363 this country can ever be adequate to cope with the avalanche of cars and lorries annually pouring from our factories. After all, we have the highest traffic density in the whole world, and we are likely to hold this dubious honour far into the foreseeable future, owing to our overcrowded island and high standard of living.
We can certainly speed up on traffic congestion in the countryside by these fine new motorways. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, pointed out, what is the traffic going to do when it arrives at its destination in the big towns? It will be rather like a dog chasing its tail; it will go round and round, in ever-decreasing circles, trying to find somewhere to park. I personally believe that the problem of congestion in our big cities cannot be entirely solved by feats of engineering, because if we are going to pull our cities to bits to ease the flow of traffic the cure is surely going to be worse than the disease.
I am quite convinced that Her Majesty's Government will eventually have to take really drastic measures and will have to ban private motorists who do not live in the central areas in big towns from driving into them. I am a motorist myself, but when we see these thousands of people driving to their offices every morning I cannot think how it can be allowed to continue. One had perhaps hoped that the average motorist would become so frustrated and tired of coping with the appalling traffic that he would go by train or tube to his office, but I can see no sign of this coming to pass.
While on the subject of motorways, I should just like to say a few words about speed, because speed is something of which I had a slight experience in my younger days through motor racing and driving in the Grand Prix in Europe. What I am rather frightened of is that these motorways are going to become deathways. It is perfectly safe to drive at 130 or 150 miles an hour if you have the right car and the right person driving it, but it can be extremely dangerous to drive at, say, 70 miles an hour if you have the wrong car and the wrong person driving it.
I do not wish to appear to belittle any motorist at all, but I think that a high percentage of the motorists in this country drive far too fast for their sight and their 364 judgment and their reactions. On these new motorways you are going to meet all sorts of hazards that the average motorist has not come up against before. He is going to drive his small car all-out, and he will probably seize the engine up, or a back axle will break, or a wheel will come off. Then, few motorists realise the danger of wind. If there is a small car on these motorways travelling at 80 miles an hour and there is a cross-wind, that car can easily be blown off its course, and if it is emerging from a cutting wind blast is intensified and there could be an extremely bad accident. Therefore, though I personally detest all these signs on the road, I suggest that on these motorways signs should be erected advising motorists of these hazards—of wind, of driving all-out, and all that sort of thing. It would also be advisable, I think, to assign approximate speeds to the various lanes, whatever those speeds are: say the slow lane for traffic moving at 40 miles an hour or 30 miles an hour, then for the next lane 60, and then 80. I hope that the motorway police will be very severe on drivers who wander from lane to lane.
My Lords, it is all very well having these new roads, by-passes, and so on, but it is a sobering thought that ordinary road widening is absorbing, I am told, 10,000 acres of agricultural land each year. Now I have not any idea how much agricultural land has already been taken for all the by-passes and M.1, but it seems rather absurd that, in order to provide a sound system of communications to take the expanding economy of the country, we have at the same time to restrict the agricultural economy of the country. What the answer to that connundrum is I confess I have not the slightest idea: but I would ask Her Majesty's Government to probe every other available means of curing the traffic problem apart from constructing more and more roads. I quite realise that we have to have more and more roads, but the Government should also probe for other means.
For instance, surely far more traffic—certainly goods traffic—could be diverted to the railways. I was driving up here the other day, and I had to endure crawling along behind a whole line of car transporters, each with four, six, or eight cars on it. Surely those cars ought to go by rail. The motorist is frustrated. 365 If he gets past them, he probably drives too fast: if he does not get past them, he is probably gassed and feels ill for the rest of the day. Why have motorists to endure this? It is quite beyond me. Of course, the answer from the firms who manufacture these cars is that it is more expensive by rail and is more convenient by road. On the other hand, there are plenty of things in this life which are cheaper and more convenient but as to which the law says "No." I can think of quite a number of things. Could we not have legislation to make certain goods travelling over a certain mileage go by rail or sea?
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was, I thought, rather impolite, perhaps, about the railways I agree that from the financial point of view they are proving extremely expensive, but we should compare them with foreign railways, either in America or Europe. I have travelled on the railways in America and all over Europe, and I personally think that our railways—as regards the passenger service, anyway—compare extremely favourably. After all, our express trains are the fastest express trains in the world—and that is a fact which we do not always realise. For instance, British Railways have just started an overnight freight service from London to Glasgow, from door to door. This has been made possible by using vacuum-braked wagons. They can do the journey far faster than any lorry, and I hope that industrialists will take advantage of it.
I should like to congratulate British Railways also on the electrification of the North Kent line. I frequently travel up on it, and the trains are always on time. One criticism I would make is that you cannot regulate the heating at all. You cannot turn it on or off, and in this mild weather you are rather inclined to arrive like a hard-boiled egg. Another criticism is that you cannot read in these trains because they are evidently over-sprung, and you are flung all over the place. But perhaps they will settle dawn. I quite agree with the plan to electrify all railways where the density of traffic makes is a commercial proposition, but I cannot entirely agree with building all these diesel engines as a slop-gap before the lines are electrified because diesel engines are extremely expensive to build and they do not last as long as steam engines. 366 They require less maintenance so it is easier to turn them round, but for long-distance express trains I should have thought it would be more economical to save the capital cost and stick to steam until the railways are electrified.
I have nothing more to say my Lords but I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the great programme of road construction which has been evident during the last two or three years. I drive up and down the North Road and all over the country, and wherever I drive I see these great schemes going forward. After all, Rome was not built in a day, and this is an extremely vast undertaking.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for raising this vital topic to-day. I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Ferrier in extending a warm welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, on whose maiden speech I have the greatest pleasure in congratulating him in advance. I understand that he is going to follow me, and I have no doubt what the result will be.
I think that most of us are agreed that unless more drastic steps are taken soon than have hitherto been taken the road traffic in this country will gradually—and not so very gradually—grind to a halt. It has been suggested that double the expenditure over the next five years of what we have spent over the last five years will be sufficient. That works out at about £70 million a year. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that this will prove to be totally insufficient. My own opinion—and here I agree with the British Road Federation—is that we shall have to go up to £200 million a year and we shall have to do that pretty quickly if we are going even to touch this problem seriously. And it is a very great problem.
If I may be allowed a brief diversion, I should like to ask the question: Where did we go wrong? Why have we failed?—because we have all failed in this transport business. I suggest to your Lordships that the only statesman in this country who ever had a clear and comprehensive grasp of the transport problem was the late Mr. Lloyd George. He really had got it. He understood what it was all about. He instituted 367 the Road Fund, and if the Road Fund had been left intact, and had never been touched, we should never have been in the difficulty in which we are in to-day. The noble Viscount who has just spoken referred to the fact that the Road Fund is bringing in taxation to-day at the rate of over £500 million a year. It was Mr. Lloyd George's original intention that the Road Fund should be applied solely to the purposes of road improvement and road construction; and that all road motor taxation should be applied to that end. I regret to say that the villain of this piece was Sir Winston Churchill. I regret it still more because I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary when he did it. But I am certain of this: that had he remained in charge of our affairs in the 'thirties he would have seen the light and would have made very sharp changes.
The second great mistake we made was when we rejected Mr. Lloyd George's proposal for the reconstruction of the entire road system of this country in 1929. At that time there were over one million unemployed, soon to rise to over two million. Yet we preferred to keep them in idleness, at a bare subsistence level, rather than adopt the Lloyd George proposals, which were at that time wholly supported by the late Lord Keynes. Both the Socialist and Conservative Parties were equally to blame for this, so that I feel that I can refer to it with the strict impartiality of a Cross-Bencher. I think that it is not without significance that in the 'thirties Hitler succeeded in rearming Germany and in rebuilding the road system in Germany, while we succeeded in doing neither. I think it is also significant that, since the war, the roads of France and the roads of Holland, particularly, and of West Germany, have been reconstructed from a far more damaged condition than ours ever were, with far greater rapidity; until now, over most of France, and certainly over Holland, we can witness perhaps the best road system in the world. By comparison, our own efforts since the war—and everybody is responsible for this—have been pitiable, pathetic.
Noble Lords have referred to the A.1. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, spoke with approval of it just now, but I am still far too frightened to go near it. It may get a bit better, but over twelve years 368 have passed since the war ended, and this is the main arterial road north and south in this country. Think, too, of the main road to the Continent of Europe. We still have the Maidstone by-pass only nearing completion. Think of that terrible Maidstone bottleneck which has gone on year after year. And the Ashford by-pass has been completed only within the last few months. Think of the Staines bottleneck, which remains a crying scandal. It has been like this for the last ten years, and nothing done about it. Think as my noble friend Lord Ferrier said, of Edinburgh, where the ring road has been a grand project for 15 or 20 years, and again nothing done about it. Now it looks as if we are going to get the Forth road bridge before we get the roads to take the traffic on to it, or away from it. I wonder whether your Lordships realise that all traffic from the industrial belt in Scotland to the North-East of England has now to be put straight through Edinburgh. There is no other way of getting it by
Past neglect has caused the present emergency. I think we all must face this fact together; and what I want to emphasise this afternoon is that this is an emergency. Like the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, I should like to throw out one or two suggestions. They will be brief, and fairly drastic; and I hope that they will not shock any of your Lordships. But I believe that nothing short of this will meet the bill now. First of all, I think we should have a revised programme—and I am perfectly sure that we shall get it from the new Minister of Transport. We should have a quicker completion of the present national motorway programme than has been envisaged. There must also be the construction of more urban motorways than have been at present planned or sanctioned. I am sure that there must be a revision and expansion of the Nugent scheme for London, which is now quite inadequate for the requirements that we shall have over the next four or five years. Lastly, under this head, but not least, there must be greatly increased parking facilities, both underground and overground, and on the side, and in every kind of place we can find to put them. While talking about parking, may I suggest something that could be done immediately? I sincerely believe that parking on both sides of any 369 street or road should be absolutely prohibited everywhere. I believe that this tends to block traffic more than any other single thing; and it could be done away with overnight by the Minister of Transport.
A revised programme requires great capital expenditure, and I think that we shall have to recognise this, and face up to the fact that capital expenditure on roads, over the next ten years at any rate, must go "below the line". We might have financed it from current revenue if we had kept the Road Fund; but we did not; and now we cannot afford it. In the interests of the efficiency of the national economy, in an increasingly competitive world, the transport system of this country has now become a vital public service, just as vital a public service as education or health itself, and should be so regarded. If it can no longer be financed out of current revenue, we have only ourselves to blame. As I have suggested to your Lordships, we had the means to do it, but we threw those means away.
My third suggestion relates to speed, and in this connection I am not referring simply to the number of miles an hour that people can drive upon the roads. The Select Committee on Estimates in another place said:It is essential to inject a sense of urgency into the handling of land conveyancing.I should think it is, my Lords! The number of national and local authorities involved, the reports that have to be made, the inquiries that have to be held, and the consents that have to be obtained, not least from the Treasury, before anything can happen, all combine to make the whole process of acquisition of land for road development a nightmare to any Minister of Transport. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that the present Minister of Transport will have to come to Parliament and ask for more powers in respect of the acquisition of land, not in order to inflict any unfairness or hurt upon any interest, not even to hurt vested interests, but simply in order to enable him to do his job, and overcome these great delays, which last not only for months but for years—these reports, inquiries and consents, and the plethora of authorities which exist in this country to-day, and with which he has to deal. If the 370 Minister does not do something like this, he will find himself completely hamstrung; and I am sure that Parliament, under proper and due safeguards, will be prepared in this emergency to give him any powers that he thinks he ought to have to facilitate and speed up the acquisition of land, the conveyancing of land, and the construction of these motorways.
