(1) It shall be lawful for the Minister to purchase privately-owned railway wagons required for use on any railway on such terms and conditions as may be authorised by or under an Order in Council, a draft whereof has been approved by a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament, and to work or lease any such wagons when so purchased, or to apportion them among the several railway under takings in such manner, on such terms, and subject to such conditions as may be provided by or under the Order:
Provided that the Minister shall not be entitled to purchase in England and Wales or Scotland or Ireland, respectively, wagons used for the conveyance of any particular class of traffic unless he purchases all privately-owned wagons so used which belong to or are used by persons carrying on business therein and which comply with the regulations with respect to such wagons in force at the date of such purchase.
(2) Where in the case of any wagon which has been in use on or before the fifteenth day of May, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the wagon has since that date been the subject of a purchase agreement the price paid on such purchase shall not be evidence of the value of the wagon in determining the price to be paid by the Minister.
(3) Where the Minister exercises his powers of purchasing wagons under this Section, or of prohibiting, limiting, or restricting the use of privately-owned wagons, the following pro visions shall have effect:
Provided that nothing in this Act shall authorise the prohibition of the use on railways of such wagons as comply with regulations for the time being in force made in pursuance of the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, or any other enactment in force at the date of the passing of this Act and as are in use, under repair, or in course of construction at that date.
I desire to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "purchase" ["Minister to purchase"], to insert the words
This is an entirely separate Section of the Bill, and provides for an expenditure of £70,000,000, or almost that amount. That is notwithstanding the fact that we were promised on Second Reading, and afterwards on the Money Resolution, that Orders in Council should not be carried into effect. The Home Secretary said in the course of the Debate on the Money Resolution:
I cannot help thinking that there has been a good deal of misunderstanding in the course of the Debate. Many hon. Members who have spoken have forgotten the fact that the power to move by Order in Council in very big matters has been given up by the Government.
This Clause provides for the nationalisation of some 700,000 wagons, at a cost estimated by the Home Secretary of from £80 to £100 per wagon. An hon. Member called it the nationalisation of so much rubbish. We want wagons badly at present, but we do not want 700,000. The Minister-designate, uninvited by us, put in a provision in Committee by which, if he takes one coal wagon he must take them all, and we know he must have some coal wagons. The wagons which we want replaced are those sent to France. The figure was given today as 30,000, and of those, 3,000 are coming back, and we want others to make up the deficiency. I know of one private undertaking which was 1,900 wagons short on Saturday last, and the details have been given to the President of the Board of Trade. It is a firm which delivers food stuffs and raw materials in a district near Manchester. The result was that towns in that neighbourhood went short of butter on Saturday for that reason. There is this huge wastage. Why is it going on? Simply because we have not some of these private wagons worked in with the railway companies' wagons. There is not the
slightest necessity for that being done under this Bill. What did the Leader of the House say?
As a matter of fact, all the powers which my right hon. Friend is going to have in these two years have been preserved under Defence of the Realm Regulations during the War.
Of the 700,000 privately-owned wagons which the Minister is seeking to take over under this Clause, the owners would gladly give, on easy terms for the period of two or three years during which they are wanted, 10 per cent. of them, so long as they are allowed to continue their own business in their own way, with their own privately-owned wagons, as they have been accustomed to all these years. Ten per cent. of the 700,000 wagons the Board of Trade can have to-morrow—they ought to have had them six months ago—by agreement with the owners of the wagons upon the most reasonable terms. So the congestion, so far as it is due to the requirement of wagons for general merchandise would be done away with entirely. There is no necessity for the whole of the wagons of the country to be purchased by the Ministry. It will be seen that under the Bill the Minister is acquiring the wagons under Orders in Council. There are three different steps by which he will have to proceed to obtain them. Let me put to the House the absurdity of the situation. We are wanting these wagons badly to-day, yet we have to wait until this Bill becomes law, until an Order in Council is obtained, and until Resolutions are passed by both Houses of Parliament, merely in order to get rid of the congestion that exists. As to the merits of taking the whole of these wagons, it should be known to the House that this is the system adopted alone now on the North-Eastern Railway Company, where privately-owned wagons are not allowed by the railway company in the sense that they obtained powers in 1890 for excessive rates in regard to the provision of wagons themselves, and consequently it does not pay any private-wagon owner to run wagons on the line. The Midland Company tried the experiment, but had to give it up. Under this Clause there is the North-Easternisation of the railways of the country, on this question of privately-owned wagons. The privately-owned wagons perform a very much more-useful function than is generally understood. It is not only a question of the haulage of traffic, but to a considerable extent it is a question of the storage of
traffic as well. I do not mean by that that the traffic is to be stored on a public railway. Why should the traders of the country be prevented, as this Clause would preclude them, from owning their own wagons in which to store their own traffic and send it out on to the statutory railways when and how they think fit— subject always, of course, to the Regulations—and be placed under conditions which must follow if their wagons are taken from them, namely, that they will have to pay huge charges for demurrage if they carry on their business in the way they have been in the habit of carrying it on? Take the case of an iron mine in Northamptonshire, or of blast furnaces in Staffordshire, where there must be a continuous supply of traffic in order to keep the furnaces going. Why should not the owners of private wagons go on using their wagons at the termini for storage purposes? Why should not coal-owners hold back stocks of coal in their private wagons waiting for the necessities as they arise, for quickly bunkering steamers, and matters of that sort?
I wish to address the House principally on the financial side of the matter. The Clause provides that if any portion of any one class of wagons is taken over by the Minister in England, Wales, or Scotland, respectively, he is bound to take the whole. That means that if he takes any coal wagons in England, he is committed and commits this House to an expenditure of £50,000,000. It is no use saying that there is a proviso that he may make terms of hire-purchase, because upstairs the Minister-designate promised us that the owners of wagons should have the option of payment in cash. There is no provision in the Bill for that, but, nevertheless, the promise was made. The Minister-designate has had the position before him for some eight or nine months. He told the House on the Second Reading that he meant to have the wagons. The Leader of the House said that they meant to have the wagons. Quotations will be made presently, from which it will be seen the one thing the Minister-designate has stated as being his policy throughout the whole of this Bill is that he means to have these railway wagons. Why does he not decide how many railway wagons he wants and ask this House if they will foot the bill? I am not saying for a moment that he may not be right in having them all. Certainly he will be right if we decide for nationalisation, but this is one of the matters on which I submit with the greatest strength that the question of nationalisation ought to be considered before the country is committed to the purchase of 700,000 railway wagons. This Clause only provides for the buying of privately-owned wagons. I pointed that out upstairs, and asked that the words "privately-owned" should be deleted from the Clause, so that the Minister might also buy the railway companies' wagons. If there is a real pooling and nationalisation of wagons, the whole of the wagons, both railway-owned and privately-owned, must come in under one separate management outside the railway companies; then the best interests of pooling would be served. I beg to move—
I understood that the hon. Member (Mr. Stevens) was moving the Amendment on the Paper, which is to insert, after the word "purchase," the words "seventy thousand." I now understand that the Amendment he has-moved is to leave out the words "privately-owned." The result of that will be-to negative the Clause altogether, because it is not necessary to give the Minister the power to purchase railway wagons. He has that without this Clause. With the Amendment, the Clause will read:
It shall be lawful for the Minister to purchase railway wagons required for use on any railway on such terms and conditions as may be authorised
which is quite superfluous and unnecessary. As the hon. Member has spoken to his Amendment on the Paper, I will endeavour to deal with the arguments he advanced.
I suppose I shall now be in order in dealing with the arguments of the hon. Member, which were that it would be advisable to purchase 70,000 railway wagons, but that it would not be advisable to purchase more. I cannot follow that line of argument. The hon. Member went on to say that it was necessary to deal with the private owners of these wagons, because they would be unable to keep them standing on their own private lines and use them as stores. I would ask the House to consider what the effect of this will be. It is really very important, if economies are to be made, that the Ministry should have power to acquire these wagons. As matters stand at present, a privately-owned wagon has to be taken out of a train made up of all sorts of wagons, many of them not privately owned. It is shunted and sorted and sent back to the place from whence it came. It cannot be used by the railway company for any other purpose. There is much time and labour lost in the shunting out of this particular wagon and sending it back empty, as the hon. Member knows. The hon. Member says such wagons should be allowed to stand on the private sidings owned by the trader. Let me point out what occurs. Suppose there are forty or fifty loaded wagons belonging to A standing on a private siding, all consigned to different destinations. The hon. Member wants to keep forty-nine out of the fifty to be used as stores.
