HL Deb 07 October 1968 vol 296 cc791-811

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Report of Amendments be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Winterbottom.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 2 [General powers of Freight Corporation]:

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 1: Page 3, line 15. leave out ("hover vehicles") and insert ("hovercraft").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend, Lord Stonham. As noble Lords will remember, the Hovercraft Bill has become the Hovercraft Act 1968 and in that Act we have now a definition of a hovercraft. In the light of that definition, which I will spare your Lordships because it is a somewhat lengthy one, it is considered that the terminology in Clause 2, empowering the National Freight Corporation, with the consent of the Minister, to provide freight transport services by hover vehicle, should be altered to read "hovercraft". The Amendment has this effect and a number of similar Amendments will be introduced at later stages of the Report stage of this Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4 [Transfer to Freight Corporation of certain securities, rights and liabilities]

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 2: Page 5, line 2, leave out from ("subsidiary") to end of line.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a small drafting Amendment consequential on some of the decisions taken by noble Lords on the Committee stage. There are a number of similar Amendments which have been picked up and are now on the Marshalled List and which I shall be moving in due course. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 3.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 5, leave out from ("subsidiary") to ("by") in line 6.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 4.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 8, leave out from ("subsidiary") to ("to") in line 9.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 5.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 29, leave out ("or (aa)").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Bodies whose Securities are transferred to Freight Corporation]:

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 5A: Page 210, leave out lines 10 to 13.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is of some substance, but again it is consequential on the decision which was taken on Clause 4 on the Committee stage. It has the effect of leaving out Part II of Schedule 3. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Formation by Railways Board of, and transfer to Freight Corporation of shares in, subsidiary companies]:

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 6.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 10. leave out ("respectively").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 7.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 14, leave out from ("of") to end of line 15, and insert ("the carriage of freightliner containers and other high capacity containers").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 8.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 18, leave out ("(b)").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6 [The Freight Integration Council]:

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 9.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 26, leave out ("(b)").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 9A:

Page 7, line 37, at end insert— ("or (c) which is referred to the Council by such representatives of freight transport users as the Minister shall prescribe").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the reason I am moving this Amendment at this late stage is that it has already been proposed in another place, before Standing Committee F on February 1 this year, and during the course of discussions the Minister gave an assurance that the Government were minded to look very seriously at the point, namely, that the voices of freight transport users should have the possibility of being heard during the course of the formulation of policy by the Freight Integration Council. That assurance appears in column 206 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in the Committee. However, since that categorical assurance on the part of the Minister the Government have taken no action whatsoever to implement it.

It is important to remember that every single freight transport movement in this country is the result of an independent decision taken by the freight transport user. Therefore I should have thought it not an unreasonable request that this fact should be taken into account in the Bill and that in this clause some machinery should be incorporated far the voices of the users to be heard. I do not think the users can be expected to be content solely with an assurance given by the Minister, Mr. Marsh, that the interests of the users will be borne in mind. The Minister may have the best intentions in the world, but Ministers can change, and. I consider that appropriate machinery should be incorporated in this clause. I do not see why the Council in the course of their deliberations should get involved in matters of minor detail if this facility was afforded to users. I think it is right that the users should have the power to bring before the Council matters of importance and concern to them.

The Minister has a certain safeguard in this respect, in so far as it is the Minister who will prescribe who the representatives of the users shall be. Therefore I hope your Lordships will support the Amendment. The Bill is now taking its final shape and it is becoming increasingly clear that in the future the users will need this opportunity for representation and consultation. I hope that the noble Lord will agree that the users are entitled to it. I beg to move.


My Lords, before the Minister replies, might ask if it would be convenient to have a short discussion on Amendment No. 10 at the same time as Amendment 9A? Much of the ground is similar and he might then be able to reply to both Amendments in one speech.


My Lords, if that is agreed to by the House, it would be acceptable to me, because it is Amendment No. 10 which sets up the machinery which this Amendment seeks to use.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom has said, Amendment No. 10, which arises from an Amendment in identical form put down on Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, formalises the representation of freight transport users. We have returned to it again at this tage because, having had an opportunity to look at the reply given by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, on Committee, it does seem that the case put by the Government is not a convincing one. Their arguments were two-fold. First, the noble Lord said that under Clause 6(2)(a), in addition to the Chairman, the Freight Integration Council would consist of not more than four members with wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industrial, commercial, financial or economic matters, applied science, or administration; The noble Lord went on to say that with these qualifications the members so appointed would surely have experience of the consumers' point of view. Well, they may have, my Lords, but there is nothing in the Bill as drafted to say that they must have obtained this experience in the field of freight. They may have achieved their various qualifications in quite different fields.

