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Orders Of The Day

Volume 436: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1947

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Transport Bill


Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed [29th April] on Consideration of Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal).

Which Amendment was in page line 30, at the end, to insert:

"Provided that if any person is aggrieved by the proposal to purchase any land compulsorily on the ground that such land belongs to him and forms an essential part of the premises upon which he carries on a trade or business and was acquired in relation thereto he may within twenty-eight days from the date on which he receives notice of the proposal to purchase such land compulsorily make an application to the High Court and the Court may if in its opinion it is unreasonable in the circumstances that such land should be compulsorily acquired direct that it should not be so acquired."—[Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]

Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

3.45 p.m.

When the House adjourned at two o'clock this morning, I was saying that reference to the High Court on matters affecting compulsory acquisition of land was necessary owing to the paradoxes in this Bill in regard to the basis of compensation when land is acquired compulsorily. I had not time fully to develop my argument then, but I will endeavour in a few words to explain, particularly for the benefit of the Solicitor-General, who I think, is principally concerned with the Amendment, the point which I am trying to make. The House will remember that under Clause 8 of the Bill, the 1939 value is to be applied when land is bought compulsorily by the Commission otherwise than when acquiring a transport business. But under Clause 46 (2) when the Commission is acquiring transport business, any property other than vehicles—and that means, possibly, any land such as a garage—will have to be paid for not at the 1939 value, but at the amount which it would fetch in the open market at the date of transfer, which might easily be very much higher.

Under Clause 8, it is difficult for us to tell with much precision what is going to happen, because we do not know very much about the Minister's intention with regard to the setting up of garages, repair depots, and so fourth, for the large number of vehicles, goods and passenger, which the Commission will be acquiring. The Parliamentary Secretary did however say in Committee that he anticipated that Clause 8 would be used for buying garages. His words were:
"it is essential that the Commission should have the power as given under Clause 8. It might be essential for it to purchase a garage in a convenient place, in, or close to, a convenient town."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 4th March, 1947, c. 546.]
There seems to arise from that, a very serious danger that the Commission when not acquiring a transport business in its entirety, or, indeed, not acquiring any vehicles at all, might nevertheless decide to purchase some of the land, and get it at the 1939 values, and thereby handicap the people carrying on the business. I am sure that the Solicitor-General and the House will agree that that would be most unfair. Indeed, it would be the ruination of a business by an underhand method, and it is hard to believe that such a thing has ever been intended by the Government. But we should at least know what the Minister's reactions are to such a possibility. It is legally possible under the Bill as it stands for the notice of acquisition of a transport business to be postponed with the effect that the premises might be bought under Clause 8. The business being handicapped without its premises, might depreciate most terribly in value. Notice of acquisition might at a later date be served and, of course, the compensation payable when the business has gone down in that way would be negligible.

My next point concerns the acquisition of hotels. Under Clause 2, (1, d) the Commission has great power. It has power—
"in places within Great Britain where their passengers may require them, to provide both for their passengers and for other persons hotels, hostels, other living accommodation and places for refreshment;"
How is the Commission going to exercise that power? It is dealt with under Clause 46, but it is a question of the power being used under the compulsory purchase provisions of Clause 8 being brought into operation. In that way, a large number of hotels and restaurants could be bought over by the Commission, and 1939 values paid. I do not know whether or not the Minister contemplated that that would be legally possible under the Bill, but it seems to me that that would be so, because when power to buy land is given, I assume that it also means power to buy buildings on the land. There is no definition of land in the Bill, but in other Acts of Parliament land has been defined as including buildings upon it. When we are faced with such great threats to so many people, is it asking too much that cases of doubt or grievance should be referred by those people to courts of law, so that the matter may be dealt with justly and fairly by His Majesty's judges? For these reasons, I ask my hon. Friends to press this Amendment very strongly.

This Amendment was debated in some detail early today and, when the House rose, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) had just put a question to me upon which I think the whole basis of his argument hinges. Today, he has enumerated various instances in which he thinks, or suggests, that justice might be affected because of the basis of compensation for which provision is made. He assumed for the purpose of his argument that the basis of compensation would be 1939 prices. I do not know whether hon. Members have noticed that there is on the Order Paper a proposed Amendment to the Town and Country Planning Bill, to amend Section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944. Hon. Gentlemen will remember that the 1939 prices, in cases of compulsory acquisition, are fixed by the provisions of Section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. The Amendment to which I refer and which I hope, in due course, the House will think proper to accept, provides that instead of the 1939 prices, those which are to be taken for the purpose of Section 57 are to be current prices subject to certain limitations, To put it briefly and in general terms, they are to be current prices less the development charge—less the value which attaches to the land by reason of its development possibilities. As hon. Members know, that particular value is being paid for by the £300 million which is provided for in the Town and Country Planning Bill.

I said "paid for" and the right hon. Gentleman said "partly." That is a matter of opinion. That is the basic figure to pay for the value of land, and the current value is substituted apart from that limitation, for the 1939 value. That is the answer to the question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon. I think I am right in assuming that because of that answer, a great deal of the anomaly which he sought to make out would arise in the instances recounted by him, will not in fact arise.

I entirely agree with the Solicitor-General that so far as my arguments are concerned I am completely satisfied. My arguments have been answered; but, of course, the other arguments remain.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I will not take up any further time with that aspect of the question. I feel sure that hon. Members do not want me to review the arguments which were addressed to us early today. I would, however, summarise them very briefly as I see them. Apart from the case made by the hon. Member for Huntingdon, the argument made was really based upon this hypothesis; that when we get what is really no more than a trading corporation, we should not give preferential treatment to that trading corporation at the expense of other trading corporations without, at any rate, giving the right to the other trading corporations to test the matter before the courts.

In the first place it is not as if we were dealing with a trading corporation at all. No -doubt, this corporation will trade, but, after all, the Transport Commission is a great public undertaking which has a responsibility to each and every citizen in this country for the conduct of the transport industry in the United Kingdom. It is not in any sense comparable with a private concern, in competition with another private concern as to which it can be said that the court should resolve any dispute, difference or clash of interest arising between them. Under the terms of the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, in the case of local authorities there is no such recourse. Under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, in the case of planning authorities there is no such recourse. 1n the case of the Departments mentioned in the 1946 Act, again there is no such recourse. It is not as if we are starting upon a matter which is res integra. This is a matter which has been codified by the terms of the 1946 Act, which is designed to set out a code, as the Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday. It is code which has been approved by the House primarily for the purpose of local authorities. Why should local authorities be placed in a situation different from that of the Transport Commission with regard to this problem?

In the case of the Transport Commission, the determining consideration in a decision whether or not a particular plot of land should be acquired, must be the public interest. The question is, can the Transport Commission discharge its public function in developing and carrying on the transport industry more efficiently by acquiring or not acquiring a particular piece of land? If the answer is "Yes," then obviously I submit the Commission should have the power to acquire upon payment of compensation. Compensation, of course, is to be paid. Which is the most appropriate organ to decide whether or not the public interest requires it? Surely, it is the Commission which, in the interests of the public, is charged with the duty of carrying on the transport industry. I put it to the House that it is something in the nature of an unnecessary duplication to submit to the Courts a matter which is peculiarly one for the decision of the Transport Commission when what the Commission has to decide is whether the public interest requires that a particular plot of land should be acquired.

If it is necessary for the purpose of the Transport Commission that it should have that land at its disposal I put it to the House that it ought to have these powers. It ought to have them so long as it exercises them bona fide, and does not act from any indirect or malicious motive.. The 1946 Act required that the person affected shall have his case considered by the machinery of the Act and not by a completely independent body, but the point of that Act is to provide that what the person has to say in his own defence, should not go unheard. He will be heard and his representations will be taken into account.

Therefore, I ask the House to say that the major case in favour of this Amend- ment has collapsed because it was based upon a mistaken view in regard to what the compensation should be. With re. Bard to the rest of the case, when one bears in mind the nature of the Commission and the task with which it is entrusted on behalf of the public, it follows that it should be the decision of the Commission, subject to a hearing being given to the person affected, which should determine whether or not a particular plot of land should be acquired. For those reasons, I say that it is perfectly proper that the Commission should have the right, subject to following up the necessary procedure, to acquire land provided the necessary compensation is paid. I ask the House to say that the Clause should stand as it is.

There are 123 Clauses and 15 Schedules in this Bill and we are still at Clause 8. Eheu! fugaces, Soskice. Soskice.

Would the right hon. Gentleman speak in English so that hon. Members can understand?

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not add the word labuntur.

I am afraid I cannot accept the argument which the learned Solicitor-General has put before the House. Of course, I am glad to learn that the 1939 price level is not intended to apply to this Bill, though my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) could not necessarily have been aware of the proceedings on the Town and Country Planning Bill as he has been so actively engaged upstairs with the rest of us on the Transport Bill. I accept the statement that it is the intention of the Government that that shall become law. Judging by the experience of the last few months, the intentions of the Government with regard to these matters have been implemented.

I do not think that the learned Solicitor-General really met the other point which hon. Gentlemen behind me take so seriously. It is admitted that land includes the buildings upon it. Here, we are giving the Transport Commission power to purchase compulsorily any land, and that means any buildings upon the land. The Transport Commission may take a fancy to a garage or hotel owned by some private interest which is in competition with it. It would be rather like giving the "Co-ops" the right to buy compulsorily small shops, to which they took a fancy, and I do not think that hon. Members on this side of the House

Division No. 159.]


[4.1 p.m.

Aitken, Hon. MaxHare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Nield, B. (Chester)
Amory, D. HeathcoatHarris, H. WilsonNoble, Comdr. A. H. P
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. VNutting, Anthony
Baldwin, A. E.Haughton, S. G.Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Barlow, Sir J.Head, Brig. A. H.Peake, Rt. Hon. O
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Peto, Brig. C. H. M
Beechman, N. A.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Pickthorn, K.
Bennett, Sir PHolmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Birch, NigelHudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Poole, O B. S. (Oswestry)
Boothby, R.Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N. JPrescott, Stanley
Bowen, R.Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Rayner, Brig. R
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WJoynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Keeling, E. H.Renton, D
Bullock, Capt. M.Kendall, W. D.Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Byers, FrankKingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. HRoberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Lambert, Hon. G.Ropner, Col. L.
Cole, T. L.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Ross, Sir R.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A
Cooper-Key, E. M.Linstead, H. N.Scott, Lord W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. ELipson, D. L.Shepherd, S. (Newark)
Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Spearman, A. C. M.
Cuthbert, W. N.Low, Brig. A. R. W.Spence, H. R.
Darling, Sir W. Y.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Davies, Clement (Montgomery)Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Digby, S. W.MacAndrew, Col. Sir CStuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Dodds-Parker, A. D.McCallum, Maj. D.Sutcliffe, H.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Macdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight)Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Drayson, G. B.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd'ton, S.)
Drewe, C.McKie, J. H. (Galloway)Teeling, William
Duthie. W. SMaclay, Hon. J. S.Thorneycroft, G. E P. (Monmouth)
Eden, Rt. Hon. AMacmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Thorp, Lt.-Col R. A. F
Erroll, F. J.Macpherson, Maj, N. (Dumfries)Touche, G. C.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich)Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Vane, W. M. F.
Fox, Sir G.Manningham-Buller, R. E.Wadsworth, G.
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Marsden, Capt. A.Walker-Smith, D.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Ward, Hon. G. R.
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Glyn, Sir R.Medlicott, F.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. GMellor, Sir J.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Grant, LadyMorris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)York, C.
Granville, E. (Eye)Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Gridley, Sir A.Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.


Grimston, R. V.Neven-Spence, Sir B.Commander Agnew and
Gruffydd, Prof. W. JNicholson, GMr. Studholme


Adams, Richard (Balham)Berry, HButler, H. W. (Hackney. S.)
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Beswick, F.Callaghan, James
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Bing, G. H. C.Castle, Mrs. B. A.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Binns, J.Chamberlain, R. A.
Alpass, J. H.Blackburn, A. R.Champion, A. J.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Blyton, W. R.Chater, D.
Attewell, H. C.Bottomley, A. G.Chetwynd, G. R.
Attlee, Rt Hon. C RBowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Clitherow, Dr. R.
Austin, H. LBowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Cocks, F. S.
Awbery, S. S.Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)Collindridge, F
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BBraddock, T. (Mitcham)Collins, V. J.
Bacon, Miss ABramall, Major E. A.Colman, Miss G. M
Balfour, A.Brook, D. (Halifax)Comyns, Dr. L
Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J.Brown, George (Belper)Cook, T. F.
Barstow, P. GBrown, T. J. (Ince)Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G
Barton, C.Bruce, Major D. W. TCorlett, Dr. J.
Battley, J. R.Buchanan, GCove, W. G.
Bechervaise, A EBurden, T. W.Crawley, A
Benson, G.Burke, W. A.Daggar, G

should be expected to agree to that proposition. I do not propose to argue the matter further. The issue between us is clear, and I can only advise my hon. Friends to press this matter to a Division.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes. 131: Noes, 266.

Davies, Edward (Burslem)Kinley, J.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Kirkwood, D.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lavers, S.Sargood, R.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Lee, F. (Hulme)Scollan, T.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)Scott-Elliot, W.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Leslie, J R.Shackleton, E. A A.
Deer, G.Levy, B. W.Sharp, Granville
Delargy, Captain H. J.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Diamond, J.Lewis, T. (Southampton)Shurmer, P.
Dobbie, W.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Dodds, N. N.Logan, D. G.Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.
Driberg, T. E. N.Longden, F.Smith, C. (Colchester)
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Lyne, A. W.Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Dumpleton, C. W.McAdam, W.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Durbin, E. F. M.McEntee, V. La TSnow, Capt. J. W.
Dye, S.McGhee, H. G.Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.McKay, J. (Wallsend)Sparks, J. A.
Edelman, M.Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Stamford, W.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)McKinlay, A. S.Stephen, C.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Maclean, N. (Govan)Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Evans, John (Ogmore)McLeavy, F.Strauss, G R. (Lambeth)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Macpherson, T. (Romford)Stubbs, A. E.
Ewart, R.Mallalieu, J. P. W.Swingler, S.
Farthing, W. J.Mann, Mrs. J.Sylvester, G. O.
Field, Captain W. J.Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Symonds, A. L.
Follick, M.Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Foot, M. M.Marquand, H. A.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Forman, J. C.Mathers, G.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)Monslow, W.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Montague, F.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Gallacher, W.Moody, A. S.Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Morley, R.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Gibbins, J.Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)Thurtle, Ernest
Gilzean, A.Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)Tiffany, S.
Gordon-Walker, P. C.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)Timmons, J.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Mort, D. L.Titterington, M. F.
Grenfell, D. R.Moyle, A.Tolley, L.
Grey, C. F.Nally, W.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Grierson, E.Naylor, T. E.Turner-Samuels, M.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Neal, H. (Claycross)Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Viant, S. P.
Guest, Dr. L. HadenNoel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Gunter, R. J.Noel-Buxton, LadyWallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Guy, W. H.O'Brien, T.Warbey, W. N.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Oldfield, W. H.Watkins, T. E.
Hall, W. G.Oliver, G. H.Watson, W. M.
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Parkin, B, T.Weitzman, D.
Hardy, E. A.Paton, Mrs. F.(Rushcliffe)Wells P. L. (Faversham)
Harrison, J.Paton, J. (Norwich)Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Hastings, Dr. SomervillePearson, A.West, D. G.
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Peart, Capt. T. F.White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Hicks, G.Piratin, P.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Hobson, C. R.Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)Wilkes, L.
Holman, PPopplewell, E.Wilkins, W. A.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Porter, E. (Warrington)Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Hoy, J.Porter, G. (Leeds)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Hubbard, T.Price, M. PhilipsWilliams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Hudson, J. H. (Eating, W.)Pritt, D. N.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)Proctor, W. T.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Pryde, D. J.Williamson, T.
Janner, B.Pursey, Cmdr. H.Willis, E.
Jay, D. P. T.Randall, H. E.Wills, Mrs. E. A.
John, W.Ranger, J.Wise, Major F. J.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Rankin, J.Wyatt, W.
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Reeves, J.Yates, V. F.
Jonas, J. H. (Bolton)Reid, T. (Swindon)Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Rhodes, H.Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Keenan, W.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
King, E. M.Robens, A.


Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.Roberts, Goronwy, (Caernarvonshire)Mr. Simmonds Mr. Daines.

Clause 12—(Vesting Of Undertakings)

I beg to move, in page 12, line 20, to leave out from "the," to the end of the line, and to insert "appointed day."

Happily, this Amendment is not as technical as many we have had to consider recently. Its object must be obvious to all. The Bill, as it stands, provides for the vesting in the British Transport Commission on 1st January next of all the undertakings set out in the Third Schedule to this Bill. The Third Schedule is a very long one, and it does not look as if we shall reach it today; it looks as if it will be one of those numerous things which will be undiscussed. It is clear that the Bill may not receive the Royal Assent for some time yet. Whether or not it will ever receive it, I cannot say. At the very best, a very short time, indeed, will be left for the appointment of the British Transport Commission and of all the Executives, and for the setting-up of the huge new organisation proposed under this Bill. Last year, the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill received the Royal Assent on 12th July, and the appointed day was 1st January, 1947. That interval of time certainly proved inadequate to enable the National Coal Board and the regional coal boards to be in a position to function successfully and satisfactorily. Even up to the present time, that is very much the position, and I understand that we are likely to hear more of it before long.

This Amendment merely gives the Minister power to postpone the date of transfer until he is satisfied that some sort of workable organisation has been set up. It seems to me a very sensible proposition for the Minister to accept. We are merely giving him the option of postponing the appointed day, if he thinks it necessary and desirable so to do. We do not want to have a transport crisis next year, as we had a coal crisis this year. That, if I may say so, is the main point of this Amendment. I believe that the Minister of Transport has a great deal more sense of responsibility than have some of his colleagues, and I shall be very disappointed if he does not accept this Amendment. When we discussed it upstairs in Committee, the Minister said that, for the sake of the taxpayer, it was important to bring the Bill into effect at the earliest possible moment. Of course, what he meant was that, when the Bill comes into operation, the shareholders are going to be robbed of a lot of money, and that the Commission is going to benefit by it. He wants to bring about that position as soon as he can. That is not an argument which appeals to us on this side of the House. In any case, it would be cheaper for the Government, and for the Commission, to put up with that a little longer, than to land the country in a great transport crisis.

Then the right hon. Gentleman said that it would introduce an element of uncertainty. Of course, it introduces a certain element of uncertainty, but, there again, the certainty of not being ready by 1st January is a much more fearful prospect, to my way of thinking, than any prospect engendered by this proposal. I suggest, therefore, that it would be a sensible thing to give the Minister the option of postponing the date if he so wishes. This Amendment does not compel him to do so; it merely gives him the power to do so if he thinks fit.

4.15 p.m.

I wish to emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) said, that this is neither a very technical nor a very controversial Amendment. I realise that, if the Minister liked, he could make great play with certain aspects of it, but I think that he understands perfectly the real purpose behind it. There is, in fact, only one purpose. We realise that, if this Bill becomes an Act, the Minister will wish to get the vesting date as early as possible. There is no controversy on that point. The point with which this Amendment is concerned is the earliest date on which it will be practicable for the Minister to have the vesting day. We think it much better to postpone the vesting date until the organisation has been properly set up, than to rush it through before the Minister and the Commission are ready to take over. That is the sole purpose of the Amendment.

