§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into 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 1:
§ The four Boards
1.—(1) For the purposes of this Act there shall be four public authorities to be called—
the British Railways Board (in this Act referred to as the "Railways Board");
the "London Transport Board (in this Act referred to as the" London Board");
the British Transport Docks Board (in this Act referred to as the "Docks Board");
and the Inland Waterways Authority,
among whom the functions and (subject to the provisions of this Act relating to the Holding Company) the property of the British Transport Commission (hereinafter referred to as "the Commission") shall be divided in accordance with this Act.
§ (2) The chairman of each Board shall be appointed by the Minister, and the other members of each Board (including any vice chairman) shall be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the chairman of that Board.
§ (3) The British Railways Board shall consist of a chairman, a vice chairman, or two vice chairmen, and not more than sixteen nor less than ten other members; the chairmen and other members of the Board shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Minister to have had wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, transport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, administration, applied science, or the organisation of workers, and the Minister in appointing them shall have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of particular regions and areas served by the Board.
§ LORD SHEPHERD had given Notice of several Amendments to Clause 1, the first being, in subsection (1), to leave out "four" and insert "five". The noble Lord said: I beg to move the first Amendment on the Marshalled List. We now start our heavy task, which I think is a good deal heavier than we envisaged on the Second Reading, in that we have a total of 263 Amendments to deal with. I hope that we shall be able to continue to restrict the time allotted to each day to about four hours, so that we can give careful consideration to the Bill. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if in moving this Amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 2, 27 and 60. The purpose of this Amendment is to create a fifth Board, a Board that would be responsible for the provision and management and development of an adequate service to the community by road. I may have to speak in regard to Clause 29 because that is the proposition that is being made by the Government for the management of road freight and road passenger services. There was useful discussion in another place, on which our Amendment is broadly based, that the British Road Services, the freight side, should be brought under a Board and not be held in a Holding Company.
§ The case then made, if my memory serves me correctly, was that British Road Services was of sufficient size and importance to warrant its being under a Board and not, as I described it in my Second Reading speech, out on a limb under the control of a rather peculiar organisation, a Holding Company. It is 804 a fact that in the British Road Services with their other sister companies there are approximately 16,000 vehicles and also about 7,000-odd trailers. They have a considerable tonnage capacity, in the region of nearly 204,000. They also employ staff of about 36,500. Their gross receipts in the course of the year 1960 were £53 million and they had a net profit of £1¾ million. They are a national organisation providing a national service, and they are in many ways comparable in size and importance to B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.
§ It is interesting to point out that the Government—and here I would not speak disparagingly—rate the docks and inland waterways to have a Board status. Neither of those organisations compares in size, and possibly not in importance, to the British Road Services. Therefore, in size and importance I think it rates to be considered for Board status. My colleagues in another place based their case entirely on 'the freight side. I feel that we should go a good deal further, because we now know a little more of the Government's intentions in regard to the railways. Therefore, it is my intention in this Amendment that the new Board should not only be responsible for the development of the freight side but should also take into their responsibility the passenger side, which I believe is 36 companies. The Government's intention is that they should be in this Holding Company. It is interesting to look at the figures. They have approximately 14,000 vehicles, seating capacity of 670,000, total revenue of nearly £63 million, and their net profit was in the region of £6½ million. Here, again, on size and importance to the community, I think it rates for Board status.
§ My case this afternoon does not lie on the size of these undertakings. I said in the Second Reading debate that I agreed with the Government's suggestion for the creation of these four Boards. I thought that there was a lot to be said for decentralisation and for the delegation of responsibilities, particularly the everyday administration of these transport services. But we now know that the railways are going to face a major reorganisation. The Government are extraordinarily silent about 805 what this reorganisation is going to mean in terms of mileage and service to the community. It is being said repeatedly, both in the White Paper and in speeches, that it is the Minister's intention that within five years the railways should become a viable, payable proposition. If your Lordships look at the accounts for the year 1960, the last that we have, you will see that the revenue of British Railways was in the region of £478 million; taking into account their working costs they had a working deficit of £67½ million.
§ If you look at those figures and it is said that within five years Dr. Beeching and his colleagues are to make the railways viable and payable, obviously there is to be a drastic reduction of overheads. If the British Railways are able to maintain their present revenue, it means that to provide this working profit to take into account the interest charges that will be due to be paid within five years, somehow or other Dr. Beeching must reduce his overheads in the region of £140 million to £150 million. I do not know what that represents in mileage, what that represents in rail closure, both of passenger and freight. I was in Holland a week or so ago and they faced this problem; true, it was not on such a great scale. In order to rationalise their transport services they in fact closed over 60 per cent. of their railway stations, if my memory serves me correctly, and I believe it was in the region of 20 per cent. of rail mileage.
§ I would hazard a guess—and it is a pure guess, because we have no indication from the Government—that if these overheads are to be reduced by the amount I have mentioned, we shall see at least a 40 per cent., possibly 50 per cent., reduction in rail mileage in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Swansea, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth—who, I must say, I am sorry not to see in his place this afternoon—"spoke in our debates on the disastrous effect these rail closures may have, particularly in Scotland and in Wales. It may well be that major parts of Scotland and of Wales and some parts of rural England will be without railway services within five years. The consequences to the community and to industry and, I think, to the future growth of those areas is going to be very considerable. I would not stand and say that these rail- 806 way services must be provided if they are running at a very great loss, if a satisfactory alternative could be provided. In Holland and in other countries alternative services have been provided by road. In those cases the railways have combined with road transport, either of private ownership or of their own creation, to provide an alternative means of transport.
§ The Government proposal in regard to the nationalised road service is in Clause 29. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will be the first to agree that the whole tenor or accent of Clause 29 lies in its commercial aspect—that the Holding Company must exercise its control over its subsidiaries for the purposes of making these companies commercial profitwise. The areas of which I was speaking earlier may have to be provided for by road transport which is, in some cases, possibly as uneconomic as rail. In other areas the road service could be provided at a break even cost.
§ I do not anticipate that private owners or operators are likely to expand their services into those areas unless there is a reasonable return on their capital. If that service is not to be provided and if the Government are going to agree to the massive closure of railway lines, I think it is right that the House should say that alternative road services are to be provided, and that if private enterprise is unable to do it then that the State must somehow provide that alternative. But I think it would be wrong to expect a nationalised road authority to take over what may be unremunerative areas unless they have, to use a phrase, a "bit of fat" on which they can operate those services.
§ May I say that because of the whole accent of Clause 29 I do not think the Holding Company will agree to the subsidiaries, British Road Services or bus companies, extending their field of operation into areas which may be unprofitable. In other words, I cannot see the Holding Company extending its road transport services into areas Where in fact a private operator will not go. Therefore we must face the fact that with these big rail closures alternative services will have to be provided. My noble friends take the view that this is an operation which can best be done— 807 in fact it probably can only be done—by a national Board to cover freight and passenger services. I well visualise that if British Road Services are called upon to perform this task we may have to look again at some of the provisions of the 1953 Act, because British Road Services are to-day limited in regard to the number of vehicles that they can own and operate. These vehicles are already extensively used and I cannot see that British Road Services would have sufficient vehicles with which to undertake to cover areas where there are rail closures.
§ We also feel that by the creation of a national Board for road transport it will be possible to get greater co-ordination with the railway companies. I was pleased to see that the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, was visualising this trouble. In one Amendment he has suggested that the railway companies should own half the shares in the bus companies. Obviously, the noble Lord wishes to seek co-ordination between the passenger bus companies and the railways to provide suitable services for the people. I think that the noble Lord's fears are justified, although I would suggest to him that the best solution would be the creation of a new Board.
§ That is our case. I would ask the Committee, between now and when we have to make a decision on this Amendment, to look at Clause 29. Regarding the question of rail closure I have made the case of the necessity to provide alternative services. I would ask the Committee to see whether within Clause 29 there is the duty to provide that service, and if there is not, whether the terms or the implication of Clause 29 is such that that organisation will provide the alternative services when the railway lines are closed.
§ I ask the Committee to consider this Amendment not as a political issue, because it is not. The Government have decided that there shall be these four main Boards. This we have in general agreed with. But we are not satisfied (and I hope that the Committee will come to the same conclusion) that Clause 29 as suggested by the Government is the answer. We must provide a considerable increase of road haulage facilities, and provide services in areas which may be denied a rail service; and 808 the only alternative is the provision of a road Board with specific duties and responsibilities in connection with the provision of that service. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 8, leave out ("four") and insert ("five").—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ LORD MOLSON
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in moving this Amendment has raised a matter which I raised on Second Reading. I think it is of the utmost importance in considering this Bill that your Lordships should be absolutely assured that, when a large number of stations and lines are closed down as the result of the rationalisation of British Railways, it will be possible for the Government to ensure that road services are provided in substitution for the rail service. This is one of the matters which the Minister has chosen to take upon himself in this Bill. Under the Act of 1947 it was the responsibility of the British Transport Commission to co-ordinate transport services; but here the Minister has decided to take that responsibility upon himself. On Second Reading I asked my noble friend Lord Mills a question. Clearly, under the Bill it would be possible for the Minister to issue directions to the Holding Company to provide road services to take the place of uneconomic rail services which had been closed down. But what I asked my noble friend Lord Mills was whether it would be the policy of the Minister to do so. My noble friend replied [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 240 (No. 74), cols. 210–211]:I think that also answers the question as to whether the Minister would, in appropriate cases, direct the Holding Company to require its subsidiaries to provide the necessary transport service if British Railways wished to close down some of their services. The answer is that he would.I did not quite catch the noble Lord's answer and he kindly repeated it for me.
If noble Lords will look at the two sections dealing with the powers that the Minister exercises over the Boards and over the Holding Company, they will find in Clause 11 (3) thatthe Minister may from time to time give directions to the Boards indicating what is to be treated for the purposes of this section as a substantial item of expenditure",and that he may also give them general directions. In the case of the Holding Company the powers of direction by the 809 Minister apply very much more in detail. For that reason I should have thought that it was better that the British Road Services should be held by the Holding Company, to whom the Minister can give detailed directions, whereas he would not be able to do so in the case of the Boards.
If another Board were set up, in the way suggested in this Amendment, clearly the Minister's power would not be any greater in that case than it is in the other case. As regards the provision of passenger services, I understand that those services will, under the Schedule, continue to be in the hands of the Railways Board. I therefore feel, if I have understood the somewhat complicated provisions correctly, that the purpose which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and his friends have in mind would be better served by the Bill as drafted, rather than with their Amendment.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
In spite of the great experience which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has gained through his service within the Ministry of Transport, I cannot agree with him. We have to face the fact that our railway system has been built up, higgledy-piggledy, over a period of well over a hundred years, much of it not directly organised to meet either the general economic structure of this country to-day, or its industrial development. Therefore, as one who has been associated with the railway industry for well over 40 years, I am the first to agree that, if the system is to be put on a more economic basis, there must be some drastic cutting of uneconomic services in the sparsely populated rural areas—for example, in Wales and in the Highlands of Scotland. If, in fact, we are going to maintain our economic structure, then we must replace withdrawn rail transport services by some other form of road transport. I will ignore for the moment the passenger services provided by bus companies, and the rest, for the convenience of the public. They are essential for the general life and enjoyment of the people in those areas, but they are not vital to our economic structure. It is an inconvenience for a person in a sparsely populated area if he has to take a bus to get into the market town, but it does not hamper the economy of the country.