Moreover, the point of this Amendment is a slightly different one. It does not merely envisage people who have had experience of the movement of freight, but proposes direct representation of those organisations which are concerned with the movement of freight. As the Government know, these organisations are still dis-satisfied that they are guaranteed fair representation on the Freight Integration Council. Even accepting the Government's good intentions at the present time, one has to look ahead to what might happen in the future.

The second line of argument used by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, on Committee was that in any event the interests of users are catered for elsewhere in the Bill, nobably in what is now Clause 54. That is the clause that brings the services and facilities of the National Freight Corporation within the scope of the transport users' consultative committees. Here again this is all very well so far as it goes, but it does not meet the point directly. It is like being proposed for membership of one club and elected to another. If the Freight Integration Council is to have a constructive role, as described in the White Paper on the transport of freight, it is difficult to see why the organisations concerned should not be directly represented. It is worth remembering that during the passage of the Bill through Parliament the composition of the Freight Integration Council has already been altered by the Government. Two additional categories of people have achieved representation: transport workers and union representatives of workers in the transport industry. So I hope it is not too late for the Government to think again about extending similar representation to the representatives of the transport users organisations.


My Lords, it is a matter of regret to me that I was not able to convince noble Lords opposite during the course of the debate, nor to persuade the Transport Users Joint Committee, to whom the Minister wrote during the Recess, of the reasonableness of the Government's views on this point. I think it is helpful that the point has been raised again at the Report stage of the Bill because it enables me to stress the Government's view, which I hope will go some way to reassuring noble Lords opposite. I am afraid I shall have to resist this Amendment to-day, as I did on Committee, but I want to make it absolutely clear that the Government in no way disagree with noble Lords who have moved the Amendment about the vital importance of ensuring that the freight transport services provided in the public sector are fully sensitive to the needs of users and take those needs fully into account. But although we agree about these important ends we are not in agreement about the specific means that this Amendment proposes.

I think that the fundamental difficulty springs from a misunderstanding that seems to exist about the functions of the Freight Integration Council. The Council is not intended to deal with the detailed operational and commercial problems of the different freight industries in the public sector, and still less to perform the functions of management in those industries. The purpose of the Freight Integration Council is to advise the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland about the progress being made in integrating the freight services in the public sector, particularly as a result of the reorganisation brought about by this Bill. Clearly this is a function to be carried out at a high level and, as it were, with a fairly broad brush. This means, in our view, that it would be a mistake to appoint to the Council members who might take too particular and detailed a view.

Here I should like to reply to one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in his remarks on Amendment No. 10. The position of the members of the Council appointed after consultation with the trade unions might, I agree, seem at first sight to conflict with the principle I have stated and to provide a precedent for the appointment of representatives of the users' interests. But there was in the Government's view good reason for departing in the case of workers in the industry from the principle of not appointing representatives of specific interests, because it seems to the Government that the workers, whose livelihood might very well be considerably affected by the reorganisation consequent upon the Transport Bill, were not safeguarded in other ways to the same extent as the user is.

It might be useful if I outlined briefly once more what those safeguards for the user are. In the first place, and most important, one must remember that the transport industries in the public sector have a statutory duty to break even, and this means that their freight services must be provided on a basis of normal profitability. They are operating in an intensively competitive market, and I think this is a healthy situation; and, quite simply, if they neglect their customers they will be unable to meet their obligations. Lord Geddes put the point forcefully during the Committee stage when the House was discussing another Amendment designed to introduce specific user representation on the Boards of the new transport authorities. He said that if management does not consider the consumer, the consumer will go and management will be useless". Apart from this fundamental safeguard, the interests of the user are also provided for by the system of transport users consultative committees, and Clause 54 of the Bill, which we shall be discussing later, extends the scope of these committees to cover the services and facilities provided by the National Freight Corporation.