One of the things to which the Government should give careful consideration, particularly in the light of their experience so far, is that, although they may be taking over organisations like the railways, or, to a lesser extent, the coalmines, which are going concerns, the actual machinery will take a long time to set up. Although it is not quite an analogous situation, some of us had experience of that sort of thing during the war. It happens that I was one of the original members of Eighth Army Headquarters when it was formed, one of the original members of the 18th Army Corps when that came into being, and one of the original officers of the Allied Headquarters staff in Italy. I know that it took a long time to get those headquarters working in any sort of way, even though the people in them were comparatively experienced, and even though they took over formations which had been fighting in those areas for a considerable time. There was no apparent reason why they should not have worked, but the fact was that they did not work, for a long time. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that Eighth Army Headquarters, which, I think, everybody will agree was a successful venture, took a long time to settle down before it worked at all. I believe that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) will remember those early days, and will bear me out.

I do not think it reasonable, when the provisions of this Bill cannot, in any case, come into force before the autumn, to expect the Commission to function as a going concern by 1st January next. We think that it is a physical impossibility for it to do so. This Amendment merely says that, supposing we are right, the Minister can, if he wishes, postpone the vesting date. There is no obligation on him to do so, and if the right hon. Gentleman can, by some remarkable set of circumstances, get this vast Commission going, and can get the people he wants, and his communications set up within two or three months, nothing in this Amendment stops him bringing in the vesting date then. We only ask him to consider that it may be possible that we are right, and that there may be great difficulties, mechanical and psychological, in getting the concern going. I ask him to accept this Amendment, and, at all costs, to postpone the vesting date until the Commission is ready.

We are discussing once more an Amendment which has been discussed thoroughly upstairs. I would like to draw the attention of the House to that fact, because the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) that we are not able to discuss many Clauses does not hold water when speeches which were made upstairs are repeated in this House.

Would the hon. Member allow me to remind the House and him, as he has not been here as long as I have, that one of the objects of the Report stage is to enable hon. Members who were not in the Committee to understand the principle of some of the matters that have been discussed?

I wonder where those Members are at present. When an Amendment such as this is put down and discussed with such reasonableness, being suspicious minded, I look to see what is its real purpose. It is quite clear that the reason why hon. Members opposite are trying to eliminate from the Bill 1st January, 1948, as the date of transfer, is because they want to use the argument, possibly in another place, that the Minister has the power to change the date and it, therefore, gives them an opportunity to delay the enactment of this Bill. There are many reasons why we should fix this target of 1st January, 1948, for the transfer of the railway and canal undertakings to the Commission. The first is that this country cannot afford to delay the transfer, because at present the taxpayer is subsidising the railways to the extent of £11,500,000 a year. The control agreement figures for 1946 were published only a few weeks ago, and they showed that for that year £11,500,000 came out of the taxpayers' pockets to subsidise railway shareholders. If the date of transfer is delayed 12 months, it means that the deficit between the amount payable under the control agreement and the earnings of the railways has to be made up out of public funds.

It is no use the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) shaking his head, because it is a fact that the railway control agreement provides for the payment to the railways of £43 million a year, and, as long as that agreement remains in force, that £43 million has to be paid to the railway companies, whether it is earned or not. At present it is not being earned, and the taxpayer is making up the deficit. Until the railways are transferred, that deficit will have to be paid unless the charges are put up sufficiently to bring in enough revenue to meet the deficit. The longer we delay the transfer, the more likely it is that the Minister will be driven to ask for increased fares and charges in order to make up that deficit, whereas once the transfer takes place there will be a saving of £17,250,000 in the amount of money that is to be paid out in interest Charges by the transferred undertaking. The £17,250,000 which is saved, on the basis of present earnings, is enough to meet and more than meet the deficit which at present is not being met out of earnings but out of taxes. On that ground alone, it is important that we effect the transfer of the railway and canal undertakings at the earnest possible time, and, in the view of the Minister, the date fixed in the Bill is obviously the practical and the earliest date at which that can be done.

The right hon. Member for the City of London drew an analogy with the National Coal Board. That is not a valid analogy, because in the case of the collieries a large number of companies were unrelated and were not under Government control in the same way as the railways are under Government control today. The railway companies today are administered by the Railway Executive Committee as grouped railway undertakings, whereas when the colliery companies were transferred to the National Coal Board there were still many separate units. Be that as it may, we on this side of the House are satisfied that the transfer of the coalmines on the appointed day has proved successful, and the results of the transfer are being shown in the improved conditions in the mining industry.

A further reason that I would put forward is this. Until the railways have been transferred and the Transport Commission is set up, we cannot proceed with that co-ordination of road and rail transport which is essential to the reorganisation of the transport industry. The right hon. Member for the City of London suggested that it would be cheaper to delay the transfer, and that we would encounter a transport crisis next year if we attempted to transfer the railways to the Commission on 1st January, 1948. I maintain that a transport crisis is far more likely to arise if we do not effect that transfer, because we will not be in a position to bring about that greater measure of co-ordination which is essential to the increased efficiency of the transport industry. During the recent crisis we had to call upon the Army to transport coal, whereas if the transfer had already taken place there might have been available the nationalised road haulage to step in to meet that emergency. Therefore, I urge the Minister not to take notice of this Amendment, but to adhere to the appointed day, because only by so doing will he be able to bring about that urgently needed saving in the taxpayers' money on the one hand, and the much more urgently needed reorganisation of the transport industry on the other.

I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies), but I suggest that he has got the wrong idea of this Amendment, at least, that there is some difference between us in the way in which we look at it. I was, and still am, a supporter of the nationalisation of the coalmines, and I think we should not be in as good a position as we are in today, without the different atmosphere which has been created in that industry. Similarly, I believe and have believed for many years in the nationalisation of the railways, but I suggest that the hon. Member is really arguing against the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton), that the vesting date should be postponed. The Amendment, of course, merely gives the Minister the ability to change the date, earlier or later as he wishes. I was impressed by the arguments which the hon. Member put forward about the possible saving to the Exchequer by bringing in the nationalisation of the railways on 1st January, instead of, say, next March. That being so, surely, if the Minister foresaw that he could nationalise the railways on 1st December, we should have a further saving to the Exchequer.

If I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London correctly, he was arguing, on the analogy of the Coal Board, that it was impossible to transfer the railways on 1st January, If it was impossible to transfer them by then, surely he was suggesting a postponement, and not bringing the date forward.

That is just what I am suggesting—that the hon. Member has been taken in by the argument of the right hon. Member for the City of London, instead of addressing himself to the Amendment.

It was the right hon. Member for the City of London who moved the Amendment.

Yes, but this has to go into the Bill, and I suggest that, on administrative grounds, there is a great deal in what my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Poole) said about inability to foresee these things a long way ahead. On some occasions more time is required; on other occasions things can be done quicker than was foreseen four months earlier. This is just the sort of Amend- ment which the Minister should accept in order to give the scheme flexibility. At present the scheme is too rigid. I do not believe that, in April, 1947, we have the right to say that, come what may, on 1st January next year we will launch this scheme. I believe it is right to say that on a date to be appointed by the Minister, when we know what the circumstances and the industrial situation are likely to be, we will announce that it shall be 1st December, 1st January or 30th March; the test being what will be the most efficient way of launching this scheme. I do not agree with the arguments put forward for postponing the vesting date, but I do suggest that the flexibility which this Amendment requires should be included in the Bill, and I ask the Minister to consider this seriously. I feel that I must vote for the Amendment.

4.30 p.m.

I am not convinced of the soundness of the arguments of hon. Members opposite for delaying the vesting date for the taking over of railway and canal undertakings. Also, I am not very convinced by the alarmist remarks of the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton). He and other hon. Members opposite who spoke were very careful not to mention the fact that a great deal of the preparatory work had already been undertaken in regard to railway undertakings. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) has also mentioned the fact that the railways have for several years, during the war period, been rented and controlled by the Government. That, in itself, has effected a certain amount of preparatory work, in the change-over from four separate railway companies to one unified national undertaking. There is in existence the Railway Executive Committee which co-ordinates the whole of the railways in this country on the basis of a national policy. Therefore, having regard to the facts that the ground has already been prepared over a number of years, and that the transfer of the undertakings on 1st January, 1948, is a matter' of great urgency, this is not a matter that needs to be postponed.

In that case, will the hon. Member tell us why he objects to this Amendment, which would allow the Minister to make 1st December the vesting date?

After all is said and done, there must be an objective, an aim, and 1st January, 1948, is the date, and preparations can be made for that particular date.

We were told by the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) that it would make a lot of difference, because the Government are paying something like £4 million a month.

Probably there are financial considerations, but I am not dealing with them at the moment. I am concerned, not with the financial implications of the proposal but with the feasibility, from the point of view of organisa tion, of taking over the enterprises on 1st January, 1948. The right hon. Member for the City of London did not advance any financial reasons in support of the Amendment. I re-emphasise, that much of what has been said by hon Members opposite is quite redundant, having regard to the issue involved. There is no uncertainty or unreadiness in regard to organisation for the change over of the railways from their present status Government control to their future status of Government control. The change over will be quite easy and effective. As I said before, much groundwork has already been done, and it will not be so complicated a matter as hon. Members opposite envisage.

The right hon. Member for the City of London said that if this Amendment was not accepted there would be the prospect of a transport crisis next year. I emphasise the fact that there is a danger of a transport crisis unless we very quickly change over to the new form of organisation. Many things, which cannot be done under the existing form of Government control, require to be done. The organisation which would be responsible for the operation of the railways needs to be agreed as soon as possible, in order to push ahead with the necessary proposals for the proper organisation of the industry. We have heard a great deal from hon. Members opposite about the uncertainty in matters of this kind, and the consequences which arise from uncertainty whether an industry is being taken over or not. We should end any question of uncertainty in regard to the railway industry by making It clear that 1st January, 1948, is the date upon which we have decided, so that all concerned will known quite clearly that that is the date Then, the necessary arrangements can be made in the mean time in order to prepare for the changeover. I was not certain what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said that the Bill might never go on to the Statute -Book, that it may never become an Act I do not know how he arrives at that decision, I am sure.

Life is very uncertain. I imagine that if the Government are still in power later on, this Bill might find its way on to the Statute Book. But it is possible that the Government will not be in power.

The right hon. Member is making a prophecy which I do not doubt will not materialise. Short of some act of God unknown to us at the moment, I believe this Government will he here on 1st January, 1948, and for a good many years after that. I hope the right hon. Member was not hinting at what is likely to happen elsewhere. After all, we on this side of the House have come here with a definite and clear mandate to proceed to nationalise the railway and transport undertakings. Obviously I cannot go over the wider field on this Amendment, but it is admitted on all sides that the time has come for this change-over. Therefore, I ask hon. Members opposite not to adopt that attitude—although, of course, they are entitled to oppose the Bill and to advance Amendments to it -but to accept the fact that the people have expressed themselves on this mattes, and have been heard. We should be allowed to proceed with this Bill, because it is necessary in the interests of the country.

I rise to recall, in a very few words, an experience which I think is most relevant, and not discouraging to the Government. I was an official working under the National Insurance Act, 191I. At that time the Government, conscious that they had a supremely difficult and complicated task immediately ahead of them, took the precaution of securing in the Act that they should have an option between bringing the Act into operation at a certain date or at a date six months later. I was in the office during the subsequent work of preparation in the administration, and we ran into great difficulties which, for a time, looked to be insuperable before the earlier date. The provision of that option was a very great relief to the anxiety of those concerned with bringing the Act into operation. In fact, those difficulties were overcome more quickly than had at 'first seemed possible. and the Act was brought into operation on the earlier of the two dates contemplated. Nothing was lost by that option, and a great deal of anxiety was avoided. For a period it seemed likely that the option would mean the difference between administrative chaos and disaster and the successful inauguration of a great Measure of social insurance.

I need not draw any further moral from that. I emphasise again that this Amendment does not ask the Minister to postpone the date, and I am certainly not now arguing for any postponement. It only suggests that he may give himself the facility to postpone if he should find, in the course of his preparatory work in the next few weeks and months, that difficulties arise of such a character as to make the date at present appointed impracticable. Surely, that is reasonable.

The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. O. Poole), who has contributed to the discussions on this Bill from time to time with such skill, said that I might agree with him about the lack of organisation in the Eighth Army. I agree with that. In the early days, there was so little of it that I and many others were lost to that Army altogether, and did not recover our freedom for a considerable period. Had I known that he was responsible, or partly responsible, for that lack of organisation I might have had many things to say to him before now. But I would remind him that he was organising transport in the desert, and had to improvise as he went along. We are taking over a series of very well-established concerns, and I should have thought that the one thing absolutely certain in any old-fashioned concern is, that a period of suspended responsibility is the worst possible thing. Any transitional stage is always difficult, and it is suspended responsibility that is the most difficult element in it. The one essential to getting out of the transitional stage quickly, is to establish the earliest possible date for the change of responsibility. Therefore, I urge that we should not give the Minister the licence which hon. Members opposite are suggesting, but should make it necessary for him on a given date to assume this responsibility, so that we may know where responsibility for this great concern does lie.

As he usually does in his speeches, the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) produced one or two rather remarkable suggestions when he was resisting this Amendment. I think that anybody who studies the remarks made on the Government side of the House will see that they are covered by the Amendment as it stands on the Order Paper. It is perfectly possible, for the Minister, as he approaches the appointed day, to name 1st January, 1948, as the appointed day. The only reason, I understand, why the Amendment should not be accepted, and the vesting date made not later than this year, is that put forward by the hon. Member for Enfield—that the taxpayer is paying money to the shareholders. I put it to him that the shareholders are all taxpayers. I would also point out to him that these great railways are not being kept away from the community by a group of shareholders; and that their origin was due to the fact that people did, in the nineteenth century, put up money by free enterprise to build the great railway systems of the world. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. 'Evans) spoke a month ago about the Argentine railways, paying a tremendous tribute to their enterprise and thrift.

The hon. Member is travelling very far from the Amendment.

I am sorry that my argument was diverted. But I put it to the hon. Member for Enfield that his point is not a valid one, that the other arguments put forward by hon. Members opposite are covered by the Amendment as it stands, and that it is perfectly possible, when we get to October, November, or December, for the Minister to say, "I think 1st January is all right." But if he wished to put the date back to February or March he would be free to do so.

4.45 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment stated that he would be disappointed if I refused it. I propose to disappoint him immediately by stating that I see no reason at all for changing the view that I expressed in the Committee. What, in fact, does this Amendment propose? If we examine Clause 12 we see that the matter under discussion is as follows:

"Subject to the provisions of this Act, the whole of the undertakings of the bodies of persons specified in the Third Schedule to this Act … shall, on the first day of January, 1948… vest by virtue of this Act in the Commission."
Now, the bodies and undertakings referred to in that Clause are the controlled undertakings. The railways, the canals, and the London Passenger Transport Board are all covered by the wartime agreement. These undertakings are already under the control of the Minister. They are under the control of the Minister now. In the normal way, that control would come to an end at the end of this year. The proposal in the Bill is that when that date arrives, they should pass automatically under the control of the Commission. We hear hon. Members talk about the problem that confronts the Minister, the necessity for time in which to prepare his plans and his schemes. One would imagine that what is involved here is that the whole organisation, operation and co-ordination of the whole transport system, as visualised in this scheme, is to be carried out on the vesting date, namely, 1st January.

Let me bring this discussion to an issue by dealing with the view expressed by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers). After all, what does the Amendment propose? It would only offer to the Minister the opportunity, either to postpone the date, if it suits his convenience or meets his judgment, or, if the Minister so desires, to advance the date. So that it is not in dispute that it is left entirely to the discretion of the Minister. If that is the case, can anyone complain if I make up my mind now?

I had hoped that I had made the point, and that the Minister had appreciated it. I did say specifically that it would be wrong to say that in April we can decide what the prevailing conditions are going to be on 1st January next year, when we have a very difficult winter in front of us. My argu- ment is that we should not make up on: minds now.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that General Eisenhower had to put off D-Day for a certain amount of time, for reasons of organisation?

Yes, but this is not D-Day. This is victory day. What I desire to stress is that it is not a question of trying to foresee now the situation that will prevail at the end of the year. From the beginning of the preparation of this Bill, we have had to determine the dates when the Bill would be ready for Parliament, and the arrangements of the Parliamentary time table, which made the Guillotine necessary. I say it with regret, and I shall explain that later, when the proper opportunity to do so arises. Nevertheless there was the necessity of a Parliamentary time table being fixed so that the Bill could pass to another place in plenty of time for consideration, and so that mature consideration could be given to the fixing of a vesting date, as a definite target day, on which the property would be transferred. That is all we are determining at the present time. On that date the property will be transferred from private to public ownership.

There is every advantage to the Minister, and to the scheme, in being able to appoint the Commission and to get the Executives ready so that they can take over the responsibility for the process of co-ordination commencing from 1st January. I speak now with some experience as the Minister who exercised a measure of Parliamentary control over this group of undertakings under wartime conditions, and I can state without any hesitation that the present arrangement, which was necessary in wartime, becomes, increasingly undesirable in peace conditions. The Minister of Transport, surrounded by his Departmental organisation, has no organisation effectively to exercise control over the management and direction of railway operations, canals, and the London Passenger Transport Board.

In peacetime conditions a transitional period is always undesirable. At a time when the nation is involved in all the serious matters of the readjustment of our national economy to peace conditions, I see no advantage in maintaining these transitional arrangements which exist at present. The Railway Executive—that is, the four general managers of the railway companies—under the Control Agreement, is ostensibly under the control of the Minister, but that form of control is exercised only in a general way to deal with emergencies such as the fuel crisis, through which we have recently passed. The Minister is not surrounded with either the staff or the machinery to make effective an administration of that character. Therefore, it seems to me there is everything to be said for bringing into being as quickly as possible the Commission which is to be charged by Parliament with the task of the co-ordination and creation of an efficient and adequate transport system. I cannot see that there would be any advantage in the Minister's delaying the appointment of the Commission when the Bill receives the Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament. The Parliamentary timetable has been made on the assumption that in the normal way the Bill will be able to receive the Royal Assent in July.

I would emphasise the important and vital part which the efficiency of our transport system, its cost, its capacity to discharge its job for the industries of this country, will play in the efficiency of British industry. During the last 12 months, we have seen the results of the ravages of war on British railways and British transport as a whole. To say that is to make no reflection on those who have been responsible for the conduct of the railways, or on any aspect of the Control Agreement. It is because, during the war, practically the whole of the weight of the transport of this country was channelled through the railways. It is not, and cannot be, the Minister's responsibility to initiate the necessary decisions to remedy that state of affairs. Will any hon. or right hon. Gentleman, whether he favours the principle of this Bill or opposes it, tell me that in a transitional period of this sort the railway directors can make decisions incurring large expenditure of capital? Of course, they cannot do so, because they foresee the position that the property is to pass out of their control. As a matter of fact, by the provisions of the Bill, they are precluded, except with the consent of the Minister, from undertaking certain capital expenditure. On the other hand, until we know the decision of Parliament, and until the Bill receives the Royal Assent, it would be difficult to pledge public credit for any considerable expenditure that may be necessary.