That is not the Amendment, because that deals with privately-owned wagons. The hon. Member does not quite seem to know what it is he wants to move. First he tried to move the deletion of the Clause, then his manuscript Amendment, and now the Amendment on the Paper, which he says deals with wagons on railways privately owned and worked by privately-owned locomotives. It is quite clear that the hon. Member does not understand his own Amendment, and it would be absurd for the Government to accept it. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he need not waste the time of the House any longer? He should say he cannot accept the Amendment.
May I try to put the-matter a little more clearly before the House and express what I know the hon. Member (Mr. Stevens) has in mind in moving this Amendment? It is of vast importance to many traders that they are able to carry on with their privately-owned wagons, or, if the right hon. Gentleman finds later on that it is necessary to exercise the powers conferred upon him in this Act, that they are going to be assured an adequate and regular service of Government-owned trucks with which they can carry on. That is really the reason why my hon. Friend has put down the Amendment. It is a matter on which very great anxiety is felt throughout the country. I do not believe the traders want to stand in the least in the way of the Government doing all that is necessary to improve the service of the railways or to economise, as we all recognise the Government well can do if it propery administers the powers which will be conferred upon it under this Bill. What they want is some assurance that when their property is taken away from them, property they have acquired for specific purposes, to ensure that they will have a regular supply coming in day by day in such quantities as they require them, all shall be treated alike.
I beg to move, after the word "wagons" ["to purchase privately owned railway wagons"], to insert the words
other than wagons owned by a local authority.
My object in moving this is to protect the interests of gas and similar undertakings run by local authorities who own wagons. The Birmingham City Council owns 1,300 or 1,400 wagons which they use in connection with their gas undertakings, and they use them most effectively to ensure the success of their undertaking. I believe they save something like £13,000 a year, which must be of great advantage to the consumers of gas. Probably there are many gas undertakings similarly situated, and I ask my hon. Friends who represent municipal institutions to give me their support. I cannot for the life of me see why wagons of this sort used or running particular local undertakings should be called upon to be used in connection with a national service of transport. It might be different with wagons which are used in connection with more general undertakings, but this is a local undertaking in which these wagons are fully employed, and they cannot be spared. There is no time for which they might be available to be used in connection with the national machine. This affects not only the municipality which I represent, but a good many other municipalities throughout the country which own and run their own gas undertakings.
This maybe a convenient opportunity to put before the House the principle underlying the provisions of this Clause. I think the House would like to know really why the Government thinks it necessary to take over all wagons as a whole. About half the wagons of the country do not belong to railway companies, but to what we call private owners, which does not exclude corporations or statutory companies. In only very few instances are they of general use. They are built for a specific purpose, and are suitable for that purpose and not for general use. They are of the cheapest construction because they do not have to fulfil, in most instances, a dual purpose. There is no object to the owners of the wagons, in the vast majority of cases, in increasing the capacity of the wagons at all. If they are accustomed to use ten ton wagons there is no advantage to them in increasing their capacity or in making them available in slack times for some other trade. Then from the working point of view there is a great deal of additional expense. Obviously when the wagons arrive at their destinations and are empty, or are brought in with other empties to the loading place, it is a. tremendous additional work for the railway companies to sort them all out. It is like dealing out a pack of cards. If you have to give one man all the diamonds and another all the hearts it is much more laborious to sort them out in that way than to deal them out in the ordinary way. That is exactly the way with wagons, and in addition to that, as they are of special construction and as you cannot divert them from a direct route on the back journey, there is a great deal of empty haulage, and it is for these reasons, to save the shunting, to save the empty haulage, and to get a more general use out of the wagons and to get wagons of larger capacity, which would economise in the working expenses of the railways, that it has been thought necessary to introduce such a far-reaching provision as this. It is a very big provision in the Bill, and it is well that we should discuss it as such. To show what can be done with the common user of wagons, which was only brought in during the War, we find that in the instance of one railway system where they watch the working and compare the difference between the two systems, we found that whereas the empties used to be 75 per cent. of the loaded passing through certain selected points, after common user was introduced it fell to 34 per cent.
A similar example taken in rather a different way on another railway gave a. decrease in the empty haulage, without any other explanation, of 34 per cent. between two comparable periods. In. shunting we have two estimates by two independent railway companies, not made out for the purpose of this Bill at all but for the purpose of seeing what advantage they had themselves gained by the common user of rolling stock. A Scotch railway took six specific points, and they found they reduced the shunting by 50 per cent. by being able to send wagons anywhere, instead of having to sort out individual empties to send to a particular destination. If that was the case with the common user of railway owned rolling stock, how much more would it be the case when you have innumerable collieries and works, all of which must get back their particular wagons which have to be sorted out of the empties which are in the yard. Another railway has estimated its saving in engine power. None of these estimates has been got out on a common basis, but they have been got out by the railway companies for their own information as to what was gained by a common user. A calculation shows that in engine power alone, with the common user of rolling stock, there would be a saving to the country of £2,800,000. These are the practical instances which I have been able to obtain of the result of a common user applied to their own stock.
The next point is the question of capacity. I have already mentioned that in very few instances is the capacity of the wagon really of much importance to the trader owning wagons for his own business. A change to a higher capacity might mean an alteration in the operation of your works, not important in itself, but something that has to be done. Therefore, as the low capacity wagon suits him perfectly well, he goes on with it. I have been able to get a census of privately-owned wagons, of which there are, approximately, 700,000. I have obtained a census of 650,000 of these wagons, and I find that, out of 650,000 wagons, 500,000 were under 12-ton capacity. In modern conditions that is a very low capacity of wagon working through the country and working on heavy train. In addition, 112,000 were only of 10-tons capacity, so that, out of 650,000 wagons, 612,000 are under 12-tons capacity.
I can only give one comparison, and that is the railway that my hon. Friend referred to, because that is the only railway on which there is not a large amount of private rolling stock. You have to get a railway in that position before you can really give a comparison. On that particular railway there are practically no privately-owned wagons.
On that railway 40 per cent. of the wagons are.12 tons or over, with an average capacity of 16½ tons. On the other hand, taking the private wagons as a whole, 500,000 out of 650,000 (of which I have obtained a census), or nearly 80 per cent., are of less than 12 tons capacity. I think that answers the hon. Member's point. As to the importance of increasing the capacity, the House will readily understand that it conies in in many ways. It saves you in the length of your trains, which is becoming a very important factor. Most of the railways are finding that on their long-distance traffic they are becoming limited owing to the increased power of the locomotives, by the length of the sidings; and that is a very difficult thing to alter. It saves you in the capacity of your warehouses, and it saves you very materially in the paying load of your train. Take as an example the paying load of your train. Eighty-one wagons of 10 tons capacity carry 810 tons; eighteen 45-ton wagons also carry 810 tons. The dead weight in the first instance of the non-paying load is 972 tons. but by pulling in a bigger capacity wagon you cut the non-paying load down to 648 tons. That will give you, when you have proper wagons for the additional traffic you can carry, a net increase of ninety paying tons on the load of the train. With a 20-ton wagon you get seventy additional paying tons. If you reckon this on a consignment of coal and put it into money, you will find that on a 45-ton wagon train you would earn £30 more for your trip from Yorkshire to London, while with a 20-ton wagon train you would earn £23 more on your trip, so that there is an immediate increase in the earning capacity of your locomotives and rolling stock. In addition, you have all the other advantages which I have described.
