§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I think it would be convenient for the House to indicate the course which it is hoped that we may take this afternoon. I rise formally to move the Third Reading, and in doing so I shall make one or two remarks which I hope will be universally acceptable to the House. But I think the substantial debate on the merits of the Bill will take place on the later Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and the Third Reading, apart from what I am now about to say, will deal solely with the Amendments which are on the Paper.
492 My Lords, I thought that the House would not wish me to allow this opportunity to pass without saying how much the House is indebted to my noble friend Lord Mills for the part which he has played in this Bill, and also for the constant courtesy and help which he has given to the House during his period of service in the Cabinet. My Lords, he has endeared himself to all. It is not, I think, revealing a Cabinet secret to say that for some years we sat next to each other in that assembly, and a kind of intimacy inevitably develops between people with contiguous seats. Of course, his friendship and collaboration mean a very great deal more to me than this, as they have done to the House. I had known for a long time that there was an arrangement between him and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister that if and when a reconstruction of the Government took place he would seek to depart into private life, and I am sure that no one would grudge his decision in that respect. But I know that he will take with him the good will of all. His great knowledge of industry, commerce and economics, which he has placed at the service of the House; his great courtesy in dealing with arguments opposed to his own; his personal modesty—possibly the most endearing characteristic in a public man; and his complete disinterestedness could not have failed, I think, to make a profound impression on all those who worked with him.
I, of course, owe him a special debt which, as Leader, I feel bound to acknowledge, as he was for some time Deputy Leader to me. He undertook, often at short notice, and often at great personal inconvenience, every kind of burden that was laid upon him; and he undertook them with skill, generosity and understanding. I know the House will share my feelings when I say that, in him, the Cabinet have lost a most useful Member, and the House a most agreeable Member of the Front Bench, although I am sure the House will also agree with me in saying that we hope not to be deprived of his counsel, from whatever seat he chooses to sit upon, at frequent intervals in the future. My Lords, having said that, I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Hailsham.)493
§ 4.23 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I think the action of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House on this Motion is to be approved, in that it gives him an opportunity to give the first explanation about at least one of the Ministers who have disappeared from the Cabinet Room. This is the first I have heard or read of the fact that there was a sort of understanding existing between the Prime Minister and our noble friend, I think we may all say, Lord Mills. Whether any of us could have possibly expected it to happen on Friday the 13th, I do not know. It seemed an extraordinary day. I was never more surprised in my life than to receive a Royal Command Invitation to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on Friday the 13th. I do not remember such an occasion in my fairly long public experience. Then this experience was crowned with the most thrashing attack that I ever remember in my experience upon the membership of a Cabinet during the course of any Cabinet reconstruction.
However, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mills, is not distressed in any way about the situation as regards himself. He has been in many respects a very great public servant. Those of us who worked in the various committees and organisations connected with war production will never forget his services in the Ministry of Production, in Committees at the Ministry of Supply and later, during the reconstruction period, as Chairman of the British Chambers of Commerce and also as Chairman of a large industrial firm which was prominent in my youth in Bristol, as well as later on in Birmingham. He proved himself as a business man of considerable experience and achievement, and when he was requested by the Government to become a Minister in this House I felt sure—I said so at the time—that he would give good service. But we had still to learn even more of the courtesy and the kindness and the consideration which, in this atmosphere of political controversy at times and friendliness at others, could hardly have been more perfect.
I should like to pay my tribute to Lord Mills for the patience he has exercised, not only during the long course already pursued by the Bill that we are 494 now to discuss at its final amending stage, but also in regard to the Pipelines Bill. I think the speeches that are being made in another place just now are bound to draw attention to the importance of that measure because of the large number of Amendments that we were able to secure through the noble Lord, Lord Mills, and other Ministers who were working with him on that Bill. I have found him at all times approachable, courteous and patient, but never, of course, thinking of letting his own side down. But we were very happy to have him in the position, and we very much regret that he is no longer there. We look forward now with increasing interest to discovering who is likely to succeed to Cabinet status in this House, or whether the Leader is to be left with a reduced first eleven.
§ 4.26 p.m.
My Lords, I agree that this final stage of the Transport Bill seems to be a most appropriate moment to refer, I am sure with friendship and appreciation, to the Minister who chiefly piloted it through so well, and on whom the burden of this type of particularly labourious Bill seems to have fallen on several occasions. He really has laboured like Hercules; and I should like to take the opportunity of denying the popular supposition that your Lordships' House is the rubber stamp of another place. If ever the reverse was proved to be the case, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, certainly proved it.
It has for some time—indeed, of course, ever since the last General Election—been the hope of both Opposition Parties that a change of Government would take place at the very earliest opportunity. To have seen all Her Majesty's present Ministers retiring collectively to other Benches would have given a great but impersonal satisfaction. But to witness just one or two specific individuals leaving the Front Bench cannot, I think, fail to bring, in circumstances like the present, a feeling of real personal regret unconnected with any sort of Party outlook—and it does, I think, underline that pleasant but inconsistent characteristic of your Lordships' House in particular, where personal friendships cut right across political antagonisms.
My Lords, the duties which fell to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, were both 495 arduous and detailed; and probably more than any other Minister, I think, he has had to face the insistencies and the frustrations of a persistent Opposition. During the five years of his membership of this Chamber we have, of course, grown to know him as a "sea-green unconvertible": Balbus himself never built such a stone wall. But we also know him as unfailingly courteous and kind, as the noble Viscount has said; always appreciative of the arguments which it was his duty to refute—or, at least, to repel. And outside the walls of this Chamber his approachability and friendliness have endeared him to us all. So we bid farewell to him as a Minister, but we are glad—very glad, indeed—that he remains with us, politically no doubt still an adversary, but personally and communally, I think, a valued friend and colleague, to whom we extend every good wish in an easier and, we hope, a more enjoyable rôle.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, it is given to few Members of your Lordships' House to have the enjoyment of reading their political "obituary" notices in the following day's Hansard—and, knowing the noble Lord, Lord Mills, as I do, I am sure that that, at least, will appeal to him. But I venture to express one or two words because during the whole of the noble Lord's tenure of office on the Front Bench of your Lordships' House up to twelve months or so ago I was always engaged in conflict with him from the Opposition Front Bench. I should like to testify to his unfailing courtesy, the soundness of his argument, and his sympathy with the arguments, come they from any quarter of your Lordships' House. I suppose the noble Lord, Lord Mills, would hold the record for accepting Opposition Amendments when he possibly could, and that, I think, is the finest tribute I can pay him. We shall miss him, and we shall miss him even as much as the Government will miss him.
