New Clause. — (Particulars to be supplied by licence-holders.)

Orders of the Day — London Traffic Bill. – in the House of Commons at on 16 June 1924.

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it shall be the duty of the proprietor of any omnibus when applying for a licence, or for the renewal of a licence, to provide any form of transport service in the London Traffic Area to supply to the Minister on such form as the Minister may determine full details of any agreement, written or verbal, for the control by loan, agreement, shareholding, or interlocking directorship, or otherwise of his business by any other company or person, and full particulars as to his holding or beneficial interest in the stocks, shares, or securities in the business of any company engaged in the manufacture or supply of vehicles, plant, equipment, or requisites for any such service. Failure to supply such details, or knowingly to supply false or misleading details, will render the proprietor or the responsible officer of any company providing any form of transport on the London area on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds and the cancellation of his licence.—[Mr. P. Harris. ]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I very much regret the absence of the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Franklin), whose. name is coupled with my own as sponsors for this Clause, remembering, as we all do, the very great interest he has displayed in this particular problem and his endeavours to get words to achieve the purpose aimed at in this new Clause. May I draw the attention of the House to the terms of Clause 7 of this Bill? There the Minister is given immense powers to deal out very great privileges. Under this Bill, at any rate in respect to certain streets, the Minister will have power to give away great franchises for the user of the streets to certain privileged companies. It is a very curious thing in London traffic that in the last three years there has been a great manipulation in the various companies that have attempted to supply the needs. of the travelling public and to carry people to and from their work. These manipulations have tended gradually to form what is, if not complete, something like a Combine. Ten years ago there was free competition amongst a great number of companies offering travelling facilities.

If hon. Members who are familiar with London will carry their minds back, they will remember that there were a great number of omnibus companies. I remem- ber, before the War, the London General Omnibus Company, the Vanguard Cornpany, the London Road Car Company, and a great number of other companies, but gradually one predominant company has bought up the others. The same thing has been going on in reference to tramways. Outside the municipal tramways, the tramways in the outer ring of London, especially the United Tramways, have come under exactly the same management as the London General Omnibus Company. The same process is going on with the Underground Railways, and the Tubes and the District Railway have gradually been brought under one board of directors. If it is not the same board, the same controlling influence manages the District Railway and the Tubes as manages the company tramways and the great majority of omnibuses. This high finance is very complex and peculiar in its workings. We are not quite sure how many companies come under the control, direct or indirect, of the Combine. On some omnibuses I see the word "General," and other omnibuses are known as the "British," The ordinary traveller may think. if he hoards a "British," that he is going on an omnibus outside the Combine, but, as far as my inquiries take rue, the omnibuses known as the "British" omnibuses are under exactly the same management and control as the. London General omnibuses. I am not quite sure in regard to Tilling's. We are led to believe that. it is an independent company, but, as far as I can find out, it has a working agreement. Whether the Combine own shares or have any influence over the managemen, I am not in a position to say.

Before this Bill was introduced that was purely a private matter. The attempt to get complete control under one board of management over the traffic facilities of London is a very serious thing if you are going to have private management of the traffic system, because the one security that the public gets of good service and low fares is competition, and, as far as one can see, that competition is gradually disappearing from the streets of London. This new Clause aims at preventing the Minister working in the dark. We want to put the Minister in the position of knowing who is included in the companies who get these franchises, if they are independent organisations, or if they are really under the control, directly or indirectly, of a combine. Further, mixed up with the ownership of motor omnibuses, there is the construction, both of the chassis and of the body of the omnibus. There are two great construction companies in London, of which the better known is the Straker-Squire Company. I want to be perfectly fair to the Combine, The great bulk of the older buses, I believe, were manufactured by the Straker-Squire Company, but the Traffic Combine then started to construct their own chassis, and now there is on the edge of London a very large construction company manufacturing the chassis and bodies of the new type of omnibus, which is, I understand, almost entirely owned and controlled by the same Combine that controls the greater number of omnibuses that ply for hire in the streets of London. The Straker-Squire Company met this new development by starting a great number of individual omnibuses, and I am told—I may be wrong—that these so-called independent omnibuses are not quite so independent as they would have us to believe, but are largely organised, financed and manipulated by the disappointed Straker-Squire Company, which is no longer constructing omnibuses for the Combine.

Therefore, if my facts are correct—and I do not for a moment suggest that I am in a position to know what exactly is the whole truth of the matter—you have, really, two highly organised combines in being. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport might believe that he was giving a franchise to ply for hire on a particular street to one, two, or three omnibuses, when, as a matter of fact, he would he giving that franchise to a powerful construction company behind the owners of the omnibuses, and the same, of course, applies to the London General Omnibus Company and the Traffic Combine behind them. If they have these big works making the chassis and bodies, and making profits out of doing so, although their balance sheet in regard to plying for hire in the streets might actually show a loss, that, of course, might be used, when it comes to fixing the fares, for having them fixed too high, because the chassis and the body of the omnibus had been charged up to the omnibus company at far too high a figure. All that we want to do is to protect the public.

There is another new Clause on the Paper ("Particulars as to relations of transport associations "), standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Hain, South (Mr. Barnes) and other hon. Members. The object of that Clause is the same as mine, but my Clause aims at brevity and conciseness. I think it is very undesirable to have too complex Clauses in Bills, because they inevitably lead to litigation and confusion in the ordinary lay mind. If my right hon. Friend prefers the wording of the second Clause, I am quite prepared to withdraw mine in its favour, except that, when this second Clause came before the Committee, the Minister voted against it, and was not prepared to accept it. I have aimed to put my Clause in such a form as may be acceptable to the Government, simple, concise and intelligible to all the interests concerned, of which there are a great number. We are going to give away a very valuable franchise, and we ought to know, when these franchises are given away, to whom they are to be given, whether they are being given to a number of small companies independent of one another, or to a camouflaged combine working through a lot of small companies. This kind of business is new to this country. It is American in conception. It is the inevitable result of trying to manipulate small companies and form a combine. Now we are faced with the possibility of the Government strengthening the position of the Traffic Combine., by giving them permanently, or at any rate for a series of years, these powers, and if we are going to prevent the scandals that undoubtedly take place in America, and the unsatisfactory interlocking of directorships and inter-working of companies, some Clause of this kind is absolutely necessary.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Rugby

I beg to second the Motion.

Photo of Mr Harry Gosling Mr Harry Gosling , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

The hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) is not quite right in saying that I opposed this Clause in Committee. I said that I agreed with the principle, but that I was very anxious not to overload the Bill. I felt that there was sufficient power already in the Bill without inserting this Clause, and that if such a, Clause were necessary, it should be done by separate legislation. For that reason I abstained from voting, and left the matter to the Committee. I propose to do the same thing to-night, if I may, not upon this Clause, but on the second Clause, that standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes), which has been mentioned already. It is the identical Clause which was discussed in Committee, and is the one upon which I should like to take the opinion of the House, as to whether or not they think a, matter of this kind should be dealt with in this Bill. I do not propose to vote, but to leave it to the House, and if the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green will withdraw his Clause, and allow the other one to be discussed, I think that would be a very much better course to take. Under those circumstances, we could take the opinion of the House on the next Clause.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

No. I should like to put to the Minister whether it is not his duty to give us some guidance on this matter. As it is, he has put us in an amazing position.

Photo of Mr Harry Gosling Mr Harry Gosling , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

The position I took up before was that, if you take my advice, the Bill does not need this Clause. The Bill is sufficient without it. If you want to introduce this principle, I think we should deal with all combines at the same time, and introduce legislation on the subject to enable us to get this information from them, but if the House feel that in this particular case this information should be obtained, the way to obtain it which I should prefer is under the Clause in the name of the hon. Member for East Ham, South.