810 In these sparsely populated areas there are really two factors involved. Through the general development of transport there exists the private sector, in which the individual farmer or industrialist has a certain amount of transport within his own organisation; then, over and above the individual transport provided by the farmer or small industrialist, there must be some other form of transport to take, in particular, the freight. Let us face facts. The normal road haulier is in business in order to make a profit, and he is going to concentrate his haulage contract work and his normal operations where he is likely to obtain the greatest measure of profit. The normal road haulage contractor is not concerned with providing a service. He is normally prepared to undertake contracts with individual persons or organisations, in order to carry their goods, but is not prepared to provide a service that is available to everyone.
At this point, perhaps I may take your Lordships back to the British Transport Commission Act, 1953, by which it was the intention of the Government, rightly or wrongly, to destroy British Road Services and its allied services. Let us forget about whether or not the 1953 Act was a success—I can claim it was not, because the road hauliers would not take over what was offered to them. But irrespective of any political question, the farmers and industrialists, particularly those in Scotland, appealed to the Government, because of the standard of service that was provided by British Road Services within the Scottish Division, that there should be no interference with British Road Services in their division. As your Lordships will know, that has in fact happened. If, now, there is to be a withdrawal of rail services (I am not going to say that this should not take place, because I believe that in many cases it is inevitable), as Lord Molson has said, there must be some replacement. And that replacement can be only by some guaranteed organisation, an organisation not directly associated with the immediate profit in the area.
This is a question of providing a balanced economy. It is easy enough for anybody to provide a reasonable service and a high standard of efficiency; if he is working, whether in regard to 811 freight or passengers, from two points and can get a reasonable payload both ways. But no one operating in a rural area can guarantee in any shape or form any degree of load factor. It varies very considerably in relation to the amount of capacity that is in the private hands of the individual farmer or industrialist, and also according to whether the requirement of the particular area goes up or down, according to the season of the year, as to what has to be carried. As one who has been associated with transport for a long period of time, I maintain that you cannot provide scheduled services upon which industrialists, farmers and the rest can rely unless you axe going to have them co-ordinated in one form or another. The haphazard arrangements of private enterprise just will not provide the service which is required.
I feel that the Government have got to make a decision here. Do the farming community of this country count? Are the farming community in the rural areas an essential part of our economic structure? If they are not, you can let them go: you need not provide a service, because the more they fade away the less that has to be paid out in the form of support price, be it in the form of an agricultural subsidy or on the transport side. But if anyone associated with agriculture or with transport thinks that the agricultural area, on its own, can make a profitable contribution to any form of transport, then, with the greatest respect, I suggest that he "has another think coming"; because it is just impossible. If we are going to maintain an agricultural industry there must be available to the farmer, and to the isolated, small industrial organisations that one finds in the rural areas, a road transport organisation to replace rail services that may be withdrawn. As I have admitted, no one could complain if many of these rail services are withdrawn, but an adequate substitute service will not be provided either for freight or for passengers by private enterprise.
If I may take your Lordships from freight transport for a moment. I am associated with the area of Hertford. London Transport has been loaded by the Government with the responsibility of trying to break even one year with 812 another. What does even London Transport do in the rural areas of Hertford-shire, away from the trunk routes which come into London? Villages are now isolated because, in order to meet its obligations, the cross-country bus services between the main roads are being withdrawn. The more one moves away from the London area and goes into Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and the rest, the more does that apply.
This is 1962 and there are villages in this country which, on the basis of passenger bus services—forgetting rail—are worse off to-day than they were in 1952. That is because it is more difficult for the bus companies, whether they are partly owned by railways, entirely privately owned, or are public corporations such as London Transport. My main point, though, is associated with freight, and the freight services are vital if the farming community, in particular, is going to maintain a reasonable standard in the rural areas. Therefore, I suggest that this Amendment gives an opportunity of accepting the fact that you are going to have a co-ordination or rail, road, inland water services and of the docks of this country, in which they can look to providing the service for industry which is essential, particularly on the freight basis.
My final point—and this is the one that I think is more likely to tell with your Lordships than some of the others—is that, unless something of this form is accepted, then we are saying that the rural areas of this country, the farmer who does not provide all his own transport, are to be neglected. If you are going to provide that service on the freight basis to the farming community, both inwards and outwards, in my submission there is no other way than co-ordination between the British Road Services, as part of an integrated system, the railways and the inland water transport.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I take it that it would be for the convenience of the noble Lord the Minister in charge of the Bill if he replied to all the queries and did not have his own speech interrupted. I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity of offering some assurance to the travelling 813 public of this country, because arising from this forced abandoning of uneconomic railways lines—and I assure the Minister I have no quarrel with it at all—there is on the part of the rural public of this country wide apprehension that they are not going to be provided with an adequate alternative service. I hope the noble Lord will take this opportunity of assuring us that that is not the case.
The Bill does not make this clear. I rather thought that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who moved this Amendment in a wholly admirable manner, if he will permit me to say so, wanted not only a Road Services Board, which has in the past been rather more concerned with freight, but a Road Passenger Board. I should like the Minister to tell the Committee whether or not the answer is along the lines which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, mentioned; because it appears to me that if what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, says is right, the Holding Company, which will in future operate road passenger services as an alternative to rail services that close down, will have over their heads the implied direction that they will have to carry out the main purpose of this Bill: so to conduct their affairs as to make their revenue meet their expenditure, taking one year with another.
The only reason why they will have to supply a service in lieu of a rail service is that the rail service is uneconomic, and therefore it is a level chance that the road service will be uneconomic as well. It might not lose so much money but, as I tried to point out on Second Reading, unless you are going to herd the rural population of this country into the large towns, you will have to run road passenger services which will never stand a chance of paying. Therefore, you cannot expect private enterprise to run them unless, as I said, the Government are at some stage going to bring in a Bill to compel private enterprise to run at a loss.
Taking for granted that some of these services are going to be run at a loss, they will be run with some reluctance—will they not?—by the Holding Company, on one side, or an independent Board, on the other; and, as the Bill is drafted, the Minister, as the Chairman of the Advisory Council, will have to give directions. Is it supposed that the 814 Minister will give directions in every case where an alternative road passenger service will have to be provided; and, as it is a vital national necessity that there should be an alternative service, does the Holding Company, or whoever is going to provide this passenger service, have to subject itself to the inquisition of a licensing authortiy?
If I may quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of May 8, the noble Lord, Lord Mills, in his reply to me when I raised this point on Second Reading, said [Vol. 240, col. 208]:The noble Lord"—that is myself—suggested that there was nothing in the Bill to enable the railways to run bus services. But there are limited powers in Clause 4 (1) (a) (iii) to meet the situation he had in mind. British Transport Commission bus companies are vested in the Holding Company and, subject to the licensing procedure, could operate substitute services, just as private enterprise could under the same conditions.I visualise that the road passenger services run by the British Transport Commission today will have to be practically doubled over this country.
If the matter goes to the licensing authorities, who have more or less done a very good job of work in regulating the amount of public passenger traffic on the road, will this have to be done every time? Will the procedure be that private enterprise can protest and enter objections to the running of these services? Should it not be done by the process mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, or is it far better, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said, to leave it in the hands of the Minister? Must the Minister's direction to the Holding Company again be subject to the approval of the licensing authority. It appears to me that that will be the procedure if what the noble Lord, Lord Mills, said to me on Second Reading is correct.
Perhaps the noble Lord would care to look into this matter, because it seems that there is some muddled thinking here. If you have a Holding Company directed by the Minister, acting on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to provide in the national interest a service which is made necessary because of the closure, through economic circumstances, of a railway line, is it supposed that the Holding Company can then be subject 815 to the veto of a licensing authority? If the noble Lord would care to give the answers to those questions in terms, and without any equivocation, I hope he will do so. Because this Bill will have a far better passage through Parliament, and will be far better received by the travelling public of this country, if they can be assured now that they are not going to be left isolated by the slavish adherence, compulsorily—and, again, I have no complaint to make about it—to a policy of making the railways pay—I might almost say at all costs.
§ LORD HUGHES
I intervene only because the speeches just made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and my noble friend Lord Lindgren have touched on a subject which appeals to me, as a Scot, very much indeed. But I should like to carry the point further, and, in so doing, perhaps give a warning to those of your Lordships who are not particularly concerned with rural areas or with sparsely-populated areas—because this matter goes much further than that. If you care to look at the pattern Which is emerging in Scotland, you can see where Government policy on this matter is taking us.
I believe that, althought it goes completely against present Government, policy, the Government, willy-nilly, are being forced into a situation in Scotland where they must consider the provision of a co-ordinated service. And why? Because both privately owned road transport and publicly owned rail transport are meeting exactly the same hurdle—that they cannot meet the test of profitability. In more than one Scottish newspaper the Chairman of the National Coal Board, Lord Robens, and Dr. Beeching are being called the modern "hammers of the Scots", and demands for their resignations are coming from all over Scotland. This is a completely foolish demand, of course, because if they were replaced by two others it would make not the slightest difference, unless the Government's policy were changed. After all, these men are doing what they were put there to do: to endeavour to make these services profitable. And they have come to the conclusion, with which so many noble Lords here have said they do not quarrel, that the way to make these services profitable is to 816 cut out those parts which do not pay, even though that means surgery of the most drastic nature.
It has been said that, so far as Scotland is concerned, there are no profitable railway lines north of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and that the commuter services in and out of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the only really large centres of population in Scotland, are just as unprofitable as are some of the rural services. On that basis we surely cannot accept it as the pattern of modern transport that, when you move north of Edinburgh and Glasgow, if you are not a car or lorry owner you become a pedestrian or a pack-carrier.
I have said that I believe the Government are being moved by the cold logic of events to accept the principle that a co-ordinated service is necessary; and, if that is to be the case, surely the method suggested by my noble friend Lord Shepherd is better than the one envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth—that of a Minister giving directions here, there and everywhere when it is shown clearly that a railway service has been withdrawn but that the people still have to move about and have their goods moved about for them. I would suggest that if the Government heed the advice which has been given to them, and accept this proposal, it will, at the end of the day, make it more easy for them to achieve their own object—that is, that as much of the transport service in this country as practicably can be made profitable should be made so, but that, as a necessary corollary, where it is in the interests of the community that a non-profitable service must be continued, then a body should be created to make that possible.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD MILLS)
It may be for your Lordships' convenience if I remind the Committee that we have reserved five days—May 21, 22, 24, 28 and 29—for the Committee stage. I undertook to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that, if it was at all possible, we would try to restrict ourselves to three or four hours on any day. It may prove that that length of time is not sufficient, and because of that possibility we are reserving a sixth day, May 31, when we might sit for more than three or four hours. 817 We may even have to add other days, because the Government do attach importance to the completion of the Committee stage before Whitsuntide, so that a reasonable interval can be left between the Committee stage and the start of the Report stage.
I should like to pay a tribute to the restrained way, the correct way, in which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd introduced his Amendment. As he said, Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 27 are all concerned in seeking to establish a fifth statutory Board, to be known as the British Road Services Board. Now paragraph 25 of the White Paper foreshadowed the Government's intention to transfer the interests in road transport to the Transport Holding Company; and, as Amendment No. 99 makes clear, these Amendments really seek to transfer to the proposed new Board the properties, rights and liabilities which, under this Bill, we propose to transfer to the Transport Holding Company. The list is given in Part IV of the Fourth Schedule.
