HL Deb 05 June 1962 vol 241 cc516-94

5.12 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mills.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 54 [Advance information about railway closures]:


Amendments Nos. 131A and 131B go together, so with your Lordships' permission I will speak to them both and move them afterwards. Clause 54 provides that the Railways Board and the London Board shall from time to time give advance public notice of their plans to discontinue railway passenger or goods services, so that the public, trade and industry can know what is happening and make their plans accordingly. But as it stands in this clause, the advance notice applies only to railway services and not to railway shipping services, which are a logical extension of the railway system, whether provided direct or through subsidiary companies. I think that they should be covered and these two Amendments together do so. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 54, line 40, leave out from ("of") to ("shall") in line 41 and insert— ("(a) railway passenger or goods services provided by the Railways Board or the London Board, and (b) shipping services provided by the Railways Board, the Railways Board or the London Board, as the case may be,").—(Lord Chesham.)


I thank the noble Lord for the explanation of this Amendment, which of course we agree to. I wonder whether I might ask him a question, since we are on this Clause 54, in regard to the passing of information. I presume that would be done mainly by the Press, but could we have it from the Minister that, where there is to be a discontinuance of railway or shipping services, interested bodies would have proper prior notice of such discontinuance? I am thinking of chambers of commerce and the like.


It would certainly be the intention to make these notices of discontinuance as widely known as possible. It would be a little difficult for me to tell the noble Lord that a specific notice would be sent to any specific body, because I think the ramifications of that would be endless. However, I can, of course, give him an assurance that the Press will be used, and no doubt there will be many notices displayed locally on the premises of the Board or Boards concerned. Certainly, it would be the intention to make the notices as widely and as easily known as possible.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 54, line 44, at end insert— ("(2) For the purposes of this section, any shipping service provided by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company Limited or the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (Irish Services) Limited shall, so long as the company providing the service is a subsidiary of the Railways Board, be deemed to be a service provided by that Board.")—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 54, as amended, agreed to.

5.16 p.m.

VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS moved, after Clause 54 to insert the following new clause:

Transfer of inland waterways

".—(1) With a view to securing the preservation of any inland waterway for the use of which there is a public demand for any purposes which include and are not inconsistent with the continuance of the public right of navigation—

  1. (a) the British Waterways Board shall give not less than six months advance notice to the public in such manner as the Minister may direct of their intention to apply to the Minister for a Warrant of Abandonment of any inland waterway or part thereof or to apply to Parliament for statutory authority to close to public navigation and extinguish public rights of navigation over any inland waterway or any part thereof;
  2. (b) such notice as aforesaid shall include a summary statement of the average annual net expenditure after deducting all receipts upon any such inland waterway in the preceding five years and also a statement of the estimated net cost of extinguishing all 518 liabilities of the British Waterways Board after deducting estimated receipts upon realisation of any assets such statements to be certified in each case by independent consultants from a panel to be appointed by the Minister;
  3. (c) such notice as aforesaid shall invite offers from any trust or institution whether corporate or incorporate established with public or public charitable objects or any company statutory corporation of local or public authority willing to accept a transfer of the inland waterway subject to all the rights, duties and obligations of the British Waterways Board in respect thereof and upon terms to be approved by the Minister.

(2) The Minister may by Order made under this section transfer to and vest in any such body as aforesaid any inland waterway or part thereof not required by the British Waterways Board subject to all the rights, duties and obligations whatsoever of the British Waterways Board applicable thereto upon such terms as to payment by the British Waterways Board to the body to whom the waterway is to be transferred or otherwise as the Minister may subject as hereinafter provided consider to be reasonable:

Provided that—

  1. (i) the Minister shall not approve any transfer under this section which does not in his opinion provide a reasonable prospect of the preservation of the inland waterway as a public navigable waterway by a responsible body which is either required by law to keep and publish audited annual accounts and a report or which as a term of the transfer undertakes to keep and publish such accounts and report as the Minister may direct;
  2. (ii) in the case of any charitable trust or charitable corporation or any public nonprofit distributing body to which any such waterway is transferred the Minister may direct that the payment to be made by the British Waterways Board as a term of the transfer shall be such taken with the other available and prospective resources of such body as shall be reasonably sufficient to enable such body to discharge the public liabilities of the British Waterways Board in respect of the waterway within a reasonable time and shall secure in any such case that such payment shall not be less than five times the net average annual expenditure in the preceding five years or half the net estimated cost of extinguishing all the liabilities of the British Waterways Board certified as hereinbefore provided, whichever is the less.

(3) The Minister may in any Order made under this section, provide for the temporary suspension for not more than one year of the public right of navigation until such time as any works can be completed necessary for the purpose of restoring the inland waterway to public use and may, if he thinks fit, from time to time review and extend such Order by further Order under this section for successive periods not exceeding one year.

(4) If the Minister is satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect of an inland waterway to which this section applies being preserved for public use he may give his consent to such applications in respect thereof as are mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section."

The noble Viscount said: I will not start by saying that this new clause is a little thing, because the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, does not like me to call my Amendments small things. He prefers to think that they are bombshells. But this clause carries out a very simple purpose. In Clause 10, after the recital of the main duties of the new Waterways Board, subsection (2) goes on to say: It shall also be the duty of the Authority to review the manner in which the inland waterways owned or managed my them, so far as not required for the discharge of their duty under subsection (1) of this section, may be put to the best use, to formulate proposals with the object of putting them to the best use and to take all steps open to them to achieve that object whether by developing or converting any inland waterway themselves or by selling or leasing to other persons.

This new clause that I am moving has the purpose of assisting them to carry out the instructions given in Clause 10 (2). It may seem strange to your Lordships that there should be anybody who would want a waterway which, on the face of it, is unsatisfactory, and which the Waterways Board are unable to make work as a waterway. Nevertheless, there are a great many people who want these waterways, which the Board do not consider are required for traffic, and these people wish to see them kept open to serve their purpose as waterways. It is difficult to put evidence of this to your Lordships. I can produce no magnificent figures, or very few, but I can produce some evidence of the effect that these waterways produce on individuals.

I remember that one summer day my wife and I took on our boat a lady who does certain magnificent work, for which she has been decorated by the Queen. After her very hard and gruelling work we took this lady along a quiet waterway. As she sat back and drank it all in, she said, "I never knew that such peace existed in England". She was used only to the roads, of course. I remember another occasion when I was doing a bit of quiet painting up of my boat, which I had hauled up on to the towpath, and when I was talking to a fisherman who was passing by on his way to take up his sport. He said he had been at it for twelve years; he had come to the edge of a nervous breakdown, and did not know what to do. He said, "My doctor asked me, 'Why don't you go fishing?'" He thought he would try it, and so he went fishing, and it cured his nervous breakdown. It soothed his nerves, and he was able to get "properly stuck into" his job. He had been a fisherman ever since; he was delighted with it; and he intended for the rest of his life to spend his spare time fishing.

The numbers of people who are concerned in these matters are extremely large. The boat-users of the waterways increase by the thousand every year; and, as we all know (the figure has been mentioned several times), we are already well into the millions of fishermen—and their number, also, is increasing every day. There are many other users, too, who love these waterways. There are all sorts of people—the towpath walkers, the swimmers. There are masses of people to whom these waterways are a very real delight and a very real soother of the nerves in these days when almost everything in the country seems to be either overcrowded or to make a noise, or both. This is a very old demand. There is even a hymn which praises the Lord because, In pastures green he leadeth me, the quiet waters by.

That is what we are asking for: we are asking for the "quiet waters".

Your Lordships may say that there are other methods of transferring these "quiet waters" to the ownership of other bodies. There are two methods of disposing of them without the benefit of this Amendment, and I wish to point out that both of them are unsatisfactory. One of the methods so far suggested by the Government is to remove the nature of statutory navigations from these waterways, and then, for some reason which I cannot understand, to keep them purely for pleasure craft. I do not see any advantage at all in this for anybody. To begin with, I cannot see any distinction between commercial and pleasure craft. There is no boundary. You may say that my own boat is a pleasure craft, even if I carry the odd, private cargo in it. You may say that a commercial hire cruiser, built commercially to be hired out, is also a pleasure craft because it carries people on pleasure.

Do the Government also say that the mobile hotels and the hostel boats are pleasure craft? They are commercial craft operating commercially, with commercial crews on board, for carrying passengers. They hire out cabins; or, in the case of the hostel boat, they hire out berths in a domitory. But they are very definitely, in my opinion, commercial craft. They cannot be distinguished from the ordinary cargo-carrying commercial craft in the depth of water or the size of locks that they need or anything else, because very often it is the same craft simply converted from carrying cargo to carrying pasengers. To convert one of these waterways after the manner suggested by the Government, merely by removing its character of statutory navigation, is to do nothing useful whatever. It simply means that they make it more uncertain for possible commercial use, thus reducing the revenue of the waterways still more; and, at the same time, it does not save them a penny in expense, because they still have to dredge the waterway and they still have to keep the locks in repair. They are "let in" for all the same expenses as before: It does not save them anything.

The second suggestion is to carry out some operation such as was carried out when the Straford-on-Avon Canal was handed over to the National Trust. There, the waterway was handed over as a statutory navigation still with a right to carry cargo. But there the operation took two years to negotiate, with, as I have said before, no advantage in the matter. The two years that went in negotiation really produced nothing valuable; and, at the end of the proceeding, an Act of Parliament, with its resultant expense and all the rest of it, was required to put the matter through. If that manœuvre is to be carried out again, the same procedure will have to be gone through—long negotiations, followed by an Act of Parliament. Of course, the Act of Parliament would actually not be a separate Act: It would be a clause tacked on to one of the "catch-all" Bills which the Transport Commission or its successor will put through from time to time to do all their odd jobs.

We know very well that if that is the method that is suggested it will be two years at least before any such Bill can go through—and that on the Transport Commission's own evidence. Let me read to the Committee, if I may, certain parts of the Minutes of Evidence given before a Committee upstairs on the British Transport Commission Bill, the Private Bill. There, a spokesman for the British Transport Commission was asked: Why is it that the Commission, which is about to go out of existence, feels it necessary to bring in clauses now rather than leave it to its successors to start the matter afresh?

Their answer was, among other things: There would be a delay of at least a year, and perhaps more, if we had to wait for the new authority to be set up and vested with its assets".

They then go on to say—this is about the matter of abandoning waterways, but exactly the same point applies: If this matter, which is costing a lot of money, is left, first of all you will have the necessary period during which the new authority is finding its feet and shaking down, and then they have got to promote a Bill, which presumably could not now be until November, 1963, and they would not get their effective powers until some time towards the summer of 1964. In our view, this would be wrong and a dereliction of our duty to do the right thing in respect of these waterways here and now".

That is the evidence given on the closing of waterways that is going on at present. It applies also to any Bill which may be promoted to hand over the waterways to any trust which is willing to take them over. It would be two years from to-day before any waterway could be handed over.

We have heard over and over again that these waterways are costing us thousands of pounds every year, waterways, which the British Transport Commission want to get rid of, and the longer the delay, the greater the expense and the further downhill the waterways go. The sooner we get them properly handed over, the better for everyone: for the Transport Commission, for the British taxpayer, who is subsidising these waterways which the British Transport Com-the trusts which are being formed or have already been formed and want to take the waterways over.

This Amendment is a new clause: With a view to securing the preservation of any inland waterway for the use of which there is a public demand …

the Waterways Board shall give six months' notice of their intention and such notice shall say what the losses are and invite offers from any trust or institution of proper standing to accept a transfer. The Minister may by order (he is not forced to) transfer and vest any inland waterway in the body which has made the offer. He will not approve the transfer under subsection (1) unless there is a reasonable prospect of the trust's "making a go" of it, and he will make sure that there are sufficient funds to carry out what is required. There is the possibility of making an order for the temporary suspension of navigation while the job is being done. Finally, if the Minister is satisfied that there is not a reasonable chance of providing for the waterway in this manner, he may give the Waterways Board authority to go ahead and close it.

This Amendment is vital to all of us who love the waterways. We believe that this is the only method of preserving them and that many thousands of pounds will be saved if this procedure is carried out. Furthermore, if this is put in the Bill, it will satisfy the fear that the Ministry or the Commission, or possibly both, have no intention that these waterways shall survive. I hope that the noble Lord who is going to reply will state that this fear is entirely unfounded. But there is this fear that what is actually intended for the waterways is that they will be run to destruction, under various regulations which will permit traffic to be swept away by higher charges or other methods, and once they have been run to destruction they will be disposed of as so much junk. Their valuable bits, mostly in towns, will be sold off and the rest left as so much mud, so many weeds, so much wreckage and rubbish strewn across the countryside. If your Lordships accept this Amendment, I can guarantee that, in the case of every waterway which is worth while at least, we can stop that. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 54, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount St. Davids.)

5.36 p.m.


I should like to say a word, on behalf of the National Trust, in support of this Amendment. At an earlier stage my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford indicated the interest of the National Trust, and in his answer the Minister was not unsympathetic, up to a point; but I do not feel that he went as far as we should have wished. I should like an assurance that the Government have this problem really in mind.

Undoubtedly, as the Minister said on the earlier occasion, these canals were brought into use, in the first instance, for commercial purposes, but to-day they provide a valuable part of the amenities for outdoor recreation. The National Trust has been able, almost fortuitously, to rescue part of the Stratford Canal, as a result of a great deal of energetic work at the National Trust Headquarters, particularly on the part of the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee. It is important to see that we do not, as a result of this Bill and the general attitude of the transport authorities towards this problem, lose what is an extraordinarily valuable national heritage, one which has come to us in an indirect way but which could easily be completely lost. We know that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has a great interest in these problems: he has helped us on a number of occasions, and I hope that he will be able to feel sympathetic towards this.

The National Trust are anxious that no opportunity should be lost, and that is why we welcome this Amendment and are anxious that the Minister will be able to tell us that the Government are sympathetic and prepared to do something. It may be that this should be done at a later stage of the Bill. We are not wedded to this precise Amendment, but it points the direction in which we may usefully go. I hope that your Lordships will excuse me if I leave for another engagement at which I am already overdue, but I wished to make this statement on behalf of the National Trust, in view of what my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford said.


I am sure that the Committee will understand the noble Lord's enforced departure. I only hope (because I have one or two points to make which are extremely important, in view of what he said) that the noble Lord, in turn, will assure the Committee that he will carefully study the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow.


I am grateful to the noble Lord: I will study every word he says.

5.40 p.m.