I was much impressed by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that the Minister should appoint a Director of Road Construction. There is a good deal to be said for this idea. I think it would help to facilitate the whole process, and would obviate some of the delays. I also think there is a lot to be said for Mr. Basil Spence's suggestion, which appeared in the Press this morning, that a council should be formed, consisting of the presidents and secretaries of organisations representing civil and structural engineers, town planners, surveyors, landscape architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which Mr. Spence is the president, in order to avoid public bickering over obsolete plans which the Ministry of Transport have produced from their pigeon holes. If all these organisations could have a council consisting of their presidents and secretaries, and arrive at an agreed general policy, with regard to both the layout of the plans and the architecture, I am sure it would help to avoid these interminable delays.
My fourth proposition may be a little more controversial because I am afraid it involves that very nasty thing, which has become almost a "dirty word" at the moment, physical control. But I think a certain amount of physical control has become necessary, so far as transport in this country is concerned. There is a limit to what any road system in a congested country lie ours can carry, in terms of sheer weight. I have occasion sometimes to motor up the Great North Road. I have "chucked it". Not long ago I was going up at night when traffic was very heavy. These great "trains" came rushing at me, with flashing lights and no rails, booming along, until finally I worked myself into such a state that I drove firmly but quietly into the ditch; and there I stayed, shivering with fright for at least half an hour, at the end of which I could see no 371 solution to my immediate problem other than a drastic revision of our licensing laws, which I hope will come before long.
I want to suggest to your Lordships that our railways, which used to be quite good, were designed to carry just this kind of traffic. The roads were never designed to carry a railway train on tyres, all chained together, and sometimes carrying motor cars.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
Yes, half a mile long. As the noble Lord pointed out just now, if you try to pass one you are in great danger—the probability is that you do not, and that is the end of you. And, if you do, you only find another one ahead of you; and the whole agonizing process must be gone through again. I suggest to your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government should give serious consideration to minimising both the size and length of the lorries which can use our motorways, as well as their speed. I think that some definite limit should be placed upon their size; and that, over a certain size, the traffic should be diverted to the railways, which could well do with it and which were designed to carry it. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has called them "abnormal loads"; and he suggested that he would take them off the roads during the day. For my part I would take them off the roads by day and by night, because I think they are even more frightening by night than they are by day.
Last but not least, I believe—and several noble Lords have made this suggestion in one form or another in this interesting debate—that lorries and vans of all kinds will have to be kept out of the shopping and business centres of some, at least, of our great cities during the rush hours of the day. It will cause inconvenience, of course, but nothing like the inconvenience that is caused by the loading and unloading of lorries in the busy shopping and business centres of our cities during the rush hours, say between 9 and 11 in the morning, and 5 and 7 at night. Certainly between those hours and, I think, in most of our cities, lorries and vans should be kept out of these centres and definitely not be allowed to load or unload; and among these cities I include London.
372 The question of tests has been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Som̃ers, rightly pointed out that a boy of 18 can be tested on an Austin 7 and then drive off the next morning down the M.1 road in an Aston-Martin—and having mentioned the word "Aston-Martin". I have to declare a personal interest. There is, however, a sharp difference between an Austin 7 and an Aston-Martin; and a test which applies to the one does not necessarily apply to the other. I think there should be graded tests, and I do not think anybody should be allowed to drive really fast (I rather agree with the noble Lord in advocating no speed limit) unless he has passed a somewhat stiffer driving test than the ordinary driving test, because in order to be a fast driver you have to be a very good driver.
I would say, also, that I think the physical tests should be made stiffer than they are to-day. A great many more or less disabled people are allowed to drive motor cars. Despite the presence of my noble friend Lord Netherthorpe I must say that about three years' ago I drove for 30 miles behind a farmer's van filled with live pigs. The pigs were making a lot of noise, but nothing to the noise that I was making. For the last 10 miles I never for one moment took my thumb off the horn of my car. All in vain. Nothing happened; no move. I could not get past. He was driving pretty slowly, and therefore I was "hamstrung". Then suddenly, without a sign, he turned to the right down a little farm road and disappeared. I was in such a rage that I drove my car down the farm road to the farm which was about half a mile away. When I got there I found a farm servant unloading the last of the pigs, and I said in a towering rage: "Who drove that car?" He said: "My boss." I said: "Where is he?" He said: "Gone into the house." I went to the house and rung the bell and a charming lady came to the door. When she saw me she gave me a very bright smile and said: "How nice of you to come; I sometimes see you on television: do come in and have a drink". So, slightly disarmed, I went in, and as we got inside she said: "I think I should warn you that my husband is stone deaf; but he does lip-read very well". My Lords lip-reading is not enough when it comes to driving.
373 Mention has been made of the railways. I do not intend to talk about the railways this afternoon, because it makes me too depressed. The noble Viscount who has just spoken said that our express trains were so good in this country. I can only tell your Lordships that a cousin of mine came back yesterday from Paris on the night ferry. There was great excitement because they have put the electric haulage on from Dover within the last few days. So everybody was very pleased, and thought they would have a very good trip on this Pullman de luxe train. My Lords, it came to rest in Kent for one and a half hours, after which it was pulled, very slowly, at about 30 m.p.h. up to London, where it arrived just over two hours late. All the French businessmen had missed their appointments and my cousin said that the general atmosphere on the train was definitely sour.
With the best will in the world I do not think that our railways are all that could be desired, but I think it might help them a bit if we made it compulsory for the really heavy traffic to be taken off the roads and carried on the railways. I think that it would help us, and would help the economy of the country as a whole. I believe transport to be the greatest and most urgent domestic problem that confronts this country to-day. We have got to do something pretty drastic if we are to deal with it in time. If any of your Lordships doubts this, or feels that some of the proposals which have been put forward to-day are too drastic, I can only suggest that he should go out and sit in it.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (LORD CRAIGTON)
My Lords, in intervening in the debate at this stage, I ask your Lordships to extend to me even a little more indulgence than is usual in such circumstances, because, as your Lordships will know, not only is this my maiden speech, but I have been entitled to sit in your Lordships' House for just over two and a half hours to-day for the first time.
We have heard some very constructive and imaginative speeches, including the last speech, and many of the points made will be answered by my noble friend Lord Chesham. I am brought to my feet to answer some of the important Scottish points made by my noble friend 374 Lord Ferrier and other noble Lords. To begin with, I think your Lordships would wish me to make a brief reference to the present position of the Scottish road programme. The programme was based upon an announcement made on July 30, 1957, by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. During the four years from 1958 to 1962, schemes costing the taxpayer about £40 million would be authorised. Priority under those schemes has been given, and rightly, to the improvement of the most important industrial roads. The Glasgow—Stirling road, on 8 out of its 16 miles, and the Glasgow—Gretna road on 26 out of its 83 miles, have work either in progress or finished. The driving of the first Clyde tunnel is making good progress, and will be finished by the end of 1961, and, as promised by the Unionist Manifesto on which the last Election was fought and won—though not by me—my right honourable friend yesterday announced in another place that the Glasgow Corporation have been authorised to accept a tender for the second or twin tunnel to be finished by mid-1963.
My noble friend Lord Howe raised a point about lighting. I can assure him that great care has been taken to ensure that the lighting to be installed in the Clyde tunnel will be the most modern in design, and that it should incorporate the lessons of driving experience elsewhere. These tunnels will bring great benefit to the citizens of Glasgow and to the West of Scotland in easing the traffic problems. The cost, which is £7½ million to the taxpayer and £2½ million to the Glasgow ratepayer, will be a very good investment for Scotland.
The vital importance of Highland development is reflected in the decisions announced in the White Paper entitled Review of Highland Policy published last June. The present programme is to be speeded up by increasing annual expenditure from its present figure of £750,000 a year to £2 million a year by 1962–63. That, I think, is the wish of your Lordships. In addition, £250,000 a year is to be spent on entirely new roads in the Highlands, about which my right honourable friend is now having discussions with the Highland county councils. Finally—and this leads to the 375 point made by my noble friend Lord Ferrier—the piers and foundations of the Forth road bridge are now being built. The superstructure is now being prefabricated and will start to be brought on site early next year, and we hope to see the bridge opened by the end of 1963.
Now to deal with the roads. The responsibility for roads to the Forth Bridge around Edinburgh lies in the first place with the Edinburgh Corporation. Their Development Plan includes an outer circular road, comprising existing roads with some new sections, which may cost about £750,000, and as a long-term project, a completely new city by-pass, extending for eight miles and costing about £2 million. I am sure that the Edinburgh Corporation will consider seriously whether this outer circular road—not the ring road—should not be completed in time for the opening of the bridge. My right honourable friend, for his part, will be prepared to help, subject, of course, to funds being made available by Parliament. But we should be careful before we commit ourselves to the city by-pass. The best information that we can obtain is that a high proportion of those using the ferry, and presumably, therefore, the bridge, are, and therefore presumably will be, attracted into the city by the magnet of Edinburgh itself. I can assure noble Lords who have raised this matter that the Corporation are very conscious of the problem, and that attention will be given to the points that have been raised.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier made an interesting point about car allowances and their effect on parking. I will draw that to the attention of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is, of course, not for me to reply to. I agree with my noble friend on the importance of public relations. We must seek both to persuade and explain. I am not going to tangle with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, except to deplore his suggestion that the principle of earmarked taxation should be revived in another Road Fund.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
May I interrupt the noble Lord, although I know I should not? I did not suggest that it should be revived; I said it was a pity 376 it was given up. It is too late to revive it now.
§ LORD CRAIGTON
I am glad to have that confirmation. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is responsible for the Scottish road system. In our unique tourist areas he is perhaps even more aware than the tourists are of the need for the right sort of roads that will help the development of our Highland economy and will blend with our scenic beauties. In the industrial and other areas, my right honourable friend is as fully alive as the industrialist and the motorist to the need for speed with safety on our Scottish roads. As I have shown to-day, he is making haste but, as a good traveller should, he intends to make haste carefully.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, I confess that when I saw the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, introduced this afternoon it had not occurred to me that he would be called upon to make his maiden speech the same day. Therefore I did not go to the trouble of preparing an appropriate speech in order to deal with any of the controversial points that might be raised. My noble friend Lord Burden has permitted me to "gate-crash", if I may say so, into this debate, and I am grateful to him for allowing me to do so, if only for one particular reason; and that is to offer my sincere and hearty congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, on the excellent maiden speech to which we have just listened.
One is accustomed to hearing a man making his maiden speech with all the symptoms of a person who is almost afraid to open his mouth. It was quite clear, from what we heard this afternoon, that the noble Lord is highly competent to deal with other noble Lords' speeches, as well as to make a maiden speech; but I have a suspicion that this is not the first maiden speech he has made. It is perhaps, in a sense, a reflection on democracy that while the voice of the people thought he ought not to represent them, others with greater power have taken advantage of his great ability and sent him here; and though he may prefer the somewhat controversial atmosphere of another place, I think he will probably find the calmer, more placid, though by no means less 377 critical, attitude of your Lordships' House in keeping with the general problems with which we deal.
