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Clause 58—(Application Of Road And Rail Traffic Act, 1933, To Commission)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 23 July 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Lords Amendment: In page 74, line 4, at end insert:

"(c) This Section shall not apply to any vehicle used for the carriage of any goods for distances not exceeding eighty miles or for the carriage for any distance of any of the goods specified in provisos (a) and (b) of Subsection (1) of Section 52 "

I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The effect of this Amendment is to require the Commission to obtain a carrier's licence from the area licensing authority for all their—

Is the hon. Gentleman going to deal with next three Lords' Amendments together? May I ask your guidance on this, Mr. Speaker? I think these Amendments should be discussed together, if you approve.

I gather that the Amendments in page 78, line 41, and line 45, and page 93, line 27, new Clause B, go together.

I understand it would suit the Opposition if I dealt with all these Amendments together. The first, in page 74, line 4, requires the Commission to obtain a carrier's licence in respect of all the short distance work and some of the excluded traffics mentioned in Clause 52 in respect of short and long distance work. It appears to us to be wholly inappropriate that the Commission should have to obtain a carrier's licence from the licensing authority. In order to do that they have to apply like ordinary applicants to the licensing authority set up under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, and prove that there is need for the proposed haulage work; and they have to prove that that work cannot be done by other existing organisations. In view of the fact that this Bill imposes a duty on the Commission to carry out all long distance road haulage work, and to see that there are provided transport services, short distance and long distance, I suggest it would be wholly inappropriate if the Commission, whenever they considered a service was necessary, had to apply to the area licensing authority for permission to carry goods. For that reason I suggest that we disagree with this Lords Amendment.

I think the case requires a great deal more elaboration than the Parliamentary Secretary has given it. As I see the question, the case is far from being as simple as he made out. The Bill left this House with the Commission and the agents exempt by the provisions of Sections 72 to 76 of the Traffic Act of 1930. In other words, the Commission was not to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Traffic Commissioners. Now not only is the Commission to be exempt but also the agents of the Commission or anyone appointed to operate road services within the area of the scheme. As the Bill came back from another place, all operators both passenger road transport services and ordinary road transport, whether the Transport Commission, Executive or agents or workmen under contract, have to apply to the Traffic Commission for a licence, with the very important exception that the Traffic Commissioners are bound to give effect to any scheme made under Part IV of this Bill.

It does seem to me that this is in no way a wrecking Amendment. The situation is not half as simple, nor will it be during the next four or five years or even 10 years, as hon. Members may think. We must remember that quite apart from the services run by a body under the Part 4 scheme, the Commission is entitled under Clause 2 (1, a) to have a general power to carry passengers by road to places in Great Britain. Then further on, in Clause 2 (2, e) it has power to acquire by agreement any passenger road transport undertaking. In addition, by reason of the acquiring of such a combined road haulage undertaking consisting of lorries for the carriage of goods and buses for the carriage of its passengers the Commis- sion and the Executive may find themselves at a very early date—this is an important point for the immediate future—running buses in various localities.

Under Clauses 2 (1, a) and 2 (3) the Commission is entitled to carry on the running of these buses. Under Section 72 of the Road Traffic Act of 1930 an operator before he can run road services must apply for a road service licence to the Commission. This is an important point. The Commission must hear applications at public sittings at which the public and the Press attend. Local and other operators have the right to get up and say what they think. Licences have to be renewed every one, two, or three years. Every member of the public has the right to get up at the public inquiry and object to the continuation of the services or fares—and that does occur.

The Traffic Commissioners have to approve the fares charged and prevent excessive fares or uneconomic fares being charged. I believe there is a strong case for the Traffic Commission during the interregnum period being charged with the control over omnibus services. The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that he said on 29th April—I have not a copy of HANSARD with me, so I cannot quote the exact words—that it might be five years or more before company buses were taken over. During that time in the country we are going to have concerns some of which will be run by Road Executives and some by private bus companies and some possibly by individual owners. It seems to me that there will be a great injustice done if this Measure which has come down from another place is negatived because any operator of road services will have the right to representation in respect of any of the services of the Commission.

