§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Transport Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY or STATE FOR SCOTLAND (LORD HUGHES)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 95 [Permitted driving time and periods of duty]:
LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 126, line 4, after ("need") insert ("including a special need for more than one driver on any journey by reason of the distance thereof.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on Report my noble friend Lord Teviot moved an Amendment, which in particular would have ensured that a driver would not be considered to be on duty at any time during which he was travelling as a passenger in a public service vehicle. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, resisted the Amendment, although he said that when he first read the Amendment it looked like common sense. And well it might, since the sole object of having a co-driver is to enable him to take over at the wheel when the driver gets tired or when he is forbidden by law to continue to drive.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that the Amendment, as drafted, would drive a coach-and-horses right through the regulations—a somewhat antiquated parallel, perhaps, in a Transport Bill. I think what the noble Lord really meant was not the regulations but the provisions of the Bill. However that may be, he did not explain why this was so, particularly as the two drivers would, apparently, if we understand his explanation correctly, have different keys for the 1136 tachograph, and therefore it ought to be possible to distinguish between the periods driven by each of them. My noble friend Lord Teviot said that he would put down an Amendment at this stage, and he was encouraged to do so by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. My noble friend Lord Teviot and I have got together and put down this Amendment, which we hope will commend itself to the Government.
§ We take the view that it is sheer nonsense to leave the Bill as it is, for it will make it virtually impossible for a public service vehicle to be driven for more than ten hours on a single journey away from its base. Obviously, a co-driver must be able to take over. Indeed, I am told that E.E.C. regulations (I do not know whether they are regulations or draft regulations) require co-drivers on public service vehicle journeys of more than 280 miles; they must be employed. We are prepared to accept that if we altogether excluded periods when a co-driver was not actually driving the vehicle, we might, although we are not yet convinced we should, pave the way to evasion, and we certainly have no desire to do that. So what we are doing here is to specify as one of the special needs, to meet which the Minister may make regulations, the special need for more than one driver, as obviously this special need can easily arise, not least in connection with tourism and long-distance bus journeys.
§ I know only too well that legal advisers in Government Departments are apt to take the view that if one specifies something which is to be included in a provision one thereby limits the scope of the provision. But this is by no means invariably so and I cannot see how it can be so here. If one specifies a special need, one obviously makes it clear that there are other special needs for which provision may be made in regulations. I do not think that even a legal adviser could deny that. One merely makes it clear that this is one special need which the Government intend to deal with in regulations without prejudice to the others. Indeed, I even thought of including the words, "without prejudice to the generality of special needs", but this seemed not only quite unnecessary but rather absurd.1137
§ We then have to consider whether to limit the Amendment to public service vehicles. But there may be circumstances, at present unforeseen, in which provision should be made for journeys of other kinds, and we think it unwise to tie the hands of the Government in that respect. If the Government were prepared to give a categorical assurance that they will make regulations to cover the case of co-drivers in public service vehicles we should be somewhat reassured, although I repeat again that it seems to us undesirable to leave what is undoubtedly a nonsense in the Bill, even though it would not by any means be the only nonsense in the Bill. My Lords, I hope that the Government are disposed to accept this Amendment, and I beg to move.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, there is very little that I should like to add to the excellent speech of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn. On Report I hope I made it clear that I was anxious to preserve the existing provision for coaches on long journeys to carry two drivers, which is to the benefit of road safety, the drivers themselves, the tourist industry and the public in general, who would otherwise he deprived of these services which they now enjoy. At this point I feel I must say a word or two about two of these services. First, the express coach system is more comprehensive and economic passenger-wise than any possible railway network. Practically every town and large village in Great Britain is linked up in some way or other with one of these services. Secondly, there are many day tours all over the country which the public have enjoyed for many years and they will become inoperable unless this Amendment is accepted. There is one point I would put to the Government. Surely it is better to have 52 people confined in the space of 36 feet in one coach than to have the same 52 people sitting in at least 17 cars bunging up the highway.
As I stated before, I have experience of this double manning and therefore I have no doubt as to its value. I regard the omission from the Bill as an unfortunate mistake, while it is also difficult to understand since the operators have been drawing the Minister's attention to this 1138 matter since discussions on the subject started some 18 months ago.
There is little more that I should like to add to Lord Drumalbyn's speech. I consider that it is necessary to say here that the Government have been at pains to emphasise the possible limits to which, in theory, the drivers might work. Thus, in this frame of mind they are wielding a sledgehammer to this nut. The changes have been made in such a way as to damage the whole industry, whatever noble Lords opposite may say, merely because one driver in a thousand might work, although within the limits of the present law, in a way that might possibly be, undesirable; yet I am satisfied there is no danger to road safety. Last week the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, accused me of exaggerating in my speech. In actual fact it is the Government who have been exaggerating this whole issue. We are all, of course, agreed that drivers should have reasonable conditions. Therefore, for this reason, we wish to see proper provision made for the use of two drivers.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has its origins, as he has indicated, in the discussion which we had last week on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, concerning the time a driver spends as a passenger in a public service vehicle. I explained why that particular Amendment was unacceptable to the Government, and the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, undertook to look at any alternative which might be put forward to see whether it would be workable. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for having given me notice of the present Amendment well in advance. As he knows, the Minister has looked again at the matter very carefully, but for reasons which I will explain I am afraid that it is unacceptable.
One of the disadvantages, of course of receiving notice from the noble Lord of his intention to move an Amendment along particular lines, and having a discussion with him, is not only that he tells us the reasons why he is putting the Amendment forward, but that we can tell him the reasons why we think it is not going to work. He therefore can anticipate my reply in the confident knowledge that I am going to say the same thing to-day as was said last week. Th[...] course is not surprising, my Lord[...] 1139 said last week that it would be wrong for the Government to oppose an Amendment of this kind just for the sake of opposing; and that we are not doing. I hope I shall be able to convince the noble Lord that there would be considerable dangers in accepting the Amendment, which might react unfavourably on vehicle operators.
Under Clause 95(10) as at present framed the Minister has power to make exempting regulations to deal with cases of emergency or otherwise to meet a special need. But no examples are given of the sort of situation which would fall under these words. The effect of this Amendment would be to particularise, as an example of a special need, the need for more than one driver on any journey by reason of the distance of that journey. If I might interpolate into the reply I have before me, it is almost as if the Amendment were saying, "and within special need there shall be special special need". I do not know why this one example should be singled out for special mention. I am advised that it is not necessary to mention it for the purpose of ensuring that a special case of this kind can be covered by exempting regulations. I can assure the noble Lord that I am advised that there is no doubt that any special case calling for more than one driver can be covered under the clause as it stands.
If, then, there is no legal necessity for these words, what is the purpose of the Amendment? If it be to put some pressure on the Minister to make regulations to cover this type of case, I must say, quite frankly, that I do not think that that is a proper thing to do. The Minister ought to consider this type of special need in the same way as he will consider other cases where it is claimed that there is a special need, and ought not, it seems to me, to feel himself under any greater obligation to deal with this one than he is to deal with the others. Indeed, this would imply that other cases of special need had somewhat less priority of claim to his consideration.
Notwithstanding the fact that the noble Lord has anticipated that I might say so, I must say that I have been advised in the strongest possible terms that the inclusion of this particular restriction 1140 would, by implication, narrow the construction which a court might give to the meaning of the words "to meet a special need". This would be most unfortunate, because undoubtedly there are a variety of cases which it may be desirable to cover under this head. It is imperative to ensure that no foundation shall be provided for the argument that since Parliament found it necessary to particularise the case of a co-driver it was the intention of Parliament that a narrow construction should be given to the words "special need". I am sure the noble Lord will agree that this is a consequence which should be avoided, although of course he does not agree that it is a necessary implication to be taken from these words.
This is not a new doctrine which the Government are putting forward for the purposes of the Transport Bill. During all the years in which I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, both in this Government and the previous Government, the view has frequently been expressed that as soon as one particularises one diminishes the value of the general statement. I gave the clearest assurance on Report that where it was proper to provide an exemption to enable a co-driver to be carried. that exemption would be provided. I cannot go further than that. I cannot give an undertaking that an exemption will be provided in any case of a co-driver. but I will repeat what I am able to say on behalf of the Minister, that where it is proper to provide an exemption to enable a co-driver to be carried, that exemption will be provided. I am glad to see from the terms of this Amendment that the noble Lord clearly accepts that this is the right way to deal with these cases; namely, by making special provision for them when it can be determined what the cases are for which an exception should be made.
May I say in passing that the noble Lord was incorrect in his interpretation of what is taking place in the E.E.C. when their regulations come into effect. The E.C.C. regulations to which he referred prohibit the driver of a lorry exceeding 20 tons gross weight from driving (that is, from being at the wheel) for more than 450 kilometres, or approximately 280 miles per day. If the lorry has to continue the rules allow a co-driver 1141 to take over, although time spent as a passenger cannot be counted in full—indeed it cannot be counted as rest at all if the lorry does not have a bunk. In fact many owners will find it more convenient to change drivers, which is what frequently happens in Great Britain on long journeys, so it is wrong to argue that the E.E.C. rules require a co-driver; they merely require a change of driver. Incidentally, these rules come into effect on October 1, 1969.