I hope that the noble Lord will decide to give us the benefit of his vast experience. We have far too few industrialists in your Lordships' House. Those who receive the great honour of a peerage, I think, always seem to look 496 upon it as an honour for services rendered in the past, instead of for services which this House should expect from them in the future; and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will prove the exception. I pay my tribute to him, because I learned to respect him, and I have a very great friendship with him in this House, as I had outside. For my part, I shall miss him very much.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD moved, after Clause 6, to insert the following new clause
Station car parks
.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Railways Board to make reasonable provision for the parking of motor vehicles bolonging to railway users and others at railway stations within their control.
(2)The council of a county in England or Wales may contribute towards the cost of any provision made under the foregoing subsection in respect of railway stations within the council's area.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the first Amendment on the Marshalled List. This is the fifteenth day in the passage of this Bill, and much water has passed beneath the bridge. The events of the week-end have taken two noble Lords from our midst, and whilst the "big guns" have paid their tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, perhaps I, as one of "the boys" (if I might use the phrase)—one of those who have taken part in the debate on this Bill—might express our own very great appreciation to the noble Lord. The noble Lord has certainly met with dignity and kindness the points which have been made. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that if the Liberals had token a greater part in the debate they would have known that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, did not stonewall all the time. In fact, one could say that there have been improvements to the Bill. Marginal, they may be, but improvements were made; and I think it is fair to say that these improvements were largely due to the common se4nse of the nolble Lord. My Lords, I hope that we shall have the noble Lord in our midst for many years to come, and that we shall hear a good deal from him. It will be particularly interesting to discover his approach on many matters now that he has left the Front Bench.497
§ My Lords, the Amendment for which I ask your support this afternoon is very similar to that which I moved on the Report stage—an Amendment that I introduced after consultation with the County Councils Association. The Government replied to it in a most unsatisfactory manner. In many respects they conceded the points which I made in support of the Amendment, but they requested that I withdraw it, or that the House should not accept it, largely on what I would call legalistic grounds. In the Amendment that is before your Lordships this afternoon I have tried to deal with those legalistic complaints.
§ My Lords, we have an existing problem in London, the congestion of our traffic, and it is the undoubted wish of the Minister to see that fewer vehicles are brought into the centre of London than at present. But it is equally true that in our main railway junction areas, such as Guildford, Reigate, Redhill—and many other towns will spring readily to mind—the very evils which we have in the City and in the West End are building up. We are getting very heavy traffic congestion, caused not only by the added numbers of vehicles on the road, but by the number of vehicles which are being left in the streets from very early in the morning to very late at night by the normal commuter. The local authorities are finding that their own car parks which they have provided, instead of being used by the local inhabitants for their normal requirements, such as during shopping and the like, are being filled solid from the very early part of the morning, with the result that those spaces are no longer available to the local community. In fact, these vehicles are being parked upon the roads, creating congestion and dangers to the pedestrian.
§ It may be said that it is not the duty of the Railways Board to provide car parks. But we must encourage as many people as possible to use the public train services. There are many who, bringing their cars to the railway centres, do so because there is an inadequate bus service from their homes to the station. There was a voluntary survey made some months ago in Tonbridge, and it worked out that approximately 60 per cent. of the persons who were taking their cars 498 to their railway station did so because their bus services were inadequate, or because they were so badly timed that the commuters would find considerable delay, either in catching their train, or in returning home in the evening. Therefore, these people were finding it more convenient, and in some cases more necessary, to use their private cars. I think that this tendency, particularly when one considers the railway closures of branch lines, will grow and that the pressure at these railway junctions will increase. The county councils are extremely concerned at the position to-day, and at What it may well be in a few years' time.
§ It may well be that the railways are not under a duty to provide car parks. They certainly have been given powers—powers which are not being used to any great extent. Very few of the railway car parks are adequate for present-day needs. It is not the duty, I believe, of the county councils themselves, out of their ratepayers' money, to provide car parks for the commuters; because many of these commuters may be persons who do not live in the particular area which would have to provide the finance for these car parks.
§ Therefore, we shall have this conflict of interests: that the railways, certainly in the next few years, will not wish to indulge in heavy capital expenditure; and, on the other side, the county councils will be reluctant to use ratepayers' money for car parks. The purpose of my Amendment, therefore, as I described it on the Report stage, is to bring about a co-operative effort by the Railway Boards and the county councils to provide adequate car parks adjacent or as close as possible to main railway stations; that this should be a joint effort; that the Railway Boards and the county councils should share together the capital expenditure involved in the development of these car parks; and, if necessary, that the two bodies should bear some of the cost of servicing, and providing facilities in, these car parks. I do not believe that either of these bodies will provide these car parks unless there is a special drive by the Minister, and I believe that it would be right in the first instance to lay the duty upon the Railways Board in this Bill to make 499 reasonable provision for car parks. I beg to move.
After Clause 6, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 4.40 p.m.
My Lords, commuting from the outer commuting belt, I have given some attention to this problem for a number of years, and I agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Nevertheless, I think that this Amendment is too strong. Though it certainly should be their policy, I do not think it right to put this duty on the railways, because in many places it would be impossible to fulfil the duty—for instance, where land costs were quite prohibitive, or the land was built up and was already occupied in a useful way. Moreover, in some places, large private-enterprise car parks are available. In fact, when you are lucky enough to find one of them, you find that they charge less than the railways.
At the junction of Three Bridges the car park is expanding almost monthly to fit the ever-increasing number of cars parked there every day, the railway land having for years been quite inadequate for the purpose. The same applies, I believe, at Hayward's Heath, another great commuting junction. The situation at Horsham has been very bad for many years, and I believe that not long ago there was a waiting list of several years to get a place in the official station car park. An attempt is being made by the local authorities and the railways to improve conditions, but, of course, it is very late. At Crawley, the position appears to be bad, but a new station is planned in due course.