Unless I am to understand that the Minister indicated support, I should like to make one point relating to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, at the beginning. Some years ago the Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, wrote a book called The Middle of the Road. We live to-day in an age of mechanical transport, and this becomes more and more so as the years go by. I make no attack upon motoring, as such; I enjoy it myself; but there is this to be considered. There are main roads and subsidiary roads. It is not unfair to suggest, vis-à-vis the pedestrian, that the motor cycle, the motor car and the mechanical transport vehicle are anti-pedestrian, and the pedestrian is in the worst position as compared with the possessors of horse-powered vehicles.

I am not arguing against anything at all, and least of all against the use of main roads and subsidiary roads by motor transport. But this thing is invading our beautiful winding lanes to a much greater degree, and especially is this so of motor cycles. I have a country cottage for weekends, and I have a granddaughter who shares that country cottage with us some weekends. I confess that I am terrified when I see that child go out of the cottage into the road, where it used to be a question of pickling flowers, of freedom and enjoying the country scene. There is living in a particular lovely and winding lane in Sussex (I had the fact in front of me only a few days ago) a mother with a young child who, for the same reason, dare not go out with that child in a bassinette to the nearest village or town market in order to purchase the goods she requires.

While I am not saying that motorists are careless, it is a fact that round those narrow and beautiful winding lanes they are a peril to young children, to elderly people and even to the ordinary person, who have little chance of getting out of their way without, to say the least, some trepidation. I suggest that we ought to consider this question not merely from one point of view or the other, but in the light of reason and fair play. There is a case for preserving amenities of that kind—the beauty of our countryside and the chance of living an open air life, with some freedom and comfort and a respect for the beauties there made available by nature. That is the only point I wish to make. I do not wish to take up more time, but I hope the Minister will accept this Amendment.


I should like to support this Amendment. I do so because it seems to me to offer a practical solution to a practical problem. The waterways are losing some £600,000 a year, and in the years ahead they may well lose more. Of course, Her Majesty's Government are quite right to wish to remove this burden from the taxpayer, even though the present loss is equivalent only to the cost of two miles of motorway. A loss is still a loss, however small. But just because the present authority have been unable to make a financial "go" of the waterways, surely that does not mean that others may not be more successful. They might conceivably be more efficient. There are responsible bodies like the National Trust, of whom we heard just now, the Inland Waterways Association, and others, who it seems are willing to try. What possible reason can there be for discouraging them? OUT railways are expensive, and our roads are overcrowded to the point of bursting. Should we not make the most of what other channels of communication are available to us? Do we really want to close them down?

Frankly, the more I go into this business the more I get the impression that the Ministry of Transport are heartily bored of waterways and wish to be rid of them. The emphasis is always on restriction and never on expansion. Indeed, the only literally constructive thing the present authority have done in recent years is to decide to build an inspection launch for the manager of the South-Eastern district. It will cost £4,000 of the taxpayers' money, and waterways-lovers have already nicknamed it, somewhat hopefully, the "s.s. Potemkin". If the Ministry are so bored with the waterways, then let them be handed over to others who are more genuinely enthusiastic. What can be the objection?

I hope that we are not going to be subjected to delaying tactics. I hope we shall not be told that the noble Viscount's Amendment is not a proper addition to this particular Bill, and that it should form the subject of a special Waterways Bill. I shall not be impressed by such an argument, nor should I recommend it to your Lordships. For when would such a Bill be introduced? In five years? In ten years? This year, next year, some time, never? When? And what would happen in the meanwhile? The rot would presumably go on. Already the intention is to close more waterways to commercial navigation, and no doubt others will be added to the list. I am inclined to believe that if the current policy continues to be applied to canals, anything up to three-quarters, or more, of our nationalised inland waterways will be closed. Out of 2,000 miles little more than perhaps 300 miles, or even less, will be left, and the nation will be denied not only the means of communication to which I have already referred but also some of the most splendid examples of engineering works this country has ever contrived.

And how will they be closed? To do the job properly, if the Nottingham Canal is any guide, would probably cost something like £50,000 a mile. So I beg leave to doubt whether that is the plan. It would cost far too much. What I believe it is intended to do is literally nothing—to let them teem and fester and decay; to leave, as I said before, a series of dismal, disconnected duck-ponds. If your Lordships do not believe me, consider what has been the fate of the Wendover arm of the Grand Union Canal, to mention only one. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, painted a grim and graphic picture of this derelict waterway when he spoke on the previous Amendment. There are others like it. The Bowes Committee described our waterways as a decaying monument to unfulfilled statutory duties. If the Minister has his way, I fear that they will merely be decaying monuments.

Is this really what your Lordships want? Is it what the country wants, or needs? Apart from their commercial value, the waterways are places of beauty and potential sources of domestic and industrial water, which apparently is badly needed at this time. If there were no practical alternative to closure, then I see that we might have to put up with this sad state of affairs for the sake of economy. But there is an alternative, and a sensible one; and it is contained in this Amendment. What possible reason can there be for refusing to take it? And if the Government do refuse, are they not simply adopting a dog-in-the-manger attitude? Are they not, to change the metaphor, behaving like a husband who is bored with his wife and says of her: "She is dowdy; she is old-fashioned; she is a frump; but I am bothered if I am going to let anyone else have her, even if another man could make her happy."

I earnestly ask the Government to accept this Amendment. It is No. 132 on the Marshalled List In the debating of the 132 Amendments dealt with so far no major concession has been made by the Government except where it has been forced upon them through defeat. It is rather disheartening. It makes a mockery of the revising function on which your Lordships' House so largely bases its continuing right to exist and, if I may say so, it sets a bad precedent for future Governments.

These Amendments are not Party political Amendments. They are carefully thought out, sensible proposals, devised often by experts who know the job at least as well as the Government and their advisers. And yet they get turned down. Frankly, one begins to ask oneself: Is there any real point in taking the trouble to table any Amendments at all if the chances of their being accepted are so utterly remote? I repeat, I earnestly ask the Government to prove me wrong, and to accept this Amendment, because if they do not, they will, I fear, stand condemned of an obduracy sufficient to make even their strongest supporters despair.


I feel inclined to support this Amendment, too. It may not be drawn in quite the right form in order to produce what the noble Viscount requires. But I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will not skirt over this Amendment and will make suggestions for its alteration. I feel that the waterways are great amenities in this country, and we should not lose sight of that. They should be preserved wherever possible.


Before I address myself to the Amendment, I will first deal with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in the course of what struck me as a speech compounded mostly of sentiment and cynicism and very little else. I cannot see how he can stand there and presume to attack the Government for not accepting a given percentage of Amendments that are put forward. This is a Government Bill, put forward as we see it. Amendments are offered, and they axe accepted or rejected. They are accepted if they are thought to be good, and they are not accepted if they are not. To try to impose some sort of ratio of acceptance, which might be on a numerical basis, a Party basis, or one of a dozen other bases, I think is simply to condemn the Government of failing in their duty to govern as they see best. Coming from the noble Earl, I really think that that is a most extraordinary and irresponsible suggestion.


Might I ask the noble Lord why, in coming from me, it should be particularly irresponsible?


Perhaps I was wrong, but I had thought that the noble Earl was more intelligent than that, and a more responsible citizen. After all, he contributes to the thought of a certain section of the population, and I should have thought that an opinion of that kind was an irresponsible one to come from him. If he prefers a lower rating, who am I to argue with him?


I am sorry to interrupt, but I must ask the noble Lord where the irresponsibility lies. I said that I thought the Government had not accepted any Amendment at all. Where does the irresponsibility lie in that?


I think it is irresponsible to suggest that the Government accept or reject Amendments on anything other than the merit of the Amendment as the Government see it. To suggest anything else, which is what the noble Earl did, I think is irresponsible.


Are we to think that all the 132 Amendments have been wrong?


That is what my noble friends Lord Mills and Lord Dundee and I have been trying at some pains to explain.

I will continue now by giving my views on this Amendment. In the process, I should like to try to rid the noble Viscount's mind of one or two thoughts I think he has. Delightfully as he did it, I do not think that he need have painted the picture—nor need the noble Lord who supported him have drawn the picture—of the delights of the canal system and of the various ways in which it contributes to the quiet, the convenience and the peace of the country. Neither I nor the Government need persuading on that. That is the first thing I should like to say. The noble Viscount painted a picture which appeals to me as a very attractive one. At the end of this Committee stage (if we ever reach it) that is probably where I shall go myself, if not to other waters—if I have not sat down by the waters of Babylon and wept.

The next thing I should like him to remove from his mind is the thought that there is some dark and dismal plot by the Minister. I cannot remember the noble Viscount's exact words, but they were something to do with letting the waterways run down to destruction. He asked for an assurance, and I will give it now. That is not what is in my right honourable friend's mind. What is in his mind is that they should not run on at a loss to the public of something in the neighbourhood of £750,000 a year.


That is my point, too.

5.58 p.m.


If the noble Viscount thinks that some sort of murder is in contemplation, that is not so. I also assure him of this. The provisions in this Bill have been designed to make it possible for the Board—indeed, to put a duty on them—to seek out methods of doing just what the noble Viscount and his supporters around the Committee want. It has been said from two or three places in the House—I believe the noble Earl, Lord Arran, said it—that there are plenty of people ready, willing and able to take over these canals. There is nothing to stop them. I thought the noble Earl was cynical in that he thought that barriers were being erected to stop that. That is not so. Indeed, it is incorporated in the Bill as a specific duty on the new Board to find ways of selling or leasing to other persons. I think the noble Viscount will agree that we are on reasonable ground there.

The next thing I should like him to rid his mind of is the idea that his Amendment is a simple one. To call it that is slightly misleading, though quite unintentionally, I am sure, because it is quite a major Amendment. It brings in a completely new concept and new procedures, as I shall show. If the noble Earl behind me does not like the argument I am very sorry about it, but the argument is none the less true. As your Lordships know, the purpose of this Bill, so far as the inland waterways are concerned, is to establish a separate public Board to take over the waterways at present owned and managed by the Commission, and to give them the requisite duties and powers for that purpose. It does not set out to deal with the general problem of inland waterways, because that would go far beyond the scope and purpose of the Bill and, rather more important, it would bear on matters going far beyond the transport field, and, in particular, involve a very complex pattern of public and special legislation relating to canals which the Bill leaves generally intact. I am quite prepared to say now that it is not difficult to foresee that there will need to be further legislation in the future regarding waterways. But that time is not now.


Can the noble Lord tell me when?


No, I cannot say when. That will be a matter which will very much depend on the activities and success of the Board which we are to-day trying to set up. Because, do not forget, a good deal is being done. A Board is being set up with the proper duties and powers which it inherits as of to-day. It is being given money and facilities, and I think the canals should be given a much better deal in order to be put on the footing on which they need to be put. Of course I cannot say at the moment; the Board does not even exist yet; we are trying to set it up. But I think there will come a time, and before very long; but, of course, I cannot say when. I should not have thought it would be in the dim or distant future, of ten or fifteen years, which the noble Earl forecast. But there will have to be canal legislation: that will be the time to consider the type of concept which the noble Viscount has put forward to us.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord on this question of timing, but in another place on April 3 the gentleman who answered for the Government said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 657 (No. 90) col. 402]: I cannot see any point whatever in waiting until the new Inland Waterways Authority"— now, of course, the British Waterways Board— which we propose in the Transport Bill, is in being. The Authority will have to face exactly the same practical problems as the Commission itself. It will have the same duty to reduce its deficit as well as it can. Where the right course is reasonably clear, as I suggest it is here, there is no justification for postponing action any longer. Why should we have to wait for the new body, when the present body could do the job perfectly well? This is the argument of the Minister himself. Why do we have a different one here?


Is the noble Viscount saying that it was the Minister who said that?


It may have been the Under-Secretary. I am afraid I do not know which of the honourable gentlemen it was.


I see. But I had not thought that that was any intention of doing other than what we are doing at the time. Without having the whole context of the note in my hand, which I have not, I should have thought the Minister was referring to the duties of the new Board to make the best possible arrangements now. That is what I should have thought, and I think he was perfectly justified in saying that. I was talking about future legislation, which I do not think was being spoken about in the same context.


He was talking about a proposal to abandon certain waterways. It seems to me that if it is a question of abandoning certain waterways or removing their statutory rights of navigation, and if that is right in future, he is quite obviously correct in saying that it is right now. And for exactly the same reason, if it is right to hand over this waterway in future, it is equally right now. Why should we wait?


I cannot accept a remark made by a Minister in one context while talking about one thing, in another context, about something else. I am afraid that I simply cannot accept what the noble Viscount has put forward in evidence. And if I may return to this point of legislation, that is the time when the system should be changed, if it is to be changed. That being so, I do not think the present Amendment can be acceptable, in view of what I said, so far as that is concerned; and on that score alone I hope that the noble Viscount will withdraw it.

We have been a longish time on this Amendment, and I do not want to speak all night on it, but there are at least half a dozen other reasons that I can, and must, touch on for resisting this Amendment. To start with, if we did what the noble Viscount wants Parliamentary control, which has always been a facet of the canals, since they were all set up in Statutes of one kind or another, would be cut out and by-passed, and control would be left purely in the hands of a Minister to make an order. That alone, I think, is unacceptable. Secondly, the present process whereby a canal is sold, leased or transferred, is a Parliamentary process, as the noble Viscount has told us; and although he rather disapproved of it, at least it has provided an opportunity for objection or petition by affected parties, bodies or individuals. They at least have an opportunity which they would not have if this Amendment were accepted.

One of the most important points is this: that if we accepted the noble Lord's Amendment that most admirable arrangement made with the National Trust for the Stratford-on-Avon Canal, which I very much enjoyed seeing a little while ago, would not have been possible. I say it as straightly as that, because the Amendment put forward leaves the Board no discretion but to transfer all its liabilities in respect of a canal. In the case of the Stratford Canal, the National Trust would not have taken it on—or so I understand. It is much more to the point that there should be a flexible procedure, allowing discussion and, as a result, waterways to be taken over by agreement.

I can tell your Lordships that there is nothing in this Bill that will make it more difficult for voluntary bodies, whoever they may be, equipped with the necessary funds, to take over canals. The Amendment would therefore be hampering to the Board in its work; and, quite frankly, I think it would hamper the voluntary bodies in what the noble Viscount and his friends—and, indeed, all of us—are quite happy to see them do. It would make a good deal more work for everybody, to no particular purpose, and would gain nothing that is not achieved by the arrangements as they are now. I am always delighted to hear of cutting down of time, but I think that the procedure proposed by the noble Viscount would probably, in the event, take just as long as the present procedure. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will not wish to accept the Amendment.

6.8 p.m.


Before the noble Viscount indicates his intention, I wonder if I might put a few points to my noble friend. I myself should like to make it clear that I do not doubt his sympathy or his affection for the canals, or his approval of the work that the National Trust has been able to do in one important case and might be able to do in others. For some of the reasons he has given, I rather hope that the noble Viscount who moved this Amendment may think fit to withdraw it at this stage, so that we can look rather carefully at what has been stated by the Minister, and consider what may be appropriate at a later stage.

