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Orders Of The Day

Volume 437: debated on Monday 5 May 1947

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Transport Bill


Order for Third Reading read.

3.33 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

In submitting the Transport Bill to the House for its Third Reading, I should like to take the opportunity first of indicating the scope of the Bill which has emerged from our Committee and Report proceedings; then to answer some of the major criticisms that have been directed against the Measure in our discussions, and finally to deal with some of the changes that have been made.

On the assumption that the Bill receives the Royal Assent in this Session, on 1st January, 1948, there will be transferred to public ownership some 60 railway undertakings, 52,000 miles of track, 1,230,000 wagons, 45,000 passenger coaches, 20,000 locomotives, 25,000 horse-drawn vehicles and 70 hotels and 50,000 houses. That represents the main property of the railway companies. In addition, there will be 1,640 miles of canals and waterways, and 100 steamships totalling 150,000 gross tons. Very quickly afterwards, as the provisions of the Bill compulsorily acquiring certain long-distance road undertakings become operative, it is estimated that 34,000 commercial lorries will pass into the hands of the Commission. The staff employed by the controlled undertakings at present numbers approximately 692,000 persons. I think that these figures indicate the importance of the transport industry—as I reminded the House when this Bill was first introduced—both in regard to its capital assets, its livelihood interests to big sections of the population of these islands, and its widespread impact on the economic affairs of the nation.

It is not to be wondered at that any proposal, such as this Bill, to transfer that large block of economic power from private enterprise into a public service should arouse a good deal of opposition and criticism and should cause much disputation both in Parliament and outside. The discussions in this House, in the Press and on the public platform, I suppose, have been more continuous in regard to this Measure than in regard to any other Bill so far introduced by this Government. Our discussions have been of educational value to the community. I think there is now much more awareness of the ramifications and the complexities involved in the task of co-ordinating the whole of the transport services of this country. As our discussions have proceeded, I think my own judgment and the views of the Government have been confirmed. I believe the decision of my hon. Friends in pressing this great change early in the lifetime of this Parliament has been quite justified.

I desire to recall the statement which I made when I introduced the Bill, and invited constructive criticism during all the processes. I admitted quite frankly, that in framing a Measure of this magnitude we were unable, in the early stages, to consult the knowledge and experience prevalent in an industry of this character. I left myself completely free to improve the Bill by Amendments during the discussions in Committee and on Report. I mention this because I think it enables me to dispose of the assertion and complaint, which I have heard repeatedly during our Debates, that the Bill was badly drafted. I do not accept that criticism for a moment. The Bill has emerged, as I shall show later, with its main structure and purpose unimpaired, but quite deliberately I invited improvements in the Bill by Amendment, and the number of Amendments which have been considered, is a justification for our Parliamentary procedure rather than any indication of weakness in the Bill itself.

During the preparation of the Bill, one could not discuss it openly, freely and frankly, with the many large representative bodies that are interested in our transport, but immediately it was published, I invited all those who considered that they had any case to make, to do so, and I provided facilities of access both to my Department and to myself for this purpose. I should like to indicate to the House how extensively those facilities were used. Hon. Members from all parties, and representative bodies like the railway companies, the Dock and Harbour Authorities' Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Chamber of Shipping, the Central Committee of Transport Users, the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers, the Traders Co-ordinating Committee on Transport, the Traders Road Transport Association, the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress, and the transport trade unions, have all taken part in these consultations.

It should readily be recognised that a Measure of this character could not pass under the examination of such representative bodies without some value arising from their suggestions and consultations. As I have indicated, at the various stages of the proceedings on the Bill, the greater part of the Amendments represented improvements, small, medium or substantial as the case may be, made as the result of those discussions. Most of the 280 Government Amendments moved in Committee were the result of these discussions and representations. Would any hon. or right hon. Member desire to suggest that the Government acted unwisely or in any arbitrary or foolish fashion, in listening to the experience and taking advantage of the knowledge and suggestions of bodies of that description? I should like to ask the Opposition a direct question: Do they condemn the process that I have followed and have now indicated to the House?

Would the Minister tell the House how many of the organisations which he has listed so effectively, approved of the purposes of this Bill?

That is an entirely different matter. I quite readily acknowledge that these bodies, in the main, represent the vested interests which are involved in our transport industry.

Were not nearly all the bodies, the names of which have been read out by the Minister, bodies which represent the users and not the owners of the vehicles that are to be taken over; and is not the users' interest in this matter really identical with the public interest?

The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) is referring to those bodies which represent the traders generally. I want to make it perfectly plain that I did not meet them to discuss the principles of the Bill. That is a matter for Parliament to decide. I should like to state that none of those bodies presumed for a moment that the discussions were concerned with the principles of the Bill. They were sufficiently intelligent and practical men of business to know that they were there for the purpose of considering the effect and the impact of the Bill on trade and industry, and their discussions and suggestions were directed to that end. The point I am making is relevant to the issue I am now discussing, of whether the number of Government Amendments represents any major defect in the Bill itself. As I am explaining to the House, those Amendments arose from the policy of the Government which was to secure the largest possible measure of discussion, for the purpose, ultimately, of getting the best Bill possible.

Passing on in the examination of that aspect of this problem, I now want to discuss how groups of Amendments, substantial in number, emerged. Let us take the discussions between the financial experts of the railways and the Bank of England to devise the best possible method for the exchange of railway and canal stocks. When those consultations were completed, and the modified scheme was submitted to me, that alone represented 45 consequential and drafting Amendments. When the C licence provisions were deleted, that involved 16 Amendments. Discussions also took place with the harbour authorities. Hon. Members on all sides of the House will recognise the complicated mechanism of commerce, industry and administration which the shipping and other interests represent in the large ports and harbours of this country. As a result of those consultations, 23 Amendments emerged. On the information supplied by the railway and canal companies in relation to the Third and Fourth Schedules, 18 Amendments were necessitated.

So I could go on, but I mention those three instances to bring the matter into proper perspective and to how how in the case of a Bill of this description, touching almost every trade, industry and interest in this country, consultation on any practical measure is bound to lead to suggestions for improvements. Those three blocks of Amendments alone indicate how the quantity was in fact built up. I experience no sense of regret but one rather of satisfaction that we have been able to carry through this process. On the Report stage there were 160 Government Amendments, but many of these were quite minor. Again, I take one illustration. In Committee the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) established what is termed a definition point with regard to liabilities and obligations, proving that the word "obligations" was unnecessary. His discovery involved me in 19 Amendments, and therefore he must accept a good deal of responsibility for the criticism that has been levelled at me with regard to the number of Amendments I have put on the Order Paper.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to intervene to say that I feel gratified that I have been able to put my finger on so knotty a point, and have thereby much improved the Bill.

And I welcome this opportunity of stating the fact. The point I am making here, disposes of what I consider to be a rather silly criticism which has been directed against the Bill, namely, the number of Amendments involved. On Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), having concluded a very skilful conduct of the opposition to this Bill, considered his task ended and left the Chamber. Some of the Members of his party thought fit to vote against many of these Amendments promoted by their own friends, and my hon. Friends were put to a considerable amount of physical inconvenience in carrying what they considered to be Tory Amendments to the Bill.

I took the view, despite the opposition of certain horn Members opposite, that if the Minister accepted any Amendment designed to improve the Bill, it was his duty to carry it through the House at the appropriate stage.

Is the Minister aware that some of us voted against those Amendments solely because it was the only means of protest against the intolerable, dictatorial methods of the Government?

Whenever indiscipline develops the result is usually not very intelligent. However, I felt justified in bringing the anomaly of that position to the attention of the House. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) has just said that it was the only way of protesting against the way this Measure has been rushed through the House without adequate discussion.

I want to deal with that claim. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council announced, on 19th November, 1945, the intention of the Government to nationalise transport. That was almost immediately after the Government took office. That statement detailed the principle upon which the Bill would be framed, and the services that would be nationalised. That was over 18 months ago. Since then the opposition—I am not referring to the political Opposition but to the general opposition to the Bill—have plastered the hoardings of this country with huge posters representing their campaign against the Measure; they have carried out a nationwide Press campaign, they have organised petitions to this House, and many hundreds of public meetings and debates have been held. I ask the House whether these are fauns of dictatorship—the free opportunity to express opinion by these publicity measures?

Now let us examine the position on the Floor of this House. So far, 120½ hours of Parliamentary time have been devoted to this Measure and, when our proceed- ings this evening are concluded, 127¾ hours will have been devoted to the consideration of the Transport Bill. I suggest that if that fact were submitted to the average citizen of this country, in view of the urgency of the conditions under which he is living, he would say that was plenty of time to talk over this Measure, and that it was about time we got on with the job.

The right hon. Gentleman has given a figure. Would he elucidate it for the House? He said the time would amount to 1271 hours by this evening. How much of that time was in the Committee of 50 Members, and how much in the whole House?

My intention was to proceed to divide the time into the various Parliamentary stages. I anticipated that question. Some 18¼ hours were given to the Second Reading and 77½ hours to the Committee stage, and of those 77½ hours in Committee, 30 hours were devoted to Part I of the Bill, namely, the Commission. At all stages of the Bill, every effort was made by the Government to come to time table arrangements, and the Opposition were offered full opportunity to determine how the time would be allocated at all stages.

Let us get it fair and clear, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman wants to do. That was always on the basis, which I put forward, of 25 minutes on an average to each Clause.

I do not think averages apply very effectively to a Measure of this description. We all know from experience of our affairs, that there are many machinery and other Clauses that are settled when the principle and the main plan of a Bill have been determined. There were, of course, many Clauses in this Bill to which no one thought it necessary to put down Amendments. It does not alter the point that I feel ought to be made, so that the country can judge whether, within the circumstances of the Parliamentary situation, adequate and reasonable time was given to the consideration of this Bill.

As about half the Bill was not discussed at all, does that not show that the time allocated was quite inadequate?

I think what it showed was that the Opposition were determined to ensure that some parts of the Bill were not discussed.

Does the Minister make the very definite and serious charge that there was obstruction at all stages?

There is nothing to withdraw. If I made any statement that I considered unfair, I would readily and quickly withdraw it.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, the situation is, this: I heard the right hon. Gentleman say perfectly plainly that the Opposition were determined to prevent certain parts of the Bill being discussed. Either those words have no meaning, or they constitute a charge of deliberate obstruction. The right hon. Gentleman now says that he is not making such a charge. I ask your Ruling, Sir, as to whether a charge of deliberate obstruction has not, in fact, been made, and if so whether it ought not to be withdrawn?

I do not see what the point is. The duty of the Opposition is, surely, to oppose and prevent a Bill becoming law, and to move Amendments for that purpose.

That is precisely what the right hon. Gentleman did not say. If he had said that we had tried by all legitimate means to stop the Bill becoming law, it would have meant that we had done no more than our duty.

No, he did not. He said that we were determined to prevent certain parts of the Bill being discussed. I must respectfully press for a Ruling on those words.

If that is the Minister's opinion, he is entitled to say that he thought the Opposition did not want certain parts to be discussed. Surely the Opposition can refute that by argument in further speeches.

I had always understood that a charge of deliberate obstruction—the prevention of proper Parliamentary discussion—made in Debate, was out of Order.

A charge of obstruction is not out of Order. The hon. Member can look up Erskine May.

Wake up, Oxford, and read Erskine May.

I do not wish that interruption to break the thread of my argument. The figures I am submitting of the division of Parliamentary time—and I would remind the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that I began to break down these figures at his own urgent request—were for the purpose of indicating that there was a reasonable amount of time at each Parliamentary stage. At each Parliamentary stage the Opposition had full opportunity as far as the Government were concerned of determining the time-table—I agree within the Guillotine Motion procedure. Nevertheless that was adequate, as there were 77½ hours in Committee. Some 30 hours of that 77½ hours were spent on Part I, which establishes a Commission, Executives and Consultative Committees. I agree that they are important Clauses; nevertheless, I think that by arrangement the whole of the Bill could have been discussed, as I shall later prove. There were 24¾ hours given to the re-committal and Report stage, and this evening I anticipate that 7¼ hours will be given to Third Reading. When this Bill receives the Third Reading, it still has to go to another place for further consideration.

When one examines the Bill, one finds that it conforms to a plan of division of functions and services. It falls naturally into nine parts, five of which are of primary importance. 'I submit that anyone who examines this Bill will find on consideration of the five primary parts, that the whole of the functions and purposes of the Measure can be effectively gathered. In these days of urgency, I think that the test of true democracy is not the time we spend in Debate and discussion. It is true that it forms an essential part of our Parliamentary procedure, but, in view of the general economic conditions of the country today, and the need of transport and the part which an efficient transport system will provide, I think the Government were fully justified in insisting that this Measure should go through within the time table of this Parliamentary Session.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now putting forward the proposal that, irrespective of how much time there was in which to discuss the Bill, in any case it had to go through, and does he argue that that is a democratic form of government?

Yes, I think one must make it plain that a Bill of this magnitude must go through in the Session that is under review.

Of course, my purpose in this part of my remarks has been devoted to proving that there was adequate time; 127 hours is, in my view, adequate time.

Now let me deal with the major improvements made to the Bill as a result of Committees and Report consideration. Provisions relating to the Consultative Committees, to which I attach great importance, have been made. The whole of Great Britain is now to have this machinery, and there is to be a separate Committee for passengers and goods transport in Scotland, and another in Wales. A revised plan for exchange of various railway and canal stocks for British Transport Stock has been embodied in the Bill. This will simplify procedure, cut out delay, and cause the minimum interference with market dealings. Under the revised, plan, compensation will be payable direct to the stockholders, and not to the companies, and, until the exchange. has been effected, their existing securities will continue to be negotiable. Provision has been made for the payment of additional compensation to local authorities in respect of severance of their transport undertakings from the general municipal administration, and local authorities, and other persons providing passenger transport services, will be consulted by the Commission, before the Commission submits a scheme of reorganisation. Local authorities will have the right of pre-emption in respect of any land acquired from them under a transfer if the Commission finds such land to be no longer required for its own purposes. That represents three substantial improvements in regard to the affairs of local authorities.

The scope of the Bill in relation to ports. and harbours has been modified. Oil, coal and private dock undertakings have been excluded from transfer to the Commission, or any other specified body, unless the undertaking itself consents to inclusion, or is carried on under statutory power. Neither the Commission, nor any body constituted under the scheme, is to be given exclusive monopoly rights of operating ancillary businesses, although they will themselves be entitled to carry on such business. Canal carriers, regulated by licence, are given a right to call upon the Commission to acquire the whole, or part, of their undertakings if they are aggrieved by refusal or by attachment of conditions to which they object. The provisions relating to staff compensation have been enlarged to include compensation for worsened conditions, as well as for direct pecuniary loss. I must also mention an important settlement which has resulted in the insertion in the Bill of a revised basis of compensation for privately-owned railway wagons. The specific terms are now embodied in a Schedule to the Bill, and this vast transaction will be effected with general consent.

That indicates some substantial improvement to the Bill. Yet I feel that I can state that the main structure has been preserved unimpaired by our Parliamentary discussions. The Commission remains as the supreme policy body. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby knows how much this aspect of the Bill has been discussed. I have not discerned any condemnation of the proposal of the Commission as a policy body, or of the Executives as management instruments as such, or of the parallel machinery of the Consultative Committees for the purposes of voicing the needs of trade and industry, and the travelling public. It is quite true that the numbers of the Commission have been subjected to criticism, and the Minister's power of appointing Executives has been challenged and discussed at some length. But the main plan of the Commission, with its Executive and the Consultative Commit. tees, appears to have emerged successfully from our Parliamentary Debates, and I have seen no alternative suggestions put forward by the Opposition, or, as a matter of fact, elsewhere. The reasons why the Government have adhered to a small policy-making body as a Commission were discussed at earlier stages, and it is not necessary to repeat them this afternoon. The criticism is often levelled against a public service of this character, that it absorbs a good deal of unnecessary and unproductive labour into its service. Hon. Members opposite are never lacking in accusations of that character. Probably it will be of interest to the House if I say that the total number of directors now serving on the four main line railway companies is 75. If we add the total numbers of the Commission and the Executive to be appointed we get a total number of 45. Here, I think, we have a considerable economy in the utilisation of high executive ability.

I want again to give assurances to Scotland, similar to those given by me on the Second Reading of the Bill. Hon. Members have pressed for a good deal of devolution, and I am satisfied that that will go on. The scheme and intention of the Bill are that there should be a full measure of devolution of responsibility in respect of Scotland. I have no doubt that this will be the policy of the British Transport Commission. It is recognised that there is a special case for the maximum devolution consistent with efficiency but the detailed plan in ensuring such devolution must be left to be worked out by the Commission when it is appointed. In discussions of this Bill, the Government have been strengthened in their view that the compensation terms on which they decided for the controlled undertakings and road haulage undertakings, are sound and practicable. The only alternative put up by the Opposition was that we should appoint a tribunal for the purpose of assessing compensation. At no time was it suggested that a tribunal of that character would be likely to throw up a different final sum. Some thought it would and some thought it would not, but no-one could advance any evidence or substantiate a claim that the findings of a tribunal would be substantially different in its net results, from the compensation terms offered by the Government.

The more this subject was discussed the more clear it became that it would lead to delay, confusion and uncertainty, and that while the tribunal was carrying out its tasks it would freeze a vast amount of capital invested in our railway and canal undertakings. The disadvantage became more obvious the more the subject was discussed, so the Government were satisfied that their compensation terms based upon market price quotations, were sound, practical and fair, and quick in their operation. In regard to the compensation of the road haulage industry, few parts of the Bill have been the subject of fuller discussion, but nothing has been said to convince the Government that the basis of compensation, as detailed in Clause 47, is unfair or unreasonable. Where the Opposition had a reasonable case, on detail, we have met it; for example, in connection with the acquisition of vehicles on hire purchase by a reduction from 25 per cent. to 10 per cent. in the amount of compensation retained by the Commission, pending final settlement of the sum due; and by the adoption of an improved depreciation scale for trailers. I am still considering two other aspects of the subject of compensation for road hauliers, namely, the circumstances in which payment of a limited sum may be made in cash instead of stock, and the method of providing for compensation in cases where, under Clause 54, a haulier is refused permission to continue operations beyond a radius of 25 miles and the haulier elects to hand over to the Commission a part only of his assets.

I should not desire the Third Reading to pass without informing the House that negotiations have been proceeding for some time with the road passenger transport interests. So far, it has not been possible to come to a final agreement, but the negotiations are continuing. I hope to be in a position, during the passage of the Bill in another place, to complete the negotiations with the road passenger transport interests. That matter falls, of course, into a different category from that of the road haulage industry, because the road passenger services do not fall to be acquired or co-ordinated until the area schemes that apply to local transport services are developed. The whole of the discussions that have surrounded this problem of the acquisition of the road haulage undertakings have been grossly exaggerated, in my view.

Would the Minister tell the House upon what subject the negotiations with the road passenger transport interests are proceeding?

They are in, regard to compensation provisions.

I would again refer to the statement which I have just made, that the effects of the Bill upon road transport generally have been much exaggerated. I should like to quote figures to bring this matter into its proper setting. It is estimated that some 34,000 commercial lorries, including 11,000 which are already the property of the railway, companies, are brought within the provisions of the Bill, for compulsory transfer to the British Transport Commission. Outside the provisions of the Bill, there will remain, it is estimated, 100,000 commercial road vehicles, operating under A and B licences. In addition, of course, there are the 380,000 commercial vehicles operating under C licences. When one considers figures of that description, one is enabled to put into its proper perspective, the agitation that has surrounded this part of the provisions of the Bill.

There are two forms of transport in this country in the main, national transport and local transport. The main line railways and long-distance haulage are primarily national in character. The majority of the people of this country are probably more continuously interested in local forms of transport, and only occasionally interested in a long-distance journey. We have adopted in the Bill, I would remind hon. and right hon. Members, two entirely different procedures in each of these cases. The Commission is charged under the Bill with the duty of promoting area schemes. They will have to initiate those schemes, but full provision is made for consultation with local authorities and those who operate the local passenger services. It is only in the event of a substantial measure of agreement that the Minister will eventually authorise a scheme to proceed. If agreement is not reached then those area schemes will have to pass through the special Parliamentary procedure. Finally, when the schemes do emerge, there will be side by side with each area scheme an area consultative committee, so that local opinion will always be able effectively to voice its views. I submit that never before in the history of transport in this country has there been such a continuous and effective opportunity for the voice and the needs of traders and the public to make themselves heard.

The next aspect of the Bill that has been the subject of some criticism, particularly by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby is the part devoted to the charges schemes, and the machinery of the Tribunal. I must confess that I have had a great deal of difficulty in appreciating the criticism against this part of the Bill. The charge appears to be that we have not attempted to lay down the principles upon which the charges scheme will be framed, and the basis upon which rates and fares will be levied. That appears to me to be a very strange argument indeed, and very weak in view of the history of this matter. A more chaotic state of affairs than that which exists at the moment with regard to the levying of rates and fares it would. be difficult to imagine. By Clause 3 (1) of the Bill, Parliament is placing on the Commission obligations and responsibilities in this respect. I should like to remind the House what they actually are. They are that the Commission shall
"provide, or secure or promote the provision of, an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated ·system of public inland transport and port facilities within Great Britain for passengers and goods with clue regard to safety of operation;"
Again, Clause 3 (3) says that the Commission's services shall all form one undertaking, and that, they shall
"levy such fares, rates, tolls, dues and other charges, as to secure that the revenue of the Commission is not less than sufficient for making provision for the meeting of charges properly chargeable to revenue, taking one year with another."
That being the case, the Commission, fortified with the material and advice of its Executives, should be free to frame its charges scheme. It must then prove its case to the Tribunal, established for this purpose. It is the responsibility of the Tribunal to be the watchdog for the traders and the public. I think we can depend upon the large, well-organised, trade interests of this country to be able to present their case to the Tribunal in a proper manner.

It is very interesting to note that in all the consultations which have taken place with the large representative industrial and commercial bodies I cannot recollect one instance in which any of them have asked me to modify the principles of this part of the Bill. I am satisfied in my own mind that there is a very considerable volume of interest by trade and industry in this part of our transport problem, which is their primary concern. I have never discerned any lack of interest, on the part of the commercial interests of this country, in the problem of charges. As a matter of fact, if we take the problem involved in the increase in the price level in any commodity, the railways have a greater difficulty in raising their charges than has any other industry. Much more resistance is set up or created whenever the railways endeavour to secure an increase in their revenues by an increase of their charges. I am not assuming for one moment that the traders are not interested in this problem. I know that their interest is very considerable and substantial, and I should not at all have been surprised if weighty representations had been made to me in relation to this part of the Bill. The fact that I have not been subjected to any pressure or received any request for a major modification strengthens my conviction that the machinery in the Bill is much better than if the Minister had assumed the responsibility of defining the principles, the plan, the procedure or basis in the Bill itself.

Am I not right in saying that any criticism which came from my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side was in relation to the choice of service? If there was no definition of the rate structure which the Minister had in mind, there was a possibility that there would be no choice of service.

I took it that it was more far-reaching than that. On the question of choice of service, additional provisions were inserted in the Bill to safeguard that, but I think the method we have adopted of a clear division of responsibility is the best way to deal with this problem. The Commission has to run these services on a clear direction from Parliament. It is charged with responsibility for paying its way. It has a number of different services to conduct, and must therefore assume the responsibility in the initial stages of framing its charges scheme for the purpose of securing the necessary revenue.

Clause 3 (3), to which the Minister referred, lays it down that it shall be the duty of the Commission to secure that its revenue

"is not less than sufficient for making provision for the meeting of charges properly chargeable to revenue, taking one year with another."
The operative phrase there is "not less than." Some of us have in mind other nationalised enterprises, and in particular the Post Office, where the operative phrase is not "not less than," but "very much more than." The Post Office, for example, takes very much more than is necessary to meet its charges, and I hope that is not intended here.