All this, combined with the fact that trains are overloaded, is naturally tending to make people motor to other stations in order to park their cars and catch the train. But they motor up the line, not down the line; and therefore the railway is going to lose revenue in fares. Even the latest commuting station in that part of Surrey, at Gat-wick Airport station, is filling up rapidly. When that station was being constructed, I asked the Government whether they would ensure that there was plenty of oar space. They assured me that there was. Well, there still is; 500 but I do not know for how long it will continue to be adequate. The trouble is that, with accommodation in London being so difficult and expensive, people are scattering all over the Home Counties, and the car park at the station is an essential part of getting to work. No doubt in their own interests the railways are doing their utmost to provide facilities, but I do not think that it is right to put a duty on them. Administrative action is the thing that should be taken. I think the best hope is that Dr. Beeching, who is a businessman (I think I am right in saying that he is the first purely businessman who has run the railways of this country for a long time), will see this in the correct light and will not require too much prodding from the Minister to do his duty.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I find myself in agreement with nearly everything the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, except when he asked your Lordships to accept this Amendment. Here, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. Surely this is an administrative job. If we are to put into this Bill every administrative act which any part of the transport system should carry out in order to make the system more attractive to their customers, we are going to have a Bill 40 to 50 times larger than this one. Undoubtedly one of the outstanding needs is to attract motor-car commuters to the railways by providing adequate car parks. I am a commuter and have to start for my railway station half-an-hour before train time, not to catch the train, but to get a place in the car park. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that if the new Beeching régime has not the business acumen to see this, it is as qualified for the position as the last régime was. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, not to press this Amendment, but I think that it should be the duty of Parliament to watch this matter carefully and see that action is taken.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, in thinking about this Amendment and the problem it involved, it occurred to me that it might be useful to the House if I were to give some factual information about what is being done. Perhaps this would be particularly useful, in view of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord 501 Shepherd, about inactivity. I am not complaining about them. At the moment I should like merely to state the facts without comment.
London Transport now provide car parks at 50 of their stations. In 1954, they had just over 1,400 places for motor cars, but last year the figure had gone up to just over 3,200. They have been increasing capacity during the present year, and by mid-August there will be spaces for nearly 3,400 cars at London Transport stations. They have already approved extensions to provide another 590 spaces and have under consideration plans for a further 1,080. The Southern Region of British Railways have 224 stations within 20 miles of London, of which 121 have car parks. In 1961, their capacity was 4,600 cars, having gone up by 1,200 since 1959. Since then, two new car parks have been provided. Of those 121 car parks, only 30 are at present used to capacity. The Western Region have 21 stations within 20 miles of London, of which eleven have car parks. These car parks increased their capacity from 520, in 1959, to 650, in 1961. Eight of them are fully used. The Midlands Region have 45 stations within 20 miles of London, of which 21 have car parks. The capacity of these increased from 960 to just over 1,000 in 1961. Only eight are fully used. Similar figures apply to the Eastern Region, but I think I have said sufficient to give an indication that at least London Transport and British Railways have not been entirely inactive in this matter, and that there have been improvements.
The fact that I have referred to numbers of car parks that are not fully used must be regarded with a certain moderation when drawing conclusions, because I am well aware, and I admit, that in other centres, such as the places mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, there is definitely a problem. But I do not want it to be thought, as it seemed to be, that we are quite unaware of what are the problems and how they relate to traffic. I do not disagree, any more than did the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, with the principle of the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I do not complain in the least that he has put it forward; I think he was right to do so. My point is that the Amendment which 502 the noble Lord has put down does not give the Railways Board any powers that they do not already possess. I might point out that the other three statutory Boards also have the same powers, which are quite adequate, under Clause 14 of the Bill as now drafted.
What causes me difficulty, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and my noble friend Lord Hawke, is not what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, wants to do, but his method of doing it—in fact, the form of his Amendment. I think that to place an express duty, in what we hope is shortly to become an Act of Parliament, on the Railways Board to provide car parks in the terms of the Amendment, without any reference to what may be the cost of the car parks, the revenue they may bring in and their possible profitability might well involve the Railways Board in very heavy expenditure, particularly in the centres of large cities, such as my noble friend Lord Hawke mentioned, where land is very expensive and might have to be acquired at great cost, perhaps by compulsion.
Moreover, the clause, as it would be drafted, does not leave the Railways Board to decide what is reasonable in the circumstances; and it is quite possible that it might turn out to be a matter to be taken before the courts to decide in a particular case if there was dissatisfaction as to whether the Railways Board were or were not discharging their duty under the clause. I am sure that that is not the kind of complication which the noble Lord would wish to follow from his Amendment. I wonder whether it is right to place an express statutory duty on the Railways Board to provide car parks when there is no similar duty on local authorities. They have powers, but no duty is put on them; and they, after all, are the road traffic authorities, who should be concerned with such matters. Because there may be many occasions when there is a pressing need for a car park in the vicinity of the railway station, and yet it might be inappropriate to place on the Railways Board a specific duty to meet that need, which may arise to a considerable degree from the general traffic conditions, which are not all engendered by the presence of the railways. Further, there is no provision in the clause to place on any of 503 the other three statutory Boards a similar duty to provide car parks. I think that, certainly as regards the London Board, and, to some extent, the Docks Board, the same kind of argument could be advanced in support of their having some duty in this respect.
I turn now for a moment to the position of local authorities. At the moment, local authorities have full powers to provide car parks under Section 81 of the Road Traffic Act and under the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act. They also have powers, under Section 13 of the Road Traffic Act and under the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act, to arrange with other persons for the provision of car parks on such terms as they think fit. So that, to the extent of local authorities, other than county councils, the point in the second part of the noble Lord's Amendment is more than half met, because there already exists this possibility of the local authority and the Railways Board getting together to share the provision of a car park. This does not apply, as such, to county councils. These powers for local authorities stem from the Road Traffic Act and the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act. County councils, for various reasons I need not go into, are not included, because it has always been thought appropriate for the next tier of council below county council to be the authority in this respect.
If there is to be a power for county councils to join in, then I do not think this is the way to do it. I must say (although I am bound to admit that it is a slightly technical argument), that a new power would be created. In practice, I think I am right in saying that under Section 56 of the Local Government Act county councils in England and Wales have a general power to contribute to the expenditure of a council of a county district in their county for whatever it is they are doing. Therefore, I suppose it can be argued that it would not be impossible for a county council to contribute in this way, although rather by the back door. I think that this perhaps goes a little further to meet the second half of the noble Lord's point.
