HL Deb 02 July 1962 vol 241 cc1123-60

4.10 p.m.

Report of Amendments received (according to Order).

LORD SHEPHERD moved, before Clause 1 to insert the following new clause:

Duty of Minister

". It shall be the duty of the Minister to arrange for the provision of public transport services adequate for the requirements of industry, agriculture and the public; and for this purpose he may give directions to any of the four Boards or to the Holding Company."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now move to the Report stage of this Bill, which perhaps will be our last opportunity of making any major improvements to the Bill. On reflection, perhaps it will be felt that the time spent on the Committee stage has produced some results, although they may be of marginal importance. I suspect that the improvements which have been made were due more to the basic common sense of the noble Lord, Lord Mills, than to our powers of persuasion. I wish it had been our powers of persuasion, because then, on Report stage, we might have some more success. But, taking into account the increased efficiency of the Government Whips, I feel chat we shall have again to depend upon the common sense of the noble Lord if we are to make any further improvement.

On this Amendment, one would be tempted to make a Second Reading speech, but I am going to resist that, although further information has come our way since the Committee stage with the printing of the British Transport Commission's Report for 1961. This Report emphasises the basic conflict that must be in the minds of the Government, and which I think is shared on all sides of the House, about how to base the transport system. Ought it to be based on economic or on social and industrial requirements? Undoubtedly the Report is dominated by the loss for the year of about £150 million, of which £86 million was a working loss. The Minister in another place said that this was "an intolerable burden", and when we consider the desperate need for new capital, undoubtedly it is a loss that cannot be sustained. It is difficult to know to what extent the proposals made by Dr. Beeching, Chairman of the B.T.C., will reduce this loss. We on this side think that the Government will in the end have to come to the decision that there must be greater integration of our transport, whether publicly or privately owned, and that competition should be based not merely on rates but on the most economical service.

Perhaps this is rather far away from my Amendment. The basic conflict, as I see it, is between the economic requirements and the results. Dr. Beeching makes it clear in his Report that if the railways are to break even, at best, there will have to be massive reductions in uneconomic services. Already branch lines are being closed. But Dr. Beeching goes a good deal further. In paragraph 20, he recommends that a large percentage of stopping trains will have to cease. Therefore, the suggestion that I made on Second Reading that we may well see within the next five years the closure of 40 to 50 per cent. of railway services may not be far wrong.

This will have a serious effect on many parts of the country which depend on public transport. It will not be confined to Wales and Scotland. It may well be that the merchandise carried may be small, but it is the existence of the railways that allows existing industries and the social life of the people to survive. I, for one, feel that Dr. Beeching has made a very reasonable case for closing these railway lines, but we cannot deny public transport to the people in these areas.

It is the fact that the Minister has power to decide whether the Board shall close a railway line or not. The Minister himself made it extremely clear, in a speech in another place, that he, as Minister, would decide and not the Board. I am sure that many will be pleased to know that to be the case: that at least the decision will not be made on pounds, shillings and pence, but that the social consequences will be considered and the decision will be political. But while the Minister has power to direct the railways to provide a public service, if he feels that it is necessary, the Bill does not say that the Minister shall provide a public service. The noble Lord will remember that in Committee we pressed him to say that, in the event of the closure of a railway and if private enterprise were not in a position or prepared to provide the alternative service, the Minister would use his power to direct the Holding Company either to use an existing subsidiary or to create a new company for that purpose. But the noble Lord said that the purpose of the Holding Company was to provide the best results for the public purse. From that we can presume that it is not the intention of the Minister to utilise the Holding Company for the provision of alternative services.

I gathered from the noble Lord that if a closure is made, the Minister has made his decision, and the Holding Company and private enterprise will not provide a service, the Railways Board, within the powers given to them in this Bill, will be permitted to provide this service. But the whole accent is still that the Minister "may" provide; he "may" have to use his discretion. We feel that where there is the considerable change that will be made in the next few years, in which our transport service will be reorganised and redeployed, the Minister should be given the power and the duty to see that where railway closures take place an alternative service, adequate for the public needs, shall be provided. It may well be that it will be done by a subsidiary of the Holding Company or a bus service provided by the railways. But, wherever it may be, it is up to the Minister to see that before there is this radical change an alternative service is provided. I think those were the views of the majority of your Lordships' House in Committee, and they were most eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, in the Second Reading debate. I think that, in justice and fairness to the people of our community, this alternative service should be provided.

Many of these areas are areas which could well be, and, in fact, should be, developed both industrially and in agriculture. But if the transport service is to be very limited, then it will be difficult to persuade new industry to go to those areas. In fact, when one looks at transport and its position in relation to the development of industry in this country, one could well feel that the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Transport should be living more or less side by side. I feel that this is a matter which the President of the Board of Trade should look at carefully. I know it is the desire of the Government to see development in Scotland and in North-East England, where there are some nasty, hard pockets of unemployment. It will be difficult to persuade industry to move to these areas unless they can be assured that an adequate transport service, whether by rail or road, will be provided.

There is one other point. In the 1953 Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Mills, knows, haulage vehicles in the British Road Services are restricted in number to a mere 16,000. There is no repeal of that section of the 1953 Act in this Bill. I was looking at the figures of the British Transport Commission, which show a tremendous difference between the number of vehicles under C. licence and those under A. and B. licences. When you look at the present railway capacity, and visualise that this may be reduced quite considerably in the next four or five years, it may well be asked whether the 150,000 vehicles under A. and B. licences will be sufficient to take up the load that, with these big railway closures, will be released and will have to be provided for. Therefore there will have to be a planned retraction of the railways, but at the same time a planned development of the road haulage and passenger transport service. This will require a great deal of (I hesitate to use this word; I know that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, is not partial to it) co-ordination. There is no method of co-ordination for this retraction and expansion within the Bill, unless, of course, it is with the Minister. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that it is the Minister who will be responsible under the Bill to see that there is an adequate service, whether by rail or road, for industry, agriculture and the general public. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Before Clause 1, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Shepherd.)

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, this is really a fundamental Amendment, and though it is put down in the hope that the Government will be prepared to accept it I very much doubt that they will. We understand, first of all, that the purpose of the Bill is to try to make all sections of the transport industry viable. Frankly, the first question is: is transport an industry, or is it a service? While some sections should be viable, as one associated with transport I am prepared to say that it is a sheer impossibility for others to become viable if trade, industry, commerce and the public are to receive any standard of service.

The Amendment talks about adequate service. My noble friend Lord Shepherd referred to what is taking place now and is likely to take place in the future to a greater extent within the railway system. I agree with him that our 100-years-old railway system is quite capable of being streamlined; and much of it perhaps ought to have been tackled some time ago. But the strange thing is—perhaps it is not strange, and it is the normal economics of transport—that where a railway branch line goes out of existence because it is uneconomic of operation, it is equally uneconomic for bus operation in the area. Therefore, on the basis of viability, areas which lose a railway service, unless they are in some way a through route, are equally likely to lose bus services. That applies not only on branch lines. On trunk lines it is now being considered more ruthlessly than before that stations and goods yards in sparsely populated areas should be closed because the passenger traffic and the goods traffic in the area do not justify their remaining open, and it is equally true in those cases that a bus service will not be viable.