No, it is not intended here, but I am not discussing that at the moment. What I am discussing is that the Commission is charged with responsibility for paying its way, and therefore my view, and the view of the Government, which I think has emerged clearly in our discussions, is that it should also have the responsibility of framing its charges scheme. That applies generally to all commercial practices. The tribunal will then vet that scheme. The Commission must prove its case to the tribunal, and the trading interests in the country will be able to make their views properly known. There is however another aspect of this which I do not think has been properly taken into consideration. The Commission and the tribunal function in relation one to another, operating in the public service. Neither the Commission nor the tribunal will benefit in personal well-being or power by the mere inflation of their charges scheme. There is no motive of that character. The only motive which the Commission has is to pay its way and to make proper provision for depreciation and matters of that description. It will not have a body of shareholders pressing it to earn 3, 4 or 5 per cent. as the case may be, and the fact that this is a public service must be taken into consideration in connection with the relationship between the Commission and the tribunal.

I appreciate that Clauses 92 and 93 in Part VI of the Bill are important, and they have been the subject of some discussions with representative bodies of traders. It is essential that the Transport Commission should accumulate and hold an adequate general reserve to equalise temporary fluctuations in its earnings and to meet other unforeseeable contingencies. It must also make provision for the renewal or depreciation of its physical assets. The Commission will also be required, over a suitably long period, to redeem its capital. In view of these provisions we think it unnecessary to insist on an express reference to provision for obsolescence, and in another place it will be proposed to modify the wording of Clause 93 in this particular.

Clauses 95 to 103, deal with the conditions of employment, pensions and compensation to officers and servants of the Commission. These Clauses, too, have been improved in Committee and on Report, and I should like to acknowledge the services which I have received from the trade unions concerned by way of advice and suggestion in this respect. In these Clauses the trade unions are given a statutory recognition and status in regard to the settlement of wages and working conditions, and in the promotion of welfare provisions. I would particularly emphasise the opportunities in regard to welfare that have been provided in this Bill for those who speak for the organised workers. In view of the stability of transport services generally, I do not consider that the welfare provisions of those industries are what they should be at the present moment; in many respects they are behind what happens in other industries. Now that transport is to be transformed into a public service, its welfare provisions will have to set an example to commerce and industry generally. That is why arrangements are made in the Bill for the staff to have full opportunity for consultation in matters of this character.

Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to remind the House that the whole of these important Clauses dealing with the conditions of employment, pensions and compensation to officers and servants, were not only guillotined in Committee but were not discussed at all in the House on Report? That is a very grave blot on the Bill.

I do not agree. What is important is what emerges in the Bill, and what emerged in the Bill, is, I think, a setttlement generally satisfactory to the trade unions and those whom they repre- sent in the transport industry. I would, however, readily acknowledge that the major part of them are already part of the practice of the existing railway companies, and I do not at all wish to assume that any startling innovations in this regard are being introduced in the Bill. Nevertheless, whenever any substantial change of this character takes place, there is a natural anxiety in the minds of large bodies of people about how their own personal position is affected, and I take this opportunity of assuring them that all existing pension rights are safeguarded; that the Commission has full powers for the modification and extension of pensions provisions for its staff, and will have the freedom to consult with the staff on any extension of pension rights and facilities. In addition, pension rights are established for officers and servants of the Commission whose positions may be worsened by reorganisation. Not all of these are apparent in the Bill, because they will emerge later in the form of regulations issued by the Minister, but the determination is governed in the provisions of the Bill. On this issue of compensation for displacement or worsening of labour conditions, I would like to say that I do not anticipate for a moment that there will be much displacement of labour as a result of the nationalisation of transport. Rather I look forward to a considerable expansion of transport services in this country and a better utilisation of the existing labour force—a more economic use of the present labour force rather than the displacement of surplus labour.

So the Bill has emerged from these discussions substantially unimpaired, but I frankly admit that, as a result of discussion both in Committee and on Report as well in consultation with experienced bodies, it is a better Bill than that which I introduced on 16th December, 1946. The experience of the winter through which we have just passed—I am referring now to the fuel crisis—was again a reminder of the importance of the transport industry and of the severe difficulties under which transport is operating at the present moment. We can see that, as trade expands and as people seek well-earned relief from the stress and strain of the last six or seven years, the transport system of this country is unable at present to handle all the traffic and the passengers which are being offered to it. That is the result of six years of war, and of the last two years of continuous strain in which there has been no opportunity of catching up with arrears of maintenance and replacement. The railways of this country, particularly, are in bad physical shape, and it will require a very great and intensive effort on the part of the industry itself, and on the part of the nation, if we are to restore them in a reasonable time so that they will be able to handle a revival of trade and industry.

I again emphasise that, taking the experience of the first three months of this year, in the severe weather we have had the railway companies could not handle the amount of traffic offered to them. If, in future, we are to face an expansion in trade and an increased desire on the part of the public to travel, as I hope we are, it will mean the expenditure of a vast sum in a relatively short space of time to enable the transport industry to undertake its job. It is because I feel that we cannot delay that operation for one moment that I consider the Government have been wise, even if it has represented some curtailment of Parliamentary, time—although with ample opportunity for proper and reasonable discussion—in pressing forward with this Bill, so that when the control agreement comes to an end on 31st December of this year, the next day the British Transport Commission can take over these vital services in the interest of the community, mobilise public credit at a cheap rate for the purpose of financing substantial improvements, and tone up our transport services so that they can undertake the task they must face in the near future.

4.45 p.m.

I beg to move, to leave out "now" and, at the end of the Question, to add "upon this day six months."

Inadequate though the time has been for the discussion of this Bill, I am deeply conscious that I have made a heavy overdraft on the patience and kindness of the House, and, therefore, I shall try to be as brief as possible in moving this Amendment. The Minister of Transport has mentioned the importance of this Measure and its widespread impact on the economic life of the nation. With that we on these Benches entirely agree. Transport is one of the most important factors in productive industry from the moment the raw material is landed until the order goes out for delivery, and, after the manning up of our basic industries, the improvement of transport is one of the most important national factors. But the vital period will be the next 15 months before our dollar loan runs out, and we on these Benches say that this Bill cannot, and will not, during that period, do a single thing to help transport or productive industry, and must inevitably, however we approach it, deflect the power and energy of those who are operating transport and throw confusion throughout the entire industry today. Therefore, we cannot but urge again our deeply-rooted conviction of the inherent rottenness of this Measure.

I want to be quite fair to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport and to my colleagues who worked so hard with me in Committee. It is right to point out that there are improvements in the Bill. First, the abandonment of the restrictions on C licence holders is a great improvement. It is a matter which, as I have said before, was greeted by one of the loudest sighs of relief that British industry has given in these troubled times. Secondly, the improved basis for the compensation of privately-owned railway wagons is a measure of fairness which the right hon. Gentleman recognised and made. Thirdly, the real implementation of the Government's guarantee with regard to the London Passenger Transport "C" stock is also an improvement and a step towards equity. Fourthly, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the improvements with regard to the distribution of transport stock are indeed improvements, because under the Bill as it came before the House on Second Reading the operation could not have been carried out. It would have been utterly unworkable, and no one, on surrendering his railway stock, could have got his transport stock without great delay, confusion and trouble. The fifth improvement is the exemption from nationalisation of certain docks. The sixth improvement—again, the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that he has improved the Bill in our view as well as his own—is his agreement that there should be a prevention of monopoly by the Commission or by anyone else in port ancillary services. With regard to these six points, improvements have taken place, but when we have said that, and freely acknowledged it, what a continent of bad things still remain.

The right hon. Gentleman complained about myself and my hon. Friends having taken time in Committee in discussing Part I of the Bill, which we have conveniently called the. set-up. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that one of the most important matters—on the basis which he and his hon. Friends are putting forward of the public corporation for running nationalised industries today—is how that public corporation should be set up, what its relations should be with the Minister, and how it should work. We have tried to examine that, and we have proceeded on certain well-defined lines on which, accepting the public corporation, as we are bound to do, we say there are grave defects in the set-up under this scheme.

What are they? The first is the extreme powers that it will give to the Minister himself. We complained about that on Second Reading, we complained in Committee and on Report, and we complain today. The intention, apparently, is to make the Minister, in the set-up, a sort of god out of the machine; what is quite clear is that he will be made a spanner in the machinery, and that is inevitable under the arrangements that are made. The right hon. Gentleman still paints in the most glowing colours the position of the Commission as a great planning authority. The planning authority in this case is hamstrung. It cannot appoint its own agents in the shape of the Executives. Like a new Tantalus, it stretches up to try to get the fruits of the Minister's powers and unsuccessfully tries that way, and, like Tantalus again, it stretches down to the waters of the Commission, and finds that it cannot control it by appointment. I am accepting, for the purpose of this part of the argument, the intentions of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to get a good working public corporation. I say that a public corporation so dominated by Ministerial powers, so weak in not being able to control its own agents, does not give nationalisation a chance, and, therefore, we still maintain our view that this set-up is inherently vicious.

The right hon. Gentleman—I desire to follow him and to do him the courtesy of trying to deal with the points he raised—has raised the question of numbers of staff. He has not dealt with our essential complaint, and that is the triplication of staffs which this set-up must involve. There has been no answer to the question why there must not be a staff in the Executives which will be the big office staff required to carry out these enormous undertakings which each Executive has. Inevitably, if you have such a staff in the Executive, you must have men to mark it in the Commission, and once again, when the Minister has these rights 'of interference with the Commission, the Ministry of Transport, in turn, must have men to mark in their staff the people who are in the Commission. At a time when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that even he hopes for a reduction of 70,000 to 80,000 in the number of persons employed by the State, I. say that here is an enormous blow against even that possibility occurring; and, of course, my hon. Friends and I say that that is grossly inadequate, and that we ought to restore the true balance of manpower by cutting down these low-level controls and those engaged on them to a far greater extent than that.

I turn to the proclaimed purpose of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman left in the course of his remarks to us today. This Bill was trumpeted as the herald of co-ordination and integration. The Minister and I are old enough to remember when Mesopotamia was the magic word which people used when in difficulties. Now, "co-ordination" and "integration" do equally badly. But vague though the connotation of these words is, still vaguer is any possibility of gathering what these words apparently connote as their intention from the operation of the Bill. Five long months ago we tried to raise the question of the perpetuation of functional division in the Executives. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council said, "We will consider the question of a geographical coordination of some sort." After five months, the only mention of a geographical co-ordination occurred in some vague generalities at the end of a speech in the Committee stage, and yet that is, if the Government's own set-up is to work under this Bill, a matter of vital importance. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to beware lest he is unable to see local needs because of his centralising blinkers. All over the country and especially in Scotland, as the right hon. Gentleman will hear from many of my hon. Friends, there is this feeling that local needs are being disregarded, local aspirations ignored, and all that is left is what eventually comes flowing stagnantly through a leaking conduit pipe from Whitehall. That is a dangerous way to leave the introduction of a great change.

I want, again very shortly, to deal with the general effect on the great organisations which this Bill embraces. With regard to the railways, what are the facts that stare us in the face? There is not only the difficulty of this new and artificial entity under the Railways Executive, but we have, seen the right hon. Gentleman refuse more than once any flexibility with regard to the vesting date or the changeover. We have seen him refuse the principle of independent arbitration without any argument which demonstrates why that arbitration should, or could, take the time "which is the only objection that can be made to it. We say—and we appeal on the most ordinary human and common sense basis—that to take 45 per cent. of income—£19½ million out of £41½ million—is harsh and cruel to those who are deprived of that amount and who, despite all efforts to show the contrary, are largely representative of people who are far from rich. That is the summary of the matter, apart from our general objections which have been so often urged.

It was urged by the right hon. Gentleman, in the earlier stages, that this was the nationalisation of long-distance transport. I say again that the test of this Bill, as it now stands, makes complete nonsense of that suggestion. I ask hon. Members to view the actuality. Anyone who is operating a, road transport business the centre of which is a garage on the outskirts of the Greater London area, and who sends his vehicle on a journey which involves its being as far from that garage as Hyde Park Corner, is counted as being engaged in long-distance transport. The same ridiculous limit of distance applies in the country. It is the acme of absurdity applied to country districts. On that basis, it is not long-distance transport which is being nationalised. But it does not stop there. It is apparent to the meanest intelligence that we are going to pay more for the longer haul; and so, if we take it on a cost basis, the longer haul is going to swell the figure more than the short haul, where the way taken by the short haul is greater. We suggested—and I say we were most reasonable in suggesting it—that both these factors should be taken into account. But, in order to get the benefit of the cost factor, the right hon. Gentleman has refused that suggestion. So that today, even although the weight carried may be much greater on the short haul, if the cost of the long haul brings the sum over 50 per cent. that, again, is long-distance haulage—according to this Bill, but not according to the mind of any reasonable man. I pass to the point, which has been so clearly made, that if the A and B licence holders escape the net—difficult though it is for them to escape it—they are limited to 25 miles—a ridiculous figure—unless they can get a permit. From whom? One would be pardoned if one imagined that it was from some tribunal, not concerned with the matter. But no. It is from their rivals and opponents, the Transport Commission, that they must seek to get it.

I pass to the question of compensation—I have tried to put it at a previous stage of the Bill—and the inadequacy of the compensation as to the vehicles, considering the rate the Government are getting for second-hand vehicles today. I have tried to show the inadequacy of the purchase of profits. But I submit to the right hon. Gentleman, in case even now some improvement can be got, that some things are easier than others to put up with in life. The right hon. Gentleman would probably agree with my agreement with the poet who said, "What is death but passing breath?" But there are other things which touch the depths of human nature, and one is seeing the results of years of effort and efficient achievement destroyed before one's eyes. Those men who have built up the road haulage industry in this country have now to see the things to which they gave their lives, broken, without any chance at all of rebuilding them—until we turn out this Government and alter the policy. That is a very serious position, and I ask that it should be considered in that light

In regard to passenger road transport, the right hon. Gentleman has said that negotiations are going on. At the moment, the position can be described with complete accuracy in this way. The passenger road transport industry is to carry on with a wavering sword of Damocles hanging over its head, in the form of a scheme that may be made. One thing only can be prophesied clearly about such a scheme—that it will be so initiated in order to decrease the value of the road transport business. As the Bill stands at the moment—I trust that the consultations which the right hon. Gentleman is having, will make a change—the compensation which will ultimately be given is to be decided by the Minister. We, in this House, are abrogating our rights of legislation regarding it.

The right hon. Gentleman has challenged my criticism with regard to rates and charges. I venture to make my point again. I say that to change the whole basis, to upset every operator in a great industry, to affect the lives of some 750,000 people, without having the slightest idea of what charge is to be made by transport to industry, is an indefensible position. It is not as if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to say to us, "Leave it to be worked out on the principle of what traffic will bear, on operating costs." From all we know, and by Clause 73 of the Bill, it is to be two years, or such longer period as the Minister may allow, before the weary trek ends, of going' from Executive to Commission, from Commission to Tribunal, from Tribunal to Minister, from Minister back to Tribunal. In 12 years' Parliamentary experience, I cannot remember when those fateful words "or such longer period as the Minister may allow" have ever presaged a shorter period than that allowed in the Bill. So we may take it that it will be in some three years' time after the difficult situation which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned—that we shall know something of the basis of the charges of nationalised transport.

The right hon. Gentleman has counterattacked with some determination, if not ferocity, on the question of the Guillotine and the cutting short of discussion. He has boldly said that the fact that he had to make 280 changes in Committee, and 165 changes on Report, by Government Amendments, shows what a fine Bill he brought before the House. I should like to express, before proceeding further, my personal gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for sending me this excellent document I have here, which sets out in great detail—more detail than he was able to tell the House—some interesting facts; and I am sure he will understand that what I am saying in my speech does not lessen my personal debt to him for his courtesy in letting me see it. But having acknowledged his courtesy in sending me this document, I should like to make use of the material, with which he has so kindly supplied me. I should like to deal very shortly with the points that he raised. He said we had 77 hours in Committee, and that one complaint was that we used 38 with regard to Part I. I think I have the figure right?

I am much obliged. I have endeavoured to indicate the importance of Part I. I want to make it quite clear, as to the right hon. Gentleman's offers with regard to an agreed time table, that when the offer was originally made it was on the basis, first of all, that we should finish this Bill by a date towards the end of March; then it was extended by a week, and it was to be finished by 2nd April, the Committee stage having begun on an early day in February. Now, I say that it was ridiculous and unreal to expect those who had to consider a Bill, which was then of 127 Clauses and 13 Schedules, to limit the time of consideration to two months. The right hon. Gentleman knows—he has been in this House a long time—that when one is in Opposition, the time that one spends in actual discussion in Committee is only a part of the time and that an immense period of preparation has to be gone through. One has to consult those affected by the Bill; to get Amendments drafted; to consult with one's colleagues about the splitting up of the work of putting forward the Amendments. To try to do that, even if there had been a Guillotine only on the ultimate time, sitting three mornings and two afternoons a week is to put the greatest possible strain on the legislative powers of any assembly. When that is coupled with the shortening of the period for discussion on vital parts, then it is impossible to give 'that adequate discussion which democracy deserves.

The right hon. Gentleman has said there are things more important than full and adequate discussion, that there is the getting of the Bill through, and on to the Statute Book. Is it really going to be said that, in 1947, after years of fighting and protest against the destruction of democratic working, as well as democratic ideals, the Mother of Parliaments is not prepared to give up a summer holiday, so that a matter, touching so clearly and so nearly the lives of the people, should be fully discussed? That is the reproach, that is the condemnation that this Bill has brought upon us. It is for that petty motive that we have refused to give discussion to 35 Clauses, and seven Schedules on the Committee stage.

I have noticed a tendency among hon. Gentlemen opposite to say "Well, it does not take you much further discussing numbers of Clauses or numbers of Schedules." I ask them to consider the subjects of large and important Clauses which have not been discussed at all—the legal position of the remaining road transport operators; port facilities; the position of the Transport Tribunal, and finance. I see that the right hon. Gentleman has put in this admirable document the statement that finance was given three-quarters of an hour in Committee. Three-quarters of an hour is not much for the financial Clauses of this Bill, and it is clearly proved that, in regard to Clause 93—about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke in reference to the alterations which he will have made in another place—we have not had a moment to discuss that Clause, either in Committee, or on Report or at any other time. Yet Clause 93 lays down how not only the accounts but the finances, of the Commission are to be set out, and deals with the sums which arc to be chargeable to revenue. Conditions of employment and the pensions of officers and servants were also the subjects of important Clauses that have not been discussed, while there is a great sheaf of Clauses on general administration, on which the voice of man has never been heard. Questions of road passenger transport, rates and charges, and practically all the details that would show how the principles of the Bill are going to be worked out, have never been discussed.

I say, with the greatest possible respect, that we cannot leave it to others to discuss these important matters which I have enumerated. The fact that this Bill which, confessedly and admittedly, comes to its Third Reading, without any discussion of these important matters, must inevitably mean that it is a poorer Bill and the rights and the justice which are due to the people of this country, must be jeopardised by that being the case.

I am conscious that I have trespassed too long on the good nature of the House, but I feel strongly about this Bill, to which, I confess, I have devoted a certain amount of time during the five months in which it has been before us. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember this. Behind me and my right hon. and hon. Friends, four great bodies of opinion are mobilised. There are the road hauliers of this country, of whom I have spoken before. There are the railway stockholders who, admittedly, have been denied arbitration and are now, in our view, denied justice. There are the traders, who have been threatened and to whom concessions were made, but who still see, as the ultimate aim of the T.U.C. document the denial of freedom of choice. There are all those who disagree with the right hon. Gentleman in his praise of discipline as so high an excellence in this life, and who still believe that free discussion is the essence of democracy and the basis of the liberties of this country. These four great bodies stand behind us, mobilised against this Bill, which, in its present state, can fairly be described—using all the moderation of which I am capable—as nothing but an Emasculation of Transport Bill.

5.21 p.m.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down ended his speech by referring to certain groups, which, he said, stood behind him and hon. Members on that side. He mentioned the road hauliers, the railway stockholders and the traders. the Minister of Transport has, standing behind him, the railway workers, the other workers in the transport industry, the travelling public, and the people of this country, who voted at the General Election in favour of the nationalisation of transport. Whatever one's views may be on the wisdom or otherwise of the Guillotine having been imposed on this Bill, it is quite clear, from the speech to which we have just listened that all our efforts in Committee to persuade right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that this was a good Bill have failed completely. However much further discussion we might have had, they would have continued to regard it as a bad Bill.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave a list of what he considered were the bad things that still remained in the Bill, and he gave these things a certain order of priority. He instanced the extreme powers given to the Minister in carrying out the provisions of the Bill. In my view, nationalisation cannot succeed unless the Minister concerned is responsible to this House for the actions of that nationalised body—the public corporation. There are several reasons for that, among which is the fact that public credit is involved. The public credit of this country stands behind the nationalised undertaking, and the guarantee of the State is given to nationalised undertakings. Surely, it is most important for this House to be kept informed of the way in which that public credit is being used. Another reason is that the Minister is responsible to Parliament for the nationalised undertaking carrying out the general economic plan of the country, and for seeing that that nationalised body plays its part in that planning. Far from regretting the extensive powers given to the Minister in this Bill, I urge him not to be afraid of using those powers.

I regret that one sometimes sees Ministers who are inclined to shirk their responsibilities for nationalised undertakings. When they come to this House, they do not always answer the Questions put to them by hon. Members on both sides, and do not give the information which I think Parliament has the right to demand. So I put it to the Minister of Transport that the powers which are given to him in this Bill are given to him to be used, and that, if he is to make the Bill a success, and is to accept the public accountability which is one of the important provisions in it, he must be prepared to come here and answer to us on the way he is carrying out the Bill and on the actions of the Commission and of the Executives.

Another of the bad things to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred is this question of compensation, which he regretted had not been referred to arbitration. We debated this question in Committee, and on the floor of this House last week. I do not think that hon. Members opposite would have supported the setting up of a tribunal to assess compensation unless, for some reason or other, they thought that that compensation would be greater. That must have been the purpose behind that suggestion.

I hope the hon. Member will be good enough to withdraw that. There is absolutely no basis for that statement. We want a tribunal to do justice. and for no other reason.

I do not see any reason to withdraw, though I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement. We tried to convince hon. Gentlemen opposite that the State is purchasing the transport system of the country, and that it is the national interest which comes first, and not the interests of shareholders. Because there are certain shareholders who were given, at one time, very high interest-yielding debentures, it does not give these people a right in perpetuity to continue to receive that rate of interest. This House has the right to bring in legislation to change the rate of interest which they shall receive. If we apply the same basis of compensation to all shareholders, as we have done in this Bill by taking Stock Exchange values, there is every justification for reducing the rate of interest in the way in which it is now being done. I cannot believe that the railways are worth more than we are paying for them. In my opinion, they are probably worth less than we are paying out in the form of Stock Exchange values, because of the uncertain condition of the railways, the high costs of operation and the difficulty of making increases in fares and charges to bring in enough revenue to meet the expenditure.

In this connection, I want to ask the Minister seriously to bear in mind that we are faced with the possibility of an increase in railway charges today, and, in view of impending nationalisation, I want to ask him seriously to consider whether it is not better to continue to meet the deficit on the railways rather than put up the charges at the present time. In my view, to put up railway charges at the present time to meet the deficit incurred owing to the subsidising of railway shareholders through the Control Agreement, and thereby increase the cost of living, in view of the incidence of transport charges on the cost of living, would be a grave mistake. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, talking about subsidies in this House, said he wanted to use those subsidies which were most effective in keeping down the cost of living. To subsidise the railways at the present time would be one of the better ways of keeping down the cost of living.

Did the hon. Member say that the Treasury or the taxpayer should meet the increased charges?

It is the same thing, since the taxpayer provides the Treasury with the money. I feel very strongly on this question of railway charges and believe that it is not necessary to put them up at the present time. On 1st January, 1948, the railway system is to be transferred to the State. From that date, £17,250,000 is saved in interest charges. The deficit, on the basis of the present deficit, if estimated at double what it was last year, will be £23 million a year, which is probably a fair guess. Therefore, the deficit next year will be only about £6 million. If the Minister would persuade the Treasury to subsidise the railways for the current year, from 1st January next, he would have to face only a small deficit, and the Transport Commission could stand that until the charges schemes have been brought into effect. They will presumably recommend a new basis of charges which will enable the Transport Commission to pay its way, as is required under the Bill. On the question of charges, the right hon. and learned Gentleman rather unrealistically raised the question of the uncertainty of traders about the charges to be made by the nationalised undertaking. I think that traders today are extremely uncertain what the charges are to be, irrespective of nationalisation, in view of the deficit which has been incurred.