The few points I wish to put are these. The noble Viscount who moved this Amendment made it clear, and I think it should never be forgotten, that not only are some of these canals valuable and beautiful things in themselves but they owe their value to being part of a system and, unless it is regarded as a system, a great national asset may be wasted. That is the first point I wish to put to Her Majesty's Government. The second point is that this Amendment, whatever may be said for or against it, has one valuable feature that I am not sure is contained elsewhere in the Bill. It does provide for a definite notice before there is any abandonment of these Waterways.


I hope that my noble friend is not implying that the present procedure does not.


I did not mean to imply that, but I am not certain if there is adequate provision as regards notice. That is one of the matters I should like to look into, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government, unless they are quite confident, will do the same. And I hope that, if they are quite confident, they will perhaps be good enough to indicate where I can find the provisions that would satisfy me.

On May 28, in my intervention on Clause 10, I indicated that the National Trust was greatly concerned with the future of our inland waterways and would always like to be consulted on the possibilities of our taking over any canal which might be threatened with abandonment. I do not think that that runs in any way counter to anything suggested by Her Majesty's Government and I hope that, by some machinery or other, that will be secured. Now let me tell my noble friend why I am not quite satisfied with what he described as a statutory duty, which should, he thought, have satisfied the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment and myself and others. I have no doubt he was referring to Clause 10 and the duty cast upon the Board to review the manner in which the inland waterways owned or managed by them, so far as not required for the discharge of their duty under subsection (1) of this section, may be put to the best use". It might be thought that "the best use" was that which would produce the greatest monetary return, but that is not necessarily the case in dealing with a great national asset of this sort. I hope that "the best use" is not necessarily that which will bring the greatest immediate return, because that might be a use which would involve their ceasing to be waterways at all.

I have sympathy with my noble friend in not wishing to delay this matter unduly. I therefore content myself with having pointed out some of the considerations which will certainly make me, and I hope may make Her Majesty's Government, consider whether they cannot meet us a little further at a later stage by embodying in the Bill perhaps some further assurance, in order to show that it is their intention that, where possible, these waterways shall be preserved as waterways, and that, where they are to be abandoned, adequate notice may be given, so that those who may be prepared to carry them on can make the necessary arrangements. I hope they will never overlook the interests of the National Trust in this matter.


I do not know that we have had any particular assurance on this matter from the Government. They have given us some very nice words, but we have had no guarantee of any particular use of any better methods. Is there any chance that they might consider my Amendment with a view to putting down some other Amendment of a slightly different kind, but on the same lines?


Beguiling invitations are flung at me, but I thought I had explained that, while there was definite sympathy with what the noble Viscount is trying to achieve—and I should like to say here and now that "best use" need not necessarily mean that which produces most money; it is rather the kind of use that the noble Viscount and his friends have in mind that would be included, in our view, under "best use"—I do not think I can give the noble Viscount any such undertaking; because if I did it would be a complete denial of my own argument. I have brought out, if I may say so—I could have developed them at much greater length, but I still do not wish to do so—six very powerful points, apart from the main point of principle; and apart from considering what has been said generally, particularly by my noble friend, Lord Conesford, and having a look at it in that light, I really cannot go any further than that; I am sorry; but I cannot.


I have heard the noble Lord's argument; and while I have great sympathy with him, and thank him very much for the nice words he said about the waterways; for saying that the Government wished them well and all the rest of it, that is about all we have had. In this matter we get words but mighty little else. Everywhere on the waterways at the moment we are faced with locks becoming more dilapidated, pounds which will not hold water and a continuous run-down of facilities. Things have been made gradually more difficult for boats the whole time, quite contrary to the statutory duties, and in spite of these statutory duties things get worse and worse. The noble Lord must realise that many of my friends have come to the conclusion that the only possible thing to do is to have some method by which these waterways can be handed over to somebody who knows how to run them, and has a love of them and an interest in making them run. Therefore, I think I must insist on this Amendment, even if the noble Lord does not like it.


Perhaps I may make a suggestion to the noble Viscount. He might be inclined to withdraw the Amendment now and put down an Amendment on Report stage to amplify the words "best use of". For I think that has an important bearing, and might satisfy him and other Members of your Lordships' House.


I wonder if I might make a suggestion to my noble friend, and that is that he should follow the suggestion just made by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham. It is true that many noble Lords, in all parts of the House, sympathise with at least something of what has been said, not only in this debate but in the one the other evening on the same subject. But I believe that many of us would find it difficult, if not impossible, to support everything that is in my noble friend's Amendment. I should have thought that sufficient had arisen out of these discussions, and the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, to enable further Amendments to be put down on Report which might prove more acceptable and achieve at least something of what we have in mind.


If the feeling of the Committee—and I think it may well be—is that that might be the better way of carrying out the objects which so many have in mind, and which I certainly have in mind, I will withdraw this Amendment now and see what further action can be taken on the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55:

The Nationalised Transport Advisory Council

55.—(1) There shall be established in accordance with this section a Nationalised Transport Advisory Council for the purpose of advising the Minister on such questions relating to the co-ordination, or any other aspect, of the nationalised transport undertakings as the Minister may refer to the Council.

6.20 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "Advisory". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 133 on behalf of my noble Leader, and I hope it will suit your Lordships' convenience if, with it, we consider Amendment No. 134, as they both go together. I approach this Amendment with some confidence because, as was pointed out in a discussion on the previous Amendment, the Government have not yet accepted any Amendment during our discussion on the Committee stage. I know that that is not true, because the noble Lord, Lord Mills, did accept one Amendment that I had the pleasure of moving; but that seems so long ago, weeks ago, that possibly noble Lords have forgotten. But since at least my average is now 132 for 1, I think it is about time that I started to improve it. That is the first reason for my confidence. The second reason is that I think I am running into form this week. That seemed to be the case yesterday, and there is no reason why it should not continue. The third and most important reason is that this is a good Amendment and, as such, obviously should commend itself to my noble friend Lord Mills.

We on this side of the Committee regard this as in fact the last chance for some common sense to be brought into this Bill. As we see it, this is the last possibility to make sure that there is some real co-ordination in the transport services. If your Lordships look at this particular clause it will be seen that subsection (1) suggests that coordination is one of the things that the Minister has in mind—in fact, he goes so far as actually to use the word "co-ordination". We must assume, therefore, that that is what is intended. But as the clause stands, the Nationalised Transport Council would be purely advisory and it can give advice only when the Minister asks for it. In these circumstances, therefore, it is nonsense to suggest that the Council will have any real co-ordinating functions. It is obvious that almost its sole use, unless the clause is amended, will be to provide an escape hatch for the Minister, so that when he is pressed in Parliament about deficiencies in the transport services he will be able to say, "I am glad to be able to assure the honourable Member that I am seeking the advice of my Advisory Council." Of course, when he says that, it will be in the fervent hope that by the time he has sought and received the advice another disaster will have befallen some other Government Department to divert attention from the point which was originally raised.

But if our Amendment is accepted the subsection would read in this way: There shall be established … a Nationalised Transport Council whom the Minister shall consult on questions relating to the coordination of the Nationalised Transport Undertakings.

In other words, we regard it as imperative that it shall be the duty of the Minister to consult this body; and it will be called the Nationalised Transport Council without the word "Advisory" in it. It would then be abundantly clear that the Council would, under the Minister and under the Government, be the supreme transport authority, and that their main function would be to secure the co-ordination in matters of common interest of the five components into which the British Transport Commission is to be split.

No Member of your Lordships' House who has taken part in our debates on this Bill will deny that on many matters of great importance there will be a vital need for co-ordination. It has cropped up time and again in debates on Amendments. Equally, no one would pretend that real co-ordination will be forthcoming from the purely Advisory Council envisaged in this clause, because it will function only when the Minister says so, and only on the subjects he selects for consideration.

The clause seeks to ensure that the Council will be a body of some importance. That is perfectly clear from the clause as it now stands, because it will have adequate staff and premises and it will include the Chairmen of each of the four Boards and of the Holding Company. In other words, the machinery for co-ordination is there as the clause now stands, on paper. All it lacks will be something to co-ordinate and the power to do it. Doubtless it will be argued that since at every step of the way the Boards' powers can be exercised only by consent of the Minister, he will be the co-ordinator. But I would submit that a Government Department is not the right machine for this sort of work. It requires experts, meeting regularly, who have day-to-day knowledge of the problems involved.

Last week, again on Committee stage, serious concern was expressed regarding the future continuing relationships between the railways and some of the major bus companies when the British Transport Commission holdings are transferred to the Holding Company. New problems will arise all over the country if branch line rail services are reduced and the London Transport Board are asked, or may wish, to extend their services in order to fill the gaps. They can do so by consent of the Minister. Important questions will also arise between the railways and the Dock Board with regard to the development of special export facilities which the railways are developing. There are many questions to be solved between the Railways Board and the Waterways Board. The development or sale of railway properties and land will also need careful consideration between the Boards. All these, and many more, questions call for the setting up of an authoritative and continually functioning body. Without it, and if virtually every important item of common interest between the Boards has to be referred to the Minister, in my view inordinate delay will be caused, and it will be impossible for the Boards really to function on commercial lines as the Government wish, and as is expressed again and again in the Bill.

It is worthy of note that the area and central transport consultative committees have power to make recommendations on their own initiative. Why on earth should not that also be the case with this, I should have thought, far more important Nationalised Transport Council? Why should they be denied the privilege? The consultative committees will look after the services from the consumer angle; the Transport Tribunal will look after appeals. Indeed, it will be interesting to know just what the Government have it in mind for this nationalised body to do—almost nothing of importance, I fear. Unless this Amendment is accepted the organisation will be just a façade.

I would submit that there is nothing doctrinaire about this Amendment. On many occasions there have been major and deep differences of opinion between noble Lords opposite and ourselves, but this Amendment is moved not on those lines at all; in fact, it accepts the situation arising from the fragmentation of the British Transport Commission into five parts. It insists that in order to make the best of what we regard as a bad job there must be a national council, with power to ensure that, so far as possible, all five bodies act in consultation and in concert with one another in matters of common concern. I would have thought that was surely what we all wanted, that this was good common sense and certainly good commercial common sense. I submit that the clause as it now stands does not provide this power, and that our Amendment does. If the Government are really serious in their desire for both freedom and coordination, they will accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 55, line 6, leave out ("Advisory").—(Lord Stonham.)


I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that this is just about the last serious attempt to ensure that there shall be a body with power to co-ordinate the activities of the nationally-owned transport undertakings, and that this should be written into the Bill. We have tried in previous Amendments to ensure that there shall be co-ordination of transport for all those areas where the Railways Board and the bus subsidiaries of the Holding Company operate, but we have failed. Here is our last chance to ensure that a body shall consider and recommend to the Minister what should be done to coordinate transport, especially where—and I stress this—the nationalised services monopolise an area.

A study of the powers and responsibilities of the Railways Board and the London Board shows an entirely different approach within the London area from that which will exist in the country generally. The Railways Board has imposed upon it a definite duty to provide railway services in Great Britain and, in connection with the provision of railway services, to provide such other services and facilities as appear to the Board to be expedient. That is a comparatively mild duty to be imposed upon it, when we consider the duty resting upon the London Board. Inside the London Board's area, the duty imposed on them is to provide or secure the provision of an adequate and properly co-ordinated system of passenger transport for the London Passenger Transport Area". Where necessary the London Board has to co-ordinate its services with those of the Railways Board; in fact the Railways Board is told that they must cooperate to that end with the London Board. Outside London the Railways Board may provide a service, provided that it is expedient to do so, and this is aimed at getting the railways out of the red.

It is not difficult, I think, for anyone to see what the Government had in mind here. Inside London there is virtually a monopoly of public transport, and the Railways Board must fit into that monopoly situation. Outside London the Government say, in effect, no monopoly position exists and therefore they need not impose, either on the Railways Board or any of the subsidiaries of the Holding Company, a duty to provide an adequate and properly co-ordinated system of transport. But I wonder: Is that true? If you run your eyes down the list in Part IV of the Fourth Schedule, you will see the bus companies whose shares are all owned by the Commission, which are to be (transferred to the Holding Company—to name only a few: the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company; Hants and Dorset Motor Services; Lincolnshire Road Car Company; Red and White Services; United Welsh Services; Western National Omnibus Company. I ask noble Lords to think of the areas they know, covered by one or other of those companies, and then to decide how near that company comes to monopolising the passenger transport service in the area. In many of them the only, and declining, competitor is the railway branch line. So that in very many parts of Britain there is a virtual monopoly, by nationally-owned passenger transport.

I think that in London, where there is a monopoly of public transport, the Government were absolutely right to impose upon the Boards concerned a duty to provide an adequate and coordinated service. Would it not be equally right and proper to impose upon the Holding Company the duty of ensuring that its subsidiaries provide an adequate and co-ordinated service where its companies and the Railways Board have a virtual monopoly of an area? I think it would be right to do that. If it is good enough for London, it surely must be good enough for some of the areas I have mentioned which are covered by the bus companies listed in the Fourth Schedule. Why is one monopoly area different from another? Why should London be specially treated in connection with the provision of services?

It might be said that this speech ought to have been made at an earlier stage of this Bill, but here we are considering co-ordination in the powers of a body set up under this Bill to endeavour to ensure that there shall be some co-ordination. We do not want this part of this Bill to be merely a piece of "window dressing"; we do not want this particular clause to be just a sop to the co-ordinators. What we want is for the Minister—the only co-ordinator left under the Bill for areas outside London—to have to apply his mind to the problem of co-ordination and to be forced to consult this Council which is to be set up. We think that this is a reasonable request and one that could very well be accepted at this stage in order to ensure that the monopoly which would occur in some parts of the country shall at least be met by an attempt to ensure that, in regard to one part of the nationally-owned transport undertakings, there shall be a system which will provide an adequate and coordinated service.


I should just like to put my noble friend Lord Stonham right with his arithmetic. To-morrow is a rather important day to some people, and he got his odds quite wrong in saying 133 to 1: actually, there were so many Amendments which had to do with changing "Inland Waterways Authority" to "British Waterways Board" that, if we left those aside, he would find his odds greatly reduced.

I should like to make it quite clear that the intention of the Government is that this Council shall be an advisory council. I could not accept his Amendment No. 133, which in effect sets up an executive council. They are not that, but an advisory council of the highest possible calibre. I think there is much to be said for their being able to offer advice without necessarily being asked for it. I am not going to follow the noble Lord, Lord Champion. I see the connection between what he had to say about the position in parts of the country outside London and this Amendment, but we debated that very fully before.