I think we ought to have from the Government quite clearly, where in fact a rail service is being withdrawn, what standard of alternative will be provided. If, as is suggested, that service cannot be provided on a commercial basis, who is to stand the cost of an alternative service? In some circumstances, in view of the fact that land, stations, buildings and the rest of it are already in the area, it may be that the present railway system would be less of a drain than the installation of new bus services. In considering this Bill, and in following the Government's fetish that everything must pay its way, we ought to appreciate that it is likely to happen—and, indeed, it is already happening in many parts of the country—that the standard of service rendered to communities in rural areas will be of a lower level than it was forty and fifty years ago.

If progress means that people in rural areas are to have that low standard of service, then it is not a question of the normal economics of transport, but of (the economics of the nation. If we are to have the agricultural industry thriving, with sufficient workers available to them, then we must provide some standard of service for those who undertake to work in isolated areas. In present-day conditions—and I hope they will maintain for ever—of full employment, and in fact over-employment in many areas, the drift from countryside to the town will increase materially unless we see to it that there is a reasonable standard of transport for the people within the rural areas. We are concerned in this Amendment with an adequate standard of service for trade, industry, commerce, the public and agriculture. Unless that is provided, then I think the Minister of Transport is failing in his duty as a Minister, not only to the transport industry, but to the country as a whole. I support the Amendment.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shepherd in introducing this Amendment, said that he did not want to make a Second Reading speech. But he has introduced and moved an Amendment to-day which would alter the whole character of the Bill which we have before us. He also said, with some justification, I think, that the position to be discussed on this Bill has altered by reason of the fact that since our last consideration of it in Committee we have had the publication of the British Transport Commission's Report. This Report has shown us what is in Dr. Beeching's mind. It is true that he has told us that he is undertaking at this moment a study of the whole problem of railway transport in this country. As I understand it, there is also going on at the same time a study by the Ministry of Transport as to the possible future needs of the country. So we have two sets of studies going on simultaneously, one conducted by Dr. Beeching, who is making his study in the light of the brief which bas been given to him. That brief has told him that he has the task of making railways pay.

In his interim report, which is in the 1961 B.T.C. Report, he has shown us exactly how drastic the cuts will be if he is to fulfil the task which has been placed upon him. He is going to have to make the railways pay, and to do that he has made it clear that he must ruthlessly and pitilessly cut down the railway services to be provided in this country by the railway undertaking. It is not for him, with his brief, to consider the transport needs of the country as a whole. His job is merely that of seeing what can be done, what he can do, to make the railways pay. And the railways only must be his consideration in this matter. That is a very narrow aspect of the transport problem, but this is the obligation that has been placed upon him. What he has to do is to ascertain how much railways service the country is prepared to pay for now and in the immediate future. It is not for him to consider whether, as a result of his actions, industries will die or communities be isolated. That is not his job at all. As I understand it, he must ignore completely considerations of that sort. Even if an industry will die, if an industry will be strangled, or if a community be isolated, he must do it if it works towards the end of making the railways viable.

As I understand the function of Government, it is to look at problems as a whole and to balance considerations. In relation to transport, that must be the job of the Minister of Transport; it falls upon him to balance these considerations and not to think only of the sectional part of the industry for which he is responsible. If the Minister in his saner moments accepts—and he has— the idea of a study of the future requirements in this country so far as its transport system is concerned, and he has ordered his servants to study and assess the likely transport requirements of this country and of its economic system, I am bound to say that it seems to me to be just plain daft at the same time to proceed with a Bill of this sort and to permit Dr. Beeching to carry on with the sort of streamlining projected in the B.T.C. Report. One must state these things bluntly, and I hope the word "daft" fits the occasion.

One of the most telling comments that I have seen on Dr. Beeching's present madness was the Cummings cartoon in the Daily Express of Saturday last. On one side it pictured British Railways, killed off by Dr. Beeching, resting peacefully in the grave under a stone bearing the inscription, "Now it makes no loss". On the other side of the picture the M.1 is shown as being brought to a standstill by the traffic that once went by rail and, standing in between, is the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying to Dr. Beeching, "Thanks for saving our railway losses, Dr. Beeching. Now we should like you to find £2,000 million to build our roads". That is a comment on the situation which is being produced as a result of the instructions to Dr. Beeching at this time.

I am not against the closest examination of our railway system, a system which came into being to some extent as a result of the great railway mania of the last century. Much of it has outlived its usefulness, if indeed much of it ever had any usefulness at all. I have said in this House, and I have said in another place, that I am not against a considerable measure of streamlining. But what I do urge is that this should be part of a consideration of the whole problem, and it should not be a panic measure designed to overcome the immediate financial difficulty. That is what this B.T.C. Report appears to me to advocate.

Of course, this House cannot defeat this Bill. It came to us from another place, and the will of the Commons must prevail. But, surely, it behoves us to look at this Bill with a view to warning off any dangers it might hold—and it does hold some dangers. Here the danger clearly is that, while the Minister recognises his responsibility for the future transport needs of the nation, there is no part of this Bill which places firmly on his shoulders the task of ensuring the provision of an adequate transport system for the country as a whole. This appears to me to be our last chance—I think my noble friend Lord Shepherd said this, and I would agree with him if he did—of trying to ensure that some sanity is brought into this transport situation, and that the Minister shall be given a clear responsibility for providing transport which will suit the immediate and future needs of this country.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great attention to what the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd, Lord Lindgren and Lord Champion, have had to say on this matter. This proposed Amendment clearly indicates the difference of approach to the transport problems between the Government and the Opposition. I was at some pains in Committee to read to your Lordships what the Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries had to say about this matter. In their view it was quite impossible for the Commission to carry out the duty of balancing their revenue account, taking one year with another, with the provision of public transport services without regard to the cost or to the willingness of the public to pay for them. The Opposition concept of the railways and other transport undertakings as a public service is inconsistent with the Government's aim that transport should be run with due regard to commercial considerations and to the need to reduce the heavy burden which is placed upon the taxpayer by their operation. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in this connection gave us the figures of losses last year.

It seems to me that the omission of the words "adequate for the requirements of industry, agriculture and the public" is logical in view of the present financial position of the railways, their declining share since 1953 of the total traffic, and the decision of the Government to remove, under the Bill, common carrier obligations and control over railway charges outside the London area. We debated in Committee an Amendment proposed by the noble Viscount the leader of the Opposition seeking to place this same responsibility on the Railways Board. The House went to a Division on the Amendment, which was defeated. The present Amendment seeks to place the responsibility on the Minister in relation to the provision of public transport services. The proposed new clause would in effect give the Minister executive duties to supervise the provision of transport services; and directions given under the proposed clause could raise a conflict with the financial duties of the Boards. I suggest that in the present situation of the declining use of public transport it is illogical and meaningless to place an obligation on the Minister or the Boards towards particular classes of users.