I do not complain that the noble Lord rather complained at my advancing legalistic arguments, because I think 504 that, where an Amendment has an effect such as this Amendment has, it is my clear duty to point it out to your Lordships, however legalistic it may seem in relation to the importance of the problem that we are considering and trying to do something about. This is a point which has come up at rather a late stage in the Bill. I do not complain of that either. I said that I thought the noble Lord was right to raise it, and I still think that, because it is of importance. I am in a slight difficulty to know exactly how to help the noble Lord, as I should like to do, because at this stage of the Bill there is little by way of procedure that is open to me.
The noble Lord said that he thought it desirable that special attention should be paid to this matter by the Minister in particular, and by Parliament. I should like to give him very seriously and firmly an undertaking that when my right honourable friend the Minister, who is very conscious of the strength of the point the noble Lord has raised, comes to discuss the functions and what is to be done under Clause 14, not only by the Railways Board but by the other Boards as well, which he will have to do in due course, he will make a very strong point of bringing home to them the desirability and the reasons for providing car parks in the circumstances the noble Lord described, and he will use—I suppose "his best endeavours" would be the proper phrase, to see that this problem, if not entirely cured, is at least minimised as much as it may be and as quickly as possible. I hope the noble Lord, in particular, and your Lordships, will accept that in the serious manner in which I am putting it forward, and that the noble Lord will not wish to press his Amendment after I have given that undertaking.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his reply? I should be less than generous if I did not respond to his last few words and the assurances that he gave. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 8 [London Board's road services outside London]:
LORD CHESHAM moved, after subsection (5), to insert:
(6) Any order under the last foregoing subsection shall be made not later than the vesting date.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will perhaps recall that on Report I gave an undertaking to my noble friend Lord Hawke that I would consider an Amendment in relation to the statutory instrument which the Minister has to make to certify that certain routes were operated by London Transport at a certain time, in order that the powers they assume on vesting day could continue to operate without dislocation to those services. As I recollect, my noble friend was worried that an order might be made, and subsequently another order, and possibly another one if one could think of anything to put in it. I pointed out at the time that these orders were statements of fact and that one was unlikely to discover anything new, but at the same time it seemed reasonable to accede to my noble friend's request that any order made under this provision should be made not later than the vesting date.
§ That does not entirely meet my noble friend's point, in that it does not entirely preclude there being two orders and not one. But the point of leaving it longer than three months, as he asked, was to enable adequate consultations to take place with the various interests affected to make sure that the order was as near as possible right to start with. I think my Amendment will meet his point that there can be no later orders after the period in which they should appear. I beg to move.
Page 9, line 20, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Chesham.)
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for having met me in this way. I think it is most desirable and important that the London Transport Executive routes, in so far as they go outside their own boundary, should be laid down; and it is desirable that they should be laid down once and for all. I have no doubt that there will be consultations between the interested parties and that the list, as finally promulgated by statutory order, will be the correct one. I am grateful to my noble friend.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.506
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, as I come now to the stage where I move that this Bill do mow pass, I feel your Lordships will wholeheartedly agree that at least I was right when I began to move the Second Reading with words to the effect that this was a long and complex Bill. I think the OFFICIAL REPORT of your Lordships' consideration of the Bill through its various stages alone proves that. But what I think is more important is that it shows the measure of the care and attention your Lordships have given the Bill. If your Lordships read back through the OFFICIAL REPORT, it also shows the wide range of knowledge and experience which the House was able to bring to bear, as is so often the case with your Lordships' House.
Another measure of the consideration your Lordships have given the Bill must surely be that at the moment we are proposing to send it to another place with 170 Amendments. It is perfectly true that 83 of those are the famous ones which had to do with the name of the Waterways Board, but that leaves, as I calculate it, 87 others—I had better say E. & O.E. because I think it must be 88 with the Amendment we have just passed. While no doubt a number of those are minor or drafting Amendments, there were others, on important things like coastal shipping, the police, the development of land, the Transport Users' Consultative Committees, the National Transport Advisory Council, the responsibility of the Holding Company for consultation, and the application of the Bill to Northern Ireland—matters of some importance. In spite of this, I know, because they have voiced complaints about it, that one or two noble Lords felt aggrieved that the Government did not accept a higher proportion of Amendments. As I said at one moment, the Government's duty is to consider their attitude to any Amendment on its merits, and to resist it or otherwise accordingly.
However that may be, there is one thing I should like to say with the greatest sincerity. I should like to pay my humble tribute, if I may, to noble Lords behind me and noble Lords opposite for the most serious and responsible way in which they have set about their 507 contributions to getting the Bill right, and the immense amount of time and trouble they have devoted to the task. The fact that there are deep differences of opinion between us, and a fundamentally different mode of approach, does not in the least detract from what I say as regards noble Lords opposite. They clearly have put a great deal of work and energy into this, and I do not think your Lordships generally, and his colleagues an particular, will mind if I say how much we must admire the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on this Bill. I may not often have agreed with his point of view, but I should like to be the first to recognise how mightily he must have wrought on this Bill.
I should also like to express my personal thanks to my noble and learned Leader, and my noble and learned friend, whose congenial presence, as well as his wise guidance, we shall miss from the Woolsack. Also, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Dundee for his help and, by no means least, my noble friend Lord Mills. It has been much better said, but perhaps I, too, in thanking him for what he has done on this Bill, might accord to him my own gratitude for having had the proud privilege of working in the shadow of his kindliness and his ability and wisdom, not only in the long course of this Bill but on other Bills as well.
The Government have been fortified and encouraged during our debates by the fact that there have been no convincing arguments against the basic purposes of the Bill providing for the British Transport Commission's activities to be reorganised, financially reconstructed, and put on a basis of operation suited to present-day conditions. As I have said, there are differences of opinion on this, and some of them are rooted in differences of political approach. But the Government are convinced that the transport problem As too serious, that transport services are too important to the country, for them to be tackled in any other way than by making a new approach based on the practical needs of the situation. My Lords, I do not underrate, in any way, the difficulties that are ahead. The railways lie, we know, at the heart of them, and I think that the tasks that will fall on the new Boards 508 and the Holding Company will be heavy ones. Whatever may be the view of how these tasks should be carried out, I am sure your Lordships will wish to see that the new undertakings get every encouragement and will wish them success in their vitally important endeavours. I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Chesham.)