The noble Lord first directed his remarks to the size of these road undertakings. It is quite true that they are of considerable size, but the noble Lord also said that he was not stressing the question of size: he just wanted to point out the fact of their size. But his main point was that he thought co-ordination and co-operation would be facilitated by setting up the British Road Services Board to take charge of these undertakings. Now I would remind your Lordships first that all these undertakings are limited companies, operating in a competitive field. They are not like the railways, the docks or the inland waterways, which are all monopolies in their particular kind of service. It was, and is, the Government's view that the conception of a Holding Company provides the right type of framework within which these companies can exercise their proper commercial judgment. We consider that to be the right conception. Indeed, we believe that control by a statutory Board, as suggested by the Amendment, might well result in curtailment of the operating and commercial initiative of the road transport undertakings.
The noble Lord based his case, as have other noble Lords, on what might or might not happen when certain sections 818 of a line were closed down, in the interests of the efficiency of the railways. That is an understandable point, but noble Lords have possibly exaggerated the position in this regard. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government, and of course of the railway authorities who are responsible for the task, to try to make the railways profitable. But that does not mean that every unprofitable point will be closed down or will disappear; proper judgment will, of course, be used in these matters. Normally—indeed always—when a proposal for a closure comes to the Minister it will be accompanied by a statement as to what are the alternative services if a branch or a station is closed down.
As I pointed out during the Second Reading debate—and my noble friend Lord Molson referred to it—the Minister has powers under Clause 29 (4) to give directions; but I would suggest to your Lordships that in practice he is unlikely to do this to any extent, because it will not be necessary. Substitute bus services and freight services are likely to be provided in any event by the ordinary agreements which exist, or which can be made, between the railways and the bus services themselves. Again, under Clause 56 (2) the Minister can attach to his consent for the curtailment or closing down of a rail passenger service the condition that alternative bus services should be provided. I also remind your Lordships that the Railways Board have power to operate or to secure the provision of these services under Clause 4 (1) and (2). I think that point—that is, the existence of these day-to-day agreements between the railways and the road services—has rather been left out of account in what your Lordships have had to say on this matter.
I cannot see that to interpose a British Road Services Board would do anything except interfere with the freedom of action of the units themselves, involving delay and frustration on their part. If on the other hand they need advice, or if they need a degree of co-operation which they are unable to provide for themselves, they have only to call upon the Holding Company, where they will find men of experience and knowledge of affairs beyond the narrow confines of the bus and transport services. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Molson, was right when he said that there are ample 819 powers under Clause 29 to give directions, and that these are far better than setting up another Board, in respect of which perhaps the Minister would be limited in the directions he could give. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, referred in very moving terms to this question of local services. I can assure him that the Government do not dissent from what he had to say; they dissent only in his support of this particular proposal, which does not appeal to the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, put a question to me to the effect that, if the Minister were to direct the Holding Company to operate a bus service, would it need a road service licence? The answer is just "Yes". The subsidiary of the Holding Company, in order to operate a new service, would need to get a licence, if it had not a licence already. I think that is necessary for the protection of the interested people in the area.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
Will the noble Lord forgive me if I interrupt him, because I am not quite clear about that point? Does he mean that a road service licence would be granted to the Holding Company automatically, or would they have to appear before the licensing authority and make application for the licence? Because the licensing authority can grant a licence only if need is established. Can the licensing authority overrule the Minister or his deputy, the Holding Company? If the Minister comes to the conclusion that there is a need in the national interest, why should he, therefore, have to be subjected to the overruling authority of a licensing authority, who will perhaps take a different view?
§ LORD MILLS
I think the position is quite clear. Anyone wishing to operate a road service who has not got a licence has to apply for one. In the case the noble Lord had in mind, it would probably be a subsidiary of the Holding Company—a bus company or a road service company—who would apply for that licence. The reason for that is to give the opportunity for objections to be made and considered. That is the general position throughout the country. I do not think there is anything wrong with that.
§ LORD HURCOMB
Might I ask the noble Lord a question on that point? If the licensing authority were to refuse the licence in such a case, would there be an appeal against their decision; and, if so, would the appeal be to the Minister?
§ LORD MILLS
The answer to that is "Yes". I do not think that the noble Lord will expect me to explore that hypothetical question any further. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, gave us a very unhappy picture of Scotland, but I have become a little case-hardened over these unhappy pictures of Scotland. I meet them in so many connections. My own experience is that the Scots are very well able to look after themselves. I do not expect that as a result of this Bill the position will be any worse than it is now. It might even be better. I have tried to explain why we do not find this Amendment acceptable, and I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw it.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
Much as we all respect the sincerity and knowledge of the noble Lord in this matter, he has totally failed to answer the case that has been made for this Amendment, and, to my mind, what he has said reveals a complete misconception of what that case is and what those needs are. At the beginning of his speech, the noble Lord told us what in fact we already knew, that the undertakings covered by the Holding Company are limited companies operating in a competitive field and that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, the Holding Company provides the right framework in which these companies can exercise their proper functions. The proper functions of the Holding Company are set out in Clause 29. If I may paraphrase them, they are that the Holding Company must manage the securities vested in it as if it were a company engaged in a commercial enterprise. In other words, it will be expected to do what a commercial enterprise must do—run its business at a profit.
The noble Lord told my noble friend Lord Hughes that he was becoming case-hardened to stories of the sufferings which people are enduring in various parts of the country owing to lack of suitable public transport. He is quite 821 confident that the people of Scotland are sufficiently stout-hearted to overcome whatever hardships this Government may inflict upon them.
I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has read the Jack Committee Report. The Jack Committee was set up in 1959—two and a half years ago—by his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, when there was greater railway mileage operating in rural areas than there is to-day and when there were many more rural railway stations open and working than there are to-day. The Committee reported last year, and even since then there has been a considerable further curtailment of railway services. This is part of the summary of conclusions of the Jack Report. Paragraph 8 says:Our general conclusion is that the present and probable future levels of railway bus services are not adequate to avoid a degree of hardship and inconvenience sufficient to call for special steps and we recommend mainly a system of direct financial assistance, in part from local authorities, in part from central sources, administered under the county councils.This view is based on impartial evidence before a distinguished Committee which investigated the matter, not only in all parts of this country 'but also in the countries of Europe, and which came to the conclusion that the railway bus services in many parts: of the country are wholly inadequate. We do not yet know the extent to which uneconomic railway services are going to be closed, but there seems to be a consensus of opinion that there will be substantial further closures.
The noble Lord cannot ride off from this point by saying that he does not think the closures will be so bad as some people imagine. It will be for his right honourable friend to approve the closures which are suggested, or (virtually to quote the noble Lord's words) if the closure of a railway line has taken place, he will then look at the alternative services. The Jack Committee, after speaking of hardship to a small number of people and of inconvenience to more, which does not accord well with any reasonable conception of adequacy, goes on to suggest that the licensing system as a whole has worked well, but is not now a sufficiently powerful instrument to deal with the situation so far as unremunerative bus services are concerned. My noble friend Lord 822 Shepherd spoke about "a bit of fat", meaning that in many cases private enterprise and other bus companies agreed to the running of a service which they know not to be remunerative because they have other services which pay. Even so, after considering certain other possible alternatives, the Jack Committee went on to say:It would be preferable to give whatever assistance was required in the form of direct financial aid.And they suggested that this should be partly from the Exchequer and partly from the county councils. These are the recommendations and it is no use for the noble Lord to shake his head.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am referring to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham. That was the position yesterday and in dealing with this Bill we are visualising the position tomorrow, when, through the closures that will take place, the position with regard to public transport in these areas must inevitably be worse.
On the point of whether we should have a Road Services Board or should rely on the Holding Company, the noble Lord, Lord Mills, said that a Board would interfere with the freedom of action which these units have and, if they needed advice, they have only to call on the Holding Company. What sort of advice? What they would need to be told is how to run a bus service at a profit, when they receive back only 4d. for every 5d. they spend. And that is precisely the kind of advice which the Holding Company will not be able to give them. Over and over again, when we discuss transport matters it is accepted that we cannot expect British Transport to make a profit, taking one year with another, if we insist that they run uneconomic services which may be socially desirable. That is common ground. An equally fair point was put by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that one cannot be sure that bus companies will be able to run economic services in areas which the railways find uneconomic. That seems to be fair. So the point will have to be faced before very long—and it ought to have been faced a 823 long time ago—when the railways and the bus services are able to say what services they can run which will show a profit, or which can eventually be made to show a profit, and which services they cannot. It should be for the Government, in the person of the Minister, to come to a decision and say: "These services are necessary for social, strategic or other reasons"; then they could not continue to insist that the Holding Company or the Railways Board should go on running them and making a profit. It cannot be done in the way the noble Lord suggested. They will have to say, as the Jack Committee recommended: "These services, if they are continued, will have to be subsidised." I do not think it can be denied that either you must do without them or you must pay the losses on a separate account. Once you get to that point, then the case for this Amendment cannot be any longer denied.
The whole of the case for the Holding Company rests on the assumption that these companies are going to run profitably, taking one with the other. They are going to be run on commercial lines—it says so in the Bill. I and my noble friends are saying that there will still be substantial parts of the public transport system of this country which cannot be run on commercial lines, in that they cannot be made to show a profit. But they are still necessary, and we shall still have to have them. In those circumstances, the only way in which these services can be run and public money spent in this way is by a public Board—that is, the Road Services Board, which is asked for in this Amendment. I hope the noble Lord or his noble friend, if he wishes to say anything on the matter, will address himself to the points made by the Jack Committee, which I think make our case stronger, or, if not, that he will be certain to look at this again.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
The noble Lord who has just sat down has referred at considerable length to the Jack Committee. He is not the only Member of this House who feels the same way. It is high time that the Report of the Jack Committee was implemented and something done about it. Certainly anybody like myself, coming from a sparsely 824 populated district, will support what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said. But because I think the Jack Committee Report ought to be implemented, I would not go so far as to say that this is a reason why the noble Lord's Amendment should be accepted. That is entirely another matter. The remedy to deal with the problems raised by the Jack Committee is to implement the Report of that Committee and not, if I may say so with respect, to accept this Amendment.
I, too, feel deeply about the great problem of our day, the drift of our population from the north and west towards the south-east. I am not quite happy that the Bill, as drafted, will give the public any confidence that there will be any check in this drift. I see my noble friend's point that the Minister has these various powers, but I do not think they are set out very clearly in the Bill.
I do not like the suggestion of the Opposition for another of these Boards. We have had many of these Boards in the last ten or fifteen years, and they have not been very successful. When we come to Clause 29, would my noble friend consider putting down an Amendment to subsection (4) to make it quite clear that, when the Minister gives a direction to the Holding Company in the conduct of its business, it may include that of keeping one of its subsidiaries to perform a function at a loss? In Chat case people would see that there is a definite power in a specific place in the Bill to do the thing which they know is going to be necessary.