But, apart from that, surely the right hon. Gentleman agrees that there must be a complete revision of railway charges. Therefore, if there must be a revision of transport charges, that revision should only come about after a tribunal has thoroughly investigated the question and analysed the different possibilities and requirements. It is not possible in this Bill to say that transport charges should be worked out on such and such a basis. It is necessary to examine all sides of the question before deciding what the basis should be. In my view, the institution of a charges scheme is one of the ways in which co-ordination will be achieved under this Bill. Differentiation in charges would enable the Transport Commission to attract traffic to that form of transport which could carry it most economically. It is in the general interest of the co-ordination of the transport system that that should be done. Therefore, when it comes to setting up the charges scheme, I would urge that the whole question of coordination of transport should be one of the factors taken into account. The matter should not be approached on the basis of railway rates, road transport charges, and so on.

Would the hon. Member agree that the differentiation would be so severe as between road and rail as to constitute a directive?

What I had in mind was that it is not possible to say that it is more economic for certain traffic to go by road or rail. It is sometimes more economic for the traffic to go by both road and rail. It should not necessarily be the trader who decides which form of transport should be used. He should go to the Commission and tell them that he wishes certain goods to be transported, and they should decide which is the best and most economic way to do it. There would be one rate for the transport of traffic irrespective of how carried and other rates for each separate form of transport.

With regard to road haulage, and to the question of compensation in particular, it seemed to me that, in the Debates both in Committee and in this House, hon. Members opposite wished to get the best of both worlds. The right hon. and learned Gentleman argued that the road transport industry was stable, and that the earnings of the industry could also be considered as stable, and the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) told us about the profits which road haulage undertakings were making. The hon. Member for Monmouth mentioned a case where the profits worked out at, roughly, 35 per cent. The man making those profits was going to receive compensation in the neighbourhood of £10,000. He was an able-bodied man of 50 years of age. According to the hon. Member for Monmouth, this man was facing ruin. More reasonable cases were mentioned by the hon. Member for Huntingdon, who said that the average annual profit of a representative sample of a score or so of different undertakings amounted, approximately, to 12 per cent. in each case. In my view, if stable profits as high as 35 per cent. or even as low as 12 per cent., are being made by these undertakings, those profits are too high. If they are not stable profits, then the compensation we are proposing to give is excessive. The compensation which we are giving in the case of road hauliers is certainly generous, although it may be justified on the ground that it is the small man who is concerned.

My one regret concerning this Bill was brought out by the figures which the Minister gave to the House regarding the extent to which road haulage was being taken over. It struck me that the number of vehicles being taken over—34,000, which includes 11, 000 railway-owned vehicles—is very small compared with the total number of vehicles on the road—100,000 operating under A and B licences, and 380,000 under C licences. The C licences are already increasing, and are bound to go on increasing, owing to the dropping of any restrictions on them from the Bill. This is a good Bill, but it would be a better Bill if it went a little further on the question of both road haulage and road passenger traffic, and better still if it included coastal shipping. I would warn the Minister that, having decided to drop the restrictions on C licences, he must watch the situation with extreme care. and, if it is found necessary, be ready to bring in amending legislation at the earliest possible moment. I say that because, in my view, there is a grave danger of the diversion of traffic from the Transport Commission to C licence holders, and also to coastal shipping. Mere is the danger that, because the Transport Commission is a common carrier, the private trader will only carry those goods which it is economic for him to carry and will leave the Commission to deal with small parcels and broken loads. In other words, the Transport Commission will be carrying the more uneconomic loads, while the economic loads will be carried by the private trader. If it is considered necessary, I would like the Minister to be prepared to amend the Road and Rail Act, 1933, and thus make it possible to restrict the issuance of C licences.

During the Committee stage of the Bill, the Minister introduced certain Amendments which strengthened the Clauses dealing with road passenger transport. Again, I regret that it was not found possible to take over the large pas- senger-carrying concerns, such as Thomas Tilling, in the same way as we are taking over the large road haulage undertakings. I do not think that such a step would have constituted any difficulty, and I am convinced that it would have made the coordination of passenger transport easier. I would urge the Minister to use his powers to speed up the Transport Commission's investigations into road passenger transport, and to see that the schemes which the Bill requires are brought into being at the earliest possible moment.

We who have served on the Committee stage of this Bill and who have been present during its passage through this House, welcome the improvements which have been made in it. I am sure that it provides an opportunity for the setting up of a co-ordinated transport system which will assist the economic position of the country. Only by having an efficient transport system can transport costs be kept to a minimum. This is particularly important in regard to the export trade. This Bill will succeed or fail according to the extent to which the Minister uses the powers given to him under it, and according to the extent to which he sees that the required co-ordination is brought about, and that the people engaged in the industry, that is the workers in it, are brought into consultation and are given responsibility for carrying through this great measure of socialisation

5.41 p.m.

I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) on the subject to which he devoted most of his time, namely, compensation. This is not because I have nothing to criticise in what he said, nor because I think that the subject is not important. But I have taken the view, both upstairs and down here, that, on the whole, rather too big a proportion of our time has been spent on questions of compensation. I do not say that too much time has been spent on this subject, but, rather, that too little time has been spent on other parts of the problem. After all, what really matters to the country is whether or not, from the point of view of the user of transport, a more efficient transport system is pro. vided by this Bill.

I venture to say that no Bill has ever been submitted to this House which has, at once, required so much full Parliamentary examination and revision as this Bill, and, in relation to its need, has received so little. There is an astonishing contrast in the attitude of the Government towards influences, pressures and suggestions on their different Measures. For many years, it has been the tradition of our Constitution that there are certain questions on which a Government ought, after full consideration, to make up their mind, and, having made it up, to stand by their decision, without yielding to either friend or foe. We are going to discuss such a question tomorrow. It has also been a tradition of this Constitution that on other subjects where, for example, there is a complex Measure affecting the multiform interests of the country, the Parliamentary system of examination in detail in Committee should be used in such a way as to utilise the full experience and wisdom of hon. Members on all sides, and also their functions as representing outside interests. That method, in fact, has not been used at all adequately in this case. It seemed to me that the Minister misunderstood the character of the criticisms that we are making against him on this subject. We do not criticise him for having proposed a great number of Amendments after consultation with the outside bodies he mentioned. I do not object to that; I welcome it.

But what I do say is that the Amendments which have been accepted as the result of the effective participation of hon. Members of this House in the Standing Committee have been of very little importance. There has been one great change and, in my view, one very great improvement, in this Bill since we discussed it on Second Reading. It is, of course, the change in policy regarding C licences. That change was made after representations had been made to the Minister, but it was not made by the Committee upstairs. The change in policy was announced to us before we reached that part of the proceedings. I do not object to that. I rejoice that the change was made—although, incidentally, I might confess to a private disappointment, in that I joined that rather arduous Committee solely for the purpose of making one speech which was not, and never will be, made. Nevertheless, I rejoice that not only the change was made, but also that it was announced before we spent our limited time in discussing the question.

But what did the Committee itself do? It did very little indeed. It secured some change with regard to ports and the ancillary services. But for the rest, it served very little purpose except to give the Minister a much needed opportunity to propose Amendments and seek to change parts of the Bill which, on consideration, he found had been wrongly drafted to start with. For the rest, very little indeed was introduced by the Committee. There was very little opportunity of a real participation in the framing of the details of this Measure, within the main principles, by the Committee itself. In fact, the majority on the Committee was as disciplined and as docile upstairs as the larger majority is in this House.

In effect, as far as the Committee was concerned, as distinct from outside representations, the Bill came back very much as it went in. In a Measure of this kind, I think that is a failure to utilise the normal legislative function of Parliament as it should be utilised. It is no use saying to us that there has been freedom of discussion because the country has been full of posters on hoardings. We are not suggesting that up to this moment the Government have suppressed all freedom of expression throughout the country. What we are suggesting, more modestly and more truly, is that they have suppressed ordinary discussion in this Parliament, by the normal procedure of Parliament.

At this point, perhaps, we might get straight this question of obstruction to which reference has been made. If the charge of obstruction was not contrary to the rules of Order, I am quite sure it was contrary to the facts of the case. On the discussion on the Guillotine on 3rd March in this House, I challenged the right hon. Gentleman, and other Members did too, as to whether he would give, as one of the reasons for proposing that Guillotine, that there had been obstruction—that is to say, a continuance of the Debate for the purpose of spinning out the time or, as the Minister suggested today, for the purpose of excluding from discussion a certain part of the Bill.

Yes, or repetition. Neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary alleged that, or could allege it. I asked very definitely at that time whether it was not the case that, up to the time of the Guillotine which was then being discussed, speeches had been to the point and as brief as was consistent with lucidity. No responsible Minister or Member of the Front Bench alleged anything to the contrary. I know the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) did. But he has rather less responsibility and shorter experience of the procedure, customs and traditions of this House. There was no obstruction in regard to this Measure until the Guillotine had fallen. That is our case. We were not allowed effectively to participate in the adjustment in detail, within the main principles of this Bill, of this complex Measure in accordance with the detailed necessities of the case as we and those in consultation with us thought it needed to be adjusted. That, I think, is a very serious failure on the part of the Government to utilise the experience which is available in all parts of the House for a Measure of this kind.

I said just now that, obviously, a Bill of this kind is good or bad according as to whether it provides a better—by which I mean a more convenient or cheaper—form of transport for the users of transport in this country. There is one good purpose of this Bill. It is to secure the economies of co-ordination. As many authorities, from the conference of 1932 downwards, have pointed out, there has never yet been an adequate inquiry into what those economies are, and on what lines they should be sought. But it is true that there are economies—we do not know how many or exactly what—to be secured from co-ordination. The Government, quite rightly, therefore, have appointed a Transport Commission whose duty will be to consider what those economies are and how they can be obtained. When this Bill was introduced, we were told that in order to have these economies we must have this vast public monopoly and that there was no other method. If it were, indeed, the case that there was no other method, I think even then it would have been extremely doubtful whether the economies to be secured would he worth the cost and disadvantage involved in such a monopoly. But, in fact, there is another and a very simple One. The Transport Commission is to be entrusted with the task of co-ordinating the transport of this country. It could be endowed with power to give effect to its decisions by the use of three familiar and well-tried methods—first, the attachment of conditions to the licences of A and B traffic; second, the adjustment of the weight of taxation of road vehicles, on the principle recommended in 1932 and brought into operation in 1933; and, third, the use of subsidies in those cases—for example, in certain agricultural districts—where it may be in the public interest to run services that could not be run economically if they have to pay their own way. That has always been, and still is, a perfectly practicable alternative in order to secure the admitted, although the yet unknown, benefits of co-ordination.

If railways were either nationalised, or left as they are, once we knew what co-ordination was needed, we could secure its benefits by the methods which I have suggested, coupled with the measures which are already in force with regard to the railways.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the private railway companies would continue to run services in country districts, even if they did not pay, because in my constituency they curtailed them for that very reason?

When I made the suggestion I said I fully realised that if we left the transport system of this country to private enterprise, there would be certain services which it might be in the public interest should be continued, though they were not economical, but that, in my view, would be done much more economically and efficiently by a definite and deliberate subsidy than by the indefinite and concealed subsidy which will result from the present system.

For what is this system? We have here a vast bureaucratic monopoly covering the whole of the railways, the whole of long-distance road haulage and, indeed, a great deal of road haulage which is not long-distance. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has argued the case of the man who is on the margin of the prescribed distance. One might go a great deal further than that. The Bill provides at present that when the Commission has to decide whether a particular undertaking is long or short-distance, it takes two criteria—the cost and the weight—and suggests that if either of those shows a balance on the long-distance side, it is a long-distance undertaking. One might just as well say, if one were determining what is short-distance, that one should take those same two criteria, and that if either of them suggested it was short-distance, it should be a short-distance undertaking. The Government obviously desire the Commission to have it both ways, and to classify the transport on the basis of "Heads they win and tails they do not lose."

As I say, this vast bureaucratic system covers railways, long-distance road haulage and a great deal of short-distance, canals, ports, even hotels. Moreover, there is a single financial pool so that the Transport Commission can cover up losses on one part of its service by higher charges on another. From the point of view, and what I suggest should be the deciding point of view, in regard to a Bill of this kind—the provision of cheap and efficient transport to the consumer—what is certain to be the consequence? The Commission, or one of the Executives, will be faced with demands for higher wages, shorter hours or some other change in general wage-cost conditions which are out of relation to what apply to similar skilled labour in other private industries, and out of relation to what those private concerns could bear.

What will happen in that case? On the one hand, there is the possibility of an immediate strike. On the other hand, there is the alternative of putting up charges anywhere throughout the whole of this system. When such a demand is made to a private concern, there is, of course, the powerful countervailing pressure of the prospect of loss and of bankruptcy if rates are given which are altogether out of relation to the rates prevailing in other parts of the country. That fact is known both to the unions and to the employers. There is no similar countervailing pressure in this case. I suggest that what will certainly happen will be concessions to one pressure after another, so that the costs and, therefore, the charges, rates and fares, will go up in this public concern out of relation to what is borne, or can be borne, by pri- vate industries throughout the country. As transport is the basis of our whole economy, we shall have dearer and dearer transport, living more and more parasitically upon the whole of the economy of the country. That is what I fear from this Bill. That is my main objection to it.

I came to the consideration of this Bill when it was first introduced, as an independent, and as one who had for years been in favour of the socialisation of those industries which, on the ordinary and accepted criteria, are ripe for nationalisation. I did not, and should not, oppose the principle of nationalisation under appropriate conditions of the coal mines or electricity, and I should not oppose the nationalisation of the railways. But the railways are the only one of the enterprises covered by this Measure which in any way satisfy that normal condition and those criteria. They obviously do not apply in the case of either harbours or road haulage. It is because the right hon. Gentleman has so much enlarged his Bill, and in doing so seems to have been completely blind to the intrinsic dangers of nationalisation, which are as real and as large and as much in need of safeguarding against as are the inherent defects of some aspects of private enterprise, that I object to this Bill. We know what these dangers are. I have attempted to suggest one illustration of them. If the Minister had applied his mind to that problem, he would have sought, in every possible way, to preserve competition, not to destroy it. He would have tried to construct real safeguards, not just consultative committees without executive power of any kind. As it is, this single Transport Commission, with its vast monopoly, with its single fund of finance, is exempted from competition, and is exempted also from any effective financial check or control. That is why I object to this Bill.

Am I not right in supposing that in the manifesto "The Next Five Years," the right hon. Gentleman advocated the nationalisation not of railways but of transport?

It is a few years ago since I read that book. But if the hon. Member refers to it he will, I think, find that it advocates the nationalisation of railways under conditions very similar to those I have mentioned in my speech today, and adds to that the co-ordination, with the nationalised railways, of the road haulage system, but not its nationalisation. I believe that the views expressed in that book are the same as those I have expressed today.

My objection to this Bill is that it is, on the one hand, indefensible against pressure which will result in excessive costs, and therefore, increased fares and charges, and on the other hand, is impregnable against any form of public criticism or financial check or control. I believe that the structure which is apparently to be enacted now will require the most fundamental modification in the future, or it will collapse. I only pray that if it does collapse, it wil do so before it brings the general economy of the country down into collapse with it.

6.3 p.m.

I listened to the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) to try to understand what proposal he would make. As I understand it, he suggested that it would be right to nationalise the railways but that to nationalise the road haulage system was not justified or advisable. If that suggestion were followed, the Opposition would make such play of the necessary interference with the liberty of the subject, the restrictions that would be necessary, the hedging about, by regulations, of any road haulage system which was to be made to co-ordinate itself with the nationalised railway system, that the confusion would be far worse than can possibly be the case under the Bill. As one who has spent all his life in the railway industry, I have always taken the point of view, which I think is taken by all railway people and almost all transport workers, that if we are to make a job of this scheme we must nationalise the whole of transport, and not play about by taking only the potentially bankrupt side of transport.

I did not say that I thought that the railways ought necessarily to be nationalised. I do not think it makes a great deal of difference whether they are or are not. Whether they are or are not, we could have secured the benefits which are claimed for nationalisation by the proposals which I have mentioned. But if, through nationalising the railways, the Government were indeed obliged to go on to nationalise road transport, harbours and goodness knows what, I say, "Stop before you begin."

People realise that something has to be done to regulate road transport because those in it are fighting like Kilkenny cats, and eating each other. The so-called freedom in road transport does not exist, because the larger combines have been eating up the smaller concerns all the time.

I listened to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) in the hope that I might hear something in the way of criticism of substance. I have long had a regard for the capabilities of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because I fought against him at West Derby in 1935, and he beat me in that Election. I was filled then with an admiration for his capabilities, but I thought, listening to his speech this afternoon, that if that is the best the Opposition can produce in the way of criticism of this Bill, we are all right. He made very heavy weather of it indeed. I tried to listen with an open mind, and, in my view, the only criticism which had any weight in it was that they had not had enough time to discuss some of the later proposals in the Bill. That is unfortunate but although I did not have the opportunity of being a Member of the Standing Committee, much to my disappointment, I have read every word which was uttered there, and I am bound to say that reading the proceedings of the first four or five days, and the speeches that were made by Members of the Opposition, gave me the impression that they were hoping to keep the Committee going for quite a long time—two or three years.

On the whole, this is a good Bill. I rejoice that it is to have its Third Reading tonight, but there are one or two criticisms I wish to make. One is that the Bill does not go far enough. The figures which the Minister of Transport gave this afternoon caused me, at least, a great deal of disquiet, because so many vehicles are being left out of this scheme. I wish to issue a warning now. I consider that the success of the nationalised transport system is being endangered, because we are leaving so many vehicles still under private enterprise. Frankly, I was very disappointed when the concession was made in regard to C licences. The fears which the Minister uttered in making his announcement are justified, and I believe it will be found utterly impracticable to keep the traffic conveyed by the C licence holders to that of the owners of the licences. The possibilities or the probabilities of getting round the concession are so great, the temptations are so great, that they will make the concession a regrettable one. Only the other night, on the Report stage, when hon. Members opposite were making attempts to get that concession extended to B licence holders, they gave many reasons why the B licence holder would find it difficult not to be allowed to have back loads, etc. Those are the very reasons which will tempt C licence holders, by some subterfuge, to get traffic which does not really belong to them, in order to make it an economic proposition to carry the legitimate traffic. If they do not do that, I am afraid that the lorry driver himself may be tempted to make his own arrangements, rather than come back with an empty lorry. We will have to see how it works, but I regret that the concession was made.

I also wish to make a criticism on the question of having only one Executive for the road services. There ought to be a road haulage Executive and a road passengers' Executive. I was interested to read in the report of the Standing Committee proceedings the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that he thought that that might be the position in a few years' time, but he pointed out that on the passenger side the only job of the Road Executive at the moment was to prepare regional schemes. In my view, they will have their hands so full running the road haulage side that they will not have time to prepare schemes on the passenger side. They will have a man's job doing the work which they are appointed to do in looking after road haulage. I think the importance of this matter would justify the immediate appointment of a separate road passenger Executive, even for the job of preparing schemes, and certainly, on the Parliamentary Secretary's own admission, for the running of the schemes when they are in operation. I was interested in the criticism about charges. I have been in a rating office, and when one tries to work out some of the complicated railway rates one realises the need for an upto-date scheme. The present position is so chaotic that I hope that the Charges Commission will be able to make its report well within the two years; I hope it will not take any longer time.

I wish to say a word about the criticism of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby with regard to the powers of the Minister. He thinks that the Minister is preserving too many powers and not giving enough to the Commission. He mentioned the words "public corporations." In my view, the new idea of public corporations, as it was developing a few years ago, could prove to be one of the greatest dangers to the community—the idea of appointing a public corporation, and the Minister and Parliament having no responsibility for it, a body which is responsible neither to a body of shareholders nor to Parliament. To continue on that basis is to venture on dangerous grounds indeed. Under private ownership there are at least boards of directors and bodies of shareholders which are watching the concern. When a commission is under the responsibility of a Minister there is at least the opportunity of Parliament having some measure of control, but what of a public corporation as was suggested by the right: hon. and learned Member for West Derby, which he hoped would be divorced from the responsibility of the Minister? I tremble to think what the position in industry generally would be if those were the lines of development. If we are to make a success of this transport scheme, as of the other nationalisation schemes for which we are responsible, Parliament must be supreme, must be given the opportunity of raising with the Minister matters of dissatisfaction or suggestions for improvement, etc.

I wish to mention only one other point, which to me is the most important of all, but not to many other people—the question of taking the workers into consultation. In Clause 95, as the Minister of Transport has pointed out, statutory provision is made for the unions to be consulted in matters of safety, health and welfare. That does not go nearly far enough. If we are really to get the benefit of these nationalisation schemes, we must make the workers feel that they have a share in the management and control of the industries. We must make them feel when the appointed day comes not that they are carrying on under the same set of bosses that they always had under another name, but that there has been a definite change in which they must play a large part. I wanted the coal miners to feel like that when the Bill nationalising their industry was passed. There would be an increase in production and the workers would take a greater interest in their jobs, if they felt that the industry in which they were engaged belonged to them.

In this Bill there is provision for the Commission and the Executives to make arrangements with the employees. My words are directed mainly to the Commission and the Executives. I hope that they will take full advantage of the brains, the power and knowledge of the industry which exists among the employees. Let them work right from the level of local departmental committees at stations. I have been a member of a local departmental committee of a sectional council, and I say that so far as consultation about the management and efficiency of the industry was concerned, it was a farce. That system is not used at all. I hope that the new Executives will bring the workers into the new scheme, encourage them to make suggestions for the improvement of their stations and depots, and give them a feeling that they are part of the industry. If that is done I am certain that in a very short time the workers will feel that they must make their job a success for the benefit of the community.

Hon. Members opposite criticise us very often about lack of incentives. They point to the incentive of private industry and ask what is our alternative. I suggest that that is one alternative. If we can get our own people into a state where they feel that they are part of the machine, they will put their backs into the job and give us the increased production. I thank the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for their courtesy in meeting my own trade union and other trade unions and considering suggestions. We have not met with 100 per cent. success in our representations but we are grateful for the concessions which have been made. We feel that we were met with courtesy and consideration and that an honest attempt was made by the Minister and his Department to try to meet criticisms and suggestions. This is a proud day for me. As a member of a railway union, all my life I have been hoping that some day we might have a nationalised railway industry. I feel proud that the day has come when we can got into the Division Lobby and give the final gesture, so far as the House of Commons is concerned, towards making the transport industry one which is owned and controlled by the people.

6.20 p.m.

When a Member who has not hitherto taken part in a discussion of this nature and has not been a Member of the Standing Committee concerned, ventures to intervene in the Debate, it is, of course, almost inevitable that he should have the impression of one who intrudes upon a family party. The little sly personal references which only a few can understand, the intimate family jokes which pass to and fro across the room, the arguments of great detail and complexity which are a little difficult to follow if one has not been at some other place and, not least, perhaps the somewhat exclusive nature of the audience to which any arguments may be addressed—all these things make it a little difficult to intervene in a discussion. But this is the Third Reading of a somewhat important Bill. I do not feel that it is out of place if I attempt to summarise, in the most general terms possible, some of the broad objections that I still feel to it. Indeed, perhaps it is the less out of place because many of the arguments with which we have been dealing this afternoon have been somewhat detailed.

The Third Reading of a Bill gives us an opportunity, after having marched through the trees of detail, to see again the wood of the whole Bill. I thought that in the somewhat lengthy introduction the Minister rather failed to take that opportunity, but he did break cover, if I may use that expression, on one important subject. He was at some pains to prove that there had, after all, been adequate discussion of this important Measure. If I may follow him into the open for a moment, I must congratulate him on inventing two of the most ingenious and remarkable arguments in support of that contention that I have ever heard in this Chamber. The Minister maintained that there had been adequate discussion because 18 months had passed since the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council had first announced the intention of the Government in this respect and that, thereafter, there had been a great public outcry in the country, hoardings had been plastered, a Press campaign had been carried through, Petitions to this House had been presented, and public meetings running into numerous hundreds had been held.

I could not help thinking that this was the most remarkable argument for not holding discussion in Parliament that I had ever heard. I was a little surprised that, having coined this ingenious line of thought, the right hon. Gentleman did not pursue it to its logical conclusion, because it clearly follows from the line of approach which he was adopting that the more public outcry there is the less need there is for discussion in Parliament. I should have thought that if he was going to present this argument at all he might have presented an even more attractive point of view, namely, that if there was an armed insurrection against the tyranny of the Government, we might abolish ourselves altogether.

