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Transport

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 21 July 1954

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Goods Vehicles, Central London (Representations)

13.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what protests he has received on the proposed restriction of loading and unloading goods vehicles in Central London.

My right hon. Friend has received representations from the Westminster Chamber of Commerce, the National Road Transport Federation and the National Association of Furniture Warehousemen and Removers.

What is the Minister doing about these recommendations? Is he not aware that these new proposed regulations are the fourth lot in 18 months, and does he now propose, for the first time, to deny to traders the principle to have reasonable access to their premises? Would it not be far better to concentrate on the problem created by the parking of private cars in unilateral streets? If he did that, and if he provided parking meters, he would do more good.

These proposals, which are likely to be put into force in the autumn, are the result of recommendations from the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. They have been discussed with the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and with the Commissioner of Police for the City of London, both of whom are in favour of trying these new methods of restriction for an experimental period.

For a period of six months, with a review after three months. It really does not follow that because the hon. and gallant Gentleman disagrees with all the experts on traffic problems, they are necessarily wrong.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the main problem in regard to London traffic is one of flow, that a lorry takes up just as much room as, or more room than a private car, and that many people in this House and in the country will welcome any experiment—this and others?

Commercial Vehicles, Coventry

16.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware of local fears that the position of commercial transport is being jeopardised in Coventry by the basing of British Road Services vehicles outside their former district; how many of the 29 already sold under the disposal scheme will be based outside Coventry, and at what distance from their former district; and what arrangements are proposed to avoid disturbance of the commercial transport system in the area.

I have received no representations that road transport in Coventry has suffered from the sale of British Road Services vehicles. I am afraid I cannot undertake to give particulars of the location of every vehicle after disposal, but I have full confidence in the licensing authority to discharge their responsibilities in dealing with licence applications involving change of base. I am also satisfied that the British Transport Commission is effectively carrying on its road haulage services so that there shall be no avoidable disturbance of the transport system during the disposal period.

Is the Minister aware that in that very lengthy answer he has not dealt at all with the point I raised? Is it not possible for him to say how many of these vehicles are to be based outside the area of Coventry? Is it not further true that in the British Road Services area of Coventry Leamington is included and the figure of 29 vehicles should be 50?

As I said, it would be clearly quite impossible for me or any Minister to undertake to give the exact location of every vehicle disposed off. I am satisfied that the licensing authority recognise their responsibility under the relevant Section of the Act—Section 9, I believe—and can be relied upon to see that it is carried out.

Abnormal Loads

24.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the increasing number of abnormally bulky and slow-moving loads, such as ships' propellors, railway carriages and industrial plants which are transported by road, causing congestion and delay to other road users; and if he will consult with industry with a view to discouraging this traffic until the road system can be made adequate to carry it.

The number of abnormal indivisible loads has increased since the war. I regret the inconvenience which they can cause, but such traffic is usually of high national importance. The whole procedure for carrying heavy loads by road is now under review, and I am proposing to bring representatives of industry into consultation.

While appreciating what my right hon. Friend has said about this traffic being of national importance, may I ask whether it would not be possible for some of this traffic to go by sea, as it presumably did in the days before heavy road vehicles were used for this purpose?

Yes, Sir. I know that manufacturers are conscious of that fact. I am always ready to draw their attention to that means of transport, but I could not direct traffic to go by any one particular form of transport. I am, however, bringing representatives of industry into consultation on what, I recognise, is a considerable problem.

Is it not a fact that this problem is getting worse because the Minister, under the Transport Act, removed any equalisation of charges between coastwise shipping and road transport? Does he not agree that if only he would go back to the previous system this problem would become much less?

No, Sir. The problem is getting more difficult because of the growing industrial prosperity under this Government.

Road Haulage Assets (Disposal)

25.

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.

27.

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.