Therefore, I say that the Minister would be shirking his responsibility if he did not definitely fix a vesting date and if he did not fix the shortest possible time, with the knowledge in his mind that it could be carried through within that period. The desirability of appointing the Commission and the Executives so that the preparatory work can be undertaken, and they can familiarise themselves with the responsibilities they will take over from the railway directors, is all on the side of definitely fixing the date. As the date has been fixed after very serious consideration, and as nothing has arisen in the preparation of the Bill or in the Parliamentary timetable so far which suggests that the date is wrong, I regret to say that I must refuse to accept the Amendment, and must ask the Committee to support me in going forward steadily and definitely to accomplish this change by 1st January, and to remove all further uncertainty, so that everybody concerned in the job will know exactly what he has to do and will gut on with doing it.

This is one of the most important Amendments we have had an opportunity of discussing since the Bill returned from Committee. The. Minister was good enough to say that he regretted that these discussions were so curtailed. He reminded me a little of the Walrus and the Carpenter, but still, whether his regret is genuine or not, I share with him the regret that we have had so little opportunity of discussing such vital matters. This is a very important Amendment and a very important issue, and I was rather sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not meet it with a rather wider point of view.

The earlier part of the Debate was, I think, carried on partly under some misunderstanding of the purport, or, at any rate, the effect, of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) told us he had a naturally suspicious mind. I accept that. But he is also very inaccurate in many of his statements. He told us that the purpose of this Amendment was to continue the period when the shareholders of these undertakings might enjoy, for a month or two longer, the revenues which were guaranteed under the wartime agreement. That remark was really not worthy of the hon. Member, although, indeed, it would not be a bad thing for these poor people, who, after all, are very deserving members of the community, and of whom I think the hon. Gentleman will hear something more in the future. But that is not the purpose of the Amendment.

5.0 p.m.

Nor is he very generous about the result of the wartime agreement. He tells us that at the present moment there is a loss of earnings under the rental agreement. That is true, but it is partly because the Minister has spent four months trying to make up his mind whether or not the fares should be raised to meet the enormously increased costs of railway undertakings. He will have to take that into consideration sometime, but so long as the directors are in charge he hedges, and puts the responsibility back on the railways. I would like to see him deal with that point as soon as possible. He studies and considers and goes into it, but he makes no decision; he knows that all railway costs, such as coal, steel and labour, have risen to an enormous extent, but he has never taken the responsibility of allowing the railway charges to rise in anything like the same proportion.

The right hon. Gentleman is surely going far beyond the Amendment.

I was only answering the Minister and pointing out that it is not quite fair to say that the purpose of the Amendment is to continue the rental system at a period when it is unprofitable. I think the hon. Member for Enfield would be the first to admit that during the period of the rental agreement £200 million have been paid to the Treasury by the railways during the period when that agreement was profit-able. One must consider it by and large, and by and large I think the Minister would admit that the revenue has gained by the rental system.

Of course the right hon. Gentleman realises that the 200 million was also paid by the taxpayer, because it was Government traffic which made it possible for the railways to earn these very large figures during the war.

Certainly; I quite agree. The truth is that we are all both taxpayers and users; one cannot separate the people of this country into particular lots or interests. If, however, it is said that at the present time the rental arrangement is costing the Treasury something, it must be remembered that the Treasury gained during another period. I say it is ungenerous of him to suggest that the purpose of this Amendment is merely to go on for a few weeks or months longer, giving the benefit of the rental system to the existing shareholders of the undertakings. That is not the purpose of this Amendment, and he knows it.

It is true that, as soon as the vesting date comes about, £20 million will be taken by an act of robbery and confiscation by the Government, but whether it takes place three weeks earlier or three weeks later is not important; the important thing, since we have embarked upon this system, is to make it work. After all, when we have passed the Second Reading we try and make it work; the thing is to happen when the Second Reading goes through, assuming that it goes through both Houses of Parliament and receives the Royal Assent, and assuming that the Minister survives. All these things are uncertain, all sorts of things may happen, but our object is to try and make the thing work in the best way we can Now the Minister tells us that he makes this decision now, and that it is, therefore, not necessary to give him this permissive right to put the date forward or back. He makes the decision now, today, 28th April—[HON. MEMBERS: "Thirtieth."]—whatever it may be.. [Laughter.] Hon. Members are very easily amused. The Minister may not be there on 1st January; other Ministers have passed on; Sir Ben Smith has gone his way, and the present Minister may go the same way; how do we know? Why should he say today that he makes that decision? By what right does he make it? We only want to give him the opportunity of having a certain scope within which he may make the decision when he knows more about it.

I am not saying that he may not then make the decision that it will be 1st January. It may easily come to that, but in this House we are fortunate enough to have a number of hon. Members with great administrative experience, and I do not think there is anyone who has greater experience over a long period of service in the highest offices of the nation than the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter). From his very long experience, the right hon. Gentleman tells us of the value to a Minister of feeling that he has this amount of play and flexibility in his hands. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister has not considered that in his reply, but it is quite an important point, and I should have thought he might have mentioned it. The right hon. Member for Acton—[HON. MEMBERS: "Honourable."] The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks)—[Laughter.]—this extraordinary cachinnation on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite must mark some great degree of nervosity on their part—told us that we had advanced a very long way because, under the control system, there had been so great an approach towards total co-ordination that there was not really very much more to be done. I do not think that is really true.

So far as I understand the control system, and I have seen something of it both from inside and outside the Government, the main structure of the railway system has not been changed at all. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Minister mentioned that in defending the importance of keeping the general structure—the general managers, the boards and so on. They have carried on the ordinary business of their undertakings, and all that has happened is that the Minister has been able to give broad general decisions. The daily management of the details of the work of the organisation, staff problems and all the enormous questions that form part of the management of such an undertaking, have not been in the hands of the Minister of Transport but in those of the managers of the separate railway companies and the London Passenger Transport Board. Therefore, very little has in fact been done, and a great deal remains to be done. The control has been general executive control, the Minister had the right to give orders to the general managers, but he had in no way interfered with or attempted to take on the actual management of the undertakings themselves. I think that would be a fair statement.

Therefore, there is this problem of creating a new system and first setting up the Commission itself—about which the Minister has told us on various occasions that he has not yet even begun to think about the immense problem of choosing the right people. And we must have some efficient people, with all the duds there will have to be put in for party reasons. Then he comes along and tells us that he cannot postpone the programme which he has laid out because there is so much to do, while the hon. Member for Acton and the hon. Member for Enfield have told us that it could easily be carried through because there was so little that remained to be done. I think the Minister has given a much more correct account of the working of the system in the control period than the hon. Gentlemen behind him. Then the Minister give his little piece about "victory day:" Victory for what? [HON. MEMBERS: "Socialists."] For whom? For the Socialist Party? Victory followed by spoils, I suppose. If this is the mood in which he is to approach this immense undertaking, I am sorry for the nation which will have to suffer.

Finally, he brought forward the argument which I am bound to say weighed a great deal with me and made me almost feel that perhaps on balance he was right. We simply asked for a permissive Amendment which would have given him flexibility to fix the date as might have suited him. The right hon. Gentleman rejected the proposal. There is a great deal to be said, if one is in high command, for not tying oneself down too rigidly. Most people in such positions would have followed the advice which was given from below the Gangway and would have taken a little bit of play These things are rather difficult to carry out exactly as one wants them. There is a great argument in favour of so doing. The right hon. Gentleman rejected it. His reasons were rather interesting. He said that the present state of uncertainty was bad for the industry. As he said, directors cannot embark upon any great capital reconstruction or make any big scheme. They cannot set about the solution of any big problem. Therefore, said the right hon. Gentleman, it was vital to bring the uncertainty to an end in order that the great new work which we all knew had to be done in reconstruction might take place as soon as possible. No more damning condemnation of all that the right hon. Gentleman's Government is doing in regard to gas, electricity and steel, as well as other things, can be conceived.

I did not try to intervene in this Debate because I thought the Minister might in his closing remarks cover the point in which I was interested. I think it is relevant to remind the House that the Minister said that after the vesting date the railway ports would come under the control of the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive. Can we not now get this point absolutely clear? It seems incredible that that transfer should happen as early as 1st January. Could the Minister possibly say on what date actual executive responsibility for handling the railway ports will be transferred? If one wishes to write at the present time to the authority responsible for a Great Western Railway port, for example, one writes to the office of the Great Western Railway. On 1st January, will that procedure be changed? Will one then have to write to the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive? We had what appears now to be a vain hope that the Minister would say that he ought to have more time in this matter. Another difficulty is whether, under the Bill as now drafted, a scheme will be made under Clause 64 to enable the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive to handle the ports. That is a technical point which the Minister should consider.

If the hon. Member had listened to what I said, he would know that I tried to define exactly what we are discussing in the Amendment. We are discussing merely the transfer of the property of these controlled undertakings to the Commissions on 1st January. It does not relate to schemes and matters of that description. The Amendment deals with the date at which the property of the undertakings will be transferred from private ownership to public ownership.

I am sorry. I thought the Minister indicated last night that on that date effective control of railway ports would pass to the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive. It is not merely a matter of ownership but of effective control.

5.15 p.m.

I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman would have been well advised to accept the Amendment, in his own interests. The Amendment was put down to make the Bill, bad though it is, a little more neat and tidy. In what was said by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) I detected a spirit of uneasiness. He made a great point out of what was said by a right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House, with regard to the uncertainty of the lifetime of the Government and of this Parliament. I think I am entitled to reply to those remarks of the hon. Gentleman, so far as the limits of Order allow. The hon. Gentleman said he hoped that my right hon. Friend did not mean that there should be protracted discussion in another place which might prevent the Measure reaching the Statute Book before the end of the Session. The time table has been put on. It is unprecedented to have a time-table for the Report stage—

Division No. 160.]


[5.17 p.m

Adams, Richard (Balham)Cocks, F. S.Goodrich, H. E.
Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South)Coldrick, W.Gordon-Walker, P. C.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Collindridge, F.Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Collins, V. J.Grey, C F.
Alpass, J. H.Colman, Miss G. MGrierson, E.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Comyns, Dr. L.Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Attewell, H. C.Corlett, Dr. J.Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)
Austin, H. LewisCove, W. G.Guest, Dr. L. Haden
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BCrawley, A.Gunter, R. J.
Bacon, Miss A.Grossman, R. H. SGuy, W. H.
Baird, J.Daggar, GHaire, John E. (Wycombe)
Balfour, A.Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Hall, W. G.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Davies, Harold (Leek)Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R
Barstow, P. G.Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Hannan, W (Maryhill)
Barton, C.Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)Hardy, E. A
Battley, J. R.Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Harrison, J
Bechervaise, A. E.Deer, G.Haworth, J.
Benson, G.Delargy, H. JHenderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Beswick, F.Diamond, JHewitson, Capt. M.
Bing, G. H. CDobbie, W.Hobson, C. R.
Binns, J.Dodds, N. N.Holman, P.
Blackburn, A. RDriberg, T. E. N.Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)
Blenkinsop, A.Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)House, G.
Blyton, W. R.Dumpleton, C. W.Hoy, J.
Bottomley, A. G.Durbin, E. F. M.Hubbard, T.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. WDye, S.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)Edelman, M.Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton. W.)
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Bramall, Major E. A.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Irving, W. J.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Evans, John (Ogmore)Janner, B.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Jay, D. P. T.
Brown, George (Belper)Ewart, R.Jager, G. (Winchester)
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Fairhurst, F.Jeger, Dr. S. W (St. Pancras, S.E.)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. TFarthing, W. JJohn, W.
Buchanan, GField, Capt. W JJones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)
Burden, T. WFollick, M.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)
Burke, W. AFoot, M. MJones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Forman, J. C.Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Callaghan, JamesFoster, W (Wigan)Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Carmichael, JamesFreeman, Maj. J. (Watford)Keenan, W.
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Freeman, Peter (Newport)King, E. M.
Chamberlain, R. AGallacher, W.Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E
Champion, A. JGanley, Mrs. C. SKinley, J
Chater, D.Gibbins, J.Kirkwood, D
Chetwynd, C. RGibson, C. WLavers, S.
Clitherow, Dr. RGilzean, ALawson, Rt. Hon. J. J

That question has been disposed of long ago. The matter before the House is the Amendment. If the hon. Member will forgive my saying so, he has not so far addressed one word of his speech to that Amendment

In opening my speech I did say that I thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been well advised to accept the Amendment, and I went on to say a word or two arising out of the speech of the hon. Member for Acton. As a time-table has been put on, I thought it would be perfectly permissible for Amendments which have not been discussed in this House to be discussed in another place.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 289; Noes, 135.

Lee, F. (Hulme)Parkin, B. TTaylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Leslie, J. R.Paton, J. (Norwich)Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Levy, B. W.Peart, Capt. T. F.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Piratin, P.Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Lewis, J (Bolton)Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Lewis, T. (Southampton)Popplewell, E.Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. MPorter, E. (Warrington)Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Logan, D. G.Porter, G. (Leeds)Thurtle, E.
Longden, F.Price, M. PhilipsTiffany, S.
Lyne, A. W.Pritt, D. N.Timmons, J.
McAdam, W.Proctor, W. TTitterington, M. F
McEntee, V. La T.Pryde, D. J.Tolley, L.
McGhee, H. G.Pursey, Cmdr. HTomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
McKay, J. (Wallsend)Randall, H. ETurner-Samuels, M.
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)Ranger, J.Vernon, Maj. W. F.
McKinlay, A. S.Rankin, JViant, S. P.
McLeavy, F.Reeves, J.Walker, G. H.
Macpherson, T. (Romford)Rhodes, HWallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Mallalieu, J. P. W.Richards, R.Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Mann, Mrs. J.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.Warbey, W. N.
Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Robens, AWatkins, T. E.
Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)Watson, W. M.
Marquand, H. A.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Sargood, R.Weitzman, D.
Marshall, F. (Brightside)Scollan, T.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Martin, J. H.Scott-Elliot, W.Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Mathers, G.Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.West, D. G.
Mellish, R. J.Sharp, GranvilleWestwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Messer, F.Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Mitchison, G. RShurmer, P.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Monslow, W.Silverman, S. S (Nelson)Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
Montague, F.Simmons, C. J.Wilkes, L.
Moody, A. S.Skeffington-Lodge, T CWilkins, W. A.
Morley, R.Skinnard, F. W.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)Smith, C. (Colchester)Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Mort, D LSmith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Moyle, A.Snow, Capt. J. W.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Murray, J. DSorensen, R. W.Williamson, T.
Nally, W.Soskice, Maj. Sir F.Willis, E.
Naylor, T. E.Sparks, J. A.Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Neal, H. (Claycross)Stamford, W.Wise, Major F. J
Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Steele, T.Wyatt, W.
Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Stephen, C.Yates, V. F.
Noel-Buxton, LadyStewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Oldfield, W. H.Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth)Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Paget, R. T.Stubbs, A. E.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Swingler, S.


Palmer, A. M F.Sylvester, G. O.Mr. Pearson and Mr. Daines.
Parker, JSymonds, A. L


Aitken, Hon. MaxDodds-Parker, A. D.Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Amory, D. HeathcoatDonner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.Jeffreys, General Sir G.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. RDower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Jennings, R.
Astor, Hon. M.Drayson, G. B.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W
Baldwin, A. E.Duthie, W. S.Lambert, Hon. G.
Barlow, Sir J.Eccles, D. M.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Baxter, A. B.Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H
Beamish, Maj. T. V. HElliot, Rt. Hon. WalterLindsay, M. (Solihull)
Beechman, N. AErroll, F. J.Linstead, H. N.
Birch, NigelFoster, J. G. (Northwich)Lipson, D. L.
Boothby, R.Fox, Sir G.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Bowen, R.Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Low, Brig. A. R. W.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. MLyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WGalbraith, Cmdr. T. DMacAndrew, Col. Sir C.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Glyn, Sir R.McCallum, Maj. D.
Bullock, Capt M.Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. GMacdonald, Sir. P. (I of Wight)
Butcher, H. W.Grant, LadyMackeson, Brig. H. R.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Gridley, Sir A.McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Byers, FrankGrimston, R. V.Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Clarke, Col. R. S.Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)
Cole, T. L.Harris, H. WilsonMaitland, Comdr. J. W.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Harvey, Air-Comdre A V.Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Haughton, S. G.Marlowe, A. A. H.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Head, Brig. A. H.Marsden, Capt. A.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Crowder, Capt. John EHenderson, John (Cathcart)Maude, J. C.
Cuthbert, W. N.Hollis, M. C.Mellor, Sir J.
Darling, Sir W. Y.Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)
De la Bère, R.Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Digby, S. W.Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.

Neven-Spence, Sir BRenton, D.Taylor, Vice-Adm E A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Nicholson, G.Roberts, W (Cumberland, N.)Teeling, William
Nield, B. (Chester)Robinson, Wing-Comdr. RolandThomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Noble, Comdr. A H. PRopner, Col. L.Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Orr-Ewing, I. L.Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A. F
Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. ATouche, G. C
Peto, Brig. C. H. MShephard, S. (Newark)Va, W. M F.
Pickthorn, K.Smith, E. P. (Ashford)Wadsworth, G.
Ponsonby, Col C. ESpearman, A C M.Walker-Smith, D.
Poole, O. B. S (Oswestry)Spence, H. R.Ward, Hon G. R.
Prescott, StanleyStanley, Rt. Hon. O.Wheatley, Colonel M. J
Prior-Palmer, BrigStrauss, H. G. (English Universities)York, C.
Rayner, Brig. R.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)
Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)Studholme, H. G.


Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillheaad)Taylor, C S (Eastbourne)Mr. Drewe and
Commander Agnew

Clause 13—(Bodies Whose Undertakings Are To Vest In Commission)

I beg to move, in page 13, line 18, to leave out "leased to," and to insert "worked by."

This Amendment and the following Amendment are drafting Amendments. Members of the Committee will recollect that we deleted the Salisbury Railway and Market House Company from the Third Schedule because that body long ceased to be a railway company, and only a very small part of its property was now connected with the Southern Railway Cotnpany—it is nothing more than a siding. 'These Amendments are for the purpose of describing more accurately the transaction which exists between this company and the Southern Railway Company.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 13, line 19, leave out "rent payable under the lease," and insert:

"annual sum payable under the working agreement."—[Mr. Barnes.]

Clause 14—(General Effect Of Vesting Of Undertakings)

5.30 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 20, at the end, to insert:

"(d) any reference (however worded and whether express or implied) to the directors or any director of the body were, as respects anything falling to be done on or after the date of transfer, a reference to such person as the Commission may appoint; and
(e) any reference (however worded and whether express or implied) to any officer or any servant of the body were, as respects anything falling to be done on or after the date of transfer, a reference to such person as the Commission may appoint or, in default of appointment, to the officer or servant of the Commission who corresponds as nearly as may he to the first mentioned officer or servant; and."
This Clause provides that the property of the body shall vest in the Commission, and that contracts made by a body which is taken over shall, equally, vest in the Commission. Therefore, you have to read in the name of the Commission, instead of the body in the contract which is transferred. The Amendment seeks to remedy two omissions in the Clause as it stands at present. It seeks to deal with the case where there is a reference, in the contract which is taken over, to directors and, similarly, where there is a reference to a servant of the body whose undertaking is taken over. It provides that when a contract is transferred to the Commission the word "director" has to be read as if it referred to somebody appointed by the Commission, and the word "servant" is to be deemed to refer to some equivalent employee of the Commission.