In connection with this question of transport, I did what most Members would do: I tried to find in Scottish Reports something which would apply to the transport position of Scotland. All I could find, in the short time at my disposal, were Reports dealing with the general problems of industry and employment in Scotland, in the course of which one chapter deals with transport and deals with almost every aspect of transport, and seemed to me, in the glance I have been able to give this Report, not to be very informative. It tells us, for example, that in 1956 a Scottish Transport Council was set up. In the first year I think they held four meetings; in the second year they held two meetings. It may be that from the point of view of the Government four meetings in the initial year was ample to cover the comparatively trivial problems of transport in Scotland, and that two meetings in the following year were equally sufficient.
But for the real criticism of the transport problems of Scotland, as for the country as a whole, I suppose one is bound to refer to the First Report from the Select Committee on Estimates which confined itself to trunk roads. I have no doubt that the noble Lord has heard every criticism which this particular Report makes, and I do not wish to add to them, for two reasons. One is that he probably knows all the answers already, having heard them in another place; and the other is that when a noble Lord has made a maiden speech it is the custom of your Lordships' House not to indulge in too much criticism.
I would, however, say this: that while it is true that in Scotland, and in Glasgow particularly, we are seeing evidences of some kind of increased development in the transport situation—and I was very glad to read yesterday's announcement by the Secretary of State that the second tunnel under the Clyde was now being proceeded with—one does wonder, considering the burdens which local authorities already have to meet, whether it would not be possible to regard a tunnel like the Clyde tunnel as being equivalent to a trunk road; so that, 378 instead of the local authority being asked to pay 25 per cent. of the cost, it should be undertaken as a national obligation, with the State covering the whole cost. While it is unbecoming for an ex-member of Glasgow Corporation to say a word in praise of Edinburgh or to help Edinburgh, I would suggest that the same kind of consideration might be given to Edinburgh Corporation who notoriously are afraid of annoying their ratepayers by increasing the rates too highly. With those few words I would end my remarks by saying how pleased I was to hear the noble Lord give his maiden speech, and I hope that we shall hear many more speeches from him during his sojourn in this House.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I am very much indebted to my noble friend, Lord Greenhill, for undertaking that very pleasant duty and performing it with his usual skill and ability. But that does not prevent me from adding, if I may, my word of thanks and appreciation to the noble Lord; and may I say that I shall not hold it against him, or one of his sponsors, that the noble Lord in another place and one of his sponsors in your Lordships' House beat me in connection with the case of the Scottish assessors and their deputes.
My noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in introducing this Motion, devoted most of his time to the problem of our roads, but at the end of his speech he made some reference to the words in the Motion:… also to the need to inquire into the operation of the railway system".He did not elaborate in regard to those words, indicating that he would probably raise the matter at a later date, although he did say, as I think one noble Lord remarked, some unkind things about the railways. He said that things were wrong at the top—I think those were his words. Again, I prefer to defer until some later date any detailed criticism, but I think one might in fairness point out that under the 1956 Act there has been a major reorganisation in railway management (I think it was 1956, speaking from memory), the abolition of the Railway Executive and the development of Area Boards, bringing in traders and other people likely to be interested in the development of our 379 railway system. I cannot agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in his suggestion that while roads should be developed there are hundreds of tons of traffic on our roads to-day which ought to be, in any reasonable, sane transport system, diverted to the railways.
Be that as it may, I venture to think that it will be generally agreed that the railways are experiencing a very difficult time, and, notwithstanding the modernisation plan, for which I give the Government every credit, there are critical days ahead for them. Looking back on the position arising from the 1947 Act and in subsequent years, one can see how the railways in those three or four years, crippled, run down—even the Right Honourable Hugh Dalton described them as a sorry pack of assets—were starved of capital, not for redevelopment but even to keep the railway system running at all. Remember that coal was in short supply, all sorts of household goods and others were required, houses and so on were wanted, and there was a need, too, for other industrial development. It is clear, I think, looking back, that the railways got a pretty raw deal; but one can understand the circumstances in which it arose. The situation of the railways to-day and what lies ahead makes it necessary, in my judgment, for us and the Government to examine the position most carefully and to ascertain whether there are other ways in which the railways can be helped to maintain and improve their position, because no one, whatever his views may be in regard to road versus rail, visualises that the railways as such can be entirely done away with.
As I am sure your Lordships are aware, before the railways can increase prescribed maxima of fares and charges they must submit a scheme to the Transport Tribunal. This is the first great handicap to which the British Transport Commission is subjected. Let me take, for example, the increase in fares which came into operation on Monday, November 2. The Transport Commission as long ago as September 1, 1958, submitted to the Transport Tribunal their scheme for revised charges, but it was not until July 8, 1959, that the Transport Tribunal authorised the increased 380 maximum fares and other charges which I need not detail. This date was, of course, right in the middle of the holiday season, and, quite wisely, the Transport Commission did not, with a few exceptions so far as the London area is concerned, bring the increases into full operation before the end of the holiday season.
When an increase is proposed, all sorts of associations and bodies spring into action. Local authorities—even Labour local authorities—brief expensive counsel to oppose these increases. For example, one inquiry into a draft scheme which was lodged with the Transport Tribunal on September 7, 1951, lasted 34 days. The Transport Commission representatives in the witness box answered nearly 5,000 questions in regard to the scheme before it actually came into operation outside London on May 1, 1952. That is simply typical of what happens. In their Report for 1955 the Transport Commission stated that these delays from 1948 until that year, 1955, involved the Commission in a loss of over £100 million; and as the accrued deficit up to 1955 was £70 million, quite rightly the Transport Commission blamed these delays for the deficit.
No other nationalised, let alone private, industry, is hampered and restricted in such a manner. The electricity and gas industries can raise their charges overnight. Everyone will agree that the raising of the bank rate can have a far-reaching effect on the economy of the country, yet no one can say a word in protest—at least in public—before the bank rate is raised. This restriction on railway powers in regard to the rates and charges is a relic of the days when the railways had virtually a monopoly of transport. To-day that is far from being the case. Therefore I would urge that it is fantastic to-day to subject the railways to these crippling restrictions, and that the Transport Tribunal, with all its powers, should be abolished, thus allowing the railways to be conducted in accordance with flexible commercial principles. This, too, would, I think, do away with Government intervention, holding up for Party political purposes increases authorised by the Transport Commission but requiring the sanction of the Ministry. There have been several instances of that in the past.
381 My Lords, may we look for one moment at the competition to which the railways are subjected on the goods side. It is common knowledge that this has involved a heavy loss of traffic to the road, in the main to the holders of C licences. Some time ago, the Chairman of the Transport Commission, Sir Brian Robertson, warned manufacturers that if they continued to increase carrying their own goods with C-licensed vehicles public transport would eventually be wiped out. I believe I am correct in saying that there are over one million C licences at present in operation. But a warning of that kind cuts no ice. In my humble submission, what is necessary is this. Seeing that those holding C licences are indirectly subsidised by the taxpayers of this country, who provide the roads and other facilities, I submit that the cost of C licences should be substantially increased so that they make a proper contribution towards the cost of the roads which have been, and are to be, provided at public expense for them. That goes for A and B licences too.
In another place I see it is suggested that Questions on day-to-day working should be allowed, and that inquiries and consultations are at present taking place. Whatever may be the result of these consultations, I would suggest, without hesitation, that the public relations side of the railway business should be strengthened, and that the department tackles its task with a new energy and with a sense of responsibility to the public. What has to be realised is that the railways to-day are faced with an aggressive, ruthless competition, and that road transport interests are thoroughly organised and have perhaps the most powerful "armoury" in this country. I suggest that the most effective way of handling that problem is, in the words defining public relations, by a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and the public. I suggest that the public relations department must become alert, vigorous and, above all, human in its contacts with the public.
Everyone knows that certain writers in popular newspapers enjoy denigrating the railways on every possible occasion, The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, joined in the game in his speech last week. After 382 complaining of what happened to him on Crewe station he delivered a powerful speech for more and better roads. What I should like to know is this: was the complaint of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, immediately picked up by the public relations department and investigated, and is there a reasonable explanation? The public relations department and those concerned should not treat complaints as hostile but, where complaints are legitimate, should take every step to bring satisfaction to the public.
An improvement in public relations includes (if I may dare suggest it) that the train announcers at our main line stations should have at least some training in elocution. I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes some announcements sound to me, at any rate, like a senseless gabble. In my railway days—and your Lordships can see I am still an unrepentant railway man—I took some part in the campaign initiated by the companies for what was then called "a square deal". To-day, I know, we have the Productivity Council; but that is not enough. I suggest that everyone in the railway service, from the top to the bottom, should be seized of the fact that railway transport is in grave danger, and nothing but a supreme effort can pull them through these difficult days—and that goes for the trade unions as well.
While not in any way entering into the merits of the dispute at present in progress so far as the dining car staff are concerned, it would appear to me that the National Union of Railwaymen have signed an agreement affecting the Pullman staff but that this agreement, apparently, is not acceptable to the dining car staff concerned. Now this is evidence of a breakdown in communications within the N.U.R. I believe that everyone who travels by rail would agree with me that on the trains every effort has been made to improve the quality and service of meals, and I, for one, have always found the staff most helpful and obliging.
The hotel and catering department staff, under the leadership of their chief officer, Mr. Hole, are doing an excellent job of work; but while this strike goes on the Transport Commission are losing money and passengers are being inconvenienced and perhaps embittered. I 383 hold the view that every railway employee, particularly those who come into contact with the public, should be a public relations officer, conscious that it is his duty to render the utmost service possible within his power. Cannot we regain some of the courtesy, consideration and kindness of which we were so justly proud some years ago?
I believe that the railways have still a great part to play in our transport system. Anyone who reflects on the appalling massacre which occurs on our roads to-day can realise what would happen if more and more of the traffic now carried by rail were transferred to the roads. The railways perform a great and vital service to the community, but railway employees cannot hope for improved conditions of employment unless the railways adequately and faithfully discharge their manifold responsibilities to the trading and travelling public.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, as a junior Member of your Lordships' House, but as the first speaker from these Benches since the noble Lord the Minister spoke, I trust that he will not consider me presumptuous if I add my words of congratulation on his most charming and constructive speech. I know that many in Glasgow are grateful to him for the way in which he has tackled the overspill problem there, and no doubt we shall have the pleasure of hearing him on many occasions in this House dealing with other Scottish matters.
I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, upon initiating this timely debate: for a well-known radio personality (and I am not thinking of the noble Lord on the Cross Benches) stated in the People last Sunday, after having attended a function in Salisbury:I enjoyed the occasion but how I hated the journey … Until helicopters become cheaply available there are only two travel choices, by grubby, slow trains or on overcrowded, nerve-racking roads.If I may say so with respect, the timing of this debate is excellent, in that the Press, who mould or reflect public opinion, have lately published a number of articles and editorials under such 384 headings as, "Be a bully, Mr. Marples, it's the only way"; "This is the time to reform our railways"; "Anger on the roads" and so on. In spite of the recent opening of the M.1 motorway, where in fact the standard of driving at the moment seems poor, and traffic lane discipline even worse, and in spite of the words of the right honourable gentleman the Minister that "This opens a new era of road travel," I should like to confine my remarks mainly to the problem of the operation of our railways in relation to our present and anticipated future needs for a sound system of communication.