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

This is a Bill to deal with London traffic, and it seems to me that the opportunity is being seized upon by certain hon. Members opposite to try to use it as a sort of antitrust legislation. I have every sympathy with their desires, in so far as they express them, but I would submit that a London Traffic Bill is hardly the vehicle. which should be chosen in order to get anti-trust legislation through this House. Would it not be better, if we are going to deal with trusts and combines, as foreshadowed in the great speech made by the Prime Minister at the Albert Hall, some time ago, which, so far, has not been translated into action on the part of the Socialist Government, would it not be better, if we are going to embark on antitrust legislation, to do it thoroughly, and know where we are, and not try to wriggle through a little bit of anti-trust legislation by this Bill. The Minister has advised us, I understand, that this Clause is unnecessary. I submit that the House should be content with that advice. We had a long discussion about this in Committee. First of all, it was passed, then amended, and then, when the Clause was put to the Committee, it was turned down. That shows that the Committee had doubt as to the advisability of embodying such a provision in the Bill. It may be that such information is necessary, but I submit that such a Clause as this or the following Clause may be a hindrance rather than a help in securing what, I am sure, is the real desire of hon. Members who have put down these new Clauses, namely, to deal with trusts and combines.

With regard to the particular matter of the London streets, the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) stated that the effect of the present state of affairs was that there were two combines. That is really not quite fair. I am sure he does not wish to mislead the House, but there are, in addition to the London General Omnibus Company, a number of omnibuses on the streets, probably indirectly through the activities of the Straker-Squire Company, but they were not all put on the streets by that means. I am in touch with a certain number of small omnibus owners who are able to run omnibuses on the streets, and are not financed by the Straker-Squire Company. It is all very well to impose obligations, and pains and penalties when you are dealing with such a large combine as the Landon General Omnibus Company or the Straker-Squire Company. They have a large secretarial staff, but the small omnibus owner really has, not the staff to deal with all these things. You are going to saddle him with all sorts of obligations, and with [...]enalties if those obligations are not carried out, either from some inadvertence or some other reason. I do not think that is really going to help to solve the question of London traffic. I think that the more small omnibus owners we Call get on the streets the better. I agree with the hon. Member that the more competition we can have, at any rate in theory, the better it is. What we all want to ensure in this Bill is that, while getting more competition, it shall be fair competition. Therefore, I hope these two new Clauses will not be pressed to a Division. We had a long discussion about the matter, and I hope the House will rest content with the statement of the Minister of Transport, and not overload the Bill.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

I agree with the Noble Lord that everything should be done to encourage the small omnibus owners, and I am rather surprised that he should object to this particular Clause. This is not a Clause which places extensive obligations upon them, nor does it render them liable to any very severe penalties. I can understand objection being taken to the new Clause which follows, but if the noble Lord had read the Clause of my hon. Friend, he would see that what is asked of an applicant for a licence is a very limited amount of information, and the object is simply to ascertain whether the ostensible applicant is really an independent omnibus owner, or is in the hands of a combine. As it is limited to these details, I regret very much that the Minister has not decided to extend favourable consideration to this particular Clause. I really cannot understand his attitude. I can understand exception being taken to the multiplicity of detail in the next Clause. In these circumstances, it does seem a very strange thing that he should prefer a decision to be taken on the second Clause, to which more objection can be raised. The Noble Lord, for example, has made a strong case against the second Clause, but the case which he has made is not a case against the Clause under discussion.

I think the Minister might have told the House why he preferred the discussion to be taken on the second Clause. What are the characteristics of the second Clause that Tender it less open to objection? We are aware that the second Clause has already been discussed in Committee, and that the Minister gave such guidance as he could to the Committee, although he felt himself unable to vote upon it, and the Committee decided adversely. In view of that advice, and the decision of the Committee, my bon. Friend thought the right thing to do was to put down a Clause which carries out the purpose the Committee had in view, without being open to the objections then raised. Here we have a proposal the object of which is undoubtedly sound. It is to enable the Minister to ascertain whether, in the case of an application for a licence, the applicant is an independent owner or is in the hands of a, combine. It is merely to prevent the whole of the omnibus traffic in London getting into the hands of a single combine. The Minister says he has powers to do that already. I am rather surprised that he should make that assertion. It would be well if he would indicate any provisions in the Bill that would enable him to do it. I submit he will not be able to obtain the necessary information, and if he has not the necessary information as to the financial interests concerned, I cannot see how he can prevent this combine from obtaining a complete monopoly. The sole object of this new Clause is to see that in the use of the powers conferred on the Minister he should act in such a way as to preserve, to as large an extent as possible, competition. That seems to me to be the object of all parties in the House. The Minister has given no ground for rejecting this Clause. He has not indicated a single particular suggested in this Clause which is objectionable, or which would cause any trouble to anybody. All the information which it would provide for the Minister would he to his advantage in exercising his powers. I am, therefore, surprised he should not have given a clearer indication to the House of his objection, and in particular that he should have preferred a Clause, which has already been rejected, rather than a new Clause which is not open to the objections raised before.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

I confess I am in rather a difficulty here, because I really do not understand what happens when the Minister has got these details. The new Clause says: It shall be the duty of the proprietor of any omnibus, when applying for a licence, or for the renewal of a licence, to supply certain details to the Minister. I really do not follow what is the object of the Clause. When the Minister has got the information, what is he to do with it? I think those who are moving this Clause should give some further information as to what is in their mind, because, so far as I can see, the Clause will have no effect, except that the Minister would have certain information supplied, which would then be pigeon-holed.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

I understand it will suit the convenience of the House if I explain the next Clause which stands in my name, so as to avoid a double discussion. Reference has been made to the fact that the clause which I had the privilege of moving in Committee was rejected, but the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) evidently has not followed the whole of the proceedings of the Committee, because originally in the form in which it is down to-night the Clause was accepted. It was only after it had been amended in various directions, and the usefulness of the Clause destroyed, that it was rejected by the Committee. That is the reason why I put it down to-night in the original form in which it was submitted upstairs. It is rather interesting to trace the stages of the Amendment of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris). First of all, it was submitted upstairs in a much more limited form than it is to-night, and on each occasion its supporters have taken a little more of the Clause standing in my name, and are continually adding to their Amendment. The reason my Clause is comprehensive and complex is because the operations of the trust are complex, and to get all the information about all the ramifications of the London General Omnibus combine, and similar combines of that description, it is necessary to have a comprehensive Clause of this kind.

8.0 P.M.

May I state the reasons why I have submitted this Clause, in spite of the fact that the Minister stated he had the necessary powers? I, personally, do not think he has the powers in this Bill to obtain the information we are seeking. It is true he has certain powers to obtain a limited amount of information, but let me give the real object of those who are submitting the principle behind this Clause. I want to say quite frankly I am not very much concerned with the words. I take it hon. Members below the Gangway and ourselves have the real motive to obtain the necessary information. If the Minister had stated that the wording of the hon. Member's Clause was better than my own, I would willingly withdraw my Clause, because it is the thing I want, and not the words. In Committee we gave the Minister the opportunity of amending the Bill by the Clause which stands in my name, but he did not do so. Yet he stated here to-night he is prepared to accept it if it is the will of the House.

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

The hon. Gentleman says he cannot help himself. The attitude of the Minister at least indicates to me—and we all know it—that we have the privilege, if it pleases the House, if it is the will of the House, and the Government Whips are removed, that we can take a certain course. That cases the difficulties of hon. Members on this side of the House so far as supporting the principle embodied in the Clause.