However, we do propose to amend this clause in a way which I hope will be satisfactory to your Lordships. The Amendment we intend to put forward at the Report stage of the Bill will delete the word "such" in line 7 on page 55, and the words "as the Minister may refer to the Council" in line 9 on page 55. These Amendments will remove the restriction on the Council only to discuss matters put before them by the Minister and in practice I am sure they will discuss anything for the good of the transport undertakings. If the noble Lord would accept our intention to put down such an Amendment, the clause would then read: There shall be established in accordance with this section a Nationalised Transport Advisory Council for the purpose of advising the Minister on questions relating to the coordination, or any other aspect, of the nationalised transport undertakings. I hope that, if the noble Lord cannot score another point, he might score three-quarters of a point.


I am sure we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, for making some concession. I think it is true to say, when one first notes his Amendment, that it makes a little less of a farce of the clause than is the case at the moment. If the noble Lord will excuse my saying so, one had a feeling in looking at this clause that it was never really meant to work—the noble Lord shakes his head, but I have recollections of this Government in another House. I had some responsibility for the Opposition in regard to the 1953 Act. When British Road Services were being denationalised, Members of all Parties, and the Press of Scotland, became very agitated because of the possibility of a reduced service. The Minister was in a very difficult position. The Government then had a majority of only 21—something like the position of the Government in this House to-day, for some of its own Back-benchers voted with the Opposition. Then they were in a difficult spot, a more difficult spot in another place than perhaps they are here. What did the Minister do? He said: "We will set up an Advisory Council for Scotland". The Advisory Council was set up with a flourish of trumpets. What happened then? It met once, decided it had no function to perform, and it has never met since.

Some of us have a feeling that this may now be the position in regard to this Advisory Council, because, after all, the Chairmen of the Boards and the Holding Company are busy people. The Minister is going to appoint a Chairman, but he takes the right to take the Chair whenever he feels that he wants to. We do not have a great deal of confidence, but perhaps it would be churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth, and we ought to be grateful for the concession which the noble Lord has made. But I still think we ought to have some reassurance from the Government as to where the authority for co-ordination is going to come from.

I know from my own experience as an employee of British Railways and as a voluntary trade union officer with the Commission's staff that there were occasions when there was conflict within the Commission as to certain functions to be performed—that is only natural, where you have strong personalities as officers, and where they each desire to get their own job done. But the Commission, as a Commission, and under their umbrella, were able to resolve those clashes, and they formed a very effective co-ordinating body and made the service work. There is nothing now to take the place of that co-ordinating function of the Commission and, quite frankly, I cannot see it under this clause, even though it is amended. I think we ought to have some further assurances, and perhaps we can get those when we come to the Amendments on the Report stage which the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has promised.


I will just say this. If noble Lords opposite would use the word "efficiency" as often as they use the word "co-ordination", I am sure we should make much more progress.


It is synonymous.


It is not true that this is simply "a device". We are setting up a body which could honestly advise the Minister. Its members have all the parts under their command and it should function properly and wisely.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, and to the Government, for the way they have met us on this Amendment. I am sorry that I got my figures wrong, because, like the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, I do not include the water undertakings Amendment, and he well knows that both of us are rather more in favour of taking less water with it than more. But I feel that on this matter the Government have granted us the whole substance of the Amendment, and, whatever the runs are, it is now two wickets.

I feel that in accepting this Amendment the Government now mean that the Advisory Council will give advice on matters on which they wish to give advice. They will not now have to wait for the Minister to refer matters to them. The fact that the Council will consist, in part at least, of the five Chairmen of the constituent Boards will, I should think, not only ensure its efficiency, but ensure that it will be a live body, because I cannot imagine any Chairmen of any of these undertakings being other than first-class individuals in every possible way. Now that they have the power, now that the Government have agreed, as it were, to give this Council teeth, I am quite sure that they will be used, and used to good, efficient purpose. I am most grateful for the Government's action, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56:

The Transport Consultative Committees


(5) Nothing in the last foregoing subsection shall entitle any committee to consider the charges made for any service or facility, or to consider any question relating to the discontinuance or reduction of railway services except as provided in the following provisions of this section; and the Central Committee shall not be obliged to consider any representation which appears to them to be more suitable for consideration by an Area Committee or which has been previously considered by an Area Committee.


This Amendment is drafting. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 57, line 2, leave out ("function") and insert ("duty").—(Lord Chesham.)


I suggest that it might be to your Lordships' convenience if we adjourned the Committee.

[The Sitting was suspended at eleven minutes before seven o'clock and resumed at eight o'clock.]

8.0 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved, in subsection (4), after "Boards" to insert "or Transport Companies". The noble Lord said: I think it will be convenient, if your Lordships agree, that, with this Amendment, we should take Amendments Nos. 136, 137 and 138. They are all connected, and at this late hour, and at this stage of the Bill, I think that one debate on the four Amendments would facilitate the business of the Committee.

The consultative committees, to which this Amendment refers, have done some excellent work in the past, but I do not think that anyone could claim that they have been as effective as they ought to have been. One of the reasons for their lack of effectiveness has perhaps been that the general public have not taken the fullest advantage they could of them, and those who have taken advantage of them have generally been parties interested in the organisations. This Amendment is designed to turn these consultative committees into Transport Consultative Committees, as the heading to Clause 56 calls them. In their present form, they are not really Transport Consultative Committees: they are merely consultative committees on the question of railways. This Amendment would bring in all the companies that are in Part IV of the Fourth Schedule, to which my noble friend Lord Champion made some reference when speaking to an Amendment on a previous clause.

We have to face the fact that we are cutting out railway branch lines and that there is a diminishing of railway facilities on main lines in rural areas. Although I have some reservations, one cannot but agree that many of these closures are correct. Our railway system was built up well over 100 years ago, and what was good then is not necessarily good for the pattern of British trade, industry and commerce to-day. There have been changes in transport facilities, and all the rest of it, and therefore some change in facilities has to be accepted. I think that if we are going to accept these changes in facilities and there is the general requirement that there should be some other facilities provided, the passenger road services and the freight road services must be brought into the consultative committee work.

There are many areas in which the branch lines have already been closed, and more branch lines will be closed. Bus companies do, perhaps, for a while, provide some sort of facilities at the commencement of the closing of a branch line, but then, for economic reasons, they change the route, or perhaps discontinue the service altogether. At the present time there is no effective public voice, and I feel that this series of Amendments will give to the consultative committee, from the point of view of the public, the opportunity to be heard. It is not a nice thing to have to admit, when dealing with a Transport Bill in 1962, that there are areas of this country worse off for transport facilities than they were 60 years ago. And more areas will come into that category unless we take practical steps to give the public an effective voice in their provision.

During the debate on the previous clause, some weeks ago now, I instanced the fact that Ayot, a village just 25 miles from London and situated on the A.l, had lost its railway station and then its bus service and had no transport facilities whatsoever. There was a certain amount of Press and television publicity—perhaps it was a bit "catty" for the Press—and since then I have had a number of letters from all over the country about villages in a similar situation. One letter I had from an old lady said that she was worse off now than in the village where she was born and grew up. They lost their railway station. At one time they had a bus, but, because there were so few passengers, the bus goes along the main road only and she is 4i miles from the main road. She wrote that the only opportunity she has of going into the market town is on the back of the motor bike of her grandson, and at 75 she is not enthusiastic about it.

If, as a nation, we require that these folk rendering service in agriculture and in the agricultural subsidiary industries should live in remote places off main roads and trunk routes, then there is a duty on us to provide facilities for their voices to be heard effectively when transport facilities are tampered with. If we do not, it is no good noble Lords opposite bleating about the depopulation of the countryside. People who live in these parts, performing functions useful to the community, are entitled to a reasonable standard of transport, and just because it is uneconomic for those few it ought to be made economic in conjunction with services used by the many who live in less rural areas. That can come about only if there is consultation and if, through consultation, there is responsibility for the provision of the services we think ought to be provided.

The intention of this group of Amendments is to give the opportunity for that consultation. In these days of the decline of facilities, we have the duty to give the consultative committee the widest range of activity in order to see that where one facility is withdrawn, another is provided, and if that should be not economic it is not again taken away without some effective consultation and protest about it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 57, line 6, after ("Boards") insert ("or Transport Companies").—(Lord Lingren.)


I have listened with attention to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord and I thought he went a little wide of the point covered in the Amendments. I will come back to that in a minute. I should like to begin by discussing exactly what it is the noble Lord's Amendment would achieve. If these Amendments were accepted, it would in effect enable representations to be made to the apropriate user's committee about the activities of the nationalised bus undertakings, the nationalised road haulage undertakings and some of the shipping companies. These range fairly wide. They range from companies in which all the shares are at present owned by the Commission, down to companies in which they have merely a holding but not control.

Under Section 6 of the Transport Act, 1947, as amended by Section 18 of the 1953 Act, it is only the services and facilities provided by the Commission, and passenger road transport services provided by a body corporate which is directly or indirectly controlled by the Commission, which are covered by the Users' Committee. Therefore, to start with, the Amendment would bring within the Committee's jurisdiction a number of undertakings which are not wthin their jurisdiction at the present time.


That is agreed.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his agreement, which makes my next point easier. As he knows, one of the main purposes of the Bill is to bring under the control of the Holding Company those of the Commission's present activities which ought, in the view of the Government, to be operated in a commercial framework similar to their private enterprise counterparts with whom they are, in fact, in competition. The main object of the Users' Consultative Committees was to provide consumer redress in the case of a nationalised monopoly. This need does not exist any more, to any great extent, as regards the activities which will be grouped under the Holding Company. The nationalised road haulage and bus undertakings will either be encountering competition, or be open to it. They will not be the monopoly that was in mind at the time, and, therefore, they should not be fettered (I am a little apologetic at using that word, which has become rather hackneyed) in that way.

Historically, the principal reason why the nationalised bus undertakings were specifically brought within the ambit of the Committees by Section 18 of the 1953 Act was this. It was feared at the time that when the Commission took them over they would allow their railway interests to prevail and swamp the bus interests. This argument loses all its force now that the railways will be under the Railways Board and the bus companies will be separately under the Holding Company. I think the bus undertakings, the companies, that will be under the Holding Company should be on the same footing as the private municipal bus undertakings with which they are generally in competition; and those undertakings are not subject to any control or appeal to the Transport Users' Consultative Committees, but only to the jurisdiction of the Traffic Commissioners.

The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, was worried, as I understood it, about what would happen—he inferred that the provision was not sufficient—when there was a proposal to withdraw a bus service which had, to start with, been provided where a railway service had been discontinued. In fact, I think the position is fully safeguarded by Clause 56 as it stands, in that every closure, where objection has been made, requires the Minister's consent. In giving that consent, the Minister can attach conditions which he can vary from time to time—it is not a once and for all consent—or he can give directions to the Railways Board or London Board from time to time. So he can give his consent on any or all of these conditions: first, that where there is an existing alternative bus service, whether run by a nationalised bus company or not, the railways, as a condition of consent to the closure, shall ensure that an equivalent bus service is maintained——


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but there is nothing like having a concrete example. We have the case of the village of Ayot which was mentioned previously, and the noble Lord, Lord Mills, in his reply said, "London Transport can look at it to-morrow. You cannot expect me to be able to answer that now". He had every right to say that. However, the Minister has had three weeks to take this concrete example of one village on the A.l within 25 miles of London, and there are many others. What has been done about it? They had a railway station and a bus service; now they have neither a railway station nor a bus service. They are worse off than they were 60 years ago.

8.17 p.m.


The noble Lord has made that point more than once.


But the noble Lord has not answered it.


The noble Lord has made it twice—that is more than once. If he would kindly bear with me for a minute or two, I shall reach that point. I was talking about how Clause 56 provided for the contingency which he feared. The second point which it provides is that the Board which closes down a railway service shall assist in the provision of additional bus services, again whether run by a nationalised bus company or not, and shall inform the Minister of any proposal to vary the services that they provide. Thirdly, he can attach as a condition that the Board shall themselves provide, through the powers that they will have under Clause 4, substitute bus services, and that they shall not vary such services without his consent.

If, then, there is a proposal to vary that kind of bus service—that is, one that has been provided in place of a railway closure—the Minister can vary the conditions of his consent or, by giving a direction to the Board, he can require them in the cases I have mentioned either to provide or to help in the provision of the necessary bus services, and he could also require them to continue the assistance they are giving or the service they are providing. So there is really very little ground for the noble Lord's fear. Above that, he can also, under the clause, obtain a fresh report from the area committee when he wishes. As a matter of interest, the number of complaints made to the T.U.C.C.s about the nationalised bus undertakings which the noble Lord wishes to include has been very small over the last six years. I understand that in the six areas where the Commission's bus interests predominate, only about half a dozen complaints have been dealt with in each area. I gather that none of them related to the withdrawal of bus services. This is the point. It is always open to users of bus services to lodge complaints about poor service with the Traffic Commissioners.

I do not know whether the lady the noble Lord quoted has done that thing, because—and this is where he went, I thought, a little wide of the Amendment—he touched on the whole question of rural bus services, which was, as he knows, the subject of another study, about which I can and should say no more now because we are engaged in something else. His lady has really covered in another way the subject of a separate study about which no doubt a great deal more will be said in due course. Therefore, for the reason I have stated, I hope that he will not see fit to press his Amendment.


I must say that we are in some dilemma. The reply that has been given by the noble Lord to what we regard as an important Amendment would hardly rate as being satisfactory, in spite of the charm with which it was delivered. My dilemma is this: that under Standing Orders, in a Committee a quorum of thirty is required. My noble friends feel that this is an important Amendment and I suspect that if we press it now a quorum may not be found. In fact, I think there are fewer than sixteen Members in the Chamber this evening who have listened to this debate and to the arguments that have been made by the Minister and by my noble friends. Being a Whip, and certainly not liking the Government, I might like to seize an opportunity of scoring yet another victory over the Government. That I certainly do not wish to do. But Clause 56 is a very important Clause. It is in fact the only clause in the Bill which one might call a "consumer protection clause." It is the clause which sets up the Transport Consultative Committees. Those Committees, in my view, are restricted in what they may consider and what they may advise, but at least they are the only protection—the noble Lord shakes his head. In my view they are the only guardian between the consumer, the Board and the Minister.

There are other Amendments, some of which are in my name, but I am in some difficulty here. I think we ought to consider this clause very carefully. I do not know what the view of my noble friend is to the reply that has been given by the Government, but I do not want to make it an issue because I rather fear the consequence to future business. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Mills, taking into account the importance of Clause 56, would consider that we could, with the permission of the Chairman, move from this clause to the next stage of the Bill so that when we have a fuller Committee we can consider Clause 56, which, as I said earlier, is the consumer protection part of the Bill. When we have a fuller attendance there could be discussion and, if necessary, a Division in which there is an expression of view.