Assuming, therefore, that the M.2, M.3, M.4, M.5 and M.6 motorways will be put in hand by Her Majesty's Government in the very near future, there is one aspect of such planning that immediately comes to mind: what is going to be the effect of an efficient network of inter-city trunk roads on our city centres? That is a point which has been dealt with already by a number of noble Lords, but I feel that one cannot stress it too much. Assuming, too, that traffic engineers might recommend a co-ordinated plan providing for urban motorways as well, if one bears in mind the yearly increase in the number of road vehicles, which is in the region of 500,000 per year, I think there is a very strong argument for the Government's promoting to the utmost the use of our railways and rail transport in general. I say "rail transport in general" because I have in mind particularly, especially with regard to the moving of persons in urban districts, the advantages of rapid transit that one can see in America, where people park their cars at the outskirts of towns and then take a rapid railcar which runs on a reserved track into the city centre. I think that is an aspect which our traffic engineers could very fruitfully go into.
Incentives will certainly have to be provided. I was a little perturbed to read in the Daily Telegraph yesterday the following headlines—this was a question mentioned earlier by the noble Lord—"Seventy-five miles per hour coach keeps same time as train: Inaugural journey." As much as I welcome to the utmost any improvement in our road system, what I fear is what the effect of such coach services will be on our railways. Will there be increasing demand for such services 385 by coach operators at lower fares (this also was a point stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth), which will only add to the congestion and possibly attract passengers away from the railways to the coaches? I sincerely hope, therefore, that licensing authorities, when considering such applications, will seriously bear in mind the long-term implications about their decision.
From the point of view of freight, the railways must be able to compete in price, flexibility, reliability and speed. A step in the right direction is certainly the latitude which has been given to local commercial managers to fix the rate to fit the load. But with regard to passengers once more, how do the British Transport Commission or Her Majesty's Government propose to deal with this question of such conflicting fares, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, as those between London and Birmingham? By train the fare is 21s. and by coach 13s. 3d. I stress here particularly that the time taken is the same. Could differential fares possibly be considered on a time basis, as they were considered for travel by aircraft—in other words, the longer the journey, the cheaper the fare; but if the journey took a similar time then the fares would have to be more competitive? That may not be a feasible proposition, but I feel that the matter might be considered, because if the time taken is going to be the same, it seems to me that there will be an unfair advantage to the coaches, and the railways will certainly have great difficulty in competing.
I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a note of warning which appears on page 43 of the British Transport Commission's Re-appraisal of the Plan for the Modernisation and Re-equipment of British Railways, in which the Commission state—and I will read their exact words:By 1963, the total number of passenger and goods stations may have to be reduced by over 1,000 compared with 1958, and some 1,800 route miles may have to be closed unless improvements in traffic justify some retention.But, my Lords, how is traffic to be improved? The British Transport Commission last year spent in the region of £1,600,000 on promotional publicity; in other words, on "selling the railways" (which I believe is the term used in advertising circles) for passengers and freight. I think the moment is oppor- 386 tune to draw your Lordships' attention to two pamphlets which have been produced by the British Transport Commission. One is called The Hungry Traveller and the other is called Packed Meals.
In spite of the fact that last year British Railways carried the largest number of passengers since the Commission took over, the falling-off in heavy traffic—in other words, steel and coal—came as a very severe blow to the Commission. The proportion of freight carried by the roads and by rail lies heavily to the advantage of roads. Fifty-six per cent. of our freight went last year by road and 44 per cent. went by rail. One is therefore tempted to ask: Is enough being done to attract more freight to the railways? What can be done for industry to co-operate more fully? Are the general public kept sufficiently au fait with the progress of the modernisation plan?
The obsolete passenger rolling stock is being continuously withdrawn as new rolling stock is supplied by the manufacturers. I am advised that at the moment the fleet of passenger rolling stock of all types is in the region of 40,000 units and that there are on order at the present time 3,500 carriages, which include 126 new sleeper cars and 288 restaurant and buffet cars. Track improvement work may be responsible for poor time-keeping, but is such information as I have just given your Lordships—which is encouraging information—readily available and brought to the attention of the public, as well as the reasons for delays and details as to when and where new rolling stock will be introduced? As one noble Lord mentioned a rather lengthy delay in Kent, I think it would be appropriate for me to mention, very briefly, an experience which I had last Sunday morning when coming down from Leeds when we were 64 minutes late. At the moment, of course, I was a little—
§ LORD MERRIVALE
—put back, but on investigation it turned out that there were extensive engineering works on the line. Our train had to be diverted via Loughborough; also the train had to run for lengthy periods at "caution" and at two other parts of the line we 387 were delayed on account of permanent-way work. At the moment I did not know it, but now I do, and I was just wondering whether, when there are cases of delay, the general public could not be advised as to the reasons, because I am quite certain that other persons who were travelling on that train were wondering: "When are we going to arrive at St. Pancras?"
Now I will turn to the question of the future operation of our railways, and in this respect I should like to say a few words on the very important part which I feel the Transport Users' Consultative Committee have to play. I believe I am right in saying that the Commission are particularly concentrating on faster main-line traffic. May the Transport Users' Consultative Committee therefore realise to what extent they can affect the future pattern of communication in this country! I can recall three instances, my Lords, where these committees were able not only to postpone abandonment of services but to impose the reintroduction of a service. My Lords, I think that roads and railways should always be considered in conjunction with each other, and not as two separate entities.
Finally, my Lords, whilst recognising that in certain areas of lesser traffic density there may be a case for the introduction and retention of diesel traction. I should like to express my regret that the main-line electrification programme has not proceeded at greater speed. I am advised that only two firms in this country can supply the cable catenaries, and so forth, and it would appear that that is one of the reasons why the programme cannot proceed more quickly. With regard to France and her railway modernisation plan, seven firms supplied the catenaries and eleven firms supplied the requisite signalling and electrical installations, and so forth. So it seems a great shame that that industry should be holding up to some extent, I believe I am right in saying, our main-line electrification. To end: if the Commission's decision to reduce the size of the passenger rolling stock, coupled with faster trains, is the right one, surely acceleration of the electrification programme is a necessity. For if one diesel locomotive can replace two steam locomotives, as has often 388 been mentioned from the Government Front Bench in your Lordships' House, one electric locomotive can replace three steam locomotives.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, I am sure we are all very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has put down one of his comprehensive Motions to-day, as he used to do before his illness, and we are very glad to see him back again in the House. I should also like to add my humble congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who has surely created a speed record by being introduced only such a short time before making his maiden speech. We hope that that will augur well for the speed at which the new roads will be constructed in the future. But there is one point I should like to make. I am rather sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, although logically quite rightly, has brought in railways as well as roads, because I think both deserve a really full-dress debate. We have had speeches this afternoon on roads and on railways; but I hope that I may be able to encourage the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, or somebody else, to start another debate on railways a little later on.
Now I happened to be honoured by being asked to serve on the House of Lords Select Committee on the Prevention of Road Accidents, which was appointed late in 1937 and which reported to your Lordships' House in an Interim Report on July 20, 1938. As your Lordships will see from this volume, we took 663 pages of evidence. The Committee was under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Alness; and several noble Lords who are still Members of this House were members of it They included the noble Marquess, Lord Reading; the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead; the noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, now no longer with us; the noble Viscount, Lord Addison; and the noble Earl, Lord lddesleigh. We spent eighteen months producing our Report, which was presented to the House of Lords and ordered to be printed on March 29, 1939.
In our conclusions, which the noble Lord, Lord Alness, as chairman, presented to your Lordships' House, we 389 said, in paragraph 177 on page 67 of the Final Report:In concluding their Report, the Committee desire to reaffirm their realisation of the surpassing importance as well as the supreme difficulty of the problem with which they have been confronted. The holocaust on the roads to-day is nothing short of appalling …Then they went on to say:They are of opinion—as indeed they have stated in their Report—that the most important factors are the education of all road users in road behaviour and the segregation of road users—motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The first factor is of course psychological, while the second is physical; both are of supreme national moment. If the recommendations now made receive effect, the Committee are confident that at least a beginning will be made in achieving increased road safety. Finally, the Committee venture to express the hope that this report will not share the fate of the reports of several departmental committees of which they heard in evidence, and merely find a resting place in the pigeon-holes of Whitehall.My Lords, Whitehall has a number of pigeon-holes, and I found it quite difficult to get this Report because the gentleman in charge of the office had not, I think, heard of it; but he did manage to find it.
However, in 1939 the war started, and that, of course, prevented a great deal being done in the matter of roads. But I think it is of interest to your Lordships to state that in paragraph 106 of our Final Report we reported on a visit of a roads delegation to Germany to study the autobahnen there, and in that paragraph 106 appear the words:Germany has now over 1,500 miles of autobahnen open for traffic, and hopes by 1942 to have opened 4,300 miles.I do not know whether that was ever done; but the Report went on to say that the cost then of the German autobahn was £34,000 per mile. That, of course, is a very tiny fraction of the present cost of making our new M.1. It is interesting to note that in the paper just issued, The London-Yorkshire Motorway, it appears that now, in 1959, we have roughly 80 miles of the equivalent to the German autobahnen, and that in 1939, twenty years ago, Germany had 1,500 miles and may well have several thousand miles now.
I am very interested that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, uses these words… future construction programme to provide a sound system of communication to meet the anticipated expansion of the country's economy.…390 We certainly want a sound system of communication, and I think noble Lords have said enough this afternoon to stir the new Minister of Transport, if he wants any stirring, to get ahead with road construction. It is a very great pity that the organisation which has so quickly built M.1 cannot immediately get on with building M.2 or M.1a—whatever it may be called. Men get lost and go to other industries, and it is a great pity that more thought and consideration was not given to planning so that they could go straight ahead with the construction of further roads.
But if we improve communication between cities, we are going to improve—I do not think that that is the correct word; I think "dis-improve" is probably a better word—the clogging up of traffic in those cities. I should like to devote a few moments to the question of London. I can foresee the time when it will be almost impossible to move in London. Certainly at the present it is almost impossible to move during the rush hours: from about 9 to 11 in the morning, and starting at about 4 in the afternoon until about 7.30. I think the evening rush hour is rather longer than certain noble Lords have stated. Yesterday evening I took thirty-five minutes to go from the House of Lords to Kingston House in Prince's Gate, going by devious routes and not by the obvious way, when I should probably have taken fifty minutes.
I should like to make certain suggestions. Obviously, it is necessary to have the largest possible amount of parking space and garaging space in London. I think it should be laid down that all new buildings, whether commercial buildings in the City or flats or commercial buildings in the West End, should have garage space below them if that is physically possible having regard to the drains and undergrounds. There should also be more subterranean parking space under squares, as has been suggested, though it may be very expensive. There should furthermore be on the outskirts of London parking places, built in storeys, where one can send one's car up in a lift and collect it later in the day, as they have outside Venice.
