§ 4.35 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
Page 165, line 40, leave out ("(e)")and insert ("(ii)").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ LORD HUGHES: I beg to move Amendment No. 295:
Page 167, line 37, at end insert—
("( ) So much of section 97(2) of the principal Act as limits the extent to which section 42 of that Act is to apply to vehicles and persons in the public service of the Crown shall cease to have effect.").
§ As the law stands, orders made by a local authority under Section 42 relating to the control of on-street parking places for payment do not apply to vehicles and persons in the public service of the Crown. However, orders made by the appropriate Minister do apply to those vehicles and persons. Ministers have already delegated to local authorities their power to make parking meter orders. In effect, Ministers no longer make them. The Crown do, in practice, observe parking meter orders, so that the effect of the Amendment will virtually be formal, and will ensure uniformity in the law. In future, Crown vehicles and servants will be legally bound to obey orders controlling the use of parking places on highways for payment. I beg to move.
§ Clause 123, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 124 agreed to.
§ Clause 125 [Traffic signs, bollards, etc.]:
EARL HOWE: I beg to move Amendment No. 296:
Page 168, line 33, leave out subsection (1).
§ I think that, for the Record, I should like to put it straight that my name is not Chesham, but Howe. I am particularly flattered to think there is some confusion, but that is the fact of the case. It appears that this Clause 125 is likely to encourage the imposition of 888 "blanket" speed limits which will involve no expense on signs whatsoever. I do not think that this is in the interests of the motorists. This is a short Amendment, and I will be as brief as possible over it.
§ It may well be considered desirable to vary the speed limits on different motorways from time to time, since conditions differ greatly as to the density of traffic, numbers of lanes, types of emergency warnings, signs, police supervision, accidents, and so on—all kinds of obstacles that might cause different signs to be erected on different motorways. The M.4, with which I know many of your Lordships are familiar, narrows down after a lengthy period of a three-lane dual carriageway to a two-lane dual carriageway, where tottering along at 70 m.p.h. can be dangerous. That is the sort of instance where it is possible that on certain motorways a different speed limit, either up or down, is needed.
§ It occurs to me, also, that tourists arriving in this country with left-hand drive cars, with our left-hand rule of the road, will be in some further confusion unless they have some indication of our overall speed limit. This is often confusing, even to British motorists in these islands. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Earl that this is the right way to achieve simplicity. The purpose of this subsection is to remove an anomaly concerning the signing of overall speed limits. The present situation is that overall limits on motorways must be indicated by signs, whereas overall limits on all-purpose roads do not have to be signed. The extraordinary position is that because of the appearance of the 70 m.p.h. sign on motorways the public are in no doubt that that is the maximum speed at which they can travel on the motorway. I do not think it was helpful to road safety to have the noble Earl talking about the 70 m.p.h. speed limit as "tottering along".
I would point out that a very large number of motorists think that the absence of signs on public roads means that in fact there is no speed limit. This is clearly shown by the fact that many motorists, when charged with exceeding the 70 m.p.h. limit on roads other than motorways have claimed in defence that 889 they thought the overall general speed limit applied only on motorways where it is indicated by signs. It may be claimed that motorists need and welcome signs on the motorways to inform them that an overall limit of 70 m.p.h. is in force; that without signs they will be misled into breaking the limit, and that the removal of the existing signs may give the mistaken impression that the 70 m.p.h. limit has been removed from motorways. However, none of these arguments answers the difficulty that having different signing systems on motorways and non-motorways is confusing to the motorist.
The Government consider that there should be uniformity in this matter and that the simplest way to achieve it is for the 70 m.p.h. limit to apply to both kinds of roads in exactly the same way. It will therefore follow that where there are no signs the limit will be 70 m.p.h., and where the limit is other than 70 m.p.h. it will be so indicated—as is the 30 m.p.h. limit at the entrance to a built-up area or the 40 m.p.h. limit which is in force in some places. It is true that the alternative of signposting all roads where the 70 m.p.h. limit applies would achieve the same purpose; but at a time when the Government are called upon—and rightly so—by all sections of the community not to spend money needlessly, it is an unnecessary expense to put 70 m.p.h. signs all over the country when exactly the same purpose can be achieved by having people know that where there is no sign there is a 70 m.p.h. limit. We cannot reasonably be asked to exercise all proper economy and, at the same time, be asked to spend money to achieve an object which can be achieved by not spending it.
I would point out that so far as motorways are concerned there would not be immediate steps to take down all the 70 m.p.h. signs. Obviously, we must allow time for the public to have it firmly fixed in mind that the 70 m.p.h. limit applies wherever it is not indicated to the contrary. Once this is quite firmly established, and I believe it will be established in a reasonably short time, we can remove the 70 m.p.h. signs from the motorway and the general public will know exactly where they are. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will accept that this is a step which is designed to 890 help motorists and has the incidental advantage of saving public money.
§ EARL HOWE
I thank the noble Lord for what he has said. I do not think we should put economy before the safety of the motorist; that factor should always be in our minds. I appreciate that these 70 m.p.h. signs are not coming down immediately; because it will obviously take some time before the motoring public fully appreciates the position. I still feel that there are certain roads in this country, principally motorways, on which even 70 m.p.h. is too fast. You may say that one should leave it to the motorists' intelligence and good sense to drive according to the conditions. This can generally be done; but we are also thinking of foreigners. My main concern is over the possibility of accidents to foreign tourists who do not fully understand the "blanket" speed limit. I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said. I have in mind that a White Paper on advisory speed limits is possibly coming out in the near future. I therefore beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 296A:
Page 169, line 31, at end insert—
("( ) At the end of section 59, add the following words:—', and such regulaticns may lay down the specification for such object or device and such warning signs as shall he used in conjunction with it.'.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 296A in the name of my noble friends and myself. First, I should apologise for the late arrival of this Amendment on the Marshalled List; but it appeared in another form earlier so that I hope noble Lords opposite are prepared for it. I think it is now drafted in a rather more elegant form by direct reference to the 1967 Act which hat; been so conveniently amended. Therefore the point will be more easily taken. The point is a simple and an uncontroversial one. In Clause 59 of the 1967 Act the Minister is given power to make regulations for fixing warning devices for temporary obstructions. This covers the fixing of traffic lights by road building contractors when road work obstructs part of the highway and necessitates one-way working.891
§ My wish is that the Minister's regulations should achieve a greater uniformity in the fixing of these temporary traffic lights. At present the variation in method of fixing the lights is so wide as sometimes to create an additional danger on a road, rather than to add to the safety. I am sure that noble Lords will have observed this themselves. Traffic lights are sometimes fixed so near bends as to limit vision so that a collision may occur between a car which is already stationary and waiting for the traffic lights to change and the next oncoming car. Sometimes traffic lights are fixed against the skyline where, in bright sunshine, the light is invisible. There is a great variation of ways of positioning them so that they are not easy to see. I should like to suggest certain minimum requirements to be satisfied in fixing these temporary traffic lights, always bearing in mind that, in the very nature of things, the driver will not be expecting to meet a set of traffic lights on the open road and will come upon them by surprise.
§ These are my suggestions as to the minimum conditions. First, the regulations should lay down that there should be a large coloured warning sign, of standard design and size, fixed at least 100 yards before the lights, indicating that there are emergency traffic lights ahead. Second, the regulations should require a background screen of adequate size fixed behind the traffic lights to ensure that they show up in all conditions; and, third, there should be adequate minimum brightness—adequate candle power—for the lights so that they show up properly.
§ There may well be other conditions; but, in general, these emergency traffic lights, which are used on quite a large scale by road building contractors, are a great improvement over the man with the red flag whom one used to see who usually waved one in front of oncoming traffic. Even though I think it most desirable that there should be uniformity in the conditions in fixing these lights, this is not the case at present, and my Amendment would achieve it. I hope that the Government will accept it. I beg to move.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I think the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will be 892 rather disappointed at the first words which I am briefed to say: that this Amendment would extend unnecessarily the Minister's control. Not long ago I listened to a programme on the radio—I think it was one in the morning—on this subject, when someone went round examining the different ways in which temporary road signs were being put up and the tremendous variety of degrees of safety, or lack of safety, which they accorded. They had all the paraphernalia necessary for success, but the one thing which seemed to be pretty clear was that in every case where they were not safe it was because the people on the spot were not paying attention to the regulations governing these signs, or because, as the signs were put up in the wrong spot, they did not serve their purpose.
Perhaps I should explain the present situation. The erection of all traffic signs, whether permanent or temporary, is the responsibility of the highway authority or, in special circumstances, of the police; and for giving effect to traffic regulation orders in Greater London, of the Greater London Council. The only traffic signs which may be used are those prescribed in the Traffic Signs Regulations 1964, unless they are, in special cases, specifically authorised by the Minister as temporary signs, because the requirement or restrictions or prohibitions concerned cannot be conveyed by a prescribed sign. The need for such temporary non-prescribed or unauthorised signs should be very rare, but when the need does arise the highway authorities may, exceptionally, give permission, under the provisions of the regulations, for their use.
As the highway authority for motorways and trunk authorities, the Minister includes in all his road works contracts the following clause:Temporary traffic signs. The contractor shall erect and maintain on the works, and at prescribed points on the approaches to the works, all traffic signs necessary for the direction and control of traffic, and the size of all such signs and the lettering and wording thereon shall be approved by the engineers before erection. The signs shall be reflectorised or adequately illuminated by night by approved means.As the grant-paying authority for improvements of principal roads, the Minister similarly requires highway authorities 893 to use the Ministry standard form and conditions of contract which includes this clause.
For other roadworks it is customary for highway authorities to include the same clause, but even if they do not they are still responsible, and no signs may be erected without their approval. The use of this clause in contracts gives the highway authorities full powers to ensure that any roadworks are adequately signed, lighted and guarded. If it were possible for the Minister to make regulations requiring the contractors to sign road works in a certain manner it would, as already mentioned, undermine the authority and responsibility of the highways authorities.
In situations where there are difficult roadworks, the signing is normally agreed between the highway authority and the police, and where appropriate the advice of the Minister's divisional road engineer is also sought. In addition, Section 8 of the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950 requires all statutory undertakers adequately to fence and guard any works and to erect such traffic signs as are required by the highway authority.
To assist highway authorities, statutory undertakers, contractors and others concerned with the safety of roadworks, the Ministry of Transport published in 1962 two traffic safety codes, one for roadworks on roads other than motorways, and the other for roadworks and emergencies on motorways. These codes are now being revised to form an up-to-date and comprehensive code; and when it is issued all highway authorities, statutory undertakers, and so on, will be advised to include in their roadworks contracts a clause requiring compliance with the code. In the meantime, a circular is being issued covering the main points which will be included in the code. This revised code will also form part of the "Road Works" chapter of the Minister's Traffic Signs Manual, a document giving detailed guidance on all aspects of traffic sign usage.
The result of all this is that we are in no doubt that as between the Ministry, on the one part, and the local authorities and the statutory undertakers, on the other, there will be no difficulty at all. The way in which it should be done, and the facilities which are used in doing it, will be perfectly clear to all concerned. 894 It is not the Minister or Parliament but the authorities responsible for carrying out the works who will be in a better position to ensure that the matter is dealt with properly on the spot.
I hope that what is being said here, and what is being done in the revision of these safety codes, will bring home to the responsible people in local authorities and among the statutory undertakers that, whatever Parliament may do to create the safest kind of conditions in temporary schemes, it will not be effective if the work is not in fact carded out properly on the spot. We think that what is in the law now is just as likely as some other provision written into this Bill to achieve the purpose. If we write this provision into the Bill it is no mo-e likely to succeed than what happens at the present time if the people on the spot do not pay proper attention to it.
I hope that I have persuaded the noble Lord that there is absolutely nothing between the Government and him on this matter. It is simply that we do not think that any useful purpose would be served by adding these words to the Bill; that, in fact, he is already as near achieving his purpose under the existing procedure.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, gave his usual comprehensive answer, and I agree that on paper the situation is satisfactory. But he was gracious enough to give me my case to start with—that in practice it is not satisfactory—as he said he heard a radio programme describing the very wide variation which in fact exists and undoubtedly causes danger. I welcome the revision of the codes; I am sure that that is a good plan. I also welcome the sending out of the circular. But this brief debate gives the opportunity to make the point that the present situation on the ground is not satisfactory; that either the road contractors themselves or the local authorities are not taking enough trouble to see that these temporary traffic lights are fixed properly. Some of them do; others do not. And, between the local authority and tie contractor, the result is that sometimes these signs are not satisfactory: they are not safe, and they may well lead to accidents.
I should not like to exaggerate this situation and say that there is a position of such danger that the Minister ought 895 to act. But although I would agree with the noble Lord that it is undesirable to interfere with local authorities in carrying out their powers in such matters, he will appreciate that there are some overriding factors of road safety where the Minister lays down standards, as indeed in the case of the maximum speed limit which we were talking about earlier. We have not reached that situation yet, but I make the point that there is an unsatisfactory state of affairs here, and I would ask that the noble Lord should call the attention of the Ministry of Transport, and of the Minister of Transport, to this matter. I would also ask him whether he will perhaps alert his divisional road engineers to the fact that this is something they should keep an eye on, to see how local authorities are administering it —whether it is they or the road contractors who are at fault—so that when we get this new code we generally get a better standard of safety and greater uniformity in fixing these traffic lights. I certainly do not wish to add to the Bill anything which, as the noble Lord rightly says, is not necessary; but I hope that my words will have some effects in the practical result on the ground. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 125 agreed to.
§ Clause 126 [Increase of responsibility of local authorities in connection with road traffic]:
§ LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 297A:
Page 172, line 16, at end insert—
("(bbb) proper facilities for the delivery and collection of goods and merchandise.")
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to ensure that traffic authorities shall pay due regard to the provision of proper facilities for delivery and collection of goods and merchandise. As I understand the Bill, the general duty placed on the G.L.C. by Section 84(1) of the 1967 Act will be extended to all local authorities throughout the country and will include a proviso as to the importance of facilitating the passage of public service vehicles and securing the safety and convenience of passengers.
For the sake of clarity I should like to quote part of Section 84(1) of the 1967
Act as it will be amended by this Bill and, if your Lordships are willing to accept it, by my Amendment. It will read as follows:
It shall be the duty of the Greater London Council and every other local authority upon whom functions are conferred by or under this Act so to exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act as, so far as practicable having due regard to—
and so on.
§ The clause we are now considering is concerned with conferring greater freedom and responsibility on local authorities. In considering the effect of the regulation of road traffic, it would seem to me to be logical also to consider the question of facilities for delivery and collection of goods and merchandise. It is surely part of the traffic problem and as it is the wish of Her Majesty's Government to improve the flow of public service vehicles the acceptance of this Amendment would improve the flow of delivery vans and vehicles. It would surely ensure that delivery and collection of merchandise could be carried out more expeditiously.
§ There is no definition of the word "access" in the 1967 Act. It says merely that due regard will be paid to the desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises. The object of this Amendment is to ensure that local authorities will pay due regard to the provision of proper facilities for the delivery and collection of goods and merchandise while bearing in mind the essential character of goods transport operations, thus making for less delays, greater efficiency and productivity. I beg to move.
§ LORD BOWLES
Section 84(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act—as proposed to be amended by the Bill as it 897 now stands—imposes on traffic authorities in the exercise of their functions certain obligations. Among these is a duty to have regardto the desirability of securing and maintaining reasonable access to premises".This Amendment seeks to add to these obligations a duty to "have regard to proper facilities for the delivery and collection of goods and merchandise". To do this, however, is quite unnecessary since the obligation to have regard to proper facilities for loading and unloading goods is contained in the more general one to secure and maintain reasonable access to premises.
I was rather surprised, the noble Lord having read this section out, that he did not realise it covered the point he was making.
§ LORD BOWLES
Very well. This, of course, would not be the case were there a special provision in Section 84, as there is in Section 1 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act which we discussed last night, in our debate on Amendment No. 287A, requiring restrictions on loading and unloading goods to be disregarded in determining whether access to premises is interfered with. There is, however, no such provision in Section 84, and restrictions on loading and unloading will therefore be covered, in this context, by the obligation to have regard to the desirability of maintaining and securing reasonable access.
The Amendment therefore adds nothing to Section 84, and it is in fact undesirable in that it singles out one particular way in which access to premises can be interfered with. I hope it has already been made clear in the debate we have had on two previous Amendments touching on this question of access, that the Government fully accepts the importance of the need for access. I can assure your Lordships that this will be spelt out in detail in the manual of guidance the Minister will be issuing in due course to local authorities on the use of the road traffic powers. The manual will point out that, where roads are banned to traffic, this should only be done where arrangements can properly be made for the delivery and collection of 898 goods during the time when the road is open to traffic, or by other means (for example, trolleys) when it is closed. The manual will also stress the importance of proper and systematic consultation.
It is desirable to keep the Statute as simple and flexible as possible. There is, in our view, no need to write provisions, over and above those referred to, into Statute Law itself. I would respectfully ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I think the difficulty is the meaning of "access". Would it be possible to put a definition of "access" into the regulations so that uncertainty is ruled out?
§ LORD MERR1VALE
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, and also to my noble friend Lord Nugent for highlighting the request I made towards the end of my remarks. Due, I think, to the support of my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, will, I understand, look into this question of defining the word "access", and with that assurance on his part—
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 126 agreed to.
§ Clause 127 [Enforcement—fixed penalties and traffic wardens]:
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 297B:
Page 174, line 10, at end insert—
("Provided that the Secretary of State may by order specify particular circumstances in which the liability to punishment for such an offence shall cease.")
§ The noble Lord said: This is primarily a probing Amendment. Clause 127(1)(a) extends the fixed penalty procedure from a stationary motor vehicle to offences on a moving vehicle. This is quite an important extension and I should like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham about the Government's policy behind the extension of the fixed penalty system.899
§ It is, of course, common knowledge to all noble Lords in this Committee that the police, in enforcing the law, would normally proceed on the basis of what they call "token enforcement". Experience has shown them that with most offences it is sufficient to catch and prosecute the most flagrant offenders in order to deter the others who might be tempted to break the law. This is obviously a sound approach. I recognise that this does not always happen, but with regard to parking offences experience has sadly taught that there has to be 100 per cent. enforcement in order to make it effective.
§ Nevertheless, as the fixed penalty system is extended over a greater range of offences, is there going to be any discretion for the traffic warden, in dealing with offenders, or must there be an automatic prosecution and fining of the offender who pleads guilty? In other words, as these fixed penalties are extended and traffic wardens' powers are extended too, will the traditional system which the police have used, of warning an offender where they think it suitable, be within the scope of the traffic wardens' powers, or must the fixed penalty be automatic? That is the purpose of my Amendment: to provide a peg on which to make this inquiry. I beg to move.
§ LORD STONHAM
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent. of Guildford, said that his Amendment was a probing Amendment. I confess that the purpose of the Amendment was not clear to me before he made his speech and it is only a little more clear now. The Amendment follows paragraph (a), which refers to offencescommitted in respect of a vehicle by its being left or parked on a road during the hours of darkness without the lights or reflectors required by lawand says,the words 'left' or 'parked' shall cease to have effect".The effect of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord—and I am quite sure he did not mean it to have this effect —would be to enable the Secretary of State to specify by order the circumstances in which there would be no liability to punishment for a vehicle lighting offence. That is the effect of the Amendment. The Secretary of State would, in effect, be able to provide, by 900 an order subject to the Negative Resolution procedure only, that in prescribed circumstances the penalties determined by Parliament for these offences under a different Act should not take effect. The Amendment therefore appears to give the Secretary of State so general a power that it might even be claimed that under it he could end liability to punishment, even in a case which had been adjudicated by a court.
As I understood the noble Lord, he was concerned not to have extended, or if extended to have explained, the fixed penalties to vehicles that were moving, as compared with those for vehicles that were stationary. This does not seem to be achieved by his Amendment. The question does not arise. The Amendment itself is not in an acceptable form. Section 80 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1957 is concerned with offering a fixed penalty as an alternative to prosecution. The Amendment, however, is not concerned only with fixed penalties, but with permitting a person to escape any form of penalty or liability to punishment. In the case of lighting offences they would escape. An Amendment to Section 80 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act is not an appropriate way of achieving this objective. It would require either extensive amendment of the Road Transport Lighting Acts 1957–67, or an entirely new provision of its own, setting out the extent to which the Secretary of State should and should not be able to order penalties not to apply.
I had it in mind that the noble Lord might have been thinking of lighting offences, following on the paragraph which his Amendment would immediately follow, and it might follow on the discussion that arose in another place. Apparently he is not concerned about that. With regard to the question of oral warnings, there will be no change at all in the practice of police officers giving oral warnings. Traffic wardens will continue to be able not to serve a notice. Stopping moving cars at night for small lighting offences, in our view, is not likely to be a matter to exercise police officers much in practice.
On a later Amendment I think we can deploy in some detail any question of changes in the duties of traffic wardens and the way those duties will derive. 901 They will in fact be very limited indeed, and will always derive direct from the Commissioners of Police, and they will be only such duties as Parliament would approve for the field in which traffic wardens can operate. I do not think, therefore, that there is any point in the case that the noble Lord has made. Certainly, as I see it, it is not related to his Amendment, and he certainly does not wish what his Amendment quite obviously would require.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I feel I owe the noble Lord an apology, if I misled him. I could have raised the matter on the Question that the clause stand part. The question I wish to ask arose out of the effect of Clause 127(1)(a), which, as I understand it, extends the fixed penalty procedure from a lighting offence on a vehicle which is stationary to a lighting offence on a vehicle which is moving. It was because the fixed penalty procedure was being extended in what seemed to me to be a quite important way that I wished to ask this question. I am not entirely clear about the answer, but as the noble Lord has rightly said, I have another Amendment down later, No. 301, when perhaps we can have a more general discussion on this subject. The noble Lord will then have a clearer idea of what I am driving at, and we shall probably get a more satisfactory answer. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 298:
Page 174, leave out lines 11 and 12 and insert—
("(b) at the end of paragraph (c) there shall be inserted the word 'or'").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Shepherd. With this Amendment I should like to take Amendments Nos. 299 and 300. These are purely minor drafting Amendments to make the drafting of the new paragraphs (d), (e) and (f) for subsection (1) of Section 80 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 consistent with that of the existing paragraphs (a) to (c) of the subsection. They make no change of substance. I beg to move.902
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 174, line 26, at end insert ("or")
§ Page 174, line 34, at end insert (" or ") —(Lord Stonharn.)
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI moved Amendment No. 300Z:
Page 174, line 38, at end insert—
("( ) In subsection (5) of the said section 80 (which provides for payment of a fixed penalty under that section to be made to suet justices' clerk within the meaning of section 27 of the Justices of the Peace Act 1949 as may be prescribed) at the end there shall be added the words 'and where, in England or Wales, by virtue of regulations made for the purposes of this subsection, a justices' clerk for a petty sessions area comprised in the area of one responsible authority within the meaning of the said section 27 discharges functions in connection with a fixed penalty for an offence alleged to have been committed in a petty sessions area comprised in the area of another such authority—
§ The noble Lord said: As your Lordships are no doubt aware, tilt larger urban authorities are beginning to draw up transport and traffic plans that will be necessary to keep our towns and cities reasonable and efficient places to work and live in. The Greater London Council has made considerable progress in this connection, and clearly an important part of these plans, particularly in the years ahead, will be the making of coordinated traffic management schemes. These are enforced mainly by the fixed penalty system. The number of fixed penalty notices served each year in London is very large, and is g rowing. For example, there were 270,000 notices in 1966 and nearly 460,000 in 1967. The number is already so large that a computer has been installed to deal with as much as possible of the clerical work that the fixed penalties system creates. By using a computer the clerical work created by any likely increase in the number of notices will be able to be dealt with using fewer staff than would 903 otherwise have been necessary and providing a better service. At present, the computer is taking on work in the Inner London Session area, where the court and police clerical staffs have for some time worked in the same building. As from early next year it will be the turn of the Outer London Commission Areas to be helped by computer working. This, in my submission, will be best done if all the computer aspects of the work are centralised in the present Inner London offices.
§ No difficulty arises on the police side, but the clerical work that would be undertaken on behalf of the Outer London Commission Areas and Home Counties courts which will be served by the computer will have to be paid for, and there is at present no statutory authority for the local authorities concerned to pay for the service that will be provided. I understand that the authorities interested in the Metropolitan Police plans are agreed in principle that the clerical work associated with Metropolitan Police fixed penalty notices ought to be centralised in this way, and that discussions for effecting this in practice await the taking of a power to enable the financial arrangements to be made. The Amendment seeks to do this by enabling one authority to pay another for the services it receives in this way. It is written in general terms, as the problem is likely to arise in places outside London in due course.
§ The Amendment therefore provides in paragraph (a) that when a justices' clerk in one Commission Area is designated to discharge functions connected with the fixed penalty system in respect of tickets issued in another area, then the responsible authority in the other area shall pay for the services rendered. The authorities concerned will agree between themselves how to calculate the payment, but if they cannot agree the Home Secretary can do so by making a determination. This follows similar provisions in the Justices of the Peace Act 1949, where a magistrates' courts' committee and a local authority do not agree about ordinary court expenses. Paragraph (b) ensures that payments made for this purpose can be properly brought to account when the Home Secretary repays certain court expenses 904 each year. The Amendment will not lay any new duties upon local authorities, but it will enable them to make agreements between themselves for modern technology to be used to improve the administration of the fixed penalty system, and this could have a vital bearing on traffic arrangements over wide areas. I beg to move.
§ LORD STONHAM
When you get the position where last year in the Metropolitan Police area alone there were 460,000 fixed penalty notices served, which was approaching double the number of cases in 1966, and they are still going up, then it is only possible to handle them by using a computer. This is what we are now doing, but it is highly desirable that the benefits of this centralised working should be extended to other local authorities and done in agreement with all concerned. This suggestion from my noble friend would be a most valuable provision. It will greatly facilitate administrative work and will prove extremely useful, and I hope your Lordships will agree that the Amendment should be accepted.
§ LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 300A:
Page 174, line 38, at end insert—
("( ) In subsection (6) of the said section 80 (which provides that a notice under subsection (2) of that section shall specify the offence alleged, and give such particulars of the offence as are necessary for giving reasonable information of the allegation) for the words from 'specify' to 'allegation' there shall be substituted the words ' give such particulars of the circumstances alleged to constitute the offence as are necessary for giving reasonable information thereof'.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 300A. The effect of this Amendment is to enable a fixed penalty notice to describe in ordinary language the offence for which it is issued without having to specify the particular provision of the individual enactment which creates the offence. The object is to enable the notice to state the offence in question simply and not to present the motorist with a long list citing paragraphs in orders which cause confusion by their sheer length as well as administrative difficulties.
§ The form of the fixed penalty notice is prescribed by the Secretary of State in regulations made under Section 80(11) of 905 the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, subject to the requirement of Section 80(6) that the notice should "specify the offence alleged and give such particulars of the offence as are necessary for giving reasonable information of the allegation". This provision is interpreted quite rightly as requiring the individual enactment creating the offence Lo be cited, as well as the description of the offence. With the proliferation of parking places and waiting restriction orders a situation has already been reached where in one area the same offence may be created by several different enactments each relating to a different group of streets. As a consequence the police in one force commonly have to use a number of different editions of the fixed penalty notice, all relating to the same offences. The result is greater expense in the production of notices and wasteful destruction of notices when new orders are made or old ones rescinded, even though the offences, and perhaps even the streets, do not change.
§ If the Amendment is accepted, drivers will be clearly informed, in simple language, of the offences they are alleged to have committed. In practice few, if any, wish to study the relevant enactment before deciding whether to pay the fixed penalty or await proceedings and those drivers who doubt whether a fixed penalty notice has been properly issued commonly write to the police. If a driver wishes to study an order, he is already likely to ask the police for further details and if the Amendment is accepted the Home Secretary will discuss arrangements with chief officers of police to ensure that a driver can be readily informed on inquiry of the title of the local order in respect of which a fixed penalty notice has been issued.