To sum up, then, there are in our view ample safeguards to ensure that the interests of the user are fully considered by the National Freight Corporation and the other public transport authorities. Moreover, without introducing the specific requirement contained in this Amendment, Clause 6 of the Bill already requires the Minister to choose the Chairman and not more than four other members of the Freight Integration Council from among persons appearing to him to have had wide experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industrial, commercial, financial or economic matters, applied science, or administration. It seems to me inconceivable that appointments made in accordance with these criteria could fail to include people with wide experience of freight transport. Nevertheless, my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has authorised me to give on his behalf the strongest possible assurance that in making appointments to the Freight Integration Council he will have the interests of the user very much in mind, including the arguments for appointing someone with experience in freight transport from the users' point of view. In the light of this assurance I hope that the House will agree that it would be superfluous to amend the clause in the way proposed by noble Lords opposite.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, for his reply, which really does not bring in any new light on the matter, and I am sorry to say, with the greatest respect, that I do not find it satisfactory. He mentioned that the Minister gave the strongest assurance that the interest of the user would very much be borne in mind. But Mr. Morris, on February 1, also gave an assurance which I should like to read. It was an assurance upon which no action was taken. The assurance was to this effect: Having said all that, I am aware, as I said earlier, of the importance of ensuring that in the formulation of policy, which can have great repercussions right across the bard and great effect on users generally, the views of the users should not go unheared."—[OFFICIAL REPORT; Standing Committee F (Commons) 1/2/68, col. 296.] At the end he says: We are minded to look very seriously, at this point. That is the point of finding the most suitable way of ensuring that users' interests are not overlooked in the deliberations of the Council. Nothing whatsoever seems to have been done to implement those assurances. Yet another assurance has been given that the interests of the users will be borne very much in mind. If the interests are to be so much borne in mind, why are not they in some way incorporated in this clause?

The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said that the Council will be responsible on a high level for the integration of freight services in the public sector. I do not see why they should be at any lower level because there happen to be possibilities for representations and consultations with freight users. Your Lordships should remember that, in effect, without the user there would be no need to integrate any freight services in the public sector or, in effect, to provide any services because there would not be any freight. Therefore, if the users are the people who are providing the means for the services to be used and integrated, I cannot see why they should not have their representations considered. This should be set out in the Bill in this clause, Although the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, welcomed the fact that these Amendments had been put down in order to re-state the Government's view, I do not think anything has emerged and it is highly unsatisfactory.


My Lords, we had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, might have been able to go a little further than he has, but I think my noble friend Lord Merrivale has paid a little less of a tribute than he might have done to the assurance that the Minister has given. It is of some value. It is, I suppose, a sort of inverse act of faith by the Minister in the future of the Freight Council, because at the end of the day the user's voice is going to be most effectively expressed, so to speak, by his feet. If the service is not adequate it will not be used. This, after all, is true of most of the services that we are offered throughout the economy. But I should have thought that the point which was made by the noble Lord in his reply, that the Minister's intention is that among the people that he himself appoints there will be someone who is conscious of the users' interests, at any rate goes some way towards what we are asking for. I should have thought that my noble friend Lord Merrivale might have been satisfied with that, although we think that the Bill would have been improved had the Amendment of my noble friend and of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, been accepted.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, may I once again underline what I said? I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, for his helpful remarks. I should like to point out what is in fact new since we had our rather lengthy discussion in the summer. May I repeat that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has authorised me to give the strongest possible assurance that in making appointments to the Freight Integration Council he willhave the interests of the user very much in mind. That has been said before. What is new is: …including the arguments for appointing someone with experience in freight transport from the users' point of view. The Minister has given this undertaking, and I hope that the House will accept it.


My Lords, with that small point, for which I suppose I shall have to be thankful. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WINDLESHAM had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 10:

Page 8, line 12, at end insert— ("() not more than two persons, nor less than one, appointed by the Minister after consultation with organisations representative of users of freight transport.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the light of the debate on Amendment No. 9A, and of the assurance that we have just had from the noble Lord opposite, there is no need to take up the time of the House with further debate on this Amendment. Therefore, I shall not move Amendment No. 10.

