Considered in Committee. [1st Allotted Day.]
[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
Clause 1—(Disposal Of Commission's Existing Road Haulage Undertaking)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out from "dispose," to "of," in line 9, and to insert:
We are now embarking upon a quick gallop through a miserable Bill for which inadequate time has been given. Most of us will be much relieved if the Patronage Secretary will withdraw along with the Prime Minister."by the exercise of their powers under this Act."
I hope that the Committee will behave more quietly.
On a point of order. Is it in order to boo a Member of this House?
What else can you say to a goose?
The hon. Member must withdraw that remark.
I merely asked a simple question. I do not see that there is anything that I require to withdraw.
If the hon. Member will not withdraw that remark, he will withdraw from the Committee.
It is really too bad of the Prime Minister when there is a Guillotine operating to come back and waste the time of the House. Secondly, is what my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said so much out of order? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] If so, on what grounds? Is the Prime Minister to be permitted to charge my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) with the reverse of patriotism and my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock to be thrown out because of the use of the word "goose"?
On a point of order—
The Prime Minister has risen to a point of order.
With very great respect, is it not a fact that booing is an un-Parliamentary action.
Further to that point of order—
I was asked a question and I hope the Committee will allow me to answer the point of order put to me.
Further to that point of order—
I have given my Ruling, and if there is anything further to say on it, I shall be glad to hear it, but in the meantime I want to say that booing is grossly out of order and I hope it will not be repeated.
What about patriotism?
I now ask for the withdrawal of the word "goose."
I can deal with only one thing at a time.
With great respect—
I will deal with only one point of order at a time, and I have asked the hon. Member for Kilmarnock to withdraw the word "goose."
It is on that point that I want to rise. I respectfully submit to you that there are two points to which you have taken exception. One is booing, which I can quite understand. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I understand the Chairman's Ruling, and I do not dispute it. But I also understand the indignation of my hon. Friend as well. So far as I know, my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock was not booing. He is charged with another offence, that he used the word "goose." It is on that particular point that I rise to a point of order.I want to know if it is permissible to charge my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) with the reverse of patriotism, as was done by the Prime Minister, which is a very serious charge; and at the same time, has my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock got to contemplate suspension from the House, which I gather is where we are getting to, merely for using the word "goose," about which I am sure the Prime Minister, who can give hard words himself, will not be unduly upset?
May I say, with great respect and with the indulgence of the Committee, that I do not in the least mind being called a goose? I have been called many worse things than that. I only ventured to rise because this custom of booing—this is the third time that I have been booed by the Socialist Party—I have always been brought up to believe was contrary to the spirit and the conduct of the House. As for the rest, if I may be permitted to say so, I gladly accept the hon. Member stigmatising me in that way, and if that will weigh with you, Sir Charles, no one will be more grateful than myself.
It is rather a pity that the Prime Minister was not in the House the whole of last night when Scotland was so badly treated. My remark was directed to the Patronage Secretary.
In view of what the Prime Minister says, that he does not mind being called a goose I think we can say the incident is finished. It then does not matter to me. [Interruption.] We are now engaging in a Time-table on this Bill, and if I do not get the assistance of the Committee, we shall not be able to get through in the time allotted.
On a point of order. First of all, no one called anyone a goose. In the second place, if a remark is out of order, it cannot be put in order by any hon. Member saying he does not mind being called that. Is the Prime Minister, with all his great experience, not really arrogating to himself the role of arbiter as to what is or what is not in order? Are we not reaching a curious condition if an individual can himself say, "I do not mind what I am called," and the Chairman says, "That is all right, then; we can go on"?
The word "goose" is not in the list of unparliamentary expressions. The word is not in the list of forbidden phrases in Erskine May, and I think we have now got the matter settled.
I think we all agree that it is not a very good start to a very bad day. The Bill that we are going to discuss will not arouse any more unity, and certainly will not bring any more pleasure to the benches opposite, than the exhibition we have just witnessed. What we are about to discuss is the Amendment which I have moved.The purpose of the Amendment is to prevent the British Transport Commission—[Interruption.]—from disposing of such property as they—[Interruption.]—
I hope hon. Members, as they are leaving the Chamber, will be as quiet as possible.
The purpose of the Amendment is to prevent the British Transport Commission from being required to dispose of their property in the Road Haulage Executive as quickly as possible. The first question I should like to ask the Minister is: Why does he want them to dispose of their property as quickly as possible? What is the reason for the hurry?There are two de-nationalisation Measures in front of us, one in connection with steel and the other in connection with transport. In the Amendment I am submitting to the Committee, we propose to substitute the words contained in the steel de-nationalisation Bill for those contained in the transport de-nationalisation Bill. We thought that if no words of ours were likely to appeal to the Minister, then perhaps the words of his colleague the Minister of Supply might appeal to him. We ask him, as question number 1: What is the reason for dealing with this matter in this vast hurry and for requiring the Road Haulage Executive to be broken up so quickly? Why—if it will not be out of order for me to say this—has the Minister not chosen the form of words contained in the Steel Bill which we now propose to write into the Transport Bill? It is indeed a curious situation that one method of disposal should be adopted in the case of steel and another in the case of transport, which must make the position of the traders and of the British Transport Commission worse than it need otherwise be. The second point is this. If Clause 1 goes through as it is at present drafted, the public road haulage service that has been built up very painfully during the last three or four years will be brought to an end very quickly indeed. Why does the Minister wish to bring to an end quickly the first national road haulage service that this country has had, when it is badly needed by traders, and when there are many doubts and difficulties about so doing in the minds of those engaged in the trade and commerce of this country? Why is it the Minister's intention to break up this national road haulage undertaking, which is at the moment conveying many millions of tons of goods up and down the roads of this country? I would refer the Minister to the document that he has received from the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. One of their most potent criticisms is on page 1, where they say:
How does the Minister intend to preserve this continuity of adequate service during a break-up that may well take place over a matter of not more than six months, and with the atomisation of the road haulage service into small units? Why, instead of doing it in this way, has the Minister not proposed that the British Transport Commission should be allowed to dispose of their property in a reasonably orderly way by virtue of the provisions that are contained in the Bill, so that they may be able to judge when they can sell the property, at times which will not disrupt trade and industry and will not involve the taxpayer or the traders—who will have to pay the levy—or anybody else who is concerned in this matter, including the Commission, in the maximum of loss? Our Amendment is designed to secure an orderly disposal of those assets. Why does the Minister suggest a disorderly disposal of them? What is the hurry? What is the purpose of breaking up this thing so quickly, irrespective of the consequences to trade and industry and irrespective of the amount of loss involved and of the breakdown of the services that will flow from it? I would quote from a recent issue of the "Southern Daily Echo," that for Saturday, 15th November, in which the Chairman of the southern area of the Road Haulage Association is reported as saying that 99 per cent. of his members were opposed to the present methods of de-nationalisation."The vital interests of users could be seriously impaired if the existing network of services, both local and national, were disbanded or disrupted; continuity of adequate service to industry and commerce was imperative."
I take it he means knocking it down at a cheap price—"The present Government were under-estimating the difficulties of the job. The Government seemed far too concerned with 'knocking down' the Road Haulage Executive"—
said the Chairman of the southern area of that Association. That is a very serious matter. Of course the road hauliers are concerned. They have the greatest doubts about the bona fides and the stability of the people who are to come into the road haulage industry once these sales at knock-down prices take place. Too late in the day they have seen the consequences of what the Minister is doing, and they are now no longer the supporters of the Minister in his proposition. I ask the Minister further questions. We are not going to take long with our speeches. We shall make them all businesslike and short, if we can. I would interpolate a word to indicate that we shall try to avoid Divisions that we would otherwise take, because they would eat into the short time that is allocated to us. That is why we shall not divide on matters which we feel are of great importance to us indeed in what we are discussing. What is the Minister's estimate of the number of vehicles that he is likely to sell under this quick method? There will be, roughly, 35,000 vehicles on the market straight away. Does he think he is going to be able to dispose of them quickly at a reasonable price? He should give the Committee an estimate of what he expects to be able to sell, under the Clause as it now stands. I draw his attention to the fact that putting 35,000 vehicles on the roads as quickly as possible will mean that he is trying to double the normal sale of commercial vehicles per year in this country. If hon. Members will refer to the monthly Digest of Statistics, they will see that the annual sale of commercial vehicles above 15 cwt. shown in that volume is about 40,000. The Minister is proposing to double that number by telling the Commission that they have to sell them as quickly as possible. If he adopts that wording, does he not realise that he will be inviting the Commission to get rid of the vehicles at a moment of trade recession, when vehicles are laid up? There are more laid-up vehicles in the possession of the Road Haulage Executive than have ever been laid up during the history of that organisation. That is a measure of the trade recession that has overtaken this country in the last 12 months. Why does the Minister choose this moment to tell the British Transport Commission that they have to dispose of their vehicles. What he will do, as I suggested to him the other day in a supplementary question, is to invite people to hold off purchasing, and automatically and inevitably to depreciate the value of the vehicles by shovelling them on to the market all at one time, instead of putting them on slowly in lots so that they can be absorbed by the market. Does he really believe that there are sufficient small businessmen in this country to buy out an organisation whose capital value is estimated at up to £100 million? Does he realise what he is doing? 4.0 p.m. To invite the Stock Exchange to place an issue of £100 million, or even half that figure, would be a mammoth undertaking, and I would not mind guaranteeing that they would have a lot of underwriting to do. But he is not even going to use the Stock Exchange. He is going to some mythical thousands of small businessmen who are supposed to be crying out to get back into the industry. He is going to say to them, "It is your job to raise up to £100 million to buy this undertaking." That is why no responsible person to whom I have talked has ever taken the view that the Minister is likely to sell more than 25 per cent. Of the vehicles. If that is what he is going to do, he should tell the Committee. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman this question before, and it is high time that he told us what he expects to do in this matter. There are two ways of disposing of a piece of machinery that one does not want. One can take a sledge hammer to it, swing the hammer round one's head, pound the machinery to pieces, reduce it to scrap and sell it as junk. That is the method of the Minister under this Clause. Or one can dismantle the machinery, dismember it, unbolt it, unscrew it, take the component parts away from the machine, set them out, clean them and lay them out properly for sale as parts of the machine. That is the method we propose under this Amendment. That is the difference between the Minister and ourselves. Neither my hon. Friends nor myself can follow why, if the Minister has the national interest at heart, he should not follow the method which is likely to secure the best bargain for the people of this country, who have paid for these assets, in the sale and disposal of them. I sum up, therefore, by asking the Minister these four questions. What is his estimate of the number of vehicles that he will sell? What is the need for hurry at a time of trade depression, at a time when, if he offers all the vehicles for sale at the same time, he is bound to get lower prices? Why has he not adopted the method shown in the Iron and Steel Bill for disposal which we are now attempting to write into the Transport Bill? Finally, what step is he taking to safeguard the carriage of goods up and down the country roads of this country whilst this chaos will be going on? The Minister has a duty to tell the Committee and the traders what his attitude is towards these problems. If he would adopt the proposals contained in our Amendment, we should at least have an orderly disposal of the vehicles which the Road Haulage Executive have to get rid of, and we should at least be able to get a decent price. I suggest to the Minister that it is his duty to forget his election pledges and to act in the interests of the nation."with too little regard about what was going to take its place. We are greatly concerned,"
I do not know whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I tried to deal at once with one or two of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I am quite ready, by leave of the Committee, to intervene again at a later stage if further points arise on this Amendment, but I take it that as there is a large number of Amendments, and as we have a Guillotine procedure in force, the course I have suggested would commend itself to the Committee. I am glad of what the hon. Gentleman said about the number of Divisions, and I agree that it would be a mistake to eat into the limited time available by having a large number of them. I am sure that no one will assume that, just because the Opposition have not voted against a proposal, thereby they are giving it their support.In fairness to the Commission, as they have no spokesman other than myself, I should like at this stage to make their position quite plain. I have had entirely harmonious relations of a personal kind with the British Transport Commission. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly. The fact that we do not agree necessarily on everything that should be done does not presuppose the absence of good personal relations. As I say, the Commission has no spokesman other than the Minister. Although the Chairman of the Commission sits in another place, it is obviously unwise, and was accepted and laid down as guidance by the previous Government, that a chairman of a nationalised board who, by chance, happens to be a member of another place, should be able to make speeches there. I should therefore like to make it plain that, while the Commission welcomes certain aspects of the proposals in this Bill in regard to railway charges—I cannot, of course, develop them at this point—they are completely opposed to the provisions in regard to the disposal of the Road Haulage Executive. They think not only that it should not be disposed of, but that the methods that the Government are proposing are unworkable. It is only fair to the Commission to make their position absolutely plain. I do not agree with the Commission and I have little doubt that before many months are over their fears will not be realised. The hon. Gentleman asked me a number of questions. He asked, first, why should we try as speedily as practicable to bring to an end the operations of the Road Haulage Executive. I think he knows the answer. Once a decision is taken that the long-distance monopoly of the British Transport Commission and the Road Haulage Executive is to be broken up, the quicker it is done, provided it is in an orderly way, the better for everybody concerned. Nothing could be worse than a long-drawn-out process. Now I know we are giving the Commission a very difficult ask. We are asking of the Road Haulage Executive that during the period of their diminishing authority they will continue to run efficiently the services that remain to them. But, after all, the same thing was asked of a large number of private hauliers by the right hon. Gentleman who was the Minister in 1946. And remember the position of those hauliers. Many of them were working on loans and guarantees. It was known to the People who were backing them that their businesses were to be appropriated. It was not unreasonable to assume that banks and other credit facilities would no longer be available. Yet the late Government laid on these people a statutory duty to continue in their task even though it was known that their activities would be brought to an end. And not only that. An express statutory obligation was laid in the Act of 1947 on the private haulier to continue even from the date when a notice of acquisition had been given until the actual transfer took place. If it was not unreasonable to ask that of a large number of small people, it is not unreasonable in our view to ask the Commission and the Road Haulage Executive to carry on even though their long-distance monopoly is to be brought to an end, and to carry on in an ever-diminishing field. I think I have answered the argument of the hon. Gentleman in regard to the need for speed. Of course, we do not intend that there should be a disorderly rush. The Commission will be charged with seeing that there is no unreasonable interference, as far as is possible, with the due discharge of their duties, and the Disposal Board, will have to see that the units as broken up will conform to the needs of the Commission in this regard. Both these procedures will, we hope, retain a proper measure of order and discipline during the period of transition. We have no intention whatever of making speed the only criterion, but speed is an important criterion and that is why it figures in Clause 1 of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman also asked me why we did not adopt the same procedure as that in the Steel Bill. I am interested in a later Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends which lifts certain words wholly out of the Steel Bill and applies them to this Bill. But surely a little consideration shows that the two Bills are wholly different in machinery, even though they share an ultimate objective. In the case of steel, the Government do not hold assets but hold the securities of companies. In transport, we hold assets, and assets can only be properly used by someone having physical possession of them and being able to employ them properly. That is why we are providing that, as the field of State monopoly diminishes, there shall be proper opportunities open for private hauliers to take their place. The third question that the hon. Gentleman directed to me asked why we were breaking up an organisation which, he claimed, was fulfilling a vital national purpose. This, of course, calls in question the whole policy of the Government. I could range, as I have done on three occasions in the House, over the reasons the road haulage disposal proposals are in the Bill, but that would entrench on a great many other Amendments and would unduly take up the time of the Committee. Let it suffice if I say this—
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Let me finish this point first. No one disputes the vigour and zeal with which the Road Haulage Executive have tackled their task. It is true that they are not being of great financial help to the Commission. At the moment, in all probability they are not earning their own keep, but that is not for lack of zeal. The purpose of setting up the Road Haulage Executive was not to have, even had it been successful, an efficient road transport system, but to have an integrated transport system with the rail activities of the nation.