What I am saying is no criticism of noble Lords opposite—I feel very conscious of the shortcomings of my side also—but this is a very important clause. I hope that the Government will consider the importance of it and whether or not it could be moved—I believe it is possible—that we consider the clause at a later stage, because I think it well warrants that attention.

8.25 p.m.


The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd has put himself most charmingly on the horns of a dilemma, and in the process of doing so he has rather put me on one too, because I do not know quite what I ought to say. Procedurewise it seems to me that, by passing one drafting Amendment, we have already commenced consideration of Clause 56. I think I am right in saying that there are now 23 noble Lords present in the Chamber; I have no idea if there are any others elsewhere. I rather wonder whether what the noble Lord suggests—not that there is anything very objectionable in that—is not a sort of interference in the normal work of the House. After all, it is not his fault, even though he is a Whip, or mine (I am not a Whip), that there are not many noble Lords here. It rather occurs to me to wonder whether, on the next occasion when we might be considering this, there will be many more, and whether the number would be sufficient to satisfy the criteria which he applies to the importance of this Amendment. I am not resisting what he has said, but I am, quite frankly, casting a little doubt on the proposal that our consideration of this Clause should be deferred.


I do not quite know who is the fairy, whether it is the noble Lord opposite or myself, but there seems to have been a considerable improvement in the attendance since I rose to speak. Therefore, I will certainly not press this. I did wonder, particularly when my noble friend was deploying what I thought was a very good argument, in view of the extraordinary thinness of the House and the importance of this clause, whether it was right we should proceed in our consideration of it now. I do not know whether or not my noble friend wishes to have an expression on his Amendment, but there is certainly a considerable improvement opposite, and I believe that there has been one also on my side; so perhaps we might continue.

My noble friend has moved this Amendment. The noble Lord replied mainly in regard to bus services. But, of course, apart from bus services we must consider the freight side; and the freight certainly would be included if my noble friend's Amendment was accepted, because in the Holding Company is this very large organisation of British Road Services. The entire accent right through the debate has been that the Holding Company must make what it can for the public purse. Those of us in business know that that means that you trim your sails; you operate for the best advantage, the best profit; and in many respects that means the cutting out of services and, on some sides, possibly, cutting out a particular field of operation.

We shall revert later to the problem of Scotland and Wales, which I think should dominate this House; and I must say that I again regret the absence of some of our Scottish friends, who certainly will be more involved than perhaps we who live in the South of England. But it would be a matter of very great regret—and I think it would be a very great tragedy, to Scotland—if some of the activities of British Road Services were to be withdrawn because their operations did not meet up, to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mills, with the commercial aspects of the Holding Company.

This is a most important matter. I think that these committees that are being set up must look carefully at matters that are put before them, not only with regard to passenger transport but equally with regard to freight. I know that the noble Lord has come armed—I will not say with his instructions, but with advice from his Ministry. But I think that the great point is that when these committees consider the services and facilities provided by the Boards they should also take into account road transport, whether passenger or freight. We must consider transport in this country not merely in terms of rail, but also in terms of road, not in terms of competition but as complementary, the one with the other. There are many areas, even on the passenger side, within which the companies listed in the Schedule provide the only form of transport. It may be that competitors, private enterprise, will step in if the State organisation decides not to operate a service; but I think it is highly questionable whether they would. Therefore, when one considers what may well be the pattern that will arise in the next three or four years, I think that we should give some consumer protection. We cannot deal with the private operator at present. We may feel that we should look at the manner in which licences are granted to the private operator. But at least within the organisation which is State-owned are we not entitled to say what shall be operated and, if it is decided to withdraw a service, that at least the consumer should have the opportunity to object?


The noble Lord, as always, makes a good case, and he has gone, as he has before, some way to revealing a fairly fundamental difference on this point. This Bill, as all your Lordships know, sets out to give commercial freedom to these undertakings, and to give the users the protection which it is considered they need in certain circumstances. What the noble Lord is suggesting, in our view, goes too far, and certainly his last argument—I understand quite well why he put it forward—is something which I think is unfair to these nationalised undertakings. To subject them to the control, so to speak, of these committees when their competitors are not so subjected is, I should have thought, something of which noble Lords opposite have always complained. They have spoken of wasteful competition and that sort of thing, and the noble Lord's remarks were in direct contravention of that argument. It may be that at some date in the future we may look at this or we may look at that. But I do not believe that that time has yet come, and I certainly do not believe that the companies to be grouped under the Holding Company should be subjected to this control when their competitors are not, for if that were done the commercial freedom which the Bill seeks to give them would be hampered.


This is most unsatisfactory. We do not really get a reply from the Government on points and specific cases that are put to them. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has had at least three weeks to deal with the one case of Ayot——


And I have answered it.


There has been no answer. I do not blame London Transport. It is a question of profit. This Government are prepared to deal only with those sections of the services which are profitable. You can go up the road and serve a community of 4,000 to 6,000 people, and quite rightly, with the pressure that is put on the Government, they ignore the service previously provided for groups of 60 or 70 people, of whom perhaps in any one day only five or six might use the service. We are dealing here with public transport, whether it be run by private enterprise or by a nationalised industry. Lord Chesham said that a nationalised industry should not be penalised by having to deal with the Transport Consultative Committees when private enterprise competitors do not have to. I would agree: put your private enterprise competitors under them too. It is public transport and, as such, ought to provide a service to the public.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, tells us that the Traffic Commissioners are in existence. But the Traffic Commissioners function only when an application is put to them as to whether or not there is a public need. There is no question of private enterprise going in where there is no chance of a profit. Therefore, there is not the slightest chance of private enterprise providing a service in these isolated areas. I am sorry if I am perhaps being a little more incisive than is usual in your Lordships' House, but the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, talks about this Bill and the responsibility that it places upon the Board to provide a service if the Minister makes a requirement, and so on. How can you do it? I, should like to tell the noble Lord this. In my experience in transport, of both rail and road, if a rail branch line does not pay in a rural area on a cross-country route, then a bus service will not pay. That is why bus services are not provided by private enterprise. That is why certain of the bus services which used to be provided are not now being run. This is why in Northamptonshire bus services axe now confining their operations to the main roads, and not running to the villages that lie off them.

We are here to protect the public, and the noble Lord said nothing whatever about whether the folk who live in the isolated villages will have to suffer from being completely isolated and worse off than they were 60 years ago. In those days they at least had the horse and cart. But there are not the horses any more, even if there are the carts. I should have thought that we had got beyond the era of the stage coach. This Government, which is supposed to consider service to the public, is prepared to do nothing for these people. If Lord Chesham says that there is no responsibility on the part of Her Majesty's Government to give the public facilities for complaint when there is no service provided, either by private enterprise or by nationalised transport, then I am afraid this is a sorry day for this country.

If we are going back to the position in which the only route that is provided, whether it be road or rail, is the one which shows a direct profit, then it is a complete negation of the acceptance of responsibility for transport. Irrespective of the conception of the Tightness or wrongness of a Whip, I am afraid I cannot accept the answer of the Government. I would advise my noble friends to go to a Division on this Amendment on the basis that we stand for the public service, and that in considering the individuals who are required by our economy to live in isolated areas, we owe them a duty to see that they have facilities for contact with their friends in the urban areas.


I am sorry that a good deal of what I said went over the noble Lord's head. I think that perhaps when he comes to look in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow at what I said, he will find that I had answered his questions a little more thoroughly than he supposes. But I must go back to what I said earlier, and the remarks that have just fallen from the noble Lord opposite really consist of remarks which are about 50 per cent. political, and the other 50 per cent. are still somewhat wide of the subject we are discussing.


I am sorry to interject, but what is this Bill if it is not political? It is not a Transport Bill; it is a political Bill destroying the British Transport Commission. The noble Lord cannot accuse me of being political. He is a member of a political Government. They are there in order to give private enterprise greater facility, and to destroy nationalised public transport.


Yes, I know the noble Lord has his brief. It is rather dusty——


I have not had mine from a Box.


If the noble Lord cares to refer to my speech, for instance, or that of my noble Mend on Second Reading, he will find how wrong he is. But if he holds those views in that way, I cannot help him. All I can do is to address myself to the Amendment and answer as best I can the questions which the noble Lord puts forward. There is really little I can add, because he has completely disregarded the answer I gave. He has kept well away, and has endeavoured to cover the whole subject of rural bus transport, which this Bill does not seek to cover. I have already said that that is a matter for different consideration on which no doubt much will be said in due course. I think those were my words. The noble Lord must remember also that the traffic commissioners have a duty to pay regard to the needs of the area as a whole, including the provision of unremunerative services. In the cases that the noble Lord puts forward, notably that of the lady of Ayot, who perhaps will go down to fame——


A lady of 75.


Yes, but she is typical.


No, she did not live at Ayot. If I conveyed the impression that the lady to whom I referred lived at Ayot, I did not mean to do that. I was referring to Ayot, because I know the conditions very well. The lady was only one of a number of those from whom I have received letters, and she lived in the Midlands.


I am sorry to confuse the noble Lord's ladies; but it seemed to me that the noble Lord's lady of Ayot was beginning to give rise to a promising limerick. But, more seriously, there is this duty on the traffic commissioners, and I do not think the noble Lord should brush aside quite so lightly the point I made about the duty they have to consider such services. Of course, it is in the noble Lord's judgment whether he finds my answer completely unconvincing and unsatisfactory, and I must simply leave it to him.


I am sorry to intervene again, but the noble Lord has again referred to rural bus services. The Government have had the Jacks Committee Report before them for over three years. There has been no move by the Government. It has taken them three years, and we have heard nothing. It did not take them long to get this Bill after the 1959 Election, when we were hoping to get some legislation in regard to rural bus services.


I think the noble Lord will agree with me that he is rather overlooking the fact that to-day almost every family has its own car. The noble Lord said that years and years ago they were far better off, because they had the horse and cart. But to-day almost every agricultural labourer has his own car.


No, No!


Yes, they do. It is complete nonsense to say that the position is far worse than it was 60 years ago.


We heard an honourable Member of another place, Lord Hinchingbrooke, talking about silver plate in council houses, and how he was asked to stop for cocktails after he had had tea, whereas, in his ancestral home, they had a job to meet the mortgage. Now we are talking about every rural worker, on his £8 15s. a week, having his own car. There are some who have, it is true; and there are some lads who have a motor-cycle. I refer again to the old lady of 75 who wrote to me admitting her son had a motorcycle. But to make generalisations such as the noble Viscount has just made is completely unrealistic.

I am the first to admit that the change in social conditions, the fact that far more people in a general stratum of society have their own transport facilities to-day, makes the provision of public transport, both road and rail, a great difficulty. I do not want to keep bringing in this village of Ayot, which has a population of only about 90 families, but, if the noble Viscount wants it, I should think it is quite true that a good half of that population, many of whom are commuters, have motor cars of their own. That, again, makes it a greater difficulty for public transport. But our job, I take it, is to see that facilities are available for the public as a whole, and I think it is unfair to generalise and to say that every agricultural labourer has his own means of transport. It is no more true to-day that every agricultural worker has his own means of transport than it was true that he had his own horse: nor is it true that he follows hounds in it.


With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, as an employer of agricultural labour I must entirely disagree with him. Most of my agricultural labour does have its own car; and that applies to estate labour as well. I am sorry, but I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on that point.


All my agricultural labourers have their own cars, and two of them have two cars each.


These confessions are really delightful. Of course we should have expected that all the employees of the noble Earl, Lord Buckinghamshire, and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, would have a car each, and we are not at all astonished that two of the noble Viscount's employees have two cars. The only point in our minds is how they manage to drive both of them together. But, just to put this matter back on a reasonable plane, I think it is the case that there are some 15 or 16 million families in this country and about 6 or 6½ million private cars, some of which do not go; so that it is something of an overstatement to say that every family in the country has its own car.

I do not want to pursue this matter unduly, but our great difficulty on this side of the House is that we feel very strongly that when this Bill becomes law, and when the Boards begin to operate and the Railways Board come to the Minister, or to the appropriate body, and say that they must suspend a service in a particular part of a rural area, there will be no form of transport, whether publicly or privately owned, in that area. We regard that as an extremely serious matter, and I know that noble Lords opposite also regard it as a serious and important matter. Our difficulty is that nothing that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has removed that difficulty from our minds, and that is why we feel we must take a strong line with regard to these particular Amendments; and why, in the absence of greater satisfaction, we shall have to ask our noble friends to divide the House.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

8.50 p.m.

LORD MILVERTON moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "or reduction". The noble Lord said: In rising to move this Amendment, may I say at the beginning how delighted I am at the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that this House should act as a sort of thermometer and when the attendance is too low we should stop business in hand and proceed by a series of erratic starts. But I would remind him that he stands for justice for consumer demand, and so do I. The idea that noble Members of this House who do not happen to live near it should come here not knowing what sort of business they were expected to consider, which is apparently the idea put forward by the noble Lord, and that, when the attendance sank below a certain amount, we should stop the business and go on to something which, in his or somebody's opinion, was more trivial, would really introduce complete chaos into our proceedings.


The fact that I do not oppose the noble Lord does not mean that I concede his point.


Clause 56 is an important one, dealing with the composition and powers of the Transport Consultative Committees. The general powers which they are granted, to make recommendations about services and facilities provided by the Railways Board or the London Board, are curtailed in subsection (5), whereby, inter alia, they cannot consider any question relating to the discontinuance or reduction of railway services except as provided in the following provisions of this section. It provides that they may consider a proposal of a Board to discontinue a railway passenger service from any station or on any line, but they are given no power whatsoever to consider a reduction of a railway service.

In the Second Reading debate the Minister said that the consultative committees would continue to deal with the quality of the services provided by the Boards", but he also stated that— the partial reduction of a railway passenger service would not involve much in the way of social considerations. In the opinion of local authorities, the frequency of a service is an important element in what the Minister described as the quality of the service, and it is surely evident that a substantial reduction of services does involve social considerations. It would be possible, for instance, for a Board to reduce a railway passenger service to one train a week, and this reduction would be outside the scope of discussion in the Consultative Committee. I suggest that this reading is not justifiable, and accordingly The Amendment proposed in my name would bring the reduction of services within the competence of the Consultative Committee. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 57, line 25, leave out ("or reduction").—(Lord Milverton.)