Generally speaking, you get a great saving by having a common user of rolling stock. Take the question of shipping appliances. A great deal of the coal carried in these wagons is for shipment, and undoubtedly the cheapest and economical from that point of view is the hopper bottom wagon, but you cannot use that unless you have special appliances. Owing to private ownership of wagons it has become practically impossible to gradually change your methods. You may wish to put in appliances to deal with coal shipped from hopper-bottom instead of end-door wagons, but, unless you can get the change completely organised on a properly thought-out plan, you have for a long time to go on with dual appliances— the newer for the hopper-bottom wagon, and the older for the end-door wagon. The diversity in type of wagon has absolutely blocked any improvement in the rolling stock of the country. If we were to leave out the particular block of wagon which my hon. Friend spoke for, or the wagons belonging to local authorities or public bodies, we should be simply vitiating the principle that you must have a common user of rolling stock, and you must have that rolling stock developed and designed on a progressive basis. We are standing still with rolling stock because there is no incentive to the owner to have the higher-capacity wagon. If the owners look at it from a business point of view, there is no incentive to change to the higher capacity, but there is a great incentive to the carrier. To-day you have to operate your railways in a scientific way, and one way is to increase the capacity of your merchandise and mineral-carrying rolling stock. You will get economies from that and from a common user which are incalculable, but you cannot get it so long as you leave wagons privately owned in this country.
There are other economies which can be secured. Hon. Members will have seen correspondence in the Press about the hundreds of types of axle wheels, and the hundreds of parts of running gear, etc. These things can be counted by the thousands. There great economies can be made. All these, however, are subsidiary. What you want is the development of an economic unit of types that are of the best for common user, along with the common user. Common user by itself is not enough. You must have a development of economic types which are capable of common user Take the case of coal. Practically the whole of the gas coal of the country is carried in wagons which distribute from the bottom. They are either hopper or they are bottom doors. Practically the whole of the shipment of coal from Immingham, round the whole of our line of coast until the For this reached—excluding from the Forth to the Humber—is shipped by end-door wagons. The wagon that carries the gas coal is of no use unless it is fitted with end doors, but the man who ships the gas coal, or the gas company that owns wagons for its own purposes, do not want end-door but bottom-door wagons. The land sale coal is practically all shipped in side-door wagons, which are not available for either the shipped or the gas company. Therefore, you get these three types of wagons. Unless you can change the type of wagon you cannot effect economies, and you cannot make improvements unless you get control and make all wagons suitable for common user. It was suggested first to take over 70,000 wagons. It has been suggested that we should exempt wagons belonging to some particular owner because they have been regularly used. That would not really meet the point; we shall have to make arrangements to give suitable wagons to works which can only discharge them in a certain way. That will certainly be a duty. With respect to the process of running wagons on a shuttle service, that is quite a common practice, and probably would be adopted if the wagons could not be run on any other service and if they could be most economically run in that way. But to exclude one particular class or one particular service of wagons would vitiate the whole principle. You cannot deal with this matter satisfactorily unless you deal with it as a whole. Therefore, I hope the House will not accept any Amendments which tend in that direction. Much as I would like to accept some of them, because there is a great deal to be said to that particular class of exception, but it would interfere with the whole scheme of trying to get a better rolling-stock service, and a more economic rolling-stock service, throughout the country.
I think the right hon. Gentleman said that wagons owned by local authorities would come within the description of privately-owned wagons. Would he tell us why he thinks that wagons owned by local authorities are privately-owned wagons? There is no definition in the Bill to that effect.
It certainly is intended that all wagons other than those owned by the statutory railway companies should be treated as privately owned. I was advised at the time that privately owned in that sense was sufficiently well understood to carry that definition. If there is any doubt upon that I will, by leave of the House, put in words that will make it perfectly clear. If this is to be of any value we must have all the wagons of the country brought into the one hotchpotch, and the only way it can be done is to acquire these wagons, to apportion them, to insist on the present system of common user of railway-owned wagons to centrally control them, and to allocate them to district and railway companies upon a proper basis.
With respect to the meaning of the words "privately owned," if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles was accepted, and to strike out the words "privately owned," the Clause would then cover railway wagons of all kinds. I rose, however, for the purpose of eliciting any further explanation that may be necessary upon the question of the adaptation of wagons that are now specially used for special purposes. The hon. Member for Birmingham referred to wagons used in the gas trade. It is well known that wagons used in the gas trade are hopper-bottom wagons. They are provided not only to receive coal but also to discharge coal with the greatest possible facility and economy by simply opening the coal floors in the places required for carbonisation This is of very great importance to members of the gas trade. What I want to get perfectly clearly from my right hon. Friend is that in the administration of his Department due regard will be had in the adaptation of wagons to economic discharge especially in such important matters as gas works and the public supply of electric lighting, and that his Department, in dealing with the adaptation of transport will try to see that wagons will be selected with a double object in view of facility and economy of transport and facility and economy of discharge as well as of loading. That is what my right hon. Friend intends, I am sure, but he will remove a great amount of opposition outside, which is reflected in this House, if he will make that clear.
I would like if I may to reply to that point. It would be essential that wagons of the proper type should be provided in order to get a quick turn round, but also in the interest of the receiver due regard must be paid to the facilities of discharging at the receiving end. After what has been said I think it will interest the House to know this. The cheapest wagon for discharging is the hopper-bottom wagon, and only 2 per cent. of privately-owned wagons are hopper-bottom. Thirty-three per cent. are side door, and 55 per cent. end and side door, so that it is only common sense to carry it out from the transportation point of view.
I quite agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has stated, but there is one point that must not be lost sight of. Wagons have got to be built according to the conditions in which they are used. Take, for instance, the whole of the South Wales coal tipping. The tips are built for the purpose, and no other kind of wagon is of any use at all. The same thing applies in the North-East Coast. Wagons that are used there would not be of the slightest use in South Wales and vice versâ, so while the arrangements for the tipping of coal are such as they are wagons of that type must be used for the purpose, so that it is important in the Bill to give power to the Minister to take possession of all types and conditions of wagons, so that they can be used for the purposes for which they were constructed. I may emphasise the enormous lose of time in our docks. particularly in the shunting and sorting out of these wagons. I have seen ships with valuable cargoes hold up not for hours but for days, because of that. There have been plenty of wagons, but they could not use them for the very purpose for which they could be used, and I have seen hundreds of men lying idle waiting for the shunting and sorting out of these wagons. That is the kind of thing that make people almost go frantic, both employers and workmen, because if a man is on piecework he is losing his earning power while waiting, and the employer naturally is annoyed because of the delay in carrying out his work, and the whole thing becomes a mass of confusion. One could multiply instances of the confusion existing at the present time, so that the taking over of the whole of the wagons of all types is so important that it would be madness to think of sending the North-Eastern wagons to South Wales. First of all they are too large for the purpose for which they would be intended, and it would be madness to think of sending the wagons used in the collieries of South Wales to the North-East. But in many other ways there is a very large margin that could be used for various purposes. The greatest achieve- ment in this Bill is the taking over of wagons by the Ministry so that they can be used to the fullest advantage of the country.
May I appeal to the Minister in charge of the Bill in favour of the owners of privately-owned wagons. I have been very much impressed by the splendid way in which he has explained his point of view, but this Bill is meant not only for the purposes of transport but for the interests of trade and commerce, and we should consider the interest of manufacturers and industries rather than merely the interest of transport. I entirely appreciate the point, on which he has laid stress, as to the necessity of having these large wagons which have entirely knocked out the small wagons in America, but I am sure it will remove a great deal of the opposition if he will undertake to consider the owners of private wagons in a conciliatory and reasonable manner.
I am quite in sympathy with the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to serve, but there is one point about which I am a little anxious, as to the legitimate protection of traders who may be affected by his policy. As I understand, if this acquisition of privately-owned wagons is really to be a success, it must be done in a whole-hearted manner. The right hon. Gentleman has promised that he would bear in mind the interest of receivers' wagons, especially with regard to the facilities for discharging loads. But there is one particular in which I do not see that there is any Clause giving protection to the trader. That is in the case of special wagons which are used in very large numbers in this country for the purpose of conveying liquids. I think that they usually run to about 6,000 gallons. I am quite prepared to believe that he will ultimately effect a great deal of economy in railway traffic by insisting on much larger wagons of that particular type. But those tanks at the present time are of the capacity for which traders have adapted their works. Their tanks and so on are really adapted for taking in the 6,000 gallon load of material. Is there any provision in this Clause as to such cases, or can the right hon. Gentleman tell the traders of this country that, where he may find it necessary to upset that particular size and thereby upset the regular working of factories, he will give reason- able notice to traders, in order that they may adapt their works to meet the needs of the large wagons, and tanks which he may find it necessary to have on the railways? I do not see that there is any protection afforded here.
