§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 11:
§ Development of land
§ 11.—(1) Subject to this section, each Board shall have power as they may think fit to retain or dispose of such of their land as is not required for the purposes of their business and to develop their land in such manner as they may think fit.
§ (2) Each Board may, in particular, and subject to this section, erect buildings of any description for use for purposes other than the purposes of their business on any part of their land whether or not the land or those buildings are severable from the land and works used by the Board for the purposes of their business.
§ (3) A Board shall not incur any substantial item of expenditure in developing their and for purposes which are not the purposes of their business without the consent of the Minister, and the 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.
§ (4) Where a Board propose under this section to develop any land otherwise than for the purposes of their business they shall have power, with the consent of the Minister, to acquire by agreement adjoining land for the purpose of developing it together with the other land, but the Minister shall not give his consent under this subsection unless it appears to him that the other land cannot be satisfactorily developed unless the adjoining land is acquired by the Board.
§ Except as provided by the foregoing provisions of this subsection, a Board shall not have power to acquire land for purposes which are not related to any of the activities of the Board other than the development of land.
Debate resumed on the Amendment moved yesterday by Lord Conesford—namely, after subsection (2) to insert as a new subsection:
( ) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsections (1) and (2) of this Section, no Board shall have power to develop any part of their land within the County of London to provide office accommodation not required for their own business, unless the Minister of Housing and Local Government certifies that he is satisfied that by the time such office accommodation is available for use an equivalent amount of existing office accommodation
within the said County will have been converted to residential use.
§ LORD SALTER
I should like to support the theme put forward with such eloquence last evening by my noble friend Lord Conesford. I rise partly because he called in support a publication called The Paper Metropolis, issued under the auspices of the Town and Country Planning Association, and it happens that for a considerable time I have been the President of that Association. I hasten to say, however, that I took no part in this study and it is not at the request of the Association that I now intervene. My relation to the pamphlet being that of a reader, and not of an author, I have no inhibitions of modesty in recommending it strongly to your Lordships' attention, and also to the Government, particularly the Department especially concerned with planning. I do so, not only because of the intrinsic merits of the study, which I think is far and away the best study publicly available of the problem, but also because of the general welcome and warm approval of the experts most qualified to judge when the booklet was published.
I should like to recall to your Lordships one or two of the main facts brought out in that booklet. It is an astonishing fact that in the central area of London the total number of residents is only a little over 200,000, but the number of workers is nearly 1½ million, of whom more than half—namely, about 800,000—are workers in offices. I would ask your Lordships to think of the significance of this really staggering disproportion. First, there is the inconvenience, fatigue and waste of time for so large a proportion of those who work in the centre of London and are involved in long-distance commuting.
Secondly, there is the high costs for the small number of people who have at present an expensive and precarious tenure of living accommodation in the area. Thirdly, of course, there is the terrific congestion involved, not only of traffic, but of transport of all kinds, by the inflow and outflow each day of over 1¼ million people. We should also bear in mind the fact Chat, while the resident population shows no signs of increasing, the commuters show every sign of increasing considerably. I think it follows irresistibly that The Paper Metropolis is 109 right in saying that urgent new measures are needed in order to limit the growth of office accommodation.
There was one remark in my noble friend's argument which struck me forcibly. I believe hardly any responsible person, looking at the general planning of this city, would disagree with the view that the amount of office accommodation occupies an altogether undesirable proportion of the total building space available. But as my noble friend said, it is also true that, when particular applications are received, not only from private industrial concerns but, even more, from public corporations which may have the support of a Department of the Government, there is a very real probability that this evil will continually increase and involve all the difficulties and inconveniences to which I have referred—in addition to the further one of probably ruining the whole of the Green Belt policy.
My noble friend remarked yesterday upon the weakness of the position of the Minister, whoever he may be, who is concerned with general planning in relation to one of his colleagues, who may be concerned either to promote for his own Department, or to encourage on behalf of some other body, like the British Transport Authority, a particular scheme. Such a scheme is always then advocated by a unanimity of all his experts, and also by the testimony of anybody concerned in the finance of the concern, as being much more advantageous financially than any other alternative that may be devised. I suggest that it is the imperative duty of the Government, in the powers they exercise, in the powers they seek and in the powers they allocate, and also the duty of any public corporation which is associated with the Government, to do all that is humanly possible to restrict this extremely disastrous growth of the paper metropolis in this country. Whether or not the particular method proposed by my noble friend is adopted, or an alternative method designed to achieve the same purpose, I strongly urge that it is of the utmost importance that this growth of office accommodation in Central London should be stopped.
§ LORD SILKIN
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord. Lord Conesford, on his speech yesterday, with practically every word of which I agree. 110 There is no doubt that this problem is a grave and growing one, and if no action is taken we shall find ourselves completely overwhelmed. Both the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, yesterday, and the noble Lord, Lord Salter, this afternoon, devoted a large part of their speeches to describing what the evils and dangers are; and I imagine that none of your Lordships would disagree with What they said. But the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, did not say much about his Amendment, and while I would say straight away that it is right that we should not increase our office accommodation in London, and that if permission is granted, or if the Board dispose of their property for office accommodation, it should be at the expense of other office accommodation being discontinued, I should like for a moment to look at the mechanics of the proposal to see Whether what the noble Lord is suggesting is really feasible.
He is suggesting that before any of these Boards can dispose of their premises for offices the Minister must certify not only that an equivalent amount of office accommodation, whatever that may be, has been discontinued, but also that housing has actually been made available in its place. First, there is a time factor; and let us see what that is. I presume that the local authority would have to make a compulsory purchase order in respect of the office accommodation they wanted discontinued. No doubt at the end of the day there would be a public inquiry (I am not taking into account the time that would be taken in making a survey in order to decide the appropriate office accommodation that should be discontinued), and the Minister would have to decide. I imagine that in coming to a decision he would have to take into account the existing use of the offices to be discontinued; what is to be the fate of those Who occupy these offices, and what is to happen to those employed in the offices. Then, eventually, he may make an order.
But that is not the end of the matter. The Minister makes an order that the local authority should compulsorily acquire the premises. There would then be negotiations about price, and eventually it would be agreed, or the matter would be decided by the Lands Tribunal. The local authority would then obtain 111 possession; they would pull down the property, and then go out to contract for building houses, either there or somewhere else, in place of the offices. I would suggest, first of all, purely on the mechanics, that this would take, roughly, four to five years, and it would mean that the Transport Board would be held up for that time in disposing of their premises.
And that is not all. On whom is the burden to lie of acquiring compulsorily this office accommodation, destroying it and paying compensation to the occupiers of the offices? Because each one, presumably, will be holding a lease, and the lease will have to be determined; every occupier, as well as the owners of the offices, would be entitled to compensation; and the liability to the people employed would be, I suppose, a matter for the employers. But all this will come to a very large figure. I wonder whether your Lordships can visualise the London County Council being prepared to become involved in figures of that kind. There is nothing in the Amendment which would compel them to do this. The London County Council might say, "This method of getting office use relinquished is far too expensive. We do not propose to adopt this." What the noble Lord is therefore saying, in practice—because I cannot think that he has not seen for himself the unreality of the proposition—is really that they shall not dispose of any of their surplus accommodation for office use in London, because the condition he lays down is quite impracticable.
I hope I am being fair to the proposal the noble Lord has put forward. It may be that that is what he wants, in which case it would be far better to say so in plain terms rather than to make it conditional upon fulfilment of these impossible provisos. One might be prepared to support him if he were to say in plain terms that, so long as the existing conditions remain in London, the Board shall not be entitled to dispose of any part of their property for office use. I myself would not go as far as that, but I suggested in my speech on Clause 11 yesterday that the right thing would be for the Board to be compelled to apply for planning permission in 112 every case. I pointed out that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, would be interested in this, because on Second Reading he assured me that they would have to go for planning permission. In fact, they would not have to get planning permission if the existing use was office accommodation. But I would propose that they should, in all cases, have to go to the local authority for planning permission, and it would be for the local authority to decide whether they should permit the continuation of office use in respect of these premises once they are disposed of. That does not put an end to the problem, and I think we must face it.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I intervene more or less at the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, because he wondered whether he was understanding me correctly. Of course, it is not quite correct to say that the only way in which office buildings already in use in the County of London could come out of use as offices would be through some compulsory acquisition by the local authority. I think the noble Lord has overlooked, among other things, the fact that some of the terms for office buildings are temporary and are running out. There are, to his knowledge, I know, a number of buildings at present which are destined, in any event, without any further legislation or acquisition, to cease to be office buildings.
§ LORD SILKIN
I agree that there are a limited number of premises in Mayfair—I think they are principally in May-fair—where the office user permission would expire (I speak from memory) somewhere about 1970. If the noble Lord means that the London County Council should not, in the exercise of its planning powers, give a further extension beyond 1970, I admit that that is a possibility. But it concerns a very small part of the office accommodation in London, and it is very limited in character, as I know from my own experience. By and large, the position is that, in the great majority of the cases that are contemplated under this Amendment, there is already an existing office user and, therefore, the Board would not be required to get planning permission to dispose of it for the same user. I think that under Section 12 (2) 113 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, this is not regarded as development. Development is something for which you have to get planning permission, but the continuation of the existing use is not planning development.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I wish only to follow the noble Lord. Why does he say that most of this land has got an office user at present?
§ LORD SILKIN
Because I imagine that these are the majority of cases where land would be disposed of for that purpose. I am acquainted with a good many of the buildings which will become surplus, and the majority of them would not be suitable for office accommodation at all, but would have to be re-built. In those cases, there would have to be planning permission. But I am speaking of those buildings which could be adapted by internal arrangements for use as offices, and I was under the impression that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment was dealing, by and large, with that kind of accommodation.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD MILLS)
If the noble Lord will read Clause 11 (2), to which it is proposed to add this, he might take rather a different view as to what is proposed to be done.
§ LORD MILLS
I will help the noble Lord. It is talking about erectingbuildings of any description for use for purposes other than the purposes of their business. …
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I correct the noble Lord the Minister? The words he read out have been deleted and amended by the Amendment that was moved, prior to this Amendment, by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee.
§ LORD SILKIN
We are getting into a bit of a muddle. For better or for worse, perhaps I had better say what I was going to say, and no doubt I shall be corrected. I was going to say that, as I saw the position, the probabilities were that most of the land which would be developed for office use would be existing buildings which could be readily 114 converted to that use by internal arrangements, or by small additions which are permitted within the tolerance in the Third Schedule of the 1947 Act. In that case, what I was suggesting was that these should be subject to planning permission, which at present they are not. Then I was raising the question of the cases where they were refused permission. If they were then refused permission, as the law stands the Board would be entitled to be compensated. The compensation would be the difference between the value of the land for such purposes as it could be used for, and the value that it would realise if it were permitted to be used for office purposes. That might be considerable, and that is a problem we have to face. Who is to bear that burden? I would submit that it would be unfair that that burden should be borne by the local authority.
I am speaking quite generally, because this is not only a London problem, although the problem of London is most acute, but is a problem in most of the large cities in this country. That is, indeed, one of the reasons why I am a little doubtful about this Amendment. I think it is confined to London and that it should be made general in all the big cities in the country. No local authority is prepared to face up to the very heavy burden that would be involved in paying compensation in these cases. The tendency would be—and I know that this has been the case very often—that where on the merits a planning authority would not give permission, they would in fact be compelled by the very large figures involved in refusal to give this permission. All of us who have been interested in planning matters in London and outside will have instances in our minds where undesirable development has been permitted because of the question of compensation.
I was a little disturbed yesterday to hear the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, laying down the proposition, as I understood him, that in all respects the Boards were to be treated as if they were private developers. I would submit that they are not private developers. This is public land; land which is publicly owned and paid for by the public. Although every one of us would subscribe to the idea that the Boards should get the maximum reasonable amount that they 115 can in respect of the disposal of their land, I hope that we shall not subscribe to the doctrine that they are to get this regardless of its effect on the public interest and public welfare. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that getting the maximum price for this land is sometimes the most uneconomic thing we can do if it leads to bigger problems which are going to involve us in more expense generally and cause greater inconvenience in the future.
I have said nothing about subsection (2) because under the Bill they would be able to dispose of other buildings for office use as well. I agree with the noble Lord that that would be the case and I shall say a word about that. But if as a result of giving planning permission, or of dispensing with the requirement to get planning permission, they are enabled to build offices the result of which means, for instance, more roads, the cost of which has to come out of the public pocket in the end, I wonder whether the ultimate result would be that the public would pay more than they would have paid had they compensated the Transport Board in respect of the loss, or, as I think may be the case, if the Transport Board were required to get what they could if the land were put to a reasonable and proper use in the public interest.
Much as the Government and noble Lords opposite want the Transport Board to get on its feet and get the maximum possible revenue, surely they cannot want it at the expense of reducing London to a standstill or causing Londoners greater inconvenience in getting about than they have already. I should like the noble Lord, Lord Mills, to get on to the Underground railway at Westminster Station at six o'clock in the evening and try to get home! And I imagine that conditions will be created as a result of this Bill which will increase the "accommodation"—I call it "accommodation", in inverted commas—on the Underground railway by 10 per cent. I do not think the London public would be grateful to him for giving the Transport Board these powers and allowing them to be treated as private developers.