§ LORD LINDGREN
Before the noble Lord replies, may I, with the greatest respect, suggest that he did not really answer the points which were put to him? In reply to me and to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, he said that alternative bus services will be provided. The noble Lord must be aware that services which have existed for years, irrespective of railways, are being withdrawn. In the constituency which I represented in another place for the past ten years, villages which are off the main road have ceased to be served, and rural workers are having to walk one, two and possibly three miles from the village to the main connecting point to get a bus. That means that a person 825 living between Northampton and Wellingborough often has to walk three milles from the village to the main Northampton road, catch a bus, go into Wellingborouglh or Northampton, and then walk another three miles when he comes back, which means a six miles walk. For a vigorous young fellow like the noble Lord, Lord Mills, I will admit that that is no hardship. But think of the aged or infirm, or the housewife who is pregnant. Three miles each way is not an easy matter, and even if those of us who are a little more virile get the chance of a third-class ride, it is better than a first-class walk for three miles.
Within a few yards of Welwyn Garden City is the village of Ayot. I will not say he made it famous, but Bernard Shaw lived not very far from it. They had a bus service for 40-odd years, but within the last few weeks it has been withdrawn. Why? Because it was run by London Transport, and because the village of Ayot situated on the A.l has an adult population of only just over 100. With the development of Welwyn Garden City, there is a population in (the Knightsfield area of about 4,000 adults. On a reasonable basis of profitability, London Transport have diverted the 303 bus route through Knightsfield, joining up with the A.1 three miles further on. So the village of Ayot, in which there are a number of persons who work in Welwyn Garden City, having had a bus service for 40 years has ceased to be provided with it. What happened? Quite rightly they protested. They went to London Transport who, on the basis of Government instructions, said: "We are required to run a profitable undertaking. We are no longer a social service, and Ayot can provide us with only the odd passenger." On the 303 route, London Transport, because of the emphasis on profitability, are not prepared even to divert occasional buses to provide occasional access to the village of Ayot. That means that those villagers, for 2½ miles one way and 3 miles the other way, are completely cut off from public service transport.
It is true that we have a Birch bus that runs through, but that is not allowed to pick up or set down because their route coincides with London Transport. If existing services are not being maintained, is it unreasonable of us to question the statement that, where existing 826 rail services are withdrawn, bus services will be provided? Because we are not even maintaining existing bus services. Unless we can get some assurance on that point, I do not think the statements made (with the best of intentions, I am sure) will satisfy the rural population.
§ LORD MILLS
London Transport will have an opportunity to-morrow of reading what the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, has said. No doubt he will be in a position to substantiate what he alleged. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, really gave the reply to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, because Lord Stonham referred at length to the Jack Report, which is still under consideration by the Government and of which I am quite aware. I think he has assumed that, because a railway finds a section of a line unprofitable, a bus service would necessarily find it unprofitable also. I do not think that follows by any means. He also referred to my remarks about a bus company's going to the Holding Company for advice and being told that they must operate profitably. I was at some pains to mention the kind of advice they might ask for. They might say, "We should like some greater degree of co-ordination but it is not possible for us to secure it alone; will you advise how we should go about it?" It was not merely advice whether they should run this or that service.
The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, asked me whether I would look at subsection (4) of Clause 29 to see whether it would be advisable to emphasise that a Minister could require a bus company to carry out an operation which was not profitable. I do not propose to answer that now but, of course, I will look at it.
May I intervene before we leave this point? I do not think I specifically said a "bus company". I was referring to wholly-owned subsidiaries both for goods and for passengers.
§ LORD MILLS
That I understand. At any rate we come back to the Amendment, after listening to some very interesting speeches, which I think were very wide of the Amendment. The point is this: is the provision of a fifth statutory Board, to be known as the "British Road Services Board", going to help or to hinder? In my view it would hinder 827 rather than help, and for that reason I would ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I must say that I rather regret the decision that the Minister has come to. He said that his noble friend Lord Bridgeman replied adequately to my noble friend Lord Stonham. May I say to him that it was one of my "enemies", the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, who made my case this afternoon when he asked the Minister whether he would contemplate an Amendment to Clause 29, that concerning the Holding Company, to permit the Holding Company to operate subsidiaries at a loss in order to provide a service to the community. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke put his finger upon, not necessarily the weakness but the whole point of Clause 29, which we mentioned before—… as if the Holding Company were a Company engaged in a commercial enterprise".I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Mills, this: if he were Chairman of the Holding Company and he were given this instruction by an Act of Parliament, how would he interpret it? Would he interpret it in the sense that he has to provide a service to the community? The whole intention of that clause is profitability. That is what any businessman in this House understands.
May I make one other point? The noble Lord, Lord Molson, said that he was satisfied that the Holding Company could provide a service where there was a rail closure if the Minister exercised his power of direction to the Holding Company. That could possibly be done in freight, but certainly there would have to be a considerable increase in road vehicles. But what I would ask is that we should look at the Schedule to see the case of the bus companies that are going to be the subsidiaries of the Holding Company. These are, in the main, bus companies operating in fairly large towns. But it does not meet the point of Scotland, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. Is it anticipated that the Holding Company will instruct the subsidiaries to enlarge their fields of operation and take on areas which are not productive and are not profitable? I do not think that is the case. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, 828 said that he preferred the Holding Company because the Minister would have power to give direction; but is it not a fact that in Clause 27 the Minister has power, after consultation with any Board—
§ LORD MOLSON
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I am glad of the opportunity of correcting the point, because I had my clauses wrong when I was speaking on the spur of the moment. Under Clause 29 (4), dealing with the Holding Company, it is provided that:The Holding Company shall in the conduct of their business act in accordance with such directions as may from time to time be given to them by the Minister.If the noble Lord will turn to Clause 27 (1) he will find that the powers are very much more general.The Minister may, after consultation with any Board, give to that Board directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by the Board of their functions …To take the case of Scotland, to which the noble Lord has referred, it is reasonably clear, I think, that the Minister could, under Clause 29 (4), give instructions, for example, to the Scottish Omnibuses Group (Holdings) Limited, which is referred to in the Schedule, and direct them to provide a service which was necessary, whereas it would not be possible for them to do so. If the noble Lord's Amendment were accepted he would be able to give only general directions to a Board.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I will reply to that point. It is true that the Minister can give instructions to the Holding Company to provide a service, but does the noble Lord honestly believe that a Minister will give the instructions to the Holding Company when in the objectives of the Holding Company the words are clearly stated:as if the … company were … engaged in a commercial enterprise"?
§ LORD MILLS
I think we are forgetting something I said. I pointed out that the Minister could attach conditions to his consent for closing down lines. I pointed out that in Clause 4 (1) the Railways Board itself has power to provide these services where they are needed.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
We shall be going on to that clause, but when the Railways Board closes down a line it will, 829 according to the Bill, have to provide for the carriage of goods only where it has interrupted a service, not where a service is discontinued. But this we can discuss when we come to that part of the clause. May I say that it is my view, which I think is shared by the noble Lord, Lord Hawks, that Clause 29 does not provide the essential part for the provision of an alternative service when a line is faced with closure. Our Amendment No. 60, if I may read it, says:It shall be the duty of the Road Services Board to cause to be provided by companies,
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM) moved in subsection (1) to leave out "Inland Waterways Authority", where that name first occurs, and insert "British Waterways Board". The noble Lord said: It seems to me, when I look at the timepiece, that if that is going to be our rate of progress I shall have to remind your Lordships that what my noble friend Lord Mills said was that the Government attach importance to getting this stage through by Whitsun, not Christmas. Now per-830
§ all the shares in which are owned by the Board, Road Haulage Services in such places and to such extent as may appear to the Board to be expedient."
§ I think that the oase made for the Amendment is overwhelming. The Minister resists and therefore I have no option but to ask your Lordships to support me in the Lobby.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 54.829
|Airedale, L.||Kenswood, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Latham, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lindgren, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Champion, L.||Listowel, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Stonham, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Greenhill, L.||Meston, L.||Williams, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rea, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Effingham, E.||Margesson, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Baden-Powell, L.||Fortescue, E.||Mills, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Goschen, V.||Molson, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Grenfell, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Hampton, L.||Newall, L.|
|Boston, L.||Harris, L.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hastings, L.||Robins, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hawke, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Chesham, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Howe, E.||Somers, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Iddesleigh, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Denham, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Tedder, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Long, V.||Teynham, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Twining, L.|
|Dynevor, L.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ haps I can do my best to improve the average a bit by moving Amendment No. 3, because it is quite a pleasure and I hope a help to the House when I say—rather outnumbering the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in his introduction to Amendment No. 1—that I should like your Lordships to consider in the process no fewer than 82 other Amendments. I am not going to endeavour to point out to your Lordships where they are; they are scattered through the Bill like confetti. What they do is to alter the name of the proposed new waterways authority to "British Waterways Board". The object, as I explained on Second Reading, is to avoid confusion 831 with the Inland Waterways Association and save a great deal of repainting.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on Second Reading appeared to be much moved. As he has been associated with the railways he will remember the time and cost of a great deal of repainting, and I know he will therefore agree that even if a small amount of it can be avoided it is highly desirable. There are also certain drafting advantages of a quite minor character: taking particular words of definition out which are no longer required. I think that is all I need say, except that I tried to find some other way of bringing in these Amendments which did not mean that all 83 had to be moved one after the other. There is no other way, and therefore I must ask the Committee to plough through them with me, when I move them formally each time. I beg to move the first of these Amendments.
Page 293, leave out "(Inland Waterways Authority") and insert ("British Waterways Board").—(Lord Chesham)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I rise merely to say that we will support the Government in what is, I suppose, a major improvement of the Bill. Anyhow, it is a "British" Authority. I hope that the noble Lord was not issuing a threat when he spoke about the slow progress of this Bill. I thought we had made pretty good ground considering the number of people who obviously have an interest in this matter. We will certainly try to speed up our speeches and to follow the noble Lord in the way he has introduced this Amendment.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I should not like the noble Lord to think that I was in any way complaining, because I certainly would not presume to make any such comment about the conduct of the Committee in examining such Amendments. As a matter of fact, I was merely pulling his leg.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 2, leave out lines 8 to 10.—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.832
§ 4.23 p.m.
LORD STONHAM moved to add to subsection (2):
and the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs, with a view to providing adequate and suitable representation on appropriate Boards".
The noble Lord said: We have now greatly improved our average, in that in 100 minutes we have effectively disposed of 100 Amendments. I think that that is a rate of progress which would satisfy the most demanding critic. But your Lordships would not expect me to attempt to continue at that rate when we are dealing with the affairs and, indeed, the strong feelings of Scotland and Wales. We on these Benches are in a position of some difficulty because I understand that to-day there takes place the opening dinner of the General Assembly in Edinburgh, which accounts for the comparatively thin attendance of our noble friends from Scotland on this occasion, although we are delighted to see the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on the Front Bench. Our misfortune in this respect arises from the fact that on this particular Amendment I understand that we should have had virtually unanimous, as well as well-informed and strong, support from the Back Benches opposite. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, whose speech on the Second Reading debate on this Bill will be well within the recollection of noble Lords, was kind enough to write to me and to say that but for this event, the General Assembly,
I would have put down an Amendment regarding Scottish representation on the Railways Board. I would, however, like in absentia to support your Amendment, which is is line with the views of the Scotttish Council, and on which you may, if you like, quote me.