The right hon. Gentleman supported this somewhat perverse type of reasoning with another contention which was no less remarkable. He said that, after all, there had been an adequate discussion because although a third of the Bill had not been discussed in Committee or on the Report stage—very nearly a half had not been discussed at all on the Report stage—there had been 127¾ hours of Parliamentary time spent altogether. I did think it peculiar that he should rate as Parliamentary time the discussions of a Committee to which some 50 hon. Members alone were exclusively appointed with the inevitable result that 590 of us were muzzled on the Committee stage altogether. I was not altogether surprised that apparently the Minister did not think much of this argument himself, because he went on to say that, after all, these times were so urgent that it did not really much matter if we had adequate discussion or not. The public were anxious to see results from this Government after two years of office, and we must bundle through legislation in order that they may get the impression somehow that something was being done.

I do not consider that this is an adequate reason for abolishing Parliamentary democracy in this country. I have yet to learn from the other side of the House any real contention to support the proposition that the urgent nature of the times has anything whatever to do with the use of the Guillotine and other means of curtailing discussion on this Bill. That certainly was not the view of the right hon. Gentleman the then acting Leader of the House when these curtailing measures were first proposed. His belief in their necessity was of a somewhat more modest character. He did not want an autumn Session and it was for that reason that our ordinary Parliamentary liberties were being mutilated, not only in the case of this Measure but in the case of other Measures which it would be improper to discuss.

We on this side of the House have been challenged from time to time to provide constructive alternatives. I am not sure that a Third Reading is an occasion when it is really in Order to go into any detail, but I would preface what I have to say in the way of criticism of this Bill by the general observation that my transport policy somewhat closely resembles the foreign policy of the Foreign Secretary. It is that I should be able to go to Victoria and buy a ticket and go wherever the spirit moved me to go. As a first measure towards a transport policy as an alternative to that proposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite—only as a first measure—it would be part of my objective to restore the transport system of this country to something like the efficiency it enjoyed after 20 years of Tory misrule. After that I might think of doing something better still, but until that has been done it ill becomes hon. Members opposite to try to criticise or ridicule the somewhat weakened system which we now enjoy as a result of 6½ years of war and 1½ years of Socialist Government.

We believe that this is a bad Bill because it conflicts with our very positive and definite alternative view of the society which will make this country happy. To begin with, we believe in freedom. By freedom we mean the diffusion of power.

I am about to explain and, indeed, if the hon. Member had once done me the honour of listening to one of my other speeches he would not have asked the question. By freedom we mean the diffusion of power. We regard the concentration of power as the negation of freedom and we do not believe that a free political society can continue to, exist in a healthy form when the great industries of the country are one by one brought under a single head and ultimately dominated by the small body of men who happen to be in political control of the country.

I can see you looking at me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I am not going to be got into trouble by hon. Members opposite. They have done that too often. The agents provocateurs among the Government supporters have got me into trouble too often and they are not going to do it again.

Secondly, we dislike this Bill because it is inconsistent with our ideal of a property-owning democracy. We do not believe that the restriction of the types of property which may be owned, such as is contemplated by a Measure of this kind, is in the end at all consistent with an economic democracy of the type we propose to create. We do not think that the gradual restriction of forms of investment to the holding of fixed-interest Government stocks, without rights of management or responsibility, to be other than a step away from our ideal of a propertyowning democracy. Thirdly, we object to it because we think that it is inconsistent with economic progress. Indeed, one of the principal advantages which was suggested for it in "The Times" by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Jay) seemed to me to amount to an admission of that very fact. It may sound paradoxical to hon. Members opposite, but we Conservatives object to the Transport Bill because of the rigid, fossilised and totally unprogressive conservatism which a nationalised transport industry will impose upon the country. After all, one cannot be a Conservative all one's life, as I have been, without knowing a little more about conservatism than hon. Members opposite.

The real truth about nationalisation in all its forms is that it will prevent that form of progress which is essential to the health of society. It is designed to do it. Nothing is more remarkable than the extent to which it becomes increasingly apparent in the arguments presented by hon. Members opposite for all kinds of nationalisation that their real object is to impose on the country a system which is incapable of radical change and is perpetually resistant to any real form of progress both by the abolition of the necessary incentives towards efficiency and by the creation of a vested interest which will resist any real progressive change. One need only ask, as my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) asked on the Second Reading of this Bill, what would have happened if the stage coach industry had been nationalised rather more than 100 years ago to realise that the effect of nationalisation would have been to create that form of fossilised conservatism which nationalisation now will inevitably create.

We object to this Bill also because we believe in expansion and an expansionist economy, and this Bill is avowedly restrictive in its economics. The object of those provisions of this Bill which nationalise road transport is not to increase the road transport services of the country. Far from it. The object is to prevent road transport competing effectively with the railways—to restrict it, in other words. That is the whole purpose of that part of the Bill, and indeed the only criticism with which it is greeted from hon. Members opposite is that the restrictions are not severe enough and that transport is not held down in a wider sphere altogether than that which is proposed by the Minister. One cannot build an expansionist economy on a basis of restriction. Nothing has been more remarkable than the arguments which have been presented by some back benchers this afternoon to the effect that one will have to add to the restrictions by reintroducing the limitation on the C licence holders because when nationalisation has been carried into effect the nationalised road services will be so unattractive that one device or another will successively be used by the C licence holders in order to encourage other would-be private road users to carry their goods for them. Nothing is more certain than that hon. Members who presented arguments of that kind can have no real confidence whatever in the success or efficiency of their own scheme.

Lastly, we object to this Bill because we think it is inappropriate in the present economic situation of the country. The Government, as I foretold some months ago, would have to choose between their economic revolution, in which no doubt they sincerely believe, and in the national unity which they claimed to be necessary when they published the White Paper. As I foretold, by their persistence in the policy of nationalisation of road transport, they have shown that they prefer their economic revolution to the policy of national unity in which they also believe. Hon. Members claim to believe in their policy. I give them credit for supposing that that is so, but we believe in our opposition to it, too. The Attorney-General has taunted us with resisting the policies of the Government. He has accused us of a want of patriotism. He said that the Labour Party supported the Coalition in war for the purposes of war and now for the purposes of economic—

The hon. Member has gone a long way distant from the Bill.

No, Sir. I was just on the point of concluding my sentence, and I think you would have been persuaded at once that so far from going any distance from the Bill, I was absolutely on the point. What I was about to say was that so far from there being any want of patriotism on our part, we believe that the country is being ruined by this policy of nationalisation, and we believe that the difficulties through which the country is now passing are directly the consequence of the nationalisation of—

I would remind the hon. Member that we are now dealing with the Transport Bill. Upon that matter he is in Order, but on any other matter he is out of Order.

I was venturing to submit that I understood that the Transport Bill was a Bill for the nationalisation of transport—[Interruption.] When I was interrupted I was about to say that I was under the curious impression that this Transport Bill was a Bill for the nationalisation of transport.

It is even more curious if the hon. Member thinks that he has been talking about the Bill at all.

If I am mistaken in thinking that it is a Bill for the nationalisation of transport, of course I was not, but if it was, was about to observe, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that nationalisation of transport was precisely one of the things which was most likely to ruin the country at the present time and that, therefore, although hon. Members opposite might believe that it is a good policy, they have to choose, in dealing with other people who do not, between abandoning that policy and all hope of national unity in relation to it. They have made their choice. The choice will he evil and its evil consequences will be seen as the months go on.

As the months go on it will be seen more and more that the various economic ills through which we pass, particularly in relation to transport, its efficiency and its cost and in the quantity in which it is available to various classes of the community, will grow worse and worse. On the other side in addition to the theoretical arguments in favour of public ownership, it seems to me that only one contention of any importance has been put forward. It is that over 30 years there has been a steady advance towards unification and that public monopoly in this sphere is the only alternative to private monopoly. That was the contention put forward on Second Reading by the hon. Member for North Battersea, but it seems to me that that contention will not bear scrutiny. It reminds me of a famous passage in the work of G. K. Chesterton in "The Napoleon of Notting Hill":
"Just as we know when we see weeds and dandelions growing more and more thickly in a garden, that they must, in spite of all our efforts grew taller than the chimney-pots and swallow the house from sight."
It is, of course, true that in many other spheres of activity there has been seen a tendency towards a greater unification, but that does not mean that that tendency must go on unimpeded until there is only one unit of its kind in the whole country. Nor would it follow that if it did so grow one would have to carry unification a stage further and have only one unit for the whole of Europe, or possibly carry it a stage further still and have only one unit for the whole world. The truth is that in all types of economic activity there is an optimum size beyond which it is unwise to create economic units, and absolutely no evidence is brought forward whereby we are to suppose that the whole of the long distance transport of this country ought to be brought within the ambit of a single undertaking.

Only one thing remains to-be said. Two years ago the Labour Party was confidently boasting of 25 years of uninterrupted power. Responsible prophets are somewhat less confident today.

I said, responsible prophets are somewhat less confident today. The hon. Member who interrupted me is one of those who would be most likely to lose his seat if there were a General Election tomorrow. I make no comment at this stage upon the future of the scheme for the nationalisation of the railways by themselves. That is an experiment which, it may be, must be worked out conscientiously to its logical and probably disastrous conclusion, but as regards road transport, I confidently predict that before very long an anti-Socialist majority in this House will be abolishing the State monopoly which we are in process of erecting today.

6.42 p.m.

Before I return to the City side of the Oxford fraternity opposite, I would like to refer to the university side, since the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) accused me of an inaccurate memory on the subject of his manifesto, "The Next Five Years." I must repeat that he put his name to a statement in favour of socialising transport. The actual words were:

"The last group of industries is composed of those suitable for complete socialisation. We suggest it should include such industries as transport, electricity supply, some forms of insurance. Transport is an obvious example."

It was not his memory that I was accusing of being defective, because it was quite obvious that he has recently referred to this book of about 10 years ago, while I have not and have had to rely on my memory. I suggest, however, that if he reads not only that passage but the context of it he will find there is a distinction suggested there between railways and transport as a whole. In the context socialisation is not necessarily inconsistent with the scheme that I proposed just now, namely, control by the Transport Commission, the co-ordination of railways and road haulage by a system of conditional licences and adjusted road vehicle taxation. I cannot discuss this in detail now because it would be out of Order, and because I have not now had the opportunity of referring to the actual text of the composite book he has referred to.

If the right hon. Gentleman is drawing distinctions between socialisation and nationalisation, it is too subtle for me to follow. As to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), we on these benches do not follow him in his belief in what he calls fossilised conservatism; but we follow him in his belief in what he calls "diffusion of power." That is why we support this Bill. In its most simple essence, this Bill represents a transfer of power from the few to the many—in the case of the railway companies, for instance, from four great corporations to an authority responsible to every elector in this country.

I would like also to follow the hon. Member for Oxford in trying to get a little way away from the trees in order to have a look at the wood. We have had long and laborious and, in my opinion, adequate discussions on the details of this Bill; but we have not for some time looked at the main principle of what we are doing. As I see it, this Bill sets up a unified system of transport such as nearly all expert authorities have recommended, and puts it under public ownership, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested 10 years ago.

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that all authorities have recommended a single public ownership of the transport system?

No, that was not what I said. All I said was that nearly all expert authorities have recommended co-ordination in some form—[An HON. MEMBER: "You said nationalisation."]—and the the right hon. Gentleman suggested public ownership 10 years ago. In any case that is what the Bill stands for. As I see it, by that means, by a pooling of the receipts from all forms of transport, and by saving £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 a year in interest charges, this new corporation we are setting up will be able to solve the underlying transport problem of this country. No alternative, adequate method of solving it has yet been suggested and I think we ought to remember that.

I think the hon. Gentleman really should not make a categorical statement, or at least he should refer to the proposal I made both upstairs and here.

I am sorry if I seemed to depreciate the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, but my main point is that there is a practical proposal made in this Bill and that, to my mind, no adequate alternative has been presented. There was an underlying economic problem in the transport of this country before the war. We all know that the root of it was that road competition was gradually driving the railways out of business. Parliament passed a number of Acts to limit road competition and thereby slow down the process; but at the beginning of the war, in spite of that assistance from Parliament, the railways had found it necessary to initiate their "square deal" campaign with a view to an agreement on rates with the road interests. In spite of what had been done by Parliament there was thus still a practical problem facing the country at the beginning of the war. During the war, of course, the increase of traffic solved that problem temporarily, but we have come out of the war with the Government paying a subsidy to the railways of, at the moment, I think £10 million or £11 million a year. That is the position today which I think we should recognise.

This Bill answers the crucial question whether or not this Government subsidy is to continue or whether, alternatively, there is to be a rise in charges. It solves it both because it will permit a pooling of receipts between rail and road, and because nationalisation will lower interest charges. I think it is worth pointing out that that was exactly how the setting up of London Transport overcame a precisely analogous problem in the case of passenger transport in London, where again it could only be solved by unification on the one hand and by a subsidy from the road concerns to the railway concerns.

I would ask the House to consider what would happen if this Measure were to be seriously emasculated or delayed before it received the Royal Assent. Suppose the Bill were to be emasculated, or in some sense frustrated in its further stages; in my opinion the Government would be bound to give notice that it was terminating the agreement under which the present subsidy is paid. I think we all ought to consider what would be the consequences of that. The first consequence, I suggest, as far as the railway stocks were concerned, would be that the prospect of the end of the subsidy would mean a fall in the ordinary stocks of the railways, which I would estimate to be something of the order of 50 per cent.—and in some of the deferred ordinary stocks probably more than 50 per cent. I think one should give a warning to the stockholders and investors, many of whom, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, are not all the very rich. I think one should warn them that if that happened they would lose in the not distant future something like 50 per cent. of their savings; and that is a serious prospect, on which I think we should reflect on both sides of the House.

What would be the next step in the process? As I see it, the railway companies would then have to contemplate, under the old Railways Act of 1921—which is what we should come back to if this Bill were defeated—going to the Railway Rates Tribunal and asking for a sufficiently steep rise in fares and charges to earn the old standard revenue. Whether that was decided or not would probably depend on whether the companies thought the result of that would be a loss of traffic to the roads. My own expectation is that the railways would probably not decide to go forward with such a request unless they were sure that the Government would agree on their putting into force the Road-Rail Agreement which they reached last summer, and which is an agreement between the road hauliers and the railways to fix their charges together—an agreement which of course would be bound to result in higher charges. I suggest that in view of the present outlook for the cost of living in this country, no Government could accept that proposal.

Therefore, there would be two results from any rejection of this Bill: on the one hand, it would do grave damage to the railway stockholders, who would incur very large capital losses. On the other hand, we should be brought back to the fundamental dilemma, that either the Government must go on paying a large subsidy to private interests—which we on this side would not accept—or, alternatively, there would have to be a large rise in rates and fares which would cause all sorts of economic difficulties, bear very hardly on the cost of living, and injure the export trade. Before voting against this Bill, hon. Members should reflect on that prospect.

Perhaps I might say one word, since it has been discussed so much in this Debate, on the procedure by which this Bill has reached its present condition. Any new hon. Member of this House speaks with a certain amount of diffidence about matters of procedure, and therefore I would do no more than say how the proceedings on this Bill so far have struck a fresh mind. I have three impressions. My first impression is to compare this Bill with one which, under the Coalition Government, I happened to have the job of shepherding not merely through the labyrinth of Parliament but through the even darker jungle of Whitehall. Let nobody suppose that Bills do not undergo a meticulous examination before they get into this House at all. When I compare the proceedings in Committee on those two Bills, I am struck by the fact that that by no means non-controversial Bill under the Coalition Government had a much less extensive and elaborate consideration than the Transport Bill has had in Standing Committee. That Bill under the Coalition Government actually had no discussion at all of any sort on more than half of the Clauses in Committee.

It was the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, which had many controversial provisions.

It had so many controversial provisions that many civil servants advised that no such Bill would ever get through the House at all.

My second impression of the proceedings in the Committee was this: I think there can be no question that, if the Guillotine had not been used in Committee, this Bill could not be passed into law during the present Session. I do not see that that can be seriously denied. There have been some observations made today about obstruction. I am much too new an hon. Member of this House to dogmatise on the precise meaning of that word. But I would say that although we had many constructive suggestions from the Opposition in Standing Committee, some of which have found their way into the Bill, I would also affirm that a number of speeches were made in the Committee, by the Opposition, before the Guillotine was introduced, which were calculated. to spend time rather than to improve the Bill. If that is a definition of obstruction, I say there was obstruction.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that opinion is entirely in contradiction to that of his own Front Bench?

I think the Front Bench had better speak for itself at the proper time. I am expressing my own opinion. My third impression of the proceedings is that there has been a great deal of exaggeration in statements made by hon. Members opposite, that on the Report stage, a large number of Amendments were forced through without any proper discussion. I would like to know how many of those 92 Government Amendments which passed through under the Guillotine during the Report stage were opposed by the Opposition. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) would like to tell us now how many of those 92 Amendments his party would have been prepared to oppose if they had done it deliberately, and not as the result of some frivolous outbursts from their back Benchers? Evidently none.

I would like to affirm what I said during the Committee stage, that the people of this country, by and large, wish to see these Measures of reform passed through Parliament at a reasonable rate. I would say this to the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University, who protested at one stage in the Committee because I suggested that perhaps he was rather out of touch with the mass of the people of this country in arguing that the proceedings should go, at a much more leisurely rate. It so happened that at the first public meeting I had to address the weekend after that, the first question addressed to me from the body of the hall, was, "Why is the Government dillydallying with the Transport Bill?" I believe that represents the opinion of a large section of the people. I believe, furthermore, that it represents the opinion of millions of ordinary people outside this country in Europe, where the belief in Parliamentary Government is not as great as it is here. Many people in those countries are watching to see whether it is possible to pass through great and drastic reforms by Parliamentary Government in face of the opposition of powerful sectional interests; and I think it is our supreme job to show that is possible, and that the democratic system really 'works.

On the Second Reading of this Bill I reminded the House that Mr. Gladstone, in July, 1844, moved the Second Reading of a Bill for the nationalisation of railways. Perhaps I may conclude by quoting the last sentence which Mr. Gladstone used on that occasion:
"I know that the railways of this country are very powerful bodies, but I do not think they have risen so high, or this House has sunk so low, that we should refuse our sanction to this Bill"

6.59 p.m.

I did not expect it would fall to me to follow the reference by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Jay) to the words used by Mr. Gladstone in 1844. Mr. Gladstone was, on that occasion, dealing with the nationalisation of the railways. An hon. Member opposite said that this was a good Bill, but that it might have been much better if it had gone further. I would, say that this is a bad Bill, but it would have been a good Bill if it had not gone so far. It would have been a good Bill had it stopped at the nationalisation of the railways, and, long-distance road haulage. As it stands, it is a bad Bill. It is bad because it establishes an overall monopoly, except for transport within a narrowly defined distance. It is a bad Bill because the method of compensation is unfair and arbitrary, and a bad Bill because it has been driven through Parliament by undemocratic means. We on this Bench approached the Bill as first presented with some sympathy. Among the inquiries set up into transport, by far the best inquiry was that set up by the Liberal Party shortly before the General Election. It was a most impartial and authoritative committee. That committee recommended the ownership and control by an independent utility corporation of the railways and long-distance road transport. To the degree that this Bill nationalises the railways, canals, and ports, we think it is a good step. I would differ from the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) in his statement that the railways were efficient after 20 years of Tory misrule.

I did not say that. I said that the first step in my programme of reform would be to restore them to that state of efficiency which they had after 20 years of Tory misrule.

I was under the impression that the purport of the hon. Members remarks was to convey the impression that they were efficient under Tory misrule.

The hon. Member implies that they were efficient under Tory misrule. However, let us agree merely on the description of Tory government. That was not so in the rural districts. In the rural areas the railways have not been efficient; they have established a monopoly, and their service, particularly in North Wales, has deteriorated. Rolling stock is often in an appalling condition; in some parts of North Wales carriages run by the London Midland and Scottish Railway still carry the name "London North Western Railway," and still have the same old seats. There was an overwhelming case for bringing those monopolies—for monopolies they were—within public ownership, mad for making them responsible to a Minister, and to this House. But this Bill will set up in those rural areas a monopoly of all forms of transport which cannot deal in a flexible manner with the needs of the rural areas. As I said, particularly in rural districts like North Wales, the limit of 25 miles for B licences is far too rigid for country districts, where people need to send their goods to the ports of Liverpool and Manchester, and the market towns of Shrewsbury and Chester. At present there is adequate choice, and a flexibility of system well suited to the needs of those areas. That will be removed when the Bill comes into operation, and it is no small criticism of the Bill that the very proposal to extend the limit of operations for private operators was debarred from discussion on Report stage. That was one of the most vital provisions of the Bill, and yet those of us who were not on the Standing Committee had no opportunity of discussing a matter which must affect our constituents, and the prosperity of the transport industry. In his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister said that it was

"the largest and most extensive socialisation Measure ever presented to a free, democratic Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c 1617.]
If his description of it as the
"largest and most extensive socialisation Measure"
was a correct one, and I think it was correct; the example quoted by the hon. Member for North Battersea does not bear any comparison with this Bill. If the description is correct, there cannot have been any justification at all for forcing the major part of this Bill through this House as it was forced on the Report stage. Even apart from the merits of the Bill, it might have been adequate reason in itself for opposing its Third Reading, that the Government made a travesty of Parliamentary procedure in order to get the Bill through in the form in which it then was. It was a hastily drafted Bill, and the fact that it was a hastily drafted Bill was made evident by the scores, indeed hundreds, of Amendments proceeding from the Minister himself. It was ill considered, as was made evident by the withdrawal of the C licences. Only in the Second reading Debate the Minister said that the C licences
"will not be used as an instrument to sabotage the ma in purpose of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, C. 1631.]
He defended the inclusion of the C licences on the ground that if they were excluded this Bill would be sabotaged. Yet, on the Standing Committee, the Minister is apparently prepared even to see the Bill sabotaged and to leave the C licences out. I think it was a good concession, but I am not so sure that it was a concession to small owners. I am not so sure that it was not a concession to big business and big monopolies, of which the Co-operative Society might be mentioned as one. The Minister said the Bill would be carried out through the normal Parliamentary procedure and yet, after the Second Reading Debate, while the Bill was still in Committee, Parliamentary procedure was altered along novel lines to enable the Bill to be drastically pushed through the House. The hon. Member for North Battersea said that someone in his division said he did not want any dilly-dallying, and asked why the Government were dilly-dallying about the Bill. If there was any dillydallying with this Bill, it was the dillydallying with the C licences which was the worst example.

The right hon. Member the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) mentioned that it was possible to spend too much time on the compensation Clauses and that we should devote the greater part of our attention to the operation of the system. There may be some truth in that. There may also be some truth in the statement that some people may have to bear hardship. But we, on this Liberal Bench at least, consider that it is the duty of hon. Members of this House to pay as much regard to individual hardship, wherever it lies, as to the interests of the State itself. We cannot excuse a method of acquisition merely by saying that the interests of the community require it. Here the State wants the property, but the State itself has determined not merely the method of acquiring it, but how much it shall pay for it. Really, the argument that the Minister used that he had no reason to suppose that, had he set up an impartial tribunal, it would have arrived at a different conclusion, was a most puerile way of approaching the matter. The tribunal might have arrived at this conclusion, but the Minister was in the position of a man who takes by force a chattel from his fellow and then says: "Do not go to court about it, because the judge may very well give judgment in my favour." The Minister was prejudging the issue from the first. That showed that the right hon. Gentleman did not even understand the nature of the question involved. More than a million stockholders are being affected by the Bill. Railway stocks were trustee securities. A large number of them—no one knows how many, but possibly they run into hundreds of thousands—have been held by people who were in receipt of small dividends and were just able to pay their way. The dividend may have marked the difference for them between some degree of comfort and some reasonable standard of life, or being thrown into insecurity arid near-poverty.

The Government have missed a great opportunity. There is a need for reconstruction and capital expenditure on the railways. The Government could have nationalised the railways and canals and have referred the question of compensation to an independent tribunal. The Government could have run an integrated service. With the nationalisation of the railways would have come automatically the nationalisation of the road transport owned by the railways. There was no obstacle in the way of the Government taking the railways and the road transport owned by the railways and of developing them into an integrated system. They could have permitted a competing system by private enterprise with the incentives which this would have provided. The Government have missed the opportunity. They have divided the country at a time when a need for unity exists, and will exist for a number of years. It is not a coincidence that on this Transport Bill great journals like "The Times," the "Manchester Guardian," the "Economist" and the "News Chronicle," which have consistently supported the Government, are now telling them that they have taken a wrong turn.