I want, therefore, to suggest two things. First, that in cases where the Transport Board are not required under 116 the existing law to obtain planning permission they should be required to obtain it; and I think we can trust the London County Council and the Minister of Housing and Local Government on appeal to look at the matter fairly and objectively without all the paraphernalia laid down in the Amendment. Secondly, I would say that in those cases where permission is refused and compensation would normally be payable, the Transport Board, in view of the fact that they are a public undertaking and are supposed to be carrying out all this in the public interest, should not be entitled to compensation from the local authority, so the local authority would have a perfectly free hand in deciding, on the merits of the case, whether or not planning permission should be granted.
I have been a little critical of the terms of the Amendment itself, but I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Cones ford, that I am 100 per cent. in sympathy with what he is seeking to realise, and my only criticism of the Amendment is that I think what I put forward will achieve exactly the same end.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
Thus far in this Bill your Lordships have been concerned with almost purely transport considerations. What is likely to happen under this clause makes it necessary for us to consider the whole matter from a very much broader point of view. I believe that the area of the City of London is about one square mile. It is estimated that under this Bill the land made available for other purposes will be 1,000 acres; and if it be true, as I am told it is, that there are 640 acres in a square mile, it means that the additional land made available, possibly for the building of offices, under this clause will be one and a half times the whole area of the City of London. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we should not regard this matter purely from the point of view of the finance of the Railways Board and the other Boards. It is essential, when a large amount of land at present in public ownership is being made available for redevelopment, that we should take fully into account the policy of Her Majesty's Government as regards town and country planning. Let 117 me say that I am very glad therefore to see my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on the Treasury Bench.
The argument that was put forward yesterday by my noble friend Lord Dundee was that in every respect Railway Boards ought to be in the same position as any other owners of land under the Town and Country Planning Acts and he was clearly of the opinion that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, would be effective for the purposes that we have in mind. I always regard the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, as being the greatest of all experts on the 1947 Act. I remember sitting in another place on the Committee on that Act, and I have never known a Minister who was more successful in answering every difficult question put on a difficult Bill than the noble Lord. When he expressed the view that the Act of 1947 would not really be effective for this purpose, I got in touch with the London County Council, with whom I have been in touch because of the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper with regard to the dispersal of population, offices and industry from great centres. I asked them what their view was about this matter.
It appears that if the Railways Board—and the same applies to a lesser extent to the other Boards—avail themselves of all their powers under this Act it would be possible for there to be a very great increase in the amount of office accommodation in London. It might result in an extra 80,000 office workers, living outside London because there is no available accommodation in London at the present time, joining that great tidal movement, in in the morning and out in the evening, travelling to and fro to come to office work in London. It would be anomalous if, in a clause of this Transport Bill which is intended to improve the transport system of this country, we allowed such redevelopment of land in conurbations—of which the greatest is London, but the same applies in the case of all the other conurbations—as would increase this appalling social and financial problem. When I say "financial problem" I have in mind transport. One of the great problems of the railway and of the bus companies is to maintain enough rolling stock to 118 move the commuters in and out every day. Great capital expenditure is involved in providing this, and it is used only in the morning and again in the evening. We have to look at Clause 11 from the point of view of town and country planning, and we also have to take into account what its indirect effects arc going to be upon the transport problem of the country.
I proceed making ample use of notes, because the Act of 1947 is an extremely difficult and complicated one. It would be possible for the Boards, at great inconvenience to the country as a whole, to use the land at their disposal in order to maximise their profits. The Railways Board might build their operational offices over their operational land. That does not require planning permission. They would then transfer their staff, now accommodated in buildings with an office use, to the new offices which they had built over their operational land. The British Transport Commission are using the old Marylebone Hotel as their main offices. They could build new offices over the railways and move their office staff to those new offices. They could then dispose of their old offices to a land speculator or developer, and, taking advantage of everything in the 1947 Act, that might be extremely profitable.
The purchaser could rebuild, and this would of course be reflected in the price. The developer could not be prevented from building offices of the same cubic content plus 10 per cent., which, by lowering ceiling heights, could give a greatly increased floor area. The Marylebone Hotel, built in Victorian times, has ceilings much higher than are normally used in modern office buildings. In addition, they have the right to add 10 per cent.—not 10 per cent. of the cubic volume but 10 per cent. of the floor space. So if there are more floors put into the new building, the increase in the office capacity of the new building is a great deal more than 10 per cent. The only way in which the local planning authority could avoid that would be either by a purchase notice or compensation, in either case the value being calculated by virtue of the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act on the basis of the right to develop for the same use to the extent of the same cube plus 10 per cent. I apologise for the tech- 119 nicalities of this argument, but it is important to demonstrate that a very great deal is involved in the drafting of Clause 11 of the Bill.
In the second place, operational land which becomes surplus presumably carries with it existing use rights based on the user by the railway for its operational purposes. For example, a goods yard has presumably an existing storage or commercial user. If it was an old-fashioned goods yard in Victorian times, perhaps not greatly used at the present time, that would not alter the fact that it would have a very great potential value for some purchaser who came in and redeveloped it for similar commercial or industrial purposes. If its existing use is more valuable than the use to which the planning authority thought the land should be put, which perhaps might very well be housing, then in that case the compensation payable by the local planning authority would be the difference between the lower residential value of the land and the higher commercial or industrial value attaching to it at the present time. For example, the Marylebone goods yard has existing commercial user rights and the planning authority might think that it should be used for housing. There the local planning authority would be involved in expenditure which would probably be beyond anything that the local authority could reasonably afford.
There is a third point, to which I do not attach so much importance, but I hope the Government when they reply will deal with it. The Railways Board might construct a raft over existing operational land and develop on top of the raft. This can involve a very great deal of land because it is a kind of development which is being planned at the present time. There is a clause in the Bill, as your Lordships will see, dealing with the application of the Town and Country Planning Act, and I hope that ensures that the local planning authority can, without the risk of compensation, determine the proper use of the raft on the ground that the raft is new land with no existing use. But if that is not the correct interpretation, if building a raft over the land is not to be interpreted as making new land but only as a further development of the underlying land, then again the cones- 120 quences of that upon the planning authority would be very serious indeed. It would involve very heavy expenditure in order to prevent great additional concentration of offices or industry in the centre of London.
My noble friend, Lord Dundee, speaking last night, suggested that it would be wrong in a Transport Bill to introduce special provisions relating to town and country planning and compensation in order, as I think he suggested, to penalise the Transport Boards, who ought to be in exactly the same position as anybody else. It is, of course, a persuasive argument. I suggest that there are two fallacies in it.
The first fallacy is that the Railways Boards are coming to Parliament in order to ask that they should be freed from certain disabilities under which they have been in the past. If they ask Parliament for that, it is, I think, perfectly legitimate that Parliament should say, "We are willing to relieve you of those disabilities provided that at the same time the public interest is preserved".
The second fallacy is, I think, not a logical one but a practical one. There comes a time when a change in degree becomes in fact a change in kind. I know that one cannot say at exactly what point that happens, but when 1,000 acres in this greatly congested area of London is going to have its user changed, and when the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for a decade and more past have been trying to deal with the appalling problems, social and economic, of over-concentration in London, surely it is right and reasonable to say that the 1,000 which is being made available shall be available only for purposes which are within the general scope of the accepted policy of the Government and of Parliament.
There are two dangers. One is that the Railways and other Boards will seek to develop all this available land immediately and do so in order to obtain the largest possible immediate return. That I regard as being the more pressing danger. It is the one to which my noble friend Lord Conesford has specially directed his Amendment. I am sure that your Lordships will feel that something must be done in order to ensure 121 that this clause in a Transport Bill should not defeat a major feature of Government and Parliamentary policy. The intervention of my noble friend Lord Salter, who has been long concerned in these matters and who has done much to develop and educate public opinion on this matter, was exactly on the same lines. I feel that that is a danger which must be guarded against. There is also a danger that in some cases the Railway Boards might choose to adopt the opposite attitude, and to sit back on the land and not make it available for social purposes, because they think that at some time in the future they would obtain a much higher price for it.
I think that the urgent needs of the people of London, and indeed of the people of this country as a whole, for land in this small and over-crowded island is such that we must be assured that land is going to be made available for the most socially useful purposes. If the Government are not able to accept this Amendment, or to introduce Amendments on the Report stage which are going to alter the machinery in order to achieve these obviously desirable ends, then I think there is something else they can do which would go a long way to setting our minds at rest.
The whole principle of this Transport Bill is that the Minister of Transport shall be responsible for controlling the general policy of all the Boards. It would, in my submission, be quite possible for him within the wide powers given to him in this Bill to make certain that the ideas which have been put forward by my noble friends and by the noble Lord on the Front Bench will in fact be given effect to. If, for administrative reasons, the Government do not feel that in a Transport Bill they can make changes in the machinery which might perhaps be more appropriate to a Town and Country Planning Bill, then I am perfectly clear about one thing: we ought to have an assurance from the Government that they intend these valuable 1,000 acres to be used in the right way. The Minister of Transport has power to do that. We are, I think, entitled to ask that he shall not use his powers in a narrow, departmental way, just in order slightly to alleviate the financial problems of the Board; but that in fact it shall be a Government policy, in accordance with what has been 122 accepted by the Government as a whole and is being applied by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
§ 3.37 p.m.
I am tempted to support my noble friend Lord Conesford, although I believe his Amendment introduces some rather severe practical difficulties. I do so as a general gesture at the fate which has befallen the unfortunate office workers of London since the war. Their salaries have no more than kept pace with the cost of living; their Income Tax, when adjusted for inflation, has hardly been lightened at all; their rents and mortgages have gone up; fewer of them can afford to live in London, and more and more are driven to the suburbs. Once there, their season tickets have gone up steeply, and within the last two years there have been great increases in the cost of land and the cost of building in the suburbs. So the chances of any young married couple getting a home to-day in the outer suburbs depends largely on whether the wife and the husband can both go out to work.
British Railways say they cannot do much for them because commuting traffic does not pay. The London Passenger Transport Board cannot obtain permission to build that Tube from Victoria to Walthamstow which it has been obvious to every citizen of London has been urgently needed for years and years. Meanwhile, this new science of town and country planning upon Which we have embarked since the war begins to produce more and more anomalies which become more and more apparent. We have had them pointed out to us to-day. One particular anomaly is the urge which it inevitably encourages to develop every possible site as an office or shop. And I would remind your Lordships that the cost falls, as to one-half or so, on the taxpayer and therefore they can naturally command a much higher site value than can dwellings.
Little seems to have been done for these people. They work in these offices in London. They do not belong to the striking classes. On the whole, they are not Socialists; in general, they are supporters of a Liberal-Conservative Government. It is no wonder that recently, when they went to the poll at Orpington, they put the emphasis on the Liberal part rather than on the Con- 123 servative part. I hope the Government have taken heed. I have hopes of the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, because I believe he comes from the commuting class himself and therefore realises the great hardships and difficulties under Which these people labour. I only hope he is allowed to take action within his own sphere, and will be supported by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This Amendment is a gesture demanding that something should be done to increase the residential development and to decrease the office and shop development in London; and such a gesture I support. If financial difficulties arise as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, are we not living in an Alice in Wonderland world when what we want to do with our land is hindered because we, the British people, have somehow or other to find large sums to compensate a body of our servants which has already lost us hundreds of millions of pounds?
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and also subsequent speakers, have placed us in somewhat of a dilemma—a dilemma from which your Lordships' House in practice is able to extract itself. The Amendment the noble Lord has moved is restrictive, in the sense that, if there is to be development of Board property into office building, it seeks to ensure that the equivalent amount of existing office building should disappear. That, obviously, is restrictive. I, personally, should find it difficult to support the Amendment if that was only what it meant, but, having listened to the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Conesford, Lord Molson and Lord Hawke, I find that obviously the intention is far wider than expressed by the mere words of the Amendment. In fact, I thought the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was a condemnation of the post-war national policy of allowing the central part of the City of London to be built up with large areas of office building, with hardly any restriction. When one looks at Coventry, a city which was destroyed by war and which took the opportunity of rebuilding itself, one cannot help feeling that London itself missed the same 124 opportunity. Our streets to-day are not much different from what they were in 1938 or 1939; and yet we try to impose upon those very streets this tremendous increase in traffic.
If the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, means that by supporting this Amendment we are expressing a view that the Government must end the unrestricted growth of office accommodation, then I would try to persuade my friends to support it. If he means that this is to be purely a restriction on the use of Board property, I should find it hard to advise that. If he means that this is a gesiture—to take the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke—by this House, an instruction to the Government that the suicidal policy has to stop and that we will from now on attempt to restrict the growth of office building in London, then I give him my wholehearted support.
Noble Lords have spoken about the effects of congestion upon office workers. Lord Hawke made the case of the commuter. But there is another aspect. By and large, the main office blocks in the central part of London are occupied by the banks, the insurance companies, the Civil Service, the big administrative organisations of Shell, and other major industrial companies. These blocks of offices, in themselves, do not produce the goods but are merely a service—an essential service, perhaps—whose cost falls squarely upon industry. At a time when we are trying to keep down our industrial costs, surely industry should consider whether it is wise to allow (these service costs to increase. I did a quick calculation in my office this morning of what it would cost to keep a shorthand typist or junior clerical worker in one of the new major London offices. If one assumes that she occupies 100 square feet, taking the rates that are now charged for property one could say that the cost, not of her salary, but merely the cost of the space she occupies, is practically equivalent to the rent of a decent, semi-detached house. I think it is completely farcical that one should allow that cost to be imposed on industry. Therefore, when one is talking about restricting the growth of London one must take into account not only the social consequences, the travel, and so on, but also the cost.