May I give an example of what I have in mind? You may have an agreement that certain works should be done to the satisfaction of the chief clerk of the railway company. That contract is taken over, so you have to read into it the name of the Commission instead of the name of the railway company, and read something instead of the chief clerk. The Amendment provides that you have to read the equivalent servant of the Commission instead of the chief clerk of the railway company.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 14, line 27, leave out "two," and insert "four."—[ The Solicitor-General.]

I beg to move, in page 14, line 33, at the end, to insert:

"Provided that any agreement to which the body were a party which cannot have effect as modified in the manner provided by this Subsection by reason only that, if it were so modified, no person other than the Commission would have rights or liabilities thereunder shall cease to have effect as respects anything falling to be done on or after the date of transfer"
This Amendment remedies an omission of a rather technical character in the Clause. It provides that certain contracts, instead of being taken over, shall cease. The contracts with regard to which the proviso operates are those made, for example, between a railway company and a haulage contractor. Supposing that a contract is taken over by the Commission when they take over the undertaking of the railway company and the haulage contractor, the result would be that the contract would be one between the Commission and itself. That, of course, would be meaningless, and could not be enforced. Proper drafting requires that contracts of that sort shall be made to come to an end on transfer.

What would be the position if a third party had rights under such a contract?

The hon. Member will see that the Amendment applies only to contracts in respect of which can be said that no person other than the Commission shall have rights or liabilities. If a third party had rights the contract would not be within the ambit of the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 14, line 35, leave out "( d)", and insert ( f)."

In line 41, after "references," insert:

"in paragraphs (b), (c), (d), (e) and (g) of that Subsection."

In line 42, after first "body," insert:

"to any directors, officers or servants of the body."

In line 43, leave out from beginning, to "include," in line 44.—[ The SolicitorGeneral.]

I beg to move, in page 15, line 26, at the end, to insert:

"(b) there shall not, by reason of the vesting, be transferred to the Commission any liability of the body in respect of any security of the body created, in pursuance of any enactment, as collateral security for a loan to the body or to another person."
This Amendment runs with two other Amendments which are consequential to it—in page 15, line 43, and in page 17, line 34. The general object of this Clause is to put the Commission in possession of all rights, and subject it to all the obligations, covered by several thousands of private Acts and a number of public Acts dealing with these undertakings. The object of Subsection (6, a), to which this Amendment relates, is to stipulate that when vesting does take place, and rights and obligations are assumed by the Commission, the Commission, when assuming liability for certain loans, shall not be obliged to do what an undertaking has had to do in the past when those loans were raised—give collateral security. 'There will be no hardship resulting from this, because the security of the loan will be quite as good as, possibly better than, it is now. It will have the credit of the British Transport Commission behind it and, as the House knows, the stock of that Commission will have the Treasury guarantee to support it.

The circumstances in which collateral security was given by the railways arose when the four main line companies secured Statutory powers to create debenture stocks equal to the total of the borrowings which they were allowed to undertake from the Railway Finance Corporation. The obligation of the London Passenger Transport Board was to raise debenture stocks, Class A, B, and C, but such stock was never, in fact, raised. So, this Clause is confined to the four main line railway companies, and to the 4 per cent. debenture stock which they had to raise as collateral security.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 15, line 43, at end, insert:

"(7) Without prejudice to any other liability of the Commission in respect of a loan to the body or to any other person—
  • (a) any security of the body which has been created in pursuance of any enactment as collateral security for the loan shall be cancelled as from the date of transfer;
  • (b) any provision of any enactment or agreement requiring any security of the body to be created as collateral security for the loan shall cease to have effect as from the date of transfer; and
  • (c) any provision of any enactment or agreement with respect to the redemption of any security of the body outstanding at the date of transfer which was created in pursuance of any enactment as collateral security for the loan shall cease to have effect as from the date of transfer."—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]
  • Clause 15—(Disclaimer Of Agreements)

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 16, to leave out "or obligations."

    Yesterday, I indicated a series or Amendments, all with the same purpose, as I did not wish to make a speech upon each. This Amendment is consequential on those other Amendments.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 44, at the end, to insert:

    "or arising by reason of the frustration thereof."
    This Amendment remedies a difficulty which exists in the Clause as it stands. Clause 15 (3) provides that a disclaimed contract shall not vest in the Commission. Any contract vests in the Commission, but when one comes to Clause 15 (3) one finds certain contracts which are not in approved form, can be disclaimed by the Commission, and these contracts do not vest. In the event of a contract being disclaimed under the provisions of the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act, 1943, certain rights arise. Money which has been paid by one party to another under the contract can be reclaimed. What the Amendment seeks to do is to provide that not merely shall the disclaimed contract not vest in the Commission, but also that those rights which arise by the virtue of the contract being disclaimed shall not vest in the Commission, but remain in the body whose undertaking is taken over.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 17, line 21, at the end, to insert "or varied."

    This is to exempt from disclaimer any contracts entered into in the ordinary way of business by the railway companies before January, 1947; from which date the Minister has stated that he would be prepared to exempt from disclaimer any contracts entered into in the normal course of business. In order to make the matter absolutely correct Subsection (5) should be altered by the words in this Amendment, and the subsequent two Amendments. Perhaps, for simplification, I had better read Subsection (5) as it will now appear:
    "Nothing in this section applies to any agreement for, or contained in, a lease or other tenancy or any agreement made, or varied, whether before or after the passing of this Act, with the previous consent or subsequent approval of the Minister "—
    Those are the key words—

    "given in writing either generally or specially."
    I do not think that there can be any controversy about this.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made: In page 17, line 23, leave out "in writing," and insert "or subsequent approval."

    In line 23, after "given," insert "in writing."—[ The Solicitor-General.]

    Clause 16—(Compensation)

    I beg to move, in page 17, line 34, after "transfer," to insert:

    "or securities created in pursuance of any enactment as collateral security for a loan to any such body or to any other person."
    This is consequential on the Amendment which I moved a few minutes ago at page 15, line 26.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 17—(Valuation Of Securities For Compensation Purposes)

    5.45 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 18, line 22, at the end, to insert:

    "other than securities guaranteed by the Treasury."
    Those hon. Members who sat on the Committee dealing with this Bill will remember that in the course of the discussions I gave, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and undertaking that either later during the Committee stage, if that were possible, or certainly on the Report stage provision would be made in the appropriate places in the Bill to carry out the undertaking that the three per cent L. P.T. B. guaranteed stock (1967–72) should be given special treatment. As I think the House knows, the decision is that a special Transport Board stock should be created which will carry with it the same rate of interest and will be paid off, in due course, on the same dates and on the same terms as the present stock. Under Part I of the Fourth Schedule this is listed to be taken over at 107⅞. That will not continue to apply. Apart from that, special Transport Commission stock will be created, which will run on the same term in every particular as the present L.P.T.B. stock. This Amendment enables that to be done.

    We, on this side of the House, are sincerely thankful that the Government have come to this decision I was almost going to say "grateful," but it would be a most extraordinary thing to say that we were thankful to the Government for implementing the obligations of His Majesty's Treasury. That is something which we expect. When this Bill was first presented, one of its most serious blots was that Government guaranteed security was to be treated in this extraordinary way, and when the Financial Secretary talks about "special treatment" being given to this stock, I think that he is exaggerating All that he is doing is to implement the guarantee of His Majesty's Treasury in the way these guarantees have always been implemented. I suppose that the Chancellor of the Exchequer realises that if he were not to implement the guarantee of this stock no one would have any confidence in the transport stock issue which was also to be subject to Government guarantee. It is a matter for great regret that the Govern ment have not made it possible for the obligations of the railway companies to be implemented in the same way. The railway companies have security with certain fixed dates of redemption. These obligations are not being taken over by the Government, and the holders of those stocks are therefore being defeated and defrauded of their proper security.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 19, line 36, at the end, to insert:

    (c) the holder of any securities of a body may appoint the directors of the body to act as his representatives for the purpose of being heard in any proceedings with respect to those securities before the arbitration tribunal; and where such an appointment is made the arbitration tribunal shall hear the directors instead of that holder.
    This is consequential on the Amendment to page i8, line 22, which has been already moved.

    I should like to say a few words of thanks to the Minister and his staff for their efficiency and courtesy in getting this Amendment—

    There is some confusion owing to the order of printing of the Amendments on the Order Paper. There are two Amendments to page 19, line 36, and the one we are taking is to insert the paragraph (c).

    Once again I should Like to thank the Minister and his staff for the system he has instituted as a result of the Guillotine, thus ensuring that certain Amendments are called. I put this Amendment down on Friday afternoon at 3.30, and I was delighted to see it on the Order Paper next morning with the Minister's name added to it and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Western Dorset (Mr. Digby). I think we must thank both the Minister and his staff for taking this action so promptly. We on this side of the House do not mind finding ourselves associated with the Minister, when he takes action which we regard as right and proper. Elsewhere among Members opposite there is an idea that there is something wrong if the Government gets support from this side of the House. In this particular case the Amendment proposed is correct, and I thank the Minister for having accepted it

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 19, line 36, at the end, to insert:

    "(4) The value of the securities specified in Part III of the said Fourth Schedule, being securities guaranteed by the Treasury, shall be deemed to be the nominal value of those securities."

    This is consequential.

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport says that this Amendment is consequential. Is it consequential upon the Amendment moved by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in page 18, line 22, or is it consequential to the Amendment he himself has just moved?

    This Amendment is consequential on the Amendment which was put down by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) and the hon. Member for Western Dorset (Mr. Digby), which was accepted by the Minister, and on which the hon. Member for Banbury has just spoken.

    I think there is a mistake here. If the Parliamentary Secretary is -addressing his mind to the same Amendment as I am thinking of, his remarks would be relevant. Perhaps he will tell us to what Amendment he is speaking.

    There are two Amendments in page 19, line 36. One of them is in the name of the Minister and of my two hon. Friends behind me, the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) and the hon. Member for Western Dorset (Mr. Digby), with regard to which my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury has made some courteous remarks to the Front Bench opposite. There is another Amendment dealing with a different topic and the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks would not be relevant to it. Perhaps he would give us a word of explanation.

    The Amendments have been taken in a different order from that which I expected. The Amendment to insert paragraph (4) is consequential on the Amendment in page 18, line 22, which has been moved and accepted. The other Amendment which is in the name of the Minister and also of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker)—

    The Minister is aware that we have already passed that Amendment and cannot debate it again.

    We seem to be getting into a slight difficulty, and I do not know whether what I have to say on this difficulty is a point of Order, though I rather think that it is. We have in the Bill already a paragraph (4) which starts with the words "In this section. …" and now we are to have another paragraph (4) which starts with the words "The value of the securities. …" It seems to me that there is something wrong with the drafting.

    On a further point of Order. Why is it that having taken the Amendment in the name of the Minister and the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) and the hon. Member for Western Dorset (Mr. Digby) we are now going back to an Amendment which is in the name of the Minister only?

    I think I will deal with the two points of Order before I have any more. There seems to be some confusion, which is due to the compilation of the Amendments on the Order Paper. The Amendment which is to page 19, line 36, to insert paragraph (c), we have already passed. The next Amendment we have to consider is the one above it on the Order Paper. It is a question of printing. I hope that the House is now ready to come to a decision on the Amendment under consideration.

    I should like to ask tot your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The Amendment under consideration refers to Part III of the Fourth Schedule, but I find that there are only two parts to the Fourth Schedule. Could I have your guidance as to what we are discussing?

    I gather that later it will be moved to add a Part III to the Schedule.

    The Parliamentary Secretary said a few moments ago, when trying to disentangle the confusion which has arisen, that this Amendment was consequential to the one in the name of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds Parker). Is that one still to come, or have we finished with it?

    I am afraid I was led into the confusion because the Amendments were not taken in the order in which they stand on the Order Paper.

    Then there is nothing consequential on the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Banbury?

    We have not yet solved the problem put to us by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor). This Amendment refers to Part III of the Fourth Schedule and although it has been suggested that at some future date another part is to be added to the Schedule there are at the moment only two parts to that Schedule and we have not had the further Amendment brought before us. Would it not be right, therefore, to refer to the part of the Schedule which is, in fact, to be inserted in the Bill?

    This Amendment refers forward to a new Amendment to be moved later. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) will look at page 2455 of the Order Paper he will see there is an Amendment, in page 127, line 8, to leave out "Part I" and insert "Parts I and III."

    I do not think that I am called upon to answer a hypothetical case of that kind.

    I should like to ask then if that is the case, is it in Order to move this Amendment to page 19, line 36?

    I understand that this has been done before and with the consent of the House I propose to do it again.

    The matter is really quite simple, and it is only a question of an explanation from the Government being required. This Amendment and the one which comes later merely implement the Government's change of policy, which we welcome, with regard to the guaranteed stock of the London Passenger Transport Board. Could we have a word of explanation on that?

    I should like to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton). This Amendment was moved by the Parliamentary Secretary when he thought he was moving the next Amendment and he thought it was consequential on one we had already discussed. After that we got the point raised by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) and it now transpires that this Amendment we are discussing at the moment has reference to another Amendment later on. I suggest that we cannot accept this Amendment without a further explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary of exactly what it means and on what it is consequential.

    6.0 p.m.

    May I try again to help the House? The Amendment we are now considering is consequential on that which was moved in page 18, line 22. But it also refers to a subsequent Amendment which will be moved later and to which Mr. Deputy-Speaker has just referred.

    I hope that the mists have been cleared away and that the House is now prepared to reach a decision.

    I am afraid the mists have not been cleared away or all of us. Do I understand that paragraph (4) on page 19 now becomes paragraph (5) in view of the acceptance of the Amendment in page 19, line 36? Otherwise there will be two paragraph (4)'s in the Bill.

    Perhaps I might help to clear away the mists once and for all by asking hon. Members if they will refer to Clause 87, Subsection (4), which makes it quite obvious what we are trying to do by means of those particular Amendments. As I believe the House is aware, certain stocks are set down in Part I and Part II of the Fourth Schedule, as far as these are concerned all but one of those there listed will be taken over. What we are doing by this series of Amendments is to take out the L.P.T.B. stock. It is there listed at 107⅞ and it will go back to its nominal value and be placed in a Part of its own. Its present rate of interest is to be continued and it will be redeemed between 1967 and 1972, as provided for when the loan was issued. I should add that although my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has acceded to the general wish expressed from the other side of the House that this special category should be established he does not for one moment admit that there would have been any broken faith on the part of the Government had the stockholders remained as they were originally placed in this Schedule. The guarantee was a guarantee against default by the L.P.T.B. and, as we all know, the L.P.T.B. has not defaulted.

    The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary has undone all the good of repentance which the Chancellor has achieved. The Chancellor went to Canossa and stood barefoot in the courtyard and the Parliamentary Secretary is now undoing it all. He now says that special treatment is being given to this particular stock to honour the Government's bond, and by not admitting any past faults he is leaving open the whole question as to whether in future the Chancellor will in fact honour his bond on guaranteed stocks. It was that doubt, with all the difficulties and dangers that flow from it, that presumably induced the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor to repent, and by what he has said the Parliamentary Secretary has undone all that the Chancellor achieved

    I think the Financial Secretary really should revise the remarks he has just addressed to the House. He has announced that this stock is in a special category but the only speciality about it was that when the British Government took over the L.P.T.B. they also took over their obligations. The Government are, in fact, fulfilling the promises which they assumed when they became possessed of the L.P.T.B. I do hope that the Financial Secretary will weigh the advice given him by my hon. Friend. It is an incredible thing for the representative of the Treasury to say that on this, a special occasion, they will fulfil their obligations but that for the future they must warn people that the Chancellor is acceding to requests from this side of the House and was good enough to give way on this point. We do not flatter ourselves that it was remarks made on this side of the House that forced the Chancellor to change his mind. The real reason was that he was informed by his advisers that the credit of the British Government would be in danger unless he fulfilled the obligations of the L.P.T.B.

    I must say to the Financial Secretary that it is a pity that when his master is away he should chuck away such little prestige as the Chancellor regained when he decided that it was part of his duty to honour British Government obligations. It is a pity that we have such an infirm Government and if we cannot have senior Ministers present—apart from the Home Secretary—who really are responsible for these departmental decisions, it is a very foolish thing for the Financial Secretary to throw away in an airy way the little credit which the Chancellor gained by facing up to his responsibilities to the L.P.T.B. shareholders. We all know that the Financial Secretary is a delight and an ornament to this House and a man full of good will, and we are anxious to help him. I suggest to him that he ought really to withdraw what he has said and not talk about these special categories. The only special category that matters in this connection is the honour of British Government securities or those taken over by the British Government. The only thing that made the Chancellor change his mind was the fact that he knew that Government credit was threatened, so do not let us hear any more about acceding to the remarks from this side of the House.

    On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would ask you to invoke the rule against needless repetition. The right hon. Gentleman has said three things. He has said some of them three times and some six times, and we understood them the first time.

    I must say that it comes ill from a lawyer, who is feed to repeat himself, to intervene in the way the hon. and learned Gentleman has done.

    On a further point of Order, is it right for a right hon. Gentleman, however contemptible, to slander a profession?

    We seem to be getting into rather troubled waters, and I would suggest that we now let the matter drop.

    I am entirely in favour of letting the matter drop, but very anxious that the Financial Secretary should clear up the error into which he has fallen by telling the House that there is no special reason for this change of mind, except that the. Chancellor found that it was necessary.

    In the course of his remarks the Minister said that this was not a question of broken faith. It is, I think, a question of mended faith, and judging from his remarks it is not even invisibly mended. I think it is extremely important that he should now make a statement that clears away the confusion. There is no doubt that the possibility of the Chancellor implementing his cheap money, cheaper money and cheapest money policy would be seriously endangered unless credit were restored by an action of this kind.

    May I be allowed to help my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor), and to explain to him what the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary did not explain to the House—how this particular Amendment comes to be phrased as it is? I think it is just a piece of bad drafting and I should like to explain to the House what I think it means. The Amendment says:

    "In page 19, line 36, at the end insert—'(4) The value of the securities specified in Part III of the said Fourth Schedule.'"
    That puzzled my hon. Friend because so far there is no Part III of the Fourth Schedule. We were then referred by the Parliamentary Secretary to a later Amendment which he proposed to make to include a Part III dealing with securities guaranteed by the Treasury. What puzzled me was that there is no security guaranteed by the Treasury other than the one we have been discussing. Had it been "security guaranteed by the Treasury" I could have understood the point. Now I understand it, and I hope the House does too.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 18—(Suspension Of Dividend Payments, Etc)

    I beg to move, in page 20, line 21, at the end, to insert:

    (b) of any dividend duly declared before, but not payable till after, the passing of this Act."
    The purpose is to remove from the prohibition contained in this Clause dividends which have been declared before the Bill has been passed but which are not payable until afterwards. It is the practice of the main line railways to declare their dividends usually in the third week in July, and these are usually payable in the second part of August. It is necessary to make special provision for the payment of these dividends in the ordinary way otherwise they would come under the prohibition. The sole purpose of this Amendment is to enable these dividends to be paid

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 20—(Payments By Commission In Respect Of Profits For Period Preceding Date Of Transfer)

    Amendment made: In page 22, line 2, leave out "for," and insert "in."—[ Mr. G. R. Strauss.]