I was not on that broad point, but on this much narrower point: the traders of the country have gradually come to appreciate for the first time that they have a trunk service that runs up and down the main roads. What I am asking is why the right hon. Gentleman wants to break up that particular bit of the service. I am not speaking of the Road Haulage Executive as a whole, but of a very valuable, vital link in our transport system that has been built up over the last three years. They might be able to carry on with, for example, 5,000 vehicles. Why does the Minister insist on breaking up the whole thing?
We are quite satisfied, even though there have been substantial improvements in the services offered by the Road Haulage Executive over what they gave three years ago, that none the less private competition in that field, too, will yield better results. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]The hon. Gentleman asked me about certain resolutions of and correspondence with the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, but I hope he realises—the full letter was read out in the House—that the Association of British Chambers of Commerce are wholly behind the intention of the Bill. Their only dispute is with one aspect of the machinery of the Bill. When we get to Clause 3, no doubt Amendments may be put forward by those who are entitled to speak for the Association on matters of that kind. We are fully determined that there shall be a proper service during the transitional period. Just as the private haulier gave proper service even though he was under notice of early extinction, so we are sure that the Road Haulage Executive will do the same and that the patriotism and good sense shown by large numbers of small people will also be shown by a large-scale State monopoly. Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked for an estimate of how many vehicles we expect to sell. He has not himself exactly helped in the disposal by some of the alarms and excursions in which he and his hon. and right hon. Friends have indulged; but all the evidence that has come to me lately shows that the fears that the Opposition hope to arouse in the minds of large numbers of potential buyers are not likely to be realised. We have every expectation that there will be very substantial sales indeed. Some of the very gloomy estimates of hon. Members opposite will certainly not be realised. Of course, no one can say precisely what the numbers will be. If I had taken active steps in advance of the decision of Parliament to invoke a nation-wide referendum, the House would have said that I was anticipating the decision of Parliament. I am sure, however, that as soon as the House has made up its mind on the Bill and the Bill becomes an Act, there will be no difficulty whatever in disposing of a very substantial number of these businesses. I am not in the least impressed by the argument of the hon. Gentleman that the annual sale of commercial vehicles is only half of the total road haulage fleet.
Or its equivalent.
I mean, equivalent to about that size. What we are offering for sale are not ordinary single vehicles. They are businesses with business connections and many other assets, in a wholly different category from any vehicles which are offered on the market for the first time. We shall have other Amendments and other opportunities of discussion, but I hope that I have done something to meet the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, and I will await any further observations that may be made.
The Minister has not given any satisfactory answer to my hon. Friend's criticisms. Although the Guillotine procedure makes it extremely difficult to have satisfactory consideration and discussion of the whole Bill, the Committee would be making a great mistake to under-estimate the importance of these first Amendments on the Order Paper. "The Times," in a leading article today, very rightly emphasises the importance which rests upon these first Amendments in the Committee stage.This is the reason for their importance. The whole of the Committee, as I understand it, are agreed that it is desirable that the Commission should sell their assets, if they are to sell them at all, at a reasonable price. The whole of the Committee are also agreed that, so far as is humanly possible, there ought to be made available to the public a reasonable continuity of efficient service during the transfer. The point about the insistence upon speed in the first Clause of the Bill is that it is entirely inconsistent with the desirability of getting both a reasonable price for the goods and a reasonable standard of continuity of efficient service for the public. That is why the Committee should attach the very greatest importance to these first Amendments. It is deplorable that in a Bill of this kind, dealing with a great transfer of property on this scale, there should be this emphasis upon speed, and that speed should be selected as the factor that is more important than any other. Had that been done in any Measure in which private property was being taken over by the State, there would have been an ugly outcry from the other side of the Committee and hon. Members opposite would have been quite right to be outraged. Of course, the whole humbug and deceit of the Conservative Party's attitude to this matter of property, of nationalisation and de-nationalisation, is revealed by the fact that they apply a wholly different series of standards of judgment in the case of nationalisation, on the one hand, and de-nationalisation, on the other hand. The Minister and the Government ought to be warned about this. I am not admitting it, but it may be the case that public interest in public ownership is not so high or effective as some of us on this side of the Committee would like it to be. It may be, although I am not admitting it is the case, that, as a consequence of that, the public sees a transfer of ownership away from it without as much indignation as some of us would expect and would like to see. But if the public become aware that the transfer of assets from them to private interests is being made unfairly, unequally and with reckless speed, that will be just enough to light the flame of indignation against the treatment which public assets are receiving. If the Commission hold back any transaction in order to provide a greater continuity of service in the public interest, by so doing they are not disposing of their assets as rapidly as is reasonably practicable. In the same way, if the Commission hold back for two or three weeks or for a month for a better price for their vehicles, they are acting, it seems to me, in direct contravention of the statutory requirements in the Bill that the goods shall be disposed of as soon as is reasonably practicable. It is monstrously wrong that a body disposing of goods and wanting to wait perhaps a few days in order legitimately, as all sides of the Committee desire, to get a higher price, should by this Bill be made guilty of doing something illegal. It is not enough for the Minister to say, "But the thing will be sympathetically administered; we will watch that." He says, "We shall go very fast, but we shall not go in a disorderly fashion." With all respect to him, that is only his personal guarantee, and we want it written into the Measure that there should be an orderly disposal if there is a disposal at all. It would have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have said that there must be a time-table. It is all very well for him to say that the disposal will be orderly, but there is not a single provision in the Bill which requires it to be orderly. Why should he not be required to be orderly in this matter? Is it not a very dangerous and insidious circumstance that he selects the matter of speed as the one matter on which he places so much emphasis that it is necessary to incorporate it in the Bill?
I think there is a great deal of exaggeration over this Amendment, and a certain amount of misrepresentation. The words proposed to be left out were correctly quoted by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine). They are:
They were quoted by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) as being, "as quickly as possible," which is something quite different. The phrase here has to be read in connection with the Bill as a whole. In particular it must be taken in connection with the obligation on the Commission in subsection 2 of this Clause to conduct the remaining undertaking"as quickly as is reasonably practicable."
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that the Commission were obliged by the terms of this Clause to put all the vehicles on the market at the same time. That is directly contrary to the wording of Clause 3, which directs the Commission to put them on the market "from time to time." So far from this being a disorderly process, it is a process which is to be worked out in co-operation between the Disposal Board and the Commission. An orderly plan will be worked out between those two bodies, and if the Commission find that their obligation to avoid disturbance to the transport system of the country is endangered or infringed by the method of disposal, they have the right to go to the Minister over it. There is another matter in the Bill which must be taken into consideration in interpreting this phrase which it is proposed to leave out. Those acquiring transport units will not, of course, be just buying lorries. As my right hon. Friend said, they will be buying businesses. They will be buying businesses to which the five-year licence attaches. It would be perfectly silly, when the five-year licence is a premium on the transport units to be disposed of, to delay more than reasonably necessary in the disposal. There is also the fact that at the end of 1954 the limitation upon existing A and B licensees to operate within the 25-mile limit will be removed. Against that background it would be absurd to leave out of the Bill a provision that the disposal shall take place, within the general framework of the Bill, as soon as is reasonably practicable. Those are words which, if not essential, are required in the whole context of the Bill for it to be rightly understood."without avoidable disturbance of the transport system of the country."
I wish first to deal with the statement made by the Minister. I thought it a very frank statement, but, on the other hand, a very dangerous statement. The right hon. Gentleman told us, almost without apology, that he had consulted the Transport Commission and they had informed him that they were not only opposed to the disposal of the road haulage undertaking altogether, but that they felt the provision made in the Bill for the disposal of road haulage assets was unworkable.Apart from that, the Minister is also brushing aside the viewpoint expressed by all the professional papers capable of dealing with the point of view of the transport industry. I have appealed repeatedly in the House that if we are to have transport, which is so vital to the welfare of our industrial life, brought into the political arena and have a Bill this time to de-nationalise it and, when the next Labour Government come into office, a Bill to re-nationalise it, a disservice will be rendered to the industry and to the nation. I thought the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in moving this Amendment was very reasonable. It was one which I felt would serve the interest of the nation rather than serve a narrow political outlook. I want the Minister and hon. Members opposite to try to visualise what the position in the industry will be on the industrial side if, arising from this suggestion of disposal with speed, a dislocation takes place in the industry itself. I want the Minister to realise that those of us who are associated with the road haulage side of the industry are not only entirely opposed to the Bill but are gravely concerned about the methods outlined in this Clause. It will not be sufficient for the Minister to say that the Government are, for purely political reasons, casting aside the sound advice of those who are competent to advise us and are recklessly adopting a political scheme purely to satisfy the desires of a few financial speculators. The Minister has admitted that it will not be possible to hand back the road haulage undertakings to the people from whom the Labour Government took them.
If the gloomy prophecies of some of the hon. Friends of the hon. Member are correct and only a modest proportion will be sold, every one acquired by the Socialist Government will obviously have opportunities to tender for vehicles and businesses available. The only fear would be if 100 per cent. of the vehicles were to be acquired immediately by other people, but, according to spokesmen of the party opposite, there is no chance of that happening.
The Minister cannot get away with a statement of that character. He has said from the Dispatch Box words to the effect that it was not physically possible to hand back the road haulage undertakings to the numerous people from whom they were taken under the nationalisation Bill. It is not a case here of handing them back to aggrieved people. The only question which arises is that the Government are proposing to sell these vehicles as quickly as they can, as quickly as possible, presumably to the first bidder.
It is no good the Minister shaking his head. The Bill specifically lays down that they shall be sold
That may be so, but the fact remains that the Minister is anxious to dispose of these vehicles as quickly as possible. If we were dealing with bankrupt stock, something which had to be got rid of at any price, I could understand his attitude. Here we have an undertaking essential to the nation, and the Minister proposes to deal with it in the same way as an auctioneer would deal with bankrupt stock. 4.30 p.m. Has the Minister paid due regard to the interests of those employed in the industry? Surely they are entitled to some consideration. If the speed is cut out of the Bill and we allow the Transport Commission to dispose of the vehicles without undue haste, it may well be that not only will the interests of the industry be served by a smoother transfer from nationalisation to private ownership, but that the interests of the vast number of men engaged in the industry will be protected at the same time. On a previous occasion, the Minister paid glowing tributes to the great war service of the men engaged in the transport industry. He said they had carried on the industry in spite of the bombs falling around them and kept both the railways and the roads free, supplying the machinery of war. This Bill gives no consideration to them for their loyal and devoted service to the nation. The Minister has not yet even decided to incorporate into the Bill sufficient and adequate protection for these men who gave of their best to the nation during the perilous days of the war. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may carry this Bill with a mechanical majority, but they should make no mistake about this: they will leave behind an atmosphere of distrust and hostility which will be very difficult to repair. These men, particularly those in the road haulage industry, are entitled to consideration by the Government. There is no consideration behind the idea of getting rid of these assets as quickly as possible. On behalf of organised labour in the industry, I appeal to the Government to agree at least that there should not be undue haste in the disposal of these vehicles and that the Transport Commission should be given an absolutely free hand to carry into effect the operation of the Bill. The Minister will have adequate powers both in the Transport Act, 1947, and in this Bill to compel the Transport Commission to carry out their duties."as quickly as is reasonably practicable."
We are so hemmed in by the Guillotine procedure which the Government have applied to this most important Measure that I rise now to carry the debate further upon its next stage and to wind up what has been said so far. A clear and cogent case was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), and it has been implemented by other of my hon. Friends. What he said was that 35,000 vehicles are to be disposed of at a value of about £100 million. The Bill requires that they should be disposed as quickly as practicable.
"As is reasonably practicable."
As quickly as reasonably possible.
I wonder if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would permit me to intervene?
I will quote the words: "as quickly as is reasonably practicable." The inevitable consequence, we fear, is that there will be a glut on the market of these vehicles and that knockdown prices will have to be accepted: it will be impossible to absorb all the vehicles and, as the Transport Commission have said, the whole scheme will break down.The Minister fairly said that the British Transport Commission were wholly opposed to this scheme and thought it unworkable—and that is our view. The Minister has not, in terms, refused to accept the Amendment, and I do not know whether he intends to do so. He is simply being asked to take the yoke off the Commission—this yoke of the urgent requirement of speed. He has not yet said whether he will accept the Amendment or not, although I inferred from his answer that he does not intend to accept it. Replying to a question asked by my hon. Friend about the need for speed, his only reply was that the need for speed was the need for speed. He did not carry it any further than that. His hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) obviously shares our anxieties, because he is most unwilling to read Clause 1 in its apparent sense. He asks us to look at Clause 3 and refers to the words "from time to time." I want to ask the Minister whether he reads those two Clauses together in the sense in which his hon. Friend reads them. If he does, are we to understand that he contemplates that the disposal of these vehicles will extend over a period of perhaps many years? We notice that the Road Transport Levy is to start on 1st June, 1954. Is that date connected with the period which the right hon. Gentleman thinks will be necessary for the disposal of these vehicles? Does he think all the sales will be completed by the end of 1953? We do not know; we are left completely in ignorance in this matter. I must confess that the Minister's reply, even supplemented by the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, still leaves us completely in the dark. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked, "Why so fast?" he said simply, "Because so fast." When he was asked how many vehicles he thinks he will be able to dispose of in a reasonable time, he replied, "I think quite a lot." The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the British Transport Commission, who ought to know something about this problem, radically disagree with him, and I should like to supplement their disagreement by an extract which I have here from the "Daily Telegraph." I must be perfectly frank: I have not the date of the extract. It must be recent, and I think it is in September. I hope the Minister will pay attention to it, because the Road Haulage Association who are quoted, probably know what they are talking about. The extract refers to the questionnaire which was sent out by the Road Haulage Association in July—and it was sent out for the specific purpose of ascertaining what the likelihood was that these vehicles could be absorbed on the market. The extract reads:
that is to say, 10,000 out of 35,000"The Road Haulage Association has been informed that members are willing to buy back about 10,000 vehicles"—
I think it was right to tell the Committee that I did not know the date to which this report referred, and it uses the phrase "so far"; but I ask the Minister to bear in mind that at that date, when some 2,000 replies had been received, it was stated that some 10,000 vehicles might be absorbed. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he thinks they all may be absorbed. Has he information which is more up to date than this? Can he assure us that he has obtained from the Road Haulage Association or from some reliable source information that this figure of 10,000 is much below the real absorptive capacity of the market, because we do not think it is. This is the only information which we have, and we should like to have it supplemented. If the Minister has no reliable information, which he can particularise so as to carry conviction, that this 10,000 figure is below the mark and that most of the vehicles which are to be offered will be absorbed within a reasonable time, then is there any possible reason he can give why this speed has been placed upon the neck of the Commission? If the vehicles are to be disposed of in a completely higgledy-piggledy fashion which will produce a glut on the market and absolutely knock down prices, then there is no other conclusion but that these words must come out of the Clause—the words which I hope I have now read correctly: "As quickly as is reasonably practicable"; and that the Minister should tell us that he will re-model the Clause as we desire in order that it shall plainly provide for the Commission to dispose of these vehicles over a period of years, if necessary, to make sure that proper prices can be obtained. The whole thing is being rushed through at break-neck speed with appalling loss to the community."of those which will be offered for sale under the Government's proposals to denationalise the industry. This is the result so far of a questionnaire sent in July to members and former members whose businesses were acquired, asking for how many vehicles they would tender. There have been about 2,000 replies. About 200 members are not interested in the offer."
The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) is deserving of sympathy perhaps, in that he got the material words as to speed wrong, because the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who opened the discussion on this matter, said not once but, I think, three times that the phrase employed was
I rise only to urge this view to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that the words"as quickly as possible."
must be construed by anybody concerned with this matter having regard to the terms of subsection (2) of Clause 1. If they are, it is perfectly clear. I do not desire to make this a matter of words in any sense, but merely to draw attention to it as the discussion is on words. And in so far as it is a matter of words, the words clearly are "reasonably practicable." The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the three factors mentioned in subsection (2). One of them is the disposal "on the best terms available.""as quickly as is reasonably practicable"
I do not know exactly what the Opposition want, whether they want to hear one or two other hon. Members or whether they want to hear from me again. I am prepared to speak, if they so desire.