But the Commission, on the other hand, can contact the Traffic Commissioners, and make representations or objections to other operator services. I do not think that is fair to the operators. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to create that situation, although from a long-range point of view he may have an argument for not subjecting this great almighty Commission to any authority at all. The licensing authorities are responsible for the co-ordination of road services in the localities where they are appointed, and I believe by and large most hon. Members will think that they have, and are doing a very good job. But the strength of the case in favour of the Amendment is not based in my opinion on the rights of the individual operator; but far more on the rights of the travelling public.

The travelling public are going to be deprived of their right of appeal to the Traffic Commissioners if this Amendment is removed. So, members of the public and the Press will lose all their right under Section 72 of the 1930 Act of appearing at the public inquiries and stating their views. There is no right of renewing in all these licences. If unsatisfactory services are being run, the public have the right to try to stop the licence being renewed. They are going to lose that right and I think it is unfortunate in view of the very difficult situation which is going to exist in the next five years or possibly more when the switch from the privately owned to buses owned by the Road Executive is taking place. This is not only a question of objecting generally regarding the operation of transport because the Traffic Commissioners are obliged to sanction the types of vehicles to be used and the views of the public have an important effect on the types being produced in this country and thus on those made available for export abroad. It opens up a vast field. The Traffic Commissioners have to sanction routes and the times the buses run, and this causes the greatest controversy. In my own constituency between Folkestone and Hythe people in the middle are never satisfied. This happens almost anywhere. There is also the vexed question of stopping places, and I know people appreciate and the House itself appreciates the right of appeal.

Apart from that I believe that a really vital issue is raised in this Amendment because not only is the right of appeal being removed but—

I think the hon. Member is speaking on page 77, line 24, the second Amendment.

That, of course, has not been objected to. The House is being asked to disagree to the first Amendment, page 74, line 4. That is being objected to.

I was referring to page 78, line 45, which I thought was under discussion.

7.15 a.m.

This is not at all a simple case. It raises a matter of vital policy because a situation is going to arise eventually when the Commission will be able to appeal to nobody, but the individual will have to. If nationalised concerns are going to be treated differently from private concerns or corporate concerns owned by local authorities, it is going to produce an extraordinary situation in this country. I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that he should advise his right hon. Friend to "tip off" the co-operative societies because their interests will be vitally affected if this matter of principle goes through this morning without full discussion. I hope that the Amendment will prevail.

We must remember that in the eyes of the law all men in this country are equal. If we are going to change that view and if we are going to change the whole approach to the British legal system whereby there will be one law for the nationalised industries and another for anybody who is not nationalised, we are raising a peculiar principle in this country. I believe that the Amendment was reasonable and that it would have worked, particularly in view of the fact that no scheme under Part IV could be sabotaged by the Traffic Commissioners. Very wisely another place inserted this Amendment, and I do not think that it could be called a wrecking Amendment. I hope that the Government will reconsider their decision.

I should like briefly to support the thesis which has been so ably propounded by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson). It is really a very short point which is before us, and it relates to the case where a nationalised undertaking has to come before the Traffic Commissioners or similar body. Even the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary said at one stage that this had a prima facie attraction, and it is to that prima facie attraction that I wish to first direct attention. The cause of that attraction is that there should not be any difference as far as any legal obligations are concerned between the private operator and the nationalised industry. The hon. Gentleman's answer to that is, "But the nationalised induKry has a duty to provide services and certain other matters that are laid down in the Act." There are two answers to that. The first is that if a nationalised industry is doing its job and providing services according to the obligations laid down in the Bill, then it will have nothing to fear from coming before a tribunal of this kind. There is the second point, and this directly touches what the hon. Gentleman has said, that since the Act of 1930, the Traffic Commissioners in the case of passenger services had expressly to direct their attention to the question of the provision of uneconomic services as being one of the matter which they have to take into account in performing their licencing duties.

My hon. and gallant Friend has stressed that there is no question here of doing anything which will take from the power or effectiveness of any schemes that are made with regard to passenger vehicles, and, as far as that is concerned, no difficulty will take place. I stress, as he has done, the great effect it would have on the confidence with which the public will greet this innovation if the new bodies are prepared to put forward their proposals before an unbiased and impartial tribunal. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider that point. It is not enough that he should support, as I know he does with the highest intentions, the bodies he is helping to create. It is riot even enough that those running these bodies should themselves have these high intentions. It is essential that the public should be convinced that these high intentions are not merely initial feelings, but are continued in the day by day working. He will convince the public of that point only if the body is prepared to take the obligations and responsibilities which others were taking for the provision of a proper service of road transport. For that reason, I do not want to resist in any way the determination so clearly stated, but I implore the right hon. Gentleman from the point of view of the success of his own scheme, not to claim a preference for his new body but let that body demonstrate its excellence by its own work.