I would make one small suggestion which is practicable at the present day. On roads where there are wide pavements cars should be allowed to have 391 one wheel on the pavement or park wholly on the pavement if it is wide enough. In Cannes and Nice for instance, cars are laid up facing the sea on the wide pavements, leaving the road free for other cars to go along. It might be useful if white lines were drawn by the police on wide pavements showing the part for pedestrians and the part for cars. It might be possible later on to take away the wide pavements and throw them into the road, which would be the best thing. There are streets like Devonshire Place where parking is in the middle of the street and on both sides as well, and even surgeons, as I happen to know from a relative of mine, cannot get their cars parked anywhere near the London Clinic when going there to perform operations.
There is one thing more important than providing more parking places: that is, to prevent so many cars from coming into London. If you find an outbreak of dry rot in your house you cut not only the diseased woodwork but even good woodwork, so that the dry rot cannot reach it in future. I think it is more important to prevent cars from coming into London than to provide parking spaces for them when they get there. The rush hour problem is not solved by providing parking places inside London. This is a free country, I am glad to say, and it may not be possible by law to stop cars from coming into London—I certainly would never advocate that. We all own cars, whether they be large or small (and I hope shortly, when I can get delivery, to have an Austin 7, the only type of car you can really have in London) and I think it wrong to prevent a British citizen from exercising his ordinary rights, particularly after he has paid so much for the upkeep of the roads. But it might be possible to persuade people to park their cars at such places as Hendon Central, the end of tube systems, or at railway stations or other places where car parks may be placed. It might help the railways and the tube system if these car owners were persuaded by financial means to leave their cars at these stations.
I would suggest that instead of having to pay for car parking they should be paid 3d. an hour, or something like that, in order to persuade them to leave their 392 cars at the ends of tubes and at stations. That would help them to pay their fares to the City or to the West End. A little docket could be given them by the park attendant and could be used when they want to go to their offices, perhaps to pay their tube fares to the City. Just as farmers can often be persuaded to go in for pigs or poultry or wheat by financial inducements, perhaps many people can be persuaded to leave their cars at the outskirts and not come into London.
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that it would raise a problem to try to step up public transport to cope with the enormous increase in traffic his suggestion would bring about?
§ LORD BROCKET
I think it would be a major problem, but we have to think years ahead. I believe it would be a smaller problem than would arise by our getting completely clogged up in London, and I think it is worth considering. We have to think ahead on this question. In 1939 Lord Alness and his Committee produced a report, but little of what they proposed has come to pass by 1959. For instance, they advocated the extension of the Cromwell Road to London Airport, and that has taken twenty years. We have to think ahead about this matter and take into consideration suggestions about the use of the monorail and the helicopter, which might be very helpful.
This question of roads and railways has to be considered seriously. At the present time we probably have the worst road system in Western Europe, and not one of the most efficient railway systems. I happen to be a director of a company which produces smokeless fuel, nearly 50 per cent. of which is produced in Nottinghamshire and goes to London and elsewhere by road because we cannot get proper action from the railways. That is a great pity, because coal ought to go by the railways, if at all possible. But when rates are too high and it takes sometimes weeks to deliver, instead of days or even hours when delivered by road, it cannot be expected that retailers will buy coal by rail delivery and possibly not get it in their yards for weeks at a time. I feel that in some ways the railways are acting as an obsolete concern. I am sorry to say so, but decisions cannot be taken locally and every- 393 thing is referred to the top. I was travelling in a diesel train some time ago and it broke down. On the loudspeaker at the station where it broke down it was said that the Railway Executive wished to apologise for the breakdown. I am sure they did not know anything about it; yet the Railway Executive were able to apologise for it while we were sitting in the train.
The railways are really rather dangerous. I was travelling from Crewe to London a little while ago and we arrived twenty-live minutes early, which is unlike the experiences of some other noble Lords. The train was going so fast that not only were trays and plates thrown about the dining car (this was in the days before the strike) but several people were worried because they thought the train might jump off the rails. I had a talk to the driver at Euston and said that I thought he was doing 90 m.p.h. He said that perhaps he should not say so, but they were doing more than 100. There is no real point in throwing passengers out of railway trains when they are good enough to go on them. It is incidents of that sort which put people off the railways. In fact, I avoid them whenever possible. I would far rather motor, go by air or use any method other than railways. But I hope that, as the railways are essential to this country, they will get down to producing some real improvements; and also clean themselves up. They are so dirty that it is really horrible to travel on them. I will not go into further details about that, because it would be rather unpleasant, but I think the railways have a great deal to do to clean themselves up and make themselves attractive, and then perhaps the advertisements about which my noble friend spoke, about "selling" the railways, will come to pass and will get people on to them.
I see that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has just come into the Chamber. He and I spend part of our time in Ireland, where they have the same problem but of a much smaller nature. There they do, in fact, sell the railways, because if they find they are uneconomic they hold an auction. A short time ago a gentleman from Burma bought some rails for £17,000, and they ended up the auction by selling the station master's hat and uniform for 394 three guineas. That was probably the best thing to do with that particular railway, because it was losing so much money. But, to get back to the serious matter of the roads, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will think ahead and not wait for as many years as the twenty years since the House of Lords Select Committee on Road Accidents reported; and, indeed, go much further ahead than they perhaps need to do at the moment, because this is a problem that will strangle us all if we do not tackle it soon.
§ 6.22 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for having put down his Motion. I agree that perhaps it might have been better, on second thoughts, if he had left out railways this time, because I feel that we shall want to have a separate debate on railways in which many of the things said to-day will have to be repeated. For my part, I do not intend to deal with the railways. I greatly welcome the increased and more widespread ownership of motor cars that is taking place in this country. It is a sign of the social revolution and of the lowering of the barrier between the haves and the have-nots, which I welcome; and I cannot help feeling that the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Mr. Butler, must also welcome it. But it does bring problems in its train, and I believe that as a result we shall have to do some new thinking on roads.
Up to the present the road programme has been aimed ostensibly almost entirely at improving the commercial communications of the country; and I presume that probably the only method of getting any money out of the Treasury was to put that foremost. But I think that in future we shall have to consider this enormous number of new car owners, and shall have to build roads to get these people from the industrial areas out to the country and to the coast, where they want to spend their free time. I do not believe that we want motorways for this purpose. Most of these people, like myself, and I have no doubt like many other of your Lordships, would not be safe driving on a motorway; and, in any case, a great many of their motor cars would blow up if they were unduly extended on a motorway. But we do want 395 the existing roadways improved into dual-carriageways, and with by-passes around the towns.
The roads I am thinking of are not trunk roads. Their maintenance and improvement falls to some degree on the rates. I cannot see any coastal or rural county council being wildly enthusiastic about spending the ratepayers' money on bringing a hoard of motorists from the industrial areas into their area, knowing perfectly well that when they get there they will spend remarkably little money in the area. Therefore I believe that the Ministry will have to take over, with a 100 per cent. grant, these improved roads about which I am speaking. A typical sort of road that I have in mind in my own area is the A.24, the London to Worthing road, which would easily provide one of these improved dual-carriageway roads, with not an enormous expenditure upon it. But, as I say, I do not see the county council being wildly enthusiastic about doing that work, and I feel that the Ministry will have to undertake it. It is no good, of course, having new roads into the country and to the coast unless the exits from and the entrances to cities are greatly improved, too. I am glad to see that the Ministry seem to have some idea of having a new exit towards the South: I have forgotten the name of the road, but it appears to be a suitable one.
Then we must relieve the great congestion in our cities, which brings one back to Londoners—and nearly every speaker has ended up in London. I believe that the Londoners have had a pretty raw deal in the past. Successive Governments and the London County Council have, if not encouraged, at least not stopped, the replacement of large residential areas with offices, which presumably have a considerably higher rateable value, while at the same time remarkably little has been done towards providing the extra transport facilities required to bring the staff in and out of London. I hope that my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary, if he has not done so, will catch a train at Oxford Circus tube station in the rush hour; will stand on London Bridge station, the old South Eastern and Chatham line, in the rush hour and watch the trains rush through at half-minute intervals, jammed like sardine tins with humanity; and, 396 finally, will catch a train from Waterloo to the City during the rush hour. If, at the end of that time, he considers that Londoners have not had rather a raw deal I do not think he is a person entirely unbiased and with an open mind.
The late Minister's solution for these problems was to stagger office hours. It is easy to talk about staggering office hours, but it is uncommonly difficult to apply in practice, because one business depends upon another. It is impossible for one section of markets to open at nine o'clock, another at ten, another at eight and so on: business communities have to be there more or less all at the same time. But there is one direction in which staggering could be practical and effective, and that is in the Civil Service, because the Civil Service has contacts between its offices rather than with the general public. I shall believe in this practicability of a staggering solution if and when Her Majesty's Government decree that the Civil Service shall start their office hours at eleven o'clock and end at seven o'clock: that will keep them out of the factory rush hour and out of the office rush hour. If it is practicable, I shall believe in staggering; but I shall be most surprised if it is found to be practicable.
The proper solution surely is to put much more traffic underground. The snag is that the London Passenger Transport Board say that "Undergrounds" do not pay. But surely the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is right in saying that you have to look at these things as a broad whole. If you start lopping off every little service that does not pay, before long you will have no service left in London. The "C" tube ought to have been given priority a long time ago. It sounds expensive, but the number of people who can burrow underground at any one moment is limited, and therefore the annual cost of this project cannot be enormous. I have not studied the rest of London underground, but I wonder whether there are not other underground relief lines which should also be constructed.
I think there is a lot in what the noble Lord, Lord Burden, said. These authorities must be given greater freedom to raise their fares; and, I would add, to lower their fares. I will not go into it now, but I do not believe that the last 397 raising of fares by the railways is in the interest of the railways. At any rate, London Passenger Transport Board must be allowed to, and made to, spend the money to provide the extra facilities, and must be allowed to charge fares to cover the proper service charges, and so on.
We must also increase the suburban capacity of British Railways. I know that British Railways say that their suburban service does not pay, though my recollection of the days when I had something to do with the railways is that a railway can always prove that anything does not pay if it wants to. I should be surprised if the railways would not be in a much worse position if their suburban services died on them overnight. Surely their problem is to fill up the rolling stock at the "off-peak" hours. The way they are setting about doing it for the moment is that they are bringing in season tickets at, say, x shillings during rush hours, and then they proceed to hire out the same rolling stock to try to induce the other people to use it at 3x shillings for the rest of the day. That sum has not been greatly mitigated by the rather limited reduction made in the "off-peak" fares. Surely, the correct solution is, having got father into the City early, to induce mother in by cheap fare to shop later in the clay, and at fares equivalent to the season ticket rates at all the "off-peak" times.
When we turn to congestion, there are innumerable solutions. I have always been rather attracted to the tax solution which was mentioned, but there are many more. Whatever happens, obviously there will have to be much more stringent regulations for parking in London, whether it is park-free areas or park-free roads. And that means that somebody will have to enforce those regulations. I do not believe that the Metropolitan Police, at their present strength, or any conceivable strength which they could ever attain, will be adequate to deal with that justly. Therefore I think the Home Secretary will have to come round to the view that a special corps of, perhaps, retired police and so on, will have to be recruited, whose sole business will be to police the parking laws in London, with some sort of system under which they can hand 398 out tickets to the delinquents on the spot.