§ At present there are 20 types of fixed penalty notice in use, and eventually there may well be 53 covering the whole of the Metropolitan police district. In order to reduce expense, Metropolitan police notices now list the offences and citations as a separate part of the notice on cheaper paper. There is a different list for each type of notice. If the requirement to cite enactments remains, it will be necessary to continue having separate lists and to destroy them and reprint fresh editions whenever changes—including consolidations—are made in local orders. Last year the Road Traffic Regulation Act and two Greater London 906 Council orders, consolidating waiting and loading restrictions, each made it necessary to reprint all the fixed penalty notices. Twenty-four other orders were made affecting one or more types of notice. Similar consolidation measures this year are likely to involve printing three batches of new schedules for each of 20 types of ticket, and new orders expected this year are likely to involve production of 30 to 40 other new lists. Apart from the expense of production and distribution, these arrangements leave open the possibility of fixed penalty notices being issued in error with outdated lists.
§ If the need to cite enactments were removed the fixed penalty notices for different boroughs would need to be distinguished only by a code letter, and only five types of fixed penalty notice would be necessary for the whole of Greater London, which has five commission areas, each at present having fixed penalties received at one central office. If the Amendment is accepted, the Commissioner of Police prop3ses to ensure that the title of the relevant enactment can be discovered by inquiry at any Metropolitan Police station and that the enactment itself will be available to be read at the police station in the area where the notice is issued. I think that this Amendment is a benefaction to man, whether he be motorist or police officer. I beg to move.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord has moved this Amendment most persuasively, but I think he would agree that what your Lordships must tie concerned with is that where a notice of a fixed penalty is given, the person on whom the notice is served will still have the full option as to whether to pay the fixed penalty or to elect to have his case heard. The noble Lord said that there will be symbols or letters by which the actual offence can be identified and, if I understood him correctly, the person concerned can in each case go to a police station and verify the particular offence in regard to which he has been called upon to pay this fixed penalty. If that is so, if that option is open to him and he can see whether he is being correctly summoned to pay a fixed penalty, and whether he really will be likely to be convicted if he goes to court, 907 that is all right. But I am certain that the noble Lord will understand if we are just a little inclined to have misgivings in regard to the difficulties that arise here.
I am glad to see a barrister present in the House now; I was hoping that there would be one. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, who will be able to appreciate the misgivings that I am feeling and who can deal with them a great deal better than I can. I believe this is a really important point, because we are moving from the point at which somebody is charged with an offence and is charged before the court, to the point where he is liable to pay a fixed penalty unless he chooses to go to court. Now we seem to be going a little further, to where he is being asked to pay the fixed penalty or, if you like, being given the option to pay a fixed penalty without the offence actually being specified and merely withsuch particulars of the circumstances alleged to constitute the offence as are necessary for giving reasonable information thereof.What is "thereof"?—the offence, or the circumstances? I do not know. I am not entirely happy about this, and I should like to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has to say about it, and any other legally qualified member of the Committee, before we accept this Amendment.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I was not expecting to be invited to address the Committee on this matter. Had I expected this I should have gone into it in a great deal more detail than I have had time to do. I have studied this matter for only about five minutes, but certainly I have misgivings. The Minister's speech seemed to me to indicate that there is a great deal the matter with the Statute Book and with the book of Statutory Instruments containing the subordinate legislation. But surely it must be that if a person is to be charged with an offence the police must satisfy themselves in every case that an offence appears to have been committed, and they must therefore be satisfied that there is a statutory offence created, whether by the Statute itself or by subordinate legislation.
If the police, who are professionals in this matter, are likely to be in difficulty in being able to cite the particular offence 908 which is alleged, what hope is there for the alleged offender, a layman in these matters, being able to discover what offence has been committed? I should have thought it was in every case a good exercise for the police to satisfy themselves under what section of what Statute or Statutory Instrument an alleged offence has been committed, and that they should be required to specify it in the notice.
It would not confuse or "fox" the alleged offender to be told at the end of the notice, "Contrary to section so-and-so of such-and-such". If that meant nothing to him he could disregard it. It would not need more than about two lines of typescript; but for some people it would be a great advantage and would save them either having to search the Statute Book or go to a solicitor and it would be a good exercise for the police in every case to satisfy themselves positively that an offence had apparently been committed in this case.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
May I intervene for one moment, to mention to the noble Lord that under this clause it is not now only a question of the police but also of traffic wardens.
§ LORD AIREDALE
Yes, a fortiori traffic wardens most certainly; because it would be a sorry day if the police, or even more so traffic wardens, were to be encouraged in the least degree to say to themselves: "We are pretty sure that somewhere in the Statute Book there is an offence which covers these circumstances, and we do not have to put it in the notice. It is all right; we can serve the notice without having to make 100 per cent. certain that this constitutes an offence. We are 99 per cent. certain, and we think it is safe to take a chance" I want them to be 100 per cent. certain, and to put the two lines of typescript at the foot of the notice, saying: "Contrary to section so-and-so of such-and-such".
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
Noble Lords are not merely "looking a gift horse in the mouth", they have opened its mouth to examine the stoppings in its teeth. It is proper that they should do so. But here we are considering the law as it stands at present. This insists that under Section 80(6) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 every notice should specify the 909 offence alleged and give such particulars of the offence as are necessary for giving reasonable information of the allegation. This has been interpreted, and still is interpreted, as necessitating the citation of all the Acts, including the local Acts, which created the offences in question; and as I have said, by next year there will be 53 different possible citations for the same offence in the Metropolitan area alone, and also variations from borough to borough. This is not merely calculated to upset motorists, but to drive them, the police officers and traffic wardens stark raving mad.
This is a simple sensible proposal which I thought would have appealed to every noble Lord in the Committee. I said that the notice will say in clear language what the offence is: it will say, "You were waiting at a meter bay after an excess charge had been incurred." That is the kind of simple language which a motorist will understand. He might dispute that he was waiting at a meter bay after the excess charge had been incurred. That would be a point on which, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has suggested, the constable or traffic warden must satisfy himself that an offence has been committed. As I indicated, the law is being satisfied at present by the issue, with the fixed penalty statement, of a piece of paper which, of course, varies every few months when a new Act of Parliament is passed or when the Greater London Council introduce new regulations, and which has to be replaced every three, four, five or six months. This piece of paper cites the number, not just one, but the number of possible offences under the different enactments, and this seems to us to be entirely unnecessary as they all relate to the same incident. All that will be done in future, will be the provision of a list of names of local orders at the police stations. But if the motorist wants to study that it will be given to him. He will not be denied anything.
As far as concerns the question of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, about the option to go for trial, that will be completely unaffected; there is no difference whatsoever. When the police officer or warden says, "You are committing this specific offence", describing the offence in simple terms, and the motorist says, "No, I was not; I will not accept the 910 'plaster'"—or whatever they call the fixed penalty—"I am going to court", fair enough he can go to court. At that stage—the issuing of the local summons when the motorist has elected to go for trial—there will be the reference to the paragraph in whatever Act or by-law the summons is issued under. It will, of course, be stated in full exactly as it is now.
So the situation is this. If a motorist who, in the view of a police officer, has committed an offence, of a kind to which a fixed penalty would be appropriate, accepts the fixed penalty, the offence he is alleged to have committed is described in simple terms. If he accepts the fixed penalty notice knowing or accepting that he has committed this offence, then that is the end of the matter, and he pays the fine. If he does not—and he has an inalienable right not to accept it—then he will go to trial. If the matter is prcceeded with and the summons issued, then the enactment will be quoted in detail just as it is now. Really, there is no it fringe-merit of a motorist's present rights or liberties, but merely a simplification of the procedure under which, if he agrees, certain offences can be dealt with. That is all this Amendment does.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
As a layman, I find some attraction in simpler words which tell the average offender just what his offence is. There are two points, but I think the noble Lord has satisfied one of them. There is the point that the offender has a long-stop right to plead not guilty and go to court when the matter will be tried in the ordinary way. There was also the point that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, brought out, that if the charge can be put in this rather more general form, that this might lead a traffic warden who was not 100 per cent. certain of the offence still to proceed to send cut the sheet. Is there some central register or record where these offences are recorded in the police station or the administrative office from which the traffic warden works—I suppose there is—where all the details are put down, and is it possible to indicate when the sheet is sent out that if the offender wants any further information he can be given it? This would seem to meet it both ways. I think 99 people out of 100, when they get this, would say, "Yes, I did it; I might as 911 well pay up" and that is the end of it and they know what it is. But there may be occasions when they do not and will want to question precisely what the offence is and what regulation, what Act, they have offended against. If they could ask for that then I should have thought we would have met it both ways.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, was in the Chamber when I moved this Amendment, but I said that if your Lordships accepted this Amendment, then the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis proposes to ensure at once that the title of the relevant enactment can be obtained merely by asking at any Metropolitan police station, and that the enactment itself will be available to be read at the police station in the area in which the notice is issued by any motorist against whom there is an allegation. So if there is any doubt it can discovered immediately without trouble.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
Could a note to that effect be put on the bottom of the form which deals with the offence in the way set out in Amendment 300A saying that if the motorist wishes for further details of the enactment referred to they are obtainable from a police station, or something like that?
§ LORD STONHAM
That is a most valuable suggestion. I would have thought that would have been done in any case, but I will certainly pass it on. I might go a little further than that: there will be in the whole of Greater London just the five commission areas. I did not raise the point about a code letter that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, mentioned. The code letter is only to indicate the borough, not the enactment. There will be only five types of fixed penalty notice necessary for the whole of Greater London relating to the five commission areas. All the penalties—this is again the point of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent—will be received at one central office, but information can be obtained at any police station, and the particular enactment under which the offence is alleged will be available for reading at the police station in the area.
I think this is something motorists will really welcome. Motorists will ask themselves, "Have I committed the offence?" 912 "Have I overstayed my limit parking?", or "Have I done something I should not have done?", and not "Have I committed an offence under Subsection (8) of Section 94?" and so on. If he says to himself, "No I have not", then in most cases he will not accept the fixed penalty; then the position is exactly the same as it is now. When he agrees with the warden or police officer that he has done what he is alleged to have done, then the only possible doubt could be whether the fine, the fixed penalty, is appropriate; in other words, whether it is the right one. But there are not a multiplicity of penalties, and these things are easily understood. I will certainly look very carefully at what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has suggested.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
May I ask the Minister one question? Are these offences the kind that if they accumulate in triplicate the licence will be at risk, because people would be much more likely to contest them if they are than if they are not.
§ LORD STONHAM
It is not possible to give a categorical answer covering the whole field, but in general the answer is "No".
§ LORD AIREDALE
If the information is going to be so readily available at a police station if the alleged offender wants it, I cannot see what possible objection there can be to requiring it to be put at the end of the notice in two lines "Contrary to …" and then to quote the enactment which would so readily be quoted to the person if he went to the police station. It requires two lines of transcript.
§ LORD STONHAM
I do not see how one can have 53 different enactments in two lines. This was not what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, suggested. He suggested informing the motorist, "If you don't agree, the easiest way to find out what your rights are is to go to such-and-such a police station."
§ 5.50 p.m.
LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amend ment No. 300AA:
Page 175, line 17, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b).
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment seeks to leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) 913 of the proposed new subsection (4A). Among the functions which may be transferred to traffic wardens are those relating to the keeping of order and the prevention of obstruction, included in the two Acts referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b).
The Metropolitan Police Act 1839 is described in its long title as:
An Act for further improving the police in or near the Metropolis".
Section 52 says—I am afraid I have not been able to check what may have happened to Section 52 in the intervening 130 years or so:
That shall be lawful for the Commissioners of Police from Time to Time, and as Occasion shall require, to … give Directions to the Constable; for keeping Order and for preventing Obstruction of the Thoroughfares in the immediate Neighbourhood of Her Majesty's Palaces and the Public Offices, the High Court of Parliament, the Courts of Law and Equity, the Police Courts, the Theatres and other Places of public Resort, and in any case where the Streets and Thoroughfares may be thronged or may be liable to be obstructed.
The point at which my Amendment is directed is the function of keeping order. I should have thought we should be careful about giving traffic wardens functions related to the keeping of order. I should also have thought that keeping order would be well outside the Long Title of this Bill, which is:
to make further provision with respect to transport and relevant matters".
With respect, keeping order is not really a relevant matter; it is a much wider matter than transport. I should not object to traffic wardens' having duties in relation to the prevention of obstruction, but it seems to me, at any rate, that keeping order is quite a different matter. I would therefore suggest that these words be removed from the Bill. I beg to move.
§ LORD STONHAM
The effect of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would be to prevent the Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis and for the City from issuing directions to traffic wardens to keep the streets clear from obstruction in the vicinity of palaces, public offices and places of public resort when they are likely to be thronged or obstructed. This would seriously hamper the use of traffic wardens to deal with traffic diversions 914 and to keep routes clear for processions, such as the Lord Mayor's Procession or the State Opening of Parliament.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Before the noble Lord goes on—he is quite rightly reading from his brief—he has rot mentioned the keeping of order at all: it does not appear to be in his brief, yet this is the main point I am raising. I agree about the diversions, but it is the keeping of order that I am concerned about.
§ LORD STONHAM
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue: he interrupted rather quickly. I am telling him the effect of his Amendment. As he is well aware, the police have had these powers for 129 years and have exercised them, I should have thought, with the greatest discretion and to general and almost complete satisfaction.
The noble Lord has made it perfectly clear that he is concerned, in particular, about traffic wardens. I am happy to show that his fears in this respect are groundless. The noble Lord appears to be afraid that the Secretary of State will be able to prescribe public order duties as duties which may be perfonned by traffic wardens. But the position is that the words in brackets in Clause 127 (4) are only descriptive of the enactments referred to: they are included solely to ensure that the Bill refers to the correct parts of those enactments. Of themselves they convey no powers whatsoever to the Home Secretary or to traffic wardens. I would at once ass are the noble Lord that paragraphs (a) and (b) will not enable traffic wardens to be employed to keep order, nor will they allow directions to be given to traffic wardens for the keeping of order.
The functions of traffic wardens are strictly limited by subsections (1) and (2) of Section 81 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, as amended by this Bill, to functions in connection with the regulation and control of traffic and vehicles and to police functions concerning the enforcement of the law in relation to traffic and vehicles. This limitation bites on paragraphs (a) and (b)—the very paragraphs which the noble Lord wants to remove—so that directions by the Commissioners of Police to traffic wardens can be concerned only with the prevention of obstructions in crowded or 915 obstructed streets. They do not give traffic wardens any powers of arrest. Powers of arrest under the two Acts cited —the two Acts of 1839—remain confined to constables.
To make the matter even clearer (because I do not wish to leave any doubt in the noble Lord's mind), the distinction lies between the use of powers to control and regulate traffic in connection with public processions and similar events and to limit road space permitted to demonstrators—that is where the distinction can lie. No question arises of the Commissioners being able to turn the traffic wardens into a sort of riot police under the guise of directions, even if they wished—and they certainly do not wish—to be so. The noble Lord must be aware that so far as police duties are concerned and what the police themselves regard as their proper functions, they would be 'trongly opposed to traffic wardens taking up those duties; and Section 81 of the 1967 Act restricts the employment of traffic wardens to traffic matters.
That means that the Commissioners' directions under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and under the City of London Police Act, 1839 can tell traffic wardens only what directions to give to traffic, including pedestrians. They cannot tell them physically to stop pedestrians from doing anything. That distinction is quite clear. Traffic wardens can tell a pedestrian, "You should not go along this street or that street", but they cannot physically stop them from doing it, if the pedestrian wishes to do so. Traffic wardens could direct people away from a street but they could not form a cordon to prevent people from entering the street. Nothing in the paragraphs (a) and (b) which the noble Lord wants to move alters that fact. They could not eject or arrest people who entered a street if asked not to.
The directions would authorise them to direct traffic in the same sort of way as they would be able to do under Sections 14 and 15 of the Road Traffic Act 1960; but as the 1960 Act powers may not cover all the traffic plans which the Commissioners may need to make—for example to control the cars of sightseers to the West End street decorations at Christmas—it is necessary to bring traffic wardens within the scope of the 916 powers to be used on those occasions, just as we are now using wardens to assist in controlling traffic in Whitehall. I am very glad to assure the noble Lord that what he had read into paragraphs (a) and (b) just does not arise.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
What the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said does not square with what the Minister of State Mr. Swingler said in another place. Referring to these specific words, but on another Amendment, he said:The conception is that traffic wardens might perform an important ancillary function in helping the police in dealing with processions, which take place in London, for example, and demonstrations and other things of that kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 9/5/68; cols. 3268–9.]We are delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has just said, but if Lord Drumalbyn's fears are well-founded one feels that there would not be an ugly rush to fulfil those functions, bearing in mind what has been happening on certain Sundays in London. I do not say that frivolously, because one notices that under this clause traffic wardens are specifically excluded from the power of arrest. If what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, says is right, how is it that paragraphs (a) and (b) are different from Section 15 of the 1960 Road Traffic Act as amended by the regulations, under which a traffic warden may direct pedestrians?
§ LORD STONHAM
I thought I had dealt very clearly with that point. He may tell pedestrians that they should not enter a particular street or that they should go down a street instead of going up it; but he cannot stop them from doing the opposite of what he tells them. Is that quite clear? He can tell them, but if they refuse to do it, then he has no power to force them to do it. I gave as an example that he could not, as could a police officer, form with other traffic wardens a cordon to stop people from going through. I think there is general agreement that in appropriate matters it is highly desirable that traffic wardens should assist the police. I agree, quite firmly, that those duties which are appropriate to those who hold the ancient and honourable office of constable should not be discharged by anyone other than a police officer. Nothing of that sort arises here.
917 The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, quoted my honourable friend Mr. Swingler in another place. I, too, have a copy of the article in the Police Journal. All I can say is that these matters relating to Clause 127 are Home Office matters. I am a Home Office Minister, and that is why I am dealing with them. I am giving the facts. If, by any chance, there should be any shade of difference in what some other Minister said—and I do not think there is—then there must be an error, because these are the facts.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
Perhaps I am being particularly dim, but what do paragraphs (a) and (b) add to Section 15 of the 1960 Road Traffic Act?
§ LORD STONHAM
They enable the Commissioners to give instructions to wardens to assist in the control of traffic. The effect of the deletion of these paragraphs, which Js what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is asking for, would be to remove from the Commissioners of Police powers which they have had and exercised since 1839.
§ LORD STONHAM
Yes. It is all very well for the noble Lord to shake his head, but the effect of the Amendment would be to prevent the Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis and the City issuing orders direct to traffic wardens.
§ LORD STONHAM
That was what I said one sentence before the noble Lord got up and interrupted me. That is the effect of these paragraphs. I do not know what noble Lords are concerned about.
§ LORD AIREDALE
I am satisfied about this matter. I am satisfied that if it were the case that traffic wardens were to be used to prevent a breach of the peace, then the expression used would be not "keeping order", but "keeping the peace". Those two expressions are very close together and I am not at all surprised that noble Lords have felt uneasy about the expression "keeping order" and might have thought that it meant "keeping the peace" and "preventing a breach of the peace". I am glad that we have had this discus- 918 sion so that the matter was able to be lucidly explained by the Minister
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am grateful to the noble Lord for the trouble which he has taken to explain this matter. I think he must agree that on the face of it there was something to explain. I am sorry if I interrupted him before he got into his full stride, but there was a special reason for my doing so. I noted down what the rubric on the clause had to say, since it is the rubric which is generally quoted. The rubric says, "Empowering the Commissioner of Police to make regulations for preventing obstructions in the streets during public processions" which is practically the same as the noble Lord has said, but it makes no reference what, ever to keeping order. I still think that the words "keeping order" should be left out. I would therefore suggest to the noble Lord that, as this is not in the rubric and has nothing to do with the functions of the traffic warden, and as it is plainly liable to mislead people like me, even if it does not mislead a distinguished lawyer like the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, it would be better to omit the words. That was the purpose of my Amendment—not to deprive the police of any of their powers. Perhaps the noble Lord would have another look at this matter between now and the Report stage. I do not want to pursue it further. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.8 p.m.
LORD MERRIVALE moved Amend-met No. 300B:
Page 175, line 29, leave out head (ii).
The noble Lord said: This probing Amendment relates to an additional power which is sought in this clause to be given to traffic wardens. I seek from the Minister justification for the power which it is proposed to give wardens to stop traffic in a general sense, as opposed to the more limited right to stop traffic in the course of patrol and regulation of traffic. Section 223 of the 1960 Road Traffic Act reads:
A person driving a motor vehicle on a road and a person riding on a road bicycle or tricycle, not being a motor vehicle, shall stop the same on being so required by a police constable in uniform, and if he fails so to do shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds.
So I presume that, if a regulation were made under the Bill, a traffic warden would have a similar power.
§ I appreciate that, as the Bill stands, this power exists only if brought into effect by a regulation. Can the Minister say why these extra powers are sought for these traffic wardens, and in what circumstances regulations would be made to give them these extra powers? I feel that without a satisfactory explanation from the Minister it could, in future, if regulations are made, be an added cause of friction between the motoring public, commercial vehicle drivers, and so on, and the traffic wardens. I beg to move.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am very glad to respond to the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, to say how this extra power came to arise. It arose in another place where the Government moved Amendments to this effect. When they did so the Opposition claimed that they had instigated the Amendments, a claim which my honourable friend Mr. Morgan stoutly denied. But it proved that they were all of a like mind and as a result it was thought right that it should be an offence, in certain circumstances, to disregard a traffic warden's direction to stop. I am very glad to be able to make that clear.
The effect of this probing Amendment would be to prevent the Home Secretary from providing that it shall be an offence under Section 223 of the Road Traffic Act 1960 for a motorist or cyclist in certain circumstances to disregard a traffic warden's direction to stop. The extension of Section 223 together with Section 14 of the Road Traffic Act 1960 to traffic wardens was recommended by the Police Advisory Board's Working Party on Manpower, as a complementary power to the extensive use of traffic wardens to direct traffic.
Traffic wardens are already used fairly widely to control and regulate traffic without any legal sanction, and experience has confirmed that it is desirable that it should be an offence to disregard a traffic warden's signal when on point duty or otherwise controlling traffic, just as much as it is to ignore a police officer's signal. The noble Lord will readily 920 appreciate that if it were not so, and if the signal of a man in uniform on point duty was likely to be disregarded, it could lead to bad accidents and perhaps to traffic chaos.
The Working Party pointed out that if these sections were applied opportunities would be opened up for the wider use of traffic wardens. Examples of the possible use of Section 223 by traffic wardens might be stopping and dealing with people cycling on footpaths, or cycling without lights in winter mornings and evenings, or stopping vehicles for the purposes of Ministry of Transport census checks or vehicle examinations. The noble Lord will know that at present it is usually a police officer in uniform who stops vehicles for a census check, and then university students take the particulars. But the power could be given to traffic wardens. This sort of work is important and probably ought to be expanded, but would involve a wasteful diversion of police effort if only police officers could be employed to stop the traffic as the essential first step. I am very glad to be able to say this, and this is a point which I wanted to put to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, on an earlier Amendment.
The clause does not give traffic wardens a general discretion to stop vehicles under Section 223. The section can be applied to them by the Secretary of State's Order under Section 81(3) of the 1967 Act only for the purposes of functions specified in that Order and can then be exercised only: first, when assisting police constables; or, secondly, for purposes of controlling and regulating traffic; or, thirdly, when there are reasonable grounds for believing an offence has been committed which has been specified by the Home Secretary by Order as suitable for traffic wardens to assist in enforcing and to do so by using the power to stop. A traffic warden acting independently could not therefore be empowered to stop vehicles and question drivers merely to see whether offences had been committed. The Home Secretary's Order is subject to affirmative order procedure, so traffic wardens could stop vehicles under Section 223 in the restricted circumstances already described only when exercising functions to which Parliament had directed that the power should apply.
921 I think there are ample safeguards, because when these regulations are made in this House we shall have the opportunity of looking at them and of questioning whether we think it right that all the powers to stop then proposed should be given to wardens.
I am grateful to the Minister for the clarification he has given. The purpose of this Amendment was purely to seek clarification, and I have no intention of pressing it. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment,
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD: moved Amendment No. 301:
Page 175, line 42, at end insert—
("( ) In the Police Act of 1964 the pro, visions of section 49 and section 50 shall extend to complaints against traffic wardens and the provisions of section 30 shall extend to matters connected with the activities of traffic wardens.")
§ The noble Lord said The purpose of this Amendment is to apply in regard to traffic wardens the same basic safeguard which the public enjoy in their relations with the police; that is to say, that they can make a complaint which shall be dealt with in a certain way laid down by the Statute. I make no apology for the fact that this was mentioned in another place—I say, "mentioned", because the guillotine descended and I doubt whether it had five minutes' debate—because the short debates we have been having for the last hour or so about traffic wardens' duties show that noble Lords on all sides are very interested in this development, and, while generally approving of it, are concerned to see that the balance is exactly right. Therefore, although this was rejected in another place, I feel it is right to take a little more time over it and perhaps to debate it rather more fully because it is a very important matter.
§ Sections 49 and 50 of the Police Act 1964, to which this Amendment refers, lay down the manner in which a complaint against a police constable by a member of the public shall be dealt with. As noble Lords will know, these complaints are very rare. I was concerned with only one during the 16 years that I was in the House of Commons. But the 922 fact that there is a statutory channel for making a complaint probably has something to do with the excellent relationship which normally exists between the police and public.
§ As we have been discussing these clauses, we have seen that wardens' duties, certainly in traffic matte's, are being significantly expanded, and I suggest that it then becomes a matter for constitutional concern, as well as of practical importance, that a similar complaint procedure should be considered for a member of the public who comes into conflict with a traffic warden The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has rightly emphasised that the traffic warden has no power of arrest, and usually if there is trouble it arises out of a police constable's exercising that power. But the traffic warden has power to stop a vehicle in his duties of controlling traffic, so it is possible that there could be some awkward misunderstanding and conflict with a member of the public.
§ I should like to make it quite clear to the Committee, that, whenever possible, I am entirely in favour of the extension of traffic wardens' duties in order to relieve the police. My Amendment is in no way a reflection on the traffic wardens themselves, or on the way they discharge their difficult duties—quite the reverse. My view is that they have discharged their duties so well that they have qualified themselves for taking on mere extensive duties. But I believe tint this is an important point which should be considered by Parliament, and much more carefully than in another place, and that we are reaching a point where something may be needed in case, there is a conflict of the kind I have mentioned.
§ The other point in the Amendment, dealing with Section 30 of the Police Act, relates to the chief constable's duty to make an annual report to the Home Secretary on the policing of his area. It is suggested that the annual report should now be extended to cover the activities of the traffic wardens as well. I feel that these matters are important. We are moving into a new field, and the time may well have arrived when this safeguard should be provided between traffic wardens and the public. I beg to move.923
I think my noble friend has left out one distinction between the police and traffic wardens, and that is the immensely long training which the police have, amounting almost to an apprenticeship. With the great extension of the traffic warden service, it will obviously be more and more difficult to get people of the right sort and calibre, and obviously the recruiting local authorities, and so on, are going to make some mistakes. It is very important that the general public should be able to have some method of registering to the local authority the fact that their agent has made a mistake. I have met traffic wardens who appear to have come from the West Indies and who have had remarkably little knowledge of English. That is liable to land them in great difficulties. Unless there is some method of bringing home to the local authorities the fact that some of their servants are not doing their work properly, I cannot see how ultimately they can have the confidence of the public.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Before the noble Lord replies, I wonder whether I might add one important point. It is that, as the Amendment on the face of it makes clear, these clauses in the Police Act do not apply to Scotland. I see the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on the Government Front Bench. I believe that the procedure is not the same in Scotland and that this is not governed by Statute but by regulations. However that may be, I hope it will be possible for the noble Lord to answer for the Government's intentions in this matter as to complaints about traffic wardens, and that his answer will cover both sides of the Border.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am sorry I cannot satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. This applies only to traffic wardens in England and Wales, and has no effect at all in Scotland. Therefore, I have a dispensation so far as Scotland is concerned, and did not have to trouble my noble friend. This, again, has been an extremely useful discussion, and certainly in principle I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, in his remarks on training and on the suitability of wardens. In their much more limited functions, they are of course just as much in initimate contact with the public as the police, at least when motorists are thought to have committed some kind of offence within the ambit of their powers. 924 But I am bound to say that, having admitted that, a police officer is totally different in responsibility. His responsibility is vastly more important. He has far greater responsibilities—responsibilities which demand, with complete public approval and with the approval of the police, a strict code of discipline and proper procedures with regard to complaints by the public.