I would add some comments on the first Amendment. Most of what has been said applies in the main to the passenger side, but of course the goods traffic is equally affected. The point is quite simple. Nobody asked the Commission to go in front of the Commissioners and apply for a permit in that area of the Commission's work where they have a monopoly. That is common ground. They are doing their own co-ordination and nobody else need be consulted about it. We are concerned only with that area in which both the Commission and the private hauliers are operating in competition. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am explaining it, but I think it is perfectly plain in the Amendment. As the Parliamentary Secretary does not follow this point I shall have to explain it. Clause 58 says that the Road and Rail Traffic Act shall not apply to the Commission except in certain circumstances. The Amendment says Clause 58 shall not apply in the case of short distance vehicles. That is putting the thing shortly—I will not go into details about the 80 miles and so forth.

The point I would commend to the Parliamentary Secretary is this. Somebody has to do something about co-ordinating—the word the Government like so much and I am glad to use it from this side, although I do not like it very much—the work of short distance haulage runs by the Commission and runs by the individual hauliers. Just contemplate for one moment the kind of position in which the individual private hauliers are going to find themselves. They are already confined within the 25 miles limit. They have already lost many of their customers, and are subject to the competition of their fellows and the competition of the short hauliers owned by the Transport Commission. They can be undercut by the Commission because the Commission can subsidise its lorries out of railway, hotels or docks, or anything else. The Commission can even buy their garages. The Commission can flood the area with as many vehicles as they like without the permission of the Commissioners. If a private haulier says to the Commissioners he wants to extend his business or add a few lorries to it, he has to apply to the Commissioners, and so far as I can understand—the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am wrong—the Commission can actually appear at the hearing and object to it.

Moreover, whatever the Traffic Commissioners say, the Commission can increase the number of its vehicles in that area to any extent it wants to do. The Traffic Commissioners may have to turn to a haulier and say, "I know the traffic in this area has increased, I know you are a good haulier and can put up a good case, but these fellows have put on 10 more lorries." Surely that is grossly unfair. Is it not also silly? The Parliamentary Secretary told us they wanted to get some sort of co-ordination in this business. Is this the way to do it? It is not good enough for the Parliamentary Secretary to come to the House and say that this provision is wholly inappropriate to the Commission. Why? Why should they not apply like any ordinary applicant? Why should they be treated wholly differently? He said they would have to prove there was need for their vehicles. The small hauliers have had to do that for years now. Is there any reason why the Commission should not have to do so? The Government have not made a case for rejecting this Amendment. It seems to me a sensible and also a necessary Amendment.

I think the hon. Member is wrong in his interpretation of the Amendment. I am informed that it would require the Commission to obtain a carrier's licence for all its short-distance work and some of the excluded traffic over short distance and long distance.

Then we agree on that point. I maintain, and my right hon. Friend maintains, that it is wholly inappropriate for the Commission, which is charged to produce effective services throughout the country, to have to go on each occasion it wants to develop a service to an outside body which may say "You can do this service, or the other service, on certain conditions, or you may not run here at all." It cannot possibly discharge the obligations put upon it by Parliament if a third party is in a position to interfere, and to stop the Commission doing what Parliament has charged it to do. The same applies to the suggestion that the Commission should have to obtain road service licences in respect of all its passenger transport services. A private enterprise concern has to go to the licensing authority to ask for licences, and may be granted them on certain conditions. The idea has been to bring a certain amount of order into the chaos of existing conditions. The licensing authority will say what the fares should be, the times of operation, and the number of vehicles and journeys, and all that sort of thing. Where Parliament charges a body such as the Commission with providing an effective passenger transport service, it is wrong that the scheme of operation which the Commission proposes to put into effect should be subject to the veto of an outside body.

7.30 a.m.