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I would express my grateful thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for the tribute he paid to my noble friend Lord Shepherd. As he truly said, my noble friend has worked hard and effectively at the head of an Opposition team which he has seen to it has been a happy one. I feel that the same can be said of the Government team, which has also worked so hard and devotedly on this Bill. I would again say what it was possible to say at an earlier stage of the Bill, that we are grateful to noble Lords on the Government Front Bench and to the noble and learned Earl—as I suppose I must now say—who until recently sat on the Woolsack. They, too, have helped to make our task a happy one, although I will not say a light, and certainly not a short, one. It has all been in what I regard as the best traditions of your Lordships' House and we are very grateful to them for their consideration and care, and for the fact that our arguments have been listened to. I will not say they were answered, but they were certainly dealt with.
I feel that I must say a few personal words of regret at the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, is not here to-day to take part in this debate and at the reason for that. We have heard words eloquently said by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, my own noble Leader and the noble Leader of the Liberal Party. Your Lordships will not want an addition from me, but I would say that when they mentioned his kindness, his courtesy, and his wisdom, they were no mere formal words. Any noble Lord who had anything to do in this House with the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will agree that they were a mere statement of fact. Certainly I very much regret that he is not with us. I can understand how much the noble and learned 509 Viscount, Lord Hailsham, regrets that he will no longer be sitting immediately next to him in the Cabinet as he has done for so many years. I can only express my sincere hope that they will be sitting side by side before very long on the Front Opposition Bench.
Although what I have said is very sincere, and we shall not vote against the Motion now before the House, it does not mean that we are not strongly apposed to a great deal that is in this Bill. Indeed, we feel now that the Government have no mandate for it. The recent shattering by-election results show that the Government have lost the confidence of the country. The recent near decimation of the Cabinet shows that the Government have lost confidence in themselves. We feel that the contents of a parcel cannot be changed by altering the labels and neither can the basic faults of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said that the major differences between us were on the basis of a different political approach. Indeed we have called it differences of ideology, and I think that so far as transport is concerned the ideology that has been put forward by the Government is in fact opposed by the people who are mainly affected and, indeed, so far as my experience goes, by every organisation interested in an efficient and progressive transport service for passengers and freight. I believe that When this Bill comes into operation and its implications are fully understood the people will reject it.
I will make it perfectly clear that we on this side of the House accept that the railway service must be adapted and perhaps to some extent streamlined to meat present needs, but it is quite obvious that for many years the railways must be the backbone of our transport system. The British Railways freight map shows that 95 per cent. of goods traffic is carried by 50 per cent. of the railway network. I do not doubt that when the passenger map is published there will be a similar result. If profitability is to be the sole, or even the overriding, criterion, then there must inevitably be wholesale rail closures, particularly in places like Scotland, Wales, East Anglia and South and South-West England. But I submit—and this is the point of my remarks—that before these closures come into 510 effect there are certain basic questions which must be asked and answered.
The first is: which of these lines which it is proposed to close would be economic if the railways were subsidised to the same extent as road users are subsidised? This is not an ideological point. The current edition of Crossbow, which I believe is the organ of the Bow Group of Conservatives, in its leading article, says:Market conditions … (which face British Railways and determine what Dr. Beeching decides is an economic policy) … are themselves distorted by the quite unrealistic pricing system on the roads. If road-users had to pay real costs … quite different conditions, pointing to quite different pricing, closure and investment decisions might confront The Doctor. If one part of the system is run according to rigid economic disciplines while the rest is run according to nothing in particular, the result could be to make the chaos worse than at present—if that is possible.So I am supported in my first point by apparently informed Conservative opinion.
The second point which I submit has to be answered is this. Is there an untapped demand for the line? Has everything been done by publicity and salesmanship to attract passengers and goods traffic? Thirdly, can some lines be run profitably on a seasonal basis with or without the help of local subsidies from local authorities, educational authorities, race courses or holiday camps? I think the Minister should explore all these ideas thoroughly before we allow a great capital asset to be destroyed and the traffic diverted to the already over-burdened and dangerous road systems. Even when those three, and perhaps other, questions have been answered there will still, I am afraid, be many justifiable closures.
About these there are a fresh number of questions that have to be asked. The first and most important is: is alternative public transport available, not only for passengers but for goods? During most of our discussions we have been speaking about alternative available transport for passengers and have not said much about the position for the rural areas, of their parcels and freight traffic. What is going to happen when some of these communities are 50 miles from the nearest station? What is going to happen to the parcels traffic? How is that to get there?
511 This is not an idle thought. They are questions that will have to be answered. For example, in March last year the Minister of Housing and Local Government formed a mid-Wales Committee to consider ways in which the economy of mid-Wales might be developed and strengthened. It will be a curious way of developing and strengthening the economy if the Government make a start by withdrawing "he railway facilities from that area. In such areas no sort of service will be economic. Therefore we must have an assurance from the Government—I hope the noble Lord will give it—that they will see that subsidised services are provided; otherwise areas like that will become almost completely depopulated.
I should like to know whether an estimate has been made, or, if not, is going to be made, of the public costs of the roads which will be needed to carry the extra traffic. I think if this were done the Government would have to look again at the criteria used to decide which railway services were uneconomic. The fact is you cannot have a sane and efficient national transport system when every part of it competes blindly for all forms of traffic. You cannot determine whether or not a railway track should be torn up just by asking if it makes a profit or not, because quite apart from commercial principles railways provide in many cases an indispensable social service. Other countries who have closed down railways have found that is true. They are having to rebuild them again at great cost because they cannot provide enough roads to handle the traffic. All these questions should have been asked and answered before we were asked to consider a Transport Bill.
This Bill will soon be an Act of Parliament, but the questions I have asked will remain and will have to be answered, because if they are not answered before major changes are permitted the country, in my view, will suffer a major economic and social disaster. We must have a transport system which, in addition to what is economically necessary, provides services which are socially indispensable. I am afraid that with their past views, which are unlikely to change, it is too much to hope that such a service will come from the pre- 512 sent Government. Fortunately, the time is running out, and I think it will not be long before we have a chance to get on with the job.
§ 5.25 p.m.
My Lords, the main object of this Bill has been to cut down these railway losses, and the simplest way to approach it, of course, would be to shut down the railway system. But we must see that Dr. Beeching does not adopt that easy solution, because, though it is not nearly so easy to increase efficiency, it must be done. One cannot really say that the railways are efficient until they can guarantee a time of arrival for goods traffic, coupled, I hope, with a penalty clause for any consignments which do not arrive on time. To my mind, that is far more important to the commercial community than speed, and it has been reflected more than once in letters to the Press. Even for passengers I am not sure that absolute regularity in time-keeping is not more important than the last extremes of speed. I think that Her Majesty's Government should be aware that there is a growing feeling in the country that if only we could manage to put more traffic on to rail and off the roads it would be a much pleasanter land to live in. But until the railways are efficient we cannot expect that solution to be fulfilled.