Then again, we want car parks. But this time the London County Council find that there are "no takers" from private enterprise, because they do not pay. I have never understood why a car park should not be subsidised from the rates. After all, in provincial towns the car park is provided, either free or on small payment, by the urban district council, or whatever the authority is. If they are not providing actual money they are providing land; and urban land is valuable. I can see no difference between providing money and providing land, and I do not think the impasse over parks in London is going to be solved until it is possible for the London County Council to subsidise them from the rates. I am not going into railway questions. We must do a lot of fresh thinking, I believe, on all these matters. We have a new Minister with a very agile and versatile mind, and I hope and believe that he will be able to do the fresh thinking for us.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, at this late hour, I shall be brief. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for putting down this important debate for to-day, because this is a matter of vital importance, and one about which, as many noble Lords have said, we must do a lot of re-thinking, both on roads and on railways. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Craigton on his very able maiden speech, and I would also wish my noble friend Lord Chesham all success in his promotion to this most important post of Joint Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Transport. I am sure that we all wish him the best of luck. I shall be brief, because I know that we all want to hear him.
The point I wish to make is on finance and the road problem. I agree with much that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said. We shall have to have some re-thinking on the Treasury's present outlook on the matter. We have gone a very long way, and I am grateful to Her Majesty's Government for what they have done. When one looks at the, figures of Government spending on trunk and classified roads one sees that in 1955 we were spending £3.6 million; in 1956, £6.6 million; in 1957, £13.7 million; in 399 1958, £26.5 million, and this year, £54.7 million. That is an expenditure of about £100 million in five years. That programme is to be doubled in the next five years to something over £200 million. I think it is £60 million a year for England and Wales, and £10 million for Scotland.
If your Lordships look at the figures in the financial statement for this year, you will see that the revenue from motor taxation is about £110 million. But, of course, on top of the £70 million which it is proposed to spend in each of the next five years, something like £40 million (I think it is £33 million for England and Wales, and the rest for Scotland) is to be given by the Government for maintenance of these classified roads. That is a point I will return to in a moment. I feel, like the noble Lord, Lord Boothby—and some of us have put this idea forward on a good many occasions previously—that we should seriously consider putting some of this expenditure "below the line" and mortgaging the future. I do not believe that, on current expenditure, it is possible to keep taxation at its present level or to reduce it much more than we are doing at the present moment. These new big capital works, the M/'s, M/'s and M/'s cost something over £250,000 a mile, and we can either mortgage the future for a certain proportion of it or raise a Road Loan, or the Government can raise loans "below the line". I think we shall have to consider that solution.
The other point I wish to make is that, having served now for about five years on a local authority, and on its roads and bridges committee, I know there is growing anxiety, from the point of view of maintenance, about the ever-increasing traffic on the roads. The money we are allowed from Her Majesty's Government for classified roads is not sufficient to carry out maintenance work on the existing roads which have to be kept up, and which are getting a large amount of traffic on them, especially the Class II and Class III roads, the B and C roads which, as your Lordships know, get 60 per cent. and 50 per cent. grant respectively, the A roads getting 75 per cent. Although we have the A roads in a pretty good state, especially in my county, and, I have no doubt, in many others, we are worried about the B and C roads because so much 400 traffic is going from the A roads to the B and C roads. I should like Her Majesty's Government seriously to consider—because I believe it is a financial problem—whether some of this important programme of new construction could not be done on some form of "under the line" expenditure to be met by loan charge. I do not think we shall be able to do it all on current expenditure. Moreover, these big capital works are giving something to future generations, and I believe that they should be prepared to pay some of the cost; it should not fall entirely on the taxpayers of today. With those few words, my Lords, I support the Motion.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, it is as a motorist who has driven a great deal in the last twenty years that I should like to say a few words, if I may. I am a very enthusiastic motorist, and I have driven cars of all sorts and shapes and sizes in most countries of the world. In the last six months I was fortunate enough to drive right across the United States of America, from New York to Los Angeles and back, and most of that driving was done on a road very similar to the new M.1. At the risk of detaining your Lordships, I should like to tell you a little about one or two of my observations on that road. I would congratulate the Government on building this magnificent new road, but I have driven for 6,000 miles on a road like that. Probably the best roads in the world to-day, the most modern and the most suitable for modern automobile traffic, exist in America.
I was a little unhappy to see in the paper yesterday that the Minister was already rather worried about the way people were driving on the new road and thought it might be necessary to impose a speed limit. I do not think the speed limits work very well in America. The situation is very muddled there; each State has its own speed limit. In Oklahoma the speed limit on the magnificent new motorway is 60 miles an hour and on any small country road it is also 60 miles an hour; 60 miles an hour is the State speed limit in that State. But 60 miles an hour on the motorway is quite slow; it seems you are moving very slowly indeed; it is a beautiful four-lane highway. On the other hand, 60 401 miles an hour on a small winding country road I think is extremely dangerous. Both speed limits are wrong.
In some States in America one finds that a speed limit of 70 miles an hour is rigorously enforced; in others, such as California, there is a speed limit of 35 miles an hour but it is not rigorously enforced; if you drive at 70 miles an hour and do not have an accident or drive dangerously you are not pulled up for exceeding the speed limit. This seems to me to be nebulous and not really satisfactory. I found, driving on these magnificent highways for hundreds of miles, that if you are worrying about the speed limit you tend to watch the speedometer with one eye, to watch the rear window for possible police cars with another eye and the side of the road for possible radar traps with the third eye, and you have no eyes left to look where you should be looking, to your driving and the road.
As regards the new motorway, I feel that there are many people in this country who have the very wonderful motor cars which we produce in England, but are unable to try them out. They are very frustrated, and in these early days of this new road there are one or two hotheads who will try to turn it into a racetrack. One cannot blame them. For years they have been stuck behind lorries or left with a quarter of a mile of straight road, and now suddenly they have 70 miles of straight road. After the first few days have gone by and the novelty has worn off I think more sanity will prevail. I would urge the Minister not to put a speed limit on it. It really does not work in America; everybody tries to cheat the police and a new hazard comes in—cheating the police on speed limits.
All these thousands of miles of marvellous road in America have been paid for mainly by tolls. If you go on a road, for example the new road from New York to Chicago, which is 812 miles of road exactly like our new M.1—you can drive it easily in one day; it takes about 11 hours—it costs you about five dollars, or thirty-five shillings. I do not see why we should not have toll roads in this country, maybe not costing so much, but surely all motorists would be prepared to pay a few shillings to drive on 200 miles of magnificent 402 double-track motorway rather than crawl on some hopelessly old-fashioned road for hour after hour. I do not think toll roads are a bad idea at all. They would also tend to keep off the motorways certain types of undesirable motor vehicles the owners of which would not be prepared to pay the toll. There are certain types of motor vehicle which I do not think it very good to have on a motorway—old-fashioned ones with no winking lights., such as some of your Lordships have mentioned. In America one finds that old-fashioned carts and lorries not suitable for a modern motorway do not go on the motorways because the owners do not want to pay the money. I think toll roads in this country might solve the economic problem. Tolls are used very satisfactorily in America also for bridges; for example, the George Washington Bridge which spans the Island of Manhattan. It has been completely paid for, I think in the first six or seven years, simply by charging one quarter, 25 cents, about Is. 9d., for every motorist who passes over that bridge, and thousands pass over it every hour of the day.
It has been suggested to me that the trouble with this system is that there would be an enormous building up of pressure of cars waiting to pay the toll. It works very speedily in America. In California, where toll roads exist in great profusion—there are almost as many cars in the city of Los Angeles as exist in the whole of Great Britain—they pay their tolls and there is no great hold up, and one finds an enormous number of cars passing through every hour. Nobody seems to mind, and the roads are paid for and kept in a magnificent state of repair.
There is one other matter on which I feel very strongly. Coming to the situation as regards traffic in London, may I say that I drive nearly every day of my life in London, and I think that one of the greatest hazards and one of the greatest discrepancies of the law that needs serious consideration is the legal situation which exists here but which, so far as I am aware, does not exist in any other country of the world where I have driven, including America, South America, South Africa, and the Continent of Europe. In this country, so far as I am aware, pedestrians are not forced by law to pay attention to traffic 403 lights, as motorists are. You come to Oxford Street and you try to get across. What happens? The lights go to green and you proceed to move off, but the pedestrians continue to cross. In New York the traffic lights go green, a sign says "Do not walk", and everybody stops walking. It is the same in South Africa and in every major city of the world except London. I feel that pedestrians must pay attention to the lights; otherwise stagnation will really result. This is one of the major causes of stagnation in London. They are fined on the spot anywhere else but not in England.
One other point I should like to make is that in the London parks the speed limit is 20 miles an hour. This seems to me to be out of character with modern requirements. No cars in the parks, or very few cars, actually drive at that speed. If you follow any car in Hyde Park you always find that it is travelling at about 30 miles an hour. Surely the speed limit in the parks should be 30 miles an hour, as it is everywhere else. Nearly everybody—95 per cent. of the users of the parks—breaks the law. Nothing is done about it, and rightly. It is difficult for some modern cars to travel at 20 m.p.h. in top gear; they have to be driven in third gear. This seems to me to be out of character with modern requirements.
In conclusion, I should like to say that I agree completely with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. It is a terrible thing that to-day people of seventeen years of age can pass a test in a small car and then, if they have a rich father or happen to have money, can buy large and fast cars, and then can go on the roads and drive at 100 m.p.h. I myself learned to drive with an 8 h.p. car at the age of seventeen. I had my first driving lesson on my seventeenth birthday—I was very keen—and for the first six or seven years after obtaining my licence I drove about in an 8 h.p. car and eventually worked myself up to, and now I think I can drive reasonably well, any make of motor car, however powerful. I do not think it is very good for any young and inexperienced person to be allowed to drive a fast and powerful car. I do not know what can be done. It may be that this matter can be overcome by some stringent test. I think something has to be done.
404 I am sorry to have detained your Lordships for so long, but I feel very strongly on the question of roads. I congratulate the Government on what they are doing. I think they are doing a good job, and I am sure that soon we shall have some roads of which we can be proud. But more will have to be done. I think that to-day's debate, in which I have been privileged to take part, has been a most interesting and useful one.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has put us all in his debt by putting down this Motion, because I think the debate has shown how necessary it is that Parliament should interest itself in the problem of transport. We are also looking forward to hearing the maiden speech in his new office of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, in which we wish him well. The House has also heard, although I am afraid I did not because I was not able to be in the Chamber, the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. The Motion as originally put down by my noble friend was in much wider terms, referring to inland transport generally. Since it was narrowed to deal mainly with the roads, with a mention of the railways, the debate as it has developed has become rather a matter of bits and pieces. We have all got views, generally very strong ones, on how the roads and motor traffic should be conducted. We have all our own experiences, good or bad, which tend to prevent us from taking a general view of the whole problem.