When Parliament set up the London Passenger Transport Board, it was realised that competition would entirely disappear in that area, and that as the Government were charging a public body with the duty of providing a public service, it was wrong that this public body should subject itself to the local licensing authority. The L.P.T.B. does not do so. The Commission will be in exactly the same position both in regard to road and passenger work. If it was logical to exclude the L.P.T.B., when it was set up, from the authority of the licensing authority, I suggest that the same logic applies to the Commission.

I was horrified to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary said. He suggested that it is inappropriate for this Commission to obey the law, and is taking steps to see that it does not have to. He has told us that in the case of the L.P.T.B. special arrangements were made. What was the position of the L.P.T.B.? A great monopoly was set up—and I am not supporting a monopoly. There was no competition any more within its area. Here the case is absolutely different. Here the small haulier is still allowed to exist with this National Transport Board coming along to compete with him—not on equal but unequal terms. They do not have to go to the licensing authorities, they can put as many vehicles on the road as they like and can drive the small man out of business. It is a proposition that is entirely intolerable. I hope that the House will not do anything but agree with the Lords Amendment.

I have seldom been I astonished by the right hon. Gentleman, and I am certainly not astonished now. This gross unfairness has been typical of everything contained in all of his speeches I have had the honour to hear. He is proposing that vast powers should be given, which do not meet any of the usual licensing laws. On the other side is the ordinary citizen. Really and honestly there should be some licensing authority, but he refuses. He has laid it down that Parliament has given the Commission a duty to do. Equally, he says, Parliament has given the licensing authority a duty to issue licences. It is perfect humbug to say that Parliament has given this duty: it has not done so yet. I was frankly hoping that in a case of this sort we should have a free vote. The country should know that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to arm this Commission with such power that it absolutely does not fit in with the transport licensing laws—that it operates with gross unfairness in the way of competition with the private citizen right through the Bill from beginning to end.

Here is the worst example. It is the deliberate wish of the whole of the Front Bench opposite to apply the law in such a way that they harass the small man as much as they possibly can. The whole object of the Bill is to try to kill the ordinary, decent little man. They have a free licence to do what they like. It is a completely monstrous position which the Government have laid down here, and I do hope that we shall have a chance to vote against it, and that the Press of the country will show the way in which the ordinary citizens of this country are being treated by the Government. We dislike monopolies and Government monopolies. We have heard a lot about monopolies from hon. Gentlemen opposite for a long time and the first thing that they do when they get into power is to set up monopolies.

We on this side of the House have always regarded public monopolies as far more vicious than private monopolies. Now we have a case in point which illustrates our argument better than anything that has happened for a long time.

Question put, "That the House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Division No. 332]


[7.36 a.m.