    I beg to move, in page 22, line 5, to leave out "forty-six," and to insert "forty."

    This is not a drafting Amendment. I should, therefore, like to explain it shortly to the House. The particular Clause which this Amendment seeks to amend refers to payments by the Commission in respect of profits for a period preceding date of transfer. The plan of the Bill as drafted is that the profits of the last two years during which it is intended the railway companies should remain under their present management should be taken together. The Amendment suggests that since the amounts distributed in interest and dividends during the control period were considerably less than the amounts available for distribution as measured by the formula laid down in the control Bill, the final period should cover the years from 1940 to 1947 instead of just the years 1946 and 1947.

    That would leave the companies in a position to pay their stockholders the amount they had under-distributed during the years 1940 to 1945—under-distributed in good faith, assuming that they would resume their businesses when the war came to an end. The Financial Secretary put forward two arguments in the course of the Committee stage which, with great respect, I thought were bad arguments. He said that there was a good deal of abnormal wear and tear on the railways which had to be made good. That is perfectly true, but special provision was made under the control agreement for that very purpose, and I do not think that argument is really an effective one. The other argument was that the existence of these reserves was reflected in the Stock Exchange quotations of the railway securities on which the Schedule is based. That is also a false argument because—I have argued it on a previous occasion and I do not wish to repeat it now—the prices on which they were standing did not reflect the true value but were a reflection of the anticipation of nationalisation. If the Financial Secretary is going to reply to that point, perhaps he would also say what, if any, consideration has been given to the promise which was made by either himself or the Minister—I forget exactly who it was—during the Committee stage with regard to the next Amendment—in page 22, line at end, to insert:
    "(c) such other amounts as in the view of the auditor may be appropriately included as net revenue for the final period by reference to the normal practice of the body "—
    which covers a very germane subject

    6.15 p.m.

    The right hon. Gentle-man is, of course, quite correct We discussed this on the Committee stage. I am sorry that he found some of the arguments I and other hon. Friends of mine used were not very convincing, because they are arguments which appeared to us sound and are the reasons why it is impossible for us now, as it was im- possible for us then, to accept this Amendment. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the provisions of this Clause, which I know hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think are tightly drawn, are to prevent the dissipation of the assets of these undertakings through excessive dividends or by other payments of one kind or another. It seems to us that we should make provision in the Bill as to what should be done when the final period is entered upon, as indeed it has now been entered upon, and what sums the shareholders and others should be entitled to. We have laid down a final period which covers the two years from 1st January, 1946, to 31st December, 1947. This Amendment would extend the final period of two years to eight years. Obviously, we cannot go back to 1940, because during that period, as the House knows very well, considerable sums, or at any rate, fairly large sums flooded into the coffers of the railway companies, and they put certain sums to reserve. No doubt they were then thinking of the after the-war years and of the fact that there would be, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, a good deal of abnormal wear and tear, as indeed there was, and that after the war they would need capital for one purpose or another.

    In due course, these railways are to be taken over by the State, and it will be the duty of the State to re-equip them. It seems to us fair that what sums there are there for rehabiltiation should come to the State and the community so that they can be used by the community for the same purpose for which the railway companies originally placed them to reserve. We resist this Amendment all the more strongly because the benefit that would accrue from the handing over of these sums under this Amendment to the railway companies would not accrue to the general body of shareholders. If would only go to certain junior stockholders and not to all alike. The gain would, therefore, be a partial one and not to the shareholders as a whole. The arguments which were used during the Committee stage were quite straightforward, and we thought they had a good deal of point in them. The railway companics have suffered a certain amount of war damage, and no contribution has yet been paid by the railway companies towards the war damage which was sustained. Other sections of the community during the war had to pay then contri butions.

    What about the £152 million which was earned by the railway companies and put aside in a trust fund created for the purpose of repairing war damage? Will that accrue to the Commissioners as a windfall?

    If the hon. Gentleman will examine the facts, or will get someone to point them out to him, he will find that the £152 million is not there for war damage purposes.

    As the Financial Secretary has challenged me, may I refer him to the Committee proceedings, during which the Parliamentary Secretary stated the position quite clearly in agreement with myself? I raised the matter there and made it perfectly clear that this sum was put aside for making up such repairs and damages as could not be carried out during the war. [HON. MEMBERS "Ah."] That must have included war damages.

    I think the hon. Gentleman has answered himself. Those sums were put by in order to cover arrears of maintenance which could not then, because of the war, be carried out.

    And current repairs—whether necessitated by the war or any other cause. I have never understood there was to be any other source from which the railways could obtain their finances in future other than that £152 million which has been set aside.

    I do not think I need follow the hon. Gentleman any further along the path he has begun to tread; I do not think I should be in Order in so doing. I was referring to contributions towards war damage which other sections of the community have paid and which the railway companies have not. It is not their fault. In common with the utility undertakings, no scheme has yet been elaborated which covers the railways for war damage and their contribution towards making good such damage. Therefore any scheme which may come into existence should receive a contribution from the railway companies just as other people have made their contribution already. As to wear and tear, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) was rather facetious about our using that argument. can only repeat that in our view there was considerable and abnormal wear and tear during the war. The railway companies were unable during the war to make good, as they otherwise might have done, some of the wear and tear which accrued.

    I was not intending to be at all facetious, I was trying to make a genuine point, namely, that under the control agreement—as the Parliamentary Secretary will know quite well—there were special arrangements made for dealing with that particular problem, and, therefore, this particular money can hardly be expected by the Financial Secretary to have been put aside for that particular purpose.

    I did not say that was the only sum that had been put aside. I was only saying that it would be a contribution well worth while towards the considerable and abnormal wear and tear which had accrued during the war. That being so, as the State will have to make good that damage—it is true there will be some reserves apart from this—there is no reason why the community should not enjoy the use of this money for the purpose for which it was originally put aside by the railway companies and not spent for reasons of which we are all aware. Then, too, during the war a great deal of the equipment, apart from wear and tear, was made good with materials which will have to be replaced as soon as possible when the genuine article comes along. Sheets, which are usually made of canvas, had to be made of cotton; sleepers, which normally are of wood, and good wood at that, have had, because of the shortage of timber, to be made of other materials. Obviously, the railway companies will want to put their permanent way into a good state of repair as soon as possible and have timber sleepers as they did before the war. For these reasons, as well as for the reason—which I think is an excellent one in itself—that if we accepted this Amendment, we should only be giving an extra sum of money to the junior stockholders of the railways generally, I ask the House to reject this Amendment.

    I propose to take another line from that taken by my hon. Friends. This Clause in general turns on quite an important point apart from the Amendment. An officer is to be appointed who will be responsible for the ascertainment and certification of the various sums in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f). What I am concerned with is the importance of the standing of this officer. In order to carry out the purpose of the Clause, obviously, he will have to be a man of the highest standing, and I observe that Clauses 121 and 122 make it clear that this Bill applies not only to England and Wales, but to Northern Ireland and Scotland, and so the officer appointed—

    I think the hon. Member will find it difficult to relate what he is now saying to the Amendment we have under discussion.

    I agree that it will demand a good deal of ingenuity, but not more than my predecessors have shown.

    It will not be possible, I understand you to say, Sir, for me to make any reference to the character and standing of this officer who will carry out the duties laid on him in paragraph (a).

    I would have thought, with all respect, Sir, that I might be permitted to say that the officer who is to carry on during the 1946 period, as against the 194o period for which the Amendment asks, should be an officer of probity and distinction and possibly selected by the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for Scotland.

    The hon. Member now is discussing the Clause; we are discussing a specific Amendment affecting one part of the Clause, and he must confine his remarks to the Amendment, which seeks to delete "forty-six," and to insert "forty." Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre.

    I thought the Financial Secretary was rather disingenuous in his statement, because this question really resolves itself into one fact, rather than into any suppositions as to what may or may not benefit the community in the long run. Here we have these companies which, for five years, have distri- buted very much less than that which was available under the agreement. Under this Bill, in the two years which constitute the final period, they will be allowed to pay a higher rate of dividend than that which they have paid. There are certain reserves left, and the question before us now is, What should happen to those reserves? As I understand it, when the Financial Secretary's first argument is stripped down to its bare facts, he simply said, "Here is a sum which we can get under the terms of the agreement. Why should we not have it? Why not retain it?" Surely, that is not a question which this House should consider? The railway companies put this money back in the past in a way in which every hon. Member would consider prudent, and which has time and time again secured the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are now asking that they should be entitled to a certain amount of this money which would have been available if this Measure had not been brought in. I cannot see what that has to do with the arguments advanced by the Financial Secretary.

    He then went on to say that the shareholders as a whole would not benefit, it would be only the junior stockholders. Again, he has missed the point, because who are the people who went without it in the first place? They were the junior stockholders. Obviously, the dividends restricted by the conservative and sound policy on the part of the directors did not cover a full distribution to the junior stockholders. All they are asking is that those junior stockholders who, very rightly, in the troublesome days of the war went without their full dividends in order to build up reserves against unknown contingencies and against the difficulties there would be at the end of the war, should have that money, or part of that money, made available to them to fulfil what I am certain the Financial Secretary will agree is a right and proper desire on the part of the companies. Therefore, to try to pretend that the shareholders will not benefit, because only a certain class will benefit, is merely to overlook the fact that the class which benefits now is the very class which, in the national interest, went without their dividends during the war. This Amendment will not alter in the least the relative reserve for distribution applicable to payments for wear and tear above the normal. For all these reasons this Amendment should be accepted, and these junior stockholders, who during the war made a real sacrifice to protect and preserve the system, should be entitled to something for what they did in the common interest.

    6.30 p.m.

    I do not wish to deal with the technical argument in regard to this transaction, because I am not sufficiently conversant with railway finance to do so. I urge the Financial Secretary and the Minister to consider whether the Government are really wise in pursuing the rather narrow policy which flows through all their nationalisation schemes. We have had occasion to comment on this in another part of the Bill, in discussing compensation. Certain funds are accumulated by concerns who prudently make reserves over a period of years, and those in charge of them are constantly urged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and hon. Members opposite, indeed by hon. Members in all parts of the House, not to pay out large sums in dividends, but to retain the money in their concerns to pay for capital re-equipment. What is going to happen to those industries who now have the threat of nationalisation hanging over them? We know that there are industries ndustries which are definitely going to be nationalised, and others who fear they may be drawn into the scheme. But this proposal is encouraging to those who have been imprudent and have spent the money. Supposing an hon. Member opposite was a director of a concern which he felt had a reasonable chance of being nationalised in the next five or 10 years, he would see no object whatever in accumulating reserves, because the policy of the Government is not to include them in the compensation. It will have the exact opposite effect to what the Government want it to have. I urge the Government in all seriousness to reconsider the point. If the Government pursue this policy of making it so much better for the person who has been imprudent, and has paid money out from reserves, there will be a most disastrous distribution of dividends.

    These reserves, like other assets of the railway companies, are reflected in the market price at which the securities are being taken over. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) admitted as much. His only objection was a general objection that that Stock Exchange price, freely negotiated between buyers and sellers, was not a true market value. That was a repetition of what he has said before, that it reflected the fear of nationalisation, or something of that sort. I do not know whether it is in Order to go into that question now, but I would point out that even if it were not a true reflection it does not follow in the least that it did not reflect this general point. It may have been too high, or too low, nevertheless, one would expect it to reflect—and would see no reason why it should not—the existence of these and further reserves. The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Poole) said that in the value of shares no one pays any attention to the existence of these further reserves. Those reserves are obviously reflected in the value of the shares, and if they are to be bought, or taken over by the Government, that is a matter which is taken into consideration in either case.

    Right hon. and hon. Members opposite seem to be unduly concerned with the interests of one particular class of persons, the railway stockholders. Surely, they are sent here to represent other people. They are here to represent the travelling public, and the tax- payer. The travelling public and the taxpayer are concerned to see that excessive compensation is not paid. I cannot help feeling that those who frarhed the Amendment knew perfectly well that the sums they are trying to get by this Amendment are additional to the true value of the shares, and, if they were given the railway stockholders, it would represent an unparalleled benefit, unfair to the taxpayer and to the prospective user of transport, so far as he has to pay for it, as he will in the long run. We have had a number of speeches on this, and other short and simple points. It will not lie in the mouths of those who make those speeches from benches opposite to complain unduly of the operation of the Guillotine.

    I only want to intervene to say that I think the conduct of the board during the whole period of the war ought to be reflected by the very prudent policy they adopted. While it is true it is not the business of hon. Members to represent a certain section of the population, those of us—and I declare my interest—who are, or were, directors of the railways, have an obligation to look after the interests of the shareholders, and that is a proper function. I ask the House to remember that when the country was under heavy bombardment, and up to 1945, it was quite impossible to tell the ultimate damage. Therefore, the prudent board set aside even larger sums. All that prudent policy was tucked away, and I do not think it was reflected in the value of the shares.

    It seems to me that common justice is involved here. I am not affected by the arguments which have been put forward from the other side of the House The Government decided to nationalise transport. They have chosen to adopt a particular way of doing it; that is to say, not to take over the undertaking, but to take over, in effect, the shares, or rather to take over the undertaking on the basis of shares quoted on a particular day. That seems specious and attractive but, if we look into it further, we see that is not so. The price of the shares is based on the assumption that parcels of shares are changing hands from day to day and does not necessarily reflect the total value of the undertaking if sold out-side. Therefore, we are hack to this position. These funds have come out of the pockets of the ordinary shareholders Hon. and right hon. Members opposite, including the Financial Secretary, think it is shocking that the ordinary shareholder should ask for what has been taken from him or withheld from his pocket. They appear to think themselves entitled to act as judges between thousands of shareholders and to take up the high moral attitude that really they are only acting a little unfairly towards the preference shareholders. The only ground upon which nationalisation can be justified is by paying a fair and proper price. It may be very well and right to nationalise the railways. It cannot be right to take away from the shareholders money which they have earned and not drawn. On that very short and simple ground—I am quite undeterred by the fallacious argument about individual market quotations—I desire to support the Amendment.

    Question put, "That the word 'fortysix' stand part of the Bill."

    Division No. 161.]


    [6.41 p.m.

    Adams, Richard (Balham)Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)
    Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)Lewis, T. (Southampton)
    Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)Lindgren,. G. S.
    Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Lipton, Lt.-Col. M
    Alpass, J. H.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Logan, D G.
    Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Evans, John (Ogmore)Longden, F.
    Attewell, H. C.Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Lyne, A. W.
    Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Ewart, R.McAdam, W.
    Austin, H. L.Fairhurst, F.McEntee, V. La T
    Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BFarthing, W. J.McGhee, H. G.
    Bacon, Miss AField, Captain W. J.McKay, J. (Wallsend)
    Baird, J.Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)McKinlay, A. S.
    Balfour, AFollick, M.Maclean, N. (Govan)
    Barnes, Rt. Hon. A JFoot, M. M.McLeavy, F.
    Barstow, P. G.Forman, J. C.Macpherson, T. (Romford)
    Barton, C.Foster, W. (Wigan)Mallalieu, J. P. W.
    Battley, J. R.Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Mann, Mrs. J.
    Bechervaise, A. E.Freeman, Peter (Newport)Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)
    Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Gaitskell, H. T. N.Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)
    Benson, G.Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Marshall, F. (Brightside)
    Beswick, F.George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Mathers, G.
    Bing, G. H. CGibbins, J.Medland, H. M
    Binns, J.Gilzean, A.Mellish, R. J.
    Blackburn, A. R.Gooch, E. G.Messer, F.
    Blenkinsop, AGoodrich, H. E.Mikardo, Ian
    Blyton, W. R.Gordon-Walker, P. CMitchison, Major G. R.
    Boardman, H.Greenwood, A. W J. (Heywood)Monslow, W.
    Bowden, Flg.-Offr H. WGrenfell, D. R.Montague, F
    Bowen, R.Grey, C. F.Moody, A. S.
    Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Grierson, E.Morgan, Dr. H. B
    Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Morley, R.
    Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
    Brook, D. (Halifax)Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
    Brooks, T J. (Rothwell)Guest, Dr. L. HadenMort, D. L.
    Brown, George (Belper)Gunter, R. J.Moyle, A.
    Brown, T. J. (Ince)Guy, W. H.Murray, J. D
    Bruce, Major D. W THaire, John E. (Wycombe)Nally, W.
    Buchanan, C.Hall, W. G.Naylor, T. E.
    Burden, T. W.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. RNeal, H. (Claycross)
    Butler, H. W (Hackney, S.)Hardman, D. R.Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)
    Byers, FrankHardy, E. A.Noel-Baker, Capt. F E. (Brentford)
    Callaghan, JamesHarrison, J.Noel-Buxton, Lady
    Carmichael, JamesHaworth, J.Oldfield, W. H
    Castle, Mrs. B. A.Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Paget, R. T.
    Chamberlain, R. AHewitson, Capt. MPaling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
    Champion, A. J.Hobson, C. R.Palmer, A. M. F.
    Chater, D.Holman, P.Parker, J.
    Chetwynd, G. RHolmes, H E (Hemsworth)Parkin, B, T.
    Clitherow, Dr. RHouse, GPaton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
    Cobb, F. AHoy, J.Paton, J. (Norwich)
    Cocks, F. S.Hubbard, T.Pearson, A.
    Coldrick, W.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Peart, Capt. T. F.
    Collins, V. J.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Platts-Mills, J. F. F.
    Colman, Miss G. MHughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)
    Comyns, Dr. LHynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Popplewell, E.
    Cook, T. F.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Porter, E. (Warrington)
    Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.Irving, W. JPorter, G. (Leeds)
    Corbet, Mrs. F K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G APrice, M. Philips
    Corlett, Dr. J.Janner, B.Proctor, W. T.
    Corvedale, Viscount
    Cove, W. GJay, D. P T.Pryde, D. J.
    Crawley, A.Jeger, G. (Winchester)Pursey, Cmdr. H.
    Crossman, R. H. S.Jeger, Dr S. W. (St Pancras, S.E.)Randall, H. E
    Dagger, GJohn, W.Ranger, J.
    Daines, P.Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)Rankin J.
    Davies, Clement (Montgomery)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Reeves J
    Davies, Edward (Burslem)Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Reid, T. (Swindon)
    Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Rhodes, H.
    Davies, Harold (Leek)Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Richards, R.
    Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Keenan, W.Ridealgh, Mrs. M
    Davies, S O (Merthyr)Key, C. W.Robens, A.
    Deer, G.Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr ERoberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
    Delargy, Captain H JKinley, J.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
    Diamond, J.Kirkwood, DRobertson, J. J. (Berwick)
    Dobbie, W.Layers, S.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
    Dodds, N. N.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J JRoyle, C.
    Driberg, T. E. N.Lee, F (Hulme)Scollan, T.
    Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Lee. Miss J. (Cannock)Scott-Elliot, W
    Durbin, E F MLeslie, J. R.Shackleton, E. A A
    Dye, S.Levy. B WSharp, Granville

    The House divided: Ayes, 312; Noes, 134.

    Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)West, D. G.
    Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)Taylor, Dr. S (Barnet)Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
    Shurmer, P.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)White, H. (Derbyshire, N E)
    Silverman, J. (Erdington)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
    Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)Thomas, George (Cardiff)Wigg, Col. G. E.
    Simmons, C. J.Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A B
    Skeffington, A. M.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)Wilkes, L.
    Skeffington-Lodge, T. CThurtle, ErnestWilkins, W. A.
    Skinnard, F. W.Tiffany, SWilley, O. G. (Cleveland)
    Smith, C. (Colchester)Timmons, J.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
    Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)Titterington, M. FWilliams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
    Smith, S. H. (Hull, S W.)Tolley, L.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
    Solley, L. J.Turner-Samuels, M.Williamson, T.
    Sorensen, R. W.Usborne, HenryWillis, E.
    Soskice, Maj. Sir FVernon, Maj. W. FWills, Mrs. E. A.
    Sparks, J. A.Viant, S. P.Wise, Major F. J
    Stamford, WWadsworth, G.Woodburn, A.
    Steele, T.Walker, G. H.Wyatt, W.
    Stephen, C.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)Yates, V. F
    Stewart, Capt Michael (Fulham, E.)Warbey, W. N.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
    Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth)Watkins, T. E.Younger, Hon Kenneth
    Stubbs, A. E.Watson, W. M.
    Swingler, S.Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)


    Sylvester, G. O.Weitzman, D.Mr. Collindridge and
    Symonds, A. L.Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Mr. Hannan.
    Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)Wells, W. T. (Walsall)


    Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Gates, Maj. E. E.Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
    Amory, D. HeathcoatGeorge, Maj. Rt. Hn. G Lloyd (P'ke)Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.
    Assheton, Rt. Hon. RGlyn, Sir R.Neven-Spence, Sir B.
    Astor, Hon. M.Gomma-Duncan, Col. A GNield, B. (Chester)
    Baldwin, A. E.Grant, LadyNoble, Comdr. A. H. P
    Barlow, Sir J.Gridley, Sir A.Orr-Ewing, I. L.
    Beamish, Maj. T. V. HGrimston, R. V.Peaks, Rt Hon. O
    Beechman, N. A.Harris, H. WilsonPeto, Brig. C. H. M.
    Bennett, Sir PHarvey, Air-Comdre A VPickthorn, K.
    Birch, NigelHaughton, S. G.Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
    Boothby, RHead, Brig. A. H.Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
    Bower, N.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir CPrescott, Stanley
    Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O
    Bracken, Rt. Hon. BrendanHogg, Hon. Q.Rayner, Brig. R.
    Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col WHolmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
    Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. THudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Renton, D.
    Bullock, Capt. M.Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W)Roberts, H (Handsworth)
    Butcher, H. W.Jennings, R.Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
    Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr Hon. L WRopner, Col. L.
    Carson, E.Lambert, Hon. G.Ross, Sir R.
    Channon, H.Lancaster, Col. C. GSalter, Rt. Hon. Sir J A
    Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. SLangford-Holt, JScott, Lord W.
    Clarke, Col. R. S.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. HShephard, S. (Newark)
    Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. GLindsay, M. (Solihull)Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
    Cole, T. L.Linstead, H. NSmith, E. P. (Ashford)
    Conant, Maj. R. J E.Lipson, D. L.Spearman, A. C. M.
    Cooper-Key, E. M.Low, Brig. A. R. WSpence, H. R.
    Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. CLucas, Maj. Sir J.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
    Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. ELucas-Tooth, Sir H.Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
    Crowder, Capt. J. F ELyttelton, Rt. Hon. OStuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
    Cuthbert, W. N.MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd'ton, S.)
    Darling, Sir W. YMacdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight)Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
    De la Bère, R.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.Thorp, Lt.-Col R A F
    Digby, S. W.McKie, J. H. (Galloway)Touche, G. C.
    Dodds-Parker, A. D.Maclay, Hon. J. S.Vane, W. M. F.
    Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Walker-Smith. D.
    Drayson, G. B.Macpherson, Mai, N. (Dumfries)Ward, Hon. G. R.
    Duthie, W. SMaitland, Comdr. J. W.Wheatley, Colonel M. J
    Eccles, D. M.Manningham-Buller, R. EWhite, Sir D. (Fareham)
    Elliot, Lieut.-Colonel WMarlowe, A. A. H.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
    Erroll, F. J.Marshall, D (Bodmin)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
    Fletcher, W. (Bury)Maude, J. C.York, C.
    Foster, J. G. (Northwich)Medlicott, F
    Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Mellor, Sir J.


    Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir TMr. Drewe and
    Gage, C.Morris-Jones. Sir H Mr. Studholme.

    I beg to move, in page 22, line 11, at the end, to insert:

    "(c) such other amounts as in the view of the auditor may be appropriately included as net revenue for the final period by reference to the normal practice of the body."
    The Financial Secretary will remember that he told us on the 15th day of the Committee's proceedings that reconsideration would be given to the question of including in the amount of the final distribution such additional items as seemed right to the auditor, according to the usual practice. I quite appreciate that there are some technical difficulties about that, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman may be able to give us some news on the point and to inform the House as to the present position.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right. We did discuss this matter on an identical Amendment during the Committee stage, and I did then, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, indicate that he would be willing to look at it again to see if it were possible to meet, partially, at any rate, the points put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends on that occasion. This Amendment is drawn much too wide for us to accept. Nevertheless, we do feel that there was something in the point, although I regret to say that my right hon. Friend has not so far found a form of words which will cover the distance which he is prepared to go, but he intends to continue his search, and, perhaps, between now and further stages of the Bill, we may be able, in association with those concerned, to find a form of words which will be suitable. At the present moment, the words are drawn much too wide, and would include items which, in our view, should not be included, and which would be unfair to the travelling public and the public generally to include in this Bill.

    In view of the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, and wishing him good luck in the search for the proper formula, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 21—(Application Of Sums Received From Commission Under Last Preceding Section)

    I beg to move, in page 25, line 10, at the end, to insert:

    "Provided that a body mentioned in Part I of the Third Schedule to this Act may enter into an agreement with the Commission to pay to the Commission a sum agreed between them in respect of such agreements disclaimed by the Commission as may be specified in the first mentioned agreement, and upon the payment of the sum so agreed the liability, if any, to pay the sums mentioned in paragraph (a) of this Subsection in respect of the disclaimed agreements so specified shall become a liability of the Commission to the exclusion of the body."
    This deals with a narrow point, but one of some importance. Hon. Members will remember that, under Clause 15, agreements can be disclaimed, and, if they are, the matter does not rest with the Commission, but with the body that entered into the agreement, and that also applies to payments under the disclaimed agreements, by virtue of the Frustrated Contracts Act, 1943. Hon. Members will see that payments made to the body under the preceding Clause and payments which the body will receive under the disclaimed agreements, have to be applied in accordance with a certain priority of payment. The first priority, which is set out in Subsection (1, a) of the Clause provides for payment of any sums legally due from the body to any other person under the disclaimed agreements. It may turn out, and, quite frequently, will turn out, that it will not be easy to ascertain precisely the amount due under the terms of the disclaimed agreement from the body. It may take some time to work out the precise obligations of the body and to ascertain the precise sum. That being so, the result would be that payments that are later in the order of priority would be delayed, and the object of the Amendment is to prevent that delay occurring. What the Amendment does is that it states that where the body has an obligation under a disclaimed agreement, the following arrangement may be entered into. On payment of an agreed sum by the body to the Commission, the Commission will assume liability to discharge that payment under the disclaimed agreement, and, the body concerned having discharged its obligation under Subsection (1), could proceed and allocate payments in accordance with the successive items of priority. In other words, this is an arrangement designed to obviate delay and make a settlement easier, and to facilitate the position for all parties concerned in the winding up of a body. I ask the House to say that the Amendment is an improvement to the Clause, to assist the convenience of a great many people concerned in one way or another with disclaimed agreements.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In page 25, line 24, after first "of," insert "and the proviso to."—[ Mr. Barnes.]

    Clause 25—(Application Of Preceding Provisions To Local Authorities)

    Amendment made; In page 31, line 25, leave out "or obligation."—[ Mr. Barnes.]

    Clause 28—(The Caledonian And Crinan Canals)

    Amendments made: In page 35, line 20, leave out "obligations."

    In line 23, leave out "obligations."—[ Mr. Barnes.]

    Clause 35—(Commission's Licensing Powers As To Inland Waterways)

    I beg to move, in page 41, line 11, at the end, to insert:

    "(5) For the purpose of this Section—
  • (a) the carriage of goods of a holding company by a subsidiary thereof, on the carriage of goods of such a subsidiary by another such subsidiary or by the holding company; or
  • (b) the delivery or collection by a person of goods sold or used or which have been, or are to be, subjected to a process or treatment in the course of a trade or business carried on by him,
  • shall not be deemed to be the carriage of goods for reward.
    In this Subsection, the expression "holding company" means a company which is the beneficial owner or not less than ninety per cent. of the issued share capital of another company, and the expression "subsidiary" in relation to a holding company, means a company not less than ninety per cent. of the issued share capital of which is in the beneficial ownership of the holding company.
    Where a subsidiary (as hereinbefore defined) is the beneficial owner of any shares of another company, those shares shall be treated for the purposes of the foregoing definitions as if they were in the beneficial ownership of the holding company."
    This is an Amendment, I think, of a non-controversial type, which is really concerned with a technical point that arises on carriage by canals. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, it is a common occurrence in canal waterway traffic for a parent company to have certain subsidiary companies which own the barges. In the Amendment we are tying that up very tightly. We are making the qualification 90 per cent which is the highest qualification, I think, which has ever been put for a parent and subsidiary company, in order to ensure that the two are identified. The last thing we desire to do by this Amendment is to make a loophole for any persons to avoid the responsibilities of the licensing system for the inland waterways, if they are really carriers for hire or reward. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is not reasonable that if there is a 90 per cent. association, it is really equivalent to a business with departments, one department operating with another. That is the first point of the Amendment.

    7.0 p.m.

    The second point is even simpler and less contentious. It covers the delivery or collection of goods which have been, or are to be, subjected to a process of treatment in the course of a trade or business carried on by the person involved. We say that, in that case, the collection and delivery of such goods, which are either goods which have been processed or about to be processed, should not be treated in the ordinary way, but that they ought to be treated as the goods of the person who is carrying them, provided he is carrying them only for the purposes set out in the Amendment. I can appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has to go into a point like this with care, because I see, just as he sees, that there are loopholes, and that the right might be abused. We have tried to make the mesh of the net as small as possible, so that it will take in what we want to include, and will let out only what should be let out. On that basis, I commend the Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman as something to which he might give favourable consideration.

    I agree that, except in the general case put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, this would not prove too difficult a problem to meet. But, at the moment, no sufficient evidence has been submitted to me as to the kind of traffic involved, and I cannot say at the moment that I am clear whether I am considering this as a general assumption of something that may happen, or how far, in fact, it is reflected in actual business, or requirements, or services, or needs, on the canals and navigable rivers. Therefore, I am always rather disinclined to accept a proposal of this kind, unless I am satisfied exactly what its reactions are likely to be.

    At the moment I regret that I am not able to accept the Amendment, although I am generally sympathetic towards its intention. If, on examination, I find that it does not lead to any reactions that would cause me trouble elsewhere with regard to the licensing system of canal carriers, I should be prepared to deal with the matter in another place. There is no desire on my part to introduce the licensing system with regard to canal traffic for the type of undertaking to Which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers. At the moment, I am not quite satisfied whether it is an issue of substance, or whether it is a matter of shadow and general assumption. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be satisfied with that assurance, and would let me examine the point in a little more detail, and see what evidence can be brought forward to support his contention, I should be happy to do so. I am not approaching the matter in any desire to frustrate the intention of the right hon and learned Gentleman.

    May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind, when considering the matter, that this Amendment would cover sugar beet factories which have barges on the river, both for the purpose of carrying sugar beet and for other purposes, and also, that there are some rivers which are likely to become more navigable if the treatment which many people wish them to have is given to them. Therefore there may be a great many more undertakings should the rivers be developed

    I have indicated that there is no intention to impose a licensing procedure just for the sake of having it. I would welcome any evidence such as that indicated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

    In view of the assurance given by the right hon. Gentle- man, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 37—(Schemes As To Railway Clearing House)

    Amendments made: In page 42, line 5, leave out "obligations."

    In line 9, leave out "obligations."—[ Mr. Barnes.]

    I beg to move, in page 42, line 24, at the end, to insert:

    "(e) for repealing or amending any previous scheme in force under this Section."
    This and the following Amendment are intended to tidy up the Clause dealing with the Railway Clearing House. Clause 37 empowers the British Transport Commission to prepare a scheme to deal with the property, rights, powers, obligations and liabilities of the Railway Clearing House. This Amendment brings into a separate paragraph the power to repeal or to amend previous schemes, and the following Amendment deletes just a few unnecessary words. It does not alter the substance of the Clause, but it results in improved and clearer drafting.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In page 42, line 28, leave out from "amending," to "any," in line 29.—[ Mr. Barnes.]

    I beg to move, in page 42, line 41, to leave out from the first "the," to the end of line 42, and to insert "Minister may direct the Commission."

    This Amendment makes it clear that the Minister may direct the British Transport Commission to prepare and submit a scheme, but the Minister has not power to indicate the lines or the details of the scheme. Therefore, I think that this, again, is a clearer and more specific arrangement.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In page 42, line 43, leave out from "Section," to the end of line 44, and insert:

    "and the Commission shall give effect to any such directions."—[Mr. Barnes.]

    Clause 38—(Certain Road Transport Undertakings To Be Acquired By Commission)

    I beg to move, in page 44, line 7, to leave out "or B licence."

    Much that the Minister has said leads one to suppose that he is not unsympathetic to this Amendment. It relates to "B" licences which concern mainly the small man, by which I mean the small man in trade and not in the road haulage business. In no way can it be suggested that he is part of the road haulage organisations which I suggest it is the intention of this Bill to nationalise. They consist of greengrocers, coal merchants, furniture dealers, horticulturists and so on. They carry their own goods in their own vehicles, and on occasion they carry goods belonging to other traders, but only over short distances. I, therefore, suggest that they do not come within the meaning of this Bill in the same way as do the large road haulage organisations.

    I would particularly like to put the case from the point of view of the horticulturist grower. We have horticulturists who are cultivating under glass, who live in close proximity to each other and who, from time to time, send their goods either to London or to nearby towns. The loads which are carried by these men depend very much on the weather and on other conditions. There are times when one horticulturist, finding that he cannot fill his vehicle economically, rings up the next door horticulturist saying that he has some space in his lorry and is able to carry some of his goods. The distance is not great. If the B licensees are to be nationalised, it will prevent the horticulturists from doing that, it will place a heavy burden on them, they will have to take out C licences and will be prohibited on the odd occasion from taking somebody else's produce as well as their own.

    The people concerned are very limited in range already. They are subject to licence, they have fought many battles in the courts for their continued existence, and over the past few years they have been greatly whittled down. Those who still remain have proved in the courts their case for continued existence, If anybody doubts what I am saying with regard to the size of the businesses which are conducted by these men, we have only to look at the figures. In this country there are 28,000 B licencees. Of those, as many as 73 per cent. own less than two vehicles, and 96 per cent. of that number own less than five vehicles. Therefore, on that ground and on grounds of equity I suggest they are due for consideration. They are definitely the "small fry," who do not affect this Bill in any way. They are very near relations to the C licence holders, whose case the Minister has met, and I suggest that he could do no harm to his Bill but could do a great deal of good to small industry in rural areas by accepting this Amendment. They are statistically negligible but locally extremely important.

    I think there is occasionally a mistaken view on both sides of the House that A and B licences relate to long and short distance drivers. Nothing could be further from the case. I would also point out that, if this Amendment were accepted, the Minister would still have the power of licensing, and in that way the Minister could regulate and control them in any reasonable way that was necessary. B licences constitute no menace to this great scheme of the Minister's and are worthy of fair and sympathetic treatment.

    7.15 p.m.

    I beg to second the Amendment.

    I think the House cannot fail to have been impressed by the cogent argument of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), and I hope the Minister will find it possible to accept the Amendment. I am quite certain that the Minister will not be unwilling to listen to the views of those who were not Members of the Standing Committee and, perhaps, of those who have some experience, as I have, of the working of the licensing arrangements under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933. The Clause which we are considering is the one under which various undertakings are to be acquired by the Commission. Those undertakings consist Wholly or partly of haulage operations undertaken by those who hold A and B licences. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, there is a wide difference between the holders of A licences and of B licences, and it is a difference which is sometimes not fully understood. I would like to suggest in a few words what those various types of licence involve. A licence holders can carry any goods anywhere. A B licence is not a short-distance licence at all. It permits a man to carry his own goods on his own vehicles, and he may carry goods for others for hire or reward, subject to conditions imposed by the licensing authority. I suppose those conditions relate to the type of goods carried, or the persons for whom they are carried, or the distances along which they are carried. Therefore, the House will appreciate that in nearly all the cases of B licence holders, they are really persons running businesses quite apart from haulage, with haulage as an ancillary undertaking.

    To give a short example of which I know, there might be a timber merchant who has a storage place. He is allowed under a B licence to carry his own timber. Of course, he could do that under a C licence, but he is also able, subject to the conditions of the licensing authority, to carry for his storage customers. In the case I have in mind, which is in Liverpool, the conditions are that the man may journey from the docks within quite a short radius. I feel strongly with my hon. and gallant Friend that this is not the sort of business which was contemplated when the Government determined upon this course. Really half or more of the work done by the "B" licence holders is the equivalent of the work done by "C" licence holders, carrying their own goods in their own vehicles. We know now that "C" licence holders are to be excluded, and, therefore, the Government accept a large part of what we are saying. We now ask them to go further, and to say that these haulage undertakings with which we are dealing should not be brought within this scheme. It is not equitable, right, nor in the interests of the scheme itself that they should be included.

    I hope, and feel sure, that the Minister will reject this Amendment. It brings before the House evidence of the insatiable appetite of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. Having tasted blood in the "C" licence concession they proceed to the next stage, and ask that "B" licences should be similarly treated. Give them this and then, of course, "A" licences will follow, and the whole of the nationalised co-ordinated transport will have gone by the board. I believe the Minister has already given away too much in the "C" licence concession. I say that because I want to be frank about this. If this Amendment was accepted by the Minister, I believe no quarter would be given. The case which has been put up by hon. Members opposite has no substance. What is the position? If these people, as we rightly understand, are those holders of licences whose primary purpose in holding a licence is to carry their own goods, they are now completely and adequately safeguarded, inasmuch as they now have unrestricted facilities for operating their own vehicles wherever they may wish under a "C" licence. More than that; they are also able to continue to operate their "B" licences up to a distance of 25 miles. Therefore, it is merely a question of carrying their own goods where they wish.