The railway losses have brought home to the general public with a shock how vast is the proliferation of privately owned transport and, with it, the inevitable losses to the least adaptable and least flexible of public transport—that is, the railways. While we are putting our house in order we have not only to tackle the railway losses but, in the process, to get more rationalisation and streamlining of public transport as a whole. The Conservative philosophy believes that competition makes for the efficiency of those competing. For that reason we have not done much in the past to discourage competition in the field of public passenger transport. We have left it to the traffic commissioners, but of course they must have been influenced by the idea of reasonable competition. To-day, with so much private transport available, it is a luxury to have public road, public rail and public air transport all operating on the same 513 routes. Ever-increasing competition is created by private transport that is quite sufficient to keep any form of public transport on its toes, and it may well be that the traffic commissioners through their charter, Section 72 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, may require to have some new interpretation placed on their duties.
Public transport is competing in a shrinking market. Some of us believe that one of the most important things is to got more co-ordination between road and rail over passenger transport. Our Amendment to try to secure that the British Transport Commission bus shares were inherited by the Railways Board was designed to this end. We felt that by giving the railways the whole financial stoke in a substantial part of the bus operators in the country, and a partial stake in a large portion of the rest, there would be much more chance of co-ordination. But the Minister did not agree. However, that is over and done with.
The Minister thinks he has learned that the railways could never have sufficient influence over bus operators to induce them to look after rail interests, because he thinks that the British Transport Commission's representatives on the bus boards in the past may not have done so efficiently. This argument may or may not have been valid in the past, but I believe that for the future it is greatly outweighed by the great advantages of having rail and bus men in from the beginning on the problem of the redeployment of passenger transport which will have to take place in the future. And, quite frankly, under the Minister's scheme, as the Bill stands I do not think this can take place very easily. The proposals for closure of the rail services will be put up unilaterally by the railways. They will not have the preliminary study of what is to take their place and at what cost. It may be found that some services which Dr. Beeching proposes to give up could be made cheaper to run under the Light Railways Act than any bus substitute that could be run. Equally, other services which Dr. Beeching has not proposed to close down, because they break even or run at a little loss, could, quite possibly be replaced at a substantial profit by a bus service.
514 The railways are unlikely to take the initiative in change unless they are likely to benefit financially, either by the elimination of losses or by sharing in or taking wholly the profits. Contrariwise, I should have thought that an immediate examination should be made of long-distance bus services which compete most directly with the rail. In passing, I should say that though in debate in the course of this Bill the London-Birmingham services were mentioned, they being a joint Commission and B.E.T. company, yet there are other buses competing with rail for longer distance traffic—for instance, London to Scotland and the Royal Blues to Cornwall, which I understand are carried out by wholly-owned subsidiaries of the British Transport Commission. These long distance services are a relic of the days When we thought we could afford to run more than one form of public transport on the same route.
The Minister has rejected the structure in the Bill under which we believe coordination could be made easily and naturally. But man is not a slave to his tables of organisation, and I hope the Minister will use all his powers to promote co-operation and co-ordination between buses and rail. For instance, in the regional study of passenger transport needs he should encourage the bus companies, whether wholly owned or partially owned by the Holding Company, to be invited in at an early stage. After all, they are best judges of what services the buses can offer, and at what cost. The burden is going to be put on them to do a lot of substituting for rail services, and advanced planning is required. Buses do not grow on gooseberry bushes. Drivers cannot be picked up every day at the Labour Exchange. Where there is a shortage of drivers, it may not in fact be possible to produce the services. Some of these services may have to have specially designed vehicles. For instance, in this country there do not yet appear to be vehicles with a proper luggage compartment in the interior of the bus which can take the place of that on the railway train.
There may be some railway redundancy in places. Will there be any joint scheme of training so that those who are displaced may be trained in road passenger work, either on the road itself or on the maintenance side? In support of 515 this general plea the figures are most instructive. Comparing 1958 with the end of last year, private cars on the road have gone up from 4½ million to 6 million; motor cycles from 1½ million to nearly 2 million. The index of vehicle miles for cars indicates an increase of 46 per cent.; scooters, 104 per cent.; mopeds, 37 per cent.; motor cycles are a little down, and buses and coaches are down 8 per cent. In passenger journeys between 1958 and 1961 the railways are down 5 per cent. and buses and coaches down 2 per cent. Air passenger miles, domestic, have nearly doubled. Is it not obvious that road and rail passenger services must get together in face of growing competition from private vehicles and air transport? Dr. Beeching comes from a stable where cooperation between producers is not unknown. I hope that the spirit of cooperation and rationalisation will ultimately prevail. It seems to me that that is the only hope for rural Britain to have any public passenger services at all in the years ahead.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, before I address myself to the Bill, may I, as one who for all but one of these last sixteen years has been engaged either from the Government Front Bench or the Opposition Front Bench in every scrap of transport legislation with which your Lordships have had to deal, pay my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for what he has done to steer this most complicated Bill through your Lordships' House? If he will permit me to say so, I think he has always been good, but as time goes on he excels himself, and I think that this time his contribution was a Parliamentary performance of the highest order. May I also echo his words and pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd? This, I think, has been his first major job, and if he will permit me to say so with respect, I think he acquitted himself in a masterly fashion. I hope he will carry on in this way, because he showed all the adroitness of opposition without being either bad-tempered or fractious.
Is it not ironic, that we have been promised for the last ten years by the Chairman of the British Transport Com- 516 mission, and had that promise endorsed every year for ten years by the Government, that 1962 was to be the year in which the British Transport Commission was going to show a profit? This was the year! Yet here we are, in that year moving that this Bill be now passed, when the total deficit has amounted to £1,175 million—that is the total amount that the taxpayer has lost. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, on current account it is running at a deficit of £150 million.