Certainly, and again at the top of page 16, in Sub-clause (3, c), there is provision with regard to the usage of the trade, so that there is full recognition of the cases to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. But although power is taken now to take over wagons generally, and there is no exclusion, at the present stage there is no intention at all to touch these special wagons, such as are used for carrying tarmac, and those used for carrying oils and liquids. But if oil fuel became very much more general, as it may well do, then it might be that it would be a suitable thing to take over those wagons. At the present time there is no intention of taking over such special wagons as these, but full recognition is given to the principle of looking after the interest of the trader.
I beg to move. in Sub-section (1), after the word "Parliament" ["passed by both Houses of Parliament"], to insert the words
within twelve months after the date of the passing of this Act.
This is a very important Amendment to the wagon owners. The trade of the wagon owners has already suffered considerably from the uncertainty caused by the introduction of this Bill. It is most important that this uncertainty should be removed. The Minister-designate has pointed out to us in a very complete way the necessity of his acquiring these wagons; he has told us how good it is for the State and how necessary for him to have them in the conduct of the business. If that is so, he ought to tell us at once whether he is going to pay us now, or to
suspend the payment for an indefinite period. As matters stand, no one knows where he is. Are those concerned to renew their wagon-hire agreements? Are they to repair the buffers, the soles, heels, sides, or any portion of the wagons? Whose are the wagons? Are they theirs, or are they the State's? It is very unfair that £71,000,000 of property should be left in this suspended condition for an indefinite time, and I appeal to the Minister to tell us, so that we may know within twelve months what he is going to do, and so that we might protect our wagons and hand them over to him in decent and proper condition, knowing that we shall be paid for them. If matters stand as they are, what is the use of repairing the wagons at the cost of revenue, not knowing what is to become of them? The Minister did tell us he was prepared to come to a definite decision within a year. That being so, I think we may ask him to accept this Amendment.
I have every sympathy with the point put by the Mover of this Amendment. When originally I met the representative of the private wagon owners we agreed that in so far as wagons were to be acquired by the State they should be acquired all of a class, and I also agree that it was desirable, alike in the interests of the wagon owners and of the State, that this period of uncertainty should be brought to an end as quickly as possible. I undertook then that within twelve months the Ministry, if set up, would give notice of any wagons it intended to acquire at this stage. That is really very important. I will have to repeat myself a little to make the point clear. It would be quite impossible to undertake the setting up of machinery to deal with the whole of the wagons which are to be taken over if we are going to get the good results which I endeavoured to bring to the notice of the House—to set up that machinery in twelve months from the day this Bill became an Act. The whole of the repairing will have to be most carefully organised, because the position in which wagons are working, the whole movement of the wagons, will gradually be on a different basis. Then again—and here I think the House will be entirely with me—there is practically nothing in the transportation of the country which is more likely to dislocate trade than carelessly or hurriedly to set up the machinery for distributing wagons, and seeing that the pits and works are kept supplied with rolling stock. That is a most difficult thing to organise. I have had some experience of it myself. I do not think it would be possible within twelve months satisfactorily to set up machinery throughout the country which would handle this enormous block of rolling stock and ensure that it would be properly regulated to places where loading and unloading could be carried out expeditiously. I could not undertake as a practical proposition to deal with it in twelve months. As to the point that we might give notice within twelve months of the wagons that we should require, I would be quite prepared to give that as an undertaking across the floor of the House, but it will be very hampering if that is put into the Bill, and for this reason: There are certain wagons, tarmac wagons, and acid wagons, and liquid fuel wagons, which to-day we have probably no intention of taking over, because the use of tarmac is not yet sufficiently great to justify it, but if tarmac becomes the only road material in general use, and if oil fuel is more generally used, there will be great advantage from the acquiring of these wagons. So that it would be a great misfortune if we were at this stage to undertake that we would purchase every kind within twelve months or give notice within twelve months. What we can do is to give an undertaking here that within twelve months at most we would give notice to the owners of our intention to acquire wagons at this stage. That will cover the best part of the wagons, but I deprecate the limiting of the powers of the State for taking over wagons to what we can do in twelve months.
I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that twelve months is too short a time within which to make up his mind or within which to formulate a good policy, but surely it is not unreasonable that the policy should be formulated definitely within the two years which is the time allowed for the other provisions under the Bill. I feel that; there should be something of a definite nature in the Bill, and if one year is too short, surely the two years already in the Bill could be applied to the privately-owned wagons and a definite policy could be made clear by that time.
Mr. J. W. WILSON:
I think it is more a specified notice that is required for each class of wagon—say, six months, nine months, or twelve months—because from a trade point of view what the trader wants to know is whether his class of wagon is going to be taken over, and whether he, therefore, can cease placing orders for the renewal of wagons or the building of fresh wagons. I think that would accomplish the desire of the Mover of the Amendment and the object of the Minister in charge. He wants to keep his liberty to deal with each class of wagon as the public requirements need, and therefore he wants a permissive time; and the traders, on the other hand, want a time notice, that they shall know that their class of wagons is not going to be taken over within six months, or whatever the time may be, but that they should then know their wagons will be taken over. By dealing with one class of wagons at a time I think it would be very much better to have a specified notice, a period to be given in respect of each class, rather than trying to say that after the 1st July next no more wagons shall be purchased. It seems to me unpractical and unbusinesslike, even by way of word across the floor of the House. I dislike promises across the floor of the House, and I think it is much better to have pledges put into a Bill. Promises are nearly always misunderstood and misinterpreted in the future, and I think it would be better from all points of view if something definite were put in the Bill.
I rise to support what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I think he made a most valuable suggestion. This matter of taking over private wagons wants dealing with within a specified time. The supply of private wagons is of vast importance to the working of railways in this country as they are now organised, and if that supply is not kept up the railways in this country will suffer and the traffic will become difficult to move. Therefore this Amendment is of real importance. Apparently these powers which are now under discussion are intended to be prolonged beyond the period of two years which has been mentioned. They are indefinite powers so far as duration is concerned, and we shall be in a very remarkable position in this country because of the fact that these powers will enable the Minister if he exercises them —and of course he intends to exercise them—to acquire a very large quantity of the rolling stock necessary to carry on the transport services of this country, and so far as that proposal is carried out they will proceed in the direction of the nationalisation of railways and prejudge the whole question. If at the end of the two years it has been decided that in the national interest it is not desirable to proceed with further Government control in the form of nationalisation, we shall have the Government of this country holding in their possession a very large proportion of the rolling stock necessary to work the railways, and when their decision is come to the Government will be in possession of this rolling stock and enabled to dispose of it as to how it shall be used or owned. That seems to me to be a very important situation. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to prolong his powers, as appears to be the case, beyond the two years, I think we ought to have some indication before we pass this Clause as to how he proposes to dispose of these railway wagons at the end of the two years if it is not decided that railways are to be nationalised. This question does arise on the acquisition of privately-owned wagons by the State, and it is important that this question should be decided at once both in the interests of the railway companies, to enable the owners of the railway wagons to know what they are to do with the railway wagons, and in the interests of the public, in order that there may be sufficient means of transport available.
I have endeavoured to meet the suggestion of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Wilson) that notice should be given, but I find it very difficult, and I have not been able to come to any conclusion satisfactory to my own mind, and I am therefore unable to offer a solution on those lines to the House. I want to mention this at once, because I have endeavoured to do it feeling that the right hon. Gentleman has offered a solution on which we might be enabled to pass on to something of greater moment, especially after my right hon. Friend the Minister-designate has given the undertaking which
he has given in the House. May I remind the House that, where the purchase takes place, it is to be on the
terms and conditions as may be authorised by or under an Order in Council, a draft whereof has been approved by a Resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament.
One sometimes focuses one's attention on the first or second line in the Clause and rather leaves out what is the general purport of the Clause, and it seems to me that, if we were to try and put in some Clause as giving notice, it would be very difficult to make it fit in with the rest of the Clause, which, after all, in itself carries with it the fact that there will be notice, because of the necessity of obtaining by Order in Council the authority to make a lawful purchase, and the Order in Council will lay down the terms and conditions which may be authorised. Do not let us forget that safeguard, and I hope, under those circumstances, now that my hon. Friend has received the statement he has from my right hon. Friend, he will be content to let the matter stand, remembering that this Order in Council will have to be brought in, and that very little would be added by giving notice. There are difficulties about giving notice, and to whom it shall be given, and so on, and I do not wish to commit myself to what I believe would be an inadequate solution.
