HL Deb 28 May 1968 vol 292 cc1036-8

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, I rise not to oppose this Bill but to draw your Lordships' attention to what I would term certain deficiencies in the way in which British Railways approach the business of getting their alterations and improvements through, including, of course, this Bill. I have been asked to speak on this matter by two local travellers' associations, numbering in all 2,000 people and representing 14,000 season ticket-holders, so I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I briefly draw your attention to these matters.

The crux of the matter is this. Works Nos. 6 to 10 in Clause 5 of the Bill are designed to facilitate considerable structural and timetable changes on the South-Eastern Division of the Southern Region of British Railways. As at present envisaged, the plans involved will result in all fast trains from beyond Orpington being channelled to Victoria rather than to Charing Cross, London Bridge or Cannon Street. This is obviously a very serious matter for the people concerned. It involves total extra travelling time of an hour a day, and extra cost. Your Lordships might suppose that the number of people who will be inconvenienced by this change will be balanced by the number who will be helped by it, but that is not so, as British Railways own investigations have shown.

I shall not take up your Lordships' time (because I am not equipped for it) in arguing whether this particular scheme is to the good of the public as a whole, but these associations feel, and I think with justification, that they are not consulted enough in these matters and that there is considerable scope which could be used for mutually frank talks. British Railways pay considerable lip service to this principle, but when it comes to the fact there is little that they actually do. They promised full consultation over the time tables of 1962 and 1967. They produced full consultation, but only at a stage where the schemes were virtually finalised and there was little time to change them.

As regards the more official channels, the 1967 Annual Report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee for Great Britain says in paragraph 32: Section 56(4)(b) of the Transport Act 1962 provides for matters concerning the services and facilities provided by the Boards to be referred by them to the T.U.C.C. for report. But this facility has seldom been used by the Board. Plans often reach an advanced stage before they become known to the T.U.C.C. or to the users, and it is then invariably too late to contemplate deviation which they might wish to suggest. These are not the words of a small pressure group but the words of the officially set up Central Transport Consultative Committee. I hope I have said enough to indicate that there is a real feeling among people in the South-East that they are not consulted.

I appreciate the difficulties of British Railways with these highly complex schemes, and their desire not to expose themselves to small pressure groups at an early stage, but I suggest that we are talking a great deal too much about democratic participation and not doing enough about it. In these matters, if it should become necessary to ask British Railways to take much greater steps to consult the general public they serve, I hope that the Government will be influenced by the Minister of Technology and consider whether there should not even be referenda on the matter.


My Lords, I think, if I may so, that some of the observations of the noble Lord opposite were a good deal outside the very limited scope of this Private Bill. He complained that certain associations have not been consulted about the Bill. I am not quite certain what associations he meant, but I would assure him that the Promoters have carried out the provisions of our Standing Orders, which insist that all those who are affected by or interested in the provisions of a Private Bill must be notified so as to give them sufficient time, if they object to the Bill, to lodge a Petition against it, In fact one Petition has been launched against the Bill, so if your Lordships give it a Second Reading it will go to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. I do not think there is anything further I need add, although I shall be glad to answer any other questions or any criticisms that noble Lords may wish to express.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.