The real purpose which animates me in proposing to move this Clause later is the simple fact that in regard to London this Bill radically alters the conditions of traffic. One cannot Burk this fact that, previously, all kinds of persons were engaged in traffic transport, and were able to put on the streets omnibuses of every description; to put them on the streets of London and to cater for the London public. Under that condition we have seen evolved in recent years one of the most effective and one of the best organised traffic comibines in the country. To-day we do not know where the ramifications of that combine extends, whether merely to London, or whether the tentacles of the combine are beginning to spread into the country and into the provinces; or how far its operations go. We do know this: that this Bill is not only conferring that preserve of London traffic on this great combine, but it is—and it is all very well for the Noble Lord the Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon) to mention a few private omnibuses on the road to-day—under this scheme these few private omnibuses will soon be purchased by the combine without the shadow of a doubt; and it is for us to take that into account. This Bill actually confers extraordinary privileges of exploitation upon this London combine, and we, as representing the citizens of London, ought to note that fact. We have a population of 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 persons all congregated together and dependent upon a combine of this description for their traffic facilities. There is no other traffic preserve in the world equal for exploitation to that of London at the present time, and we are entitled to lay down the conditions to which this combine should be subject, of special and peculiar publicity, quite apart from anything else. There was one point the Minister made; that was as to the effect that powers of this description would only be legitimate if embodied in a general Bill. I differ from that view, and would say this much, that Parliament has not gone out of its way to confer special privileges upon combines of this description. By the way, we are strongly in favour of general legislation on the lines that we are indicating here to-night—but our special reason for introducing this Amendment at this stage is because Parliament has conferred special and peculiar privileges upon this particular combine, and if Parliament is going to do that, Parliament ought to accept its rights and obligations to the people of London.

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

Will the hon. Gentleman say exactly where in the Bill are these special privileges which he alleges are conferred upon the combine?

Photo of Mr Alfred Barnes Mr Alfred Barnes , East Ham South

Yes, the special privileges arise from the fact that the Minister is allocating a certain number of licences for a given traffic. There is no object in the Bill unless it reduces and prevents unnecessary competition. It is all very well for the hon. and gallant Member to give lip service to competition; but there is no purpose in the Bill, there will be no reorganisation of London traffic, no elimination of the chaos of London traffic unless you reduce the number of omnibuses on given routes. If you eliminate, or reduce, the number of omnibuses over a certain number of routes—the most congested, and, therefore, the most paying routes—that means that those omnibuses which remain are ensured of an increased earning power per mile. Under these conditions, I say that you are increasing the already great power of this particular combine. There- fore, I think that we are entitled to put this Clause forward. My reason for putting it forward, as I say, is the fact that we believe special privileges are given. We are fortified by the departure of the Government itself from what happened in our proceedings upstairs. The Government now, with its Housing Bill, proposes to introduce, side by, side with that Bill, a special Bill on profiteering. Why has it departed in this particular case? Because it recognises that by its Housing Bill it is creating peculiar conditions in the building industry. As it, is creating peculiar conditions in the building industry, it recognises obligations to the public at large, and wishes to give the public the necessary safeguards from exploitation. If the Government have been compelled to do that when introducing its Housing Bill, I submit it ought to accept the same principle here to-night and give the London public the safeguard that a Clause of this description gives.

The last point that I wish to make is that this Bill, in proposing to confer these extraordinary privileges on the combine, takes away from the London public certain powers and privileges of London government. There is no other city in the country that would have accepted the transfer of its local government obligations from itself to a State Department. I oppose that principle. Members on this side of the House oppose that principle. That principle the House has embodied in this Bill, but if the Minister is going to relegate to a Government Department these very primary principles of local government then we say he must accept the responsibility of protecting the rights of the London public. For these reasons, I trust the House will accept the second Clause on the Paper which stands in my name. I trust that hon. Members below the Gangway will find that my Clause is acceptable to them, seeing, as I understand, that it is acceptable to the Minister. I trust we shall get a united vote in the Lobby for the principle of this thing in the interests of the London public.

Photo of Mr Thomas Inskip Mr Thomas Inskip , Bristol Central

The Clause which the hon. Members for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) has on the Paper is presumably the Clause on which the House will have to give its decision, with your permission, Mr. Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is how I understood the Minister, in so far as I could gather anything from the Minister as to what was his opinion about these Clauses. The Minister, it seems, proposes to put the Government Whips on against the Clause that has been moved on behalf of the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Franklin), and which is at present before the House, and to leave the House free to vote upon the Second Clause which the hon. Member for East Ham South has just been explaining.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Are we to understand that the Minister of Transport strongly objects to the Clause that has been moved by my hon. Friend and myself, and will put the Whips on against it, and that he does not object to, but will accept, the Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South?

Photo of Mr Harry Gosling Mr Harry Gosling , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

Let me try to make the position perfectly clear. The Clause standing in the name of my hon. Friends on the Liberal Benches I could not possibly accept.

Photo of Mr Harry Gosling Mr Harry Gosling , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

For the reason that it is unworkable. It mixes up the particulars with the licences. In the case of the second Clause, which is to be moved later, and which has been explained by the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes), the obligation is separate, the matter is more specific, and it is more likely to be enforceable. Any company engaged in the work of transport has to furnish the Minister with full particulars. Hon. Members must not forget that on the Second Reading of the Bill, and in Committee, I emphasised the fact that I did not want more powers than were necessary to deal with London traffic.

Photo of Mr Thomas Inskip Mr Thomas Inskip , Bristol Central

On a point of Order. Which Clause are we discussing—the first or the second on the Paper? Are we to keep our discussion to the first Clause, which is being moved, or to the second, which is to he moved?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

It would hamper the House a good deal if I did not allow the merits of the two Clauses to be discussed together. If it be the wish of the House, they can have two decisions. If the first Clause were accepted by the House, the second naturally falls; if the first Clause be defeated, the House may continue the discussion on the second, and accept it if Members think fit.

Photo of Mr Thomas Inskip Mr Thomas Inskip , Bristol Central

Then it, perhaps, will be in order if I make a few observations on the second Clause. The House finds itself in a very curious position. The House is in very much the position of the Committee where the Minister of Transport—and I am sure everyone is satisfied upon that point—desires to be conciliatory over the Bill, and to all the interests, but that puts him in obvious difficulties. The position in which we are is due to his extreme anxiety not to he responsible for a Clause which, I think, he really knows is unworkable, and really his anxiety to conciliate hon. Members behind him who wish to be free to vote for the Clause. The Minister has said that his objection to the Clause, already moved and now before the House, is, that it mixes up—to use his own expression—all the particulars with the licences. As I understand the argument, either one or other of these Clauses does so, and the only argument, indeed, the only reason which makes the Clause in order or relevant to the Bill, is that these particulars are required in connection with the licences. If it were not for that, the Clause would be most clearly out of order.

I submitted in Committee upstairs a Clause of this sort was outside the scope of the Bill, and therefore not in order and I think that the reason it was held to be in order—with some doubt—was, that this was a power which the Minister might reasonably be expected or required to have in order that he might get the necessary information with a view to granting the licences. Now the Minister has rejected that altogether! His objection to the Clause that has been moved is that it mixes up the particulars with the licences. In Heaven's name, what is the object of the Clause? The Minister nods his head in reply to me as if he was in the same doubt as others of us. What is the object of the Clause? The Minister is in charge of the Bill. It is his Bill. Is he really going to leave the House in this state? Is the Government so invertebrate on this matter that, although he gives us no reason for including the Clause in the Bill, and although he rejects the only reason that appeals to most hon. Members for inserting the Clause at all, he is prepared to leave it to the free vote of the House, knowing that all the hon. Members behind him, Members of his own party, intend to vote for the Clause which he, as Minister of Transport, thinks is unreasonable and unnecessary.