It is not a small thing that the Liberal Party also say the same thing. We shall vote against the Bill, believing that it will not produce an integrated system but will establish a monopoly upon an unfair basis. We believe that the division between the Road Executive and the Railway Executive will be fatal to integration. Consultative Committees for transport users' committees are to be established. I am glad that one is to be established for Wales. It is novel for the Minister of Transport to pay any attention to Wales. His attitude has been reactionary throughout towards Wales as, for instance, regarding the translation of the Highway Code and a north to south trunk road. We have no reason to suppose that the Consultative Committee for Wales, with merely advisory powers, will be other than a pallid and feeble organisation. It does not give us any confidence. For the reasons I have given, we shall vote against the Third Reading of the Bill.

7.14 p.m.

I have listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and I think he failed on behalf of his party to adduce any argument why this House should refuse a Third Reading to the Bill. He suggested that we ought to have nationalised only the railways and left the rest of the transport industry to free enterprise. If the Bill had done that, I believe that this party and this Government would have completely jailed to deal with the position which existed in this country before the recent war. It would have failed to deal with a transport situation which successive Commissions and inquiries said demanded unification and co-ordination. The hon. Member also accused those responsible for the Bill of having "dillydallied" with the C licences. I noticed that he very carefully skated round the concession that was made. It seemed to me that the hon. Member was anxious to wound but was afraid to strike.

I said categorically that I was in favour of the exemption of the C licences.

In your suggestion, you carefully went round it, and you eventually came to consider striking at the co-ops.

The hon. Member is mistaken. I was not striking at the co-ops.

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Of course, I should be addressing you, and not the hon. Member opposite. Among the points which have been· made during this Debate was one by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that there had not been sufficient time to discuss a Bill of this magnitude. I have been in this House since 1945, and I have carefully watched the procedure upon all Bills. I have come to the conclusion that the Parliamentary machine was devised in the Victorian age by Tory-minded people in order to prevent legislation and not to facilitate its passage through this House. Much of the procedure of this House appears to me to be carefully devised to protract discussion and to prevent action. It is time that the Government set about the task of speeding up legislation, as it has done on this Bill by the introduction of the Guillotine and the other measures which have been taken to get the Bill through.

We must not follow too far along the line of discussion touched upon by the hon. Member for Oxford. It seemed to me that for a large part of the time he was out of Order. I shall address my remarks mainly to one aspect of the Bill, the relationship between the management and the workers in the industry after the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. These two sides of the industry will have to work under an entirely new set of conditions. As might be well known, I am a member of a great trade union, which has in the past played a very honourable part in ensuring that this industry worked reasonably well, particularly during the recent war. In that connection it ill-becomes the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) to talk about a railway trade union being a feather-bed trade union. He, surely, is a member of a union which is a feather-bed union, and one which has, from time to time in this House, prepared soft spots upon which it might fall.

The Act of 1921 set up machinery of negotiation that worked moderately well. There were periods of ups and downs from the angle of the employees and probably more downs than ups. At least that is how it has seemed to people who were working in the industry but it is no use blaming the machine which was set up in 1921 for the economic conditions within which it had to work. The conditions within which it worked were those of the slump and strife which marked the inter-war period, the period for which the Tory Party were mainly responsible. The contacts between the two sides of the industry, however, were in the main well adjusted, to meet what was set down in the Act of 1921, namely, to provide for the discussion of the terms and conditions of service. In that direction it worked reasonably well, but what it failed to do, and what it was never intended to do, was to permit the worker to have anything like a share in the running of the industry. Every time there was any suggestion that the workers were discussing the efficiency of the industry in which they were engaged, the management side would always say to the employees, "Keep out, this is management."

I am sure the House would value it if the hon. Member would say what share the workers will get in the running of the industry under this Bill?

The old position was one of conflict. There was continual struggle between the two sides about how the loaf was to be shared out—I will not call it a cake, it was more of a loaf than a cake. That position will no longer obtain after this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, and I believe that the emphasis must be placed more and more upon securing a larger loaf to distribute rather than upon the distribution of the existing loaf. More and more, must we press to have the size of the loaf increased. To do this, we are faced with the problem of establishing relationships which will produce the larger loaf without having the threat of unemployment hanging over the workers. We must change from a "they" attitude to an "our" attitude within the industry. I do not believe that we shall secure this merely by telling the workers that they have changed their boss, and must now have a completely different outlook on the industry in which they are working. I do not believe we can do it merely by telling them that they have altered their status and relationship to the community. It can be done by giving the worker a greater share in the running of the industry and a greater chance to bring his unique experience to bear on the task of framing policy and assisting in management.

Would the hon. Member allow me to intervene, although I am afraid we are getting very close to being out of Order, as there is nothing about this in the Bill? I think it is surprising that the hon. Member is aware of any such provision, in view of the fact that the Bill was guillotined and on much of it we had no discussion at all. Therefore, hon. Members of this House cannot have the opportunity of knowing what was in it.

Surely we all have the opportunity of reading the Bill. I know what is in the Bill, and I know its Clauses, despite the fact that I had not the opportunity of sitting in the Committee with the righ hon. Member opposite.

I shall come to that in a moment. It will not be easy to achieve what I was urging, because there is a century and a half of habit behind the machinery with which we are dealing, and we can only secure what I am aiming at, if Clause 95 is properly used. In Clause 95, hon. Members will find that there is a sentence which refers to discussions of subjects,

"including efficiency in the operation of the Commission's services."
I believe that sentence will give the employees an opportunity of participating in the framing of policy and of bringing their experience to bear upon the efficiency of the Commission. If those words were not included by the Minister with some purpose such as that, I hope he will tell us why they are there at all. I hope that the Commission will also use the power which it has of providing an educational machine within the industry. which will give the humblest worker a chance of rising to the top provided that he shows he has the capacity. He needs to be given the feeling of belonging to the industry, and I hope the Minister, through the Commission, will ensure that such an educational machine is, in fact, set up.

Without a new understanding and a new approach by both sides of the industry to the task which awaits us, I believe this Bill will fail. I believe that upon co-operation between the Commission and the employees in the industry will depend the whole future and success of the transport industry and, therefore, of the country, in which the transport industry has such a great part to play. Success will be endangered unless we ensure that there is this co-operation between both sides of the industry. I welcome the Bill, I believe that the trade unions and the men working in the industry, given a chance to participate in the framing of policy and in day to day management, will in fact ensure the co-operation which will bring success.

7.25 p.m.

We have heard from two hon. Members opposite observations upon this Bill which have led us to a consideration of trade unionism and trade union relationships under the Bill. Indeed, the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. Haworth), with eyes gleaming, said that today represented the high light of achievement, which he and his colleagues in the trade union movement had struggled for during many years. I can understand, of course, that if you have struggled for a quarter of a century, then when the day comes you feel exuberant, but I wonder how deeply he and the hon. Member for South Derby (Mr. Champion) have pondered exactly what a nationalisation Measure of this kind will, in fact, mean to the trade union movement. They have, in the past, been accustomed to dealing with employers, against whom they could fight. In short, they were on level terms. Do they realise that in future they are bound eventually to come to a clash with the State?

Is not the hon. and gallant Member aware that there have been trade unions dealing with Government Departments such as the Post Office for scores of years?

Yes, but that does not remove the danger, and in my view sooner or later a clash is bound to arise between the trade unions and the Government, who are responsible for the running of the nationalised industry. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that is what has happened in countries abroad, and eventually the status of trade unionism has been reduced to that of a mere debating body pressing certain measures upon the Government but forced to accept with resignation the government's decision, having really no power to enforce their views. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have you ever been a member of a trade union?"] Because one has not been a member of a trade union does not mean, as the hon. Member has tried to show by his interruption, that one is not qualified to speak. I have never noticed that hon. Members opposite have found it necessary to pay Surtax before giving us the benefit of their views upon Surtax or other taxation. I believe that those members of trade unions who see far into the future will begin to be apprehensive, as indeed we know some of them are already, about the spread of nationalisation throughout the main industries of this country and about what their own future is to be. I believe that, ultimately, they will come to the conclusion that their best friends are to be found on this side of the House.

It was somewhat difficult to follow the dexterous arithmetic of the Minister when he tried to justify the amount of time that had been given for the discussion of this great Measure and said that it had, in fact, been adequate. The right hon. Gentleman used the most curious logic. He said that 18 months ago the country knew all about what was coming, and, moreover, after the Measure had passed from this House, it would go to another place. Consequently, the Minister inferred that all the consideration was to take place outside the House of Commons. If that sort of argument were continued to its logical conclusion, it would lead to one saying that if only the country were told three or four years before what was to be done. and if the Measure were left to be debated at considerable length in another place, we might as well all pack up and go home. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] If that is the view of hon. Members opposite, I suggest that they do so very quickly. Then, as though to knock down all his own arguments, the Minister produced an impressive list of changes that had been made in the construction of the Bill. He told us of the discussions that had taken place outside the Chamber and in Committee, and said how valuable they had been, and then said that when a thing is discussed either in Committee or with outside bodies, one often arrives at an improvement. How can it be argued then, in view of the fact that 37 Clauses and seven Schedules were not discussed at all in Committee, and that taking in the Report stage 36 Clauses and Schedules were not discussed, that the Bill would not have been improved, considering the improvements that were made in those parts of the Bill that were discussed, if the whole Bill had received proper discussion?

Is it not a fact that in Committee two days were spent by the Opposition in obtaining the correct definition of the word "sure"?

There was no purposeful delay or obstruction in Committee. I can tell hon. Members opposite that when the Opposition were considering the Amendments to put on the Order Paper, we used to cut out, because of the shortage of time, many Amendments which we thought desirable. The Minister said that the Bill had received 127 hours of Parliamentary time, 50 hours being on the Floor of the House. The reason that amount of time is inadequate is that this is not really one Bill, but four Bills. It covers railways, road transport—and there are two very important different sides to road transport—ports, and inland water- ways, and any one of those great undertakings ought, if properly handled, to have a Bill of its own and full discussion. if we look at past records, we find that, in 1934, the Unemployment Bill received 103 hours of consideration on the Floor of the House. Although the Unemployment Bill was an important Measure, when that amount of time was spent on it, we can only protest that not more than 50 hours have been spent on this terrific Measure which spreads its tentacles far wider than any other Measure that has ever been before the House. We express our complete dissatisfaction. Hon. Members opposite have only to put their fingers on the pulse of the country to realise—they can see it from the Press—how anxious the country is about this travesty of free discussion.

It is difficult on the Third Reading to prevent oneself from straying outside what is in the Bill into the area of unfulfilled hopes of what we might have got into the Bill or what might have been left out, and it becomes all the more difficult to do so when so much of the Bill is still obscure to us. We wanted to ask a great deal about the meaning of the 37 Clauses that were not discussed, and I think the Minister genuinely wanted to explain them, but as they were not explained, we are dealing with a modern mystery, almost as mysterious as the postwar sausage. In frying to debate and analyse what is in either one or the other, we are at a great disadvantage in not knowing its composition. The sausage simile might be carried further: one saw the Guillotine falling upon strings of Amendments and Clauses and cutting them off in a line for the consumption of the people of this country. There may be horse in the sausage, but was there horse sense in those Clauses and Amendments? Today we are conducting an autopsy on the railways and the road transport of this country as we have known them up to now. From what did these great industries die? They died by the Guillotine. I would like to remind the Minister that Dr. Guillotine, who invented that ingenious and infernal instrument, eventually perished by it himself.

Without transgressing into an area which would be out of Order, I would say that there are three major principles which stand out in this Bill, and those major principles have been violated The first is the refusal to accept the method of arbitration. Arbitration was Asked for throughout the country in connection with the railways and their compensation. The Minister tried to make out a specious case why that would not have got us any further. He said that at no point in the discussions was it ever shown that an independent tribunal dealing with compensation would have varied it very much from what the Bill gives. Surely, if he felt like that, he ought to have justified his action in the eyes of all fairminded people by allowing arbitration to take place and by providing for it in the Bill, where there is doubt. What is this fear of a neutral tribunal? What is this fear of arbitration. Surely, it must make every thinking man wonder whether the Government have not got something they want to hide, and are unwilling to come out into the open and plead their case. At present the Government are prosecutor, judge and jury in their own cause, and that is a great violation of the principles of justice.

This House is always regarded as being the custodian of justice. It is abandoning that role. Justice, to use a modern colloquialism, is indivisible. We cannot have partial justice. Either we are just or we are unjust. If the Government had wanted to prove to the country that they had no unjust intentions in these compensations, then they should have accepted the principle of arbitration by independent tribunals. I should regret the day—I hope it has not dawned, but it appears to have—when the British public, British individuals, British institutions, are no longer to have the right to be able to plead their case before a body which is completely unbiased. If this principle of being judge, accuser and jury in one's own cause is to be continued, then the very principles of justice in this country will be destroyed by the present Government.

Leading from that, we have the treatment of the local authorities. Again, we tried to make our protest that there should be one system of compensation, one form of treatment, for individuals, private concerns, and quite a different one for local authorities. Local authorities are bunches of ratepayers, and ratepayers are individuals. If we have one method of treating an individual by himself, and a different system for compensating the local authorities, what deleterious and harmful lesson are the Government, in fact, teaching the country in this part of the Bill? Quite clearly, it is that spendthrift, inefficient, wasteful local authorities with high debt charges are to have disproportionately good treatment; because where, on the other hand, we have economical, efficient local authorities carrying out their duties well, and where there is a low rate of debt charges, they get exactly that low rate taken over under the Bill. So we are putting a premium on wastefulness and inefficiency. I hope that this will not be regarded by local authorities as a precedent of wider import, so that in the future they will say to themselves, "Let us chuck money about. The more we chuck it about the more compensation we shall get under any nationalisation."

Finally, I want to draw attention to the anxiety that is felt in my country at the continued centralisation of control in London. We have pressed continually for decentralisation. We have—and it cannot be too often repeated—shown the Minister and the House that Scotland has a different rating system, a different law system, and a different land tenure system. Each of these differences, fundamental differences, creates terrific problems. When the Lord President spoke in favour of decentralisation, we thought that we had seen the signs of the recognition of the special problems that impose themselves upon us from these three factors, as well as those of geography and climate. It is beyond the wit of people sitting in London, to be able to have their fingers on the pulses of these problems and to be able to treat these problems properly. How can it be justified that in civil aviation, in transport, in coal, the Government have set up the main control 400 miles away from the scene of the industrial activities? It is sheer madness to suggest we are going to get the best management in a system of that kind. The exigencies of time prevented my hon. Friends and myself from arguing the case for a separate Executive. The Minister has given us a special Scottish Transport Advisory Committee. But we have seen what that has meant, so far as the Scottish committee on civil aviation has been concerned. It has led us exactly nowhere. If this Transport Users Advisory Committee does no more for Scottish interests than that body has done in civil aviation, then it is going to do nothing at all. There is deep-seated anxiety in Scotland. This is no party matter. No Member on this side of the House or on the other, wants to fan up a flame of this kind for political reasons. But I do tell the Government and hon. Members that wherever they travel in Scotland they will hear this being discussed. The solution is a much more difficult question. The answer we would have advocated had time allowed was never presented, never properly argued in Committee or in this House. It would have been that each of these industries in Scotland, with its separate problems, should have its own board, its own executive, not on the highest level, for we have not come to asking for a board on the highest level, but on the second level.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that when the 1921 Act was passed, the Scottish companies specifically asked to come into the English and Welsh system, and did not want to stand on their own?

That was an entirely different set of circumstances, I suggest; because we were not having a nationalised industry. That was under private enterprise, where one can, in fact, get at the people in control, if one wants to hit them, through the shareholders. But here, there is no such chance at all, except by the concession of and facilities given by the Advisory Committee, to whom one may go, and who may pass on one's complaint, and may pass it on with vehemence, though I doubt it: they may pass it on just as lip service. We do not ask for a special Commission in Scotland, but a body on the lower level of the Executive. We should have had that recognition. All we have got in the Bill—and I say it is inadequate—is the Transport Users Advisory Council. So I end by registering my emphatic protest at the way Scottish interests have been treated in this and other nationalisation Bills.

7.48 p.m.

When Patrick Henry first exclaimed:

"Oh, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name,"
he must have come fresh from listening to a Tory speaker in the House of Commons, because I cannot find any word which is more often used in the Debates of this House than the word "liberty." The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) a few weeks ago quoted examples of how Tory Members, going back to 150 years, always opposed each new proposal, each new step forward, by mouthing phrases about "the attack upon the liberties of the people." I must confess that my experience, in listening to all the Debates on this Bill, both in this House and upstairs in Committee, has taught me a great deal more about Parliamentary life and the Parliamentary machine than I knew before. Having worked for some 25 years in the industry on the administrative side I claim to have some knowledge of this subject. I have been amazed at the speeches I have listened to by hon. Members on this particular subject. I have been amazed at the amount of words they have been able to use with so little real knowledge of the subject. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) is not here. Frankly, I think it is just as well that he had much better material at Nuremberg than he had here, or our enemies would have been acquitted. We heard at every stage of this Bill very excellent briefs, but they were, in the main, delivered by people who know tremendously little about the subject. I do not blame them. They have a perfect right, as public representatives, to come here and talk about subjects, whether they know anything about them or not. It is their privilege, and perhaps their duty, but I think they might have a little humility when presenting their case.

During the Committee stage, they complained about the lack of time for the discussion of important Amendments. Some of us really thought it was a little too much to take 11 meetings of the Committee to discuss four Clauses of the Bill. We are charged with dictatorial behaviour because the Government refused to comply with their request, yet 11 Committee meetings were taken up with the discussion on four Clause. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are members of various boards of directors of one kind or another. I have always found, in my association with members of boards of directors who have also been Members of Parliament, that it was amazing how quickly they got rid of big decisions when there was a board meeting, and how much time they wanted to discuss them here. Before the war, this House was known throughout the British Empire as "The Talking Shop," "The Gas House" and all kinds of ruder epithets in the vernacular of the people, and it was the party opposite who made it so, because they insisted in talking for so long about matters which required little or no discussion, but which were, in the main, generally agreed.

I will give way later. I am convinced from my rereading of the Committee stage of this Bill that adequate consideration has been given to all the major points put forward by the Opposition. Hon. Members opposite have expressed a desire to improve the Bill on more than one occasion, yet the majority of Amendments put forward by the Opposition were alterations of points of principle, in the main. For example, they wanted tribunals to consider the areas of the local schemes, which was obviously quite impracticable, because the purpose of the area scheme could not be dealt with by tribunals of that sort. They wanted a larger Commission, and they wanted to increase the number of civil servants, when we, who are always accused of wanting more civil servants, were content with a small Commission. Apart from that, most of their Amendments were aimed directly at the main purposes of the Bill, and could not, therefore, have been regarded as sincere attempts to improve it. They were obviously attempts to put over their point of view when it could not possibly have been accepted.

There were certain hon. Members of the party opposite—as they are not here, I will not mention their names—and particularly one hon. Member, who spent enormous time, if not in purposeful obstruction, at any rate in attacking hon. Members on the Government side of the Committee and accusing them of remaining silent and docile, and a good deal of valuable time was wasted in that way. It is said that we took too long to discuss the compensation parts of the Bill. I do not blame the Opposition for discussing compensation. After all, it is their duty to look after the interests which they represent. They are the accredited representatives of stockholders and share- holders, and I do not see why they should be so humble in the fine work they are doing in defending those interests. It was said by the right hon. and learned Member for the West Derby Division that it was a question of a summer holiday rather than giving adequate time to this Bill, and that we were not prepared to give up our holiday. I seem to remember that, in the years before the war, when unemployment was a burning issue, and, in many respects, a much more important issue than this Bill, we did our best as a minority to persuade Parliament to give up some of its holiday to tackling this problem, but without any success whatever. In 1934, the Unemployment Bill may have—

On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to refer to that Bill, which has nothing whatever to do with the Bill which we are discussing today?

I take it that the hon. Member was simply using it as an illustration. It would be out of Order to go into the details.

I find the Opposition's approach to this Bill, in relation to their constituents and the public generally, rather like that of the Fat Boy in "Pickwick Papers," who used to say "I wants to make your flesh creep." I think their attitude to all these nationalisation Bills is based upon a desire to frighten other people into thinking that something terrible is going to happen. All the things which they have said about this Bill they said about the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, and they have ignored the fact that, since the vesting date under that Act, production has been going up—[Interruption.] Hon. Members have not bothered to look at the figures. The production figures are improving—

I cannot allow the hon. Member to continue that argument. He is getting right away from the Bill.

What I was going to say was that, even if the Transport Bill, after only three or four months following the vesting day, should prove only as successful as the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, the Opposition will continue to ignore it in just the same way. It is true, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby said, that the Bill will not have much effect before the day when the American loan is expected to be exhausted; in other words, according to what we are told, in about 15 months. The vesting day of the Bill is about seven months or so ahead, and there will be only a few months in which the Bill will have had a chance to show its purpose.

There is, however, one direction in which we shall see some improvement, and that is in respect of the morale of the workers in the industry. This question cannot be belittled and washed away as though of no importance. There was a time when the morale of the owner, or of the owner-manager, was the most important thing in the industry, but that day has gone by. While the morale of the manager is still a very important factor, the morale of the worker has become of increasing importance, and it is a fact today that the great mass of our people are no longer prepared to give the greatest part of their energies in what they believe to be the pursuit of profit for the few who own the industry in which they are engaged. That factor has been deep in the minds of the railway workers for two generations, and we know that, on 1st January next year, there will be that tremendous surge upwards in the hearts of railway workers. [Laughter.] The hon. Member may laugh, but we who are in the industry know. We know men who have looked forward to it and who have worked for it, we know men who have been sacked from the railways because they fought for it, and we know that there will be a great surge forward on the part of the workers in the railway industry, because they will feel for the first time, like the miners, that they have a stake in the industry, and that under the provisions of Clause 95, they will have an opportunity to use their brains and initiative in shaping the new management. It is because of that that I believe that, in the relatively short period prior to the enormous schemes of re-organisation and re-equipment which will be needed, we shall see some improvement in the industry.

A good deal has been said about the powers of the Minister, especially by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby. It seems to me extraordinarily strange that, while the Opposition should not object to the powers of private dictators at the heads of private industry, and have no objection to a man like Henry Ford—a man with vast powers, answerable to no one and having complete authority—they should object to the nominees of a democratically elected Parliament taking over the management of publicly owned industry. What is wrong about it? Why should not a man who is elected by the people to represent them, and who is then chosen by our Parliamentary system to become a Minister of the Crown, have a deciding voice? He can be removed if necessary, his policy can be criticised, and what he has done can be brought before Parliament and discussed. It is quite illogical to argue that Henry Ford was perfectly safe as the director of his vast machine, while our own Minister of Transport is unfitted to have power of interference in the new transport industry of the country.

In the main, this Bill has been opposed by selfish vested interest. The road hauliers have been most vociferous and hostile in their attitude, not because they are concerned about the public interest, but because they are losing the power which they had as private traders. All the opposition has come from private interests, and all the support from the public and the traders interested in the other side of the business.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what trading organisation and what formidable body of traders expressed their admiration for this Measure?

I did not say "formidable body of traders." I have no permission to name any particular association, but, if the hon. Gentleman will see me privately, no doubt we can come to some arrangement. The fact is that this Bill is not designed for a few thousand road hauliers; it is designed for 47 million British people. We believe that it is in the interest of the whole nation that this Bill should be passed. Those of us in the transport industry believe that we can produce a far more efficient transport machine than has existed hitherto. Those of us connected with the organisation and with the efficient working of the industry believe that, with the greater powers which this Bill gives us to co-ordinate and to integrate the industry, we shall make possible an enormous saving in manpower. Side by side with this, we believe that we shall be able to give the people of the country a better service, more frequent trains and more comfortable accommodation in rolling stock and hotels, and, above all, that we can do something which the Opposition have never succeeded in doing—make a million workers happy in their job.

8.4 p.m.