Mr. J. W. WILSON:
I thought the Order in Council would probably supplement this, and that the Minister would have the liberty to act or not act on that paricular Order in Council with regard to any particular class of wagon. If separate Orders in Council are contemplated for every separate class of wagons purchased, that is the notice we require, and I thought the Order in Council was simply an addendum to this, giving the Minister power in regard to whatever classes of wagons he chose to purchase.
I beg to move, after Sub-section (2), to insert as a new Subsection
(3) Where the Minister has, in pursuance of his powers under this Section, purchased any wagon, any contract then in force for the repair of the wagon shall upon the purchase be determined unless otherwise agreed with the Minister.
I think this requires some consideration, because there are many contracts made for the repair of wagons. It is rather a serious tiling to say that at once a contract which has been made for the repair of a wagon shall be determined, because the Minister has purchased it. It seems a great in justice that because there is an agreement between two parties, one who buys and the other who sells, the third party, the repairer, is to be damnified. I think we ought to have some explanation as to how the Minister is to look after this third party.
I want to reinforce the arguments of my hon. Friend very strongly indeed. The effect of the Clause as drawn would be that, supposing a wagon repairer has spent, say, £70 on the reconstruction of a wagon, and another £2 have to be spent in order to complete his contract, then, under this Sub-section, the wagon repairer would not get a penny of his £70. It would be a good defence in law, when suing for his money, for the owner to say, "It was not my fault. I did not carry out the contract. The contract was brought to an end by law." That cannot be the intention of the Government. It is obvious some remedy must be inserted, and I am certain the learned Solicitor-General will give us some intimation that the Government will do something in the matter.
I want to bring before the right hon. Gentleman the fact that repairers undertake repairs for a considerable term of years for a certain set of wagons. They on their side make their contracts for springs, tyres, axles, and so forth. All those contracts would remain, although the contracts for the repairing of the wagons would be determined by this. Act. I am sure there must be some mistake about that.
I have really no particular interest in this Sub-section. I understand, in view of what took place in Committee upstairs, and in view of what I understood was put before the right hon. Gentleman by the repairers of wagons, that this Sub-section was what was needed. But I am perfectly willing to withdraw it if it does not meet the need for which it was drawn. As I understand the Clause the intention is that a contract for the repair of a wagon shall first be determined unless otherwise agreed with the Minister. One of the parties to the contract who has the duty of repairing the wagon would be in the position of having to go on continuing under the repairing contract which is made for some time, although the wagon has passed out of the possession, and is no longer the property, of the person with whom he made the contract. It was to put an end to that that this was framed, but I am perfectly willing to withdraw the Sub-section if it does not meet with general acceptance. I think my best course is to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I hope the Government will not withdraw this Amendment. There was a very long Debate on this very point in Committee, and this Sub-section was drawn up to protect the interests of the wagon-repairers. They have long term contracts which were entered into. The Minister-designate has already told us that, instead of the wagons remaining where they are, they might be moved from one end of the country to the other. Obviously the repairing becomes more onerous under such circumstances. All that matter was fully gone into, and it was only after very serious Debate that the Minister inserted this Clause. I, therefore, hope, in view of what has taken place, there will be no question of withdrawing this Amendment, which was to meet what would be a very real hardship.
On the application for leave to withdraw, may I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the purchase by the Minister under the compulsory powers of the Bill would have the same effect in common law as by the express law on the Paper, and what is wanted is not to withdraw this Clause but to add to it. Either under common or express law the effect of compulsory purchase will bring to an end the contract by the repairer of the wagons purchased. Under these circumstances it is essential that some fair and just pecuniary position should be established between the owner of the wagon and the repairer of the wagon. I suggest that if the Clause is left as it stands, and not withdrawn, it should be on an undertaking by the Government that in the Lords they will bring up words to make the position clear and to put into the Bill a provision that is really fair, otherwise great injustice may be done.
I understood from my hon. Friend that this was an agreed Clause put in with an endeavour to meet a difficulty felt in Committee, and one which the Government wished fairly to meet. Coming here, as I do, without any prejudice, not having been present at the Committee, looking at the matter from the point of view of a detached spectator, and finding the Clause here with no friends, no supporters, it appeared to me that in the interests of the time of the House the best policy was to withdraw. At the same time I quite agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Exchange Division in his suggestion as to amending the Clause rather than withdrawing it. I am quite sure he is right in his criticism. Perhaps the House had better refuse me leave to withdraw or, on the other hand, if the House insists upon the Amendment going into the Bill, then my hon. and learned Friend's course might be adopted, for we should be sorry, after what has been said as to what happened in Committee, to think that we had in any way abandoned the position which we are endeavouring to carry out by this Clause.
This Clause was agreed to upstairs, and I shall be very sorry if it is withdrawn. We had not, however, the services of an eminent luminary like the hon. Gentleman beside me (Mr. Scott). If we had had, we should have had something such as he has suggested; otherwise an injustice will be done. I hope the Government will improve the wording by the suggestions thrown out by the hon. and learned Member.
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the word "limiting" ["or of prohibiting, limiting, or restricting the use of"].
The object is to make quite clear to the House and the Minister the position with regard to prohibition. The powers of the Minister appear to be contained in Subsection (4), which says:
It shall be lawful for the Minister to make regulations prohibiting the use on railways of privately-owned wagons or limiting or restricting the number of wagons to be so used. ….
I understand that to mean that the Minister has to have power to prohibit either altogether privately-owned wagons, or to say that only a certain number may be used, but he has no power to say that the privately-owned wagon is to be used only within a particular radius or for a particular trade. The importance of this is in the proviso which says:
Nothing in this Act shall authorise the prohibition of the use on the railways of such wagons as comply with the regulations for the time being in force.
In order to make the matter clear, I propose to leave out the word "limiting" in Sub-section (3), where it appears to be mere surplus age. Later I shall propose to move to make other Amendments to make it quite plain that the wagons which are now in use under the statutory Regulations are free to be used in precisely the same manner as they are now, subject, of course, to the power of the Ministry to purchase.
Sir E. POLLOCE:
I think what my hon. and learned Friend proposes to do makes the text of the Bill both clearer and more perfect. As my hon. Friend has undertaken kindly to explain what he means when he comes to a later Amendment we need not discuss this matter more, but I accept the Amendment in respect of the word "limiting."
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3, a), to insert the words:
and it shall be the duty of the Minister to afford such facilities, and the power of the Railway and Canal Commission to award damages under Section twelve of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888, and any provision amending the same, shall include power to award the whole of any loss resulting to such trader from the neglect or default of the Minister to afford such facilities.
The object of the Amendment is to meet the difficulties which are likely to arise in practice from traders of certain classes not getting a regular supply of wagons to meet their needs. As the Bill stands there is a provision in the Clause we are discussing, Sub-section (3), paragraph (a), which says:
(a) The reasonable facilities which every railway company is required to afford under Section 2 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1864, … shall … include the provision of suitable railway wagons. …
That is not enough to meet the whole case, and for two reasons: The first reason is that under the Clause the Minister himself may work the wagons, for in Subsection (1) it says:
It shall be lawful for the Minister to purchase. …
and a little further down it says:
and to work or lease any such wagons when so purchased.
He may work them himself on the railway which is in 'his possession, though it is worked by the railway company. He may also ask them whether he is setting up a new railway service of his own. Under Clause 8, in neither of those two cases does he come under any liability at all to the private trader whose needs they may fail to meet. The other case is where he hands the working of the wagons over to the railway company, and, therefore, the supply of the wagons is a facility within the meaning of Clause 3 a. Although the duty of providing the facilities in the way of wagons is cast by Sub-section (3) upon the railway companies, I think lawyers in the House will agree that if in any individual case they were unable to supply wagons on a particular day to a particular colliery for instance, and the reason was that the Minister had given the direction under Clause 3, which he can do as to the use of wagons on the railways, so that they have all gone somewhere else to deal with some other type of traffic, it would be a good defence for the railway com-
pany to say they have not had the wagons to supply. What the traders want is some impartial tribunal to which they can go when there is a dispute. If the public need was such as to send the wagons elsewhere, that is a good answer. If the public need was not such, and they had gone away pursuant to some order given possibly by mistake by some official, there the trader ought to have a remedy. In the case of a colliery company or a blast furnace, the failure to supply wagons would be vitally serious. Under these circumstances, a colliery may be held up and stop work, and in the case of a blast furnace, through want of the supply of ore in wagons, it might stop working.