I do really suggest that the Minister, with the assistance of the Deputy-Leader of the House who is sitting beside him, ought to make up their minds and give guidance to the House as to whether such a Clause is necessary or not. If the Minister thinks it is unnecessary and intends to ask those on the Governmental side to resist the Clause there is no more to be said about it. If, on the other hand, the Government thinks a Clause is necessary, I should have thought that the Clause moved by the hon. Member below the Gangway was slightly better than the one moved from above the Gangway. There is a singular condition in the Clause proposed by the hon. Member for East Ham South which is really most unintelligible. It says: (4) All particulars required to be furnished…shall be treated as confidential, except where the person furnishing the same otherwise agrees or where the Minister considers that it is in the public interest that they should be included in a return to Parliament, or where the Minister considers that the disclosure of the same is requisite for the purposes of any inquiry under this Act. What does that mean? That the information shall be confidential. The object of this information, if it is to be given at all, is that the public and the Advisory Committee are to have access to it for the purpose of checking the issue of the Minister in regard to these licences. What does "confidential" mean? Can the Minister suggest what confidential means? Is he content to allow the House to put a Clause into a Bill of the meaning of which he is not aware. There is yet another objection, and it is that it deals with the same separate circumstances as are obviously covered by Clause 8 of the Bill. Hon. Members will see that Clause 8, Sub-section (2) provides that The Minister shall annually make a report to Parliament containing such of the returns so furnished to him, together with such comments thereon, and on the results of operating the said services, as he may think fit, and it shall be the duty of every such proprietor as aforesaid to furnish to the Minister such information, and to produce to him such accounts, books and documents as he may require for the purpose of preparing such report or otherwise carrying out his duties under this Act, or as he may consider to be necessary for the purposes of any inquiry held under this Act. Can the Minister of Transport tell us how far that Clause goes? Is he advised by the Law Officers of the Crown that that Clause gives him all the powers which he thinks are necessary, and if he has been so advised, is he going to allow a second Clause to be inserted which will cover the same ground as Clause 8. I think this is an inauspicious beginning to a Bill in which all Members are interested, irrespective of party, and we are all anxious to do our best with a very difficult problem. As the Minister of Transport is the expert to deal with these matters, we should like him to give the House some clear guidance.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I should have thought, from my experience during the Committee stage of the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken, that he would have given some substantial reasons why he thought the Clause of the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) was unworkable. I have not heard a single solid reason put forward showing why it is unworkable. The word "confidential" has been referred to, but if all these details are subsequently published no one will be more pleased than those who are sitting on the Labour Benches. Provision is made in the proposed Clause whereby particulars may be made public if the Minister of Transport considers it convenient in the public interest or necessary where the relevant facts are concerned with legal proceedings. May I urge upon hon. Members below the Gangway that it would really be much more convenient if the Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Franklin) were withdrawn in favour of the Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Ham South. We are all agreed that we want some unravelling of the mysterious finance of the combines, whereas I know that hon. Members opposite do not desire any such thing, and they desire the London traffic combine to remain a, financial mystery. They believe in the ways of darkness and we believe in the ways of light.

After all, this is not a Labour Party Bill. It is all very well for the hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol (Sir T. Inskip) to expect the Minister of Transport to come forward with a great amount of enthusiasm and vigour in order to champion a Tory Bill. I think the hon. and learned Member should be very grateful to the Minister for doing as much as he has done to get a Tory Bill through, and he should not try to embarrass him in the way he has been doing. Cannot hon. Members of this House do anything without a Minister tells them what to do? Hon. Members tell the electorate they are going to do this and that, and when they get here they cannot do a thing without the Minister tells them what to do. I have had some experience in local government, and I am not accustomed to these methods, and I appeal to the House of Commons to rise to its responsibility. Let every hon. Member make up his mind, and if the Minister does not vote, then, of course, he has lost a Division. Hon. Members ought to be able to judge as to the merits of these two Clauses. I have read both of them. As far as the proceedings on the Committee are concerned in regard to these Clauses, they are not a very good guide to the House. On the ninth day we carried the second of these Clauses, and on the tenth day the hon. Member for Central Hackney moved substantially the Clause which my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green has now moved.

The Committee rejected the Clause moved by the hon. Member for Central Hackney without a Division, but the Clause moved by the hon. Member for East Ham South got a Second Reading. Between the ninth day and the tenth day of the Committee proceedings apparently there was some vigorous organisation, and the Whips were put on. At the end of the tenth day, the opponents of the Clause were there in great glory and in great numbers, and the result was that they rejected the Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill." Therefore, so far as the proceedings on the Committee are concerned they were more favourable to the Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Ham South than that of the Clause moved by the hon. Member for Central Hackney. What is the real point involved It is ridiculous for hon. Members to say that this is a question which should be dealt with by general legislation to be introduced by the President of the Board of Trade. It may be that legislation will be introduced. It is possible that it will, and it is possible that it will be passed, but it is quite possible that it will not be adopted in this imperfect House of Commons.

What shall we have done then? We shall have given a protected monopoly to Lord A shfield for which he has been fighting and for which hon. Members opposite have been fighting, and he will have got a protected monopoly for his omnibuses without any provision that the full light of publicity shall be brought to bear upon the mysterious financial organisation of which he is the head. Hon. Members opposite may trust the London traffic combine, but I do not, and I think it is a thing London would be better without. I do not like its American methods and involved finance and secrecy. We are entitled to measurement and publicity, and I am surprised the Minister does not welcome this new Clause. The hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol says, "Does not Clause 8 give you what you want?" He is a learned Member and I am not. He has read Clause 8 and so have I, and Clause 8 relates exclusively to omnibuses. It would be very charming, it is true, to know all about the dark side of omnibuses and their finance, but there is not the least value in knowing about Lord Ashfield's omnibus finance unless we know the inside finance of the Associated Equipment 'Company, of the Underground Railways, and of the Metropolitan Electric Tramways, because the whole of these are so linked up that merely knowing about the finance of the omnibus part of the undertaking does not throw any material light on the matters regarding which the House ought to be in possession of information.

In these circumstances it is clear that Clause 8 does not meet the point that is put forward in this Clause. I could imagine that Conservative Members might like the House to be content with Clause 8 and leave it there, but we do not want to be left in a position which might be a danger to both of these new Clauses, and, therefore, I appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) to give way. I do not think that there is a. great deal of substantial difference between the two Clauses. As regards drafting, I think that ours, on the whole, is better, and as regards working I think it may be rather more practicable, even though it is longer, which in itself, I agree, is not a recommendation. If, however, the Minister is not prepared to put the Whips on against the one Clause, I think there would be a, danger of both Clauses being lost, and, in order that we may get the light of publicity upon this matter, I appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green to give way and allow the vote to be taken on the Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South. Otherwise, there is a danger that the champions of the traffic combine in this House may win against what is a real majority of opinion in the House of Commons.

Photo of Mr Leifchild Jones Mr Leifchild Jones , Rushcliffe

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) will not yield to the appeal which has been made to him by the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). I labour under the disadvantage—or perhaps it may be an advantage—of not having been a Member of the Committee upstairs, but I have been at the pains to secure the Report of the Committee's proceedings, and have read the Debates which took place upon the second of these Clauses, which was discussed in Committee for two days It is quite true, as the hon. Member for South Hackney says, that on the first day the Clause was passed, and that on the second day the Clause in practically the same form was rejected; and I am bound to say that the discussion in Committee did not give me much enlightenment its to the reasons which led the Committee to change its opinion during the interval. Having now read these two Clauses and the Debate in Committee, I do not understand why the Minister is going to put on the Whips against the Clause of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green, and is not going to put the Whips on against the Clause of the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes).

I agree in the desire for publicity with regard to the mysterious doings of the omnibus combine in London. We want to get at the bottom of this matter before we give new powers and opportunities to these great companies. To me, the first of these Clauses seems better than the second, but I should like the Minister to tell me why he is going to put the Whips on against my hon. Friend's Clause. He does not want either Clause in his Bill, and I can quite understand that. He says he has power enough, and anyway it is a matter affecting the general law rather than this Bill, but that applies equally to both Clauses, and I appeal to the Minister to give the same treatment to them both. If my hon. Friend's Clause is rejected, the other Clause will, in accordance with Mr. Speaker's ruling, come up for decision, and we shall have the opportunity of dividing upon it. The other Clause, therefore, is not endangered unless my hon. Friend's Clause 3s carried. There will, however, be more opposition to the Clause pro posed from the Labour Benches than to that of my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend's Clause is in more general terms, and would, I think, give the Minister power to get all the information that we want; and he would get the information at the right time. The great advantage of my hon. Friend's Clause is that the information has to be supplied before the licence is granted, and the information will be of importance in deciding whether or not the licence shall be granted, whereas the Labour Clause says: It shall be the duty of the proprietor of any omnibus which is licensed— to supply certain information. The licence will have been granted before tilt> information has been given, and, therefore, it seems to me that the information will be much less valuable than if it were given before the granting of the licence. For these reasons I hope my hon. Friend will not withdraw his Clause, but that we shall divide upon it., and that we shall be allowed to do so without the Whips being put on. I cannot understand why the Minister should differentiate in this way between two Clauses the object of which is practically the same. I do not see why, as the hon. Member for South Hackney has said, the House should nol, settle this question without guidance from the Minister. The guidances he has given us is, "We do not want the Clause." I believe the House does want a Clause. and wants to be left free to decide upon it.

