§ Colonel Lyons
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport if he will now state the result of his consideration of the Report on the statement made by Sir John Maxwell, the Northern Regional Transport Commissioner, on 8th December, 1944, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, to the effect that increased omnibus fares must occur so long as such undertakings were chiefly privately owned.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, Sir. The speech was made at a Housing Exhibition and, in his remarks about fares, the Commissioner had in mind the implications of housing development at a considerable distance from a populous centre. Where the residence is relatively near to the centre of working, schooling, shopping and amusement activities, travelling costs are low. Moreover, the transport used is frequently that of the local authority, which may well be prepared, and, because its area is relatively small and densely populated, be in a position to give and maintain, a specially low basis of fares to those whom it has induced to live near the fringe of its area. When the distances are greater, fares, whatever the basis, will be a more substantial item. Moreover, the transport used is probably that of a company undertaking, which may serve a large and sparsely populated area and may not have the same capacity to give and maintain a specially low basis of fares to a particular residential district. It was of this difference of circumstances in which local authority and company-owned undertakings tend to operate, and not of the relative merits of public and private ownership, that the Commissioner was thinking. Even if his actual language may have been open to misconstruction, he assures me—and I accept his assurance—that no political significance was or should be attached to his reference to private companies, and that nothing was further from his thoughts.