I will be quite frank with the right hon. Gentleman. We are working under a terrible Guillotine, and we are trying to divide up the time to the best advantage we can. From the Opposition point of view, if much more time is to be taken up by other people our chances—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—our chances will be spoilt; and I say that if we have a Guillotine the Opposition is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
On a point of order. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) is stretching that point a little. A Guillotine does not mean that no voice of criticism is to be raised on this side of the Committee. I propose to make a number of rather critical observations, and I do not see why I should not be allowed to do so by the right hon. Gentleman, just because we are under a Guillotine. I have been in this House for a long time, but I have never heard that a Guillotine Motion was to be interpreted to the effect that the Opposition Members were to make a whole series of brief speeches, but that hon. Members on this side of the Committee would not be allowed to speak at all.
That is not a point of order.
Further to that point of order—
It was not a point of order.
I have not yet raised my point of order.
I thought the hon. Member said, "Further to that point of order." The point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) was not a point of order at all.
I have a point of order to raise, Sir Charles. Is it in order for the Government to restrict the time for debating this Bill, and then, in the reduced time available, for the majority of it to be taken up by hon. Members opposite, thus depriving the Opposition speakers of their opportunities?
That is exactly the same point, and it is not a point of order.
I think there is some misunderstanding. We were told through the usual channels that the Opposition wished to bring this part of the debate to an end at 5.15 p.m. Apparently, it was meant to be 4.45 p.m.
I ought to say that in the message which left this side of the Committee the hour was 4.45. I do not know what time it was when it arrived.
I am sure it was picked up accurately on this side of the Committee. It has not far to go.The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) talked about the fact that we are applying a Guillotine. I will not delay matters by referring further to it except to say first, that this Guillotine is on the Floor of the House and not in Committee upstairs—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is Hobson's choice."]—and second, and just as important, if hon. Gentlemen will take the trouble to look at the Bill introduced in 1946 they will see that there were 35 Clauses which were not discussed at all, and that that is the exact number of Clauses in the present Bill. The hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) referred to the mechanical majority with which we would ensure the carrying out of everything which we desire. I think it is scarcely a "steam roller" in comparison with the purely arbitrary limits of 40 miles above which, everybody was clear and 25 miles, beyond which nobody else was allowed to go, imposed by the immense majority upstairs in 1947. I take back no word I said in tribute to the road hauliers and the railwaymen for their work during the war—
Let me finish my sentence—who, whether publicly or privately employed, carried on their vital service.
At what period does the right hon. Gentleman intend to lift the limit?
That is in the Bill. The 25-mile limit will be lifted at the end of 1954. No doubt we shall have an interesting debate on that when we get to it.4.45 p.m. The hon. Member for Bradford, East said that there was no consideration for the devoted service of these men. But the transport work will still be there, and a large number of those now driving for British Road Services do not view the possibility of a return to private service with the antagonism with which hon. Gentlemen opposite view it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask them and see."] We, also, have our sources of contact with the people. And the trend of the recent by-elections since the full proposals of the Government were published scarcely bear out the comments of hon. Gentlemen opposite. As to compensation provisions, we shall come to those later, in their proper place. Many of them are lifted entirely from the Socialist Act of 1947. In so far as it has not been possible to meet every point of view of the trade unionists and trade union leaders, I wish very much that they had accepted my invitation to consult in the early stages. But they did not do so, and it is certainly not my fault.
The Minister has told the Committee that the men employed in the road haulage industry will be assured of employment when their vehicles are sold back to private enterprise. Is he prepared to incorporate in the Bill a condition that the vehicles shall carry the staff with them, so far as employment is concerned?
Of course not, for precisely the same reason that the hon. Gentleman's own party did no such thing in their original Bill, in 1947.Obviously, the traffic will be there and there will be a great demand for it. The vast proportion of people will be absorbed, but no one can undertake that there will not be one or two here and there who might, through any change, or in the ordinary passage of time, be rendered redundant. The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) talked about the absorption capacity and doubted very much and whether the estimates were correct. The questionnaire put out by the Road Haulage Association among their 17,000 members, some time ago, elicited only 2,000 replies. Those 2,000 replies gave an indication of an interest in some 10,000 vehicles. But 15,000 of their own members did not reply. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite can find anything ridiculous in that, when we remember how far the nation-wide campaign against this Bill has failed to materialise in the way that many of them hoped it would. It is my belief that there will be a great many more. We have had many indications to suggest that considerably more will be forthcoming to apply for these transport units. The right hon. and learned Gentleman again made the mistake of saying that we are going to indulge in some indecent scramble. He used the words, "reasonably fast" and "fast" and words of that kind. But the words are strictly,
and by "practicable" we mean without undue dislocation of the transport services of the nation. I accept from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that it must be read in conjunction with Clause 3 and the vehicles put on the market from time to time—[Interruption.] It was the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West who made that point and not my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster), although we now have heard from him as well. The Bill must be taken as a whole. By "time" we do not mean over the years. It is our hope that it will be possible to finish with the procedure of disposal by the end of the year. That is our hope, but, by the very provisions of the Bill, we retain flexibility. We shall have to watch current trade trends and the current demand. We have every hope that it will be possible, so that those who acquire these businesses will have one year of clear protection before the 25-mile limit is lifted at the end of 1954. That is our hope but, unlike hon. Gentlemen opposite, we do not engage in any over-rigid demands in the Bill. We retain the initiative and the flexibility to meet the situation as it arises. I take it that the Committee has already realised that the Government cannot accept the Amendment."as quickly as is reasonably practicable"
The Minister's remark about what the lorry drivers think is wrong. I claim to speak for the union which represents the overwhelming proportion of the drivers—at least 120,000. These men are unanimous in their opposition to the sell-out of the road transport organisation. All over the country at private and public meetings they have said clearly and distinctly that they are against this Bill in principle.When they read the speech of the Minister and see that he said that it is hoped to sell out by the end of the year, there will be a lot more indignation among them than there has been so far. The Minister has completely failed to answer the questions put from this side of the Committee. He has not explained why there is this hurry. He has not explained how he proposes by the end of the year to get rid of the 40,000 lorries which the Road Transport Executive have and at the same time to carry out the conditions laid down in this Clause, part of which provides that the operation must be performed without interfering with the long-distance road transport services. This is another illustration of the complete lack of any sense of public responsibility on the part of the Government. I hope that people will realise that the Minister has said and express their feelings about it when the time comes. The Minister is wrong about the view taken by the men in the industry. They are 100 per cent. against this Measure.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what proportion of the 120,000 workers to whom he referred have attended the meetings of which he has spoken, or what proportion were consulted individually?
A very much larger proportion than attended the meeting of the so-called and fake organisation we heard about the other day.
I am all in favour of co-operation to make the Guillotine work, but when I see the Minister of Transport rise to his feet with profuse apologies because he has misunderstood the figures on a note—presumably passed under the Table from the Front Opposition Bench—reading 5.15 for 4.45, I begin to think that we are nearer being a Reichstag than I previously supposed. I am certain that a Guillotine is essential—
I should like to inform my hon. Friend that I heard that the Opposition would like to get on to the next Amendment at 5.15. As I wanted to co-operate, I thought that it would be convenient if I intervened.
I am delighted. I am not a member of the Opposition. Back benchers have certain rights, and if any hon. Gentleman thinks that he has a point worth making, he ought to be allowed to make it. I have one argument to put. It is small, but important.Like the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine), I was made rather uneasy by "The Times" leading article this morning. I am not sure that the Minister may not have been a little uneasy, too. I completely accept the assurance that the sales of these vehicles will be conducted in an orderly manner. I do not see any necessity for amending the Bill in that connection. What worries me is this. If we go ahead, without any precautions of a statutory character introduced into these Clauses, with the sale of these vehicles at the speed which the Minister indicated—he suggested that they should all be sold by the end of next year and that the 25-mile limit will be removed—
At the end of the year after.
Then I am afraid that we shall be placing upon our roads a volume of traffic and a number of vehicles greater than they are capable of carrying. That is by far the most important point, and it has not been mentioned by either side. Hon. Gentlemen referred all the time to what the market can absorb. I am not interested in that. I am interested in what the roads can carry. That is what worries me, and that is the point I wish to put to the Minister. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend can say that I am talking nonsense until he is black in the face—
I have been told that many times, but I have often proved that it was not so. I say in a friendly spirit that if that happens and if over the next five years we put an absolutely uncontrolled volume of motor vehicles on the roads, then a future Government will have to introduce a Measure for the control of transport far greater than anything which the House of Commons has passed so far.
I really could not allow the remarks of my hon. Friend to pass without intervening, because the whole of his argument was based on a misconception. The sale of these vehicles will make no difference whatever to the number of vehicles on the road. It will merely mean a transfer of ownership from one type of owner to another.I believe that the number of vehicles which will be saleable is grossly exaggerated. The number of A and B licence holders on the road today is about 150,000, and there are about 820,000 C licence holders. Against that, British Road Services own only 41,000 vehicles; but the number that they own is not the number they run. Table X-15 in the Accounts for 1951 shows the stock owned by British Road Services to be 41,265. Subtracted from this total are vehicles under the following headings: "stored, 431; unserviceable, 1,692; awaiting disposal, 779." Then a line is drawn—
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put accordingly, and agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out from "of," to the end of line 11, and insert:
I wish to express my regret to hon. Members on the other side of the Committee, as well as my own, at the brevity of the last debate. We are going to have some more experiences of brevity as we go along, because we really are in an awful hole. This Guillotine is here, and, though I sympathise very much with the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby), the Opposition is bound to try and shape its own course of action in order to try to get what time they want devoted to the things they consider most important. My hon. Friends had submitted themselves to the self-denying ordinance of not speaking in the debate, and we thought that there ought to be co-operation from both sides of the Committee, as far as that is possible, but when we are driven, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was—and quite rightly driven—to move the Closure in order to protect the rights of the Opposition—for that is what he did, and quite rightly so—I submit that if ever there was conclusive proof of an abominable anti-Parliamentary device, then this Guillotine is it. Therefore, if the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire wants to talk about a Reichstag, that is where it started from—over there. This Amendment is, in some respects, related to the earlier Amendment moved by my hon. Friend. The difficulty which I think the Committee is in, and I hope the Government are conscious of it, is that we are liable to be landed into a disorderly, unorganised and somewhat chaotic sale of road transport commercial assets, without taking any account of the needs of the country in respect of the provision of commercial road transport. That is the problem. The Government wish to get rid of the publicly-owned commercial road transport, up to the amount which they have stipulated, as soon as possible. [HON. MEMBERS: "Practicable."] Well, all right; I am not quoting the Bill, but the Government's intentions. I am quoting what the Government are getting at. They regard public ownership as poison, and they want to get rid of it as quickly as they can, whether the public interest is injured in the process or not. That is the Government's policy. What we are concerned about is this. First of all, we object to the disposal altogether, but we say that the disposal, if it is to take place, should take place in an orderly manner, and that it should not take place to such an extent that it becomes impossible for the British Transport Commission and its Executives to provide a reasonable transport service, both by road and rail. That is the matter with which this Amendment is concerned. Therefore, though we are driven to accept the principle of disposal, because that was embodied in the Bill which has received a Second Reading, we do not agree with it. Indeed, we totally disagree with it, but I agree that it is part of a Bill which has received a Second Reading. Therefore, the principle of disposal is one to which we have to work. We suggest in this Amendment that the Commission should be required to engage in disposal, but that it should not be required to engage in such a degree and method of disposal as will make it impossible for it to provide—or to provide its elements in the provision of—reasonable road transport and rail services. The Government have also accepted the principle that the British Transport Commission, as part of the conduct of the railway undertaking, shall be able to utilise the services and work of a certain number of commercial road vehicles. They have arbitrarily based that on a proportion which has some sort of relationship, though not exact, to the number of road vehicles which the railway companies possessed before the Act of 1947 was passed. That seems to us to be arbitrary and to be unduly limiting, but it is an acceptance of the principle that the railways or the British Transport Commission can provide a certain amount of commercial road transport. This Amendment, inadequate as it is in relation to our desires, is nearer to the policy which Parliament approved on the application of the private railway companies some years ago, because, quite rightly, Parliament did then approve of the private railway companies being in a position to run as much private commercial road haulage as they desired, or as they were capable of doing, in association with the railway undertakings. That was, indeed, a greater freedom than we are claiming in this Amendment, but, in so far as it was the case that the private railway companies were given authority by Parliament to engage in commercial road transport up to the maximum extent which to them was practicable, surely it is reasonable that the British Transport Commission should be afforded a reasonable discretion as to the degree of the disposal of commercial road transport units under their control? It may be said that this gives power to the Commission to play "merry drakes"—I am not trying to get out of order; I nearly said "geese," but just saved myself. In order to protect the Committee against that possibility, may I say that it will be seen that there is on the Order Paper a later Amendment which requires the Commission or the Railway Executive to act within 12 months, and, therefore, that danger is safeguarded. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire referred to "The Times," to which I also referred last week in friendly terms, as other hon. Members did on Friday. It is true that "The Times" in its leading article says this:"such of the property held by them for the purposes of that part of their undertaking which is carried on through the Road Haulage Executive as the Commission may determine not to be required by them for or in connection with the carriage of goods by road in any manner which, in the opinion of the Commission, will promote the public utility and the efficiency of the services provided by so much of their undertaking as is carried on through the Railways Executive, the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive or the London Transport Executive or as is now carried on through the Road Haulage Executive in services associated with those executives hereinafter in this Act referred to as 'the retained services'."
this refers to the Bill—"For by obliging the Commission to sell as quickly as possible"—
That is a serious criticism of the Bill, and I am glad that the Minister has reported on the attitude of the British Transport Commission. If I may say so, I think he is quite right. My own view about the constitutional relationship between Ministers and publicly-owned industries under public corporations is that the public corporations have a right to disagree with the Minister and even to make it known, though, on the whole, it is perhaps best that the Minister himself should make it known. Similarly, a Minister has a right to disagree with a public corporation, and to make that known. Therefore, I do not think that they should be the slaves of one another, but that, on the whole, they should have it out and agree to it. It is because this is such a tragic happening for the British Transport Commission, which was getting on with a constructive job, that I do not wonder that they are opposed to it, and that they regard it as being totally unworkable. Indeed, I think it is, and the result of all this is that we are going to have a disposal of the commercial road transport system in the months that lie ahead, and the fact that the Minister is trying to do it all by the end of 1953 is going to land him in particular difficulties. What was being built up, and what ought to be built up, were two systems of road commercial transport, one under the Commission with through routes. I entirely agree that if there is a lot of cut-throat competition on route A.1, and others, going from South to North, we should have a terrible position on the roads, with a risk of a lot of trouble."it does not leave room for the Commission to retain any of the properties (except of those corresponding broadly to the former road haulage holdings of the railways) or to delay selling until sales can be made on terms which are not only financially satisfactory but will preserve the efficiency of present services."
The hon. Gentleman looks astonished and says "Why?" That is because he is a natural anarchist. When he grows up and becomes a statesman, he will understand. At the moment he is a natural anarchist, and he looks like it.The result of the work of the Commission was that there was gradually being built up, side by side with private industry, an organised network of road services with a national backbone to them, and that was all to the good. We were developing something like the elements of a national road transport service. But private enterprise was still permitted under the 25-mile limit arrangements, under C licences, rightly or wrongly, and in certain other respects. It may be that there was too much of the one and too much of the other, but I do not think there was too much of public ownership. What the Government are doing now is leaving us without the elements or the basis of something like a decently organised system of road commercial transport. Our Amendment, whilst not making the Bill perfect, would at any rate give the Commission the opportunity of retaining such road commercial vehicles as will enable them to provide the essentials of a national backbone, so to speak, or the skeleton, of road commercial transport services, with private enterprise providing the other elements. For these reasons we commend this Amendment to the Committee. We warn the Minister, with great respect, that if he continues on the way he is going he may well have a chaotic situation in road commercial transport, not only during these months but thereafter. The wording of the Amendment may be capable of improvement, but we think that the spirit of the Amendment will commend itself to the Committee, and we hope that it will be given sympathetic consideration.