Photo of Mr Arthur Comyns Carr Mr Arthur Comyns Carr , Islington East

I should like to try and answer the questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Ashley) as to what is to be done by the Minister with the information which it is proposed that he should receive from the applicant for a licence. The answer to that is contained in Sub-section (2, b) of Clause 7 of the Bill, which gives the Minister the power of determining the omnibus proprietors whose omnibuses alone may ply for hire on the street and apportioning amongst those proprietors such aggregate number of journeys as aforesaid; hut so, nevertheless. that the right so to ply shall not be limited to the omnibuses of one proprietor in any case where it appears to the Minister to be reasonable and practicable that the right should be exercised by other omnibuses also. It is in order that the Minister, when making up his mind under that Sub-section as to whether he shall grant a, licence to applicant A or applicant B, may know whether he is really granting a licence to an independent person or to a person who, although he appears to be independent, is really nothing but a nominee of the combine, that the first of these Clauses proposes that the information shall be furnished to the Minister before he grants the licence.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , New Forest and Christchurch

Do I understand the hon. and learned Member to hold that no member of the combine ought to receive a licence at all?

Photo of Mr Arthur Comyns Carr Mr Arthur Comyns Carr , Islington East

Certainly not; but what the Clause does propose is that, when the Minister is exercising the duty which Sub-section (2, b) of Clause 7 imposes upon him of determining who are the proprietors who are to have the licences, and of seeing that the right is not limited to one particular proprietor, he should know at that stage with whom he is really dealing, and whether, having allocated to the combine such number of licences as he thinks they are entited to. when he comes to allocate the remaining licences which he thinks ought not to go to the combine, he is really giving them to independent persons or to someone who is really nothing but the combine in disguise. That is the purpose of the Clause, and that is why I would most earnestly appeal to hon. Members above the Gangway to prefer this first Clause to the second, and to the Minister of Transport to allow the House not only a free vote on the general question whether they desire a Clause which supplies this publicity, but also a free vote on the question which of the two Clauses they prefer.

I say quite frankly that I am not advocating this particular Clause, nor am I enamoured of it as against the other, because it happens to have been put down by members of my own party, while the second has been put down by members of the party above the Gangway. I am looking merely at the two Clauses to see which of them, in fact, is most likely to achieve the object in view. The first reason why I think the first Clause is most likely to achieve the object in view is that it provides for tho information being given to the Minister before he grants the licence, whereas the second provides that the information shall be given by the proprietor of any omnibus which is licensed. If you are not to give the information until you have the licence it is not very much use, for the immediate purpose in hand, seeking for the information at all. It may be of general interest to have it, but it will not prevent the Minister from giving a licence to a nominee of the combine under the erroneous impression that he is giving it to an independent person. Then the first Clause provides for the form in which the information is to be obtained being left to the Minister, whereas the second Clause goes in great detail into the particular method by which it is to be got. Not being entirely without experience of this kind of matter, may I suggest that where you are seeking to make Regulations to extract information from people who are not always very anxious to give it, it is highly desirable that you should not tie down in advance the precise form in which you are to put your questions, and if you find that the gentleman to whom you are putting your questions has devised a method of dodging the first form in which it is given you should have power to alter the form so as to put what is known in this House as a supplementary question for the purpose of really extracting the information from him. Therefore, I think the first Clause, by providing that the information is to be given in such form as the Minister may determine, giving full details of the agreement, is better than attempting in an Act of Parliament to specify all the particular questions and all the particular forms, which appears to be the purpose of the manner of pro cedure adopted in the second Clause.

Then I do not see anything further that is gained by Sub-section (2) of the second Clause, and I find it very difficult to see how that is going to be enforced. I can quite understand how you can compel a man who is applying for a licence to supply particulars of the interest which other people may hold in his concern, and I do not see any difficulty in his being able to supply those particulars. But I find it very difficult to understand how you are going to gather the information from people who are not applying for licences at all, but are outside people, who may or may not hold an interest in the business of someone who is applying for a licence. How is the other company, or series of companies, who, under Sub-section (2) of the second Clause, are required to supply information about an omnibus which is licensed, going to know when they have got to carry out their duties under the Clause? If the Minister asks them the question that is another matter, but before the Minister can ask them the question ho must have got from some other person the information that they aro the parties interested, and I do not see how Sub-section (2) of the second Clause can be made workable for that reason. I think Sub-section (4) is quite unnecessary, and to a certain extent mischievous, because I do not see what we want with the information being confidential at all. Why should the proprietors of any of these combines shrink from the information being given to the public? Certainly if they do shrink from it I do not think that is a coyness which we ought to encourage. I do not see any reason why the information is to be confidential, even if the insertion of the word "confidential" carries any meaning. I do not see myself that it carries any meaning at all, because there is only one way of making information confidential by Act of Parliament and that is by including it in the Official Secrets Act or the terms of some similar Statute. There is nothing here, as far as I can see, which would make that Clause workable. It is suggested that the powers you require are already contained in Clause 8 of the Bill. I think that is not so.

Photo of Mr Thomas Inskip Mr Thomas Inskip , Bristol Central

I do not suggest that Clause 8 gives the same powers that the proposed new Clause did. The Minister thinks he has sufficient powers, which are the powers, I understand, included in Clause 8. What I was saying was that it is a very inartistic and undesirable thing to do to have two Clauses in one Bill more or less covering the same ground. It would be better if we had the whole matter put into proper form.

Photo of Mr Arthur Comyns Carr Mr Arthur Comyns Carr , Islington East

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is supplying the House with the thoughts of the Minister. I now understand that the point is that it would be better that what we desire should be achieved by an Amendment of Clause 8 rather than by a separate Clause. That may be so, but I think the answer to it is that the two Clauses are dealing entirely with different subject-matters. Clause 8, in the first place, is, like the second new Clause we are considering to-night, in this difficulty, that no information is to he supplied under it until after the omnibus is licensed, so that in the same way the Minister would not get any information for the purpose of making up his mind whether he is to license a particular omnibus or not until he had arrived at a determination on the point. But apart from that, it seems to me, if one reads Clause 8 as a whole, the records and returns which the Minister is enabled to require under the Clause are not records and returns relating to the financial affairs of the company. They appear to me to be records and returns relating to the running of the omnibus after it has been licensed and not to the financial control of the company or the individual who owns the omnibuses. For these two reasons, but mainly for the reason that it does not provide for any information being given until after the omnibus is licensed, I think Clause 8 is useless for the purpose we have in view.

I should like most urgently to ask the House seriously to take in hand the question of giving these powers so that we may obtain real publicity, because there is a very real danger of this Bill resulting in an immense strengthening of the monopoly which we know already exists to a very large extent. What is likely to happen when the Minister makes an order under Clause 7, Sub-section (2) for restricting the number of licences on a particular route? Let us assume that the Minister does at first successfully carry out the power entrusted to him of seeing that the combine only secures its fair share of the licences and that the other licences go to independent owners. I think it is very doubtful whether he will be able to do it without those powers, but let us suppose that on the first occasion of the issue of licences he does. The very first thing the combine will do is to try to buy up the fortunate few of the independent omnibuses which have secured licences and, knowing perfectly well the dangers staring them in the face, the combine are not going to buy them up in their own name. They will buy them in the names of nominees, or by some indirect method, in an attempt to conceal from the Minister, when he comes to deal with the renewal of the licences, the fact that really the whole of the omnibuses that he has licensed have passed into the control of the combine. It is for that reason that it seems to me the Bill must inevitably tend to the tightening of the monopoly unless we really can secure some definite means by which full information will be obtainable by the Minister before he grants or renews a licence for any particular omnibus. It is for that reason that I press upon the House, not only to adopt one of these Clauses, but to adopt the first Clause in preference to the second, because it is the only one of the two which effectively carries out the purpose intended.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

I wish to ask hon. Members below the Gangway for information. It is contended that this first Clause is going to get us as much information as the second Clause. It may be so, but I have my doubts, and I should like to have those doubts resolved for me before I can find my way clear to support the Clause. The Clause asks for two classes of information. It asks, in the first place, for full details of any agreements for the control of the omnibus proprietor's business by loan, agreement, shareholding or interlocking directorship, or otherwise, of his business by any other company or person. The second part asks for particulars as to his holding or beneficial interest in the stocks, shares or securities in the 'business of any company engaged in the manufacture or supply of vehicles, plant, equipment or requisites for any such service. There is no provision, as far as I can understand the Clause, for obtaining information as to shareholding in subsidiary companies which are actually engaged in the traffic business itself. The paragraph referring to interlocking directorships refers to the control of the combine's business, or shareholding, for the specific control of its business.