There was no speaker opposite who referred to the growing use of private transport. Surely that is one of the great factors in this situation. It is clear that the opposition Amendment is based on the idea, which no doubt prevailed in 1947, of a public transport monopoly. That is not practical thinking to-day in view of the actual position where more and more people are availing themselves of the use of their own private transport both for personal travelling and for the conveyance of materials, goods and merchandise. That is true, and it is a great factor in many of these districts where railways services might be withdrawn. But, as I explained in the discussions on Committee on this and other aspects of the matter, there is power in this Bill for each case to be properly considered and to be dealt with if necessary. I suggest that the objects of this Bill are clear and straightforward and should not be conditioned by a clause such as that proposed in this Amendment.

It is a difficult subject. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, in his remarks assumed that a bus service could not be economic if a railway service could not. I think that is a false assumption. I do not think we can generalise. Each case would have its proper consideration. But the duty which the Amendment seeks to put upon the Minister is not one which should find its place in this Bill, and I will ask noble Lords to consider withdrawing the Amendment or, if not, that we should not give it our agreement.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, with some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, said, we on this side of the House can agree. The first is that the Amendment clearly indicates the difference of approach between the Government and the Opposition in this matter, although he has made the difference very much more apparent than I had hoped and felt it was. We would also agree with what he quoted from the Select Committee Report—namely, that it is impossible to provide services without regard to their cost and to the willingness of the public to pay for them. Nothing he said at any time has suggested that we want such services except in such areas where the services are uneconomic but there is a great social need. The noble Lord also declared that in the circumstances of declining use of public transport it is illogical to insist on the Government's providing adequate public transport. It is not illogical at all. Unless we or somebody insists, then whole and very large areas of the country are going to be without a public means of transport at all. When I use the words "public transport" I mean the kind of transport where somebody can pay a fare. It does not matter whether it is privately-owned or under public ownership, it is public transport, a public service.

Dr. Beeching's first Annual Report, which was published two weeks ago, says this: … stopping trains have long ceased to be the most suitable form of transport for the traffic for which they cater. In the interests of the railways as a whole, most of these services should be discontinued as quickly as possible". In the interests of the railways as a whole that may well be so: but it is certainly not in the interests of the public. And that may be another fundamental difference between the Government and the Opposition in that the public need has. to us, been a paramount consideration. What I want to ask the noble Lord is this: in pursuance of this policy (and I have just mentioned what the policy is), what is going to happen in different parts of the country? All sorts of statements have been made. I myself have quoted Mr. Greene's case that a third of the rail services would go. My noble friend Lord Shepherd said this afternoon that 40 or 50 per cent. would go. I should like to confine myself to factual statements, made by people in authority on the railways, to give some idea of what is going to happen.

In Scotland, for example, the General Manager of the Scottish Region has said that 2,000 out of Scotland's 2,750 daily passenger trains are running at a loss. That means, if only the profitable ones are to continue, that Scotland is going to lose something like 70 per cent. of its railways. If we are to retain only the profitable ones, it means that whole vast areas will be without a public service. The noble Lord, Lord Mills, took my noble friend Lord Lindgren to task for suggesting that if a railway service did not pay, neither would a bus service. I think that one cannot be categorical about that; but the noble Lord will know from the B.T.C. Report that in Scotland, where rail services have been closed down already and there have been increased bus services in an attempt to take their place, that has meant an increase in lost mileage, and I think that, generally speaking, that will be so. That is the picture in Scotland.

Wales, we know, is to lose the central Wales line between Shrewsbury and Swansea; also the Llandilo-Carmarthen line. The only lines likely to remain in South Wales are the main ones: to Fishguard, Swansea and Newport, and from Newport, via Hereford, to Crewe. Brecon and Monmouth will be cut off. In the West Region alone there have been proposals for 100 line and station closures. In the Southern Region it is anticipated that 200 stations are likely to be closed. In the North Eastern, in the planning stage there a further 20 cuts. That is the picture of what we know.

The noble Lord, Lord Mills, has at times said to me, "Wait and see", or, "You know more than I do"—and I am always prepared to agree with that proposition. But these things are facts; they have been stated by people in authority. Therefore, we are entitled to say that in Wales, in Scotland, the greater part of existing rail services are going to be closed down, according to present plans and according to the formula, Dr. Beeching's formula and the Government's formula, about profitability. In various other parts of the country there is a similar picture, although perhaps not such a drastic one.

A great many of these services are not slightly used, and they are certainly not socially unnecessary. Many of them are vital to the community they serve, and we feel that we are entitled to have the Bill place on the Minister the duty of providing other public services in place of those which will be removed when this Bill becomes an Act. It is true that the Minister of Transport, Mr. Marples, said in another place last week that there would be no rail closures under the Bill without his consent. That assurance seems of very little worth, because in the same speech he declared that, in view of current losses, it was necessary to be ruthlessly efficient to survive. I am quite willing to have the railways run efficiently; indeed, we have been pressing for that a very long time. But if profit is to be the sole criterion, and if the Government have completely abandoned the concept of British Railways as a national public service, there can be only one answer under this formula when proposals for closures are put forward. Those closures will be made and there will be nothing in their place.

The noble Lord, Lord Mills, said that we on this side have not referred to the growing use of private transport; and, indeed, that is an omission on our part. I should like to put it to the Government that they, for their part, have not considered the consequences of the growing use of private transport. When we consider that last year nearly £1,000 million was spent on the purchase and running of private cars (the figure appears in the Economic Survey; and this year the total will be more than that); that 95,000 more cars are coming on the roads every month; that it costs nearly £2 million for one single mile of modernised road, then it is perfectly obvious that it is going to cost vastly more to provide the roads to carry the traffic which the Government are forcing on to them under this Bill than it would cost to run the railways and let people travel free of charge. That is one of the consequences of the increased use of private transport. The national cost of the increased use of private transport is going to be vastly more than the cost of running the railways, even if we did not charge people for travelling on them.

When the Government accuse us of not considering the growing use of private transport, they ignore the fact that there are millions of people in this country—and I think that there will still be millions, ten years hence—who have not access to private transport. We have some 6 million or 7 million cars now, and about 18 million families, so we have some way to go. In particular, the people who will not have access to private transport will be in many of the areas to which I have referred.

It has been said—and the right honourable gentleman said it in another place last week—that the passengers always have their safeguard in the Transport Users' Consultative Committee. But that is no longer any real safeguard. In their 1961 Report, the Consultative Committee queried what real savings were going to be made by these branch-line closures. I have before me a Memorandum from the Ramblers' Association who refer to … a disgracefully hurried public inquiry held by the North-East and North-West Transport Users' Consultative Committee in Newcastle. The witness for the Association and kindred societies was refused permission to give oral evidence he had prepared, and no opportunity was given to objectors, who also included four county councils and twenty-two other local authorities, to subject to cross-examination the evidence of the Transport Commission. Written evidence given by objectors was subsequently proved never to have been properly investigated,". So, my Lords, we have this position. It is common ground that many branch-line services, branch stations and passenger services now running are unprofitable and cannot be made profitable. Therefore, according to the formula, they will be closed down. It is, I hope, common ground that there are no adequate bus services in many areas where railway closures will take place. I should think it is also common ground that in many of those areas bus services also would not be economic. So we are up against this straightforward proposition: that, whatever excuses are made, there will under this policy be closures in important areas of the country where it is necessary, for the economic prosperity and survival of the country, for people to continue to live. And if they are going to live there in the numbers required, there must be some form of public transport.