Section 49 of the Police Act 1964 places a statutory obligation on a chief officer of police to record any complaint—and that means every complaint—from a member of the public against a member of his force, and to have it investigated. Indeed, he may appoint an officer from another force to investigate a complaint; and he can also be directed by the Secretary of State to appoint such another officer to investigate. On receiving the report of an investigation, the chief officer of police is obliged to send it to the Director of Public Prosecutions unless he is satisfied from the report that no criminal offence has been committed. This is a very heavy responsibility indeed, and a very strict form of treatment (if I may use that expression) from which I do not dissent. What in effect the Amendment asks for is that this sort of procedure should be applied to traffic wardens, who are not in the same sense a disciplined force at all.
Section 50 requires police authorities and Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary to keep themselves informed as to the manner in which complaints against members of a force from members of the public are dealt with by chief officers of police, and they carry out that duty. This Amendment would apply these provisions to complaints from members of the public against traffic wardens, whose powers and responsibilities even under Clause 127 are certainly not such as to require strict statutory disciplinary provisions of the kind which apply to police officers. Traffic wardens are civilians employed by police authorities, who are a type of local authority (in the Metropolitan police district, of course, by the Commissioner of Police), and their conduct is governed in the same way as the conduct of other civilians so employed.
Adequate administrative arrangements exist to deal with the few complaints that arise at the moment, both serious 925 and minor. In their inspections, I can assure your Lordships that Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary give close attention to the manner in which complaints made by members of the public against traffic wardens are dealt with, and in the absence of anything to suggest that present arrangements are not working satisfactorily I really do not see any case for statutory provisions of the kind proposed applying to traffic wardens, thereby singling out, as it were, wardens among all civilian public employees for special treatment.
I know that the circumstances with regard to all aspects of road traffic are changing, and it is possible that the warden service will develop in ways which will make changes in their conditions of service necessary in the future; but that day has not yet come. Even under the Bill's proposals traffic wardens' functions, powers and conditions of service will differ enormously from those of police officers. There is, for example, no question of traffic wardens having any special powers of arrest, search, entry or detention of property, or special duties to take action to deal with suspected non-traffic offences.
So while I agree that if their duties were extended (although I think it is unlikely) it may be necessary to make changes, I think it is very unlikely that Parliament would agree to extend to wardens powers similar to those of constables, particularly with regard to arrest and things like that; and unless noble Lords can suggest that complaints are not being dealt with—my information is that they are; there are not many, but they are being dealt with—I really do not think that they will want to press for traffic wardens to be treated in the way police officers are with this elaborate machinery for the investigation of complaints.
§ LORD AIREDALE
We have not yet had a reply with regard to the reference in this Amendment to Section 30 of the 1964 Act. This would require annual reports to include reports on the activities of traffic wardens. I should have thought that this was a thoroughly desirable thing. I should think that it will be very popular with everybody, including the traffic wardens themselves, that the work they do should be recognized 926 and commented upon in these annual reports, which I believe are chief constables' annual reports. At this time of experimental extension of the use and duties of traffic wardens there is everything to be said in favour of requiring the annual report on the police to include a report on the activities of traffic wardens.
§ LORD STONHAM
I apologise for not mentioning that. It is true that Section 30 enables the Secretary of State to call for reports from chief constables about any matters "connected with the policing" of their areas. Traffic wardens can act only under the direction of the chief constable and for traffic and traffic law enforcement activities prescribed by the Secretary of State. Therefore all conceivable traffic warden activities would be connected with the policing of the chief officer's area and are already within the scope of the section. In our view, specific reference in Clause 127 would be otiose. Chief constables' annual reports include a section about traffic wardens' activities. I shall be pleased to send the noble Lord a copy so that he can see for himself.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I thank the noble Lord for his answer. He certainly answered the last point completely. With regard to the rest of his reply, I am bound to say I do not feel entirely satisfied. I think he has a good point when he says that the procedures which are applied to the police in Sections 49 and 50 of the Police Act would be unsuitable for the traffic wardens. Those procedures have been carefully worked out to be suitable for this highly-disciplined force with its wide-ranging and important duties. But I do not quite agree with the noble Lord when he says that traffic wardens are like other civilian employees. They are not; they are moving out of that class quite quickly as extra duties are put upon them. As their duties in dealing with traffic increase, so the possibility of conflict with the general public is bound also to increase. That is inevitable. When you are dealing with a motor car you are dealing with the driver inside it. The fact that wardens do not have the great powers of the police does not mean that they will not, on occasion, have conflicts and that there may not be complaints.
927 I am not in a position at this moment to suggest what the complete procedure should be; but I do not think that anything the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said would convince this Committee that such procedure should not be considered now. My noble friend Lord Hawke, with his customary perspicacity, put his finger on a very important point: that it is not too easy to recruit men and women to take on these difficult duties and that the training is relatively short. This, again, does not make the noble Lord's point; it makes my point from this side. The possibility of friction arising is rather greater because they are not, and cannot possibly be, as highly trained as the police.
I should like to hear the noble Lord say that this is a point which deserves further examination. I would not make it a highly elaborate procedure of complaint; but I am sure that there will be complaints from time to time and that they will perhaps be more difficult to deal with. It would be in the interests of the wardens themselves, of the police and of the local authorities if there were some regular procedure of complaint which could be used when difficulties arise. I hope that this would happen very seldom. I think they do their job very well. But it is likely to happen less seldom if the procedure is there. Certainly I do not press the noble Lord to accept this Amendment—it is far too elaborate—but I do ask him to look at this point in the long gap before Report stage to see whether it may be wise now, as we are substantially extending the duties of the traffic wardens, to work out a simple procedure for dealing with complaints.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
May I say a word in support of the noble Lord? We are extending the duties of the traffic wardens. It is quite wrong to say that they are in the position simply of civilians. They are in a position of authority in public places. Two things are needed. First, they want protection for themselves. That is important. If anyone is discourteous there should be proper channels through which complaints should be made. That is a protection for themselves. And, second, the public want to know what is the proper channel. I agree that they are behaving very well; but it may happen that this 928 will not continue indefinitely. I hope the noble Lord will suggest some simple means that the public will know about.
§ LORD STONHAM
I do not agree with the noble Earl that they are the only civilians in authority. Anyone who drives between 8 and 9 a.m. or between 3.30 and 4.30 p.m. will in every town, borough or village, see elderly men and much younger women in white coats holding up signs saying "Stop". They are people in authority, civilians in authority; and their authority is usually not questioned. Drivers stop. To a great extent they are doing the same job as the wardens. I do not wish to run away from this important matter. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said that he was not demanding what his Amendment demanded: Section 49 procedure. I do not think that that procedure will ever be applicable. If it were, the wardens would be police officers.
But the noble Earl is right to ask what action the public can take. The advice I give is that they should complain to the police about the conduct of the wardens. That is the easiest and simplest thing to do. And that conduct, although not subject to Section 49 procedure, will certainly come within the field of the chief officer of police under Section 30; and he must take cognisance of it. Inevitably increasing contact between the wardens and the police in the performance of their duties will mean that something of the police discipline and esprit de corps will rub off on to the wardens, but we have not yet reached the stage where standardised procedure has been shown to be necessary. Individual police authorities and individual local authorities are employing wardens; one cannot lay down national terms for complaint.
With the great deal of consultation that would be necessary between now and Report stage, I do not think I shall be able to come back here with anything like the noble Lord suggests. I have been thinking about this point while we were discussing it. It is something which may have to be done some time, maybe next year and after careful consideration. But we should have to have evidence of the need: of numbers of complaints being made with no machinery existing to deal with them, which I do not accept 929 to be the position at the moment. My feeling is that it is a matter for my Department, the Home Office, to deal with and should not be dealt with by this Bill as at present drafted. This is not the first time I have thought about the matter and I shall certainly continue to bear it in mind.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for going that distance. I thought that as there was practically everything else in this Bill this might have gone in, too. But I accept that this would need a great deal of careful consideration with the local authorities concerned, with the warden service and with the police and so on, and that it could not be done quickly. I think, however, that there is a case and the noble Lord is persuaded. If we are not at the point now where this needs doing I think that we are near to it and I suspect that we are at that point. But I am content to leave the matter with the noble Lord to take back to the Home Office and to start a review, and to get the picture together, so that in the coming months—the next six months or so—he can decide whether action should be taken and, if so, what would be the appropriate form of procedure. I would stress that I am not asking for an elaborate procedure which would scare traffic wardens stiff, but a simple procedure which would give the public and the traffic wardens confidence. I think there is a case for that. In the light of the noble Lord's careful undertaking, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 301Y:
Page 176, line 16, leave out subsection (5).
§ The noble Lord said: Your Lordships have already accepted two Amendments on the commencement provisions of the Bill, to Clauses 112 and 115, and this is the third in the series. The Government are not proposing any change in the arrangement for the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland to bring the provisions of Clause 127 into force in England and Wales and in Scotland respectively. What we do propose is part of a wider tidying up exercise, the transfer of the specific provision in subsection (5) of Clause 127 to Clause 156. 930 It appears in paragraph (b) of the new subsection (3) to that clause which later tonight we shall propose shall be inserted by Government Amendment No. 316B. I beg to move.
§ Clause 127, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 128 agreed to.
§ 6.45 p.m.
The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment in the names of my noble friends and myself to insert at the end of subsection (1) the words:
and may thereafter be cited as the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 as amended by the Transport Act 1968.
I hope that the noble Lord will understand when I say that this Part of the Bill has been rather irksome. It is very difficult to go through a fairly long Part which is almost entirely detailed Amendments of another Act of Parliament. It ever there was a need for a Keeling Schedule I should have thought this was a case where one should have been provided. Only last year the Road Traffic Regulation Act, with 113 sections and 8 Schedules, and covering 111 pages, was passed, and within a year we have this Part of this Bill, which I am afraid that I can describe only as "messing that Act about".
This clause, Clause 129, blandly suggests that we should treat that Act as if these Amendments had been incorporated in it from the start. The only concession to what I might call propriety is that it is to be marked with a statement to the effect that "in pursuance of this section"—that is the clause we are now considering—" it is printed as amended as aforesaid". Then we go on to subsection (2) which says:
If any copy of the principal Act as amended as aforesaid prepared in accordance with the copy certified as aforesaid is printed and published by Her Majesty's printer after the passing of this Act but before the last of the appointed days aforesaid,—
which is going to be quite a long time—
it shall be marked both with such a statement as aforesaid and with a statement to the effect that it represents the principal Act as it will have effect after the last of those days.
Those who buy Public General Acts ana Measures for each year will not have the Act which will be actually in force in any of the volumes they have purchased, neither the 1967 volume nor the 1968 volume. Surely this will cause a good deal of inconvenience, to say the least. It may even cause confusion, mistake and error.
§ I ask the Government to think of some better way to deal with the situation. Surely at the least they could promise a consolidation Bill in the very near future, say in next year's legislation. Meantime, the curious document—and I can only refer to it as a curious document—with the corrigendum on the front of it should be properly described, surely, as what it really is. This will be the Road Traffic Act 1967 as amended by the Transport Act 1968. Then we shall have for the first time a "Keeling Act", I suppose, as opposed to a Keeling Schedule. This would be a new procedure, and I only hope that it will not be called a "Drumalbyn Act". I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for letting me into the secret of what this Amendment was intended to do. I admit that on reading it I was not at all clear. I admit also that he does not exaggerate the picture when he talks about possible confusion. However, I must say that it is the opinion of my advisers that to accept the Amendment would merely make confusion worse confounded. We have followed the standard practice in this matter—for instance, in relation to citations in future Acts of Parliament. It is almost universal for any Act to include the provision that references in it to any other enactment are to be construed as references to that other enactment as amended by any subsequent enactment. For example, in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 this proviso for its future amendment is included in Section 104(3). I was a little suspicious about the reference that it was almost universal. I did not want to say that and then afterwards find the noble Lord, 932 Lord Drumalbyn, saying, "Yes, it is almost universal, but is it in this particular measure". So I checked that in fact it does appear in this way.
Copies of the Act of 1967 are printed, in accordance with the requirements of Clause 129. That clause already provides that the print must be marked with a statement to the effect that it contains the 1967 Act, as amended by the Bill. If there are references to this, for example, in correspondence, there is nothing to stop the writer of the letter from making it clear to which edition of the 1967 Act he is referring.
The noble Lord asked whether we should have a consolidation Bill in due course. The effect of what we are doing by providing the reprinted Act in this way is to provide a consolidation Bill. The reprinted Act will not look like the present dummy, with blank pages and heavy type; it will be just an ordinary Act of Parliament. Putting in the dots, the blank spaces and heavy type is merely for the purpose of directing your Lordships' attention to where the alterations have taken place, but, of course, the user of the amended Act in future will not be interested in what the alterations are: he will be interested only in what the state of the Act is.
I must readily admit the noble Lord's point that this is a complicated situation, and I ask him to believe, even though he may have difficulty in doing so, that we have accepted the simplest way of dealing with a not too easy situation. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will find it possible to withdraw the Amendment, and I trust that I may have at least persuaded him in part that my advisers know what they are talking about.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I wish I had had the dummy, as the noble Lord called it, some time ago, because it would have made our task a great deal easier. If this Amendment reflects a little irritation at the end of all that, I think the noble Lord will forgive us. He admits that a certain amount of confusion is involved here. However, I do not want to press the Amendment. I suppose the Government are doing the best they can, but I hope that we shall have a consolidation Bill very soon. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 129 agreed to.933
§ 6.54 p.m.
LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 301A:
Page 248, line 47, leave out from ("may") to ("make") in line 48.
§ The noble Lord said: I put this Amendment down as I feel it is quite unreasonable to make it impossible to question the validity of a traffic regulation order after a period of six weeks from the date on which the order is made. Such an order might have been inadequately advertised, thus making it impossible for a potential objector to exercise his rights, because the very existence of the order may not have become apparent to him within a period of six weeks. During that period of six weeks he may have been abroad. There are other examples of which one can think as to how it might be difficult for a potential objector to become aware of an order having been made within the period of six weeks, which is a fairly short period. I beg to move.
§ LORD BOWLES
This Amendment would remove from subsection (1) of the new Section 84E to be added to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 the time limit of six weeks for challenging in the courts the main types of traffic and parking order. This change would make Section 84E almost completely valueless, and I hope the Committee will not agree to it.
The new Section 84E extends to the main traffic orders the provisions of Section 41 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 which at present relate only to parking meter orders. These provisions lay down that legal proceedings attacking the validity of an order, either because it is outside the statutory powers or because the procedural requirements have not been complied with, must be begun within six weeks from the making of the order. Provisions of this nature have long existed in relation to compulsory purchase orders and planning orders, and they were first applied to parking orders in the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act 1960. This was done because a belated invalidation of a parking meter order would cause complete confusion—the parking authority would not know 934 what to do with the money it had received in reliance on an invalid order. It could not possibly restore the money to the motorists who had paid it.
The new Section 84E also replaces certain provisions which have long existed, but which are now of doubtful effect. These provisions were designed to protect certain traffic orders from challenge in the courts. The reasons for the new Section 84E are, first, that the devolution of responsibility to local authorities provided for in Part IX of the Transport Bill will mean rather more detailed procedural provisions than exist at present. If these provisions are not complied with, the order may be invalid. The second reason is hat a new general duty is being laid on local authorities to have regard to certain matters in exercising their traffic and parking functions. (see the amended Section 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act.) This duty is of a general nature. There could be argument, in particular cases, whether the duty had been complied with. If it had not, any order made could be invalid.
The third reason is that the types of order referred to in Section 84E are those which are integral to traffic engineering schemes. Such schemers not only involve complex signing arrangements, but they frequently involve alterations to the highway itself. If a scheme of this nature depended on an order which, after being implemented for a considerable period, were held to be invalid—for example, by a magistrates' court when hearing a case involving the prosecution of some person for contravening the order—complete chaos could ensue. The signs would be wrongly in position, and the highway would have been wrongly altered. It would, in practice, be quite impossible for the traffic authority to put matters right in a short time. And considerable danger to the public would follow if motorists proceeded to ignore the order which had been held to be invalid.
The new Section 84E is an integral part of the new traffic regulation arrangements in Part IX of the Transport Bill. These arrangements will not work properly if traffic and similar orders can be belatedly invalidated on (possibly) technical grounds. It is vital that they should be at risk of such invalidation 935 for a short period only. If at a subsequent date it is found that a local authority have wrongly made an order or have not properly complied with the procedure, the Minister will have ample power under the new Section 84A to revoke the order so as to avoid any injustice or oppression. The Minister would not hesitate to exercise this power if he found a case where there had been injustice or oppression, but he would be able to arrange the revocation so as to avoid chaos or danger to the public. On those grounds, I regret to say that the Government cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
It is certainly not my intention to create any further chaos in this Bill. What I am concerned with is that a potential objector to a certain order should have a reasonable period of time in which to exercise the rights he has under the Bill. My contention is that six weeks could be rather short, especially if the order were advertised. Somebody concerned might be abroad. There might be such circumstances. I am pleased that the noble Lord has mentioned that the Minister has the power to revoke an order if he feels it necessary. I agree that it might be unreasonable to request an unlimited period in which an objector could exercise this right. I am wondering, however, whether the noble Lord would be willing to consider an extension of this period of six weeks. Would he be willing to look at that again between now and Report stage to see whether, say, three months would not be more appropriate in certain cases? I do not wish completely to delete the words by my Amendment. Rather, I should like the Minister to be willing to have a look to see whether it would be possible slightly to extend the period of six weeks.
§ LORD BOWLES
I am sure the noble Lord will realise that the Government have given very great attention to this time limit. He talks about people being abroad for a long time. Well, that is just too bad. If there is only one person who might support this and he happens to be abroad, it is a great pity that there is nobody else about to spot that an order might be ultra vires the Minister or the local authority. I cannot give an 936 undertaking. My right honourable friend—
§ LORD MERRIVALE
If I might interrupt, it could be inadequately advertised, or in fact not advertised at all. A number of persons may not be even aware that an Order has been made.
§ LORD BOWLES
There are provisions about its being advertised. But, of course, my right honourable friend will obviously read what the noble Lord has said, or will have it read for him. I cannot give any undertaking. I see his point. On the other hand, I think that possibly he sees mine. If parking fines and meters have been collecting money for a long time, or for more than, say, six weeks, it is rather difficult to know what to do with it. The noble Lord could not easily prove that he had put so many coins into a parking meter during the course of the previous 12 months. There would be some difficulty there. I think that the Government are right, although that is only my private view. I think they are right in trying to speed up people who believe that an order is ultra vires or has not been properly advertised, or who think that the procedure has gone wrong, and I think that six weeks is quite a long time when one considers it. However, my right honourable friend will no doubt read this debate. I cannot give any undertaking. I hope the Committee will therefore reject the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I do not think the Committee will have to reject it; I will not press it. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, has said that possibly the Minister may see what has been said on this subject, because he must agree that these traffic regulation orders can be fairly wide-ranging and therefore there could be an injustice if the period was in effect too short. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the limited assurance he has given, and with those few words I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD BOWLES moved Amendment No. 302:
Page 252, line 32, leave out paragraph 32.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment could, for the convenience of the 937 Committee, be taken with the last Amendment on the Marshalled List, namely, No. 321. On behalf of my noble friend I would say that he thinks that these are simply drafting Amendments consequent upon Amendments Nos. 289 and 295 which extend the application of orders made under Section 6 and Section 42 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 to persons and vehicles in the public service of the Crown, by amending Section 97(2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. Section 97 deals with the application of the Act to vehicles and servants of the Crown, and Section 97(2) lists the parts of the Act that apply to Crown vehicles and servants.
§ The first Amendment, No. 302, removes the amendments to subsection (2) of Section 97 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 which are made by paragraph 32 of Schedule 14 to this Bill. It restores to its original form that part of subsection (2) of Section 97 which is in brackets and which limits the application of parking meter type orders to Crown servants and vehicles to those orders which are made by the Minister. The second Amendment removes altogether the words in brackets in Section 97(2). In other words, the combined effect of these Amendments is to delete the exemption for Crown servants and vehicles contained in Section 97(2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act. All orders controlling parking places on highways where payment is made will, therefore, if these Amendments are agreed, apply to Crown vehicles and servants whether those orders were made by the Minister or by a local authority. I beg to move.
§ Schedule 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 130 [Compensation for loss of employment etc.]:
§ 7.7 p.m.
LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 303:
Page 177, line 19, leave out ("42(5)") and insert ("45(5)").
§ The noble Lord said: I move Amendment No. 303 on behalf of my noble friend, and with it I should like to take No. 304. Both these Amendments are drafting corrections. What is now Clause 45 of the Bill was in both prints of the Bill in the Commons Clause 42, but 938 through a slip the renumbering of these two references was overlooked when the Bill was being reprinted for the Lords. I beg to move.
LORD STONHAM: I beg to move Amendment No. 304:
Page 177, line 22, leave out ("42") and insert ("45").
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 304Z:
Page 177, line 24, at end insert—
(d) the revocation under paragraph 10(1) of Schedule 6 to this Act of a consent granted under that Schedule").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 304Z. This Amendment is similar to one moved by my honourable friends in another place but which the Government did not then feel able to accept. I hope that it may fare better now. It deals with the situation where a passenger transport executive revokes the consent of the bus operator and one of that bus operator's employees is thereby thrown out of work or otherwise suffers a worsening of his position. As the Bill is now drafted there is no provision for redundancy compensation, save that provided under the Redundancy Payments Act, under which payments are tied to a wage limit of £40 a week. This Amendment would help senior employees earning more than £40 a week who may suffer in this way and it adds the revocation established under Schedule 6, paragraph 7, to those happenings in respect of which statutory compensation becomes payable to the employees. I beg to move.
§ LORD STONHAM
As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has said, transfers of the kind he envisages have no provision made for them in the Bill over and above that of the Redundancy Payments Act for senior employees of stage carriage operators who may have their consent to continue their services revoked by the Passenger Transport Executive. We have had representations about this, particularly from the Passenger Vehicles Operators' Association. As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said, one of his honourable friends put down an Amendment on Report stage in the Commons 939 which would have had the effect of bringing these employees within Clause 130. The Government resisted that Amendment because statutory compensation has customarily been provided only for events arising directly from an Act, and the line has been drawn rigidly between such cases and cases which did not stem directly from the Statute but were the result of someone's voluntary action, regardless of whether or not that action had been influenced by changes brought about by the Statute.
The Government then felt that the revocation of a consent was not an action which was so clearly dictated by the provisions of the Bill that it could be held to be within the rigid limitations hitherto imposed. It seemed to us that acceptance of the Amendment might be a dangerous precedent and might lead to demands for the extension of statutory compensation to all kinds of cases, hitherto firmly excluded, which it might be difficult to resist.
Our intention was, instead, to make provision separately for redundancy compensation in these cases as part of the general compensation provisions of Schedule 6, paragraphs 10 to 13. But the more we examined this possibility the more difficulties we found and the Amendment to which the noble Lord has referred has led us to reconsider the possibilities of providing for statutory compensation for these people.
We now think that perhaps we gave too much weight to the dangers of repercussions. A Passenger Transport Executive's revocation of its consent to an operator is very close to a definite provision of the Bill. The Executive, in effect, has the choice either to allow or not to allow an operator to continue his existing services. This is a choice which must be made under the Bill, just as the granting of a consent is a decision forced on the Executive by the Bill, under Schedule 6. The revocation of a consent can be considered to be an alternative to that decision. Thus we now consider that it is right and proper to provide for redundancy compensation in these cases, in the same way as has been done for transfers or other changes made by or under the Bill, and we recommend that this Amendment should be made.
§ Clause 130, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 131 [Pensions]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 131 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I should like to take this opportunity to draw attention to the lack of provision within this Bill for the existing railway superannuitants who are on the present railway superannuation funds. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest because, as many of your Lordships will know, before entering another place I was a railway servant, and am at present the recipient of an allowance from a London North Eastern superannuation fund. These are contributory funds, contributed to by the employer and the employee, and they are based on a retirement allowance of an average over the whole of the service, and an average of the last seven years. When those allowances are fixed, on a person's retirement, they remain static. They remain at that level, unless there is some provision for alteration, for all time. During the period since the end of the last war, and perhaps since the end of the First World War, there has of course been continual inflation and rising prices, and this has meant that the standard of life of the railway pensioner or superannuitant has continuously fallen.
One must say that appeals to the British Transport Commission, in the old days, and to the Railways Board lately have met with sympathy, but no cash has been forthcoming, and the former B.T.C. and the B.R.B. have always said, "We are already in deficit, and if we make a payment to the existing members of the fund who are retired we shall go further in deficit, and we cannot do it." On two occasions since 1948—one in 1956 and the second in 1965—after continued pressure from Members of another place and from the trade unions on the Minister of the day, very small increases were given to the most lowly paid recipients of allowances. These followed appeals by the Minister of the day to the B.T.C. and, in 1965, to the B.R.B., that the allowances should be increased on the understanding that the Minister would accept responsibility for the added deficit. Very small increases to the most lowly paid recipients of allowances were, as I say, made in 1956 941 and 1965. But they were extremely small payments, and were given only to those who were drawing the smallest allowances.
If one contrasts that treatment with the treatment meted out to civil servants, to members in local government employment, or to teachers, who receive rises every few years under the Pensions Increase Acts, one sees that the position is totally different. Other nationalised industries, such as gas, electricity and coal, follow the precedent of the Pensions Increase Acts and make similar allowances from their own funds to their retired members.
There is a White Paper (or a Blue Book), Railway Policy (Cmnd. No. 3439). I read that carefully, and in a number of paragraphs in that White Paper there are references to the fact that in future, after the passing of the legislation, the Railways Board must stand on its own feet and pay its way. But nowhere in that White Paper is there any reference whatever to the plight of the existiing superannuitants on the railways funds. If, in fact, the Railways Board has to break even, then the plight of the member of the existing pension and superannuation funds is likely to be bleak indeed.
I have heard on many occasions, particularly, shall we say, since nationalisation, these highfalutin phrases about railways in the future "breaking even." However, they were in a bad state before they were taken over by the State. But we had the same sort of things said when the first modernisation plans came out; when those plans were revised, and at the end of them. The railways were always going to break even, and to be paying their way at the end of the period. We had the same thing when we had the reorganisation scheme, and the same thing after the decentralisation scheme. We had the same talk when we had the Beeching Plan. In spite of the case put by my noble friends on the Front Bench, that at some time the railways will break even, my own feeling is that they will not break even as a result of this reorganisation or, I think, for a considerable time to come.
In view of that, I suggest that the Government should either make a grant or give the British Railways Board authority to deal on a realistic basis with those in 942 the existing pension funds who, over periods of time, have rendered yeoman service to the railways of this country and who are now in their retirement suffering a gradually declining standard of life. May I, just briefly, at the end of my speech say that I contend that the Government, under this Bill, are reorganising transport once again, and they have a responsibility to see to it that those who played their part in the industry and are now in retirement should not continue in that plight, as they have done for so many years. The Government should therefore give authority to the British Railways Board to make this payment as one that can be accepted, or else the Government should themselves give a grant towards the cost of raising some of those pensions which are now very low indeed.
§ LORD CLITHEROE
May I, as one of the not very many surviving directors of the company in which the noble Lord was a distinguished member, say I have very great sympathy with him in the plea that he has put forward?