It is therefore common ground between us that we deal with this situation by making exemptions. The only difference between us, if indeed there is much difference at all, is that whereas the noble Lord is presumably anxious to ensure that there shall never be any doubt that this type of case can be covered, on the advice that I have received I am bound to tell him that while lie would undoubtedly make it clear that that type of case is covered, he would he doing so at the risk of narrowing the power of making exemptions and so precluding every other case which he would doubtless wish to see dealt with in this way.
I repeat once again the assurance that there is beyond any doubt at all an adequate power for the Minister, should he think fit, to make provision enabling a co-driver to be carried without prejudice to the requirements of Clause 95, and in the light of the very strong advice which I have received about the risk of this Amendment I hope the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw it.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I thought that at one time in the earlier part of his speech he was perhaps magnifying the differences between us, but towards the end we seemed to come nearer together. Indeed, I do not think there is much between us on this matter. In any case, under this Amendment the Minister would have to make regulations; and obviously those regulations would define the kind of case in which it was proper to make this exemption and the kind of case in which it was not. So if I may say so, he was going a little far in suggesting that I was trying to get exemption in every single case. All I was asking was that regulations should be made and that the Bill should say so in this particular case. My noble friend and I are perfectly satisfied with that 1142 assurance. This is what we wanted. Of course, we do not ask for exemptions in cases which would be bad or improper; we want to be quite certain that there will be exemptions only in the proper cases. I think the noble Lord has given the assurance far which we asked.
I am also grateful to the noble Lord for having given the information about the E.E.C. regulations and saying that these apply to lorries and not to public service vehicles. I think I made it clear that I was given this information and that I have not myself seen the regulations. I apologise to your Lordships if inadvertently I gave a false impression, but the point was that co-drivers are provided for in the regulations, and this is the object of my Amendment. We are perfectly in agreement that this should be provided for by regulations and should not be stated categorically in the Bill as was done m the case of an Amendment moved on Committee stage. I am sure that my noble friends will agree with me in being quite satisfied with the noble Lord's reply, and therefore I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 104 [Maintenance of the Board's Waterways]:
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 136, line 34, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert—
("With a view to securing the general availability of the commercial and cruising, water-ways for public use, it shall be the duty of the Waterways Board, subject to the provisions of this section—")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps I should say at the outset that I feel somewhat embarrassed that at this late stage of the Bill three of the four Amendments on the Marshalled List are concerned with Part VII of the Bill. But I do not think it can be said that either the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, or any noble Lords who have taken an interest in this Bill, have lacked consistency with persistency.
§ This is a small but important Amendment, the purpose of which is to make clear beyond a peradventure that the court can grant an order under Clause 106 on an application by a member of the public to require the Board to remedy 1143 a failure of maintenance. My noble friend Lord Conesford raised this issue during the last stage of the Bill, when he pointed out that a court might hold that an individual was on a canal by invitation of the Board and consequently had no insurable interest and therefore the court could not make an order. I am sure it was obvious that this was not the intention of the clause nor of the Government and therefore this Amendment seeks to clarify the position.
§ I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord and his advisers for helping in the drafting of this Amendment and also my noble friend Lord Conesford for raising this issue, to whose credit this Amendment must fall. I hope that the Government will consider it sympathetically. I beg to move.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, this Amendment is declaratory. It underlines the fact that the purpose of the Board's new duty to maintain the commercial and cruising waterways in a condition suitable for use by commercial craft and pleasure craft respectively is to ensure that those waterways shall be generally available for use by members of the public operating such craft, and that any person accordingly concerned can be a party to the proceedings to which the noble Earl has referred. This Amendment may help to reassure anybody who has at any time been under a different impression. It does no harm. For those reasons I would ask the House to accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULLmoved Amendment No. 3:
Page 137, line 17, at end insert—
("() Subject to the provisions of this Act
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, there have been, I think, two long discussions on the thorny and vexed question of whether or not public rights of navigation should be taken away by this Bill, and at the last stage the Government won their point by a hairline. I do not intend to repeat any of those arguments to-day, and of course one accepts that we have lost the day, albeit for the time being. The purpose of this Amendment is far less embracing. It is to ensure that every person who wishes to use the commercial and cruising waterways—not the remainder waterways—has a right to apply for and hold a licence from the Board, but on the Board's terms and conditions. The Amendment goes on to say, in paragraph (b), that the Board shall not unreasonably withhold or withdraw a licence from any person.
§ One could well ask why is it so vital to have this reasonable safeguard. The prime and almost sole reason for this Amendment is that the Board, unlike the Thames Conservancy, are not only the guardians of our waterways but also commercial operators on them, and they are in many cases in direct and open conflict with the very companies to which they will be issuing licences to operate. It is therefore wholly reasonable that independent operators should be given some protection should the Board ever in the future try to take advantage of their dual position. Of course I am not saying that the Board would do it, but the safeguard should be written into the Bill. The reverse argument could be nut: that it is wholly reasonable that the Board should not be put in this embarrassing position of being open to criticism of abuse.
§ The Amendment has in the short time available been carefully drafted and prepared to avoid any of the pitfalls which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, described to us at the last stage when the discussion on public rights of navigation took place. In paragraph (c) it overcomes the problem of the collection of tolls. It takes from the Board nothing of their control of pleasure craft users or of their safety factor responsibilities. The Amendment places no extra burden on riparian owners. It does no harm to the Board's finances; in fact it would do only good to them, because it would encourage future investment in 1145 waterways—investment which they so desperately need. The Board's flexibility of management remains unimpaired. They may still refuse or withdraw a licence on reasonable grounds; for instance, because the boat had holes in it. or the operator had more than 80 mg. of alcohol in his blood, or the canal had to be temporarily drained. These, I suggest, would all be reasonable grounds for refusal.
§ The only possible criticism one could see that the Government might make is what will the Amendment really achieve in practice if the Board are free to lay down what conditions and terms they like in the licence. I think the answer is in paragraph (b). If the terms are onerous or prohibitive, then I am advised it could be held that they would be construed as unreasonable and in conflict with paragraph (b). I believe this to be a valuable Amendment. It interferes in no way with the Board's management. It puts beyond dispute the right of any person to apply for and hold a valid licence to navigate on the commercial and cruising waterways only. It helps to remove the conflict of interest that could arise in the Board between its capacity as a licence issuing department and its capacity as a commercial operator. It has been prepared on the lines of the 1932 Thames Conservancy Act, not just to enlist support from the present chairman of the Thames Conservancy but because in practice it has been shown to work well. The Amendment as drafted achieves, I believe, a delicate balance between the rights of the public and the responsibilities of the Board. I beg to move.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I should like to explain that the reason my name is not on this Amendment is that the noble Earl had already claimed paternity for it, and the same is true of the previous Amendment and of an Amendment which will be moved shortly. If there had been a little more time my name would have been also on those Amendments. This Amendment covers a valuable point, and it is a reduced point; it is less than was asked for on a previous occasion, and it is what I think can reasonably be granted without upsetting any of the arguments which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, put on earlier occasions. I really do not see why it should not be accepted.
1146 A very important point has already been made by the noble Earl: that it is possible for a waterway owner to run off competition on his waterway to his own advantage. At the Committee stage the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, put two questions to me in answer to the Amendment I then put. He asked why it should be necessary to have a dedication clause in a waterways Bill, and why it should be reeded when a waterway operator is lot building a waterway on his own land and wants to have other traffic on it. As a matter of fact both statements are totally wrong. To begin with, no waterway operator came to Parliament for authority to build a waterway on his own land. If t was his own land he made his own waterway and did not allow private competition. The second point, which is parallel, is that he did not want competition on it for the simple reason that he wanted to run barges himself and have the monopoly on his waterway. It paid him not to have competition. Therefore if he owned the land he did not come to Parliament for a Bill.
The reason he came to Parliament for a Bill was that he did not own the land and he had to buy it by compulsory purchase. Parliament in its wisdom—and I think it was wise—said, "If you are taking something from a man by compulsory purchase there must be a public right of navigation; the public must have something out of the deal; otherwise we are not going to let you buy the man's land by compulsory purchase." The reason for letting every-body use the waterway and compelling the waterway operator to let everybody use the waterway was that otherwise the operator ran his own boats on the waterway and became a monopoly operator. It was found that even with these conditions in some of these waterways Acts the waterway operator bought barges, ran them in competition against other waterway users and, by various means which were legal but illegitimate (if I may put it that way), by giving better wharves for his own boats, by idle wing his boats to do certain things the others were not allowed to do, and by a number of small hole-and-corner methods which were not specifically legislated against in the Act, he was frequently able to cut 1147 prices against competitors on the waterway, drive the competition off the waterway and then become a monopoly operator, in spite of the waterway Act.
I know that my noble friends do not want me to speak for a long time, and therefore I shall not give your Lordships a long list of these cases, as I would otherwise willingly do, but I think you must feel that I have spoken enough on this subject in this House. It is because this sort of thing has been done in the past that we know it is perfectly possible to do it in the future and that action similar to this has been taken in recent years that we are wanting this Amendment. The fact of the matter is that of recent years the British Waterways Board have purported, by their licences, to grant on certain waterways a monopoly of operation to some particular operator favoured by them, entirely illegally; nevertheless, it has had the effect of driving some would-be operator off. Because we know that this has been done in more than one case we want this particular Amendment.