We therefore say that it is the duty of the Government, or the duty of the Minister, as we say in our Amendment, to undertake the responsibility of providing an adequate service, whether it is owned by the public or by private enterprise, when this Bill takes effect and existing services are removed. I should have thought that was an absolutely unanswerable proposition for any Government who expect to retain the confidence of the public and who pretend to govern. I do not see that there is any other way that that point can be answered: it must be the Government's responsibility.

Clause 1:

The four Boards


(2) The chairman of each Board shall be appointed by the Minister, and the other members of each Board (including any vice chairman) shall be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the chairman of that Board.

5.10 p.m

LORD STONHAM moved to add to subsection (2): and the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs, with a view to

Therefore, I see no reason at all why this Amendment, or a modification of it if there are in it some words that are unsatisfactory, should not be accepted. If not, then I think that we on this side of your Lordships' House are entitled to claim that the Government are abrogating their responsibility to ensure an adequate and efficient transport service in this country.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 61.

Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Kenswood, L. Shepherd, L.
Amulree, L. Kilbracken, L. Silkin, L.
Amwell, L. Latham, L. Sinha, L.
Burden, L. [Teller.] Lindgren, L. Stonham, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Lucan, E. [Teller.] Summerskill, B.
Champion, L. Meston, L. Walston, L.
Chorley, L. Ogmore, L. Williams, L.
Crook, L. Rusholme, L. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Geddes of Epsom, L. St. Davids, V. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Ailwyn, L. Forster of Harraby, L. Merrivale, L.
Albemarle, E. Fortescue, E. Mills, L.
Ampthill, L. Goschen, V. Milverton, L.
Bathurst, E. Grenfell, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Bossom, L. Hailsham, V. (L. President.) Newall, L.
Boston, L. Hampton, L. Newton, L. [Teller.]
Brecon, L. Hastings, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Bridgeman, V. Hawke, L. St. Oswald, L.
Chesham, L. Home, E. Sandford, L.
Cholmondeley, M. Horsbrugh, B. Somers, L.
Coleraine, L. Iddesleigh, E. Soulbury, V.
Conesford, L. Jellicoe, E. Spencer, E.
Craigton, L. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Spens, L.
Davidson, V. Lambert, V. Strang, L.
De La Warr, E. Lansdowne, M. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Denham, L. Long, V. Swinton, E.
Devonshire, D. Mancroft, L. Teynham, L.
Dundee, E. Margesson, V. Tweedsmuir, L.
Dundonald, E. Marks of Broughton, L. Waldegrave, E.
Dynevor, L. Melchett, L. Waleran, L.
Foley, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

providing adequate and suitable representation on appropriate Boards

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 2 which stands in my name and the names of my noble friends, and which would have the effect of requiring the Minister to consult with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs, with a view to providing adequate and suitable representation on appropriate Boards. On the occasion when I moved a somewhat similar Amendment in Committee, it happened to clash with the day of the Opening Dinner of the General Assembly in Edinburgh, and I then commented on the fact that that was probably the reason why there was a somewhat thin attendance of Scottish Peers. I do not know the reason to-day, but the numbers from Scotland do not seem to be any larger. Perhaps they have already taken off the trains. But at least I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, in his place.

I would at once assure the Government that I have no complaint to make about the very large cohorts which they succeeded in bringing in on the last Amendment, from all parts of the United Kingdom. I would, however, draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the present Amendment meets one or two criticisms which were made last time, because we ask only that this consultation should take place when the members of the appropriate Boards are decided upon, and therefore we are not asking the Minister of Transport to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of State for Welsh Affairs about the members of the London Transport Board. Consultation would be only about Boards upon which we feel that there should be representatives with full and adequate knowledge of the needs, the requirements and, particularly, the difficulties of both Wales and Scotland.

When we debated this matter last time, I drew attention to the fact that, under the 1953 Transport Act the case was made and granted that Scotland should be represented. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said that he thought that there was a special reason for doing that at that time, arising out of the denationalisation of all the road services in Scotland. It was considered by the Government, for that reason, that it would be a good thing to make sure that there were on the Commission two people with a special knowledge of Scotland. However valid that reason was at that time in persuading the Government to put two representatives from Scotland on the Commission, I should have thought that the reasons were infinitely stronger now. It is not just a question of denationalising a few thousand lorries, probably only a few of which have worked in Scotland; it is, in fact, the probability that a very large part of the railway system in Scotland, and, indeed, a substantial part of the railway system in Wales, will be closed down. I can scarcely imagine another situation in which the reasons for ensuring that there were representatives from Scotland and from Wales on the Board could possibly be more compelling.

This is one of those Amendments where, when one moves them, it is impossible to visualise any kind of case which the Government can put up for refusing to accept them. We do not insist that there must be one or two representatives from Scotland, or one or two from Wales. All we ask for is that the appropriate Ministers should be consulted before the appointments are made. It may be that we in this House should realise that, in all probability, consultations of that kind would take place, whether or not the words were in the Bill—I say it "may be"—but I should be much more satisfied if the words were there. But we do not have to satisfy merely ourselves; we have to satisfy the vast public outside and, in particular, the people of Scotland and of Wales in this matter. Whatever noble Lords opposite may think, there is considerable unease about the future of public transport in those areas. To some extent, at least, that anxiety would be alleviated if it were known that, when the question of closures came up, when the question of alternative services was considered, or when any other matters of particular interest to Scotland and Wales arose, there would be someone there with knowledge to act as an advocate for their particular needs.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said on the last occasion [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 240 (No. 81), col. 844]: Although I cannot give any kind of promise, if the Amendment is withdrawn now I would undertake to have this matter considered again before Report stage, in the hope of hearing a little more advice from those of my noble friends from Scotland"— and I am sure he meant also from Wales— who are unable to be here to-day. My Lords, I know there is support in all parts of your Lordships' House for this Amendment, and I hope that on this occasion we shall receive a completely satisfactory reply from the noble Earl. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 11, after ("Board") insert the said words.—(Lora Stonham.)

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support this Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has proposed and to which I have added my name on the Marshalled List, I feel that I owe your Lordships some explanation, because I was prevented from attending the debates at the Committee stage of this Bill. But I was present during the Second Reading, when I heard (and I have since read and re-read it) the very forthright speech made by my noble friend Lord Polwarth, who, as your Lord-ships know, is the Chairman of the Scottish Council. In that speech he declared some of Scotland's anxieties about the content of this Bill. It was unfortunate that this very Amendment, which we are now considering, came before the Committee on May 21, when there were only one or two Scottish Peers in the Chamber, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has pointed out. It was not only a Monday, but it was the Monday of the meeting of the General Assembly in Edinburgh. The explanation for the paucity of Scottish Members on this side of the House on this occasion is that this is not only a Monday, but the Monday of the Royal Visit to Scotland. This fact has prevented my noble friend Lord Polwarth from supporting the Amendment which is now before you, which, of course, he would have done on May 21, as he pointed out in the letter which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, quoted to your Lordships on that occasion.