On a point of Order. I wish to ask whether there was not an Amendment in your hands, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for inserting the words "or of limiting the number of wagons to be so used," which related to Sub-section (3). Perhaps it is necessary now to go back to that Amendment, because it was intended to insert those words after we had left out the word "limiting."
When I accepted the omission of the word "limiting" 'it was because I understood this other Amendment was going to be moved, the effect of which was to take out the word "limiting" and to insert the words I have mentioned. I hope those words will be put in as a drafting Amendment.
I confess I am in some difficulty. I had not that Amendment in the name of the Government, but in the name of the hon. Member for Sheffield. That was the reason I referred to it, and I thought it was superseded by the Amendment that has just been accepted. If that is not so, the Government are entitled to move before we proceed with the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool (Mr. Scott).
I shall be very glad to move the addition of those words if it will get the right hon. Gentleman out of a difficulty, although I do not think they are necessary. I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), after the word "wagons" ["use of privately-owned wagons"], to insert the words
or of limiting the number of wagons to be so used.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3, a), to insert the words
"and it shall be the duty of the Minister to afford such, facilities, and the power of the Railway and Canal Commission to award damages under Section twelve of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888, and any provision amending the same, shall include power to award the whole of any loss resulting to such trader from the neglect or default of the Minister to afford such facilities.
I was just saying when I was interrupted that there were two occasions where it was essential there should be in the case of the ordinary trader the right of getting some remedy for the non-supply of wagons, and the very fact, as the Minister-designate told the House, that he contemplates altering and standardising the type of wagon which is to be used in the future makes it vitally important that there should be such a remedy. In the process of changing over many concerns will be unable to make the new wagons until they have made alterations in their own premises, and that applies to a very great number of different concerns at present using wagons, and if there is going to be a serious deficiency of the old existing type of wagons during the process of the change over in the next year or two, when we want trade revived, there would be the greatest possible obstacle in the way. The only effective remedy is to give the individual who supplies the wagons a power of redress. That is the only way in which we shall keep the Government Department up to the scratch. We cannot do it here by asking whether he has done this or that all over the country, and the only person who can do it effectively is the individual trader, and this gives him the right,to get money damages in some Court which would deal with the question fairly and intelligently. The suggestion of my Amendment is the
Railway and Canal Commission Court, which is accustomed to these questions, and it realises the kind of considerations that have to guide them in arriving at their decisions. I want to quote an answer given by Mr. Joseph Shaw, the chairman of a large colliery company in Wales, who represents the export trade in South Wales, as to his experience in Germany of the Prussian State railways in this matter. Where you have ownership of wagons taken over by the State there is a great danger of grave scandals unless the remedy is effective. Ho says:
I have been out in Westphalia, and I know it very well. I have been in Germany very often, and absolutely the language of the German coalowners about the State handling of the trucks has been indescribable. I have seen collieries in Germany, and works standing idle, because the German State railways have not wagons to give them. In 1913 the Prussian State admitted that they would have to spend £3,000,000 sterling at once, and £20,000,000 sterling in all, to provide proper facilities for the trade.
We must face the possibility of very serious irregularities in supply. In regard to the coal wagons of this country, let me give two or three illustrations where the supply is inadequate. First of all, the colliery may be stopped altogether. Secondly, the industrial customer, the manufacturer, to whom the coal is going in this country, may be stopped altogether if he has not got the coal because of the wagons not coming; and, thirdly, at all the ports ships may be held up because the coal is not down at the time at which the ship is ready. In all these cases the consequential loss is very heavy, and I submit that the only sensible remedy is to say that the person who suffers the loss shall have a right to damages. At present all he has a right to is in effect a claim in grace, so that the Minister can give him something if he thinks he will. This evening, on another Amendment, the Minister - designate admitted to us that the Department must give suitable wagons to the various under takings that require them—suitable to the particular needs of the undertaking; and he said, "We admit a duty to do this." The Government admits the duty, but the duty is not in the Act of Parliament, and it ought to be there in plain words. For these reasons, I move the Amendment. As to the form of the Amendment, I am not very particular. It may be that the right way to put it would be:
It shall be the duty of the Minister or of the railway company working such wagons, as the case may be, to afford such facilities,
and at the end of the sentence, instead of "shall include power," to say,
shall extend to any neglect or default in respect of such facilities.
I do not know whether this wording would meet with the approval of the Government and their draftsmen. If so, I am quite willing to move the Amendment in that form. For the moment I move it as it stands on the Paper.
I beg to second the Amendment.
It is only a question of finding a Court of appeal from the Ministry. If you go to other countries where the railways are nationalised, you always find there a Court of appeal from the Government, and also where the railways are privately owned. In our case, for instance, there are the Railway and Canal Commissioners. In the United States they have the Inter-State Congress Commission, and there is a somewhat similar Commission in Canada. In Australia, where the railways are owned by the Government, there is an appeal to another branch of the Government. It is essential that there should be some practical appeal from the Minister in respect of his action in the administration of the railways.
I should like to ask if this would include the loss to the workers? We know that often under private enterprise days have been lost, not because of lack of trade, but because of lack of wagons. I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to give us an undertaking that the worker who loses in wages will be included.
The hon. and learned Member who moved this Amendment has, I think, indicated that the point is one that has to be met, although I do not go quite so far as he goes. I think he puts it too high. I have explained what I understand the problem to be, and I venture to make a suggestion. As the hon. and learned Gentleman points out, there is power under Sub-section (1) for the Minister to work or lease any such wagons or to apportion them amongst the several railway undertakings—that is to say, he can either work them himself or lease them or apportion them among the several railway undertakings in such manner and on such terms and subject to such conditions as may be provided by or under the Order— that is to say, the Order in Council. If he apportions them he would have to do it, under the Order in Council, on fair terms, having regard to the facilties required by the railways to whom he apportions any particular number of them. There is no doubt that adequate facilties, so far as the wagons went, would be provided, because the Order in Council would never be accepted unless the terms and conditions laid down in it were fair; so that I do not think hon. Members need have any misgivings as to whether or not, if the wagons were apportioned among the various railway undertakings, difficulties would arise. They would themselves have an opportunity hereafter of controlling and preventing any difficulties. My hon. and learned Friend calls attention to the fact that, if the Minister himself works the wagons, the point is not covered, and I am inclined to agree with him. He has made a suggestion in his Amendment that we should meet it in a particular way. I have grave difficulty in accepting that Amendment, because in its terms it imposes a liability which is even greater than the liability imposed, as I read the words, under Section 12 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act. I need not bother the House with what perhaps might be a subtle legal argument, but under Section 12 of that Act a certain measure of damage is given, and in choosing different words I think my hon. and learned Friend is giving an increased liability to damages. That would be unsatisfactory. He says that he is not wedded to the words, and lie read out some other words which to my mind, as my ear caught them, seemed far more acceptable. But may I plead a certain amount of human frailty? I find it very difficult to make up one's mind that the words read out in the House adequately meet a point which needs some consideration, and which obviously may have many difficulties, and I am going to suggest to him that, if he will let me consider the alternative Amendment which he proposes, I will undertake that in another place this matter shall be considered, and that we will deal with the Amendment he has suggested and try and find some method of covering the loophole which he has indicated.
I understand that this is an Amendment which the learned Solicitor-General desires shall be moved. Although it is not really my child, I am quite prepared to adopt it for this purpose, and accordingly I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), after the word "prohibiting" ["to make regulations prohibiting the use on railways''], to insert the words "or restricting." I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, those are the words of the Amendment to which you referred.