This particular Amendment is a cut-down Amendment. It asks for much less than that which we put to a Division last time. It has one particular, valuable effect which we must consider; namely, that the real people who are paying for these waterways are not the pleasure craft operators, nor Her Majesty's Government, but the people who are working commercial craft in cargo on the major waterways. They are providing the major part of the revenue and the cargo waterways are operating at a profit. But it is their right of navigation which is concerned here also, and if that gets totally removed and if they cease to be run profitably as a result, then we may find that the waterways are millions out of pocket.
I do not know whether my noble and learned friend would care to consider this point for a moment. Would he consider whether the Treasury would supply an extra £1 million or so for the waterways (if that is what the commercial waterways lost), or whether the quite reasonable deal that Lord Nugent said on the last occasion we were now given would stand another £1 million being lost every year on the waterways? Obviously, it would not; it could not. 1148 We must preserve the status quo at least of rights of navigation if these commercial waterways operators are to operate well. If they operate badly, then the whole deal is off. It must be; the Treasury could not carry it.
Therefore, we must have this quite limited right of navigation preserved. It is nothing that the British Waterways Board need worry about. It is entirely subject to their regulations. They can say which waterways are safe. They can say when their lock-keepers get up in the morning and come on and go off duty. They can say when a waterway shall be closed for repairs. They can say if it is not fit. They can say whether a boat is too large to go down a waterway or whether the driver is drunk. They can say everything they like. The clause puts it that way. It is for this quite reasonable right of navigation that we are now asking your Lordships.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sorry that I am unable to take the same course with this Amendment as I was able to take with regard to the last one. The first part of this Amendment, paragraph (a), is of course quite unnecessary. Clearly, the holder of a licence who has paid his licence fee has a legal right to use the canal in accordance with the terms of the licence. He has a contract. There is no need for an Act of Parliament to tell us this. The second part of the Amendment, paragraph (b), raises again what we have discussed already at such enormous length. both on the Committee stage and on Report stage of the Bill; namely, this question of rights to navigate. My noble friend Lord St. Davids has gone back again, as waterways enthusiasts always do, to what used to happen in the "bad old days". The whole point of this Act is surely to set out a modern code for use on waterways.
As he spoke after me I did not in fact have any opportunity last week to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, to whose words, as he knows, I always pay such attention. He went back to 1859, to an obiter dictum of a judge on the public right of navigation. The case to which he referred concerned the Midland Railway Company in which somebody, the steam engine having been invented, wanted to use a barge powered by steam. The railway company who owned the 1149 canal objected to this, but the decisions at Common Law, in the end, invariably are common sense, and it appearing from the evidence that if the barge was powered by steam it could not do any harm to the banks if it did not go more than 3 m.p.h., and the plaintiffs being prepared to undertake that their steam driven barge would not go more than 3 m.p.h., the judge said that that was all right. But that decision had nothing to do with the rights of people to send power-driven pleasure craft through the canal, because they had not then been invented.
This Amendment is really an attempt to go back behind the 1958 charges scheme. Under that scheme, and at the time the 1962 Act was passed, the Board could only make reasonable charges and attach reasonable conditions, and if there was a question as to whether the charges or the conditions were reasonable this was decided by the Transport Tribunal. Rightly or wrongly, the Conservative Government did not think that was right, and so the change which they made in Section 43 of the 1962 Act was that the Board are to be able to charge whatever amount they think fit and can impose any conditions that they think fit.
I can understand people thinking that was right or thinking it was wrong, but that is the condition which has operated for years, and what the law would be if this Amendment were passed I cannot think, as there would be an apparent conflict. You would have, on the one hand, what you have now, which is a right to navigate but only on terms and conditions fixed by the Board. On the other hand, you would have the requirement that the Board may not unreasonably refuse the issue of a licence. As they can attach any condition they like, I suppose there would be a conflict between Section 43 of the Act of 1962, and this clause, which does not allow for the matter to go to the Transport Tribunal for decision. This is clearly to enable the Waterways Association, who I am glad to say are most litigation conscious (which of course lawyers always approve of) to go to the courts, I suppose to decide whether the Board were unreasonably refusing a licence because they were attaching a condition which nobody reasonably would be expected to accept.
1150 What a court would make of that, and how on earth it can align that with the terms of Section 43 of the Act of 1962, I do not know. It is not as if there is any complaint or history of the Board's unreasonably refusing a licence. It may well be, as my noble friend Lord St. Davids said, that years ago, in the "bad old days", there were canal companies which did. Maybe, in the "bad old cays" of I do not know how long ago, there were companies which gave one person a monopoly. But the Board does not do that. Nobody suggests that the Board acts unreasonably. I have been told that there are but few cases in which the Board has ever refused anybody a licence, and I think then only in two kin is of case. In the first, the Board has refused to renew a licence when somebody has been acting as a hooligan and has made himself an infernal nuisance to every other owner of a pleasure craft al the canal. The second kind of case is where local authorities have objected to a narrow boat being used as living quarters and moored on a length to which, for sanitary and other reasons, the local authority object.
Those are the only two cases, and neither my noble friend Lord St. Davids nor the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, have suggested that this is what they have in mind. It would, on the face of it, he an extraordinary requirement to put into an Act that a public Board of this kind was to act reasonably. The Government are satisfied that it is the Board's intention in the new régime which lies before it to encourage as many licence holders as possible. It is in the Board's financial interest to do so, and the Governmert are satisfied that this very reputable Board—and, of course, there will also be the Advisory Council to draw attention to anything they do not like—are going to act responsibly. My Lords, I hope very much that, with that assurance, the noble Earl may be prepared to withdraw his Amendment.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will forgive me if I do again to-day what I did on the last occasion. I appreciate that my spec king after him had the effect which he described. On the other hand, for some obscure reason, noble Lords on both sides 1151 with whom I was associated on that occasion thought that I might be in a slightly better position to answer the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack than either of them would have been.
Let me say, first, that of course I agree that the case I cited, taken completely by itself, would have been of rather limited application. The point of it was of course that it and other cases have been relied on in subsequent judgments, and in all the textbooks, for a great number of years. If I might remind the House in fairly non-legal language, but giving the effect of what the law now is,the navigation of canals is, of course, open to the public on payment of tolls".And elsewhere in the leading work they say this:A canal may be defined to be an artificial highway by water.That brings me to the great authority on highways, and there it is said:It is essential to the notion of a highway that it should be open to all members of the public.What we find unsatisfactory in the clause, if we do not pass the Amendment now before the House, is that it enables the Waterways Board to discriminate between one man and another, one concern and another, in a way in which nobody would be entitled to act on a highway or canal under the existing law. I grant at once to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack a point on which I completely agree with him: I do not believe that the Waterways Board would be guilty of the action that I have described. But hitherto every political Party in the State has been against taking away rights of the individual citizen which would enable him to contest the action of a Board if the Board were to take such unreasonable action. That has been a principle of my Party; it has been a principle of the Liberal Party; I think that for a long time it has not been altogether obnoxious to most far-seeing members of the Socialist Party. We do not wish needlessly to take away the rights of the individual citizen to enforce his rights against a public Board, however unlikely it may be that the public Board would in fact misbehave.
My Lords, it will be remembered that on the last occasion when the matter went 1152 to a vote there were forty-nine who voted on each side. Therefore, as a result of the Standing Order quoted by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that Amendment was lost. This Amendment now before us reproduces the most essential part of this existing right of navigation while avoiding the specific bad points, or alleged bad points, to which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack then drew attention.
The canals we are now considering are all canals selected because it is intended that navigation by boats shall continue upon them. Those are the only canals to which the present Amendment applies. If navigation is to continue, why should there not be equality among those who wish to navigate? If somebody comes with a request to navigate and there is a reasonable case against him there is nothing to debar the public authority from making use of that objection. As my noble friend Lord Kinnoull said, in his admirable opening speech for this Amendment, these are conditions to which the Thames Conservancy, that great body, is subject. It has not hampered the Thames Conservancy, and it would not hamper the Waterways Board.
I am quite confident that Her Majesty's Government would lose absolutely nothing if this Amendment were carried. I cannot think why any of those interested in promoting this Bill should find themselves inconvenienced in any way. What the Amendment does is to preserve a right of navigation which is possessed at the present moment; we preserve the existing law which does not harm those great waterways, such as the Thames Conservancy, already subject to it. Do not let us sweep away a public right merely for the sake of making a public Board omnipotent. Why should they not be, in a proper case, subject to the jurisdiction of the courts? My Lords, I strongly support this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I am grateful for the support there has been for this Amendment, particularly from my noble friend Lord Conesford. I am disappointed with the reply of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I did not feel that he replied to any of the points that I made in my short opening speech. I have made a list of the points he has raised. He started by 1153 saying that paragraph (a) was unnecessary. In my view it is complementary to paragraph (b). He went on to say that this raised again the whole issue of the public right of navigation. With great respect, I do not think it does. It is a very limited but valuable Amendment. He then quoted Section 43 of the 1962 Transport Act, and I think I am correct in saying that here the Board may make such charges for use of waterways or impose such terms and conditions as they think fit. In regard to the words "as they think fit", I do not think that any public Board would act unfairly.