125 If we support this Amendment, I hope it will not go out from this House that it means that there are to be no new offices in London. Certainly when one sees the rabbit warrens of the City and the West End and the conditions under which clerical operatives are working, it is obvious that this zone should be cleaned out and developed in order that office people should have the opportunity to work under decent conditions. Therefore, if we support this Amendment restricting the growth of office building, it must not be thought that we are opposing any new development. We are really seeking to prevent an unreasonable increase. That, I think, is the issue. If that is what Lord Conesford means, then I would certainly ask my friends to support him. If that is the case, I hope he will make it clear to us, because it will make it easier to decide what to do when that issue arises.
§ LORD AIREDALE
Lord Shepherd paraphrased the latter part of this Amendment as requiring that an equivalent amount of existing office accommodation must disappear. My quarrel with this Amendment is that although it ought to say that, in fact that is not quite what it does say. It is only a very small quarrel, because I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Amendment in general. In my submission, the last words of the Amendment introduce an unnecessary elaboration. The object, surely, is fairly straightforward: to limit the amount of office accommodation in London. But when the Amendment speaks of "an equivalent amount of existing office accommodation", it says that it will have been converted to residential use. I should have thought that that was unnecessary. There might be an old office building, not particularly well equipped to be converted into residential use, which might be demolished and become an open space. I should have thought that that would satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, for this purpose even better than conversion into residential use.
So if the Government, having listened to the debate, are in favour, as I feel sure they will be, with the spirit if not the letter of this Amendment, and feel disposed to rewrite a part of it, they might do worse than to substitute for the 126 final words regarding existing office accommodation:have been converted to residential use.the words:will have been relinquished as office accommodation.",because I believe that that is really the whole nub of this Amendment.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
It is evident that your Lordships' feelings about the congestion not only of traffic but of offices in London is very strong and deep. I recognise that your Lordships' motives in what you have said on this Amendment arise, perhaps, from a strong sense of frustration in our general desire that the growth of offices in London should be restricted and, perhaps from a certain amount of resentment against planning authorities that, in spite of all our legislation, it has not been restricted as much as we think it ought to have been.
My noble friend Lord Hawke said that he supported, and he thought others of your Lordships supported, this Amendment mainly as a gesture, although he agreed that there were a great many practical difficulties about the Amendment itself. Your Lordships are free to indulge as much as you like in the pleasures of gesticulation, but the Government have the much less exciting duty of considering the practical difficulties. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, took the same attitude when he said that the Amendment was supported by him on very wide grounds, very much wider than those which were actually covered by the wording of the Amendment. But, again, the Government have the duty of considering the actual effect of the wording of this Amendment and what would happen if it were to pass into law.
I should just like to mention a few of the practical difficulties—I will not elaborate them, because they have to some extent been covered already in our discussions on earlier Amendments of this clause—which are worrying us. I know the requirement here is one which is endeavouring to stop the uncontrolled increase of a form of building which we all seem to be agreed has reached excessive dimensions in London—or, I should say, the County of London. My 127 noble friend Lord Molson said that the City of London was only 640 acres or one square mile, but the Amendment applies to the County of London. I do not know what is its area, but I imagine that it would be several hundreds of square miles.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred to one of the difficulties which might arise from this Amendment, although my noble friend Lord Conesford interrupted to say that there were a few office buildings whose term of existence as office buildings was soon coming to an end. I think very great difficulties would be created for the Railways Board, for example, if they obtained conditional permission to build new offices on land which the planning authority and everybody else agreed was suitable for new offices, and then had to run round London finding everybody who was an owner of any block of offices and saying: "Please, will you convert your offices into flats or demolish them so that we can build our offices here, which the planning authority is in favour of?" I think that would put them in a position which would be not only impossible but also rather ridiculous.
I know that my noble friend Lord Conesford largely demanded this proposal on the grounds that we are giving the transport authorities powers of development which they did not have before under the Transport Act, 1947. But even there it is difficult to justify selecting the Boards alone among landowners to bear the restriction—which I believe would be an impracticable restriction, and certainly a very unjust restriction—which is imposed by the Amendment. Why should not the Church Commissioners, who are a public body, or Crown Lands be subject to the same restrictions? Is it not likely that the evil of office accommodation to an excessive extent will arise from building on their ground?
May I interrupt my noble friend for one minute? Being a Church Commissioner, I do not admit that there is any resemblance whatsoever between the case of this Board and that of the Church Commission. This Board is publicly owned. This is land owned by us, the British people. We paid for it and, moreover, we paid hun- 128 dreds of millions of pounds to try to keep the thing afloat, which the people lost. The Church Commission is an entirely different state of affairs.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Then what my noble friend is proposing to do is this. If we have a Board whose property is owned by the public, then we shall prevent it from engaging in certain kinds of building development which we may think undesirable, but we shall allow everybody else—private owners, Church Commissioners, Crown Lands—who may own fifty times as much land as these Boards, to continue developing in a way which we think undesirable. Does that not illustrate the fact that this is a matter not for a Transport Bill; it is a matter for a Town and Country Planning Bill? You are doing very little general good by preventing one particular kind of public authority from developing their land in this way.
I cannot help feeling that some of your Lordships have rather tended to underestimate the effectiveness of the existing planning legislation. After all, the whole point of having any planning legislation was to prevent building development which is not in the public interest. If, as many of your Lordships seem to think, building development is proceeding to an intolerable extent in a manner against the public interest, then surely that must mean that our planning legislation is ineffective and that the planning authorities are not doing their job. In that case, surely, the right remedy is to introduce either new planning legislation or some new planning powers which will enable the planning authorities to be overridden. Surely we ought to seek a remedy which would apply to everybody and not to the Transport Boards only.
§ LORD MOLSON
May I interrupt my noble friend and point out one thing? The railways were entitled to acquire this land for operational purposes, and they were not allowed to use it for any other purpose. Parliament is now being asked to give permission for them to develop, or for other people to develop, land which they acquired for operational purposes. I should have thought it was quite reasonable to say that, when they are asking for this great extension of their powers, it should be subject to certain restrictions.
§ THE Earl OF DUNDEE
If the land is now surplus to their needs—it may be that they acquired it in the first place for operational purposes and that they do not now need it for operational purposes—then they are free to sell it. They are free to sell it now and they will still be free to sell if after this Bill becomes an Act. If they are not allowed to develop it without conditions which it would be difficult for anybody to fulfil—getting somebody else to agree to demolish other office accommodation—they will have to sell it if they do not want to use it, and they can sell it to anybody they like. Mr. Clore or Mr. Cotton—whatever the buyers' names are—can buy it, or it can be sold or resold to anyone who wants to develop building land; and, if the planning authority is willing to sanction the building of new offices on that land, they will be built just the same. The only difference will be that the land speculators who buy it will get the profit and the taxpayer, through the Transport Boards, will not.
The fact is that the effect of the Amendment would not be very great in the long run in preventing new office building. The only difference would be that the Transport Boards might not get so much for their land as they would if they could develop it themselves. Surely that illustrates the need for new planning legislation. If we all agree that this office building is not being held in check as we think if ought to be by the present planning authorities, then we should have new general legislation, and should admit that the existing legislation is ineffective. I am reminded that the main line railway companies had powers to develop the land generally, that only the British Transport Commission were fettered, and that we are putting the Transport Board back into the same position as that in which the railway companies were.
I feel it my duty to put before your Lordships these facts and the general objection, that the only effective way of preventing this evil which we all desire to check is by having wider and more general legislation or by the creation of new powers if we think that the existing Town and Country Planning Act and the planning authorities are not doing their job properly. But I want to pay the most serious attention to your Lordships' views on this matter, coming, as 130 they did, from so many of your Lordships with great experience in these matters: the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who was Minister of Town and Country Planning; my noble friend Lord Molson, who was at one time, I think, connected with the Ministry of Transport; and the mover of the Amendment himself, my noble friend Lord Conesford, whose office in another place gave him great experience in these matters.
I know that your Lordships' feeling is genuine and sincere about this; and since I undertook yesterday to look at the Whole of Clause 11 again to see in what ways it could be improved, and also to consider another Amendment which was moved by some noble Lords opposite, I think I ought to give the same undertaking to my noble friend: we will consider this matter very carefully to see whether anything can be done or whether any new statement could be made before the Report stage of the Bill, which, though it might not satisfy the practical difficulties, might at least respond to the gesture which your Lordships have said you wish to make.
I think that any consideration which might be undertaken, and which I am glad to recommend to my colleagues, would have to be not by the Ministry of Transport alone but also by the Ministry for town and country planning. I think that all I could undertake to do now would be to represent to both Ministries the force and the deep feeling of what your Lordships have said in this debate. I have done my duty, I think, in explaining to your Lordships some of the practical difficulties which we never could get round, and I hope that you will agree that I am doing my best to meet what I recognise is a very deep and genuine desire for the mitigation of the serious evil of office overcrowding in London.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I thank my noble friend who has just spoken and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate for the careful speeches they have made. If the Amendment to this clause which I put down had been intended as a mere gesture, I might well think that its purpose had been achieved. It is not intended as a mere gesture: it is intended to meet an urgent necessity which, if it is not met, will cause disaster in our capital city. This is not a new 131 problem for me. Interest in the subject of town planning was one of the things that brought me into politics some thirty years ago. I am grateful for the recognition of many of the real problems by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, but I honestly cannot follow some of his arguments for not supporting my Amendment.
I shall try to clear up certain matters, though it is difficult to know where to start. First of all, if noble Lords would be good enough to study what I said yesterday, they will see that I do not suggest for one moment that this Amendment alone will be sufficient fox dealing with office congestion in the County of London. I have never suggested that; but, though other things may be needed, this at least is needed and is needed urgently. In listening to the speech of my noble friend Lord Dundee, I was really left in some doubt whether he wished this enormous amount of railway property to be devoted to office building. He seems quite willing to face that risk. I am not; I believe that the Committee is not; and I am quite certain that the British public is not.
Then it is said that my Amendment is restrictive. But of what is it restrictive? It is not restricting any powers that at present exist: it is preventing the abolition of all restrictions on bodies that are at present restricted. These Boards are at present restricted from building these offices on their property. I say that, if that restriction is to be removed, the least we can do is to say that they shall not use the new freedom to do something which is universally admitted to be contrary to the public interest. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for whose speech I was grateful——
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Might I just ask clarification of one point? My noble friend said it is "universally admitted to be contrary to the public interest". In "general, perhaps, one would agree with" that; but in particular, if a particular office building is universally admitted to be contrary to the public interest, then why does the planning authority sanction it?
§ LORD CONESFORD
I will certainly come to that point. I thought that what was universally admitted to be contrary to the public interest was the further 132 increase of office buildings in the County of London beyond what must result from the numerous permissions which have already been given. I do not think the noble Earl will find that his noble friend on his left will dispute that proposition.
I was just going to deal with some very interesting observations of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Lord Shepherd said, quite rightly, that there was a case for more office buildings, and I agree with him that there is a case for some even in the County of London, provided an equivalent amount goes. But there should be many more outside the County of London, and on that subject I will again commend the booklet which has been mentioned once or twice in this discussion. But the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that effect could be given to the latter part of my Amendment only if the local authority went in for compulsory acquisition. With respect, I do not think that is so. I think that one of the effects of passing my Amendment would be that the great property companies might have a totally new motive, which they have not got at present, in order to develop some of this new property that the railways can dispose of, to use some of their other property at present used for office buildings to provide residential accommodation. That is at least one possibility, and I do not think a very unlikely one, if we pass the present Amendment.
I regretted that the noble Lord at one stage described my Amendment as "paraphernalia". I honestly believe that the specific mention of the Minister of Housing and Local Government is something of very great value, for this reason. My Amendment does not, as Lord Silkin suggested in one part of his speech, require any order of the Minister, though it does require a certificate. What I What is that Parliament shall insert a restriction on the further growth of office building in the County of London. If Parliament does not exercise such a restriction, then, as a direct result of this Bill and this clause, there will be an immense increase in office building in the County of London, and this will very often be achieved, I have no doubt, in the teeth of the protests within the Cabinet of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. But it will happen.
133 In replying to my Amendment just now, my noble friend said: "What about the Church Commissioners and the Commissioners of Crown Lands?". As regards the Church Commissioners, if they apply for some undesirable development, there would at least be nobody to urge that the view of the Minister of Housing and Local Government should be overridden in the interests of another public body. And as for the Crown Commissioners, it may not have escaped the notice of the Committee that I gave, as a specific example of undesirable development, their own proposed office development in Carlton Gardens. As a result of the protest against that, made from many quarters I think, they may take a little more care in future. But the point about the present Amendment is that it does the minimum necessary by way of amendment to the present clause. It provides the last chance we have to prevent what may be a disaster.
