HL Deb 15 April 1964 vol 257 cc466-9

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I think this might be a convenient moment for me to make a statement, similar to that which is now being made by my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport in another place, about the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Pay and Conditions of London Bus Crews.

The Committee's Interim Report was published on December 16, 1963. In accordance with proposals in that report the London Transport Board immediately offered wage increases ranging from 8s. 6d. to 15s. a week to bus drivers and conductors, with effect from December 19, 1963. These were accepted by the Transport and General Workers' Union.

The Committee's Final Report is being published this afternoon. Copies have been placed in the Printed Paper Office. The Government would like to express their thanks to Professor Phelps Brown and this colleagues.

The Report analyses in detail the problem and prospects of the London bus service, and recommends that the Board and the Union should negotiate a comprehensive agreement for a term of years providing for improvements in pay and conditions, as well as measures for increasing the efficiency of the service.

The Report also makes a broad assessment of the cost of the improvements discussed by the Committee. They regard some rise in fares as the unavoidable price to be paid for an adequate service. But they stress that it is the duty and interest of both the Board and the Union to keep the rise in costs as low as possible, and to increase receipts by making the service more attractive.

Considering the national interest, the Committee emphasise that their conclusions had sole regard to the special circumstances of the employment of busmen in London and to the fact that an adequate public transport system in London is essential to meet the problem of increasing traffic congestion. It is for these reasons the Committee recommend what they describe as "a non-recurrent adjustment" of the position of bus crews in the London wage structure.

The Committee point out that the future of the London bus services now rests in the hands of the Board and the Union. They stress that both parties must be ready to examine and experiment with new methods, and to adopt them. The Government strongly support this view. We accept that in London there is a special case for improving pay and conditions for busmen. But there is likewise a special need for improving service to the public. The public have a right to expect the two to go hand in hand. The Government therefore expect both parties in the negotiations that will now take place to recognise this and to reach a settlement that will ensure the efficient and economical service which is essential in the public interest.

The Committee's Report has been sent to the Board and to the Union.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord for giving us this statement. Clearly, before we are able to grasp its full import we shall have to study the Report, which I gather is now available. It would seem to me, from the statement immediately before us, that this is a complete vindication of the men's case of last year that it was impossible to maintain a service in London unless there was a considerable alteration in the rates of pay and conditions of the men concerned. We hope that, following this Report, the Union and the Board will be able to negotiate with their hands completely free from Governmental interference. I believe that this is an essential factor to the success of the negotiations which must follow.

The only other point I would make is that we support the Government's plea for co-operation between the parties. From this side, and certainly from my trade union background, I make the strongest possible appeal to the trade union concerned to work fully with the Board to achieve what the Government and Londoners are asking for, namely, an efficient and economical service.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for the statement. I would also support the noble Lord, Lord Champion, in what he has just said about the necessity for the two sides to go together, hand in hand, in the future, in the interests of a satisfactory service for London. I have great sympathy with the busmen and think that they do an extremely good job, very often during the winter in the most difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. I think the Government are quite right also in saying that there is a special need for improving the service to the public. In view of the fact that one small point in the wider context of this Report may be overlooked but is important to the public, might I ask the noble Lord whether he could persuade whoever is responsible to put up more bus shelters for people who have to stand out in English weather in London, waiting very often considerable periods for a bus?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Champion and Lord Ogmore, for the way they have welcomed this Report. I think it is a very useful Report, and for the moment, until we have studied it rather more deeply, I should not want to say much. It may well prove, when we come to study it, that we may find that more ideas are vindicated on a wider basis than those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Champion.

On the point of bus shelters, while I am glad to think that the noble Lord's words will go to those responsible, I do not think it comes strictly within the scope of this Report. But I have no doubt that what he has said is a useful thing, and will be taken notice of. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, on the subject of what he termed Government interference, I would only say that my right honourable friend and, indeed, those others of my right honourable friends who have responsibilities for nationalised Boards, have repeatedly made it clear that they regard these matters as matters of management for the Boards concerned. Of course the Boards know—obviously they do, because I think everybody does—what is the Government's policy on the general issue of incomes; but, none the less, they take their decisions themselves in the light of all the factors that are relevant in the circumstances.


My Lords, would the noble Lord care to explain how it is going to be possible for the Board to provide a reasonably adequate passenger transport service in London so long as most of the principal thoroughfares are blocked by parked cars, and are obstructed by innumerable private cars carrying only one or two individuals?


No, my Lords, I should not like to explain that, because I do not want this turned into a debate on London's traffic. What I can say is that I agree that that is an aspect which is of the greatest importance. This Inquiry was into the pay and conditions of London bus crews, and the question of traffic control as a whole did not, of course, form part of the terms of reference of the Committee. This is the point I really want to make. We are aware that the action resulting from this Report, whatever it may turn out to be, is not necessarily the be all and end all in achieving a proper efficient London bus service.