I beg to move,
That the Clause be read a second time.
The House knows that for some time past the desirability has been discussed
of inserting some Clause in the Bill so that the local authorities responsible for the roads and also the mass of traffic which uses the roads should have some say in the matters for which the Amendment provides. The fear we have always had—I have stated it quite frankly in this House and in Committee—was that the light hon. Gentleman, being under the necessity primarily of meeting the great railway deficit of £100,000,000 a year, would to some extent cripple the roads in order to meet that deficit—to turn the money as it were into the coffers of the railway company. We were the more frightened in this respect by a remark made by the Leader of the House on the Second Reading, that he hoped the roads at once would, turn to their original purpose as feeders of the railway. Incidentally, I may say we object to the roads being merely feeders of the railways. They are not that, and. should not be that, for they were there long before the railways were. Certainly, most of us in this House are pledged very strongly as to the future of the roads. I am not speaking now on the mere question of the pleasure use of the roads. But the Prime Minister himself, in his election speeches—and I think the right hon. Gentleman also in his speeches in this House —have realised that if the House of Commons develops all these great schemes of. reconstruction, small holdings and so forth, the roads must be enormously developed not only as feeders of the railway, but as separate sources of traction, so as to enable poor people to get further out into the country and the commercial public to-be taken from farm or factory direct to the place to which they wish to go. 1 am one of those who believe, quite frankly, that in a very few years the roads will be used entirely for short-distance traffic to the detriment of the railways, which will only be used for long-distance traffic. I think hon. Members will find that it will not be many years before that takes place. I do not, however, wish to go into the whole question of the roads, because my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have met us in regard to this Clause.
Take the appointment of the Roads Committee. The proposal is that it shall consist of not less than ten members, five of whom shall be appointed by the Minister, and shall represent the highway authorities of the Kingdom. The Ministry is to have great power over the roads and highway authorities—the authorities which are primarily responsible for the well-
being of road locomotion and road traffic. There will be five members representative of the users of road traffic appointed by the Minister after consultation with the interests concerned. I think this is not unreasonable. I have had a request from the Cyclists' Union that they should be considered in this matter; and I have no doubt my right hon. Friend has heard from various sections of road users other than the particular section with whom I am supposed to be more immediately connected. These ten representatives will be in addition to the chairman and secretary appointed by the fight hon. Gentleman. I am assuming, of course, that the services of these gentlemen will be purely voluntary, for I suppose it will not be difficult to get ten gentlemen willing to give their services for the good of the country. In paragraph (e) we provide that
The Roads Committee may make regulation as to their procedure and method of voting and may at their discretion consider and report to the Minister upon any matters affecting the construction, improvement, or maintenance of roads or bridges, or the regulation of traffic thereon.
I do not say that this Clause is all "for which I have been asking. I do not say it is all that my friends, either inside or outside the House, hoped for. We had hoped that the old Road Board, which has done excellent work since instituted by the Prime Minister some ten years ago, and until quite recent date, and until stopped by the War would have been continued. However, my right hon. Friend did not agree to that, and one cannot get everything that one desires in this weary world, particularly from the House of Commons. Therefore I do not press that matter now. But 1 do say that, however difficult it is for me to approach my hon. Friends both inside and outside the House, I do think my right hon. Friend and the Minister have met us fairly in this matter. We have not got all we asked for. The Minister hopes to do a great work. I think the Roads Advisory Committee elected, as I have suggested, will be of very great benefit to the Minister, the local authorities, and the road-users of the country.