Like the hands of the clock that move forward and will not be stayed, the passage of this Bill, of course, will not be delayed. But, as one who has taken part in the Committee stage of this Bill and who has studied its passage through all its other stages, and who has had an opportunity to discuss it with hon. Members in all parts of the House, I wonder tonight how many hon. Members there are, in any part of the House, who are entirely happy about the Bill and about its passage. I know, of course, that there are those who have fought for this day for years and years, and I have the greatest respect for them. As far as the railways are concerned, it is the culmination of something for which they have been fighting.

This is a Measure which, as has so often been said, affects the private and commercial life of the whole country. It involves the transfer of properties valued at over £1,000 million. I thought that the Minister—and I say this with respect—showed an unusual harshness and some unkindness when he dubbed the criticism that was made as silly and said that the number of Amendments which had been put down was an indication of that folly. But even after all those Amendments there is one matter, to which the Parliamentary Secretary has been kind enough to give considerable thought and about which he has been most helpful, which still causes great concern. It is the membership of the clearing house superannuation fund, in so far as it affects bodies which are not being taken over. I am thinking particularly of the Great Northern Railway. I wonder whether, even at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, the Minister would be good enough to go into that matter once again. I believe that those for whom I speak are satisfied that the interests of the employees have been safeguarded, but there is still concern and uneasiness among the contributors to that fund.

During the Report stage, an hon. Member from this side of the House inter- rupted the Minister and said that 1st January, 1948, was to be D-Day. The Minister retorted that, for him and his party, it was not D-Day, but victory day. I have been thinking a good deal about that. After all, D-Day was not a bad day; it was the day which led to victory, and, if D-Day stood for anything at all, it stood for unanimity, for co-ordination and for the really good start of a very great movement. Therefore, while I fully understand what the Minister meant when he said that he thought of 1st January, 1948, as victory day, I would put in one last plea as one who has had a little experience in these matters. Even if a little more time were taken so as to get all these intricate and difficult matters straightened out it would, in my opinion, be time well spent. I suggest that a day still further forward should be set which could be called victory day from this point of view.

8.8 p.m.

An hon. Member opposite mentioned the fact that the inventor of the guillotine had perished by that infernal instrument. I think it would be as well to remind hon. Members opposite that it was they who invented this Parliamentary instrument, and that, perhaps, the conclusion to which they come will not be a very happy one.

I support the Third Reading of this Bill because I think it is a fair Measure, in which the Government have clearly stated their proposals and indicated exactly what forms of transport they wish to nationalise and co-ordinate The. Measure has been published for the whole country to see, to understand, and to criticise. As far as I can gather, no real alternative whatever has been suggested by anyone. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) indicated that he intended to give us an alternative. I listened to his speech very carefully, but it seemed to me to deal more with fossilised Conservatism and G. K. Chesterton weeds than with any real alternative to the Government Measure. The right hon. Member the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir, A. Salter) also spoke of an alternative. When he did so, he referred to a Commission, but did not say what sort of a Commission, what its size would be, or what power it would have. He indicated that by the use of taxation, it might succeed in getting some measure of co-ordination and integration. With regard to the railways he used the words, "If we nationalise them, or if we leave them as they are," which, I thought, was a delightful indication of what he wanted to do with them. Then he said he was not opposing nationalisation; afterwards he interjected that he was against nationalisation. If that is a sample of the scheme which is seriously to be put forward as an alternative to this great Measure, I would say that if it were referred to any tribunal, it would not have much chance of being accepted.

The other attempt to give us an alternative to the Government's scheme was made by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). In the Second Reading Debate, he said:
"First of all, let us stop this chant about co-ordination, integration and unification."
He made one further reference when he said:
"… we believe in a progressive increase in the flow of new entrants into the transport industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 2036–7.]
I submit that none of these alternatives can be seriously regarded as a scheme which the nation could adopt in order to get us over our present difficulties. The most impressive thing of all is the complete silence of the front Opposition Bench in this matter. No real alternative to the Government's proposals has been suggested by the Opposition.

I ask the House to consider what would be the result if this Measure were not proceeded with. We have two alternatives left to us—to hand the railways back to the directors and shareholders, or to continue the present system of Government control. If we followed either of these courses the House would be failing in its duty. Assuming that we handed the railways back to their present owners, what would be the position? The Minister himself in his Second Reading speech referred to the position of the London and North-Eastern Railway. If we handed the railways back to their present owners, the position of the London and North-Eastern Railway would be such, that disaster would be bound to follow for the people of the country. The London and North-Eastern Railway would be unable to bring its system up to date. The Minister mentioned that the average age of the rolling stock and engines on the L.N.E.R. was 32 years, and I submit that under modern conditions that state of affairs could not continue for long, and we should have in these separate railway managements the possibility of a clear disaster for the nation.

Would the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene to deny the figures he gave? They are certainly not true as far as rolling stock is concerned.

Assuming we take that figure for locomotives only—the right hon. Gentleman, apparently, does not deny it as far as locomotives are concerned—the situation is bad enough, even if the question of rolling stock and other equipment is in doubt at the moment. If this House were to take the course to which I have referred we should be heading straight for complete disaster.

I am sorry to interrupt again, but the physical difficulty of getting the locomotives, not the question of paying for them, is the problem.

That physical difficulty has not existed during the years in which this position has been allowed to arise. It has been due to the neglect and the inability of past administrations of the London and North Eastern Railway to obtain these things. I am not blaming the management of the L.N.E.R., or the workers. The prime responsibility rests on the Government which allowed this situation to arise. If we decided to hand the railway system back to private enterprise, disaster would overtake us. I do not believe that in a competitive world the wages and conditions of the workers would attain that standard which we believe is necessary. We should head straight for industrial struggle and strife if such a position were allowed to arise.

The hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (Major Haughton) said there was hardly anyone in this House who was really happy about the Bill. We on this side of the House are perfectly happy about the Bill, as far as it goes. We have a few misgivings on the question of C licences, and I hope the Minister will have a careful look at that question. At any rate, the conditions concerning wages and hours as regards A and B transport should certainly operate also for C licences which, I am advised, do not at present come under those conditions. It is a great responsibility for the trade union movement, as well as for the Government, to see that this position is not exploited and that it is only genuinely used for the service of industry, as it is intended to be.

Much has been said about the question of obstruction, and the senior Burgess for Oxford University carefully explained that no one on the Front Bench had suggested that before the Guillotine procedure was applied, there had been any obstruction. He went on to say that no responsible Member of the Government had made any such suggestion. He said, "I am well aware that the hon. Member for Eccles made these suggestions." I am going to repeat them. When we were upstairs and considered the first Clauses of the Bill, the calculations were that if we continued at the rate of progress which we were then making, it would take three years to pass the Bill. That is a matter for careful consideration by any responsible Government, and I am glad that this Government did consider it. We spent 2½ hours—one whole sitting—on one word, the word "safety." The Minister had given the guarantee that he would look at the Amendment sympathetically, and that if it could be brought into the Bill without any legal complications, that would be done. So far as I understand Parliamentary procedure, any Member who receives such a guarantee from a Minister invariably accepts it.

I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to mislead Members of this House who were not there, but does he not recollect that it was for that very reason—that the Minister would not give any guarantee—that the discussion continued for so long, and the right hon. Gentleman finally gave it at the very end? It was the Minister who was obstructing, if anyone was.

My recollection is very clear in this matter. At the very beginning, the Minister gave the guarantee that he would consider the matter sympathetically, I think he repeated it a couple of times, and he certainly gave it again at the end. On one occasion when we were discussing railway hotels the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite) said that many things took place in railway hotels and someone interjected "Primrose League meetings." We were at once treated to a dissertation on a meeting of the Primrose League. I submit that that was obstruction, and it was clear that every time a Member on the Government side interjected anything at all, it was an excuse for rambling on for a considerable time on the subject under discussion. There was no alternative for the position which had to be adopted. It has been clearly stated in this House that the Government representatives offered the Opposition a time table for this Bill. That offer was refused, and the Government had, therefore, no alternative but to adopt this procedure of the Guillotine to get the Bill through.

There has been an Opposition plot in this matter, and I am not sure that this plot has finished yet. I say that the Opposition desired to use the Parliamentary machine in such a manner as to prevent the will of the people from being carried out. I believe that unless the Government had adopted this procedure, which allows us to compel the Opposition to let this Bill go through, we should have lost the Bill. Before the Bill passes from here I wish to draw attention to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton). He said that we had not got our Bill yet, and he referred to the possibility of an act of God interfering. I do not know whether he was implying an act of the Lord or of the Lords—if one thus may mention the other place. I say to the Tory Opposition in this House that if there is any attempt to interfere with the will of the people in this matter, we shall have to deal with it.

Will the hon. Member tell me why he thinks that this is the will of the people, because not 50 per cent. of the people voted for the Government?

I will explain at once why it is the will of the people. Take the votes cast for Labour—

This is quite an interesting observation, but it can proceed no further.

You, Sir, have saved the right hon. Gentleman from a clear demonstration of proof. I shall have to offer to see the right hon. Gentleman privately.

I believe that this great Bill is absolutely necessary to the continued existence of our nation. I believe that if we recognise, as the whole country does, that a successful transport system that is cheap and efficient can be of the greatest use to British industry, we shall be rendering to our community the greatest service that we can render at the present time. I end with an appeal to hon. Members opposite not to try to obstruct something which is absolutely inevitable and absolutely necessary. As far back as 1918, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition recognised the necessity for the nationalisation of the railways. I want hon. Members opposite to recognise that we have progressed a little since then, and that it is perfectly logical and proper that we should nationalise the whole transport system of this country, and thus confer on the country the really efficient system, which is so absolutely necessary for our welfare.

8.26 p.m.

I feel that I ought to crave the indulgence of the House, because after all these hours which we have been told by the Minister we have had for the discussion of this Measure, this is my maiden speech on this Transport Bill. I know how genuine the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) was in what he said. I also know how frightfully wrong he was; he seemed to be very confused. He utterly ignored six years of war and the fact that our transport system served us through that war efficiently and well, which it could not have done had it been in the appalling state which he suggested. He mentioned the age of certain equipment, but he knows full well, if he really gives consideration and thought to that point, that the real reasons are the shortage of fuel and the shortage of supplies. It is not any question of financial arrangements. These things cannot be done overnight in the state in which our country is at present, after hard years of war and i8 months of a Socialist Government.

One or two of the speeches from hon. Members opposite to which I listened were rather odd. The hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) did not, I am certain, in any way wish to misrepresent his views to the House, but he said in reference to fares and charges "Let us have a tribunal that is fair, right and proper." Then lie turned to the question of compensation and immediately charged my hon. and right hon. Friends with asking for a tribunal for the sole reason of getting more money for those concerned. Either a tribunal is just or unjust: His arguments did not tally. Then there was the extraordinary argument of an hon. Member opposite which contained an unfortunate reference to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and Nuremberg. Every Member of this House knows what a great debt we owe my right hon. and learned Friend for the discharge of his public duties at that time. As far as I could follow the hon. Member's argument, he said that the only man one could really get to judge someone who was a murderer or a torturer, was someone who had committed murder or torture. I cannot think that the hon. Member meant that, but if he will read his speech in HANSARD he will see that that was the impression he gave.

During the Second Reading of this Bill I did my best to catch your eye, Sir. Quite naturally, you had to do your best in relation to the vast number who wanted to speak, and I was one of the unfortunate ones. I sat through the whole of the Second Reading Debate. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President, and the thought that went through my mind was that old Arabic expression:
"The dog barks and the caravan passes on."
Then this Bill went upstairs to the Committee, and again one could not speak. There were certain matters in this Bill to which I particularly wished to refer. I came to the House on the Report stage, but it so happened that the Guillotine fell just before those Clauses were reached. Once more I could not speak on those Clauses. Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Minister states that there was sufficient time for the discussion of this Bill. I cannot see that in any way. Now we come to the Third Reading of what I call the birth of a new feudalism, the great monopoly which is in front of us. I do not believe that hon. Members opposite realise what, in fact, they are making. Dreadful things can come from monsters, though they may look awfully nice at the start. I would make a reference which some hon. Members may know. I would refer to the "Daily Mirror" and the Brain which apparently is trying to kill Garth. These monsters are suddenly made in the night, and they can be very dangerous indeed.

I now wish to speak about one or two of what I call these half baked proposals. In the case of the proposals in regard to ports and harbours, docks and the like, it will be remembered that the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill said:
"To set up in Great Britain a publicly owned system of inland transport other than by air, and of port facilities."
All hon. Members know that today we are dealing with a subject which will affect every man and woman in this country. If this fails, if the quick turn round of our ships is endangered, the standard of living in this country will go even lower than it has gone during 18 months of Socialist Government. I ask hon. Members why this should be so. Why should the Government suddenly wish to burst in upon our ports? Practically all of them are already public trusts and I ask the Government what is wrong with a public trust? As far as I can gather, during the Committee stage of the Bill, again and again, the Minister gave assurances saying, "Have no fear. I am the Minister and I will only alter things if required. I will deal with this gently." We are always getting this kind of thing in the House. It would appear that each Minister really thinks that he has a perpetual life. Nobody suspects that the present Minister of Transport is suddenly going to develop into a monster overnight, but we are legislating for the future. I do not know who the next Minister of Transport may be. It may be that the present Minister will never put into operation this Bill. I do not know, neither does any other hon. Member. On the question of tugs, provision is made in the Bill that this vast centralised organisation, if so required, can run its own tugs in competition.

What Clause gives the hon. Member the right to make the statement which he has just made?

Clause 65. With regard to the question of tugs and ancillary services, there is no Clause in this Bill which deals effectively with the central organisation, to prevent them, if they so wish, from running tugs and the like in such a fashion as to compete uneconomically with the people who already run these services. I am certain that the Minister would assure me, "That is not what I propose to do," but again I say that we are legislating for the future, and this safeguard is not in the Bill. I wish to refer next to the question of coastwise shipping. I will have to be very brief because I realise that this is a difficult point. I did not like to hear the hon. Member for Enfield give vent to his own feeling that it was a great pity that this had not been included in the Bill. Indeed, it would have been a far greater pity if coastwise shipping had been included, because that would have endangered our very life at sea.

If hon. Members look at page 48 of the amended Bill—we have had so many copies that it is difficult to know whether that reference is correct—they will find that Clause 39 deals with the question of the distance that road transport can travel. Reference is made to 40 miles and, in certain circumstances, to 25 miles. This may have been said in Committee—I do not know—but certainly I have not heard it on the Floor of the House. Has the Minister really considered that he is dealing with a point of geography? When dealing with, let us say, a country like Cornwall—and I say again a country like Cornwall—which tapers when it gets towards the Isles of Scilly, are we, in those circumstances, to deny to those people the same space and the same distance as that allowed to others? So far, we have not yet got transport to the point where we talk about D.U.K.Ws. We are not dealing with the sea, but with the land, yet here is this statement in the Bill. I am opposed to the Bill altogether, but I think that mention should have been made of that point.

What I fear in connection with all these matters concerning the nationalisation of transport, is that hon. Members opposite approach the subject with two minds. The first mind is rather that this is going to be a great national interest in the service of the people. That is their first mind. I believe they are honestly directed towards that point but they seem totally unmindful of the question, "Is it, in fact, going to serve the people better from the administrative point of view, or is it going to be a vast machine?" I warn them when they approach this subject that that is not the only point. The other is that we have fought through a war, we have lost our people and our treasure and we have also lost our external wealth. We are sick and tired, and we must build up our exports, and do everything we can to regain our power. This is not the time to utilise to the hurt of our people this transport industry as a subject for vivisection as a Socialist experiment.

8.38 p.m.

We have had a long discussion on this Bill in its various stages here and upstairs. There remains unanswered at least one question: What is the alternative suggested to it? Before the war—I think it was in 1938—Lord Leathers, as we were reminded on the Second Reading Debate of this Bill, confronted with the report about the conflict between road and rail, criticised it, saying that some more radical solution was needed. What other more radical solution has been suggested? From time to time I have heard criticisms of the Bill but I have heard no suggestion of what ought to be done in its place, or indeed of what would happen if this Bill was not passed. The questions put by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Jay) today about the effect of not passing the Bill and what would happen in those circumstances, so far as I know, have remained unanswered.

The criticisms have been substantially on two main lines. The first and the most lively, vigorous criticisms have been on the rather unattractive subject of compensation. I have felt throughout our consideration of the Bill, that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite tended to forget that they had a double function. They are not merely here to represent the railway stock holders, the Road Haulage Association or any other private body of that sort but they have duties towards their constituents and as regards public funds to see that no excessive compensation is paid. On compensation the only alternative suggestion made was "Let us then have arbitration." No satisfactory answer has yet been given as to why market prices are not a fair compensation in the case of the railway stocks. No satisfactory answer has yet been given as to why road hauliers are not amply compensated by the value of their vehicles and with the goodwill at two to five years' purchase, when it has been stated, and not denied, that if they had been taken over by a larger concern in the same in- dustry, the average rate of compensation for goodwill would have been three years' purchase.

What then would an arbitration tribunal be faced with? It would be faced in the first place with an inquiry so complicated and protracted that it would, no doubt, fulfil the main purpose of the Opposition by delaying the Bill indefinitely. More than that, during that period of investigation every stock holder and everyone financially interested in the industry would have been hanging betwixt and between not knowing what they were going to get and not knowing what was the right policy to adhere to; and a suspense of that sort would have done far more damage to transport in the country than the more rapid method now proposed, and far more damage than could possibly be done by this Bill. What would have had to be investigated? Not only the value of the railways as a going concern—and upon what grounds the tribunal could have valued that I find it very difficult to see—but a long, detailed, and excessively complicated inquiry into the road haulage organisation. I fail to see what the terms of reference would have been. I fail to see what the directive would have been. Out of the whole of that alternative there emerges only one concrete thing—that the inquiry would have been interminable and would have caused a delay which would have been exceedingly damaging to the public interest.

The other ground of opposition has been, "Why do it now?" The answer to that is pretty clear and pretty obvious. At the moment the agreement under which the railway system operated during the war is coming to an end, and something has to be done at the end of it. At the moment the railways are being subsidised If there is to be an interval between the end of the agreement and the process of the integration of transport—the more radical remedy that Lord Leathers suggested—what is to happen during that interval? Is the subsidy to continue or is it not to continue? How is the war damage of the railways to be made good? That is not merely a question of applying funds, sufficient or insufficient, set aside by the railways for the purpose of restoring some of that damage; there is the further question of allocating the labour and materials for that purpose and of taking this opportunity of integrating the railways.

It has been suggested from the other side of the House that if this Bill were confined to the railways, no great harm would be done and that it might be accepted. Surely, no sensible person would really oppose the unification in one form or another of the main line railways at the present moment? It is wholly unreal to suggest that too much power is given to the Minister of Transport with regard to the railways and that, as the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) said, we do not know who he will be in a short time, when at present that power rests partly in Government control and partly in the chairmen and directors of the large railway companies about whose identity in the future I am a great deal more ignorant than about the identity of any possible Minister of Transport.

Surely it is equally unreal to speak of private enterprise and of the virtues of comparative simplicity in an organisation so immensely complicated and so wholly irresponsible to the public as the great railway companies are at present. If at present I have a complaint to make to one of the large railway companies or if I seek to ascertain some facts from them, I find that the channels through which I have to go to get my information are at least as complicated—I believe far more complicated—than those of any Government Department, and that my approach to those companies is as effectively barred as my approach to any public authority whatever. I defy anyone to get as satisfactory a response from one of the large railway companies, if he goes to it as a plain ordinary man, as he would get from any public servant. Not only is that the position at present, but the Minister expressly said—and has stated before and has stated rightly—on the terms of this Bill that he attaches the greatest importance to the consultative committees set up by it to provide a means for public needs to be brought home to the Ministry both nationally and locally.

The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) criticised the Minister on the grounds that he was unappreciative of local needs because of what were described as his centralised blinkers. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had completely forgotten that, at the moment, the railways are highly centralised, and that the method of approach contemplated by this Bill is not at all the centralised approach but is, on the contrary, a method which will enable local people to air their local grievances through a local consultative committee which will have power to deal with these matters and put them forward locally. It is one of the main points of the Bill that for the first time it provides the ordinary men and women using the transport system, whether for goods or for passenger purposes, with a real means of making their views felt.

Comparatively little has been said about the road passenger transport side of this Bill. I am perfectly certain that the ordinary man and woman regards this as of the highest possible importance. It comes straight home to people living in those rural districts, which hon. and right hon. Members opposite arrogate to themselves some particular right to represent. The small man in whom they claim a particular interest, the agriculturist, in whom they claim a particular interest, he or she who lives in our country villages—those are the people who suffer at present. They suffer, not from individualist private enterprise, but from this fact, that where once there were small carriers and small transport proprietors, there are now large concerns which, partly because they are large concerns and partly through the operation of legislation passed by this House, have wiped out the small individual passenger carrier and provided a service in the countryside so far, and only just so far, as it pays them to do so.

The result is that the small man and the small village have, as they have in my constituency, an insufficient service; they have one which is not properly linked up with the rest of the transport service, and they are, in practice, deprived of what are regarded as ordinary conveniences for any town. They are, in practice, deprived of what an urban dweller would regard as his ordinary and common right. That is merely one point in which the transport system suffers from not being regarded as a whole. Those people and those services ought to be treated as part of a complete transport system. So regarded, they can claim a decent transport to the nearest town, both for persons and for goods, as their common right, as part of a public service, and just because it has not been part of a public service, it has not been provided in the past. It is because this Bill is a step towards moving from that atmosphere of private profit and separated services towards one service, and that a public one, that I welcome it most heartily.

8.52 p.m.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has put once more the question put earlier today by the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Jay) as to what would happen if this Bill were not passed. The hon. and learned Gentleman is a good enough lawyer to know that it is important to find out in the first place where the onus lies; and I think it is beyond dispute that the onus in every question of nationalisation lies upon the Government which proposes nationalisation to prove that it is in the public interest. Therefore, the first question which has to be considered by the House is, not what would happen if the Bill were not passed, but what would happen if the Bill were passed. As to that, hon. Members opposite, like the rest of the House, do not know. All they can do is to express a hope in the light of past experience of the nationalisation of transport. If they do happen to express a hope in the light of that experience, it cannot be full of promise.

The truth is that, although there are great enabling powers in this Bill—which is the nearest we have been able to get to the expression of hope—we are still in the dark. We do not know about a large number of the ways in which this Bill will work out in practice. In the first place, with regard to passenger transport by road, we know that there will be area schemes; we do not know, however, what size of area or what degree of centralisation there will be with regard to those schemes. We do not know, in spite of the hon. and learned Member's assertion that the present services in rural districts are unsatisfactory, that the services to be provided by the Commission at some time in the next few years will be any better.

The same with regard to haulage of goods by road. We do know this about the present system of road haulage of goods, that they have provided a readily available, a flexible, and a comparatively cheap service with which the users of that service are very well contented.

I know that the hon. Gentleman sits for Huntingdon, and I have noticed that he confines his observations to road transport of goods. Does he tell us that road passenger transport is at present satisfactory in Huntingdonshire?

If the hon. and learned Gentleman had heard me aright, he would have heard me say that, with regard to passenger transport by road, there is no certainty whatever that the services to be provided by the Commission under the area schemes, which I was mentioning, will be any better than those already provided by existing facilities.

The hon. and learned Gentleman challenged me, so perhaps he will give me time to answer. The road passenger transport industry, like the' road goods industry, has grown up from nothing in a quarter of a century and has made pretty good progress. It has assisted the country in two major wars and, given time and a bit of encourage. ment and a bit of freedom, there is no reason why its natural development along efficient lines should not continue. Instead of that natural development, however, we are to have imposed upon the industry a system which has manifestly failed in other countries in this world, and as to which there is no certainty of success in this country.

Was it not just its natural development to which the railways strongly objected?

That is a perfectly fair assertion, but under the previous legislation which, by the way, is still in force and has been resumed again in practice now that the war has come to an end, that conflict between the railways and the road services, whether passenger or goods, was being satisfactorily settled. So far as goods were concerned, the licensing authorities had struck a nice balance between the uneconomic and wasteful competition on the one hand, and necessary and fair competition on the other hand. We have to bear this in mind with regard to road goods transport, that there was a nice and even distribution of it and that is what gave rise to its ready availability. The statement made by the Minister—for reasons which he has never developed—has always puzzled me. Hon. Members opposite also make the same statement. They say, "Oh, that is so wasteful." They think it is a bad thing to have a road haulier available in every village of the country to serve his neighbours, to use his own experience and his own contacts. That, for some reason, is regarded as wasteful and it is be replaced apparently—although we have not been told very much of the details—by a large system which would involve enormous overheads, not only of buildings and garages and so on, but overheads of manpower, in order to work this large system which is bound to consist of a considerable hierarchy.