Clause 7 [Transfer schemes by authorities]:


My Lords. this is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 24, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 28.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 8[Transfer orders by Minister]


My Lords, this is a further drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 21, leave out ("or paragraph (b) of subsection (4)")—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.18 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 13: Page 13, line 30, at end insert ("and shall send a draft thereof to every such local authority, and if any objection thereto is made by one or more than one such local authority the Minister may if he thinks fit order a public enquiry to be held in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 5.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we turn now from Part I to Part II of the Bill which deals with Passenger Transport Areas. I should like to say, first of all, how sorry we are that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is not with us today, and to express our regret at the reason. Clause 9 of the Bill empowers the Minister to designate by order an area for the purposes of this Part of the Bill: that is to say, to designate and define a Passenger Transport Area and also by the same order to provide for the establishment of a Passenger Transport Authority in accordance with Part I of Schedule 5 and the establishment of a Passenger Transport Executive in accordance with the provisions of Part II of Schedule 5. Subsection (2) of the clause provides that before making any Order the Minister shall consult with every such local authority within the area or contiguous with the area so designated. and the Minister shall not make such an order until he is satisfied that a reasonable opportunity to make representations…has been afforded to any person providing road passenger transport services…within or to and from that area… My Lords, is that enough? The Amendment I am now moving would require the Minister, before formally making an order, to send a draft of it to each local authority whose area either falls wholly or partly within the proposed passenger transport area or is contiguous with it, and would give the Minister power to hold a public inquiry in accordance with the provisions of Amendment 14G—which, if the noble Lord would agree, we will take in conjunction with this Amendment—if one or more of the local authorities concerned objected to the draft.

The provisions in Amendment 14G are taken from the Eighth Schedule of the 1947 Transport Act which the Party opposite enacted, although there they were related to the preparation and approval of road transport schemes. It is not so very different when you come to consider the subject of an inquiry. The Amendment does not go as far as Sections 24 and 26 of the Local Government Act 1958. That Act requires the Minister to hold a public inquiry when the Minister considers that for the efficient discharge of any county or district functions it is expedient that there should he a joint board to administer those functions. This Amendment simply gives him power to do so if he thinks fit. Of course, if a Minister had this power he would clearly be unwise not to exercise it if substantial objections were received from any local authorities. On the other hand, if local authorities have substantial objections to express to the draft it is surely right that they should be given the opportunity to express them in public and that the Minister should then consider them. At the moment he only has to consult before making the order. There is no question of a draft order; he simply consults the local authorities before making the order.

In the course of the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was at pains to emphasise that the consultation would not be just a formality, it would be a reality, and that the consultation that had been going on in the last few months would not, so to speak, count; there would, if I understood him correctly, be consultation of a more formal character after the Bill came into effect. But that, my Lords, does not seem to us to be enough. In our view it would be enough to leave the Minister just the power to hold a public inquiry, and it is not necessary to say in the Amendment itself that after holding the inquiry the Minister shall consider the report, as is sometimes said in Acts, and may then make the order with or without modifications. The clause as amended would merely say that before making the order he must consult the local authorities and send them a draft of what he proposed to put in the order, and that he may hold an inquiry if one or more local authorities object.

Subsection (1) clearly gives him power to make an order in terms of that subsection. Of course, if the Government are advised that power to make the order in a form different from the draft order must be specifically conferred in the Bill if objections are upheld, then an appropriate Amendment can be put down at the next stage by the Government or by us on this side. I mention this only to say that to argue that the form of this Amendment is defective because it does not provide for modifications to be made is not an objection of substance to the principle of the Amendment. The principle of the Amendment is really quite unassailable.

Of course, an inquiry would mean that it would take a little longer to make the order and to bring the Passenger Transport Authorities into being. However, what is the alternative? As the Bill stands the Minister only has to consult the local authorities one by one. He may consult as fully or as sketchily as he pleases. Consultation obviously should be not only on the size of the Passenger Transport Area and the Authorities contained in it, but also on many of the matters contained in Schedule 5: for example, the number of members of the Authority and the apportionment among local authorities of the seats on the Authority, and also on all the matters contained in Part III of the Schedule.

Naturally there will always be conflicting interests between the various authorities that become members and have the right of representation on the Passenger Transport Authority. The local authorities in the area are bound to have conflicting interests. I recognise that the Minister will at the stage of consultation do his best to resolve those conflicts to the satisfaction of all, but he may not succeed, and his attempt may leave some localities and their inhabitants with a strong sense of injustice. Surely, since the possibility exists that a strong sense of injustice may be left, it is better to allow the authorities to express in public their point of view on the draft. This, I suggest, will be all the more necessary if the Government reject in another place the Amendment which your Lordships have already passed that the Passenger Transport Authorities should not be introduced until after local government has been reorganised in the light of the report of the Royal Commission on Local Government.