I think the fact that there is a big problem—much bigger than any of the details that have been mentioned—is obvious from the bare figures. We know that the road mileage is about 190,000, of which I think 28,000 is trunk roads and class 1 roads. We know that the number of motor vehicles is now about 8½ million. It has been increasing steadily at 8 per cent. over the last twelve years. We can assume that nothing can stop it from increasing at much the same rate for the next twelve years. In fact, official estimates have been given in Parliament that by 1969 there will be 12½ million vehicles. I think there have been other estimates given that have 405 been a good deal higher than that. Nobody would suppose that any Government in this country would build something like 100,000 miles of new road in the next ten years. Even if they had the money, there would not be the land to expand the roads at anything like that pace.
Our present figure of something like forty vehicles to every mile of road is far the highest of any country in Europe or America. By the natural order of things, the figure will reach perhaps seventy vehicles per mile at the end of the next decade. I believe that the Ministry do not admit that figure as a standard of comparison, but that they rely on a census or spot check to show the number of vehicles actually on the road at any one time. I think that only experts can discuss the best methods of measuring the true density of traffic on our roads. I suspect that the black or congested spots in our Island would show a very high density indeed of traffic, and if the overall number of motor vehicles increases, as we know it will, congestion is bound to become worse and worse. I do not see that the exact figure matters, but the fact remains that we have more vehicles in this country per mile of road than any other. Moreover, I think that the configuration of the country, and industry and the centres of population, are such that we tend to get even higher concentrations of vehicles at certain spots than anywhere else.
So the first thing I would put to your Lordships is that the problem is now, and is going to be, so big that no small detailed measures can cope with it. Certainly you can have more off-street parking; you can have better driving discipline. You can have motorways, improved highways, and classified roads. In parenthesis, I think that the emphasis on motorways that we are hearing so much about now is somewhat mistaken. I believe that money spent on improving ordinary roads would probably do much more to remove the dangers and the frustrations of heavy traffic than a few hundred miles of motorway.
We have heard about congestion in London. I should like to deviate for a moment, because my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth had some rather hard things to say about the London 406 County Council. I, as a Londoner, watch with great interest the road improvements in London. Although they are nothing like as much as we should like to see, I think it would be conveying a misleading impression from this debate if my noble friend's strictures were allowed to go unchallenged. Your Lordships will remember that road expenditure was at a standstill until, I believe, after 1954. The London County Council had planned their road scheme and had planned to spend about £4 million a year on it for a period of 20 years or so; but they were not allowed to spend until 1955. They have already completed £6½ million worth of expenditure and their rate of expenditure for the past financial year was £3 million. For the current financial year it is £4 million, and for the following financial year it will be £6 million. We have seen some of the results of that in the Notting Hill widening scheme, the Cromwell Road extension and, of course, the Park Lane scheme; and others are proceeding. The question of the flyover at Hammersmith is a very technical matter, involving land purchases and negotiations with the Ministry, but all I know is that it so happens that today tenders for the flyover have been called for.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether it is not a fact that the Nugent Advisory Committee has recommended, and the Council have accepted, proposals for much larger expenditure on London roads in the future than in the past?
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, am afraid that is not a question I am able to answer.
We have heard a good deal about the new Minister and I am sure we all wish him well. Many kind things have been said about him. When he was at the Post Office he made a great name for efficiency and courtesy. I seem to remember that he made a particular point of courtesy on the part of the staff of the Post Office towards the public; in other words, everything was to be done for the convenience of the subscriber. I should like, very respectfully, to suggest to him that the qualities he will require in this new job are not by any means those expressed by the phrase "The customer is always right." A number of noble Lords have made clear 407 this afternoon that it will be necessary for the Minister to take a tough line with various sectional interests. We have heard that people who want to park their cars in cities, and pedestrians, will have to be controlled, and that all kinds of sectional interests will need disciplining by the Minister in the interests of all of us. Do not let us forget that the private motorist may have to put up with inconvenience, and the commercial user also. All kinds of interests will have to suffer, in some degree or other, for the benefit of the whole community.
That brings me to the point that I believe this debate has shown that the problem of transport is not a problem of motor roads, railways, or undergrounds, or anything else. It is a problem of transport on the national scale. Do not forget that we have enormous sums invested in our transport assets, in the machinery and plant, so to speak, all over the country—railways, roads, bridges, tunnels and the rest, not to mention the rolling stock and vehicles. No matter how prosperous the country may be, I imagine nobody would suggest that we have so much in hand in our economy that we can afford to waste any of those assets. The fact is that we are wasting them now because there are available means of transport which are not being fully used; and it seems to me that the task of a Government is to see that all our assets are put to the fullest use in the interests of the country's economy as a whole. And that is a very big job.
Something on those lines was attempted by the Labour Government in their Transport Act of 1947. That Act set up the Transport Commission, with the task of establishing an adequate, efficient and properly integrated system of public inland transport for the country. The vicissitudes of politics changed the shape of that, and it is now ancient history; but the fact remains that the Conservative Government are responsible now for the proper utilisation of the country's resources, and I maintain that they cannot do that unless they do something to integrate the various means of transport that we have available. Before they can attempt anything of that kind they need a great deal more information than exists at the 408 moment. There was a publication of the Ministry this year called The Transport of Goods by Road, which was a Report on a sample survey carried out last year. The first sentence of that document is:The amount of statistical information about the movement of goods by road is not in keeping with the importance of this means of transport in the national economy.In other words we do not know how much goods transport is carried or where it goes. I do not believe anybody knows where the transport is needed.
Who knows, for instance, how many million tons of goods are required to go from the Midlands to London or to the Mersey? Who knows what seasonal variations there are, daily, monthly or yearly? Unless we know where the demand for transport is, how can we make efficient use of the medium to shift it? As transport media we have (as we have been talking about them now I will put them first) 190,000 miles of road, including 28,000 miles of main road. We have, roughly, 20,000 route-miles of railway, a very fine network, serving all parts of the country, but suffering from obsolescence and neglect. We even have just under 2,000 miles of inland waterways. That is a very small length, but it is not altogether negligible, because in certain areas, as we see in the papers to-day, the Severn and the Trent are both magnificent waterways that make a useful contribution, and could make a bigger contribution, to the traffic to Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and those areas. In other words, the configuration of the country is such that we have very valuable means of transport leading right into the heart of the country; and that, of course, brings in the question of coastal shipping. That is another means of transport that could be used to relieve the whole. Then, finally, there is civil aviation, which is obviously going to be a growing factor in transport, certainly of passengers and possibly of goods too.
There we have it. The Government's task, my Lords, as I see it, is to make sure that every one of our assets is made use of. To do that they will have to take a tough line with a number of interests which are not accustomed to control of any sort. I hope we shall hear from the Government that they are 409 going to make a serious investigation of the needs of transport and that, while proceeding with the road programme, they will not forget other means; in other words, make sure that we have a co-ordinated system over the whole country.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)
My Lords, I am sure that the first thing I should do this evening is to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, particularly and personally, for the words he was good enough to use about me last week. I should also like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, for what he has said to-day. I can only say for myself in what seems to me a very important task, and one with a great many difficulties in the way, that I hope I can live up to anything like what they were good enough to say. I should like, while I am on this theme, to take up the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, last week about a "rough ride". My Lords, I should not want any other sort of ride here in the circumstances. I think there is much too much to do to worry about that, in order that between us we can obtain some kind of a smooth ride in other circumstances for other people. But I shall be coming back to the question of the rough ride a little later on.
I cannot take part in this debate without my mind going back some six years. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and I, on opposite sides of the House as we were, found ourselves between us giving the Minister of the day rather a rough ride. We seemed to find a good deal of common ground at the time, and I only look forward to making it my business to working things in a way which is common ground not only with him but with everybody else.
My Lords, I have not brought with me to-day a bucket of whitewash; nor have I brought a roll of flannel. I want to confine myself to the broad issues—the broadest issues, I might say—because the problem is so deperately important and we have to be so very realistic about it. My purpose is to try to convey the Government's attitude, not to fight things that have been said, not to reject them, defend them, attack them or argue. In 410 the process I may appear to overlook the majority of the contributions of nearly all noble Lords who have spoken. I intend absolutely no discourtesy by that. I ask the indulgence of all the noble Lords concerned. In addition to that, in my relatively short recollection, never have so many offered so much in the way of suggestions in the course of one afternoon. I did in fact begin to count. I got up to 57 points which were well deserving of some comment in my reply and then I lost count; and there have been many since then. There will be no answer, and I hope no one will be too disappointed—not even, may I say, to many of the very interesting and thoughtful ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, himself. What I want to make perfectly clear and give my assurance on is that no suggestion that has been made to-day, no point that has been brought out, will not get consideration and study in the great amount of thinking that lies before us.
I have listened very carefully to all the speeches this afternoon. I must, I think, comment on that of my noble friend Lord Craigton, whom I am glad to join in welcoming and congratulating. I am sorry to have to deny a remark in his maiden speech at once by saying that I am not going to answer all the points. But wanted to listen to the speeches and get the very many good ideas that have been said. Enough, my Lords, has been said without any recapitulation being necessary on my part, to indicate that we must think hard, think big and think fast.
There is general agreement, quite evidently—and I certainly would not dissent from it—that the transport system, particularly the roads, as we see it now, is going to grind slowly to a standstill unless somebody, in this case the Government, does something really vigorous, far-seeing and boldly outstanding about it. That, my Lords, is what we intend to press on with. We are deeply conscious of the tremendous task that lies ahead, and the challenge that there is to the ability, the ingenuity and the perseverence of everybody concerned in the transport world. We have to face this problem with open eyes and open minds and look at it in the broadest sense, as has been said by almost every speaker to-day, from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, onwards.
411 We have to look at the road and rail development together, because I do not see how, without getting the best out of both, we can get efficiency out of either. The health of both these means of transport is vital to the nation. We have to look at traffic discipline—all these questions of double white lines, parking control in the towns—and no doubt in the process we should look very carefully and interestedly at the numerous measures which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, produced in the course of his speech. We have got to speed the traffic, whether it is along motorways, by means of clearways, or whatever else we can think of—possibly the extension of signposting of alternative routes, which has been quite successful. We feel, in fact, my Lords, that there should be emergency, short-term action as well as the more permanent, long-term type of action. We feel that we should do, and want to do, anything that we can think of that is practicable and helpful.
The urban problem is undoubtedly the most difficult; the construction is much more expensive; property has in certain cases to be destroyed; people even have to find fresh homes. I do not think anyone in any country has solved the problem of traffic congestion in urban areas—not even (and I was very interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Foley, said about these things) in San Francisco, where I believe the size of the motorways and the amount of money which has been spent to clear the urban congestion is absolutely colossal. They still have not done away with congestion. We here in this country should have about as much hope of stopping this particular rising tide as King Canute. On the other hand, I do not think it is possible for us to contemplate tearing down large parts of our cities, particularly of the older and more historic ones, in order to allow that rising tide to wash freely through the towns and around them; because in the end there would be either large parts of cities with no transport at all, or plenty of transport and no cities at all. This line of thought is a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the latter half of this century, which is supposed to be an en- 412 lightened one. We cannot have either of these things. We have somehow to find the mean; and we really must find it, and not just bank on our national ability for muddling through in a surprisingly efficient way.