I think we are getting into some difficulty as to the difference between the words "restricting" and "limiting." I understood that the word "limiting" was to be left out, and the Section should run in this form:
Notwithstanding any statutory or other provision to the contrary, it shall be lawful for the Minister to make regulations prohibiting or restricting the use on railways of privately-owned wagons or restricting the number of wagons to be so used and prescribing the type and capacity thereof.
What is wanted to be left out are the words "or restricting," which now appear in the Sub-section, after the word "limiting."
I beg to move, in the same Sub-section, after the word "thereof" ["type and capacity thereof"] to insert the words
Provided that every regulation so made shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if an Address is presented by either House, within twenty-one days from the date on which that House has sat next after any such regulation is laid before it, praying that the regulation may lie annulled, His Majesty m Council may annul the regulation but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done there under.
The object of this Amendment is to give this House an opportunity of reviewing any Regulations which may be made by the Minister-designate under this Section. I do not move this Amendment with any idea at all of making the work of my right hon. Friend in any way more difficult, or with any obstructive purpose in regard to the Bill, but I do attach the very greatest importance to it, although on the face of it it may seem to be rather modest. During the last few years the Executive has been issuing more and more Orders in Council and more and more Regulations. This really means that gradually the control of Parliament "is being largely lost over the administration. I did not object to that while the War was going on. It was impossible then not to give the Executive a great deal additional power. But now the War is over and we have once more peace, Parliament should do its utmost to recover the control which during the War it has very largely lost. This is really a question for all parties in the House. It is just as much a question for hon. Members belonging to the Labour party as it is for those belonging to the Conservative or Liberal parties. If this practice goes on of issuing Regulations, which never come before this House, I suggest we might just as well abrogate our rights as Members of Parliament. I dare say the Minister-designate or the learned Solicitor-General will say that the Regulations which they will issue will be very technical and very numerous. But I am proposing no new thing. I am acting strictly on precedent.
Perhaps hon. Members may remember that when the National Insurance Act was going through it gave the Minister who was in charge of the Act power to issue Regulations in regard to health insurance. Those Regulations have been extremely technical and exceedingly numerous. But when that Act was going through it was not left to a private Member to suggest that the Regulations should be placed before the House. The right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Debate at the moment, the present Lord Chief Justice, himself suggested that every single Regulation issued under the national health part of the Insurance Act should be placed before both Houses of Parliament, and that hon. Members should have an opportunity of reviewing them. I have the words here put in with that object. Again, in the case of unemployment insurance, exactly the same thing was done. The Government on their own initiative decided that all Regulations that were issued under the Unemployment part of the Act should go before both Houses of Parliament, so that hon. Members might have an opportunity of reviewing them. And it was not a waste of time doing this, because although I have not been in the House very long—only ten years—yet during that time I can quite well remember several occasions on which hon. Members who have disliked certain Regulations that have been laid on the Table, have brought the matter up for debate after eleven o'clock at night and have persuaded the Government to amend them in certain instances. I remember when we were dealing with the question of arrears of contributions. That was provided for in the Regulations laid on the Table of the House and hon. Members who were interested in the question used the opportunity late at night to review it. There is another precedent I may mention, upstairs in Committee on the Housing Bill. Hon Members will remember that on two occasions, in regard to the first part of the Rill dealing with loans to local authorities and in regard to the second part of the Bill dealing with money to be issued to public utility societies—on both these occasions special provisions were put in that the Regulations should be placed before both Houses of Parliament. I venture to copy the exact words of the proviso adopted in Committee on the Housing Bill. This Amendment, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept, will lead to no delay whatsoever, because in the latter part of it it is provided that His Majesty may annul the Regulation but without prejudice to the validity of anything previous done thereunder. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman can issue the Regulation straight away and what is to be done under it can be done straight away, and if afterwards it is annulled that will be done without any prejudice to anything done previously. I attach very great importance to this Amendment, which will give hon. Members an opportunity of reviewing the Regulations and altering or amending them if they think fit to do so.
I beg to second the Amendment. I think it is one of great importance. If the House thinks within the twenty-one days that the matter is one that ought to be discussed and one as to which the Government ought to give an explanation, the House ought to be able to do so. Nothing can create an atmosphere less favourable to the purposes of the Bill than any mystery or secrecy as to its proceedings. I think all regulations of this kind should be made as public and as widespread as possible, and ought to be laid on the Table of the House. It is very seldom, perhaps too seldom, that the House exercises its rights and opportunities in these matters.
I am far from suggesting that this is not an important Amendment, and that it would not have a very considerable result. I would be the last person to suggest that an Amendment which provides that the Regulations shall be laid in both Houses of Parliament would not have some effect. I regard the laying of Regulations as an important safeguard in certain circumstances, but I am sorry to say I am unable to accept this Amendment and I will tell the House why. The Amendment is placed in between two provisions at the end of this Clause. The Sub-section in which it is sought to introduce this proviso states that
Notwithstanding any statutory or other provision to the contrary it shall be lawful for the Minister to make regulations prohibiting the use on railways of privately-owned wagons, or limiting or restricting the number of wagons to be so used.
In the earlier part of this Clause we have given power to the Minister to purchase privately-owned wagons, and it has been made perfectly plain that an endeavour
is to be made to have the provision of suitable wagons largely capable of rendering the services required of them, and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, which at the present time so small a percentage are capable of rendering. It is with that view and in that interest that the Minister has been empowered to purchase privately-owned wagons. If the effect of purchasing was only that those who had previously owned the wagons might immediately build more or purchase them elsewhere, then that would defeat the very purpose for which the earlier part of the Clause provides. Therefore you must give power to the Minister to make Regulations which shall carry out the powers with which he is entrusted. My hon. Friend who moved referred to the last part of the Amendment, providing that the Regulations may be annulled without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder. In fact, he says, the matter will not be delayed at all, and that we can make the Regulations and go on under them, and Parliament may then come and annul it. But, in that case, what is going to be the position of the Minister or of the private owner who finds himself ordered to do certain things by the Minister under a Regulation the validity of which is questioned and which is finally annulled. My hon. Friend suggested that this last portion of his Amendment was the best portion of it, but it is the very part which I fear most. If we are to have a proviso, do not let us put words into it which make it possible to act under a Regulation which Parliament may determine to be invalid. By doing so you would create a situation most unfair not only to the Minister, but to the owners of wagons.
I should like to study those, to see what the present view of those provisions is. But this Amendment does not stop there. It would bring these Regulations within the Rules Publication Act of 1893. The result is—this is the most unfortunate part of it—that notice has to be given before the rules are made and representations can be made by public bodies in respect of these rules. Therefore it is not merely the time that is laid down in this particular proviso that is in question. My hon. Friend has chosen words which bring this ease within the Rules Publication Act, an Act of which I hope he has never heard. I do not imagine that in his lighter moments he has selected it for study. If he has ever stumbled across that Act, he will find that the effect of this Amendment is to make it necessary to give forty days' notice after the rules are made, and then to give an opportunity for representations to be made. If this proviso were put into the Bill it would hamper the Minister; it would delay matters very considerably, and all for what? All in order to prevent the powers being exercised under which the Minister is entitled to make Regulations preventing an increase of privately-owned wagons which the House has already given him power to own and deal with centrally. This power is necessary merely as a correlative to the power to which the House has already assented. Having regard to these circumstances, I hope my hon. Friend will accept the observations I have made and not press the Amendment.
I do not think T shall be suspected of desiring to do anything which would limit improperly the powers of the Minister under this Bill if it becomes an Act, but I suggest that the answer of the Solicitor-General does not cover the whole ground. Clause 10 as it stands at present is a permissive Clause. It gives power to the Minister to purchase; it does not compel him to purchase. Some of us hope that he will endavour to find some other means of obtaining the necessary control without committing the State to an expenditure which may run to £70,000,000 or more, the effect of which would be that, having purchased the wagons, at the end of the experimental period of two years he would be in a position of being the owner of a large number of wagons, nationalised wagons it may be without having nationalised railways. The effect of that would necessarily be that we should either be in the anomalous position of the Government owning wagons running on private railways, or he would have to dispose of them in some way to the railway companies. Supposing the Minister should determine to delay the purchase of the wagons, the power he is now asking for gives him extraordinary facilities. Under this Clause he might, on the day after the Royal Assent is given to this Bill, prohibit absolutely by Regulations the use of any privately-owned wagons on
railways. He could bring forward Regulations, and under those Regulations— making the Regulations is the statutory way, if they come within the rules, of which I am not quite sure—he could at once prohibit the use of the wagons, or restrict the number of them, or prescribe their type and capacity. Then follows another proviso which is extremely difficult to interpret in the light of this provision. It says,
Nothing in this Act"—
I do not know whether that is meant to mean nothing in the Regulations made under this Bill—
shall authorise the prohibition of the use of railways of such wagons as comply with regulations for the time being in force made in pursuance of the Hallways Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, or any other enactment in force at the date of the passing of this Act and as are in use, under repair, or in course of construction at that date.