I urge the Government to accept this Amendment, at least in principle, not only in the interests of the Areas concerned but in their own interests. It is a bad thing that the Government should give the impression that Whitehall knows what is best in the interests of the localities, better, that is to say, than the local authorities know them, and that it does not matter how much the Government override local government wishes provided only that the Government have consulted the local authorities concerned. We recognise that the Minister must ultimately decide. All we ask is that he should do so after a public inquiry has been held if, in the light of the public reception given to the draft order in the areas concerned, he thinks there is good reason to hold a public inquiry. We are asking the Minister at least to give himself the opportunity in the case of each Passenger Transport Area of balancing the advantages of introducing the order and getting the Authorities into action at the earliest possible moment against the desirability of having strongly felt objections to the plan examined in public in accordance with our usual customs and precedents.

The Government talk about creating local authority units big enough to tackle —this is from Public Transport and Traffic, paragraph 14—the sort of problems, such as transport, which they ought to tackle if local government is to survive as an effective force. But I put this to the Government: will local government survive as an effective force if the people living in the various local government areas are not given the fullest opportunity to express their point of view in public on plans made for them by the Government? The Government cannot have it both ways. It will not do for the Government to consult local authorities individually in private and then argue that the local authorities do not necessarily express the wishes of the people they represent—which is what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, argued at the previous stage. It is possible that in some cases the views of the Government may reflect the interest and wishes of people in a particular area better than the local authorities which represent them, but at least let the Government put the issues to the test of a public inquiry at which both the wishes and the interests of the people in that area may be considered. My Lords, I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment. In the area in which I live we are suffering acutely from the fact that decisions affecting the railways—not necessarily decisions by this Government, but by previous Administrations—have been taken without consulting local authorities. This is altogether wrong since, when the final decision is announced without local authorities and people in the localities having had an opportunity to consider the matter, it leads to a great deal of trouble and unhappiness. The local authority may be blamed because it has not fought for its constituents, so to speak, the people whom it represents. But the local authority would not have had a chance to do so, since it would not have been consulted. This leads to considerable difficulty—and difficulty which could be avoided.

It may well be, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said, that the views of local authorities will be overruled. That may well happen since the Minister, or the Railways Board, as the case may be, has the final say. But the fact is that on the other hand there are many cases where a number of different local authorities are served by one railway area; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows, local authorities on both sides of the Border feel as strongly about this matter as we feel in Scotland. Certainly at no point were our views sought before decisions were taken. This sort of thing is not only undemocratic but silly, because when decisions are taken without consultation it provokes the ill-will of everybody and leads to infinite trouble.

One appreciates that the Government are anxious that this Bill shall lead to a greater use of the railways, and in fact, as I see it, this is the object of this legislation. But people will not use the railways more unless they are consulted and given a chance to express their views. I feel that they would support the railways far more if they were afforded more consultation. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will have second thoughts about this matter and will be able to accept the Amendment. It will be very much in the interests of transport organisations as well as of local authorities and the people whom they represent.


My Lords. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, associated his Amendment No. 13 with Amendment No. 14G. I appreciate the way in which he spoke about the desirability of having such an inquiry, provided that the Minister thinks fit to do so in all the circumstances. The reason I am glad that they were related is that in fact there is a contradiction between the two Amendments. The first Amendment is clearly along the lines stated by the noble Lord, that such an inquiry should be held "if the Minister thinks fit", and the Amendment so says. But Amendment No. 14G is not in such terms: it lays down, in paragraph 2(2), that where objection is made aid not withdrawn, the Minister "shall cause" an inquiry to be held.

The first Amendment calls for an inquiry if the Minister thinks fit, but the proposed new Schedule makes it mandatory to hold an inquiry and does not confine such an objection to local authorities. This means that if there remains outstanding one single objection from anybody, no matter how frivolous it may be, the Minister must held an inquiry. Nothing in what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has said has indicated that the second course is what he wants. It is the first course of which he has spoken. This perhaps arises from dealing with things somewhat hurriedly—and possibly the noble Lord had no alternative than to deal with it in this manner—by selecting something from a previous Act of Parliament which appears to fit the bill. The somewhat hurried nature of this selection is evident from the fact that there remains something which has no reference to this Bill at all, because it includes a reference to "Part IV of this Act"; and "Part IV of this Act" in this connection means Part IV of the Act of 1947.


My Lords, I would remind the noble Lord that as the Amendment was originally put down that was so, but that was later changed. If the noble Lord looks at it, he will see that it says "Part II of this Act".