On a point of order. Are not the two Amendments, in page 2, to leave out lines 1 to 3, and to insert:
and in line 4, to leave out subsection (2), and to insert:"The property of the Commission to be disposed of under this subsection is hereinafter referred to as 'the disposable road haulage property'"
(2) The Commission shall within twelve months of the passing of this Act determine which of the property held by them for the purposes of that part of their undertaking which at the passing of this Act is carried on through the Road Haulage Executive will not be required for the purposes mentioned in the preceding subsection and their duty to dispose of property under that subsection shall not extend to any property not included in that determination. The Commission shall report the said determination to the Minister and such report shall be evidence of the determination:
directly consequential upon the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend? Will it be in order if the Committee takes this opportunity of discussing them all together?Provided that the Commission's duty to dispose of the disposable road haulage property may be discharged in such manner and by such stages and with such postponements of the sale of vehicles or other assets forming part of the disposable road haulage property as they may with the approval of the Treasury decide, and pending the discharge of the said duty the Commission shall be entitled to use the disposable road haulage property together with any other property for any of the purposes of their undertaking
It is proposed to call the first of those Amendments, but if the Committee prefers it, they could be discussed together.
With respect, if it is acceptable to you and the Committee, I think that my hon. Friend is right in the submission he is making. I think they are inter-related.
If it meets the convenience of the Committee, they can be discussed together.
I rise to support the submissions made by my right hon. Friend. Our great anxiety is to make sure that in the political struggle which is going on over this matter the nation should not suffer. In our view, we have a first responsibility of ensuring that the economic life of the country is so regulated and conducted that it does not suffer from any kind of nonsense which might be introduced. Our fears are that unless there is discretion and a reasonable amount of time in which to do this job, industry and trade will suffer very seriously indeed at a time when we can ill afford it.Anybody who has had any experience of the Road Haulage Executive work knows that over the years they have built up a fine system, the beneficial results of which we are only just beginning to appreciate and enjoy because they have been so painstaking and laborious in their work, and hurriedly to unscramble this excellent work would do the nation no good service. 5.15 p.m. On the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister gave us an assurance that the Commission would be left with sufficient vehicles to become a first-class competitor; that it would have enough vehicles to
He went on to refer to the Pickford's Division of British Road Services. It would be out of order for me to go into details about what the Minister said on Second Reading, but I submit that he was misinformed when he suggested that there would be a reasonable chance for the Road Haulage Executive to operate and conduct its services in fair competition with the newcomers. I have here a letter from one of Pick-ford's staff, which in a few words outlines the position which will emerge. He refers to the Minister's statement on 17th November that"make the British Transport Commission the largest road haulage undertaking in the country, and all the people who want to see what happens in friendly rivalry between different forms of transport will have an opportunity of seeing that now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1418.]
"the British Transport Commission would be the owner of the largest road haulage fleet in the country and it would be interesting to watch this fleet run in competition with vehicles owned by private firms.
that is, the Minister—"He—
How, therefore, can the Minister say, as he did on Second Reading, that under his proposals the Commission will retain a considerable proportion of the vehicles and will be in a position to compete? It can be demonstrated that the very fine trunk services will break down, and it is for that and similar reasons that we think there ought to be more time to consider this whole problem. We are all anxious that the country should have the best possible transport service, whoever is running the show. If we are required by the end of December, 1953, to complete this job—a job which has taken some three or four years of hard laborious work by men who have loved the industry and whose life is invested in it—we shall find that we shall only just be reaping the benefits, and the Government will then be throwing it all away. The Minister said that the Road Haulage Executive is losing money today. It is losing money, but not for the reasons he has in mind. It is losing money because there is already a scramble and cut-throat prices, with worsening conditions in the industry."informed us that if the Commission retained the whole of the present Pickford's set-up it would almost absorb the unladen weight that the Act will allow the Commission to keep, and that Pickford's do not at present possess vehicles which could be operated on trunk services in an efficient and economic manner. To run an efficient and economic trunking service, as the Road Haulage Executive are now doing, the Commission would need to have a large fleet of 14-ton vehicles and my information is that Pickford's do not possess such vehicles."
With a subsidy.
What we are anxious to conserve are good conditions for men in the industry. If the noble Lord is prepared at any price to unscramble this industry to suit his friends who, we believe, are the paymasters of the Tory Party, to the detriment of the country, that is not our view. We take the view that the acceptance of this Amendment might save us from the worse results. I hope that the Government have listened carefully to and taken note of what my right hon. Friend said and will make some response to it. I hope also that the Minister will take particular note of what has been said about Pickford's, particularly with regard to trunk services.
The implication of the remarks of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies) about the losses of the Road Haulage Executive being due to a falling off in trade and industry in this country is that these trunk services should be retained no matter what happens. That would mean that somebody would have to subsidise them. I want to go wider and to suggest that the hon. Member was really contemplating an unnecessary disaster in the idea that he had that we were seeking to bring the whole trunking services of the Road Haulage Executive to an end.We want to bring to an end the Road Haulage Executive's ability to run these trunk services, but if the hon. Member suggests to the Committee and to the country that these services are not to go on in any form, he is quite wrong. Of course they are. The implication is that private enterprise will take up these services and run them more efficiently and more thoroughly. I was very surprised at the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) lending himself to this Amendment. I read it with a great deal of amazement. Here is an Amendment, emanating from the Front Bench of the Socialist Party, designed to cut out a whole chunk from the original Act. They are prepared to see the Road Haulage Executive go by the board and they are concerned only to see that enough vehicles are provided to serve the docks and inland waterways, London Transport and the railways. We should like to hear the reason they want this done in this way. They have to accept that the House of Commons has decided in principle that the Road Haulage Executive should be wound up and its vehicles dispersed, and this Amendment is in no way an attempt to restore the principle which they lost on Second Reading of the Bill. I wonder if the country will understand it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not if the noble Lord can help it."] I will do my best to explain it to my constituents. There are very fundamentally true and important reasons why this Amendment has been moved in this way, but I cannot prevent this Order Paper flying about the country or prevent associations of politically-minded people up and down the country from Land's End to John o'Groat's discovering with amazement that the Socialist Party are now prepared to jettison a whole sector of their own scheme for the transport industry. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South has put his hon. Friends in an extremely false position by moving an Amendment of this kind. It does not do their case justice. We in this Committee and the country would have understood it if, having failed on Second Reading, they had attempted to put down carefully prepared Amendments designed to upset the general character of the Bill. But this Amendment is of a constructive and presumably permanent nature. This is the Socialist Party's new thought on transport, presumably. If it is not, then we are left in a state of wild confusion, and we should really be told what it is. This Amendment, of course, will be turned down by the Committee and we shall go back to the country and seek to excuse hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite and explain their actions, but I think that it would come very much better if, before the Committee rejects this Amendment, as no doubt it will, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South explained in cogent terms which the country can understand whether it is new Socialist legislation, whether it represents a new post-de-nationalisation world of Socialist thinking or is just a little procedural thing to keep the debate going in a pleasant way.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) really did exhibit a profound ignorance of transport. Really he should know, and I think that the Committee well know, that it is the intention of the Government to permit the British Transport Commission to retain only that proportion of road haulage which the private railway companies had in 1947, plus one-fifth of that strength.That is quite inadequate for the reason that it does not take into account the changes that have taken place in the past four years, based upon the integration particularly of road and railway services. Let us take branch lines, for instance. British Railways closed down quite a number of branch lines which became uneconomic or were not paying very well. They were able to do that because they had a road haulage fleet. Instead of using locomotives and railway trucks to convey goods traffic from a junction to all the stations on a branch line, they have now been able to create a fleet of lorries, under the administration of the Road Haulage Executive, to perform precisely that function. The intention of the Government is to permit that road haulage undertaking to be privately owned in future, and the British Transport Commission are to be deprived of that service which the Road Haulage Executive have taken over from British Railways as a result of the policy of co-ordination. There is also another very important factor which the Government have completely ignored. Everybody knows that in the winter months the railways of this country are faced with greater difficulties of organisation than face them in the summer months. Bad weather and other factors cause a tendency to congestion. It has been the policy of the British Transport Commission to relieve the congestion at railway marshalling yards by using the road haulage fleet to convey traffic and to clear the bottlenecks, and by that means to reduce the delay. This is an additional facility which has been developed in the past four years. How will that be done in future under this Bill? Private road hauliers will not be interested in doing anything of that kind, yet British Railways will not be able to maintain that service because they are being compelled to dispose of their road haulage fleet, and that service is not included in the allocation which the Government are proposing on the basis which I outlined earlier. It is also a well-known fact that in London particularly and also in many provincial stations where congestion arises, as it is likely to do in winter months especially at Christmas time, the road haulage service is augmented to relieve congestion at terminal stations and to convey the traffic from congested areas to the outlying stations and wherever the traffic is needed. That is to be pruned away from the railway services. 5.30 p.m. Then, again, there has been a very considerable extension of what is generally known as throughout-road-rail services. What I mean is this. As I mentioned in the Second Reading debate, there is a service that has been built up in the past four years whereby certain traffics are gathered together here in certain parts of London and are loaded into containers which are then conveyed to the London terminal stations. They are then conveyed to certain points in the country—I mentioned Glasgow, in particular—and at that further point the road haulage organisation undertakes the distribution at that end. This type of traffic is being conveyed from London to Scotland at a saving of 36 hours. That is all in addition. That has nothing to do with the former railway companies' road haulage fleet. This is an additional integrated service built up by providing a road haulage organisation in London and a road haulage organisation at the other end in Glasgow, or Bristol, or in many other parts of the country, where the traffics are co-ordinated together between rail and road.
I have no time to give way to the hon. Member. Other hon. Members want to speak, and I want to be as brief as I can in putting these points, because they are absolutely germane to the issue that we are now discussing.The Government's policy is to disintegrate that service, because private road hauliers will not be interested in what is called short-distance traffic. They will not be interested in pooling traffic in London in order to give it to the railways so that the railways can have the greatest remuneration from it. Nor will the private hauliers in Scotland be ready to take the traffic from Glasgow, and deliver it short distances because it will not pay them to do so. In fact, the Government propose to abolish the 25-mile limit because they want more vehicles to run on the trunk routes. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) was quite correct. The abolition of the 25-mile radius will inevitably congest the trunk routes of our country. Many of these integrated services which have been built up in the past four years will now have to be cut away and divided. The Minister is giving 12 months for this to be done. The thing is absolutely ridiculous. All the vehicles have got to be sold in 12 months.
I did not say that they all had to be sold. I said that it was hoped by the Government that the disposal would be carried out by the end of next year. We have retained adequate flexibility if it does not seem desirable to proceed at that speed.
That is the difficulty. The Bill will presumably not go on the Statute Book until Easter, so that actually the period is about nine months. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that to think that he is going to disintegrate in nine months a process which has taken four years to evolve is far from reality. I feel that if the Government are really interested in maintaining the efficiency of our transport organisation, all these additional factors must be taken into consideration.But the right hon. Gentleman himself said, in moving the Second Reading, that there was no integration of road and rail. He is really showing his complete ignorance of this subject, because there has been a very substantial integration of road haulage and rail transport. The essence of this Bill means a complete undoing of that co-operation between these two forms of transport which must penalise the railways and throw transport into a state of chaos for some considerable time. Therefore, I feel that if the Government are really concerned with the transport organisation of our country and not with private interests, they will accept this Amendment, because it does at least attempt to protect the British Transport position, British Railways and the docks and inland waterways, so that they may gather round them just so much of the road haulage organisation as is essential to maintain the existing services. That is the least that they can do if they want to go forward with their main proposal of disorganising the road haulage organisations.
There have been a number of references already in this debate to the leading article in "The Times" today. The tones in which that famous newspaper addresses us are many and varied. There is the tone, for example, which earned for it the old soubriquet of "The thunderer." But the tones which we heard this morning were much more reminiscent of a scolding aunt.She began by scolding the Government for having no Amendments on today's Order Paper to this Clause, though, as the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) inadvertently pointed out, she had misread Subsection (1) of this Clause in the same way as the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) had done. There is, however, no reason for the Opposition to exult—
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the terms "as quickly as reasonably practicable" and "as quickly as possible" are synonymous if the whole operation is to be completed in nine months?
I do not think they are synonymous, and there is nothing in the Bill which says that the operation must be completed in nine months.There is no need for the Opposition to be prematurely elated, because the next spanking was administered to them. They were rebuked for having put on the Order Paper a wrecking Amendment, and their operation was described as follows:
The terms of the Opposition's Amendment are not those at all. Yet there is a certain poetic justice in this. After all, the Government have been criticised for some time by people who have not troubled to read the Bill. It is only fair that the Opposition should be criticised by people who have not troubled to read their Amendment. If we study the terms of the Amendment carefully, the adverb "blandly" attached to their action in putting it down will appear to be anything but appropriate. However, I shall return at a later stage to examine what in effect the Amendment means, or may mean. In the meantime, I want to consider the constructive criticisms, or the would-be constructive criticisms, which we had in the third part of that leading article—in fact, the Amendments which the editor of "The Times," had he been an hon. Member of this House, would have placed on the Order Paper, though of course they would have been starred. The first suggestion was that there should be an Amendment to enable the preservation, within the sphere of competition, of the benefits of larger-scale operations. This suggestion arises from a failure to read Clause 4. Clause 4 of the Bill provides that 20 per cent. more than the transport resources owned by the railways on 1st January, 1948, may be transferred back to companies to be formed by the Commission. My right hon. Friend, in words which have already been quoted in this debate, paraphrased the effect of Clause 4 as follows:"They propose blandly that the Commission shall merely have the duty…of selling the assets it does not need for providing efficiently its present services, including those of the Road Haulage Executive."
In order to have that opportunity, they do not need to put an Amendment on the Order Paper. That opportunity is provided by the terms of Clause 4. The second suggestion was that there must be Amendments to preserve the continuity of efficient service. Whether the service being provided at present is efficient is precisely the moot point. However, the Bill as it stands, in Clauses 1 (2) and 3 (6) and (7) makes adequate provision for the undertaking to be carried on efficiently during the period of transition. It would be foolish to attempt to write into the Bill precise and restrictive terms governing the disposal, when we are setting up a Disposal Board to work in conjunction with the Commission in doing precisely that job. When I first read this Amendment I felt that it must be a product of some carelessness or inefficiency in drafting, but after I noticed that it bore the name of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shawcross), who was formerly Attorney-General, I felt that that could not be so and that what appeared at first sight to be the effect of careless drafting must have some underlying object. As I read the Amendment, it prohibits the retention by the Commission of any assets of the Road Haulage Executive other than those which are necessary to promote the efficiency of the railways, canals and docks and the London Transport Executive. Stopping at that point, all this is fully provided for in the present Bill. If hon. Members will look at Clause 1 (4) they will find that the Commission retain the right to continue and to expand any services whatsoever which are needed as auxiliaries to promote the efficiency of their other activities. So the point of the Amendment must turn upon the remaining words, which say that they are to be allowed to retain such part of the assets now used by the Road Haulage Executive as are used by that Executive "in services associated with" the other Executives—the Railway Executive, the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive and the London Transport Executive. Thus the whole meaning of this Amendment, if it has one, turns upon the question, what are the services now provided by the Road Haulage Executive which are "services associated with" the other Executives? In a strict interpretation of law—I see that the former Solicitor-General the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) is on the Opposition Front Bench and it may be that he will be able to help us further on this matter—I venture to doubt whether any services at all provided by the Road Haulage Executive are "associated with" the other Executives. I doubt whether that expression has any legal interpretable meaning. 5.45 p.m. Without holding the Opposition to exact drafting, however, let us consider the alternative interpretation which might have been intended to apply to it. Many references have been made to the integration achieved by the British Transport Commission between the operation of the Road Haulage Executive and its other Executives. So for enlightenment I turn to the last Report of that Commission to see what, in the wider sense of the term, these "associated" services might be. I find them set out at the bottom of page 4 of the Fourth Annual Report, which says:"…we propose that the Commission should be allowed to retain a body of vehicles broadly approximating to what the railways had before nationalisation, with an addition to allow for what might have been the increase in the years since…. This will make the British Transport Commission the largest road haulage undertaking in the country, and all the people who want to see what happens in friendly rivalry between different forms of transport will have an opportunity of seeing that now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1418.]