§ Resolved in the Affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.134
§ I am in favour generally of this clause, provided my Amendment is carried. If my Amendment is not carried, I will have no hesitation whatsoever in voting against the clause. The clause is intolerable without an Amendment on the lines which I am now commending to the Committee. The only point which gives me any cause to hesitate is the last remark of the Minister, who promised that some further consideration would be given between now and the Report stage. I have no doubt it will, and I have no doubt that the attention that will be given will be given with a much greater sense of urgency if we pass this Amendment. If we do not pass this Amendment which I commend to the Committee, then I urge the Committee to delete the clause.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 59, Not-Contents 39.133
|Ailsa, M.||Dudley, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Airedale, L.||Effingham, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Elton, L.||Newall, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Fortescue, E.||Ogmore, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Francis-Williams, L.||Rea, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Goschen, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Atholl, D.||Grantchester, L.||Salter, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Grenfell, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Hampton, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Hawke, L. [Teller.]||Sinha, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Henderson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Howe, E.||Stonham, L|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Jessel, L.||Tedder, L.|
|Champion, L.||Kenilworth, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Kenswood, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Citrine, L.||Lawson, L.||Uvedale of North End, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Listowel, E.||Walston, L.|
|Conesford, L. [Teller.]||Longford, E.||Williams, L.|
|Crook, L.||Meston, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Molson, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Hastings, L.||Munster, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Home, E.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Boston, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Inchyra, L.||Robins, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Jellicoe, E.||St. Aldwyn. E. [Teller.]|
|Chesham, L.||Lansdowne, M.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Coutanche, L.||Lothian, M.||Soulbury, V.|
|Denham, L.||Luke, L.||Spens, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Merrivale, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Dundee, E.||Merthyr, L.||Twining, L.|
|Dynevor, L.||Mills, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
Page 11, line 33, after ("land") insert ("for use").—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 11, line 39, after ("land") insert ("for use").—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN moved to leave out Clause 11. The noble Lord said: I do not propose to make a speech on this Amendment, which is to leave out Clause 11. In the normal course of events I would have accepted the assurance of the noble Earl that he would look at this clause again. In view of the decision of the Committee—and it is a very strong decision, especially when leaving out those noble Lords who were not present during the debate and who voted, and the "Establishment"—the real sense of the House is beyond all question. Therefore I would respectfully suggest that the proper course on this occasion is to accept the Amendment to leave out Clause 11 and let the Government come back with their considered views of what they will do in the light of the decision of the Committee. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 11.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Naturally, I regret that your Lordships did not accept the offer of the Government to consider the Amendment which has just been carried and which I think many noble Lords agreed was in itself impracticable. We also believe that it is impracticable. We could not agree, on Report, to the Bill as it now stands. Therefore I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the best course which your Lordships could now follow is to accept the Amendment to leave out this clause, so that we may draft another one on Report.
I do not know whether it is in order for me to make one ox two small points now or whether 136 I should wait until the Deputy Chairman puts the Question.
We have been dealing with London, and there are one or two points which should be dealt with in the revised clause which the Government are going to bring forward. What I think they have tended to forget so far is that the new Board which is to be set up is not a separate entity but the British public under another name. We, the British people, have paid for this land over the years and we want to put it to the best possible use as soon as possible, regardless of whether by long-term development this particular body, who are our servants, might be able to make more money out of it. As the Bill now stands, there seems to me to be every inducement for the Board to build up a business as land developers, either by themselves or in partnership with other people. There are objections to this course. Land development may well need further capital which the British people will have to supply; and under the new system of above and below the line balances under the Budget we shall have to be taxed to provide this new capital.
There is at this moment a tremendous land hunger in this country for all purposes—local authority, industry and private development. I should like to have an assurance that the local authority can acquire compulsorily land in the hands of the Board. Some of the land hunger is for projects for which high prices, such as are paid for office building, cannot be paid. There are authority and amenity projects which can never come to fruition at high land prices. Unless this is recognised in the Bill, human nature being what it is the railways will sit on their land in the hope that over the years all their land will become ripe for development for high-priced projects. In some cases this will happen, but in many it will not; and in twenty years time we shall find that the railways will be sitting on land which is urgently required, but which will remain sterilised, vainly waiting for high development values.
The Minister says that he wants the railways to concentrate on running railways; and he even refuses to let them 137 continue in partnership with the bus companies because they cannot afford the time to sit on the board. I should like to see some pressure put on the railways to dispose of their land for the public use as quickly as possible. One does not want, of course, to be too exacting. A certain amount of their land will have to be developed by themselves and in partnership, such as the land over their own working lines, but up and down the country there will be large quantities of land—and I am not necessarily talking about urban land-in the shape of disused sidings, small stations and the like which is urgently required for local authority amenity and housing purposes. Unless we recognise that somehow in this Bill, the railways will sit on these pieces of land, hoping that they will one day be able to sell them at very high prices, and meanwhile the public will lose the benefit of land which is really theirs.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 12:
§ (2) The Boards shall not have power to acquire land for the purpose of constructing pipe-lines except—
- (a) where the pipe-line is or is to be mainly on land belonging to the Boards and acquired for other purposes, or
- (b) where the pipe-line is required for the purposes of the business of the Board other than the operation of pipe-lines.
§ (3) A Board shall not without the consent of the Minister construct any pipe-line unless the pipe-line is required for the purposes of the business of the Board other than the operation of pipe-lines.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM moved to leave out subsections (2) and (3). The noble Lord said: on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lucan, I beg to move the next Amendment. I rather feel that at the present moment the Government are somewhat in the position of the jury, who, after a long and complicated divorce case, were in such an utter state of confusion that they awarded the corespondent the custody of the judge. I should now like to recall them to a point which is a concrete one and which I think can be easily understood.138
§ I would remind your Lordships that during our discussions on the Pipe-lines Bill we on this side of the House tried hard to persuade the Government to give British Railways the power to exploit to the full the potentialities of this new and dynamic form of transport. On one occasion, in replying to an Amendment I had moved, the noble Lord, Lord Mills, suggested that when I read the Transport Bill I should find that it gave the railways the very power for which we were then asking. Well, I have now read the Transport Bill, but it does not give that power. It is true that subsection (1) of Clause 12 raises our hopes, in that it confers on the Boards the power to construct and operate pipe-lines or to allow other persons to do so on the Boards' land. But then come the qualifying restrictions, subsections (2) and (3), which by this Amendment we are asking the Government to delete.
§ Subsection (2), for example, lays down that unless it is for their own purposes the Boards cannot acquire land on which to construct the pipe-line. True, it also holds out the vain hope that they may be able to buy a little bit of land for general pipe-line construction if they already own most of the land over which the pipe-line is to run, and provided that they had acquired it for some totally different purpose. I do not know quite the reason for that last provision, but it is there in the clause. But even this faint hope is destroyed by subsection (3), which makes it clear that unless it is a pipe for carrying their own water or fuel, or for some other railway purpose, they will not be allowed to construct any pipe-line at all without the consent of the Minister. So the promise held out in subsection (1) of the clause is just a pipe-dream. That being so, I am at a loss to understand how the noble Lord, Lord Mills, could believe that I should find in the Transport Bill the freedom that was denied in the Pipe-lines Bill.
§ LORD MILLS
I think the noble Lord is mistaken. I told him that he would find the rules governing pipe-lines in the Transport Bill, but not that they would fulfil his hopes.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Lord, but I distinctly remember that he had the 139 appearance of attempting to give me some comfort in softening the blow of his refusal to accept the Amendment which I then moved. In any case, it seems to me beyond dispute that the powers vested in the Minister of Power to ensure that British Railways are not permitted, as I see it, to play a worthwhile part in this promising new form of venture are, for good measure, to be vested also in the Minister of Transport. If there is any difference in respect to pipe-lines between this Bill and the previous Bill I mentioned, I should be glad to know what it is.
Meanwhile, we renew our plea for the removal of these restrictions. I would submit that it is common ground that railways, although perhaps on a smaller scale, will continue in the foreseeable future. I hope that is common ground. It is common ground, I think, that they should be given the chance to pay their way. It is even common ground that the Minister may direct the Boards to continue to run uneconomic services. Why should it therefore not be common ground that they should be able to use their land and tracks, and to buy any other land they may need for the construction of pipes for the carriage of goods for other people, and so have the chance of earning a profit? I think the answer is that there is profit in pipelines. Who, in their right mind, would allow a nationalised industry to have a share in a potentially good thing! The taxpayer can have the loss-makers but must protect the interests of the shareholders. That, at least, is how it appears to me, and I submit that that is the only logical reason for the insertion and retention in this Bill of subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 12.
I am, as always, prepared to be convinced by sweet reason, and I shall be delighted if the noble Lord can prove that in this matter the Government's intentions are strictly honourable: that the railways will, in fact, be able to construct pipe-lines for the general carriage of suitable goods. I may be an extraordinary person, but it is inconceivable to me that any Government, being in charge of a publicly-owned industry, should wish to limit the ability of that industry to take part and develop their business within the particular field. In this case it is beyond dispute that pipe-lines 140 are a form of transport; that the Boards with which we are concerned in this Bill are all concerned in one way or another with transport. Therefore, arbitrarily to limit their powers to take part in this new form of transport seems impossible to justify in accordance with the rules of equity. I am bound to say that, unless the noble Lord can show otherwise, then the suggestion that I have put forward that these subsections are put in the Bill in order to preserve this new field for the profits of private enterprise and for the interests of the shareholders, is the right one. If I am wrong, I shall be delighted to have it proved to me. But there is nothing that would do more to convince me that I am wrong, to convince me of the Government's good intention, than for the noble Lord to get up and utter those four simple words, "I accept the Amendment". I beg to move.
Page 12, line 12, leave out subsections (21 and (3).—(Lord Stonham.)
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will doubtless not be amazed when I deny him at the very beginning the satisfaction of the four words for which he asked. If he will allow me to say so without disrespect, I was a little amazed to hear him advancing the argument—I say this without wishing to job backwards—that it was essential that the taxpayer should have the relief of enabling the Railways Boards to do the best they could for the taxpayer with their money, he having just come out of the Lobby, having voted, as it certainly seems to us over here, to do just the opposite. I cannot resist saying that, although of course I do not want to pursue the matter.
The noble Lord started by saying that the point he raised was a concrete one. So it may be. It has been concreted, if concrete in fact it is, by repeated applications of what I believe is lean concrete which in some ways is rather thin stuff. But the noble Lord asked that, if a case was to be made against his Amendment, it should be put forward with sweet reason. Here is sweet reason coming up. If I may add my own memories to what happened in the past, the Bill gave the power for which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was asking 141 at that time. As I recall them, his words were that, as they had railway lines which were likely to be closed down, there were natural routes ready provided, which the railways should have the power to develop. That is just the power they have; and that was the power which the noble Lord was told, on a previous occasion, was contained in this Bill. I agree completely that it does not contain the general power to develop and operate pipe-lines at large, into which he later developed his theme. But he did ask for the particular power which is in the Bill at the time; and that was the answer, as I recollect, that he was given. I do not want to make much of that, because I want to get on to the substance of the Amendment.
I start with the first subsection, which the noble Lord wishes to leave out and under which the Boards are given power to construct and operate mainly on their own land pipe-lines for other people. The object of the restriction is to ensure that, while the Boards should be able to make the fullest possible use of their existing land, in so far as it does not conflict with their primary purposes, to build and operate such pipe-lines, together with the right to acquire such incidental parcels of land as they need to make up a route which is mainly on their own land and to make the lay-out efficient, they are not able to become pipe-line operators at large. We feel that that is the way to make the best possible use of their assets. Subsection (3), of course, refers to the consent of the Minister. They are being given this power to construct and operate pipe-lines because it will enable them to get the fullest use out of the land which they have to have for their main purposes. I think that the British Railways Board and the Waterways Board particularly will own long stretches of land which will be quite well suited and well used for the purpose; and the Docks Board will have land which is very suited to terminal parts of pipelines connected with transport pipelines provided by the other Boards, or possibly by somebody else.
The powers that are in Clause 12 are adequate in every way to cover the purposes which we intend the Boards to fulfil. But to allow the Railways Board, or, indeed, any other Board, to set up as a 142 pipe-line operator at large over the country as a whole is another matter indeed. I think the noble Lord referred principally to the Railways Board in this connection, and I cannot see the justification, the reasoning, for the views he put forward that they should have this wide power to build and operate pipe-lines at large all over the country. They have quite enough opportunity for the construction of pipe-lines on their own land without going out into general pipe-line construction, particularly, as the noble Lord has pointed out on more than one occasion, as they own some of the best routes.
In the financial situation which the railways and the waterways are in to-day, and in view of the fact that for some years to come at least they are going to need revenue assistance from the Exchequer, it really cannot be accepted that there will be sufficient public investment finance available for them to go in generally for transport pipe-line projects. They need all the money that can be provided for them for doing the job which they have to do—that is, providing and running railways—and it really cannot be justified that they should spend large quantities of public money in branching out into this new field, which is not their job and which moreover would divert their attention from what is their proper job.
I wonder whether noble Lords opposite are right about the great profitability, which they keep telling us about, of this dynamic new form of transport—I think I quote the noble Lord's words correctly. I find it very difficult to see pipe-line transport as a public form of transport from which much gold is going to be extracted. I know that it is, in a sense, part of the philosophy of the Party of noble Lords opposite that anything which private enterprise does it would not do unless it made a great deal of money out of it; and the argument is, I take it, that the Railways Board, or other Boards, should be able to get some of that money. But I rather doubt whether that is a theory which is correctly based in this case, because I should have thought that pipe-lines will largely (I agree, not entirely) be used by large firms as a more improved and economic form of transport of their product from one place to 143 another where there is a more or less continuous flow or a heavy demand. In that case, if that is going to be the main demand, I cannot see any reason why the Railways Board, or any of the other Boards, should use large quantities of public money to set up a pipe-line for the benefit of perhaps one firm or small group of firms. It does not seem to me to be right.
I think, therefore, that so far as the first part of the Amendment is concerned there is every reason why I should ask your Lordships not to accept it. On the second part, that they should construct a pipe-line only with the consent of the Minister, the provision is something the noble Lord specifically asked for; and the reason that the provision for the consent of the Minister has been included is that the Bill puts the duty of running their own particular business squarely on each individual Board. It is important to ensure, by the Minister's control, that the Boards do not unduly concern themselves with running pipelines when they should be running railways.