I can conceive that there may be lucrative business in one part of London where the omnibus proprietor makes great profits. In such a case, the combine might decide that a subsidiary company should be started, the combine taking up practically the whole of the ordinary share capital. The combine might withdraw its own omnibuses from that section of London and allow the subsidiary company a free run, and that company would, therefore, be able to make enormous profits. There is nothing in this Clause which calls upon the omnibus combine to disclose its holding in that particular company.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

The subsidiary company would have to disclose that in applying for its licence.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

As I read the Clause, these interests are contingent upon the control of the business of the parent company, and you cannot say that the subsidiary company is controlling the parent company or the combine, when it is merely carrying on its business in a particular part of London.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

The hon. Member is imagining the position of a subsidiary company running over a particular route. That company would require to apply for a licence under this Clause, and in its application it would have to indicate all its financial relations with the parent company or with any holding company. Therefore, ray hon. Friend need be under no apprehension that this Clause would not deal with that situation.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

The company would merely have to submit the details of its shareholders. [HON. MEMBERS: "Its agreements!"] If the company were floated and the shares were taken up by the public, the company, as such, is not supposed to have any knowledge as to whether its shareholders have any connection with the combine or not.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

May I assure my hon. Friend that this Clause has been drafted by a gentleman who has great experience of all these working agreements and of the holding of shares?

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

If that be the case, and as I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be versed in the law, I am quite satisfied that the Clause is good enough for me, so long as there is a provision which will make it quite certain that we can get all the necessary information as to these subsidiary companies as well as the parent companies

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

Can we have a clear statement from the Minister of Transport that he will put the Whips on against the first Clause, and that he will not put them on against the second one?

Photo of Mr Harry Gosling Mr Harry Gosling , Stepney Whitechapel and St George's

I thought I made it clear. I do not disagree with the principle of these Clauses. In certain circumstances I think it will be very valuable information to get of all trusts and combines, but if you are going to get information from trusts and combines you should do it by general legislation. This is a Traffic Bill, and for the purposes of this Bill I think the information is not necessary, but if the House believes that it is better that there should be a Clause of this kind, I think the second Clause is better than the first one.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

The Minister of Transport says that for the purposes of this Bill it is not necessary to have inquiry as to monopolies. Is that because the purpose of the Bill is to create a monoply?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall Lieut-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall , Lewisham East

I would ask the House to accept Clause 1 rather than Clause 2. If it is to accept one of the Clauses, let it accept one that is workable and not one that is unworkable. Clause 2 states that it shall be the duty of any company engaged in providing any form of transport service in the London area or elsewhere or in the manufacture and supply of vehicles, plant, equipment or requisites to provide information. What are plant, equipment and requisites? There is hardly anything that, sooner or later, is not used in connection with the transport service. A builder receives an order to put up a garage. He has to provide plant, but he cannot get on with his job unless he has previously furnished to the Minister all particulars regarding his shareholdings in the London General Omnibus Company, in Tillings or any other company. There is no rubber that comes into the Port of London that may not be used sooner or later in connection with requisites for transport service. I pointed out in Committee that perambulators were a form of transport, and that any perambulator manufacturer would have to say whether or not he has shares in any of these omnibus companies. So it would go on, applying almost to everything that comes into our ordinary life. Any steel that might come from Vickers', or any of the big makers, would be affected, because it might be used in connection with omnibus services. Clause 2 as it stands is practically ridiculous.

The hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) labours under an obsession. He thinks that we are all interested, financially or sympathetically, or in some way or other, in the omnibus combine. I sat many mornings in the Standing Committee, and so far as I could see we were no more interested in the combine than hon. Members opposite. All we want is to see the streets of London put into a better condition than they are now, and we want to see "fair do's" for the small maker and the small man, as against the powerful combine. That was my only object in sitting on the Standing Committee. If we are going to adopt either of these Clauses, I have no objection to Clause 1, but Clause 2 is pratically unworkable.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

I think that the first Clause is a better Clause. It asks for information of the right kind in a general form which would enable the Minister to make his Regulations, but the Government Whips are to be put on against us. I hope that my hon. Friend will take this to a Division, and I will vote for the first Clause. I hope that it will get the support of the hon. Member opposite who prefers the first Clause. He is bound to get one of them, because if we cannot get the first Clause we are going to vote for the second, though we do not think it is so good, but we are so keen on this question of publicity of trusts that we want to get one of them. I was greatly disappointed with the Minister. He has not helped us in the slightest degree. If it, were not for the happy-go-lucky temper of the London people it would not have been possible to deal with this problem in the way in which it has been dealt with. It would not be possible in any other great city of this country. Do not let us presume too much on the good temper of the London people, but let us handle this matter with some approach to knowledge.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

I also make an appeal to hon. Members opposite. They have got to accept one or other of these two propositions. I think that they will be well advised to study carefully what has been said with regard to the two propositions, and to come over to the side of No. 2. I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) say that the first proposition was drafted by an expert draftsman.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

I did not say that, said an expert on company finance.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

Then evidently he was not so expert in draftsmanship. There is one slight difference between No. 1 and No. 2 which has not been mentioned. In No. 2 Clause there is no reference to interlocking directorships, but that is covered by the general paragraph in the Clause which would enable the Minister to get all the information which he desires with respect even to those interlocking directorships. I would ask the hon. Member who moved the first Clause what he means by the final paragraph relating to the penalty. He refers to the cancellation of the licence. Is he assuming that the application for a licence applies only to one omnibus? Then if the company were making an application for a licence of an extra omnibus, if it has not got the licence, of course it is not possible to cancel it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or the renewal!"] I accept that. If the application for a licence is for the company, are you going to cancel all the licences?

9.0 P.M.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

Every licence is individual and each licence is given individually to the nominee of the company, and if they make a false statement it applies to all the licences and all the licences would fail.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

Then it would mean if the offending party were a great owner, with 2,000 or 3,000 omnibuses, all these omnibuses would be brought to a standstill because all the licences would be withdrawn. That is a contingency that has to be faced.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

It is for the Court to decide.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

But you must consider the consequences of any penalty you prescribe. If you are going to control traffic to the extent of holding up 2,000 or 3,000 omnibuses because a certain company has offended against the law, you may be solving the traffic problem, but you are not solving the problem of transit from one place to another, because the omnibuses will not be running. I may submit one other reason why the House should support the second of these two Clauses. The second Clause was on the Paper before the first Clause made its appearance, and it was not until we had put the second Clause on the Paper that hon. Members thought it necessary to put forward the other Clause, and I suggest that though that proposition is more concise and more easily understood and may conceivably be easier for the Minister in its application it does not cover the ground so effectively as the second Clause, which I hope will be supported by the House.

Photo of Sir Herbert Nield Sir Herbert Nield , Ealing

It is most amusing to some of us on this side, who hitherto have not attempted to identify ourselves with either of these Clause's or with the opposition to either of them, to hear the advice which is given by the smallest party in the House to those who, by their permission, are on the Front Bench.

Photo of Sir Herbert Nield Sir Herbert Nield , Ealing

As the hon. Member for Rugby seems to be so concerned in this question of the London traffic, it will be interesting to know why he wants to interrupt speakers who know something about it.