§ I quote from that letter only to show, that this certainly is not merely an Opposition Amendment. I would venture to say that there is nothing of Party politics in it. It arises out of our strong desire to see that on all these Boards which are set up under the Bill there shall be adequate representation for the views of both Scotland and Wales. I should have thought this was particularly important on the Railways Board and on the British Waterways Board. It would have been of great importance on the British Road Services Board which we asked the Government to set up. But that merely makes the case 833 all the stronger for ensuring, if we possibly can, that there shall be a representative of Scotland and a representative of Wales on the Board. We do not directly ask for that. In this Amendment we ask merely that the Minister shall not just consult the chairman of each particular Board—that is all the Bill now says he should do—but that he should also consult the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs. As I say, that does not necessarily mean that we insist that there must foe a Scottish or a Welsh representative on these Boards; but if it were in the Bill, I think it would be a comforting thing for Scotland and for Wales to know that there was an obligation on the Minister especially to take the views of his colleagues for Scotland and for Wales in this matter.
§ It will quite properly be said that every decision is a Government decision and that therefore the decision of the Minister of Transport must embrace the views of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs. That is the theory. But in practice, I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, would not urge anything of the kind. Even if he did, I would submit that it would not cover the point, because what we are after is Scottish and Welsh local knowledge, and Scottish and Welsh opinion in day-to-day matters affecting these Boards. I should have thought that that is by no means an unreasonable demand.
§ I do not want to go again into the details that we discussed on the last Amendment, but I think the noble Lord will agree that in the very nature of things, particularly the kind of example which was quoted by my noble friend Lord Hughes, there must be a special and particular transport problem in Scotland and Wales. Whether or not that problem is going to be solved by the continuance of some uneconomic trail service or the continuance of bus services, or whether it is going to be solved in some way that has yet not (been thought of, the existence of that particular position in those areas is surely undeniable. Later on, we are going to ask for representation from rural areas or from agriculture; but, quite apart from the special problems arising from the fact that Scotland and 834 Wales are, in some parts, sparsely populated and have particular agricultural problems, we think that there is a peculiarly social problem in those areas.
§ It has often been charged that in various matters they have not been anything like as well cared for as other parts of the United Kingdom. Scotland has a higher ratio of unemployment. Until a few years ago, Wales was particularly ill served in many respects. There has now been a considerable change in Wales. But we have a Minister for Welsh Affairs: in other words, this is an admission that there had to be a special arrangement which has, indeed, borne fruit. Indeed some of the changes in the transport systems and transport services in Wales, and the less viable position of the railways in Wales, have arisen directly from the new industries which have been introduced there which have created, as it were, new forms of transport.
§ All these things, we feel, can be adequately dealt with in the years that lie ahead only if there is an obligation on the Minister, when discussing with the chairman of each Board the appointment of members, to have regard to the views of the Secretary of State for Scotland and of the Minister for Welsh Affairs. We hope that arising from that consultation, it would be less difficult to find a person from those areas with the other necessary qualifications. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will feel that this is an Amendment which meets the wishes of the people of Scotland and of Wales; that he will feel that its acceptance would go some way, at least, to reassure them about the fears which, quite understandably, they feel about their transport future, and that he will feel able to accept it. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 14, after ("Board") insert the said words—(Lord Stonham).
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I rise to support my noble friend. I think that the Committee will remember that when the 1953 Act was before Parliament the Government, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, produced an Amendment which was included in the Bill, that at least two persons should be appointed to 835 the Board, after consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, as being persons likely to be conversant with the circumstances and special requirements of Scotland. The present Government recognised in 1953 the case that was made, that Scotland should be represented; and I feel—because the circumstances have not changed a great deal—that that principle still stands to-day.
It is true that the Minister, when he makes his appointments, after consultation with the chairmen, must take into account local requirements—the special requirements of particular regions and areas. But I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, will agree with me that the Secretary of State for Scotland in Parliament has a special responsibility for Scottish matters and the well-being of the Scots. This applies equally to the Minister for Welsh Affairs, who is now responsible in Parliament for Welsh affairs. Therefore, I should have thought that it was absolutely right that the Minister, when making these appointments for these national undertakings, should consult with the Ministers in the two countries concerned whose responsibility it is.
One often hears it said in Scotland—I certainly do, with a Scots wife—that there are far too many decisions made by Londoners in Whitehall who know nothing whatsoever about Scottish matters. I do not know how far that is true, but undoubtedly there is a strong feeling on those lines in Scotland. If there are to be these large alterations in the transport system in Scotland and Wales, I should have thought that the Government would to a degree be protecting themselves if they ensured that those who were making these decisions had been appointed after consultation with the political Minister.
As to the railways, I understand that passengers in Scotland travel a good deal farther than they do in England; in other words, railways are probably of greater importance to the Scots than they are in the South. It is true, I believe, that these railway services are not profitable, due, I suppose, to the fact that the areas served by the railways are sparse in population. These services should continue, and I think that the Scottish Minister should have some say in the 836 choice of the people who are going to operate them.
I believe that there is considerable disquiet in regard to the Docks Board. The docks that this Board will be operating are in South Wales. It is true that there is a big dock at Grangemouth, in Scotland, but a number of docks Which at one time were important and profitable have over the years declined. Therefore, when one is considering the persons who are to operate and direct these various services, I think it only right that the Ministers responsible for those areas should be consulted when appointments are being made. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment, because I believe that it would do a great deal to clear up some of the fears that already exist.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
I shall be very brief. As I have been referred to by the noble Lord who has just sat down, and as I was Secretary for Scotland in 1953, I think I may say that I regret that the Government to-day should in any way whittle down what was agreed to at that time. I had something to do with the matter, and, as has been stated, Lord Bilsland moved, and the Government accepted, words to the effect that two at least of the Transport Commission should be persons appointed, after consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, as being persons likely to be conversant with the circumstances and special requirements of Scotland. That provision was accepted, and I think that its object, as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is perfectly clear. Scotland, in the Highlands, particularly in the far North, is faced with very different transport difficulties. My noble friend Lord Dundee (whom I am glad to see here, and who, like me, is not participating in the Edinburgh functions) will, I hope, agree that what we did in 1953—though I do not think he was a member of the Government at the time—had a good and valid reason. I should not like to see the Government go back in any way on that, and I hope my noble friend Lord Mills will take this matter into consideration before he refuses to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My being associated with this Amendment is one of 837 those inconsistencies which we sometimes get in British politics. I usually take the line—I have sometimes got into trouble for it in some quarters—that we pander much too much to the nationalistic tendencies of our Scottish and Welsh friends. They are part of Britain and part of Britain's economy, and this idea of separation is to my mind all wrong. But I am associated with this Amendment for this reason: that, taking it by and large, the number of those who are likely to be most affected by the economies which are likely to arise, particularly in association with railway operations, will on average be greater in Scotland and in Wales than in England. Therefore, if in fact one is going to have two groups of people seriously affected, I think it is a wise proposition, from the point of view of a Government, to have them included within the organisation. I must admit that I have sometimes been made chairman of an odd committee or two in order to keep me quiet, and it is quite a good proposition to bring within the organisation persons who are likely to be affected and to get them associated with the decision, so that you have an answer to criticism.
§ LORD STONHAM
My noble friend will agree with me that it is not with the intention of keeping the Scottish and Welsh representatives quiet that we are moving this Amendment.
§ LORD LINDGREN
No, but I feel that it is desirable that, where they are likely to be much more affected than other people, they should be associated with the decision. After all, they can put their point of view and can get the reply. Generally speaking, I would agree that the organisation, as such, would look at this matter even without direct representation on the Boards, but I feel it is a wise proposition to have these people directly associated with it.
§ LORD HUGHES
I was pleased to hear the intervention by the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, because it was very powerful support for this proposal. He has drawn attention to the fact that what is being asked for in this Amendment is much less than was conceded in 1953 when, as he has said, it was laid down that there were to be not fewer than two members. All this Amendment 838 asks is that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs should be consulted. We know that consultation does not always imply agreement. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that on the last Amendment he said—I think perhaps he was a little ill-advised to have done so, but he must be the best judge of his own remarks—that he, and by implication the Government, were case-hardened to these pleas from Scotland. Now that will not go down well, because we do not think that we are putting either a plea for charity or coming here with a beggar's bowl. We are drawing attention to the real needs of Scotland and it is not a political issue. I refer to the demands which have been made for the resignations of the heads of the nationalised undertakings. These are not demands from political Parties in Scotland; they are demands which are coming from the women's rural institute, the Housewives' League, and the like, people who do not profess to be approaching the matter from a political point of view.
It is surely reasonable, as has been suggested by my noble friend Lord Stonham, that, even if the Minister thinks that he must either harden his case or harden his heart, whichever is the appropriate one, against those of us who are putting these pleas from Scotland, he should at least be prepared to listen to the point of view of two of his own ministerial colleagues, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Welsh Affairs. If they put forward a good reason why the Board should include representatives from these areas, then presumably it will be accepted. But if they do not, or if they accept the point of view that there is no special case for Scottish or Welsh representation, then obviously the composition of the Board becomes all the stronger when it is known that these consultations have, in fact, taken place. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will find it possible to accept this very modest suggestion.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
I should like to associate myself with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in this Amendment. In my own area of Scotland the services will probably still run quite well, but there is a great deal of concern north of Inverness at the Transport Commission's 839 proposals for economy. Therefore it seems to me that representation of more Scottish members to this Board is essential, particularly in view of the fact that for large parts of the year alternative transport finds the large area between Inverness and the Northern Highlands impassable owing to weather conditions. I therefore hope that the Government will give serious consideration to what I think is a reasonable Amendment.
§ LORD BOSTON
I feel that that applies equally to Wales, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has already brought out. So if the noble Lord, Lord Mills, gives way in the case of Scotland, I express the hope that he will also include Wales.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
When you are a member of the Government, Parliamentary business is always supposed to take priority over other engagements, even that of attending on the Sovereign or on the Sovereign's representative, and that is the reason why I am in your Lordships' House to-day and not in Edinburgh. It happened to me once before in 1937, some time after the Coronation of that year. But I am very sorry to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that some of my noble friends from Scotland, who are now in Edinburgh, would have liked to be here to take part in this discussion, because I should have certainly liked very much to hear them.
I often find that there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding in England about what happens in Edinburgh at this time of year. When I tell people that I have to go up to be at a General Assembly, I always find they think I mean I am going to New York, to the General Assembly of the United Nations. This is a very old grievance. Many of your Lordships will remember that in another place the Whips always seemed to try deliberately to put on Scottish business on an occasion like this. The only other time they put Scottish business on with unfailing regularity was on Derby Day.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
When my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn was Secretary of State for Scotland, he did one thing which I thought was very good: he succeeded in transferring road construction—not road transport—from the Ministry of Transport to the Scottish Office.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I had not intended it to be taken in an exclusive sense. In fact, since my noble friend evidently has a little feeling about it, I will say that I think he did a lot of good things. But he did this, and I hope my noble friend Lord Chesham will not mind my saying that, since 1956, progress on road construction and the prospect of bridge building in Scotland has gone ahead, on the whole, fairly well. But I do not think there is any suggestion that the control of any kind of transport should be transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland, either those bits of road transport which are still under British Road Services or still less the railway transport. I do not think anybody proposes that when you get into the "Aberdonian" or the "Night Scot" you should be under the control of the Scottish Office until you get to Berwick, and then under the Ministry of Transport for the rest of the way.