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
I should like to add my voice of sympathy for and appreciation of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. It is a problem that was before us when I was with the British Transport Cammission, a problem which has continued ever since, and it is right that attention should be drawn to it at this time. But I am sure it is not sufficient to give the Railways Board authority to attend to this matter without also assuring them of some Government support in the doing of it.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am in an extremely difficult position in replying to my noble friend and to noble Lords, because I, too, have every sympathy with this claim. I have large numbers of railwaymen friends, many of them retired, and I know full well how small these pensions are in the wages grades. It is very clear that sympathy is not enough—it is money that is wanted. Both on the railways and elsewhere that is a very scarce commodity. My noble friend, who very properly declared an interest as a railway superannuitant, knows full well the British Railways Board and their predecessors, the British Transport Commission, initiated a number of schemes of supplementation of 943 pensions in payment to their former salaried staff, the last of them being as recently as 1966. I am afraid it is the case that these schemes have not given increases to the extent which the super-annuitant would have wished and, indeed, the railway wages grades have not so far received any benefit at all from supplementation of their occupational pension.
The discrepancies to which my noble friend referred truly and painfully exist. The Railways Board have done the best they can for their staff under very difficult conditions, but they are in revenue deficit, and the cost of pension increases has, in practice, been paid out of the public purse. Of course, retired railway staff are also eligible for the State pension which will have benefited from the recent significant increase which the Government decided to make in spite of the country's economic difficulties. We insisted that this must have priority. The financial restructuring of the Board provided in this Bill, and the new financial remit given to them, will leave the decisions to the Board, in the first place, to say whether more can be done for their pensioners, including ex-wages grades as well as ex-salaried employees. I was not quite sure what the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, meant by saying that the Board should have permission. This Bill leaves them freedom of action. If he says it is not much good giving them permission without a special grant of money, that I would accept.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, because I know what it means to have one's train of thought interrupted, but on two previous occasions—the last was in 1965 when Mr. Tom Fraser was the Minister—the B.T.C. and the Board gave way on the authority of the Minister at the time and said that in fact it would be allowed in their deficit. Prior to that the B.T.C. and the B.R.B. had not been able to make grants because it would have added to the deficit.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am instructed that under this Bill and the new arrangements that have been made it will be for the Board to make a decision whether or not more can be done for their pensioners. I have had estimates made about the cost. It is estimated that to increase 944 pensions, to ex-salaried staff alone, in accordance with the cost-of-living index would cost the Board at least £3 million per annum, and more detailed estimates might well show a considerably higher figure. That indicates the size of the problem, because I am talking only about the salaried staff. Indeed, if the full increase in pension related to the cost-of-living increases were to be given, it would put railwaymen as a whole in this respect in the very forefront of occupational schemes, both in the public and the private sectors.
In the Government's view it would not be appropriate to expect the Railways Board at this point in their affairs to be tied in this way, but I can assure my noble friend—and I am glad to be able to do so—that the Railways Board will continue to take their pension responsibilities very seriously and do all they can for their retired staff. The Board are keeping the position of their super-annuitants and other retired staff under constant review, and they can be expected in these reviews to take into account any future changes in the wider context of public sector policy for pensions. Despite the distressing and disappointing experience of the past, I think that with this Bill the Railways Board will be in a position to assist their former loyal servants.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply, and I appreciate the difficult position he is in, but if the railway employees do not get better treatment than in the past—which has meant two rises over 20 years, waiting 10 years for each of them—many of them will not live very long to enjoy what they get. There is one point my noble friend made which, in the normal course of events, would be correct. He referred to the fact that these persons were in receipt of the national retirement pension. But very many of them are not. Railway salaried staff were, prior to 1948, excepted persons, as were school teachers, local government employees, civil servants and the rest. They were excepted persons and were not within the National Insurance scheme. Of course, the 1948 Act—quite rightly in my view—embraced everyone and brought everyone in. There was a 10-year waiting period before a person became entitled to his pension, again quite rightly 945 —there is no such thing as something for nothing somebody has to pay for it, and if a pension scheme is to be on some sort of actuarial basis there has to he a period of contribution before drawing the pension. In the National Insurance Act that period was 10 years.
The retirement age within the railways is permissive at 60, but compulsory at 65. Even taking the 65s, it meant that people over 55 could not contribute, or they would not be able to get 10 years in and then draw their pension when they became 65. So to-day there are men of 70 who in fact are drawing their superannuation allowance but who are not within the National Insurance Acts. I admit straight away that if they wanted to, and if they are in a poor plight, and it is tragically true that many of them are, they can go for the social security payments—the old National Assistance payments—but no one really wants them to do that. I am grateful to my noble friend. The fact that it is going to cost £3 million even to give them the cost of living increases shows the real extent of the problem to which I have drawn attention, and I hope as a result something will be done.
§ Clause 131 agreed to.
§ 7.30 p.m.
LoRD LINDGREN moved Amendment No. 304A:
After Clause 131, insert the following new clause:
§ Reimbursement of contributions to early retirement benefits for railway and other workers
§ (".—(1) The Minister may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, make payments to any of the Boards or new authorities reimbursing any of them the amount determined in accordance with subsection (2) of this section of any contributions in respect of any increase in the cost of retirement benefits paid before normal retiring age to or in respect of persons who have at any time been eligible to receive payments under a scherne made under section (Payments to redundant railway and other workers) of this Act.
§ (2) The amount of any payments under this section shall be determined in such manner as may be agreed between the Minister and the respective Boards and new authorities with the approval of the Treasury and shall be certified by the Boards' or new authorities' respective auditors.
§ (3) In this section 'contributions' means payments by way of contributions to pension schemes and superannuation funds maintained by virtue of sections 98 and 99 of the Trans- 946 port Act 1947 and sections 73 and 74 of the Act of 1962.")
§ The noble Lord said: I think it would he for the convenience of the Committee, if my noble friend agrees, that we should take Amendments Nos. 304A, 304B and 304C together because they are dealing with the same problem. They all deal with redundancy likely to arise to railwaymen because of the operation of this Bill and the general decline of the railway industry as such. I am certain my noble friend will have noticed, if other noble Lords have not, that the suggested new Clauses are not a brain child of mine, but are in fact Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Coal Industry Act 1967. I am going to suggest that in many ways the problems of redundancy and re-deployment on the railways are exactly the same as, or similar to, those of the coal industry, and provisions to cover them should be made within this Bill.
§ I am one of those who want railwaymen to accept this Bill with all the consequences that it means for them. If railwaymen are willingly to accept redundancy brought about by the reorganisation that is hound to follow this Bill, as well as the redundancies arising from modernisation, there must be adequate provision for redundancy and redeployment payments, and the cost should not fall heavily on the British Railways Board. I ought to say, and I will bring it out a little later, that as a result of negotiations between the railway unions and the British Railways Board, there have been considerable redundancy payments which are over and above those allowed under the redundancy Act.
§ It is generally accepted that the railways and coal mining are in an exceptional situation so far as the contraction of their industries are concerned with the consequential redeployment and redundancy. Both industries have had to reduce their labour forces dramatically in recent years. Between 1964 and 1966, manpower reductions and the numbers discharged through redundancy in the two industries have been very large indeed. It may be a surprise to many noble Lords that they have been very much greater in the railways than in the coal industry. May I give the figures I have available? In 1964, for the National Coal Board, the reduction 947 in manpower was 28,000; on the railways it was 40,546. For 1965 the figures were: Coal Board 41,000, railways 33,962; and in 1966, Coal Board 26.500, and railways 26,092. I have not got the Coal Board figures for 1967, but for the railways it was 20,648. When we come to actual discharges through redundancy, the figures are very much higher for the railways. The figures are: for 1964, mining industry, 2,463, railways 9,231; 1965, mining, 1,885, railways 11,486; 1966, mining 3,494, railways 9,813.
§ It will be seen that while the total reduction of manpower in the three years is about the same—the Coal Board 95,500, compared with 100,600 for the railways—the total number of discharges because of redundancy on the railways was about four times as great as the number in the coal industry. That is the contribution which railwaymen generally have made to the modernisation and reconstruction and reorganisation of their own industry.
§ I agree it could be argued that the coal mining industry is quite exceptional for the following reasons. The death of a pit means the death of a mining community. The industry has a high proportion of men aged fifty and over. Many of these older miners suffer from poor health and are disabled. Those over fifty-five will find it difficult to obtain other employment.
§ Strangely enough (and I have drawn an analogy between the two industries) the same sort of factors apply within the railway industry. There are railway towns, and most of the mining communities have within them railwaymen. The closure of pits means redundancy for railwaymen. The run-down of the coal-mining industry means a serious fall in railway revenue—estimated at £16 million in 1969 and at £39 million in 1974 as compared with the 1966 revenue. If you are not getting traffic you do not need the employees, and there are consequential redundancies.
§ There are also a high proportion of railwaymen over 50 years of age, and a considerable burden of redundancy has fallen on the older employees. That is right. We in the trade union movement have agreed with the Railways Board 948 that if in fact some people have to be got rid of, it should tend to be those nearing retirement, rather than those who are young and just starting out with their families. So the older worker has borne the brunt of the redundancy.
§ The incidence of industrial injuries among railwaymen is also higher than in other industries, though not by any means as heavy as those for mineworkers. Railwaymen (the majority over 55) who leave because of ill-health or disability, and who receive redundancy payments under agreements made with the trade unions, number about 1,000 a year. Railwaymen over 55 are likely to experience the same difficulty as mineworkers in finding alternative employment. In the case of the railways, the cost of redeployment (which in the case of pit closures are partially met by the Government) are heavy, and at present are borne entirely by the Railways Board, except for the rebates for the lump sum redundancy payments received from the Government's Redundancy Fund.
§ Between 1963 and 1967 the Railways Board incurred expenditure on redundancy and re-settlement of the order of £24 million, but the rebates they got back from the Government's Redundancy Fund amounted to only £4½ million, the balance being borne entirely by the Railways Board. The costs of redeployment include weekly continuing payments, superannuation and pension payments, welfare grants, retention of rate of pay while occupying a lower grade post, payment of lodging and travelling allowances and other costs including, quite rightly if they want somebody to move, payments arising from rehousing.
§ In the light of what I have said, it would appear to me that there is an equally strong case for the railways to he treated in the same way as the Coal Board, and for including in this Bill provisions similar to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Coal Industry Act 1967. If, in fact, we can get the Government to accept their responsibilities to the Railway Board, as they did to the coal industry, then there will be available £20 million, some of which can be allocated by the Railways Board to those pensioners who at the moment have had rather a cold shoulder in the previous discussions. I beg to move.949
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am sure your Lordships have been considerably impressed, as I was, by the speech of my noble friend Lord Lindgren. Anyone who has known railwaymen well—I started my political life with them and I owe anything that I possess in the way of political acumen to railwaymen, who taught me the language and everything else—will realise why I am warmly appreciative of the case that my noble friend has put forward.
As my noble friend indicated, he has modelled these three clauses on Sections of the Coal Industry Acts, and he has argued that the case for the railways is the same as the case for coal. But my noble friend's Amendments do not apply only to the railways. The effect of these new clauses would be to give the Minister powers not only in respect of railways but in respect of the Docks, Waterways and London Transport Boards, and the new authorities, which are the Freight Corporation, the Bus Company and the Scottish Group.
The powers which my noble friend asks should be given to the Minister in respect of all those are, first, that Amendment No. 304A would empower the Minister to make payments to any of the Boards or new authorities reimbursing the amount of any increase in the cost of retirement benefits paid by them under the provisions of the proposed new clause, Amendment No. 304B to or in respect of employees made redundant before normal retiring age. Amendment No. 304B would empower the Minister to make a scheme providing for the making of payments to persons who become redundant before attaining the age of 65, or 60 in the case of women. This would be more generous than the corresponding Section 3 of the Coal Industry Act of last year. That Act does not provide for such payment to workers who become redundant before attaining the age of 55, whereas the new clause proposed by my noble friend would permit payments in respect of a worker who becomes redundant at any age up to 65.
My noble friend's third new clause, Amendment No. 304C, would empower the Minister to make grants, not exceeding £30 million in aggregate, in any of the five years from 1969 to 1973 to the Boards and new authorities towards 950 "relevant" expenditure in redundancy and compensation payments. "Relevant" expenditure is defined to include payments under the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, compensation payments in respect of loss of pension, removal and resettlement payments, and so on, again as in Section 3 of the Coal Industry Act 1965.
In the case of the coal industry, the Government sought powers of this kind because of the special circumstances in that industry. During the passage of that Act, my right honourable friend the then Minister of Power, and now Minister of Transport, said:I announced in the debate on 18th July that the Government were preparing a scheme to tackle the special problems of the older men who will be leaving the coal industry. They are a very special problem indeed. The man of over 55 who has worked in a mine all his working life is probably in a different position, because he started work and spent a large proportion of his early days in a very different coalmining industry from that which we know today. Anyone who has experience of or who has seen the position of many people in the older mining districts knows that in this industry, as distinct from almost any other industry, the older miner is a very special problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons 28/11/67, col. 255.]To some extent, of course, circumstances of this kind can arise in any industry. I always think "redundancy" is an ugly word, at whatever age it comes. But the closure of a factory in an isolated town can have a serious effect upon the local community, and the workers who become unemployed there may find it difficult to obtain new jobs. The needs of workers who become redundant are, however, already covered by the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, and in the Government's view there is no justification for special Exchequer assistance to any particular industry unless there are quite exceptional circumstances. Parliament accepted that these quite exceptional circumstances existed in the coal industry; but in the Government's view the factors involved there are not present, at least to anything like the same degree, in the transport undertakings to which my noble friend's new clauses relate.
My noble friend is asking for special aid for the railway industry. But the new clauses in fact go far beyond the railway industry. In extending them to all the other nationalised transport undertakings no doubt my noble friend has 951 recognised the unavoidable fact that one could not, on any fair basis, apply his proposed measures to the railways without giving the same treatment to the other undertakings. But more than that, once the field was widened in this way the Government feel that there would be no point at which one could, in logic or in equity, stop the process. For example, if special treatment were given to the N.F.C. with its quite considerable road haulage element, what possible ground could there be for refusing to apply the same treatment throughout the road haulage industry? If the Docks Board were to be given special help, why not all other dock undertakings? The Government have already refused to provide special assistance towards severance schemes for the dockers. If the London Board, why not all other bus undertakings? There would be virtually no limit to the repercussions.
For these reasons, if the country could afford the heavy cost of increasing the scope of Exchequer involvement in redundancy payments—and further increase in public expenditure beyond existing commitments must at the present time be avoided—the right course, in our view, would be to modify the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Act so as to cover the whole range of employment rather than introduce further ad hoc arrangements for particular industries. Manpower costs represent two-thirds of the British Railways Board total costs. It is therefore of vital importance to the Board's financial wellbeing that they should adopt a satisfactory manpower policy, and this must obviously include adequate redundancy arrangements. This is equally true of any labour-intensive industry with a declining manpower requirement.
The particular reasons which determined the Government under this Bill to refuse special aid to the railway industry are, first, although, as my noble friend said, the rate of redundancy in the railways has in recent years been greater than in the coal industry—he quoted those figures very fairly—the railway rate is now declining, mainly because so much has already been achieved that it becomes progressively more difficult to find measures that will maintain the momentum, whereas the rate of redundancy in the coal industry is expected 952 to increase considerably during the next years.
Secondly, although the British Railways Board incur heavy expenditure on redundancy payments, this does not represent a net financial burden. The cost of each payment is recovered within a matter of weeks. These were not small amounts. Last year the average of all redundancy payments made up to May, 1967, by the British Railways Board was £379 per man, and under a special scheme introduced last year to persuade the younger footplatemen to leave, the payment was £250 per man, which they recovered within ten weeks through savings in wages. Last year the gross cost to the British Railways Board of redundancy payments and directly associated costs was nearly £4¼ million. It is not the case that nothing has been done, and it is not the case that there is not a lot to be said for the redundancy payments scheme, and for the belief that, if the money was available—and redundancy payment contributions have now had to be increased, or will have to be increased—general increases and not special increases would seem to be the answer.
Thirdly, the Transport Bill includes provision for a drastic financial restructuring of the British Railways Board. The Joint Steering Group recommendations, on which this is based, did not assume any special Government help towards redundancy costs. Such help would be in conflict with the principle that the Board should stand on their own feet, as any commercial concern has to.
Finally, although some railway towns could be seriously affected by the closure of a British Railways Board establishment, they are now very few. British Railways Board redundancies are spread over the whole country and do not invariably involve a heavy concentration of redundancies in an area of high unemployment. For example, the closure of a branch line can and does, unfortunately, give rise to pockets of redundancy, but they are usually quite small and the places are usually some distance apart.
There is a case, and my noble friend made it very well, for comparing the service of the railwaymen to their country with the service of the miners to their country. He used that to support his 953 Amendments which claim the same or similar special treatment. We do not, however, accept that the cases and the problems are the same. Obviously it would have been very good if we could pay higher sums for redundancy. But if there is a solution to this problem it is not through the kind of special treatment for the railways which my noble friend urges, it is through more general improvements which can only come as the general economic situation of the country improves.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
I have to thank my noble friend for his reply, and of course I admit right away that I dealt entirely with railways because I had been asked to do so by my own trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, and I was not asked by the other Boards. In fairness, one had to include within the Amendment the other Boards or authorities that might be created under the Act. Equally, with those Board or authorities, redundancy is not likely to arise. Many of them are going to be created by the Act, but so far as railways are concerned we have had again this reference to financial reconstruction and the possibility of the Railways Board breaking even. That can only be done if, in fact, there is a drastic reorganisation of the manpower within the industry. Because of its 100 years of development many grades have been created, very likely, I will agree, by trade union action, but trade union action in order to get a shilling or two for somebody else in years gone by. There could be—and the Railways Board are trying to negotiate this with the railway unions—an amalgamation of grades so that there are not these sectionalised duties. It is all very well to talk in a House such as this or outside, but if men are going to be asked to agree to reorganisation, cutting out of grades, and taking on other work knowing full well that the purpose is to create lower manpower and reduce the number of jobs, then there has to be some inducement. The British Railways Board have borne the cost up until now and it has been to their credit.
My noble friend quoted certain redundancy payments to certain persons, but they were not paid from the Redundancy Fund, they were paid by the railways to induce the reductions in manning and the 954 rest of it. It is true that because of those redundancy payments they received later on the benefit that they did not have to pay the wages of the fellow who was not doing the job he was doing before, but that is all part of reorganisation. I suggest that that ought to have been borne by the Government and not by the Railways Board if, in fact, you are going to ask them to try to break even.
In view of the fact that it is obvious that I shall not get much further with it, having aired it, then I would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 132 [Machinery for negotiation and consultation with stag]:
LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 305:
Page 180, line 39, leave out ("Minister of Labour") and insert ("Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity")
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendment No. 305, and with it I should like to take Amendment No. 306. These are drafting corrections following the transfer of functions of the Minister of Labour to the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity earlier this year under the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity Order 1968. Similar Government Amendments were made to Schedule 4 on July 2. I beg to move.
Page 181, line 7, leave out ("Minister of Labour") and insert ("Secretary of State aforesaid")—(Lord Stonham.)
§ Clause 132, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 133 and 134 agreed to.
§ 8.0 p.m.
LORD NUNBURNHOLME moved Amendment No. 307:
After Clause 134, insert the following new clause:
§ Grants for adopting private roads
§ (".—(1) The Minister may in agreement with the Treasury make a grant to any local authority to adopt any private road which has remained unadopted for a period of not less than ten years subject to the Minister being satisfied that— 955
- (a) the road is a connecting road and is used regularly by traffic as a through road and has been used for this purpose for not less than ten years;
- (b) the road is within a built up area and that land on one or both sides of the road has been developed for residential purposes;
- (c) that the freeholders of any property developed on either side of the road are not obligated by private contract or bye-law or other statute to pay all or part of the cost of making up the road.
§ (2) The Minister may order that any grant made under subsection (1) of this section shall be subject to the freehold owner or owners of any property on either side of the road contributing a proper share of the total cost of adopting the road if such owners are bound by private contract or any bye-law or statute made before the appointed day to make such contribution and the provisions of this section shall not release any freehold owner of any obligations in this respect.
§ (3) In any dispute arising between a freeholder owner, the Minister or a local authority in respect of any liability under any private contract or bye-law or statute the Minister may refer the dispute to arbitration.
§ (4) The Minister may order that when a grant exceeding fifty per cent. of the total cost of adopting a road under the provisions of subsection (1) of this section has been paid by him the local highway authority shall be responsible for normal maintenance costs of the said road thereafter.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move Amendment 307. After Clause 134 we should like to insert a new clause concerning grants for adopting private roads. I tabled this new clause because of the difficulty many owners of property experience in persuading the local authority to make up a private road and to adopt and maintain it. Lord Foot will be familiar with cases of this sort. The new clause is self-explanatory, but it is worth noting that under existing legislation Government grants for highway improvements may be spent by local authorities as they think fit, an exception being grants for principal roads designated as such. Therefore, the Minister has no power to make a grant to a local authority for the adoption of a road of the type referred to in this clause. If the new clause were accepted, the Minister could make additional grants to the local authority for the specific purpose of adopting a particular road. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
The noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, has correctly stated the position in relation to grants on roads 956 at the present time. The existing arrangements are that grants for highway authorities will be paid towards the construction, improvement or maintaining of any highway maintainable at public expense. Under the old grant system, a specific grant at varying rates was paid towards the cost of all Class I, Class II and Class III road works. Under the present system, introduced in 1967, specific grant at 75 per cent. is paid only towards the cost of constructing or improving principal roads—those are broadly equivalent to the former Class I roads.
Items of improvement accepted for grant are mainly those which are so expensive or so uneven in their incidence that local authorities could not, without specific assistance, be expected to carry them out. Government assistance towards the maintenance of local authority roads and towards the improvement of non-principal roads is now given through the rate support grant, which is a block grant distributed according to objective factors unrelated to the ways in which the local authority choose to spend the money: this is the point to which the noble Lord has directed the Committee's attention.
The new system was agreed with the local authority associations before it was introduced. It has these advantages over the old system: first of all, specific Exchequer assistance is concentrated on roads of national importance; secondly, local authorities are entirely responsible for determining their own priorities on non-principal roads; and thirdly, the grant administration in both central and local government has been greatly simplified by reducing the number of specific grants and the detailed scrutiny and control procedures which inevitably go with them.
When the new grant system was introduced, the Minister of Transport emphasised to local authorities that items of improvement, for example on non-principal roads, which were not eligible for specific grant should not simply on that account be regarded as any less necessary or desirable. In the Minister's view, local authorities must be treated as responsible bodies and allowed to settle their road priorities with the minimum of control from central Government—I say, in parenthesis, that these are very sound liberal principles.
957 But this means that on their side they must be prepared to shoulder their responsibilities and not expect a specific grant for every desirable highway improvement. If they are going to get a general grant they cannot ride off on the basis that they are going to spend the money on everything else, and then say, "We cannot afford to do this because we are not getting a specific grant for it". If they did that, the new system would break down and we should be back exactly where we were. However, the local authorities are not doing that: they are in fact acting as the Minister expected them to do—showing that they are responsible bodies and they are the best judges of how they should spend such of their money as they think desirable on road improvements in their area. This covers occasions when they may decide that it is reasonable to take over private roads, unadopted roads, and take these on as a public charge.
My own experience as a local authority man in the past has shown that local authorities are not unreasonable. Where it is an ordinary burden and can be considered as part of the purchase price of a house that the road should be paid for by the frontager, the local authority expect him to do so, but there are sometimes circumstances where, because of the particular nature of the site—for instance, where a house is on a corner and the road runs along two sides instead of just along the front—the local authority, in Scotland at any rate, will very often adopt the practice of relieving the houseowner of the responsibility in respect of the shorter of the two roads. This is an example of the way in which local authorities exercise their responsibilities in a reasonable way and seek to take on to public shoulders a burden which could not be reasonably expected to be carried by a private individual. However, if we are to do this as a general rule the individual would be no better off, because we should then be transferring a general responsibility of owners to individual ratepayers in their capacity as ratepayers—except that perhaps the burden would be a little lighter on the average owner because the owners of commercial and industrial premises and people living in rented property would all be paying part or this through the rates.
It may well be that Parliament will decide that this would be a good thing 958 and that nobody should have the responsibility for paying for the construction of roads; but Parliament has not decided so far that this is a proper thing to do. It therefore seems that the responsibility should rest exactly where it does now and that the local authority should take on a responsibility of this kind where they feel it would otherwise be an undue burden on an individual owner. I think your Lordships would be well advised to leave it exactly where it is, for the simple reason that it works.
I thank the Minister for his very full explanation, which I entirely accept. I beg have to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD NUNBURNHOLME moved Amendment No. 308:
After Clause 134, insert the following new clause:
§ Cattle grids and fences
§ (".—(1) The Minister may in agreement with the Treasury make a grant to any local authority being an agent of the Minister for the provision of cattle grids or permanent fences to prevent cattle or other animals from straying on to roads or publicly or privately owned property, subject to the Minister being satisfied that—
- (a) cattle or other animals are causing danger to road traffic or pedestrians; or
- (b) are a nuisance to occupiers of esidential properties.
§ (2) Grants made under subsection (1) of this section shall only be made available for the provision of fencing of common land on which statutory grazing rights exist and shall not be available for the provision of fencing to privately owned land or the provision of cattle grids on roads where cattle or other animals stray only from privately owned land.
§ (3) Grants shall be made as provided under subsection (1) of this section for fencing and cattle grids on non-principal highway provided such highways have been adopted by a local authority and not withstanding the provisions of the Local Government Act 1966 or any other enactment confining the right to make such grants in respect of principal roads.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment 308. After Clause 134 a new clause should be inserted to cover cattle grids and fences. Under the terms of the Local Government Act 1966, the Minister's right to make grants for cattle grids and fences, et cetera, to a local authority was abolished: instead, an additional grant is made annually and the local authority may spend the money for 959 authorised types of road improvement at their own discretion.
§ The effect of this can be illustrated by the case of a village in Bodmin, Pensilva. Agreement has been reached between the local authority and the county highway authority in respect of a grant for which application was publicly made to the Minister. Following the Act of 1966, neither the local authority nor the county highway authority could make this application. It was then a matter for the local authority to persuade the county highway authority to make an allocation for cattle grids and fencing from the general grant which the county authority was to receive from the Treasury. The county highway authority decided in their new discretionary powers that the claim of the local authority in respect of Pensilva did not have first priority. In the past the local authority could have obtained a specific grant; by reason of the 1966 Act they cannot do so.
§ My new clause would restore this right in cases where there was a danger to road traffic or pedestrians, or where straying animals were committing a nuisance detrimental to residents. It is not, of course, the liability of the owner of an animal to ensure that it does not stray if the animal is put out to graze on common lands. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I should like to support this Amendment. I have in mind the New Forest ponies. When driving in that area I have once or twice nearly run into a pony. The Amendment has much to commend it, since serious accidents can be caused by straying animals, particularly when they stray on to a main road. No doubt the noble Lord who is to reply will have all sorts of objections, probably financial ones, but I myself cannot think of any at the moment.
§ LORD HUGHES
The noble Viscount is perfectly right, except that he amplifies my case. I do not have "all sorts of objections" to this Amendment. I nave a very good one: namely, that it is far too expensive. This Amendment was tabled in another place by Liberal Members, both in Committee and on Report, but because of the guillotine procedure it was not discussed at all. Therefore, I cannot object to its being raised in Committee to-night.
960 In certain parts of the country, for example in the West Country, this problem is fairly acute. Last year Mr. Bessell represented to the Minister that the specific grant system should be extended to cover cattle grids. He was then told that although the Government do not dispute that the provision of cattle grids and also fencing would undoubtedly bear more heavily on some highway authorities than on others, the fact remained that if this were done by the local authorities the cost in relation to highway expenditure as a whole would be small and this did not justify extending the system of specific grants. Your Lordships might go on to say: "If it is too expensive for the Government to undertake, then surely it is too expensive for local authorities". This may well be the case. It is simply that the Government, faced with our economic situation, just cannot accept the obligation to take on additional duties of this kind.
Leaving aside that argument altogether, I cannot accept the Amendment for a second reason—a reason which I have already put forward on the previous Amendment. We have sought to simplify the system of grants by restricting specific grants to the principal roads. Therefore, if we were to go back to a system of specific grants for items such as this, it would be completely against the principles which we have agreed with the local authorities. If we were to do so, it would be used as a precedent for extending specific grants to a whole number of other items, and, before we knew where we were, we should be back on the old system.