The noble and learned Lord went on to say that there was no evidence of the Board's acting unreasonably. I was not suggesting that they were. I was looking to the future. I was looking to the fact that in the future the Board would have a dual capacity in that they would be both issuing licences and competing as operators. As the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, this could lead to discrimination. With respect, I do not think that the noble and learned Lord's case was convincing. I do not think that he put forward any valid arguments against the Amendment. The Amendment does not repeat last week's arguments. I consider it to be a limited but valuable provision. It seeks simply to allow people, as of right, to obtain a licence to use the canals. I feel that I cannot withdraw this Amendment and must let it take its course.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if the noble Earl considers that I did not sufficiently reply, I might perhaps, with the leave of the House, be permitted to speak again, particularly as I have now had the opportunity of hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said. A highway is a road down which every member of the public has an absolute right to go without paying anything. The law of canals has always been in dispute but, whatever it may have been one hundred years ago, a canal is certainly not a highway. Since the 1962 Act, one could go on a canal only with a licence, on payment of such fees and subject to such conditions as the Board thinks fit. That is what Section 43(3) of the 1962 Act says. It changed the then existing law by which both the charges and the conditions had to be reasonable. If somebody thought that they were not reasonable, 1154 he could go to the Transport Tribunal. The provision reads:Subject to this Act and to any enactment as is mentioned in the last fore-going subsection, the Boards"—because it applied to all the Boards—shall have power to demand, take a id recover such charges for their services and facilities, and to make the use of those services and facilities subject to such terms and conditions, as they think fit.That was not opposed at the time. Why now pick out one Board as if it had behaved unreasonably in the past was glad to hear the noble Earl agree that they had not done so); why assume that they are going to do so in the future, and why pass a clause which is in clear conflict with Section 43 of the 1962 Transport Act? How any court is going to construe the two together, I do not know.
If I may humbly say so, I feel that all we waterways enthusiasts have done extremely well by this Bill. I think that the Inland Waterways Association was absolutely right when, on the publication of the Government's White Paper oily a year ago, they said "We have a complete triumph; that is exactly what we want". They were cock-a-hoop about it, and I think they were right. I think that they were right largely for the reasons given by the Opposition, speaking through the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, only last week. On the same Division to which the noble Lord, Lord Cone[...]ford, referred, Lord Nugent advised the House not to divide, and he said this:The legal views on this matter obviously differ, but the practical view, which I take, is that here we have a vast system of canals, many of which are derelict and others becoming derelict, which are expensive to keep up. In this Bill the Government are offering a deal by which the Inland Waterways Board will be provided with a substantial sum annually in order to maintain the greater part of these inland waterways in a navigable condition, Those are differentiated into two classes, and the remainder class, if not navigable now, will remain unnavigable, with no obligation to keep them in a state of navigation. That is the deal.I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, so far, and I think he agrees with me, that this Bill sets out to rationalise the situation. That is something that we all want to see. My Party, when they were in government, started this, and noble Lords opposite and their right honourable friends have continued it. But where I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is that I do not agree with him that the Government have given no rights in the place of whatever may have been there 1155 before. I am rather of the view of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, that although there may have been something there before on paper, there was not much there in fact, because there was nobody to proceed against. Nevertheless, what is being given now by way of right to the public, by subsection (5) of Clause 104, is the right to those interested in navigation and who wish to use the waterways in Schedule 1 or 2 to bring an action in the High Court …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8/10/68; col. 1057.]My Lords, I respectfully commend that view to the House. We are now at last sweeping away this awful old law which was always in dispute; and naturally so, because it was contained in 600 different Acts. I think that it was during the Second Reading of the Bill which provided for the appointment of the Law Commissioners that my noble friend Lord St. Davids first drew my attention to the awful state of the law in this matter. I remember his saying that not one of these Acts is in accordance with what modern conditions require. Now, by this Bill, we are sweeping all this away. We are placing on the Board a duty—a modern duty—to keep the commercial waterways and over a thousand miles of cruising waterways in condition. The conditions as to licences, which have gone on for years quite satisfactorily and without complaint, are clear.
On those grounds, this matter having been discussed at great length on both Committee and Report stages, and our having had a vote, I hope that your Lordships will not press this Amendment—an Amendment which has suddenly appeared on Third Reading, which is in conflict with Section 43 of the Transport Act 1962, which is unnecessary and will only cause confusion.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I have listened to the reply of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and it seems to me that he covered a good deal more ground than the ground covered by this particular Amendment. I am not concerned at this moment whether other changes made in this Bill in relation to waterways are good or bad. All I am concerned with is the position
§ in relation to these particular Amendments. With great respect, I did not find the argument of the noble and learned Lord at all convincing. I must admit that I come very new to this problem, but on the last Amendment, which the noble and learned Lord accepted, he said that it would do no harm. He certainly has not demonstrated that the inclusion of paragraph (a), as to whether it would be lawful for persons holding a valid licence to use the waterways, would do any harm at all. It is purely declaratory in the sense that if you have a licence to use a waterway it is implied that you will be able to use it; but I do not see that it does any harm to put that firmly into the Statute.
§ Secondly, that particular provision is linked with the provision in paragraph (b). One again applies that to the test: what harm will it do if paragraph (b) is put in the Bill? I have not heard anybody suggest that the Board will in fact unreasonably withhold a licence, but why should it not be stated that they are not to do so? It gives them clear guidelines on which to act, and it makes clear the position of those who wish to apply for licences. I cannot see the slightest harm that anybody would suffer if this Amendment were made to the Bill. I am fortified in this respect because no one has suggested that these particular provisions in the Thames Conservancy Act have any bad consequences whatever. I hope that my noble friend will press the Amendment, and I will support him.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I am surprised to hear the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor say that he thinks this reasonable-looking Amendment is in conflict with Section 43 of the 1962 Act. If it is, I should have thought that it shows that there was something wrong with Section 43 of the 1962 Act, which accordingly ought to be amended.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 56.1157
|Aberdare, L.||Ampthill, L.||Barnby, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs.||Barrington, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Auckland, L.||Beaumont of Whitley, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Audley, Bs.||Belstead, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Blackford, L.|
|Boston. L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfelite, Bs.||Goschen, V.||Poltimore, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Grenfell, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Byers, L.||Gridley, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rea, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Hacking, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Henley, L.||St. Davids, V. [Teller.]|
|Craigavon, V.||Hylton-Foster, Bs||St. Just, L.|
|V. Crawshaw, L.||Kilmany, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Daventry. V.||Kinloss, Ly||Salter, L.|
|Denham. L.||Kinnoull, E. [Teller.]||Sempill, Ly.|
|Derwent, L.||Kinross, L.||Somers, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Latymer, L.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Drumallyn, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon. E.||Stratneden and Campbell L.|
|Dudley, L.||MacAndrew,||Teviot, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Malmesbury, E.||Thurlow, L.|
|Eddisham, L.||Merrivale, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Milverton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Wade, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Monsell, V.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Foley, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Addison, V.||Henderson, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Archibald, L.||Heycock, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hill of Wivenhoe, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Bowles, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Robertson of Oakridge. L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hughes, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hunt, L.||Serota, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Burden, L.||Hurcombe, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Champion, L.||Iddesleigh, E.||Shannon, E.|
|Clwyd, L.||Jacques, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Kilbracken, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch. L.||Latham, L.||Sorensen, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Leatherland, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Strang, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Francis-Williams, L.||McLeavy, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mais, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Moyle, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Geddes of Epsom, L.||Pargiter, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Phillips, Bs.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 105 [Section 104 not to affect Attorney-General v. Waterways Board]:
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULLmoved Amendment No. 4:
Page 138, line 26—
("Provided that on the determination of those proceedings this section shall cease to have effect save for the purpose of enforcing compliance with any order made in the proceedings.")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is to meet the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on the point that he made on the new clause that was inserted during the last stage of the Bill. As the present clause is drafted, it would leave the Waterways Board with a duty to maintain these two waterways for an indefinite period. This was not the purpose of 1158 the clause and, therefore, this Amendment seeks to right that situation.
§ Perhaps I may just add that I understand that an offer has been submitted to the Waterways Board by those parties willing to take over these two canal; and all their responsibilities, and I also understand that this will be discussed later this week. I trust, therefore, that the l[...]fe of this clause may be a short one, ark that an amicable solution will be found. I beg to move.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, on the previous Amendment we were discussing a matter we had discussed at great length on Committee stage and at great length on Report stage and the House has to-day taken a view different from the view it took on Report stage. We also discussed at great length on Committee stage this question of the pending action, and on Report stage your 1159 Lordships took a view. I do not propose to ask the House to take any different view on Third Reading. or to raise the matter again. As your Lordships know, rightly or wrongly the Government think that the money which the Board have will be better spent on the commercial waterways and on the cruising waterways than in restoring a particular canal to a condition which it was in a good many years ago, and which even then will not be navigable. These are all matters which will have to be considered in another place. While, therefore, I do not agree with this Amendment, I do not propose to ask the House to divide upon it.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I am a little surprised at my noble and learned friend taking quite this attitude, especially as the suggestions which were put and which he mentioned (I otherwise would not have raised them) will in fact save the Board a great deal of money, and the Ashton Canal will be handled in a much cheaper manner by the methods which are now being suggested than it would have been in any other way. This will save the Board an enormous sum of money. They will not have to restore the waterway. They will be handing it over to somebody else, and their only contribution will be a sum which may well be less than they would have had to spend on the waterway whatever else they had tried to do with it. So what that has to do with the debate I do not know. I merely mention it because it was raised by my noble and learned friend. This Amendment clears up a small anomaly which was never intended, and surely that is a valuable thing to do. One does not know what view the other place will take of the clause in general, but surely it is our business to send the Bill to the other place in the best possible state. Therefore, I should have thought that this little anomaly ought to be cleared up.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. It falls to me to move this Motion because my noble friend Lord Stonham is still indisposed. Although several of my colleagues, and notably my noble friend 1160 Lord Hughes, have shared the task of piloting the Bill through the House, it is Lord Stonham who has been primarily responsible for it in your Lordships' House since my noble friend Lord Shepherd, for reasons which we all understand, had reluctantly to give up his responsibility for it. I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the very hard work which my noble friend Lord Stonham put into the Bill, and in wishing him a very speedy recovery.