That is a service which is covered completely by the terms of Clause 1 (4) of this Bill. The Report continues:"The Road Haulage Executive have provided a collection and delivery service at a number of centres on behalf of the Railway Executive and the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive…"
Again, there is nothing in this Bill to prevent the Commission retaining or developing those services. Finally, there is the cross-country traffic which is worked where a rail service has been suspended, or in supplementation of one; but it was precisely for that purpose, among others, that the railways owned or managed road haulage undertakings before vesting day, and whatever they owned or managed at that period, plus 20 per cent., is going back to them. So there is power on the part of the Commission to provide those services as well. The only way in which this Amendment can be made to extend what is already provided in the Bill—it is arguable that, strictly interpreted, it is actually restrictive and would prevent the operation of Clause 4—would be by regarding the words "associated with" as covering all the activities of the Road Haulage Executive. If we say simply that the British Transport Commission were obliged to provide an integrated transport service under Section 3 of the 1947 Act, any service they provide might be regarded as "associated" with the services of their other Executives. But we are stopped from taking that course by the expression "so much of" the Road Haulage Executive undertaking as falls under this description. As a solution of this conundrum which the Opposition have put before the House, I would offer a suggestion on the lines already adumbrated by my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). The Opposition have been in a difficulty. In the Amendments they have put on the Order Paper they have had to hide a division of opinion which is really unbridgeable. They have had to draft Amendments which could be interpreted narrowly or widely according to the taste of whichever section of their supporters was considering them. [Interruption.] I am glad to see that there is some support for that view. When the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East was winding up in the Second Reading debate, he followed very closely the terminology of the Labour pamphlet, "Facing the Facts." He said:"… and they also provide for the Railway Executive zonal collection and delivery services…."
If we regard it from that point of view, this form of words is a clumsy attempt to translate that undertaking into Parliamentary drafting. But there are other Members in the party opposite who believe, and have stated, that a mistake was made when A, B and C licences were left outside nationalisation. They want some expression of policy which can be made to cover the absorption of all transport into a State monopoly. If we look at the words of this Amendment in that sense, we could understand the word "associated" accordingly, and we could feel satisfied that the right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench have not let us down. What is before the Committee is neither a wrecking Amendment, as "The Times" took it to be, nor a constructive attempt to improve the Bill; it is a form of words which is designed to conceal the unbridgeable difference of opinion on the future of transport in this country which exists in the ranks of the Opposition."When we are returned to power we shall take over such units as are necessary for an Integrated long-distance public system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1709.)
It says something for the dialectical ingenuity of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that he can include a quotation from a leader in "The Times" of today in a speech directed to supporting the Bill. As he read "The Times" this morning with his habitual earnestness, he must have recognised that the leader constituted a bitter, sustained attack upon the Bill.One cannot contrast the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West with the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) because on foreign affairs and some other matters the noble Lord illumines our discussions and utters expressions of thought with which he finds a great deal of agreement on this side of the Committee, but that compliment can never be paid to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. In the Amendment we are concerned with providing for a continuity of transport service to the public, a consideration which seems to have been entirely lost sight of latterly in speeches from the other side of the Committee. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West paid no regard to how the public interest is to be affected by the dislocation which is bound to occur. We cannot have a transfer of ownership on this scale without having, at least, dislocation. I say "dislocation" because I do not believe anybody can describe it as an exaggeration. Speaking on another Amendment earlier this afternoon, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West accused the Opposition of exaggeration and, in an unguarded moment, he went on to speak of "misrepresentation." Be that as it may, it cannot possibly be regarded as an exaggeration to say that there will be a dislocation of the service when the transfer of ownership takes place. The Amendment is designed to diminish that dislocation to the public service and to provide continuity for it. That is where I thought the noble Lord failed to do justice to the Amendment. He asked whether this constituted Labour's new thought on transport. It is nothing of the kind. Confronted by the great folly of the Bill, we want to insert provisions in it which will in some degree diminish the harm which is bound to occur. In reply to the question, How will it be possible in the public interest to reduce to a minimum the amount of inconvenience which the public will suffer through this transfer of ownership?, the only answer is that we must call in aid the Commission. They are the only people who can help. The Commission, which is being abominably treated, as will be widely recognised on both sides of the Committee, is the only body which can really assist in the provision of continuity of service and in diminishing as far as possible the dislocation that must occur as a consequence of the transfer of ownership. The Disposal Board will be entirely unable to apply its mind usefully to the problem, for it is entirely outside the Board's province. The Minister, with all respect to him, will know nothing about it unless he refers to the Commission. Therefore, the Commission is the only body extant which has it within its power to take steps and to follow measures which will reduce to a minimum the amount of inconvenience which the public services will suffer. How can they do it? They can do it only by being given power to phase the transfer in accordance with the requirements of public interest. The insistence upon rapidity of transfer is, in principle, entirely wrong, and the Amendment is valuable in that it gives power to the Commission, which is the only body which can usefully exercise it, to phase the transfer and control the timing and the nature of the transfer in a fashion which will reduce to a minimum the amount of inconvenience which the public will suffer as a consequence of this transfer of ownership.
My hon. Friends will profoundly disagree with the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) that there need be any dislocation or any inconvenience whatever in an ordered process of transferring the long-distance lorry fleet, with the garages and other fixed assets, from public ownership to private ownership. In fact, it is to be spread over a period of 12 or 18 months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nine months."] There is no guarantee that it will be nine months. My right hon. Friend said he hoped to achieve it in nine months. On the other hand, it might be six months. If we take a flexible period of six to 18 months, my argument is in no way vitiated.A British Road Services depot serves a certain area of the country and certain trunk routes. If that depot and service are sold as an operable unit, the private owners assuming responsibility for the road service concerned will assume with it all the functions which were formerly performed by the British Road Services. There is every reason to suppose that the period of transition will be both smooth and satisfactory. I am delighted that the Deputy-Chairman delayed calling me for a few moments, for that has allowed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to resume his seat. His speech was quite unrealistic and almost entirely academic. No doubt my hon. Friends sympathise with him, in that he has been closeted in this House for a period of nearly 30 years, with one brief exception of a period of four years, when he was away from the House. The concomitant of that is, of course, that the right hon. Gentleman has little or no practical experience of the operations of trade, commerce and industry. He speaks on these matters with fluency and charm but lacks any sort of practical experience. The right hon. Gentleman fell into exactly the same error as did his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) when he suggested that the disposal of the British Road Services' lorries would result in a glut of vehicles on the market. No such thing will take place. All that will happen is that there will be a transfer of ownership; there will not be a single additional lorry on the roads of the United Kingdom as a result of the transfer. What hon. Gentlemen opposite consistently forget, in all their arguments on this matter, is that the global or aggregate number of vehicles plying on long-distance transport in this country is controlled by the volume of the goods to be carried and the demand for the lorry services.
I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can possibly say that. The White Paper published by his party indicates that with these proposals goes the transfer of traffic from the rail to the roads. How can he argue that the number of lorries will not be greater?
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman should go away and read the White Paper and learn the contents of it. I am arguing the misconception that has consistently been voiced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, namely that the disposal of these publicly-owned vehicles will result in a glut on the market. In fact, the demand for long-distance road services will, at all times, control the aggregate number of vehicles plying on the roads of the United Kingdom.
Why abolish the 25-mile limit, then?
That will be abolished on 31st December, 1954. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] More competition. That is precisely where I come back to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South. When I asked him why there should not be additional competition on the Great North Road, what did he say? That I was an anarchist for advocating competition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, hon. Gentlemen opposite support the view that any hon. Gentleman here or outside this Chamber, who believes in the beneficial effects of the forces of competition, must necessarily be an anarchist. Really, the right hon. Gentleman can put that propaganda over on the eve-of-the-poll, but it does not go home very well either in this Committee or with considered and informed opinion in the country.Let me dwell on the second point which has consistently been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, notably the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies), that during this transitory period of selling off the British Road Services vehicles there would be a breakdown in the long-distance trunk services, and that when private ownership resumes operation less efficient services would be conducted than we have had under public ownership. Those of us in this Committee who remember the conditions in trade, industry and transport before nationalisation have a long enough memory to know that some of the privately-owned, long-distance road operating companies were far more efficient than British Road Services.
They took the remunerative traffic.
The hon. Gentleman says they took the remunerative traffic. I am concerned in my constituency in the Midlands with trade and industry on a considerable scale, and in the Birmingham area. The hon. Gentleman will have heard, for instance—I mention one company at random—of MacNamara's, who were a famous road haulage company, in the days before nationalisation, and specialised on the London, Birmingham and Liverpool routes. Do hon. Members opposite really imagine that, first, British Road Services have provided an improved service, better than that of MacNamara's—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."], or second, that it is not within the capabilities of privately-owned transport to resume the services with an efficiency comparable with that of MacNamara before nationalisation?
Whilst the hon. Gentleman is correct in regard to the trunk routes, since British Road Services have operated Shropshire and Herefordshire have had a service they never had before.
The hon. Gentleman may be intimately concerned with transport conditions in Northamptonshire, but I represent a constituency which borders on the two counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire. British Road Services today are not providing any single service on a better scale or with more efficient running than was provided before nationalisation in those areas. I know that by the infinite number of complaints I have had on this score since I first became a Member of the House of Commons.The third point hon. Gentlemen opposite dwelt upon today is their complaint that the process of selling units back is going to result in some deterioration in the conditions of employment for those employed in the industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] My reply to the hon. Gentlemen shouting "Hear, hear" is simply this: what are the trade unions doing if they allow that to take place? The conditions and the terms of employment have been regulated by employer-employee consultation and agreement through the trade unions and other appropriate organisations, during the last 15 to 20 years, and there is no reason why that satisfactory consultation should not be allowed to continue. Private ownership will not lead to a deterioration of terms and conditions of employment. On the contrary, it may well lead to an improvement, for, within my experience—
The hon. Gentleman had better keep that for the eve-of-the-poll.
The hon. Gentleman's mimicry is almost childish. I accused the right hon. Gentleman of that. On the contrary, in my view there will not be deterioration from the employees' point of view, for it is my experience that whenever there has been an advertisement in the Press by a C licence holder, or by a private company, to fill a vacancy amongst lorry drivers, the greatest number of applications have come from those employed by British Road Services who are eager to return to private employment. I hope that the Committee will reject this Amendment out of hand, and put in the place where they rightly belong the spurious arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South.
Working under the Guillotine, as we are, I find myself in some difficulty. We had hoped that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) had moved this Amendment, we should have had a reply to his arguments from the other side, but I understand that the Minister prefers to wait until we have all spoken on this side, and then to have the last word.
No. May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that there is no last word in Committee. He can speak again after I sit down, if he wishes.
That would be all very well if we were not working under the Guillotine, but if we do not exercise some self-restraint in our speeches it will mean we shall squeeze out some of the very important Amendments which we still hope to discuss despite the Guillotine.The case for this Amendment was made very clearly by my right hon. Friend, and I do not think that any of the speeches which have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite have in any way demolished that case—certainly not the one made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I cannot quite follow him when he suggests that there is going to be more competition on the roads but there will not be a single additional vehicle. How can there possibly be more competition and no more vehicles? It is just an impossibility. But even if it were the case, and if his illogic were correct, does he not appreciate that one of the great advantages resulting from the organisation of the British Road Services is that there are fewer vehicles on the roads carrying more goods, that there is better organisation, and that, particularly with vehicles running at night, the danger on the roads has diminished since British Road Services came into being? If this Bill goes through, there is no question but that the danger on the roads will be substantially increased.
I am not going to give way. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been very co-operative in regard to the Guillotine, and so I do not wish to give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I very much doubt whether the hon. Member has taken the trouble to visit any of the depots of British Road Services, because it is quite clear, from the remarks he made, that he does not understand how the British Road Services are organised today.He suggested that we could sell off as units various depots as they exist today, and that there would be no dislocation in the services. Does he know that in London the goods which are transported every night on the directional trunk routes are cleared from the whole Metropolis—brought to these various depots, loaded in full loads and sent over the country? The break-up of that organisation would not be able to save all the empty running or partial running which is saved at the present time.
I have already told the hon. Gentleman that, however many times he gets up, I regret I cannot give way. I want to consider the argument the Minister put forward on Second Reading and that has been repeated twice today. It is that if this Bill goes through in its present form, the Transport Commission will still be operating the largest road haulage undertaking in the country.It may be that they will own the largest number of vehicles—we do not deny that—but the Minister knows that if at the present time they are allowed to retain their six-fifths of what the railways owned on vesting day, 1st January, 1948, the majority of those vehicles will be those who are used today on Special Traffics (Pickford's) Division. Those vehicles are running a particular kind of service, and if they are retained by the railways and continue to operate these special services they will not be available to compete in the ordinary road haulage business, and thus competition between the Transport Commission, as the largest owner of vehicles, and ordinary road haulage, as operated by private enterprise, will not exist. If that is not to be the case, and if they are to be returned for the purpose of running road haulage or of continuing the integrated services operating at present, then it means that the Commission will have to sell off this very profitable section of its business which is known as the Special Traffics (Pickford's) Division. I would point out to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West that it is not possible to have it both ways. We cannot operate the Special Traffics (Pickford's) Division, which is a profitable section, and, at the same time, continue the feeder and zonal services to which he referred in his speech. The Transport Commission may be the largest owner of vehicles, but it will not be the largest road haulage operator. That brings me to the object of this Amendment. It is not what the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West thinks; it is not a wrecking Amendment.
I did not say that; I said the opposite.
Neither is it based, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, on the desire to build up an organisation for the future. Its purpose—and this I would point out to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke)—is to salvage what we can from the wreck. The noble Lord suggested otherwise. We wish to preserve, as far as that is possible under this Bill, the integrated services which have been built up with great difficulty and with the expenditure of a large amount of hard work during the last few years.I think the Committee should appreciate the extent to which integration has taken place. Not only has there been an extension of the feeder services, but a considerable amount of traffic has been transferred from road to rail, and vice versa. In addition, there has been integration in parcels traffic. A parcels service has been created which serves no fewer than 13,000 places in this country between any two of which parcels can be sent. This service involves the use of 7,300 vehicles, and there is an average of 250,000 consignments each day. It seems to me that if we disintegrate and break up that parcels service and break up the feeder and zonal services there is bound to be the dislocation which the hon. Member for Kidderminster denies. The Minister hopes that this break-up will be achieved within a period of nine months. But how can we in nine months, without causing dislocation, break up an organisation which has been acquired over a period of four years, the last acquisitions of which only took place as recently as October, 1951? I warn the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South that when his rural constituents find that as a result of this break-up they are getting a worse service at higher cost, he will have more trouble in his constituency than he has had already. 6.15 p.m. The object of this Amendment is to preserve as far as possible the integrated services and the nucleus of a national transport service. This Bill as it stands destroys the whole concept of transport as we understood it when we drafted and passed through this House the 1947 Measure. I ask the Minister, if he rejects this Amendment, what guarantee he can give us that the existing services operated by the Road Haulage Executive will continue in areas which are so sparsely populated that it does not pay to operate them. What guarantee can he give us that areas in which it is unprofitable to run transport will be served in the future? Further, what guarantee can he give us that the integrated services of the Commission, as we understand them at the present time, will continue? If he cannot give us a guarantee that they will continue in the event of this Bill becoming law, how can he possibly justify the action he is taking? Surely, it is not in the national interest to destroy what has been established over the last few years. This Amendment provides the means for preserving some of the achievements of the British Transport Commission during recent years. We on this side of the Committee do not regard this Amendment as being even a second best to the present situation, nor even a third best, but it is something, and I appeal to the Minister to consider it seriously. The right hon. Gentleman told us earlier this afternoon that the British Transport Commission is opposed to the selling off of the Road Haulage Executive vehicles. He said that they were further opposed to the manner in which it was proposed to sell them off. That was something about which he quite rightly informed the Committee, but I suggest to him that he should ask the Transport Commission whether they would be in favour of the Amendment which we are now discussing as a means of salvaging something of a national service for the Commission and to encourage those engaged in trying to build it up to continue to work to that end. I commend this Amendment to the Minister and ask him to give it his serious consideration, and to consult, even at this late stage, the Transport Commission it.