There is also the question of the control of investment which is within the discretion of the Minister. The reason for that is that the capacity powers which are given in Clause 12 to construct and operate these pipe-lines extend not only to land which is already owned by a particular Board but also to land held by another of the Boards. In the event of there being some disagreement whether one Board should proceed with a scheme over the land of another, it is desirable that the Minister should be in a position to have the ultimate decision on the matter. I do not know whether, inadvertently, I have failed to answer any question which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, put. I have tried to answer him and I think I have done so fairly satisfactorily and, therefore, have produced reasons for not accepting his Amendment.
§ LORD STONHAM
His Charm, of course, is undeniable, but his reasons, in 144 my estimation, were non-existent. The noble Lord seemed to think that it was quite sufficient to say that the Boards cannot be justified in spending public money in branching out into pipe-lines. But if we expect pipe-lines to be constructed—and, of course, no one imagines that we would go to the trouble of having a very complicated Bill and spending weeks in Parliamentary discussion if we did not think so—somebody is going to spend money on their construction. Much money is going to be spent. Whether it is contributed by private shareholders or by the taxpayer, directly or indirectly, someone will spend that money. Our whole argument for this Amendment rests on the submission that publicly-owned Boards should have the opportunity to construct those pipe-lines if they can put up a case for them. We have no objection whatever to the Minister's giving approval for schemes.
The noble Lord then asked, quite properly, are we right in thinking that pipe-lines are going to be so very profitable. Whether they are or are not going to be profitable, what is quite certain is that nobody will invest a penny in a private company to erect a pipe-line unless they think it is going to be profitable; that is quite certain. Therefore, so far as those objections are concerned I do not think, with the best will in the world, that I can agree that there is any answer from the noble Lord at all. The truth of the matter is that there is here a conflict of opinion, a conflict of ideology, a conflict of approach; and nothing can conceal that fact, or conceal that, for the time being, for a short period, numbers are on the side of the noble Lord opposite. Therefore, having heard his reply, I cannot really expect that we shall get very much.
There is one point of practical significance on which he might help. The noble Lord said that the railways have the power for which I asked in a previous discussion—that is, power to construct pipe-lines on their own tracks. I do not dispute that. The trouble is that the railways were built a century or more ago, and the tracks do not in all cases, particularly in view of modern developments, run conveniently to those places where new industries have been built up—the kind of industries, in fact, some 145 of which, at least, may well be likely to use pipe-lines.
Therefore, the question I would put to the noble Lord is this: what does the Bill mean by the words "mainly on their own land"? These are very simple words, very clear words; but how will they be interpreted? The railways are able to build pipe-lines, if they wish, entirely on their own land or mainly on their own land. It is almost certain that the Railways Board, or one of the other three Boards, will wish to build a pipeline which, for the sake of economy, will be substantially on their own land, yet linking up with a particular new industry or factory which is not on their own land. What percentage is meant by "mainly on their own land"? Does it mean 60 per cent., 75 per cent., 80 per cent., 90 per cent.? What precisely have the Government in mind? I think this is a very important point, and I hope that, before we leave this particular point, the noble Lord will be able to give us some information about it.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am glad to have the opportunity to clear up that point, which I will do in a moment. But before that there are just a couple of other points that I should like to make, very briefly, on what the noble Lord said. He said, "Someone will put up the money". What I query is the argument that that "someone" should be, for example, the Railways Board, with hundreds of millions having to be written off and enormous sums having to be found for modernisation. I therefore think that the argument that further very large sums should be used in this way is really verging, if I may say so, on the financially irresponsible.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I say to the noble Lord that, while he may make a case that the Railways Board may at present be financially unable to undertake the capital expenditure, this Bill is arranging the transport organisation, restrictions, permissions and duties for the foreseeable future. That is the period with which we are dealing—five, ten, fifteen years ahead. What may exist now is one point; what may exist in the future is another. This Bill will prevent any Board from operating general pipe-lines, and that is the issue we have with the Government: that this Bill restricts for the lifetime of the Bill 146 any possibility of a nationalised Board taking part in a new method of transportation.
§ LORD CHESHAM
Yes, that is exactly what it does, and it merely serves to emphasise what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, referred to as the ideological difference. That ideological difference between us exists: it has been quite clearly seen to exist in the debates we had on this particular point during the passage of the Pipe-lines Bill. I still stick to my point—perhaps it is idle to argue it further—that noble Lords opposite are wrong about this thing and we are not. We are creating an organisation whereby people are equipped and organised to get on with their own job. As I said a day or two ago, noble Lords opposite seem very keen that they should always be diversifying themselves to do other jobs as well.
I am not going to pursue that point, because I want to go on to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham; and he confirmed exactly what I said about the views of noble Lords opposite. I do not want to argue it, but all I want him to do is think about this point. He said that no private enterprise firm or organisation would put money into pipe-lines unless they could make a profit out of it, and therefore the nationalised undertakings should have a chance to get some of that profit. I wonder whether it has occurred to him that large firms with large quantities of something suitable to be conveyed by pipe-line from A to B may not make much profit out of it, but may find it a cheaper and more useful adjunct of their production to use this form of transport rather than transporting by lorry or rail; that while it might help the firm, it would not necessarily contribute very much into the funds of the Board that was operating the pipe-line if they operated it and carried the goods for the firm. That is, at any rate, the way it seems to me.
On the point about the meaning of "mainly on their own land", it is a little difficult to be specific and write into the Bill that "mainly" means 60 per cent. or 80 per cent. or whatever it may be. I think it would make it too specific, and it might serve to prohibit some desirable pipe-line. The idea of that particular phrase is that the Board 147 should run the pipe-line where it has facilities to do so mainly on its own land. It might easily be the case that with a 50-mile pipe-line, or something of that kind, they would want to cut across a quarter of a mile outside their own land. If they were not able to do that, if the pipe-line had to be entirely on their own land, the whole project might be brought to nothing because they could not cross the small space. I suppose that, by definition, "mainly" must be in excess of 50 per cent. Again, from the natural meaning of words one would infer that. I think that is an added reason why the consent of the Minister to such a scheme should be required. The phrase is intended, though, to cover the possibility of running a pipe-line over small segments shall I say, of other people's land in order that the whole operation may be completed.
§ LORD CITRINE
May I ask the noble Lord two questions? The first is whether he disputes the view that the pipe-line system is a new form of transport. The second point is, who will interpret "mainly"? There is nothing in this clause that puts upon anybody the power to interpret "mainly".
§ LORD CITRINE
Does the noble Lord accept the view that the pipe-line system is a new form of transport?
§ LORD CHESHAM
Basically, I suppose the answer to that is, Yes. But I do not accept that it is a form of transport completely analogous to the forms of transport that we know, because I do not believe that there is going to be much room for investment, except on a limited scale, in pipe-lines which people build in the general hope that somebody may come along and want to put something through them. As a form of public transport, as it were, analogous to road or rail, or something like that, I do not think it comes in the same bracket at all. Clearly, the interpretation of "mainly" is difficult. It will be a matter for the Board who wants to run a pipe-line. Certainly I do not think it is difficult to interpret in this respect: if more of the pipe-line is on their property than is off it, then it is mainly on it. Therefore, 148 it will be a question of discretion for the Minister in giving his consent, in regard to whether they are doing something unreasonable in going right away to somewhere they should not properly go, and as to whether they can do it or not.
§ LORD CITRINE
May I follow that up? Where in the Bill is this power given to the Minister? It seems to me that it is completely open. The Board may say that it is something that is mainly upon their land. Where is the restrictive power held? The clause itself does not give any such power to the Minister. Where is the power given?
§ LORD CHESHAM
I do not think it is necessary to write into a Bill exactly who is going to interpret every part of it. I think that is automatically part of the Minister's function.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
I want to ask the noble Lord just one or two questions. First, why does he take the view that either one of the four Boards to be set up will be so irresponsible as literally to throw away taxpayers' money in the manner that he suggests? It does not seem to me that he has much confidence in the persons to be appointed to the four Boards, because if they are as irresponsible as he fears they may be, then the Government's choice of manpower will be very poor indeed. I should have thought that what this Amendment really means is that where one of the four Boards feel that a service, either new, or partially new and partially old, can be improved by the use of a pipe-line, then the Board shall have power to establish one but that they have to prove their case to the Minister before they can get the authority. That being so, I should imagine that members of the Board will be just as responsible as, indeed perhaps more than, directors of electricity companies were in the old days in their attitude towards any service given to the community.
I am reminded of the situation before nationalisation with regard to electricity. It may not be a perfect simile to pipelines, but the situation used to be that one private electricity company after another could come to Parliament seeking power to serve ten, twenty or thirty square miles in area with electricity. Of 149 course they knew that on arrival at the House of Commons there would be a Conservative Government who believed in private enterprise, as they were entitled to. They knew, therefore, that their Private Bill to extend the area over which they could supply electricity to households, to industry or to anywhere else, would be a winner the moment they reached Parliament.
What used to happen? I knew the Yorkshire Electric Power Company best. I happened to live near their area. My Parliamentary division was widespread, almost wholly rural and mining, and I happened to reside in Doncaster. The Yorkshire Electric Power Company—I do not suggest that only the Yorkshire Electric Power Company did this; I suppose they all did—got Parliamentary assent to serve a wide area with electricity; but they either served it or they did not, at their own will, and no outside person, neither a railway board nor any other board, could interfere. Consequently, once the Electric Power Company had got Parliamentary power to serve the area, would-be users would wait for years on end for electricity and never get it. Even if they got it, if they lived on the fringe of a county borough area they had to pay dearly for it. While I was paying ¾d. per unit for my electricity pre-war, within three-quarters of a mile of my house, where the Electric Power Company were serving, 5d. per unit was being paid. That is the sort of thing that was happening. This is the best illustration I can give of how not to do things.
The electricity companies over the country as a whole—I am not singling out any—were supplying farms at the rate of about 5,000 to 5,500 each year. Since electricity has been taken over by the State they have been supplying 12,500 farms per year, connecting electricity to farmhouses for both domestic and industrial purposes. This clearly indicates that large farming areas in the country which now have electricity would never have had it had electricity not been taken over by the State. That does not indicate that those in charge of our electricity supplies to-day are a lot of irresponsible people; and I do not think we have any more right to think that those persons to be chosen to man 150 the four Boards will be any less responsible than the Central Electricity Authority have been over the past twelve or thirteen years. The farming community at this moment can thank their lucky stars that electricity was taken over and that the Authority had the power at will, commercially, economically, and efficiently to supply electricity, not only in the newly built-up areas, but at the same time out in the wilds of rural Britain.
Having regard to the fact that the members of the various Boards know what can happen to any Board which throws away particularly the taxpayers' money, I should have thought that we could guarantee that they would desire to have a pipe-line of their own outside the land that they presently own only if it were going to serve some facet of transport and not lose taxpayers' money. The noble Lord is quite entitled to his view about private enterprise and non-private enterprise, but I hope that he will not get the definite idea in his mind, and cement it firmly, that all private enterprise is careful and all non-private enterprise or all public servants are irresponsible where money and investment on new undertakings are concerned. I hope that the noble Lord will bear in mind the example that I have given about electricity, and what it has meant to the farmer and to the country in food production and all the rest, simply because the Electricity Authority had the power to provide electricity.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Before the noble Lord replies, I must say that I get very upset by the view that is constantly being put forward that it is right Governments should come to Parliament and ask to put restrictions on publicly-owned bodies which they do not want to put on private enterprise bodies. I think this is a shocking state of affairs. The case put by the Minister this afternoon in regard to transport had no regard to the folly of the Government's policy in interfering with the proper management of the railways—selling off their best assets, like road transport, and making every possible difficulty for the revenue to be maintained. I do not know how the Government have the face to come and argue as they do on these matters, con- 151 sidering their treatment of the Transport Commission. We will certainly divide on this.
§ LORD CHESHAM
If the noble Viscount is going to take that attitude, I welcome the decision to divide. I think we should divide, because there is a good deal between us on this matter. It merely goes to prove what I said the other day. It seems to me that noble Lords opposite simply do not believe that there can be any form of effective railway system unless the railways have power to indulge in every other activity.
§ LORD CHESHAM
That is quite true, and the noble Viscount's words have proved it again. Noble Lords opposite think they cannot do this unless they have power to go in for pipe-lines or to run road transport. I wonder it has not been suggested that they should go into the property field as property developers, just in order to bolster them up. I myself think that theirs is an incredible argument, and certainly we should welcome taking this Amendment to the Division Lobby.
May I just deal with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barnburgh? I did not think that anything I said indicated that I considered that the Boards would be irresponsible in this matter. I do not think I am under any illusion. I certainly had not intended to say that I considered the Boards to be irresponsible in the matter. I tried to explain why I thought it was necessary that the Minister should have to give his consent.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
But the noble Lord must recall—I am sure it is within the recollection of the Committee—that he said two, three or four times: why should they be concerned with these pipe-lines and presumably lose these sums of money?
§ LORD CHESHAM
No, I did not say that. The noble Lord must not put words into my mouth. I said: why should they do this thing, because it is not their job. The job of the Railways Board is to run railways; the job of the 152 Waterways Board is to run waterways. It is not their job to indulge in large-scale pipe-line operations. That is what I said. I then went on to say, not that they would lose large quantities of money, but that they would need large quantities of money to put into this. They would need quite enough money as it was, particularly as two of them were going to be supported by the Exchequer for at least five years: they would need further large sums, which I thought would be better devoted to their own purposes and should not be available for doing something that was not their job.