When the Transport Bill came to us from another place, there can have been little doubt in your Lordships' minds that we were faced with a Bill that was not only long and complex but in some respects controversial. None could have had any doubt that it would need long and careful consideration. That your Lordships have given this Bill the consideration it merits is well demonstrated by the length of time we have devoted to it. The debate on Second Reading lasted over 6 hours, the Committee stage lasted nearly 64 hours, and on Report we spent a further 15½ hours—a total before today of some 85 hours. I, for one, regard this as convincing evidence that your Lordships have, as usual, given responsible attention to the task of improving this Bill. In moving the Second Reading my noble friend Lord Shepherd drew your Lordships' attention particularly to those parts of the Bill which had not been considered in another place, or had been only very hastily considered, because of the guillotine. The House took note of the point, and has given full attention to these parts of the Bill. In particular. I have in mind the details of quality and quantity licensing, the waterways, the section on bridges and level crossings and the historic transport relics and records. I hope it may be said that we have made good any sins of omission of the Commons.
I have mentioned how long your Lordships have spent in dealing with this Bill, and that your Lordships have not laboured in vain is shown, I think, by the number of Amendments which are being sent to another place for them to consider. I believe my arithmetic is right when I say that, again up to to-dayand we have added three more to-day-there were 256 Amendments in all passed 1161 in your Lordships' House. A good many, of course, were drafting or very minor Amendments; nevertheless there were a considerable number of substance and importance. Your Lordships will not be in the least surprised if I say that I do not believe that all of them improve the Bill. But nevertheless there have been a good number of Amendments, and we recognise that many stem from a depth of experience and expertise.
Leaving aside the Amendments on which there is fundamental disagreement on policy, I think it is fair to say that both sides of the House have considered Amendments to the Bill in a constructive way. I hope your Lordships will agree that the Government can be acquitted of being at all dogmatic in the stand that we have taken from time to time. We have always tried—and I hope we have succeeded—to consider the arguments put by noble Lords in other parts of the House fairly and reasonably. I think a measure of the extent to which we have recognised the validity of arguments moved from other parts of the House is not only the number of Amendments which we have accepted from noble Lords opposite but the number of concessions which we have ourselves tabled in response to points made by other noble Lords. A quick look through the Amendments made both in Committee and on Report suggests that on some thirty points the Government have gone all or at least a good part of the way towards meeting criticisms made by noble Lords elsewhere in the House. So I hope we shall not be accused of being unyielding in our approach.
We recognise that a great many noble Lords in all parts of the House have worked very hard on this Bill. May I say, in all sincerity, that the Government have very much appreciated the dedication and responsibility with which your Lordships have gone about your task; and I am sure that the House will not mind if I make specific mention of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and his colleagues on the Front Bench opposite. I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord for the very reasonable and balanced way, which is of course entirely characteristic of him, not only in this field but in others, in which he has argued his case and made his points. Of course, he has a wide knowledge of transport 1162 matters; and, if I may say so, I think he has contributed most valuably to our debates and to the improvement of the Bill. We have not of course always seen eye to eye, but we have always recognised the sincerity of his convictions, and we appreciate the experience which he has brought to bear on our deliberations.
Our debates have tended to accentuate the differences between the two sides of the House. And it is, of course, on these differences and on the controversies between us that public attention has fastened. But I have nevertheless been struck by the broad measure of agreement that exists on a great many sections of the Bill. I am thinking, for example, of the Government's proposals for reorganising the bus services which are already within the nationalised field and for the establishment of the Scottish Transport Group; of the new measures of financial support for public transport; of quality licensing—even though we may not all agree about all the details; of the reduction in drivers' hours—though, again, we may not see eye to eye in every respect; of the new financial and commercial framework for the Railways Board and the specific subsidies for uneconomic social services. Then there are the road traffic clauses; and even—dare I say, after our recent exchanges—of the new policy for the canals and other inland waterways.
On waterways, I naturally regret that there are some noble Lords who have not been persuaded of the validity of the Government's policy, not even by the eloquence of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor—for whose help throughout this Bill the House must be particularly grateful—but I would Say to those noble Lords that we really have to face realities. It really boils down in this case as in others to a matter of money. The Government have not got unlimited funds at their disposal. As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said during the debate on Report, whatever the legalities this is in essence a practical problem. The noble Lord agreed that it the Government are not being ungenerous in the amount of money they are making available for the waterways. So it all comes down to the question of how best to use the money. In its White Paper on Waterways, which was generally welcomed, and in the Bill, the Government 1163 have proposed a pattern of operation for the future that should, in practice, enable the amenities of the waterways to be enjoyed much more fully than has been possible in the past. The cruising network, after all, covers about 1,100 miles. I regret therefore that the positive and attractive side of these proposals should have been so overlaid with discussions about whether rights do or do not exist under ancient Acts. After all, the Waterways Board are not going to discourage people using the cruising waterways—quite the opposite.
These aspects to which I referred a few moments ago seem to me to indicate a very substantial area of agreement on the Bill. At the same time, I do not imagine that any of your Lordships supposes that this is the last we shall see of this Bill in this Session. We must wait and see what another place thinks about the Amendments we have made to this Bill. So it is perhaps not really appropriate for me to say very much about the next stages in the working out of the Government's policy and the implementation of this Bill. I would only say that there will, of course, need to be a great deal of preparation yet before some parts of this Bill can be implemented, and I would assure your Lordships, as has been said by my noble friends from time to time during our deliberations, that my right honourable friend the Minister will have full consultations with the various interested parties before all the details are worked out and brought into effect. I know that fears have been expressed from time to time that the Government are trying to impose an unwanted solution to our transport problems upon a reluctant country and a reluctant transport industry. I do not believe this to be true at all. As I think your Lordships will now appreciate, and as the Government have repeatedly tried to make clear during the course of the debates on the Bill, my right honourable friend and his Department have already had lengthy and extensive consultations with the people affected on all aspects of the Bill. It has not been dreamed up in a vacuum. It is a practical blueprint for a new pattern of organisation and regulation in the transport world which will, in the Govern- 1164 ment's view, best meet the needs of this country over the next years.
As I have said, the Government do not believe that the Bill as it leaves your Lordships' House is in the best shape that it could be in. But I would assure your Lordships that we are confident that the hard work that has been put into it by this House will not be in vain, and that we believe that in many respects what has emerged is a better Bill than that which was presented to your Lordships four months ago. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass. —(Lord Beswick.)
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for the charming and emollient terms in which he moved the Motion, "That the Bill do now pass", and especially I thank him for the far too generous praise to myself. This Bill has, of course, had much of interest and much on which we could agree; but, in fact, the fame that it won for itself as being a Bill of exceptional controversy owed not a little to the terms in which the Minister of Transport originally introduced it in claiming that it was a major extension of public ownership. Unhappily, this set a theme which undoubtedly bedevilled the debates in another place, though not, I would think, here. I agree with the noble Lord that we have had many constructive and valuable debates on the very large part of the Bill on which there is no disagreement in principle. In the debates here we on this side of the House have tried to tone down the partisan features, as we saw them, and at the same time to make constructive improvements on the very wide range of the Bill.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for his generous recognition of what contribution has been made by all noble Lords in all parts of the House. I certainly echo that for myself, and especially I should like to thank my noble friends on the Opposition Benches for the assiduous and effective support they have given to the Front Bench on this marathon Bill, both on the Committee and the Report stages. The noble Lord gave us the interesting figure of the length of the debate: 85 1165 hours. Sometimes these seemed rather long hours, but usually very interesting ones, as we took our 256 Amendments.
It is perhaps an interesting comment on the character of this noble House that, although it is an amateur, and indeed unpaid, body, it has been willing to sit for many nights during Committee stage, and to sit late. It has been willing to sit for an extra week into the Summer Recess after the Commons had risen, and to come back a week earlier to complete the Report stage—and all in order to meet the convenience of the Government in stretching the capacity of Parliament to meet its considerably overloaded legislative programme. For a House which the Prime Minister has already condemned to extinction this is surely returning good for evil on an unusual scale. Incidentally, I observe that the Benches usually occupied by the right reverend Prelates are empty, so that perhaps there is place for my noble friends behind me to move across en bloc to sit there. As a Life Peer, I murmur with admiration "Noblesse oblige!"
