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Road Haulage Assets (Disposal)

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 21 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, in view of Section 3 (6) of the Transport Act, 1953, he will take steps to find out to what extent the practice is widespread of transferring vehicles from the original purchaser to other owners within, say, three months of their original sale.

I am informed that the general effect of the limited number of such transfers which have been made has been to put the vehicles into a greater rather than a smaller number of hands.

I am very glad to hear that, but may I ask whether the Minister is conscious that what is happening is that a number of people are buying these vehicles, not for the purpose of going into transport, but in order immediately to re-sell them at a profit, and that in some cases—it is no use hon. Members shaking their heads—this is really getting near a financial racket?

No. I am conscious of the fact that all that the hon. Gentleman has said is quite untrue. A large proportion of these assignments are pure formalities—the assignment, for example, by a successful tenderer to a partnership or a company which he has himself formed; others are assignments to other small men; others again are assignments by a finance house to the proposed operator. There is no sign whatever of a "ganging up"—to use one of the hon. Gentleman's happy phrases during the proceedings on the Transport Bill, which he is now attempting to revise.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman make some detailed inquiries into the matter and not try to evade the point in this way? Does he not know that there is considerable concern among transport workers that people are making substantial profits out of tendering for lorries and then immediately re-selling them without any intention of going into the industry?

I am prepared constantly to watch the development of this Act. The charges so loosely volunteered by the hon. Gentleman really do not bear scrutiny.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the avoidable disturbance of the transport industry caused by the failure of intending purchasers to pay the agreed purchase price by the due date, with the result that vehicles are standing idle; and if he will issue a general direction to the British Transport Commission that such vehicles shall be used meantime to carry on the existing road haulage undertaking.

I am informed by the British Transport Commission that while there has been no significant disturbance from this cause, they have already issued instructions for dealing with any cases that may arise. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Can the Minister tell us what the instructions are, because traffic in South Wales during the last 10 days has been held up by so-called purchasers failing to produce the purchase money, with the result that British Road Services have had to refuse traffic while vehicles stand idle in their yards?

No, Sir, that is not so. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that in these transactions, compared with the nationalisation transactions, the Commission and the Disposal Board are asking for cash on the spot. In order to deal with any repetitions of the one or two cases that they have had, the Commission tell me they have already issued an instruction that where the purchase is not completed by the due date and it seems likely that it will not be completed within an extra day or two, the vehicles in question are to be put back into service as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that during the Committee stage of the Transport Bill he told me that vehicles would not be withdrawn from traffic before being put up for sale, and that while I disagreed with that point of view he insisted on it? Will he now take steps to make certain that the flow-off to private enterprise is not being assisted by him by more of these vehicles being kept out of traffic than there ought to be?

I gave an assurance that we would do all we could to limit the period between ownership by British Road Services and the transfer to private ownership. That has been scrupulously observed, and the absence of any nationwide complaint has justified that action.