May I support the noble Lord and at the same time speak to my Amendment on the same point, which, if the noble Lord does not mind my saying so, has more point to it. I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord that there may be a situation where the Railways Board may decide to curtail a service to such an extent that there is not an adequate service to the community. If to-day there are on a line 20 services a day, and it is not economic, then I think it is reasonable that the Railways Board should decide that a reduction must take place. But, coming back to the whole point that we have discussed from time to time, as to what is adequate for the community, I think that when a service has been reduced beyond a certain stage there is a case for giving a local authority, or some community association, the right to object to the Board and to the Minister. Perhaps most of us have a motor car, but a considerable number of people who have not a motor car would like to have one. It is not because they cannot afford one, but they are possibly infirm, aged; or maybe too young. Therefore there is a case for insisting that some adequate service should be provided, particularly for the outflung communities, and especially at those times of the day when youngsters are going to or leaving school, and workers are going to or leaving their work.

Therefore I support the Amendment that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and I would ask the Government, if there is to be a major reduction—not so much (it is hard to find the word) a reduction in number, but that there is not to be a service provided when it is needed—to see that a local authority or an association representing the community opinion should have the right to make a case to the Board and to these consultative committees. I hope that the noble Lord will see the wisdom of our words on this matter, and that, if he does not accept either the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, or my own, he will look for some words so as to provide these people who are dependent on public transport, and particularly railway transport, with a service adequate for their needs.


The noble Lord who has just sat down has not forgotten that in the working agreements which still exist between the railways and many bus companies a bus service can be forced upon the bus company by the railways.

8.58 p.m.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for speaking to the same point, and I am glad to have this chance of discussing the matter, because it seems to me that there is here a slight degree of misapprehension, and I should like to clear it up. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, would agree, whether you say "reduction" or the greater part, it is really a question of quantification: because, after all, if there are 100 trains a day and you continue to run 99, that is a reduction, although probably not a significant one; and if you run three trains a day and reduce it to two, that is a large part of the service, although this too may not be significant—one does not know; it depends on the circumstances of the reduction. Therefore, I think the same point applies to both Amendments.

What applies to them is, of course, the fact that the main object of the Bill is to confer on the Boards commercial freedom. That has been said a dozen or more times, and I think is generally understood, if not agreed. In any business it is surely the management who have the job of deciding what is to be provided for sale by way of goods or facilities—that is, what they can properly provide with commercial freedom to do so. The Bill accordingly provides redress as regards railway passenger closures (with which I think the noble Lord will agree) where real hardship will be caused. It already provides that; and it also provides for quality of service offered by the Boards. Therefore, since there is provision for railway passenger closures, we can leave those aside.

What the Bill seeks to achieve is freedom for the Boards to reduce the frequency of freight services. The point is—and this, I think, is where the misapprehension arises—that the user is still left with an avenue for complaint about the adequacy of service and quality of service; and that includes the frequency of services at any given time. That does not detract from the freedom of the Board to carry into effect changes which are properly the responsibility of the management concerned. It means, in effect, that in the event of a reduction of service the user has the right of complaint ex post facto: that is, when the reduction has actually happened and he knows that he is aggrieved in some way, or is not served. The point is that, were it to be otherwise, the complaints put in by the user to the committee would thereby hold up the Board from making the reduction they considered desirable until such time as the differences had been resolved.

The essential difference between reductions and closures is that where there is a closure the facilities, even including the railway track, may be removed. In the case of reductions, of course, they are not removed. Therefore, I think it is reasonable that users should have the right of complaint after a reduction, because it is perfectly possible, if the Committee so recommend and the Minister is so persuaded, to restore the service to what it was before. Therefore, I do not think that it is very unreasonable to leave things in the way they are in the Bill. The essential point is that the safeguard written into the Bill about closures is to protect and safeguard the consumer against hardship which is caused by an irrevocable step in the form of a closure when the facilities may be removed while, on the other hand, preserving the freedom of the management to carry its decisions into effect where no such effects immediately occur. It leaves an avenue of complaint to the user. That is exactly what we intended to achieve in the Bill and, quite frankly, I think the Bill achieves this and is best left as it is.


While thanking the Minister for his reply, if I may I should like to ask one question. Am I right in assuming that his point is that, while giving no right of complaint, the consultative committee dealing with reduction makes provision for the quality of the service to be considered? That, interpreted in my language, is throwing the burden of proof on the consuming public and taking it away from the railway administration. Is that not so?


The burden of proof is going to be thrown on to the public in either case, and, quite frankly, the public is very much better able to complain when it knows what it has to complain about than it is able to complain in advance of what it imagines it will have to complain about.


I do not feel disposed to carry that any further, but it does not seem to me quite right that you should insist on the public's having to prove that a service is inadequate in quality rather than that the railway administration should have to prove that it was right to reduce it. It is a different angle of vision, is it not?


It is an angle of vision certainly, and it is also most certainly different. There I agree; but I should have thought that no administration could be certain of the adequacy of its services unless there either were or were not complaints about it.


In my usual moderate language, while not feeling adequately satisfied I do not wish to carry the Amendment any further, and I ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD SHEPHERD moved to leave out subsection (13) and insert: (13) Any person who has lodged an objection under this section shall have the right to be heard in public by the Committee; and a Committee may hear in public (but not in private) representations made on behalf of a Board.

The noble Lord said: May I refer your Lordships to subsection (13)? As I read this subsection, so far as the Committee are concerned its provisions regarding how they shall hear an objection that may be raised on a rail closure are permissive. I think it is generally accepted that when there is an objection in this matter an inquiry should be held; and I believe that is basically the purpose of setting up the Transport Consultative Committee. I am not entirely satisfied that the Committee should merely have permissive powers to consider objections that may be raised by competent authorities, and that these should necessarily be held according to the Committee's decision, either in public or in private. The purpose of my Amendment is quite clear: It is to provide that any person who has lodged an objection under subsection (9) shall have the right to be heard by the Committee in public.

We welcomed this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Franks, whose name is often mentioned in this House in connection with the Franks Committee. That Committee looked into the question of public inquiries, and, to summarise, I think it said that public inquiries should, if possible, be held in public; their reports should be published; the community should know that the inquiries are being held; and justice shall not only be done but shall clearly be seen to be done. Therefore I strongly urge on the Committee that where these inquiries are held—and I think they should be held where there are to be railway closures which may have a considerable effect in a community, both to industry and on the social side—they should be held in public; that the objectors should be able to deploy their arguments; that the Board should be able to produce their case; and that the objectors should be able to have the opportunity to question the evidence of the Board, and vice versa. I think there is considerable merit in the proposal that these Committees should be held in public, and therefore I beg to move that this Amendment be accepted.

Amendment moved— Page 59, line 19, leave out subsection (13) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Shepherd.)

9.10 p.m.


Of course there is nothing to hide in this matter. If I thought there was anything to hide, so to speak, I should be entirely in sympathy with the argument put forward by the noble Lord. There is not, and it is not the intention that there should be anything to hide. That is why the Bill is drafted in the way that it is, stating quite clearly that where the Committee hear representations orally they shall hear both sides in public, and I think it is perfectly right that they should. The only way in which I do rather fall out with the noble Lord is really on a question of machinery; it is not on a question of principle. I think that these things should be heard in public, and that is what the Bill provides for. Where I fall out with him is that I think the discretion of the Committee to hear cases orally in public should be left with them. I do not think it should be made obligatory on them.

They ought first to be able to decide, after they have had the first facts of an objection, whether they need to hear it orally or whether they do not. I think that is a discretion which it is reasonable should be left with them. If it is made mandatory, at the instance of the objector (which the noble Lord's Amendment does), that anyone who has an objection shall have a right to be heard, it may result in very prolonged proceedings for the committee. It might easily happen that there would be twenty people or more who wanted to make the same point, all of whom could claim the right to be heard; and the committee may be debarred—the noble Lord may say that in practice they would do it—from making an arrangement whereby somebody came forward to make the same case for the twenty objectors. With this Amendment all twenty could insist on making the same case individually.

The other thing that worries me slightly is that if each and every objector had the right to insist on being heard orally, I should have thought it would tend to make them refrain from putting forward cases in writing. They would simply object without adding any particular grounds and make the case orally later on. As the committees are in fact voluntary bodies and are fully representative of users, I think they are unlikely to be restrictive about deciding in what circumstances they should hear oral representations; and I do honestly think that if we accepted this Amendment it would make the work of the committees at least very cumbersome, possibly very prolonged. I think they should have left with them discretion as to whether or not they hear cases orally.


I concede that the noble Lord has a point in regard to machinery. But, anticipating some of the feelings that may arise, I still feel that the Government would be well advised to see that where important factors are involved these inquiries are held in public, even if that is not necessarily required by Statute. The Bill already deals With what are regarded as frivolous representations: the committees do not need to take account of them. I do not quite know what one would regard as a frivolous objection. The Government may regard some of the Amendments that are moved by noble Lords opposite and from this side as frivolous, and would not consider them. I do not know how a Committee is to come to a decision on that.

I will not press this Amendment, but with my friends will give it further consideration. I hope that the Government will consider this matter and perhaps on Report they could give a fair and clear indication that it would be their desire that only in cases where it is necessary shall a public inquiry be held. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.16 p.m.

LORD SHEPHERD moved, in subsection (15), to leave out "for Scotland and for Wales and Monmouthshire". The noble Lord said: Subsection (15) of Clause 56 says: The Central Committee and the Area Committees for Scotland and for Wales and Monmouthshire shall make an annual report to the Minister, and the Minister shall lay a copy of those Reports before … Parliament.

These reports will, of course, deal with the Committees' consideration of the matters that have been presented to them within the terms of this clause. I anticipate that it will be in Scotland and Wales that the major railway closures will take place, and undoubtedly there is a case that reports from these Committees should be made specifically to the Minister, and should be laid before each House of Parliament. But none of us at this stage can say what these railway closures are going to mean, not only to Scotland and Wales but also to England. Therefore, I would ask the Government to accept this Amendment, which would mean that the Area Committees and the Central Committee will make their annual Reports in regard to England as well as Scotland and Wales and that the Minister will have to lay a copy before each House of Parliament. I think we shall go through considerable testing times, and it is right that Parliament should not only know what is going on in what the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein would describe as "the tribal areas", but also what is going on in the home countries. Therefore, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 59, line 29, leave out ("for Scotland and for Wales and Monmouthshire ").—(Lord Shepherd.)


There again I do not think there is anything much between the noble Lord and myself on the principle of this matter, because once more it is not a question of there being anything to hide. I shall explain why the clause has been drafted in this way, and I think that will serve as an answer to the Amendment. Obviously, the Central Committee should so report, and because of the special cases of Scotland and Wales and Monmouthshire, for the reasons which the noble Lord mentioned, it was thought that they also should report.

The reason why the other Area Committees are not asked to render a report too is this. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd would join with me in saying that any reduction in the use of paper in this country is entirely to be commended. The reason comes under two headings: first of all, railway closures. The Area Committees report on that subject direct to the Minister, and they are required by subsection (9) to send copies of their report to the Central Committee. The Central Committee are required by subsection (15) to make an annual report to the Minister, and this report is to be laid before Parliament. Therefore, the Central Committee's report is bound to review, as it does at the moment, the activities of the Area Committees, even if it is no longer concerned with individual closures. They will have had all the reports which will be included in their own report. There is also the question of duplication, in that two or more Area Committees may be concerned in some closures. Therefore there would be overlapping, which probably would not be very helpful by way of information to Parliament.

On the other side, getting away from closures and coming on to the quality of services and so on, the Amendment, if accepted, would again entail some duplication, at any rate, in that the findings of the Area Committees are in that case reviewed by the Central Committee when they make their own report, and it would not be necessary for the Area Committees to duplicate it. That is the reason the clause has been drafted in this way, because it seemed that Parliament would get, through the Central Committee and these two special Area Committees, all the information that was needed without duplication and without extra effort. I hope the noble Lord will be able to agree that this is so.


Could the noble Lord help me? Where in this Bill is it stated that the Central Committee are to make a report to the Minister which shall be laid before Parliament?


The noble Lord will find it in subsection (15): The Central Committee and the Area Committees for Scotland and for Wales and Monmouthshire shall make an annual report to the Minister, and the Minister shall lay a copy of those reports before each House of Parliament.


Perhaps there should have been a comma after "The Central Committee …"



Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This is a similar Amendment to the one I moved previously, because, as drafted, Clause 56 applies only to railway services, where again it should apply to railway shipping services as well. It does not apparently include shipping services provided by a subsidiary company, of which there will be two; and this Amendment makes sure that they are included in the ambit of the consultative committees.

Amendment moved—

Page 60, line 6, at end insert— ("( ) For the purposes of subsection (4) of this section, any shipping service provided by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company Limited or the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (Irish Services) Limited shall, so long as the company providing the service is a subsidiary of the Railways Board, be deemed to be a service provided by that Board.")—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 56, as amended, shall be agreed to?


Before we part with this clause, may I make some special remarks regarding subsection (5), which says that so far as the Transport Consultative Committees are concerned nothing in the subsection shall entitle any committee to consider the charges made for any service or facility … The noble Lord, Lord Mills, will remember that on the last Committee stage I spoke about the problem that may well arise in Scotland and Wales due to their uneconomic rail services. It is recognised that many of these rail services are at present uneconomic to the Railway Boards. They certainly do not cover their own costs and the general overheads placed upon them.

It may well be that the Railways Board will decide to close those lines, but it is quite clear that the Minister has power to say that the Railways Board shall carry on. The Government will certainly agree that in Clause 43 (3) the Boards are now being given power to charge what they may consider fit for the services and facilities. Therefore we may well face the fact that in certain areas of this country the Railways Board may be directed to carry on a railway service and, in order to do so and in order to cover their costs, they may have to charge rates for freight and passenger services higher than they may have to charge in the more populated and more highly industrial parts of the country. This, obviously, would be a serious disadvantage.

I do not want to deploy the arguments that I used the other evening, but I should have thought that within these Transport Consultative Committees, particularly as there is some stress that they must consider the services which are going to be available in Scotland and Wales, they should have a duty not only to consider the services that are to be provided but also the rates that will be charged, particularly for freight but also for passengers. I do not want to press this matter this evening, but I certainly propose to come back to it on the Report stage.

Here I would not wish to criticise the Chairman of the Coal Board for having decided that there shall be different rates for coal according to the locality, but I think it would be very wrong and would create tremendous hardship if certain localities of our country, in order to have a public service upon which they, and particularly their industries, depend, should be called upon to pay rates considerably higher or even fractionally higher than the better-off parts of the country. This would certainly affect their struggling industries. I hope that between now and the Report stage the noble Lord, Lord Mills, who is the senior Minister here this evening, will consider whether we could make it possible for the Transport Consultative Committees to have within their province objections and appeals that may be lodged by these areas, by these industries and by these communities, not only on the question of services that are available but on the rates that are charged.