My Lords, I accept the noble Lord's correction on that point. However, it would not appear that noble Lords opposite have noticed the contradiction between their two Amendments, in the one case giving discretion to the Minister to hold an inquiry if he thinks fit, and in the second case conferring that discretion solely on the single objector who might choose not to withdraw his objection and thereby make an inquiry mandatory.

If the noble Lord's speech indicated, as I thought it did, that his emphasis was upon holding an inquiry where the Minister thought fit, having regard to all the circumstances, then it is not necessary to move Amendment No. 13 to do that, because there is already in the Bill provision for an inquiry to be held in these circumstances. Clause 153(1) already empowers the Minister to hold a public inquiry for the purposes of any of his functions under the Bill, except Part V. Amendment No. 13 would add nothing to this power. I can say quite firmly that the Minister would not hesitate to use the power under Clause 153(1) in this connection if he felt that it was necessary to elucidate facts which the wide range of consultation carried out informally during the past months, and to be continued in a formal sense under the terms of the Bill, had failed to bring out. I should make it quite clear that it is the Minister's intention to circulate a draft order as the document on which we should be consulting the local authorities under Clause 9(2). This is on the lines of what the noble Lord has said and is the obvious and sensible way in which this should be done. Therefore we confirm that the draft which the noble Lord seeks will be circulated and will be the basis of consultation. In these circumstances it seems to my right honourable friend that it would be wrong to repeat in Clause 9 something for which Clause 153 already makes provision. It would be even more wrong to accept Amendment No. 14G and thereby place my right honourable friend under the obligation to suffer the needless delay which could occur because someone, even the most frivolous objector, refused to withdraw an objection.


I fear that the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, does not give much comfort on this side of the House. To deal with his point on drafting, it is true that Amendment No. 14G, the new Schedule. perhaps put upon the Minister a rather tight obligation in requiring that he shall hold public inquiries wherever an objection is sustained. It is true that Amendment No. 14G is a direct replica of the Act which the noble Lord and his noble and right honourable friends put on the Statute Book in 1947. Perhaps that was a little tight and we are quite willing to amend it to bring it into line with the major Amendment, which would give the Minister the discretionary right of "may", but would still set out in the Schedule the procedure by which inquiries would be held.

I must thank the noble Lord for calling our attention to Clause 153(1), but in my copy of the Bill it says: The Minister may hold inquiries for the purposes of his functions… My Bill say nothing about holding public inquiries, and this is a very big difference. What we are asking for here is a public inquiry, and my noble friend has made out a very cogent case on why there should be a public inquiry. The fact is that the setting up of a Passenger Transport Authority in an area will have tremendous implications for everybody in that area, and everybody in the area where such an Authority is proposed ought to know what the position is, what it is going to do and what the effect will be on the transport services. I shall not traverse at length all the details of this proposal, but we all know that the setting up of a Passenger Transport Authority will have big implications for the quality of the transport services, both road transport and rail transport. Perhaps even more important it will have implication on the cost, because the P.T.A. will have the power to precept on the rate for the deficiency in running the P.T.A.

The point is that this body is to have the power to get the right balance between the public transport services and the ratepayers' burden. This has tremendous implications for everybody in the area and they really ought to know what is proposed. We are doing no more than asking, when the Minister has his plan drawn up and has published it, that if there is objection from any of the local authorities there should be a public inquiry where the Minister can set out the merits of his scheme, any objectors can set out their objections, and everybody in the area can know just what is proposed.

We all know that public transport is an essential complement of planning today, and that these two things really must be considered together. That is why we put into the Bill on Committee stage the Amendment asking that these P.T.As. should not be set up until after local government reorganisation has taken place, because in our view the two ought to go together. It was made quite clear from the Front Bench opposite that this was not a situation that was welcomed, and that the Amendment might not fare very well in another place because of the long delay which would be involved. accept that, and I do not wish to frustrate the noble Lord and his right honourable friends in another place in trying out their idea. But let us, at any rate, have the alternative that the local people shall know. If the Government turn down the other Amendment, then here is an alternative of making sure that people in an area who are being invited to have a P.T.A. shall know exactly what is coming.