Adams, Richard (Balham)Gunter, R. J.Price, M. Philips
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)Guy, W. H.Proctor, W. T.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Hale, LesliePryde, D J
Attewell, H. C.Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.Randall, H. E
Austin, H. LewisHannan, W. (Maryhill)Ranger, J
Awbery, S. SHastings, Dr. SomervilleRees-Williams, D R
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. BHaworth, J.Richards, R.
Baird, J.Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Balfour A.Herbison, Miss M.Robens, A.
Barnes, Rt. Hon A JHewitson, Capt. M.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Barstow, P. GHobson, C. R.Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Barton, C.Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Beohervaise, A. EHubbard, TSargood, R.
Beswick, F.Hudson, J H. (Ealing, W)Scollan, T
Bing, G. H. CHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Shackleton, E. A. A
Binns, J.Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton. W.)Sharp, Granville
Blenkinsop, AHynd, H. (Hackney, C.)Shurmer, P
Blyton, W. RIrving, W. JSilverman, J. (Erdington)
Bowles, F G. (Nuneaton)Janner, B.Simmons, C. J.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M (L'pl, Exch')Jeger, G. (Winchester)Skeffington, A. M
Braddock, T (Mitcham)Jeger, Dr. S. W (St. Pancras, S.E.)Skinnard, F W
Brook, D. (Halifax)Jones, D. T (Hartlepools)Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Brown, George (Belper)Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Sorensen, R W.
Bruce, Major D W TJones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)Soskice, Maj. Sir P
Buchanan, G.Keenan, W.Sparks, J. A
Burke, W. A.Kenyon, C.Stamford, W
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)King, E. MSteele, T.
Carmichael, JamesKinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr EStephen, C.
Chamberlain, R. ALang, G.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E)
Champion, A. JLavers, S.Strauss, G. R (Lambeth, N.)
Chater, D.Lee, F (Hulme)Stubbs, A. E.
Chetwynd, G. RLee, Miss J (Cannock)Swingler, S.
Cocks, F. S.Leonard, W.Symonds, A. L.
Celdrick, W.Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)Taylor, H B. (Mansfield)
Collins, V J.Lipton, Lt.-Col. MTaylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Colman, Miss G. MLogan, D. GThomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Cooper, Wing-Comdr GLongden, F.Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K (Camb'well, N. W.)Lyne, A WThomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Crawley, AMcAdam, WThomas, George (Cardiff)
Crossman, R H SMcAllister, GThomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Daggar, GMcGhee, H. GThorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Daines, P.Mack, J. D.Tiffany, S.
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Mackay, R. W G (Hull, N.W)Timmons, J.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield)McKinlay, A STitterington, M F
Davies, Hadyn (St Pancras, S W)McLeavy, FTolley, L.
Deer, G.MacMillan, M. K (Western Isles)Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Delargy, H JMacpherson, T (Romford)Usborne, Henry
Dobbie, WMallalieu, J P WVernon, Maj. W. F.
Dodds, N. N.Manning, C (Camberwell, N.)Walker, G. H
Driberg, T. E. NManning, Mrs L (Epping)Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Dumpleton, C WMathers, GWallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Dye, S.Mellish, R. JWatkins, T E
Ede, Rt. Hon J. C.Middleton, Mrs. LWatson, W. M
Evans, John (Ogmore)Mikardo, IanWeitzman, D.
Evans, S. N (Wednesbury)Millington. Wing-Comdr E. RWells, P L (Faversham)
Ewart, R.Mitchison, G. RWells, W T (Walsall)
Fairhurst, F.Moyle, A.West, D. G.
Field, Capt W JMurray, J. DWhite, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Foot, M. MNally, WWhiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Forman, J. D.Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)Wilkins, W. A.
Fraser, T. (Hamil)Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Noel-Buxton, LadyWilliams, D. J. (Neath)
Gallacher, W.O'Brien, T.Williams, W R (Heston)
Ganley, Mrs. C SOrbach, M.Willis, E.
Gibson, C WPaling, Will T. (Dewsbury)Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Gilzean, A.Palmer, A. M. FWise, Major F. J
Glanville, J E (Consett)Pargiter, G. AWoods, G. S.
Gordon-Walker, P. C.Paton, J. (Norwich)Wyatt, W.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Pearson, A.Yates, V. F.
Grey, C. F.Peart, Thomas F.Younger, Hon Kenneth
Grierson, E.Piratin, PZilliacus, K
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Platts-Mills, J. F. F
Griffiths, W D (Moss Side)Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Snow and Mr. Popplewell.

The House divided: Ayes, 220; Noes, 66.


Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Haughton. S. GPreston, Stanley
Assheten, Rt. Hon RHutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Baldwin, A. E.Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.Ramsay, Maj S
Barlow, Sir J.Lambert, Hon. G.Rayner, Brig. R.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. HLangford-Holt, J.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S C (Hillhead)
Bossom, A C.Law, RI. Hon. R. K.Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Bower, NLegge-Bourke, Maj. E A HRopner, Col. L
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)Spearman, A. C M
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. TLucas-Tooth, Sir HStoddart-Scott, Col. M
Butcher, H. W.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Clarke, Col R S.McKis, J. H (Galloway)Studholme, H. G
Clifton-Browne, Lt.-Col. GMaclay, Hon. J SThorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. EMacmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Touche, G C.
Cuthbert, W. N.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)Turton, R. H.
De la Bère, R.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Wadsworth, G.
Digby, S. W.Mellor, Sir J.Ward, Hon. G R.
Dodds-Parker, A. DMolson, A. H. E.Wheatley, Colonel M S
Drayson, G BNeven-Spence, Sir BWhite, J. B. (Canterbury)
Elliot Rt. Hon. WalterNicholson, GWilliams, C (Torquay)
Foster, J. G (Northwich)Noble, Comdr. A H P.York, C.
Gage, C.Osborne, C.
Grant, LadyPitman, I J.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hare, Hon J. H (Woodbridge)Poole, O B. S. (Oswestry)Major Conant and
Lieut.-Colonel Thorp.