If the hon. and learned Member for Kettering will forgive me, I will leave the line of argument which he was developing and continue with what I had hoped to say. I came down to the House this afternoon prepared to join, as I thought I would have to, with others, in paying my humble tribute to the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary for some of the virtues they have displayed and which we appreciate, politics apart. I shall not withhold my compliment in spite of what I felt was a quite ungrateful and ungenerous attitude on the part of the Minister this afternoon, when he, in mentioning the numerous Amendments which had been put down, quite overlooked the hard work, the patience and the experience which had been given by my right hon. and hon. Friends, and which had led to a large number of constructive Amendments being put on the Order Paper. However, let me now say that for my part I consider that the Minister was friendly and patient, and that he was attentive. The fact that he followed so many of our suggestions proved that to be so. That was true also of his Parliamentary Secretary, who showed great ability over this Bill. I think we can all say we are divided, the back benchers of this House, into two categories, those who have read the Bill without understanding it, and those who understand the Bill without reading it. The Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary both read the Bill and nearly always understood it; and, when they did not understand it, they did not have very far to go in order to consult one of their Mamelukes.

The question of the Guillotine is one which naturally must exercise almost any hon. Member considering this Bill, and I should like to try to put the matter in its true perspective. I recognise that the Guillotine is a necessary protection for any Government against the possibility of obstruction on the part of the Opposition. I would be the first to recognise that; but the Guillotine should not be used when there has yet been no obstruction, and no threat of obstruction. Nor should it be used merely to ensure that the Bill reaches the Statute Book by a particular time. It is because the Guillotine was put into operation at a time when the Minister himself had confessed there had been no waste of time in Standing Committee, that I most strongly protest against the way in which it was used on this occasion. The main purpose of a Parliamentary democracy is to ensure that the voice of the people through their democratically elected Members of Parliament is heard when the people's laws ate being made; and under this Bill there has been a denial of Parliamentary democracy to the extent of at least 30 per cent. of the Clauses of this Bill.

Although there is much one wishes to say on the last occasion for some time when we shall have this Bill before us, may I say that there is only one sanction against State monopoly, and that is this Parliament? I therefore most earnestly beseech the right hon. Gentleman to ensure when the Bill eventually comes into operation, first, that he is ready to answer all questions that are put down, because that will be the best guarantee of the workability of the Bill; and, second, that he will keep the House informed as to the various stages of the development of this complex scheme. I am sure that if he is able to come to the House from time to time and say, "I have given certain instructions to the Commission and they are as follow …" it will give great assurance to the House and public, and will ensure that there is no hanky-panky of any kind or any fear on the part of the public that all is not going well. If, on the other hand, he allows the Commission to become his mistress and hides behind her skirts, then woe betide him, because his scheme will be doomed to failure, and all the fears we have expressed as to' its possible chaos will be proved true.

9.5 p.m.

We have heard from hon. Members who have already spoken in this Debate that the road transport industry started some 25 years ago from nothing. It would be correct to add that it started at the expense of the railway companies by taking the traffic away at cheaper, rates and not paying the trade union rates of wages. That industry did not recognise holiday agreements in any shape or form. It was for that reason that the railway companies, when the Traffic Commissioners were instituted, always objected to the road transport industry applying for extra licences or an extension of their mileage because it was held that the road transport industry was not playing the game or honouring wage agreements.

I have been indirectly connected with road passenger transport for more than 25 years from the municipal point of view and I have been a member of a transport committee for that period. Upon the introduction of bus services many local authorities had tramway systems. When buses were introduced by road passenger workers, local authorities applied to this House for permission to introduce buses. The House of Commons was controlled at that period by Members of the party now on the benches opposite, and they took jolly good care that if they consented to local authorities introducing buses in place of trams they tied those authorities down very definitely. Some authorities had power to make their own trams, but the House of Commons refused to give them authority to make buses and in many cases curtailed the services that the authorities desired to operate.

Efforts were made to save manpower by amalgamating transport authorities in adjoining areas. In Manchester 35 transport authorities exist within 15 miles of the Town Hall. For more than 25 years the City Council have tried to amalgamate them into one board under one manager, but without effect up to this moment.

In my own district of East Lancashire, the Blackburn Transport Committee invited two other authorities to amalgamate. We had a total of 139 vehicles between the three local authorities We brought in Mr. Arthur Collins, a well- known expert upon municipal finance, and he advised all three authorities that it would be better to have one board rather than three authorities, with three managers, three staffs and three committees. The other two authorities declined, saying that they did not wish to lose their rights as transport authorities. Today the position is reversed. The municipalities, under the guidance of the Association of Municipal Corporations, are trying to work out areas which they think would be satisfactory if the present Minister of Transport would withdraw the Bill.

May I deal for a moment or two with road transport as it is conducted by the private companies? The largest firm we have in this country—and there are 52 separate transport authorities—is the Tilling group, and whenever a local authority applied for an extension you could always rest assured that the Tilling group would always be in opposition when any inquiries were being conducted. The result was that the Traffic Commissioners were responsible for accepting representations whenever there was any increase in fares or an extension of any particular service. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are interested in manpower, let me remind them of this. In May, 1946, I wrote to the Town Clerk of Stoke-on-Trent to ask how many separate bus companies went into that city. It is amazing to have to inform hon. Members of this House that they have no local passenger transport service of their own, but that there are 18 different firms running into Stoke-on-Trent, competing with one another. Of these 18, 17 are local firms and only one firm is an outsider. That is the kind of wateful competition we are expecting this Bill to put an end to.

I would like to refer to a private bus company which the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has some knowledge of, and that is the Ribble Bus Company, of Preston, Lancashire. It started in 1919 with four buses, and was founded by a stranger to the district who came from Brighton. He got four buses from the Leyland Bus Company and he had the privilege of needing no licence; he did not need to ask a local authority where he could go, and he adopted this method. He started a bus service over a six-mile route. The local authority objected, and it was found that they had no legal right to object. He next started to run buses 11 miles to another town. That town objected, and did not want to find him a stand where he could stay as long as he wanted, but once more they were told they had no legal rights and that he could come along with as many buses as he liked. It was 1919 when he started and there were other bus companies already in operation. On routes on which the other bus companies were charging 6d. return this firm used to charge 4d., to run them off, and, having succeeded in running the small men off the road, would increase the fares. The final position is this. The Ribble Bus Company, up to 1946, had forced 70 other small companies to come inside their ranks for no other reason than that they wanted them off the road.

With regard to road haulage, because of a shortage of staff during the war, firms amalgamated to save manpower, petrol, and also mileage. In Liverpool, five firms which had 67 vehicles before the war reduced the number to 30, but with those 30 vehicles they did more work than previously with 67 vehicles. In the confectionery industry, 20 firms amalgamated together for transport purposes, they had 1,000 vehicles operating from 23 centres, and they saved 400,000 running miles each month, in addition to a large quantity of petrol, which could be put to other uses.

The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby said that the Government are crushing out the small men, but the right hon. and learned Member ought to know that in 1938 the main hauliers' organisation launched a plan by which the combine would buy up small firms. In 1941, the Waldorf group, largely dominated by the railway-owned firms, issued a memorandum to the Government offering to run the wartime haulage organisation and to squeeze out entirely the small firms. In 1943, another group issued leaflets suggesting that after the war firms owning fewer than 26 ton lorries should be given a time-limit within which to increase their fleets or to join up with bigger firms, or to be confined to local work. The signatories to that leaflet were well known in the industry; they were Mr. J. S. Nicholl, of McNamara's, Mr. Isaac Barrie, of Glasgow, Mr. H. J. Dukefield, who has played a prominent part during the period the Transport Bill has been before the House, Mr. G. J. M. Fairclough, and Mr. J. F. E. Pye. These people have not the slightest interest in the small firms which are so much backed up by the Opposition.

As one of my hon. Friends has said, when Lord Leathers was at the Ministry of Transport, he stated, in the House of Lords on 27th October, 1943, that in the interests of the nation the railways should be nationalised. Lord Reith, who was also a Minister of Transport, and whose political creed I do not know, said, during his term of office, that the railways, as well as road transport, should be nationalised. Apparently, hon. Members opposite are unaware that, irrespective of what Government is in power, the Government control the largest haulage system not only in this country but in the world. A former Postmaster-General, well known to hon. Members opposite, Sir Walter Womersley, said, on 19th November, 1937, that the Post Office owned 12,000 vehicles, it covered 125 million miles annually, and consumed 6¼ million gallons of petrol. At the present time, the latest returns show that the Post Office control 18,000 vehicles. This great Department takes the trouble to call on any person who desires its services and daily will pick up 50 or more parcels absolutely free. It has been a complete success even with Tory administration. But even if we were not prepared to accept that example, I would remind the House that when Mr. Frederick Smith, former transport zoning chief under the Ministry of Transport said at Swindon on 21st January, 1945—

The hon. Member must remember that on Third Reading he can discuss only what is in the Bill, and not what individuals said in the past. I have not been here much today myself. Hon. Members know the reason for that. But, in consequence, I do not know what has been said earlier. However, we ought to speak to the Bill. It is not now a question of discussing the principle of nationalisation, but of discussing what is in the Bill.

It might have been a good job had you been here earlier, Mr. Speaker, for then you might have stopped some of the Opposition speakers.

I will conclude by reminding the House that when the late Sir Eric Geddes was introducing the Bill in the House whereby the many separate railway companies became only four, similar statements were then made that the four railway companies would not be a success. My final point is this. The royal family have been paying a visit to South Africa. They are on the way home. They have been to a country that by no stretch of imagination can be said to have a Labour Government. But in that great country, the Union of South Africa, it was decided to nationalise electricity, the docks, the harbours, lighthouses, and the road and rail transport systems. They did that in the interests of trade. Believing, as I sincerely do, that the competitive system in days gone by so far as transport is concerned has been wasteful from every point of view, I welcome the Third Reading of this Bill. We have great examples done by public enterprise in many municipalities. We are absolutely satisfied that the present Minister of Transport and his Parliamentary Secretary have sufficient knowledge of this great industry to help them. We believe that nationalisation will be a blessing to the main industries of this country and that the sooner it is brought about for the benefit of everybody, the better.

9.23 p.m.

I am one of the few hon. Members called to speak today who was not a Member of the Committee upstairs, and I am, therefore, particularly grateful at being called, the more so because I was unsuccessful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, on the Second Reading. This is my first opportunity to represent any of the views on this matter of those who elected me to this House. I listened with great interest to the Minister of Transport, both his defence of the Bill and his defence of the use of the Guillotine. I still feel bitterly resentful that such methods were necessary. Its use, in my opinion, has meant that there has not been a full opportunity to discuss this important Measure. My own constituency, which, I think, affords as fair an illustration as any of how places may be affected by this Bill, has a long coastline, tourist traffic, small ports, two railways, with one town with three railway stations, and an agricultural population who mainly produce milk, fresh fruit, and vegetables.

None of these things have I been able to discuss until this moment, and I fear that, should I attempt to discuss them now, many of them would be out of Order, because they are not included in the Bill as we now have it. I feel that the simplest way of dealing with this matter in the short time which I shall take—because I know there are many hon. Members who wish to speak—is to state quite plainly why I object to the Bill.

I do not like the increasing tendency to bureaucracy, the power of the Minister and the power of the Commission under the Minister. I feel that the main effect of that will be delay in coming to decisions, and, in that regard, I would like to relate an instance of what has happened within this year in my own village. A small extension of a bus service was required by the people of a small village in Devonshire called Abbotsham, which is probably unknown to many hon. Members. It was agreed by the parish council and by all the people whom this extension was to serve that it would be welcome. It was agreed by the traffic manager of the Southern National Bus Company in Exeter, who referred it on 28th January to the Transport Commissioners for a decision. He has had no reply of any sort or kind since then. The Traffic Commissioners are a body set up by the Ministry of Transport. [Interruption.] I do not mind under whom they were set up, but, at the moment, they are under the Ministry of Transport. On 17th April I had to write a letter to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport drawing his attention to the fact and asking for an answer. It is not a matter that one would normally expect to have to bring to the attention of the Minister of Transport. On 1st May, I received an acknowledgment saying that investigations were still continuing into this matter. Surely, a decision of such a minor character, one way or the other, could be arrived at without reference to the Minister of Transport in this House? This extension of a bus service was to cover two miles without any additional fares.

Bureaucracy is not a good thing when it means delay in taking decisions. In my constituency, which I note the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister is about to visit in order to address a meeting at Bideford in a fortnight's time, I hope he will learn that to go from the town of Bideford to almost any town of importance is more than 25 miles, and that it is quite impossible, in country or coastal districts, to be tied to a 25-mile or even a 40-mile limit. It may be all very well in the middle of England, but it is quite impossible to have such an inelastic Bill with one system, one rule, which applies to all districts, regardless of whether one lives on the coast or in a place miles from anywhere else. Exactly the same argument was used by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) about his Cornish constituency. It has also been used by some Scottish Members. I ask the Minister to give some elasticity to this Bill, either by amending it in another place or in some other way, so as to make it a better Bill, and so that 25 miles shall not be the limit to which any private undertaking can carry goods which may be of a perishable character.

To sum up, I wish to say that I object to the Bill and propose to vote against it, firstly, because it increases bureaucracy which entails delays, as I have shown; secondly, because it is not flexible or elastic, and is too restrictive in mileage; thirdly, because of the denial up till now of being allowed to express my views or those of the majority of my constituents, or to raise any points on the Amendments for the carriage of certain perishable goods in which I have a great interest; and, fourthly, because, in my opinion, despite what hon. Members opposite have said, the time is entirely inopportune for introducing a Measure of this kind.

9.32 p.m.

I have listened with intense interest to the comments made by hon. Members opposite in the course of this Debate. I, too, would like to take this opportunity to endorse the sentiments expressed b the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) in congratulating the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary on the very courteous and considerate way in which they listened to the representations made during the Committee stage of this Bill I should also like to say, on behalf of my trade union colleagues on this side of the House, how deeply indebted we are to them for the assurances they have given. I trust that this Measure, when it becomes an Act, will at least reflect on them the credit to which they are entitled.

I have never understood the logic of the Opposition in opposing the nationalisation of transport. I should like to give one typical illustration. Prior to the 1921 Railways Act, there were 125 railway companies in this country, with 700 directors, which, as a result of that Act, were reduced to four, with 100 directors. Therefore, I submit that the logic of events shows clearly that the answer is that there should be one complete system of unification. The hon. Member for Huntingdon—who I am sorry to see is not in his place—asked what was the alternative. I want to deal with just one aspect of the matter. Under the 1939 agreement, the net revenue position was £43 million. As far as the railways are concerned, I see that the 1946 balance sheet shows a deficit of, approximately, £11,500,000, and the British taxpayers are to be mulcted to that extent in the interim period between now and the vesting date.

I would also say to the hon. Member for Huntingdon that had we not accepted nationalisation, one would have had to visualise the possibility of meeting that deficit by increased freight and fare charges, which would have meant a corresponding increase in our basic production costs, and would have had a retarding effect in our economic recovery. Like my colleagues who have taken part in the Committee stage of the Bill, we who have been associated with transport have worked long and arduously to see this day, and I am confident that those of us in the railway industry particularly. will welcome this Bill as one which will introduce a more efficient and reasonable service for the general community.

9.36 p.m.

We have constantly been asked during the Debate what is our alternative to this nationalisation Measure. I would reply, in brief, that our alternative has been implicit in our criticism of those parts of the Bill which we have been allowed to discuss; further, that we already have a very fine transport system, although there is obviously room for improvement, and that—and I am sure of this—our alternative will be seen in operation when we come back into power. I would also ask hon. Members who have asked this question, whether or not they have read an extremely interesting alternative put forward by the Road Hauliers Association and by the railways themselves.

I want particularly to say a few words about the conduct of this Bill, with special reference to the Guillotine procedure, as the Minister dealt with that matter at some length. It was claimed by the Leader of the House that this Bill was not of constitutional importance and as a result it was sent, quite unjustifiably, in my opinion, to a Standing Committee, thus excluding 590 Members of Parliament from taking any part in the discussion. But yet the Minister himself said that this Bill was—
"the largest and most extensive Measure ever presented to a free and democratic Parliament."—[OFFIcIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1946; Vol. 431, C. 1617.].
I am beginning to wonder whether I should add to that quotation the word ("sic") after "free" and after "democratic." I was sent here to represent my constituents who number some 75,000, and I was not sent here to act as a sort of rubber stamp for bad Socialist legislation. I am very glad that I am one of the few Members who did not take part in the Standing Committee, and who have an opportunity of speaking on the Third Reading of this Bill.

Contrary to what has been claimed, I do not believe that there is any precedent for the procedure of the Government in connection with this Bill. The only precedent which has been put forward, and which bears serious consideration, is the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927. I am not going into it in detail, since several suggestions have been put forward, and I would merely point out that that Measure affected the public safety, it was taken on the Floor of the House, and obstruction by the Socialist Party was designed to wreck that Measure. In this case, the Bill does not affect public safety. The Bill was taken in a Committee upstairs, and, although the Minister has said that the Opposition in the Committee were determined to prevent certain parts of the Bill being discussed, thus accusing us of deliberate obstruction, I submit with the utmost confidence that that was not so, and hon. Members have only to read the proceedings in the Standing Committee to see that what I say is correct.

Some of us, at the end of the Report stage, voted against certain Amendments which we, in fact, favoured. I admit, and I think we all admit, that, on the face of things, that action was somewhat illogical, but we were at pains, under some difficulty, to point out at the time why we took that step. We took it as being, in our opinion, the only method by which we could protest against what I myself called
"…. the brazen dictatorship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30Th April, 1947; Vol. 436, C. 2109.]
of the Government, and I stand unashamedly by those words.

During his speech this afternoon the Minister claimed that there had been no dictatorship in this matter because—and this is a most curious argument—the Press had been allowed freely to criticise the Bill and the hoardings in the country had been covered by posters opposing the Bill. I fail to appreciate the point of the Minister's argument. I was glad that he admitted, albeit grudgingly, that a little curtailment of Parliamentary time had taken place. That was a masterly understatement. I wish to join issue most seriously with the Minister on his statement that true democracy is not proven by the time spent in debate and discussion. That is surely a most dangerous generalisation. I would ask him: Is true democracy proven. by ensuring that more than a third of the Clauses and more than half the Schedules of this Bill are not discussed at all; is true democracy proven by disallowing discussion on more than 200 valuable Amendments put down by the Opposition; is true democracy proven by the jeering and sneering to which we were subjected when any of us presented a Petition signed by hundreds of thousands of citizens against this Bill, and by remarks of hon. Members opposite that these Petitions should be put in the wastepaper basket? I submit not. I submit that this is evidence that when I accused the Government of "brazen dictatorship" in this connection I was not exaggerating.

I submit that the Government nave not adduced a scrap of evidence that the transport industry is, in fact, inefficient. Nor for that matter has any hon. or right hon. Member on this side of the House sought to prove that there was not room for improvement. Nor has there been a scrap of evidence that the industry is likely to be any more efficient after it has been nationalised. Indeed, wherever one looks, there is a mass of evidence to the contrary. The Lord President of the Council said, in a rather rash moment I think:
"It is up to the nationalisers to prove their case. Let the argument be directed to the merits, and let the test be the public interest."
Those were fine-sounding words We have now seen how hollow and meaningless they were. Obviously, the test in this case, as in all other cases where industries may be nationalised, is efficiency, coupled with reasonable freedom for the individual. I am not afraid of talking about the freedom of the individual or about liberty, even though an hon. Member suggested that I should be. It is an incredibly important matter. I have no reason to suppose that this nationalisation Measure will produce the efficiency which is required, and still less have I any reason to suppose that it will allow a. reasonable liberty for the individual.

One of the main arguments, if not the only real argument, adduced by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in favour of this Bill is that they have a mandate to nationalise transport. I do not want to labour the point, but since the claim has been put forward consistently throughout the discussion of this Bill, perhaps I might be allowed to say a few words about it. Is this the first Government that ever had a mandate? One would think so, judging by the number of times the claim has been put forward. But hon. Members forget that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who voted against this Bill on Second Reading represented 52 per cent. of the electorate who voted at the General Election. Do they forget that since then there has been a swing away from Labour? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Hon. Members have only to look at the results of local government elections. [Laughter.] I am not claiming it is a large one. I do not believe much in public opinion polls, but they seem to prove surprisingly accurate both in this country and in America. I was interested to see that the "News-Chronicle," which is not famous as a paper which attacks this Government, estimated that 55 per cent. of the country was opposed to the nationalisation of transport. The "Daily Express," which is sometimes favourable, sometimes not favourable, estimated that the opposition was as great as 60 per cent. This Government have a mandate; they have a mandate to govern this country in the interests of the British public as a whole. They have not a mandate to turn the whole economy of the country upside down for the sake of a political theory.

My last point is on the question of an independent inquiry with special reference to the possibility of setting up a tribunal to examine the question of compensation. The Road Haulage Association and the railways, backed by practically every organisation which represents either the industry itself or the consumers, demanded this inquiry. Why did the Government refuse it? They refused it because they knew perfectly well that the inquiry would go against them and would not recommend nationalisation of transport. What other reason could be possible? I submit that by their refusal to allow that inquiry they quite clearly showed the weakness of their own case.

There never was a time, in my submission, when we could less afford to put control of our transport system, in the words of a Socialist, the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards):
"in the hands of superannuated trade union officials and civil servants."
[Laughter.] There is no point in hon. Members opposite laughing at that quotation. One of their number has seen the red light. [An HON. MEMBER: "The blue light."] I am satisfied that this is one of the worst and most jaundiced Bills of this century. The sad thing about it is that I know perfectly well that my arguments and the arguments of my hon. and right hon. Friends are falling on deaf ears. My reason for saying that is that the Marxian slaves who sit opposite, chained as they are to woolly and outdated theories, are too busy crowing over their mandate.

9.47 p.m.

I have only three minutes in which to say what I want to say in this Debate, and obviously I cannot cover all the ground which I would very much like to cover. The impression I have gathered from hon. Members opposite is that they are rather inclined to the view that the time has arrived when, at least, the railway system of our country should be organised in some form of public ownership. I have heard no serious objection advanced to that principle. Most of the criticism has been devoted to the nationalisation of long-distance haulage. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) said that the road hauliers had been able to build up a very efficient road haulage system which had been accepted by large numbers of transport users. I have noticed that almost every hon. Member opposite who has supported the continuance of private enterprise in the road haulage industry and has emphasised continually how much more efficient it is in comparison with the railway industry, has completely forgotten to give this House a correct and accurate picture of the real circumstances.

The road haulage industry was born in the 1920's at a time when there was great unemployment and labour was cheap. At that time there were no controls whatever upon long-distance road transport. What was the position? They found a road system provided by the public, for which they had never contributed a penny. They found that those roads were maintained from public funds without any contribution from them. Also they found in existence a signalling system for traffic for which they had never contributed. Therefore, the railways having to spend colossal sums of money in building and maintaining railway tracks, stations and depots, found themselves faced with a form of competition in which the public placed at the disposal of long-distance road haulage the free use of roads provided at public expense with a free signalling system in addition.

I know, of course, that the position has been adjusted somewhat in recent years by the Road and Rail Traffic Acts, but we cannot contemplate that traffic should be diverted from the railway system in which colossal sums of money have been spent to lay out tracks and permanent ways and signalling systems to a road haulage system which contributes very little to the cost of providing its running track, its signalling system and its upkeep and all the means by which it operates. The difference between those two systems indicates quite clearly that there is a great need for the co-ordination of road and rail rather than that the two should compete on terms that are not equal. It is because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport endeavours in this Bill to bring about that necessary co-ordination between road and rail that I believe that the Bill will be in the general interests of transport users.

9.51 p.m.