My Lords, during the past six months we have received a huge volume of representations about the Bill, not only from all sections of industry and commerce but also from local authorities. I am sure that the suggestion that has sometimes been made, that the opposition to this Bill, and the concern and anxiety about it, stem only from the road haulage lobby, will not be accepted in any quarter of the House. In fact, the increased costs flowing from the Bill amount to some £100 million to £200 million a year—and whether you call it £100 million or £200 million probably depends on whether you sit on the Government or the Opposition side of this House. Either way, this is a very substantial extra cost which will work its way through the economy to higher prices in shops and higher prices in exports over the next year or so. Therefore, it is no wonder that industry has turned to your Lordships for some restraint on legislation which threatens, as industry sees it—and, indeed, as I see it—so much danger to the economy. The Amendments which your Lordships have made to the Bill go, in my judgment, a long way to remove these dangers. While I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for the many useful concessions which he and his noble friends have accepted, I 1166 still hope that they may yet come to see the wisdom of some of the others which the Government did not accept.
My Lords, we welcome some parts of the Bill, especially quality licensing, which aims to raise the general standard of safety and roadworthiness of all freight vehicles. I am sure that if this is sensibly applied by the licensing authorities—and I have every reason to expect that it will be—it will bring a general benefit to road freight transport, not only in respect of road safety but also in improved performance, which could well exceed the extra cost involved. Here again, I was grateful for the various points which the Government accepted when we put them forward in the form of Amendments.
I feel that I must strike a note of criticism with regard to transport managers. I think this is a good scheme but astonishingly lacking in preparation. The main features of the transport managers scheme are only now being discussed by the Ministry of Transport and the leaders of industry. While it is very welcome to us to hear that the Ministry are on this occasion listening to industry, the unreadiness of the scheme means that Parliament cannot do much more than approve it in principle, leaving almost all its working arrangements to be defined in regulations later. Of course a good deal of this would have to be in regulations, but not as much as this, with something completely new. It should have been looked at much more closely by Parliament, and I regard this as an unsatisfactory way to put new legislation before Parliament.
We have had some lengthy debates on drivers' hours, and all I would say on that is, "Least said, soonest mended." The Government have not covered them-selves with glory in this respect. Those of us who felt, as I did, before the Bill came to this House that some further statutory limitation of drivers' hours was right, probably still think that, despite the explanations of the Government but I doubt whether they won any converts. If the Minister's words about getting increased productivity to avoid loss of earnings or an increase in costs are to mean anything at all has not the Minister an absolute obligation to get tachographs fitted before introducing shorter hours for driving? I think he has. The 1167 Prices and Incomes Board have told him that this is an essential feature of increased productivity, and I feel that shortened hours without this elementary safeguard would be sheer cynicism. I hope that the Government will think again about the Amendment which we moved on this point.
Further reorganisation of British Rail finances to put them on a basis of solvency was one of the major parts of the Bill, and we fully supported the Government in this, although it means a further huge write-off of some £1,300 million worth of taxpayers' money. Railway solvency and stronger management to cope with the enormously difficult task of the railways are things that we all want to see, but I am sure that nobody in Westminster imagines that a capital reconstruction is all that British Rail needs. The major problem of British Rail, in my judgment, in addition of course to its 19th-century track layout, is the desperately low manpower productivity. This may be overcome only by greatly strengthening management at all levels.
Brave words were spoken by noble Lords opposite about the new management strength and manpower policy of British Rail. In the light of this I must confess that I was astonished at the sudden surrender in July of the British Railways Board to the campaign of the N.U.R. Noble Lords will remember that there was a "Go-slow" about which the Board seemed to be taking a most effectively firm line. This won public support, despite a good deal of commuter inconvenience, but suddenly the Board gave in and gave to the N.U.R. an across-the-board increase of wages which will cost an extra £13 million a year, and against a promise of increased manpower productivity sometime in the future. That is the same old round that we have seen time and again, and it gets us nowhere.
My Lords, this could have been done only on the authority, if not on the instructions, of Ministers. I should like to know what instructions Ministers gave to the Chairman and to Mr. Neal with regard to the settlement that they should make and how they should settle the "Go-slow". If the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is to answer this debate, perhaps he will tell us why this wage settlement, 1168 so obviously completely out of line with the Government's income policy, was not referred to the Prices and Incomes Board. I hope that we shall have answers to this question, but I doubt it.
The Government have suffered heavy criticism, and rightly so, for their treatment of Chairmen of British Railways and I hope that these words will go beyond this Chamber. In their short, four years of Government they have sacked two Chairmen and they have cavalierly treated the present Chairman. The message I want to put over is that it does not matter what we do with the finances of British Rail, unless the Minister of Transport and the Government of the day give the Chairman constant and firm support he can never succeed in his task; and that kind of treatment, I feel, is a complete negation of all the things which we have been discussing and for which we have been hoping.
I must turn to another aspect of the Bill on which I wish to express deep criticism: I refer to quantity licensing. This sets out to help British Rail by forcing 10 per cent. of freight off the roads on to rail. I feel that this can do British Rail nothing but harm. Nobody, not even Members who sit on the Benches opposite, can believe that a measure of this kind can possibly stand the test of time. Sooner or later it is bound to be swept off the Statute Book, and when that time comes what happens? British Rail has lost any advantage it might have got out of it, whatever that might be, and at the same time has lost something which matters more: the goodwill of all its best customers. I do most cogently urge noble Lords opposite to advise their right honourable friends in another place to think about the Amendments which we made to postpone the appointed day for introducing this measure.
In conclusion, after many hours of work on this Transport Bill over many months and after debating the issues with Ministers and discussing them with industry and commerce, my strongest impression is that Government and industry are talking different languages and that the gap is alarmingly wide. The sense of partnership and trust between Government and industry on which economic growth depends is dangerously lacking.
1169 The Director General of the C.B.I., Mr. John Davies, said in a recent speech:Consultation has become a dirty word. All too often Government collects from industry full information about its activities and then takes action for political reasons without regard to the consequences for industry.In this Bill there are some glaring examples of it and the House is well aware of them. The Director General went on to say:I feel deeply that on our present course of consultation by condescension we are moving into a deterioration of relationship between Government and industry and I am anxious to see it arrested.I entirely agree with all those words. Incidentally, Mr. Davies made this speech before this Bill ever appeared, so what he said after it, Heaven knows!
I am not pleading a special case for industry. I am aware, as we are all aware, of the stagnant nature of the economy at the present time and over the past year or two. I am aware of our growing foreign indebtedness. These things alarm us all and endanger us all and I am stating no more than the hard reality when I say that the prosperity of our country and, indeed, the conditions of our daily life depend upon a good working partnership between Government and industry. How and where the balance should be struck between political and industrial interests is the decision of the Government, and of the Government alone. But if it is solely on Party political grounds or if it is solely on industrial grounds, it is the decision of a time-server. The right balance of the two is in the national interest, and that is the decision of a statesman. This is the opportunity which your Lordships' revision of the Bill has given to the Government, and I hope that they will take it.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, during the Second Reading debate my noble friend Lord Henley welcomed this Bill with considerable reservations about some parts of it. As a result of the activities of your Lordships' House during the course of the Bill a great many of those reservations have been removed. We have always welcomed the new deal that is being given to the waterways, and although we are slightly sorry that more of the 1170 Amendments tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, were not accepted, we feel that this is an extremely good and helpful section.
Likewise, on drivers hours we feel that the Government have made a good job, in the body of the Bill at any rate. I must confess that from time to time I was a little confused by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, with his interesting facts and figures. He almost went so far as to suggest that a reduction in driving hours would actually diminish safety. since obviously a greater proportion of drivers' hours are now to be "first hours", in which attention and concentration is low. This was, I think, a bit of a "facer" for everybody. However, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, if I understood him aright, managed to answer this by suggesting that the Bill was allowing drivers to drive for longer periods—which I thought was entirely opposed to what we were trying to do. Nevertheless, this sort of Alice-in-Wonderland situation has come out in the right way.
I am not certain that the case of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, and the points made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, have been satisfactorily answered, but I am not certain that a reduction of drivers' hours has much to do with an increase in safety. It may amount merely to a reduction of working hours for an industry which demands a great deal of concentration and hard work. Maybe this Bill was not the right place to do this. Nevertheless, since the Government chose this place we support it.
Our attitude towards nationalisation has been, I think, a clear and distinctive one. Unlike the Conservative Party, we do not object to nationalisation as such. There are times and places when it is needed. But we do insist that whenever there is nationalisation there should be a definite line drawn between those areas where nationalised industry has an unfair advantage, either through finance or through merely being governmental or semi-governmental, which is considered necessary because of the social consequences, and those areas where, in order to protect society from bureaucratic muddle and the people who are in competition with them, nationalised industry is expected to act commercially. For this 1171 reason we welcome both the Government's Amendments to ensure that this division is more clearly drawn and the throwing out of the notorious ex-Clause 48.