If I were so minded, which I am not, I might say that the Government had been guilty of—what were the words used on another occasion?—"devious tactics" in putting this Business on the Order Paper on two such days, when representatives from Scotland might be expected not to be available. But, joking apart, it is only the fact that I have other business in connection with your Lordships' House that is keeping me here which enables me to be here to take part in this debate, and to speak for my noble friend Lord Polwarth, who has asked me to do so. As I say, I wish that it had been possible for more Scotsmen to be here, but I know that if the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Find-horn, comes into the Chamber he will have something to say on the matter. The noble Earl who is to reply said during the Committee stage, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, pointed out, that he looked forward to hearing more from Scotland; so I take it that this is a further invitation and excuse for my occupying your Lordships' time on this subject.

I will not go over the cogent points which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has put forward, and with which I agree. In fact, in the absence of the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, I would merely repeat the point be made about the occasion in 1953 when the names of the Secretary of State for Scotland and of the Minister for Welsh Affairs were included in an Act; and I am inclined to think, with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that on this occasion, almost more so than in 1953, those names should be in the Bill. But I feel that I can add, from this side of the House, some points Which perhaps are not capable of being put forward from the other side of the House. May I urge the noble Earl to realise that the people of Scotland, of all Parties, including the Unionist Party, are alarmed and dismayed by the curtailment of the railway services, the closures of certain lines and the threat of closure of other lines? This is the case. It is no use saying that the people of Scotland ought to know better. The fact is that, rightly or wrongly, they do not know better.

For instance, I live in a place where the local station is closed. The branch-line passenger service was discontinued some years ago, and most of the line has now been completely closed and taken up. That is sad, though to my mind, and I think to the minds of everybody in the neighbourhood, it was inevitable in the circumstances: it was a proper decision. I refer to the Symington-Peebles branch. I mention this in order to assure your Lordships that I am not, and many people in Scotland are not, absolutely opposed to the closure of any line: of course they are not. But, further, my home is three miles from a main-line station, and the service from this main-line station (the trains, I think, could be included in what Dr. Beeching refers to in his report as "stopping trains"; certainly the ones that serve us are the stopping trains), has been so inconvenient and so slow for many years past that the survey which is taking place, and which will presumably include the service to which I have referred, is bound to find that it is unprofitable. The point I make is that the conditions to-day are perhaps "rundown" conditions, and this particular type of service will be closed down, I think, if the course to be adopted is that set out in Dr. Beeching's report.

I have been speaking of the Southern Uplands. I spent part of last weekend in Kent, and, as usual when I go there, I felt that I was in a different continent from my home country; the conditions as compared with South Scotland are so utterly dissimilar. But, comparing Kent with the country through which the Inverness-Kyle of Lochalsh line, or the Fort William-Mallaig line, runs is like comparing two different worlds. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has referred in general terms to this sort of problem. I would be more particular, because in this connection I feel that it is so important that Scotland should have an absolute assurance that she will be well represented on the Boards under the Bill when it becomes an Act.

May I suggest that one risks affronting Scottish opinion by appearing to equivocate on this subject of representation on the new Boards? Some people talk glibly of alternative modes of travel—people who have never seen the Scottish Highlands in the grip of a severe winter, or who have never tried to drive from Fort William to Mallaig in the teeth of an equinoxial gale. I say that it is almost an affront to Scottish opinion to appear to equivocate, and I realise that the noble Earl may take me up on this point, because I do not think he did equivocate when he replied to this point in Committee—or so I read it. But I do say that to some he appeared to equivocate. If there is going to be Scottish representation on the Boards, as I have no doubt there is, why not say so, and say so roundly, as the Government did in 1953?

I need not remind your Lordships that my noble friend Lord Polwarth quoted on Second Reading from the report of an interview given to the Press by my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. The statements which he is reported to have made were (and I use the words which my noble friend used) "thoroughly irresponsible". My noble friend Lord Polwarth went on to say that he had seldom heard such "barefaced abrogations of responsibility". Now whether the statements of my right honourable friend were in fact made or not, or whether they were reported out of context or not, they have added to the anxieties of all Scotsmen—and this is the point I wish to emphasise—including supporters and potential supporters of the Government. If these statements were not made, they should be denied: if they were made, then they should be withdrawn. I cannot help referring, if I may, in the light of the debate on the previous Amendment, to one of these statements, which was, You can have either a good rail service and no road or a good road service and no railway. I do not mind. That is what the Minister of Transport was reported as saying. My point there is that, as perhaps your Lordships will have noticed, I abstained from voting on the last Division because it seems to me that, in areas such as those which I have described, it is impossible for the Minister to contemplate closing down a branch line and leaving it to the local authority to provide anything approaching an equivalent form of transport.

In conclusion, though I am entirely against a fully co-ordinated transport system in, shall we say, the Socialist conception, I am of opinion, as a businessman, that in considering the closure of any line such as those I have described—Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh, or Fort William to Mallaig, and even, we might say, the line to Oban—if it is to be based purely on the question of profitability or otherwise, the cost of servicing the enormous outlay which would be required to provide adequate alternative road services, added to the huge annual expense of maintaining such a road in face of the climatic conditions there, and, what is more, of keeping that road open during winter, must be taken into account in arriving at a balance. Both the question of the servicing of the capital cost and the annual maintenance and charge for keeping the road open are, in my view, factors which must affect any balance which is to be struck to decide which lines are to be closed. It is not enough to consider only the intrinsic merits, or demerits, of such lines.

There are other considerations to which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has referred, and which I will not repeat. I would add only that I have mentioned the three lines that I have done because they are within my own personal knowledge. I think it is safe to say that there are other lines similarly situated which are threatened in the same way. In conclusion, may I, as chairman of the Unionist Association in a marginal constituency, urge the noble Earl to give this matter very careful consideration, and I would only tell him that I look forward to his reply with the greatest anxiety.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments. I would not go quite so far as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, into the subject of what lines will be closed or what lines will not, because I feel that even if representation were not given as is suggested in this Amendment, the point of view of Scotland would be bound to be taken into account. But what I think is the serious point is that the public as a whole will not believe that. If they find that this Amendment is turned down, they will have the feeling that consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland is not going to take place. I believe that in all probability it is going to take place and that it would have taken place, and I think that the point of view of Scotland would probably be considered, but I should like to say to the noble Earl that it would make a difference to the entire confidence of the public—and they are very anxious just now about the transport situation in Scotland—if Amendments such as this, or this Amendment, could be accepted, so that it is stated quite clearly in the Bill that consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland will take place.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, in the absence of so many Scotsmen on other more urgent business, it behoves us of the half-blood and quarter-blood to come to the rescue of those that my noble friend the Field Marshal calls the "tribesmen". If the Government accept this Amendment, as I hope they will do, and if, as I believe, they will have the sense to accept our Amendment about bus shares later on, it will mean that Scotland and Wales will have representation on the Railway Boards which will wholly own a large share of the bus companies in the country and half own the rest. That is likely to give Wales and Scotland the best possible representation they could hope for in a combined transport system. On the other hand, if the Government, in their lack of wisdom, choose to reject both Amendments, then Wales and Scotland, as my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh said, will feel that they are being deliberately kept out of consultation by the Minister in order to make it the more easy to destroy their existing transport connections.