We are now painfully learning the stark truth. The latest bulletin from the Commission, the one that has been referred to, now tells us quite bluntly, in simple language, that the reason for all this is that 95 per cent. of the railway freight of this country is carried on 50 per cent. of the lines; and when the analysis of passenger traffic comes out it will not be very much different. Criticise the present Minister as much as you wish, but you can never criticise his courage in telling the truth. Then there is Dr. Beeching. How differently the stark economics of the position have been put to us, as opposed to the Cloud Cuckoo-land economics that emanated in the past and which were the cause of the colossal loss which the British taxpayer has had to bear!
This is a complicated Bill, and I sometimes think—having taken no part in it, because, after all, new voices and fresh minds, even in opposition, are welcome—that the Opposition have tried to make the Bill do too much. At its best it cannot solve the problems; it can only set up a structure within which, if there is sufficient ability, they can be solved. My Lords, I think that the problems will come, and have to come, and I understand from the latest bulletin issued by the Chairman, Dr. Beeching, that the first edition of the railways' plan will be ready by the end of the year.
The questions have been asked, "What are we going to do if we shut down all these railway lines?", and "What will happen if the only yardstick is profitability?" My Lords, it is not so much a question of what will happen, but of what has happened. The railways' traffic is on the road now. What are you going to do? The point in this Bill about which I am so apprehensive is, what alternative is going to be offered in our rural areas to provide the most 517 economic form of transport?—I care not whether it is road or rail. It may not be profitable. That question has been raised continually right the way through this Bill, and it has not yet been answered. I do not blame the Government for not answering it. I think it will have to be answered when the whole transport plan is put before the country.
I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, will not mind my saying that one of the greatest problems which we have to face is a change of heart by the unions connected with railways. You cannot run railways just for the sake of providing employment. You might just as well go and dig holes in the seashore, let the tide fill them up, and then start the process all over again the next day. As a country we face a terrific problem. There is great redundancy on our railways, and much new thinking must be applied to the problem. We cannot just say that so many per cent. of railway employees are redundant, without making adequate provision for their future employment. If we want to have first-class manpower on the railways, we must pay higher wages. One of the troubles with British Railways is that over the last ten years it has never recruited any brains in the mid-levels. Why? Because the railways have never met the wages and salaries of other industry and tirades. I can quite understand the railways saying," We cannot afford these increases." Of course they cannot, until they have solved the question of redundancy. These are some of the problems which we shall have to face. I do not think it is the job of the British Transport Commission to face them, because, as they have said many a time, their job is to make the railways pay. The social and political implications are for the Government, and I hope that the Government will face them.
My Lords, this cannot be done as a clean-cut job. As I think was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, just now, because a railway line does not pay, or because it does not pay even to put on alternative transport, that does not mean that large areas of the country have to be left without transport. The noble Lord touched on a very vulnerable point. It is no good anybody saying that it is not possible to run a rural bus service, 518 when they put on a double-decker bus where a very small bus could cope with the traffic adequately. The whole outlook of providing transport in the rural areas has to undergo a lot of thinking, and I hope that the Ministry of Transport will not leave it entirely to the Commission to do. I have great faith in the present Minister in grappling with this problem, and I wish him success.
My Lords, this, I think, will be but the forerunner of many Bills, much legislation and great debate. This has not solved one of the problems of our transport system. All it has done is to set up a machine Which is the best the arguments in your Lordships' House and in the other place can devise. It is for us to see that it now works to the general and economic good of the country.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, in making the last contribution from these Benches on this Bill, may I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on their handling of the Bill during its course through this House? May I, too, in a few words but no less sincerely, add my tribute to the unfailing courtesy and assistance we received from the noble Lord, Lord Mills, and the noble and learned Viscount, the former Lord Chancellor?
Those are congratulations on the handling of the Bill. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, anticipated, there are no congratulations in the final stages of this Bill on the matter of policy. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, this Bill makes no contribution whatever to a solution of the transport problems which face this country. It is a Bill that will facilitate the dismantling of the railway system, but the Government have yet to appreciate (and I have seen no signs of this during the course of this Bill through this House; or in Government speeches in another place) that the railways of this country, like those in every country in the world, cannot on their own be a viable industry. On the basis of the Government's economics as applied in this Bill, not only would the railways in rural areas be dismantled, but there would be no postal service, no telephones, no electricity, no water, in the rural areas. Every one of those ser- 519 vices in the rural areas of this country is not viable. In regard to the essential services which are necessary to those members of the community who live in the sparsely populated areas, the cost is borne by the rest of the community in the charges they pay for the service generally. The Government have at some time or other to face the problem of whether they regard transport as a service, or whether they are going to put it on a normal industrial basis. If it is to foe put on a normal industrial basis, it can only be to the disadvantage of the community as a whole.
My Lords, I must repeat this again in the final stages of this Bill. Transport is not a question of railways for railwaymen, or of buses for busmen, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, mildly suggested. Transport is a service to the community; and the only way to look at it is as a form of transport by the vehicle which is most suited to the journey and to the traffic to be carried. It is not a question of a war between road and rail, between rail and air, or between shipping and air. Using the correct vehicle for the traffic and the journey is the only way in which the problem can be tackled, so far as surface transport is concerned. Unless the transport system is integrated, and the costs of all forms are taken together, as was provided for in the 1947 Act, the industry as a whole will never be viable. But taking the industry as a whole there is every reason to believe that it could be viable.
Again, in the closing stages of this Bill I rather welcome the partial conversion of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. We are getting somewhere when, from those Benches, he rises to plead that road and rail should get together, and for the integration of our passenger services, road and rail. I am sorry, my Lords, I must apologise: I do not think the noble Lord said "integration"; he said "co-ordination". But at least it is a good word coming from him.
I think that one ought to call attention to the completely muddled thinking that there has been on the part of this Government. In their Transport Act, 1953, they started destroying the integrated transport system established by the 1947 Act. Since 1953 there have been no fewer than 22 Acts of Parliament on 520 transport. Some of these, it is true, have been the British Transport Commission's Bills to give effect to the various organisations that have had to take place arising from the 1953 Act. We have had ten White Papers and two Special Reports, all trying to remedy the damage that was initially started by the 1953 Act. Those of us who have been associated with the railways have been centralised, regionalised, reorganised, disorganised; and we have also suffered over that period the "Stop and go" on modernisation.
Now those associated with the railways of this country have to face a further period of upheaval. From these Benches I should like to express sympathy with the officers and staff of the railways of this country, who for the lifetime of this Government have been suffering frustration, arising from the fact that their industry has been used for playing politics. Had the officers of British Railways been allowed to get on with their job of modernising the railways, and to spend on getting traffic the time and energy which they have had to spend on preparing schemes of reorganisation for successive Ministers of Transport, answering questionnaires daily and preparing data daily for those same Ministers, then perhaps the railways would have been in a little better state than they are at the present time.