§ LORD STONHAM
I want to make certain what the issue is and what we are voting about. We cannot take the view—the Government's view—that an undertaking is to be debarred from taking part in a new, and probably profitable, enterprise merely because it is owned by the taxpayer. I hope that all noble Lords who agree with us in this and who dissent from the Government will join us in the Division Lobby.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I believe that the whole of the disquiet felt by noble Lords on my left really stems from the refusal of the Government to admit that pipe-lines are a new form of transport. The Government have refused to admit that in a single word this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Citrine, put that question perfectly plainly and clearly to Lord Chesham, and the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, did not feel able to answer it with a simple "Yes". The Government on a previous occasion—which I must not go into all over again—refused to recognise this by placing pipe-lines under the Ministry of Transport. If only they had done so in some form or another—a Pipe-lines Board, or whatever it might be—under the Ministry of Transport, they would not be in the difficulty in which they now find themselves, engendering all this disquiet among noble Lords on my left. In this way the Government are creating difficulties for themselves—they must surely see that.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13:
§ The Boards' powers of manufacture, and production
§ 13.—(1) Each of the Boards shall have power to construct, manufacture, produce, purchase, maintain and repair anything required for the purposes of the business—
- (a) of that Board,
- (b) of any other Board, or
- (c) of a subsidiary of any of the Boards or of a subsidiary of the Holding Company,
§ (5) Without prejudice to so much of subsection (1) of this section as restricts the Boards' powers, a Board shall not have power to manufacture, otherwise than for purposes of research or development, road vehicles, bodies or chassis for road vehicles or major components of road vehicles.
§ This subsection shall not come into force as respects the Railways Board until the expiration of the period of three years from the vesting date, so, however, that if it appears to the Minister that that Board can properly terminate the activities restricted by this subsection before then, he may direct that for154
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 17; Not-Contents, 54.153
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Crook, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Francis-Williams, L.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Kenswood, L.||Walston, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lawson, L.||Williams, L.|
|Chorley, L.||St. Davids, V.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Citrine, L.||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Ailsa, M.||Devonshire, D.||Milverton, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Dundee, E.||Molson, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Fortescue, E.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Allerton, L.||Goschen, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Grenfell, L.||Newall, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Auckland, L.||Hastings, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Hawke, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Inchyra, L.||Robins, L.|
|Boston, L.||Jellicoe, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Bridgeman, V.||Lansdowne, M.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Lothian, M.||Salisbury, M.|
|Chesham, L.||Luke, L.||Somers, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Margesson, V.||Spens, L.|
|Coutanche, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Crathorne, L.||Merrivale, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Denham, L.||Mills, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ the period of three years there shall be substituted such shorter period as may be specified in the direction.
§ 5.35 p.m.
LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after "business", and to insert instead:
of any Board or Nationalised Transport undertaking, and in addition may undertake such work of manufacture or repair as may be necessary to operate its factories and repair shops efficiently and economically.
§ The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, chided my noble friend Lord Stonham in that he had just voted for a restrictive Amendment and helped to defeat the Government thereby. That can equally be held against me, of course, and not just on the earlier Amendment. I am bound to plead, in explanation, that I longed for that opportunity from 1951 to 1959. I longed very much to be in the Lobby where I should find myself defeating the Government. In the circumstances, I just could not resist the temptation. I think it is good occasionally not to resist temptation—not as a general precept, of course, but on occasions such as this.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I would only interrupt to say that I am glad that the noble Lord has succumbed to tempta- 155 tion, because, no doubt as with me, it is the only thing he cannot resist.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Here we are seeking to leave out words which will restrict the commercial freedom of the Board. Pretty well all the way through the passage of this Bill in another place, and, indeed, in this House, the Government have said that the ideal for these undertakings is commercial freedom to:so conduct their business as to secure that their revenue is not less than sufficient for making provision for the meeting of charges properly chargeable to revenue, taking one year with another"—to use the words in Clause 18 of this Bill. But, reading between the lines of the Bill, it is clear that they must do this only provided that in the process they do not hurt any privately-owned undertaking that has a powerful voice in Parliament.
We all know that with modernisation, with the running down of the production of diesel engines and all the rest of the consequences of the shrinking of our railway system, there will be a great deal of redundancy in the railway workshops, and much space will be made available and could be used if the railways were permitted to use that space. There is in Derby, in Swindon, in East-leigh and in a number of other important railway workshop centres a body of highly skilled men trained by the various apprenticeship schemes, who are at this moment facing the prospect of losing their jobs. Most of these are in danger of losing their jobs and—important too—being lost to the railways and the railway systems. As a result of my trade union connection and as a result of representing Derby for a period I know very many of these men. They are decent, honest, craftsmen; decent men who have acquired great skills in their operations and in the jobs they have to do. There will be, too, and there is at present, a lot of unused floor space. What we say is that some of this floor space and many of these men who are in this danger of redundancy could be used for contracts for private industry.
There would be no new principle at all involved here. It is, of course, the case, and I am sure it is known to the Ministers opposite, that the Government permit the Royal Dockyards to 156 undertake private contract work, and they have done so for a long time. This seems to us to be a wise use of the men they wish to retain and of the space available in Portsmouth and other places. I had the privilege, some years ago, of going with a Select Committee on Estimates to Portsmouth, where I saw something of the training schemes in operation. I must say that they are really first-rate schemes which produce first-class men. The Government rightly said, "Let us use these men; let these dockyards undertake private contract work", and they do in fact do so.
It is also true that when the Royal Ordnance factories were running down their production after the war they were permitted to undertake other lines of work, provided always—and this was a duty imposed upon them—that they could do it at a profit. This they did, and to the extent of many millions of pounds. The taxpayers were saved to that extent as a result of using these Ordnance factories for that purpose. It is clear that none of the Boards, having the duty placed upon them of paying their way, and bearing in mind all the restrictions, and so on, placed upon them, would undertake work for private industry unless they were sure that at least they could cover their cost, or perhaps make a profit—and to make a profit would, of course, be the ideal in this connection as is the case with the Government establishments that I have mentioned. Surely it is highly desirable that, if the Boards are able to manufacture at a profit something that private industry wants, they should be permitted to do so, always having regard to their commercial obligation—the obligation to make their industry pay.
There is another factor that comes into this. It would be a mistake to disperse too many of these men, who could be used for private industry work. I am firmly of the opinion that within a few years the usage of our roads will be such that there will have to be a return to the full use of our railway system. To use a phrase often used in this connection, road traffic will grind to a halt unless the highways are relieved of much of their traffic—traffic which could with great advantage be carried by the railways. When that time comes, as it will come, whatever the ideologies 157 of the Government of the day, there must be a further attempt at co-ordination and integration of transport. I believe that when the time comes that our roads are cluttered up to that extent, then something will have to be done, no matter what the colour of the Government of the day. This might mean, and probably will mean eventually, that there will be some direction of transport-users; and that direction is bound to be towards the railways, for they have the greatest potential available, now unused. I am sure that in many cases a direction towards the railways would be welcomed even by noble Lords opposite. I am sure that, when they have been in their cars following some of the vehicles that are on the roads to-day, carrying some of the loads that they do carry, many noble Lords have wished that somebody had taken steps to direct that traffic on to the railways in order to free the roads.
This potential has been talked about by greater traffic experts and transport experts than I. For example, Sir Reginald Wilson (who I am sure is known to the Ministers opposite as a great transport man) said in 1958:Because a railway can be highly mechanised, it is potentially the cheapest mass-producer of transport facilities; or, as the foreign railways prefer to put it, the railroad is a high productivity form of transport.Whether we like it or not, whether we have a Government holding the views held by the present Government or not, an attempt at co-ordination, I say again, must surely come; and it will come when we reach that period when the roads will no longer carry the traffic. We must use this "cheapest mass-producer of transport facilities." I believe that someone in America has said that eventually they will have to re-invent the railway. We, I am afraid, shall have to do very much the same. We shall regret some of the closures, and so on, that have taken place.
I know enough about it to appreciate that it might be argued that examination has shown that much of the Commission's deficit is being incurred on the workshops side. I know that is the case. I know that it is certainly the case that this is mainly in repair work on old stock. It is also the case that, in the production of new stock, the railway workshops are a profitable undertaking, or a profitable part of the whole undertaking. 158 I do not want to go on too long. I think I made that mistake yesterday when moving an Amendment; but I hope that I have said enough to convince your Lordships that this Amendment is a sound one. I beg to move.
Page 12, leave out lines 31 to 38 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Champion.)
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I would agree in one respect with the noble Lord, Lord Champion; and that is When he says that in due course Her Majesty's Government, and Members of this House and another place, Will have to give due consideration to the question of whether or not some form of direction is needed with regard to traffic. That was also a conclusion reached at the annual conference of a transport organisation of Which I have the privilege of being the President, the members of which are operators of road transport and, also, traffic managers. They also felt that the time would no doubt come when, if we are not to grind to a halt on our roads, some form of direction will have to be considered. Apart from that, I disagree with this Amendment, for I feel that if it is carried it will give unduly wide powers of manufacture to the nationalised undertakings. It seems to me, too, that this Amendment, if carried, would affect in no small measure subsections (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6), which place important limitations on the powers of the Boards.
I should like to mention the locomotive-manufacturing industry, which would be one of those most directly affected by this Amendment, if it were carried. At the moment, this industry is faced with rapid contraction and rationalisation. It seems to me that it is increasingly absurd to divide the requirements of British Railways between the railway workshops and the railway locomotive-manufacturing industry. I understand that at the moment only 15 per cent. of the labour force employed in the railway workshops is employed on the manufacture of new locomotives: the other 85 per cent.—a not inconsiderable percentage—is used on repair work, and so on.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the railway workshops have existed for over a century and that 159 they have a tradition and a pride in manufacture. But I think your Lordships will agree that an industry, especially an industry which is exporting capital equipment, needs a home market as a basis with a view to keeping costs down, assuring continuity of production, and also—and this is not unimportant—providing a shop window at home. I think your Lordships also agree that this industry, like other industries in this country, already has to meet vigorous competition from abroad—from America, from Japan, and from countries on the Continent, such as Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland.
I feel that if this Amendment were accepted, it would make it even more difficult for the locomotive manufacturing industry to compete in world markets, for I should imagine that then the railway workshops, although they would be able to manufacture and export, would do so without having the requisite knowledge with regard to overseas markets, or with regard to special operating conditions, or with regard to climatic conditions in certain countries, and so on. I feel we should follow the example of other countries, because we are the only large manufacturing country whose railways manufacture their own locomotives. The countries I have mentioned acquire their locomotives from private industry. I sincerely hope that it will be possible for us progressively to reach that state of affairs.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I, first of all, thank my noble friend Lord Champion for the manner in which he has introduced this Amendment, and say how grateful we are that he has joined what I might call the "happy band of warriors" on this Bill; it has certainly eased the burden from this side. As this debate progresses, the division which separates noble Lords opposite and ourselves becomes a chasm. We on this side have tried to take the public interest and the public point of view. We are seeking, and will continue to seek, to protect and develop the public investment which is being made in the nationalised industries. As I listened to noble Lords opposite I could not help feeling that they were, as they have been in the past and as they will continue to be, belittling and limiting the health 160 and vitality of the nationalised industries. I must say that there are times when I cannot help but believe that there are some noble Lords opposite who would like to cause the death of the nationalised industries. The continual Amendments which have been moved by noble Lords opposite, and the burden of their speeches in every respect, have been to restrict the operations of the nationalised Boards.
When I and my noble friends put down this Amendment, it was my intention to move it in rather muted terms. I certainly was not advocating that the nationalised industries, the railways or the Holding Company, should use their workshop capacity for creating a large industrial capacity for manufacture and repair. What I had in mind then was to move an Amendment—and I hoped your Lordships would be able to accept it—which would mean merely that the existing capacity of the railways, or the capacity that the Board which will be created decided to have, would be operated efficiently and effectively. If they are to operate that capacity efficiently, effectively and economically, they obviously need to have business. Anyone who has had experience in business must know that if you are providing a service in your own business there is a period of slack when your normal supply of items to be repaired, corrected, or adjusted, does not meet up with your full capacity.
The majority of commercial firms deal with that situation very effectively: they take in outside work. By taking in outside work, they create sufficient work for their own workshops to be kept fully operative. This is essential, because one of the main problems of the railways and the London Board will be to keep operatives. If an operative sees that his workshops are permanently slack, he will be seeking new employment; and then, at the time when the Boards require staff to repair and develop their existing machinery, they will find themselves short of men. The noble Lord, Lord Mills, will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that that situation exists to-day. I believe the railways, particularly in their diesel shops, are finding themselves short of staff; staff have left because they feared they were going to be redundant, and 161 have already sought out new work. Therefore there has been a delay in bringing new diesel trains into service.
All we have tried to do in this Amendment—and I would ask the Government not to try to draw a red herring across it and say that it means that a sort of British Motor Corporation could be set up—is merely to say, in the interest of the existing capacity of the railways or the other Boards, that the Boards, in whom we put considerable trust, should be able to take in work from outside if necessary in order that the existing workshops, in which many millions of pounds of public money has been invested for modernisation and the like, can be operated efficiently. I hope the Government, even at this late stage, will be able to accept the wisdom of our words.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I shall have to declare an interest as a member of the board of a group of companies engaged in locomotive manufacture, and therefore I am not going so wide in my comments as I otherwise should. I am going to make only three comments. One is in regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has just said, and that is, that I could not possibly agree that his Amendment was so simple or so limited in scope as he would like us to think. The second and third points are with regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said. It may well be that redundancy will appear in British Railways' workshops, but that is an argument which can be used equally well the other way in regard to redundancy in private enterprise workshops. Whether the same union is concerned in both cases I am not sure. In private enterprise workshops it is the A.E.U.; in the British Railways' workshops, I think it is partly the N.U.R. So one pays one's money and takes one's choice.