    The hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield) instanced the case of a man in Liverpool who has a warehouse, and who wants to bring from the docks to his warehouse some of someone else's timber. I hardly imagine that that warehouse will be located more than 25 miles from the docks. If that is what the hon. and learned Member seeks to accomplish by this Amendment, the power is already here, the safeguard is already in the Bill, and the man who wants to operate and to carry his own goods, and to do an occasional good turn for his neighbour, is quite able to do it up to 25 miles. As a matter of fact, by licence from the Minister he could even exceed the 25 miles distance. I think every safeguard necessary for the "B" licence holder is already in the Bill, and I hope the Minister will resist this Amendment.

    The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole) says that the Opposition's case on this Amendment has no substance. I would remind him that it is, I believe, generally accepted by Socialists that when a case for nationalisation has to be made—out the burden of proving that nationalisation is necessary lies upon those who wish to nationalise. We challenge the Minister to make out his case for nationalising these traders whose vehicles he intends to take over. First of all, I remind the Minister that during Committee it transpired that it was intended to nationalise only 2,000 vehicles. Each of those 2,000 vehicles has a dual purpose. They are hybrid vehicles. Like the Liberal-National Party, they combine the virtues of both with the vices of neither. They are primarily held, not by transport operators but by men who are traders. In so far as they try to operate for hire or reward they are subject to the most rigorous restrictions by the licensing authorities, both as to the class of goods to be carried and the distances they may carry them. Bearing in mind the small number of vehicles, the fact that each vehicle is used only partly for hire or reward, and that in so far as it is used for hire or reward it is subject to restrictions, I suggest to the Minister that the Commission will not suffer very greatly if these vehicles are not taken over. But the traders themselves—and I suggest, the public also—will suffer greatly.

    How will the traders suffer? In the first place, a very economical way of using a vehicle will disappear, because at the moment—and this is to the benefit of the public as well as the trader—many an empty back load on what otherwise might be a "C" licence becomes a good pay load on a "B" licence. Is that facility one which is to be wilfully swept away? The traders must have their vehicles there, and, as has been pointed out by hon. Members, they will have to try to replace these "B" licence vehicles with "C" licence vehicles, when the Minister has taken over what he considers to be the "B" licence element of their businesses. We think there is no great advantage to the Commission in taking over those portions of people's businesses which are engaged in hire or reward on "B" licences. Also, we have to remember that the licensing authorities will continue to restrict the vehicle up to 25 miles when carrying for hire or reward, and over that distance it will be necessary to obtain a permit from the Commission. Therefore, the Commission have their protection in any case.

    The anxiety arises from this sort of circumstance. The Minister is familiar with this example, which was raised in Committee by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers). Suppose a man has "B" licence vehicles only, and suppose for 55 per cent. of their time they are carrying for hire or reward, and for 45 per cent. of their time are carrying their own goods in connection with their own business. Under the Clause at present, that man's vehicle or vehicles—he may have three, four or five, but not very often can be taken away from him. What is to happen to the rest of his business? There is another very useful example which has been given before. Suppose a man who has seven vehicles and a garage, and suppose by applying the somewhat difficult formula which arises on the joint interpretation of Clauses 44 and 48 the Commission decide to take over four of the seven vehicles. What happens to the garage which is to be used in connection with the transport side of the business? That garage may be attached to other premises, such as a baker's or a greengrocer's, and very great hardship and difficulty may be caused by the interpretation of this Clause

    Let me attempt to leap before I come to the stile, and anticipate an argument which I have no doubt the Minister will raise, namely, that like everything else in this Clause the power which is given, for good or evil, is certain to be used for good. Of course, that is not a proposition which one can accept very easily when making laws for people. It is not fair to give Ministers powers which they can use for evil, unless there are overwhelming circumstances which prove conclusively that they can, and must, only be used for good. However, I suggest that on this occasion such circumstances are not present in such a manner as to convince us that the various injustices which can so easily arise under this Clause will be avoided. We are not dealing, on this Amendment, with the big transport concerns, The big hauliers. We are dealing with the small traders of the country-28,000 small traders, 73 per cent. of them having only one vehicle, and 23 per cent. only two, three or four vehicles, and only four per cent. possessing five or more vehicles. These small traders are not represented in the big political parties, by big battalions; they have not large sections of the Press fighting their case every day. I suggest that it is up to us, Private Members of Parliament on both sides of the House, to be particularly regardful of their interests, and it is because their interests do seem to me most genuinely to be threatened by the few- words of the Bill which we are seeking to delete, that I commend this Amendment to the House.

    7.30 p.m.

    The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major C. Poole) is quite right in accusing some of us on these benches of having an insatiable appetite I, personally, have as far as this Bill is concerned. Our desire is to try to retain as much liberty for the people of this country as possible. I have not yet been convinced, in connection with the "B" licence, that we are going to get greater efficiency by insisting in the inclusion of the "B" licence holders. I think the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) in connection with greenhouse produce could be taken a little further, as I doubt very much whether. the Minister realises the problem that is going to arise in the Southern counties. It will probably be a very acute problem. I do not want to deal with;1 in detail now; but it is one particularly pertinent to the "B" licence, because it will mean that the B "licence holder who wants to be able to carry his neighbours' goods up to London and around, will be handicapped. This will hit the fruit-growers very severely.

    There are two other points which the Minister might care to consider. I doubt if anybody realises just how difficult it will be to impose this legislation, in connection with the "B" licence. It will be necessary, in order to bring a charge against a "B" licence holder, to search his vehicle, presumably, to see whether the goods inside are his own or if they belong to somebody else. I think the police have quite enough on their hands. without our creating any situation requiring a lot of inquiries and snoopers. By excluding the "B" licence we may save the nation a considerable wastage of manpower. The final point I wish to make is that, even if the Clause goes through as drafted, the Commission may find themselves loaded with a responsibility they would very much rather not have. In the isolated districts where the grocer or the baker goes over a distance of 25 miles, we do not want to impose on the Commission the duty of taking over that vehicle, we do not want to make the Commission responsible for carrying traffic in the isolated districts at a loss. In the North there are vehicles which run in the course of ordinary trade long distances, and they should be allowed to exceed the distance of 25 miles, if necessary, to carry goods for the people at the top of the glens or straths.

    It seems to me that the Minister, if he refuses this Amendment, is ignoring the fact that in the agricultural or horticultural districts Class B licence holders do something in a way which is highly desirable. Although this is, perhaps, more the business of the Minister of Agriculture than the Minister of Transport, the fact remains that the Bill as drafted is against the spirit of cooperation in the horticultural districts, where they work in co-operation. In rejecting this Amendment the Minister will destroy that spirit. I think that if he will discuss it with the Minister of Agriculture, he will find that the spirit is one of the things the Minister of Agriculture most desires in horticultural districts.

    I was interested to hear what the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major C. Poole) had to say. He resented the fact that we on this side are trying to encroach on this Bill, and said that every time we gained some improvement in it, we wanted another. It seems to me that that is the most disastrous argument that could possibly be put forward from the hon. and gallant Member's point of view, because, surely, if ever there was a case of encroachment, it is this Bill, which is taking away from many people businesses which they have built up from very small beginmngs indeed, and have built up entirely through their own energy. It seems to me that that was a highly presumptuous argument to introduce into this Debate.

    Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman in a position to tell the House just how many of these "B" licence holders—what percentage of them—have operated over 25 miles distance, or do operate over 25 miles today, to see how much we are taking away from them?

    The Minister stated in Committee that it was about 2,000. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) was not a Member of the Standing Committee.

    But I was, and I thought I might assist in answering the question of the hon. and gallant Member.

    I am grateful to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) for that information. I was thinking particularly of a place which the Minister visited last year in my constituency, namely, Wisbech, which happens to be one of the most active horticultural districts of this country. The 25 mile limit is quite useless to horticulturists there, because their fruit has to go to London. By co-operating with their fellow horticulturists, those people who have "B" licences can help not only in carrying the fruit to Covent Garden, but they can also help in bringing back empty containers with them to Wisbech. This Bill seems to me to be bringing us back to all the troubles we experienced during the war under the Ministry of War Transport. If the right hon. Gentleman does not know what those troubles were I suggest that he goes to any horticultural district to find out for himself. The criticism during the war always was, that when the Ministry of War Transport was dealing with a matter, the lorries arrived too late, they did not know where to go, it was difficult to find enough people to guide them to the correct place. It is most essential to have these matters dealt with locally by class "B" and class "C" licence holders, and not by any transport Ministerially directed from London.

    I was brought into contact with the particular problem of the small, intermediate class as far back as 1932. The question that faces the Government now is, on which side of the line which they are drawing between A, on the one hand, and C, on the other, this small class falls. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) drew a certain analogy between this class and the Liberal National Party. I think he might have carried his analogy a little further, not confining himself only to its exceptional virtues. It is also similar in being an extremely small proportion of the total. Moreover I should also say it is in its general character more appropriate to the private enterprise side than it is to the Socialist side.

    I would like to suggest what would be the consequences of accepting this Amendment. First, it could not possibly do any real harm to the Minister's general scheme, if one takes into account the character and number of the vehicles concerned, and also the fact that they can be, and are, regulated by a flexible system of licences. Incidentally, I think the method of using a conditional licence system is one that might have been given a much bigger effect in the general transport scheme. That is by the way. The Minister's general scheme would certainly not be injured if he put these "B" licences on the other side of the line, retaining as he would the power to control them by licence.

    Secondly, the Transport Commission might be just a little inconvenienced occasionally for this reason. They have, under the concession on "C" licences, now to face, what they had not to face under the Bill as it was originally drafted, some measure of competition, which forms some kind of test of the efficiency of the general public transport system. But the competition which they have to face at present is, of course, subject to the very serious reservation that, whereas the public system can always bring back return loads, the "C" carrier must be so much more efficient than the public transport system that he finds it preferable to carry his own goods even though he is not allowed to bring back return loads. To that extent, the Transport Commission would—and I think it would be very much better for it—have to face here and there a little more effective competition. I think that would be an extremely good thing. Certainly, it could not do any harm to the efficiency or the general interests of the Transport Commission.

    Thirdly, the effect of accepting the Amendment would be this; there are, beyond any kind of question, a number of transport jobs in which there is a real economy if a man, when carrying his own goods one way, can save his vehicle from being completely wasted on the return journey. The effect of leaving the Bill as it is, with the rejection of this Amendment, would not be to transfer that economy in all cases to the public transport system. In many cases, undoubtedly it would induce the trader to forego the economy in order that he might have his freedom as a "C" licence holder. In that case it is clear that not only the private trader, but the general national economy will have lost, not a very big economy, but at any rate some economy, without there being any real advantage on the other side. The Amendment affects only a very small number of vehicles, and the proposal is not such as could possibly interfere with the general system of the Bill.

    7.45 p.m.

    Although I was not very successful in my two previous interventions, I would like to ask the Minister, before he finally commits himself on this matter, to see whether he cannot meet my hon. Friends on this small but important point. I sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole) to the extent that always when a Government has made certain concessions, it very properly resents those concessions being used for the purpose of gaining still further concessions. I quite understood what the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield had in mind, and I did not put upon it quite the same interpretation as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). As I see the position, the Government having decided in principle to set up the monopoly, the monopoly must be protected. Whether it is right or wrong, it is a monopoly, and the Minister must naturally protect it against competition which might be injurious to it; but accepting that, and having regard to the principle, wherever, without injury to the monopoly, public convenience can be assisted, or individual freedom maintained, I think there is a case, which even the monopoly should accept, to see whether it cannot meet a small but important feature in the system which might be alleviated by the monopoly being not so grasping as to refuse the smallest concession.

    Looked at from that point of view, what does the Amendment mean? The monopoly cannot be seriously injured by the degree of competition which would be involved in making this concession. The monopoly would have the protection of the 1939 Act—the licensing system itself. It would have the further protection that it is a question of only about 28,000 operators, most of whom own one, two or three vehicles. Of those, out of the 90,000 or whatever the figure may be, only 2,000 come into the category that would be either clamped down or released for this work, whichever way the decision of the House may go. Obviously, it is not an important decision compared with the vast junction of the monopoly over the whole field of transport. The monopoly is tremendously protected by all the other rights which it has.

    Where, then, does private convenience come in? We may assume that the monopoly could not be seriously injured by the 2,000 vehicles. I should hesitate to think that the whole scheme of nationalised transport would be brought down if the operators of 2,000 vehicles were allowed occasionally to pick up a parcel for a friend and take it, for a small charge, to London, with their own goods, and then to bring back something from London to distribute among their immediate neighbours, friends or co-operators in the same class of business. Therefore, if the injury to the monopoly would be minute, surely, apart from preconceived notions as to the value and importance of the monopoly, we ought to see whether we cannot meet public convenience and the established rights of free operators who have been working under this system.

    Today, one of the great troubles of this country is the sense of frustration from which everybody suffers. It is so hard to get anything done. It is not a question of the supply of services and goods being so much ahead of demand that there is immense competition among those who provide the services and goods. The trouble is that the demand is so much ahead of what the services and goods can supply that everybody, in almost every walk of life and in all forms of business, is suffering from the feeling that it takes so long to get the simplest thing done. Such is the pressure on public services and transport that, certainly at this time—whatever may be the condition in 10 years' time, when perhaps the whole balance between supply and demand will change, as it must change somewhat after the great pressure of war—public convenience can best be met by always giving the benefit of the doubt to anything which can get things going and give somebody a little bit of help in doing his business.

    If people like market gardeners can be allowed to carry the products of another and possibly bring something back that helps them all, if it is only a question of 2,000 vehicles in all and if it makes a little addition to the general convenience of life, I should have thought that at this time at any rate, having regard to all the other controls involved in the system, the Minister could perhaps tell us that he would look at it again. I would not ask him to pledge himself now to do more than consider it again; we should be very happy if he would say that there is still time to look into it and see whether the facts are correct and the arguments are sound, and that the injury, if it is an injury, would be small. If he could say that he would look at this point again, we should prefer not to press the matter. We would rely upon his good faith and his undertaking to look into this point—small as we all admit it is in proportion to the vast character of this immense Bill, but, nevertheless, important to the people concerned, to those who operate these vehicles and to those whom they serve. Perhaps occasionally in these proceedings I have introduced an element of vehemence and violence, and if the Minister could agree to look at it again, he would be adding, as he is so well fitted to do, an element of grace and comfort which would leave us upon a happier note.

    I am afraid that when I have stated my case on this Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman will realise that I should be very unwise to accept it. It is quite true that it has been emphasised in our discussions that approximately 2,000 B licence holders are affected by this Clause. No one has mentioned the other aspect of the figure, namely, that the total number of B licence holders approximates to 50,000.

    May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? The figures given to him before, which were not challenged, were these; in 1938 there were 32,120 licence holders owning 56,000 vehicles; in 1946 the number had fallen to 28,000 licences holders owning 50,000 vehicles.

    I thank the hon. Member for the correction, I was quoting vehicles, and my hon. Friend has just brought it to my notice that there is a difference between the number of operators and the number of vehicles. That being the case, I think we get it in its proper proportions; it is not a question of numbers that is involved here. There is no question of picking out so many B licence holders for the purpose of bringing them into the Bill. What hon. and right hon. Gentleman are really advocating is rather a dangerous principle, if I may put it that way; it is that in the Bill we should discriminate between one trader and another in the test applied. If hon. Members would refer to Clause 38, I think the position would become perfectly plain. We are dealing here with the operator who takes out a licence for the purpose of carrying the goods of another person for hire or reward. The goods that he carries for himself in his vehicle have nothing to do with the issue we are discussing, because the goods he carries for himself are left outside the calculation eventually applied. The Clause reads:

    "Where the Commission are of opinion with respect to an undertaking the activities of which consist wholly or partly of the operation of any vehicles authorised to be used under any A licence or B licence—…
    (b) that the activities of the undertaking in that year, so far as they consisted in the carriage of goods in goods vehicles consisted to a predominant extent in ordinary long distance carriage for hire or reward."
    Again, I want to emphasise that in the case of the B licence operator the goods that he carries for his own business are excluded from this calculation. Then, of course, the Bill applies a test both to the A licence vehicle and to the B licence vehicles to ascertain whether the majority of the traffic, judged either by weight or value, is carried over a certain distance. If that traffic is shown by the test to be over that distance, then the undertaking is compulsorily acquired. What hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are in fact submitting to me for consideration is that this Bill should apply a different test to two similar persons engaged in the same task 'of offering their vehicles for hire or reward to some person or persons. The hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) stated the position of the B licence operator very clearly, but I do not think that he completed the explanation of his case. I feel fairly certain that if he would follow out the illustration he gave in detail and apply the test under the Bill, the case he quoted would not fall within the definition of this Clause, and would not represent an undertaking which would be compulsorily acquired. That is the reason why the great majority of 13 licence vehicles and operators fall outside this test.

    In the first place, a B licence operator can carry his own goods. Then, in the majority of cases, a condition is attached by the licencing authority, putting a limit on the distance or the class of traffic or something of that character. It is because the type of traffic that he carries for hire and reward is as a rule of a short distance character that the majority of them will not fall within the test. On the other hand the A licence operator quite clearly and definitely goes out for all kinds of traffic, and does not bother about his own because it is not sufficient for his purpose. He is aiming at something much larger, and that is the reason why the greater number of A vehicles and operators will come within the provisions of the Bill. In the case of the B licence operator mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Chester, the only addition to carrying his own timber would be represented by the traffic to and from the docks to his customers, and it is most improbable in that case that the majority of his journeys would exceed the 40-mile radius and bring him within the provision. If as a matter of fact the majority of his journeys for hire or reward were over the long distance, why should not he be brought in as well as the A licence operator? Why should he be excluded when he is engaged in the same type of direct service as the A licence operator who would be his competitor? The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) said that this would do no real harm to the proposals of the Bill. I venture to suggest that it should not be considered on the basis of whether the volume or number of vehicles would do harm to the proposals of the Bill, but on the basis that the same kind of test must be applied to any' operator if he is plying for hire or reward.

    8.0 p.m.

    My final point is with regard to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who continually emphasised that the new organisation would be a monopoly and rather sympathised with the desire to protect the individual against monopolies—which, of course, I quite appreciate. I would prefer to say it in another way. Here we have a number of transport services which are vital to the prosperity and efficiency of the State and which we cannot leave any longer in the hands of private enterprise to carry on with deficiency, and in some respects with inefficiency, and in the inadequate way in which they have been carried on in the past.

    I should like the opportunity to refer to one of the points that the Minister has made and which I think ought to be carried further. Why should not the majority of those hauliers who work over long distances with "B" licences be excluded from the enterprises which will be taken over? Why should such a "B" licence holder use his "B" licence? Surely, he will want to carry his own goods safely to their destination in the most efficient way. He works under a "B" licence because his operations are economic only if he can charter the vehicle for the return journey.

    If he transferred to a "C" licence, he would have to use his vehicle uneconomically, which would be a bad waste of transport. The only way for him to get safe delivery of his goods would be for him to have his own driver on the job, a specialised man, and he would have to transfer to the "C" licence in order to get that advantage. Otherwise, he would have to run his lorry back every time he has delivered his own goods, and that could not be to the advantage of this country.

    Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House what happens about the back loading of the 170,000 "C" licensed vehicles at the present time?

    I do not know the details of that matter. Presumably the "C" licence holder finds that he has enough of his own goods to make an efficient operation. He has goods going out to be delivered to purchasers and he is bringing in the raw materials. I do not think the "C" operator is in the habit of carrying goods for fun. He works as economically as he possibly can. Otherwise, he would run on a "B" licence.