I am rather over-conscious tonight of the fact that I am the last speaker of my party who will address himself to this Bill before it goes to another place. I am somewhat concerned lest hon. Gentlemen opposite and the country as a whole should feel that our dislike of this Bill is in any way abated or that at this late stage our opposition to it is in any way weakened. If I create that impression, absolutely nothing is further from the truth. In fact, I was rather astonished when I read over the weekend that the Parliamentary commentator of the "New Statesman and Nation" said in his column, apparently as though he had made a remarkable discovery, that what the Tories really objected to is the idea that this vast industry should be nationalised at all. He could not have said a truer word. Nothing I can say tonight can express more clearly the attitude of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself.

However much the Government have amended this Bill, and however sympathetic the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport may or may not have been to representations that have been made to him, either by my right hon. or hon. Friends or from interests outside—and indeed in his speech this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman gave a formidable list of alterations and so-called improvements he had made—this Measure is and can only be one which we shall heartily oppose. The Minister says that since the Second Reading he has improved his Bill. I can only say that he could hardly have done otherwise. He could have done nothing in our opinion that could make it worse. The provisions of this Bill have not yet been properly considered in our opinion. I do not propose to continue at this stage the arguments whether the Guillotine was or was not justified. We have made it quite clear what our view is on this matter. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) and other hon. Members opposite have taken a different view from us, and we can now only leave it to the people of this country when they view the facts that have been put before them, to decide whether or not this Bill has had adequate consideration or not. We are quite prepared to leave it to their judgment.

After such time as we have had to consider the detailed provisions of this we are still quite determined in our minds that it is inadequate, ill-conceived and based on unsound principles. This is not a Bill, as it has been so broadly proclaimed to be, co-ordinating all forms of inland transport; it is merely a miscellaneous collection of provisions transferring the ownership of a large number of undertakings into one vast State monopoly. I intend tonight in the short time available to me to summarise the arguments put forward both today and at other stages of the Bill by my right hon. and hon. Friends and to repeat most of the important objections that we have to the provisions of this Bill.

The Minister said in his opening speech today that too much time had been taken in Committee in discussing Part I of the Bill, and he also said that, no serious objection had been put forward to the actual set-up of the Commission and the Executives. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman could have meant that, because my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and many others have criticised at considerable length and in considerable detail the actual set-up of this Bill. We have opposed particularly Clause 1, which sets up the Transport Commission, and Clause 5, which sets up the Executives who are to deal with the details of the various parts of the industry being taken over. We maintain that it is quite inconceivable that five men can be found who are ready to start work on 1st January next who can comprehend in that short time the vast ramifications of the enterprises to be taken over. We have been told over and over again that they are charged with the co-ordination and integration of all forms of transport. How can these five men do that through Executives whom they do not appoint and whom they will only remotely control? I should have thought that it is quite certain that these Executives, who are set up on a purely functional basis and not on a regional basis, which we have indicated would have been better, will become more and more absorbed with their own problems and difficulties, and more and more remote from each other. How can these five men on the Commission, set up in such a rush, be able to prevent this happening?

Let us consider for a moment the many important matters, quite apart from the railways, which these men on the Commission will have to consider. They will have to organise a long-distance road haulage system, they will be the largest hotel keepers in the country, all the docks will be under their control, they will have to organise a passenger service in every city and in every remote hamlet. How can five men, however well served, carry out this task? Who will deal with all these various problems? There will be staffs on the Executives to deal with details, staffs on the Commission to keep in touch with the Executives, and staffs in the Ministry to keep the Minister informed as to what is going on. How is it possible that these staffs will not become swollen and top heavy, as, indeed, our headquarters did during the war? The Minister has given no answer to that question, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some comment on that when he replies tonight.

It seems to us that perhaps power is not to be given to these members of the Commission, that they will become merely the servants of Whitehall and the mouthpiece of the vast bureaucratic· system which this Government is creating, for in this Bill the Minister gives himself the widest possible powers—which are approved by the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. Ernest Davies) and others opposite. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby referred to it this afternoon and I must say, listening to the speeches of hon. Members opposite today, that I wondered why they were appointing a Commission at all. On the one hand, we heard how essential it was that the Minsiter should keep all control under his hand, and should be able to answer a detailed argument on every possible point; we also heard from an hon. Member opposite that great power was to be given to the operatives in the industry. What will the Commission do? If the Minister is to tell the operatives to do it, and you have the Commission and the Executives, where shall we get? Not only will the Minister appoint these Executives, but he has under this Bill power to override all decisions and to issue detailed orders wherever he thinks necessary.

So I suggest that the reason, perhaps, why he has set up this peculiarly unsuitable machinery, and selected that small number of men on the Commission, who will not even all be whole-time members, is that he does not want a large number of people to argue with him as to how and what is to be done. I can remember during the war Lieut.-General Robertson, now in Germany, saying to me, "When you have beaten your own side, you have half won the war." And perhaps that is what the Minister has in mind. That is perhaps what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind when he sets up a small Commission. On 1st January next the Commission is to take over the railways and road undertakings, and anyone who doubts the complexity of the problem that will then confront them has only to look at the Third Schedule.

A short time ago the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (.Mr. Mitchison) said that we on this side of the House had not put forward opposition to the nationalisation of the railways. I think that any exception in that respect came from the Liberal Bench and I have never heard anything on this side to suggest that we in any way condone or approve of such action. No one doubts that much needs to be done to our whole railway system. But no one who had experience of the railways during the war, as I had at the far end of the supply lines, can have anything but respect for the work done by the railways during the war; and the sneers that have been offered, not by the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, seem to me to come very much amiss at this time. No one will deny that the present system of Government control over the railways is totally unsatisfactory, and unsuitable for peacetime, and should not long be carried on.

But how do the provisions of this Bill affect this state of affairs? Most people consider the trouble with our railways is that they are too big, not too small; that they are not too flexible, but too rigid, and the criticism that many of us have from time to time levelled at our railway companies is not that they suffer from the ills commonly attributed by hon. Members opposite to private enterprise, but that there is too much bureaucracy, and that the companies are far too large. All that the Bill will do is to make matters worse confounded. I am told that after the railways were amalgamated in 1921 it took something like 10 years before the effect was felt in the country. The situation today is that every railway company has plans for development and improvement. As has been pointed out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby and others, it is not a matter of spending money, but the physical difficulty of getting labour and materials to get the work done. Now all this is to be shelved while the schemes are rehashed and passed to the Commission and to the Minister, who will pass them back. Was ever such shuffling and shambling machinery devised? All these schemes will be held up while they are considered. The result will be not only disastrous to trade and commerce, but to the vast number of passengers who rely on the railways to get them to their places of business, or to take them for holidays, or to their daily work.

Also on 1st January the Commission are to take over the canals. When it comes to the canals, I must frankly confess I find myself in somewhat of a difficulty. I understood, although perhaps, having listened to the Debate today, not fully enough, that I could only address myself to what is in the Bill. As there is nothing in the Bill to indicate what is in the mind of the Government in regard to the canals, I should have thought it out of Order even to speculate on what is in the mind of the Government. But, as we have some lattitude today, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some idea of what is in their minds in regard to the canals. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby dealt with the question of charges, and I did not intend to refer to that but for the comment of the hon. Member for Enfield who has been such an enormous help to us in our deliberations and has assisted us in our arguments. He has applied himself to the Bill and spoken on it, which is more than a good many hon. Members opposite have done. He suggested that the railways charges should not be increased, but should be subsidised by the Treasury. This is the first time we have had any suggestion of a policy from the Government Benches and of what they are going to do. I very much hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will comment upon that point.

Our dissatisfaction with the provisions relating to the railways is absolutely nothing to our concern with the provisions relating to road passenger transport services. Some 2,500 road hauliers are to be deprived of their businesses by the Bill, for no other reason than that they have built up and developed themselves as highly organised and efficient competitors, against which no nationalised State railway service can possibly compete. The restrictions which are being imposed upon the A and B licence holders will prove not only unworkable but unenforceable. I do not intend to develop in detail the arguments against this proposal, because they have already been put forward extensively by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby. The hon. Member for Walton, Liverpool (Mr. Haworth) agreed also that those provisions will be unworkable and unenforceable.

For that reason alone I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should. even at this late stage, reconsider these proposals. The Government, by their mass of orders, regulations, restrictions and controls are rapidly bringing the law into contempt. This new arbitrary enactment, which is based upon no logical principle, will merely add to the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. The folly of laying down that these road restrictions will apply equally to remote country districts as to built-up areas has been pointed out many times not only by hon. Members representing this country but by hon. Members from Scotland and from other parts of the British Isles. I hope that before it is too late the right hon. Gentleman will give further consideration to this matter.

What equally concerns us is the whole efficiency of the road haulage industry. That industry has been built up upon a tradition of personal service and of attention to the particular needs of the consumer. If there is any doubt about my statement—and I do not think there can be—a large number of industries and trades ranging from horticulturalists to tanners and from maltsters to chemists have made representations to the same effect. They have shown that they have a peculiar need for these road haulage services and they have urged, not only through us on this side of the House but by representation to the right hon. Gentleman, that those services should be exempted from the Bill. The mere fact that those representations have been rejected by the Minister, who falls back upon the theory that those operators will be able to get licences whenever they have proved need —it may or may not happen—can only result in the most damaging effects upon the free flow of goods through this country.

It seems to us to be most remarkable that the Government should at this time bring in another restriction of this sort. Today, we are trying to free ourselves from restrictions. The Government pay lip-service to an expansionist economy, and it seems extraordinary that they should bring in a restriction now. If they exempt long-distance services, we point out, as was argued by my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) that there is an unfair standard between long and short-distance haulage. My right hon. Friend pointed out that two tests are to be applied in respect of long-distance services when the Government might quite well have taken two tests on shortdistance services. It is wrong that the Government should lay down tests of that sort in which they get the best of both worlds.

Now I would like to pass briefly to the question of docks and harbours. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) has devoted himself to this subject with considerable application during our deliberations, and it was referred to in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall). I am bound to say that it is rather characteristic of the way these affairs have been conducted that there have been, during our deliberations, a lot of secret negotiations—I do not say secret in the sense that they could not be found out, but merely that we have not had rime or opportunity to find them out; I myself have very little knowledge of what has actually passed between my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman. I very much hope that it is all all right, but as most of the Amendments went through under the Guillotine the other night we on this side have very little knowledge of what really took place. I can only trust that when I go to Lloyds tomorrow morning all the shipowners will be reasonably pleased with what took place. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to devote himself to the comments made by the hon. Member for Enfield, and others, to the effect that coastal shipping should be nationalised. That is something quite new. It is not contained in this Bill, and, if it is intended to nationalise coastal shipping, I urge the Government to say so soon and to make it quite clear what their intention in this very important matter is, because it is a most serious suggestion.

Throughout our deliberations we on this side of the House have complained, as has my hon. Friend again today, about the neglect of the users of transport in this Bill, and the Minister has always sought refuge in those provisions which set up the users' consultative committees. He referred to them today in some detail, and said he attached very great importance to them. That being the case, I would ask the House to note that these users' consultative committees, which are presumably to represent different industries, are appointed by the Minister who himself says how long each member has to serve; their staffs are the servants of the Commission or of the Minister, and are presumably remunerated by him, and the Minister can abolish them when he likes. It therefore seems to me to be very unlikely that these people will be unbiased, yet the Minister said today, if I do not misquote him, that people have never been given such an opportunity to voice their complaints. If that is so it is high time something better was done. It does not seem that these consultative committees will be much use to the small individual users of the services. They will, of course, be of very great value to the Minister, and I would congratulate him on having thought of them, because when it comes to answering complaints from inside or outside this House it will be very easy for him to say that the proper channel for such complaints is the consultative committee—which probably will not sit for another couple of months. He will be able to palm off on to them a very great deal of obloquy and unpleasantness, but how they will help an individual who wants something moved quickly, a farmer or a horticulturist who wants his crop shifted, I do not know. A committee which does not have to sit more than a very few times in a year cannot be of very much help.

The whole question of the protection of the individual against these vast State monopolies which are now being constructed is one which, I think it is admitted on all sides of the House, needs very careful consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford referred to it in some detail and with very great wisdom this afternoon, and it is a question to which all of us on all sides will have to give very careful consideration. I say quite emphatically, and I think everyone on this side of the House will agree with me, that the· answer will not be found in the provisions of this Bill, which sets up these very vague and to our minds very unworkable transport consultative committees.

A great deal has already been said, both today and on other occasions, about the compensation Clauses of the Bill. We hold the view, which we have supported with detailed arguments, particularly from my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton), that the compensation terms are both unfair and inequitable. I do not intend to repeat the detailed and technical arguments that have been put forward, because I believe they are well known to all who have followed our affairs. We have been criticised for concentrating too much on this aspect of the Bill. That accusation has been made. But this Bill is nothing more than a miscellaneous series of provisions all transferring shares from one person to another, and that being the case, it seems not unreasonable that we should apply ourselves to that problem. That is all that the Bill will do. There are, however, some general comments on compensation which I think, at this late stage, the House ought to consider.

Our main complaints about the compensation terms are that they are based on no fixed principles. The State has assumed the right to acquire and has fixed an arbitrary price. There is also the further point that tribunals should be appointed where difficulties and differences occur. It is obvious that, with the numerous and vast scale of the undertakings to be taken over, there are bound to be special circumstances and peculiar cases of hardship that will have to be adjudicated upon. Yet the State is to be both judge and jury. We say that any compensation terms must be unsound which do not provide for independent arbitration. It might be that under the arbitration there would be less, it might be there would be more; but there must be an independent arbitrator to decide. The same principles must apply to private as well as public undertakings, and the Government must make no difference between large concerns and small individuals. They must also take into full account the loss of income and the loss of earning power when, instead of merely taking goodwill, businesses are compulsorily acquired. The compensation terms of the Bill violate all those principles. I only regret that the Government have not dealt with the shareholders and the proprietors to be taken over with the same scrupulous regard as they have paid to the pensions and other rights of the employees in the various concerns to be transferred. The Minister has said that he is very satisfied with these provisions, and I only wish we could say the same of the compensation arrangements. All I can suggest is that the Government think they have more political supporters in the latter category than they have in the former.

I had intended to say a word about the compensation terms for 'buses, but I will curtail my remarks on that subject, and merely say that the provisions in this regard seem to be remarkable. The Minister has said, "We intend to take you over at some future unspecified date; we have no idea when it will be, and we have no idea what we are going to do when we have taken you over; but somehow, at some time, the Minister will lay down, quite arbitrarily, the terms and conditions of compensation." On Report, the Parliamentary Secretary pleaded for more time to consider this matter. We would willingly give him more time to consider the whole of the Bill. It seems rather ironical to us that that plea should come from the Government Front Bench.

Some days ago, in concluding a speech in the House, the Solicitor-General stated that he wished to end on a different note. An hon. Member, rather rudely, I am afraid, interjected from these Benches, "B flat, I suppose." If that is the note I have struck tonight, I do not apologise, because it expresses exactly how I feel. We have laboured and struggled through. out all the stages of the Bill to oppose a Measure which we know to be wrong in principle and wrong in detail. I would like to pay a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport and the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary for the attention they have given, within the time available, to the representations of my right hon. Friends and myself. We have listened with respect, if not always with agreement, to everything that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have said. We have listened with restraint to less responsible speeches made by hon. Members behind them, who have shown that their support of this Bill is based more on prejudice and ignorance than on substance and fact. It is with intense bitterness that we shall go into the Lobby again tonight, to vote against a Bill which can do no good, and will do incalculable harm to the trade and commerce of this country; and we can only look forward to some distant date when we can reverse some, if not all, of its provisions.

I conclude by saying that the thing which has astonished me most throughout all the deliberations on this Bill is the self-satisfied confidence of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that they can create a vast State monopoly, in a few short months, on 1st January next and take over the ramifications of this vast transport industry of this country, an industry which has taken years to build up, and has been established only by years of hard work, foresight and enterprise. That being the case, I would commend them, in all seriousness, to the oft-repeated words of Cromwell to the Elders of Scotland:
"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

10.21 p.m.

If I may do so without presumption, I should like to start by congratulating the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Poole) on the admirable way in which he wound up the Debate for the Opposition. Moreover, I know I am expressing the views of all my hon. Friends on the Committee when I say that we admired the ability and courtesy with which he organised the Opposition on the Committee, and his unfailing pleasantness in all circumstances. For that reason I was all the more surprised at his rather uncharacteristic but understandable outburst towards the end of his speech tonight. I cannot, I fear, answer all the many questions which have been put to me from all sides of the House. Those I am unable to answer, I can assure hon. Members, will be fully considered, and we will write to hon. Members about any points they raised as soon as possible. What I intend to do is to answer what appear to me to be some of the more important questions that have been put, particularly by Members of the Opposition, and then I will make one or two general comments.

It has been asserted by the hon. Member for Oswestry and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) that one consequence of the setting up of this Commission and nationalising transport will be a substantial increase in staff. I do not know why they should say that. There is no evidence for that assumption. This is an integrating Bill, and I think one thing that is quite certain is that there will be a saving in administrative staff. There will certainly be a saving in that all the present directors will disappear. I look forward to some reduction in the total administrative staff as a result of this Measure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that this Bill meant there would be a three-tiered administration, and that the Ministry of Transport itself would have to establish a number of officials to look after the Commission from the Ministry of Transport end. I do not think that that is true. There were no additional officials engaged by my Ministry when the Control Commission came into being, and I can see no reason whatever why any increase in officials will be necessitated by these proposals.

The next point of importance, mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was his complaint that there are no geographical or local organisations set up under this Bill for carrying out the work of the Commission. I think we have answered that point before, but I would like to do so again. When we are transferring the work of the railways and long-distance road haulage to the Commission it is impossible to give the necessary executive powers to local organisations which do not, at the moment, exist. We are, therefore, bound at the outset to transfer the requisite functions to centralised executives. It is our belief and intention that, as soon as may be, there will be the maximum of decentralisation, but that must be a second step, and it seems to us impossible to take that step at the beginning. There will of course be set up, almost at the beginning, as my right hon. Friend said, local Consultative Committees which will be of great value. The hon. Member for Oswestry seemed to think it wrong that the Minister himself should appoint the members of the Consultative Committees. I do not know who in his view, should appoint them. Should it be the Commission? That, surely, would be entirely wrong. As these Consultative Committees are to consist of representatives of local authorities, industry, the public and so on, I should have thought it right that they should be appointed, not by the Commission, but by the Minister. There can be no justification for the hon. Member's criticism on this point.

Then, the argument was repeated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and he appeared to feel very keenly upon it, that our Bill is defective in that it does not contain either a charges scheme, or the principles upon which the new charges schemes could be established. I do not know how he or anybody else can imagine that it is possible for the Minister in bringing this Bill to the House, to set out in detail, or even in broad principle, the lines on which the new charges scheme should be established, as there is no agreement on this most complex question either in industry or in the transport world. Moreover, it is exceedingly important for the future of industry that a charges scheme should be sound and acceptable; and it is obviously desirable that all sections of industry should be enabled to make their views heard before it is irrevocably settled. In view of all these considerations, and the very complex and technical problems involved in drawing up a charges scheme, my right hon. Friend was surely right in saying that this problem must be considered by the Commission, who would pass their conclusions to the Transport Tribunal, who would then, after hearing the views of all users of transport, publish whatever charges scheme it considers best. I further ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he, or any other hon. Member, or, indeed, anybody connected with transport today, would be prepared to say, here and now, that the new charges scheme should be based on any of the existing known principles.

Certainly. I am quite prepared to say that they should be based on operational costs.

Then, I think we should have to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman what he means by operational costs. Let me assure him and the House that, though he may have made up his mind that it should be operational costs, he will find few people in the transport world or in industry prepared to accept that as the final answer, and that it is in fact the view of all authorities in the transport world this is still an open question. Let me quote to the House the opinion expressed recently by a great authority in this matter—Mr. A. E. Sewell, a member of the Institute of Transport and chairman of the Railway Panel of the Road and Rail Conference—in a speech which he delivered in February of this year, to the Institute of Transport. He said:

"The whole question of the future charging of merchandise in transit is still in the laboratory stage; nevertheless, I welcome, etc."
It is in the laboratory stage, and I suggest that the best way of solving the problem is to put the British Transport Commission in charge of the laboratory. We are then likely to get some results, for consideration by transport consumers, and by the Transport Tribunal, and adopted only after the most careful consideration by these bodies.

The other point made with great emphasis by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and, I think, by some other hon. Members, was: "Why there should be any hurry about this matter; what immediate benefits are likely to be forthcoming." My answer is that this industry is in an exceedingly unsatisfactory and unstable state, and there are great difficulties ahead of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have agreement on that platitudinous remark. I thought everyone accepted the fact that the transport industry of this country is faced with great difficulties, whatever happens. It is therefore all the more necessary to implement any solution of those difficulties as quickly as possible. As a solution has been decided upon by the Government, it would be most unwise to postpone its operation, leaving the industry in the air, leaving the directors with no certainty about the future of their enterprises. It would be bad for the transport services themselves and for industry, if delay took place for one moment longer than was necessary. In view of the urgency of the transport situation, and the necessity for getting the transport industry of this country on to a sound basis as quickly as possible, there is every reason why the transfer should take place on 1st January next year. There should be not one day of delay if it can be avoided.

I want to say a few words on the very controversial issue which has been raised this evening, and to which I think it essential that there should be a further reply from this Bench. I refer to the allegation that discussion of this Bill has been seriously curtailed by the Guillotine. Hon. Members have complained vehemently that discussion has been so curtailed, and that they have not been able to consider in detail all the Clauses. I have no doubt that they will continue to repeat that complaint, because of its obvious political value. I would first like to correct the impression that has gone out to the country that, in imposing the Guillotine to get the Bill through, we were doing something entirely unprecedented, and calculated to undermine Parliamentary democracy. The fact is, however, that since 1887 the Guillotine has been used over and over again by every Government in office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not in Committee."] There is no difference in principle at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There is no difference in principle whether the Guillotine is used in Committee of the whole House, or in Committee upstairs. The point I am making is that every Government, during the last sixty years has found it necessary to curtail debate when it desired to get through Parliament a major Measure to which there was strong opposition.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the gravamen of the charge against the Government is not simpliciter the imposition of the Guillotine, but the combination of these factors: first, the sending of a Measure of this magnitude upstairs to a Committee of 50 right hon. and hon. Members and the gagging of 590 Members; further the imposition of a second Guillotine on the Report stage, and then—[Interruption.]

I will give way, as I always do, to answer a question, but the hon. Gentleman is really making a second speech.

I think that the hon. Gentleman should not interrupt. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary was in possession of the House.

I am aware, Mr. Speaker, that I was not in possession of the House, but if the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to give way, I think he should have the common decency to give an explanation, after the way in which he has misinterpreted the facts.

I was explaining, Mr. Speaker, that Government after Government in the past considered it necessary to curtail debate in order to get major Measures through this House. The procedure has been accepted by every Government. The question now is whether there is any special justification for complaint against its use on this occasion.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I have always understood your Ruling to be that a decision of this House cannot be discussed in Debate. The House has decided that there should be a Guillotine. I think that the speech now being made by the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary would have been more appropriate on the Guillotine Motion. Will it now be possible to controvert what he has said?

I rather agree with the noble Lord. I am afraid that a bad example was started by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, and it is really my fault in not having stopped him.

This has been a major topic of debate in the House today, and I am, therefore, entitled to reply.

I am sure that hon. Members do not want me to fail to reply to accusations which have been made by them against the Government. I want to say this. First, all hon. Members of the Standing Committee will agree that every aspect of compensation in the Bill was discussed in the Committee at one stage or another. Secondly, although a certain number of Clauses were not discussed, a great many of those were Clauses to which there were no Opposition Amendments. They were machinery Clauses, and were not controversial. The Committee upstairs was a very happy one; under the genial leadership of my right hon. Friend. the Minister, whose attitude was fully responded to by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby and his hon. Friends. But there was in the course of that Committee frequent, endless repetition of the same arguments.

I was the Chairman of that Committee and any such repetition would certainly have been stopped by me.

It has been constantly held in this House, from both the higher and lower Chairs, that no Member has any right to criticise proceedings in Committee, and that it is not in Order to bring accusations on the conduct of Committees. The Minister accused the Committee and, incidentally, its Chairman of having permitted constant repetition.

Chairmen of Committees, upstairs or here, always have my full support. It is perfectly certain the conduct of Chairmen should not be criticised.

Hon. Members