New Clause. — (Roads Advisory Committee.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Ministry of Ways and Communications Bill – in the House of Commons on 1st July 1919.

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Photo of Mr George Spencer Mr George Spencer , Broxtowe

The Clauses we have been previously dealing with belonging to this Bill have given colour to the suspicions which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Silvertown. The object of the Amendment seems to be that vested interests upon the roads are going to be invested with undue authority as against the public interest. The object of this Bill is supposed to be that, first and foremost, of transport convenience for the public, and if this Amendment is carried in its present form with five members representing those who use the roads and traffic, it seems to us that you are not looking after the interests of the public, but that this Amendment has been drafted with the object of giving undue preference to those who will use the roads as against the means of transport which the Government are running in the interests of the public. The last speaker has said the suspicions are groundless because the functions of this Committee will be purely advisory, that they will not have any definite powers of their own. The only thing that they can do is to report to the Minister who will have charge of the transportation of the country. If that is perfectly true, if they have no power, what guarantee have we after what we have seen this afternoon, after the Labour Members, fighting side by side with the Government in Committee to save them and their Bill from disaster, when the Government received, even last night, a deputation representing vested interests, and have to-day transformed in certain important particulars their own measure— what guarantee had we if you have a Committee of this character who are only acting in an advisory capacity, that they are not going to have the same influence over the Government with their recommendations as the four or five people had last night who had determined a fresh policy to-day than that which they pursued in Committee? In view of the changing policy of the Government in respect of the vested interests, first in the docks and harbour and canals, we feel that we cannot even trust the Government to do justice to the public interest as against private interests, and if there is to be a private Committee, so far as these benches are concerned, we would rather have that Committee representative entirely of the highway authority, the elected body of the district, and not by powers representing private interests. If these powers are contributing to the rates it is in a small manner, and really the whole burden of maintaining the roads and bridges falls upon the public bodies. We have been told that the local authorities may have representatives who do not understand roads. I think it would be fair to say that as far as London traffic is concerned there is not one out of every 100 who have vested interests in London traffic who know a single thing in road construction, and yet they