§ LORD STONHAM
Will the noble Earl allow me to interrupt him? I hope he is not suggesting that anything in our Amendment suggests that control of any part of Scottish transport should be transferred to the Secretary of State. The control will be wholly under the Minister of Transport.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I have just said that, although road construction has been transferred, I think rightly, I did not think anybody suggested that the control of transport should be. I am always a little doubtful about the usefulness of these provisions for consulting one Minister about the appointments on a Board which is under the control of another Minister, or, indeed, of provisions trying to limit or restrict the freedom of choice of a Minister who appoints a public Board, for the purpose of trying to ensure that some particular interest will be properly considered on 841 that Board. It is not necessary to make a statutory provision that Ministers shall consult together: they must do so in any case. They have to consult their colleagues in the Cabinet on all these matters of public policy—not only about the people who are appointed to boards, but about those much wider questions of policy with which your Lordships are, of course, much more closely concerned than the actual membership of the Board.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred to the 1953 Act. In the 1947 Act, passed by the Government supported by noble Lords opposite, there was no provision of this kind at all as regards the Transport Commission. As Lord Shepherd has said, in 1953 a provision was made that two members of the Transport Commission should be appointed after consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland, having regard to the need to consider Scottish matters. I do not remember the debate at that time, though my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn probably does. I think there was a special reason for doing that at that time, arising out of the denationalisation of all the road services in Scotland. It was considered by the Government that, for this reason, it would be a good thing to make sure that there were on the Commission two people with a special knowledge of Scotland.
What we have done in this Bill is to provide, in the subsection following that which the noble Lord opposite is proposing to amend—that is, subsection (3) of this clause—thatthe chairmen and other members of the Board shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Minister",et cetera, and thatthe Minister in appointing them shall have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of particular regions and areas served by the Board".It seems to me that that is really a much better way of doing it. It does not put in a statutory provision to the effect that every single appointment must be referred to the Secretary of State for Scotlandwith a view to providing adequate and suitable representation on appropriate Boards".842 It charges the Minister with the duty of seeing that on these Boards there shall be people who are familiar generally with all local problems, not only those concerning Scotland and Wales (which, incidentally, is the point contained in the Amendment set down by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham), but concerning also places like Westmorland and Cornwall, and even Ayot St. Lawrence, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren.
I think that the other place were probably right when they negatived Amendments proposing to do, not exactly this, but containing provision for the Minister to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland about members not only on this Board but on all the Boards except London Transport. I do not complain of this Amendment that it would, incidentally, compel the Minister to consult the Secretary of State for Scotland about appointments to the London Transport Board, in which he has plainly no primary interest. But, with regard to the other boards, the proposal was rejected by another place. I am therefore not at all keen on this Amendment, but I feel it is a pity that some of my noble friends from Scotland who would have liked to come and give us the benefit of their advice have been prevented from doing so. I have listened with attention to what my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn, who has the knowledge and authority of an ex-Secretary of State, has said to your Lordships, and to what others of your Lordships have said, too. Although I cannot give any kind of promise, if the Amendment is withdrawn now I would undertake to have this matter considered again before Report stage, in the hope of hearing a little more advice from those of my noble friends from Scotland who are unable to be here to-day.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am most grateful for that reply by the noble Earl. J should like to make it clear that I did not quote from the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, in order to draw forth any reproof for him or for his noble friends, but merely to make it clear why they were not sitting on the Benches opposite.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am sure I could not record any reproof, because 843 I myself had the same dilemma but no freedom of choice.
§ LORD STONHAM
Nor do I wish to commiserate with the noble Earl on the fact that he has had to endure us instead of taking part in the delights of Edinburgh. I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, in that he himself has felt the noble call of duty and has appeared to take part in our deliberations. I am grateful for the way in which the noble Earl has considered this matter. I think we are on a good point here; and when we bring it up again at the next stage of the Bill (unless he or his noble friends decide to do so themselves in their own words) he will then have the advantage of the views of his noble friends on that side of the House. With that, I would ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD AILWYN)
Before calling on Amendment No. 6, I think the Committee should have their attention drawn to the fact that there is a little overlapping between Amendment No. 6 and Amendment No. 7. If Amendment No. 6 is agreed to, Amendment No. 7 will automatically fail. May I suggest that any noble Lord who wishes to speak to Amendment No. 7 should speak during the debate on Amendment No. 6?
§ 4.58 p.m.
LORD BURDEN moved, in subsection (3), to leave out all words from, and including, "shall be appointed" down to, and including, "workers" and to substitute:
(a) shall include persons who appear to the Minister to have had wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, transport matters and the organisation of workers, and
(b) subject to paragraph (a) of this subsection, shall be appointed from among persons who appear to the Minister to have had wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industrial, commercial or financial matters, administration or applied science,".
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. At the same time, perhaps I may mention that the points referred to in Amendment No. 6 are also dealt with in Amendments Nos. 12, 844 13, 14, 17 and 22. Clause 1 deals with the membership of the British Railways Board, the London Transport Board, the British Transport Docks Board and the Inland Waterways Authority; Clause 25 deals With the appointment of directors of the Holding Company; and the First Schedule deals with the appointment of members of the Regional Railway Boards. All these provisions empower the Minister (or, in the case of the Regional Railway Boards, the British Railways Board) to appoint from among persons with certain qualifications, including wide experience of and capacity in the organisation of workers.
§ I submit that the provisions contained in the Bill, which merely empower the inclusion of members experienced in the organisation of workers but do not specifically require it, are quite unsatisfactory. I suggest that in each instance it should be required that the members shall include a person or persons who has or have wide experience of, and has or have shown capacity in, the organisation of workers. I have not the slightest doubt that it will be pointed out on behalf of the Government that the Transport Act, 1947, contains provisions similar to those which are in the present Bill. But they were improved upon in the Transport Act, 1953, which provided, in Section 25 (2) (b), that each Board was to consist of members who between them had experience in certain matters, including the organisation of workers—the very point that I am now putting before your Lordships.
§ This aspect of the matter was considered in another place in the form of an Amendment which provided that, in exercising the powers conferred on him by Clause 1, the Minister should secure that the members of each Board include persons who "have had wide experience of, and have shown capacity in", the organisation of workers; and there was a corresponding Amendment to the First Schedule. On behalf of the Government, the Amendment was opposed on three grounds. In the first place, it was urged that it referred to persons; and thus, if there was a new Waterways Authority of the minimum size—chairman, vice-chairman, and four members—at least two would have to be qualified in the organisation of workers. This, it was stated, would be an unreasonably large proportion. This objection has been 845 dealt with in the Amendments which I have put on the Order Paper.
§ The second point made was that the Amendment was unnecessary. It was stated that experience in the organisation of workers was one of the qualities to which the Minister should have regard when he made appointments, and that there was no need to say it again. The third point was that the Government were anxious to have the maximum flexibility, and did not want to have their hands tied by a specific statutory requirement that a certain proportion of people with a particular qualification must be on the Board or on the Boards. I do not know whether it has been noted, but it seems to me that these last two points urged against the Amendment are contradictory, and imply that the Minister merely wishes to be free from any obligation to appoint to the Boards a person or persons with experience in the. organisation of workers.
§ Everyone, I think, will agree that the provisions of this Bill, if and when it becomes an Act of Parliament, must have a profound effect on those now employed in the transport industry. Surely these people, who have devoted their lives to the transport industry, are entitled to have their aims, aspirations and difficulties fully understood. The workers in the industry may, I think, justly claim that on each and every one of these Boards there should be some person or persons fully conversant with all the problems arising out of the organisation, and the building-up of the organisation, of workers.
§ A further point is, I suggest, with respect, of great importance. If the Minister wishes to secure the cooperation of those employed in the transport industry, I would urge him to accept these and the similar Amendments and carry them into effect. I can assure the Minister that these Amendments are regarded as matters of vital importance to those employed in the transport industry. They realise that their future, the future of the transport industry and of the railway industry, is at stake. They feel, therefore, that on these Boards there should be their own people (if I dare put it in that way), fully alive to all that is involved in these changes, and able to put forward all that is involved so far as the livelihood of the workers is concerned. For these 846 reasons, I urge the Minister to accept the Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 18, leave out from ("Board") to ("and") in line 22, and insert the said new words.—(Lord Burden.)
The noble Lord, Lord Burden, seeks to make mandatory what is permissive in the Bill. I would suggest that it is unthinkable that a Minister would set up a Board dealing with these vast transport undertakings without having on it a man who is skilled and has shown capacity in the organisation of workers. Public opinion would not allow the Minister not to do so. But by making it mandatory, it can at times be extremely inconvenient for the Minister. Suppose, for instance, that owing to death or retirement a well-known trade union leader goes off the Board. There may be a very promising man whom the Minister would like to have, and who would be available in three months' time. As the Bill stands, the Minister will be able to wait for that man for three months. But under the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Burden, he has to take somebody else who he thinks is second-best, or, alternatively, do the impossible of putting in a stop-gap for three months. We have come a long way since these industries were nationalised. It is part of the national habit that there should be a member showing capacity in the organisation of workers, and I think it is quite unnecessary to make it mandatory in this case.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
As the noble Lord, Lord Burden, has said, this Amendment is linked with Nos. 12 to 15, 17 and 22. It is also linked with Amendments 89 and 219 to 222, to the First Schedule. Clause 1 (3) as it stands provides that the chairman and other members of the British Railways Board shall be appointed from persons possessing experience in the different categories set out both in the Bill and in the noble Lord's Amendment. On the other hand, as my noble friend Lord Hawke has just said, the Amendment seeks to put an obligation on the Minister to include in his selectionpersons who appear to the Minister to have had wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, transport matters and the organisation of workers.847 All the other Amendments follow the same pattern. These Amendments do not add in any way to the qualifications for membership, nor do they delete any of these requirements. They only single out certain qualifications for obligatory membership.
As the noble Lord, Lord Burden, said, I believe that the Minister must have the utmost flexibility in making these appointments and that the Board should not be representative of particular interests. At one time I was the Minister responsible for three of these nationalised industries and I found that the Boards took far too literally what various Acts have to say on this subject, most of which provided that the Minister should appoint men from among certain categories. They did not realise that it was essentially their job to generate inside the industry people suitable for the Boards. So I am wholly with the noble Lord when he says that so far as possible the Boards should be built up from people who know the industry and are a part of the industry. So far as people skilled in the organisation of workers is concerned, I would in no way belittle their importance. But I did find (and I am speaking from my own experience) definite opposition to the idea of appointing young and vigorous men skilled in the trade union movement. Too often membership of these Boards was looked upon as a way in which people could be rewarded for past services to the trade union movement. I hope that that is a thing of the past, because the co-operation of people skilled in the organisation of workers is greatly to be desired. But they must be skilled and they must be capable of using their skill.
I am sure that the more commercially minded the nationalised industries become, the more they will see the necessity of affording Board representation both to the management and to the workers. Meanwhile, I do not think that it is a good thing that we should seek to limit what the Minister is able to do. Things never happen in just the way one wishes them to happen. My noble friend Lord Hawke gave an instance, and there are many other instances that one could give. I think that the Minister must be free to appoint members to the board 848 having regard to the needs of the organisation. I hope that, as I have expressed myself quite forcibly as being in sympathy with what the noble Lord would like to happen, and what I think should happen, the noble Lord will find it possible to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I am not impressed by the noble Lord's reply, and there are one or two phrases in it to which I would take the greatest exception—for instance, what the noble Lord said about positions on the Board being for elderly trade unionists instead of young and vigorous men. My mind goes back to my noble friend Lord Citrine and what he has done for the electrical industry.