I understand that, though the last Amendment at the bottom of the first page of the Order Paper was the one moved, we are also discussing the Amendments in page 2 to leave out lines 1 to 3, and in page 2, line 4, to insert a new subsection (2). I hope that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) will acquit me of any discourtesy in that I did not speak earlier on, but I thought it better to wait and hear the whole case on these three Amendments deployed by the Opposition and then to end the debate on them with one ministerial speech instead of two.These three Amendments deal with kindred matters. The first proposes to leave to the Commission—
I was under the impression that the Amendment at the bottom of page 69 was taken together with the one at the top of page 71.
Though the suggestion, Sir Charles, did not come from these benches, we certainly understood that with the Amendment at the bottom of page 69 we were also considering the Amendment to Clause 1, page 2, to leave out lines 1 to 3 in the name of the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), and the one to Clause 1, page 2, line 4, in the name of the same right hon. Gentleman. I thought that was intended.
I thought the Amendment at the bottom of page 69 went with the first Amendment on page 70.
The Amendment I moved at the bottom of page 69 was, I understood, to be discussed with the second and third Amendments on page 70. The first Amendment on page 70 deals with an unrelated point.
What about the first one on page 70?
We were not proposing to include that, Sir Charles.
I am glad we have cleared up any possibility of misunderstanding, though what Scotland will say to the right hon. Gentleman for describing it as an unrelated point we can wait to hear until we come to deal with that Amendment later.
Why is the right hon. Gentleman trying to be funny about that?
I am not. The three proposals before the Committee are these. The first is to leave to the Commission the decision as to what it is necessary for them to retain for certain purposes; and I share the doubt of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) as to whether the Opposition clearly understand the consequences of the phrasing which they use in that Amendment.The second Amendment is to set a time-limit in which the Commission have to determine how the disposal is to be made and at what pace, subject, I think, only to Treasury approval. The third Amendment is linked with it, and it says that the Commission have a year during which it can make up its mind as to what businesses it wants to retain. In dealing with the first Amendment, I am afraid that I must advise the House to reject it. In our view it is quite impracticable to leave it to the Commission to settle how many vehicles, and what kind, it requires, because we know perfectly well—and there is no discredit in this—that the Commission believes in the possibility in the foreseeable future of an integrated transport service. We do not believe that this is possible. The Commission, therefore, cannot be made the sole guide as to what number of vehicles should be retained. This is not in any way because we doubt the loyalty with which the Commission would carry out the requirements of Parliament, and not because we fear that the Commission might play—I think the right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "merry drakes"—with the undertakings. He was careful not to use another word, although I would remind him that in classical times Rome was saved by a goose—and that is not such a rude observation as might be thought. It is not the case that we doubt the ability of the Commission or its integrity. It is simply the case that in our view the Commission are not able to settle themselves what vehicles they should retain, because the Government have made up their minds that long-distance road haulage should no longer remain a State monopoly. Therefore, I must ask the Committee to reject the first Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman referred also to the retention by the Commission of those vehicles that the old railway companies possessed prior to nationalisation in 1948. That point has also been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Edward Davies) and, I think, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). It seems to us—and I think that the whole Committee agrees with this—clearly inequitable, if once a decision is reached to restore the pattern of competition in long-distance haulage as it was before 1948, that either the railways or the Commission should be prevented from having those assets which the old railway companies enjoyed. So we have worked into the Bill provisions whereby the Commission or the railways can withdraw from the auction the vehicles which broadly correspond in number and size to the assets which the railway companies enjoyed, and we have added to this the right to add another 20 per cent., in order to take account of any natural growth that there might have been. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East dealt with the case of Pickford's. He said—and it is true—that a substantial part, but not the major part, of the Road Haulage Executive undertaking is now in the Pickford's Special Division. He no doubt remembers that their profit last year, which was not a net profit and only just covered overheads, was £3 million, of which nearly £1 million was met by Pickford's, and it is a little difficult, I think, to call in aid the profits of Pickford's on the one hand, and, on the other, to complain that the Commission may be left with Pickford's.
I think I know what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. He said that it might be that I was right in saying that the Commission would have the largest road haulage undertaking in the country. But that would be only possible if in fact the bulk of their vehicles was concentrated in the Pickford's Special Division. The proposals of the Government are that the Commission shall withdraw from auction vehicles corresponding to the vehicles that the railway companies had before nationalisation. Since then, the Pickford's Division has grown very considerably, and a large number of other undertakings have been added to Pickford's Special Division which are in no sense the inevitable heirs of the old Pickford's business.The hon. Gentleman said that the majority or a very large number of the road haulage vehicles would be Pickford's vehicles. I think that these are accurate figures—it is difficult to be quite certain—but I think that if he will look at the figures he will find that while it is true that some 3,000 vehicles are in the Pickford's group now that the Commission have control of that group, when the railway companies had control of the Pickford's undertakings the number was 1,553. So the Pickford group has grown in number from 1,553 to 3,091. Therefore it is not true to say that the bulk of the vehicles now enjoyed by the Commission would be the vehicles in the old Pickford's group.
My argument is this. That Pickford's, as the Minister has now said operate something like 3,000 vehicles today. If the British Transport Commission are to be able to retain only the same number of vehicles plus one-fifth, as they did in 1948, that means that it might only be roughly some 3,000 vehicles which are retained for that purpose, and therefore they will all be engaged in Pickford's traffic, and that will preclude them from carrying on other road haulage because their vehicles are used for that purpose.
That would be true should the Commission choose to keep all their vehicles in the Pickford's group. When the Commission make certain decisions, they must naturally accept the consequences of those decisions. The hon. Gentleman is not really right in his figures. When the 1947 Bill was going through Committee, the most that the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) could say was that he thought that 2,000 vehicles to 2,500 would be taken over. Of course, the figure was quite untrue. Some 3,558 vehicles have in fact been taken over, and there will be a considerable increase through the 20 per cent. increase which the Commission will be allowed to enjoy.
Will the Minister admit this? If the Commission are allowed to retain only six-fifths of their vehicles of 1948, they will not be able to carry on both Pickford's excluded traffic division and the integrated feeder services which they are now operating.
Of course, I agree with that. If that were not so, the Road Haulage Executive would be retained in toto. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The whole point of this Clause is that there should be competition in long-distance haulage. I will come later to the question of Pickford's in relation to what the hon. Member for Acton said. Although, of course, the Commission will be limited to the vehicles they have or which the railways had before nationalisation, plus a 20 per cent. increase, and they will not be able to take a larger slice from the Road Haulage Executive undertaking than that, there is nothing to stop the Commission in the future, through the normal course of events, making application to the licensing authorities to extend their fleet in the usual way.
Why sell off then?
There is nothing to stop them, if they can prove need, going to the licensing authority.
Then why sell off the vehicles?
I think the hon. Member clearly understands that the purpose of this operation is to introduce competition into long-distance haulage. We are confident that the result of that will be greater efficiency and a cheaper cost in the running of those services. If the Commission, having this largest share of all, which makes them the largest undertakers in the country, choose to go to the licensing authority in the future to deal with any increased business which may be available, they are perfectly free to do so. I take it that the Committee would not wish to curb their right to go, like any other undertaking or private individual, to the licensing authority.
Is it not the case that the Pickford's Special Division deals particularly with the exempted traffic which was not nationalised in 1947, and has been competing successfully with the other road traffic undertakings?
I was coming to that point in a moment when dealing with what the hon. Member for Acton said.I should like to deal with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), who sent me a note to say that he and the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) had had to go to broadcast to Africa at this hour, thus explaining his inability to be here. He was under a misapprehension. Until the end of 1953 there will be no increase because of the provisions of this Bill in the number of vehicles on the road. There will be a steady transfer of the Road Haulage Executive's vehicles to private enterprise, but the net number of vehicles will not, through anything in this Bill, increase. After the lifting of the 25-mile limit in 1954 there may well be an increase, possibly a substantial increase. All these people will then be subject to the ordinary licensing system. They will have that right like everybody else—[Interruption.] The hon. Member has not got this point clearly. The only people who get a five-year run free of application to the licensing authority are those who buy businesses from the Road Haulage Executive. This will be for the period until the sale is over, however long it may take. There will be a steady transfer from public to private ownership but the number of vehicles will not thereby be affected, only their management and ownership. After the lifting of the 25-mile limit there will be applications to the licensing authorities and the usual period—five years or whatever period they choose to attach to the granting of a licence—will apply. No one will have automatic rights after the lifting of the 25-mile limit, because we are preserving the licensing system. Is that not a good thing? I thought most people were in favour of the retention of the licensing system. Anyone will be allowed to extend their operations beyond the 25-mile limit for the period of their licence but applications for new licences will have to be made to the licensing authority in the usual way.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going back on the proposals of the Bill, which provide that where the vehicle is sold a purchaser obtains a five-year licence. If a vehicle is purchased in 1953, the purchaser will have a licence until 1958 and will not be subject to the licensing authorities.
That is exactly what I said. Really, I think that the remark of my hon. Friend who said he doubted whether some Members had clearly read the Bill does appear to be a very fair comment. Those people who buy businesses will buy with them the right to run with a special A licence for five years, but that does not lead to an increase in the number of vehicles, because those vehicles are already on the road as the property of the British Transport Commission. After that, all applications to provide further traffic on the roads will go before the licensing authorities in the usual way. I was not dealing with the point of the people who buy these businesses.The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North dealt also with a point in regard to Pickford's. It was a little difficult for me to know clearly what he had in mind. He seemed to take the view that as Pickford's have no long-distance interests, the Commission, if it retained Pickford's only, would not be able to take part in long-distance work. I hope that I have dealt in part with that point in reply to the intervention by the hon. Member for Enfield, East. A quick analysis of the Pickford's figures shows that there are some 426 heavy haulage vehicles in the Pickford's group at the moment compared with 145 before nationalisation. The number of trailers has increased by 50 per cent. I do not know whether that deals with the point that the hon. Member had in mind. I repeat, if he is not satisfied, that it is for the Commission to make up its mind how to use the facilities which later Clauses of the Bill provide for the withdrawals from the auction of a very large number of vehicles. When the time comes to consider that part of the Bill, we can discuss in detail what the Committee feels about the proposals of the Government in that respect.
During Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Road Haulage Executive would be in a position to compete, that he was working for reasonable competition. The amount of road haulage—this is the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies)—which will be at the disposal of the Commission—six-fifths—will, if they continue the whole of the Pickford's business, absorb the increase that has gone on and to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. Pickford's vehicles are designed for special purposes and therefore it will not be possible for the Commission to retain to the same degree the services which they have built up to enable them to compete. That will not be possible because the global figure will not permit them to have the necessary vehicles because Pickford's have not the specific vehicles now running which would be required to do the job.
The hon. Member is only repeating again what the hon. Member for Enfield, East said, that it will not be possible for the Commission to carry on the whole of their activities now described as the Pickford's Special Division and also engage in large-scale undertakings elsewhere. The Commission must make up their minds; it is not for me either in the Bill or in any other way to tell the Commission what vehicles they ought to withdraw from the auction.The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North also referred to profitable enterprises being withdrawn from the Commission, and he then said, "or if not profitable only unprofitable now because of the threat of disturbance which is causing people and traffic to leave the services of the Road Haulage Executive." Of course, that is not true. I do not wish to go at great length into the financial position of the Road Haulage Executive, and nothing that I might say on that account now or when speaking later means that I am in any sense blaming them for the difficulties which an impossible obligation imposed on them. The total net traffic receipts of £4.7 million over the past four years compare fantastically with the £10 million that I think we all agree—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—an anlysis certainly leads one to think it is fair to say that the expropriated businesses were making prior to nationalisation.
The Minister has had something to say about the fact that the Road Haulage Executive will not be able to pay its way this year. Will he deny that the cost to the Executive for fuel is £5 million more this year, due directly to the action of the Government; that it will cost them about £8 million more in wages, due again to the direct action of the Government; and thirdly, that it will cost them £1 million more in insurance because of the action of the right hon. Gentleman himself?
That is scarcely a very valid argument. Fuel increases, normal increases in insurance—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We had quite a debate about that some months ago. I should be out of order if I went into details about the insurance figure. Leaving aside the £1 million increase for insurance, the fuel increases and the increases in wages which the hon. Member said were due directly to this Government—I very much doubt whether he will use that sort of phrase in his constituency—fall equally on private operators and the State undertaking. As I have explained in the House when giving permission to the Commission within a short time of their asking to raise their freight rates, they obviously confronted the Commission and private undertakings with very considerable problems.There is one correction I should like to make. I think the £5 million increase in fuel is spread over all the Commission's activities, ports, harbours and railways. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I stand to be corrected, but my recollection of the statement that I made in the House a few weeks ago was that the increase in fuel for all branches of the Commission amounts to £5 million.
I will take it from the hon. Gentleman and if he is wrong no doubt he will correct it, as I will do if I am wrong. As I said, these fuel increases fall on private and public transport services.The hon. Member for Acton referred to the vehicles which were withdrawn from auction and made a number of interesting comments. I should like to say that when I was asked a Question within a few weeks of my appointment as a result of which an analysis was produced of what the railway companies owned before nationalisation, I was exceedingly surprised by some of the figures that were presented to me and I pondered on them for a long time. I have taken them very much into account. The hon. Member said that this 20 per cent. increase took no account of the changed conditions and circumstances. A great many private hauliers know that the size of their own fleets has not increased since nationalisation. Even the short-distance hauliers are not altogether happy about what might be called the arbitrary right to the Commission to take another 20 per cent. out of the undertaking before it is disposed of. I was very anxious that this 20 per cent. should be conceded, for it seemed to me to be a reasonable token between what might be the increase in comparable activities in other parts of the country and under other managements, and no increase during the same period. 6.45 p.m. The hon. Member said that this would take no account, for example, of the closing down of branch lines. That is precisely what it does. It takes account of that sort of thing and encourages the Commission to take whatever action is right for an economic service. In future the Commission can close down a branch line, and then under the Bill go to the licensing authority to get a licence to enable them to provide an alternative service. The hon. Member also said that part of the road haulage fleet was used sometimes to help the railways and he asked what would happen then. If he will turn to the Clause we are now discussing and glance at the proviso at the end of subsection (5), he will see the answer to his question:
That will enable me to see that where the Road Haulage Executive were running a service for the railways, that would not be part of the undertaking which must be compulsorily disposed of. It was precisely to meet the sort of point the hon. Member has in mind that that particular provision was inserted."…the Minister may direct that any property held by the Commission at the passing of this Act, or thereafter obtained or appropriated by them, partly for or to the purposes of the existing road haulage undertaking and partly for or to other purposes shall be treated, or shall not be treated, as property held by the Commission for the purposes of that undertaking."
Does that include the six-fifths?