The draftsman, to whom these matters are generally referred, will say this Amendment is unnecessary. But in the past we have often put into Bills things which the draftsman has said are unnecessary; and if it is harmless, why not put it in? The only other argument that is ever adduced against putting in these little things to please the House of Lords is that it involves Parliamentary time in another place. But, my Lords, we are sick of being told that legislation cannot be properly completed in this House because the legislative programme has been filled so full that another place has not time to deal with it. I think that the Government would be very wise to try to put these words in, because I feel that if they do not they will help to alienate still more of the population.


My Lords, may I intervene for a few moments to say that I very much hope the Government will find it possible to accept this Amendment, or, if they do not feel able to accept it, that they will at least give a very clear assurance that what the Amendment purports to achieve will in fact be done? I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government appreciate the appalling dismay that there is in the areas which are going to be severely affected by the closing of so many railway lines. The counties of Carmarthen. Cardigan, Pembroke and Brecon will, if the Transport Commission's proposals go through, have no railways at all, except for the main line service from Paddington to Fishguard, which just runs along the South Coast. The one link between the North and the South will be completely severed. Although I do not consider that this Bill affords the appropriate moment to discuss which of the lines should or should molt be closed, I think we should be allowed to take this opportunity of pointing out to the Minister of Transport that we propose to draw his attention very forcibly to some of the proposals which are being made, and to remind him of the undertaking which was given last week in the debate in another place that no line would be closed without the Minister's consent.

The £ s. d. of the closing of the lines is all very well, but, as I ventured to say in the Welsh debate which we had a week or two ago in your Lordships' House, surely the essence of nationalisation is that the good services will provide for the bad. Although perhaps in this case there is not very much good which can provide for the bad, if the losses of the British Transport Commission are what they say they are—they are very large—there comes a moment when you cannot drive the people of the country too hard, and in these sparsely populated counties in central Wales (I know nothing about the closures which are proposed in North Wales, and I do not know whether any other noble Lord from that part of the country has anything to say) in order to alleviate the real, genuine anxiety which is being felt about the abolition of the railway transport system in South Wales, some consideration might well be given to this Amendment, or at least a very definite assurance should be given that what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, asks for will be done.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support Lord Stonham very strongly in this Amendment. I think it is essential that these words be put into the Bill. It may be said by the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, "Well, of course, we were going to carry out this policy anyway". I do not accept that as a reason for not putting the words into the Bill. When the Labour Government was in office and the Conservatives were in Opposition, time and time again this argument was refuted by the Conservative Party in Opposition. They then said, "If there is no objection, put it into the Bill". That was said time and time again, and the Labour Government did put into Bills no end of Amendments, and acceded to the requests of the Conservative Opposition. Therefore, I ask the Government to do the same this afternoon. It will, as previous speakers have said, give some—I will not say satisfaction, but some assurance to the public in both Scotland and Wales that they will have some consideration given to their needs, though how much, I do not know. Because as the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, has said, so far as South Wales is concerned there will be only one railway line; that is, the main line going down to Fishguard. So far as North Wales is concerned, as I understand it, there will be only one railway line, the line going to Holyhead, and in between the country will be more or less back, to what is was before the railway age.


The age of Owen Glendower.


I do not know about Owen Glendower; I expect he could get around a little more easily in those days than he could to-day. But the fact is that we in Wales are presented with a very serious situation indeed. Quite frankly, like Lord Dynevor, I do not know what the public will do about it. Let us take one simple example, the Royal Welsh Show. For years past the founders and supporters of the Royal Welsh Show have been urged to establish, instead of the peripatetic affair it has been, a standing site where year after year it will be served by the railways, where there will be no difficulty in taking cattle, horses, implements, and all the rest of it, to the Show. So they have established a permanent site at Builth Wells. And what happens now? The railway is to be removed. The site will be isolated from all railway travel. It is a very serious problem. Therefore I ask the Government to accede to this moderate Amendment, though not for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. I do not want them to give way in order to bolster up the fading fortunes of the Unionist Party in Scotland. I hope that they will continue to fade and that nothing in this Bill will in any way impede that fading away. I do not think it will. For all the reasons given by noble Lords other than that, I heartily support the Amendment.


My Lords, I come from North Wales, and I entirely endorse what has been said. Cardiff is the capital of Wales and to get from North to South Wales is already difficult. If things go on as they are, people may have to get to Cardiff by going round by London. Therefore, I support the Amendment, in the hope that it will be accepted.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, moved this Amendment in Committee, the principal reason why I undertook to reconsider it was that so many Scottish Peers were unable to be present. I would ask your Lordships to believe that it is not due to any Machiavellian design on the part of the usual channels that on Report this Amendment falls upon another day when so many of my noble friends from Scotland are unable to be present. Last time, as often happens, this Scottish item came up at the beginning of the week of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, when it was necessary for many Scottish Peers to be there and not here. This week-end, the day before yesterday, Her Majesty The Queen went on a six-day visit to Scotland, where she will be in residence in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, from where she will visit a great many parts of Scotland, both cities and counties, and there are many Scottish Peers who have numerous duties in connection with Her Majesty's visit to all these parts of the country. That this Report stage should have been taken to-day and to-morrow, during the visit, is simply a piece of Parliamentary bad luck, with which noble Lords who have been in both Houses will, I am sure, be familiar. We could not have taken the Report stage on any other days than to-day and to-morrow in order to allow enough time to get it all through before the end of the Session.

I share the regret which my noble friend behind me, Lord Ferrier, voiced, that so many of our noble friends from Scotland, whom we should all have liked to hear on the subject, are not able to be present. I would say that, in view of the fact that so many of them could not be in your Lordships' House to-day, I have tried to take special care and trouble not only to examine all the arguments on both sides for and against these Amendments, but also to put them as fully as I could before my right honourable friend the Minister and all my colleagues who are concerned. And I have tried my best to consider not only the points which have been made but also those which I know would have been raised by my noble friends, such as my noble friend Lord Polwarth, who was referred to a moment ago.

Although my right honourable friend and the Government are unable to accept, the Amendment, I should like to convince your Lordships that the interests of Scotland and of Wales will not suffer on account of that fact. When my noble friend Lord Hawke says that we must not skimp our business for reasons of time, I heartily agree with him. I do not think that there has been any disposition on anybody's part not to take sufficient time over this Bill or over this Amendment, and I will do my best to give your Lordships a full argument on the subject.


My Lords, I think that my noble friend has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I was referring to the plea we sometimes hear: that the Government cannot accept an Amendment in this House because there is no time to deal with it in another place.