I fully agree that the Railway Boards must have some flexibility to raise their rates, but, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, who was talking about the profitability of these organisations, we are looking upon them as a service, something in which we have invested public money and upon which the public certainly depends. I hope, if this Bill is to go through, that these difficult areas will have some means of making an appeal, not only on the service that is available but on what they are expected to contribute in keeping those essential services alive.


I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that this problem of servicing out-of-the-way places, the uneconomic places, is not new. It is not new in business generally. Everybody who conducts a nation-wide business is up against this problem and manages to deal with it. Although I will consider between now and the Report stage anything the noble Lord says, I should not like to hold out to him any hope of meeting him on this. The fundamental idea behind this Bill is that their rates should not be subject to control by third parties. It would be against the whole conception of this part of the Bill if what the noble Lord proposes were agreed to. So, although I will consider it, I cannot hold out any hope that we shall introduce control by outside bodies of the rates to be charged.


But it is the fact that these consultative committees are not sitting in judgment, even on what service is to be provided. They are consultative committees to make recommendations to the Minister, and it is then for the Minister to decide what is to be done. All I am asking is that these consultative committees, which will be experienced committees, I hope, and which at the present moment, under this clause, are going to be excluded from considering charges, should have liberty in certain spheres to consider charges as well, and to make recommendations to the Minister, which the Minister can, of course, accept or not. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will not think that I am asking that these committees should sit in judgment and make decisions; because the Minister himself is taking the responsibility. All I am asking is that there should be the machinery for these areas to make their representations, particularly to people who are experienced and who have the knowledge and the entrée to the Minister.


I had not misunderstood the noble Lord at all.

Clause 56, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Restrictions on carriage by road in London]:

9.32 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved to leave out Clause 58. The noble Lord said: In moving to leave out this clause I would call the attention of your Lordships to the fact that, in my opinion, this clause is a further instance of an attack upon London Transport. Ever since we have had the London Transport Act, 1933, it has been appreciated by all the traffic experts, both those who helped to compile the 1933 Act and those who have studied London transport since that date, that to provide a good and adequate service it should be a public service and a public monopoly. So far as London Transport is concerned there has always been considerable difficulty on the Tube side. It sometimes pays and it sometimes does not. It is extremely marginal on the general question of profitability. Where, in fact, London Transport can meet its costs and perhaps balance the swings with the round-abouts, and make up the losses incurred on its Tube service, because of its heavy capital and operational costs, is on the bus services. London Transport, the London Transport workers and those who are associated with the operations of the Board take it as their function to provide an adequate service within the means at their disposal. Some routes can pay handsomely and others cannot, and it is really only by working the profitable and the unprofitable parts together that a service to the public can be provided.

It was recognised in the 1933 Act, and it has been recognised for the thirty years since, that a monopoly by London Transport is an essential part of providing that adequate service, particularly an adequate service in the sparsely populated areas of outer London. Since 1933, the London Passenger Transport Board and subsequently the London Transport Executive have had power to stop private operators within the London area, and they have exercised that power. It is equally true that they have had the power to allow them to operate where there was a public need and where their operations were not likely to be detrimental to the finances of London Transport. That has been conceded on a number of occasions. Your Lordships will be aware of the private enterprise services from outside the London area into almost the centre, certainly to the outer central area, of London.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, was talking of the greater freedom given to the Boards under this Bill. That has been the attitude of the Government all the time. Yet in this clause it says that the monopoly that has been with London Transport for 30 years shall be broken in favour of private enterprise. This Clause is to me, if I have read it right (and I hope that either the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, or the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will rise straight away if I have misread it) really remarkable. It says that if private enterprise wants to operate in London, it can apply to London Transport, as it can at the moment, but that if London Transport turns down the application the private company can go to the traffic commissioners, who shall sit in all their glory and consider it. If the commissioners reject the application, then the private enterprise company can take it to the Minister, who can override the traffic commissioners. I think that this is just monstrous. No one can justify the power of a Minister to override the traffic commissioners in this instance. The Minister has 112 or 122 additional functions given to him under this Bill. In my considerable Parliamentary experience, I have never known a Bill which has placed upon a Minister so many functions.

I would also ask your Lordships to look at it in this way. London Transport are in financial difficulties, not difficulties of their own making, but difficulties which arise because of the rising costs of materials, of operation, added to by taxation by the Government, and of wages and salaries to staff. Those costs have to be met, and London Transport have had to raise fares in order to meet them. Here the Government are taking power to allow private enterprise to run bus services in London which will be detrimental to London Transport and will cause greater financial difficulties. I know that this Government do not like public enterprise. They do not like the nation's owning its own assets and directing its own services. They are prepared to damage London Transport and the general conception of publicly owned transport by damaging the financial prospects of London Transport. But I would remind your Lordships that if in fact it is conceded, the damage is to the public who are likely to be served in less profitable routes, because you are not going to get private enterprise applying for a route which is non-profitable.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, is always accusing me of being political. I do not mind; I admit that I am a political being. After all, I came here to do a political job. But I am going to ask the noble Lord to be less political and less doctrinaire. There is some good in public service and there is some good in public enterprise. Let noble Lords get away from the idea that it is the function of a Tory Government all the time to put a spoke in the wheel of public enterprise. It is about time that this Government, for once at least, thought of public service and the public good. I am not going to say that London Transport have been everything they ought to be and that everybody has been satisfied with every service provided by them, but, at least, London Transport was born out of the chaos created by private enterprise, and since that time the public of London and Greater London have had a much better service.

Now I should like to call your Lordships' attention to another matter. A little earlier in the Bill we had a long discussion on the use by London Transport of vehicles which are available during off-peak periods to take on private hire work. I was in favour of their doing this, and even of going outside London to operate those services. But noble Lords opposite supported their Government. The Government spokesman said that it was monstrous (the same words as I used about the Government) that London Transport, with all their vast capital resources, should go into competition with private hire contractors and into the private hire section of transport. The Government and noble Lords opposite deny the right of a public enterprise company, London Transport, to compete on fair terms with private enterprise. Yet here they are taking a power for private enterprise to come in and compete with London Transport, not on fair terms but on the routes which are most profitable to London Transport and from which they get a handsome profit which enables them to run their less profitable, and very often unremunerative, services in the outer and more sparsely populated areas,

I ask the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Government how they justify unfair competition between private enterprise and London Transport. I think that even they will have to admit that there will be no application from a private road operator to operate on an unprofitable route. This clause can mean that we go back to the days prior to the 1933 Act and what we then knew as the pirate bus. The pirate bus was bad enough in those days, with its effect on service—bunching, and the rest of it. But the traffic conditions in London today are much different from what they were in the early thirties. Bus bunching, racing for stops, hanging about as they were in those days trying to catch traffic, was bad enough. Today, in many parts of London it would be suicidal, and we have to face the fact that if the Minister's power is used it will be used on routes on which the old pirate buses operated, and not on the general service so far as London Transport bus services are concerned. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 58.—(Lord Lindgren.)


I should like the noble Lord who is to reply to explain exactly how this appeal can possibly work. It seems to me that what will happen will be something like this. A private applicant will apply to the traffic commissioner and perhaps be turned down. Then he will go to the Minister and apply to him. But the Minister is presumably a reasonable man, and presumably he acts on some kind of facts. But where does he get his facts? Does he get them from the traffic commissioner whom he is now being asked to overrule? Does he go to the London Board, who are on the other side? Does he consider that, as purely a part-timer in this matter—because, after all, a Minister has many other arduous duties—he is going to know much better than the traffic commissioner, for whom it is a full time duty? How is this going to work?

9.47 p.m.


I will come back to that in a moment, but in fact it is going to work in exactly the same way as any other facet of the appeal system in the country. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, invited one of us to jump up and tell him where he was wrong, and here am I jumping up and telling him just that. He invited me to say that perhaps he had misread this clause. I do not know whether he has, or whether he has misinterpreted it, or whether he has misunderstood it, or whether, if I may take up his challenge—and I am sorry to accuse him of anything to do with politics once again—it is his suspicious political mind which has built up the meaning behind this clause and what is done in it into the monstrous mountain that he has erected out of a fairly innocuous molehill. He used words like "breaking the monopoly", "attacks on London Transport" and so on. Quite honestly, it is absolutely not right, and not true. What this does is no more than this. Except by the most tortuous process of imaginative reasoning I do not see how the noble Lord can possibly have arrived at the conclusions with which he regaled us a few minutes ago, entertaining though they were.

All this clause does is to put to independent arbitration, in the form of the traffic commissioners, the question whether somebody else should be allowed to operate a service or not. If the London Board have a good case for refusing their consent, which he must first seek, they have absolutely nothing to fear from this provision at all. What the noble Lord did not tell us was that this is something the London Board already enjoy when they enter into their competitors' territory outside their own monopoly territory. Around London, the operators have to give their consent to begin with when the London Board wish to operate a service in their territory. There is an appeal from that to the traffic commissioners and, therefore, all this does is to mirror the situation if a private operator is coming into the London area, or wishes to. It just mirrors the situation if the London Board wish to go outside their area into their competitors' area.

Perhaps the principle that comes most into this question is one of equality; because, far from smashing a monopoly, or anything of that kind, this really only gives the provision which is present in almost every aspect of administration and law in our various systems in this country. As for the operation of that provision, such appeals are conducted by the various tribunals, and by various ministers, dozens of times every week. If the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, thinks there is something rather curious about this one, I would assure him that it is exactly the same as any other. Because when the appeal goes on from one body to another, or from a Minister, it is accompanied by all the evidence, by the findings of the previous appeal tribunal, committee, inspector or whatever it may be, and put before the body or Minister deciding on the appeal. I do not think there is very much wrong with that.

There is just one final thing I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. Suppose that an outside operator comes in and wants to operate in London. He seeks the consent of the London Board, which is withheld. He appeals, and his appeal is perhaps allowed on the grounds that that consent was unreasonably withheld and that the Board should let him in because they were not running a service. If the service is a good one, and the Board want it, there is practically nothing to stop them from knocking him out commercially; because in their own special area they are practically free of the requirements to obtain licences to operate the route. They can operate virtually any route they wish within that area. So if, as the noble Lord implies, an outside operator is trying to pick up a valuable route which the London Board, for some unexplained reason, have overlooked, the Board are quite free, without reference to anybody in the vast majority of cases, to go in and compete with that man. Or, of course, they can get there first. Therefore, I think that the noble Lord's reasons for this Amendment were exaggerated. The situation is quite all right and the Bill in this respect should be left as it is.


Once again, I must say that this is a most unsatisfactory reply because the Minister has not dealt with the fundamental point. I might concede this point of going to traffic commissioners, but he has not dealt with the Minister's overriding the traffic commissioners. As I read the Bill—and he has not contradicted me—application is first made to London Transport. If they turn it down then the applicant goes to the traffic commissioners. If the applicant is turned down by the traffic commissioners he can thengo to the Minister, who can override the traffic commissioners.


It is exactly the same process and procedure as when the reverse is the case and it is the London Board who are applying for a service. It is a mirror image of the procedure one way and the other, and there cannot be anything unfair about that.


This Bill prevents London Transport from operating outside the London area except in certain special cases. There is no special case here and it does not give the London Transport authority the right to go to the Minister to appeal if, in fact, the traffic commissioners said the application was itself unfair. I am still of my opinion. The Minister referred to the fact that if we are going to get one company coming on to a route London Transport can then do their best to run them out. Are we going back to the days of cut-throat competition with bus services on the roadway? I am old enough to remember the days of the pirate buses, where there were three buses together, the front one and the back one trying to crowd out the centre one, racing for stopping places, harassing others on the road, racing on the road, and the rest. That can still happen and the Minister has not dealt with it.

In fact, he said if it happens and it is detrimental to London Transport, then London Transport can use all its resources to run the other fellow off the road. I just cannot see that in providing a public transport service it is the function of either private enterprise or of the London Transport Board to run somebody else off the road. It is the function of the traffic commissioners to see that a public service is provided if an application is granted and not overruled. This is a departure which the Minister did not justify. Why has it taken the Government 30 years? This is another provision they did not think of in the 1933 Act. The monopoly was given to London Transport under the 1933 Act. I am not going to be made out to be telling an untruth for a matter of a month or two—it is near enough 30 years; the Act was passed in 1933 and we are now in 1962. Nothing has arisen within that 30 years to justify this, and I am suspicious enough to believe it has been put in for an ulterior motive, and that is why I desire the clause to be withdrawn.


I think the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, inadvertently perpetrated one inaccuracy. Subsection (4) states: The applicant or the London Board may appeal to the Minister against the decision of the metropolitan traffic commissioner"——


I am sorry. I agree.


I do not know what the noble Lord wishes to do about it; he must please himself in that respect. But I think I must go back to what I originally said: I think it is the suspicious mind of the noble Lord which is really working up something here, and he really is letting his imagination run well away from him in this respect. It would be most exciting, rather like reading the boys' magazine I remember 30 years ago—this cut-throat competition, buses dashing about, and so on. The noble Lord is over suspicious. He has worked out a case on no evidence at all. I think that for the reasons I have stated I must ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment.


I have to develop the same lack of Party political interest in this subject as has been displayed by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham. From that lofty plane of high impartiality I would make two observations. One is that he has failed to answer or justify the point put by my noble friend Lord Lindgren, that this is a departure from the position which has been held by London Transport for a good many years. Then he sought to justify it by saying that, supposing some body is able to get past the various authorities and obtain approval from the Minister and start a service in London, all that London Transport then has to do is to start two or three other services over the same routes and run them out of business. I should have thought that that was a most undesirable sort of thing to happen.

It seems to me the height of absolute folly to bring into an Act of Parliament a provision which could lead to undesirable consequences. But for the pure glory of theoretical competition and private enterprise they would like it in the Bill; and if some body is foolish enough to use that provision, all that the publicly-owned sector has to do is to wipe them out of business in this way, and presumably make complete chaos of our London streets and add immeasurably to the dangers of using them. That appears to be the one justification for this clause. It may sound logical and good to the noble Lord and to other noble Lords opposite, but to me, again judging from that lofty non-Party plane, I think it is abject nonsense.