The third matter is about the costs. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, with his great knowledge of railway matters, may recall that some years ago (I think about 1952) a serious attempt, with good will on both sides, was made by the constituent companies of the Locomotive Manufacturers' Association and British Railways to determine the relative costs between steam locomotives manufactured by private enterprise and those 162 manufactured by British Railways. After everybody had tried very hard, nobody could possibly tell. I think that any argument about relative costings should be received with caution. Whereas private enterprise costs are known, the result of the investigation tended to show that British Railways did not know their costs. As Dr. Beeching has just inserted an advertisement in the papers for a financial expert on railway costs, that position may still be so.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
I can well understand the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in his very restrained speech, deploring the fact that railway workshops are going down. The reason is that the requirements of the railways are not so great as they used to be. I think we should remember that railway workshops were built to supply the needs of the railways for locomotives and associated equipment and for the repair of locomotives. Therefore, while undoubtedly there is cause for regret, it is not to be wondered at that the workshops themselves must diminish or expand with the fortunes of the railways.
The noble Lord said that some day we should need even greater workshops. I hope that he is right. He instanced the case of the dockyards and the Royal Ordnance factories. They were started because after the war there was a great need for production and a great lack of capacity. I know something about the Royal Ordnance factories. I went through them all after the war, when I was asked to do so by the Minister of Supply, and saw what they were doing—and they were far from happy about it. But that is history. There is a real difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that we were trying all along the line to restrict the nationalised industries. I think that he was a little intemperate when he said that on this side there were noble Lords who wished for the death of the nationalised industries. I do not know that we shall get much out of the retort I could make——
§ LORD MILLS
No, I am sure. I do not think it would be useful if I took up the line that noble Lords opposite 163 were trying all the time to extend the powers of the nationalised industries. They want them to go in for pipe-lines, and so on.
I think that noble Lords should realise that this Amendment proposes an extension of the powers of the British Transport Commission, which at present can manufacture and repair only for their own purposes. It has long been the practice and custom of the railways, before and after nationalisation, to look to private industry to make up their own deficiencies. I will go so far as to say that I regretted it when they reduced their demands on private industry so severely. As a result, there is already a substantial excess capacity, both in the public and private sectors, for the manufacture of locomotives and associated equipment. This is of great importance, because the private sector does a certain amount of export and we should like them to do more. Export requirements are different from the domestic railway requirements and therefore private industry has techniques and specifications which are useful for export and which are not possessed in the railway workshops.
We feel too that this Amendment would lead away from what we are trying to do in the Bill. We are trying to get the Railways Board and associated Boards to work within a specific field and to devote their attentions to that. Therefore, in our view, it would be wrong to encourage—or indeed to allow—the Railways Board to engage in private trade by utilising the workshops in this way. I would remind your Lordships that this Amendment would go far beyond the powers possessed by any other nationalised industry—the power industry, for example, who manufacture only for their own requirements. I submit that this is a straight issue between us, and I must take the line that I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am grateful for the support given to some aspects of my Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. He rightly paid some tribute to the excellence of many workers employed in the railways workshops. He also went to to say that he felt it right that there should be private firms making railway engines. The noble 164 Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, also said this. Strangely enough, I would agree with them. I believe that it is right that there should be private firms undertaking work of this character—something to put in our shop window. I would never agree to anything which said that railway workshops, alone should make railway engines. But we are not seeking that in this Amendment. All we are asking is that they should be permitted to undertake private contracts, if private contracts were offered or if they could be obtained, always provided that they could do so at a profit to the undertaking.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that the circumstances of the railway industry make it inevitable that there should be some contraction of workshops. I speak as a railwayman, and I have some pride in the fact that I started as a lamp-boy in 1913, a long time ago, and that all my life has been bound up with the industry we are discussing now. That explains why I was in such haste to make my maiden speech, so that I could come into the discussions on this Bill. Railwaymen look forward to a reasonably streamlined industry. But I would say that that streamlined industry will have to pay its staff much more than it does at present. Perhaps that is a little by the way from the Amendment that we are now discussing, but that is the sort of thing I am looking forward to in the circumstances of the time. We should streamline the industry and have the highly competent technical staff paid in accordance with their qualifications. I see the noble Lord opposite kindly nods his head at that remark, and clearly he agrees. The only thing I would say in that connection is that, so far as the workshops are concerned, do not let this streamlining go so far that you disperse the men so that when they are needed in the future they will not be there. I hope my noble friends will support me in the Division Lobby on this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
Page 12, line 39, leave out ("Inland Waterways Authority") and insert ("British Waterways Board").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.165
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM moved to leave out subsection (5). The noble Lord said: I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Buckinghamshire, the Deputy Chairman, and to your Lordships for the fact that on the last Amendment we allowed a Division to be called when such was not our intention. It so happens that the noble Earl the Deputy Chairman possesses supersonic hearing and heard a second "Content" which was imperceptible to my less keen hearing. I make no complaint about it, but I should not like noble Lords opposite to feel that we have any desire to obstruct or delay the proceedings of the Committee. However, I assure noble Lords that on the Amendment that I am now moving we have a quite serious intention and the firmest determination to divide the Committee in the event of the Government's not conceding it.
§ This Amendment refers to a particular section of the more general subject which was dealt with in the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Champion, but on this occasion I assure the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that it cannot be alleged that we are asking for anything other than the continuance of the powers already possessed by the London Transport Executive. We are not asking for anything new. In this respect, subsection (5) is a departure from the general principle which has been pursued by the Government, who in all other aspects of the matter appear to have attempted to preserve in this Bill the powers already possessed under the 1947 Act and other enactments by the London Transport Executive.
§ Subsection (4) of this clause gives the Minister absolute power to control the construction, manufacture and production activities of any of the Boards, and he can close down such activities whenever he likes. It is indisputable, therefore, that on grounds of equity and the public interest subsection (5), which we propose to delete, is quite unnecessary. Obviously the Minister thought this, because there was no suggestion in the White Paper, in the original Bill or during the Second Reading in another place that London Transport should lose the right that they have had for thirty years to construct bus bodies or chassis or components for road vehicles.166
Subsection (5) of the clause was, in fact, inserted on the Report stage in another place with, as I think the obvious intention of benefiting private concerns which make road vehicle bodies. I submit that it is no part of the business of your Lordships' House to allow legislation to be used for the purpose of touting for orders by private companies. In seeking to justify the Amendment in another place the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Transport said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol 658 (No. 99), col. 342] that the Boards
in any case will not inherit any such manufacturing activities.
And he added (col. 343):
It is not their job … they do not engage in this work, nor is it likely that they would wish to do so.
In so far as the London Transport Board is concerned (the present London Transport Executive), this is just not true. The London Transport Executive had no knowledge of the Amendment in another place until 24 hours before it was presented, and in the limited time at their disposal they objected strenuously to its terms—terms which, in their view, nullify their 30 years' old right to build their own vehicles. Indeed, it is a great pity that the Minister did not choose to reveal this fact. Moreover, I have myself seen deputations from the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Transport and General Workers' Union.
§ Just now, in the discussion on a previous Amendment, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said that there might be redundancy in private enterprise, and the A.E.U. would be upset if we preserved work for a public undertaking employing members of the Transport and General Workers' Union or some other union. In this case that argument does not arise, because the unions have been to me jointly and expressed their serious concern. I am authorised to say on their behalf that they are very seriously concerned about the position of their members who are actually engaged in these construction shops, and they are fearful of the situation which will arise if this subsection is allowed to stay in the Bill. They, and we, are determined to fight it all the way.167
§ I should make it clear to your Lordships that I am not referring to the three small companies which are to be transferred under the Bill to the transport Holding Company, and who will not, therefore, be affected by the prohibition in this clause. I am not referring to British Railways Board's workshops; I am referring specifically to the workshops which are at present owned and run by London Transport Executive, and which will come under the London Transport Board. I am concerned, therefore, not with the grant of new powers, but with the continuance of the London Transport Board's right to manufacture, a power which was originally granted to the old London Passenger Transport Board under the 1933 Act. This gave them the right to a restricted annual production of 527 bus bodies, and these were, in fact, built at Chiswick until the outbreak of war. Under the 1947 Act, which governs the present situation so far, this right was renewed, although in practice the allocation was pooled with that of other concerns, and the production came from British Transport Commission factories.
§ London Transport did not then produce new bodies, because the heavy overhaul programme in the early postwar years absorbed the productive capacity of the old Chiswick works. It was with the intention of increasing the programme that the new Aldenham body-works at Elstree were built, and the Chiswick works were completely modernised, at a total cost of many millions of pounds. The Aldenham works have been described as the most modern of their kind in Europe. At that time—that is, at the time of the building and modernisation—it was anticipated that the bus fleet of 7,000 vehicles would be increased to 12,000. Owing, however, to the reduction in the services, or at least in the number of buses in use, the expected expansion has not taken place, and there is thus spare capacity at the Aldenham works to manufacture bus bodies for the Board's own use.
§ In February of this year the London Transport Executive informed the trade unions that they had placed outside contracts for part renewal of the London bus fleet, but that they proposed to set 168 up a sub-committee to investigate the commercial possibilities of re-starting the production of new bodies when the present Bill (the Bill we are now discussing, as it actually stood in February of this year) became law.
I have in my hand, not the minutes of the February meeting, but the minutes of a meeting which took place as recently as April 26 of the joint meeting between representatives of the Executive and of the London Transport Joint Trades Committee. Among other things, they discussed manufacturing powers under the Transport Bill, 1962. Naturally, I do not wish to burden your Lordships with the whole minutes, but they show that it was stated by the Executive Secretary:
… that under the Transport Bill then in the Committee stage in the House of Commons the new London Transport Board would have unlimited powers for the manufacture of equipment for the Board's use, subject to an overriding control by the Minister.
They also recorded:
Immediately before the Report stage of the Bill in the House of Commons, the Executive were told that the Minister of Transport proposed to seek to amend the clause dealing with the manufacturing powers of the new Boards to be set up under the Bill, including the London Board, by including an Amendment which would prevent the Boards from manufacturing road vehicles, bodies or chassis for road vehicles, or major components for road vehicles. Representations were made to the Minister opposing the Amendment … notwithstanding the representations, a new clause was included in the Transport Bill …
I read from those minutes only to make it quite clear beyond any question that at present the London Transport Executive possess those powers.
§ Under the original Bill, and right up to Report stage in another place, they believed they would have the power to manufacture bus bodies for their own use. They certainly wished to do so, and they were about to start the first arrangements to enable them to build. There cannot be any doubt about that. There cannot be any question that they have the capacity and the wish to build. There cannot be any suggestion that it is not their job, or that this is something new; they have been doing it for 30 years. Therefore, none of the arguments which have been used by the Government or the noble Lord so far can be used in answer to this case. 169 Anyone who has visited these remarkable works at Aldenham—anyone, indeed, who saw the fairly recently television programme about them—will realise why London Transport wish to use them to their full capacity. In my view it will be a public scandal, as well as a disgraceful waste of public money, if they are arbitrarily prevented from using them.
§ This is important. We do not suggest that the London Transport Board could, or would, wish to build all the bus bodies that they will need, or, indeed, even a major proportion of them. I should like to make that quite clear to the noble Lord. I do not think that, after doing their repair work, if they were permitted to do so, they would have the capacity to build all the bus bodies they need. We do, however, insist that with 30 years of "know-how" behind them, it is very much their business, and they must not have this right taken from them. It is not just a question of ideological sentiment, nor of the continuing employment of many skilled workers, vital and important though that is to every one of us.
§ The case for the deletion of subsection (5) also rests on sound business reasons: first, the need to keep the productive capacity of the Aldenham works fully employed; secondly, to assist the Board by providing a yardstick to determine reasonable commercial prices when they purchase buses and equipment from outside contractors. That is by no means unimportant. At present my information—and it is as up to date as of this morning—is that there is an actual shortage of work at Aldenham and some fears of redundancy. It is only a surmise on my part, but, judging by the circumstances, I feel that the Minister must have moved his Amendment on a basis of inadequate information and therefore not having the opportunity to consider all the implications. It may not be possible—in fact, I do not think it will be possible—for the noble Lord to consider this matter in a few seconds, but I hope he will undertake that the Government will reconsider the matter on the basis of the facts—they are the facts which I have now put forward—so that eventually, if it cannot be done tonight, they will accept the Amendment. I beg to move.170
Page 13, line 18, leave out subsection (5).—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
I understood the noble Lord to say that if his Amendment were not accepted he intended to divide your Lordships' House, so I am not going to indulge in argument; I am just going to state the facts for the Record.
§ LORD STONHAM
May I just interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Naturally, he is well aware that there are many stages short of complete acceptance which would persuade me not to divide the House.
§ LORD MILLS
I thank the noble Lord for that explanation. I still do not think I am going to argue about it. I am just going to explain the facts to your Lordships, so that you can then understand the extent of this problem. The background is that the question of manufacturing road vehicles and the other equipment mentioned in subsection (5) has always received special treatment in relevant transport legislation, beginning with the Transport Act, 1947. The effect of subsection (4) of Section 2 of that Act was to lay down in considerable detail just how many road vehicles and related things the Commission could manufacture on a yearly basis, and these were therefore distinguished from the general run of things manufactured by the Commission, who otherwise had a very wide power to manufacture for their own purposes. The Commission were therefore subjected by the 1947 Act to arbitrary statutory quotas which could not be altered except by new legislation, whatever the circumstances.