I confess I do not see how the two can be road together. All wagons now running, I suppose, are presumed to be within these statutory powers. But the House must assume that only a very small portion, if any, fail to meet the present position. If the Clause under discussion has any meaning, it means that by Regulation the Minister may prohibit those that are now running. If that is the meaning, it is difficult to understand what is the precise object of the proviso. The main point I rose to make is that the powers of purchase may never become operative. They can only become operative by the assent of this House to certain terms and conditions to be laid before it. The House might not accept the terms and conditions which the Government propose. Suppose the power to purchase for any reason becomes a dead letter, what, then, is the fall effect of the power which the Minister is seeking in this Clause to prohibit or restrict the use of wagons on any railway?
The hon. Member has made a very useful speech and pointed out what at first sight is a difficulty. This proviso is meant to cover this case: There is a certain number of wagons in respect of which the railway company can lay down regulations with which those wagons must comply. Their size and equipment can all be laid down by regulations which, if made and imposed upon their private owners, have also to be complied with in respect of their rolling stock by the railway company which imposes those regulations. There will be at the passing of
this Bill a very large number of wagons which have been built in conformity with and obedience to the regulations which have been imposed upon private owners under the powers of the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act. In respect of those, we may say that the owner of the wagons has gone to a considerable amount of expense and has certainly shown his desire to accommodate and satisfy the railway company. In respect of these, there is no authority to prohibit their use on the railways. That refers to such
as are in use, under repair, or in course of construction at that date.
If they are dealt with otherwise than exists at present, the Minister must buy them. If he has not, therefore, the limiting power to prohibit the use, and if he wishes to get control of them, he must buy them outright. That is the plain meaning of the proviso, which, on its face, is not very plain. It is perfectly clear that what the hon. Member (Mr. Neal) feared cannot take place. He said there was nothing to prevent an immediate regulation being made by the Minister prohibiting the use on railways of privately-owned wagons. There is a good deal to prohibit it by the very circumstances of the case. In the first place, there arc a number of wagons which the Minister cannot get control of unless he buys them, and he will not be able to buy them unless ho complies with conditions which will involve a considerable lapse of time Under the circumstances there must be a large number of wagons the use of which cannot be prevented, and the Minister will not have the autocratic power which the hon. Member at first sight thought ho would have, and in respect of which he, not unnaturally, felt uneasiness and misgiving. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persist in his Amendment.
I am not at all satisfied with the hon. and learned Gentleman's reply. He has not in the least answered the point I made—that every single regulation issued by the National Insurance Act and every single regulation that is going to be issued under the Housing Bill is going to be subjected to exactly the same conditions as I am asking for. I am not referring merely to the right hon. Gentleman, but to the Transport Minister, whoever he may be, to-day or twenty years hence, and I do not see why you should treat the Transport Minister better in this respect than you treat any other Minister. We are allowing Parliamentary control to slip from us. If we allow these regulations to be made without Parliamentary control, we might just as well give up our duties as Members of Parliament. I feel very strongly about the Amendment. I have not opened my mouth on the Bill up till now, and I do not intend to open it on the Bill any more, but I feel very strongly on this Amendment, and I shall certainly divide the House.
Sir F. HALL:
We had a great many discussions in Committee with regard to the purchase of wagons, and it was only after many difficulties were overcome that we finally agreed to the Bill being presented to the House as it is at present. I cannot for the life of me see why the difficulty has been raised. I do not know anything about the Act of 1890 to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred. The general knowledge of the House of Commons is good enough for me. The right hon. Gentleman has very bureaucratic powers. He has greater powers conferred upon him than any Minister has ever asked for or received. Surely if there is any question with regard to the purchase of wagons, which might amount to anything up to £100,000,000, it is necessary for those matters to be gone into. The sense of the House should be taken, and if the House is of opinion that it is not advisable to carry out certain proposals which may be made by any right hon. Gentleman who is to be Minister of Ways and Communications it is necessary that we should take powers which will enable us to rectify any mistake which may be found in the future. Any hon. Member who has sat in the House for a reasonable period would come to the conclusion that, whatever may be the opinion outside, the House of Commons, as a rule, adds up and subtracts. It comes to its decision after careful consideration, and I do not think any Minister ought to be wishful in any way of limiting the powers of the House of Commons. I trust my hon. Friend will go to a Division, and I shall certainly support him.
Question put, "That the words,
Provided that every regulation so made shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, and if an Address is presented by either House, within twenty-one days from the date on which that House has sat next after any such regulation is laid before it, praying that the regulation may
|Division No. 60.]||AYES.||[9.52 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Haslam, Lewis||Remer, J. B.|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Renwick, G.|
|Allen, Col. William James||Hogge, J. M.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Armitage, Robert||Inskip, T. W. H.||Roundell, Lieutenant-Colonel R. F.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Joynson-Hicks, William||Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Samuel, S (Wandsworth, Putney)|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Kiley, James Daniel||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Lorden, John William||Smithers, Alfred W.|
|Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)||Lynn, R. J.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay)||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)||Stevens, Marshall|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Mitchell, William Lane-||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Neal, Arthur||Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Perring, William George||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred. (Dulwich)||Raeburn, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES,—Mr. G.|
|Hancock, John George||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Locker-Lampson and Major Molson.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jodrell, N. P.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Dawes, J. A.||Johnson, L. S.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Dockrell, Sir M||Jones, sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. L. C. M. S.||Edge, Captain William||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Edwards, C. (Bedwelty)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Eyres-Monsell, Commander||King, Com. Douglas|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, S.)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. N. (Gorbals)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W,||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Foreman, H.||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Forster, Rt. Hon. H. W.||Lunn, William|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Bigland, Alfred||Galbraith, Samuel||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Blades, Sir George R.||Gange, E. S.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Blane, T. A.||Gardiner, J. (Perth)||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Borwick, Major G.O.||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Cambridge)||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Bramsden, Sir T.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Mason, Robert|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Moles, Thomas|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Gray, Major E.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. C. T.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gregory, Holman||Morgan, Major D. Watts|
|Burdon, Col. Rowland||Greig, Colonel James William||Morison, T. B. (Inverness)|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Grundy, T. W.||Mosley, Oswald|
|Carr, W. T.||Guinness, Lt.-Cot. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)|
|Casey, T. W.||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Nelson, R. F. W. R.|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Newbould, A. E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm.,W.)||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter).|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Hartshorn, V.||O'Grady, James|
|Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Hayday, A.||Parry, Major Thomas Henry|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hayward, Major Evan||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel F.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Hirst, G. H.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Colvin, Brigadier-General R. B.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.||Pratt, John William|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle Ely)||Hood, Joseph||Purchase, H. G.|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Hope, Harry (Stirling)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rankin, Capt. James S.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish University)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Howard, Major S. G.||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Hurd, P. A.||Reid, D. D.|
|Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H.||Jesson, C.||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Wigan, Brig.-General John Tyson|
|Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lanes.)||Stanley, Colonel Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Wignall, James|
|Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Rowlands, James||Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Royce, William Stapleton||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Rutherford, Sir W, W. (Edge Hill)||Sturrock, J. Leng-||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Surtees, Brig.-General H. C.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)|
|Seager, Sir William||Sutherland, Sir William||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Seddon, J. A.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Shaw, Tom (Preston)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Woolcock, W. J. U.|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Walker, Colonel William Hall||Yeo, Sir Allied William|
|Short, A. (Wednesbury)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Capt.|
|Smith, W. (Wellingborough)||Whitla, Sir William||F. Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
Question put, and agreed to.