We welcome quantity licensing in principle but we object, and have consistently objected, to the Government's contention that bureaucracy must decide whether or not it is cheaper, faster and more convenient to carry goods by road or by rail. This is to treat businessmen as fools or knaves, or both, and we regard this as an unfortunate symptom of the attitude of the Government on this matter. Therefore we welcome the postponement of the introduction of this scheme until 1972, in the hope that some Minister of Transport, or whatever Party, will have second thoughts about it.
Another major change which we welcome is the greater emphasis on transport users' consultative committees, as a result of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. It cannot be too often said that the public are not consulted or represented nearly enough in transport matters and that they are too often regarded as merely a nuisance. There are other changes which we welcome but those are the main ones. together with the retention of the freightliner service under British Railways.
I cannot, however, leave the subject of this Bill without saying a word about a peculiar superstition that seems to exist among both the Conservative and the Labour Parties about the efficacy of the market of quality. It came up when the Government Front Bench was opposing Lord Donaldson's Amendments. It came up when some Conservative BackBenchers were very unfairly savaging the proposals by my noble friend Lord Foot for a Vehicle Safety Council. It cannot be said too often that even in a free economy companies in private enterprise and nationalised industries both get away for a great deal of the time with major disregard of customers' wishes, and with shabby, shoddy and sometimes dangerous products, without going bankrupt or even making a loss. If any noble Lord doubts this, he has merely to look through the pages of Which? and see how many highly profitable firms still produce goods which are electrically faulty or otherwise 1172 dangerous, or, in the case of a nationalised industry, read the correspondence in the columns of The Times during the last few days about the Post Office.
But on the whole, my Lords, this Bill has been a splendid justification of the claim of your Lordships' House to be a Revising Chamber, and I think that the result is a good Bill. I should like to pay tribute to the courteous and helpful way in which the Ministers on the Government Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, have helped me and the extreme forbearance they have shown in dealing with this long and trying Bill. I think that at times it has tried the patience of us all. But the result has been eminently worth while. It is probably too much to expect but, if I may, I would hope that the other place will recognise what we have done and leave the Bill just as it is.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD ROBERTSON OF OAKRIDGE
My Lords, if it is allowed that somebody from these Benches should say one or two words at the end, I should like to do so. I will not keep your Lordships long. Three former Chairmen of British Railways have been attending these debates. To anybody who cares to look through the record of the debates, it will be clear that where we have spoken on the same point we have all expressed the same opinion. We have not in all cases expressed a view, but where we have spoken on the same point we have all, without previous consultation between us, expressed the same opinion. Now that it is proposed to pass this Bill, I should like to say one thing as it goes on its way. It is, of course, right that a Bill like this should be judged by its effect upon the economy of the country, and particularly by its benefit to the users of transport. But there is another party also concerned, and that is those who are endeavouring to run the transport, whose job it will be to give effect to the provisions of this Bill. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, mentioned, in particular, the Chairman of British Railways, who I think has a very arduous task. I hope that when this Bill goes forward both Houses of Parliament will wish him well. and that future Ministers of Transport will back him up.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD JACKSON OF BURNLEY
My Lords, may I at this late stage be allowed to make a brief comment on a subsection in the Bill which is so short and so well hidden that I am afraid the importance of the provision which it makes may be overlooked? It is Clause 49(6), which reads:Each of the Boards and new authorities shall have power to provide for any person technical advice or assistance, including research services, as respects any matter in which the Board or new authority have skill or experience.A similar clause, Clause 5, was included in the Gas and Electricity Bill. My point in speaking is to make a plea that the provision of these clauses should he exercised as widely and vigorously as possible on behalf of the developing countries. As some of your Lordships will have heard me say on a previous occasion, the providing of technical advice and assistance to the developing countries, and not least, of course, to those of the Commonwealth, is one of our most vital responsibilities and opportunities.
In my opinion it would be of immense value for the resources of our transport, car supply, communications and all other similar public services to be brought to bear on the problems of these developing countries. The benefit would be not only to them, but to ourselves in the longer term. I therefore hope that the provisions of Clause 49(6) and the similar provisions in the Gas and Electricity Bill will be brought specifically to the attention of the developing countries through the appropriate channels of the Ministry of Overseas Development, not only in relation to technical advice and assistance but, perhaps even more importantly, in training facilities for selected overseas persons.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, replies, I should like to add a word or two about Parts V and VI of the Bill. The trail of this Bill has been long and contentious, but the way has been smoothed by noble Lords on the Government Front Bench and their advisers, who have so often been at pains to furnish information whenever it has been asked for. It has become apparent in the last few minutes that there is general regret that the noble Lord, 1174 Lord Stonham, for whom no detail is too small or any effort too great, is unable to be present at this final stage of the Bill.
Amendments from this side of the House to the part of the Bill on the operators' licences—quality licensing—have in no way been designed to breach the Government's objective of safety in introducing this new form of licensing. Such changes as we have suggested from this side of the House we hope take due account of the road safety provisions which flow from road fund licensing or of the discretion of the licensing authority concerned. During the Committee stage my noble friend Lord St. Oswald said:We on this side accept the concept of transport managers. … We have reservations on part of what has been explained and a good deal on what has not been explained ". —(OFFICIAL REPORT, 3/7/68; col. 349.)And my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford has made it clear that ultimately it is on what has remained unexplained that dissatisfaction has focused. The Government may feel that criticism here is scarcely fair, and, for my part, I should withdraw it immediately if as I suspect, the concept of transport managers was in such an embryonic state when taken over by the present M[...]nister that some aspects of it had then to be tackled almost from scratch. This is the greatest pity, for with earlier thought and consultation I believe the idea of transport managers could have been launched with general acceptance on all sides
My Lords, possibly there has been as much animated debate on the question of drivers' hours as on any Part of this Bill. I would pay tribute to the research done by many noble Lords, and in particular by my noble friend Lord Titeviot. Some of the conclusions which he has drawn are too severely logical for someone like myself, who knows only of the effects of fatigue on the private motorist, but my noble friend has done all of us a service in clearly exposing the lack of medical conclusions on this subject. Of course it is right that there should be concern that the hours required of many drivers are long. But it is right, also, to consider the effect that this Part of the Bill must have on costs, particularly in the development areas in this country. My Lords, Stage 2 (Clause 95(12)) remains in the Bill, and before its implementation is even considered I hope that 1175 deeper research may give an opportunity for further debate.
There remains in these two Parts the vexed question of what is called quantity licensing—"special authorisations". Here I should like to make a slightly different point from that made by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. On Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, asserted that the railways will not be interested so much in the type of load as in "the points between which it is being carried". Unfortunately, this most sensible assurance is difficult to square with Clause 71(2), where the licensing authority may still require to know the goods to be carried, the places between which the goods will be carried, the people for whom they are to be carried and the occasions on which they will be carried. True, this power is discretionary, but if an applicant, truthfully trying to look ahead, says: "I do not know what I shall be carrying or exactly when. I am unsure of the point of departure, and have no idea at the moment of the destination", such an application will be laughed out of court. So it may be that applicants for special authorisations (the name alone hardly indicates decisions given "on the nod"), applicants for each individual journey, will have to embroil themselves in the whole goulash of the quantity licensing procedure. On this side of the House we took the view that the details of this procedure are so forbidding that time is needed for further consideration.
My Lords, when in 1947 the Transport Bill reached your Lordships' House, with, I think I am right in saying, many clauses undiscussed, The Times wrote:If a revising Chamber did not exist it would have to be invented.This Bill now returns to another place with the addition not only of Opposition Amendments but including, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, pointed out, Government Amendments of substance, and with a third of the Bill debated for the first time. Transport is no isolated subject but an integral part of the life and industry of our country. At this critical juncture in our country's affairs I hope that the study given to this Bill in your Lord-chips' House may be considered to have been of some use.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, as one of those who took part in the section of the Bill which deals with inland waterways I should like to say that, in spite of the fact that our attempts to improve that Part of the Bill were made in a rather strenuous way, and sometimes with what might possibly have been regarded as acerbity, we are conscious of the very considerable concessions which were made in this Bill to the interests for which we were speaking. The White Paper is a quite remarkable document, and it indicates that a completely different outlook has been taken by the Government. That, I think, reflects the change of attitude in the country to the problem of using canals and inland waterways.
In the period between the wars, and in the period right down into the present decade, the general tendency in all Government circles, and throughout the country, was to write off the canals completely, and to regard them as something which had existed in the past but as now no longer viable. The change in attitude has been, as I say, quite remarkable and I think that the Government were quick to realise that there had been this change in attitude, because certainly in contrast with their immediate predecessors their outlook was very different indeed. The White Paper is really, in a way, a revolutionary document.
I should not like, and I am quite sure the Inland Waterways Association (though I do not speak for them officially) would not like, Lord Beswick and the Government spokesmen generally to feel that we were not deeply appreciative of the concessions that have been made in this Bill and in the Government policy over these last years. Not long ago there were few Members of Parliament in either House who had heard of the Inland Waterways Association or were appreciative of the remarkable contribution which the canals and inland waterways can make to the recreational activities of the young and, indeed, middle-aged people of this country. This has now come very much to the fore.