§ LORD MILLS
May I interrupt the noble Lord? He is talking about a very great friend of mine. I myself appointed the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, to the Boards on which he now sits, and I have the greatest admiration for him. All I said, and I should like to repeat it, is that I have no use for offers, which are sometimes made, of people who, for one reason or another, could not be of service to the Board.
§ LORD BURDEN
There are plenty of others I could mention—Mr. Cliff, of London Transport, for example. The noble Lord had nothing to do with the appointment of Mr. Citrine (as he was then) to the nationalised electricity industry. Think what he did for that industry. The noble Lord's generalisation is one for which one or two instances may be found, but there are far more instances on the other side, of men who have been brought up in the organisation of workers and who have done a good job when they went on to the nationalised Boards. Another instance is Mr. Annan, in the transport industry. Indeed, I should like to know of some of these elderly, effete gentlemen whom the noble Lord has in mind.
§ LORD MILLS
May I interrupt the noble Lord once more, because I should not like him to think that I was referring to any man who is serving or has served on these Boards? I am only telling him my experience. I was offered people of the category to which I have referred, and I did not think that they were suitable.
§ LORD BURDEN
I cannot deal with things that go on behind the scenes, only with the outward and visible signs of what has been done by those who have been born and bred in the workers' and trade union movement. That is why I took the gravest exception to what the noble Lord said with regard to these appointments. Quite frankly, I am a little anxious. It is all very well to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has said, that in the twentieth century, and with the power of those associated with the organisation of workers, these men will be taken into account. How many times on both side of the House have we heard the phrase, "If that is so, put it in the Bill"? I think this claim for flexibility is merely a way of avoiding the direct responsibility which should rest on the Minister. Taking all in all, I venture to think that the interests of 500,000 men and women, or thereabouts, who are employed in the transport industry ought to be represented directly by people who know and understand and are conversant with their problems. We cannot dodge that issue by using such words as, "flexibility", which means that those people will probably not be appointed at all. If the Minister wants the good will of the railway industry, then I urge him to think again on this matter, and not to turn down the claim which I am making on behalf of the men and women concerned.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 5.22 p.m.
LORD WALSTON moved, in subsection (3), after "science" to insert "agriculture, rural affairs". The noble Lord said: This, in contradistinction to the last Amendment, is a permissive Amendment. As the Bill now stands, the Minister shall appoint the members of the British Railway Board from various categories of people who are properly, in my view, mainly chosen from people who are closely concerned with the actual operation of the railways; men who
have shown their capacity in transport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, administration, applied science, or the organisation of workers.
That is a pretty wide category, and it gives the Minister a fairly wide freedom of choice in appointing such people as he considers can best run the railways.
§ I agree to a large extent with what the noble Lord, Lord Mills, said just now. I think his words were, "The Minister must 'be free to appoint those people he thinks can best do it." But as this Bill now stands, the Minister is not free to appoint all the people that he thinks best; he is free only to appoint from certain categories. It is perfectly possible that the Minister might ask himself, "In this particular area which is being dealt with, or even in the whole country, who are the greatest users of the railways?—the steel, coal and, probably, agricultural industries". He might say to himself—and I hope he would— "I should like to have people on this Railway Board who are experienced in all those three great occupations." He will then turn to this Bill and will find that while he is perfectly free to appoint somebody who knows about, and is experienced in, coalmining or the steel industry, he is debarred from appointing somebody who is experienced in agriculture, unless you strain the word "industry" to include agriculture.
§ It seams to me, therefore, that the Minister's hands are being tied. This is important. I am not saying there must be somebody on the Railway Board who represents agriculture. All I am saying is that the Minister ought to be free, if he sees fit, to be able to appoint. Just as he can appoint an experienced industrialist, so he should be able to appoint an experienced agriculturist, bearing in mind the fact that agriculture is one of the largest users of railways and also the significant fact that more and more agricultural products are to-day being transported by road rather than by rail. Whereas a few years ago approximately 35 per cent. of the total milk supply of this country was transported by rail, it is now down to 25 per cent. The same is true of fertilisers. grain and sugar beet.
§ In so far as agriculture is concerned, I urge upon the Government that they should allow the Minister to appoint somebody skilled in agriculture and not, as is the case to-day, make it impossible for him to do so. Similar arguments apply to rural affairs in general. As we have already heard, the rural parts of the country are suffering, and will suffer as time goes on, from the closing down 851 of railways and the difficulties of transport to the more remote areas. It might well be—I put it no higher than that—that the Minister would like to appoint to the Railways Board somebody, possibly a woman and not necessarily a man, not from industry but who has wide experience in the W.V.S. or some other service which does good work in the country. But be is not allowed to do that as the Bill stands to-day. Therefore, I ask the Government to realise that, as the Bill stands now, they have tied the bands of their Minister and prevented him from having that freedom which the noble Lord, Lord Mills, asked that he should have. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 21, after ("science") insert ("agricultural, rural affairs").—(Lord Walston.)
I have a good deal of sympathy with the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, though it does not lead me to say that I am going to support it. I will give one reason. It is perfectly true that agricultural interests are very great in the operation of the railways, particularly in the east of England, where the noble Lord comes from. But I wonder Whether most of the goods moved by rail under those conditions—apart from sugar beet—'are, in fact, in the hands of the farmers themselves. Or are they in the hands of agricultural merchants and people of that sort? If that is the case, I think they can be fairly placed in the financial and commercial class, and we could get home on that.
In general, I cannot say that I am in favour of what I might call, rather rudely, these prestige Amendments, because there is no end to them. When everybody is somebody, no one is anybody; and you can go on adding to the list of people you wish to be represented on the Board. I should have thought that, certainly in the case the noble Lord is bringing forward, the words "commercial and financial matters" would cover the need for experts in most of the goods that are being moved for the benefit of agriculture. Between the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I think we have come back to advocating the usual Whitehall formula that on every Board 852 or Commission there should be one trade unionist and one woman.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I wonder whether the noble Lord could help us. It is a fact that the Bill, as it is before us, says that persons "shall be appointed from", and then we have the various categories. Undoubtedly, there is the case that if industrial, commercial or financial matters, or applied science are to be considered in the appointment, certainly agriculture, one of our major industries, and one which depends so much upon efficient transport, should have some consideration to be represented. I quite agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. In justice, practically every side of life should be represented. I personally, as your Lordships will probably see from a later Amendment in my name, wish to stress railway transport as the main requirement. I wonder whether we could not find some other words broadly to describe the persons that are required and, perhaps more specifically, the types of persons who are required When we get down to the appointment of the Regional Boards. Possibly, with Regional Boards the question of agriculture might play a more important part if we were dealing with, say, the North-Eastern Board rather than with the Scottish Board. I do not know, but at least we can possibly consider the importance of the various industries in the light of the individual regions.
I dislike the whole list in subsection (3). I think time has shown that it is a mistake to list these categories of people from whom members of these Boards must be chosen. What we are appointing now is a board of directors to run an undertaking which is at present losing money in eight and nine figure amounts. When we begin to talk about who should be represented on this Board I think we are entirely on the wrong tack. We want people Who are most likely to be able to run these undertakings successfully. If we want representation, I might remind noble Lords opposite that we are getting mighty near some of the old railway boards, about which they have said some harsh things in the past, where some of the directors were there undoubtedly because they were able to influence traffic 853 towards the railways. So I would deprecate any enlargement of this list, which to my mind is already far too large.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
On this Amendment it seems to me that, in view of the points made by the noble Lord opposite and by others on this side, there is little for me to say. But I think I must say a few words because I should like, if possible, to help the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, as he asked. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that there are aspects of this Amendment about which I do not care and which will lead me in a moment to express the hope that he will not wish to press it. Before I come on to those reasons, however, I should like to say that I, like my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, do not view this Amendment without sympathy, because I think that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has a case with which we must be in sympathy. But the reason why I do not like it is based more on what has gone before. We have tried to base the qualifications for the Boards on the existing provisions in nationalisation Statutes, and they are very close, in fact, to what was laid down in the Transport Act, 1947; the qualification for membership of the Railways Board under this Bill is the same as that for the British Transport Commission at present, except that applied science has been added, following the precedent which was set in the case of the Electricity Act, 1957, and the Iron and Steel Act, 1953. The provisions for the membership of the Board are in what might be called common form.
There is no reference to agriculture or to rural affairs in any of the other main nationalisation Statutes relating to electricity, gas, coal, iron or steel, where, certainly in some instances, just as good a case could be made out. I should have thought—it may be a slight strain—that, so far as agriculture was concerned (the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred to it as one of our main industries), it could be said to be adequately covered by the word "industry". I think that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Walston, would agree that if the efforts he has to put in on his farm are anything like those which I try to put into mine, possibly the term "applied science" might also be held to cover it. But prin- 854 cipally, I think, it would be covered by the word "industry". I do not think that the Minister would be debarred from appointing someone who was experienced in agriculture.
Rural affairs, I rather agree with him, are a more difficult subject because I see some difficulties of definition in that particular case. Of course, there is no sex bar on this thing so far as I know. I think members of the Board may be of either sex; so that that does not arise from this. But also I think that, if I were to accept this, a good case could be made for including quite a large number of suitable claimants to have their names included from whom members might be appointed, or shall be appointed, and I think we could get a very long list and then run into trouble as to whether it was comprehensive or not, or whether anyone had been left out. For these reasons, although I am not without sympathy, I hope the noble Lord will feel satisfied and that he does not feel it necessary to press his Amendment.
§ LORD STONHAM
Before my noble friend Lord Walston makes up his mind what he is going to do with his Amendment, could the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, carry his sympathy just a little further? I think we all agree that the longer you make the list the more people you have left out, but it seemed to me that the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, was not able to say that agriculture would be covered by "industry" or "applied science". He thought it might be. Would it not be possible to find out? He thought that persons of either sex could be appointed to the Board, but he was not sure about that. I know it is common to refer to agriculture as our largest industry, but usually when we think of industry or commerce we do not readily think of agriculture. I am wondering therefore whether he can be more positive on this point.
The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, said that if we were to go on in the way my noble friend and I suggest we should get back to the position of the old Railway Boards where directors were appointed because they could influence traffic towards the railways. I should have thought that is precisely what the railways need to-day: people on the Boards who can tell them how to get 855 more traffic. And this particular point of agriculture seems to me a case in point because there are certain sections of agriculture which are virtually dependent on the railways.
I think the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, had it in mind when he mentioned sugar-beet. Some farmers are directed to send their sugar-beet by rail; they have no option of sending it by road. These are points which ought to be considered on a Railways Board by people with knowledge, and the National Farmers' Union are very uneasy about the fact that, as the Bill now stands, there is no certainty, perhaps no likelihood even, that somebody with a knowledge of agriculture would be a member of the Railways Board. Therefore, I wonder whether the noble Lord is not able to be more precise at this moment as to just what the Bill means, as to whether agriculture could be included or not—my noble friend said it was expressly excluded—and whether he could undertake to give us more information on this point at a later stage.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am sorry that my modest demeanour in the House should have misled the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, because I am quite prepared to be a good deal more positive right now. I am perfectly certain that members of the Board can be of either sex. I say that quite categorically; there is no doubt on the matter. I should have said there was extremely little doubt, if any, that agriculture would be included, and people with experience of agriculture would certainly not be debarred from being chosen as members. If there is any doubt it is minute, but I should be delighted to re-check the position and let the noble Lord know about it. I do not think there is any doubt, but I will make doubly sure of it.