My Lords, we speed this Bill on its way; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said, this is not by a long way the last Transport Bill we shall have, because, unless the Government learn their lesson, so far as transport is concerned, we shall have not only another Bill to try to remedy the ills created by this Bill but a succession of Bills, as we have had over the past ten years. I conclude by again congratulating on a personal basis those on the Government Benches who have been associated with the progress of the Bill. Seeing the last of this Bill, no doubt they will be glad of the relief that comes with it, but from our side we are sad, because, as I have said, it makes no contribution to solving the problems which face this country of ours.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for more than one 521 thing that he said this afternoon. First of all, I am very grateful for what he said to me personally. As I understand, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, he does not propose to speak in this debate. Therefore, perhaps he will not mind if I join him with me in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for a sentiment with which I heartily concur, as your Lordships know, because I have said so. I was very glad, too, that the noble Lord referred to the "stark truth" and "facing reality", because that is entirely what my mind is running on this afternoon; and, in fact, it is the way the Government's mind (if one can use that particular phrase) has been running on the Bill altogether. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, further acknowledged that in his very welcome references to my right honourable friend and to Dr. Beeching.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that noble Lords on the Benches opposite were strongly opposed to the Bill. I had noticed that in the course of our proceedings, and I am not going to waver even as briefly, succinctly and (may I say?) moderately as did the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. I am not going to address myself to any of the political differences that may exist, because we have been over it before in one way and another, time and again. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that the Government had lost confidence. He may, for all I know, have been generalising on a political basis and having a bit of fun; but so far as this Bill and what we are talking about is concerned, the Government have certainly not lost confidence in the Bill—not in the methods proposed and put forward under the Bill, and not in the new structure with which, as has been repeatedly said, it is the idea of the Bill to provide the new Boards, on which they can build soundly for the future. I think confidence would be lost if nothing were done to stop the present £150 million a year loss, a loss which on the present trends would tend to be a rising one.
The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said that in certain circumstances no service, particularly in the rural areas, could be viable. I shall be coming back to this point. That may well be so, though I cannot necessarily see why, because such services cannot be viable, they need, in every case, without investigation, to be 522 accepted as being as expensive as they are, and contributing to that large and entirely unacceptable loss. That is where confidence would be lost—if the Government were not to take action, and proper action, to stop it.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, asked a number of questions which he said would have to be answered in the future, and one of those was whether any thought had been given to the cost of new roads for extra traffic. My Lords, there cannot be an answer to that particular question at this present moment, because unless and until it is known what services are to be retained, what services are not, and what the pattern of the future and the general picture is going to be, it cannot be precisely said what the necessary, corresponding road pattern will be. But I will tell your Lordships this: that we do realise quite clearly that, in those cases where it is ultimately discovered that road transport can serve the public better than the rail transport, there will have to be consequential adjustments of the roads in many cases. In some cases, probably, the existing roads will be found adequate for the loads they have to carry; in others, particularly in urban areas, they may be found inadequate. I can assure your Lordships that this is one point which has been very far from overlooked, and which is being kept very much in the forefront of considerations for future planning.
The questions the noble Lord said will have to be answered will, of course, be answered—and they will be answered, in fact, in the course of the situation in which we are now finding ourselves. Really, to expect answers to those questions to be provided to-day (not necessarily in your Lordships' House by me; but to be provided at this time) is putting the cart firmly before the horse, because they are questions which can be answered only in the light of having full and accurate information.
Just exactly what is the position, and what is going on at the moment? I should like briefly to make sure that your Lordships know what it is. It falls into four stages. Stage one, in which we are at present engaged, is the traffic studies that Dr. Beeching is at present carrying on, which relate not only to the services on the lines but to the traffic which can best be carried, 523 and how; and for those to be carried on to the stage of their analysis and completion—because they are what I might call the further tools of management that are necessary. Then, at the same time, stage two, which can to a certain extent overlap, is the dissemination of information to the public. The map which was published last Friday, showing the freight trains and carryings on the railways, is typical of that. I do not think it can be expected that the public at large will support the reorganisation that is necessary unless it knows in unequivocal terms what the position is and what is going on.
Stage three will come when all the traffic studies and the information to be obtained from them is finally collected and sorted. When that has been done the Transport Commission will place before the Government its broad proposals about the size, shape and pattern of the future railways system. At stage three there will be put forward what the situation demands in the opinion and considered view of those in the commercial position of having to run the railways.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, could the noble Lord (he is so interesting on this point) give us some idea of a timetable? Is that possible?
§ LORD CHESHAM
I think that I can, in rough terms. I certainly should expect the studies to be completed and well into analysis stage by or before the end of this year Then (though I cannot put any time on this) it will obviously be desirable that the conclusions and suggestions should be put before the Government as quickly as possible after that, because this problem is too urgent to permit of any "hanging about", so to speak. Then stage four, my Lords, will be for the Government to reach their own conclusions and to take into consideration many of the points to which your Lordships have been drawing attention.
A great deal has been said in the course of the discussions on the Bill about the dangers to the individual and to the public. I am not again going 524 over all the various measures which have been incorporated into the Bill to protect the public, but I am going to say this to your Lordships—and I should like to make it quite clear what it is that I am talking about. When the Commission have completed their consideration and their plan, and have put it before the Government, if any decision has to be taken to solve passenger problems which is not based on a normal commercial approach—if there are other considerations involved in it—that will be the time for the Government to make such a political decision, and for the Government alone to take the responsibility of making it: in fact only the Government will be able to take it. But that is the time when decisions on the retention or otherwise of lines, routes and so on, on grounds other than commercial ones (on social grounds, or whatever they may be) will have to be taken by the Government.
I want to make that quite clear to your Lordships: that that is the time. It is no good trying to make such decisions in advance, such as now, before all the factors are known. When these are known the "chips will be down", so to speak; and that will be the moment for the Government to take such decisions—which, my Lords, they will take. In the meantime, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, rightly said, there are a lot of hard work and many heavy tasks in front of us. At the moment we are trying to provide no more than the structure and the foundation to enable the new organisation to fulfil their duty to the public, which we believe, with confidence, they will do with success.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.