What is certain is that the local authorities may get grant out of the Government under one system or another. What also is certain is that they are not going to get the best of both worlds. They cannot get general grants on the generous basis on which they are now provided and also expect to have specific grants added to them. If we were to take the risk of going back to a situation of having grants for this, that and the next thing, then at the end of the day it must result in local authorities getting much less than they would get on general grounds. They would have to do a great deal more work and issue a lot more paper, and at the end they would have no more money. They would be in no better position to 961 do the job than at present. This in relation to the local authority powers stands in exactly the same position as the item of taking ever private roads. If the local authorities wish to do this, it is up to them. What they cannot expect is to get general grant to enable them to undertake items of a general kind and then get specific grants for them all over again.
I am sorry if the noble Lord feels that I am being unsympathetic in this matter, but it is simply that we are convinced—and I think that local authorities are now persuaded—that this is a better system for them. It gives them the maximum amount of freedom in dealing with their own problems; it gives them as much money a; they are likely to get and, on present records, it gives them more money than they would have obtained if the previous system had been continued.
I thank the Minister for his very full reply. Before I withdraw the Amendment, I should like to congratulate him on putting his foot down in regard to economies, even though it may mean that I do not get my grants for fencing. Personally, I like to see the open commons. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 135 agreed to.
§ Clause 136 agreed to.
§ Clause 137 [Powers of Minister in connection with Channel Tunnel]:
§ 8.18 p.m.
LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 309:
Page 187, line 34, at end insert ("but he shall not acquire such land until he has published a statement outlining the overall requirements which lead him to consider that such individual acquisition of land is justified").
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with the topic of the Channel Tunnel Council. The purpose of Clause 137 is to give the Minister power to acquire land, by agreement, for the Channel Tunnel terminal. This Amendment would require the Minister to inform the country first as to the case for proceeding with the acquisition of land for the Channel Tunnel. This Amendment may give us art opportunity 962 to discuss, a little widely, the merits of setting up the Channel Tunnel Council.
§ It is perhaps a surprise to your Lordships that this topic appears n this Bill, but we have learned by now that sooner or later everything appears in this Bill, and it is only right that the Channel Tunnel should have a place in it, too. The Bill has maintained to the end its reputation as a monster. Of course, this matter should have been put in a separate Bill and brought before Parliament in the ordinary way, with a Second Reading in another place, and a Committee stage when all the experts could have gathered to discuss this extremely important topic. Instead, it was brought in right at the end of the Committee stage of this Bill in another place, when the guillotine was hard down. It was jammed in at the end with far too little debate for dealing with a matter of such very major importance. But so much has already been said about the Government's management of their legislative programme, that I should be boring your Lordships if I said any more.
§ We have the benefit of the Minister's two speeches in another place, describing the purpose of setting up a Council now. It seemed to me that he said just about enough to raise the maximum anxiety and the minimum confidence. Most uncharacteristically of him, his reactions were so touchy that reading the Report gave me the impression of a background of uneasiness which certainly increased my anxiety. My personal position on the Channel Tunnel has always been rather in favour of it, in principle. But, naturally, like others who like the idea in principle, I wish to await reliable figures before reaching a conclusion. This being my starting point, I naturally feel some measure of agreement with the Government's wish to set up a Planning Council to work with what I understand to be a similar body that is being set up by the French Government.
§ My criticism of the Minister's action falls under two heads. First, there is his method of approach of a new clause pushed late into this already overloaded Bill—this, I think, is an offence both to Parliament and to the public—and of course it is pushed in without any up-to-date report or White Paper which 963 would give the world outside—and indeed Parliament inside—a full picture of just what the position is now on the Tunnel. Secondly, I feel concerned about the implication of permanency in the structure of the Channel Tunnel Council. The sum of £1 million is to be provided for it. That is a lot of money and would keep that Council going—with two members, it is the smallest council that has ever been formed—for a very long time.
§ It raises the question of whether the setting up of this Council commits Great Britain to the construction of the Channel Tunnel. This, I think, is the major issue and by far the most important one. I suggest to noble Lords opposite that the searing experience which they have had over Stansted Airport, where they have had to back-pedal completely out of their decision to go ahead with it, should have taught them that public opinion on these major development issues can express itself so strongly that in the end Governments are obliged to back-track and change their minds, and to think again. It must be the right course of action, with major developments of this kind, to complete the preparatory work to the point where the full detailed pros and cons can be ascertained, and then to publish the whole story in a White Paper for public debate, before deciding whether to embark on the project at all.
§ I imagine that in the last two or three years some factors have operated in favour of the project; for instance, I believe that the geological study has been entirely satisfactory. I believe, also, that the estimate of potential cross-Channel traffic is even faster-growing than was originally anticipated. But, equally, there are other factors which now operate against it—for instance, the development of the modern roll-on, roll-off ships; the container freight traffic; the hovercraft, which crosses the Channel in 35 minutes and which, it appears, will be bigger and bigger and well able to take a large number of heavy freight vehicles. And, of course, there is the very rapid development of a multiplicity of small ports to the South and East of the country which are continuously increasing their trade with the Continent, and which have certain attractions in 964 spreading the traffic lines flowing from the areas of the country that will link up with Europe.
§ I do not pretend to know where the balance of advantage lies to-day, but I know that the British constructional resources which will be engaged in this project when the time comes will be very large indeed. If they are engaged in this project, they will to that extent not be available for building new towns, new motorways, and all the other things we want built here. This is so whether the Channel Tunnel is financed by public money or by private money. The constructional resources are limited and this is a very big project. Therefore, what I want to hear is an unequivocal assurance that the setting up of the Planning Council is at this stage concerned solely with preparatory work, which will bring us to the stage where the Government of the day, and the British people, can decide without commitment whether or not the building of the Tunnel is in the national interest. This Amendment requires the publication by the Minister of his case before taking the definitive step of acquiring land for a terminal, and, in my judgment, it is the minimum safeguard that the nation will not be committed blindly to this project. It is on that basis that I beg to move the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I should like most warmly to support this Amendment. I come from a part of England where the terminal will be situated if ever we have a Channel Tunnel, and I think it is putting the cart before the horse for the Minister to go around acquiring land for a Tunnel that may never be built. The country ought to be assured that the Tunnel is, in fact, going to be built before the Minister starts acquiring land for a terminal. Our resources are short enough at the moment, and the Government are trying to cut down expenditure. If the Minister acquires land for something which may never happen, it will merely be a waste of resources which, otherwise, might be used in a far more useful manner. With those words, I should like to reiterate that I support my Front Bench most warmly on this Amendment.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
I do not know whether noble Lords opposite are now beginning to wriggle on the question 965 of the Channel Tunnel, but I feel that they are taking a rather narrow and insular view. Are they really abandoning the whole idea of the possibility of our entering the Common Market at some future date? If they are not still standing loyally by the idea of the Common Market, which was originally proposed by Mr. Heath in the House of Commons several years ago—and he himself made attempts to negotiate us into the Common Market—then this is a major change of policy on the part of the Conservative Party. We are entitled to know that. The attitude of Britain at this moment is that we are favourably inclined to entry into the Common Market and to the construction of the Channel Tunnel if they appear to be remotely possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said that this is an overloaded Bill. But this is a comprehensive Transport Bill, and I wonder what he would have said had we omitted to mention the possibility of a Channel Tunnel being constructed at some future date. He might, quite legitimately, have criticised us for shutting our eyes to that possibility and for taking only a partial view of the transport problems of this country. I think that any review of the transport requirements of this country must include the possibility—let us put it no higher than that—of a Channel Tunnel being constructed at some future date; and, really, in planning the transport policy of the country we must look ahead to that possibility.
Now the noble Lord wants us to hold back on this acquisition of land until the whole story about our Channel Tunnel intentions is published, presumably in a White Paper or some other Parliamentary document later on. But would that not be rather a pity? Would it not enable the speculators to rush in, as we know speculators do rush in wherever any large-scale land acquisition is proposed? It would mean that a lot of people would get rich at the expense of the British taxpayer. If it is foreshadowed that at some time we shall be embarking upon a Channel Tunnel project, then financially it is very prudent on the part of the Government to make such acquisitions of land as are necessary as far in advance as is possible, so that they do not buy at unnecessarily 966 inflated prices. I feel that if we were putting forward this comprehensive transport policy and omitted to make any mention whatsoever of the possibility of a Channel Tunnel, then we might have been open to well-deserved criticism from the Benches opposite. I do not know what my noble friend is going to do about this Amendment, but I am quite content that the clause should remain as it is set out in its original form in the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Why the noble Lord, just because we are asking the Government not to acquire land until they have decided to go ahead on a project, should think that we therefore do not want to go into the Common Market, I cannot understand. It is the most illogical form of argument I have ever heard. As to speculators, when the Government come to acquire land for the Channel Tunnel they have, so far as I am aware, their compulsory powers. I do not think the question of speculators comes into it. Even if they acquire the land to-day, people in that part of England, which I know very well, all think that there is probably going to be a Channel Tunnel; and so any speculation by people buying in the hope that the tunnel will be on the land they have bought has already occurred. I think the noble Lord is rather off the rails.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
The noble Viscount knows that if compulsory powers are exercised, they are exercised on the basis of the market rate ruling at that time. If that time happens to be after the Government have issued a White Paper saying, "We are definitely going into the Channel Tunnel", then those scales of prices will be considerably inflated; and I do not want to see land speculators cashing in on what should be a very worthy national effort.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
If the Government buy the land for the Channel Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel does not materialise, then the Government are going to lose money. You cannot have it both ways.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
As a Scottish Minister being asked to deal with an Amendment on the Channel Tunnel, I felt that at least my remit was a little wider than it usually is. In the middle of the firing here I began to wonder whether I should ask permission to enter into what appeared to be a private argument between the two noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has spoken principally to Clause 138, the setting up of a Channel Tunnel Council, although strictly his Amendment is to Clause 137. But I must admit that in due course he related his remarks on Clause 138 to his Amendment. Perhaps he will forgive me if I deal first of all with the Amendment to Clause 137 and then go on to the wider aspects which he has raised.
The present clause—that is, Clause 137—does not seek to empower the Minister to acquire land compulsorily for the Tunnel. Any land which needs to be compulsorily acquired will in due course be the subject of further legislation, with the usual safeguards for the rights of individuals, in a full Channel Tunnel Bill for the project as a whole; for example, by use of the hybrid Bill procedure, in which acquisition of specific areas is authorised by the Bill itself, or by applying the usual compulsory purchase order procedures. Meanwhile, extensive consultations must be carried out with the planning authority and other local interests on the location of the various works and facilities. In the course of this process, plans may well be published as the requirements are defined, though such plans will necessarily be provisional until Parliament has passed the appropriate enabling legislation for the project as a whole.
No further safeguard for the landowner seems necessary in circumstances where the Minister is enabled to acquire only by negotiated agreement on terms acceptable to the vendor. Indeed, the Amendment which is now being discussed by the Committee would have the opposite effect to the intended one, since it would in practice reduce the Minister's power to alleviate hardship. It would be unduly restrictive to insist upon publication of the overall requirement in all cases before an individual piece of land is acquired under this subsection. For example, in the case where land is to be acquired 968 at the owner's request it may become clear that a particular plot of land cannot be sold on the market at a reasonable price because of the possible effect of the Tunnel. This can well happen at a stage before the overall areas to be safeguarded against conflicting developments have been established. It could cause hardship to the owner of a particular plot if the Minister had no discretionary power in these circumstances to buy at the owner's request. In the case of land required for the study period, the particular requirement may once again be abundantly clear before the overall requirement has been established.
Admittedly, by the time this Bill becomes law the stage may well have been reached where tentative overall plans delineating terminal areas will have been made available—for example to local authorities for consultation—but we cannot be certain that such plans, issued as working documents for purposes of discussion and perhaps illustrating alternatives, will at any particular time be suitable for use as justificatory statements on the lines envisaged in the proposed Amendment.
In the case of the public at large, it may be argued that unless the Minister has to publish a clear indication of the overall land requirement for the Channel Tunnel before exercising his powers under this clause, Parliament and the public will not be able to judge whether he has sufficient justification for bringing the land in question into public ownership at public expense. With the clause as it stands, the Minister must be of the opinion, before purchasing land, that it is likely to be required for the Channel Tunnel. It is true that he is not bound to show evidence in support of that opinion; but the clause is intended to prevent hardship, and if he were unable to buy an individual plot without stating an overall requirement, hardship could result.
May I now go on to Clause 138? First of all, I should like to help the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, by giving him an unequivocal "Yes" in answer to the assurance which he sought. On this matter, the final decision to go ahead will be subject to an Anglo-French Treaty establishing the line of the Tunnel, providing for the setting up of an Anglo-French Public Operating Authority, and for the terms on which the Operating 969 Authority will remunerate the construction company. It will be subject to legislation in the United Kingdom to approve the project, which will enable the Government to fulfil the obligations of the Treaty, to set up and empower the financing and operating bodies and to give the necessary land rights for the Tunnel works in the United Kingdom.
Noble Lords may ask why there should be interim legislation now. To give the full reasons would endanger our prospects of getting through all we hoped this evening; but I think I can state briefly the reasons for legislating at this stage. First, the planning of United Kingdom terminals as part of the essential preparations for fuller legislation has now reached the stage when property may be blighted. There is strong pressure on the Ministry to publish information on the areas required for terminal facilities. We cannot do this without power to deal with the consequential effects on property owners. It was for this reason that Clause 137 was included in the Bill which, unlike Clause 138, I would remind noble Lords, was in the Bill from the beginning. Clause 138, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, rightly said, came in at a later stage.
The second point is that Anglo-French negotiations have now reached a stage where the need for the operating authority or its forerunner in the shape of the Planning Council during the preliminary study period has become clear. The studies, some of which are essential preliminaries to fuller legislation, cannot proceed without the Planning Council; so interim legislation is essential. In France, an equivalent organisation can be set up without legislation. The British side might therefore be responsible for delay to the project if the Planning Council cannot be set up by the end of this year. The Government did not put provisions in the original Bill because it is only recently that negotiations have clarified the requirements sufficiently to draft enabling provisions even in the fairly general terms of Clause 138. We were simply not ready last year when the main body of the Bill was; drafted.
I do not know whether I should make my next remark. I think that probably it is true enough. Anglo-French negotiations do not always marry easily into 970 the Parliamentary time table. The Minister could have waited until the Commons Report Stage or the introduction of the Bill into this House before tabling the new clause but he thought it was right to table it as soon as it was ready, so as to give maximum time—even though noble Lords may think it is the minimum time—for discussions.
The provisions are appropriate to the Transport Bill which, from the outset, contained a clause on the Channel Tunnel. The provisions were hardly of sufficient import to warrant a completely separate Bill which, as the Committee will appreciate, must of necessity take up a good deal more Parliamentary time. I hope that I have allayed the fears of noble Lords about our commitments through the legislation which is in this Bill. I hope that the assurance that I have given to the noble Lord in the most unequivocal terms will satisfy him and I hope that he will agree that what the Government are doing in Clause 137 is in the interests of individual landowners and that it would not be in their interests for the noble Lord to press his Amendment.
§ LORD AIREDALE
Can the Minister confirm that Anglo-French negotiations are going well and can he say whether there is any truth in a rumour which is circulating at the present time that there is to be a mid-Channel escalator to connect an English channel tunnel with a French channel bridge?
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I thank the noble Lord for his careful and detailed answer. I may say that the purpose of my Amendment was not to give any special safeguards to private landowners; neither did I ask for anything of the kind. I do not doubt that those who have bought land in the neighbourhood have done so with their eyes open for many years now. I am quite content to let the market follow its natural course. I felt, I suppose, slightly guilty when listening to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland; because, quite evidently, I failed to explain my position in discussing the general project. I meant to convey that possibly there could be other connections with the Continent 971 which would be of even better value than the Channel Tunnel. Of course whether or not we have a Channel Tunnel is neither here nor there in relation to our possible entry into the Common Market; but the pros and cons of the Channel Tunnel are a very much more complex matter. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, did not say anything about the possibility of a White Paper within the measurable future which would give the whole picture of the Channel Tunnel and alternative methods of transport. I hope that this will be forthcoming within the next six months. The sooner that public opinion is admitted to the picture, the better.
§ LORD HUGHES
The noble Lord would not expect me to commit myself and my colleagues to any period. I can say without fear of contradiction that this Government have not shown themselves reluctant to issue White Papers.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
The noble Lord has a point there. Many have been issued and another one or two will not come amiss. But, joking apart, this would help to dispel anxiety and to carry public opinion with the Government in whatever course they are going to follow. I was reassured to hear that legislation will be necessary: first of all, an Anglo-French treaty and then an Anglo-French operating company. I apprehend, from what was said in another place, that the Channel Tunnel Council would be the English half of this body in due course. My concern here was primarily to ensure that we are not at this stage committed to the project itself; that this is entirely a preparatory stage. I think the burden of the noble Lord's speech gave the assurance that we wanted. I am not concerned with the private interests of landlords; I am concerned with the public interest of the people to make sure that what we do here is the right thing. I think we are sufficiently reassured and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 137 agreed to.
§ Clause 138 agreed to.972
§ Schedule 15 [Channel Tunnel Operating Council]:
§ 8.48 p.m.
LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 310:
Page 254, line 17, leave out ("two nor more than four") and insert ("four nor more than six")
The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment which is entirely self-explanatory. The Schedule sets out in paragraph 2:
The Council shall consist of not less than two nor more than four members appointed by the Minister and the Minister shall appoint one of those members to be chairman and another of those members to be deputy chairman of the Council.
§ If the Minister appoints only two, the Council will consist of a chairman and a deputy chairman. I am very much in favour of small bodies; but this one seems to have been reduced to a mini-size. I feel bound to ask the noble Lord whether such a streamlined body as this is really big enough to carry out the multifarious duties required. Perhaps the noble Lord will let us into the secret of how this mini-Council is going to work. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
The Government thought that they had good reasons for keeping the Council very small. Its job is to take part in the preliminary study period which must precede the final decision to build the tunnel. The studies will be carried out by two bodies: the Council, acting with its French counterpart as the forerunner of the Anglo-French public authority, which will operate the tunnel, and the Study Company set up by the private financing group who will be responsible for the tunnel's construction.
The clause as it stands says that the Channel Tunnel Planning Council would consist of not less than two and not more than four, so it would not necessarily be confined to a chairman and a deputy chairman. It raises the interesting thought that if the deputy chairman ever had to function in those circumstances, over whom would he exercise his chairmanship. It is "not less than two nor more than four", or, as the Amendment suggests, "four nor more than six", and I do not think we should be inclined to argue that the slightly larger body suggested by the noble Lord would in any 973 way impair the principles that we are seeking; and as a hope for favours which may yet come from him, I am prepared to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I must thank the noble Lord for his generosity. I am bound to say that, knowing that £1 million was going to this council I was thinking of applying for one of the jobs myself. It is not quite so attractive now, but nevertheless the consolation of getting my Amendment accepted is so great that I thank the noble Lord very much.
§ Schedule 15 agreed to.
§ Clause 139 [Transfer and disposal of historical records and relics]:
LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 311:
Page 189, line 4, leave out ("records and").
§ The noble Lord said: Clause 139, concerning the disposal of historical records and relics, has caused considerable interest and a good deal of disquiet. It fell under the guillotine in another place so that it has not yet been debated either in this House or by the House of Commons. My noble friends and I have tabled three Amendments, Nos. 311, 312 and 313. The first two concern the historical records and the third concerns the transport relics. It might, therefore, be convenient to speak to Amendments Nos. 311 and 312 together.
§ These two Amendments are designed to safeguard the historical records in the possession of the Railways Board. Under Clause 139 the records are dealt with in exactly the same way as the historical relics. Indeed, the two are linked together in a single phrase. If the Bill goes on the Statute Book in its present form, it will have the effect of putting an end to an extremely efficient and valuable archive service which is now administered by the Railways Board and which was originally established by the British Transport Commission. There is here the prospect of an expensive, short-sighted and, in a way, historic mistake. If it is to be avoided, I think it is necessary to examine carefully The thinking behind the concept that railway records, which means papers, and railway relics, which 974 means objects (and sometimes large objects such as locomotives) should be treated as one.
§ The assumption that relics aid records are complementary and inseparable, and should therefore be preserved together in a single museum, rests on the proposition that the records form the documentation of the relics. The British Records Association have set up a special committee of their Council to examine this relationship, and in their report they have argued most effectively that this connection is not established. For the most part, the relics, they point out, have been preserved by chance and have been artificially reassembled in the Transport Museum at Clapham and in two smaller collections in York and Swindon. These museums, in particular the Clapham Museum, are the subject of Amendment No. 313.
§ On the other hand, the records are the working papers of the organisations which preceded the present Boards, that is, the British Railways Board and the London Board, and they were preserved originally for business and administrative use in the same way as any other papers. Although they have since become of no particular use to the Railways Board, they have become a major source of documents for the study of economic and social history. They are not a collection of eclectic museum exhibits in themselves, nor do they document other exhibits. They may, and do, contain documents concerning, for example, the purchase and operation of locomotives and other equipment which is now preserved among the relics; but such material forms an infinitesimal part of the whole and so these records, these papers, are, in short, an organic and systematically assembled unity.
§ The records differ from the relics not only in kind but also significantly in the use to which they are put. The transport relics are in the main a tourist attraction, although they do have a useful educational purpose in bringing 19th and 20th century industrial technology alive for schoolchildren. The records, on the other hand, are used mainly by research workers who also need access to the Reading Room at the British Museum, to the Public Record Office and to the Record Office of your Lordships' House where 975 the Private Acts of Parliament concerning railways are kept.
§ These records, the subject of Clause 139, are at present housed in London in a building known as the Railways Board Record Office, which has been converted and equipped to provide proper storage and proper access. The staff have been specially trained and are knowledgeable about the records and their contents. This Bill provides that both the records and the relics—these two which are linked together in a single sentence—should be transferred to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I understand that the records will not be regarded as records of that Department, and it this is so they will not rank as public records. They will not be defined as public records under the Public Records Act 1958. Therefore, the usual procedures concerning review, accessibility and disposal will not apply to this extremely important collection of documents. I think that this evening we must ask the Government—this is a serious matter which has given rise to a great deal of disquiet from those who know most about it—for their reasoning on this point: why the records are not to be regarded as public records under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958.
§ Further to this, it is proposed by the Department of Education and Science that when they receive the relics and the records, both should be placed in the care of the Science Museum as an addition to their permanent collection. These, it is intended, will be located together in York where a special building is planned for constructional conversion which, in the case of the records alone, will cost £60,000. We will come on to the proposals at York for a national transport museum on the next Amendment. The cost there is half a million pounds, but just the building for the records will cost an estimated £60,000.
§ Therefore, in conclusion, the two professional bodies which have studied this matter—the Society of Archivists and the British Records Association—have both come to the conclusion that the linking of records and relics in Clause 139 is a mistaken concept. To avoid a costly and damaging mistake, these Amendments seek to separate records from relics, and to make appropriate provision for the 976 proper preservation of this important collection. I beg to move.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I rise to support this Amendment and in doing so I think I should declare an interest, for, though I cannot claim to be speaking for it, I have been for many years a member of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. I should add that, for this reason, what I say will relate not to the relics, interesting and important though they no doubt are, but only to the records.
The Royal Commission are greatly disturbed about the dangers which may well flow for the records from the proposals of this clause. The importance of early industrial records I am sure needs no emphasis to noble Lords who sit in this House. They form, as we all know, an essential part of the history of our country. Up to now, so far as the railways have been concerned, great care has been taken to preserve them in the custody of the Railways Board—those, as I think we have just been told, of the West and South-West in London, and those of the Eastern area in York. But the proposals which are incorporated in this clause are likely to play havoc with these existing arrangements. For all the records—both those relating specifically to railways, and to what are described by the rather obscure term "relevant authority", which I understand means bodies concerned with canals, road transport and things of that kind—are to be concentrated at York alone. There they will be in a far more inconvenient place, if I may say so, than they would be if they were left in London.
There they are to be handed over by the Railways Board to the Ministry of Education and Science. At that point, so far as I can see, anything might conceivably happen to them. For under subsection (1)(b) the Minister will be empowered to,transfer, without consideration or by way of sale, to any other person, or otherwise dispose of, any of these records…That is what could happen under this clause to this great collection of records dealing with railways and canals, the early history of which is so important to us, and which without these records might very easily be lost.
The free hand that is to be given to the Railways Board and to the Minister 977 is underlined by the words of subsection (6) of Clause 139, which states that the powers I have describedshall have effect notwithstanding anything in the schemes in force under paragraph 1(5) of Schedule 6 to the Act of 1962 (which impose duties as to the preservation of the historical records…vested in the Railways Board by that Act) and the Railways Board may, with the approval of the Minister, vary or revoke any such scheme so far as appears to the Board and the Minister to be expedient…I repeat that it seems that under the wording of this clause they can do anything they like with these valuable records: they can break up the collections, which have been amassed with some care; they can give some portion to one place and another portion to another; they can sell some, if they like; they can give away others; they car destroy yet more; they can burn them, if they feel so inclined, and if they are in agreement on the subject, without it being in the power of anyone else to stop them. I cannot see why.
Why should not those records be left where they are, and where they can be made available in their entirety most easily to research students? Why should these great collections of records be, in any circumstances, broken up? Why should the Bill give power for them to be broken up? Why should not they be designated, as we have already been told, as public records which would give them automatically the protection afforded to public records? Amendment No. 312 which has just been moved is, I understand, intended to achieve this purpose. I must confess that I am not entirely happy about the exact wording of Amendment No. 312. I cannot quite see why records less than 30 years old should not come within the ambit of the Board. For within a very few years they will qualify by becoming more than 30 years old, and by that time very likely they may have been destroyed.
I beg the Government not to reject this Amendment, but to accept it, in principle, with the exact wording subject to further discussion. They could surely do this without any loss of face. I find it more shocking than anything else that this clause, as I understand, was passed through another place without any consideration or discussion, under the guillotine. If the wording needs amendment, I feel sure that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, would not object to that. The 978 important thing, I would emphasise, is the purpose of the Amendment, and on that surely we can all, in whatever part of the Committee we sit, be agreed.
§ LORD HURCOMB
I intervene in your Lordships' debate on this subject because I took a great interest in these matters of both records and relics when I became Chairman of the British Transport Commission. I thought then, and I think now, that the whole significance of collections of this kind depends upon their being brought properly together. If it is convenient to the course of the debate, I shall defer anything I have to say about relics, which are in a different category, and limit what I have to say now to records. I think—and when there was a Transport Commission, it thought—not in terms of railways or roads, docks or canals, but in terms of transport, and a great many of these relics and records relating to different forms of transport are nevertheless closely connected.
But now, on the subject of records, may I ask the Government what they are doing about the records of the gas industry, the electricity industry, the coal industry, and the iron and steel industry? As the noble Marquess has just said, all these records are of very great importance to economists and economic historians, and it really will be intolerable if they are told, when they want to look up something of the past history of the railways, that they must go to York to find what they want, only to discover then that some of it is in Edinburgh, because it is of interest to Scotland, and some of it is at Clapham Junction, or somewhere else, because it is of interest to London Transport, while some of it the Secretary of State for Education and Science thought might be torn up and thrown away.
These collections have been brought together and, as I say, this matter goes beyond transport. I therefore repeat: What are the Government doing about the records of these other great nationalised industries? The documents relating to the growth of electricity in this country are of enormous importance, not merely to antiquaries or historians, but also to scientific men; and that they should be treated in the way this clause indicates seems to me quite wrong.
I join in the appeal of the noble Marquess and the noble Lord who moved 979 the Amendment, to the Government not to reject these Amendments, but to agree to think the whole substance of this clause over again. It seems to me that the thinking of the Government, and the Railways Board behind them, has gone wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when I raised these issues on the Second Reading debate, excused himself from replying to me on the ground that I was not in my place at the very late hour at which he spoke. But he also very courteously wrote to me a full letter setting out the Government's reasons for the clause.