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Rugby

Because I happen to be an inhabitant of London.

Photo of Sir Herbert Nield Sir Herbert Nield , Ealing

Then you should represent sent London, but as you go down to Warwickshire, you should assume responsibility for Warwick, and not for London. Let us look at the other side of the picture. Hon. Members above the Gangway, notably the hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor), direct attention to this side of the House, and warn us as if we were partners in a. great crime, whereas we are unidentified with anything of the sort. I challenge any hon. Member to suggest that anybody in this House is connected with this combine which is the bâte noire of hon. Members on that side of the House. It is amusing to hear the mutual advice which is given by these parties to each other, and to notice the sacerdotal importance which each party gives to the other, because they assume the priestly office of giving advice. Let hon. Members who desire to throw aspersions upon any part of the community, whether they are engaged in London traffic or not, state their objections frankly and fairly.

Hitherto it has been the character of Englishmen that we speak our minds, and that when we do make charges we put them into definite language. When the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) refers to the dark side of finance I want to know what he means. Am I to understand that he has invested n shares and lost money by it? Am I to understand that there has been a shifting of financial responsibility as between the persons who are now designated, with terms of contempt, the combine, and that they are guilty of financial impropriety? Let us have it fairly and frankly stated. Let us uphold the reputation of this House for fair dealing. If anyone suggests that I or any of my friends is associated with monopoly, let it be stated frankly and fairly; do not let it he covered up. We have quite enough to do with general statements which win general elections on false facts. In this House, at any rate, we want to have definite statements supported by facts. It is not to the credit of this Assembly that these reflections should be made. We may object to combinations. Nobody is stronger than I am in objecting to trusts and combinations, the object of which is deliberately to raise prices. Curiously enough, I fought the last election against a person who, while professing to be an abject disciple of Free Trade, was protected in connection with the milk combine. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have greeted that statement with jeers and derision. I have nothing to do, nor, I believe, have my hon. Friends anything to do, with monopolies and trusts, any more than any Member of the investing public might have. It is not to the credit of this House that these allegations should be thrown about broadcast without there being such elements of fact attached to them as to enable this House to proceed on an. investigation, if necessary.

Photo of Mr Richard Wallhead Mr Richard Wallhead , Merthyr Tydfil Merthyr

I shall vote for the first Clause, because it does what I think such a Clause ought to do. We ought not to have too much permission. The Clause says that the Minister shall claim the information. I do not want it to he left to the Minister to obtain the information if he cares to do so. I want it to be imposed upon him that he shall obtain the information. I hope that the last speaker will not think it inadvisable for me to take part in this Debate because I represent a Welsh constituency. With regard to the whole problem of London traffic, some of us who are more accustomed to the well-regulated traffic of the large cities in the North are amazed at the chaos that exists in London. The more numerous the Clauses which will make for cohesion and give some centralised authority, and curb the power of private monopolists that control the streets of a city like London, the more I shall be in favour of such Clauses.

Photo of Mr Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

As one who attended every meeting of the Committee that considered this Bill, I would like to justify my voting against the first Clause

and in favour of the second Clause. I have taken some trouble to try to understand the meaning of both Clauses, and as a result of my own study and of the advice which I have received from other people, I have come to the conclusion that the first Clause is unworkable. Clauses that are proposed to be inserted in the Bill have to be regarded not only from the point of view of what they appear to do, but from the point of view of their application. In its present wording I believe it is impossible to apply the first Clause. At any rate, it would be extraordinarily difficult. It appears to me that the Government may have to take the advice of those who are competent to advise them and again alter the Clause in another place. The position of the Minister has been made perfectly clear throughout. He has drawn attention again and again to the first Clause of the Bill, and to the fact that the Bill is framed with a view of facilitating and improving the regulation of the traffic of London. He has stated that repeatedly. He has said that he had enough powers already in the Bill, but that if the House wanted him to take the powers which are suggested by these two Clauses he was perfectly willing to do so. That is quite consistent.

Photo of Mr Leifchild Jones Mr Leifchild Jones , Rushcliffe

This is only the Second Reading of the Clause. If my hon. Friend wishes to alter it, he can do so when the Clause is in Committee.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 189; Noes, 126.

Division No. 93.]AYES.[9.14 p.m.
Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)Burman, J. B.Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith
Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.
Apsley, LordCaine, Gordon HallFalconer, J.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R.(Prtsmth.S.)Finney, V. H.
Asks, Sir Robert WilliamChadwick, Sir Robert BurtonFletcher, Lieut-Commander R. T. H.
Baker, WalterClarry, Reginald GeorgeFoot, Isaac
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyCobb, Sir CyrilForestier-Walker, L.
Banks, Reginald MitchellCohen, Major J. BruneiGates, Percy
Barclay, R. NotonComyns-Carr, A. S.Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.
Barnett, Major Richard W.Cope, Major WilliamGeorge, Major G. L. (Pembroke)
Barnston, Major Sir HarryCostello, L. W. J.Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham
Becker, HarryCralk, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryGilbert, James Daniel
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)Crittail, V. G.Gorman, William
Birkett, W. N.Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)Greene, W. P. Crawford
Black, J. W.Dawson, Sir PhilipGriffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis
Bonwick, A.Deans, Richard StorryGuinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.
Bourne, Captain R. C.Dixey, A. C.Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Bramsdon, Sir ThomasDodds, S. R.Hamilton, sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)
Brass, Captain W.Edmondson, Major A. J.Harland, A.
Bromfleld, WilliamEdwards, John H. (Accrington)Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)
Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)Elliot, Walter E.Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
Brunner, Sir J.Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesEngland, Colonel A.Hindle, F.
Hobhouse, A. L.O'Neill, Rt. Hon. HughSomerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)
Hodge, Lieut.-Col, J. P. (Preston)Owen, Major G.Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)
Hoffman, P. C.Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)Spero, Dr. G. E.
Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)Pease, William EdwinStarmer, Sir Charles
Hopkinson. A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Penny, Frederick GeorgeSteel, Samuel Strang
Hore-Belisha, Major LesliePercy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)Perkins, Colonel E. K.Stranger, Innes Harold
Iliffe, Sir Edward M.Perring, William GeorgeStuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.Philipson, MabelSturrock, J. Leng
Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)Phillipps, VivianSutcliffe, T.
Jewson, DorotheaPownall, Lieut.-Colonel AsshetonThompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Pringle, W. M. R.Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)
Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)Raffan, P. W.Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir WilliamRaffety, F. W.Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Keens, T.Raine, W.Thornton, Maxwell R.
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.Ramage, Captain Cecil BeresfordTitchfield, Major the Marquess of
Kenyon, BarnetRawson, Alfred CooperVaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Kindersley, Major G. M.Rea, W. RussellVivian, H.
King, Captain Henry DouglasRees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)Wallhead, Richard C.
Lamb, J. Q.Rentoul, G. S.Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)
Laverack, F. J.Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Livingstone, A. M.Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)Warrender, Sir Victor
Locker-Lampoon, G. (Wood Green)Robertson, T. A.Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.}
Loverseed, J. F.Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)Wells, S. R.
McCrae, Sir GeorgeRcundell, Colonel R. F.Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.
Macfadyen, E.Royle, C.White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)
McLean, Major A.Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. CWignall, James
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Maden, H.Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)Williams, Maj. A.S.(Kent, Sevenoaks)
Marks, Sir George CroydonSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)Willison, H.
Meller, R. J.Sandeman, A. StewartWinfrey, Sir Richard
Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.Savery, S. S.Wintringham, Margaret
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Scrymgeour, E.Wise, Sir Fredric
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Scurr, JohnWelmer, Viscount
Morris, R. H.Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Moulton, Major FletcherShepperson, E. W.Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Murrell, FrankSimon, E. D. (Manchester, Withington)Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnYerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir HerbertSimpson, J. Hope
Oliver, George HaroldSmith-Carington, Neville W.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)Mr. Percy Harris and Mr. Briant.
NOES.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamGroves, T.O'Grady, Captain James
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)Paling, W.
Alden, PercyHall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPerry, S. F.
Ammon, Charles GeorgeHartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonPonsonby, Arthur
Attlee, Major Clement R.Hastings, Somerville (Reading)Potts, John S.
Ayles, W. H.Haycock, A. W.Raynes, W. R.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Hemmerde, E. G.Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Banton, G.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)Ritson, J.
Barnes, A.Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Batey, JosephHenderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfield)Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Isaacs, G. A.Romeril, H. G.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)Royce, William Stapleton
Buckie, J.Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)Sexton, James
Cape, ThomasJohnston, Thomas (Stirling)Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Charieton, H. C.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Sherwood, George Henry
Church, Major A. G.Jewett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)Smillie, Robert
Clarke, A.Kennedy, T.Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Climbs, R.Lansbury, GeorgeSmith, W. R. (Norwich)
Cluse, W. S.Lawson, John James.Snell, Harry
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Leach, W.Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Cove, W. G.Lee, F.Spence, R.
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Lindley, F. W.Spoor, B. G.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)Lunn, WilliamStamford, T. W.
Dukes, C.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)Sullivan, J.
Duncan, C.McEntee, V. L.Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Mackinder, W.Thurtle, E.
Egan, W. H.Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)Tinker, John Joseph
Falle, Major Sir Bertram GodfreyMarch, S.Tout, W. J.
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)Tr[...]elyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Gavan-Duffy, ThomasMiddleton, G.Turner-Samuels, M.
Gibbins, JosephMills, J. E.Varley, Frank B.
Gillett, George M.Montague, FrederickViant, S. P.
Gosling, HarryMorel, E. D.Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)Warne, G. H.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, North)Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Greenall, T.Mosley, OswaldWatts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)Naylor, T. E.Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon, Josiah C.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Nichol, RobertWelsh, J. C.
Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B.(Kennington)Wright, W.
Whiteley, W.Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Williams, David (Swansea, E.)Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)Windsor, WalterMr. Frederick Hall and Mr. T. Griffiths.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