The Government have decided that the method of limiting road vehicle output chosen in the Transport Act, 1947, was unduly rigid and arbitrary in its effect. They have therefore included the present provisions in the Bill. The basis of these provisions is that the Boards are given wider power to manufacture for their own requirements, but that in regard to road vehicles the power should be taken from them. What is the size of the problem we are dealing with? The noble Lord referred to the workshop at Aldenham. It is true those workshops exist, but they are not 171 used and have not been used for years. I think it is true to say they have not been used since 1938.
§ LORD STONHAM
May I interrupt the noble Lord, because he should qualify that? They have not been used since 1938 for the manufacture of new bodies, but they have been used continuously for repairs and overhauls.
§ LORD MILLS
I thank the noble Lord for that correction. That is precisely what I meant. They have not been used for new bodies. The two railway workshops at Wolverton and Temple Mills produce about 220 new road vehicle bodies or trailers a year. I think they employ about 70 people. In the case of the London Transport, there are no road vehicles manufactured at all. They have found it better and wiser to buy them from private industry. The same is true of the Docks and British Waterways.
I think these figures demonstrate quite clearly that the Commission, who, as the noble Lord reminded us, had the power, have really not made any substantial use of that power. That was why, in the light of this and in view of the concept of giving the Boards set tasks and limiting them to those tasks, it was thought wise to state expressly in the Bill that the Boards must not engage in road vehicle manufacture. That is in the Bill and we do not propose to take it out.
§ ing. Surely, the noble Mills grind on, but produce precious little grist. Therefore I shall have to ask my noble friends to adhere to my original, but perhaps somewhat rash, statement. There has, in fact, not been any answer to my case. I told the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that I was not talking about the works at Wolverton but the other small works which have been run by the B.T.C. and later transferred to the Holding Company. The fact is that capacity does exist for this bus building. It was used up to the outbreak of the War. It has not been used since, because there has been a great deal of overhaul work done; but there is spare capacity now for bus body building. The London Transport Executive now wish to use that capacity, or to consider the use of that capacity, for building some bodies, and it would seem quite reasonable to give them the powers to do so. I feel, particularly having regard to the nature of the noble Lord's reply, that these facts have not been fully considered or taken into account. After all, some of the things which I read out took place in April of this year, since the Minister reached his decision, and I think, therefore, that this Amendment ought to be looked at again. In any case, I cannot withdraw the Amendment and would invite my noble friends to join me in the Division Lobby.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 12; Not-Contents, 34.171
|Amwell, L.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L. [Teller.]|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Peddie, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Hughes, L.||St. Davids, V.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Kenswood, L.||Shackleton, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Hastings, L.||Radnor, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Hawke, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Runciman of Doxford, V.|
|Bathurst. E.||Margesson, V.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Boston, L.||Merrivale, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Mills, L.||Somers, L.|
|Coutanche, L.||Milverton, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Denham, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Devonshire, D.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Tedder, L.|
|Furness, V.||Newall, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Goschen, V.||Newton, L. [Teller.]||Waleran, L.|
|Hailsham, V. (L. President.)|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
Page 14, line 5, leave out ("Inland Waterways Authority") and insert ("British Waterways Board").—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 14:
§ Supplemental provisions relating to the Boards' powers
§ 14.—(1) Subject to this Act, the Boards shall have power—
§ (b) without prejudice to the foregoing paragraph, to enter into agreements with the other Boards and with any subsidiary of any of the Boards or of the Holding Company, for the management, working and use by one party to the agreement of works, land or other property belonging to the other party, and with respect to the rendering of services and the pooling of receipts or expenses,
§ (d) in places where those using the services and facilities provided by the Board may require them, to provide both for them and for other persons facilities for the purchase and consumption of food and drink, places for refreshment and such other amenities and facilities as it may appear to the Board requisite or expedient to provide,
§ (e) to dispose (whether absolutely or for a term of years) of any part of the undertaking of the Board or any property which in their opinion is not required by them for the purposes of their business, and, in particular, to dispose of an interest in, or right over, any property, which, subject to the interest or right, is retained by the Board,
§ LORD HAWKE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: This subsection of Clause 14 allows the Boards to enter into agreements with other Boards and with any subsidiary of the Boards or of the Holding Company, and also, by the use of Clause 16, to delegate their statutory powers to those other bodies. What we want to know is why they want these very wide powers. It seems quite reasonable that they should be able to delegate and enter into agreements with other Boards, and so on, but the existing private bus operators view with a certain amount of fear and suspicion this ability for the Boards to delegate their statutory powers to the subsidiaries of the Holding Company. They fear that by so doing it would be possible for the London Transport Board to delegate their powers to run services in London to a subsidiary of the Holding 174 Company, which would be a wholly owned bus company, and thereby they would be able to run through services from London to, for instance, the sea coast without any question of road licences arising; they believe that it might well be possible that by the delegation of London Transport's powers it could be held that the Holding Company's subsidiary would not require a road licence to operate through London, and of course the subsidiary would have no difficulty in getting a road licence to operate elsewhere in the country.
This point was dealt with to a degree in another place, though the closure cut short the arguments. The Government spokesman, the Parliamentary Secretary, said definitely (column 1033 of the Twenty-first Sitting of the Standing Committee):
The delegation of the statutory functions would not absolve the bus company from the need to get a road service licence from the Traffic Commissioners. The Road Traffic Act, 1960, is quite specific that only London Transport does not need a road service licence in that special area.
Of course the 1960 Act is quite specific. But the question arises as to whether the Board's power to delegate its functions under Clause 16 might be wide enough to enable the Board to authorise a company working as its agent to operate in the special area under the Board's powers without a road service licence.
§ I should like a carefully considered reply on this, because I know that it is a question of legal (interpretation in regard to which the legal advisers to the private bus companies do not altogether agree that the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that I have just read out is necessarily correct. Nobody wants to stop the Board from making working arrangements with other Boards or subsidiaries of Boards or even the subsidiaries of the Holding Company. But it seems rather odd that statutory bodies like these Boards should be able to delegate their statutory powers to nonstatutory bodies over whom the control of the Minister is most indirect—in other words, only through giving a direction to their owners, the Holding Company. I beg to move.
Page 15, line 1, leave out paragraph (b).—(Lord Hawke.)
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Of course, we could not accept the Amendment to leave out paragraph (b). For one thing, we have already persuaded your Lordships not to agree to two Amendments moved by noble Lords opposite providing that the Railways Board and the Dock Board should specially co-operate and co-ordinate their activities with the other Boards; and in order to show that a reasonable amount of co-ordination will be practised I have twice read out to your Lordships paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of Clause 14 which the Amendment proposes to omit. It provides that the Boards may enter into agreements with other Boards and with any subsidiary of any of the Boards or of the Holding Company, for the management, working and use by one party to the agreement of works, land, or other property belonging to the other, and with respect to the running of services and the pooling of receipts or expenses.
This is a necessary power, because without it the four Boards would not be able to make firm legal agreements with each other, or with each other's subsidiaries, or with the Holding Company, for the management, working and use by one party of works, land or property belonging to the others. My noble friend has particularly expressed concern that there may be a possibility that the London Board could make arrangements with a bus company subsidiary of the Holding Company whereby through bus services could be operated to and from the Central London area to any part of the country. I do not think that the London Board could confer any particular advantage on a Holding Company subsidiary by such a delegation. As my honourable friend has said, they have in any case to get a licence from the traffic commissioners to run; and the London Board could not, by delegation, place such a bus company in any different position from that in which any other bus company which is not owned by the Holding Company could be placed, by reason of a consent given by London Transport under Section 16 of the London Transport Act, 1933.
My noble friend particularly referred to the Act, which I have here. Section 16 of the 1933 Act provides, in general, that no one but the Board may, without 176 the Board's written consent, operate stage or express bus services in the London Board's special area. The section also provides specifically that nothing in it authorises the use of a bus otherwise than in accordance with the Road Traffic Act, which lays down the licensing system for the control of bus services in the country generally. So since 1933 the London Board has been free at any time to enter into an agreement with any other bus operator, and, by consenting to his running into their own special area, to allow him, provided he can get from the traffic commissioners the necessary road service licence under the Road Traffic Act, to run to or from any place in the country from or to any part of London. So this provision which my noble friend's Amendment proposes to omit from Clause 14, and also later from Clause 16, does not change the situation so far as bus operations into and out of London are concerned; and I do not think there can be any possible advantage available to buses operated by a subsidiary of the Holding Company as compared with anybody else. I hope that that will satisfy the apprehensions of my noble friend.
I thank my noble friend for his reply. I do not think he has dealt quite as fully as I should have liked with the point, but I dare say he is not in a position to do so at the moment. However, what we feel is that delegation of functions under Clause 16 of this Bill may in effect turn that other company into the London Passenger Transport Board in another guise, and for that reason it would be held automatically to have power to run in the London area without a road licence. This is most definitely a legal point, and while I have no doubt that my noble friend's advisers consider that there is no reason why what I fear should happen, nevertheless the equally competent legal advisers of independent bus companies fear that this delegation of functions constitutes a state of affairs whereby the delegatee, so to speak, becomes the equivalent of the delegator and therefore will not require a licence. I do not want to press my noble friend much further on this point to-night if he has not really considered it. I would merely ask him to consider it carefully between now and the Report stage, and, if there is any doubt, perhaps he can introduce 177 some Amendment. My Amendment is moved only to call attention to this particular legal issue.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON moved, in subsection (1) (d), after "facilities" to insert "including suitable parking places for vehicles". The noble Lord said: I will be quite brief in moving this Amendment. It is not a matter of great importance compared with the earth-shaking principles which have been dividing the Committee for the last five days; but it is a matter to which local authorities attach some importance.
§ In the Second Reading debate on this Bill reference was made to the question of car-parking accommodation at railway stations. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred to the need for more car-parking places at stations, and the Minister replied that the British Transport Commission have these needs in mind and are examining the problem, and that the Bill contains the necessary powers for dealing with it. I assume that the Minister is referring to the powers given to the Boards in Clause 14 of this Bill, where it is provided by subsection 1 (d) that the Boards may provide such amenities and facilities as may appear to them to be requisite or expedient. This is, of course, a permissive power, and the local authorities feel that the Railway authorities ought to accept an inferential obligation to provide adequate car-parking facilities for their travellers, according to the needs for such facilities and the physical and financial possibility of providing them.
§ In many towns, for instance, an increasing number of railway passengers are leaving their cars all day in car parks provided for the use of shoppers and for those coming into town for general purposes, thus increasing congestion and obstruction of traffic and depriving those for whom the car parks were intended of their legitimate use. Where no provision is made at a railway station for car parking, and where it can be proved that such provision for railway passengers is 178 needed and is reasonably possible, or where the existing provision for such passengers is inadequate, the railway authorities, in the opinion of local authorities, should be under an implied obligation to make adequate arrangements and the matter should not be hidden in this way under general permissive powers.
§ I am aware that the Ministry apparently do not feel that it would be appropriate to place an obligation on the railway authorities to provide car parks at railway stations irrespective of the local circumstances. I fully agree with that; obviously that would be an unreasonable obligation to place upon them. But I gather also that the Ministry seem to feel that it is enough that the railway authorities will have permissive powers to be used where the provision of the facility is justified. Local authorities still feel that there is a case for the amount of compulsory attention which would spring from specific mention proposed by this Amendment.
§ It is, of course, open to a local planning authority to require the provision of adequate parking facilities as a condition of granting planning permission for rebuilding or reconstructing premises, and no doubt this could be done in the case of a railway station which was being rebuilt. It is suggested, therefore, that there is nothing novel in the extension of this principle to a case where railway authorities are not meeting the reasonable demand for parking space or additional parking space at an existing station. Therefore, it is hoped by means of the Amendment, by specific mention, to direct attention to a crying need and to imply an obligation which could not be made rigidly universal—one admits that—because its performance would not be possible everywhere. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the idea that it would have a psychological effect if the provision of parking spaces were specifically mentioned in the permit given to the authority.
Page 15, line 14, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Milverton.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think I can reassure my noble friend on this. There is no question of concealing the power to provide a parking place under the 179 general permissive powers in the 1947 Act. There is no express reference to parking places, but the Commission have always provided car parks for the use of their customers and others under their powers in the 1947 Transport Act. The position under this Bill will be precisely the same in line 14, where this Amendment proposes to insert these words. The clause provides forplaces for refreshment and such other amenities and facilities as it may appear to the Board requisite or expedient to provideand there is no doubt whatever that that includes parking places.
The reason for not making a specific reference is that if you do so in reference to one power, it may perhaps imply that all the powers need a specific reference, which may create some doubt about others. For instance, in regard to refreshments I can assure your Lordships that its juxtaposition with "other amenities and facilities" in this clause is only a coincidence. That is the only reason why it is not desirable to specify too much in legislation of this kind, apart from the fact that it would be quite unnecessary. I hope my noble friend will agree that since the 1947 Act does exactly the same, and since parking places are now provided, this clause as it now stands will continue that position.
§ LORD MILVERTON
I appreciate the noble Earl's reply, for which I thank him. The local authorities' point was that, although it is true the power was there before, it has not been adequately used, and they thought that a specific mention of it might have brought more attention to it. I do not propose to carry the matter any further, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 15, line 39, leave out from ("business") to ("and") in line 41.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.180
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I think it will be convenient if we now adjourn. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.