Among other things, they said they had consulted the Steering Group. The Joint Steering Group, however, had certainly not consulted the historians or the archivists to whom the noble Marquess has referred, and they took what seems to me an entirely wrong approach. They started off by listing what they called "obligations from the past". Among obligations from the past are level crossings and bridges, pensions, relics and records. What a way to look at interesting and valuable scientific relics of the great engineers of the past! What a way to look at the documents embodying the whole history of the growth of the great industry of railways! It seems to me a completely misguided approach, and I think that this is where it has gone wrong. People who think in that way have no conception of what historians and economists and other people really want to find.
It may be that the iron horse has run its course, as they say, and that the railway age will not recur. But one never knows. After all, it is not many years ago that Professor Clapham wrote a very important economic work and called it The Railway Age. But people are still interested, economists are still interested, in tracing the course of our economic life during the 19th century, and they will want access to all these documents. So the British Transport Commission proposed, and indeed insisted, that the records of all the railway companies should be properly brought together, properly housed, and moreover—this is important—should be put in charge of a competent archivist, whom we in fact appointed. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether it is intended to 980 retain the appointment of a competent archivist in charge of this collection, or whether he is to be regarded as "an obligation of the past" and shown the door.
I would suggest to the Government that they should reconsider their whole approach and policy in regard to this matter and accept the argument, which I am sure any economist and any historian would support, that the collection of these railway documents—and I would say also all the London Transport documents, and many of the canal and dock documents—should be treated as a transport collection and carefully preserved, made accessible and put in charge of a competent archivist. As the noble Marquess has said, the Government would not lose face by so doing.
I think that the present decision has been taken without full regard to the interest which these documents possess. Of course there may be some unnecessary paper about, and I would not say that every scrap of paper relating to railways should be preserved for ever. But those are problems which the Public Record Office, under the control of successive Masters of the Rolls, have easily dealt with.
If I am not boring your Lordships, perhaps I may give just one instance. Many of the subsidiary companies which the railways have absorbed had their own minute books, and they usually sent copies of their minutes to the parent companies or to companies which had heavy investments in them. There may be some duplication there, and there may be some case for sending the minute books of the particular companies back to South Wales, or wherever it was. But those are minor problems, and it does not need all this machinery to cure that. So I would appeal for a review of the approach to this problem, which I think has been fundamentally wrong, and I urge the Government to accept the views which I am afraid I took for granted. I did not myself ask historians and economists what they wanted done. I assumed that what I was doing was what they would want, and I am glad to know that they are now in agreement on that.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
I also warmly support the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. This clause is based on 981 the recommendations of the Joint Steering Group, and in particular paragraphs C.16 and C.17 of their summary of recommendations, contained in Appendix C to Command Paper 3439. In my speech on Second Reading I commended the work of this Joint Steering Group and I thought—and still think—that they have been responsible for many of the best parts of the Bill that is before us. On this question of relics and records, I believe that they have spoken well in several cases. They have said that there is a strong case for preserving the relics and the records. They have given reasons for their opinion, and they have also made it clear that in their view the British Railways Board should not remain responsible for financing the custody of either the relics or the records in the future. I think that is right. A burden is being put on the British Railways Board, and an addition should not be made for this kind of thing.
It seems that the recommendations of the Joint Steering Group involved the placing of the records and relics at York. Why does this appear in their recommendations? It seems to those noble Lords who have spoken so far on this matter to be a great mistake, and it appears so to me. What is the reason for this recommendation? It is clearly because they have been set a financial limit to their recommendations. It becomes quite clear, as one reads their report, that they have been told that not a penny must be spent beyond what can be obtained from disposing of the existing establishments at Clapham and York. That is why this recommendation is before us.
It is most unsuitable for the records to go to York, and I think we should attach more importance to them than is attached in the Joint Steering Group's recommendations. One hundred and fifty years ago this country led the world in railway technology, and we should be proud of it. I suggest to your Lordships that the day is coming when we can be proud of it again. Recently I have had the opportunity to be present at an international railway congresss, in company with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb. There I listened to members of the British Railways leading the way in the discussions on the future of the railways, and I heard one member after another from foreign railway systems standing up and 982 praising the work that is being done in England in the research and development of railway technology. I think it is a great mistake to look upon these records as just bits of paper from the past that can be disposed of in the most convenient way, so long as it does not cost any money. I hope, with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, that the Government will look at this whole matter again to see whether they cannot make better arrangements for the maintenance of these valuable records.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
I should like to intervene just for a short moment. Do I gather, from the speeches of some of the noble Lords, that they feel that the centralisation of these records in London is the best thing that could happen to them? The Highlands Railway of Scotland has perhaps some of the most interesting history of any railway in Great Britain. Did I gather from the noble Lord that to keep the records in Edinburgh would be to keep them in the wrong place? Is there any merit in taking these records now, with all the duplication and photographic powers that are with us now, to a centralised area, like London? Why not York? York is as easily reached by students, and more easily travelled in than London when they do reach it. So I would say that this idea of the centralisation of records is behind the times and, indeed, is not in the interests of the individual areas that built these records up.
§ LORD HURCOMB
May I answer the noble Lord on my own account? So far as the Scottish railways are concerned, I can see no great objection to their records reposing in Edinburgh, provided they are properly catalogued and the record of what is there is in the central collection, so that anybody who wants to study that will know just where to go. I would not carry that dispersal beyond Scotland. May I remind noble Lords that before the amalgamation of 1921 there were some 114 separate railways: and we really cannot contemplate the centres of all those railways asking for their own particular documents back.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
So far as our proposals are concerned, the Railways Board Record Office in London would retain precisely the records that it has 983 now, with the staff and the archivist referred to by Lord Hurcomb; and those records which are in Edinburgh would remain exactly where they are. What would the noble Lord say if under the Government's proposals his records in Edinburgh were moved to York and centralised in York?
§ LORD FERRIER
I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, talked about the development of the English railways, and I wondered whether it was on that account that the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, rose to speak. I am informed by my grandchildren that the Railway Museum in Glasgow is one of the most interesting places in Scotland. It occurs to me that although Edinburgh is an important place in terms of Cowlairs, developments of the Caledonian Cardean-type engines, and the like, which are great contributions to the whole development of the steam locomotives, perhaps Glasgow is as important as Edinburgh in respect of Scottish railway development.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I think I have heard in this debate the best argument yet against the operation of the guillotine in another place. As has been stated, this matter has not been discussed before, and that is unfortunate, because the absence of any discussion in another place has allowed the most extraordinary series of misconceptions to grow up about what the Government intend, which could not possibly have taken place if there had been even a cursory discussion in another place. The Government are being accused of seeking to destroy, or to permit the destruction and the dispersion of, these records. The very opposite is the intention. Let me just point out what the Government intend—and I am confining my remarks, as did the noble Lord. Lord Windlesham, and the other noble Lords who have spoken, to the record side. We shall come to a discussion of relics in due Course.
What is the present position? There is not a single collection of records at the present time there are three collections of records maintained by the Railways Board just now. There is the collection in London, there is the collec- 984 tion in York and there is the collection in Edinburgh. So when we talk about breaking up an essential collection, let us get the first of the facts right. The collection maintained in Edinburgh relates almost entirely to the history and culture of Scotland, and accordingly it is appropriate, and the clause makes provision for this, that the Secretary of State for Scotland should take this over if he so wishes. I am happy to say that he does so wish, and I am sure the Committee will agree—I am certain the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, will agree—that that is the best and most appropriate home for the Edinburgh collection.
As to the London and York records, we propose, if it is financially possible, that an annex should be built to the proposed Transport Museum at York to house all the records now in London and the records in York which are worth preserving under one roof. Those records will be in the charge of the Department of Education and Science; and while I have no wish to belittle, because it would be quite wrong for me to do so, the splendid care which the Railways Board and their predecessors, the British Transport Commission, have given to these records, I am certain the Committee must agree that the Department of Education and Science, to put it at the least, are as well qualified to have custody of them.
Where do the anxieties lie? The doubts which have been expressed here, and which have been expressed to my right honourable friend, fall broadly into two classes: first, that the records now in London should be removed to York, and secondly, that the collections so devotedly built up over the years should be destroyed or dispersed. I would say a word about both those points of view. I should not wish to disagree that from a scholar's point of view there is not necessarily any close link between records and relics. Further, it is of course true that people wishing to study the railway records might wish to consult other records, many of which may be in London. For instance, there are the originals of the old private railway company Acts.
Against this we must weigh the administrative and financial convenience of the move to York and of accommodating the records in the new museum at York, and 985 also the benefits;, which I do not think should be overlooked, of having the York and London records all under one roof. I must admit, corning from Scotland, that I cannot find myself impressed in the slightest by the argument that when you propose to move something from the North of England to London or from Scotland to London that is a good thing, but when you propose to move something from London to somewhere else it is as if one were moving it beyond the snow line. In the time it takes to get from King's Cross to Clapham you can be more than half way to York. It depends how you are going; you do not need to go by rail. I travel regularly from Edinburgh to London, and it will be no surprise to most of your Lordships, and certainly not to my fellow Scots, because they confirm it, that it takes longer to get from Heathrow to your Lordships' House than from Turnhouse to Heathrow. So the idea that moving out of London is something that ought not to be thought of is one, I must admit, which does not appeal to me. I can assure the Committee that we have had no objections from anybody in York or the North of England to this proposed transfer.
The second point is a more serious one. This is the suggestion that under the new dispensation the collections of records—and I am told they date from as far back as 1699—which have been so carefully built up should be dispersed or destroyed. Nothing is further from the truth. When the noble Marquess was reading from the clause about what could be done, the way in which they could be given away, they could be sold, they could be put in the dustbin, they could be burned, he did not seem to know that not one of these documents can be disposed of in any of these ways without the consent of the Minister. And that is a position which does not exist at the present time. The Minister's consent for these things to be disposed of is not necessary just now.
We accept that the preservation which has gone on so well, even without safeguards from the Minister, is something which should be continued. We entirely accept that where these records are concerned the collections which have been assembled are of much greater value than the total value of the individual items.
986 A good part of the value consists in their being a collection, and I would suggest to your Lordships that putting together the York and London collections must inevitably enhance their value, because for the first time, at least, those other than the Scottish records will be compete in one collection. It is not proposed to break up the collections in such a way that we retain only documents which have a specific value taken in isolation. The integrity of the collections as a whole will be respected. We are advised that one or two of the less interesting documents, or duplicated documents, might conveniently be weeded out; but this will be subject to the safeguards which are written into the clause, and without these safeguards even these documents cannot be disposed of.
I must stress that no record may be disposed of without the consent of my right honourable friend. He has given an assurance that the appropriate experts will always be consulted before consenting to the disposal of any single document. How much further in the interests of preserving a document can we go? It is not the Minister alone who is going to say that it will go. He is going to say only after lie has consulted experts.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but he said that the Minister has given this far-reaching assurance. When did he give it, and to whom? This has not been before the House of Commons at all.
§ LORD HUGHES
I do not know where he has given the assurance. It ought to be sufficient for your Lordships that I, in this Committee in your Lordships' House, say that an assurance has been given, and I now repeat it on behalf of my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not wish to intervene again, but the noble Lord must understand that this Minister is not the only or the last Minister who will be occupying this position. Reading from Clause 139(1)(b), the Bill says that the Minister cantransfer, without consideration or by way of sale, to any other person, or otherwise dispose of, any of those records or relics.It says that the Minister can do that. What the noble Lord says is that this Minister says that he will not. I fully accept that. But I do not think that the 987 Bill ought to go so far as to say that the Minister could do that.
§ LORD HUGHES
It does not say that the Minister can do this; it says that the Railways Board may do this with the consent of the Minister. There are two parties concerned before this can be done. Up to the present the Railways Board have shown a commendable desire to preserve these records. When they are in fact freed of any financial obligation in connection with their preservation, why should we suspect that now the Railways Board will have any desire to recommend that the records should be disposed of, and should invite the Minister to do so? What reason have we to believe that when the Minister invites the opinion of experts before agreeing to such a request, the experts also would, quite inexplicably, wish to dispose of records which are worth while?
In the interval, I have been told where the Minister gave this assurance. The assurance was given by the Minister in a letter which he wrote to the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, as President of the British Records Association. It is in correspondence in that way, and it is now confirmed, or it will be confirmed in due course in the records of your Lordships' House. One knows, and we have had this already this evening, that one Parliament cannot commit another. But this is not the sort of thing which would ever become the subject of Party argument. One cannot see any large economic measures flowing from this. This is the sort of undertaking given by one Minister which one can expect logically and reasonably to be continued from one holder of the office to another, from one Parliament to another, without any difficulty.
It may interest the House to know that the proposed clause, so far as the chief worries are concerned, in fact will make very litle difference to what could happen under the existing law. The chief difference it makes is to provide more, and not less, security for the records. Under the existing law the Railways Board are charged with preserving the records, but there is nothing to say where they may be preserved. The Board may, with the agreement of the other transport authorities, keep them in London, York, or anywhere else they wish.
988 As to the power of disposal, again the Railways Board, with the consent of the other authorities and without consulting the Minister of Transport, may at the moment dispose of any material which is no longer required to be preserved as part of the records. Accordingly, what the Clause makes possible—and I must emphasise that these are not firm decisions, but possibilities which the Clause permits—is the placing of the records in the hands of those well able to look after them, the experts at the Department of Education and Science and, secondly, to make the Minister's consent necessary for any disposal whatsoever. It seems to me that from an archivist's point of view these are improvements on the present position.
I was asked about the position of the archivist who looks after these records at present. I inquired about this myself because it seemed to me that if he was an employee of British Railways and the British Railways Board were no longer to have responsibility for these records, they would probably not need to continue to employ an archivist. The position quite clearly is that this officer, if he wishes to transfer and to continue to do this work, will have the opportunity to do so. He may, of course, elect not to transfer and wish to seek employment elsewhere. That would be his privilege, but he has his rights. I would assure your Lordships that there will be the most complete willingness to continue this archivist in his work. I think the noble Lord wishes me to give way.
§ LORD HURCOMB
It is very good of the noble Lord to say that. My point was not so much about the personal position of the existing archivist as to make sure that a competent archivist will remain in charge of these records. I would not have thought, subject to correction, that the Department of Science and Education itself employed archivists or had anything to do with the direct custody of any collections at all, but if the noble Lord will say that a competent archivist will be in charge of these records in future then I think he has completely met my point.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I wonder whether the noble Lord would have one other consideration in mind: records become archives in the course of time.
989 I should have thought that the future managers of the whole of our transport are bound to have an archivist to look after their records which will eventually become archives. We shall then have two separate series of archives, one held by the Minister of Education and Science and the other with the current records.
§ LORD HUGHES
I think I can follow what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, asked. I spoke about the personal position of the present archivist because it may well be that if he wishes to transfer he may well be the best qualified person to look after the joint collection at York. We would accept that this will be the responsibility of an archivist, if not the present one then another one suitably qualified. The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, will forgive me if I do not follow up his point. As a matter of fact, I should be glad if he would repeat it, since I did not quite get the beginning of his question.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
The point is that any organisation, whether it is Government, local government or a commercial firm, has records which in due course become archives. It is essential for any body to have an archivist. The fact is that in the course of time the current records will become archives, if I can differentiate between them in that way, and half the transport archives will be gathered in one place and the gradually accruing ones will be held in another.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I do not think this is an argument against what I have said but rather an argument in its favour, because one of the problems at the moment is that they are not in one place and we wish to avoid having two separate collections. At the moment, part is in London and part is in York, and we think it is a reasonable policy that they should be in one place and having regard to the general policy of the Government in seeking to move things out of London, it would be surely better to take the London records to York rather than to bring the York records to London.
There is one other thing I should have mentioned: the impression was created that all we had done was to act on the advice of the Steering Group.
990 We had consultations, and one of the bodies consulted was the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, whom the Department of Education and Science always consult on these matters. They have said they are satisfied with what is proposed for both the records and the relics.
I am not sufficiently versed in these matters to be able to say whether or not that is a substitute for not consulting somebody else, but I am quite satisfied, from what I have heard in this debate and from what I have read, that a great many of the misgivings quite genuinely held in this matter could never have been formed had there been discussion at a much earlier stage in another place. That is no reason why the Government should depart from what is essentially a sound proposal, because people have formed their own opinion about it in the interval. It is because we are convinced that this will preserve these wonderful collections in an even better way than has been possible in the past. It fits in with the requirement that the railways are to be a commercial concern, and that therefore it is not proper for them to be charged with the responsibility of looking after these records. This was a responsibility placed on them in the past, which merely meant that the deficit was increased and that in due course they would get the whole lot back from the Government. They are not going to have deficit financing now, and it is therefore appropriate that these things should be looked at in their proper context.
I think I might be unduly optimistic if were to try to persuade myself that the misgivings which have, I think erroneously, grown up over the period of two months may all be dispersed in the answers which I have given to your Lordships. What I am quite certain of is that anyone who is listening to this argument for the first time and has come to it without any preconceived opinions on the matter, formed erroneously or correctly, will at least have reasonable grounds to believe that what the Government are doing is perfectly reasonable, intelligent and defensible.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have two questions to put to the noble Lord. He referred to a letter which was written by the Minister to Lord Denning. Could the House have the text of that 991 letter, for it is very important that it should be on record? My second question is this: was Lord Denning satisfied with the reply which he received from the Minister?
§ LORD HUGHES
I do not think the noble Marquess is being at all reasonable in this matter. I have stated that the Minister has given an assurance. The noble Marquess asked when the Minister gave the assurance, and I have told him when it was given. I have told the Committee the form in which it was given, and I have repeated the assurance on behalf of the Government. I do not think that he is justified in asking that this letter should go into the Record. If he wants to go to Lord Denning and ask him for both sides of the subject and Lord Denning is willing to give it, I have not the slightest objection: it would not matter to me in the slightest. I think that I have discharged my obligation to your Lordships in giving the assurances and in answering questions. Beyond that I am not prepared to go, and I do not think that it is reasonable to ask me to go beyond that.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on making a fine fighting defence of his case, but there are certain points in his defence about which I did not feel convinced. His first point is that the Minister has given an assurance—which I am prepared to accept on its face value —that experts will be consulted before disposing of any document. But here this evening in this Chamber I have listened to experts: to my noble friend Lord Salisbury, who is a member of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts; to the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who has some knowledge of the railways; to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who has some knowledge of the railways. They have all given the noble Lord advice that the collection of records in London should remain in London. The advice of the Special Committee set up by the British Records Association was quite specific, that the records should remain in London in proximity to the headquarters of British Railways. These seem to be points of great importance to those noble Lords and others who are experts in this field.
992 The noble Lord quoted with confidence from the White Paper that not only had the Steering Group given their opinion and advice on this matter, but they had also consulted the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. That Commission would be primarily interested in the relics, and not in the records. It is the records that noble Lords have been telling the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, ought to stay in London. If the relics are to go to York, it may be that many people would like to see them remain in London, but it is not something anybody is going to the stake about.
§ LORD HUGHES
The Standing Commission were consulted on both records and on relics. Their answer was that they were in agreement on both.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
May I intervene once more, since I am a member of the Standing Commission? At that time there was no prospect of there being any place in London for them to be stored. The Museum at Clapham was going to be scrapped. There was no possibility of anything going anywhere other than to York.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
That does not seem to have helped the noble Lord very much. The noble Lord has received advice from the best sources he may have, which I do not doubt include many experts of great reputation; but this evening the noble Lord also has had the opposite advice from other great experts. This is at least enough to make the noble Lord hesitate before saying that the course which the Government intend to take is the right one. I have come to this matter with an uncommitted mind. We have put down this Amendment to give this matter an airing. I see the noble Lord smiling, but it has had no debate before, since the guillotine prevented any debate in another place. We are doing a service to the public in raising a debate on this matter, which is one of importance and about which many people feel very strongly.
I have been most interested to hear the debate as it has unfolded. I thought my noble friend Lord Windlesham made an extremely strong case, having prepared it with great care in order to put the facts before this Committee, but it is the contributions of noble Lords who 993 have direct personal experience in this matter which, certainly to my mind, carry the greatest weight. I am astonished that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, seems to be completely unimpressed by the advice which they have been giving to him. I should not myself feel content to accept the advice that he has given the Committee—that it should accept the Government's view and should not accept the Amendment.
I rather agree with the small point made by my noble friend Lord Salisbury that Amendment No. 312 may not be quite correct and should be further amended, perhaps on Report stage, but the general weight of the advice that has been given by those who have great personal experience is that this Amendment is right and that it is right to keep in London the records that are in London. If the noble Lord want to move the relics up to York, then let him, and nobody is going to quarrel with his keeping in Edinburgh the papers he wants to keep in Edinburgh.
§ LORD HUGHES
It is not a case of not accepting the advice that I have been given. Certain opinions have been expressed and I have, I think quite reasonably, pointed out that at least some of those opinions have been based on misconceptions as to what the Government propose to do. In these circumstances, it is not unreasonable that I should continue to rest the Government's case on the full consideration of the matter which they have given to it, taking into account all the circumstances. Inevitably, in matters of this kind there must be disagreement, even between experts. Governments must make up their minds on which side they are going to come down, and sometimes they will be wrong.
The precedents show that when Governments have accepted expert advice that it is wrong to move out of London, they have more frequently been wrong in taking that advice than when they have rejected it. The Forestry Commission's headquarters would not be in London to-day if the Government of the day had not listened to the advice of the experts that it had to be in London. A lot of the other Departments which we have been unable to move out of London would not be in London to-day if we 994 had not listened to the advice of the experts, who pointed out how impossible it is to get to Edinburgh, or Glasgow, or York, or Newcastle, or Cardiff or any of the other places to which their interests were going.
When one considers moving from London to somewhere else, there must inevitably be a matter of opinion in the decision. It may well be that I am not the proper person to form a conclusion on this matter, because I must admit, quite frankly, that I start off with the bias that the argument that London must be the centre for everything is not correct. If I am wrong in that, I am certainly wrong along with a great many people outside London.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
I should like to make one point in relation to what the noble Lord has said. He, unfortunately it seemed to me, gave the example of the Forestry Commission which moved from London. It did not move to where it ought to have moved it moved to Basingstoke. That seems to me about a, ridiculous an example as can be imagined, when the great majority of forestry is in Scotland.
§ LORD HUGHES
Exactly, and that is the point I made. The Government of the day accepted the advice of the experts that Basingstoke was the place to which it ought to move; whereas, if they had consulted anybody outside London, they would have been told that the right place to move it was Edinburgh, Perth or Inverness.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I am not surprised that the noble Lord says that London is not the right place to have everything, especially as he has managed to keep the records that he wants to keep in Edinburgh. It all seems to be coming out very well for him. But seriously, and joking apart, he has said, quite rightly, that this is not a Party controversy. This is something which we ought to be able to get agreement about. Surely the noble Lord will see the wisdom of taking this point back and looking at it again before Report stage. Noble Lords who lave given their advice to-night have not come here to make trouble; they have come here to try to get the best possible answer. This is the first public debate 995 there has been on this subject. It is absurd to insist that the Government view must be right because that is the advice the noble Lord has been given. He has now been given other advice. Why not take it back and have a look at it and see what is the best answer? The Committee is prepared to take a completely objective view on this subject.
§ LORD HURCOMB
The noble Lord has made great play with the fact that the archives are already divided between London and York, but is there anything in York except the records of the old North-Eastern Railway, whose headquarters it always was? I do not think it is quite fair to imply that there are two lots of things of much the same magnitude and order in two different places. If the noble Lord would look again at the point as to the records—I am not talking about the relics—he would find that the arguments for even perhaps moving York to London would be very strong, and the relics might go to York.
§ LORD HUGHES
If I have given the impression for one moment that the records in London and the records in York were of similar value, or that the collections were of similar size, I will without any hesitation withdraw that, but I thought I had made it perfectly clear that I was not in fact so suggesting; that there was not necessarily a comparison between the two. Quite frankly, I should have thought that, London having all the pull it had in the past, it would have been a miracle if the two had been of equal importance up to the present. So I quite willingly give the noble Lord that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, invites me to give way. There is nothing for me to give way on here. What I will certainly undertake to do is this. If this Amendment is not pressed, I will draw to the attention of my right honourable friend this discussion which I think he will find both interesting and valuable. It may well be that, arising from that consideration, there will be discussion with some noble Lords whose past connection with this makes them well qualified to be brought into the discussion —the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb; the 996 noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oak-ridge; and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, because of his interest in historical manuscripts. I certainly would not rule that out. But it is not for me to give way, because at the moment the Bill stands in a form which we think is acceptable. I am certainly willing to give the undertaking that we will look at the matter, and discuss it in the light of this debate; but it would be a prerequisite to that that the Amendments are not pressed.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
Of course, I entirely accept the noble Lord's point. I was saying "give way" because up till then the noble Lord had not shown any sign of being impressed by what had been said in this Chamber. However, his attitude now is, I think, entirely reasonable, if I may say so. I feel that the right thing to do is to accept the noble Lord's undertaking to discuss this further, and perhaps to have consultations with some noble Lords who are particularly interested and others outside, and then to see what he can bring along at Report stage. Because if we are not satisfied we can always put this Amendment down again.
§ LORD FERRIER
Before the noble Lord withdraws his Amendment, if he proposes to do so, may I say this, speaking with a great deal of sympathy for much of what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said? I am reminded that York is becoming a centre for a number of records, such as the famous Castle Museum, which for me is a very thrilling record of the past. Also, of course, it is close to the Stockton and Darlington Railway, which, after all, was the beginning of all railways.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
May I make a suggestion? If, as I understand it, my noble friend proposes to withdraw his Amendment pending further discussions, would it not be a good thing if he decided also to put it down again on Report stage? That would then give an opportunity to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to tell your Lordships the result of the inquiries and discussions that he had had. We would then have the opportunity to vote if we felt so inclined.
§ LORD HUGHES
I would suggest that the better course of action would be for the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, to wait to 997 see what takes place at these discussions. Then, if he finds it necessary to frame another Amendment, it will be relevant to what has emerged from the discussions. It may be that we will not reach agreement; but it may well be that if he has regard to the discussions which take place then at least the Amendment which emerges will be in the most up-to-date form. Because one thing that is fairly certain is that this Amendment, as the noble Lord himself would be the first to admit, would probably not be in the right form of words. I have not made any point on that because there is no point in doing so unless it is the only point of disagreement. But I can quite accept the principle that the noble Lord. Lord Nugent, in withdrawing, is not giving up any right to re-table the matter. But I think it would be a mistake if I were to ask my right honourable friend 998 to embark on discussions of this kind and to have on the record at the same time that this House had apparently so little faith in what was going to emerge from these discussions that an Amendment had already been tabled.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
We are ready to go into this with every hope and confidence that the noble Lord will deploy his vast dialectical powers on the Minister with the same effect as on this House to-night and that he will have complete success. We should expect to have a very good Amendment on Report stage. If not, we have the right to put down what we like. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 15 agreed to.999
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 313:
Page 191, line 14, at end insert—
("( ) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section there shall be no change in the location of any collection of relics without there first having been full consultation with the local authorities within whose area the relics are located.")
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment concerns the relics which have been the subject of a good deal of debate on the previous two Amendments. Although there has been an inclination to say that the relics could go to York and the records might stay where they are. I believe that this should be looked at and debated and not just assumed. The transport relics referred to in Clause 139 are at present mainly housed in the Museum of British Transport at Clapham, with subsidiary museums at York and Swindon. It is now proposed to close the Clapham Museum, to sell the site and to transfer its contents to a new museum. That new museum, if we are to accept what is recommended in the Railway Policy White Paper, will be at York.
§ The reasoning behind this recommendation was spelled out clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oak-ridge, in his speech on the last Amendment. The framework of the reasoning is a financial one. The site of the Clapham Museum, we are told, would realise about £517,000, just over half a million pounds, and this sum of money is proposed for rehousing both the relics and the records.
§ When we had the Second Reading of this Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with his well-known interest in the subject of museums, questioned the wisdom of this policy of closing the Clapham Museum and moving its contents to York. The Government were not able to reply immediately after he had made his speech—it was near the end of the debate. But that was some weeks ago. So this particular point which I want to develop now has been put before. I hope the Government will be able to tell us in some detail what their reactions are.