No. I can assure the Committee that I have taken a great deal of trouble about this matter since I was appointed. I have not been in transport for my living, but I have acquainted
Division No. 28.]
|Aitken, W. T.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Braine, B. R.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Crouch, R. F.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Cuthbert, W. N.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Bullard, D. G.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Comdr. J. M.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Burden, F. F. A.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Barber, Anthony||Butcher, H. W.||Donner, P. W.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Campbell, Sir David||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Carson, Hon. E.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Channon, H.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Colegate, W. A.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Birch, Nigel||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cooper, Sqn-Ldr. Albert||Fell, A.|
|Black, C. W.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bossom, A. C.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Cranborne, Viscount||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
myself with the background of this great industry of which I am proud to be the Parliamentary spokesman.
Would the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication of his intentions with regard to that subsection of the Bill? Can he guarantee that he will use this power under that subsection in order to enable the railways to work in co-operation with road haulage as at the present time?
No. I say that where this is already happening we will take account of it, but I cannot give an open invitation, so that the whole of the haulage fleet is put at the disposal of the railways, and, therefore, withdrawn from the Bill. But consistent with the general policy of Her Majesty's Government, I will look sympathetically at anything that will fall within that proviso.I have dealt at some length with the various points raised, but we are debating three Amendments in one and I hope the Committee does not think I have been unduly long. I must ask the Committee to reject all three Amendments, which would strike at one of the prime purposes of the Bill.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 291; Noes, 267.
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fort, R.||Lindsay, Martin||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Faster, John||Linstead, H. N.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Russell, R. S.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Longden, Gilbert||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Low, A. R. W.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Glyn, Sir Ralph||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Godber, J. B.||McAdden, S. J.||Shepherd, William|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||McCallum, Major D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|Gower, H. R.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Gridlay, Sir Arnold||McKibbin, A. J.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Grimond, J.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Speir, R. M.|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maude, Angus||Storey, S.|
|Hay, John||Maudling, R.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Heath, Edward||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Mellor, Sir John||Summers, G. S.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Molson, A. H. E.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Taylor William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Teeling, W.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Holt, A. F.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Tilney, John|
|Horobin, I. M.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nutting, Anthony||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Odey, G. W.||Turton, R. H.|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr N. J.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Wade, D. W.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Osborne, C.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Partridge, E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Powell, J. Enoch||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Kaberry, D.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Profumo, J. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Raikes, H. V.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Rayner, Brig, R.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Redmayne, M.||Wills, G.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Renton, D. L. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||York, C.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Robson-Brown, W.||Mr. Drewe and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Baird, J.||Blyton, W. R.|
|Adams, Richard||Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Boardman, H.|
|Albu, A. H.||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bence, C. R.||Bowden, H. W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Benn, Wedgwood||Bowles, F. G.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Benson, G.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Brockway, A. F.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Bing, G. H. C.||Brook, Dryden (Halifax)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blackburn, F.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Blenkinsop, A.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Burke, W. A.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rhodes, H.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Richards, R.|
|Carmichael, J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Cattle, Mrs. B. A.||Janner, B.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Clunie, J.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Ross, William|
|Coldrick, W.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)|
|Collick, P. H.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Short, E. W.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Keenan, W.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Daines, P.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||King, Dr. H. M.||Slater, J.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Kinley, J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Snow, J. W.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lewis, Arthur||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Deer, G.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Steele, T.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. G.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||MacColl, J. E.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||McGhee, H. G.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McInnes, J.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Edelman, M.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McLeavy, F.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Ewart, R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Field, W. J.||Manuel, A. C.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Finch, H. J.||Mellish, R. J.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Follick, M.||Messer, F.||Thornton, E.|
|Foot, M. M.||Mikardo, Ian||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Forman, J. C.||Mitchison, G. R.||Timmons, J.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Monslow, W.||Tomney, F.|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Moody, A. S.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morley, R.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Glanville, James||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mort, D. L.||Webb, Rt. Hon M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Moyle, A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Mulley, F. W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Grey, C. F.||Murray, J. D.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Nally, W.||West, D. G.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||O'Brien, T.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oldfield, W. H.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Oliver, G. H.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Orbach, M.||Wigg, George|
|Hardy, E. A.||Oswald, T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hargreaves, A.||Padley, W. E.||Willey, F. T.|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Hastings, S.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S. E.)||Pannell, Charles||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Parker, J.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Paton, J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pearson, A.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Peart, T. F.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Holman, P.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Holmes, Horace (Hamsworth)||Popplewell, E.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Porter, G.||Yates, V. F.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Younger, Rt. Hon K.|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Rankin, John||Mr. Hannan and Mr. Royle.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reeves, J.|
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, after "property," to insert:
As the Guillotine falls at eight o'clock on this Amendment, many of my hon. Friends who want to speak will exercise a self-denying ordinance, and they have authorised me to state the case for Scotland. I believe that in this case I am speaking also for hon. Gentlemen opposite, who will obviously not be in a position to be as frank with the Government, because of their party loyalty, as they would otherwise be. I think that the proposals I make in the Amendment will be the best arrangement for Scotland, and, indeed, for the Government. Everyone who has spoken on this question of Scotland has admitted that Scotland has a quite separate problem and ought to be treated accordingly. The Minister of Transport, in his Press conference on the Bill, seemed to indicate that there would be special treatment, but I must say that his statement was of rather sinister import. According to the "Edinburgh Evening News"—and I am sure that they did not concoct this out of their imagination—the Minister said:"(other than property held by them in Scotland)."
"Scotland has been singled out for special attention because the monopoly of road and rail traffic by the State is greater there than in any other part of the United Kingdom."
That is not verbatim.
It is a report of the right hon. Gentleman's Press conference, which, I presume, he took himself. I am sure that the newspaper did not imagine this when they reported it.
I will put that right.
This statement admits that the integration and development of transport in Scotland has proceeded further than elsewhere and it is to be inferred that this will bring upon Scottish transport some greater form of disorganisation. What is the mystery about the Government's plans for Scotland? They have had ample opportunity for disclosing them. Failure to do so has created a very uneasy suspicion that either the Government have no plans ready at all—and that is conceivable because neither Minister has taken steps to make himself acquainted with Scottish problems at first hand—or their plans are such that no Scots M.P. on either side of the Committee would dare to vote for them.It is not necessary for me to go on making a case for leaving Scotland alone, or for leaving Scotland to make a still greater integration of its transport. The Scottish Council for Industry has stated the case publicly. According to the Press, they have argued the case privately in interviews with the Minister. There is no indication that they have been given any satisfaction. They state the position quite clearly and entirely freely from the point of view of practical people. 7.0 p.m. The minimum essentials they lay down are a transport authority with sufficient power (a) to integrate road, rail, coastal shipping and air activities; (b) to eliminate costly waste in duplication, overlapping and non-co-ordination of services; (c) to secure the cheapest reliable and speedy collection and delivery of goods. These are businesslike objectives. Does the Government accept them? That is not a rhetorical question, so I hope the Minister will answer it frankly. Does the Government accept these as the principles necessary for an efficient transport system in Scotland? I do not claim that after a few years there is either complete integration or that everything is satisfactory in Scotland as regard road transport. Yet the manager of one of the largest units of transport outside British Road Services told me last week that he and his colleagues in the transport industry are astonished at the success which has attended the efforts of British Road Services in establishing a nation-wide road service of transport in Scotland. It is a great credit to all those who are operating it. British Road Services took over a number of small units with an average number of three vehicles each and welded them into a network of road and rail services that have covered the whole country. Is that to be broken up to go back to the anarchy of three lorries per man? Not only have we in Scotland a great degree of devolution from the Central Board but there is already a system of district and local management. As is natural, the management districts are centred on the four large cities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow. Within those main districts there are 26 groups working from 130 depots and sub-depots. They took over 4,000 vehicles. As I explained last week, they had to scrap 1,200 vehicles as unfit, but they are now doing far better work with 3,600 vehicles than was done by 4,000 vehicles under the old system. It cannot be denied that there will be more vehicles on the roads if we go back to a system of overlapping, duplication and multiplication of transport. The one criticism that has been voiced of the Scottish road transport system is that there is not the personal attention that existed formerly. So far as my personal inquiries are concerned, this is contrary to the facts. I am not denying that the people who owned transport formerly gave good personal service, but in the circumstances, they could not possibly give the service which has been given by the Scottish road services. Every user of Scottish road transport has a manager within his call who gives him where necessary personal attention. Because this is important I shall give one or two illustrations that have come out of my inquiries. One interesting thing is that British road transport has no monopoly in carrying livestock. That is still an open field for the competition of private enterprise. However, the Scottish road services have been so successful in obtaining the confidence of the agricultural population that 50 per cent. of the farm vehicles owned by British Road Services are in Scotland. What used to happen and what still happens was shown in a case that came before the licensing court where farmers gave evidence in favour of a private enterprise owner who wanted the right to take livestock to Torquay. When they were asked why they wanted this man to take that traffic instead of using the return services of drivers who came north, they gave as the reason that they would not trust their livestock to those drivers because they were too sleepy as a result of having driven overnight. This was an admission that the practice of driving long distances to Scotland without stopping was breaking the law. The interesting thing was that, when the contractor who wanted the contract to deliver the livestock to Torquay was asked how he would get it there, he admitted that his driver also would drive straight through. A glance at the map to see the distance from the constituency of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) to Torquay will show that the driver who goes that distance is not working within the law. British Road Services have been able to offer a service that is unequalled in this respect and have been successful in attracting the interest of the farmers because of its reliability, speed and care of the animals. As a result, their traffic is continually building up. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) knows the Lanark market well and there the farmers are no fools, as he also knows very well. In the course of a conversation between a noble Lord and another friend who was shifting valuable cattle to the south, and discussing who should be engaged for the job, they were advised by their friends to take British Road Services if they wanted their cattle looked after.
I think the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that there is a large amount of that livestock carried by private enterprise in preference to British Road Services. I see no prospect whatever, knowing Lanark market very well indeed, that British Road Services will be entrusted with the whole or anything like the whole of that traffic.
But it is a long time since the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was at Lanark market—
As the right hon. Gentleman has challenged me, I was there last week. I am chairman of a company and it is part of my business. I know Lanark market very well indeed, and I am constantly engaged there. The right hon. Gentleman should acquaint himself with the facts before attempting to mislead the Committee.
The facts are that in Lanark market and in the markets of Dumfriesshire the farmers are turning more and more to British Road Services. While, as I have said, there is open competition in this matter, the reliability of British Road Services is beginning to overcome even the prejudice of the farmers, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows is a great obstacle to the use of any nationalised industry.My next point is that the kind of services they are offering is something that private enterprise normally cannot offer. It is quite true that in the case of private enterprise, if the vehicles are owned by the farmers, they put their man in charge to look after the livestock, but if he is driving from, say, Dumfries to Torquay he is in no condition to look after livestock with the care that British Road Services can offer because their men are driving within the legal hours and are fresh. Further, cattle often calve on the journey, and after the calf is born the driver takes it into the cabin with them to keep it warm. I came across an interesting case in which a driver entered in his log book, "Two punctures and one calf." This kind of personal service is beginning to make itself felt amongst the farmers, and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will now inquire among some of his noble Friends he will find that they are using British Road Services in preference to private enterprise, which may sometimes leave the cattle for an extra two days before they take them on the road and deliver them—
The right hon. Gentleman—
Order. If the right hon. Member does not give way, the right hon. and gallant Member must resume his seat.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must try to find some other way of making his remarks.Another case that I should like to instance comes from the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan). Berry picking nearly came to a stop because of the absence of crates. A telephone call was made to the road transport manager at Dundee on a Friday afternoon, and by the Sunday morning sufficient crates were delivered from Manchester to enable the picking to be continued. That kind of service cannot be done by a ragged lot of odd private enterprise firms. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) there is a great new organisation for manufacturing tractors and combine harvesters. In 1950, they booked an order for 4,500 combine harvesters to be delivered in 1951. Because of mechanical holdups they were hardly ready in time, but because there was a nation-wide transport system the Scottish Road Services were able to call on vehicles from all over Scotland and some from England, and they were able to get those harvesters delivered to the farmers in time. No organisation except a nation-wide system could possibly have done it.
What the right hon. Gentleman says is all wrong.
I could give many more instances, based not on theories, but on facts discovered from personal inquiries.
It ought not to be necessary—
Really the right hon. Gentleman—
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is most disorderly.
If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) must resume his seat.
I was only going to ask—
I could argue this with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman all night, but this debate is under sentence of death at 8 p.m. by his own Government.I could give many more examples, but I ought not to need to tell the Government of this. They ought to have found it all out. I implore them, however, not to break up an organisation which is serving the needs of Scotland and which is being improved every day. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that left to ourselves, we would organise an economical transport service. We cannot afford to risk the Scottish economic well-being by taking a blind leap into the dark by guesswork. The other day the right hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) tried to tell us what the Bill would do for Scotland, but his speech, which I have read again, was really one of vague hopes that everything would turn out all right. Scotland has problems which are best tackled by a co-ordinated transport system. As the Government seem determined to denationalise road transport since, to quote Shylock, it is in their bond, we on this side tried to draft an Amendment embodying the Scottish Council's proposal. But, like the Scottish Council, we found that it was quite impracticable to integrate Scottish transport without keeping the ownership of the road vehicles in the hands of the Commission. Therefore, we had to give up trying to make a job of the Government's proposal for Scotland. I challenge the Minister to say how, when the Government have sold off the paying routes in Scotland, they will continue the present services to rural parts of the countryside. Are the rates to be increased to try to make the remainder solvent, or are the services to be reduced? Is the Inverness depot to be closed and are the Highlands to be left once more to themselves? We have been fighting depopulation of the Highlands for generations, and during the last few years we were able to arrest it, but without cheap transport nothing can save the Highlands of Scotland. 7.15 p.m. I ask the right hon. Gentleman how he will ensure that rural services get the benefit of the flat rates that are possible by the national system. Fifty per cent. of the road passenger omnibus traffic in Scotland is uneconomic and has to be maintained by the populous areas, which, I am informed, have the cheapest transport in the world. The same thing is happening with road transport. The private transport rates between Garve and Ullapool are something like twice those between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which is about the same distance. If we have a national system, it is possible to give Gerve and Ullapool the same flat rates as the Lowlands, but if the cream is taken off how can Scotland be given the services that it has now? Who is to give them? Are they to be subsidised? There is another reason why Scotland should be left out of the Bill. Eighty per cent. of the goods uplifted in Scotland by road transport are delivered in Scotland and, therefore, to a large extent there is a great, independent road transport system at work within Scotland itself. We have a landward area, much of it hill and upland, of 29,000 square miles and the dense industrial population is confined to 1,000 square miles. Obviously, there is no possibility of that 29,000 square miles having an economic transport system with any regularity unless it is based on the economic prosperity of the industrial power. Transport is the lifeblood of our rural Scotland. Without it, it cannot long survive. We want Scotland left out of the Bill, and I think that in saying so I speak for all the industrial, commercial and other people of Scotland who want an integrated system of transport. It appears to me, however, that the Government are being adamant. I hope they will accept the Amendment but for a later stage of the Bill we have put down an alternative Amendment asking that the Government shall not implement the Bill in Scotland until there has been an inquiry by independent people into the facts of what will be its result on Scotland's economy. Is that an unreasonable request to make? The Minister has not inquired, and neither did his predecessor do so. According to all the people connected with transport in Scotland, nobody from the Government has inquired. The Government have not accepted the results of the inquiries of the Scottish Council for Industry. Surely, it is reasonable to ask that before endangering the economy of Scotland, the Government should have an independent inquiry by people interested in transport who are not infected with the Minister's ideologies. Let us have somebody who deals with the matter from a business point of view, and let the Minister have the inquiry before he implements the Bill in Scotland. Scotland wants to know what the Government are planning. The commercial people and the industrial people want to know. The Highlands and the rural parts of Scotland want to know, and I now invite the Government, because my hon. Friends are exercising their minds on the matter, to say what is to happen to Scotland in regard to transport.