    The suggestion is made that the "B" licence holder should use the Transport Commission's long-distance haulage wagon which is available. Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is likely that the Commission will be able to allocate a special vehicle and driver to work steadily on the business of one firm? That might help the operator to get his goods delivered safely. There are firms in my constituency who want to have the same man steadily working on the job, because such men get to know the job backwards and how to handle the goods properly. I am rather doubtful whether it will be found possible for the Commission to allocate a special driver steadily to one firm's needs.

    In a sense, the Minister has put forward a very ugly proposition from the point of view both of the individual operator and of the country. A certain number of people will either have to have their goods handled in such a way as will damage the goods—or will damage them in the opinion of those people—or they will be forced to take "C" licences and to use their vehicles thoroughly uneconomically.

    I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) has gone out. As the Minister said, the right hon. Gentleman deliberately insisted throughout his speech that this organisation was to be a monopoly. If it were to be a monopoly, there would be some reason to be concerned about the small man, but this is not a monopoly. The right hon. Member for Bromley is either crassly ignorant or deliberately wicked, when he says that it is a monopoly. A monopoly is a great concentration of capital in the hands of a group of people who have only one concern, and that is to get profits. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Post Office?"] Now let us see how far we can get.

    I am afraid the hon. Member cannot get very far along those lines. The question that the House is discussing is whether to leave out the "B" licences or otherwise.

    Yes, but the right hon. Member for Bromley based his appeal on behalf of the "B" licensees on the ground that this was to be a monopoly. If that were true, there would be some reason for concern about the "B" licensees, but it is not a monopoly. That is the important thing about it.

    Will the right hon. Member wait a moment. The relationship of the "B" licence holders to this institution is something entirely different from what the position of a "B" licence holder would be to a monoply. A monopoly crushes its competitors and pulls down their businesses. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Co-op."] It restricts production and productive activities in order to keep up prices and profits.

    Does the hon. Member assert that there is and can be no such thing as a public monopoly? If that is his assertion, can he quote from any authority or any dictionary or indeed from any Member of this House?

    I could quote, if Mr. Deputy-Speaker would allow me to do so, from the greatest authority upon economics, and particularly upon capitalist economics, and that is Karl

    Division No. 162.]


    [8.11 p.m.

    Adams, Richard (Balham)Bing, G. H. C.Chamberlain, R. A.
    Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Binns, J.Champion, A. J.
    Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Blenkinsop, A.Chater, D.
    Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Blyton, W. R.Chetwynd, G. R.
    Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Boardman, H.Clitherow, Dr. R.
    Alpass, J. H.Bottomley, A. G.Cobb, F. A.
    Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Cocks, F. S.
    Attewell, H. C.Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Coldrick, W.
    Austin, H. L.Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pt, Exch'ge)Collindridge, F.
    Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BBrook, D. (Halifax)Collins, V. J.
    Bacon, Miss ABrooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Dolman, Miss G. M.
    Baird, J.Brown, George (Belper)Comyns, Dr. L.
    Balfour, A.Brown, T. J. (Ince)Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)
    Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. JBuchanan, G.Corlett, Dr. J.
    Barstow, P. G.Burden, T. W.Corvedale, Viscount
    Barton, C.Burke, W. A.Cove, W. G.
    Bechervaise, A. E.Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)Crawley, A.
    Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. JCallaghan, JamesCrossman, R. H. S.
    Benson, G.Carmichael, JamesDaggar, C.
    Beswick, F.Castle, Mrs. B. A.Daines, P.

    Marx. The proposed institution will be the ownership of a great industry by the people. It will be run in the interests of the people. Is there any possibility—

    On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Member, upon a simple Amendment dealing with the exclusion of "B" licences from the Bill, to expound his whole political philosophy?

    Perhaps the hon. Member who has raised the point of Order would be kind enough to leave that matter to me. The hon. Member who is addressing the House is certainly going beyond the terms of the Amendment. I hope he will, in that sense, keep his remarks within limits.

    This institution will not restrict activities but will increase them. It will not only compensate "B" licence holders but, in nearly every case, as a consequence of increased activity, will provide the "B" licence holder with employment of a character that will enable him to carry on and will probably increase the security of income that he had as a "B" licence holder. There is a world of difference. There is no comparison whatever between a monopoly which restricts activities and a national institution like this which increases activities in every direction and integrates those activities. This institution will provide greater opportunities for the B licence holders than they have ever had before.

    Question put, "That the words 'or B licence' stand part of the Bill."

    The House divided: Ayes, 308; Noes, 133.

    Davies, Edward (Burslem)Kinley, J.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
    Davies, Ernest (Enfield)Kirkwood, D.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
    Davies, Harold (Leek)Lavers, S.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
    Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.Royle, C.
    Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Lee, F. (Hulme)Scollan, T.
    Deer, G.Lee Miss J. (Cannock)Scott-Elliot, W.
    Delargy, Captain H. J.Leonard, W.Shackleton, E. A A.
    Diamond, J.Leslie, J. R.Sharp, Granville
    Dobbie, W.Levy, B. W.Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
    Dodds, N. N.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)
    Driberg, T. E. N.Lewis, J. (Bolton)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
    Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Lewis, T. (Southampton)Shurmer, P.
    Durbin, E. F. M.Lindgren, G. S.Silverman, J. (Erdington)
    Dye, S.Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
    Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Logan, D. G.Simmons, C. J.
    Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)Longden, F.Skinnard, F. W.
    Edwards, John (Blackburn)Lyne, A. W.Smith, C. (Colchester)
    Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)McAdam, W.Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
    Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)McEntee, V. La T.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
    Evans, E. (Lowestoft)McGhee, H. G.Solley, L. J.
    Evans, John (Ogmore)McKinlay, A. S.Sorensen, R. W.
    Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)Maclean, N. (Govan)Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
    Ewart, R.McLeavy, F.Stamford, W.
    Fairhurst, F.Macpherson, T. (Romford)Steele, T.
    Farthing, W. J.Mallalieu, J. P. W.Stephen, C.
    Field, Captain W. J.Mann, Mrs. J.Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
    Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth)
    Follick, M.Marquand, H. A.Stubbs, A. E.
    Foot, M. M.Marshall, F. (Brightside)Swingler, S.
    Forman, J. C.Mathers, G.Sylvester, G. O.
    Foster, W. (Wigan)Mayhew, C. P.Symonds, A. L.
    Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Medland, H. M.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
    Freeman, Peter (Newport)Mellish, R. J.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
    Gallacher, W.Messer, F.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
    Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Mikardo, IanThomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
    Gibbins, J.Mitchison, Major G. R.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
    Gilzean, A.Monslow, W.Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
    Gooch, E. GMontague, F.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
    Goodrich, H. E.Moody, A. S.Thurtle, Ernest
    Gordon-Walker, P. C.Morgan, Dr. H. B.Tiffany, S.
    Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Morley, R.Timmons, J.
    Grenfell, D. R.Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)Titterington, M. F.
    Grey, C. F.Morris, P. (Swansea, W)Tolley, L.
    Grierson, E.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)Turner-Samuels, M.
    Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Mort, D. L.Ungoed-Thomas, L.
    Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)Moyle, A.Vernon, Maj. W. F.
    Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)Murray, J. D.Viant, S. P.
    Guest, Dr. L. HadenNally, W.Walker, C. H.
    Gunter, R. J.Naylor, T. E.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
    Guy, W. H.Neal, H. (Claycross)Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
    Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Warbey, W. N.
    Hale, LeslieNoel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Watkins, T. E.
    Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)Watson, W. M.
    Hardman, D. R.Noel-Buxton, LadyWebb, M. (Bradford, C.)
    Hardy, E. A.O'Brien, T.Weitzman, D.
    Harrison, J.Oldfield, W. H.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
    Hastings, Dr. SomervilleOliver, G. H.Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
    Haworth, J.Paget, R. T.West, D. G.
    Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
    Hewitson, Capt. M.Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
    Holman, P.Palmer, A. M. F.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
    Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Parker, J.Wigg, Cot. G. E.
    House, G.Parkin, B. T.Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.
    Hubbard, T.Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)Wilkes, L.
    Hudson, J. H. (Eating, W.)Paton, J. (Norwich)Wilkins, W. A.
    Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Pearson, A.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
    Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)Peart, Capt. T. F.Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
    Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)Platts-Mills, J. F. F.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
    Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
    Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Popplewell, E.Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
    Irving, W. J.Porter, E. (Warrington).Williams, W. R. (Heston)
    Janner, B.Porter, G. (Leeds)Williamson, T.
    Jay, D. P. T.Proctor, W. T.Willis, E.
    Jeger, G. (Winchester)Pryde, D. J.Wills, Mrs. E. A.
    Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)Pursey, Cmdr. H.Wise, Major F. J
    John, W.Randall, H. E.Woodburn, A.
    Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)Ranger, J.Wyatt, W.
    Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)Rankin, J.Yates, V. F.
    Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Reeves, J.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
    Jones, J. H. (Bolton)Reid, T. (Swindon)Younger, Hon. Kenneth
    Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Rhodes, H.
    Keenan, W.Richards, R.


    Key, C W.Ridealgh, Mrs. M.Mr. Joseph Henderson
    Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. ERobens, A. Mr. Hannan.


    Agnew, Cmdr. P. GGrant, LadyPeake, Rt. Hon. O
    Aitken, Hon. MaxGrimston, R. VPeto, Brig C H M.
    Amory, D. HeathcoatGruffydd, Prof W JPickthorn, K.
    Astor, Hon. M.Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)Ponsonby, Col. C. E
    Baldwin, A. E.Harris, H WilsonPoole, O. B S. (Oswestry)
    Barlow, Sir J.Haughton, S. G.Prescott, Stanley
    Beamish, Maj. T. V HHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt Hon S CPrice-White, Lt.-Col. D
    Beechman, N. A.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O
    Bennett, Sir PHogg, Hon. QRayner, Brig. R.
    Birch, NigelHolmes, Sir J Stanley (Harwich)Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
    Bowen, R.Howard, Hon. AReid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
    Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hulbert, Wing-Comdr. N J.Renton, D.
    Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. THutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W)Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
    Bullock, Capt. MJeffreys, General Sir GRoberts, H. (Handsworth)
    Butcher, H. WJennings, R.Roberts, Maj. P. G (Ecclesall)
    Byers, FrankKendall, W. D.Ropner, Col. L.
    Carson, E.Lambet, Hon. GRoss, Sir R.
    Challen, C.Lancaster, Col. C. GSalter, Rt. Hon. Sir J A
    Channon, H.Langford-Holt, J.Scott, Lord W.
    Clarke, Col. R. S.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A HShephard, S. (Newark)
    Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col GLindsay, M. (Solihull)Shepherd, W S. (Bucklow)
    Cole, T. L.Linstead, H. NSmith, E. P. (Ashford)
    Cooper-Key, E. M.Lipson, D. LSpence, H. R
    Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Strauss, H. G (English Universities)
    Crowder, Capt. J. F ELow, Brig. A. R. W.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)
    Cuthbert, W. N.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.Studholme, H. G
    Darling, Sir W. Y.MacAndrew, Col. Sir CTaylor, C S. (Eastbourne)
    Davies, Clement (Montgomery)Macdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight)Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A (P'dd'ton, S)
    De la Bère, R.Mackeson, Brig. H RTeeling, William
    Dodds-Parker, A. D.Maclay, Hon. J. S.Thomas, J P. L. (Hereford)
    Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
    Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)Thornton-Kemsley, C N
    Drayson, G. B.Maitland, Comdr. J WVane, W. M. F
    Drewe, C.Marlowe, A. A. H.Wadsworth, G
    Dugdale, Maj. Sir T (Richmond)Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Walker-Smith, D
    Duthie, W. SMaude, J. CWheatley, Colonel M. J
    Eccles, D. M.Mellor, Sir J.White, Sir D. (Fareham)
    Fletcher, W. (Bury)Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir TWilliams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
    Fox, Sir G.Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
    Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)Morris-Jones, Sir H.Winterton, Rt Hon. Earl
    Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Morrison, Maj. J G (Salisbury)York, C.
    Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D P MMott-Radclyffe, Maj. C E
    Gage, C.Neven-Spence, Sir B.


    Gammans, L. D.Nicholson, G.Major Conant and
    George, Maj Rt. Hn. G Lloyd (P'ke)Nield, B. (Chester) Lieut.-Colonel Thorp.
    Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.Orr-Ewing, I. L

    I beg to move, in page 44, line 18, to leave out from the beginning, to "give," and to insert "the Commission may."

    I would make it clear that we are introducing into the Bill by this Amendment an element of flexibility which we consider it needs. The purpose is to give certain discretionary powers to the Commissioners in taking over long-distance transport vehicles. We claim that there are many objections to nationalisation but, if there is one outstanding objection, it is that when you nationalise an industry, it becomes rigid, and from the top to the bottom very few desire to take responsibility; whereas, in private enterprise, there is a much more flexible system and decisions are taken from day to day, and in fact from hour to hour, not only by the managing director but by many juniors. In fact, it will be remembered that, quite recently, on the National Coal Board the question arose of whether there should be "Brylcreem" machines at the pithead. It caused great consternation and, judging from the newspaper articles, it seemed almost to break up the Coal Board. That sort of decision would obviously be made in private enterprise by some junior in eight minutes. [HON MEMBERS: "No."] It is in order to introduce this flexibility into the Bill that we suggest the Commissioners should have greater powers.

    It is difficult to visualise what types of cases will be brought to the notice of the Commission when they are taking over vehicles throughout the whole of the British Isles, and it is possible that the Commissioners themselves may realise that it would be to the advantage of the efficiency of the undertaking not to take over certain vehicles in places like Cornwall and parts of Scotland perhaps, where there are special reasons why private enterprise would serve the efficiency of the industry much better than bringing those vehicles within the orbit of these great nationalisation schemes. I shall call to my aid in arguing why the word "may" should be introduced not our friend Erskine, with whom we are all quite familiar, but no less a person than the schoolmaster of schoolmasters—the Leader of the House himself. In a speech he made in January he said:
    "Public interest counted and the real field for argument was how best should the industry be organised or managed with a view to achieving economic public advantage. It is up to the nationalisers to prove their case that there would he a public advantage by nationalisation. It is no less to the antinationalisers to prove their case that the public interest would best be served by private ownership."
    Now I come to the really relevant part:
    "In all these schemes of nationalisation the Government intends to hold the right to adopt the form of ownership and management according to the circumstances of the case."
    —which, as the Bill stands at present, it would not do because it is inflexible. It means that the Commissioners in every case will have no discretionary power in the taking over of these vehicles, and therefore my hon. Friends and myself believe that it will be to the advantage of the Minister to give this discretionary power. It must be remembered that if the Minister accepts this Amendment, the discretion is still with the Commission and with the Minister; in other words we do not take any power away from the Minister, we simply give that certain power into the hands of the Commissioners. Therefore, I hope the Minister will realise the advantage of this Amendment in helping him to carry out this nationalisation Measure. We are against the Bill as a nationalisation Measure; nevertheless we know it will be implemented in due course, and this is a genuine effort to be helpful.

    I beg to second the Amendment.

    I do so formally, because the arguments for the Amendment are obvious.

    I am surprised that an Amendment like this should come from the Liberal Party whose Members claim so often that Parliament is delegating its powers to other bodies. Surely, in a case like this, where the conditions under which the Commission shall work are definitely laid down by Parlia- ment, it would be a retrograde step from the point of view which the Liberal Party are so fond of expressing.

    Is the hon. Member suggesting that this House of Commons should in future run the transport for the whole of the country?

    I am suggesting that what is in this Bill should remain in this Bill, that the conditions under which road haulage services should be taken over by the State should be decided by the House of Commons.

    I think the hon. Member misunderstands the effect of the Amendment. The Amendment does not vary the powers of the Commission; it merely says that they "may give" a notice of acquisition in certain circumstances.

    I am obliged to the hon and learned Gentleman for saying that what I have stated is quite right. Here conditions are laid down under which, if the Commissioners are satisfied that these conditions are complied with, they must nationalise the industry, but only if they are satisfied that those conditions are complied with. Under the Liberal Party Amendment the Commission can be satisfied that the conditions are complied with, but it is still left to them to use discretion between one part of the industry and another. One may comply with the conditions and they say they will not nationalise them, while another may not comply, and they say they will nationalise them.

    8.30 p.m.

    I want to be quite sure that I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument aright. He is apparently rejecting the Amendment on the grounds that what is in the Bill should not be altered, and that therefore the Amendment should not be accepted. But what becomes of the 129 Amendments proposed by the Minister?

    I am surprised that a Liberal Member should move an Amendment such as this, because it delegates powers to the Commission. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will stick to his guns, and not make any concession.

    There are even stronger reasons than those suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. Haworth) for turning down the Amendment, although I think there was substance in his argument. The suggestion which the hon. Member for Buckrose (Mr. Wadsworth) put before the House is a plausible one. He asks why we should force the Commission to take over some firm which the Commission do not wish to take over. There may be some small firm which is unsatisfactory in many ways, and which may not fit in with the general scheme of the Commission—I am making his case for him—therefore why should we force the Commission to take over that firm? He says we should give the Commission discretion. That is all very well, but if there is to be discretion, it must be two-way discretion. At the moment, any firm can insist that the Commission shall take it over. Any firm engaged in long-distance work can serve notice on the Commission saying that it wants to be taken over. Presumably, it is just the unsatisfactory, uneconomical firm which does not wish to continue in existence, which would demand to be taken over, and which the Commission would have to take over whether they wished to or not. If a firm is interfered with to the extent that it is unable to get a licence to run over 25 miles, it can serve notice on the Commission to take it over. The discretion the hon. Member wants to give the Commission is not very much, because the firm can say, "You must take us over." The proposal is really of no value to the Commission at all, and would lead only to uncertainty. If the Commission decided that they did not want to take over a certain firm, that would be quite valueless, because the firm might, and in many cases probably would, insist on being taken over.

    I regard this Amendment as important. I am not going into the argument of whether it was a proper Amendment to be moved from the Liberal Benches or not. Let us deal with it on its merits. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that there is a good deal of substance in support of it. The object of the Bill, according to the Government, is to ensure that we have what they call—and I do not like the words—"a co-ordinated and inte- grated transport system." That object is certainly not at issue in this Amendment. The Amendment challenges no question of principle. If the Amendment were carried, it would still be within the powers of the Commission to take over all the longdistance firms which fall within the definition laid down by the Government. The Amendment does not restrict the powers of the Commission, but seeks to extend them. It does not curtail their authority or power in any way. Although I did not think very much of the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. Haworth), I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary improved on it very much. His case was that some businesses may be ruined and might insist on being taken over, and he said that there had to be two-way discretion. But the Commission cannot be prejudiced. The Commission would be no worse off if the Amendment were accepted.

    This Bill, although it is a very long one, is really a Bill dealing with share transfers, and the taking over of authority or ownership of road haulage companies and railways, the issue of stock, and so forth. The real job of nationalising transport can only start after the Bill has passed through the House of Commons. There is an immense job, the establishment of a Commission, a selection of people to officer it, selection of the executives, the working out of charges schemes, and the rest—a long and difficult operation.

    Mr. Keenan
    (Liverpool, Kirkdale)