I beg to move, "That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned!"

I think the unexpected decision—certainly unexpected by the Government—to which the House has just come puts the House in a certain difficulty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I wish to show, in view of the Motion which I now propose, that the House is in a difficulty. The proposed new Clause has just received a Second Reading. The Minister has indicated that it is a Clause to which his Department takes exception in respect of certain of its terms, and his understudy, the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. Morrison), who spoke with great authority towards the close of the Debate, put that point even more clearly than the Minister himself. In these circumstances, as the House has made a pronouncement in favour of the Clause, I think it advisable that the Government should have an opportunity of putting before the House on another date the Amendments to the Clause which they think are necessary. I have not suggested that the drafting of the Clause is perfect. I think hon. Members on both sides of the House are agreed on that, and in order to give the Government an opportunity of putting the Clause into a workable form I move this Motion.

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

With reference to the Motion which has just been moved by the hon. and learned Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), I should really like—

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

Does the hon. and gallant Member rise to Second the Motion?

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) has stated his view of the position of the House which has just given a vote in favour of a Clause moved by his associates. The Government in Ibis matter have endeavoured to make the best of a. Bill which was on the stocks before they came into office. As was announced in the beginning, we must accept the decision of the House on many important questions of detail in this Bill. I hope, therefore, we shall proceed with the several parts of the Bill in accordance with arrangement.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

As far as I am personally concerned, I should be most glad to help the Lord Privy Seal. I do not commit anybody else. But see the difficulty! We have got the Second Reading of a Clause which, apparently, requires some modification, according to the speech of the Minister of Transport. If the Minister says, "After all, I will stand by this" or "We can go into Committee on it, and amend it," that it all I want. If he could secure that, I would appeal to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) not to press his Motion. We want to get on with business.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I should like to say at once, speaking on behalf of the leader of my party as well as of myself, that we cannot accept the Motion. The Minister of Transport told us he would leave the second Clause to the House. Mr. Speaker ruled quite definitely earlier in the day that if the first Clause were carried, the second could not be moved. We all knew what the position was when we went into the Lobby. I quite agree with what the Lord Privy Seal has said, that this Bill was largely prepared by his predecessors in office, and we are to a great extent responsible for certain of the provisions, indeed for the main structure of the Bill. It would not be right for us to join in asking that the Debate be adjourned. If the Minister feels it necessary, the Bill can be recommitted before the Third Reading in order to deal with the Amendment of the Clause. May I respectfully suggest to the Minister, that if he were a little more firm in stating his decisions to the House, and giving the House the guidance to which it is entitled, and which it expects from the Government, we should be in a better position? After all, the House knows that every Member cannot be conversant with details of all these Amendments. The Minister of Transport did not give the House the necessary guidance. If he had done so, the House would not be in its present unfortunate position. I say this without any personal feeling, but in order that the House might not, in future, be put in this unfortunate position. We cannot, therefore, support the Motion for the adjournment of the Debate.

Photo of Mr Leifchild Jones Mr Leifchild Jones , Rushcliffe

I do not rise to support the Motion, but I think the House is in a difficulty in this matter. Under our procedure we must now go into Committee on this Clause, which has not been added to the Bill, before we can get any further. The alternative is not to move any Amendments, but add the Clause to the Bill and recommit the Bill after we have completed it. The House must take one of these two courses. We cannot go on with other parts of the Bill, leaving this matter suspended in mid-air.

Photo of Mr William Pringle Mr William Pringle , Penistone

My right hon. Friend the Deputy-Leader of the House, quite misunderstood my motive. The Motion I propose is merely for the convenience of the Government. If this Debate be adjourned now, the Government will lose nothing. They have three other Bills which will occupy the time of the House up to the legitimate hour, so That there will be no loss of time. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that if the Government do not accept my suggestion, it will be necessary to recommit this Clause, which will add to the time to be taken in the future. If the Adjournment were taken now, and the Government could put down their Amendments for the next sitting, they would make much greater progress with the Bill than they are likely to make by taking the course they propose. I do not, however, press my Motion for the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr John Rawlinson Mr John Rawlinson , Cambridge University

I am not in the least interested in the game which is being played, and I did not vote in the last division. I am interested in seeing that Clauses of this kind are thoroughly understood and discussed by the House. I did not vote against the Government last time, though I thought this Clause was exceedingly faulty. The matter should be carefully considered by the Law Officers, and a Clause really effective of what the Government and the House wants should be drawn up. I do hope the Government ail] give a definite undertaking that the Bill will be recommitted in respect of this Clause, so that it can be thoroughly gone into, or, if not, that the matter will be allowed to stand over, and proper Amendments put down. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman understands I am not in the least hostile to him. The best evidence of that is that I did not vote against the Government in that extraordinary division when Members of the Government front bench were voting against the Government Whips. I hope the Government will meet me, either by adjourning the Debate, which will be the best thing to do, or by giving a definite undertaking to recommit the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

The time between now and eleven o'clock is of great importance in view of the large number of Amendments on the Paper still to be considered. Much time has already been given to the consideration of this Bill in earlier parts of the Session, and there is a desire that every possible headway should be made in respect of remaining Amendments. I think some hon. Members have read rather more into the observations of my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport than actually was intended: but if it be found, when it is seen what he actually did say as to the limitations of the Clause which has been carried, that Amendment is desirable, I give the House the undertaking that the necessary steps for recommittal will be taken in order that the matter may be considered.

Photo of Mr John Rawlinson Mr John Rawlinson , Cambridge University

I did not base what I said on the remarks of the Minister of Transport. Will an opportunity be given to any private Member to put down proper Amendments to this Clause when it is recommitted, quite apart from the views of the Minister of Transport?

Photo of Viscount  Wolmer Viscount Wolmer , Aldershot

What is the position of the ordinary Member? We have here a Clause which we have got to go through in the Committee stage, or at once. If the Government will not give us a promise that the Clause shall be recommitted, so that we shall have leisure and opportunity to consider Amendments that may be moved to it, it may now be necessary to move those Amendments.

Photo of Mr John Clynes Mr John Clynes , Manchester Platting

I have not the slightest objection to extending my assurance to that matter.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.