I do not want to be misrepresented on this. I know exactly what I said about this competition. What I intended to convey was not that if a private bus went on to the road the London Board could instantly send half a dozen buses after it to hound it off the road or something like that. In view of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, had said that no private operator would go after any route which was thoroughly unprofitable, I merely said, or intended to convey, that if that were so, and by some means the London Board had overlooked it, they would be able to put a service on it right away without further ado. That is what I intended to convey. I think I have dealt with this in a reasonable way. The rest I leave to the noble Lord opposite.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59:

Special restrictions on grant to London Board of road service licences

59.—(1) The traffic commissioners shall not under Part III of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, grant to the London Board a road service licence (whether or not in substitution for another licence) to provide a road service over a route which is not within the London Passenger Transport Area unless they are satisfied that any person who is providing transport facilities along or near any part of the route, and whose interest will in their opinion be substantially affected if the licence is granted,—

  1. (a) has, whether as one of the terms of a working agreement made with the London Board or otherwise, consented to the making of an application for the licence, or
  2. (b) has unreasonably refused or withheld his consent.

(3) Subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall not apply—

  1. (a) if the route to which the licence relates is one of the London Transport Executive's routes as defined in subsection (5) of section eight of this Act, and is not a restricted route as defined in the next following subsection, or
  2. (b) if that route is one of the London Transport Executive's routes, and is a restricted route as so defined, but the licence is, or, when the conditions are varied will be, subject to a condition that the London Board shall not both pick up and set down a passenger on the route, or
  3. (c) if the Minister certifies to the traffic commissioners that there are exceptional circumstances which make it desirable that the relevant provisions of those subsections should not apply in relation to the proceedings specified in the certificate,
or if part of the route falls under one of the foregoing paragraphs and part under another (but not if part of the route falls outside those paragraphs).

10.3 p.m.

LORD TEYNHAM moved, in subsection (1), to omit "they are satisfied" and insert: on or before granting the application for the licence they determine".

The noble Lord said: Perhaps by leave of the Committee I may deal with Amendments Nos. 141 to 149 inclusive. The purpose of all these Amendments is to ensure that the traffic commissioners shall determine in open court whether or not an operator will be substantially affected, or has unreasonably refused or withheld his consent; and also that, if they decide against him, he will have a right of appeal from their determination to the Minister under subsection (5). I shall have to elaborate this matter a little.

Clause 59, I think, takes the place of Section 15 (1) (c) and Section 18 of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933. Under Section 15 (1) (c) the London Passenger Transport Board were empowered to provide services of stage or express carriages in accordance with working agreements—I repeat the phrase, "working agreements"—which were made in pursuance of Section 18, on any road outside the London passenger traffic area within a radius of (1 think) ten miles from any point on the boundary of the area. Section 15 (1) (c) was repealed by the Transport Act, 1947, but Section 18 is, I believe, repealed by this Bill.

Under the Act of 1933 the London Passenger Transport Board could operate a service within the ten miles radius only under a working agreement. Clause 59 of this Bill will have the effect of empowering the traffic commissioners to license the new London Transport Board to operate within the ten miles radius without a working agreement. Under the 1933 Act the operator was, in fact, protected, because he could not be compelled to enter into a working agreement. Under this clause, as I see it, the traffic commissioners may grant an application by the London Transport Board for a new licence, or for variation of the conditions attached to an existing licence, if they are satisfied that the operator's interests will not be substantially affected, or that he has unreasonably refused or withheld his consent.

I suggest that in a matter of such vital importance to an operator the somewhat wide, imprecise language of the clause is rather unnecessary. Under the clause as drafted, the traffic commissioners might be satisfied that the interests of the particular operator would not be susbtantially affected, without in fact hearing the operator—or even without the operator's being aware of the application. It may perhaps be argued by Her Majesty's Government this evening that the traffic commissioners can be trusted not to act unfairly. But surely the clause should be so drafted as to make it quite clear that it would not be sufficient for the commissioners merely to be satisfied, but that it would be their duty to determine the question, not in their offices or in chambers, but on evidence heard and considered in open court.

Amendment moved— Page 63, line 10, leave out ("they are satisfied") and insert the said new words.—(Lord Teynham.)


As the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, has said, this Amendment is linked with Amendments 142 to 148. These Amendments deal with the process by which the traffic commissioners satisfy themselves under subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 59 that the London Board should have a licence to run outside the London Passenger Transport Area. At present the commissioners are not to grant a licence unless they are satisfied that any person who is providing transport facilities along or near the route and whose interest, in their opinion, will be substantially affected, has consented (by making a working agreement or otherwise) to the Board's application or has unreasonably refused consent. The commissioners' main job will therefore be to determine whether operators other than the Board are or are not substantially affected, and have consented or have unreasonably withheld consent.

The purpose of the Amendment, as the noble Lord has explained, appears to be to ensure that the commissioners determine in open court, and not in their office or in chambers, whether an operator will be substantially affected or has unreasonably withheld consent. Three of the Amendments, I would advise the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, use the words"on or before granting the application they determine …". This would still leave it open to the commissioners to decide before coming into court. The Amendments, therefore, do not appear to achieve their object.

But I suggest that the safeguard proposed is in any case not really necessary. An operator "along or near the route" already has a statutory right of objection to an application for a road service licence. Anyone claiming to be "substantially affected" is sure to come within this provision and thus to have a right to appear in court. It is highly unlikely that the commissioners would refuse to entertain such objections in court if there was doubt whether an operator was substantially affected or not. The commissioners in practice use their discretion very much in favour of hearing objectors. My right honourable friend, the Minister of Transport, in another place in Committee said that they lean over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to a person who says he is affected. Under Section 135 of the 1960 Road Traffic Act, anyone will be in a position to object against the Board's application for a road service licence. Unless he withdraws his objection, the commissioners must take into consideration what he has to say and, once he has appeared as a party involved in the application, he has a right of appeal to the Minister. So I suggest that the position is fully covered and there is no need for these Amendments.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his detailed explanation. I should like to look at the matter again when I can read it quietly, because it is rather a complicated point, and perhaps I can reserve the right to deal with it again on the Report stage. I inadvertently included Amendment No. 149, whereas I think that really concerns a different matter. I should, by leave of the House, like to deal with No. 149 a little later on. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.12 p.m.

LORD TEYNHAM moved, after subsection (2) to insert: (3) In determining any application to which this section applies the traffic commissioners shall have regard to any conditions upon which consent to the making of the application was given, and any licence granted or the conditions attached to any licence, when varied pursuant to the application, shall give effect to any condition upon which such consent was given, except any condition which is not contained in a working agreement made with the London Board and is determined by the traffic commissioners to be undesirable in the public interest.

The noble Lord said: This is another rather complicated point, and the purpose of this new subsection is to provide that when an operator consents, whether by a working agreement or otherwise, to an application for a licence or a variation made by the London Board, subject to conditions—such conditions, for example, being conditions as to the frequency on the timetable of the bus services, the points at which passengers may be taken up or set down on the service, or perhaps the period during which the consent shall remain effective—the commissioners shall in fact give effect to those conditions. I must state clearly that the commissioners should give effect to the condition to which the Board have agreed in a working agreement, but the subsection still gives the commissioners an express discretion to disregard conditions to which the Board has not agreed, if in fact the commissioners determine that the conditions are undesirable in the public interest.

Of course, Her Majesty's Government may well argue that where consent is given subject to conditions, the commissioners must either give effect to them or, if they consider the conditions unreasonable, treat the consent as unreasonably refused or withheld. But a consent given subject to conditions cannot properly be regarded as refused, I would say, even if the conditions are considered unreasonable. I maintain there is nothing in the Clause which requires the commissioners to give effect to the conditions on which a consent is given, and, for the protection of the operator, I think the conditions on which he gives his consent should be made a condition of the Board's licence, unless the commissioners expressly determine that they are undesirable in the public interest. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 63, line 37, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Teynham.)


This is another highly technical matter. The first part of the Amendment, saying that the traffic commissioners shall have regard to any conditions upon which consent to the making of the application was given. is, I suggest, not necessary. In the normal course of events many of the vital parts of an agreement—for example, route, fares, timetables or stopping places—would have to be submitted to the commissioners as part of the licence application. The commissioners would necessarily have regard to these conditions in determining the application. Particular instructions saying that they should have regard to them are therefore not needed. If the traffic commissioners were bound to give effect to conditions attached by operators to their consents, such conditions might be unreasonable in that they seriously hampered the value of the service to which the consent applied. The traffic commissioners, therefore, should have discretion to modify or to set aside such conditions.

So far as the remainder of this Amendment is concerned, the Road Traffic Act, 1960, gives the commissioners very wide powers and discretion to attach conditions. It does not bind commissioners to attach any conditions or to attach particular conditions. This part of the Amendment, which binds commissioners to attach particular conditions, therefore seems counter to the whole trend of the licensing system. The Board can run only under a licence which is itself issued as a result of a consent. If the terms of the consent are broken by the Board, the operator would then have legitimate grounds for complaining to the traffic commissioners, who can take action in the normal way—for example, by proposing a suspension or variation of the licence.

The Amendment specifically excludes conditions which the commissioners determine to be undesirable in the public interest. The difficulty about accepting this is that there might well be disputes over parts of agreements which are of private interest to the two operators but which might not be capable of being construed as of public interest—for example, arrangements for pooling receipts or arrangements for hiring out vehicles to be used on a service. We have given very careful consideration to this Amendment. It is, as I have said, a complicated and technical matter, but I think the clause would be better without this insertion.


I am a little puzzled about one thing in regard to this matter. I am not quite clear as to who is the final arbiter on what the conditions may be. The private company outside the area apparently lay down the conditions, but, then, who is the final arbiter? Is it the company or the traffic commissioners?


The traffic commissioners have power to accept or vary the conditions, or to suggest new conditions.


I thank my noble friend.


I am grateful to my noble friend for his explanation and for the assurances that he has given with regard to this Amendment. I do not propose to press the matter to-night. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.18 p.m.

VISCOUNT GOSCHEN moved, in subsection (3), to leave out the last "not" and insert "the subsections shall apply". The noble Viscount said: This Amendment is completely non-political. This is an attempt to clarify the rather obscure drafting in Clause 59, subsection (3). In particular, the words in brackets at the end of the subsection, on lines 10 and 11 of page 64, are very difficult to understand. The Amendment is an attempt to express what I believe to be the intention of the subsection. The subsection defines the routes or services to which subsections (1) and (2) shall not apply. The words "but not" in line 10 on page 64 appear to negative the "shall not apply" in line 38 on page 63 and so to mean that the subsection shall not be inapplicable—in other words, the subsection shall apply if part of the route falls outside paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). It is complicated, as all drafting Amendments are, but I trust that I have explained the real purpose of the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 10, leave out ("not") and insert ("the subsections shall apply").—(Viscount Goschen.)


Not only has the noble Viscount explained the Amendment, but the Amendment is worth explaining, and the Government are quite prepared to accept it.


I should like to thank the noble Lord very much. It is the first Amendment I have ever moved that has been accepted.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment is necessary as a drafting Amendment, to make Clause 59(4) consistent with the definition of London Transport Executive's routes in Clause 8(5). I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 13, leave out ("a route") and insert ("one of the London Transport Executive's routes").—(Lord Teynham.)


I am not sure that it is quite so simple at that. Subsection (3) of Clause 59 provides that the special procedures in subsections (1) and (2) of the clause, relating to the granting of road service licences for the London Board outside the London Passenger Transport Area, shall not apply in certain circumstances. It is stated expressly that one of these circumstances is when the route to which the licence relates is one of the London Transport Executive's routes as certified by the Minister under subsection (5) of Clause 8 and is not a restricted route as defined in subsection of Clause 59, to which the Amendment relates. In these circumstances, it seems unnecessary to insert in the definition of "restricted routes" that the route is one of London Transport Executive's routes. Moreover, it makes for awkward drafting to say so again, in that not only would there be a repetition from subsection (3) of Clause 59, but the opening of subsection (4) would read In the last foregoing subsection the expression "restricted route" means one of the London Transport Executive's routes over which the London Transport Executive had at any time … I think that the Amendment is unnecessary and would lead to awkward drafting.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. I am not entirely certain that what he said meets the case, and I should like to look at it again before Report stage; but I expect that he is perfectly correct. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that the restrictive conditions to which the subsection refers shall have the same effect as the conditions attached to the Board's London service licences. These restrictions are derived from paragraph (2) of the proviso to Section 15 (1) of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1953, and it was by that provision that they were given statutory effect and made binding on the London Passenger Transport Board. There is no provision in the Bill to prohibit the Board from taking up or setting down passengers contrary to restrictive conditions, and nothing requiring the traffic commissioners to attach restrictive conditions to the Board's licences. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 20, at end insert ("and every such condition shall have the like effect and be enforceable in the like manner as if it were a condition attached to any road service licence under which the Board is for the time being authorised to provide a service over the route to which the condition applies but the traffic commissioners shall not have power to revoke or dispense with compliance with or except in accordance with this section to vary any such condition")—(Lord Teynham)


I am advised that the noble Lord's point is fully covered as regards future applications for licences, because any application for a licence for a restricted route which will not be subject to specific conditions against both picking up and setting down will have to go through the special procedure of Clause 59 (3) (b). But current licences not subject to such specific conditions are not dealt with by the clause. Since licences last three years, I think perhaps we should cover this by an Amendment deeming any licences in force on vesting date to be subject to such conditions. If the noble Lord will agree to withdraw the Amendment now, I will consider this further with a view to dealing with this latter point.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his suggestion. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD TEYNHAM moved, after subsection (5) to insert: (6) The decision of the traffic commissioners to grant a licence or to vary the conditions attached to a licence pursuant to an application to which this section relates, notwithstanding that any person providing transport facilities along or near the route of the service has not consented to the application, shall not become operative until after the expiration of one month, and if at the expiration of that period an appeal by that person to the Minister is pending, the decision of the commissioners shall not become operative until the appeal has been determined.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to provide that where the traffic commissioners determine that the operator is not substantially affected or has otherwise unreasonably refused or withheld consent to an application by the London Board, and the operator appeals to the Minister against the decision, the decision shall not have effect until in fact the appeal is disposed of. Section 102 (7) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, is a precedent for the provision. That section provides that where an appeal is lodged against a decision of the commissioners to consent to the operation by a local authority of a service outside its area, such decision shall not become operative until the appeal has been dealt with. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 29, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Teynham.)


The Amendment is directly contrary to the general everyday usage of the licensing system. Normally, when the commissioners give a decision it comes into effect immediately, or as soon after as is convenient to the applicant. If there is an appeal, the grant appealed against remains in force until the Minister determines the appeal. There seems to be no valid reason for discriminating against the London Board in the way proposed. Indeed, one of the basic ideas of the licensing system is equality of opportunity. The main point behind this Amendment seems to be to delay the operation of a service by the Board beyond the area boundaries. The normal usage is for a service to go into effect as soon as possible after the traffic commissioners give a decision. I do not see why we should depart from what is normal usage.


I do not propose to press this Amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 60 agreed to.


It may be convenient to your Lordships if we adjourn the Committee, and I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Mills.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.