§ LORD WALSTON
I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has just said, but I would point out that there was a distinction between what he said about people of either sex and farmers. The noble Lord said there was no doubt whatsoever in his mind that women as well as men were eligible. He then went on to say about agriculture "there is very little doubt in my mind" or words to that effect. We did not have the same cate- 856 gorical assurance with regard to agriculture as with regard to people of either sex. I am perfectly happy to withdraw this Amendment immediately, without any proviso at all if we can be given an equally categorical assurance that agriculture is included in "industry"; but if there are any lingering doubts in the noble Lord's mind I will still be content to withdraw the Amendment on the assurance that he will look into it and we can raise the matter later if necessary.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I do not know whether the noble Lord heard what I said, but I did say I would do just that. Personally, I do not think there is any doubt. I want to be sure, noble Lords opposite want me to be sure, and I will make sure. If there is any doubt in the noble Lord's mind I give an assurance that I will do that.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.43 p.m.
LORD LINDGREN moved to add to subsection (3):
Provided also that the Vice-Chairman (or as the case may be one of the two Vice-Chair-men) and at least a majority of the said other members of the Board shall be persons who appear to the Minister to have had wide experience of or to have shown capacity in Railway Transport; and that two or more of the said other members (whether or not those two or more are among the said majority) shall be persons who appear to the Minister to have a wide experience, and to have shown capacity in, the organisation of workers.
§ The noble Lord said: Part of the discussion that we should have had on this Amendment has already taken place on the Amendment which was moved by my noble friend Lord Burden, but this Amendment is more comprehensive and much more definite in character. We accept the fact that people from trade, industry, commerce, finance and the rest should be members of the Board and give their advice from outside, but what we are asking for is that a majority of the Board shall be those from within the industry itself. I was delighted to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that the coming up through the industry and on to the Board was a matter which he had very much at heart and which he tried to encourage when he was associated with nationalised industries. That 857 is first class. But the present Minister of Transport has created some doubts in the minds of railway officers in particular as to whether he thinks they are competent. Whether his statements were made "off the cuff" I do not know—I take it they were; I do not think they could have been prepared—but some of the statements he has made in regard to the ability of railway officers have not been such as to lead one to believe that their capacity for the board room is good.
§ Again I must admit that perhaps I may be biased, but I have found officers with whom I have worked as employee and servant to be men of very considerable capacity, both in the professional field in which they operate and also as administrators within their department. So far as officers are concerned with whom, as trade unionists, I have had to negotiate on wages and conditions and generally to deal with in joint consultation with the industry, I have found their capacity to be equally good. Therefore within the railway industry the men who are already occupying positions of authority in various departments are men of capacity who, in fact, ought to have the opportunity of running railways from the board room as well.
§ We are looking at this question not from any sectional point of view but in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, expressed when he made his interjection on a recent Amendment. He said that what we want are men who are most likely to run the industry efficiently. A knowledge of railway operation, railway construction, finance, costs and everything else is vital if we are to get improvement within the industry. Therefore we feel that a majority of the Board should be officers or men—they are most likely to be officers themselves—from within the industry.
§ Reference has already been made to those who are associated with the organisation of workers. I am sorry my noble friend Lord Burden is not present because I think he was a little unkind to the Minister. In regard to what he said about some of those who have been nominated from time to time I would agree. But here is one of the problems, and perhaps one of the biggest we shall have to look at inside nationalised industries. The part they play within the 858 nationalised industries is vital. The period of appointment is comparatively short, and it takes some courage for a person to go out from an organisation, when he is 40 or 45 and has family responsibilities, on the offer of a three-year appointment—in some cases only two years—to a Board subject to reappointment by the Minister. Ministers come and go and appointments come and go, and it is hardly conducive to getting the best men when the period of appointment is so short and where there is no guarantee of continuity.
§ Equally true, there is failure on the trade union side; I would agree. When I lost my seat in another place I was grateful to know that the old railway companies as well as the British Transport Commission had given leave of absence to anyone serving in another place and we got our jobs back. I think some of the trade unions ought to be prepared to allow their people to be seconded in exactly the same way as we like the private and nationalised industries to allow theirs. We cannot have our cake and eat it; if it is good for one side -it is good for the other. At the moment most unions are not prepared to allow that secondment, and I think they ought to.
§ There are officers of the railway—the Board themselves have staff officers—who are very competent persons. Their knowledge of regulations and pay and negotiations are first-class. I make no complaint about it and no innuendo at all; they are first-class fellows who do a first-class job. But, equally, when it comes to discussion within the board room, a knowledge from the other side of the table of the structure and organisation of trade unions, even some of the frictions that there are within the trade union movement, makes it much easier for the Board to assess the value of advice given to them from time to time by staff officers. Therefore, from this point of view we move this Amendment in order that a majority of the Board may be men from within the industry with a knowledge of the structure of the industry and the costs. We are in no way saying there should be inbreeding, that there should be no one except railway officers. The addition of men with outside industry and commercial experience is valuable. But we feel that the majority, particularly of the 859 permanent members of the Board, should be men from within the industry. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 25, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Lindgren.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am pleased to support the Amendment that has been moved by my noble friend. I think that he has made an overwhelming case for the Amendment that we put before the Committee. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that I believe that the railways will have to face a tough period in their life in the next five years? Many a railwayman has been brought up to believe that the railway is his life. Many of them will have a feeling of disillusionment when they see their lines restricted and the work of their stations curtailed; and for many who are made redundant it will be a difficult life. Therefore, if the morale of British Railways is to be kept up to deal with the problems that will arise day by day, it is essential that the Board has the confidence of the workers; because it is the workers who will make the railways run. I agree with my noble friend that it is good that outside blood should be upon the Board, that there should be available a wealth of experience of financial matters and of administration. But it is quite obvious that the everyday administration of the railways will mean a rather humdrum life. Day-by-day application will be needed to deal with recurrent problems. These problems can, I think, be faced only by men who are, as I hope later on the Committee will accept, full-time executives, men who believe in the railways.
I come now to my second point. It is hard to believe that a man appointed to the Board for some special reason, because he has great financial knowledge or great administrative experience, will believe in the railways as does the railway man, the man who has been brought up with an experience of the railways. I believe that if the railways are to come through this difficult period, the Board must be one which believes that the railways can live. It is not a question of part-time service 860 for two or three years. This is a job for men who have a grounding in the railways, who believe in them, and who are determined that the railways should live. I believe that such men will come only from those who have practical railway experience. From the administrative point of view, I am sure that while the experts may be useful, the men who will get the railways out of their troubles will be—if they can be obtained—men with basic railway experience, gained not from reading reports, but from having done the practical work, having started in lowly positions and worked their way up.
I heartily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mills, when he says that industry, particularly nationalised industry, should try to recruit its top men from within. I do not know whether the noble Lord has ever been to Japan. A fact which stands out in the big Japanese industrial concerns is that their directors are men who have started at the bottom and have worked their way up. In some of the largest organisations, such as the banks, only about 5 per cent. of the directors are from outside. The vast majority of the directors of the big organisations in Japan are men who have worked their way up and who believe in their organisation. I hope that the Government will see the wisdom of this Amendment, and that we shall hear from the noble Lord that he can accept it.
§ LORD MILLS
I agree with much of what both noble Lords opposite have had to say. The only thing I do not agree with is the rigidity of their Amendment. I think it might be useful if I read to your Lordships what the White Paper (Cmnd. 1248) had to say about these appointments. This is to be found in paragraphs 32 and 33. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, in moving Amendment No. 8 also spoke about Amendment No. 9 and, if I may, I should like to follow his example. In paragraph 32, the White Paper said this:In making appointments to the various Boards the Minister will have regard to the special contribution which can be made by those with Trade Union experience. It is particularly important to use this experience in the management of these undertakings, where manpower plays so large a part.Paragraph 33 says:The Government consider it important that, so far as possible, the nationalised transport undertakings should produce their own 861 leaders. Promotion from within the undertakings to the highest levels should be within the grasp of those who prove themselves capable. In particular, there should be much greater opportunities in future for those in all parts of the railway service to make their way to the top. At the outset, however, some major posts may have to be filled from outside.It is because of that last sentence Chat I feel that these Amendments would introduce a serious degree of rigidity.
Seven members of the Railways Board, including the vice-chairman would have to be railwaymen (and proportionately more if the Board were larger than the minimum—the chairman, the vice-chairman and nine other members). At least two members would have to be drawn from trade union sources; at least three members would have to be drawn from road transport sources. I do not disagree with the ideal that has been put forward, that more and more the management or the Board or the top men, should be men drawn from the railways, or concerned with the railways, either in management or concerned with manpower. But the Amendments, as drawn, would introduce an undesirable rigidity into the provision governing the appointment of the Railways Board.
Subsection (3) as drafted, gives adequate powers for the Minister to give effect, in the light of the circumstances ruling at any particular time, to the intentions set out in the White Paper which I have just read to your Lordships. There is a provision also in the First Schedule—it is paragraph 10 (3) (a)—for the appointment of members with experience in the organisation of workers to the Regional Railway Boards. The appointment of such members to those Boards and to the British Railways Board should be such as to achieve a reasonable balance and use this experience to the best advantage. While it is the Government's intention that the railways should, so far as possible, produce their own leaders, it is of primary importance now to get the best leadership possible. The Minister, therefore, I suggest to your Lordships, ought not to be bound to a fixed proportion of members at any one time from inside the industry, or indeed from any particular source. He ought to be free to get the best leadership available, having regard to all the circumstances.
862 I would also suggest to your Lordships that it would be a departure from the rules that we have followed hitherto in regard to provisions governing appointments to nationalised Boards if we were to require a fixed proportion of members from a particular source. I would also point out to your Lordships that to have a majority of railwaymen on the central Board would in practice mean that to-day most, if not all, of them would have to be full-time because they would be drawn from serving railwaymen who would require a full-time job. I think that that again would seriously limit the Minister's choice. I agree with the sentiments that have been expressed, but I think that the Amendment introduces a rigidity which we cannot accept.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I am sorry that the noble Lord cannot accept the Amendment. One appreciates certain of the points that he has made, but I would point out that if we could be assured that the general principles of the White Paper were those that were going to be applied we should be a little happier. But in fact, of course, as one has been told so often, a White Paper is not an Act of Parliament but something which is produced as a basis of discussion, particularly in another place, before the Act of Parliament is produced. I must say again that the statements of the present Minister of Transport with regard to railways, and railway officers in particular, have not been such as would lead one to believe that he is over-enthusiastic about their ability to carry on the job that they have been doing for so many years. Therefore, we should have been much happier had it been within an Act of Parliament.
However, we have made our point, the Minister will read what we have said, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord will convey to him the doubts many of us have on this—not only the doubts of those of us in this House but those of the people outside in the transport industry, who, from the point of view of operation, are far more important than we are. Therefore, on the basis of that statement, I would ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.863
§ House resumed. The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.