My Lords, I realise that, but I want to make clear that I am not putting forward that plea now in regard to this Amendment, and I shall do my best to give your Lordships, not at inordinate length, but without cutting myself short for reasons of time, a full argument on this matter. I should like first to say a word about the 1953 Act, which provided for two—not Scottish members, but members appointed after consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, on the Transport Commission. I should like to deal with this particularly in connection with Clauses 2 and 55 of this Bill, concerning the Users' Consultative Committees and the Regional Boards which are set up under this Bill. Then, if your Lordships will allow me, I will say a general word about the Amendment in principle.

When he spoke in Committee, my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn mentioned that, as Secretary of State for Scotland, he had been partly concerned in getting inserted in the 1953 Act the provision concerning consultation with the Secretary of State regarding two members of the Transport Commission. As I wished to examine this question fully, my noble friend was kind enough to give me the official sources of information from which I might be able to discover the details of the special reasons why the Government agreed to put in that provision at that time. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has referred to these in general terms.

Although it is contrary to our general legislative procedure that an Act of Parliament should say specifically that the Minister shall do what would in any case be his constitutional duty, according to my information the provision was put into the 1953 Act because the reorganisation contemplated under that Act involved the denationalisation of a great deal of road haulage. Scotland was one of the administrative areas and it was considered, both by the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Transport, that many special considerations would arise in connection with these denationalisation schemes which would make it justifiable to provide that there should be two members of the Commission who should be appointed on the advice of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

May I remind your Lordships of the differences between that Act and this Bill? The reorganisation schemes would have been carried out by the Minister only on the advice of the Transport Commission; and there was no provision, such as there is in this Bill, for the area Consultative Committees, which your Lordships will have no doubt read about in the rather long and complicated Clause 55 of this Bill. When the Minister is deciding whether or not to agree to any proposed closure of a branch line (which is what I think has been causing misgivings to so many of your Lordships, not only in Scotland and Wales, but in parts of England, too), when he has decided whether to agree to the proposed closure, or Whether to give the railways a direction, which he can do, to retain the service at public expense, even although it involves a loss, he must take account of all the relevant circumstances. And those circumstances will be put before him on representations from the public, through the area Consultative Committees; and when there is any question of the adequacy of roads for the traffic which is thus diverted from rail to road, he will consult, as necessary, with the Secretary of State.

Under Clause 55, to which I have referred, a special procedure is laid down for examination of a proposed railway passenger closure. The Consultative Committee will be required to report to the Minister specifically on any hardship which will be caused by the proposed closures, and the Minister, having taken into account all the relevant factors, will be able, if he thinks necessary, to secure that alternative services are provided; or he may direct the railways to keep the railway service in being, even although it is uneconomic. May I also remind would Lordships of the Regional Boards which are set up under Clause 2 of the Bill?


My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend a question on the Consultative Committees. It is being said in Wales that the end of September is the time to close the railway. Is there a time limit for the Consultative Committee to consult?


There is always time for the Consultative Committee to give the Minister the information which he has to consider before making his decision. There is no general date at which all railways must either be closed or go on. I do not want to go into Clause 55 in great detail, but that clause goes on. There is no limit to the operation of Clause 55.

I had proposed to refer to what my noble friend Lord Dynevor said, and, as he has interrupted, it may be convenient to do so now. He spoke of the anxiety of people who live in Wales and Scotland. But I am sure that he and all your Lordships will agree that on this matter of the closure of branch lines there are counties, such as Cornwall and many other English counties, which are not on the main industrial lines, or within the main conurbations, and which are just as likely to be inconvenienced as parts of Scotland or Wales. So there is not a special problem as there was considered to be in regard to the denationalisation of road haulage in 1953.

I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships again to the Regional Railway Boards set up under Clause 2 of the Bill. There is not one for Wales—I think that would come into the Western Railway Board—but there is a Scottish Regional Railway Board to be set up under this Bill. These Boards, unlike the present Area Boards, which are simply set up as a matter of managerial discretion by the Transport Commission, are statutory Boards; and although under Clause 2 their duties are not defined by Statute (their duties are to be decided later by the Railways Board and the Minister), it is inconceivable that a Regional Board, appointed to carry out the local management of the railways in its area, would not have full knowledge and be able to make full representations with regard to such matters as the closure of any branch line. Your Lordships will see from page 104, in the First Schedule, paragraph 10 (3)(a) that these Regional Railway Board will consist of people who have had wide experience of, and are conversant with, the special requirements and circumstances of the region with which the Regional Railway Board is concerned, including in particular the special transport requirements in that region. With regard to the general argument, it has been put forward partly as a psychological question by my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh. But I would ask your Lordships to consider the argument on the other side, which I think preponderates: that not only is it unnecessary, but the principle of putting unnecessary provisions into a Statute of this kind might have undesirable results. I quoted in Committee to your Lordships Clause 1 (3), and as I am trying to give a rather fuller speech this time, I hope your Lordships will not mind my reading it again. It says: The British Railways Board shall consist of"— and then the members are defined. Then it continues: … the Chairmen and other members of the Board shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Minister to have had wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, transport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, administration, applied science, or the organisation of workers, and the Minister in appointing them shall have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of particular regions and areas served by the Board, That is the purpose of those of your Lordships who are supporting this Amendment.

It is hardly necessary for me to add that it is the constitutional duty of a Minister to consult his colleagues in other Departments on any matters which might particularly concern, directly or indirectly, those Departments. It is the duty of the Minister to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs with a view to providing adequate and suitable representation of appropriate members. It is not his duty to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland on the appointments to the London Board. It would be his normal constitutional duty and practice to consult him about appointments to the Railways Board.


It would not be the Minister's duty to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Welsh Affairs about the London Transport Board were the Amendment accepted.


I quite understand that that is mot the purpose of the Amendment; and, in any case, if the Government found it possible to accept any Amendment of this kind, we should make any alterations in drafting which might be necessary to fulfil this purpose. I am not complaining at all about the drafting of the Amendment, but I am pointing out that it is the duty of the Minister to do exactly What the Amendment suggests; that is to say, to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs in regard to appointments to his Boards in order to make sure that the purpose of Clause 1 (3) shall be carried out—namely, that the Boards shall have members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of particular regions and areas served by the Board. The objection in principle to stating unnecessarily what is in any case the duty of the Minister is this. Once you start putting things in an Act of Parliament it may not do any particular harm for some time, but in course of time people, and perhaps Ministers, will begin to think: "There is nothing in this Bill which says that I must consult the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health or the Minister of Housing and Local Government,"—Whoever it may be—" and therefore I am not under any obligation to consult them." I am not saying that that would be likely to happen immediately, but it is a possible inference from the fact that you put an unnecessary obligation into a Statute; it may come to be inferred that it is not an obligation unless it is put in the Statute.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, spoke a few minutes ago, but I do not think he is here at the moment. I did not want to ask him anything, but merely to refer to something he said. He said that when the Labour Government were in office, Conservatives often moved Amendments which they admitted to be unnecessary, but which they thought could not do any harm, and that sometimes, according to his recollection, the Labour Government had accepted those Amendments because they could not do any harm. All I would reply to that is that they did not do so in regard to the Transport Bill, 1947, because in that Bill there is no provision at all for any Minister to be consulted, either in regard to two members or in regard to any members of the Transport Commission or any other body. It was the Conservative Government in 1953 which accepted an Amendment, although strictly it was unnecessary, because it was considered by the Government that there were special circumstances which excused it, which in our view do not exist in regard to this Bill.