§ In the White Paper, Railway Policy (Cmnd. 3439), the Government accepted that transport museums have a useful 1000 scientific, educational and cultural role and that the greater part of the exhibits should be preserved in such a way as to assure their continuing development. This was on page 53 of the White Paper. But because of the lack of suitable rail connections, Clapham, we are told, is not suitable as a site for a transport museum. If this is so, one must ask why it is that a railway museum was put there at all. It is therefore proposed to establish a new museum on another site.
The White Paper goes on to say on page 54 that neither the Railways Board nor the London Board have a suitable site in the London area. Indeed, a letter was sent by the Ministry of Transport to certain London boroughs which went further and referred to
an exhaustive search in London for a suitable British Railways or London Transport building
which had proved fruitless. That was what the Ministry of Transport said in reply to those London boroughs who wrote in on this point.
§ How exhaustive was this search? St. Pancras Station which, after all, is a fairly conspicuous building, was overlooked completely. We must ask the noble Lord who is to reply: was St. Pancras Station considered at the time of the Joint Steering Committee's Report? A statement was made on Second Reading that it was not, and had the possibility of using St. Pancras been known to the Joint Steering Committee at the time, their conclusion might have been different.
§ In a way, the structure of St. Pancras Station is in itself a museum-piece of industrial architecture. It is already the subject of a preservation order so that it cannot be developed for other purposes. It cannot be demolished and redeveloped for office property. Its location is central; it is convenient to Madam Tussaud's and Regent's Park, and thousands of visitors go to that part of London in the course of a year.
§ Nor are there any problems regarding rail connections. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when replying to the last Amendment, based his argument (and I must say I think that when it is studied in cold print his argument will not be quite so persuasive as it was when he delivered 1001 it) on the policy of regional dispersal. The noble Lord became really quite emphatic and heated on the point. It seems that where the relics are concerned the case for York rests specifically on this policy of regional dispersal. The noble Lord shakes his head—no doubt he will tell us in his reply why he does so— but it was almost the main plank of his argument that there should be regional dispersal and that London should not be the centre for everything. I can see that to him this is something which means a great deal, but one must look at the facts on these issues, and this Amendment relates to a different issue from the last Amendment.
§ It is a question of whether the Clapham Museum should be closed at all, and secondly, if it is closed, should its contents go to York or to some other building? We are told that the reasoning is that there is no other building in London; that an exhaustive search was made and no building belonging to the Railways Board or the London Board could be found. That statement is contained in the White Paper and in the letter the Ministry of Transport sent to the London boroughs. So if the policy has changed, and this is another of our misconceptions, let us hear about it. But that is what has been said up until now.
§ Is this the right policy? We are told the site in Clapham can be sold for £517,000 and that it is not the right place. If it is not the right place, is it sensible to consider building a new museum in York? It is proposed to reconstruct and adapt an old motive power depot. To convert that into a museum obviously would cost a great deal of money. Furthermore to move the locomotives, wagons, railway carriages, and so on, up to York would be a very expensive business. Is it not the case that St. Pancras Station, which in itself virtually constitutes a museum already, and would require little conversion, and which already has car parking facilities and facilities for tourists, is available for this purpose at practically no cost?
§ The fact that half a million pounds can be raised by the sale of the Clapham site does not mean that half a million pounds has to be spent. It is this sort of thinking which has let Government expenditure run out of control. What we want to hear from the noble Lord in his 1002 reply on this matter is a response to the suggestion about St. Pancras—which was made originally on Second Reading—and about which there has, as yet, been no reaction from the Government And we also want to hear whether the Government are satisfied that there has been proper consultation with the local authorities in the area on the proposal to close the Clapham Museum. I peg to move.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
If I may deal first of all with what the noble Lord. Lord Windlesham, said in the last debate, he said that I had based the case on the Government's regional development policies. I did not do anything of the sort. I gave a whole variety of reasons. I emphasised rather strongly that the concept that moving things into London was right and moving things cut of London was wrong was not one to which I subscribed. This was one of the reasons why moving things to York seemed, at least to people outside London, to be not without merit.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Why did the noble Lord choose to place greater emphasis on that argument? He used the words just now "emphasised rather strongly". Why did he give greater emphasis to that than to his other arguments?
§ LORD HUGHES
Because two arguments were advanced against taking the records and relics to York: one that it meant taking them out of London, and the other that they were going to be destroyed. I dealt, I think probably almost at equal length, with both arguments. It may be that I spoke more emphatically about getting them out of London, because I was more on my own territory in that. I know how often we have got the wrong end of the stick in that connection. One perhaps speaks with more conviction and more enthusiasm when one is speaking on one's own subjects. But if the noble Lord wants to reduce it to measurements of inches in Hansard, I do not think he will find that the other aspect was treated as a minor part of my remarks because I had to deal with both legs of the argument, as I shall have to do again.
I thought that in discussion of the last Amendment we were going to get the 1003 relics to York without difficulty, because over and over again it was emphasised that there may be a case in connection with relics; that the relics are a different thing from the records. But now we find that we have to start all over again, and that it is regarded as just as important to maintain the relics in London. If I perhaps over-emphasised the value of taking things out of London, I would suggest, with respect, that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, over-emphasises the need to retain them in London. He stresses the fact that we ought not to consider (this is how it appeared to me) taking them out of London until we have explored every possibility of retaining them in London.
Why should that be? Would it be a surprise to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to know, for instance, that the little railway museum which is presently at York had more visitors in 1965 and 1966 than there were to Clapham? With all its vast intake of people—all, apparently, in the noble Lord's mind, and pictured as just searching for the opportunity to go and look at the railway relics at Clapham—fewer went to see them than went to see the very much less impressive exhibits at York. If that is the case, at least we are not completely off our heads in suggesting that we should consider sending the whole lot to York.
The noble Lord put a very proper question when he said: "If Clapham is such an unsuitable place, why is the museum there in the first instance?" He is just as well placed to answer that question as I am, because, quite frankly, when I see the information that I have here, I too should like to know who was responsible for putting it there in the first place. Whoever it was has a lot to answer for. There are no rail facilities into the museum. When you get inside the museum there are no rails inside. If you want to move these heavy things about it is extremely difficult. But in the place to which we propose to take the relics there are rails right into the museum, and there is a turntable inside, so that if you get new exhibits coming in it becomes a relatively simple matter to move them about.
These are two reasons why Clapham is unsuitable. It may well be that at a 1004 given time the people concerned, perhaps thinking similarly to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, thought: "Let us look around London and see where they can be put." It may well be that Clapham was the best of a bad lot. But we do not now need to confine ourselves to considering what is the best of a bad lot; here we have a very good site indeed.
I should like to make it absolutely clear that, as with the records, we appreciate the historic and educational value of these collections which the British Transport Commission and the Railways Board have built up. We have no intention of shrugging off our responsibilities. The Department of Education and Science will take to York all those relics which in the opinion of Sir David Follett, the Director of the Science Museum, are most worthy of preservation as part of a national collection. Specifically London relics may not go, so we are prepared to accord to London the same facilities that we accord to Edinburgh—specifically London relics.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he makes his gracious gesture and says, "We are willing to accord this privilege to them". But is it not a fact that the London Board were not willing to let their relics go? Was not the question put to them by the Government and they refused to have them moved to York?
§ LORD HUGHES
Not so far as I am aware, but I am not sufficiently well-informed on this matter to contradict the noble Lord with the emphasis I would wish. But, of the rest, over three-quarters of the items will be preserved. Indeed, far from a dispersal, there will be to some extent a consolidation, in that the worthwhile relics of both Clapham and York will find themselves under one roof. What will not be taken to York will be those relics, and there are some, which are of relatively minor interest or which are duplicates.
It is obviously impossible to keep absolutely everything. Considerations of space and cost alone would prohibit this. But it is the intention to maintain a transport collection which includes all worthwhile relics and which reflects as a whole the developments of the last 150 years. Incidentally, I can assure the Committee 1005 that there is no intention of losing the very interesting Royal relics which are now at Clapham. If there are any relics which any noble Lord is particularly interested in, I am quite certain that my right honourable friend the Minister, if he is told, will be happy, so far as is possible, to see that they are preserved.
Why the move from Clapham? I have said something about this already, but it is so interesting that I think that if what I say is repetition it will not do any harm. My brief says, "The present site of the Clapham Museum is not really ideal". That is the usual masterpiece of Civil Service understatement. It has no rail connection and it has no rails inside, so it is really expensive to get items into it in the first place. As I say, there are no rails inside, and therefore to move relics about so as to make room for something new is a most difficult and expensive operation. In short, it is virtually impossible to develop the collection at Clapham. York has many advantages. The proposed building, which is a disused motive-power depot, is of course rail-connected and has a turntable already installed. It would be easy to get relics in and out and to rearrange those already there, so we shall have a living museum in which the continuing development of rail transport can be displayed in the years to come.
I must point out, however, that the decision to move to York is not a firm one. It is a decision which, circumstances permitting, may be implemented. If circumstances do permit it, this will be, we think, a very worthwhile move. But what I must emphasise is that, unless and until York is got ready for the move, Clapham will continue to be the Railway Museum. The Museum will be continued there as at present. There is no intention of taking the collection away from Clapham and putting it into storage where no one will see it until another place is ready for it. So a continuing museum will be available, first of all at Clapham and then at York, if that should prove to be possible.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting for a moment? I do not think he has referred to St. Pancras.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDEORN
There you have a museum. It could be used as a museum piece in itself.
§ LORD HUGHES
I will come to that. I have referred to the number of visitors in 1965 and 1966. Just in case noble Lords think there is anything ulterior in not referring to 1967, the fact is that there was then a slight trend the other way. There were more people who went to Clapham than to York, but that was merely owing to the fact that for part of the year York was either wholly or completely closed. This accounts for the small drop in numbers at York during that period, so the most up to date figures show that there is a potentially greater number of people going to York. I need not remind your Lordships also that York is an important tourist centre, and at least is near the birthplace of the railways. It will be the first time that a branch of a national museum has been established away from London, and if we are going to make a move of this kind then a move of the railway museum from London to York is perhaps as fitting as we can find.
With regard to the question of St. Pancras, it is true that St. Pancras was suggested during our debate on Second Reading, and at other times, and in other places by other people. Your Lordships know that this is merely one of a great number of suggestions which have been made for the future use of St. Pancras. If indeed it ceases to be used as a railway station—and that is not yet the position—it will be far the Railways Board to dispose of it in the first place, subject to their usual practice of offering the land, as it becomes available, to the local authorities, and to the classification of the building itself as an historic building. I cannot go beyond that. This is a matter in the first instance for the British Railways Board, and it may well be that, leaving aside the building itself because the Board does not have complete freedom over that, if it elects to deal with the land in a commercial way, I do not think we necessarily have a right to argue on that point. The reason is that acting commercially is one of the things which has been so consistently pressed on the railways, that they ought perhaps to be exercising their own minds in that direction more than they have done in the 1007 past, and exploit the commercial value of land which they hold and for which they have no further use.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Would it help the noble Lord in his argument if I limited the question I put to him to the building and not to the land at all?
§ LORD HUGHES
I have been given a lot of information, and although the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, may or may not have a high regard for me, I am quite certain he does not believe for one moment that I have ferreted out for myself the information which I have transmitted about the relative merits of Clapham and York. I have not been given any information as to the relative suitability of the St. Pancras building to form a transport museum as an alternative to Clapham or to York.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
But why not? This is the exact point which was raised on Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.
§ LORD HUGHES
Because at the moment we are dealing with Clapham as it is; we are dealing with York, which seems a completely suitable site and which is available. We do not know at this stage whether St. Pancras would he available for this purpose. I have pointed out that York is still a contingency; it is not a firm decision because there are several conditions to be fulfilled first. It may well be that in the course of the considerations other factors may emerge to make York not the most suitable site, and if in the course of those considerations it turned out that St. Pancras was suitable and available, and could be used, then certainly St. Pancras would be considered. It is not being considered at the moment because in fact we are satisfied that York will provide a first-class place for a museum.
If we are always going to defer Government action on these matters, not on the basis that we should act because we have a good place, but that we should wait until we are absolutely certain we have the best place in the country, we shall never in fact do anything, because someone will always be able to find an argument justifying consideration of some other place. Surely the point is we should be satisfied, and those respon- 1008 sible should be satisfied that the site suggested is one which will well lend itself to the purpose for which it is suggested. I have heard no argument against the proposal at York on that basis. All the information I have been given—and nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said has been against it—has shown the suitability of York. But we are now merely talking about the fact that we have not examined the possibility of every other site that may be available.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but I am sure he wants to get my argument right. I did advance a strong line of argument against the suitability of York on the grounds that it seems it is going to cost half a million pounds of public money to install a railway museum there. Meanwhile there does seem to be an alternative—the building, not the land—at St. Pancras, which might cost far less than that. Therefore, this does throw considerable doubt on the suitability of the site at York, which will require heavy expenditure to convert it for a museum.
§ LORD HUGHES
On the cost at York, the noble Lord is on strong ground, because he is reading from the documents which are before him. On the second one, of course, he is not on strong ground, because he merely makes the statement that to do this at St. Pancras would cost not nearly so much, but he has no basis for this. What evidence does he give? It might cost £1 million to do it at St. Pancras; it might cost £100,000 to do it. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has no more idea of what it would cost to do this at St. Pancras than I have, and I can assure him I have no idea what it would cost.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
That really is what I am objecting to. It is all very well for the noble Lord to reply vehemently, but if he had any information at all, we could have a more meaningful debate. Everything he says in his reply goes towards underlining the point that a decision was taken in principle before St. Pancras was considered. He now says St. Pancras still has not been considered, but the original decision should stand. I cannot follow that.
§ LORD FERRIER
May I ask for some clarification? May I ask the noble Lord what he means by the building of St. Pancras? Is he contemplating the movement of the St. Pancras structure? I say this with due consideration, because I think I am right in saying that the structure of the St. Pancras Arch is a very interesting historical piece of ironwork. It is something corresponding with the Forth railway bridge, and it crosses my mind, as one who regarded the destruction of the Euston arch as the most ghastly piece of vandalism, that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that if indeed this arch can be dismantled, it might answer the question. If the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is talking about the arch at St. Pancras as being a historical matter, it might be moved and save a lot of money in both ways.
§ LORD HUGHES
I may have been doing my friends in the Ministry an injustice in what I said about giving away the facts of how little I know about what it would cost at St. Pancras. Fortunately, they are not in the same state of ignorance as I am, because I have just had a note passed to me which says that it would cost far more than half a million pounds to develop the St. Pancras building as an alternative site for this museum, apart altogether from any effect which this may have on the value of the remainder of the site.
Apart from that, as those of your Lordships who have been in the building know, it is not an easy place to heat or light, and it would certainly not be an easy place in which to display the relics, so I am afraid I have allowed the noble Lord to lead me into a trap, which I ought not to have done, in assuming that everybody else was as ignorant of the cost of St. Pancras as he and I are. Fortunately my advisers are better placed than I am myself. From that we come back to the main point of all this, which is that Clapham is certainly not a suitable place for this museum for the reasons I have stated. It is incapable of development, which more or less means that it must remain the same as it is now with little or no change at all. Therefore, there must be a change of location of some kind. If a change takes place, there is the opportunity of realising something of the order of half a million 1010 pounds from the sale of the present sites, at both Clapham and York, and if this is used for the development of an alternative site in York at this motive-power depot it means there will be no additional charge on public funds. There is no other significance than that to the figures. If it can be done without additional expense to public funds, so much the better.
The change from Clapham must be made. The change to York is something which is possible. It is a change to a location where it is shown that there is interest in a railway museum; it is an area where the railways are of historic importance; it is near the birthplace of the railways. And for that reason, which seems perfectly sound, as a contingency proposal the Bill should remain as it is.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Could the noble Lord tell us what is the plan for Swindon, where there is also an excellent museum?
§ LORD HUGHES
Fortunately for me, there is nothing on the Marshalled List in relation to an Amendment on that, because I do not know the answer.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
I know it is late and that noble Lords will not wish to hear much more on this subject, but I hope I can express my point of view very briefly. I know the round shed at York, and I accept readily the opinion given that it would house the relics; and I think it would house them quite well. I know the noble City of York, and I think it is a magnificent city with a beautiful cathedral, and if I did not think these things I would not dare say them in the pretence of the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I know the museum at Clapham. I can even answer the question which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, put to the House. He asked who was responsible for locating the museum at Clapham. So far as I know, it was myself. It was the only place available, and I knew at the time that it was a very bad place.
I should like to complete what I say by putting forward one argument against York and in favour of a museum in London. The reasons for a museum have been given in laying emphasis on 1011 the number of visitors, the number of tourists and even the number of children. These things are quite important in their way, but there are other people who will visit this museum. There are men who come from railway companies in foreign countries who come to England primarily looking for material for their railways, and they are, like all old railwaymen, interested in the past of railways; and they will welcome the opportunity to see the relics in the city to which they have naturally come, whereas they will not naturally go to York. I think it is quite an important point, and as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said that the decision to move to York has not yet been finally made, I hope that careful thought will be given to the possibility of a site in London. I do not believe that there is not another round shed available in London. What I am quite sure is true is that it would cost a little more than the one at York.
§ LORD HUGHES
I do not wish to say much more than that I was horrified when the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said he located it at Clapham. I hope I can move safely about the building in future. I was then relieved to find that he put it there knowing that it was a bad place because it was the only place he could find, because I had suspected that that was the reason it was there.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not think the Committee would want to prolong the discussion on this point any longer. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, debates with such vigour and skill that we let him get away with things he should not be allowed to get away with. On St. Pancras he changed his ground absolutely and completely in mid-speech, because he was advancing the line of argument that it was much too early to say anything about St. Pancras because nothing was known about its suitability or cost, and then halfway through his speech he suddenly produced some figures; so that we have got something out of this debate. I think we have extracted something from the noble Lord. I personally think it is most regrettable that he was not able to put this information in his speech, bearing in mind 1012 that he had had several weeks' notice of the suggestion that St. Pancras should be used. But we now have some information. It is new to me, and it is most important information, I think, to people who are concerned with this issue; they will also regard it as important information.
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, has again give us his great experience in the last moments of this debate on this Amendment, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when he draws the attention of his right honourable friend to the debate we had on records, will want to make sure that this debate on relics also receives examination. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 139 agreed to.
§ Clauses 140 to 142 agreed to.
§ 10.36 p.m.
LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 3132:
After Clause 142, insert the following new clause:
§ (2) In section 9(1)(b) (which relates to the issue of goods vehicle test certificates)—
- (a) for the words 'is found on an examination' there shall be substituted the words 'has been found on examination';
- (b) for the words 'does so comply' there shall be substituted the words 'has been found so to comply'.
§ (3) In section 14, in subsection (8) (under which the Minister may by regulations make certain exemptions provided for by paragraphs (a) and (b) of that subsection) at the end there shall be added the following paragraph:—
- '(c) make provision for the issue in respect of a vehicle in such circumstances as may be prescribed of a certificate of temporary exemption exempting that vehicle from the provisions of subsection (1), (2) or (3) of this section for such period as may be specified in the certificate'.
§ (4) In section 14, in subsection (9) (under which the Minister may by regulations provide that a licence for a vehicle under the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 shall not he granted unless certain requirements are satisfied) for the words 'under the last foregoing subsection' there shall be substituted the words 'under paragraph (a) of subsection (8) of this section or unless there is produced in respect 1013 of the vehicle a certificate of temporary exemption issued by virtue of paragraph (c) of that subsection which exempts that vehicle from the provisions of the said subsection (2) or (3), as the case may be, for a period which includes the date on which the licence is to come into force.'"
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move this new clause, the purpose of which is to meet a small anomaly in the new procedure under the Road Safety Act 1967 for the plating of goods vehicles. Plating is to start on October 1 of this year by regulations under the Act, and as the law stands under the 1967 Act the Minister can by regulations exempt from the requirement to have a plating certificate or a test certificate a whole class of vehicles. For example, he can exempt all vehicles of less than 3½ tons loaded weight, but he cannot exempt a single individual vehicle.
§ In practice it will sometimes happen that an individual operator, due to circumstances beyond his control, cannot get a plating certificate or test certificate by the due date—for example, on a renewal. The new clause would give the Minister power when making the regulations to provide for such a temporary exemption of the vehicle, and it would also make a certificate of temporary exemption valid in respect of a test certificate in applying for an Excise licence for a goods vehicle.
§ Finally, the new clause will clear up the doubt which has arisen as to whether a test certificate can be properly given where more than one test has been involved—for example, when there has been a partial failure on the first test and subsequently a re-test in that respect. They are small technical points, and I hope that they will be acceptable. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
It may possibly come as a surprise to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, after the way in which I have been disagreeing so violently with him and with his colleagues in previous Amendments, that on this occasion I can congratulate him on putting forward an Amendment which is not only most useful, but to the drafting of which I can take no exception. I have much pleasure, therefore, in accepting the Amendment.
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 313ZA:
After Clause 142, insert the following new clause:
§ Application of road traffic enactment to Crown roads
§ ".—(1) Without prejudice to the provisions of section 32 of the Countryside Act 1968 with respect to certain Crown roads, the Minister may, with the consent of the appropriate Crown authority or authorities concerted, by order, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament, direct that, subject to subsection (3) of this section and to such exceptions, adaptations or modifications appearing to him to be necessary or expedient as may be specified in the order, all or any of the road traffic enactments shall apply to all Crown roads, or to any specified Crown road or Crown roads, or to Crown roads of a specified class, as they apply in relation to other roads to which the public has access.
§ (2) Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, but subject to subsection (3) of this section, any order under the said subsection (1) with respect to any of the road traffic enactments may in particular include provision—
- (a) for enabling functions with respect to a road exercisable under the enactment in question by the local authority or the highway authority to be exercised with respect to a Crown road by the appropriate Crown authority or by a particular local authority or highway authority;
- (b) for enabling power to make an order, regulation or scheme under the enactment in question with respect to a Crown road which would otherwise be exercisable by a local authority or highway authority to be exercised instead by the Minister, and for requiring the consent of the Minister to the variation or revocation by any other authority of such an order, regulation or scheme made by him;
- (c) for a certificate of the appropriate Crown authority or of the Minister that the authority or Minister has, or has not, consented to the doing of anything for which under the order or under this subsection the consent of the authority or, as the case may be, the Minister is required to be evidence, and in Scotland sufficient evidence, of the facts stated;
- (d) for exempting from any provision of the enactment in question persons and vehicles on a Crown road in the service of the Crown or of an agent of the Crown.
§ (3) No order, regulation or scheme in relation to a Crown road shall be made, varied or revoked under any of the road traffic enactments by virtue of an order under subsection (1) of this section except by or with the consent of the appropriate Crown authority.
§ (4) With a view to the avoidance of doubt, the road traffic enactments specified in an order under subsection (1) of this section may include any provision of those enactments rotwithstanding that it would have applied in relation 1015 to Crown roads apart from the making of the order; and the inclusion in the order of a provision which would so have applied shall not prejudice anything done under that provision in relation to a Crown road before the coming into force of the order.
§ (5) In this section—
- (a) the expression 'appropriate Crown authority', in relation to a Crown road, means—
- (i) in the case of a road on land belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown, the Crown Estate Commissioners or other government department having the management of that land;
- (ii) in the case of a road on land belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Chancellor of the Duchy;
- (iii) in the case of a road on land belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall, such person as the Duke of Cornwall or the possessor for the time being of the Duchy of Cornwall appoints;
- (iv) in the case of a road on land belonging to a government department or held in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department, that department;
- and if any question arises under this paragraph as to what authority is the appropriate Crown authority in relation to any Crown road, that question shall be referred to the Treasury, whose decision shall be final;
- (b) the expression 'Crown road' means a road, other than a highway, to which the public has access by permission granted by the appropriate Crown authority, or otherwise granted by or on behalf of the Crown;
- (c) the expression 'road traffic enactments' means the enactments (whether passed before or after this Act) relating to road traffic, including the lighting and parking of vehicles, and any order or other instrument having effect by virtue of any such enactment;
§ The noble Lord said: This new clause empowers the Minister or, in Scotland or Wales, the appropriate Secretary of State, by order to apply all or any aspects of road traffic law, with or without modification, to various kinds of Crown roads, with the consent in each case of the appropriate Crown authority or authorities. The public at present are able to make use of many roads on Crown Land because the relevant Crown authorities 1016 allow them to do so. Examples are some of the roads in the Royal Parks, in Ministry of Defence training areas and in the Board of Trade's trading estates. These roads are not highways or "roads to which the public have access" and do not therefore fall within the ambit of the road traffic law. This situation has given rise to a number of difficulties, particularly over traffic regulation and parking control.
§ The situation has been made more anomalous by the Countryside Act which recently received Royal Assent. The Committee will recall that, following strong pressure from preservation societies and from the National Parks Commission to bring Crown roads in National Parks and other designated countryside areas within the ambit of the Road Traffic Regulation Act, pressure which was supported on both sides of the House, the Bill was amended by Parliament so as to enable traffic regulation orders to be made, with the consent of the appropriate Crown authority, in respect of Crown roads in such areas. We therefore have the anomalous situation that some Crown roads are liable to road traffic law and others are not. There is much to be said for achieving uniformity, and in this clause we seek to bring it about. I beg to move.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
There was a good deal of anxiety expressed in another place on this point, and the new clause which the noble Lord has moved is very welcome.
§ Clause 143 agreed to.
§ 10.42 p.m.
LORD BANNER MAN OF KILDONAN moved Amendment No. 313A:
After Clause 143, insert the following new clause:
§ ". There shall be established within three months of the passing of this Act a Scottish Transport Advisory Committee consisting of five persons appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland with the duty of reporting not less than once each year to each House of Parliament on the following matters—
- (a) the extent of which grants paid under section 39 of this Act to the Railways Board relate to passenger services in Scotland; and
- (b) the extent and distribution of assistance paid to Councils in Scotland under section 34 of this Act; and
- (c) the incidence of charges made for the carriage of passenger and goods by the Boards and new Authorities on industry including agriculture, forestry and fishing in Scotland; and
- (d) the extent to which the Boards and other authorities are setting tip offices and employing officers and expending resources in a manner which takes adequate account of the need to promote economic development in Scotland; and
- (e) the working of Part V of this Act in Scotland and its effect on the Scottish economy."
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 313A. I know that it is very late, but I should like to say a word or two and give you my reasons for putting the Amendment forward. First of all, I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for having patience in advising me and in putting the Amendment in a form that may commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I do not know whether that will happen, because the noble Lord as a rule hits my Amendments for six. Whatever he does on this occasion, it will be no reflection on the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn.
§ To have this clause included in the Bill in my opinion is vital to the interests of the people of Scotland, for when it becomes law they will be faced with new State controls, which alway carry the burden of Westminster centralisation and increased bureaucracy in their wake —the very subject we have been discussing this evening. Nationalisation, for example, in Scotland has opponents for doctrinaire reasons, but its worst feature is the increase in central executive control from London which accompanies it. This proposed new clause is required because nowhere in the Bill is there suggested a watchdog committee of this character to safeguard Scotland's interests. If your Lordships from England view this clause from your own standpoint, you may dub it "national" or perhaps "Liberal", both words of low value connotation if viewed from the centre of power here in London, but without in any way appearing to try to threaten the Government I suggest they would do well to lift their heads out of the sand and take notice of how the indifference of the people to overcentralisation of power 1018 in Westminster is being replaced by a hearty dislike and condemnation, with a consequent loss of seats and votes to the major parties. The despised provincials, who have the temerity to consider that freedom and executive decision over their own living go together, are showing the strength of the defender and saying: "Thus far and no farther". Scotland can take no more "justice" of a paternalistic character from Whitehall. The people of Scotland demand proof in facts and figures so that justice can be seen by them to be done.