I mentioned that this public transport function is an essential complement to the planning function, and in the planning world we are all only too familiar with the procedure of public inquiries, not only about big schemes, but about small ones where there are fields for concern. This is the normal procedure. I urge on the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who has great knowledge not only of national Government but of local government as well, that it is no more than common sense to let people know what you are going to do when you are introducing some new set-up which is to have very big implications for everybody in an area.

If the noble Lord is confident that this is a good scheme he need have no fear. If he receives objections from one or two local authorities in the area and his scheme is good, it will carry the confidence of the great majority and, perhaps with modifications in the light of the local inquiry, the Minister will then proceed. If, on the other hand, objections of which the Minister is not aware come to light—and, after all, all know edge is not in Whitehall and this is supposed to be for the benefit of the local people—the Minister may have to think again. But this, after all, is the way the country is governed.

Why, when the noble Lord Lord Hughes, is coming forward with something completely new, is this to be brought in without letting the local people know? I urge upon him that this is no more than the normal process of democracy—letting people know what is proposed, giving them a chance to object if they want to, and carrying them with you if you have a scheme that is worth while. That is all we are doing and that is, indeed, what the noble Lord and his friends wished to do in 1947 with their schemes, because they recognised that this was a reasonable and proper thing to do. I ask the noble Lord to think again, and I hope he will accept what is really a very reasonable Amendment. If he will accept it in principle we will amend it on Third Reading in order to make the Schedule looser and to bring it into line with Amendment No. 13.


My Lords, with a permission, the only point which I think I need add is that while the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, was correct in saying that in Clause 153(1) the reference is to "inquiries", he will be well aware from his own past experience that in practice "inquiries" means public inquiries although theoretically there could be private inquiries. His own experience will confirm that that is so.

3.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not-Contents, 66.

Aberdare, L. Alport, L. Auckland, L.
Ailwyn, L. Ampthill, L. Audley, Bs.
Albemarle, E. Ashbourne, L. Balerno, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Beauchamp, E. Gage, V. Moyne, L.
Belstead, L. [Teller.] Gisborough, L. Newton, L.
Boston, L. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Nugent of Guildford, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Gough, V. Oakshott, L.
Burnham, L. Grenfell, L. Poltimore, L.
Burton, L. Gridley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Caldecote, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Rathcavan, L.
Carrington, L. Haddington, E. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Hawke, L. Sackville, L.
Colgrain, L. Headfort, M. St. Aldwyn, E.
Conesford, L. Hylton-Foster, Bs. St. Helens, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Inglewood, L. St. Just, L.
Cottesloe, L. Jessel, L. St. Oswald, L.
Craigavon, V. Kings Norton, L. Sandford. L.
Crathorne, L. Kinnoull, E. Sandys, L.
Cromartie, E. Lambert, V. Sempill, Ly.
Daventry, V. Latymer, L. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Dilhorne, V. Lonz, V. Somers, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Loudoun, C. Strange of Knokin, B.
Dudley, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Strathclyde, L.
Dundee, E. Malmesbury, E. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Dundonald, E. Margadale, L. Swinton, E.
Effingham, E. Merrivale, L. Teviot, L.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Mersey, V. Thurlow, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Milverton, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Falkland, V. Monk Bretton, L. Wedgwood, L.
Falmouth, V. Monsell, V. Windlesham, L.
Ferrier, L. Morrison, L. Wolverton, L.
Fortescue, E. Mottistone, L. Younger of Leckie, V.
Addison, V. Faringdon, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]
Airedale, L. Fiske, L. Plummer, Bs.
Amherst, E. Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Popplewell, L.
Amulree, L. Garnsworthy, L. Rea, L.
Archibald, L. Geddes of Epsom, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Arwyn, L. Granville of Eye, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Henderson, L. Rusholme, L.
Beswick, L. Henley, L. Sainsbury, L
Bowles, L. [Teller] Hilton of Upton, L. St. Davids, V.
Brockway, L. Hirshfield, L. Serota, Bs.
Buckinghamshire, E. Hughes, L. Shackleton, L.
Burden, L. Hurcomb, L. Silkin, L.
Byers, L. Iddesleigh, E. Snow, L.
Carron, L. Jacques, L. Sorensen, L.
Champion, L. Kirkwood, L. Strang, L.
Chorley, L. Latham, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Clwyd, L. Leatherland, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Crook, L. McLeavy, L. Wade, L.
Crowther, L. Mitchison, L. Walston, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Moyle, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Noel-Buxton, L. Williamson, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Pargiter, L. Winterbottom, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.