Road works form only a part of the answer. It lies in the whole business of traffic control, the best use of the streets, and the problems of parking. Streets, my Lords, were supposed to be, I thought, for moving traffic and, if it is possible and appropriate, where cars could stop for a short time. They should not be permanent car parks throughout the day—and, in some streets, not throughout the night, either. I claim that one of the most successful developments for freeing the streets has been the parking meter. The first pilot schemes have been most successful; and, for those noble Lords who do not know, an order for a further extension in the Mayfair area has been announced to-day. We believe, too, that as they spread the growth of off-street parking provision will really get under way, as it has started to do. On that point, I am glad to be able to tell the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that he was not quite correctly informed about the local authorities in that respect of off-street parking. They can and do borrow for that purpose.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am very glad to be able to make it. We cannot forget the public transport system, which, again I agree with all speakers, must be kept a healthy one to keep the centre of the city rather freer. One noble Lord mentioned the Victoria line. The position there is that the London Travel Committee reported at the Minister's request on whether this was in fact the best way of spending £55 million if it was intended to spend that sum. My right honourable friend has that report before him now.
May I interrupt my noble friend? Will that report be published?—because this scheme has been on the scrapheap for years and years and years. Surely somebody should have dscovered by now whether it is a good way of spending money or not.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am unable to tell the noble Lord whether that report will 413 be published or not; but I do not think that the London Travel Committee has had years and years and years to study the matter, and their opinion is bound to be valuable in the matter. While my noble friend is in my sights, I am also glad to be able to tell him that the figures which the London Travel Committee have show that Government Departments have a rather better record in staggering hours than offices generally have.
I am afraid that in talking about these urban problems I have digressed somewhat from where I was. I think that the only thing that has not been said about our road system to-day in this House is an unparliamentary term. If one had been used, perhaps the noble Lord who had offended could not altogether have been blamed. But, my Lords, there is fortunately in this a ray of light, a ray of hope. We have certain achievements to our credit—when I say "we", I am talking generally; not of myself, or of my right honourable friend, or anything like that. There is something to be seen. I want to mention only the bigger things.
We have heard to-day a lot about the motorway M.1. There are 78 miles of dual carriageway already carrying traffic on the road which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, fears—the Great North Road. Work that has been started will be paying off in increasing quantities, and the next few years will see the modernisation of the Great North Road complete. There will be motorways going from Birmingham to Lancaster one way, and to Ross-on-Wye the other way. The Medway Towns motor road will be in existence, and will speed traffic—and this was another source of complaint, though I forget from whom it came—to the Channel ports. Further, there should be first-class communications out to London Airport and beyond. I do not want to sound complacent in any way about these successes, but they exist. They are worth mentioning; and I hope that perhaps they will alleviate a little the fears that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has expressed.
If I may put that in what I might call a measure of production, in the four calendar years 1955 to 1958 nearly 90 miles of new trunk road were completed. In the next two years, 1959 and 1960, the mileage will be 180. It would be rash and unwise to claim that this increasing 414 rate of the finished product is catching up on traffic, but the basic network of motorways and improved trunk roads should see the beginnings of a transformation in long-distance road travel; and we hope that that will become progressively faster, safer, and, indeed, more pleasant. We must see that our future programme takes the fullest advantage of the good start that has been made on the basic network. That is our aim. If we do that, we are on the right general course. The question then is: are we going along it quickly enough?
There has been a good deal of talk to-day about the length of time it takes to get a road from the original twinkle in the planner's eye to the moment when the contractor's men and machines move on to the site—a period which, I agree, in the case of a major trunk road, may be four years. The time is taken up, as most of your Lordships know, in the very extensive surveys, engineering, and preparation for contract which are necessary, and also in the series of statutory processes—the ones to establish the line of the road, to deal with side roads, and to deal with the compulsory acquisition of land. The noble Lords, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and Lord Boothby, both expressed themselves as pretty dissatisfied and irritated with that process, to say the least. I can only say that we are already considering these processes and will do anything desirable that can be done to speed them up. But I must stress now that these processes are designed to safeguard the interests of the individual, of the private citizen, his wellbeing, maybe his livelihood, even his home, all of which can be affected by road schemes; and certainly Her Majesty's Government will do nothing to lessen the safeguards. We are quite prepared to bulldoze our way through the many physical difficulties, but we cannot bulldoze our way through the rights of the citizen.
We have been asked whether our methods of construction are right. Our minds are very open on this. We welcome suggestions, new ideas, whatever they may be, however unorthodox they may seem and from wherever they come. I am sure in this connection that the noble Lord's idea of a Director of Road Construction, for instance, will certainly be received with great interest. Naturally I cannot say more than that. 415 The highway authorities are working very hard and very well on their own roads and on trunk roads in some parts, but for really large projects we shall continue to use construction engineers on an increasing scale. I think it is true to say that for the first time in many years the civil engineering profession in this country can really look forward to a steady flow of work on road construction, a flow which is going to be pretty exacting and challenging.
When on construction, I think I should say a brief word about bridges and bridge policy. The Ministry is building a large number of bridges designed by consulting engineers and by county surveyors, making use of the latest engineering constructions. Neither my right honourable friend nor I have yet had much opportunity of seeing many of these bridges, but we both hope to do so as soon as possible. In addition, my right honourable friend proposes to go overseas accompanied by independent bridge experts, to see for themselves what is being done and what he can find out there. He then has in mind a review of existing arrangements for bridge design. Naturally, until he has done that we are hesitant to commit ourselves to any particular method of obtaining a design, but we are certainly prepared to consider whether we can use different methods, whatever they may be, possibly even including open competition.
I think that the achievement in the motorway is something of which we can be proud, and that it would be hard to beat anywhere. We shall try to match that in similar projects, but I must say that not all roads can be built quite like that. The trouble starts when the traffic has to be kept flowing while building is going on. To build a new motorway smack across open country is one thing, but building a road in such circumstances as the Chiswick flyover, with 40,000 cars a day to be got by somehow, is a very different thing. The point is that Her Majesty's Government are very receptive of new ideas. I issue now an open invitation to anybody to approach us with them. I cannot guarantee what will happen to them. What I can guarantee is that they will be listened to and that they will be met by minds with no obstructive preconceptions.
I am going to make only one short remark about the railways. So far as the 416 future course of modernisation and rationalisation is concerned and the related financial prospects of the railways, the Commission have carried out a reappraisal, which was in the nature of an inquiry. This is under study by my right honourable friend at the moment, but, as your Lordships will appreciate, as an incoming Minister he needs a little more time for care in the exercise of his judgment on anything so complex and many-sided as the railways, because his decisions may well have a wide significance.
I should be the first to admit that what I have been saying may seem to be inadequate and perhaps not very forthcoming. It may even be considered that I have said nothing. But I do not think your Lordships would expect me to be able to bring forward any positive propositions at this stage in the life of the Government. I have tried only to look forward. This means that I have had to leave out a great deal. There is an almost unlimited number of things about which I could have talked and about which I could have gone on talking for a long time. For instance, I have hardly mentioned the question of finance, although it is obvious that in order to carry out our ambitions and intentions we must have the money. That much is abundantly clear. No doubt the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will be studied with great interest. I have not mentioned, either, the question of road safety, which is such a headache to all of us. I cannot refrain from saying one word on this, about the share of responsibility resting on all road users. Contrary to what some people sometimes seem to think, this cannot be dealt with entirely by Government action. For example, the Minister can prescribe a driving mirror, the manufacturers can supply it, but only God can make the driver look in it.
I have said what I have said because I believe that at the present time it is of the utmost fundamental importance that we should think about the vital issues facing us in the broadest sense, and because I thought it of fundamental importance to indicate to your Lordships the frame of mind in which we want to tackle the expanded, advanced and accelerated programme that we all 417 know we must have. It is my turn to promise a rough ride to the House. I shall be coming back to your Lordships, I believe before very long, to suggest measures which must be bold and imaginative, perhaps even drastic, and above all quick. If we are to solve the mighty problem this must be our way of doing it, and I am supported in these views, apart from noble Lords who have spoken to-day, by people in such diverse fields as the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and Mr. Stirling Moss. These measures, with your Lordships' co-operation in due course, can be effective only if we have a sense of collective responsibility by the nation as a whole. I mean by that that individuals throughout the country will have to show patience and, above all, unselfishness in the application of the kind of measures that we know we shall have to bring in if we are going to prevent the threatened disaster.
The motor car is here to stay and it forms part of our life, whether we like it or whether we do not. Therefore we have to learn to live with it; and I make no apology for borrowing words from my right honourable friend when he said that our solution to our transport difficulties must amount to a design for living in the second half of the twentieth century. It will affect roads, railways, cities and even reach to the sea, and may make all the difference to our private lives. As I have said, it will require bold, imaginative and farseeing measures, and this is the spirit in which we propose to carry on and build on the existing foundations. In the process we will consider everything that has been said. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for having initiated this instructive, productive and constructive debate, and for giving me the opportunity to say these things.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I cannot say anything offhand, but I will write to the noble Earl at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, in asking your Lordships' permission to withdraw my Motion I trust you will bear with me for a few minutes while I reply to one or two points. First of all, I want to say, in all friendliness, to my old friend the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that in this House on the occasions of these debates it lifts the dignity of the debate if Party politics can be left out. But if he wants a Party political wrangle at any time, I shall be only too willing to accommodate him. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for reproving the noble Earl in the manner he did, by pointing to where the trouble lay in 1926. May I also accept the soft impeachment of the noble Lords, Lord Brocket and Lord Hawke. When I put down this Motion I copied it from the gracious Speech, but when I was considering over the week-end what I should say I suddenly came to the conclusion that I had offered your Lordships a meal that would certainly test your digestions. I consulted the oracle as to whether I could withdraw the last half for another day, and he said to me: "Not now". However, I promise noble Lords that I will put down a Motion in the not too distant future, when we can debate the railways, as I agree that it is a matter that will have to be threshed out.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. The only contradiction, if I may so call it, of my figure of £1,250 million spread over five years came from the noble Lord, Lord Som̃ers. I am unrepentant, because this means the livelihood of this country, as the roads of this country are the conveyor belts of our great industrial future. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that that figure of £1,250 million not only included the trunk roads, but also all the miscellaneous grants to local authorities for the improvement of minor roads, of classified roads and administration as well.
I should like to join with your Lordships in offering congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, on an admirable maiden speech. I see that Scotland is going to be well served in the future in your Lordships' House. If only we could persuade him sometimes to let us poor Englishmen who are the 419 sufferers of the Scottish invasion have his eloquence on our behalf we should be very grateful.
There is nothing further I have to say, except to the noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport who replied to this debate. When I put the Motion down and I knew that the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, was going to reply I knew that I should receive courtesy, and I knew that he would not, if I may use the expression, dodge any issue. I did not think I was going to listen to so outstandingly good a speech as that which the noble Lord has delivered to your Lordships' House: 420 I think it was a début of which any junior Minister could be proud. The noble Lord said that we might not think he had said anything. I can assure him that he has said sufficient to make us very optimistic of the way he will handle transport affairs in your Lordships' House in the future, and we feel that our interests and the interests of the country, so far as that is concerned, are in most capable and safe hands. With those few words, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at fourteen minutes before eight o'clock.