§ When this Bill becomes an Act, a sum of over £50 million per annum is to be spent in Great Britain by Government to keep non-profit-making transport services running for the economic and social good of the community. We wish to ensure that due account is taken of the special needs of Scotland visé England. For example, we heard to-day about the premature closing down of the Borer railways. This was disposed of as though it were a matter of no consequence at all. Why could not the Government have waited at least until this Bill was an Act and then had something to say concerning the Borders, especially when they are sponsoring growth pointy within the Borders? Yet they write the whole thing off. Nobody asks that they keep the railway going from Hawick to Carlisle; everybody said that that does not pay. But have the Government any right to close down a railway from Edinburgh to the centre and the heart of the Borders merely because they say that it is going to save them £250,000 a year, at the present rate of loss, and when the Government tell the whole country that they are going to spend £50 million or £55 million under this Bill once it is enacted? This is deplored and the Government must realise that that sort of thing is entirely wrong and is alienating not only the people of Scotland but the people in other areas of a fringe character in Great Britain.
§ Then there is the situation in regard to bus substitution in the Borders. The buses are not there. One could travel from Edinburgh to Hawick by train in one-and-a-half hours. A bus in its most modern state takes at the best two-and-a- 1019 half hours, and in the winter time it cannot move at all in the snow which blocks many of the Border roads. Have the Government considered St. Boswells, which is a growth and industrial area? There used to be a commuter service from Hawick and other areas to St. Boswells. If St. Boswells were developed as an industrial area, this service could be developed again. But, no, the Government come along and kill the hope which exists in the Borders, or which at least existed at one time, of development of such a character as would help the people of the Borders. Then we are told that freight trains are going to run. But there can be no doubt that the freight aspect will disappear in a short time, now that the passenger aspect has been killed.
§ Paragraph (c) of my new clause simply provides for a report to be made as to the effect of the new organisation of transport charges on our indigenous industries in Scotland. The distance to major markets has always been the chief limiting factor in the growth of our industries. Any increase in transport costs or licence difficulties will do untold harm to the proper development of areas such as the Borders and the Highlands, as well as other areas of Scotland. The effect on Scotland of this mammoth Bill should, in my opinion, be measured annually.
§ Paragraph (d) emphasises the need for decentralisation of offices of Government which may be set up under this Bill. We want to avoid what has already happened, such as the nonsense of the Forestry Commission moving an extraordinary distance to Basingstoke where the executive centre now is, yet its past and its future, so far as trees are concerned, are mainly in Scotland. The nonsense of over-centralisation in London, which we have been hearing about, is something which we in this country have to tight more than ever in our history, and it is one reason, at least, why the Government of the present day are not so popular and even why the Governments of past days were not popular.
§ We in Scotland have always said that the National Coal Board and the Railways Board would work better if they were given at least a little devolution 1020 over the Border into Scotland. There is a certain amount of discrimination, so far as the people of Scotland are concerned, because of this lack of decentralisation of any kind of executive power. You will not convince the housewife in Scotland that for the past many years she has been paying 10s. to £1 per ton of coal more than the English housewife for any other reason than that the centralised Board clown in London thought she ought to do so. The only thing which has been devolved in recent years is the Savings Bank, and what a job it was to draw that tooth out of the London jaw!
§ I now come to paragraph (e). It can only be after the Act has been in force for at least a year that the effect of Part V on the Scottish economy can be assessed, even approximately. There is a plethora of licensing regulations for the carrying of goods by road, and how they will work in some areas of Scotland is certainly not known. Many areas have no railway alternative, and what is to happen in those areas? The regulations forcing 10 per cent. of road traffic on to the railways are nonsense in those areas.
§ I hope the Government will look with favour on this Amendment. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, this time to accept as a Scotsman the sincere purposes and wishes of another Scotsman in this matter, and not always to do the work of another nationality so far as these Amendments are concerned. The ramifications of this enormous Bill will receive annual scrutiny if the Minister will only agree to this Amendment. The interests of the users of transport in Scotland will, to some extent, be safeguarded by this proposed annual review.
§ It will be no use the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, saying that we have a Secretary of State and a Scottish Office to look after our interests as well as a whole lot of Under-Secretaries of State. Those are administrative individuals. They give no measure of executive background to any living that we have in Scotland. The Government would prevent widespread dissatisfaction if only they would allow a little measure of devolution in this regard. A little power given away now in the form of this proposed committee 1021 may ease the wrath of the electorate—and, believe me, the wrath of the electorate certainly needs easing! It would also do much to ease the impact of this mammoth Bill on Scotland. I beg to move.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
Before the Minister answers, I should like to support the noble Lord. We both come from further North in Scotland than probably any other Member of your Lordships' Committee, so we are rather involved in this. The noble Lord suggests something which I think might be quite a good idea, and that is a committee. The Minister may immediately turn round and say, "Heaven knows how many committees we have had in the last number of years!", but I will tell your Lordships why I think it is right. The committees we have had have usually been made up of theorists from the South—from some of the conurbations there. I cannot name one Highlander or Islander who has been a member. There may have been some, but, if so, I have missed them.
We have particular troubles and difficulties so far as transport is concerned, and I should very much like to see people who live up there being able to take some part in the discussions and being able to explain to people who, quite frankly, do not know the Highlands and the difficulties. I am not referring to the Minister from that very independent place, the Kingdom of Fife, who has helped us a tremendous lot; but there are others who come up and talk such rubbish. They do it with the best will in the world, but it is still rubbish. I should like to see the Highlanders allowed to play a much greater part in telling the interested people here in London, and indeed in the Scottish Office, where the troubles are, and allowed to suggest ways in which they might be overcome. I support the noble Lord who has just spoken.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Before the noble Lord replies, may I say just a word about this subject? The noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, was good enough to refer to me, and I did help him a little—at least, I tried to—in the drafting, although I feel that probably the ideas that he wanted to express are better than the actual drafting of them. But there it is. I think there is something in what 1022 the noble Lord is trying to urge on the Committee. We have, of course, a Scottish Area Transport Users' Consultative Committee, and it is empowered to consider certain things, but the number of things that it is able to consider is rather limited. Most of what it has considered has concerned the closure of railways, and there, of course, it is limited to considerations of hardship. It can initiate other considerations itself, but it does not seem to do so very much. It does not seem to be on the right level.
Then we find that under this Bill passenger transport services so far as concerns the Scottish Transport Group are excluded altogether from the consideration of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee; and then, just at the moment when we thought that the Border railway was going to be all right with the £55 million subsidy that is to be paid to the railways, we find instead that £700,000 is lopped off right away and buses are to be substituted. All this is extremely disheartening. It means that even before we start £700.000 has been lopped off the Scottish share of the £55 million, which is the point that the noble Lord was trying to make this afternoon at Question Time.
I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us now what proportion of the non-remunerative railways, apart from the Border railway, are to be found in Scotland and what the amount involved is. This is the sort of thing for which there should be a committee in Scotland, keeping an eye on it. This is the first of the noble Lord's proposals. Then there is the question of the extent and distribution of assistance paid to the councils for rural bus services. This, too, would be a thing over which a committee in Scotland would have an overall view. The incidence of charges made for the carriage of passengers and goods by Boards and new authorities on industry, is another subject. Here again, although the transport users' consultative committees, as I understand it, can now consider the National Freight Corporation services and the railway services, they are debarred from considering charges.
It is very important that the incidence of the charges as a whole on industry, agriculture and fishing in Scotland should be considered, as I said at an earlier stage. We need something to do that.
1023 Then there is the extent to which the Boards and other authorities are putting up offices. The noble Lord dealt with that point very extensively and I need not mention it further. Finally, there is the working of Part V, which deals with special authorisations. I take it that now the Border railways has gone no special authorisations will be given—there will he no need for them in the area and the whole area will be exempt. If not, there will be considerable difficulty if that area is to be put to the trouble of sending freight by road and then having to have it transferred to the railway in Carlisle, because that will put up the costs.
The whole subject has to be looked at carefully. Some committee should be taking a view of it and advising the Government from the point of view of the people and of the user. That is the essential thing that the noble Lord is recommending, as I see it. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will not say that he is satisfied with the arrangements already in the Bill. If he is, he must be the only Scotsman who is.
§ LORD FERRIER
I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, and what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. I am tempted to speak because of what I heard when the unfortunate Minister concerned was answering a Question this afternoon about the Border railway. To one who is not a Highlander but lives ten miles from Carstairs and has travelled every mile of metalled road in the Borders during his lifetime, it was mystifying to hear the words that were spoken about how to get from Hawick to Edinburgh via Carstairs. It did not make sense to me.
To keep to the issue of a committee for Scotland, I speak with considerable experience of railway management, as it so happens that for a number of years in my business life in India I was concerned particularly with feeder railways. I am confident that by some of the methods adopted in India to face competition which arose from road traffic and buses when roads became more passable, a great many of the railways in Scotland could be made at least to break even. If the sole criterion is that a railway should be closed down because it is losing money, am I not right in 1024 thinking that the commuter services round London lose more money than all the railways in Scotland put together? Surely those railways should be closed before the line from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh. I should be glad to know from the Government the answer to that one.
I feel very strongly that this matter of profitability should be faced squarely. I will not go on with the argument the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, has produced so characteristically and persuasively about Scottish independence and that sort of thing, but will support him on the question of running a region of British railways at a great distance from London in a terrain which, manifestly, most people on this side of the Border simply do not understand. This was made clear when we debated the British Standard Time Bill. They are unaware of the conditions in Scotland.
It is surely proper that the Amendment which the noble Lord proposed should be taken back and considered and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will give us an assurance to that effect. If he does not, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, will divide the Committee, and I shall support him. Let us stand up and be counted, no matter how few there may be. This matter must be looked at right in the eye with the problems of railway operation, irrespective of nationalisation or anything else, in terms of terrain, traffic load and profitability. It should be examined and should be under the control of some sort of sub-committee in Scotland.
§ LORD HUGHES
I am constantly intrigued by the passion with which the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, encourages your Lordships to divide on these matters, no matter how late the hour; and it always seems to be at a late hour when he wishes to encourage us to divide. I do not view with enthusiasm his idea that everything which has to be said on this matter has already been said. If that is so, I am wasting my time in trying to put the other side of the argument. I am in sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, has put forward and I am prepared to do much of what he asks, but not in the way he wants. What he has asked is 1025 totally unworkable. He said that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, had helped him in drafting the Amendment. I am not certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was pulling his leg. What has emerged is perfectly correct as a drafting proposition. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was very careful to say that if there was anything wrong with the drafting it was not the fault of the noble Lord, but I think he was leaving the principles quite squarely with the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman. What are we asked to do? The Secretary of State is asked to appoint a Scottish Transport Advisory Committee. Whom is the Committee to advise? Not the Secretary of State. In fact—
§ LORD HUGHES
The noble Lord must contain himself for a little. He has had a fair innings. After all, he has turned this once again into a general debate on the economy of Scotland and none of the Scottish noble Lords has followed him in that error.
The duties which are to be laid on the committee are not to advise anybody. It is to find a lot of information and to transmit it, not to the person who appointed the committee, not to the Secretary of State for Scotland. For the first time (it is not necessarily a bad thing because it is the first time) we are asked to appoint an advisory committee which is not to advise anybody but is to collect a lot of information and transmit it direct to Parliament. If there is anything wrong with the body, the first thing wrong is its title. It is not an advisory body at all; it is a fact-collecting agency.
That might be quite reasonable if nobody was doing it already. The Amendment refers to the extent to whichgrants paid under section 39 of this Act to the Railways Board relate to passenger services for Scotland.Information about that is to be made available already to Parliament, because Clause 39 requires the Railways Board to publish details of grants paid in respect of unremunerative rail services. Then we come to paragraph (b) in the Amendment, which refers to making information available about 1026the extent and distribution of assistance paid to Councils in Scotland under section 34 of this Act.The Government agree that it is proper that the information should be made available to Parliament, and that is why the Government will ensure that information about rural bus grants and the Secretary of State's other activities will be given in the annual report of the Scottish Development Department, which again is presented to Parliament.
On paragraph (c), the incidence of charges made for the carriage of passengers and goods, fares and charges are fixed by the Boards in the light of their commercial experience and judgment. Their effect on industry in Scotland falls within the sphere and interest of the Scottish Economic Planning Counci1 and their Transport Committee, who have been extremely active in relation to transport matters, particularly in recent months. They are free, as they have been in the past, to give such advice and make such representations to Ministers as they think are necessary. And I would remind your Lordships that under the prices and incomes policy all proposals for major price increases for nationalised industries are to be referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. So there is already provision for protection or full examination under paragraph (c).
On the extent to which the Board and other authorities are setting up offices and employing officers and expending resources in a manner which takes adequate account of the need to promote economic development in Scotland, Parliament has been very careful in Statutes not to lay down to the various nationalised industries in the United Kingdom directions the location of their headquarters or offices. The nationalised industries, in general, are expected to pay regard to the Government's regional development policy in the siting of their main offices, but it has been recognised all along that it would be undesirable to impose any statutory provision giving Ministers power over the industries in the detailed conduct of their operations, such as would be a natural corollary of this part of the proposed clause.
As to the working of Part V of the Bill in Scotland, and its effect on the Scottish economy, how is an advisory 1027 body of five people, chosen by the Secretary of State, going to get this information? Are they going to set up as a separate Department of State? Remember that they are not to report to any Minister, but are to report direct to Parliament. There is no word about them being paid; they may or may not be paid people. But if they are not paid people, it becomes all the more obvious that they must rely on staff to collect this information for them. Yet we are to have, for the first time, so far as I can see, a department responsible to no Minister reporting through a so-called advisory body direct to both Houses of Parliament.
With what the noble Lord wishes to do I find it difficult to disagree, and the Bill already makes provision for three of his five points. If we do not make provision for the fourth it is because we do not think it is in the interests of good commercial organisation of the nationalised industries that we should give them specific instructions of this kind; and if we are not giving them specific instructions, there is not much point in asking them what they have done, other than will emerge in the ordinary way in their reports. Paragraph (e) I would willingly accept if I could see any possible way of making it work.
The noble Lord was perhaps rather led into this by the way in which I spoke on previous Amendments. The way things are going, I shall be offered membership of the Scottish Nationalist Party before he is, if I get led into many more debates such as I have had this evening. He said that what we needed was a watchdog of Scottish interests, and that the Bill will result in increased centralised control from London. This Bill sets up for the first time an entirely separate nationalised transport board for Scotland—the Scottish Transport Group. This was discussed in another place and it was said—I do not know who said this, if it had been said from the Opposition it would have been much stronger, but I doubt whether it was—that it was the most important measure of devolution to be brought before this Parliament. Whether that is an exaggerated or picturesque view of the situation, the fact cannot be disputed that this is a measure of devolution in transport very much greater than anything that has been accomplished before.
1028 I have already said, when I was rejecting another of his Amendments—the noble Lord said I had "hit his Amendment for six" on a previous occasion—that I honestly dislike disagreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan. But on the previous occasion I could find nothing good to say for his Amendment. On this occasion I am accepting that three of his five points are valid and pointing out that provision is already made for them. For this reason, I can see no useful purpose in importing these three points into the Bill a second time, and adding to them one which is undesirable and a fifth which is unworkable.
§ 11.16 p.m.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
I did not expect any more than I got from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, but he tends to confuse matters. He questioned the fact that I had called this an advisory body, and felt that because of that there was something wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with an advisory body except that it has not executive power. As a rule we do not like advisory bodies in Scotland, merely because nobody takes their advice and they have no executive power. But here was a body which I was asking should be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, thinks it a crime that it should not report back to the master who appointed it.
I feel that the request that we have made, that there should be this watchdog committee over the working of this mammoth Bill in Scotland, is not an unreasonable request. The fact that perhaps we require a staff for this advisory body is one factor. Is there something wrong in expecting that a staff should work along with the advisory body to find out the facts of how this mammoth Bill is working in Scotland under the peculiar industrial and social conditions of Scotland? Not only that, but there is the fact that there are great areas in Scotland which are depopulated areas which require the most special treatment in regard to services of a transport character. Yet we find the nature of the Government's concern for a great area of Scotland, the Borders, translated into a contemptuous disregard for this area, and the closing down of a railway when, 1029 surely, they could have waited to see whether or not the Act that they were producing might have something different to say about it, especially as this Act enabled them to spend £55 million on uneconomic services. Yet to-day we were told that a quarter of a million pounds was far too much to spend on the Border area for this branch line.
I say to your Lordships that there is a complete lack of sympathy for the social and economic situation of the people in Scotland; and the Government should know better than I that this is causing a definite dislike of Government centralisation and Government dictation. This feeling can be only intensified by a Bill of this nationalistic, nationalisation quality, with the authorities that are to be set up under it.
At least the noble Lord has agreed to two-fifths of my committee. He has suggested that three-fifths is being looked after in the Bill. But what I want is an overall picture of the situation, not a piecemeal picture as will be produced by the noble Lord's agencies under this Bill. We want a whole picture of the situation in Scotland. That is what I am asking for in this Amendment, and that is what I am prepared to divide the Committee on if the noble Lord will not consider that this is a feasible proposition under the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
Before the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, replies, I wonder whether he could help many of us on this subject, because it is one which I think causes us considerable anxiety. I appreciate that what the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, has proposed in this Amendment is perhaps impracticable and cannot be carried through in its present form. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, proceeded to demolish, clause by clause, the various things which were there, or else said that they were to be taken care of by one body or another, or by a third o' fourth body. This may be true, but it will be awfully hard to follow just what each one of these bodies may report, and what will be the overall effect.
The noble Lord himself said that he had great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, was seeking by this Amendment, in which case I should like to ask him whether the Government 1030 could not help us by themselves undertaking annually to make a specific report about the effect of the Transport Bill on Scotland; because for Scotland the Transport Bill is of greater importance than for any other part of the country. I say this advisedly, because we all know that one of the greatest handicaps we suffer from is the distance between many parts of Scotland and the rest of the country. If the noble Lord (who said he has sympathy with us) would undertake that once a year there would be some sort of report made by the Scottish Office, or who you will, then I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, not to press his Amendment. If the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is not today able to tell us exactly what form the report would take, perhaps Lord Bannerman could put the Amendment down again at the Report stage.
§ LORD HUGHES
The noble Earl has reminded your Lordships that I have sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, wanted. I went on to point out that some of the things for which he was asking he was asking for needlessly, because the Bill already covers them and therefore it would be quite wrong to insert them into the Bill again. There is nothing wrong with having advisory bodies; he himself made the main criticism in saying that most people criticise them because they are only advisory bodies and the people whom they advise are under no obligation to accept their advice or to act upon it. But my criticism was that this committee is not in fact an advisory body at all, because there is nothing in the Amendment calling on it to give anybody any advice. The Amendment talks about passing on information; it is not even saying that the committee should comment on information that it gathers. I was pointing out that the Amendment was inconsistent in that it was naming a body in one way and calling upon it to do something else.
In his reply to me the noble Lord proceeded to a point which I should like to be able to meet—and this is also the point followed by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. Even if all the information that is wanted is submitted in the way I have suggested, the noble Earl suggested that it does not have the same value if one has to search through different places 1031 to find it. I cannot say whether it is possible for the Scottish Office or the Development Department or any other existing body to take the responsibility of gathering together these various pieces of information and presenting them as a document. I readily accept that if it could be done it would be a worthwhile exercise, and it would certainly then form a very useful basis for us, having a Scottish debate, not necessarily on an Amendment to a Bill, but arranged specifically for the purpose. I readily undertake to examine the possibilities, and after examination I will, if I may, write to the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman and the noble Earl, Lord Perth who in his capacity as chairman of the Scottish Peers' Association is probably also well qualified to receive a letter of this kind. I will let them know whether it is possible to do something of this kind or, alternatively, explain why it cannot be done. I will do so in ample time, so that if the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, is not satisfied with what I give to him, and wishes to pursue the matter at the next stage, he will not be hampered in his future activities by my having left my answer until the last minute.
§ LORD KILMANY
Before accepting the proposal that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has put before us, perhaps I might ask him this question. It will be in his recollection earlier today, when a colleague of his was answering a question of mine about the closing of the Border railway, that the reply from the Government was exceedingly disappointing to my point of view, and also, I think, to the point of view of the vast majority of people who live in the Borders, and I expect the vast majority of people who live in Scotland at all.
The question I wanted to ask the noble Lord is whether the solution that he now puts before us, on the proposal largely of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, could in fact meet the problem of the closing of this Border line, and whether he could give us any hope that the proposal he has put before us could allow the regrettable decision, which was announced in this House today, and elsewhere last week, to be overtaken, overturned and corrected. If the noble Lord could give that assurance, I for one 1032 should be well content to leave the matter where it is. But if not, I shall find it difficult to feel satisfied that I have done everything I can to prevent the closure of this line, which I know is so badly needed by those who live in the Border country.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I have sat here and listened to very much of this debate. Most of the problems that have been raised seem to apply equally to Wales. What I would now do is urge my noble friend, if he is going to get out special reports for Scotland, that he ought to ensure that special reports are got out also for Wales. I know that some of my friends from Yorkshire who in the normal way would be here would be making precisely the same points on behalf of the nationalists of Yorkshire. They would be extremely anxious to get a report of this sort presented to the House from time to time covering the Yorkshire area. This sort of thing can be carried to the point of absurdity, and it seems to me that this is what this House is in danger of doing at this time. I am bound to protest that if my noble friend is to come along on Report stage with something of this sort for Scotland, I shall be looking very carefully to make sure that Wales is also included, so as to be able to satisfy my friends in Wales that Scotland is not getting away with it once more.
§ LORD HUGHES
I am not going to be dragged into a quarrel—Wales versus Scotland. All I would say is this. When the noble Lord compares Wales with Scotland, I will not quarrel with him. When he starts to talk about parts of England as if they were separate nations, we are in danger of falling out; so I am not going to pursue that matter. There is a Scottish Office and there is a Welsh Office, and they have jobs to do. It may well be that something of this kind could fall perfectly within their remit.
I have not suggested that anything which the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has asked me to do is in the context of putting something into this Bill. What he asked was: Is it possible for information to be given by the Scottish Office, or by one of the Departments of the Scottish Office? This would be something quite outwith the Bill. I shall not 1033 be putting forward Amendments to the Bill in this respect. I agree that it would be improper to do that. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, asked me about the solution I have suggested. I have not suggested a solution. I was asked to consider a proposition by the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and I have undertaken to look to see whether it is possible to do what they ask. Anything which I am looking at is in relation to future activities and can have no relevance at all to anything my noble friend said this afternoon.
Much was said in the previous debate about the question put this afternoon and the answer given in another place last week. I did not refer to it. That was dealt with by my noble friend this afternoon. I continued deliberately not to embark on it during discussion on this Amendment. I do not want to mislead the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, into any action that he would not otherwise take. I do not want him to think I am proposing any solution. All I have done is to undertake to look at the practicability of a suggestion for gathering various pieces of information which are going to be made available under one heading.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
I thank the noble Lord for his willingness to recognise that the collation of all the data concerning the effect of this Bill in Scotland is something worthwhile from a Scottish point of view. It is not depreciated in any way by the desire of Wales to have a similar collated picture; in fact, I would ask that Wales should be given such a picture as well. If we can receive from the Government, and from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, the assurance that before the Report stage he will inform me and the Hot se of the position, then perhaps we can arrive at something which will safeguard Scotland against what I feel will be the ill-effects of this Bill. I am very much in sympathy with the noble Lord here who wants to see a "re-think" on the Border situation, because in my view the Government have acted far too quickly in this matter without waiting for their own legislation to take form, and I think they could well have done this and given hope to the Borders for future 1034 development. Nevertheless, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for only having hit my Amendment for three-fifths of a six. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 144 agreed to.
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 314:
After Clause 144, insert the following new clause:
§ Restriction of operation of Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, s. 226
§ (". Expenditure incurred by a district council under or by virtue of this Act shall not be taken into account in any calculation as to the limit of one shilling per pound imposed on the rate which may be levied by such a council in any year by section 226 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947.")
§ The noble Lord said: This is a minor Amendment. It will give power to a district council to undertake expenditure of the kind stated in the new Clause additional to, and beyond, the present limit—which I think is a sum equal to the product of a shilling rate. A similar power, I understand, already exists in England. These powers of expenditure are purely permissive powers, and, like other permissive powers of the kind, they are to be additional to the present limits of expenditure. The district councils wish to have this power and the Government can see no reason for denying it to them. I beg to move.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
May I ask one question? There is an upper limit of the product of a shilling rate on all other expenditure. Did the Government consider an upper limit on expenditure in this regard for district councils? It seems illogical that there should be a limit on one form of expenditure and not on another.
§ LORD HUGHES
No. We think that these are powers for expenditure which, having regard to the resources and the field of district councils will not be widely used, and we do not think it necessary that a specific limit should be imposed. Whereas, of course the ordinary functions of district councils within their own areas cover a field which could take them, if they were so minded and had the power, very much in excess of the present limit which they have. Expenditure on 1035 parks, the provision of golf courses, swimming pools and the like, can very soon, given the inclination, run to very much more than the product of a shilling rate.
VISCOUNT SIMON moved Amendment No. 314A:
After Clause 144, insert the following new clause:
§ Compensation for certain refusals under Docks and Harbours Act 1966
- (a) the application was made before the commencement of section 1 of that Act; and
- (b) the applicant has not appealed under section 7 of that Act against the authority's decision to refuse the application; and
- (c) after the date when notice of that decision was given to the applicant by the authority, all applications for such licences for the port in question have been referred to the Minister under section 8(2) of that Act,
§ (2) Subsection (1) of this section shall not have effect in relation to a case where the amount of the compensation under the said section 13 has been determined before the date of the coming into force of this section unless within three months of that date the applicant sends to the licensing authority a writen request that it shall so have effect.")
§ The noble Viscount said: The object of this new clause is to correct a defect which has been found in the Docks and Harbours Act 1966. It is a rather complicated matter, but I will explain it as briefly as I can. Perhaps I should first declare an interest, but I think it is not an interest that your Lordships would feel should inhibit me from moving this clause, as the effect of it, if it is passed and if this Bill comes an Act, is that the Port of London Authority will incur certain additional expense which it is not liable to incur at the present.1036
§ Your Lordships will remember that one of the principal objects of the Docks and Harbours Act 1966 was to provide for the licensing of port employers, and it was provided that where a licence was refused to someone who had been carrying on business he could claim compensation, based, briefly, on the difference between the value of his business before he was refused and its value after he had been refused. In due course the licensing authorities in each port considered these matters, and the trouble arose mainly in the Port of London. A number of applicants were refused licences. Some of them accepted that refusal, and they proceeded to wind up their business and put forward their claims for compensation. But there were others who appealed against the refusal of a licence. Under the Act it was then necessary for the Minister to appoint an inspector and to conduct a public inquiry. In due course, after this had been done, the Minister gave her decision.
§ It was then found (and it had not been observed) that the date which is treated, for the purposes of a claim for compensation, as the date of the refusal was in all cases the date of the Minister's decision, which was some three months after the original decision of the licensing authority. This was because the inspector was bound to consider the whole field of the employment of labour in the port. Therefore the Minister called in all the applications. But, of course, the people who had accepted the decision originally and had wound up their business found that in three months' time they had no business on which to calculate their compensation. It was held by the lawyers in some cases—though not in all—that this deprived them of the whole of the compensation, and certainly of all their compensation for good will and other such things. In many cases, of course, they had disposed of their assets.
§ The Ministry of Transport immediately felt that this was quite wrong: it had never been intended. They therefore suggested that the compensation (which, I should explain, is paid by a levy on the successful applicants for licences and on the port authority who are themselves employers), should be paid ex gratia. But difficulties were felt about this, so 1037 far as the private employers were concerned. Some of them were limited companies, where the directors had responsibility to their shareholders; and in the case of the port authorities, if they had agreed to do this they might well have found that they were acting outside their powers. Therefore, we were at deadlock. I think it is no secret that it was a suggestion of the Ministry (who indeed were good enough to arrange for this clause to be drafted) that we should put an amending clause into this Bill to enable the matter to be put right. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
At this late hour the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has moved his Amendment with two qualities which must commend themselves to your Lordships—clarity and brevity. He will be glad to know that he has also added to that persuasiveness. We can accept the Amendment.
§ Clauses 145 to 148 agreed to.
§ LORD STONHAM
We have not, as I had hoped, quite got through the Committee stage, but if we continued we should not finish at a reasonable hour, and I think we should adjourn consideration of the Committee stage now. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ House resumed.