The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) has made a number of very emphatic declarations, which are not necessarily made true because he said them with very great vigour and thumped the Dispatch Box as he did so.The right hon. Gentleman was singularly unhappy in his choice of illustrations, in that he happened to choose the very district which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) probably knows more than anybody in either House of Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] As the activities in Lanark Market are part of the business of my right hon. and gallant Friend, and it is a general Socialist charge that all Conservative Members of Parliament are more interested in their private business than anything else, I take it that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that, at least, my right hon. and gallant Friend knows something about it. It was a little unfortunate, therefore, that those illustrations were given. To put it mildly, it throws a slight shadow of doubt on the accuracy of some other observations on individual cases picked out at random of better service or worse service. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Amendment?"] I responded immediately to the right hon. Gentleman's request, and I am trying to deal very briefly, from the Government point of view, with the Amendment. I was very interested to hear that the right hon. Gentleman ended his speech by asking for an inquiry. I did not share the view of the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) that when we asked for an inquiry in 1946 we were living in a period when action was very desirable and inquiries could be very dangerous in their consequences. I did not share that view, but I was a little surprised when the right hon. Member for East Stirling asked for an inquiry because he said last week that an inquiry may be necessary elsewhere:
"but in Scotland we do not need any inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1459.]
I cannot give way; I think the same treatment must be observed on each side of the Committee.The right hon. Member said that he was quoting from an interpretation of a Press conference at which it was said that Scotland was to have meted out to it specially sinister treatment. I was asked about Clause 16, which deals among other things, with passenger services and also the right of the Minister when the Bill—as I hope it will—becomes an Act, to be in a position to compel the Commission to divest themselves of their majority holding. In answer to a question in a Press conference as to whether in Scotland there was a monopoly of some road services I had that in mind—and I assure the right hon. Member that there was nothing sinister at all. The right hon. Member asked for an undertaking that rates should not be increased in Scotland and elsewhere. That came immediately after one of his hon. Friends had drawn attention to an £8 million increase in wages and £5 million for fuel over the whole of the activities of the industry, which would throw the financial structure out of balance. How could anyone say, in those circumstances, that there would be no increase in rates? No one could be certain of that in the uncertain world in which we live but we have every intention to give the people of Scotland the services they need and deserve. I now come to the more positive side of what I want to say. It is quite true that transport in Scotland is of vital concern, but it would be a mistake to assume that there are no other parts of the United Kingdom with vast distances to traverse and sparse populations where transport does not also have some of the features found in Scotland. If that is so, as we believe it is, how foolish it makes the doctrinaire approach of the Socialist Government in 1947 of applying to congested and sparsely populated areas the same rigid test of the 40-mile limit beyond which firms were taken over and the 25-mile limit beyond which they could not operate. If it is right in congested areas how wrong it is in sparsely populated areas, as indeed many Socialist hon. Members pointed out when they had a large majority in the House and that point was reached. In Committee on the 1947 Bill the Minister of Transport said that the Labour Government had made their position perfectly plain and that it applied in Scotland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. Unionist policy in Scotland, we said, was to restore as wide a measure of freedom as possible for road transport. This was widely advertised and more anti-Socialist votes were given at the last Election than votes cast for the Socialist Party and the anti-Socialist votes increased by 400,000. We have a clear mandate for the action we are taking, a mandate as clear in Scotland as in any other part of the United Kingdom. Nor need hon. Members pretend that they are breaking new ground in asking to exempt Scotland from the operation of this Bill. I think it was much more difficult upstairs, but my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) moved an Amendment in Committee to exempt a large part of Scotland from the operation of the Socialist nationalisation Bill and some of the points he made were supported by other hon. Members. But what was said by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South?
This is a united Kingdom and it would be generally accepted that as far as possible it is right that the same broad policy should be applied in all parts of the United Kingdom as far as possible—perhaps "as far as practicable" as well. We are quite conscious, of course, that in Scotland there are particular problems and to those we must address ourselves. The right hon. Member for East Stirling quoted the Scottish Council for Industry, but I know he would not suggest that people in Scotland are satisfied with the existing transport set up. I know from my own massive correspondence from Scottish hon. Members, from deputations from local authorities in Scotland, from the full dress debate of the whole day last July on the inadequacies of Scottish transport and the constant entreaties that I should take on the responsibilities of the Transport Commission to provide something which they are not providing, that there is considerable dissatisfaction with what is going on. The Scottish Council are much quoted and they are an excellent body. I give them and the House this assurance that I will, at later stages of the Bill, consult them as to how what I am about to say can best be put into practice. The Scottish Council have never suggested that common ownership is necessary to co-ordination. People who have said that have not followed the words used by the Scottish Council who have used the word "co-ordination" more than "integration." Indeed, I am not conscious that they ever used the word "integration" at all. They clearly understand that common ownership is not an essential pre-requisite for co-ordination if it is to be applied to MacBrayne's and air companies throughout Scotland. I understand that all their constituent members have expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the present transport system in Scotland. I have the authority to quote it and am assured by the chairman of the Transport Sub-Committee of the Scottish Council that he laments the passing of the old Scottish railway boards of the L.M.S. and the L.N.E.R. Hon. Members are always quoting the Scottish Council, but those boards were casually swept away. Should those boards be restored? I hope we can count on the support of hon. Members opposite for a restoration which would be fully in accord with the wishes of the Scottish Council that ironing out local difficulties should be done without any recourse to London at all. On the tendencies in British transport today, attention has been drawn in the Second Reading and other debates to this and it applies equally to Scotland. The number of C licences in Scotland has jumped from 36,000 on the eve of nationalisation to 62,000 in 1952 and the number of heavy ones, over one ton, has increased from 29,000 to 41,000. So the broad tendencies are applied in all parts of the United Kingdom. It is impossible to accept the Amendment—to exempt Scotland. Quite apart from the considerations I have given, I do not have the fixed number of vehicles operating in Scotland because they pass freely as one concern over the frontier—if one can call it so—between England and Scotland. The Bill as drafted goes a long way towards meeting the position of the Scottish consumer and it is the consumer we ought to have primarily in mind, as I certainly hope we have. We have introduced into the Bill new provisions in regard to the Transport Users Consultative Committee for Scotland, we take the passenger services under review for the first time and they can report to the Minister for the first time and the Minister can give directions on their report. These are very important provisions and I hope that Scottish opinion will recognise them as such. I realise that many people in Scotland do not think that this goes far enough to get the co-ordination that is needed and, if so, it is valuable to have a consultative committee. It may be made even more valuable, but the trouble is that it comes into the picture rather late in the day when the first principles of policy are agreed and the public might be feeling the consequences of changes in policy. It is said that it strengthens the co-ordinating machinery and although we recognise the need for greater co-ordinating machinery we could not accept a Scottish co-ordinating authority with executive powers. I do not think that the Scottish Council for industry themselves really believe that to be practicable, with executive powers which, incidentally, carry with them full financial autonomy, and I do not believe that many people in Scotland have altogether faced up to what the consequences might be."I do not see why any operator in one part of the country should have a different test applied, as to whether his property should be incorporated or not, from other citizens in other parts of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 13th March, 1947, c. 1924.]
What have the Scottish Tories advocated?
I have copies of what we have all said, and my hon. Friends are less vulnerable in previous declarations than are many hon. Gentlemen opposite.We think there is a need for further consultative machinery, and we propose—I will gladly discuss details with the Scottish Council and other interested bodies, and with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland—in order to facilitate the co-ordination of the various providers of private transport in Scotland, to set up a committee composed of representatives of all the bodies responsible to the British Transport Commission for the provision of goods and passenger services, both by road and rail, of British European Airways and of Messrs. MacBrayne. The chairman might well be—this is a matter for discussion—the chairman of the Transport-Users Consultative Committee for Scotland. This would minimise overlapping and keep both bodies in touch with each other. We hope that thereby the whole field of publicly-owned transport in Scotland will be kept under constant review and that in this way Scottish interests will be fully safeguarded. In regard to private transport undertakings, there are hopeful signs that it may well be possible in Scotland and elsewhere to get leaders of this great industry who will be in a position to speak for the industry as a whole, and no one will be more pleased than I and my right hon. Friend will be if, in time, and through patience, it is possible to identify private transport as well with a body of this kind. I hope that this will be accepted as an earnest of the Government's firm belief that Scottish transport problems are of immense importance and have certain aspects which single them out for special treatment. With confidence, I commend this proposal to my hon. Friends and to as many hon. Gentleman opposite as possible.
None of us is really much wiser than before the Minister started. He now offers Scotland some form of committee. The Bill talks about an "authority." The word "authority" has some meaning. I do not know what the Minister means when he says that the Government now have in mind some form of super-committee with functions which I cannot understand or appreciate.
It is merely a matter of putting the hon. Gentleman right.
This is the Committee stage of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is very hasty. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) is referring to the railway authority, which remains exactly as it is drawn up in the Bill.
The general expression of opinion in Scotland has been for an authority for co-ordination, and the Bill indicates that there are provisions for authorities to co-ordinate with other authorities. What that all adds up to I do not know.I listened very carefully to the Minister. He indicated he was coming to a practical, positive part of his speech, but he sat down and I do not know whether he ever came to it. He talked about offering an extension of the consultative committee machinery, and he said that the purpose was to help the consumer. Where does the consumer come in on this? I gather that the consultative committee will deal only with the nationalised services. The road haulage service will be sold. How will the consumers put forward their grievances in the case of an undertaking with one man and three lorries, as mentioned by my right hon. Friend? It is a matter for the Government to say what ought to be done in Scotland, and we have put down the Amendment to give the Government that opportunity, but the Minister has run away from it. His hon. Friends, the Scottish Council for Industry, the Press in Scotland, including the "Scotsman" and the "Glasgow Herald" and others who have been writing leading articles about it, are all anxious to know what the Government's intentions are. They have been told nothing. In fact, all that the Minister has done has been, in reply to a point made by my right hon. Friend, to throw some doubt on the accuracy of the Scottish Press. Of course we want an inquiry, but it is an inquiry to satisfy not us, but the Minister.
And the public.
And the public generally. I cannot understand the Minister's attitude. Let us go back to the Press conference which he had on 9th July, 1952. According to the "Edinburgh Evening News" he said that the break-up of the Scottish bus monopoly was not imminent and that the Government intended to carry it out only after a full investigation of the public interest in the matter.
The Minister was going to explain that, but he forgot.
It would be unfortunate if a misunderstanding occurred. I was asked whether I intended to use at an early date the powers I am taking under Clause 16. I said "No." I do not think I could have been quoted as saying what has been suggested. I am perfectly conscious of never having said anything to that effect. I said that I had set up the Thesiger Committee and that we must wait to see what emerged from it.
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is not accusing me of misleading the Committee. What has happened is that my right hon. Friend has used a quotation from a responsible Edinburgh newspaper and I have used a quotation from the same newspaper, and the Minister denies them both. In the case of passenger buses—the Minister admits, according to my information, that there is a monopoly—where it is appreciated that we have a monopoly, the Minister is prepared to carry out a full investigation, but he is not so prepared in the case of long-distance road haulage where there is no monopoly. Nevertheless, we ought to have an inquiry before the Minister does anything about it.Some questions were put by my right hon. Friend. We want to know what will happen to the units in Scotland which are not sold. If they are not sold in Scotland, will they be transferred south of the Border and sold in England? Can the Minister tell us what amount of road transport will remain with the Commission in Scotland? The Scottish Council for Industry—here there is nothing between us—visualised that the British Transport Commission would retain a certain proportion of the road haulage undertakings. The ex-Minister of Transport also said during the Second Reading of the Bill that the Transport Commission ought to retain a certain proportion of the long-distance road haulage.
I said that it would be retained under the specific Clause in the Bill and that I thought it was a good thing that it should be so.
The right hon. Gentleman said:
I said that there was nothing between us. All I say is that both the Scottish Council for Industry and the right hon. Gentleman agreed that so much should be retained. We want to know how much. It is an important question. The Minister said, on 17th November:"…what is happening under the Bill is that the Commission will retain a substantial proportion of road transport. It is there in the Bill, and I think that is very necessary for Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1651.]
But that is quite unrealistic for Scotland. Long-distance road haulage in Scotland is a public service. I have taken the trouble to find out and I discover that there are more uneconomic units in long-distance road haulage in Scotland, than in any other part of the country. We want to know what is to happen to those units, for instance, those at Inverness. They are able to give a service because the British Transport Commission has overall responsibility. If the Commission is unable to sell those units—and I cannot see the Commission being able to—what will happen? If the service is not available there will be a public outcry. The Minister must have due regard to the service given. Is the Commission to be left with these uneconomic units and are only the others to be sold? We say the only way to give this public service in Scotland is to take Scotland out of the Bill altogether, and that is what we demand. We have had no answer to the questions which we have put to the Minister. We have received no satisfaction from the Minister, and I am quite certain that the Scottish Press and those people who have been making representations, both in private and in public, will be disgusted at the attitude of the Minister."…we propose that the Commission should be allowed to retain a body of vehicles broadly approximating to what the railways had before nationalisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1952; Vol. 507, c. 1418.]
The first thing which hon. Members on this side of the Committee would like to do, I think, is to thank my right hon. Friend for the statement he has made. We have looked carefully into this matter and have examined the powers contained in the Bill, which is more than many sections of the Press appear to have done, and we do not agree with hon. Members opposite that the statement made by my right hon. Friend is not plain.We consider that it is quite plain, so far as it goes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Obviously, in a short debate of this kind—[HON. MEMBERS: "Whose fault is that?"]—it is not possible to give a full exposition of exactly what the form of transport is ultimately to be in Scotland. But there will be future occasions in the debates on this Bill to discuss the matter. For example, we have yet to come to Clause 14, and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) seems to have been confusing the special railway authority to be set up under that Clause with the co-ordinating committee—[HON MEMBERS: "No."]—to which my right hon. Friend was referring. There are two broad questions arising on this Amendment. First, is it practicable to take Scotland out of the Bill, so far as road transport is concerned, and, second, even if it is practicable, would it be desirable for Scotland? Before I deal with those two specific points, may I, once and for all, make clear the position of hon. Members on this side of the Committee? It is that this Amendment, so far as I know, is totally unacceptable to all my hon. Friends. May I add also what we on this side of the Committee said in 1949 in the document called, "Scottish Control of Scottish Affairs"? We said:
We still stick to that, but there are other occasions on which we can talk about it. The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) said that, so far as he knew, industrial interests were opposed to the de-nationalisation of road haulage in Scotland. The Scottish Chamber of Commerce, which represents trade interests, manufacturing interests and agricultural interests, was reported in the "Dundee Courier and Advertiser"—"Unionist policy is to restore as wide a measure of freedom as possible to road transport."
But now we cannot believe the Scottish Press.
—as having said:
of the Chamber—"The Committee"—
That is exactly what this Bill provides for. The Joint Secretary of the Central Committee of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce has stated:"reaffirm their support for the de-nationalisation of the road services with as little disturbance as possible to the industrial consumer."
And in case there should be any doubt as to whether industry in Scotland and the Chamber of Commerce are satisfied with the service they are getting at present, he goes on:"For road haulage there should be as much private enterprise as possible not subject to centralised direction or control other than what is involved in the licensing system."
That is also echoed by the Chairman of the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, and this is important because it deals with the remote areas in the north. He says that from his very intimate experience, not from inquiries he has made, but from his intimate experience of road transport in the northern areas, that he has"I think it is fair to say that Scottish industry holds the view that whatever organisation is set up here it should provide for an element of reasonable competition. There is dissatisfaction with the transport set-up today and chambers of commerce report that they are continually receiving complaints of delays, wrong deliveries, incorrect charges and the like."
I think that disposes once and for all of this argument. My right hon. Friend has dealt with the question of the practicability of this proposal. I put this to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Supposing it were possible to detach road haulage in Scotland, how would it be possible to keep it so? Would right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite agree that transport should come from south of the Border—transport which may well have been bought from the Commission—to compete with what remains under the control of the Commission in Scotland? Do they agree to that?"always found that the individual attention given by private ownership was very much more efficient than could possibly be achieved by a nationalised body."