In submitting that the Amendment is unnecessary, I would again emphatically assure your Lordships that the Minister of Transport intends to carry out his normal constitutional duties under this Bill. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Wales will be consulted in regard to all appointments as to assuring suitable representation on appropriate Boards. I would particularly give that assurance—not for any Party reason, but because he particularly asked about it—to my noble friend Lord Ferrier. He said he wanted to be assured that this would be done. I can assure my noble friend, and your Lordships, that it will be done, and that the only reason why we do not feel able to accept this Amendment is that it is unnecessary, I think entirely unnecessary, in relation to this Bill. We think that it is not desirable in principle, for the reasons which I have given, specifically to introduce into a Bill obligations which are part of the normal duties of the Minister, in case there should be any implication that it is not his normal duty when they are not specifically mentioned. I would therefore ask your Lordships to agree with me that this Amendment ought not to be included in the Bill.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl a question? I understood him to say, in an attempt to placate Scottish opinion, that they will have a Railway Board to look after their affairs in Scotland. Does that mean that he now proposes to add to Clause 2 a Welsh Railway Board, in order that his Welsh friends' interests may be looked after?


My Lords, I did not propose to add anything to Clause 2. I merely pointed out to your Lordships that under Clause 2 there will be a Scottish Regional Board, and I mentioned that Wales would come under the Western Regional Board.


My Lords, we have all listened with the greatest care to what the noble Earl has said. Speaking for my side, I think we shall be disappointed with the Minister's reply. The Boards with which we ask the Minister to have a consultation are not only the Railway Boards, but also the Docks Board; and if this Amendment is accepted, as I hope it will be, by the House, we can then consider whether, when the appointment of the Holding Company is made, the Minister should also have consultations with the Secretary of State——


My Lords, may I say that it was because all the argument so far on this Amendment had been in relation to railways that I did not mention the Docks Board. I think the canals would be very unlikely to be appropriate. The docks might in certain oases. But I did not mention them because they had not been mentioned throughout the argument. I think the apprehensions which were expressed ware mostly about railway closures.


But the docks are in the same category as are the railways. The wording which sets up the Railway Board—the later words the noble Earl quoted—(applies also to the Docks Board.


Certainly, and the normal constitutional duty of the Minister to consult the Secretary of State about the Docks Board would also apply.

Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.16 p.m.


I will be brief here because this is a subject that we discussed fairly fully on the Committee stage. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that the Chairman and the majority of the members of the Railway Boards should render full-time service. When one looks at what I would call the almost superhuman task of the Railways Board in dealing with all the problems in providing an efficient transport


As I understand it, under the Bill the Minister is not called upon to consult with either of the Ministers, and that, I thought, was the overwhelming feeling, at least from the speeches which have been made this afternoon. If the noble Earl cannot give us any assurance in this matter, I hope that my noble friends will press this Amendment to a Division.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 54.

Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Henderson, L. Sinha, L.
Amulree, L. Kens wood, L. Stonham, L.
Amwell, L. Latham, L. Strabolgi, L.
Burden, L. [Teller.] Lindgren, L. Strang, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Lucan, E. [Teller.] Summerskill, B.
Champion, L. Ogmore, L. Terrington, L.
Chorley, L. Rea, L. Walston, L.
Crook, L. St. Davids, V. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Geddes of Epsom, L. Shepherd, L.
Ailwyn, L. Dynevor, L. Margesson, V.
Albemarle, E. Foley, L. Marks of Broughton, L.
Ampthill, L. Forster of Harraby, L. Melchett, L.
Auckland, L. Fortescue, E. Merrivale, L.
Bathurst, E. Goschen, V. Mills, L.
Boston, L. Grenfell, L. Milverton, L.
Brecon, L. HaiLsham, V. (L. President) Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Bridgeman, V. Hampton, L. Newall, L.
Chesham, L. Hastings, L. Newton, L. [Teller.]
Coleraine, L. Hereford, V. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Colville of Culross, V. Home, E. St. Oswald, L.
Conesford, L. Iddesleigh, E. Somers, L.
Craigton, L. Jellicoe, E. Soulbury, V.
Davidson, V. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Spencer, E.
Denham, L. Lambert, V. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Devonshire, D. Lansdowne, M. Swinton, E.
Dundee, E. Mac Andrew, L. Teynham, L.
Dundonald, E. Mancroft, L. Waldegrave, E.

system and, at the same time, reducing these appalling losses, it must be obvious that the Board should be strong and that the majority of its members should be giving full-time executive service. According to the Report of the British Transport Commission for 1961, six out of fourteen are part-time directors. I should have thought, considering the future of the Railways Board, that there would be a different ratio of part-time to full-time members. In particular, I think that the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman should be full-time directors. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 22, at end insert— (" ( ) The Chairman and a majority of the members of the Railways Board shall be required to render whole-time service to the Board or Regional Boards.")—(Lord Shepherd.)


An Amendment with similar effect was moved in Committee, and after a full explanation of the Government's attitude to the proposal by my noble friend Lord Dundee it was negatived on Question. In view of the full explanations which were then given I also propose to be brief on this matter. It would, I suggest, be undesirable to lay down a statutory provision on full-time membership. There was such a provision as regards full-time and part-time members of the Commission under the 1947 Act. There is no such provision in the nationalisation Statute for the National Coal Board or the Gas Board and the only relevant provision as regards the electricity industry is that the Chairman of the Generating Board and the Chairman of the Electricity Council must be full-time members. I well remember debating a very similar Amendment to the Electricity Act, 1957.

The reason we think it wrong to make a statutory provision of this kind is not that we object to a proper representation of full-time members, but it seems to us to be undesirable to say it in the Statute, because circumstances do arise, as I have found myself, when for some reason or another one has to make an appointment which is desirable at the time or to deal with a particular situation. While we do not dissent from the idea that there should be a majority of full-time members, at the same time we think it wrong to put it in the Statute. I believe an assurance was given in another place to that effect and the Amendment which was proposed in another place was then withdrawn. I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw this Amendment too.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


This Amendment follows the undertaking which I gave in Committee to consider an Amendment of the Bill to provide that dock management shall count as one of the qualifications for membership of the Docks Board under subsection (5) of Clause 1. I should like to say how grateful we are to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who raised this point, because it was clearly an omission in the Bill, and this Amendment rectifies it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 36, after ("in") insert ("the operation, management or administration of docks or").—(Lord Mills.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


It has been suggested that we should adjourn at this point. If your Lordships agree, I will therefore move that the Report stage be now adjourned.

Moved, That the Report stage be now adjourned.—(Lord Mills.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.