We fought very hard for rather more concessions, because if these canals and waterways were to become completely clogged up and unusable an enormous 1177 amount of human labour and a great deal of capital which has been put into the building up of this system in the past would be lost for ever. It is a great pity that this problem should have been tackled at a time when the financial position of the country was a difficult one. We appreciate that the Government have gone a long way in this difficult situation to make financial provision for a really fine effort, and we should not like this Bill to pass through its final stage without the Government spokesmen appreciating this or without an expression of our gratitude for what has been done being made known to the country.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I should like first of all to make a reference to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, if only because at this very late stage in our proceedings he managed, almost unbelievably, to make a reference to something which no one else had spoken of in all the many hours in which the Bill had been discussed here and in another place. May I say that I am particularly glad that he drew attention to the power in Clause 49(6) for the Boards and for the new authorities to provide technical advice and assistance to other persons. It is a provision to which the Government attach considerable importance. As the noble Lord reminded us, technical aid by organisations with specialised knowledge and experience, such as the transport Boards, is one of the most valuable ways in which developing countries can be helped.
The Government are anxious that these bodies should be in a position to make their know-how available overseas, and we are taking advantage of legislation that comes forward—and the noble Lord mentioned the Gas and Electricity Act as well as this Bill—to ensure that they are not prevented from making their expertise available where it is needed. Indeed, as the noble Lord. Lord Jackson, probably knows, the Railways Board, for example, have already been active in this field. I am sure your Lordships will be grateful to the noble Lord for drawing our attention to this clause, and I can assure him that the Minister of Overseas Development is always ready to make the best use of the skills and knowledge available in this country.
1178 I do not propose at this stage in our proceedings to say very much about the policies to which the Bill gives effect. The main arguments have been fully rehearsed in our earlier debates and by now the House is thoroughly familiar with the main features of this Bill; and it is difficult with a Bill of this size and comprehending so many aspects of transport to speak briefly about its contents. But, my Lords, I must make some reference to some of the things which have been said. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, in commenting on what my noble friend Lord Beswick said about the actual hours for which we had spoken, tot tiling some 85 hours, made I think a very proper comment: that sometimes they seemed very long hours indeed. Of course, that is not surprising, because we have not worked this out according to strict trade union principles. If we had, some of these hours would in fact have been counted at time and a half and some at double time, and on that basis we should certainly have been well into the three figures.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, also referred to the vacant Benches over here and put forward the rather inhere sting, if unlikely, theory that perhaps at some future stage in the proceedings of this House he and some of his noble friends might find themselves over on these Benches. I must admit that that sounds rather attractive to me because, both in personal appearance and in the gentleness in which he can utter the most outrageous dogma, he is well qualified to sit over here—not that I am suggesting necessarily that present Bishops nowadays indulge in the utterance of outrageous dogma; as a Presbyterian I must make it quite clear that I am not entering into any criticism of Bishops. But the thought then pissed through my mind, who is going to go with him? I think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would sit quite comfortably over here, and again in gentleness of expression and reasonableness of argument the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, would qualify, but somehow or other I cannot envisage him in a Bishop's robe.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, went out of his way to point out that a[...]l on this Bill had not been disagreement, and he made reference to the many points of the Bill where the Opposition had agreed with the Government. I am quite willing 1179 in this case to concede that where the Opposition agreed with the Government the Opposition were correct. I thought he was a little ingenuous when he talked about the possibility of some parts of the Bill, if not the greater part of the Bill, at some time being swept away by a future Government. That may or may not he reasonable from his point of view, but I hardly thought it was reasonable for him to suggest that we ought to concur in this by the back door by so fixing the appointed day, or so deferring the appointed day, that the sweeping away of the legislation would not be necessary. This is the sort of thing I had in mind when I said that he could put forward the most outrageous dogma in so gentle and apparently convincing a fashion.
I agree with the noble Lord that it is quite essential with legislation of this kind that at the end of the day there ought to be good working arrangements between industry and the Government. Notwithstanding what has sometimes been said during these debates, and notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, repeated to-day, the co-operation between industry and the Government is very much better than many newspapers would have us believe. I do not think that the more critical comments which are sometimes made by Mr. Davies are necessarily an expression of what industry always thin of its relations with the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, asked (and I was tempted not to say anything about it, because it does not really come within the terms of the Bill) about the Penzance settlement. I cannot really add much to what has been said already both in this House and elsewhere. A settlement was negotiated by the British Railways Board with the unions, and it was agreed on the basis that it was within a cost that could be met by increased productivity. The noble Lord did not refer to the fact that subsequently there has been the Windsor agreement on productivity. So it was not merely a case of making a decision of this kind and then forgetting all about the conditions attaching to it. Beyond that I do not wish to go, and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will be unduly disappointed that that is all I propose to say on the matter.
1180 The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, had some kind things to say about the Bill, although he rather blotted his copy book, so far as I was concerned, by finishing up by expressing the hope that another place would accept the Bill in its entirety as it is. I cannot agree with that. I accept that in some respects the Bill as it leaves this House is a better one than it was when we received it, but on the other hand there are other aspects in which changes have been made that are by no means for the better. If, therefore, I thank the noble Lord for the kind things he has said about the Bill and do not venture further to disagree with him in other directions, this perhaps fits in as a reasonable compromise, in view of the way in which he was good enough to express the Liberal Party's views in relation to nationalisation. Both what I am saying about his comments and what he said about nationalisation enter into the category of the curate's egg, being both good and bad in parts.
I am reminded that when we were dealing with the Amendments the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, rather took me to task, good-humouredly, for an old-fashioned metaphor which I used in connection with drivers' hours. Maybe I was unduly conservative in this matter, but I think there is a certain merit in using these old sayings to keep them in their original form. For instance, if I had had occasion to refer to the biblical saying about the difficulty of the camel getting through the eye of the needle I should not have found it necessary, notwithstanding the activities of certain sheikhs, to substitute "Cadillac" for "camel".
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, thought it was right that the Bill should be judged by its effects on the economy and on the users. He then went on to say, "but not only in that way", and he applauded the reference which had been made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, to the Chairman of the Railways Board. With the comments that both noble Lords have made in that direction I cannot find it within myself to disagree. Obviously the staff must have their proper place in things, and I agree that we must give them every encouragement in carrying out their 1181 duties in the most competent way that is available to them.
I should also like to say, "Thank you" to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, for having reminded us that three Chairmen of British Rail have spoken at different times, and that when they spoke on the same subject they spoke in unison. So far as I can recollect, the only time they were against the Government was when they were speaking in unison on the subject of the records—perhaps that was not quite the only time they were against the Government; but on the whole it would be fair to say that they were more favourable than unfavourable to the Bill, although I am not committing them to any indication that they have expressed an unqualified approval.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred to the rather unusual information that we were given by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot. It may well be that what he has said on the subject of hours being unrelated to the question of fatigue would satisfy some of the scientists, but I must admit to being sufficiently of the point of view that I find it difficult to believe that the longer one drives the more able one becomes, and that theoretically by the time a man has been driving for fourteen or fifteen hours he should be at the peak of his form and could carry on quite merrily into the next day. I know perfectly well that that is not what the noble Lord said, but it is the sort of direction in which his remarks appeared to take us. As the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, said, if only we could find some way of eliminating the first hour when a person is driving, there would be no accidents at all.
At the last stage of the Bill I felt I was somewhat unkind to my noble friend Lord Charley in connection with an Amendment which he moved, and therefore I feel obliged to thank him for the somewhat generous references which he has made for what the Government have done in relation to waterways. Although he and his friends did not get all that they wished for, he is in fact saying that they really got a very great deal. In fact that generally is the position, I believe, throughout this Bill; not everybody got everything they wanted but many people got a great deal.
1182 The Bill which now leaves this House is very different from the Bill which came to it. As I have said, in some respects it is a better Bill, but it follows from that remark that in some respects we think it is a worse Bill. We are quite unrepentant about thinking that, despite the powerful and sometimes impassioned arguments which have been advanced against the Government's policies. But as my noble friend Lord Beswick has said, we have not been dogmatic in this matter; we have been open to persuasion by sound argument. The proof of this lies in the many points on which we have gone a long way towards meeting criticisms of the Bill, and I should like to reiterate what my noble friend said about the way in which the Front Bench opposite have dealt with those points. They did not often stand on seeking to obtain the full 100 per cent. for which they were asking, and when we went a long way towards meeting them we received a generous response. I think that is fair, because in this Bill we have done; our best to be reasonable.
We are not seeking to achieve a Party triumph, a doctrinaire victory; but what we have sought to bring about is the framework for a rational and inter rated system of transport in which our total resources are as a whole put to the best effect, and in which the customer, be he a passenger or a consignor of goods, gets the most efficient and the most economic service that is possible. We do not believe that the way to this objective, lies through open and unbridled competition, and we are not alone in that because it is many years since the Conservative Party committed itself to an acceptance of that principle in relation to transport. We believe there must be a planned use of resources and that it is the responsibility of Government to lay down the conditions under which that planning can best be carried out in the interests of the country as a whole. On this I have no doubt that we on these Benches will continue to differ from noble Lords opposite. We have threshed out the argument; and noble Lords opposite have demonstrated where they disagree with us. At the risk of having the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, think that I remain remarkably old-fashioned in my references, may I say that if the Bill is not going exactly into the lap of the gods at least it is going into the hands of another place, 1183 and I have no doubt that we shall watch their debate later this week with the greatest of interest.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.